Monday, July 31, 2006


In today's post I'm going to do the unusual. I'm going to let someone else speak for me who says what I believe better than I can say it. I'm speaking of Tim Sweatman a young pastor in Kentucky who answers an article by a leader with Texas baptists who attempts to say some pastors today don't believe the Bible is inerrant because they believe some truths of Scripture differently than do more traditional Baptists. I have tried to link you to his original post but it didn't work. Sorry Tim. But here is the heart of his fine rebuttal. I'm doing this with Tim's gracious approval.

"Certainly, one would be hard pressed to find a current leader in the SBC who would deny the inerrancy of Scripture. It might be accurate to say that the battle regarding inerrancy is over within the SBC, but can we really say that the battle for the Bible is over? Ledbetter asserts that the battle for the Bible is not over, and on this point I fully agree with him."
"As you will see, however, we have different reasons for believing this. Ledbetter is right when he says, "The battle for the Bible will not end until time does." As long as Satan is operating in this world, he will attack the inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible, because the Bible is the Word of God. So in this sense the battle for the Bible is something we will always be engaged in. We must always be vigilant against efforts to denigrate the inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible.

"If Ledbetter had stayed with this theme, his analysis would have been completely on the mark. Unfortunately, he carries his argument too far and confuses biblical fidelity with subscribing to a particular interpretation of Scripture. Ledbetter indicates that there are Southern Baptists who profess to believe in inerrancy but who are not really faithful to Scripture because they accept unbiblical doctrines. He mentions the recent, and often contentious, discussions about baptism and church membership, tongues and private prayer language, and the use of alcohol as examples that the battle for the Bible is far from over in the SBC."

"Certainly if someone denies the deity or the humanity of Jesus, or that salvation is found only through Christ, or anything else that is clearly taught in Scripture then that person is being unfaithful to Scripture, even if he or she claims to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. However, the examples given by Ledbetter do NOT meet this standard because on each of these issues the view that is predominant among Southern Baptists does not rest on clear and unambiguous biblical teaching. These views reflect a specific interpretation of what the Bible says about each subject, but while the Bible is inerrant and infallible, our interpretations are not."

"I believe that there is a new "battle for the Bible" coming to the forefront in the SBC. Whereas during the Conservative Resurgence the battle was over the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the new battle for the Bible is concerned with the sufficiency of Scripture. The key issue for our generation within the SBC is not, "Is the Bible really the Word of God?" but "What does the Bible itself say about [insert topic]?" It is because we acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God that we examine everything, including issues that Southern Baptists in the past have almost universally agreed upon, in light of what the Bible actually says, and also what it does not say."

"This has resulted in some contention within the SBC, as many of us have become convinced that the predominant views on some issues within the SBC are lacking in clear and unambiguous biblical support. This is certainly true for the issues that Ledbetter refers to in his article.Ledbetter and I agree on what needs to happen in our churches if we are to be faithful to Scripture. At the end of his article he says:"A systematic preaching and teaching of the whole Bible will cover everything eventually. It’s not commonly done. It is more loving for us to pass along as much of what God has taught us as possible than it is to teach to perceived needs or trendy subjects. That way our children and our other disciples can learn to love God and his truth in the same way we have.“Inerrancy” is still a good and serviceable term. It’s got to be more than that, though. If it is our conviction regarding the nature of God’s revelation of himself to all men, we’ll do something about that. We’ll learn it, love it more than other competing versions of the truth, and we’ll teach all of it to those who follow us."

"I agree with this statement. However, if we actually do this--- systematically preach and teach the whole of Scripture as it is written---I believe the results will be different from what Ledbetter expects. Ledbetter seems to think that such preaching and teaching will lead future generations of Southern Baptists to embrace the predominant views on the issues mentioned above. I believe that the opposite is true. Such preaching and teaching will result in a diversity of views on these issues, because the Bible does not address these issues with perfect clarity."

"If we teach the Bible as it is written, then we will have agreement on those issues where it speaks clearly, diversity on those issues where it does not speak clearly, and unity in the midst of this diversity. To me, this would be a victory in the "battle for the Bible."

Well said Tim. I couldn't agree more.

Paul Burleson

Monday, July 24, 2006


Yesterday I read a missionary's blog that told of a church planter who is having some success in planting three churches, baptizing several people, and is now under severe persecution. He has been driven from the village and the new believers are under the threat of death. This is just within the last few days if my understanding is correct. The request was that we pray. I did and will continue to do so.

Then I read Wade's post on "If you can't stand the heat." Well put as usual. I have some thoughts as a result of all this.

In Acts 4:23-33 the incident is related about Peter and John reporting to the church after being told to quit preaching Jesus under heavy threat. They firmly but politely declined the order and told the church all about it. The church, for good reason, began to pray about it all. I'm amazed at their prayer.

They started by recognizing that God is Sovereign. [A good place to begin don't you think?] Then, they admitted the pain and threat. [No head in the sand let's say only good things here.] Finally, in verse 29, they prayed for...not removal from the threat...not protection through the threat...not destruction of those who threatened...but for boldness to do the very thing that caused the threat in the first place. Verse 31 shows they got an answer to their prayer and...PREACHED THE WORD.

The result of this particular situation was great power and great grace. It may be that great power and great grace are sometimes more important than great safety. And it is certainly evident that obedience is to be prefered more than safety.

I do know it is too easy for me to say this while here in the comfort of my air conditioned home. Maybe were I in the village.........? Maybe I'm to enter into prayer for them and if my time of threat comes be ready to practice what I preach.

Paul Burleson

Update...I've now formed a "Missionary Corner" on my desktop and have put links to people like Stepchild, David, Guy, Lew, Mr. T, Emily, Crystal, Jerry, Joe and their families/coworkers as I get to know them. These are prayed for regularly [no promises of daily as I hate making specific promises and getting into a bondage over it] and communicated with some. Besides, I want the Spirit to be able to prompt at anytime.

This is all in response to punching some "holes in the darkness" post of Wade's blog. More will be added I'm sure. Maybe this means nothing to others but it is really special to me.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006


One of the great things about being a Baptist is, when scriptures do not articulate with exactness a particular position of truth, such as this thing of the standard for recognizing a person as a member of a local congregation, we can decide our standard through the study and voice of the leaders and people of a fellowship. The present day culture of legalities and taxes and a ton of other things unknown to the original Church of the NT era have certainly created a need for some kind of statement.

It seems to me HHBC is giving serious thought to two principles as they decide their standard. One is the NT text. They are going to obey whatever is taught there. The other is they are going to meet people where they are and help bring them to where it is good for them to be in areas where some growth and understanding are perhaps needed. Both of these simpified objectives are my interrpretation of their hearts as I've read, heard, and spoken to several from that fellowship personally. They are to be commended for this IMO whether you agree with their decision or not. They are fulfilling what I observed and wrote in the first paragraph of this post.

If I understand their statements correctly, they would never receive anyone who refused to be baptized. They are choosing whether or not to receive some into membership, very few perhaps over the course of the years, who, for whatever physical reason, cannot be baptized by immersion. Then, were some to come who, after years of walking with the Lord, believes their baptism, after conversion, for a testimony of their personal faith in Christ, albeit by sprinkling, which they believe to be scriptural, is genuine, they would be received as members. Whereas, upon instruction and understanding of immersion as the best mode, were that time to ever come, can then be immersed as a conviction, not to comply with a standard for church membership that is not given with exactness in the text anyway.

This would build church membership upon scripture when it speaks clearly, and principles that guide them in relationships with God and with each other where clear instructions are not given. You may disagree with them, as I said, but you have to respect their tenacity in obeying scripture as they see it, and loving people without compromising the gospel. This is assuming baptism is not regenerational or salvific but testimonial in nature which assumption we Baptists would certainly embrace because of the text of scripture.

I've not said where I fall on every point here and for good reason. My thoughts are not that important to their discussion unless requested for one thing. But another thing comes into play for me as a Baptist. While I believe certain things that many local baptist fellowships would disagree with, such as elder leadership, reformed doctrine, and the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit till Jesus comes, I believe in the right to come to those positions of truth as a local congregation without outside interference. It would be an egregious offense, it seems to me, were I, or anyone else, to attempt to sway or lead the congregation a certain direction because of disagreeing with the leaders of that fellowhip. That would undermine the foundation of a local church totally.

Remember we're not talking about matters of salvation here. Or even the integrity of the text as infallible and inspired, or, with the new buzz word, inerrant, which I hold to. We're speaking of a regenerate body fleshing out their standard for relating to the Body of Christ and any of those who desire to congregate with them.

Also remember, these are my interrpretations of what I've heard them say. Where I misspeak their position, it is my error. Only they can adequately state their hearts. This is simply a brother trying to see where they are and express a respect for them and their willingness to travel the journey. Would that every church would take seriously obeying scripture and loving people. And if yours does, even from a different perspective of church membership, God bless you in the Kingdom's work.

Singing in the Reign

Paul Burleson

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Some one ask me recently what I thought had been the major factors in any growth I may have experienced over the past few years in my walk with the Lord. Whether there has been growth or not would be for others to say, especially my family, but if there has been, it would be in the thoughts in the article I'm printing today on listening. I have no knowledge of it's author or beginnings but it is powerful in it's content.

I don't compartmentalize life, so any growth in marriage, raising kids, developing friends, or walking with the Lord is spiritual growth to me. While this may not be what the asker of the question on growth had in mind, I would say it has been profound in changing the direction of my life, marriage, family, and my ministry.

It is obvious to anyone who knows me well I'm one who has, in the past, constantly been giving advise, fixing people, correcting their feelings...well, you will see where growth was needed. My desire is that the journey I'm on in learning this will continue because the road is long, a life time long in fact..Enjoy with me and learn.


"When I ask you to listen to me - and you start giving me advice, - you have not done what I requested.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed - strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.- Don't talk or do - just hear me.- Advice is cheap; 25 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless. - Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you are contributing to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling of mine.

And when that's clear, the answers often become obvious and I don't need advice. - Irrational feelings make sense when I understand what's behind them.

Perhaps that's why prayer is effective, sometimes, for me, because God often becomes mute, and He doesn't give advice or try to fix things.

God just listens and often lets me work it out for myself.

So please listen, and just hear me. - And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I will listen to you. "

Please Listen

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


There is at present and continuing into the future I'm sure, a debate going on in regards to baptism and it's place in the requirements of church membership. It is primarily due to an SBC church in Edmond Oklahoma questioning the traditionally Baptist approach of believing baptism by immersion IS A REQUIREMENT BIBLICALLY for membership in a local Fellowship.

I've read ALL the documents they have posted and watched two messages by the senior pastor, as well as, having read every testimony of every elder as each personally searched the scriptures for their own understanding of this issue. I must say I'm impressed. They have done their homework in regards to every reference in scripture. They've researched Baptist history and the Baptist Fathers extensively. And they have done so with a spirit of humility while bringing their flock along to research for themselves and, ultimately, to give a final word to the whole Body by vote. You could totally disagree with their conclusions and still learn from their heart and spirit.

But what about their conclusions? None are yet finalized so I'll let them decide that for themselves without my input. I must confess I started out with a mindset that has, as a result of my own research, been challenged a bit. I spent six hours one afternoon rereading and researching anew every passage that relates to baptism and/or church life in the New Testament and I have to say, I've got some questions for myself.

In fact, three questions...

One...Can anyone show a single instance in the N.T. where a person
is examined and then joined a local church?
Two...Can anyone show in the N.T. where a particular behavior is required of any christian because he/she has joined a local church?
Three...Is it not correct that all behavior enjoined upon any believer in the N.T. is because he/she has been joined to Christ and to every other believer? [Not my original questions but three I've been forced to ask.]

My answers to those three questions ...NO...NO...YES [ IMHO]
These answers are according to scripture alone. This is not taking into account Baptist history, Baptist Fathers, Baptist Tradition or Logical Thinking.

I don't think this makes a local church wrong for examining a person for membership or for having agreed to standards for membership. Or, for that matter, respecting Baptist history, traditions, or logical thinking. Those are all pragmatic things needed because our modern culture demands we be organized and researching Baptist history and the Fathers is always helpful in doctrinal studies. If nothing else, it keeps us from the pride of our own scholarship. But the N. T. does not specifically address such local church issues definitively.

So let's organize, while not violating clear biblical principles to do so, and let's not make it an heretical thing if we disagree. Heresy is when clear biblical principles are misrepresented or when non-biblical principles are entrusted with the same authority as the text of the inspired scripture.
Since the battle for inerrancy we do see the text of scripture as sufficient for belief and practice. Let's be careful to give no other belief system that authority even if it's Baptist.

I'm convinced the modern Church organization could not possible have been conceived of by the N.T. Church, so getting back to the structure of the N.T. Church may be something of a myth anyway. Living like redeemed people are to live and evangelize in the present day is not only possible but essential no matter the shape our organization takes. Each culture and generation brings it's own needs organizationally anyway. Let's meet that challenge together.

The organism of the Church, aka the Body of Christ, The Bride of Christ, is alive and functioning in this age, albeit in need, perhaps, of a revival of Spiritual life, and that organism has gifted servant- leaders, Spirit-led servants, and empowered members of the Body each unique. The organization is but a tool that is very pragmatic and non-biblical. Thus not to be endowed with authority or to be seen as authoritative. Remember that is not to say that organization is wrong or not needed in this day...just not biblical.

My conclusion is simply this...A Charge of heresy is not valid since the scriptures are not definitive in the matter of baptism and local church membership. This not a question of maintaining or protecting a regenerate membership as baptism, as important as it may be, is not salvific in nature. It may be that the Edmond church's desire to maintain what they believe is the only reason to experience baptism in scripture, a picture of conversion when one is united with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and to not add anything further to it's significance since the scriptures don't in their studied opinion, may be what makes us real Baptists.

That does not answer the question of remaining in fellowship with Capital Baptist Association or the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The bylaws of those organizations may authorize the exclusion of any group who doesn't hold certain views of certain things. I don't know the bylaws.
If such were the case, by all means excercise or change the bylaws. But heresy? I wonder about the soundness of that. Remember the BF@m are not legally binding bylaws. So continuing to be a SBC member is NOT the issue. Surley there will be lawyers in heaven after all. Maybe then we'll understand better. In the meantime let's keep studying and loving each other. Maybe that's one of the differences being really Christian makes in us anyway.

Where do I stand on baptism and church membership? I once held that only a SBC baptism was biblical because we were "doctrinally correct".
Years ago I came to a different thought than that since I couldn't find that in the scriptures.I have for years believed that baptism is NOT the door into church membership but examination to see if one had experienced biblical baptism was the door. And now, I believe.......
..........[still looking]........[still looking].............[I know what biblical baptism is, a converted person, identifying with Christ in union with His death, burial, and resurrection, through immersion only.]......
......[still looking for this door thing]....... I guess you'd have to say I believe ..........................................
[still looking].................................

Paul Burleson