Thursday, June 21, 2007


I've read many reports on the SBC meeting in SA so I won't clog cyberspace with yet another one. I will address only one thing I heard while there as a messenger from our church. It was the SWBTS report by it's President Dr. Paige Patterson.

Let me begin by saying I love that Seminary. I graduated from it and pastored several fruitful years three minutes from the oval. I spoke seven years in succession in chapel in September of each of those years. SWBTS is my heritage.

I love Dr. Patterson. I knew his dad better than I know him but I did hear him preach recently at First Baptist Church of Moore Oklahoma and was impressed with his communication skills. He is my brother in Christ and I will always be mindful of that overriding fact.

I do however, want to address what was said in his report at the Convention. It will simply serve to launch me into what I desire all of us to remember, myself first and foremost.

It was in his report that he used the now well known analogy of all of us in Baptist life being in a river. If I remember correctly, he informed us that some were drifting downstream near the shore of liberalism but the resurgence challenged that drift and won the day, though diligence is always our calling.

Others are now, he said, drifting downstream near the shore of neo-orthodoxy and even, perhaps, in the middle drifting to ecumenicism or words to that effect. But according to his statement, SWBTS is leading the way upstream as true baptist separatists fighting against the current of culture. The idea seemed to be if we join with SWBTS in their journey we will be truly Baptist.

Some have written to refute his analogy. I read one who said that they [SWBTS] had struck a sandbar and trustees were rowing hard doing nothing worthwhile. Another said they [SWBTS] had really sunk and they just weren't aware of that fact. There were several others.

A person may agree or disagree with anyone or all of these responses mentioned of course. But I simply want to add my response to his words. My response is simply...there is another river.

In John 7:37-39 Jesus spoke of the Spirit when He said, "If any man thirst let him come to me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The next phrase shows He was referencing of the Holy Spirit. In Ezekial 47 the Spirit is seen also as being something like a river. Israel was given, by the prophet, who had been given by the Lord, a vision of hope and restoration for a people in captivity. What we must never do is find ourselves as a people or denomination paddling upstream against His flow.

I've noticed a few things about this "river". [The Holy Spirit] He doesn't follow someone's preconceived or predetermined banks. He cuts His own path. What He seems to do is, having overflowed anyone's idea of river banks, he takes His people His direction and they wind up being where He wants them to be. No one should doubt His faithfulness to the text of scripture but, it will be as it was intended to be understood, not mixed with the traditions or additions of men.

I've also noticed that He moves those in His flow toward people, not away from them, especially those who are dirty, doubting, despicable, and generally in a mess. He makes His message of GRACE more powerful by creating a graciousness in His people toward those three D kind of folks. He is always, in His flow, honoring the uniqueness of Christ as exclusively God's answer to the sin problem and seeking to fulfill the Father's purpose of calling to Himself those three D kind of people. It is how He does it that amazes me.

He seems to delight in choosing the very tools many would discard as worthless and un-useable. He seems to delight in taking the meaningless and making something meaningful of it like the jawbone of an ass. He takes a non-descript shepherd boy and makes him a king, a wine-press treader and makes him a soldier, an insignificant nation and makes her a blessing to ALL nations. He takes the gore of a crucifixion and makes a message of life of it. I even understand why and how He takes a group of people meeting in a pub or brewery and makes a voice for the gospel out of it. No riverbanks you see.

I guess what I'm hoping is that, in our desire to paddle hard up river and to separate ourselves from wrong kinds of people and influences, we don't wind up having made the saddest mistake that I believe could ever befall us as the people of God or as a denomination for that matter.... navigating life in the wrong river.

Paul Burleson


My brother-in-law and I are leaving on a ten day motorcycle trip to the Blueridge Parkway next monday and I will not, for obvious reasons, have my laptop with me. I will ask Mary to read me comments by phone as she will not be going this trip. I'll post again when I return, the Lord willing.


I've just discovered I've been tagged by Paul Littleton. That means I'm to say 5 things I dig about Jesus and tag 5 more bloggers and link to them. The only links I can do are the sausage kind in my refrigerator with my skillet. Sorry Paul. I'll do the five things after my trip. Am I a party pooper or what. :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I might be a simple person, [see last post] but I'm sure not a political person. This was only my second Convention in the last twenty years basically because I'm not a political animal. I have some grief over the atmosphere created along with the good that may have transpired over those years, but, for obvious reasons, these last two years have been especially significant to me personally.

That said, I must confess, I don't hold out much hope for change. I'm related to one who is far more optomistic than am I and I hope he is right. We shall see.

Following are some random thoughts in no particlar order of importance. Something more definitive will come later...perhaps. By the way, if you're not into reading personal stuff, you may wish to skip down to the paragraph entitled Bloggers.

Reuniting----The Convention proved itself to again be a wonderful tool for reconnecting with people not seen in years, some in many years. To see people I pastored years ago at Southcliff Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas while they were in Seminary was beyond good, it was a hoot. They are all over the world in ministry and business and you will be hearing from one I've asked to document his journey that will appear on this blog soon.

Family----I have been married to the greatest gal alive for forty eight years and to have been with her these days was incredible. She is now in Austin on business and I am in Angleton Texas in a three day meeting. I will pick her up Saturday morning for a trip to Arlington Texas where I will speak all services on Father's day at Cornerstone Baptist for Pastor Dwight McKissic and then home to Norman which will have made for quite a week for this couple. Add to that blessing the ability to hang out with a daughter-in-law and son in an important event like we experienced and it has been some Convention for a portion of the Burleson family.

Bloggers----I've met some new ones like Les and Debbie Puryear, a great couple and one Mary and I could hang out with, and have seen others I'd gotten to know quite well before the Convention this year, people like the Littletons, Todd and Paul, Marty, Ben, Lee, Alyce, Micah, Dwight, Clif, Bob, Alan, Art, and my goodness the list could go on. I say without reservation that the major reason for any hope reborn in my old by-passed heart for the SBC has been directly connected to the willingness I've seen on their part to speak the truth in love. Sometimes the truth is stark on blogs because of the inadequecy of printed words to convey true emotions and personhood, and sometimes passion can cross the line to hurtful words. I've always taken it upon myself to e-mail someone when I believe that has happened and I had been personally offended by it and have done so numerous times. I don't broadcast that fact and don't intend to start now, but, with that said, there is much good being done as light is cast into dark corners of kingdoms being established within our Convention that need to be seen for what they really are, by all of us IMHO.

I am saddened but understanding of some of my favorites bloggers deciding to go on to other things and issues of life. They will be a part of my walk with the Lord from now on and that fact is, for me, worth the journey of the past couple of years.

The Southern Baptist Convention----I'm reminded of 11 Kings 18 where the King told the Prophet to go down and destroy the brass serpent. We all know it had been a gift that God had given for the good of the people but because they had eyes for and were now worshipping it, instead of the God who gave it, God removed it. I'm not saying our Convention IS like that brass serpent. I'm saying our Convention COULD BE like that brass serpent, the object of our affections and commitment, instead of our being committed to the God who gave it.

I do know that the atmosphere I experienced at the Convention itself, while much more thoughtful and prayerful for the most part under President Frank Page's capable leadership, still had a rigid and exclusionary bent to it. This was seen clearly by the trumpeting of a refusal to respect and hear motions passed by the Convention which, by the way, are far different than resolutions. There is a top down control issue being addressed in our Convention and the heat is increasing. The outcome is up for grabs in my opinion. I understand the disillusionment and tiredness admitted to by many.

I'm not sure what the future holds for the SBC but I do know our future in Kingdom work is NOT dependent upon her but upon the God who gave her to the Kingdom. Were she ever to be the object of our affections and commitment I would expect God to act. He loves us too much to allow us to have any idols. He has shown that before.

Spin----I know all the above is only my spin/opinion. I remember a time when some words had a different meaning to them. "Gay" is an example. I used to have a gay old time on occasion, but no longer refer to any time in that fashion for obvious reasons. "Spin" is such a word. I used to say "that's my spin on it." I meant my personal opinion. Now spin has come to mean changing the facts or distorting reality.

I think Bill O'what's his name may have started this. His "no spin zone" really means "no spin except mine zone". Everyone's opinion is just their spin on things. Don't get me wrong, I like some of the positions Bill takes on some issues. I don't particularly like his personality but he probably wouldn't like mine either. But it IS his "spin zone" and that's alright.

Editorials are placed on the Spin/Editorial page for good reason. Journalism is reporting facts, events, situations with as little spin/personal opinion as possible. That's ethical journalism. It's a relic in our day. Blogging is NOT journalism basically. It is that person's spin zone. And that's alright too.

This definition change was aided perhaps by our inerrancy controversy. I certainly hold to the inerrancy of the original autographs but do NOT hold to the inerrancy of the thoughts of people about what our present day scriptures are saying on every minor issue. Whether a woman's income must not be seen as the primary income of a household can be a viewpoint of a family if desired. but for a Seminary to adopt that as a view that must be embraced/taught is beyond the pale. I think it is just their spin/opinion on such an issue. Someone may say "where is that being taught?" If it isn't it is just around the corner if what IS being taught is any indication. That's my spin on it, I could be wrong.

My point is that civility has been lost partly because we have adopted the new definiton for "spin." Thus, my view is right and your's is wrong and when you speak on a subject you're just spinning it. [Using the new definition.]

I think it would be helpful for all of us to remember our view of an issue is just that...our spin/opinion...and can be placed along side other's and let the Convention decide which we will hold to for the moment which is what our BF@M does. ONLY the essentials of the Faith, those salvific in nature and uniquely Baptist, are convictional enough to address as a Convention it would seem to me. Lesser doctrinal matters are to be left to all of us to have our "spin" on. If this kind of civility had been in practice pre-ppl/baptism by those who hold to eternal security days we wouldn't be faced with the heat that is being generated by Conventions such as the 2007 in San Antonio. That's my spin and I'm sticking to it. As I said...more later...perhaps.

Paul Burleson

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I am a simple person. That would make me a simple Baptist would it not. It may be that in this day it is my simplicity that could cause my downfall in relation to present day Southern Baptist life as opposed to what I've experienced in my history with the SBC.

I've always prided myself, in a non-sinful way I hope, in being a non-creedal Southern Baptist. I've viewed the difference between a creed and a confession, which we have utilized for years in the SBC as, simply put, in a creed you have declared what you must believe to be a part of a particular group and in a confession you have declared what you hold to without coercion of any kind. I would have to say that I, as I read one say it, have no creed but Christ and no document of ultimate authority but the Bible. [This is why the sacredness of the text is so important to me.]

I know this will cause some to believe I do not believe anything for sure but, as a Baptist, I have believed the Bible as I have interpreted it under what I believed to be the leadership of the Holy Spirit and have attempted to guard the freedom of EVERY person to interpret scripture, to hear God's voice for themselves, and to obey what he/she hears.

I am now wondering if the words I've just written apply to all Southern Baptists except those under employment to the Convention. If this exception is true, and it is, I find myself wondering when the preceeding words will no longer apply to anyone who calls himself/herself Southern Baptist.

I hear the reasoning going like this. Since employees/missionaries are paid by Southern Baptists our BF@M is a minimal standard for them and they should be required to sign it. OK and I suppose it would have stopped there with no one thinking much about it were it not for the fact that now you have the odd case of the BOT of the IMB going BEYOND the BF@M in a REQUIRED fashion with the baptism and private prayer language thing. ["UUUUMM not so fast my friend, I have an objection to that I'd like to talk about," one said.] It has come out that NAMB did this a while back but it was under the radar so to speak. Thus the following eighteen months of debate.

What we now have is the situation where the President of the IMB would be personally disqualified from being appointed by the very organization he leads. But he can continue to lead since the requirement is not retroactive. Which I guess shows that it is NOT principle upon which it is based, because principle is true for the past, present and future even if we just discover it, but this is based on preference by those who have the authority to decide such matters.

Then the question is asked, if missionaries are required to sign it as a minimal standard why shouldn't Trustees? OK. Then, the argument goes using the same logic, since Southern Baptist money is used to pay these employees/missionaries/trustees [money IS used for expenses for trustees though not salary] shouldn't those who are required to sign it be required to do so without caveats at all? Remember, [according to their logic] if you have caveats you are lying if you say you affirm the BF@M, ie, it must be ALL or NOTHING. [Though "no caveats" has never been the standard until this debate.]

I recall being overseas to Chile, Brazil, and Indonesia for the IMB in the seventies, eighties, and nineties [some after the BF@M signing became a big deal] and I talked with many missionaries who signed, some with caveats, [it was not considered lying in those days remember] many with concerns that what I'm writing about now would, in fact, be a result. [I'm NOW wondering if the same logic will ultimately lead to everyone's identity as Southern Baptist being somehow tied to signing, without caveat, the BF@M, thus completing the shift from confession to creed.]

If this shift is the reason so many are calling for a tiered approach to a confession I can see the significance of the struggle.

But I'm wondering if we are not perhaps struggling more with Southern Baptist identity than we are with Baptist identity. Our Baptist identity has always been the fundamentals of the faith. You can name them. So can I. But our Southern Baptist identity has been shaped by our cooperative efforts at evangelism and missions. It IS our unique cooperative approach to missions that has defined us as a Convention. We are Baptist because of the fundamentals of the faith. We are Southern Baptist because we cooperate with people who DO NOT interpret the scriptures exactly as I do. It is this Southern Baptist identity that is at risk today.

It seems, I say again, seems, we are shifting to a creedal approach to identifying who Southern Baptists are. My simplicity is causing a great deal of struggle in me as to where I will stand if that shift from a cooperative effort to a theological creed is acomplished. As I said, I AM a simple Baptist.

I really like what a life-long friend recently said of himself. "I'm neither a creedal Baptist, nor a conventional Baptist, but I AM a convictional Baptist." May this be so of me and all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters as we cooperate with one another out of personal conviction NOT coercion.

I've just reread what I've written about the ongoing debate and I've gotten dizzy headed trying to figure it out. I did confess at the beginning that I'm a simple person. That makes me a simple Baptist and the bottomline is that this simple blogger is struggling with where we are going as Southern Baptists.

Paul Burleson

Friday, June 01, 2007


Several bloggers have today posted words or thoughts written a year ago just prior to or after the Convention in 2006. I think most of their posts that I've read are good and bore repeating and I wish to do the same. What follows is what was said on this blog one year ago today.

My reasoning is that if something is worth saying one time it probably bears repeating. I've approached preaching with the same philosophy in the past at times.

My honest reasoning is also it will save me a lot of thought and work which reprieve I need after spending the past several days in Austin Texas.

But upon reflection, maybe the first is really the reason. [I don't know...all of this may be nothing more than a classic case of self-justification.] :)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Essentials and Non-Essentials

What do you do when there is disagreement? I'm not speaking of disagreement over essentials that have to do with those things necessary for salvation or eternity. These certainly include things like knowing how sinful I am [repentance] and resting in how much Jesus loves me and was willing to die in my place and, in light of who He is, believing that completed what was necessary to deal with my sin as evidenced by an empty tomb. [Faith]

Those kinds of things are essential for redemption and eternity whether one is nine or ninety.

I'm speaking of the non-essentials. Not unimportant things, just things not necessary for salvation to be experienced. These might include whether Adam was Federal head and I was present in him when the fall happened or whether I'm lost by my own choice or any combination thereof. Whether Jesus was Impeccable or could have sinned when tempted. Whether election is God choosing me before time because He determined to, or, seeing I would choose Him, chose me because of that foreknowledge.Whether repentance and faith are my responses alone or whether I can repent and believe only because the Holy Spirit has worked regeneration already in me and repentance and faith are the evidences of new birth rather than the causes of new birth.

I have my own understanding. I lean toward [in fact I embrace] God having worked by His Grace and my abilities toward spiritual things are the result of His Grace being experienced not the cause. My point is...I came to all this understanding after I became a believer... not before.

However, the unique disagreement of which I speak is when there are two guys/gals on the same staff who disagree over the non-essentials. How does this work? It has happened me...several times. I developed a certain way [method] of handling it. My way is not sacred and maybe not even the best way. But it is my way and I'll share it for what it's worth.

Two things, I believe, are important. One is each staff person must be free to investigate and research scripture to grow personally in their understanding of the nuances of doctrine without fear AND to teach their understanding. An example of this would be an Education minister on my staff had a different view of divorce and remarriage than mine. I asked him to preach in my absence. We were at a particular place in Matthew where divorce was being addressed. So I asked him to deal with that passage if he would. He was perplexed and even concerned. He saw it differently than did I. "How can I do the that? " was his question. I said, "You teach how you see it and be honest enough to mention that I [Bro. Paul] see it a bit differently but we respect each other as brothers in the Lord." Then I suggested he encourage the people to search on their own. He did and they did.

Interestingly, twenty-five years later, I now hold the position he held then, not because the text has changed but because my understanding of the text has changed as I've studied. That's one of the two important things I wish to mention. We were both free to search and share our understanding of Truth without fear.

The second is when, for whatever reason, it is good to agree as a staff on a non-essential as a standard for the staff, knowing some one will have to adjust to something he/she doesn't hold to personally, be willing to do it for practical reasons. An example of this is I pastored a church near a University where drinking was a problem on campus. We chose as a staff to agree that abstinence would be our [the staff] standard. This was not based on agreement on the text of scripture because there were differences of opinion there. But by mutual consent we felt it was best for us as a staff to do it this way in order to more effectively minister to those students. A couple of people had to defer and abstinence was our practical policy while on staff there.

This was shared with our church. We had no established church policy in regards to abstinence as we had developed our own church covenant and that particular non-essential was not an issue. Drunkenness was a no-no of course, but not the idea of total abstinence. Our adoption of total abstinence was shared as information only. But the congregation learned from all this and was encouraged as they saw the method we followed to come to our agreement on what was best when good people stood on different sides of theological issues that are not essential to salvation and eternity.

I could give a multitude of other examples but post length will not permit.

My bottomline in all this is multiple...
1. People differ on non-essentials.
2. People who differ can work together.
3. No one should have to be quiet about their differences.
4. Respect for another's position is important.
5. When a policy is decided upon because it is best for the work... don't make the basis for it scriptural if there are good people on both sides of the issue theologically. Make it what it is...practical and good for the work.
6. Real unity is based on at least these factors...
1) Agreement on the essentials...
2) A right spirit/attitude toward people who differ on everything else...
3) A willingness to have ALL share their views and, when necessary, choose a path that is best for the work by mutual agreement with all being heard and respected.

I think this might be good for a family or a congregation as well as a staff. [Maybe even a denomination.] I also do not believe this negates teaching the whole counsel of God authoritatively. I happen to believe in authority coming from the annointing of the Holy Spirit rather than a pastoral position because I take seriously the command to not Lord it over the flock.

But, as I said, this practical approach is not sacred [though undergirded by biblical principles] nor perhaps even the best way, but it is mine...and God has, by His grace, blessed it.

Paul Burleson