Monday, October 26, 2009


What follows is only going to be read with interest probably by those weird theological types who generally turn people off by their debates about the rightness or wrongness of theological slants that most people could care less about. That's unfortunate. What is? Well, the arguments about rightness and wrongness of views is for sure. but so is the lack of care about theology slants.

It's not that those slants impact going to heaven. You could hold to one view or another and because of faith in the Cross work of Christ that is assured . But it is fun and I think even profitable to discuss them. [Notice "discuss" not "debate." All that said __if you can__enjoy the following.

A Scandalous Attack on The Cross

A public debate organized by the Evangelical Alliance took place on 7 October in Emmanuel Centre, London following strong criticism from Christians of Steve Chalke’s book, “The Lost Message of Jesus” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). 600 people attended, indicating the strength of feeling that the book’s message had aroused.

Steve Chalke’s supporters laughed at his amusing remarks and applauded him vigorously when he had made his presentation. The two who spoke against his beliefs were Simon Gathercole, lecturer in New Testament at Aberdeen and Anna Robbins, lecturer in Theology and Contemporary Culture at the London School of Theology. Chalke was supported by Stewart Williams, chair of the Anabaptist network.

Martin Downes the UCCF team leader in Wales explained the error of Chalke’s ideas in an article in the September/October 2004 Evangelical Magazine writing as follows....

The doctrine of penal substitution affirms that on the cross Jesus exchanged places with sinners, and voluntarily bore the punishment that their sins deserved, thereby propitiating an angry God. It is a defining belief of evangelical faith, biblically warranted and central to the gospel.

Why then is the Evangelical Alliance hosting a debate where penal substitution is being attacked by a well known evangelical? What is the debate about? Steve Chalke asks how we have ‘come to believe that at the cross this God of love suddenly decides to vent his anger and wrath on his own Son?' (p.182). Chalke considers this to be a mockery of Jesus' teaching about refusing to repay evil with evil and a contradiction of the statement that God is love (p.182). He insists that the cross isn't 'a form of cosmic child abuse - a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed' (p.182).

Instead the cross is a symbol of love, a demonstration of how far God is willing to go to prove his love (p.182). He claims that we have fundamentally misunderstood Jesus' cry of dereliction, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Matt. 27:46). Rather than the sight of Jesus taking the world's sin on Himself being unbearable for a holy God, Jesus' feeling of abandonment ‘mirrors those of countless millions of people who suffer oppression, enslavement, abuse, disease, poverty, starvation and violence’ (p.185). Calvary wasn't unique. For Jesus the cross became a way of sharing the experience of all who feel abandoned by God in their suffering. The reality, however, is that God is always right there with us in our suffering (p.185-6).

Steve Chalke no longer preaches penal substitution (p.184), but he still believes that preaching the cross is central. ‘On the cross Jesus took on the ideology that violence is the ultimate solution by "turning the other cheek" and refusing to return evil for evil, willingly absorbing its impact within his own body’ (p.179).

The resurrection is the reversal of this, the triumph of love over hate, as the God of love takes on the powers of darkness and wins (p.l87). In a press release Steve Chalke has said that penal substitution is ‘a theory rooted in violence and retributive notions of justice’ and is incompatible ‘at least as currently taught and understood, with any authentically Christian understanding of the character of God.’ He is unrepentant about referring to the doctrine as a version of ‘cosmic child abuse’ because 'it is a stark "unmasking" of the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind such a theology'.

Recovering the truth about God's character? Chalke considers it a tragedy that Church history has obscured the centrality of God's love. He asserts that the Bible 'never defines God as anger, power or judgement-in fact it never defines him as anything other than love' (p.63).

Moreover, he argues, to think of God's attributes without reference to the primary lens of his love 'is to risk a terrible misrepresentation of his character, which in turn leads to a distortion of the gospel' (p.63). Even texts that speak of God's holiness should be understood as portraying the love that makes God different rather than his sinless purity and 'otherness' (p.58-9).

But God is described in the Bible as light (1 John 1:5) and Spirit (John 4:24). Moreover both Testaments affirm that God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29), and dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim.6:16). The sight of God's holiness filled Isaiah with dread and made him conscious of his guilt (Isa. 6:1-5). Christians are called to holiness not impurity (1 Thess. 4:7). This confusion of God's attributes of holiness and love is not just a basic error; it appears to be an intentional misrepresentation to serve his own agenda.

How does he reconcile the frequent occurrences of judgment in the Bible with love as God's defining characteristic? This is his answer: “Yahweh's association with vengeance and violence wasn't so much an expression of who he was but the result of his determination to be involved with his world. His unwillingness to distance himself from the people of Israel and their actions meant that at times he was implicated in the excessive acts of war that we see in some of the books of the Old Testament.” (p.49).

According to Steve Chalke the conquest of Canaan was done in God's name but not at His command or with His consent. This is directly contrary to Deut. 7:1-2,16, 20, 22-26; 9:1-3; Jos.6:15-21; 10:40-42. A Blatant Contradiction.

All this begs the question, is it ever appropriate on this understanding of God's love to speak of his anger and judgment? But the following admission is telling: “Although God is love, this doesn't exclude the possibility of him eventually acting in judgement... if God is love, then anger is a legitimate, indeed intrinsic, expression of that love. But because God's anger is born of pure love, it is never fickle or malicious” (p.62).

But this entirely undermines his argument. For if there is no final conflict between love and judgment, one wonders why at the cross God cannot demonstrate His anger at our sin, and, at the same time, manifest His love? Is God angry just because we reject His love or is He angry at all deviations from His nature and will? How can God forgive us and uphold His justice?

Steve Chalke is caught in a contradiction. He wants to affirm God's anger in some sense, but is intent on redefining God's holiness and downplaying the seriousness of sin (p. 173). Nevertheless he is right to say that anger is a legitimate expression of God's love. Because the Lord is righteous He loves righteousness and hates the wicked (Psalm 5:4-5; 11:5, 7).

The Bible speaks plainly about God's anger against all sin being expressed in the present and at the day of judgment (Rom. 1:18ff, 2:5-11; Eph. 5:3-6). God's love is not a moral weakness. If sin ought to be punished then there is nothing in God that impels Him to leave it unpunished. If God loves sinners then some way must be found for His justice to be satisfied as well. That's where Wrath and Mercy Meet.

Is it true that penal substitution contradicts the statement that God is love? If it is then the New Testament writers were not aware of it. Paul tells us that the God who justifies those who believe, by his grace, does so by setting forth His Son as a propitiation (Rom. 3:25). The writer to the Hebrews says that it was as a merciful High Priest that Jesus made propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17). The apostle John tells us that God is both light (1 John 1:5) and love (3:16). 'In this is love', writes John, 'not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins' (4:10).

On the basis of this wrath-averting death Jesus acts as our advocate with the Father when we sin (2:1-2). Rather than being incompatible with love, God's love saves sinners from His own wrath through the death of Christ (Rom. 5:8-9).

By pitting Jesus' teaching about not 'repaying evil for evil' against the idea of penal substitution Steve Chalke makes a basic but telling mistake. Consider Romans 12:17, 19: 'Repay no one evil for evil... Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance Is mine, I will repay, says the Lord"'.

Retribution belongs to the righteous Judge not to private individuals. But the state is given the limited remit to punish wrongdoers, 'For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer' (Rom. 13:4).

Let us make no mistake; this debate is due to Steve Chalke's fame and not to the worth of his argument. His writing is logically flawed, arbitrary, reliant on emotional language, and highly selective in its use of Scripture. To brand penal substitution as ‘cosmic child abuse’ is heretical and blasphemous. This badly chosen phrase portrays God as committing unspeakable evil. We are left with no confidence in the sub-Christian Old Testament revelation or in God's dealings with Israel.

It is an embarrassment that this ill-conceived theology should be given such public prominence. Steve Chalke has dressed up old-fashioned liberalism in twenty-first century dress. He has certainly abandoned the evangelical gospel. J. Gresham Machen's words are appropriate: 'They (liberal preachers) speak with disgust of those who believe ‘that the blood of our Lord, shed in substitutionary death, placates an alienated deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner. Against the doctrine of the cross they use every weapon of caricature and vilification. Thus they pour out their scorn upon a thing so holy and so precious that in the presence of it the Christian heart melts in gratitude too deep for words. It never seems to occur to modern liberals that in deriding the Christian doctrine of the cross, they are trampling on human hearts.” (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1923, p.120.)

Martin Downes is UCCF team leader for Wales.

All very interesting don't you think?

Paul B.


I read recently [The source of which I cannot find at this time.] where a Dr. Dean Hamer who is a geneticist working for the National Institutes of Health is looking for the genetic reasons for all human behavior. There is no doubt that, as someone has said, "genetics is the 'hot ticket' in human behavior today." "Hot ticket" or not, genetics will never give the full answer for human behavior though such research can be helpful in understanding the human condition it seems to me. But I believe it will help ONLY if the people who trust science alone would give an ear to some other matters involved in human behavior.

In the article I read there was a listing of several gene "chunks" as the article called them that were linked to various human conditions. Among them were genes that are linked to alcoholism, aggression, homosexuality, monogamy, adultery and even a "god gene" whose presence [or absence] gives a greater or lesser propensity for religious devotion." [Obviously that's why some believe the gospel and others don't. Mystery solved. :)]

In other words, your creative condition at birth is the key to your ultimate behavior according to the new genetics. The assumption is that were we to accept this and were we to harness or control whatever genes are in question we could change human history. Dr. Hamer is quoted as saying that a particular gene doesn't "whisper in your ear," but it is grounds for propensities to certain behavior at the very least. [I think he may be correct in this last statement perhaps, as I will show.]

My personal opinion on all this is much as Dr. Scott Peck said in his book__ "People of the lie"__"the subject of human behavior, good and evil, is far too important and complex for a one-sided explanation to solve it"__and I agree with that completely.

I've thought a good bit about all this and that tends toward being dangerous within itself, the way I sometimes think, but here goes anyway.

My view is that to properly and helpfully deal with human behavior there are at least four component parts to it all that MUST be considered. You could call them "Four factors that predict or at least impact human behavior." [And the people we become ultimately.]

ONE is the spiritual factor. We were and are created in the Image of God. [Albeit now fallen.] Whatever we have as an individual in life as human beings, it started with God creating us as we are to be in relation to Him as He is. To see this correctly we MUST factor in the presence of sin [a fall] in some fashion. Add to that the purposes of the One who made us all and the redemptive work accomplished in Christ and you have a spiritual factor that cannot be denied. At least SHOULD NOT be denied. Human life and behavior cannot be truly understood without this factor being addressed properly IMHO.

TWO is the genetic factor. We were created human beings. That humanity is composed of the genetic structure that each of us possesses. Whatever genes do or don't do, they do not fully and adequately answer "why" we behave the way we do. They may help in understanding our unique areas of STRUGGLES but they do NOT answer, in and of themselves, the "why" or "what" our behavior should be as a whole by any stretch as I'm attempting to show. [To attempt to do so would make anyone's genes too tight.] :)

To illustrate, my dad was an alcoholic. That was doctor confirmed when he was a teenager. If there is a gene that gives a propensity for alcoholism he had it. No doubt about it. But as a family we refused to give him a pass for the pain and hurt to himself and to others he created or even for the violation of the scriptural admonition to refrain from drunkenness.

He refused to give that pass to himself as well. So he joined Alcoholic Anonymous which became a resource for recovery until he ultimately came to know the grace of God that redeemed him a couple of years before his death when he responded to the gospel. But that Grace did not remove the struggles with alcoholism though he remained dry until his death.

But, someone says, he had a genetic propensity that others didn't have. True. But human behavior is NOT determined by genes alone. They cannot be used to give a free pass to the moral abuse of alcohol and the destruction it can create. There are moral implications all along the way in life and choices that must be made regardless of genetics in this or other propensities as well.

THIRD is nurturing or environment. When I was a young man science said a child came with a brain like a blank sheet of paper and one's nurturing filled it up for good or bad and THAT determined the behavior of that child. That is no longer accepted for good reason. But nurturing is certainly a major factor as are ANY "gene chunks" that might be present in a newborn baby. As with the other factors, it cannot alone fully explain our behavior when that behavior becomes harmful to ourselves or others or destructive of the purposes and principles of God for us as human beings.

FOURTH is choices. We are made to choose. The discussion of the theology of the freedom of will is not pertinent here but the FACT of the will is very pertinent. From earliest childhood our role in nurturing is to bring about good choices that reflect the purposes of God and the rules of society and human relationships. No thinking or discussion about human behavior should be without this important factor involved in it.

So in conclusion and to put it simply...all four factors mentioned are important. I also believe it to be true that__read this carefully__ nurturing and choice can overcome genetics to a great degree and__ genetics and environment can influence choice__but ultimately choice CAN override genetics and environment.

Someone has said it this way and I agree. "We have choices even if they are reduced to how we will respond to genetic propensities or to bad nurturing that was ours and it is the making of good choices that enables us to be truly responsible to society and ultimately to God." [I'm not talking about will power as you will see.]

I am in the mess I am in because of fallen humanity and those choices I have made as a fallen human being. So it is NOT only because of my genetic structure or my past personal nurturing environment. Choices count in life.

But here is the POWERFUL good news. [Enter the gospel.] Post-Christ, as a redeemed human being, I can make other choices, empowered by the Spirit of God, that will make life different for me regardless of my original genetic propensities or my negative nurturing. I AM as a Christian a new creation in Christ possessing His life and power and am now able to obey His Word by making new choices REGARDLESS of the old genetic propensities or upbringing. I am now, after all, a new person in Christ as is every believer.

Accepting responsibility for my choices is tough, but it is, as I rely on the Grace of God and Power of the Spirit, my only course for ultimate change in my behavior and a better life. It is this possibility of the miraculous that is part of the good news of the gospel. Therein lies hope for change in us all.

Paul B.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I report what I'm about to show in this post as an American citizen and a citizen who is fully aware of the mistakes that have been made by many leaders of both political parties in the last eight years in America. I'm also aware of some things accomplished for which I'm grateful. It IS a mixed bag in my way of thinking.

I am far too cynical to believe in ONLY pure motives by the politicians on either side of the asile in the past or in the present. [As well as having a knowledge of the fallen human heart including my own.] So, while I honestly admit some disappointment with some of the policies of my former President George W. Bush and with some of the policies of my present one, President Barach H. Obama, I do respect both because of the office they held/hold and have no desire to be uncivil about either as many Americans are prone to be on both sides of the political aisle. As an American I WILL disagree with policies. As an American I WILL vote my conscience. But I will not disrespect either as an American.

I do wish, however, to call attention to moments when I can be proud of my country. This is one of those moments. I hope you enjoy the reading of it.

Also know that I'm taking a break from the computer for the next several days. Why? I need it.

The following is what was said by Judge William Young, of the US District Court prior to sentencing the terrorist Richard C. Reid who has become known as the shoe bomber because he attempted to board an airliner with explosives in his tennis shoes. Upon conviction and prior to sentencing the Judge had the following exchange with Reid.

Reid was asked by the Judge if he had anything to say. After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid went on to admit his "allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah." [Reid did engage in a diatribe about the USA having slaughtered 2 million children in Iraq and slaughtering many other Muslims in many other countries.] He then rather defiantly stated, "I think I will not apologize for my actions for I am at war with your country." Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted below: Judge Young said:

"January 30, 2003, United States vs. Reid. Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you. On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutively. (That's 80 years.) On count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years again, to be served consecutively to the 80 years just imposed.'

"The Court imposes upon you for each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 that's an aggregate fine of $2 million. The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.The Court imposes upon you an $800 special assessment. The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need go no further. This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.'

"Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier, you are not----- you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.'

"So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You're no warrior. I've known warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews were, and he said: 'You're no big deal.'You are no big deal. What your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing? "

"I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you, but as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know. It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.'

"Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom, so that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom's sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf, have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges. We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.'

"Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. The day after tomorrow, it will be forgotten, but this, however, will long endure. Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America , the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done. The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.'

"See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America . That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. And it always will.'

"Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down."
____________________________________ ______

WOW. Thank you Judge William Young.

Paul B.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


A young man, whom I do not know, wrote on Wade's blog yesterday about how he had been swindled out of the wedding money he had saved over a long period of time___probably several thousands of dollars if I have any memory of wedding cost at all though the amount was not stated___ and had friends who lost their life savings to a "Christian Church Starting Group" during it's financial rape of many Arizona Southern Baptists in the 1990s. Those Southern Baptist leaders, there were several people involved, were recently sentenced to prison for their criminal activity.
[ you can read here... Scroll down to the Oct. 13 post.]

Wade was reporting the incident and talking about several other such shenanigans in Southern Baptist life some of which have yet to be made known to the general public. [They will be known eventually you can rest assured.] I, for one, was grateful for that young man's comment because it put a "real people" touch to the discussion of criminal behavior that had been perpetrated by "Christians"

There was a spirited debate that then ensued in the comment section as to the right or wrong of reporting such activities to the general public by other Christians on their blogs and whether we had any right to do anything but forgive and minister to the perpetrators of that crime.

Others sought to defend the whistle blowers and to call for more transparancy of anything done whether immoral or illegal by SBC leadership/pastors/missionaries and christians in general. They contended that Christians are not exempt from facing punishment for crimes they might commit. It is that duel desire of showing grace but wanting punishment that you will find even the young man confessed to having that I want to address in this post. Do Christians, crime and courts go together?

Does, in fact, true grace remove a desire on my part to see the penalty and punishment of the actions of a criminal come to pass if I am truly forgiving and truly loving that person? Or to ask it another way am I truly forgiving and loving a person if I have at the same time a desire to see them charged with, tried for and, in fact, suffer the consequences of their actions legally? How does all this fit in a committed Christian's life who wants to obey scripture and be a good citizen too? In other words, which group in that comment section mentioned in the second paragraph has the correct biblical argument?

In light of the seemingly many Christians and even many in the ministry who are being charged with rape, incest, theft, lying under oath, spousal and child abuse, and a host of other criminal behaviors in our day, it might be very important that we have this conversation at the present time in the life of the Church. Thus my part of the conversation via my blog.

[ you do understand I believe ALL Christians are ministers and I'm simply using this phrase as most of our modern day Christians use it to make a point]

I have two ideas personally that I have had to reconcile.

One is that I believe our posture as Christians should always be one of love and forgiveness to a brother or sister with whom we have a personal relationship who might become involved in criminal activity even if we are the victim. This since Grace is never to be suspended in our relationships with fallen humanity and we are never released from our responsibility to show the love and forgiveness to others that we have graciously received from the Father in Heaven. ["Love one another as I have loved you."]

The second idea to which I hold is that criminal matters are the perogative of the secular courts and the Church has no say in criminal matters unless the law violated was to be in specific contradistinction to the scriptures themselves. This would be illustrated by Peter and John when they were told to "no more speak of the name of Jesus as Lord" under the threat of severe consequences. [Remember it was illegal to call someone Lord other than Caesar under Roman law.]

When I say the Church has no say in criminal matters it is because of what I see in 1 Peter 2:12-16. Read it at your leisure. My understanding is this passage is to be played out even for [no not 'even' let's say 'especially'] Christians when criminal behavior is found to be present in a person. The only exception being that which I mentioned in the preceeding paragraph.

I would even go so far as to say that I believe it to be on the SIDE of Grace and scripture to allow 1 Peter 2:12-16 to take it's course with a professing Christian's criminal behavior and that this is why an abused spouse or one who is aware of child abuse by their spouse is never more submissive and biblical than when that spouse turns the offender in for prosecution. To SAY NOTHING would be criminal not to mention unbiblical.

The evidence for me that Grace DOESN'T suspend the consequences of the illegal activities of people__even professing Christian__is proven in what Jesus experienced on our behalf on the Cross. The whole of God's grace did not keep the weight of the guilt and punishment of our sin from being experienced. In fact, I believe it is the greatest expression OF His Amazing Grace that both [Grace and Consequences] exist and are experienced. So our grace being extended to a guilty person would have nothing to do with a criminal not having to pay legally for illegal activities if I understand this passage and the work of the Cross correctly.

Much abuse, rape, incest, theft, and other crimes can be allowed to go unpunished by secular courts if Christians fail to obey scripture and do not allow those courts to settle criminal issues among believers. Add to that the fact that the crimes yet future those guilty parties WILL commit will rest in shared blame and responsibility on the shoulders of those Christians who chose to remain in an unholy silence and unbiblical submission to the perpetrators.

Christians, crime and courts do go together at times regardless of how distasteful it is for us to admit it. The validity of the Christian profession of one who commits such a crime I'll have to leave with the Lord of the heart. But the validity of the courts right to enact punishment I have no doubt.

Likewise I have no doubt that our great responsibility, yea opportunity, is to visit in prison, minister to families, and even enter into sheperding and helping those who have paid their dues to society with wisdom, grace, common sense, and love once they are on the road of recovery. We are, after all, in all our local fellowships a bit of a hospital for sinners, a school for the ignorant, and and a hot house for tender broken plants in God's garden. All by the Grace of our God.

Paul B.

Monday, October 12, 2009


What follows started out as a comment on Wades blog but grew exponentially and, therefore, had to become a post on my own blog. I'm aware that some of my friends may disagree with me here but real friendships are never based on the necessity of agreement on all things discussed so I'm confident my real friendships WILL remain intact.

To give context___I have struggled for years with the non-sensicle content, in my personal judgment, of the baptist church covenant that has been used in traditional baptist churches for years. So great the struggle that in my last pastorate we laid it aside in favor of one we drew up ourselves. This post addresses only a couple of those covenant statements that I hold to be non-sensicle. [That's a real word..look it up. :)]

Add to all that the fact that in the comment section of Wade's blog that church covenant is being used as a reason to abstain from any use of alcohol__ ever __because it makes drinking at all a sin and you see why I started my comment. But it grew..and grew..and grew..well you understand why it is now a post. [Drunkenness is not at issue here. It IS a sin according to scripture.]

Now remember, no one is saying that abstinence isn't a good decision for many if not most christians generally speaking. But when abstinence becomes a requirement for one to be biblical or holy or a baptist, and anything else is a sin, we've got problems. Please be respectful and civil in any comments you might want to make. Thanks in advance.

With regards to the church covenant used in baptist life for years, I for one, believe it not to be the best. To codify abstinence in any church covenant creates a standard not found in scripture therefore is a dangerous standard for any church IMHO. Not WRONG to do since a church can codify whatever they wish as a standard for members but DANGEROUS.

[It WOULD also be honest to state such is NOT based on scripture.]

Why dangerous? Because it takes away the opportunity for those believers to compare themselves to the Jesus who drank wine with sinners BUT HAD NO SIN and DID NOT HIDE ANY SIN. [As I read one person say a while back.] I believe anytime you diminish your ability to identify with Jesus you have lost a great personal moment and a truly biblical view.

[If someone says He didn't drink wine it makes the accusation of being a wine bibber meaningless and Jesus generally had done what his accusers said as when He was said to have eaten with sinners. He had. They just thought He shouldn't have. Luke 15]

With this false standard in a church covenant what one winds up with is a group of church people whose lives are pure by their own measurement and gives them a standard that they can use to examine other believers to make sure THEY comply with what that church perceives as God's expectations... but really aren't.

You also wind up with a group that majors on one statement in a church covenant [abstinence] but generally dismisses another. That being a statement in that same covenant that requires daily devotions for the family. [Which is also a non-biblical standard. Good but non-biblical.] Then they hide their own failure by non-emphasis of that particular standard. [Since most church families DO NOT have daily family devotions.]

The consequencial outcome of non-biblical standards is that it measures sin in a way scripture doesn't, it often hides the committing of another sin, [created by that false standard] and it thus creates hypocrisy. As I said...dangerous stuff there.

This is why I believe a church covenant should be a carefully crafted and thought through document using as much as possible biblical standards only. Where other standards are used for whatever reason they should be identified as non-biblical and cultural only. To do so could sometimes be useful. But those standards certainly should not be identified as SINFUL.

By the way...One statement made was that if Jesus were living today He WOULD NOT drink because our culture of lost people would think it sinful for Him to do so. I don't think our theology for life ought to be based on speculation of what Jesus WOULD do as much as on what Jesus DID do as recorded in scripture.

Just my thoughts on a subject we can disagree on and still be saved I know and still be a baptist I hope.

Paul B.

Monday, October 05, 2009


"Speaking for the president, Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, in no uncertain terms said that the president did not think the criticism directed at him and his policies was based on the color of his skin. President Obama refused to answer a reporter who queried him about Carter's comments. When Obama did respond, much to his credit, he insisted that the "biggest driver" of the vitriol was distrust of government. His response was not only correct but the nation is better off as a result of it. We don't need the kind of divisiveness that would surely arise if Obama himself played the race card.'

'Race is no longer the problem that it once was. That doesn't mean there are not white and black bigots or that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated. But what little racial discrimination remains is nowhere near the insurmountable barrier it once was. For the most part, white bigots are no longer respected among whites and I look forward to the day when black bigots are no longer respected among blacks.".....

Columnist Walter williams.

[Highlighting of the second paragraph is my emphsis.]

I sure like the above two paragraphs of a much longer editorial by Columnist Walter Williams who is himself an African-American journalist. It seems to me he nailed it. I thank him for doing so.

I also am reminded of how our message of the gospel sets us straight as Christians on THAT topic whether society ever sees it as so or not.

Galatians 3:28 says..."There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [NIV] It goes without saying that biblically for us the race issue is settled. We are a new Kingdom people and race is not permitted to add or detract from our value or our relationship with each other. Anyone who names Jesus as Lord is my brother or sister in the Kingdom of God or the Body of Christ and anyone who denies that is being unbiblical in thought.

It also goes without saying that the same is to be understood in the area of gender. The same verse declares that also. Gender is not permitted to add or detract from our value or our relationship with each other as well. There is an equality in Kingdom living that society may or may not understand depending on the culture in which or of which one is speaking but is ever present in God's Kingdom.

Paul's culture of the NT time did not understand that and consequently did not permit slaves an equality. But the gospel did. And while Paul did not fight the societial disinctions per se that existed, he laid down the Kingdom principles of grace and life that did eventually fight against slavery in the mind and lifestyle of believers.

The same can be said to the gender issue. Women were chattel basically in the NT times but that did not keep Paul from declaring a different thing for the Kingdom while not taking on gender slavery per se. [As you are aware "per se" means "in and of itself." Paul had one focus and that was the doing and dying of Jesus and it's resulting grace in any human being in Christ.]

Eventually Christians, as those "in Christ," had to learn to live totally different than their society as they made full application of the gospel and that difference was to be seen in slaves, females, husbands and wives, and every relationship one might can have with another person. Christians WERE different that's for sure. But they were ONE with each other in value AND relationships when the gospel did it's work. "You shall know the Truth [Jesus] and the Truth shall set you free,"

All this does NOT dispute the fact that people ARE different whether it be race, gender, age, abilities, strengths, giftedness, and a host of things left unmentioned. But the Body of Christ is not to be structured on any of those differences. We are to use our differences, under His annointing and authority, for the good of all and I believe, when properly understood, the scriptures will not allow for value OR relationships to be based on anything in our differences, but the grace of God alone.

This is not to say that the color of skin does not remain white or black or yellow or one does not remain male or female young or old obviously. But that is only a biological reality that does NOT alter the biblical reality.

Using Walter Williams words in my context I would say that I look forward to the day when gender bigots are no longer respected among the male or female gender in Kingdom living. Then we ALL could serve our Lord by loving and serving each other as the highest privilage we have as we live out the gospel as well as share the gospel with our world. I think it all needs to begin in me. How about you?

[You can tell I believe there is only ONE head of the Body, the Church, or the Kingdom and only ONE Lord and issues such as marriage or church relationships in Kingdom living is not one of authority___men rule and women submit___ but one of serving "one another" out of our giftedness and uniqueness under His authority. He rules we all submit and serve.]

Paul B.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Years ago I discovered a technique for opening the door for the sharing of the gospel. I can't remember from whom or from where I got it, but it has been invaluable to me personally. It is simply the word "FORM." It is an acrostic for......

F..amily---asking with interest about the person's family of origin.

O..ccupation---asking with interest about the person's line of work.

R..eligion---asking with interest about the person's religious background and preference if any.

M..essage of Christ.---moving to the story of who, why, and how Jesus did what He did.

The two questions asked in the Evangelism Explosion technique have for the past 30 years been my lead in from Religion... to the... Message of Christ.

This little acrostic gave me an order of thought when I desired [felt led] to share the gospel with someone with whom I had only a few moments. [As on an airplane.] It gave an opportunity for me to move relationally to the sharing of the gospel on occasion as I traveled. That only, of course, if and when I came to the point of actually sharing the gospel.

You see, I had to discipline myself to never hurry through it or to never ask questions for which I was really unwilling to take the time to listen to the answers. In other words, I didn't want to be disingenuous in any conversation. [Having an agenda that allowed me to be manipulative in my conversation. People are NOT stupid.] Notice I said "I didn't want to BE disingenuous" not "I didn't want to APPEAR to be disingenuous." It wasn't appearance I was concerned about. It was the reality of my heart. So...there were times I didn't get to the gospel at all but I sure had a good conversation.

All this to say, respect for the other person should never be lost in our zeal to share the message of Christ.

That leads me to thinking about how many outsiders [non-believers] view many of us who profess faith in Christ. I'm not talking about their natural disdain for the message of the gospel which does, by it's very nature, seem to make many people uneasy, angry, and argumentative which are some of the milder reactions, I might add, that I've seen from people through the years. I'm talking about their view of us when we are ourselves argumentative, angry, non-relational and just being old fashioned jerks. [In other words, all too often, like the typical SBC blogger. :) ]

I've met and talked with non-believers enough to know what many of them think of the average christian. It ain't good. There are reasons that certain sayings have become cliches. Sayings such as........

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

"What you are is speaking so loudly I can't hear what you're saying."

"Church people are nice enough - as long as I go where they go and do as they do."

"I want to have real relationships with real people, NOT add religious activities to my social calendar... "

These cliches all exist partly because some christians try to witness with little interest in the person with whom they may be attempting to share the good news of the gospel and with little insight as to the importance of relationship. As a result there is no sense of relationship at all but, rather, a sense of adding a notch to our evangelistic six-gun as one goes about "witnessing."

I don't believe real sharing of our Lord [witnessing] is a propositional thing anyway. It is, in fact, the sharing of life. Ours first and then ultimately the truth of His life and death on our behalf. That takes time and the building of trust in relationships for it all to happen sometimes.

On top of this, I do believe we are to love people period. It is not a thing of.. "I love them so I can share the gospel." The fact that my love will ultimately include sharing the gospel is a reality but does NOT discount the fact that it will include a lot of genuine love BEFORE that opportunity arrives. If I forget this I've ceased being a bona fide witness. Of course there will be those times when there is no possibility of a prolonged relationship where trust and confidence can be built because of circumstances. It is those times which I'm addressing in this simple post. I hope it helps.

The gospel IS seed and we have the delight of sowing that seed as we go about the living of life. But it has taken me the last two-thirds of this post to make sure we don't see the first one-third as a mechanical, propositional, and even artificial sharing of the gospel. There is no such thing as that when the gospel is REALLY shared.

Paul B.