Category Archives: Southern Baptists

Christianity Today Covers the SBC Calvinism Debate

Just yesterday, Christianity Today published coverage of the recent debate over a statement on Calvinism:

A statement by a non-Calvinist faction of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has launched infighting within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, and tensions are expected to escalate Tuesday as church leaders descend on New Orleans.

While the election of the denomination’s first African American president in its 167-year history will dominate the meeting’s headlines, water-cooler talk is sure to be fixated on a theological dirty word that, for the past two weeks, has spiked the blood pressure of theologians as much as it has Baptist visits to Wikipedia.

The May 30 document, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” aims “to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation.” But both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, in separate blog posts, said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.

Read the whole thing.  This is careful reporting on an important issue.  And please pray for the SBC, meeting this very week, that the convention will be biblically grounded to the core and will not sacrifice unity in the gospel.  Satan roams like a lion, and does not need any help in his work of devastation and disunity.

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Christopher Hitchens Was Wrong: Martin Luther King, Jr. on “Cosmic Companionship” at Southern Seminary

This from the archival history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a site that has a lot of information on the school (including a section called “Our Lore” that has a number of fun and interesting stories):

In April 1961, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was gaining national fame for his work for racial equality, he visited Southern and spoke in chapel. Ethics professor Henlee Barnette, who invited Dr. King, remembered the event nearly forty years later. After an introduction by Ethics Professor Nolan Howington, King rose to speak.

“Dr. King slowly and quietly recognized Dr. Howington, members of the faculty, students, and visitors. Then he expressed his pleasure at being in the seminary chapel again. He noted that he had been in the chapel two or three times before with his mother who was organist for the Woman’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention meeting on the campus.

The title of Dr. King’s prophetic and challenging message was The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension. In this lecture, he observed that we were witnessing the passing of the old order and the emergence of a new age. With the decline of colonialism, new governments and countries were being born, especially in Africa…In conclusion King declared that we must have faith in the future, that problems can be solved, and that we have “Cosmic Companionship” in the task ahead of us. King closed with a typical peroration that characterizes many of his messages by noting that there is something in this universe which justifies the poet’s conviction that truth will triumph.

This speech was given in an academic setting, which perhaps accounts for a lack of the typical animation on the part of King in his concluding remarks. Through it all, he was calm, deliberate, articulate, serious. He delivered the whole message without a note, looking straight at the people in the pews who sat spellbound throughout the speech.”

King then spoke to a seminary ethics class for some time about his advocacy for equality and participated in several meetings in downtown Louisville, shuttling from place to place in a funeral home limousine with a police escort.

–From Barnette’s The Visit of Martin Luther King, Jr., Part TwoReview and Expositor

It is good to remember events like this, and also to note how King’s spiritual and theological convictions drove his advocacy on behalf of a just cause (see Denny Burk’s thoughts here).  Christopher Hitchens was wrong.  The Christian moral imagination has accomplished amazing feats of virtue and justice throughout the world’s history.

We remember that today.



Filed under Southern Baptists, southern seminary

Southern Baptists, the Gospel, and Ronnie Floyd

Doug Baker of the Oklahoma Messenger just did an Insight vidcast with Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas.  Dr. Floyd is a widely respected pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention and an architect of the Great Commission Resurgence.

To learn more about the GCR and Dr. Floyd’s reflections on it, go here.  You’ll enjoy Doug’s interview and will gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for this exciting development in the SBC.  Here’s hoping for similar gospel-driven movements in other denominations and slices of God’s church.  God really does renew His church through His Word and gospel, a matter we need to keep before us in a discouraging and broken world.

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David Dockery on the Great Commission Resurgence

Have you wondered what on earth the “Great Commission Resurgence” is in recent months?  You may know it’s a development in the Southern Baptist Convention.  But until now, you might have found little concrete information about it.

If that is the case–and I suspect it is for a bunch of people–you should check out the new Insight Podcast with David Dockery of Union University.  The podcast is hosted by Doug Baker of The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma), and it delves extensively into the “GCR”–what it is, how it started, and Lord willing, where it is going.  Doug is a gifted interviewer with a keen understanding of the SBC, and Dr. Dockery is perhaps the senior statesman of the SBC. 

Whether you’re a Southern Baptist or not, give this podcast a listen.  I don’t care if you’re Presbyterian, Acts29, charismatic, Anglican, or nondenominational–this is a gospel development.  By this I mean that an entire denomination, a massive movement of churches, is reorienting its structure and funding to more effectively promote the gospel.  This is worth listening to, and this is worth praying for.


Here are some other resources related to the GCR:

Danny Akin’s message that is credited as the origin of the GCR’s public initiation:

Here is Dr. Mohler’s column which he wrote exclusively for the Baptist Messenger:

Baptist21, the youth movement of the GCR:

GCR website:

Commentary from Timmy Brister on the future of the SBC:

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Powerhouse Conference at Union University: Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominations

unionsbcIn just one month, from October 6-9, 2009 in Jackson, TN, Union University is hosting one of the more interesting conferences to be held in conservative Christian circles in 2009-10 (yes, I’m on the school calendar).  It’s entitled Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominations” and it is worth attendance and attention.

I would highly encourage those who can attend this conference to sign up.  It’s just $85 per person until September 15, 2009 (register here).  The conference will feature leading evangelical lights like David Dockery, Al Mohler, Timothy George, Danny Akin, D. Michael Lindsay, Duane Litfin of Wheaton, Ed Stetzer, and many more.  It looks like a terrific lineup, one that will help to form an understanding of the three major subjects outlined in the event title.  Notable blogger and friend Trevin Wax will be covering the conference.

As many will know, Union University has been in the vanguard of those who are thinking critically about the future of the SBC, denominations and denominational identities.  This conference only cements the school’s position.

Register online here and support a great conference and a leading evangelical school.

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The Link 7.24.09: Mark Driscoll’s Book, Tim Tebow’s Faith, and Martha’s Vineyard

tebow1. Have you seen the new Sports Illustrated profile of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow?  If not, here it is.  This guy seems to be the real deal.  An outspoken Christian who loves preaching the gospel.  Encouraging.

2. That street vendor selling hot dogs?  According to the NYT, he’s on Twitter

3. For those of us New Englanders currently living in exile, a brief look at Martha’s Vineyard makes the heart grow fonder

4. The Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma, a Southern Baptist newspaper published since 1912, has just welcomed my friend Doug Baker to its editorship.  Congratulations are in order.

5. Have you heard about the free eBook by Mark Driscoll entitled Pastor Dad?  It looks like a terrific book, especially for men trying to tackle the challenge of spiritual headship of a family.     

–Have a great weekend, all.


Filed under links, Mark Driscoll, Southern Baptists

At SBTS, Fidelity Matters: A Friendly Response to Dave Doran

For those of you who did not follow my post about the Southern Seminary sesquicentennial and the subsequent discussion it sparked, Andy Naselli put together a nice blog about the two sides related to the McCall Pavilion controversy at Southern.  I’ll skip a lengthy summary and say this: Greg Gilbert and Mark Rogers agreed with my take on SBTS naming a pavilion after professed SBC “moderate” Duke McCall, and fundamentalist leader Dave Doran disagreed with it. 

I read the remarks of all and have chewed on them for a few days now.  I wanted to offer just a few thoughts by way of response to Dr. Doran, who is by the accounts of several friends a godly man and an excellent Christian leader.  I do not know him (though I would love to), and I am not interested in anything other than friendly, stimulating discussion over things that matter.  I write as a young man conversing with an elder and better.

First, very briefly, Mark has some great thoughts that relate to how we Christians of all stripes can be terribly blind to our own sins even as we challenge others for their own alleged problems.  Mark shows that even as some fundamentalists have warned their brothers and sisters about potential sins, these same people (not Doran) tragically served and defended a flagship fundamentalist school that perpetuated unbiblical teaching (a legacy graduates of this school, dear friends of mine included, utterly repudiate).  This is not an indictment of all or even most fundamentalists.  But Mark does make a great point, one that sounds a cautionary note for all of us who sometimes see faults in our brothers and sisters without recognizing our own significant sins.

Second, in Doran’s response to Greg Gilbert’s 9Marks post supporting SBTS’s decision to name the pavilion after McCall, he wrote this:

“Why does expressing disagreement and asking a question about an action qualify as “carp[ing] at Al Mohler”? I am disappointed by this line of response, but it seems to be standard fare for our culture these days. I don’t think Greg would accuse Mark Dever of “carping at” whomever simply because Mark expressed disagreement with some action by or idea of that person. Why make this about Al Mohler?”

I have no comments on the “carping” language.  I would, however, say that with all due respect, I think that Greg (and Mark) is right to make the Pavilion decision about Al Mohler (and, by proxy, the cabinet he represents).  One cannot abstract SBTS’s decision from Mohler’s character and theological vision, after all.  As with all matters relating to Southern Seminary, especially important ones, Al Mohler and his theological platform is deeply involved. 

Why is this important?  Because Greg shows in his post that Al Mohler has proven himself to be concerned with the proclamation and defense of truth to the most serious extent.  Over and over again in his presidential career, Mohler has defended orthodoxy at personal cost.  Though I see room for disagreement on this point, and concede that Dr. Doran thinks well and speaks persuasively for his case, I believe that this point is about Al Mohler, and have to respectfully disagree with him.

Let me illustrate.  If another president had undertaken the same action as Mohler, but did not have a track record of sacrificial defense of orthodoxy, I would share Doran’s reservations.  This is not to say that Mohler is infallible–nothing of the sort.  But it is helpful as a thought experiment to consider how differently I would feel if the president in question had a track record of vacillating on difficult questions.  Al Mohler, to be blunt, does not.  Whether or not one agrees with every decision he has made, no Christian who seeks a posture of fairness and historical credibility can claim that he has not faithfully and at great personal cost defended biblical orthodoxy at Southern and–furthermore–that this defense (or defensive offense, as I would prefer to say) has not been remarkably blessed by God such that SBTS has turned out thousands of graduates who love the Word and want nothing more than to be faithful to the Lord of it. 

Al Mohler and all other Christian leaders are sinful, fallible, and in need of accountability.  I do not think that Dr. Mohler, a personal mentor, is above making mistakes, even grievous ones.  None of us is.  We all depend more than we will know in this life on the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.  With that said, Al Mohler has earned the trust of conservative Christians.  Not an unthinking trust, but a robust trust nonetheless.  Indeed, Mohler’s decision speaks not of theological compromise, but of graciousness of a sort that most of us lack.  In the sesquicentennial ceremony, Mohler did not state agreement with McCall’s theology.  He did not go back on previous statements.  Rather, he honored a man who served Southern Seminary.  This man did not have the kind of ministry that conservatives seek.  But neither, for that matter, did a number of Southern’s presidents.  Naming a pavilion after a president does not signal endorsement of his theology.  It signals a gracious recognition that, for better or worse, this person served SBTS in an executive capacity.  In McCall’s case, he did so for over three decades. 

Shifting gears, Doran is right that the neo-evangelical leaders of Fuller Theological Seminary started out strong and quickly lost their theological bearings.  As with Doran’s distaste for theological liberalism of the kind that infected SBTS for decades, I share his concerns about the early years of Fuller.  Furthermore, Doran is right, I think, to sound a note of caution about all institutions that seem biblically faithful.  The academic and ecclesial world is chock full of groups and churches that started strong but drifted away from the truth of the Word.  None of us can assume that because we stand today, we will stand tomorrow. 

With those important caveats noted, Fuller does have some important differences from SBTS.  I am studying the neo-evangelicals in my doctoral work and thus am comfortable offering at least a tentative word on the matter.  E. J. Carnell, second president of Fuller, was a far less stable man than Al Mohler, both spiritually and constitutionally.  Fuller itself had a vastly weaker doctrinal and theological base than Southern.  It struggled to find a confessional home in its early years, a fact which immediately separates it from SBTS.  Of course, a school still has to adhere to its confession, but the point stands. 

Fuller was poorly managed in some cases, with a distance president (the subject, dv, of my future dissertation, Harold John Ockenga) and a founder, Charles Fuller, who knew little about academic theology (at a day when it could be very difficult to tell the difference between Barthians and evangelicals).  In addition, the Fuller faculty worked themselves to the bone in large part because the school–at great cost–set out from its inception to singlehandedly mount the great intellectual defense of Christianity.  This played into hiring decisions.  Subsequently, a large part of the faculty that Fuller attracted cared far too much for secular credibility and far too little for biblical fidelity. Examples abound on this point–see Rudolph Nelson’s fascinating The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Mind, on E. J. Carnell, and the recent biography of G. E. Ladd, A Place at the Table

Southern Seminary is not immune to such drifts.  I stress this yet again because I want it to be clear that I believe it.  However, the Southern faculty, a group with which I am personally well acquainted, has a different orientation than the Fuller faculty.  The school constantly stresses in chapel and in print that it is seeking to be faithful to Christ above all other ends.  The faculty is, as a whole, richly talented, but they seek to build the church, not to please the academy.  Many professors pastor churches or are elders in churches, a point of huge divergence between Southern and Fuller (and many contemporary evangelical seminaries).  This naturally makes it a little harder for some faculty members to publish as much as they otherwise would, but the seminary’s leadership celebrates its theologian-pastors, its scholarly churchmen.  SBTS could drift again, as Doran rightly points out, but the seminary in my view is on an excellent course at present.

Dave Doran is clearly a man concerned with truth and the Word.  I stand proudly beside him on these points.  I do disagree with his conclusions about the pavilion decision, but I want very much to take his words seriously and to be constantly wary of my sin.  That is not Doran’s emphasis, after all, but Scripture’s.  Though we may disagree on the matter discussed above, I am quite certain that we agree on this last point, one that shapes our faith and guides our steps.


Filed under Southern Baptists, southern seminary

The Link 6.26.09: Danny Akin, Mark Dever, and the SBC’s Future

1. Just one link in this busy week. 

For those who have not heard of this conference, it is worth noting:

God Exposed: Awkward Preaching in a Comfortable Age September 25-26, 2009 — Sponsored by 9Marks and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

God Exposed will call pastors and church leader to embrace and defend expositional preaching as a means to strengthen and grow the church. Expositional preaching – that which has as its aim to explain and apply a particular portion of God’s Word – is especially important in a day when many are abandoning faithfulness to the Scripture in their pulpit ministries. This conference will encourage and train pastors whose primary calling is ministering the Word of God to their people.”

Speakers include Akin, Dever, CJ Mahaney, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Mike McKinley.  Looks great.

It is really exciting to see continued partnership between Danny Akin and Mark Dever.  These men have been friends for years, but their enhanced cooperation means great things for the SBC’s future, I think.  Akin is a major SBC figure, one who commands respects from all Southern Baptist figures.  Dever is a more broadly evangelical leader who has sometimes failed to find a place at the table due to his staunch theology.  Here’s hoping that these two men will continue to partner in order that many others who would not otherwise sit at the same table will break bread together in coming days.

Akin went out of his way to show kindness to the 9Marks folks at this latest convention.  Southeastern Seminary hosted a number of events so that 9Marks could have a place at the SBC.  That was most kind of Akin and the school he leads, and it did not go unnoticed.  That kind of maturity and graciousness can only have good effects.

–Have a great weekend, all.

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Rumbling in the SBC: 2009 Convention Dispatches

I’m in the River City (Louisville, KY) for vacation.  My trip has coincided with a number of fun events: first, the annual Southern Baptist Convention, and second, the 150th anniversary of Southern Seminary, my alma mater.  The SBTS extravaganza is tomorrow, so I’ll talk about that then.  For now, here are a few thoughts from the last couple days of the SBC:

1. There’s a movement afoot in the SBC, if you haven’t heard.  It’s called the “Great Commission Resurgence”, and it’s centered around restructuring the Convention to funnel more money to the work of missions and specifically the International Mission Board.  See a very helpful Tim Brister recap post for more

2. This movement is exciting because it’s drawing together established men of God like David Dockery, Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Johnny Hunt, and younger future leaders like Jonathan Akin, Jedidiah Coppenger, Ben Dockery, Nathan Akin, Trevin Wax, Tim Brister, and more.  It’s great to see an older generation reaching down to a younger generation and to see a younger generation honor its elders (and betters) even as it seeks increased influence for the cause of the gospel. 

3. Because of its diverse, gospel-centered nature, this is one of the most encouraging movements I have seen in a long time. For me, it’s on the same level as Acts 29, which has launched an advance of similar ambition and Christocentric focus.  I can’t really think of a negative aspect to the GCR.  If it works–and it will take much time and effort for that to happen–it will transform the SBC, make it lighter and faster, and devote millions more dollars to the work of domestic and international missions.

4. 9Marks is holding a series of panels at the SBC, and last night’s attracted hundreds of pastors and future leaders.  They’re partnering with Baptist21, the group of young SBC guys interested in promoting the GCR.  In years past, 9Marks has struggled to find a footing in the SBC.  It’s great to see them connected to other groups and gaining a wider hearing.  If the SBC is going to thrive and reclaim its confessional heritage, it sorely needs the influence of groups like 9Marks. 

5. Pray for all of these developments.  Tonight the Convention votes on a motion related to the GCR.  Whether or not you’re a Southern Baptist, whether or not you’ve ever had any contact with the SBC, pray for the success of the GCR.  Southern Baptists have fought the battle over the authority of Scripture.  Now they are fighting a battle over the sufficiency of Scripture.  They are working to drive the Word and the gospel to the very heart of the Convention, to root their convention in the word of Christ like a house to concrete.  Praise God for this.  Pray to God for this.  Thank God for this.

6. In other news: Denny Burk is a chair-stealer (and a terrific college dean).  Mark Dever has lost 35 pounds.  David Platt and my friend John-Michael LaRue (who sometimes comments on this blog) are, I think, twins separated at birth.  Java Brewing Company (still) makes a delicious Irish Mocha (it’s not on the menu–you have to ask for it).  The Baptist21 panel featuring Mohler, Dever, Platt, Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin and pastor Daniel Montgomery of Sojourn Community Church (Louisville) was terrific.  Lots of candid, constructive dialogue. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with thoughts on the SBTS sesquicentennial celebration.  Louisville is an exciting place to be right now, and I’m excited about all of these developments.  May God continue to purify the churches of the SBC to accomplish even greater things for His glory and renown.


Filed under Southern Baptists, southern seminary, Uncategorized

Compelling Books: Thom Rainer’s Simple Church

This is not a book review of Rainer’s 2005 text, Simple Church, but more a reflection based on the book. I will give you a quick summation before I leave you with my thoughts. Rainer, a church consultant and strategist and current president of the SBC publishing monolith Lifeway Books, writes with Eric Geiger, a pastor in Miami, to encourage pastors and church leaders to transition from a traditional, multi-layered, strictly hierarchical, unfocused style of church to a simple, streamlined model that articulates a simple vision for the church and judges all activity by it. The simple church cuts out unnecessary activities, activities that do not directly enhance the ministry focus of the congregation, and leaves members with a fluid, accessible church experience that is not cluttered by dozens of programs, initiatives, and competing motives and methods.

I would not agree with everything in Simple Church, and I do not typically lean heavily on the church consultant market for ideas, but I think Rainer is onto something here. The simple church model is, in a word, compelling. How many of us have experienced life in a church with little idea of where it’s going and even less formal articulation of how it will get there? How many of us have served in churches filled with unconnected ministries and a lack of a driving vision? How many of us have wearied of multiple weekly commitments that feel more like duties than opportunities? Simple Church has some good things to say to such people. I am not one to encourage people to be disheartened and frustrated by their church, but I would say that a church that possesses a simple vision and takes a few concrete steps to get there is on the right track.

Don’t mishear me. I’m not saying that I want to dumb down doctrine or some such awful thing. But I do think that, in a complex and busy world, there is much to say for simplicity. Historical Christianity, after all, was simple. You went to church all day on Sunday, if you were in a confessional tradition, and then you worked the rest of the week. If you were a good husband and father, you led your family in some form of domestic worship. That was pretty much it. We make the mistake sometimes of assuming that the overcrowded modern church calendar is the historical norm and the very fulfillment of the New Testament ideal for the church. Other than the Sunday service, there is no weekly calendar laid out for the congregation. We have the freedom, then, to be simple. In the midst of church life that seems anything but restful and nourishing, we can claim simplicity for ourselves. We can seek a vibrant, rich, doctrinally driven, joyful church life that focuses on itself on worshipping God as laid out in the Bible–and the biblical plan is very simple–through weekly gathering and through specific engagement in evangelism and discipleship. You and I do not have to gasp for breath in order to be faithful church members. As Dr. Thom Rainer so helpfully reminds us, church life can be simple. No, let’s rephrase that. It not only can be simple, it was meant to be so.

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Filed under Lifeway, simple church, Southern Baptists, Thom Rainer