Thursday, June 29

Blogging the GARBC Conference, The Vote 2006!

Well, since Tom Pryde (aka, Neofundamentalist) has commandeered my computer, we are going to post jointly on the GARBC business meeting. Tom's comments will be in black and mine will be in red.

John Greening began the meeting with an overview of his work over the year and giving a vision for the churches (which included some good suggestions and some potentially unworkable solutions, but at least he proposed a proactive vision – that is a step forward). After the treasurer’s report he introduced the Big Issue and began the discussion with an excellent statement on the situation, however in his statement, Cedarville was the central issue. He said that the dilemma we face has no easy answer, and said we “seem” to be at odds with each other. That would be an understatement.

I agree with Tom’s assertions, but I would like to add that Dr. Greening did remind the messengers that, years ago, there was a proposed merger between the GARBC and the CBA. The merger failed to materialize due to a disagreement on secondary separation. The CBA, while adhering to primary separation, was at odds with the GARBC’s practice of secondary separation as presented by the association founders, including Dr. Ketchum. This was a major revelation to us young fundamentalists, demonstrating the trajectory of the GARBC.

That actually took me by surprise as well, and served to underscore the point that the GARBC has historically held to some form of secondary separation. The idea that secondary separation is not taught in the Bible at all is completely foreign to the GARBC, until recently. He also stated that our association has always enjoyed a doctrinal unity mixed with a diversity of practice, and in this one concept, he actually undermined his own position. Separation is inextricably tied to application.

He concluded with a plea to unity saying, “ I ask that you remain committed to the family.” But this is only possible only if the family remains committed to both doctrinal and practical adherence to the teaching of Scripture. On this question, you cannot divorce the two.

Brad Quick, the Chairman of the Council of 18 and Pastor of First Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio, moderated the meeting. Pastor Quick explained how this issue and vote came to pass, reminding the messengers that essentially this vote was foisted upon the Council by Cedarville and its supporters (this was made evident particularly in a later discussion by Cedarville supporters). Pastor Quick also reminded the messengers that the Council had reaffirmed its agreement with the separation statement of the 1980s, explaining that this was both a necessary and healthy process. He then proceeded to share guidelines for the discussion that allowed the dialogue to proceed with much Christian grace and charity!

Well, for the most part that grace and charity marked the conversation, and I say for the most part, because we have one rather outspoken and occasionally vociferous individual who always seems to grate on people. He is a supporter of Cedarville, and if I were on his side of the fence, I would try to find a way to keep him from speaking. He discredits his own position by his tactics and attitude. Other than that, the discussion for the first part (the counsel’s statement on separation) was remarkably uneventful with no voiced opposition. I was really surprised.

Following the vote on the separation statement, the line behind the microphone formed rather quickly. It soon became apparent that, while Cedarville was not the underlying issue, it was treated as such. Those, who in principle were in disagreement with the statement on separation, used Cedarville as a wedge to undermine the secondary separation portions of that statement (which were admittedly vague).

The majority of commentators, who were “pro Cedarville,” capitalized on this vagary. Several luminaries stood in opposition to the Cedarville question. The first was Dave Warren (The Ohio State Representative, and a member of the counsel). Dave is a very gracious man, but I had to disagree with his characterization of the issue. Mainly, he asserted that the Bible does not teach secondary separation. He said secondary separation promotes an environment of fear and disunity (and even that it was unreasonable). Like those who followed him in dissenting from the Counsel’s decision, he made the issue about Cedarville.

The emotional pleas were prevalent in the opposition. For example, one man commented that a vote against Cedarville was like saying that every Cedarville graduate was unwelcome in the GARBC. This is not only fallacious it is manipulative. There were some other arguments, but the last guy really overstepped the bounds of reason and made a statement that is at least misleading.

He is a member of the Cedarville Board of Trustees, and he asserted that Cedarville had always supported the position of the GARBC and was in agreement with the partnering policy. As evidence, he cited that they did actually sign the statement, but the counsel did not accept their signature as valid. This is only partially true, and it leaves out one very significant point. Cedarville’s published statement regarding the partnering agreement says that they would be unethical and dishonest to sign it. This leaves me to wonder whether the published statement or the signing of the partnering agreement was untrue, but in either case, both can’t be true.

Although the majority of the comments came from those opposed to the Council’s recommendation, several men eloquently defended the Council’s decision. Tom Pryde, after quietly sitting on his hands for nearly three minutes, quietly but purposefully walked to the mic and proceeded to verbalize a biblical perspective pertaining to both the issue of separation and Cedarville. Tom stated that if separation is a biblical command, to not practice secondary separation is both inconsistent and unbiblical (you all would have been proud).

I was encouraged by what I saw and heard in this what could have been contentious meeting. I consider today’s meeting a victory for biblical fundamentalism, and am convinced that our association is headed in the right direction. Yet I am still left a bit perplexed by the association’s unwillingness to publicly address the dangers of unbiblical and anthropocentric models of ministry (i.e., integrationist psychology, Purpose-Driven paradigm, etc.). These issues must be addressed in the near future. Until then, I remain cautiously optimistic that our association is on the right track. Now for Tom’s final words…

There was a stand up vote on a proposed amendment supporting Cedarville that was soundly defeated, and if this is an indicator of the general direction of the association, I am also optimistic, though I may not be quite as optimistic as Ken. By the way, the votes were…

Vote 1: In regards to the adoption of the Council of 18 statement on separation [click here to read] –

535 yes

67 no

The messengers of the GARBC voted to adopt the Council of 18 statement on separation.

Vote 2: In regards to officially separating from Cedarville as an association –

311 yes

283 no

The messengers of the GARBC voted to officially separate from Cedarville as an association.

Looking at these results it seems clear to me that we still have some work to do, but we have a real opportunity to clarify and apply a solidly Biblical and reasonable position on separation.

Blogging the GARBC Conference, Day 2

Wednesday is now history at the GARBC National Conference in Lansing, Michigan. Here are a few of the highlights from the plenary and workshop sessions (and from a late-night snack with two SharperIron members).

In the 9 AM plenary session, Erskine Dodson, Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, addressed the topic of "Shining His Light In A Dark World" from Philippians 2:12-16. Good news, a Calvinist did show up to preach from the GARBC pulpit!!

"When God does a work in you by His grace, you cannot be the same."

"Obedience is not always easy, but obedience is always right."

"Your salvation did not depend upon you, but God. Salvation is all of God."

"We think we are sovereign with our little education and Ph. D's, but we're not. Only God is sovereign."

"God will send or allow things to come into our lives to awaken us to our nothingness ... so that we will rely entirely and completely upon Him."
During the 10:30 AM workshop hour, I attended a workshop entitled "Eight Assimilation Tools." The purpose of this workshop was to invite the attendees to develop an intentional strategy to keep new church attenders (actually "seekers" was used numerous times) attending, while intentionally growing them into mature members. This workshop was peppered with the pithy sayings (and many of the views) of the Purpose-Driven church movement, and the workshop leader promoted his several lengthy stays at Saddleback and personal interviews with Rick Warren. Here is a brief sampling of some of these statements:
"The first step in assimilation is to determine who you are trying to connect."

"Assimilation really starts before evangelism. It begins with building bridges and relationships."

"There is passive outreach and then there's purposeful and intentional outreach."

"When church is boring, unclear, or irrelevant, it's not God's fault."

"Anything that happens without prayer wasn't worth happening."

"Most people aren't resistant to Christ or Christianity -- only church."

"The first four principles of attachment go like this. One, create the right impression and reputation. Two, know your target -- who you are trying to reach. Third, cultivate personal growth through authenticity. Four, cast vision by planning your worship and preaching to communicate your vision to the church."
At the 1:30 PM plenary session, Kent Craig, the Executive Administrator for the Asia/Pacific Region (ABWE), spoke from John 4:27-35 on "Are You Available?"
"All of us were created on purpose for purpose."

"The Samaritan woman came to the well as a consumer of literal water and left the well as a supplier of living water."

"Three timeless, ageless obstacles to targeting unreached peoples and unevangelized places are...

1) Prejudice in verse 27. Too often our attitude is "Not them."

2) Preoccupation in verses 31-34. Too often our attitude is "Not that."

3) Procrastination and Presumption in verse 35. Too often our attitude is "Not time."
Wednesday's keynote speaker was Dr. Hantz Bernard. Dr. Bernard is the Director of Bibles International. His text was Acts 15:14, and his topic was "A People For His Name."
"God's purpose is not just to save people, but to transform them into the image of Jesus Christ."

"We are saved from the bondage of sin to become slaves of Jesus Christ."

"We are living in an age where church movements change nearly as often as the seasons of the year."

"Faith should define culture -- not vice-versa."
The food has been great (Cheddar's and Clara's today). The fellowship has been great ... getting together with Mike Hess and Thomas Pryde (finally found him) has been quite the experience (photos are forthcoming)! Thanks to Tom for treating my family to our first Coldstone Ice Cream trip! Thanks to Mike for the late night potato skins at Clara's. If only you all could've been there to hear these two pastors discuss the philosophy that drives their theology. I could only listen ... as the old cliche goes, "I couldn't get a word in edge-wise."

It was like I was having a late evening snack at a table with two old women!!

P.S. -- Our son's photo (right) appears at the GARBC website, detailing his trip to the Lansing zoo. All the GARBC conference photos and sermons appear HERE. Way to go, Noah!

NOTE: I will publish a late afternoon report on the Cedarville issue and vote ... stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 27

GOD, Truth, & Postmodernism

A question which most philosophical systems and religious theologies try to answer is what is truth? The follow up question would be how can we know truth?

Hard Postmodernism (i.e., allowing no truth, not even partial truth; Carson's term) sets up a fallacious disjunctive syllogism (either this, or that). It might read something like: "Either man knows everything fully (omniscience) or man knows nothing fully." D.A. Carson states, "In effect, the [Postmodernist's] antithesis demands that we be God, with all of God's omniscience, or else be forever condemned to knowing nothing objective for sure" (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church 105).

Dr. Ronald Horton says, "A disjunctive syllogism must include in the major premise all possible alternatives. Otherwise it is fallacious." Later, he describes the fallacy I mentioned: "Boxing in one's opponent to fewer than the possible choices is the either-or fallacy, or false dilemma. In an ethical context it is known as the black and white fallacy" (Companion to College English 104; emphasis mine).

The option, I believe, Postmodern thinkers leave out is this: "Either man knows everything fully, or he knows nothing fully, or an omniscient God reveals full truth to a finite man." Man was originally created imagio Deo (the image of God; Genesis 1:27); that image is badly scarred, yet not lost (cf. Genesis 9:6; Ephesians 4:23; James 3:9). So man was created with an intellect beyond comparison--no animals have the capacity for thought like humans do. But with the Fall man's intellect and capacity for understanding truth was scarred, but not lost.

Paul argues for an unwritten law on man's heart. "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them" (Romans 2:14-15). Man's conscience testifies to the truth of truth.

Carson demonstrates the inconsistency of some postmodern thinkers: "My exposure to current postmodern thinkers, both in person and through literature, confirms that they are as full of opinions about what is right and wrong as the next person. Simply raise questions about say, President Bush's policy in Iraq, the rights of homosexuals, genocide in Darfur, and the meaning of economic justice, and postmoderns are no more reluctant than their modern counterparts to voice what they think are the rights and wrongs of the situation" (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church 113). Paul talks poignantly about this type of double talk: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" (Romans 1:18; cf. 1:25-"they exchanged the truth about God for a lie.").

I am not saying that we understand God's Word perfectly, but He has revealed Himself to us and promised the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds to the truth of God's Word. For instance, obviously godly men have disagreed on the sacrament of baptism. This does not mean God's Word is not clear, only that our scarred nature is rearing its head--either one party may be wrong or both or our minds may be too finite to understand some truths. We cannot deny the perspicuity & clarity of Scripture.

I will be the first to admit that some of our interpretations stem from our social and historical perspective, but we must strive as much as we possibly can to determine truth objectively. The asymptotic approach developed by Karl Popper "explain[s] knowledge acquisition in the field of science....An asymptote is a curved line that gets closer and closer to a straight line without ever touching it' (Carson 119). The asymptotic approach states "that with time the knower gets closer and closer to the reality, though without ever touching the line that would mark perfect knowledge: we will never be omniscient (119-120). We must embrace our finiteness while "refusing to relativize all knowledge" (120).

Furthermore, some day we will know fully because we will see the glory of God unhindered in the face of Christ. Paul says, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then
face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

God is a God of truth. When talking about taking oaths and swearing, the prophet Isaiah says the one who makes the vow does so by "the God of truth" (Isaiah 65:16). Furthermore, Jesus reveals that God desires worshippers to do so "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Jesus Himself claims "'I am the way, and the truth, and the life'" (John 14:6).

Now, I think, as Christians we all agree that God is truth, but
does God require that we seek to know the truth? Or are we doomed to never know any truth until we see Him face to face? I want to catalogue here some references to truth in the Scripture.

First, "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but
by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:2). Paul here is discussing his methods of spreading the gospel--"by the open statement of the truth." Paul later says, "if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (vv. 3-4). The truth is proclaimed loud and clear, but those who are unbelieving are blinded to the truth of the gospel.

Second, "Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing--as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth" (Colossians 1:5-6). Paul is encouraging the Colossians' faith. Again he calls the gospel truth. What is the gospel? "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" (2 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Why then do not all men receive the truth? Think of Romans 1:18, 25. Paul puts it no clearer in 2 Corinthians 2:8-14-"None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory....[T]hese things [the gospel] God has revealed to us through the Spirit....The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

Third, "But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Here Paul talks "belief in truth." Salvation (from beginning to end) is wrought by belief in truth. Man could not be saved if truth was not clear. We would be without hope, but Jesus declares Himself "truth." Praise God!

Fourth, talking about attitudes in God's house, Paul says Christians "know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:3). Paul is giving a command here. Could Timothy have said, "Well Paul you are not being clear. How can I really know the truth? I am only finite, you know." He could have, but he did not. He stuck with Paul and from all historical records stayed firm in his faith (i.e., belief in the truth of the gospel).

Fifth, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15; emphasis mine). Paul exhorts Timothy to not mishandle God's Word--which is truth. Paul is then insinuating that there is way which one might distort God's truth. Brothers and sisters, let's not neglect the command of God. Let's handle the word of truth in truth.

I believe, the postmodern reaction is impart due to the over specific truth claims made by some factions of Christianity, particularly Fundamentalist. A universal truth is a truth ahistorically--through out all ages (Carson's term).The world has called our bluff onn a lot of these issues. We are hindering the gospel when we claim something as Bible truth that is not.

We must cry with the Psalmist David: "
Lead me in your truthand teach me,for you are the God of my salvation for you I wait all the day long" (Psalm 25:5).

(All emphasis such as italics, bold, or color is mine unless otherwise noted)

Originally posted on April 13, 2006 at Under Sovereign Grace

Soli Deo Gloria

Blogging the GARBC Conference, Day 1

Well, we're here -- in Lansing, Michigan. This is my first visit to Lansing, a medium-sized Michigan city that houses one of the best Italian joints in the world: Emil's. Great atmosphere and food ... you can't beat all-you-can-eat spaghetti and meatballs for $4.95! If you are ever within 120 miles of Lansing, you simply must stop in!

We aren't visiting Lansing for the Italian cuisine, we're here for the GARBC national conference. This year's conference has been shortened to a Tuesday night through Friday noon format and is a joint effort with the FBFA.

Tonight's keynote speaker was Dr. Allen McFarland. Dr. McFarland is the President of the FBFA (Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of America), and has served for thirty four years as Senior Pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Virginia. Dr. McFarland holds a Doctorate of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to Doris for thirty eight years.

Dr. McFarland addressed the topic of "God's Reflection Among The Nations Is Love." His text was the always-familiar (and often misinterpreted) John 3:16. Following are several quotes from Dr. McFarland's message:

"God has blessed us because He wants us to be a blessing."

"When God's love is manifested through believers, people are changed."

"So many people are unsaved -- and it may be because God's people are not reflecting Him."

"God loves so that the world may know Him."

"Missions is not the heart of God -- worship is. If we would worship well, we would do missions well."

"When the Bible says that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, the Bible means everybody."

"According to 2 Peter 3:9, God wants the whole world to be saved."
After reading these quotes, it is quite evident that the Calvinist's understanding of a limited atonement (read, "particular redemption") was not publicly proclaimed from the GARBC/FBFA pulpit tonight!

Maybe tomorrow?

Nevertheless, it has been good to renew acquaintances with old friends, and I'm anticipating making some new ones. By the way, has anybody seen Tom Pryde (aka, Neofundamentalist)? Tom, if you're reading, we need to talk!!

More to come tomorrow. Wish all you (Calvinists) were here!

P.S. -- Any SharperIron members here? If so, I'd like to get some pictures for Greg Linscott to post at the ShaperIron site.

"Approved by God": How to Handle the Word of God & Doctrinal Error

I recently listened to Joshua Harris preach a sermon called "The Truth: Rediscovering a Humble Orthodoxy" from the New Attitude Conference 2006. He spoke from 2 Timothy 2. The message was great. I would recommend listening to it. But Paul's words to Timothy struck me:

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. . . . And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:15-18, 24-26).
Paul here is addressing problems in the church to his younger elder Timothy. People were arguing. Can you imagine that? Within thirty to forty years after Pentecost (or whenever you want to argue Timothy is written), people are already getting doctrine all wrong. Hymenaeus and Philetus were apparently teaching that the resurrection had already occurred and this news was shaking the faith of some. Paul encourages those who are concerned about this issue saying, "God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his'" (v. 19). This text begs many questions about how to deal with people who teach the wrong doctrine.

First, who are we striving to gain approval from? The KJV says: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God." I like, work, do your best. Josh Harris says, "There's a real debate going on in our generation. But this conversation that is taking place in our generation is going beyond methodology. Really, the conversation is, 'Can we reinvent theology and belief?'...And at the heart of that is the question, whose approval are we going to live for?" ("The Truth—Rediscovering Humble Orthodoxy (Na Session One)" quoted by Carolyn McCulley). I am not saying we should not engage those we disagree with or stand together for the gospel. But are we trying to "win the debate" or "win glory for ourselves"? Or ultimately are we trying to glorify God? Soli deo gloria.

This type of mentality actually frees you to speak with boldness but with love. You do not have to worry about pleasing your audience or "offending" someone. When you preach Christ and Him crucified people will be offended. We, however, are not seeking their approval but God's. "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . .For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-25).

Second, what are we to avoid? Paul says, "avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness." Irreverent could also be translated pointless. What does pointless or irreverent babble look like? First, it is an argument for the sake of argument about the minutiae or "minor points" in Scripture. Not that anything in Scripture is unimportant, but it's like the arguments during the time of medieval scholasticism (for instace, who cares how many angels would fit on the head of a needle). Pointless. Second, it is an argument with false teachers about valid doctrine that has lost its potential for correction. Later Paul would encourage discussion so that "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (v. 25). Third, it is an argument with false teachers about valid doctrine which has lost its potential for edification for the greater body. Fourth (and closely tied to all), it is argument which leads to ungodliness. Are those listening to this argument being built up or broken down? Paul warns that an argument gone too far will "will spread like gangrene"--which echoes this proverb: "As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife" (Proverbs 26:21). Balance and wisdom must be demonstrated. I think of the Solomon's paradoxical wisdom: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Proverbs 26:4-5).

Third, how should Christians, particularly pastors, respond? Paul's answer is truly enlightening in our day where we either "lovingly" ignoring error or "righteously" condemning everyone who disagrees with us. Paul begins by admonishing Timothy to "not be quarrelsome" (v. 24) and insists rather on kindness. As Christians we must be wary about looking for a fight or trumping up charges to make our point. Now this, of course, is not to downplay the call to "contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3) or to supplement the example of Jesus when he casts the money changers out of the temple. He was righteously angry. This does however highlight the call for due process and the quality of love which gives the benefit of the doubt (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7). We must seek restoration through loving correction.

Furthermore, Paul admonishes Timothy to be "able [competent] to teach." How many people are zealous to correct everyone, but who are truly not able to teach. They are the in-your-face my-way-or-the-highway-types. This type of person contrasts sharply with someone who is kind and patient when teaching. We must be especially patient teaching those who are weak in the faith like those at Timothy's church who faith was upset (v. 18) because of Hymenaeus and Philetus. We must respond differently to those who are upset than those who are upsetting. Paul demonstrates this balance when he says, "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1 Thessalonian 5:14). A good Biblical model mapping out the different type of individuals and responses is found in Proverbs. Study the way one should reprove the simple , the scoffer, or the fool.

Next Paul admonished Timothy to "patiently [endure] evil." He does not say patiently condone evil, but endure. Let's speak against and admonish the evil, but let's do so patiently. This is especially true of some segments of Fundamentalism. Some preach, "If anyone dares disagree with what I believe then separate immediately." What about patience with evil and with error? What if God in His sovereign wisdom and grace has ordained to bring them to repentance and will use our patient kindness? Now a time might come when Christians must separate from error, but first let's patiently endure evil. This patience is not idle patience but one which is always seeking correction.

Paul admonishes Timothy to "[correct] his opponents with gentleness." You cannot patiently endure evil without continouosly attempting to correct. These two go hand in hand--like faith and hope. A great example I believe of this working itself out is the modern day reformation in the Southern Baptist Convention. Albert Mohler discusses the fight for the SBC in his commentary "The Southern Baptist Reformation--A First-Hand Account." We must not be quick to abandon churches and ministry, but must do so with prayer, counsel, & mostly the Holy Spirit's guidance through the Scriptures. You can see these principles worked out by reading Mark D. Roberts discussion concerning the PCUSA--"The End of the Presbyterian Church USA?" (John Hendryx from Reformation Theology also provides background information on this issue).

Fourth, what is the goal of obeying all of these commands? Paul says, "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (vv. 25-26). We are seeking to model Christ to other Christians in error and unbelievers who are blind to truth.
In either instance we are seeking their repentance. We are the means God has ordained to cause these wayward sinners to repent. Two passages come to mind. In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist says, "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance" and in Acts 11:18 Luke writes, "And they [the church at Jerusalem] glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'" Repentance is a command, but only God grants true repentance. Repentance is a gift of God's grace like faith.

Josh Harris says, "If we would be approved by God, we must represent truth humbly in our words, in our demeanor, in our attitude." Well said. By the way we are faithful to the gospel we must encourage those around us to repent of evil and seek God. The Lord has been working in my heart about this issue. Particularly in the blogosphere, Christians are prone to argue and to rudeness. We must be kind. How can we expect to correct those in error if we are not reflecting the glory of Christ through our response? May we repent of our quarreling so that we might lead some to faith and repentance if God would purpose to do thus. To God alone be the glory!

Soli Deo Gloria

Is God Really God ... Or Has The Universe Been Hijacked?

On January 16, I posted the first of a five part series on the sovereignty of God. These posts best explain my struggle with embracing the sovereignty, wisdom, and love of God in the midst of life's pain. This series has been most beneficial for my own spiritual well-being, and I have referenced it numerous times in the past five months. It is my hope that re-posting these thoughts on Isaiah 45:7 will be an encouragement to all.

God has amazing ways of getting our attention. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I still feel the horror and helplessness when I recall watching the second plane barrel into the second twin tower. I still feel that same horror and helplessness when I recall running up to a serious car accident on March 6 of last year. I remember watching one of our church's young ladies being lifted into the ambulance (and later into a helicopter). I remember the look of fear and pain mingled with blood on her face. I remember praying with her in the ambulance as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

The images from the Southeastern Asia tsunami rattled me. I had never before seen so much widespread death and destruction. Babies were floating face down in rivers of mud. Parents were running through the streets of ravaged villages screaming for their children. And children were wandering aimlessly through now-barren wasteland, weeping alone.

Hurricane Katrina hit a bit closer to home...on American soil. Being a world-leader in technology and disaster preparedness, widespread death and destruction weren't supposed to happen here. We were indestructible, or so we thought. God used Katrina to teach us otherwise.

God has used each of these and other smaller events to convince me that He is in absolute control of all that happens in this universe (and in my life)! These events have taught me not only to trust in a Sovereign God...but to run to Him for refuge. It hasn't been an easy theological journey for me (I not too long ago subscribed to Rick Warren's theological views and tendencies), but it has been an exciting one.

Having been born a Baptist...saved as a Baptist...baptized as a Baptist (notice the order here!!!)...educated as a Baptist...let me say it, "I AM A BAPTIST." I am not a Baptist by convenience, but by conviction. I have come to appreciate my Baptist heritage. BUT (you knew it was coming didn't you), unless I wasn't listening during my first 31 years of life (which is entirely possible!), what I'm about to share with you wasn't learned in Sunday School, AWANA, or even Bible College. What God, in His grace, has taught me over the last 3 years has been through the study of His Word.

Throughout the last century, in many Baptist circles, God's absolute sovereignty has been openly questioned, misrepresented, or ignored.
(i.e., Rick Warren's teaching on the Lord's Prayer: Jesus' prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"...proves that God's will isn't being done on earth today. John R. Rice also espoused this kind of "sovereignty".) Even the GARBC has tended to distance itself from Calvinism and its understanding of an absolutely Sovereign God (according to Myron Houghton in this issue of the Faith Pulpit).

Why this shift away from the historical understanding of an absolutely Sovereign God (see the London Confession of 1689)? I'm not sure. How has such a high view of Scripture (which Baptists claim to possess) led to such a wishy-washy view of God's complete control over all things? Is it the result of our love affair with "free will theology?" Is it the result of "God's absolute sovereignty is too difficult to understand, so we shouldn't preach or teach it (this is what I was told a couple of weeks ago)" dumbing down of the church? Or is it dispensationalism's understanding of the King and his kingdom being future, but not now? I think it's probably a combination of these things.

Now, before I go on, let me say that some within our fundamental, Baptist circles would lovingly disagree with my assertions here. They would affirm their belief in God's absolute sovereignty in all things, yet their preaching and teaching may leave one to think otherwise.

Here are the Scriptures that have convinced me of God's absolute control over all things...

Isaiah 45:5-7, "I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

Daniel 4:35, "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, 'What have you done?'"

Ephesians 1:11, "In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."

My purpose in writing on this issue is not to answer all the questions that accompany a belief in an absolutely sovereign God. I cannot answer these questions...but my inability to answer these difficult questions cannot shake my faith in what the Word of God says -- God is sovereign.

He is sovereign over all of His creation (Daniel 4:35). He is sovereign over weather and storms. He is sovereign over oceans and volcanoes. He is sovereign over animals and crops. He is sovereign over the angels. He is sovereign over Satan and his demons. He is sovereign over kings, queens, and presidents (Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:32). He is sovereign over mankind ... all mankind ... Christians and non-Christians.

On March 14, 1858, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon from Isaiah 45:7. He was using this text to prepare his church for what was going to happen on March 15; a solar eclipse. Over the next week (or so), I will be posting parts of Spurgeon's sermon and commenting on what he has said. Here is installment one:
"Now, beloved, all that understand anything of God's works, know very well that eclipses are as much a part of nature's laws as the regular sunshine, that an eclipse is no deviation from God's plan, but that it is a necessary consequence of the natural motion of the moon and the earth around the sun and each other, that there should at some stated periods be eclipses, and when we see the eclipse to-morrow, we shall not look upon it as a miracle or anything out of the ordinary course of God's providence, but we shall say it was a necessity involved in the very plan whereby God governs the earth.

And now, beloved, I have only said these things to draw your attention to other eclipses. There are certain eclipses which happen in God's providence as well as in God's grace. As in nature an eclipse is part of God's plan, and is in fact involved in it, so we believe that in providence the eclipse shall sometimes overshadow the earth. I mean, the adversities, the wars, the famines, which sometimes fall on the human race, are but a part of God's divine plan of governing the earth, and have some beneficial object in their falling upon us."

I draw your attention again to the final sentence above. Not because Spurgeon preached it...but because God's Word says it! God is completely, totally, and absolutely free and sovereign. And somehow this doesn't negate the responsibility of man ... and it doesn't mean that God is the author of sin ... and it doesn't mean that He is unloving. It means that He is God!

Monday, June 26

The GARBC & The SBC: We Have A Fundamental Problem, Part 2

If you have yet to read Part 1 of this post, please read it HERE.

After completing the original post, I anticipated several additional objections to my concerns with the GARBC's (from my perspective) lack of consistency in applying their separatist ideology. Since there were no further objections addressed to me via comments or email, I will share several more possible objections to my thoughts, and answer them individually.

Objection #1: "The GARBC is an association of churches that upholds the autonomy of the local church. Therefore, it is not the association's right or responsibility to require all association churches to embrace a biblical philosophy of ministry."

Answer: While the GARBC is an association of churches rather than a denomination; and while the GARBC unashamedly upholds the autonomy of each local church, I would disagree with the assertion that the GARBC should not concern itself with its churches' ministry paradigms.

The GARBC's Council of Eighteen (the GARBC leadership council) is not a hierarchy. Therefore, they exercise no controlling authority over any GARB church. Although each church must be in agreement with the association's doctrinal statement, each church maintains its outright independence.

This fact (I am not arguing against independence or the autonomy of the local church) presents a problem. The GARBC has no recourse (such as censure or dismissal) when it comes to renegade churches. There is no policing of local church policies, procedures, or doctrinal statements. And while I am not arguing for such practices, I am wondering if a separatist association can maintain its distinction while churches maintain their 'non-policed' independence.

I will address the issue of methodology in Objection #3.

Objection #2: "When addressing specific ministry models and paradigms, it is necessary to divorce the man from the model. In other words, a church can employ a Purpose-Driven model of ministry without condoning Rick Warren's own ministry or ideology."

Answer: While I understand the reasoning behind this argument, I vehemently disagree with it. Man-made ministry philosophies always reflect the theology and ideology of their founders. Norman Vincent Peale and his disciple, Robert Schuller, are the men behind the madness of the self-esteem, positive-thinking ministry paradigm. And although the church growth movement began in the 1970's, its philosophies weren't molded into working church models until Bill Hybel's seeker-sensitive and Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven ministries took shape.

When a church buys into a specific paradigm of ministry, they are buying into a philosophy; a philosophy derived from the theological and doctrinal bent of its founder(s).

Objection #3: "The GARBC is not to concern itself with its churches' methodology (i.e., philosophy of ministry) but with their theology. We are an association of churches predicated upon theological and doctrinal agreement rather than a methodological agreement."

Answer: I disagree, and here's why: a church's methodology is driven by its theology. The self-esteem, seeker-sensitive, Purpose-Driven, and emergent ministry models are derived from a theology. How a church chooses to do ministry reflects what they believe about God.

There is a theological reason why Peale and Schuller believe man's greatest problem is his negative energy and lack of self-esteem. According to these men, man is basically good -- no total depravity here. Likewise, theological misunderstandings have driven Hybels and Warren (who is a self-described disciple of Schuller) to embrace a pragmatic, man-centered philosophy of ministry. These men are convinced that man's greatest need is not to be saved from sin, but to be rescued from the meaninglessness of an unfulfilling life.

Methodology cannot be divorced from theology. And if there are churches in our association that are buying into this pragmatic methodology derived from an aberrant theology, I am convinced that our association is not the better for it.

While the Cedarville issue is attracting much attention, a sleeping giant lies at the threshold of our association doors, and it has nothing to do with the SBC.

UPDATE: Tom Pryde comments on this post HERE, and I happen to agree with his assertions. So, what's the answer to the local church autonomy objection? Stay tuned for further discussion of this issue!

Sunday, June 25

What To Do After Church

If you are wondering what to do after church, here are a few suggestions from the Prince of Preachers himself:

"It is a pleasant sight to behold the thousands assembled together for the worship of God, but it is lamentable to reflect, how often the reverence which is exhibited in the sanctuary is lost when the thresh-hold is passed. How frequently the most earnest address of the preacher is forgotten, and becomes as "the morning cloud, and as the early dew." We very often go up to the house of God, and imagine that we have done our duty when we have gone through the round of the service: self-satisfied, we return each man to his home. Oh that we would remember that the preaching of the gospel is but the sowing! afterward the reaping must come. To-day we do, as it were, lay the first stone of an edifice; and henceforward that edifice must be built, stone by stone, through your daily practice, until at last the top-stone is brought forth with shoutings of joy and gladness. Well said the Scotch woman, when her husband asked her, on her return from the house of God sooner than usual, "Wife, is the sermon all done?" "Nay, Donald," said she; "it is all said; but it is nae begun to be done."

There was wisdom in her pithy saying, a wisdom which we too frequently forget. Praying is the end of preaching. Reformation, conversion, regeneration—these are the ends of the ministry, and a holy life should be the result of your devout worship. We have read in your hearing the story of the great Passover, which was held in the days of Hezekiah. One almost envies the men of that, time; we might almost wish that we could be carried back some thousands of years, that we might have been there to see the solemn sacrifices, to behold the priests, as with joyous countenances they sang the praises of God, and to have mingled in that countless throng, which stood at one hour to listen to the Levite, at another hour gathered round the priest; again, at another season clapped their hands for joy at the sound of the golden trumpets, and then outvied the trumpets by the magnificent sound of their vocal praise. But, beloved, when that scene had vanished, and the multitude had gone to their homes, Hezekiah might have sat down and wept if there had not been a fitting effect from so great a gathering. Isaiah the prophet, I doubt not, was one of the gladdest in all the crowd. Oh, how his noble heart beat for joy, and how eloquent was his seraphic tongue when he preached among the people, and cried, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." But sad indeed would his heart have been, notwithstanding all the delightful excitement of the day, if he had not seen some glorious consequences result from the ministrations and from the great gatherings of the people. In our text we are informed, that the Passover did not end with the seven days twice-told of its extraordinary celebration. The Passover, it is true, might end, but not its blessed effects.

Now there are three effects which ought always to follow our solemn assembly upon the Lord's day, especially when we gather in such a number as the present, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving. We should go home and first
break our false gods; next, cut down the very groves in which we have been wont to delight, and after that break the altars which though dedicated to the God of Israel, are not according to Scripture, and therefore ought to be broken down, albeit, they be even dedicated to the true God."
[Exerpted from C. H. Spurgeon's sermon, Reform, preached on Sunday morning February 13, 1859, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.]

Saturday, June 24

The Church: It's More Than A Fad

Welcome to all you SharperIron readers! Many of you are probably unaware of what's been going on here at The World From Our Window since December of 2005. So, I thought it may be a good idea to re-post a few of the more significant posts from the past six months. Doing so will not only allow you to get a feel for my theology and ideology, it will allow me a bit more time to enjoy a few days of vacation before heading to the GARBC national conference on Tuesday.

This post originally appeared on January 29, and addresses the contemporary church's infatuation with theological and methodological fads....

My parents taught me to be wary of fads. I've never grown a rat-tail. I've never permed my hair in the back or owned a pair of parachute pants. Maybe I'm just the victim of poor fashion awareness. Maybe not.

Fads possess amazing power. The next time you visit the mall...just take a look. Look for the one teenage guy who isn't walking around with his jeans' crotch dragging the floor (girls, too, have begun to wear their jeans in like manner). In the words of today's fad-conscious teen, "If ya wanna be a playu, ya gotta dress like a playu." (For our older readers, "playu" is slang for "player.")

Far too many churches have adopted the playu mentality. Man-made movements and theological trends continue to sweep across the American theological landscape. Too many of these are nothing more than brief, "rat-tail" fads.

Oh, we don't call them fads, we use "spiritual" language. We talk about souls and baptisms and meeting needs. We appeal to the church's desire to do something great for God. We point out the church's failure to be culturally relevant, and then promise numerical and financial (in "kingdom language") success. We bring in an expert to persuade the church that this new paradigm is a win-win proposition. Finally, after listening to the testimonies of the thousand-or-so churches who've tried it and liked it, we enthusiastically leave the theological bench to become a playu on the field of contemporary evangelicalism.

Fundamentalists (who pride themselves on being traditional non-traditionalists), too, have played this game, using a slightly different name. Bus ministries, Sunday School contests, and two-week "Revival Meetings" make you a fundy playu...and may even get your church some major ink time in the latest issue of The Church Bus News (and if you're really a playu, you'll order one of these).

The seventies and eighties witnessed the rise of the Church Growth Movement. With the nineties came the Purpose-Driven paradigm. Today's new playu is the Emergent Church.

Here is an intentionally brief smattering of emerging characteristics. Emergent churches...

value cultural relevancy over theological accuracy. They are, in their own words, postmodern in their Christianity.

value authenticity (their favorite word) and transparency over biblical spirituality.

value dialogue over doctrine.

value discussion about the Word over the preaching of the Word.

(Note: Here's a look at the emergents in their own words. For theologically accurate discussions of the emergent issues, read this and this.)

For thirty years, the church has been obsessed with being a playu. We've become fad-driven rather than gospel-driven. We've cared more about what the world thinks than what God thinks (humanism). We've embraced what works rather than what's right (pragmatism). Did we really think we could get away with it? Were we honestly convinced this new fad would do only what Christ has the ability to accomplish (Matthew 16:18)?

We haven't "gotten away with it." (1 Peter 4:17) The group of people with whom we worship each week is thinking (and acting) more and more like the world. Abortion and divorce rates in the church mirror the rates outside her walls. Our young people are abandoning the church in record numbers. How could this happen in a brief thirty-years' time?

Simple; the gospel has been neglected. The public reading of Scripture has disappeared (1 Timothy 4:13). Public prayers of confession and consecration have given way to dramatic skits. Sermons have become devotionals, sin has become a dirty word, and the Bible has become man's story rather than God's.

What the church needs today is Jesus (Revelation 3:20). We've done church too long without Him and we've preached too many sermons without mentioning His name.

It's really not that hard. The church has been commissioned to proclaim Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5) and trust Him for the results (Isaiah 55:11). The church doesn't need playus, she needs preachers (2 Timothy 4:2). In the words of one great saint, "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's blessing." Fads and trends will come and go, yet Christ will remain (Hebrews 13:8). It's His church...let's treat it as such!!!

Friday, June 23

A Calvinistic Resurgence Among Young Baptists?

According to the Big Daddy Weave blog, it's true ...

I've posted this journal article for a few friends interested in the growth of Calvinism among youth and for those involved in the discussion taking place at ( The first author is a Professor of Religion at Baylor (Baptist historian) and the second author is a current doctoral student at SEBTS.

“Youth for Calvin: Reformed Theology and Baptist Collegians”
C. Douglas Weaver and Nathan A. Finn
Baptist History & Heritage 2004

I was not surprised to see an affirmation of inerrancy, but I did not expect to see an affirmation of the 1689 Second London Confession. This thirty-something minister was, at minimum, a five-point Calvinist. I told him that I doubted many congregations would know anything about the Second London Confession. Of course, I was shortsighted. The increasing number of college students in my classes who embrace Calvinist theology points to a different conclusion. Reformed Baptists today are growing at a rate faster than I ever thought possible. [continue reading here]
I have several ideas why Calvinism is a fast growing phenomenon among young (under 40) Baptists. Stay tuned for my ideas.

Thursday, June 22

The GARBC & The SBC: We Have A Fundamental Problem

Early next week, my family and I will be heading north to Lansing, Michigan, to attend the annual General Association of Regular Baptist Churches annual conference. These conferences hold both ministerial and sentimental value: it is good for my soul to be fed from God's Word and to break bread with fellow pastors and friends.

But honestly, I am not looking forward to this year's annual conference with my usual "this is going to be one big Baptist blast" enthusiasm. This year, part of me is dreading the conference. A week from today, the messengers of the GARBC will determine whether or not to continue association with Cedarville University (I am still a bit perplexed over why this is even an issue since the GARBC did away with the partnering system several years back). And this vote promises to be contentious. While I am not a prophet (nor the son of a prophet), and hope to be proven wrong, I anticipate a rather large exodus from our association in the aftermath of this vote. [For further information on this issue, see Tom Pryde's piece, "It's Not About Cedarville!"]

The GARBC has a problem. And it's not Cedarville. In fact, it's not even the SBC. The GARBC has a consistency issue ... in how they apply their separatist ideology.

Now that I have every separatist's attention, let me preface the remainder of this post with a few thoughts. First, I am not anti-GARBC. I was born into this association, raised in this association, trained in this association, and have pastored in this association for twelve years. Second, I am a separatist. I do not fellowship with individuals or churches that deny the fundamentals of the faith (and neither does our church). Although I am fairly certain that secondary separation cannot be validated biblically, I certainly do understand the practical reasoning behind this practice. Third, I appreciate the sacrifice of the many men who founded our association by weaning their churches away from the modernistic, liberal theology of the early 1900's. Nothing I say here is meant to diminish their legacy. In fact, what I'm about to say, I believe, they would find totally agreeable.

To present my criticism fairly, I must acknowledge the association's willingness to admit the difficulty of practicing separation consistently. In the latest GARBC separation clarification, the Council of 18 (the GARBC's leadership council) adopted a statement entitled, "Ecclesiastical Separation and it's Associational Applications" in which they acknowledge the separatist's tendency toward inconsistency [the entire paper may be read here]:

"Separatists should manifest humility because it is often difficult to practice separation consistently. The nature of false teaching is such that it is seldom obvious, and it is sometimes difficult to determine what exactly should be a test of fellowship and when exactly is the best time to practice separation. Acknowledging the difficulty of practicing ecclesiastical separation in no way diminishes the necessity for this kind of separation. It merely highlights the need for forbearance and latitude among separatist brethren."
Now for my point of contention: while officially separating from Cedarville may be warranted (I am not writing to debate this issue), why has the GARBC not taken an official stand against the watered down theology and pragmatic methodology of the seeker-sensitive, Purpose-Driven, or emergent movements? Now before you think my bone-picking is little more than sour apples due to my past infatuation with everything Rick Warren, I ask you to hear me out. Frankly, it is my opinion that an unwillingness to confront churches in our association who are actively participating in and promoting a theologically pragmatic and anthropocentric Purpose-Driven model of ministry is far more threatening to the future of the GARBC than continuing to associate with Cedarville.

I can already hear the company-line objection to my criticism: "The GARBC was forced to address the Cedarville issue because of Cedarville's desire to continue a relationship with the GARBC and the SBC. And furthermore, neither Rick Warren nor Bill Hybels have requested to be recognized by or participate with the GARBC." Okay, good point, but you are missing the point! Again, my issue is not with the GARBC's dealings with Cedarville, but with the GARBC's unwillingness to publicly separate from ecclesiastical fads and the churches that participate in and promote them. So, I ask, "Where is the consistency?" Why will my association disassociate itself from an institution because it has been recommended by the SBC in Ohio, when it will not publicly disassociate itself (and strongly encourage its churches to follow suit) from overtly unbiblical philosophies of ministry?

I find it rather disconcerting that I am a voting messenger in a separatist association of churches, and that next week I will be singing and worshipping and fellowshipping and voting with men who may be modeling their ministry after the mega-church pastor who recently criticized Christian fundamentalists with these sweeping generalizations...
"Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity, and when I say there are very few fundamentalists, I mean in the sense that they are all actually called fundamentalist churches, and those would be quite small. There are no large ones." [from the "Myths of the Modern Mega-church" transcript]
...even equating my association's fundamentalism with Muslim extremism.

Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century."

"Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism - they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other." [from the Philadelphia Inquirer]

Frankly, I find myself having more in common with the theologically conservative, Calvinistic Southern Baptists (Founders Ministries) than I do with the pragmatic, seeker-sensitive proponents in my own association. So, I ask you, which group am I to separate from? Which group would the founders of my association choose to separate from?

And where's the consistency?

P. S. -- Part 2 is forthcoming, unless there are additional objections to my criticism, which I will address individually.

Wednesday, June 21

Are Patriotism and Worship Compatible?

As the worship pastor at a Baptist Church I have the difficult job of planning the worship services of our church. Today I began planning the services for the month of July. As I put together the services I remembered that Sunday, July 2, would be the traditional time for patriotic music in our morning worship service. Every year for the past ten years I have led patriotic music in church on the weekend of Independence Day. I hadn't really given it a second thought until this year. (This shows my utter dependence on the traditions of my forefathers.) Unexpectedly I found myself questioning the validity of patriotic music in a church worship service. As I started to think about this, I realized that in all the books on worship that I have read (at least 15) none had dealt with this topic. I even did a google search and only found two articles (granted I didn't look very long). [You can read them here and here at your own risk.]Unfortunately this means that I am left to my own opinion (biblically influenced to be sure).

I am especially sensitive to this topic right now since I was raked over the coals on May 30, the Sunday before Memorial Day. I meant to mention Memorial Day and even lead in a special prayer for our troops, but being the fallible human being that I am I forgot. Immediately following the service I was met by a very upset member of our church who took the next 15 minutes to let me know how upset and offended she was that we did not remember our troops on this special weekend. She let me know that not only should we mention and pray for our troops on Memorial Day weekend, but that we should have a special recognition and prayer for every serviceman who visited on any given Sunday! She continued by letting me know how much she appreciated the services held in other churches that emphasized patriotism (Patriotic Cantata's). She ended the conversation by letting me know that if I visited an army base and met the families of those who had lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan I would not fail to mention and pray for our troops from the pulpit.

That conversation left me humbled (always a good thing) and saddened (sometimes a good thing). In my head I began to defend myself. "I am patriotic! I love America! I pray for and support (philosophically) our troops!" Then as I began to really consider what she had said to me I began to have more questions than answers.


1. I am NOT a pacifist.
2. I love the United States of America and am "proud to be an American".
3. I thank God for the freedoms we have, especially the freedom of religion.
4. I understand that "freedom isn't free" and that hundreds of thousands have given their lives to provide these freedoms for me and my family.
5. I consider myself patriotic: I love Independence Day, fireworks, and patriotic music!
6. I am NOT anti-Bush nor am I against the war in Iraq.
With that being said I have a few questions:

1. Does patriotic music belong in a worship service?

2. Is it appropriate to pledge allegiance to the flag in a worship service?

3. Should we decorate our church buildings with American flags?

4. Should we publicly recognize and applaud military servicemen during a worship service?

5. Must a Christian be patriotic to love the Lord?

6. Does patriotic music in a worship service come across as worship of America?

Let me know what YOU think. I am very interested in your response as I am still coming to my own personal conclusions. I could really use your help!