Archive for the ‘General’ category

Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

May 16, 2007

We at SBF want express our condolences to the Falwell family, Thomas Road Baptist Church, and Liberty University in the passing of Dr. Jerry Falwell. Though we have strongly disagreed on certain theological points, we have an even stronger confidence that our brother is beholding the face of our Savior. May God grant comforting grace and strength to those grieving and celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Falwell.

What others are saying . . .

Television Evangelist Falwell Dies at 73 (Associated Press)

Dr. Albert Mohler in The Washington Post The Legacy of Dr. Jerry Falwell

Billy Graham Jerry Falwell: Man of God

SBC Leaders Voice Appreciation for Falwell

Tom Ascol Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

Tim Challies Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

Jason Robertson Falwell: He Lived What He Preached

Ben Cole Farewell Falwell

David Wayne On the Death of Jerry Falwell

Baptist Press Jerry Falwell Dead at 73

Rev. Jerry Falwell Passes Away (Blogger News Network)

World Mag’s Gay Group to Stage Falwell Anti-Memorial

UPDATE: centuri0n A Thought to Think

About Jerry Fallwell (from his website):

At the age of 22, having just graduated from college in June of 1956, Jerry Falwell returned to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia and started Thomas Road Baptist Church with 35 members. The offering that first Sunday totaled $135. Falwell often says about the first collection, “we thought we had conquered the world”. Today Thomas Road Church has 24,000 members and the total annual revenues of all the Jerry Falwell ministries total over $200 million.

Within weeks of founding his new church in 1956, Falwell began the Old-Time Gospel Hour, a daily local radio ministry and a weekly local television ministry. Nearly five decades later, this Old-Time Gospel Hour is now seen and heard in every American home and on every continent except Antarctica. Through the years, over three million persons have communicated to the Falwell ministries that they received Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of this radio and television ministry.

In 1967, Falwell implemented his vision to build a Christian educational system for evangelical youth. He began with the creation of Lynchburg Christian Academy, a Christ-centered, academically excellent, fully accredited Christian day school providing kindergarten, elementary and high school. In 1971, Liberty University was founded. Today, over 21,500 students from 50 states and 80 nations attend this accredited, liberal arts Christian university. Falwell’s dream has become a reality. A pre-school child can now enter the school system at age 3, and 20 or more years later, leave the same campus with a Ph.D., without ever sitting in a classroom where the teacher was not a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Falwell is also publisher of the National Liberty Journal, a monthly newspaper which is read by over 200,000 pastors and Christian workers, and the Falwell Confidential, a weekly e-mail newsletter to over 500,000 pastors and Christian activists.

In June 1979, Falwell organized the Moral Majority, a conservative political lobbying movement which the press soon dubbed the “Religious Right.” During the first two years of its existence, the Moral Majority attracted over 100,000 pastors, priests, and rabbis and nearly seven million religious conservatives who mobilized as a pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, and pro-strong national defense lobbying organization. The Moral Majority chose California Governor Ronald Reagan as “their candidate” for President in 1980, registered millions of new voters, and set about to inform and activate a sleeping giant – 80 million Americans committed to faith, family, and Judeo-Christian values.

With the impetus of the newly organized Moral Majority, millions of people of faith voted for the first time in 1980 and helped elect Ronald Reagan and many conservative congressmen and senators. Since 1979, about 30% of the American electorate has been identified by media polls as the “Religious Right”. Most recent major media surveys have acknowledged that these “faith and values” voters re-elected George W. Bush in November 2004.

Though perhaps better known outside Lynchburg for political activism, Jerry Falwell’s personal schedule confirms his passion for being a pastor and a Christian educator. He often states that his heartbeat is for training young people for every walk of life.

Falwell and his wife of 49 years, Macel, have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

The Pyromaniacs on “The Gospel in Spider-Man 3″

May 10, 2007

While we at Strange BaptistFire certainly don’t wish this blog to become regularly entertainment-focused, I have occassionally addressed some specific entertainment items that I thought might be of particular interest to SBF readers. For this reason, when a character on the T.V. show House made some comments about ‘free-will,’ I took the opportunity to use those comments in order to make a point about how ‘free-will’ (in the libertarian sense) is really an illusion. [BTW- My wife and I no longer watch House due to the pervasive lewdness that has come to characterize that show.]

I have also previously linked my review of Facing the Giants, evaluating the content (or lack of content) in the Gospel message in that movie, as it was produced by a Baptist church, and I knew many churches would be using it as a kind of Gospel presentation.

Having seen Christian enthusiasm over movies such as The Passion of the Christ, The Nativity Story, etc, Hollywood has increasingly tried to market to Christians- issuing statements that make entirely secular films sound as if they have some vital Gospel connection. This has been especially evident in comments made from the directors and producers of Superman Returns and Rocky Balboa prior to the release of those movies (both of which I saw and enjoyed, but I did NOT consider forming a series of Sunday School lessons around them).

Currently, the #1 film is Spider-Man 3, and there has been a great deal of buzz over the Internet about themes of redemption and forgiveness in the Spider-Man films. I’m posting today simply to alert SBF readers that Pyromaniacs blogger Dan Phillips has recently posted a well-written spoiler-free review of Spider-Man 3, which gives an even-handed evaluation of the film while successfully contrasting the world’s ideas of forgiveness- present in the movie- from the biblical teaching on forgiveness- entirely absent from the movie, of course.

His conclusion is basically see the movie and enjoy the movie, but don’t do a sermon series based on the movie.

Clarification on the Need for Baptists to Learn Our History

April 17, 2007

In the comment thread of my post last week on the need for Baptists to learn our history, my friend Evan Stewart responded with what I took to be a fairly negative reaction. One cause for this was, I think, possibly due to a genuine theological difference as I am convinced of the regulative principle of worship whereas Evan seems to be more influenced by the normative principle. Other than this, however, I think that my earlier post may have lacked sufficient clarity in a few key issues, which I hope to briefly address here. (more…)

The Need for Baptists to Learn Our History

April 10, 2007

For my Church History 2 class here at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the books we’re required to read is The Old Religion in the New World by Mark Noll. In this book, I recently came across the sentence, “Through and beyond the time of the [American] Revolution, Baptist and other dissenting conventicles were occasionally, and sometimes brutally, disrupted by Anglican ministers and their gentry allies.” This sentence reminded me of some accounts I had read in the book Kiffin, Knollys, and Keach: Rediscovering our English Baptist Heritage by Michael A.G. Haykin (a book I read just before this semester began), which told of Baptists being slandered, fined, beaten, made to stand in the pillory, imprisoned, and generally persecuted for daring to worship outside of the Church of England.

These accounts of persecution are of special interest to me right now, as I know of two couples within my own family who have begun attending congregations affiliated with the Church of England. And this causes me to wonder: How did we get to this point? That is, how did we come from a heritage in which men and women were willing to suffer the harshest legal penalties rather that submit to the practices of the Church of England- practices that early Baptists considered to be manifestly contrary to the Word of God- and arrive at a situation in which Baptist men and women choose to align themselves with Anglican or Episcopal congregations, believing that they find within these congregations something more biblical than what they encounter in their local Baptist churches?

I sincerely believe that a large part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that most Baptists today have lost a since of historical awareness. Baptists have been conditioned to trust the Scripture as the Word of God, but there has been a lack of education as to how the Baptist heritage has come to specific conclusions from God’s Word concerning issues in regards to the Church. Inadequate training in Baptist history has left many Baptists open to realligning themselves with other faith traditions based merely on matters of personal experience.

This ignorance of Baptist history leading to experience-based decision making is actually encouraged by the practices of many within Baptist leadership today. Baptist history, when mentioned at all, is often presented in such a grossly over-simplified fashion that church members are led to believe Jesus and the apostles were Baptists and that there has been an unbroken line of Baptist churches to the present day. This is very different from the historic Baptist assertion that our tradition is the modern expression of Christianity that is most in line with what is taught in the Bible, in terms of both the teaching of the Word and the practice of the ordinances. (The idea of an unbroken Baptist succession is commonly known as Landmarkism, an error that SBF blogger Gene Bridges has expertly refuted.) Once Baptist church members realize that there are other, older traditions claiming to be biblical, they are often at a loss as how to respond.

The problems raised by this historic uncertainty are compounded by the clearly pragmatic considerations that drive much of Baptist church life today. Take polity for example. Historically, there are very clear, biblical reasons why Baptists have rejected Episcopal or Presbyterian forms of church government in favor of a belief in independent congregationalism led by a plurality of elders (or pastors). Today, we see Baptist churches run by a single pastor, a board of deacons or trustees, an endless gathering of different committees, a professional staff that does not teach, etc. Many Baptists have certainly forgotten their history in this area, they have forgotten what the Bible clearly teaches in 1 Timothy 3, Acts 6, Matthew 18, etc., and they have come to the conclusion that the Bible has nothing specific to say about church government, so we can organize the church in whatever way we find convenient. Given this environment, what is to prevent Baptists from submitting to an episcopate, if that is the convenient thing to do? (more…)

Misrepresentations of Calvinism Do, Indeed, Cause Some to Look More Deeply Into Reformed Teachings

February 21, 2007

No one likes to be misrepresented. Especially if you have carefully thought out why you believe certain things, it is frustrating to hear these beliefs mischaracterized. This is true in the natural realm, as people involved in politics can attest (the political conservatives I know are all sick of being painted as hard-hearted money-grubbers and those more politically liberal tire of being thought of as empty-headed communists). In terms of religious belief, we at Strange BaptistFire have been particularly concerned with the mischaracterizations in regards to Reformed theology coming from within the Baptist community. One consolation we Calvinists have, however, when straw men in our name are erected and knocked down, is that our strong convictions concerning the sovereignty of God allow us to confess that He is in control, so that we do not have to worry- trusting that the truths we insist upon cannot be fully and finally obscured.

So when we hear Reformed exegesis misrepresented, those holding to Calvinistic beliefs will often mention that God is using even the falsehood we hear for His glory, and that the outrageous comments made by some anti-Calvinist teachers will certainly cause some people to look into Reformed theology and immediately recognize the dishonesty in the presentations they have previously heard, thus becoming more open to the teachings of God’s sovereign grace in our salvation.

In order to demonstrate that the consolation mentioned above is more that merely wishful thinking, in this post I am presenting an account written by Evan Stewart, a friend of mine from Kosmosdale Baptist Church. (more…)

Where are you headed?

February 2, 2007

Have we lost the gospel?” “Why even raise this question, knowing that it will inevitably provoke the angst of some brothers and sisters whom I respect and tempt them to dismiss me as a crank or some kind of helpless malcontent? I do so because it is simply too important to leave unaddressed. Too much is at stake. The glory of God in the salvation of sinners is at stake. So is the eternal destiny of many who may think that they are right with God but who are merely religious (Matthew 7:21-23).”

Amen to that, Tom. We are in a battle here. We cannot stand aside with our theological ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed while the gospel goes down the tubes. We must be active, not passive, in recovering and proclaiming the true gospel if we are to have any sort of chance in this war on truth.

For example…

When are we going to challenge those people who claim to believe the bible, claim to love sound theology, and yet attend churches where these convictions are not taught or emphasized?

When are we going to visit the pastors of the churches in our own neighborhood (SBC particularly) to specifically exhort them to recover the truth of the gospel? Even having the boldness to call the pastor, the pastor, to repentance or even salvation, if necessary.

When are we going to pull over, bible in hand, and plead with the pastor to recover the truth of the gospel when we drive by the churches with signs such as, ‘give Jesus a chance’?

When are we going to stop waffling with our clearly-lost-but-think-their-saved buddies just because they attend some form of a church down the road which does not hold fast to the truth of the gospel?

When are we going to call those to account who clearly have political ambitions, or who talk themselves up as having firm convictions until they are challenged by someone popular or someone whom they admire?

When are we going to press people to stop talking about reforming their clearly backslidden church instead of standing up and doing something about it until the church either recovers or asks them to leave?

Simply put, folks, if we don’t get out of our comfort zone with the firm understanding that that this society (church-society) is going to reject us as ‘unloving’ when we attempt to hold others accountable to sound doctrinal beliefs; if we don’t realize that and place it aside for the cause of Christ, we’re going to lose the gospel, if we haven’t already…

Thanks, Tom, for this reminder. I pray that we will head your warning, myself included.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

January 31, 2007

The doctrines of grace are divisive. How many times have we heard that when Calvinism comes to church, people are divided? Well, “duh,” the doctrines of grace contradict the naturally synergistic mind of men, and the noetic effects of sin still abide in all of God’s children. (more…)

And Now For Something Completely Different

January 31, 2007

Tominthebox!

HT: Calvinist Gadfly

Determinism, Chance, and Freedom

January 25, 2007

This was mentioned in Dr. Vines’ sermon. I believe he called Calvinists “hard determinists.” In reality, the WCF implicitly selects for soft, not hard determinism, and in at least one article (9.1) it may be construed to opt for neither determinism or indeterminism. Moreover, hard determinism itself is a minority position in Reformed theology. (And for those wanting to oppose Calvin to Calvinism, you may do so when (a) you trace the full trajectory of his thinking and do more than prooftext from the Institutes, and (b) you place him in the context of the whole of the Reformed tradition. He is not and has never been the sole standard by which the Reformed tradition is to be judged).

Determinism, Chance and Freedom

by John M. Frame

[“Determinism, Chance and Freedom,” for IVP Dictionary of Apologetics.]

Determinists believe that every event (or every event in a certain category) has a cause that makes it happen exactly as it happens. Among the varieties of determinism are the views of (1) Plato, who held that one’s ethical choices are determined by his view of what is good, (2) B. F. Skinner, who believed that stimuli, dispositions and motives govern all human behavior. (3) Democritus, Hobbes, Spinoza, and many others, who have held that every event in the universe is determined by a physical cause. Of special interest to us are (4) theological determinists, who hold that all events occur exactly as God has foreordained them. These would include Calvin and others in his tradition. The classic exposition of theological determinism is Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will. Note that it is possible to be a determinist in sense (4) without being a determinist in sense (3). That seems to be the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says in 3.1 that “God did… ordain whatsoever comes to pass,” but also says in 9.1 that man’s will “is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil” (compare 5.2). (more…)

Jacob Vernet – Lessons In Latitudinarianism

January 1, 2007

“We have no creed but the Bible.”
“Baptists use confessions descriptively, not prescriptively.
“Local church autonomy is an absolute.”
___________ violates “religious liberty.”
___________ violates “soul competency.”
___________ violates “priesthood of the believer.”
___________ violates “historic Baptist principles.”

or

If you don’t believe _______, _______, and _______, then you are to be disfellowshipped, even if these items exceed the parameters of our shared confession.

Who among us Baptists has not heard or read these ideas or exact words in Baptist politics in the past few decades? Why do we hear them?

We hear them because there is some truth to each one, yet there is another manner in which each objection can be taken in a misleading direction. We believe in Sola Scriptura. We use confessions, and Baptist history is littered with prescriptive and descriptive uses of confessions. We believe in local church autonomy, but we reserve the right to reprove our neighbors and, as a last resort, even disfellowship a church. On the other hand each of these principles can be abused.

In this article, I hope to elaborate a bit on the old adage that those who do not listen to history are doomed to repeat it themselves. Baptists are notoriously insular at times. One of the current concerns of Southern Baptists has, in the past few years, been the attitude on the part of other Southern Baptists that, “as the SBC goes, so goes the rest of evangelicalism.” On the other hand, there are those who have expressed concern about “Baptist identity” (defined by them in, for example, the IMB’s new missionary guidelines). In response, some have accused them attempting to so narrow the parameters of cooperation that they exclude all who do not share their beliefs from service, while at the same time accepting their support for missions.

(more…)


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