Month: April 2009

Homemaking House complete at seminary

FORT WORTH?In its centennial year, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is returning to its roots to train women in the art and skill of homemaking, an emphasis listed in the 1901 academic catalog. The dedication of the Sarah Horner Homemaking House last month is the culmination of an effort to restore the home as a primary place for ministry, equipping those women enrolled in the homemaking concentration of the school’s bachelor’s program.

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson pledged, “We’re going to do everything within our power to turn out a generation of highly educated young women who have the home first place in their hearts.”

The debt that Andy Horner owes to his own mother motivated him and his wife, Joan, to fund the construction of an educational building designed to look like a model home on the Texas landscape. Horner’s own mother journeyed from Ireland to Canada with the four youngest of 13 children to provide hope for a better life.

Though it took many more years for him to appreciate his mother’s sacrifice, Horner said, “As I got older I understood the power of a woman who had no education and couldn’t lead in silent prayer, but she was a homemaker.”

Bailey Draper of Roanoke donated his time as a custom home builder to create space for a kitchen and textile lab, a large library filled with resources for classroom lectures and upstairs bedrooms that will house two students enrolled in the homemaking concentration. Another bedroom will be available for guest housing.

Other donors honored family members by outfitting rooms designed to teach particular skills. Churches are encouraged to stage their own kitchen showers to collect needed supplies listed on a registry by the seminary.

Joan Horner voiced her desire to see the home used to teach pastors’ wives to have a home that honors God in every way.

“Over these past 100 years, God has brought to Southwestern women who have taken up the mantle to continue that legacy of the primary place of the home in ministry,” added Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs at Southwestern.

Students enrolled in the 23-hour concentration will fill the remaining 108 hours of credit in biblical and theological studies, including Greek or Latin. Trained “intellectually, practically and spiritually,” Stovall said a dozen women enrolled in the initial class in 2007. That number doubled in size last fall with more students expected for the next school year.

Individuals or churches interested in donating further funding or equipment may contact Stovall toll-free at 800-SWBTS-01 or email

Experts: Eschatological views varied within bounds of orthodoxy

When it comes to the end of time, at least one thing is certain: Southern Baptists have a variety of opinions.

And according to leading Baptist theologians, nearly all of those opinions fall within the bounds of orthodoxy.

“On the whole Baptists have been model kingdom citizens when agreeing on the essentials of a doctrine of last things without attempting to press one another unrelentingly on the particular details,” wrote Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in the book “Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination.”

Patterson explained that the committee charged in 2000 with revising the Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith articulated the Bible’s core teachings on last things — also known as eschatology — without mentioning the secondary details on which inerrantists disagree. He listed 12 beliefs one must hold to be orthodox.



Beyond those essential beliefs, Christians disagree significantly. Theologians have divided on such issues as what happens to believers between their deaths and Christ’s second coming, the nature of the resurrection body and the number of resurrections to occur.

“Frankly, I find some Christian eschatological interpretations embarrassing,” guest lecturer Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity School stated during a recent discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“There are some pulpiteers, TV evangelists, and popular writers who think they’ve got this all figured out.” When asked his interpretation of Bible prophecy from references to the armies of Belial, armies of Satan, and a mention of Magog, Evans said, “I just say to be cautious about that because we don’t always know what’s going on. Some of this is metaphorical, poetic and so forth, and to bring a scientific precision to it and pigeonhole everything?I think that’s a very questionable approach.”

The only views that qualify as unorthodox are those that deny a future coming of Christ, explained Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the theology school at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“Any view that does not hold to a future day of what the church has called ‘the resurrection of the flesh’ is outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy,” Moore said. “Christians have, and will continue to, disagree about whether some of the events of Matthew 25 or Mark 13 or the book of Revelation were fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem. That can be a disagreement among brothers.

“We, of course, will continue to disagree about the meaning of the millennium in Revelation 20, probably until the millennium itself. We cannot disagree, however, about the future bodily coming of our Lord and the future resurrection of both the just and the unjust. This is clearly and indisputably taught in the Scripture and is essential to the Christian faith.”



Among Southern Baptists differences of opinion arise on the nature of the millennium referenced in Revelation 20. That passage describes a 1,000-year period, known as the millennium, during which Satan is bound. Disagreement occurs regarding the timing of Christ’s return relative to the millennium and whether the number 1,000 is literal or symbolic.


Premillennialists believe Christ will return prior to a literal 1,000-year period.


Among premillennialists, there are varied opinions on whether Jesus will remove Christians from the earth prior to a tribulation preceding his return. Some, known as dispensational premillennialists or dispensationalists, believe in such a rescue for Christians. Others, known as historic premillennialists, believe Christians will not be taken out of the world until Jesus returns. A small minority of premillennialists believe Christians will be raptured halfway through a period of tribulation preceding Christ’s return.


Postmillennialists believe the 1,000-year period will occur before Jesus returns. Adherents of this position generally believe the millennium will be a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity under the lordship of Christ. Although postmillennialism has enjoyed proponents such as Jonathan Edwards and Southwestern Seminary founder B.H. Carroll, the view faded from Baptist life in the last century.


Amillennialists believe the number 1,000 is figurative and that we are currently in the millennium (some premillennialists and postmillennialists also believe 1,000 is figurative). They argue that Satan was bound by Christ through his finished work at the cross and has limited power until Christ returns. Thus, the millennium refers to the current era when Christ reigns in the hearts of believers without Satan’s interference. Christ’s return will mark the close of this era, amillennialists believe.


James Leo Garrett, distinguished professor of theology emeritus at Southwestern, said these millennial positions have a long history of interaction in the SBC. For the first half-century following the convention’s founding in 1845, premillennialism and postmillennialism were the two dominant v

Humility accompanies profs’ eschatology views

While the majority of Southern Baptist faculty members are premillennialists, some professors are re-examining their eschatological positions. In a recent survey conducted by TEXAN staff, some premillennialists indicated they did not hold their positions as adamantly as they used to.

And a handful of faculty members in Southern Baptist seminaries believe amillennialism best represents the biblical witness regarding last things. Of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six schools, half–namely, Southern Seminary, Southwestern Seminary and Midwestern Seminary–reported having faculty members who hold this minority view. Although the number holding to amillennialism pales in comparison to those holding to premillennialism, the existence of a minority view could signal an overall trend of decreased dogmatism in Southern Baptist life over eschatology.

David Beck, professor of New Testament and Greek and associate dean of biblical studies at Southeastern Seminary, told the TEXAN he holds to a premillennial and pretribulational view of last things, but with less certainty than he used to.

“I was raised in a somewhat dispensational context, and taught a pretribulation, premillenial eschatological view as if it was the biblical position,” Beck said. “When I first began my theological education I discovered that the Bible was not that explicit on the timeline of eschatological events. Nothing in my study led me to change my view, but it caused me to realize a biblical argument could be made for other interpretive positions (though I did not find them convincing).”

Commenting on the changing views of end times in evangelical life, Southeastern President Daniel Akin said such views are not usually measures of orthodoxy.

“I think you will find a continuing commitment by the overwhelming majority to premillennialism, but an unwillingness to draw swords over the tribulation issue,” he said.

David Allen, academic dean of Southwestern Seminary’s theology school, said diversity on secondary doctrines such as eschatology can be a “healthy pedagogical tool.”

Of the respondents from Southwestern Seminary’s theology school to the TEXAN survey, 20 held to premillennial and posttribulational views, 15 professors held to premillennial and pretribulational views, three held to amillennialism, and two abstained from comment.

“For faculty, having a variety of eschatological views creates healthy dialogue and fosters respect for those holding differing views,” Allen said. “For students, exposure to faculty with diverse eschatological positions minimizes the risk that students will accept a particular viewpoint merely or primarily because all faculty support the same position.”

For those who participated in the poll at Midwestern, all but one of the nine respondents are premillennialists with two specifying historic premillennialism and another holding to amillennialism.

Jerry Johnson, academic dean of Midwestern Seminary and professor of ethics and theology, explained his position by saying, “I am premillennial for emphasis, and pretrib for details. By that I mean the main eschatological emphasis of the Old and New Testament is the return and rule of Christ, and that should be our main emphasis in confession and preaching. The rapture, and especially its timing, is a footnote in the biblical material and not to be our focus. In other words the primary message is about who is coming (Christ) and not who is leaving (the Church).”

Amillennialism is one such orthodox option of last things. Amillennialists interpret the 1,000-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20 symbolically. The millennium, then, is not a future event but is being fulfilled in the present age in which Satan is restricted as the gospel goes forth among the nations. Because the present age ends at Christ’s second coming, amillennialists do not understand the nature of the millennium as the period of time between Christ’s first and second comings.

As with other orthodox views of the eschaton, amillennialism affirms two resurrections. Within amillennialism opinion varies, but the first resurrection is generally understood to be spiritual, referring to the regeneration of believers. The second resurrection is physical, referring to the resurrection of both believers and unbelievers that will occur at Christ’s return.

Like premillennialism, amillennialism has a rich heritage dating back to the early church. But it was Augustine that codified the belief for much of church history.

Even into the 20th century, the position was held by a significant portion of Baptist academia. Despite the popularization of the dispensational and premillennial views, amillennialism was the dominant position among “working theologians” for much of Baptist history–a point suggested by Southern Seminary Theology Dean Russell Moore in his chapter on eschatology in the systematic theology “A Theology of the Church,” edited by Southeastern’s Akin.

During the modernist controversy, amillennialism became largely associated with liberal theology, a connection that contributes to misconceptions regarding the position today, said Southwestern professor Paul Wolfe.

Wolfe, associate professor of New Testament and an amillennialist, teaches a course on Revelation at the Fort Worth seminary.

“There is an unfortunate link in the mind of many that amillennialism is a first step toward or an indicator of latent liberalism. This is partly due to the unfounded link of premillennialism and inerrancy,” said Wolfe, pointing out that orthodox believers throughout church history have often advocated this view. “In other words, amillennialism is not tied to a certain view of salvation, the person and work of Christ, etc.”

Commenting on the perceived link between the amillennialist position and liberal theology, David Allen pointed out there are numerous conservative amillennialists as well as non-premillennial inerrantists.

“I t would be inaccurate to say that amillennialsim entails (in the philosophical use of that term) liberalism, just as it would be inaccurate to say that inerrancy entails premillennialism,” Allen said. “However, I do think the case can be made that a majority of those who reject inerrancy and who would classify themselves as liberals would also identify themselves as liberals would also identify themselves a amillennialists. Perhaps this is the reason for the misconceptions.”

Adding that he is not 100 percent committed to the position, Wolfe believes amillennialism best represents the New Testament picture of believers being presently engaged in an interim kingdom, awaiting the final consummation of God’s kingdom.

“Other than Revelation 20, there is no mention of a possible second interim kingdom,” said Wolfe, suggesting that the burden of proof for a literal reign of Christ lies with premillennialists.

Moreover, Wolfe believes the amillennial position harmonizes with a traditional Baptist way of life in three ways:

First, amillennialsim heightens the mandate for evangelism, he said, noting that “there is no second interim kingdom during which repentance is apparently possible.”

Second, amillennialsim heightens the view of the church as the “highest and clearest manifestation of God’s kingdom short of the consummation.”

“The realities associated with a millennial kingdom—for example peace, a radical ethic of godliness and love, creation care—are to be exercised in and through the church here and now. It is the church through which God is revealing his wisdom between now and the judgments,” the professor said, referring to Ephesians 3:10.

And third, Wolfe said, amillennialsim encourages social engagement.

“This would make a radical difference in our churches and individual lives. Our priorities, use of resources and engagement with the world around us would all be transformed from the present situation,” he said. “It was not unusual for the early church to think of the millennial kingdom as a time for the saints to discipline ourselves for life in heaven. Amillennialsim says that time is now. What difference should that make in how we live now?”

But beyond the practical implications of the amillennialist view, Wolfe said he holds to the position because it remains faithful to the nature of the book of Revelation.

“Given the New Testament emphasis apart from Revelation 20, and the fact that Revelation is a message encoded in symbols as John himself makes clear in Revelation 1:1, I find it more appropriate to understand Revelation 20 in a symbolic fashion in keeping with the patterns and emphasis throughout the remainder of John’s vision,” he said.

Radu Gheorghita, associate professor of biblical studies at Midwestern Seminary, holds to amillennialism for a similar reason.

“I believe the most attractive aspect of this school of interpretation is that it matches the characteristics of the apocalyptic genre of the book of Revelation, a literature rich in symbolism, imagery and similes, a genre chosen by John to venture into the spiritual territory which Paul himself chose to avoid (2 Corinthians 12),” said Gheorghita, who recently took two years to memorize the entire book of Revelation.

As such, attempts to “decode” the book of Revelation raise the professor’s suspicions, he said.

Gheorghita believes another attractive tenet of amillennialism is it solves potential theological issues, such as the rapture.

“If John provides in Revelation a map of the events associated with the eschaton, he would have surely included all the major events that will usher it, including the rapture of the church,” Gheorghita said. “I read, reread reread the book hundreds of times. I did not find the rapture in the Revelation. As I faced this reality, I had too options: either insert the rapture at various potential stages in the book (chapter 4, chapter 11, etc) or, alternatively, I would have to conclude that John’s map of final events does not include it.”

In looking solely at the information provided in Revelation, Gheorghita said it seems “more exegetically honest” to conclude there is no rapture mentioned in the book—a conclusion he makes in connection with the book’s explicit warning in 22:18 to neither add nor take away from the prophecy of Revelation.

Formerly a premillennialist, Gheorghita said he is still working out his own understanding of the book.

“I hope I will not ossify my position too early, but continue to let my interaction with the text and with Revelation scholars continue to shape its outcome.”

Although each offers his own reason for holding to his particular millennial commitment, premillennialists and amillennialists agree that absolute certainty about the specifics of the kingdom’s final consummation does not exist.

“I finally came to the conclusion that if honest biblical scholars, who shared a commitment to inerrancy, could not agree on the interpretation of the timeline of eschatological events, then perhaps that is not the purpose of the eschatological teachings of Scripture,” said Southeastern’s Beck.

“We find these texts difficult and confusing because we are asking them questions that they were not written to reveal. If we let them speak for themselves, their message is not difficult to understand, but very clear. God is sovereign, his judgment against sin is both terrible and inevitable, the righteous will be vindicated, believers are exhorted to persevere and continue in faithfulness,” Beck said. “This leads me to where I no longer focus on the issue of what happens when, but are we living as God’s Word demands us to be, alert, watchful, always seeking to please him, always proclaiming his truth, and ready whenever he chooses to send Jesus back to take us home?”

GPS: Texas churches pilot new SBC evangelism initiative prior to Easter

LUBBOCK?Neither age, physical abilities, or even blindness could squelch the enthusiasm of the members of Southern Baptist churches in Lubbock as they labored for two weeks to invite the entire city to Easter services. The Lubbock Baptists were among those attempting to share the gospel with the entire continent by the year 2020 as part of the North American Mission Board’s new evangelism
initiative, called “GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing.”

“It should be called ‘God’s People Sharing,'” quipped Brenda Bourgeois, director of children’s ministries at Redbud Baptist Church in Lubbock and team leader for Promoting Missions Opportunities at the Lubbock Area Baptist Association (LABA). She said the response from within LABA has been encouraging.

The response from her own church has been exciting, she said. Bourgeois was hard pressed to keep up with the Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action teams she took out on April 1?a Wednesday night?to canvass the neighborhood around their church. In one hour the group of 26 first- through sixth-graders hung promotional materials on the doors of 400 homes.

With Easter as the culminating event, NAMB’s GPS pilot program goal was to have each household in six cities across the country receive a flier with the plan of salvation and an invitation to attend a Southern Baptist church in their zip code. As one of the pilot cities, Lubbock had approximately 100,000 homes to visit. Each participating church distributed the packets within their zip code.

The program is also being piloted this year in Georgia, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and California, with an official beginning nationwide in 2010.

It was no small task as churches within each zip code vary in size and physical ability. But what they lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. Ed Sena, LABA director of church services and plants, said 77 of the association’s 106 churches signed on to participate in the project despite abbreviated planning. The project was introduced just before Christmas and once the holiday season had passed the initiative was introduced to Lubbock-area churches. Although some of the bigger congregations already had Easter-week commitments, Sena said the majority of churches readily agreed to participate.

Such was the enthusiasm throughout the association.

Pastor Randy Bartley of Slide Baptist Church, a congregation that averages 28 in Sunday School, reported eight church members distributed 1,400 invitations on April 4 in their zip code of 16,000 homes.

“We had the largest zip code and we’re a pretty small church,” Bartley said.

There were about four churches in the Slide Baptist zip code that coordinated efforts to complete the canvassing before Easter. Sena said Easter week that he believed the goal of reaching every household in Lubbock would be reached.

Churches began reporting back on April 8 with canvassing results.

Prior to the canvassing, each participating church hosted a prayer walk?or, as in the case of Slide Baptist Church, a prayer drive?to cover their church neighborhoods before the plan of salvation and church invitations were distributed. Bartley said his members had to cover a 20-mile area, so walking was not an option.

The RAs and GAs of Redbud Baptist Church prayer walked their neighborhood the Wednesday before the distribution. Bourgeois said the students took the task very seriously. But the day of distribution lacked the solemnity of the previous week, she said.

“They were so funny. They were fighting over whose house they were going to do next,” Bourgeois said.


Although she could not run the distance of her neighborhood, 94-year-old Lois Langley, with the aid of a walker, distributed the GPS bags to the homes on her block.

“She’s just amazing,” Bourgeois said of the retired IMB missionary to China.

The Saturday distribution by the members of Redbud included Langley and about 77 other members. Even a toddler chattering “People … Jesus,” helped place the
gospel tracks on doors.

Shon Wagner, pastor of Redbud Baptist, said it was “crazy” how readily his congregation bought in to the idea of inviting all of Lubbock to church this Sunday.
During the course of the walk, Wagner said he was struck by the number of households surrounding his church and the sobering realization of how few are associated with a church of any kind.

Bartley had a similar eye-opening experience. He said he hoped, at the very least, that recipients would consider going to church Easter Sunday even if it was not at Redbud.

Sena said the association has promoted a “kingdom mentality” as they fulfill the GPS plan. No church has been territorial, claiming an area around its church as its own, he said.

The gospel packets, provided by NAMB, contained a NAMB flier with the plan of salvation. Each of the churches provided additional materials about their church?location, service time, ministries, and, in at least one case, an invitation to Vacation Bible School this summer. Some packets had as many as 10 church fliers included with the gospel tract.

Bourgeois was thrilled to receive a call about VBS at Redbud Baptist just an hour after returning to the church after canvassing.

“We have been getting almost instant feedback,” she said. God has blessed the entire associational effort, she ad

Generations view eschatological doctrines through different lenses, observers claim

As a 6-year-old growing up at a time when Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” was holding sway in Southern Baptist churches, Jerry Johnson was fascinated by the talk of end times. Later earning three theological degrees that prepared him for service at Boyce College, Criswell College and his current role as academic dean at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Johnson still points to that early interest in eschatology that sparked his own desire to profess faith in Christ two years later at age 8.

A few decades later co-authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins provided their interpretation of end times through the popular “Left Behind” novels.

Today, however, younger generations are exchanging the doctrine of last things as viewed by novelists and their fundamentalist forbearers for what some of them prefer to describe as kingdom-oriented living. Are they are reacting against popular depictions of end times and what some described as the pessimism of dispensationalism or developing a more biblical interpretation of what the kingdom entails?

Unlike their parents, many evangelicals in Generations X and Y (born between 1965-1976 and 1977-2002, respectively) are throwing their energies into community projects and kingdom causes such as creation care and missions without explicitly connecting them to the eschaton.

But there is disagreement among those the TEXAN interviewed about whether this represents a lack of interest in last things among the young, or simply a rejection of “pop eschatology.”

One college pastor said students at one of the state’s most thriving Baptist churches are instead focusing on other controversial subjects.

“I have had numerous theological discussions with college students over the past year,” said George Jacobus, university minister at Central Baptist Church in College Station. “As I recall, none of them have dealt with the issue of eschatology. There tends to be more dialogue over Calvinism, the sovereignty of God, ecclesiology, and Christian community.”

Despite a revival in missions focus among collegians, Jacobus said the students do not have a desire to study eschatology.

“I believe [their] interest in missions is not based on their eschatology, but rather stems from a desire to apply what the Bible teaches. In their mind, missions is everything about God telling us to go–not about their belief in end times,” he said.

A recent article in A City Online, the online publication of Houston Baptist University, echoed this sentiment. Titled “The New Evangelical Scandal,” the article explores the possibility of an eschatological generation gap.

“For younger evangelicals … eschatology is barely worth considering–unless, of course, we are mocking ‘Left Behind’ among our peers,” writes the author, Matthew Lee Anderson.

Anderson sees the devaluation of this historic Christian doctrine among some younger evangelicals as a reaction against the perceived cultural escapism of fundamentalist dispensationalism, which sees the kingdom as wholly future.

“The disappearance of eschatology from a young evangelical framework has much to do with a renewed focus by younger evangelicals on their view of the kingdom of God,” Anderson notes, referring to the emergent church mantras of Brian McLaren that focus solely on the present realities of the Christian life. “McLaren has gained the most traction among younger evangelicals, among whom it is increasingly common to speak of ‘building the Kingdom of God’.”

Anderson sees major consequences of divorcing the present reality of the kingdom from the cosmic outlook of eschatology.

“For one, it focuses young evangelicals more on the current state of the earth and the necessity of protecting and preserving our environment,” he writes. “Creation care … is significantly less important if the end times will be as “Thief in the Night” depicts them. A devalued eschatology lends itself to cultural engagement rather than the cultural escapism that has historically marked evangelicalism.”

Students at an SBTC-affiliated church near the campus of the University of Texas in Austin seemed to fall under this category. When polled as to their eschatological views, interest in the “here and now” prevailed over future concerns.

A 20-year-old finance major from Southlake believes the idea of a rapture has only become prominent in the last century and does not appear in Scripture. The student defined the new heaven and new earth spoken of in Revelation as an earthly kingdom.

“The Bible seems to be critical about followers of God separating themselves from the suffering of the world,” the student said. “I don’t believe there will be a literal rapture, because I don’t believe Christians are supposed to long to be taken out of the world. As Christians, we are called to change the world. We are supposed to care for the sick and promote peace and justice. That’s what the kingdom of God is about. So why would God take Christians out of the world during its darkest hour?”

Despite the postmillennial appearance of the some younger evangelicals’ eschatological views, most do not consciously hold to a specific, millennial position.

A student from Houston summarized the beliefs of younger evangelicals regarding last things by stating it is not his job to figure out what God is going to do in the future, adding: “We’ll know it when we’re there.”

Admitting that the popularity of dispensational theology dominant in the “Left Behind” novels is diminishing, Russell Moore, theology school dean at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said interest in eschatology is not dead.

“I don’t think there is a decrease in interest in eschatology among college students,” said Moore. “I think, in fact, just the opposite, I think what has decreased is a particular kind of eschatology-pop dispensationalism.”

While previous generations looked to one-on-one equations between current events and biblical prophecy, Moore believes younger evangelicals are instead beginning to view the doctrine in light of kingdom matters.

“Interest in issues of new creation, resurrection of the body, and the eternal state is resurgent among younger Christians, and put them in line with the oldest traditions of the Christian church,” Moore contended. “…Interest in the kingdom of God is increasing. I think that’s a positive development.”

But whether one’s view of last things includes solely a dispensational outlook or the kingdom as both “now and not yet,” Anderson believes contemporary worship music provides insight as to the state of eschatology in the pews.

“Worship music is one of the best indications of the declining focus on eschatology,” he writes, adding that popular worship choruses tend to ignore the future triumph of Jesus. “Any casual trip through prominent evangelical hymns reveals an extraordinary emphasis on the next life: There is a Fountain, It is Well, How Great thou Art, Blessed assurance, and Amazing Grace all see fit to acknowledge the work that is yet to be done. I can find no comparable thread in the new evangelical worship songs.”

Ryan Clark, worship pastor at Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, grew up in a large First Baptist Church that was largely premillennial. Yet as a Gen-Xer, he said he never saw a large interest in eschatology among his peers or subsequent generations Despite a sprinkling of themes regarding salvation and heaven in hymns, Clark said it is difficult to find songs that adequately convey both personal and cosmic eschatology.

A recent listing of the top 100 worship songs by Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) reveals that only 11 bear clear testimony to eschatological themes. Out of the 11 songs, one is a gospel style from the mid 1990s, two are traditional Baptist hymns, one is a remake of a traditional hymn, and one is a song written by the Gaither family. The remaining six songs with eschatological themes draw heavily on a missions focus that sees the nations worshipping Christ.

Outside of the 11 songs that showcase clear eschatological themes, six additional songs on the CCLI list vaguely refer to the eschaton but refrain from identifying specific eschatological events or realities. For example, the song “You Never Let Go” by Beth Redman is number 35 on the list and speaks of an end coming to a believer’s troubles, but the song identifies neither the event nor the object of a believer’s hope. Additionally, number 85 on the list is “Let Everything That Has Breath” by Matt Redman. The song could be speaking of end times with a reference to singing with the angels.

Songs that do figure prominently on CCLI’s list of top 100 worship songs include themes of the incarnation, acceptance (doming to God as you are), Gad as Creator, personal salvation and victory over sin, dwelling with God in a present sense, and even love songs to the Lord.

Gordon Borror, professor of church music and chair of the music ministry department at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, believes the absence of eschatological themes in worship music is not a new phenomenon.

“Eschatological themes have generally been missing in worship music for a very long time,” Borror said, noting that most eschatological themes resemble sentimental references to the ‘by and by’ in old gospel music.

Modern worship choruses are not the only culprit to translate eschatology poorly, said Borror, co-author of the book “Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel.”

“I would not say that eschatological themes formed a significant part of traditional Baptist hymnody; songs on the second coming were quite common, but celebration of the intimacy of Christ’s return for his bride is generally missing from contemporary church anyway,” he said.

“The postmodern themes of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ along with the need for immediate gratification doesn’t call for thinking future,” Borror said. “looking back at old traditions like sacred harp, you’ll find much more text about death, dying, ultimate victory with Christ—but comparatively less about the future reign of Christ.”

Despite this ill prognosis of the state of current worship material, Borror has hope for change.

“Some of our contemporary writers are doing a better job at teaching ‘last things’ or ‘future things’ than we generally find in traditional gospel music,” he said referring to modern hymn writers Keith and Kristy Getty. “The Gettys are breathing more doctrine into their hymnic efforts which I appreciate very much. I so appreciate their commitment to doctrinal and musical integrity.”

But the problem of misapplied eschatology runs much deeper than ill-informed worship choruses, Borror said, noting that correct eschatological teaching is also missing in the Baptist pulpit.

“Eschatology hasn’t been taught to the church very well with a lot of very misty thinking about heaven and being ‘with Jesus’—but not much real meaty ‘last things’ doctrine is commonly known among the rank-and-file of Baptists,” he said. “Therefore little call for writing and singing music about it.”

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. agrees. While specifics regarding end-time events are still subject to interpretation, the truth of their occurrence is not, he said.

“The truth of the rapture is not up for debate, but its timing is something we can graciously disagree on,” Akin said. “In the meantime, we should seek the redemption of God’s good creation knowing it will not come in all its fullness until Jesus returns. How do we correct things? Exposition of the whole counsel of God’s Word!”

Q&A: OT scholar responds to questions on premillennial dispensationalism

Lamar E. Cooper is the interim president, as well as executive vice president, provost and professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, at Criswell College in Dallas. He is also a premillennial dispensationalist, who has to his credit the Ezekiel volume of the New American Commentary. He granted the TEXAN an interview in which he offered his insights on dispensationalism and other related issues.

Q: Why do you hold to a dispensational position?

A: Every true exegete of Scripture is a dispensationalist, I believe, because the Bible has two parts: the Old Testament or Old Covenant and the New Testament or New Covenant. These are two different and contrasting dispensations, one based on law and the other based on grace. The writer of Hebrews 12:26-29 joins the prophet Haggai (2:6-7) in identifying two kingdoms. One kingdom is a shakable kingdom which will be removed, the other a soon-coming unshakeable kingdom that is eternal. That is two separate and contrasting dispensations. Premillennialists, of which I am one, see these clear, easily understood, and exegetically significant truths in the Bible. It is difficult for me to see it in any other way. Dispensational theology can mean a lot of things. Clarence Larkin divided human history into seven dispensations and worked out complicated charts to illustrate his dispensational ideas. C.I. Scofield popularized premillennial dispensationalism and came up with specific dates for the change from one of the various dispensations in human history to another. Unfortunately, when you identify yourself with dispensational thought, many people put you in this category. I am neither a Larkin nor a Scofield premillennial dispensationalist, but I do not shrink from the truth because someone else has taken excessive liberties with it. I agree with my mentor W.A. Criswell that premillennial dispensationalism is a logical conclusion from the simple exegesis of the inerrant Word of God.

Q: Do you think the dispensational view is fading from the SBC landscape?

A: I believe there are fewer of us and mostly the older generation that hold some sort of dispensational view of Scripture. Most shy away from it because of the association of the names of Larkin and Scofield. The younger generation does not understand that “dispensationalism” is not a dirty word in theology. Just because it is sometimes misused in the present or past does not mean that it is not worthy of consideration. As previously noted, everyone should see that there are at least two dispensations except for those of course who throw out the Old Testament altogether.

Q: Is dispensationalism the dominant view at Criswell College?

A: Most of our younger faculty members have never really worked through this issue perhaps because of the lack of knowledge about it, so they have not embraced it. The older faculty?Leroy Metts, James Bryant and myself?hold various views, but would generally affirm some form of dispensational thought.

Q: What’s your take on Blaising and Bock’s book titled “Progressive Dispensationalism”?

A: I generally like the progressive dispensational position, although I don’t embrace every aspect of it as presented by Blaising and Bock. They do have one advantage over other positions which generally lead to replacement theology when it comes to Israel. I am not a replacement advocate, so I think this is one of the valid points of the progressive view.

Q: What’s your opinion of Dr. Patterson’s “12 points” [outlined in the lead article by David Roach]?

A: I agree with Dr. Patterson’s 12 points. I think he clearly lays out the essentials of an orthodox eschatology.

Q: What do you see as the most glaring error made by historic premillennialists, postmillennialists, and amillennialists?

A: I believe it is the failure to see the place of Israel as a part of God’s plan in the present day and in the end time. The idea that the church has replaced Israel is an erroneous one in my view.

Q: In the lead article of this report, by David Roach, he writes: “Some dispensationalism systems see the state of Israel as playing a central role in the end times while historic premillennialists and amillennialists do not see God’s kingdom as linked to a single political state.” Do you have a response to this statement, especially with regard to Israel?

A: One of the facts overlooked by those who want to dismiss the current state of Israel is that Israel is the one nation that was founded by God as presented in Exodus 19:1-8. God clearly defined that, Israel, as his people, would play a part in the last days. That the modern state of Israel came into being through a political process does not invalidate her claim of identification with the Israel of the Old Testament. God clearly states he will use means to restore Israel in the latter days, an event that the whole world witnessed in 1948. It is clear that Israel, while a secular state, is also a state that endorses Judaism as the sanctioned national religion. I believe Israel of today is validated by the prophetic statement, especially those in Ezekiel, Amos, Haggai and Zechariah concerning the restored nationof that name in the last days.

Book outlines major millennial views

“Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond,” a book in Zondervan’s popular Counterpoints series, provides a useful dialogue on the major millennial positions of Christian eschatology.

Darrell L. Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary edited the decade-old book, which features proponents of postmillennialism, amillennialism and premillennialism (Kenneth L. Gentry, Robert B. Strimple, and Craig A. Blaising, respectively), with each offering an apologetic for their position followed by responses from the remaining two authors.

The reader would do well to keep a Bible handy while reading it. In his preface, Bock writes that eschatology for some means “‘future things’ only, but all of these authors note that we already live in an era of initial fulfillment of promises concerning the Messiah Jesus. We are in a world where eschatology is at work.”


Gentry begins his case for postmillennialism by admitting that early creedal formulations were minimalist on eschatological questions, with affirmations in the Apostles’ Creed of the second coming, judgment of the “quick and the dead,” bodily resurrection and “life everlasting.” No ancient creed took a millennial position.

Gentry argues that the millennial schemes were gradual developments in the church (though Blaising notes later in the book that Irenaeus and Tertullian were among those in the patristic period who espoused premillennialism).

Beginning with Eusebius and Origen, postmillennialism?the belief that the kingdom of God is slowly blooming, ushering in a golden age of Christian evangelistic success on the present earth as the vast majority of the world is converted and kingdom ideals of the social order are finally realized?became the dominant millennial position up through much of the Reformation.

The theological foundations of postmillennialism, it is argued, begin in Genesis 1 with God’s “purposeful creative power” and his love for the created order, which was “very good” before sin. The postmillennial hope, therefore, is in a restored order within history as we know it and bound to occur in a progressive line beginning with the first redemptive foreshadowing in Genesis.

Also, God’s sovereign power and evangelistic mandate will be realized in time because “[w]e have confidence that the resurrection of Christ is more powerful than the fall of Adam,” Gentry writes.

Just as Adam’s fall is in history, Christ’s ultimate victory will also play out in time and space “because God does not abandon history,” he reasons.

Gentry covers the progression of biblical covenants as supporting the postmillennial position, arguing for a “gradualistic conversion” of the nations rather than a “catastrophic imposition (as in premillennialism) or apocalyptic conclusion (as in amillennialism).”

Psalm 22:27 anticipates a coming evangelistic crescendo, Gentry argues, when “all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nation will bow down before him.”

To support this position, he also cites passages such as Psalm 2, Isaiah 2:2-4, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 and Revelation 20 (Gentry argues that Revelation 20 “plays too prominent a role in the eschatological debate, overshadowing much clearer passages…”).


Strimple’s treatment of amillennialism argues that Christ is the theme of Old Testament prophecy and that he is the “true Israel of God, the one in whom Israel’s history is recapitulated and God’s purposes for Israel come to fulfillment.”

Thus, by virtue of being in Christ, “we Christians are the Israel of God, Abraham’s seed, and the heirs of the promises?”

Amillennialism, as the name implies, expects no literal 1,000-year reign of Christ, but rather sees the church age?from Christ’s redemptive victory at his first coming until his return?as the symbolic millennium with Christ reigning over his kingdom and the church under his spiritual rule as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

The second coming, the resurrection of the saved and the lost, and the judgment?all occur in one period.

The land of promise in the Old Testament, Strimple argues, is a typology looking forward to “the whole world, heaven and earth, renewed and restored in righteousness (2 Peter 3:13) as the home of God’s new race of men and women in Christ Jesus, the second Adam.”


Eschatology does matter

Thirty years ago I asked a group of college students what book of the Bible they would like to study at a home Bible study I led each week. Then, and the next two or three times I asked a church or church group that question, the book of Revelation was the clear winner. I stopped asking that question because I didn’t want to teach Revelation every year for the rest of my life.

I think the answer might be different if I asked it today. The study of end times is a lot of work and requires interpretation of some pretty fantastic passages with dragons and giants and wheels inside wheels and great battles where some of the weapons look like grasshoppers. Listening to a teacher apply these visions to past and future events just sounds so irrelevant to the modern ear. We’d rather talk about the here and now instead. How do I live? How can I serve God? What does the Bible say about peace and justice and missions for me?

That’s the Gospels, right? If we leave out all that stuff about Hell, and skip over Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus’ teaching (the red-letter part) seems to scratch where most of us think we itch.

But what about 2 Timothy 3:16? Jesus wrote that part too. Do we really believe that all Scripture is “profitable?” That would seem to include the visions of Daniel, Ezekiel, and John. Those passages are more difficult to be sure but does that let us off the hook? Actually, the hard parts of Scripture are also timely and practical?especially if we consider their context and the intent, sometimes stated, for the messages. Scripture passages related to understand end times have a message for believers and churches today if we’ll work through them.

Take 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, for one easy example. In the midst of persecution, the Thessalonian church asked about believers who had died before the return of Christ. “Will my dead loved ones who believed in Jesus also go to Heaven?” is the question we might infer from Paul’s answer. He answers them with a promise that they will not only go to Heaven but they will rise first, right before we are “caught up” to meet the Lord in the clouds. And yes, “caught up” is translated in Latin with the word rapio, the word that forms the basis for the English “rapture,” meaning “caught up.” The Bible does teach that there will be a rapture of believers, then. Paul tells them (and God tells us) to “comfort one another with these words.”

As Paul continues his discussion of the end times into chapter 5, he encourages us to be alert, sober-minded?protected from temptation by faith, love, and the hope of salvation. And he again says that we should comfort and build up one another with this teaching of eschatology. Pretty practical, I think, especially for those who are facing persecution or the hardship of life in a corrupting world. Some of us live in persecution and all of us live in a fallen and disappointing world.

John’s vision in Revelation came in a similar context to his first readers. In the midst of it we are also assured that sin will be judged and defeated, that believers and churches will be praised and rewarded for faithfulness to Christ, and that even the most frightening events of history occur under the sovereignty of God. There are times in all our lives when these exhortations to faithfulness and God’s promise of victory over evil become profitable to us.

The visions of Daniel and Ezekiel contain a message of comfort regarding the restoration of a defeated Israel. We also have there a revelation of God’s character as faithful. In the midst of defeat, God shows that he still keeps his word to his people. God shows himself as the Lord and judge of nations and kingdoms, even those not-yet kingdoms in our personal timeline. Our hope of Heaven is based on the character and integrity of God. Because he has kept his word, we know that he will keep his word for those things we’ve not yet seen. Assurance of our salvation and a sure trust in God are a necessary part of the Christian life. God’s justice is also an important element of understanding our salvation and sanctification. The eschatological message that God’s promise of reward and punishment will come true in an ultimate sense is important to our interpretation of the events and ministry of each day because human justice will never be complete.

It is a mistake to put too much hope in the things of this world, even as we work to improve them. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that our hope in Heaven is essential to the Christian life. We care for the earth because it is God’s. We treat people with love and compassion because God has loved us and commanded us to do so. We are active and engaged citizens (in those countries that allow it) because freedom is also a stewardship for the good of all. And so on with other good and godly works. We don’t do these things because this world is our perfectible permanent home. Our home is already perfect, and it is not here. When the Bible tells us about our perfect home through a prophetic vision or a sermon of Jesus, or a letter of Paul, we should be very interested. God has deemed it beneficial, and interesting.

The Bible also tells us about God in eschatological passages. I mentioned his faithfulness and his justice already but we also have visions of God’s Heaven, prophecies of God as a warrior, promises related to the deliverance of our salvation, further implications of his holiness, more about his creation, and many other things that add to our knowledge and understanding of infinite God.

What practical use do we derive from the historical narratives in the Bible if not God’s revelation of himself through past events? Sure, we may be interested (we should be) in what happened, but we certainly should be interested to know what God did so that we might know him better. In some cases we are told the whys of God’s actions, other times we are left to ponder the actions themselves. We learn about God, though.

Passages that clearly refer to the work of God not yet in our present tense are not different. Efforts to understand these passages deepen our understanding of God because they provide more data of what God has done/i

SBTC missions team launches prayer website

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has launched a new tool for those who want to make their evangelistic praying more specific and effective. This tool, called the “Elevate Missions Prayer Rooms,” is “an online missions-oriented prayer website designed to encourage prayer support for ministries in Texas and around the world,” said Christina Clark, an SBTC church planting ministry assistant.

Church members, missionaries, and church planters are able to submit missions-oriented prayer requests to be posted in one of three prayer rooms: International, North America, or Texas. People may also visit these rooms to view and pray for needs that others have submitted.

Seeking a sense of God’s power and guidance, the SBTC missions team saw a deep need for this ministry.

“Prayer is an indispensable element of ministry regardless of where you are serving and who you are reaching,” Clark said. “The missions team designed this site to bring more prayer support for the ministries that it supports and for the churches it serves.”

“Not only does Elevate Missions Prayer Rooms allow you to receive more prayer support for your own ministry, but it allows you to be a part of God’s work in other areas as well,” Clark said. “We hope that through this website, individuals and churches will gain a greater vision for what God is doing in Texas and around the world and develop partnerships with each other.”

The front page of the Elevate Missions website offers one of three links. The International Prayer Room, North America Prayer Room, or the Texas Prayer Room. It also has links that will allow a person to subscribe to a newsletter, submit a prayer request, or contact the missions team.

One click-through on the desired link will guide visitors to the specific area of the world, continent, or state where they can view the prayer requests.

There are eight viewable areas of the world. For example, one is Middle America and the Caribbean, which is currently requesting prayer for the border of Mexico because of the outbreak of kidnappings for ransom, increased homicides, thefts, rapes and street crime related to the Mexican government’s war against the drug cartels.

At the Europe link, there is a prayer request for ESL partners to be called from the states to work with and minister to Russian students. Under the South America tab, a request is posted for South Americans to learn about Christ and to leave their former “spiritual” lives behind to live a life based on the Word of God.

The prayer requests for the Pacific Rim are for a trip the Southern Cross Project Team will take from April 25-May 6. On this trip a team of seven will distribute gospel materials to Chinese tourists in Singapore.

Many other requests are found at Terry Coy, SBTC missions director, said: “Some people may be like I am. I want to pray more and pray more effectively.
Unfortunately, I get busy and distracted easily, and just simply don’t do it. The Elevate Missions Prayer Rooms are one way to be more effective and intentional in praying for specific people and missions efforts. It can help the person praying to be more focused and strategic, and help the ones doing missions in getting a critical prayer request to those praying warriors.”