Month: March 2010

Pastor’s son, 11, to bring down the ‘house’ Coach Landry built

TERRELL?As long as there’s a market for action flicks, power saws and suped-up cars, it’s obvious little boys’ love for Tonka trucks and all things masculine grow in size and cost, but never go away. But for an 11-year-old boy from the East Texas town of Terrell, it’s far more than engines and dynamite that keep him ticking.

Casey Rogers, son of Russell and Shelly, founded a ministry for the homeless three years ago when his heart became burdened for those living on the streets. Now, because of an essay he wrote about his work with Dallas’ homeless, Casey will push the button to implode Texas Stadium?home to the Dallas Cowboys for 38 seasons?in Irving on April 11.

“I feel way ecstatic,” said Casey, whose father is pastor of Trinity Life Baptist Church in Garland. “I’m just very surprised that they would pick me.”

Casey was chosen as the winner of an essay contest sponsored by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Though Casey and his ministry, Casey’s Heart, are quickly growing in popularity nationwide, Casey is anything but soaking up the spotlight?at least not as long as that light is pointed on him.

“I don’t want to be popular. I just want to be Casey,” he said.

But when it comes to Casey’s Heart, he hopes the whole world will get involved in his cause.

Casey said he was once homeless himself?a foster child born into the world with biological parents, but no mom and no dad.

At 11 weeks old, though, Shelly and Russell Rogers adopted the baby into their family and brought him into their home, giving him a life he might otherwise never have had.

To many, it’s probably no surprise what the heart of a boy so loved and so wanted would later dream up on a drive through downtown Dallas.

“When I was 8 years old, I saw my first homeless man on the street and it made me really sad,” Casey said. “I’m adopted and I know how it feels to be homeless.”

From the backseat of the family’s car, Casey asked if since his parents had helped him and given him a home, food and a family, if it would be all right if he helped the homeless. The pastor and his wife said, “OK,” never knowing, Shelly said, how far it would go.

“We didn’t think this would last this long,” she said.

But last it has.

Now, Casey, his family and some members of Trinity Life make the trip to downtown Dallas once a month to deliver basic toiletry items, water and food.

“We really need a trailer,” he said.

And they really might need one considering the notoriety the ministry has gained from the announcement that Casey’s essay earned him the right to detonate the legendary stadium where the Cowboys became “America’s Team” and Tom Landry’s fedora became a familiar icon.

Since the announcement that Casey will implode Texas Stadium, the Casey’s Heart Facebook page had attracted 2,244 fans as of March 25, up from three.

The page is full of people commenting about wanting to help and wanting to set up drop off stations in the metroplex for Casey’s Heart donations. Casey said they’ve even received donations f

Byron Nelson widow speaking at golf retreat

Peggy Nelson, widow of the late golfing legend Byron Nelson, will be the keynote speaker at a banquet during the annual SBTC Pastor & Staff Golf Retreat, May 3-4.

The banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 3 at Church at the Cross, 3000 William D. Tate Ave. in Grapevine 76051.

A golf scramble will be held the following morning at Riverchase Golf Course in Coppell.

The $59 registration, which closes on April 23, includes hole-in-one contests for 7-day Caribbean Cruise, flat-screen TV, airline tickets and Callaway irons, the May 3 banquet, Tuesday breakfast and lunch, cart and green fees, and other gifts and drawings. Reservations may be made for pastors and staff members online at

The tournament is organized by the SBTC Facilitating Ministries team.

“Peggy Nelson is a wonderful, delightful lady and we are so blessed to have her as our guest speaker at the banquet this year, said Facilitating Ministries Director Tom Campbell. “Listening to her share stories about Byron Nelson and their life together is truly fascinating. Even if you aren’t into golf, you’ll still be captivated by her stories. If you are a fan of golf, you’ll be completely enthralled.”

Nelson is the author of a new book, “Life with Lord Byron,” which is filled anecdotes and life lessons taken from her marriage to the winner of 11 consecutive PGA Championships.

The official tournament hotel is The Baymont Inn in Grapevine, with rooms available for $79 per night. Contact the hotel for reservations at 817-329-9300 and ask for the SBTC block of rooms.

SBTC volunteers fed 1,000 daily in Chile

Less than a month after the devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Chile, three STBC Disaster Relief teams had reached the country.

On March 10, the second DR team arrived. The team traveled to a small fishing village on the coast south of Conceptión that was devastated by a tsunami generated by the quake. Two waves hit the small town of Llico, washing away homes, businesses and roads.

Focused on food distribution, the four-man team went where food was needed most. They received a tip not to go to Conceptión, the scene of the most earthquake damage, because there was no one there to feed.

“We went to Llico because they had an outbreak of typhoid and hepatitis,” said team leader Bill Swanson. “The Health Department said it was due to improperly cooked food.”

The team purchased equipment in the town of Temuco, a seven-hour drive from Llico and hauled it back to the village. They set up their kitchen in a school-turned-military compound. From this base, they prepared the meals they would distribute.

“We cooked about 1,000 meals a day and loaded them up in the back of a couple of vehicles to take them to the people,” Swanson said.

Having lost their homes, the people clustered into about 20 camps set up on higher ground. The populations of these camps varied from as low as 30 people to hundreds. They were living out of whatever shelter they could piece together. Some had tents donated to them, but most were living in huts of their own making from whatever debris they could find.

“There might be some corrugated metal off of roofs that they had tied with twine and nailed to boards,” Swanson said. “You could see people going around picking up nails and straightening them out with a hammer so they could use them again. There were tarps hanging over wires. They were washing their clothes by hand and hanging them on clothes lines strung up around the camp. It was very crude living.”

One thing every camp had in common was the presence of the Chilean flag, which looks almost identical to the Texas flag. The only difference between the two is that in the Chilean flag, the red stripe stretches all the way across the bottom.

“They really liked our flag,” Swanson said. “The kids would point to the Texas flag on the sleeve of my shirt and then they would point to the Chilean flag that was sticking up on the pole. They kept saying, ‘similar, similar.'”

Each camp had an elected leader. The team would get permission from the leader of each camp before distributing food. After the food was prepared and loaded, the volunteers would travel with military escort to each of the camps. At the camp, they would set up a table for the inhabitants to get meals for their families. When each family had received their meals, the team would pack everything back into the cars and head to another camp.

Another part of the team’s strategy was teaching the local people to use the kitchen equipment so that they could continue to provide food for their families after the team had left. They would leave the equipment behind.

The team partnered with missionaries and local pastors who helped with the distribution and served the invaluable role of translators for the team. They were also trained on the do’s and don’t’s of food preparation and distribution.

“We wanted them to know how we do everything and why,” Swanson said. “You can’t do leftover meals. Anything left over has to be thrown away because there is no refrigeration. Anything that stays either above 40 degrees or below 140 degrees for more than four hours has to be tossed. They need to know how to keep everything sterile so we don’t give people botulism.”

The team stayed in Chile from March 10 through March 19. As they left, another team took their places to continue the feeding efforts. As Swanson’s team left, they saw new electrical wires going up. The Red Cross has also installed holding tanks to provide fresh water to the people. Swanson hopes that before long, the people will be able to provide themselves with enough food and water. The disaster relief priority at that point will be rebuilding.

SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers work recovery effort on two fronts

Forty-six days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake pummeled Haiti leaving widespread devastation and carnage in its wake, another quake hit off the coast of Chile. This one registered at magnitude 8.8. Shockwaves rocked the country, tearing cities apart and causing tsunamis to sweep down the coastline.

SBTC Disaster Relief teams responded immediately to get people on the ground after both disasters. Two days after the Chilean quake hit, SBTC representative Jim Howard was en route to Chile with a Baptist Global Response (BGR) assessment team, including personnel from the International Mission Board and the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Getting to Santiago, Chile provided the first challenge. Santiago airport shut down and all flights were canceled. Not deterred, the team flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina and boarded a bus for the 22-hour drive through the Andes Mountains to get to Santiago.

For 10 days, the team traveled through Chile assessing the damage and the needs of the people.

“Our objective was to identify critical needs areas and formulate a plan that BGR and disaster relief could follow up on through feeding and recovery,” said Howard, pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta. “Our ultimate objective was to engage the Chilean people with the hope of Jesus Christ while we addressed their basic needs.”

Damage from the quake made travel difficult. Many roads and bridges have become nearly impassable. Aftershocks also still plague the already terrified survivors. In one night, the team counted 12 aftershocks. Despite the difficulty, the team traveled to nine cities, determining the greatest areas of need.

“At Constitución, the earthquake damage coupled with the tsunami was devastating,” Howard said. “Houses were shuffled around like dominos, and slabs where houses used to be were reminders of the enormous wave and its power.”

Disaster Relief director Jim Richardson said the team determined that the greatest areas of need in Chile were food and temporary shelter.

The assessment team returned to the U.S. on March 10. That same day, BGR’s first food distribution team arrived in the village of Llico.

As the first team left, another group came to take their place and continue the food distribution to the camps in that area.

“We have sent in two feeding teams and one more is leaving on March 25,” Richardson said. “In total we are sending in three feeding teams and one building team. In all, there are 27 volunteers going to Chile.”

By the time the first feeding team left Llico on March 19, electricity was already being restored. Once the people are able to prepare their own food, relief efforts will focus on building and recovery. The building teams will construct temporary pine-sided houses with tin roofs and slatted floors for people who have lost their homes.

The next step is to equip the Chilean churches to take leadership in the recovery efforts.


While work progresses in Chile, SBTC teams continue to serve in Haiti as well.

“We will be in Haiti for many more months,” Richardson said. “The teams there are transitioning from building assessment teams to demolition teams.”

Demolition teams will focus on cleanup, especially of local churches. Partnering with local church members, the teams will use sledgehammers to tear up concrete and prepare it for removal.

With all of the relief work in both Chile and Haiti, volunteers are always welcome. Disaster relief is providing training throughout the spring for anyone interested in getting involved.


Q&A: Texas education board chairman Gail Lowe

The Texas State Board of Education’s (SBOE) preliminary passage of new social studies standards has created a firestorm of criticism, with some media reports repeating claims that they are full of revisionist history motivated by a right-wing agenda that denies historic constitutional boundaries between church and state. Some reports even charged the board omitted Thomas Jefferson as a historically significant figure?a false claim, according to several pages of the standards provided to the TEXAN and by board member accounts. The Texas Education Association will post the standards online for public review at a later date.

SBOE Chairman Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas) agreed to answer questions about the new social studies standards, which face a final vote by the 15-member elected board in May. The Texas board’s decisions have an influence on textbook content nationally because of the volume of textbooks the state purchases.

*TEXAN: Will the new standards or textbooks include language stating America is a Christian nation founded upon and governed by Christian beliefs, as the Interfaith Alliance alleged in a letter to textbook publishers?

LOWE: Nowhere in our social studies curriculum standards is America referred to as a Christian nation, but historians have widely acknowledged that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles that promote the worth of the individual yet acknowledge man’s sinful nature.

The importance of religious freedom permeates the study of American history. We expect students to explain reasons for exploration and settlement of the United States, which includes their search for religious freedom (taught in both Grade 5 and Grade 8 American history courses) and to describe how religion and virtue contributed to the growth of representative government in the colonies (Grade 8). We also require students to describe the fundamental rights guaranteed by each amendment in the Bill of Rights. Previously, only a handful of the Bill of Rights freedoms were addressed directly in the curriculum standards.

In addition, we believe students should understand the contributions of people of various racial, ethnic and religious groups in the United States (Grade 5, Grade 8 and high school U.S. history since 1877). And in U.S. government students will study how government policies or court decisions have affected a particular racial, ethnic or religious group.

Religion and faith are a vital part of the American culture, and have been since our founding, but no single religious adherence is addressed in our standards. We recognize that all individuals have inalienable rights endowed by God, not by government, and that religion and morality are necessary pillars of society, as George Washington said.

*TEXAN: How do your respond to the Interfaith Alliance’s allegation that the conservatives on the board believe “the Founders did not intend for the nation to have separation of church and state”?

LOWE: A critical priority of the State Board of Education in our revision of the curriculum standards has been to emphasize the founding documents, such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution. We believe students need a stronger grasp of the freedoms guaranteed in these documents. The First Amendment very clearly prevents Congress from establishing a national church, but it also promotes the free exercise of religion. Students need to understand that this is what the founders intended. It is inaccurate to say the founding fathers were neutral about religion; most were strong proponents of religious faith but did not believe in a national church controlled by the federal government.

*TEXAN: Why was Thomas Jefferson removed from the Enlightenment period and where does he appear in the new standards?

LOWE: A proposal had been made to list Jefferson in the world history course with European Enlightenment figures John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau, who influenced political revolutions from 1750 to the present. Since Thomas Jefferson and his political philosophies are so heavily emphasized in the study of American history and U.S. government courses, members voted not to add this reference in world history so students could devote more time to learning about these additional philosophers.

Thomas Jefferson is taught in Grade 5 as a founding father and patriot hero. Students must be able to state his contributions during the Revolutionary Period. Jefferson also is taught in Grade 8, where students must explain the significant role he played during the American Revolution. In high school, students must identify the contributions of the political philosophies of the founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, on the development of the U.S. government, as well as identify him as a significant individual in the field of government and politics.

As author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson also will be studied in reference to that pivotal document.

The only historical figure mentioned more times than Thomas Jefferson in our curriculum standards is George Washington. There is no way students in Texas will avoid learning of his contributions to our country.

*TEXAN: Is the conservative block of the board allowing its religious beliefs to cause it to push an “inaccurate history of our country” and indoctrinate students in right-wing political ideology?

LOWE: The social studies framework is not about religious dogma, church traditions or specific denominational beliefs. To the secular, radical left thinker, however, any mention of religious belief is anathema. It is those voices who are screaming most loudly because they do not want to admit the extent to which religious liberties and religious faith have influenced our country.

*TEXAN: How do you respond to those who say the board has brought ideology into the classroom in its fight over how and what students are taught?

LOWE: The American education establishment has been dominated for years by secularism and radical leftist philosophy. Perhaps this is most evident at the university level, but that influence has spread to the public school classroom. Many parents are upset about the abandonment of traditional American values, our loss of freedoms as citizens, and the lack of civic understanding reflected by the general public. In Texas, we believe parents are full partners in the education process, and our Education Code states they are to be directly involved in the development of the curriculum expectations. These new history standards will bring much-needed ideological balance to the textbooks, and will emphasize the important principles about our country that the average parent and taxpayer expect of our education system.

*TEXAN: How would you describe your philosophy of public education considering the culturally diverse country we now live in?

LOWE: I believe all students should be afforded the opportunity for a well-rounded education. We are a culturally diverse country, but the concept of e pluribus unum [from the many, one] is important and is part of what makes the United States such a unique nation. Those principles that unite us should be the focus.

Sometimes the majority knows best

What a bunch of bozos! Did you know that our State Board of Education has a majority of Republicans who jammed through some social studies requirements for public school students that whitewash history and erase the very presence of minorities from the American story? Did you know that these bumbling amateurs had the temerity to see things differently from some who do this for a living (and are thus completely without any personal agenda or bias)? If you don’t know this it’s because you haven’t read many news stories on the subject. Overwhelmingly, stories and columns across the country have expressed contempt for the Texas SBOE over their March meeting decisions on social studies standards.

Are they racist dilettante bozos? You could make a pretty good case that they are none of those things, if you actually consider the most outrageous things being said about them. Clearly, some of the Democrat minority came to the deliberations determined to right the wrongs of past decades by berating current institutions and past leaders of the nation. Of course they were offended every time their agenda was turned back. I’d characterize the differences on the board as being between those interested in helping our students learn history and those who came to make people and events from the past serve the agendas of the present. The standards adopted seem to be revisions (not revisionist) warranted by an open-minded and less agenda-driven view of history.

Texas, of course, gets more attention than most states because our standards impact textbook content for small states that don’t buy as many books. That’s why national publications felt compelled to chide our SBOE for their insensitivity to the priorities of multiculturalism. Let’s look at some of the most common criticisms.

Joseph McCarthy was a Republican senator from Wisconsin. During the early 1950s he initiated investigations of the possible presence of Soviet spies in several institutions including the Army, the State Department, and the Truman administration. This was during a time of great fear toward an aggressive enemy. He was widely lampooned by many during his life and since that time his name is shorthand for paranoia and witch hunting. Is it insignificant that many of his concerns turned out to be valid? Conservatives on our Texas SBOE favor noting the release of about 3,000 messages passed between the Soviet Union and its agents in the U.S. In these messages, many of the people accused during McCarthy’s investigations were implicated as?even proven to be?Soviet operatives. No one says that McCarthy was right in attitude or about everything, but liberals seem to believe that saying there were in fact Soviet spies in the U.S. during the Cold War is an example of ultraconservatism.

Is it necessary, on every mention of the Texas Rangers or the U.S. Army, to mention atrocities committed by individuals over a century earlier? I reject the notion that the only way to encourage or affirm those of minority heritage is to diminish the institutions of the whole society. One SBOE member insisted that students learn that the Texas Rangers murdered Mexican-Americans on one or more occasions. The significance of such an event is harder to polish when we also learn that a large number of Texas Rangers were and are of Mexican descent. Failure by the board to include information about these alleged murders was listed in the Houston Chronicle as an example of conservative whitewash.

Similarly, conservatives and liberals disagreed over whether the growth of American influence in the world should rightly be called “expansionism” or “imperialism.” Liberals offered that experts found “imperialism” the preferred term. But is it the right term? Don’t we all know that some “experts” aren’t big fans of our nation’s success?

If students are going to examine the consequences of significant government actions, why not offer more than one view of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs? The addition by conservatives of contrary viewpoints on the New Deal has been railed against in more than one news story. Could leaving out this material be rightly termed “liberal whitewash?”

Is it academically necessary to insist that the traditional use of B.C and A.D. to designate years before and after (approximately) the birth of Christ be changed in public school texts? Some academics prefer C.E. (common era) and B.C.E. (before the common era) because they sleep better having rescued the “C” from that Jewish carpenter. What makes it even more silly is that the dividing line of human history for these enlightened thinkers is no different. The “common era” in question began (approximately) at the birth of you know who. According to critics, preferring the traditional terms makes our SBOE members “ultraconservative,” even (brace yourself)?in league with Christians. I put this bit of viewpoint jiggering in the same category as referring to a gaggle of feminine adults as “womyn.”

And then there is the dust up about separation of church and state. Critics say that the conservative board members prefer an America that is an intolerant theocracy. Actually, no religion is preferred in the standards, neither is America described as a Christian nation. The standards do emphasize the religious factors that led to the settlement of our nation. They also fail to ignore that the founders did believe religion to be an important aspect of American life and that God is the source of “unalienable rights.” For those reasons, the majority voted to let the plain

Solitary confinement set inmate on road to Christ, theology

KATY?For six and a half years, Deric Torrent spent 23 hours a day in a cell with nothing but a collection of books, a radio, and a hot pot. He had one hour a day for a shower and recreation before returning to solitary confinement. In this cell, he lost years of his life, but he found Christ.

On Feb. 21, Torrent walked on stage to tell his unique story to the congregation of First Baptist Church of Katy in suburban Houston. Pastor Randy White decided to forgo the Sunday morning sermon. Instead, he used the time to ask Torrent questions about his life and his transformation.

“Deric has a vivid testimony that even in a jail cell, God changes lives?purely, completely, and dramatically like the apostle Paul.” White said. “He will probably be one of the most-used instruments in the church today.”

God radically transformed Torrent’s life. He transitioned from a prisoner in solitary confinement to a Criswell College student in a matter of months. His spiritual transition had taken a little longer.

Torrent grew up in Carrollton. Dealing with fights at home and struggles in school, he went looking for trouble. At age 12, he discovered marijuana. By his sophomore year, one high school had kicked him out for fighting and another for drug possession. He decided to drop out of school completely.

“That’s when I started getting into even more trouble,” he said. “A lot of my friends were gang members. One day they asked me why I wasn’t officially a member since I spent so much time with them. I said, ‘I don’t know.’ So I jumped in.”

Gang-related violence landed him in jail at age 17. He served 150 days before receiving parole. He failed two drug tests and violated house arrest 63 times. The court revoked his parole and sentenced him to 15 years.

The first two and a half years in prison, Torrent got involved in a “prison family.” “It’s not really a gang, but more of an organization, kind of like a mafia.”

Torrent attacked a member of a rival organization in the cafeteria. The prison’s gang intelligence officer placed him in solitary confinement for the remainder of his sentence.

“In solitary confinement God totally transformed his life,” Andrew Hebert, Criswell College director of enrollment services, said. “God gave him a new passion and desire to follow him.”

God began to reveal himself to Torrent and used the people in his life as tools to bring him to Christ.

“My dad sent me a study Bible, but I never used it,” Torrent said. “I just set it on my table and used it to hold up my radio. He sent me tracts and cards. He sent me one picture of Jesus holding up a sinner. That one struck me the most, so I kept it.”

One day Torrent read an article about a mother who lost her son to leukemia. The article highlighted her faith in letting her son go. Torrent couldn’t understand the woman’s response to her son’s death and her certainty that he would go to heaven. The story made Torrent think about his own faith.

He shared his thoughts with his neighbor. They discussed what they knew about the Bible.

“I asked him, ‘Do you think Jesus is real?’ He stopped and thought about it for a minute. Then he said, ‘yeah.’ And I said, ‘yeah, he’s real.’ Then I got on my knees. I’d never done that before. I knew what to pray. I knew the gospel; I had just never given myself to it. I felt like I needed to get on my knees and pray to God and confess my sins to him and tell him that I chose to follow him.”

After that prayer, Torrent’s life drastically changed. He began studying the Bible his dad had given him and gained an unquenchable desire to know more.

He said, “I wasn’t satisfied with a minimal understanding of the Scripture.” He devoted himself to biblical study.

He found a Christian Book Distributor catalog and built a theological library in his cell. Every chance he got, he wrote home, asking his family for a book from his wish list. He began with apologetics, afraid to get into anything too deep before he had built a strong foundation.

“At first I was really wary of theology. I knew there were so many different views and I didn’t want to study the wrong thing. I didn’t want to pick up a book by somebody really liberal and read his stuff and get taken away with it. God really led me in my stages of learning.”

His initial study grounded him and prepared him to think critically about what he read. He progressed to theology, textual criticism, and even began teaching himself Greek.

“He had systematic theology books,” Hebert said. “He got Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. He got a Greek New Testament and a Strong’s Concordance. He built this library and just started reading and getting grounded in his faith. So all he did for those remaining years of prison was study and read.”

As his biblical foundation grew, so did his library.

“I had a lot of apologetic references,” Torrent said. He loved apologetics because of its basis in logic. He followed Norman Geisler’s classic

An effective response to Reformed theology

After reading David Roach’s fine summary of “Whosoever Will,” I wanted to read the book for myself. It’s a long book but each chapter also stands alone for those of us who return to a book a little at a time. I’d like to highlight just a few of those parts.

Overall, the authors have added rich and clear components to a dialog we will never complete to anyone’s satisfaction this side of Heaven. Regardless of this lack of resolution, I believe we can learn more about our God, our Savior, and our salvation in the midst of this dialog, by the way. The conference that occasioned the papers followed a series of more Calvinistic ones and should not be seen as an aggressive move against the minority by the majority. Some who read articles by members of the Founders’ movement or hear messages from the Calvinistic conferences I mentioned have frankly wondered if there are deep and scholarly responses to the arguments of Reformed Baptists. To me, these articles are a fine answer to the question.

First, James Leo Garrett’s preface does a great job of setting the historical stage for the remainder of the work. I don’t know what the book will cost but the reader will have received substantial value by the time he’s finished Garrett’s piece. His explanation of the book, after acknowledging that Calvinism has been a major strand of Baptist life, says, “What was the precise nature of that strand [Calvinism], and is it supportable by a fair, accurate, and comprehensive reading of the New Testament?” These questions he later terms “the burden of this book.”

Second, I want to call some attention to a superlative theme sermon by Jerry Vines. Vines’ message is only occasionally polemical but is all through a fine exposition of John 3:16. His treatment of all the words of this best-known of all Bible verses touches so deftly and on so many pertinent subjects as to set a high academic and spiritual tone for the articles to follow.

Richard Land’s concise treatment on the doctrine of election is intriguing. His description of “congruent election,” a theological concept that “fits the entirety of the biblical revelation better than the Calvinist model of unconditional election” is very thought provoking and will doubtless be part of our continuing Reformation debate for years to come.

Co-editor David Allen’s article on limited atonement is scholarly, thorough, and devastating to the teaching that Christ died for only the few. His quotes from Calvinist scholars, including Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, and even John Calvin himself, while no substitute for biblical exegesis (also part of Allen’s chapter), certainly loosens the foundation of this doctrine.

Briefly, I’ve given you enough reason to read the whole 300 pages. The other articles our summary describes show the progress of the argument. You’ll want to read them all.

As I indicated, Reformed theology among Baptists has some fine spokesmen who are unapologetic in their advocacy for their view of theology. The contributors to “Whosoever Will” are equally convinced and ably hold up their side of the discussion.

Author offers biblical case for Molinism as middle way between Calvinism, Arminianism

In his chapter for the new book “Whosoever Will,” author Kenneth Keathley opens with two questions: “First, is it possible to know absolutely or even confidently that one is saved, and second, is it possible for those who currently believe they are saved to have assurance that they will remain in a state of grace until the day of redemption?”

He notes, “It is more than just a little ironic that though they travel different routes, many Arminians and Calvinists arrive basically at the same answer?assurance is based on evidence of sanctification.”

In a separate volume released by B&H Academic, Keathley devotes more time to the corollaries that arise out of certain central tenets of Calvinism. The new release, titled “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach,” provides the author’s argument that only three of Calvinism’s five TULIP points can be defended scripturally.

Keathley examines both subjects through the lens of Molinism, finding the model faithful to the biblical witness. Luis Molina was a 16th-century Jesuit priest who is credited with arguing for “a strong notion of God’s control and an equally firm affirmation of human freedom.” Keathley also cites the Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier for holding a similar position 50 years earlier.

“Like someone who comes to embrace premillennialism but remains unimpressed with the standard Dispensational eschatology generally associated with it, I see salvation as a sovereign work of grace but suspect that the usual Calvinist understanding of sovereignty (that God is the cause of all things) is not sustained by the biblical witness as a whole,” Keathley writes in his introduction.

He builds upon author Timothy George’s presentation of ROSES as an acronym to replace TULIP while admitting he and George do not “prune roses exactly the same way” since George favors reformed theology.

Both books?”Whosoever Will” and “Salvation and Sovereignty”?feature user-friendly indexes of subject, name and Scripture. While the content will stretch readers intellectually, laymen, ministers and theologians will find them informative.

In his foreword to Keathley’s book, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson describes the volume as essential reading for two groups?”those who are uncomfortable with Calvinism and feel that it has exceeded the actual witness of Scripture, while ignoring other major emphases in Scripture,” and Calvinistic friends who hold their convictions sincerely.

Encouraging the latter group to give it a read, Patterson writes, “Those of you who do not change your minds will nevertheless have been exposed to an irenic and profoundly Christian response, which without trace of uncharitableness should move all toward taking the gospel to the world until Jesus comes.”

Texas school board members dispute news reports

Despite news reports to the contrary, Texas students will be required to learn about Thomas Jefferson and constitutional religious freedom guarantees, say two prominent members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

Additionally, “Nowhere in our social studies curriculum standards is America referred to as a Christian nation,” contrary to claims in a March 22 letter to textbook publishers by the liberal Interfaith Alliance, said board chairman Gail Lowe, a Republican from Lampasas, Texas.

In interviews with the Southern Baptist Texan about new social studies standards for Texas public schools, Lowe and Don McLeroy, the immediate past board chairman, said widely circulated news reports contained numerous inaccuracies, including claims that Thomas Jefferson was left out of the standards, that First Amendment religious freedom guarantees were omitted because conservative board members reject the concept of church-state separation, and that religious dogma had crept into the standards.

The board meeting, held March 10-12 in Austin, made national and international news, chiefly because Texas buys or distributes about 48 million textbooks annually, influencing textbook content for other states.

The Guardian newspaper of London claimed on its blog that the board was “rewriting history,” an assertion of the Texas Freedom Network, which bills itself a “mainstream voice to counter the religious right.”

In the Interfaith Alliance’s letter to textbook publishers, the group’s leader, C. Weldon Gaddy, wrote that the board’s “most egregious vote” was denying separation of religious and government institutions by rejecting a late amendment by Dallas Democrat Mavis Knight that students learn “the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”

McLeroy said he believed Knight’s amendment would paint the founders as neutral toward religion generally.

“They weren’t,” McLeroy said. “They simply didn’t want a state church, a state religion. That’s it. To say that we were against protecting the religious freedoms of all the people, that is all spin from the Texas Freedom Network. That’s all it is. Because it’s not right.”

Lowe added: “The First Amendment very clearly prevents Congress from establishing a national church, butit alsopromotes the free exercise of religion. Students need tounderstand that thisis what the founders intended. It is inaccurateto say the Founding Fathers were neutral about religion; most werestrong proponents of religiousfaith but did not believe in anational church controlled by the federalgovernment.”

The new standards require, among other things, that students “trace the development of religious freedom in the United States” and “analyze the impact of the first amendment guarantees of religious freedom on the American way of life.” Additionally, students must “identify and define unalienable rights” and “identify the freedoms and rights guaranteed by each amendment in the Bill of Rights.”

The board’s actions became fodder in the Texas gubernatorial campaign with Bill White, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, claiming on March 17: “Last week the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), led by Rick Perry’s appointee, voted to remove Thomas Jefferson from social studies textbook standards. That’s right. Thomas Jefferson… was deleted from a list of historical figures who inspired political change.”

Jefferson was removed from a list of leading Enlightenment thinkers in world history curricula, but he is included numerous times in U.S. government and American history, according to copies of the standards obtained by the TEXAN. As of March 22, the Texas Education Agency had yet to post the standards online for public viewing.

Lowe said, “The only historical figure mentioned more times than Thomas Jefferson in our curriculum standards is George Washington. There is no way students in Texas will avoid learning of his contributions to our country.”

McLeroy, who is finishing his term this year after being defeated in the Republican primary by Thomas Ratliff, widely considered a moderate, said he voted for removing Jefferson from the world history Enlightenment period because Jefferson was more “a son” of Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Voltaire.

Responding to critics who say the board has a religious agenda, Lowe said, “the social studies framework is not about religious dogma, church traditions or specific denominational beliefs. To the secular, radical left thinker, however, any mention of religious belief is anathema. It is those voices who are screaming most loudly because they do not want to admit the extent to which religious liberties and religious faith have influenced our country.”

Lowe said religious references are plentiful in the country’s founding documents, which are heavily emphasized in the standards.

McLeroy said the country was founded on “biblical” principles from Judaism and Christianity, “but you don’t see us putting it in the standards that we are a Christian nation and no one is pushing for that.”

“The whole idea of the nature of man—man created in the image of God, man as fallen—those things are found throughout [the founders’ writings]. Those are the core beliefs about the nature of man that make our country unique—the importance of the individual created in God’s image; you don’t have a king; and the idea of man as fallen. You cannot trust man 100 percent so you have a separation of powers. That whole form of government is founded upon a biblical view of the nature of man.”

During the meeting, the board also turned back some controversial revisions offered by teams comprised of teachers and scholars. The board voted to retain requirements that students learn about historical notables such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison and added language about significant political ideas, including the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” cited in the Declaration of Independence.

The new standards will face a final vote in May when the board meets. Standards for given subjects are revised every 10 years. The board has a 10-5 Republican majority and an eight-member conservative voting bloc.