Month: August 2012

HHS broadens mandate ‘safe harbor’ guidelines

WASHINGTON—In a move that gives religious organizations some wiggle room but doesn't solve the larger issue, the Obama administration has broadened its health care law guidelines so that all nonprofit religious organizations are exempted—for one year—from being penalized for not carrying insurance plans covering contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs.

Previously, some religious organizations—such as evangelical school Wheaton College—didn't qualify for the one-year exemption because they didn't meet a complex series of guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The newest guidelines, issued in mid-August, simply mean that Wheaton and other religious organizations like it now have until August 2013 to carry insurance plans covering abortion-causing drugs—a proposition that the groups, who staunchly oppose abortion, say is unacceptable.

HHS' broadening of what are called the “safe harbor guidelines” was a small victory for Wheaton, but it resulted in a loss in court. On Aug. 24, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit Wheaton had filed Aug. 1 seeking to overturn the contraceptive/abortion mandate. The judge, Ellen Segal Huvelle, ruled the case was not “ripe” for consideration because Wheaton was now exempt for a full year.

Wheaton was represented in court by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Government attorneys had asked the judge to dismiss the suit.

“The government has now re-written the 'safe harbor' guidelines three times in seven months, and is evidently in no hurry to defend the HHS mandate in open court,” Becket Fund's Kyle Duncan said in a statement. “By moving the goalposts yet again, the government managed to get Wheaton's lawsuit dismissed on purely technical grounds. This leaves unresolved the question of religious liberty at the heart of the lawsuit.”

Hannah Smith, another Becket Fund attorney, told Baptist Press the threat to religious liberty is very real, despite the one-year safe harbor. There are now more than 25 lawsuits nationwide seeking to overturn the contraceptive/abortion mandate. The latest lawsuits were filed Aug. 23 by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of two evangelical schools—Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California—underscoring once again it is more than a Catholic-centered issue.

“This mandate is one of the most troubling intrusions on the right of religious freedom in our country that we've seen in a long time,” Smith said. “It puts religious organizations in a terrible position of having to choose between following their convictions and obeying the law, and I think that is a perilous place for religious organizations. It is troubling that the government has chosen to impose this on them.”

Wheaton is deciding whether to appeal the ruling, Smith said.

The mandate was announced by HHS in August 2011 as part of the health care law championed by President Obama. Although the Supreme Court upheld the health care law in June, the justices' ruling did not deal with the religious liberty issues surrounding the contraceptive/abortion mandate. That means the nation's highest court could yet strike down what has been for religious groups the most controversial part of the law.

Under the mandate, all employers must pay for insurance plans that cover contraceptives and drugs such as Plan B and ella—drugs that can work after fertilization and cause a chemical abortion. Ella even can work after implantation.

The HHS guidelines exempt churches but not religious organizations such as Christian schools and universities or faith-based hospitals.

The HHS guidelines have a large “grandfather” loophole that allows businesses and organizations to avoid covering contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs, provided the businesses' and organizations' insurance plans have not made any major changes since March 23, 2010—the date the health care law was signed. Because Wheaton had made changes to its plan it was not eligible for the grandfather exception. The HHS loophole means some religious organizations are facing the August 2013 deadline while others are not.

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Comic-style tract reaching thousands

HOUSTON—A new gospel tract published by Houston businessman David Howell has been read by at least 15,000 people—most of those are prisoners—since June, and many have reported that God used it to change their lives.

Titled “How to be a Child of God,” the graphic, comic-book style booklet explains the concept of being crucified with Christ, presented by the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20. An accompanying video presents its message online with automation and professional voiceover.

“You don’t see any words like ‘redemption’ and ‘salvation.’ There’s just plain talk about how to become a child of God,” Howell told the TEXAN. “I try to keep it as simple as possible for those who haven’t been around church and have never heard those terms.”

Howell, a member of Houston’s Second Baptist Church, began writing the tract more than five years ago after he became frustrated that other tracts leave out important points of the gospel and basic Christian living. Often he found himself asking to meet with new believers who came to Christ through a tract in order to explain more.

After Howell wrote the text, he asked a team to review it, including staff members at Second Baptist. Then he contracted artist Randy Rogers to produce drawings that illustrated the message. Eventually Howell produced the video as well.

He planned to print a limited supply of the tract and felt God leading him to send it to prisons and rehabilitation centers. But when he consulted a friend familiar with prison ministry, Howell realized God was opening a door for much wider distribution.

“He said, ‘It’s dynamite, man. It’s colorful. It’s exactly what [prison ministries] want—easy to understand. You’ve got Bible verses already in it. They don’t have to have a Bible … It’s perfect,’” Howell said.

His friend gave him the name of each prison chaplain in the state and told him to send 100 copies to each. With 114 prisons, that translated into 11,400 copies. So Howell printed 15,000 on the first run in June. When those ran out, he printed another 10,000 and has given out most of those too.

Prison chaplains “have been calling and wanting more,” Howell said. “So I’ve been taking them back. I gave 3,000 to the Harris County jail and they wanted 11,000.”

Howell regularly receives letters from prisoners and prison chaplains telling him how God used the tract.

It also proved popular at rehab centers. While visiting a 12-step recovery group recently, a man whom he had given a copy a month earlier told Howell the tract was “exactly what I needed.”

The man went on to say, “I was looking for a spiritual connection of some sort … I had grown up in the church, and I had a wife that used to take me and beat me over the head with the Bible—I just never got it. And I got real resentful toward her and I just shunned the entire thing. But in that book that you gave me I saw how simple it was.”

The video is designed to reach Internet users ages 25-40. One pastor liked it so much that he embedded it on his church’s website. Howell encourages others to do the same.

Young adults “get their information from the Internet,” he said. “So I said, ‘I’ve got to get on the Internet. The only way to do that is with a video.’ That brought me into doing the video based on the book.”

In addition to introducing people to Jesus for the first time, Howell hopes his tract and video will help them persevere in their commitment by explaining that a believer’s old self must die with Christ and he must become a new person who walks with Christ.

“If people could understand that early in their salvation experience, then they might get it and they might stay with it,” he said. “And they might later not have such a need for reassurance or counseling and lots of other things we do as Christians.”

The booklet can be used as a 30-day devotional and meditation guide with all Scriptures written out in full.

Howell’s passion for the idea of being crucified with Christ reflects his own testimony. After being saved in Alaska at age 41, he began reverting back to old ways of thinking. Then God impressed on him the reality expressed in Galatians 2:20 (“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”).

In response, Howell repented of his sins and began to grow in his faith. Reflecting back years later, he wants to make sure other new believers have a chance to learn the importance of dying to self and “co-crucifixion” with Christ.

“I’m just trying to get the Word out,” Howell said. “I’m not a for-profit kind of guy, and I’m not trying to make a living out of this. God’s blessed me in other ways. I’m just wanting to get the message out.”

To view the tract or to watch the video, visit howtobeachildofgod.com. Printed copies of the tract are available for $5.95 each with discounts for those wishing to buy in bulk. DVDs of the video may be purchased online as well.

Court: Texas may block Planned Parenthood from State funding

WASHINGTON—Texas can enforce a state law that prevents leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood from participating in a women’s health program, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Aug. 21 lifted a preliminary injunction issued in April by a federal judge that had blocked implementation of the 2011 law. The measure prohibits the state from contracting under the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program with organizations that “perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions.”

Planned Parenthood failed to show it is “likely to succeed in demonstrating that the … restriction on promoting elective abortions violates their First Amendment rights,” the Fifth Circuit, three-judge panel ruled. The judges returned the case to the federal court for consideration.

The ban reportedly affects only Planned Parenthood. More than 1,000 health-care providers certified for the program are not affiliated with abortion clinics, according to the Texas Alliance for Life.

In March, the Obama administration announced it would not grant a waiver to the women’s health program because of the ban on Planned Parenthood, thereby ending federal funding for services to about 130,000 women. The federal government provides about 90 percent of the money for the program.

In response, Gov. Rick Perry said he plans for the state to make up the funding difference left by the federal government’s withdrawal.

Perry welcomed the Fifth Circuit decision, saying it “is a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also lauded the decision, saying it “rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women’s Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion. We are encouraged by today’s decision and will continue to defend the Women’s Health Program in court.”

Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said, “This debate is about true women’s health, and abortion is not health care.

“We should help low-income women, but funneling them to abortion clinics does not help. Instead, there are more than 4,000 legitimate healthcare agencies that provide a wide range of services that are not affiliated with abortion providers.”

Planned Parenthood decried the Fifth Circuit action.

“It is shocking that once again it appears that politics is getting in the way of women receiving access to basic health care,” said Melaney Linton, president of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federal of America (PPFA) reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, again making PPFA America’s No. 1 abortion provider. PPFA and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The unanimous ruling was handed down by nominees of Presidents Reagan (E. Grady Jolly), George H.W. Bush (Harold R. DeMoss Jr.) and Clinton (Carl E. Stewart). Stewart concurred only in the judgment.
    
—With additional reporting by the TEXAN staff.

Reach Texas’ beats $1.1 million goal

For the first time since 2009, the Reach Texas Offering for state missions broke its goal of $1.1 million as the 2011-12 giving year comes to a close and a new one begins this month.

“In spite of the economy, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches were again faithful in their giving through Reach Texas, which enables us to plant more churches, invest more in evangelistic outreach, and win more people to saving faith in Jesus Christ,” said SBTC Missions Director Terry Coy.

As of Aug. 20, churches had given $1,188,858.98 toward Reach Texas, every cent of which goes to the field because of Cooperative Program giving, which covers administrative costs.

The coming year’s Reach Texas theme is “Bienvenidos a Texas!”—with an emphasis on the ever-growing Hispanic culture of Texas—forecasted to be the largest people group by 2020 and more than 50 percent of the Texas population by 2040.

The Reach Texas Week of Prayer is Sept. 23-30 and the goal for 2012-13 is again $1.1 million.

“The Reach Texas Offering goes to do missions, evangelism and disaster relief all over Texas,” Coy emphasized. “It touches all kinds of people, but our annual emphasis is a way to highlight some of the population segments of our state. So this year’s emphasis is on Hispanic ministry—not just the idea of reaching Hispanics but rather celebrating Hispanic Baptists as full partners in reaching Texas.”

In Texas there are about 200 congregations affiliated with the SBTC that would identify as culturally Hispanic, including Spanish- and English-language churches, said Mike Gonzales, director SBTC language ministries.

Part of the Reach Texas Offering helps with missions efforts in places such as Laredo, where SBTC churches have helped plant churches and do evangelistic outreach the last several years, to El Paso, the site of a church planting and evangelistic effort in spring 2013.

Coy said the largest portion of the Reach Texas Offering—75 percent—helps fund mission strategies, including church plants, and 25 percent funds evangelism strategies.

Fifty-eight church plants are currently under funding with 17 newly planted churches in 2012. The convention doesn’t plant churches itself but instead partners with church-planting churches and associations to provide supplemental funding for up to three years.

“God has been faithful, churches have been generous and one of the things we are praying for this year is for God to call out new church planters. The resources are there; we need those who are called to plant churches to respond,” Coy said.

PRAYER GUIDE/DEVOTIONAL
A 16-page prayer guide and devotional is available to familiarize churches with the missions outposts they are helping support. Each of the eight days of the prayer emphasis comes with a story—from Primera Iglesia Bautista de Pflugerville to an apartment ministry in the Booker T. Washington Terraces in Austin.

Churches may order promotional materials by calling Carmella Mechling in the SBTC missions office toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC) or by e-mailing her: cmechling@sbtexas.com. Materials are also available for download at sbtexas.com/reachtexas.

Garland pastor hears back from White House

GARLAND—In a form letter response to a prominent Garland pastor, President Obama boasts of his administration’s work to “level the playing field for LGBT people and communities” and its passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples,” the president wrote in response to a June letter sent to the White House from Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship, decrying the administration’s support for same-sex marriage.

Dated Aug. 7, the White House letter to Mathews, also vice president of the African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, vows to further advance the rights of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered people through the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), domestic partners and employment non-discrimination laws, securing of full adoption rights, and “supporting environments in school.”

“Because we understand that LGBT rights are human rights, we continue to engage with the international community in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world. Because we repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love. And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples.”

The letter cited three websites for further information on its policies—WhiteHouse.gov/ItGetsBetter, StopBullying.gov and WhiteHouse.gov/lgbt.

“Though I’m grateful for hearing back from the President, his response is still extremely underwhelming,” Mathews wrote in an email to the TEXAN. “This cannot, however, deter us from praying for (and doing our best to implement) God’s agenda for families worldwide.”

The hate crimes legislation is named for Shepard, a homosexual whose 1998 murder became a rallying point for gay activists, and Byrd, a black man whose brutalized body was found near Jasper, Texas after being dragged to death by three white men, two of whom were professing white supremacists, also in 1998.

In his letter to Obama, which was copied to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mathews said framing the issue of same-sex marriage in the context of the civil-rights era struggles of African Americans disregards the moral and biblical foundation on which they made their case.

“Mr. President, endorsement of same-sex marriage ‘is not’ the Christian thing to do … God does not welcome attempts to rewrite what’s in His book. Mr. President, you are wrong on this issue.”

Equating same-sex marriage to 20th-century civil rights struggles is “deeply disturbing” to many African Americans, Mathews wrote.

The letter from the White House arrived the same week the SBTC Executive Board, at the behest of SBTC President Terry Turner, passed a resolution affirming the biblical definition of marriage and calling on the White House to reverse course. The resolution is accessible at sbtexas.com/marriagepetition. As of Aug. 24, more than 1,900 people had signed on to the document.

Lamar Co. prayer effort covers high-schoolers

Back to school means more than books, pencils, iPads, backpacks, calculators, and new clothes for Lamar County high school juniors and seniors. It also means that someone in the community is praying for them.

The praying initiative, called “Prayers for Students,” began last year after six Paris residents met to discuss ways to help local teenagers navigate the challenges of growing up in today’s high-pressure world. They were spurred on by Mike Long, a 47-year veteran teacher whose resume includes stints as a coach and athletic director and who had returned to Paris public schools after spending 13 years working in Christian schools. Long noted an increase in anger and apathy among his students, many of whom lacked the positive influence of strong family support. The Prayers for Students committee was formed as a response.

At first the committee pondered social action. What could they do for the students of Paris? As committee members discussed options, they found guidance from two verses of Scripture—2 Chronicles 20:12 and 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Long said of these verses, “He [God] is the healer. He heals in response to the prayers of his people. He does not say, ‘I’ll send a government agency!’ He says, ‘I will heal their land.’”

By the group’s second meeting, a member volunteered to start praying for one of Long’s troubled students. That night all six committee members took names of students for whom to pray and the group’s mission was set.

Committee member Patsy Parker, lifelong Paris resident and member of East Paris Baptist Church who regularly prays for five students, said, ”We have no idea what our young people are facing. It has been such a blessing to pray for them.”

What started as a handful of believers praying for a handful of students spread rapidly. Christians of various denominations were praying for 100 students by the time school started last year. “We started with the seniors at Paris High School,” Long recalled. The number grew throughout the year until all the seniors were prayed for, so the committee began to distribute the names of juniors for prayer.

The effort spread to all five public high schools in Lamar County. Last year’s class of 2012 included 500 seniors across Lamar County, all of whom were prayed for by Prayers for Students volunteers. Each of the county’s 500 juniors received similar prayer support.

“We plan to include the sophomores as soon as we can,” Long said.

He also noted that by the start of this school year, some 1,550 teens will have been prayed for by more than 1,300 Prayers for Students participants.

The system works this way: Committee members distribute cards to people who express an interest in praying for students. For example, Patsy Parker’s husband, Marion, serves as the liaison between Prayers for Students and East Paris Baptist Church. Parker visits Sunday school classes to describe the program and hand out interest cards. Completed interest cards are returned to Mike Long, who randomly assigns each volunteer the name of a student, sending a laminated card with the student’s name and school to the person who will pray for him or her.

Long acquires the student names from school yearbooks, matters of public record. Some school administrators allow Long to affix a photo of the student to the prayer card, while others do not. Students do not know who is praying for them, although many know that the prayer occurs.

“People are enthusiastic. We will never know the impact this prayer has had this side of heaven,” said Marion Parker. He keeps the card of his student in his billfold.

Prayers for Students committee members meet monthly. Milestones are celebrated: 500, 1,000, 1,500 students prayed for. To date, participants represent 11 denominations and 37 churches. Pastor Billy Norris of Southside Baptist Church of Paris confirmed that many of his church’s members are involved. Norris himself prays daily for his assigned student.

“It’s really neat to see the community come together for this effort,” said Norris, who also commended the involvement of “all the churches in praying for our students.”

“This is about all Lamar County students, not just selected ones who have been in trouble,” Long said of the inclusiveness of Prayers for Students. All committee members are adamant that what has been accomplished has been through the Lord’s favor. “All glory and praise goes to him alone,” Long affirmed.

Other communities have expressed interest in starting similar programs, Long added. Long and other committee members are available to share how Prayers for Students works in Lamar County. For more information, contact the organization at prayersforstudents@gmail.com.

Biblical marriage: Join us in standing for it

“Home, Sweet Home” is the title of an old song. American actor and dramatist John Howard Payne wrote the lyrics with the melody composed by Englishman Sir Henry Bishop. The opening lines are:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

During the War Between the States the Union Army was forbidden to play the song around the campfires. The pull on the heartstrings was so great there was a fear of mass desertion. The sentimental attachment to home is now like a distant memory. The traditional home has fallen on hard times. The 2010 United States census indicated that less than half the homes were comprised of married couples. Except for adult children returning to live with their parents, the trend is downward for the traditional nuclear family. Fewer than 40 percent of homes have a married couple with children.

The very foundation of society is the home. Without children being born to married couples, orderly society cannot be sustained. Many European nations are well below replacement levels for their own cultural survival. Abortion and sexual activity without regard for pregnancy have changed the relationships in the home.

Homosexual activists advocate for marriage between persons of the same sex. Artificial insemination or adoption provides children for these couples. While some attempts have been successful to legalize marriage for homosexuals, this does not measure up to the biblical order for the home.

Regardless of the cultural drift, the Bible maintains a constant in ordering the home. There is only one pattern for the home that will return us to a scriptural model. Once followers of Jesus Christ follow the biblical mandate concerning the home, we have hope for a change in our nation.

My heart has been burdened for our nation and for the future usefulness of the church in America. The problem is not the infidels, atheists, and false religionists. Corrupt politicians, socialists, homosexual activists, abortionists and secularists cannot stop the church of the Living God. Only believers in disobedience can keep us from storming the gates of hell. We have become absorbed by the culture. The church is a thermometer reflecting the culture rather than a thermostat regulating the culture. When we as believers get to a place of “seeking first the kingdom of God” rather than the “American Dream” we might see the power of God come upon us. When the power of the Holy Spirit is poured out, the church will be able to impact the culture for the glory of God.

Living out a biblical model will include having the proper relationship in a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. If God is pleased to allow children to come of the union, then the couple should raise the children in a Christian environment, immersing them with the Word of God. It might take the next generation to provide the salt and light to influence our nation.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has always stood for the biblical home. Article 18 of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) states clearly what we believe. Now the SBTC Executive Board is asking us to take action.

A resolution on traditional marriage offered by convention President Terry Turner was adopted in the August board meeting. The resolution is found in printed form on this same page. By going to the web link cited you can sign a petition affirming your support and calling upon the president to reverse his endorsement of homosexual marriages. This is not about politics. This is about our society’s survival. Please join us in standing for biblical marriage.
 

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Can’t we all get along?

Yes we can but I’m not sure we will. The last few days of August mark the first meeting of an advisory group SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page has called together to talk about different views of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation)—Calvinistic and less Calvinistic—within our convention. Fair disclosure, my wife is the lady among the 16 members so we talk about it at dinner more than you probably do. I agree with Dr. Page that this is not the most important issue we face. He is also wise enough to know that no such group can “settle” such a discussion. But he acknowledges what many of us have noticed—the debate on this issue flavors a wide selection of important matters within our cooperative efforts. I’ve seen it as a controversial question related to church planting partners, pastor searches, Sunday School curriculum, music and worship styles, and missions. The way we handle this difference of viewpoints seems to move the compass a bit on many aspects of our cooperative work.

It does not have to be as determinative as we have made it. Within the bounds of biblical inerrancy, within the bounds of the Baptist Faith and Message, our interpretation of difficult passages dealing with God’s work of salvation should be a matter of respect and tolerance. That is not to say it does not matter, but that it should not overtly or subtly be a test of fellowship.

“But …” you say. I know. Pastors or denominational leaders may come in and try to remake us according to their viewpoints. Some pastors are blackballed because of where they graduated from seminary. Leaders occasionally try to swerve a church toward a new sort of polity or worship. I know. But these things have always been so.

Is a denominational leader who wants to jigger with the Cooperative Program less controversial than one who advocates for or against Calvinism? How about one who wants to change the way we do missions? We call leaders because they have a vision for our church or denomination. Of course they are going to advocate for it. The time to decide if we affirm that vision is during the appointment process.

Prospective pastors have always been sorted positively or negatively according to the contents of their resumes. One of my first experiences as a candidate for a ministry position was exactly this way—the interviewer handed my resume back to me because of my college and its president. Then, and now, I see that as a moment of clarity. Perhaps that church missed out because their representative did not learn more about me, but maybe we just avoided more tumultuous future disagreements.

Pastors who make drastic or thoughtless changes when they enter a new church have a problem quite apart from their views on soteriology. Deal with the real problem without blaming the pastor’s theology. I’m not sure it’s fair to blame just one part of a person’s doctrine for a lack of good sense, bad preaching, theological ignorance, or any number of other church flashpoints.

A church that is disappointed to discover that its new pastor holds undesirable doctrines or philosophies of ministry has either been lied to by the pastor candidate or ill-served by a hasty pastor search committee. Again, those are character or behavior problems rather than simply theological ones.

Let me offer three quick ways forward. One of them we’re already committed to, the others to a lesser degree.

  • We should talk. We debated this more or less amiably until the 1990s. The debate often had a corrective effect on programmatic views of evangelism, manipulative altar calls, impractical theology, and so forth. In some quarters the discussion has become more aggressive and rancorous. Nonetheless, we should continue to seek better understanding of our salvation. The best way I know to do that is to stay engaged with those who interpret the Bible differently than ourselves.
  • We should talk respectfully. In order to do that, we must seek to speak of those who disagree with us in the same manner we would speak to them. It is too easy to let our mouths run free when we are with our own tribe. Unless you are willing to say to an actual living Calvinist that you consider him, by definition, to be a threat to the missionary heart of our convention, don’t say it of him, or them. It’s a false generalization. Unless you really consider non-Calvinists to be, by definition, theological naïfs and are willing to say so to actual, trained, experienced non-Calvinist Bible scholars, don’t suggest that they are such when speaking of them or their views, because this too is false. What we’ve called respect has too often been mere politeness, a ploy to get the knife inside our adversary’s guard.
  • We should talk about something else. See my first suggestion. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about this wonderful aspect of our doctrine. The disagreement over some details of soteriology is not all we have in common though. There are many other things upon which we may agree or disagree. Yes, I know we talk about other things, but the discussions that draw a crowd or light up the blogs most often come back to Calvinism. It’s time to broaden our interests.

Unless you’re reading this online before the Aug. 29 advisory group meeting, the first meeting is past and we have probably seen a press release on their first of three scheduled discussions. I’m rooting for the group to provide some wisdom that will allow us to talk in the ways mentioned above. I’m happy for us to talk about Calvinism, eschatology, church polity, missions strategy, and other sparky topics until Jesus comes. I’d be even happier if we’d develop the maturity to profit from engagement with one another without needing to win the argument.

Paige Patterson’s commentary on Revelation

If you’ve listened to Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson preach for very long, he’ll get around to eschatology. This is reasonable because he considers the subject to be an integral part of biblical theology. He’s also personally fascinated by the subject I think. For that reason I expected his long-anticipated volume of the New American Commentary to be a monster book. It’s not. Revelation is a little shorter than volume one of the NAC—Kenneth Matthews’ great study of just the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

Instead of an academic work that runs down every rabbit trail of criticism and interpretation, as some authors tend to do, Dr. Patterson has produced a succinct volume that reflects his deep understanding of Scripture. It takes more understanding to explain complex matters in fewer words.

Written from an admittedly pretribulational, premillennial (but not dispensational) viewpoint, Patterson’s commentary is charitable with those who hold other viewpoints—with the caveat that expecting a bodily return of Christ is essential to orthodox theology. The introduction is a fine primer on the strengths and weaknesses of the most popular eschatological schemes although, as stated, the author has a viewpoint.

Dr. Patterson’s style is picturesque and appealing. It’s actually pretty conversational. One could almost hear him preaching the material. The commentary is technical enough for scholars without being so tedious as to put off lay users. The work’s primary appeal will be to preachers. It’s a practical study of a biblical book that tempts many to run after impractical theories. Patterson’s point does not seem to be to impress readers with his voluminous knowledge or to fill us up with trivia. Readers are not left with the thought, “that’s interesting but so what?” Neither does he leave his readers speculating about anachronistic interpretations of John’s vision: “Is this a tank John’s seeing?” or “Is this a helicopter gunship?” Gently, we are brought back to what John is clearly saying about light and darkness, good and evil, and the triumph of our King. His handling of the number of the beast, the mark of the beast, and the identification of the two witnesses models similar hermeneutical discipline, steering clear of the more unnecessary imaginings of some interpreters.

Throughout the text are a series of “pastoral excurses.” This is where Patterson preaches to the reader regarding the text under consideration. Of course, this is also where a smart preacher can find an idea or two for application of the text to his own flock. These useful pages are indicative of the book’s tone.

You may have discerned that I like this commentary. The New American Commentary is my favorite series; some of them are the best treatment I have of the biblical books they address. Dr. Patterson’s commentary on the apocalypse is a pleasant surprise to one who already had high expectations.

“Revelation,” in the New American Commentary series, by Paige Patterson, contains 411 pages, is published by B&H Publishing Group, and is available for about $20.

LifeWay awaits study pending Glorieta sale

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—LifeWay Christian Resources is awaiting results of a theological study of Olivet University before deciding whether to sell LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center to Olivet, even as media outlets debate whether the California-based university has heretical ties.

The potential sale of Glorieta, a 2,100-acre Southern Baptist conference center in New Mexico, is receiving added scrutiny on the heels of media reports of longstanding accusations that Olivet's founder, David Jang, promotes the heresy that he is the “second coming Christ.”
Marty King, LifeWay's communications director, said LifeWay is well aware of accusations against Jang and Olivet.
“Those concerns are precisely why we engaged the National Association of Evangelicals to conduct a thorough review of their theological views to determine compatibility with ours,” King said in a statement to the media Aug. 16. “We anticipate completion of the investigation this fall at which time it will be reviewed by our leadership and trustees.”
At issue is whether Jang teaches beliefs contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Also spotlighted is the fact that several Southern Baptist leaders have established relationships with organizations seen as affiliated with Jang, although R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Daniel Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president, both have resigned as advisers to The Christian Post online news site.

Long-standing allegations
The Post and Christianity Today have reported on several investigations conducted in Asia to determine whether Jang's church, the Young Disciples of Christ, promotes Jang as the “second coming Christ” and whether Jang has ties to Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
Christianity Today, in an Aug. 16 article, summarized results of several investigations of Jang's activities:
—In 2008, the Hong Kong-based Independent Enquiry Committee, which included Chinese evangelical theologians, “unanimously expressed serious apprehensions and concerns” about the group and “could not exclude the … strong probabilities” that Jang's followers “promoted doctrines similar to that of the Unification church, including … the first coming of Jesus to the earth was a failure and … their pastor is the 'Second Coming Lord' or 'Second Coming Christ.'”
—Following the Independent Enquiry Committee's findings, the substantial Beijing Haidian Christian Church in China “issued a statement terminating their relationship with the Young Disciples.”
—In September 2009, two of Korea's largest Presbyterian denominations, the TongHap and HapShin, “voted to break relations with Jang's organizations.”
In an article today (Aug. 17) The Christian Post summarized investigations by the Heresy Investigation Committee of the Christian Council of Korea during the past decade. In four different investigations, according to reports in both the Post and Christianity Today, the CCK found Jang innocent of all charges.

Jang courting Protestants
Christianity Today has accused Jang of building at least an image of credibility by associating with reputable Protestant leaders, including Southern Baptists William Wagner, Olivet's president and chairman of the board of the Christian Post, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Christian Post's executive editor.
Wagner has said he is confident the accusations of heresy against Jang are false.
“We look at Dr. Jang as a tremendous leader, not as the reincarnate Christ. I've worked with him for about eight years. I'm firmly convinced that they are not lying. I'm firmly convinced that our Christology is solid,” Wagner, formerly a longtime SBC missionary in Europe, told Christianity Today.
Wagner has said that before he accepted the Olivet presidency, he researched the university's theological beliefs.
“I wanted to be certain that I would not be associated with a cult or a university that had a false theology. After my extensive study, I am thoroughly convinced that the purpose of Olivet University was to win the world to Christ, and that they were missional, they were evangelical and they had a very deep love for Jesus,” Wagner said.
Land was quoted by the Post as saying, “Upon meeting with Christian Post leaders I found them to be earnest, sincere followers of Christ who were interested in using new media to reach a new generation with the gospel. And during the months of relationship with The Christian Post, I had nothing but positive experiences that confirmed their Christian and evangelistic Great Commission emphasis.”
Regarding The Christian Post relationship with Southern Baptist leaders, Land said, “It would be odd for The Christian Post to be a significant news organization in North America and not be involved with the largest Protestant denomination in the United States—the Southern Baptist Convention. That would be an odd strategy indeed.”
LifeWay told Baptist Press in July that, in addition to the theological review, a potential sale of Glorieta to Olivet would entail:
—”Significant protections for individuals and churches that lease land from Glorieta for houses and conference facilities
—”Permission for LifeWay to continue using Glorieta for summer camps
—”Accommodation of use by New Mexico Baptists
—”Preservation of memorials associated with rooms and structures, and,
—”Prohibition of re-selling the facilities in the future without LifeWay's permission.”
Any sale also would require approval of LifeWay's board of trustees.