Month: May 2014

Battle for the Bible will never be over

If the Lord allows me to make it to Baltimore June 10 and 11, I will be in attendance for my 33rd consecutive Southern Baptist Convention. The reason for my first convention was to cast a ballot to elect Jimmy Draper president. Five laypeople from the Boeuf River Baptist Church accompanied my wife and me to New Orleans. There was a cause.

God granted to me repentance and faith as a 17-year-old a few weeks before I graduated from high school. The Lord Jesus saved me. A few months later God clearly spoke to my heart that I was to be a preacher of the gospel. I decided to go to Louisiana College. I could go to a Baptist Christian school and play baseball, too. I was not prepared for what I would encounter there.

The Old Testament professor questioned the virgin birth. While studying Isaiah 7:14 the professor said it was a plausible theory that Jesus was the illegitimate child of a soldier from Gaul stationed in Palestine. The New Testament professor had a rabbi lecture our class. He said if the rabbi didn’t go to heaven he wouldn’t want to be with a God who wouldn’t let him in. This was an obvious denial of the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The last straw was in a chapel service during my junior year. The song “American Pie” blared as we filed into chapel. The entire presentation by the professor bringing the message was based on the analogy that “music” mentioned in the song was Jesus. He said it didn’t matter whether music resurrected from the dead. What mattered was whether music lived in our hearts. This was a blatant rejection of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Often I would raise my hand and lower my grade in class. Eventually the president of the school asked me to leave. I told my pastor about the liberalism. I spoke to several churches. No one would believe me or had the courage to challenge the status quo. Oiling the machine was more important than confronting error. Disappointed but not deterred my ministry continued with a renewed conviction that the nature of the Word of God was the foundational belief for followers of Jesus. I had never heard the word “inerrancy” but I believed it. The Bible is totally true and trustworthy.

When the Conservative Resurgence began I was ready to do my part. By God’s grace we were able to see the Southern Baptist Convention saved from a theological downgrade. Without the Resurgence the SBC would be where the former mainline denominations are. The mainlines are now on the sidelines because they departed from biblical inerrancy.

State conventions are autonomous like all Baptist bodies. Fortunately, most state conventions followed the course correction set by the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was formed by loyal Southern Baptists who wanted a state fellowship that would affirm biblical inerrancy. The SBTC is a confessional fellowship basing our work together on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. God has shown his favor. He honors those who honor his Word.

The Southern Baptist Convention is not facing theological problems of the proportion it did in 1979. There are issues but nothing of that magnitude. Eventually a commitment to biblical inerrancy will be challenged. The battle for the Bible will never be over until Jesus comes.

While liberalism is not the major concern, the SBC is at a crucial life-threatening place. Greater numbers of younger pastors are needed to embrace the common giving channel, the Cooperative Program. A renewed passion for old fashioned soul-winning in the local church  is necessary. Natural affinity groups will continue to develop. If those affinity groups can find value in a larger circle of common effort, part of the problem will be solved. Now is the time for us to stay together!

The SBC is worth our involvement. Our six seminaries are teaching in accordance to our faith statement. Both mission agencies are sending God’s choicest servants to present the gospel. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is standing for right to life for the unborn and marriage between one man and one woman. The Executive Committee is leaner after cutting some bureaucracy. The SBC is worth the investment.

If God permits me to make the trip to Baltimore I plan to vote, fellowship, and participate. We have a common belief. We have a quality giving plan. As long as the SBC honors God’s Word, I will enthusiastically support it. Join me. Let’s stay stronger together.

Light forces darkness out

My family visited the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico when I was a kid.  We were in a group of about 25 and were being led by a competent guide through the cave.  At a seating area we stopped as the guide shared information about formations, bats and other stuff.  He explained that they were about to turn off the lights and the darkness would be so thick we would be able to feel it. The lights went off and the darkness was indeed astounding, deep and almost scary. Then an amazing thing happened. The guide lit a single match, and the deep darkness retreated as the face and form of the guide became clear as well as the faces of all 25 in the group. This kid learned an incredible spiritual lesson. The deeper the darkness, the greater the impact even a small light can make.

In many ways we live in a day of great opportunity for sharing the name and love of Jesus Christ. In many other ways we live in a day of deepening darkness. In both circumstances, it is time for us to let our light shine. One true light can force the darkness back. A multitude of small lights joined together can force a complete retreat of the darkness. I believe in my heart of hearts that Southern Baptists, Southern Baptists of Texas in particular, comprise a significant partnership of those called to be light bearers in this culture. It seems that many have their lights hidden under a bushel. It is time to get out from under the cover and hold our light high. If this is not the time to do it, then when will that time come? If we are not the ones to do it, then who is? 

The light of the world is Jesus. Let’s let our light shine.

Cruz shares platform with Sloan addressing “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square”

HOUSTON—While Robert S. Sloan said same-sex marriage is certainly not a civil rights issue, the Houston Baptist University President barely batted an eye when Sen. Ted Cruz, the junior Republican from Texas, speaking at a “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square” forum at HBU May 2, said “school choice” is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

The conservative politician and the university president met to discuss a wide range of issues including religious liberty, immigration, same-sex marriage, and the state of education in America with World News Group’s editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky, who asked an array of questions before a packed audience of nearly 1,200 in the Morris Cultural Arts Center.

Mostly directing questions to Sloan and Cruz, who is a member of Houston’s First Baptist Church, Olasky often shared his own thoughts in a 50-minute session that frequently erupted in laughter and applause.

Warren Cole Smith, vice-president of World News, shaped questions from a social media feed and directed them to the three men for a 30-minute session at the end.

Sloan rejected same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue on equal footing with the civil rights of African Americans—a question Smith posed.

“It’s simply not ethnicity (or) skin color,” Sloan said. “Same-sex behavior is different. Any sexual experience celebrated outside the confines of marriage is a ‘denigration of this great gift of God,’” Sloan said.


Olasky, in asking Cruz a question about education, asserted that Texas as a “red state” doesn’t have much by way of school choice.

“I think it is an absolute outrage,” Cruz said. “I think school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century and I think we need to have real passion for kids who are trapped right now in failing schools. Education is foundational to opening up opportunities to having a chance at the American dream.”

Cruz said as far as school choice, there is “political failure” on both sides of the issue, and instead there needs to be passionate people who are willing to speak for the kids.

“What choice is all about is to being willing to give low income kids the same opportunities the middle class and rich kids have always had,” Cruz said.

Answering a slightly different question, Sloan said university tuition has become inflated as a result of teacher tenure and government money. There is “increased inefficiency where government money is given,” he said.

On the challenge of HBU becoming a place of “religious faith” with some things unquestioned, but also a place of “open-ended inquiry,” Olasky noted a natural tension.

“I think it is in the nature of the Christian faith that we hold both of those in tension,” Sloan said. “In the first place we have a great confession of Jesus Christ as Lord  over all things visible and invisible.”

In making a confession of faith, a person “simultaneously” asserts and confesses, he said, describing it as a confession that assumes man’s sinfulness and comes with humility. “So the very presupposition that he is Lord is that we are not. And so we humble ourselves,” he said, by listening to God.

“All truth is God’s truth. I’ve got to be open to it.”

Responding to Olasky’s query about the role of religion in college, Cruz said there is good news in looking at the American people and bad news in higher education.

“Much of the academy has been captured by the far left and there is this orthodox teaching that is secular in nature that teaches one particular worldview and that does not permit debate,” Cruz said.

Noting a commencement service in which he participated at the University of California at Berkeley a few years ago, Cruz said students tried hard to be rude, even when they were amused by his jokes. He reminded those students if they wanted to change the world it would be helpful to understand the views of those on the other side.

“So often in public debate, those on the other side are caricatured as either stupid or evil,” he said.

Olasky agreed, remembering a time a group of protesting students wore T-shirts with conflicting messages on either side.

“That sounds a bit like the U.S. Senate,” Cruz quipped.


Describing the U.S. Senate Dining Room like a “Mean Girls” movie, Olasky asked Cruz if he had made any unnecessary enemies.
Cruz said his primary focus is not on Washington, D.C., but on the job he was elected to, representing 26 million Texans. “We have got enormous challenges in this state. We are facing fiscal economic challenges; we are facing stagnant growth. We are facing an administration that is consistently infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans,” he said.

Olasky asked Sloan about decisions he made at Baylor University, where he served as president for 10 years prior to coming to HBU and if the changes made were necessary.

“I’m certain there had to be some unnecessary enemies because I am a fallen creature,” Sloan said. “I look back on any experience in life and I assure you I’ve made many mistakes. I failed to understand appropriately, failed to communicate well. I think the best thing to do is to acknowledge mistakes you made and to go on—ask the Lord’s forgiveness, ask other people’s forgiveness and do the best you possibly can.”

With acknowledgement that “we live in a Freudian age,” Sloan said there is a lot of time spent in introspection and Christians should have humility, but also a certain courage. “We ought to say, ‘Here look—this is what I believe.’ I don’t want to have to apologize for what I believe. I want to live with integrity and faithfulness and collegially bring people along.”


Deflecting another question about mistakes at Baylor, Sloan told Olasky: “I am much more concerned thinking about what Houston Baptist University should be. I’m committed to Christian higher education. I think the country needs institutions that are unapologetically committed to Christ; they are committed to academic excellence; that have a deep sense of free inquiry. They are not afraid of the truth. [They] are not just hunkered-down regional religious schools, but are also not private schools that are so worried about prestige and image that they leave their heritage of their faith and religion.”

Continuing after sustained applause, Sloan said: “I think that faith and academic excellence are not a zero sum game. … I think if we are committed to a God of all truth, that the Christian faith is not something to fear, that we can ask any question, that we not fear any question … and so we want here to have a faculty that are excellent, that are committed to Christ, that do research, that teach, and by the way, not only do they write books and do blogs, but we play NCAA Division I football.”

The university experience plays a large part in the lives of the mostly 18 to 22-year-olds who look at the practices and behaviors modeled all around them—“and we have refugees from the 1960s who are standing up as professors,” Sloan said.

After a long silence following a question about the biggest mistake he has made in the past 16 months on the job, Cruz said it could be that he hadn’t persuaded his colleagues to his point of view on issues.


Olasky asked Cruz and Sloan to predict what they would do if they were to switch roles.

Sloan said he wouldn’t necessarily create any new laws because the problem is not enough laws, but that the laws are not enforced. “I think I would try and pursue not more laws, but transparency in the ways things are practiced. I think when the light shines on unconstitutional or illegal practices and you just sort of hold them up you can make a real difference. Whatever senators can do, promote hearings, founding principles, making sure textbooks are honest about our history, there are many practices I would try and promote to protect religious freedom.”

Citing Obamacare, Sloan said it is “absolutely unconscionable. It is against our religious liberty and is a violation of those things that we hold most dear” to force the school to provide abortion-inducing drugs through its insurance company.

“I guess our administration just thinks that our religious views don’t matter, or they are not sincerely held or that they define religion, or that they are the neutral ones and we are the sectarian ones,” Sloan said. “Again, how can you improve upon the fact that ‘Congress will make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.’”

Cruz said if he were the university president, he would inculcate young people with a focus on the understanding of the principles on which this country was built. Free market principles—the free enterprise system and religious liberty.

Counting religious liberty as the “first and foremost of the ‘extraordinary constitutional liberties reflected in the Bill of Rights’” and noting how the foundation protecting our individual liberties created the “most incredible nation in the history of the world,” Cruz said, “We can’t protect those principles if young people aren’t trained.”


Drawing on recent court decisions regarding homosexual activists embroiled in court activities with Christian cake decorators and photographers, Olasky asked how each one would proceed.

“I’m a lousy cook!” Cruz joked, before he said seriously, “Everyone has to reconcile their faith.”

“In my own perspective, I am perfectly willing to interact with anyone,” Cruz said. Look, I work in the U.S. Congress. But at the same time I don’t think the law should be forcing Americans to be violating their religious faith.”

Sloan said he recognizes business owners who are “on the horn of a dilemma” in providing a same-sex marriage as a wedding photographer or baker. He would refuse to photograph a ceremony.  Sloan said part of the problem lies in having to be licensed for those jobs. “Having a license should not cause you to violate your religious faith and if we have laws like that those laws ought to be opposed,” Sloan said.

Speaking transparently and truthfully about such topics comes at a cost, Sloan said. “Now if you speak to the topic and oppose same-sex marriage, you are a hater, a bigot and so on. The conversation has just shut down. There is no religious freedom. There is no freedom of speech. There is this immediate assumption that ‘the debate is over’ and therefore you have to be silent. Our culture has shifted. It is easy for us to bemoan the state of our culture. …”

Olasky credited liberal journalists for having been “very adept at finding highly sympathetic people who love each other and want to be together” to represent the cause of same-sex marriage. “And gee, who’s gonna be against that except someone who at least in the typical journalistic slant has some homophobia or something?”

Sloan recommended HBU’s apologetics program as a means of preparing students to defend their faith in the culture. Responding to a question about the growth of atheism, Sloan said he believes the growth of religious indifference exceeds any increase in atheism.

“We are made by God and there is a longing for God in the human heart,” he explained. “To be an atheist requires an extraordinary suspension of mind and will.”

With scholars like Lee Stroebel serving on the HBU apologetics faculty, Sloan said students are equipped to defend their faith. “It’s important for people to know what they believe and why they believe and how to articulate that.”

Olasky added, “The way to fight on that issue and on every other issue is to try and bring people as best we can with God’s grace to a deeper understanding of what the Bible says.”

Cruz expressed gratitude for the preparation he received as a student at Houston’s Second Baptist School. He told Sloan, “I am grateful for the work you do every day to train young people academically and strengthen their faith and strengthen their walk for Christ and strengthen their ability to stand and witness to others.”

The event was presented by the new Center for Law and Liberty at HBU and Hashtag Productions, along with World Magazine.

Disaster relief responding to Panhandle wildfires

Disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are responding to needs near the Panhandle town of Fritch, where at least 89 homes were destroyed by wildfires with many more in the path of the blazes.

According to the Associated Press, more than 2,100 people were evacuated from 1,300 homes as of May 12. Fritch is 30 miles northeast of Amarillo. 

SBTC DR volunteers are responding with feeding, cleanup and recovery, assessment and chaplaincy, said Jim Richardson, the convention’s DR director. First Baptist Church of Fritch is housing the volunteers. 

Feeding teams are serving with The Salvation Army to prepare and serve meals to families affected and volunteers. 

Richardson encouraged trained DR volunteers to serve if they are available. Also, he said prayer is needed for the families affected by the fires, for first responders, and for the volunteers.

For information on disaster relief ministry training, visit Information on giving toward disaster relief ministry is accessible here.  

2,000 turn out to oppose Houston ordinance; vote expected on Wednesday

Our Houston-area correspondent Bonnie Pritchett says around 2,000 people showed up today (May 13) to voice opposition to Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance—including pastors representing Houston’s wide ethnic diversity and a large group of African American leaders including NAACP representatives.

The proposed ordinance is on the agenda for a vote during Wednesday’s meeting (May 14), but Pritchett says several council members seemed less firm in their support than before. We will post a story late tomorrow or on Thursday following the council meeting. 

Apparently, the section pertaining to open use of public restrooms and showers for transgendered people was scrapped because of wide public opposition. 

“We should not have to be here,” Max Miller, president of the Baptist Ministers’ Association of Houston and Vicinity and pastor of Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, told council members. 

According to Mount Hebron’s website, Miller has served on the Mayor’s Ministerial Advisory Committee and is a member of the NAACP Houston chapter. 

He said the proposed ordinance insults the intelligence of those who fought for and are protected by the Civil Rights Act. Miller said advocates of the ordinance have charged opponents with being divisive. Pointing to the crowd, Miller said, “As you have seen, we stand together.”

Houston City Council delays NDO vote

Houston’s controversial proposed nondiscrimination law was delayed on Wednesday as city council members gave pause amid increasing scrutiny from citizens following two overflow crowds at public hearings.

Texas Values Action President Jonathan Saenz said the council’s decision to delay a vote on the ordinance until next week is a rejection of Mayor Annise Parker’s attempt to fast track the law through the chamber without proper scrutiny.

A news release from Texas Values is here

A similar San Antonio law passed in late summer, but not without some amending and prolonged debate.

The proposed law would give explicit legal protections without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status and seeks to open public-use restrooms and showers to transgendered people according to their perceived sex.

UPDATE: Houston public invited to Tuesday (1:30) hearing on nondiscrimination ordinance

The proposed Houston nondiscrimination ordinance (read story here) to expand special civil protections to citizens based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status will be the focus of a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, May 6) at the City Hall chambers, 901 Bagby St. in Houston, second floor.

The ordinance is on Wednesday’s city council agenda and could come to a vote. The ordinance will be restrictive toward business owners with conservative religious beliefs. As drafted and offered by Mayor Annise Parker, it would also open the use of public facilities, including restrooms and shower rooms, to people based on their perceived gender identity. This is a case where the feel-good cause of the moment is superseding good sense among some in the Houston civic and business communities and elsewhere. 

Those with a biblical worldview must speak kindly but boldly. 

Texas Values Action is working hard to get the word out. If you are a pastor or concerned citizen in Houston, let your voice be heard.

Am I my brother”s keeper? Yes (so vote)

The head scratching you see over Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance (see the cover story) is but one more example of Christian negligence in civic duty. 

What more could be deduced when only 13 percent of eligible voters turned out last November to re-elect, for a third term, the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city, who was intent on liberalizing her city’s social policies? One could support, theoretically, a lesbian conservative who didn’t have an ax to grind, provided she was the best available choice. But this was different.

Houston’s Union Association has 500-plus churches, some of the largest of which have thousands of members living in Houston proper. And I’m not including other theologically conservative congregations outside our fold. Where’s the electoral beef?

In San Antonio, with 1.4 million people, only 29,454 votes were cast last May in an election that gave a third term to Mayor Julian Castro, who championed a LGBT-tilted nondiscrimination ordinance passed last summer despite the courageous efforts of a few Christian leaders.

Houston’s Parker, taking a cue from Castro, must have been emboldened. Rumors flew last fall that such an ordinance, which expands existing civil rights protections covering all Americans to include new categories of sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status, would be coming soon.

The Houston Area Pastor Council tried to get the word and the vote out, but to little success.

So untethered to political consequences in her third term, Parker quickly moved to issue a directive to the city’s human resources director a few weeks after the last election that “same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage”—a move that violates the Texas Constitution and is on hold pending a lawsuit.

All this while federal politicians try to deal with the gummy mess known as Obamacare that is now stuck to our proverbial shoe. That gummy mess—if left as is—will force Christian parachurch ministries to provide contraceptive coverage that includes abortion-causing drugs or at least subsidizes those plans, remember? Private businesses, which have less of a legal leg to stand on, might have a steeper hill to climb regarding the HHS mandate. Just ask the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores, if staying home on election day has deleterious consequences.

The turnout in the 2012 presidential election was figured at 58.2 percent of eligible voters, with 2008 around 62 percent.  How many of the 40 or so percent of eligible voters who stayed home in those elections are in your church pews?

The meaningful abortion-restricting measure that pro-life legislators and Gov. Perry last summer pushed across the finish line was a poignant reminder that civic duty beckons and is worthwhile.

Across the board, Texas is still a mostly conservative state despite efforts to turn it blue. But righteous laws don’t just happen because good intentions outweigh bad ones in the hearts and minds of citizens. Couch potatoes lose; those who choose “The Voice” over just 10 minutes of daily news are amusing all of us to death.

Scripture puts it simply: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).

It requires practicing our civic duty in this truly exceptional republican democracy. America is still the last best hope for man on earth as far as human devices go. Until Christ rules as king here, God has blessed us with an unusual ability to have a say in our society.

Romans 13, set in a less generous civic context than what we have, applies also in a government by the people and for the people. We are subjects to the governing laws and those who execute them, but the governing authorities are subject to us. What a blessed irony, if we only took the time to be informed and act accordingly.

One of the graces of America is radical religious liberty. From here, we can speak freely, share our stories, our convictions, our hope in Jesus, and preach his Word unfettered by censors. We stand to win the lost if we choose to work in the harvest as Christ commanded.

Also from here, we can launch missionaries and missions enterprises the world over—all because we operate from a position of strength, to wit, our freedom and our prosperity.

But shame on us if we squander that freedom and prosperity.

Some local elections are scheduled for May 10, with primary runoff elections May 27. Get informed and vote.