Southern Baptists, Racial Reconciliation, and Diversity:
A Response to Aaron Weaver
By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
In a recent post on his “The Big Daddy Weave” blog site, Aaron Weaver questioned the nomination by SEBTS President Danny Akin of Fred Luter to First Vice President of the SBC this year, and the affirmation by SBTS Dean of Theology Russ Moore that Luter should be elected President of the SBC next year at the convention meeting in New Orleans. Furthermore, Weaver discounted the set of recommendations coming from the SBC Executive Committee to the Phoenix convention to make “the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its churches” as an attempt at what Weaver labeled “Affirmative Action.” Weaver’s apparent rejection of these initiatives in the SBC to engage a broader ethnic/racial diversity in the SBC cause me concern at several levels. Let me respectfully voice several of these concerns, starting with some that are less important and moving toward the more important. My primary purpose is to endorse the candidacy of Fred Luter for significant positions of leadership in the SBC, and to affirm the recommendations about greater racial diversity being brought forward at this year’s SBC convention in Phoenix.
The Elder Brother?
To be clear, Weaver is not questioning these moves because he is opposed to greater racial diversity. It doesn’t take long perusing his website (the pictures of Jimmy Carter, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Barbara Jordan among his heroes on the banner to the website might be a clue) that Weaver advocates essentially a liberal Democrat agenda. It does appear clear, however, that his raising the Affirmative Action issue is something of a smokescreen or red herring to bash SBC leadership. Weaver has hosted the website for years, but through these hundreds of posts he does not have a single prior post specifically defending or addressing Affirmative Action. There are, however, dozens of articles critical of SBC leadership. So let’s just be honest and acknowledge that the issue is not Affirmative Action in the first place, but Weaver using it as a pretense to demean SBC leaders. At best, Weaver exemplifies the attitude of the elder brother when the prodigal came back home. If the SBC has been slow to address adequately this issue of greater racial diversity, and Weaver has been further ahead on this issue, at the very least he “has an attitude” about us prodigals coming to ourselves, rather than entering into the joy of the Father for this step of progress.
Thursday is for Theological Terminology:
The Study of Specialized Words relating to Theology
By Ron F. Hale, Minister of Missions, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, TN
With the voice of experience and the education of a scholar, Dr. W. A. Criswell shares the following definition:
The word ordinance, as we use the term in the church, refers to a religious rite ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon his authority and institution, and following the practice of the apostles, we receive the ordinances of the church from his and their gracious hands. The word ordinance in the Old Testament represents something prescribed, enacted, and usually refers to a matter of ritual. For example, according to Exodus 12:14, the Passover was “an ordinance forever”; that is, a permanent institution. The word ordinance in the New Testament is a translation of four different Greek words. Although not technically referring to just the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, I like the translation of the Greek word paradoseis in I Corinthians 11:2. “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” That is what we are to do, faithfully and scripturally and perpetually.
–W.A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1980), 199.
Dr. William W. Stevens differs with Dr. Criswell and writes that the word paradoseis should be translated “traditions” instead of ordinance (William W. Stevens. Doctrines of the Christian Religion. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1967, 324).
Southern Baptists have historically observed two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Primitive Baptists and a few other groups recognize footwashing as a third ordinance by means of a literal interpretation of John 13:12-17.
Although the word is not mentioned, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 define the two practices that we teach as ordinances:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.
Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.
Southern Baptists have steered clear of the term sacraments in reference to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The word “sacrament” implies a magical or mystical supposition stemming from a “transfer-of-grace” premise. Seven sacraments make up the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, and they include baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction.
Southern Baptists totally reject sacramentalism through which the church dispenses grace. Dr. Roy T. Edgemon teaches us that grace is conferred directly from Christ to the believer. There is no intermediary of any kind, whether priest or substance (Roy T. Edgemon. The Doctrines Baptists Believe. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1988, 117).
With an understanding that the ordinances are symbolic, we should never minimize the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Although they are not essential for salvation, they are necessary for our spiritual growth and obedience because we are asked to do them by our Lord and Savior.
By Tobey Pitman, Community Ministries Missionary, Northshore Baptist Association in Louisiana
1. GET YOUR MINISTRY ASSIGNMENT DIRECTLY FROM GOD
I once met a pastor who confessed that he was called into the ministry by his grandmother! Seriously, God’s call and gifts are unique. But He calls all saved individuals to serve the Kingdom. Our assignment is to understand how God calls and gifts us to serve Him. God also reveals to His church special areas of ministry that they are to perform in their community. I know of one church that operates more than 70 local ministries. They have learned that whenever God calls He also equips to serve.
To discover that specific call can be a challenge! However, the discovery process is exciting. I have seen the lights come on for some as their personal door to ministry opened. At that moment, suddenly they understood themselves more fully and how God had prepared them in a unique way for this special area of service. God can even glorify Himself as He utilizes human foibles and past failures to empower future service.
As assignments are understood and accepted they become the driving force for personal service. Though it is never about the servant, one may even become known by the service that is being rendered to the Kingdom. Churches often become known within a community for a particular ministry God has released them to do. I know of one church that if known in their community as the local responder to families that are “burned out” of their homes. Such ministries may become drawing cards for newcomers.
By Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
In New Orleans we have medians on major boulevards which are traditionally called “neutral grounds.” These medians provided a boundary (somewhat of a demilitarized zone) between the various ethnic neighborhoods in New Orleans (French, Spanish, Irish, Italian, etc.). The members of the other ethnic group were not welcome to cross those lines, but anyone could be in the “neutral grounds,” the middle ground between them.
There are middle grounds between various theological polarities as well, including plenty of middle ground between Calvinist and Arminian Theology. In response to my recent post “Using Logic in Theology: The Fallacy of False Alternatives,” it has become apparent that some dear Arminian and Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ are really struggling with the logical fallacy of false alternatives. In a parallel discussion on my Facebook page, one Baptist who “gets it” wrote a sarcastic parody of these responses which seem not to “get” this fallacy, and thus keep demanding an “either/or” Arminian or Calvinist identity: “But you still didn’t tell us which of the two you are!!!!! Which ONE is it? Are you sitting on the fence? You know what God says about being neither hot nor cold. . . .“ Indeed. It is rather amusing when the response to an account of the fallacy of false alternatives is to keep insisting that there are only two alternatives and demanding which of those alternatives you are. That’s not “getting it.”
Some have asked (in this blog and in other places) at what points the authors of Whosoever Will if at all we differ from Arminius, or at what points we disagree with Arminianism. Frankly, it would be difficult to enumerate all the ways in a setting such as this. To give a simple answer, since most of us serve at confessional Southern Baptist institutions which require affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a condition of employment, to say that we were Arminians would require that we immediately resign our positions for departing from our doctrinal confession at least at the point of eternal security. Clearly, we have many more points of affinity with Arminianistic Baptists in the General Baptist or Free Will Baptist tradition than we do with pure Arminianism (because these Arminianistic Baptists have already denied some key elements of Arminianism proper, just as most Calvinistic Baptists have denied some key doctrines of Calvinist Presbyterianism proper). But we disagree with General Baptist and Free Will Baptists at some points as well.
Lessons Learned from Iraq that Apply to Ministry Anywhere:
A Southern Baptist Chaplain in Action
By Dr. Page Brooks, Chaplain for the Louisiana National Guard, Assistant Professor of Theology and Islamic Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Founding Co-Pastor of the Mosaic Church in New Orleans
Throughout the Bible we see where God sometimes leads individuals into the desert to teach them some powerful spiritual lessons. Whether it was the Israelites, John the Baptist, or Jesus Himself, the desert experience was always powerful in bringing to life spiritual truths.
I had my own experience in learning spiritual lessons in the desert, but this particular trip was because of my role as a military chaplain while I was deployed to Iraq in 2010. I serve as a chaplain with the Louisiana National Guard and deployed with the 1-141 Field Artillery out of New Orleans, Louisiana. We served in two locations of Iraq during the year. In the first part of our deployment we were stationed in Tallil, near the Kuwaiti border. Our soldiers performed convoy operations all over Iraq, starting from our base in Tallil. The second half of the deployment we were stationed in the International Zone, Baghdad. We provided security for areas of the International Zone and the US Embassy.
Though we went through loss of life and other difficult situations, I had wonderful deployment. I loved being with my soldiers and ministering to their needs. In the midst of the incredible ministry with the soldiers, God not only used me to touch their lives, but God used them to teach me a few lessons of my own that I would use when I returned to the States as I returned to my teaching ministry and church plant.