Friday, March 21, 2008

Klouda Conclusion

The judge in the Klouda case has ruled, granting Dr. Patterson's (and that of SWBTS) summary judgment and tossing the case. A few observations:

1) This is probably an outcome all Christians should rejoice at - on constitutional grounds. The courts decided that they should not interfere in the internal workings of a religious institution. When they start interfering, we are all going to be in trouble. So, on a theoretical basis, this was a good outcome for religious freedom and ecclesiastical independence.

2) The judge's decision does not justify the actions of Dr. Patterson. Just because he had the RIGHT to terminate her professorship, that does not mean it was the right thing to do. That is a decision that I believe the convention will have to make. My point all along has been that things should not be run on the basis of one man's opinions, but on the basis of our shared statement of doctrine and practice.

The convention should decide issues like this, not individuals.

3) Dr. Klouda was an innocent victim in all this. Some say that she should not have filed a lawsuit, based on Paul's instructions to the Corinthians, and I am somewhat in agreement. However, she was a woman in full agreement with and practicing the BF&M 2000. She taught Hebrew (very well, as I understand it) and was not preaching in pulpits or anything like that. She was no feminist firebrand trying to change the seminary's point-of-view.

She got fired because there was a new president. One conservative president hired her and another terminated her teaching position. She did nothing wrong to deserve what happened to her.

4) The big point of debate in recent days has been the "fired/resigned" controversy. Each side called the other side liars (or pinheads) because of their viewpoints. Did Dr. Klouda resign from her position or was she terminated. After reading the judge's decision, I can answer that. Yes!

*She was "terminated" as a tenure-track professor of Hebrew. She was told that she would no longer be allowed to teach in the School of Theology. So, from that perspective, she was terminated. She was told in 2004 that she should find employment elsewhere, and would be given a reasonable time to do so. that can reasonably be called a termination.

*However, the judge was convinced that some sort of offer was made to her to continue at the seminary without a reduction in pay or benefits, but with a new job in the library, directing something called the "Writing Center." The judgment did not elaborate on what that meant. So, she was given an indefinite offer to continue employment at the seminary, but not in a teaching position.

*In 2006, she received a job at Taylor University (remember, she was told to seek employment elsewhere) and she took it. She resigned, but it could hardly be called a voluntary resignation. She was told to get another job and she did.

Did she resign? Yes. Was she terminated? Yes. I don't think this was an either/or.

5) The seminary and Dr. Patterson have been given the right to seek attorney's fees from Dr. Klouda. I hope they will choose not to do that.

6) There is a lot of anger and bitterness over this, among those who supported Dr. Klouda. There have been a few supporters of Dr. Patterson who have been unkind in their gloating. But there is much disappointment, distress, even anger among those who supported her. the anger and tension level now reminds me of the days of the conservative resurgence in the 80's.

7) So, I believe this may be a seminal moment in SBC history. In 1960, a professor at Midwestern wrote a commentary on Genesis, that once and for all proved that liberalism did, in fact, exist at our seminaries. Even though it took nearly 20 years, that was one of the seminal moments in the Conservative movement.

This may be a seminal moment in another split in the SBC, over women's issues. Is ministry restricted to men? Are men in leadership positions in their homes? Is teaching theology in a seminary something women are allowed to do according to scripture?

In the next 10 years, the SBC is going to have to refine its position, and if we stick with the complementarian, male headship viewpoint (which I believe is biblical) there will be a major (How major? I don't know) exodus of churches from the denomination.

8) This is a time for prayer for Dr. Klouda and graciousness toward those with whom we have disagreed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Crimson River

There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s vein.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stain.

There is a Crimson River that flows from the heart of God to men and women all around the world. It flows by every person on earth, but only flows through those who repent of their sin and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

The Crimson River began as a single drop of blood that flowed down Jesus back as a Roman soldier brought down his cruel whip. With each lash another drop mixed with the first. These drops formed a trickle as the crown of thorns was driven deep into Jesus’ brow, as cruel fists struck his face, and his beard was pulled out. The trickle grew stronger as Jesus dragged the cross down the Via Dolorosa toward Golgotha. Then, as the soldiers drove nails through Jesus’ hands and feet, as they raised the cross high, as they dropped it into its hole, the trickle became a stream.

For six long hours, as Jesus hung between heaven and earth, between God and man, the Lamb of God dying for the sins of the world, the stream ran red and strong. Jesus suffered horrible pain and the stream flowed. He was ridiculed by passers-by, and the stream flowed. The sun grew dark as Jesus bore our sins, and therefore the full weight of God’s wrath against that sin – and still the stream flowed.

Then came the decisive moment. Having borne our sins and paid their full price, he rose up and uttered those fateful words. “It is finished.” At that moment, the stream became a river – a river of mercy and grace, a river of forgiveness, a life-giving, sin-forgiving, power-delivering, forever-living river of love flowing from the heart of God to all who would repent and believe.

The river flowed first to the throne of God, where Jesus sprinkled that blood of the heavenly mercy-seat, presenting his blood as the payment for our sins. Looking at the broken body of His Son and at the Crimson River flowing from the cross, the Father said, “It is enough. The debt is paid.” The blood of Christ purchased our eternal salvation and washed away our sins.

Then, the Crimson River began to flow across the earth. Deep if flowed, and wide. It flowed to a notorious criminal, hanging next to Christ. He was a wicked man, deserving of death and hell. But sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain. He was caught up in the Crimson River and carried off, that day, to be with Jesus in Paradise.

The Crimson River flowed by a Roman soldier, a centurion, who gazed at the crucified Christ and exclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God.”

The Crimson River flowed to 11 cowards, who had abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. It restored them to fellowship and joy. On the day of Pentecost it swept away 3000 people in its flood. It took them away from dead religion into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some time later the River caught up an angry young man on his way to Damascus. He was determined to stop the River, to dam its flow, but the River swelled up and carried him away and through him has flowed to untold millions throughout history.

The River flowed to Timothy, Titus, Silas and Aristarchus. It caught up Clement and Iranaeus and Polycarp. It flowed to Eusebius and Athanasius and Augustine.

For many years it seemed that the River’s flow was dwindling away to nothing, but nothing can stop the flow of God’s grace. It flowed to a young man in Germany trying to figure out what had gone wrong with the church. It flowed from Luther to Calvin to Zwingli. Unstoppable, the flood ran through Wesley, Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. It flowed through Charles Spurgeon and Hudson Taylor and Lottie Moon; through Jeremiah Lamphier and Evan Roberts and Duncan Campbell. It flowed to Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, and Chuck Swindoll and Chuck Smith.

It has flowed to millions of anonymous men and women in every country on earth. It flows to male and female, to rich and poor, to red and yellow, black and white. It flows in Africa and Asia and Europe and the Americas.

For 2000 years, the mighty torrent of God’s mercy and grace has flowed, immeasurable and unstoppable. Sometimes, it rages like a mighty flood, sometimes it slows to a trickle – but still it flows. When the flow is slowed, its critics crow that the River is gone for good, but nothing can stop the Crimson River.

Dictators have outlawed the Crimson River, but they cannot stop it. False religion has tried to pollute the stream with legalism and ritualism, but still the River flows. Communism tried, Humanism and the New Age still try to dam the River or divert its flow, but the Crimson River is a mighty flood. No matter the foe, it continues to flow from Immanuel’s vein, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain.

In February of 1964, it flowed by Elder Lane NW in Cedar Rapids, and I was caught in it. It continues to flow all over the world today. In Korea and Kenya, Taiwan and Indonesia, the river flows. In Tanzania and the Philippines and England and Japan, men and women are being caught up in its flood. At the risk of their very lives, people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Morocco and Libya are jumping into the river to find the forgiveness of sins.

And, my friend, wherever you are today, that River flows. If you will turn from your sin and trust your life to Christ, you can be swept away in the flood tide of God’s grace. All over the world, the River flows. Has it flowed to you?

Have you been to Jesus for the Cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
Are you washed, in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the lamb?
Are your garments spotless?
Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Satan's on Vacation

The Hebrew word "Satan" means adversary, or accuser. The role of Satan is to accuse the sons of God and bring condemnation on them in spite of the grace of God.

The Greek word "devil" comes from "diabolos" - "to throw through, to slander." It has the idea of skewering someone verbally.

I just got word that Satan decided to go on vacation. He said many of the Baptist bloggers are doing his job so well, he decided it was safe for him to go visit his summer home (Fenway Park).

We are doing such a good job accusing and slandering one another, Satan must have a lot of time on his hands.

(I know, I know - a theological fiction - but I think the point stands! And I am sure the part about Fenway is true.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Proposal for Conservative Bloggers

I have browsed a lot of the sites that deal with SBC Issues. Most of them are either personal, like this one, or represent a viewpoint (SBC Today or Outpost).

What I think we need is a site that would be a place for discussion of the issues. I know, that is what everyone says, just before the cream pies start flying through the air. But I would like to propose a site for CONSERVATIVE Southern Baptists to discuss the future of our denomination in a Christlike manner.

Here is what I propose.

1) A site for those who support the conservative direction of the SBC to discuss if there need to be changes made in some of the policies and practices of the SBC.

*This would not be a site for those who want to return to the days of the moderate SBC or for those who want to forge a "brave, new world" SBC that would abandon the theological underpinnings that have made us what we are.

*This would not be a site for mud-slingers on either side. We would invite anyone who wants to comment and any idea that needs to be broached. But we would be brutally intolerant of character assassination and mud-slinging. I could criticize Dr. Patterson's actions on that site, but the kind of virulent hatred of him that dominates certain bloggers would not be allowed. Someone might criticize what Wade Burleson says or does, but Wade-bashing would be verboten.

*Our goal would be to be the kind of site Frank Page thought SBC Outpost was going to be, before he withdrew his endorsement - a place for calm, Christlike, but direct discussion of the issues of the SBC.

2) The editors of the site would be chosen based on their blogging history. On the (for lack of a better term) "Baptist Identity" side, I would love to see men like Bart Barber or Robin Foster or SelahV (if she gave up the Red Sox). Those who seek reform within the context or the conservative movement could be represented by David Rogers, or a couple others I have seen who write about ideas and concerns, not about "Defendant Patterson."

3) We would adopt a very specific format. One of the editors would write a position piece, then submit it to the other editors. Someone else, who might disagree in some way, would write a "counterpoint" piece. Any one of the editors could throw a penalty flag if he thought there was anything that hinted at harsh rhetoric or personal attack. When the blog is ready, it would be posted.

We could even ask for guest editorials from SBC luminaries. Maybe, if we behaved ourselves, they would come and write for us.

4) A general discussion would ensue. The editors would delete any comments they felt that were in the nature of personal attacks or inflated rhetoric, regardless of whose side the rhetoric was on.

It is interesting, I have been a fan of reform for several years (way back to the days of Jim Henry's presidency). But I have never felt great kinship with some of the current reform leaders. I find I sometimes disagree with the writings of Tim Rogers or Bart Barber, but have found myself feeling more at home with the conservatives I disagree with than the reformers I agree with.

I guess I realized I am a Southern Baptist Conservative. I don't want to change that. But I do want to change a few things about Southern Baptist Conservatives and the way we relate. I would like to broaden our tent A LITTLE. I would really like to discuss those issues without all the New Baptist Covenant or Antioch Network distractions. Just one conservative Southern Baptist talking to another conservative Southern Baptist about the direction that conservative Southern Baptists need to go.

Does that seem like a good idea to anyone else?

(NOTE: I have discussed this with no one. None of the people I have mentioned above have signed on or even heard this idea. I am just floating an idea out here. )

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Is It Possible?

I am wondering if what I desire for the future of the SBC is becoming impossible. My vision is for a convention that is firmly conservative: inerrantist and baptistic, but is also open within those limits. I want to be part of a convention that has the courage to take stands on those issues that matter, and the wisdom to realize that some issues aren't so important.

For years, I was growing dissatisfied with the leaders of the convention - feeling an aching sense that we were turning into an elder-ruled denomination, run by a powerful elite of former conservative leaders.

Then, the whole Wade Burleson thing broke. I was very hopeful that it would lead to good things, to the opening up of fellowship within the conservative parameters of the convention.

However, I am coming to believe that the reform movement in the SBC is moving in a direction I don't want to go. I have asked a question on Wade's site several times, and never received any answer at all. It is the fundamental question I have wanted to know since this thing broke.

"Is the reform movement attempting to reform conservatives, or to reinvolve moderates?" I had hoped and believed that the answer would be, "We are wanting to reform conservatives." However, the tone and tenor of the comment stream on Wade's site, and the blog direction of Outpost and other sites has led me to conclude that the more likely outcome is the attempt to undo the work of the conservative resurgence.

Look at those blogs. There is never a kind or encouraging word about anyone in leadership in the SBC (except Dr. Rankin - my hero), especially Dr. Patterson (not my favorite guy). But there is seldom anything but a kind and affirming word toward those who led the NBCC, regardless of the suspect theology and offensive statements many of them made. Moderates and liberals get praised. Conservatives are seen as the enemy. What is one to think?

Now, Wade is forming something called the Antioch Network. I don't know if it is a new denomination or a lobbying effort, or what. But while they have a reasonable doctrinal statement, they do not even require immersion baptism (and a SBTS prof who asked about that was given a pretty curt reply). So, whatever they are going to be, it appears it is not going to be a Baptist thing.

That is their right, if they so desire. But it is not what I want. I want to see change in the SBC, not another breakoff group like the CBF.

So, I remain where I was. I am unable to support the continued narrowing of fellowship being done by some of our leaders. But, I am increasingly disappointed with the reform movement. It seems to be in the process of becoming not a widening of the tent, but a demolition of the wall of orthodoxy. I hope I am wrong, but that is the impression I am getting.

So, I can't join the unabashed SBC cheering section that supports everything our current leaders do (and treats reformers with venom). But I no longer feel comfortable with the direction of the reform movement.

In 1979, I was at Houston to cast my vote for Dr. Adrian Rogers as President of the SBC. It was my first real act as an active Southern Baptist (I was a seminary student at the time). It was historic, and a moment I cherish.

Where is there an Adrian Rogers today, who will stand and speak out, who will say, "Let us never compromise anything that shouldn't be compromised, and let us never separate over anything silly?"

My hope and prayer is that God will raise him up!

The Problem with One-Hour Worship

From time to time through my years in Cedar Rapids, there was one man who would drop hints that he thought perhaps my sermons were a bit long and that if we would keep our services a bit shorter, we might attract more people into our fellowship. I catch a lot of grief about the length of my sermons (about 10-15 minutes shorter than my dad's, but still in the 40-45 minute range). Most of it is in the category of good-natured ribbing. This man was serious.

When he said that, I always gave him sermon 108b. It usually stopped him from saying anything for a year or two after that. I know, I am mean.

Here, in summary, is sermon 108b. One huge problem in American churches is the length of our worship services. There is simply not enough time in the typical American worship service to perform half of the true worship we are supposed to perform. The one-hour worship service may grow churches, but it destroys Christianity.

I am convinced that a biblical worship service would take somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Minimum. Look at biblical worship. It was many things. It was never brief. It was a day, or a half-day. At least, it was hours.

There is, I believe, a pattern to biblical worship. Psalm 100 tells us to "enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise." A worship service needs to begin with a time of praise. I am not talking about a short praise chorus, but a SEASON of praise. There was little I liked about the church we attended in Dallas, but we had a music team that would lead us in 15 or 20 minutes of uninterrupted singing to God. But I think this time should be interrrupted. People should interrupt reading scriptures of praise and voicing their praise and thanksgiving to God.

When you stare into the light of God, the first thing that you become aware of is the dirt of sin. The next part of the service should be a time of confession. This would generally be a quiet time of confession of sin, but also a time when those who come under conviction could voice their own need for forgiveness. Confession might offend man but it pleases God and the confession of sin would be part of true, biblical worship.

When you have entered into a spirit of praise and spent time confessing sin, then the heart is prepared to worship. Worship begins at this point. This is when you begin to introduce the theme of the day. Evidently, the public reading of scripture was very much a part of early Christian worship. Then, perhaps, the pastor would bring the message, taking time to exposit a passage of scripture and apply it to the lives of those who hear. With hearts properly prepared, the hearers would be cut deep by the Word and the Spirit could do his work in their hearts.

After the sermon there would be a time of response. No, not just an invitation hymn. A time of response. We would sit in silence, or perhaps singing appropriate songs to reinforce the purpose of the sermon, we would respond to the Spirit as He applies the word to our hearts. We would give him time!

There is one more aspect of this that I haven't even mentioned. In the early church, evidently everyone participated in the worship. It wasn't just the pastor and the musicians performing and everyone else being spectators, it was everyone having a part. This would necessitate smaller churches or at least dividing up into smaller groups.

In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Pauls says, "When you come togther, each on has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation." Yes, some of these things are a little strange to us today, but the fact remains - people came to church expecting to take part, not to be spectators.

When you add this all up, it is hard to see how you can do it all in an hour, or an hour and 15 minutes.

So, we can keep shortening worship services, but we cannot expect to experience the full glory of God in discounted services.