Blasphemy? You Can’t Be Serious!

In my previous post, I extolled the beauty of God’s provision of salvation saying that “God has done all He can. He has provided the Savior. He has provided the invitation. He extends the call. He wants you to come.”

My intention was to demonstrate God’s grace and love in giving His one and only Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and to praise God for providing an invitation for mankind to believe in Christ and receive Him as Savior (John 1:12; 3:16). I further wanted all to know that it is the nature of  God to love and that He wants people to respond to the call and conviction of the Holy Spirit and to be saved (1 John 2:2; 4:8).

Perhaps I was a bit inartful the way I expressed myself, but I thought these were simple, biblical ideas. However, I have learned that some of my thoughts were not appreciated by some who like to comment on on articles such as mine which are published in cyberspace. (see my original article and comments at

First, my previous post was a bit “tongue in cheek.” My undergraduate degree is in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism and my previous post “Elected and I Wasn’t Even Running” was an attempt at addressing a rather important contemporary theological discussion with a bit of humor.

Some, however, may not enjoy such attempts and thus decry me as one who “seems to side with the universalists.” Yes, strangely enough, that is what I was accused of doing. For my readers who are not into such theological verbiage, that means that I have been accused of siding with those who think that everyone is going to be saved or go to heaven.

I’m sure such a charge would be a surprise to my congregation. They’ve heard me preach on hell so many times that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them bring coat hangers and marsh mellows to our services waiting for the fire and brimstone to begin. They’ve heard me say many times that if there is no hell, then we as Christians have nothing to say. We preach the gospel so that men and women may turn to Christ in order that they won’t go to hell. Let me be clear. Not everyone is going to heaven. And, I don’t appreciate the inference that I “side with universalists.”

Second, I have read that my comments were “heartbreaking” and that views such as mine were “blasphemy” and “a destructive force within the Southern Baptist Convention.”

I’m been accused of many things in my life. I’ve been called a penny pincher, narrow-minded, conservative, loud, quiet, smart, dumb, wise, handsome (only by my wife), well dressed, poorly dressed, healthy, sickly, and many other names. I once even worked for an employer in high school who called me “the round man with the square deal.” I thought it was funny, even though I didn’t know what he meant by it.

But, never in my life have I been called one who promotes “blasphemy.”

Should I watch for a crowd to gather in my yard? Should I wait for the inquisition to roll in? Do they still put people on the “Rack”? I’ll bet that would hurt!

The theological thought police who ran the show in England in  the mid 16th century burned Latimer and Ridley at the stake for their Protestant views. Should I not add any more wood to the burn pile I’m making on my land?

In 1651Obadiah Holmes was whipped for preaching without permission by the government in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Am I going to be whipped? And if so, can my mother do it? When I was growing up, it never seemed to hurt her more than it hurt me.


If saying that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world is blasphemy, then I guess I’m guilty as charged. I’ll stand beside Adrian Rogers, Herschel Hobbs, Billy Graham, and countless other men much more prominent than I who preached the same.

If saying that God wants “all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” is blasphemy, then move over Apostle Paul, I need room to stand.

Come on people. Get serious.

I was saved by grace through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ while attending a Tuesday night revival service in 1983. I was baptized by immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the next week. I believe Jesus died to save us from sin and to give us abundant life and eternal life. (John 3:16; 10:10).

I pastor a church where we send teams out every week to share the gospel. We have had our members be on mission across the world, from Indonesia to Ghana, from Honduras and Mexico and throughout the United States. I have personally served with the old Home Mission Board as a summer missionary, with the old Foreign Mission Board as a mission volunteer in Japan with a team from the Mississippi Baptist Convention, and have preached countless times on the mission fields of Mexico and Honduras in order that men and women might hear the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) and be saved.

The church where I have served for almost two decades as pastor has helped to build churches, children’s homes, Christian Schools, and served Christ and shared the gospel through youth missions, disaster relief and countless other ways.

We’ve participated in area wide revivals. We feed the hungry in our area and clothe the poor. We reach out to everyone from senior adults to little babies. We laugh with people when they are filled with joy and we cry with them when they hurt. We attempt to comfort those who grieve and help those who hurt.

And we do it all because Jesus loves us and gave himself up for us and we are following in His steps. We try to tell the world that God loves them, Jesus died for them, and that there is Hope for life and eternity only in the person of Jesus Christ.

And if a ministry based on the truth that God loved this world; sent His Son to die for the world (which was the point of my previous post), and commissioned His church to be on mission making disciples and teaching them to live like Jesus is somehow viewed as  being based on “blasphemy” and as”a destructive force within the SBC” then to use a quote from previous generation, “Houston, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!”

Is it not possible to stand for traditional Baptist soteriology (the doctrine of salvation, for those not acquainted with theological verbiage) and have a few tongue in cheek remarks without having to defend one’s orthodoxy? If not, then we do have problems in the good old SBC.

And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s All I’ve Got To Say About That!”



I received a call this past February from my mother. She informed me that the church she attends, the church in which I grew up, was saved, baptized, and nurtured in the faith, had a business meeting. In that meeting they “elected” me to preach at their Homecoming service this spring.

I am always a bit surprised when I’m elected for something for which I didn’t even know I was running.

I would be shocked if our local election commission called and told me that I had been “elected” as Sherriff of our county. Especially since I have never entertained the thought that I might wish to be a Sherriff. Furthermore, I’m more qualified to be Barney Fife than Andy Taylor. I wouldn’t even trust myself with a single bullet in my shirt pocket.

I would be mortified if I was called in November 2016 by a major political party leader and informed that the previous day I had been elected President of the United States. I’m not even thinking about running for the office. Though I have it on good authority that the present occupant will be leaving that office in a about 20 months.

Being elected when you weren’t even running. What an amazing concept!

After receiving my mother’s call, I began to dwell on this situation and ask myself some questions concerning my election to preach the Homecoming service at my childhood church.

Is my election unconditional? Does it in any way depend on an action on my part? What if I don’t want to apply this election to my calendar? Do I have the freedom to choose to refuse this election? Can I resist?

If this election is unconditional, then why didn’t they call my brother to preach this service? He too, grew up, was saved and baptized in this church.  Is he invited to the service? Can he speak? Or is this election for me and not him? Maybe he has been left behind?

Perhaps my election was conditional. Maybe it depended on my being an ordained pastor. Could it be that they called me because I was a preacher and didn’t call my brother because he was a minister of music? Are music ministers not among their elect?

And if my election was conditional then I have choices to make. I have to receive their act of grace in calling me. I must choose not to resist the call. I must make a decision to apply their will to my calendar. They have provided the event, the date, the pulpit, and the meal to follow. I MUST SAY YES!  If not, I will miss out on the blessings of this election.

Though my election was a surprise I will receive it as a gift! I will apply it to my calendar! I will accept the benefits of being chosen, not before the foundation of the world, but at last February’s business meeting! Yes, I surrender all! I accept!

Then I asked myself this question: “Is there a biblical lesson on election in this little parable?”

Paul told the Ephesians that God “chose us in Him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Could it be that God made the decision and said, I “want all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (Timothy 2:4). In fact God attitude is that He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And to emphasize the point that God made the way for everyone to receive His offer to come to repentance, John reminds us that Jesus Christ “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Furthermore, Jesus death took place before I ever saw the light of day. In fact, his death was God’s plan long before the foundation of the world was laid. Long before I or anyone knew anything about Jesus, He was the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

In God’s wisdom and love, my being part of the elect happened before I even knew I was running! Jesus, the elect One, God’s only begotten Son, died to provide the means for you and I to have abundant and eternal life.

The call has been sent out. “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take of the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).

God’s business meeting was held long before the world began. The call has gone out from a hill we know as Calvary.

You might not have even known you were running, but you can choose to be a part of the elect!

The elect are those who say “YES” to the call. God has done all He can. He has provided the Savior. He has provided the invitation. He extends the call. He wants you to come. And even though God has perfect foreknowledge of our decisions (Romans 8:29), your election is conditioned on your saying “yes.”

And “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).


And when that great homecoming day arrives and we all get to heaven, the blessings, the fellowship, the worship and the meal will be better than any earthly Homecoming.

Even one with dinner on the grounds!



*After saying yes to the election by the church, I preached their homecoming service and I thank them for their election to preach, for their gracious welcome, and for the blessings that have been brought into my life through their ministry and service to Christ.


In 1973 Karl Menninger wrote a book whose title pointed out a major problem in American life. It’s title was Whatever Became of Sin? To the modern way of thinking sin has become  an anachronism. It’s old-fashioned and out of date to think about, much less talk about, sin.

People today have maladies, psychoses, neuroses, afflictions, and maybe the odd quirk or two, but you better not call it sin. If you do, the thought police in modern America will say that you are the one who needs institutionalized.  Sin? It’s out of date, old fashioned, and to consider any behavior, attitude, or action sinful is just not acceptable to the dullards who promote themselves to be the wise men of today.

I have a copy of “The Adult Bible Class Quarterly” from 1929. In a lesson on sin the author bemoaned the fact that there were people in 1929 who would “explain all the evil deeds of men as merely the manifestations of perverted mentality. In the view of these men sin is a disease rather than a crime. They would send the murderer or rapist to the hospital rather than to the jail, to the insane asylum rather than to the penitentiary.”

This quote from 1929 shows that for the last century the church has had to battle a twisted view of sin that has pervaded America. Our adversary knows that if he can get people to redefine every attitude, act, and behavior so that it is not considered sin, then they will see no need for a Savior to liberate them from their sin. When I was a teenager my pastor used to say “you must first get people lost before they can be saved.” He was right. People must understand that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). They must acknowledge that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And until a person sees themselves as a sinner they will never see their need for a Savior.

The 1929 Sunday School writer declared that “the result of these erroneous ideas about sin is the weakening of the sense of moral responsibility” and if this sense continues long enough “civilization will collapse.” A society with no sense of moral responsibility is doomed to failure.

As Easter season approaches, I give thanks  that there is a remedy for sin.  As John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29).

A Christmas Miracle: The Virgin Birth of Jesus

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Originally commissioned in 327 A.D. by Constantine and built over the birthplace of Jesus.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Originally commissioned in 327 A.D. by Constantine and built over the birthplace of Jesus.

Speaking of the incarnation of Jesus, Martin Luther said that there were three miracles involved. “The first, that God became man; the second, that a virgin was a mother; and the third, that the heart of man should believe this.”

Many hearts do not believe this. While we evangelical Christians are celebrating the entry of divinity into the world through the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ, the world is filled with those who object to this classic Christian doctrine.

Some regard the virgin birth as a myth, much like unusual birth stories found in cultures as varied as those of the Aztec or the ancient Egyptians. Those who follow this line of thought somehow forget that Jesus’ birth was linked by the New Testament writers to Hebrew prophecy (Isaiah 7:14). Furthermore, their gospels were written for primarily Jewish audiences who would have been repulsed at any inclusion of well-known “myths” in them. Such material would have caused the first readers of the gospels to have rejected them in full and thus defeated the purpose for which they were written.

I think the main reason people today want to dismiss the virgin birth of Jesus is that we live in a time of intense anti-supernaturalism.  This philosophy was expressed in the work of Rudolf Bultmann who believed that miracles like the virgin birth “belong to a pre-scientific picture of the world in which supernatural beings invade the natural world and bring about extraordinary events. [William L. Rowe. Philosophy of Religion (Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company Inc, 1978), 125].

The anti-supernatural presupposition concerning miracles reveals a major divide between Christian orthodoxy and theological liberalism. Encouraged by the Enlightenment, theological liberalism imbibed not only an open, tolerant spirit of inquiry into religious matters but also a spirit of skepticism and suspicion toward traditional theological beliefs. Whereas orthodox Christianity turned to divine revelation (scripture) for authoritative truth, liberalism believed “in the similarity and unity of all means of attaining truth.”[John Dillenberger and Claude Welch, Protestant Christianity: Interpreted Through its Development (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1954), 211-212]. Science, experience, revelation, and other efforts to find truth were equally valid and authoritative for they all are part of a common quest for knowledge.

As enlightened and tolerant as liberalism appeared at first glance the reality was different. The philosophy that all truth is equally valid, which sounded wonderful in theory, was not applied in practice. In practice liberalism elevated science above scripture and evaluated scripture using the scientific method.Thus reason ruled over revelation, science became the master of scripture, and those events that were not verifiable were considered suspect, if not totally discarded.

The effect of this philosophy on religious belief has been profound. Since science gains knowledge by observation then all we can know about God’s activity is that which can be observed through natural processes. Liberalism limits God to working though nature. His immanence in the world is elevated and his transcendence is disregarded. Divine intervention in the world is excluded because the liberal has altered a critical feature of the nature of God.  Millard Erickson says they have “a single story view of God.” Once liberalism redefined God’s nature, divine intervention was rendered not only untenable but also unnecessary. Thus the foundation was laid for the exclusion of all miracles from the realm of truth. By definition they were not necessary due to God’s immanence nor were they possible because the “single story view of God” made intervention impossible. If no second floor exists you can’t stoop down to the first floor and for the liberal God lives only on the first floor.

The philosophy espoused by liberalism extends not only to a denial of the virgin birth but also to other miracles. The liberal New Testament Scholar Gerd Leudemann, who denies both the virgin birth and the resurrection, said “the tomb was full and the manger empty.”[as quoted by Albert Mohler in “Can a Christian deny the virgin birth?” BP News (December 24, 2003), Available from

The same philosophical premise that leads one to deny the virgin birth also leads to a denial of the resurrection for both are extraordinary events that require an invasion of the natural world by a supernatural power.

In the modern culture in which we live and minister, there is a clear bias against all things supernatural. This leads many to assume that miraculous events like the virgin birth are not factual, nor are they even possible.

But I contend that the virgin birth is an important doctrine that is worth defending and proclaiming.

First, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is a biblical idea.

The Virgin Birth is not something conceived by the church. It is not something conceived by man. It was revealed in Scripture. It is without question that Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 both teach that Mary conceived Christ while she was a virgin. Gresham Machen, in The Virgin Birth of Christ, says “there is no serious question about the interpretation of the Bible at this point. Everyone admits that the Bible represents Jesus as having been conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary.” [J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 382].

Second, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is related to the sinlessness of Jesus. 

The relationship between the virgin birth and the sinlessness of Christ has been debated for centuries and conclusions must be reached with great care. One ongoing debate is between those who attribute Christ’s sinlessness to the fact that he didn’t have a human father and those who respond that women are equally tainted by sin as men. This debate creates more questions than it answers. Could all persons be sinless if they didn’t have a human father? And how did God protect Christ from inheriting sin from his human mother? Surely we must move beyond this debate in our search for truth.

The sinlessness of Christ must be understood as the work of the Holy Spirit. When Mary wonders how she will give birth she is told, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The virgin birth entails two miracles instead of one and both relate to the sinlessness of Christ.  First, Jesus was born without a human father. This interrupted the transmission of sin from the father. Second, the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of Mary miraculously prevented the transmission of sin from the mother[Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 531.].

Millard Erickson may be correct in concluding that God could have prevented the transmission of sin from Joseph to Christ in the same manner he prevented Mary’s sin from affecting Christ, thereby ensuring Christ’s sinlessness apart from the virgin birth. [Millard Erickson. Christian Theology, 756]. But that hypothetical argument does not merit his conclusion that “Jesus’ sinlessness was not dependent upon the virgin conception.”[Millard Erickson. Christian Theology, 756]. Erickson confuses potential outcomes with actual outcomes. Certainly God could have used a myriad of methods to ensure Christ’s sinlessness. But he actually used the virgin birth. Dealing with the facts as we have them, and not with what could have been, we must conclude that the virgin birth was the means God’s used to produce his desired end.

Third, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth speaks to our Salvation.

The virgin birth not only protects the sinlessness of Christ but it portrays the sinfulness of humanity. The virgin birth illustrates that one who was not under the curse of sin had to enter humanity in order to bring redemption. Salvation could be attained only by a supernatural work. The virgin birth highlights man’s inability to provide for his salvation and reveals God gracefully producing in Mary’s life an undeserved blessing. His work in and through a young girl who was no more deserving than other young girls demonstrates the grace of God without which salvation wouldn’t be possible.

Fourth, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth speaks to the humanity and deity of Christ.

It would be a denial of the doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence to state that the deity of Christ was caused by the virgin birth. In the incarnation the eternal Christ enters human history through the means of the virgin birth. The virgin birth doesn’t cause his deity but is the means by which deity and humanity are united. Stanley J. Grenz wrote that “the confession that Jesus was born of a virgin coheres well with the twin christological affirmations that Jesus is fully divine and fully human.”[Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Nashville:Broadman and Holman, 1994), 422]. Of all the possible means God could have chosen to use to bring about the incarnation it is difficult to conceive of one more effective in communicating the dual nature of Christ than the virgin birth.

I agree with J. Gresham Machen who said, “Let it never be forgotten that the virgin birth is an integral part of the New Testament witness about Christ, and that witness is strongest when it is taken as it stands.” [ Machen. The Virgin Birth, 396].




VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT 1 Because “Sometimes You Have To Stand Up For What You Believe”

Twenty five years ago I picked up a copy of the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper and my eyes focused on the bold print in a full page advertisement that gave this challenge to all who would read the newspaper on that Friday in November of 1989:  “Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe.”

The ad stated that “traditional American values are under attack all across America.”  And it was time for the people to stand up for what they believe.

That sounded like a good idea. Don’t you agree that people should stand up for what they believe? Should we not protest when “traditional American values are under attack?”

However, there was a small problem that I noticed with the advertisement. It was sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and the “traditional American value” that was under attack was the right of a woman to terminate the life of her unborn child.

That advertisement demonstrated how seriously twisted the idea of traditional American values had become.  For the purveyors of the that advertisement, abortion was a traditional American value.  Those who believed in the sanctity of human life were classified as “extremists”.

The prophet Isaiah recorded a disturbing pattern of behavior among God’s people in Jerusalem and Judah. They had a tendency to play games with words, morality, and truth. To them he records series of woes and one of them states, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20).

In 1989, those who sponsored the advertisement in the New Orleans newspaper were guilty of the same thing. They were playing word games. They adopted the language of “traditional American values” and applied it to the termination of the life of a child in the womb. That is not a “traditional American value.” It only became legal in 1973 after the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe vs. Wade decision that made abortion legal. It is in no way a value that is rooted in America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

Those who oppose traditional American values such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have a sneaky and strange way of using language. Those who support Abortion call their position “choice.” In reality their position provides no “choice” to the baby whose life is being terminated. They also call their position one which supports “reproductive rights.” In reality an abortion ends the “reproduction” process and no “rights” are afforded the unborn child.

Calling abortion rights a “traditional American value” has always struck me as calling evil good and good evil. As the prophet said, it substitutes “darkness for light” and “bitter for sweet.” But that is where we are in America today.

I am aware that the right to abortion is the law of the land. But just because something is legal does not make it right. Slavery was legal for the first 76 years the U.S. Constitution was in force. But just because it was legal did not make it morally right. It was an inherent evil and was incongruent with the values of freedom and liberty embedded in our founding documents.

Currently, because of Court rulings allowing homosexual marriage, some businesses have been forced to close because they refused to provide services to events which clashed with their “traditional” view of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Our government is interpreting Civil Rights Laws, which were designed to protect against racial discrimination, and broadly using them to insist that Christians who own businesses like flower shops, bakeries, and photography studios be forced to provide their services for “weddings” which the business owners view as being immoral.

Although this issue is still playing out in the courts, I can see the day arriving (and it has possibly already arrived) when it is legal to coerce Christian business owners to act in violation of their consciences. This may be legal, but that will not make it morally right. What is next? Can Christian cinematographers be forced to film pornography simply because they hire their services out to other public entities? Will Christian doctors be forced to perform sex change operations or abortions simply because they work in the public domain? Once the government can coerce someone to violate their conscience in one area, what is to restrain them in other areas?

What can Christians  do when something is legal but not morally right? I live in Tennessee and we have an opportunity to have our voice heard on one issue this November 4.

“Yes On 1” is a campaign in support of Amendment 1 which is on the ballot this fall. Many believe Amendment 1 is about ending abortion in Tennessee. That is not the case. No state can end abortion within its borders unilaterally.

Amendment 1 will simply allow the people’s duly elected representatives to the Tennessee General Assembly to pass legislation regulating abortion within the state. Currently Tennessee has become a destination for people to come seeking abortions. The reason for this is that our state Supreme Court has adopted an interpretation of abortion rights that is even more broad than the one found in the U.S. Constitution. Because of this libertine legal interpretation, according to the Tennessean newspaper, our state is now ranked 3rd in the nation in the number of out of state abortions. Our neighboring states have placed restrictions on abortions and as a result of their responsible and sensible restrictions, those seeking a place for a quicker and easier abortion drive to Tennessee to terminate the life of the unborn.

According to Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, Tennessee currently has no laws about informed consent, no laws requiring a waiting period before obtaining an abortion, and no laws requiring inspection of facilities that provide abortions. Amendment 1 will allow our legislators to pass regulations regarding these and other issues and will help put an end to Tennessee’s status as the abortion destination of the south.

Reflecting on that newspaper advertisement from 25 years ago in the New Orleans’s Times-Picayune I urge you to take the challenge. “Sometimes You Have to Stand Up for What You Believe.” Early voting begins October 15 and election day is November 4.

Vote YES ON 1 and stand up for what you believe.

Traditional Baptist says, Jesus “is the Savior, not the burglar of souls!”

Herschel Hobbs influenced generations of Southern Baptists as author of the commentary for the Life and Work Sunday School Lessons. Sometime ago, a member of my church brought to my office a grocery sack filled with these old commentaries. Since then I have read a few of them and have been cataloging their contents so that I can find Hobbs’ teaching on certain passages and ideas when I need them in my study.

This morning I was perusing some of his writing from 1995. As I read the commentary he wrote for the September 10 lesson of that year, I became aware of how Hobbs’ teaching was clearly reflected  the traditional  Baptists views treasured by Southern Baptists for generations. Although his lesson was not focused on the current “Reformed Revival” taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention, his clear biblical teaching reveals his belief in the traditional Baptist stance on the doctrine of salvation that has  been proclaimed for generations but is now being challenged by the New Calvinists that dominates the Southern Baptist Convention leadership.

Let me quote Hobbs’ comments and you can then compare them to the views being taught by the “young, restless, and reformed” Calvinists who, though a minority, have an inordinate amount of influence in today’s Southern Baptist Convention.

Hobbs comments on Romans 3:22: “Within ourselves we are not righteous, but such is God’s righteousness that He chooses to regard as righteous, or justified, in His sight every single one (all without the definite article) who through faith believes in Jesus Christ. In God’s sight there is no difference, no distinction, between Jew and Gentile; both are treated alike.” (emphasis Hobbs)

That certainly stands in contradistinction to the teaching of the New Calvinists that election is unconditional. Hobbs teaches that God regards as justified every single one who through faith believes in Jesus Christ. Both Jew and Gentile are treated alike by God.

Now, I’m sure a Calvinist might respond that those who are unconditionally elected will place their faith in Christ. They might even say they agree with Hobbs teaching in the passage  quoted above. But Hobbs won’t let them off the hook that easily. He concludes his comments in this lesson by saying, “Everyone can be saved through faith in Christ. Our responsibility is to see that all people everywhere have the opportunity to believe in Him.” (emphasis mine)

When Traditional Southern Baptists talk about our doctrinal position being in the Hobbs/Rogers tradition, we are saying that our beliefs about salvation are in harmony with those taught by Herschel Hobbs and Adrian Rogers and millions of like-minded Southern Baptists. We believe that “everyone can be saved through faith in Christ.”

To those who believe that election is unconditional, that Christ’s atonement is limited to a select group, and that grace is irresistible, those of us in the Hobbs/Rogers Tradition of  Southern Baptist life would confess that we agree with the thoughts expressed by Hobbs in his Sunday School comments when he wrote:

“God offers us salvation by grace through faith. But in the final analysis the decision is up to the individual’s response to God’s gracious offer.

“We should never cease to pray for lost people. But we should do so recognizing that a holy, righteous God cannot wink at sin or hardened hearts. God offers His salvation on the grounds of the individual’s repentance and faith. These are inseparable graces. If you truly repent, you will believe in Jesus as your Savior. God has done all that He can to save you. But you must be willing to be saved. Jesus ever stands at the door and knocks. If you open the door, He will come into your life. But He will not break the door down against your will. To do that would destroy you as a person and make you into a puppet. God loves you too much to do that. Just remember, He is the Savior, not the burglar of souls!”


I must admit that I am not a regular reader of The Atlantic magazine. I’m more of a Lewis Grizzard or Golf Digest guy myself. The  Atlantic is a magazine that started over 150 years ago in Boston. Some of its founding writers were Oliver Wendell Holmes, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Greenleaf Whittier. The magazine has quite a history. It published many works by Mark Twain and other famous American writers.

Thus, I was very interested when I found out that The Atlantic recently took note of we Southern Baptists. And the article was not real flattering. It was titled “Baptists, Just Without the Baptisms.”

I don’t blame The Atlantic for the unflattering article. The fact is that we Baptists haven’t been very flattering lately.

The article noted that we Southern Baptists have lost almost a million members in less than 10 years. We are down from 16.6 million in 2005 to 15.8 million in 2012. But that’s not all. The hit’s just keep on coming!

The number of Baptisms performed in Southern Baptist churches has dropped by 25% since 1999. According to a Southern Baptist Pastor’s Task Force that is set to report at the June meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore, baptisms in the SBC “reached a plateau in the 1950’s” and “peaked in the 1970’s.”

Furthermore 25% of Southern Baptist churches reported 0 baptisms in 2012. Sixty percent of Southern Baptist churches reported no youth baptisms in 2012. Eighty percent of Southern Baptist churches reported either 0 or 1 young adult baptism (age 18-29) in 2012. And for a denomination that does not practice infant baptism, it is disturbing that the only age group that is growing in the number baptized is children under age 5.

That is troubling!

We must ask ourselves, what is going on and what must we do to address the situation?

First, it seems that we are facing an increasingly hostile cultural environment. The biblical message that all humanity is separated from God due to sin and needs redemption through Christ is viewed with hostility by a culture that believes everyone is born with innate goodness, that there are fewer and fewer limits on human behavior, and that God is somehow obligated to love and approve whatever His creatures choose to do.

Decades ago Karl Menninger asked “whatever happened to sin?” The answer today is that we have redefined behavior so that there are fewer and fewer things considered sin. We haven’t changed our behavior, we’ve changed our definitions. In classic Christian thinking the Seven Deadly Sins were lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. In our society lust is promoted and encouraged by virtually every media outlet, gluttony is rarely mentioned, sloth is covered by many government programs, wrath is viewed as justified behavior, envy is promoted by political leaders who seek use it to promote their campaigns and garner votes, and pride is celebrated on  holidays dedicated to ___________ (fill in the blank) “pride month.”

A society that sees nothing as sinful also sees no need for a Savior. A society that sees God as approving all things will never understand the need for transformation, redemption, or a new birth.

Years ago my pastor told me that “before you can get them saved, you must first get them lost.”

Perhaps we Southern Baptists need to refocus our preaching and teaching on a Biblical anthropology. The Baptist Faith and Message states that “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”

Man is not innocent. We have inherited a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. The battle in our culture is a battle over anthropology. Is mankind innately good or inclined toward sin? Are we innocent and pure or are we “transgressors” and “under condemnation?”

Perhaps instead of trying to become like the culture in an attempt to influence it, we should stand prophetically apart from the culture and speak  truth to its illusions about mankind. The church should boldly proclaim that all is not well with humanity, that the heart is deceitful and wicked, and that all are in need of redemption.

Through the years I heard the argument repeated over and over that our methodology or our ways of “doing church” must change to reach a new generation. I’m not opposed to new ideas, creative programs, and innovative methods. But could it be that those in the culture have seen our new methodology and have mistaken it for a new theology. Perhaps a watered down theology.

When I was getting my Bachelor’s degree in Communication I was taught Marshall McLuhan’s theory that “the medium is the message.” His view was that the medium used to deliver a message is more important than the content of the message delivered.

For example, if I am interviewed by a television reporter and put on the evening news, many people will not accurately remember the message I shared, only the fact that I was on television. The medium (television) is the message. People will say “my pastor was on the news.” The medium overpowers the message.

Imagine a lost person enters a church. They hear a powerful band, listen to music with familiar beats, watch videos on screens that overpower their senses, and hear a sermon preached by someone dressed like themselves and peppered with movie clips and anecdotes from current events.

Could it be that our methodology (intended to reach that lost person and others in our culture) in fact overpowers the message we are desperately seeking to proclaim. The medium is the message.

I don’t claim to have the answers. But our culture does not seem to be impressed by the church’s message. Perhaps by attempting to identify with the culture in our  methods, our message has gotten lost. It’s hard to argue that we aren’t much better at technology, stagecraft, dramas, video, lighting, social media, etc., than ever before. But our message is more ineffective than ever.

How do we address our spiritual malaise as Baptists? What are the answers? How do we reverse the trends?

Perhaps I’m off base in my musings. What are your thoughts? Let’s put our minds, hearts, and prayers together so that we can fulfill our calling as followers of Jesus Christ to go, reach, and win the world!

So, thanks to The Atlantic for taking note of we Baptists. Your article wasn’t very flattering. But at the present time, neither are we.