Interview with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Back in November I had the privilege of sitting down with Scott Corbin from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) for an interview. The interview is now available as part of the CBMW podcast series.

Over the course of about 20 minutes, we covered topics ranging from why I chose to study and teach ethics, the nature of marriage, the place of friendship, and the work of the church.If you endure to the end, you can even here a quick synopsis of the paper I presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (aka, my nerd convention) about third-party gamete donation in assisted reproductive technology. Is the use of donor sperm and/or eggs adultery? Listen to find out what I concluded.

You can listen to the interview at the CBMW website or download it here.

Guest Post: Loving Well During the Holiday Season

SONY DSCThis is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)

A few years ago, my family moved into an older house in a well-established neighborhood. One of my favorite views is looking out over my kitchen sink, because my neighbor has a beautiful red oak standing majestically in her front yard. This time of year that tree is set ablaze with every shade of red and orange. The owner of the house is a precious lady, a widow. She and her late husband were the original builders of their home and have lived there ever since. You better believe she has some stories to tell! Over the weekend, I was trying to hastily load the kids into the van with the goal of whisking them off to another practice, event, or rehearsal. I looked across the street and saw my sweet neighbor, whose hair is the same color of her stately oak, by the way, slowly walking down her driveway to pick up some trash that had blown in her yard.

Something made me stop and watch her for a moment. God brought to my mind the contrast between the two of us; me in my haste and her in her slow, intentional, deliberate motions. I knew a very busy season was ahead of me and it made me stop and reflect on my actions. I was reminded that the Lord created me for good works and to love others. However, loving others would not come naturally and good works would not happen this season unless I was intentional and deliberate in my actions, just like my sweet neighbor. Here are some ideas that have come to mind on how I want to love well during the holidays.

  1. Open My Eyes– It might not be realistic to slow down during the Christmas season. Many of our jobs or family commitments simply lend themselves to a full calendar. However, I want to open my eyes to those around me. As I go, I want to love others. As I drive carpool, I can show kindness to my children. As I check out at the grocery store, I can encourage those working. As I am shopping, I can ask the clerk how her day has been. It is so easy to be task-oriented. However, I want to stay people oriented, so that as I accomplish my to-do list, I am also making an impact for Christ on those around me.
  2. Notice the Needs– We have an ongoing joke in our family that goes something like this- “It’s not lost until momma can’t find it.” Yes, some people in my family are more observant than others. However, that same principle can go for the needs around us as well. Christ, on numerous occasions, took notice of a need that everyone else had ignored. He stopped to help the blind man. He stopped to help the woman with an issue of blood. He stopped to minister to the family who had lost their daughter. As I go about my days, intentionally opening my eyes, I want pay attention to observe the needs around me. Is someone lonely? Is someone discouraged? Could someone use some extra groceries or a special gift just for them? We can minister to others so deeply when we reach out to meet their needs.
  3. Give Much Grace– We all want the Norman Rockwell Christmas with the perfect family gathering of laughter and well-behaved children. We want our homes to look like something out of a magazine. We want to create precious memories with our children that will last a lifetime. These are all good desires, but bad idols. In the blink of an eye, a honorable desire gets out of hand when we put it above the people in our lives and above the God who created it all. Life happens, and in our quest for perfection, the slightest inconvenience can lead to irritation. Therefore, to love well means to shower much grace on those around you, and while you are at it, give yourself much grace as well. Be quick to forgive, even the slightest irritation, for joy is like treasure this time of year. Do not exchange the Joy of the Season for the root of bitterness. God has filled our cup with grace overflowing simply by sending His son as a baby to this Earth. Delight in that grace and forgiveness and love others just as well.

Religious Liberty as the Foundation for Pro-Life and Pro-Family Policies

Just over three weeks ago, I spent several days in Salt Lake City attending the World Congress of Families IX. I was privileged to speak during one of the plenary sessions on the closing day of the congress. The title of my session was “Religious Liberty as the Foundation for Pro-Life and Pro-Family Policies.” Video from my session (and many others) is now available on the WCF YouTube channel.

As part of my presentation, I noted that there are three distinct areas where we can see the influence of religious liberty in support of pro-life and pro-family policies. These three areas are marriage, healthcare, and education.

In my conclusion, I noted the following:

At the end of the day, religious liberty sets the foundation upon which we can build the best pro-life and pro-family policies. However, these policies are not simply going to come about because a nation has religious liberty protections. Such policies are still dependent upon people of faith exercising their beliefs in the public square to give a convincing argument for why God’s design for life and family is the most beneficial for the good of society. It is when people of faith practice their faith in a society that respects their right to freely exercise such faith that we will see the most effective pro-life and pro-family policies.

I was honored to be a part of the program for the World Congress of Families. The mission of WCF is to “provide sound scholarship and effective strategies to affirm and defend the natural family, thus encouraging a sustainable and free society.” This was the first congress held in the United States. I attended my first congress in Warsaw, Poland in 2007.

On a personal note, it was fun to “teach” a little Baptist history to such an ecumenical group. In fact, most of the questions I received throughout the rest of the day related to church history. It reminded me how little people know about the history of Christianity and how important it is to continue teaching our history as Christians (and Baptists).

The Threat to Religious Liberty from Inside the Church

prayerEven in our truncated news cycle where this hour’s breaking news is yesterday’s story in a matter of minutes, the issue of religious liberty has maintained a lingering presence in the American consciousness for most of the last few months. From the rhetorical flourishes of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and dissents to the jailing and release of a county clerk in rural Kentucky for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, much has been made of this “first freedom.” While we typically think of threats to religious liberty coming from an increasingly secular culture, the most dangerous threats actually originate from within the church.

The first threat to religious liberty from inside the church is ignorance. Like many Christians, I have found myself struggling to articulate a biblical basis for this freedom. There is no passage of Scripture to which we can turn and read, “Thou shalt not infringe upon the religious liberty of your fellow citizens.”

What should we do, then? Should we dismiss religious liberty as an American invention that conveniently serves those of us who sometimes find ourselves outside of the mainstream culture? This should not be the case if we remind ourselves of the historical and biblical basis for this freedom and overcome the ignorance that threatens to undermine it.

The Anabaptists cited several texts of Scripture to support their claims for religious liberty. Matthew 13:24–30 is Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. In this parable, we see that an enemy has sown bad seed amongst the field of wheat. Rather than pulling up the tares and risk destroying some of the wheat, the farmer tells his slaves to allow the wheat and tares to grow up together. It is at the time of the harvest that the tares will be thrown into the fire and the wheat will be stored in the barn. For the Anabaptists, this was evidence that there would be people who would arise in the community and even the church that were sown by the enemy. These are heretics and heathens who do not belong but are allowed to remain so that the true believers will not be harmed by their removal. This does not mean that believers neglect to share the Gospel with these individuals, but that the true judgment is left up to God. It is not the job of the government to judge and remove these people for their unbelief. God will judge them, and His judgment is final.

We also see the biblical foundation for religious liberty in the government’s role of ensuring civil peace, not doctrinal purity. This particular teaching can be found in Romans 13:1–7. Notice some key concepts about government that we see in this passage. First, government is ordained by God. It is God who has given government its authority. It does not have any authority that He has not given it. Second, we are to submit to the government’s authority because we submit to God. Refusing to submit is to oppose the ordinance of God. Third, government functions within the scope of authority God has granted it. The government is a minister of God for those who do what is good. It exacts punishment on those who do what is evil. This is not a theological function but a civil one. Its role is to keep peace and restore order when that peace is violated.

The final biblical foundation for religious liberty we want to consider is that we have the right to persuade others of the Gospel. In Acts 18:12–17, we see that Paul is brought before Gallio and accused of disturbing the peace in Corinth. Notice the specific charge: he is accused of persuading people to worship God in a way contrary to the law. Before Paul can even defend himself, Gallio dismisses the case. He is not concerned with Jewish laws or customs of worship. Paul is free to do as he pleases, persuading men to follow Christ. The Jews exact their revenge on Sosthenes, but the government official is unconcerned about the religious dispute that is brought before him. In the very next chapter, Paul spends months in Ephesus speaking out boldly, reasoning, and persuading people to follow Christ. When he can no longer do so in the synagogue, he moves to a public forum. Over and over, we see the apostles reasoning and persuading men to follow Christ. No one is coerced to confess Christ on threat of his/her life or livelihood. People are free to accept or reject Him.

These biblical principles set a foundation on which we build the idea of religious liberty. Implicit in the text of Scripture is the idea that government has a specific function. It cannot tell people what they are to believe about God. At the same time, the church does not have the authority to use force in converting unbelievers. Therefore, both heathen and believers coexist in this world until the day of God’s judgment. It is our duty to warn, exhort and persuade these unbelievers with the Gospel, but we cannot force conversion upon them.

The second threat to religious liberty originating inside the church is arrogance. This is the idea that Christianity (and particularly conservative, evangelical varieties) is guaranteed protection while all other forms of religion are not worthy of protection against unwarranted government intrusion or restrictions. This attitude stems from an arrogance that has been developed since the days when proto-evangelicals, and Baptists in particular, were not the favored denomination.

Recent examples of this threat have been seen as some Christian leaders have attempted to block the building of houses of worship and cemeteries by religious groups that do not garner the political favor of the citizens in those locales. The fear in some of these cases is that a particular religious group will gain a majority in the government and begin to restrict the liberties of others. As long as the liberty being granted does not infringe upon the liberty of other religious groups, then such restrictions can only be classified as arbitrary. Any attempt to have a government entity impose arbitrary restrictions against a religious group that happens to find itself out of favor with mainstream citizens at this time will result in restrictions against our own religious preferences in the future.

If this type of arrogance is not corrected, then we as evangelicals—and Baptists in particular—will face the consequences of our own arrogance. The tables will turn when our religious preferences are not the preferences of the culture. In fact, that has already begun to happen. However, when we appeal to religious liberty claims to protect our own consciences, our appeals will ring hollow because we fought for discrimination against others when their time had come. This may actually be the most significant challenge to religious liberty in our day, and we are the source of that challenge.

Should we be concerned about the infringement of religious liberty from a secular government and culture? Certainly. But we also need to address the threats to religious liberty coming from our own camp—inside the church. This is a battle on two fronts. We must be prepared to stand for religious liberty both inside and outside the church.

*This post originally appeared at Theological Matters, the blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Adrian Rogers: Prince of Preachers

Two of my worlds will collide later today. The days of my youth growing up at Bellevue Baptist Church will intersect with my current ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. When I heard that SWBTS had secured the Adrian Rogers library, I was excited. Today that library will be dedicated on our campus.

There is much I could say about the influence of Adrian Rogers on my life. He was my first pastor. I learned how to follow a sermon by listening to his carefully articulated and cleverly alliterated points projected by his uniquely resonant voice. He captured my mind with his intellect and my heart with his passion.

In the days following his death, I wrote my reflections on what he meant to me as a pastor. The two memories I shared then I still cherish today.

As a 16-year-old, I had been called to ministry but did not know what to expect. At the advice of my parents, I scheduled a meeting with the pastor. It was a Wednesday night when Dr. Rogers was not preaching, so I skipped the youth Bible study and went to his office. I figured that I would get about 15 minutes of his time before he had to move on to “more important things.” Instead, he gave me all the time I wanted. I walked into his office, where he was sitting on the sofa with his feet propped up on the table in front of him. He asked me what was on my mind and we talked for nearly an hour.

I don’t remember all his advice on that day more than 21 years ago, but I do remember one item in particular. He asked me if I had any preaching opportunities coming up. Since I was leading a Bible study at my school in a couple of weeks, I responded with an excited “yes.” He asked me what text I had chosen, and I told him Romans 1:16.

I can still vividly remember his response. He leaned his head back, looked toward heaven, and gave me a perfectly alliterated four-point sermon for my text. Only then realizing what he was doing, I asked him to repeat it and grabbed my Bible and a pen and wrote the sermon outline in the margin next to Romans 1:16. I “preached” that sermon a couple of weeks later and fell into the long line of preachers who not only tried to emulate Dr. Rogers but who also tried to preach one of his sermons.

My other memory came just months before he passed away. As a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I was given the opportunity to pick up Dr. and Mrs. Rogers at the airport in April 2005 as he was flying in to preach for a chapel service. After a few weather delays, their flight landed shortly before midnight, and my wife and I were greeted by a notably energetic Dr. and Mrs. Rogers.

We got in the car and started heading toward the school when Dr. Rogers asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I gave him a couple of answers, and then I heard that famous voice speak up from the back seat of the car and say, “Well, my dear boy …”

For what seemed like an hour but was probably only 10 or 15 minutes, he described the joys of the pastorate and the impact someone can have by spending years in one church pouring himself into the people as their pastor. I could tell that he had spent his life doing what he thought was the most important role he could ever have.

During that drive to campus, he asked me about some of my professors, specifically wanting to know who I had taken for preaching. After telling him about my preaching class with Dr. Stephen Rummage, I attempted to compliment him by saying that the best preaching class I ever had was listening to him preach every week at Bellevue. The car got silent, and I halfway expected a response along the lines of “that’s too kind.” Instead, I got a glimpse of the humor many others had told me about. After a few moments of silence, he said, “You’re right. That probably was the best preaching class you could ever have.” That memory still makes me chuckle more than a decade later—but he was right.

My life has been forever shaped by the ministry of Dr. Adrian Rogers. After spending a few years in seminary, I realized that I knew what expository preaching looked like long before I knew what the words meant. I witnessed what it meant to be a man of integrity in the pulpit, even in the face of trying times and difficult circumstances. And, personally, I learned the impact that a man can have on a young preacher boy just by taking a few moments out of his schedule to sit down and talk.

I am so thankful that Southwestern Seminary will be the home of his library. I look forward to perusing the books and notes from which he developed the sermons I heard from my childhood until I left home for seminary. Adrian Rogers impacted my life in ways that I cannot even articulate. I am grateful that my students at Southwestern will be able to get a glimpse of this man I greatly respected and admired.