Biblically Sound Now on Kindle

For those of you interested in an electronic version of my new Bible study, Biblically Sound: Embracing Doctrine for Life, you can now get it on Kindle. The print version is currently selling for $13.59 (list price is $14.99) on Amazon, and the Kindle editions sells for $5.49.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

From the window of my office, I watched the construction of the MacGorman Chapel on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Each day I was able to see the progress on the project. After the first few weeks of demolition and clearing the land, there seemed to be little or no progress from day to day. In fact, this lack of progress went on for a couple of months. I saw plenty of activity from workers, trucks, earth-moving equipment, etc. However, there was no visible progress being made. These first few months of construction, nevertheless, were the most important part. The workers were building the foundation.

Studying doctrine for the Christian often feels like watching a construction crew build a foundation. There seems to be a great amount of activity, but the results don’t appear visible. Just like the foundation is essential for the stability of a building, studying theology is crucial to the long-term stability of the believer.

The goal of this study is to provide you with the basics of biblical doctrine to make sure your foundation is sound. At times this will feel like the difficult work of laying an unseen foundation for a building. At other times, however, it will feel like we are soaring to great heights as we explore the breadth and length and height and depth of our faith.

In order to accomplish our goal of being biblically sound in our doctrine, we will take a step-by-step journey through the key doctrines of the Christian faith. In many respects, these are the non-negotiables of the faith.

As with any of my Bible studies, if you are interested in ordering 10 or more copies for your church, class, or small group, feel free to contact me by clicking on my faculty profile and using the contact information found there.

Good Reading: Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future

The Public Discourse has posted a very interesting article from Mark Regnerus on the connections between support for same-sex marriage and other issues related to sexual morality. Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and became (in)famous for an article he published about the effects on children raised in a same-sex couple households.

In this article, Regnerus documents the beliefs of churchgoing Christians (attending 3 or more services per month) regarding sexual morality. He specifically looks at the differences in beliefs between those who support same-sex marriage and those who oppose same-sex marriage. The related issues include pornography, cohabitation, hook-ups, adultery, polyamory, and abortion.

Here are some of the highlights:

Primarily, this exercise concerns the attitudes of all churchgoing Christians who express support for same-sex marriage. And since the LGBT population remains a small minority (and even smaller in organized religious communities), it’s reasonable to conclude that the sexual morality that “welcoming” congregations or individual Christians profess will have largely been fashioned—and maintained—by sympathetic heterosexuals. These are and will remain the majority (and hence, the norm) in all congregations, save for the Metropolitan Community Church and perhaps scattered congregations of the United Church of Christ.

Regnerus includes a table with the numbers and makes some observations:

So what do the numbers say? The table above displays the share of each group who either “agree” or “strongly agree” with the seven statements listed above. At a glance, there is a pretty obvious fissure between Christians who do and do not oppose same-sex marriage. More than seven times as many of the latter think pornography is OK. Three times as many back cohabiting as a good idea, six times as many are OK with no-strings-attached sex, five times as many think adultery could be permissible, thirteen times as many have no issue with polyamorous relationships, and six times as many support abortion rights. The closest the two come together is over the wisdom of a married couple staying together at all costs (except in cases of abuse).

Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage look very much like the country as a whole—the population average (visible in the third column). That answers my original question. What would a pro-SSM Christian sexual morality look like? The national average—the norm—that’s what.

He concludes:

Churchgoers who oppose same-sex marriage sense that they are out of step with the rest of the nation about sex and relationships. (The numbers above reinforce that.) And Christians who favor legalizing same-sex marriage often remain embattled with those who oppose it, and yet sense that their own views on sexuality still lag behind those gay and lesbian Christians from whom they’ve have become convinced of the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. That, too, is true. Gay and lesbian Christians, in turn, have much in common with gay and lesbian non-Christians—their social circles often overlap. The sexual norms of the former are not as permissive as the latter, but are still well above the national average in permissiveness. The latter likely constitutes a reference group for gay and lesbian Christians (together with heterosexual Christians with whom they are in fellowship).

The full article is worth your time, and you can find it here.

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Mark Regnerus, “Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future,” The Public Discourse, August 11, 2014.

New Bible Study Available: Biblically Sound

More than a year ago, I embarked on a journey of writing two Bible studies commissioned by Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. At long last, the journey is complete. Biblically Sound: Embracing Doctrine for Life is the second study, and it is now available for purchase through the CreateSpace Store and on Amazon. Biblically Sound is a 10-week study of basic Christian doctrine from an admittedly Baptist perspective. This study is great for small or large group Bible study, Sunday school classes, or special doctrinal emphasis teaching as a congregation.

Don’t think of this study as a seminary-level systematic theology class. I have intentionally stayed away from much of the technical language found in formal, academic study of theology while still dealing with several nuanced views of theology. You will find that I direct you to the Scripture to answer questions because it is the Bible that forms the foundation of our theology.

If you want to see how one church used the study, you can watch the videos from Bellevue Baptist Church’s women’s ministry here. The large group time was co-taught by Donna Gaines (wife of Pastor Steve Gaines) and Jean Stockdale (longtime MOMS Bible study teacher at Bellevue).

You can always purchase copies of Biblically Sound and Biblically Correct through CreateSpace or Amazon. However, if you are interested in purchasing 10 or more copies for your church, please feel free to contact me by email or phone (you will find that information on my faculty profile), and I can work with you on pricing for large orders.

Guest Post: Homeschooling: 3 Things I’ve Learned

This 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.

This fall, we are entering our fifth year of homeschooling. Our third child will start kindergarten, so we will officially have more children in school than not. Over the last few years, I have learned many things about my children’s learning styles, temperaments, and intellect. However, in the same way, I have learned a great amount about who I am and how God created me.

As a mom who teaches my children at home, I have come to understand that it is vital for me to know who I am and be content in who God created me to be. If you are familiar with “The Four Temperaments,” I am a sanguine. As such, I like to make the home fun. I can handle any disaster with humor and a good dance session. However, I struggle with hyper-organization. Oftentimes, my children have an easier time of staying on schedule than I do. Embracing these observations in myself and diligently not comparing myself to others of different personalities has given me the freedom to run my house in a way that works for us and accomplishes God’s purposes at the same time.

These are a few tips that I have begun to use that make homeschooling work for us.

  1. We have a rhythm, not a schedule. As I mentioned before, firm day-to-day schedules overwhelm me. Therefore, my family functions on a rhythm. We all get up at the same time, get dressed, eat breakfast, and then start school. My benchmark for this is 9:00 a.m. It is my goal to transition from household duties into our school day by this time. Once our school day gets started, each of my kids has a different order in which to do their work. This allows me to work with each of the children one-on-one at various times of the morning. Again, the most important concept to me is not that we stay within the exact time frame, but that the children know, once they finish a certain task, it is time for the next. At 10:30, we all take a break. They play outside while I usually switch the laundry from washer to dryer or something exciting like that. I have found that I do better when I can see tangible accomplishments throughout the day. So in the midst of working on reading with my first grader (a more long-term task), I feel accomplished because I completed a load of laundry. After break, we come back together for more schooling. We break again at lunch, and then the older children finish whatever schoolwork they haven’t already completed. They also practice their musical instruments or play sports. Therefore, a specific time might look different each day, but there is a rhythm that stays the same.
  2. Everyone has time alone and time in a group every day. Just like me, my kids all have different temperaments. For my introverts, they need to work with others in the room. However, they also need time alone to refocus and recharge. For my extroverts, they need to understand the benefit of quiet and alone time as well as enjoy the fun of everyone being together. My youngest, at age 2, is already a definite extrovert. It is hard for her to be by herself. However, last year, I carved out 30 minutes on every homeschool day for her to practice playing by herself. She did not like it, but it benefited everyone. Even I take a time out after lunch to have my quiet and Bible study time. I put my little ones down to nap, my older children begin their school work again, and I grab a cup of coffee, and sit down with God.
  3. It takes all kinds to make the world go around. Some of my kids excel at academics, some don’t. Some work well in groups, some don’t. Some thrive on schedule and organization; some (like me) are more creative and relaxed. After four years of homeschooling, this idea has become paramount: We are different, but we are good for each other. Oftentimes I wish I was more detailed-oriented or naturally organized. But God reminds me that He created me for a purpose. I can encourage my daughter who is very task oriented to notice people more and consider their feelings. However, she is good for me and helps me stay on task and inspires me to work on ways to improve my organization skills. This training in the home is very applicable in the world. In the church or in the workplace, we will encounter different personality types. In each situation, we can appreciate each of our strengths and learn from each other to improve on our weaknesses.

Maybe you can identify with some of the lessons I have learned in the last four years. Have you been trying to be someone you are not in your homeschooling? Have you accepted your kids for who they are, complete with the personalities God gave them? After these first years of homeschooling, there are still areas where I want to improve, but the lessons God has taught me about myself have been priceless.

The Dark Side of Surrogacy

The Associated Press released a story yesterday highlighting the dark side of surrogacy. A Thai woman who served as a surrogate for an Australian couple is still caring for the 7-month-old boy to whom she gave birth after the biological parents did not take custody of him because he was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition.

For the uninitiated in the world of assisted reproductive technologies, surrogacy is the practice of using a third-party gestational carrier in order to have a baby. In simpler terms, a couple signs a contract with a woman to carry and give birth to their baby for a fee. At birth, the baby is handed over to the parents who initiated the contract. The details can vary on who the biological parents are and what (if any) role the surrogate could have in the life of the child. But the essence of the practice is that a woman gives birth to a child who is not hers biologically.

The surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, was promised approximately $9,300 to be a surrogate. During her seventh month of pregnancy, doctors and the surrogacy agency informed her that one of the twins she was carrying had Down syndrome. They suggested she have an abortion. Pattaramon refused to have an abortion and is now caring from the boy after the biological parents took his twin sister back to Australia.

What makes this situation more complicated is the fact that paying a surrogate is illegal in Australia, and it is also illegal to pay a surrogate living in another country in some states of Australia. By contrast, Thailand has few regulations regarding surrogacy and is a popular destination for those seeking an international surrogacy contract.

What should we think about this situation and surrogacy in general?

First, we need to recognize the callous nature of actions taken by the biological parents. They have apparently abandoned their child in another country due to medical hardships that he faces. They do not recognize the value of all life. Genesis 1:26–27 clearly states that we have been created in the image of God. Even though sin has brought disease and pain into the world, we are still image bearers, even those who face serious medical hardships.

Second, we need to recognize that technology is not ethically neutral. Just because someone can employ a surrogate to give birth to a child does not mean that it should happen. Surrogacy is often described as an industry because it represents a service to be bought and sold. There are moral implications that come with participating in this industry. For the Christian, the moral problems with surrogacy raise major red flags about the value of human life, using other humans as a means to an end, and potentially allowing another person to make life-and-death choices for your child with little or no input.

Third, we need to understand that surrogacy amounts to the commodification of people. Buying and selling the womb of a woman for the sake of having a child reduces both the surrogate and the child to a commodity. The surrogate’s womb has been purchased to provide a service. The child is the “product” of that service. Money is at the center of the surrogacy agreement. Certainly there are times when surrogates may provide their services free of charge, but it is still a commodity to be negotiated for. Little thought is usually given to the price the surrogate pays to give up a child immediately after giving birth. The child may not be her biological offspring, but she has devoted the last nine months of her life to caring for the child in her womb.

We need to think twice before promoting this reproductive technology. The costs are high for all involved, and the children are the ones who potentially suffer the most.

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Rod McGuirk, “Australia May Intervene in Surrogate Baby Case,” Associated Press, August 4, 2014.