Opening Our Eyes to Obergefell and Its Effects: A Pastoral, Cultural, and Legal Round-Up

SCOTUSOn June 26, 2015, in a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. In the hours that have passed, Christians have been praying and wondering aloud what comes next and how we should respond. To aid our collective understanding of the Supreme Court’s decision, I’ve listed dozens of resources under the following headings:

  • The Decision: What Did the Court Decide?
  • On the Pastoral Front: What do we say to our church?
  • On the Cultural Front: What do we say to our neighbor?
  • On the Legal Front: What about religious liberty?

I am so thankful for the men and women who have been reporting and commenting on these issues. May their wise words aid you—as they have me—to think and pray and act with grace and courage for truth in these days. Still before reading any of these posts, let me encourage you to watch this two minute exhortation from Russell Moore, president of the ERLC.

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Patient Love and Compassionate Truth: Keys to Reaching the Unreachable

blimpDuring the 1950s Joseph Bayly, a Christian publisher and author, began writing modern-day parables. One of his parables was called The Gospel Blimp, which became a low-budget movie in 1967.

The story is a satirical look at evangelism; or more specifically, The Gospel Blimp portrays how Christians invent ridiculous ways of sharing Jesus, while ignoring the simple path of personal, consistent, hospitable witnessing. Here’s a summary (from IDMB).

George and Ethel are concerned about the salvation of their neighbors, but don’t know how to reach them with the gospel. During an evening get-together with George and Ethel’s Christian friends, everyone is captivated by the sight of a blimp flying overhead. Then Herm gets a bright idea: why not use a blimp to proclaim the Christian message to the unchurched citizens of Middletown?

The group incorporates, buys a used blimp, hires a pilot, then commences to evangelize their hometown by towing Bible-verse banners, ‘firebombing’ folks with gospel tracts, broadcasting Christian music and programs over loudspeakers. But a series of misadventures puts the blimp ministry in jeopardy. George becomes increasingly uneasy about the methods and business practices of International Gospel Blimps Incorporated and its “Commander”, Herm.

Running parallel to these good news messengers gone bad, are George and Ethel’s neighbors, fellow church members who are looked down upon for carousing with the unbelieving neighbors. In the end, however, it is these Christian carousers who win the neighbors to Christ.

The morale of The Gospel Blimp is simple: personal witnessing is more effective than elaborate schemes of gospel marketing.

Bayly’s parable came a couple decades before American Churches ‘de-churched’ themselves to accommodate the preferences of unbelieving seekers—what is known today as the “Seeker-Sensitive Movement.” But it also reflects the truth seen in Titus 2 that the best way for Christians to “adorn” the gospel is through humble, hospitable lives that regularly interact with unbelievers and introduce them to the message of grace and truth.

Reaching the Unreachable

This same truth was reiterated last week, as I listened to Rosaria Butterfield’s testimony at the ERLC National Conference. (If you haven’t listened to her interview with Russell Moore, you must). Rosaria is a former professor of English and lesbian, who came to faith when a local pastor (Ken Smith) and his wife befriended her, invited her into their home, regularly visited her home, and held a long-standing conversation about the claims of the Bible.

She tells her story in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convertand she begins with these jarring words:

When I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. I was at the finish of a PhD in English Literature and Cultural Studies. I was a teaching associate in one of the first and strongest Woman’s Studies Departments in the nation. I was being recruited by universities to take on faculty and administrative roles in advancing radical leftist ideologies. I genuinely believed that I was helping to make the world a better place.

At the age of 36, I was one of the few tenured women at a large research university, a rising administrator, and a community activist. I had become one of the ‘tenured radicals.’ By all standards, I had made it. That same year, Christ claimed me for himself and the life that I had known and loved came to a humiliating end.

In so many ways, Rosaria’s testimony displays the power of the gospel, but it also displays how the gospel was brought to her by an old-fashioned pastor who thought the best way to reach the unreachable was by regular, fireside conversations in his home after a well-cooked meal by his wife.

Evangelism with a Personal Touch

This kind of evangelism flies in the face of modern market-driven evangelism: it doesn’t promise numeric results; it takes time, invites hard questions, and requires Christians to rub shoulders with the ones who are “ruining our country.” Sadly, Rosaria relates how many Christians condemned Ken Smith for spending time with her.

Nevertheless, it is this kind of evangelism that the church needs to grow in. It is the kind of evangelism need to grow in. It is the evangelism Jesus modeled when he dined with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:16). And it is the evangelism found in Titus 2. After rebuking the false teachers ungodliness (1:10–16), Paul commends true believers to adorn the gospel of God by means of living godly lives in the presence of unbelievers (2:1–10).

Paul assumes that Christians will live, move, and have their being around unconverted people. And in this context, their godliness will protect the Word of God (v. 5), silence opponents (v. 8), and display the beauty of Christ our Savior (v. 10). This is the normal way of Christian living. And when it happens, God reaches the unreachable through the twin efforts of gospel witnessing and patient, humble, attentive, loving Christian hospitality, friendship, and love.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

For Your Edification (10.4.13): Caves, Co-Ed Football, and a Vision of Heaven

For Your Edification: Here are few things for you to read over, watch, pray, and think about this weekend.

God’s Creation Is Wonder-FullThis week researchers discovered a cave in China with its own weather system. Appropriately, The Weather Channel reports on this 12-acre cave that dwarfs our own Mammoth Cave. The name of the cave is called Er Wang Dong, and ‘impressive’ does not fully capture the beauty and grandeur of this cave. Check it out and give God praise for the world he has made: “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Ps 92:4).

Cave1

Cave 2

Be True To God. A few months ago, Trevin Wax questioned a view commonly held by many in our culture—the idea that above all we must be true to ourselves. Pointing to the way that corporations market this view, Wax writes,

Disney movies (and most of the rip-offs) tell our kids again and again that the most important lesson in life is to discover yourself, be true to whatever it is you discover, and then follow your heart wherever it leads.

Now, I’m not a Disney hater, and I enjoy watching good movies with my kids and passing on these memorable stories. Still, there are two assumptions behind the Disney formula that we ought to be aware of: (1) You are what you feel; (2) Embrace what you feel no matter what others say.

Trevin’s insights are well-made and deserve consideration. From the couch to the counseling room, Christians are led astray by ‘following their hearts.’ We need to reconsider this counsel and be true to God.

Football, Football, Football. Owen Strachan touched off a firestorm, when he wrote in Christianity Today a piece about “our shaken faith in football.” David Prince and Jimmy Scroggins shot back—first on Twitter and then in a full article at the ERLC Blog—arguing that the NFL data is incompatible with the sport millions of young people play.  Prince and Scroggins point to other statistics related to the dangers of endurance running and cheerleading, to make the point that we should not be overly sensitive to safety. Ironically, a point that Owen affirms whole-heartedly—see his new book The Risky Gospel. 

In the end, I think both arguments have merit, and of course, I am torn because I know each of these men and consider them friends. Personally, my mind is not made up, either way. I didn’t play high school football because I valued my body for other things. Yet, I am not ready to ban the sport, and if my son wanted to play I would support it. Still of all the comments that have ensued,  I found Jason Allen’s article the most insightful, especially as it relates to football and gender roles: Three Reasons Why My Sons Are Not Playing Football (This Year)

Heaven, A World of Love . In September, I spent the month preaching on 1 Corinthians 13.  As I preached, I picked at Jonathan Edwards book on 1 Corinthians 13, Charity and Its Fruits. His final chapter speaks on the permanence of love in heaven. He rightly suggests that heaven is a world of love. Here is a sample:

Heaven is a part of creation that God has built for this end, to be the place of His glorious presence, and it is His abode forever; and here will He dwell, and gloriously manifest Himself to all eternity. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love”; and therefore, seeing He is an infinite being, it follows that He is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing He is an all-sufficient being, it follows that He is a full and over-flowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love. And in that He is an unchangeable and eternal being, He is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love.

You can read the whole thing here: Heaven, A World of Love, or you can buy the book.

Kingdom, Culture, and MissionFinally, if you haven’t heard Dr. Russell Moore’s inauguration address from his installation as the new President of the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberties Committee), you should.

For Your Edification, dss

Encouraged by the Convention’s Consensus: Highlights from the SBC

For two days earlier this week (June 11-12), 5,100 Southern Baptist messengers filled the halls of the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.  For those two days, plus the preceding days of the Pastor’s Conference, pastors, convention leaders, and other missions-minded Baptists heard reports and discussed numerous issues ranging from the Boy Scouts, to church planting, to finding ways to work together to reach the lost with the message of the gospel.

As Dave Miller, Second Vice President of this year’s SBC, has observed there was a sweet, unified Spirit.  Few were the public disagreements; plenty were the calls for prayer, Great Commission advancement, strategic use of finances, and the willingness to work together for the sake of the lost.

As always, it was a joy to visit with old friends and to meet new ones.  Still the thing that was most outstanding during these days was the unified spirit expressed by Calvinism Advisory Committee. Leading up to the convention much speculation was offered concerning what this nineteen-person committee  would report to the SBC. It is with great joy to see the consensus statement,  Truth, Trust, Testimony in a Time of Tension, issued a few weeks ago. At the convention, this optimism was furthered by watching the way that these “alpha males” (Frank Page’s words, not mine) and one lady worked together with charity and passion for the gospel.

Therefore, as I lay out some of the highlights from the convention, please excuse the focus on this report and its effects. It was to me, and others I spoke with, a great source of encouragement. To see Eric Hankins and Paige Patterson working with Mark Dever and Albert Mohler is a model for the rest of us. I pray that the effect of their statement and Houston’s convention may bear lasting fruit for the sake of the gospel.  Accordingly, we list their Q & A first and follow with the other highlights.

  • Just before lunch on Monday, twelve of the nineteen members of the Calvinism Advisory Team met for a Q & A. During this time, the audience was invited to ask questions, and over the course of an hour, it was evident that the very diverse group had a genuine care for each other and desire to see soteriological Calvinists and Traditionalists (non-Calvinists) work together for the advancement of the gospel. To date there is not an audio of that event, but there is a Baptist Press article that nicely summarizes a number of the key responses.
  • Contrast this diversified but unified group with the Baptist Twenty-One interview conducted with President of Louisana College (LC), Joe Aguillard. At the request of this embroiled President, John Akin spent close to an hour asking some hard-hitting questions about the hiring practices and firing decisions at LC. He discussed the sufficiency of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, who has the right to determine its interpretation, and the nature of hyper-Calvinism. If you are looking for clear answers to each question, you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking to find out why the school is experiencing such trouble with Calvinism,  the interview will make it plain. Fortunately, the negative and often unintelligible sentiments expressed by President Aguillard were drowned out by the clearer and more charitable sentiments of men like Eric Hankins and Albert Mohler.
  • Another point of great cooperation and consensus was found in the Baptist 21 luncheon. In this panel discussion between R. Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Danny Akin, David Platt, and Matt Carter, my friend Jedidiah Coppenger asked questions ranging from the challenges of ‘gay marriage’ and the recent decision of the Boy Scouts to disciple-making in the local church. He also handled the subject of Calvinism in the SBC, where Dr. Mohler gave an impassioned articulation that hyper-Calvinism has no place in the SBC. He clarified that hyper-Calvinism is not the same an over-zealous brand of Calvinism (‘hyper’ Calvinism). Rather, hyper-Calvinism, historical defined, is a person who refuses to make a universal offer of the gospel. As Danny Akin would later say in his SBC sermon, unwillingness to share the gospel is the result of aberrant theology—regardless if it is Calvinistic or Traditionalist. Therefore, in this panel discussion there was real engagement with some challenges facing Baptists, and a unanimous commitment to sharing the gospel. (Baptist 21 hopes to have the video of this luncheon up next week; stay tuned here).
  • This spirit of cooperation was evidenced in the convention, but it was also evidenced by individuals who signed the statement. For instance, Tom Ascol gives four reasons why he is encouraged by the statement. Likewise, Albert Mohler penned this reflections and hope for this statement.  In the convention itself, President Fred Luter was extremely gracious (just remember how he handled an impassioned mega-church pastor from Arkansas), and Frank Page’s posture towards the Calvinism discussion was exemplary.  Truth be told, I am so encouraged by the way that he has led this group. His desire for a unity and cooperation was evident in the discussion on Monday and on the platform when he announced the results of the Advisory Committee (to see that presentation go the SBC Convention page, select Tuesday Afternoon, look for Frank Page’s session, scroll to 13:13-21:00). Southern Baptists have great reason to give thanks for our “Chief Encouragement Officer.”
  • Still, the top report—in my opinion—was that of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee (ERLC). The report came in two parts. First, retiring ERLC president, Richard Land, reflected on his years of service. This was followed by a video montage that wonderfully captured the effect of this man’s twenty-five year service. This was only exceeded by Russell Moore’s opening report as the newly-appointed president of the ERLC. This message, coupled with his Q & A on Tuesday night, gives me great hope for the cultural engagement that Southern Baptists will embark upon in the next twenty-five years.  As an aside, you can witness Moore’s even-handed approach to religious liberty and the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in his article, “Why Calvinists and Arminians (and those in between) Can Unite for Religious Liberty.”
  • Finally, Danny Akin’s message, “Six Marks of a Great Commission People,” reinforced the week’s theme: We must be unified in our passion for the gospel and the communication of this gospel to all people—especially those with no access to the gospel. This message closed the convention, and fittingly it gave all the messengers a clear call to go and make disciples of all nations. As always, this is why Southern Baptists unite. We are a Great Commission people, and I pray that the meetings, messages, and appointments that filled this week will serve to advance the gospel in the next 365 days.

All in all, the week was filled with highlights. I am sure I left some out. Next year’s convention is in Baltimore, and it is already on my calendar. I hope you will check out some of these highlights listed above and plan to join us next June.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss