CNN reported on a tragic story about a woman whose boyfriend tricked her into taking an abortion-inducing drug after she told him she was pregnant. The boyfriend, John Andrew Welden, is now facing first-degree murder charges for killing the unborn child. Welden told his girlfriend that his father, a doctor, had prescribed her an antibiotic for an infection. In reality, Welden gave her an abortion-inducing drug, and the pregnancy was terminated.
This story is undoubtedly tragic, and Welden deserves to face punishment for first-degree murder. However, the undercurrent of this story is working against the tide of abortion-rights advocates. Note with me the inconsistency of the logic of our laws and of abortion advocates.
The pregnancy of Remee Lee was terminated by her boyfriend, the supposed father of the child. Since it was against the will of the mother, Welden is being charged with first-degree murder. However, if Lee had terminated the pregnancy herself, it would have been perfectly legal and perhaps even applauded by abortion advocates. Even if the abortion had been against the will of the father, the mother would have been within her legal rights to have an abortion.
Why is this a problem? The charge of first-degree murder implies the pre-meditated killing of innocent human life. It implies value in the life that is lost. In this case, it is the life of an unborn child.
What makes an abortion elected by the mother any different? The charge of first-degree murder cannot be levied against Welden for any physical harm incurred by Ms. Lee. Instead, it is directly centered upon the loss of life for the baby. The attorneys may even argue that the life was taken against the will and rights of the unborn child. In the same way, abortions performed according to the will of the mother take the life of an unborn child against his/her will and rights. Why is it murder for the boyfriend to induce an abortion and not when a woman chooses it on her own?
The inconsistency is glaring but unspoken in our culture.
“He is intellectually the most eminent of conservative theologians. I would say he’s been the professor and I’ve been the student.” So said Billy Graham reflecting upon the influence of Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003). Like Philipp Melanchthon to Martin Luther, or Andrew Fuller to William Carey, with the passing of time the figures in history that built the theological infrastructure to support and defend an evangelical movement often fade from popular memory. Graham, Luther, Carey we know, but names like Carl F. H. Henry are not readily in view. Although unknown, Henry is not forgotten. Gregory Alan Thornbury’s latest work is quickly becoming one of the books to read this year. This is a welcomed and needed volume, for the perceptive Thornbury observes, “So it seems as though there may still be enough of us left who believe that Carl Henry, a key to evangelicalism’s past, may in fact be a cipher to its future.” What is it then that made Henry so effective in his day and thus worth reviewing now? Carl Trueman believes that one part of what made Henry remarkable was his “unerring ability to see the big picture, to focus on issues of real substance, and to communicate the significance of these issues to the theological public.” Henry saw this big picture first in his younger days as a journalist.
Carl Ferdinand Howard Henry was born to immigrant parents in January 1913 in Long Island, New York. Following the practices of American Episcopalianism, Henry ventured through confirmation at the age of twelve but later, in his words, abandoned “all that institutional religion could offer.” However, upon graduation from high school, Henry took a position at The Islip Press where he would meet one of the most important people to impact his life. Mrs. Mildred Christy “a white-haired, middle-aged lady” served as a secretary to the editor and would regularly tell Henry she was praying for him. On one occasion where Henry took the Lord’s name in vain, she expressed her hurt to Henry, and he felt it. “I knew she was a widow. What I did not know was that her teenage son, whom I apparently resembled, had recently died in California in a motorcycle accident. Nor did I know that she prayed God to give her a son in the ministry, or at least, in the Lord. What’s more she alerted two friends in Ohio—with whom as a teenager she had often sung gospel songs in churches and rescue missions—to put me, of all people, on their prayer list. To be on the prayer list of that triumvirate, of local believers like Martha Gorton, too, was like being at the mercy of an air assault.” Four years later, a persistent Mrs. Christy would offer Henry regular invitations to church and then finally to meet a special guest speaker. After a series of excuses and rebuffs, Henry finally agreed to meet the speaker, and the man both challenged Henry and answered the burdening questions of his heart. On June 10, 1933, Carl Henry trusted Christ.
To be on the prayer list of that triumvirate, of local believers like Martha Gorton, too, was like being at the mercy of an air assault.
After his conversion, Henry went to Wheaton College where he met his future wife, Helga, and continued working as a journalist. After marriage, he earned a degree from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. While serving as a part of the founding faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, he completed a Ph.D. from Boston University in philosophy. In 1947, Henry published The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, a book Russell Moore terms, “perhaps the most important evangelical book of the twentieth century.” There, Henry critiqued retracting fundamentalism as well as social gospel liberalism and called for a “rediscovery of the revelational classic and the redemptive power of God, which shall lift our jaded culture to a level that gives significance again to human life.” So it is fitting to see a call for the rediscovery of Henry as really a call to rediscover the foundational principles of a God who makes himself known in his revealed Word. While at Fuller, Henry helped launch Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine designed to “take academic theology to the masses” and to give pastors an alternative to the more theologically liberal Christian Century magazine. Henry’s tenure with Christianity Today lasted until 1968 and saw the magazine circulate to over 160,000. After spending a year researching and writing abroad, Henry returned to various teaching posts but focused primarily on his majestic six volume God, Revelation, and Authority. What is more, while rightly seen as the premier twentieth century evangelical theologian, Carl Henry was also a Baptist by conviction and served his denomination in a similar supportive role during a time of controversy. Henry passed away in 2003.
Henry’s journalism background helped him tackle substantive and crucial theological issues in a way that not only left no doubt what he believed but also displayed how his beliefs came as the result of well-reasoned arguments. In response to the idea that one might believe in Jesus but not in the truthfulness of Scripture, Henry states, “The indispensability of personal faith in Christ in no way implies the dispensability of the Scriptures as the Word of God written; apart from Scripture, we can say nothing certain either about Jesus Christ or about the necessity of personal faith in him” (GR&A, 4.203). Here, Henry in long form expounds what he had since been articulating for evangelicals for some time, that “if evangelicalism is not defined on revelatory grounds, then it wasn’t worth the effort.” When asked how he would define evangelicalism theologically, Henry replied, “In 1 Corinthians 15:1-14, the indispensability of biblical theology to a sound doctrinal foundation is placed beyond doubt. An evangelical is one who is Scripture-accordant. Twice, the apostle Paul stipulates faith ‘according to the Scriptures.’ He said this in a context that includes the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without this dependence on and submission to biblical revelation, there is no evangelicalism.” In a New York Times story chronicling his departure from Christianity Today, the author noted Henry’s flair, writing, “In a recent speech he called Protestantism’s ‘modernist’ bent ‘a bag of wind theologically,’ and said that the ‘death of God sideshow has already gone bankrupt.’” In a 1963 Christianity Today report following a meeting with theologian Karl Barth, Henry cleverly stated, “Barth has given new vitality to the Reformation formula of soli Deo gloria. But historical evangelicalism held not only to soli Deo; it held also to sola Scriptura.” As Albert Mohler notes, Henry’s style of “aggressive engagement” on these issues is the very thing that aided his “effective and thorough restatement of the evangelical doctrine of revelation and biblical authority.” In 2013, the year that would have marked his 100th birthday, the name Carl F. H. Henry is probably not known to many evangelicals. But, should a recovery of Henry’s life and thought occur, perhaps a new generation will join Billy Graham in the glad acknowledgement that Carl Henry’s “been the professor and I’ve been the student.”
- Carl. F. H. Henry, Confessions of a Theologian: An Autobiography (Word, 1986).
- Carl. F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 vols. (Crossway, 1999).
- Carl F. H. Henry, “Fifty Years a Baptist,” in Tom J. Nettles and Russell D. Moore, eds., Why I Am A Baptist (B&H, 2001).
- R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Carl F. H. Henry,” David S. Dockery and Timothy George, eds., Theologians of the Baptist Tradition (B&H, 2001).
- The Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: http://www.henrycenter.org/about/timeline/his-works
- “Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003): A Tribute,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Winter 2004).
- Gregory Alan Thornbury, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry (Crossway, 2013).
When I tell people about my wife’s job, they are usually very impressed. Their sentiments are usually expressed in statements like “Wow, that is amazing” or “I could never do that.” What does she do? She is a diligent homemaker who homeschools our children. I should add that we have five children (two preschoolers, one elementary age and two middle-schoolers). We do not have the version of preschoolers that sit still for hours quietly looking at books or playing with blocks. We do not have the type of school-aged children that rise early from their beds with no outside prompting but simply due to the day’s academic potential. So, she is motivator, caregiver, educator, disciplinarian, lunchroom worker and mom each day. Her daily routine is tiresome. Her weekly responsibilities are numerous. Her annual task is daunting. I am grateful to her for her heroic efforts for our children’s sake. I am amazed by thousands of other mommy-teachers like her. Besides the fact that there is a level of calling to being a home educator, why does she sacrifice so much of herself and use up so much of her youthful years? Well, we are not idealists. We do not think that by keeping our children home that we are protecting from being exposed to evil influences. Evil flies into our home through a variety of channels, web pages or conversations. It comes inherent in the hearts of the people who live in our house. We do not think that by homeschooling that our children will be the perfect students. They can still find shortcuts in their assignments. They can still “get away with things” even in a class of three. With these realities noted, there are at least three things that we enjoy about homeschooling.First, we love the holistic nature of home education.
Our children are not just students who need to learn. They are also family members who need to share, neighbors who need to love and people who need to strive for the well being of others. In our homeschool environment, we are trying to address all of these areas for growth. There are a variety of ways that my wife (the teacher) looks for opportunities to train our children while aiding their mental development.Second, we love the integration of home education.
We love that we can teach about a topic from the Bible, using history or science and through literature. For example, we teach our children about creationism. From the Bible, we can help them learn the six-day creation described in Genesis 1-2. We can point out that God’s creative work climaxes in the creation of the first humans, both male and female, making human life and relationship with God realities in the created order. Through science, we can teach the intricacies of the design of the created order and how geological records do not lead to evolutionary conclusions. We can also teach that the Bible provides unique and accurate insights into what really happened in ancient history and gives the theological importance of such events. Our kids can read some of the best literature ever written and learn about some of the most compelling people who have ever lived as they read their Bibles as a part of their school curriculum.Third, we love the realistic nature of home education.
As I mentioned above, spending each day with our children during homeschool, my wife is acutely aware of where the challenges are for each of my children. She knows who gets tripped up on basic math facts, who pauses when reading sight words and who mixes up the explorers and their territories. She also knows who struggles with laziness, who struggles with pride-filled accomplishments and who gets easily distracted. She knows who looks for ways to help their younger siblings and who is quick to criticize or quick to be angry. Homeschool provides a good environment to affect growth in all of these areas.
Not all mothers can or should be home educators. But the ones that have chosen this often under-appreciated vocation deserve encouragement and appreciation (and probably a day off). Happy Mother’s Day!
 See the statements on scientific and biblical creationism from the Institute of Creation Research (www.icr.org). E.g. “The first human beings did not evolve from an animal ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form from the start. Furthermore, the “spiritual” nature of man (self-image, moral consciousness, abstract reasoning, language, will, religious nature, etc.) is itself a supernaturally created entity distinct from mere biological life.”
 See the ICR statements: “The record of earth history, as preserved in the earth’s crust, especially in the rocks and fossil deposits, is primarily a record of catastrophic intensities of natural processes, operating largely within uniform natural laws, rather than one of gradualism and relatively uniform process rates. There are many scientific evidences for a relatively recent creation of the earth and the universe, in addition to strong scientific evidence that most of the earth’s fossiliferous sedimentary rocks were formed in an even more recent global hydraulic cataclysm.”
Matthew records an account during the ministry of Jesus that took place after the execution of John the Baptist. The Gospel accounts that after Jesus learned of those events, He withdrew to a deserted place alone. The people soon discovered where Jesus was, and a large crowd gathered on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee to spend time with Him. Here, we see the compassion of Jesus who, despite His own personal sorrow, saw that the multitudes were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). He was moved with compassion for them and healed the sick among them.
The people were so enraptured by Jesus that they lost track of time (has that ever happened to you?). When evening came, the disciples went to Jesus and suggested that He should send the people away, since it was getting late. From the disciples’ perspective, the people needed to go home or into the villages to buy something to eat.
These are the same Jesus-followers who had earlier found him by a well talking with a woman past dinner time and encouraged Him to eat and heard Jesus respond, “I have food that you know not of” (John 4:32). Could it be that we, too, miss the spiritual for our preoccupation with the physical?
Jesus responded to the disciples in Matthew 14, “They don’t need to go away. [They need you to] give them something to eat.” The emphasis is on what the people need, more than what the shepherd may want. That same principle is true in the church. People don’t need to go away. They need you to give them something to eat.
People don’t need to go away. They need you to give them something to eat.
I wonder if in our fixation on the last part of Jesus’ instructions, we’ve missed the emphasis on the former. While it is true, we need to feed them, it is also true that they don’t need to go away. The idea is that this is where they need to be. Yet, like wandering sheep, too often, crowds are going away from the church today. The Lord reminds us in Scripture that they, too, are the responsibility of the shepherd.
It has become acceptable in the church today that the “back door” allows the exit of as many sheep as the “front door” welcomes.
The Lord rebuked the unfaithful shepherds in Ezekiel 34 for their lack of concern for the sheep who had wandered away. The sheep had wandered and become prey (34:5; cf. John 10:12), they were scattered across the world (34:5-6; cf. 1 Kings 22:7), and most significantly, no one was going after them (34:6, 8; cf. Jeremiah 10:21). Sadly, the shepherds were both unfaithful and unconcerned.
Contrast that attitude with that of the Lord, who said in vss. 12-13 (cf. Jer. 23:3) – “I will bring them back.” Pastor, don’t let the sheep just wander away. Bring them back.
To be sure, sheep wander for a variety of reasons: some for their own sin; some due to the oppression of the enemy; and some because of the carelessness of the shepherd. But regardless of why they are missing, it is the shepherd’s job to cause them to return.
The Gospel writer tells us in Matthew 9:36, Jesus had compassion on the multitude because they were scattered (emphasis mine). The shepherds were under indictment in Ezekiel 34 because the sheep were scattered under their watch and they did not bring them back.
The error of the leaders was their flagrant disregard for the people, letting them be scattered without looking for them (vv. 5–6). Three times in verses 5–6 Ezekiel mentioned that the sheep were scattered. The chief job of a shepherd was to prevent such a catastrophe. Ezekiel was probably alluding to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities which had scattered Israel and Judah among the nations. The shepherds had been unable to prevent the very thing they were appointed to guard against.
If the shepherd can’t prevent the sheep from being scattered, he must at least seek to repossess them. We are not given the luxury of in vitro fertilizing our congregations with custom-made sheep. Nor are we given the alternative of dismissing some wandered-away sheep because we like the fact that they are no longer in the fold or we perceive that it is not worth the effort to retrieve them.
When the sheep are scattered, regardless of why they are gone, it is the mandate of the shepherd to bring them back. We cannot simply focus on bringing in new sheep and disregard bringing back those who have left. We must follow the example of the Good Shepherd and be moved again with compassion for all the sheep.
Editor’s note: This is a companion piece to the article “Seven Summits Worth Climbing in Church History: William Carey” by Jason G. Duesing, vice president for strategic initiatives at Southwestern Seminary.
In one of my favorite parts of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien provides a commentary on friendship:
‘Yes, sir!’ said Sam. ‘Begging your pardon, sir! But I mean no wrong to you, Mr. Frodo, nor to Mr. Gandalf for that matter. He has some sense, mind you; and when you said go alone, he said no! take someone as you can trust.’
‘But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,’ said Frodo.
Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin — to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours — closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face your trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid — but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.’ 
As I was researching and writing my recent article on William Carey, I was reminded of the significant role that friendship played in the the launch of the modern missions movement. In an odd way, Tolkien’s conversation among Hobbits could very well have been like the talk of Andrew Fuller to Carey as they crafted their plan to take the gospel to the world:
“It all depends on what you want,’ said Fuller to Carey. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin — to the bitter end.”
The idea of friendship is an important one in the Christian life and throughout church history who are the friends of a significant figure often have made all the difference.
Michael A. G. Haykin has spent a good deal of time exploring and encouraging others to explore the theme of friendship in history especially as it relates to these group of eighteenth century Baptists. In his fine article, “With a Little Help from My Friends,” Haykin describes specifically the friendship of pastors John Ryland, Jr. and Fuller—two of the key leaders of the Baptist Missionary Society that supported and “held the rope” for the Serampore Trio (Carey, Marshman, and Ward) on the field.
Ryland and Fuller first met in 1778 when both of them were young men and were wrestling with a number of extremely important theological issues. Within a year they became the closest of friends. After Fuller moved to Kettering in 1782 the two of them had frequent opportunities to talk, to pray, and to spend time together, since Northampton and Kettering are only thirteen miles apart. Their friendship would remain unbroken for the next thirty-seven years, till Fuller’s death in 1815.
The story of the unbroken friendship of all these men brings to mind:
(Ecclesiastes 4:12, ESV): And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Proverbs 18:24, ESV): A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
To be sure there are times when God sets us apart and alone for his sanctifying purposes, but today I am reminded and thankful for the frequent grace he provides through the regular and faithful presence of friends—near and far—and how, often, it is his plan to use the friends in an individual’s life as the primary means to accomplish great things for his glory.
The presence and power of friendship is good and right as it is what the Lord Jesus modeled for us and still provides for us. He is the one who, when we were separated and far from him due to our sin, brought us near at the price of his own blood (Eph 2:12-13). He loved us, laid down his life, and called us friends (John 15:13-15).
 J. R. R. Tolkien, Chapter 5, “A Conspiracy Unmasked,” in The Fellowship of the Ring.
“He keeps the grand end in view.” After arriving in India in September 1796, John Fountain used these words to describe his first impressions of William Carey (1761-1834). A missionary pioneer, organizer, catalyst, survivor, and inspiration, Carey lived 73 full years and changed the modern world. J. H. Kane argues that Carey’s missions tract, An Enquiry, was “a landmark in Christian history and deserves a place alongside Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses.” Carey’s nephew attributed much of Carey’s fruitful longevity to “invincible patience in labour, and uninterrupted constancy.” Carey would not agree with these assessments. In his words, if one were to “give me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod.”
A missionary pioneer, organizer, catalyst, survivor, and inspiration, Carey lived 73 full years and changed the modern world.
Born in a small village to a devout Anglican family, Carey regularly attended church but experienced no major life transformation. By his teens he apprenticed as a shoemaker in a neighboring town, and through the persistent witness of his co-worker, John Warr, Carey saw his need for a Savior. Soon after his conversion, he left the Church of England and attended a Congregationalist church while intently reading and studying the Scriptures. When faced with the quandary of defending from the Bible his own infant baptism, Carey sought aid from John Ryland Sr., the pastor of College Lane Baptist Church in Northampton. In October 1783, Carey received believer’s baptism from the pastor’s son, John Ryland Jr. Shortly thereafter, another pastor encouraged Carey to preach for a small congregation while maintaining his shoemaking trade. By 1785, Carey accepted a vocational pastorate in Moulton. There he established a friendship with Baptist pastor Andrew Fuller of neighboring Kettering.
During this time Carey’s regular reading of the voyages of Captain James Cook opened his eyes to the world. In addition, Robert Hall Sr.’s Help to Zion’s Travellers, a doctrinal primer molded from the evangelical theology of Jonathan Edwards and distinct from the hyper-Calvinist climate in England among Baptists, helped shape Carey’s theological thinking more than any other book outside the Bible. With a theology that held the sovereignty of God in balance with the responsibility of man and a growing zeal to see the saving message of the Lord Jesus taken to the ends of the earth, Carey set out to organize his thoughts for accomplishing this task. After wrestling with the Great Commission in Matthew 28, Carey raised the notion of global evangelism at a minister’s meeting in 1785, but was told he “was a most miserable enthusiast for asking such a question.” Despite the discouragement, Carey continued his planning and, as Timothy George notes, his “concern for the unevangelized heathen in distant lands did not slacken his zeal to share the good news of Jesus Christ with sinners at home.”
In 1789, Carey went to pastor the Harvey Lane Church in Leicester. By May 1792 he published An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, an argument that the Great Commission remained as a mandate for all churches. Nathan Finn argues that Carey’s Enquiry is merely the application of what he first learned from Robert Hall’s doctrinal primer to foreign missions. In the Enquiry, Carey answered common objections to the idea of cross-cultural evangelism as well as documenting, in great detail, the vast numbers of people outside of Christ. As Timothy George explains, “Carey’s statistics were more than mere numbers on a chart. They represented persons, persons made in the image of God and infinitely precious to Him.” At the next meeting of the Baptist Association, Carey preached a sermon from Isaiah 54 calling for the transmission of the gospel overseas, encouraging his hearers to “Expect great things. Attempt great things.” Lest one think the staid work of church association meetings, convention sermons, and denominational resolutions are a hindrance for gospel advance, consider that the launch of the most wide reaching missions movement began in a small free church association meeting following a sermon with the formal passing of a resolution that read, “Resolved, that a plan be prepared against the next Ministers’ meeting at Kettering, for forming a Baptist Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.”
Lest one think the staid work of church association meetings, convention sermons, and denominational resolutions are a hindrance for gospel advance, consider that the launch of the most wide reaching missions movement began in a small free church association meeting following a sermon with the formal passing of a resolution.
In October 1792, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed and Carey stepped forward to join the first deployment to India. Of that day Fuller recounted, “Our undertaking to India really appeared to me, on its commencement, to be somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating a deep mine, which had never before been explored. We had no one to guide us; and, while we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said, ‘Well, I will go down if you will hold the rope.’ But before he went down, he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us at the mouth of the pit to this effect, that while we lived we should never let go the rope.” Carey made preparations to depart and when writing to his father, he resolved, “I have many sacrifices to make … But I have set my hand to the plough” (Luke 9:62).
Carey and family arrived in Bengal in November 1793 and endured immediate hardship. In October 1794, the Careys lost their five year old son, Peter, to illness, and this tragedy, along with other trials, wreaked havoc on both Careys, especially his wife. Paul Pease explains, “Over the past sixteen months Dorothy had suffered many hardships, hurts, losses, and fears: the sad and frantic farewells in England, the long voyage with a young baby, the culture shock of India, the uncertainty of the numerous moves, the humiliation and pain of dysentery, her sister left in Debhata, and now the death of her five year old son. It all became too much for her, and she seemed to retreat from all reality.” Further, the first seven years saw very little spiritual fruit. Writing to his sister in November 1798, Carey said, “No one expects me to write about experience, or any of the common topics of Religion; nor to say anything about the Doctrines of the Gospel, but News, and continual accounts of marvelous things are expected from me. I have however no news to send, and as everything here is the same, no Marvels …. at best we scarcely expect to be anything more than Pioneers to prepare the Way for those who coming after us may be more useful than we have been.” However, in 1799 Carey moved his family to Serampore and joined with two other missionaries, Joshua Marshman and William Ward. Known now as the Serampore Trio, the three established the Serampore Mission and, in 1800, saw their first convert. From there the legacy of the “Father of Modern Missions” grew chiefly through Bible translation and as the trailblazer for scores of future missionaries.
George notes that Carey stands most clearly in the Reformation tradition in his confidence in the Scriptures and lifelong labor to see their translation into 40 distinct languages. Carey’s plan to evangelize India was simply: “Preach the gospel, translate the Bible, and establish schools. Proclamation, translation, education.” Haykin notes that even though some have argued that the title “Father of Modern Missions” is not accurate, in the end there is no denying that Carey had a titanic influence. Nathan Finn reminds that Carey “was keenly aware that he was in continuity with a movement that had already commenced, even entitling the second chapter of his Enquiry ‘a short Review of former Undertakings for the Conversion of the Heathen.’” In the end Carey clearly was “the first to create a missions-sending agency and to be sent in an organized and formal manner.” William Carey died in 1834 leaving instructions that his tombstone read, “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, On thy kind arms I fall.” Despite world-reaching legacy and fame, Carey departed in faithfulness, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of his faith (Heb 12:2). He kept the grand end in view.
- Center for the Study of the Life and Work of William Carey: http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/index2.html
- Daniel L. Akin. Ten Who Changed the World. B&H, 2012.
- Michael A. G. Haykin. “Just before Judson: The Significance of Carey’s Life, Thought, and Ministry,” in Adoniram Judson. B&H Academic, 2012.
- Timothy George. Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey. New Hope, 1991.
- Brian Stanley. The History of the Baptist Missionary Society 1792-1992. T&T Clark, 1992.
- Daniel Webber. William Carey and the Missionary Vision. Banner of Truth, 2005.
Just use your imagination. One of your teenagers has graduated and has just started his freshman year at college. It is the first Sunday morning. Asleep in the dorm, he hears his phone alarm go off at 7:00 am. Will he get up and find a new church or roll over and sleep until noon?
Lots of variables will shape that decision, but high on the list is the answer to this question: Who primarily does the freshman love? If his greatest love is for his high school youth minister, he may go back to sleep—since the youth minister is many miles away. If his greatest love is for the old youth group, he may go back to sleep—since the youth group also is many miles away. But if his greatest love is Jesus expressed through the people of God, he may get up—ready to find another expression of the church he has grown to love.
If his greatest love is Jesus expressed through the people of God, he may get up—ready to find another expression of the church he has grown to love.
When teenagers are asked to speak at church, they often speak of their love for the youth group and seldom speak of their love for the church. They often speak of their love for their Christian friends and seldom speak of their love for the congregation. Things do not look promising for their walk of faith in young adulthood.
Pastor John Crotts has identified several key truths your teenagers need if they are going to fall more in love with the church.
1. The church is designed for the glory of God.
Ephesians 3:21: “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever.”
2. Jesus Himself is building the church.
3. Jesus loves the church and died for it.
Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
4. Jesus is the foundation for the church.
According to Ephesians 2:20–21, He is the cornerstone.
5. The church is made of precious building materials.
1 Peter 2:5: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.”
6. The metaphors for the church reveal its worth.
Jesus calls the church His own body, His bride, His temple, and His household.
7. God designed the church to spread His glory to the nations.
8. God designed the church for spiritual growth and health.
Great Bible teaching and discipling can lead teenagers to fall more in love with Christ’s church. In the same way, building relationships with the full congregation can deepen that love.
Researcher David Kinnaman notes: “The Christian community is one of the few places on earth where those who represent the full scope of human life, literally from the cradle to the grave, come together with a singular motive and mission. … Flourishing intergenerational relationships should distinguish the church from other cultural institutions.”
Unfortunately, relationships across the generations are not the norm in churches today. Kinnaman observes that “many churches have allowed themselves to become internally segregated by age . . . and, in doing so, unintentionally contribute to the rising tide of alienation that defines our times.”
Unfortunately, relationships across the generations are not the norm in churches today.
Tim Elmore adds: “Schools, media, advertising, even churches segment their programs according to age groups. … Unfortunately, I believe this increased specialization has helped hinder this next generation’s growth. Because they lose influential time with adults, they come to define themselves by their peers. As a result, they‘re often ill-prepared for adult life.” University of North Carolina professor Dr. Mel Levine asks: “How can you emerge as a productive adult when you’ve hardly ever cared to observe one very closely? How can you preview and prepare for grown-up life when you keep modeling yourself after other kids?”
Scott Wilcher cuts right to the chase when he says that “if we fail to connect students to the adult church, we undermine their faith development.” From the Sticky Faith research project, Kara Powell reports: “More than any program or event, what made kids more likely to feel like a significant part of their local church was when adults made the effort to get to know them.”
Every teenager needs adult relationships in the church. This is even more true for teenagers who have been abandoned by parents or other key adults. Chap Clark notes that “communities must make sure that each student has a few adult advocates who know and care for him or her. … It takes several consistently supportive and encouraging messages to counteract the effects of systemic abandonment.”
As a youth leader, one of your most important assignments is connecting each of your teenagers with other generations. From time to time, ask a teenager, “Not counting parents and youth leaders, who are some adults who know your name and seem interested in your life?” This will help you know if you are making progress.
As a youth leader, one of your most important assignments is connecting each of your teenagers with other generations.
Relationships with adults matter, but so do relationships with children. Kara Powell’s research confirmed that “the more teenagers serve and build relationships with younger children, the more likely it is that their faith will stick.”
At the other end of the life span, senior adults have the capacity to love teenagers and to give them a place of belonging in the congregation. Like boys and girls at a sixth-grade dance, senior adults and teenagers look across the room at each other—just a little nervous. If you will gently help them start relationships, both generations will get a blessing.
Church schedules make a difference as well. It might surprise you, but solid research says that involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation.
We have spent the last fifty years increasingly designing church buildings to segregate age groups from one another. Perhaps it is time for fresh thinking about ways we can use buildings, budgets, and calendars to create rich webs of relationships around every child, teenager, and adult. One result might be eighteen-year-olds who love Christ’s church and who consider the full congregation to be family.
The biggest news in professional basketball this week has nothing to do with the NBA playoffs. Instead, the basketball world is talking about Jason Collins’ first-person essay for Sports Illustrated in which announces he is gay. Within a sports-saturated culture, this is big news. Collins opens his article with the following declaration:
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.
Collins has played in the NBA for six different teams over twelve seasons. He is certainly not well-known like LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, or Michael Jordan. However, to last for twelve years in professional basketball is still an accomplishment.
If this had been the complete substance of the discussion, it is likely that the story would have faded out of the spotlight in a matter of days, if not hours. Having somewhat famous people publicly proclaiming their sexuality is becoming old news.
But the story doesn’t end here. On ESPN’s show, “Outside the Lines,” the host interviewed NBA analysts Chris Broussard and LZ Granderson about Collins. In the midst of that interview, Broussard was asked a question about Collins’ Christianity since he claimed to be a Christian in the article. Broussard’s response was almost unbelievable for a regular analyst on the most influential sports network in the world. Broussard stated:
Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.
With that, Broussard put himself in the line of fire. His opinion as an outspoken Christian sports journalist was asked, and he responded with his honest beliefs supported by the Bible. By contrast, LZ Granderson countered Broussard by saying that faith, like love and marriage, is personal and accused Broussard of painting Collins’ faith with a broad brush. He suggested that Broussard was trying to paint a world in which he was comfortable living but not others.
In his article, Collins made the following comments about his faith:
I’m from a close-knit family. My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.
Here we see where Collins has elevated some of the Bible over others. He claims to take the teachings of Jesus seriously. He is especially moved by those teachings on tolerance and understanding (although he does not clarify which ones he has in mind). However, he makes no attempt to reconcile his beliefs about Jesus and the Bible with Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality. Apparently, tolerance and understanding trump the teaching of Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and other passages.
The difference between the responses to Collins’ announcement and Broussard’s comments could not be greater. The entire sports world seems to be applauding Collins for his bravery while ridiculing Broussard for intolerance. However, Broussard simply gave his honest opinion to the question he was asked.
The comments from Broussard generated such a firestorm that ESPN released the following statement on Monday:
We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.
Could ESPN not also welcome honest disagreement on lifestyles and religion? There was no support for Broussard. In fact, it would not be surprising to hear that Broussard’s contract will not be renewed in the future.
The issue of homosexuality has become a dividing line in the culture. To call such a lifestyle sinful will no longer be tolerated. Biblical convictions have long gone out of fashion, but now they are the object of ridicule and deemed intolerant. In light of all this, I applaud Chris Broussard for his stance. I may even watch a little more closely the next time he comes on ESPN just to catch what he has to say.
Jason Collins with Franz Lidz, “Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now,” Sports Illustrated, April 29, 2013.
My three-year old son loves to “read” Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. Of course, he does not actually read the words (especially “Constantinople” and “Timbuktu”). However, he will flip every page and recite every word on the page, not missing more than a couple words in the whole book. Boy genius? No, just a whole lot of repetition. So, in his case, you could say that the secret to good reading is re-reading. While Seuss was a creative writer and his classics are certainly worth the re-read, something about this particular book has captured my young son’s little mind. He wants to read it every day. He wants us to read it to him. He wants to read it to us. With every read, he becomes more familiar with its words and images. He has even connected each episode in the book into a larger story, so that you cannot miss one part without having to go back and “read it right.” It is also fun to watch him trying to connect the scenes with reality as he weighs the morality of “We fight all night” or wants me to play “hop on Pop” with him (which I usually turn into a tickling match).
The Bible is “misread” if it does not stretch our minds to consider the majesty and grace of God, does not draw our souls to freeing forgiveness or does not compel our hearts to love God and others more than ourselves.
I think my son has discovered something about reading that really applies to good Bible reading. The secret to good Bible reading is re-reading. Reading the Bible daily or having others read it to you (in sermons or small groups) is a great way to have its words, images and truths impressed into our minds. As we continue to read (or re-read), the Bible’s larger story becomes more apparent, and we get a better sense of how each “episode” fits within the broader story. Furthermore, to read the Bible rightly includes not only stuffing our brains with more knowledge of biblical trivia or key phrases, but good Bible reading also impacts the whole of our lives. The Bible is “misread” if it does not stretch our minds to consider the majesty and grace of God, does not draw our souls to freeing forgiveness or does not compel our hearts to love God and others more than ourselves. Good Bible reading affects mind, soul and heart.
Do you have a lingering thirst for reading the Bible as God’s Word? Just like with a recurring thirst, no matter how many times we have drunk previously, we must drink again and again. So, whether you are beginning your spiritual journey with the Lord or have walked this path many years, drink deeply from the well of God’s Word. Every reading or re-reading of the Bible carries the potential of a life-changing encounter with a holy God. As the reformer Martin Luther says in his commentary on Psalm 19, “the Word of God makes healthy men … the Word of God refreshes, revives and comforts the weak, burdened, and disturbed consciences that were previously troubled.”
Why online education and why just 36 hours for the Master of Theological Studies (MTS)? Is a fully online Master of Divinity (MDiv) next? I have gotten these questions a lot over the past month.Why offer a fully online degree? To serve local churches.
I am thrilled to announce that anyone serving on a church staff will receive approximately a 30% discount to the fully online, fully accredited Master of Theological Studies degree. You will pay the tuition, but we will waive the online course fee for all classes. This discount is available to all 20-hour-per-week part-time and full-time staff members.
In fact, local church staff members can lock in their price. So if you applied right now, you could lock in your full degree for $7,200, then pay in monthly installments and complete your degree over the next three years.
At Southwestern Seminary, we understand that the local church serveson the front lines in the Kingdom battle, and we are more than happy to do anything we can to support your eternal impact. Many, for good or not so good reasons, will never relocate to a seminary campus. Any level of equipping that we can offer positively impacts their efforts. The new online MTS serves the church through a rigorously academic, conveniently accessible, and surprisingly affordable online education.Why only 36 hours? To serve the student.
Research shows that most students never finish long online degree programs. Many choose online degrees over moving to campus for significant reasons such as family obligations, ministry assignments or current jobs that provide for the family. The reasons they don’t relocate end up being the same reasons they don’t finish a long online degree. A 90-hour online degree can turn into a decade project that’s necessarily abandoned when the kids or ministry take priority. A 36-hour degree can be completed in 3 years with only 2 classes per semester. Our MTS serves the student by providing an achievable goal packed with quality education.
We kept it shorter by including only the essentials. A short degree is achievable and beneficial for Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, fathers who want to lead their family well or any committed follower of Christ. Take a look at the classes for yourself:
- Biblical Hermeneutics
- Basic Old Testament I
- Basic Old Testament II
- Basic New Testament I
- Basic New Testament II
- History of Christianity I
- History of Christianity II
- Baptist Heritage
- Systematic Theology I
- Systematic Theology II
- Christian Apologetics
- Bible and Moral Issues
So you learn how to read the Bible, what the Bible says, and the history and theology to help you put it all together in a way that defends the faith and applies to your own life. What more do you want in an online degree?
Most importantly, our best professors teach the classes in this fully accredited degree. That means you get quality education that will transfer anywhere. If you decide that you want a full Master of Divinity, then these 36 hours can be applied toward the full degree.Why not offer a fully online Master of Divinity?
We already offer every class in the MDiv online, but the degree cannot be accredited if completed entirely online. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) has not approved a fully online Master of Divinity. If we offered one now, it would not be accredited.
I think ATS will approve it by the end of the year, during which time, we’ll likely launch our own online MDiv. I suspect all of the SBC seminaries will do the same, and I was excited to see that my dear friends at Southeastern have already announced their intentions to do so. All of the seminaries exist to serve the local churches, so seeing this happen excites me.
For Southwestern, it might look a little different. I expect we will partner with local churches for some practicum classes, allowing our students to gain experience. We will also offer hybrid classes, conference classes and other creative offerings to help students get through the degree and to maintain our high-quality education. Of course, certain classes like preaching will always work better in person. We may combine one-week or one-weekend classes with online delivery of other classes to minimize the time commitment and maximize the quality.Waiting on the fully online Master of Divinity? I would start the MTS now!
Start now and then you can transfer your MTS or complete the Master of Divinity since you are over one-third through it.But wait … there’s more
We also will start online classes in Spanish this fall with a goal toward a completely online Spanish Master of Theological Studies degree. The best news … we have an introductory offer of just $100 per class for the Spanish program.
If you are ready, start the application process: www.swbts.edu/applynow
Despite our commitment to doing online classes well, Southwestern will always have a strong main campus. We still plan to prepare preachers to preach the word and to send missionaries all over the world. We have always believed and still believe that the best education happens with a teacher in a classroom—face to face. We still believe that online classes cannot duplicate life lived in the seminary community, making lifelong friends and frequent discussions over the imponderables in the coffee shops. The internet cannot replace the lesson of God’s faithfulness that many experience when leaving everything behind to head to seminary. Toward that end, the best plan maintains a strong central campus while reaching out to serve those who cannot relocate or who already serve on a church staff through convenient online education.
I am excited about these new initiatives because I see Southwestern Seminary extending its influence in Texas and digitally throughout the world with training that is rigorously academic, conveniently accessible, and surprisingly affordable.
I hope you will join us as we Preach the Word and Reach the World.
You obviously need to start with knowing the Scripture rather than reading what someone else has said about the Scripture. So first, you should read your Bible. I would also recommend purchasing the Bible on CD. I imported the ESV Bible into my iTunes account and have it on my phone. When I am running, lifting weights or driving for an extended time, I listen to entire books of the Bible to saturate myself continuously with God’s Word.
Next, I recommend beginning with a shorter, popular level book on doctrine. You could read a book like What Every Christian Ought to Know by Adrian Rogers, The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler, or The Gospel by J.D. Greear. While I wouldn’t recommend everything anyone does or writes, these books will get you started.
From there, you can move into the realm of smaller systematic theologies. I would recommend staying away from those that spend much time on philosophical arguments in favor of those that spend more time dealing with Scripture—at least at first. Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, James Madison Pendleton’s Christian Doctrine a Compendium of Theology (older but good), Millard Erickson’s Introducing Christian Doctrine, or Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith are all helpful works.
After familiarizing yourself with main categories and how Scripture fits together, it may be helpful to see what others in the past have said, or to add philosophical argumentation to your knowledge base. I would begin with larger systematic books before taking on a historical theology like Alister McGrath’s. Chart books can also be treasures to help you understand the differences of the various positions. I would recommend the charts series from Zondervan, which includes Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine. You can move to Grudem’s major systematic work Systematic Theology, Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology, or A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel Akin. Perhaps even Norman Geisler’s four-volume Systematic Theology. Then I would recommend Lewis and Demarest’s Integrative Theology—described as historical, biblical, systematic, apologetic and practical.
After working your way through these books, you should know where you stand and what you want to read next. Pay careful attention to the footnotes as you read. A goldmine of historical authors will usually appear in these notes, which casual readers may skip over. If these books become your favorites, then I suspect God may be calling you to ministry and you may need to pack up and come to seminary or at least visit one while praying for the Lord to show you His will for your life.
Editor’s Note: This is an article in the series “Why You Should Study Systematic Theology” by Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern.
On my desk sits a small relief of Rodin’s “Thinker”. We know the famous statue—the nude kneeling on his left leg in the contemplative pose—as the symbol of modern thinking and philosophy. The little statue came from a small gift shop in Paris on Rue de Bellechasse, not too far from the original, which sits in the garden of the Muse Rodin.
While the “Thinker” is universally known, what we don’t think about is what exactly it is that he is thinking about. This thought had rarely occurred to me before I stood before the massive statue with 20 college students and listened to one of our humanities professors, explain the significance of the masterpiece. Originally the statue was a small but important part of a larger door Rodin was creating for a museum. Around the frame of the massive bronze door were images of people falling into eternal damnation in the spirit of Dante’s inferno. At the top of the door was the original thinker. Perhaps a vision of Dante himself, the watchful thinker contemplates the eternal state of the damned.
The oft-used symbol of philosophy was originally created to capture a man thinking of eternal matters, specifically hell—a hell which, in the academy today, is dismissed as false at best.
The oft-used symbol of philosophy was originally created to capture a man thinking of eternal matters, specifically hell—a hell which, in the academy today, is dismissed as false at best. In fact, a theology of hell is the type of item Peter Enns referred to in his piece, “Can Evangelical Colleges and Seminaries Be Truly Academic Institutions?”
The tone of the article is not pugilistic, and certainly the question needs to be asked. After all, if evangelicals are to carry out their mission, they truly should be in the larger conversations.
Enns establishes that we are having two different conversations working from two different sets of assumptions. Evangelical schools are working from a faith presupposition. “Purely” academic schools are either working from a different set of presuppositions or transcend them by being inherently more objective than evangelicals can be, given their disposition to believe Scripture in traditional ways.
The comments to the piece that followed were generally about philosophical presuppositions. However, the article is missing something critical, namely the end of Christian higher education.
When students come on to the campus of our small humanities college, situated within a Baptist seminary, I have an objective for them that transcend the goals of the academy; an end goal. I want them to fall in love with people whom Jesus loved. Jesus explained to those who are curious (Luke 15:1,2) that his ministry was dictated by his desire to seek lost sheep. Thus, I want them to be so motivated by the force of the love of Christ and the reality of hell that they get their education for altogether different reasons. They are not being educated to populate the work force with myopic dreams of ease baptized by a few dozen chapel services while catechized with the language of modern church. No, I want them to actually live like Jesus, which means to love like Jesus. To love those who have no other hope outside of Christ—this is the end of education.
To love those who have no other hope outside of Christ—this is the end of education.
To do this, our principle degree is a “great books” degree. We have them read the original thinkers of Western and Eastern thought. This is for the purposes of apologetics, yes, but it transcends apologetics. Let me be clear, the main reason we have them read works is not just to defend their faith. I am not just taking a student and having him read the Koran so that he can share the message of Jesus Christ with a Muslim. He may in fact do that, and we pray that he does. For example our students, armed with at least a working knowledge of the Analects of Confucius, along with some basic epistemology, have made tremendous progress with those of other faiths in foreign countries. While this is an immediate goal, we have another goal: we want them to read the great books because we want them to worship God with the life of the mind.
God is glorified when we worship him with the life of the mind. This includes reading brilliant works, by thoughtful people. And, it is difficult to have an understanding of the sweep of Western thought without grappling with these works. Ultimately, the existence of all people draws attention to Jesus, because He in fact is the reason that all things exist (Col. 1:15ff). So the reading of an influential work is, in this way, reading how someone is using the intellectual powers that Christ bestowed upon them; powers that he gave even to those who do not know Him. Thus, these authors in fact glorify God without knowing it. The greatest artists and thinkers may be unwitting exegetes of a God they will never know. And, we are not afraid of this truth.
The greatest artists and thinkers may be unwitting exegetes of a God they will never know.
So we read them; not about them, we read them. Our students think deeply about the implications of these truths. Are we afraid that some might walk away from the faith if they are exposed to these works? Of course we are. But the risk is worth the reward. It is so thrilling to talk to a 21-year-old who has so much confidence in the faith, so much love for God, and can think and interact on a critical level.
At the end of the day, perhaps the goal of Christian higher education is different than our secular counterparts. We have different objectives. The academy has both a pragmatic objective to produce doers, and a purist objective to produce thinkers. But when our evangelical thinkers think, they think in a way that leads them to give their lives for the advance of the Gospel.
As I write this, several of these students, and their professors, are on three different continents sharing the message of Jesus Christ. Away from the comforts of home during the holidays, and some even in remote bush areas temporarily removed from any communication from the world. Why? It’s not because they will be career missionaries. It’s because this is the end of their education. This is what we want: thinkers whose thinking has led them to doing. This is the end.
I do not know exactly when I became a grandfather, but I know that for over eight months now I have been one. So far, I have not held my grandson though he lives nearby. I have seen only a black and white fuzzy image of him dating back a few months, but that is okay. I am not bothered by all of that. He moves around, and he is on the move.You see, my grandson lives in his mother’s womb. That makes me a grandfather. Some dear people, hearing of the baby “on the way,” have asked me whether I will be excited when I become a grandfather. I tell them sweetly that I already am a grandfather. Some nod knowingly, and others take a moment to think and to understand. So far, all have realized the meaning and agreed.
Human life, as we know it, most certainly begins at conception, when God intervenes in this world to exercise His creative powers once again, just as He did “In the beginning . . .” Life is owned, possessed, and granted by God. He gives life, and He preserves life.
To think that somehow, an action of a human can make a living fetus into a human being, whether it be the act of birthing or the declaration of a decree that life begins at such and such moment is patently ridiculous. God claims throughout Scripture by word and by deed that He is Lord over all life. He is strikingly clear about His role in human life. God creates human beings, forming them in the womb, a person at every point. And God knows every person before the forming begins.
In Genesis 1 and 2, clearly, God created the species, man, which we now call Homo Sapiens. In other words, God “invented” human life, man and woman.
Jeremiah described God’s ongoing creative formation of children in the womb.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Read the verse again. This time emphasize the word, “before.”
The Psalmist concurs.
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
God opens and closes the womb. (Genesis 20:18; 29:31; 30:22; 1 Samuel 1:5-20; et al)
A passage little referenced in this context is found in Romans 4, in which we read the following account of Abraham’s faith.
“And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4:19-21)
How could God have kept His promise unless He is God over the womb and over the creation of new human life? Of what value would Abraham’s faith have been? God is the creator of all life at all times, including human life today.
God created my grandson. He has given life to my grandson. He is forming my grandson.
My grandson already is. He is alive today.
I am a grandfather.
A proper study of Systematic Theology will also show you what matters most and what matters least. While we must seek to obey all doctrines of the Bible, I cannot cooperate with someone believing in works-based salvation or that Jesus was created.
I can, however, cooperate with someone who holds to an old earth view of creation or post-tribulation view of the rapture. I have good friends who hold both of those positions even though I disagree. Learning to distinguish the essential or first-tier doctrines from secondary or tertiary doctrines comes with proper study of Systematic Theology. It does not excuse you from obeying everything God has commanded you as though you can pick and choose at a theological buffet, but it does provide a framework for cooperation in church matters versus social matters.
Two final examples where theology may apply come in your belief about creation and baptism. Perhaps you have been ridiculed for holding to a young earth view. Systematic Theology will study multiple views, and identify which views will align with Scripture and which ones will not. I believe in six-day, literal creation.
Consider Mark 10:6, which says,
Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Mark records Jesus responding to a discussion about divorce by stating that from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” While we may not understand everything about creation, we know that the Bible indicates from the beginning, God created them male and female and not through a process of evolution resulting in upright Homo Sapiens.
A systematic study also brings an understanding of Moses’ words in Exodus 20:11 upon the words Moses wrote in Genesis.
Ex. 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Moses compares the Sabbath rest for Israel with the Lord’s rest on the seventh day, which gives textual credence to a six-day, literal creation position. If each day referred to an age, then it would provide an illustration of resting on the Sabbath, but an illustration of why you should retire in your old age.
On a different subject, a systematic study of baptism will also provide scriptural evidence that baptism is not salvific. Some suppose this based on Acts 2:38.
Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
And I am not talking about the thief on the cross, since Jesus himself said he would be in paradise. Jesus can make an exception if he wants. Consider 1 Cor. 1:14-15; 17:
1 Cor. 1:14-15, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. … 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
If baptism were salvific, then Paul certainly would not say that he thanks God that they were not baptized in his name. He also would not create such a distinction in verse 17 between baptism and preaching the Gospel. These verses clearly indicate that salvation does not require baptism.
Our ultimate goal should be to become a mature believer in Christ. Eph 4:13 states:
Eph. 4:13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
We need to be Christians who know what we believe and why. We should be able to provide a defense for the faith and give a reason for the hope in us. Christianity should not be just a label that we wear when it comforts or benefits us. We must take the Gospel seriously, and a systematic study of God’s revelation allows us to do just that.
Editor’s Note: This is the tenth article in the series “Why You Should Study Systematic Theology” by Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern.
At Southwestern Seminary, where I serve, we regularly underscore our conviction that the call to ministry is a call to prepare. Formal seminary training is not a requirement for ministry or necessarily even a barometer to guarantee a certain level of genuine godliness or qualified fitness. However, to have 3 to 5 years to learn from professors and work out one’s understanding of foundational beliefs is not only a helpful blessing for many toward a long-term ministry of faithfulness, it is also often a form of what I call “structured discipleship” that many of us need before we are in a position of regularly leading others.Before or during seminary, students usually reach a point of wanting to go out and serve and finish their degree later. This hurried spirit is often noble and motivated by God-given zeal but regularly is short sighted. With some regularity I meet people seasoned in ministry who tell me how much they regret not staying for more training or who had every intention of finishing their degree but have never found the time.
Though an enjoyable and memorable time, enrolling in seminary and seeing a degree through to the end is not easy. The rigors of theological education combined with a growing family, a job and local church service can stretch and strain even the most resilient among us. Often students seem to identify with Joseph’s 13 years in prison hoping someone out there will “remember them” so they can “get out of this house” (Genesis 40:14)! But as hard as it may seem, there is good and joy that comes through the stretching.
While reading through materials related to my recent “Seven Summits” article on Jonathan Edwards, I came across this portion in Iain Murray’s biography of Edwards that serves as a great reminder to all those currently in a preparation season for ministry:
The choice, then, before Edwards in 1723 was between taking up a pastorate and the spiritual work which he had so greatly enjoyed in New York, or responding to the need at Yale with the prospect of wider studies which a Yale tutorship would provide. The fact that he went as far as formally to accept the call to Bolton, only to withdraw from it, is proof enough that the decision was not an easy one.
As we shall see, the three years now before him were not among those which he regarded as his happiest, yet the additional discipline involved was to contribute largely to his future usefulness.
The comment of Samuel Miller on Edwards’ decision to return to Yale is worthy of repetition:
Many a young man since, as well as before his time, of narrow views and crude knowledge, has rushed into the pastoral office with scarcely any of that furniture which enables the shepherd of souls ‘rightly to divide the word of truth’; but Jonathan Edwards, with a mind of superior grasp and penetration, and with attainments already greater than common, did not think three full years of diligent professional study enough to prepare him for this arduous charge, until, after his collegiate graduation, he had devoted six years to close and appropriate study.
As I tell students, if God has given you the opportunity and ability to give time to formal study and theological preparation, he has given you access to something the majority of ministers in the world will never have. While it may at times feel like you are spinning your wheels while others are changing the world, the truth is God knows exactly where you are and what you need.
Like Jonathan Edwards, the question is one of stewardship in sacrificing now so as to be able to enjoy and see maximal fruitfulness for the Kingdom in the years to come. If Edwards felt he needed further and formal theological education, do you? The call to ministry is a call to prepare.
Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Banner of Truth, 1987), 56.
It is very common for someone to object to Christianity on the basis of the belief that there is a wide array of contradictions in the Bible. It is also very common that, if pressed, the person raising this objection cannot name a single contradiction. However, it doesn’t take but an internet search of “Bible contradictions” to provide an abundance of opportunities to think about possible inconsistencies. We will of course not be able to address in this short article every single contradiction that is alleged or even very many of them. Instead I want to think more generally about how to evaluate alleged contradictions. I’m happy to tip may hand from the outset here and say that I do not believe there is a single contradiction in the entirety of the Bible. This is not an article of blind faith for me. I have come to this conclusion from a long and varied study of these issues as I have tried to approach this area as unbiased as possible.
We should first get clear as to what a contradiction is. A contradiction is when a claim (e.g., pizza is good) and the negation of the claim (e.g., pizza is not good) are both asserted as true, where the terms of the claims are understood in the very same sense and occurring at the same time. Let’s say that you overheard me say “Romney did not win the presidential election.” Then, in the course of the conversation a few minutes later, suppose you heard me claim “Romney did win the election.” This appears to be a contradiction. However, there are a few ways in which it may not be. I could have meant by the term ‘win’ in the first instance that Romney did not win in terms of actual votes but in the second instance I could have meant that Romney won the election of our hearts (I’m not sure what that would mean but let’s go with it). Here there would be two different senses of the term ‘win.’ Furthermore, I could have meant in the first instance that Romney did not win the Presidential election of 2012 but in the second instance that he won the Massachusetts gubernatorial election of 2002. That is, if these statements were referring to different times, then they are perfectly consistent.
A contradiction is when a claim and the negation of the claim are both asserted as true, where the terms of the claims are understood in the very same sense and occurring at the same time.
When it comes to the Bible, the reason why there are so many apparent inconsistencies is because the Bible is a multi-authored, multi-genre book with many different aims and purposes relative to specific sections of Scripture written over the better part of two millennia. Many of the apparent inconsistencies can be resolved by simply thinking about the genre, the purpose of the relevant texts and what was going on historically in that point in the text.
Let’s look at a few examples of alleged contradictions. Exodus 20:12 records the command “honor your father and your mother” while Jesus says in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” On a straightforward reading, this would appear to be a contradiction about how one should think about one’s parents. However, this is easily reconciled if we understand Jesus as using hyperbolic language to communicate how “sold out” a disciple must be. After all Jesus is in the midst of speaking in parables and teaching in the most extreme terms about the devotion of a disciple. Jesus doesn’t think that we should hate our family members any more than he thinks we should carry literal lumber on our backs to fulfill his command to carry our cross (v. 27). Moreover, these seem to be understood as hyperbolic by his disciples since they do not go out casting aspersions at their family members.
Perhaps the most often cited example of contradiction are the events related to the resurrection of Christ as accounted for in the four gospels. One such instance of this concerns the women to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection. Matthew has it as “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (Matt. 28:1), Mark has it as “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome” (Mark 16:1), Luke says “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them” (Luke 24:10), while John mentions only Mary Magdalene (John 20:1). Now if the John passage said that Mary Magdalene came by herself then this would seem to be impossible to reconcile with the other passages. But as it is, to claim that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb is perfectly consistent with Mary Magdalene and other women coming to the tomb. It would seem that John likely had a reason to emphasize Mary Magdalene’s presence perhaps as representative of the group without the need to mention the other women by name.
A similar thing happens with parallel Old Testament accounts when they differ in terms of names and numbers. We should mention that it is possible that these minor differences are the result of copyist errors. However, it has been my experience that there are often ways that these differences actually provide interesting insight into the events in perfectly compatible ways.
Rather than casting doubt on these accounts, these sorts of (compatible) differences of detail actually provide reason to think that the accounts are reliable. If two accounts of witnessing an event are supposed to be independent (that is, not relying on each other), then they should not be identical in the details they emphasize. This is because when describing a typical event, there are so many details from which we may choose to emphasize that it is virtually impossible two witnesses would select the very same details in describing the events. What we would expect with eyewitness testimony is discrepancies. It is a problem when these discrepancies are irreconcilable but actually a boon to their authenticity when they paint a fuller yet consistent picture.
A final problem with these alleged contradictions is that they are simply too obvious. It’s not as if we have only just discovered the discrepancies with the rise of the New Atheist movement. If Scripture was filled with fabrications, then the fabricators were incredibly inept at their craft. It seems more likely to me that these are accounts that are faithful to a variety of aims and purposes.
I, without apology, approach Scripture with the belief that it is innocent until proven guilty.
So far all I have pointed out is alternate ways of understanding certain passages that if right would resolve apparent tensions. But how do I know the way I am reading these is the right one? Something to notice is that a critic of the Bible will almost always approach Scripture as guilty until proven innocent. If there is the mere possibility of contradiction, then it often follows, for this person, that there is a contradiction. I, without apology, approach Scripture with the belief that it is innocent until proven guilty. So if a passage can be justifiably read (it is, for me, really important that it is justifiable) in such a way that resolves the tension, then I will. The reason for this is that these textual issues are one part in a complete apologetic. It stands alongside all the rest of the multifarious evidence, philosophical, historical, archeological, textual and so on. With all of this pointing to the veridicality of the Christian claims, it would be entirely unmotivated for me to approach Scripture in an uncharitable manner. I understand that there will be many who don’t share these motivations when they approach Scripture. But this is why we need to have a long conversation.
The Cacophony of Silence: Rising Global neo-Pentecostalism, World Christianity, and the Southern Baptist Convention
It had already been a long journey and I still had a long set of flights out of Nigeria routing back to the United States. During my visit to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogobomso, I met many fine folk. They are indeed doing a tremendous job of engaging lost people with the good news in the midst of horrific conflict posed to the whole nation, and the world, from a violent stream of Islam known as Boko Haram. One of the institution’s administrators accompanied me back to Lagos, Nigeria to fly out.
Nearer to Lagos, he pointed out a long stretch of highway that had many open-air ministry facilities, one after the other, and on both sides. He mentioned how many people they were attracting to their “signs and wonders” styled meetings. Signboards all along the way advertised different ministries and their emphases clearly were on miracles, healing, prosperity, and the like. After his statement pointing out these ministries, I turned to him and said, “Indeed, there seem to be many people in the ‘miracle’ business here.” The look on his face said it all. He was dismayed as he replied, “Sadly that is true.”
Recently, I was reminded of this event when I read an article entitled Private Jets for Jesus. The article’s gist is that the largest single source for orders of private jets now are Nigerian “Pentecostal preachers.” The paradox of this with the plight of Nigeria’s millions, especially the thousands that flock to their meetings, is mind-boggling. What is happening?
Anyone that travels to the non-Western world (especially areas not predominately Islamic) observes a distinct rise in Christian influence, especially in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. While the statistics per 24-hour period of change is astronomical, even if discounted for the fact that every group that even claims to adhere to Christianity is counted, this kind of growth is phenomenal.
One feature that runs throughout the global South’s forms of Christianity (Nigeria included) is what scholars that are adherents of this movement now term as “Neo-Pentecostalism.” The newest version of a cycling tradition that they say began in the early 20th century, at the Azusa Street Revival, now is depicted b y newer characteristics such as ongoing revelations (words of faith), health/prosperity teaching, and signs and wonders that have traditionally been less evident in their earlier history.
The emphases placed on these faith-authenticating miracles, it is claimed, make denominational identity meaningless or outmoded because doctrinal convictions should be subsumed b y the Spirit’s power, and a blended unity around these common spiritual experiences surface as the basis for Christianity yet future. However, there are alarming features here. An experiential hermeneutic, Spirit driven new revelations beyond Scripture, flourishing signs and wonders (most claims taken as true uncritically), minimizing doctrinal truth to encourage a renewed emphasis on ecumenism, prioritization of wealth, health, and lessening of concern over one’s eternal well being. These and many more are all about “experiencing God.”
Southern Baptists thought that they encountered, and successfully addressed these issues in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as church after church struggled with identity and unity or disunity in the aftermath of the forerunner to the neo-Pentecostal elements we are encountering today on a global scale. Since then we have gone on to larger and more significant battles, most significantly to reaffirm the authority of the Bible. However, accreting in again, when the compatible post-modern emphasis on experientialism is on the rise, another round of it comes morphed into a different face. Can it be that our modern disgust for an exclusively “scientific” and “rationalistic” worldview system is causing us to seek after the God behind the universe through these types of directly experiential forms of what purports to be authentication of God’s existence and power? Have we as Southern Baptists diligently stood for an inerrant Bible only to allow in through the back door, ever so subtly, a form of spiritual animism, in the guise of a priority lens through which to determine and understand Christian truth claims and to evaluate spiritual experiences? Perhaps what is called for is more than a vociferous affirmation of the Bible’s truth but a reaffirmation of its precedence over any and all experiential claims. Not only does this relate to the topics arising in this brief missive, but also for ethical challenges of very contemporary note regarding sexual boundaries and guidelines. Is the Bible going to critique culture and experience or will a reverse mechanism prevail? We may opt for the latter, but if so then we should also be aware of how that choice affects our overall claim regarding the Bible as the only reliable source of true Truth. Silence amid such a cacophony of competing truth claims historically has not resulted in biblical balance.
 See Christianity Today, “Private Jets for Jesus,” December 10, 2012 (web-only edition), http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/december-web-only/private-jets-for-jesus.html.
 Recently researchers assessed annual global statistical summaries of Christian work b y region. There is a column indicating an estimated 24-hour change in Christian population for the year 2012. Africa increased b y of 37,000 per day, Asia b y 23,000, and Latin America b y 18,000. Todd M. Johnson and Peter F. Crossing, “Christianity 2013: Renewalists and Faith and Migration,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 37, No. 1.: 32-33.
 See for example Allan Anderson, Michael Bergunder, André Droogers and Cornelis van der Laan. Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods, (Berkeley: University of California Press), 2010 or Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, The Spirit in the World : Emerging Pentecostal Theologies in Global Contexts, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans), 2009.
 Significantly the example of Howard Conaster and the Beverly Hills Baptist Church in Dallas is a point in time when Southern Baptists acted to inhibit the advance of such practices but it morphed into several variations even after Conaster’s death in 1978 that continued to influence the SBC. See Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001): 187.
 “‘Animism’ originally referred to belief in spirit beings, and was intended to characterize all religion, including Christianity. Animism, however, has come to be used as a synonym for tribal or folk religions as over against the major world religions.” Robert J. Priest, Thomas Campbell, and Bradford A. Mullen, “Missiological Syncretism: The New Animistic Paradigm,” in Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, edited b y Edward Rommen, Evangelical Missiological Society Series Number 3, (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1995): 13.
 See popular but useful evaluations of this phenomenon as related to spiritual power in Jerry Vines, Spiritworks :Contemporary Views on the Gifts of the Spirit and the Bible, (Nashville, Tenn.), Broadman & Holman, 1999.
We must defend the Gospel at all costs. Eternal destinies depend upon it.
I want to discuss a couple of false teachings today that pervert the Gospel and leave people destined for a hopeless eternity. The first and perhaps most important would be works-based salvation.
This perversion destroys the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 provides a short summary of the Gospel:
1 Cor. 15:3-5, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Even in a statement this short, you see that Christ died “for” our sins. Christ paid the price and provided the substitute for our sins. His death did not serve as merely an example of great love to be emulated. He took the penalty of our sins and as the spotless Lamb, He willingly laid down His life as our substitute. The Gospel is a Gospel of grace and not works.
Other Scriptures clearly present a Gospel of grace. Consider Eph. 2:8-9:
Eph. 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Systematic study of Scripture concerning the Gospel also provides further insight, including: how Old Testament were saints saved by grace looking forward to Jesus’ death; explaining that we are saved to works not by works; demonstrating how faith without works is dead faith while maintaining a Gospel of grace; whether Jesus must be Lord of your life at the point of salvation or if can He be your savior and not your Lord; not to mention the understanding of how conversion relates to repentance and where justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification fit into a healthy understanding of salvation. All of these discussions fall into the doctrine of salvation.
Second, we must also defend creation against the popular doctrine of Darwinian evolution. If humanity arose as a cosmic accident, then no Creator exists and no judgment awaits mankind. If God created man in His image, then we have an obligation to give glory to our Creator. We do not find our worth in self-esteem but by being created in God’s image. With a judgment forthcoming, we live differently and tolerate the temporary problem of evil with eternal perspective. You do not have a Christian worldview without creation.
Editor’s Note: This is the ninth article in the series “Why You Should Study Systematic Theology” by Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern.
Speaking in 1976 to a conference of ministers, London preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, compared “the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mount Everest.” As the greatest theologian and philosopher in American history, Edwards is certainly a summit worth climbing. However, for all of Edwards’s brilliance and human achievements, there must be something more to the man that transcends from eighteenth century transcontinental leader to twenty-first century t-shirt icon. To be sure, Edwards’s legacy has been assessed, not to mention at least two academic centers (at Yale and at TEDS) and one society dedicated to the study of the Northampton pastor. But for a future generation that knows not Edwards, his call for prayer for revival and the manner in which that call shaped a world missions movement might prove prescient.
For a future generation that knows not Edwards, his call for prayer for revival and the manner in which that call shaped a world missions movement might prove prescient.
Born in central Connecticut as the only son of five children, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) showed advanced intellectual abilities from childhood. By age 12, he began studies at Yale and at 18 converted to Christ during May/June 1721. In response to reading 1 Tim 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen,” Edwards said, “As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the divine being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced before.” With this new sense, Edwards embarked on a path of devotion to the “only wise God” and ministry in his name. As Iain Murray identifies, “Nothing shows more clearly the new prevailing bent of Edwards’ mind and heart than his seventy ‘Resolutions.’” Written during 1722-1723, Edwards resolved, in part, “Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God.”
Soon after further training, Edwards accepted a ministry position at his grandfather’s church in Northampton, Massachusetts. During that summer, Edwards married Sarah Pierpont, a marriage that would last 30 years until death parted them. Samuel Miller assessed, “Perhaps no event of Mr. Edwards’ life had a more close connexion with his subsequent comfort and usefulness than this marriage.” Before Edwards died, he asked his daughter to “give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever.” George Marsden explains that “‘uncommon union’ was an expression of the deepest affection, coming from someone for whom the highest relations in the universe were unions of affections among persons. Most important for Jonathan, the union was spiritual and hence eternal.”
Two years after starting at Northampton, Edwards’s grandfather died, and Edwards, age 25, assumed pastoral responsibilities. During the 1730s many responded to his preaching, and as Douglas Sweeney reports, “Before he knew it, revival broke out, and hundreds of locals experienced conversion.” Joining similar revivals already underway in England, by the 1740s what would become known as the Great Awakening hit its stride throughout the colonies. Edwards took to writing to explain the phenomenon and defend the revivals against counterfeits. A Faithful Narrative appeared in 1737, followed by Distinguishing Marks (1741), Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival (1743), and his comprehensive Religious Affections (1746). As the awakenings dissipated, some fracturing occurred among congregations including Edwards’s. In 1750, he was dismissed from Northampton and relocated to Stockbridge where he engaged in missionary work among Native Americans. There he continued to write, publishing his Freedom of the Will (1754) as an attempt to answer a debate between skeptics of the Awakening and the revivalists’ approaches to evangelism. As Sweeney concludes, Edwards’s work helped many skeptics to see a way to “preach the gospel freely without suggesting in the process that non-Christians had the power to save themselves.” In late 1757, Edwards accepted the presidency of the College of New Jersey. After reacting poorly to an inoculation for smallpox in early 1758, Edwards failed to recover and succumbed to the effects on March 22. Marsden notes that as one transformed by the Spirit of God, Edwards was prepared to die, seeing death as “a release in which one was borne upward to see Christ’s glory.”
… Edwards was prepared to die, seeing death as “a release in which one was borne upward to see Christ’s glory.”
During his final years in Northampton, Edwards received an invitation from Scotland to participate in a Concert of Prayer as a “means” of rejuvenating the revivals. As Chris Chun deftly explains, Edwards had already come to think of prayer as an appropriate conduit for advancing the awakenings and in response he published in 1748, sermons on Zechariah 8:20-22 entitled A Humble Attempt. In the 1740s and 1750s, Edwards’s work encouraged many both in America and Scotland, “by united and extraordinary prayer, seek to God that he would come and manifest himself, and grant the tokens and fruits of his gracious presence.” For, he argued, “The greatest effusion of the Spirit that ever yet has been, even that which was in the primitive times of the Christian church, which began in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, was in answer to extraordinary prayer.” An optimistic treatise, A Humble Attempt reveals Edwards’s eschatology, classified today as postmillennialism. He saw prayer as “the means of awakening others … and disposing them to join with God’s people in that extraordinary seeking and serving of God.” Such spiritual progress would continue until “the awakening reaches those that are in the highest stations, and till whole nations be awakened, and there be at length an accession of many of the chief nations of the world to the church of God.”
While not evident in his lifetime, Edwards’s optimistic view of the end times, though not embraced widely, nevertheless served to launch the modern missions movement. In 1784, English pastors Andrew Fuller and William Carey gained access to A Humble Attempt and read it with eyes primed for rays of hopeful light in the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. As McClymond and McDermott note, “Carey used the Humble Attempt to discount the contention that certain prophesies had to be fulfilled before the heathen could be converted.” Combined with Edwards’s Life of David Brainerd (1749) and Freedom of the Will, Fuller and Carey found in Edwards a “Grandfather” of modern missions. From those in England and America who read Edwards came the London Missionary Society, the Baptist Missionary Society, the Scottish Missionary Society, and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards. None is more needed.
Iain Murray surmises that Edwards’s enduring strength lies in the fact that Edwards “was not an originator” of theological innovation (though aspects of this conclusion are debatable). Yet, Lloyd-Jones concluded his 1976 presentation on Edwards proclaiming, “No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards. None is more needed.” Why then would an eighteenth century American Puritan have timeless staying power? Lloyd-Jones found specific transcendent relevance in Edwards’s call for prayer for revival in A Humble Attempt. In a day where often every avenue of influence and strategy is exhausted save the call to corporate prayer, perhaps Lloyd-Jones is still right. For the sake of the next generation, Edwards is still Everest, but he bids us to climb and pray.
- The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University: edwards.yale.edu
- Robert W. Caldwell, III and Steven M. Studebaker. The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards. Ashgate, 2012.
- George M. Marsden. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. Eerdmans, 2008.
- George M. Marsden. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Yale, 2003.
- Micahel J. McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott. The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. Oxford, 2012.
- Iain H. Murray. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. Banner of Truth, 1987.
- Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, The Essential Edwards Collection. 5 Vols. Moody, 2010.
Years ago, in the popular police television drama Hill Street Blues, every episode climaxed with Sergeant Esterhaus completing roll call with the admonition to his officers, “let’s be careful out there.” The phrase went that generations’ version of viral because it captured the stark reality of which we are all too often reminded today that police work is dangerous business. In a very similar way, pastors must be so reminded of the dangers of their work, and they must assiduously protect the sheep.
Twice in Ezekiel 34 (verses 5 and 8 ) the Lord rebukes the shepherds for their failure to protect the sheep. The sheep were scattered and ran away when danger approached and were overpowered by an enemy who was more powerful “because there was no shepherd.” The shepherds had become selfishly concerned about their own needs and ignored those of the vulnerable sheep.
The fact that the Lord has chosen the image of sheep to describe His people is both appropriate and continues to be relevant despite an increasingly urban society. Sheep are vulnerable. They do not possess the ability to defend themselves from predators and they are too slow to outrun them. Moreover, it is not always clear that they are smart enough to identify impending danger.
To be sure, pastors should be careful about pressing the image of sheep too far. We must avoid implying that church members are unintelligent and weak. Moreover, it is true that sheep are generally bred to be killed and consumed, which is an image that doesn’t sit well in a New Members class.
Failure to protect the sheep is tantamount to ministerial treason.
Yet the Scripture is very clear that the dangers to the sheep are real and the responsibility of the shepherd to protect them is unequivocal. Failure to protect the sheep is tantamount to ministerial treason. Jesus reminded the religious leaders in John 10 of the distinction between a shepherd and a hireling. The difference is that a hireling won’t lay down his life for the sheep.
Upon Paul’s completion of a three-year ministry in Ephesus, he challenged the church leaders in Acts 20 to “take heed to yourselves and to the flock.” To do that they were instructed to watch and warn the sheep over whom they had been made overseers. Paul cautioned the leaders that after his departure, “savage wolves” would come to attack the sheep, implying both the reality of dangers to the sheep and the fact that Paul had protected them. The wolves weren’t allowed to attack the sheep as long as Paul kept them safe.
The shepherd doesn’t have to experience every peril to warn the sheep against it with integrity. You don’t have to jump off a bridge to know that falling is dangerous or experience every pain to know that it hurts.
We must watch and warn. We can’t just L.O.L while the wolves move ever closer to the sheep. The shepherd must stand in the gap declaring to the wolves of the world that they can only get to the sheep through him. He must be vigilant in guarding the door and cognizant while watching the exits of possible dangers ahead.
When false truth and weak theology threaten the fellowship, the shepherd must warn the sheep. When the church blurs the lines of right and wrong, the shepherd must disambiguate the message. When technology makes compromise convenient, the shepherd must courageously expose it.
And when absolute truth is mocked, the shepherd must lovingly, passionately, persuasively, and relentlessly defend it as the foundation of our faith and the bedrock of our authority.
And when absolute truth is mocked, the shepherd must lovingly, passionately, persuasively, and relentlessly defend it as the foundation of our faith and the bedrock of our authority. For wrong is not wrong because the world disagrees with it. It is wrong because God declared it to be so. Where there is no absolute right, there can be no consensus on what is wrong.
We cannot be found sleeping while the sheep are in peril. We cannot flee when danger approaches. We must watch over the flock, and we must warn the sheep.
Indeed, Bilbo Baggins was right when he said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Let’s be careful out there. The world can be a dangerous place, especially if you are a sheep.