Thursday, June 10, 2021

Voddie Baucham's Book, Fault Lines


In recent days Critical Race Theory has caused division in many churches as well as across the entire spectrum of Christendom. The Southern Baptist Convention has not been spared, as it has been embraced by many SBC leaders. Voddie Baucham has provided a wonderful service to the church in writing his book titled, Fault Lines. In this book he carefully explains Critical Race Theory using the very definitions used by those who created it. He then explains the fallacies of their positions. He writes, “I want to unmask the ideology of Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality in hopes that those who have bowed in the face of it can stand up, take courage, and ‘contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints’” (page 230). I want to recommend this book as an excellent resource for helping to understand the issues at hand and as a tool to help work towards unity.

 Baucham begins his book by giving an excellent presentation of the issues. He carefully defines Critical Race Theory and describes it as a worldview, “an analytical lens one uses to examine the world” (page xvi). It rests upon the premise that racism is normal and ingrained in the fabric of American society and that whites are incapable of righteous actions on race.

 Bachaum succinctly states the premise of the book: “I believe the current concept of social justice is incompatible with biblical Christianity. . . Our problem is a lack of clarity and charity in our debate over the place, priority, practice and definition of justice” (page 5). Baucham describes the issue as two competing worldviews. One is the Critical Social Justice view—which assumes that the world is divided between the oppressors and the oppressed (white, heterosexual males are generally viewed as the oppressor).  The other is the biblical justice view.

 The book contains eleven chapters, well-written, and engaging. By the time I finished Chapter one I felt I knew Vodie Baucham, though we have never met. It was a heart-warming account of his childhood, and the excellent parenting of his mother; his point being his mother pressed upon him the importance of character. He was never allowed to use race, or anything else, as an excuse not to excel.

 Chapter two deals with the issue of faith and ethnicity. Should a black Christian identify first as a black person or as a Christian? Baucham recounts his rise and decline in Southern Baptist influence as indication of his acceptance as an individual, not because of the color of his skin. The rejection he faced was due to his Calvinism and his ideological stances, and his skin color provided no protection. He quotes a black NFL coach, “It’s not when they hire one of us, but when they fire one of us that you know we’re being treated as equals.” Baucham shares how he had become convicted of seeing his blackness first and seeking only churches with people who looked like him, but change was not without great difficulty.

 Chapter three speaks on the issue of Biblical justice and how many of the claims of injustice today do not meet the Biblical standard. Too often it is more a matter of advancing a particular narrative. That narrative has gripped the hearts of many Christians that Baucham describes in Chapter four as the “Cult of Antiracism.” This cult has its own body of divinity, its own theology and is being adopted by an increasing number of mainstream evangelicals and being taught in some of our leading seminaries. It is the narrative that whiteness is a social construct of privilege used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color. Instead of the imputed guilt of Adam upon all men, the antiracial narrative has imputed guilt upon the white person by virtue of their whiteness. The new original sin is racism, and there is no pardon. Racism is connected only to whiteness; thus, the black man is exempt. And according to the narrative, it is America’s sin, which is institutional and systemic.

 The Cult of Antiracism not only has its own theology, it also has its own priesthood (Chapter five). Only those of color or other oppressed people have the necessary knowledge to analyze and instruct about racism. It is an ethnic Gnosticism. White people can only comprehend racial issues through the voice of people of color—by "elevating and heeding black voices.”

 And Baucham adds that the Cult of Antiracism has its own canon (Chapter six). Everything has to be interpreted through the lens of Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility, “which shows all the hidden places where racism is to be found and rooted out” (Fault Lines, page 113). “You really don’t get what the Bible is trying to say about social justice until you read social science and history” (ibid., p.119). In other words, the Bible is not sufficient in helping us to understand the issues of race and justice. Only selective sources outside Scripture can help us understand social justice issues—the new canon.

 There is a serious division in the evangelical world. Baucham refers to it as a “fault line” that has created an environment of hostility. “In this environment, dissent is not only unwelcome, but condemned. Consequently, many godly, thoughtful, well-meaning, justice-loving brethren are being silenced. . . Relationships are being ruined, reputations are being tarnished, careers are being destroyed, and entire denominations are in danger of being derailed” (p. 138). In Chapter seven Baucham discusses two documents that have demonstrated the divide—the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, and Resolution 9 voted on and passed during the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention.

 Beginning in Chapter eight, Baucham starts drawing some conclusions. He writes that the claims of Critical Race Theory are inconsistent with the statistics and facts. Still, their argument cannot be debated because speaking against it simply proves your ignorance or displays your racism. And the Evangelical community is increasingly embracing the claims and positions of CRT (Chapter nine), or at least moving along parallel lines. Baucham’s conclusion is there is no solution to America’s social justice problem. He writes, “I believe there is racism. I believe there are racists. However, I reject the idea that America is ‘characterized by racism,’ or that racism is an unavoidable byproduct of our national DNA. In fact, I believe America is one of the least racist countries in the world” (page 201). While there is no easy solution to America’s social justice problem, we must recognize the fallacies of Critical Race Theory. The Church must counter the fallacies with Biblical truth and the power of the Gospel. Baucham writes, “We must love our God, His Gospel, and our brothers enough to challenge this false narrative” (page 222).

 Baucham ends his book with a solid pronouncement of the power of the Gospel. He states he has learned the grace of forgiveness through the power of the Gospel. He announces, “The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is not calling for reparations: it is forgiveness. Antiracism knows nothing of forgiveness because it knows nothing of the Gospel. Instead, antiracism offers endless penance, judgment, and fear. What an opportunity we have to shine the light of Christ in the midst of darkness” (page 229)!

Monday, May 31, 2021

The Cure for Spiritual Doubts and Fears

“ . . .for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1 Tim. 1:12 KJV).

A sad malady that is suffered by many Christians is a lack of the assurance of faith. Doubts and fears continually gnaw at their hearts. I recently purchased a book published by Solid Ground Christian Books that is a refreshing balm to our spiritual life. It was written in 1882 by Thomas Moor and titled, “Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers.” Moor writes, “One of the greatest hindrances to the spiritual life of the child of God, is a state of continued doubt about his salvation. Such a state has a tendency to weaken the soul for everything good, and to lay it more open to the ensnaring influences of its spiritual enemies. It prevents the soul laying hold on eternal life, and laying claim to the promises of grace for time of need, and robs it of the enjoyment of all those spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, which are its rightful portion.” 

And what remedy does Moor offer to the doubting soul? He writes, “It is essential for your spiritual comfort, that the certainty of your salvation should be with you a matter of abiding and uninterrupted consciousness in mind and heart. Many things will tend to surround this consciousness with clouds of darkness and doubt, and will succeed in doing so, unless you are firmly build upon the true foundation—Christ crucified.” As Christians we must continually have the cross of Christ before our eyes. The words of our Savior, “It is finished” assures us that all has been accomplished. Jesus carried our sins to the cross and we bear them no more. Moor continues, “Look upon your salvation as a thing accomplished once and forever; and live in accordance with this fact.” 

A common source of our doubting is when we turn our eyes inward to our remaining corruption and conclude we are unfit for eternal life. We once again place ourselves under the yoke of the Law and find ourselves condemned. Moor reminds us, “Remember that you have altogether done with the law as a covenant of works. You are now dealt with according to the covenant of grace, in which covenant you forever abide. No failure can remove you from that; for in its arrangement every failure, every sin to the end of your life, is taken into account, and fully arranged for, and completely put away by the death of Christ. By His death you are forever delivered.” The solution for the defeat of our doubts and fears is to look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. He has fully accomplished our redemption. He alone is sufficient. We rest in Him who will never fail to accomplish the salvation of those whom the Father has given Him.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Women in Ministry, The Battle Rages On

The year was 1979. For years the Southern Baptist Convention had fallen sway to the curse of liberalism. It was finally time for valiant conservatives to bring the battle for the Bible to the front lines. W.A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas was one of the early warriors along with Adrian Rogers, Sam Cathey and others. Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church,  was elected as SBC president. That began the long, hard-fought battle for the innerancy of Scripture, and throughout the 1980's annual conventions were often hot battlegrounds. Finally, conservatism won the day. Many of these earlier warriors are gone, but the battle for truth is never over. Satan does not rest and error is always ready to raise its ugly head. Sadly, many in the SBC have lost their willingness to stay on the front line. They assume that since the battle for inerrancy is over we can lay down our weapons and rest. But the war is far from complete. 

I've been encouraged to see the great increase of those in our Convention who embrace what we affectionately term, "The Doctrines of Grace." It has been a refreshing return to the beliefs of our Founders. Although it is a neo-Calvinism, it shows progress nonetheless. This battle is still in its infancy. 

There are endless other battles that are raging. The Woke movement and an unbiblical effort towards social justice is inflicting damage upon many of our churches. Other churches have been distracted by endless non-essential debates as frivolous as whether or not masks should be worn. In such times we are easily distracted and the Gospel takes a serious hit. Many are terrified by the "cancel" culture. 

 There is another battle that has been brewing for some time, but now another serious volley of flaming arrows has been unleashed. Last week, Saddleback Community Church conducted an ordination service. Ordination services are usually a time of joy, as God's call upon a man's life as a shepherd of His people is affirmed by the church through the laying on of hands by the elders. But this wasn't that kind of ordination service. They "ordained" three woman to the pastoral ministry. We thought this battle was decided by the generation that fought the battle to regain the Bible, but again, such battles are never really over. We've seen this coming for a while, but it remains to be seen what the long-term impact will be. Many, including our own church are watching closely. 

The right action is to immediately disfellowship with this church, but will our leaders be willing to walk away from one of the largest churches in the Convention that is pastored by a man with the influence of Rick Warren? This church no longer holds to the Baptist Faith and Message. Article VI states regarding the church: "Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." A local church cannot redefine the nature of the office and those who are qualified to fill it. SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd said, "Circumstances like these may be complex, but we must work diligently to understand them and to achieve clarity. Ultimately, Southern Baptists will always stand upon the authority of the Scripture." If this is true, then Saddleback must be admonished to immediately recant this unbiblical ordination service. Each of the four candidates for SBC president have spoken against the action of Saddleback. While Albert Mohler stands opposed to the ordination his statement needs clarification. He states, "The office of pastor is limited to men as authorized by Scripture, and this means both the teaching office and the function of preaching before the congregation." This is a true statement, but the office of pastor is not limited to that of a "teaching office" and "preaching before the congregation." The office is also an office of administration, of leadership and oversight, of shepherding God's people, of watching over souls. Saddleback may claim these ladies were not ordained to the preaching ministry, but the pastoral office is much more. A female does not meet the Biblical qualifications for this office and must not be set apart for it through ordination. 

Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, stated our proper response most clearly. "Churches which ordain or call female pastors are not acting in friendly cooperation with the SBC and should either change, withdraw or be subject to our disfellowshipping processes."

 This is one battle that is not difficult to evaluate. The only difficulty will be whether or not we are ready to engage the battle and hold the ground on Biblical truth. As always, as Christians we must be gracious and always loving, but never willing to negotiate on matters of truth.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020 Election Results

We are now just days from the 2020 election. Many are calling it the most important election of our generation, and I suppose it is of great importance; but we need to guard our hearts from thinking that everything depends upon it. As I was reading about the end of King Solomon's life and God's judgment upon him for his idolatry, I was reminded of an important truth we are too prone to forget. In Verses 14-26 of 1 Kings 11 we read that God raised up adversaries against Solomon: Hadad the Edomite and Rezon the son of Eliada, and also Jeroboam. These men had been around since the reign of King David. They were around when Solomon ascended to the throne. They were around when Solomon became the wisest man upon the earth. They were around when Solomon's kingdom became the envy of the world, with riches and great power. It wasn't until Solomon turned his heart away from God that God raised them up as adversaries. The point we must not miss is all are under the sovereign rule of God. Their turning against Solomon was not accidental, although they all had their personal motives. They were under the sovereign finger of God. This is true of every leader who has ever held an earthly position. It  was true of Hitler and Stalin. It is also true of every American president. It will be true of the winner of this election.
It is concerning to hear Christians speak as though the entire future of the earth is dependent upon who wins this election. The outcome of this election is under the sovereign hand of God. God has determined our future president. Our God reigns. I'm not suggesting that politics are irrelevant. We are surely commanded to pray for kings and we do not dismiss the importance of carefully choosing those vested with civil authority. I've prayed about this election and I have already cast my vote. But we must never forget that God's purposes will stand. They are far greater than the existence of a single nation or the election of a single president. God has His all encompassing hand upon history and everything us unfolding according to His eternal purpose. He has His eye upon the redemption of His elect and the glory of Christ. Our duty is to keep our eye upon Christ, seated at the right hand of majesty and to keep our minds fixed on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1-2). Our Lord's Kingdom and the propagation of the Gospel far exceeds the outcome of a single election. 
 A far weightier point of contemplation are the souls of men who are speeding towards eternity, where all hope will end. Our prayers must be that God would have mercy upon our generation and that His Gospel will go forth mightily. This is the desperate need of the hour.
Without sounding too insensitive or apathetic, eternity is of far greater importance than elections, stock markets, and pandemics. May God grant us grace and confidence regardless of the outcome of this election, even while praying for God's mercies. And may the realities of Christ and eternity always occupy our chief thoughts.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

House Divided

It was during the Senate campaign of 1858 that Abraham Lincoln made his famous "House Divided" speech. His words are now well-known. "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free." Of course these words did not originate with Lincoln. It was Jesus who first coined the phrase, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand" (Matthew 12:25). It is a truism that can be applied in many ways. Of course, human beings have been divided since the fall. There is a constant enmity with God and with our fellow man. It is the ultimate cause of wars between nations, conflict in the home, and sadly, even division in the church. Too often today it takes little provocation for an individual or family to depart from their church.

We are witnessing a period where division is rising to new heights. They have coined a new phrase to describe just how fragmented we have become, "Cancel Culture." If you believe something or say something that isn't precisely in agreement with my beliefs you are to be deleted, removed, excluded, and rendered unworthy of any further consideration. Apologies are futile; forgiveness is out of the question. You have been cancelled. Many pastors live in fear of being cancelled. It doesn't matter that they have served tirelessly and taught faithfully. One wrong action will result in being cancelled. Employees of corporations fear losing their jobs for saying something that doesn't pass the social policies established by the company. Professors in universities have the same fears. If you don't tow the line you risk being cancelled.

We look across our nation and wonder how long our house can continue to stand. The political arena has become vicious. The words that spew from the lips of adult politicians are often appalling. There no filters. Civil discourse seems to have evaporated. The racial divide is worse than ever. Instead of seeking respect and equality among all, it has degenerated into bullet points of which if you don't tow the line you are to be cancelled. Rather than doing the hard work of seeking reconciliation, many have used this season to create havoc across the land--rioters destroying property and anarchists seizing control over the streets. If you disagree with their actions you are labeled a racist.

What is the solution to such division? On one hand we need to plead for God's mercies. Division is in the heart of man. The human heart is wicked and capable of every form of evil. Jeremiah wrote over twenty-six hundred years ago, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it" (Jeremiah 17:9)? God is merciful to restrain the evil intentions of the human heart. He does this through outward restraints such as family and civil authorities as well as the inward restraint of the conscience. Sadly, the consciences of many today are hardened and seared. This is why there is so little civil discourse and why lawlessness has become rampant. We need to pray that God would be merciful to restrain the sin in our nation. The ultimate solution is the transforming grace of the Gospel. In Christ, God unites us together as one body and enables us to be forgiving and forbearing towards one another. Even here, however, we need much grace. This is why the New Testament constantly admonishes us towards love and unity. May God grant us much grace.