Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Global Warming

It’s tragic that so much of modern science is prejudiced by political agenda. We’ve seen this with the continued promotion of Darwinism even as the scientific evidence is crumbling. And there is no better example than today’s environmentalism. They go from one sensational extreme to the other, always claiming that the earth is heading for some catastrophic meltdown.

In 1974 Time Magazine reported that fluctuations in temperature and rainfall were indisputable proof that the earth was heading for a new ice age. Newsweek reported that the supporting evidence "has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard pressed to keep up with it." The New York Times reported that "a major cooling is widely considered to be inevitable."

Today the fervor has taken a 180 degree turn and we are being warned of the dangers of global warming—that CO2 emissions are creating a “greenhouse” trapping in heat resulting in a rise in the earth’s temperatures. Former Vice President Al Gore claimed in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that sea levels will rise 18-20 feet. Experts have warned of a great increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes.

Once again, however, there are inconvenient truths that are raining on the Global Warming parade. After years of reporting by various news agencies of the acceleration of Arctic glacier melting, the NOAA issued a report on March 13 that global temperatures this year are the coolest since 2001. Snow cover in Sibera and Mongolia is greater than anytime since the 1960’s. Iraq received snow for the first time in modern history. And the most important inconvenient truth is that after years of reporting Arctic thawing the ice has returned. In fact, the levels are at a 15 year high. And what about hurricanes? In a recent report a prominent scientist has changed his position on the effect of temperature on hurricanes. He now predicts that the number of hurricanes will actually fall 18% by the end of the century.

This is not to say that there has not been an increase in global temperatures. There has been. But there is no evidence that the increase is being caused by human behavior. In addition, we have not been collecting data long enough to know whether it is a natural cycle or a permanent change. The sensationalists are not willing to admit that it might just be a natural phenomena. Too many are unwilling to take a reasonable approach on the issue. Like so many other issues it has become a tool to advance a particular political agenda.

It is particularly tragic when Christians embrace the sensationalism. As God’s people, we have been given dominion over the earth. We must be good stewards of the environment. But we are also called upon to be wise, temperate, and stable. We must never become anxious and jump on the latest bandwagon. When we fall prey to sensationalism we risk discrediting ourselves in a world that so desperately needs our witness to the Gospel of Christ. And we must never forget that his world is not being governed by forces of nature that operate without rule or design. This world is being governed absolutely by an infinitely powerful God who rules all things according to His perfect will. We must take our responsibility seriously, but we must never forget who governs this world.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What's in a Name?

For several years I've served on the membership committee of our local Baptist association. Many new churches have petitioned for membership during this period. I've noticed a trend that has become customary for new churches. The name "Baptist" is being left off the names of most new church starts. If you ask the pastors of these churches the reason for the absence of the name you'll receive various answers. Some say they were looking for a more trendy name. This is often an understatement as some have gone from trendy to just plain silly. The primary reason you'll receive is that people in today's culture do not want to be identified with a denomination. I think the real reason is most disturbing. The modern church has become fearful of appearing doctrinal. We want the world to see us as friendly and welcoming, not dogmatic.

What's in a name? The name "Baptist" describes something about us. First, Baptist churches are Protestant churches. Among other things, this means we believe that a man is saved through faith alone in Christ alone by God's grace alone. Second, Baptist churches have a high view of Scripture believing in its authority, infallibility, and sufficiency. Baptist churches have historically been confessional holding to a confession of faith to describe their beliefs. Third, Baptist churches have historically been congregational in polity. This doesn't mean that the local church is a democracy. The church looks to its elders for leadership. Baptist churches, however, recognize the autonomy of the local church and the great authority of the church. Speaking of this authority our Lord said, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). Fourth, Baptist churches have definite beliefs about Biblical baptism. We believe that baptism is prerequisite for church membership, that the only legitimate candidates for baptism are those who have repented of their sins and professed faith in Jesus Christ, and that the only form of baptism is immersion. We see all other forms of baptism as illegitimate. The name "Baptist" tells the world that we hold these beliefs.

Rather than hiding from the name "Baptist" prospective members should be taught what it means. Baptist churches have historically been doctrinal churches. We need to return to the day where our Baptist churches are not afraid of doctrine. The name Baptist should reveal to the community that we are serious about the Word of God. Serious believers should seek out such places to serve and worship God. This is why we are Trinity Baptist Church.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Sufficiency of Scripture

During a time when most mainline denominations have fallen into the pit of liberalism, Southern Baptists have stood firm on the inerrancy of Scripture. Since 1979 the Conservatives have continuously held the presidency of the Convention and the Bible has been held high as the inerrant, infallible Word of God. In this we must rejoice and praise God for His gracious mercy. But while we rejoice that Southern Baptists have upheld the inerrancy of Scripture we must grieve that most deny its sufficiency.

The Bible is sufficient unto the salvation of lost humanity. Over and over we read the charge, "Preach the Word!" This was the method of the Apostles. Paul told the Church of Corinth, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:2-5). The apostles knew the power of God in preaching. Paul told the Thessalonians,
"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Today, the Word of God seems to have fallen on hard times. We no longer believe its power. Most of the emphasis today is on the music. For many pastors this is the most important thing. They claim that their people want to hear lively, contemporary music. They don't want to hear traditional preaching. They want "messages" that are brief, entertaining, and directed to their felt needs. Many have replaced preaching with drama or puppets or other forms of entertainment. We claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture but do we believe in its sufficiency? Oh that we might return to the day when God's Word was thundered from the pulpit with power from on high.

Today the work of the Gospel has become far too much a man-centered work. Instead of humbly submitting ourselves before the sovereign hand of God too many seem to be relying more upon human efforts. We need to step back and reexamine our methodology. J.I. Packer wrote in his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, "Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to impress upon people that the gospel is a word from God? Is it calculated to divert their attention from man and all things merely human to God and His truth? Or is its tendency rather to distract attention from the Author and authority of the message to the person and performance of the messenger? Does it make the gospel sound like a human idea, a preacher's plaything, or like a divine revelation, before which the human messenger himself stands in awe? Does this way of presenting Christ savour of human cleverness and showmanship? Does it tend thereby to exalt man? Or does it embody rather the straightforward, unaffected simplicity of the messenger whose sole concern is to deliver his message, and who has no wish to call attention to himself, and who desires so far as he can to blot himself out and hide, as it were, behind his message, fearing nothing so much as that men should admire and applaud him when they ought to be bowing down and humbling themselves before the mighty Lord whom he represents" (page 87).

It is wonderful that so many are holding to the inerrancy of Scripture, but may we also hold to its sufficiency. May we have our boast with the Apostle, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation. . ." (Romans 1:16).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Youth Groups Rejected

In my previous post I mentioned the proliferation of the "youth group." I'd like t expand on this a bit. Youth groups are relatively new in the history of the church. Could you imagine Paul calling all of the teenagers from the Church of Ephesus together for a youth rally or could you imagine a flourishing youth group at Calvin's Geneva? While my tone is obviously negative, let me say that not everything about youth groups is wrong. None can fault efforts to bring our young people together for acts of service in the community and surely every opportunity for Bible study is to be encouraged among people of any age. However, there are some serious dangers with youth groups.

The concept of the youth group continues to foster the modern notion of adolescence; that there is a period of time between childhood and adulthood in which irresponsibility and foolish behavior is to be excused. Unfortunately, this period of immaturity in our day lasts past the 20's and often well into the 30's. Of a truth, there are only two stages of human development: childhood and adulthood. We should view our teenagers as young adults. At this period of their lives their parents should be wisely helping them to prepare for their future, teaching them how to be Godly husbands and wives and how to order their lives for the glory of God. At the age of 12 was not Jesus sitting in the midst of the teachers listening and asking questions? To segregate teenagers from the influence of their parents and other adults at this crucial period of their lives is a tragic mistake. In our church we do not have a separate class for teenagers. They meet with the adults because we recognize them as young adults which helps them to begin seeing themselves that way.

Youth groups are often used by parents to delegate their responsibility to someone else. Too many parents are too busy with their own lives to give themselves to the instruction of their children. Often, by the time the teenage years roll around they have so little influence in the lives of their children, they place them in the hands of the church youth group in hopes that their children might be positively influenced. Too often the influence is just the opposite - carnal kids teaching each other how to be worldly. Churches would do better to give their energy to training parents of their duty to their children.

Youth groups tend to encourage the so called generation gap. The idea is that these young people will do better when surrounded by their peers. Unfortunately, their peers are poorly equipped to provide the leadership they need. Besides, is there any other time in life when we limit our association with only people of our own age? Does a 40 year old man refuse to associate with people older than 45? We would do far better to teach our teenagers how to interact with other adults.

In addition, youth groups almost always result in a "group" mentality. The nature of human beings is to seek the approval of those close to us and to conform to their behavior. In the youth group this often has dangerous consequences. It has been my observation that professions of faith within youth groups often occur in clusters. Several will profess Christ at the same time and the church rejoices that so many of their young people are being saved. Sadly, many fail to bear fruit. Many years ago I was a member of a church that sent their teenagers to a popular SBC youth camp. Each year the youth would return from camp and have a testimony night on a Sunday evening where they would weep and "recommit" their lives. Within a few weeks the high would wear off only to be repeated again the next year.

Instead of youth groups how about groups of fathers getting together to do activities with their sons? What kind of an influence would it have upon a young man for him to help paint a widow's house, to see that life is more than just fulfilling his own desires? How much better would it be for young men to join together with their fathers on a camping trip so that under the influence of men they might learn how to be men. "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:6-8). And how beneficial would it be for mothers and daughters to gather together to quilt or to prepare meals for a shut-in? "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5). How much more beneficial would it be for churches to plan activities that involve the whole family? This would seem to be of a much greater benefit than a youth group.