Philippians and Gordon Fee

Commentaries are an interesting thing.  Preacher's offices are full of old commentaries like Calvin's many volumes, Matthew Henry, and any number of sets from the 1970's, 80's, and 90's.  They are expensive until they're outdated, which is probably why preachers have older sets. But in the academic world (and probably the world of the preacher too) the better commentaries are ten years old or less.

"Wait just a minute!" you might shout, "aren't some of the classics still the leading thoughts on the matter?"  Yes, don't panic.  Those older commentaries aren't bad because they're older any more than newer ones better because they're new.   However, good commentary writers will have consulted a slew of older commentaries and affirmed or refuted the older work with additional material.  Maybe even quoted the older stuff.

It's also helpful to understand how different commentaries work.  Some commentaries are extremely technical.  They dive into the languages (and assume the reader reads Greek and/or Hebrew).  Some commentary writers deal with the historical context.  Some deal with application.  Some examine more theology while others are focused on the transmission of the text.  There are commentaries that approach the biblical material from a preacher's perspective.  And there are devotional commentaries. So it's helpful to know what kind of commentary you are consulting because the specific type of commentary was written for a specific purpose.

Take for example, Dr. Gordon Fee.  Fee is an expert on the book of Philippians.  If you consult, you'll see that Fee has two commentaries on the list.   Fee's commentaries on Philippians are:

Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1995. 
Fee, Gordon D. Philippians(The IVP New Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

You might also see that the better Philippians commentaries are more than 10 years old.  (Oops! This one is an exception.)  A couple publishers have produced something in the past few years, but it's hard to outsell Fee, especially when he has two commentaries on the list!

Now, you might be asking how the same guy could have two commentaries on the same book.  Why would anybody own both copies?

In Fee's case, he was first asked by IVP to write a commentary for their series and agreed to write Philippians when he had time.  Shortly thereafter, Eerdmans asked him to write for the New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Understanding the different focus, both publishers agreed to allow Fee to write Philippines in their series.  But why own both copies?  Fee answers that question in the introduction of the IVP publication, writing,

"The reader, however, should not assume by these acknowledgments of indebtedness that this is simply a small version of the larger one.  In many ways, of course, it is that, since I changed my mind only a couple times in the course of this writing.  But I have had the reader of this series in view at every turn, which has meant that the exposition has 'lightened up' a bit and the many footnotes of 'Big Phil' have been all but eliminated.  What remain are those few that are necessary to help the reader know where to go for alternative views on many tests" (Fee, 1999, 10).  

I own both copies.  I love both copies for entirely different reasons.  The IVP version is quicker, punchier, and easier to get right into the points.  It can be read devotionally and is less distracting.  If I'm looking for the background on something for a sermon and don't need to spend an hour reading, I pick up the IVP version.  It's 200 pages; whereas, the Eerdmans print is 500.

On the other hand, when I was studying for a preaching series in Philippians, I enjoyed the heavier material and language notes of the Eerdmans' version. It is rather academic and a little stuffy, but very helpful in the technical matters.

If someone were wanting to learn more about the book of Philippians but have no need to write academic papers, I would recommend the IVP copy.  Why not?  It's full of illustrations, easy reading, and it's backed by the amazing mind of Gordon Fee.  And for the ambitious types, the Eerdmans copy is outstanding too!

*If you're interested in either of these commentaries, purchasing them with the links above helps support this ministry. 

A Mother's Mourning

March 25, 2014
By Lisa Catherman 

“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Grief is an unwelcome house guest.  It comes unannounced and at an inopportune time.   It stays longer than anticipated and sucks the life out of you.  My grief is that way.  When my son Titus died in November, I was swimming in the ocean of grief.   (You can read his story here). The frigid waves were gently lapping against my legs, but I was able to stay on my feet.  I think this was in part due to the fact that we were loved and loved well by the people around us.  We were blessed with weeks of meals, visits, flower arrangements, cards, gifts, free chiropractic treatments, a time-share vacation, and the outpouring seemed endless.  Plus, I was just plain busy.  I was busy with the holidays, homeschooling, packing, moving, and remodeling our new house in January.

February brought stillness.  In that stillness, out on the horizon, the monstrous wave of grief blew in and bowled me over.  I was taken off guard and found myself drowning, clinging to whatever I could find, and gasping for breath.  On Valentine’s weekend my husband was gone on a weeklong work trip.  The kids had been sick for the first time in 3 years.   The dog was sick and even dying; we just didn’t know it yet.  I was driving my kids home from a visit to Grandma’s and the frustration and anger I spewed at them was so ugly.  I got home and laid on my bed weeping.   As I questioned my ability to mother, my son rubbed my back and gently encouraged me.  “Mom, I just want you to be happy," he said, "What was your favorite thing we did today?  What can I do for you?”  In that moment, I realized that the wave had knocked me over, unaware.

I spend my sleeping hours grinding my teeth to the point that they've moved.  I endure my waking hours in intense pain from headaches, neck and back pain, face pain, complete exhaustion, and even my plantar fasciitis has flared up.   Emotionally my sorrow is always at the surface.  I could cry or scream at any moment, for any reason.  It may be that pregnant woman I see that sets me off, or even the friend’s new baby.   It may be when I drive by the hospital where Titus was born.  It may be a song or the mementos of Titus’ short life.  It may be a date or milestone that I had expected and hoped to have during my pregnancy.

March 30th was to be my due date.  As I reflect on that day, I had expected a day filled with joy, a day where I’d hold my son, comfort him, bring him to my breast and give him the life within me.  I had expected to bring him home to a nursery and a family anticipating his arrival.  I had expected that I’d see his brothers hold him, playing peek-a-boo.   I expected to see a father wrestle with his young son and teach him to be a man as he grew.  And as C.S. Lewis said in the quote above, my motherhood is written off with Titus.  The expectations I had of this life with him will not happen.   Instead, he has gone to be in the loving embrace of his Father in Heaven and my arms are empty.

I know the truthfulness of God’s Word.  I know his promises.  Life has taken me on many difficult journeys that have rocked me to the core.  As a pastor’s wife, I expected to weather this well.  I think others may have expected that much of me too, but the truth is I’m weak.  I know that apart from God I can do nothing (John 15:5).   And, I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).  God is gently reminding me of who he is in this and drawing me closer to him like a hen draws her chicks under her wings. He is reminding me of his faithfulness even when I’m unfaithful (Psalm 36:5).  He is reminding me of his compassion towards me (Psalm 86:15).  He is reminding me that he is unchanging (Hebrews13:8).  He is reminding me of his kindness (Psalm 145:17).  I know I will not be better tomorrow or even the next day, but I also know I will come through this.  I know that one day, God will wipe every tear from my eyes and there will be no more.  In the meantime, I know that my Abba Father, my daddy, will carry me through these waves.  I will cling to my rock that doesn’t move.  His ways are perfect, and I will trust in Him.  I pray that in my sorrow, I can be a witness of God’s love to those around me.

*Photo by user, "Little Wild World" is licensed under a creative commons license.

Post Church?

Revisiting a group of writer-friends and their affiliated publication, I was reminded of the growing group of jaded Christians who no longer worship in any kind of church setting.  They call themselves "post-Church" as if they have somehow evolved beyond Christ's institution for his people.  "The Nones" is another name they like, taking it from the check box they would self-identify to the question of religious affiliation on a census questionnaire-- None. 

This post-Church crowd will argue that they just weren't getting what they wanted or needed from their local church community.  It wasn't a satisfying experience and the church leaders weren't providing them with the faith journey they desired.  So, they divorced their community for a different mistress, maybe a group who shares their affinity for popular issues of social justice, artistic expression, politics, dietary fads, some kind of on-line connection, or a gang with similar level of anger toward Christ's Bride.  Interestingly, these post-Christians don't seek a different local church community where they might find opportunities to connect with, grow in, and serve Christ, but instead cast off Church, big-C Church all together.  They would argue that they are still part of the Church but just hate local church.  They "love Jesus, just hate Christians."  But the truth is Jesus indwells his people and the local church is a part of the big-C Church; therefore, Jesus and his Church get tossed out too.

I've read of these new post-church communities meeting in coffee shops or homes for shared meals where a communal fellowship is touted but there is decidedly a void of any worship, teaching, Bible reading, or anything that may look like "church."  Jesus is typically intentionally or unintentionally uninvited.  Some of these gatherings will pray, but that's often the extent of it. (I wonder how God might receive the prayer of those who reject God's people as well as the institution he set up for them?)  I am familiar with a single group that sits on the post-church precipice which does, on occasion, discuss Scripture, but generally is void of any deeper study or application because in fact, they are lacking any kind of shepherd.

Indeed there is a time to divorce a fellowship.  When irreconcilable differences surface in the essential theological matters one should talk with the leaders to consider if finding a different local church, breaking fellowship, or some kind of further study may be appropriate.  Cases of egregious unrepentant sin among the leadership may also be a time to break fellowship, after the appropriate course of action has taken place.  (See Matthew 18:15-18.)    False teaching too.  But to toss up your hands and say your are done with any kind of Christian gathering only to trade it in for a cult community of your own making because you don't prefer what's offered is a very different thing.

Nowhere does the Bible speak of a Christian who rejects Christ's Bride, the Church.  It's quite the opposite in fact.

For example, Paul opens his letter to the Philippians as follows: "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons" (Philippians 1:1b, ESV, italics added for emphasis.) Paul says these saints are with the leaders and servants, not consumers of the goods and services the leaders provide or members of their social club.  The saints are in community together.  Many of Paul's letters open with this picture of community centered around the gospel called the local church.  He also talks about the necessity of being part of the body, one body with many parts.  His explanation of communion and his rebuke for the local church that shows favoritism toward the rich show Paul's concern and care for community within the local church.  John's third letter is to an individual and yet it still seems to suggest that Gaius is part of a larger community.  John's second letter is also to an individual and here he's calling this lady to hold fast to the teaching of Christ.  Christ didn't ever tell anybody to be a solitary loaner or gather in a community that is held together with bonds other than the love of Christ.  Christ is building his Church and the local churches are a part if they hold to Christ and his teachings.  Christ is so serious about the Church that we often see the Church called the Bride of Christ, that is, Christ's special love.  Men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, the Church Jesus died for (Ephesians 5:25).  There are many accounts of the believers eating and praying together, and being sanctified into Christ's likeness through those with whom they are in community.  And these groups don't appear to be splinter groups rejecting the Church.  

This post-Church movement raises a number of questions. 

Were these disgruntled individuals actually Christians, or were they simply members of a social club for social reasons?  Or maybe they were moralists and what they walked away from is not what they think they rejected because they were never truly a part of the Body in the first place?

Do these "post-Church" gatherings bring about sanctification and Christ-likeness or are these groups more about filling the community void?

How much does a member of the Nones hear from God and speak to him, read from his Word, worship, and grow?  The Bible is the only book that reads us.  From within it's pages we should experience transformation and sometimes that transformation is difficult and even painful.  Is the post-Church experience bringing about gospel-centered change or is it all just a happy bed of roses that eventually leads to self-worship?

Is the exodus from the local church about pride?  Is there a lack of humility?  Is there fear to talk with with leadership about a problem?  If the leadership did not listen, was there any self-reflection to see if personal repentance was necessary? And if personal repentance or pride are not the issue and it may be a legitimate time to break fellowship, is there a fear or laziness or cowardice to find the healthy local church body God may be calling them to?

What is the end result of the post-Church movement?  Is it drawing people closer to Christ or further away?

If you are reading this because you are post-Church, call yourself a None, or are concerned about a friend or family member, I know that there are local churches that hurt people, and that is tragic!  If you have been hurt by fellow Christians, I'd like to recommend a book called The Exquisite Agony (originally titled Crucified by Christians) by Gene Edwards.  I hope that at some point you can find healing from this pain as well as find a fantastic body of believers with which to fellowship and grow.  If it is not about a hurt, might it be about pride?  If so, is this pride really helping you or is it self destructive?  If you do still call yourself a Christian but struggle with the local church, pray about where to connect.  Ask Jesus to show you his Bride in a new way.  And by all means, don't give up!  God has a great fellowship of believers out there for you.  Hang in there and keep praying!

If this article connected with you in any way, encouraged you, or made you angry, you are more than welcome to contact me to share your story, ask questions, complain, or seek help finding a local body.  Or if you don't call yourself a Christian but would like to find out more about becoming one, you can contact me too.  Click here

The Tasks of a Pastor?

While many well meaning people could generate lists of what a pastor should be or do, it is best to start with what God's Word, the Bible says of the pastor.

First, every pastor should already be doing the work of every believer. That is, he or she should be making disciples, loving one another, serving, and above all, keeping a growing relationship with God. Second, it would be reasonable to examine the Apostles' practices and assume that many of those things could also be the task of a pastor. Jesus told Peter, "Feed my sheep" and it seems that this could extent even to the pastor today. All of these things are seen repeatedly throughout the Bible.

But what does the Bible specifically say for the pastor? What instructions are available? to answer these questions, the Greek words presbytersos, episkopos, poimēn, kērux, or didaskalos are where a study like this should focus. These are the words that translate to elder, overseer, shepherd, preacher, and teacher, respectively. For the sake of this post, the uses and instruction to the overseer or episkopos will be examined. This is the word that is most often translated in English as bishop, pastor, or overseer.

In Acts chapter 20, Paul shows some concern that some wolves may slip into the church and teach false doctrine. He encourages the leaders to "pay careful attention" to themselves and to the "flock which the Holy Spirit has made [them] overseers" (Acts 20:28, ESV). He further encourages them to remain alert for those who would do harm to the church. And in this task of protector and caregiver to the church they must give much to the Church, just as Paul did.

Philippians is addressed to the saints, overseers, and deacons. This letter provides lots of instruction, especially that they would grow and mature in love and knowledge. In 1 Timothy, Paul provides of list of attributes and characteristics to examine when looking for an overseer for the church. But among this list he provides two clues about what the pastor seems to be expected to do. He says in 1 Timothy 3:2, that the overseer should be "able to teach" and in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 he writes, "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" (ESV). It would seem from this question, that the pastor is to care for the church in like manner to caring well for his household.

And finally, in Titus 1:9, Paul says of the overseer, "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (ESV).

Based on this instruction as well as the others, it would seem that the primary duty of the overseer is to teach sound doctrine and protect the flock from those who may try to teach otherwise. The teacher must also be the protector. And while the pastor is many things, these are the instructions specifically given to the overseer.

75 Years of Southern Baptist Faith

In a letter written to Timothy, Paul encourages his friend to, “Take hold of the eternal life which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presences of many witnesses.”[1] The exact nature of this confession is a mystery, but hints throughout the New Testament suggest that Timothy was certainly not alone in making a public confession of faith.[2]  In the early Church, simple statements may have served to publicly demonstrate belief or doctrinal positions. Norman and Brand suggest that the phrase, “Jesus is Lord” was a confessional expression used to determine those who were generally saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.[3] These statements are often called confessions of faith or creeds. “These proclamations,” state Norman and Brand, “are intended to declare the doctrinal perspective of the group on the matters addressed in the document.”[4] In addition, statements of doctrine by their nature, create theological guidelines or boundaries of belief used to communicate to others, but also to address heretical ideas. John includes the delectation that “Jesus came in the flesh” in two of his letters, potentially to deal with a heresy at the time.[5] And even included in the New Testament canon are longer statements of doctrine that include greater detail.[6]

Examining confessions of faith and creeds offer insight into what was most important to the authors of the statement. Through their confessions, one can also glean clues about what doctrinal battles were being waged at the time. For example, a review the Waldensian Confession of Faith (1120) shows a strong argument against specific Roman Catholic beliefs such as papal intersession, the veneration of Mary, the existence of purgatory, and the status of sacraments. As a group of people change or rewrite their doctrinal statement of faith, one can see either shifts in the most important matters of doctrine or a need to address changing heresies, or both. By comparing and contrasting the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 1925 Baptist Faith and Message with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, this post will attempt to identify shifts in doctrinal focus and changing heresies over 75 years of Southern Baptist history. While the SBC revised their 1925 statement in 1963 and 2000, this post will only focus on the change between the first and the most recent statements.

The most obvious addition to the 1925 statement was the presence of more biblical references. At the end of each section, lists of biblical passages that support and guide the ideas of the section are provided. Each section has nearly twice as many references listed in the 2000 statement compared to the earlier statement. There are various reasons for this—possibly due to greater time and reference material, or to stress the importance of Scripture—but most likely, they are included to biblically address challenges to the statement with even more scriptural material.

Moving to the content itself, it is easiest to handle the additions in a linear fashion. There are many minor additions—a word here or there—but for the sake of brevity, this post will only address those that may offer changes to orthodoxy or orthopraxy, address heresies, or serve as points of interest. Starting in the first section, titled “Scripture” in both statements, the phrase, “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation” was added.[7] A declaration such as this appears to be addressing Old Testament Scripture where the physical appearance of Christ is not present in the narrative; however, this inclusion argues that the meta-narrative is wholly centered on Jesus Christ, placing a significant and equal importance on both the Old Testament and the New.

“God,” the title of the next section, is where the majority of added material appears. In 1925, the SBC felt that 65 words were sufficient in expressing their position and doctrinal beliefs about God. The word count jumped to 264 in 2000. What was a simple statement about God in 1925 has been expanded to specifically cover and describe correct belief about the three members of the Holy Trinity. Nothing changed theologically, however. And when the 1925 statement cited 14 Bible verses for support, the 2000 statement appeals to approximately 187 scriptural references. Why the need for the addition (which primarily occurred in the 1963 revision) is open for debate, but it appears as if this addition was specifically made in an effort to deal with heresies. For example, a modified version of second century modalism—associated with individuals such as Noetus of Smyrna, Praxeas, and most notably Sabellius[8]—found popularity again in the twentieth century among Oneness Pentecostalism, also know as the Jesus Only movement.[9] Mormonism, although birthed in the nineteenth century, was also gaining popularity in the twentieth century. These additions found in the 2000 statement address ideas such as modalism or the wickedly-mutated idea of Christ’s deity by sects and cults.

The next notable addition to the 2000 statement is found in the section called “The Church,” (titled “The Gospel Church” in the 1925 statement). The twentieth century witnessed many social changes in race relations as well as a shift in the understanding of the roles of the sexes. This shift is likely the reason behind the addition of the sentence, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”[10] While this statement is not addressing heretical ideas and practices infiltrating the Church, it does attempt to answer the changing social question of the role of women in the office of pastor. Addressing this matter, Grudem asks,
Most systematic theologies have not included a section on the question of whether women can be church officers, because it has been assumed through the history of the church, with very few exceptions, that only men could be pastors or function as elders within a church. But in recent years a major controversy has arisen within the evangelical world: may women as well as men be pastors? May they share in all the offices of the church?[11]
Grudem’s questions are just as relevant today as they were the day he originally penned them; so it seems that the SBC has included this statement and additional scriptural references to clearly answer these questions.

Another two additions worth noting are found in the section titled, “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” and “Education.” The first addresses a theological issue while the latter deals with issues practical arising in a changing society. Over the 75 years between the two Baptist Faith and Message statements being reviewed in this post, people have grown more aware of differences among religious practices. In some circumstances, churches have attempted to syncretize differing areas of faith and practice. One such practice is that of the Lord’s Supper and the result is often a practice that is decidedly not Baptist in theology. Therefore, a line has been added to clearly identify what the Lord’s Supper is and how it should be understood. At stake is the departure of churches not adhering to this understanding of the Lord’s Supper; although many would argue that right practice and belief is more important than stout membership rolls. In similar fashion, additions were made to the “Education” section of the 2000 statement in order to guide and shelter the Christian educator but also allow the school or institution to remove the educator for teaching outside the “pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.”[12]

The final addition discussed for the purposes of this post is the section titled, “Family.” This section does not appear in the 1925 version in any form. In 270 words, the 2000 statement attempts to define the role and purpose of the family unit within society. In reading the section on family, it is clear that this addition is offered to not only to identify the worldview of the SBC and the understanding of the differing roles within the family unit, but also as a defense of the family within society. On the family, the committee charged with drafting the 2000 statement state in the preamble, “The Convention added an article on "The Family" in 1998, thus answering cultural confusion with the clear teachings of Scripture.”[13]

Unless items addressed in a previous statement of faith are no longer issues among society or heresies no longer in practice, theoretically, there should be little reason to remove any material from faith statement. Deeply held beliefs should not be so fluid that they change every 75 years or it would seem that they were not doctrines worth holding so deeply. An organization entrenched in the social aspects of society, such as a political party might be expected to exhibit statements of purpose and ideology that change from year to year, decade to decade. And if a church organization is likewise entrenched in the politic of the social and moral aspects of society, one should expect to see this same pattern of change. If on the other hand, the Bible simultaneously speaks to humanity today and remains timeless, one should see little to no change among those who allow the Bible to dictate their beliefs. Therefore, one might ask what the SBC held deeply in 1925 that they are so quickly willing to drop. As it turns out, very little, if anything was removed from the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message in the drafting of the 2000 version. Instead, items were redacted, which will be addressed in the following section. It should be noted that not a single redaction changes any theological doctrine contained in the 1925 and 2000 statements.

As previously stated, nothing was outright removed from the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message. Neither was any doctrinal position reversed. There are a number of redactions or rewrites present, however. Some redactions expanded a section to allow for more explanation. Other modifications shortened sections because either the material has become commonly accepted knowledge or a less lengthy paragraph, sentence, or word choice presents a thought more precisely. At times, word choices are made in order to combat a heresy that uses the same words with different meanings. While many specific examples can be provided, only a small selection is necessary to examine to understand the reason for nearly every change.

Section III, “Man” for example, changed the title from “The Fall of Man” and explains the fall of man through an explanation of creation, transgression, a sin nature, and the likeness of man and woman in the image of God. The original paragraph placed more focus on the fall of man; whereas, the new sections looks at a holistic view of man as a creation of God. Another redaction took the 1925 sections IV-X, “The Way of Salvation,” “Justification,” “The Freeness of Salvation,” “Regeneration,” “Repentance and Faith,” and “Sanctification,” and consolidated them into one section titled “Salvation.” The new section not only includes each of the areas previously addressed, it also presents them as a connection chain of the bigger picture and progression of salvation.

In what might look like an addition to the 2000 statement, the single 1925 word “unchangeable” in the ninth section sentence, “It is a most glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable,” is turned into a full paragraph in the 2000 version.[14] This paragraph, while not changing anything theologically, attempts to greatly expand on the idea of unchangeable. Essentially the argument it makes is that one cannot lose salvation after genuine election and regeneration. From time to time, this issue is debated within the Church; and therefore, by offering more detail, the SBC has staked out their position in the debate. Should one attempt to argue that this redaction adds theological material to the statement, it is important to realize that in actuality, the paragraph is simply trying to remove the ambiguity that could be present in the single word “unchangeable.”

Another redaction, while seemingly short, addresses church offices in the 1925 section titled, “The Gospel Church.” In 1925, the offices were called “bishops or elders and deacons.”[15] In the newer version, the titles are changed to “pastors and deacons.”16 In our present day, one might see a Roman Catholic bishop or a Presbyterian elder and feel these positions are not comparable to a Baptist pastor. However, this is not a matter of duty, but rather, a change in the generally understood meaning of the words. For example, the Greek word episkopos, which the King James Version of the Bible often translated as “bishop” is translated overseer or pastor by recent translations. With the change in words, confusion was more likely without the redaction. Therefore, to remain true to the meaning of the 1925 statement, the 2000 statement made these changes, changing nothing theologically.

As one examines the SBS’s Baptist Faith Messages from 1925 until 2000, additions  and redactions are present, but the theological under girding remains intact over the 75-year history. The 2000 statement demonstrates the doctrinal confession and beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention just as the 1925 original did. Not only is this significant in showing consistency of belief over this period of time, it also continues to announce to the world the major ideas as demonstrated by the Bible and held by those who adopt the statement. However, neither the 1925 nor the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statements were provided here, so it is the hope of this author that the reader will find these statements and examine them for oneself.

Brand,  Chad, Charles Draper, and Archie England. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
Nashville, Tenn: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. Under “Confessions and Credos.” Prepared
by OakTree Software Incorporated, Accordance Bible Software 9. (Accessed October 2, 2010).
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1998.
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
Hindson, Edward E., and Ergun Mehmet Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2008. “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.” Southern Baptist Convention. (accessed October 2, 2010).

1. 1 Timothy 6:12b, ESV.
2. See Romans 10:9-10, 2 Corinthians 9:13, Hebrews 3:1, 4:14, 10:23.
3. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tenn: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), under “Confessions and Credos,” prepared by OakTree Software Incorporated, Accordance Bible Software 9 (accessed October 2, 2010).
4. Brand, 2003.
5. See 1 John 4:2 and 2 John 7.
6. See Colossians 1:15-20, 1 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Hebrews 1:1-3, Philippians 2:5-11.
7., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), I.
8. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1998), 360.
9. Edward Hindson and Ergun Mehmet Caner,  The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 371-376.
10., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), 2000, section VI.
11. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 937.
12., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), 2000, section XII.
13., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), 2000, Preamble.
14., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), 1925, IX.
15., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), 1925, XII.
16., “Comparison of 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Southern Baptist Convention, (accessed October 2, 2010), 2000, VI.

*SBC logo is listed as released to the public domain.  

** This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.

Purgatory and the Cross

I'm struggling to understand the idea behind purgatory.  No, that's not exactly right.  Purgatory, as I understand it, is something of a refining furnace that extracts the impurities from the soul prior to entering heaven.  Those impurities are the results of sin committed by the Christian. The idea then is that Christians, upon death, go to purgatory (or potentially straight to heaven), while non-Christians go to hell.  In the pre-Reformation church, the Roman Catholic pope could authorize indulgences, a transferable certificate that bought or earned less time in purgatory. However, there was really now way to know how long one would be refined in purgatory.  (These same indulgences were one of the fueling fires behind Martin Luther's swing toward reformation.)

So more accurately, what I don't understand is how purgatory lines up biblically with the cross.  The idea of purgatory is a mockery of the cross.

To the issue of purgatory and daily blasphemies needed to prop it up, John Calvin says,
"We are bound, therefore, to raise our voice to its highest pitch, and cry aloud that purgatory is a deadly device of Satan; that it makes void the cross of Christ; that if offers intolerable insult to the divine mercy; that is undermines and overthrows our faith.  For what is this purgatory but the satisfaction for sin paid after death by the souls of the dead? Hence when this idea of satisfaction is refuted, purgatory itself is forthwith completely overturned.  But if it is perfectly clear, from what was lately said, that the blood of Christ is the only satisfaction, expiation, and cleansing for the sins of believers, what remains but to hold that purgatory is mere blasphemy horrid blasphemy against Christ?  I say nothing of the sacrilege by which it is daily defended, the offenses which it begets in religion, and the other innumerable evils which we see teeming froth from that fountain of impiety" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Ch 5, Sec 6.) 
I realize my statements here may be offensive to my Roman Catholic friends.  I am open to conversation on this topic, but I make no apology.  I hope that there is a mutual realization that purgatory is offensive to the Protestant understanding of passages such as Romans 5:8, Romans 8:1, Hebrews 9:25-28, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:6, and Philippians 1:23.

*Painting by Ludovico Carracci is in the public domain.

Will Work for a Toilet?

Early each Thursday morning I have coffee with a small group of guys.  Presently, our meeting spot is a spiffy little coffee joint located inside a locally owned bookstore.  I typically order a large cup of the medium blend, and they usually fill the cup so full that not only can I not put in any cream, the act of carrying the cup to the table makes coffee spill over the side onto the saucer.  But it's a good cup of coffee and the place makes a nice meeting spot for us.

Not too long ago, I had a hefty glass of orange juice before heading out to meet the guys.  Then when I got there, I ordered my usual.  The conversation was good so when my brain received the warning from my bladder, I figured I still had a few minutes.  You know, I hit the snooze button.  When the alarm went off again I excused myself from the group and headed to the bathroom toward the back of the bookstore.

It was locked.

"No bro," said the barista-beatnik from behind espresso machine, "we don't have a key for the bookstore toilets; do you really think they'd let us have one."  The alarm went off again. 

Out the door I went.

Hitting Main Street, I figured there would be a good number of restrooms for my use.  The first one had a sign reading "For building residents only."  Ignoring the sign, I grabbed for the doorknob.  Locked; no light on under the door.  The next place had a key code on the door and the doorman wouldn't give me the numbers to unlock the room.  Another place had one of these key code entry systems too; maybe made by the same manufacture and maybe with the same code.

The alarm went off again and by this time I was three large blocks away from the coffee shop where I started.  Dancing the pee-pee dance into a business building I noticed an older man working a small coffee cart.  Behind him and slightly to the left was a men's restroom and yet there was another key coded door.  In my business shirt, tie, and slacks, I begged him to let me use the restroom.  I might have been holding my crotch like a three-year-old.  I don't remember.  Not understanding my urgency, he explained that the codes were to keep transient people from using the bathrooms.  "If you don't give me the code the to bathroom," I pleaded with the man, "I'm going to be forced to urinate in your planter box."  He gave me the code and I shouted a thank you as I ran into the bathroom.  (I considered buying a cup of coffee from him in appreciation, but my still pulsating bladder argued me out of it.)

But this is more than a story about a dude and the verge of wetting his khakis.  This is a story of understanding needs.

Living in America, with a job and a house and cable TV, it becomes easy to forget that people have needs, real needs.  For many, the idea of need is having to replace your iPhone headphones before getting on the evening train.  Just the thought of not being able to listen to music, being forced to sit in silence or strike up a conversation with the stranger in the next seat is enough of a need to motivate you to get over to the Apple store on your lunch break.  You need to replace your headphones, right?  I am just as guilty, if not a little more.  But there's something about the fear of peeing your pants, standing outside a locked, empty bathroom that brings the idea of need into crisp focus.

Now, imagine not having eaten for a day or two and sitting right outside Starbucks.  You see people casually reading a paper, nibbling on a seven-dollar pastry, sipping a twelve-dollar cup of chocolate soy foam.  They get up to leave and toss the remaining half of the pastry in the trash; $3.50, right in the garbage.  Imagine you haven't bathed in nine days.  Imagine it was 37 degrees last night and you slept on a metal bus bench with only two windbreakers and a bath towel to serve as blankets and a pillow.  You have no warm water, no internet, no car.  You don't have a cell phone in your pocket and you will not be having that dinner party this Friday night.  Do you think you might have needs?

The Bible talks about caring for the less fortunate.  (Here's an example.)  But this post is not about getting you to run down and serve at the Rescue Mission or buy a lunch for Elmer, the guy living on the bus bench outside your office.  No.  These are good things, but as you're reading this on your phone or at work, it is my hope that you think about what you really need and what you covet.  I'm working through this daily and it is not easy.  While living in America is a great blessing, it can be a black curse to correct thinking.

In a letter Paul wrote to the Philippians, likely from imprisonment, Paul says,
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:10-13, ESV). 
It is my hope and prayer for you and for me, that we might learn, as Paul did, to be content in the highs and lows, plenty and hunger, and in abundance and need.  But please realize that I am not arguing that we should do nothing to meet our actual needs; because if that were true, I would've saved myself the time and trouble and just peed my pants.  Instead, I am encouraging you to think about the difference between need and good old-fashioned American want. . . . There is a difference, really.

* "Toilet" Photo is registered under a creative commons license: / CC BY 2.0; "Will Work for Food photo is registered under a creative commons license: / CC BY-SA 2.0