"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

December 2004                 Vol. 3  No. 12

Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Bruce T. Gourley, Associate Director, The Center for Baptist Studies

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:


I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "Sniffing the Powder of Christmas"

The Baptist Soapbox: Malcolm Tolbert

         "All Human Beings Are Created Equal"

Emails from Baptists around the World: Fuad Haddad

         "Baptists in Israel Today"

Baptists, the Bible, and the Poor: Charles E. Poole

         "A Christmas Jesus"

The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges: Charles W. Deweese

         "Real Baptists"

New Web Site Features; Sneak Peek at the 2005 Bulletin; More

Dates to Note
         Upcoming Events


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I Believe

"Sniffing the Powder of Christmas"

By Walter B. Shurden


I believe . . .

that E. Stanley Jones may have overstated the case when he said, “The Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world.” Jones was, however, plugged into the shocking power of Mary’s Manifesto. The Magnificat is the gospel according to Mary. Contrary to what some may think, it has everything to do with “Baptist Studies.”

Within Mary’s gospel, a gospel containing only nine bible verses (Luke 1:47-56), one sniffs the powder of dynamite. So preoccupied with history that we are oblivious to poetry, so conquered by nationalism that we can only see tyrants afar, and so plagued by theological squabbling that ethical atrocities calmly tiptoe around us, we Baptists, of all God’s people, need to hear again these dizzying and disorienting words of value reversal from “that fierce virgin.”  

Because you have read this young Jewish girl’s words so often from more standard translations of Holy Scripture, you may profit by reading Mary’s subversive poem this season from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. Read slowly. Find yourself in the poem.

And Mary said,

            I’m bursting with God-news;

                        I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.

God took one good look at me, and look what happened─

            I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!

What God has done for me will never be forgotten,

            the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.

His mercy flows in wave after wave

            on those who are in awe before him.

He bared his arm and showed his strength,

            scattered the bluffing braggarts.

He knocked tyrants off their high horses,

            pulled victims out of the mud.

The starving poor sat down to a banquet;

            the callous rich were left out in the cold.

He embraced his chosen child, Israel;

            he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.

It’s exactly what he promised,

            beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

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Baptist Soapbox

The Baptist Soapbox: Invited guests speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though sometimes they are). Climbing upon the Soapbox this month is Dr. Malcolm Tolbert.  Dr. Tolbert served for years as a professor of New Testament at both the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.  Shaped by his missionary service to Brazil in his earlier years, Tolbert, a superior linguist, became a master teacher of the New Testament, a preacher in great demand, and an author of some note.  Dr. Tolbert cares for the individual, the church, the gospel, and the world, and that is not a bad combination for a Christian theologian.  His most recent book is entitled Shaping the Church: Adapting New Testament Models for Today.  He serves as "Theologian in Residence" at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Baton Rogue, LA.


"All Human Beings Are Created Equal"

By Malcolm Tolbert


              When I was a child, I memorized at least the first part of The Declaration of Independence. Early on I was greatly impressed by the statement: “All men are created equal.” The Declaration, like the Gettysburg Address, was penned by a master of the English language and defies improvement. It set forth the vision of a country established on principles of equality and freedom. That vision, often referred to as the American dream, has been moving toward reality, often at great cost and much suffering.

              A few years ago a word in that phrase began to bother me. I noticed that it said “all MEN are created equal.” Of course free males composed less than half the population. Based on the evidence, I have to assume that Jefferson and the wonderful founding fathers really meant males when they said “men.” Unaware, they were victims of an ingrained prejudice as old as history itself, the assumption that women and slaves were not equal to free males, especially those who owned property that often included slaves.

              It was not until the eve of my birth that the nation finally removed a deep-seated prejudice against women from our constitution by giving them the right to vote. Even today the belief that men are superior to women is in evidence in our homes, schools, churches, and other institutions. For example women are a very small minority in the halls of government and in the boardrooms of our corporations.

              One of the major problems is that so many people believe a patriarchal system is God’s will. Christians who justify such a view see the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God and fail to acknowledge that the people of the Bible did not rise above the culture and learning of their day. Yes, the domination of men over women that prevailed in Jewish, Christian, and pagan societies is reflected in Scripture, but it does not mean the patriarchal system is God’s will for the social order.

              I too have proof texts from the Bible, and mine challenge the prevailing order. Of the two creation stories in Genesis, I like the first one best. I also am aware that God chose some women to be preachers in the centuries prior to the ministry of Jesus. I really like the way Jesus related to women, often those who were outside the pale of respectable Jewish society. I like Acts 2:17, and I especially like Galatians 3:28.

              Today when I hear the Declaration of Independence, I rephrase it mentally and say to myself “all human beings are created equal.” In my speech, both in and outside the pulpit, I attempt to overcome a life of being immersed in a language fashioned by males. That is the least that I can do for women whom I welcome as sisters and equal partners in the Christian pilgrimage.


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Emails From Baptists Around the World: An Email on Baptists in Israel Today.  The Reverend Fuad Haddad is Chairman, Association of Baptist Churches in Israel.


"Baptists in Israel Today"
By Fuad Haddad


            In order to understand the work of Baptists in Israel today there is a need for some historical background.  The Baptist presence in Israel began in 1911, with the return of Rev. Shukri Musa to his native hometown, Safad, in northern Galilee, after his studies in the U.S.A. Musa was supported by Illinois Baptists, and in 1912, he settled in Nazareth. His evangelistic efforts led to the establishment of the Nazareth Baptist Church, the first Baptist church in the country and an Arabic speaking church. During the first fifty years, Baptist work depended on missionary efforts sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention (USA). Working with local believers, they established centers and churches throughout Palestine.

            The second World War, the conflict in 1947, and the war that followed led to a setback in Baptist work, specially in Jerusalem and Haifa. Missionaries left, and many church members fled to other countries in the Middle East. The Nazareth Baptist Church was less affected, because the local church members took over the leadership role. In 1949-1950, missionaries started to come back and worked with local believers to reorganize the Baptist work in Israel. In Nazareth, the first national pastor was ordained in 1960. The Jerusalem Baptist Church, with multinational membership, was reorganized in 1963, and Haifa in 1965.

            Jews and Arabs worshipped together for a while, then each started their own church. Language differences and cultural backgrounds were main factors for this development. Baptists used educational activities such as Sunday Schools, bookstores, music choirs and schools as means for outreach. The Nazareth Baptist School, which was opened in 1949-1950, had graduates who became leaders of the Baptist work in Galilee and Northern Israel.

            The second half of the twentieth century saw increasing organizational efforts among Baptists in Israel. In 1963, the association of Baptist Churches in Israel was established; it became an active instrument for promoting different ministries in local churches as well as establishing relationships with the wider Baptist family. The Association was granted membership in the Baptist World Alliance and the European Baptist Federation. It also became a member of the United Christian Council of Israel.

            Of  the 20 churches belonging to the Association, 15 are Arabic speaking and the others minister to foreign nationals. The establishment of the Association provided a channel to organize relationship among the different groups in order to promote the Lord’s work in the Land.

            As a result, the Association became the leader of local work in the country. Today, the Association focuses on promoting the work of the local churches, aiming at church planting of new congregations. It is also striving to train new leaders for churches, support present ones, and obtain recognition by authorities.

            The country of Israel has a population of over six and a half million. Roughly five and a half million are Jews and over one million are Muslims. The Christian community numbers 130,000. Israeli Christians are 60% Greek / Roman Catholics, 36% Greek Orthodox and 4% Protestants and Evangelicals.

            The number of Baptists in Israel is about 1,500 adults and 4,000 children.  Although Baptists are few in number they are active and well-known for their spiritual commitment and moral standards.

            Baptists who live in Israel are faced with the challenge of dealing with multi-national and multi-religious groups and how to relate to them. These challenges obligate Baptists to live a lifestyle that reflects the living faith of the Lord.

            Because of the fact that there are Arab Baptists and Jewish Baptists, some mild controversies arise concerning the prophetic interpretations of the last days. However such controversies are never serious enough to cause damage.

            The concern of Baptists today is to witness and be witnesses in the land. The promotion of the Lord’s work is a priority. We covet your prayers. Growth has been modest thus far, but the local churches have been challenged to double their numbers in a decade.

            God has blessed and He will continue to bless.

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Bible and Poor

Baptists, The Bible, and the Poor: Charles E. Poole is a Baptist minister with Lifeshare Community Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi where he delights in ministering alongside the poor. "Chuck" Poole, a provocative preacher and servant pastor, served Baptist churches for twenty-five years. Among the churches he has served are First Baptist Church, Macon, GA, First Baptist Church, Washington, DC, and Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, MS.


"A Christmas Jesus"
By Charles E. Poole

            I am writing these words between the second and third Sundays of Advent; those two middle Sundays of Advent which place John in our path every year, year after year.  For those of us who follow the rhythms of the Christian calendar and the common lectionary, there is no December detour around rough, rugged, stern, demanding John.  There he stands, year after year; wearing wool, munching bugs and blocking the path to the manger while paving the way for Jesus. 

            Only this year, he is dressed in jailhouse orange and eating prison food.  This year it’s Matthew’s turn to dampen our Advent by forcing us to face John, and Matthew shows us John, not only at the river, but also behind bars.  And, from his cell, John raises a big question: “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'" To which Jesus gave a bigger answer: "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."

            That, in Jesus’ own words, is what Jesus was up to: Bringing relief, comfort, hope and help to people who were struggling and suffering; the blind, the deaf, the sick and the poor.  We must resist the temptation to spiritualize Jesus’ list.  The temptation is to lapse into a vague lavender fog that goes like this, “Well, we’re all spiritually blind, spiritually deaf, spiritually sick and spiritually poor.” We like that because it keeps us from having to actually go get involved with reading to the blind, building a wheelchair ramp for the paralyzed or visiting the kind of neighborhoods where the poorest of the poor live.  But when Jesus talked about the blind, he was talking about people who can’t see Christmas lights. When he talked about the deaf, he was talking about people who’ve never heard “Silent Night.”  When Jesus talked about the poor, he was talking about people who are trying to explain to their kids why there aren’t going to be presents, why the heat is off again, why they can't eat so much while they’re out of school on Christmas break.  That’s what Jesus meant by blind, deaf and poor; actually, really, sure-enough blind, deaf and poor people. 

            Jesus didn’t do Christmas, of course.  But if he had, it doesn’t take much imagination to know who would have been on his list. Which probably means that, when those of us who follow Jesus are making our lists, we should probably check it twice, to make sure we are in on what Jesus was up to.

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The Baptist Spirit

The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges: Charles W. Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, writes this section of BSB. An articulate and passionate Baptist, he identifies the historic Baptist Spirit in America.

"Real Baptists"

By Charles W. Deweese


             Periodically, Baptist writers, especially Moderate Baptists, use the term "real Baptists." Perhaps the time has come to evaluate that term. Increasingly, I, for one, do not like it. Having said that, I will confess up front that I have probably used it along with other such terms as "alleged Baptists," "semi-Baptists," and "marginal Baptists." Perhaps a few questions can at least stimulate discussion.

             What is a "real Baptist?" Is it a Seventh Day Baptist who worships on Saturday? Is it a Primitive Baptist who emphasizes predestination? Is it a Landmark Baptist who believes a Baptist church is the only true church? Is it a Free Will Baptist who believes it is possible to fall from grace? Is it a General Six Principle Baptist who affirms the six principles in Hebrews 6:1-2? Is it a Sovereign Grace Baptist who highlights Calvinist theological convictions? Is it an American Baptist who supports ecumenical relationships? Is it a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary or the Baptist Seminary at Richmond? Is it a Southern Baptist who defends biblical inerrancy, opposes women's ordination, and uses confessions in creedal fashion? Is it a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Baptist who opposes biblical inerrancy, supports women's ordination, and rejects creedal use of confessions? Is a "real Baptist" black or white, Russian or Brazilian, male or female, young or old, rural or urban, rich or poor?

             Who decides what constitutes a "real Baptist?" The historical evidence is plain: Since the early 1600s, Baptists worldwide have varied significantly in theology, polity, geography, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. At times, pressures have mounted to convince Baptists to adopt common ways of doing and believing their faith—and with some success. However, no amount of such pressure will ever convince all Baptists to buy into common patterns of belief and behavior. The conditioning influences are multitudinous, ways of being Baptist are too varied, and fitting into molds counters most Baptists' attitudes of individualism, autonomy, and priesthood. With all these global variations, who would be knowledgeable enough to pinpoint a "real Baptist?" And who would be arrogant enough to claim that his/her view of being Baptist is the only "real" way—which leads to the inevitable conclusion that all other Baptists are either unreal or wrong?
My ministry as director of a Baptist history program includes focusing daily on Baptist history and principles and how best to communicate both to the Baptist public. I know what my personal principles are, and I know that I learned them growing up in a Baptist church in Asheville, NC, majoring in religion at Mars Hill College, spending six years on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writing books and articles, and working for the past thirty-plus years in Baptist history programming and publishing. I know the general principles of Baptists who participate in and support our organization. And I will spend the remainder of my career communicating to the Baptist public in as convincing a fashion as I can that biblically based Baptist principles really do matter.

             The hardest thing I have had to learn is that not all Baptists read the Bible or interpret Baptist principles the same way I do. Either I believe in the right of Baptists to open the Bible and, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to arrive at their own conclusions, or I don't. Therefore, I am no longer going to use the term "real Baptists."

             This does not mean that I am going to abandon my responsibility to question ways of being Baptist that seem to depart from the historic, Bible-based, liberty-loving, 400-year traditions of Baptists. It does mean that I am going to be more careful how I phrase my questions and what adjectives I use to characterize Baptists. 

             This article concludes two years of writing monthly articles for the Baptist Studies Bulletin. My appreciation for Buddy Shurden and Bruce Gourley is sky high. They are two of the brightest minds in Baptist life today. The Center for Baptist Studies is a crucial component of aggressive promotion of New Testament views of Baptist convictions. We are all indebted to Mercer University and President Kirby Godsey for providing the financial resources to keep this center for Baptist dreams alive.

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The next six months of the Baptist Studies Bulletin will focus on the following topics:
"I Believe ..." by
Walter B. Shurden
"History of the Baptist World Alliance" by
Richard V. Pierard
"Re-Imaging Baptist Collegiate Ministry" by
Bruce Gourley
"Baptists, The Bible, and the Poor" by
Charles E. Poole
Book Reviews by
E. Glenn Hinson
and The Soapbox


13 Day Baptist Heritage Tour         July 25 - August 6, 2005
Birmingham, England

The Baptist Heritage Tour includes the Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance.
It is organized by Dr. Drayton Sanders, Chairman, Baptist Heritage Council of Georgia.
Dr. Johnny Pierce of Baptists Today and Dr. Walter Shurden of The Center
for Baptist Studies will accompany the tour.  For information contact
Dr. Drayton Sanders at 706-226-2349 or at

Dates to


Dates to Note


December 29 - January 2, ANTIPHONY -- A Conference for University Students.  Visit


February 23-26, "Current" Retreat, First Baptist Church, Asheville, NC.  Contact


March 4-5, CBF of Georgia General Assembly, First Baptist Church, Rome, GA.  Dr. Charles E. Poole, speaker.


June 30 - July 1, CBF National General Assembly.  Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX.


July 27-31, 2005, Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, Birmingham, England. To register email , phone 703.790.8980, or fax 703.893.5160.

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Baptist Myths: A New Pamphlet Series

A series of eleven pamphlets that address negative perceptions held towards Baptists in popular American culture. These pamphlets are suitable for individual study, church classes, and academic courses. They are jointly published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society, The Center for Baptist Studies of Mercer University, and the Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society. Editor: Doug Weaver; Associate Editors: Charles W. Deweese & Walter B. Shurden.

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