THE BAPTIST STUDIES BULLETIN
"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
I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden
"Sniffing the Powder of Christmas"
The Baptist Soapbox: Malcolm Tolbert
"All Human Beings Are Created Equal"
"Baptists in Israel Today"
"A Christmas Jesus"
Dates to Note
Note: You are free
to duplicate and circulate the articles in BSB or to use quotations
"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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
Dates to Note
December 29 - January 2, ANTIPHONY -- A Conference for University Students. Visit www.antiphonyonline.org.
February 23-26, "Current" Retreat, First Baptist Church, Asheville, NC. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 4-5, CBF of Georgia General Assembly, First Baptist Church, Rome, GA. Dr. Charles E. Poole, speaker. www.cbfga.org/
June 30 - July 1, CBF National General Assembly. Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX. www.thefellowship.info.
27-31, 2005, Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance,
Birmingham, England. To register email
Congress@bwanet.org , phone 703.790.8980, or
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.
The Center for
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