Vol. 5 No. 9




  The Jesse Mercer Plaza
  Mercer University, Macon Campus 

Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
A Monthly EMagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Visit The Center for Baptist Studies' Web Site at

Table of Contents



I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "Leaving Church, Loving Church"

The Baptist Soapbox: Gregory A. Boyd

         "Trusting God's Infinite Intelligence: Why We Need Not Fear a Partly Open Future"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church
:  Mary Anderson

         "Catastrophic Needs Ministry, Woodlawn Hills Church, St. Paul, Minnesota"

Baptists and Peacemaking: Glen Stassen

         "The Sermon On the Mount Revisited"

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

         "Against Partiality in the Church"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "In Response to . . . America's Regional Gods"
Dates to Note

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I Believe

"Leaving Church, Loving Church"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .
in parish ministers. I really do. (I pirated and paraphrased those two sentences from John Killinger: “I believe in the church. I really do.”) Those local church ministers with an acute case of integrity who have stayed in the trenches for a lifetime or for much of a lifetime are among my most cherished heroes. I lacked the patience, the skill set, and the spiritual courage to be a long time parish minister.
            When I was a young pastor of a very good church, I developed stomach problems. I went to see Bill Lumpkin, an internist in our church. I told him my problems; he talked with me for a while and checked me over. Then he said, “Buddy, your problem is vocational.” “What do you mean?” I asked. He said, “Well, in my work, I can tell people who bother me to go to hell; you can’t do that.”
            Trapped in a vocation where I could not tell people my fondest wishes for their eternal destiny, I, therefore, fled to academia. Oh, of course, I have always fallen back on the very convenient theology that said, “I felt called to other forms of ministry.” (Barbara Brown Taylor turned her cards face up about the pastorate when she entitled her faith memoir Leaving Church.) And I really, honestly, truthfully (no defensiveness here) have felt called to “other forms of ministry!” Candidly, I have enjoyedno, lovedevery ministry position I ever had, even the administrative, the one I enjoyed the least. And yet, despite my convenient theology of “call” and my very deep sense of joy and gratitude for every ministry position I have ever had, I have lugged around for four decades an unspoken tug, an unmistakable pull toward local church ministry. And in an odd way I have been glad for that discomfort.
            More than once I have almost “surrendered” and returned to local church ministry. Several years ago Kay and I talked with a pulpit search committee from what I considered to be one of the very best Baptist churches in my orbit. At the end of our conversation in Beall’s Restaurant in Macon, GA, I told them that they needed to look somewhere else. On the way home, I said to Kay, “Well, that settles it; if I won’t go to that pastorate, I won’t go to any.” That experience, and my increasing age, resolved the issue for me.
            Whence come these vocational reflections? Four books and one death resurfaced the unspoken tug and the unmistakable pull. The death on July 3 was that of W. W. Finlator, longtime and outrageously courageous pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. What a priest of God! A sincere prayer for Christ’s Church: “Oh God, give us more Bill Finlators.” The books, one novel and three memoirs, in order of publication dates, are: Open Secrets: A Spiritual Journey through a Country Church by Richard Lischer (2001); Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004); Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor (2006); and Seven Things They Don’t Teach You in Seminary by John Killinger (2006).
            Four very different groups of people need to read these books. First, seminarians or those out of seminary three years or less should have a gun held to their heads until they have read all four. Second, those of us who “left church” should read them to keep us focused on the fact that our task is to relate our ministriesacademic, denominational, or administrativeto the stench as well as to the fragrance of local church life. Thirdly, the laity desperately need to read these books to get clued in on what keeps their ministers awake at night and what makes them cry. And fourthly, ministers, like Bill Finlator, who have stayed in parish ministry for all their lives, need to read these books to be reminded that what they do day after day are among life’s most important offerings to the Divine.
            At Mercer University we sponsor what we call the Mercer Preaching Consultations (MPC). In a few days, John Killinger will be with us at St. Simons for MPC ’06. He will speak three times. His topics are “Preaching as the Footnotes of Mystery,” “Preaching That is Important is Always about the Important Things in People’s Lives,” and “Preaching for a DecisionYours.” If you are a local church minister, you really ought to try and make this meeting, because you are probably like Barbara Brown Taylor. She said, “The demands of parish ministry routinely cut me off from the resources that enabled me to do parish ministry” (98). At MPC ’06 we will try hard to be a resource for your high calling. You still have time to register. If you simply must miss MPC ’06, try us again in ’07 when Barbara Brown Taylor will be our featured presenter.
            At the Mercer Preaching Consultations we try to speak honestly of the universal temptation we have of “leaving church” and of the unmistakable pull we have toward “loving church.” 

Table Of Contents


John Killinger's Latest Book:
Seven Things They Don't
Teach You in Seminary

1. “Churches are Really Institutions, Not Centers of Spirituality”
2. “To Most Churches, Appearances Are More Important than Reality”
3. “Every Successful Minister is Drowning in a Sea of Minutiae”
4. “Pastoral Search Committees Seldom Know or Tell the Truth”
5. “Preaching to the Same Congregation Sunday after Sunday is Extremely Hard Work”
6. “There is a Meanness in Some Church Members that is Simply Incredible”
7. “The Calling to Be a Minister Transcends All the Problems that Being a Minister Entails"

Hear John Kilinger at the
September 24-26, St. Simons, Georgia

Main Presenter - John Killinger
Featured Speaker - Fisher Humphreys
Music Leader - L.C. Lane
and many other great speakers!
View the Program here.

Limited Enrollment. The Consultation sold out the
past two years.  Click here to register!

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. Gregory A. Boyd, Preaching Pastor of the Woodlawn Hills Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and former professor of theology at Bethel College.

"Trusting God's Infinite Intelligence: Why We Need Not Fear a Partly Open Future"
Gregory A. Boyd

            Open Theism is the view that God knows the future partly as a realm of what might and might not come to pass.  Since God sovereignly chose to give angels and humans free will, this view holds, the future is partly “open.” Defenders of this view, such as myself, argue that it is biblically, philosophically and practically superior to the more traditional view that holds that the future has been  exhaustively settled (in God’s knowledge if not by God’s will) from all eternity.[1] This view has arguably been the single most controversial issue debated among conservative Christians for the last decade or so.  As one who has followed this debate rather closely, I’d like to take this opportunity to clear up a foundational misunderstanding that has permeated the debate.
            Without question, the single most often repeated criticism of Open Theism raised in the vast literature written against this view is that it allegedly diminishes “God’s sovereignty.”
[2]  Since the God of Open Theism doesn’t know the future as exhaustively settled,  many argue that this God may be taken by surprise at what comes to pass. The God of Open Theism therefore can’t promise to have a plan in place to bring good out of evil, as Romans 8.28 seems to teach. Suffering might be altogether pointless.  Indeed, a number of critics have made the claim that since in the Open View God isn’t certain of all that will come to pass, the God of Open Theism can only guess at what might occur and hope things turn out reasonably well.  In the words of Bruce Ware, one of the foremost critics of Open theology, the God of Open Theism is a “limited, passive, hand-wringing God.”[3]
            Such an impotent view of God understandably strikes fear, if not revulsion, in the hearts and minds of many believers who hear it.  In reality, I will now argue, the charge could hardly be further from the truth.  I will contend that if we truly believe God is omniscient, possessing unlimited intelligence and knowledge, there is no basis for concluding he is less “in control”  if he knows the future partly as a realm of possibilities than he is if he knows the future exclusively as a realm of eternally settled facts. In fact, I shall argue that any view of God which thinks God gains any significant providential advantage simply by virtue of knowing the future exclusively as a realm of eternally settled facts  (rather than as partly comprised of possibilities thereby concedes that it has a limited view of God). [4]   More specifically, ironic as it sounds,   I shall argue that this charge is premised on a denial of God’s omniscience.
   To begin, we humans obviously are less “in control” when we face a future partly comprised of possibilities than we are when we face a future that is exhaustively settled. This is why we experience more stress playing a (serious) game of chess, for example, than we do when working on an assembly line.  But this is so only because we humans have a limited amount of intelligence. The more possibilities we have to anticipate, the more we have to divide up our limited intelligence to anticipate each one.
            Unlike us, however, God is not limited in intelligence. So far as I can see, very few people– including most critics of the Open View of God–have adequately come to grips with this important fact.  If God has unlimited intelligence, God doesn’t have to divide up his intelligence to cover possibilities the way we do.  Rather, a God of infinite intelligence could anticipate each and every one of any number of possibilities as though each and every one was the only possibility–which is to say, as though each and every one was an absolute certainty.
            In other words, for a God of unlimited intelligence, there is no functional difference between anticipating a possibility, on the one hand, and anticipating a certainty, on the other.  With regard to any event that comes to pass, the open theist can say as confidently as a traditional theist: “God had been anticipating this very event from the foundation of the world.” It’s just that the Open Theist adds that, because agents have free will, any number of other events could have taken place as well. Yet, because the Open Theist believes God is infinitely intelligent, he can maintain that if any other event had taken place he would be saying the exact same thing about that event: “God had been anticipating this very event from the foundation of the world.”
            Though we repeatedly read the claim that open theists deny God’s omniscience, it should now be clear that, as a matter of fact, the God of Open Theism doesn’t know less than the God of classical theism. To the contrary, in this view God knows much more.   The God of classical theism knows only one future storyline as a certainty and therefore anticipates it perfectly.  The God of Open Theism knows an innumerable number of possible future storylines–but God anticipates each and every one as though it was the only future story-line.  Far from diminishing God’s intelligence and knowledge, therefore, the Open View greatly exalts it.
            In fact, we may go further and note that only a God who lacked infinite intelligence and exhaustive knowledge would gain any significant providential advantage by knowing the future exclusively as a realm of settled facts as opposed to a realm partly composed of possibilities. Only a God of limited intelligence and knowledge could improve his anticipatory skills by acquiring certainty about a possible future event.  In other words, only a limited God would anticipate a certainty better than a possibility. Hence, only a limited God could be in any way threatened by a partly open future; would have to “guess” at what might come to pass; might be caught by surprise, and would be put in a position where he must passively hope for the best.
            Ironic as it seems, therefore, I have to conclude that the criticism that the Open View denies God’s omniscience that diminishes his sovereignty is itself premised on a denial of God’s omniscience!   
            In closing, when Bruce Ware informs us that the God who faces a partly open future is a  “limited, passive, hand-wringing God,”  he’s actually telling us a good deal about his own view of God–but absolutely nothing about the God of Open Theism.  Sadly, it’s evident that Bruce Ware’s  God would be reduced to a “hand-wringing” deity if he had to anticipate possibilities rather than certainties.  His God must foreknow all as a certainty (and, in point of fact, predestine all) in order to confidently face the future.  But a truly omniscient God–a  God of unlimited intelligence and knowledge–would have no such requirements. 
            My encouragement to Bruce and to the numerous other critics who dread the consequences of a partly open future would be:  Have faith in God’s infinite intelligence!  If you do, you’ll see you have nothing to fear about a partly open future.

[1]  Those who hold the future is exhaustively settled by God’s will are broadly labeled  “Calvinist,” while those who hold the future is exhaustively settled in God’s knowledge, but not by God’s will, are broadly labeled Arminian.  The distinctive teaching of Open Theism is that the future is not exhaustively settled, either by God’s will, or in God’s knowledge. For an introductory defense of the Open View, see my, God of the Possible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000).

[2] See, for example, Bruce Ware, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000). 

[3] Ibid. p.216.

[4]  Of course, a God who predestines the whole of the future (as Calvinism contends) would be more “in control” than a God who grants agents a degree of free will, but that is not what is at stake in the debate surrounding Open Theism.  The specific claim investigated in this paper is the claim that Open Theism, by virtue of denying that God knows the future exhaustively as a realm of settled facts, restricts God’s control more than those who affirm that God’s knows the future exhaustively as a realm of settled facts (viz. more than classical Arminianism). 

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Quotes on the right
are from Taylor's


Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
by Barbara Brown Taylor

"In the tradition of the writings of Kathleen Norris and Anne Lamott, Taylor gives an account of her journey. From city to country, from full time parish minister to college professor, from urban dweller to part-time farmer, Taylor discovers that life with God entails "a wondrous uncertainty" despite our best laid plans. After ten years in a big urban church, Taylor arrives in Clarkesville (population 1,500) thinking her dream has come true. And it has. But five and a half years later, Taylor realizes that in order to keep her faith she must now leave the church--that, in fact, God is leading her into a new direction, one she could not have imagined when she was first ordained. Anyone who has experienced doubts about his or her chosen vocation, or those drawn to worship God in a community but who have a hard time finding their place in church, will find a kindred spirit in Taylor."

Local Church

Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church:  This series highlights local churches who are intentionally creative in their approach to ministry.  This month's featured local church ministry emphasis focuses on the Catastrophic Needs Ministry of Woodlawn Hills Church, St. Paul, Minnesota.  Associate Care Pastor Mary Anderson discusses the impact of this ministry within the Woodlawn Baptist fellowship.

"Catastrophic Needs Ministry, Woodlawn Hills Church, St. Paul, Minnesota"
By Mary Anderson

          A short time ago we had some devastating things happen to people at Woodland Hills and our ministry structures could only do a small amount to help them recover.  One of our Children’s Ministry pastors took a tragic fall while helping friends put a new roof on their home.  The final conclusion was that irreparable damage was done to his spinal cord and he was paralyzed from the waist down.  Others had serious illnesses that threatened to wipe out finances and were taking a toll on them and their family members.  We have a congregation numbering over 4,000 and it became apparent that many people were not aware of many of the needs of others, especially those that were catastrophic in nature.  The church’s benevolent fund can only handle a certain amount of these cases and can only offer a small amount of financial assistance. 
          As an answer to this problem we created what we call our Catastrophic Needs Ministry.  This ministry allows people who are facing imminent financial or emotional crisis due to a serious event in their life to communicate their needs to our church body for the purpose of obtaining support.  They may choose to hold a fundraising event or just have a trust account set up to which people can donate.  In addition, the church facility may be used without cost for the fundraising event.  The situations that have been targeted for aid are:

                    * An accident or serious injury
                    * Serious illness that would be life-threatening or chronic long term (where finances
                       would be impacted)
                    * Death (the effects on those left behind, financially especially)
                    * Natural disasters such as tornado, fire, flood, etc.

          In addition, we communicate these needs through our weekly bulletin, Web site and on-site kiosks in our Gathering Area.  We want to be sure plenty of exposure is given with details about how people can help show the love of Christ to those in their midst. 
          We are happy to report that the first fundraiser that was held for our Children’s pastor was very successful.  They were able to raise more than enough to meet their needs, one of which was equipping a vehicle for him to drive to and from work.  It is truly amazing to see how God will work if we just make a way.  He is blessed when we pull together for the good of another. 
          Our prayer is that we will not use this ministry much in the future.  But if we need to, we know new structures are in place and that God and others in the body will make a strong statement to those whose lives are forever altered by tragic circumstances. 

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McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations, McAfee School of Theology,
Center For Baptist Studies and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia

October 26, 2006 @ Religious Life Center, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia
Begins at 9:30 AM, Concludes at 3:30 PM

Featuring: Dr. Dennis Burton, Workshop Leader

For more information and to register, contact Dr. Larry McSwain.


Baptists and Peacemaking: A noted theologian and ethicist, Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  Prior to his current position, he taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 20 years.  He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Duke University and Columbia University.

"The Sermon on the Mount Revisited"
By Glen Stassen

            We are in an age of intermingling. Many religions and faiths, immigration, email and TV connections with what's happening all over, trade and economic globalization, pluralistic interconnection of cultures, the rise of denominationally independent churches—all these intermingle in our awareness. And we are experiencing a loss of confidence in Enlightenment claims to know the universally rational truth. Rationality is not universal; it is pluriform.
            Many people have only secular individualism where faith, commitment, covenant, and purpose should provide meaning. Many just believe in doing their own thing for their own desires. Life is mostly devoid of any larger purpose. What remains is lust for money and shopping.
            Many react against secular individualism and flee to authoritarian reactionaryism. They want an authority to tell us what is right and to tell us we should be imposing authority and punishing or at least blaming people with different beliefs or lifestyles.
            The authoritarians claim to be Christians and react against the secular individualists. (Revelation 13—they dress up with horns like a lamb and tell us to bow down to the ruling beast.) The secular individualists react against the authoritarians and think the authoritarians speak for Christianity. So they reject Christian faith. It's a vicious cycle. It's doing us damage. And it could still do worse. Fritz Stern's book, The Politics of Cultural Despair, tells how authoritarian reaction against secular individualism prepared many Germans to support nationalism, authoritarianism, and militarism, and eventually they got Hitler.
            But Baptists and believers'-church people have a third way. We are baptized into Jesus Christ—into death to sin with Christ and into resurrection to live in Christ. That's not authoritarianism in the name of Christianity and it's not secular individualism. We have a guiding star—Jesus Christ is Lord. We can find our identity neither in secularism nor authoritarianism, but in the way of Jesus.
            But the way of Jesus has been thinned down and accommodated to culture. So people praise Jesus but don't get the guidance Jesus truly gives. The way of Jesus gets reduced to the culture war between individualism and authoritarianism.
            Clarence Jordan, Howard Rees, Helen Johnson, and W. W. Adams inspired me to dig into the Sermon on the Mount to recover my believers'-church identity. I discovered that the Sermon on the Mount has been badly misinterpreted by a tradition of individualistic idealism as if it were "high ideals" or even "hard teachings."
            It's not high ideals; it is the way deliverance from secularism on the left and authoritarianism on the right.
            So I have researched and prayed and dug and meditated, and found a whole new interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount that recovers it as the guiding way for our lives. Actually, it's not a "new" interpretation; it's Jesus' and Matthew's interpretation. Or at least a whole lot closer to it. It's based on the discovery that the Sermon is not at all "antitheses," and is never just a prohibition of something impossible to prohibit, like anger.
            It's not prohibitions at all, but transforming initiatives of grace-based deliverance from our vicious cycles.
            Jossey-Bass has just now published the result: Living the Sermon on the Mount: Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance. Jossey-Bass gets its books in stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders, where ordinary people buy books. I wrote it for people, for church members, for study groups, for Sunday School classes, not just for scholars.
            But it has gotten major affirmation from the scholars; see my long, technical article in the most authoritative scholarly journal, The Journal of Biblical Literature (summer, 2003). And the endorsements on the back of the book by Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Amy Laura Hall, Richard Rohr, Willard Swartley, and Cheryl Bridges Johns say things like "This is the most helpful analysis of the Sermon on the Mount that I have ever studied."
            I hope you find it a guiding star in a time of confusion, and I hope you get your friends to read it!

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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.

"Against Partiality in the Church"
By Charles E. Poole

         Congregations who order their lives by the rhythms of the common lectionary are hearing portions of the book of James read each Sunday this September. On Sunday, September 10, the lectionary assigned the church to read James 2:1-10, an admonition against partiality toward the wealthy in church. James chapter two prohibits making distinctions in church between those who have much and those who have little (James 2:2-4).
         There may be no single passage of scripture we Baptists ignore so blissfully as that. We usually get more excited when wealthy, prominent people join our churches than when poor people join. We sometimes make special appeals to people of wealth when we are in “capital campaigns;” courting big givers with “kick-off” banquets and printing pledge packets that designate our need for so many gifts of this size, so many of that size, etc. We have even been known to relocate our churches from “bad” neighborhoods to “nice” neighborhoods.
         All the while, we continue to profess to be “people of the Book,” despite our glib dismissal of what that Book says.
         I repent. I ask you to join me.

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In Response To ...

"In Response to . . . America's Regional Gods"
By Bruce T. Gourley

          Rather than one nation under God, America is one nation under four Gods according to a newly-released, hallmark study of religious beliefs and attitudes throughout the nation, conducted by Baylor University and the Gallup organization and entitled, “American Piety in the 21st Century: New Insights into the Depth and Complexity of Religion in the United States.”  The study, although intriguing, offers little context in the way of today’s Baptist scene or in regard to the history of Christianity in America, a shortcoming which I have taken it upon myself to remedy.
           The God of the South, for example, is the Authoritarian God, a deity who is personally involved in the lives of individuals and the nation, but is ever ready to unleash thunderbolts of judgment on the unfaithful and the ungodly.  This God, worshipped by 43.5% of all southerners from Kentucky to Texas, is the God for which Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Richard Land and Albert Mohler act as spokespersons.  9/11? 
God’s wrath on America because of homosexuals and liberals, according to Falwell and Robertson.  A war against Iraq based on lies?  The lies don’t matter, according to Land, as the southern God is a God of war.  Should America be a democracy or a theocracy?  How about a 20% theocracy, Mohler suggests.  In short, in this land of revivalism, biblical inerrancy, gender hierarchy, poverty, racial tensions and political and social conservatism, the Authoritarian God allows no (sexual) sin to go unpunished and no other Gods to have even half as many followers as He.  (As if to prove the point about the South's judgmental God, a separate study has determined that American life expectancy is lowest in the South.)
           Speaking of New England, according to the Baylor/Gallup survey, today’s Easterners from West Virginia to Maine have the most balanced view of the American Gods.  All four of these Gods – Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical and Distant – are nearly equally represented in the East.  The one-fourth who pay homage to the Authoritarian God represent the remnants of 17th century New England Puritanism and the First Great Awakening; the one-fourth who believe in the Distant God (an indifferent cosmic force) reflect the influence of 18th century Deism, itself a product of the Enlightenment; the one-fifth who worship a Benevolent God (a forgiving God who is quick to forgive and expects his followers to lend a helping hand to the oppressed and needy) have roots in the social conscious movements of the 19th century and the the Social Gospel of the early 19th century; and the one-fifth who believe in the Critical God (a somewhat judgmental yet very distant God) likely reflect the world of academia that characterizes Ivy League New England.
            In the Midwest, on the other hand, the Authoritarian and Benevolent Gods dominate, vying for allegiance in a region that stretches from Ohio to the Dakotas.  Here was the birthplace of fundamentalism in Baptist life in the early 20th century, yet here also is the industrial heart of America that symbolized the promise and perils of capitalism in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  Headquarters (until recent years) of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Midwestern religion is nonetheless rooted more in the faiths transplanted by 19th century European immigrants than traditional Baptist views North or South.  In the “heartland of America,” the tug-o-war between the Authoritarian and Benevolent Gods has yet to be resolved.
            Finally, the far West embraces a God that seems befitting of the wide open spaces of the lower West and eastern Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, the progressive views and technological savvy of the West Coast, and the independent mindset of the Rocky Mountain region – the Distant God.  Nearly one-third of Westerners prefer this cosmic force of a deity who is otherwise disengaged with the world he created.  Just over a fourth of westerners embrace the Benevolent God, perhaps reflecting the rural western understanding of the need of community in order to survive the harsh elements and loneliness that marks much of the region.  Ironically, Mormon theology contributes to both understandings of God – although founded upon a belief in multiple gods hovering over far-away planets, Mormonism places great emphasis upon community here on earth.  Finally, the Authoritarian and Critical Gods have much smaller followings, although the former presumably claims many adherents in the Colorado Springs region under the guidance of prophet James Dobson.
            So there you have it: one nation under four Gods.  And if you don’t like the God of your region, you can always pack up the U-Haul and relocate to the land of one of those other Gods.

Visit Bruce's personal website at

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Faith Matters
Jim Evans

Jim Evans, pastor of First Baptist Auburn and longtime author of the insightful "Faith Matters" column which appears in numerous Alabama newspapers, now has his own website featuring past issues of his column.  The site contains some 300 columns written over the past six years.

Baylor Study: American Piety in the 21st Century
Oxford Press

No longer is America "one nation under God;" Democrats are roughly religious as Republicans; and one in five Americans has read Rick Warren's Purpose Drive Life or one of the Left Behind volumes.  These and many other conclusions emerge from a massive, hallmark Baylor religious survey of contemporary religious life in America.

Dates to

Dates to Note

September 24-26, 2006, The Mercer Preaching Consultation, St. Simon's Island, GA. Sponsored by the McAfee School of Theology and The Center for Baptist Studies.  Headline speaker: John Killinger.  Click here for more information.

October 2-3, 2006, A Theological Discussion, "A Theology of Ministerial Leadership," featuring William E. Hull and David W. Hull.  Knoxville, Tennessee.  Click here for more information.

October 8-10, 2006, Candler School of Theology Fall Conference, "Faith, Politics, and Policy." Click here for more information.

October 12-13, 2006, Conference on Ethics in Ministry, "How to Be a Good Minister," featuring Tony Campolo.  McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.  Click here for more information.

October 26, 2006, Negotiating Conflict in the Congregation, Religious Life Center, Mercer University, Macon, GA.  Sponsored by McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations, McAfee School of Theology, The Center For Baptist Studies and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia.  To register, mail to Dr. Larry McSwain, McAfee School of Theology, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, GA 30341-4115 a check payable to McAfee School of Theology in the amount of $39 by October 20, 2006.  Registration at the door: $49.

November 5-6, 2006, CBF/GA Fall Convocation, "A Gift Too Good to Keep!"  First Baptist Church of Christ of Macon.  Speakers: Rob Nash, CBF National Global Mission Coordinator, and Bill Underwood, Mercer University President.  For more information, visit

December 29, 2006 - January 2, 2007, Antiphony, "Call and Response." Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, Georgia.  For more information, visit

February 7-10, 2007, Current Retreat, "Let Justice Roll." First Baptist Church, Austin, Texas.  Registration cost is $100 for ministers and lay leaders, $55 for seminary students.  Click here for more information.

February 19-20, 2007, Self Preaching Lectures, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.  Speaker: Tom Long.  For more information, email Diane Frazier.

For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the Online Baptist Community Calendar.

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