Vol. 6 No. 3




  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

         "Stendahl on the Bible and Hull on the Baptists"

The Baptist Soapbox: Patrick Dube

         "Current Challenges that Endanger Baptist Mission Efforts"
Baptists and Creation Care:
Richard F. Wilson

         "A Baptist Theology of Creation Care"

Baptists and Public Policy: Melissa Rogers

         "Going Upstream"

BSB Book Review: John Scott

         Arthur C. Brooks, Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide―Who Gives, Who
         Doesn't, and Why It Matters
(New York: Basic Books, 2006).

The World's Greatest Baptist Preachers: Karen E. Smith

         "Wales' Greatest Preacher Ever"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "Tim LaHaye's Rapture"

Dates to Note

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23-25 September 2007

The King and Prince Hotel
St. Simons Island, GA

Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor

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I Believe

"Stendahl on the Bible and Hull on the Baptists"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .
that you would do well to read two very brief articles, one on the Bible, the other on the Baptists.
          The first is by Krister Stendahl, the retired bishop of Stockholm who taught previously for four decades at Harvard Divinity School. Stendahl served as dean of HDS from 1968 to 1979. His biography only makes his article the more important. His article is titled “Why I Love the Bible.”
          Stendahl said that his love for the Bible began not with the Bible but with Jesus. And then he wrote:
          “Jesus became not my hero, but rather my friend. I guess I was 12 or so when I sneaked away to church on Sunday mornings—in spite of the risk of Phariseeism—to be where Jesus was supposed to be. But then in fall 1935, I was invited to something called a Bible study group. And I was given a pocket New Testament, both as a symbol and as a text, and I was told to read it as if it was all about me—my life, my conscience, my duties to God and to neighbor. I was hooked, for life.”
          This article is important for all theological stripes, but I consider it especially important for theological progressives. At times I am inclined to think that some of us who label ourselves progressives or liberals get a bit embarrassed by talking of our love for the Bible.
          One Sunday morning a young seminary graduate accosted me after I had preached. I had done that day what I almost always do when I read the biblical text of the day. I hold the Bible up before the congregation and I say, “This is the Word of God, and it is for us today.” The seminary graduate walked up to me after the worship service and said, “Aren’t you afraid that someone is going to think you are a fundamentalist when you say what you said after reading the text this morning?” “No,” I answered, “to the contrary, I am afraid that someone out there may think that I do not believe the Bible is the Word of God, and I do.”
          You can find Stendahl’s provocative and helpful story of his romance with the Bible here.
          The second articlea booklet, reallyis by William E. Hull and it is titled “The Meaning of The Baptist Experience.” Recently published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society (P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024-0728), it is the best brief statement on the Baptist identity that I have ever read.
          Bill Hull’s professional life has paralleled the last half century plus in Baptist life in the South. He has been a seminary professor (New Testament), a seminary dean, a seminary provost, the pastor of an influential Baptist church (FBC Shreveport, LA, 1975-87), and a college provost. Since 2000 he has been research professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. While he is anything but a Baptist sectarian, Hull proved himself in this  “denominational memoir” to be a passionate Baptist who believes that the Baptist vision of the Christian faith is as relevant today as ever.
          Utilizing “experience” as his unifying theme of Baptist life, Hull described the Baptist experience in the past, in the present, and in the future. “At the core of this denominational DNA,” he said, “is a tilt toward voluntarism, the freedom to follow an uncoerced conscience, and the right of self-determination in matters of religion.”
          Stendahl on the Bible and Hull on the Baptists! Here are two Christian scholars who are anchored in the church and who deserve a hearing. “Take and read.”

Table Of Contents


The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends

The Meaning of the Baptist Experience
A New Booklet by William E. Hull
Produced by the Baptist History & Heritage Society

This small volume, the latest in the Baptist Heritage Library series,
encapsulates the essence of how "Baptists attempt to understand
and interpret their distinctive faith."  William E. Hull, research
professor at Samford University, is a highly acclaimed educator,
minister, author, and lecturer.

Click here for more information and to order your copy today.

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 Patrick Dube, Baptist leader and educator in Botswana, Africa. 

"Current Challenges that Endanger Baptist Mission Efforts"
By Patrick Dube

            Baptists in Europe and America, long involved in world missions, need to keep evaluating strategies, motives and the impact they are having on the people in the mission fields. I would hope that my Baptist brothers and sisters from the Western world would consider the following issues and think seriously about the lives of the people in their sphere of missionary influence. While much good is being done, and paternalistic mission attitudes are gradually changing, much damage continues to be inflicted upon African Baptists by poor mission strategies and management.
            When mission agencies draw up their internal policy documents for their organization, there is the danger of being short-sighted about the realities on the mission field. Agencies have to teach their missionaries that they are not superior people going to enlighten inferior people groups around the world. Identifying needs must be done in consultation with the local leaders who obviously understand their own needs better than foreigners. The recruitment of missionary personnel is done by the sending agency with little or no consultation with the recipient Conventions/Unions on the mission field.
            The sending agencies have to recognize that their orientation material must be accurate and contextualized. The onus is also on the recipient Conventions/Unions to draw up programs of orientation for missionary personnel. Mission agencies do not always share their internal and foreign mission policies with Conventions/Unions on the mission field. This creates mistrust on both sides. Agencies would do well to develop written agreements with their partner Conventions/Unions to provide historical records and accountability. Some Baptist missionaries in our part of the world have abused money entrusted to them by living luxurious lifestyles without integrity. Some missionaries refuse to immerse themselves into the culture of the people with whom they are working, evidenced by their ignorance of the cultural dynamics of the people.
            Churches which support mission agencies financially too often have had little or no direct involvement with the actual mission work being done by missionaries. Missionaries too often use the funding provided by sponsoring churches/organizations to manipulate the African people and force indigenous pastors and leaders to submit to their own missionary agendas.
            Missionaries often feel so secure in their “jobs” that they feel threatened by the potential of local leaders. The result of a lack of mentoring is that when the missionaries leave, the nation is left without leaders who have personal convictions and can assert themselves as worthy examples of fine leadership. Mission agencies claim to have an “Exit Strategy,” yet frequently there is no noticeable implementation of such. Some departing missionaries have been known to refuse to train locals to take over their “jobs.” Local leaders sometimes hinder the progress of the work by allowing the missionaries to pursue their own agendas while the nationals lag behind and sheepishly depend on the missionaries.
            In addition, some Baptist missionaries who once held firm convictions about the fundamental doctrines of the Christian and Baptist faith have now departed from those convictions to embrace contrary teachings and practices.
            Finally, t
here is a need for more involvement in world missions by African European and African American Baptists. Sending local church and Convention/Union ministries can do more to equip and support international missionaries. Also, many well-meaning African Baptists have found that their vision for the work in their own nations has been blurred by the growing opportunities encountered while abroad.  In short, the difficulties for African Baptists, on the receiving end of mission work, are compounded when in addition to opportunities lost because of ineffective mission agency policies and missionary activity, some of our best and brightest ministers become enmeshed in a westernized culture that hinders the work of God in the nations of Africa.

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Baptists and Creation Care:  This series focuses on Baptist responses to environmental issues.  Dr. Richard F. Wilson is Chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.  He is actively involved in The National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion and the Baptist World Alliance.

"A Baptist Theology of Creation Care"
Richard F. Wilson

            What would a Baptist theology of creation care look like? First of all it would be biblical. Secondly it would be personal and corporate. Finally it would be local and global.
            Baptists are biblical. We turn to scriptures to find our bearings and our language about what matters. There are two places to begin our theology of creation care. The first is Colossians 1.15-20, a beautiful hymn of the early church that pulls together Christology and Ecclesiology under the umbrella of creation. Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” who is both agent and glue of creation. Christ is “the head of the body, the church.” Further, in Christ God’s “fulness” dwells, making possible the reconciliation of “all things.” Christ + Church + Creation = Reconciliation.
            The second is Romans 8.18-25, the broadest perspective on creation and redemption in all of scripture. Paul claims that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the [children] of God.” Creation itself will be redeemed when the children of God are revealed as God’s agents in the world. The image is compatible with John’s vision of a “new heaven and a new earth” in The Revelation.
            A Baptist theology of creation care is simultaneously personal and corporate. Still responding to biblical impulses we can turn to 2 Corinthians 5.17-21. “If anyone is in Christ,” Paul writes, “[s/he] is a new creation.” The result is that God makes an appeal for reconciliation with the world “through us.” That alone is a stunning idea: God needs us as advocates for creation care.
            New creations are not isolated beings in a stew of creatures. In the Corinthian letters Paul crafts the powerful description of the church as the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12.12-27).  Baptists have understood the image of the church as Christ’s body in at least three ways: (1) The church properly understood is more organism than organization. There is a wholeness about the church that a theology of creation care needs to emphasize. The church is first of all corporate. Before we can talk about members of the body we must acknowledge the whole. (2) The members of Christ’s body are not isolated, but they are individual. The personal nature of a Baptist theology of creation care is the confession that each member has a part to play in the health of the whole body. (3) The wholeness of the church transcends time and space. If the church is the body of Christ, then the body extends from Pentecost to the present and beyond.
            These three confessions related to the church as the body of Christ are solid underpinnings for a Baptist theology of creation care.
            A watchword of late in our culture has been “think globally, act locally.” For Baptists that mantra can inspire a theology of creation care. We might prefer to switch the order and say, “act locally, think globally” simply because of our commitments to the local church. No matter; as long as we get both parts together the order is not so important. What is important is that we find ways to emphasize that reconciliation includes our relationship to creation. We should respond to global issues in our world, such as pollution and rampant consumerism, in local ways that make commitments to creation care as a spiritual responsibility of the body of Christ.
            A Baptist theology of creation care may never be written in a traditional sense, but all of us have a chance to write a chapter or more with our reflective commitments to make a difference in our world for our world.

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Baptists and Public Policy

Baptists and Public Policy:  Some Baptist groups, including the Alliance of Baptists, Baptist Center for Ethics, Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty (BJCRL), and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, have long been engaged in policy work. This series is designed to spark conversations among a wider circle of Baptists who are now considering engaging in this kind of activity. Melissa Rogers is visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, previously serving as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and as general counsel to the BJCRL.

"Going Upstream"
By Melissa Rogers

On February 28, 2007, a report in The Washington Post began in the following way: 

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County, [Maryland,] boy died.

          The story of Deamonte Driver is heartbreaking.  It is also symbolic. 
          According to this
report, “80 percent of tooth decay is found in just 25 percent of children.”  Unsurprisingly, “[t]he amount of tooth decay in a child is inversely related to income level―kids from poor and moderate-income families have more tooth decay and a large percentage of these kids go untreated.”  As The Washington Post story notes, “[t]he federal government requires states to provide oral health services to children through Medicaid programs, but the shortage of dentists who will treat indigent patients remains a major barrier to care . . . .” 
          If one of us had known Deamonte Driver and his family, we might have been able to change things for them.  But we didn’t know them.  And we won’t ever have the opportunity to know all of the other children in our nation who lack access to basic health care.
          But that doesn’t mean we cannot do anything about their plight.  For example, we could support legislative initiatives that would set aside adequate sums of money to expand the number and quality of public health clinics that offer dental care and other services to families who rely on government-funded health programs. 
          We could begin to address these issues through coalitions like the ones
PICO National Network and Faithful Reform in Health Care are building.  And we could take other important steps such as joining these organizations in urging lawmakers to extend health care coverage to the 9 million American children who are uninsured.  As the PICO National Network says, “All children are created in God’s image and deserve the blessing of good health.” 
          We could do these kinds of things.  And, as Christians, I believe we should. 
We need to pull people out of the proverbial river when we see that they are drowning.  But when drowning people keep coming down the river, we also need to go upstream to confront the people and systems that are throwing these people in the river.  By doing these things, we demonstrate our love for our neighbors and our commitment to seek justice in our world.
My fellow Baptists, we’ve been pulling people out of the river for a long time.  That is important work that must continue.  But there is another part of the work we have sometimes neglected.  It’s time for us to go upstream. 

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"Growing Generous Churches, Growing Generous Christians"
Mercer University, Macon, Georgia
April 16, 2007

The stewardship theologian for Mennonite Mutual Aid of Goshen, Indiana, Miller is a graduate of Wilmington (Ohio) College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He is the author of the Herald Press books Firstfruits Living and Just in Time, as well as The Power of Enough: Finding Contentment by Putting Stuff in it Place.  Miller travels extensively to help congregations and individuals see their roles as stewards in being God's offering to a lost world.

Sponsored by:
 The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
Congregational Life, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Foundation
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia

The Conference is Free.  Make Your Plans to Attend!
Reservations and Information.

Special Book Review BSB Book Review: 

BSB presents a review of Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide―Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters, by Arthur C. Brooks (New York: Basic Books, 2006).  The review was first published in Christian Ethics Today and is reprinted here with permission.

John Scott is Adjunct Professor on Servant Leadership at Dallas Baptist University, Texas.

This book crushes, with hard data, some popular assumptions about who is, and is not, charitable. It is “the best study of charity that I have read,” says James Q. Wilson, a preeminent scholar who advised five U. S. presidents of both parties and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the Foreword, Wilson describes the author, Arthur C. Brooks, as “a rigorously trained scholar” who has combined “careful studies of charity with a direct and compelling way of explaining what he has learned.”
          The book is getting a lot of media attention. Brooks has been featured on television’s “20/20” and interviewed on numerous radio talk shows.
          However, most of that attention has focused on some secondary correlations. But it’s easy to understand why. Those correlations surprised almost everyone, including the author, who is a lifelong liberal when it comes to politics. The data shows that the term “compassionate conservative” may not be an oxymoron after all.

  • Conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than liberals. This is an average figure, so it’s not a result of the fact that conservatives outnumber liberals. Individual households headed by conservatives, on average, give 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by liberals. And this isn’t because conservatives have higher incomes, as they actually make six percent less than liberals. Moreover, conservatives give more than liberals at every income level: poor, middle, and rich.
  • Even when donations to churches and other religious charities are excluded, conservatives give ten percent more than liberals.
  • Conservatives also volunteer many more hours than liberals, to both religious and secular charities.
  • Conservatives donate so much blood the author says: “If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply of the United States would jump about 45 percent.”
  • When measured by party affiliation instead of ideology, the results are the same: registered Republicans give much more time and money to charity than registered Democrats.

   Regarding his initial findings, Brooks said, “I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”
        However, it’s misleading to focus solely on the correlations related to political views. The data shows, and Brooks emphasizes, that the most common motive behind most charitable giving and volunteering is not political. It’s religious. Ninety-one percent of religious conservatives contribute to charity, but nearly as high a percentage of religious liberals do too. Religion trumps politics. Of course the statistical correlations showing that liberals are less charitable include nonreligious people as well. So the total figures reflect the fact that there are more secularists among liberals than among conservatives. But on both sides of the political divide, religious people are much more generous than secularists.
        “The evidence leaves no room for doubt,” says Brooks, “Religious people are far more charitable than nonreligious people. In years of research, I have never found a measurable way in which secularists are more charitable than religious people.”
        Religious people are significantly more likely than secularists to give food or money to a homeless person, give up their seats to older people on crowded buses, return change mistakenly given to them by cashiers, and help out a relative or friend in need. Moreover, the more religious people are, the more generous they tend to be. For example, people who usually attend worship services once a week give three and a half times more than those who only go once or twice a year. But even the latter give more than secularists. Religious people give more to secular charities than secularists.
        “America’s Great Charity Divide,” referred to by the book’s subtitle, is not so much between liberals and conservatives as it is between secularists and people of faith. Of course there are other variables. For example, those who come from strong, intact families are more charitable than those who don’t. But even that can usually be traced to religious faith.
        The book also counters the common criticism that “most” Americans don’t care enough to be charitable. The data says otherwise. Three-fourths of American households donate money to charities. They give an average of 3.5 percent of each household’s income per year. A majority of American families also volunteer time to charities.
        Americans give many times more to charity than the citizens of every country in Europe—whether measured as a percentage of gross domestic product or in absolute dollars. This can largely be traced to the decline of religious influence in Europe.
        Brooks also points out disturbing ways both the federal and state governments in the U.S. suppress and discourage charity. This should be required reading for anyone who really cares and can influence public policy. As a real-life example Brooks tells how difficult and expensive it was for him and his wife to adopt a little girl from a Chinese orphanage. Redundant red tape in the U. S. caused the child to languish in the orphanage an additional six months.
        Arguably the most important finding reported in the book confirms something already known from previous research done by many others: Giving and volunteering improve one’s own physical health and happiness. We need to give for our own good.
        Brooks effectively calls upon his fellow liberals to put more of their own time and money where their mouths are. On the other hand, he could just as well have urged conservatives to do more about certain needs that will never be met by charity. To cite just one example (not from the book): from 40 to 50 million Americans have no medical insurance, and millions more have grossly inadequate coverage.
        The book gives surprising answers to many other questions, too many to list here. But at the end of the day, indeed at the end of all days, the most important question for each of us is not what others are doing for charity. A more important question is this: “Am I doing enough to avoid the risk of having to hear myself asking, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’” (Mt. 25:44).

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The World's Greatest Baptist Preachers: This special biographical series reaches around the globe in search of the greatest Baptist preachers.  Here you will meet preachers who have had a tremendous impact upon their respective continents.  This month's contributor is Karen E. Smith, Tutor in Church History and Spirituality at South Wales Baptist College in the United Kingdom.

"Wales Greatest Baptist Preacher Ever"
By Karen E. Smith

         In the Baptist College where I teach in Cardiff, Wales, we have a portrait of a very famous Welsh Baptist Preacher, Christmas Evans (1766-1838).  The portrait (see image at right) is memorable in that due to an accident in his youth, the image shows Evans with one eye closed. Evans was know throughout Wales for his preaching which was said to have had a striking, imaginative style and in his day he became known as the ‘one-eyed Bunyan of Wales’.
Born on Christmas Day in Cardiganshire in West Wales to Samuel and Joanna (Lewis) Evans, Christmas’ father died when he was nine years of age and he was sent to live with his  harsh, unkind uncle on a farm. Eventually he left and worked as a farm labourer until he came under the influence of a Presbyterian minister,  David Davis of Castellhywel.  Davis taught him to read and write and Christmas began to preach in Welsh churches.  He eventually joined with the Baptists and was baptised in the river Duar in Carmarthenshire.
         After his baptism, Evans was said to have preached with great power or as it is put in Welsh, to have hwyl  in his preaching! (pronounced
hóo il, the word conveys something of the enthusiasm and vitality of  the Spirit in preaching).  Evans’ preaching drew great crowds when, in the best tradition of Welsh preaching, he used story telling to great effect.  T. R. Roberts claimed that ‘for vigorous thought, rich imagination, and picturesque language, he had few equals’.  Other biographers claimed: ‘the sound of heaven was to be heard in his sermons’. ‘His hearers would weep, wail, and jump as if the world were igniting round about’. Paxton Hood described him as a ‘wise master-builder’, claiming:

all the several parts of his sermons were related together in mutual dependence… there was
always symmetry in their construction: he obeys an order of thought ; we feel that he speaks
of that which, to the measure of the revelation given, and his entrance into the mind of the
Spirit, he distinctly understands.

           In The Dictionary of Welsh Biography, Evans is described as having ‘natural gifts’ of strong
feelings and a fiery temperament, memory and imagination. However, his preaching was “not due
to chance”, but reflected the fact that he had “studied and  mastered the theory of the art…
He had a genius for observing people and  places and characteristics, and presenting them to
congregations in dramatic form.”
          He married Catherine Jones and lived on Anglesey for thirty years and became a sort of
self-styled Baptist  ‘bishop’ for the area.  In the beginning the churches appreciated his oversight,
though eventually, as good Baptists might, they began to resent his dominance and his interference in
their congregational  matters.  He was also accused of embracing Sandemanianism which caused
division in the churches. Later reflecting on this period of his life Evans obviously felt that the
narrowness of these views had left him with a certain coldness of heart and affected his ability to
communicate the Gospel effectively. He wrote: 

The Sandemanian heresy affected me so far as to quench the spirit of prayer for the conversion of sinners, and it induced in my mind a greater regard for the smaller things of the kingdom of heaven than for the greater. I lost the strength which clothed my mind with zeal, confidence and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ…

 As Evans’ moved away from Sandemanianism, however, he described an experience which resulted in a new warmth to his preaching and pastoral work:

I was weary of a cold heart towards Christ and his sacrifice and the work of his Spirit; of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret and in the study. For fifteen years previously I had felt my heart burning within as if going to Emmaus with Jesus. On a day ever to be remembered by me, as I was going from Dolgellau to Machynlleth, climbing up towards Cader Idris, l considered it to be incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt in my heart and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus, I soon felt as it were, the fetters loosening and the old hardness of heart softening, and, as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me. This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt my whole mind relieved from some great bondage. Tears flowed copiously and I was constrained to cry out for the gracious visits of God, by restoring to my soul the joys of his salvation and to visit the churches in Anglesey that were under my care. I embraced in my supplications all the churches of the saints and nearly all the ministries in the principality by their names. This struggle lasted for three hours. It rose again and again, like one wave after another, or a high, flowing tide driven by a strong wind, till my nature became faint by weeping and crying. I resigned myself to Christ, body and soul, gifts and labours, every hour of every day that remained for me and all my cares I committed to Christ. The road was mountainous and lonely and I was wholly alone and suffered no interruption in my wrestling with God.

When his wife died, he left Angelsey and moved to Caerphilly where he met and married Mary Evans.  He served the church in Caerphilly for two years until his style of leadership created problems in that congregation.  He died on 19 July 1838.  Although outspoken and perhaps even domineering at times, Christmas Evans is remembered as one of Baptists' greatest preachers.

Sources for the Article

D.D. Morgan, “Christmas Evans”, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, (Downersgrove, Ill.: IVP, 2003, pp. 215-216.

___________. “Christmas Evans and the Birth of Nonconformist Wales”, Baptist Quarterly, Vol 34, No.3,  1991,  pp. 116-124.

 “Evans, Christmas” in The Dictionary of Welsh Biography, London, 1959, pp. 221-222.

T.R. Roberts, Eminent Welshmen, (Cardiff: The Educational Publishing Company, 1908)

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In Response To ...

In Response to . . . :  The Associate Director of the Center for Baptist Studies, Bruce previously served as a campus minister and professor of Church History.  In addition, he is an Internet entrepreneur and photographer, and is ABD in his doctoral studies in American History at Auburn University. 

"Tim LaHaye's Rapture"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           A so-called scholar crafts a fictitious story purported to be biblically-based but that in reality is nothing more than spurious speculation that misrepresents the Bible to create a sensational, and controversial, plot.
           The recent discovery of the so-called tomb of Jesus?  No.     
           The DaVinci Code?  No.
           The reference is to Southern Baptist
Tim’s LaHaye’s Left Behind series, one of the best-selling pieces of fiction in modern times, and heralded as biblical truth by the author and millions of Christians.
           Some moderate Christians, tired of the proliferation of biblical illiteracy and warmongering generated by the Left Behind series, are now fighting back by focusing on the biblical book of Revelation from a historical perspective,
and asking Christian writers to produce books focused on the central biblical theme of God’s love for humanity.
           LaHaye, former long-time pastor of Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego (renamed Shadow Mountain Community Church, and now pastored by David Jeremiah), scoffs at attempts to discredit his work, insisting that millions of readers like his books not for the violence, but because they take the Bible literally. "Surprisingly enough with all the liberal brainwashing they've got in public education, most people that claim to be Christians have a tendency to believe the Bible," LaHaye said in an interview. "They [the critics] are just liberal, socialists, really, and they don't believe the Bible."
           LaHaye appears blissfully ignorant that his own Left Behind series itself is based on a modernistic view of the Bible that hinges on a fictitious event―the Rapture―foreign to scripture.  LaHaye, in fact, appears to be a mirror image of the straw man upon whom his own venom is projected―a “liberal” (at least in terms of handling scripture) who is “brainwashing” the public by distorting the line between fiction and fact.
           Why is Tim LaHaye adored by tens of millions of Christians for writing a series of books that espouses the
modern Rapture heresy of John Nelson Darby, plays loose with biblical literalism and transforms Christian scripture into fiction?
           Itself stranger than fiction, LaHaye’s story is intertwined with a larger plot to steer the course of world events by rewriting history and orchestrating a future world war.  A graduate of Bob Jones University, LaHaye was an early leader of the Moral Majority and larger Religious Right, advocating the myth of America’s founding as a Christian nation and himself founding a series of fundamentalist religious and extremist political organizations in the early 1980s.  One of LaHaye’s organizations is the secretive
Council for National Policy, a conservative political lobby whose members include top officials in present and past Republican administrations, and which exists for the express purpose of combating “liberalism.”  (The New York Times recently reported that the CNP held a private meeting with the 2008 Republican presidential candidates and is “dissatisfied with the Republican presidential field and uncertain where to turn.”) 
           In 2001
LaHaye provided the funding to establish the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty UniversityWith the ear of the Bush administration, since 9/11 LaHaye has spearheaded an effort to frame and fan the wars in the Middle East as the “quickening of God’s plan for the ‘end of times.’”  Sure that the end is indeed near and doing his part to make it come about, last year LaHaye published a new volume, The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye/Countdown to Earth’s Last Days.
          Why does Tim LaHaye―teacher of heresy, fictionalizer of scripture, promoter of world war in the name of God―have such strong appeal to tens of millions of Christians who otherwise claim to believe the Bible?  Perhaps it is a sign of the times that a sensationalist and purveyor of fiction, such as LaHaye, can so easily dupe legions of Christians.  And perhaps it is an indication of the depths of biblical illiteracy among Christians.

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Three Great Mercer Ideas
by Michael M. Cass

Words of wisdom for our time from a long-time Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Eco-Justice Programs
National Council of Churches of Christ

The Eco-Justice Programs office of the National Council of Churches works in cooperation with the NCC Eco-Justice Working Group to provide an opportunity for the national bodies of member Protestant and Orthodox denominations to work together to protect and restore God's Creation.

Evangelical Environmentalism
New York Times

The folly of limiting the definition of morality to the way humans behave among humans.

Changing Church in the South
Carsey Institute

Baptist life in Elba, Alabama is not as homogenous as it used to be.  Is this a reflection of larger changes in the South?

Evangelicals in Exile
Rolling Stone

The Christian right is reeling from its biggest electoral defeat in a quarter centuryand now they're talking about abandoning the GOP.

Dates to

Dates to Note

March 19-20, 2007, Urban Ministry Workshop, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia. Click here for more information and to register.

March 26-27, 2007, Staley Distinguished Scholar Lecture, Campbell University Divinity School, Buies Creek, North Carolina. Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Newman, Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, will deliver a three lecture series regarding Christian hospitality, a subject that reflects her new book, Untamed Hospitality: Welcoming God and Other Strangers. For more information, click here.

April 1, 2007, Southern Folk Passion Service, Druid Hills Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia.  Georgia actress Brenda Bynum will read the Passion narrative from the Gospel of Mark in a Sacred Harp service. Click here for more information and to register.

April 14, 2007, Middle Georgia Sacred Harp Sing, Vineville United Methodist Church, Macon, Georgia, from 10 AM to 2:30 PM.  Prior to the Sing, Hugh McGraw will teach a singing school class (8:30 AM), and afterwards there will be a special showing of the Sacred Harp documentary, "Awake My Soul" (2:30 PM).  For more information, contact Harry Eskew at 478-750-9968. 

April 20, 2007, Judson-Rice Award Dinner honoring Dr. Wayne Flynt, Birmingham, Alabama, Wynfrey Hotel.  For more information and registration click here.

June 7-9, 2007, Baptist History and Heritage Society (BHHS) Annual Meeting, Campbellsville, Kentucky. Theme: "African Americans in Baptist History." For more information, visit the BHHS web site.

June 27, 2007, Pre-CBF Annual Conference, Christian Ethics Today (CET), Hyatt Grand Hotel in D.C.  Theme: "The Minister and Politics: Being Prophetic Without Being Partisan."  Speakers: Jim Wallis, Greg Boyd, Melissa Rogers and Tony Campolo.  Go to the CET site for more information.

June 28-29, 2007, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Washington D.C.  Theme: "Free to Be the Presence of Christ." Click here for more information, including registration.

September 23-25, 2007, Mercer Preaching Consultation 07, St. Simon's Island, Georgia.  Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor." Click here for more information, including registration.

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

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