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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I Believe . . .
: Walter B. Shurden
Hopes for Baptists in America, 2000-2050"
The Baptist Soapbox: Joe Kutter
I Am Excited About the New Baptist Covenant"
The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth
"The Spirituality of John Myles"
Report: Mercer Preaching Consultation 2007: Wil Platt
"Mercer Preaching Consultation 2007"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
Mohler and Andy Stanley on the Future of Christianity and Planet Earth"
Dates to Note
We welcome your feedback.
Click here to tell us what you think of this
issue of the Bulletin!
Note: To print the BSB, set your printer's left
and right margins to .4 inches or less.
change / add / delete your email for the Baptist Studies Bulletin, please
you need to increase the font size on your screen, click "view"
then "increase font."
Note: You are free
to duplicate and circulate the articles in BSB or to use quotations
from our articles. We would, however, appreciate a good word about where
you found your material. It makes us look good! Thanks.
"My Hopes for Baptists in America, 2000-2050"
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that some of you
have heard that I plan to retire on 31 December 2007. I have been in the
ministry since I was eighteen years old, fifty-two years now. At retirement I
will have completed almost a quarter of a century of work at historic Mercer
University. The three questions, in reverse order, that I have received the
most when friends discover that I am going to retire are: (1) What do you
think is going to happen to Baptists in the future? (2) What is going to
happen to the Center for Baptist Studies? (3) What are you going to DO, which
I translate as “what is going to happen to you?” I will try to answer these
three questions in the three articles that I have left to write as executive
director of the Center for Baptist Studies.
What is going
to happen to Baptists? I sure would like to have the chance to see how the
Baptist movement unfolds by the middle of the twenty-first century, but I will
have been history myself by that time. So I can only identify my hopes, not
describe Baptist history, for this period.
As I have
often said, I hope Baptists will learn to take seriously what Jesus
took seriously. I hope that we will begin to accent “following” Jesus rather
than “believing in” Jesus. If ever the Baptist people in America come close to
creed-adopting, my fervent wish is that they would officially adopt The Jesus
Creed in Mark 12:29-31. It comes from Jesus. It is biblical. It is
theological. It is ethical. It is soul-stretching. It is mind-expanding. It is
demanding. It is unifying. And, for me at least, though I am an open and willing
target for the charge of “minimalism,” it is enough.
I hope for
Baptists to possess both fervor in the ministry of justice and passion in the
ministry of proclamation and outreach. I hope for my Baptist heirs both an
outward and an inner spirituality, a concern for the public life of society
and the private life of the soul. Most Baptists have been better at the
latter than the former, but in 2050 I long for Baptists to be both prophets
and priests. The church and the world desperately need both. And I think that
Howard Thurman, great ecumenical Baptist preacher, was correct in saying and
practicing that the way to this two-fold ministry is through deep, personal,
experiential worship, where the sanctuary becomes a place where a person
declares, “I choose.”
I hope for the spirit,
not necessarily the structures, of ecumenism to prevail among Baptists. I hope
that Baptist groups, where it is possible, will draw closer to each other, and
I think that the best hope for that unity can be found in the
Baptist World Alliance,
the Baptist Joint Committee
for Religious Liberty,
and the New
Baptist Covenant Celebration. I also fervently hope that Baptists will
draw much closer to our sisters and brothers in other Christian denominations.
I have come to believe that so much that divides us, including baptism by
immersion, is sheer shortsightedness, if not downright sinfulness.
In addition to an
ecumenical spirit, I hope for Baptists an intense commitment to Baptist
voluntarism and all that Baptist voluntarism entails: an experiential faith
that sets the individual soul afire, a regenerate church pulsating with life
and love and vitality, a conversion baptism that is hard, not easy, to walk
away from, freedom of conscience for ALL people who heroically defy state and
church intrusion, and an utter disdain for a theocracy that favors one
religious group over another.
Baptists will move with respect, not fear, toward other religious traditions
and toward those without a religious tradition. I want to see Baptists develop
that kind of respect without minimizing in the slightest the commitment to the
Baptist vision of Christianity.
Baptists will stay close to biblical authority while openly and honestly
embracing the authority of the local church, the individual experience, the
Christian tradition, and human reason. Truth be told, we Baptists have always
used all of these authorities; we simply have failed to acknowledge them,
having become addicted to the words of “Sola Scriptura.”
Baptists will remain a missionary people who believe it their duty to tell the
people of the world of the love of God as manifested in Jesus of Nazareth. I
hope that we can find new motives for missions, since hell has just about
burned out for many. I hope that we will conceptualize anew what it means to
be “lost.” The “lost” are not those who do not believe doctrinal formulations
but those who have no idea what a gracious God can do with their lives, those
who need to be “saved” from wasted, useless, and meaningless living (Gehenna!),
from self-condemnation and shame, and those who yearn for the Transcendent
Presence in life.
I hope for a Baptist family in 2050 that will do everything for the Kingdom of
God that is in their human power to do (Carlyle Marney once said that it had
been forty years since he asked God to do anything that he could do), refusing
to fall back on a false Calvinism that speaks only of what God can and will
do. I also hope that while Baptists will do all that is within their human
power to accomplish that they will learn to depend faithfully on God’s spirit
to do all that they cannot do. I have always been fond of that line from John
Leland in his 1791 Letter of Valediction on Leaving Virginia: “I
conclude that the eternal purposes of God, and the freedom of the
human will, are both truths; and it is a matter of fact, that the
preaching that has been most blessed of God, and most profitable to men, is
the doctrine of sovereign grace in the salvation of souls, mixed with a little
of what is called Arminianism.”
Table of Contents
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 Joe Kutter,
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.
Am Excited About the New Baptist Covenant"
By Joe Kutter
world was much younger, or I was younger in the world, Kool and the Gang sang,
“Celebrate good times, come on…
There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We’re going to celebrate your laughter with you.
We are going to Atlanta to celebrate and it’s going to be a Baptist party –
probably not what Kool and the Gang imagined.
certainly celebrate the reality of traditional and historic Baptist values.
The wall of separation between church and state will not be threatened. Soul
Freedom will not be diluted. The Priesthood of Believers will not be assaulted
by corporate theories of leadership. We will hear both that “whosoever
believes will be saved” and “that the world through him (Christ) will be
saved.” God’s twin imperatives that evangelism will be pursued and that
justice will prevail will not be set in opposition to one another. And above
all, we will celebrate that Christ alone is the Lord of the conscience and no
theory of biblical authority will be used to diminish his ultimate place in
God’s drama of revelation and salvation.
anticipating an amazing experience. Twenty to thirty thousand Baptists will
gather to celebrate that which we hold in common rather than squabble over our
differences. We will be blessed by a veritable “Who’s Who” of preachers who
will certainly both inform and inspire us in the way of the Gospel. I am
thrilled by the national civic leaders who will be with us, from both major
political parties, ready to transcend party differences to affirm and
celebrate the faith and values that we hold in common.
frustrating part of the program centers on the workshops that will be offered.
It is impossible to participate in all of the good ones! Choices must be made;
what a marvelous problem to have!
believe that this historic gathering will set the record straight for millions
of misinformed Americans. Baptists have not all handcuffed themselves to a
particular wing of a particular wing. Baptists have not sold out the intellect
for a peculiar form of revelation. Baptists have not walked away from
God-given responsibilities for the world that have been entrusted into our
keeping. When the Psalmist declares that “the earth is the Lord’s,” we know
that we have been granted the majestic privilege and responsibility for the
care of the Lord’s earth. We have not closed our ears to the ancient prophetic
mandate, “Let justice roll down like the waters,” and the ancient God-driven
vision of shalom has not been blocked from our sight.
going to be a party! We will celebrate the magnificent heritage that has been
entrusted into our keeping and I am excited.
Table of Contents
The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America:
This series focuses on early Baptist
spirituality, offering insight from the past for today's Baptists. This
month's contributor is Charles W. Deweese, Executive Director for the Baptist
History and Heritage Society, headquartered in Atlanta.
Spirituality of John Myles"
Charles W. Deweese
John Myles (1621?-1684) was an early
Baptist pastor, educated at Oxford, who ministered in Wales,
England, and America. Myles’s spirituality had distinct
Bible-based approach to theology and life—Myles’s 1656 writing,
An Antidote Against the Infection of the Times, revealed a
heavy dependence on Scripture. Containing considerations for
sinners, admonitions to saints, and invitations to backsliders, this
work contained hundreds of biblical references. And Myles included
in his writing a suggestion for all readers: “You are commanded to
search the Scriptures.” Thus, the pivotal starting point for
understanding Myles’s spirituality is recognizing that for him the
Bible was the ultimate written authority for his life and ministry.
Pioneering spirit and unwavering
commitment to his concept of the Baptist vision of Christianity—Myles’s
cutting-edge achievements made him one of the true shapers of
Baptist life in the 1600s. He organized the first Baptist church in
Wales in 1649 and the first Baptist church in Massachusetts (and
fourth in America) in 1663, drew up the earliest church covenant of
Baptists in America in 1663, and baptized William Screven, who would
become the founder of Baptist life in the South in the late 1600s.
Myles possessed inner qualities that drew him into powerful defense
and advancement of a dissident Christian tradition.
courageously resisted persecution in order to move the Baptist cause
forward. In 1662, passage of the Act of Uniformity resulted in the
forbidding of Baptist worship services and even put a price on
Myles’s head. Rather than submit to the threats of persecution and
abandon Baptist life, Myles left Wales and settled in Rehoboth in
the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts and founded a Baptist church
there in 1663. In 1667, the Plymouth authorities investigated
Myles’s activities and fined him five pounds for preaching.
Permitted to relocate, Myles and his followers moved to Swansea,
would cause a Baptist minister in the 1600s, when modes of
transportation and communication were poor, and when there were only
a few Baptists on the planet, especially in America, to defy
opposition in two countries in order to assist the Baptist cause in
its earliest stages? Is it possible that he possessed a view of God
who would stand with him, comfort him, and give him courage? Is it
possible that he had a clearer understanding than most of Jesus’
claim that whoever would be His disciples must deny themselves, take
up their crosses, and follow Christ?
Flexibility and ecumenical
orientation in approaching Baptist beliefs and practices—Myles
was a Baptist who did not pretend to have all the answers. As a
Baptist in the making at the front end of a dissenting tradition, he
refused to confine his faith to some black-and-white code of ethics.
At times, he even took stances at variance with views that some
Baptists today might describe as rather critical: communion and the
relationship of church and state.
Myles, a Calvinist, held to a closed communion position while
helping to found several Baptist congregations in Wales in the late
1640s and in the 1650s. Later, after he helped organize a Baptist
church at Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1663, that congregation
practiced open communion and open membership. The church in its 1663
covenant agreed to hold communion with other Christians even “though
differing from us in such controversial points [such as infant
baptism] as are not absolutely and essentially necessary to
salvation.” Perhaps the spiritual conviction that underlay Myles’s
shift in views was his growing feeling that for Christians of all
kinds to walk together in “covenant” needed to take priority over
“dividing principles or practices.” Myles, at heart, was a Baptist
for whom the charity of inclusion superseded the risks of exclusion.
although Myles refused to let the state dictate the nature of his
spiritual life, he apparently did take the position that he could
best advance the Baptist cause by not taking a strict separationist
view. While in Wales, during Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, Myles
served as a Trier for Wales. Triers helped to determine the fitness
of ministers in all traditions. Some nonconformists criticized Myles
for serving on the public payroll while serving as pastor. In
Massachusetts, Myles’s connection with the Reformed tradition made
him acceptable to the Puritan establishment, and he was even hostile
toward some non-Christian bodies, some non-Baptist groups, and even
radical separationists such as the famous Baptist leader John
Clarke. Myles’s spirituality seemed to accommodate the broader
theology and politics of his time in order to help guarantee the
success of his version of how to be Baptist.
Table of Contents
A Baptist Studies Bulletin Special
Wil Platt, retired Professor of History at Mercer
University and a staff member of the Center for Baptist Studies, provides a
recap of the recently concluded Mercer Preaching Consultation 2007.
"Mercer Preaching Consultation
By Wil Platt
Mercer Preaching Consultation 2007 was held at the King and Prince Beach and
Golf Resort on St. Simons Island, GA during 23-25 September. The
meeting attracted a record attendance. Mercer President William D.
Underwood welcomed the attendees on Sunday evening and hosted a buffet
dinner and fellowship. Walter B. Shurden, Director of the Center for
Baptist Studies, and Dean Alan Culpepper of the McAfee School of Theology
presided over the sessions of the meeting.
Under the theme, the "Practice of Presence," featured speaker Barbara Brown
Taylor presented three stimulating lectures on being present to the Gospel,
present to the text and present to God. Of particular importance for
pastors was her third lecture in which she stressed the necessity of the
observance of sabbath at some point during the week for effective ministry.
Additional sessions on various topics of interest to pastors featured
speakers drawn from the faculty of Mercer and Baptist churches in Georgia.
Shurden announced that next year's Consultation will be held at the King and
Prince on 28-30 September 2008. The featured speakers will be Greg
Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN and Joel
Gregory, Professor of Preaching at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary
of Baylor University. These speakers are sure to attract another
record attendance. Please note these dates on your calendars and
remain alert for an announcement of an opportunity for early registration.
Table of Contents
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.
"Al Mohler and Andy Stanley on
the Future of Christianity and Planet Earth"
By Bruce T. Gourley
The other day I listened to a sermon entitled "Too
Earthly Minded to Do Any Heavenly Good." The premise is one I've heard
for years: life on earth is full of trials and tribulations, and at best is a
distraction to a Christian's heavenly rewards in the afterlife. So,
Christians should forget about trying to make a difference in this world (in
terms of meeting social needs) and instead scoop up as many "souls" as
possible on their way to heaven.
A newer variation
on the anti-earth theme is the attitude that some Christians espouse
concerning environmentalism, especially as related to global warming. Al
Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, neatly sums up
the opposition to environmentalism, while dismissing concerns about global
got to expect this world to end badly…. Read the book. It doesn't end well." According to Mohler and like-minded Christians, the biblical
book of Revelation teaches a cataclysmic end to earth, and trying to save the
planet from destruction is pointless.
anti-earth views expressed in heavenly fixations and global doom reflect
certain human biases more than the biblical text. In the Old Testament, God punished or blessed nations
according to how they treated the poor, oppressed and outcasts. Among
God's chosen Hebrew people, belief in an afterlife did not develop until late
in the OT era. In the Gospels, Jesus' "Kingdom of Heaven," rather than
being confined to a distant, futuristic, after-death place, was instead rooted
in the here-and-now, with both earthly and spiritual dimensions.
"Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived," was a central tenet of Jesus'
teachings. Special rituals or the repetition of magic words did not
provide automatic admittance to a next-worldly existence. Participation
in Jesus' heaven meant meeting the whole needs of persons on planet earth.
Frequently asked how one could become righteous in God's sight, Jesus' answers
bore one consistent theme: one must turn his or her life over to God by
renouncing self-centeredness and ministering to the needs of others. No
rituals or verbal formulas were necessary to be "saved," and all sinners were
invited. Jesus' "Kingdom of heaven" connected tangible earthly matters
with one's after-death existence. Only later would some Christians
deconstruct Jesus' teaching of heaven by removing the earthly dimension,
creating shortcuts to after-death bliss, and placing varied and evolving
conditions on admittance.
recent Barna survey of young Americans aged 16-29 reveals just how far
modern, popular Christianity has strayed from Jesus' teachings. Just one
decade ago, according to Barna, "the vast majority" of young people "outside
the Christian faith ... felt favorably toward Christianity's role in society."
Now, however, a mere 16% of non-Christian young persons have a "good
impression" of Christianity, while only 3% have "favorable views of
evangelicals." The 3% figure represents an eight-fold increase in
negative views of evangelicals compared to the Boomer generation. Among
today's unchurched young people, vast majorities view Christianity as
anti-homosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%) and too involved
in politics (75%). One half of Christian young people also agree with
these assessments. It is interesting to note that Jesus criticized the
religious leaders of his day for the very same reasons―their
lack of compassion for sinners, judgmental nature and hypocritical attitudes.
pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta and son of Charles Stanley,
responded to the Barna survey by suggesting it is time for
Christianity to stop focusing solely on converting persons. "If we were
able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, I think we
would put the emphasis on developing relationships with non-believers, serving
them, loving them, and making them feel accepted. Only then would we
earn the right to share the gospel." At the least, Stanley offers a step
forward on the road back to Jesus' heaven.
Al Mohler, however,
seems to disagree with Stanley. Any movement toward incorporating
earthly concerns into one's concept of heaven is unacceptable, Jesus'
teachings notwithstanding. The
conversion of souls into an after-death existence is all that really
environmentalism is a bogeyman that distracts from this one-dimensional
heaven. Downplaying heaven as taught in the Gospels, Mohler's construct
rests on the back of pre-millennial dispensationalism,
a modern heresy-turned-orthodoxy that interprets the
book of Revelation in such a way as to elevate Christian self-righteousness
while rallying believers to cheer the impending destruction of planet earth.
however, are not fooled. As Barna discovered, their "most frequent
unprompted" criticism of modern Christianity is that it "no longer looks like
America's youth are
warning us as Christians to return to Jesus. May we heed their words
before it is too late.
Table of Contents
Recommended Online Reading
for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley
The American Scholar
Bush's legacy consists of the undoing of Roger
Williams and the Baptist heritage of separation of church and state, according
to Ethan Fishman, a professor of political science at the University of
Faith and Progress
The American Interest
Calvin and Max Weber, finding fertile soil in
capitalistic America, have created a unique religion that continues to have
vast implications for individuals and society at large.
A Nation of Christians is Not a Christian Nation
Jon Meacham, New York Times
Meacham responds to John McCain's embrace of
the myth of America's founding as a Christian nation.
Dates to Note
November 4-5, 2007, CBF/GA Fall Convocation,
First Baptist Church, Savannah, GA.
Click here for more information.
January 30 - February 1, 2008, New Baptist
Covenant Celebration, Atlanta, Georgia. See advertisement above or
click here for
April 3, 2008, 25th Anniversary Celebration and
Judson-Rice Dinner honoring Walker Knight, Loudermilk Center, Downtown
Atlanta, 6:30 PM. Visit Baptists
Today online or call 1-877-752-5658 for more information.
July 16-19, 2008, British Baptist
Historical Society Centenary Conference, International Baptist Theological
Seminary, Prague. Theme: Baptists and the World: Renewing the Vision.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Bill Leonard. If you have a proposal for a short paper,
email Dr. Ian Randall at Randall@ibts.cz
by March 1, 2008. Click here for more
information and registration information.
If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to
this list, please
let us know. For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the
Online Baptist Community Calendar.
Table Of Contents
you do not wish to receive BSB any longer, please
Click Here to unsubscribe.