Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Pulpit and Pen and Other Related Sites

Overall, I do not put much stock in overly polemical sites like Pulpit and Pen (P&P) and their related breed. This, of course, does not mean everything they put out is incorrect. But, often enough, I think they are suspect enough to not put much stock in what they say unless another independent site verifies their findings, including issues dealing with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

I am often a critic of the SBC when the data, reasonably interpreted, warrants it (e.g. see my recent open letter). Also, often, when private communication has been exhausted, then I will go public (depending on the issue) in conjunction with continuing private communication. But, this varies from situation to situation.

In short, the SBC is not above public scrutiny, but not in the general P&P like way. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Open Letter to NAMB evangelism department.

My open-letter to the NAMB evangelism department:

NAMB Building... - North American Mission Board Office Photo ...

Anti-intellectualism is pervasive throughout the church, including in the SBC. This conclusion has been pointed out by many conservative evangelicals other than myself. [1]  At least some, if not many pastors also promote these ideologies. [2] The church is not the only one headed in this direction, as the world in general is on a downward slope when it comes to knowledge (including cultural literacy) in general. [3]  

Yet, the SBC, in it's confessional like documents, does not necessarily promote such movements (BFM Article XII:: Education). Nevertheless, NAMB's actions have not promoted this language. For example, when Mike Licona (former apologetics cordinator) left NAMB in 2011, the Certified Apologetics Instructor (CAI) program was quietly dismantled. [3b] These Instructors were doing what BFM Article XII talks about. They were engaged in, " sound learning... [as] part of our Christian heritage" so that they could go out to churches to help provide, "... an adequate system of Christian education..."  for SBC churches. [3c] However, they were unnecessarily cut despite Article XII implications.  No other comparable program was started to replace it in a robust way.  

Was it due to lack of Cooperative Funding? No, because the CAI instructors paid almost all costs related to the program out of pocket! 

Was there any biblical and exegetical reasoning offered? No. None

There was an explanation that the church planting emphasis was part of the reasoning. In a phone call I had with the head of college NAMB ministry at the time, he noted that the trustees has assigned NAMB to have a church planting centered mission. Yet, despite more funding put into this program, the numbers are questionable at best, or, at worst, a disaster.[4] (Sure, having better "quality" plants is part of the decline, but this does not explain all the declines)

Not that apologetics will solve all these issues, but if you proclaim the gospel without cogently engaging the culture at the same time (as, in part, the Certified Apologetic Instructors were doing), you will win stragglers here or there (even dozens), but you will lose the overall culture war. [5] Then, most likely, Christianity will be perceived as an absurdity by more and more in Western culture [5b] 

However, except at some of our seminaries and a few pockets here or there, fideism and/or anti-intellectualism rules in the SBC. Can it change? Yes, but that usually happens through tremendous effort. [6] The data shows we need to not embrace these ideologies [7] Will we start honoring God with our minds (Matt 22:37)? [8] Maybe. We will see. But the trustees need to see that apologetics is vital and the dismantling of, for example, the Certified Apologetics Instructor program, was a wrong move.[9]

 Dr. Chuck Kelley and others have called NAMB back to a robust, direct evangelistic strategy. [10] That is the right move and apologeics is apart of that. [11] 

Thank you for your consideration. Feedback is welcome. 


[1] In somewhat different forms, see Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman, “Introduction,” in Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 8; David Mathis, “Introduction: Think, Love, Do: In Gospel Perspective,” in Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind, ed. John Piper and David Mathis (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 15; John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 12; 
Though Peterson here is concentrating on prayer, he indicated that he has little to no patience with individuals that promote anti-intellecualism. See, Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 96; Douglas Groothuis does not mince words: "Any intellectual discipline, church practice, or teaching that minimizes or denigrates the importance of apologetics is unbiblical and must be repented of." Douglas Groothuis, “Postscript,” in Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith, ed. Norman L. Geisler and Chad V. Meister (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 402.

[2] There are notable exceptions. But as Charles Bugg makes known, "Some preachers make their living by attacking education or by riding the horse of anti-intellectualism. The result is a kind of demagoguery that creates unwarranted suspicion toward education." Charles B. Bugg, Preaching from the Inside Out (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 125; Similarly, I can attest to this mentality. I have had in person conversations and on social media with pastors (many in the SBC) who are against the life of the mind. Not some overt rationalism, but against learning basics in how we got our current biblical canon, basics in textual criticism, and against learning about how American constitutional law works. Not to hold classes at the graduate level (though who should be overly opposed to that if there is a need!), but 101 and 201 level curriculum. But, the status quo is often promoted, despite biblical principles to the contrary (e.g. Hebrews 5:11-6:2, 2 Cor 10:5). On how to apply certain biblical texts, see Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “A Principlizing Model,” in Four Views on Moving beyond the Bible to Theology, ed. Stanley N. Gundry and Gary T. Meadors, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 19-50.

[3] Michael Scott Horton, Made in America: The Shaping of Modern American Evangelicalism (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), 145-146.

[3b]For more information about this program (since removed from the NAMB website), see

[3c] In the official commentary on the BFM, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor, Steve W. Lemke states a couple of reasons why Article XII and it's actual implementation aides SBC churches. He states, "the democratic process through which Baptist polity functions according to the priesthood of all believers is greatly enhanced by an educated church membership." Also, a, "better education can foster a more accurate interpretation of the Word of God." The Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America's Largest Protestant Denomination . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition; Thom Rainer has also stated, "Evangelical churches affirm the total truthfulness of Scripture. But mere affirmation of the trustworthiness of Scripture is of little value if these churches fail to train their members in the complete revelation of the Bible." Thom Rainer, Effective Evangelistic Churches: Successful Churches Reveal What Works, and What Doesn’t (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 92.

[4]     Baptisms, membership (which is due to some clearing of the membership rolls, but one cannot account of much of the membership decline by just updating church membership rolls. At least a significant minority has transferred to their memberships or just left due to the directions the SBC has moved in). 

[5] Machen said it best, "False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion." Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Culture . Titus Books. Kindle Edition; Of course, this does not mean every form of Christian persuasion  is ideal. As Groothuis states, "The goal of conversion does not justify every means of convincing, but only those means that flow from Scripture itself." Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2011), 29.

[5b] Sure, the Holy Spirit can move a society. But, people are to engage the culture and not isolate from it. See Paul's example in Acts 17:22-34. Also, Peters imperative statement in 1st Peter 3:15. See, 
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 174–175; Douglas Groothuis rightfully notes, "There is no reason to separate the work of the Holy Spirit from rigorous and skillful argumentation for Christian truth. The Holy Spirit can set the redeemed mind free to argue logically and winsomely; he also reaches into the unbeliever’s soul through the force of arguments." Groothuis, “Postscript,” 403; For a more in depth explanation of the biblical justification of apologetics, see Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 29-37.

[6] As Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out in another context, "Enormous effort is required to shift from one construal to the other." Luke Timothy Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 35A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 56.


[8] For a balanced handling of the greatest commandment and the issues dealing with the mind,  see D. A. Carson, “Chapter Two: The Scholar as Pastor: Lessons from the Church and the Academy,” in The Pastor as Scholar & The Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry, ed. Owen Strachan and David Mathis (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 74-76.

[9] Not that all programs will solve issues, but one of the main goals of this ministry was to aid the church in the life of the mind (e.g. Matt 22:37) and fulfilling Article XII. If Article XII is no longer to be taken seriously, should we not change the BFM then? 


[11] James Leo Garrett states. "The importance of the discipling/teaching role of the church at the advent of the twenty-first century can hardly be overstated. With the neglect of Christian nurture in Christian families, the conversion of increasing numbers from secular/pagan backgrounds, the removal of the vestiges of Christian truth and values from public education, and the need for continuing equipage for Christian life and service, effective Christian nurture/teaching/training in the churches is urgent and critical." James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, Second Edition., vol. 2 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), 594.

Updated: 02/07/2021