Saturday, June 30, 2007

New California "conservative" Baptist Convention

According to a recent press release from the Associated Baptist Press (strange that a group calling itself the California Conservative Coalition would choose the ABP as their news funnel) California pastors Ron Wilson and Wiley Drake are starting a new California Baptist convention “that will compete with the 67-year-old California Southern Baptist Convention for denominational loyalty.” Let me state at the outset that I consider Wiley and Ron not only Christian brothers but also friends. We all could learn from Wiley’s church in reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves. And let me state that they certainly have a clear right, considering Baptist polity, to form a new convention if they so wish. Historically, we Baptists hold dearly the right to association with others of like-minded belief.

However, this new convention startup bothers me. In trying to analyze what exactly bothers me about it I think I’ve been able to pinpoint the prick in my gut that concerns me most. What bothers me most is that this seems to be an effort to posture themselves as the “true conservative Southern Baptists of California” and to brand the CSBC as something other than that. Well, I’m not ready to cede the title of “true conservatives” to Ron and Wiley.

Their press release states: “California is the fourth state to witness such a move, joining Texas, Missouri and Virginia. In those states, alternative Baptist conventions have resulted in competition with the more traditional organizations for contributions and membership.” California is NOT Texas, Missouri and Virginia. The CSBC is not the BGCT (Texas), nor the BGAV (Virginia) nor the MBC (Missouri). Each of those states saw the establishment of a new state convention of conservatives in response to the moderate/liberal leanings of the established state convention. There is NO SUCH need in California. The CSBC is not moderate, nor liberal. As a long time pastor in this state who has been involved in the various entities of our state I know the leaders and the overwhelming majority of pastors of the CSBC to be folks strongly committed to and cooperating with the SBC and all its entities. These are folks who applaud the conservative resurgence in the SBC. To suggest otherwise is to build a “straw man” of a convention in order to further one’s own agenda.

So, to my brothers, Ron and Wiley, I love you and I wish you nothing but the best. But please, PLEASE, don’t try to usurp the label “conservative Southern Baptist” from me because I am committed to the CSBC. If you must separate yourselves, that’s your choice. Personally, I’d rather see all of us, as conservative California Southern Baptists, stay together and work for the glory of God in the spread of His Kingdom.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit


Last night my son Arthur, who is a theology student at California Baptist University, and I had the wonderful privilege of attending the Religious Leaders Reception and Exhibition Viewing of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition that is opening today, June 29, at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. This exhibition is actually two exhibits, one now through September and the other from October through December. Each of these two exhibits will feature different scrolls found in the caves near Qumran.

The museum is to be greatly commended for this ambitious project of bringing these historical treasures to our area. What an impressive exhibition it is. The building is lovely, the presentation exquisite and even the museum store has been beautifully enhanced to offer mementos of the occasion. All of us in the West owe a hearty thanks to Dr. Michael Hager and his staff for their tireless efforts in making the exhibit a reality.

Included in the exhibit is a Virtual Tour of the Qumran community by Robert Cargill of UCLA. His use of the water system of the site is a fascinating vehicle by which the observer is literally floated on a journey through the day-to-day life of this interesting community. Along with the Virtual Tour and some of the actual scrolls found in the caves near Qumran is a stunning photographic exhibit of that part of the globe. Whether one is a student of the Old Testament or not this exhibit, from an historical standpoint, is certainly on a par with the treasures of Tutankhamun.

While wandering through the exhibit and also perusing the list of distinguished lecturers who will make presentations during its stay through December of this year, I must confess one regret. Obviously, the exhibit is the result of cooperation from many different entities both religious and secular. This is the only way it could be. However, as an evangelical pastor I couldn’t help wishing there were something to help the committed Christian to understand the enormous significance of these scrolls in relation to our Bibles today. With that in mind I want to try and answer that need in my own simple way for those of you who are planning to visit the exhibition.


Before we answer the question of the importance of the scrolls to Biblical Christians today, we must first know what they are. These scrolls were found in clay pots hidden in 11 caves near the Qumran community at the northwestern edge of the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. There were a total of over 900 separate documents pieced together from thousands of fragments found in these caves. The scrolls themselves are dated over a period from about 250 B.C. to around 68 A.D. The origin of these documents is the subject of much debate but most recent scholarship leads to three possible conclusions: they were copied at Qumran by the residents there or they were brought there from Jerusalem or, perhaps most likely, some combination of both.


Let’s pretend. Pretend you write a book. In writing this book your original is a handwritten document, not printed from a professional printing company or even your computer. And let’s pretend the only way for others to get a copy of your book is for you or someone else to hand copy your book line for line, word for word, letter for letter. Back and forth from page to page, turning the head, attempting to keep a mark in the proper place, not inadvertently skipping a line—what an enormous task.

Now suppose that job of copying is done by many copyists over many years so that a thousand years from now the only copy available is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy (you get the point) done by many different copyists over hundreds of years. What is the likelihood that the copy you have will be even remotely close to the original. What could one logically expect the accuracy to be?


We could turn to one particular writing from ancient history, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, for an example of what this laborious copying process might produce. We have two different papyri available in regard to this writing dated about 1,000 years apart.

“Quite startling differences appear, for example, between chapter 15 contained in the Papyrus of Ani (written in the Eighteenth Dynasty [roughly around the time of Moses]) and the Turin Papyrus (from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty or later [toward the end of the Old Testament]). Whole clauses are inserted or left out, and the sense in corresponding columns of text is in some cases altogether different.” (Gleason Archer quoted in New Evidence…, McDowell, 70).

Not too surprisingly one would suspect the very kinds of errors found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead in any document hand-copied over that amount of time. Imagine how different your book would be under the same conditions. Imagine again that the same types of errors might be expected to be found in the texts of the Old Testament over the same period of copying time. Unless something or someone else acted to prevent the errors. As Professor Archer went on to say, “Apart from divine superintendence of the transmission of the Hebrew text, there is no particular reason why the same phenomenon of divergence and change would not appear between Hebrew manuscripts produced centuries apart.” (ibid.) Certainly, this would be the case were there no divine intervention.


Why are these scrolls so important to us as Biblical Christians? The simple answer is the manuscripts found in the caves near Qumran speak to the very heart of the issue of the reliability of the Biblical text. How certain can we be that the Old Testament we have today is the same Old Testament written by the original writers centuries ago?

Let’s take the best known example from the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is the scroll known to us as the Great Isaiah scroll found in Cave 1 in 1947. Sadly, this particular scroll is not included in the San Diego exhibition but another scroll of Isaiah is along with many other Biblical scrolls, especially some from the Psalms, Exodus and Deuteronomy. How similar is the Great Isaiah to the previous earliest manuscript of Isaiah? Were there significant changes, errors or omissions?

Again, we hear from Dr. Archer: “Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. They do not affect the message of revelation in the slightest.” (ibid.) As I said, “WOW!!!” One thousand years of hand-copying and the only variations amount to what we would think of as on the level of the dotting of i’s or crossing of t’s.

Do you see the enormity of that discovery in relation to the reliability of the text of the Bible which you hold in your hands today? This constitutes an enormous leap in authenticity. Surely there has been divine oversight of both the process of the copying and the preservation of the texts for us today. We can rest assured that we have an accurate Bible that is the same as the one God inspired the original writers to write.

Now imagine yourself standing and looking at an actual document that is over 2,000 years old with the words of one of the Psalms written on it:

“1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.” (Psalm 133)

Well, there’s no need to imagine. You can see that very scroll with that very Psalm at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. I encourage you not to miss it!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

SBC Membership Integrity

For the 2nd time the messengers to the SBC voted down a resolution concerning integrity in church membership (see: One is hard-pressed to imagine why any church oriented person would be opposed to this idea. The most often stated opposition to the idea in the floor debate was that the resolution would be interfering with the autonomy of the local church. Sadly, this response was a subterfuge, at best innocently done, to avoid dealing with this most embarrassing of realities.
The resolution in no way "interferes" with the autonomy of the local church for the simple reasons that: a. it is only an encouragement to local churches, and b. resolutions of the SBC are not binding on local churches.
I am not alone, I am sure, in the belief that the real reasons for opposition to this resolution have much more to do with our pride of statistics and fear of discipline. We do love our numbers. To be able to say that we have over 16,000,000 members on our rolls makes us feel awfully successful and necessary in the Kingdom. To be faced with the real prospect that we don't know where half of those members actually are is not a happy thought.
In addition, as the resolution itself addresses, we are beset by an unwillingness to carry out what is often referred to as "church discipline" but should, more biblically, be referred to as attempting biblical restoration of an erring brother/sister. All loving discipline is intended to bring forth the "peaceful fruit of righteousness." If the erring one refuses the extended and increasing levels of appeal to repent, the Scripture deems that one as not truly being regenerate. And since we do believe so strongly in regenerate church membership we, therefore, remove the unrepentant, unregenerate one from the church.
I fear the overwhelming majority of pastors fear what would happen if they sought to exercise that kind of discipline in their churches. I fear that most pew-packing SBC'ers would howl with "judge not that you be not judged." Whatever happened to "if you love Me, you will keep My commandments?"
I do not write this lightly. As one who pastors a church that does practice discipline I know how immeasurably draining it is to those involved. I also know how far we possibly/probably fall short from always "getting it right." However, we take each case on an individual basis and do not consider any one case a precedent for any others.
When we have been faced with the necessity of removing one from our fellowship it has been a time of deep sorrow for us.
But some of our times of greatest rejoicing have been when one who was removed through this process returns broken and repentant before the Lord and seeks true restoration. That is party time for us!
God forgive us in our individual churches because we fall short in integrity on the issue of numbers. God help us become churches that truly glorify God in all our ways. God help us as a convention of cooperating churches to encourage one another to be true to the biblical way of doing church.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I've been hearing a lot lately about the necessity of going through the exact same situation that another has gone through before one is capable of ministering in those circumstances. Here's a dissenting view in poetic form:

let's stop telling each other
that we can't relate
let's stop deciding
that MY problem is so unique
that no one else understands
I don't have to experience your pain
to know that it hurts
you don't have to have my failures
to know that I'm lonely

let's talk about
let's talk about
everyone has his/her own
particular pain
some more than others
but the amount doesn't matter
it's the presence of pain
that should move me
to compassion
the magnitude

stop telling me
that I can't relate
let me in
expose your wound
to the Sonlight
in me

Grace and peace ya'll

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Of course, the Mexican food in San Antonio is great but County Line BarBQ is good also (try the cobbler ala mode).

I was very blessed by the general tone of the Convention and it's focus on repentance and holiness. The reports of the various agencies were very enlightening and uplifting. I especially enjoyed the IMB report and their "Tell Me" emphasis.

In response to the blogging and spinning that has taken place since the Convention concerning the motion that was passed affirming the BF&M as a "guide" to our entities, I would like to speak as one who didn't know what I was voting on when I voted. I honestly thought we were voting to affirm the BF&M. I only learned after the fact that this was the "most important vote in ten years." I had no idea that this motion was an attempt to limit the entities of the SBC to the BF&M ONLY as a basis for hiring and policies. I suppose I was in the minority as I sat and listened to the debate and wondered what on earth all the rhetoric was about. I thought to myself, "haven't we always used the BF&M as a guide for our 'statement of faith'? Why wouldn't anyone be willing to agree to that unless, like the dastardly liberals of old they don't like the positions of the BF&M?"

Well, much to my amazement I have since learned that this was an attempt to stifle the entities of the SBC from having any other possible guidelines. Now that strikes me as odd. As one editorial I read later said, this would mean that were the IMB interviewing a potential "overseas personnel" (can't say missionary anymore) who practiced snake handling the IMB could not refuse him/her on those grounds because the BF&M doesn't address snake handling. Or, I thought, what if there were an interview with a potential church history prof who held to the position that the Reformation was a mistake and we should all go back to the Roman Catholic church? I can't imagine any SBC'er being in favor of hiring that person or of any SBC'er seriously wanting to take time on the floor of the Convention to debate and vote on that.

And on that note, did I hear Morris Chapman's suggestion correctly? Is he seriously suggesting that SBTS and SEBTS bring the Abstract of Principles back to the SBC for the messengers to vote on? Wasn't that settled about 150 years ago or is this supposed to be an "annual call?"

Poor little naive me. I thought using the BF&M as a guide meant just that. I never have thought of a "guide" as a limit. The BF&M is used in our church but it is not a limiting document, only a guide.

And on another note, WHY can't all these bloggers and microphone speakers get it through their head that there is no such thing as the "BF&M 2000?" There is only the BF&M. We don't refer to the Constitution of the U.S. as the "Constitution 1992" which was the year of the last revision. No, it's simply the Constitution. The same is true of the BF&M.

So now we have a new fight going. Too bad that seems to be what we do best at times. God forgive us. Which brings us back to the repentance and holiness themes. I wish we could have stayed with that in San Antonio.

It's me!!!

OK, so I am finally breaking down and getting my very own blog. I have resisted up till now for fear of being deceived by my own hubris that anyone would really care what I have to say.
But, alas, as I have been reading others' blogs I thought I might join in the fun.
Now, all I have to do is think of something to say.............