Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baptist Quotes on Separation of Church and State: 1612

To Bill Jones and Texas Baptists Committed I am grateful. My gratitude is for the courage that they - over the years - have exhibited in telling the story of our Baptist faith. And I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the conversation within this blog.

The only way in which we can truly know and understand ourselves is through our past. It is our past that shapes us today and propels us into the future.
Thus, history is invaluable. Or more appropriately, the way in which we handle history is crucial in how we live our lives and perceive our world.

Unfortunately, many are the Baptists today whose lives and worldview are constructed upon phony history fabricated by religious hucksters like Texan David Barton.

Indeed, many Baptists - whether intentional or not - live in denial of their own historical faith story. Astonishingly, the very principle that many Baptists today reject is the one core conviction that Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries were most identified with: separation of church and state.

Baptists' commitment to the great principle of separation of church and state is threaded throughout our history as a people of faith. It birthed us, nurtured us, and (even though many today mock the principle) sustains us at our best.

As a tribute to the one core conviction that most defined our faith forebears apart from other Christians, in the coming weeks I'll highlight some of the voices from our past who can point us to our future as a people of faith, such as: 
"If the Kings people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane lawes made by the King, our Lord the King can require no more: for men’s religion to God is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it, neither may the King be judge between God and man." — Thomas Helwys (co-founder of the first Baptist church in the world, in 1609 at Amsterdam), A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, 1612.

Helwys' words were heresy. Shortly thereafter he was imprisoned by King James I (the same king after whom the King James Bible is named), where he died as a martyr for daring to argue for separation of church and state.

How do Helwys' words apply in the 21st century, a time in which many evangelical Christians in America are bent on constructing special political and judicial privileges for themselves, while denying religious liberty to many minority religious groups and individuals?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Is TBC Still Here?

We've heard the question.

Why is TBC still here?

One answer is that, despite what some people would tell you, the "battle" is not over. Yes, the BGCT survived takeover attempts by Fundamentalists in the 1990s, largely because of the work of Texas Baptists Committed - including those of you who faithfully and courageously supported this organization.

But the Fundamentalists didn't change their stripes - only their strategy. Having failed in their attempt to take over the BGCT, the Texas Fundamentalists now strive to take over the churches.

Some who ask why TBC is still needed are people who disdain politics, and the presence of a "political" organization like TBC makes them uncomfortable. They're "tired of the politics," they say. But that's exactly why they need to support TBC. Let TBC mess with the "politics" before the politics messes with your church. Because once that happens, it will be up to you to clean up the political mess in your church. It will be too late for TBC to help you at that point.

That is why TBC is still here. We are here to help churches - and church members - stay free from control . . . free from dictator pastors . . . free from in-church controversies . . . and free to interpret Scripture and to serve as God leads them. Providing pastor search committees with accurate information about prospective candidates is only one of the key ways in which we can help you.

But we also need to be here to help the younger generations learn why being Baptist means something. Generations are growing up without seeing anything special about the Baptist name. Once they're grown, they go elsewhere, and we Baptists lose the leadership and service they could have provided in our churches. And that means that more and more Baptist churches lose their Baptist identity. When that happens, Fundamentalists move in and entrench their culture of control. And freedom once lost is rarely recaptured.

That, too, is why TBC is still here. Our new series of Baptist Briefs videos is only the first step in our plan to tell the Baptist story to new generations.

TBC is not going away. We at TBC - our staff and our Board - believe that this organization has a mission that is critical to the future of Texas Baptists, and we intend to stay focused on that mission. As always, we invite your support and involvement. We can't do this without you.

Baptist Brief, Thursday, January 27: Distinctive from what?

For MOBILE (iPhone, etc.) version, click here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Be Baptist?

Why be Baptist?

For that matter, why do denominations matter at all in a "post-denominational" world? People express a variety of concerns about denominations these days, and many are legitimate. But denominations still stand for something. There are critical differences between them. Denominational associations and conventions enable churches and individuals to accomplish things together that they would be unable to do as effectively by themselves.

But why be Baptist? Because we believe that being Baptist is the most faithful and effective way of carrying out the Gospel. We believe that being Baptist is most faithful to the Bible; being Baptist means following the Bible and not a creed formed by some council. Baptists believe in freedom that is God-given four "fragile freedoms," as Buddy Shurden calls them in The Baptist Identity: Bible freedom; soul freedom; church freedom; and religious freedom. And most important, Baptists put Jesus first, interpreting Scripture through Jesus' life and teachings.

On January 3, I began a series of videos, entitled Baptist Briefs, running Monday through Friday on the TBC Web site and blog. In these videos – which run about 2 minutes each – I try to tell the Baptist story, giving a little history, discussing Baptist principles, and telling a little about the people who have helped move that story along through the years.

Even a quick look at Baptist history through these videos tells you that we shouldn't take lightly the freedoms we enjoy in Baptist churches today. Over the past 400 years, many Baptists have risked prison, torture, and death to preserve Baptist principles . . . the right to worship without government interference . . . the right to interpret the Bible under the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than the heavy hand of a priest or bishop . . . and the right to govern our own churches without the interference of a hierarchy.

It's time to take a stand, Baptists. Learn about your Baptist heritage . . . teach it in your churches . . . teach it to your children. Teach them why being Baptist is more than simply wearing a label . . . it's about the way we relate to God. Freely and responsibly . . . that's how God invites us, and that's how He expects us to live.

Baptist Brief, Wednesday, January 26: Baptists' Battle Cry

For MOBILE (iPhone, etc.) version, click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today's Baptist Brief: The First Baptist Church (ever!)

Top Mainstream Baptist Podcasts of 2010

Here are the five "Religious Talk" podcasts that proved most popular in 2010:

1. Obama's Faith-based Program
2. Chris Rodda Interview
3. Razi Hashmi Interview
4. Robert Parham Interview
5. John Esposito Interview

Here are the top ten "Religious Talk" podcasts overall:

1. Interviews with Bob Stephenson on Peak Oil 7-10-05, 8-7-05, 11-18-07, 6-1-08
2. Interview with Sally and Terry Jackson on End of Life Issues
3. Paul Weller Interview
4. David Berliner Interview Part 1, Part 2
5. Charles Kimball Interview Part 1, Part 2
6. Dr. Katherine Schiermann Interview
7. 9-11 and the Price of Freedom and Security
8. Oklahoma's Monument to American Theocracy
9. Mary Kinny Branson Interview
10. A Mainstream Perspective on Abortion Part 1, Part 2

Top Mainstream Baptist Videos of 2010

Here are the ten most popular Mainstream Baptist videos of 2010:

1. Christian Reconstructionism in a Nutshell
2. How Al Mohler became the Baptist Pope
3. Why Baptist Churches are Declining
4. Baptists and the Rise of the Religious Right
5. Rick Scarborough's Dominionist Altar Call
6. What Was at Stake in the Takeover of the SBC?
7. Steven Hotze's Christian Reconstructionism
8. Bethlehem Night
9. Feza School Rap
10. His Nets Distributes 100,000th Net

Top Mainstream Baptist Blogs of 2010

Top Ten Mainstream Baptist Blogs of 2010

1. Will Faith Overcome Fear?
2. Baptists and the Rise of the Religious Right
3. The Scariest Verses in the Koran
4. Christian Nationalism Costs Haskell County
5. Ethics Daily Video Makes Impression on Denzel Washington
6. Haunted Memories
7. On What Principle Does Ken Starr Stand?
8. More Easy Money and Loose Accountability
9. It’s Time for Leadership Change
10. Francis Wayland: First Baptist Ethicist

Top Five Blogs written before 2010 (as measured by page views since May 2010)

1. Regarding Evangelical Youth Cults
2. Atheism: The Forbidden Topic
3. Pastor Apologizes for Church Sign
4. Put Down the Patriot Bible
5. What is Progressive Faith?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Baptist Briefs from TBC

Today marked the first appearance - on the TBC Web site - of a new series of video "snippets" on Baptist heritage and principles, to appear Monday-Friday. Each will be around 2 minutes long, "give or take." The series begins with what most historians recognize as the beginning of Baptist history - the fateful partnership of John Smyth and Thomas Helwys at the dawn of the 17th century. Click on the image to go to this first Baptist Brief.