David DockeryOn December 9, 2013, David Dockery, President of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee announced his intention to step down from the presidency and assume the role of chancellor (in an honorary role) no later than July 2014.  In his farewell address, Dockery said that he intends to participate more in the Manhattan Declaration project which purports to be a movement of Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians for life, marriage, and religious liberty.  Upon the issuance of the Manhattan Declaration, many religious leaders, including many high-profile Southern Baptists, were asked to sign the document.  Besides Dockery, other notable Southern Baptist signatories include the ultra-ecumenical Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson School of Divinity and, of course, the Pope-praising Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  While it is no surprise that Dockery, George, and Moore signed the document, Southern Baptists may be surprised to learn that two SBC seminary presidents, Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary and Danny Akin of Southeastern Seminary also affixed their signatures to the Manhattan Declaration.  While the contributions of Dockery, Mohler, and Akin are appreciated, Southern Baptist are asking why their leaders continue to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers by signing documents such as the infamous Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and The Manhattan Declarationand participate with organizations such as the Evangelical Immigration Tablefunded by socialist financier George Soros.

Notable evangelicals such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton, and Alistair Begg refused to affix their signatures to the declaration.  While these men affirm the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, separation of church and state, and other moral issues, they could not sign it because it identifies Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelicals as Christians.  MacArthur, in explaining why he did not sign the statement wrote:

 Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.  The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message.

Indeed, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the RCC are purveyors of a different gospel.  The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Galatia declared that false teachers who preach another gospel are to be accursed (Galatians 1:1-9).  Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul commanded them to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

R.C. Sproul wrote, “ I have dear friends in the ministry who have signed this document, and my soul plummeted when I saw their names.”  Surely, the souls of many Southern Baptists plummeted when they saw that Dr. Dockery, who has provided exemplary leadership to Union University, pledged to devote more of his time to the Manhattan Declaration project.  They were further disheartened when they saw the names of Akin, Coppenger, Draper, George, Graham, Moore, Mohler, Perkins and Platt associated with a document recognizing false teachers as orthodox Christians.

Southern Baptists are calling upon their leadership to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” and to disavow any involvement now, or in the future, with any ecumenical associations such as the Manhattan Declaration, the Evangelical Immigration Table, and Evangelicals and Catholics Together which compromises the gospel, dilutes the witness of the Christian church and confuses a proper understanding of the true gospel among unbelievers.

Dr. Russell Moore

Dr. Russell Moore

In recent days, the term “family values” has taken a beating.  In response to the recent Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage, ERLC President Dr. Russell Moore wrote, “Regardless of what happens with marriage, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, it often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it.”  This sparked a useful and friendly email exchange in which one of our elders, Paul Haines, addressed the topic with some of our young men.  With his permission, I have compiled his email correspondence into a post in which addresses some his concerns with Dr. Moore’s article.

Paul Haines

Paul Haines

While there are some good things that Moore said, there are a couple of issues I have with Moore’s article. I will limit it currently to the “family values” issue, since this is what you sent to me.  While I do not believe that “Family Values” is the gospel by any stretch of the imagination, “Family Values” are very important and should not be downplayed.(1) They show God’s common grace towards us. We must not forget that in theology, we study about two kinds of grace, one special and one common.  See the article by Berkhof on Common Grace (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof_summary.html#chapter18). 

(2) The loss of “family values” does not promote the spreading of the gospel. We should not rejoice that Family Values are fleeting in a society. We SHOULD see that it is positive when people realize that they are not a Christian simply because they are moral, but to say it is positive that family values are going away or that they are a point of rejoicing when they are gone is quite different.  It is not only a sign of the dying out of the influence of the gospel on society, but also of the knowledge of God in general.  Do we not want more of the knowledge of God to be known? The lack of the knowledge of God is a sign of wrath. This is what we see in Romans 1:18-32.  It is a hardness to the gospel.  It is a suppression of the gospel influence and revelation of God in the Word.  It is a sign of the failure of our witness, rather than a promoter of it. It makes it more difficult to witness, because there is less of an understanding of God Himself.  If it promoted evangelism and conversions, then should not we lower our flag against abortion, pornography, euthanasia, pedophilia, polygamy, bestiality, etc., in order to have the greatest spreading of the gospel?

While I do not believe that “Family Values” is the gospel by any stretch of the imagination, “Family Values” are very important and should not be downplayed.

(3) We should promote family values for the betterment of society and in fulfillment of God’s Law.  The Ten Commandments are not just for Christians.  They are commandments which are from God’s very own nature, burned upon the heart of every man, given in the Garden, declared on Mount Sinai, and fulfilled by every word and deed of Christ. They are good for us and for society. Read below about what Berkhof states about the “Means” and “Effects” of Common Grace. “Sin is restrained in the lives of individuals and nations The corruption that entered human life through sin is retarded and not yet permitted to complete its destructive work.”

(4) The great mission movements in the past addressed family values and societal issues along with the gospel. Could we say that John Paton was wrong to condemn the cannibals of the New Hebrides for murdering and eating the flesh of their captives and stealing from their “Missi”? Could we say that God’s morality and family values were unimportant to William Carey in his battle against Seti and the torching of widows?  Would we tell Gladys Alward that she should not have addressed the cruel binding of young girls feet in China.  Would we tell David Livingston that it was wrong to address the slave traders, who kidnapped their very own people, forced them to leave their country, separate from their families, and starve or die in cruel places on slave ships that he was wrong to stop and address this?  Whitefield, Wesley, and many others faced a wicked society and called them to leave their wicked ways. These people were all great bearers of the gospel, but they addressed the breaking of God’s law.  They called sin, what it is…lawlessness, as they brought the gospel.  They called people to see their great breaking of God’s law.  It was not a simple gospel of just coming to know Jesus and then change your life.  It was repent and believe. 

(5) The Old Testament prophets did not rejoice at the breaking down of family values in society.  They addressed them alongside the good news of the coming Messiah that they promoted.  A quick reading of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and Malachi is a “great awakening” in this area. 

It is not Mayberry here in America anymore, but I would love to see the days once again where there was a stronger Fear of God among the populous and a greater understanding of God’s Moral Law upon people. Today, there is an almost complete, suppression of the truth about God and His ways (Romans 1) or at least a radical turning towards that point. The gospel does “flourish” many times when there is a radical difference between Christianity and the world; when there is an almost death to Common Grace and family values. But the Gospel certainly has also flourished, and I think in a greater way, when there is a fear of God, when family values are strong, and there is an open mind-set to the gospel. The difference is that we don’t see this flourishing as radically as when there is a contrast in the those who are in Christ and those who are not.  Where the gospel is preached consistently, biblically, truthfully,  line-by-line and verse-by-verse, in and out every day, church by church, family to family, in homes, when people lay on their beds, when they arise, when they walk with each other, and talk with each other (Deut 6), this is when the gospel has flourished the most. We often look at the Great Awakenings and Revivals as great times in history and they were. But what is greater are the times in history, when every day in churches, there are many people growing and trusting Christ. At the latter times, it is harder to recognize, but it is there. It is true that the gospel can be lost in the Bible Belt through simply having a moral society and people thinking that they are saved, but this is because to a large degree that in the Bible Belt the gospel has been watered down, marginalized, made to be like the world, marketed to the world in “church growth movement”, where evangelism apart from a changed lifestyle is emphasized, and where there is a weak God preached.

Louis Berkhof

Part V: The Doctrine of the Application of the Work of Redemption

Chapter XVIII: The Common Operation of the Holy Spirit: Common Grace

The study of the work of redemption wrought by Christ is naturally followed by a discussion of the application of this redemption to the hearts and lives of sinners by the special operation of thy Holy Spirit. Before taking this up a brief chapter will be devoted to the general operations of the Holy Spirit, as these are seen in common grace.

1. Nature of Common Grace. When we speak of common grace, we have in mind either (a) those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby He, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted; or (b) those general blessings which God imparts to all men without any distinction as He sees fit. In distinction from the Arminians we maintain that common grace does not enable the sinner to perform any spiritual good, nor to turn to God in faith and repentance. It can be resisted by man, and is always more or less resisted, and at best affects only the externals of social, civil, moral, and religious life. While Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect, nevertheless the whole human race, including the impenitent and the reprobate, derive great benefits from His death. The blessings of common grace may be regarded as indirect results of the atoning work of Christ.

2. Means of Common Grace. Several means may be distinguished: (a) The most important of these is the light of God’s general revelation. Without this all other means would be impossible and ineffective. It lightens every man, and serves to guide the conscience of the natural man. (b) Human governments also serve this purpose. According to our Confession they are instituted to curb evil tendencies, and to promote good order and decency. (c) Public opinion is another important means wherever it is in harmony with the law of God. It has a tremendous influence on the conduct of men who are very sensitive to the judgment of public opinion. (d) Finally, divine punishments and rewards also serve to encourage moral goodness in the world. The punishments often check the sinful deeds of men, and the rewards spur them on to do what is good and right.

3. The Effects of Common Grace. The following effects may be ascribed to the operation of common grace: (a) The execution of the sentence of death on man is deferred. God did not at once fully execute the sentence of death on the sinner, and does not do so now, but gives him time for repentance, Rom. 2:4; II Pet. 8:9. (b) Sin is restrained in the lives of individuals and nations The corruption that entered human life through sin is retarded and not yet permitted to complete its destructive work, Gen. 20:6; 31:7; Job 1:12; 2:6. (c) Man still has some sense of the true, the good, and the beautiful, appreciates this in a measure, and reveals a desire for truth, morality, and certain forms of religion, Rom. 2:14, 15; Acts 17:22. (d) The natural man is still able to perform natural good or civil righteousness, works that are outwardly in harmony with the law, though without spiritual value, II Kings 10:29, 30; 12:2; 14;3; Luke 6:33. (e) All men receive numerous undeserved blessings from God, Ps. 145:9, 15, 16; Matt. 5:44, 45; Luke 6:35, 36; Acts 14:16, 17; I Tim. 4;10.

The article below is written by Bro. Earl Blackburn, Senior Pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Bro. Earl is the author of Covenant Theology: A Baptist DistinctiveJesus Loves the Church and So Should You, John Chrysostom, contributed to the book Denominations or Associations, and numerous periodicals including The Founder’s Journal, Reformation Today, and Banner of Truth, and has authored several booklets published by Reformed Baptist Publications including Covenant Theology: A Reformed Baptist Overview, Unconditional Election, Why You Should Join A Church, and Which Church Should You Join.

A slightly edited version of this article is scheduled to appear in the March 14 edition of the Baptist MessageIt is posted here, by permission, in its entirety.

Continue Reading…

In 2005, Dr. Joe Aguillard was named the eighth president of Louisiana College (LC).  In his eight years at LC, a football team has been reestablished, a football stadium has been built, and graduate programs have been established including what many consider to the be the crown jewel of Louisiana College, the Caskey School of Divinity.  Established in 2010, the Caskey School allows men preparing for the ministry the opportunity to obtain a world-class theological education at no cost to the student.  Indeed, Louisiana Baptists are thankful that a once-proud institution that had fallen into the hands of theological liberals has reestablished her conservative and biblical theological underpinnings.  However, this God-ordained prosperity is now threatened by an untimely and unnecessary division.

Continue Reading…