Discernment, False Doctrine, Southern Baptist/SBC

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

Originally published April 6, 2018

Think back to your childhood. Remember the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Once upon a time, there lived an emperor. One day two swindlers came to his palace and told him they could weave cloth for his royal robes that was magical: to those who were foolish or unfit for their jobs, it would appear invisible. Only the wise and worthy would be able to see this fine fabric. The emperor hastily agreed to pay the “weavers” an exorbitant amount of money to make him such an amazing garment, thinking he would use it to weed out anyone unfit for royal service.

The weavers set about pretending to weave. From time to time, the emperor sent various folk to check on the progress the weavers were making, and – though in reality, none of them could see the non-existent fabric – all reported back that the garments were coming along nicely and the cloth was beautiful. But strangely enough, when the emperor himself looked in on the weavers, they held up the magnificent fabric, and he could not see it. Not wanting word to leak out that he was unfit to serve as emperor, he pretended to examine the cloth and complimented the weavers lavishly on their fine work.

Finally, the weavers informed the emperor that the garments were finished. They had the emperor strip down to his skivvies and pretended to help him on with his fine new “garments”. Word had spread among the emperor’s subjects about the magical properties of the fabric, and as the royal procession made its way through town, all shouted out praise for the emperor’s fine new clothes.

All. Except for one little boy.

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the boy shouted.

It took the innocent honesty of a simple child to shock the emperor’s subjects back to their senses. The truth spread like wildfire, and the crowd began to cry out: “The emperor is naked!” “The emperor has no clothes on!” “He’s not wearing anything!”

But did the emperor admit to his foolishness, return to the palace, and get dressed? No. Sadly the story ends this way:

“The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”¹

And so the “emperor” of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention and those who carry its train march proudly on, despite the cries of simple peasants and innocent little children crying at the top of our lungs, “The emperor is naked!” “There are issues that need to be addressed, here!” “Listen to us!”

You’ll note that the story doesn’t say that the emperor was a cruel man, that he overtaxed the people, oppressed them into slavery, was a warmonger, or was in any other way an evil leader. In fact, one could argue that he had good intentions of making sure the people who served at various posts in his empire were of the finest caliber.

And while there are many issues that need to be addressed in my denomination, I think this could generally be said of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention as well. Call me a Pollyanna, but I have no reason to believe our denominational leadership – as a whole – is evil or has anything less than the best of intentions for the SBC.

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right.

But even benevolent emperors get things wrong sometimes, and, Southern Baptist leadership, your drawers are flapping in the breeze on this one²:

Sin. The public sin our leaders commit that we excuse and the public sin our leaders commit that we discipline, and the fact that there’s a discrepancy between the two.

Southern Baptist leadership, your drawers are flapping in the breeze on this one.

Recently, Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (one of the top positions of SBC leadership at the national level) resigned his position due to “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past,” which, we are left with little choice but to assume means “adultery”. (As an aside, Christians, when confessing sin, let’s knock off the the terminological hem-hawing and call a spade a spade. “I had a six month extra-marital romantic and sexual relationship with a married woman in my church,” or whatever. You don’t have to give all the gory details or name names, but, for crying out loud, if you’re going to confess, confess- don’t finesse.)

It was right and biblical for Dr. Page to publicly confess and express sorrow over his sin as well as to resign (it would also have been right and biblical for the SBC to remove him had he refused to resign, which, undoubtedly would have happened). He sinned against God, his family, the woman and her family, his church, his co-workers, and the entire denomination. He publicly embarrassed the Southern Baptist Convention and gave unbelievers fodder for scoffing when the report of his sin made the national news. This was a case of a well known Southern Baptist leader whose public, observable sin was handled biblically by SBC leadership. I am thankful for this witness to Christians and to the world that sin is not to be swept under the rug, but that sinners are to repent, be disciplined, and then be restored to fellowship (although, in cases like this, not leadership).

But we don’t handle all cases of public sin that way. Some public sin we reward by making the sinner into a wealthy, lauded celebrity.

“Impossible!” you say?

Check the shelves at LifeWay. Select twenty average SBC churches with women’s ministries and see whose books, DVDs, and simulcasts are being used again and again. Peruse the speakers at popular SBC conferences.

You’ll find names like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, Christine Caine, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes, just to name a few.

Have they committed adultery? Voiced approval of of homosexuality? Committed theft, abused their spouses, or promoted pornography? No. But those aren’t the only types of sins the Bible prohibits.

Every single one of them teaches false doctrine, from Sarah Young’s blasphemous “channeling” of Jesus, to T.D. Jakes’ denial of the Trinity, to Christine Caine’s Word of Faith heresy, to Lysa TerKeurst’s teaching of contemplative prayer.

All of these women who do speaking engagements unashamedly and unrepentantly preach to co-ed audiences. All of these men allow women to preach to co-ed audiences from their pulpits.

All of them who join in ministry with others have yoked or affiliated themselves with false teachers. Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. Priscilla Shirer and T.D. Jakes. Steven Furtick and Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes. Rick Warren and the Pope.

Scripture plainly prohibits the teaching of false doctrine. It’s a major theme of the New Testament, for goodness sake. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to men or exercise authority over them in the gathered body of Believers. And God’s Word makes very clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers, especially not partnering with them in “ministry”.

In the wake of Frank Page’s resignation, I asked this poll question on Twitter

followed by this one

Why are Southern Baptists leaders so quick to – rightly and biblically – oust Frank Page for, as far as we know, one isolated sin which he publicly confessed to and repented of, and yet overlook three major – and much more publicly observable and harmful to Southern Baptists – ongoing sins from pastors and teachers who have been rebuked and refuse to repent? Why, instead of disciplining them for their sin, do those in leadership give them fat book deals, invite them to speak at all the cool conferences, fawn over them on social media, and make them into celebrities?

How many sins will it take to disqualify and discipline these people? Four? Eleven? Ninety-six? Is there any amount of sin these pastors and teachers, and those like them, can commit that will cause those in SBC leadership to pull their materials off the shelves of LifeWay, deny them a seat at the table, and urge them to repent and step down from their positions?

I’ve been a Southern Baptist from the day I was born. I’ve been taught since the cradle roll that if God’s Word says not to do something and you do it anyway, that’s a sin. If God’s Word says to do something and you don’t do it, that’s a sin. And that sin is sin in the eyes of God.

Well is it, or isn’t it, Emperor?

If sin is sin in God’s eyes, why aren’t you treating Beth Moore’s sin like Frank Page’s sin? Why are you rewarding her for her sin and disciplining him for his?

Why does the SBC reward some sins while disciplining others?

The Bible says in James 3:1:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Those who teach and lead bear more responsibility to teach sound doctrine and walk worthy because they are teaching and leading us by example.

Why are all the aforementioned pastors and teachers better examples to us in their rebellion and unrepentant sin than Frank Page was in his repentance of sin?

Why?

Southern Baptist peasants and little children see right through your foolishness on parade on this issue and we want answers. Biblical answers.

Don’t just stand there shivering, suspecting we are right, but thinking, “This procession has got to go on,” and walking more proudly than ever. Go back to the palace. Repent. Clothe yourselves with humility and obedience to Scripture, and come back and lead us rightly. Biblically.

Because the Emperor of Southern Baptist leadership has been naked for far too long.

The Emperor of Southern Baptist leadership has been naked for far too long.


¹H.C. Andersen Centret (The Hans Christian Andersen Centre). The Emperor’s New ClothesAccessed April 5, 2018.

²I am well aware that this is not the only problem in the SBC that needs to be addressed. It would be impossible to address every issue in one article, so this time I’ve chosen to focus on this one particular issue.

Psalm 119 Bible Study

Psalm 119: The Glory of God’s Word ~ Lesson 13 – Wrap Up

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Wrap Up

Questions to Consider

1. Was there anything new God taught you in this study that particularly impacted you? What was it, and why was it so significant?

2. How is your walk with the Lord different after this study than it was before?

3. What did you learn from this study about what your relationship with, and response to God’s Word should be like?

4. What did this study teach you about obeying God’s Word?

5. What did this study teach you about the nature and character of God?

6. Have there been any passages or concepts in this study that God used to convict you of disobedience and lead you to repentance? How will you walk differently in this area from now on?

7. What did this study teach you about prayer?

8. Describe one specific, practical way you will apply to your life something you learned in this study.


Homework

Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show you how to put into practice one thing you learned from this study.

Recite all of your memory verses from this study. Which one is most meaningful to you right now?

Psalm 119 Bible Study

Psalm 119: The Glory of God’s Word ~ Lesson 12

TOMORROW will be our wrap up lesson for Psalm 119. Don’t miss it!

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Read Psalm 119:161-176

Recall the things from the introductory lesson that you wanted to keep in mind as you study the text of Psalm 119.

Don’t forget to read in complete sentences instead of stopping at the end of each verse.

Recall the themes you’ve been noticing in Psalm 119. Watch for those themes to be repeated in today’s and future passages. You may wish to make a list of those themes to refer to throughout this study.

Questions to Consider

1. Review your notes from last week’s lesson. Does that passage relate to this week’s passage? How? Do you notice any repeated words, thoughts, or themes?

2. Write down each phrase in 161-164, 167 that follows the general pattern: “I / my [heart attitude] at Your Word, law, etc.”. Compare the posture of your heart toward God’s Word with that of the psalmist’s. Take a moment to ask God to help you stand in awe, rejoice at, etc., His Word.

Second Corinthians 13:5 tells us to test ourselves to see if we are, indeed, in the faith. The book of 1 John emphasizes the tests of obedience to the Word and love for the brethren. John 10 shows us the test of rejecting false teachers. Could the phrases you wrote down from 161-164, 167, help you test yourself regarding your love for God’s Word? Since even the finest Christian will never love God’s Word perfectly 100% of the time, what would passing the test of loving God’s Word look like? What role does God play in your ability to love His Word?

Once you’re done with this question, you might enjoy reading my article The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it (Don’t think the psalmist didn’t feel that way sometimes, too.)

3. What kinds of things would the psalmist have considered to be “great spoil”? (162). When you get right down to it, aren’t money, jewels, gold, and silver essentially just paper, rocks, and metal? Why do they have value? Who assigns them their value? Is it ultimately our place to assign value to things? Why or why not? Do we incorrectly over or under value certain things?

Consider this statement: “It’s not our place to assign value to things. It’s God’s place. It’s our place to agree with Him and value the things to which He has assigned value.” Agree of disagree? Why? Does Scripture have intrinsic, ontological value, or assigned value, or both? Explain your answer.

4. Verse 165 is the only verse in Psalm 119 in which the psalmist uses the word “peace”. How does loving God’s Word give Believers peace? Can an unbeliever truly love God’s Word or derive real peace from it? Why not?

5. What does the psalmist mean by “all my ways are before you” (168), and why does this fact lead him to keep God’s precepts and testimonies? Ponder for a moment that all your ways are before God. In what ways does this realization make you want to better keep God’s precepts and testimonies in your own life?

6. Revisit lesson 11 (link above), question 4, and compare 169-170 to the “Give me _____ according to your_____,” verses there. What similarities do you see? Differences?

7. In question 2, the verses we looked at all dealt with the internal response of the heart toward God’s Word. How would you characterize the response to God’s word in 171-172? For a Believer, why is it; a) natural, and b) important that God’s word evokes both an internal and external response in us? How, and why, should pondering God’s Word move us to worship Him?

8. Compare the sheep motif of 176 to these passages. What is the perspective from which each of these passages is written? Is the focus of each of these passages on the individual sheep, the flock, the shepherd, etc.? Are any of these passages (or any other “sheep” or “shepherd” motif passages you can think of) written from the perspective of an individual “sheep” saying “I have gone astray” as 176 is? What does the psalmist mean when he says he has gone astray like a lost sheep, and then asks the “Good Shepherd” to seek him? How does he know he has gone astray? If he knows he has gone astray, why doesn’t he just go back? Why does he need the shepherd to seek him? What does “I do not forget Your commandments” mean in relationship to all of this? How does the Lord restore us to Himself after we sin?


Praying Psalm 119

Have you ever tried praying the psalms? I want to encourage you to try praying part of Psalm 119 back to God each week of this study. (If you’re familiar with my other studies, this will take the place of the weekly “Homework” section.)

The psalms are uniquely suited for praying back to God, both verbatim and conceptually, because they are often written as prayers – as though the psalmist is talking to God. Did you notice that about today’s passage? In which verses?

What is a concept or thought for your own life that the Holy Spirit impressed on your heart or convicted you about from today’s passage? Is there a particular verse(s), or maybe the whole passage, that you would like to pray back to God verbatim? Whatever your “prayer point” from today’s lesson, pray it at least daily until we get to the next lesson.


Suggested Memory Verse

Holidays (Other), Parenting

Beautiful Motherhood: A Mother’s Day Bible Study

As we look ahead to Mother’s Day,
let’s check out what the Bible has to say about mothering.
This is lesson 12 of my topical Bible study:

Imperishable Beauty- A Study of Biblical Womanhood.

Read These Selected Scriptures

Questions to Consider

1. What are some attributes or character traits of a godly mother from Proverbs 31 that we can emulate? In today’s lesson, rather than attributes to emulate, we’ll be focusing on God’s instructions to obey for mothers. We’ll examine how we’re to regard motherhood and our children, how we’re to train our children in godliness, how we’re to discipline our children out of ungodliness, and the example we’re to set for our children. Some of these instructions can also apply to childless women in their relationships with their spiritual children (i.e. younger women or children they disciple) and others. As you read over today’s passages, explain how childless women might apply some of these Scriptures.

2. Examine the first three passages (Psalm 127-Titus 2) together. What do these passages say about how we are to regard motherhood and our children? What should the attitude of our hearts be? In what sense are children a reward? How do we know that Psalm 127:3 does not mean that if you act in a way that pleases the Lord He will reward your good behavior with children? What does this verse mean? Is loving your children (Titus 2:4) simply a feeling of affection toward them? If so, why would young women need to be trained to love their children? When you finish today’s lesson, come back to Titus 2:4 and give a fully-orbed biblical definition of what it means to love your children.

3. Examine the next five passages (Proverbs 22-Ephesians 6) together. Why does God want us to train our children in godliness? Explain the phrase “in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). How does the gospel figure in to training your child? Look carefully at the three Old Testament passages. At what age should we begin training our children in godliness and the Scriptures and how long should this training continue? Is Proverbs 22:6 an iron-clad guarantee or promise from God that if we raise our children in a godly home they will definitely get saved and turn out to be godly adults? Why not? (Scroll down to the Deuteronomy 21 passage if you need help.)

To whom are the Colossians and Ephesians verses addressed? Does this mean they don’t apply to mothers or that it’s OK for mothers to provoke their children, but not fathers? If they apply to both parents, why are they addressed to fathers? How are we not to deal with our children according to these verses? What does it mean to provoke your children? Why are we not to provoke them (Colossians), and how are we to deal with them instead (Ephesians)? Compare Ephesians 6:4b to the Old Testament verses in this section. How are they similar?

3. Examine the next three passages (Proverbs 29-Deuteronomy 21) together. What is the purpose of godly discipline? What are the biblical definitions of the words “discipline” and “reproof”? Are discipline, reproof, and training the same as punishment? Why or why not? What are some of the consequences of disciplining your child? The consequences of refusing to discipline your child? According to Proverbs 13:24, what motivates someone to discipline her child? What motivates someone to refuse to discipline her child? Are “love” and “hate” simply emotional feelings in this verse or an attitude, posture, or orientation of mindset toward the child? Look closely at Deuteronomy 21:20. Is this passage most likely talking about a very young child or an older child/teenager? According to the Deuteronomy 21 passage, does godly discipline always result in an obedient son or daughter, or can there be exceptions to the rule?

Why is it important to both train your child in godly ways and discipline him out of ungodly ways? Explain how this fits into the “put off the ungodly, put on the godlymodel of biblical sanctification.

4. Examine the last five passages (Deuteronomy 21-Matthew 10) together. What do these passages teach us about the godly example we need to set for our children?

Sometimes we see implicit instructions to parents in passages that explicitly teach children how to treat and regard their parents. For example, if there were a verse that said, “Children, love your parents,” we could learn from that verse that we need to act in a way (lovable) that makes it easier for our children to obey that Scripture. Considering this concept, look at the Exodus 20 and Proverbs 1 passages. If your children are to honor you, in what manner should you behave? What should your teaching be like if your children are not to forsake it and to consider it a “graceful garland” and a “pendant”?

What is the context of Ezekiel 16? To whom is the parent/child metaphor in this  passage addressed? Explain the phrase “like mother, like daughter”. Why is it important to set a good example for our children with our own behavior, and why was this a good metaphor for God to use in addressing Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him?

Examine the Deuteronomy 21 and Matthew 10 passages together. What is to be a mother’s highest priority – her relationship with her child, even the life of her child, or her love for, obedience to, and loyalty to Christ? Do you love Christ more than your child? If you had to choose between your child and Christ, who would you choose? What message does it send to our children when we show and tell them that we love Christ more than we love them? How can you demonstrate to your child that your highest love and loyalty is reserved for Christ?


Homework

Examine each of the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Make a list of practical ways your family could put each of these instructions into practice and discuss it with your husband. Together, pick one of these practices and implement it with your children this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Psalm 119 Bible Study

Psalm 119: The Glory of God’s Word ~ Lesson 11

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Read Psalm 119:145-160

Recall the things from the introductory lesson that you wanted to keep in mind as you study the text of Psalm 119.

Don’t forget to read in complete sentences instead of stopping at the end of each verse.

Recall the themes you’ve been noticing in Psalm 119. Watch for those themes to be repeated in today’s and future passages. You may wish to make a list of those themes to refer to throughout this study.

Questions to Consider

1. Review your notes from last week’s lesson. Does that passage relate to this week’s passage? How? Do you notice any repeated words, thoughts, or themes?

2. Let’s look at a few themes in today’s passage.

The first is the theme of the psalmist’s imploring. Make a list of all the phrases in this section which indicate imploring (e.g. “Answer me, O Lord”). Who is he imploring, for what, and why? When we implore someone about something, what does our imploring indicate that we believe about that someone? What does the psalmist’s imploring God indicate he believes about God? Is his belief correct? How do we know this? Think of a time when you implored God about something. What did your imploring indicate you believed about God? Regardless of how He answered, was your belief correct? How do you know?

Our next theme is the theme of night. Which two verses in this passage contain this theme? What is “the watches of the night” (148), and what does the psalmist mean in this verse? (It may help to compare a few different translations.) What sort of picture do darkness and night paint in this passage? What is the antidote to darkness and night in this passage?

The third theme is the theme of far and near. Which verses explore this theme? In each instance, list what is far from or near to what. In what ways are far and near contrasted? In each instance of far or near, note whether the psalmist is indicating that far or near is a good thing or a bad thing. Have you experienced any of these instances in your own life? What does this teach us about salvation and the nature and character of God?

The final theme is the theme of hope. Which verse explicitly declares the psalmist’s hope? What does he hope in, and why? Make a list of other phrases in today’s passage which implicitly indicate the psalmist’s hope. Who or what does he hope in? How does this hope ease the tension of, and comfort him in his affliction? Do you have that same hope in Christ? Write out a few statements of your own hope in Christ and His Word modeled after the structure of verse 147 (e.g. “I [negative circumstance], but I hope in [characteristic of God / the Word].)

How do the themes of imploring, night, far and near, and hope relate to and inform one another in this passage?

Did you notice any other themes in today’s passage? Explore them using your cross references. How do they connect to the aforementioned themes?

3. Note the word “promise” in 148. In this context, does “promise” mean Scripture in general, a specific verse or promise, the nature and character of a God who keeps His promises, all of the above? Explain why. (Again, it may help to compare a few different translations.)

4. How many times, and in which verses, does the psalmist use the phrase “give me life according to Your…”? How does the first line of each verse inform or relate to the “give me life” part of the verse? What are the three “according to’s” in these verses?

Whenever God acts in any way, in any circumstance, explain how and why He always acts:

  • according to His promise:
  • according to His rules:
  • according to His steadfast love:

Can you think of some examples from Scripture in which we see God acting according to His promise, according to His rules, and according to His steadfast love? What about some examples from your own life?

5. Make a list of each phrase in today’s passage in which the psalmist is basically saying, “I obey Your Word.”. Do you get the sense that the psalmist is saying to God, “I obey You, therefore, You owe me X,Y, and Z.”? That God should react to his obedience as a quid pro quo? Why or why not?

Remember that, unlike Christians today, the psalmist was living under the Mosaic covenant. Under this covenant, God promised to bless Israel’s families, fields, flocks, finances, and fighting men if they obeyed Him, and to curse them in all of these areas if they disobeyed him. This was the air the psalmist breathed that informed his view of God, his relationship to God, and how he expected or anticipated that God would act in his life. Knowing this background, why do we see this repeated refrain of “I keep Your commandments,” especially when the psalmist is suffering, in today’s passage and throughout Psalm 119? What is the psalmist reminding himself of – about himself and about God – by repeating this again and again? How does “holding God to His Word” demonstrate the psalmist’s trust in God to keep His promises? Explain how the psalmist’s constant cry of “I obey Your Word” calls upon God to be God – to act in accord with His nature and character, to keep the promises He made in the Covenant, and to act within the parameters of the Covenant.

How is the psalmist’s brand of “stake my life on it, total obedience, so much so that I don’t get why God hasn’t acted yet” faith and belief different from the easy, shallow, mental assent, untested “I love Jesus” brand of belief that requires nothing of, and demonstrates nothing about the “believer,” that we see in so many professing Christians today? Which type of belief is Jesus calling us to when He says “Repent and believe the gospel,” and Paul and Silas, when they said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”? How is this type of “stake my life on it” belief different from both the works righteousness, “quid pro quo” type of “belief” in God and the easy / shallow type of “belief” in Jesus? How is the posture of the psalmist’s heart, and the genuinely regenerated Believer’s heart different from the posture of heart of those who subscribe to these other two forms of “belief”?


Praying Psalm 119

Have you ever tried praying the psalms? I want to encourage you to try praying part of Psalm 119 back to God each week of this study. (If you’re familiar with my other studies, this will take the place of the weekly “Homework” section.)

The psalms are uniquely suited for praying back to God, both verbatim and conceptually, because they are often written as prayers – as though the psalmist is talking to God. Did you notice that about today’s passage? In which verses?

What is a concept or thought for your own life that the Holy Spirit impressed on your heart or convicted you about from today’s passage? Is there a particular verse(s), or maybe the whole passage, that you would like to pray back to God verbatim? Whatever your “prayer point” from today’s lesson, pray it at least daily until we get to the next lesson.


Suggested Memory Verse