It’s Not Calvinism But Rationalism That Divides Us

by Ken Hamrick

Having debated Calvinism for many years, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of leaving to mystery that which can never really be figured out—a view espoused by many others before me. Such a position is disdained by both sides as something of a weak and anti-intellectual compromise. But arriving at this Antinomist position after thoroughly studying the issues is to arrive in strength, not in weakness. I’ve always argued from the middle anyway, previously confident in the power of reason to explain truth.  But unless the intellect is tempered by faith, it is a hindrance to real understanding; and only by faith can reason be humble enough to see its limits. Reason is just not equipped to take us beyond our finite, temporal thinking so that we can grasp the ways of the infinite, timeless God who transcends creation—that is faith’s role. Seeing that there is more to the equations involved in reality than the merely finite and temporal is also faith’s role. Accepting this, I find that I now have little interest in arguing with either side (which may be why the middle is so rarely heard from). As such, this article is intended to appeal to those who are not yet “sold out” to one side or the other, rather than to debate with those who are. The latter may strongly disagree, but I no longer feel the need to answer them beyond what is offered below. Continue reading

Awakening to the End of the SBC

By Dr. James Willingham

All that has taken place on the nation level, the approval of homosexual unions as marriage, political correctness (which means no more free speech, etc.), the fines and law suits against Christians for their views on marriage, is but the precursor of things to come.  The end of jobs by computerization, automation, and robotics along with their removal to other nations for cheaper labor is also the indicator of a planned effort to bring down religion as a key factor in this land, any religion, except that which approves of the present PC views and practices.  And then there are the efforts of SBC leaders (so-called) who are supposedly trying to save the SBC mission programs by getting rid of the DOMs on the local level, followed by the state conventions, and after that the SBC (an expense, you know).  The result will be and is on the way to becoming the end of the programs for missionaries, the largest in history. Continue reading

Awakening to Corporate Enmity

By Dr. James Willingham

It is obvious that the  corporations are behind or a significant factor in the PC movement.  Just consider their opposition to any law, local, state, or otherwise that seeks to restore the moral standards concerning marriage and other concerns (i.e. the ten commandments, the Bible in public schools, etc.). The opposition of corporations to the laws for marriage of man to a woman, etc., as in Indiana and Ohio must be noted.  The same happened in North Carolina.  One of the officials of IBM had a front page article in the local Durham paper opposing some law that affirmed the religious rights of believers and opposing the marriage of homosexuals along with other forms of the sexual revolution.  I dare say IBM hardly has room to talk on such venue.

Just consider the book, IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black, documents the 12 years in which IBM provided their punch card  computers to the Nazis in Germany which enabled the latter to identify, round-up, imprison, and exterminate a vast multitude of Jews and other people in the various countries of Europe. Continue reading

Awakening to Second Class Citizenship

By Dr. James Willingham

Awakening to Second Class Citizenship will come as a shock to Christians and members of other faiths which do not buy the current requirements of political correctness.  Having studied Black History for many years, I can say that segregation and slavery were at their best feeble representations of little good and at their worst were horrors likened unto the place of eternal torment.  Years ago Blacks were required to walk out  into the streets, giving Whites the sidewalks.  And then there were executions of Blacks without a trial or, if there was one, it was a farce in many cases.  A White lady in Orangeburg, South Carolina summed it up as follows, “Mr. Willingham, when I knew that integration was going to occur, I chose to go teach in a Black primary school.  When I found out what segregation had done to the personalities of those little Black children, I cried.”

If the Supreme Court of the U.S. makes the decisions that favor the gay community they will come after all of our churches, our jobs, etc.  Consider what happened to the man in Oregon who owned a bakery and had children.  His bakery is closed.  At last account he was working as garbage collector, and the state was still hounding for the rest of the fine, while the people for whom he refused to do their wedding (due to their homosexuality) are also seeking the money which the court ruled he must pay them. Continue reading

Awakening to Helps

By Dr. James Willingham

One of the items that the Puritans found to be of value was that of “helps.” By this they meant the writings of other ministers which could provide them with a wealth of insight in a text or a subject.  Such helps provided them with an amount of materials that they might be hard pressed to find and develop; they also gave them something on which to exercise their minds.

Recently, I received a book by Dr. Ed Wallen bearing the title, Leaving Darkland, published by Solid Ground Christian Books of Vestavia, Ala., January 2o16 ){Phone number: 205-443-0311). A foreword to the work was written by Dr. Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and General Editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture.  The book is of great value, and the foreword really adds insight and understanding to what the author has written. Continue reading

Awakening to An Even More Complicated Future

by Dr. James Willingham

In my recent email edition of gizmag I found a startling fact reported, namely, New York University and some other schools has come up with a new algorithm which enables machines to learn as quickly as humans.  But then I surmised beyond that that it might well be true that we already have machines which can and do learn faster than human beings.

What that can mean for humanity, along with the robots, computerization, and automation that already has taken away most of the jobs, is we are headed for a complicated future.  Imagine trying to compete with an intelligent machine that can learn, think, and work faster than you and me ever could without a complaint, doing repetitive tasks 24-7 and having problems only a few times in twenty years before they have to be replaced. Continue reading

Awakening to An Overwhelming Future

by Dr. James Willingham

I have a number of books in my library about what is coming in the future.  Now I do not read them like I read my Bible.  They are simply educated guesses, some good, some bad.  However, there are verses in the Bible which do suggest a future other than the usual gloom and doom, the key note in so many prophetic programs available to the general public in Christian Broadcasting.

There is also the problem that verses can be read from perspectives other than simple literal statements of facts.  One proof of this is to be found in Jonah 3 where the prophet says, “Forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” an unconditional prophecy of gloom and doom, if there ever was one.  And yet it did not turn out that way.  Contrary to what I have heard from some pulpits, Jonah did not say, “But if you repent, God will spare the city.”  He did not and He would not have said such a thing.  He was mad at God as chapter 4 indicates, because his prophecy did not come to pass.  In fact, he had an argument with God.  Imagine that: arguing with God!  He was also angry at God – even if he did not admit it.  “Do you well to be angry, Jonah?”  Who was the recipient of that anger.  Truth be told it was God. Continue reading

Awakening to the Senior Years

by Dr. James Willingham

The senior years can come as quite a shock, when one had ill health and all that implies.  One reason why I have not written much lately has been that very fact.  In the last two months my wife was in the hospital twice, and then I felt like I should have been there several times during that period.  Seems like providence, while a welcome doctrine when it is favorable, has another side, when it involves hardship, pain, and suffering.  Life is a deuce mixture of the good and the bad.  Praising God for the good is an easy task.  Praising Him for the bad is another question, and yet it is precisely what the Christian Faith has advocated with its centerpiece being the cross of Christ.  There we see the most depressing, the most miserable, the most adverse providence possible, and it turned out to bring to pass the greatest good. Continue reading

Awakening to the Possible Implosion of the Southern Baptist Convention

by Dr. James Willingham

We have just had notice of one of our largest reductions in our missionary force in history.  Could it be the harbinger of things to come?  While we are in economic decline, I would call attention that in at least three areas in my state and in two of them in other southern states we have seen the removal of jobs and income of  our members who gave generously.  Since the late eighties, we have had textile and furniture plants moving either South of the border or overseas.  In addition, there is the repudiation of tobacco (probably not a bad idea in itself, due to the threat to health), but a problem for Baptists in two or three states.  Churches in the tobacco areas were consistent givers to the CP and Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings.  With the removal of the textile and furniture jobs, however, we had a real problem as such forms of employment along with others in industry reduced employment in many states. of the SBC.  The effort to get retrained and then to find that the jobs were limited in the fields of new employment (e.g., medicine, technology) has been a real bummer.  Automation, robotics and computerization have likewise removed many jobs from the economy.  Just look at the flying robot arms on an auto assembly line. Continue reading

Awakening to Persuasion as the Only Method God Allows Us to Use

by Dr. James Willingham

“We persuade men.”  So wrote Paul in II Cors.5:11.  In that instance, he preceded his remark with these words, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord.”  However, the term for persuade means that we seek to win people by reason and reason alone.  We do not pull stunts.  We do not manipulate.  One evangelist of whom I heard many years ago told a deliberate lie.  Having called for a show of hands after a week of preaching without any results, he was determined to get decisions.  When no one raised a hand, he acted like they had and said, “I see you young man.  I will pray for you.  I see you young lady.  I will pray for you.”  He continued that way for some time, and the pastor and his deacons who had not bowed their heads saw that none raised their hands.  Finally, someone did raise a hand. Continue reading

THE AWAKENING TO THE GOD-GIVEN FAITH

Awakening a Thousand Generations

     The Third Great Awakening will involve the awakening to the fact and reality of the God-given faith.   In Mk.11:22 the KJV, ESV, and many other versions render the phrase as, “have faith in God.”  However, the form in the Greek is in the Genitive-Ablative case (if you use A.T. Roberson’s eight case declension of nouns and adjectives or the Genitive, if you don’t).  The Genitive, of course, refers to the source of faith, that is, a faith that is from God or a God-given faith.  Interestingly enough, I first encountered this in a center column reference in one of my KJV Bibles many years ago.  As I checked it out in the Greek, I became convinced that that is the best rendering, that it tells us the kind of faith we are supposed to have, the faith that comes from God.  A sermon which I have preached on the…

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Admonitions to a Disappointed Young-Earther

This article was also published at SBC Voices

by Ken Hamrick

Recently, I came across a paper in the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry, written by Dr. Kenneth Keathley in 2013, entitled, “Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther.”[1] The piece is well done and gives an informative summary of the various arguments and supposed problems of the Young-Earth Creationism movement. After reading it, I must say that I’m just as disappointed as Dr. Keathley, but for different reasons. I’m disappointed that the enemy, who is delegitimizing the truth-claims of Christianity by undermining the authority of Scripture, is often met with so little resistance and so much well-meant, reasonable-sounding cooperation. I’m disappointed that not even the best among us are immune from a skeptical evidentialism. And I’m disappointed that one so capable of competent reason would falter in thinking that evidence has bearing on the question of a recent miraculous creation.

I’m no scientist, and I do not claim to be able to present all the scientific intricacies of the various arguments. To be fair, there do seem to be some valid points brought against Young-Earth “creation science” and even a few points in support of it. Nevertheless, I do not argue for a “young” earth, but for an old earth recently created—what Dr. Keathley presents as Philip Henry Gosse’s “Omphalos argument” or the mature earth view. The Bible clearly and explicitly reveals a recent creation by divine fiat. Miracles being what they are, we should not expect to find proof in physical evidences for this recent miraculous act. But, neither should we expect the secular scientific view to be free from error, overconfidence, and overreaching. Ultimately, though, the scientific argument is irrelevant to the vital question at hand—and that fact is sadly missed by Young-Earthers and Old-Earthers alike. Continue reading

Awakening to a New Scientific Method

Awakening a Thousand Generations

About nine years ago, I was engaged in a discussion with a woman who was the science educator for county school system.  At that time she was working on a Ph.D. in science education and the state’s leading university.  During the conversation I said to her, “You know there is a problem with the present scientific method, namely, the null hypothesis.  What does one do, when the null hypothesis is also true.”  She looked at me with a startled expression: “How did you know that?”  After all, I was a poor dumb preacher, and what is he supposed to known?  I went on to explain that I had stumbled across the problem, while writing a master’s thesis in American Social and Intellectual History some 35 years earlier. It had turned out that both my thesis and my null hypothesis were true.

The problem with the present method is that it…

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Awakening to an Asymmetrical Reality

by Dr. James Willingham

The truth is that we are seemingly tied to a logic of consistency, not realizing that he who is consistent with himself is consistent with a fool.  As there is the rational, so is there the suprarational. based on factors, as the saying goes, that transcend the rational.  Actually, I don’t if I agree with that definition from Webster’s/  After all, there is a theory of chaos which finds that even chaos has laws that govern the formation of the irregular, etc.  In any case, when one puts the whole together, it is obvious that we have a macro and micro universe, from the largest to the smallest and these are interrelated.  The point is that the whole is asymmetrical, at least to human observation, and any theory of the whole must take into account that fact, the fact of the asymmetrical.  Likewise the same is to be found in theology.  Wonderful consistency does not exist this side of Heaven itself.  God has left us to deal with the problem, requiring that we learn to think outside the box, that we come to understand that any logically coherent theory must take into account the quantum as well as the magnum (if that is the proper term).

In any case, the asymmetrical theological approach is able to comprehend with a rational explanation the reality of both the Divine and the human factor as in the deity and human it of Christ and the human and the divine elements in the inspiration of Scripture. Continue reading

The Awakening Reality

by Dr. James Willingham

“Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.”(Gen.28:16).  In a lonely place where he made his pillow of stones, Jacob awoke to the realization that Another was also present in that location, namely, the Lord Himself.  The presence of God and His omnipresence and, in particular, His special presence is a truth that is seldom considered in this day and time.  That it should be otherwise, we cannot doubt.

After all, the Apostle Paul made specific mention of God’s omnipresence in his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”(Acts17:28).  Just prior to that remark, he had declared that the Lord was “not far from every one of us.”  The fact that in Him we live and move and have our being brings Him up close and person.  He is here and now.  The sense of God’s presence is what moves sinners to cry for mercy, to seek His forgiveness, especially when His presence is overwhelming in such attributes as holiness and judgment and sovereignty and wrath and love.  Just consider how, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me,” when he saw the Lord high and lifter up in the temple and heard the Seraphims cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”(Isa.6:3,5) Continue reading

Awakening to the Hardships of Second Class Citizenship

by Dr. James Willingham

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the US, an exercise in political correctness much desired by the folks who run things, is beginning to bear the expected and desired fruit, namely, that of making Christians second class citizens in their own country, the nation our ancestors and predecessors founded.  Yes, this was a Christian nation.  The Supreme Court in 1792 and in 1892 said so.  However, it was not a Christian nation, because the Court’s ruling made it so; the court then was simply recognizing a reality.  What was the basis for calling America a Christian nation?  It was the fact that the Bible was at the root of its laws.  When President Washington kissed the Bible at his first inauguration, he was simply recognizing the truth about the source of the laws for the new nation.  Contrary to the effort to sell us a deistic origin for the USA, King George acknowledged that his colonies had run off with a Presbyterian parson.  That was a bit of an overstatement.  Had he said they ran off with a biblical parson that would have been closer to the truth.  After all, the Congregationalists, Baptists, Reformed, Presbyterians, Episcopalians,  along with the Lutherans and a few others, had a lot to do with the founding of this nation. Continue reading

Is your accountability group like the Kingdom, or is it more like a water cooler?

success-failure

by Mike Nichols

Men need accountability. Look at any biblical model you choose to study, and you will see that every leader had someone to whom He was accountable.

Moses had his father-in-law, and he had Aaron. David had Jonathan, and then Nathan – whether he wanted the latter or not. Christ had the ultimate such partner, His Father, but He also had His “inner circle” of Peter, James, and John whom He taught but also with whom He shared His human thoughts and concerns. Paul had first Barnabas, then Silas, perhaps even Luke. Accountability keeps us focused on God, on being humble, on admitting our faults, and on repentance and growth in Christ.

Promise Keepers started the modern conversation on accountability anew when it burst on the scene in the ‘90s. Every man who is familiar with the wildly but only briefly successful men’s movement knows the “Seven Questions” and how awkward they can be when you don’t want to answer them, particularly the dreaded last one: “Have you been truthful in answering the other six questions?” Continue reading

Teens and College Students, Attention: Ten Things Guaranteed to Ruin Your Life Before Age 30

photo for sbc open forum

by Mike Nichols

If I said to you, “I’ve got a plan for you to take ten easy steps that will ruin your life,” would you jump at the opportunity? Of course not! “Ruin my life” is not exactly the stated goal of the average high school or college graduate. No one tacks that to a bulletin board to remind themselves to take steps toward accomplishing ruination today. It isn’t anyone’s essential in a life plan. Teens don’t dream of becoming an alcoholic or drug addict, students don’t enroll in college-level courses teaching how to go bankrupt, and newlyweds don’t say their vows planning to fail one another or themselves.

Ruination occurs when we are faced with tough decisions, and make the wrong choices. The plan may be to do well, but the execution lacks commitment. These are the tough decisions your family has helped you make, up to this point. But you are now entering a phase in your life when the only one who can make those tough decisions is you. You are now old enough to be making important decisions about life, but young enough for those decisions to go south and become disastrous rather than successful.

How can you avoid making such mistakes? Below are ten things people can do to ruin their lives before age thirty. These are things not to do, or things to stop doing immediately if you already do them. Continue reading

Awakening to the Intellectualism of the Bible

by Dr. James Willingham

The Bible is an intellectual book; it is the most intellectual book ever written.  Holy Writ tells us of the Being who inspired it:  the God who is Omniscient.  Since Scripture is so inspired, it follows that we can expect that it should reflect the intelligence commensurate with such a source.  The source of Omniscience is revealing Himself (the masculine term is used in deference to the revelation God has made of Himself in the Book – not to any chauvinistic adherence.  God is truly above the sexual differences between male and female, having created them for His own purposes.  As to the pronoun usages which indicate sex, the real purpose is to make known that the Being who created us is personal.  In fact, there are three persons, the three person God, three in one) in a manner that communicates with human beings.  The use of logic in the written word, Roms. 12:1, reasonable service in the KJV, in the Greek, logikan,  a form of the term for logic, tells us that God is communicating in a logical, rational manner or, in other words, He is communicating in a manner to be understood.  The problem with the understanding will, usually, be the result of dislike for the ideas, concepts, precepts, practices, and natures revealed. Continue reading

Awakening to Biblical Egalitarianism

by Dr. James Willingham

In these days of recovery of the Reformation and its theological perspectives, we find that we face a complementarianism that is careless, thoughtless, and lacking in historical research.  One of the major failures of the complementarian position is the failure to recognize that authority is a function of position, not a given that is hard and fast, never to be question, examined, etc.  We have forgotten that even the King was under law, the argument of Samuel Rutherford in Lex Rex.  We have also forgotten that the ekklesia is a body members who are considered to be equals.  Beginning with the Greeks, it was incipient democracy.  We have also forgotten that the Pilgrim congregation was an outgrowth of a Separatist movement in the Church of England which recognized that every member in the church had a part in the government of the said body.  In other words, we have the beginnings of congregational government.

Congregationalism came to full flower in America with the Puritans and the Baptists in particular.  John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims who did not make it to America and who did participate in the debates over the Synod of Dordt, handed us a key to the intellectualism of the Bible, when he declared, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word?”  Continue reading