Roger Williams Sheds Light on the “Wall of Separation”

The imagery of a “wall of separation” was actually in use prior to Thomas Jefferson’s famous use of the phrase, and so it is wise to find out how it had been used in the context of religious freedom in America. This is particularly important in light of the fact that Jefferson used it while corresponding to Baptists, who had felt the brunt of government persecution in America. The phrase had a theological genesis as opposed to the modern supposed deistic, constitutional, or secular genesis. Continue reading →

Dr. Patterson’s Review of My Book, The Equipping Church: Somewhere Between Fundamentalism and Fluff

Even a crusty old academe loves a pleasant surprise. And for much of my academic experience Ronnie W. Rogers, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, has been regaling me with one surprise after another.

The other day, a copy of the book The Equipping Church: Somewhere Between Fundamentalism and Fluff, written by Ronnie Rogers comes to me. Since I have learned not to take a chance setting aside anything that he has written, I immediately took it with me on a journey and read almost every syllable of it before I could put it down. Here is a book that addresses in the most thoughtful and fair way I have ever observed the question of the church and the culture.

There has never been a time when the world has not been at odds with the church. The church is supposed to be “a little heaven on earth” in the midst of the upheaval of the lost and confused world. At its worst, the church has been a mirror to the world, mimicking its problems and doing absolutely nothing to be salt and light. At its best, the church has been both salt and light and has introduced the love of God and the love of the church into the human dilemma and presided over changed lives. Culture can be one of three things. It may be good; it may be evil; or, in rare cases, it may be neither.

Ronnie Rogers in The Equipping Church recognizes that the culture is neither universally good nor capriciously evil. As a matter of fact, Rogers sees that part of the duty of the church and of the pastor through his preaching is to help the sheep of the flock make wise decisions about their own response to the culture. In doing so, he is unafraid to take on the culture and state where it is a ubiquitous evil and when it is just not helpful. So often today pastors hesitate to make that identification or else they make the identification in a ranting fashion that causes the younger generation simply to turn them off. Rogers knows better. First, for years now, he has been the pastor of a church just off the campus of the University of Oklahoma. Although he has many people in the church who are unrelated to the University of Oklahoma, he has enjoyed a stupendous ministry to students, faculty, and staff members at the university; and none of them find him to be shrill. They find their pastor to be thoughtful, just, and, more often than not, right.

But Rogers does more in The Equipping of the Church. Having identified the limitations of the culture, he moves on to a discussion of how the church can respond positively to the culture and reach it for Christ. Having discussed the liabilities of the contemporary model as well as many positive attributes and contributions, he continues with the responsibility of the church in the secularizing world. In the process of this, he defines what the church is and stresses that it is not a matter of choice but a matter of faithfulness to Scripture that binds the church in the nature of its ministry. In the final chapter discussing the model of the church for carrying out his mandate, there is an incomparable exegesis of Ephesians 4:11–16.

I love it when a relatively unheralded pastor writes a book that not only will challenge the thought life of academics everywhere but also, due to his pastoral experience, will be easily comprehended by any thoughtful individual who reads it. The Equipping Church is exactly that kind of book. This pastor’s book needs to be carefully read by everyone interested in the relationship of the church to the culture.

Paige Patterson, President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas

How Did Our Baptist Ancestors View Church and State?

John Leland, a Baptist preacher, “emerged a leader among the Commonwealth’s Baptists. He was instrumental in allying the Baptists with Jefferson and Madison in the bitter Virginia struggle to disestablish the Anglican Church and to secure freedom for religious dissenters.”[1] According to L.H. Butterfield, Leland “was as courageous and resourceful a champion of the rights of conscience as America has produced.”[2] Continue reading →

Law and Morality

At Trinity, I lead a three-year men’s group called the Round Table. The first year focuses on Theology, the second on Ethics and the third year on Ideologies (Worldviews). Mike Tinney recently presented a paper on Law and Morality in The Roundtable in Ideology. Mike is an attorney by profession and has presented an excellent presentation of this subject that is well worth the read. Continue reading →

A Supportive Response to Peter Lumpkins’ Article About the ERLC & Trump Voters

Below is a brief supportive comment that I wrote in response to an article by Peter Lumpkins on SBC Today entitled, Joe Carter, the ERLC and Division over Donald Trump (Parts 1 and 2).[1] Peter’s article responds to some general statements from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) that continually positions those who may vote for Trump in a very dim light. In part two, he specifically analyzes the language of a particular article by Joe Carter (ERLC staffer) that juxtaposes the debate between the “Justice side” (those evangelicals who would vote for Trump) and the “Witness side” (those who would not). Unfortunately, the juxtaposition is unduly reductionistic and results in favoring the “Witness side” rather than equally presenting both. Lumpkins does a good job of pointing this out. Continue reading →

Homosexual Marriage: A Change in the Law of Marriage and Religious Freedom

“On Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote to impose so-called ‘gay marriage’ on all 50 states.” While this decision did not change the nature of true marriage, for only God can do that, it did change the nature of legal marriage, and, tragically, in many minds that is a change in the nature of marriage.

The court’s ruling did considerably degrade the institution of marriage in our culture. Moreover, the court’s decision demonstrated one of the most pronounced, unguarded, and hubristic acts of legislating from the bench and disregard for the Constitution to date (demonstrated in their moral reasoning in the article below). Finally, certainly they set in place a ruling that will perpetuate the dismantling of religious freedom in America. I believe this may prove to be, over the coming decades, the most devastating consequence of the ruling. I think that this moralizing decision will be the genesis of untold clashes between believers and the courts, and, as it stands, a portentous signal regarding the kind of decisions that we might expect from the court.

Dr. Jerry Johnson, Ph. D., President and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, has written two excellent articles on this ruling, Supreme Shame and Supreme Sham (and one more to come), and reading them both will be well worth your time. Particularly important to note is the biblical guidance for Christians from article one, and the moral, rather than legal, musings of the majority opinion in the second.

We Need Christ’s Help NOT Self-Help

In the Los Angeles Times article “Self-Help’s Big Lie” Steve Salerno explains, “Self-esteem-based education presupposed that a healthy ego would help students achieve greatness, even if the mechanisms necessary to instill self-esteem undercut scholarship. Over time, it became clear that what such policies promote is not academic greatness but a bizarre disconnect between perceived self-worth and provable skill.” Continue reading →