Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Good article at Ethics Daily

As one who taught a basic course in Christian ethics at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires for about a decade, I try to stay abreast of developments and related themes as they pertain to theological education. In an excellent article today from Ethics Daily, William Brackney poses the critical question, "Do Theological Schools Serve as Ethical Communities?" He asks some very pointed questions and provides some thoughtful analysis along the way.

I'd like to quote one section of the article in particular in which he asks, "What exactly does it mean to be a practicing ethical community?" His response follows: "One can take a cue from the school of character ethics. Certain traits are valued and undergird all decisions and behavior. These include: equality of persons; freedom of conscience; voluntary assent to confessional statements; democratic decision-making; shared governance; healthy collegial interaction; transparency in administration; pastoral concern within the community; protection of human rights; the practice of grace and civility; and an overall allegiance to the lordship of Christ. The Christian ethicist understands that all of these characteristics have their root in Scripture."

While one cannot issue a blanket condemnation of the existing Southern Baptist seminaries with regard to their failure to exhibit the character qualities that Brackney references in this paragraph, it's clear nonetheless that many of these basic ethical qualities have been woefully absent or under-represented in the administration of some Baptist seminaries in recent years.

I'd suggest that it's high time that concern for theological orthodoxy which has occupied center stage among Baptists be accompanied by a sound measure of ethical praxis in which our walk indeed matches our talk. A good place to begin that recovery would be to return to the writings of one of Southern Baptists finest ethics professors, T. B. Maston, who espoused that simple truth in one of his books entitled, To Walk as He Walked. It seems that the apostle Paul would concur with the need to do just that (Gal. 5:16, 25; Eph. 4:1, Eph. 5:2,8; Col. 1:10, 2:6).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Horns Win by the Slimmest of Margins

I thought about the line that Fred Samford always used to utter on the TV series "Samford and Son" while watching the closing seconds of the Univ. of Texas - Nebraska Big 12 Conference Championship game last night. Feigning a heart attack, he'd holler "It's the big one." The last second (literally) field goal by UT's Hunter Lawrence was a clutch kick if there ever was one. I was certainly glad for the win that preserved the undefeated season, and my respect for Nebraska's defense and for the play of Suh in particular grew by leaps and bounds last night.

McCoy and Shipley have pretty much had their way all season, hooking up (pardon the pun) for some incredible passes and catches. When Shipley has been doubled, Colt has always managed to find someone else open as he's checked down on the other receivers. Last night he never had the time to follow the progression as he was pressured constantly by the rush. In addition, Nebraska's secondary did an excellent job of bottling up all of UT's receivers throughout the game.

On the positive side of the ledger, UT's defense rebounded after a poor outing against A&M on Thanksgiving Day and effectively shut down the Nebraska offense. One could argue of course that they didn't have much of an offense to shut down, but allowing just 106 total yards was a strong statement. In addition, they kept Nebraska out of the end zone even when UT coughed up the ball deep in their own territory a couple of times.

Here's hoping common sense prevails and UT retains its #2 ranking to face Alabama for the national championship. Alabama looked great against Florida so Greg Davis and Muschamp have their work cut out for them as they work on the offensive and defensive schemes to match up effectively against the Crimson Tide. We'll see how all of that happens.

On a related note, I still hold out hope for Colt winning the Heisman. While he was off of his game yesterday due to the pressure, he's had a remarkable career and an outstanding season overall and I can't see anyone else who's more deserving.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The God Who Came Down

In a plea for God to display His glory and majesty on the earth, the prophet Isaiah prayed in Isa. 64:1, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.” There are times that the biblical writers earnestly desired to observe God in all His majestic greatness, shaking the foundations of the earth, akin to the experience of Isaiah himself and his vision of God in the temple described in Isaiah 6.

As Elijah learned, however, God doesn’t always come down from heaven in a whirlwind or in an earthquake. For Elijah, God drew near in a still, small voice. For all of us this Christmas, we’re reminded that God has indeed come down to earth-—not with ear-shattering thunder that rent the heavens as Isaiah pleaded—-but with the cry of a baby born in a stable. “And the Word became flesh, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Let There be Light

One of my favorite Christmas songs of recent years is an arrangement done by Point of Grace called “Let There be Light.” There’s a verse in it that speaks so powerfully to my heart about the mystery of the incarnation and the glorious truth that God chose to become a man in the person of Jesus Christ. The verse says,

"He spoke after centuries of silence
In the midst of a still, starry night.
And Immanuel came down among us
And the Father said, “Let there be light!”

Two or three things jump out at me from this beautiful song. First, God broke His silence of approximately four hundred years since the time of the final Old Testament prophet Malachi when He sent His angels to announce the birth of His Son to some common shepherds tending their flocks on a hillside near Bethlehem. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” Surely the nation of Israel was longing for a fresh word from God after four centuries of silence, and God answered their hearts’ plea with a definitive word by sending them His Son.

Secondly, the word Immanuel is highly instructive. As the angel appeared to Joseph to assure him that Mary hadn’t been unfaithful to him but rather that the baby she carried was a miraculous gift of God, he told Joseph that the baby was to be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” The God of the universe invaded planet Earth in the person of Jesus to reveal God to us and to redeem us from our sins.

Finally, the text of the song imaginatively records God the Father saying once again, even as He had at the dawn of creation, “Let there be light!” While perhaps those very words weren’t uttered by the angelic hosts, the message certainly was present. Writing in the prologue to his gospel in John 1:4-5, the beloved apostle penned these words, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” I’m so grateful at this Christmas season as we observe the beautiful decorative lights, that God sent the true Light, His Son, into the world to show us His love.