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Theological Matters

Theological Insights from Southwestern


Happiness is Edenistic, not Hedonistic

The world thinks of happiness hedonistically, God thinks of happiness edenistically. This is one of the central ideas of David Naugle’s highly recommended book Reordered Loves, Reordered LivesLearning the Deep Meaning of Happiness. In a previous post, I discussed the contemporary view of happiness as pleasure. In light of our fatigue and failure to find happiness via pleasure, perhaps its time to consider God’s perspective on happiness and to consider the happiness that He offers. Read More »


What do those with disabilities owe those without? Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part blog series on “What do those with disabilities owe those without?” To read Part 1, which addresses the question of “The Debt of the Disabled,” click here.

The Debt of the Abled

Dignified Treatment

The first thing those without disabilities owe to those with them is dignified treatment. This means that pity is often not one’s first best response when confronted with someone with a disability. Pity or compassion is a fine thing but not, for example, when a blind person is capable of doing a job and out of pity you forgo giving him the responsibility because the job is too strenuous. Furthermore, compassion is often a disguised form of guilt. I feel bad that I don’t have a disability and this other person over here does. Guilt then is translated into pity rather than dignified treatment. Compassion unchecked can often be a disguise for someone with a superiority complex. I’m better than this person over here with a disability, and so I will pity her even though I know in my heart that well, perhaps she deserves this disability.


Secondly, those with disabilities are owed trust. Practically, this means that a person with a disability knows better than anyone else what her capabilities are. Going back to the beginning of this piece, I said that too often, the question about how to help those with disabilities is raised before one has carefully considered whether they really need help or not. The best way to find out what those with disabilities need is to ask THEM. Of course, when first meeting someone with a disability, the first thing to say is hello. Many times, the question of help need not arise. People often are willing to tell you what they need especially when what they need is integral to their ability to function. To ask someone you don’t know if she needs help is to put her in an awkward spot. “What am I doing that makes it look like I need help? Assuming capability until proven incompetent is best and safest.


Asking the question “What do those with disabilities owe to those without disabilities and vice versa?” is a way to start a necessary conversation. For one thing, the question makes it clear that both groups of people owe something to the other. It is not a one-sided situation. Treating this issue as if all burdens of responsibility ought to be placed on what I will call the “abled” group intentionally or unintentionally fosters a custodial mentality and often resentment on the part of those who help. Framing the question in the way that I have places ownership on everyone to do their part in seeing that those with and those without disabilities are treated as fairly by one another as possible.


This is the second in a two-part series on “What do those with disabilities owe those without?” The full article first appeared at the Reformation21 blog.



What do those with disabilities owe those without? Part 1

I am a blind person. Admittedly, beginning a piece with such a declaration seems odd. Blindness however plays a key role in my life. It has shaped me in many ways and has forced me to ask questions of myself that I might not otherwise ask. Having known what it feels like to be both under appreciated and over appreciated as a blind person, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how as a Christian I should respond properly. Read More »


Ready to Die

It was merely an “aside,” and definitely not inserted into the conversation for the purpose of garnering personal attention. But now, 25 years later, a pastor’s brief comment continues to echo in the caverns of my heart. Read More »


Is Retirement Biblical?

As president of GuideStone Financial Resources, the sponsor of the Church Retirement Plan in which tens of thousands of Southern Baptist churches participate, I get asked one common question regularly: “Where in the Bible is the concept of retirement?” Read More »


The Honor of Christ, the Horror of Hell, and the Essence of Humility: The Preaching Legacy of Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is known as the “father of English hymnody” and for good reason. The author of at least 750 hymns, Watts left behind a remarkable legacy of theologically accurate hymn texts that incite valid religious affections. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World” are two of the more well-known texts which immediately come to mind. Read More »


Preaching Tools: Galatians

With tomorrow being the 4th of July, freedom will be a constant theme on social media, television programming, and sermons on Sunday. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:1 that “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

To help you preach this passage and others in Galatians, here’s an excerpt from Preaching Tools: An Annotated Survey of Commentaries and Preaching Resources for Every Book of the Bible. Read More »


The (never-ending) Pursuit of Happiness

Do you want to be happy? Chances are, if you’re like most of us, the answer is a resounding yes. We Americans are obsessed with being happy. We pursue it with a sense of fervency and urgency—“if only I could have this experience, or that job, or this relationship, or that thing then…”—which should tip us off to the fact that something has gone amiss. Like a perpetually receding end zone, happiness remains in view but always 10 yards away. Read More »


Hobby Lobby Wins Religious Freedom Victory

In the highly anticipated decision of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court issued a victory to closely held for-profit corporations on the issue of religious liberty. While the decision was not as sweeping as some may have wanted—or as Justice Ginsburg claimed in her dissent—the Court’s decision upheld the idea that Americans need not check their right to religious liberty at the door when they enter the business world. Read More »


LAUNCH: Creating a Culture of Everyday Evangelism [VIDEO]

On June 11, Southwestern Seminary hosted a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to discuss how churches can create a culture of everyday evangelism and reach their communities with the gospel. Pastors and SBC leaders from across the country shared their experiences with leading their churches and training their congregations in personal evangelism. Below is the video introduction for the panel discussion, which features the late evangelism professor Roy Fish recounting his “Three Driving Forces for Evangelism,” and the full version of the panel discussion. Read More »


The Sufficiency of Scripture for Biblical Counseling

Ministering Scripture

It has been my privilege to teach the principles of the sufficiency and superiority of Scripture in a variety of contexts at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas for over 20 years. During that time, Southwestern’s counseling focus has evolved into a strong, multilevel program in biblical counseling with opportunities for everyone from the layman or woman who has no formal theological background all the way to a resident Ph.D. It has been a great blessing to watch the growth in biblical counseling as many become convinced of the life change that God desires to bring about as people are challenged and encouraged by His Word. Read More »


The Assemblies of God & the Worldwide Growth of Pentecostalism

Who are the Assemblies of God?

Internationally, the Assemblies of God (AG) is the largest grouping of denominations originating from Pentecostalism with roughly 65 million members worldwide. The Assemblies of God USA, which helped inspire the rise of the AG denominations in other countries, claims about 3 million members, making it the second largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. Read More »


Shall We Preach, or Shall We Teach?

The essential distinction between preaching and teaching in the New Testament is the difference between scuba diving, on the one hand, and snorkeling, on the other. In snorkeling, one observes the pristine beauty of the marine world with its variety of ichthyological life, but with scuba one discovers intricacies unobservable from the surface. Snorkeling has its dangers (boats, jet skis, diving swimmers, and so on), while the lurking dangers of the deep are more subtle (lion fish, sea snakes, and a condition called “narcosis,” in which a diver becomes so drunk that he may, with great confidence, remove his mask and offer it to a passing grouper). Read More »


The Evangelistic Seminary

And he said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19

Christianity is perhaps best described as a twofold following after the Lord Jesus Christ. On the one hand, Jesus’ first and foremost rallying cry was, “Come, follow me!” On the other hand, our Lord taught His disciples to extend that call to the world. Likewise, expressing the theme of both the Lord’s premiere sermon (Mark 1:14-15 and parallels) and His final sermon, now known as the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20), the final chapter in the New Testament tells us that the Spirit and the church must entreat, “Come and drink freely of the water of life!” (Rev 22:17). From beginning to end, there is a twofold determination in the heart of the New Testament that ought not be quenched: it includes, first, a desire to follow Christ; it includes, second, a necessarily correlative passion to call other people to follow Christ. Read More »


3 Areas of Agreement Necessary for Christian Cooperation

A story is told of an Amish farmer who had a difficult time with a cow. She would step in the bucket or slap the farmer with her tail when he tried to milk her. After several attempts to remedy the situation the farmer decided to speak to the cow. He said, “Thou knowest I am a non-violent man. Thou knowest I will not hit thee. What thou doest not know is that I will sell thee to a Baptist.” Read More »


Shorter Stories II: Double Parables

How do you preach a double Parable?

Jesus told as many short parables as he did long parables. For every Prodigal Son of Luke 15:11-32 (21 verses), there is a parable like the Unworthy Servant of Luke 17:7-10(4 verses), Trained Scribe of Matt. 13:51-52 (2 verses), or Pharisee and Tax Collector of Luke 18:9-14 (5 verses). Read More »


Why Southern Baptists Declined and What to Do, Part 2

In Part 1 of this assessment, I alleged four things:

  • First, a loss in numbers among Southern Baptists is more asset than liability.
  • Second, baptisms are down because we have ceased witnessing as we ought. Yes, I know that the issue is more complicated than that. There are complicating factors, but all of these are easily overcome by aggressive, though wise, personal witness.
  • Third, I argue that the church’s embrace of the culture has substantially weakened the witness of the people of God.
  • Finally, I asserted that theology conditions witness. A thousand denials meet this avowal, but the exceptions, for which I am grateful, do not alter the stark reality of the whole.

Read More »


Singing for Joy and the Gospel of Peace: Why Reach the Unreached?

At night, I often find myself singing for joy. My daughter, Lindsey Joy, frightened by the dark or a dream, will call out for me, and I will come to her room, and I will sing for her. I will sing for Lindsey Joy. And there in the darkness, with the singing comes peace. As I have reflected on a particular event during our recent trip to visit Southwestern students and graduates in China, these times with my daughter have helped me understand more how what we do in Fort Worth can assist and strengthen the pioneering work among the unreached peoples of the world. Read More »


Why Southern Baptists Declined and What to Do, Part 1

The lugubrious prognostications about Baptist futures are known and experienced by all. LifeWay annually tells the sad story of reversals in numbers, and statisticians weigh in on the analysis. The latest major assessment comes from Molly Worthen, appearing recently on The Daily Beast. As I view all of this, I do not find myself, as do some, in a hand-wringing posture. I am concerned but hardly in panic. The following observations will spell out why I am actually finding some reasons for rejoicing. Read More »


A Field Guide for a Dangerous Call

Are you walking into danger? Ministry is a dangerous call. Thankfully, God has provided guides to decision-making in ministry. 

DangerousCallIn his latest book, A Field Guide for a Dangerous Call, Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson warns of potential pitfalls and points those in ministry to five guides—the law, wisdom, holiness, the Corinthian principles, and the Holy Spirit—to help them navigate life and ministry. Read More »


Four Levels of Christian Cooperation

Jesus said the litmus test for a believer is love. He said people will know we are his followers by the way we love one another (John 13:35). Love is an action verb. One of the ways we show our love is when we work together for the gospel—when we cooperate. There is no greater cause for which to cooperate than the advancement of the gospel. Read More »


Shorter Stories: Preaching the Short Parables of Christ

Jesus had incredible structure to his sermons …  but only sometimes.

Think of the Sermon on the Mount. Its introduction (eight beatitudes) is followed with six antitheses: Jesus fights the thesis that keeping a warped standard of righteousness was enough. It ends in chapter 7 with four warnings. It has a clear logical structure.

However, Jesus also preached some “pointless” sermons. Read More »


Why a National Denomination? 200 years of Taking Gospel Light to the Nations

In my Baptist History and Heritage classes, I am often asked whether denominations really are necessary. Students, averse to what they perceive as staid institutionalism or red-tape bureaucracy, want to categorize denominations as a generational matter and thus look for something new for the present. These motives are not entirely uninformed or born from ignorance as there are plenty of generational traditions that every new generation discards. We’ve done it and so did our parents and grandparents. Read More »


Preparing your kids for the apologetic challenges for all of life

Most of us make up our minds on worldview matters when we are relatively young. The process of worldview formation itself begins as early as one starts to form thoughts about the world. When we are young, we absorb (as if by a process of osmosis) categories and concepts from the influencers around us (parents, siblings, friends, school, media, etc.), which constitute our worldview. This is not to say that we cannot change our worldview when we are older, but all the statistics support the notion that doing so happens much more rarely after a particular point in our lives: the college years. So the college years are that pivotal moment when our thoughts on how to understand the world in its most basic categories crystallize. Read More »


Resident Aliens, Secret Church, and Witches in the Wardrobe

A witch, a lion, a wardrobe closet, or leaders of a nationwide network of secret churches throughout China? I walked through the back of a closet built into a wall in a remote rural Chinese farmhouse wondering which it would end up being—it certainly was not Narnia. An invitation came to join other professors and teach 100 underground leaders from all four geographic corners of that big place in 2003. Read More »


Don’t Waste Your Parenthood: Preparing Children to be Adults

The majority of those 18 to 25:

  • Do not have a clear vocational focus nor the drive to move forward vocationally.
  • Do not feel motivated to achieve independence in their finances or life situation.
  • Do not feel ready to accept the lifetime commitments that marriage entails.
  • Do not feel ready to parent.
  • Do not like to delay gratification for a greater good.
  • Do not like to work hard for long hours at uninteresting tasks to achieve a goal.

Read More »


The Church Needs Philosophers and Philosophers Need the Church

“Who cares what Aristotle thinks about a severed hand,” retorted an exasperated philosophy student on a wintery night in a Midwestern university. My lecture screeched to a halt. As the class stared at me, enjoying the showdown, the subtext of my student’s comment was not lost on them or me: “Aristotle’s view of substance provides me with no ‘real world’ benefit, so it is useless knowledge.” Read More »