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Posted: 7/11/03

Integrity of congregational life

Certain Baptists are setting forth the idea that “the priesthood of the believer” has traditionally meant for Baptists that “each individual worshipper is solely accountable to God and free to worship in his own manner.” Such an idea passes neither the test of Scripture nor of long-term Baptist tradition.

E-mail the editor at marvknox@baptiststandard.com

First, the term “the priesthood of the believer” is not New Testament language. In the passages pertaining to this subject (1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 1:5b-6; 5:9-10; 20:6), the term is either “priesthood” or “priests” (plural). The New Testament knows no solitary priesthood of Christians, only a priesthood shared with other believing priests.

Second, the New Testament closely connects the priesthood of all Christians with the offering of “spiritual sacrifices” such as those of worship (Hebrews 13:15; Romans 12:1), witness (1 Peter 2:9), stewardship (Philippians 4:18) and service (Hebrews 13:16). The stress is on responsibilities rather than on rights.

Third, if the worshipper is a member of a Baptist church, he/she is responsible to the other members of the church as well as being accountable to God. Read the text of almost any Baptist church covenant, and you will see that much is said as to how members are responsible to and for their fellow members of the body of Christ.

Baptists at their best for the last four centuries have been church people whose longing for “soul freedom” from political oppression or ecclesiastical tyranny never deprived them of the integrity of their congregational life.

James Leo Garrett Jr.

Fort Worth

Ethics vs. livelihood

In “Huge farms harvest ethical issues” (June 9), Gary Farley discussed price controls, gene pool limits, lost jobs, environmental damage and farmers' hard economic life.

He described the farms: “4,000 piglets in large, enclosed sheds”; “10 buildings in which several thousand baby chicks are fed constantly”; “litter from the chicken houses is cured and fed to the steers”; thousands of dairy “cows spend their days on concrete … forage and grain is brought to them”; “each pond produces thousands of fish each year.”

Not mentioned–veal calves raised in crates, laying hens living entire lives in cages or continually-impregnated mares kept immobile and thirsty so their concentrated urine can be harvested for human hormone prescriptions.

On the old family farm, animals were destined for the dinner table, but until then they led normal-for-their-species outdoor lives with something other than manure for lunch. They died in the end, but their days were not generally a living hell.

Albert Schweitzer said: “Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures. … Any religion … which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion.”

Euphemistically calling torture “farming” says more about us than about animals, and it's a great example for kids of keeping our ethics and compassion separate from our livelihood.

Ann Carson


Gnats & camels

New Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, avid supporter of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, which limits the role of women in ministry and decrees the graceful submission of women to their husbands, disenfranchises those Baptists who do not agree with him concerning these tenets.

At the same time, he seems to close his eyes in support of his colleagues, particularly Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who strongly hold to the non-biblical Calvinist doctrines of limited atonement and irresistible grace. Patterson has publicly affirmed he, himself, does not accept these doctrines.

Somehow, one must be reminded of Jesus' condemnation of the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23 concerning straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Bob King

Grand Prairie

Patterson & Parcells

Your editorial on Paige Patterson (June 30) was one of your best ever. I salute you.

I would like to add a couple of things about him. It was my privilege to study under his dear father, T.A. Patterson. Dr. Pat was asked one time in a missions class about his prayers for his son. He replied that he and his wife had always prayed that God would give Paige courage, and he went on to say he had lived to see those prayers answered.

Paige Patterson's courage is inspiring and contagious. Anyone who does not think Southwestern Seminary will be better with Paige at the helm because he is a “fundamentalist” might as well say the Dallas Cowboys won't be better with Bill Parcells because he was a New York Giant.

Welcome back to the promised land, Dr. Patterson!

Gerald Johnson


Wholeness in Christ

The article on the Southern Baptist Convention's task force on homosexuality was very good (June 23). I would like to make one important clarification and offer one objection.

The headline stated the initiative was to encourage homosexuals to become heterosexuals. First, we believe the biblical position is that all people are created heterosexual. Homosexuality is a condition that may result from a variety of factors. No ministry with which I'm familiar states that their goal is to convert people to heterosexuality.

The goal is for people to experience wholeness in Christ.

One result of this would be freedom from homosexuality. For some, this will result in marriage. Others may choose the biblical calling to celibacy.

It does not necessarily mean they will never have a temptation any more than we could say that all ex-alcoholics never have a desire to drink again. It does mean that they have the tools to deal with that temptation, as they would any other temptation.

In this struggle as with others–drugs, alcohol, lust–we must understand the distinction between temptation and bondage.

My objection deals with allowing Brenda Moulton space to espouse views that are inaccurate with no correction or rebuttal from anyone. The secular media regularly allow Mel White to state the “born that way” argument and the American Psychiatric Association arguments that therapy is wrong and harmful and even leads to suicide. Ample facts exist to refute both arguments.

Those who would report these claims should at least check them out.

Bob Stith


Forward & back

The SBC took a step forward when it said it would stop its homophobia. We hope.

A liberation theology leader said that to be true to liberation theology, he must be especially concerned for those who are most oppressed in society; he believes those are the homosexuals.

Theologian John Cobb commented: “There is serious competition for that (most oppressed) spot. But it is clear that whereas in most other oppressions the church has given at least some support to the oppressed, in this case the church has been the leader in the oppression.”

Then the SBC took two steps backward. It declared homosexuality sinful and changeable. Psychologists, beginning with Freud, say homosexuality is unchangeable.

Ten thousand homosexuals commit suicide annually in America because they can't face living with a society and church that condemn them so, and they can't change. Many of these die because of guilt heaped on them by messages like the SBC's.

Helmut Thielicke wrote that when we realize there is “constitutional homosexuality,” we must “accept” the fact that it is “incurable”; then “our attitude toward (it) changes.” Then he said homosexuality is “a divine dispensation” (Luke 19:13f.).

Bruce Lowe

Dallas Tow

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