Written by Sam Logan Monday, 18 June 2012 06:30

Stan Duncan, a pastor and columnist for the Huffington Post, recently cited the following story with approval:

I've been encouraged by the words of a Baptist preacher friend from Dallas who once told me that when he dies and stands before St. Peter at the pearly gates, and he hears a list of his lifetime's sins, he expects to hear a long list. But when all is said and done, he said he would much rather be judged for being too open minded than too closed. "If I'm going to make a mistake," he said, "I suspect God would rather it be a mistake of loving too many people into the kingdom than too few."

Frankly, I suspect that, if anything, Duncan fails to state strongly enough the Scriptural mandate of love. There is no biblical warrant whatsoever for simply loving “many!”

This is the first of three posts in which I will share some thoughts on the why, the how, and the “how not” of Christian love . . . as I understand these things from Scripture.

I start with the why.

I have titled this blog “Three Reasons Why I Should LOVE Those With Whom I Disagree.”  Part of the reason why I did this is because I often find it harder to love those with whom I agree than those with whom I disagree.  It seems that the fiercest battles in the Christian world are often fought among those who would seem to have the most in common.  I am a Presbyterian and there is good reason why the world often looks at us and just calls us “the split P’s!”  That is tragic and because I have been and am complicit in this, I must repent and seek the help of the Spirit to change.  In a sense, therefore, loving those with whom I largely AGREE is the harder task.  So, admittedly, I am starting with the easier of the tasks.

But another reason for entitling my blog what I have is suggested in Duncan’s blog above – in the story he cites, there seems to be a clear connection between loving and being open or closed minded.  And that is a common concern, both inside and outside the church.

So why should I love those with whom I disagree?  Let’s make it even stronger – why should I love those whom I think are sinning?

Three reasons (out of many):

1. What I THINK is sin could be no sin at all.

I remember growing up in Mississippi in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Until my late teens, I was absolutely convinced that those who promoted racial equality were wrong.  I’m not sure if I would have called their advocacy of integration  “sin,” but, even if I did not, I was convinced that they were acting contrary to numerous biblical passages such as Genesis 9: 18 – 25.  I know, I know!  How could I ever be so stupid/blind as to think that the curse which was laid upon Ham meant that white and blacks must be kept separate?  I now have no idea . . . and more than I have any idea why, for most of the history of the church in the West, similar stupidity/blindness prevailed.

So I must humbly remember my earlier stupidity/blindness when I make decisions about what is right and wrong today – abortion, genetic manipulation, euthanasia, gay marriage, etc.  I certainly COULD be wrong again.  But more on this in my third blog of this series.

2.  What really is CLEARLY commanded throughout Scripture.

Paul wasn’t just constructing a neat linguistic structure when he said, “So now, faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  He was speaking the absolute and inerrant word of God.

Someday, I would like to hear the following questions asked in a presbytery ordination exam or in a local church membership application interview:  “Tell us exactly how your life shows that ‘the greatest of these is love.’”  This is a bit like many discussions I have heard about the teaching of Genesis 1 – 3.  Of course, it is important to know and to believe what Scripture teaches on the difficult subject of the details of Creation.  But isn’t it at least as important to ask this question – “Exactly how does your life demonstrate that God is  your Creator?”

There are lots of important biblical doctrines (doctrines which we MUST believe) which Jesus Himself did not directly teach.  But there is no question about this doctrine – “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44); “Just as I have loved you, you are to love one another” (John 13:34); etc.  And there is no question about the pervasive presence of this commandment throughout all of Scripture – you can check out your concordance as well as I can.

3.  What brings the greatest honor and glory to the Triune God.

Man was created in the image of God and it is a full return to that perfect “imageness” in which we were created that is one of the central goals of God’s work of redemption.  This is because God Himself, not you or I, is the ultimately central figure in that work.  Not only is He the central figure in doing that work; He is the central figure in where that work is going – as wonderful as it will be to have all of our tears wiped away, the REALLY wonderful thing is that God will receive the honor which He should receive.

And the greatest honor of all will be given to God when we, His creatures, mirror back to Him His own nature.

What is His nature? 

But God shows His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8).

Talk about “those with whom we disagree.”  Talk about the One who REALLY knows what is “godly” or “ungodly.”   Talk about living out what is clearly commanded in Scripture. 

And what Jesus did is to be the model for how we act –

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2).

This is actually the problem with the story which I quoted at the beginning of this blog – that story makes it sound like there is some kind of pre-set limit to the size of the group which I am supposed to love (broad or narrow).  Wouldn’t most of us be in a mess if that was how God loved in Christ?  I know that, no matter how “broad-minded” God might have been, I would never have been included in that love if it were based on anything other than His gracious, sovereign will.  Whoever that Baptist pastor was, my response to him would be, “Think and live bigger!”

That’s the theory.

That’s, in some ways, the easy part.

Words are one thing. 

But what does such love look like in practice?  What does it look like when applied in concrete detail to those with whom I really do disagree?

And what does such love NOT look like?

These will be the subjects of my next two blogs.

Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical. He also serves as the International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship. He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is President Emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia)..  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan


Written by Dr. Phil Monroe Wednesday, 13 June 2012 00:00

I have a question for you frequent fliers out there. Do you listen to the flight attendants when they go over the safety instructions prior to takeoff? Some of you can probably repeat the tired lines in your sleep,

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard…flight 1234 with service to blah blah city. It is a pleasure to have you onboard and flying with us. We'd like to ask for your attention for the next three minutes as we demonstrate the safety features of this Boeing 737. Please pause all conversations, blah blah blah and direct your attention to the flight attendants blah blah blah….

We know we should put our seats back to their upright positions when landing. We know we should take care of our own oxygen masks before helping others. We know not to tamper with smoke detectors in the lavatory. We wonder why we have to turn off our electronics for take-off and landing. And, we know that the closest exit may be behind us.

We know. We get it already.

But, in case of an actual emergency, what will most of us do? We’ll panic. We’ll scream, grip the seats, and pray. The airlines know this but they continue to drill us just in case we might be able to follow some instructions in a time of crisis. Try as they will to manage the situation, they will need our cooperation in an event of a mid-air emergency. Repetition is their way to drill it into our heads.

Does Your Church Have a Plan for Reported Abuse?

Similarly, every church needs a well-thought out, tested plan to deal with an allegation of abuse within its midst. Churches that fail to develop such plans are unlikely to respond well or in a timely fashion. Without a plan, there may be unnecessary and needless soul deaths. Even when churches have a plan, failure to instruct the congregation and leaders as to how the plan should work will likely condemn the plan to failure.

Besides the need for a plan PRIOR to an allegation of abuse, your church needs a plan for these two reasons:

  1. The name and honor of Christ is the ONLY thing at stake. Not the church’s honor; not the leaders’ reputation; just the reputation of our savior who tells us that those who would hinder little children from the kingdom will face severe judgment by God. Having a plan says that we care about protection of the reputation of God the Father as much as we do for plans to grow attendance or budgets or any other programmatic objective.
  2. Need there be any other reason than #1? Well, if you need another reason, try this: so that the world can see the nature of true love. Is this not the definition of evangelical—to spread the good news about the Gospel? True love is not love of self, love of comfort, or love of position. Sadly, our recent church history would suggest that many church leaders place their own interests ahead of victims of clergy sexual abuse. True love is found in one who sacrifices personal goals (comfort, power, position, etc.) for the sake of the welfare of others.

So, does your church or agency have a plan? Have you considered ways to improve it? If your plan needs to be enhanced beyond “call someone” or if you have some desire to serve abuse victims and offenders AND If you think that $50 is not too much to spend to improve your church’s preparation for the possibility of an abuse allegation, Biblical Seminary can help you. Sign up for our July 20-21 mini conference: Abuse in the Church: Biblical, Legal, Counseling Perspectives.

Why wait for the oxygen mask to drop down in front of you to start looking for the instruction card in the seatback pocket in front of you?

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the MA in Counseling program at Biblical Seminary. He maintains a private practice with Diane Langberg & Associates. You can follow his personal and professional musings at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.comor read more about it at http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/phillip-monroe.


Written by Dr. Phil Monroe Tuesday, 12 June 2012 00:00

As a psychologist and seminary professor, I frequently entertain questions about the timeline for forgiveness and reconciliation in situations of domestic or familial sexual abuse. Most often, church leaders want to know when it is appropriate to encourage a victim of abuse to allow an offender back into the home or life.

signs of true repentance

These questions sometimes originate for quite different reasons. Some ask due to fear that once abuser and victim are separated, reconciliation is made much more unlikely. Others ask because it seems that the abuser is not being forgiven promptly. Still others want to know how to discern whether the abusive person is genuinely repentant. It is this last question that I think merits the most attention: how do you know when an abusive person is adequately repentant, and therefore, capable of providing a safe environment for others to live in?

The answer, of course, is found in the fruit they produce. Consider these three signs and use the following questions to help discern true from false repentance.

Honest Admission

When God’s people encounter his holiness, they often fall on their faces and admit the state of their soul (e.g., Moses, Isaiah, Paul). They make no pretense of being clean, and they do not look to excuse their behavior or blame others (“I might be 60% responsible, but she’s responsible too.”). They do not attempt to manage their image as Saul did when confronted by Samuel (1 Samuel 15:14f). In appropriate settings, they willingly reveal secret sins that had could not have been known by others. This honesty should be permanent rather than temporary. If another should bring up their sins decades later, they should be capable of admitting what is true without defensiveness or undue shame.

Does the abuser,

  • openly acknowledge abusive behavior and its impact on the victim?
  • accept full responsibility for actions without excuse?
  • accept the consequences of the abuse without demand for trust or forgiveness?

Sacrificial Efforts to Repair

The story of Zacchaeus provides a wonderful illustration of the fruit of repentance in the life of a man who profited by abusing others with his power. He does not shy away from the sniggering comments of others but publicly promises to pay back all he has cheated plus four times more (probably twice as much as the Law required!). Not only that, but he willingly gives half of his wealth to feed the poor. Jesus describes the kingdom of God as having so much worth that a true disciple joyfully gives all to acquire it (Matthew 13:44-46). The repentant abuser sees the value of restoration and joyfully gives all to obtain it.

He no longer sees his rights as something to hold on to, but immediately thinks of how he can sacrificially put the interests of others before his own. Further, he does not demand acknowledgment of this sacrificial effort to undo wrongs done. Sadly, the opposite fruit seems more prevalent. The abuser strives to protect personal interests (e.g., an unwillingness to pay for counseling costs of the victim), attempts to bargain for sacrifices made (e.g., “I’ll pay for counseling if you won’t report the abuse to the authorities.”), or uses children to gain leverage (e.g., “The children will be hurt if I am out of the home.”)  

Does the abuser:

  • spontaneously seek to make restitution (not penance!) or to offer economic support without demand for things in return?
  • give physical and emotional space for the victim to receive help from others?

Accepts and Flourishes Under Discipline

When caught in abusive or addictive behavior, individuals commonly make immediate changes in their behavior. They stop certain detestable behaviors and start behaving as they should (e.g., returns to the church, reads the Bible, goes to counseling). We should commend these actions. However, these initial fruits do not necessarily signal true repentance any more than some early green shoots signal the actual fruit production. Jesus warns the disciples (Matthew 12-13; the story of the house swept clean and the parable of the soils) about the problem of reading initial reactions to the Gospel. Time and cultivation are required. The repentant abuser willingly submits to the loving discipline of the Church. When adequate ministry to him is not available, he pursues it until he finds it. He does not demand time limits or the entitlement to be forgiven. He accepts the intrusion of accountability partners and sees their work not as police work, but as discipleship.

Does the abuser:

  • accept the ministry of discipline, accountability, counseling, etc. with joy?
  • acknowledge that the fruit of change takes time to develop and so sees discipleship as a lifetime project?
  • show evidence of a growing life of prayer, reading of the Word and increasing measure of the fruits of the Spirit?  

Be Careful

A word of caution is warranted to those whose job it is to assess the level of change in an abuser. Watch out for two errors. It is easy to classify abusers as subhuman and unable to ever change. If we fall into this error, we may be tempted to prejudge their ability to change, thereby encouraging greater defensiveness on their part. The power of the cross changes the worst of sinners. These men and women deserve God’s grace as much as you or I.

The second error is that of being thrown off by external issues that may not have much to do with repentance. Those who are charming and well-spoken (especially those who use spiritual language) may tempt you to ignore fruit that is inconsistent with repentance. Also, when victims are less likable due to their interpersonal demeanor, it is tempting to excuse abusive behavior. It is wise to seek supervision during this process and to remember that you participate in the Lord’s work and that He will accomplish refinement in his children, including you!

[A version of this essay was first published in 2006 Christian Counseling Today, (v. 13:3, 48-49) under the title of “Abusers and True Repentance.”]


Written by Dr. Todd Mangum Monday, 11 June 2012 00:00

Rounding off what has actually been a four-part set of blogs on “Civil Pluralism vis-à-vis Theological Pluralism,” I want to conclude with a clarification. My previous three posts on the topic probably sound more progressive in tone and posture; here I want to deliberately provide a very conservative sounding note of clarification; viz., secularism is not the same as neutralism — and recognition of that nuances everything. 

Secularism, the absence or conscious elimination of religious fidelity or convictions, should be recognized itself as a religious view, sometimes bearing all the zeal and passion of the most fanatical religious advocate.  Therefore, conscientiously banning religious viewpoints from decision-and-policy-making deliberations should be considered every bit as much an establishment of religion as establishing Catholicism, Reconstructionist Theonomy, or Sharia Law.  

What I would propose is that evangelicals engage in political deliberation and the political process. I’d further propose that they not be banned from (nor should they voluntarily restrain themselves necessarily from) expressing their viewpoints out of their religious convictions.  Rather, they may sometimes appropriately cite their rationale for advocating a certain viewpoint as being self-consciously rooted in their religious or biblical convictions. (E.g., like Martin Luther King, Jr. did in his case for civil rights for African-Americans.)  

Yet, they should engage the public square with the understanding that other people with different, sometimes opposing, religious convictions will be doing the same and that advocacy in the public square is and must be advocacy for what is understood by all as seeking the common good.  This means that sometimes compromise will be necessary in public policy. It also meant that there will be times when a certain practice or prohibition is enforced by one’s religious community of faith and not by the government at large. 

What I am advocating is a civic or political pluralism — different from traditional Anabaptist thought (in which Christians withdraw or concede the realm of the public square in order to pursue exclusively more purist adherence to religious standards in more private, separated communities), and different from theonomy or reconstructionism or some religious right groups (in which specifically and exclusively Christian values are pursued and implemented over the objections or against the will of others). That is, I would seek to employ what James Davison Hunter calls “faithful presence” in the socio-political arena (as one of the “culture-shaping centers” of our society).

The issue is complicated enough and important enough to allow for a diversity of opinions on this.  Here I’ve laid out my thinking on it.  What’s yours? 

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.


Written by Dr. Todd Mangum Saturday, 09 June 2012 16:24

The terminology comes from Harvard Professor, Diana Eck (see http://scholar.harvard.edu/dianaeck/ publications/american-religious-pluralism-civic-and-theological-discourse-democracy-and-new); but I was introduced to this framing of concepts through the Doctor of Ministry dissertation I was advising by Biblical student/soon-to-be grad, Jason Poling. His fascinating dissertation project proposes that Jews and Evangelicals can engage one another and learn from one another through dialogue over shared sacred texts without offending one another, without proselytizing one another, and without either group leaving their most-cherished theological and religious convictions behind, either.   

It’s an idea that has captured my attention and stimulated my imagination and it has led to the present series of blogs, of which this is the third. Specifically, “Can those who do NOT affirm theological pluralism (the idea that all sincerely held religious views lead to salvation) nevertheless affirm civic pluralism (the idea that people of different perspective and conviction are equally entitled to a place at the table of civic discourse and equal opportunity to secure space and resources for pursuing their deeply held world and life views)?

Let’s say the answer is a definite “yes” — we can have deeply held, strongly cherished religious and theological convictions in which we believe eternity is at stake in them, but we nevertheless agree to certain “ground rules” by which we engage civilly, understanding that people with equally cherished theological convictions diametrically opposed to ours will be afforded the same rights we have to forward them. Even if we say “yes” to that deal, the devil is in the details. Achieving civil discourse will still be easier said than done. 

But if missional Christians can be the model citizens in this, it seems to me that that in itself could help rehabilitate the evangelical Christian reputation.  

Is that overly idealistic?  Naïve?  Or a much-needed idea whose time has truly come? What do you think?


 Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.


Written by Dr. Todd Mangum Friday, 08 June 2012 00:00

It happened in Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason purchased pre-film advertising space at the Angelika Film Center in Plano, Texas, to promote a positive image of families who embrace atheism. It seems that part of what motivated this was their desire to respond to other pre-film advertisements, purchased previously by Christian groups, promoting local churches and evangelistic efforts. But when the atheistic ad appeared, local papers reported on it and the Christian people of Texas responded in force, through letters, phone calls and emails demanding that the ad be withdrawn.  The Angelika Film Center pulled the ad.     

So . . . score one for the Christians in a rare victory for the good guys finally? . . .   Hmmm.  Not so fast.    

Here is an instance in which Christian ability to embrace “civic pluralism” is raised to question.  Never mind that the American Humanist Association’s legal counsel is threatening to file a lawsuit against the theatre for its double standard. And, never mind that at least one atheistic columnist on the Patheos website has cited the case as a clear instance of outright legal discrimination (see http://www.patheos.com/Atheist/Movie-Theater-Discriminates-Roy-Speckhardt-05-23-2012.html). And also never mind Texas’s well-known reputation regarding its “You’re not from around here, are you, son? We don’t do things that way” culture. 

What is the right mindset about such things?  The right strategy? The right goal?     

There’s a side of me that relishes the idea that, in at least one carefully guarded plot of American land, churches are free to advertise but atheists are not.  Does the whole country have to embrace the northeast’s broadminded liberalism after all; I mean what kind of idyllic utopia can the northeast boast about anyway?  Can’t narrow-minded righteousness and conservatism be embraced in at least a pocket of the redneck south?  Can’t we just let them be in their old-fashioned ways? 

But another side of me — probably the better, more intelligent side — thinks that if we want the right to penetrate the larger culture with our ideas (and if we really are called by God to evangelize at all, that is what we want, right?), then we have to allow a “free market” of ideas to flow in all directions. And that means we have to regard the “Christian victory” in getting that atheist ad pulled with some pause, at least. 

Right now, according to almost all polling data available, evangelical Christians are known for the passion with which they hold their views — alright, well and good. But they are also known for being narrow-minded bigots.  Probably unfair.  But then, how do we alter this perception and change this reputation?  

I’m thinking that this instance with the atheist ad probably doesn’t help much to that end of changing our reputation, or for establishing a fresh reputation of fair-mindedness and even-handedness in civil discourse.  You?

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum


Written by Dr. Todd Mangum Thursday, 07 June 2012 00:00

Yep, you heard that right. Famous atheist Richard Dawkins actually supports the distribution of King James Bibles in every public school in Great Britain.  (Find the full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18224114). 

Don’t get too excited, though; his motives are more subversive than supportive. Unlike the standard premises Christians might otherwise expect — “Even though I don’t believe it’s supernaturally inspired, it still inspires good moral ethics”; or even “it’s still classic literature” — Dawkins’ thinking is more cynical. He believes that if school kids and parents actually read the Bible, they will be turned off by its violence, misogyny, and bigotry.  

Besides recommending the book of my colleague, Dave Lamb, God Behaving Badly (http://www.amazon.com/God-Behaving-Badly-Testament-Sexist/dp/0830838260/) as a response to some of Dawkins barbed critiques, I see also a broader point here. It’s actually a point that Jesus observed a time or two, as well: “The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). Dawkins audaciously believes that if atheism and biblical Christianity are put on equal footing for consideration, atheism will “win” hands down.  Now, if a “son of this age” can have such foolhardy confidence in the defense of misguided falsehood, why can’t Christians have at least as much confidence in the truth?

What if we don’t have to secure for the Christian perspective an exclusive, privileged position in our society, but merely an equal opportunity for consideration?  By setting the bar lower politically, we may actually, counter-intuitively raise the level higher of positive consideration.

Truthfully, this is a strategy I adopt only by concession. Would that every American desire for Christian values to be upheld as the law of the land. But as long as that is not the case, and until such time as we no longer have to say each one to his neighbor, “Know the Lord” (Jer. 31:34), it is probably counterproductive to try to mandate uniquely Christian values upon Americans against their will.

I know: the consequences of allowing “diversity of values” to be implemented in the law could be devastating. But probably no more devastating than provoking a backlash against Christian values.

I confess to a sense of unease even as I write this, because this is a means of engagement of the culture that uncomfortably yields power willingly in the effort to achieve, instead, persuasion.  It’s a risky posture. But is it smarter?  And also more godly, more Christlike overall? What do you think? 

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum


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