Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Legally Put an End to Sagging Pants

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting the Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has announced that "New Yorkers Have a Right to Sagging Pants." Bloomberg's comments voiced his approval of a judicial ruling that threw out a case against a Bronx man who wore "low-slung pants that exposed his underwear."

I've wrote about this three years ago, when a Louisiana mayor made it illegal to wear saggy pants. Here's are reprise of that blog:
All you need to do to cure the sagging pants syndrome is to put a basketball in the hands of every kid with low riding pants and put them on a basketball court.

I discovered this cure when I was pastor of Easthaven Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. For seven years on Wednesday evenings, after prayer meeting, I opened the church's gym up to all the young people in the neighborhood around the church. There were a lot of kids who would come to play basketball who wouldn't come for any other reason.

The first few times the gym was open, nearly all of the African-American males and some of the Hispanic males wore their lowest riding pants. It was quite colorful. Every guy was wearing boxers of a different color and/or flashy print.

I made sure that the boys with the lowest pants got on the court first. With two half-court games going at the same time, I could keep twenty of those colorful behinds busy at the same time.

I let them play for five minutes, then I let the teams that were ahead play against each other on one end of the court, rotated the losing teams to the bench, and put fresh teams against each other at the other end of the court. Every five minutes we rotated teams again with the winning teams remaining on the court. We did that for 60 minutes -- 90 minutes whenever I had more than 40 kids -- with only a 5 minute mini-sermon at half-time for a break.

After the second week, I rarely had a player wearing low riding pants.

It's just plain hard to play basketball with the waist of your pants half-way down to your knees.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oklahomans Blurring Line Between Church and State

Arnold Hamilton, editor of the Oklahoma Observer, has a thoughtful article in today's Urban Tulsa Weekly that discussed the "Undivided Church and State" in Oklahoma.  After citing some of the seemingly endless examples of the push toward theocracy in Oklahoma, Hamilton focuses on the recent endorsement of a political candidate by Paul Blair's "Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ" -- a religious non-profit organization receiving tax deductible contributions. Hamilton concludes:
Some religious leaders, like Blair, are purposely provoking legal fights, hoping to find the right court that will overturn the federal tax law ban on partisan politicking. It's worth noting, of course, that even the most conservative Supreme Court in my lifetime refused to hear the Haskell County case -- a point that seems lost on those so certain of the religious righteousness of their causes. This is a dangerous game. And those who insist on playing it are playing with fire.
If Blair and other Christians want to endorse political candidates, they need to give up their non-profit status and operate under the same rules as any other political action committee.

It is inherently unfair, unequal and illegal for partisan and politically active religious groups to expect a tax deduction for their contributions while all other partisan and politically active groups are denied tax deductions for similar contributions.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Christian Nationalism Costs Haskell County

News reports are indicating that agreement has been reached to settle the legal costs for the law suit that required Haskell County to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn of their county courthouse. Sadly, the residents of that county will be paying $199,000 plus interest over the next ten years for the mistake of believing people like David Barton.

For more than two decades, David Barton has been deceiving many honest but naïve Christians with a revisionist history about our system of government that promotes the mythology of Christian Nationalism. The meticulous research in Chris Rodda’s Liars for Jesus demonstrates that Barton’s work is not simply the result of a pious but simpleminded Christian who cannot fathom the legal differences between the Mayflower Compact (1620) and the Constitution of the United States (1789). Her research reveals a pattern by Barton of deliberately distorting documentary evidence to leave an impression that the U.S. Constitution assigned the same legal authority to the Christian faith as did the Mayflower Compact.

The poor residents of Haskell County swallowed Barton’s mythology hook, line and sinker. They erected a monument on their courthouse lawn with the Ten Commandments on one side and the Mayflower Compact on the other. At the dedication and at rallies to support the monument after its constitutionality was challenged, both County Commissioners and citizens proudly proclaimed that the monument demonstrated their belief in Christian Nationalism. One Commissioner -- at the microphone on the podium -- spoke to a crowd and said “a bulldozer would have to run over him” to remove it (He later denied this under oath -- but I was there, I heard it with my own ears).

Ironically, the citizen who proposed erecting the monument, some of the Commissioners and many of the citizens of Haskell County are Baptists. If they knew their Baptist history, they would have known that the Massachusetts Bay Colony banished Baptists from the colony, arrested them for holding unauthorized worship services in private homes, and flogged Obadiah Holmes for refusing to pay a fine for unauthorized preaching. Frankly, that was mild compared to what the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay did to Quakers. Four Quakers were hanged for violating their ban against Quakers.

If those Baptists in Haskell County knew their Baptist history they also would have known that the Baptists who fought in the revolutionary war -- and there were many -- were fighting to put an end to the religious persecution they were facing in the colonies. In Massachusetts, just a decade before the Revolution, both their private property and their church property was being confiscated for refusing to pay taxes to support the Congregational church. Between 1772 and 1776 the jails in Anglican Virginia were full of Baptist preachers who were arrested for preaching the gospel without a license – and they couldn’t get a license because they were Baptists.

That’s why, for Baptists, the revolutionary war was a war for religious liberty. And that’s why Baptists would not rest until the constitution of this new nation explicitly guaranteed that every citizen would have an equal right to liberty of conscience. John Leland, the leader of Baptists in Virginia, told George Washington that liberty of conscience was “dearer to us than property or life” and he meant it. For the Baptists of that time, liberty of conscience meant that church and state would be separate, that no one could be forced to pay taxes for the support of religion, that no one could be coerced into participating in a religious exercise against their will, and that everyone would have freedom of religion and freedom from religion .

Instead of reading Baptist history, the Baptists and most of the other residents of Haskell County have been reading David Barton and/or listening to him and the host of other talk-radio and TV evangelists who take the Massachusetts Bay Colony as their model for a Christian America. That’s why they believe the Supreme Court provoked the wrath of God when it prohibited government agents from forcing school children to participate in acts of worship – the daily recital of officially approved prayers. That’s why they think separation of church and state is a communist idea found only in the constitution of the Soviet Union. At bottom, their understanding of the Constitution is that it created two classes of citizens – first class citizens – people of the majority faith who are free to impose their religious values on society by legislation, and second class citizens – people of minority faiths who are tolerated only so long as they remain invisible and stay away from the public square.

The poor residents of Haskell County now have ten long years to pay for their collective failure to learn the real intentions of the founding fathers of our country. The truth is, our nation’s founding fathers were revolting against the basis upon which all governments had been founded until 1776 – and the foundation they were rebelling against was a religious foundation. The declaration of independence was addressed to an English king and his loyal subjects – people who believed that sovereignty was bestowed by divine right of birth and that the king was the vicar of Christ responsible for the souls of all his subjects. The founding fathers were boldly asserting that the time when kings and tyrannical governments could lay claim to divine authority in both worldly and spiritual matters was passed. They were declaring that, in America, government was going to be based upon the consent of the governed.

Once the Revolution was won, they created a Constitution that explicitly prohibited any religious test to hold public office, that separated church and state by explicitly prohibiting the establishment of religion, and that secured liberty of conscience by explicitly prohibiting restrictions on the free exercise of religion in the non-governmental public domain. In doing this, the founding fathers themselves were accused of being “atheists” and “anarchists.” They established the first “secular government” in the history of the world.

This nation was the first nation in the history of the world that was not founded on religious authority. It was founded on the consent of the governed. We have a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people, because every person in our society – no matter what their faith or lack of it -- has an equal right to justice and liberty. These are the real ideals upon which our nation was founded. That is why the “Bill of Rights,” not the Ten Commandments, is the most appropriate monument that could be erected on the lawn of the Courthouse.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Say No to Racism

The article on Ethics Daily today entitled "Georgia Speeds Down Arizona's Anti-Immigration Highway" is unwelcome but not unexpected news. My son and I discussed the racism of the South last week as I was helping him move his family from California to Georgia.

Monica, my daughter-in-law, is a Mexican national and rightfully proud of her nationality. She is a fully documented, legal immigrant in this country. She found California to be an open and welcoming community after experiencing some mild racial profiling in Oklahoma. She's braced herself for worse in Georgia.

I would like to be able to tell her that Baptists have put their racist past behind them, but we all know that Baptists still comprise the bulk of the racists in the South.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Christian Women Demand Apology

The Freedom for Christian Women Coalition is demanding that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood stop publishing and promoting the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood and issue a public apology for its misuse of Holy Scripture as it relates to women.

Baptist Women for Equality (bWe) are part of the Freedom for Christian Women Coalition. This morning, Shirley Taylor, founder of bWe, mailed their demands in a letter to Randy Stinson, President, and J. Ligon Duncan, Chairman of the Board, of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood.

Links to a video of Shirley Taylor presenting these demands to the Freedom for Christian Women Coalition for approval and a podcast of Jocelyn Andersen discussing these demands will be added to this blog as they become available.

The "complementarian" interpretation of family relations -- as expressed both in the Danvers Statement and in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement -- enjoys wide support among fundamentalists and evangelicals.

Mainstream Baptists support an "egalitarian" interpretation of scriptures. Here are links to some articles that present the egalitarian interpretation of family relations:

The Christian Family: Mutual Submission or Chain of Command?

Dead "Head" Leads SBC Family

Convention Ignoring Domestic Violence

Why I Didn't Sign the SBC Family Statement by Alan Brehm

Subjugating Women in the SBC

Should a Woman Serve as Pastor?

Women Who Lead

Ordination in Baptist Life

A Woman's Response to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message

Still a Baptist Woman

Friday, July 23, 2010

Early Baptists on Conscience

Louis Mauldin, in his book The Classic Baptist Heritage of Personal Truth, provides a valuable summary of the understandings of conscience among the earliest Baptists:

General and Particular Baptists disagree over the impact of sin upon the natural conscience, which is comprised of reason, the will, and communication. General Baptists see conscience as marred by sin, though operative, while Particular Baptists think it virtually destroyed. They both agree, however, that redemption brings a new conscience and with it a sanctified reason. The redeemed obtain an "inlightened conscience, carrying a more bright and lively stamp of the kingly place and power of the Lord Jesus." In an enlightened conscience, all English Baptists aver, the trinity does not set aside the norms of the "reasonable soule" by superseding the faculties thereof. On the contrary, God the Spirit approves "every truth to the understanding," moving at all times "without violence, with a rational force," respecting standards of reasonableness. God the Son, clears the truth and leaves "naked the errors." And, God the Father "would have every man fully persuaded in his owne mind."
This paragraph is but one small detail in a masterful exposition of the thoroughly trinitarian and personal understanding of truth that prevailed among early Baptists.

Mauldin's book is essential reading for anyone who cares to understand the difference between the thought of early Baptists as opposed to the theology of rationalists and presuppositionalists like Carl Henry, Al Mohler, and the numerous Baptist disciples of Francis Schaeffer.

The Classic Baptist Heritage Of Personal Truth: The Truth As It Is In Jesus

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Will Faith Overcome Fear?

Drew Smith, Director of International Programs at Henderson State University in Arkansas, has a thoughtful essay on Ethics Daily entitled "Faith vs. Fear."  He laments how fear seems to have prevailed over faith among American Christians throughout the last decade:
What shocks me the most about all of this rhetoric is that many Christians have bought into fear as a thoughtful reaction to terrorism, immigration, heathcare and many other important issues. Yet, the reality is that if we surrender to fear, our faith in God and in one another will diminish, and we will become less than the humans we were created to be. We will become fear-induced extremists instead of humans made in the image of God who are commanded to love others and to do good.
Frankly, in my opinion, far too many preachers are like a certain breed of politicians who turn up the spigot of fear to manipulate public opinion and hold onto power.

As long as the laity are inclined to let their preachers and politicians do all their thinking for them, both faith and democracy will remain in decline.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Religious Liberty For Me But Not For Thee?

Robert Parham has posted an essay at the Washington Post that highlights the best of the Baptist tradition in regard to religious liberty.

There are some remarkably uncivil remarks and incendiary videos opposing the erection of a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center.

Parham's essay offers a ray of light guiding more conscientious souls through some very dark shafts of bellicose rhetoric.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest Blog: " Refudiating" Sarah Palin

I have spent the better part of my adult life overseas as a Christian missionary. During that time I have lived on several continents and worked among Orthodox & Catholic Christians, Jews & Muslims, Hindus and Animist. While sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, I have made many friends among people of different religions and come to appreciate their commitment to their faith.

This is why former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s call for peaceful Muslims to "refudiate" the building of a Muslim Mosque and Cultural Center a few blocks away from the site of the Twin Towers in NYC is especially troubling. [Note: "Refudiate" does not seem to be a real word but likely a confusion of two words: "repudiate" and "refute."] Without becoming too preachy, it seems to me that the real words of Jesus to love our enemies are however clear.

Christians and especially Christian missionaries are often appalled at the opposition of national and local governments to allow them to build Christian churches and other institutions in foreign lands. If we here in America—the original land of religious liberty—will not allow other faith groups to do the same, then are we not also abrogating religious liberty? [Note to Sarah: "abrogate" is a real word which means to "abolish or treat as non-existent."]

My prayer is that the long tradition of real religious freedom in America will continue to be the standard for the world!

Rev. T Thomas
Coordinator, Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma

It's Time to Break our Addiction to Oil

Video at this link.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On Leland-Madison Park

The Star-Exponent in Culpepper, Virginia has published an essay about the meeting between John Leland and James Madison that was instrumental in securing the First Amendment to our Constitution.

A small park in Culpepper, Virginia commemorates the place where they met.

Here's a link to the Star-Exponent.

Here's a link to the letter that Leland sent Madison that led to the meeting.

For more information about John Leland click here and here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Invincible Paul Blair

A little more than a year ago I met Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, OK and founder of the Dominionist religio-political organization Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ. On that occassion Blair spoke about his good friend David Barton who he believed had evidence that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation."

I suggested that Blair do his own research on this issue and read the source documents himself. I gave him a copy of a newsletter that I published that gave him documentation and references that could help him know where to begin.

The newsletter provided the text of The Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Thomas Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance, Jefferson's Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, and the Treaty of Tripoli.

If the quotations recently attributed to him by the Oklahoma Gazette are correct, it is hard to find any evidence that Blair has bothered to do any research on his own. Apparently, he still thinks David Barton is a credible researcher.

I'm ordering a copy of Chris Rodda's Liars for Jesus for Blair. I know, I know, I know ... "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it."

I also know that those who assume the role of pastor should expect to be held to the highest standard of accuracy and veracity. "Study to show yourself approved" (2 Timothy 2:15).

Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History Vol. 1

On Crusading Dominionists

On my way to the airport in Atlanta yesterday, my son and I stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant next door to the Crusader's Church in Conyers, GA.

There's no doubt that this is a Dominionist Church with a congregation that has an agenda for world domination.

Then, as soon as my plane arrived in Oklahoma, I opened an e-mail with a link to this story about our own crusading Dominionists and theocrats in Oklahoma.

I am convinced that these folks are invincible.

Invincibly ignorant about both the teachings of Christ and about American history.

More later.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How Made Up Minds Threaten Democracy

The Boston Globe published an article on "How Facts Backfire" that describes the results of research that into why it is so hard to get people with false beliefs to change their minds. Described by some as the "I know I'm right syndrome," researchers are finding that correcting false beliefs with the facts can "backfire" by triggering a defense mechanism against "cognitive dissonance." This syndrome can be a threat to a democracy which depends on the decision-making abilities of a well-informed citizenry:
These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we're right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.
Most discouraging is research that suggests that education may not be a cure for this syndrome:
A 2006 study by Charles Taber and Milton Lodge at Stony Brook University showed that politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to new information than less sophisticated types. These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they're totally wrong. Taber and Lodge found this alarming, because engaged, sophisticated thinkers are "the very folks on whom democratic theory relies most heavily."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Texas Conservatives Preparing to Purge Liberal Professors

Anyone familiar with the tactics of the fundamentalists who took over the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980's will understand the import of an article in today's Dallas Morning News. The article reveals that conservatives are beginning to collect information that can be used to wage a propaganda war against liberal academics.

My advice to liberal academics in Texas is to operate under the assumption that students are being sent to record their lectures and conversations. Expect these students to report to Rovian political operatives who will use unguarded statements or will twist and distort factual statements to make life miserable for them.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Freedom in the New Testament

Larry Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at The University of Edinburgh, in an essay on "Freed by Love and for Love: Freedom in the New Testament" summarizes the relation between the biblical idea of freedom and modern ideas of political freedom:
As we have noted earlier, the NT does not teach about political liberation because the sorts of actions open today (especially political organization) were not available or even conceived then. But the strong affirmation and enhancement of personal moral agency in the NT are most compatible with social and political environments that make ample room for freedom of conscience and action. The agapē urged in the NT requires a real measure of personal freedom in order to be exercised authentically. It is not possible to render the love advocated in the NT under compulsion and coercion. So, e.g., freedom of religion and conscience, and freedom from intimidation and oppressive social relationships are essential for the cultivation of opportunities for true faith and loving freedom to be exercised.
Hurtado's essay could be a very helpful resource for preachers doing research for sermons on liberty and freedom. I wish I had found it before last Sunday's July 4th sermon. Most valuable are his insights regarding the relation of love (agape) and freedom:
In this NT emphasis upon agapē as the central responsibility that believers owe to others, we see the profoundly social dimension to NT freedom. There simply is no extended attention given to freedom as the exercise of power on ones own behalf and without having to consider others. The only freedom that we see advocated in the NT is one that requires others for it to be exercised. One cannot exhibit this distinctive freedom except in relationship to others.

The common form of Roman freedom likewise required others (especially slaves) in order for it to be to be exercised, indeed, even for it to be defined. But this kind of freedom was always at the expense of others, their labor and service enabling one to enjoy a freedom from labor and service. Moreover, as noted briefly already, in all the typical notions of freedom in the Roman era (and in our day as well), whether national, social/political, or inward-philosophical, to take account of others (other peoples/nations, groups, or persons), to allow one’s actions to be shaped by others, represents either a real or potential threat to one’s freedom, or, at best a necessary constraint upon one’s freedom (e.g., in the interests of social peace). In short, there is no positive role of others in this sort of idea of freedom, except perhaps, e.g., that one’s freedom from manual labor or other objectionable tasks required others to perform these tasks. One’s leisure was typically enabled directly by the labor of others, especially slaves.

In the NT, however, freedom is not to be exercised at the expense of others but with their interests and needs in mind. It is precisely the freedom to be "for others." That is, the freedom advocated in the NT requires others, not to relieve one from labor, but as objects of the love that comprises this freedom. This definition of freedom is, to my knowledge, unprecedented in the Roman world. Indeed, most people, then and now, for whom freedom consists in autarchy would likely not recognize as freedom what the NT advocates. This radically different view of freedom simply has to be faced seriously in considering what kind of contribution the NT might make to our concerns today. In any case, this idea of freedom-for-love/others is perhaps the most notable and distinctive feature of freedom in the NT.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

On the Separation of Powers and Prophecy

James Luther Adams (1901-1994), the distinguished Unitarian minister and theologian, wrote an essay on the "Theological Bases of Social Action" that provides a valuable insight into the nature of biblical prophecy:
The prophets were "political theologians" concerned with the destiny and the ethical significance of the state. They viewed the power of God (law) – as it operated through social and political institutions and in international relations – as an occasion for the expression of human freedom. . . .

The prophets could not have emerged had they not been able to appeal directly to the people. In this fact we may see implicit a principle of freedom that is indispensable for any Judeo-Christian theology of social action. The lines of political communication and activity were not held in monopoly by the monarchy. Unlike the "prophets" of surrounding countries, the Hebrew prophets were not an adjunct of the monarchy. . . . Within the social stratification of their society, they were able to be the spokesmen to and for the poor and oppressed. In their tradition there was a separation between charismatic and traditional authority, which left the way open for prophetic criticism. In other words, the freedom of the prophet presupposed a separation of powers that in a narrow way bears comparison to the modern ideal of freedom of the press. This separation of powers, which permitted the liberty of prophecy, was related to the fact that the covenant between God and the People was not through the monarch; the covenants between God and the People and between God and the royal house were parallel covenants, and both were subject to prophetic criticism. The divine kingship was limited by this separation of powers. The will of God could be discussed by the prophets without license from the government; it could even be expressed through the mouth of the prophet against the monarchy.
Adams' insights make it fairly easy to identify a major factor that led to the decline of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In 1990, when the architects of the SBC takeover movement fired the editors of Baptist Press and replaced them with "adjuncts" of their oligarchy, they extinguished the "separation of powers" that made it possible for prophets to "appeal directly to the people."  Baptists with a prophetic spirit left the Convention and began forming the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that same year.

Within the SBC an equivalent to a "free press" did not reappear until the advent of the blogosphere made it possible for a new generation of prophetic minded Southern Baptists like Wade Burleson to appeal directly to the people again.    Burleson's weblog, more than anything else, has been providing an exhortatory chronicle of the painfully slow demise of the authoritarian oligarchy that took over the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Francis Wayland: The First Baptist Ethicist

Francis Wayland (1796-1865), a Baptist minister who served as President of Brown University from 1827-1855, was the first Baptist ethicist and was America’s foremost ethicist during the pre-civil war era. His popular Elements of Moral Science, first published in 1835, sold more than 100,000 copies before the end of the 19th century and yet another reprint was issued as recently as April 2010.

D.H. Meyer in his 1972 book The Instructed Conscience suggested that Wayland offered the first serious attempt by an American intellectual to answer Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call for a public ethic to guide the “liberated conscience” of American society. Emerson was looking for “some kind of formal consensus on the fundamental principles of morality, agreement on the meaning of basic moral terms, and the formation of a reasonably coherent code of moral maxims.” Wayland’s book provided the basic form and common point of reference for a series of philosophically varied proposals with similar moral outcomes by American academic moralists and intellectuals. Chief among them were Mark Hopkins and Asa Mahan, both Congregationalists, Francis Bowen, a Unitarian, Archibald Alexander and James McCosh, both Presbyterians. Most of them were college Presidents like Wayland. Some of them were clergymen like Wayland. All of them were trying to provide a resource for the kind of moral leadership Americans felt the young nation needed. Most of their works were texts for senior level capstone courses that were expected to provide the highpoint and culmination of a good college education.

Wayland’s ethics were exhortative rather than analytical. Though he was concerned with the epistemology of morals and how to recognize a moral obligation, his primary concern was to instruct the conscience rather than to stimulate the intellect. The innovation in his method was to teach moral philosophy as a “science” related to religion but distinct from theology. That is why people of varied theological positions could find it appealing.

Modern ethicists would classify Wayland’s ethic as intuitionist and deontological, as opposed to teleological. His thinking was shaped primarily by the apologetic method of Joseph Butler, whose sermons on conscience comprise one of the highest achievements of rationalist Christian moralism, and Dugald Stewart, the most influential moralist of the Scottish “common sense” school of philosophy.

Contemporary ethical theory faces challenges that are both deeper and broader than those that Wayland faced. In relation to ethics, science no longer enjoys the confidence it did in his day. Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche and the results of very diverse and ever expanding fields of scientific research have made any kind of “formal consensus” on the principles of morality elusive for our day. Yet, the need for some such consensus is greater today than it was then.

The way forward does not lie in a revival of the methods of the past, but the concerns and aspirations of the past can provide an ideal and inspiration for the future. We need to renew a practical concern for the study and teaching of philosophical and theological ethics in our institutions of higher learning. While Logsdon and McAfee seminaries have been setting the pace among us in ethical instruction, some other moderate Baptist seminaries do not even require a basic course in ethics as a requirement for obtaining a degree. All of our colleges and seminaries need to resume their role as leaders in the teaching of ethics and they ought to be encouraging the brightest minds among us to take up the challenge of forming a cross-disciplinary consensus on ethics and morality. Baptists today are as capable of being trend setters in this area as were Baptists in the 19th century.

If the labors of our scholars are to bear fruit beyond the world of academia, then we will also have to cultivate other means for promoting conscience formation in our homes and churches. That is why it is vital to provide ongoing support for agencies like the Baptist Center for Ethics and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, for foundations like the T.B. Maston Foundation, and for publications like Christian Ethics Today .