Friday, April 20, 2007

Dysfunctional, Disenfranchised Desensitized, Demon Possessed or Just Depraved?
By David Krueger

Text: Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” KJV

Early this week a young, Cho Seung-Hui an Asian college student went on a killing rampage. It was America’s worst mass-murder spree – 30 students and 1 faculty member dead. By the evening of the shooting, talking heads on all the news outlets were already asking the question: “What turned the soul of this young man into poison?” The potential culprits will, I’m sure, be legion.

Some will attribute his rampage to a dysfunctional home. We don’t know much about his home life at this point, but you can bet “there was something wrong in the home” that would produce such a monster. While a dysfunctional home life may have contributed to his actions, a dysfunctional home does not answer the question: “What turned the soul of this young man into poison?”

Some will attribute his rampage to disenfranchisement by rich American white kids that he rails against in the rambling video he sent to NBC. Sorry, but disenfranchisement does not answer the question: “What turned the soul of this young man into poison?”

Some will attribute his rampage to the desensitizing affects of violence-filled TV shows, movies, music and video games, hate-filled websites and a toxic culture. While this may have contributed to his frame of mind, a violence-glorifying entertainment culture does not answer the question: “What turned the soul of this young man into poison?”

Some will attribute his rampage to out-right demon possession. For some in our society, Satan is the easiest way to resolve the issue. While I believe that Satan is the Prince of the Power of the Air, demon possession is unlikely and so does not answer the question: “What turned the soul of this young man into poison?”

The real answer to the question: “What turned the soul of this young man into poison?” is more chilling. He did what all people are capable of doing. He acted like he did because it was in his very nature to do so. He did what his fallen nature coerced him to do.

The Virginia Polytechnic massacre Reminds Us That Man’s Problem Is a Heart Problem.
Psalm 53:1-3 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” NIV
Ecclesiastes 9:3 “This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.” NIV

Why is the human heart in such appalling condition? Because of something called sin. Sin has affected every part of man’s personality. When the bible speaks of our heart it is not referring to the muscle that pumps our blood. When the bible speaks of our heart it is referring to the whole man, with all his attributes — physical, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual. It is the heart which makes a man what he is, and governs all his actions.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” NIV

When the Bible says that our hearts are full of evil and madness it means that our character, our personality, our will, and our mind are all affected by sin and reveal the true nature of the human character – it is depraved. Depravity is a doctrine we don’t like to talk about much these days. It’s a doctrine that teaches that, outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ, man has no moral compass or spiritual guidance. Man, by nature, is a fallen creature.

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” NIV. This is not just some verse we quote to lost people when we are sharing God’s plan of salvation with them. This verse reminds us of a fundamental flaw in human nature — we sin because we are sinners. And we are sinners by choice. And because we have sinned, we can never, ever measure up to God’s standard of holiness and righteousness on our own initiative. We are all born with a decided bias toward evil, and with an utter hatred of God.

Romans 8:7-8 “When people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, they are against God, because they refuse to obey God’s law and really are not even able to obey God’s law. Those people who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God.” NCV

Our spiritual depravity does not mean that every man is as sinful as he possibly could be. But our spiritual depravity means that every man is completely affected by sin.
• The Bible says that we are slaves to sin.
• The Bible says that no one seeks after God.
• The Bible says that we cannot understand spiritual truth.
• The Bible says that we are subject to God’s wrath.

Any person who knows the history of mankind, especially the history of the past one hundred years, and thinks that man is evolving upward, is deceiving themselves. Man has increased in scientific, medical, historical, educational, psychological, and technological knowledge to an astounding degree. But he has not changed his own basic nature and he has not improved society. Man’s knowledge has greatly improved, but his morals have progressively degenerated. The Bible says that man was created a little lower than the angels. One thing is clear today — he's been getting a little lower ever since.

Man is infected with the deadly virus of sin, which has no cure aprat from God. Some scientists have proposed that by surgery or careful electronic stimulation of the brain, a person’s bad impulses can be eradicated, leaving only the better part of his nature. Others propose that the ideal, crime-free, problem-free person will be developed through genetic engineering. But every part of every man is corrupt — he has no inherent good traits that can be isolated from the bad. Albert Einstine once said, Evil is the real problem in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.

Man’s Heart Is So Thoroughly Corrupt That Nothing Can Solve Our Problem Except a Heart Transplant

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” KJV. Our character is deceitful.

The word deceitful is the root word from which we get the Old Testament name Jacob. The Bible is saying that we’re all like Jacob in character. If you remember, Jacob was a schemer and a conniver who would do about anything to advance himself or his agenda. He was double-faced and double-tongued, tricking his brother and lying to his own father. Our character is desperately wicked. The word desperately in this verse literally mean incurable, Our character is not just desperately wicked, it is incurably wicked, Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Christians at Rome:

Romans 1:29-32 “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” KJV

Our character is unknowable. The prophet Jeremiah looks at the human heart and sees it as so wicked and so depraved that he wonders out loud, who can know it? Some men, who by all accounts are good men, will sometimes commit unthinkably horrible acts that leave the rest of us wondering, “How could they have done that?”

“What turned the soul of this young man into poison?” The answer is that his soul was dead. Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” KJV

What does it mean to be dead in trespasses and sins? It means that his lost nature was totally in control of his life. If all lost people are dead in trespasses and sin then why don’t all lost people commit the kind of evil acts that Cho Seung-Hui did? It’s a wonder that they don’t. It’s clear that when man feeds the darker side of his character, he becomes more prone to commit evil.

Dysfunctional families can feed man’s evil spirit.
Being disenfranchised in one’s school or culture can feed man’s evil spirit,
The desensitization that results from a culture saturated in violence can feed man’s evil spirit.
And the demonic forces that influence lost men to commit unspeakable acts cannot be underestimated.
But none of these in and of themselves reveal the reason why Cho Seung-Hui went on his rampage – only the Biblical doctrine of depravity gives us the real answer.

Finally, the Virginia Polytechnic Massacre Reminds Us That Tomorrow Has No Guarantees
James 4:13-15 “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” KJV

This is the fundamental reason why a commitment to Christ cannot be put off.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sad chapter in Missouri Baptist life ends
serves as reminder of how Baptists work

by David Krueger

A two-year saga came to an end on Tuesday of last week with the firing of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Executive Director, David Clippard. The April 10th, vote to dismiss was 44-7. Over the last two years, Dr. Clippard leadership style had become the focus of ever-increasing division between Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board members.

The process that led to Clippard’s dismissal began when Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church, Paris, presented a motion at the December 2006 board meeting calling for the formation of a committee to investigate the sources and veracity of allegations regarding leaders within the convention. Hammond’s motion passed 29-19, with three abstentions. The committee presented its report in a two-hour closed-door meeting to the MBC Executive Board at last week's meeting. The investigating committee made a finding of a “lack of confidence” in the continued leadership of David Clippard as MBC Executive Director and recommended the termination of his employments effective immediately.

Because the investigative committee’s report included some legally sensitive matters, the board appointed Michael Whitehead, MBC’s legal counsel, as spokesman for the MBC on the matter. Mr Whitehead has yet to release the report’s findings that led to David Clippard’s termination so I cannot comment with certainty at this time as to the specifics of the findings that led to his firing.

David Tolliver, one of the MBC’s associate directors, was elected to serve as interim Executive Director.

The events of recent days serve as a reminder of the importance of Baptist polity. Dr. Clippard’s termination reminds us that authority in Baptist life flows from the churches to the convention, not from the convention to the churches. In many denominations, such a termination would have been impossible.

Southern Baptist congregations are autonomous New Testament Churches. Their Head is none other than the Lord, Jesus Christ who guides His church through the Holy Spirit who indwells believers and guides them through the Scriptures which we believe are all-sufficient for faith and practice. As autonomous congregations, Baptist Churches make their own decisions about missions giving, ministerial calling and staffing, budgets, doctrinal positions, and their degree of cooperation with other churches and para-church organizations. There is no higher ecclesiastical authority in Baptist life than the local church. I think that denominational workers sometimes forget that.

Baptists, however, also believe in cooperation. We recognize that there are some missions that the local church cannot accomplish by itself and so most Southern Baptist churches voluntarily choose to cooperate on a number of levels. This includes local, state and national Baptist bodies. On the local level, we cooperate with other Baptist churches within our county or perhaps several surrounding counties. This is called the Association. As the name implies, this is a loose association of Baptist Churches cooperating together to do missions and ministry locally.

The next level of cooperation is the State Convention. In Missouri there are almost 2,000 Southern Baptist Churches with 600,000 members. We cooperate with these churches to accomplish missions and ministry on a state-wide level. This includes such institutions as two Baptist Colleges and the Missouri Baptist Children’s home as well as all of the ministries that the Executive Board staff is responsible for.

Finally, we cooperate on a national level through the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is composed of sum 45,000 congregations across the country. Through the cooperation of so many, the SBC is able to field one of the largest mission forces of any denomination in the world. Through our North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, over 10,000 Southern Baptist missionaries serve throughout the world.

Every level of Southern Baptist ministry is guided by the local church which sends Messengers to the annual meetings of the Association, State Convention, and National Convention. Even the use of the term “Messenger” carries with it the core concept of Baptist polity. These men and women who represent their local church bring “a message” from their congregation as to what they want to see the association or convention accomplish and how they are to accomplish it.

These messengers vote on budgets and other business that comes before these bodies. In between annual meetings, each level of Baptist ministry is guided by an executive committee – men and women, laymen and pastors – who are, again, approved by the messengers from local, autonomous Baptist congregations voting at annual meeting. These executive committees have the responsibility of overseeing the work of the association or convention between annual meetings. The employees of the association, the state convention, and the national convention take directions from the local church. All three of these Para-church entities exist to help the local church accomplish its mission.

The temptation at every level of Baptist life is assuming the local church exists so that some higher level of ecclesiastical authority can accomplish its mission, ministry or agenda. NO! NO! NO! We must zealously guard against and resist this kind of thinking in Baptist life. The local church does not exist to help some higher level of ecclesiastical authority can accomplish its mission, ministry or agenda. They exist to help the local church accomplish its mission, ministry and agendas as mandated by our Lord’s Great Commission. The paraphrase a banner that hung in then candadate Bill Clinton's campaign headquarters: "It's about the local church, stupid!"

As of right now, I do not know why our Executive Director was terminated. It is always a sad day in church life when something like this takes place. We need to pray for David Clippard and his family. At the same time, however, this chapter in Missouri Baptist life serves as a reminder that it is the local church, and those who represent us, who have the final say in all levels of Baptist life.

Think about it!