Mark 4:35-41

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 4

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Adela Yarbro Collins has recounted a fascinating example from history of a king attempting to exert authority over water.

               Herodotus tells how Xerxes had bridges built across the Hellespont from Asia to Europe. The distance was seven-eights of a mile. In the first attempt, he had the Phoenicians make a bridge of flaxen cables, the Egyptians one of papyrus. No sooner was the strait bridged than a great storm occurred and destroyed their work. Xerxes was very angry and commanded that the Hellespont be scourged with three hundred lashes…and a pair of fetters be thrown into the sea…He sent branders with the rest to brand the Hellespont…He charged them while they scourged to utter words, which were in Herodotus’s view, outlandish and presumptuous…: “You bitter water,” they should say, “our master thus punishes you, because you did him wrong although he had done no wrong to you. Yes, Xerxes the king will pass over…you, whether you wish it or not; it is but just that no man offers you sacrifice, for you are a turbid and a briny river.” Thus he commanded that the sea should be punished…and they who had been overseers…should be beheaded…[1]

There is something amusing about this to us. Throwing fetters into a body of water, whipping it, and rebuking it is the kind of thing that, in our minds, only a crazy man would do, for no man has authority over the waters and the waters are not animate objects over which authority could even be exerted. You might as well yell at a tree to stand up taller as yell at the ocean to be still.

In fact, in all of human history only one has rebuked the sea and it obeyed, and only one could. The miracle that Mark now recounts is a miracle with which many people are quite familiar. Even so, familiarity does not necessarily mean understanding. In fact, this miracle on the Sea of Galilee was about much more than getting the waters to calm down. It says something significant about Christ and His mission and it says something that we all need to hear for the living of our lives today.

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The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett, Jr., 1950-2015: An Announcement

ImageServerDB.asp_An Announcement

I am happy to be able to announce that Dr. James Leo Garrett, Jr. and I are now under contract with Wipf & Stock Publishers to publish an eight volume series of books entitled The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett, Jr., 1950-2015.  These volumes will appear one volume per year with the first volume appearing somewhere around the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.  The volumes will consist of various journal and magazine articles, lectures, book chapters, and privately published pieces by Dr. James Leo Garrett, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Theology Emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.  Some of the pieces have never before been published.  I am serving as the editor of the series.  I am profoundly grateful to Dr. Garrett (who is now living in Nacogdoches, Texas) for agreeing to allow me to work on this project and for the invaluable help and assistance he continues to offer throughout this process.

The volumes are as follows:

Vol. 1: Baptists, Part I [Foreword by Malcolm B. Yarnell, III]

Vol. 2: Baptists, Part II [Foreword by Dongsun Cho]

Vol. 3: Ecclesiology [Foreword by David S. Dockery]

Vol. 4: Theology, Part I [Foreword by Robert B. Stewart]

Vol. 5: Theology, Part II and 20th-Century Christian Leaders [Foreword by Paul A. Basden]

Vol. 6: Roman Catholic Church [Foreword by Steven R. Harmon]

Vol. 7: Church, State, and Religious Liberty [Foreword by William M. Pinson, Jr.]

Vol. 8: The Christian Life [Foreword by Peter L. Tie]

A Story

Like seemingly countless others, I was honored to be able to study systematic theology under Dr. Garrett while a student at Southwestern Seminary twenty years ago.  And, again, like seemingly countless others, I was immediately struck by the irenic nature, the encyclopedic knowledge, the careful and meticulous scholarship, and the pastoral focus of this dear brother in Christ.  Since graduating from Southwestern, I have remained in contact with Dr. Garrett.  I interviewed him for my site in the early 2000’s (here) then again for the Fall 2009 issue of The Founder’s Journal on the occasion of the publication of his Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (here).

Over the years, I have collected Dr. Garrett’s writings, turning to them often for help and guidance.  While collecting these pieces, I began to think about organizing them topically so that I could access them more easily in personal study.  At this point, I was thinking purely of my own library and my own desire to have Dr. Garrett’s writings available in some sort of organized way.

As I continued to gather some of his older and more obscure writings, it struck me that the Garrett corpus, while profoundly informative, substantive, and helpful, remains largely inaccessible except to those with access to university or seminary libraries or journal databases.  Then, at some point in 2014, I took note that Baylor University Press had begun publishing The Collected Works of James Wm. McClendon, Jr.  I suppose this was a kind of light bulb moment for me.  It occurred to me that the same could be done for Dr. Garrett’s writings.

My mindset at that time was that Dr. Garrett’s writings needed to be preserved and made readily available so that his former students and colleagues could have access to them in an attractive, uniform, and accessible set and also so that Dr. Garrett’s voice would not be lost on current and future generations.  This remains my mindset today.

I will admit to some degree of nervousness when last year I wrote to Dr. Garrett with the initial proposal.  I felt then (and now) unqualified to undertake the task, yet I felt a personal burden to do so.  I was overwhelmed by Dr. Garrett’s gracious and excited response.  Since that time, Dr. Garrett and I have exchanged an untold number of emails and phone calls concerning what this series of books needs to be.  Once the arrangement of the material was agreed upon, we were thrilled that Wipf & Stock agreed to publish the work.

One thing I have been struck by is the profoundly high regard in which Dr. Garrett is held by all who know him.  I was not surprised by this, but it has been a convicting testimony to me of the power of a good witness and a good name.  As I have contacted editors and publishers and authors and permission departments seeking to find materials and seeking to obtain permission to include this or that article or essay or chapter in these volumes, I have lost count of how many times the respondents have taken the time to share with me how influential Dr. Garrett has been on their lives personally.  I have shared this with Dr. Garrett who received it with customary humility.

There will be many people to thank in the acknowledgments once the books begin to appear, but I would like to thank the dedicated volunteers who have assisted and continue to assist me in typing the voluminous amounts of material so that I can  begin the editing process.  Many of us are long past the point of having numb fingers from typing, but we are more than compensated by being able to work through such fascinating material.  There are still countless pieces that need to be typed, but we have a good game plan now and a reasonable schedule.  I am excited to see the work take shape, step-by-step now, into an offering that I hope will be a blessing to many.

I am just now reaching the point where I can begin editing volume 1 in earnest.  I will be submitting the manuscript to Wipf and Stock the end of this year.  I believe that those who take the time to read these pieces will be as impressed as so many of us are with the qualities that have made Dr. Garrett so very revered in Southern Baptist circles and beyond.

Dr. Garrett is in his early 90’s now but is still one of the brightest minds you’re likely to encounter.  He will soon be delivering a series of talks on Baptist distinctives to a group of young people. He is working on that material now with the same precision and care for which he and his scholarship are so well known.  He continues to amaze and to inspire and I do very much hope that in some small way these volumes will be seen by him as a “Thank you!” from the many students whose lives have been enriched through his storied legacy and ministry.

1 John 1:1-4

1john_title1 John 1

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

I would like to begin by sharing three book titles.

  • Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty: Finding Beauty in Mystery, Reclaiming Truth From the Myth of Certainty
  • The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & The Risk of Commitment
  • The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs

My point is not to comment on the contents of these books, but rather on what their titles suggest about the current religious mood with Evangelicalism. Regardless of the actual arguments of these books, the hook of these titles is clearly the instinctive revulsion to dogmatism that many Christians feel today. By “dogmatism” I am referring to a kind of mindless belief that accepts something as true just because an authority figure says it’s true.

But I wonder if these titles do not point something more subtle and more pernicious, namely a growing sense among modern people that there really is something distasteful about the concept of certainty itself, whether it be dogmatic or not. I wonder if we are entering an age in which not only mindless acquiescence is condemned but also quiet confidence as well? In other words, I wonder if any and all certainty is now being viewed as so much arrogance by those who profess to have it.

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Mark 4:26-34

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 4

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

One of my favorite Christian musicians is Andrew Peterson. I think he is oftentimes quite profound both musically and lyrically. One song that he wrote never fails to affect me. It is entitled, “Mountains on the Ocean Floor.” It is an interesting song and it catches you off guard, especially the beginning of it.

My uncle’s in the county jail

His time is on his hands

He knows he chose a barren cell

Over a fair and fertile land

He took another hit

He hit another high

He flew until he fell

Just like he has a thousand times

Nothing ever seems to change

But miles away beneath the waves

There are mountains

Mountains on the ocean floor

They’re rising from the deep

But no one ever sees

No one ever sees

I can’t believe I landed there

I swear I swore it off

I know that I can’t stand it here

Still I came and took a fall

I wish that I could shake it

I wish that I was free

I wish that I was half the man

I wish that I could be

There are mountains

Mountains on the ocean floor

They’re moving up so slow

No one ever knows

No one ever knows

Nothing ever seems to change

But miles away beneath the waves

Down below the dirt

Hotter than a flame

In the belly of the earth

He has given you a Name

There are mountains

Mountains on the ocean floor

They’re rising from the deep

Where no one ever sees

There are mountains

They’re hidden there beneath the waves

They’re moving up so slow

No one ever knows

There’s a molten heart of stone

That is waiting to explode

Only God can see it grow

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Job 34-35

job-berkJob 34

1 Then Elihu answered and said: “Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know;for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food.Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.For Job has said, ‘I am in the right, and God has taken away my right;in spite of my right I am counted a liar; my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’What man is like Job, who drinks up scoffing like water,who travels in company with evildoers and walks with wicked men?For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.’ 10 “Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong. 11 For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him. 12 Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. 13 Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? 14 If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, 15 all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. 16 “If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say. 17 Shall one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty, 18 who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’ and to nobles, ‘Wicked man,’ 19 who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? 20 In a moment they die; at midnight the people are shaken and pass away, and the mighty are taken away by no human hand. 21 “For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. 22 There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves. 23 For God has no need to consider a man further, that he should go before God in judgment. 24 He shatters the mighty without investigation and sets others in their place. 25 Thus, knowing their works, he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed. 26 He strikes them for their wickedness in a place for all to see, 27 because they turned aside from following him and had no regard for any of his ways, 28 so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him, and he heard the cry of the afflicted— 29 When he is quiet, who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man?— 30 that a godless man should not reign, that he should not ensnare the people. 31 “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more; 32 teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’? 33 Will he then make repayment to suit you, because you reject it? For you must choose, and not I; therefore declare what you know. 34 Men of understanding will say to me, and the wise man who hears me will say: 35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge; his words are without insight.’ 36 Would that Job were tried to the end, because he answers like wicked men. 37 For he adds rebellion to his sin; he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”

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Job 32-33

elihu1Job 32

1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. 3 He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger. 6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. 10 Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’ 11 “Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. 12 I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words. 13 Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a man.’ 14 He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches. 15 “They are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say. 16 And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more? 17 I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. 18 For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. 19 Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. 20 I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. 21 I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. 22 For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.

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Philemon 17-25


17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

In 2006 I received the following email from Journey Films.

A week ago we sent an e-mail alert about our interview with Fr. Lyndon Harris, an Episcopal priest who is promoting the development of a Garden of Forgiveness at Ground Zero. We also offered an opinion poll asking “Would you support a Garden of Forgiveness at Ground Zero? The result was an overwhelming “NO.”

With more than 2,500 votes cast the vote was 98% against the building of a Garden of Forgiveness and only 2% in favor. We should also note that many of the people on the Journey Films’ mailing list include seminarians, church and synagogue leadership and people who have supported our nearly two dozen films on subjects of faith and spirituality.

“After I interviewed Father Harris about his proposed garden I went down to the Ground Zero site and spoke with many people on the street about their sentiments for a Garden of Forgiveness,” says filmmaker Martin Doblmeier. “My impression was people were almost evenly divided, so our own poll results were quite surprising. What has become clear in the making of a film on forgiveness is that the word “forgiveness” itself raises so many raw emotions in people. Many Americans, no matter what their mind tells them they should do, are simply not ready in their hearts to walk a path of forgiveness until some justice has been realized. Forgiveness always takes time, and in the case of 9/11 it may take a very long time.”[1]

Forgiveness is a hard thing to offer, especially in the face of some egregious act of cruelty like what happened on 9/11. It should be said, though, that most human beings see any mere slight as an egregious act of cruelty and so are loathe to offer forgiveness even in the small things.

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Mark 4:21-25

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 4

21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Os Guinness tells a fascinating story about Nasreddin Hodja.

One of the most celebrated personalities of the Middle East is Nasreddin Hodja, the endearing holy-man-cum-scholar of Turkish folklore. His famed wisdom is often threatened by his equally famed stupidity. One day, so a particular story goes, the Hodja dropped his ring inside his house. Not finding it there, he went outside and began to look around the doorway. His neighbor passed and asked him what he was looking for.

“I have lost my ring,” said the Hodja.

“Where did you lose it?” asked the neighbor.

“In my bedroom,” said the Hodja.

“Then why are you looking for it out here?”

“There’s more light out here,” the Hodja said.[1]

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An Interview with Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins on Baptists in America


Dr. Thomas Kidd and Dr. Barry Hankins were kind enough to field a few questions I threw their way arising from their excellent book, Baptists in America.  I do greatly appreciate their willingness to do so!  For other interviews I’ve conducted over the years, go here.


Drs. Hankins and Kidd, I would like to thank you for writing Baptists in America. It was very well done and very helpful. I could not help but wonder while reading your chronicle of the many divisions within the Baptist family over the years whether or not detractors of the Reformation might not point to Baptists in particular as evidence for the claim that the only thing we accomplish in ridding ourselves of a single pope is making every person their own pope? Does the Baptist experience validate warnings from detractors about unending schisms among those who detach themselves from something like a magisterium?

Kidd: I don’t think Baptists have the market cornered on theological schism, but they’ve been awfully good at it! Of course, we have to begin any such discussion with whether God intended to establish a magisterium. If He did, then we’d better get in line with it. If not, then He must have anticipated that believers would occasionally have a hard time agreeing about what the Bible teaches about issues such as church governance, baptism, and other important matters. I adhere to the latter view.

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Job 31

job-berkJob 31

1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high?Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity?Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?“If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit;(Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!)if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands,then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out.“If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door, 10 then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her. 11 For that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges; 12 for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase. 13 “If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me, 14 what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? 15 Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb? 16 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17 or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it 18 (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), 19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, 20 if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, 22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. 23 For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty. 24 “If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence, 25 if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant or because my hand had found much, 26 if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, 27 and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand, 28 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I would have been false to God above. 29 “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him 30 (I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse), 31 if the men of my tent have not said, ‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’ 32 (the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler), 33 if I have concealed my transgressions as others do by hiding my iniquity in my heart, 34 because I stood in great fear of the multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors— 35 Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary! 36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me as a crown; 37 I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him. 38 “If my land has cried out against me and its furrows have wept together, 39 if I have eaten its yield without payment and made its owners breathe their last, 40 let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley.” The words of Job are ended.

In David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, McCullough recounts Theodore Roosevelt’s rather tortured attempt to defend the American taking of Panama from Colombia.

Attorney General Knox, having been asked by Roosevelt to construct a defense, is said to have remarked, “Oh, Mr. President, do not let so great an achievement suffer from any taint of legality.” At another point, during a Cabinet meeting, Roosevelt talked of the bitter denunciations in the press, then entered into a long, formal statement of his position. When he had finished, the story goes, he looked about the table, finally fixing his eye on Elihu Root. “Well,” he demanded, “have I answered the charges? Have I defended myself?” “You certainly have, Mr. President,” replied Root, who was known for his wit. “You have shown that you were accused of seduction and you have conclusively proved that you were guilty of rape.”[1]

Root’s response to Roosevelt is as witty as it is jarring. I suppose it is jarring not only because of the loaded and shocking terminology he used but also because of the way that he put his finger on something that is germane to the human condition: all of our protests of innocence tend to make our guilt clearer and clearer.

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