Would You Have Billy Graham for a Pastor?

Imagine that a pulpit committee at your church is interviewing a potential pastor.  They ask him the following question: 

“Do you think that pagan people who have never heard the gospel will go to Heaven when they die?” 

He responds as follows: 

“I used to believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them.. I no longer believe that.” 

Would your church hire that man as its pastor?  If your answer is “no” then your church wouldn’t have hired Billy Graham to be its pastor. 

Imagine that the pastor of your local church is being interviewed on a television program?  The host asks him the following question: 

Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

He responds as follows: 

“Well, Christianity and being a true believer — you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ … I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”  

Would your church fire its pastor if he answered like that?  If your answer is “yes” then your church would have fired Billy Graham as its pastor. 

Your answers to those two questions say a lot about your church and a lot about Billy Graham.  My answers to those questions tell me that the dearly beloved evangelist who was often called “America’s pastor” wasn’t fit to be the pastor of my local Baptist church.  The fact of the matter is that countries don’t have pastors, churches do.  Chances are that you’ve never been to or heard of the little Bartow County church of which I am a member.  The chances are that I’ve never been to or heard of your church…but your church has a pastor and so does mine.  My pastor’s name is Joe. He believes the gospel and he proclaims it every Sunday (and through the rest of the week, too).  Not only does he proclaim the gospel but he is the in care of souls who have accepted it.  So is your pastor. 

With all the talk surrounding the death of Billy Graham, I had to ask myself the question, “If Joe said what Billy said, would he still be qualified to be the pastor of Rowland Springs Baptist Church?” The answer to that question is, “no”.  Quite frankly, if Joe said that, I’d call for our church body to fire him.  You should ask yourself the same question and insert the name of your own pastor and your own church. 

American doesn’t have a pastor and it never has…but your local church does and his theology matters.  Be careful not to lionize any celebrity reverend, even Billy Graham, whose understanding of knowledge of Christ is so errant that he wouldn’t be fit to lead even the smallest New Testament Church.  American doesn’t need a pastor, but your church does.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use. 


Billy Graham: A Life of Evangelism Ends at 99

One of the world’s most well-known evangelists, Billy Graham died today at the age of 99. He was so prominent and well known as an evangelist and servant of Christ Jesus that it seems superfluous to try to describe his notoriety by listing his accomplishments or citing facts about his life. Perhaps the best way to illustrate who Billy Graham is and just what his life has been about is an oft-told joke:

Billy Graham was returning to Charlotte after a speaking engagement. When his plane arrived there was a limousine there to transport him to his home in Montreat. As he prepared to get into the limo, he stopped and spoke to the driver.

“You know” he said, “I am 87 years old, and I have never driven a limousine. Would you mind if I drove it for a while?”

The driver said, “No problem. Have at it.”

So Rev. Graham gets into the driver’s seat and they head off down the highway. A short distance away sat a rookie State Trooper operating his first speed trap. The long black limo speeds past him doing 70 in a 55 mph zone. The trooper turns on his siren and sets off after the limo. After pulling it over, he walks to the driver’s door to begin the procedure. However, when the tinted glass is rolled down, he is shocked to see who is a the wheel. The young trooper immediately excuses himself and returns to his patrol car to radio his supervisor.

“I know we are supposed to enforce the law,” he tells his supervisor, “but I also know that important people are sometimes given certain courtesies. I need to know what I should do because I have stopped a very important person.”

“Is it the governor?” the supervisor asks.

“No, he’s more important than that,” The trooper says.

“Oh, so it’s the president?” the supervisor says.

“No, he’s even more important than that.”

The supervisor finally asks, “Well, then, who is it?”

“I think it’s Jesus,” the trooper says, “because he’s got Billy Graham for a chauffeur!”[1]

Insert the name of another widely recognized preacher like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren or Joseph Prince, and the joke might lose some of its effectiveness. Some people might not even get it.

The punch line of the joke makes sense and draws a laugh because of what people know about Billy Graham; he’s not a preacher, he’s the preacher. During his career, Graham has influenced millions of people throughout America and the wider world. He is the most distinguished preacher America has ever seen. That’s why, if one wants to send him a letter, he need only address it to, “Billy Graham, America.”[2] With Graham’s death there is a vacuum in American evangelicalism that will likely be filled with some combination of politically-minded ecumenism, numbers-focused decisionism, and sound biblical evangelism.


Billy Graham was born to a Presbyterian family on November 7, 1918, in a rural area adjacent to Charlotte, North Carolina. Ironically the most famed Southern Baptist preacher in the denomination’s history and the most influential evangelist of the 20th century was infant-“baptized” into a Presbyterian church as a child. While his denominational choice and evangelical zeal might seem surprising, given his origins, his virtuous lifestyle does not. In his autobiography, “Just as I Am,” Billy Graham presents himself the benefactor of a salt of the earth upbringing. His parents lived very conservative lives, taught him the importance of hard work, and stressed dependence on God. Perhaps the most memorable lesson taught to Graham by his parents was the most unorthodox. When Graham was 15, his father, a prohibition-era teetotaler, brought home a substantial amount of beer and forced Billy and his sister, Catherine, to drink all of it. The beer made the teenage Graham so sick that he developed a lifelong distaste for drinking alcohol. Unlike his grandfather, William Crook Graham, Billy Graham would not grow up to be a “hard drinking”[3] alcoholic. He would instead become America’s most famous preacher.

Graham’s first public-speaking experience was not in a church pulpit but a school program in which the 12-year old portrayed Uncle Sam. The school’s principal, Mrs. Boylston, recognized his oratory gift, but Graham did not enjoy the experience and promised himself he would never become a public speaker. At that time, Graham had not yet made the decision to become a Christian (although he was active in a church). Four years later, at a revival meeting led by a Baptist evangelist named Mordecai Ham, Graham made that decision — the same decision many thousands of attendees of his own revivals have made over the years. From that time on, Graham’s interest and dedication to his faith grew.

Still, even as he became more interested in and dedicated to his faith, Graham did not yet feel called to preach. In fact, when called on to speak about his faith publically for the first time, his nervously-presented testimony fell on the seemingly deaf ears of a group of North Carolina prison inmates. Graham was convinced that he’d never become a preacher. However, his conviction did not stop him from noting in his senior class yearbook that his “goal was to become a minister of the gospel.”[4] After completing high school, Graham took a step toward a career in ministry by choosing to attend Bob Jones College, a notable Christian institution of higher education.

Principal Boylston would not be the only educator who recognized Billy Graham’s gift for public speaking. Bob Jones Sr., the namesake, and founder of Bob Jones College told Graham, “You have a voice that pulls. God can use that voice of yours. He can use it mightily.”[5] Graham, however, was considering leaving the school because of its strict code of behavior and stifling theological environment. In reference to that consideration, Jones was less supportive. “At best,” he told the academically embattled student, “all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks.” Graham did leave Bob Jones University, but he did not give up on a theological education. He transferred to Florida Bible Institute, where he would receive a Diploma in Biblical studies. He would go on to receive a B.A. in Anthropology from the Wheaton College. With his academic credentials in the study of God’s word and the study of God’s sixth-day creation (humans), Graham began a career in the ministry.


Bob Jones Sr. predicted Billy Graham would amount to nothing more than an ignominious rural preacher; he was wrong about that. During the course of his ministry, Graham has presented his gospel message to millions of people throughout the world. According to one newspaper, Graham “has preached the gospel to more people around the globe than anyone in history, and has been a friend and confidante to the pope, the queen, prime ministers and every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower.”[6] According to Billy Graham’s staff, “as of 1993 more than 2.5 million people had stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior”[7] So Jones, to his credit, was at least dead-on in his observation about the “pull” of Graham’s voice; that voice is one of the most widely recognized voices in the United States, and it has performed God’s work with historic pull.

In fact, it was by his voice that Graham first became widely known outside of a local congregation. He launched a radio program called “Songs in the Night” with the support of one of his earlier congregations. From there, Graham moved on to become the president of Northwestern College. Graham served at the college until he was 34 years old; he applied for the commission as an armed forces chaplain but was sidelined by the mumps. After recuperating from the illness Graham took a job with Youth for Christ International, as a traveling evangelist. The job of traveling evangelist seemed to be the best fit for Graham. He is, after all, most famous for evangelistic crusades that have filled stadiums all over the world.

It was during one of Graham’s earliest crusades that publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst took note of the pastor. Both Graham and Hearst were virulent anti-communists. Although the two had never met, Hearst took a liking to Graham and ordered that Hearst-owned newspapers “puff Graham”.[8] Puff him they did. By the end of 1954, Graham’s crusades had become an overwhelming success and Graham himself had been placed on the cover of Time magazine. Attempting to denigrate Graham, a fellow evangelist accused him of “setting religion back a hundred years.” To which Graham responded, “I did indeed want to set religion back, not just 100 years but 1,900 years, to the Book of Acts, when first-century followers of Christ were accused of turning the Roman Empire upside down.”[9] For the next half-century, Graham tried to do just that. He even preached his gospel message behind the iron curtain of communism, where scores of crusade attendees came forward night after night to make a decision for Christ. Graham’s evangelistic influence was so widespread and long-lasting that President Bill Clinton stated in 1996, “I hardly ever go anywhere as President that Billy Graham hasn’t been there first ‑ preaching.”[10]


History is clear that Billy Graham has made a significant impact on people from all walks of life throughout America and the world. Graham himself takes no credit for this impact. In his 1997 autobiography he wrote, “Most of all, if anything has been accomplished through my life, it has been solely God’s doing, not mine, and He ‑ not I ‑ must get the credit.”[11] Graham’s statement seems to agree with the results of a 1978 poll conducted by Ladies Home Journal that declared God the winner of the category “Achievements in Religion” … Graham came in second. A similar magazine, Good Housekeeping, named Graham “the most Admired Man in America” three years in a row.[12] It was not just housewives who Graham impressed. The 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, referred to Graham as “America’s Pastor.”[13]

George W. Bush is not unique in being a president inspired or influenced by Graham. As of April 25, 2010, when he met with Barack Obama, he has been a spiritual adviser to twelve United States presidents going back to Harry S. Truman.[14] Not all of his meetings with presidents have been meaningful or even amicable. Harry Truman was a notable critic of Graham, holding the opinion that Graham was out for attention for himself by meeting with a president. Graham’s most recent meeting presidential meeting, with Barak Obama, was a brief “private prayer.”[15] While it’s clear that many of his presidential associations have been cursory, it’s important to note that others have been significant. The cover of the book “Billy Graham, a Tribute from Friends” lists the names of four U.S. presidents who contributed to the publication. The book also lists the names of several high-profile religious leaders.

A roll of Graham’s high-profile friends and associates or an exhaustive list of the awards and accolades he has collected does not really measure his influence on the world. While it’s accurate that “no Christian minister has been more influential in global politics, economics, and faith during the twentieth century,”[16] Graham’s true influence is the immeasurable impact made upon the world by each individual to whom Graham has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ over the years. It’s certainly fair to assume that a sizeable portion of the people who have come forward at his events to make a decision for Christ has abandoned any further lifestyle change after leaving the emotional atmosphere created by Graham and his ministry staff; however, it’s just as fair to assume that thousands of others have dedicated their lives to living a Christian lifestyle. After his own conversion experience at an evangelistic revival, Graham described having undergone a change in attitude that included a desire to be deliberately kind and courteous to those around him.[17] A similar change in attitude for thousands of everyday citizens who, inspired by Graham’s preaching, underwent a conversion experience arguably changed the world in a more profound way than did Graham’s influence world leaders and magazine reporters. To an evangelist such as Graham, success is not measured by awards and associations; it is measured by influencing the destination of souls in this age and in the “age to come” [18] spoken of in the book of Matthew.


Positive criticisms of Billy Graham’s life and career are too numerous to mention, and, as is the case with many high-profile individuals, negative criticisms are numerous as well. Perhaps the most notable of these criticisms surround Graham’s seemingly anti-Semitic remarks that he made to then-President Richard M. Nixon while the two conversed at the White House. After stating that Jews had a “stranglehold” on the American media Graham went on to state (to an agreeable Nixon), “A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth, but they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.”[19] When asked about his taped comments some thirty years later, Graham provided an apology that would seem less than believable coming from another man. Graham claimed that his “apparent” comments (which were recorded on tape) did not reflect his views. Publically, Graham has always seemed to favor ecumenism, and even encouraged and convinced Nixon to include rabbis among the clergy that were invited to the president’s inauguration ceremony.

Graham cited the lack of an ecumenical viewpoint at Bob Jones College as one of the reasons he left the school to study at the Florida Bible Institute. He was an outspoken admirer of Pope John Paul II. It could be argued that his ecumenical outlook has led to more criticism of Graham than any of his anti-Semitic comments or his close association with a disgraced president such as Richard Nixon. Reports of Jewish and Catholic individuals coming forward to accept Christ at a Billy Graham event only to be referred back to local Jewish and Catholic clergy for religious council have brought Graham staunch criticisms from other evangelicals.

Even more disturbing to these evangelicals are comments Graham made in a 1997 interview concerning universal salvation. Graham stated:

“Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there’s the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have, and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.”[20]

Graham was criticized for similar comments he made on the “Larry King Live” television show.[21] Graham has also caught flack for stating in Time magazine that he doesn’t believe that Hell is a place of literal fire. “The only thing I could say for sure is that hell means separation from God,” he said. “We are separated from his light, from his fellowship. That is going to be hell. When it comes to a literal fire, I don’t preach it because I’m not sure about it. When the Scripture uses fire concerning hell, that is possibly an illustration of how terrible it’s going to be ‑ not fire but something worse, a thirst for God that cannot be quenched.”[22]

Comments such as these seem to be made in direct contradiction to those made by Graham from his pulpit many times over his long career. It can be argued that this pattern suggests Graham has become less fundamental with age. Evangelical critics might compare Graham to King Solomon, the great and wise king of the Old Testament who fell away from sound religious practice in old age. Other critics could label Graham a “religious politician,” someone whose methods and message change with the times; presenting himself as a fundamental bible-thumper in the mid-twentieth century when such an image was laudable and presenting himself as a middle-of-the-road inclusivist as time passed and society’s attitude toward fire-and-brimstone, one-road-to-heaven preaching changed. With so many contradicting public statements and positions over the years, one can only be left to wonder which side of the fence that separates fundamentally sound evangelical Christian doctrine and wide ecumenical acceptance Graham truly sits.


Although Billy Graham has been inactive for years due to illness and old age, his gospel machine soldiers on. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) — founded by Graham and currently led by his son, Franklin— spreads the gospel message throughout the world via radio, television, printed publications and events. Franklin’s son Will, the third generation of the Graham family to dedicate his career to evangelism, is also a BGEA evangelist. The BEGA recently marked the 60th anniversary of its “Hour of Decision” Radio program. Longtime Billy Graham associate Cliff Barrows was still the host as of 2010.

As noted previously, many people have criticized Graham for his theological stances or political involvement. However, criticism of his personal character regarding fidelity to his wife of sixty-four years (Ruth, deceased since 2007) or the handling of money donated to his evangelistic association has been virtually non-existent. This is no accident. Graham and his associates took great pains never to appear to act in an inappropriate manner, even adopting a formal policy called the “Modesto Manifesto”[23] that was designed to avoid certain pitfalls that were common problems for evangelists. Graham’s life, however, shouldn’t be looked at as the product of some calculated manifesto, but just the opposite. Billy Graham has lived a life of personal piety and morality … and it shows. Graham will likely go down in history as one of the greatest religious leaders of his time.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said of defenders of England during the Battle of Britain, “… if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”[24] Similarly, some hundreds of years from now, a seminary professor might say to his class, “The kingdom of God will last forever, and Billy Graham will go down as one of its finest members.” That, or he could tell the joke about Graham being Jesus’ limo driver. The message is the same.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.


Aikman, David. Great Souls: Six Who Changed a Century. 2003.

Baker, Peter. “Obama Visits the Rev. Billy Graham.” The New York Times. April 25 25, 2010. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/obama-visits-the-rev-billy-graham/. (accessed November 13, 2010).

BBC. Graham Regrets Jewish Slur. March 2, 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1850077.stm (accessed 2010 14, November).

“Billy Graham.” Wikipedia. Novmber 13, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Billy_Graham&oldid=396527504 (accessed November 13, 2010).

Billy Graham as Chauffeur. http://www.danggoodjokes.com/chauffeur/ (accessed October 30th Saturday, 2010).

BILLY GRAHAM Soft Water Down Answer . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx29MRL4L6c (accessed November 10, 2010).

Bruns, Roger. Billy Graham: a biography. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

Burns, Cathy. Agenda?, Billy Graham and His Friends: A Hidden. Sharing, 2001.

Drummond, Lewis A. The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham. Thomas Nelson, 2001.

Graham, Billy. Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham. HarperOne, 2007.

Hand, Gary. Billy Graham. http://www.ondoctrine.com/10grahab.htm (accessed November 15, 2010).

Hortsman, Barry M. “”BILLY GRAHAM: A MAN WITH A MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.” Cincinnati Post, June 27, 2002.

Jordan, Larry. Midwest Today: A Conversation with Billy Graham. January 1997. http://www.midtod.com/9612/billygraham.phtml (accessed November 15, 2010).

King, Randall E. “When worlds collide: politics, religion, and media at the 1970 East Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade. (appearance by President Richard M. Nixon).” Journal of Church and State, March 22, 1997.

Long, Michael G. The Legacy of Billy Graham: Critical Reflections on America’s Greatest Evangelist. Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 2008.

Matthew 12:32 – Passage Lookup – New International Version – BibleGateway.com:. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2012&version=NIV (accessed November 14, 2010).

news, BGEA. Hour of Decision Turns 60. November 10, 2010. http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=7494 (accessed November 15, 2010).

Ostling, Richar N. & Billy Graham. Of Angels, Devils and Messages From God. November 15, 1993. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979587,00.html (accessed November 15, 2010).

The 2010 TIME 100 – Billy Graham. June 14 14, 1999. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1972075_1972078_1972196,00.html (accessed November 13, 2010).

Wacker, Grant A. “The Billy Pulpitt: Graham’s Career in the Mainline.” The Christian Century, 2003 15, November.

Wikiquote. Winston Churchill. November 15, 2010. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill (accessed November 15, 2010).

[1] (Billy Graham as Chauffeur n.d.)

[2] (Wacker November)

[3] (Graham 2007)

[4] (Bruns 2004)

[5] (Wacker November)

[6] (Hortsman 2002)

[7] (Wacker November)

[8] (King 1997)

[9] (Drummond 2001)

[10] (Jordan 1997)

[11] (Graham 2007)

[12] (Aikman 2003)

[13] (Aikman 2003)

[14] (Billy Graham 2010)

[15] (Baker 2010)

[16] (Long 2008)

[17] (Graham 2007)

[18] (Matthew 12:32 – Passage Lookup – New International Version – BibleGateway.com: n.d.)

[19] (BBC 2002)

[20] (Hand n.d.)

[21] (BILLY GRAHAM Soft Water Down Answer n.d.)

[22] (Ostling 1993)

[23] (Graham 2007)

[24] (Wikiquote 2010)

A Baptist Bama Fan Considers Tua Tagovailoa’s Tongues

It was either late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. I do not remember which. I was more focused on the situation than the time. I found myself sitting on the couch in my basement in fervent prayer. I was praying, by name, for Andy Pappanostas and JK Scott. I did not know the name of their long snapper but I was praying for him, too. The Alabama Crimson Tide had possession of the football in Georgia Bulldog territory as the final seconds of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game were ticking away. The game was tied and all Alabama needed to complete an improbable comeback and win a fifth national championship in nine years was for the long snapper to make a good snap, JK Scott to make a clean hold, and Andy Pappanostos to make a straight ahead 36-yard field goal. Such a kick was well within the range of almost every college place kicker, including Andy Pappanostas. Pappanostas choked. He missed the kick wide left as time expired. It wasn’t even close. Despite my prayers for Andy Pappanostas, Alabama and Georgia went to overtime.

After this miss, I thought for sure Alabama was going to lose, given that UGA’s kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship, has ice-water in his veins and is one of the best kicker’s in the country. Yet, Alabama did not lose. After Blankenship made a clutch 51-yard field goal in overtime to put the Dawgs ahead, Tua Tagovailoa retook the field. Tagovailoa, the Tide’s true freshman backup quarterback, had come into the the game at halftime to replace an ineffective Jalen Hurts. Down by 13 points, Tagovailoa, after not having taken a meaningful in-game snap all season and being plunged into the pressure-cooker of the biggest arena in college football, had already led the Tide to what is being hailed as a “miracle comeback.” On Alabama’s first offensive snap of overtime, no one was open. Tagovailoa should have thrown the ball away but instead he tried to scramble away from pressure and ended up taking a 16-yard sack. It was second down and a mile. A first down seemed improbable. Even if Alabama got some yards back on the ensuing plays, Pappanostas could not be depended upon to make a kick to tie the game. The Tide, it seemed, was doomed. On the Tide’s next play, Tagovailoa became an Alabama football legend. On a play called “Seattle,” the young quarterback looked off Georgia’s safety Dominick Sanders, turned his head quickly to the left, and then threw a perfect dart to a streaking freshman receiver named DeVonta Smith. Having blown by Georgia cornerback Malkom Parrish, Smith was wide open. He caught Tagovailoa’s pass in stride and scored a game-winning touchdown.

For a moment I sat in stunned silence, in near-disbelief of what I just witnessed and waiting to see if there was a flag on the play. There wasn’t and what I saw really happened. I burst out of my basement door, barefoot and running as fast as I could into the street, screaming “Praise Jesus, Praise Jesus, Praise Jesus, Roll Tide! Roll Tide!” into the cool night air. I do not know how many of my neighbors I woke up. I don’t usually get that excited. I’m pretty sure God isn’t overly concerned with who wins football games…but I sure am. I am a lifelong, die-hard Alabama fan. A psychologist recently analyzed me. Her report read, “Mr. Dunn exhibited some unusually excessive interest in specific topics (e.g. Alabama football)…” I love the Tide. I even pray for them to do well. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one praying during the game. Tua Tagovailoa was praying, too.

Tua Tagovailoa arrived in Tuscaloosa as highly touted recruit from Hawaii, an elite high school quarterback. He chose the University of Alabama from among a number of other big time schools who had offered him a scholarship to play football. Though Tagovailoa saw limited playing time during the seasons, there were two things every Alabama fan knew about him when he took the field in the 2nd half: (1) he can really sling the football and (2) he is very religious. He paints his eye black into the shape of the cross. He’s been called the “Tim Tebow of Hawaii.” When he came to campus for recruiting visits; he attended church with Nick Saban. The religiosity of Saban and the state of Alabama as a whole influenced his decision to come and play for the Crimson Tide. When interviewed immediately after the end of game on ESPN, Tua Tagovailoa didn’t pass up a chance to publicly praise God:

“First and foremost, I’d just like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With him, all things are possible. That’s what happened tonight.”

Christian media outlets jumped at the chance to highlight the fact that a prominent football star was giving God all the credit in his big moment. For example, the Christian Index ran a story entitled “Two Freshman Quarterbacks Giving Credit Where Credit is Due.” Index staff writer Scott Barkely wrote:

In the hours after last night’s National Championship game, we saw examples from two quarterbacks who far exceed the title of “freshman.” Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa …thanked Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior. It’s nothing new for athletes to credit God after a big win. But let’s be honest, sometimes those shout-outs seem less-than-genuine when stories creep out regarding their personal lives. And given the platform athletes receive, a genuine witness becomes even more important… (Georgia Quarterback Jake Fromm’s) family has strong faith roots at Southside Baptist in Warner Robins, an Independent Baptist church, as well as an endearing relationship with Pastor Jerry Walls, a die-hard Bama fan. As such, Fromm is quick to talk about Jesus and his relationship with God.”

Fromm trusted God in his defeat. Tagovailoa trusted God in his victory. Barkley is right to point out the importance of a platform and a genuine personal life to back up a Christian testimony. By all accounts, Tua Tagovailoa is a polite, centered, peaceful, and moral young man. However, should he propped up as an example of virtue in Christian media? Not knowing where Tua went to church (other than visiting Nick Saban’s Catholic Church), I wasn’t so sure, even after hearing him thank Jesus on the big stage. Having researched the matter, I have found that Tagovailoa is a member of Message of Peace Church in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. The church is a member of the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ. I know little of this denomination but it does fall within Trinitarian orthodoxy. However, I’m convinced that Tua Tagovailoa is not someone to be looked to as a hero of Christianity. As it turns out, he’s a charismatic. When interviewed about how he stayed poised in a high-pressure situation, Tagovailoa shared the following statement:

“I was praying. I was speaking in tongues. It kept me calm. I would say my poise comes from my faith. I just pray for peace.”

I’ll not dispute that Tagovaioa’s prayers for peace were answered (nor did his natural talent, confidence, and practice time go to waste). However, it’s alarming that the “Tim Tebow” of Hawaii engages in the contra-biblical modern-day charismatic practice of talking in tongues. From a biblical standpoint, “speaking in tongues” means to speak in another intelligible, extant language. The biblical Greek word λῶσσα when used in the context of speaking refers to “the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.” It does not refer to the gibberish spewed out by adherents of the modern day post-Asuza charismatic movement. It is unfortunate that such a pious young man as Tua Tagovailoa has been taught this errant belief. I certainly don’t expect a 19-year old quarterback to know any much more theology than what he’s been taught at his local church and Tagovailoa is getting attention for doing the right thing, thanking God. However, his admission of using “tongues” presents parents with an opportunity to explain to the thousands of young people who now look up to Tagovailoa that the modern charismatic practice of “speaking in tongues” is a serious error, one which is no doubt offensive to the Holy Spirit. Christian celebrity is dangerous to be sure. There’s no doubt that Tua Tagovailoa is a better behavioral role model than the Alabama players who were using profanity and playing with poor sportsmanship during and after the game (I’m looking at you Bo Scarborough and Mekhi Brown). Tagovailoa seems like a hardworking true sportsman and genuinely polite young man. However, bible-believing Christians don’t need to make heroes out of charismatics just because they thank Jesus on TV. The Church needs charismatics off of TV.

Superstar athletes or not, we can all thank Jesus in the King’s English. Hopefully, everyone reading this who is not a Christian will consider repenting of their sins and submitting to the risen Christ as the Lord of their lives. As for me, I’ve already done that and, if the Lord blesses me with another child, I’ll probably still name him Tua.

Roll Tide.


*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Gender and the Pastorate in Baptist Churches: A Debate

The debate text below is intended to help Christians think through the issue of gender and the pastorate in Baptist churches.  


Resolved, that in Baptist Churches, the role of senior or preaching elder or pastor (for the purpose of this debate senior/teaching and preaching elder and pastor titles all refer to the role of proclamation in a local church) is a gender specific role restricted to male believers.


The resolution must be affirmed.  New Testament ecclesiology, considered in light of Baptist beliefs about the divine inspiration and authority of scripture, makes it clear that the role of teaching elder (or senior pastor) is restricted to male believers within Baptist churches. This assertion rests upon the following three propositions:

  • Baptist churches are designed to adhere to the New Testament church model.
  • The New Testament Church model proscribes female eldership and prescribes male eldership
  • Baptists believe the Bible, including the New Testament, is the authoritative and divinely inspired word of God.

If Baptists are anything, they are Biblical.  “Baptists have a long held belief that they ought to do church in the same way the New Testament churches did…Baptists believe that the Bible contains specific teachings about how they ought to organize and govern the church.”[1]  This is certainly not a new belief.  “Even the briefest glance at early Baptist writings confirms that they sought to draw their teachings directly from Scripture…they consciously and conscientiously sought to draw every teaching and practice from Scripture…One could wipe out all the religious groups of the seventeenth century and there would be the Baptists tomorrow.”[2]  Since Baptist churches strive to reflect the New Testament church model, one must consider what a New Testament church looks like (in regards to eldership) when considering the resolution.  Because “sometimes the Bible describes patterns of action and belief that are to be followed”[3] better than it pictures them, it is best to consult the Pastoral Epistles to do so.

Female eldership was specifically proscribed by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to Timothy.   Regarding positions of authority within the church, Paul writes, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.”[4]  Specifically regarding eldership, the Apostle Paul declares that elders must be “above reproach, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, gentle, peaceable, and free from the love of money.”[5] All these things both men and women can be.  However, these are not Paul’s only prescriptions.  Elders must also be, “the husband of one wife.”[6] Obviously, this is a requirement that a woman cannot fulfill. Paul’s Epistle to Titus echoes these remarks.[7]  Paul’s requirements for deacons in 1st Timothy are quite similar to those of elders; he also requires them to be “husbands of one wife.”  This statement does not denote the exclusion of women as Deacons in the way that Paul’s previous statement about Elders being the husband of one wife does.  This is because Paul specifically addresses female deaconship requirements by stating, “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, temperate, and faithful in all things.”[8]  (Because Polyandry was not a part of Paul’s culture, a statement requiring female deacons to be wife of one husband would have been preposterous to include in the epistle.)   Thus, Paul clearly allows for a virtuous male or female to serve in the capacity of deacon, but forbids women (no matter how virtuous) from serving in the capacity of the authoritative role of Elder.   Nowhere does any other New Testament author contradict Paul’s proscriptions or prescriptions for the office of Elder.  Nowhere else in Paul’s own Epistles does Paul himself contradict or confuse his instructions to Timothy and Titus (though the message of Galatians 3:28 is misconstrued by some as doing so).  The New Testament clearly presents a church model that exhibits exclusive male eldership.

Though there is some disagreement about the confessed degree of Biblical inerrancy among Baptists, readily observable Baptist groups universally agree that the New Testament is the divinely inspired word of God.  Thus, the New Testament church model (which proscribes female eldership) is a divine one inasmuch as Baptists are concerned.  Because God Himself is immutable[9], it does not logically follow that His divinely inspired New Testament Church model is mutable.  Thus, although the role of women in society in general has greatly changed since the time of the New Testament’s writing (thanks in large part to the Biblical message itself); the Biblically prescribed role of women Christians remains the same.   So, too, does the Biblically prescribed role of male believers.  New Testament ecclesiology limits church eldership to male believers; Baptists affirm that New Testament ecclesiology is divinely inspired.  Therefore, the resolution must be affirmed.



The resolution requires one to recognize that a blanket restriction upon all Baptist churches can be imposed; this is incongruent with the very nature of such churches.  Due to the congregational and confessional nature of Baptist churches, this resolution must be scrapped in its entirety as nonsensical.  Therefore, it cannot be affirmed.  This assertion rests upon the following three propositions:

  • A Baptist church is congregational.
  • A Baptist church is confessional.
  • Recognizing a restriction across all “Baptist churches” requires one to step outside the congregational and confessional scopes and recognize a creed and extra-congregational authority.

There is no Episcopal or Presbyterian authority from which the decision to restrict a church role may come in a Baptist church.  “Baptists have objected to both of these systems of church governance.”[10]  Baptist churches are congregational. “Congregationalism locates the authority of the church in each local body of believers.  No person or organization is above or over it except the Lord Jesus Christ alone as its head.”[11]  Restrictions upon church roles (upon anything!) in a Baptist church come from within the church itself.  While a body of local believers is free to restrict the role of teaching elder to male believers in its own church, it cannot step outside of its congregational limitations and do so for another church.  Thus, while a local Baptist church may say, “The role of teaching elder is restricted to male believers at our church,” it cannot say, “The role of teaching elder is restricted to male believers in Baptist churches.”

Not only would making such a statement be discordant with congregationalism, it would be creedal in nature.  “Baptists have always been confessional.  The difference between a confession and a creed is that, in a confession, one declares what he believes.  One declares it freely and without coercion.  In a creed, one declares what he must believe, or, more specifically, what others must believe.”[12]  While an individual Baptist may declare, “I believe that the role of teaching elder is restricted to male believers,” he cannot say, “Others must believe that the role of teaching elder is restricted to male believers.”

Because the resolution requires one to step outside of the bounds of congregationalism and confessionalism it must be entirely dismissed as nonsensical.  Thus, the resolution can’t even begin to be considered.  It would make more sense for one to argue for or against a resolution that says, “Yetis should be restricted from throwing snowballs at mountaineers who attempt to scale the Himalayas.”  Non-congregational and creedal Baptists, like Yetis, do not exist.  However, unlike Yetis and other mythical creatures, a non-congregational and creedal Baptist is a logically impossible being akin to a square circle or a married bachelor.  The resolution cannot be affirmed because the resolution itself is absurd.


The propositions “Baptist churches are designed to adhere to the New Testament church model” and “Baptists believe the Bible, including the New Testament, is the authoritative and divinely inspired word of God” are integral to the argument for the proposition.  While these propositions themselves are true, the overall argument to affirm the resolution completely ignores the fact that the New Testament church model is a congregational and confessional one.  The argument to affirm the proposition hinges on the proposition, “The New Testament Church model proscribes female eldership and prescribes male eldership.”  The congregational and confessional nature of Baptist (New Testament) churches must be considered before any proscriptions and prescriptions about eldership that are apparent in the New Testament.  It is not the Apostle Paul, Timothy, or Titus who call persons to fulfill the role of elder in a Baptist church, but the members of the individual church itself.  If the members of an individual Baptist church do not confess to an interpretation of the New Testament that prescribes exclusively male eldership, it is unlikely that the role of elder will be gender-restricted in their church. Thus, to say that “in Baptist Churches, the role of senior elder is a gender specific role restricted to male believers,” requires the recognition of a universal confession of scriptural interpretation across all Baptist churches that simply does not exist.

This nonexistence is evidenced by the positions of numerous Baptist churches affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).  Both of these organizations affirm female eldership and churches affiliated with these organization exhibit female elders.  Even the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), whose confession of faith states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,”[13] is not devoid of affiliated churches with female senior elders.  Currently, a job advertisement for a Senior Pastor role at First Baptist Church Murfreesboro listed on the SBC’s website reads, women and men are encouraged to apply.”[14]  Clearly, in practice, there is no universal restriction against female eldership in Baptist churches.  The congregational and confessional nature of Baptist churches precludes such a restriction.  Even the SBC recognizes this by stating, “The Baptist Faith & Message and resolutions are not binding upon local churches.  Each church is responsible to prayerfully search the Scriptures and establish its own policy.”[15] Churches that call a female to the role of senior elder may be incorrectly interpreting Paul’s scriptural prescriptions, but this assessment has no bearing whatsoever on the affirmation of the resolution.  Under congregational and confessional church polity, they are free to do so.  The theological soundness of their dubious interpretation of scripture is irrelevant.  Therefore, the argument for the resolution is unsound and the resolution itself cannot be affirmed.



Baptist churches are confessional.  Baptist churches are congregational.  These propositions are factual.  However, the proposition “recognizing a restriction across all Baptist churches requires one to step outside the congregational and confessional scopes and recognize a creed and extra-congregational authority” contradicts the former propositions.  Recognizing that Baptist churches are confessional recognizes a restriction on creedalism in Baptist churches.

Recognizing that Baptist churches are congregational recognizes a restriction against hierarchical and Presbyterian church polity in Baptist churches.  Therefore, it’s counterintuitive to assert that it isn’t logical to recognize a restriction within Baptist churches because they are congregational and confessional in nature.  The restrictions against non-congregational church polity and creedalism themselves come from an extra-congregational authority…the New Testament.  The very reason that Baptist churches are Congregational in the first place is that such is the model of the New Testament church.  The very reason that Baptist churches exposit confessions instead of adhering to creeds is their recognition of the authority of scripture alone.  To be Baptist is to confess the authority of the New Testament.  Therefore, since the New Testament is the basis for Baptist polity and it addresses gender roles in Eldership, the resolution is not nonsensical.

The argument against the proposition (or, more accurately, for the absurdity of the proposition) is an attempt to run an end-around the clear biblical requirement of exclusively male eldership in the local church.  The idea that gender restriction within the Baptist church represents some kind of logically impossible abstraction is absurd in itself.  Churches in New Testament times were Baptist in polity and their elders were exclusively male (or at least meant to be exclusively male as far as the Apostle Paul, was concerned).  A church with gender-restricted eldership isn’t some kind of logically impossible abstraction, it’s an actuality.  There are numerous such churches.  These churches recognize that “a church should have three biblical offices”[16] of elder, deacon, and church member and that “only qualified men can occupy the office of elder-pastor.”[17] This is the church model based upon the authority of scripture.  A New Testament church restricts the role of teaching elder to male believers.  If anything is logically impossible, it is a Baptist church that doesn’t adhere to the New Testament model.  In no way does congregationalism or confesionalism limit the scope of Baptist polity.  The New Testament itself restricts the role of elder to male believers.  Congregationalism and Confessionalism do not somehow trump the authority of scripture.  The argument against affirming the proposition is invalid.


The rebuttal to the affirmation is based on the idea that scripture is up for interpretation.  This idea that “every Christian has the freedom and right to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit”[18] is a flawed one.  This idea, which is advocated by the female-elder-affirming CBF, assumes that scripture was meant to be interpreted.  It’s true that the New Testament was written in a first century language and that modern Christians must linguistically “interpret” that first century language in order to translate the text into their own modern languages.  However, the theology espoused by the New Testament is not and was not open to interpretation.  The first century language of the New Testament was quite clear to first century church members.  They certainly weren’t “interpreting” gospels and epistles.  Modern translations are just as reliable to modern readers; even renowned textual critic Bart Ehrman affirms this.[19]  The idea that individuals have the freedom to do anything (sin, deny God, etc…) should not be confused with the fact that individuals do not have the right to do anything.  Scripture is not open for theological interpretation; it’s not meant to be interpreted, it’s meant to be followed.  If a Baptist church truly desires to reflect the New Testament church model it will prayerfully search the scriptures and establish a policy that limits eldership to male believers in accordance with clear, reliable, New Testament theology.


The resolution itself is nonsensical due to the congregational, confessional nature of Baptist churches.  Congregationalism and confessionalism aren’t restrictions, they are realities.  These realities are steeped in the example of the New Testament church model, which shows that only the individual members of a specific Baptist church can set church requirements and restrictions; those requirements and restrictions are limited in scope to that specific church.  The resolution considers Baptist churches in general.  Therefore, to affirm the resolution requires one to step outside the bounds of his own authority and make a decision for all Baptist churches in addition to his Baptist church.   The resolution must be scrapped in its entirety because making such a decision is nonsensical.  Because the resolution must be scrapped, it cannot be affirmed.

[Contributed by: Seth Dunn]


American Baptist Churches USA. “10 Facts You Should Know About American Baptists.” http://www.abc-usa.org/. http://www.abc-usa.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=CcFkb6m2ftM%3d&tabid=432 (accessed April 9, 2012).

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Frequently Asked Questions about the Fellowship. http://www.thefellowship.info/About-Us/FAQ (accessed April 9, 2012).

Dagg, J. L. “A Manual of Church Polity.”

Driscoll, Mark & Gerry Breshers. Doctrine: What Christians Should Beleive. Crossway Books, 2010.

Hankis, Chad Owen Brand and David E. One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005.

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Broadman Press, 1987.

Richard R. Melick, Jr. “Women Pastors: What Does the Bible Teach?” http://www.sbclife.net. May 1998. http://www.sbclife.net/articles/1998/05/sla5.asp (accessed April 12, 2012).

Southern Baptist Convention. FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions . 2012. http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/faqs.asp#9 (accessed April 10, 2012).

—. SBCJobSearch Description. March 12, 2012. http://www.sbc.net/jobs/jobdetail.asp?ID=6424&type=church (accessed April 10, 2012).

—. The Baptist Faith and Message. 2000. http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp (accessed September 15, 2011).

Vestal, Daniel. “Why I am Baptist.” Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. http://www.thefellowship.info/cbf/files/e5/e563f5c1-71d2-46a5-915f-0989d00491d9.pdf (accessed April 10, 2012).

Wardin, Albert W. The Twelve Baptist Tribes in the USA: A Historical and Statistical Analysis. Nashville: Fields Publishing, 2007.

Wikipedia contributors . “Pastoral epistles .” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. April 3, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pastoral_epistles&oldid=485356349 (accessed April 10, 2012).

Wikipedia contributors. “Polyandry.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. April 9, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Polyandry&oldid=486408759 (accessed April 10, 2012).

Wingerd, Daryl. Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus – A Critical Review. 2006. http://www.ccwtoday.org/article_view.asp?article_id=69 (accessed April 10, 2012).


[1]  (Hankis 2005) p. 28

[2]  (McBeth 1987) p. 63

[3] (Hankis 2005) p. 28

[4] 1 Timothy 2:12

[5] 1 Timothy 3:2-3

[6] ibid

[7] Titus 1:6-8

[8] 1 Timothy 3:11

[9] Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17

[10]  (Hankis 2005) p. 23

[11]  (Dagg n.d.) p. 279

[12]  (Vestal n.d.)p. 5

[13]  (Southern Baptist Convention 2000) – The Baptist Faith and Message

[14]  (Southern Baptist Convention 2012) – Job Description

[15]  (Southern Baptist Convention 2012) – FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

[16]  (Breshers 2010) p.318

[17] Ibid p. 320

[18]  (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship n.d.) – Frequently Asked Questions about the Fellowship

[19]  (Wingerd 2006)

A Woman in “Pastoral Ministry” at my Seminary Graduation

Two weeks ago, I had the joy of graduating from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) with a Master’s of Divinity in Christian Apologetics. Studying there for the last eight years has been a blessing. During my time at NOBTS, I have learned a great deal about understanding, teaching, and defending the Christian faith. The school’s faculty has taught each of my courses in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000) and each one of my instructors and professors has exhibited a genuine faith and a love for the Lord and His people. Additionally, my tuition was affordable and a variety of class offerings made earning a degree through a distance learning program feasible. Sitting in the chapel on December 16, 2017 with my fellow graduates was a very happy occasion indeed. Unfortunately, it was marred by my school’s implicit denial of (biblical) Southern Baptist doctrine in the form of one of the graduates in the Church Leadership Certificate Program.

At face value, the Church Leadership Certificate Program is great. According to the school’s website, the program “was founded to respond to the needs of church by preparing believers to serve more effectively in their church and their community.” Certificates are offered in Biblical Ministry, Biblical Teaching, Church Music, Church Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, Preschool and Children’s Ministry, Advanced Preschool and Children’s Ministry, Ministry Wives, Christian Education, Church Planting, Women’s Ministry, Advanced Women’s Ministry, and Pastoral Ministry in African American Church Studies. I would personally recommend that those serving in various ministry capacities obtain this type of training if getting a full degree is not convenient or affordable for them. My own wife has taken several courses in the “Ministry Wives” program, from which I believe she benefited. Unfortunately, the Leadership Certificate Program has not exhibited biblical fidelity in the area of Pastoral Ministry.

During this month’s ceremony, I witnessed a female graduate from the Pastoral Ministry Program. This came as a shock to me given that women are not biblically eligible to hold the pastoral office. Article VI of the BFM 2000, entitled “The Church,” states:

“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

Although the Southern Baptist Convention’s official statement of faith denies that women are eligible to fill the pastoral office, its own seminary has granted a woman a certificate of leadership in “Pastoral Ministry.” At NOBTS, teachers are required to teach according to the BFM 2000. In fact, students are surveyed at the end of each course in order to ensure that their teachers have done so. How is it that a woman was allowed to earn a leadership certificate in Pastoral Ministry? There is of course no requirement for students at NOBTS to be Southern Baptist, or even Baptist, to enroll. It is understandable, in academic setting, that there will be a diversity of theological views even among evangelical students. There is certainly nothing wrong with a Southern Baptist Seminary granting an earned degree to a Methodist or Presbyterian student in subjects such as Counseling or Biblical Languages. However, it is downright unethical for a Southern Baptist Seminary to certify a woman as fit for “pastoral ministry” no matter what her denomination. What is the message in doing so? “We don’t believe you are fit to be a pastor but here is a certificate in pastoral ministry.” These women don’t need to be encouraged but corrected. How does certifying unequivocally unqualified “pastors” fulfill the great commission? The BFM 2000 is clear (as is the Bible): women are not to be pastors. Training them to be such, to the point of granting them a leadership certificate makes no sense. It is the acceptance of plain and simple liberalism. Southern Baptists did not fight the battles of the Conservative Resurgence so that its seminaries could train women for the pastorate. NOBTS needs to stop this practice immediately. There are a variety of opportunities and roles for women to train for in the church. Pastor is not one of them.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Sin in the 1st Degree: Simple Proof that Freemasonry is Inherently Wicked

Are most “Christian” Freemasons actually faithful servants of God who don’t truly understand what Freemasonry is all about?  Does participation in Freemasonry become sinful only at the highest levels, where the most secret esoteric knowledge is revealed?  Is the average Mason who never progresses past the first few degrees really aware of how wicked the craft actually is?  Questions like these can often be pondered by conflicted family members, church members, and pastors who are faced with confronting a professing Christian about his participation in the religion of Freemasonry.  No one wants to believe the worst about a fellow professing Christian and, thus, it can be the case that Christians excuse their Masonic familiars with one justification or another.   However, this should not be the case.  To be a Freemason one must become a Freemason.  Because the steps taken to be initiated into the fraternity are inherently sinful, membership in the Masonic lodge itself is inherently sinful.  To state the matter simply, one cannot be a Freemason and not be in sin.  A simple examination of the first degree of Freemasonry shows this to be plainly true.

Upon his initiation to Freemasonry, a candidate is asked by the Junior Deacon of the Lodge, “Who goes there?”  The candidate’s conductor (the Senior Steward of the lodge) is expected to answer as follows:

“A poor blind candidate, who desires to be brought from darkness to light and receive a part of the rights and benefits of this right worshipful lodge, erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John.[1]

This something no one should be able to say about a Christian man; Christians do not walk in darkness.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).  The terrible irony of the Masonic statement above is the declaration that the Masonic lodge is dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist (“the Holy Saints John”), the latter of whom is the very author who recorded Christ’s words about being the light of the world.   Of John the Baptist, John the Evangelist wrote, “He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light.”  (John 1:7-8).    John the Baptist testified about Jesus Christ being the Light of the world.  All Christians have fellowship with Jesus, the Light, and thus cannot be walking in Darkness.  Yet, the Masonic lodge expects candidates to state that they are “lost in darkness and seeking the light of Freemasonry,” as if there is some source of light that the candidate needs other than Christ Himself.  It gets worse from there.  The following is the oath taken by candidates entering the first degree of Freemasonry:

“I, ________, of my own free will and accord in presence of Almighty God and this right worshipful Lodge erected to Him and dedicated to the Holy Saints John, do hereby and hereon, do solemnly sincerely promise and swear I will always hail, forever conceal and never reveal any of the secret arts, parts or points of the mysteries of Freemasonry which have been, may now or shall hereafter be communicated to me in Charge as such, to any person in the world, except it be to a true and lawful brother free Mason, or in a legally constituted lodge of ancient free and accepted Masons, and not unto him nor them therein until after due, trial, strict examination or lawful information, I shall have found them legally entitled to receive the same.  I, furthermore, promise to swear that I will not write, indite, print, paint, stamp, stain, cut, carve, mark, or engrave the same upon anything moveable or immoveable under the canopy of heaven, whereby the least word, syllable, letter of character thereof may become legible to myself or intelligible to others, and the secrets of Freemasonry be unlawfully obtained, and that through my unworthiness.  To all of which I solemnly and sincerely promise and swear to keep and perform the same, without any equivocation, mental reservation or secret evasion of mind in me whatever, binding myself under no less a penalty than having my throat cut ear to ear, my tongue torn out by its roots, and with my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, a cable’s length from shore, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in the twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this, my most solemn obligation as an entered apprentice, so help me God and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.”[2]

This is a bloody oath.  Rather than just simply giving his promise to keep the secrets of the lodge, a candidate swears upon a created thing (in this case his own body).  In the oath to the first degree, the candidate goes beyond letting his yes be “yes” and his no be “no”.  To do so, he must disobey the Lord Jesus Christ, who said,

“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”  (Matthew 5:34-37)

The Masonic candidate swears an oath by his head.  He directly disobeys Jesus.  Jesus said that this kind of oath is “of evil.”  To enter even the first degree of Freemasonry, a candidate must disobey Jesus.   A Christian simply cannot disobey the Lord Jesus and resolve that his act is anything less than sinful.  This is not a matter of liberty or conscience.  It is a matter of sin.  To enter the first degree of Freemasonry, to become a Mason, a man must sin.  To be a mason is to be in sin.  Without extensive research or complex theological argumentation, this is proven.  It is an open and shut case.  Freemasonry, as demonstrated by the obligations of its first degree, is inherently sinful.  To make matters worse, the “Christian” men who take the first degree’s obligation must then entice and facilitate other men to do the same in order to perpetuate their organization.  Freemasonry is founded in sin and perpetuated by it.

So what is the Christian to do about the fellow member of his church who is at the same time a professing Mason and a professing Christian?  He is to call him to repent.  He is to demand that he forsake the lodge, for the tenets of biblical Christianity demand as much.  Unrepentant Freemasons must be removed from membership in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Any church member or pastor who says otherwise and allows Freemasons to remain in church unchallenged, fails at his sacred duty.  This issue, like any issue of sin, is a hill upon which to die.

It may be difficult, but it is time for you to have a conversation with any professed Christian you know who claims to be a Freemason.

“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17


*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] Harris, J. (1983). Freemasonry: The Invisible Cult in Our Midst. Towson, Maryland: Jack Harris. (p. 32)


[2] Ibid (p 35-36)

The Teachings of the Lodge and the Teachings of the Bible.

Did you know that Freemasonry is religious?  To be a member of a Masonic Lodge, a man must profess faith in a Supreme Being and the eternality of the soul.  Masonic Lodges elect a chaplain and use a sacred text (usually a Bible) as part of the “furniture of the lodge.”  Masonic Lodges are intended to mimic Solomon’s temple.  When a Master Mason dies, he is entitled to Masonic funeral rites.  These rites include a petition for the departed Mason to enter the “Celestial Lodge.”  According to Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, Freemasonry is a “mild religion” (p. 512).  Christians should ask, “Do the teachings of the Masonic religion agree with the teachings of the Bible?”


The Bible teaches that a man is saved by the grace of God, through faith in the finished work of Christ and not by his own works.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that none may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Freemasonry teaches that a Master Mason can get to Heaven by living a “pious and virtuous life.”

Funeral rite language from Akin’s Lodge Manual with the Georgia Masonic Code (p. 138)

The Nature of Man

The Bible teaches that man is inherently sinful and evil from birth.  Without the grace of God, a man is unable to seek righteousness.  No one is good but God.  Only through Christ can men be empowered to do good works in the eyes of God.

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

The Message of Freemasonry is “Making Good Men Better” (Masonic Messenger, April 2014).  Freemasons seek to use the tenets of Freemasonry to build their own spiritual temple, to make themselves better through the practice of Freemasonry.  Freemasonry teaches that men who don’t know Jesus can make themselves better.


The Bible teaches that people should not mix false religion with the true religion of God.  The Ten Commandments require that man have no other gods before Yahweh and that man make no graven images.  The officers of a New Testament Church are pastors and deacons.  There is one high priest, Jesus, who is mediator between God and men.  God is a jealous God.  It is not acceptable before God to practice Christianity and another religion.  Christ and His church are to be held in the highest esteem.

“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2

Masonry teaches that one may become a high priest by advancing through the degrees of Masonry.  Doyle Franklin Williams was a member of the first Baptist Church of Emerson, Georgia where he was a deacon and the Music Director.  He was also a member of Emerson Masonic Lodge #738 where he served as the Worshipful Master.  He also served as the “High Priest” of Cartersville Royal Arch #144.  In Freemasonry, there are hymns of praise to the lodge and Freemasonry is considered the highest institution on Earth.  The Lodge is to be held in the highest esteem.  Freemasonry encourages syncretism.

“No institution was ever raised on a better principle, or more solid foundation.  Nor were ever more excellent rules and useful maxims laid down that are inculcated in the several Masonic lectures.  The greatest and best of men, in all ages, have been encouragers and promoters of the art, and have never deemed it derogatory to their dignity to level themselves with the fraternity, extend their privileges, and patronize their assembles” Akin’s Lodge Manual With Georgia Masonic Code (p. 137-138)

 For more information on Freemasonry, contact us.

[Contributed by: Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.