Why Believers’ Baptism is the Biblical Model

Several months ago I was provoked to developed an extended discussion on believers’ Baptism of Jesusbaptism as the model for the New Testament church.

In four points, I develop a case for Believers’ Baptism (why some might call credo-baptism) as the model of both the New Testament and the earliest Christianity:

1. The biblical case for baptism is of believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

2. The theological case for baptism only leads to baptism of believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

3. The historical case for baptism shows that the earliest Christians only utilized baptism for believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

4. The archeological case for baptism shows that for the earliest Christians their worship venues and structures provided for baptism of believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

Through these points of discussion I contend that the model of the earliest Christians, and as a result the New Testament, was baptism of believers by immersion following their conversion.

Since the baptism discussion will likely come up in any number of settings for the local church, it is helpful to present my position in advance of future discussions. Perhaps this will aid your own preparations. This paper was developed for use by both clergy and laity alike, and though it does not aim for scholarly acumen it perhaps might contribute in that era as well.

Here is the paper, hopefully you will find it edifying and strengthening.

Believers Baptism Paper – Garet Robinson


Reviewing the Exodus Consultation at Lanier Theological Library

This past weekend, January 17-18, Lanier Theological Library hosted a conference titled “A Consultation on the Historicity and Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions in a Post Modern Age.”

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This conference featured scholars from the United States, Europe, and Asia who gave presentations on various aspects of the archeology and historicity of the Exodus narrative. As you can see from the list of presentations below, the topics presented did much to explore this area of research. Organized by James Hoffmeier, these presentations were also part of a weekend lecture that he presented at the library. Though I was only able to attend the Friday set of talks, there is some discussion worth having over the content covered.

Before all of that here is the list of presenters:

Friday, January 17

Richard S. Hess (Denver Seminary) – Onomastics of the Exodus Generation in the Book of Exodus

Steven Ortiz (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) – Pitfalls, Prospects, and Paradigm Shifts: The Archeology of the Exodus and Conquest

James K Hoffmeier (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) – Some Eygptian Details of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions

Alan Millard (University of Liverpool) – Moses, Israel’s Tongue-Tied Singer

Charles Krahmalkov (University of Michigan) – The Real Moses: the Evidence

Joshua Berman (Bar Ilan University) – The Song of the Sea and the Kadesh Inscriptions of Ramses II

Gary Rendsburg (Rutgers University) – The Literary Unity of the Exodus Narrative

Richard Averbeck (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) – The Exodus and Slave Release Laws

Thomas W Davis (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) – Exodus on the Ground: the Elusive Signature of Nomads in Sinai

Jordan Cervera i Valls (Faculty of Theology of Catalonia, Barcelona) – The Copper Snake Episode (Num 21:4-9) in Exegetical, Topographical & Archeological Contexts

K Lawson Younger, Jr (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) – Recent Developments in Understanding the Origins of the Arameans: Possible Contributions and Implications to Understand Israelite Origins

Saturday, January 18

Jens Bruun Kofoed (Lutheran School of Theology, Copenhagen) – “Tell Your Children and Grandchildren!” The Exodus as Cultural Memory

J Andrew Dearman (Fuller Theological Seminary) – The Exodus and Wilderness Wandering Traditions in Amos and Micah

Jerry Hwang (Singapore Bible College) – “I am Yahweh your God from the land of Egypt” Hosea’s Use of the Exodus Traditions

W Mark Lanier (Lanier Theological Library) – A Lawyer Examines the Evidence for the Exodus

So, this was a rather busy conference and, as the pictures above indicate, done in a terrific venue. Though I am not an archeologist or an Old Testament researcher, a few thoughts did come to me as I listened to the presentations:

  • The quality of the research and depth of insight provided in these presentations surely reflects the kind of engagement which advances biblical scholarship.
  • It was difficult to qualify this conference as an archeological exploration, since there is no direct evidence for the exodus. However, as several presentations pointed out, there is quality data around the event that can lead to positive conclusions about the exodus event.
  • Perhaps by design, this consultation was an appreciative inquiry into key issues around the exodus narrative that still provided plenty of diversity in the viewpoints.
  • Being able to talk with leading scholars in a discipline is always worth the time. There is a lot of work continuing to be done about this, and many other topics, in biblical archeology.
  • Even though many leading voices in biblical archeology question the historicity of many Old Testament stories, it is refreshing to know (and hear) there are viewpoints countering these views from credible scholars.
  • It would have been good to have heard from some critical voices. What are the primary concerns and challenges in dating, placing, and evidencing the exodus narrative? Having someone(s) who could bring this perspective would have been helpful.
  • Lanier Theological Library continues to be a growing theological resource for Houston, Texas, and the larger international theological community. Not just because of the availability of Stone Chapel, but the library itself is a tremendous place to study in any number of specialized topics.

Overall, the consultation was done well and I will definitely look forward to future events at the library. Though it is a bit of a drive to get there, having world-class scholars presenting on vital topics in biblical studies is worth the time.

Jan 2014



Thoughts on Church Based Ministry Schools

Over the past several years there have been several mega-churches (and giga-churches) that have started ministry schools out of their campus(es) which are seeking to train young adults in their specific ministry model while also providing them with a college level education.

Of course, this movement isn’t anything new. In fact, it is quite old-school. 

Earlier today I saw a leader in evangelicalism send out a tweet promoting the new ministry school his church was starting. As I ruminated over this, it got me thinking about some of the old fundamentalist Bible institutes and colleges which emerged out of the cultural isolation resulting from the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the period from the 1930s to the 1950s (and a bit beyond) many disenfranchised fundamentalists withdrew from the larger cultural conversation and began to promote and support their own ministry programs and educational systems.

George Marsden has noted about this period in his marvelous Fundamentalism and American Culture (Revised Edition):

Since dispensationalists lacked and clear view of the organized church above the local level, the Bible institutes played a major role in giving them some unity. They arose in response to the demands of urban ministries and the desire to train lay leader for evangelism. They also served as centers for training for foreign missions – always a prominent concern. A wide variety of local evangelistic agencies, local congregations, Bible conferences, publications, and independent national agencies for missions and other types of evangelism was informally united by common ties to various Bible institutes…Of these, Moody Bible Institute was preeminent, not only because of its connection with the late evangelist, but also because of the leadership of two of the outstanding spokesmen for the movement, Reuben A Torrey, first superintendent (from 1889 to 1908) and James M Gray, who served from 1904 to 1934, first as dean and later as president. (128-9)

Now, though the old fashioned institutes were crafted with the idea of training young men for ministry (and women for support roles) and focused primarily on evangelism and missions. These new Church Based Ministry Schools continue an evangelistic purpose, but have, as their primary focus training in ministry leadership and church growth models. 

It is a palatable difference.

torrey09However, the aim seems to be the same. In the early part of last century as these institutes arose there was a general mistrust for seminaries and universities with the influx of German Liberalism and modernist professors. Now, it seems, the mistrust continues to a degree, but it is not about the failure of theology, but the failure of adequate ministry preparation.

It is hard to find a seminary graduate, even from our best evangelical seminaries, who is “ministry ready” upon graduation. For many of these mega and giga-churches, training young leaders in their models is a better investment (for so many reasons) than prioritizing seminary graduates as staffing options.

What is striking isn’t this last paragraph, but that history is, once again, repeating itself. The next several decades will be fascinating to watch. The way that evangelicalism is poised in America the wings of fundamentalism, progressivism, Calvinism, and church growth model are re-creating the grounds that led to the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies of this same era one hundred years ago.

May we find a better way than division and isolation. The true challenge is that while 100 years ago Christianity remained the dominant cultural spiritual expression in America, we have many other growing voices today.


Leading from the Bench

One of the best awards the NBA gives out every year is the “Sixth Man of the Year” award. The purpose of the award is to recognize an outstanding contributor who isn’t a regular starter in the front five of an NBA team. Last year, JR Smith won for his contributions with the New York Knickerbockers. The year before, James Harden (and his beard) won for Oklahoma City. For any player to win the award they are seen as a substitute player who can come into a game and both maintain the level of excellence the starters have been displaying and, even, raise the level of performance on the floor.

sixthmanFor a league where egos and dynamic talents often are the lead story on Sportscenter, the Sixth Man of the Year is someone who, though they could likely start for any team in the NBA, allows themselves to be that “next guy up” and begins the game on the bench. These individuals have the talent to lead, but do so in a different, but just as meaningful way. In any basketball how a coach substitutes players is almost as important as the plays the team runs. Since no one player can play all the minutes of a game, the bench is an important part of a winning team.

In ministry, just like in other organizations, there are often leaders who are starters and those behind them who might be likened to bench players. A lot of times for those on the bench there is an inexorable tension between wanting to be a starter and recognize one’s role on the team.

Now, starters get their positions for a lot of reasons. On sports teams it may well be that a starter is there because of their past performance and current contract. You can’t have a $10 million dollar a year center on the bench if he can play well enough to contribute. Another reason is because some of the starters are legitimately good enough to have that position.

basketball bench

Perhaps the hardest time for any team (sports, ministry, business, etc) is when a starter has stopped producing and is no longer effective and someone on the bench at their position consistently contributes at a high level whenever called on.

Most of the time replacing a starter is a hard task. It takes time and, if a coach or leader lacks the skill set or honesty to talk with them, the transition can be difficult. Established starters are the hardest to replace, even when their performance and production has fallen off a cliff, often because of loyalty and past victories.

For the bench players, this time between being an effective substitute and being a starter is the hardest. So, how do we handle it?

1. Show up early and leave late – Nothing impresses your leaders’ leader(s) like seeing a bench player who is there when people arrive and stays after they leave to make things better. It might be the most difficult thing to do, but being called on often comes up after consistent contributions when people are in need.

2. Continue to contribute at a high level when called on – One of the temptations is to start mailing in your efforts, or sulking on the bench. Too often bench players stay bench players because they don’t project the competency to lead or have questions about their character.

3. Contribute in ways that make the starter at your position look good – Having the opportunity to build confidence into yourself and the starter above you will always help you. When others see that our “position” (read department, area, team, etc) is being handled well it will be spoken of well.

4. When it is time seek out other opportunities – Leaving one team for another is always hard and shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, sometimes the coach is so dedicated to the starter that even a future Hall of Famer won’t get the opportunity. When it comes time to leave make sure you’ve given it time and you aren’t leaving with spite. Other opportunities will arise, but make sure your next step is for a team that is a good fit for your skills.

5. Above all, stay motivated and stay focused – Your job on the bench is to contribute in a way that continues to put up points, run the plays, and perform in a way that it is like the starters haven’t left the floor. If you do this others will notice and your opportunities to contribute will abound.

6. One more, seek out a confidant or wise mentor – Know this, you are not alone. Though the bench is often overlooked, there are others on the bench with you. Your struggle might be their struggle. Find someone who is trustworthy and you can confide in so that you can blow off some steam and manage your struggle. Handling this tension alone and in private can be self-destructive.

Being part of any team is a struggle that is going to have its challenges and rewards. For Millennials, it is easy for us to get discouraged and defeated. Part of this is because so many of us have grown up in an entitlement age that we are “owed” certain roles. The truth of the matter is that we aren’t owed anything, but we can earn a whole lot.

Leading from the bench, whether in business or ministry, means we are ready, willing, and able to put forward an outstanding effort because we are called to greatness and know that it will, in the end, lead to something more meaningful.

As you look to lead from the bench in your life, I pray you find your meaning, look for learning moments, develop a steadfast character, and pursue excellence in all things.


The Wolf of Wall Street and the Injustice of Hollywood

One of the big movie releases over the past couple of months has been Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street that stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The trailer for the movie has been playing on nearly every channel and before several movies I’ve seen during this time.

In case you don’t know the backstory, the movie is based on the life of stock fraudster Jordan Belfort who defrauded thousands of investors hundreds of millions of dollars. As the trailers for the movie have pointed out, and as any reasonable plot synopsis notes, the movie is not so much a prophetic tale of how Belfort’s deceit and illegal activities ruined the lives of thousands of people, but it is a glorification of his indulgence and crimes. It would appear that Mr Scorsese has abandoned any moral point and opted for a illicit romp through a craven world of self-destruction and debauchery. Some critics have noted this challenge while others have, rightly, called the film pornogaphic. It has even gotten the daughter of one of the convicted conspirators to write an open letter calling for the end to such films.

I’m not going to see the movie. One of my personal commitments is to not see any movie with nudity and I checked my Movies with Kids in Mind app and found this movie scored a 10 out of 10 on the sexuality scale…a rare feat.

The insult that Mr Scorsese pays to the victims of Mr Belfort is that in glorifying his excesses the victims of this corrupt individual are entirely lost. Belfort’s tale should have only been told to show how destructive these kinds of actions are upon the victims who lost so much. To this point, Mr Scorsese fails to properly understand the moral gravity of his film and, ultimately, betrays another injustice on the victims.

Since his release, Belfort has made it a point to make more money off his crimes and has stopped repaying the $200 million in court-ordered restitution. Sadly this point is lost even on the star of movie, who thinks that by showing the American public three hours of parties, drinking, drugs, and depraved sexual behavior (often with victims of sexual trafficking) they will learn that crime is bad.

For Christians, one of our deepest callings is to seek justice for the poor and outcast, to find ways to provide for those who have had evil visited upon their lives.

As we are reminded in Isaiah 1:17,

Learn to do what is good.
Seek justice.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause.

Then also in, Amos 5:11-15

Therefore, because you trample on the poor
and exact a grain tax from him,
you will never live in the houses of cut stone
you have built;
you will never drink the wine
from the lush vineyards
you have planted.
12 For I know your crimes are many
and your sins innumerable.
They oppress the righteous, take a bribe,
and deprive the poor of justice at the gates.
13 Therefore, the wise person will keep silent
at such a time,
for the days are evil.

14 Seek good and not evil
so that you may live,
and the Lord, the God of Hosts,
will be with you,
as you have claimed.
15 Hate evil and love good;
establish justice in the gate.
Perhaps the Lord, the God of Hosts, will be gracious
to the remnant of Joseph.

Seeking justice for those who have been oppressed and destroyed by corrupted and sinful individuals is one of the basic ministries of followers of Jesus. James 1:27 reminds us plainly: Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Our advocacy is to be for those who are easily oppressed and hurt, those who do not have the means for support or defense.

Now, we shouldn’t be at all surprised when media leaders use garish portrayals of debauchery and sin to glorify greed and corruption. Indeed, this is what we should expect as did the earliest believers who experienced this first hand. However, as believers our calling is to a high road and to care for those who have been neglected and hurt.

Paul reminds us of this in 1 Timothy 6:17-19,

17 Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

When we see the filth and corruption that spews like water from a fountain in our common social areas and into media saturated environments our goal should be to lament for those who have lost, advocate for their restitution, and provide for their needs. By glorifying the indulgence and depravity of individuals who have taken again and again, we lose sight of our higher calling to seek the renewal of our world for the Kingdom of God.


Encountering God: A Sermon

Recently, I was able to preach in the Sunday services at Sugar Creek Baptist Church where I serve as the pastor to Young Marrieds. My topic was around the idea of encountering God in the midst of our lives. You can check out the sermon here:

Encountering God

One of the things that I believe is that so many of us miss opportunities to encounter God because we are dialed into our everyday lives and frequently distracted. However, as God is working in the world there are opportunities to encounter His presence and capture something amazing.

My primary text came from Luke 28:13-35 there the resurrected Jesus meets with two of His followers, Cleopas and a companion, during their trip between Jerusalem and Emmaus. So often, God encounters people in the middle of their journey, this seems like an appropriate scene to use.

Behind our encounters with God is the big idea of the text:  God places divine moments in our journeys to capture our attention and communicate his grace.

The reality is God desires to meet with His people and we an experience the blessing of His presence in our lives if we are looking for it. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 13:2 some of us have even  “…welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.”

The real tragedy in the life of too many followers of Jesus is that they’ve gone their entire Christian lives without a meaningful experience of God’s true presence. As a result the Christian life isn’t what they expect and isn’t fulfilling the needs they have. Encountering God in the midst of our everyday journeys allows us to capture a renewed vision and experience His grace.

So what are you doing to put yourself in a place where you can see God at work and encounter the blessing of His grace and presence? Is this a goal you frequently seek out throughout your life?

Jan 2014