On the 10th Anniversary of Katrina

Ten years ago this week my world was upended by Hurricane Katrina. Over 1,800 people lost their lives and more than $100 billion worth of property was lost. Katrina was a disaster for the record books, and one for the Keathley family as well. I was just entering my sixth year serving on faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in August 2005 when Katrina blew in and changed our lives.

I remember the moment we learned that Katrina posed a danger. Penny and I were recent empty-nesters and we were out for a quiet evening. We were leaving a restaurant on our way to see a movie when we saw some other NOBTS people eating there. They were headed home, with plans to spend the evening boarding up windows. Katrina, they informed us, had changed course. She was now headed for New Orleans.

We left the city the next day. Katrina hit the Gulf Coast like perdition with a 26-foot surge, and the levees surrounding the city gave way. Like most of the homes on the seminary campus, our house was flooded. Four feet of water remained in it for over a month.

Our home the day we returned. The water-soaked Bible on the floor belong to Penny's grandmother.

Our home the day we returned. The water-soaked Bible on the floor belong to Penny’s grandmother.

Everyone was shell-shocked. NOBTS opened temporary quarters in Atlanta and we joined the school there. The seminary returned to the New Orleans campus the next spring, and at that time I received and accepted a call to teach at Southeastern.

When a catastrophe of this magnitude hits, it consumes one’s life for a while. What will we do? Where we will go? How will we recover? What’s next? These are some of the questions that filled our thoughts day and night for weeks and months. We were counseled to expect to experience the five stages of grief (we did); to share our story with others and to write about our experiences as a way of coping (we did). A forever bond formed between those of us who went through that crisis together. We cried with each other, encouraged and supported each other, and prayed for each other through one of the most difficult times in our lives. Though we would never have wanted or asked for this experience…God used it for good. Now – we thank him for it.

This week seems like a good time to share a few lessons we learned through that crisis.

1. Travel light – we can get by with much less “stuff”. We left New Orleans with just a change of clothes. It is weird to wake up one morning and realize you have basically no material possessions but what is on your back – it was sobering.

Note the mold on the walls.

Note the mold on the walls.

But in a way, it was also freeing. God’s word tells us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Losing our material possessions reminded us how little we actually need and to put our “things” in proper perspective.

2. The hope and comfort of the Gospel shines even more brightly when the outlook is dark. So many people lost everything. Not just homes, but businesses and careers were washed away. But the citizens of New Orleans were amazed when thousands of Southern Baptists arrived with food, chain saws, and work gloves. The teams from Baptist churches and associations didn’t just come to help during the immediate days and weeks after Katrina. They continued to work and serve for months and even years afterwards.

So many helped us during the recovery

So many helped us during the recovery

New Orleans, a city that was at that time 93% non-Baptist, took notice. The opportunities for Gospel witness during those days were phenomenal.

3. God’s grace is sufficient and also humbling. God met our needs and He did so primarily through His people. Penny and I will always be grateful to the many Christians who responded with love, financial support, and a lot of hard work. He even used strangers to bless and encourage us. It was a humbling experience to accept charity from others. But God used that humbling experience to grow our character and teach us to depend on Him more fully.

Hurricane Katrina serves as a marker in our lives; a reminder of God’s sustaining grace and mercy through calamity. Whatever the future holds, we know our Sovereign God holds the future in His good and trustworthy hands. “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.” Is 43:2

Cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Same-Sex Marriage: Five Contras

Southeastern Seminary is blest to have a number of wonderful Gospel-preaching churches in our community. One of these churches is North Wake, where Larry Trotter serves as pastor.

LarryTrotter Last Sunday (08-09-15) Larry began a series on same-sex marriage and gender. His first message presented the “Five Contras” of same-sex marriage. The five contras are as follows:

1. Same-sex marriage is contra Scripture: Larry provides an insightful quote from Sam Storms: “I don’t want to come across as overly simplistic, but the debate in our society over homosexuality, transgenderism, and same-sex marriage is first and fundamentally about moral authority.”

2. Same-sex marriage is contra worship: note how in Romans 1:21-27 the Apostle Paul connects idolatry with disordered loves–including the disordered love of same-sex attraction.

3. Same-sex marriage is contra love: if certain behaviors are harmful or destructive then love requires opposing those behaviors (1 Cor 6:9-11). We cannot allow the world to shape our definition of love.

4. Same-sex marriage is contra mission: God’s intends Christian marriage to portray the mystery of the Gospel (Eph 5:29-32). Same-sex marriage thwarts this message.

5. Same-sex marriage is contra history: Chief Justice John Roberts declared in his dissenting opinion, “[T]he Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?”

Pastor Trotter’s sermon models biblical fidelity, incisive thinking, and pastoral sensitivity. I recommend it highly. The audio is found here.

This post is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

By: Dr. Brent Aucoin

In the torrent of comments that flooded the country in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, there was a discernible stream of opinion that considered the Court’s same-sex marriage ruling in light of its infamous 1973 decision to legalize abortion.  The range of opinion on this matter spanned from Russell Moore, President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), calling Obergefell “the Roe v. Wade of marriage,” to those explicitly rejecting such a linking of the two decisions.  For Moore and others, Obergefell is similar to Roe because just as the latter failed to end the debate over abortion, the former, they assert, will likewise fail to usher in a clear consensus in favor of same-sex marriage.  For those like Cokie Roberts who completely disagree with Moore, Obergefell will take a different trajectory than Roe because it involves something positive (marriage), as opposed to death (abortion), and because same-sex marriage allegedly enjoys popular support, whereas the same was not true of abortion in 1973.  While I personally found this debate intriguing, my interest in the association between legalized abortion and the federal government’s recent recognition of so-called same-sex marriage is based not so much on what may happen in the future, but what their connection indicates about the past.

In seeking to trace the history of the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage one could look as far back as the Fall, as both originate in man’s sinful nature and rebellion against God.  However, what accounts for and connects the two together most immediately is the fact that both are products of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.  Few, if any, Americans living before that tumultuous decade could scarcely imagine either abortion or homosexuality being viewed respectfully.  Today, both practices are not only widely celebrated but considered to be rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, despite the absence of any mention of them in the document.  This dramatic shift occurred because the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s successfully started the process of convincing Americans that recreational and aberrant forms of sexuality are both moral and harmless (even if the lives of other human beings must be ended in utero in order to facilitate such activity).  In short, the cultural dominance of a semi-Biblically informed worldview in matters of sexual morality began to be shattered in the 1960s.

Understanding this turn of events should help Christians more clearly see the task ahead of us.  It is not so much a matter of winning elections (though elections do have consequences), or of getting the Court to reverse itself (as helpful as that may be, and has been in the past in matters such as slavery and segregation), but rather convincing an entire culture that God’s instructions for marriage, family, and sexuality are superior to what is today considered to be the most progressive and enlightened approaches to such matters.  The task before us is enormous.   We are faced with nothing less than changing the way an entire culture thinks about some of the most important questions facing humanity.  We may never “win back the culture” but we must continue to live out and proclaim a Biblical sexual ethic not only in loving obedience to our Savior and Creator, but out of Christian love for our neighbors.  As the sexual revolution has progressed from the Sixties forward it has left millions of victims in its wake.  The unbelieving world ignores or excuses the carnage of the revolution, and instead revels in their perceived liberation.  By God’s grace, we who are His children have been delivered from this deception and are more attuned to the pain and suffering that results from sin – in this particular case, sexual sin.  Out of a genuine desire to help our fellow man, we should continue to draw attention to the error of their ways, praying they will heed our advice and ultimately repent of their sins.

Christians now constitute the counter-culture in America.  Spiritually, intellectually and culturally, we are in the minority.  From such a vantage point, and from an earthly perspective, things look grim.  However, human history has demonstrated time and again that a cultural minority can come to eventually dominate a society.  The sexual revolution of the 60s is but one example. Other examples include Christianity making the transition from fringe group to majoritarian status in human societies.  Such transitions are not designated revolutions, but rather revivals.  We may or may not see a revival in America in our time on Earth, but as with every generation of Christians living and laboring in the days before Christ’s return, we must continue to pray and prepare for revival.  If some are willing to dedicate all they have to bringing about cultural revolutions, how much more should we as Christians be willing to give our all in hopes of a spiritual revival.

Dr. Brent Aucoin is a Professor of History and Associate Dean of The College at Southeastern.