Some Thoughts on Race and the Presidency

Yesterday America celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is hard to believe that, if Dr. King was still alive today, he would turn 80 this year. That’s a few years younger than all three of my living grandparents. As someone who was born about a decade after Dr. King’s assassination, I cannot imagine a world where he lives past 39 years old–he was such a young man in 1968. History will always remember him as a young man.

Martin Luther King Jr. was, above all, a Baptist preacher. He served local Baptist churches in Alabama and Georgia. Like many leaders in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. King saw his social activism as an extension of his Christian faith. He believed racism, and all forms of social oppression, were fundamentally sin issues. Society needed to change, but Dr. King and many others knew that societal change would only come as individual hearts and minds were changed. And this was especially true of Christian hearts and minds; too many Christian people were not walking in a manner worthy of the gospel when it came to racial justice in American culture, especially in the South. (See Dr. King’s scathing critique of racially moderate clergy in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which can be read here.)

We should stop and consider how America has changed in the course of a generation. When Dr. King was assassinated, there were some places where it was still difficult for African Americans to vote. Many places in the South were still segregated (my parents were in high school–in the early-1970s–before they had black classmates in South Georgia). There were virtually no African Americans (or other “non-whites,” besides a few Asian-Americans) serving in prominent elected or appointed positions in our national government. And now here we are, in January 2009, prepared to inaugurate the first African American President of the United States in a little less than one hour. Society has changed.

All Christians should be thankful that Barack Obama will soon be our President, even those who did not vote for him. Though racism will be with us until that day when all things are made new in Christ, the election of a black man as our Commander and Chief signals a significant advance in our nation’s history. I believe without reservation that this is evidence of God’s grace. I know that many of my fellow conservative evangelicals will disagree. They will bemoan Obama’s election because of his views of abortion, homosexuality, and other “social issues.” They will argue that his election is evidence of God’s judgment, not his grace. And to be clear, I strongly disagree with our new President’s views on these matters.

But as a Christian and a historian, I think it is at least possible that today is evidence of both grace and judgment. Why should this be surprising? We believe in the God of common grace, who brings rain to both the righteous and the wicked, who prevents each of us from being as sinful as we are capable, who allows a fallen world to still show great evidence of beauty, truth, and order, however imperfectly. We also believe in the God who exercises righteous wrath against wickedness, whether it be the murder of the unborn, perverse forms of human sexuality, the oppression of a people based upon the color of their skin, or the exploitation of orphans and widows.

History is complicated and messy, a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Isn’t it possible that God is blessing us in some ways, even as we face judgment in other ways? If you think about it, this is the individual experience of every person, both Christian and non-Christian. This is the experience of every family. Every church. Every nation. Life will be complicated until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he reigns forever and ever.

So I rejoice–really, sincerely, wholeheartedly, and Christianly–at the election of Barack Obama. It represents so much that is good. So much that is so long overdue. So much that, in God’s common grace, pictures the barrier-smashing power of the gospel. The strong disagreements I have with Mr. Obama on any number of issues can wait for tomorrow. Today is a day of celebration, for every American, and for every Christian. Hail to the Chief.angry racers online

Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 22: A Great Commission Seminary

Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence is a series of articles by faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary that seeks to offer some definitions of what constitutes a GCR, why we believe the SBC is in need of such a movement, and what such a movement might look like in SBC life. The series addresses biblical, theological, historical and practical issues related to a GCR with the hope that God will use our finite and flawed efforts for His glory and the good of the people called Southern Baptist.

Looking for a Great Commission Seminary?

By Danny Akin

Why Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary exists is made plain in our mission statement: “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).” This is who we are plain and simple. Let me take the opportunity to unwrap that statement.

Southeastern Seminary exists to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is our passion and our priority. It is all about Him. If that ever changes, it would be best for us to disappear from planet earth! Our goal is to fulfill Colossians 1:18, that “He might come to have first place in everything.” Our hearts desire is to see Philippians 2:10-11 come to pass “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Southeastern Seminary aspires to be a Jesus-intoxicated seminary. We will be satisfied with nothing less.

Southeastern Seminary exists to equip students to serve the Church. We see ourselves as a servant to the churches who entrust their men and women, sons and daughters, to our care. Our reason for existing is “for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, [growing] into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:12-13). Equipping students means teaching them what to believe and how to live. Southeastern Seminary is proudly confessional. We want people to know where we stand without apology or compromise. An outstanding faculty with well-trained minds and a missionary heart gladly teach in accordance with and not contrary to: 1) The Abstract of Principles; 2) The Baptist Faith and Message; 3) The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy; 4) The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Southern Baptists, the evangelical community, and for that matter the whole world can be certain of the biblical and theological instruction taking place in Wake Forest, North Carolina. They can also be confident that we are not interested in creating ivory tower theological eggheads who are disconnected from real persons and real life. We work hard to wed the head, the heart and the hands in fulfilling the Great Commission. We believe theology and missions go hand in hand. What we teach must be translated and transferred to where people live. Biblical truth is not only concerned with what we believe, it is also concerned with what we do.

Finally, Southeastern Seminary exists to fulfill the Great Commission. We are consumed with a passion to be a Great Commission Seminary. The call to take the gospel to the lost is a consistent drumbeat at Southeastern put before every student day after day after day.

Do our students need a reason to go to the nations? No! They need a reason to stay home! That is the heartbeat of Southeastern. 1.6 billion people have yet to hear the name of Jesus. Millions more have only a nominal witness. Our seminary exists to correct this problem! We believe there is no greater joy than seeing new believers place their faith in the Lord Jesus as they identify themselves with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. And, God has promised that they would be found in every nation and from all the peoples of the earth! What a gospel! What a mission! What an assignment! This is an awesome calling given to us by an awesome God!

Jerry Rankin is a dear friend to me and he is president of the International Mission Board. This is what he has said about Southeastern Seminary:

The increasing number and consistent flow of missionary candidates coming from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for service with the International Mission Board indicates a passion for missions that permeates the campus. Southeastern has emerged as a preeminent equipper for Great Commission fulfillment, and not only in the training of future missionaries. Those who go to pastor, serve on church staffs and in other areas of ministry are impacted and influenced by a focus on missions through studies in every department and academic discipline.

I believe in Southeastern Seminary. My calling to serve here is one of pure grace and goodness. I believe we are doing well, but I am also convinced our precious Lord wants us to do even more! My constant prayer is that God will raise up William Carey’s, Adoniram and Ann Judson’s, Bill Wallace’s, and Lottie Moon’s from the students who come to our campus. Do we need a reason to train students to take the gospel to the nations? Do we need a reason, as a seminary, to train a new generation of Great Commission Christians both at home and around the world? No, the commission is plain, and the need is self-evident.

Let me close with a personal word of appreciation that I hope will go out far and wide. Southeastern Seminary is particularly grateful for the faithful and generous support of Southern Baptists. They make it possible for us to provide the finest theological education at the lowest cost anywhere in the world. If you doubt this, just do a little cost comparison. You will be shocked at the difference! During this time of economic struggle, this commitment on the part of Southern Baptists is especially appreciated and it has never been more important. Southern Baptists make it possible for us to train Great Commission Christians. Thank you. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for believing in what we do. It is a joy to partner with you in glorifying Jesus and fulfilling His Great Commission.

Church Planting Boot Camp to be Held in Raleigh

Vintage 21, a thriving missional congregation that meets in Raleigh, will host a church planting “boot camp” February 4-5, 2009. The boot camp is sponsored by the Acts 29 Network. The speakers include Mark Driscoll, Wayne Grudem, Daniel Montgomery, and Southeastern’s own Danny Akin and Andreas Kostenberger. For more information about the boot camp, check out this online