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

Southern Baptists, Slavery and Same-Sex Marriage

By: Dr. Brent Aucoin

Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage frequently seek to win over their opponents by warning them that they will end up on the “wrong side of history.”  This appeal is predicated on the notion that it is primarily evangelical Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage, and that it was evangelical Christians who in years past took the wrong side in controversies over slavery and the civil rights movement.

This line of argument, of course, is not without its flaws.

As others have pointed out, the admonition to not be on the wrong side of history will carry little weight with those whose theology correctly informs them that it is infinitely more important to be on the right side of eternity than it is to be on the right side of history.  In addition, the blanket assertion that evangelicals who oppose same-sex marriage today were wrong about the civil rights movement is historically inaccurate as it not only dismisses the relatively few white evangelicals who championed black equality but egregiously ignores the numerous black evangelical Christians who supported civil rights (and who today oppose same-sex marriage).

Though the argument is flawed, I think there is another way that we can respond to, and learn from, this call for us to not end up on the wrong side of history.  Although it is true that self-proclaimed Christians spearheaded the movements for the abolition of slavery and for civil rights, it is nevertheless best for us to acknowledge that evangelicals (particularly Southern Baptists) were more often than not on the wrong side of both of those righteous crusades. But then we are to ask why that was the case?

Part of the answer, I believe, is because far too many white evangelicals listened to what society said about matters such as slavery and segregation than what the Scriptures say.

So, if our evangelical ancestors went astray on matters of social justice as a result of allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by the spirit of the age and area in which they lived, then what lesson are we to learn from their mistake?  Is it not that we are to be more diligent now than ever before to have our views shaped by God’s Word rather than by man’s opinion?  Will we dismiss what the Bible says about homosexuality because the culture in which we live urges us to do so?

Remember, far too many of our evangelical and Baptist predecessors in the South supported white supremacy because the culture in which they lived urged them to do so.  Rather than worrying about being on the wrong side of history, let us rather learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

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

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Dr. Stephen Wade published an article which offers a few foundational thoughts relative to understanding addictions biblically, and in it he also suggests some practical tips relative to ministering to addicts. In his article Dr. Wade writes:

Addictions are typically associated with alcohol and drug abuse, but when we dig deep into the human heart, we find that a clear understanding of what is going on is really a picture of the battle going on in the heart of every sinner. Pastors will find that both believers and non-believers struggle with addictive tendencies, to a greater or lesser extent, with many different things in their lives. Indeed, the grace and power of the gospel applied to the struggle of an addict is the same grace and power that every believer needs in the battle with sin.

Thom Rainer published an article describing five reasons pastors have guest blindness at the Lifeway blog earlier this week. Dr. Rainer writes:

In light of the woeful reports from mystery guests, I was very surprised at one facet of some research we conducted as we interviewed pastors across America.* One of our questions asked if the pastor’s church does a good job of meeting the needs of first time guests. Surprisingly, 90 percent of the pastors said “yes.” Did you get that? Less than 20 percent of the guests said their visit was good, but 90 percent of the pastors perceive the opposite, that most guests have a good visit.

At The Gospel Coalition, Camille Cates writes: “Why I Don’t Blame Planned Parenthood.

In Genesis 3, we see Adam shift blame to his wife, Eve, and even to God himself. Likewise, Eve shifts blame onto the serpent. Neither takes responsibility for his or her own actions; instead, they simply act as if their sin is someone else’s fault. In the years immediately following my abortion, I shifted the blame too. I blamed my baby’s father. I blamed my parents who took me to the clinic. I even blamed God.

In a recent post on his blog, Dr. Waylon Bailey gives five practical steps for wise speech.

How many times have you asked yourself: “Why did I say that?” Or, maybe you asked: “How could I say that?” Nothing seems to be as easy as saying something dumb. None of us wants to misspeak or say things we shouldn’t. What can we do to minimize our unwise words?

Reflecting on a question he was once asked about Christians eating black pudding in light of Old Testament regulations about eating blood (Lev. 17:10ff), Sinclair Ferguson writes on four principles for the exercise of Christian liberty over at Ligonier:

Although (as far as I am aware) no theological dictionary contains an entry under B for “The Black Pudding Controversy,” this unusual discussion raised some most basic hermeneutical and theological issues:

  • How is the Old Testament related to the New?
  • How is the Law of Moses related to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • How should a Christian exercise freedom in Christ?

Yesterday in Chapel at Southeastern, Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of Graduate Studies warns students not to become hard hearted to where they destroy their witness. Watch the entire message here: