Monthly Archives: February 2007

 

Feb

28

2007

Trevin Wax|4:32 pm CT

Paul Negrut Accused of Plagiarism

1247negrut.jpgSad news coming from Romania.

Paul Negrut, president of the Baptist Union in Romania, as well as the president of Emanuel University of Oradea (my alma mater) is being accused of plagiarism. I know Bro. Paul. He was my professor for several courses during my five years at Emanuel. He is the pastor who married me and Corina in 2002.

The course in question is Christian Ethics. I took this class in 2004 and found it to be one of the most exciting classes during my time in Romania. Bro. Paul is being accused of plagiarism, because the printed course for his Christian Ethics class has his name on the front, though several chapters are translated word-for-word from an English book called Moral Choices by Scott Rae, apparently without footnotes or a bibliography.

Let me clarify a few things from my own experience at Emanuel. Bro. Paul did not teach the printed course as his own. It was clear in my studying the written course that it had been translated from English. I didn’t think anything about it, because Bro. Paul never claimed the course as his own. Those chapters from Moral Choices were translated in order that the Romanians would be able to have the material in their own language. I am not 100% sure, but I seem to recall Bro. Paul giving Scott Rae credit for some of the material, at least verbally. The name and the book ring a bell.

It’s true that the printed course did not have footnotes. Neither did it specify where the information came from. This should not have happened. But I doubt Bro. Paul ever even saw the course. He certainly didn’t use it when he taught the class. He used his own notes, current events, and occasionally quoted other authors.

Whether or not Bro. Paul can be accused of plagiarism is up to the courts to decide. From my own experience as a student at Emanuel, I render a different verdict. Plagiarism? No. Unintentional negligence? Yes… unfortunately.

[[Updated]] The Associated Baptist Press is now reporting on this situation. Their story is here. There are a few factual errors that glare out at me from this reporting. The most obvious one is speaking of Bro. Paul’s course as a “book” used for six years that was “published in 1999.” The Ethics course was never a book, in the proper sense, and was never published. It was a collection of materials placed into a notebook without a spine. Students could not “buy” the course. We had to go to the library and make copies of the materials needed for the exam in order to have study material. This is not unusual in Romania. Most courses were done this way, since few of the books needed were translated into Romanian.

It seems odd to me that in all of these press reports, no one is interviewing students who actually took the class! The motivation of the “group of Baptist believers” in question is not to obtain justice of Scott Rae or to demand better academic accountability, but to discredit and demean Paul Negrut. If they were truly motivated by academic integrity, they would not be anonymous.

[[UPDATED - March 5, 2007]] Baptist Press has quoted me at length regarding this issue. The story, which includes the findings of the North American board for Emanuel, can be read here.

 
 

Feb

28

2007

Trevin Wax|6:34 am CT

Book Review: Empowered Church Leadership

Ministry in the Spirit According to PaulIf you’re looking for a book to give you the latest tips on how to grow a church, improve your leadership strategies or increase your church’s budget, don’t get this one. Brian Dodd’s Empowered Church Leadership: Ministry in the Spirit According to Paul (IVP, 2003) boldly takes on the current strategies of the church-world and argues forcefully for a return to the biblical model of church leadership.

Pastors need to read this book. Dodd challenges our common presuppositions by comparing our Western notions of “success” to the ministry of the apostles. Dodd walks us through Paul’s letters, encouraging us to pick up our crosses, to pay the price of following Christ, and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s power and not rely on our own inventions. A book steeped in Scripture, Empowered Church Leadership points us back to God as our source of power, not the clever marketing gimmicks of leadership gurus who have dressed up their worldly principles in Christian garb.

One word of caution, however. In his challenge for us to imitate Paul’s ministry, Dodd emphasizes reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance, sometimes to the exclusion of Scripture. One cannot accuse Dodd for downplaying Scripture – this book is filled with Scriptural references. But when Dodd is writing of authority and apostolic leadership, he writes very little about the importance of the Word, a weakness that could be detrimental to churches without a solid biblical foundation.

Empowered Church Leadership has a message that we in the West need to hear. Dodd encourages us to follow Jesus’ and Paul’s example: the upside-down model that turns the wisdom of the world on its head in its call for radical self-sacrifice.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog

 
 

Feb

27

2007

Trevin Wax|6:46 am CT

Why Did Jesus Come?

The Apostle John, in his Gospel and in his letters, gives ten reasons why Jesus came to earth.

Jesus came…
1. To reveal the Father (John 1:18)
2. To save the world (John 3:16-17)
3. To do God’s will (John 6:38)
4. To turn everything upside down (for judgment) (John 9:39)
5. To give abundant life (John 10:10)
6. To be lifted up on the cross (John 12:27)
7. To shine light in darkness (John 12:46)
8. To bear witness to the truth as the king of the world (John 18:37)
9. To put away sin (1 John 3:5)
10. To destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)

 
 

Feb

26

2007

Trevin Wax|6:35 am CT

Seeking Out the Lost

good_shepherd-707537.jpg“For the Son of Man came to seek
and to save the lost.”

- Jesus, to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:10)

Jesus often shattered the societal norms of His day. While His fellow Jews were taking alternate routes to avoid going through Samaria, Jesus cut straight through the middle of the hostile territory. While the average person would steer clear of a contagious leper, Jesus reached out His hand and became probably the first person in years to touch the dying man. He made a tax collector His disciple, involved women in helping fund His ministry, and healed the servant of a Roman soldier. He featured a hated Samaritan as the hero of one of His stories. He condemned the rich and powerful and lifted up the poor and oppressed.

Jesus intentionally made headway into virtually every segment of society written off by the religious and political leaders of His day. And when the Pharisees criticized His scandalous fellowship with the corrupt tax collector Zacchaeus, He answered curtly: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus had come to seek those left behind by everyone else. He came to save those deemed not worth the effort. He loved those whom no one else would love. He came to die for a world that didn’t see the need for His salvation. The Good Shepherd went looking for His sheep, not because He needed the sheep, but because the sheep would die without Him.

We would be doomed to eternal separation from God if not for a Savior who came seeking and saving the lost. Jesus sought out the lost where they were, changing them and then charging them to continue the revolution of forgiveness that He had begun. The Gospel of God’s magnificent love must be proclaimed to every category of society, however big the sacrifice may be on our part. From the AIDS ward to the homeless shelter, no human being is an “untouchable” in the eyes of God. Jesus came not to pamper and puff up the found, but to seek and to save the lost.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog

 
 

Feb

25

2007

Trevin Wax|6:32 am CT

Litany of Penance

114304308304_tn.jpgMost holy and merciful Father:
I confess that I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life.
I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,
I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,
I confess to you, Lord.

My intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life and work,
I confess to you, Lord.

My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me,
I confess to you, Lord.

Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to indulgence and curelty,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt towards those who differ from me,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For my waste and pollution of your creation, and my lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept my repentance Lord.
Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me,
Favorably hear me for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in me and all of your church the work of your salvation,
That I may show forth all your glory in the world.

By the cross of your Son, our Lord,
Bring me with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

- from The Book of Common Prayer

 
 

Feb

24

2007

Trevin Wax|6:57 am CT

Piper on Fasting

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison, but apple pie.”
 - John Piper

See more Quotes of the Week

 
 

Feb

23

2007

Trevin Wax|6:27 am CT

In the Blogosphere…

1. TIME Magazine devotes its cover story to the rise of crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. 

2. Scot McKnight begins a series of reflections for Lent. The first is On the Way to the Cross.

3. Mark Dever writes of Christian optimism, particulary the Christian hope of resurrection.

4. Justin Taylor interviews John Ensor, an important person in the pregnancy support movement.

5. Ben Witherington writes about a Q&A session with Rob Bell. I write about Witherington’s review here.

6. Al Mohler and Susan Jacoby participate in an online debate, Has Organized Religion Done More Harm than Good?

7. Timmy Brister reviews the speakers at Union University’s Baptist Identity conference. As one who couldn’t be there, I’m thankful for Timmy’s excellent blogging.

 
 

Feb

22

2007

Trevin Wax|6:56 am CT

Book Review: Night

Night (Oprah's Book Club)If you come across someone who wonders whether or not human beings are totally depraved, hand them a copy of this book. Night is a short book describing Wiesel’s year in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

The book begins with Wiesel’s family living peacefully in Transylvania during the later years of World War II. Trouble seems distant though rumors abound. The Jewish community in Sighet continues to live and love just as before. Wiesel tells about a devout Jewish man who had witnessed the horrors of a concentration camp and escaped. Upon arrival in the village, he began to warn everyone of the impending danger. But the villagers scoffed at his warnings. They did not believe that humans were capable of such evil. Even after the Jews were moved to the ghetto, Wiesel describes his family as still hoping and trusting that nothing worse would take place.

Then, the concentration camp. Wiesel describes in horrific detail the “chimney,” – the place where Jews (even babies) were thrown alive into a blazing fire. Wiesel rebels against God. He refuses to fast on Jewish holy days. He questions the existence of God. The human evil of Auschwitz is too overwhelming to comprehend. Wiesel claims that human words cannot express the suffering he experienced.

Throughout the narrative, Wiesel expresses shock and dismay at the evil of his persecutors. But intermingled into his account is his surprise at his own depravity manifested in his basest instincts. His recollections are littered with regret, with anger, and remorse.

Wiesel’s account forces the reader wrestle with questions about human depravity, God’s sovereignty, the reason for suffering. The most disturbing scene in the book takes place when an innocent boy only 12 years old is forced to die, though he did not commit the crime for which he is punished. He and three others are placed on the gallows and hanged. The rest of the prisoners are forced to walk by and look squarely into the faces of the executed. But ”the third rope was still moving. The child, too light, was still breathing… And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writing before our eyes…”

“Behind me, I heard the same man asking, ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: ‘Where He is? This is where – hanging here from this gallows…’”

This account is a turning point for Wiesel. In his thoughts at that time, God is dead. Yet, as a Christian, I sense something deeper in this story. In the midst of human suffering and evil, I too look to an Innocent One dying an excruciating death. And when considering the depth of human evil and the love of a good God, I too ask, “Where is God?” and then see the form of a cross. ”He is here, hanging on this tree…”  

written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog

 
 

Feb

21

2007

Trevin Wax|6:55 am CT

Our Lenten Fast This Year

lent.jpg

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time that Christians historically have used to prepare for the upcoming Easter celebrations. For me and Corina, this is our third year of commemorating the Lenten season by adopting a Lenten “fast.”

I know that Lent is not kept by most evangelicals, and that’s okay. There’s no Scripture passage forbidding it or advocating it, so whether one decides to prepare for Easter in this manner is left to one’s conscience. Still, while fasting during Lent may not mandated by Scripture, the discipline of fasting is. Jesus’ instructions on fasting presuppose and reinforce the discipline. (After all, He says, “When you fast,” not if.) It’s true that, as with any spiritual discipline, there can be a tendency towards excess and legalism. But as I look at American evangelicalism today, I hardly think that we are suffering from too much fasting.

This season serves as a time of reflection upon the sufferings of Christ. It is a season of repentance, a time of dying to self that anticipates new life on the other side, just like the last days of winter anticipate the arrival of Spring.

The Lenten fast we have put together in previous years (and which we will seek to keep this year too) is symbolic in nature. During this season, we refrain from drinking anything other than water. Everytime we forego a soft drink or glass of juice and settle for a glass of water, we remember that Jesus is the One who provides us with living water. Our spiritual thirst is only quenched through our relationship with Him. Drinking only water during this time reminds us that we are to find our total satisfaction in Him alone.

We also give up anything sweet during this time (with the exception of fruits). This is intended to remind us of the sufferings of Christ and the bitter cup of God’s wrath that He drank for us. Also, our anticipation of enjoying desserts after Easter corresponds to our eager expectation for the coming new heavens and new earth, when we will feast at God’s banquet table, never again to taste the bitterness of pain and suffering.

I hope to go through the Divine Hours Lenten book this year, praying at fixed hours four times a day. It might be unrealistic to try the fixed-hour practice during this season, but we’re going to give it a shot. I’m looking forward to forming the days around times of prayer, instead of fitting times of prayer into my busy work schedule.

I hesitated to write this post. By sharing the details of a fast, I am opening myself up to the charge that we are putting on a righteous display before other people and thus risking our heavenly reward. Ultimately, God knows my motivation for writing does not stem from pride. I use this occasion to encourage others to consider doing a Lenten fast this year. And whether or not you “give up something,” at least use these few weeks to prepare for Easter, giving thought to the price paid for your ransom and the extraordinary love of God manifested on Calvary.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog

 
 

Feb

20

2007

Trevin Wax|7:57 pm CT

Is Rob Bell Going Soft on Homosexuality?

Ben Witherington, author and New Testament scholar, writes about his recent visit to a Question & Answer session with Rob Bell. Despite his affinity for Rob, Witherington critiques Bell’s answer to the question of homosexuality as “evasive… disturbing… and unbiblical.” In fact, it was Rob’s reluctance to make any pronouncement on this issue that seems to have disturbed Witherington the most.

What are we seeing here? Just a few years ago, I remember Rob addressing the issue of homosexuality in a sermon and being very clear about the need for deliverance from homosexuality as a sin. Has Rob turned a corner in his theology? It sounds like he is following Brian McLaren, who has famously refused to give a clear answer to this question.

Wayne Grudem writes about a “slippery slope” towards liberalism, and he takes a lot of flack for employing that over-used metaphor. Usually, he is speaking of denominations that begin to play loose with their doctrine of Scripture, accept the ordination of women as pastors, and then eventually meander down a path that ends with a full embrace of homosexuality and homosexual unions.

Grudem’s study of denominational trajectories seems to be taking place in a few short years within the life of this young, talented preacher from Michigan. A few years ago, Rob began speaking of the Bible as a “human book,” and shied away from clearly defining his views on the trustworthiness and inspiration of all Scripture being divine. Then, he led his church to a completely egalitarian position regarding women in ministry. This, of course, came on the heels of Rob’s reading of William Webb’s book Slaves, Women and Homosexuals, which advocates a “redemptive trend” that seeks to build an ethical system based on where the Bible was going, not what it ultimately says. (I know this is a simplistic way of framing Webb’s book, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to leave the summary as is.)

According to Grudem, the next step is changing our terms of reference for God (which Rob Bell has not done officially, although he has challenged traditional references to God with provocative sermons like his Mother’s Day 2005 sermon called “The Mother God.”) After that, Grudem says, comes the moral acceptance and approval of homosexuality. Rob hasn’t gone that far, but Witherington’s account makes it sound like he’s waffling a bit.

So, is Rob Bell going soft on homosexuality? Who knows? Witherington’s analysis doesn’t sound hopeful. I pray to God that this is not the case. Rob is a gifted preacher with a heart for his people. I have benefited from his sermons and have admired his passion for seeing lives transformed. I have no doubt that the Enemy would love to take out Rob Bell, because if he stays on track and remains faithful to historic Christianity, he will be a positive force for the Kingdom during the next few decades.

I, for one, will be praying for Rob as he ministers in Michigan. And specifically, I’ll pray that Witherington’s critique will be a wake-up call for Bell to get back on track and speak the truth of God boldly, and in love, for if we fail to name sin for what it is, we leave no room for God’s redemption and forgiveness.