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The Great and Powerful O

Friday, October 31, 2008

Growing up, I would almost always watch the classic film The Wizard of Oz when it came on television. I am sure many of you have also seen the movie. Lately this movie has been on my mind a lot as I think about the presidential election that will take place in a few days here in the United States of America.

After Dorothy lands in the land of Oz, she is concerned about going home and is told that she should go to see the "Wonderful Wizard of Oz", as surely he could solve her problems. Along the way, she picks up the brainless scarecrow, the heartless tin man, and the cowardly lion who all are excited to join the adventure with her as they travel to Emerald City to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz - the One who can solve all of their problems.

When they finally get to see the "Great and Powerful Oz", they are awestruck and scared as they see the scene on the screen of what they think is the "Great and Powerful Oz." Unbeknownst to them, the real "Wizard" of Oz is simply a man behind a curtain. In reality, he is not a wizard, not so powerful and not so wonderful. It takes the little dog Toto to pull the curtain back and reveal the Great and Powerful Oz for the fraud that he is.

In many ways, this scene seems to be playing out in this election. Senator Obama is a very eloquent speaker. When I watched him speak at the DNC in 2004, I said immediately that he would be running for President - and that he would be likely to win. He comes across as a very reasonable man who seeks to inspire hope. A man who seems to be "different" than some of the candidates that have proceeded him from the left, such as Kerry or Gore. In that speech in which he was introduced to most of America, he seemed to put forth a moderate tone - one that argued that we should stop seeing ourselves as "Red States" and "Blue States" but as the "United States." He hit the right note and I believe this resonated with a lot of people.

The problem, however, is that the speech at the DNC and many of his speeches since then present a man on a screen. They present an appealing image, but the real Obama - the one hiding behind the curtain - seems to be a very different person.

The problem that we are faced with today, however, is that the news media, whose traditional roll has been to pull the curtain back and let us see what is behind the curtain, is instead desperately holding on to the curtain to keep it closed. They have decided that the "image" of the Great and Powerful O is the one that people must continue to believe and have done everything they can to shut up any Toto that dares to try to pull the curtain back. Look at what has happened to "Joe the Plumber" - a man who dared to try to pull the curtain and had his house descended upon by the media and had his private records illegally searched and has experienced an all-out onslaught against him in an attempt to discredit him.

There have been some Totos out there trying to pull the curtain back, but the Totos are being silenced or they are not strong enough on their own to effectively reveal what is behind the curtain - to reveal the true nature of "The One".

On the screen Obama shows himself to be reasonable on so many issues, but behind the screen is something vastly different.

On the screen, "The One" seems to be "reasonable" to many people in the area of abortion. Seeming to be relatively moderate. Claiming like he did in the last debate that "nobody is pro- abortion", many people can console themselves that he is not really that radical on the issue. Behind the curtain, however, he is an extremist in the area of abortion. While serving in the Illinois State Senate, Obama argued against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act in 2002. This was a bill that would have required medical treatment be given to babies who survived abortions - in other words, LIVE BABIES. To consider how radical this is, a similar bill passed the U.S. Senate 98-0 - not even one of the many "pro-choice" liberal Senators voted against it. During the course of this election season, he pledged at a Planned Parenthood gathering that the first thing he would do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act - which would have the effect of overturning laws against partial-birth abortion, laws requiring parental notification for minors having abortion, and multitudes of other reasonable restrictions that have been placed on abortion over the years. In addition to this, it would have the effect of overturning the Hyde amendment - meaning that once again that people who oppose this gruesome act would be forced to have their tax money pay for elective abortion.

On the screen, "The One" seems to be reasonable on foreign affairs. He speaks before massive crowds in Germany and seems to present a nice face for America. He claims on his website that the Obama/Biden ticket has established "a strong record as true friends of Israel, stalwart defenders of Israel's security." Behind the curtain is the man who has shown great instability and carelessness in the area of foreign affairs - saying he would sit down without pre-conditions with Chavez, Castro and Iran's leader (which he has tried to twist into not being a reference to Ahmadinejad), etc. not realizing the support that such a meeting would give to those leaders. Behind the curtain, he is friendly with former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi who would prefer a "one-state solution" - meaning the abolition of Israel. Behind the curtain, he was totally wrong on the surge and would have preferred for American troops to come home in defeat from Iraq.

On the screen, "The One" seems to be reasonable on the economy, claiming tax-cuts for the middle class. Behind the curtain he reveals to Joe the Plumber that he wants to "spread the wealth around." Behind the curtain he reveals on a NPR radio show that the very liberal and activist Warren court did not go far enough. Behind the curtain he has voted for tax increases. Behind the curtain he has called for the elimination of the Bush Tax Cuts - which he won't call a tax increase but has the same effect. When the curtain was briefly pulled away by the Joe the Plumber, Obama went off script and revealed he wanted to "spread the wealth around."

On the screen, "The One" seems to be a well-educated and articulate man - which he surely is to a degree. Behind the curtain he has made a number of statements that would have gotten Dan Quayle lambasted by the media. For instance, he commented in Oregon earlier this year, "I've now been in 57 states. I think one left to go." Can you imagine if Sarah Palin had made a similar comment. It would given as evidence of how stupid she was. This is not an isolated incident, in fact, Michelle Malkin has a number of posts on these, including here.

Will someone pull away the curtain? Will people stop during these last few days and think about the real Obama rather than the one on the screen?

We will wait and see.

Just my thoughts,


For a much more comprehensive treatment of some of these issues, including actual footage of Obama commenting about abortion and other issues, see this post at

Reflections upon reading the Reflections

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last week I read the news that Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota announced that it will "cease academic activities" at the end of this calendar year.

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College has served as a strong Fundamentalist institution over the years. In the early days, Pillsbury had such presidents as Dr. Monroe Parker, Dr. Richard Clearwaters and Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm. There have been some unfortunate times of difficulty over the years, including a disagreement between between Drs. Clearwaters and Cedarholm (which is discussed in a 1999 article in Frontline Magazine entitled, "The Cedarholm/Clearwaters Conflict.")

I was saddened to hear of the demise of Pillsbury. It has had a great heritage and I am concerned for the students, faculty, and staff members of the institution. I imagine it is especially difficult for some who have poured their hearts and lives into this ministry and have prayed for them during this time.

The day after I heard of this, I was able to pray with the president of a sister school and was told that the schools were likely going to make an exception for Pillsbury students that would allow them to transfer their credits to the schools even though Pillsbury was accredited as a Bible Institute rather than a College. CORRECTION: Pillsbury is accredited by AHBE as a four-year Bible college, but apparently this accreditation is different than the accreditation that the particular school usually accepted - thank you, Professor David McGuire for the correction. I appreciated the desire of this president and the other schools to try to help out these students in a very difficult time.

Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota, who I have referred to in a number of articles here at A Thinking Man's Thoughts and of whose ministry I have appreciation, has written an article on the Pillsbury situation in his newsletter In the Nick of Time and that has been recently published at ShaperIron and generated some discussion - here.

While I appreciate some of the things Dr. Bauder has said, I do wonder, however, if the premise of this article by Dr. Bauder and the subsequent comments may be going a little too far and I wonder if we should ask those who are busy chiseling on the marble to think a little bit further before they finish making the tombstone.

Even though I would agree with Dr. Bauder that the "idea" is more important than the "movement", I think we may be jumping the gun on the movement - or at least the use of Pillsbury as indicative of the movement seems to be a bit of a stretch.

(For some of my further thought on the "Idea" and "Movement" of Fundamentalism, see my post, The Best and the Brightest - The Idea of Fundamentalism and the Movement of Fundamentalism.)

While I am not an expert on Pillsbury by any stretch, I question whether the case can accurately be made that the collapse of Pillsbury is merely a microcosm of a greater collapse of Fundamentalism. The reasons I question this include the following:

1. The decline of Pillsbury occurred at the same time when at least two of the neighboring Fundamental Colleges were experiencing a time of increase. While I do not have the figures, I am pretty sure that both Maranatha and Northland are significantly larger today than they were in 1990. (Faith may be as well, but I am less familiar with Faith.) I do not have the numbers, but I would guess the combined attendance at the three schools (Pillsbury, Maranatha, and Northland) is greater now than it was then - even with Pillsbury's decline.

2. The decline of Pillsbury did not occur without some issues being present at the school. As even Dr. Bauder has alluded, "Pillsbury nearly closed in the mid-1990s when it experienced multiple turnovers of administration and a purge of the faculty. This was not the first controversial period in the history of the college." The numerous changes in leadership and the changes in philosophy that some of those changes included would make most institutions unstable. (Although perhaps there is some question regarding cause and effect.)

3. Pillsbury experienced a change of leadership and focus at one point that seems to have resulted in the alienation of both alumni and other constituents due to a left-ward shift (or, so as not to get sidetracked, a perceived left-ward shift). I appreciated the efforts of some to try to "right the ship" in subsequent years, but damage like this is difficult to undo. It puts questions in the minds of folks who may be influential in helping to recruit students to a school or support the school in other ways. I know that while I was a youth pastor, we took college trips up to MBBC and NBBC from New Jersey and later added FBBC, but we were in a "wait and see" mode when it came to PBBC and never actually included it in our list of schools to visit when we took our "Northern College Trips". While we were not a huge church (at the time we probably had between 50-70 in our youth groups, I think), we did have students that attended each of the other schools we visited, and if other churches also were cautious about PBBC because of the earlier changes, this could have had a definite effect on their enrollment and ultimate survival.

Some have objected to this idea that the "left-ward leer" of a college President over a decade ago can have that much affect. I understand this objection, but I think it is misinformed. I also don't think it is necessarily a Fundamental/New Evangelical issue. In fact, I would imagine this were true even in the secular arena.

Imagine a similar scenario. A new president is selected at a well-known conservative educational institution, but the new presidents announces that he is supportive of Obama and Pelosi and the rest of the liberals in politics of the day. Even if subsequent presidents attempt a return to traditional conservative issues, unless a major mea culpa with sackcloth and ashes and comes from those involved in the hiring of the left-leaning president, many conservatives are going to be wary of recommending and supporting the institution - and wisely so. (BTW, the same would be true of a liberal institution that suddenly came out as conservative on some major issues - look what happened to Joe Liberman.)

I further question the wording of Dr. Bauder where he says the following:

The question is not whether fundamentalism is collapsing. The question is how we should respond to the collapse. More fundamentally, the question is how we should even be thinking about these events.
Is Fundamentalism collapsing? It seems that is a foregone conclusion to Dr. Bauder, even though he admits it is difficult to know the real state of Fundamentalism. I hear what seems to be almost a glee in some circles (certainly not Dr. Bauder) in that apparent collapse, but I question whether those who are celebrating should think through the bigger picture more clearly.

In 1925, Harvard liberal Kirsopp Lake wrote regarding Fundamentalism in The Religion of Yesterday and Tomorrow
“It is a mistake, often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology, to suppose that Fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind: it is the…survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians….The Fundamentalist may be wrong: I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he, and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a Fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the Church is on the Fundamentalist side”

I recognize that the this applies to the idea more than the movement, but historically it has often been the movements who have been used of God to propagate, promote, defend and expand the idea. While I recognize that God does not need a particular institution, I believe it would be wise for those of us who hold to the idea of Fundamentalism to seek to do what we can to pray for, encourage, support and strengthen (including providing correction where necessary) those institutions that also hold to the idea.

Just my thoughts,

Frank Sansone

Fellowship Baptist Church to Celebrate 10th Anniversary this Sunday, October 12

Friday, October 10, 2008

If you live in the Salisbury, Maryland area,Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury, Maryland would love to invite you to join us as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary on Sunday, October 12, 2008.

Ten years ago a small group of believers began to meet in a home and eventually formed what became Messiah Baptist Fellowship. Pastor Steve Wagner served as Pastor of this small group of believers and they were soon able to secure a meeting place next to the Red Door Sub Shop on South Salisbury Boulevard. Over the next five-plus years, this little church remained faithful to the Word of God under Pastor Wagner's leadership and was privileged to see some folks come to Christ for salvation and some other believers who were looking for a good church come and join Messiah Baptist Fellowship.

Sensing the Lord's leading into full-time Jewish missions, Pastor Wagner and his wife relocated to South Carolina where he continues to serve with Messiah Ministries. Dr. William Woodhall, who had faithfully served as Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lewes, Delaware for 33 years served as the Interim Pastor of Messiah Baptist Fellowship for most of 2004 and provided needed stability to this small flock during this time without a full-time Pastor.

In October 2004, Messiah Baptist Fellowship called Frank Sansone to serve as Pastor and Pastor Sansone and his family officially started on December 5, 2004. The last few years we have rejoiced in God's continued working in our church. Over these last few years, we have seen the Lord add to His church and we have seen growth in the people of God. In the Spring of 2006, the Lord provided us with a building at 1308 Robins Avenue and we changed our name to Fellowship Baptist Church. Since then, we have also rejoiced as this new building has allowed us to have the addition of Sunday School for all ages, some youth activities, and the excitement of Vacation Bible School in the summer. We have also rejoiced in Baptisms in the Nanticoke River and at a neighboring church, and the recent provision of a handicap-accessible van in specific answer to prayer.

For our 10th Anniversary, we invite you to join us for a very special Sunday. We would like to extend a special invitation to any of our friends who have been part of the ministry here over the years to "come home" for this Sunday. We also invite our neighbors and friends from the Salisbury area to join us for this Special Anniversary Sunday. All of the men who have served as Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church will be preaching. Dr. Woodhall will be preaching during the Sunday School hour at 10:00 a.m., Pastor Sansone will preach the morning service at 11:00 a.m. and Pastor Wagner will preach the afternoon service at 2:00 p.m. We will also be have a special lunch at the church between the morning and afternoon service, complete with good food prepared by the folks at Fellowship.

If you would like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call the church at 410-341-7100.

Just my thought of invitation,