Posts by EC

RECORD Winter 2018

Justin Lee founded and, for some 16 years, led the evangelical Gay Christian Network in support of biblically-serious Christians in faithfully living their lives as same-sex attracted persons, whether in a monogamous partnership or in celibacy.

But, the GCN Board suddenly announced: “Justin and the Board have come to realize they have differing perspectives”.  In a joint announcement, it was stated: “Due to irreconcilable differences about the direction and future of the organization, Justin Lee and the GCN Board of Directors have agreed to his amicable separation from the organization.  Justin Lee will no longer serve as the executive director of GCN.”

Both parties are legally bound to an agreement of non-disclosure, so Justin could not go into details about the matter though he’s told his many supporters and friends: “I can only tell you that I am, of course, crushed and would appreciate your prayers.”

Justin has now founded Nuance Ministries, a non-profit ministry “dedicated to using education and gracious dialogue to change anti-LBGT attitudes in Christian communities.” His new ministry is based on the same concerns he’s had all along, the same biblical principles outlined in his 2012 book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate and his next book, Talking Across the Divide. Check this out at nuanceministries.com.

The 31st Annual Evangelicals Concerned Presidents Day Bible Study Weekend will be, as always, up at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania’s eastern mountains. But due to deep snow in recent winters at The Kirkridge Lodge atop the mountain, we’ll be meeting this time at a lower elevation – at The Kirkridge Farmhouse.  The dates are: Saturday afternoon, February 17 through Monday lunch, February 19, 2018.

The 76th Evangelicals Concerned Summer ConnECtion will be in the Pennsylvania mountains at Kirkridge, the weekend of June 1 – 3, 2018 (Friday afternoon through Sunday lunch). EC’s founder will again keynote the ConnECtion and our guest keynoters will be Holly Chaisson, Houghton College Newspaper Editor and Alumna, and Matt Carden, Attorney & Christian Higher Ed Consultant.

The 16th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Fall Festival will be held on Columbus Day weekend. Again, we’ll be meeting at Ocean Grove on Jersey’s shore.  Besides preaching, EC’s founder will lecture on our centennial honorees, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Billy Graham.  As usual, there’ll be displays of our honorees’ autographica and mementoes.

Read more →

REVIEW Winter 2018

The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church has Failed to Love Homosexuals by Tim Bayly, Joseph Bayly, Jurgen von Hagen (Warhorn Media, 2017), 165 pp.  

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

Tim Bayly’s dad was the late Joe Bayly, IVCF editor, author of The Gospel Blimp, and, for a quarter century, a popular columnist at Eternity magazine.  In 1979, he wrote: “Most evangelical churches are very uptight about homosexuality, relatively very accepting of adultery, and the concomitant problems of desertion and divorce.”  Noting, “there is such a crusade against homosexuals”, he asked: “Why?”  His perceptive reply: “I think it’s because homosexual sins are their sins, heterosexual sins are ours.”  Tim Bayly included this wise observation in his collection of his dad’s columns, The Best of Joe Bayly (1993).

But now, with his co-authors, his son and another pastor, he’s who’s “very uptight about homosexuality” (i.e., others’ sins, not ours).  Indeed, their new book is a moral panic.

They obsess over “effeminate sodomites”, their label for gays.  But Ezekiel said that the sin of the real Sodomites was that, having plenty for themselves they arrogantly refused to help the poor and needy. Then, these Sodomites appeared at Lot’s door, intent on self-righteously raping despised sojourners into submission.  They weren’t looking for dates.

Tim Bayly has castigated what he scorns as the “scandal” of “effeminate worship [at] the hole of Redeemerism”, i.e., Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in America and he’s mocked Keller’s “effeminate” evasion on “sodomites”.  Bayly’s left the PCA and now heads a “manly” church, a branch of which, his son, Joseph, is planting.

Their book’s title is a phrase that can refer to God’s grace that alerts us to our sin and our need to repent.  But, in sensing shame, one must discern if it’s biblically based in true guilt or in a conscience twisted by false teaching.  Luther counseled: “God does not save imaginary sinners.  So, be a sinner of real sins, but let your trust in Christ be even more real.”  This is no excuse to sin willfully; it’s good counsel to take real sin seriously. Read more →

REVIEW Fall 2017

“I’m a gay man, happily married to a woman.  And I’m not the only one”, LifeSiteNews, March 27, 2017; “The Case for Dating Non-Christians” by David and Constantino Khalaf, Progressive Channel, Patheos, December 7, 2016;  For Those Tears I Died by Marsha Stevens-Pino (Canyon Walker Press, 2016), 249 pp.; To Drink from the Silver Cup by Anna Redsand (Terra Nova Books, 2016), 313 pp.

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)
Nobody would fall for this headline: “I’m a heterosexual man, happily married to another man.  And I’m not the only one.”  Yet, LifeSite’s headline is just as flaky, concocting a superficial “complementarity” of genitalia, as if the presence of a penis plus a vagina makes a good marriage, regardless of the sexual orientations of the two persons present.

A good marriage goes far deeper than genitalia or anatomy.  Psychosexually involuntary, mutual fascination with the other person, along with the sharing of their most basic values and their willingness and skill as team players, forms the basic triad of marital success.

But when antigay busybodies push others into mixed-orientation marriages, the fix is in that fixes nothing.  The tragic results are dysfunctional families and, usually, divorce.

The Khalafs, a “progressive” Christian gay couple, gets right what LifeSite gets wrong.   But, arguing for Christians to date non-Christians diminishes the matter of shared values that the Khalafs observe in their own marriage, i.e., both value progressive Christianity.  Screening for a committed partner, the big deals for each must align.  If each is merely nominally Christian, the couple shares that value.  If one is evangelically committed to Christ and the other isn’t or is committed to a rival worldview, conflict and a sense of disconnection is coming when neither “gets” what’s so meaningful or so offensive to the other.  They contend: “Dating is difficult enough.” And a seriously mismatched marriage isn’t?  Why, in searching for a life partner, would one ignore very predictable sources of conflict and isolation?  They contend: “The more filters we select, the fewer people meet our criteria.”  Well, too picky is one thing, but ignoring what’s significant is something else.  Besides, when a person is wisely screened out, that’s a very successful screening.

“For Those Tears I Died” is a well-loved praise song that Marsha Stevens wrote when she was just 17, back in the ‘60s Jesus Movement.  The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music calls her “the mother of Contemporary Christian Music”.  Her famous song’s title is now the title of Stevens-Pino’s autobiography.

For nearly half a century, millions have identified with her words that were, to her, very personal.  Her angry, drunken, preacher father was abusive and he sexually molested her. Her childhood was a constant effort to escape his attacks.  Yet, with faith in Jesus, she wrote, prayerfully: “You said You’d come and share all my sorrows, You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows; I came so close to sending You away, But just like you promised, You came here to stay; I just had to pray.  And Jesus said, ‘Come to the water, stand by My side, I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied; I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried, And I’m here to remind you that for those tears I died’.” Read more →

RECORD Fall 2017

(PDF version available here)

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), in cahoots with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has released “The Nashville Statement”, the latest big antigay manifesto.  The Southern Baptists published their first antigay declaration, along with their protest against Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson’s proclamation of Gay Pride Day, back in June 1976 – a year following the founding of Evangelicals Concerned.

Drafted at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, (You can’t make this stuff up!), The Nashville Statement was published online on August 29, 2017.

Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry objected to The Nashville Statement’s identification with her city, where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal.  She was in the early days of mourning over her 22-year-old son’s death from an opioid overdose, four weeks before.  Yet, she stepped up to defend others who, while not facing the same challenges her son had faced, must still cope with tougher lives than necessary, given the antigay Christians’ persistent faultfinding over involuntary same-sex orientation and committed same-sex marriages in the lives of their neighbors, members of their own families and fellow church members.

In spite of immediate and well-informed evangelical criticism against The Nashville Statement, the CBMW has scheduled a Nashville Statement follow-up event for 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky, to continue its fight against all who find themselves differently oriented sexually.

The Nashville Statement is a religiously framed assault that overloads others with a burden that The Statement’s heterosexual authors and signatories don’t, and wouldn’t, load onto themselves.  Thus, The Nashville Statement blatantly disregards The Golden Rule.  Jesus rebuked such Pharisees, calling them “hypocrites” and “whited sepulchers” for their self-righteously loading unbearable religious demands onto others while they refused to lift even a finger to help, much less, identify with, or empathize and offer any realistic support to those they self-righteously oppress. (Matt 23:27; Luke 11:46)

The Nashville Statement also seriously fails to take the whole Bible seriously.  It blatantly disregards the historical contexts and the incarnational reality of the Bible.

Evangelical Bible scholar Peter Enns calls attention to this in his “Lansdale Statement”, his ingenious parody rebuttal to The Nashville Statement’s outlined “Articles of Affirmation and Denial”.  In his own Article 1, Enns asserts: “WE AFFIRM that God, having given us minds, rejoices when we use them.  WE DENY that God intended Scripture to relieve us of this responsibility.”  In Enns’ Article 2, he states:  “WE AFFIRM that Scripture, by God’s wisdom, was written by actual people in actual historical contexts for actual contextual reasons, and that such contexts are central to proper biblical understanding and application.  WE DENY that Scripture, which reflects the wisdom of the Creator, is simply sitting there waiting to be used irrespective of its various contexts.”  Enns helpfully continues through seven more spoofs against the erroneous assumptions and the unwarranted applications in The Nashville Statement. Read more →

LUTHER 500

LUTHER 500

The 500th Year of Luther’s Reformation

The 15th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Preaching Fest

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, October 6-8, 2017

An Introductory Lecture and Three Sermons

Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


LUTHER 500: An Introductory Lecture

Growing up to be 34 years old seems a long time while you’re living it. To your parents, on your 34th birthday, the day when you were born doesn’t seem that long ago. That’s our ever-shortening experience of our ever-shortened time.

In 1983, 34 years ago, EC marked the 500th year of Luther’s birth. Now, we mark the 500th year of his protest against corruption in the medieval Church of Rome.

In 1983, I was 44. Thirty-four years later, it’s hard to fathom that, 34 years earlier, I was 10 and in 5th grade! And it’s no easier to fathom that 34 years later, I’m 78!

In an equivalent span of 34 years, at the crossing of the 15th and 16th centuries, that wee infant, Martin, had grown up to begin to change the course of history by calling for a return to the foundations of the faith of the first Christians.

Over EC’s 4 decades we’ve honored many who learned from Luther’s witness and passed along the Word of the Lord to still others. Doing so, we, ourselves, are called back to the foundations of the faith of the first Christians.

In that 500th year of Luther’s birth, a baby was born to a devout Muslim couple. Three weeks ago he died of cancer. In his own 34 years, Nabeel Qureshi became a physician, a husband, a father and a dynamic disciple of Jesus in the worldwide ministry of Ravi Zacharias, launched 34 years ago by the financial backing of D. D. and Velma Davis. The Gospel that Luther recovered is still being preached.

An historian notes that folks in 40,000 denominations are “Christians, whose religion derives ultimately from Martin Luther’s rebellion.” (Alec Ryrie) Actually, it derives from the Bible, via Luther’s rebellion. And Luther’s legacy goes far beyond religion, as that historian indicates in his book’s title: Protestants: The Faith that Made the Modern World. Read more →

LUTHER 500: Sola Scriptura

LUTHER 500

The 500th Year of Luther’s Reformation

The 15th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Preaching Fest

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, October 6-8, 2017

An Introductory Lecture and Three Sermons

Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


LUTHER 500:  Sola Scriptura

C. S. Lewis recognized that, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to making certain mistakes.” We’re all stuck in our own age, the only age we experience. So, it’s easy to miss where we’re mistaken – especially as we flatter ourselves into assuming that we’ve progressed beyond all those dolts who came before us. Then, we ignorantly repeat the mistakes of the past.

So, said Lewis, we “need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that,” he knew, “means, the old books.”

This wasn’t a reactionary conclusion of a crotchety old professor sequestered up in an ivory tower of nostalgia. It’s our only option. One’s own era is inescapably circumscribed within its own setting and its own bent. So, it does make sense to try to rise above one’s own era’s inevitable ignorance and shortsightedness. We’re in need of a cultural diversity that goes deeper than the present tense.

Since no yet-to-be-written books are available, the only options to today’s books are old books. They’re free of our era’s biases and blind spots, but they have biases and blind spots of their eras. Fortunately, the old books come from many different eras.

Unfortunately, and for some time now in American universities, the study of old books, e.g., the ancient classics, Western history, as well as basic principles of rational thinking and logic, have been dropped with high handed disdain for the sake of our day’s pet peeves, prejudice and priorities. That censorship dogmatically deprives us of a diversity of viewpoint and perspectives beyond our own biases and blind spots.

These days, people get themselves anxious and then hostile if they’re presented with anything that questions or refutes their own presuppositions, their postmodern prejudices, and their politically correct and postured pieties. Sadly, since they lack any real ability at skilled reason and argument, they start and end with “Shut up!”

Still, there’s one collection of old books that’s stood the test of time and that’s linked to various eras, authors, languages and cultures, that presents a perspective that claims to rise above any one particular time and place, and, indeed, above all time and space. It’s been received for nearly 2,000 years to be the Word of God. This collection of old books has impacted more people than any other collection. It’s called, of course, The Bible. Read more →

LUTHER 500: Sola Gratia

LUTHER 500

The 500th Year of Luther’s Reformation

The 15th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Preaching Fest

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, October 6-8, 2017

An Introductory Lecture and Three Sermons

Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


LUTHER 500:  Sola Gratia

Well, what did you bring with you this afternoon – besides all that coffee you drank to stay awake? What did you bring with you? What I’m really asking is this: What did you bring with you when you came into the world?

When you came together in your mother’s body, when one of your father’s millions of sperm made it into your mother’s egg – and then and there, you were! – what did you bring with you? The truth is, on your arrival, you brought nothing that you hadn’t been given. And, that’s a given. That’s God’s grace.

What were you given? Gifts galore! And those gifts keep on giving. That’s a given, too. That’s God’s grace.

You arrived packed with protection and promise in your DNA – a random mix of your parents’ genes. They, in their turns, decades before you, inherited their genes from their parents. Their parents inherited theirs from their parents, and so on, back down through the distant and now long forgotten past, probably beyond the seas.

That past, though, is here and now, in you, personally. You got it as a gift. You didn’t earn it. You didn’t intend it. You were totally oblivious to all of these gifts that came wrapped in the gift that’s you. That’s a given. That’s God’s grace.

In your blissful oblivion, your mother gifted you by keeping you safe, “hooped in her ribs and staved by her spine”, in words by Marilynne Robinson. And you escaped what’s forced on over three thousand pre-born Americans each day, whose lives in this world are cut short. Your life was left as a gift to live out in this world. That’s a given. That’s God’s grace.

In your mother’s infancy, her tiny ovaries held some two million immature eggs, follicles. By the time she reached puberty, she still had around 400,000 of those follicles. With every menstrual cycle, she lost a thousand, and still, around 400 matured into actual eggs. You, in part, came from among those two million follicles and then from among those 400 eggs. That’s a given. That’s God’s grace.

And even with the more than three million differences between your unique genome and everyone else’s, you nonetheless share 99.9 percent of your DNA with everyone else – even with those in this room! So, be nice. We’re genetically connected with each other – as Scripture, rather more poetically put it long ago: “God made all of us of one blood to inhabit the earth”. (Acts 17:26) And it’s all a gift. That’s a given. That’s God’s grace. Read more →

LUTHER 500: Sola Fide

LUTHER 500

The 500th Year of Luther’s Reformation

The 15th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Preaching Fest

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, October 6-8, 2017

An Introductory Lecture and Three Sermons

Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


LUTHER 500:  Sola Fide

Luther had tried for so long to appease a “Christ” he’d been taught to dread as his final Judge who’d send him to Hell. Sensing that he’d never been able to appease this “Christ” and never would be able to appease this “Christ”, he felt excruciating frustration and anxiety. It was no wonder that he was angry with this “Christ”.

But finally, in his relentlessly searching of Scripture detached from all of the distracting encrustations of the dogma of medieval Rome, Luther found the original Good News in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul cites the prophet Habakkuk and he writes: “In the Good News, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith’.” (Rom 1:17; Hab 2:4)

Suddenly, Christ’s crucifixion in the place of sinners, for their salvation, made sense. Luther’s excruciating fears, frustration and despair were mercifully lifted in this profound biblical revelation.

That 16th-century term, “excruciating”, was from the Latin word for the cross where Christ experienced the excruciating ordeal of sacrificial atonement for our sins. These Scriptures revealed that, by faith, there was freedom in God’s free grace for all in Christ’s liberating us on the cross. Luther learned to trust in the crucified Truth Himself, Christ in his battered body, and in the risen Truth Himself, Christ in his resurrected body. This was the Christ he’d feared? Oh, no. This was the Christ he’d come to know and to love.

To Luther, this was the most radical and reviving revelation of his life. Yet this Good News of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross had been there in the Scriptures all along. Crucifixes were ubiquitous in the cathedrals, cloisters and chapels and even on the walls of peasants’ houses. People wore them round their necks and, for some three centuries, they’d fingered them with the beads of their rosaries. Innumerable relics of the so-called “true cross” were the focus of pilgrimages across Christendom. But the true meaning of Christ’s cross never had crossed Luther’s mind. Now, from Scripture, he couldn’t get the true meaning of Christ’s cross out of his mind. By God’s grace, he never would, and never did. Read more →

Life More Abundant?

by Ralph Blair  

This is the text of Ralph Blair’s keynote at connECtion2oo6, the summer weekend gatherings of Evangelicals Concerned, held at Kirkridge Retreat Center on the Appalachian Trail (June 2-4, 2006) and on the campus of Reed College in Portland, Oregon (July 27-30, 2006).


Jesus told some Pharisees: “Unlike those who come to butcher my sheep, I’ve come that they may have life more abundant.” (John 10:10)

What’s life more abundant? Do you have any opinions‘?

Okay. Enough of your opinions! What’s my opinion?

Okay. Enough of my opinion!

Who cares about opinions on life more abundant! They’re irrelevant. Life more abundant isn’t made up of what we might make up.

Was “Who cares!” your response when I asked for your opinion? When I asked about my opinion, I did notice some people rolling their eyes and mumbling “Who cares!” What did that mean? It meant: Some naughty people can get the words right for the wrong reason.

Back in the 1920s, some prominent ministers and Bible scholars were asked to contribute essays to an anthology to be called My Idea of God. Here’s how J. Gresham Machen began his essay:

  • If my idea of God were really mine, if it were one which I had evolved out of my own inner consciousness, I should attribute very little importance to it myself, and should certainly expect even less importance to be attributed to it by others. If God is merely a fact of human experience, if theology is merely a branch of psychology, then I for my part shall cease to be interested in the subject at all. The only God about whom I can feel concerned is one who has objective existence, an existence independent of man.
  • But if there be such a really and independently existent Being, it seems extremely unlikely that there can be any knowledge of Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself. … I reject, therefore, the whole subjectivizing tendency in religion that is so popular at the present time.

Subjectivism is still the suffocating air that chokes us. At a recent meeting of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Tony Campolo cautioned them: “You have no right to be a spiritual leader if you haven’t read Scripture. … If we don’t recognize this, we don’t know squat.” Sure enough, a subjectivist who didn’t know squat, piped up: “I thought this was a spiritual progressives’ conference. I don’t want to get validation from something other than ourselves.” Read more →

One in What Spirit?

by Ralph Blair

One in What Spirit? is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s keynote at the connECtions2005 at Kirbridge in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains and at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.


A new resident introduces herself to two new patients on the psych ward.
“Good morning. I’m Dr. Brown.”
“I’m Julius Caesar.”
“How do you know that?”
“God told me.”
The other patient pipes up: “I did not!”

Some people are crazy. They think they’re God. They think they’re the final authority on what’s what—what’s true, what’s false, what’s right, what’s wrong. No one can tell them otherwise. Know anyone that crazy?

Well we all slip into such self-centered self-deception. We’re all just crazy enough to make up meaning to suit ourselves as we footnote our three favorite authorities—me, myself and I.

This delusion that we’re the final authority has been one with the spirit of the times since the time of Adam and Eve. But it’s never been more conceited and cocksure. Ravi Zacharias notes: Today, “there is no transcendent context within which to discuss anything. … Meaning dissolves into the subjective, rendering it beyond debate.”

Our parents in Eden hesitated a bit before yielding to the demon of self-deception. But, these days, people rush right over undetected assumptions of autonomy to unexamined assertions of authority. Insisting that “truth” is merely a power play, a construct of self-interest, they say there is no Truth with a capital-T. But they assume that’s Truth with a capital-T. Moored in a makeshift autonomy, they fail to realize they’re marooned from reality. They think we construct reality itself—without a Creator with a capital-C. They assume Carl Sagan’s cliche: The cosmos is “all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be.” That’s not poetry, as Sagan’s producer pretended. That’s the arrogant assumption of the apologetics of atheism. It’s an affectation that’s getting more strident and even hysterical. Psychologically, it may be a matter of reaction formation, for as C. S. Lewis recalled: “When I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.” Read more →

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