Remembering Influence of Adrian Rogers on Society and Culture

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After being elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, Adrian Rogers met with President Ronald Reagan.

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Earlier I wrote the post On 3-16-15 I found the first link between my spiritual heroes: Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer!!!!!

Francis and Edith Schaeffer pictured below:

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Below my good friend Byron Tyler from my old days in the Bellevue Baptist Youth Group interviews our former music director Jim Whitmire. I respect both of these gentlemen tremendously.

This was the average sanctuary crowd when I was growing up at Bellevue Baptist in Memphis.  Now take what you see and multiply it by three, because they had three morning services.  This photo was taken sometime in the early 1980’s

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Adrian Rogers was my pastor from 1975 to 1983. I was amazed at he would teach the Bible and relate it to current events such as abortion. For instance, he stated, “Secular Humanism and so-called abortion rights are inseparably linked together.”

I took what he said and sent it to Carl Sagan and Sagan responded on December 5, 1995:

Thanks for your recent letter about evolution and abortion. The correlation is hardly one to one; there are evolutionists who are anti-abortion and anti-evolutionists who are pro-abortion.

Image result for carl sagan ann

(Carl Sagan and his third wife Ann Druyan pictured above)

Earlier I wrote a post entitled THE SERMON ON EVOLUTION BY ADRIAN ROGERS THAT I SENT TO OVER 250 ATHEIST SCIENTISTS FROM 1992 TO 2015! That sermon was on evolution and it generated quite a robust response from skeptics in academia.

In fact, I took excerpts from Dr. Rogers’ sermons and sent them out to many skeptics, and received responses back from Nobel prize winners such as Milton Friedman, George Wald, James D. Watson, and Nicolaas Bloembergen. Other scholars who took time to respond were Ernest Mayr (1904-2005), Robert Shapiro (1935-2011), Brian Charlesworth (1945-), Francisco J. Ayala (1934-) Elliott Sober (1948-), Kevin Padian (1951-), Matt Cartmill (1943-) , Milton Fingerman (1928-), John J. Shea (1969-), , Michael A. Crawford (1938-), Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), Sol Gordon (1923-2008), Albert Ellis (1913-2007), Barbara Marie Tabler (1915-1996), Renate Vambery (1916-2005), Archie J. Bahm (1907-1996), Aron S “Gil” Martin ( 1910-1997), Matthew I. Spetter (1921-2012), H. J. Eysenck (1916-1997), Robert L. Erdmann (1929-2006), Mary Morain (1911-1999), Lloyd Morain (1917-2010), Warren Allen Smith (1921-), Bette Chambers (1930-), Gordon Stein (1941-1996) , John Hospers (1918-2011), and Michael Martin (1932-).

I remember the first time I went to a Operation Mobilization (OM) conference in 1979. We first drove from Memphis to Toronto with Rev. Earl Stevens and his wife of First Evangelical Church for the North American OM Conference.

Then we attended the European conference in Belgium  and we first flew to Paris and rode in the back of a truck across France to Belgium. My good friend David Rogers and I were the only ones from the Bellevue Baptist youth group to go with OM that summer to go on missions in Europe. David went to Austria and I went to Manchester, England. David later served several years with OM.

Also during our trip David’s father was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. I was sitting next to David when he took the call from his father that he had decided to place his name into the election. 

Adrian Rogers stood up for the inerrancy of the Bible and he did that during his time as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. This story below discusses that key part of Southern Baptist history.

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This Memphis pastor helped chart the conservative course of the Southern Baptist Convention

KATHERINE BURGESS | MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL | 6:00 am CDT July 9, 2019

Joyce Rogers speaks about her husband, Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, an influential Southern Baptist conservative.KATHERINE BURGESS, THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL

Forty years ago, a pastor from Memphis was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

He didn’t know it at the time, his wife said, but the election of Adrian Rogers would launch the “Conservative Resurgence” — called the “Fundamentalist Takeover” by its opponents — that solidified conservative control of the largest Protestant denomination in the country. 

For Rogers, the debate centered around how the Bible was viewed, said his wife Joyce Rogers, who recently spoke with The Commercial Appeal about her late husband. 

“He would like to be remembered as a man of God, one who stood for the Bible,” she said. “He would have died for his belief about the Bible.”

Adrian Rogers speaks at the 1988 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Adrian Rogers speaks at the 1988 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.SOUTHERN BAPTIST HISTORICAL LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES

By 1979, Southern Baptists had been fiercely divided for years, with particularly heated debates occurring in the seminaries, where many professors were accused of holding liberal views of the Bible.

Southern Baptists were divided among two camps called “conservatives” and “moderates.” The conservatives believed in the doctrine of inerrancy, which Baptist Press, the news arm of the convention, describes as “the doctrine that the Bible is completely free from error regarding theology, history, science and every other matter to which it speaks.”

Many of the moderates, according to Baptist Press, also believed in inerrancy but were comfortable with a variety of beliefs within the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Bill Leonard, professor emeritus at Wake Forest University who used to chair Baptist Studies, said it’s “academically impossible” to disengage politics from theology.

Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers was a three-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers was a three-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention.SOUTHERN BAPTIST HISTORICAL LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES

For example, many leaders in the conservative resurgence were closely allied with the Republican Party, Leonard said.

“Many of them were Southern Baptist in ways that would move the denomination as much as possible into becoming a consistent Republican base, a consistent voting block,” Leonard said. “We know now that 40 years later, that was also successful.”

Moderates in the convention had also advocated in favor of abortion access and the ordination of women.

Rogers was a reluctant candidate, seen as a ‘rising star’

Even as Southern Baptists began to gather in Houston for the 1979 annual meeting, Rogers hadn’t agreed to run.

That didn’t stop well-known pastor W. A. Criswell from telling pastors days before the election that, “We will have a great time here if for no other reason than to elect Adrian Rogers as our president.” 

The statement caught Joyce Rogers off guard.

“At first I was so mad at him, because I thought he (hadn’t) got permission to say that or anything,” she said. “But it became obvious that God was in it.”

Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers was a three-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a leader in the denomination's conservative resurgence.

Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers was a three-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a leader in the denomination’s conservative resurgence.BAPTIST PRESS

Some moderates were also watching Rogers.

According to Baptist Press, moderate C.R. Daley later said, “Some of us saw the rising star out of Memphis named Adrian Rogers — in my mind the most brilliant of his group, the one who poses the gravest threat to the Southern Baptist Convention. It was obvious that he was to be the king. It was obvious to some of us that he wasn’t the kind of king we wanted.”

Southern Baptist leaders Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler developed a strategy of how to take control of the Southern Baptist Convention.They determined that if conservatives won the presidency for 10 consecutive years, they could use the president’s appointive power to gain majorities on all Southern Baptist boards and agencies. That included the six seminaries and the two mission boards, said Barry Hankins, professor of history and department chair at Baylor University.

Patterson, who was later president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has recently been discredited and removed as seminary head for his handling of sex abuse claims. Last year, Pressler was accused of rape and other sexual misconduct. He has denied the allegations, according to Baptist News Global.

But in 1979, Patterson and Pressler were influential and respected leaders. Pressler was a former state representative and a judge in Houston while Patterson was president of Criswell College in Dallas.

“What they needed was a good candidate, so they recruited Adrian Rogers to be the candidate they would run in 1979 to try and win,” Hankins said. “He was a winsome personality with a great preaching voice. He was staunchly conservative in his theology, in favor of conservatives having a sort of test for leadership in the convention, but he was not in any way a hard-edged personality type.”

If Rogers hadn’t been a pastor, he would have had to become some kind of orator, Hankins said, with his “golden voice.” In 1987, Rogers would go on to found “Love Worth Finding,” a television ministry that extended to 194 countries. 

At the time, Rogers was also pastor of one of the largest churches in the convention, Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church. The church was located in downtown Memphis, and rapidly growing.

By Rogers’ retirement in 2005, the church had grown from 9,000 members to more than 29,000 members and relocated to its campus in Cordova.

Hankins said his sense is that Rogers was able to “stay above the fray” during much of the division. He didn’t take on leadership because of politics, Hankins said, but because he believed the inerrancy of the Bible was necessary to furthering evangelism.

On the day of the election, Rogers was chosen with 51% of the vote.

Rogers was a pastor first

Raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, Rogers met his wife in the fourth grade. He liked to joke that they didn’t get serious until the sixth grade.

Joyce Rogers, who still lives in the Memphis area, said she isn’t sure how her husband developed his views about biblical inerrancy.

“I always say he was a man of conviction and courage,” she said. “He’d just sit with his Bible in his hand and see that (something) didn’t agree with what the Bible would say.” 

Adrian Rogers stands with his wife Joyce Rogers in a photo from before they were married. The couple were childhood sweethearts.

Adrian Rogers stands with his wife Joyce Rogers in a photo from before they were married. The couple were childhood sweethearts.SUBMITTED

Rogers became pastor of a small church during his freshman year of college at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. The couple married at the beginning of their second year of college.

Later, Rogers pastored a church in Merritt Island, Florida, but agreed to visit Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis when they said they wanted him as pastor. He told his church in Florida that he didn’t think he’d take on the job in Memphis, Joyce Rogers said, but when they arrived, “there was almost electricity in the air.”

Surprising the couple, leadership at Bellevue voted to approve Rogers then and there — before he said yes to accepting the position. The couple ended up agreeing and moving to Memphis, where Rogers remained until his death in 2005.

“His great desire in life was to be a pastor,” said the Rev. Bob Sorrell, who was associate pastor at Bellevue for many of Rogers’ years there. “That took first place in his life after his family. I think the service, as far as the convention was concerned, was an opportunity that was provided to him and for him, but his greatest desire was to be the pastor of the church.”

Even with speaking duties and other requirements as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Rogers made sure to almost always be in the pulpit at Bellevue on Sundays, Sorrell said.

A plan with no compromise

Joyce Rogers holds a photo of her late husband Adrian Rogers, who was a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention's conservative resurgence.

Joyce Rogers holds a photo of her late husband Adrian Rogers, who was a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative resurgence.KATHERINE BURGESS

Ultimately, Pressler and Patterson’s plan for the convention worked.

Rogers was the first in a long line of conservative presidents — culminating in a mid-1980s meeting in which 45,000 Southern Baptists showed up in Dallas to try to elect either a conservative or moderate candidate.

“By that time everyone realized what was at stake and both sides were recruiting, putting the word out, (saying to) go to the convention and vote,” Hankins said.

By the early 1990s, the convention was “fully in conservative hands,” Hankins said. Some moderate congregations left and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Rogers later held two more terms as president in the 1980s.

There’s a quotation from her husband that was placed on a plaque and gifted to Joyce Rogers that now hangs on the wall outside her Memphis area home.

It’s known as the “no-compromise” statement that he made at the height of the struggle over the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t have to survive,” Adrian Rogers said. “I don’t have to be the pastor of Bellevue. I don’t have to live. But I’m not going to compromise the word of God.” 

Katherine Burgess covers county government, religion and the suburbs. She can be reached at katherine.burgess@commercialappeal.com, 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.

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The Remarkable Story of Professor Antony Flew —
The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Who Changed His Mind
There is No God (book cover)

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photo by John Lawrence

Antony Flew (photo by John Lawrence

 Twenty years I had the opportunity to correspond with two individuals that were regarded as two of the most famous atheists of the 20th Century, Antony Flew and Carl Sagan.  I had read the books and seen the films of the Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer and he had discussed the works of both of these men. I sent both of these gentlemen philosophical arguments from Schaeffer in these letters and in the first letter I sent a cassette tape of my pastor’s sermon IS THE BIBLE TRUE? You may have noticed in the news a few years that Antony Flew actually became a theist in 2004 and remained one until his death in 2010. Carl Sagan remained a skeptic until his dying day in 1996.Antony Flew wrote me back several times and in the  June 1, 1994 letter he  commented, “Thank you for sending me the IS THE BIBLE TRUE? tape to which I have just listened with great interest and, I trust, profit.” I later sent him Adrian Rogers’ sermon on evolution too. 

 The ironic thing is back in 2008 I visited the Bellevue Baptist Book Store and bought the book There Is A God – How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, by Antony Flew, and it is in this same store that I bought the message by Adrian Rogers in 1994 that I sent to Antony Flew. Although Antony Flew did not make a public profession of faith he did admit that the evidence for God’s existence was overwhelming to him in the last decade of his life. His experience has been used in a powerful way to tell  others about Christ. Let me point out that while on airplane when I was reading this book a gentleman asked me about the book. I was glad to tell him the whole story about Adrian Rogers’ two messages that I sent to Dr. Flew and I gave him CD’s of the messages which I carry with me always. Then at McDonald’s at the Airport, a worker at McDonald’s asked me about the book and I gave him the same two messages from Adrian Rogers too.

Dr. Rogers on Evolution

With the steadfast support of friends like you, Love Worth Finding will continue to hold high the banner of Jesus Christ.

THREE TELLING ARGUMENTS AGAINST EVOLUTION

1. The fossil record. Not only is the so-called missing link still missing, all of the transitional life forms so crucial to evolutionary theory are missing from the fossil record. There are thousands of missing links, not one!
2. The second law of thermodynamics. This law states that energy is winding down and that matter left to itself tends toward chaos and randomness, not greater organization and complexity. Evolution demands exactly the opposite process, which is observed nowhere in nature.

Dr. George Wald of Harvard:

“When it comes to the origin of life, we have only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility…Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved one hundred years ago by Louis Pasteur, Spellanzani, Reddy and others. That leads us scientifically to only one possible conclusion — that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God…I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution.” – Scientific American, August, 1954.

3. The origin of life. Evolution offers no answers to the origin of life. It simply pushes the question farther back in time, back to some primordial event in space or an act of spontaneous generation in which life simply sprang from nothing.

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I actually had the chance to correspond with George Wald twice before his death. He wrote me two letters and in the first one he suggested that he was just using hyperbole when he made the assertion that is quoted by Dr. Rogers. He also suggested the religion of Buddhism although he said he was not a Buddhist himself, but he thought that would be closest to the truth which he thought was atheism.

My correspondence with the famous evolutionist Ernst Mayr!!!

My correspondence with Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol about the rebirth of Israel!!!!

Corresponding with Nobel Prize Winner Nicolaas Bloembergen

Related posts:

My correspondence with George Wald and Antony Flew!!!

May 12, 2014 – 1:14 am

During the 1990′s I actually made it a practice to write famous atheists and scientists that were mentioned by Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer and challenge them with the evidence for the Bible’s historicity and the claims of the gospel. Usually I would send them a cassette tape of Adrian Rogers’ messages “6 reasons I know […]

Antony Flew in his book THERE IS A GOD talks about his “notoriety” as an atheist! ( also 7 News : Web Extra: Ricky Gervais on God)

May 9, 2014 – 1:24 am

  7News : Web Extra: Ricky Gervais on God Published on Mar 23, 2014 He’s not shy about sharing his opinion with 5 million social media followers so Ricky Gervais was happy to clear a few things up for us too. __________________________________ Discussion (2 of 3): Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas ___________ The Bible and Science […]

Antony Flew tells what the book THERE IS A GOD is all about (Ricky Gervais talks about atheim on Piers Morgan Tonight)

May 8, 2014 – 1:07 am

Piers Morgan Tonight : CNN Official Interview: Ricky Gervais says atheism shouldn’t offend Uploaded on Jan 20, 2011 Ricky Gervais tells CNN’s Piers Morgan why he’s an atheist, and why his jokes about God shouldn’t offend believers. The Bible and Science (Part 01) __________________________________ Antony Flew tells what the book THERE IS A GOD: “How the world’s most […]

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