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January 13, 2009 / beidson

George Jones and Baptist History: Living and Dying With The Choices We Make

In “Choices,” George Jones famously sings about living and dying in consequence to choices hegeorgejones1 made as a young man, especially as his life was shaped by a love for alcohol, or so goes the song at least.  As his choices went, so went his life, and so goes the story for all of us.  In a very real sense, we reap what we sow.  Our choices are not isolated incidents of autonomous action, but are necessarily grafted into the whole scheme of our existence, and into everyone’s existence for that matter.

As a Southern Baptist, I tend to take note of things that are especially relevant to Baptist life and thought.  When I heard Mr. Jones’ song the other day, I was reminded of the history of Baptists, both in Europe and America, born out of the Reformation.  There have been many streams of thought and practice in Baptist ecclesiology since the 16th century, and “choice” has been a point of argument and catalyst for revolution more times than once in Baptist history.  Whether it was a choice regarding self-government (local autonomy), mode of baptism, church membership, communicants for the Lord’s Supper, Calvinism or Arminianism, etc., the reality of choice and consequence was a key factor in dividing those Baptist streams.  Even today in Baptist life and Evangelicalism at large (and beyond), there are marked differences, both positive and negative, which draw lines at pivotal points of choice.  Baptists fight for the power to choose because choices have eternal consequences, as George Jones would well agree.

Disputes over doctrine might seem petty to some, depending on the people, and the doctrine in dispute, as well as the extent to which it divides.  But for the most part, doctrine is definitely worth contending for, because knowledge has consequences as ideas work themselves out inevitably in even the most insignificant ways.  George Jones understood that a love for alcohol would dominate a person to the point of turning him or her away from loved ones.  We all understand this, which is why we cannot help but fear the consequences of our sin, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We do live and die by the choices we make, which is why Scripture commands sinners everywhere to repent, and to consciously choose to be crucified with Christ, so that they might be raised to new life in him, forgiven, justified and made righteous by his atoning death.  A man who has loved alcohol his whole life need not fear the consequences of his inordinate desire if he would turn to Jesus, who is so much better than whisky and wine and liquor and beer.  George Jones and Baptists agree: you live and die by the choices you make.  Trust in Christ, sinner.  Live and die in him who has the keys of life and death.

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