In a recent article that Sword of the Lord Editor Shelton Smith published we are reminded once again that one of the inherent weaknesses that fundamentalism has dealt with for decades now - lack of dealing with challenges to their paradigms that they have ignored for decades. I encourage you to read the article in it's entirety. Smith says some good things in it. I was encouraged by the fact that be discouraged others from blogging anonymously and reminded us that we should be held accountable for our words (something that SOTL has failed to do for decades now with the editing of Spurgeon's sermons in order erase Spurgeon's Calvinism). While I do not pretend for a moment to say that I know Smith personally (I heard him speak once in 1993) I can say with certainty that Smith's assumptions about blogging in general confirmed that he walks the typical hysteric fundamental line with these words at the close of his article:
"The current state of things in the Christian blogosphere could more aptly be described as a “blab-a-sphere.” I hope that will start to change.
As a start, a lot of the bloggers could shut off their computers, shut down their blog, get a good night’s sleep for a change and see about doing something really constructive when the morning comes"
Obviously, Smith does not frequent too many blogs as he makes a rather misinformed blanket statement about the blogosphere (at least within evangelical circles). So am I to assume that those of us who have blogs Dr. Smith need to "get a life"? Are we wasting our precious time by running our blogs? Do blogs have little to no validity?
Or, could it be Dr. Smith that most of the blogs that are within the realm of rational fundamentalism are blogs that consistently expose the kind of hysterical fundamentalism that the SOTL represents (repentance free salvation, KJVonlyism, irrational standards, and dictatorial pastorates et. al)??? Could it be that your paper's subscriptions have declined steadily over the past couple of decades? Could it be that at one time the SOTL conferences were packed to overflowing and now only represent a fraction of the following that the SOTL once had? Could it be that those who disagree with the often misrepresented assertions of the SOTL actually have a voice now on the web that can openly refute what you have to say without the venue of a publication or a written book? Or, could it be that you are afraid that the constituency of the SOTL will actually read our blogs and be able to compare what we (those who once lived within the clutches of hysteric fundamentalism) have to say with what you claim to be the gospel truth?
I've noticed over the past year or so that many of my IFBx brethren do not particularly care for the blogosphere. Many claim that it eats up a pastor's time or is simply a waste of time. I beg to differ. That sort of reasoning would lead me to believe that any pastor who writes numerous books is simply wasting his time. Or, anyone who edits or contributes to any type of publication is wasting their time as well. NONSENSE!!! The simple reason that they disdain blogs is that they provide an open venue to get out into the open an alternative to hysteric fundamentalism. This is a good thing and something that the IFBx crowd should embrace. If what Smith believes is so incredibly accurate and right, then it should go without saying that he would welcome a fair and balanced debate in the blogosphere which would give Smith an opportunity to defend his paper's positions. For some odd reason, Smith does not see it that way.
Bob Bixby did an excellent post recently that deserves mentioning and one that you REALLY need to read. He expresses much of this in a much more eloquent way than I could.
Wouldn't you think that a paper like the SOTL would actually utilize the tool of blogging instead of ridiculing it? Why wouldn't they want an open discussion or forum that is done in a Christ-like spirit to convey their rebuttals to those of us who say that the views of the SOTL and their following are irrational and unbiblical?
The fact of the matter lies in the reality that their brand of fundamentalism is hanging on a thread right now. It is hanging on a thread by a small group of loyalists who basically burned every bridge imaginable to rational fundamentalists who are willing to stay biblical in both faith and practice, but refuse to make non-essential doctrines a hill to die on.
So....Dr. Smith (who incidentally I will be emailing this post to), I believe that you are a fine man who loves the Lord. But I also believe that you have erroneously allowed yourself to be sucked into the clutches of the subculture of IFBxdom and to navigate a ship that has nowhere to go but down. As someone who once read your paper faithfully and became frustrated with the focus on "decisions" and "numbers" and repentance free salvation and a focus on the non-essentials, please look at what you said objectively and honestly. You make some valid points about the blogosphere, but at the same time your blanket statements were both unqualified and simply not accurate. He makes some good points about gossip and using our words with discretion and wisdom. But the inconsistency regarding his statements is what is most troubling, especially when one calls to mind the numerous times that the SOTL has taken to task good men and solid ministries who do not line up the "every jot and tittle" prerequisites that the SOTL has now taken. Sad...truly sad.
The World From Our Window
Viewing the world through the window of the Historic, Reformed, Baptist Faith.
Friday, March 30
Interesting news from Jim Brown of Agape Press:
Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson is attempting to clarify remarks he made to a reporter regarding possible Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.Continue reading HERE.
Dobson recently told Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News & World Report he did not think former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson was a Christian. "Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said in the interview. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian -- at least that's my impression."
A Thompson spokesman took umbrage with Dobson's statement and responded by saying, "Thompson is indeed a Christian. He was baptized into the Church of Christ."
Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger said Dobson "use[s] the word 'Christian' to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," and was not expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy.
In addition, Focus on the Family Action has issued a statement saying, "Dr. Dobson was attempting to highlight that Senator Thompson hasn't clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him."
If Thompson is basing his conversion on "being baptized into the Church of Christ," I too, would question his faith (although I am hoping he will enter the presidential race).
From television revealing that spaghetti grows on trees to advertisements for the left-handed burger, the tradition of April Fool's Day stories in the media has a weird and wonderful history.
Here are 10 of the top April Fool's Day pranks ever pulled off, as judged by the San Diego-based Museum of Hoaxes for their notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped.
-- In 1957, a BBC television show announced that thanks to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees prompted a barrage of calls from people wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti at home.
-- In 1985, Sports Illustrated magazine published a story that a rookie baseball pitcher who could reportedly throw a ball at 270 kilometers per hour (168 miles per hour) was set to join the New York Mets. Finch was said to have mastered his skill -- pitching significantly faster than anyone else has ever managed -- in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans' celebrations were short-lived.
Continue reading HERE.By the way, we here at The World From Our Window have initiated an April Fool's hoax of our own:
Of course, only a fool would ever believe that!
Thursday, March 29
With Easter just around the corner, a world renowned artist has created a full replica statue of Christ with chocolate.[From the Christian Post]
Artist Cosimo Cavallaro, known for imaginative art pieces such as covering an entire New York hotel room with cheese, will release his newest sculpture, “My Sweet Lord,” a anatomically correct six-foot statue of the Savior made entirely of milk chocolate.
The reactions to the piece have been mixed. Some see it as disrespectful, some as inspired, while others are just amused.
"His art always gets a reaction, but this is the most dramatic piece of his career," said Matt Semler, the creative director of the gallery housing the artwork, in Fox News. "It is absolutely amazing.”
The statue will be unveiled the early morning hours on Apr. 1 in at Lab Gallery, located at the Roger Smith Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Following its release, it can be viewed from the street during two time periods: from midnight to 1 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The art piece, which will be positioned on the cross, will be displayed until Apr. 7 – the day before Easter.
"The sign of any great artist is how their work affects the observer,” said Semler in The Post Chronicle. It took over 200 pounds of chocolate to make the statue.
The following question is hypothetical and although I am interested in your response my greatest intent is to get you to think. If you want some background as to why I would ask this question than read here, here, and here.
If John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and C.J. Mahaney lived in the same city, would they all attend the same church? Would they all work together on the same pastoral staff?
Each of these men are in a different denomination, or have no denominational attachment. Yet, these men are brothers in Christ who fellowship together regularly, speak at one another's conferences frequently, and even speak at each other's churches on occasion. They have much in common theologically, yet there are some significant differences as well.
Although there might be as much as 95% doctrinal agreement among this group I am wondering if the 5% disagreement is enough to keep them from being in the same church? For the sake of Christian unity would they lay aside those differences within the context of a local church? It is obvious that they have done so for the unity of Universal Body of Christ outside the local church. I am wondering how far they would go with the idea of "unity with diversity." Would they be in favor of this kind of "unity with diversity" within the local church? Since I can't ask them personally, I am asking what you think they would say.
I still remember it like it was yesterday on our newly purchased 13 inch television (our first one mind you after nearly two years of marriage) - May 6th 1998 in what is still to this day in my lifetime the most dominating pitching performance that I have ever seen...watching Kerry Wood strike out 20 Houston Astros. One after another like clockwork. He was the next great hope for Cubdom. He was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Our ticket to our next World Series. He would be the face of the Cubs for years to come. Wood would undoubtedly one day sit atop a World Series championship float down Michigan Ave. as the Cubs hero in October. BUT....as it ALWAYS happens in Cubville, it just didn't work out. Wood ended up having arm problems galore. From Tommy John surgery, to shoulder issues every spring training and to top it all off this year, bruised rips from falling out of a hot tub!!! It is sad though, because I think that Kerry Wood is a tenacious competitor who has shown flashes of his old brilliant self from time to time (who could forget his dominance in the 2003 NLDS against the Braves). If anyone is disappointed about his demise it would be Kerry Wood himself. I will go on record today and concede that I think that his career for all intensive purposes is over. The Cubs have held on as long as they possibly could and now it is time to let go. They simply cannot afford to be patient with these injuries any longer.
And who could forget Mark Prior??? Incidentally, I was at Prior's first EVER major league start in May of 2002 at Wrigley Field. The atmosphere was electric as Cub Nation was to watch their next great superstar. Who wouldn't have been excited about Prior - an All-American pitcher at USC who dominated the college ranks and then moved swiftly through the minor leagues in less than half of one summer. For his first two years he was brilliant. We will never forget his dominance in the second half of 2003 that clinched the division for the Cubbies. But, as it always does, something happened to Prior. I personally believe that it was that fateful night when the illustrious arms of Steve Bartman got in the way of Moises Alou's glove that crushed the momentum of the Cubbies' pennant dreams. Look at Prior's performance since then folks...he has never been the same!
Now today we learn that Cubs manager Lou Piniella has announced that Prior will NOT be a part of the Cubs rotation to start the year and Kerry Wood will start the season once again on the DL. Yet.....I am not concerned ONE BIT! The Cubbies offseason spending spree has ensured their fan base that they are once again serious about winning and that they have more depth than ever before. Though we are saddened that the careers of Prior and Wood are more than likely over, we rejoice that this is more than likely going to be our year and look for a grand celebration in Wrigleyville come October!!!
Go Cubs Go!
Wednesday, March 28
This is a worthwhile read from a son looking through his faithful father's papers:
Since my father died on March 6, I have been looking through his papers. I found a small sheet with the following fifteen counsels, titled “Things I Have Learned.” They have again confirmed the obvious: I owe my father more than I can ever remember. The comment after each one is mine.
Things I have Learned
by Bill Piper
with comments by John Piper
1. The right road always leads to the right place; therefore, get on the right road and go as far as you can on it.2. There is only one thing to do about anything; that is the right thing. Do right.
My father was totally persuaded that wrong means do not lead to right ends. Or, more positively, he was persuaded that living in the right way—that is, doing the right things—are means that inevitably lead to where God wants us to be. This is why he told me, when I asked about God’s leading in my life, “Son, keep the room clean where you are, and in God’s time, the door to the next room will open.”3. Happiness is not found by looking for it. You stumble over happiness on the road to duty.
This is what one might say to a person perplexed by a difficult situation whose outcome is unknown. The person might say, “I just don’t know what to do about this.” It is not useless to be told: Do the right thing. That may not tell you exactly which good thing to do, but it does clear the air and rule out a few dozen bad ideas.
My, my, my. How was John Piper born from this? I would never say this. The main reason is that the Bible commands us to pursue our joy repeatedly. “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice.” “Delight yourself in the Lord.” I think what he meant was: 1) Joy is always in something. Joy itself is not the something. So we seek joy in Christ. Not just joy in general. 2) When duty is hard and we do not feel joy in doing it, we should still do it, and pray that in the doing it the joy would be given. But what we need to make plain is that duty cannot be contrasted with joy, because joy is a biblical duty.
Continue reading HERE.
I have been writing about theological unity and its importance in the local church. Does the local church's Confession of Faith matter? Does it matter whether or not the membership agrees to all of it? Should their be a majority agreement? If so, which points in your church's Confession of Faith are non-negotiable's? (Everyone must believe these points or they can't join here.)
Some say that talking about these things is schismatic and only leads to greater disharmony and disunity in the Universal Body of Christ, something that we have too much of already. Some also say that we should just focus on the Fundamentals and as long as there is agreement on those than we should allow for differing opinions on other matters, even within a local church. My problem with that is if those other doctrines aren't that important why are they put in the Confession of Faith? Why is our Confession more than just the Fundamentals? If people aren't being brought into local church membership based on their agreement with the Confession of Faith, than what is the foundation for unity? If there is no "unity of the faith", is there really unity?
I used to think that agreement on every point of the Confession of Faith wasn't essential. I'm struggling with that opinion, and here are some practical and personal reasons why.
EXAMPLE #1 [read here]
About three years ago Jill joined our church. She had attended for a couple of months and completed our four-week membership class. (Attendance to the membership class is a requirement for church membership.) In the membership class we go over our Confession of Faith and every member who joins must state that they "are in agreement with our Statement of Faith." Jill read over our Statement of Faith and indicated that she agreed.
After joining, Jill expressed an interest in one-on-one discipleship. She had been actively involved in one-on-one discipleship in her previous Baptist church. We were still in the developmental stages of our program and Jill was instrumental in helping us find the material that we still use today. It was the same material she had formerly used. After receiving the material we went through it and made some minor adjustments to coincide with our doctrinal positions. At least they seemed minor to us, but when Jill began going over our material she very quickly had a big problem with our minor changes.
In the end, after many discussions, Jill left our church claiming irreconcilable doctrinal differences. I still remember her saying, "I didn't realize how Calvinistic your church is when I joined. And since I am an Arminian I can't honestly teach your doctrinal positions."
I disagreed with her. "We aren't that Calvinistic. We don't push Calvinism. We don't use those terms. In fact, we have other Arminian-minded members and they don't have any problems with what we preach and teach." I argued with her, but to no avail. She left.
Looking back I have come to realize some very important things.
1. She understood doctrine and its implications better than I did! All without a Bible College education and after only being a believer for three years. Obviously she had been discipled very effectively. She knew what she believed and she held strongly to her positions. I now believe she did exactly the right thing for her and for us.
2. Our Statement of Faith was, and still is, very ambiguous! There is no mention of total depravity, election or the intent or extent of Christ's atonement. Although there is a very clear statement on cessationism and the Rapture of the Church prior to a literal seven-year tribulation and a 1,000-year Millennium.
Why should I be surprised that a five-point Calvinist and 5-point Arminian could fully agree to our Statement of Faith?! Was this the intent of the writers? Did they intentionally leave room for very different doctrinal positions? No wonder Jill didn't realize we were Calvinistic. Our doctrinal statement gave no indication to the positions that the pastoral staff held. (Maybe that last phrase is an indication of the problem. When the church's doctrinal statement is ambiguous than the church blows with every doctrinal wind of the pastor. If and when the senior pastor leaves, the positions taught by the new pastor might be exactly the opposite.)
3. There really isn't much room for diversity when it comes to the preaching and teaching of the Word of God! From the pulpit or in discipleship. Man is born totally depraved or he isn't. We are unconditionally elect or we aren't. The atonement is unlimited or it isn't. You can try to avoid those topics and stay more general, but you can't do this forever, especially when you preach or teach expositionally through books of the Bible. You can leave room for people to hold differing positions, but a position must be taken.
And this is the rub. If we are going to disciple people we are going to be talking about these issues. Should we teach young believers both positions (or more if necessary) on every biblical doctrine and just let them decide? Or do we take a position, teach it and defend it Scripturally? Should I as a Calvinist be expected to teach Arminian theology?
Is it possible for people with completely opposite theological positions (i.e. Calvinists & Arminians) to teach and disciple together in the same church? If so, how? Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
I realize that we have brothers and sisters in Christ who read this blog and do not hold to all five points of Calvinism. I value their friendship, their input, and their critique. I am not calling their salvation into question, nor am I advocating separating from them. I enjoy fellowshipping with, listening to, and reading people with whom I disagree with over second and third level doctrines.
Because I tend to stroll circumspectly along the edges of the fundy fringe, I want to draw the attention of my fundy friends (who might otherwise miss out) to two profitable audio downloads.
First, take a listen to Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, Rod Rosenbladt, and resident Baptist, Ken Jones, as they discuss fundamentalists' dangerous hermeneutical tendencies. That's all I'm going to say; you're going to have to listen for yourself! Do so HERE (it's the March 25th broadcast, The Problem of Interpretation).
Then hop on over to Al Mohler's radio program to hear a great discussion on The Challenge of the New Perspective to Biblical Justification. Mohler (fundamental evangelicalism's brightest mind!) invites John Piper and Ligon Duncan to join him in this most profitable discussion. Eavesdrop on the conversation HERE.
Once you have listened, come back and share your thoughts. I am especially interested in my fundy friends' response to The White Horse Inn program's specific critique of the fundy's hermeneutical tendencies!
By the way, I subscribe to both of these broadcasts via my Creative Zen mp3 player's Zencast Organizer. I would encourage you to do the same!
This good news is from OneNewsNow.com:
A youth pastor from Illinois says too many parents are giving spiritual custody of their children to the church. That's why his church is changing its schedule and procedures in order to make worship more of a family affair.Continue reading HERE.
Ray Baumann is an associate pastor at First Assembly of God in Belleville, Illinois. Baumann says while part of the "emergent church" movement for years, he looked for ways to draw big crowds while presenting the gospel in an entertaining manner so teens would come and continue coming. But the youth pastor says he realized that the church should not measure the success or failure of programs by man's standards.
Now he warns others about the emergent church movement, claiming that many churches are not presenting the entire gospel to teenagers. Youth ministry has become big business, explains Baumann, because many parents would rather rely on the church to raise their children instead of doing it themselves.
"A lot of people would say, well, I work too many hours; I only see my kids from six p.m. to eight p.m.," he shares, then adds: "You can come up with whatever excuse you want, but it boils down to your obedience to honor God in the way you raise your children."
Baumann says churches can help protect families and foster more time together by not having so many programs that segregate parents and children -- including worship and Bible study. He explains what his church of about 250 members has decided to do toward that end.
I would love to spend some time picking Baumann's brain ... and lauding him for his efforts; but he is, after all, a non-cessationist!
Hmmm ... leaves me to ponder the possibility that strictly limiting my fellowship (referring to the primary and secondary doctrines) will also limit my learning and effectiveness.
Just a thought.
Tuesday, March 27
So why spend 15-20 hours in serious sermon preparation when you can download "powerful sermon material" and choose from "thousands of powerful sermon illustrations"?
We are contacting a select group of pastors who have purchased products from Communication Resources to notify you about Homiletics Online. Writing compelling sermons for today's congregations has never been easy ... but with Homiletics Online you'll have a wealth of vital, lively content to help you blast through writer's block — right at your fingertips. And the PowerPoint® presentations give you a powerful, professional way to drive the message home!Sign up now to try Homiletics Online RISK-Free and ...
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Interact with Executive Editor
Timothy Merrillvia his blog, where you'll find frequent postings on a vast assortment of contemporary topics.
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What Homiletics Online fails to understand is this: the struggle of preparing to feed Christ's sheep is a good thing. Good things come to those who work through the struggle--who persevere through the writer's block. There is something inherently profitable to wrestling with a passage of Scripture.
So save your $69.95 and give God's people something you prepared at your own desk, with your own Bible, on your own computer, and in the Spirit's power. Your people would much rather hear a sermon borne out of your struggle with a passage than the neatly packaged and exquisitely prepared sermon from an online homiletics source.
Here's what one preacher had to say about the subject of sermon preparation:
I love to preach in such a mood, not as though I was about to preach at all, but hoping that the Holy Spirit would speak through me. Thus to conduct prayer-meetings, and church-meetings, and all sorts of business, will be found to be our wisdom and our joy. We generally make our worst blunders about things that are perfectly easy, when the thing is so plain that we do not ask God to guide us, because we think our own common sense will be sufficient, and so we commit grave errors; but in the difficulties, the extreme difficulties, which we take before God, He gives young men prudence, and teaches youths knowledge and discretion. Dependence upon God is the flowing fountain of success. That true saint of God, George Muller, has always struck me, when I have heard him speak, as being such a simple, child-like being in his dependence upon God; but, alas! the most of us are far too great for God to use us; we can preach as well as anybody, make a sermon with anybody,—and so we fail. Take care, brethren; for if we think we can do anything of ourselves, all we shall get from God will be the opportunity to try. He will thus prove us, and let us see our inability.
In preparing a sermon, wait upon the Lord until you have communion with Christ in it, until the Holy Spirit causes you to feel the power of the truth which you are to deliver. "Son of man, eat this roll." Before you attempt to give out the Word to others, get it into yourself. Is there not too much dead praying, and dead preaching, and dead church work of all sorts? Do you not know churches which are like the ghostly ship in the legend,—the captain, the mate, and all the crew are dead men?
"The mariners all do work the ropes
As they've been wont to do;
They raise their limbs like lifeless tools,—
They are a ghastly crew.
"The body of my deacon's self
Stands by me knee to knee:
The body and I pull at one rope,
But nothing of life have we."
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Note: Access to Spurgeon's entire An All-Round Ministry, Chapter 6: Light, Fire, Faith, Life, Love is available from spurgeon.org HERE.
Most would agree that for the most part, Christian blogs are dominated by Calvinists. Those who adhere to the doctrines of grace have taken advantage of the liberty that the internet provides and the access to start their own blogs to convey their own theological persuasions. This has been beneficial for some good and productive discussions. At times though, the discussions can get heated and foster an unhealthy atmosphere, but most of us know that those are far and few between.
The blogosphere has been used in a great way (and for this I am grateful) to rekindle a renewed passion for the sovereignty of God in all things – especially regarding man’s salvation. For many within fundamentalism, this has provided a much needed alternative to the redundant rants and ravings of such periodicals as the Sword of the Lord who has been guilty of editing Spurgeon’s sermons (due to his Calvinistic leanings), promoting decisional regeneration to the core, advocating the unbiblical stance of KJVonlyism, and an unhealthy focus on the non-essentials – such as soapbox issues like preferential standards, revivalism, and manufacturing numbers through faulty methodology.
Today, hysteric fundamentalists are being FORCED to deal with issues that they failed to deal with for decades now – doctrines such as election, predestination, reprobation, and God’s sovereignty. This has caused much frustration for many IFBx people and rightfully so. The spiritual bankruptcy that has occupied many fundamentalist (noticed I said many not “all”) pulpits over the past century has had enormous spiritual implications. Also, the blatant disregard for expositional preaching has enabled many an IFBx preacher to avoid difficult doctrines and to pick and choose what they are going to preach on (most of the time being hobby horses).
Most of the internet bloggers who lean Calvinistic in their soteriology have ironically come from very Arminian backgrounds (or at least leaning Arminian). Many of us were not forced to wrestle with issues like God’s sovereignty, election, and the role of grace both in salvation and progressive sanctification. Now today, there are literally dozens of blogs out there written by those who have come to embrace the doctrines of grace and have become frustrated with an infatuation with methodology while ignoring biblical soteriology.
All of this in my opinion is due to a few factors:
1. The rise of Nouthetic counseling – when one takes a Nouthetic approach to counseling I personally believe their inevitable conclusion has to be that God is absolutely sovereign over all things.
2. Reading the real Charles Spurgeon – the Spurgeon that I learned about in college and the Spurgeon that I eventually read for myself when I left college are two totally different individuals. In fact, the Spurgeon that I learned about while at HAC wouldn’t even qualify to be the altar ego for the real Spurgeon.
3. The exposure of the heretical teachings of Charles Finney – sadly, this guy is still an icon in many IFBx circles. Study your history folks, it will do you good, this guy was about as biblical as a professing Mormon…seriously.
4. Seeing the fruit of easy-prayerism – the IFBx crowd is not the only one guilty of this one. Many church growth movements have also jumped on this bandwagon as well. How many pastors have gone to a Pastor’s School in Hammond Indiana coming home to charge hell with a squirt gun only to find out that the methodologies that they learned there manufacture results, not fruit. In time, most will either become frustrated about their lack of lasting fruit, or simply turn another blind eye and ignore the simple fact that the Bible says that the regenerate will show fruit.
5. The rising popularity of writers like John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and Jonathan Edwards (et. al.) among young fundamentalists – this is a good thing friends. Fundamentalism has been starving for decades for serious scholarship and for those who will address issues in a biblical and non-simplistic way.
A couple of questions for my non-Calvinist fundamentalist friends:
Why is it that most who despise Calvinism want nothing to do with an honest discussion about it?
Why do non-Calvinists seem to think that the doctrines of grace dampen a zeal for evangelism? That still boggles my mind!
For those who continue to avoid the discussion about Calvinism, just remember, you are going to have to deal with this in the near future. And, just to warn you, there is a good chance that if you set about on your journey to disprove the doctrines of grace, there is a really GOOD chance that in time you will only adhere to them.
Monday, March 26
Story from the Durham Herald-Sun:
Members of a gay rights group were arrested Monday after staging a sit-in at a Baptist seminary whose president is drawing criticism for his comments on prenatal treatments that would influence a child's sexual orientation.Continue reading HERE.
The group, Soulforce, attempted to meet with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's president, the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., an influential evangelical leader.
Twelve were charged with criminal trespassing -- a misdemeanor -- and booked into jail, Louisville police said.
The sit-in in front of Mohler's office lasted about two hours, said Jarrett Lucas, a co-director of a Soulforce tour that is visiting Christian colleges.
The group did not contact officials at the private campus in advance of the visit, said Lawrence Smith, the seminary's vice president of communications. Smith said a small group left when they were asked by police to leave, but the others stayed.
Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, has launched a "pill patrol" campaign to make sure emergency contraception is available in every neighborhood in America.Continue reading HERE.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B emergency contraception for women 18 and older last August. But Planned Parenthood complains that not all pharmacies are stocking the drug.
"Every day in America, women are forced to play the lottery when they walk into their neighborhood pharmacies and ask for Plan B emergency contraception (EC)," Planned Parenthood said on its website.
The group is encouraging its supporters to contact pharmacies at Costco, Target, Wal-Mart, or Osco stores - because those four chains have not signed on to Planned Parenthood's policy of guaranteeing women access to emergency contraception - "without discrimination or delay."
NOTE: The above graphic is taken from the Planned Parenthood of Maryland website. While this pro-abortion, anti-children organization claims to support the generations to come, the sidebar on their site advertises Emergency Contraception > Five Days to Prevent Pregnancy. Simply unconscionable.
Most Alabama residents say they have a religious faith, and a majority in a new poll showed they have a basic knowledge of the Bible.Continue reading HERE.
For example, nearly 70 percent of respondents to last week’s Press Register/University of South Alabama survey correctly named all four Gospels.
“They don’t call it the Bible Belt for nothing," said Keith Nicholls, a political scientist and director of the USA Polling Group, which conducted the poll.
The poll showed that Alabama residents know more about the Bible than other Americans.
Most Americans can’t identify even one of the four Gospels, according to polls cited by Boston University professor Stephen Prothero, who has received national acclaim for his recent book titled “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - and Doesn’t."
The Press-Register/USA telephone poll of 404 adults statewide had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
More than 70 percent of the Alabama respondents knew the location that the Bible identifies as Jesus’ birthplace - Bethlehem.
Only 16 percent, however, knew that President Bush was making a reference to the biblical parable of the good Samaritan when he cited the Jericho Road in his first inaugural address.
And we all thought you were only rabid about football!
Seriously. Not one individual has disagreed with my commentary regarding Isaiah 53's support of particular redemption.
I am thoroughly and completely disappointed in the lack of non five-pointer response, especially in light of the undeserved ridicule I endured over the post on the all of Titus 2:11 [click HERE].
Listen non five-pointer friends, interact with the Isaiah 53 text and show me where I am wrong. You already have a trusted and respected theology professor on your side, yet your silence is deafening.
Meanwhile your unwillingness to offer a credible critique of my view smacks of cowardice and defeat. Do you really have nothing to say? Or are you unable to defend a universal redemption from Isaiah 53?
Some may accuse me of calling all you non five-pointers out. That's okay because that's exactly what I'm doing!
If I am wrong, show me. If not, publicly admit such and embrace the historic Baptist position! But don't just sit there and say nothing.
Read the Isaiah 53 post HERE.
While this post is overtly tongue-in-cheek, I am asking all non five-pointers to interact with the text and show me where my view is faulty!
Knuckleheads in the News: Lawyer Who Says "Christian right and its mafia run bar associations" Is Disbarred
An interesting and comical story from the Seattle P-I:
The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the disbarment of a lawyer who was disciplined after a conflict of interest charge and an inquiry into his mental state.
Supporting a Washington Bar Association decision, the eight-member panel hearing the case ruled unanimously that the association did not err in barring John M. Keefe from practicing law in the state.
The complaint against Keefe sprang from a 2002 disciplinary action filed by the bar, according to court documents.
Responding to bar association allegations that he'd failed to disclose a conflict of interest in a securities fraud case, Keefe filed a rambling declaration asserting that he was being pilloried for his opposition to the Christian right.
In his declaration, Keefe claimed that "the Christian right and its mafia" run bar associations across the United States. He claimed that lawyers must split proceeds from personal injury and fraud cases with the "mafia," and wear concealed listening devices in their ears.
"The Christian right's ostensibly extreme resistance to ... the courts is seemingly based on the idea that asserting one's rights ... violates god's law," Keefe wrote.
Continue reading HERE.Let's see ... what was that Jesus said about lawyers?!
Okay, just kidding!
But this is the first time I've heard anyone accuse bar associations of being conservative and Christian!
Saturday, March 24
The popular band "Jars of Clay" has in storage a song entitled "Hero43". The lyrics speak of using faith to support an unnecessary war in Iraq, and draw a correlation to the days of the Crusades. The title is a simple metaphor for the person of George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.
I spoke with band representative Dan Haseltine today, as we pressed him on the bands creation of "Hero43", and why they felt threatened to pull it from their most recent CD released called "Good Monsters". Other than the fact that the band members say they aren't entirely ready with the creative presentation of the song, Haseltine is also offering 'fear of retribution' from the Christian community as a reason for its absence on their latest work.
In my conversation with band member Dan Haseltine, in preparation for my discussion tonight on the radio, He stated that being Christian today means you must be tied to being a 'patriot' for the war effort in Iraq, and a staunch conservative supporter for this administration's Republican ideals.
Haseltine recently told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, "If you rock the boat too much, your records won't appear in certain Christian record stores anymore." In reference to political opinions He stated, "Watching our current government, we joke about it saying that they're going to usher in the apocalypse."
Continue reading HERE.
It was a wonderful night of fellowship and worship together as about eighteen of us from the church that I pastor jumped into a couple of vans and drove across the Mississippi River into Missouri to see an awesome concert with one of my favorite Christian artists - Chris Tomlin. I tried to remember during the concert what Christian artists I have seen in person:
Point of Grace
Michael W. Smith
All of those were great but there was a special atmosphere that was fostered by this one. I especially love the Christ-centered lyrics that Tomlin writes. He is a gifted song writer with a heart and passion for worship. This particular concert made me feel rather young - most of the attendees were teen-age or college age young people. Another humble reminder that I am not getting any younger (I'll be 33 in May).
A few thoughts about the concert....Overall, I thought that music was tasteful and pointedly Christ-centered. Obviously, large concerts like these can afford to put on impressive light shows and usually fill up large arenas due to their notoriety. Louie Giglio had an impressive message that was focused on the awesome power and splendor of the God that we serve by illustrating the vastness of the universe and intertwining the fact that although God is incredibly powerful and sovereign, He is still aware of ALL of our personal struggles and trials. Though I thought that the overall message was solid, I was disappointed that Giglio did not give a clear Gospel presentation. There was also very little mention of sin and the need of redemption through the death and resurrection of Christ. This may sound like nit picking but I would think that a concert like this would be a great opportunity to share the Good News since there was undoubtedly scores of lost people in attendance.
Nevertheless, we had a great evening of fellowship and worship and this would definately be a concert that I would attend again! In a day and age where much of what is called Christian music is nothing more than lightly written music with an incredibly shallow message that barely scratches the surface of the message of the Gospel, people like Tomlin and ministries like Sovereign Grace have been uniquely refreshing to those who love Christ-honoring music.
"I once was a five-pointer--until I considered the pronouns and the all in Isaiah 53:6. Upon considering this verse, I changed my view. If all we like sheep have gone astray--and obviously that all is referring to the entire human race--then “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Since the first pronoun is universal (all we like sheep have gone astray), then the second pronoun (laid on Him the iniquity of us all) in the verse is likewise universal."And I accepted what my professor said--up until four years ago.
So what convinced me that Isaiah 53 teaches a particular, purposeful, real (as opposed to hypothetical) view of redemption? The very same pronouns that had convinced my professor of a universal atonement.
How can that be? I mean, if we were reading the same Bible, and considering the same verse, how can we come to such opposing views on the meaning (extent and intent) of a single verse?
Well (and I do not consider myself nearly as theologically astute as my theology professor!), I began looking at the verses surrounding Isaiah 53:6. Doing so provided overwhelming evidence that the personal plural pronouns 'we' and 'us' did not--indeed could not--refer to the entire human race.
If you are willing to follow me through the personal pronoun path of Isaiah 53, I will attempt to show you what I discovered, and hopefully silence the undeserved ridicule surrounding my last post on the 'all' of Titus 2:11!!
PLEASE NOTE: I will use the KJV because it was the translation my professor was using at the time. Also, this is a rather lengthy post, but it is such out of necessity. Please read the entire post carefully before taking exception with my view!
Isaiah 53:1 – “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” “Our” is the first personal pronoun used in Isaiah 53, and it is obviously not used in an inclusive manner. Isaiah is clearly speaking of a specific group of people—the elect of God; those who are proclaiming the report that God saves through the promised sacrifice of the Messiah. This first pronoun of Isaiah 53 is of extreme importance in seeking to determine the meaning of the personal pronouns throughout this entire chapter, specifically verse six.
Isaiah 53:2 – “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Again, it seems rather clear in this verse that the first personal pronouns are referring to a specific person—Christ. Likewise, it is obviously clear that the two we’s are also referring to specific people—God’s own people—those who will see the Messiah and desire Him. They will not desire Him because of a physical attraction, but because He opens their eyes to His infinite spiritual beauty. Because we cannot divorce verse 2 from the context of verse 1, it is clear these personal pronouns likewise are limited in their scope.
Isaiah 53:3 – “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.” Okay, here is where we run into a bit of a pronoun conundrum. At first glance it may appear that the personal pronouns we and our in the second half of the verse are referring to all men because “He is despised and rejected of men.” Yet this isn’t the case. The obvious purpose of Isaiah 53 is not to teach a universal depravity (although depravity certainly is universal), but to teach the extreme suffering of God’s servant Jesus. Therefore, the “despised and rejected of men” phrase is used to describe Christ’s suffering, and that He was spurned by His own people (specifically the Jews—John 1:11). So again this verse, when considered within its context, is not using the pronouns we and us in a universal sense, but a limited sense. (Note: This verse is Isaiah 53’s most problematic verse for the particular redemptionist! But if context determines meaning, the problem is alleviated.)
Isaiah 53:4 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Here we discover more we’s and our's; yet they present no problem for the particular redemptionist. Certainly the elect of God are the only people who “esteem (literally, regard or consider) Christ stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" in any legitimate sense of the word. Therefore the “our griefs … and “our sorrows” of this verse are defined as those who esteemed Him stricken.
Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Now we are getting into the meat of the discussion. Thus far each personal plural pronoun has referred to a specific group of people rather than to a universal group of people. So why should Isaiah suddenly turn from using these pronouns in a specific sense to using them in a universal sense? He doesn’t, and here’s why. The final phrase of the verse makes it clear: “with His stripes WE ARE healed.” No hypothetical atonement or redemption here. The we (and our) is referring to the people who are healed. Certainly we would all agree that this we could not refer to unbelievers in any sense. The context clearly supports this fact.
Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Finally we come to the verse my professor used as proof of a universal atonement. But this is not and cannot be the case—unless one is willing to rip this verse from its context. Again, the purpose of this text is to foretell the coming Messiah and to describe His willing sacrifice on behalf of His people. To make this verse say anything else, one must change the obvious plural pronoun usage Isaiah has employed thus far. Serious Bible students will not and cannot do so without undermining the entire context.
It is true that all—the entire human race—has gone astray. But in this text, Isaiah qualifies all with we. So he is qualifying the inclusiveness of his statement. It is true of all people within a specific group.
Isaiah 53:7-9 – “He was oppressed and he was afflicted yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” There probably isn’t much to add here except for the fact that Isaiah again specifies the intent of Messiah’s sacrifice; it was specifically and particularly on behalf of my people. This verse seems to undeniably teach that Christ’s death was uniquely and expressly for His own. It fits the context, and again clarifies the personal plural pronouns used throughout Isaiah 53.
Isaiah 53:10 – “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Again, this verse not only qualifies for whom Jesus was bruised and put to grief (“his seed”), it also implies that the redemption and atonement Christ provided was definite rather than hypothetical (“and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper”), and that there was a specific and explicit intention in the cross—the pleasure of God in bruising His Son on behalf of His seed.
Isaiah 53:11-12 – “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The final two verses of Isaiah 53 provide more support for the particular redemptionist. Isaiah again qualifies whom Christ will justify—those whose iniquities he bore.
For all who find my verse 3 (and verse 6) argument(s) unconvincing, this verse provides proof that my interpretation is acceptable--even preferable. Notice what follows the phrase He was numbered for the transgressors:“he bare the sin of many.” So it is clear that Isaiah’s intention is not to draft a treatise on the universal depravity and utter sinfulness of mankind as a whole (like Paul does in Romans 1-3), because He qualifies the transgressors of whom he is speaking—many rather than all. Certainly Isaiah understands that all people are transgressors, but proving universal depravity is not the purpose of this chapter. Again, the context seems to overwhelmingly support a particular, purposeful, and definite redemption.
Little words like we and us have big meanings, and significant implications for our theologies. Because I am unwilling to change the clear meaning of these two little personal plural pronouns in Isaiah 53, I unashamedly and unapologetically embrace the historic, reformed doctrine of particular redemption. A careful stroll through the path of Isaiah 53's personal plural pronouns should encourage you to do the same.
Friday, March 23
From the Christian Newswire:
According to two researchers, the largest random sex survey ever conducted has reported that only 1.4% of adults engaged in homosexual behavior. Analyzing a 2003 Canadian Community survey of 121,300 adults, Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron told attendees of the Eastern Psychological Association Convention that 2% of 18-44 year olds, 1% of 50 year olds, and only a third of a percent of subjects 60+ considered themselves homosexual. Thus homosexual activity was much more common among younger adults.
What happened to the older homosexuals? "Some may have ceased to be sexually active," said Paul Cameron, "or they may have died. Recent reports from Scandinavia indicate that the life expectancy of homosexuals is 20+ years shorter than that of heterosexuals."
Continue reading HERE.
Thursday, March 22
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. (ESV)If the all of Isaiah 53:6, "...the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all;" and the all of 2 Peter 3:9, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" and the all of 1 Timothy 2:4, "Who will have all men to be saved ..." then consistency demands that Titus 2:11 is also referring to all ... in the universalist sense of the word.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. (NASB)
If not ... well then you are forced to admit that all does not always mean all.
Now if we were all five-pointers, we'd all be all-right!
The more I learn and grow, the more I agree with James White when he says, "Theology matters!" What our Confession of Faith says matters! What the members of our church believe matters! As I look back on my ministry I haven't always understood this very well.
Eve Haynes was one of my favorite church members at my current church. (Eve died tragically in a car accident last summer.) I had said many times that I would love to have a church full of people just like Eve. She craved the Word of God. She studied constantly. She knew the Bible. She was the leading woman in our church. She taught our Ladies Class. She taught numerous Bible studies and discipled and encouraged a number of women in our church including my wife, Traci.
The interesting thing about Eve was that she was a Reformed, Covenant, Amillennial, Regeneration-Precedes-Faith, Five-Point Calvinist. Why that is so interesting is that our church is Fundamental, Dispensational, Premillennial, Regeneration-Coincides-With-Faith, Four-Point Calvinist. Up until recently I never saw this as much of a problem. I think Eve did as evidenced by her numerous visits to my office, and also the senior pastor's office, to discuss the finer points of theology.
We were frequently assuring Eve that our doctrinal diversity was allowable as long as Eve would teach our church's position. She was always willing to do so, and was never subversive in any way. In fact, most people weren't aware of her theological differences. We also gave Eve the liberty to honestly explain when she was teaching something that wasn't her personal position.
At the time I really didn't give this issue much thought. Looking back I'm not sure it was a very good idea. It is one thing to allow for doctrinal diversity theoretically. ("Sure, you can join our church. We have people of all different theological positions. We don't have to agree on every minor point of doctrine. We believe in individual sole liberty.") It might not be a big deal when the average church member disagrees. It is altogether different when that member begins to teach in Sunday School, small groups or discipleship. At that time doctrinal diversity begins to have some problems practically.
Take Eschatology (the doctrine of end times) for example. Your Sunday School ministry is going through Matthew 23-24, 1 Thessalonians 4, 2 Peter 3 or Revelation. Eve might be willing to teach the church's position, but she can't do so with conviction. When she says this isn't her personal position, a student might ask her what her position is. What does she do? If she begins to explain in class or at a later time she might lead others to hold her position. Are you okay with that?
You might be thinking that Eschatology isn't that important and that people with both positions can coexist very easily. That might be true, but how about when you are teaching through Romans 9. What is your view of Israel and the Church. One and the same or different?
The point is you have to hold to one position. As a pastor, you can only teach and preach one position. Your church can only hold to one position. If it is important enough to have in your Confession of Faith, than it is important enough to take a clear and unwavering stand on it. Dr. Bauder says that each church must make a decision.
Confessions should never include merely optional statements of position. Occasionally, a church will wish to position itself with respect to some issue while not making that position a test of fellowship. In such cases, the church should issue a position paper rather than incorporating the issue into its doctrinal statement. Each church must make its own decisions about where to limit its message or where to limit its fellowship, because each church must do one or the other on a whole range of doctrinal and practical issues. [Emphasis mine]So as a church you can make your doctrinal statement on Eschatology broad enough to incorporate both the Premill and Amill positions, but in doing so you limit the scope of your teaching and discipling ministry to some degree.
Trying to think through the ramifications of this has caused me to question whether Eve should have been a member of our church. She knowingly, intelligently and deliberately disagreed with our Confession of Faith. She wasn't going to change her positions. She was settled in her beliefs! Unfortunately, there isn't a Reformed Baptist Church in the Fort Myers area that she could join and her positions on baptism and church government would preclude her from a Presbyterian Church as well. So maybe she had found the church that she agreed with the most. But does that mean we should have allowed her to join? Should we have allowed her to teach and disciple? She had such a love for teaching that to take those ministries away from her might have actually driven her from the church. Teaching was her gift, and she lived out the ministry to the fullest!
These are not easy questions, but I believe they are important. What do you think?
Please understand that this entire post has to do with theology within the local church. I do not consider any of these doctrinal differences a test of faith. Nor am I convinced that within the same denomination these kind of differences can't coexist peacefully.
In our day and age that associates progressive sanctification as some sort of magical formula that instantly makes a poor Christian into a mature one by simply reading a book or going to a particular seminar it has become an imperative for ALL of us to get back to embracing and cherishing Christ-centered theology. That is why for nearly all of my discipleship I take people through a Systematic Theology discipleship program that grounds people in the orthodox doctrines of God's Word.
It is no secret which my favorite one is by far - Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology which in my own unqualified opinion is the most readable, enjoyable, precise, and devotional ST available to evangelicals today. Grudem in a very unique and readable way breaks down some difficult to explain doctrines such as - The canonization of Scripture, Angels, the Fall, Eschatology, the Church, and on and on. His glossary of theological terms in the back of of his ST has proven to be useful to me many times over. And, since we are on the subject of ordinations as of late, it would go without saying that Grudem's ST was a tremendous help for me when I was ordained two years ago.
A condensed version of Grudem's ST is found in his Bible Doctrines which, incidentally, my dear wife Christina has been going through as a part of her own personal devotions.
I continue to scratch my head as to why we think that we can disciple people without giving them theology. It is our knowledge of God Himself that stirs our soul to righteous living and obedience, not fancy and shallow pragmatic programs.
A few other ST's that I have benefited from personally -
Louis Berkhoff's Systematic Theology - A bit more difficult to read but nonetheless very beneficial and comes from a very solid Reformed position. A good resource to have in your library.
John Calvin's Institutes - Believe it or not, this is one of the most readable volumes of theologies that will bless your soul. THIS IS A MUST have for your library and again, very readable and devotional in nature. Calvin is one of the most succinct theologians that you will read.
Embrace theology my friends! It is our theological understanding of God that enables us to know what pleases Him!
Wednesday, March 21
How to Profit from Reading the Puritans
Let me offer you nine reasons why it will help you spiritually to read Puritan literature still today:
1. Puritan writings help shape life by Scripture. The Puritans loved, lived, and breathed Holy Scripture. They relished the power of the Spirit that accompanied the Word. Their books are all Word-centered; more than 90 percent of their writings are repackaged sermons that are rich with scriptural exposition. The Puritan writers truly believed in the sufficiency of Scripture for life and godliness.
If you read the Puritans regularly, their Bible-centeredness will become contagious. These writings will show you how to yield wholehearted allegiance to the Bible’s message. Like the Puritans, you will become a believer of the living Book, echoing the truth of John Flavel, who said, “The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.”
Do you want to read books that put you into the Scriptures and keep you there, shaping your life by sola Scriptura? Read the Puritans. Read the Soli Deo Gloria Puritan Pulpit Series. As you read, enhance your understanding by looking up and studying all the referenced Scriptures.
2. Puritan writings show how to integrate biblical doctrine into daily life. The Puritan writings do this in three ways:
First, they address your mind. In keeping with the Reformed tradition, the Puritans refused to set mind and heart against each other, but viewed the mind as the palace of faith. “In conversion, reason is elevated,” John Preston wrote.
The Puritans understood that a mindless Christianity fosters a spineless Christianity. An anti-intellectual gospel quickly becomes an empty, formless gospel that never gets beyond “felt needs,” which is something that is happening in many churches today. Puritan literature is a great help for understanding the vital connection between what we believe with our minds and how that affects the way we live. Jonathan Edwards’s Justification by Faith Alone and William Lyford’s The Instructed Christian are particularly helpful for this.
Second, Puritan writings confront your conscience. The Puritans are masters at convicting us about the heinous nature of our sin against an infinite God. They excel at exposing specific sins, then asking questions to press home conviction of those sins. As one Puritan wrote, “We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness.”
Devotional reading should be confrontational as well as comforting. We grow little if our consciences are not pricked daily and directed to Christ. Since we are prone to run for the bushes when we feel threatened, we need daily help to be brought before the living God “naked and opened unto the eyes of with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12). In this, the Puritans excel. If you truly want to learn what sin is and experience how sin is worse than suffering, read Jeremiah Burroughs’s The Evil of Evils and Thomas Shepard’s The Sincere Convert and the Sound Believer.
Third, the Puritan writers engage your heart. They excel in feeding the mind with solid biblical substance and they move the heart with affectionate warmth. They write out of love for God’s Word, love for the glory of God, and love for the soul of readers.
For books that beautifully balance objective truth and subjective experience in Christianity; books that combine, as J.I. Packer puts it, “clear-headed passion and warm-hearted compassion” (Ryken, Worldly Saints, x); books that inform your mind, confront your conscience, and engage your heart, read the Puritans. Read Vincent Alsop’s Practical Godliness.
3. Puritan writings show how to exalt Christ and see His beauty. The Puritan Thomas Adams wrote: “Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus.” Likewise, the Puritan Isaac Ambrose wrote, “Think of Christ as the very substance, marrow, soul, and scope of the whole Scriptures.”
The Puritans loved Christ and exalted in His beauty. Samuel Rutherford wrote: “Put the beauty of ten thousand worlds of paradises, like the Garden of Eden in one; put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all loveliness, all sweetness in one. O what a fair and excellent thing would that be? And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest well-beloved Christ than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and foundations of ten thousand earths.”
If you would know Christ better and love Him more fully, immerse yourself in Puritan literature. Read Robert Asty’s Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus.
4. Puritan writings reveal the Trinitarian character of theology. The Puritans were driven by a deep sense of the infinite glory of a Triune God. When they answered the first question of the Shorter Catechism that man’s chief end was to glorify God, they meant the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They took John Calvin’s glorious understanding of the unity of the Trinity in the Godhead, and showed how that worked itself out in electing, redeeming, and sanctifying love and grace in the lives of believers. John Owen wrote an entire book on the Christian believer’s communion with God as Father, Jesus as Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Comforter. The Puritans teach us how to remain God-centered while being vitally concerned about Christian experience, so that we don’t fall into the trap of glorifying experience for its own sake.
If you want to appreciate each Person of the Trinity, so that you can say with Samuel Rutherford, “I don’t know which Person of the Trinity I love the most, but this I know, I love each of them, and I need them all,” read John Owen’s Communion with God and Jonathan Edwards on the Trinity.
5. Puritan writings show you how to handle trials. Puritanism grew out of a great struggle between the truth of God’s Word and its enemies. Reformed Christianity was under attack in Great Britain, much like Reformed Christianity is under attack today. The Puritans were good soldiers in the conflict, enduring great hardships and suffering much. Their lives and their writings stand ready to arm us for our battles, and to encourage us in our suffering. The Puritans teach us how we need affliction to humble us (Deut. 8:2), to teach us what sin is (Zeph. 1:12), and how that brings us to God (Hos. 5:15). As Robert Leighton wrote, “Affliction is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.” The Puritans show us how God’s rod of affliction is His means to write Christ’s image more fully upon us, so that we may be partakers of His righteousness and holiness (Heb. 12:10–11).
If you would learn how to handle your trials in a truly Christ-exalting way, read Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot: The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men.
6. Puritan writings explain true spirituality. The Puritans stress the spirituality of the law, spiritual warfare against indwelling sin, the childlike fear of God, the wonder of grace, the art of meditation, the dreadfulness of hell, and the glories of heaven. If you want to live deep as a Christian, read Oliver Heywood’s Heart Treasure. Read the Puritans devotionally, and then pray to be like them. Ask questions such as: Am I, like the Puritans, thirsting to glorify the Triune God? Am I motivated by biblical truth and biblical fire? Do I share their view of the vital necessity of conversion and of being clothed with the righteousness of Christ? Do I follow them as far as they followed Christ?
7. Puritan writings show how to live by wholistic faith. The Puritans apply every subject they write about to practical “uses”―as they term it. These “uses” will propel you into passionate, effective action for Christ’s kingdom. Their own daily lives integrated Christian truth with covenant vision; they knew no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. Their writings can assist you immeasurably in living a life that centers on God in every area, appreciating His gifts, and declaring everything “holiness to the Lord.”
The Puritans were excellent covenant theologians. They lived covenant theology, covenanting themselves, their families, their churches, and their nations to God. Yet they did not fall into the error of hyper-covenantalism, in which the covenant of grace becomes a substitute for personal conversion. They promoted a comprehensive worldview, a total Christian philosophy, a holistic approach of bringing the whole gospel to bear on all of life, striving to bring every action in conformity with Christ, so that believers would mature and grow in faith. The Puritans wrote on practical subjects such as how to pray, how to develop genuine piety, how to conduct family worship, and how to raise children for Christ. In short, they taught how to develop a “rational, resolute, passionate piety [that is] conscientious without becoming obsessive, law-oriented without lapsing into legalism, and expressive of Christian liberty without any shameful lurches into license” (ibid., xii).
If you would grow in practical Christianity and vital piety, read the compilation of The Puritans on Prayer, Richard Steele’s The Character of an Upright Man, George Hamond’s Case for Family Worship, Cotton Mather’s Help for Distressed Parents, and Arthur Hildersham’s Dealing with Sin in Our Children.
8. Puritan writings teach the importance and primacy of preaching. To the Puritans, preaching was the high point of public worship. Preaching must be expository and didactic, they said; evangelistic and convicting, experiential and applicatory, powerful and “plain” in its presentation, ever respecting the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.
If you would help evangelicals recover the pulpit and a high view of the ministry in our day, read Puritan sermons. Read William Perkins’s The Art of Prophesying and Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.
9. Puritan writings show how to live in two worlds. The Puritans said we should have heaven “in our eye” throughout our earthly pilgrimage. They took seriously the New Testament passages that say we must keep the “hope of glory” before our minds to guide and shape our lives here on earth. They viewed this life as “the gymnasium and dressing room where we are prepared for heaven,” teaching us that preparation for death is the first step in learning to truly live (Packer, Quest, 13).
If you would live in this world in light of the better world to come, read the Puritans. Read Richard Baxter’s The Saint’s Everlasting Life and Richard Alleine’s Heaven Opened.
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