Thursday, June 29, 2006

Are the Daughters of Philip Among the Prophets of Acts?

I have an article just out in the most recent issue (Spring 2006) of the Journal For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, published by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Jeff Robinson has done a review article on the whole issue.
My article is titled "Are the Daughter of Philip Among the Prophets of Acts?" In it I explore the mention of the prophesying daughters of Philip in Acts 21:9. Many feminists naively jump on this brief mention to argue that these women were filling the public ministry office of prophet in the church, thus justifying egalitarian roles in the contemporary church. I argue for a complementarian perspective on Philip's daughters, noting that though these women prophesy, they do not fill the office of prophet, a role that is singularly reserved for men in Luke and Acts.
Here is a slightly edited excerpt from near the end of my article:
It must be acknowledged, for example, that Luke does not depict women as serving in leadership roles in which they exercise doctrinal or teaching authority over men. Women do not teach or preach in Acts. Like Dorcas, they are known for being "full of good works and almsgiving" (9:36) which might have included skillful sewing for the widows (9:39). Luke presents women who open their homes for the meetings of the church, as did Mary, the mother of John Mark (12:12). Like Lydia, they extend hospitality to the itinerant prophets (16:15, 40). It is true that Priscilla "explained" to Apollos the "way of God more accurately" (18:26), but only alongside her husband Aquila. It should likewise be noted that the four prophesying daughters are clearly "in the household of Philip" (21:8). The implication is that they exercise this ministry under their father’s authority. It is difficult to find any liberationist models of women overtly engaged in leadership within the Christian movement in Acts. Ivoni Richter Reimer’s effort to find a redeeming feminist message within the Ananias and Sapphira story (Acts 5) or in the brief mention of the daughters of Philip reveals how difficult, and indeed futile, the search is. Yet this need not mean that Luke represents a "retrograde movement" in early Christianity with respect to the place of women in early Christianity. The most satisfying conclusion that one may draw upon reviewing Luke’s depiction of women in Acts is the complementarian perspective. Luke affirms women as equal participants in the Christian movement and yet he also clearly affirms that certain offices, like that of prophet, are limited to men only. As for the daughters of Philip, once again, Luke can affirm the fact that they prophesy. This does not mean, however, that they serve as prophets.
Hopefully the whole Spring 2006 will soon be posted online on the CBMW journal page.

Spurgeon's Catechism Questions on the Lord's Supper

"…do this in remembrance of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:24).

This Sunday morning we will gather again to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. What is the Lord’s Supper and what is required of those who take part? Consider the teaching offered in Charles Spurgeon’s 1855 Catechism:

Question 80: What is the Lord’s Supper?

Answer: The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by Jesus Christ; wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to His appointment, His death is shown forth, and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporeal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Question 81: What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?

Answer: It is required of them who would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon Him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience, lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgement to themselves.

See you this Sunday around the Supper table, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Links Here and There

  • Gene Bridges has posted my review of Frank Page's booklet "Trouble with the TULIP" at "Strange Baptist Fire" and "Triablogue." One early comment: "Isn't this review longer than the actual book?" Chuckle.
  • Also, the BP article citing my review of Kevin Swanson's "Upgrade" is posted at the Baptist Courier website (SC Baptist paper).
  • I got a very nice email from Nelson Searcy of the Journey Church, NYC after my review of the SBC Pastors' Conference. He pointed out that his church does, in fact, unapologetically use the title "church" in identifying itself, even though the SBC Pastors' Conference program left it out. He also sent me a DVD of a baptismal service in his church that I look forward to watching. I noted on his website that they require two months attendance and a membership class before one can join. Kudos!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bible Notes: Paul as Prophet Like Samuel (1 Samuel 12:1-5)

While Bible reading the other day, I was struck again by Samuel’s defense of his prophetic ministry at the coronation of King Saul in 1 Samuel 12:1-5 which reads, in part:

3 "Here I am. Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you."
4 And they said, "You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man's hand."
5 Then he said to them, "The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand." And they answered, "He is witness."

Compare Paul’s defense of his ministry in places like Luke’s account of his speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:33-35:

33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.
34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.
35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'

Or in his epistles, at, for example, 2 Corinthians 11:7-9:

7 Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.
9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.

Did Paul, in his defense of his ministry, see himself as an apostle-prophet like Samuel and the other prophets of old? Did others who knew him, like Luke, also see him as a prophet?

This was the thesis of my 2002 dissertation at UTS, "Paul as Prophet in the Acts of the Apostles."

Lewis Carroll: Postmodern When Postmodernism Wasn't Cool

My daughter Hannah was in a Blackbox (local children's theater) production of "Alice in Wonderland" last year. She played the middle-sized Alice and did a great job (in my unbiased opinion). Seeing the play made me want to read Lewis Carroll's strange books ["Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass"], which I finally finished just this week.

Lewis Carroll was the pen name for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-98). See the Wikipedia article. He published "Alice" in 1865 and "Through the Looking Glass" in 1872. After reading the books, I was not surprised to find in the Wikipedia article questions raised about Dodgson's departure from the faith of his orthodox Anglican father and his interest in "minority forms of Christianity" and "alternative religions (Theosophy)." More disturbing questions are raised about his character, but this might be the modern tendency to debunk the morals of any figure from the past.
Reading "Alice" makes one think that Dodgson was a postmodern before postmodernism was cool.
Take, for example, this interchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all."
Humpty Dumpty could well be Bill Clinton saying, "That depends on what the meaning of "is" is," or the modern literary professor saying that the text means whatever the reader says it means.
Dodgson's sad life shows what a blind alley this path becomes.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Paul Washer Preview

Paul Washer is coming on a preaching mission to JPBC November 29-December 3, 2006. For a preview of Paul's preaching, listen to this online message with the provactive description, "Shocking Youth Message Stuns Hearers-So Shocking and Biblical the Preacher Was Never Invited Back."

Church Covenant Series: Part 11 of 11

The final paragraph of the JPBC Membership Covenant is among the most important. It reads:

If we leave this church, we will immediately seek to join another with similar purposes and covenants.

This part of the covenant reminds us that we are always to seek to be vibrant members of a local body of believers. We are convinced that a born-again believer will not be able to go without consistent fellowship in a local church over a long period of time (see Hebrews 10:24-25). If we permanently move out of the geographical area where our church is located, then we need to find a new body of believers where we can transfer our membership as soon as possible. If for doctrinal, spiritual, or personal reasons we are not able to support the local church of which we are members, we should diligently and promptly seek another where we can be joined in good conscience.

This is important for at least three reasons. First, every authentic believer must seek to be a healthy body part (church member). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually" (2 Corinthians 12:27). Second, when we transfer our membership to a new church, we relieve our old church of the direct burden of pastoral oversight and concern for us. This is a matter of common courtesy to one’s former church and helps the church avoid an unwieldy list of "inactive" members. Third, when we find a new congregation we desire to join we are able to be a blessing and encouragement to them by becoming a part of their fellowship. Every time a new member joins our church we feel encouraged and affirmed in knowing that someone else wants to become part of our family. Though a new attendee in a church should carefully and prayerfully examine the doctrine and practice of a local church before joining it, he should also beware of avoiding commitment by waiting too long to join. Persons who become long time attendees but who resist making a membership commitment can actually discourage the body through their unwillingness to publicly identify with the church in membership.

You will note that the covenant suggests this should be done "immediately." To avoid legalism, however, no specific time frame is added. Choosing a new church home requires care and patience. In most cases, however, we would encourage anyone who departs from our fellowship to find a new church home within six months. In fact, our church Constitution allows us to remove persons from active membership who have been absent from our fellowship for a period of more than six months, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Our prayer is that all of our members will be active parts of this body. If a member should leave us, our prayer is that he will, in a timely manner, find a like-minded church family in which he can thrive and grow in Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Reflections: SBC Meeting, Part Two, Wednesday

Wednesday (June 14):

SBC Wednesday morning:

The highlight was the resolution report. Before that though, with the convention running ahead (!) Bobby Welch took a moment to "preach" on Matthew 13:24-30 on the Wheat and the Tares (an anticipation of any discussion on church discipline?). After intoning that we should not attack our "enemies" in the SBC, he proceeded to attack Calvinists by saying that if Calvinists are really as hot-hearted about evangelism as they claim and "they know who the elect are" (something no Calvinist says) then they should "put up or shut up" by boldly evangelizing.

In the resolutions discussion, Tom Ascol failed to get his church discipline resolution back on the floor. Resolution chairman T. C. French’s response that (a) we do not know that churches are misrepresenting their numbers and (b) inactive members make a good prospect for "evangelism" was astounding. So, we are now "evangelizing" church members? Whatever happened to regenerate church membership?

Most debate was on Resolution 5 "On Alcohol Use in America." It held a veiled jibe at "antinomian" Calvinists. Several reformed men took the bait and fought it as opposed to inerrancy. Though I agree with them, I do not think it was wise to fight this on the floor. In fact, it was amended to make it even tighter urging the SBC to appoint only tee-totalers to offices. By the way, I do not drink alcohol at all and have seen its sinful abuse as a pastor in my people. Still, I like our JPBC covenant that simply says that we will not "abuse ourselves through addiction or excess."

One of the high points of the whole SBC was Secretary of State Condi Rice’s address c. 10 am. She regally entered to thundering applause and delivered a dignified and powerful speech on America’s moral obligation to protect religious liberty and fight injustice. Most poignant moment: In discussing America’s opposition to international sex-slave traffic, she stated that slavery is not over in the world and America will stand against it. This was met with the most thunderous standing ovation. Wow! The convention begun in 1845 to allow slave owners to be missionaries, standing to applaud an African American woman secretary of state as she denounces slavery. We see God’s gracious providential hand in history.

The South African Donald J. Wilton, Pastor of FBC Spartanburg, SC, preached the most powerful message of the convention on God’s second visitation to Solomon in 1 Kings 9. Though I am not sure we would see eye to eye on all things theological, I liked his statements of love for his local church and for his wife and his bold call for Southern Baptists not to make an idol of our convention.

At the lunch break I attended the Southern Seminary luncheon. It was packed with nearly 900 attendees. Mohler gave a good talk. SBTS is so different than when I was there from 1987-90. It is truly hard to believe.

I left for home after the SBTS lunch, so I missed the evening session and the unveiling of the Graham statue (or as my friend Rob Stovall called it, "the graven image" and "the golden calf"). Got to join my JPBC brothers back home for our Wednesday Bible study to report our SBC observations to our members. It was good to go to the meeting but better to be home.

In my report to our church I listed five key issues in this meeting:

1. Transition in leadership in the post-conservative resurgence era.
2. Stress on need for Cooperative Program support and resentment against churches that give little in percentage.
3. The need to be bold in evangelism.
4. The need for better work and cooperation among trustees.
5. The emergence of doctrinal dialogue. Battle for Bible has been won—we agree on inerrancy. Now the issue is what the Bible says. Among issues: Calvinism (soteriology); Church Discipline; Missiology (emerging church).


Reflections: SBC Meeting, Part One, Tuesday

Let me get these thoughts down before they cool off.

2006 SBC Reflections:

Tuesday (June 13):

Founders Breakfast:

I was up at 4:30 am! We left our hotel in Reidsville, NC (as close as we could get) at 5:45 am to make the Founders Breakfast at 6:30 am. First, I was surprised that the crowd (c. 300) did not seem as large as last year in Nashville when R. C. Sproul spoke and Steve Camp did music.
We got some good gifts here, including Curtis Vaughan’s paperback commentary on Ephesians and Dever’s new Elders booklet. Got to meet Tom Ascol face to face for a brief moment. Dever’s message was on Romans 9-10. He read it all out loud and pounded home the standard Reformed understanding. Mark can deal with long passages like this. I usually prefer a smaller chunk.

SBC Tuesday morning:

Interesting to be in a business meeting with 12,000 people. The "Everyone Can, And I’m It" slogan hung in larger than life letters from the coliseum ceiling. I get the meaning: "Everyone can share the gospel, and it is my responsibility to do so." But the phrase smacks of such a man-centered overtone that it is hard for me to like it. We kept thinking of alternatives like, "Everyone can’t, but God can."

Motions were introduced including those by ubiquitous SBC Falstaff Wiley Drake and the much anticipated motion by Wade Burleson seeking external investigation of the SBC.

This session also had the first of the convention baptisms. These make my Baptist body cringe. A note in the program read: "Because baptism is an ordinance of the church, all baptisms will be conducted with full approval and support of a sponsoring home church, with members each present to witness." But I have enough Landmark in my bones to be deeply bothered by a local church event being held in an SBC meeting. We are not Jehovah’s Witnesses (they too do their "baptisms" in a convention setting)! It also amazes me that conservatives in the leadership were quiet on this, especially those seeking Landmark-style requirements for IMB mission candidates.

We left a little early to walk across the road and have lunch at Stamey’s Barbecue.

SBC Tuesday afternoon.

Highlight was the presidential election. I have already reviewed Frank Page’s book, so I have already gone on record that I am not sympathetic with his anti-Calvinist stance. I had about decided to vote for the newest candidate, Jerry Sutton, having read his book on the SBC reformation a few years back. But a Pastor friend called me last week and swayed me back to Page. Anyway I met that same brother later at the SBC, and found he had since switched to Sutton!

Oh well, Page won. This has been and will be much analyzed. A protest vote against conservative cronyism and nepotism? A moderation of the convention sans moderates? A statement against "neo-Calvinists"?

I was also thinking about the pros and cons of this variety of Baptist democracy. I later heard Al Mohler say that our Baptist democracy was the thing that saved the SBC from liberalism. Unlike Episcopalians, for example, we have no bishops protected from a grass roots uprising. Yes, that’s good. But is the tendency to reject leadership a not so subtle sign of sin? Isn’t our tendency not to want to submit, to be anti-authoritarian, a sign of our sinfulness? Did the actions of this convention play into that?

SBC Tuesday evening.

Brian, Steve, and Geoff left at the break to head home. Steve Hills (Western Branch BC, Suffolk) and I had supper at the concession stand. We sat with a Roman Catholic priest (he stood out wearing the collar at this SBC gathering) named Frank Ruff (sic). We learned that he is an official Roman Catholic observer at this meeting. When I asked him about his observations he noted that he loved Southern Baptists and thought we were all part of one big family. He thought the biggest thing that divided us was ecclesiology and not theology proper. I pursued by asking about our division on authority (Scripture) and then the doctrine of justification by faith. He contended that we believe the same thing. I differed and noted the significance in this regard of the upsurge in Calvinism. Yes, Arminian evangelicalism and its emphasis on synergism in salvation is close to the Catholic view but not the monergistic view of salvation held by the Reformers. No surprise that neither of us budged on this.

Anyhow Steve and I made it late back into the session and missed casting our vote for Mark Dever in the runoff which he lost by c. 70 votes. What message does this send about neo-Calvinism?

The nomination speech for Wiley Drake was an SBC classic. Just goes to prove how important a nomination speech is in meetings like this. Frank Page likely also had an edge by having the best nomination speech in his race.

The multi-candidate elections set the schedule back very late. But Steve and I stayed till the end. My least favorite message of the entire convention was that of James Walker of Biltmore BC in Arden, NC. He told of his church’s inability to get people who had made "decisions" for Christ to come to the church to get baptized, so they came up with the idea of an outdoor baptism to which they invited their "converts." They even served hamburgers and hot dogs to get people out and baptized over 90. The next year they did it again and baptized over 160. Question: If you cannot get your "converts" to come to church to be baptized unless you serve them refreshments, were they ever really converted?

By the end of this session, there were only a few hundred people left in the cavernous coliseum. That was a shame, because Richard Land gave an excellent report on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It should have been heard by more.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Notes: Mohler-Patterson Election Dialogue

Though you can get the audio and listen for yourself, here are my notes from the first session of the Mohler-Patterson Dialogue on Election held June 12, 2006 at the SBC Pastors' Conference in Greensboro:

I. Patterson spoke first:

He first stated that he admires Calvinists for the following reasons:

1. They live pious lives.
2. They think theology is important.
3. They recognize the dangers with the charismatic movement.
4. They see man’s purpose as giving glory to God.
5. They affirm inerrancy.
6. They believe in salvation by grace alone.

He then listed his concerns:

1. Some Calvinists believe all non-Calvinists are Arminians.
2. Some Calvinists believe all non-Calvinists do not accept the doctrines of grace.
3. Some Calvinists say that non-Calvinists do not believe in God’s sovereignty.
4. There are antinomian tendencies among some Calvinists (e.g., in the area of alcohol use).
5. Some Calvinists are not honest with pulpit committees when seeking churches.
6. Calvinism can breed a lack of compassion for the world.

Then he outlined why he is not a "Dortian Calvinist":

1. Irresistible grace makes salvation coercive.
2. Universal atonement is "entirely too compelling."
3. Bible links salvation and foreknowledge.
4. He desires to see God as good and just.
5. Calvinism is the death knell for evangelism.
6. Calvinism is a "system"; Those who embrace part must embrace all (infant baptism; Calvin’s views on church and state, etc.).
7. Cannot accept double predestination (He cited Calvin here as saying God created some for salvation and others for damnation).

In final comments he noted:

1. It is God’s will that every human being will be saved, but not all will. He cited 1 Tim 3:6; 2 Peter 3:9. He rejected Calvinist view of secret and revealed will of God.

Further cited Isa 53:6 and John 1:29 as evidence of atonement that is "potentially universal." He added: 1 Tim 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; Matt 23:37; John 4:10.

2. The Bible says we are to persuade men. He cited Paul in Acts "persuading" men to believe in Jesus.

He ended by saying that at the Judgement he will stand before God. If Calvinism is right he will hear: At least you made the effort though wrong. But if Calvinism is not right, he will hear: Well done.

II. Mohler spoke next.

He began by noting that were it not for the conservative resurgence, we might be here debating the ordination of homosexuals to ministry.

He asked: "Am I a Calvinist?" and answered, "Yes. I believe in the doctrines of grace, or Calvinistic soteriology."

But he said that no one can be drawn against his will to Christ. He said he does not believe in the fictitious person who is saved against his will.

He referred to those who differing views on salvation working together like Wesley and Whitefield; Spurgeon and Moody.

He cited reasons we are all Calvinists:

1. The analogy with the doctrine of inerrancy. God inspired Biblical authors to write scripture without abusing their will.
2. We affirm the substitutionary atonement.
3. We believe in the unconditional omniscience of God. Some believe more; some less, but all believe.
4. We all affirm the perseverance of the saints. "We are not Nazarenes."
We are inheritors of a common history in which the majority affirmed the doctrines of grace. What binds us together is agreement on the need for the "well meant offer of the gospel."

Next he addressed hyper-Calvinists.
He said that though there are some Calvinists who are hyper, there are not many hyper-Calvinists!

He noted there is a tendency among Calvinists to be argumentative, to have a "debating personality." He said it is not healthy to have people who will drive across the state to debate Calvinism but who will not drive across the street to share the gospel.

He affirms "Whoseover will" but sees it not only as a potentiality but as a reality.
The second fictitious person he cites in this debate is the one who wants to respond to Jesus but who is denied. There is no such person.

We must be eager to "persuade" like Paul. All are Calvinists because we believe in prayer. When we send out evangelistic teams we do not say, "Good Luck!" No. We pray for God to open eyes and hearts, so men will believe.

III. Question and Answer.

Reflections: 2006 SBC Pastors' Conference

Now, on to the SBC meeting in Greensboro. The JPBC contingency (Brian Davis, Geoff Glass, Steve Belcher and I) left Charlottesville for Greensboro Sunday afternoon.

This was my second SBC meeting. Last year in Nashville was my first.

First, some reflections on the Pastors' Conference:

Session I (Sunday evening): This was a disappointment to be honest. We got there at the end of Dick Lincoln’s message. There was a terrible storm outside and the coliseum lost power at the start of Johnny Hunt’s message. The favorite line of our group from Hunt (oft repeated through the week: "I’m about to have a spell!" Rick Warren was supposed to speak but was unable to come for some unexplained family reason. Instead, he sent a video message. I felt like I was in a multi-site church and know now why I do not like them. Impersonal. You have to admire his giving away a large part of his royalties from PDL sales. But it was hard to get over statements like (paraphrase): "God will do as much in your life as you allow him to do."

Session II (Monday morning): Much, much, much better. The highlight of the week and the conference. Hands down. I say this even given the fact that I do not like "break-out" sessions.

Block One: We first attended the Mohler-Patterson dialogue on election. Wow. Two SBC seminary professors sitting in a room with thousands looking on, three deep standing at the back, to hear two SBC theologians discuss election.

Mohler came in wearing dark sunglasses—he had emergency eye surgery Monday at Duke. We suspected he might sit down at a piano at any moment and break into "Georgia on My Mind." He looked to be in pain. But he delivered the goods in the election "discussion." See my notes.
Patterson seemed a bit punchless in the discussion and even helped the other side by making an effort to disabuse the audience of the notion that Calvinism is necessarily anti-evangelism.
Mohler bettered the folksy, populist Patterson by delivering the best zingers. His most poignant observation at the get-go: "If not for the conservative resurgence in the SBC we might be sitting here today debating the ordination of homosexuals into ministry."

Block two: Next we went to Dever’s presentation on Church Discipline. Not much new if you’ve read Dever, but you got the sense his pounding on Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 was new to many in the standing room only crowd. His co-presenter was an associate at Johnson Ferry BC. His comments were more along the lines of: "We would really like to start doing discipline in our 7,000 member church and we have an organizational flow chart but we haven’t really done it." How stark was the contrast to Mark who held up his church list of c. 500, each of which is known by the Elders.

Block three: "Reaching Today’s World Through Apologetics." This was led by Phil Roberts, president at MWBTS and William Lane Craig of Talbot. I have always admired Roberts’ work at NAMB ("Mormon Puzzle" done while he was there is the best evangelical resource on Mormonism out there). William Lane Craig was dynamite. Clear, articulate, and very practical. He is a member at Johnson Ferry BC and teaches a SS class called "Defenders" on apologetics. He noted that mainly men have been drawn to the class. He also made an aside observation that much of our modern praise music drives men away, because it is so effeminate. Hymns are manly!!! This was a great session.

Session III (Monday afternoon): This was the "contemporary" service. The music, led by Jonathan Munson, was not as bad as I had feared it might. The three speakers were: Nelson Searcy (The Journey, NYC); Kerry Shook (Fellowship of the Woodlands, Texas); and Erwin McManus (Mosaic, LA). Notice none use the name "church." Of the three I liked Searcy’s message best. He actually exposited a text from Colossians! I liked Shook’s least. He played a video clip of a service in which a motorcycle jumped over his head and used minimal scripture in his talk. It seemed to be the worst kind of appeal to the flesh. And what do you say about McManus? His was the most engaging presentation. It was filled with energy and passion. Best line: "I know I live in LA, but I’m not a vegetarian. I don’t believe we should eat anything that isn’t able to run away from us. I can’t help it if cows are not highly motivated." He played a clip of a Mosaic convert. A troubled young woman who found Jesus. Lingering question: How has coming to Jesus changed her dress, speech, and lifestyle (including even her appearance)?

Of all these, I can say I appreciate their zeal for sharing Christ. It challenges me to want to reach out more to the lost. But is some of this zeal without knowledge (Rom 10:2)? Question: Does the rejection of traditional exterior forms (the name "church"; traditional sacred music and orderly worship; etc.) also subtly play into a modern anti-authoritarian attitude that will not lend itself to "traditional," orthodox Christianity?

Session IV (Monday evening): This was the "traditional" worship. "New" Southern Baptist David Jeremiah started the evening off. He made note of his broadcasts on TBN as a mere delivery system and expressed no love for Paul Crouch. The best part of his presentation was a video of baptism testimonies (as we also do here at JPBC). It was powerful to hear the testimonies and see the baptisms of these adults from all backgrounds (men, women, blind, Hispanic, former Muslim, etc.).

Joyce Rogers, widow of SBC colossus Adrian Rogers, also gave a very dignified and God-centered testimony. The thought ran through my mind: Why did God choose to use Adrian Rogers as an instrument for reform in SBC life? Maybe it was because of Joyce’s godly character and maturity. She also stunned many when she made the first overtly political statement of the Greensboro Convention by saying that Adrian would not be pleased with attempts to narrow the participation of fellow conservatives.

Tony Evans preached next. He stacked up a series of stories in a sandwich sermon, but it was hard to follow Joyce. We decided to leave early and so we missed Ed Young’s sermon, which as I hear followed up on the themes Joyce Rogers introduced.

Thus ended the Pastor’s Conference in which we had heard 13 sermons/testimonies/messages in 1.5 days!

Conference Reflections: HEAV 2006

I really do not attend a lot of conferences through the year, but it just so happens that this past week I attended two back to back. First, last Friday-Saturday (June 9-10) I was at the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) meeting in Richmond and then the SBC meeting Sunday-Wednesday (June 11-14) in Greensboro, NC.

First, some HEAV reflections (I’ll do a separate SBC posting). Llewellyn and I went to this one together. Her Mom and Dad came up and kept the kids, so in addition to this being a conference it was also a good occasion for us to spend time together.

This was our second year at HEAV. It provides numerous seminars on homeschooling and a large exhibition area with curriculum providers, book-sellers, and conservative Christian ministries. Mostly, it is just encouraging to be with others who are doing homeschooling.

It is very interesting to see the people who are there. They are a counter-cultural group. There are people who are choosing to live separately from modern culture by varying degrees, from the conservative Mennonites and Brethren to more mainstream evangelicals. All are passionate about homeschooling. There is also a great love evident for good literature, for history that takes into account America’s Christian roots, and a passion for godly families.

The keynote session on Friday (June 9) morning was by Richard "Little Bear" Wheeler of Mantle Ministries on "George Washington: First in His Class." He retold some stories of George Washington’s providential escapes from death in battle during the French-Indian War. His point: homeschool education allows parents to teach children a providential view of history.

I next went to the session by Jeff Myers titled, "What Happened When We Kissed Dating Goodbye" in which he told how he courted and married his wife, foregoing the modern dating ritual.

I also attended the session titled "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends" by the Mally family of Marion, Iowa.

At the exhibit hall, I got to meet and talk with PCA minister Eric Wallace. He signed my copy of his book Uniting Church and Home, which I am now reading.

Saturday (June 10) the keynote was Jeff Myers again on "Generations of Influence: How to Start a Legacy of Four Generations." I also attended a session presented by Memoria Press (the publisher of the Latin curriculum we use with our kids).

In the afternoon Llewellyn went to a session on teaching writing with Susan Wise Bauer. We are using her "History of the World" material with our children.

We went together to hear Rick Boyer’s session "Some things we’ve learned: lessons from 22 years of homeschooling." Boyer’s presentation was the most engaging. He and his wife live in Lynchburg and have 14 children, from ages 31 to 7. He said he loves to go out with c. 6 of his children and have someone ask, "Are they all yours?" "No," he answers to their temporary relief, "I have eight more at home!" The Boyer family were homeschool pioneers in Virginia. Rick is awfully proud of the fact that his son, Rick, Jr, is now a member of the Board of Supervisors in Campbell County, the same local government that took him to court for truancy in the early 1980s!

The final session I went to was Richard Wheeler’s "Martin Luther had a Wife: Making the Decision of No Return" on guiding your children into good marriages.

We got home late on Saturday and I was up Sunday to teach Kairos class and preach a doctrinal message on 2 Corinthians 13:14 ("Why does the doctrine of the Trinity matter?"), bringing to a close the 2 Corinthians series we began in September 2005. After church we had a farewell lunch for the Browns and then we were off to the SBC. More later.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 10 of 11

We are nearing the end of our exposition of the eleven paragraphs of the JPBC Church Membership Covenant. Paragraph ten reads:

We know that we do not stand alone and that cooperation and mutual effort are necessary among Christians. We will therefore support the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world in whatever ways God leads us.

This part of the covenant reminds us that although we are an autonomous congregation of believers who govern ourselves independently, we are also connected and accountable to the larger kingdom family throughout the world. We seek cooperation in mission and ministry and share in fellowship and encouragement with other like-minded churches.

We see this as the New Testament pattern. In Acts 11 we learn how the church in Antioch responded to the needs of the believers in Judea during a time of famine: "Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea" (v. 29). In 2 Corinthians Paul urges the church at Corinth also to take part in this offering, praising "the churches of Macedonia" for their generosity in this effort (8:1-2). In fact, Paul says, "that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (8:3-4). There was rich cooperation and fellowship among the early churches. This is the pattern we wish to follow.

Jefferson Park has traditionally pursued this part of the covenant through our participation in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest non-Catholic religious body in the United States. We regularly and generously contribute to the mission causes of the Southern Baptist Convention. These churches share a common confessional statement as expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We have also shared fellowship with other Baptist churches in Virginia and in our local area through various associations.

Our covenant makes clear, however, that we are also free to pursue cooperation and encouragement with other evangelical churches, outside our denominational structure, as the Lord leads us.

May God continue to bless us with stirring fellowship with like-minded believers and congregations!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Review of Frank Page's "Trouble with the TULIP"

An extended book review of Frank Page's out-of-print Trouble With The TULIP is now posted on our website. The Page booklet is only 80 pages long, but it deserves scrutiny, especially since its author is standing for election as SBC President next week in Greensboro. Tom Ascol beat me to the punch in posting his briefer review on his blog yesterday.


Chris Eller's Testimony

Last Sunday was "Youth Sunday" at JPBC. Our youth led in various elements of the service, including, I thought most impressively, playing piano to accompany our singing and worship (thanks Hannah R., Kelli, Niki, Elijah, Hannah O., and Rachel). This year we also asked one of our UVA graduate students, Chris Eller, to offer a testimony. Below is an abridged text of what Chris shared. I am emailing an extended version to Brian to post on our website. As with most things I have heard from Chris, his words were thoughtful and timely:
I was asked to share a brief testimony today as part of Youth Sunday. Since this is Youth Sunday, I will focus on the journey from high school to college (and medical school), and my relationship with the Lord during that time. As I thought about this transition, I realized that it has in fact been seven years since I graduated from high school, and indeed that time seems to pass quickly. I also was asked to share advice to our youth who will soon be experiencing this time of transition in their lives. I quickly realized that any advice that I could offer would be of little value relative to what we have in God’s word, and so I hope that today I share principles from God’s word that have impacted my walk with Him.

Some 7 years ago now, I began my college career as a freshman at the University of Delaware. The transition to life as a college student certainly represents a change from life as a high school student. One thing that I think that you realize only after graduating from college is that college affords one perhaps the most free time that one will ever have in their lives. With respect to our walk with Christ, this can lead to one of two alternatives. One option, unfortunately chosen by many in college, is to waste this time in succumbing to peer pressure, making choices to engage in activities that do not honor Christ. I went to a large public university, and regularly saw classmates that engaged in alcohol consumption, made poor decisions with respect to guy-girl relationships, and spent their time "partying." When I look back, there were certainly many opportunities for me to make these sorts of poor decisions while in college. When I think about why I chose not to engage in these activities, it certainly is not a testament of any great strength of my own, but more a testimony of how the Lord was at work in my life. While the believer attending college may choose to join many of their classmates in wasting their free time engaging in unproductive activities that ultimately hinder their walk with Christ, the believer may also choose a second option, choosing to utilize their abundant free time to serve the Lord and grow in their walk with Christ. While I certainly failed on occasion, throughout college I aimed to order my life in such a way that I honored Christ in how I behaved and utilized my time.

As I think about how I avoided yielding to the pressure from my peers to join in activities that would not be pleasing to God, I can identify three principles that I would present as advice to our youth. Firstly, and most importantly, is to set aside time each day for the study of God’s word and prayer. In college, there are many things that will compete for a student’s abundant free time, and it is not hard to neglect the study of the Word in favor of athletics, clubs, or contemporary technological time wasters such as instant messaging and surfing the internet. In the face of these seemingly benign activities which compete for the student’s time, as a college student, one also will experience challenges to the Biblical worldview, face choices with significant short and long-term ramifications, and encounter students every day who lack knowledge of Christ. For these reasons, it is absolutely essential to devote time each day to the study of the Word and prayer. Also consider what God’s Word says about itself, considering the words of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

"But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Paul’s exhortation there to Timothy was not that he look distantly back on those things that he was taught as a child from God’s Word, but to CONTINUE in those things. He then recognizes that God’s word is indeed useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction. And so as one transitions to college it is most important that one set aside that time each day to dig deep into God’s word and spend time communicating with him in prayer.

Secondly, I would emphasize the importance of fellowship with other believers. It is certainly easy as a college student, away from home for the first time, to drop out of involvement with a local church. One of the first things that I did upon choosing the University of Virginia for medical school was to begin searching the internet for churches in Charlottesville. I found Jefferson Park’s website, and was able to read some of the sermons posted online, and learn a bit about the ministries of the church, all the while continuing to pray that the Lord would direct me to a church as I moved to Charlottesville. I visited Jefferson Park on my first Sunday in Charlottesville, ultimately never visited another church, and joined this body as a member just over a year later. I would encourage our youth who may head away for college to find an intergenerational church where believers of all ages join together for worship and the study of God’s word. It can be tempting to rely solely on a campus ministry or to join a church composed of entirely University students, but one misses out on the chance to interact with believers of other ages. In facing many of the challenges of serving Christ while in college and medical school, and facing important decisions in life, I have found the wise counsel of older, more mature believers to be incredibly important. For that reason, I would strongly encourage the new college student to seek out a church where there are believers of all ages.

Thirdly, it is important not only to be a name on the roll of a church or an attendee of a church, but to be involved in service. With all of the free time afforded in college, one can serve in their areas of giftedness in the local church perhaps unlike any other time in life. I had the opportunity to participate in multiple areas of ministry as a college student at my former church in Conowingo, as I designed and maintained our church’s internet site, taught a Wednesday evening children’s Bible study and missions class, and assisted with running our church’s sound system during worship services. In addition, I had the privilege of being a part of the missions committee at my former church in Conowingo as we adopted an unreached people group in West Africa, the Fulakunda, who had less than ten known believers and no evangelical witness among a population of approximately two million across five countries back in 2001. Over the subsequent 3 years, I traveled to Guinea-Bissau to serve among the Fulakunda on three occasions, initially going to prayerwalk in advance of the first career missionaries to the Fulakunda, and subsequently going to begin to map villages and visit with village chiefs to seek out locations in which villages were open to the gospel, as churchplanting began among the Fulakunda. Today indeed I can bear testimony that the Fulakunda church is active and growing, a testimony to the awesome power of our Lord, and all that He is doing around the world even in places of great spiritual darkness. If I were told seven years ago at my high school graduation that I would travel to Africa on four occasions as a volunteer missionary over the next years of college and medical school, I would likely have laughed. If I had been told that I would be mountain biking to distant villages in Zambia and Guinea-Bissau, working through malaria and all sorts of intestinal infections, I would have said, "I could never do that." Indeed, my strength was not sufficient to accomplish any of those things. The fact that the Lord was able to use even someone such as myself with many weaknesses testifies to his awesome strength. I would share with you the words of Colossians 1:28-29, words which served as a great encouragement to me as I prepared for a 6 hour bike trip through the mountains of southern Zambia in search of a village named Kafwambila where there was no church. At a time where I was physically and emotionally spent, the Lord used these words to encourage me, as I systematically studied through Paul’s letters during that mission trip.

"Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end also I labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily."

Just as it says there that we labor with His energy, I was reminded that as I served in Zambia, it was not by my strength that many were coming to know Christ, rather it was in spite of my many weaknesses and only by God’s strength in me that we were accomplishing the task to which God had called us. This principle of total surrender and total reliance on God was the most important thing I learned in Zambia.

In short, college indeed does present one with many opportunities to fall away in their walk with Christ. I am certainly one with many weaknesses, and it is only by the regular study of God’s word, the wise counsel of fellow believers and service as part of the body of Christ that I have remained close in my walk with Christ. Many of you know that the Lord has instilled in my heart a great passion for seeing Christ’s church grow among the many unreached people groups of the earth, and I would emphasize that this desire comes not from my own ambition, but rather out of time spent in the study of the word, in the wise counsel of my fellow believers, and serving as part of the church. These things are no testimony of my strengths, but if anything a testimony of the awesome power of our God that he could use one such as I even in spite of my weaknesses and failings.

Finally, as a word of caution to our youth, I pose the question, How does one who follows these principles of regular study of the Word, active involvement in a local church, and active service of Christ fit in at a large secular university? The answer, although not surprising, certainly did present at least a bit of a culture shock to me. Indeed these values are very counter-cultural in the typical American college or University. One does not "fit-in" at the typical university, but of course as believers we are not called to try to fit-in to the man-centered value system of this world. Still, I can remember numerous classmates in college and medical school, some who even called themselves believers, who looked on in shock when I would decline their invitations to join them in the consumption of alcohol. Others who were shocked that I chose not to involve myself in the serial dating and physical relationships that are prevalent on many campuses. Perhaps most shocking to them was the fact that these things were not out of adherence to a set of rules, but rather out of devotion to serving and glorifying an awesome God. Unfortunately to many of them, God was an invisible abstract concept, rather than a living, active Lord. I would close by asking that you pray regularly for our youth who may soon be heading out into the college and university campuses where they will encounter worldviews very counter to that of God’s word, and pray that they may remain strong by continuing in God’s word, continuing in fellowship with a local church, and continuing in service of our Lord.