Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog

My friend Steve Clevenger tipped me off to the new Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog. The contributors in this collaborative effort include Richard Barcellos (see my review of his In Defense of the Decalogue), Sam Waldron, James White, and Jim Savastio, among others. There are already some good posts up, and I look forward to checking in from time to time to read more.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Lord's Supper

Below are a few excerpts from the study material for JPBC 101 (Unit Six: What are the Ordinances?) which we offer for new members and attendees at JPBC to understand better our church’s doctrine and practice.

What is the Biblical view of the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper was established by Jesus himself on the night that he was betrayed. The Gospels tell us how Jesus gathered in an upper room with his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal (see Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22). In the midst of this "last supper" with his disciples, however, Jesus transformed the meal into a symbolic anticipation of his sacrifice on the cross. He declared that the bread represented his body and the cup represented his blood (see Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20). He also commanded that the disciples continue to celebrate this meal "in remembrance of me."

We know that the early Christians were, in fact, obedient to Jesus’ command. Paul describes the observance of the Lord’s Supper in the church at Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:17-34). Some Christians refer to the Lord’s Supper as "communion," while others prefer the Biblical phrase "Lord’s Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20).

Who can participate?

As with baptism, the New Testament seems to reveal that the proper participants in the Lord’s Supper are those who are already believers and members of a local church body (thus baptized believers). Paul rhetorically asks, "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16). Therefore, children of believers who have not yet professed faith in Christ and been obedient to baptism and non-believers should not participate in the Lord’s Supper. Paul warns that anyone who takes the Supper in an unworthy manner "will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27) and may face dire consequences (vv. 29-30).

Who hosts the Lord’s Supper?

The New Testament also teaches that the proper host of the Lord’s Supper is the local church. Paul tells the believers in Corinth about proper observance of the Supper "when you come together" (1 Corinthians 11:20, 33). This does not mean that only the members of a local church can take the Supper. That view is sometimes called "close (or ‘closed’) communion." Baptized believers who are visiting in a local church that is not their own are certainly welcomed to the table. This does mean, however, that the Lord’s Supper is not a private or individual event. It is hosted only under the authority of a local church. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes our commitment to Christ and to a local body of believers. This is why it is especially important that every member of the church try to be present at those times when the Lord’s Supper is being served.

What does the Lord’s Supper mean?

Some have taken the words of Jesus literally when he said, "This is my body," and "this is my blood." This view, however, misses Jesus’ point. He often used symbolic language. Jesus also said, "I am the door" (John 10:7, 9) and "I am the vine" (John 15:5), but we hardly take these words literally. In like manner, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper he meant these words to be taken symbolically. The bread is like his body; the cup is like his blood. When we take the bread and cup, we remember the death of Jesus on the cross. We recall that he died for us. We are also challenged to take up our cross and follow him (see Luke 9:23).

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 11 of two important things about the Lord’s Supper. First, it is a festival of self-examination. Before we take the Supper we should examine ourselves closely. "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (11:28). The Lord’s Supper is a time for taking spiritual inventory of our lives. We ask deep within, "How closely am I walking with the Lord?" Second, it is a time to remember and proclaim Jesus. Paul said, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes" (11:26).

See you this Sunday as we observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper in morning worship.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
(Evangel article 2/27/07)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Baptist Identity and the "Angry Young Men" of the SBC

I am working my way through listening to the audio sessions from the "Baptist Identity II" Conference at Union University (held Feb 15-17, 2007). Very interesting discussion. Greg Thornbury (pictured above) gave his address on the "The 'Angry Young Men' of the SBC" (listen here), discussing the impact of bloggers on the SBC. Good analogy drawn from Wired Magazine's feature on what's expired, tired, and wired. So, according to Thornbury:
What's expired? Baptist programs;
What's tired? Baptist battles;
What's wired? Baptist basics (doctrine, regenerate church membership, etc).
I also found Mike Day's message on "The Future of Baptist Associations and State Conventions" (listen here) to be of interest in light of the development of the Evangelical Forum. Day discusses the emergence of non-geographical affinity groups in place of traditional associations and state conventions.
For the other audio presentations from folk like LifeWay's Thom Rainer, Paige Patterson, and David Dockery, look here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Beware of Lot's choice!

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was the evangelical Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, England. Ryle wrote the spiritual classic Holiness (read the book online here). One essay in that work is titled "Lot – a beacon." At one point, Ryle examines Lot’s poor decision to settle in the well-watered plain of Jordan, near the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 13:10). While Abraham settled in Canaan, "Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom" (v. 12). Ryle observes: "Make a wrong choice in life, an unscriptural choice, and settle yourself down unnecessarily in the midst of wordly people, and I know no surer way to damage your own spirituality, and to go backward about your eternal concerns." He warns, "Beware of Lot’s choice!" then makes application to several key decisions in life:

a. Remember this in choosing a dwelling place or residence. It is not enough that the house is comfortable, the situation good, the air fine, the neighborhood pleasant, the rent or price small, the living cheap. There are other things yet to be considered. You must think of your immortal soul. Will the house you think of help you toward heaven or hell? Is the gospel preached within an easy distance? Is Christ crucified within reach of your door? Is there a real man of God near, who will watch over your soul? I charge you, if you love life, not to overlook this. Beware of Lot’s choice.

b. Remember this in choosing a calling, a place, or profession in life. It is not enough that the salary is high, the wages good, the work light, the advantages numerous, the prospects of getting on most favorable. Think of your soul, your immortal soul. Will it be fed or starved? Will it be prospered or drawn back? Will you have your Sundays free and be able to have one day in the week for your spiritual business? I beseech you, by the mercies of God, to take heed what you do. Make no rash decision. Look at the place in every light, the light of God as well as the light of the world. Gold may be bought too dear. Beware of Lot’s choice.

c. Remember this in choosing a husband or wife, if you are unmarried. It is not enough that your eye is pleased, that your tastes are met, that your mind finds congeniality, that there is amiability and affection, that there is a comfortable home for life. There needs something more than this. There is a life yet to come. Think of your soul, your immortal soul. Will it be helped upwards or dragged downwards by the union you are planning? Will it be made more heavenly or more earthly, drawn nearer to Christ or to the world? Will its religion grow in vigor, or will it decay? I pray you, by all your hopes of glory, allow this to enter into your calculations. "Think," as old Baxter said, and "think, and think again," before you commit yourself. "Be not unequally yoked" (2 Cor. 6:14). Matrimony is nowhere named among the means of conversion. Remember Lot’s choice.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

(Evangel article 2/20/07)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hymn Singing, Cyberhymnal, and Family Worship

Just finished reading John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini's Can We Rock the Gospel? (Evangelical Press, 2006). Hope to post a review soon (for my review of Lucarini's Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement, look here). It just confirms the value of solid hymnody over rock inspired contemporary Christian music.

We were discussing singing hymns in Family Worship yesterday in our "Family Foundations" Sunday School class at JPBC, and a friend suggested the use of Cyberhymnal. I was not aware of this resource. It is pretty awesome. For those who cannot read or play music, you can find your hymn by title and listen to the tune in addition to finding extra verses in some hymns.

In our family devotions, we have been using the "Christ-centered Hymns" booklet, cheaply published by Chapel Library. It has been great singing some of these classic old hymns with our children. Some of their favorites:

Note: The above hymn links may shift as time goes by and their internal set up on Cyberhymnal changes.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wilberforce on Unitarianism

As a young man, newly converted to Christ, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) devoted himself to two life goals: the end of slavery and the reformation of manners. God chose to achieve much good through this one man’s life.

In his book "Real Christianity," Wilberforce also addressed the rise of Unitarianism in Britain [which was at the time much more "Protestant" than is its contemporary manifestation]:

The Unitarian teachers by no means claim to absolve their followers from the unbending strictness of Christian morality. They prescribe love for God that dominates all life and a habitual spirit of devotion. However, people who seek a refuge in this form of faith seem to go there because they want a watered-down sort of faith; they want the joys of Christianity without the difficult doctrines. In particular, most of them seem to want to escape the Bible’s command to be separate from the world, a unique and special people. They prefer to remain at one with the world’s philosophies….

Christianity has not gone to the same efforts to promote its arguments that the Unitarians have. If they were attacked as they have attacked orthodoxy, and asked to defend their tenets, I doubt they would be able to keep their ground so well. In short, we can find no watered-down alternative to Christianity that can be rationally supported. If we have abandoned Christianity, then we must logically abandon all its forms. We must abandon any hope we have of finding the comfort of faith without its demands.

(As quoted in Lon Fendall, William Wilberforce: Abolitionist, Politician, Writer [Barbour, 2002]: 193-95).

Wilberforce, "Amazing Grace," and the end of slavery

The older I get (and the more conservative my theology becomes), the less interest I have in movies. I am, however, planning to go see the new film "Amazing Grace" based on the life of William Wilberforce and his fight to end slavery in the British Empire. It opens February 23.

This morning there was an interesting interview with Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains on NPR's Weekend Edition in light of the movie's release and the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of slavery. Hochschild's affirmation of the new film was tepid to say the least. Oddly enough, he nearly completely ignored speaking about Wilberforce (arguing instead for slave revolts in the West Indies and a British populist movement as bringing the end of slavery). He also seemed intent on besmirching the legacy of John Newton. The interview is titled "Ending Salvery in Britain: A Shifting View of History." Indeed, there seems to be a move afoot to erase the evangelical Christians roots of the abolitionist movement (couched in terms of eliminating British colonial self-congratulation; listen to an earlier interview on NPR with Hochschild here when Bury the Chains was released). For a corrective to Hochschild, see Rodney Starks' account of the end of slavery in For the Glory of God.


What do you say to a Unitarian?

I've posted the audio for last week's midweek study at JPBC on Unitarians in our evangelism and apologetics series. Below is the outline for the study:

What do you say to a Unitarian?
JPBC February 14, 2007
Jeff Riddle

I. Definitions: What is Unitarianism?

II. Historical Backgrounds:
  • Monarchianism.
  • Arianism.
  • Michael Servetus (1511-53).
  • Faustus Socinus (1539-1604).
  • John Biddle (1615-62).
  • American Unitarian Association formed in 1825.
  • In 1961 they merged with the Universalist Association of America to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association.

III. Beliefs:

1. Reason and conscience as authority, vis-à-vis the Bible.
2. Complete religious toleration.
3. The innate goodness of man.
4. Universal salvation.
5. Liberal social agenda. Examples: Pro homosexual behavior/marriage; anti-war, etc.

IV. What do you say to a Unitarian?

1. What does the Bible teach about God?

The Bible teaches the Trinity.

Examples: (1) Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3; (2) Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20; (3) Acts 2:32-33; (4) Romans 1:2-3; (4) 2 Corinthians 13:14.

Does the Unitarian view do justice to Jesus’ own self-understanding?

Compare the claims Jesus made for himself. See:
John 10:30: "I and My Father are one."
John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
Luke 5:17-26: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (v. 21).

Does the Unitarian view do justice to the early Christian view of Jesus?
See "Jesus is Lord" (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3).

See the warning against those who do not preach Jesus properly: 1 John 4:1-3; 5:1, 9-13.

2. Does it make sense to say that all religions deserve equal toleration and consideration?

3. If men are innately good, then why is there so much human evil in the world?

4. If all men meet the same eternal destiny what does this say about the justice of God?

5. Can we ever hope to solve all the world’s problems apart from God’s complete and final intervention?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Book Recommendation: Pinocchio

My wife had my son Sam read Pinocchio in home-school last year and I finally got around to reading it myself.
The journalist Carlo Lorenzi, who went by the pen name Carlo Collodi, wrote a fairy tale about a mischievous wooden puppet that was serialized in an Italian newspaper in 1881-1882. The book Pinocchio was published in Italian in 1883, and an English translation appeared in 1892. The Disney movie in 1940 popularized the work but omitted a lot of the compelling moral lessons.

At the end of Lorenzi’s story, the wayward Pinocchio learns to obey his elders, to keep his word, to work hard, and to think of others above himself. As he drifts off to sleep, the Blue Fairy appears to him in a dream and says:

Brave Pinocchio! In return for your good heart I forgive you all your past misdeeds. Children who love their parents, and help them when they are sick and poor, are worthy of praise and love, even if they are not models of obedience and good behavior. Be good in the future, and you will be happy.

When he awakes in the morning, Pinocchio finds he is a real boy and exclaims, "How ridiculous I was when I was a puppet! And how happy I am to have become a real boy!"

What a great book for a child (or adult) to read!


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Winter Reflections

"While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22).

"You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter" (Psalm 74:17).

"If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).

As I write we are in the midst of a cold snap. All the complaining about warm winters is over. It is keep-your-pets-indoors, wear-layers-of-clothing, see-your-breath-in-a-fog-before-your-face COLD!

When Noah and his family emerged from the ark after the flood, the Lord made a promise to mankind: "I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done" (Gen 8:21). Then, as a reminder of this, the Lord promised the constancy of the seasons. As long as there is seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night, we know that there is a covenant God.

This account reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:13: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." Just as the preservation of the earth does not depend on God’s approval of human conduct, so our salvation does not depend on God’s approval of our human efforts at faithfulness. If we are saved and persevere in the faith, all the glory goes to God alone. "If [read "when"] we are faithless, He remains faithful." Now this is not to make any excuses for slackness in our behavior. The redeemed man will strive to live a godly life. This word humbles us and it gives us hope.

So, when it gets cold outside or the snow starts to fall, consider for a moment a faithful Creator God who has entered into a covenant with unfaithful men whose hearts are evil from youth. Remember also that the same God who is faithful to give us winter and summer is also faithful to keep those who are saved in Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
(Evangel article 2/6/07)

Michael Haykin coming to JPBC in October 2007

We just got confirmation yesterday that Michael Haykin, Principal of the Toronto Baptist Seminary and noted Baptist church historian, will be coming to JPBC October 5-6, 2007 (Friday-Saturday). Dr. Haykin will be one of the plenary speakers for the annual Evangelical Forum meeting which will be hosted at JPBC. More details TBA as the date approaches.

Winter 2007 Evangelical Forum Newsletter

Brian Davis has just posted the Winter 2007 issue of the Evangelical Forum Newsletter (volume 4, number 1). Click here to read. Bonnie Beach is working to get the hard copy edition in the mail later this week.
Grace, JTR

Monday, February 05, 2007

Great Post-Super Bowl Quote

We had no Super Bowl party at JPBC last night, though we did meet for worship and study of Leviticus 12 on the Rules for Purification after childbirth.
I liked the quote from winning Colt's coach Tony Dungy that I read in the Daily Progress this morning as the media was hounding him after the game for a sound byte on being the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl:
"I'm proud to be the first African-American to win this.... But again more than anything, Lovie Smith [the Bears' coach] and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that."