Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer 2007 Evangelical Forum Newsletter Now Online

Brian Davis has posted the latest issue of the Evangelical Forum Newsletter (Volume 4, Number 3). It is listed as the Summer 2007 issue (well, it is still August!). Bonnie will be getting the print copy in the mail soon.
Of interest inside this issue: Articles by Rob Stovall on worship and Ben Parziale on para-church ministries. Book reviews by yours truly on Sam Waldron's To Be Continued and Michael Haykin's Defence of the Faith.
You can also get info on our upcoming annual meeting at JPBC, October 5-6.


Guests from Texas

Last Lord's Day we were glad to have old JPBC friends, the Martin family, visiting in worship. Jeff and Jamie left C-ville in 1999 for Fort Worth, Texas where they still live. Julia was born just before they moved from here, and God has been gracious to add Jenna and Jaden to their household in the meantime. We had them over for supper on Tuesday and got a chance to catch up with them (the picture is of them on our front porch). They are active in their church in Texas, teaching 2nd grade Sunday School together and serving in music ministry, among other things (JPBCers will remember Jamie's incredible voice). Jamie is also teaching music part time at the Covenant Classical School where the older children are in school. It was great to enjoy Christian fellowship with them. It was also a reminder of how people can come into your life for only a short time and yet remain a blessing and encouragement.


Colquhoun: Holiness and happiness

OK. Just one more Colquhoun quote for meditation today:
This one jumped out at me:
"Holiness is the happiness of the rational creature. To conceive of happiness without it would be a contradiction, seeing it is the main ingredient in all true happiness" (p. 139).
You cannot be happy without holiness. It is the apex of genuine felicity. It is the apex of rationality. The most rational and reasonable man will pursue holiness with greatest zeal. Holiness is bliss. Holiness is sanity.

Colquhoun on "legal" and "evangelical" repentance

Are you really grieved by your sin?

A football star indicted for a crime stands before the cameras and expresses regret for his actions in hopes of saving future playing contracts and endorsement deals. A high profile politician is caught in a morally questionable situation and appears before the cameras to explain his behavior in hopes of saving his political career. A celebrity crashes her car while intoxicated and enters rehab.

Might these be examples of how we, as believers, deal with our sin? Do we express sorrow for our actions and desire to work on resisting our sin only after we get caught red-handed in it? Do we behave well on the outside, but sinful desires eat us up on the inside? Do we follow the rules merely because we want to avoid the scandal and pain of getting caught? Can you be sober for all the wrong reasons?

Colquhoun contrasts the falsehood of "legal" repentance with the genuine article of "evangelical" repentance:

In the exercise of legal repentance, the sinner mourns for sin only as it has wounded his own soul; which shows that his remorse flows merely from a natural spring, and rises only to a natural height. But in the exercise of evangelical repentance, the believer mourns for sin as it has wounded his dear Redeemer, as it has pierced that heart which loves him, and spilled blood which redeems him (p. 90).

A man may abhor sin more for the shame which attends it than for the malignity and odiousness which are in it; and he may hate one sin because it is contrary to another which he loves dearly. The sincere penitent, on the contrary, hates all sin as sin, and abhors it chiefly for the evil that is in it. A man may even forsake most of his transgressions without exercising true repentance. If he forsake open, and yet retain secret sins, or if he leave sin and yet continue to love it, or if he let one sin go in order to hold another faster, or if he forsake sin, but not as sin, he is not a true penitent. He who forsakes any sin as sin, or because it is sin, relinquishes all sin. The sincere penitent forsakes all iniquity from right principles, by right motives, in a right manner, and to a right end. Let every man take heed, then, that he do not impose upon himself by mistaking a false for a true repentance. And if he begin to suspect that his repentance is legal and counterfeit, let him without delay trust cordially in Jesus Christ for grace to exercise evangelical repentance (pp. 91-92).

Colquhoun on Repentance

Just finished a book on repentance from John Colquhoun (1748-1827), one of the Scottish "marrow men." The copy I have is one I picked up last November at the Evangelical Forum from Sherman Isbell's book table and is titled "True Repentance" (Old Paths Gospel Press, n. d.). The original title is "A View of Evangelical Repentance from the Sacred Records," and is best known as "Evangelical Repentance."
One of the book's main points is that true repentance only comes after justifying faith in Christ. The seeds of repentance are implanted in regeneration and are actualized after justification:
From these arguments it is evident that, in order of nature, justification in the sight of God, or forgiveness of sin in justification, precedes the first exercise of true repentance. But seeing the principle of evangelical repentance is implanted in the soul before justification, none is justified in the sight of God, but he who, in this sense, is already a true penitent. It is only the habit and the exercise of true repentance that follow the act of justification (p. 132).
The point: Saving faith does not depend on the exercise of repentance, but even our repentance, if genuine and not (as Colqhoun calls it) "legal," is given us by God. A right doctrine of repentance is built on the foundation of a right understanding of justification by faith.
Colqhoun goes on to stress that true repentance is an ongoing component of the Christian life: "Every man who is justified is entitled to sanctification, of which the habit and exercise of true repentance are essential parts" (p. 133).
He pleads:
"O renew, and frequently renew, not only the acting of humble confidence in your adorable Redeemer for all his salvation, but also for the exercise of evangelical repentance. Godly sorrow is sweet, is delicious sorrow. It is often attended by a delightful sense of redeeming love and of justifying grace. Whilst, with tears of sorrow and gratitude, you praise a forgiving God and a bleeding Saviour, you realize this paradox: 'sorrowful yet always rejoicing.' Your melting seasons of penitential sorrow will usually pave the way for your strongest and sweetest consolations (p. 137)."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not exactly "Mother of the Year"

Mike States sent me this link to an article reviewing a recent book by Corinne Maier that has made waves in France. The book's title, "No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children."
A quote from the book:
“Children are there to stop you enjoying yourself. It’s a child’s hidden face. Believe me, he will be very inventive in this area. He will be ill when you (finally) arrange a night out, he will bug you when you celebrate your birthday with your friends, he will hate it if you bring someone he’s never met back for the night, and beyond that you won’t dare tread for fear of traumatising him for life.” She goes on to list the things you will almost certainly have to give up after having children. They include: a full night’s sleep, a lie-in, deciding to go to the cinema on the spur of the moment, staying out later than midnight (babysitters have to be relieved), visiting a museum or exhibition (children start mucking about after five mintues), taking your holiday anywhere other than destinations where there is a beach and a kids’ club, taking a holiday during term-time and smoking in front of your children, now deemed a “crime against humanity”.
It is truly amazing how one may present selfishness as virtue. The Bible says that children, despite the inconveniences, are a blessing: "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3). God gives us the dominion mandate (Gen 1:28), and men revile it. This is the way sin works. God forbid we practice self-denial for the sake of someone else and for the sake of God.
A glad father, JTR

Sermon of the Week: "Family Worship"

Joel Beeke is a "favorite speaker" on my personal preference list at He is modern day Puritan with a prodigious work ethic and an encyclopedic knowledge of Reformed Theology and church history. In addition to all that, he is a passionate preacher and dedicated Pastor.

Sometimes young men will ask me how to begin and practice family worship in their homes. Beeke's message "Family Worship" gives the theological justification for family worship (Edwards said each family is a little church), practical guidance for doing family worship, and inspiration to realize its benefits. Men will especially benefit from listening to this sermon. My children have enjoyed his collection of devotional stories. I would also commend reading his little booklet on family worship.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do we need another Gospel Coalition?

Last week I listened to a few of the messages from the one day conference held by "The Gospel Coaltion" on May 23, 2007 at Trinity Divinity School in Chicago. The group was initiated by scholar D. A. Carson and Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. It includes a forty plus member council including a wide number of well known evangelical pastors.

The Coalition has issued a statement titled "The Gospel for All of Life" in which the Preamble reads:

We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices. On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of personal consumerism and the politicization of faith; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral relativism. These movements have led to the easy abandonment of both biblical truth and the transformed living mandated by our historic faith. We not only hear of these influences, we see their effects. We have committed ourselves to invigorating churches with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

D. A. Carson provided an explanation of the group’s beginnings and a rationale for its existence at the group’s conference (listen here). He noted that the group is tentatively planning to host a national conference in April of 2009.
The group's website also has an interesting collection of online articles to which it plans to add.

Analysis: It is interesting to note the growing emphasis on the recovery of the gospel as the center of the evangelical Christian witness. One wonders, however, at the wisdom of the multiplication and overlap of such organizations. The Gospel Coalition sounds much like the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and Together for the Gospel and includes many of the same leaders. One also wonders about such supra-denominational groups. In the zeal to promote proper soteriology, do we run the risk of minimizing other doctrines (such as ecclesiology, pneumatology, baptism, etc.)?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Congratulations to the Parziales!

The big event of last weekend at JPBC was the wedding of Ben and Vanessa Parziale on Saturday (August 18th). Vanessa completed her third summer with us as a children's ministry intern (at the Rainbow House) the week before her wedding. Ben also served us a Pastoral intern this summer. They met at JPBC four years ago when they were incoming first year students. These two have been a great blessing to us at JPBC, and we wish them well in the establishment of a Christian household.


My Favorite Linebacker

There is a nice article in today's Daily Progress about Jon Copper. Jon and Holly have become faithful attendees at JPBC and Jon has an incredible gift for inviting people to church. The article is a nice tribute to his character and work ethic.


Sermon of the Week: "The So-Called English Standard Version"

I am going to try a new feature here on the blog: A sermon of the week. Hopefully I'll post a link near the start of the week (I was going to say every Monday--but it's Tuesday) to a good sermon/teaching I've heard. They'll be archived under the label: "Sermon of the Week." Feel free to listen and/or post feedback.
Our inaugural sermon is actually a lecture from Theodore Letis, titled, "The So-Called English Standard Version." It is noteworthy not only for its critique of the ESV but for the general description of how the Majority text came to be replaced by the current minority text underlying most modern translations. Sadly, Dr. Letis apparently died in a car accident in 2005.

What makes youth happy?

The Associated Press had an interesting article yesterday on a recent poll of young people between the ages of 13 and 24. When asked what made them happy, the top answer was not sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but spending time with family.
Among other interesting tidbits:
Almost no one said "money" when asked what made them happy.
Being sexually active led to less happiness among teens.
Close to half say religion and spirituality are very important and over half believe in a "higher power" [of course, this is a mixed blessing but still an encouragement in evangelizing young folk].
Overwhelmingly, young people think marriage will make them happy and want to be married some day. Most also want to have children.
A high school student is quoted as saying, "I don't want to be one of those career businesswomen who just doesn't ever settle down."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rainbows, the Trinity, and an Incomprehensible God

Last evening in Bible Study at JPBC, my mind got fixed on Ezekiel 1:28, the end of Ezekiel’s fantastic vision of God:

"Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord."

I recalled, Michael Haykin’s quotation (in Defence of the Truth, pp. 86-87) of Gregory of Nyssa who used the analogy of a rainbow to describe both the mystery of the Trinity and the nature of God (see Letter 38.5):

Yet receive what I say as at best a token and reflexion of the truth; not as the actual truth itself. For it is not possible that there should be complete correspondence between what is seen in the tokens and the objects in reference to which the use of tokens is adopted. Why then do I say that an analogy of the separate and the conjoined is found in objects perceptible to the senses? You have before now, in springtime, beheld the brightness of the bow in the cloud….

Now this brilliance is both continuous and divided. It is of many colours; it is of many forms; it is insensibly steeped in the variegated bright tints of its dye; imperceptibly abstracting from our vision the combination of many coloured things, with the result that no space, mixing or paring within itself the difference of colour, can be discerned either between blue and flame-coloured, or between flame-coloured and red, or between red and amber. For all the rays, seen at the same time, are far shining, and while they give no signs of their mutual combination, are incapable of being tested, so that it is impossible to discover the limits of the flame-coloured or of the emerald portion of the light, and at what point each originates before it appears as it does in glory. As then in the token we clearly distinguish the difference of the colours, and yet it is impossible for us to apprehend by our senses any interval between them; so in like manner conclude, I pray you, that you may reason concerning the divine dogmas; that the peculiar properties of the hypostases, like colours seen in the Iris, flash their brightness on each of the Persons Whom we believe to exist in the Holy Trinity; but that of the proper nature no difference can be conceived as existing between one and the other, the peculiar characteristics shining, in community of essence, upon each….

My argument thus teaches us, even by the aid of the visible creation, not to feel distressed at points of doctrine whenever we meet with questions difficult of solution, and when at the thought of accepting what is proposed to us, our brains begin to reel….


Monday, August 13, 2007

Strong Families=Strong Churches

We had our final theological discussion of this summer last evening at the home of the Ventons. Great hospitality and a good discussion. Among topics discussed: spiritual growth; divorce and remarriage; and the believer and evolution.
Most time and passion went into the discussion on marriage and divorce. This morning, Al Mohler has an interesting blog post on "The Fate of the Family and the Future of the Church," citing the sociological research of UVA's W. Bradford Wilcox.
Wilcox notes the strong link, for men in particular, between marriage and church attendance. Men who are husbands and fathers go to church.
Mohler notes, "Marginalize marriage, depreciate childbearing and fatherhood, and say goodbye to young adult men in church."
The link between intact families and congregational vitality is a "sociological law."
This is why marriage must be defended, responsible fatherhood promoted, and divorce frowned upon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Piper and Grudem wrangle over baptism and church membership

John Piper had an interesting post on his Desiring God site yesterday (August 9) responding to Wayne Grudem on the issue of baptism and church membership [Thanks for the tip Howard!].
Grudem has apparently rewritten part of his Systematic Theology in its latest edition to frown on churches not taking a clear stand on baptismal standards for church membership. Piper pleads, "But, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, why did you rewrite page 983?" Piper makes the same claim he has made earlier that to exclude a person from Baptist church membership who has only experienced infant baptism is "virtually the same as excommunication."
He also goes on to say that (if his church would allow it) he would welcome paedobaptists like Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, R. C. Sproul, or Philip Ryken into membership.
The site also posted Grudem's response. Grudem reminds Piper that denial of church membership is not excommunication. He also makes clear that baptism is required for church membership and states clearly that he would not support a church which practices an either-or policy with regard to infant baptism or believer's baptism. I wish he had asked how the paedobaptist luminaries Piper listed would feel about being included in membership but excluded from eldership in Piper's plan.
I was a bit brothered, however, by Grudem's description of his own church's practice that allows non-members to lead home fellowship groups and his dismissal of churches that exclude those who have not experienced believer's baptism from the Lord's table as a practice of "very few of the most strict Baptist churches."
For my much longer and detailed response to Piper's maverick ecclesiological views, listen to this audio file.

Should Christians Watch Movies?

I noticed in the newsletters of a large, local evangelical church that they have been screening R-rated, secular movies. They have done this in the name of understanding the culture. Of course, many "cutting edge" churches are using video clips in worship services and sermons. A local evangelical campus ministry at UVA often screens secular movies followed by theological discussion. Is this wise?
What about the individual Christian who goes to the movie theater or rents videos? Some Christians watch hundreds of movies a year. For a sober challenge to this practice, listen to Scottish preacher David Murray's prophetic message "Should Christians Watch Movies?" I was personally convicted by this sermon.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Tyranny of Modern Covenience

Last Sunday’s Daily Progress (8/5/07) had an interesting article by David Maurer about the Ward family who left their lives in New York City to live on a farm near Swoope, Virginia (Augusta County) trying to recreate life c. 1900 with no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, etc.

The husband, Logan Ward, has written about the experience in a book, See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America.

In the article, the Wards describe what drove them to seek this experience:

"For a long time we loved New York, and we were thrilled to be there," said Ward, who has written for magazines such as National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal and Popular Mechanics. "Having a child suddenly forced us to think about our choices as they would affect him.

"Also, our jobs kept us pretty stressed out. This was around 2000, and e-mail had really caught on. My inbox kept filling up and, when I tried not to answer it, that backfired.
"Heather and I both felt that the technology that was supposed to make our lives easier was making us feel enslaved."

Heather Ward was trying to make the world a better place by working at a justice-reform think tank. But travel kept her away from home a lot. Within a two-year period, she visited every continent, except Australia and Antarctica.

Pangs of guilt

Having to turn her firstborn over to the care of near strangers during the workday caused pangs of guilt and anxiety as well. She felt chained to her computer and cell phone and was troubled by her absolute reliance on technology.

"Not many people seem to question all this technology," Heather Ward said. "We all assume this is right, because it's what everyone does. And it's the only way to do your job.

"It's the only way to keep up, keep earning your income so you can keep your apartment and all the stuff that you like to have. So when you think about letting go of even one aspect of that modern life, the rest of the house of cards can fall.

"I think that's why we looked for such a radical change. We couldn't keep doing what we were doing and not have e-mail, the car, the commute or the television. The whole thing had to shift."
I read this part of the article as an introduction to my sermon Sunday evening on Leviticus 25, noting that even secular people (the spiritual convictions of the Wards is not mentioned in the article; I assume they are not believers) know deep down their need for Sabbath and for rest (expressed by the Wards in their personal revolt against technology).
In the Old Testament, there is the provision of a weekly Sabbath (one day in seven, see Lev 23:1-3); a Sabbath year (every seventh year, see Lev 25:1-7); and a year of Jubilee when debts are cleared, prisoners are freed, and a fresh start is given to all (every 50th year, see Lev 25:8-55).
In the New Testament, Christ declares the acceptable year of the Lord to be fulfilled in his person (Luke 4:16-21). He is our year of Jubilee, and the spirit of the Old Testament Sabbath continues in our marking his resurrection on the Lord’s Day.

What is the answer to the tyranny of modern convenience (unending email, cell phones, television programs, web-surfing, and text messages)? Running off to live a year without electricity and no email? Going Amish? How about starting with a day of rest in the Lord? A day of rest in Jesus, our Jubilee.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Vacation Reading

Back from vacation. In addition to swimming and twisting my ankle playing freeze tag in the surf with my kids, there was plenty of time for reading last week.

Theological works:
Hills offers a classic defense of the Textus Receptus (the Greek basis for the KJV translation) as the authoritative ecclesiastical text providentially preserved by God.

I read the Greek text last Spring and finally got around to reading the Appendix, Robinson’s article, "A Case for Byzantine Priority" (pp. 533-86). Robinson argues for the Byzantine text, over against the modern eclectic reconstruction of the Greek text.

The subtitle is "John MacArthur Explains the Book of Revelation." This work is intended for a popular audience. It presents MacArthur’s pre-tribulational, pre-millennial, dispensational reading of Revelation. For me it solidified how the dispensational approach super-imposes an end times scheme on the text that does not emerge on its own. I plan to write a longer review later.

Children’s historical works:

Wonderful overview of the American Revolution in the classic Landmark series.

  • Hazel Wilson, The Story of Lafayette (Grosset & Dunlap, 1952).

Solid overview of the life of the French patriot in the Signature series.

  • Edith Gray Pierce, Horace Mann: Our Nation’s First Educator (Lerner, 1972).

Interesting 1970s propaganda on the virtues of the Unitarian Mann and how he escaped the evangelical preaching of his youth to champion public schools free from religious entanglements. I did not realize that Mann had been the founding president of ultra-liberal Antioch College, which folded this year.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Spot and Drum

On vacation this week at Topsail Island, NC: (1) On the corner of Spot and Drum; (2) Sam and Lydia and cousin Emma; (3) Emma Anderson Chapel at Topsail.