Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Image (left side): Decorative urn with title for the book of Acts in Codex Alexandrinus.
I have lately taken to searching the scriptural allusions page at cyberhymnal.org as I preach through Mark's Gospel. This Sunday I'll be preaching about Jesus' healing of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5:1-20. I ran across this hymn "Sin, like a venomous disease" written in 1707 by the prolific Isaac Watts based on the text. The lyrics seem especially striking after teaching last night at JPBC on "Irresistible Grace." You can listen to the hymn set to the tune St. Andrews (Tans'ur). But it would also go well with St. Anne ("O God Our Help in Ages Past"). Sadly, I do not think we will take time to sing it this Sunday, but it might end up being quoted. Read or sing and enjoy:
A picture is worth a thousand words. Baptist statesman (and author) John Grisham chats with Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a fundraising event for Clinton at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia on September 23, 2007.
A high ranking moderate source reports: "Grisham's visit to the New Baptist Covenenant meeting in Atlanta this week has nothing to do with his continuing support for Clinton's election but is merely an attempt to promote his new legal thriller, The Appeal, which goes on sale January 29, 2008. Everyone knows that Baptists are the primary consumers of pulp crime fiction."
p.s.: Want to supply a quote caption for the above picture?
Grisham: "Hillary, how can you and your Methodist sisters (and brothers) continue to support your paedobaptist practices in light of the overwhelming New Testament evidence in favor of believer's baptism by immersion?"
The New York Times had an article yesterday about the upcoming "New Baptist Covenant" gathering this week in Atlanta (Wednesday-Friday, January 30-February 1).
This is supposed to be a non-partisan gathering of moderate Baptists to present a more favorable picture of Baptists to the world as opposed to that put forward by the mean old, narrow-minded, poor-people-hating Southern Baptist Convention (aka the Evil Empire).
When the gathering was announced last year, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were on stage, front and center (see the photo above and note Baptist General Association of Virginia's Executive Director, John Upton, just over Clinton's shoulder). Both will be keynote speakers at the gathering, and Al Gore will host a luncheon during the meeting. Moderates have long criticized the SBC for being in the back pocket of the Republican Party (and they were often not far off mark!), but they somehow fail to see the hypocrisy in their own actions, hosting such a meeting in a Presidential election year (just days before the super-Tuesday primaries no less!) and allowing former President Clinton (and husband of Hillary) to be the keynote speaker on Friday. What exactly qualifies Clinton to speak at a supposed religious gathering anyhow?
Tender to this criticism, the organizers feature token Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham on the front page of their website. But everyone knows this conference is far from being bi-partisan. How about the mere fact that this so-called Baptist gathering was called together by and most prominently features politicians and not preachers! This meeting has nothing to do with the gospel and everything to do with trying to get soft-evangelicals and other muddle-minded "Baptists" to support Hillary in November. Of course, I don't think the organizers and participants (which include the mainline African-American Baptist denominations) anticipated the challenge Obama has given her, especially among African-American voters. At least one moderate blogger (Bruce Prescott) is worried about what Clinton might say. Where are the moderate separation of church and state prophets!
By the way, another of the keynote speakers is author John Grisham from C-ville. His presence too is more than a little odd. Grisham is apparently a member of a local moderate Baptist church in C-ville, but what exactly are his qualifications as a Baptist statesman? The fact that he hosted a high profile fund-raiser for Hillary at the Paramount Theater when she visited C-ville last year is perhaps a more key clue as to why he was invited. That and the star-power. What kind of Baptist gathering is it when high-profile entertainers and politicians fills the podium and preachers the pews? I thought we were supposed to speak to the culture from God's Word rather than invite the cultural elites to dictate to us how we ought to read the Bible, practice the faith, and vote in the election booth.
Baptist were stronger when we preached election rather than worried about elections.
My friend Steve Hills just alerted me to this "breaking news" from Tominthebox news network about the Episcopal church's denunciation of homeschooling (read the whole article here):
We are concerned, however, about the education of a very small sub-segment of our Episcopal body. This small group is our home-schooled children. We have discovered that our children who are ‘educated’ in their homes are not receiving the same curriculum as other children their age in public or private school.
For example, children taught at home are not learning enough about evolution (the process by which God brought about creation; all smart people know this). They are not being instructed in how to ‘say no to drugs.’ They are not being exposed to the various sexual options available to them in society.
Of great concern also is what these home-schooled kids are being taught. We have learned that they simply know too much of the bible. They understand not only the content of the bible, but also how to properly interpret it. Furthermore, they believe that the scriptures actually mean what they say, and do not change in meaning over time. An alarming number hold to Reformed Theology.
Verbum sap: Some have read these Tominthebox articles before and not realized they are satire. Please note the label "humor."
I read quite a few books over the course of a year, but I just finished one that is particularly outstanding. It is Joel Beeke's Overcoming the World: Grace to Win the Daily Battle(P&R, 2005). The book is aimed at Pastors and Elders in church ministry. It is a serious call to cultivate godliness and holiness. The chapters on the twin sins of pride (chapter 17, "Your fight against pride") and pessimism (chapter 18 "Your coping with criticism") will make any preacher cringe in repentance as he sees himself in Beeke's descriptions of where we often run aground. I want to buy a case of these books and hand them out to friends in ministry. This book will definitely be read by future Pastoral interns at JPBC.
Can you tell by now that I really liked this book? Read it for yourself.
Here is another gem from J. C. Ryle’s classic work Holiness. In a chapter titled "Visible Churches Warned," Ryle examines the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2-3 and he spurs the faithful onto victory in Christ:
The one point I want to impress upon your soul just now is this, that the true believer is not only a soldier, but a victorious soldier. He not only professes to fight on Christ’s side against sin, the world and the devil, but he does actually fight and overcome.
Now this is one grand distinguishing mark of true Christians. Other men, perhaps, like to be numbered in the ranks of Christ’s army. Other men may have lazy wishes and languid desires after the crown of glory. But it is the true Christian alone who does the work of a soldier. He alone fairly meets the enemies of his soul, really fights with them and in that fight overcomes them.
One great lesson I want men to learn from these seven epistles is this, that if you would prove you are born again and going to heaven, you must be a victorious soldier of Christ. If you would make it clear that you have any title to Christ’s precious promises, you must fight the good fight in Christ’s cause, and in that fight you must conquer.
Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons perhaps. You respect the Bible, and read it occasionally. You say your prayers night and morning. You have family prayers, and give to religious societies. I thank God for this. It is all very good. But how goes the battle? How does the great conflict go on all this time? Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man? Are you overcoming the passions, tempers and lusts of your own heart? Are you resisting the devil and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter? You must either rule or serve sin and the devil and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer or be lost.
I know well it is a hard battle that you have to fight, and I want you to know it, too. You must fight the good fight of faith and endure hardships if you would lay hold of eternal life. You must make up your mind to a daily struggle if you would reach heaven. There may be short roads to heaven invented by man, but ancient Christianity, the good old way, is the way of the cross, the way of conflict. Sin, the world and the devil must be actually mortified, resisted and overcome.
This is the road that saints of old have trodden in, and left their record on high.
I am preaching a series on Baptism on Sunday evenings at JPBC. Last Sunday (1/13) I preached on "What does the Bible teach about Baptism?" Next Sunday (1/20), the topic will be "Who should be baptized?" and the next (1/27) "How should we baptize?"
Two good audio files I listened to in preparation:
1. A debate between James White (Reformed Baptist) and Gregg Strawbridge (Doug Wilson style Presbyterian) on baptism (listen here).
2. An interview with Tom Schreiner of SBTS on the book he edited, Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant (listen here).
Yes, dear blog readers, I am alive. Yes, it has taken more than two weeks for me to post the first entry of 2008, but here it is.
Yesterday, I got to drive down to Roanoke with my friend Howard to attend and speak at the first meeting of the year of "The Society for the Preservation of Baptist Principles and Heritage" at Plantation Road Baptist Church. I did two talks. The first was "A Biblical-Theological Critique of Multi-Site Church Ministry" (the same paper I did at ETS in November 2006). The second was "Trends in the Emerging Church Movement: A Review and Reflection on the Ministry of Mark Driscoll."
For the second paper I had read Driscoll's Radical Reformission (Zondervan, 2004), Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (Zondervan, 2006), the September 2007 Christianity Today article on Driscoll ("Pastor Provacateur"), listened to Driscoll's message at the "Convergent Conference" at SEBTS, and read critiques of Driscoll from Phil Johnson and John MacArthur. Hopefully, I'll post audio soon.
Enjoyed seeing friends at the meeting. It is always both enjoyable and interesting just to sit and listen to Lloyd Sprinkel and Ron Young, Sr. discuss theology, Baptists, Calvinism, etc.