Friday, June 27, 2008

Spring 2008 "Evangelical Forum Newsletter" Online

Brian D. has posted The Spring 2008 edition of the Evangelical Forum Newsletter online (read it here).
Articles in this issue include:
  • The second in my series on the doctrines of grace, this time on "Total Depravity."
  • Marcus Deel offers his take on the 2008 "Together for the Gospel" Conference.
  • Rob Stovall reviews a book on worship that challenges the use of musical instruments in Scripturally regulated worship. Bonnie will be putting the print issue out soon.

It also includes information on our Fall Annual Meeting which will be held at JPBC (more info here).


Riddle makes cover of "Banner"...sort of

Photo above left: Chip C. points to the July 2008 Banner of Truth Cover.

Photo right: Chip C. points out me and Howard in this close-up.

Chip C. came into VBS on Tuesday night with his copy of the July 2008 Banner of Truth to show me that Howard A. and I had made the cover. The shot has Iain Murray during the book talk at the 2008 Banner Conference with Howard (yellow short) and me (blue shirt) in the background.
My life is now complete. I have made the cover of the Banner. What else is there to accomplish?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Vacation Bible School 2008

VBS started last night at JPBC. This year we are recreating Jerusalem and focusing on the Passover Week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Here's a scene from our worker's meeting on Sunday evening. God has blessed us with a great director, Melia Hatfield, and a great cast of willing workers.


Our Lady of Peace

One of the things I've enjoyed this year is the having the opportunity to preach on the fourth Sunday afternoon of each month at Our Lady of Peace retirement center in Charlottesville. Here's the congregation from last Sunday (6/22/08).


Cove Creek 2008

The closing ceremonies were held at Cove Creek last Saturday. Sam's team (The Brewers, great name for a tee-totaling family) did well but got knocked out of the year end tournament in the first round. Sam had a great season in his first year in the minor leagues (kid pitch), playing second base and pitcher for this team. He also got his first grand slam in one game and for a while got the nickname "Grand Sam." Sam also had the honor of being selected for the Cove Creek minor league all-stars, but we had to decline due to our summer plans and the fact that tournaments took place on Sundays.

Lydia played softball for the first time in the Cove Creek fast pitch minor league. She played shortstop and hit third in the lineup. Her team, the X-plosion, went undefeated (16-0) in the regular season and won the end of year tournament to finish a perfect season. Cove Creek offers three awards at year's end to players in each division: an mvp, a coach's award, and a sportsmanship award. Lydia was voted by her peers in the girls' minor league level with the sportsmanship award. We were surprised to hear her name called out for this and also very proud.


Monday, June 23, 2008

What is the perfect size for a church?

What is the perfect size for a church? Over how many people can a pastor truly keep watch? Where might we look for Biblical guidance?
After the ascension, the nucleus of the Jerusalem church consisted of 120 names (Acts 1:15), though many more were soon added (see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4). We must be careful of setting up the expansion of the Jerusalem church in the apostolic era as the norm for contemporary church growth. Yet what of the initial number? Is this an ideal?
When Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:1-7) he spoke in terms of a shepherd set over a hundred sheep who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one stray. Is one hundred implied as an ideal number for the flock? After all, he could have spoken of leaving the 199 or the 499 or the 999 or the 9,999.
How about 100-120 souls as an ideal? Not too few so as to be insular and parochial. Not too many so that members can fall through the cracks or remain anonymous. Enough people so that if they truly give, a full time Pastor can be supported and kindgom work can be done.

The Fundamentalist Critique of Dever

Mark Dever has been having some dialogue with Fundamentalists with regard to what it means to be "Together for the Gospel." See the 9 Marks "Forum on Fundamentalism."
Thanks to Jamie H. for also sending me this link to the June 14 post by Dever on the 9Marks blog: "Mark Dever doesn't practice separation?" Dever ends with this statement and question:
To sum it up, I want my separation from the world to be more pronounced than my separation from other Christians. Does this make sense?
I think the Fundamentalist brothers are asking some good questions, however. Will the resurgence of "Calvinism" or even "church discipline" be merely "the next big thing" in neo-evangelicalism in the same way "innerancy" was in the 1970s? Will agreement on soteriology or ecclesiology alone be enough to keep the evangelical church from sliding into compromise?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

JPBC Internship Study Syllabus

This is the ninth summer we have had college students serve as ministry interns at JPBC. Some years we have had young men serve as pastoral interns. Other years, as this one, we have had young women serving as children's ministry interns. This year we have two fine young ladies, Mallory D. and Nicole M., both UVA students and active JPBC members, serving as interns.
In addition to serving in ten weeks of Backyard Bible clubs at the Rainbow House and in the JPBC children's ministry (VBS, Wednesday evenings, Nursery Sunday School), the interns also complete a study component. Here is the study component syllabus for this summer:
I. Books to read:

Hugh Binning, Christian Love (Banner of Truth, 1670, 1735, 2004).

John Piper and Wayne Grudem, 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW, 1992).

Jeff Riddle, JPBC 101: Believing is Belonging (Jefferson Park, 2005).

Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (Banner of Truth, 1970).

J. I. Packer, "Introductory Essay," in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Mary Beeke, The Law of Kindness: Serving With Hearts and Hands (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007).

Bible Reading: Matthew, Romans, 1-2 Timothy, Titus (with written summaries completed for each chapter).

II. Discussion Schedule:

1. June 16 Christian Love, pp. 1-48.
2. June 23 Christian Love, pp. 49-106.
3. June 30 J. I. Packer, "Introductory Essay" in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.
4. July 7 JPBC 101: Believing is Belonging.
5. July 14 Today’s Gospel (First Book Review Due).
6. July 21 50 Crucial Questions.
7. July 28 The Law of Kindness, pp. 1-50.
8. August 4 The Law of Kindness, pp. 51-148.
9. August 11 The Law of Kindness, pp. 149-211 (Second Book Review Due).
III. Extra Reading:
Choose two books (no more than one from each category) to read and write a brief 2-3 page review:

A. On Biblical Womanhood:

Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman (Tyndale, 1976).
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Lies Women Believe (Moody, 2001).

B. On Missions:

John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad (Baker, 2003).
K. P. Johannan, Revolution in World Missions (GFA, 1986).

C. On Doctrine and Christian Life:

John Piper, Desiring God (Multnomah, 1986, 2003).
J. I. Packer, Knowing God (IVP, 1973)

Sermon of the Week: Albert Martin's Farewell Addresses

Albert Martin has served as the Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey for 46 years, having commenced his ministry there in July 1962. He announced his plans to retire two years ago and will be moving to Western Michigan. Martin has been an influential and, at times, controversial leader in the "Reformed Baptist Church" movement (though he does not like the term "Reformed Baptists"). He preached his farewell sermon last Sunday, June 15, from Paul's counsel to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-38, the final installment of a larger nine-part series titled "Parting Words of Counsel."
Also of interest are two Sunday School classes he taught leading up to his departure. In part one, he offers his personal biography and testimony. Of note here is the fact that Martin is a Virginian originally (born in Northern Virginian) and that his parents raised him in the Salvation Army Church. In part two, he gives a first-person history of Trinity Baptist Church. Of note here is the record of reformation in a local church, with all its ups and downs, and the roots of the independent Reformed Baptist church movement.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Biblical Defense of Church Membership

A Biblical Defense of Church Membership
Jeff Riddle
JPBC June 8, 2008
Sermon Notes:

I. A half dozen Scriptural reasons for a defined and meaningful church membership:

1. We find the roots for the practice of church membership in practices of the Old Testament people of God.

If you were part of the OT people of God you belonged to a particular tribe and a particular family within that tribe (some examples: Numbers 4; Joshua 7:16-18; 1 Samuel 10:20-21).
There was no such thing as a free-lance, unconnected Israelite. There was no such thing as an Israelite who said, "I’m part of the covenant people of God, but I’m not part of a tribe or family."

2. Jesus’ command for love as defining mark among his disciples can only be realized through participation in a defined local body (see John 13:34-35).

3. The descriptions of the local church in Jerusalem in Acts indicates a well defined body of believers (cf. Acts 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4).

4. The letters of Paul in the NT were generally addressed to defined churches in distinct geographical areas or to the acknowledged spiritual leaders of those bodies (Rom 1:7; 16:4-5, 16; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1).

5. The local church is necessary for the proper exercise of church discipline (cf. Matt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:4-5; 2 Cor 2:6; 1 Tim 5:9).

6. The existence of a defined local church is assumed in the NT both in the setting apart of persons to ministry service and in the exercise of spiritual rule (cf. Acts 6:2-3; 1 Tim 3; Heb 13:7, 17).

II. We can add to this Paul’s image for the local church as a human body, a living organism, to which each member is joined.

III. Challenges:

How do we respond?

1. Be joined to a local body.
2. Love the local church.
3. Pray for and with the local church.
4. Serve the local church.

A Word to Men

The following is part of the conclusion of last Sunday’s Message "Are you not a man?" (1 Samuel 26):

Last Friday the news broke about the sudden death by heart attack of journalist Tim Russert, the host of the long running political program Meet the Press. Russert’s sudden death at age 58 was a chilling reminder to all of us that, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "For man also knoweth not his time (Ecc 9:12)."

Many pointed out the irony of Russert’s death this weekend in particular because he had written and spoken so frequently about the pivotal influence of his working class father and WW2 veteran, "Big Russ" on his life. He wrote two books about his relationship with his father, one titled Big Russ & Me and a follow-up book, Wisdom of Our Fathers.

In one of those books Russert wrote the following:

All through my childhood, and well beyond it, my father held down two demanding jobs. But as hard as he labored and as long as he toiled, we never heard a single complaint about his heavy workload or the sacrifice he was making. He didn’t talk about it, he just got it done. And if he had to take a third job to support his wife and four kids, he would have done that, too… like so many of the strong, silent generation who grew up during the Great Depression and went off to war, he had learned long ago that life was hard and nothing was handed to you. In fact, Dad considered it a sign of success, and even a blessing, that he was able to hold down two jobs. He could remember a time when a man considered himself fortunate to have even one.

Russert also recalled how his father had never taken a single sick day from his main job a foreman in the sanitation department in Buffalo, New York. He told how on September 7, 1995 he had taken his own then ten year old son, Luke, to Camden Yards to the Orioles baseball game in which Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s "Iron Man" record by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game. He wrote of how he explained to his son how Ripken’s record was different from all the others in that "this one was about loyalty, dedication, discipline, diligence, and persistence." He then added, "I told Luke that night, and I meant it with all my heart, that Cal Ripken had done for baseball what my Dad had done for our family."

I don’t know where Russert or his father stood with the Lord, but this is—at the least—a testimony to what the Lord can do with men by his common grace.

Men, could it be said of you that you were an "iron man" for your family and for all those who depend on you? That you were a model of faithfulness and good stewardship in your work, in your relationship with your wife, with your children? Beyond the things that might be said of good men who by God’s common grace do the things that a man can and should do for his family, can it also be said of you that you are a good steward of the gospel?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article June 17, 2008.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beeke's "Striving Against Satan"

Some of our JPBC women are doing a Saturday morning study of Joel Beeke's little book, Striving Against Satan. Beeke's book avoids the extremes of some charimatics, on one hand, who tend to overemphasize or distort the Biblical perspective on spiritual warfare and liberals, on the other hand, who do not believe in the reality of Satan.

You can listen to an interview with Beeke about the book on CrossTalk radio here.


Friday, June 13, 2008

SBC 2008

The annual SBC meeting was held June 10-11 this week in Indianapolis. I did not go, choosing to spend my conference allotment this year on Banner of Truth (and I have no regrets on that choice). Not going seemed to be a popular option. Only c. 7,300 messengers attended. You can read first hand reports by various bloggers. Here's a sampling:
Reformissionary ("Ten Things That Happened at the 2008 SBC" is pretty funny);
The big news of this year was a resolution on regenerate church membership and the election of Johnny Hunt to the influential office of President on the first ballot in a crowded field. It will be interesting to see how Hunt leads over the next two years (given he serves the usual unopposed second term). Hunt has been an outspoken critic of "creeping Calvinism" in the SBC. His church, FBC Woodstock, will be hosting "The John 3:16 Conference" (sponsored by Jerry Vines ministries) November 6-7, 2008. This may prove to be the anti-"Together-For-The-Gospel" Conference. The conference introduction reads:
Did Jesus die on the cross for every person? Are believers eternally secure? Can grace be resisted? These and many other questions will be addressed.

This conference is not going to be a "Let's bash the Calvinists" conference. This conference is going to be a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism. It will be helpful for lay people as well as preachers.
Will Hunt be a uniter or a divider?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nathan Finn: "Is the CBF going to die out?"

Southeastern Seminary's Nathan Finn is doing a series on "Questions Young Future Leaders Are Asking" on his blog. In a recent post, he gave an interesting analysis of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's (CBF's) future (read whole post here):
Is the CBF going to die out? (Variation: Will the CBF ever “return” to the SBC?)

Ah, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship question. Every student wants to know what the Baptist history professor thinks of CBF. Every student wants to know if Wake Forest Baptist Church, located on the corner of our campus, is a liberal church. Every student wants to know how Southeastern is different than Campbell Divinity School. And is it really true that, before Dr. Patterson came, SEBTS actually used a feminist liturgy in a chapel service? (The answer to the last question is yes.)

I have a handful of friends who are active in CBF who sometimes read this blog, so perhaps they will jump in to this discussion. The biggest problem that has faced CBF in their 15+ years is that they have had trouble forging a positive identity. For most of its history, CBF’s basic identity has been “not Southern Baptist.” Furthermore, it has always been unclear as to just what exactly CBF is. Are they a denomination? Are they simply an alternative to the Cooperative Program? Are they a loose-knit coalition? I think the answer is probably that CBF functions as all these things, depending upon how each individual church relates to them.

I think that some of this identification confusion has begun to subside in recent years. There is a rising generation within CBF that is unfamiliar or unconcerned with the SBC. CBF is their ecclesiastical home, whether the Fellowship is a denomination or not. Furthermore, many young moderates are excited about multi-denominational initiatives like the New Baptist Covenant and the post-SBC Baptist World Alliance. If CBF can continue to carve out an identity that is increasingly unconnected to the SBC, then they have as good a hope of surviving as any of us. Their biggest problems are the same as ours: spiritual apathy, anti-denominationalism among the young turks, etc.

Now for the “return” question. First, we need to understand that moderate Baptists are significantly more diverse in their theology than conservative Southern Baptists (and we’re pretty diverse). Some of them are theological progressives who embrace various forms of neo-orthodoxy, liberation theologies, and even sometimes process theology. Many of their pastors and professors, at least the folks I know, are what I would call “evangelical left.” This means they hold to a basically evangelical understanding of salvation but tend to be egalitarian, sometimes inclusivist, and prefer not to use the “I” words like inerrancy and infallibility. Many–perhaps most–grassroots CBF church members are just as conservative as most of us, but they are either anti-SBC for non-theological reasons (politics, personalities, etc.) or simply indifferent.

All that said, I do not think the CBF will “return” to the SBC because most of them never left. I do not have the most recent statistics, but a healthy majority of CBF churches are actually Southern Baptist churches that redirect some of their budget to the Fellowship instead of Nashville or the Cooperative Program. In some cases, it is not the budget itself but individual church members who pass on money to CBF. So I think the question is not whether or not CBF churches will return to the SBC, but rather will all those dually aligned CBF churches eventually drop their affiliation with the Fellowship? I don’t know the answer.

On the one hand, I think some CBF churches will eventually drop CBF because they are fundamentally (no pun intended) SBC churches. As the older anti-Convention generation dies out, they will cut ties with the moderates. On the other hand, I think some CBF churches will eventually totally cut ties with the SBC because they are stronger moderates than they are committed Southern Baptists. As the older pro-SBC generation dies out, they will cut ties with the Convention. I think many churches will choose to remain dually aligned out of habit, preference, or both.

As with the SBC, much of the CBF’s institutional future depends upon how much the rising generation of future leaders cares about their (quasi-) denomination. Their young future leaders are also asking questions, some of them similar to the ones ours are asking. And as with us, it remains to be seen if CBF will thrive or decline as Gen-X pastors and other leaders decide if the Fellowship is worthy of their loyalty or if their time and money is better spent in other ways. So I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You Might Be a Calvinist

Thanks to Steve Hills for sending me the link to the recent "Tom in the Box" post "You might be a Calvinist" (here's the link to the original). Here's the list (ode to Jeff Foxworthy):

If you have a Martin Luther Jell-O mold, you just might be a Calvinist.

If your child’s first word was “Westminster”, you just might be a Calvinist.

Or, if you send your mother tulips on Mother’s Day, you might be a Calvinist.

If you still remember the 8 speakers in order from the recent T4G conference, or

If a free Bible has ever arrived in the mail to you from John McArthur, or

If you have ever purchased 100 or more copies of the same John Piper book to hand out to random people you meet,

…you just might be a Calvinist.

If you purchased an MP3 player with the sole purpose of downloading sermons, or

If you were shocked to just discover that some people download MP3 files that are not sermons, or

If you have adjusted the default passage setting at from “NIV” to “ESV”
… you might be a Calvinist.

If your preacher says to turn to Obadiah and you do not use the index, or

If you think a 50-minute sermon is too short, or

If you’ve ever heard a wave of groans sweep through Sunday School when you refer to Romans 9,

…you just might be a Calvinist.

If you find yourself talking to the Lord Jesus more than to your family, and

If you find yourself wanting to read your Bible instead of watching television, and

If quotes from Pink, Spurgeon, Luther, Piper, and McArthur pop into your head at random times during the day

…you might be a Calvinist.

If you are confused when someone uses the term “my Bible” as if they only have one, and

If your Bibles must be replaced in less than a year due to pages separating from the spine, and

If you smile, nod and hold your tongue with your teeth after a lively church service when someone says, “God showed up today”

…you might be a Calvinist.

If you’ve ever shouted “YES!” when the pastor says to turn to 1st Thessalonians, and

If you see 6:37 on a digital clock and think of the Lord Jesus’ words in John, and

If you’ve muted a Thanksgiving football game because it’s interfering with your family discussion of Ephesians 1

…you might be a Calvinist.

If you have bookmarked three or more preachers’ scripture index webpages, and

If you’ve ever been banned from a Sunday School class for quoting scripture, and

If you have ever purposefully sung a different word in a hymn to conform to scripture,
… you might be a Calvinist.

If your kids own more Bibles than televisions, and

If your children never ask you “Where are we going?” on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, and

If you’ve ever read parts of “The Bondage of the Will” to children under ten and prayed that it would change their lives

…you just might be a Calvinist.

If your child received detention at his Christian school after shouting, “But I am a Hedonist Pyromaniac!” or

If your children argue and you require them to listen to a Piper Sermon as punishment, or

If you visit pyromaniacs, tominthebox,,, and, more than once a day, yes…

You just might…. I say you just might…. Yes… you just might be a Calvinist


Together for Adoption

The "Calling for Truth" radio program has an interesting recent broadcast on adoption, covering the spectrum from the theological doctrine of adoption to the practical practice of family adoption. On the doctrinal end, the show features an interview with Joel Beeke on his new book, Heirs With Christ: The Puritans on Adoption in which he argues, contra J. I. Packer, that the Puritans did, in fact, address and affirm the doctrine of adoption. Russell Moore, of SBTS, bridges the theological and practical, discussing how his adoption of two boys from Russia impacted his understanding of the Biblical doctrine of adoption. It also mentions a new ministry and website that combines Reformed theology with a passion for adoption, named, no less, "Together for Adoption."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Constantly Rooting Out Sin

On one hand, when a man is converted he instantly attains a status of complete and total holiness. This is true because his life is immediately covered by the righteous life of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). He becomes a "saint" (the Greek word is hagios, a holy one). Theologians call this "definitive" sanctification.

On the other hand, the person who is converted remains a sinner. He is a justified sinner, but a sinner nonetheless. John wrote to his fellow saints, "If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Paul exhorted Timothy, "exercise yourself toward godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7). Paul describes the believer’s constant struggle against sin and toward godliness in Romans 8:13 when he writes, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death (the AV reads "mortify") the deeds of the body you will live." As the Puritan John Owen put it, either we will kill sin or sin will kill us.

In this age, the saint is constantly at war against sin. In the age to come, he attains the final state of glorification, when by God’s grace all sin is overcome.

In a section of his book Overcoming the World (P&R, 2005) with the heading "Cultivating Holiness as a Constant Struggle" Joel Beeke gives this analogy:

I once read of a missionary who had in his garden a shrub that bore poisonous leaves. He also had a child who was prone to put anything within reach into his mouth. Naturally, the father dug the shrub out and threw it away. The shrub’s roots, however, went very deep. Soon the shrub sprouted again. Repeatedly, the missionary had to dig it out. There was no solution but to inspect the ground every day and to dig up the shrub every time it surfaced. Indwelling sin is like that shrub. It needs constant uprooting.

May God give us the strength and endurance needed to win the constant battle for holiness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article June 10, 2008

HEAV (Final Thoughts)

This is late now, but….

Highlights on the second day of the HEAV Conference (Saturday, June 7th):

I went (late) to Geoff Botkin’s morning session on "100 Years of Hollywood History." He recommended Ben Stein’s book, The View from Sunset Strip which outlined Hollywood’s view that all businessmen are criminals, all military men are war-mongers, all ministers are charlatans, small towns are backward, liberated women who reject motherhood are heroic, and Dads are stupid.

He talked a lot about Marx and his influence on Hollywood. He said Marx’s main goal was to destroy Christendom. Marx was a "dominion man" who wanted to gain hegemony over culture. Two fronts in the war for Marxists were cinema and schools. "A delinquent people depend on demoralizing entertainment."

Botkin said his family only viewed films to study them and their impact on the culture. They never watch films for entertainment.

We joined some other JPBC families (Sean and Jennifer A., John and Christina B., Heidi M., and Tracy M.) who were attending HEAV for lunch. It was neat to have fellowship with them while there.

In the afternoon I went to hear Jay Wile’s talk on "Eco-hysteria: A Scientist Examines the ‘Environmentalist’ Movement." He spent his time questioning the science behind "global warming," arguing that, at best, the only thing we can tell is that there have been various periods of global warming and cooling throughout history and that current conditions are not unusual.

Resources suggested:

He also mentioned where thousands of scientists with credentials have expressed their reservations about the science behind global warming.

Contra Wile, however, it was blazing hot over the weekend. And, of course the a/c in our van went out last Thursday and only one of our front windows will roll down, so we had a rather "warm" ride home. By God’s grace, we did avoid heat stroke.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

2008 HEAV Conference

Llewellyn and I are attending the annual Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) meeting in Richmond. This is the big gathering for Christian homeschool families each year. The Exhibition Hall in the convention center has about 300 displays by homeschool curricula vendors, book sellers, and homeschool related ministries.
Yesterday (Friday) we skipped the morning keynote and did shopping in the Exhibits and in the Used Curriculum sale (found a copy of Machen's NT Greek Grammar for a $1!).
I did go to the morning workshop by Dr. Jay Wile on "Why Homeschool Through High School." Wile is a good presenter. He has an earned Phd in Nuclear Chemistry from the University of Rochester and taught at the University of Indiana and Ball State. He is the author of the Apologia science curriculum, used by many homeschoolers.
He started off by discussing low achievement standards of public school students and moved on to the social and spiritual issues of public schooling. One of many facts: 78% of public students responded "yes" when asked if they had been picked on or bullied in the last month in school.
For parents who feel inadequate, he noted the key factor in a child's achievement (public, private, and homeschool) is parent involvement. He noted that as children get older you should not have to teach them. The parent role changes over time from teacher to tutor to fellow learner.
As an aside, Wile had one of the best lines of the day. Regarding the Virginia homeschool group's name (HEAV) he said he and a friend decided it should be changed to Virginia Organization of Moms Involved in Teaching (that's VOMIT)!
In the afternoon I went to the session with the Botkin sisters on writing a book. Here's my review of their book So Much More. The young ladies, along with their Dad, Geoffrey Botkin, spoke very articulately and confidently about the writing of their book (began when they were homeschooled teens).
They began by quoting historian Paul Johnson who said, "I write books to educate myself."
They stressed that their parent had trained them to be disciple-makers. They want "Biblically defined success." They noted that the books that have made the biggest impact over time were not always best sellers at first. The key was a writer who was passionate about the message (citing works as diverse as Luther's Bondage of the Will, Friedan's The Feminist Mystique, and Darwin's Origin of the Species [without, of course, expressing approval for all these]). They suggested that history is dominated by minority opinions.
They described some aspects of their own home education. They noted Ben Franklin's account of sharpening his writing by imitating the style of the best writing. Their mom made them write one page each day as children. Their home was full of intellectual curiosity. Their parents encouraged them to read things that were "too hard" for them. They had vigorous discussions around the dinner table.
They ended with a string of practical tips:
1. Write to answer a need.
2. Aim for excellence.
3. Read more than your write.
4. Write what you know.
5. Know your place and jurisdiction. So, as young women they wrote to their peers, not to married women or fathers.
6. Choose your angle.
7. Be humble, flexible, and open to change. Especially be willing to edit and omit. If it is not absolutely necessary, remove it.
8. Write so people can understand. They noted their love for old books and that they had to resisit a tendency to write in archaic fashion.
9. Make sure what you're saying is true.
10. Feel the weight of your responsibility. Writers are teachers.
These young women did an excellent job is presentation. One pet peeve. At the end their Dad read from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and applied it to the point above on writer's responsibility. This may be true in principle but the text is not directed to writers but to pastors.
Finally, we went to the final plenary session in which HEAV celebrated its 25th Anniversary. There were testimonies (from folks like the Boyers of Lynchburg) on court cases on charges of truancy for pioneer homeschoolers and the fight in the General Assembly in 1983 to pass legislation allowing homeschooling. Now over 27,000 students are reported to be homeschooling in Virginia (and there are likely more unreported).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Baxter denounces levity in preaching

I recently ran across these words from Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor on his disdain for levity in gospel preaching:
Of all the preaching in the world, (that speaks not stark lies) I hate that preaching which tends to make the hearers laugh, or to move their minds with tickling levity, and affect them as stage-plays used to do, instead of affecting them with holy reverence of the name of God. Jerome says, 'Teach in thy church, not to get the applause of the people, but to set in motion the groan; the tears of the hearers are thy praises.' The more of God appeareth in our duties, the more authority they will have with men. We should, as it were, suppose we saw the throne of God, and the millions of glorious angels attending him, that we may be awed with his majesty when we draw near him in holy things, lest we profane them and take his name in vain.
(Banner of Truth ed., pp. 119-20).

Who shall entreat for us?

In 1 Samuel 2, the old priest Eli laments the faithlessness of his sons who "knew not the Lord" (v. 12). Eli says to his reprobate sons: "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD who shall entreat for him?" (v. 25).

Eli put his finger on a central spiritual issue for human beings. Sin is not just a matter of the horizontal (what we do to men). There are judges on earth who can punish men for sins against their fellow men. Man’s central problem is his sin against God.

David in Psalm 51 says, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…." (v. 4). Yes, there was a horizontal aspect to his sin. More grievous, however, was the vertical aspect to his sin. Sometimes you will hear someone justify sinful behavior by saying that it’s a victimless crime. It’s OK as long as no other person gets hurt by it. That is an unbiblical perspective. The real issue from Scripture’s perspective is not merely whether or not our sin grieves man, but how it grieves a holy and just God.

Go back to Eli’s question: "But if a man sin against the LORD who shall entreat for him?" Who will entreat for us?

The witness of the Scriptures is that Eli’s question would not be clearly answered until many years in the future when a man named Jesus of Nazareth would appear on the scene.
John, the desert prophet, would see him and say, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Peter, an eyewitness to the crucifixion and resurrection, would say that Jesus "bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). Paul, the former persecutor of Christ, would say of the Lord’s cross work, "being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:9). John, Peter, and Paul are all answering Eli’s question: "But if a man sin against the LORD who shall entreat for him?" The answer is Jesus. He offers entreaty for sinful men on the cross, and he attains for them reconciliation with God.

The cross is the touchstone of the Christian life and the premier model for living out that life, which involves denying self, taking up your own cross daily, and following him (Luke 9:23).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article, June 5, 2008