Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009 Banner Report: Day Three

Day three (Thursday):

Morning:

Sinclair Ferguson spoke on "Union with Christ: Gospel Implications." His text was again Colossians 3. He drew a comparison between Paul’s discussion of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation with the concepts of mortification and vivification. He also noted there is an external and internal aspect to both these.

He stressed that Paul’s Damascus Road experience was not a mere "calling" but a "conversion" (contra Krister Stendahl’s thesis that the conversion interpretation is a product of "the introspective consciousness of the West").

He went though the text, describing it as a symphony in four movements:

1. Orientation (vv. 1-4);
2. Interpretation (vv. 5-11);
3. Transformation (vv. 12-15);
4. Disposition (vv. 16-17).

He closed by asking, "Why did Calvin preach up to ten times per week to his people?" He answered that Calvin knew that they needed constant exposure to the Word to wear away the old life and to bring in the new life. "The secret of holy living is in the mind, not the emotions." He added, "We need more preaching, not less. We need to be Word saturated." He asked how anyone could expect to prosper spiritually who only gets one 24-minute sermon per week! We need worship, because it destroys idolatry.

The second morning session was Walter Chantry, Editor of The Banner of Truth and retired pastor after 39 years at Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, PA. His subject was "Modern Challenges to Calvinism" and his text 2 Timothy 3:1-17.

He said that every minister should ask: Am I laying a foundation that will last or is this only a fleeting and flickering light?

Though glad of the resurgence of interested in Calvinism, Chantry asked if in 50 years it all might be swept away again.

He drew parallels from the text’s language about lovers of money to the prosperity gospel; lovers of themselves to those who want "small groups" rather than preaching; lovers of pleasure to those who desire religious entertainment.

The remedy for false teachers in 2 Timothy 3:10: "But you have carefully followed my doctrine…." There must be Biblical doctrine that is preserved. You must understand a system of truth in the Bible.

He noted that in our day faithful seminaries and churches are often placed in the margins.
He traced a number of modern challenges:

1. Revelation. Can a charismatic claim be reformed? Chantry offered a forceful: "No, you’re not!"
2. Moral law. There are men who claim to be reformed and to lead reformed movements who are silent on this.
3. Covenants. Some are dispensational and claim to be reformed.
4. Worship. Can you be reformed and not follow the RP?
5. Church offices. Feminism continues to challenge Biblical view of offices.
6. Homosexuality. "Is there a new ‘Thus says the LORD’ for the nation in which we are living?"

After lunch, there was a panel discussion with the speakers.

Among the questions:

Book recommendations for new believers and for preaching with simplicity and power.

One asked Sinclair Ferguson: What are the dangers of subordinating forensic categories of justification to the relational categories of union? He answered that there is no need to drive a wedge between them. "Justification is not non-relational!"

One asked about Calvin’s letter writing and how modern pastors might do this in an email driven world.

Another asked about pastoral visitation. Mark Johnston noted that Pastors do no come like social workers. We should bring our Bibles with us and offer prayer.

One asked Iain Murray (not a speaker but at the conference) why the Banner’s edition of Pink’s "The Sovereignty of God" omitted the original chapter of reprobation. Murray answered that Pink’s views changed and the original chapter did not reflect his mature thought.

Ferguson was asked about a comment he made in his talk about union with Christ and baptism. The question came from a Baptist perspective and was pressing how one could say that the person baptized experiences union with Christ if those who are not yet believers are baptized. Ferguson said: "That’s not the sort of questions we answer at Banner events" and declined to answer.

One question came about the use of humor and personal illustration. Note: This might have come from some who were uncomfortable with Begg’s use of humor and story in his presentations. Iain Murray said that if you are trying to be humorous it is inappropriate. Ferguson said that anecdotes take away from exposition. Those who dwell on such may show they are not so good at exposition.

We skipped the final session to get on the road back to Charlottesville. It was again a good and edifying conference. One brother I met at the conference from Alberta, Canada who was attending his 30th such conference said that he had found the impact of these meetings only were felt in the weeks and months after they were over.

JTR

2009 Banner Report: Day Two

Photo: Sinclair Ferguson speaking at a past Banner conference.
Day two (Wednesday):

Morning:

Sinclair Ferguson, Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC spoke on "Union with Christ: Gospel Foundations."

His text was Colossians 3:1-17. He began by quoting Calvin as saying that all Christ has done for us is no use to us if we are outside of Christ. He then noted the rarity of conferences that focus on the doctrine of union.

He also pointed to the ethics of this doctrine: "Shame on me, if I should ever think of a fellow believer as not being in Christ." You can preach through books of the Bible and not preach Christ. Where are the books in the Pastor’s study on Christ?

He focused on the basic structure of apostolic teaching on union as seen in Colossians 3. He noted:

1. A grammar of union.

2. A chronology of union. "Christ will not come in glory unless he comes with all those who are united to him."

3. A geography of union. "Never seek mortification without vivification." He later added that one should not dare read John Owen’s work of mortification without also reading him on the glory of Christ.
4. A rhythm of union.

From structure he moved on to substance, asking, "How rich is your exposition of Jesus Christ? How much do you read and think about Christ?"

The second morning session was Chad Van Dixhorn, Associate Minister of Grace OPC near Washington, DC who gave a short talk on "Pastoral Theology of John Chrysostom."

The third morning session was Ian Hamilton, Pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, England on "Calvin the Pastor." Taking Philippians 3:7-16, he spoke of Calvin as a pastor noting that his first love was for "the fickle, feisty, flock" at Geneva.

He noted seven features of Calvin’s pastoral ministry:

1. Jesus is the primary Shepherd.
2. Christ animates ministry.
3. The pastor takes on the servant spirit of the chief Pastor.
4. Preaching and teaching of the gospel is the primary ministry.
5. The importance of pastoral visitation.
6. He never wearied of telling his people to get out of themselves and into Christ. He quoted Rutherford: "For every one look at self, take ten looks at Christ."
7. Served out of the overflow of his own union with Christ, with (a) an endearing humanity; and (b) a sense of his own weakness.
Afternoon:

The first session was again Van Dixhoorn on Chrysostom. To be honest, I skipped this one in favor of the bookroom.

The second session was "Calvin the Teacher" by Jonathan Watson, General Editor for the Banner.

He began with Calvin’s dying words that he had taught and interpreted the Scriptures faithfully.

He then used a three-fold division on the duty of pastors with application to Calvin’s life:

1. They are to be instructed.
God placed men in Calvin’s path who taught him the gospel and the Reformed faith.

2. They are to hold onto the faith.
He traced the struggles Calvin encountered in Geneva, including personal abuse. Some named their dogs "Calvin" to mock him; some abbreviated his name as "Cain"; others shouted and made rude noises while he preached. "On a good day he reckoned 1 in 10 in Geneva were converted; on a bad day, only 1 in a 100." Still, he persevered.

3. They are to teach sound doctrine.
Calvin was not a cold and clinical theologian but a passionate preacher and teacher. He preached through books of the Bible. His sermons were about 30 minutes in length, and he preached without notes. His sermons were simple but clear and vivid.

Evening:

Begg again spoke on "Persuasive Preaching." He took Acts 25:23-26:32 as his text and worked through the following outline:

Background.
Consider the scene (25:23).
Paul as religious prodigy (26:1-8).
Opposition and persecution (26:9-11).
Divine intervention (26:12-18).
Explanation (26:19).
An interruption (26:24).
Application (26:27). He noted Paul’s winsome engagement designed to persuade.

JTR

2009 Banner Report: Day One

Photo: Steeple of Hostetter Chapel at Messiah College where the Banner meetings were held.

I attended the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference at Messiah College in Grantham, PA this past week, Tuesday-Thursday (May 26-28, 2009).

We left in the rain Tuesday morning. In our group were Howard A., Ron P. and John C. from JPBC. We also had Ron’s friend Ray who had come down from Maine and Pastor Rob Stovall who had come up from Suffolk.

There were c. 320 men there for the conference, around 80 more than were there last year. This year’s theme was "A Godly Heritage" with a tilt of the hat to Calvin’s 500th birthday. The messages, however, did not rigidly tie in to the theme and speakers had freedom to address various topics.

Day one (Tuesday):

Afternoon:

The first message at 3:30 pm was by Mark Johnston, Minister of Grove Chapel in London. His text was Hebrews 13:7-8. He began by asking whether we could justify any conference that would focus on Calvin, since Calvin would have been mortified by such attention. He answered that we can do this only if (1) we do it honestly; (2) we do not place men on a pedestal.
Focusing on Hebrews 13:7, he said we were to remember great men of the past, because:

1. They give us encouragement to persevere.

2. They give us a model of faith and life.

3. They help lead us to Christ (focus on v. 8). "These leaders did not lead their followers to themselves but to Jesus."

Evening:

The evening message was presented by Alistair Begg of Parkside Church, near Cleveland, Ohio. He was to have spoken on the book of Job but he changed topic to "Persuasive Preaching."
He took 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 as his text, noting that Paul faced human opposition and divine compulsion.

He noted three peculiar challenges:

1. The personal challenge. We are naturally fearful and inhibited, and we use this as an excuse.

2. The cultural challenge. The only person whom our culture teaches us to fear is the one who wants to persuade us.

3. The theological challenge. Quoting John Murray, he noted that Reformed men can display "a conspicuous awkwardness … in the free offer of the gospel." He cited Matthew 11 as displaying the balance between sovereignty (vv. 25-27) and responsibility (vv. 28-30).

He offered anecdotes to each of these challenges, urging preachers not merely to announce the possibility of salvation but salvation itself.

After the evening meeting, first time attendees were invited to the book room for a special talk and offered discounts with Sinclair Ferguson. I had my chance to do this last year with Iain Murray but was glad others in the group got to enjoy it.

JTR

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mallory Dunn Fan Club

UVA Today recently ran an article featuring participants in the AccessUVA plan that included JPBC's own Mallory Dunn. Mallory just graduated from UVA. She professed her faith in baptism and became an active and vital member at JPBC during her students days. She has been a rich blessing to our fellowship. She served as a Rainbow House intern with us last summer and will be back this year too. We're proud of her!!!

JTR

Exposition of Jude: Part 16 of 25

Note: This is a series of occasional verse by verse expositions of Jude. An archive of this and past commentaries may be found at the "Jude Exposition" label below.
Jude 1:16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.

Jude continues to dismantle the fa├žade that the false teachers have constructed. He exposes their true identity in a rapid series of five vivid descriptions:

First, they were "grumblers." This word might also be translated "murmurers" (so it is in the AV). One lexicon defined this word as a "habitual grumbler." It calls to mind the grumbling and complaining of the Israelites in the wilderness. Numbers 11:1 says, "Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused." Like the grumblers of old, these men are actually lodging their complaints against God Himself.

Second, Jude says they were "complainers." This appears to repeat the same sentiment expressed in the first description above. Jude’s double mention of this fault certainly adds emphasis to the flaw. One lexicon defined this word as meaning one "dissatisfied with life." We all know the kind of person who enjoys bursting the bubble of enthusiasm. He is never satisfied with others. For this person the church is always half empty rather than half full. As Joel Beeke has noted, pessimism is really a subtle form of pride. The one who complains wants to appear above the fray. He takes no positive action but revels in dismantling the efforts of others. In the back of his mind, he thinks, "I could have done much better, if only I had tried."

Third, these men "walk according to their own lusts." "Walk" is a picturesque way of describing how they choose to conduct or live their lives. They are self-centered. They are driven by their inordinate desires. They do not have Christ or his body at the center of their lives. Instead, they are like the ones Paul describes in Philippians 3:19 "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame—who set their minds on earthly things."

Fourth, "they mouth great swelling words." This phrase in Greek literally reads: "Their mouth speaks boastful things." Note that these false teachers have a perverse unity in evil. They speak with one mouth. They do this, however, not to praise God but to toot their own horn. These men were apparently impressive public speakers, effective communicators, and skilled rhetoricians. All this is rubbish, however, because it is not used to the glory of God but to the glory of men. There is a warning here to the true church. Do not be fooled by style. Look at the substance. A man may speak well, but does he speak about the gospel? Remember that Paul’s opponents said his letters were "weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2 Corinthians 10:10). The power of the message is often wrapped in the weakness of the messenger.

Fifth, they were "flattering people to gain advantage." A literal rendering of this phrase might be "marveling at [men’s] faces on account of gain." In other words, they are sycophants. They are out to win friends and influence people. They tell people to their faces what they want to hear in order to win their favor and take advantage of them. Beware the teacher who never offers you any sting or correction, but who only feeds you self-indulging compliments.

Reflections:
  • Are you a "habitual grumbler"?
  • What is the spiritual danger of constant complaining?
  • Are you pursuing Christ or your own lusts?
  • Contrast Jude’s descriptions of false teachers with what should characterize the life and ministry of a true teacher or of any genuine believer?

JTR

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Song of the Week: "Arise, My Soul, Arise" at Banner of Truth

I am looking forward to attending the Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference at Messiah College in Grantham, PA next week. The conference features stirring sermons, books, and conversation. The singing of psalms and hymns in the chapel with a couple hundred gospel ministers and elders is also encouraging. Here's the singing of "Arise, My Soul, Arise" at last year's conference. If you look hard you might see me and Howard A. on the far left side.



JTR

Luke 10:1, 17 and the Traditional Text of Scripture

The Question: Did Jesus send out seventy (traditional text) or seventy-two (modern critical text) disciples in Luke 10:1, 17?

The traditional text, as reflected in translations like the AV and NKJV, reads "70." The modern critical text’s use of "72" is an example of an unnecessary change in the traditional text.

I. External Evidence:

The pivotal question is the inclusion or omission of one word, duo. Include the word, and it reads "72." Exclude the word, and it reads "70."

1. Greek manuscripts that include duo (Luke 10:1):

P75 B (Vaticanus) D (Bezae) 0181

In addition, this reading is supported by a few Old Latin manuscripts, the Sinaitic Syriac, the Curetonian Syriac, the Sahidic, and a single Bohairic manuscript. In the Church Fathers, it is found in some manuscripts of Origen (d. 254 AD) and in Adamantius (c. 300-350 AD).

2. Greek manuscripts that exclude duo (Luke 10:1):

Aleph (Sinaiticus) A C L W Theta Psi family 1 (1, 118, 131, 209, 1582) family 13 (13, 69, 124, 174, 230, 346, 543, 788, 826, 828, 983, 1689, 1709) and the Majority of extant manuscripts.

In addition, the traditional text is supported by the Syriac Peshitta, the Syriac Harclean, and the Bohairic. It is also supported by quotations in the Church Fathers including Irenaeus (2nd cen. AD); Clement (c. 95 AD); and Tertullian (c. 220 AD).

3. Evaluation:

One will notice that the two manuscripts most prized by modern critical scholars are divided in their reading. Vaticanus supports the non-traditional reading and Sinaiticus the traditional reading. There are only four Greek manuscripts that support the non-traditional reading.

The external evidence appears overwhelmingly to support the traditional text of Scripture. Metzger, however, can somehow say, "The external evidence is almost evenly divided" (this and all other quotes below are from Bruce Metzger, ed. A Textual Commentary on the New Testament [UBS, Corrected ed., 1975]: pp. 150-51). The attestation to the traditional text is ancient and widespread.

II. Internal Evidence:

Metzger notes that "The factors that bear on the evaluation of internal evidence are singularly elusive." He adds that although the majority of the six man UBS committee decided to include duo, they enclosed the word in square brackets "to indicate a certain doubt that it has a right to stand there."

A minority report is attached from Kurt Aland. He notes that the examples of "70" in the OT is "overwhelming; there are always 70 souls in the house of Jacob, 70 elders, sons, priests and 70 years that are mentioned in chronological references to important events." Meanwhile, the number "72" appears just once in Numbers 31:38 in reference to the number of cattle set apart for sacrifice. On Aland’s reading, however, this is what makes it all the more "astonishing" that the "72" reading occurs at all in Luke 10:1, 17. He attributes the "70" reading to "ecclesiastical normalizing." Thus, he argues that the number in question "should be printed without square brackets."

Aland accepts "72" as the more difficult, and thus the preferred, reading. There are, however, several very plausible explanations as to how this reading might have developed. One common solution that is offered concerns the listing of 70 nations in the Hebrew text of Genesis 10 and 72 nations in the LXX text of the same passage.
Another relates to Numbers 11. The sending out of the 70 in Luke 10:1 echoes Moses’ choice of "the seventy men of the elders of Israel" in Numbers 12:16. The spirit that had rested on Moses falls on these men, and they prophesy (v. 25). In Numbers 11:26, however, there is mention of two men, Eldad and Medad," who were "among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle." It is conceivable that some traditions had assumed there were "72" elders rather than "70" based on a misreading of Numbers 11. This interpretation then could have come to be applied to the company of those sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1, 17.

The strong external evidence, along with a plausible explanation of the internal evidence, leads us to affirm the traditional reading. What Aland dismisses as "ecclesiastical normalizing" we see as divine preservation of the correct reading to maintain a reliable text for the church. The early believers eventually rejected the reading of "72" as spurious. There is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional reading of "70."

III. Survey of English translations:

What do the various English translations do with Luke 10:1, 17? As one would expect those that self-consciously follow the traditional text (AV, NKJV) read "70." It is surprising to find, however, that not all translations that follow the modern critical text read "72."

One translation that does follow the modern critical text is the NIV (1984). The NIV reads "seventy-two" in Luke 10:1 and adds in a footnote, "Some manuscripts seventy." Given the evidence, it would be more appropriate to have such a note read something like, "The vast majority of ancient Greek texts reads seventy, although four Greek texts read seventy-two."
Several modern versions choose to depart from the modern critical Greek text here and to retain the traditional reading. The NASB (1995), though generally following the modern critical text, here reads "seventy." Likewise, the Holman-Christian Standard Bible (2003) also reads "seventy" with a note stating, "Other mss read 72."

More curious are the translation choices in the RSV stream. The RSV (1952) retains the traditional reading of "seventy," adding in a footnote, "Other ancient authorities read seventy-two." The NRSV (1989) likewise preserves the traditional reading of "seventy" with the same footnote as the RSV. The ESV (2001), currently being promoted as a replacement for the NIV in the evangelical church, departs from the RSV and NRSV but duplicates the NIV by reading "seventy-two" with an identical accompanying note adding, "Some manuscripts seventy." The same critique applied to the NIV note above is appropriate to the ESV note here.

It is clear that even many scholars and translators who accept the modern eclectic text of the New Testament, realize that the weight of the evidence for departure from the traditional reading of Luke 10:1, 17 is suspect. The NIV and ESV, however, abandon the traditional reading headlong. Oddly enough, the "evangelical" translations are the ones that promote innovation, while the "liberal" ones (e.g., NRSV) perpetuate the traditional reading.
JTR

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Your mind is like a garden

In the "Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church" Sunday School track last week the topic was "Why Learn in the Church?" In the course of the conversation the class discussed the command to love God with our minds (Mark 12:30) and Don Whitney’s analogy of the mind as a garden (in Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church [Moody, 1996]): pp. 183-84):

Loving God with all your mind means loving Him with what you mentally initiate. Your mind is like a garden. The things you mentally initiate are the plants you purposely put in your garden, the things that you go out of your way to bring into your mind. A wise person will turn to the place where Holy Scripture is proclaimed so that the truth can be planted in his mental furrows. Further, you can receive not only biblical teaching from godly men and women within the church, but also experience counsel on seeding your mind with Christian biography, theology, spiritual classics, tapes, music, etc.

You also express love for God with your mind by what you mentally cultivate. Both weeds and good plants will grow in your thought-patch. If you want a successful garden you must learn to cultivate the right plants. Otherwise you’ll have a tangled overgrown confusion.

One way to till the right plants, that is, to develop the thoughts and thought-patterns that grow in God-loving ways, is to learn in a place that continually cultivates Godward thoughts. The church does that…. If you aren’t learning in the church you are certainly cultivating mental weeds that choke out love for God.

Third, you love God with you mind by what you mentally tolerate. You don’t want to permit anything and everything that wanders or sneaks into the garden of your gray matter to remain. Just as you’d try to keep certain birds, rabbits, and other animals out of your backyard garden, so you shouldn’t tolerate harmful things in your mind. You show your love for God by what you refuse to think about as well as by what you do think about. The truth of Scripture learned in the church will stand guard against those enemies that would ruin your garden…. God wants us to devote our minds to things that increase the harvest of our love for Him, and learning in the church helps us do that.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Note: Evangel article for 5.19.09.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Calvin's Motto

2009 is the 500th anniversary year for the birth of John Calvin (1509-64). Calvin’s personal motto was: Cor Meum Tibi Offero Domine, Prompte et Sincere ("My heart I offer to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely."). His crest or seal, dating from the mid-16th century, showed a heart with an open hand, with the motto underneath. The seal was bookended with the letters I and C—which could be taken to stand for Ionnes Calvinus or Iesus Christus or both.

I think one of the most insightful things about Calvin’s character was the fact that when he died he left orders to be buried without a tombstone. There was no gaudy funeral or flowery eulogy. The Geneva Register simply recorded four days after his death, "Calvin went to be with God May 27 of the present year." Joel Beeke reflects, "Shaping this longing for obscurity was Calvin’s sincere desire that only God be glorified" ("The Soul of Life": The Piety of John Calvin [Reformation Heritage, 2009]: p. 1.


JTR

Friday Bible Study with CCCC

Photo: Pastor Beine leads the opening of the Friday evening Bible study at CCCC.
Last Friday evening, I had the opportunity to lead the Bible Study at the Charlottesville Christian Church of Charlottesville which meets at JPBC. I taught on Romans 1:18-21. My interpreter was a UVA student named "Paul" who eagerly told me how he came to believe in Christ after his family immigrated to Virginia when he was 16 years old. It was a good time of fellowship.

JTR

Bridges on the Minister's Avoidance of Worldliness

In Charles Bridges’ (1794-1869) classic work on The Christian Ministry (Banner of Truth, 2006 [1830]) he lists the minister’s conformity to the world as one cause for inefficiency in ministry. He quotes from "Cecil’s Remains":

I fell into a mistake, when a young man…in thinking that I could talk to men of the world on their own ground, and could thus win them over to mine. I was fond of painting, and so I talked with them on that subject. This pleased them: but I did not consider, that I gave them consequence to their pursuits, which did not belong to them; whereas I ought to have endeavored to raise them above these, that they might engage in a higher. I did not see this at the time, but now I see it to have been a great error (p. 118, n. 3).

What a contrast from what most of us hear today! We are encouraged to relate to the cultural pursuits that capture our people. For the word "painting" above we could insert:

Movies
Sports
Technology
Politics
Finances, etc.

Bridges will have none of that. "Would the Levitical high-priests have descended from their sacred elevation of immediate intercourse with God, to participate in the frivolities even of decorous worldliness? And why should we, under a more spiritual dispensation, be less separate, or our standard less heavenly?" (p. 118).

JTR

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Duties of Parents

Jacobus Koelman (1632-95) was a Dutch pastor and prolific Christian writer. His best known book was a treatise titled The Duties of Parents in which he instructs parent on how to disciple and nurture faith in their children. Here are a few of his exhortations to parents:

33. Accustom your children at an early age to be still and reverent when there is praying, singing, or Scripture reading in the family. Let them know that you greatly value it if on those occasions they sit still and do not speak or do anything.

34. Take your children to church at an early age, even though they do not yet understand anything. Accustom them to the service of God and to the holy worship services—to sit still and to be silent. Let it not be too much trouble for you to take your children along with you, just as in olden times the Israelites took their children along with them to the solemn rites of religion. Do not permit them to sleep, to play, or to speak to you in church. Do not give them anything to eat in church, but when they come out of the church with you, then give them something if they sat still….

36. Teach them to read, and send them to school that has a pious schoolteacher, male or female, with whom the children learn godliness and the first principles of religion. In addition, ask the schoolmaster or schoolmistress to keep a special eye on your children. If you are able, pay them something extra for their concern and effort. But also if you are poor, you must send your children to school so that they learn to read and write, for it is most useful and necessary for them to be able to read Holy Scriptures and good books. Besides, it is an important means of enabling them to be well instructed with a view to their salvation. This may not be neglected by any parents who seek what is good for their children. However, if the schools are very bad (as they usually are), then teach them yourself to spell and to read, and encourage them if they learn well and take pleasure in it….

38. Let them learn the Lord’s Prayer by heart, and tell them that the Lord Christ has prescribed that prayer. Also, explain, insofar as it is possible, what those words mean. However, do not let them pray that prayer every time but only now and then. It would be better to let them use a few words from that prayer in your own prayer, the prayer with which you lead them in prayer, insofar as they can understand that.

Source: Jacobus Koelman, The Duties of Parents (Baker Academic, 2003): pp. 49-50.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Note: Evangel article May 12, 2009.

More on the Collapse

I was in Roanoke yesterday to speak at the Society for the Preservation of Baptist Principles and Practices meeting at Plantation Road Baptist Church. They had asked me to speak on "The Coming Evangelical Collapse," offering a review and analysis of Michael Spencer's article of that title (see this post).

I noticed today that Kevin Swanson did an interview with Spencer on his Generations Radio program.

JTR

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Follow Ups

Two follow ups on past postings.

First, regarding the Baptist Banner article (April 2009) post on Calvinism, the most recent issue (May 2009) does include a good response by Eric Greene. The editor says it is the first of several such responses. We'll see if the one I wrote makes it into a later issue.

Second, regarding the post on the special isuue of the 9 Marks eJournal on multi-site, Ed Stetzer has posted a response to the issue that is worth reading.

JTR

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Without Excuse

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20 AV).

Paul says that we ought to be able to look around at the created order and know that there is a God. One commentator on this verse observed, “There is enough evidence of God in a flower to lead a child as well as a scientist to worship him. There is sufficient evidence in a tree, a pebble, a grain of sand, a fingerprint, to make us glorify God and thank him” (James Boice, Romans, Vol. I, p. 143). One Old Testament counterpart to Romans 1:20 is Psalm 19 which begins: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (v. 1).

One look into the human heart; one look into human culture; one look at the created order, ought to awaken in us a knowledge that there is a God. It should not awaken mere theism. But we ought to know the triune God of the Bible. We ought to know Christ. But, again, the problem is that sinners suppress this truth. They say they do not have enough evidence. They say they cannot know for sure. Or, perhaps, worst of all, some are oblivious to his existence.

In the last statement in v. 20 Paul declares: “they are without excuse.” The Greek word used here (anapolgetos) is the root for the English words “apology” and “apologetics.” They have no apologetic against God’s condemnation. God’s wrath against those who reject the gospel is not unjust. They have broken his law and his righteous character demands that his holy wrath be satisfied.

Imagine a man who is driving along in his car. He is speaking on his cell phone and eating his lunch, and he does not notice the signs that warn him to slow down as he approaches a construction zone. He then does not notice the signs that instruct him to change lanes for his own safety, and he hurtles through a barrier striking and killing a worker. As the police pull him from his car and place him under arrest, he protests, “Wait. You can’t do this to me. I didn’t see the signs. I didn’t know I was breaking the law. How can you possibly hold me responsible for my actions.” And they would say to him, “No. I am sorry my friend. You are without excuse and you must stand before the judge and give an account for your actions.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Note: Evangel article for 5.5.09. The devotion above is adapted from last Sunday’s morning message on Romans 1:18-23.

Song of the Week: Psalm 98

It looks like some families got together on a Sabbath afternoon to sing praise to God. Enjoy!

Monday, May 04, 2009

What's Wrong With "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes"?

A local organization that aims to prevent sexual assault of women sponsors an annual event in Charlottesville called "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" (part of a national event). They ask men to put on women’s shoes and walk a mile on the Downtown Mall to raise awareness about sexual assault.

Local media usually covers the walk and includes plenty of pictures of men wearing women’s shoes.

What’s wrong with this event? Well, we could begin with the whole not so subtle promotion of cross-dressing. This practice is forbidden in Deuteronomy 22:5: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." It seems odd that an agency dedicated to eliminating sexual assault would sponsor an event that essentially promotes (even subtly) a sexual fetish (men dressing in women’s clothing). Sadly this is par for the course for a society saturated with sexual titillation and line crossing. The irony is apparently lost on event organizers.

More to the point, the underlying message is that sexual assault of women would be reduced if only men would sympathize more with women. In other words, things would be better if men could only act more like women. This is one of the fatal fallacies of the feminist movement. In truth, women are most protected from exploitation and abuse not when men act like women, but when men act like godly men. Men were designed to be self-sacrificial defenders of their wives, children, and homes, just "as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her" (Eph 5:25). This is the high ideal to which men need to be called, and it does the most good for our wives and daughters.

JTR

Friday, May 01, 2009

Baxter Article in "9 Marks eJournal"

The May-June issue of the 9 Marks eJournal is a whopper special edition over a year in the making on the topic of the "Multi-Site Church Movement." It includes an edited version of an article I wrote titled, "Richard Baxter and the Multi-Site Movement." To learn more about 9 Marks look here. To listen to a previous talk I gave critiquing multi-site look here.
JTR