Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Visit with Lloyd Sprinkle

I had the pleasure of driving over to the Valley yesterday and meeting Lloyd Sprinkle in Harrisonburg.  Lloyd's church donated copies of the Baptist version of the Trinity hymnal for CRBC.  Here he is holding a hymn book and an accompaniment book.

Lloyd is Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Harrisonburg, but he is better known among bibliophiles around the world as the owner of Sprinkle Publications, "publishers of Baptist, Puritan, Reformed, and Historical Literature."

Lloyd grew up in Harrisonburg but moved to Martinsville, Virginia as a teen.  He was coverted there in a Baptist church in Martinsville and under a call to ministry went to Piedmont Bible College.  After graduation he returned to Harrisonburg in 1962 to plant an independent Baptist church.  It was first known as Harrisonburg Baptist Temple.  It later became known as Park View Baptist Church, and in 2004 the name changed again to Providence.  Lloyd started out as a dispensational fundamentalist, but through the influence of a Calvinistic evangelist named Dusty Rhodes he discovered the doctrines of grace.  This completely changed the course of his life and ministry.

Another big change came in the 1970s when Lloyd decided to reprint "The Life and Campaigns of 'Stonewall' Jackson."  He took out a bank loan to print 2000 copies not knowing if he would be able to sell them.  In 13 months he had sold every copy and Sprinkle Publications was born.

When we got to Lloyd's house in the Rawley Springs neighborhood 10 miles outside of town, we found his wife stacking firewood.  Jackie is also a graduate of Piedmont and has  obviously  been a great help meet to Lloyd.  She plays piano at Providence and teaches music in a local Christian school, as well as helping with the book business, and, yes, stacking wood!

Here's Lloyd outside the building where Sprinkle Publications operates.  Inside, Lloyd also has his own personal library, all neatly ordered in shelves like the ones above.  Wow!

I had some major tenth commandment issues here!  Among the prizes he pulled out were an original 1599 Geneva Bible and and 1634 copy of the Authorized Version (bound with the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalter).

Did I mention there were lots of books?  You might also notice lots of "War Between the States" memorabilia as well.  Here's Lloyd on his recliner in the office with his cat.  I really enjoyed the conversation, fellowship, and hospitality.


John Piper takes leave of absence

John Piper has recently announced that he is taking an 8 month leave of absence from his ministry.  You can read Justin Taylor's take here.  Sounds like the primary reason is to work on his marriage to his wife Noel.  No doubt, this will draw many reactions.  I resonate with one commentator ("David") on Justin Taylor's blog who wrote:

john piper has impacted my life like no other pastor. so i comment here only to stimulate thinking for the rest of us who are not “john pipers” but who nevertheless and nonetheless are called by the same god to live out our lives before the world in joyful satisfaction in christ. i just wonder about taking 8 months away from the ministry that god has given piper. i look at the life of paul and never see him taking an 8-month break to wrestle with pride in his heart (or whatever the issue). and i don’t see anywhere such an approach is prescriptive in the bible for anyone else. this “tending of the garden” and of the soul should be a daily undertaking that is built upon day after day after day so that you don’t have to withdraw from the world for months or years at a time. jesus withdrew, but not for 8 months. nowhere can i find in the bible anyone called by god, put on mission, given a ministry, blessed with gifts taking 8 months to search his/her soul. but i could be off. and i humbly welcome any feedback. and i don’t minimize the need to search our soul. it is just that this should be a daily disposition and daily discipline of examining our hearts and being under authority and in community that can address issues regularly without letting things build up to a point where you need months and months of hermetic retreat. my main point is just that while i do understand some people’s view that this is a good example, there is also a part of me that says, “wait, not really.” i mean, like piper himself said, 99% of us cannot take 8 months off to just be with our families and search our souls. where does this leave us? hopeless? without a model of how this can and should be done daily without needing an 8-month retret? i know piper is a sinner just like us so i am not condemning him or judging him. and i wish him well. he has poured out his life to serve others like me, so on that level i can certainly see how things might be different for someone in his role. but should things be different? i am just not sure this is the best example to the rest of us even thought many who are posting here are saying that it is. on some level, yes. but perhaps a better example would have been to disclose the struggle and recommit to the daily taking up of the cross of pride, and self, and sins of all variety while staying where god has called you and exercising the gifts god has given you. maybe a week or two or three away, but 8 months? really? i know this is a bit rambling. and again, i love piper and will pray for him during this time. i just wonder what message this sends to the world where pastors in other countries are working under conditions that would make piper’s look like a piece of cake (pesecution, torture, no resources, family pressures, etc.) but who don’t get an 8-month retreat for family building and soul searching. it just seems off to me.


Book Reviews

I am gradually trying to repost some of my book reviews online via Google docs.  A number of these were taken offline a few months ago, and I have had steady requests for some of them (most especially the review of Steve McVey's book Grace Walk).  I'll try to add to them over the coming weeks.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Poh: The "Five Points" is Not Enough

In his message on the Method and Application of Church Planting, Pastor Boon-Sing Poh offers these reflections on what it means to be "reformed":

Too many people go around claiming to be “Reformed,” even “Reformed Baptist.” And often their idea of being reformed is simply believing in the five points of Calvinism. But holding to the five points alone does not make you reformed, according to our understanding of the word. The five points is only a summary of the doctrine of salvation. What about the other doctrines of the Bible? We want the whole body of truth. So having only the five points is like having five fingers on your hand, but we want the whole hand; we want the whole body of truth. So, a Reformed Baptist is actually someone who holds to the teaching of the whole Bible. We submit ourselves in totality to the Bible.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Association of Confessional Baptists formed in Georgia

The "Georgia Association of Confessional Baptists" has recently formed.  You can visit their website and read more about their formation.  Below is an annoucement that was sent out by one of the founding pastors:

In 1644, seven Baptist Churches in London subscribed to the London Baptist Confession of Faith. In 1677, a circular letter was sent to particular Baptist churches in England and Wales asking for representatives from the churches to meet. In 1689 upwards of one hundred Baptist congregations met and adopted the Confession that had been written in 1677. Eventually this Confession became known as the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, a Confession that became the standard for Particular Baptist churches in Wales and England, and in time America.

On March 18-20, 2010 men from various Baptist churches met in Fayetteville, Georgia to form an Association based upon the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. The men who gathered were from Reformed Baptist, Southern Baptist, Primitive Baptist and Old Line Primitive Baptist Churches. As in 1644, representatives from seven churches formed an association, the Georgia Association of Confessional Baptists. In addition to the seven churches who formed this Association, five men joined as associate members.

Once again in Georgia there is an Association of Churches based upon the Baptist Confession of 1689. May we know, as that small group in 1644, increasing usefulness and growth. May God plant many other Confessional Churches in Georgia. May the gospel of grace once again sound forth from pulpits in the cities and countryside of Georgia.

Thomas Waters
Emmanuel Baptist Church

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thomas Watson: Twelve Examples of Breaking the Third Commandment

In my sermon last Sunday afternoon on the third commandment, I was aided by Thomas Watson's list (in his book The Ten Commandments) of twelve examples of using God’s name in vain:

1. When we speak slightly and irreverently of his name.

2. When we profess God’s name, but do not live answerably to it.

3. When we use God’s name in idle discourse.

4. When we worship him with our lips, but not with our hearts.

5. When we pray to him but do not believe in him.

6. When in any way we profane and abuse his word. “To hear a wicked man who wallows in sin talk of God and religion is offensive; it is taking God’s name in vain” (p. 86).

7. When we swear by God’s name.

8. When we prefix God’s name to any wicked action. “When any wicked action is baptized in the name of religion, it is taking God’s name in vain.”

9. When we use our tongues any way to the dishonor of God.

10. When we make rash or unlawful vows.

11. When we speak evil of God. “When we murmur at his providences, as if he had dealt hardly with us.”

12. When we falsify our promise. This is making a pledge or promise to God and then not keeping that promise.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spurgeon on the tendency to throw doctrinal truth into the shade

There is a tendency in this age to throw doctrinal truth into the shade. Too many preachers are offended with that stern truth which the Covenanters held, and to which the Puritans testified in the midst of a licentious age. We are told that the times have changed, that we are to modify these old (so-called) Calvinistic doctrines, and bring them down to the tones of the times; that, in fact, they need dilution, that men have become so intelligent that we must pare off the angles of our religion, and make the square into a circle by rounding off the most prominent edges. Any man who does this, so far as my judgment goes, does not declare all the counsel of God. The faithful minister must be plain, simple, pointed with regard to these doctrines. There must be no dispute about whether he believes them or not. He must so preach them that his hearers will know whether he preaches a scheme of free-will, or a covenant of grace—whether he teaches salvation by works, or salvation by the power and grace of God.

From Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Volume I, p. 536.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sermon of the Week: Poh Boon-Sing on Church Planting

Dr. Poh Boon-Sing, Pastor of Damansura Baptist Church in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia preached a series of three messages on church planting at the ARBCA (The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America) annual meeting in 2001.  I have profited from listening to these messages and with Dr.Poh's permission I have posted them to CRBC's sermonaudio site:


New Health Care = More Abortions?

With the passage of the new health care bill, pro-life advocates are warning of increased abortions.  See the March 19 Baptist Press article which offered the following reactions:

"The bottom line is current legislation will result in government funding of elective abortion, which will lead, as some experts project, to a 30 percent increase in abortions in America," Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press. "This legislation, if passed, will be the largest expansion of abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973."

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins agreed.

"Anything that the government offers to pay for, it gets more of. There's no question that you would see an expansion of the abortion rate in America [if the bill passes]," Perkins said during a conference call with reporters.

Richard Doerflinger, a legislative expert with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops will continue to oppose the bill if the abortion language is not changed. He also said the abortion rate could go up.

"There are some who hope that the health care coverage, especially for pregnant women in the bill, might have some positive effect in reducing abortions," Doerflinger said during the conference call. "The reality is this: The biggest factors in the United States driving the abortion rate are poverty and race ... [and] the public policy that has the biggest impact on abortion rates is simply whether the government funds abortions."

The health care bill, pro-lifers say, appropriates $7 billion to the nation's 1,200-plus community health centers without stipulating that the money cannot be used for abortions. The bill also changes longstanding federal policy by allowing tax dollars to go toward paying for insurance plans that cover elective abortions. Congress' own insurance plans, for example, cannot cover abortions. The bill requires that anyone who has a plan that covers abortion -- even men and elderly women -- must pay a separate fee to cover abortion, in addition to their premium.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Reflections on William Still, "Dying to Live"

I recently read Dying to Live (Christian Focus, 1991), the autobiography of  Scottish pastor William Still. I became interested in Still after reading his book The Work of the Pastor earlier this year.

The first half of Dying to Live tells about Still’s early years into young adulthood and his beginning in pastoral ministry. Still had an unsettled childhood. His parents were separated in his early years, and his father was an alcoholic. He was a sickly child who took refuge in music and became an accomplished pianist. He was part of the Salvation Army as a young man but then entered ministry in the Church of Scotland and served at the Gilcomston Church in his hometown of Aberdeen from 1945-1997.

The second half of the book deals with various aspects of Still’s pastoral ministry. Still was an evangelical. In his early ministry he worked with Billy Graham, Alan Redpath, and others in evangelistic events. With time, however, he moved away from what he came to call “evangelisticism” to develop a solid expositional ministry.

Still faced his fair share of hardships during the course of his ministry. When he moved away from pragmatic evangelistic methods, for example, more than two hundred people stopped attending his church almost overnight. In the preface, he references Martin Luther’s observation that there are three things which make a minister: study, prayer, and afflictions. He observes, “He who is not prepared to make enemies for Christ’s sake by the faithful preaching of the Word will never make lasting friends for Christ, either” (p. 93).

He describes one particularly difficult controversy early in his ministry when he confronted a group of disgruntled elders. At the end of one Sunday service, he read a statement confronting these men, which ended, “There you sit, with your heads down, guilty men. What would you say if I named you before the whole congregation? You stand condemned before God for your contempt of the Word and of his folk.” He adds, “The moment I had finished, I walked out of the pulpit. There was no last hymn—no benediction. I went right home. It was the hardest and most shocking thing I ever had to do in Gilcomston” (p. 124). That same week seven of his elders resigned and Still was called twice before his Presbytery to answer for the controversy. Yet, he endured.

Still maintains that in light of the unpleasantness one will face in the ministry that the minister of the Word must possess one quality in particular: “…I would say that this quality is courage: guts, sheer lion-hearted bravery, clarity of mind and purpose, grit. Weaklings are no use here. They have a place in the economy of God if they are not deliberate weaklings and stunted adults as Paul writes of both to the Romans and to the Corinthians. But weaklings are no use to go out and speak prophetically to men from God and declare with all compassion, as well as with faithfulness, the truth: the divine Word that cuts across all men’s worldly plans for their lives” (p. 140).

Still was a pioneer in several areas. First, he developed a pattern of preaching and teaching systematically through books of the Bible at a time when this was rarely done. He began a ministry of “consecutive Bible teaching” starting with the book of Galatians in 1947, calling this transition from “evangelisticism to systematic exposition … probably the most significant decision in my life” (p. 191).

He was also a pioneer in simplifying and integrating the ministry of the church. After noting how youth in the church were drifting away, even after extensive involvement in the church’s children’s ministry, Still writes, “I conceived the idea of ceasing all Sunday School after beginners and Primary age (seven years) and invited parents to have their children sit with them in the family pew from the age of eight” (p. 171). He laments “the disastrous dispersion of congregations by the common practice of segregating the church family into every conceivable category of division of ages, sexes, etc.” (p. 173).

Dying to Live is a helpful and encouraging work about the life and work of the minister and is to be commended to all engaged in the call of gospel ministry. As the title indicates, Still’s essential thesis is that in order to be effective in ministry the minister must suffer a series of deaths to himself (cf. John 12:24). On this he writes:

The deaths one dies before ministry can be of long duration—it can be hours and days before we minister, before the resurrection experience of anointed preaching. And then there is another death afterwards, sometimes worse than the death before. From the moment that you stand there dead in Christ and dead to everything you are and have and ever shall be and have, every breath you breathe thereafter, every thought you think, every word you say and deed you do, must be done over the top of your own corpse or reaching over it in your preaching to others. Then it can only be Jesus that comes over and no one else. And I believe that every preacher must bear the mark of that death. Your life must be signed by the Cross, not just Christ’s cross (and there is really no other) but your cross in his Cross, your particular and unique cross that no one ever died—the cross that no one ever could die but you and you alone: your death in Christ’s death (p. 136).


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Prayer for Persecuted Brethren in Uzbekistan

I saw this article yesterday about 13 Baptist believers in Uzbekistan who were arrested back on January 24, roughed up, and now have been given excessive fines.  The article reads in part:

The court verdict states that Tashkent Regional and Almalyk City Police on 24 January found the Baptists conducting "illegal teaching of religious doctrines without a special authorisation from a central religious organisation" and ordered that 30 copies of religious literature in Russian and Uzbek be confiscated, including 6 Bibles in Russian and one New Testament and Psalms in Uzbek. The literature and materials were ordered to be sent to the to the State Religious Affairs Committee in Tashkent for "religious expert" examination.

The prosecution followed a police raid on the Brislavksy's home. The congregation belongs to the Council of Churches Baptists which on principle refuses to seek state registration, fearing this would lead to interference by the state.

We can join in praying for these brethren as they face "various trials" (1 Peter 1:6).


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poh Boon Sing: "The Internet: A New Idol, A New Toy"

Note:  I've recently enjoyed discovery of the writings and ministry of Poh Boon Sing, a pioneer Reformed Baptist Pastor in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.  Pastor Poh edits an online Christian magazine titled, Gospel Highway.  Below is a recent article warning against making the internet an idol or a toy.

We are now in the age of Information Technology (IT). Technology is no more confined to raw bulk and machines. It is now harnessed to the spread of information - the raw material from which knowledge is built up. This has been made possible by the personal computer. which has been around for some time. and the Internet, which is a recent introduction.

A new wonder

The Internet connects personal computers around the world so that communication between individuals is just a few strokes of the keyboard away (or, just a few clicks of the mouse away). The connection is made via the local telephone network, which in turn is linked to the rest of the world via underwater cables and satellite. In the quiet of the bedroom or the study, and in the noisy office or airport, one can get linked as long as there is a computer terminal. The facilities on the Internet include the world-wide-web from which one can get information on virtually any subject, the electronic-mail by which letters are delivered instantaneously (so much so that the traditional mail is now dubbed “snail-mail”), the chat-boards over which messages may be exchanged interactively, and the posting of videos and music. The combination of these make other powerful applications possible - e.g. electronic commerce, electronic banking, tele medicine, and video conferencing.

In this age of Information Technology, it will be unwise of any political regime to hinder access to information by imposing restrictive laws. The only way to effectively prevent the free flow of information is by not getting connected to the world. It is one thing to be unable to get connected because of general backwardness in the literacy and the economy of the country. It is another thing to refuse to get connected for fear of external influence upon the populace. This is what a few countries in the world have chosen to do, to their own great loss. They will lag farther and farther behind with time. We pity the people who are deprived in that way.

New problems

With the free exchange of information has come new problems. Any useful tool can be turned into a dangerous weapon. A child has access to pornographic material. A teenager has access to information on how to make a bomb at home. An adult has access to the same information as the child and the teenager. No amount of censorship can effectively prevent the individual from getting the information he wants. The individual has to practise self-censorship and self-control. It is here that the power of the gospel comes into its own. Only one who born again of the Spirit of God will desire to live a holy life. Only the regenerate will have power within himself to resist temptations. Only the disciple of Christ will unselfishly seek the good of others instead of harm.

This is not to say that the non-Christians are devoid of virtues. Neither are we saying that true Christians are perfect in their public or private lives. Indeed, Christians are the ones most acutely aware of their own sinfulness, and therefore their need for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live a holy life. And we know of many Christians who have fallen into grievous sins. However, what we are saying is that the gospel alone can transform people in their nature so that they desire higher and better things, and at the same time give them the Spirit’s power “to will and to do for His good pleasure.” It is only then that they will have the desire and the capability to exercise self-censorship and self-control. Of course, parents have to supervise the younger children in the use of the computer, and exercise unobtrusive oversight over their teenage children in this. But no amount of policing will prevent them from doing the undesirable with their computers. If they have no opportunity to access certain sites on the Internet while at home, they can still do it in their friends’ homes or in the cyber cafes. And it is not only the misuse of the computer that we are concerned about, but also their ability to cope with other areas of life in this hostile world. Ultimately, our only hope for them lies in their conversion to Christ.

A new idol

Are Christians immune to the temptations that come from the computer? There are two subtle dangers that we must watch against. The first is to treat the computer as our idol. The computer can do wonders. Every home ought to have one. The good that we can gain out of its use is simply tremendous. We can keep in touch with friends and relatives scattered across the globe, shop from the home, search for information on any subject, write and edit our essays and books, propagate the gospel, save time and money in many of these chores, etc... The advantages appear limitless. Herein lies the danger. We may begin to think that the computer is the beginning and end of everything. We upgrade our computer to the latest model. We harness it for the advancement of the gospel. We create our own website, and spend many man-hours making it better. We upload printed sermons onto the website. Not satisfied with this, we upgrade this to video preaching.

But what is wrong with harnessing modern technology to the propagation of the gospel? Nothing is wrong with this. In fact, we would encourage it, but with a qualification. Do not allow the use of modern technology to detract from the direct propagation of the gospel to people, through personal witness and public preaching. The gospel proclaimed, and heard, is the chief means ordained by God for the salvation of souls (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 10:17). The manner of accomplishing this is also ordained by God, namely that of humans ministering directly to humans, souls meeting with souls. The use of the printed page, the radio, the television, and the Internet, can be powerful supplements. And in some situations, they are the only means of reaching the people. But God has seen fit to save souls by His word, proclaimed by saved souls. In the incarnation, the Son of God took on perfect human nature to identify Himself with the fallen race He came to save. No other way was good enough, except the way of the Son of Man dying as a grain of wheat falling to the ground. The incarnation is unique to the office of Christ as Mediator and Saviour, but the abiding principle is that His disciples must have the incarnational life in order to produce much grain. Practically, that means getting to know people, living with the people, and identifying with them in their lives, with the aim of bringing the gospel to them - by word and by life.

Furthermore, not everything posted on the Internet is true and infallible. The Internet is used by friends and foes of the gospel alike. It is also used by mistaken, untaught, and immature believers. With the apostle Paul, we would rejoice whenever the gospel is preached - regardless of the motive of the preachers (Phil. 1:18). But our hearts wince when truths are handled badly. There are those who have a zeal that far exceeds their knowledge. They are well-meaning, but they cause much harm. We have to be reminded that those who handle God’s word will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). If we have to be careful in preaching, we have to be more careful in writing. What is written is more permanent, and carries with it the imprint of authority not found in what is spoken. A slip of the tongue can occur in speech, whereas writing involves at least some deliberation. We would wish that some Christians not write, but we are not the Lord of others’ conscience, nor are we the master of cyberspace. Do not accept everything gleaned from the Internet as true and infallible.

A new toy

The next danger of the computer to the Christian is that it might become a toy. In the privacy of the home, the study, or the office, the tired Christian may turn to one of the many game packages that often come together with the purchase of any computer. When man is pitted against machine, an exciting match ensues. Time flies past without the engrossed Christian knowing it. One round of the match follows another, one level of difficulty progresses to the next, and... behold, two hours or more have flown past. As with anything in life that gives pleasure, playing computer games is addictive. This may repeat itself from day to day (or night to night), so that school homework is not done, the dishes are not washed, the children are neglected, church meetings are passed by... And it is not just playing games that gives pleasure. Chatting on the computer is also pleasurable, and so is surfing the Internet. Precious time is wasted on all these. Spiritual decline sets in. Relationship problems arise in the home, the church, and the place of work - all because the respectable computer has been treated as a modern toy.

Christian friends, let us beware of treating the computer as an idol, or a toy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sermon of the Week: Edward Donnelly on Hell

I have been listening to these messages by Edward Donnelly on the topic of hell that were delivered at a Reformed Baptist family camp.  They are solemn and stirring!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: Nathan Hatch, "The Democratization of American Christianity"

Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University Press, 1989): 312 pp.

I finally got around to reading Nathan Hatch’s book The Democratization of American Christianity. Aside: Hatch is now President of my alma mater, Wake Forest. I had heard the book praised by the likes of D. J. Hart for its cogent historical explanation of the rise of egalitarian views and the decline of Calvinism in early American evangelicalism and wanted to read it for myself.

From the start, Hatch argues “both that the theme of democratization is central to understanding the development of American Christianity, and that the years of the early republic are the most crucial in revealing that process” (p. 3). He concludes that the “central force” in American Christianity has been “its democratic or populist orientation” (p. 213). Hatch traces three ways in which popular religious movements in the early republic articulated a “democratic spirit”: (1) They denied “the age old distinction that set clergy apart as a separate order of men, and they refused to defer to learned theologians and traditional orthodoxies” (pp. 9-10); (2) They “empowered ordinary people by taking their deepest spiritual influences at face value rather than subjecting them to the scrutiny of orthodox doctrine and the frowns of respectable clergy” (p. 10); and (3) These “religious outsiders” had “little sense of their limitations” (p. 10).

Hatch traces the influence of populist preachers like the Methodists Lorenzo Dow and Francis Asbury, the Baptist John Leland, the Restorationist Alexander Campbell, and the Mormon Joseph Smith.

Of the Campbellites, for example, Hatch notes, “People were expected to discover the self-evident message of the Bible without any mediation from creeds, theologians, or clergymen not of their own choosing. This explicit faith that biblical authority could emerge from below, from the will of the people, was the most enduring legacy of the Christian movement” (p. 81).

At one point, in his discussion of Baptists, Hatch contrasts the views of early American Baptist leader Isaac Backus with that of firebrand John Leland:

“While Backus never doubted the right of all to worship as they pleased, he was unconvinced that laymen could articulate their own theology. He defended the primacy of Calvinism and reminisced about ‘the imminent fathers of New England.’ Leland, on the other hand, rejected the idea of natural inequality in society—as if some were set apart to lead and others to follow. He depicted the typical clergyman as venal and conniving, rather than capable of rising above self-interest” (p. 99).

Hatch notes, in particular, how religious populism led to a revolt against Calvinism. There were at least four major complaints, he says, against “Reformed orthodoxy: its implicit endorsement of the status quo, its tyranny over personal religious experience, its preoccupation with complicated and arcane dogma, and its clerical pretension and quest for control” (p. 171). Of interest here is the book’s Appendix (pp. 227-43) which offers an amusing “sampling of anticlerical and anti-calvinistic verse.”

The revolt against Calvinistic orthodoxy included a new interpretation of the Reformation concept of sola scriptura. Hatch notes: “For the Reformers, popular translations of the Bible did not imply that people were to understand the Scriptures apart from ministerial guidance” (p. 179). Likewise, Hatch continues, “It is equally clear that the eighteenth-century evangelicals John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Isaac Backus, and others, did not think of viewing the Bible as a source of authority independent of theology and the mediations of clergymen” (p. 180). It was the egalitarian populists of the mid-18th century who began to set private interpretation of the Bible over against theology, history, and tradition. Hatch’s line of argument here anticipates Keith Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001).

Hatch concludes the book with an epilogue in which he discusses “the recurring populist impulse in American Christianity” (pp. 210-219). The last line: “American Christianity continues to be powered by ordinary people and by the contagious spirit of their efforts to storm heaven by the back door” (p. 219).

After a lifetime in conservative Baptist circles and 20 years in public ministry there is much with which I found to resonate in Hatch’s book. It helps explain how Baptists in America drifted from their Calvinistic roots. It also explains how moderate Baptists came to focus on “empowering the laity” and how even conservative Baptists continue down this track with egalitarian views of “every member ministry,” “democratic” views of church government, anticlericalism, and egalitarian views of church leadership.

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More evidence of downgrade in moderate SBC life

As if we needed more evidence of downgrade in moderate SBC life, the Associated Baptist Press had an article yesterday on Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas, TX and its new website which announces, “Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations and denominational backgrounds."  The church is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

I was reminded of a line from Psalm 12 which we read in worship last Lord's Day:  "The wicked prowl on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men."


Textual Notes on 1 John 2:7

One of my joys has been teaching my children NT Greek on Fridays. We have been working through Watson Mills’ Greek grammar over the past two years. Near the end of the book, we began some simple translations from 1 John and have been working on 1 John 2:7-10. It’s been great to point out to the kids, “You are reading the Bible in the original language!!!”

The children have also been , of necessity, learning about issues in text and translation. An example came when they translated 1 John 2:7 (Mills uses the modern critical Greek text) and compared translations. There are two key textual issues in this verse. First, the traditional text begins “Brethren [adelphoi]”, while the modern text reads, “Beloved [agapetoi].” Second, the prepositional phrase “from the beginning [ap arches]” appears twice in the traditional text, while the second occurrence is omitted in the modern text.

So, we can compare the NKJV (traditional text) with the NIV (modern text):

NKJ 1 John 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.

NIV 1 John 2:7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.

It has been great to see the children begin to ask questions and unlock answers about how God has preserved his Word and what is involved in translating the Bible.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sermon of the Week: David Murray on "Why Do Pastors Suffer?"

I was encouraged by listening to this message by David Murray on "Why Do Pastors Suffer?" from 2 Corinthians 1:6.  Pay attention to his analogy of recyled tires on a playground as to how God recycles our painful experiences to make them useful to others.


Speaking in Roanoke

I enjoyed speaking again yesterday at the Society for the Preservation of Baptist Principles and Practices at Plantation Road Baptist Church in Roanoke.  Brother Willie Overton preached the first message on Sanctification from Philippians 2:12-18.  I gave the second message on Church Planting.  I also got to visit with my friend David Rawlings in the afternoon.


Friday, March 05, 2010

Trip to see "Terra Cotta Warriors"

My family made a trip along with the Overstreet family to the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC yesterday to visit the "Terra Cotta Warriors" exhibit.  Here we are above at the end of the exhibit with a replica of one of the warriors provided for a final photo op.  It is a fascinating display of some of the clay soldiers, attendants, and objects buried near the tomb of Qin (Chin), China's first emperor.  These artifacts were hidden for over 2,000 years until their discovery in 1974 by farmers.  Thus far, only about 1,000 of the estimated 7,000 soldiers have been uncovered.  As a believer one cannot help but think of the innate human awareness of the afterlife reflected in this emperor's attempt to prepare for the world to come.  As Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul" (Mark 8:36)."


Watson on Hell: Part 2

Again, from his book The Ten Commandments, the Puritan Thomas Watson discusses the reality of hell.  Of note is Watson's reponse to those who ponder the justice of God meting out eternal punishment for temporal sins.  I have heard similar questions from those who would abandon the Biblical doctrine of hell as a place of eternal conscious torment in favor of annhiliationism.  Watson comments: 

How does it seem to comport with God’s justice to punish a sin committed in a moment, with eternal torment?

Because there is an eternity of sin in man’s nature. Because sin is crimen laesae majestatis, ‘committed against an infinite majesty,’ and therefore the sin itself is infinite, and proportionally the punishment must be infinite. Because a finite creature cannot bear infinite wrath, he must be eternally satisfying what he can never satisfy. If hell be such a house of bondage, what infinite cause have they to bless God who are delivered from it! Jesus ‘delivered us from the wrath to come.’ 1 Thess 1: 10. Jesus Christ suffered the torments of hell in his soul, that believers should not suffer them. If we are thankful, when we are ransomed out of prison, or delivered from fire, oh, how should we bless God to be preserved from the wrath to come! It may cause more thankfulness in us, seeing the most part go into the house of bondage, even to hell. To be of the number of those few that are delivered from it, is matter of infinite thankfulness. Most, I say, go to that house of bondage when they die; most go to hell. ‘Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.’ Matt 7: 13. The greatest part of the world lies in wickedness. 1 John 5: 19. Divide the world, says Brerewood, into thirty-one parts, nineteen parts of it are possessed by Jews and Turks, and seven parts by heathens; so that there are but five parts of Christians, and among these Christians so many seduced Papists on the one hand, and so many formal Protestants on the other, that we may conclude the major part of the world goes to hell. Scripture compares the wicked to briers. Isa 10: 17. There are but few lilies in your fields, but in every hedge thorns and briers. It compares them to ‘the mire in the streets.’ Isa 10: 6. Few jewels or precious stones are in the street, but you cannot go a step without meeting with mire. The wicked are as common as the dirt in the street. Look at the generality of people. How many drunkards are there for one that is sober! How many adulterers for one that is chaste! How many hypocrites for one that is sincere! The devil has the harvest, and God a few gleanings only. Oh, then, such as are delivered from the house of bondage, in hell, have infinite cause to admire and bless God. How should the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness! When most others are carried prisoners to hell, they are delivered from the wrath to come.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Watson: "The torments of hell abide forever."

I've been reading Thomas Watson's classic exposition The Ten Commandments as preparation for our current CRBC Sunday afternoon series on Exodus 20:1-17.  In his discussion of the Preface to the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:1-2), Watson closes with a powerful and sober description of hell in which he vividly captures the hopelessness of eternal suffering:

The torments of hell abide for ever. ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.’ Rev 14: 2: Time cannot finish it, tears cannot quench it. Mark 9: 44. The wicked are salamanders, who live always in the fire of hell, and are not consumed. After they have lain millions of years in hell, their punishment is as far from ending, as it was at the beginning. If all the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should come, and take away one grain, it would be a long time before that vast heap would be removed; yet, if after all that time the damned might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but this word EVER breaks the heart.


Report from Pastors' Fraternal

I had the privilege of attending the Southeastern Fraternal of Reformed Baptist Pastors on Monday and Tuesday of this week in Mebane, NC. It provided a good time of fellowship, prayer, and networking among ministers and ample time to listen to preaching and teaching.

The speakers, topics, and summary:

Monday evening: Alan Dunn of Grace Covenant Baptist Church in Flemington, NJ presented an extended exposition of the book of Habakkuk. He drew parallels between Habakkuk’s word to Israel in uncertain times and how this word is relevant in our own times.

Tuesday morning (first session): Bob Selph of Grace Baptist Church in Taylors, SC preached a message centered on missions from Philippians 2:1-30. He referred to three men: Paul (a pioneer in gospel work); Timothy (a pastor who moved between churches); and Epaphroditus (a messenger of a church who travels to encourage missionaries). They did what they did because of a fourth man: Christ (see Phil 2:5-8).

Tuesday morning (second session): Robert Gonzales of the Reformed Baptist Theological Seminary offered a summary of his book Where Sin Abounds: The Spread of Sin and the Curse in Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives (Wipf and Stock, 2010). His thesis is that the motif of sin is not limited to Genesis 1-11 but extends throughout the patriarchal narrative (Genesis 12-50).

Tuesday evening: Alan Dunn returned to Habbakkuk and traced various theological themes. He ended with focus on Habakkuk 3 noting that the prophet encourages the singing of praise to God and resting in his sovereignty even in uncertain times.