Monday, November 29, 2010

Textual Notes: 2 Peter 2:13

Image:  Ancient Syriac Bible

Two issues in 2 Peter 2:13:

a. Should the verb read “to suffer wrong” (adikeo) or “to receive” (komioumai)?

External evidence:

The traditional reading is “to receive.” It is supported by the corrected hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and the majority of minuscules. The alternative reading is found in the original hand of Sinaiticus and in p72.

Internal evidence:

The adikeo reading “involves a very rare construction with misthon” (Textual Commentary, p. 703). Metzger speculates, thus, that the copyists introduced the “less objectionable” reading. Another possibility, however, is that a copyist tried to introduce a verb that made a play on words with adikias.

Translation choices:

Translations based on traditional texts:

“And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness” (AV);

“and will receive the wages of unrighteousness” (NKJV).

Translations based on modern critical text:

“They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done” (NIV);

“suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong” (NASB);

“suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing” (ESV).

b. Should the reading be en tais apatais auton (“in their own deceiving”) or en tais agapais auton (“in their own love feasts”)?

External evidence:

The traditional reading (apatais, “deceivings”) is supported by p72, Sinaiticus, the original hand of Alexandrinus, and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. The alternative (agapais, “love feasts”), however, appears in the corrected hand of Alexandrinus and Vaticanus. This provides yet another example where Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not agree.

Internal evidence:

The primary question here is whether a scribe attempted to harmonize this verse with Jude 1:12 (en tais agapais humon). The modern critical text retains the traditional reading but only gives it a “C” reading. Metzger states the majority of the UBS committee “was of the opinion that the author of 2 Peter consciously altered Jude’s expression, substituting (as he does elsewhere) a more generalized expression.” He concludes that the agapais reading “is then a scribal assimilation to the prevailing text of Jude” (Textual Commentary, p. 704).

Translation choices:

Modern English translations follow the traditional text. Examples:

NIV: “in their pleasures”

NASB: “in their deceptions”

ESV: “in their deceptions”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dabney on the importance of creeds

Why should we make use of clear creeds and confessions?  Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) made these remarks when critiquing the anti-creedal views of Alexander Campbell:

As man’s mind is notoriously fallible, and professed Christians who claim to hold to the Scriptures, as they understand them, differ from each other notoriously, some platform for union or cooperation must be adopted, by which those who believe they are truly agreed may stand and work together.  It is the only possible expedient, in the absence of an inspired living umpire, such as the pope claims falsely to be, by which fidelity to truth can be reconciled with cooperation.  A creed, then, is such a means for enabling Christians to understand each other.  It is the human exposition of what is supposed to be the exact meaning of the Scriptures; and differs from those usually delivered from the pulpit only in being more carefully and accurately made by the assistance of many minds.  Its setting forth is an exercise of the church’s ordinary didactic function. It must advance nothing which its compilers do not suppose to be fully sustained by the Scriptures; and no authority is claimed for it, in any respect, save that which they believe is communicated by the word of God.

From Robert Lewis Dabney, “The System of Alexander Campbell:  An Examination of Its Leading Points” [first published in the Southern Presbyterian Review (July, 1880)], in Dabney’s Discussions, Vol. I (Sprinkle Publications, 1992):  p. 315.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is there really a "Reformed Resurgence" underway?

Is there really a "Reformed Resurgence" underway?  There has been a considerable amount of buzz online over a recent Barna report which challenges the notion that we are, in fact, seeing an actual resurgence of interest in reformed theology and practice in American churches, despite the rise of neo-Calvinistic celebrity speakers, books and conferences.

R. Scott Clark offered his thoughts, suggesting the "noise" might be the result of the "re-emergence of predestinarians among Southern Baptists." He also suggests that there might be parallels with the first Great Awakening which some argue offered "more noise than statistical substance."

Daryl Hart has also chimed in on the subject, *modestly* suggesting that the sociologists have only supplied statistics for "what we already knew."  Hart concludes:  "...we were not that hopeful for a movement led by the likes of John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and C. J. Mahaney. These men all have their virtues (and their vices), but when Calvinism depends on Baptists and charismatics it is hard to think that Reformed Protestantism is surging."  As usual, Hart does not  pay much attention to the distinction between Reformed Baptists and Neo-Calvinistic Baptists like Piper, et al.


The Vision (11/25/10): The Bible and Personal Prayer: Part 3 of 3

Note: In view of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Vision is being posted a day early this week.  The following devotional article is the third in a three part series written by CRBC’s Michael Cressin.

Now I would like to consider that part of Scripture which I believe to be the real key to using the Bible in personal prayer: the Book of Psalms. These 150 “prayer-songs” (the word “psalms” means songs) have been used for centuries by Christians as the underlying basis for their prayer lives. The Psalter is truly the “prayer-book of the Bible”. These ancient prayers of Israel have been devoutly prayed by the church, both corporately and privately, since its inception. The Psalms convey the entire gamut of human emotions and contain the entire range of God-man relations. From utter despair to exuberant joy, from sorrowful repentance to jubilant praise and thanksgiving, the Psalms resonate within the believer's soul and propel him God-ward.

Martin Luther called the Psalms “a little Bible, and the summary of the Old Testament.” He viewed them as a meditation on the message and significance of Jesus Christ. In the Reformed tradition, the Psalms have been sung metrically ever since the Reformation. In the Anglican tradition the Psalms have been a significant part of worship, always included in the Book of Common Prayer and utilized regularly in public worship.

I have personally found the Psalms to be particularly helpful in initiating personal prayer time. Often we come to prayer and are not feeling spiritually inclined. I have found that beginning with a Psalm or several Psalms can help settle my mind and direct me towards God. Usually, I will pray through the Psalter consecutively over the course of several weeks and then begin it again. Another suggestion is to choose one or two meaningful Psalms and use these at every prayer period as opening prayers. Psalms 1, 51, 95, or 100 are some recommended possibilities here. If one focuses one's mind on the words of the Psalms and they enter one's heart they will serve to direct him God-ward. Reading a Psalm with some other Scripture, taking time for reflection, and then offering spontaneous prayer is a time-honored format. One could also utilize a Psalm as a concluding prayer.

Again, I must emphasize that it is the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray. (Rom 8:26). The Spirit searches the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10) and teaches us spiritual things (1 Cor 2:13). We must ask the Holy Spirit to come to our aid to help us pray with the Word of God. The Word and the Spirit belong inseparably together. As John Calvin taught, “The Word is the instrument by which the Lord dispenses the illumination of His Spirit to believers” (Institutes I: 9:3). This is an experiential reality which is meant to be shared by all Christians in prayer. Once we begin to experience authentic prayer God will indeed bless us with growth in knowledge of Him and His ways.

Michael Cressin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Basic Challenges to the ESV

Crossway publishers continue their very successful (dare we say relentless) marketing of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible. Justin Taylor, a Crossway editor, recently featured a new video on his blog in which “various leaders” explain “why they trust and appreciate this translation.” The ESV is, without doubt, the translation of choice among those whom Colin Hansen has described as the “young, restless, and reformed.” Questions about the ESV are rarely heard in the neo-evangelical Calvinistic movement which Daryl Hart has described as possessing "an extremely chummy atmosphere" (see his article here).

Here, however, are three basic challenges that might give one pause before jumping on the ESV bandwagon (you can also listen to an audio version here or view a pdf version here):

1. The ESV has a National Council of Churches copyright.

If you turn in a copy of the ESV to the bottom of the copyright page, you will find this note:

“The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.”

The note, granted, is a bit ambiguous. Does it mean that the ultra-liberal National Council of Churches holds the copyright to the RSV, upon which the ESV is based, or does it mean that the NCC retains, as well, some rights to the ESV? What agreement did Crossway reach with the NCC in order to revise the RSV and create the ESV? Did they pay them a one-time fee? Or, does the NCC receive ongoing royalties from sales of the ESV? On this point Alan J. Macgregor queries:

Does this mean that every time a believer purchases an ESV Bible, he is financially supporting the National Council of Churches? (That body denies most of the fundamental doctrines of the Evangelical Reformed Faith). There are still many professing Evangelical and Reformed groups and publications, all enthusiastically encouraging us to buy and use this new version. The separation principles commanded in the Scriptures, and which our discerning forefathers solemnly held to, seem to have been discarded and forgotten (Three Modern Versions: A Critical Assessment of the NIV, ESV, and NKJV [The Bible League, 2004]: p. 50).

Even if there is some contractual arrangement whereby the NCC received an upfront lump payment and does not receive royalties for individual ESV sales, the challenges below remain.

2. The ESV is not, in fact, a new translation but an evangelical revision of a notoriously liberal translation.

A close inspection of the preface to the ESV is revealing. Though it claims to stand “in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations,” it is clear that the ESV actually issues from a far more liberal source. On one hand, the ESV wants to claim a place in the tradition of the classic English translations of the Protestant Reformation, but, on the other, it must admit that its roots are actually in later Protestant liberalism. Again, the preface captures the ESV’s awkward stance: “The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale-King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV, with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point for our work.” So, in truth, the ESV’s lineage is through the infamous English Revised Version of 1885, the American Standard Version of 1901, and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971.

The old RSV was roundly condemned by evangelicals when it first appeared. The most criticized passage was Isaiah 7:14 in which the RSV translated the Hebrew word almah as “young woman” rather than “virgin.” Conservatives, no doubt rightly, took this as a not so subtle undermining of the doctrine of the virginal conception of Christ. When the NT portion of the RSV was completed in 1946, Westminster Theological Seminary professor Oswald T. Allis wrote a stinging critique of the work titled Revision or New Translation? (P & R, 1948).

Granted, the ESV has corrected passages like Isaiah 7:14 (i.e., it reads “virgin” and not “young woman”). Still, the fact that the ESV springs from the RSV cannot be an irrelevant consideration. If one compares the ESV and RSV, he finds that the translations are very often is full agreement with one another. Some have suggested that despite corrections like that made with Isaiah 7:14, the ESV still retains some doctrinally questionable renderings from the RSV. Alan J. Macgregor cites the following passages as examples: Micah 5:2; Isaiah 53:9; 1 Corinthians 3:3-4; 1 Corinthians 7:36-38; Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 13:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; and Revelation 19:8) (see Macgregor’s Three Modern Versions, pp. 55-58). Let’s take Micah 5:2 as an example:

KJV: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

RSV: But you, O Bethlehem Eph’rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days.

ESV: But you, O Bethlehem Eph’rathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days.

Note that the ESV follows the RSV verbatim except for the insertion of the word “too.” The doctrinal issue here would have to do with the change of “from everlasting” to “from ancient days.” Macgregor concludes, “the liberal rendering of the RSV is retained in full, so undermining the Deity of Christ, reducing Him to a created being who has a point of origin!” (Three Modern Versions, p. 56).

There are other issues related to the ESV’s general translation philosophy which Macgregor pinpoints. Despite the fact that it is championed by gender complementarians, “it appears that concession is sometimes made to the gender neutral lobby” (Macgregor, p. 54). Oddly enough, some of the old RSV’s gender specific renderings (composed before the ascendency of academic feminism) are made gender neutral in the ESV. Here are three examples from Romans (emphasis added):

Romans 2:28:

RSV: “For he is not a real Jew….”

ESV: “For no one is a Jew….”

Romans 3:4:

RSV: “…Let God be true though every man be false….”

ESV: “…Let God be true though every one were a liar….”

Romans 3:28:

RSV: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

ESV: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

Finally, despite its claim in the preface to be an “essentially literal” translation, the ESV often makes use of dynamic equivalent methods, as does the RSV. One example cited by Macgregor is the rendering of the phrase en te paliggenesia (literally “in the regeneration”) in Matthew 19:28 as “in the new world” (though a note in the ESV provides the literal rendering).

3. The ESV is based on the modern critical Greek text.

The final challenge comes in the fact that the ESV is not based on the traditional texts of Scripture that were used by the Protestant Reformers in their vernacular translations (the Masoretic text of the OT and the received text of the NT). For the NT, most significantly, the ESV is based on the modern critical Greek text as found in the UBS 4th ed. and the Nestle-Aland 27th ed.

This means that as one reads through the ESV he will find translations based on texts that diverge from the Tyndale-Geneva-King James Version tradition.


Though the primary textual issues relate to the NT, here is one example from the OT:

In Psalm 145:13 the ESV includes a bracketed half verse in the text that the footnote explains “is supplied by one Hebrew manuscript, Septuagint, Syriac (compare Dead Sea Scroll).”

The others are from the NT:

The ending of Mark’s Gospel (16:9-20) is included in double brackets after an inserted note which reads: “[SOME OF THE EARLIEST MANUSCRIPTS DO NOT INCLUDE 16:9-20].”

The pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11), likewise, appears in double brackets with a similar introductory note inserted into the body of the text.

Philip’s confession in Acts 8:37 is removed from the text proper and relegated to a footnote.

Though these departures from the traditional text ought to raise considerable alarm, the more fundamental worry is the basic fact that the ESV is based on the modern critical Greek text. This means that one day a new critical text will be produced (UBS 5th ed./Nestle-Aland 28th ed.) by the secular academy. This means that eventually there will also be, in all likelihood, a NESV (New English Standard Version) or perhaps RESV (Revised English Standard Version) placed on the market. Who knows what decisions future editors of this Bible will make? Perhaps, for example, in future editions Mark 16:9-20 will be exiled to the footnotes! Translations joined to the modern academy must, of necessity, be unstable.


Let’s leave the final word to Alan J. Macgregor:

Despite all the hype and glowing statements about the ESV, it fails to deliver on its promises. It is in reality nothing more than a very mild revision of a very liberal Bible version. While there are some pleasing improvements over the RSV, not all the changes are for the better. By using the RSV, as their reference point, the translators have started in the wrong place. The leaven of liberalism is still there. The conclusion of the matter must be that it is “weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Three Modern Versions, p. 59).


Monday, November 22, 2010

David Sandeman: "I am head-to-foot righteousness"

In yesterday's message we reflected on 2 Peter 3:13:  "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells."

What is meant here by "righteousness"?  It could refer (1) to God the Father; (2) to Christ; or (3) to the saints (those made righteous or justified by faith, Rom 5:1).  

David Sandeman (1826-1858) was a Scottish missionary to China who became sick with cholera and died at the age of 32 years.  As he lay dying, a friend asked how he was doing.  He answered, "I am head-to-foot righteousness" (as cited in Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, p. 73).     

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spurgeon on the Vagaries of Emotionalism

I’ve been reading Iain Murray’s excellent book The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening (Banner, 2005) this week.

In a chapter titled “Spurgeon and True Conversion,” Murray shares this Spurgeon anecdote on the vagaries of emotionalism:

A young preacher once remarked, “Were you not greatly struck to see so large a congregation weeping?” “Yes,” said his judicious friend, “but I was more struck with the reflection that they would probably have wept more at a play” (p. 52).

I shared this quote with a friend this week, and he told about a conversation he had with someone arguing for the priority of music over preaching in worship. His conversation partner noted in advocacy for the power of music that when he sang certain songs in worship his eyes always filled with tears. My friend replied, “Yes, but remember that unconverted men cried after 9/11 when they heard ‘Amazing Grace.’”


Friday, November 19, 2010

Spurgeon: "Condemned" or "Forgiven"?

Last Sunday (11/14) I had the privilege of preaching the classic text from 2 Peter 3:9 which describes the Lord as "not willing that any should perish" (listen to the audio here).  Here is the manuscript version of the conclusion with an anecdote taken from Spurgeon:

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon at various times in his preaching ministry asked his hearers to go home after the service and to spend a bit of time, quietly alone, honestly considering their spiritual condition in God’s sight. Then he asked them to take a slip of paper and a pencil or pen and to write one of two words. If they felt they were not believers he asked them to write the word “condemned.” And if they felt they were believers, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, he asked them to write the word “forgiven.”

Several were brought to Christ by this means.

One young man went home and wrote “condemned.” But when he looked at his own writing, the tears began to flow, his heart began to break, and, before long, he fled to Christ, threw the paper in the fire and took a new one and on it wrote “forgiven.”

In another case, a man had been in the service with his family. When they got home the man told his wife he was going to take the paper and write “condemned.” His wife pleaded with him, but he took the paper and pen and began to write the letter “c.” Just then, his daughter, a little Christian girl, caught hold of his hand and said, “No, father, you shall not write it.” Spurgeon concludes, “and by the entreaties of his wife and child, the man was brought to the Saviour, and afterwards became a member with them at the Tabernacle” (see Autobiography, Vol. 2, p. 241).

If I were to ask you today to go home and do the same, what would you write? Would you write “condemned” or would you write “forgiven”?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Vision (11/18/10): Reflections on the Bible and Personal Prayer: Part 2 of 3

Note: The following devotional article is the second in a three part series written by CRBC’s Michael Cressin.

Often the amount of time that we can devote to a prayer period determines the amount of Scripture that will be appropriate for that period. Two concepts are applicable here: macro-scriptura and micro-scriptura. Macro-scriptura denotes using a lot of scripture while micro-scriptura means using a small amount of scripture. Let's say that one has plenty of time on hand to commit to prayer. Perhaps it is the Lord's Day, and one is setting aside an hour or more for prayer. Or maybe it's a week-day evening with a free half hour or forty minutes available. These would be optimal for reading and meditating upon a longer passage of Scripture, perhaps several chapters. This would be a good time to dig into some of those lengthy Old Testament passages from the history of Israel or the prophets. Here in the macro-scriptura mode one can allow one's mind to be molded by the flow of the biblical narrative. Perhaps in the midst of our reading a few verses pop out to touch your heart. Slow down and re-read that verse that caught your attention. At the end of the entire passage come back to that verse and savor it. Allow it to sink into your soul. You might even want to write it down and refer to it later that day.

I try daily to have a period of macro-scriptural prayer. Usually the evening is best for me. I typically go consecutively through a book of the Bible. Often I will jot down “power verses” so that when I finish the course of that particular book I will have a collection of verses from that book that I can review and meditate upon. You must realize that, “the Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two edge sword” (Heb 4:12). Often with these treasured “power verses” I find that I experience the life-transforming power of the Scriptures.

The other mode of scriptural prayer is that of micro-scriptura. Here, as stated above, a smaller portion of the Bible is utilized. Perhaps one only has 10-20 minutes to commit to prayer. It is times like these that perhaps a section of one of the Gospels or New Testament epistles will seem more optimal for use in prayer. Let the Word speak to you. Let it sink into your mind and your heart. Read it over again...and again. During the course of your day bring it to mind. What prayer does the passage prompt within you? Perhaps the passage makes you aware of your own sinfulness, or more aware of God's providential care for you, or maybe it prompts you simply to praise God for who He is and what He has done. A little bit of Scripture can certainly go a long way! Concentrated prayer on a few verses can yield much fruit.

Another important consideration is the relationship between corporate worship and personal prayer time. It is a centuries-old proven fact that without commitment to a church body one will not grow in the Christian life. This is certainly true when it comes to personal prayer. On any given Lord's Day in the church assembly we are exposed to biblical readings, psalms, scripturally-based hymns, and Bible-centered preaching. All or any of these can provide texts for prayerful consideration during the week to follow. A practice that I sometimes like to incorporate into my personal prayer is to reflect upon the scriptural passage upon which the Lord's Day sermon was based. I will often do this in the first half of the following week. In the latter half of that week I will often preview the sermon text for the coming Lord's Day. I have found much can be gained from this practice, including a greater sense of commitment to the church body.

Michael Cressin

Four in ten say marriage is becoming obsolete

An AP article yesterday titled "Four in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete" reports troubling cultural trends in the US relating to marriage and family.  The article reads in part:

About 29 percent of children under 18 now live with a parent or parents who are unwed or no longer married, a fivefold increase from 1960, according to the Pew report being released Thursday. Broken down further, about 15 percent have parents who are divorced or separated and 14 percent who were never married. Within those two groups, a sizable chunk — 6 percent — have parents who are live-in couples who opted to raise kids together without getting married.

Indeed, about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete. And that sentiment follows U.S. census data released in September that showed marriages hit an all-time low of 52 percent for adults 18 and over.

This is the context in which the contemporary church must minister the Word.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sermon of the Week: Maurice Roberts on "Avoiding Current Errors in Evangelicalism"

Pastor Maurice Roberts preached this message titled, "Avoiding Current Errors in Evangelicalism" (2 Tim 4:3, 4).  In the message he addresses the following five errors:

1.  The New Perspective on Paul.
2.  The place of the Ten Commandments in the believer's life.
3.  The Federal Vision teaching.
4.  The "Open View" of God.
5.  Conditional Immortatlity.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Textual Note: 2 Peter 2:11

The issue here is the case of the noun in the phrase “before the Lord.” Should it be dative (kurio) or genitive (kuriou)?

External evidence:

The traditional reading is the dative. The reading is supported by the modern critical heavyweights, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. It is also supported by Alexandrinus, though it omits the preposition. The genitive reading, however, is supported by p72.

Internal evidence:

The modern critical text follows the genitive as “the more difficult reading” (Textual Commentary, p. 703). Metzger adds a minority report since his view apparently conflicted with the majority. He suspects that the prepositional phrase was not original but added either in the form para kurio or para kuriou. He notes that in the NT para takes the genitive 78 times, the dative 50 times, and the accusative 60 times. If the phrase is included at all, Metzger argues that it ought to follow “the great uncials” but be enclosed in square brackets.

Translation choices:

All major translations include the prepositional phrase as “before the Lord” (AV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV). The English rendering does not indicate which text is followed. Again, this is an interesting case where the “great uncials” support the antiquity of the traditional reading.


Monday, November 15, 2010

David Murray: Is "Holy Hip Hop" holy?

David Murray had an intriguing article on his blog last week titled, "Is 'Holy Hip Hop' holy?" reflecting on his meeting some New Calvinist rappers at a recent Desiring God conference.  Here is an excerpt:

But can't we redeem it for the Lord? Can't we take the beat, the clothes, the postures, the culture, and simply change the words from violent, rebellious, proud, disrespectful, vain, self-worshiping, woman-hating, rape-glorifying, crude, perverse, and sex-obsessed to Christ-like and cross-centered preaching and/or worshipping? (It's difficult to know if "Holy Hip Hop" is preaching or praise. I'm assuming that as most - even its supporters - find it almost impossible to join in with it and "sing" along with it, it is more a form of preaching than praise).

The Church is always at risk of slipping slowly and imperceptibly away from the "foolishness of preaching" to the seemingly reasonable and persuasive "wisdom of this world." In ancient culture, worldly wisdom said to Gospel preachers, "Use philosophy!" or "Use miracles!" but Paul stuck by the seemingly foolish method of a single, unaccompanied human voice authoritatively declaring the Truth. He did not use the common Greek Socratic method or the accepted Jewish Rabbinic model. He used God's method and model of preaching - culturally unacceptable then as now.

Through the years, the Church has been continually tempted to use various cultural fads and trends to reach the lost - Christian punk rock, Christian glam rock, Christian death metal - usually with little lasting fruit. The temptations take different forms in different cultures, but God has designed and designated preaching to be the universal means of gathering in His elect, no matter what culture or age we live in.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

R. Scott Clark: "Was Paul Mean?"

R. Scott Clark posted an insightful article yesterday titled "Was Paul Mean?" reflecting on Paul's blunt words to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.  Concering Paul's rhetoric, Clark offers this observation:

It is also interesting to observe Paul’s rhetoric here. He speaks bluntly, forcefully, and even dogmatically. He doesn’t qualify his statement. There’s no equivocation. He doesn’t seem terribly concerned with how the Thessalonian Christians will hear his words. There’s a certain sharpness and directness to his words that is, in our most sensitive culture, well, not very nice. Consider what he’s saying to Christians: “If you won’t be productive, then starve.” Hyperbolic? Perhaps but he said it. He’s an Apostle. 2 Thessalonians is God’s holy Word. Evidently he meant it and it’s hard to see how rhetoric of this sort squares with the reigning evangelical ethos of “niceness.”

He closes by asking what our hyper-sensitive culture would make of the apostle:

How would these words go over today in the average evangelical or Reformed congregation? Would the one who spoke them find himself in trouble? One wonders. When we read (or hear) Paul’s words our first reaction might be to think, “My, that’s harsh.”  If we do think so perhaps we need to re-calibrate our meters.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Spurgeon on the Difficulties and Duties of a Pastor's Wife

Spurgeon thus described “the difficulties and privileges of a pastor’s wife”:

I would not marry a minister, because the position of minister’s wife is a very difficult one for anyone to fill. Churches do not give a married minister two salaries, one for the husband and the other for the wife; but, in many cases, they look for the services of the wife, whether they pay for them or not. The Pastor’s wife is expected to know everything about the church, and in another sense she is to know nothing of it; and she is equally blamed by some people whether she knows everything or nothing. Her duties consist in being always at home to attend to her husband and her family, and being always out, visiting other people, and doing all sorts of things for the whole church! Well, of course, that is impossible; she cannot be at everybody’s beck and call, and she cannot expect to please everybody. Her husband cannot do that, and I think he is very foolish if he tries to do it; and I am certain that, as the husband cannot please everybody, neither can the wife. There will be sure to be somebody or other who will be displeased, especially if that somebody had herself half hoped to be the minister’s wife! Difficulties arise continually in the best-regulated churches; and the position of the minister’s wife is always a very trying one. Still, I think, that if I was a Christian young woman, I would marry a Christian minister if I could, because there is an opportunity of doing so much good in helping him in his service for Christ. It is a great assistance to the cause of God to keep the minister himself in good order for his work. It is his wife’s duty to see that he is not uncomfortable at home; for, if everything there is happy, and free from care, he can give all his thoughts to his preparation for the pulpit; and the godly woman, who thus helps her husband to preach better, is herself a preacher though she never speaks in public, and she becomes to the highest degree useful to that portion of the Church of Christ which is committed to her husband’s charge.

From C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography: Volume 2: The Full Harvest (Banner ed. 1973): p. 443.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Vision (11/11/10): Reflections on the Bible and Personal Prayer: Part 1 of 3

Note: The following devotional article was written by Michael Cressin. Mike discovered CRBC after hearing our snow cancellation notice on local radio. He joined with our church plant in the early days and is now a founding member of our church body. Mike serves as our greeter coordinator and schedules our Lord’s Day Scripture readings.

Prayer is an essential dimension of a Christian's existence. Prayer is the constant, ongoing sense of God's presence and power in a believer's life. It is the arena where the Spirit of God meets with the human spirit. Prayer brings necessary growth. It enhances a Christian's sense of God's presence and providence within his life. Just as the fish of the sea must live in an aqueous medium and breathe oxygen through their gills, so the Christian must live in a Godly atmosphere and breathe His Holy Spirit in order to survive and thrive in the faith.

A personal prayer life is certainly not an easy thing to cultivate. The fast pace of our contemporary society and what appears to be an ever-increasing hostility of our world towards the gospel makes it often seem like an uphill battle. Nevertheless, it is simply an absolute necessity for a Christian to have a personal prayer life. As with any living growth process, food is needed. God gives us the ultimate manna from heaven in and through His Word in the Holy Scriptures. By cultivating a familiarity with the Bible and all that is contains we are fed the essential food for our growth in grace. But how does this relate to our personal prayer life? And what exactly is the relationship between prayer and reading the Bible?

First of all, we must realize that prayer is much more than merely piling up petitions. It is not a laundry list of wants and needs. Yes, intercessory and petitionary prayer is one aspect of Christian prayer, but it is far from the total picture. Praise, thanksgiving, repentance, meditation and simply listening or waiting upon the Lord are all essential elements of prayer. If we are merely reading some Scripture and then spouting off a list of petitions to God we are missing out on the real power of prayer. The Word of God has been given to the Christian Church as “a light to our path” (Psalm 119: 105). Jesus said, “ If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8: 31-32).

What does Jesus mean by abiding in His word? This is exactly what personal prayer should be. It is time set aside to abide in God's Word, to really absorb the truth contained within the scriptures, and to experience the transforming grace of God.

The first hurdle that one must get over is simply the setting aside of time to pray. I have known many Christians who have the tendency to put prayer time on the back-burner. “Oh, I'll get to it, if I can find the time!” If this is our attitude, chances are we won't find the time. In our contemporary world our lives are indeed busy. In order to find time to pray, however, the Christian simply must take the time. He must set time aside specifically marked out as prayer time. Here I would like to suggest that the reader commit himself to not just one but two daily times for prayer. I strive to have an AM time and a PM time. The morning time tends to be a short span, while the evening time can usually be longer. By setting aside these two time periods, two daily focal points, one's day becomes framed around two periods of concentrated quality time with God. Often these two times can be inter-related. All or some of the same passages from the Bible can be utilized within each. For example, in the AM period I might read and consider John 8:1-12, the passage dealing with the woman caught in adultery. Using the same passage in the evening may very well yield some deeper understanding of the text. This PM time could also be used to look up related Scripture passages, particularly if one is employing a Bible with cross references or footnotes. Further time might be spent in reflecting on how this passage has relevance in my own life. I might ask the Holy Spirit to help me have a more Christ-like reaction to people trapped in serious sin. Or I might simply repent of my own sins and ask God for help in avoiding them in the future.

Taking time to pray with the Word of God means that we must slow down. Quality prayer time is never hurried. In prayer we cannot read the Bible the same way we read a newspaper or a novel. Yes, it does contain good news for us, and yes, it is filled with intriguing stories, but reading Scripture just to get through it will be less than productive. Asking the Spirit to help us concentrate can help focus our minds and rid them of distractions. Slowing down and persevering is essential.

Michael Cressin

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Reformed Baptist Trumpet (November 2010): "Neo-Evangelical Calvinist or Reformed?"

The November 2010 issue of The Reformed Baptist Trumpet, the e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia, was sent out today.  Thanks again to Judi LaGrange of CRBC for her work in putting it together.  The issue includes an article by David P. Murray titled Christ in Creation from the 2010 Keach Conference and a book review of James M. Renihan's Edification and Beauty:  The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705 (Paternoster, 2008).  You can read the entire issue on googledocs here.  Below is the editoral:

Neo-Evangelical Calvinist or Reformed?

Our generation has witnessed a revival of interest in the doctrines of grace or five-point Calvinism. Journalist Colin Hansen has tagged these new Calvinists as “young, restless, and reformed.” The movement has been spurred by the writing and preaching of men like R. C. Sproul, John Piper and Wayne Grudem. It has been celebrated and promoted in conference movements like “Together for the Gospel” and “The Gospel Coalition.”

There now appears, however, to be a divide forming in the ranks. On one side are the neo-evangelical Calvinists who are passionate about Calvinistic soteriology. On the other side, are those who say that merely embracing the five points of Calvinism does not go far enough. The latter contend that reformed theological principles must be applied to all other aspects of doctrine and practice, most significantly to the doctrine of worship.

I have attempted to trace below a few of the dividing lines on various issues between those who are seeking to be more self-consciously “Reformed” and those whom I am calling “Neo-evangelical Calvinists.” I do this with caution, realizing that some Presbyterians (like R. Scott Clark) would argue that Baptists cannot properly be identified as “Reformed” given that they depart from the magisterial reformers on the issue of baptism. For a counterpoint to Clark, see James Renihan’s book Edification and Beauty on early Particular Baptist ecclesiology (reviewed in the November 2010 issue of The Reformed Baptist Trumpet) in which he convincingly argues for the Reformed roots of these early Baptists who “believed that they had taken the principles of the reformation to their logical conclusion,” and thus “they were self-consciously more reformed than the paedobaptist reformed churches” (p. 17)!

Dividing Lines between Reformed and Neo-evangelical Calvinism


Reformed: Prefer the detailed, robust, and historical confessions of faith and catechisms that come from the classical Reformation era (e.g., Canons of Dort, Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Westminster Confession of Faith, and Second London Baptist Confession of Faith).

Neo-evangelical: Argue that classic confessions of faith need fresh interpretations for the contemporary context or less strict subscription for evangelistic purposes. Often prefer confessions of faith that allow broader interpretation (e.g., among Baptists preference for the New Hampshire Confession over the Second London Baptist Confession).

Lord’s Day

Reformed: Hold to the abiding validity of the fourth commandment as part of God’s moral law, though recognizing that the day of rest is Sunday, the day of Christ’s resurrection, under the new covenant. Describe Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath.”

Neo-evangelical: Reject concern over the Lord’s Day as legalistic. See the fourth commandment as completely nullified, perhaps due to the influence of dispensationalism. Compare comments by John MacArthur in his Study Bible notes on Exodus 20:8: “Significantly, the command for the Sabbath is not repeated in the NT, whereas the other 9 are. In fact, it is nullified (cf. Col 2:16, 17). Belonging especially to Israel under the Mosaic economy, the Sabbath could not apply to the believer in the church age, for he is living in a new economy” (p. 125). Southern Baptist theologian Thomas Schreiner has likewise recently concluded, “Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath” (in his forthcoming book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law).


Reformed: Hold firmly to the Regulative Principle of worship. The only proper elements in worship are those commanded by God in Scripture. See the worship service as a set and designated time on the Lord’s Day. Strive for reverence and simplicity. Likely to have minimal instrumental accompaniment or, increasingly, none at all. Likely to include the singing of canonical psalms. Those who speak publicly in worship services are ministers and elders.

Neo-evangelical: Hold to the Normative Principle of worship. Worship elements not expressly forbidden by Scripture are allowed. See worship as inclusive of all aspects of life and not just designated worship services on the Lord’s Day. Likely to make use of contemporary and “third wave” hymns and songs in worship and may have a choir or even a “praise band.” May allow persons other than elders, including women, to speak and lead in public worship.

Miraculous Gifts

Reformed: Hold to a cessationist view. Though God may perform miracles as he pleases, miraculous gifts and extraordinary signs ceased at the end of the apostolic era. The emphasis now is on the sufficiency of Scripture and the ordinary means of grace.

Neo-evangelical: Hold to non-cessionist view. Some, like Sovereign Grace churches, openly affirm and promote such practices. Others hold to an “open but cautious” view.

Purpose of the Church

Reformed: See the purpose of the church primarily as worship. Focus on the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The church’s call is clearly to preach the gospel and administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper till Christ returns.

Neo-evangelical: See the purpose of the church as evangelism and missions. Seek to study the culture and present the gospel in terms and through media that are intelligible to this age. Seek to be “incarnational” and “missional” in ministering to this culture. The church’s ministry includes concern for the environment, the arts, social justice, and mercy ministry to the poor and disenfranchised.


Reformed: Uphold the view of the ministry as a distinct office in the church and practice distinct ordination to gospel ministry. Though some have adopted the “parity” of elders view, most hold that the office of Ruling Elder is distinct from that of the Minister.

Neo-evangelical: Downplay the distinct role of the ministry and the practice of ordination to gospel ministry. Uphold egalitarian “parity” view of elders, though they may still provide for the role of a “Senior Pastor.”


Reformed: Uphold the doctrines of the infallibility and the divine preservation of Scripture as outlined in Reformed confessions (Westminster, Second London Baptist). More likely to make use of the traditional text of Scripture (Masoretic text of the OT; received text of the NT) and translations that are based on this text (e.g., Geneva Bible, KJV, NKJV, and NASB).

Neo-evangelical: Uphold doctrine of inerrancy of Scripture, including the inerrancy of the “original autographs,” as outlined in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Prefer modern critical Biblical texts (for the New Testament, the UBS/Nestle-Aland 27th ed.) and translations that are based on this text (NIV and, predominantly, the ESV).

One question that arises in making these distinctions is what the future will hold for neo-evangelical ministers, churches, and para-church ministries that have embraced Calvinistic soteriology without further Reformed commitments. Will they still be Calvinistic in soteriology in the next generation and beyond? Does a strong stand on the sovereignty of God in salvation alone ensure doctrinal fidelity? More foundationally, what do the Scriptures teach on all these subjects (Sabbath, worship, charismatic gifts, etc.)?


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Spurgeon on the Five Points

We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard these points as being barbed shafts which we are to thrust between the ribs of our fellow Christians. We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross; or, rather, five bright emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified. Against all comers, especially against all lovers of Arminianism, we defend and maintain pure gospel truth. At the same time, I can make this public declaration, that I am no Antinomian. I belong not to the sect of those who are afraid to invite the sinner to Christ. I warn him, I invite him, I exhort him. Hence, then, I have contumely on either hand. Inconsistency is charged against me by some people, as if anything that God commanded could be inconsistent; I will glory in such inconsistency even to the end. I bind myself precisely to no form of doctrine. I love those five points as being the angles of the gospel, but then I love the centre between the angles better still.

From C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography: Volume 2: The Full Harvest (Banner ed. 1973): p. 12.


Textual Notes: 2 Peter 2:6

Two issues:

a. Is the word katastrophe authentic?

External evidence:

Inclusion is supported by Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and the Majority of manuscripts. This is the traditional reading.

Nevertheless, the word is omitted in p72 and Vaticanus. The modern critical text places the word in brackets and the UBS gives it a “D” reading.

Internal evidence:

Metzger notes that the “shorter reading might well have arisen by transcriptional oversight” since the word that follows (katekrinen) also begins with the prefix kata- (Textual Commentary, p. 702).

Translation choices:

Translations based on the traditional text, of course, include the word (KJV: “overthrow”; NKJV “destruction”). Given that the modern critical text supports the traditional reading by including katastrophe (though in brackets), most modern translations also include it (NASB “destruction”; ESV “extinction”), but the NIV proves the maverick again and omits it.

b. Should it be asebesin (noun “ungodly”) or asebein (verb “to act in an ungodly way”)?

External evidence:

The traditional text reads asebein (“to act in an ungodly way”). It is supported by Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and the Majority. The minority reads asebesin (“ungodly”) and is supported by p72 and Vaticanus. This is yet another example of a situation where the so-called “oldest manuscripts” do not agree with one another.

Internal evidence:

Metzger speculates that from the point of view of “transcriptional probability” the copyist “would be more likely to change the noun to the infinitive than the reverse.” He adds that from the point of view of “intrinsic probability” the noun “gives the better sense” than the verb, but he offers no rationale for this assertion (Textual Commentary, p. 702). The modern critical text splits the difference between the two readings by placing the sigma in brackets: asebe[s]in.

Translation choices:

Translations based on traditional texts or following the traditional reading:

“making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;” (AV);

making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;” (NKJV);

“having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter;” (NASB).

Translations based on the modern critical text and following the alternative reading:

“and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;” (NIV);

“making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (ESV).


Monday, November 08, 2010

Percentage of Births to Unwed Mothers in US Rising

In yesterday afternoon's sermon on "We Affirm Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" I noted a recent AP article that reported 72% of African American children are born to unwed mothers.  The report adds:

"The black community's 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent."

We have many who are upset about our nation's current dismal economic indicators but what about these even more alarming moral indicators?  If our church's children and grandchildren continue to abide by Biblical standards for marriage and family they will increasingly become the minority.  It will soon be considered counter-cultural to live by basic Biblical standards for marriage and family (i.e., marriage before sexual relations and having children), unless the Lord graciously intervenes to reverse this slide.


Textual Issues: 2 Peter 2:4

The major issue in this verse is over whether the text should read “chains (seirais) of darkness” or “dungeons (sirois) of darkness.”

External evidence:

“Chains” is supported by p72, P, Psi, and the Majority of manuscripts. This is the reading that appears in the traditional text, and it is also the reading adopted by the modern critical Greek text.

“dungeons” is supported by Sinaiticus. Codices Alexandrinus and Vaticanus also offer support but apparently alter the spelling from sirois to seirois.

Internal Evidence:

Metzger defends the original reading as seirais. He speculates that 2 Peter is literarily dependent on Jude and that the author of 2 Peter “substituted the more elegant word serais for the commonplace desmois of Jude 6.” It is “both the oldest (it is read by p72) and the most widespread” (Textual Commentary, p. 702).

Translation choices:

Translations based on the traditional text read “chains” (see KJV, NKJV). Given the support of the traditional reading in the modern critical text, various modern translation also follow suit (cf. NRSV, HCSB, ESV). Some modern translations, however, offer a rare departure from the modern critical text and follow the alternative reading (cf. NIV: “gloomy dungeons”; NASB: “pits of darkness”).


Friday, November 05, 2010

How to plant a church

Not exactly the plan we are following at CRBC but pretty funny.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Vision (11/4/10): The Compassion of Christ

Note: In the month of November we are giving emphasis to Public Witness and Outreach at CRBC. The notes below are taken from a sermon preached at one of our first gatherings as a church plant on January 10, 2010.

Matthew 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

One of the great things that we learn here is that the general disposition of Jesus toward sinners is one of compassion. There is a place for the wrath of God, for the justice of God. But here we see the compassion of God as expressed through Christ. When we see people who follow false religions or those who fall into the new atheism, we might have a tendency to be angry or frustrated with them. But notice the kind disposition of Jesus. He aches for those who are scattered on the mountains of unbelief. He hurts for those who lack the True Shepherd. He longs to feed them, to nurture them, to bind their wounds, to guide them, to protect them from wolves. We Calvinists with a high doctrine of God are quick to speak of the justice and wrath of God—and rightly so—but let us not forget the love of God and the compassion of God!

Indeed, what we are seeing here is not merely human compassion in Jesus but divine compassion as well. In Deuteronomy 30:3 Moses had prophesied to Israel of the day when the Lord would bring them back from captivity and “have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you.” This is now being fulfilled in Christ. God Himself is having compassion on a people.

In v. 37 the metaphor shifts from a pastoral or shepherding image to that of a farming or agricultural image. Jesus also turns his attention from the vast crowd to his disciples, to his followers. And he says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (v. 37). Notice that now in Christ’s eyes the scattered, battered, and forlorn sheep are seen as a vast and abundant harvest. Think for a moment of the more than 200,000 people who live in the area around where we are right now. Think of how many of those do not know their left hand from their right, spiritually speaking. Go some day to Rt. 29 or Wal-Mart or the Downtown Mall and just watch as people pass by and consider how Christ looks upon them not with scorn but with compassion. Then lift your gaze beyond our little area to this larger nation and then to this world. Consider how the Lord looks upon those who follow Islam. Think that he is moved by their plight and sees them as a vast harvest that is ready to be gathered into his barns.

No believer can look around at the world and say, “Well, there’s really nothing left for me to do. The Bible has already been translated. There are plenty of churches out there dotting the landscape. There really isn’t anything left for me to do.” No. There is a vast harvest out there, just waiting to be gathered for the Master’s good keeping. And, what is more, if it is not taken in while it is ready it will all go to ruin. It will rot and be good for nothing but the fire. The harvest is plentiful.

Yet here is the contrast. The laborers are few. The size of the task is always out of all proportion to those who are willing to wade into the fields and gather the harvest for the Master. Where is our passion for the harvest when we know the great compassion of Christ? The famed missionary Hudson Taylor was given a burden for the land of China while he was still a teen. He wrote once to his mother contemplating the fact that each year 12 million would die in China with no knowledge of Christ:

Think, Mother, of twelve millions—a number so great that it is impossible to realize it—yes, twelve million souls in China, every year passing without God and hope into eternity…. Oh, let us look with compassion on this multitude! God has been merciful to us; let us be like Him….

Maybe God would give you a heart of compassion and action for a people group like that which Taylor had for those in China. Maybe he will grant you such compassion even for those who surround us here in this community.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

CRBC November 2010 Sermons

Image:  Martyn Lloyd-Jones preaching.  Lloyd-Jones (1891-1981) was instrumental in the revival of expositional (verse by verse) preaching to which CRBC is committed. 

November 7

AM Pride of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:18-22)

PM We affirm Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

November 14

AM Unwilling that any should perish (2 Peter 3:1-9)

PM We Affirm Separation and Mission
November 21

AM The day of the Lord: A spur to holiness (2 Peter 3:10-13)

PM Thanksgiving (Psalm 95): Teacher: Jeff Wagner

November 28

AM Be diligent to be found by him (2 Peter 3:14-18)

PM We Affirm the Doctrine of Last Things

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Field Trip to Tinkling Spring

Image: Front entrance to sanctuary designed by R. L. Dabney at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church

We had a great field trip last Friday to Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville.  About 20 CRBC folk made the trip on a crisply cool morning.  Though the current church is affliliated with the mainline PC-USA it has a wonderful museum which outlines the Scottish Reformation, the immigration of the Scotch-Irish Protestants to this area of Virginia, the role of this congregation in the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, and Reformed worship (Lord's Day observance and psalm singing).  After the museum we went into the sanctuary and I did a biographical talk on R. L. Dabney, former pastor of the church and designer of its sanctuary.  We then explored the cemetery.  We had planned to picnic outside but given the cold weather we accepted an invitation from the McGonigals to have lunch at their home after the visit.  Here are a few photos. 

Monday, November 01, 2010

Challenging Questions for Military Chaplains

What will the impending repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the US military mean for evangelical chaplains serving in the military?  The Associated Press ran an article a few days ago titled, Retired Chaplains warn against 'don't ask' repeal.  SBC pundit Al Mohler also wrote a compelling article last June laying out what this change means.

This raises the general issue as to whether or not there should be state sponsored chaplains serving in the military at all.  What Biblical precedent do we have for men who serve in ad hoc ministry apart from local church oversight?  How can a man serve as a gospel minister under Caesar's pay and oversight?  Will this not inevitably lead to compromise?  Will they not be like Naaman who had to beg Elisha's leave  for bowing down in the temple of Rimmon at the elbow of the king (2 Kings 5:18)?