Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Vision (12/30/10): Not Saved!

Note: Who believes that this is the 52nd issue of the first volume of The Vision? How quickly has the year passed! A friend (Brian Overstreet) suggested that the evening devotion for December 31 from Charles Spurgeon’s classic “Morning and Evening” devotional (accessible online at would be a fitting gospel challenge to end the year.

"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20)

Not saved! Dear reader, is this your mournful plight? Warned of the judgment to come, bidden to escape for your life, and yet at this moment not saved! You know the way of salvation, you read it in the Bible, you hear it from the pulpit, it is explained to you by friends, and yet you neglect it, and therefore you are not saved. You will be without excuse when the Lord shall judge the quick and dead. The Holy Spirit has given more or less of blessing upon the word which has been preached in your hearing, and times of refreshing have come from the divine presence, and yet you are without Christ. All these hopeful seasons have come and gone--your summer and your harvest have past--and yet you are not saved. Years have followed one another into eternity, and your last year will soon be here: youth has gone, manhood is going, and yet you are not saved. Let me ask you--will you ever be saved? Is there any likelihood of it? Already the most propitious seasons have left you unsaved; will other occasions alter your condition? Means have failed with you--the best of means, used perseveringly and with the utmost affection--what more can be done for you? Affliction and prosperity have alike failed to impress you; tears and prayers and sermons have been wasted on your barren heart. Are not the probabilities dead against your ever being saved? Is it not more than likely that you will abide as you are till death for ever bars the door of hope? Do you recoil from the supposition? Yet it is a most reasonable one: he who is not washed in so many waters will in all probability go filthy to his end. The convenient time never has come, why should it ever come? It is logical to fear that it never will arrive, and that Felix like, you will find no convenient season till you are in hell. O bethink you of what that hell is,and of the dread probability that you will soon be cast into it!

Reader, suppose you should die unsaved, your doom no words can picture. Write out your dread estate in tears and blood, talk of it with groans and gnashing of teeth: you will be punished with everlasting destruction from the glory of the Lord, and from the glory of His power. A brother's voice would fain startle you into earnestness. O be wise, be wise in time, and ere another year begins, believe in Jesus, who is able to save to the uttermost. Consecrate these last hours to lonely thought, and if deep repentance be bred in you, it will be well; and if it lead to a humble faith in Jesus, it will be best of all. O see to it that this year pass not away, and you an unforgiven spirit. Let not the new year's midnight peals sound upon a joyless spirit! Now, NOW, NOW believe, and live.







Blessings in the New Year, Pastor Jeff

CRBC Preaching Schedule for January 2011 (Lord willing)

Image:  British Pastor John Marshall preaches in Trafalgar Square, London

January 2

10:30 AM The glory has departed (1 Samuel 4)

1:00 PM Blessed are the meek (Matthew 5:1-12)

January 9

10:30 AM The heavy hand of God (1 Samuel 5)

1:00 PM Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:1-12)

January 16

10:30 AM Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? (1 Samuel 6)

1:00 PM Blessed are the merciful (Matthew 5:1-12)

January 23

10:30 AM Thus far has the LORD helped us (1 Samuel 7)

1:00 PM Blessed are the pure in heart (Matthew 5:1-12)

January 30

10:30 AM Dead to the Law (Romans 7:1-6)

1:00 PM Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:1-12)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gary Crampton's "From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism"

I got several books as Christmas (or Ranzaa) gifts that I am working through including Bunyan's The Life and Death of Mr. Badman and Eric Metaxas' biography Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Another is Gary Crampton's From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism:  A Critique of the Westminter Standards on the Subject of Baptism (RBAP, 2010).  Dr. Crampton is an elder now at the Reformed Baptist Church of Richmond.  I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with him a couple of times over the past year.  He had a long career as a Presbyterian pastor and theologian but eventually came to Baptistic convictions.  

In the opening chapter of his book, Crampton cites a three-fold problem with infant baptism:  (1) there are no examples of infant baptism in the NT; (2) baptism and the Lord's Supper go together (therefore, it does not makes sense to offer one--baptism to infants--while witholding the other--the table); and (3) there are multiple differences among paedobaptists as to why infants should be baptized (see pp. 4-10).

You can also read a multi-part interview with Dr. Crampton conducted by Richard Barcellos on the Illumination blog:  part one, part two, part three, and part four.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language"

Another story of interest as we approach the 400th anniversary of the AV:  The NPR program "Talk of the Nation" had as its subject last Wednesday (December 22) discussion of David Crystal's book Begat:  The King James Bible & the English Language (Oxford University Press). In this book, the author "sets out to prove that the King James Bible has contributed more to the English language than any other literary source."  You can read a brief overview or listen to the entire c. 30 minute program here.  You can also read an excerpt from the book here.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Season's Greetings from the Riddles!

Image:  The Riddle children at a tree farm off the Skyline Drive.

Image:  Jeff and Lydia dragging our find.

Image:  Isaiah joins in the trimming.

Image:  About 30 CRBC folk visited Our Lady of Peace retirement center on December 22nd to sing songs and read aloud Scripture with the residents.  Brian Overstreet gave his testimony, and several of the children and youth also recited Bible memory verses. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Vision (12/23/10): Glory to God in the highest!

Below is an excerpt from a sermon preached by John Calvin in 1562 in which he meditates on the song of the heavenly host to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14):

There are two things to be grasped here. The first is that we must attribute our salvation to God’s sheer goodness. If there was something we could contribute, or if mortal men could help, part of the glory would be ours or theirs. But since the angels say, ‘Glory to God in the highest’, all else must be laid low, and God acknowledged as the sole author of every blessing. God’s glory puts the haughtiness of all men to flight: there is nothing of our own we can add. Jesus Christ has been given to us for one reason only, namely that God so loved the world that he did not spare his only Son, but delivered him up to death for us. Why tie ourselves in knots trying to understand why Christ was given? It was all because of God’s love, all because of his free grace. The glory, then, is his. We must not try to steal it from him and give a bit of the spoils to one and a bit to another, an abomination practiced by the papists both now and in the past.

The second thing to understand is the need for thankfulness. When God makes us glad and shows us his favor, we cannot remain passive. Joy should move and provoke us to give him glory, for he has drawn us out of the pit of death and has brought us to the kingdom of life, in order that, as Peter says, we should praise him forever. The prophet Isaiah, in his preaching, declares that God has taken to himself a people who will glorify him. We, then, are like plants and fruits of the heritage which he has the right to demand, as when someone plants vines or ploughs fields and receives the harvest. Now we know that, strictly speaking, God can receive nothing from us; nevertheless he wants us to glorify him, unable though we are to bring him any gift. The gospel bears fruit every time we are moved by zeal to offer God the sacrifice of praise. He deserves no less, since in his infinite mercy he has rescued us from the darkness of death.

From John Calvin, Songs of the Nativity: Selected Sermons on Luke 1 & 2 (Banner of Truth, 2008): pp. 149-150.

May the Lord bless you and your family during this festive season!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Watson: "After your funeral begins your festival. Long for suppertime."

I am continuing my afternoon sermon series through the beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 and reading Thomas Watson's exposition as I go.  I closed last Sunday's reflection on "Blessed are they that mourn:  for they shall be comforted" with Watson's reflections on the eternal comfort awaiting those who mourn for their sins:

Who would not mourn for sin that are sure to meet with such rewards! 'They shall be comforted’. The marriage-supper will make amends for 'the valley of tears’. O saint of God, you who are now watering your plants and weeping bitterly for sin, at this last and great feast your 'water shall be turned into wine’. You who now mortify your corruptions, and 'beat down your body’ by prayer and fasting, shall shortly sup with Christ and angels. You who refused to touch the forbidden tree shall feed upon 'the tree of life in the paradise of God’. You impoverished saint, who have scarce a bit of bread to eat, remember for your comfort, 'in thy father's house there is bread enough’, and he is making ready a feast for you, where all the dainties of heaven are served in. O feed with delight upon the thoughts of this marriage-supper! After your funeral begins your festival. Long for suppertime. 'The delay is long which separates us from our honey-sweet joys’. Christ has paid for this supper upon the cross, and there is no fear of a 'reckoning’ to be brought in. 'Wherefore comfort one another with these words’.


Monday, December 20, 2010

An Example of How Dispensationalism Skews Old Testament Interpretation: MacArthur's Notes on 1 Samuel 2:35

On Sunday I preached a message on The Faithful Priest (1 Samuel 2:12-36). The climax of the passage is the prophetic prediction by the “man of God” that the Lord would raise up to himself “a faithful priest.” I noted in my message that this prediction had a preliminary temporal fulfillment in the rise of Samuel (and perhaps the later Zadokite priesthood) but only met its ultimate fulfillment in the coming of Christ, who is the faithful Priest (cf. Hebrews 10:11-13).

After the service a CRBC member who was using the MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV) pointed out MacArthur’s notes on 1 Samuel 2:35 (p. 381). MacArthur comments, “I will build him a sure house. The sons of Zadok will also serve in the millennial temple (see Ezek. 44:15; 48:11). My anointed. This refers to the messiah who will defeat God’s enemies and establish His rule in the Millennium (see v. 10).” MacArthur has to bend his interpretation of the text to fit it into his millennial eschatological scheme despite the fact that there is no explicit reference here to “the millennium.” In particular, he makes the reference to a “sure house” to be a reference to the “millennial temple,” a point that is far from apparent on the level of plain sense interpretation. From a messianic perspective “the sure house” is more likely a reference to the New Covenant church (see 1 Peter 2:5: “you also, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house”) or to the body of Christ itself (see John 2:22: “But he was speaking of the temple of his body”). Again, fitting this text into the dispensational scheme requires tortured exegesis.

This verse raises another interesting question about translation. The NKJV capitalizes the first letter in references to the Deity, including pronouns (e.g., He, Him, etc.). The rendering of the NKJV of 1 Samuel 2:35b is, “I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.” If this is a messianic prediction, however, that finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ, as I have argued, one might contend that the pronouns “him” and “he” here should be capitalized. This raises the general problem with piety driven attempts to capitalize references to the Deity. It frequently involves interpretation rather than translation. The original language texts (in both Hebrew and Greek) did not attempt to make use of such capitalization, and translations do best to follow their lead and leave interpretation to the reader.


"Middle America" backing away from marriage

Image:  UVA sociologist and marriage researcher Bradford Wilcox

The Daily Progress has an interesting article this morning about research from UVA sociologist Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project.  His findings are that marriage is declining most precipitously as an institution among blue collar Americans without college educations:

While college-educated people are tending to choose to get and to stay married, more high-school educated people are choosing to live together or raise children without two parents in the household, he said.

The article adds:

Wilcox blames these shifts on male blue-collar wages, less church or civic organization attendance and a shift in belief in the importance of marriage.

“Fewer kids today are living with their Mom and Dad,” Wilcox said. “If we think about a good job and a good marriage as key ingredients to the American Dream, this marriage gap in Middle America and Poor America makes [this goal] harder for these kids to achieve.”

Wilcox said it’s important for educated people to champion marriage and for civic organizations to reach out to people to teach the importance of marriage for both adults and children.

He said Middle Americans are more likely to shape their beliefs on marriage and relationships from Hollywood than are the higher educated.

“One of the most striking findings in this report is that the cultural and economic foundations of marriage appear to be growing stronger among the educated and the affluent, even as they deteriorate among Middle Americans,” Wilcox said. “Almost all Americans want to be happily married, but the decline of the institutional model of marriage and the rise of the soul-mate model of marriage makes marriage less accessible to Middle Americans.”

This article challenges the church to be faithful in preaching and teaching Biblical standards for marriage and family.  It helps us understand better the cultural circumstances we are facing.  It also challenges us to be sensitive to preaching the gospel and ministering to all strata of society.  In reformed churches, in particular, I think we have a tendency to aim our preaching and ministry toward the college educated.  This reminds us that we need to exercise what the Puritans called "plain preaching" which is as understandable as possible to all men as possible.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Vision (12/16/10): Live as Kings!

Note: We are continuing our sermon series in Lord’s Day afternoon worship through the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). I have been helped by reading through Thomas Watson’s book The Beatitudes (1660; Banner ed. 1971). Below are some notes from the conclusion of last Sunday’s message on “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In his reflections on the promise “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Watson offers exhortations both to the wicked and to Christians.

First, he urges the wicked to take this promise as a warning. At the last day, the devil will reproach and laugh at those men who traded the pleasure of this life for the crown of the kingdom. The wicked will be like the Indians who traded gold and land to the first European settlers for pictures and glass beads! The valuable will have been forfeited for the worthless!

Second, Watson urges Christians to see the coming kingdom as a motivation to duty. He says, “Methinks we should sometimes go aside into our closets and weep to consider how little work we have done for God. What a vast disproportion is there between our service and our reward! What is all our weeping and fasting compared to a kingdom! Oh improve all your interest for God. Make seasons of grace opportunities for service.”

He then urges believers to walk worthy of this kingdom: “Live as kings. Let the majesty of holiness appear in your faces.”

He concludes:

A child of God is often so low in the world that he has not a foot of land to inherit. He is poor in purse as well as in spirit. But here is a fountain of consolation opened. The poorest saint who has lost all his golden fleece is heir to a kingdom, a kingdom which excels all the kingdoms and principalities of the world, more than pearl or diamond excels brass. It is peerless and endless. The hope of a kingdom, says Basil, should carry a Christian with courage and cheerfulness through all his afflictions. And it is a saying of Luther, 'The sea of God's mercy, overflowing in spiritual blessings, should drown all the sufferings of this life.’ What though you go now in rags? You shall have your white robes. What though you are fed as Daniel with pulse and have coarser fare? You shall feast when you come into the kingdom. Here you drink the water of tears, but shortly you shall drink the wine of paradise. Be comforted with the thoughts of a kingdom.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Petrine Commentaries

I finished a series of sermons through 1-2 Peter at CRBC a few weeks ago. The series started back on March 3, 2010 and ended on November 28, 2010. I preached 35 messages in the series (23 from 1 Peter and 12 from 2 Peter). When I do a sermon series through a book, I usually try to read simultaneously through several commentaries (at least one from a classic author and one from a contemporary author). The commentaries I used in this series:

Contemporary works:

D. Edmund Hiebert, 1 Peter (BMH Books, 1984, 1992).

Hiebert taught at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California. I had profited from reading his excellent Mark commentary a few years ago. Hiebert is up with contemporary scholarship but writes with warm, devotional piety. Though he writes with a high view of Scripture, Hiebert does not embrace a distinct confessional (Calvinistic or Reformed) perspective. Overflowing with homiletical insights. Highly recommended.

Michael Bentley, Living for Christ in a Pagan World: 1 & 2 Peter Simply Explained (Evangelical Press, 1990).

This useful book, written on a popular level, is from the excellent Welwyn Commentary Series.

Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Broadman & Holman, 2003).

This volume is from the New American Commentary Series. Schreiner is among the foremost neo-evangelical New Testament scholars, teaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a more academic work. Schreiner spends a significant amount of time conversing with the academy (generally ably defending traditional views). This work provides less homiletical and spiritual insights but was useful on a scholarly and intellectual level.

Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (UBS, 1971).

I used this book to study textual issues in 1-2 Peter.

Classic Works:

Matthew Henry’s Commentary.

What more can I say about this work? The pastor’s best resource for expositional preaching.

John Calvin’s commentaries on 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

As usual, brimming with insights that are still fresh and thoughtful after hundreds of years.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spurgeon on Bunyan

I noted that I finished reading John Bunyan's The Holy War a few weeks back.  I also recently started reading again through Part One of Pilgrim's Progress with a brother from CRBC.  We've been meeting once a week for coffee c. 7-8 am at Java Java on the Downtown Mall.  My favorite edition of Pigrim's Progress for devotional study is the cheap paperback one published by Whitaker that is broken into easy to read chapters.  A fantastic version to read with children (or to give adults an overview of the work) or to use in family devotions is Dangerous Journey.

I was also reminded this week of Spurgeon's comments on Bunyan as an example of a man saturated in the Scriptures:

John Bunyan is an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that is it almost like reading the Bible itself. He had studied our Authorized Version, which will never be bettered, as I judge, till Christ shall come; he had read it till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems—without continually making us feel and say, “Why this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.

From C. H. Spurgeon: Autobiography: Volume 2 (Banner, 1973): p. 159.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Simple Life

I was struck once again yesterday by the Lord's wisdom in giving us the command to rest one day in seven.  It was a good day for worship, Christian fellowship, and re-creation.  Reminded of the Ricky Skaggs song "A Simple Life" and the line,  "...I work six days, and I rest for one, 'cause the old rat race ain't ever been won..."  Have a listen:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Vision (12/9/10): Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James Version (1611-2011)

I read an online article a couple of weeks ago reporting on a recent poll in the United Kingdom revealing that 51% of those under age 35 had never heard of the King James Bible, compared to only 28% of those over age 55. One wonders what the results of such a poll would be if taken in the United States. As the 400th anniversary of the King James Version draws closer (1611-2011), it is clear that modern critical efforts to overthrow the majestic KJV are fast becoming a nearly accomplished fact.

Even if taken from a wholly secular perspective, cultural amnesia with regard to the KJV is striking. How would we feel if such a poll revealed that the population was losing touch with the writings of Shakespeare? One wonders what this will mean for the standards and cadences of contemporary English language, a fact even some secular literary critics are also beginning to lament.

I remember a conversation I had with one of my English professors in college years ago. He was an agnostic but knew that I was an evangelical Christian. One day he happened to see me reading one of the modern versions of the Bible and said, “Jeff, I’ll never understand why you Christians have been so eager to abandon the old King James Version for these sterile modern translations.”

A few years ago mainstream secular author Adam Nicolson wrote an intriguing book titled God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (Harper Collins, 2003) which traces the historical and cultural settings that resulted in the making of the King James Bible translation. It also offers biographical sketches of the men who were involved in the translation, including Lancelot Andrewes, the man who directed the entire project and who might well be called the “guiding Translator of the King James Bible” (p. 32). Andrewes was well known both for his personal piety and erudite scholarship. Nicholson reports that Andrewes spent five hours each morning in prayer, and he once said “that anyone who visited him before noon clearly did not believe in God” (p. 32)! Nicolson adds:

The man was a library, the repository of sixteen centuries of Christian culture, he could speak fifteen modern languages and six ancient, but the heart and bulk of his existence was his sense of himself as a worm. Against an all-knowing, all powerful and irresistible God, all he saw was an ignorant, weak, and irresolute self” (p. 33).

Nicolson ponders the fact that Andrewes was able to combine immense ability with immense humility, “a yoking together of opposites which seems nearly impossible to the modern mind. People like Lancelot Andrewes no longer exist.” He concludes, “It is because people like Lancelot Andrewes flourished in the first decade of the seventeenth century—and do not now—that the greatest translation of the Bible could be made then, and cannot now” (p. 33).

In the concluding chapter of Nicolson’s book, this secular author eloquently praises the King James Bible as “the touchstone, the national book, the formative mental structure for all English-speaking people” (p. 236). He continues, “For generation after generation, it gave the English, and the English in America, a template against which to measure their own utterances” (p. 237). He notes how this Bible was often the only book in many households and so became “a spur to literacy” (p. 237). It shaped the language of Milton and Bunyan, the poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth, and ‘became the backbone of the great milestone speeches” in America’s history from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to Kennedy's inaugural address, to the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This outsider to the gospel offers Christians a striking reproof: “The churches and biblical scholarship have, by and large, abandoned the frame of mind which created the translation…. The belief in the historical and authentic truth of the scriptures, particularly the Gospels, has been largely abandoned even by the religious” (p. 238). He describes modern Christianity as “drained of its passion” and closes by confessing, “I am no atheist but I am no churchgoer, perhaps because these things are no longer voiced in the church” (p. 241).

Of course, one should not choose a translation merely because of its literary elegance or historical-cultural influence. The Word of God was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and it has been effectively translated into many modern languages and in more than one English translation. We do not concur with those in the so-called “KJV-Only” movement who claim special inspiration for the King James Version. On the other hand, perhaps we should also listen to cautions that are offered, even by secular outsiders like Nicolson, regarding the special role and abiding usefulness of this highly influential translation. We should also take seriously the possibility that God chose peculiarly to bless this particular translation because it was (1) based on the traditional original language texts and (2) followed a literal (word for word) translation philosophy.

As we approach the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011, I want to suggest that our congregation make some effort to celebrate this milestone over the next twelve months. For one thing, I want to suggest that we make generous use of readings from the King James Version in our Lord’s Day worship services and midweek gathering. You might also take the opportunity to do your personal daily Bible readings or family devotions from this translation. For those who might complain that it is hard to understand some of the archaic language and phrases, I suggest that you might purchase a copy that provides explanatory notes or a glossary of King James Version vocabulary (The KJV Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson provides such notes on unfamiliar terms and the Trinitarian Bible Society offers attractive copies of the King James Version with “Bible word lists” printed at the back for easy reference—the word list is also available as a pdf online). I realize that we might run the risk of being accused of obscurantism or even “anti-intellectualism,” but I believe the rewards will outweigh the risks.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bunyan's "The Holy War": The Duties of Mansoul to Mr. Recorder and other "High and Noble Captains"

One more Holy War insight:  After the appointment of Mr. Conscience as preacher to Mansoul, Emmanuel lays out the duties of the people to their minister, as well as to other “high and noble captains” that might be sent from “the Father’s court” to Mansoul:

When the Prince had thus put Mr. Recorder (that once so was) into the place and office of a minister to Mansoul, and the man had thankfully accepted thereof, then did Emmanuel address himself in a particular speech to the townsmen themselves.

'Behold,' said the Prince to Mansoul, 'my love and care towards you; I have added to all that is past, this mercy, to appoint you preachers; the most noble Secretary to teach you in all high and sublime mysteries; and this gentleman,' pointing to Mr. Conscience, 'is to teach you in all things human and domestic, for therein lieth his work. He is not, by what I have said, debarred of telling to Mansoul anything that he hath heard and received at the mouth of the lord high Secretary; only he shall not attempt to presume to pretend to be a revealer of those high mysteries himself; for the breaking of them up, and the discovery of them to Mansoul lieth only in the power, authority, and skill of the lord high Secretary himself. Talk of them he may, and so may the rest of the town of Mansoul; yea, and may, as occasion gives them opportunity, press them upon each other for the benefit of the whole. These things, therefore, I would have you observe and do, for it is for your life, and the lengthening of your days.

'And one thing more to my beloved Mr. Recorder, and to all the town of Mansoul: You must not dwell in, nor stay upon, anything of that which he hath in commission to teach you, as to your trust and expectation of the next world; (of the next world, I say, for I purpose to give another to Mansoul, when this with them is worn out;) but for that you must wholly and solely have recourse to, and make stay upon his doctrine that is your Teacher after the first order. Yea, Mr. Recorder himself must not look for life from that which he himself revealeth; his dependence for that must be founded in the doctrine of the other preacher. Let Mr. Recorder also take heed that he receive not any doctrine, or point of doctrine, that is not communicated to him by his Superior Teacher, nor yet within the precincts of his own formal knowledge.'

Now, after the Prince had thus settled things in the famous town of Mansoul, he proceeded to give to the elders of the corporation a necessary caution, to wit, how they should carry it to the high and noble captains that he had, from his Father's court, sent or brought with him, to the famous town of Mansoul.

'These captains,' said he, 'do love the town of Mansoul, and they are picked men, picked out of abundance, as men that best suit, and that will most faithfully serve in the wars of Shaddai against the Diabolonians, for the preservation of the town of Mansoul. 'I charge you therefore,' said he, 'O ye inhabitants of the now flourishing town of Mansoul, that you carry it not ruggedly or untowardly to my captains, or their men; since, as I said, they are picked and choice men - men chosen out of many for the good of the town of Mansoul. I say, I charge you, that you carry it not untowardly to them: for though they have the hearts and faces of lions, when at any time they shall be called forth to engage and fight with the King's foes, and the enemies of the town of Mansoul; yet a little discountenance cast upon them from the town of Mansoul will deject and cast down their faces, will weaken and take away their courage. Do not, therefore, O my beloved, carry it unkindly to my valiant captains and courageous men of war, but love them, nourish them, succour them, and lay them in your bosoms; and they will not only fight for you, but cause to fly from you all those the Diabolonians that seek, and will, if possible, be, your utter destruction.

'If, therefore, any of them should at any time be sick or weak, and so not able to perform that office of love, which, with all their hearts, they are willing to do (and will do also when well and in health), slight them not, nor despise them, but rather strengthen them and encourage them, though weak and ready to die, for they are your fence, and your guard, your wall, your gates, your locks, and your bars. And although, when they are weak, they can do but little, but rather need to be helped by you, than that you should then expect great things from them, yet, when well, you know what exploits, what feats and warlike achievements they are able to do, and will perform for you.

'Besides, if they be weak, the town of Mansoul cannot be strong; if they be strong, then Mansoul cannot be weak; your safety, therefore, doth lie in their health, and in your countenancing them. Remember, also, that if they be sick, they catch that disease of the town of Mansoul itself.

'These things I have said unto you because I love your welfare and your honour: observe, therefore, O my Mansoul, to be punctual in all things that I have given in charge unto you, and that not only as a town corporate, and so to your officers and guard, and guides in chief, but to you as you are a people whose well-being, as single persons, depends on the observation of the orders and commandments of their Lord.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

An example of the simplicity and depth of Hebrew narrative

I began a new sermon series last Sunday morning through the book of 1 Samuel.  The first message was "The birth of Samuel" from chapter one.  I was struck again in reading the passage by the both the simplicity and depth of Hebrew narrative.  With the writers of the Old Testament, more is so often said with less.

I was struck, in particular, by one simple yet powerful line in 1 Samuel 1:2:  "Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children." `~ydIl'y> !yae hN"x;l.W ~ydIl'y> hN" yhiy>w
 It reminded me of the story (probably apocryphal) that the author Ernest Hemingway was once asked to write a novel using only six words.  He is said to have written:  "For sale:  baby shoes, never worn."


Monday, December 06, 2010

Merry Ranzaa!

Over a recent lunch with some friends from CRBC we were discussing the dilemma as to what Reformed believers should do with Christmas. On one hand, we do not want to celebrate an unbiblical “holiday” but to keep our focus on the Lord’s Day as our only biblically sanctioned festival. On the other hand, we want to enjoy the positive aspects of the season as a cultural celebration.

We, therefore, decided that we should institute an alternative Reformed celebration that we have dubbed “Ranzaa” (Reformed Kwanzaa).

At Ranzaa time (Monday-Friday the week of the winter solstice, and never on Sunday) each Reformed family would set up five candles (representing the five points of Calvinism). Each night a new candle would be lit and the parents would teach the children about an individual aspect of the doctrines of grace (Children, tonight we light the total depravity candle….) and offer a biography of one of the Reformers (Children, tonight we learn about Melanchthon…).

Other suggested activities would include exchanging Reformed commentaries or Puritan paperbacks with family and friends, catechism quizzing with the kids, giving bouquets of tulips to the ladies, and Ranzaa caroling (“A Might Fortress is our God,” “How Sad our State by Nature Is,” etc.).

We think this could catch on….


Textual Note: "Beor" or "Bosor" in 2 Peter 2:15?

The issue: Is Balaam the son of Beor or Bosor?

External evidence:

Bosor is the traditional reading and is supported by almost all ancient manuscripts and versions. The reading Beor is found in Vaticanus. The original hand of Sinaiticus has the conflated reading Beo-orsor.

Internal evidence:

One would have expected to see Balaam described as “son of Beor” as he is in Numbers 22:5; 24:3, 15. Why then do we have the dominant reading of Bosor? Some hold that Peter made a mistake here, but Tom Schreiner points out that “the word ‘Bosor’ likely derives from a pun on the word ‘flesh’ (basar) in Hebrew” (1, 2 Peter, Jude, p. 354). Though Schreiner rarely supports the traditional text, in this case he favors Bosor.

Translation choices:

Though both the traditional text and modern critical Greek text read “Bosor,” many modern translations ignore the textual evidence and read “Beor” (so NIV, NASB, ESV). The dominant reading is retained by the KJV, NRSV, and HCSB. Oddly enough, this is one point where the NKJV departs from both the traditional text and the KJV by reading “Beor.”

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bandwagon and Exigency Fallacies

I ran across a series of videos that teach basic logical fallacies.  Here's the video that outlines "bandwagon" and "exigency" fallacies, typified by a mindset that says, "You should hurry up and join us in this because everybody's doing it!":

Friday, December 03, 2010

Bunyan's "The Holy War": Mr. Conscience

In Bunyan’s The Holy War, Emmanuel appoints two ministers over Mansoul. The first is the Lord Chief Secretary (the Holy Spirit) and the second is “the old gentleman who before had been the recorder of Mansoul, Mr. Conscience by name.” This part of the allegory can be taken on at least two levels. On one hand Bunyan describes the individual believer guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and an awakened conscience. On the other hand, there is much in the description of the Recorder that resembles the role of a minister among God’s people. Indeed, he serves as the congregation’s conscience. Here is Bunyan’s description of the charge given to the recorder:

Then did the Prince call unto him the old gentleman, who before had been the Recorder of Mansoul, Mr. Conscience by name, and told him, That, forasmuch as he was well skilled in the law and government of the town of Mansoul, and was also well-spoken, and could pertinently deliver to them his Master's will in all terrene and domestic matters, therefore he would also make him a minister for, in, and to the goodly town of Mansoul, in all the laws, statutes, and judgments of the famous town of Mansoul. 'And thou must,' said the Prince, 'confine thyself to the teaching of moral virtues, to civil and natural duties; but thou must not attempt to presume to be a revealer of those high and supernatural mysteries that are kept close in the bosom of Shaddai, my Father: for those things knows no man, nor can any reveal them but my Father's Secretary only.

'Thou art a native of the town of Mansoul, but the Lord Secretary is a native with my Father; wherefore, as thou hast knowledge of the laws and customs of the corporation, so he of the things and will of my Father.

'Wherefore, O Mr. Conscience, although I have made thee a minister and a preacher to the town of Mansoul, yet as to the things which the Lord Secretary knoweth, and shall teach to this people, there thou must be his scholar and a learner, even as the rest of Mansoul are.

'Thou must therefore, in all high and supernatural things, go to him for information and knowledge; for though there be a spirit in man, this person's inspiration must give him understanding. Wherefore, O thou Mr. Recorder, keep low and be humble, and remember that the Diabolonians that kept not their first charge, but left their own standing, are now made prisoners in the pit. Be therefore content with thy station.

'I have made thee my Father's vicegerent on earth, in such things of which I have made mention before: and thou, take thou power to teach them to Mansoul, yea, and to impose them with whips and chastisements, if they shall not willingly hearken to do thy commandments.

'And, Mr. Recorder, because thou art old, and through many abuses made feeble; therefore I give thee leave and license to go when thou wilt to my fountain, my conduit, and there to drink freely of the blood of my grape, for my conduit doth always run wine. Thus doing, thou shalt drive from thine heart and stomach all foul, gross, and hurtful humours. It will also lighten thine eyes, and will strengthen thy memory for the reception and keeping of all that the King's most noble Secretary teacheth.'


Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Vision (12/2/10): Bigger Than We Knew

The Associated Press published an online article this week which reported that scientists have discovered that there are billions more stars in the universe than previously believed to exist. The article reports:

A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.

The estimate, contained in a study published online Wednesday [12.1.10] in the journal Nature, is based on findings that there are many more red dwarf stars — the most common star in the universe — than once thought.

The recalculation came after astronomers discovered that elliptical shaped galaxies held far more red dwarf stars than previously realized. Former calculations were based on estimates made from study of our own spiral shaped galaxy, the Milky Way, and were extrapolated to the study of other galaxies. Scientists estimate that there are 100 billion to a trillion galaxies in the universe and that each galaxy holds about 100 billion to a trillion stars. They now say that about a third of the galaxies are elliptical rather than spiral.

What do we learn from this? For one thing, we learn that all “scientific” knowledge is tentative. What one generation holds as indisputable scientific truth can be changed in the next. More importantly, we learn that this cosmos is bigger than we knew. From a theological perspective, we should be even more in awe of our Creator.

David’s words in Psalm 8 hold even more weight than we previously realized:

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Thus, we are driven to even greater amazement and admiration at the Incarnation that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 14:6).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

CRBC Sermons December 2010

Note: We begin two new sermon series this month at CRBC. On Sunday mornings we will begin a series through 1 Samuel that will begin with a study of the life of Samuel (1 Samuel chapters 1-7). In the afternoon service we will begin a series of communion meditations on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

December 5

AM The Birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 1)

PM The Beatitudes: Introduction (Matthew 5:1-12)

December 12

AM Hannah’s Prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-11)

PM Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:1-12)

December 19

AM The Faithful Priest (1 Samuel 2:12-36)

PM Blessed are those who mourn (Matthew 5:1-12)

December 26

AM Let him do what seems good to Him (1 Samuel 3)

PM Blessed are the meek (Matthew 5:1-12)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bunyan's "The Holy War": The Lord Chief Secretary

Over Thanksgiving, I was reading John Bunyan’s “other” allegory, The Holy War (first published 1682). I was struck by the scene in which Emmanuel establishes a ministry among the citizens of Mansoul. Over this task he appoints two persons. The first is “the Lord Chief Secretary” (the Holy Spirit) and the second is “the old gentleman, who before had been the recorder of Mansoul, Mr. Conscience by name.” Here is Bunyan’s descrition of the proper role of the Lord High Secretary in Mansoul:

When this was over, the Prince sent again for the elders of the town of Mansoul, and communed with them about a ministry that he intended to establish among them; such a ministry that might open unto them, and that might instruct them in the things that did concern their present and future state.

'For,' said he, 'you, of yourselves, unless you have teachers and guides, will not be able to know, and, if not to know, to be sure not to do the will of my Father.'

At this news, when the elders of Mansoul brought it to the people, the whole town came running together, (for it pleased them well, as whatever the Prince now did pleased the people,) and all with one consent implored his Majesty that he would forthwith establish such a ministry among them as might teach them both law and judgment, statute and commandment; that they might be documented in all good and wholesome things. So he told them that he would grant them their requests, and would establish two among them; one that was of his Father's court, and one that was a native of Mansoul.

'He that is from the court,' said he, 'is a person of no less quality and dignity than my Father and I; and he is the Lord Chief Secretary of my Father's house: for he is, and always has been, the chief dictator of all my Father's laws, a person altogether well skilled in all mysteries, and knowledge of mysteries, as is my Father, or as myself is. Indeed he is one with us in nature, and also as to loving of, and being faithful to, and in the eternal concerns of the town of Mansoul.

'And this is he,' said the Prince, 'that must be your chief teacher; for it is he, and he only, that can teach you clearly in all high and supernatural things. He, and he only, it is that knows the ways and methods of my Father at court, nor can any like him show how the heart of my Father is at all times, in all things, upon all occasions, towards Mansoul; for as no man knows the things of a man but that spirit of a man which is in him, so the things of my Father knows no man but this his high and mighty Secretary. Nor can any, as he, tell Mansoul how and what they shall do to keep themselves in the love of my Father. He also it is that can bring lost things to your remembrance, and that can tell you things to come. This teacher, therefore, must of necessity have the pre-eminence, both in your affections and judgment, before your other teacher; his personal dignity, the excellency of his teaching, also the great dexterity that he hath to help you to make and draw up petitions to my Father for your help, and to his pleasing, must lay obligations upon you to love him, fear him, and to take heed that you grieve him not.

'This person can put life and vigour into all he says; yea, and can also put it into your heart. This person can make seers of you, and can make you tell what shall be hereafter. By this person you must frame all your petitions to my Father and me; and without his advice and counsel first obtained, let nothing enter into the town or castle of Mansoul, for that may disgust and grieve this noble person.

'Take heed, I say, that you do not grieve this minister; for if you do, he may fight against you; and should he once be moved by you to set himself against you in battle array, that will distress you more than if twelve legions should from my Father's court be sent to make war upon you.

'But, as I said, if you shall hearken unto him, and shall love him; if you shall devote yourselves to his teaching, and shall seek to have converse, and to maintain communion with him, you shall find him ten times better than is the whole world to any; yea, he will shed abroad the love of my Father in your hearts, and Mansoul will be the wisest, and most blessed of all people.'