Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Vision (4/28/11): Worship is our central priority

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2).

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him (John 4:23).

Worship is our central priority as a church. There is nothing more important that we do as a church.

Listed below are the sermon topics for the month of May 2011. In the morning worship messages, we will be completing our series in Romans 7-8 and returning to 1 Samuel for a series through chapters 8-15 on the life of Saul. Once we complete this exposition we will return to take up Romans chapters 9-11.

In afternoon worship, we will complete our series through the OT “The Book of the Twelve” and begin a new series through the NT book of Jude.

I have also listed the Psalms and hymns that we are planning to sing in our worship services over the next month. Some individuals or families might like to read the texts or sing the songs in private or family devotions in preparation for the Lord’s Day.

This is the course we plan to pursue, Lord willing. Looking forwarding to joining you for worship this Sunday and throughout the month.

Grace and truth, Pastor Jeff Riddle

CRBC Worship May 2011

May 1

AM: No Separation (Romans 8:38-39)


No. 26 O God, our Help in ages past

No. 596 (text) Jesus lives, and so shall I (DIX)

PM: The Message of Zephaniah

Psalm 103:1-13 (BEECHER)

No. 129 Fairest Lord Jesus

p. xv (second tune) Gloria Patri

May 8

AM: The Rejected King (1 Samuel 8)

No. 13 O Worship the King

Psalm 130 (MARTYRDOM)

Psalm 146 (RIPLEY)

PM: The Message of Malachi (Teacher: Daniel Houseworth)

Psalm 103: 14-22 (BEECHER)

No. 534 Sweet hour of prayer

Psalm 128 (NETTLETON)

May 15

AM: The anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 9-11)

No. 1 (CCH) Come, Christians Join to Sing

Psalm 126 (OLIVET)

Psalm 108:1-6 (FESTAL SONG)

PM: Jude 1-2

Psalm 89:1-6 (ODE TO JOY)

Psalm 119:17-24 (MINERVA)

No. 2 (CCH) Let us love, and sing, and wonder

May 22

AM: Only fear the Lord (1 Samuel 12)

Psalm 122 (CWM RHONDDA)

Psalm 46 (second version; EIN’ FESTE BURG)

No. 31 (text) My God how wonderful thou art (AZMON)

PM: Jude 3-4

Opening Psalm: Psalm 15

No. 2 God, my King, thy might confessing

Psalm 119:25-32 (MINERVA)

Psalm 113 (HENDON)

May 29

AM: What hast thou done? (1 Samuel 13)

Psalm 91 (HYFRYDOL)

No. 533 What a Friend we have in Jesus

Psalm 11 (TERRA BEATA)

PM: Jude 5-6

No. 18 Thee we adore, eternal Lord!

Psalm 119:33-40 (MINERVA)

No. 589 (text) O happy day, that fixed my choice (DUKE STREET)

Textual Note: Romans 8:1

The tendency of modern critical text supporters is to minimize the degree to which this text differs from the traditional text. The variations are not limited to the pericope adulterae (John 7:53—8:11) and the ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) but are found throughout the NT text.

The issue:

The variation at Romans 8:1 is an example. The issue here is the final clause: “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit [me kata sarka peripatousin, alla kata pneuma].” Translations based on the traditional text (Geneva, KJV, NKJV) include the phrase. Those based on the modern critical text (NIV, RSV/ESV, NASB) do not. Example (emphasis added):

KJV Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

NIV Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

External Evidence:

Why do modern texts omit the final phrase? It is omitted, in whole or in part, in several ancient manuscripts, including those most favored by modern textual critics.

Full omission: the original hand of Sinaiticus, B (Vaticanus), the original hand of Codex D (Claromontanus)

Partial omission: Includes the phrase “who walk not after the flesh [me kata sarka peripatousin]” but omits “but after the Spirit [alla kata pneuma]”: Alexandrinus, the first corrector of D, Psi (Athous Laurae).

Full inclusion: the second corrector of Sinaiticus, the second corrector of D, the vast Majority of all other texts.

Internal Evidence:

As reflected in Metzger’s Textual Commentary, modern critics see the disputed phrase as introducing “an interpolation from v. 4 in two stages.” Indeed, the phrase appears verbatim in Romans 8:4: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

According to its canons the modern text prefers the shorter reading. The more unanswered question is why such an interpolation would have been introduced. These are not side by side verses, so technical errors, like parablepsis, are harder to explain. It also seems possible that a scribe might have tried to “correct” the repetition of the phrase in vv. 1 and 4 to smooth out the reading. One should also take under consideration that later scribes were keen to correct texts that omitted the phrase (i. e., Sinaiticus, D). NB: This correction occurs in both the so-called Alexandrian and Western text types, indicating widespread geographical presence of the traditional text as the norming norm.


There is no overwhelmingly compelling reason to depart from the reading of the traditional text of Romans 8:1.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Proposed Congressional Resolution on 400th Anniversary of KJV

A friend forwarded me an email about this last week, and I've been meaning to do a post.  Here goes:

On April 12, 2011 a proposed resolution was introduced to the 112th Congress of the United States recognizing the 400th anniversary of the publication of the KJV and its status as the first Bible published in America.  The resolution was sponsored by Representatives Robert B. Aderholt (Republican-Alabama) and Nick Rahall, Jr. (Democrat-West Virginia).  Heres' the info on the resolution from the Library of Congress

The moving force behind the resolution is a group called Bible Nation Society which is sponsoring a series of events next week (May 2-3) at George Washington University and the National Mall in Washington DC called the 2011 King James Bible Expo (see this website and this article).  The organizers had wanted to have the resolution passed before Congress' April 18-May 1 break and their Expo, but it has apparently gotten bogged down (crowded out by other issues?) in committee.

Here's the resolution as proposed:

Recognizing the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible.

Whereas the King James Version of the Bible was the first English language Bible to be published in the United States;

Whereas the King James Bible, also called the Authorized Version, has made a unique contribution in shaping the English language, including hundreds of common everyday expressions;

Whereas the language of the King James Bible has entered into the very culture of the United States through a myriad of poetry, speeches, sermons, music, songs, and literature;

Whereas the teachings of the Scriptures, particularly read from the King James Scriptures, have inspired concepts of civil government contained in our founding documents, and subsequent laws;

Whereas public officials on all levels of governments, including presidents, have taken their oath of office with the King James Bible;

Whereas many national leaders, have paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in the United States development, among them the words of Democratic President Andrew Jackson, calling it `the rock upon which our republic rests';

Whereas Republican President Ronald Reagan also said of the King James Bible, `Indeed, it is an incontrovertible fact that all the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in that single book';

Whereas in the history of the United States, the King James Bible has played a significant role in the education of countless individuals, families, and societies;

Whereas the King James Bible, the most printed and widely distributed work in history, is now in its 400th year of publication;

Whereas in 2011, the 400th anniversary of publishing the King James Bible will be celebrated in churches, public events, and conferences with further research, discussions, speeches, and sermons; and

Whereas the King James Bible's relevance and contributions continue to formatively influence the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--

(1) recognizes the 400th anniversary of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible being published;

(2) recognizes its lasting influence on countless families, individuals, and institutions in the United States; and

(3) expresses its gratitude for the influence it has bestowed upon the United States.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Non-violent Atonement Theory?

I had the privilege of preaching last Lord’s Day morning on More Than Conquerors from Romans 8:31-37.

In meditating on v. 32 (“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all…”), I reflected on the natural tendency of the flesh to revolt against the Biblical teaching of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. I knew of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s dismissal of the atonement as a “slaughterhouse religion” and of Steven Chalke’s more recent charge that penal substitutionary atonement is “cosmic child abuse.”

What was new to me was the discovery of “nonviolent atonement” theory. I ran across the term when I got a flyer on new academic books from Westminster John Knox Press and read the blurb for Sharon L. Baker’s new book Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught about God’s Wrath and Judgment. Baker’s book has not gotten as much press as Rob Bell’s, but at first blush it looks like they reach similar heterodox conclusions. Anyhow, the blurb on Baker notes that she has published and spoken widely “on nonviolent atonement and hell.” That got me curious as to what exactly this meant.

A search on Amazon turned up the book by J. Denny Weaver’s The Nonviolent Atonement Theory (Eerdmans, 2001) . An editorial blurb notes:

Evangelical Christians sing hymns in which blood figures prominently; one in particular is called "Nothing But the Blood." Such Christians may have to change their tune after reading J. Denny Weaver's The Non-Violent Atonement, which proposes that the idea of "satisfaction atonement" must be jettisoned in favor of a nonviolent approach. Jesus' death, says Weaver, was not planned or sanctioned by God the Father; it was the inevitable result of sinful humans taking matters into their own hands. Perhaps the new hymn can be called "Everything But the Blood"?

This revisioning of the atonement is apparently popular among some liberal-leaning churches and theologians in the Anabaptistic, pacifistic tradition. Baker, for example, teaches at Messiah College (an evangelical school?).

In the end, the “nonviolent atonement theory” falls flat. Why? It does not match up with scandalous passages like Romans 8:32. It reminds one of H. Richard’s Niebuhr’s well-known assessment of “social gospel” liberal Protestantism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."


Monday, April 25, 2011

Mohler Coming to Charlottesville May 6-8, 2011

Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and evangelical blogger/pundit, will be giving the John A. Broadus Lectures at the First Baptist Church of Charlottesville, Friday-Sunday, May 6, 7, 8.  Among his talks will be sessions on the doctrines of Justification, Santification, and Glorification.  There is no cost to attend.  Here is the schedule for his lectures.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Common English Phrases Found in the KJB

Note:  The following list came from the recent NPR report on the 400th anniversary of the KJV:

Though it cannot be said that all of these phrases originated in the bible, it is likely that the King James Bible was the first time that many of them appeared in English.

A drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15)

A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25)

A man after his own heart (Samuel 13:14 or Acts 13:22)

A wolf in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15)

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21; Matthew 5:38)

Apple of your eye (Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8)

At their wits' end (Psalms 107:27)

Baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11)

Bite the dust (adapted from Psalms 72)

Broken heart (Psalms 34:18)

By the skin of your teeth (Job 19:20)

By the sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19)

Can a leopard change its spots? (Jeremiah 13:23)

Cast the first stone (John 8:7)

Chariots of Fire (2 Kings 6:17)

Cross to bear (Luke 14:27)

Don't cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)

Eat drink and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

Fall by the wayside (Matthew 13:4)

Fall from grace (Galatians 5:4)

Fat of the land (Genesis 45:18)

Feet of clay (Daniel 2:31-33)

Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12)

Fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24-26)

Flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17)

Fly in the ointment (adapted from Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:9)

From strength to strength (Psalms 84:7)

Give up the ghost (Mark 15:37)

Heart's desire (Psalms 21:2)

He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword (Matthew 26:52)

Holier than thou (Isaiah 65:5)

How the mighty are fallen (Samuel 1:19)

In the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52)

It's better to give than receive (Acts 20:35)

Labour of love (Hebrews 6:10)

Lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)

Land of Nod (Genesis 4:16)

Law unto themselves (Romans 2:14)

Letter of the law (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Living off the fat of the land (Genesis 45:18)

Love of money is the root of all evil (Timothy 6:10)

Manna from heaven (Exodus 16:15)

Many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14)

My cup runneth over (Psalms 23:5)

No rest for the wicked (adapted from Isaiah 57:20)

Nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

O ye of little faith (Luke 12:28)

Out of the mouths of babes (Psalms 8:2, Matthew 21:16)

Peace offering (Leviticus 3:6)

Pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)

Put words in her mouth (2 Samuel 14:3)

Put your house in order (2 Kings 20:1)

Reap what you sow (adapted from Galatians 6:7)

See eye to eye (Isaiah 52:8)

Set your teeth on edge (Jeremiah 31:30)

Sign of the times (Matthew 16:3)

Sour grapes (Jeremiah 31:30)

Sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19)

Tender mercies (Psalms 25:6)

The blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14)

The ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:10)

The root of the matter (Job 19:28)

The powers that be (Romans 13:1)

The salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41)

The Straight and narrow (Matthew 7:13/14)

There's nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Two edged sword (Proverbs 5:4)

Voice crying in the wilderness (John 1:23)

Wages of sin (Romans 6:23)

Wash your hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24)

White as snow (Daniel 7:9)

Woe is me (Job 10:15)

Writing is on the wall (Daniel 5: 5/6)

Note: Most of these phrases are direct quotations. Others have slight word order changes that make the modern phrase quicker and catchier.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Vision (4/21/11): An "Ouch" Passage from John Owen

Last year Thomas Watson was my “Puritan of the year.” This year I have been reading a lot of John Owen. The Puritans are “ouch” writers. By that I mean that when you read them, they have a tendency to put their finger on your spiritual weak spots and make you yell “ouch.” I recently ran across one such “ouch” passage in John Owen’s book Spiritual-Mindedness:

In comparison to Christ, our love for even our dearest relatives will seem as if we “hated” them (Luke 14:26). And this can only come about by the heart so loving Christ and heavenly things that we turn with hatred from anything that would seek to draw our hearts away from Christ.

When men are so concerned with earthly things, however, lawful and right, that it draws away their hearts from Christ and their spiritual duties, they sin. But they are quick to make excuses for their sin.

Does the state of the poor call on them for financial help? They have their own families to provide for. Charity begins at home.

Are they required to attend a prayer meeting? They are so busy that it is impossible for them to be there.

By these vain excuses they declare themselves still to be under the dominion of worldly concerns. Many lie under this great danger every moment. Some have no idea that there is anything wrong with them.

“What is wrong with spending time with one’s family when so many families are breaking up?”

“What is so wrong with dealing well and honestly in the ways of the world when most are wasting their time and money on bestial lusts or heaping up riches by deceit and oppression?”

“What is wrong with wanting the best for our children, seeing that he is worse than an unbeliever who does not care for his own family?’

By such reasoning and secret thoughts, many justify themselves in worldliness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

NPR (!) Celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the KJV

Last Monday (4/18/11) NPR ran a story by Barbara Bradley Haggerty celebrating the 400th anniversary of the AV:  "Hallelujah!  At age 400, King James Bible Still Reigns" (you can read and listen to it here).

The article has a few glitches but is generally commendable.  One of the oddest things to notice in this year marking the 400th anniversary of this most venerable English translation is the fact that this milestone is being celebrated more by secularists than by evangelical Christians.  Can you name one major evangelical Christian conference that is marking this milestone (cf. for example the emphasis given to the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth in 2009)?  I believe part of this is due to the fact that there has been such an effort, particularly over the last c. 50 years in evangelical circles, to promote modern translations (based on modern texts) in part by demeaning the value, beauty, and usefulness of the KJV.  Granted, part of this has also been reactionary against extremist KJV-defenders. 

The NPR story notes:

Today, newer, colloquial translations have pushed the King James aside. It's mainly used in African-American, Mormon and a few Protestant churches. But in moments of tragedy or turmoil or change, leaders have often turned to the King James.

The story concludes:

[Gordan] Campbell adds that this Bible is foundational to the English-speaking world. "It's in the texture of our society rather than on the surface of it, I think. But if you trace back who we are, how we speak, how we think, many of those things have their origins in the King James Bible."

He and others say that new translations will come and go, as our language changes with each generation. But as long we can understand the King James Bible, this four-century-old book will be seen as the voice of God — and the highest poetry of man.

I can just see someone adding NPR to the list of "KJV-Only"ists!


Follow Ups on Recent ESV Dialogue

A few more follow ups on the recent dialogue that took place on this blog relating to the ESV translation.

First, “Nazaroo” has posted a series of three articles on the Pericope de Adultera blog refuting Jamin Hubner’s challenges to the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11): part one, part two, part three. Warning: The tone is, unfortunately, invective.

Second, James Snapp, Jr. offered a post on the “TC-Alternate-list” yahoo group that followed up on my discussion with Hubner relating to the view of the text of Scripture reflected in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. He points out, in particular, that the prooftexts of the Confession cite passages from the traditional text that are omitted in the modern critical text. Here are some excerpts from Snapp’s post:

Then we get to the point: Hubner stated that Riddle was incorrect when he claimed that the London Baptist Confession of Faith "somehow favors the text underlying the KJV ("traditional text" or Byzantine text-type) over the modern texts that underlay the NASB, ESV, etc." The pertinent statement in the Second LBCF (composed in 1689) is in the first section, "On the Holy Scriptures" (in which we cannot get beyond the first paragraph without reading words taken from the KJV, "at sundry times and in divers manners"). Sub-section 8 says, "The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations, being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them." (This is quite similar to a statement in the Westminster Confession, from which it is derived.)

Now it should be noted that in the Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (which can be read at ) it is stated, "We have also taken care to affix texts of Scripture at the bottom, for the confirmation of each article in our Confession; in which work we have studiously endeavored to select such as are most clear and pertinent for the proof of what is asserted by us; and our earnest desire is that all into whose hands this may come would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not."

With a little bit of exercise it is easy to see what text it is which the authors of the LBCF regarded as the text which God, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages. They were not referring to a text about which they did not know and did not use. They were referring to the text which contains Mark 16:15-16, which is listed as a supportive Scripture reference in Chapter 7 (Of God's Covenant), part 2. It is the text which contains Mark 16:16, which is listed as a supportive Scripture reference in Chapter 29 (On Baptism), part 2. It is the text which contains Mark 16:19, which is listed as a supportive Scripture reference in Chapter 8, part 4. It is the text which contains Acts 8:36-37, which is also listed as a supportive Scripture reference in Chapter 29, part 2. It is the text which, in Romans 9:5, affirms the deity of Christ, as noted in Chapter 8 (Of Christ the Mediator), part 2. It is the text in which John 3:13 and Acts 20:28 illustrate that qualities of Christ that are proper to one nature are sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature, inasmuch as these are the only two passages cited to support this idea in Chapter 8, part 7.

Hubner asks, "Doesn't the text the LBCF talks about also include the preserved texts of Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and papyri fragments?" The answer is, NO. The LBCF does not refer to the preserved texts of Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and papyrus fragments any more than its reference to creation "in the space of six days" refers to theistic evolution over millions of years. One may speculate that IF the composers of the LBCF had known about Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, they would have endorsed their texts. Just as easily, one can speculate that the composers of the LBCF would have endorse evolution, if only they had read Origin of the Species. Whatever Hubner might wish that the LCBF's composers would have done, and whatever he imagines that they might do in an alternate-universe, the fact is that when they referred to the New Testament text that God, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, they were referring to the Textus Receptus.

They were not referring to the Alexandrian Text that dominates and virtually defines the modern critical text of WH and Nestle-Aland. This is unquestionable, inasmuch as the Alexandrian Text lacks verses which the LBCF explicitly cites as authoritative Scripture. Does Hubner imagine that the composers of the LBCF defined Scripture one way in Chapter 2, and different ways in their reference-citations? Most certainly not.

Snapp concludes:

The only way a person can be consistent while (a) subscribing to the LFBC and (b) rejecting the Textus Receptus, is to interpret the wording in the LFBC to mean that the Textus Receptus has been kept pure in the sense that it has been kept free from doctrinal error, rather than that it has been kept free from textual corruption altogether.


Another example of dynamic equivalence in the ESV

If your interest was piqued by the recent dialogue on this blog relating to the ESV translation, you might also be interested in the discussion on a recent thread at the Puritan Board titled “The ESV and Calvinists.” One of the posts caught my interest in that it offers a further example of the ESV’s shortcomings as an “essentially literal” translation (see post #60 by austinww 4/16/11 to the Puritan Board thread “The ESV and Calvinists”). The post points out that the RSV/ESV consistently offers a dynamic equivalent rendering of the Hebrew ha-shuh-caym (literally, “to rise up early”). Here’s the post:

The other day I met my friend for dinner and we were discussing Jeremiah, which he is currently reading. I pointed out that last year when I read Jeremiah (in the KJV -- my friend reads the ESV), I noticed a recurring theme where many, many times, God says he rose up early to call the people to repentance. I loved that imagery and thought it was a very interesting recurring theme in Jeremiah. My friend had no idea what I was talking about. So I just looked up all the instances where this imagery occurs in Jeremiah and sent them to him: Jer. 7:13; 7:25; 11:7; 25:3-4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14-15; 44:4....

Out of curiosity, I checked the ESV for the references. Consistently, the ESV says "persistently" instead of "rising up early." I checked the Hebrew. It says "rising up early." This is yet another example of where the ESV makes a pointless interpretation instead of translating what the verse actually says. I have noticed lots of these over my use of both translations. The ESV doesn't seem to be nearly as literal as it claims to be. I can name dozens of other examples if anyone wants them.

I still think it's a good translation, but I don't use it regularly anymore because I find the translation method extremely annoying. I like reading what was actually written (as much as reasonably possible in English), not replacements of whole phrases with interpretations, when the phrase would have made perfect sense if it were simply translated directly. In fact, the more I discover these, the more I wonder if the ESV is even significantly more accurate than the NIV.

Added: The NASB and the NKJV translate it correctly, by the way.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Murray on Foreknowledge: “Whence proceeds this faith which God foresees?”

I had the privilege of preaching on “The Golden Chain of Redemption” (Romans 8:29-30) last Sunday morning in our Romans 7-8 Series. It has also been a blessing to read John Murray’s commentary on Romans, passage by passage, as a study companion in this preaching series. Sunday, I cited Murray’s rebuttal of the typical Arminian interpretation of “foreknowledge” as merely “God’s foresight of faith.” Murray notes that this interpretation “is considered to obviate the doctrine of unconditional election, and so dogmatic interest is often apparent in those who espouse it” (p. 316). He then offers this rebuttal:

It needs to be emphasized that the rejection of this interpretation is not dictated by a predestinarian interest. Even if it were granted that “foreknew” means the foresight of faith, the biblical doctrine of sovereign election is not thereby eliminated or disproven. For it is certainly true that God foresees faith; he foresees all that comes to pass. The question then would simply be: whence proceeds this faith that God foresees? And the only Biblical answer is that the faith which God foresees is the faith he himself creates (cf. John 3:3-8; 6:44, 45; Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29; 2 Peter 1:2) [p. 316].


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Uneasy Conscience and Holy Days

I went many years as a believer in the pew and even as minister in the church without ever thinking through the idea of Christian holy-days (Christmas, Easter, etc.). I just took it for granted that Christmas and Easter were part of the Christian tradition and practical opportunities to teach good doctrine (whether the incarnation or the cross and resurrection) and reach “inactive” church members. I even admired the pragmatic Southern Baptist tradition of seizing on these holidays to promote mission offerings (Annie Armstrong at Easter and Lottie Moon at Christmas).

The further I went in my journey in discovering Reformed (Biblical) theology, however, the more the celebration of these extra-biblical holy-days began to bother my conscience. Beyond Calvinistic soteriology (the five points) there is the Regulative Principle of worship. Slowly, the Lord began to show me the significance of the Lord’s Day as the only scripturally prescribed day of worship. We have 52 holy-days given in the course of the year, one day in seven for celebration of the resurrection. It is a sinful human tendency to add to what God has prescribed in order to augment our experience or to diminish what he has given. When Aaron created the golden calf, he also created an extra-biblical feast day (“and Aaron made a proclamation and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD” Exod 32:5).

Now when I hear of evangelical, Protestant, and even “Calvinistic” (soteriologically) churches following the Christian year, observing “Ash Wednesday,” “Lent” [including "giving something up for Lent"],” “Holy Week,” “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday,” and, yes, even “Easter Sunday,” my conscience does not rest easy.

I realize that spiritual pride is a supreme danger. I do not think these are issues that are pivotal for salvation. I also realize we need to avoid ungodly legalism. I think we can distinguish between cultural celebrations enjoyed lawfully and privately in our homes and families, things that are not malum in se, and what we do in public worship in church. But I want to leave that out of my church life. In the worship of God I want only to do what is Biblically faithful. I do not want to create more confusion (where it already freely abounds) about what the Lord requires of us.

Here are some audio resources on this topic one might find helpful:


Monday, April 18, 2011

Andrew Fuller: Christ Our Substitute in Death and Judgment

I posted another reading of a message to the Andrew Fuller library on today.  This funeral sermon titled "Christ Our Substitute in Death and Judgment" (Hebrews 9:27-28) was preached on February 28, 1790.

It is a model funeral sermon in that it offers praise to Christ and encouragement to the believer who will die in Christ, while warning the unbeliever who will die "out of Christ."


On Conferences

Carl Trueman (a Brit who teaches at Westminster Seminary) had an interesting recent post after attending a conference in the UK contrasting such events with US ones:


First, the conference was built around content not speakers....

Second, no speaker made reference (almost obligatory when speaking at trendy Reformed evangelical conferences in the US) to how gorgeous his wife is....

Third, no middle aged speaker (and we were all middle-aged and unashamed of the fact) felt the need to talk like a teenager in some kind of embarrassing street lingo....

Fourth, the only person who cried at my seminar was Bob Kauflin. And he is an American. And he is in Sovereign Grace Ministries. I do not think I need to explain further.

Fifth, the appetite for serious theology in the UK church seems to be rising.....
Sixth, no clones, no groupies, no wannabes....

The not so thinly veiled critique seems to be of the upsurge of neo-evangelical Calvinistic, "celebrity" pastor-driven mega-conferences like "The Gospel Coalition" (held last week) and "Together for the Gospel."

Along these lines, see Daryl Dash's post "How to Cope With Not Attending The Gospel Coalition Conference" and Daryl Hart's (typically) more bitingly sarcastic (and "edgy" if not "over the edge"--see comments)  "Advantages of Not Going to the Gospel Coalition Conference."


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review: ESV Study Bible

Note:  This book review originally appeared in the Evangelical Forum Newsletter in 2009.  I thought it might be of interest given recent discussion on the blog of the ESV translation.

Lane T. Dennis, Executive Ed., ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2008): 2750 pp.

Taking the evangelical world by storm

The ESV Study Bible is taking the evangelical world by storm. Crossway has done a masterful job of marketing this massive work. The leading lights of contemporary evangelicalism have endorsed or promoted the work. The dust jacket includes blurbs from the likes of John Piper, Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, Jerry Bridges, Albert Mohler, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Joshua Harris. Top evangelical scholars have contributed the various articles. Sales are through the roof. World Magazine has named it the book of the year for 2008. It is well on its way to supplanting the NIV as the contemporary translation of choice for new evangelicals and for the “new Calvinists” in particular.

Before jumping on the ESV Study Bible bandwagon, however, I would raise the following concerns and questions for consideration:

Translation and Text

The first concern is related to the use of the ESV translation itself. Should evangelical pastors and churches embrace the ESV as the translation to use in its public preaching and worship? Should they commend the ESV to their members for private devotional study and memorization? What lingering spiritual impact is there from the ESV's association with the liberal Revised Standard Version, upon which it is based? Yes, the major disputed liberal readings have been corrected. The ESV’s rendering of Isaiah 7:14 reads “virgin” and not “young woman.” Still, the association is there, as the copyright page reminds us: “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 the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. All rights reserved.”

Like almost all contemporary translations (the NKJV being the notable exception) the ESV is based on a modern reconstruction of an allegedly superior underlying text of Scripture. This is less of an issue in the Old Testament, as even contemporary translations, the ESV included, make use of the traditional Masoretic Text of Scripture [Though there are significant alterations, even in the Old Testament.  Take Psalm 145:13 as an example.  Here a bracketed half verse is added that does not appear in the traditonal Hebrew text of the Old Testament.  A footnote explains:  "These two lines are supplied by one Hebrew manuscript, Septuagint, Syriac (compare Dead Sea Scrolls)."].  The main issue arises with the text of the New Testament where the ESV is based on the modern critical Greek text and not on the traditional text reflected in the Majority or Byzantine manuscripts.

The ESV Study Bible articles and study notes take it as a matter of course that the modern critical Greek text is superior and give no credence to any defense of the traditional text. Dan Wallace of Dallas Seminary contributes the article on “The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts” (pp. 2587-89). He presents the conventional neo-evangelical view that “Christians can, in fact, have a very high degree of confidence that what they have in their hands today is the Word of God” (p. 2587). A “high degree of confidence” is not, however, absolute confidence. He notes that Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are the most significant textual variants in the New Testament and concludes: “The earliest and best manuscripts lack these verses. In addition, these passages do not fit well with the authors’ style. Although much emotional baggage is attached to these two texts for many Christians, no essential truths are lost if these verses are not authentic” (p. 2588). Wallace has, in fact, openly crusaded for the deletion of these verses from the New Testament. In a 2008 plenary address to the Evangelical Theological Society, Wallace claimed that the only reason they remain is a “tradition of timidity” among evangelical translators [The address was reprinted in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS).  See Daniel B. Wallace, “Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century” (JETS, Vol. 52, No. 1:  pp. 79-100).].  He noted that he hoped to remove them from future editions of the NET Bible (which he serves as NT editor) and boasted that at the least he had succeeded in printing them in a “smaller font with brackets around them” and this “makes it harder to read from the pulpit" [Ibid., p. 99]. 

This antagonism toward the traditional text also appears in the study notes as well. In some cases it is mildly expressed. For example, in his discussion of the “longer ending of Mark” Hans F. Byer explains that many think Mark 16:9-20 is a “later addition” and concludes:

"In summary, vv. 9-20 should be read with caution. As in many translations, the editors of the ESV have placed the section within brackets, showing their doubts as to whether it was originally part of what Mark wrote, but also recognizing its long history of acceptance by many in the church" (p. 1933).

Elsewhere a more radical case is made against the traditional text. Andreas Kostenberger offers the following comments on the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11):

"There is considerable doubt that this story is part of John’s original Gospel, for it is absent from all of the oldest manuscripts. But there is nothing in it unworthy of sound doctrine. It seems best to view the story as something that probably happened during Jesus’ earthly ministry but that was not originally part of what John wrote in his Gospel. Therefore, it should not be considered as part of Scripture and should not be used as the basis for building any point of doctrine unless confirmed in Scripture" (p. 2039, emphasis added).

Such statements hardly seem likely to build a rousing confidence in the reader in the divine preservation of Scripture.

Academic Respectability

The ESV Study Bible is very much an academic resource. It seeks to be in dialogue with and to defend a neo-evangelical view of the Bible over against a more skeptical and critical mainstream academic approach. Although a few of the resource articles are written by scholarly pastors (e.g., Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC wrote “God’s Plan of Salvation” and John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis wrote, “Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God”), the Bible study notes are all written by professional academics. Rather than listing the churches where these authors are members, it lists not only the institutions where they currently teach but also the places where they received their doctoral degrees (see “Contributors” pp. 13-18). The editors clearly want to impress the reader with the academic credentials and respectability of the scholarship underlying the commentary.

The ESV Study Bible is to be commended for generally defending traditional views on issues like authorship, dating, and provenance. So, for example, Raymond Ortlund argues for a unified view of single authorship for the book of Isaiah by Isaiah, the son of Amoz (see pp. 1233-34) and Doug Oss concludes, “It is reasonable in light of all the evidence, and clearly supported by the claims of the letter itself, to conclude that the apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter” (p. 2415). One wonders, however, whether so much attention should be given to full explanation of such critical theories, even if they are eventually rejected.

Lack of unified confessional identity

This leads to another potential weakness in the ESV Study Bible—a lack of confessional unity. The contributors apparently represent a wide range of confessional perspectives. There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Wesleyans, Assemblies of God, etc. The introduction states that the ESV’s doctrinal perspective is “in the historic stream of the Reformation.” It adds that the notes “sought to represent fairly the various evangelical positions on disputed topics such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the future of ethnic Israel, and questions concerning the millennium and other events connected with the time of Christ’s return” (p. 11). Though one might praise the diversity of perspectives, one might also wonder if the lack of confessional unity might also “water down” the doctrinal conclusions offered in the commentary.

Too much information?

Finally, the ESV Study Bible certainly reflects the spirit of the “Google” generation. It seems to want to put as much information and as many topics as conceivable at the fingertips of the reader. The Introduction boasts that this is “the most comprehensive study Bible ever published” containing “more than 2 million words of Bible text and insightful explanation and teaching—equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library” (p. 9). Indeed, the range of issues addressed in the resource articles is expansive and seemingly exhaustive, covering everything from systematic theology to ethics to world religions to liturgy.

One wonders, however, if it might be possible to provide too much information. Do all the charts, graphs, notes, and articles crowd out the most important component of all—the text of Scripture itself? The editors seem to recognize this potential danger. They even warn the reader that the notes “must never become a substitute for the Bible itself” (p. 9). Still, one suspects that the jewel of the Biblical revelation itself might easily become hidden in the avalanche of information. There is a place for edifying, uninspired writings that make use of the Biblical revelation. But is the best place to display such uninspired writings in a volume bound up with the text of Scripture itself?

Perhaps we could learn a lesson from the past. The Authorized or King James Version of the Bible was in part produced in order to provide an English translation that did not include interpretive commentaries and notes. Conventional wisdom says that King James and his royalist supporters favored such a move in order to supplant the republican sentiments of the popular Geneva Bible, the first real English study Bible. Perhaps, however, even the Puritan members of the translation committee also supported such a move, because they recognized the value of printing a text of Scripture apart from interpretive notes in order to give the reader the advantage of a raw encounter with the Word of God alone.


The ESV Study Bible is a massive work reflecting the current state of the art in neo-evangelical Biblical interpretation. It will, no doubt, do considerable damage to the NIV’s place in evangelical churches as the modern version of choice and may well make the ESV the heir apparent to the contemporary translation throne. It is already the darling of the young, restless, and newly reformed ministers who flock to events like “Together for the Gospel.” I have traced above, however, some of the reasons why one might hesitate to embrace the ESV (i.e., its association with the RSV and its use of the modern critical text). The theologically trained and seasoned Pastor with well set doctrinal convictions might profit from having a copy of the ESV Study Bible for use in preparation for teaching and preaching, or merely for understanding better the current state of evangelical Biblical scholarship. I would stop short, however, of commending it to the lay people in the church who have not been exposed to historical criticism for fear of it undermining rather than strengthening their confidence in the Scriptures.

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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Owen on Vanity of Mind: "Like a drunkard on a pub crawl"

The Puritan John Owen apparently wrote his book Spiritual-Mindedness, a collection of meditations on Romans 8:6, in 1681 during a time of physical illness. As he lay recovering, Owen was alarmed by the subtle power of the world over his own mind.

In that book he says this about “vanity of mind”:

This vanity of mind will always be with us while we are here on earth. It is always ready to receive impressions from vain and useless things and so is continually tempting the mind to wander from one thing to another. This vanity of mind enjoys earthly things, whether lawful or unlawful. Like a drunkard on a pub crawl, so this vanity of mind is constantly in search of intoxicating worldly pleasures (pp. 239-240).

One reason we need the church, including regular attendance at public worship, is so that we can be “spiritually minded” and resist Satan’s efforts to seduce us into vanity.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Vision (4/14/11): CRBC Romania Mission Project Prayer Request and Special Offering

Image:  Conversation in the line for our Sunday Fellowship Lunch last Lord’s Day (4/10) at CRBC.

In our afternoon worship service last Sunday, I shared about a mission project in Romania we recently learned about. Grace RBC in Mebane, NC is sponsoring sending Reformed Baptist Pastor and theologian Sam Waldron to speak at a conference May 18-23 at Logos Baptist Church in Arad, Romania. Logos is—to their knowledge—the only independent, 2LBCF 1689 affirming church in Romania. The conference will expose Pastors and Christians to Reformed, Biblical Christianity.

Grace RBC is also planning to print copies of Dr. Waldron’s book To Be Continued which is being translated into Romanian to distribute to those who attend this conference and to others. To Be Continued is a book that addresses confusion about “charismatic gifts” and argues that these gifts ceased after the age of the apostles. For a review I wrote of this book sometime back, look here. There is currently much confusion among Baptists in Romania about spiritual gifts.

Grace RBC is looking for partners to sponsor the printing and distribution of this book. The printing costs:

500 copies- $1125

1000 copies- $1770

1500 copies- $ 2150

We would like to ask the CRBC family to take part in two ways:

1. Let’s join in prayer for this project.

2. We will receive a special offering on Sunday April 24th to support this project. Please give only above your regular gifts to CRBC as you are led and are able to contribute. Make checks to CRBC with note for “Romania Missions.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Romans 8:28 and Gilpin's Broken Leg

Image:  Bernard Gilpin (1517-1583)

Last Sunday morning, I had the privilege to preach on "A verse that has blessed many" (Romans 8:28).  Here is one of the applications from the message which included an illustration from the life of Bernard Gilpin. 

We should remember this verse when we face unpleasant and difficult circumstances.

Sometimes we might need to write it on a card and keep it in our wallet or our pocket and read it over and over throughout our day. We need to memorize it, hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against God.

This verse tells us that God orchestrates all things for the good of his saints. Even things that might be painful and initially appear to be only evil, God is pleased to use for our good.

Recently in our family devotions we read the story of Bernard Gilpin (in the children's book, How God Used A Snowdrift). Gilpin was a faithful minister who lived during the time that the gospel was being rediscovered in England. The Catholic Queen Mary was on the throne, and she and her officials were persecuting the men and women who had come to embrace the gospel. One day Gilpin received a summons to go to London to be tried by court officials who were burning Protestants at the stake. When he left home his friends thought they would never see him alive again.

On the way to London, however, Gilpin fell in an accident and broke his leg. In those days this was a serious injury. Gilpin had to stay where he was and wait for several months for the leg to heal before he could travel to London to stand trial. At that time someone asked, “Do you think this is all for the best?” And Gilpin replied, “I have no doubt of it.”

Sure enough, while he was waiting for the leg to heal, Mary died, and her sister Elizabeth, a Protestant, came to the throne, and the persecution of ministers stopped. Rather than going to London to his death, when his leg healed, Gilpin returned home in safety.

Perhaps there have been painful things that have happened in your life. Things far worse than a broken leg. Things you do not undertand. But God’s Word promises us today that our Father works all things together for our good.

Matthew Poole states that the "for good" in Romans 8:28 means it is “sometimes for our temporal good,” but, even when we do not see the temporal good, it is “always for spiritual and eternal good, which is best of all. All occurrences of providence shall serve to bring [the saints] nearer to God here, and to heaven hereafter.”


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Scenes in Virginia

It's raining today, but yesterday evening I was able to do some work outside, getting our garden ready for planting while the boys jumped on the trampoline. 

I worked on the fence around our garden plots to keep out deer, etc.

Some of our herbs have already come back strong, like this parsley...

...this mint...

...and this sage.

We have even had some "volunteer" lettuce come back.  Looking forward to being able to go out to the garden and pick a fresh salad for lunch or supper in a few months.

We are down to one rooster, after swapping two at the hatchery for hens.  Gotta love fresh eggs!

Llewellyn's tomato and cucumber plants started from seed, sitting on our front porch, and ready to be planted soon.

I planted this Euonymus bush two years ago.  You have to love the vibrant green and yellow colors in Spring.

Hasta and liriope plants along the walk


Andrew Fuller: The Nature of the Gospel

I have posted another Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) sermon reading to the Andrew Fuller Library on  The message is titled, “The Nature of the Gospel, And The Manner In Which It Ought To Be Preached.”  In this powerful message, Fuller encourages boldness in gospel preaching.  Here is an excerpt:

You must not calculate consequences as they respect this life. If you would preach the gospel as you ought to preach it, the approbation of God must be your main object. What if you were to lose your friends and diminish your income; nay, what if you lose your liberty, or even your life—what would this all be, compared with the loss of the favor and friendship of God? Woe unto us, if we shun to declare any part of the counsel of God! He that is afraid or ashamed to preach the whole of the gospel, in all its implications and bearings, let him stand aside; he is utterly unworthy of being a soldier of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, if you would speak the whole truth, you may be reproached as unsound and heterodox. But you must not yield to popular clamour. If you have truth on your side, stand firm against all opposition.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Opening Day at Cove Creek

Image:  Riddle guys at Cove Creek

Last Saturday was Opening Day at Cove Creek. This is our family's seventh season at Cove Creek Park.  Somehow I am serving as Head Coach of Isaiah's Rookie League team (the Hot Rods; FYI:  named for a Class A Minor League Farm Team for the Rays in Bowling Green, KY) and as an Assistant Coach for Sam's Major League team (the Angels).

The Hot Rods were idle on opening day.  The Angels had a convincing 7-3 win over the White Sox.  Sam pitched a six inning complete game and went 2 for 2 (with a double, a single, and a walk) as the lead-off hitter.


God's Technology

We don't normally do "Sunday School" at CRBC, but yesterday we had a special class in which we invited our families to view and discuss the excellent video by David Murray titled, God's Technology:  Teaching Our Children To Use Technology to God's Glory.

I would commend it to any individual, family, school, or church as a useful ministry tool.

You can read more about the DVD on David Murray's blog and watch an interview with Murray by Tim Challies here.


Owen On Loving Christ

John Owen quote from Spiritually Minded used in yesterday's message:

If we love other things –father, mother, houses, lands, possessions—more than Christ, we do not love him at all. Nor are we allowed to love Christ and other things equally. If we do not love Christ more than all these things, we do not love him at all (p. 229).


Friday, April 08, 2011

Holy Churches

Image:  Kafue RBC, Zambia

Most people nowadays seem to think that the only power needed by the Christian Church is the power to attract; but they are wrong. They cannot see the difference between a Gideon’s “three thousand” and a mob. The modern drive after numbers needs reconsideration. Bulk can never be a substitute for power. Growth is never the same as obesity. Some of the biggest bodies are the sickest. The Church needs the power to repel if it is to maintain that holy separation in which alone the Holy Spirit can do His God-glorifying work. Our local churches today need to recover that separateness, that holiness, that overshadowing divine presence which creates God-conscious awe and strikes fear into the insincere. Our churches need again the power to repel. They need again that holy flame which scorches the hypocritical fraternizer; that awesome presence which scares away the “mixed multitude” of compromisers—Satan’s quislings and the world’s plausible Judases.

J. Sidlow Baxter as quoted in the Bible League Quarterly (April-June 2011): pp. 44-45.