Monday, February 28, 2011

Whitney's Definition of Assurance

I preached my first message yesterday from Romans 8 (No Condemnation from Romans 8:1-4) at CRBC.  This study will provide plenty of opportunity for reflection on the doctrine of assurance.  Here is Don Whitney's defintion of "assurance": 

Assurance of salvation is a God-given awareness that He has accepted the death of Christ on your behalf and forgiven you of your sins. It involves confidence that God loves you, that He has chosen you, and that you will go to heaven. Assurance includes a sense of freedom from the guilt of sin, relief from the fear of judgment, and joy in your relationship with God as your Father.

--From Don Whitney, How Can I Be Sure that I’m a Christian? What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (NavPress, 1994): p. 12.


Watson: "The world is a great inn; we are guests in this inn."

Image:  Renoir's "At the Inn of Mother Anthony" (1866)

We were blessed with a warm day of worship and fellowship at CRBC yesterday. You know something good is happening in your body when you meet for worship at 10:30 am; lunch at 12 noon; and another worship service at 1:00 pm and you still don’t leave church till 4:30 pm, because you are hanging out having good spiritual conversations with the brethren.

In Thomas Watson’s Heaven Taken by Storm or The Holy Violence a Christian Is to Put Forth in Pursuit After Glory (original 1669; Northampton Press, 2007), a chapter is devoted to “Sanctifying the Lord’s Day and Holy Conversation.” On holy conversations Watson provides these thoughts:

Oh, let us offer violence to ourselves in setting abroach good discourse! What should our words dilate and expiate upon but heaven? The world is a great inn; we are guests in this inn. When travelers meet in their inn, they do not spend all their time speaking about the inn; they are to lodge there but a few hours, and are gone. But they speak of their home, and the country where they are traveling. So when we meet together, we should not be talking only about the world (we are to leave this one presently); but we should talk of our heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16).


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Reymond's Non-Augustinian Approach to Romans 7

In preaching through Romans 7 I adopted the “Augustinian” view that Paul is describing himself as a mature Christian man who continues to struggle with sin. In Appendix F (“Whom Does the Man in Romans 7:14-25 Represent?” pp. 1127-1132) in his A New Systematic Theology (Thomas Nelson, 1998), Robert Reymond, however, departs from the Augustinian position.

While acknowledging that “many of the ablest expositors … believe that Paul intended Romans 7:14-25 as description of the Christian in his struggle against the power of indwelling sin” (e.g., Calvin, Hodge, Murray, MacArthur), Reymond suggests that “the Romans passage is not a description of the regenerate person’s struggle against indwelling sin” (p. 1127). Among those who share his view he cites J. A. Bengel, W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., A. Hoeksma, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Reymond sees Paul drawing on his previous unregenerate state in Romans 7 to set forth “the impotence of the unregenerate ego to do good against the power of indwelling sin” and the “inability” and “weakness” of the law “due to human depravity to deliver the unregenerate ego from sin’s slavery” (p. 1127).

He borrows from Herman Ridderbos here (without accepting Ridderbos’ notion that the “I” in Romans 7 represents OT Israel rather than Paul’s autobiographical experience).

Here are 10 points Reymond makes in defending his position:

1. Romans 7:7-13 is clearly autobiographical as is 7:14-25.

2. To be “carnal” would be to be in a state of spiritual death (7:14).

3. Only an unregenerate man could be described as “sold as a slave to sin” (7:14).

4. This man is mastered by indwelling sin (vv. 17, 20), and this cannot be true of the Christian who has the indwelling Spirit.

5. The man says no good thing dwells in him (v. 18), and this can’t be true of the man who has God’s Spirit in him.

6. This man says sin has taken him prisoner (v. 23) which is not true of a Christian (6:14).

7. This man declares himself “wretched” (v. 24). “This is not true of the Christian nor can this be descriptive of the Christian” (p. 1129).

8. Advocates of the Augustinian view say a non-believer could not delight in the law (v. 22), but Reymond says the unconverted Saul did just this!

9. Romans 7:25 b does not describe the Christian’s state.

10. The man here is utterly defeated by indwelling sin. “This is not true of the Christian” who may struggle with sin (Gal 5:16-18) but is victorious “because of his new master, the indwelling Spirit of Christ” (p. 1130).

Reymond adds that the Augustinian view has sometimes undergirded the “carnal Christian” theology and that it is generally appealed to by antinomians. Better, he concludes, to think that Paul is describing himself in Romans 7 in his state before conversion.

JTR Response: I still hold that the Augustinian interpretation prevails. Reymond admits that Paul teaches the Christian life holds struggles (see his appeal to Galatians 5:16-18). Romans 7 affirms this. When Paul says that nothing good dwells in him (v. 18) he stresses that this is “in his flesh (sarx),” which would not exclude the presence of the indwelling Spirit. Reymond undervalues Paul’s expression of sensitivity to sin as a mature Christian (v. 24). He also disregards the role of the thanksgiving in v. 25, even suggesting that it is an ad hoc interjection by the regenerate Paul in the midst of his description of his unregenerate experience (p. 1129)! I am more persuaded by John Murray’s five reasons to take Romans 7:14-15 as Paul’s reflections on his experience as a mature Christian (see my prevous post). That this interpretation could be abused by antinomians does not mean that it should be cast off. Paul certainly dealt with this kind of misinterpretation first hand (see Romans 6:1-2).


Friday, February 25, 2011

Textual Note: Romans 7:25

Image:  Scene from the ruins of the ancient  Roman Forum

The issue:

The question regards the thanksgiving in Romans 7:25a. The traditional text begins with the first person finite verb, eucharisto. Thus, it is translated, “I thank God….” (KJV; NKJV).

The modern critical text, however, begins, charis de. Thus, it is translated, “Thanks be to God….” (NIV; NASB).

External evidence:

The traditional reading (eucharisto) is supported by the original hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and the vast majority of other texts.

The reading preferred by the modern critical text (charis de) is supported by the first editor of Sinaiticus, Codex Psi, and a handful of other codices. Codex Vaticanus also agrees, except that it omits the postpositive conjunction de. The Western reading represented by D becomes he charis tou theou (“the grace of God”) apparently in answer to the question, “who shall deliver me….” (v. 24b).

Internal evidence:

Note that once again Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not agree against the traditional text.

Metzger concludes that the charis de reading “seems best to account for the rise of the others” while the traditional reading “seems to have arisen through transcriptional error involving the doubling of several letter” (citing the ending of v. 24 with the pronoun toutou) (Textual Commentary, p. 515). The key word here is “seems.” His conclusion is strikingly speculative.

More importantly, it ignores the fact that the charis de reading, like the Western one represented by D, might have come about in an effort to provide an answer to the rhetorical question in v. 24b: “who shall deliver me….” The traditional reading is, then, the more difficult, and, according to the canons of contemporary criticism, the one to be preferred.


With strong external attestation, no significant internal evidence against it, and one persuasive internal explanation for the alternative reading, there is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Vision (2/24/11): A Disturbing Milestone

In the midst of headline grabbing turmoil in the Middle East, a momentous decision with long-lasting moral and ethical ramifications for our nation was made this week here at home. The President announced that his government will no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. DOMA passed by large majorities in 1996 and was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton.

In a blog post on this decision today (2/24/11) titled “A Milestone in the Betrayal of Marriage,” evangelical pundit Al Mohler explains that DOMA made clear “that no state can require any other state to recognize a same-sex marriage, and that the federal government is prohibited from extending marital benefits to same-sex couples.” Mohler closes his article with these words:

The most immediate meaning of this announcement is two-fold. In the first place, it means that the constitutionally appointed defender of the nation’s laws, the Attorney General of the United States, has now been ordered to cease defending this single law in the courts. That alone is almost surely sufficient to spell the doom of DOMA in short order.

In the second place, this announcement means that President Obama and his advisers now believe that the full legalization of same-sex marriage is both inevitable and without major political risk to the President and his plans for re-election. That, in itself, represents a moral earthquake. The President clearly believes that a sufficient number of Americans will either support or accept same-sex marriage — and this comes just a few years after a majority of the states passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, and most by huge margins.

The President has made his decision. The Attorney General has now made his announcement. Mark your calendars for yesterday. That day now represents a tragic milestone in the betrayal of marriage.

Mohler indeed puts his finger on two disturbing problems reflected in this decision. One is the low view of the “rule of law.” The other is the fact that so few people now care about this issue, and even fewer will care in the future. I heard another report which noted that current polls reveal that among those under 30 years of age, 55% say they have no objections to same-sex marriages and only 30% expressed strong objections against it.

The reality is that those of us who hold to Biblically faithful views on marriage and family are becoming increasingly out of step with our secular fellow citizens. We are becoming more and more a “peculiar” people. What will this mean for our believing children as they continue in the faith? What kind of cultural opposition will they face as adults? What must we do now to thoroughly ground them in the truth and train them to defend all aspects of the faith once delivered to the saints? These questions belie the importance of what we are doing as a church: gathering, worshipping, teaching, studying, praying, ministering, loving, believing, trusting, hoping.

In Psalm 11:3 David asks, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” He then immediately answers with a reminder of God’s sovereignty: “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (v. 4a).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Translation Note: Romans 7:24

The issue:

Romans 7:24 ends with the rhetorical question, tis me rhusetai ek tou somatos tou thanatou toutou;

The translation issue here is how to render the demonstrative pronoun toutou. Does it modify somatos (i.e., “of this body”) or thanatou (i.e., “of this death”).

The NIV and the NKJV read, “from this body of death.”

The KJV and the NASB read, “from the body of this death.”

Note: This is an example of a place where the NKJV departs from the KJV.


There are two reasons why the pronoun should be taken with death rather than body.

The first is grammatical. The pronoun appears just after the word death. This proximity may well indicate the pronoun’s association with “death” rather than “body.”

The second is contextual and theological. John Murray comments:

“The body of this death” could be rendered “this body of death.” In that event the emphasis would fall upon the body as characterized by death. The context would suggest, however, that the emphasis falls upon “death,” that is to say, upon the death which is intrinsic to or flows from captivity to the law of sin. It is the death belonging to this captivity, and therefore it is much more feasible to take the demonstrative pronoun “this” as referring to death rather than to the body (Romans, Volume I, p. 268).


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Textual Note: Romans 7:20

The issue:

The textual variationin Romans 7:20 is not readily apparent in English versions, because it does not affect the translation. The question is whether or not the first person pronoun ego appears after the verb thelo.

External evidence:

The traditional text includes the pronoun. The reading is supported by Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Psi, and the majority of texts.

The pronoun is omitted in Vaticanus and some other codices (C, D, F, G, et al).

Internal evidence:

It is certainly easy to see how the pronoun would be omitted since its presence is not essential for understanding that the verb is in the first person. Also, parablepsis is a real possibility since the scribe’s eye could easily  have taken the omega with which thelo ends for the omega with which ego ends and omitted the pronoun.

Metzger does not bother to address this verse in his Textual Commentary. The modern text includes the pronoun but places it in brackets.


Though it does not affect translation or meaning, there is no driving reason to remove the pronoun or to bracket it. The omission is likely due to parablepsis. This textual issue provides another example of a place where Sinaiticus (includes) and Vaticanus (omits) provide a divided witness. These two ancient witnesses do not present a united front against the traditional text!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Malcolm Watts: Burial or Cremation?

In the January 2011 issue of "The Messenger" the monthly newsletter of Emmanuel Reformed Church in Salisbury, England, Pastor Malcolm Watts has a thoughtful essay on whether Christians should choose burial or cremation.  This is a topic that is largely ignored by the evangelical church today.  As the Christian influence on our society wanes, we are seeing fewer burial services and more and more cremations.  The last time I did a local funeral service, one of the funeral home attendants noted that they are doing fewer and fewer services with the body of the deceased present. He also noted that one of the local conservative Catholic churches had taken a stand on the matter (I don't recall whether he said the priest would not participate in cremation services or would not allow them to take place in the church).  My guess is that few, if any, of the evangelical or Protestant churches have given it much thought.  Watts' essay can be laid aside the Banner of Truth booklet Burial or Cremation:  Does it Matter? by Donald Howard as a helpful resources on this topic.  Here is Watts' article (with British spellings):

Burial or Cremation?

Malcolm H. Watts

Although cremation, or the disposal of the dead by burning, was practiced in ancient times, it was not re-introduced into England until the end of the last century. Sir Henry Thompson, an agnostic who became professor of Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, publicly urged the case for cremation and due to his influence it became widely accepted in this country. In 1874 he played a major part in the forming of The Cremation Society, which was specially founded ‘to advocate this rational and hygienic method of disposal of the dead’. is new method met strong opposition at first but it gradually gained favour. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Freemasons, materialists, and Marxists… joined the movement.’ Klaas Runia, in the Encyclopaedia of Christianity, draws attention to the fact that in these early days, support chiefly came from ‘humanitarians and liberal theologians’. When in 1884 Justice Stephen declared cremation to be a legal procedure, the necessary impetus was given to the movement. It quickly became an established practice. By 1960 about one third of all who died in England, Scotland and Wales were cremated and the proportion was then increasing by two per cent per annum. Today cremation is often the preferred alternative, as evidenced by the Obituary columns in national newspapers.

Ministers have tended to assume a position of neutrality on this matter. One well-known evangelical was asked fairly recently which method he thought ought to be chosen by the Christian. His reply, given in the column of a denominational newspaper, was fairly typical. ‘Neither,’ he wrote, ‘has any marked advantage over the other, providing the ceremony is carried out with the dignity that is to be accorded to the human body.’ Neither Scripture nor conscience will allow us to agree with him.

Before proceeding any further, we must make one point absolutely clear. It does not make any difference at all so far as the resurrection is concerned. At the second coming of Christ, there will be a resurrection of all men (Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). Divine omnipotence will then be displayed in the raising of human bodies and whatever process those bodies may have been subjected to after death, every single one of them will be reconstructed and transformed to suit a different sphere of existence (Acts 26:8; Rev 20:13). There is nothing any man can do to his body to prevent that from happening. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) well expresses the teaching of Scripture in its 32nd chapter: ‘At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls for ever.’

Arguments of Cremationists

Advocates for cremation often present their case quite skillfully. In a booklet issued many years ago by the Cremation Society, the following points were made in favour of the practice:

1. It safeguards health.

The booklet argued that in already over-crowded towns and cities, burying the dead could become a real health hazard. This was considered ‘a problem of the first importance.’ But although burial has been practiced for centuries, there is no evidence that this has ever been a threat to people’s health; and today, with the present legal requirements respecting burial, there is even less possibility of that ever happening. In fact, if biblical precautions were taken, there would be no risk at all. Public burial places used to be outside towns and cities (2 Kgs 23:6; Matt 27:52-53; Lk 7:12; Jn 11:30-31): ‘two thousand cubits from the Levitical cities; for all other cities a great space, if not the same’ (Dr. John Lightfoot). Josephus, the Jewish historian, supplies the additional information that ‘through that place [i.e. of burial] was no current of waters to be made; through it was to be no public way; cattle were not to feed there, nor was wood to be gathered from thence.’

2. It leaves the land for the living.

The system of burial is wasteful, it was claimed, ‘preventing the economic use of valuable land for housing and recreation.’ A sentence from the quaint biblical commentator, John Trapp, deserves consideration here. ‘It is remarkable,’ he says, ‘that the first purchase of possession mentioned in Scripture, was a place to bury in, not to build on.’ (See Gen 23). The patriarch, taught by nature as well as grace, had learned the importance of caring for the bodies of the dead and of making provision for decent interment. Only heartless materialism would dare to challenge that loving concern.

3. It preserves the countryside.

Attention was drawn to ‘the sprawling wastes of neglected graveyards and cemeteries’ which could only be described as ‘an eyesore.’ at such places do exist, no-one will deny, but it does not have to be so. In Bible times, sepulchres were generally situated in attractive places; under the shade of trees (Gen 23:8-9,17; 35:8), in groves or in gardens (2 Kgs 21:18,26; Jn 19:41) and, in the case of public burial-grounds particularly, every effort was made to preserve natural beauty. It was the observation of Dr. George Douglas that ‘burial-places in the East are still kept with great neatness.’ As to the tombs themselves, when looked after, they can appear quite ‘beautiful’ (Matt 23:27). Our Lord, though rebuking the ‘hypocrisy’ of the scribes and Pharisees who professed to honour the prophets while manifesting the spirit of their murderers, mentions the fact that at least they showed care for their tombs. ‘Ye build the tombs of the prophets’, He said, ‘and garnish (or adorn) the sepulchres of the righteous’ (Matt 23:29). In a day when money and time are freely spent, it is to the nation’s shame that so little is done to improve the state of our cemeteries.

4. It prevents crime.

This claim is made because ‘the law respecting cremation demands two certificates signed by independent medical practitioners, and the approval of a medical referee.’ is means, they say, that ‘the cause of death’ is ‘definitely established.’ However, it must surely be apparent to all that a situation could arise when, after the funeral, a further examination of the body could prove to be of immense value. With cremation, of course, it would not be possible, whereas with burial, exhumation could take place (cf. Jer 8:1). This being so, burial would tend to discourage crime far more than cremation.

5. It makes for a more rational outlook.

Here the emphasis is laid upon ‘the heartbreak of the yawning grave’ and ‘the clammy clay.’ It is true that whatever provision be made for the disposal of the body, death’s bitterness cannot be altogether removed. Yet, that agreed, given the choice between placing the bodies of those we love in an incinerator heated to 2,000°F and laying those bodies gently in the ground that they might, as it were, ‘sleep in the dust’ until the grand awakening of the resurrection morning (Dan 12:2), we, for our part, unhesitatingly choose this latter course as every way more conducive to our comfort and consolation.

6. It is an economic method.

The point made is that not only is ‘the process itself inexpensive’ but also that there is ‘no grave to buy and no tombstone to provide and preserve.’ Is economy, however, the all-important factor? Evidently Abraham did not think so when, out of love and respect for ‘his dead,’ he paid the high price of ‘four hundred shekels of silver’ for a plot of ground (Gen 23:13-16). We even read that the chief priests devoted the betrayal money to this purpose so that they might appear devout, so generally was it considered to be an act of mercy and kindness (Matt 27:7; cf. 2 Sam 2:5). Neither ought tombstones to be reckoned items of unnecessary expense. What lessons they are able to teach the living about mortality and eternity! Yet their main service, surely, is to those who have died. To use the words of James Hervey, it is as if those stones have received ‘a charge to preserve their names’ and are ‘the remaining trustees of their memory.’ (Gen 35:20; 2 Kgs 23:17; cf. Ezek 39:15). So long as these engraven records are before the public, the dead will be kept in remembrance and, according to God’s Word, that is a blessing not to be lightly esteemed (see Job 18:17; Ps 112:6; Prov 10:7).

The Scriptural Case for Burial

Not one of these arguments for cremation is in any way convincing, based as they all are upon human reasoning. A question of fundamental importance must now be asked: ‘What saith the scripture?’ (Rom 4:3).

(1) Immediately after the Fall of Adam, God made it clear that, because of his sin, man was to be interred in that earth from which he originally came: ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken’ (Gen 3:19). As Francis Roberts once correctly observed, ‘Here man is not only sentenced to death, but also to the grave.’ God’s Word still stands. Adam and all descended from him must ‘return’ to this appointed place (Ps 90:3; 104:29; Eccl. 12:7). A grave belongs to every man. Hence that scripture which says, ‘His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth.’ (Ps. 146:4).

(2) Not a great deal is known about very early funeral rites and customs, but enough evidence is available to show that cremation was certainly the ancient and widespread practice of the heathen world. We know, for example, that among the Babylonians ‘cremation, mostly incomplete, was the practice.’ (A Dictionary of the Bible edited by Sir William Smith). Among the Greeks it was also usual to dispose of the body in this way. ‘Greeks burned the bodies of their dead, and deposited the ashes in graceful urns or under Stelae (tall tablets).’ (Black’s Bible Dictionary). The Romans too seem to have preferred this method and ‘during the first four centuries of the empire, the body was, in the great majority of cases, consumed by fire, and the ashes consigned to the tomb in an urn.’ (A Manual of Roman Antiquities, by William Ramsay). In modern heathendom little has changed. Buddhists still bring their dead to the pyre; Hindus do the same. is connection with heathenism becomes a strong argument for rejecting it. God has said: ‘Learn not the way of the heathen’ (Jer 10:2; cf. Lev 18:3,30; Deut 18:9).

(3) From the beginning God’s people rejected the heathen way of treating the dead. As Dr. Alfred Edersheim observed: ‘Cremation was denounced as contrary to the whole spirit of Old Testament teaching.’ The Jews believed very strongly that burial was divinely appointed and this became the universal custom among them (Gen 25:9; 35:29; 50:13; Josh 24:30; 2 Kgs 13:20; 2 Chron 9:31), the only exceptions being when there was fear of mutilation by an enemy (1 Sam 31:12) or when it was physically impossible in a time of plague (Amos 6:9-10). That the Jews always chose ‘to bury rather than to burn their dead bodies’ is a fact noted by Tacitus, the Roman historian; but we really do not need the testimony of secular history: Scripture itself tells us that ‘the manner of the Jews’ was ‘to bury’ (Jn 19:40). Although the burning of the dead prevailed throughout the Roman Empire when Christianity first appeared, the early Christians strongly objected to it. Accepting, as they did, the main Jewish arguments against cremation, they believed that in the burial of the Lord Jesus, an example had been given to the Church (1 Cor 15:3; cf. Rom 6:5 – ‘we shall be... in the likeness of his resurrection.’ It would seem fitting to be like Him in His burial too) and so their dead were deposited very carefully in sepulchres. After the death of the first martyr, for example, we read how ‘devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.’ (Acts 8:2; cf. 5:6,10). Municius Felix, an early defender of the Christian faith, no doubt spoke on behalf of the whole Church when he said: ‘We observe the old and better custom of interment.’ The Church’s opposition to cremation eventually brought about change. It is an indisputable fact of history that ‘when Christianity began to increase, the funeral flames did cease, and after a few emperors had received baptism, there was not a body burnt in all the Roman Empire.’ (Dr. John Pearson).

(4) The Bible teaches that when the soul returns to God at death, the body enters the grave as into a new ‘house’ (Job 30:23; Is 14:18). This is represented as a vast house, with many private rooms or apartments called ‘chambers of death.’ (Prov 7:27) and in these the dead ‘rest in their beds’ (Is 57:2; 1 Chron. 16:13-14).

This language, so descriptive of burial, would be quite inappropriate – in fact, devoid of all meaning – once cremation is considered. is also applies to the apostle’s illustration in 1 Corinthians 15, where he likens the body to a seed: ‘that which thou sowest’ (1 Cor 15:36-44). Since all these allusions point to burial as the proper mode, we certainly do not feel at liberty, to institute the very radical change required by cremation.

(5) Throughout history, the burning of the body has been associated with hatred and enmity. With horrifying cruelty men have inflicted punishment and shown contempt by means of fire (Ezek 23:25; Jer 29:22; Dan 3:6; Amos 2:1 – this last verse is very relevant to the subject in hand). In marked contrast, love has been thought chiefly responsible for the burying of the dead (2 Sam 2:5-6; 21:10-14; Mt 14:12. See also Mk 14:3-9). Since love was appointed by our Lord as the distinguishing mark of His disciples, by which this world might know us (Jn 13:35; cf. 2 Tim 3:3 – ‘without natural affection’), we surely ought to seize this special opportunity of manifesting it. Who knows what effect it might have upon unbelievers? Before summarily dismissing that question, a remark once made by Julian, the Roman Emperor (AD 361-363), ought to be considered. He said that, in his opinion, the spread of Christianity was at least partly due to the early Christians’ ‘forethought about the burial of the dead.’

(6) If and when burial takes place, believers are able to make profession of their faith even in death. A silent but impressive testimony can be made to ‘those things which are surely believed among us,’ such as: Creation (Gen 2:7), the Fall (Gen 3:19), Redemption (1 Cor. 6:20 – our bodies belong to Christ as much as our souls), Union with Christ (1 Cor 6:15), Indwelling by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), Preservation (Jn 6:39-40), Resurrection (Ps 17:15), and Eternal Life (Jn 5:28-29). Since there is one final opportunity to declare faith in all these truths, ought it not to be taken? Only burial enables you to do so. Then let burial be the choice and ‘glorify God in your body.’

(7) Fire has always been connected with judgment. Sacrificial victims, charged with sin, were burnt (Lev 4:12; 6:30). Idols and images, so hated and abhorred by God, were thrown contemptuously to the flames (Exod 32:20; Deut 7:5). The bodies of people guilty of heinous crimes were consigned to devouring fire (Gen 19:24; Lev 10:2; 20:14; 21:9; Num 11:1; 16:35; Josh 7:15). Related as it is to punishment, it is not at all surprising to find that fire is the element of torment in hell (Matt 13:50; 25:41; Lk 16:24). It must surely be wrong to use fire in disposing of the body. For the Christian, whose sins are all pardoned, it is so dreadfully inappropriate.

Burial - Fitting and Right

God has shown that burial is fitting and right. When there was nobody around to arrange for the disposal of Moses’ body, God saw to it Himself and ‘he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab’ (Deut 34:6). We should take very careful note of the fact that it was Satan who objected to this, desiring to deprive God’s servant of a decent and honourable burial (Jude 9).

In the light of all that God has revealed, a decision must be reached. That done, we really ought to make it absolutely clear to those with charge of our affairs that our wish is to be buried. That was what Joseph did when he ‘gave commandment concerning his bones’ (Heb 11:22). Many have wisely followed his example, including John Calvin in whose Will the following words appear:

“I desire that after my passing, my body be buried according to the customary form, in expectancy of the day of the blessed resurrection.”

We close with a further quotation from John Pearson’s Exposition of the Creed (1659): ‘ The first Christians wholly abstained from consuming of the dead bodies with fire, and followed the example of our Saviour’s funeral... The description of the persons which interred Christ, and the enumeration of their virtues, and the everlasting commendation of her who brake the box of precious ointment for His burial, have been thought sufficient grounds and encouragements for the careful and decent sepulture of Christians. For as natural reason will teach us to give some kind of respect unto the bodies of men, though dead, in reference to the souls which formerly inhabited them: so, and much more, the followers of our Saviour, while they looked upon our bodies as living temples of the Holy Ghost, and bought by Christ, to be made one day like unto His glorious body, they thought them no ways to be neglected after death, but carefully to be laid up in the wardrobe of the grave, with such due respect as might become the honour of the dead and comfort of the living. And this decent custom of primitive Christians was so acceptable unto God, that by His providence it proved most effectual in the conversion of the heathens and propagation of the gospel.

Calvin's Prayer After His First Lecture on Hosea

I preached the first message Sunday in our current afternoon service through "The Book of the Twelve" on The Message of Hosea:  Repent  I closed the message by reading Calvin's prayer with which he ended his first lecture on the book of Hosea:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once adopted us, and continue to confirm this thy favor by calling us unceasingly to thyself, and dost not only severely chastise us, but also gently and paternally invite us to thyself, and exhort us at the same time to repentance,---O grant that we may not be so hardened as to resist thy goodness, nor abuse this thy incredible forbearance, but submit ourselves in obedience to thee; that whenever thou mayest severely chastise us, we may bear thy corrections with genuine submission of faith and not continue untameable and obstinate to the last, but return to thee, the only fountain of life and salvation, that as thou hast once begun in us a good work, so thou mayest perfect it to the day of our Lord. Amen.

--Calvin's Commentaries

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Romans 7 Testimony

I preached yesterday morning on "The Civil War" (Romans 7:21-25).  I concluded the message by sharing the baptismal testimony of a young person named Rebekah that I had read in the newsletter of her church in England (Lord willing, the pastor of this church, Malcolm Watts, will be one of our speakers at the Keach Conference this fall).  Her story beautifully illustrates the tension Paul describes in Romans 7 in the believer's life of being saved but realizing you are still a sinner (emphasis added):

I used to think that I was a very good person, and I ranked myself with Christian people. But I found church services a good cure for insomnia, and had no interest in the Faith, as a general rule. I hated being labeled as a sinner, since I felt sure that I had done nothing very wrong in my short life.

(She then describes beginning to attend the church where she was baptized) I was surprised by the insistence that all people are sinful and that they can never do anything good by themselves.

One sermon I heard spoke about how everyone sins, without even opening their mouths – by their thoughts. I remember admitting to myself, "There goes my ' I am a good person' excuse." So I soon came to the acceptance that I was a needy sinner, but I still didn't understand why sin was such a serious matter.

Until… one Lord’s Day evening Pastor preached a sermon which described, in great detail, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was horrified at the vivid account of all that the Son of God had suffered for sins He had never committed. I realized that night how ungrateful I was. He had given up His life, out of love for me, and I hadn't cared... a bit.

When I came home that night, I knelt down, and tearfully asked the Lord to come into my life and to save me from my sins. Although I felt no different, I convinced myself that I was a Christian, because the Bible promises salvation to whoever asks for it. I soon began to feel more and more depressed, as I realized that I hadn't been transformed into a perfect person, but that instead I felt my sinfulness more keenly than ever. This frustration grew, until I did not know anymore whether or not I was a Christian.

Eventually I realized that I was still a sinner, but that I was now a forgiven one. I kept on begging that I would be given the assurance that I lacked, but it was not until several months later that I knew for certain that the Lord had saved me. I remember Pastor was talking about what it feels like to know that the Lord Jesus is with you, every moment of your life; and I suddenly realized that I knew what he was talking about, because I felt – and still feel – the same.


Calvin's Public Prayers Before and After Teaching

The prayer which John Calvin was wont to use at the beginning of his lectures:

May the Lord grant, that we may engage in contemplating the mysteries of his heavenly wisdom with really incredible devotion, to his glory and our edification. Amen.

The prayer which John Calvin was accustomed to use at the commencement of his lectures:

Grant unto us, O Lord, to be occupied in the mysteries of the Heavenly wisdom, with true progress in piety, to thy glory and our edification. Amen.

--From Calvin’s Commentaries

Andrew Fuller: Ministers appointed to root out evil and to cultivate good

I posted another reading of an Andrew Fuller sermon the other day.  The message is titled, "Ministers appointed to root our evil and to cultivate good" from Jeremiah 1:10.  The occasion for the message appears to be an ordination service.  Good insights, as usual, about the nature of pastoral ministry.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: "The Authorised Version and New Translations"

Image:  "The Doctor" D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This is part of an address given by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the National Bible Rally in the Royal Albert Hall, London, on October 24th, 1961:

I suppose that the most popular of all the proposals at the present moment is to have a new translation of the Bible... The argument is that people are not reading the Bible any longer because they do not understand its language - particularly the archaic terms - what does your modern man... know about justification, sanctification, and all these Biblical terms? And so we are told the one thing that is necessary is to have a translation that Tom, Dick and Harry will understand, and I began to feel about six months ago that we had almost reached the stage in which the Authorised Version was being dismissed, to be thrown into the limbo of things forgotten, no longer of any value. Need I apologise for saying a word in favour of the Authorised Version in this gathering? Well, whatever you may think, I am going to do it without any apology.

Let us, first of all, be clear about the basic proposition laid down by the Protestant Reformers, that we must have a Bible which is, as they put it, 'understanded of the people'. That is common sense; that is obvious. We all agree too that we must never be obscurantist. We must never approach the Bible in a mere antiquarian spirit. Nobody wants to be like that, or to defend such attitudes. But there is a very grave danger incipient in much of the argument that is being presented today for these new translations. There is a danger, I say, of our surrendering something that is vital and essential.

Look at it like this. Take this argument that the modern man does not understand such terms as 'justification', 'sanctification', and so on. I want to ask a question: When did the ordinary man ever understand those terms? ... Consider the colliers to whom John Wesley and George Whitfield used to preach in the 18th century. Did they understand them? They had not even been to a day school, an elementary school. They could not read, they could not write. Yet these were the terms which they heard, and the Authorised Version was the version used. The common people have never understood these terms. However, I want to add something to this. We must be very careful in using such an argument against the Authorised Version, for the reason that the very nature and character of the truth which the Bible presents to us is such that it is extremely difficult to put into words at all. We are not describing an animal or a machine; we are concerned here with something which is spiritual, something which does not belong to this world at all, and which, as the apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthians reminds us, 'the princes of this world' do not know. Human wisdom is of no value here; it is a spiritual truth; it is something that is altogether different. This is truth about God primarily, and because of that it is a mystery. There is a glory attached to it, there is a wonder, and something which is amazing. The apostle Paul, who probably understood it better than most, looking at its contents, stands back and says, 'Great is the mystery of godliness' (1 Tim 3:16).

Yet we are told, it must be put in such simple terms and language that anybody taking it up and reading it is going to understand all about it. My friends, this is nothing but sheer nonsense! What we must do is to educate the masses of the people up to the Bible, not bring the Bible down to their level. One of the greatest troubles in life today is that everything is being brought down to the same level, everything is cheapened. The common man is made the standard of authority; he decides everything, and everything has to be brought down to him. You are getting it on your wireless, your television, in your newspapers; everywhere standards are coming down and down. Are we to do that with the Word of God? I say, No! What has happened in the past has been this: an ignorant, an illiterate people in this country and in foreign countries, coming into salvation, have been educated up to the Book and have begun to understand it, to glory in it, and to praise God for it. I am here to say that we need to do the same at this present time. What we need is therefore, not to replace the Authorised Version with what, I am tempted at times to call, the ITV edition of the Bible. We need rather to reach and train people up to the standard and the language, the dignity and the glory of the old Authorised Version.

Very well, my friends, let me say a word for the old book, the old Authorised Version. It was translated by fifty-four men, every one of them a great scholar, and published in 1611.

Here is another thing to commend it to you: this Authorised Version came out at a time when the church had not yet divided into Anglican and Nonconformist. I think there is an advantage even in that. They were all still as one, with very few exceptions, when the Authorised version was produced.

Another important point to remember is this. The Authorised Version was produced some time after that great climactic event which we call the Protestant Reformation. There had been time by then to see some of the terrible horrors of Rome, and all she stood for. The early Reformers had too much on their plate, as it were; Luther may have left many gaps; but when this translation was produced, there had been time for men to be able to see Rome for what she really was. These translators were all men who were orthodox in the faith. They believed that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and they submitted to it as the final authority, as against the spurious claims of Rome, as against the appeals to the Church Fathers, and everything else.

Here, I say, were fifty-four men, scholars and saintly, who were utterly submitted to the Book. You have never had that in any other version. Here, and here alone, you have a body of men who were absolutely committed to it, who gave themselves to it, who did not want to correct or sit in judgment on it, whose only concern and desire was to translate and interpret it for the masses of the people.

In view of all this, my argument is that the answer does not lie in producing new translations; they are coming out almost every week, but are they truly aiding the situation? No, and for this reason: men no longer read the Bible not because they cannot understand its language, but because they do not believe in it. They do not believe in God; they do not want it. Their problem is not one of language and of terminology; it is the state of the heart. Therefore what do we do about it? It seems to me there is only one thing to do, the thing that has always been done in the past: we must preach it and our preaching must be wholly based upon its authority.

Note:  This article found online here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sermons of the Week: Pooyan Mehrshahi on "Do all roads lead to God?" and "Testimony"

Image:  Pastor Pooyan Mehrshahi

Pooyan Mehrshahi was raised in a Zoroastrian home in Iran but was converted to Christ as a college student in the United Kingdom.  He is now the pastor of Providence Baptist Chapel at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.

In his sermon titled, "Do all roads lead to God?" Pastor Mehrshahi shares how and why he came to hold to the exclusive claims of Christ.

You can also hear an earlier recording of his testimony here.

When we see so much tumult in the Middle East these days, we can remember that the Lord is at work in all circumstances to bring men from every tribe, nation, and tongue to himself.


Is there a connection between translations and downgrade?

Also in the most recent issue of the TBS’s Quarterly Record, Assistant General Secretary D. Larlham has an article reflecting on the 400th Anniversary of the AV (KJV) in which he raises the question of a connection between the modern decline of the AV and “downgrade” in the church:

This year we celebrate four hundred years since the first printing of the Authorised Version, and we are not ashamed of its antiquity. In God’s great mercy and providence it has stood the test of time, and been used mightily in His hand during the most sustained period of growth and true prosperity of the church of Jesus Christ in the English speaking world. The marked decline in the use of the Authorised Version in our lifetime has to be set alongside an unprecedented downgrade in His church, marked by a lack of reverence, an embrace of false doctrine and worldliness, and a huge swing toward unbiblical modes of worship and Christian living. We do not see this juxtaposition as merely coincidental; rather, the one has led inexorably to the other.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Vision (2/17/11): On the Romans Road

I have been enjoying our preaching series through the book of Romans on Sunday mornings. What a privilege to study this great book! Presbyterian Pastor James Montgomery Boice noted that “Romans has probably been the object of more intense study by more highly intelligent and motivated individuals than any document in human history.” Why? Boice adds, because it is “the most basic, comprehensive statement of true Christianity” (Romans, Volume I, p. 9).

While he was still an Augustinian monk, Martin Luther began a series of lectures on Romans at Wittenberg on November 3, 1515 that continued until September 7, 1516. By October 31, 1517 he was posting his 95 theses that launched the Protestant Reformation. It was his study of Romans that God used, in large part, to set this revival in motion.

Luther’s commentary on Romans, that came from those lectures, begins with these words:

This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.

Indeed, there is much to ponder in this great epistle. The British pastor David Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached every Friday night verse by verse (and sometimes word by word) through Romans for thirteen years (from 1955 till 1968), and he only made it through Romans 14:17! These expositions are now published by Banner of Truth in 14 volumes!

Again, what a privilege for our congregation to study together this great book that has meant so much to so many.

In Christ, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Five Resources for Understanding the Lord's Day as the Christian Sabbath

In a past blog article I noted that one of the dividing lines between neo-evangelical Calvinists and those embracing thoroughgoing Reformed theology is the issue of the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath.

Here are five resources—both doctrinal and practical— for those who want to give this subject more serious consideration:

1. Chapter 22 “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day” in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).

These eight paragraphs with scriptural proofs follow the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession with only slight variation in laying out the Puritan and Reformed view of the Lord’s Day as “the Christian Sabbath.” Here is the distilled wisdom of our Protestant Reformation and Particular Baptist forebears.

2. Robert Lewis Dabney, “The Christian Sabbath: Its Nature, Design, and Proper Observance” in Dabney’s Discussions, Volume I (Sprinkle reprint, 1982): pp. 496-550.

The Presbyterian stalwart doggedly defends the classical Reformed position by exhaustively reviewing the Biblical texts to defend the fourth commandment as “moral and perpetual.” Of note is his exegetical review of “objection passages” like Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:9-11; and Colossians 2:16-17 (see pp. 521-530). Dabney does not suffer lightly those with mushy and inconsistent thinking on this issue.

3. Richard C. Barcellos, In Defense of the Decalogue: A Critique of New Covenant Theology (Winepress, 2001).

Barcellos offers a critique of “New Covenant” theology (an effort to blend Calvinistic soteriology and dispensationalism) from a Reformed Baptist perspective. Though this booklet covers the Christian’s view of the moral law in general, it readily applies to the question of the continuing validity of the fourth commandment, which NCT rejects.

4. Walter Chantry, Call the Sabbath a Delight (Banner of Truth, 1991)

Classic booklet by longtime Reformed Baptist Pastor and Banner of Truth editor which both offers a Biblical and doctrinal explanation of the fourth commandment and provides practical counsel on how positively to observe the Lord’s Day without straying into legalism.

5. Bruce A. Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest in a Restless World (P & R, 2000).

Another worthy attempt to do what Chantry’s book does. This brief book (only 125 pp) is ideal for parents and families to read and study together in order to discern a Biblically faithful way to enjoy the Lord’s Day without becoming Pharisaical.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CRBC Elder Ordination

CRBC held its first Edler Ordination service last Sunday (2/13/11).  Daniel Houseworth was set apart by prayer and the laying on of hands for the office of Ruling Elder in our body.  Steve Clevenger of Covenant RBC preached the message for the service.

We had a full afternoon congregation with friends from Covenant RBC and Providence OPC present for the service.  Here are a few scenes:

Image:  Pastor Steve gives the ordination challenge.

Image:  "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" (1 Tim 4:14).

Image:  Officers from Covenant RBC and Christ RBC.

Image:  Fellowship.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who is the man of Romans 7?

In preaching last Sunday through Romans 7:13-20 ("Indwelling Sin") I got to do some reflection on the crux interpretum regarding the man to whom Paul refers in Romans 7. Here are some notes:

In his expositional commentary on Romans, James Montgomery Boice says there are at least four alternatives that have been put forward (see Romans, Volume 2 [Baker, 992]: pp. 755-762):

1. The man of Romans 7 is an unsaved or an unregenerate man.

Those who hold to this interpretation say that Paul could not possibly say the things he does here if he is describing himself after he was converted. How could he say he is “sold under sin” (v. 14; contrast 6:18)? Or that no good thing dwells in him? (v. 18)? Or cry out that he is a wretched man (v. 24)?

Those who tend to hold this view also tend to believe that Christians can attain a measure of full sanctification or, as Wesley called it, “perfectionism” in this life.

2. The man of Romans 7 is a so-called “carnal Christian.”

Some say Paul is referring to a Christian in an immature or unsurrendered state. They like to compare 1 Corinthians 3:3 where Paul says, “For ye are yet carnal….” Maybe you have heard this view expressed by those who argue that Jesus can be your Savior and not be your Lord.

The problem with this position is that it does not mesh with the whole counsel of God. The Bible does not teach “two-tier” Christianity. There are not the carnal Christians on one level and the spiritual Christians on a higher plane. The Lord does not save without also exerting his Lordship or rule in a believer’s life. There is no salvation divorced from sanctification.

3. The man of Romans 7 is a sinner under conviction but not yet saved.

These say the man of Romans 7 is somewhere between being unregenerate and regenerate. He is “awakened” but not yet “revived.” This is apparently the view presented by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his commentary on Romans.

4. The man of Romans 7 is a mature Christian.

This view says that Paul is writing about himself as a mature Christian, and even as a choice apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he has been saved by God’s grace, justified by faith, and will one day be glorified, at present he lives in a state where he struggles with sin on the path of progressive sanctification.

He is a regenerate man, a saved man, and yet there is a conflict that ensued in his life. There is a battle for holiness and purity of life in which he is engaged.

This is sometimes called the “Augustinian” view since it goes back to St. Augustine and it has been the view held by most Reformed believers down through the ages, including the Puritans.

John Murray in his respected commentary on Romans divides Romans 7 into two sections. In Romans 7:7-13 he agrees with Lloyd-Jones, that Paul is describing a “pre-regenerate experience.” “It is the preparatory and transitional phase of his spiritual pilgrimage when, shaken by conviction which the law of God ministers, his state of mind was no longer one of unperturbed calm and self-esteem” (Romans, Volume 1 [Eerdmans, 1959]): p. 255). But then—contra Lloyd-Jones—in 7:14-25 Murray argues that Paul is describing a man who has entered into the state of grace.

Notice that with v. 14 all the tenses in the verbs change to the present (contrast, for example, vv. 10-11 and vv. 14-15).

Murray provides at least five reasons why Paul must be talking about himself as a saved man (see pp. 257-259):

1. He says in v. 22: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” No one could say that but a saved man.

2. Similarly in v. 25 he says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God.” Again, this is something only a believer would say.

3. The man portrayed here has a will toward doing what is good (vv. 15, 18, 19, 21) and the evil he does violates what he wills and loves (vv. 16, 19, 20).

4. The tension we see in this passage is inevitable in a regenerate man as long as sin remains in him. There are “two complexes in him—righteousness, on the one hand, sin, on the other.” “And the more sanctified he becomes the more painful to him must be the presence in himself of that which contradicts the perfect standard of holiness.”

5. The final note is one of thanksgiving (v. 25a). This “is not the language of the unregenerate man under the bondage of sin.”

This is a very practical point that Paul is making here. This is not some pie in the sky theology. This is not how many angels can dance on the top of a needle. This is rubber meets the road doctrine. Paul is writing to believers who were struggling with questions of their assurance. I am supposed to be saved, but I am still a sinner. I know I am supposed to be patient with my children but sometimes I lose it and become angry with them without just cause. I know I am supposed to be pure but sometimes my mind races with wicked thoughts. I know I am supposed to be content in Christ, but sometimes I covet my neighbor’s car and his house and I ask God why he wasn’t wise enough to give me what I want. Can a man be saved and still be struggling with such elementary sin issues in his life?


Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Note: From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man

James B. Williams, General Editor, From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A Layman’s Guide to How We Got Our Bible (Ambassador-Emerald International, 1999): 231 pp.

This book is a collection of articles published in response to controversy created by KJV-Only advocates within American fundamentalist Baptist circles. It originated in a gathering of pastors in 1998 who formed “The Committee on the Bible’s Text and Translation.” The articles are written by members of this committee and other invited authors and academics from the fundamentalist community.

Here is each article with a brief summary:

James B. Williams, “Introduction: The Issue We Face” (pp. 1-11).

This article outlines the problem. It describes “the translation controversy” as the fourth great fundamentalist controversy after, (1) liberalism versus orthodoxy; (2) Neo-evangelicalism; and (3) the charismatic movement. Williams charges KJV extremists with creating unnecessary dissension in fundamentalist ranks.

Randolph Shaylor, “Our Final Authority: Revelation, Inspiration, Inerrancy, Infallibility, and Authority of the Bible” (pp. 13-29).

Shaylor presents an overview of the general, conservative view of the nature and authority of Scripture. He embraces the B. B. Warfield view of the inerrancy of the “autographs.” “Copies of these writings retain the quality of inspiration to the degree that they are accurate representations of what God gave in the autographs” (p. 22).

Paul W. Downey, “Canonization and Apocrypha” (pp. 31-64).

This article presents a general survey of the how the canonical books came to be recognized and accepted with special attention to how the Apocrypha was rejected by Protestants.

I take particular exception to at least two points in this article:

(1) Regarding the Apocrypha. In an apparent effort to score points in the “translation controversy” Downey notes that the 1611 AV included the Apocrypha. He even states that in so doing the AV “had followed the Council of Trent, not the Reformers, in the treatment of the Apocrypha” (p. 45). This statement is more than a little misleading. The AV translators were staunch Protestants and included several notable Puritans. They were hardly sympathetic to Rome. A clear confessional statement on the Apocrypha was not made until the Westminster Confession of 1647, years after the AV was first printed. By printing the Apocrypha as a supplement to the Old and New Testaments, the AV was simply following common Protestant practice of the times. Note: The original Geneva Bible (1560) also included the Apocrypha until the 1599 edition.

(2) Regarding Baptist confessions. Downey provides a discussion on confessional statements regarding canon, noting that the Westminster Confession provided “the most detailed statement on the Reformed church’s approach to Scripture.” He then notes, “Later Baptist confessions appeared that stated that the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments was the only rule of faith and obedience (1644 Confession, Charlestown Confession of 1665, Philadelphia Confession of 1742, etc.), but none gave the careful definition and description the Westminster Confession had provided” (p. 61). This statement is both curious and dubious. First, by “the 1644 Confession” we assume Downey is referring to the First London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644). Less clear is his reference to the “Charlestown Confession of 1665.” Does he mean to refer to the confession adopted by the Baptist Church at Kittery, Maine in 1682 (which relocated to Charleston, South Carolina in 1696)? This confession was then adopted by the Charleston Association of Baptist Churches in 1767 and known as “The Charleston Confession” (see H. Rondel Rumburg, ed. Some Southern Documents of the People Called Baptists [Society for Biblical and Southern Studies, 1995]). This confession, however, was based on the Second London Confession of Faith (1689) which followed the Westminster Confession and has the same article one on Scripture. Next, he makes reference to the “Philadelphia Confession of Faith of 1742.” Like the Charleston Confession, this one was also based on the Second London Baptist Confession (1689) which followed the Westminster Confession and had the same statement on Scripture in its first article (see William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith [Judson Press, 1969]). This leads to a glaring problem with Downey’s statement that no Baptist confessions “gave the careful definition and description the Westminster Confession had provided” (p. 61). He seems to be unaware of the existence and influence of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) which followed the first article of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the doctrine of Scripture verbatim, including its definition of the sixty-six canonical books, its rejection of the Apocrypha as canonical, and it affirmation of the doctrine of the divine preservation of Scripture.

Mark Minnick, “Let’s Meet the Manuscripts” (pp. 65-98).

Minnick presents a basic overview for a popular audience of how textual critics analyze and evaluate Biblical manuscripts. He sees the goal of text criticism as the process of comparing “thousands of extant manuscripts in an effort to confirm, in so far as is possible, the precise wording of the autographa” (p. 71). He concludes that “God sometimes uses unorthodox men to do the textual criticism underlying entirely acceptable translations” (p. 79). At the close of the article, Minnick also draws citations from conservative stalwarts like Spurgeon, Dabney, and even the dispensationalist Schofield to argue that they shared his views on textual criticism.

John E. Ashbrook, “The History of the Textus Receptus” (pp. 99-108).

Ashbrook traces the development of the printed Textus Receptus of the Greek NT, focusing on Erasmus. He concludes that the TR is “the Model T Ford of the New Testament text,” a “great triumph in the world of transportation,” but “only a first step into the present automotive world” (p. 106).

John K. Hutcheson, Sr., “English Translations Before the King James Version” (pp. 109-124).

This article traces the history of various English translations preceding the KJV concluding with the challenge that each generation should have “a fresh English translation of the Bible” (p. 123).

John C. Mincey, “The Making of the King James Version” (pp. 129-145).

Mincey provides a succinct and helpful summary of the historical setting in which the KJV was undertaken and the process followed by the translators and publishers. Much attention is given the KJV preface “The Translator to the Reader” (thought to have been written by Miles Smith). Mincy concludes that this preface undermines any notion of a KJV-Only perspective.

The committee on the Bible’s text and translation, “The Changing King James Version” (pp. 147-167).

This chapter traces various editions and modifications made to the KJV after 1611, culminating in the 1769 Benjamin Blayney edition that is primarily in use today. It concludes with a discussion of Matthew 5:18 and Jesus’ statement that not one “jot” or “tittle” would pass away from the word.

William H. Smallman, “Printed Greek Texts” (pp. 169-184).

This article offers a survey of printed Greek texts culminating in the modern Greek text represented in the Nestle-Aland 27th ed. and the United Bible Society 4th ed. It also references printed editions of the Texus Receptus and the Majority Text. Smallman sees a basic divide between two families (modern critical Greek text advocates on one side and TR/Majority text advocates on the other). He concludes that “the notion of a ‘standard Greek text’ is more a convenience than a necessity,” since “none of the differences change any Christian doctrines” (p. 182).

J. Drew Conley, “English Versions Since 1880” (pp. 185-209).

Conley offers a survey of various English translations from the Revised Versions (NT-1881) to the NET Bible (NT-1998). There are some interesting tidbits along the way (e.g., the ASV [1901] was the most cited version in The Fundamentals). Conley firmly opposes paraphrases, saying Peterson “has taken reckless liberties” in The Message. Despite the fact that the book has been updated and had its fifth printing in 2008, this chapter does not discuss more recent translations like the ESV and the HCSB.

Keith E. Gephart, “Conclusion: The Response to These Facts” (pp. 211-218).

Gephart concludes, “As always, Fundamentalism’s greatest difficulties are caused by those within its own ranks who by some actions, statements, or doctrinal positions bring embarrassment and unnecessary discord” (p. 211). He makes a plea for toleration, saying, “it is time for unbibical and unchristian judgmentalism in this department to disappear” (pp. 216-217).

Some concluding thoughts:

I found this book to be interesting and mostly reliable (see, however, the critique of Downey’s chapter). It provides a window of insight into how conservative, fundamentalist pastors, scholars, and churches are being affected by modern translation controversies. I think this book will go a long way toward disabusing laymen (the purported intended audience) of the intellectual, historical, and theological problems with a simplistic KJV-Only mindset. I think the book is less successful, however, in responding to more sophisticated questions about issues related both to translation philosophy, the underlying texts from which translation are made, and downgrade tendencies that have resulted from the introduction of modern texts and translations. For one thing, the authors have accepted the neo-evangelical construal of the inerrancy of the original autographs (a la Warfield, Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, etc.). There is little discussion of the Reformed doctrine of the divine preservation of the Scriptures in the apographs or copies (on this topic see the Reformed creeds like the Westminster Confession and Second London Baptist Confession [1689]; John Owen, “Of the Divine Original of the Scriptures” and “Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Texts” in Volume 16 of his Collected Works; Jakob Van Bruggen, The Ancient Text of the New Testament and The Future of the Bible; and more contemporary discussions from men like Theodore Letis and William Einwechter). There is little discussion or awareness expressed of arguments in favor of the AV and the traditional text from those who likewise reject a simplistic KJV-Only position (e.g., those made by the Trinitarian Bible Society).


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birthday Concert

I passed a birthday milestone this week, and this evening my family gave me a birthday supper followed by a concert recital from the children (complete with a printed program).  Joseph sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider."  Isaiah played "Butterfly" and "Paper Ships" on the piano, and Sam played "Rage over a lost penny."  The boys sang a trio of "Peter and John went to pray."  Hannah played "Rock of Ages" on the piano.  Lydia played an original song she wrote "Let Go" on guitar while Hannah joined her in a duet to sing the lyrics.  The concert closed with all the children singing "All in All," complete with a round and blended harmonies.

Birthday presents don't get much better for a Dad!  The Lord has richly blessed me not just in the past year but in all of life.  SDG!