Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Note:Last week one of our members asked me if I
would give him an overview of the various views on Christian eschatology and
provide some suggested resources for study. I responded by writing him a rather
lengthy email.This week one of the
students from Lynchburg emailed me, making an almost identical request.So, I went back to the first email to edit
and enlarge it.The result is the brief essay
Eschatology refers to the doctrine of last things.In general, orthodox,
Bible-believing Christians hold that we are living between the first and second
advents of the Lord Jesus Christ.We
live in this present evil age looking forward to the glorious new age in which
Christ will finally triumph.
The doctrine of last things can
be divided into two categories:(1)
personal eschatology and (2) cosmic eschatology.
Personal eschatology has to do with what awaits human
beings at the end of their lives on earth.The Biblical view of personal eschatology is succinctly stated in Questions
36-39 in Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism.
Cosmic eschatology has to do with the end of history
and creation on a cosmic scale.When
most people ask about the Christian view of eschatology, this is the category
they are usually thinking about.
Basic Christian Affirmations on Eschatology:Orthodox, Bible-believing
Christians hold to the following basic teachings regarding last things:
·There will be a final, glorious
second coming (parousia or “advent”)
·At Christ’s coming there will be a
general resurrection of the dead (of which Christ is the first fruit).
·After the general resurrection,
there will be a final judgment.
·At the final judgment all men
will be permanently assigned for eternity to heaven or hell.
·God will create a new heavens and
a new earth.
·God will be all in all, gloriously
ruling for eternity.
All these things constitute the
Christian hope. They are described in chapter
31 and chapter
32 of the Second
London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).
Various views on the timeline of Christ’s coming:As noted, all true Christians
will generally agree in affirming the basic events sketched above.There are differences among Christians,
however, on when and how Christ’s
parousia will take place.Much of
the difference relates to the proper interpretation of Revelation 20, a key passage
where mention is made of a thousand year reign of Christ.This thousand year period is referred to as “the millennium.”
In the history of Christian
interpretation of the Bible, there have been three major views on the timing of Christ's second coming related
to the millennium:
1. Historic Premillennialism: This view hold that Christ’s
coming will take place before
the millennium, reflecting the following general timeline:
literal thousand year rule of Christ on earth;
(3) A last
rebellion and defeat of evil;
(4) The other events of the final consummation (general resurrection,
judgment, assignment to heaven or hell, new creation, etc.).
2. Amillennialism: This view holds that there is nota literal millennium, but
that this term is to be taken figuratively as referring to this present age,
reflecting the following timeline:
present age is the millennium;
(3) The other
events of the final consummation.
3. Postmillennialism: This view holds that Christ will return
only after the establishment
of the millennium.Some take the
millennium as literally lasting a thousand years and others as figuratively
referring to a substantial and extended period of time. This view reflects the
(1) The triumph of the Christian movement eventually results in a
Christian "golden age” (the millennium);
(2) Christ returns;
(3) The other events of the final consummation.
In addition to these three basic
views of Christian eschatology, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century there developed
a variation on the first view (“Historic Premillennialism”) that is called
"Dispensational Premillennialism” which has had a significant impact
within modern evangelicalism.
Premillennialism.This view holds that Christ will return before a literal thousand year
millennium.It holds, however, that
Christ’s coming will take place in two stages.Christ will first come secretly to “rapture” the church. Then, after a
seven year period of tribulation on earth during which some will be converted
and, thus, become “tribulation saints,” Christ will return yet again, this time
publically and universally.This view
reflects the following timeline:
Christ’s secret coming and the rapture of Christians;
(2) A seven
year period of tribulation;
second stage of Christ’s coming which is public and universal;
(4) A literal thousand year rule of Christ on earth which includes the
building of a “third temple” in Jerusalem and the re-establishment of temple
last rebellion against Christ and the final defeat of evil;
(6) The final consummation (though some dispensational schemes also
differentiate between various resurrections and judgments that do not
correspond to the mainstream views).
also has some distinctive additional teachings, particularly with regard to its
views on Biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), including its view that the
Bible teaches that history can be divided into various “dispensations.”This includes seeing the present “church age”
as a “parenthesis” in holy history.This
view leads dispensationalists to reject “covenant theology” and to downplay the
significance of the Old Testament for New Covenant believers.It does not see continuity between Old
Testament Israel and the New Testament church, and it differentiates between
God’s plan of salvation for Jews and his plan of salvation for believers in the
In recent years, there has
movement within the dispensational camp known as “Progressive Dispensationalism.” This view has been put forward by various
scholars in historically dispensational schools (most notably, Dallas Seminary).
It has attempted to modify some of the interpretive difficulties and
peculiarities of historic dispensationalism and to reconcile it with covenant
theology.It has done so by, among other
things, affirming the value of the Old Testament for the Christian life and by
stressing elements of continuity between God’s plan of salvation for Jewish
saints in the Old Testament and in the church today.
Though all should agree on the
basic affirmations regarding eschatology sketched above, we acknowledge that
men of good will may take different interpretations regarding the timeline of
Christ’s second coming.The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith
(1689), for example, does not take a position regarding Christ’s advent in
relation to the millennium.Thus, it
might be affirmed by a Historic Premillennialist, an Amillennialist, or a
Postmillennialist, and persons holding to any of those positions might well be part
of a church holding to the confession.There
are, however significant hermeneutical and doctrinal problems with Dispensational
Premillennialism that place it at irreconcilable odds with Reformed theology
and the confession.
Which ministers and theologians have held or currently hold the various
1. Historic premillennialism: Advocates have included the
church father Justin Martyr; maybe C. H. Spurgeon (his views are sometimes hard
to nail down); and evangelical theologians like George Eldon Ladd and Wayne
Grudem (reflected in his popular Systematic
2. Amillennialism: Advocates include most modern reformed
theologians (e.g., Herman Hoeksema; William Hendriksen, R. C. Sproul, Michael
Horton, etc.), as well as others like the Lutheran theologian Kim Riddlebarger.
3. Postmillenialism: Advocates included Jonathan Edwards and
most Puritan, evangelical, and Reformed theologians and missionaries of the
18th-19th centuries [the book to read here: Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope].The view
has been revived in recent years by a number of Presbyterian and Reformed
theologians including Keith Mathison andJohn Jefferson Davis.
4. Dispensational Premillennialism: The Plymouth Brethren
preacher John Nelson Darby is usually named as the founder of this view.It was popularized by C. I. Schofield through
the notes of his Schofield Reference
Bible.The view has also been
popularly promoted in fundamentalistic and conservative evangelical circles by
ministers and authors like Jerry Falwell (Thomas D. Ice directs the “The
Pre-Trib Research Center” at Liberty University), Tim LaHaye (in the popular Left Behind books), and David
Jeremiah.Preacher and author John
MacArthur is both a Calvinist and a dispensationalist!The view has also been held by scholars like Lewis
Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, and Charles C. Ryrie, all connected with Dallas
Here are a few books that might help get a handle on things:
I recently posted an article raising the question as to
whether or not the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), the confessional statement of the Southern Baptist
Convention, was adequately Trinitarian.As previously noted, though I grew up and initially conducted my
ministry within SBC circles, I began to have confessional concerns with the BF & M that eventually resulted in
my leaving SBC life to embrace the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) and becoming a Reformed Baptist.
Aside from issues related to its articulation of theology
proper (i.e., the doctrine of God), I also see problems in other areas with the
BF & M, including the doctrine of
Scripture.Article one of the BF & M
is dedicated to the doctrine of Scripture:
The Holy Bible was
written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It
is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author,
salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.
Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the
principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end
of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by
which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All
Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34;
Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32;
Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts
2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12;
1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
The problems with
this paragraph primarily have to do with its brevity.One need only contrast it with the ten
paragraphs in chapter
one of the 2LBCF (1689) which also
treats the foundational doctrine of Scripture.A basic and obvious deficiency of the BF & M is its failure to define the canon.This statement never defines what is meant by
“The Holy Bible.”Now, I know that
Southern Baptist uphold the 66 (39 OT and 27 NT) books of the Protestant
Christian Bible.The framers of the BF & M, however, assume the canon without
bothering to define it.Contrast this,
on the other hand, with paragraph two in chapter one of the 2LBCF (1689) which takes
nothing for granted:
Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained
all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these,
the Old Testament.
Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I
Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job,
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Lamentations,Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
the New Testament.
Matthew, Mark, Luke,
John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul's Epistle to the Romans, I Corinthians, II
Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II
Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the
Hebrews, Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first,
second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation.
All of which are given by the5 inspiration of God, to be the rule of
faith and life. 52 Timothy 3:16
Furthermore, in paragraph three it clearly rejects the
Apocrypha as being part of the Bible:
3. The books commonly
called Apocrypha, not being of6 divine inspiration, are no part of
the canon (or rule) of the Scripture, and, therefore, are of no authority to
the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other
human writings. 6Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 3:2
Just as we noted that the BF & M statement on God leaves open the possibility that a
modalist might affirm it due to its failure explicitly to affirm the Trinity,
here we might note that it leaves open the possibility that a Roman Catholic
who includes the so-called Deuterocanonicals (Apocrypha) as part of Scripture
to affirm the article on Scripture due to its failure to define the canon.
Note: Below are notes from my Sunday afternoon message on "the discipline of inviting non-believers into the meetings of God's people."
The Ministry of Invitation
Luke 5:18-20; John 4:28-30; 1
CRBC January 26, 2014
We are continuing a short series on personal ministry.How can a believer be useful in kingdom
work?In what ways can he lawfully serve
How can a believer be engaged in evangelism?One way is through the often neglected
ministry of invitation, that is, the spiritual discipline of inviting unbelievers
into the meetings of God’s people so that they might (1) be exposed to the
witness of God’s people, (2) be under the preaching of the gospel, and (3)
through this be placed before Christ himself as he is present in his gathered
people and as he speaks through the reading and proclamation and through the
singing of his word.Compare:
Ephesians 4:20 But yehavenot so learned
Christ; 21 If so be that yehave heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth
is in Jesus:
Hebrews 2:11 For both he that
sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause
he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name
unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee
[citing Psalm 22:22].
need also to note that God has particularly ordained the preaching of the
gospel to be the means of convincing and converting sinners:
1 Corinthians 1:21 For after
that inthe wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it
pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that
To demonstrate the significance of this ministry of
invitation I want to look at three NT passages:
of the paralytic in Luke 5:18-20:
Luke 5:17 And it came to pass
on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors ofthe law sitting by, which were come out of every town of
Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the
power ofthe Lord was present to heal them. 18 And, behold, men
brought in a bed a man which was
taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because ofthe multitude,
they went upon the housetop, and
let him down through the tiling
with his couch into themidst before Jesus.
Notice:There was a man who was paralyzed and could not
move.He had friends who had compassion
on him in his circumstances, and they sought means to bring him and lay him
before Jesus.They knew that his best
chance for healing was to place him “into the midst before Jesus.”
woman at the well in John 4:28-30:
John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and
went her way into the city, and
saith to the men, 29 Come, see a
man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out ofthe city, and came unto him.
that this woman did not go as a preacher or teacher.She went as an inviter.She had the power of her own personal experience
of Jesus.By her invitation men came to listen
to Jesus for themselves.
the fruit in John 4:39-42.
3. The description of worship in the church at
Corinth in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25:
1 Corinthians 14:23 If
therefore the whole church be come together into one
place, and all speak with tongues, and there come inthose that are unlearned [idiotai:unskilled or
untrained], or unbelievers [apistoi],
will they not say that ye are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned,
he is convinced of all, he is
judged of all: 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face
he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
the specific purpose of this passage is not to provide a model for how to do
invitation evangelism, but it is to advocate for prophesy given in intelligible
utterance versus speaking in tongues in unintelligible utterance.However, we should not overlook what the
passage teaches us about how evangelism was done in the early church.It assumes the following:(1) the whole church gathered in one place
(i.e., this is not the lone preacher going to stand on the street corner); (2)
the unlearned and unbelievers were invited into these gathered meetings (i.e., these
people came to the church’s gatherings, rather than the church going out to
them); and (3) these unbelievers came under conviction of their sin and were
converted to become worshippers of God as they heard the gospel intelligibly
proclaimed in an explicitly Christian assembly.From this we might surmise that the normative way for the church to do
evangelism is (1) to gather publically to worship, especially on the Lord’s
Day; (2) to invite unbelievers into our assembly; and (3) to preach
intelligibly in hopes that the unconverted in our midst might come under
conviction and be saved.
1.We are to see the ministry of invitation as
one of the ways we might be lawfully and profitably involved in personal
2.We should bring our children to worship to hear
the preaching of the word.This is one
reason we do not need “children’s church.”
should strive to invite and bring our unsaved relatives and acquaintances to
hear the preaching of the word.
CRBC membership covenant we pledge “to seek the
salvation of our kindred and acquaintances.”
4.We can place Bible passages, good Christian
books, and audio recording of Christians sermons and teachings in the path of
non-believers (physically and electronically through email and social media),
but we should not neglect the power of the physical gathering of God’s people.
5.We should not necessarily expect an immediate
result (though God can work miraculously if he so chooses) but we must be patient
and understand that for some God in his sovereignty is concealing the truth
(cf. Luke 18:34:“And they understood
none of these things: and this saying was hidden from them, neither knew they
the things which were spoken.”).Still
we can and should offer, we can invite, and we can pray.
I recently wrote an article which appeared in the last RB Trumpet offering a critique of the contemporary "street preaching" movement. In recent months there have been headlines as several outsider "street preachers" have been arrested in Scotland. This has been reported among evangelicals in the US as evidence of increasing "intolerance" and "persecution" against evangelical Christians. David Robertson, pastor at St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee, Scotland has, however, written a couple of insightful articles that raise some significant questions about the methods of the street preachers who have been arrested in his country and how this affects the witness of faithful local churches like his own.
Back on October 4, 2013 he wrote Persecuting Preachers in Perth, questioning the wisdom of Australian street preacher Josh Williamson's arrest in Perth, Scotland. He closed with the following plea to Williamson:
Repent: I mean it. It is good when we can admit our mistakes and errors. The Christian life is one of continual repentance. You got this one wrong, brother. If I were you I would go to the police and apologise for the attitude and the provocation, for refusing to do what they asked, for the recording and tell them that you accept you were guilty of breach of the peace. Go to the shopkeeper who was so upset and tell him that you are sorry for disturbing his business and that you hope he will forgive you and not reject the Gospel just because of the way it was conveyed. Go to the churches in Perth and apologise for giving cause for the name of God to be blasphemed amongst the ‘Gentiles’. Write to The Courier and apologise to the people of Perth and the police for bringing unnecessary opprobrium on them. That will transform everything.
Listen: Perhaps you do this already but it’s worth repeating anyway. Listen to what people are saying. Listen to the local culture. Mix amongst them. Hear the questions, the heartaches, the blasphemies, the joys and sorrows – and weep, and learn and love. Listen to the Lord. I’m sure you love his Word and desire to communicate it, but don’t presuppose that you already know all that is to be known from it. Let God communicate afresh to you every day the glorious gospel again and again. When that happens to you and I, we will be far better equipped to communicate the Good News.
Preach the Word: Continue to do open air preaching. You have a good voice for it. But find a suitable venue, get permission for an amplification system, take ‘rent-a-small-crowd’ from the church with you, have people handing out leaflets, don’t harangue people, learn to do dialogue, try music and drama and preach the word, in season and out of season. And when you are opposed don’t call down fire, don’t provoke to unnecessary wrath, be prepared to both persist and to shake the dust off your feet – and pray that the Lord will grant you the wisdom to know which one to do when. And I pray that God will richly bless your ministry and those of other faithful believers so that Perth, this ancient centre of Scotland will become a future centre of the Gospel in Scotland.
However let me offer another Christian perspective - despite the fact that I know even to question the orthodoxy of the persecution narrative in the UK is to open oneself up to charges of backsliding, theological liberalism, cowardice and 'shooting the wounded'. I am a Bible believing/teaching/evangelising pastor in this wonderful city of Dundee. I have ministered here for 22 years and have seen a church of seven grow into a church of 200-plus, with an increasing gospel impact.
It is hard work. There is an ignorance, arrogance and increasing intolerance that make it so. There is a 'famine of hearing the Word of the Lord', and yet there are many opportunities to give out the bread of life. The Christian churches in this city do tremendous work in schools, on the streets, amongst the young. We preach the Word. We write in local newspapers and engage in all kinds of creative evangelism. Solas Centre for Public Christianity is based here and we have not been shy in critiquing the dominant cultural narratives or seeking to bring the Good News in the public arena. That is after all our 'raison d'etre'!
We have many problems but here is the rub. We have the freedom to do so. We are not banned from preaching the Word of God, nor are we restricted (for now) in doing so. So whatever else the arrest of Tony Miano means, it is dishonest and wrong for Christians to say this means that the Gospel cannot be preached in Scotland today.
Of course the implied criticism is that those of us who are living and working here as Christians are not a) preaching the 'full' Gospel or b) getting out on to the streets communicating it. The truth of course is that there are many churches which compromise and there are Christians who are frightened and cowardly in their proclamation. But that is not all of us. From my perspective having worked hard in this city to build up good public relations with the police, council and local community groups; having tried to overcome the narrow and ignorant stereotypes of Christians that many people have; and having sought to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in many different ways and contexts (however imperfectly); the last thing we needed was an American preacher standing in our city centre with an amplification system, shouting out words that no-one understands, getting arrested and then finding it front page news in The Dundee Courier, the next day.
Don't get me wrong. I use the word 'American' – not because I have anything against Americans (to whom I owe a great deal), but because in our cultural context, evangelical Christianity is associated with Redneck, George Bush-like, Southern US evangelicals. Like all stereotypes, that is not fair- not least on the many fine American Christians – including those in my own congregation who are seeking to bear witness to Jesus Christ in a culturally, spiritually and humanly sensitive way. But that is the perception that the 'man in the street' has. And if we are seeking to communicate to the 'man in the street', then we need to take account of that perception.
Robertson's challenges to the methods of the contemporary street preaching movement are more pragmatic than the ones I offered in my article, which were primarily Biblical-theological, but they deserve a hearing. Simply put, he argues that such tactics lack prudential wisdom and are not helpful for kingdom work in his country.
Scene: Marching in for Vacation Bible School in 2013
Note:On Sunday afternoon we conducted CRBC’s
Annual Church Conference.Among other
things, we welcomed two new members, elected our first deacon to office,
approved a student internship for Spring 2014, and approved our 2014 budget
[see detailed report in this Vision].We also reflected on CRBC’s ministry in the
year past and looked forward to ministry in 2014.Here are some of the ministry goals for 2014
that we shared on Sunday:
to conduct weekly Lord’s Day worship services in Charlottesville and continue
to develop a covenanted and confessional church community.
to broadcast sermons and teaching worldwide on sermonaudio.com.
second Sunday services at Our Lady of Peace retirement center.
Sunday evening “preaching point” in Lynchburg and work toward development of
monthly men’s meeting (study of 2LBCF)
mission giving to Andy and Beth Rice (Zambia) and Trinitarian Bible Society.
of joining the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA).
a new “Grace Points” radio campaign in the spring of 2014.
another “Puritan” Vacation Bible School tentatively scheduled for June 23-26,
thirteenth annual Keach Conference to be held September 26-27, 2014 in
Of course, to all these things we must add DV for Deo Volente, “God willing.”
In a recent Dividing
Line podcast, apologist James White cites
controversy over the contemporary Christian singing group Phillips, Craig, and
Dean.The members of the group apparently
come from one-ness Pentecostal backgrounds and have been dogged by charges that
they deny the Trinity.The group
recently released a carefully crafted statement (pdf
here; sometime in January 2014, though the statement is not dated) in which
they deny they are modalists or Sabellian but affirm their “heritage” while never
clearly and positively affirming the doctrine of the Trinity.
The odd thing about this is that they further claim to affirm
the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) statement of the Southern
Baptist Convention.I grew up among
Southern Baptists, went to an SBC seminary, served as a missionary of the SBC’s
International Mission Board, and served two SBC afiliated churches.I even led the latter of these to adopt the
2000 revision of the 1963 BF & M through much blood, sweat, and tears. Hearing of the PC & D controversy reminded me of some of the
doctrinal concerns I began to have about the BF & M as I ministered in an SBC context and which eventually
led to my leaving the SBC for Reformed Baptist life.
How can PC & D not affirm the Trinity and yet affirm the BF & M (2000)?Here is chapter two of the BF & M (2000) statement on the
doctrine of God:
There is one and
only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal
Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is
infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all
knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future,
including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest
love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without
division of nature, essence, or being.
A. God the Father
God as Father
reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of
the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all
powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to
those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly
in His attitude toward all men.
Christ is the
eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the
Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the
will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities
and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the
divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the
cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from
the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who
was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now
exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully
man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He
will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His
redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever
The Holy Spirit is
the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the
Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts
Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men
to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He
baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian
character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they
serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final
redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring
the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and
empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
1.It never uses the classical
theological term “Trinity” in its definition of the doctrine of God.My guess is that this comes from a basic Biblicist
impulse in SBC life, which includes a tendency to use only explicitly Biblical
language, however inconsistently this might be applied.
2.It likewise does not use
classical creedal language of “one God in three persons.”
3.One could see how a modalist
might be able to affirm the line at the close of paragraph one:The eternal triune
God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct
personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.In fact, it sounds like the language
preferred by some one-ness Pentecostals like T. D. Jakes who speak of God
“manifesting” himself as Father, Son, and Spirit.I was
struck as I re-read this by a surprising lack of stress on the unity and
oneness of God.This may seem a
radical critique, but I am not sure but that this statement might even possibly
be interpreted as tri-theistic.
1. The Lord our God
is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself,
infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any
but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions,
who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach
unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way
infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things
according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his
own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness
and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them
that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments,
hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
2. God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is
alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature
which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his
own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being,
of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign
dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever
himself pleaseth; in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge
is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to
him contingent or uncertain; he is most holy in all his counsels, in all his
works, and in all his commands; to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever
worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and
whatever he is further pleased to require of them.
3. In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father,
the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each
having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of
none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the
Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite,
without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature
and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and
personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our
communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
( 1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Exodus 3:14; John 14:11; 1
Corinthians 8:6; John 1:14,18; John 15:26; Galatians 4:6 )
about this statement:
use of the term “Trinity” both in the title and the closing affirmation:“which
doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and
comfortable dependence on him.”
prefers to speak of “subsistences” rather than “persons” the classical creedal Trinitarian
language clearly undergirds the statement.Compare the Westminster
Confession of Faithhere, however, upon which the 2LBCF is based, which more explicitly uses the classical Trinitarian
language of “persons”:“In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one
substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
statement could in no way be twisted to allow modalism or tritheism.
The PC & D Trinity controversy exposes a major
weakness in the BF & M as a
confessional statement and leaves Southern Baptists open to the charge of not
being adequately and explicitly Trinitarian.It leaves open questions like: Can one deny the Trinity and yet still
affirm the BF & M? Are Southern Baptists classically Trinitarian in
their view of God? Perhaps this will lead Southern Baptists to revisit their confession and strengthen it. In the meantime, SBC churches which desire to be orthodox would do well to adopt a supplementary statement or confession which explicitly affirms the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity is an essential test of Christian
orthodoxy, and a church is best served by adapting a confessional statement (like the Second London Baptist Confession) which
clearly affirms this fundamental doctrine.