Friday, June 16, 2017

The Vision (6.16.17): Grace for Grace

Image: Magnolia, Charlottesville, Virginia, June 2017.
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 1:15-18.
And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace (John 1:16).
John here declares that the fulness [pleroma] of God which rests in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:9) rests also in us. The “all” here does not mean all men without exception, but all saved men. There is a diving line between men who know, trust, and are united to Christ and those who stand outside of Christ.
Christians are the recipients of something that other men do not receive. By union with Christ they receive his fulness, and, John continues, it is “grace for grace [charin anti charitos].”
What does “grace for grace” mean?  There are at least two possibilities.
First: It may have the sense of a super-abundance of grace, of grace piled up on top of grace. Imagine stacks upon stacks of firewood. We have cord upon cord of grace in Christ. In this sense, it speaks to the grace of salvation.
Matthew Poole:
Nor have we received drops [of grace], but grace upon grace; not only knowledge and instruction, but the love and favor or God, and spiritual habits, in proportion to the favour and grace which Christ hath (allowing for our short capacities).
Matthew Henry:
Grace for grace is an abundance of grace, grace upon grace … one grace heaped on another.; as skin for skin is skin after skin, even all that a man has (Job 2:4). It is a blessing poured out, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Second: it may have the sense of grace that is always replenished, supplied, or even replaced by even more grace. In this sense, it speaks to sustaining and sanctifying grace. The Christian never exhausts the supply of God’s grace for God’s ongoing work in his life.
Caution: We must be wise stewards of this assurance and not presume upon it to act in a lawless (antinomian) manner. Indeed, such a false path will not be continuously followed by one who is genuinely converted.
This is the great benefit that has come to sinful men through the Word becoming flesh. Grace for grace, grace upon grace, heaps of grace, a super-abundance of grace. Grace also that sustains us for the living of the Christian life through whatever challenges, whatever setbacks, whatever discouragements we might face.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: Nicholas P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark

I have posted my book review of Nicholas P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, which appears in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2 (July 2017): 348-351 (read it here or here).

I have also posted an audio reading of the review (listen to it here).


Monday, June 12, 2017

Owen on the Pastoral Benefits of Reflection on God's Decree and Foreknowledge

From the conclusion to last Sunday afternoon’s sermon on God’s Decree and Foreknowledge (from the 1689 Baptist confession, chapter three, paragraph 2):

In 1642 John Owen wrote a treatise with the title “A Display of Arminianism” in which he responded point by point to the objections of Arminianism to the Biblical doctrine of election. The subtitle, in good Puritan fashion reads, in part: “A discovery of the old Pelagian idol free-will, with the new goddess contingency.” Thus, the Arminian idea that God’s decree is contingent or conditioned by man’s response, Owen declared to be a “new goddess,” that is, a “false goddess.”

Chapter 3 is titled “Of the prescience or foreknowledge of God, and how it is questioned and overthrown by the Arminians.” His point is that God knows all things not because he anticipates various contingencies but that he has sovereignly decreed all things.

Owen closes that chapter with a meditation on the pastoral benefits of rightly understanding God’s decree and his foreknowledge:

Amidst all our afflictions and temptations, under whose pressure we should else faint and despair, it is no small comfort to be assured that we do nor can suffer nothing but what his hand and counsel guides unto us, what is open and naked before his eyes, and whose end and issue he knoweth long before; which is a strong motive to patience, a sure anchor of hope, a firm ground of consolation (Works, Vol. 10, p. 29).

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Vision (6.9.17): And the Word Was Made Flesh

Image: Roses, June 2017, North Garden, Virginia

Note: This devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 1:14.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

John 1:14 is the most important and illuminating statement of the doctrine of the incarnation in Scripture.

It begins: “And the Word was made [ginomai: to become] flesh….” The Word here, again, is the pre-existent Logos. To say that he was made flesh is to say that he became fully a man.

Calvin, however, notes that John, under the Spirit’s prompting, specifically used the word flesh (sarx) to stress the wonder of the divine condescension. So, he writes:

He intended to show to what a mean and despicable condition the Son of God, on our account, descended from the height of his heavenly glory.


When Scripture speaks of man contemptuously, it calls him flesh…. Yet the Son of God stooped so low as to take upon himself that flesh, subject to so many miseries.

Take a moment and just touch your own flesh and consider this fabulous claim: The Word was made flesh!

There were many attempts from the earliest days to deny this declaration. We see this even in the NT itself. Compare John’s references in his epistles to “antichrists” or false teachers who denied that Jesus came “in the flesh” (1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7).

In modern times, many challenges to the Christian faith come from those who deny the full deity of Christ, but in the early days the more common challenge was apparently from those who denied the full humanity of Jesus.
Aside from those who simply denied that the Word took on flesh, there were other distortions that arose in early Christianity:
Apollinarius argued that Jesus had a human body but not a human soul.
Nestorius argued that Christ was two persons in one body: He was a divine person and a human person, but not one person.
Eutyches said that he was one person but that he had only one nature and that one nature was a mixture of divine and human.
A consensus emerged and was affirmed among orthodox (right-believing Christians) that the Christ was fully a man (having both a human body and soul) and that he was one person (contra Nestorius) with two distinct natures: fully God, and fully man (contra Eutyches).
This creedal consensus is reflected in our confession of faith. See chapter 8 “Of Christ the Mediator” paragraph 2 of the 1689 Baptist Confession:
The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
This is likewise taught in the Baptist catechism:
Q 25: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A: Christ, the Son of God, became man by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul; being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.
If we want to be faithful Christians, we have to get our understanding of Jesus right. We have to know who this one is to whom we are giving our lives and our allegiance. We honor Christ when we think rightly of Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Bible Translation Discussion

I am teaching an online Survey of the NT class this summer. At the start of the class I require students to read an article I wrote titled “A Brief Guide to English Bible Translations” [Note: The article provides an overview of various translations and provides a list of translations approved for use in the class. To reduce costs, the class is an “open resource” course, so I give the students freedom to make use of their choice of translation, as long as it is not a paraphrase.]. I then have them post to a discussion board a report on what translation they plan to use for the class.

Here is a summary of the preferences reported by students in the discussion board posts from the summer 2017 class (with 30 enrolled students):

Unclear or no reply

The overall preferred translation was the KJV. For KJV users, a common reason offered for use was that this was the version the person had grown up using in their church or family. Examples:

“I will use the KJV because that is the version that I grew up with and am most familiar with.”

“My grandfather believes that the only correct version is the KJV….”

The KJV “is what I grew up using.”

            The KJV is “what I’ve used since I was younger growing up in the church.”

One said, “I’ve grown up learning from this bible.”

Another said this was “my grandmother’s bible” and it might be a good idea “to start passing [it] down to new generations.”

Some noted a preference for the KJV based on its style:

One noted the KJV is “simple and easy to understand.”

Another noted she preferred the KJV because it is the “most poetic.”

While others specifically noted they preferred a modern translation over the KJV due to style:

One noted, “it can be a little daunting and makes for exhausting reading if it’s not in plain English.”
The second most preferred translation was the NIV. Several noted this was the version they owned or regularly used. Students said:

            The NIV is “the copy [I have] at home.”

            The NIV “is the copy I have received and read … most of my life.”

One student noted he had read little of the Bible but received a copy of the NIV “as a graduation present” from his family’s church.

Another said the NIV was the version “my parents got me for Christmas.”

Some noted a preference for the NIV based on style. Comments:

            “I find the NIV much easier to follow, obey, and understand.”

            “I appreciate the simplicity in which it is written.”

Preferences for other translations were scattered. One said she was using the ESV because this was the version she had, and another noted that a new pastor in the church had just switched church usage from the KJV to the ESV. The lone NRSV user noted this had been the version used in a previous religion class.


I find these responses to be typical of those that I have received from earlier offerings of this course. These responses show that despite the prevalence of modern translations, the KJV still maintains a significant grip as the traditional text for English speakers. BTW, most of the students are younger (under age 30). When many think of the English Bible, they still think of the KJV. Among modern translations, the NIV is clearly the most widely read and preferred. Other evangelical (NKJV, ESV, etc.) or mainline Protestant (NRSV) translations register only scattered acknowledgement.

These findings suggest that Mark Twain’s quip might be well applied to the KJV: “rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” For more on this, see my related 2014 blog post on this topic.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Article: "John Calvin and Text Criticism"

I got my hard copy of Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2 (July 2017) in the mail yesterday. This issue has my article “John Calvin and Text Criticism” on pp. 128-146 (posted to here). The editorial introduction to this edition of PRJ says the article “deals with the textual basis of Calvin’s preaching and commentaries, and demonstrates that while Calvin initially used the Greek text printed by Simon de Colines, he later came primarily to use the Textus Receptus as found in Erasmus’s Greek New Testament” (p. 1).

In the introduction (pp. 129-131) I cite James White’s rejection of the TR as the “Reformation text” with the claim that Calvin and the Reformers used the TR “by default, not particular choice.” The paper concludes by noting that White’s assessment is “grossly inaccurate: (p. 144). Calvin knew the Biblical languages, was very engaged in textual criticism, may well have examined individual Greek manuscripts and not just printed editions, and was fully aware of most of the major textual issues still discussed today [demonstrated by examination of his commentary on four passages: the doxology of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13b; the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53—8:11); the “mystery of godliness” passage (1 Tim 3:16); and the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7b-8a)].

This article is an expansion of the short paper I gave at the Houston Baptist University theology conference in February 2016. I have previously posted the audio of that paper presentation (which can be heard here).


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

2017 Riddle Family Summer Reading Contest

The 2017 Riddle Family summer reading contest started last Thursday (June 1). We began this annual contest about a decade ago to encourage family reading over the summer. We homeschool, but not year-round, taking a summer break June-August. The reading contest has gotten to be a favorite family tradition. Each year we have a family meeting on the eve of the start date, tweak the rules, post them on a bulletin board, along with a reading sign-up sheet for each family member, and get started. The “prize” is a double scoop of ice cream, usually enjoyed at Chaps on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville (everyone else gets a single scoop), along with the much-coveted unlimited bragging rights throughout the year, typically generously (if not always charitably) employed by the winner. Our eleven-year old has won for two straight summers, last year reading over 3,000 pages during the course of the two-month contest, so he will be hard to overcome, but we are all going to give it a try.

The Rules

1.  This competition shall be for the members of the Riddle household of North Garden, Virginia.  It shall also include family members who live outside the United States.

2.  This contest shall commence on Thursday, June 1, 2017 and end on Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

3.  Contestants must keep a record of books read with the following information: (1) author; (2) title; (3) publisher and publication date; (4) page numbers; and (5) date completed. Note:  Contestants may read books for the contest which they have previously read, but they may only count half of the pages in the book toward their total. The reading contest will be conducted under the Riddle honor system., which means that we trust each contestant to keep a fair and accurate record of all books read, in their entirety. If someone asks a contestant to summarize any book he lists as read, he must be willing and able to do so.

4.  Books must be at least 100 pages in length to be added to the reading total.

5.  The overall prize will be given in only one category: most total pages read.

6.  The winner will receive a double scoop of ice cream of their choice during a family trip to an ice cream shop after August 1, 2017.  He or she will also have unlimited bragging rights until the summer reading contest of 2018.


Friday, June 02, 2017

The Vision (6.2.17): The true Light which lighteth every man

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 1:6-13.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9).

Some have taken the final statement in this verse as an argument against the doctrine of fallen man’s total depravity and his spiritual inability (as in Paul’s teaching in Romans 3:10-12). It has been used by Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, and Arminians to argue that men have, by nature, the spiritual ability or capacity to choose to believe in God. Some Arminians, like John Wesley, spoke about prevenient grace that comes to all men, before any ever believe. Do they have a point?

Let’s look at how John Calvin interpreted this verse in his commentary. He said there are two possibilities:

First, it may be that the “every man” here refers to “every elect man” or “every saved man” (cf. v. 7). It is restricted, therefore, to those renewed by God’s Spirit and who have become “partakers of the life-giving light.” Calvin takes an example from Augustine, who said there might be a town with one schoolmaster. And that schoolmaster might be called by those who live there “the teacher of all,” even though there are many who do not go to his school. “All” can thus be used in a restricted manner.

Second (and Calvin thinks this option more likely), it might be referring in a more general way to “the peculiar excellence” which raises men above other earthly creatures. So, it refers to the fact that men have, by nature, “reason and intelligence, and that they carry the distinction between right and wrong engrave on their consciences.”

Some wrongly interpret Calvin and Reformed theology’s doctrine of total depravity as teaching that the fall of man has completely obliterated the image of God in man. But that is not what Calvin taught or what Reformed theology holds. Calvin wrote in his commentary on John 1:5 that though in his corrupted and degenerate state man’s light has been turned into darkness, still “amidst the thick darkness of the human mind, some remaining sparks of the brightness still shine.”

But Calvin was no Wesley. Men are not sub-human monsters, but this does not mean that they have adequate spiritual light to experience anything of salvation apart from God’s grace.


But as there are fanatics who rashly strain and torture this passage [John 1:9], so as to infer from it that the grace of illumination is equally offered to all, let us remember that the only subject treated here is the common light of nature, which is far inferior to faith; for never will any man, by all the acuteness and sagacity of his own mind, penetrate into the kingdom of God. It is the Spirit of God alone who opens the gate of heaven to the elect.


Next, let us remember that the light of reason which God implanted in men has been so obscured by sin, that amidst the thick darkness, and shocking ignorance, and gulf of errors, there are hardly a few shining sparks that are not utterly extinguished.

Earlier, in his comments on v. 5 he wrote:

Hence it follows that there is no hope of salvation of men, unless God grant new aid; for though the Son of God sheds his light upon them, they are so dull that they do not comprehend whence that light proceeds, but are carried away by foolish and wicked imaginations to absolute madness.

Even what might seem positive, that bit of remaining light, can degenerate, Calvin says, in unsaved men, “into a thousand monsters of superstition.”

I think it fair to say that Calvin’s overall point on the proper interpretation of v. 9 is that it must be understood in harmony with all of Scripture. What John says here does not contradict what Paul says in Romans 3. God’s word is not contradictory and irrational, because God himself is not contradictory or irrational. Man can only be saved by God’s grace alone.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Vision (5.26.17): In the beginning was the Word

Note: I began a new sermon series through John last Sunday. The devotion below is taken from the initial message on John 1:1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

How might one begin to tell the story of the life of Jesus? How would you begin to tell about why Jesus means so much to you and to the world? Where do you start speaking about Jesus, telling about his life?

Do you begin with his baptism by John (see Mark 1)? Do you begin with his birth in Bethlehem (see Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2)? The apostle John knew of those things, but he chose to begin the story of Jesus in his Gospel in pre-history, before creation, before the foundation of the world. This reminds us that Jesus was and is the incarnation of the second person of the Godhead, who has always been, is now, and will always be.

So, John begins, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (v. 1). Notice three things about this verse:

First: Notice the echo of the creation narrative (Genesis 1:1). The eternal Son of God did not begin with the incarnation of Jesus, but he was there at the beginning (even before the beginning).

Second: Notice that the Son of God is called here the Logos. He is the Word. When the Gospel of John was translated into Latin, they used the word Verbum to translate the Greek word Logos. In Calvin’s Latin translation, he rendered it with the word Sermo, “Speech.”

The Greek term Logos is the root for all our words that end with ____ology (e.g., theology, biology, chronology). It is also the root for the English word “logic.” Indeed, it was a term popularly used in the first century by some philosophers to refer to reason or a rational principle that they believed exists within and which guides the world. Some think John is being here like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 when he speaks of becoming all things to all men. That is, John takes a secular concept and applies it to Jesus in a way that non-Christians (and non-Jews) could understand.

Third: Notice that this verse (the very first line of this Gospel) declares that the Son of God (the Word) is God: “and the Word was God.” That is a very uncomfortable statement for those who deny the deity of Christ. The New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (who deny the deity of Christ), for example, does damage to the straightforward interpretation of the underlying Greek of this verse by giving the tortured translation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” They do this all to avoid escaping the plain meaning of this verse. But it does not help them in the end, because the same thing is said over and again in John (cf. John 10:30 where Jesus declares: “I and my Father are one”; and John 20:28 where Thomas declares before the risen Jesus: “My Lord, and my God!”).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Word Magazine # 76: Rejoinders to TurretinFan

Image: Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener (1813-1891)

I have posted Word Magazine # 76: Rejoinders to TurretinFan. This is a follow up to my recent dialogue with TF which began with his response to my critique of James White in WM 75. I have already pointed out what I believe is the major flaw in TF's critique: anachronistically asserting that (the real) Turretin took the same approach to text criticism as contemporary reconstructionist (restorationist) advocates for the modern critical text (see this post and this one).

It might be overkill on this subject, but I thought I'd share some of my other notes on TF's initial critique. This includes rejoinders on various other issues, including a confessional apologetic against KJV-Onlyism, the value of Scrivener's Greek NT (1881), logical fallacies in JW's arguments against the TR, a defense of the antiquity of the traditional text, the problem of lack of ubiquity for the "Alexandrian" text, and the significance of the comma Johanneum as a prooftext in the 1689 confession.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Calvin on the Text and Punctuation of John 1:3

I began a new sermon series last Sunday through the Gospel of John with a message on John 1:1-5. I had also decided to read John Calvin’s commentary on John as I preach through the book.

I was intrigued by Calvin’s remarks on the text of John 1:3. He argues that the last phrase “that was made [ho gegonen]” be taken with what comes before in v. 3, so that it read “and without him was not anything made that was made [kai choris autou egeneto oude en ho gegonen]” rather than with what follows in v. 4 (so that it would read: ho gegonen en auto zoe hen: “what was made was in him life”).

The Calvin Translation Society editors note here that “the difference in readings lies wholly in the punctuation.” Calvin makes appeal to the Greek witnesses, writing: “and in this almost all the Greek manuscripts, or at least those of them which are most approved, are found to agree; besides, the sense requires it.” One wonders if by “Greek manuscripts” he means hand copies or printed editions (or perhaps both). At any rate, we see here Calvin’s interest in examining external and internal evidence to affirm a traditional reading (or, in this case, interpretation of the traditional punctuation of the text). At the least, the reference illustrates his interest in establishing the proper text of the NT ultimately by appeal to the readings in “the divine original” (i.e., in the copies written in the immediately inspired Biblical languages).


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Epaphroditus and the Ordinary Means of Healing

In our midweek Bible study in Philippians last week, we read Paul’s commendation of Ephaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30. Paul calls Epaphroditus in v. 25 “my brother [adelphon], and companion in labour [synergon], and fellowsoldier [systratioten], but your messenger [apostolon].” The description of Ephaphroditus as an apostolos, shows the flexibility of this term, which sometimes refers specifically to one of The Twelve (which Epaphroditus was not) and sometimes to “a sent one,” a representative, or “messenger” (cf. Acts 14:4, 14). The early Particular Baptists took this term to refer to those sent to associational meetings. The passage does indeed show the “communion” enjoyed among the early believers and churches, as Epaphroditus had been sent to minister to the imprisoned Paul's needs.

I was also struck by Paul’s references to Epaphroditus’ grave illness, suffered while ministering to Paul’s needs. He was “sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him” (v. 27). Paul commends Epaphroditus to the Philippians, exhorting them to “hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death” (vv. 29-30). What I find striking is the rather ordinary way that Paul addresses this illness. Counter to the modern, charismatic “faith-healing” narrative, there is no mention of any attempt at or expectation of extra-ordinary healing. Epaphroditus might well have died, yet God, in his mercy, had providentially granted him recovery. God would have been no less just or powerful if Epaphroditus had not recovered. It is like Paul’s instruction to Timothy to take wine “for thy stomach’s sake and thine own infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23). An illness is met not with calls for extra-ordinary intervention but ordinary remedy.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Youth and Young Adult Conference

We had our second annual Youth and Young Adult Conference this weekend (Friday-Saturday, May 19-20) at the Machen Retreat and Conference Center in Highland County, Virginia. Pastor Alpheus Atkins of Trinity RBC in Roanoke gave five short messages on the Doctrines of Grace (the Five Points of Calvinism):

Message One: Total Depravity

Message Two: Unconditional Election

Message Three: Limited Atonement

Message Four: Irresistible Grace

Message Five: Perseverance of the Saints

It was a very encouraging time with a great group of young people.


Friday, May 19, 2017

The Vision (5.19.17): The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 12:8-14.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 The word of the wise are as goads, and as nails, fastened by the masters of assembly, which are given from one shepherd. 12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness to the flesh.

In v. 11 Solomon describes the words of the wise as being like goads. The term refers to an object used to prod animals (Currid, Ecclesiastes, p. 153). It is that which nudges and moves one in the right direction.


And who of us does not need the goad? Slumbering as we are in cold formality—hearing the word as if we heard it not—what a mercy it is to feel the piercing point of the goad…. Is it not fearful to be under the power of the word and yet to continue insensible? As if the goad just touched the skin and did not penetrate the heart? (Ecclesiastes p. 306).

Then Solomon says they are also like nails. Nails are what holds a structure together. For the nomad they were stakes driven into the ground to hold fast a tent. For the ancients who lacked modern closets, the nail driven into the wall provided a place to hold or store things of value, that could be easily reached and drawn upon as needed.

They are nails drive by the masters of assemblies. Finally, he says these goads or nails are given by one shepherd. In Israel, the king was often described as being like a shepherd. So too the Lord was like a shepherd (cf. Psalm 23). Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11). Peter called Christ the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

On one hand, we might say that the Bible has many authors, but on the other it is right to say that it has but one author. We can say of any passage in God’s word, not only, The Bible says, but also, God says.

He adds, in v. 12, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished….” These are the instructions of a father to a well-beloved son. Solomon addresses us here as Paul did Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:2: “unto Timothy, my own son in the faith”; 2 Tim 1:2: “to Timothy, my dearly beloved son”; Titus 1;4: “to Titus, mine own son after the common faith”, as Peter did Mark (1 Peter 5:13; “so doth Marcus my son”).

Some of us had Christian fathers (imperfect though they might have been). Others did not. But all of us have father Solomon, and father Moses, and father John, and father Paul. These goads and all of Scriptural wisdom are as a surrogate father to the child of God.

The second half of v. 12 is the scholar’s verse or the student’s verse. There is no end of book-making. And this was written before the digital age! I think the point here is to contrast this with the inscripturated word. Yes, there are more and more books being made, always. But then there is the one book, that cannot be added to or taken away from.

Bridges cites Reynolds: “Other writings are useful in their order. These only are the rule of faith and life” (p. 308).

In the blurr of the many books, don’t forget the one book. It has been said of some Christians that they were walking Bibles. The missionary Hudson Taylor rose before daylight each morning to read the Bible, working his way through its pages scores of times throughout his life. The nutritionists used to say, You are what you eat. Solomon might say, You are what you read, or, You are what you allow your mind and your heart to be most saturated in and absorbed by. Are you being more shaped by popular entertainment, by sports, by politics, or by the nails fastened by the one Shepherd?

Bridges calls the Bible “a portable book,” noting that it contains all that is necessary to make a man wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15) “in so small compass” (p. 308). It is not exhaustive of all knowledge but selective of that which is essential (see John 20:30-31; 21:25). The Bible is large enough, expansive enough to challenge a man and give him life-long food for his journey. But it is also small enough that one can within a lifetime live in its pages and under its hearing so that it gets within his bones and shapes his living. It is a written John the Baptist meant to point us toward Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Orthodoxy, Icons, Eusebius, and Visual Art in Early Christianity

I’m reading Robert Letham’s Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective (Mentor, 2007). In an interesting chapter on icons, Letham notes, “The Orthodox claim that the first icons date from the lifetime of Jesus” (p. 145). He adds that to support their use of icons the Orthodox appeal to intriguing references in Eusbeius’s Ecclesiastical History to visual representations of Jesus and the apostles which existed in his day and which Eusebius claims went back to the earliest days of Christianity.

In EH 7.18 Eusebius claims that in Caesarea Philippi the woman with the issue of blood who had been healed by Jesus erected a stone memorial to this event in front of her home. It included “a brazen figure in relief of a woman, bending on her knee and stretching forth her hands like a suppliant.” Opposite to this was “an upright figure of a man, clothed in comely fashion in a double cloak and stretching out his hand to the woman.” He adds, “This statue, they said, bore the likeness of Jesus. And it was in existence even to our own day, so that we saw it with our own eyes when we stayed in the city.” Eusebius observes that one should not be surprised that grateful pagans “should have made these objects, since we saw the likenesses of his apostles also, of Paul and Peter, and indeed of Christ himself, preserved in pictures painted in colours.”

What do we make of this description? Does it justify the use of icons? No. More likely it shows how quickly corruption had entered into “Christian” practice. It does not reflect Christianity of the first century but the fourth century. In EH 7.19 Eusebius adds that “the throne of James” was also preserved and revered by men of his day. We see already the rise of relics and religious objects, usurping the simplicity of Biblical spirituality. Already, we see movement away from the written word and the mind to the visual and emotional. Letham notes, “there is no evidence in the Bible that pictures of saints were expected to be located in the place where the church worshipped, still less was this required. This is a development additional to Scripture” (p. 157).


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Even more thoughts on Muller and (the real) Turretin

TurretinFan (TF) posted a rejoinder yesterday (5.15.17) regarding whether it is accurate to say that (the real) Turretin took the same approach to the text of Scripture as James White (JW) and other evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text. In my post I had cited the work of historical theologian Richard Muller on the Bibliology of Turretin and the other Protestant orthodox.

In his new post TF dismisses my rejoinder by saying the following:

Unfortunately, brother Riddle's post entirely misses the main point of my response. I argued:

Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.

Riddle responded by quoting Richard Muller's discussion of views of issues related to inerrancy, contrasting folks like Turretin with later folks like B.B. Warfield. Even assuming that what Muller says is correct, Muller is addressing a different issue from the one I was addressing.

So, TF says I have completely missed the point. He suggests that the citations I offered from Muller, contradicting his thesis that (the real) Turretin’s views on text were identical with JW, are irrelevant, because I am confusing Muller’s discussion of inerrancy and text criticism.

I’ll have to leave it to those who read Muller for themselves to make their own judgments as to whose reading of his views on (the real) Turretin are accurate. Let me just say that I agree that Muller’s whole point is indeed to say that (the real) Turretin did not, in fact, hold the view of “inerrancy” as originated and articulated in the nineteenth century by Hodges and Warfield, and which continues to be embraced today by evangelicals, like JW and TF. Where TF goes off the rails, however, IMHO, is in failing to see that this discussion of inerrancy is inextricably and vitally related to this issue of text criticism.

What Muller is saying is that the Protestant orthodox, like (the real) Turretin, did not seek the “infinite regress” of the reconstruction (restoration) of the hypothetical inerrant “original autograph.” This reconstructionist method was not, in fact, articulated until the nineteenth century, by Hodges and Warfield, as an apologetic response to modernism’s gleeful attacks upon the integrity of Scripture in light of the accumulation of textual variants. Just look through the writings of the Protestant orthodox, whether the WCF, the 1689 confession, Owen, Turretin, etc., and you will not find the term “inerrancy.” Instead, they speak of the “infallibility” of Scripture. The term “inerrancy” was not coined until the nineteenth century. To say that (the real) Turretin held the same views as JW (which is to say, the same views as Hodges and Warfield) with regard to text is, therefore, a historical anachronism.

The point is that (the real) Turretin did not think his task was the reconstruction of the original, inerrant autograph through the method of text criticism, but that he believed the autograph was present in the preservation of the text in the existing apographs (copies), which had now achieved a standard form in the most widely used and available printed text of the Reformation.

As for the other longer quote he shares from Muller, noting that the printed editions of the textus receptus were established by the Protestant orthodox as “a normative or definitive text of the NT” but that it did not ultimately provide “some sort of terminus ad quem for the editing of the text of the Bible,” I’d suggest one read the quote in context to get Muller’s point. Yes, this era saw continued study of the text of the NT, which would eventually flower in modern text criticism. This was seen in the text critical works of the likes of the French Protestant Louis Cappel and in the Anglican Brian Walton’s Biblia Polyglotta. His point, however, is to say that this approach to the text was not embraced by the Protestant orthodox but resisted by them. See John Owen’s critique of Walton’s Polyglotta in A Vindication of the Purity and Integrity of the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Old and New Testament (in Volume XVI of his Collected Works).

BTW, in citing Muller’s scholarship I do not mean to suggest that he in any way supports the authority of the textus receptus as the normative text of the NT. In fact, he makes plain in PRRD, Vol. 2 that he thinks Owen’s critique of Walton was ill conceived (see, e.g., p. 134). Where Muller is helpful is in his historical description and analysis of the Protestant orthodox and their defense of the traditional text (Hebrew MT of the OT and TR of the NT).

So, to sum up:

1.    (The real) Turretin did not approach the text of Scripture in the same manner as JW and other evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text.

2.    One cannot separate Muller’s discussion of inerrancy and text criticism.

Finally, to understand the confessional text movement (if we can call it that), one has to undergo a “paradigm shift” (though I hate to use that over-used term). The goal of text criticism is not to use an empirical method to “reconstruct” the text. The goal of text criticism is to establish and defend the text that has been providentially preserved.