Friday, February 23, 2018

2018 Virginia Reformed Baptist Youth and Young Adult Conference: May 18-19, 2018

Image: Scene from 2017 Youth and Young Adult Conference

Conference Theme:

The Spiritual Disciplines (1 Timothy 4:8). Worship (personal and corporate), Bible Reading, Prayer, and Personal Ministry. The conference will focus on how to develop and practice healthy spiritual disciplines.


This conference is for youth and young adults (ages 13-16 as of May 18, 2018) who are members or participants in Reformed Baptist Churches. Conference enrollment is limited. All participants must complete and return the conference registration form (get the form here).

Two Tracks:

The conference will have two tracks: One for youth (ages 13-17) and one for young adults (ages 18-26).

Conference Cost:

The cost is $40.00 per person. This includes lodging and all meals. Note: You must bring your own linens and towels.

Conference Speaker:

Pastor Van Loomis, Pastor, Redeeming Grace Baptist Church, Matthews, Virginia.

Conference Venue:

Machen Retreat and Conference Center, McDowell, Virginia.This scenic mountain camp, with modern facilities, owned by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is about one hour’s drive West of Staunton, Virginia.

The Vision (2.23.18): Rivers of Living Water

Image: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 7:37-39.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38).
Christ speaks these words on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-38).
What does “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” mean? The Greek word for “belly” is koilia. It usually refers quite literally to the stomach. In Luke 15:16 it is used to describe the Prodigal son’s filling “his belly with the husks that the swine did eat.” For women it can also refer to the womb, as in Luke 1:41 which speaks of John, before his birth, leaping in the womb of his mother in the presence of Christ.
But it can also have a metaphorical sense. It refers to a man’s innermost existence, his gut, or his heart. The equivalent Hebrew word is sometimes used in this way in the OT. Compare:
Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
Job 15:35 They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.
Jesus says that for the person who thirst and drinks of him (believes in him), from his inmost self (his inner man) “shall flow rivers of living water.”
We believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture. We believe the words are important. The verb for “to flow” here is rheo. It occurs only here in the NT, but it is used in classical Greek where it has the figurative sense of “to flow with more than enough of something” (BGD, Greek Lexicon, 735). It is used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) to describe the land “flowing with milk and honey.”
Jesus says the believer will have rivers (plural!) of living water flowing, super-abounding, flooding the banks of his inner life. Calvin notes that “rivers” here refers to “the diversified graces of the Spirit, which are necessary for the spiritual life of the soul.”
Christ promises to give to those who believe in him something that is soul-satisfying and that issues from them and cannot be contained. It cannot be held back.
Calvin adds that this does not mean that “on the first day, believers are so fully satisfied with Christ, that ever afterwards they neither hunger nor thirst.” Rather, it means that “Christ kindles a new desire of him” and that the Holy Spirit is “like a living and continually flowing fountain in the believer.”
Are you thirsty? Will you come and drink of Christ that you might be filled to overflowing?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Barbara Hamby on "plain-speak versions"

I ran across these lines today from Barbara Hamby’s poem “Ode to American English” in Garrison Keillor, Ed., Good Poems for Hard Times (132-133):

            the battle cry of the Bible Belt, but no one uses

the King James anymore, only the plain-speak versions,

            in which Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead, says,

“Dude, wake up,” and the L-man bolts up like a B-movie

            mummy. “Whoa, I was toasted.” Yes, ma’am,


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Synoptic Problem, Markan Priority, and the Ending of Mark

I’m in the midst of reading Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer, eds. The Synoptic Problem: Four Views (Baker Academic, 2016).

I just finished this am Mark Goodacre’s chapter on the “Farrer Hypothesis” (aka “The Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis”). This view makes its effort to solve the so-called Synoptic Problem by arguing Mark was written first, then Matthew drew on Mark, and Luke drew on both Mark and Matthew. The “triple tradition” is due to Matthew and Luke’s dependence on Mark, and the “double tradition” is due to Luke’s dependence on Matthew. Thus, it dispenses with any necessity for Q.

I do like Goodacre’s challenging the modern consensus on Q, particularly this statement: "In the face of this kind of confidence, it is always useful to remind ourselves that there is no ancient, external evidence of any kind for Q’s existence. There are no textual witnesses, no fragments, no patristic citations—nothing. It is purely a scholarly construct, a hypothetical text"(59).

I am less enamored with his insistence on Markan priority.

It is interesting also to note how Goodacre assumes that Mark originally ended at 16:8 and thus did not have any resurrection appearance narratives. He assumes this without argumentation to this end or supporting footnotes. Thus, he can speculate that Matthew and Luke added their resurrection appearance narratives to the ending of Mark (as well as their birth narratives to the beginning) to expand Mark.

So, Goodacre writes: "Similarly, neither Matthew nor Luke stops where Mark stops, instead going on with resurrection appearance and Jesus’s commissioning of the disciples (Matt. 28:9-20; Luke 24:9-53)" (53).

Later he can mention the possibility that Matthew and Luke independently structured their Gospels “by adding a prologue dealing with Jesus’ birth and an epilogue dealing with his resurrection” (54), though he concludes that the evidence for Luke’s “familiarity” with Matthew is strong, concluding that “the evangelists share the same basic approach to Mark’s Gospel, adding a prologue about Jesus’s birth” and “an epilogue about his resurrection” (58).

His comments got me thinking again about how the rise of source criticism and Markan priority in the nineteenth century undoubtedly contributed to the devaluation and rejection of the traditional ending of Mark. The reigning theory held that Mark was the earliest Gospel and that it was used as a source for Matthew and Luke, which expanded and added to it. The hypothetical Q document suggested the possibility of a “sayings source” that focused on the teaching of the Jesus rather than his death, burial, and resurrection. Goodacre’s suggestion that Matthew and Luke used Mark and added a prologue (the birth narrative) and an epilogue (resurrection appearances) to it follows this line of thinking.

The problem, however, is that this view suggests early Christians would have thought it fitting to have a Gospel that did not included resurrection appearances. Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul’s rehearsal of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 all contradict this notion. The reasoning is circular. First, assume Mark was written first. Second, assume Mark originally ended at 16:8. Third, assume Matthew and Luke augmented Mark by adding their resurrection appearance narratives. But what if Mark 16:9-20 is original? 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

WM 93: Review: Garnet Howard Milne's "Has the Bible been kept pure?"

I have posted WM 93: Review: Garnet Howard Milne’s “Has the Bible been kept pure?” (listen here).

In this episode I read and give some additional comments on my review of Garnet Howard Milne’s Has the Bible been kept pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the providential preservation of Scripture (Garnet Howard Milne, 2017): 322 pp.

This book is an important contribution in defense of the “preservationist” confessional text of Scripture over against the “reconstructionist” modern text of Scripture on historical theological grounds.

Here is the conclusion of my review:

It might be added that Milne presents his arguments firmly and resolutely, but that he also does so with a charitable and optimistic spirit. Given his stated belief that God will preserve his Word, this is indeed a necessity. Thus, in his conclusion, Milne observes:

If the Westminster divines were correct in their doctrine of Scripture, then we can expect to see the New Testament Received Text and the Old Testament Masoretic Text continue to be preserved and used by the Lord’s people. We would also expect to see the Westcott and Hort and Warfield approach to textual criticism eclipsed by a return to the Puritan religious epistemology so clearly defined in the Westminster Confession of Faith (301).

He then adds:

As more Christians become educated on the developments of modern textual-critical theory they are likely to see the beauty, simplicity, and the Scriptural basis for the old religious epistemology of the Reformation and the authentic status of the common text of Scripture (301-302).

Has the Bible been kept pure? may well prove a useful tool to aid in unseating the new paradigm of the text of Scripture in favor of the old.


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Vision (2.16.18): Ye shall seek me

Image: Lord's Day assembly at CRBC (2.11.18)
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 7:25-36.
John 7:34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. 35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
Christ here prophesies his ascension and exaltation after his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection (v. 34).
His words seem mainly aimed at the unbelievers, the skeptics, the persecutors, and the murmurers. Not only is he saying here that they will not be able to find him on earth, because he will be ascended, but also that they will not be able to find him in glory, because their unbelief and hostility toward him will bar them from ever entering into that great presence.

We hear a comedy of ironic misunderstanding, ignorance, and spiritual blindness in the response to Christ’s words in v. 35a: “Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? They then suppose in v. 35b that Christ means he will flee Palestine and go out among the Jews who are “dispersed among the Gentiles [literally: eis ten diasporan ton hellenon: into the diaspora of the Greeks]” and “teach the Gentiles [literally: the Greeks].” Will he go to Greek-speaking Jews, to the God-fearers [Gentiles drawn to the synagogues], and even to the completely pagan Gentiles?

And what is the greatest irony here? Indeed, after Christ’s death, and his resurrection, and his glorious ascension, he will go to the world. He will go to the ends of the earth through the preaching of the gospel to all nations, which he will commission his apostles to fulfill (cf. Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

What they see as ludicrous will be a tremendous and breathtaking reality. Though these men will seek him to persecute him and not find him, there will be those who seek him and find him, by grace, in the preaching of the gospel.

There remain two groups of seekers. Will you be among those who seek Christ to reject him, or will you seek him to know and serve him?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, February 15, 2018

WM 92: Rejoinder to a Lutheran's Objections to Limited Atonement

I have posted Word Magazine 92: Rejoinder to a Lutheran's Objections to Limited Atonement (listen here).

Jordan Cooper is a young Lutheran minister serving a congregation in Illinois (Faith Lutheran Church in Watseka). He also directs Just and Sinner Publications, hosts the Just and Sinner Podcast, and has an active youtube channel.

By his own report, Cooper is a former Calvinist and often expresses various criticisms of Reformed theology. He has written a critique of Reformed theology: Jordan Cooper, The Great Divide: A Lutheran Evaluation of Reformed Theology (Wipf and Stock, 2015).

I got an email back in November from someone who called my attention to an 18 minutes video posted by Jordan Cooper in April 2017. The video is titled, “Five Problem with Limited Atonement” (see it here).

Here is part of the email:

The main reason I’m contacting you is to request a topic for one of your podcasts. I would love to hear your response to a Lutheran pastor by the name of Jordan Cooper. He has an 18 minute YouTube video on the “5 Problems with Limited Atonement”….

I have an older brother, who introduced me to Calvinism many years ago who is now considering Lutheranism. He’s the one who sent me the video claiming that it contains a “powerful argument” against particular redemption right from the book of Hebrews.

In this episode I want to review and respond to Cooper’s critique of limited atonement. Here are some notes from my review:

Jordan Cooper’s Five Problems with Limited Atonement:

First: The Bible speaks of many who fell away but (who) were also bought by the blood of Christ.

He mentions two texts:

1.    Hebrews 10:29

Response: Is this a description of an apostate or a warning against becoming a backslidden believer who brings shame to the name of Jesus? I think it is the latter.

2.    2 Peter 2:1

Response: See John Owen’s assessment that these were “saints in show” and not genuine believers.

Second: Many texts speak about the universal nature of Christ’s saving work.

He mentions the following texts:

1.    1 John 2:2

Response: This verse does not refer to universal atonement but to the universal scope of the gospel: that all kinds of men (Jews and Gentiles) will be saved.

2.    1 Timothy 2:4

Response: 1 Timothy 2:4 is also a passage related to the universal scope of the gospel: that all kinds of men (Jews and Gentiles) will be saved. To measure the importance of that theme for Paul see Ephesians 3:1-6.

3.    1 Timothy 4:10

Response: See a blog post I recently wrote on this verse, as one of the prooftexts in the 2LBCF (1689) in the chapter on Providence (5:7). There I point out that this verse is not addressing salvation of all men but God’s providential care for all men, and especially for his saints.

Third: Limited Atonement is incompatible with the free offer of the gospel.

Response: Holding to the Biblical doctrine of the atonement in no way hinders the faithful preaching of the gospel. In fact, it is those who preach general atonement who weaken and distort the preaching of the gospel.

For a response to this see, J. I. Packer’s Introductory Essay in John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Banner of Truth, 1959): 1-25 (esp. 16-17, 19).

See also David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism & The Call of the Gospel (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980).

Fourth: The book of Hebrews

Response: The book of Hebrews is in no way incompatible with the Reformed view of salvation. It exalts Christ as the once for all sacrifice. It is written to Jewish believers in order to exhort them to persevere in the faith. Aside from its pastoral purpose, it also has an evangelistic purpose, as it undoubtedly would have been read in congregations that would have included both believers and unbelievers.

John Owen completed seven volumes of commentaries on Hebrews and retained a consistent view of Reformed soteriology throughout (see here). Any so-called objections passages in Hebrews will find a satisfying interpretation in Owen.

I have preached a 46-part sermon series through the book (see here). I did not find anything within Hebrews to contradict Reformed soteriology.

Fifth: The words of Jesus

Cooper mentions Christ’s prayer from the cross in Luke 23:34 (BTW, We can confidently uphold the text of this prayer as genuine! See this post). Yes, we can say that his prayer was answered, not that in all who rejected Jesus were saved or given the hypothetical possibility of salvation, but that some were actually saved and had their sins forgiven under the preaching of the Gospel (see Acts 2:22-24, 37-38).

He mentions Judas and Christ’s words in the upper room to the disciples in Luke 22:19: “This is my body which is given for you.” Whether Judas was present or not is irrelevant. Jesus was not saying that he would die for Judas. His death would be for the elect. Even today, false professors take of the Supper unworthily.

Finally, he notes Christ’s prayer for the disciples in John 17:12. How could this apply to Judas?

He fails to pick up on the fact that in John there is peculiar language that is used for the choosing (election) of the disciples for service as disciples that does not have to do, necessarily, with Christ’s choosing (election) of the disciples for salvation (see John 6:70-71; 15:16). So, there is nothing inconsistent with saying, Jesus chose the Judas to be among the twelve, but he did not choose him for salvation.

Concluding Response:

It is typical of those who reject limited atonement (the Biblical doctrine of redemption) to raise objection passages like these.

As we have demonstrated, when rightly divided these passages do not contradict limited atonement.

If they did, Scripture would be incoherent. It is those who hold to general or universal redemption who must explain how they make sense of the passages that, we believe, so clearly teach limited atonement, or particular redemption, including:

Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

The onus is on the defenders of universal atonement to exegete and interpret how these passages support their position.

Additional resources:

Sermons from

More blog articles on this topic:


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Select List of Works on Psalm Singing

Image: From the Geneva Psalter (1556)

Note: A friend recently asked me for a list of resources on psalm singing, so I compiled the select list below. You can also find resources on psalms at the Crown and Covenant site (here).

1.    Michael Bushel, The Songs of Zion (Crown and Covenant, 1980).

This is probably the strongest and most extensive modern defense of exclusive psalmody.

2.   Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio, Eds., Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).

This is a collection of articles on Psalm singing in history, Psalm singing in Scripture, and Psalm singing and the modern church.

3.   The Worship of God: Reformed Concepts of Biblical Worship (Mentor, 2005).

This is a collection of papers from the Spring 2003 Theology Conference at Greenville Presbyterian Seminary. Chapter 8 is “The Biblical Case for Exclusive Psalmody” by Brian Schwertley (pp. 181-204) and Chapter 9 is “A Defense of Biblical Hymnody” by Benjamin Shaw (pp. 205-218).

4.    Malcolm Watts and David Silversides, The Worship of God (Market Press, 1998).

This book has three papers on the theme of worship from the 1997 Salisbury Conference. The articles argue against the use of instruments in worship and in favor of exclusive psalmody.

5.   W. Gary Crampton, “Exclusive Psalmody,” in John W. Robbins, Ed. The Church Effeminate (The Trinity Foundation, 2001): 150-161.

Crampton argues in favor of singing psalms in worship but also that there is no Biblical warrant to eliminate altogether uninspired hymns and songs. He holds that one does not need to be an exclusive psalmodist to be confessional.


Friday, February 09, 2018

The Vision (2.9.18): Augustine on Remaining Corruption

Note: Devotion taken from the afternoon sermon on January 26 on chapter six in the 1689 Baptist Confession
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).
The corruption of nature during this life doth remain in those that are regenerated” (2LBCF 6:5).
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was an important early Christian pastor and theologian in North Africa. His writing had a deep influence on many of the Protestant Reformers, like Calvin, so that Reformed theology is often described as being “Augustinian.”
In a memoir titled The Confessions, Augustine reflected on his early life noting several instances from his childhood in which his conscience was bothered by sin. He recalls taking some things from the cupboard without asking his parent’s permission (“I pilfered from my parent’s cellar and table”—Book I, chapter XVIII). He cheated at games (“I sought dishonest victories”). He recalls how as a youth he and some other boys stole some pears from an orchard (“Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden”—Book Two, Chapter IV).
As an adult he entered into more flagrant sin, including taking several mistresses and fathering a son out of wedlock.
When he first heard the gospel Augustine hesitated, because he did not want to give up his lusts.
At one point, while under conviction to become a Christian, he prayed: “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet” (Book VIII, chapter VII).
Eventually, however, he was converted. It happened one day when he came under conviction of sin and went into a garden. He heard some children playing nearby and chanting, tolle lege (take up and read). And there on the bench where he sat was a Bible which he took up and opened, his eyes falling on Romans 13:13:
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
And this became the turning point.
His Confessions consists of 13 books (or sections). His conversion is told in Book VIII. But there are five more books.
At places in those remaining books, Augustine expresses sometimes his wonder, sometimes his consternation, that even after his conversion, though he had full assurance of it, he still had to battle against remaining corruption.
At one point, he says to God: “Thou commandest continence [purity of life]; give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt” (Book X, chapter XXIX).
Even though he, by discipline, refrained from outward flagrant sin, he noted that the images of these things were still fixed in his memory, and his mind would often drift there, particularly in his dreams.
At one point he says to God:
I am trusting that thou wilt perfect they mercies in me, to the fullness of that peace which both my inner and outward being shall have with thee when death is swallowed up in victory (Book X, Chapter XXX).
He later adds:
For my infirmities are many and great; indeed, they are many and very great. But thy medicine is still greater (Book X, Chapter XLIII).
These are, indeed, the sentiments of every redeemed saint, who recognizes the remaining corruption within him, the work of sanctification in him, and the hope of glory for him.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, February 08, 2018

More Evidence of the Crisis: The Ending of Mark in The Jesus Bible, NIV Edition

I'm teaching a section of NT and Early Christianity this semester and, as usual, I am having students read the Gospel of Mark and write short summaries of each of the 16 chapters. As sometimes happens (given the formatting of modern Bibles) I had a student who ended his summary at Mark 16:8, omitting reference to vv. 9-20. I commented on this in a grading note, and he and I had a discussion on this after class. The reason he said that he had not included comments on vv. 9-20 was that it was not in his Bible.

He then showed me his The Jesus Bible, NIV Edition (Zondervan, 2016). This Bible is apparently one promoted in the para-church "Passion" movement and endorsed by a group of evangelical celebrity ministers, including John Piper, Max Lucado, and Ravi Zacharias (see this site). I was not familiar with this edition, so I took a look and at my student's Bible (and he allowed me to take a few pictures--see below).

Sure enough, I could understand his confusion. The layout certainly would lead the reader to believe that Mark ends at Mark 16:8. Not only is there a thick black line that underscores the space after Mark 16:8 but a bracketed comment explains: "[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have vv. 9-20.]" After another broad spacing, it includes vv. 9-20 but in italic.

What it more, there is also a footnote after Mark 16:8 which includes the so-called "shorter ending," also in italic. This footnote introduces the shorter ending with these words: "Some manuscripts have the following ending between verses 8 and 9, and one manuscript has it after verse 8 (omitting verses 9-20):"

The layout and the notes in the Jesus Bible, NIV Edition for the ending of Mark are deceptive. Mark 16:9-20 is missing in only two extant Greek manuscripts. It is clearly attested in patristic witnesses from the second century (by Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, writing 200 years before the two uncials that omit these verses were even copied!). It is the reading of the vast majority of extant Greek NT manuscripts and has been included in the Protestant Bibles since the printing began in the post-Reformation era. The notes also fails to tell the reader that the "shorter ending" along with vv. 9-20 appears in only six Greek NT manuscripts (and one lectionary), the earliest of which dates only to the VI-VII century! It is clearly a late fabrication with no standing to be considered on par alongside vv. 9-20. The one witness it mentions that includes the shorter ending and excludes vv. 9-20 is the Old Latin codex k which has a number of suspect readings in Mark 16 that cast grave doubts as to its reliability.

For more details on the text of Mark's ending, see my recent article "The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis." It still amazes me that evangelicals are so easily abandoning the traditional ending of Mark on the basis of so little compelling evidence. Sadly enough, through its editing of Mark 16:9-20, the "Jesus Bible" casts doubt on one of the four canonical Gospel witnesses to the resurrection appearances of Christ.