Friday, September 28, 2018

Buried with Christ in baptism

Image: Scene from baptism [at Louisa BC] (9.23.18)

Image: After service fellowship (9.23.18)

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Romans 1:1-4.

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

We do not become a Christian by living a good life (that would be works righteousness), but we aspire to live a good life, because we have become Christians. We have been transformed by Christ.

We might add: We do not become Christians by being baptized, but we are baptized, because we have become Christians.

It should not go without notice that Paul presents here in Romans 6 a beautiful image of what baptism signifies. When a Christian is baptized, he is saying, “I identify with the Lord Jesus Christ. I have died to sin through Christ. My old life is buried. I have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life.”

This inspired description has long been used as a proof for believer’s baptism by immersion.

Who is the right candidate for baptism? A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

How should this person be baptized? By full immersion in water.

In favor of this mode of baptism, there is the linguistic argument. The verb baptizo means “to immerse, dip, or plunge,” and it is the verb used in every instance to describe the baptism of a believer. There is a verb in Greek for “to pour” echeo, and for “to sprinkle” rhantizo, and for “to wash” nipto, but in every instance when a baptism is described in the NT the verb is baptizo.

There is the argument from the example of Christ’s baptism (cf. Mark 1:10: “coming up out of the water”).

There is the argument from references to abundance of water when baptism is done in the NT (cf. John 3:22: “And John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.”; Acts 8:36).

And there is also the argument from Romans 6 that the only practice of baptism that could possibly match up with what Paul describes here is believer’s baptism by immersion: the believer being plunged beneath the surface of the water into “the watery grave of baptism” and being raised to walk in newness of life.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Booklet Note: Richard P. Belcher's "Doing Textual Criticism"

Richard P. Belcher, Doing Textual Criticism in the Greek New Testament (Richbarry Press, 1989): 25 pp.

While at the 1689 conference I picked up this booklet on text criticism from the book table, and I finally read through it yesterday.

Here are a few thoughts and observations:

The booklet is meant as an introduction for students who are beginning to read the Greek NT and as a guide to understand and evaluate text critical issues. It is a very general introduction and does not go into much detail on how to read or understand the apparatus of a modern Greek NT handbook. No concrete examples or illustrations (like the ending of Mark, the PA, etc.) are offered.

The tract operates under the old, “modern” conception of text criticism defining it as “the careful study of the existing documents of a writing for the purpose of seeking to determine the text of the original manuscript of that work” (1). Thus, it assumes the reconstructionist view of text criticism of the nineteenth to mid- twentieth centuries.

It follows the old suggestion of Westcott and Hort, etc, that the Greek mss. can be divided into four text families: Byzantine, Western, Caesarean, and Alexandrian. Of these it suggests that the Byzantine is late and inferior, though conceding it may have the “true text” in some cases, while the Alexandrian is most valuable since it is “less polished,” shorter, and generally contains more difficult readings. The new, postmodern Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM), however, has now challenged the notion of text families altogether, as well as the presumption of Byzantine inferiority.

It describes unintentional and intentional errors in scribal transmission, oddly noting that intentional errors were done “certainly not to introduce heresy into the text” (14). Clearly, however, the text was and remains a doctrinal battleground, especially with regard to Christology, as Ehrman has shown (though he holds it was the orthodox who supposedly corrupted the text!).

It likewise repeats the mantra of evangelicals who have embraced the modern critical text that “the variants in our text do not change any major doctrine of the historic Christian faith” (15). Clearly, however, they do.

At the least, Belcher does reflect some unease with modern text criticism, conceding that the principles guiding evaluation of internal evidence “will seem contradictory and somewhat subjective at best in their application” (19), later adding that “the work is at times very subjective” (21).

The booklet has exceeded its shelf-life with regard to being an up-to-date introduction to contemporary text critical study, but it is a useful example of how modern evangelicals of this era embraced the method of Warfield, Metzger, et al.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Film Review: Leave No Trace

I’d usually much prefer reading a book to seeing a film but last Friday, my wife and I went to the free (the price was right) monthly film screening in the college’s Dickinson Theater. The film was Leave No Trace. I had never heard of it before seeing posters on the campus bulletin boards announcing the flick.

The trailer intrigued me. It has a rare 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so we went to see it.

This 2018 film is directed by Debra Granik who also co-wrote the script. It is based on Peter Rock’s 2010 novel My Abandonment, which, in turn, is based on a 2004 news story about a father and daughter found living in a park in Portland, Oregon (see these articles). What stood out to me about the original story, which I vaguely recalled, was that the father had been homeschooling his daughter using only a Bible and a few old encyclopedias, and yet, despite the meager resources, she had apparently been thriving intellectually.

Leave No Trace (the title based on the hiker's motto) is about a veteran suffering with PTSD named Will and his daughter “Tom” who live in a park outside Portland, Oregon. Once discovered, well-meaning social workers try to resettle them in a normal setting, but the pair soon take off again for Washington state where they settle for a time in an RV park, before Will feels the urge to move on, while Tom decides to stay behind.

Leave No Trace is distinctive and unusual for a modern film. The pace is slow and deliberate. The acting is excellent (with Ben Foster as Will and Thomasin Mckenzie as Tom, the focus of most the film). The green and rainy forest settings in Oregon and Washington are lush (reminded me of our visit to Snoqualmie, Washington). It is also usual in that the dialogue and action is as mild as the pace. There is no foul language, no graphic violence, no sexual content. It has a mild PG rating. Though it is packed with deep emotional content, the film has a wholesome, life-affirming vibe. It is a film where the actors make the people seem real and flawed but not unkind. There are no villains. Will loves his daughter and Tom respects her father. The social workers really want to help this family make it in the normal world. A neighbor boy welcomes Tom to the local 4-H club. The rabbit presentation scene is great! There is even a generally positive portrayal of Christians and church. A Christian tree farmer provides Will a job and a place to live and invites father and daughter to his church. When they visit, the pastor and people are a bit quirky but kind and welcoming. Look out for the liturgical dance scene!

What is the film about?

Perhaps it is an anti-war film, showing the impact war has on the warriors when they come home and the effect this has upon their families.

It is about homelessness but has no political ax to grind. It seems more interested in the philosophical question of what makes a happy home and family. Is it having a conventional house in which to live or is it a generous and fulfilling relationship between parents and children? Should the state or the parents have the final say in what makes for a good education or a good home for a child?

Perhaps it is about differentiating oneself from one’s parents, recognizing their weaknesses, while also understanding, respecting, and loving them. The most powerful moment at the film’s end: When Tom says to her restless Dad, “The same thing that’s wrong with you, isn’t wrong with me.”

I don’t recommend many films, but this one is worth seeing. It will make you think and feel.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Recent Lectures on Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)

Image: Excerpt from chapter XX of Keach's Articles of Faith (1697)

I was asked to do a biographical message back on September 14 on Benjamin Keach (1640-1704): Orthodox, Puritan, Baptist Pastor at the 1689 conference in Indianapolis.

Last week I listened to the lectures on Benjamin Keach (found here on that were given at the ParticularCon 2018 conference (held on September 7-8) at Trinity RBC in La Mirada, CA. They included Mike Mills' helpful message on the life of Keach, as well as talks on a variety of other topics.

Worthwhile listening for those interested in Keach and Particular Baptist history and theology.


Friday, September 21, 2018

The Vision (9.21.18): Satan Entered Into Judas

Image: Great Salt Lake, Utah, August 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 13:18-30.

And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  And after the sop Satan entered into him (John 13:26-27a).

One might describe this scene, in which Jesus indicates that Judas will betray him by giving him the sop [piece of bread], as an “anti-communion.” John does not describe the full meal in the upper room, but he certainly knows of it. The bread and cup had been shared. The Lord’s Supper instituted. The disciples had fed on Christ spiritually. He had entered into them. They had experienced union with him and communion among themselves.

Now, here is an anti-communion. Judas had welcomed Satan into his heart and life. He had communion with evil.

The point here is not to dwell on the specifics of Satan’s entering into Judas, but to see that Judas had chosen sides with evil. He aligned with evil, because his heart was evil. Satan will take advantage of every opening.

Calvin warned against the attempt to interpret this verse in an overly “physical” manner, by assuming some graphic sort of Satanic possession. Calvin wrote: it is a “fool’s dream to imagine that the devil entered essentially…into Judas.” The point, rather, is to say that Judas fell “under the power and efficacy of Satan.” He was an unbeliever and he was responsible for his own actions, though he yielded to unholy influence.

We too would be prone to join in league with Satan were it not for Christ’s claim upon our lives. So, the greatest gleaning: Turn to Christ and live. Seek communion with him and fellowship with his people. Do not repeat the grave spiritual error of Judas.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, September 20, 2018

WM 104: D. Scott Meadows on Al Martin's Pastoral Theology

Image: Al Martin with his new book on Pastoral Theology.

Image: D. Scott Meadows preaching at the 1689 Conference in Indianapolis (9.14.18)

Pastor Meadows and I both were speaking last week at the 1689 Conference in Indianapolis. I was able to get in a short interview with him last Friday evening (9.14.18). In the interview Pastor Meadows discusses his call to the ministry and his 27 years of pastoral service at Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed) in Exeter, New Hampshire. He also shares about his labors in editing the writings of influential RB pastor Albert N. Martin. Scott shares, in particular, about a new book by Al Martin titled Pastoral Theology: The Man of God: His Calling and Godly Life (Trinity Pulpit Press, 2018) (the first in a projected three volume series). We end the talk with a brief conversation on the beauty of the King James Version as an English Bible translation.



Friday, September 14, 2018

The Vision (9.14.18): Washing the Disciples' Feet

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 13:1-17.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).

Christ admonishes his disciples to follow his example and wash one another’s feet.

In 1 Timothy 5:10 the apostle Paul described the godly widows in the church as those who had “washed the saints' feet.” We get some idea of what he meant by this by the other things that these women had done which he mentions in this verse, like: bringing up children, lodging strangers, relieving the afflicted, and diligently following every good work.

Consider also Paul’s admonition in Galatians 5:10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
The question we must ask: Do we wash the feet of our fellow disciples?

This might include the way conduct yourself within your marriage, as well as before your children and neighbors and extended family. It has special application, however, as to how we act toward the brethren within the church.

What does it mean to wash the feet of the disciples? Here are some things that will be part of this:

҉ We have to know the brethren. We have to love them enough to be committed to getting to know them and letting them know us. This means we have to be present, and we have to stay around.

҉ We can do good works for each other. That might encompass everything (as needed) from preparing a meal, cleaning a house, raking a yard, keeping children, giving rides, sitting by sickbeds, lending a listening ear, and countless other acts of love and service to one another.

҉ It means being forbearing and patient with one another.

҉ It means overlooking faults, not keeping records of wrongs, and trusting that love covers a multitude of sins.

҉ It means making your home a place of hospitality, and sometimes it means lodging strangers.

҉ It means praying for one another, and not just saying you will and then forgetting about it.

When we do these sorts of things (and plenty more that cannot always be named on a list), we are obeying Christ’s command and following his example. We are taking up the towel and filling the basin, so that we can have the privilege of washing the feet of the disciples, just as Christ has served us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, September 13, 2018

WM 103: Calvin and Canon

I have recorded and posted WM 103: Calvin and Canon (listen here). This episode is a version of the paper I presented back on August 27, 2018 at the 2018 International Congress on Calvin Research, held at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

I hope to edit and expand the paper for some future use, but this abbreviated reading gives a feel for the content.

Here’s how the paper begins:

In his biography of John Calvin, William J. Bousma observed, “Against the claim of the Roman church to have settled the matter, [Calvin] denied with no distress, the existence of a fixed New Testament canon.” This paper will examine Calvin’s understanding of the canon of the Christian Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments), as reflected in his various writings.

In order to grasp Calvin’s understanding of canon, we must address at least four key issues:

First: Calvin’s view of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament.

Second: Calvin’s view of the so-called antilegomena of the New Testament (the works spoken against, especially 2-3 John and Revelation, but also Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Jude).

Third: Calvin’s understanding of the criterion of canonicity.

Fourth: Calvin’s definition not only of the proper books which should be included in the canon of the Christian Scriptures but also the texts of those books.

And here’s how it ends:

Calvin was profoundly influential in shaping and defining a distinctive Protestant and Reformed conceptions of canon.

Over against Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, he rejected the notion that canon was defined by the ecclesiastical pronouncement but affirmed that these books claimed their canonical status by virtue of their being (ontology).

In harmony with Judaism, he affirmed the 39 books of the Hebrew Bible as constituting the canon of the Old Testament.

Though he rejected the canonicity of the Apocrypha he could affirm that these works, uninspired as they are, could serve an edifying role in Christian piety. Such a perspective has been largely lost among most modern Protestants and might well be reclaimed in the contemporary church.

Over against some of his fellow Reformers, Luther included, Calvin did not, in the end, affirm a “canon within the canon” understanding of the New Testament books. He did not divide the New Testament books into ranks and, thus, gave an equal authority and status to all.

Calvin affirmed that canon was not just a matter of which books are in the Bible but also of which texts makes up those books. By affirming the Hebrew text of the Old Testament as normative, this meant he departed from Eastern Orthodoxy’s preference for the Greek LXX of the Old Testament and Roman Catholicism’s preference for the Latin Vulgate for both testaments. What is more, he affirmed a stress on the importance of the immediate inspiration of the Bible in its original languages and, I believe, affirmed that the proper text was the traditional one (the Masoretic text of the OT and the TR of the NT).

I close by returning to Bousma’s statement that Calvin “denied with no distress, the existence of a fixed New Testament canon” and conclude that this statement is inaccurate. Calvin did not deny but affirmed a clear and well-formed view on the canon of the Christian Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments.


Friday, September 07, 2018

The Vision (9.7.18): The Word of God as an Ordinary Means of Grace

Image: Charles Hodge (1797-1878)

In light of an invitation to address this topic in a conference next week, I have been giving thought of late to the theme of God’s Word as an ordinary means of grace.

Our Baptist Catechism, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, teaches (Q 94):

The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

This indicates the sense that the Word (its reading and its preaching) is an ordinance of both conversion and edification. This twofold purpose recalls Psalm 19:7 (emphasis added):

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

In his three volume Systematic Theology, the “Old Princeton” theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) devotes an extended section to the Word of God as a means of grace (see Volume III, chapter XX, pp. 466-484). At one point, he reflects on the fact that without the reading and hearing of God’s Word even a regenerate soul would be at a loss:

Even a regenerated soul without any truth before it, would be in blank darkness. It would be in the state of a regenerated infant; or in the state of an unborn infant in relation to the external world; having eyes and ears, but nothing to call its faculties of sight and hearing into exercise.

He concludes:

The Bible, therefore, is essential to the conscious existence of   the divine life in the soul and to all its rational exercises. The Christian can no more live without the Bible, than his body can live without food. The Word of God is milk and strong meat, it is as water to the thirsty, it is honey and the honeycomb (478-479).

If we are to grow in Christ, we need the “intake” of His Word. We need to read the Bible privately and to hear it read corporately. We need also to hear it taught and preached among his people.

May the Lord use his Word as a means of grace to convert souls and to make wise the simple.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Invitation: 2018 Keach Conference Coming: September 29

2018 Keach Conference

Saturday, September 29, 2018
Hosted by Christ Reformed Baptist Church
2997 Courthouse Road, Louisa, Virginia 23093

Image: Steve Clevenger preaching at the 2016 Keach Conference

The Keach Conference is an annual theology and ministry conference presented by the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA). The conference is open to anyone to attend. There is no registration fee.

Conference theme: This year our focus will be on Chapter 11 “of Justification” from the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).

Conference Schedule (Saturday, September 29):

9:00 am Morning Coffee & Registration

9:30 am Session One

Message one: Justification: The Article on Which the Church Stands or Falls (Confession 11:1-2). Speaker: Jeff Riddle, Christ RBC, Louisa.

Message two: Justification: The Application of Christ to Believers (Confession 11:3-4). Speaker: Steve Clevenger, Covenant RBC, Warrenton.

12:00 nn Complimentary lunch served on site

1:00 pm Session Two

Message three: Justification: Falling Under Fatherly Displeasure (Confession 11:5). Speaker: Van Loomis, Redeeming Grace BC, Matthews.

Message four: Justification: Old Testament Believers (Confession 11:6). Speaker: J. Ryan Davidson, Grace Baptist Chapel, Hampton

Question and Answer Session

Conference concludes by 3:30 pm to give adequate time for participants to return home and be prepared for the Lord's Day.