Friday, August 14, 2020

The Vision (8.14.20): The Father of Lights

 


Image: Wild ponies grazing under overcast skies, off the Appalachian Trail, Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, Virginia, August 2020.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:17-20.

Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).

I noted Sunday that in James 1:17-20 three key themes are explored by the apostles: Who is God (vv. 17-18a)? Who is the redeemed sinner (v. 18b)? How should we live (vv. 19-20)?

James begins with theology (Who is God?). He uniquely identified God here as “the Father of Lights”.

Christ taught us to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven….” Of course, this is the language of analogy. God is not a male. Christ said to the woman at the well: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We are not the physical offspring of God.

And yet the language here is not accidental. Although there are a handful of scattered “maternal” images for God in the Scriptures (cf. Psalm 91:4), the predominant Biblical image for God is as a Father.

Our liberal Protestant friends are thus wrong when they try to be gender inclusive and begin their prayers, “Our mother, which art in heaven….”

Nearly 30 years ago, back in the August 16, 1993 issue of Christianity Today magazine there was an article, still well worth reading, titled, “Why God is not Mother,” by a woman OT scholar named Elizabeth Achtemeier, which ably makes this point.

The Bible calls God Father, because it suggests that he is like an ideal Father. Even if you did not have a good and loving human Father, you can still imagine what an ideal Father should be.

How is God like an ideal Father?

He is the initiator. He is the one who conceives the plan to be carried out. He is the one who issues decrees to accomplish his plan. He is the one who provides from the fullness of who he is. He does not let his children go hungry. He meets their physical needs. He is generous and kind and liberal in his affections with his children. He is a loving Father. He satisfies the emotional and spiritual needs of those who are his own. The ideal Father will also exercise discipline, not because he enjoys punishment, but because he desires to train, correct, and improve his children. A Father is a protector and defender. He will step in the gap to shield his dear ones from any threat. A Father is also a rescuer and a savior. If he sees his child in danger, he will intervene to pluck him out of trouble.

Every human father will confess that he falls short of this ideal, but every Christian will affirm that our heavenly Father perfectly fulfills this ideal in his paternal care for us.

James adds that God is “the Father of lights.” What is meant by this?

The first thing that came to my mind was an acknowledgement of God as the creator of light and the creator of the heavenly bodies that provide light to this world (cf. day one and day four of creation, Genesis 1:3, 14).

One might also think of the triune God and how God the Father sent forth his Son who declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Or one might especially think, given the plural here (lights), of the spiritual illuminations and graces, which he bestows on so many.

Matthew Poole observed here: “God is the author of all perfection, and so of corporeal light; but here we understand spiritual light, the light of knowledge, faith, holiness, as opposed to the darkness of ignorance, unbelief, sin; of which he cannot be the author.”

There is a theological point being made here: God is the Father of lights, not the Father of darkness. As the theologians say, God is not the author of evil.

By starting with God, James reminds us that we will not understand ourselves, or how we are to live, until we know who our God is. He is the Father of lights.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Book Review posted: Dirk Jongkind, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament (THGNT)




Note: I have posted my book review of Dirk Jongkind, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (Crossway, 2019).

The review appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2 (July 2020): 233-236.

You can listen to the review above and/or read a pdf here on academia.edu.

JTR

Saturday, August 08, 2020

The Vision (8.8.20): The "Rusty Chain" of Temptation

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:12-16.

James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

In Romans 8:29-30, Paul describes what has been called “the golden chain” of redemption, and in James 1:2-4 we described what we called James’s “golden chain” of perseverance.

These “chains” provide a series of interconnected events or actions that lead to some glorious end, according to the design of God.

Now, in James 1:14-15, the apostle describes what might be called the “rusty chain” of temptation. This, however, is not a positive chain. It is not a golden chain but what we might call a “rusty” one.

The first link in this chain is “lust” (in Greek it is plural: “lusts”). The Greek word epithumia means a desire, a longing, or a craving. But the word entails a desire that is inordinate or ungodly. It is a desire that trespasses beyond the bounds of what is holy, good, and right.

We typically think of lust as referring to inordinate sexual desire, as when Christ taught that the man who looks at a woman lustfully (using a verb from the same root of the word used here) has committed adultery in his heart (Matt 5:28).

But there are many other lusts or desires, including lust for power, lust for control, lust for revenge, lust for anger, lust for money, lust for dominance, etc.

The rusty chain of temptation begins in the heart of sinners, even in the hearts of believers (who still battle with sin), when they are governed by any inordinate desire or lust.

This desire draws a man away and entices him. Sin promises pleasure, but it delivers pain. Proverbs 20:17 says, “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.”

The second link in v. 15a is sin itself. This tells us that there is a difference between the idea of sin and the doing of the deed itself. But notice the imagery here. It is reproductive and gestational. Desire conceives the enticement to sin that, if nurtured and fed, will give birth to the monster of actual sin itself.

The third link in v. 15b is death. The monster child of sin “when it is finished” (when it reaches maturity) leads to death. This last link is simply an alternate expression of Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.”

There is a warning here: Do not be enticed by temptation. Do not give yourself over to wicked desires. Do not let these lead to actual transgressions. The end result will be death, not merely physical death but spiritual death, what the Scriptures sometimes call “the second death” (Rev 2:11; 20:6).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.16-17 & Appendix: The End of the Diocletian Persecution



 

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 16-17 & Appendix to book 8.

Notes and Commentary:

Chapter 16 describes how the great Diocletian persecution began to lessen by the eighth year and came to an end in the tenth year.

This change did not come about due to “human agency” or “pity” or from the “humanity of the rulers.” Instead it came about by divine providence.

One sign of this was that Galerius, the cruel emperor and “chief author” of the persecution, was stricken by an illness which began an an ulcer and wasted his inward parts, bringing forth worms and a terrible stench. The suffering described here is reminiscent of Herod’s illness in Acts 12:23.

Chapter 17 describes how Galerius became conscience-stricken for his cruel deeds and decided to command the persecution against Christians to cease. It includes a copy of this decree, translated from Latin to Greek allowing, “that the Christians may exist again and build the houses in which they assemble, always provided they do nothing contrary to order.”

In the Appendix found in the AER manuscript tradition, more information is added as to the fate of the four men who served as the Tetrarchy and under whom the persecution had begun.

It is noted that Galerius, who held last place among the four tetrarchs, died from his illness and that he had been the chief villain in the persecutions.

Diocletian had held the chief honor in the tetrarchy [thus we call it the Diocletian persecution] but retired from public life and eventually fell under painful bodily infirmity.

The one who held second place was Maximian whose life ended by strangling.

The tetrarch in third place had been Constantius [father of Constantine] and he is praised as the only who lived a noble life and who did not persecute Christians or tear down their churches.

One begins to see this as a bit of Constantinian propaganda.

Conclusion:

These chapter describes the welcomed end of the Diocletian persecution and stresses the divine providential care for the church in ending the suffering.

JTR


Monday, August 03, 2020

Book Review Posted: Grantley McDonald, Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe: Erasmus, the Johannine Comma, and Trinitarian Debate





I have posted my book review of Grantley McDonald, Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe: Erasmus, the Johannine Comma Trinitarian Debate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

It was published in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2 (July 2020): 238-241.

You can read the pdf of the review here on academia.edu.

JTR

WM 172: James White Doubles Down on his Refusal to Debate Mark 16:9-20


 

On Saturday (8.1.20), I posted WM 171: Why does James White refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?

In an effort at damage control and spinning the narrative JW quickly responded with a blog post later the same day under the title, This Really Isn’t Hard. Here is his post, paragraph by paragraph, with my responses (his article is in black italic below and my responses in blue):

On July 28th I commented on the Dividing Line about an invitation to do a debate with Dr. Jeffrey Riddle on textual critical issues, specifically, a comparison of his position (TR Onlyism) and the Critical Text position (mine). I attempted to plainly and clearly lay out the main issue. Dr. Riddle has responded with an article accusing me of “refusing” to debate him. As anyone who listened to my comments knows, I did no such thing.

Response: If JW did not refuse the invitation to debate Mark 16:9-20 then why are we having this conversation? Clearly, he has refused the invitation. JW also does not provide any answer as to why he broke off the three-way conversation with me and Samuel Nesan of Explain Apologetics about a possible online debate. He also does not explain why he did not respond to my offer to do two debates: the first on Mark 16:9-20 and the second on a TR position supported by the minority (e.g., Acts 8:37).

Why does JW refused to debate Mark 16:9-20?

This is not a difficult issue. Dr. Riddle represents a small minority position without representation in the wider field of scholarship. You can see this plainly in the dialogue that took place early this year between Peter Gurry, James Snapp Jr., and Jeffrey Riddle. The two portions can be found here and here. I commented on the dialogue on this edition of the Dividing Line.

Response: I agree that it is not a difficult issue. Why does JW refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20? If he will not debate me on this topic, what about James Snapp?

Notice how JW tries to minimize me as his opponent, since I represent “a small minority position without representation in the wider field of scholarship.” So, is he refusing to debate Mark 16:9-20, because I do not have the proper academic credentials to meet his standards?

I have noted many times that the Confessional Text position is a minority position, even among those who are confessionally Reformed. Does this mean this topic should not be discussed? Isn’t the Reformed Baptist position generally a minority position overall among those who are confessionally Reformed? Does this mean that a Reformed Presbyterian should refuse to debate baptism with a Reformed Baptist, because confessionally Reformed Baptists are only a “small minority” in the wider Reformed world?

On the other hand, is the TR position really a minority position when we consider the fact that a great number of Christians all over the world, from many different denominations (from Pentecostals to Eastern Orthodox) continue to read and use translations (in various languages) based on the traditional text? In the English-speaking world, for example, the KJV and NKJV continue to be consistent best-sellers. Recent surveys by Lifeway suggest that many still prefer to read the KJV.

Does JW only engage in debates with those who are deeply involved in mainstream academic scholarship? A survey of his past debates does not indicate that this is the case. Is JW being inconsistent, attempting to justify and excuse his refusal to debate this topic?

JW notes the dialogue I had with James Snapp and Peter Gurry. Should Peter Gurry not have engaged in a conversation with me and Pastor Snapp, because we did not hold the proper credentials? Should Bart Ehrman have refused to make his one and only joint appearance with JW 11 years ago, since JW does not have proper academic credentials and has never published any academic works in the field of text criticism? The readers can make their own judgments regarding JW’s objections.

Why does JW refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?

Now, there are a shelf full of books on such topics as the longer ending of Mark, the Pericope Adulterae, etc. In fact, there is a fine 4-position book on the topic that was published just over a decade ago (I would primarily agree with Daniel Wallace’s chapter). There is profit from discussing this text amongst those whose positions are dependent upon textual critical analysis, manuscripts, etc.

Response: So, is JW saying that the discussion of textual variants such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53—8:11 has been so thoroughly and definitively discussed in academia that there is not need for any further discussion of these matters? Really? Is this the way academic research and discourse works? Hardly! These issues are still hotly debated and discussed by scholars and laymen alike.

JW notes the book on four perspectives on the ending of Mark. Yes, I know the book well. I wrote an extended scholarly review of the book that was published in the journal American Theological Inquiry (even though I hold a minority position in text criticism and am not apparently engaged in “real” academic research). I’d love to hear JW explain why he rejects Dr. Maurice Robinson’s winsome arguments in that book in favor of the originality and authenticity of the traditional ending of Mark. Surely, that brief book is not the end of the discussion. Why does JW refused to debate Mark 16:9-20?

But this is the real issue: Dr. Riddle’s acceptance of the longer ending of Mark is not due to how many manuscripts contain it, how early they are, or of what character they are. His reason for accepting the Pericope Adulterae likewise has nothing to do with manuscripts, the history of the text, etc. And he is open about this. It is actually part of his critique of the majority position (which would include the Majority Text position and the Byzantine Priority position—in fact, all textual critical positions). His critique reflects the reality that he is not presenting a textual critical position, he is presenting a theological position that overrides all textual critical considerations. This came out in the dialogue linked above, and it is found in every single presentation from Text and Canon Conference done in 2019 featuring himself and Robert Truelove (available on Sermon Audio).

Response: If the Confessional Text position is so obviously incoherent then JW should have no problem dismantling it. He says, I am “not presenting a textual critical position.” I would modify that statement by adding two key adjectives to correct it: I am “not presenting a modern reconstructionist textual critical position.” This is a point what JW, unlike others, continues not to grasp.

He also persists in somehow dismissing our position as merely a “theological position.” Again, this seems odd in the extreme. Is JW saying that his position is not a “theological position”? Isn’t his modern reconstructionist position based on a nineteenth century re-imagining of the doctrine of preservation? Or does he reject the Westminster doctrine of providential preservation altogether as does Dan Wallace?

Isn’t JW supposed to be a presuppositional “apologist”? What is wrong with having theological presuppositions?

Thanks for recommending the Text and Canon conference lectures. You *forgot* to include the link, so I’ll add it here (my lecture one, lecture two, lecture three, and lecture four). Yes, I hope people will listen. If these lectures were so inconsistent and illogical JW should have no problem dismantling them.

Why does JW refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?

Therefore, to actually debate Riddle’s position requires Riddle to defend readings that are unique to his position, not those that he shares with others. Why? Because his position specifically eschews consistency of textual critical methodology. Since he begins with a theological conclusion (the Textus Receptus is the Providentially Preserved Text, PPT), its readings cannot be questioned. Therefore, he can use arguments for the longer ending of Mark (found in the TR) that are different from, and contradictory to, the arguments for the Pericope Adulterae, and this is not a problem for him. The manuscripts and history do not matter, so there really is no meaningful basis for a comparison of textual critical conclusions, since his position is not, actually, derived from textual criticism.

Response: How does JW know that my arguments in favor of the traditional text of Mark 16:9-20 will be “different from, and contradictory to” the arguments for the PA? Is he a clairvoyant? In fact, I think my argument for both texts would be very consistent.

He ends by saying he cannot debate Mark 16:9-20 with a TR advocate because our position is not “derived from textual criticism.” Again, two key adjectives need to be added to correct this: The TR position is not “derived from modern reconstructionist textual criticism.”

JW forgets a very important part of this proposed debate. The discussion is not merely about my side defending the TR reading, it is also about JW defending the modern critical text reading.

Why does JW refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?  

So this is really easy: the only way to engage with Dr. Riddle’s theological position is to look at those readings that are unique to the TR. By so doing you have a fair, clear comparison of two positions. If he uses different arguments to defend different readings in the same text, his position is shown to be incoherent unless he makes it clear from the start that the arguments are not actually relevant, that the TR is the PPT, and the listener should simply accept this without argumentation. But the point should be clear to anyone: if Riddle’s position is true, then what text we are looking at should not matter, as his reason for accepting the reading of any particular passage has nothing to do with its transmission history, it has to do with an action of God at a certain point in history that established the text for all generations thereafter. That reality will not be seen when he hides amongst the Byzantine or Majority Text folks. It will be seen when he defends the unique readings of the TR, such as Ephesians 3:9, 1 John 5:7, or Revelation 16:5. Given his teaching and preaching, these texts are just as genuine, just as revealed, just as providentially preserved, as the longer ending of Mark, so why not address them? Only by doing so will he be defending the unique claims of his own position.

Response: So, the only way to engage with a TR advocate is to discuss readings that are “unique to the TR”? But the TR does not consist only of a readings that are supported by minority traditions. In fact, most of the TR agrees with the Majority Text. I would submit that one could not in fact have a meaningful discussion of the TR without considering texts like Mark 16:9-20.

JW assumes a TR advocate will use “different arguments” to defend different text. But doesn’t the modern critical text position use a variety of arguments in its reconstructed critical text? For example, it rejects the Majority Text in omitting Mark 16:9-20, but follows the Majority Text in omitting Acts 8:37. Is that inconsistent? JW also seems wrongly to assume that the modern critical text has produced a uniform method that has resulted in a uniformly agreed upon modern critical text. But that simply is not the case.

He also continues to ignore the fact that the purpose of a debate on Mark 16:9-20 would not only be to for the TR advocate to defend the traditional reading but for JW to defend his modern reconstructed reading (whatever it is). If JW does not believe that Mark 16:9-20 is an appropriate text to examine in discussions related to the TR, let me ask again as to why he included a discussion of this text in the appendix to his 2009 revision of the King James Only Controversy?

Why does JW continue to refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?

I have made it plain for years: I find the infiltration of TR Onlyism into the Reformed camp an apologetic disaster, hence I would be willing to step away from other writing projects and duties to engage Dr. Riddle on this specific topic. I would not be interested in other debates that have already been done (note the book linked above). This debate, with the actual heart of Riddle’s position, has not been done. It is not I who is refusing the debate. I stand ready to do so, based upon what I think is a clear and compelling case.

Response: So defense of the TR is an “apologetic disaster”? It seems to me that this is hardly the case. See Pooyan Mehrshahi’s recent discussion of why the TR is preferred for apologetics, especially with Muslims. See also WM 167.

Quite the contrary, it seems that the Protestant and evangelical embrace of the modern critical text has been an apologetic disaster. The Muslim apologists have not posted videos from the Text and Canon Conference to their youtube sites, but Muslim by Choice has an entire playlist devoted just to James White’s teaching on text. MBC does not, by the way, take these out of context but offers extended clips without comment. It is clear whose material he finds most useful for his cause. Let the reader/listener consider this.

JW says, “It is not I who is refusing to debate?” This is clearly not the case.

In this discussion, there is only one person who has offered to do two debates: one on Mark 16:9-20 and a second on a TR text based on a minority tradition (like Acts 8:37).

And there is only one person who has refused to debate, and it is JW.

Why does JW refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?

JTR


Saturday, August 01, 2020

WM 171: Why does James White refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?



I have posted WM 171. Listen above or view this video.

Here are some notes:

First, some background on recent discussions concerning an online debate with JW:

Back on Saturday July 18, 2020 I got a text from Samuel Nesan of Explain Apologetics asking me if I would like to be a participant in a 2 on 2 debate regarding the text of Scripture in which I would represent the TR position.

I texted back that I’d be happy to discuss this as a possibility and we ended up talking on the phone on Monday July 20. In that conversation, Samuel asked me what topics I would be interested in discussing. I suggested that rather than a general discussion on the modern critical text versus the traditional text, that we choose a particular passage to discuss. The passage I suggested was the traditional ending of Mark: Mark 16:9-20, since it is accepted as genuine and inspired by those who embrace the TR but generally classified as secondary and even spurious by those whom embrace the modern critical text. Also in that conversation, Samuel said he was planning to contact JW about taking part, as well as Stephen Boyce. I suggested Pastor Dane Jรถhannsson as partner in the debate.

The next afternoon, Tuesday, July 21, I got a text back from Samuel saying he had talked to JW who had indicated his preference for a 1 on 1 debate, rather than a 2 on 2 debate. He also reported that rather than the traditional ending of Mark, JW wanted to debate either the CJ or Ephesians 3:9.

Later that day I sent the following email to Samuel:

Hi Samuel,

 

I am open to doing the debate one on one with JW.

 

I also think it would be best to focus on one singular text.

 

For this type of discussion, I think it would make more sense to focus on a passage that is more typical of the differences between the texts (modern critical and TR) and that deals with a more substantial number of verses. Since the ending of the Mark is one of the two most significantly contested texts in the NT (along with the PA, John 7:53--8:11), I suggest we make it the focus.

 

I also think it would make sense to have a very clear thesis statement, which one person would affirm and the other deny.

 

Would White be willing to defend the following thesis: "RESOLVED: Mark 16:9-20 is uninspired and spurious and should not be considered part of the Word of God."?

 

I have heard White say that he would be willing to address any disputed text in the TR, so I assume he would be more than willing to address the traditional ending of Mark as one of the two most significant textual variants in the NT….

 

If White declines the opportunity for a one of one debate with me on the ending of Mark, Dane is still willing to join with me for a two on two debate with Stephen Boyce and another participant.

 

Blessings, Jeff

 

On Thursday, July 23, Samuel called me again to say that JW had stated his refusal to debate the ending of Mark. I then told Samuel that if JW did not want to defend the modern text of Mark 16:9-20, I would also be willing to debate the PA or Luke 23:34, but that I would not prefer a discussion of 1 John 5:7 for fear that Muslim apologists, like Muslim by Choice, would immediately post excerpts of JW’s presentation to further their attacks on the integrity of that text and the doctrine of the Trinity, as they have done in the past with previous JW presentations.

On Monday, July 27 I received a text from Samuel that read as follows:

JW …. said that your position is a theological position and not based on the manuscript evidence. He feels you should be able to debate any variant as it would challenge your position.

Samuel added, “I just don’t see the debate with JW working out.” He therefore suggested that we move on from discussions with JW and go back to original idea of the 2 on 2 format and try to make arrangements with Stephen Boyce to debate either the ending of Mark or the PA.

I texted back to Samuel on Tuesday morning, July 28:

Samuel, interesting response from JW. So my position is based on theology but his isn't? Sounds like he is unwilling to defend the modern text reading of either of the two major textual variants (the ending of Mark or the PA) against an able TR defender, supposedly because our view is not based on "evidence." Odd. About two years ago we were both approached by a church to have a debate on text. As in this case, I accepted, and he declined. His excuse then was that the venue location was too obscure (he would have to take a "puddle jumper", as he put it, to get there) and there was not adequate interest in the topic. This, despite the fact, that the location was a major metro area (Roanoke) in Virginia and there is obviously interest. A few weeks later he tried to invite himself to a TR conference being held in Atlanta claiming we would not debate him. Very odd.

I also told Samuel that I would still be willing to do a 2 on 2 debate (as he had originally suggested) with Stephen Boyce, since JW was unwilling to debate me.

A few hours later (12:31 pm) the same day, I sent this text to Samuel:

A thought came to me today before closing the door on JW. What about two separate debates? The first on Mark 16:9-20. The second on a text in the TR not supported by the majority. Acts 8:37 perhaps. I might even entertain Rev 16:5.

Samuel relayed my message to JW and responded later in the day with this note:

I informed James and he just replied that he would be addressing this on the Dividing Line today…. We will keep you posted on his actual response whether he would accept or not….

My first thought on receiving this news: Why is JW sharing this on the DL when we are in the midst of a three-way conversation about trying to get this event set up? Is he trying to find some reason to justify not having to define or defend his position on the ending of Mark? Or, Is he trying to provide some cover for his unwillingness to participate in this debate?

Late Tuesday evening, I then received a text from Samuel:

Dr. White sent this via email:

"Well, I'd like to invite him to listen to my comments and explain why he would want to address texts that do not define his position rather than the ones that do?  If we did the longer ending of Mark, for example, the fact that it appears in the majority of texts is not relevant to TR Onlyism because that position rejects the majority reading in Ephesians 3:9, etc. Only my position really has anything to say to the issue, because the actual textual data is just not relevant.  So why not use the texts that actually highlight the real issue?"

Second, some responses/observations on JW's refusal to debate Mark 16:9-20:

First, I find it strange that JW broke off the conversation with me and Samuel and decided to take his case to his DL audience.

Second, I find it interesting that JW placed all the focus on Mark 16:9-20 and did not mention that I also offered to debate the PA and Luke 23:34. He also never mentioned that I also offered to do two debates: the first on Mark 16:9-20 and the second on a TR text with only minority support (like Acts 8:37).

Third, I found his reasoning against debating Mark 16:9-20 unconvincing. It is one of the two most significant variants in the NT!

Fourth, JW continues to show that he does not really understand the TR (Confessional Text position).

Fifth, Mark 16:9-20 is clearly an appropriate text for debate.

Sixth, the ending of Mark is one of the few texts upon which JW has produced some written analysis. See Part II of his revised the King James Only Controversy (2009): 316-320.

Seventh, it is clear that JW would prefer to debate passages from the TR with minority support, since he perceives this would give him an advantage.

Third, conclusion:

As things now stand, I continue to offer to JW the opportunity to debate Mark 16:9-20 as one of the two most significant variants in the entire NT. It provides a clear difference between the modern and the traditional text.

Would White be willing to defend the following thesis: "RESOLVED: Mark 16:9-20 is uninspired and spurious and should not be considered part of the Word of God."? 

If JW is not willing to debate a TR advocate, like me, on this text, perhaps he would be willing to debate a Majority Text advocate (like James Snapp). I will suggest to Samuel Nesan that he reach out to James Snapp regarding this.

Since JW is not willing to debate me on this topic, I will also suggest to Samuel Nesan that he invite Stephen Boyce to take up this discussion with me.

JTR


Friday, July 31, 2020

The Vision (7.31.20): The Fading Away of the Rich Man


Image: Blueberries with morning dew, North Garden Virginia, July 2020

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:9-11.

For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways (James 1:11).

James works upon the consciences of the rich by reminding all men of the brevity of this life. See v. 10b: “because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (cf. Isaiah 40:80).

He continues in v. 11 to describe how the rising sun with its burning heat soon withers the grass and its flower fades “and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth.” Go to any nursing home, yeah, to any cemetery, and you see the condition of the youth of yesterday. All the beauty queens, all the athletes, all the intellectuals, all the successful businessmen, statemen, and captains of industry have gone the way of all flesh. James speaks directly to the rich: “so shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

Those words remind me of General MacArthur’s famous speech in which he said, Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.” But MacArthur was wrong. They do die, and then they fade away from memory. And what is more, even their death is not the end. As Paul said in Hebrews 9:27: “and it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”

All the richest men of past generations have already discovered this, whether Nelson Rockefeller, Howard Hughes, or Steve Jobs. And all the wealthy of the present generation, whether Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, will find it out soon enough.

Christ ended his parable of the barn builder in Luke 12:20 with the rich man hearing the Lord say to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:7: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

The truth also is that you do not need to be a fabulously wealthy to be the rich man who is addressed here. You simply have to be a man who rests in himself and his own ability and who falsely thinks that everything is going to keep going just as it is now forever and ever. It will not.

James challenges us to ask ourselves: Where do I find my greatest contentment and consolation in life? In Christ or in the things of this world?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.14-15: The Tyrants Maxentius and Maximin



Image: Bust of Maxentius (AD 276-312; Roman emperor 306-312). Pushkin Museum, Moscow. 


This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s Book 8, chapter 14-15.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters describe political turmoil that arose during the decade long Diocletian persecution, which included the rise of two tyrants: Maxentius in the West (Rome) and Maximin in the East. This volatility would lead ultimately to the rise of Constantine as emperor.

Chapter 14 describes the rise of Maxentius, son of the deposed Maximin, as the tyrant of Rome. Not only did he persecute Christians, but he lived a life of gross moral debauchery, which included forced adultery and rape. He put many Romans, including senators, to death. Worst of all he engaged in witchcraft and magical practices, including ripping up pregnant women to explore the entrails of their fetuses. He is described by Eusebius as a Caligula-like figure.

Meanwhile, another tyrant arose in the East named Maximin (aka Maximinus Daia). He also practiced magic and was filled with superstitions. He energetically persecuted Christianity and attempted to restore paganism, including ordering pagan temples to be built in every city. He engaged in drunken excesses, riotous living, and the sexual assault against women.

The only ones who opposed him were the Christians, who suffered greatly under his persecution. Eusebius notes how a Christian lady [Dorothea, according to Rufinus] of Alexandria rebuffed Maximin in order to maintain her modesty.

He then notes how a woman of Rome [Sophronia, according to Rufinus] was likewise attacked by Maxentius but took her own life by the sword.

Chapter 15 notes that during the remainder of the ten years of persecution there was no respite from the plotting and warring of the two tyrants. Even travelers on the sea were not safe, as they might be accused of siding with the enemy and made subject to torture, including death by crucifixion or fire.

Conclusion:

These chapters again describe the disorder within the empire and the rivalry among the tryants Maxentius and Maximin, which would eventually lead to the rise of Constantine, who would end persecution and bring peace to the church.

JTR

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

John Calvin: "Away with the error of Nestorius..."

I recently heard an anti-Protestant pundit claim that Protestantism commits the error of Nestorianism in Christology. I thought of this as I happened to be reading a few sections of Calvin’s Institutes yesterday and ran across these statements:

“Away with the error of Nestorius, who in wanting to pull apart rather than distinguish the nature of Christ devised a double Christ…. Let us beware also, of Eutyches’ madness; lest, while meaning to show the unity of the person, we destroy either nature” (Institutes, 2.14.4).

“I have testified that we do not agree at all with Nestorius, who imagined a double Christ” (Institutes, 2.14.7).

JTR


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review posted: Jeffery Smith, The Rich Man and Lazarus





You can listen above to an audio version of my book review of Jeffery Smith, The Rich Man and Lazarus: The Plain Truth About Life After Death (Evangelical Press, 2020).

You can also read a pdf of my written review which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2 (July 2020): 244-245.

Enjoy! JTR




Monday, July 27, 2020

New Books from Poh Boon Sing


I got a package of books in the mail a couple of weeks ago from Pastor Poh Boon Sing of Damansara Reformed Baptist Church in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Pastor Poh has been been redeeming the time during the quarantine by reformatting some of his old books (I had read his book on The Christian in the Chinese Culture a few years ago and found it to be an excellent resource) and producing some new works from his teaching ministry on various topics.

You can find all of these books on amazon in paperback or kindle editions, if you are looking for some profitable summertime devotional reading.

JTR

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.13: Church Leaders Martyred During the Diocletian Persecution


Image: Martyrdom of Anthimus of Nicomedia and others, Miniature from the Menologion of Basil II, c. AD 1,000.


This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 13.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter begins by listing the various rulers of the churches who became martyrs during the Diocletian persecution.

First in the list is Anthimus, bishop of Nicomedia, who was beheaded.

Others include the presbyter Lucian of Antioch;

Tyrannion, bishop of Tyre;

Zenobius, presbyter of Sidon;

Silvanus, bishop of Emesa;

Silvanus, bishop of Gaza, beheaded at the copper mines at Phaeno, one of 39 martyrs there;

Peleus and Nilus, bishops of Egypt;

Pamphylius, presbyter of Caesarea, whom Eusebius describes as “the most marvelous man of our day”;

Peter, bishop of Alexandria;

Phileas, Hesychius, Pachymius, and Theodore, bishops of Egypt.

To these could be added “countless other famous persons as well.” Eusebius promises to write more in another work.

The chapter then turns to discuss the Roman government. This is typical of Eusebius, to parallel descriptions of church and imperial leaders.

He notes that before the time of persecution, the Christians had enjoyed peace and prosperity.

Reference is made to the so-called Tetrarchy, set up by Diocletian, in which power was shared between Diocletian and Maximin, as emperors, and Galerius and Constantius Chlorus, as Caesars.

It was under the Tetrarchy that the persecution had begun in 303, and which would last a decade till 313.

Eusebius notes that Diocletian fell under a “fateful disease” and became “deranged”, and this resulted in him resuming life as a private citizen in 306.

According to Eusebius, of the Tetrarchs, only Constantius (father of Constantine) lived “in a manner worthy of his high office” and did not persecute the Christians or tear down their churches, but even protected them.

His son Constantine was made emperor (one of the Tetrarch) after his death “by God Himself, the King Supreme.”

The chapter closes with reference to the later struggle for power between Constantine, Licinius, and Maximin, which resulted in the deposition and death of Maximin and the removal of his public monuments and memorials.

Conclusion:

In this chapter Eusebius honors the church leaders who died as martyrs during the Diocletian persecution (303-313). He also describes the rise of Constantine to imperial power, providing a perhaps overly positive portrayal of Constantine’s father Constantius, and noting the rise of Constantine as divinely orchestrated.

JTR

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Vision (7.24.20): A Double Minded Man



Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:5-8.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

In James 1:6-8 the Apostle describes the type of person who does not ask for wisdom from God as “wavering” (v. 6a). He then adds: “For he is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (v. 6b).

The sea is an image of inconsistency. If you go to the ocean you will see the waves crashing on the shore, but they do not do so uniformly. They are shaped by the circumstances. The waves of the sea are an image of instability, of that which is ever erratic and chaotic. James here says that the wavering and inconsistent man is like this.

Paul uses the same analogy in Ephesians 4:14 when he urges believers not to be like children “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

We might say that a consistent and fruitful Christian life requires, to use a phrase borrowed from a philosopher, “a long obedience in the same direction.”

What would happen if we tried to plant a tree, but every week we dug it up and transplanted it to a new location? Would it ever put down deep roots and grow downward and upward to a magnificent height?

James says that the unstable and wavering man shall not receive anything from the Lord (v. 7). He will depart from the Lord’s presence with empty hands.

The Apostle then adds a final observation: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The word for “double minded” in Greek is di-psychos, literally double-spirited, or even double-souled. Bunyan has a character like this in Pilgrim’s Progress named “Mr. Facing-both-ways.”

There is a warning for us here. Do not be like this man.

What is the opposite of such a person? It would be a single-minded man, a consistent man, a  man who fixes his affections on Christ, who forms a core convictional and doctrinal framework based on Scripture, and who holds fast to those commitments, without wavering, not blown about here and there by every passing fancy.

Let us be consistent, single-minded men and women, rather than double-minded.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle