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Monday, September 25, 2017

Immersion IS Baptism

Several years ago Pastor Bart Barber wrote the statement, “Immersion is not really a ‘mode’ of baptism” – pointing out such wording is a convenience and an accommodation. Mode means a manner, method or way of doing something (and usually implies one of several). When paedobaptists speak of “mode”’ they mean an “either/or” proposition. Making mode a property or method of “baptism” suggests three possible outcomes: immersion, sprinkling, or pouring. Our speaking of mode is merely an accommodation to the current state of things and is not actually biblical language. Under the religious circumstances that exist, it is hard to avoid the use of the word mode when discussing baptism, but, as Bart continues, “Immersion is not a ‘mode’ of baptism; it is the essence of ‘baptism’.” When most Baptists use mode they are defining the invariable nature of the ordinance. Simply put, immersion IS baptism, not merely one mode (method) of doing it.

Bart’s point on “mode” is a needed vitamin for Baptists as we slouch toward baptismal ecumenism.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Where's, O Grave, thy conquering glory?

1. Pleased we read in sacred story,
  How our Lord resumed his breath;
  Where's, O Grave, thy conquering glory?
  Where's thy sting, thou phantom Death?
  Soon thy jaws, restrained from chewing,
  Must disgorge their ransomed prey;
  Man first gave thee power to ruin;
  Man, too, takes that power away.

2. I am Alpha, says the Saviour,
  I Omega likewise am!
  I was dead and live for ever,
  God Almighty and the Lamb.
  In the Lord is our perfection,
  And in him our boast we'll make;
  We shall share his resurrection,
  If we of his death partake.

3. Ye that die without repentance,
  Ye must rise when Christ appears;
  Rise to hear your dreadful sentence,
  While the saints rejoice in theirs:
  You to dwell with fiends infernal,
  They with Jesus Christ to reign;
  They go into life eternal,
  You to everlasting pain.

BY Joseph Hart

Friday, September 22, 2017

A majority of Britons, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Called to preach?

We’ve probably all heard some version of the “G.P.-call-to-preach” story. A youthful man was standing in a field. When looking up he saw the letters “G. P.” configured in the clouds. Spiritual youth that he was, he thought it meant “Go, Preach!” and left the field and went to the house, telling his father he had been called to preach. “No, son,” the practical father replied, “that meant ‘Go, Plough!’ Get back out in that field and get back to work.”

Awhile back I read a blog post written to remove some of the mysticism surrounding the idea of “the call to preach” – as well as make sure to not add non-biblical requirements for the ministry. The author recommended Do You Feel Called By God: Rethinking the Call to Ministry by Michael Bennett (which I have not read).[i] I applaud as a worthy goal attempting to remove ambiguity surrounding the call to preach, but the article may have added as much obscurity as it took away. The thoughts seemed to run away from any idea of a call to preach. One of the commenters even advised those who think they might want to preach to give it a try and see if they like it. I want to investigate the proposition briefly (and I may also be guilty of adding as much obscurity as I take away, though I hope not).

In Is God Calling Me?: Answering the Question Every Leader Asks, Jeff Iorg asserts that God calls in three ways: 1.) sudden or dramatic experiences, 2.) reasoned decisions, and 3.) the prompting of others.[ii] He also allows that there can be a combination of any or all of the three.[iii] Comparing Iorg’s points with accounts of God’s call in the Bible suggests he has developed a reasonably biblical categorization. We can consider various calls recorded in the Bible and see how they fit within these. Some that Iorg suggest are:
  • Dramatic experiences – Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3) and Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20).
  • Reasoned decisions – several events in Paul’s ministry leading up to his going into Macedonia (He was prevented from going into Asia; tried to go to Bithynia; had a dream and through all this concluding or “assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” Acts 16:6-10)
  • Prompting of others – Samuel going to David (1 Samuel 16:1-13), and God leading the church at Antioch regarding Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-4).
In considering the topic, let’s look at some types of calls related to Iorg’s three suggested ways that God calls.

There is the call to future separation recorded in the Scriptures (that is, God announces to a person that he has a future work in store).
  • A call through vivid experience and prompting of another: God revealed to Samuel, even when he was still a child, that he had a future purpose or work. 1 Samuel 3:3-4 and ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; that the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. (Cf. 1 Samuel 3:11-14). This call included a dramatic experience as well as the prompting/instructions of Eli the priest.
There is the call to prophetic service recorded in the Scriptures.
  • A call through vivid experience: Isaiah’s call from God came through a vivid experience and a dramatic vision (Isaiah 6:1-8). Moses call through vivid experience (i.e., the burning bush) also included the response of community (Cf. Exodus 3:3-18).
  • A call through thoughtful response and appropriate decision, including the prompting of others: Elisha the prophet was called by Elijah the prophet (1 Kings 19:19-20) (Cf. also Jeremiah 1:3-16Amos 7:14).
There is the call to apostolic office recorded in the Scriptures.
  • A call through vivid experience: Paul’s conversion and call to the apostolic office both occurred in his dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-22; Cf also Romans 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 9:16).
  • A call through thoughtful response and appropriate decision: The Lord’s call to his apostles during his earthly ministry was direct and specific, yet not obviously dramatic as the burning bush experience of Moses or the Damascus road experience of Paul (Cf., for example, Matthew 9:9)
  • A call through community action: Matthias’s call and installation in the apostolic office occurred through the leadership of the apostle Peter and action of the church, fulfilling Scripture and guided by lots (Acts 1:15-26).  
There is the call to specific service recorded in the Scriptures.
  • A call through vivid experience: Peter was called to preach to the household of Cornelius through means of a dramatic vision (Acts 10), which was also confirmed through the experience of Cornelius (Acts 10:30-33).
  • A call through thoughtful response and appropriate decision: Acts 20:28 teaches that the Holy Ghost made elders the overseers over the church of God at Ephesus, but without indicating in what manner he had done so. Oversight is to be taken willingly, according to 1 Peter 5:2. Simply seeing the need might at times compel us into service (John 4:35; 2 Corinthians 5:14).
  • A call through community action: The elders ordained in Acts 14:22-24 seems to have been at the prompting of the apostles and church community. Acts 13:1-4
  • combines community action and the direct leading of the Holy Ghost. Notice also the community action through Paul and Titus in Titus 1:5.
In addition to the biblical accounts, here are some Baptist historical accounts regarding the call of God.

Morgan Edwards’s instructions in Customs of Primitive Churches
“VII. A man becomes a minister by three operations of God; the first is, his impressing on the partie’s mind a sense of his special designation of him for the ministry, usually termed an inward call; the second is, endowing him with ministerial qualifications; some of which are natural, as good sense, proper utterance, meek temper, & some are moral, specified both negatively and positively in the epistles of Timothy and Titus; some are evangelical, as aptness to teach, spirit of prayer, gospel learning, & the last is, his influencing the church to introduce him to the ministry, styled an outward call, which implies election, ordination, and instalment. These three operations of God are essential to the being of a regular and authoritative minister.”

The call through vivid experience:
In Let the Church Sing!: Music and Worship in a Black Mississippi Community, Thérèse Smith writes of Grady McKinney of Clear Creek Missionary Baptist Church – of whom she says was “an exceptionally gifted preacher. At its best, McKinney's preaching rivals any that I have heard...Rev. Grady McKinney delivers sermons that are compelling, poetic and lyrical.” McKinney, who was 31 years old, married with children, and didn’t want to be a preacher, related his experience of the call to preach this way: “One day I was laid down across bed, and I don’t know was I asleep or awake, and something appeared and said unto me, ‘If you don’t preach, you won’t be here long. I ain’t arguing no more.’ That settled it! I said to the Lord, ‘Now, Lord, you know more than I know.’ And I was ready to go. I been ready ever since, but sometime I feel like quitting I get so discouraged. If the Lord ‘nointed you to do something, you can’t quit.”
The experience of Wilson Thompson is told this way (History Of The Church Of God, From The Creation To A.D. 1885; C. B. and Sylvester Hassell, pp. 630-31.):
“One night after all had retired, and the fire had burned down, and all was dark save a faint gleam from the brands and coals, a shadowy form seemed to approach him, bend over him, and say, “I know your trouble, and your great desire to know what you should do; and I have come to tell you. Read the sixth and tenth chapters of Matthew, and to every sentence answer, ‘I am the man,’ and you will soon come to know your duty.” This was done and said three times. He believed that the appearance was not literal, but a vision (Acts ii.17,18). The next morning he slipped off with the Bible to a secret place, and did as directed, but could not be satisfied. (The sixth chapter of Matthew, it may be remarked, emphasizes the inward, spiritual, filial, heavenly character of true religion; while the tenth chapter contains Christ’s commission to His Apostles to go, fearless of man and dependent upon God, and preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.) His mind became greatly exercised on the Scriptures. He finally told his feelings to his pastor, and the latter related them to the church, which at once gave him license to exercise his gifts in any way or at any time within the bounds of the North Bend Association. His first text, Feb., 1810, was John x.2,3.”

The call through thoughtful response and appropriate decision:
“We returned in the spring, and the church called me forward to preach, at which I have continued for more than fifty years...I have said above I could get no satisfactory answer, as to my call to the ministry. My present impressions are, that the call lies in a good man’s motives to the work, and the call of the church. If a christian has preaching talents, and the church says preach, he may go on safely. This is my call, and for no other do I look at present, though in my youth I laboured long for evidences of my call, of which a visionary something would then have satisfied me.” (From John Taylor’s History of Ten Baptist Churches)

The call through community action (in which the church/congregation/assembly sees the need and the gift and does not continue wait for the person to respond to the call):
James Robinson Graves: “There were those in the church who had the insight to descern [sic] his abilities. He was called on to lead the Sunday morning service in the absence of one of the monthly visits of the pastor. He preached―though he did not know it. The church licensed him to preach really without having his consent; and soon after called for his ordination.
“It was a trying time to him as we have heard him say. His idea of a minister was high. His estimates of his own power as a speaker were small. Indeed, with all the heroic fearlessness which distinguished his life, he was always bashful, sometimes to awkwardness when he arose to speak...His bashfulness, often the sign of greatness, made him shrink from becoming a preacher, although within his soul was the belief that God had called him to the work.
“However, his consent was gained and his ordination to the ministry decided upon.” (From Life, Times and Teachings of J. R. Graves, by Samuel H. Ford, 1899)
“Sat. before the 3rd Sabbath in Nov. 1867
“...The church requested Bro. William Sparkman to quit his school room and devote his time to the preaching of the gospel...”[iv] (From Mt. Carmel Church minutes book)
“Mt. Carmel Church Rusk Co. Tex. Feb. 10th 1868
After preaching by “Elder W. M. Sparkman the church came together in conference.”
The combined presence of giftedness, God’s providential opening doors of opportunity, and affirmation & encouragement from others may converge in understanding the witness of the call of God. The call to preach from Jesus Christ through his Spirit can be confirmed with the help of these means:
  • The individual’s conscience, through inner desire and conviction
  • The congregation’s recognition and affirmation
  • The presbytery’s confirmation through laying-on-of-hands
There is a call to ministry. The call to the gospel ministry “is an expression of the divine will that a man should preach the gospel.” There are a variety of calls found in Scripture. The presence of this variety should caution us against laying down rules and ways to which the experiences of everyone are expected to conform (1 Peter 4:10).[v]




[i] The blogger says that “Bennett devotes a few chapters to showing that all throughout the Bible there is no inner-call.” Without reading Bennett, it is hard to understand just what that means. I don’t know what Scripture he is interacting with. There are calls referenced in the New Testament, as well as compulsion – the kind that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 9:16. When Al Mohler wrote “Has God Called You? Discerning the Call to Preach” in 2013, he used the expression “inward call,” indicating even some Southern Baptist academics are not uncomfortable with the terminology.
[ii] Pages 33-44. Iorg’s three ways might also be expressed as called through crisis, contemplation, and/or community. These ways that God calls might also be reduced to two categories: 1.) Extraordinary (e.g., by special revelation) and 2.) Ordinary (e.g., through Divine providence, circumstances).
[iii] Some calls were an unique combination of direct and ordinary only possible in the lifetime of Jesus, such as Matthew, Andrew, and Philip (Cf. Matthew 9:9, John 1:37, John 1:43).
[iv] Let no one neglect godly counsel (Galatians 2:2).
[v] The tendency in the academic world, in my opinion, is to discount the vivid experience in favor of the thoughtful response. The call comes quietly, the response is reasonable – and they often have academic qualifications to (supposedly) show for their call, and some may disdain those who do not have their qualifications. The farmer-preacher on the other hand may seek (or at least hope for) a vivid experience to stand for the so-called “qualifications” he does not have. Both these positions are extreme, and the call to ministry is ultimately a tale that is told with proof being in the pudding.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Difference between Liberals and Conservatives

Liberals dismiss sins first, and then proceed to commit them. Conservatives commit sins first, and then proceed to dismiss them.

In contrast, a Christian should confess sin while understanding “My crimes are great, but don’t surpass, the power and glory of God’s grace.”

[Note: this liberal/conservative difference is given as a general and slightly exaggerated illustration of different approaches, and is not intended to express a universal truth.]

The Twelve Articles of the Peasants

Interesting bit of history

The Twelve Articles of the Peasants -- "The fundamental and correct chief articles of all the peasants and of those subject to ecclesiastical lords, relating to these matters in which they feel themselves aggrieved."
A Reply to the Twelve Articles of the Peasants in Swabia -- "...almost all of the articles are framed in their own interest and for their own good, though not for their best good."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Battle for the Bible

I have posted about the Bible making Baptists HERE and HERE. We live in a time now when, increasingly, many of those who already claim to be Baptists reject the simple message of the Bible. Some on the fundamentalist end screw the cap on so tight that you can’t get it off, but today I write about those on the liberal end of the spectrum – those who have left the cap off the bottle and let all the contents spill out.

Chuck Queen is a popular “go-to” opinion writer for the Baptist News (which appears to be more representative than it actually is).[i] His opinion writings at that medium give ample opportunity to illustrate my point.
Chuck’s opinions make it consistently clear that he finds parts of the Bible unbelievable, that the Gospel accounts of Jesus cannot be considered accurate, and that the Bible’s picture of God is unreliable. Without a reliable view of God, Jesus, or the Bible, how shall we proceed? With what are we left? That isn’t always made clear, but to strip it down to the naked truth it is this – each individual becomes the plumb line of his or her own truth.  To quote a Baptist acquaintance[vi] who believes the Bible is full of contradictions, absurdities, and morally questionable advice (his words), “I have found the reliance on the Spirit is superior to reliance on the Bible.” While we all agree on relying upon the Holy Spirit of God to help us understand what he has written (2 Peter 1:19-21; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16), the final extension of the theories of Chuck Queen and my acquaintance is to remove the objective criterion of the Bible and insert the subjective criterion of one’s own opinions in its place. A number of liberals loudly proclaim that “the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” That sounds good and fools a lot of folks, yet the equivocation of that cry reveals that they manifestly mean a “Jesus Christ” of their own making!

The extremes of UMC Bishop Karen Oliveto exhibit that, followed to its logical end, even the “Jesus Christ” of their own making must be dethroned to no Christ at all – a weak human like you and me, struggling to learn the truth, working through his bigotry and prejudice to try to learn that God loves all people.[vii] We really shouldn’t be surprised. In spite of all that is wrong with Oliveto’s view, it demonstrates a bare honesty that is often otherwise concealed. It shows the end of those who reject the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the Bible – at least the end for those who remain within nominal Christianity. There are, of course, those who are bold enough to ditch any pretense of Christianity altogether.


[i] Baptist News Global is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partner. Chuck is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., which is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Chuck blogs at A Fresh Perspective and wants to help “Christians stuck in old paradigms embrace a more inclusive, credible, compassionate, and transformative faith.” I’ll keep my old paradigm of an inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Bible, thank you very much.
[ii] Joseph the son of Jacob
[iii] He explains that John’s Gospel reflects what John’s church “had come to believe about Jesus.”
[iv] I.e., how to dismiss that with which you do not agree
[v] Joseph the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus
[vi] Also in a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church
[vii] “Jesus the racist who was gradually learning better” is not new or unique to Oliveto. I wrote about it HERE over 8 years ago, though the original article that brought up the topic appears to be no longer accessible. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

* He comes, with a sov’reign sway *

I am looking for the source of the following hymn:

But comes, and with a sov’reign sway,
Drives darkness, death, and hell away;
Takes up his dwelling in the heart,
And bids each enemy depart.

I have found this stanza alone quoted in On Offering the Gospel by William Tant, 1837. I am guessing it is part of a longer hymn, but cannot find such. I would love to find the author and source, and the rest of the hymn. Any help will be much appreciated!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Those who will not hear the word of the Lord...

...will hear the word of the Lord. Isaiah 28:14 Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.

The word of the Lord is a simple word.
Isaiah 28:13 But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little...

The simple word is despised and rejected by the scornful leaders.
Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
The arrogant drunken leaders in Jerusalem (see verses 7 & 8) seem to mock the simple message of Isaiah. It is beneath them. These who fancy themselves PhDs do not need (read "want") a kindergarten level lesson (content) in kindergarten style (expression). They are chewers of meat, not suckers of milk.

The simple word is deferred and replaced by a senseless speech.
Isaiah 28:11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
The simple word is from their God for their good, an agent of rest and refreshing, yet they would not hear (Cf. Isaiah 30:15). Alec Motyer notices, "When the simple intelligibility of the word is refused, divine judgement falls in the shape of the unintelligible." When they reject what will benefit them, they receive what will judge them.

The simple word is enforced and accomplished by the sovereign God.
Isaiah 28:13 But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
God's word is simple. God's word is truth. It is unchangeable and inescapable. It goes forth from God and will accomplish his purpose and pleasure (Cf. Isaiah 55:10-12). In this case (Isaiah 28:9-13) that purpose concludes in judgment.

The word of the Lord is simple, straightforward and inescapable.

[Note: Idea derived from an outline in The Prophecy of Isaiah: an Introduction & Commentary by J. Alec Motyer, page 229.]

I will not let thee go

“I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Genesis 32:26

“It is encouraging to the Lord’s people as they are from time to time placed in similar circumstances of trial, exercise, perplexity, sorrow or distress with Jacob, to see the blessed result of his wrestling with the angel. He crosses the ford of Jabbok all weakness; he recrosses it all strength. He leaves his family, and wrestles alone, a fainting Jacob; he returns to them a prevailing Israel. He goes to the Lord in an agony of doubt and alarm, fearing every moment lest he and all that was dear to him should be swept off from the face of the earth; he returns with the Lord’s blessing in his soul, with the light of the Lord’s countenance lifted up upon him. And is not this instance recorded for the instruction and consolation of the Lord’s living family? Are they not from time to time in circumstances experimentally which resemble Jacob’s circumstances literally? Have they not similar difficulties and similar necessities? And does not the Lord from time to time raise up in their heart the same faith to lay hold? the same importunity to keep hold? And shall He who gave Jacob such a merciful deliverance—shall He who has recorded in his holy word this remarkable event in Jacob’s life for the edification and instruction of his people in all times--hear Jacob, and not hear them? It is derogatory to the sympathising ‘Man of Sorrows;’ it is treason against the Majesty of heaven to believe, that a child of God in similar circumstances can go to the Lord in a similar way and not get a similar blessing.”
J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)

Lord, I cannot let thee go,
‘Till a blessing thou bestow;
Do not turn away thy face,
Mine’s an urgent, pressing case.
John Newton