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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter

Easter is mentioned only once in the Bible -- Acts 12:4 -- where in context it refers to the Passover season. The Passover was a fixed date which came at the same time of year, the 14th of the month Nisan. Yet in our culture (the "West"), when we celebrate what we call Easter, which is supposed to acknowledge the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a day that moves around based on the first Sunday following the full moon that falls on or after the spring equinox. (Oh, the confusion of it all!)

All confusion aside, we know that Christ is risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:20). Every Lord's Day when we meet, every new morning and every new life ought to be a reminder of the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ's resurrection is God's firstfruits, the earnest guarantee of the future resurrection of His saints. His indwelling Spirit completes that earnest -- Christ in you, the hope of glory!

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. (John 11:25). 

"I Am, saith CHRIST, our glorious head, 
(May we attention give) 
The resurrection of the dead, 
The life of all that live. 

By faith in me, the soul receives 
New life, though dead before; 
And he that in my name believes, 
Shall live, to die no more. 

The sinner, sleeping in his grave, 
Shall at my voice awake; 
And when I once begin to save, 
My work I ne'er forsake."

Fulfill thy promise, gracious LORD, 
On us assembled here, 
Put forth thy Spirit with the word, 
And cause the dead to hear. 

Preserve the pow'r of faith alive, 
In those who love thy name; 
For sin and Satan daily strive 
To quench the sacred flame. 

Thy pow'r and mercy first prevailed 
From death to set us free; 
And often since our life had failed, 
If not renewed by thee. 

To thee we look, to thee we bow; 
To thee, for help, we call; 
Our life and resurrection thou, 
Our hope, our joy, our all. 

Hymn 116, The resurrection and the life. Jn 11:25, from Olney Hymns, John Newton (Common Meter)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

18 Readings for the weekend

Links, posted in two sets due to the budget of time -- these were alphabetized separately at different times and I don't want to take the time (and thought) to merge them! Forgive the laziness and/or the busyness, and wade on in to find some wild news stories, forceful opinions on current events, an interview with a church historian and much more.

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

Set one
A Succinct Case for Traditional Marriage
Being informed on challenges to religious liberty
Confronting Senator Portman’s use of scripture to affirm gay marriage
Should a Christian Dentist Fire His Too-Hot Hygienist?
The Last Time There were Two (Three!) Popes
The Wisdom of Church History: an Interview with Michael Haykin
Three Rules for Polemics
We are Baptist Because website
Why do some Protestants become Catholics?

Set two
Canadian Supreme Court Rules Biblical Speech Opposing Homosexual Behavior is a ‘Hate Crime’
Colo. sheriff refuses to enforce gun-control bills
Obama-Satan Resemblance on 'The Bible' History Channel series *
South African cardinal says pedophilia is illness, not a crime
Sweetgum Grove Baptist Museum
Teen calls her car crash a blessing
Whatcott ‘Hate Crime’ decision at the Canadian Supreme Court
Woman who inspired book and movie 'The Natural' dies
$22 minimum wage: the mindlessness of politicians

* One tweeter quipped that the Satan on the History Channel’s show ‘The Bible’ "looks so much like President Obama that Paul Ryan is calling for cuts to the show’s budget." (now that's funny, I don't care who you are!)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Quoting randomly

"As an exegete I am bound by what the Scripture actually says, not by what I wish it might say." -- Randy Jaeggli

"No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good." -- C. S. Lewis

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." -- C. S. Lewis

"Burying your talent is a grave mistake." -- Mahl Baptist church sign

It is not we who can sustain the Church, nor was it our forefathers, nor will it be our descendants. It was and is and will be the One who says: 'I am with you always, even unto the end of the world'.” -- Martin Luther (As cited by Karl Barth in Church Dogmatics)

"We are all terminal." -- Valerie Harper

* An exegete is a textual interpreter, usually in reference to the Christian Scriptures

Thursday, March 28, 2013

3 apostolic options regarding the resurrection

The apostles of Jesus sealed their faith with their own blood, dying as martyrs of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most of the apostles and many of the earliest Christians died for their faith. Their faithfulness unto death constitutes one of the witnesses of the truth of the resurrections. Some who are determined not to believe will line up their reasons, but a sincere inquirer is willing to thoughtfully consider a faith strong enough to die for. 

In What Happened to the Apostles, C. Michael Patton considers "How their Deaths Evidence Easter." Patton looks at the historical traditions concerning the apostles, answers objections, and highlights three options concerning the apostles: 
1. They died for a lie and knew it (unsustainable do to lack of any reasonable motive).
2. They were all delusional and crazy (but this would take more faith than any option since you would have to explain how they all had the same delusion and craziness—many being at different places and different times).
3. What they said was true. Christ did rise from the grave and is who He said He was. 
People may die for a lie they have been convinced to believe is true, but "People do not die for their own lies, half-truths, or fabrications. If the Apostles truly died proclaiming to have seen Christ dead then alive and ascend into heaven, Christ is who He said He was, God incarnate who came to take away the sins of the world."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday institution of the Lord's Supper

Last spring I read and printed a Yahoo News article titled Last Supper was a day earlier, scientist claims. As I was sorting and filing this morning, I found the 2 pages I had printed which reminded me of this. As one who has long ago come to a conclusion that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday rather than Friday, I found this claim interesting. The scientist, Colin Humphreys has written a book called The Mystery Of The Last Supper which says it finds "a new solution" to the chronology of Jesus's last days "based on a combination of Biblical, historical and astronomical research." I have no idea of Humphreys' position on the authority of the Bible and can't recommend what he wrote. I, nevertheless, found it intriguing. The following comment is helpful to address those who think the Gospel accounts are contradictory:
“Whatever you think about the Bible, the fact is that Jewish people would never mistake the Passover meal for another meal, so for the Gospels to contradict themselves in this regard is really hard to understand,” Professor Humphreys said.

Oral arguments on California Prop. 8 case

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry. This case challenges the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in the state of California. For some intense reading, the full transcript of the oral arguments can be found HERE. The linked page also contains a link for one to listen to the audio of the oral arguments.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

McLaren on the Resurrection

Dear brethren, on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is suspended everything which makes the Gospel good news. Strike that out, and what have you left? Some beautiful bits of moral teaching, a lovely life, marred by tremendous mistakes about Himself and His own importance and His relation to men and to God; but you have got nothing left that is worth calling a gospel. You have the cross rising there, gaunt, black, solitary; but, unless on the other side of the river you have the resurrection, no bridge will ever be thrown across the black gulf, and the cross remains ‘dead, being alone.’ You must have a resurrection to explain the Cross, and then the life and the death tower up into the manifestation of God in the flesh and the propitiation for our sins. Without it we have nothing to preach which is worth calling the gospel....

If He whom we believed to be our sacrifice by His death and our sanctification by His life has not risen, then, as we have seen, all which makes His death other than a martyr’s vanishes, and with it vanish forgiveness and purifying. Only when we recognise that in His cross explained by His resurrection, "we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins," (Col. 1:14) and by the communication of the risen life from the risen Lord possess that new nature which sets us free from the dominion of our evil, is faith operative in setting us free from our sins.

Expositions of Holy Scripture: Volume 13, by Alexander MacLaren

1 Peter 3:15

So, is 1 Peter 3:15 the "Great Commission for Apologetics" or an exhortation to be ready to give your testimony? The word translated "answer" is apologia, the word from which we get the English word "apologetics." It may mean a verbal defense or a reasoned statement. The word itself could include either. What may we glean from the context?

The immediate context is the sentence of 1 Peter 3:14-16: But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

The broader context contains instructions for the behavior of God's people, beginning in 2:11. This includes submission of Christians to law & government, of servants to masters, or wives to husbands. Giving an answer is part of that behavior, a dual submission to God and man. A submission to God in having and giving an answer, and submission to man in giving an answer to those who ask. Christians should live in fear of God and not what man might do. Disciples may suffer for righteousness sake, but do not recoil in fear.

Rather than fear what man might do, let us sanctify/separate/set apart the Lord in our hearts. Isaiah writes, "Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread (Isaiah 8:13)." The Lord God is the one we are to regard as holy; let us set that aside in our hearts and act accordingly. This prepares us to be "be ready". We are to be ready to "give an answer". This answer is apologia, a reasoned statement of why there is a hope within us. We can and should search the scriptures, rightly divide the word of truth and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. But let us not forget the simplicity of the untutored new creature showing "how great things God hath done unto thee. Luke 8:39)."

The witness here is not one of evangelism, but a witness or answer to those who ask or inquire honestly (or authoritatively) concerning our hope. Some Bible students believe that this should be connected to the submission to authorities as taught in chapter 2. If so, the readiness advised may be considered more prayerful and spiritual rather than academic, for Jesus told His apostles when they were brought to the synagogues, and before magistrates and authoritiess, they were to take "no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say -- For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say (Luke 12:11-12)." This doesn't sound like a prepared speech or programmed answer.

John Gill writes that the answer should not be delivered in a light, trifling, and negligent manner, and no part of truth be dropped or concealed in order to please men. Further he encourages it be answered with all due respect to all men, especially the civil magistrates, who may ask the reason, with a reverence suitable to the subject.

We should give answer with meekness and fear (fear God more and fear men less, Luke 12:4-5). Our answers to men are with respect towards man, and proper fear or reverence towards God. If we fear God more than we fear man, we will not be afraid to "give an answer". Some avoid making their Christianity audible or visible, shy away from conflict, and either do not or seldom do give any answers to any men. Certainly we need to know to be swift to hear and slow to speak, but that advice rises from the appropriate application of wisdom, not from being mute concerning our faith. The intent includes deflecting false accusations off oneself, but particularly because it is reflection on the Christian profession. Do it all in good conscience, with good intent and good conversation that contradicts the false accusations and embarasses the false accusers. The Christian answers, keeping a good conscience, which others cannot see and displaying good behaviour, which which others can see. We do what is right no matter what.

The answering Christian resigns to God's will and way, "If we suffer, we suffer." We live in a world of perpetual suffering, and how much better it is to suffer for doing good rather than suffer for doing wrong! In Peter's instruction we hear echoes of the words of the "3 Hebrew children": God is able to deliver us, we believe He will deliver us, but if not, we will serve the Lord regardless.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peter 3:15 and apologetics

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Is this the apologetics text? Dictionary.com says that apologetics is "the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity." Someone once said that 1 Peter 3:15 is the "Great Commission" for Apologetics. But is it?

Some Christians make nothing of this text. They do not engage it's instructions in any way. They shy away from and avoid giving any answers about Christianity in any way. They are not ready.

Some Christians make too little of this text. They approach life strictly as "shoot from the hip" -- don't aim, just fire.

Some Christians make too much of this text. They approach giving an answer for the reason of the hope that is in them as a specialty that requires a systematic study and an accompanying. Just anyone should not "give answer".

Surely all of these approaches live much to be desired. But, then, what does Peter mean?

That's all I have time to write at the moment. Think about this and share your comments. I'll hope to tease this out further. 

Remember that verse 15 is part of a sentence couched in between the 14th and 16th verses. Maybe that will help.

1 Peter 3:14-16 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Anderson on the Resurrection

Some of us are less prone to observe days than others, but it's quite obvious that we can't avoid the pervasive influence of this popular part of our culture.* We can choose to stick our collective heads, or we can perhaps engage popular culture with salt and light about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Around 1950 J. N. D. Anderson published a little booklet engaging an apologetic for the resurrection. He writes,

"Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Easter's message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax. In the days of the early Church...On the one hand there was a little company of men and women who turned the world upside down by their passionate proclamation of the miracle which had transformed their lives: on the other hand, there were those who vehemently denounced the whole story as arrant blasphemy...Either the resurrection is infinitely more than a beautiful story, or else it is infinitely less. If it is true, then it is the supreme fact of history; and to fail to adjust one's life to its implications means irreparable loss. If it is not true, if Christ has not risen, then Christianity is all a fraud, foisted on the world by a company of consummate liars--or, at best, deluded simpletons.

"Is the resurrection of Jesus Christ true of false? It is vital for us to decide on an answer...

"Finding the pertinent data is not so infeasible as it may seem. At least two methods are available: (1) we can examine the historical evidence and (2) we can apply the test of experience."

Read more of The Evidence for the Resurrection by Norman Anderson HERE. Other online resources for or discussions of the resurrection of Jesus Christ include:

Jesus' Resurrection and Contemporary Criticism: an Apologetic (Part I)
Jesus' Resurrection and Contemporary Criticism: an Apologetic (Part II)
Jesus' Resurrection was physical
Ravi Zacharias on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Top Ten Myths About the Resurrection

* I describe this as a "popular part of our culture" because in many ways and for many people Easter is a cultural holiday rather than a religious "holy day".

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gone but not forgotten

Today a group of family gathered in Galveston to render the honor of descendants to an ancestor. 149 years ago Wyatt Vaughn died on the island of Galveston. Being war time, he was buried in an unmarked grave where he awaits God's resurrection. Wyatt Vaughn has not been forgotten* -- his story has been passed down through the generations -- but all these 149 years no stone was raised for a memorial to his name. That fault has now been corrected, through the leadership of Leslie Vaughn and the generosity of numerous family members. 

Wyatt Vaughn was born in January of 1820. In 1845 he married Eliza Jane Parker in Greene County, Georgia. An "innumerable host" of the Parker family, including Wyatt and Eliza, decided to seek their future in Texas. They called for their church letters and heeded the Western call. Wyatt's "fortune" in Texas was short-lived. Arrived around 1854, he engaged in service to his state and served in Galveston during the Civil War, dying of typhoid fever on March 28, 1864.

Also honored today was Wyatt's son, John W. Vaughn, who was his eldest, who lived and served and died alongside father, three days previous on March 25, 1864. Though we do not know the exact location of their graves, memorial stones have been placed in a section set aside in the Oleander Cemetery to remember Confederate soldiers buried in Galveston.

Through the meanderings of time and the establishment of God's Providence, we proudly yet humbly call ourselves Vaughns and Texans.

* Indicating he was not forgotten, the descendants ranged from the oldest -- a great grandson -- to the youngest -- great-great-great-great children.

In Memory

1. Wyatt, we never knew you.
Your life was short, then gone.
For the honor of your country,
You left your wife and home.

2. John, you followed father;
You left your family dear.
The death angel cast his shadow--
You died with father near.

3. Willing Southern soldiers
Gave toil and sacrifice.
All together served with valor--
You paid the highest price.

4. Hope says we may meet you,
Across the great divide.
A grand reunion is awaiting,
Those who in Christ have died.

Not Ted Turner, Ted Turnau...

How should we relate to culture? Immerse ourselves within it? Withdraw to a cave or monastery? Most of us would probably say we opt for something in between these two extremes. Yet, despite our rhetoric, it seems likely that a majority of American Christians embrace our culture mindlessly and neither "push back" nor "give back". About a year ago, Ted Turnau released on the world Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective (P & R Publishing, 2012, ISBN 1596383895), delving into what he describes as a messy issue. "...like it or not, notice it or not, popular culture plays a huge role in our day-to-day lives, often influencing the way we think and see the world." 

Here's a few "sound bytes".
"The problem is that popular culture is also a pervasive influence. It seems at once ephemeral and vital. Christians often either dismiss its influence as trivial or become flustered and assume a defensive posture. Popular culture is like something floating in the air around us, and it has the power to influence our beliefs. But we're not really sure what to do about it."
Not only are we not really sure what to do about it, we often don't know where to look for help.
"Popular culture has emerged in the last hundred years or so as one of the most significant carriers (perhaps the most significant carrier) of worldview and values in the West....For many Christians, worldview talk sounds too intellectual to be practically helpful...A worldview is the perspective from which you understand reality...like conversations, worldviews often take unexpected turns as we are confronted with the shocks, surprises, and recurring pains and delights that life throws at us."
Within our culture is an epidemic of self-love, embracing the fallen nature and casting God down from His throne. According to Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, when we make observations about "cultural change--especially changes in the negative direction--one runs the risk of mistaking one's aging for a true shift in culture"! So for a middle-ager like me, it is encouraging to know that young Christians are observing the culture shift as well. It's not just the mistake of old men! 

So what do we do?
"Our task as Christians, then, is to respond to popular culture as a messy, deeply meaningful mixture. And I believe the only appropriate response to something that messy and that meaningful is apologetics [defending and commending the Christian faith in a context of unbelief]...Engaging popular culture will not save the world...It will allow you to enter into dialogue with [your family, your friends, the folks you work with, and the folks you relax with] and speak truth into their lives with sensitivity, insight and grace. And maybe, just maybe, it will help you love these people and be salt and light in the lives of those around you."
As culture carries conservative Christians farther than we want to go and keeps us longer than we want to stay, it is vital that we think deeply and scripturally on how we are in the world but not of the world -- And that we engage our culture, messy as it is, with a dialogue about God from the word of God.

Friday, March 22, 2013

When the lights come on

While studying at Westminster Theological Seminary, Ted Turnau* tells of how he was driven by apologetics and "wanted to build a fool-proof philosophical argument for God's existence." One day he went to visits his apologetics professor, David Clowney, who wasn't in his office. So he knocked on the next door...
"It was Vern Poythress, one of the New Testament profs there. He opened the door and asked what I wanted. I told him I needed to talk, and proceeded to tell him the whole story of my time at Westminster, why I’d come, what I was looking for. I said, “I just want some solid, logical proof that God exists. Then I could believe in him.” Vern thought for a moment, and then said, “Let’s say that the phone rings. It’s your Dad. You talk for a bit, and then hang up. I ask you who it was, and you say, ‘It was my Dad.’ And I say back to you, ‘Prove it. Give me an airtight, logical proof that you were just talking to your Dad.’ You wouldn’t be able to. And yet you know that you were talking to your father. How? Because you know your father’s voice. Well, that’s exactly the experience of Christians when they read the Bible. They know their Father’s voice.” And I said, “Oh,” and a light bulb came on over my head (just like the cartoons)."**
There is much confirming evidence and many philosophical arguments for God's existence -- and for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a "hot topic" this time of year. But we must also understand that we approach Him by faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It is by that faith that we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. It is by that faith we believe that God is

According to the starting point for apologetics is "hearing God's voice, and seeing the world through those lenses." And those are scriptural lenses. Amen!

* Turnau has recently published Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective (P & R Publishing, 2012, ISBN 1596383895).
** This story is taken by permission from an interview with by Jared Moore, and published on his blog site This is God's world

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Baptist Pope?

For over a month, from Benedict's announced resignation to Francis' inauguration, the name "Pope" has been worldwide news. No end appears in sight. At this point some proud Baptist may be tempted to rear back on his heels, hitch up his galluses, puff out his chest and declare, "We don't have no pope!" And he would be right, if we are looking for someone wearing that title around a Baptist church. But, do we? There is no office in any Baptist church or denomination called "the pope". In Roman Catholic domain, the Pope is the head of their church, the representative of Christ on earth who has supreme and universal power over the whole Church -- or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."* The term "pope" in the English language also applies to any person who has or assumes authority in such a way that it resembles that of the Roman Catholic Pope.

In the Baptist sphere, each local congregation is an autonomous body under Christ rather than worldwide as the Catholic Church. Within Baptist definitions of the church, any person in a local congregation who has or assumes authority to run the church has become a Baptist pope. And, yes, though it violates their ecclesiological precepts, Baptists are no strangers to giving (or having usurped) supreme authority to one person in a local church, whether that person be a pastor, head deacon or chief matriarch. In principle, a Baptist pope is no better than a Catholic one!

1. A pastor is not the head of the church. I cringe every time I hear some person refer to their pastor as the head of their church. Away with such! A church with the pastor as head becomes a two-headed monstrosity, for there is already one biblically denominated Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, Master and Redeemer. Paul Tripp succinctly writes, "If Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body, including the pastor." Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church. He is eternal, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. He in all things in the church must have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).

2. The pastor is not the mediator for his members. Baptists have no confessionals on the Catholic order, but some feel they must reconcile the church to God. He becomes their pope, confessor, confidant, and advisor. All things between the church member and God must go through him first for approval. There is one God, and one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), and the pastor isn't him!

3. A pastor is not the guide into all truth. This is the Holy Spirit's office. "...when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). Yes, pastors should -- yea, must -- preach and teach, but the church, guided by the Spirit must interpret what is spoken. When a Catholic Pope speaks from his office, his church is obliged to receive it as if God has spoken. When a Baptist elder speaks from his office, his church is obliged to search the scriptures whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). (Notably, unlike some popish Baptist preachers, the Spirit of truth does "not speak of himself.")

4. A pastor is not God's anointed, God's king or God's priest in any way over and above his flock -- all of whom are God's anointed, God's kings and God's priests. Some ministers think they are the Lord's Anointed, and somehow above reproach (Cf. Psalm 105:15). Rather all the Lord's people in that pastor's church are the Lord's anointed (See 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and 1 John 2:20,27). The Lord's people are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), who have been made kings and priests unto God and his Father (Revelation 1:6). Thomas Williamson writes, "The effect...of the new emphasis on the exalted rights of ordained ministers, is to create a new class of 'Untouchables'...at the top of Christian society, taking advantage of their sheepish followers at will, clobbering them anytime they want to, while they themselves cannot be touched. They will reign like kings, living the life of Riley while their riled subjects have no choice but to bow down and obey."

5. A pastor is not a titled individual of rank. He is not a Doctor, Master, Reverend or Father. Jesus taught against such elevation (Matthew 23:8-10). I work in the education industry. Within that context I do not object to addressing a degreed individual as "Doctor". But in the church it should not be so (Mark 10:42-44). One is our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us are all brethren. Even those of us who reject unscriptural religious titles such as Doctor and Reverend must be careful to not get caught up playing the title game. Often the scriptural office is converted into an unscriptural title! Instead of referring to John Doe, a lower-case "e" elder in XYZ Church, we speak of Capital "E" Elder John Doe. The New Testament teaching on religious titles condemns the practices of most denominations of Christians, and, regrettably, many Baptists are no exception.

A Baptist pope? May it never be! 

* Paragraph 937 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
** In this post, I have consistently referred to a pastor, but the warnings apply to any person or persons who would attempt to be a Diotrephes dominating and domineering the church.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2 Unusual sentence types

According to www.dictionary.com

Palindrome is a word, line, verse, number, sentence, reading the same backward as forward. E.g. Madam, I'm Adam or Poor Dan is in a droop.

Pangram is a verse or sentence that contains includes all the letters of the alphabet. E.g. A quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Papal bull*

Papal Bull: "Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff." (Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus, dicimus, definimus, et pronuntiamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis). -- issued 18 November 1302, by Boniface Pope VIII

According the Catholic Encyclopedia at NewAdvent.org, "The Bull lays down dogmatic propositions on the unity of the Church, the necessity of belonging to it for eternal salvation, the position of the pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty thence arising of submission to the pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation." Also, "The Bull is universal in character."

Is this still the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church?

* a formal papal document, apparently so called because it has a bulla (seal) attached

New London School

Yesterday was the 76th anniversary of the New London School disaster. If you would like to learn more about it, visit the website HERE.

Monday, March 18, 2013

10 things related to the Bones of Peter

Roman Catholics and non-Catholics have debated about whether Peter is buried in Rome, or whether he ever went to Rome. Catholics see proof of such a claim as support for their idea of Peter as the first pope. Non-Catholics believe that the absence of Peter's bones in Rome weaken the Roman Catholic claims. In actuality, there are two different debates. The physical/historical fact of Peter being in Rome, if in fact he was, would not prove the existence of the papacy or that he was the first pope. Whether Peter's bones are in Rome is an archaeological and historical debate. Whether he was the first pope is a biblical and theological debate.

Archaeological/Historical
The biblical evidence for Peter being in Rome is scant. Taken overall, if he were there it is not likely he spent much of his time there.  Yet historical tradition favors the idea that Peter went to Rome and was martyred under Nero. There is a claim that the tomb (and bones) of Peter have been identified. Much of this is set forth in John Evangelist Walsh's The Bones of St. Peter. On the other hand, a reviewer of this book wrote that it "unintentionally describes the rough treatment of the investigation, its poor planning and commission, the ineptitude of some participants and the shear, disquieting lack of professionalism." Certainly the discovery of Peter's bones in Rome was not without bias! Whether Peter traveled to Rome is attested in history and tradition, but cannot be proven biblically.

1. Paul is silent with respect to Peter being in the city of Rome. Covering quite a period of years, Paul wrote one letter to the church in Rome, and at least five written from Rome (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and II Timothy). In these letters to the church at Rome or writing from Rome to others, Paul never mentions Peter. (Yet both Paul and Peter mention one another in one letters.) In his last days, only Luke was with him (II Timothy 4:10-11).
2. The letter to the disbursed Hebrews was written from Italy (Hebrews 13:24). Peter is not mentioned. (I list this separately because of disagreement whether this epistle was written by Paul.)
3. Paul’s journey to the city of Rome is recorded by Luke in Acts 27 and 28 without any mention of Peter.
4. Peter was an apostle to the Jews (Gal. 2:7-8) and Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13). The city of Rome is a Gentile city. (This does not mean Peter could not have gone there, but only questions whether he would have extended his stay there permanently.)
5. The word "Rome" occurs only nine times in the English New Testament -- Acts 2:10; 18:2; 19:21; 23:11; 28:14,16; Romans 1:7,15; 2 Timothy 1:17. Peter is never mentioned in connection with it. But in I Peter 5:13 Peter tells us that he wrote that letter from the city of Babylon. In "Was Peter in Rome", Catholic Answers magazine states that "Babylon is a code-word for Rome" and points out this kind of use in the writings of early Fathers. I agree that "Babylon" does often stand for Rome in the Scriptures (cf. Revelation 17:5)

In 1968 Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) officially declared the tomb of Peter had been conclusively identified. This probably settles the issue for Roman Catholics. But if Peter were not the first pope, Pope Paul VI didn't speak ex cathedra and this remains an open question for non-Catholics.* For those answers we look to the Bible.

Biblical/Theological
While Peter's life and death in Rome (or not) may prove interesting historically, it is not crucial to the issue of whether the papacy was instituted by Christ. This should be settled not by history or tradition, but by God's revelation through His inspired apostles and prophets.

1. Peter was married (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38). Popes take the vow of celibacy. 
2. The Roman Catholic Church misinterprets Jesus' promise of Matthew 16:18-19, believing that the church is built on Peter and that he has divine authority above all others. Regardless of one's interpretation of these verses, it must be fairly acknowledged that whatever power is given to Peter in Matthew 16 -- the power of binding and loosing -- is equally distributed to all the apostles in Matthew 18:15-20. This is fact, is given to all the church (v. 19-20).
3. Latecomers may view Jesus distributing exclusive power to Peter, but the apostles did not understand such an occurrence to have transpired. They continued to strive over who should be the greatest (cf. Matthew 20:20-24; Mark 9:33-34; Luke 22:24). Jesus did not resolve the issue by referring back to any occasion in which He made Peter the greatest. Rather He gave an example of Gentile hierarchy and plainly stated it should not be so among them (cf. Matthew 22:25-28; Luke 22:25-27).
4. The New Testament does not emphasize Peter as a supreme leader. At the council in Jerusalem, Peter does not speak ex cathedra, that is, from the chair for the church** above any of the others (e.g. Paul, Barnabas, James) and final decision is made by the apostles and elders, with the whole church (Read Acts chapter 15). In Acts 11 Peter had to give account to the church at Jerusalem for his preaching to the Gentiles. In a weak moment for Peter in Antioch, Paul withstood him to his face (Galatians 2:11-14). It seems odd, too, if Peter were pope, that the Bible would give a greater historical account of the ministry of Paul, and include a much greater body of his work in its inspired oracles.
5. The Roman Catholic Church sets up a division in the body of Christ based on leaders, contrary to I Corinthians 1. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you...” This was on account of the church divided into following men. “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor 1:10–12). Setting up Peter in authority and following his successors to the exclusion of others amounts to saying, “I [am] of Cephas.” For this the Corinthians were rebuked.

This is very little biblical weight behind the idea of Peter living at and entombed in Rome. "It is only after the emergence and evolution of the state-church on the heels of the legalization of Christianity by Constantine, and the proclamation of Christianity as the official state religion by Theodosius, that the role and influence of the Bishop of Rome as titular head of the Catholic Church began to be consolidated." On the other hand, the grand weight of scriptural evidence denies the possibility of an authoritative Peter who was head of "The Church".

* For opposing versions of this, see Was Peter in Rome and Tracing the original tombs.
** "...its present meaning was formally determined by the Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv: 'We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.'"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

More quotes

"You don't have to tell all you know, but you'd better know all you tell." -- copied

"If Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body, including the pastor." -- Paul Tripp

"I made a point of adopting certain unmarketable positions. I'm a televangelist with a blacked-out tooth—so if something happens, it's God's work." -- Doug Wilson

"Many denominations have so emphasized the professional side of ministry that they have ordained some people with numerous talents but little or no understanding or sense of call in the Pauline sense of the word. The result is that some flocks get fleeced instead of fed." -- Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth, p. 216

"Bent on attaining a certain desired object, the energy of the flesh has been given free rein; and supposing that the object was right, evangelists have concluded that nothing could be wrong which contributed unto the securing of that end." -- A. W. Pink

"There are three types of people in the world -- believers, unbelievers, and make-believers." -- copied

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why Marriage Matters - Ryan Anderson

Ryan T. Anderson has written an insightful piece on why marriage matters, and some of the consequences of redefining it as something other that what it has been and is. In his abstract, Anderson writes:
"Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role."
Read the entire piece HERE.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Catholics have a new papa

As God rained on St. Peter's Square, cardinals blew smoke and announced "Habemus Papam!"* Now the Roman Catholic Church has a new pope. By the time you read this news it won't be news. Most will already know; the saga of papal selection has dominated the news since Pope Benedict XVI stepped down at the end of February.** Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina and papal runner-up to Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in 2005, is the church's Pope Francis -- after St. Francis of Assisi. This pope sets a number of firsts. He is the first named Francis, the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from South America/Latin America, and the first Jesuit pope. He was chosen to replace the first pope to resign in 600 years, and might possibly be the first pope with only one lung (due to a childhood illness).***

There is plenty of news available, reported with awe and mysticism. Rather, I want to take this brief opportunity to point out to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear -- all the trappings of Roman Catholicism, from Popes to Purgatory, Mariolatry to Mass, Images to Indulgences, Lent to Limbo and Transubstantiation to Tradition, are antithetical to the simple faith of the New Testament as taught by Christ and spread by His apostles. Which faith have you?


* Habemus Papam (Latin) means "We Have a Pope" in English. It is the announcement given by the senior Cardinal Deacon after a new Roman Catholic pope is elected.
** Hopefully news will continue to flow freely, as Pope Francis begins to lead a Roman Catholic Church diminished by sex abuse scandals and claims of infighting in the church hierarchy.
*** A list of popes can be found HERE. This list appears to be an authoritative from a RCC standpoint, though there was no Catholic-style pope in apostolic times and for at least 400 years after the apostles.

Reading around the web

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

A.W. Pink on Worship
Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy
Digital Stress and Your Brain
Gadsby’s Hymns: an Introductory Selection
How Hospitality Reflects Your Grasp of the Gospel
How Movies Teach Our Kids about Gender
On Public Criticism via Social Media
Paul’s Rebuke of Red-Letter Christians
Present Day Evangelism
The Greatness of Grace
Two Rival Religions? Christianity and Post-Christianity
Vast majority of Christians tip at or above the normative percentage

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

4 Approaches to God's Revelation to John


...and other eschatology.

If you're like me, you may tend to tend to view eschatology -- the final or end-time events of the history of the world -- as falling into the categories of amillennialism, postmillennialism and premillennialism. And then there is and pessimillennialism and panmillennialism. :-)

Another way of approaching eschatology and the book of Revelation are the interpretations of historicism, preterism, futurism, and idealism. The 3 millennial views may be sorted out variously among these and are not coterminous with any of them.

The historicist approach interprets the Book of Revelation as a record that spans history from the time of the apostles to the end of the world, or from Christ's first advent to His second coming. Some fulfillment is past, some is in progress and some is yet to come. The events have been unfolding for about two thousand years and will continue to do so until the end of time. Well known historicists include Martin Luther, Isaac Newton, Matthew Henry, and Albert Barnes. This approach seems to be a minority view today, but one can see a combination of historicism and futurism in the Bible commentary of C. I. Scofield -- especially his conflation of the seven churches of Asia representing the seven periods of entirety of church history. 

The preterist approach interprets the prophecies of the Book of Revelation as having occurred in the past -- either all (preterism) or most (partial preterism) of them. The events happened not long after John’s own time and are often associated with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. Examples of preterist views can be found in books such as Is Jesus Coming Soon by Gary DeMar and The Days of Vengeance: an Exposition of the Book of Revelation by David Chilton.

The futurist approach interprets the prophecies of the Book of Revelation as await future fulfillment -- either all or almost all of them. Almost everything after the first verse of the fourth chapter is expected to occur in a few years before the return of Christ.  The futurist approach has existed since the earliest centuries of the church, and finds wide contemporary representation among premillennial proponents such as Arno Gaebelein, Norman Geisler, H. A. Ironside, John MacArthur, Henry M. Morris, Charles Ryrie, and John Walvoord.

The idealist approach is a spiritual or symbolic approach to interpreting the book of Revelation. It does not look for single or individual historical or future fulfillment of the visions. Rather it takes Revelation to as a drama of recurring spiritual conflicts played out in human history until the return of Christ, in which Christ and His saints emerge victorious. Its symbols express abiding principles regarding the conflict between good and evil. More Than Conquerors: an Interpretation of the Book of Revelation by William Hendriksen (Baker Books, 1998) provides a scholarly representation of the idealist approach.

These approaches tend to be mutually exclusive, but some students of Revelation blend them into what might be called an eclectic approach. Proponent of eclecticism include George Eldon Ladd (A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972)), Gregory Beale (The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) and Grant Osborne ( Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Academic, 2002). Despite their eclecticism, one approach is usually emphasized heavily above the others.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Finishing Well

II Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Luke 14:28-30 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

The Christian life is more like a 26-mile marathon than it is like a 100-yard dash. In a sense "starting well" is not nearly as important as "finishing well". How often do we see those succeeding in the middle of life's race? They sprint out far ahead of all others. They may be placed on a pedestal to admire -- an example to aspire to. But how soon fades the beauty? What, when the pedestal comes crashing down? In the long run, the tortoise may outlast the hare. Genuine faith in Christ perseveres to the finish line.

Many biblical characters teach us lessons on going the distance and finishing well, both positively and negatively. Today I think of three.

A New Testament era disciple named Demas is mentioned three times in the Bible. In those three times we catch a glimpse of a man who began well, but did not finish. In the 24th verse of the book of Philemon, along with Marcus, Aristarchus and Lucas, Demas is mentioned as a fellowlabourer right alongside of Paul. When Paul wrote to the nearby Colossian church, he mentioned Demas to them as one who with Luke sent greetings (Col. 4:14). Our final view of Demas comes in Paul's final epistle, his near-death letter to Timothy. It is a sad look, at one who did not finish well -- "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (II Tim. 4:10). Demas, a man who co-laboured with Paul, soon found that he loved the world more than he loved God. He did not persevere to the finish line.

Caleb is a fine Old Testament example of one who not only started well, but finished well, too. Caleb was one of 12 spies that Moses sent into the land of Canaan to bring back a report of it to the people. He was one of only two spies who maintained a godly report. While 10 spies forbid it, Caleb said of the land, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" (Num. 13:30). With Joshua, he became one of only two people over 20 years old who would eventually enter this land. Flash-forward 45 years. Israelites have wandered in the wilderness 40 years. They've spent 5 years conquering the land of Canaan with Joshua as their leader. Caleb is now 85 years old. He does not slink back from the task he urged his people to take on 45 years earlier. He still believes the God he served in the past has the same power in the present. By military conquest he takes possession of the land of Hebron which God gives him and his family. Caleb goes the distance and finishes well (Joshua 14:6-15; 15:14).

At this point you may be discouraged. Are the only two options starting well & finishing well, or falling by the wayside and not crossing the finish line? What if I am a sputtering in the middle of the race? Is there hope? Enter a disciple named Mark to instruct us further.

Mark, also known as John or John Mark, was a young man whose discipleship apparently extended before the crucifixion of Jesus but not all the way back to the baptism of John. He was a nephew of Barnabas, the itinerant preacher who traveled with Paul from Antioch. Mark had traveled with them from Jerusalem to Antioch, then went with them when they left Antioch for regions beyond (Acts 13:5). But not far into the journey, Mark left them and went home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Mark not only didn't go the distance, he inserted a source of contention between Barnabas and Paul. When they intended to go again and visit the churches they has started, Barnabas was determined to take Mark once again. Because he turned back from the previous journey, Paul was just as determined that Mark would not go. Each went his own way!

Paul, despite his strong opposition, and Mark, despite his lack of persistence, both learned that a "messed-up middle" does not have to keep one from finishing well. Immediately after Paul told Timothy about the departure of Demas, he spoke to him of the return of one who had departed -- John Mark. "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." II Timothy 4:11. This young disciple was even chosen of God to pen one of the gospel accounts, the 2nd book in our New Testament. 

Those who do not run well in the middle stages are not necessarily destined to fall by the wayside. By the grace of God they just start running again and go the distance, finishing well!

Let us run the race that is set before us. Run with patience. Run with our eyes on Jesus.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The End of All Debate

"Addison Baker (Baptist) and Thos. Quarles (Methodist) lived on Kingdom Come Creek, in the commonwealth of Kentucky. They got into a controversy on infant baptism, and grew exceedingly warm. Baker advanced an argument that he considered unanswerable by his Methodist opponent, but he was in error. Quarles whipped out a pistol and shot Baker dead."

* The above record is found in Burnett's Budget, March 15, 1905, a paper published in Dallas, Texas by a preacher in the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement, T. R. Burnett. Though I have not found it elsewhere, it appears that this is an historical record and not just humor. Kingdom Come Creek is an area in Letcher County, Kentucky. Burnett went on to write that "If that is the way they discuss the question in Kentucky, we do not wish to do any debating in that state. When Rev. J. C. Weaver reaches the argumentum ad pistolum in our present discussion on infant baptism, we expect to adjourn the debate."

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Three junior poems

I'm calling these "junior poems" because I wrote them as a junior in high school in 1975. I've kept them all these years, and thought I would pass them along on the blog.

Toil is tedious,

Unless
Flavored with fun.
Fun is frivolous
Without
Work well done.
------------------
The boat rotted
as it waited
to be boarded.
------------------
The world is wondering
what will be done.
Our wisdom's wandering
down in the dung.


Thursday, March 07, 2013

The age of electronic friendship

Once upon a time we read in our Bibles statements such as "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly" and "A friend loveth at all times." In the new age of electronic friendship it seems to be "to have friends a man must be on Facebook" and "one may be friended and unfriended at any time."

Computers and electronic media are wonderful tools, but have we fully considered the implications of "electronic friendship"? Just what is it, if it is anything at all?

According to the urbandictionary.com, electronic friendship is a "friendship that is defined by communication ONLY via electronic devices. i.e. AIM, facebook, myspace, text messages, etc." Furthermore, this type of friendship generally does not even include phone calls. Such friendships are most common among high school and college students and help exlude the awkward moments of contact face-to-face.

Before the advance of social networking media, a friend was a person that you actually knew -- came in contact with face-to-face -- with whom there was an attachment of mutual affection and personal regard. Now we click the "Add Friend button" on someone's profile and instantly we are friends. No fuss; no mess. It's true, electronic friendships go bad, but all you have to do is choose "Unfriend." No fuss; no mess. Real face-to-face friendships are much more fussy and much more messy. Are they worth it? Yes!

The age of electronic friendship is not going away anytime soon. Let's use what is good in it and leave off the bad. Let's not abandon the "face-to-face" and let's not be the couple seated across the table in a restaurant, each ignoring the other while "talking" to friends via text, twitter, and twenty ways to Tuesday. The sympathizing tear, the hand of fellowship, the firm embrace, the holy kiss and sweet communion are best experienced warmly and in person.

Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.