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Friday, May 31, 2013

The price for a free, safe society

Is “Big Brother” the price of a free, safe society?

No, I am not comfortable with getting "Big Brother" as the price for a free, safe society. A "free" and "safe" society may soon become mutually exclusive. When you listen to a radio program with conservative Craig Parshall (General Counsel for National Religious Broadcasters) and liberal Barry Lynn (Executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church & State) discussing the Boston bombing, for example, and agreeing that we've got a problem with too many cameras and too little privacy we should have a light go on in our heads. Adding video surveillance to every square inch of the earth IS NOT the answer. It may be what we get, nevertheless.

"Person of Interest" is a current TV show on CBS that presents omnipresent surveillance in a positive light. The surveillance is used to predict future crimes and terrorist attacks.Anybody ever see or hear of "Minority Report," a movie where criminals are apprehended before they commit a crime, based on foreknowledge that they're going to commit it? Some things I hear discussed seem similar, even though we don't have any precogs to see into the future. Pity the honest citizens when the system turns on them. 

May we return to an old-fashioned republic that wants less government and more freedom. May we not trade our birthright for a mess of governmental pottage.

Are there clumsy squirrels?

As I walked out my front door Sunday afternoon, I heard a thunderous thud (at least as thunderous a thud as a two-pound critter can make). I looked to see a squirrel had just fallen some 10 or 12 feet out of an oak tree and landed hard on the ground. It sounded like it hurt! Unfazed, sir sciurus rufous scurried as fast as he could -- not to the next tree, but across the yard and down the road until I could no longer see him. I wonder if he was embarrassed and hoped no one noticed, or if he was suddenly afraid of heights? I know we people can be clumsy and awkward, but I've never thought about those traits in a squirrel. Quite a liability if you spend most of your life up a tree!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is bigger always better?

SBC Voices bills itself as "Just another Southern Baptist blog." Despite the humility, it appears to me to be one of the most active Southern Baptist Convention blogs and engenders some lively and interesting discussion. From Calvinism to racism, politics to philanthropy; one week they may deride Tribalism and the SBC, noting that "Tribalism can become destructive when we isolate from one another, when we start viewing the other Baptist tribes as our enemies, or worse..." then next week extol the SBC system as the best in the history of the church, for the propagation of the gospel.

I intended to make some comments in that thread, but its discussion sort of died on the vine before I got a round tuit. So I'm posting the comments here instead. First, I will paste a few excerpts, then will comment.
As a Southern Baptist, I am part of perhaps the most extensive world missions program in the history of the church.
According to the IMB website, there are currently 4867 IMB missions personnel, 4206 of those being career missionaries. That is down considerably from the days before the recession and the recent financial issues, but it is still a stunning fact. The old phrase, "we can do more together than we can do separately" is not a cliche. It is a fact.
By pooling our resources as a convention, we are able to support nearly 5000 missionaries around the world. 
Can you match that on your own?
Why should I have to match this on my own? We are not in a competition, are we? In the true spirit of the gospel should I not rejoice per Paul that "Christ is preached" (assuming He is preached) rather than rejoice over how much better my "program" is that yours? Years ago I heard Brother Lavelle Knight say that he and Brother James Broome "preached 52 revivals last year." After a pause and a chuckle, he explained that he had preached two and Brother Broome had preached 50! Bro. Knight wasn't jealous that Bro. Broome preached 50 revivals, and Bro. Broome didn't expect Bro. Knight to have to "match that on his own." If it is true that one plants, one waters, but it is God that gives the increase, jealousy and comparisons should subside with the realization that "he that planteth and he that watereth are one," as each servant answers to the Lord and not to the other servants, and we ask "Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"

When one lives by the numbers he must also die by the numbers. I looked up some other missions organizations online to compare with the 4867 IMB/SBC missions personnel mentioned in Dave's post. I checked six organizations that I could think of quickly and found that four of those six -- ABCUSA, BBFI World Mission Service Center, BMA of America and CB America World Venture -- seem to support quite a few more missionaries for the number of churches that they have than does the SBC. Now this was by a quick search of their web sites, and more detailed study might find some problems with the numbers I found and these comparisons. This comparison is solely number of missionaries per number of churches, and does not compare overhead costs per missionary and other variables. But, for example, the SBC has approximately 45,000 churches. CB America has only about 1200 churches and they support about 500 missionaries through their CB America World Venture. If my math is correct, for the SBC to support the same number of missionaries for the number of churches in the convention, the IMB would need to have over 18,000 missionaries. Yes, the SBC would need to increase their total missionaries nearly 4 times to equal the Conservative Baptists. I don't own any stock in CB America -- don't intend to -- and am not sure how their system even operates. This, nevertheless, gives pause when we look at and compare these numbers as numbers of missionaries supported per number of churches.

Dave mentioned that his church gives somewhere around $45,000 through the Cooperative Program on an annual basis, and that it could be possible to support one full-time missionary on their own. Assuming that just 1/4 of the churches of the SBC could support one full-time missionary "on their own," that could add up to support of over 11,000 missionaries. Would that be better or worse than the present system? Would God get more glory or less from it? Or are these even valid questions? I am not sure that it is any different in the grand scheme of things that one church gives $10 to 4800 different missionaries or 4800 churches each support one missionary. The same number of 4800 missionaries would be supported and the same people to whom they are preaching would hear the same gospel. The general mindset, though, is that it is better for one church to have a little part in paying for the gospel in 100's of places all around the world than for 100's of churches to each support the gospel in one place of the world.

This post only compares numbers. It does not consider the question, which must be considered, of whether God's organization, or men's organizations, or both, or something else are the best way or ways to carry the gospel to the world. Since the 1700's Baptists have disagreed and debated over the propriety of missions boards and missionary societies. I come down on the side of the local churches being the kind of organization God planted in the world for the propagation of the gospel. That subject must wait for another post.

The Contemplation of God

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1)

Consider four truths: God’s love is:

Eternal – it is without beginning and end. ‘In love, having predestined us’ (Eph 1:4-5). ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee’ (Jer 31:3).

Sovereign – it is without external influence. ‘Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated’ (Rom 9:13). ‘According to the good pleasure of his will’ (Eph 1:4)

Immutable – it is without change. ‘strong as death…many waters cannot quench it’ (SS 8:6-7). ‘having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end’ (John 13:1). ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’(Rom 8:35)

Gracious – it is without condition. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son’ (Jn 3:16). God’s definite love rested on the fulfillment of one condition: the obedience of Christ unto death.

Excerpt from The Contemplation of God by T. David Simpson

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More 2nd and 3rd marriages end in divorce

What is the divorce rate in the United States? Most of us have heard that half of all marriages end in divorce. In Do 50% of Marriages Really End in Divorce? Ashleigh Schmitz writes, "To say right now that 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce is an uninformed statement." Why do we believe this? From whence this number? Schmitz tell us "The vague 50 percent acknowledges that in one year, there are twice as many marriages as there are divorces." For example, a CDC report I accessed May 28, 2013 gives the marriage rate as 6.8 per 1,000 total population and the divorce rate as 3.6 per 1,000 population. That's over half, right? Yes. And no. What this number tells us is that in a given year, there are approximately twice as many marriages as divorces. What it doesn't tell us is what percentage of divorces there are for the total number of marriages that exist. Very few of the divorces in a given year are from the marriages consummated in that same year, and such "lazy math" doesn't take into account maybe 50-something million marriages that already existed before that year. The actual divorce rate is much more difficult to figure that simply comparing the number of marriages and the number of divorces in a given year. Some suggest it is closer to 30%, but I'm not sure how they arrive at that number either.

I looked at this number because I wanted to understand how the rate of divorce from second and third marriages compares to the rate of divorce from first marriages. At Divorce Rate.Org I found the following:
50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.
According to Enrichment Journal on the divorce rate in America: The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%
I am somewhat skeptical of all of these numbers, since they use the unreliable 50% for first marriages. Nevertheless, for all I was able to find and read it seems that the basic fact is reliable -- that the divorce rate for second marriages is greater than for first marriages, and the divorce rate for third marriages is even higher. This dispels the myth that second marriages are more likely to succeed than first marriages.

One might think that it stands to reason that second marriages would fare better than first marriages. First, you would be more cautious and thoughtful before entering into a second marriage. Second, you would have learned from your mistakes in a first marriage things that you can apply to bettering a second marriage. Third (and related to the first two), you would be older and wiser. But what "stands to reason" falls before what really happens.

If you aren't committed to marriage, then divorce is always an easy out. If you aren't willing to work to fix what could have been fixed in the first marriage, you probably won't commit to fix it in the second marriage. If you do make a second marriage work, you probably could have made the first marriage work by doing those same things. What we need is not second and third marriages to try to improve on what we did wrong in the first one, but a belief and commitment that marriage will work if we work at it. And try to make the first one work! George Santayana said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." This failure to learn certainly repeats itself in marriage and divorce, again and again. 

God says, "A man shall cleave unto his wife." He didn't say it would be easy, but He did say it and it is right. For better or worse, stay together. Against all odds, stay together. By God's grace, stay together. If those looking at the grass on the other side of the fence would maintain their own yards, marriages would prosper rather than languish.

I read it, I read it

I read it on the web.

A Church and Churches: Integration

Battle-Bruised King Richard III Buried in Hasty Grave
Biblical and Practical Thoughts on Parenting, Part Four: That’s the Way the Ball Bounces – Tips for Managing the Home Front
Black Spanish teacher claims she was fired for using the word ‘negro’ in class
Boy Scouts Capitulate On Gay Youth Members
“Charles Finney: The Greatest Distorter of Christian Truth in Our Age”
Fine-Sounding Arguments: How Wrongly ‘Engaging the Culture’ Adjusts the Gospel
Some unions now angry about health care overhaul
Top 10 Weird Ways We Deal With the Dead

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Punchard and Congregationalism

According to Wikipedia, "The idea that each distinct congregation fully constitutes the visible Body can, however, be traced to John Wyclif and the Lollard movement which followed after Wyclif was removed from teaching authority in the Roman Catholic Church." The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "The earliest literary exponent of Independence was Robert Brown, from whom the dissenters were nicknamed Brownists."

In contrast to these statements, in his books A View of Congregationalism and History of Congregationalism George Punchard compiles biblical and historical evidence of the practice of congregational church government, long before John Wyclif or Robert Browne.

About George Punchard:
PUNCHARD, George, editor, born in Salem, Massachusetts. 7 June, 1806; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 2 April, 1880; graduated at Dartmouth in 1826, and at Andover Theological Seminary in 1829. From 1830 till 1844 he was pastor of a Congregational church in Plymouth, New Hampshire; associate editor and proprietor of the "Boston Traveler," of which he was also a founder, from 1845 till 1857, and again from 1867 till 1871. He was secretary of the New England branch of the American tract society, and the author of a "View of Congregationalism " (Andover, 1850), and a " History of Congregationalism from A. D. 250 to 1616 " (1841 : 2d ed., 3 vols., New York, 1865-'7).

Congregationalism

"Mark Dever has said that congregationalism is reality. The reality is, regardless of what type of church polity they are part of, people are going to vote with pocketbooks (support or lack thereof), and eventually their feet (attendance or lack thereof)."

Monday, May 27, 2013

KJV and archaic terminology, reprise

Back in February I posted on the subject of Archaic Words in the King James Bible. I recently discovered in Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism that Gordon H. Clark takes on this with his subject. What makes this interesting to me is that (1) Clark is not a KJV partisan, and (2) he approaches the subject from the standpoint of logic. He concludes much as I do that the complaints about archaic words in the King James Bible are largely exaggerated.

Clark says the number of antiquated words are exaggerated:
Advertisers of the several versions castigate the King James for its archaic terminology. True, it contains some antiquated words, though their number is usually exaggerated.
Clark believes many changes are for the sake of change:
The one or two new versions that merely replace an obsolete word with its contemporary counterpart are to be commended. But most of the new versions change the familiar terms simply for the sake of change. The result may be neither better nor worse: It is merely different.
Clark gives a number of examples, such as:
The first verse of the well known Isaiah 53 begins with, "Who hath believed our report?" The Hebrew of the last word means announcement, doctrine, news, report, rumor, or tidings. The Revised Standard Version changes the single word to the phrase "what we have heard." This seems to make it a reference to what Isaiah heard, rather than to what he preached. The New American Standard makes better sense: "our message." Now, the words message and report are both common English words, so that any claim to clearer English or to the removal of archaic expressions has no basis.
Clark has concerns about the critical text:
...we conclude that the type of criticism underlying the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard, and other versions is inconsistent with its own stated criteria, inconsistent in its results, and inconsistent with the objective evidence. Its method is that of unsupported aesthetic speculation.
Read the entire article by clicking on the link above. I mention this article by Clark because the criticisms against the King James Bible and the support of the Westcott-Hort/critical text Bibles often amount to a sort of religious peer pressure under which weak or ill-formed individuals wither. No less a logician that Gordon Clark was not frightened into a corner, even while acknowledging that he was "not a textual critic," he boldly asserted that "the methodology of textual criticism cannot claim immunity from logical analysis." Just because you are not a textual critic does not mean the critics are free from your judgement in the matter.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

7 Quotes from the web

"The Bible speaks to us in many ways, and the sermon needs to be shaped by the text that is doing the speaking." -- Nathan A. Finn

“Many churches, perhaps unwittingly, subtly propagate the myth that pastors and missionaries matter more, or are intrinsically holier, than carpenters, call center workers, or entrepreneurs. The church may employ pastors and send missionaries, but the silent majority of kingdom work is done by those of diverse callings in the marketplace. Pastors should find ways to disciple members for the variety of vocations represented in the congregation, and not just those in so-called 'Christian ministry'.” -- Lukas Naugle in 7 Things Pastors Should Teach Those in the Marketplace

"The wise general does not fight every battle. He carefully calculates which battles are worth fighting to accomplish his ultimate cause. He has the wisdom to walk away from the skirmishes that may cost much without really contributing to his primary mission. The wisdom of this principle is affirmed by the teaching of our Savior himself (Luke 14:31) who urged kings to count the cost before they go to war." -- Charles L. Quarles

"Baptists declared their victory in the battle for the Bible prematurely...Real victory in the battle for the Bible will come only when Baptist pastors faithfully expound God’s word every Lord’s day and when Baptist church members diligently study the Scriptures as an act of personal devotion." -- Charles L. Quarles

“Many Christians are like a bad photo—overexposed and underdeveloped.” -- Howard G. Hendricks

"We do not support the erroneous idea that God has done all He can, and is now standing idly by to see what sovereign sinners are going to do with an impotent, pathetic Jesus. No! God saves sinners -- salvation is of the Lord." -- Ernest C. Reisinger, as quoted in a Baptist Press article written by Keith Hinson, 02/08/1995

“When you’re busy hating everybody, and denouncing everybody, and seeking political solutions to everything, it’s very difficult to evangelize. Isn’t it? Very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away 'my heritage'.” -- D. A. Carson

Friday, May 24, 2013

Comments on 2 legal cases in the news

Hobby Lobby
Yesterday, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. presented its case to the 10th Circuit federal appeals court in Denver. They (as do many others) seek an exemption from the "Obamacare" requirement to offer health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill. They contend that this requirement violates their religious and moral belief system.

In contrast the Department of Justice is arguing that allowing businesses an exemption from this requirement would have the effect of the business imposing its religious beliefs on its employees. The DOJ argument is non-sensical, although that doesn't mean it won't fly in court! Hobby Lobby is not asking to impose its religious beliefs on its employees. They are simply saying that they don't want to pay for someone else's religious and moral beliefs, or the lack thereof.

Churches and specifically relgious-based groups are allowed exemption from this portion of the health care law if it violates their religious beliefs. But as it currently stands, businesses are not. In effect, business owners are being told that they can practice their religious beliefs on Sunday, but not Monday through Saturday. That is almost no religous freedom or religious protection at all. Businesses should be allowed to opt out of violations of their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Free Kate
"Stop the Hate, Free Kate" has apparently taken social media by storm, misrepresentations and all.

Today, 18-year old Kaitlyn Hunt must decide whether to accept a plea agreement offered by Florida state attorney Bruce Colton.

Kate is accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor. She is 18 and the minor is 14. I agree that the components of a case between 18 and 14 year old friends is not the same as adults who prey on small children. But the law is clear that a minor cannot legally consent to sex, whether or not they may audibly and physically do so.

Parents and friends of Kate are in wild spin mode, evidently hoping that a media campaign will succeed in getting the charges dropped. Many shameful misrepresentions have been floated by them, indicating that lieing to get what they want is OK. Perhaps they should have spent some time advising their daughter of the dangers of an adult sexual relationship with a minor -- which is clearly against the law. After the fact they are worried that their daughter's life will be ruined with the permanent label of sex offender. Even that is a misrepresentation; the state attorney's plea agreement states she will not be entered in the sex offender registry. "Under the plea agreement we agreed we would ask for no more than two years of community control. Under community control she would be free to go to work, free to go to school, free to go to church, free to go to the doctor," the state attorney said.

Stop the hate; Take the deal, Kate.

Health News and Views

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

Asparagus: 5 health benefits
Bring Back DDT, and Science With It
Coated vs. Uncoated Aspirin
Employers Eye Bare-Bones Health Plans Under New Law
Food Frauds Lurking in Your Supermarket
Good Foods for Great Sex
Imported rice may contain dangerously high lead levels
Why circumcision lowers risk of HIV

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Monsters of Depravity

The Summing Up by English authour William Somerset Maugham is a somewhat autobiographical book of Maugham's life, philosophy and opinions. On p. 53 he muses about how individuals excuse in themselves what they condemn in others. His thoughts are quite intriguing, especially to consider that what we neatly hide and excuse within ourselves would, if known, expose us as monsters to others.
At first sight is curious that our own offences should seem to us so much less heinous than the offences of others. I suppose the reason is that we know all the circumstances that have occasioned them and so manage to excuse in ourselves what we cannot excuse in others. We turn our attention away from our own defects, and when we are forced by untoward events to consider them find it easy to condone them. For all I know we are right to do this; they are part of us and we must accept the good and the bad in ourselves together. But when we come to judge others it is not by ourselves as we really are that we judge them, but by an image that we have formed of ourselves from which we have left out everything that offends our vanity or would discredit us in the eyes of the world....We are shocked when we discover that great men were weak and petty, dishonest or selfish, sexually vicious, vain or intemperate; and many people think it disgraceful to disclose to the public its heroes' failings. There is not much to choose between men. They are all a hotchpotch* of greatness and littleness, of virtue and vice, of nobility and baseness. Some have more strength of character, or more opportunity, and so in one direction or another give their instincts freer play, but potentially they are the same. For my part I do not think I am any better or any worse than most people, but I know that if I set down every action in my life and every thought that has crossed my mind the world would consider me a monster of depravity.
*We in the southern U.S. might rather say "hodgepodge"

In the news, May 23

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

CSCOPE to No Longer Offer Lesson Plans to Texas Schools
East Texans gather donations for Oklahoma tornado victims
Florida Cheerleader Denies Felony Charge for Lesbian Relationship
Longview Public Library hosts New London School explosion book author
Lufkin I-HOP employee struck, killed by lightning in parking lot
Tornado checklist: What to do – and what myths to ignore
Video of the Moore tornado forming
12-year-olds can get free condoms

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Women and Elders/Bishops/Pastors


In a discussion about complementarianism -- the position that men and women are equal but different and that God has assigned different roles to men and women -- and the ordination of women, Bart Barber posted the following well-made comments:
...the larger and underlying problem is the erosion of the biblical office of pastor/elder/overseer that becomes so evident when we consider the practices of many of our churches on topics like this one.
1. When precisely the same roles are entitled “Pastor” in some cases and with other terminology (“Director” or “Minister”) in others, not because of any actual difference in the role, but simply because one occupant is ordained while another is not, we’re missing something.
2. When we write qualifications and job description documents for offices like “Pastor,” for which qualifications and at least some concept of a job description are given in the Bible, and yet in those documents little or no mention is made of the relevant biblical materials (as though we are authorized to redefine what God has defined in scripture), we’re missing something.
3. When we make the key differentiation in theological discussions to be the question of whether one serves in a role (“Senior Pastor”) which, if it appears at all in the New Testament, certainly does not come with its own set of biblical qualifications and responsibilities, we’re missing something.
Bart finished by saying that he was not opposed to having all sorts of other people working at church (a point where we might differ slightly) and concluding: "Have all that you pragmatically require IN ADDITION TO the biblical offices of pastor and deacon, and I’ve got no problem with it. I simply don’t want us to do so at the cost of either (a) weakening the office of pastor/elder/overseer by applying it to a whole host of people who really do not serve in that biblical role, or (b) losing sight of the office of pastor/elder/overseer by failing to set apart specifically as pastors those who serve in that role."

* Bart is pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmersville, Texas

No real job

Yahoo News posted a very touching story about a woman receiving $1,000 tip on $60.42 meal. In the midst of enjoying a good story about the warmth and kindness sometimes expressed in humanity, I was also saddened by some comments made by the waitress's daughter: "SHE’S WORKING A WAITRESS JOB. IT’S PRETTY...SAD AND DISAPPOINTING, I GUESS...SHE HASN’T HAD A REAL JOB EVER."

The daughter is probably correct that her mother is not satisfied with her employment. But for her to hurl an insult at all waitresses for not having a "real job" is, well, pretty...sad and disappointing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

But God...


This morning I heard a portion of the radio program 'Discover the Word'. The hosts discussed that the Bible is first of all a revelation of God -- not just a revelation by God about various things, but God revealing Himself -- and only secondarily a guide for living.

During the discussion, Haddon Robinson told of a hearing a sermon in which Moses was used as an example of principles of leadership. (Most everyone thinks Moses was a great leader, so that makes sense to most everyone.) After the sermon Robinson told the preacher that he had missed a couple of principles. Intrigued, the speaker asked what they were. Well first, Robinson said, you need to be raised in a home of privilege as was Moses. Second, he continued, you must have a temper as Moses had. The speaker replied that those two did not fit. Why did they not fit? Possibly because the speaker determined what the principles were before studying the life of Moses?

On the radio program Robinson went on to make this point. Too often, if we are preaching on a topic we read a book on that topic first. So, for example, we read a book on leadership to learn principles of leadership and then go to the Bible to confirm them, or find examples of them. We are elevating the secondary reason of the Bible over the first. While the record of Moses may teach us something about leadership, it first teaches us about God and what He is doing in His unfolding drama of redemption (as well as of the world, its history and God's place in it).

The Bible is not primarily a "how-to" book, but rather a "But God" book.

Exodus 13:18   But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.
Psalms 49:15   But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.
Psalms 75:7   But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.
Jonah 4:7   But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
Luke 12:20   But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
 Acts 13:30   But God raised him from the dead: 
1 Corinthians 2:10   But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 3:6   I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Ephesians 2:4   But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us

6 items in the news

Amber Alert canceled for Detroit 3 year old
Autocrat Accountants
Fox News reporter targeted by Obama administration
IRS Targets Tea Party
Monster tornado hits Moore, Oklahoma
White House insists Obama was not involved in IRS

Monday, May 20, 2013

Obedience or Disobedience?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer considers how we often toy with the commands of Christ in a way we seldom do with those in positions of earthly authority:
When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends a child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: “Father tells me to go to bed, but he really means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome my tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: ‘Go out and play’.” If a child tried such arguments on his father or a citizen on his government, they would both meet with a kind of language they could not fail to understand–in short they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandment of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1959), page 90.

8 quotes comprising 5 subjects (roughly)

“Some day you will meet a happy man who has nothing, and you will know that you paid too much for your whistle.” (Attributed to Mark Twain in Three Free Sins: God's Not Mad at You, Stephen W. Brown, New York: Howard Books, 2012)

"We do not have full knowledge in the sense of knowing everything. We do, however, have the ability to know what the Lord has revealed to us through His word by the power of the Spirit." -- Mark Osgatharp

"A worn Bible is a beautiful thing. It is as it should be." -- Christiane on SBC Voices

“Invariably, the temptation when deciding who among us is the most like Christ is to stack the deck beforehand by defining Christ in ways that make Him most like me.” -- Bart Barber

"All you language divas are doing is parroting from some real scholar who actually understands, after a lifetime of study, the languages." -- William Thornton

"We should use Greek like our underpants -- underneath for support, but never on the outside." -- Robert Plummer

"Marriage is a book of which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters in prose." – Beverley Nichols

"When it looks like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, step away from the fence and start grooming your own lawn." -- Scott Stanley in Making Marriage Last on James Dobson's Family Talk radio

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hell

I have often heard it expressed that the Bible speaks more about Hell than Heaven, or that Jesus talked more about hell than about heaven. I don't know the truth of these statements, and it could actually be quite complicated in determing it -- for example, there are many other words in the Bible that refer to these places other than just these two. I can say that by running a simple search at KJVBible.net for the words heaven and hell, there is quite a disparity. 691 verses include some form of the word heaven/heavens. 55 verses include some form of the word hell. With that kind of disparity, my initial reaction would be that it is unlikely that the initial statement it true. But it is likely that a number of those verses about heaven do mean heaven/heavens in the sky and not heaven where God dwells.

Regardless, there are some very important things the Bible says about hell. For examples:

Matthew 5:22 Some in danger of hell fire.
Matthew 5:29-30 Some bodies to be cast into Hell.
Matthew 10:28 Someone is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 23:33 Can you escape the damnation of hell?
Mark 9:43 Hell fire shall never be quenched:
Luke 16:23 The rich man lift up his eyes in hell, being in torments.

The Bible declares for whom Hell is prepared, who will inhabit it for how long, and the nature of their existence in this place. Passages such as Matthew 25:41-46; 13:42; Revelation 20:14-15; 1 Peter 3:19; Luke 8:31; and 2 Peter 2:4 are helpful in teaching us.

Paul writes, “...when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (when), In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (who): Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (how long) from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (the nature of their existence)” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spiritual gifts

I have been looking at, comparing and contrasting the lists of spiritual gifts found in the Apostle Paul's writings (Rom. 12:6-8; I Cor. 12:8-10; 12:28; Eph. 4:11). I am considering these lists in light of I Peter 4:10-11:
Quote: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak (laleo), let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister (diakoneo), let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

It appears from Peter that there are two broad divisions of ministry/gifts -- speaking and serving.

Is it appropriate, and not wresting the Scriptures, to consider that all the spiritual gifts can and do fit into these two categories?

 Here are the gifts from the other passages:
 Romans 12:6-8 -- prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giv(ing), rul(ing), shew(ing) mercy.
 I Corinthians 12:8-10 -- the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues.
 I Corinthians 12:28 -- apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
 Ephesians 4:11 -- apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

I question considering faith, hope and love as used in I Corinthians 13:13 as the same kind of spiritual gifts as in these other lists. My initial reaction is that the "faith" listed in I Cor. 12:9 as a gift is something different from the faith spoken of in I Cor. 13.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A piercing eye


Almighty God, thy piercing eye
Strikes through the shades of night,
And our most secret actions lie
All open to thy sight.

There’s not a sin that we commit,
Nor wicked word we say,
But in thy dreadful book ‘tis writ
Against the judgment–day.

And must the crimes that I have done
Be read and publish’d there;
Be all exposed before the sun,
While men and angels hear?

Lord, at thy feet ashamed I lie;
Upward I dare not look:
Pardon my sins before I die,
And blot them from thy book.

Remember all the dying pains
That my Redeemer felt;
And let his blood wash out my stains,
And answer for my guilt.

O may I now for ever fear
T’ indulge a sinful thought,
Since the great God can see and hear,
And writes down ev’ry fault!

Isaac Watts, in Divine Songs: Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Unction From the Holy One

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things,” I John 5:20

The word translated ‘unction’ here is ‘anointing.’ John reminds his readers of an anointing they have from the Holy One (Christ). This is not some ‘Second Blessing’ anointing that they were to seek upon conversion to Christ, but a blessed anointing they had already in, by, and through Him. Of what anointing is he speaking?

1. This is primarily a term that pertains to Christ himself. The title ‘Christ’ means ‘The Anointed One,’ Isa. 61:1; Acts 4:27. God the Father chose Him and set Him apart as Prophet, Priest, and King. In the Old Testament, such men were set apart by anointing. In Christ, all three offices converge. God speaks to no one in saving mercy but through His Son, THE PROPHET, Acts 3:22. God receives no sinner in any other way than Christ’s work and sacrifice as THE PRIEST, Hebrews 8:1. God causes all sinners, for whom Christ gave His life as a ransom, to bow to Him as KING, Rev. 15:3.

2. To have an anointing from Him as the Holy One means that the righteousness that He worked out as THE ANOINTED One of God, was imputed to everyone for whom He died, WHEN He died, Rom. 5: 9, 10. Christ is that Holy One in whom, by whom, and for whom His people were chosen, redeemed, justified, and sanctified, I Cor. 1:30. Because of His finished work, accepted of the Father, His people enjoy ALL spiritual blessings in Him (Ephesians 1:3).

3. They ‘know ALL things,’ not that they don’t need to be taught, but in that the Spirit of God having revealed Christ in them, causes them to see in HIM and His finished work, all things fulfilled pertaining to their forgiveness and justification before God. They are contrasted with those who walk away from the truth (v.19) by following their own fleshly devices, or a doctrine contrary to Christ, either by adding to, or taking away from salvation full and complete in Him. Their anointing is that when He died and rose again, they were in Him, therefore His anointing is theirs. In time, the Spirit brings them, by faith, to enjoy the blessing of this anointing they have already from Christ, by grace. Even as He is the complete satisfaction of the Father for them, so He is their complete satisfaction before the Father. Believers neither need nor want anything more!

-- Ken Wimer, in Shreveport Grace Church Bulletin

Hyperlinking 7 random reflections

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

Does Abba Mean ‘Daddy’?
From Dante to Dan Brown: 10 things about Hell
Kermit Gosnell’s America — What His Trial Really Reveals
King James Bible Anniversary
Some Thoughts on Altar Calls
Things I do when I have to study
What Your Coffee Says about You

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is Calvinism? A Book Review

What is Calvinism? everything you need to know about Calvinism...and then some, Peter Lumpkins, Carrollton, GA: Free Church Press, 2013, 1939283035, 42 pages.

This second booklet in the Free Church Press booklet series was released in March 2013. It is "part of...a series focusing on biblical, theological, and moral issues facing today's Christians." It seems quite provocative and attention-getting to subtitle a 42 page booklet "everything you need to know about Calvinism...and then some"! Yet it is a serious and honest title, reflecting what the author thinks one needs to know -- not everything one might want to know. To better understand this the reader should realize that the author believes Calvinism is a doctrinal system that has deviated from the truth. Therefore, what one needs to know is what it is and that it is wrong. Further, Lumpkins writes from his context within the Southern Baptist Convention.

What is Calvinism begins with the concerns of two modern Southern Baptist Convention presidents over the difficulties and dangers the future SBC may face over Calvinism. Quickly, Lumpkins moves to introduce Augustine and John Calvin, and then define "What is Calvinism." The author sums up Calvinism in T.U.L.I.P. soteriology, aka "the doctrines of grace" or "the five points of Calvinism". Some may take issue with the idea that T.U.L.I.P. = Calvinism. But in a Baptist belief system, surely (and hopefully) Calvinism never means much more than that. No doubt one would not argue against this being "what is the common theology among Calvinists (p. 5)." After defining each of the five petals of the T.U.L.I.P. ("the way Calvinists believe it"), the author remonstrates with five terms of doctrine to substitute for or prefer over the five points of Calvinism ("reservations Christian like myself profess").

In the end Lumpkins concludes that "Calvinism is a system of theology which contains some truth and some error (p. 34)." "And then some" finishes the book with a short essay by Z. T. Cody, "Are Baptists Calvinists?"

While some have complained that Lumpkins does not fairly represent Calvinism, I see no reason to agree with such a complaint. When one summarizes the general belief that is called Calvinism, one cannot include all that every Calvinist believes. One example of not including everything can be seen in the author's formula of "Limited Atonement = God didn't intend to save all even though He provided for all." It is a debate within Calvinism itself whether limited atonement "provides for all." In the belief of many God only intended to save AND only provided for His elect. The milder definition, though, is probably representative of most Southern Baptist Calvinists (what we might call "Fullerism" or "Amyraldism"). Of the five "formulas" (e.g. Total Depravity = Total Death) I felt that the fifth was the least helpful, on the perseverance of the saints. I prefer terminology for this doctrine other than what is commonly used with T.U.L.I.P. And, while I would agree that for the systematic Calvinist perseverance is a "logical deduction from unconditional election (p. 15)," I don't see that as the best formula for explaining it. It seemed more like finding something to disagree with in something the author agrees with.

In the midst of the Limited Atonement discussion, the author digresses into a story about Bob and Dan, "A Parable of Two Brothers and Two Endings." The story is well designed to do what it does -- to steer the reader to a sense of unfairness and moral outrage toward the doctrine. From the opposite direction this story does similarly to what Calvinists do. Calvinists move people along on the logic of their system to accept the the concept of Limited Atonement. Lumpkins moves people along on their feelings to reject the concept of Limited Atonement. What we need to know is whether, according to the revelation of Scripture, God can choose one and reject another. And if He can, did He or did He not choose one and reject another?

I didn't find Z. T. Cody's essay to be a particularly strong way to end the book. I found it interesting nonetheless, especially as he discussed the source of freedom being different from the "Baptist" and the "Calvinist" perspective. Overall I think the author accomplished what he intended to do -- to define Calvinism as he sees it and to tell you what he thinks you need to know about it. The book will be useful and helpful. If you're looking for support for the Calvinistic soteriology -- wrong book. The purchaser should be aware that this book will not tell you why to believe in the five points of Calvinism, but why not.

8 random readings for Wednesday

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

Baptist leaders worry about religious freedom in military
Carl Henry and Baptist Identity
Christian Treason in Military?
Francis Wayland and Richard Fuller: Debating Slavery with Christian Civility
Grace-ebooks, available for download
Little Debbie Logo Subtle Changes
This Mineral Could Save Your Life

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Quitman Barbecue and Sacred Harp, 1921

QUITMAN BARBECUE
"The regular program for the day began promptly at eleven o'clock by singing three beautiful songs from the old Sacred Harp. These songs were sung by good singers who learned to sing long ago, but whose voices still vibrate the sweet strains of melody which permeates and arouses the emotional powers of the soul and wafts it into the realm where it can realize the sentiments these old songs contain."

This is excerpted from the story of the "Wood County Farm Bureau barbecue" as reported by M. H. Vandiver, County Agricultural Agent, in the Winnsboro Weekly News (Winnsboro, Tex.), Vol. 13, No. 2, Ed. 1 Friday, September 9, 1921

Brunswick and Sacred Harp Record Company...

...first to record Amazing Grace (recorded under its tune title "New Britain")

According to Wikipedia, “Records under the Brunswick label were first produced by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company…and…In January 1920, a new line of Brunswick Records were introduced in the US and Canada that employed the lateral cut system that was then becoming the default cut for 78 disc records.”

Two years after the first Brunswick records released in U.S. were issued in January 1920, a “mixed choir” of Sacred Harp singers from the Original Sacred Harp Record Company (Gilmer, Texas) and Brunswick Records became the first to record "Amazing Grace."

Ross Laird lists the “mixed choir of the Original Sacred Harp Singers” on page 105 of his book*, with a total of eleven titles:

MIXED CHOIR OF THE ORIGINAL SACRED HARP SINGERS  NY, c.Jun, 1922
8353-4 Pleyel's hymn, C.M. Br 5151
8355-6 [unknown title]
8357-58 Penick, C.M. Br 5146
8359-0 The christian warfare Br 5146
8361-2 [unknown title]
8363-64 Antioch, L.M. Br 5147
8365-6 Easter anthem Br 5147

MIXED CHOIR OF THE ORIGINAL SACRED HARP SINGERS  NY, c.Jul, 1922
        [unknown title]
8402 Canaan's land, C.M.D. Br 5150

MIXED CHOIR OF THE ORIGINAL SACRED HARP SINGERS  NY, c.Jul, 1922
8418 New Britain, C.M. Br 5150
        Soft music Br 5151

The Winnsboro Weekly News (Winnsboro, Tex., Homer R. Weir, editor, Vol. 13, No. 41, Ed. 1 Friday, June 23, 1922, p. 4, Column 1) give a brief account of how this came to be.

"SACRED HARP SINGERS TO NEW YORK
Sec-Manager J. L. Miller, of the Original Sacred Harp Record Company, of Gilmer, has been notified that the company to make the records for them are ready to give an open date for their singers as soon as they can get them to New York.
Five will be sent from Texas and five from Georgia to sing the Sacred Harp songs from which they are to make.  ---Gilmer Mirrow (sic)"

* Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931; Volume 1: New York Sessions, 1916-1926, Ross Laird Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, 0313318662, p. 105

Monday, May 13, 2013

Abortionist found guilty of murder

Today abortionist Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia has been found guilty of murdering infants born alive after botched late-term abortions. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of an adult patient. More can be read on Fox News HERE and on Life News HERE.

Two Baptist blog commentaries on the conviction can be found and more are sure to come:
Dr. Gosnell’s Guilt, the Death Penalty, and Justice
Gosnell is found guilty of first degree murder

Sacred Harp Hymnwriter buried in Nacogdoches

Mrs. Mary Shindler was a significant 19th century American Christian hymnwriter. She published hymn books, including The Southern Harp in 1840 and The Northern Harp in 1841. One of her hymns still found in popular 20th century hymnals (such as The Broadman Hymnal and the National Baptist Hymnal) has 4 lines inscribed on her tombstone:

     Flee as a bird to your mountain,
     Thou who art sick of sin;
     Go to the clear flowing fountain,
     Where you may wash and be clean

At least four of her hymns appear in The Sacred Harp, a 19th century tune book that is still used at singing conventions in East Texas:

(first lines)
  O sing to me of heaven When I am called to die (312, Cooper 2012)
Soft, soft, music is stealing, Sweet, sweet lingers the strain (323b, Cooper 2012)
  Shed not a tear o'er your friend's early bier (339, 459, Cooper 2012)
There's not a bright and beaming smile (410, Cooper 2012)

Other popular hymns by Mrs. Shindler include "I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a stranger" and the temperance hymn "Sparkling and bright in its liquid light..."

Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, February 15, 1810. She was the daughter of Mary Bunce and Benjamin Morgan Palmer, a Congregational Church pastor at Beaufort. In 1835 Mary married Charles W. Dana of New York, and they moved to Iowa in 1839. After her husband and 2 year-old son died of cholera that summer, she returned to Beaufort.

In May 1848 Mary married Robert Doyne Shindler, an Episcopal clergyman. Sometime after the Civil War, Robert and Mary moved to Texas. He served as a school teacher in San Augustine and rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Nacogdoches. He died in 1874.

Mary Shindler lived with her son and daughter-in-law R. C. and Anna Mary Shindler until her death on February 8, 1883, in Nacogdoches, Texas. She is buried in the historic Oak Grove Cemetery near downtown Nacogdoches.

Mary Shindler was the great-great-grandmother of former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Writings
--------
The Southern Harp (Boston, 1840)
The Northern Harp (New York, 1841)
The Parted Family, and other Poems (1842)
The Temperance Lyre (1842)
Charles Morton, or the Young Patriot (1843)
The Young Sailor (1844)
Forecastle Tour (1844)
Letters to Relatives and Friends on the Trinity (1845)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Repackaging the Gospel: Does Paul’s Christ Require a Historical Adam?

Modern theologians feel the need to repackage the Bible to pacify the proclivities of pretentious people. One day it's the gender issue and another day homosexual marriage. Now it is the gospel, or more specifically, how to repackage the need for the gospel without an historical Adam.

Since prevailing scientific attitudes have dispensed with the existence of a real Adam made in the image of God -- and who fell from that blessed estate -- pandering theologians must follow suit. It's as if the theologian and the scientist are dancing and the scientist is the lead partner. Enter J. R. Daniel Kirk of Fuller Theological Seminary, musing whether Paul’s Christ Requires a Historical Adam? He seems to conclude that “...the gospel does not, in fact, depend on a historical Adam or historical Fall...”

“In short, if there is no historical Adam with whom we are enmeshed in the guilt and power of sin, how can we affirm that in Christ we participate in the justification and freedom of grace?”

“Where, then, are we left, if the pressures of scientific inquiry lead us to take down the spire of a literal, historical Adam?...Might it be possible that we could retell the stories of both Adam and evolutionary sciences such that they continued to reflect our conviction that the endpoint of God’s great story is nothing else than new creation in the crucified and risen Christ? For many, the cognitive dissonance between the sciences and a historical Adam has already become too great to continue holding both...To accompany Paul on the task of telling the story of the beginning in light of Christ, while parting ways with his first-century understanding of science and history, is not to abandon the Christian faith in favor of science.”

J. R. Daniel Kirk's article notwithstanding, this theory attacks the biblical record, questions the inerrancy of the Bible, and compromises man's need for redemption. It seems even to contradict the doctrinal statement of the very institution that employs Kirk, Fuller Theological Seminary:
“IV. God, by his word and for his glory, freely created the world out of nothing. He made man and woman in his own image, as the crown of creation, that they might have fellowship with him. Tempted by Satan, they rebelled against God. Being estranged from their Maker, yet responsible to him, they became subject to divine wrath, inwardly depraved and, apart from grace, incapable of returning to God.”

Let us accompany Paul in continuing to tell the story of the beginning in light of Christ, while parting ways with the likes of Daniel Kirk and their twenty-first-century understanding of science and history. They have abandoned the Christian faith in favor of science. Let God be true, but every man a liar.