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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Christian Life Hymnal, and other music links

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

New revelation

This past Thursday I had a "new revelation" about two songs I've known most of my life -- He Set Me Free by Albert Brumley and I Saw the Light by Hank Williams. We sang the first a lot in church, and, though I'm not a big country music fan, I have heard I Saw the Light plenty of times. It's probably one of Hank Williams's best known songs. These are basically the same song and I've never noticed it! The "new revelation" was only new to me, not new news to others. In Hank Williams: The Biography, the authors wrote:
"...if gospel composer Albert E. Brumley had been a litigious man, his name would be bracketed alongside Hank's in the composer credit. Not only was the melody close to Brumley's 'He Set Me Free', but even the lyrics bore a passing resemblance. The hugely prolific Brumley, best known for 'I'll Fly Away', had published 'He Set Me Free' in a 1939 songbook titled The Gospel Tide, and it had been cut in March 1941 by the Chuck Wagon Gang. Another white gospel group, the Southern Joy Quartet, recorded it shortly before Hank wrote 'I Saw the Light'...'I Saw the Light' wasn't just 'He Set Me Free' with new lyrics, though. It was the prayer of a backslider, who lives in hope of redemption."
Williams's life seems one that never realized that hope. According to the biography, Hank learned to sing in church and attended at least one shape-note singing school at Avant, Alabama (near Georgianna in Butler County). "The hymns Hank learned there [the singing school] and in church every Sunday colored his approach to music as nothing else every would." Williams never discussed the writing of this song, though others have given their versions. He could have easily adapted his words subconsciously to Brumley's tune, and may have deliberately done so. Seems little question that his tune is based on Brumley's tune.

He Set Me Free first stanza and chorus:
Once like a bird in prison I dwelt,
No freedom from my sorrow I felt.
But Jesus came and listened to me,
And, glory to God, He set me free.

He set me free (yes), He set me free (and);
He broke the bonds of prison for me.
I'm glory-bound my Jesus to see,
For glory to God, He set me free.

I Saw the Light first stanza and chorus:
I wandered so aimless--life filled with sin;
I wouldn't let my dear Savior in.
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night,
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!

I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night;
Now I'm so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ancient Christian Worship, and other reviews

The posting of book reviews does not constitute endorsement of the books or book reviews that are linked.

Friday, July 29, 2016

People helping people

A Complete Stranger Saved This Mom and Her 4 Kids but Wanted 1 Major Thing in Return -- "Tawny is grateful to the man for restoring her faith in humanity..."

The strange "freewillers"

I know we all have our idiosyncrasies, and what we see in others can come back on ourselves. But here are some weird things I've noticed...about the loudest advocates of libertarian free will.

  • Those who make free choice of salvation the hallmark of their theology often insist that God has done all He can do to save man -- and then pray for Him to do more.
  • Those who make the necessity of free choice to sin the hallmark of their theology eagerly look forward to a time when they will no longer be able to freely choose to sin. (At least in this, perhaps, we can all agree!)
  • Those who make human free choice the hallmark of their theology contend God cannot freely choose to do anything which goes against His own nature, yet are satisfied that man not only can, but must be able to choose against his own nature.
  • Those who make unrestrained free choice the hallmark of their theology believe that individual acts of wickedness cannot be prevented by God on an arbitrary basis, yet try to do everything humanly possible to arbitrarily restrain such acts.
  • Those who hold free choice of salvation as the hallmark of their theology maintain that God cannot effectually call men to salvation, but then work through the wildest methods, vainest gimickry and strongest pressures to make men freely choose Jesus!
  • Some of the most avid proponents of libertarian free will reject Bathsheba's response to David from being a free response, because David was a king and she his subject -- yet they insist we creatures can make a free response to God the King of the whole universe.
  • Some of the strongest advocates of the libertarian free will of man also assert than sexual predators cannot change -- cannot ever use their own free will to change themselves.

These seem like strangely inconsistent views that don't go together.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What is the gospel? by Philpot

What is the gospel? Is not the gospel a proclamation of pure mercy, of superabounding grace? Does it not declare the lovingkindness of God in sending his only-begotten Son to bleed and die, and, by his obedience, blood, and merit, to bring in a salvation without money and without price? Is not this the gospel? Not clogged by conditions, nor crippled by anything that the creature has to perform; but flowing freely forth as the air in the skies? The poor to whom the gospel is preached, value it; it is suitable to them; it is sweet and precious when the heart is brought down. 
-- J. C. Philpot

We judge other groups, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

"Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions." -- George W. Bush

"The less we are willing to talk about evil, the more of it we get to see." -- Bart Barber

"The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error." -- William Jennings Bryan

"You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our being." -- Albert Einstein

"The Greek and Hebrew are the two eyes of a minister. Without them he cannot see for himself, but must pin his faith on other people's sleeves." -- Morgan Edwards

"If we [Christians] or they [Muslims] lose our freedom to worship, we will join the early Christians in the underground before we will join in help Baal worship." -- Charlotte Poteete

"How unspeakably wonderful to know that all our concerns are held in hands that bled for us." -- John Newton

"When dark clouds gather and those stormy waves sweep over you, just remember, He still walks on the water." -- Lamar Denby

"The US had two signs up at the border for last 50 yrs – One says 'no trespassing' and the other says 'help wanted'." -- Richard Land

"It’s tough to pastor the church you have and the church you want later all at the same time." -- William Thornton

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Falling plaster and failing pastor

A recollection of Jeremiah Bell Jeter (1802-1880):

"A singular event occurred in my ministry while I lived in the Neck. I had an appointment to preach at White Chapel, in the upper end of Lancaster county. It was an old colonial edifice, large, much out of repair, and little used. The day was showery, but the congregation, considering the weather, was good. My text was Luke xiii. 24 : "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." I had proceeded some distance in my discourse, with usual freedom, when a large mass of plaster, more than two feet square and several inches thick, fell from the lofty ceiling, just grazing me in its descent. Had it fallen on my head it would probably have killed me, or would certainly have stunned and seriously wounded me. I was alarmed, but, finding the danger over, I quickly proceeded to make extempore remarks, suggested by the event, on the perils to which we are constantly exposed, the uncertainty of life, and the importance of being always prepared for our end.

"At that period of my ministry I preached not without careful preparation for the work, but without taking notes into the pulpit. On this occasion I had read my text, shut up the Bible, and had no memento of my discourse. When I had finished my unpremeditated remarks I essayed to recommence my sermon, but all recollection of the text and subject was entirely effaced from my mind. I stood and endeavored to recall the theme of my discourse. My efforts were vain, and my situation was becoming more and more embarrassing. I turned to the left, where sat my friend, Deacon Dunaway, and asked him if he could tell me what I was preaching about. He seemed to be paralyzed, or rather petrified, by the question. He sat with his eyes and mouth stretched wide open, without moving a muscle. He would have been a model of a perplexed mind for an artist. Finding no help from that source I gradually turned to the right. Deacon Norris, a careful hearer, and noted for remembering the texts of sermons, seeing that I was directing my eyes toward him, cast his head down on the back of the pew before him, as much as to say, "Don't ask me for your text." So thoroughly were the congregation in sympathy with me in the alarm caused by the falling of the plaster, and the remarks which the event had suggested, that probably not one of them remembered my text.

"Just as I was about to take my seat the text and my discourse flashed on my mind, and I commenced my remarks precisely at the point at which they had been interrupted, and finished my sermon with freedom and a solemnity perhaps intensified by the danger which I had escaped.

"I have heard of two ministers who, having forgotten their texts, were able to continue their discourses because they were endowed with remarkable volubility. For my part, I could not preach without a text, and could not always proceed even with one."

From The Recollections of a Long Life, Jeremiah Bell Jeter, Richmond, VA: Religious Herald Co., 1891, pp. 200-201

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

3 tributes for 3 historians

Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due...honour to whom honour.

Two important mentors of mine were Louis F. Asher and J. W. Griffith, both of whom were once my pastors. Brother Asher baptized me and Brother Griffith was my pastor when I surrendered to preach, was licensed and ordained. They were both historians and seminary professors did much to nurture my predisposition toward things historical.

Three men that did not know me were also extremely gracious and helpful to me when I reached out to them. Their helping me was of no personal benefit to them. Much of this occurred prior to the days of easy internet communication and contact. I want to pay tribute to them here.

Claude Howard Dorgan:
Howard Dorgan worked for many years at Appalachian State University. High Country Press called him "an all-around gentleman and scholar". His specialty was communications, but he is probably best remembered for his research and books on religion in Appalachia. He advised me on what he knew and put me in contact with a variety of Baptist associations in Appalachia, as well as giving me info about earlier religious research he had done. Some of his books include Giving Glory to God in Appalachia: Worship Practices of Six Baptist Subdenominations, In the Hands of a Happy God: The "No-Hellers" of Central Appalachia and The Old Regular Baptists of Central Appalachia: Brothers and Sisters in Hope.

Robert Granville Gardner:
I believe when I first contacted Dr. Gardner he was at Shorter College, but more people may associate him with Mercer University and the Georgia Baptist Historical Society. He helped me in more ways that I can mention here. One of the most significant was helping with my understanding of black Primitive Baptist associations. Some of the books by Robert G. Gardner are A Decade of Debate and Division: Georgia Baptists and the Formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, 1784-1984, Baptists of Early America: a Statistical History, 1639-1790, Cherokees and Baptists in Georgia, and   On the Hill: the Story of Shorter College.

Albert W. Wardin, Jr.: Dr. Wardin served many years as Professor of History at Belmont University. In my opinion his greatest contribution is in the field of Baptist taxonomy, issuing three books on the topic, Baptist Atlas, Baptists Around the World and The Twelve Tribes of Baptists in the USA: a Historical and Statistical Analysis. I began to understand the Baptist diversity and grouping in America through reading Baptist Atlas and corresponding with Dr. Wardin. Other of his books include Baptists in Oregon, Gottfried F. Alf: Pioneer of the Baptist Movement in Poland and Tennessee Baptists: a Comprehensive History.

One thing all three of them had in common was also helping me collect Baptist minute books -- either sending me books or putting me in contact with local Baptist association officers. Chester Raymond Young of Cumberland College was also extremely helpful in this endeavor, as we swapped our duplicate copies of minute books.

T. J. Denson's Sacred Harp song Odem urges us to give the roses while a person is alive to appreciate them. Drs. Dorgan and Gardner have already passed to their reward. I hope they understood how much I appreciated their help. Dr. Wardin still lives to hear my words of praise, which are many.

Wonderful things of men are said,
When they have passed away;
Flowers adorn the narrow bed
Over the lifeless clay.

Give me the roses while I live,
Something to cheer me on,
Useless the flowers you may give,
After the soul is gone.

Life is the time for words of praise
Hands clasp with friendly smile,
Blessings to cheer a pilgrim’s days,
Are always well worthwhile.

Monday, July 25, 2016

About Customs of Primitive Churches and Morgan Edwards

I've been posting excerpts from Customs of Primitive Churches by Morgan Edwards. Here's a little information I've gleaned online regarding Edwards and his book.

Some comments about Morgan Edwards’s book, from Catalogue of the American Library of the Late Mr. George Brinley of Hartford, Conn., Parts IV-V, Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co, 1886, page 23
  “A fine copy of this Excessively Rare book--a complete directory of Baptist order and practice. It is not named in the Am. Antiq. Society's Catalogue of Ante-Revolutionary Publications, and its title has escaped Mr. Sabin. Dr. Sprague (Baptist Annals, p. 84) mentions it, among the publications of Morgan Edwards but, probably, has not seen it. Mr. Brinley's copy has, on the title-page, the autograph of (the Rev. Dr.) ‘J. Jenkins. The gift of ye Supposed Author, the Revd Morgan Edwards of Philadelphia, 1768.’
  “The directory, with scripture proofs and historical narratives, of the rites of washing feet, the love feast, and anointing the sick, are of special interest to Baptist ecclesiologists. The musical notes, as well as the words, of the hymns appropriate to these rites, to the gathering of a church, ordination of officers, marriages, funerals, etc. are given in connection with the historical narratives.”

Some books that mention Customs of Primitive Churches

  • A Global Introduction to Baptist Churches, Robert E. Johnson, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 87
  • Baptists and Mission: Papers from the Fourth International Conference on Baptist Studies, Ian M. Randall, Anthony R. Cross, editors, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007, p. 124
  • Catalogue of the American Library of the Late Mr. George Brinley of Hartford, Conn., Parts IV-V, Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co, 1886, Vol. 4, pp. vii, 23; Index, p. 22
  • "I Will Sing the Wondrous Story": A History of Baptist Hymnody in North America, David W. Music, ‎Paul A. Richardson, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008 pp. vii, 85-86, 122-123, 243-246
  • Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, from A.D. 1707- to A.D. 1807, A. D. Gillette, editor, Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1851, pp. 132, 141
  • The Making of the Primitive Baptists: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the Anti-Mission Movement, 1800-1840, James R. Mathis, New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 24-27
  • "The Peculiar Welsh Piety of The Customs of Primitive Churches" by Wm. Lloyd Allen in Distinctively Baptist Essays on Baptist History: A Festschrift in Honor of Walter B. Shurden, Marc A. Jolley, John D. Pierce, editors, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2005, pp. 151-192
  • "The Philadelphia Baptist Association and the Question of Authority," by Gerald Priest in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (2007): pp. 71-72
  • Women Deacons and Deaconesses: 400 Years of Baptist Service, Charles W. Deweese, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2005, pp. 60-61
Referencing these books that mention Customs doesn't mean I agree with all their conclusions.

Some writings of Morgan Edwards
  • A farewel discourse delivered at the Baptist meeting in Rye: On February 8, 1761. And printed by them that heard it, in testimony of their affection to their late minister. Morgan Edwards, Dublin: S. Powell, 1761
  • A sermon, preached, in the college of Philadelphia, at the ordination of the Rev'd. Samuel Jones, A.B By Morgan Edwards, A.M. Minister of the Baptist Church in the said city. To which are annexed, a narrative of the ordination; and, a charge delivered on the occasion. Philadelphia, PA: Printed by Andrew Steuart, 1763
  • Materials towards a History of the American Baptists: in XII volumes. Philadelphia, PA: Joseph Crukshank and Isaac Collins, 1770
  • Materials towards a History of the Baptists in Delaware state. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott, 1885
  • Materials towards a History of the Baptists in Jersey: distinguished into Firstday Baptists, Seventhday Baptists, Tuncker Baptists, Rogerene Baptists: Vol. II. Philadelphia, PA: Thomas Dobson, 1792
  • Materials towards a History of the Baptists in Pennsylvania both British and German distinguished into Firstday Baptists, Keithian Baptists, Seventhday Baptists, Tuncker Baptists, Mennonist Baptists. Philadelphia, PA: Joseph Crukshank and Isaac Collins, 1770
  • Res Sacrae: an Academical Exercise composed in Latin in the year 1742; and now translated into English, Morgan Edwards, Philadelphia, PA: Prichard and Hall, 1788
  • Two Academical Exercises on subjects bearing the following titles: Millennium, Last-novelties, Morgan Edwards, Philadelphia, PA: Dobson and Lang, 1788
Books or writings about Morgan Edwards
  • A Dazzling Enigma: The Story of Morgan Edwards, Howard R. Stewart, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995
  • "Morgan Edwards," by L. W Hähnlen in The Dictionary of Baptists, Bill J. Leonard, editor, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994, pp. 111-112
  • "Morgan Edwards," by John S. Moore in Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Davis C. Woolley, editor, Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1971, pp. 
  • "Morgan Edwards: First Historian of American Baptists," by Dean H. Ashton in The Chronicle, (Journal of the American Baptist Historical Society), Vol. XIV, No. 2, April 1951, pp. 70-79
  • "Rev. Morgan Edwards" in The Baptist Encyclopaedia, William Cathcart, editor, Philadelphia, PA: Louis H. Everts, 1883, (p. 362)
  • The Life and Works of Morgan Edwards, Thomas R. McKibbens and Kenneth L. Smith, New York, NY: Arno Press, 1980
Grave of Morgan Edwards

Morgan Edwards is buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Children’s Church, by Johnson

CHILDREN’S CHURCH? by Eddie Johnson Amarillo, TX

Does Biblical precedent exist for separating one group of the congregation from another when the Word of God is being preached by the man of God? If one could find such an example in the Scriptures, then this practice would clearly be justified as right and proper with the Lord. This practice might even have permissive justification if no example to the contrary were to be found resulting from a search of the Scriptures.

My finding is the admonition of the Apostle Paul addressing the assembly at Ephesus in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in The Lord; for this is right. Honour my father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Since he addressed them directly in this epistle, then it seems that to Paul the very best situation of worship, Biblical instruction, and outreach for the children of this assembly during their worship service was for them to be assembling with their parents under the preaching of the Word of God. So, the practice of separating children to a gathering of their own during the worship service of a New Testament church is a practice not found in the Bible. Indeed such a practice has a specific example to the contrary. Wherefore, when considering the outreach of a church family to the children born within and without the congregation, let the question be, “Why have a Children’s Church?”

Originally published in The Baptist Waymark, Vol. IV, No. 2, Mar-Apr 1996, p. 4, R. L. Vaughn, editor

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Shaming or shame

Yesterday I read a report about a Nurse Shamed by Cashier for Her Rainbow Hair. I work in a college town and not surprises or bothers me. But I don't share the author's view that the nurse's response (below) was somehow wonderful or touching.
“I can’t recall a time that my hair color has prevented me from providing lifesaving treatment to one of my patients. My tattoos have never kept them from holding my hand...as they lay frightened and crying because Alzheimer’s has stolen their mind. My multiple ear piercings have never interfered with me hearing them reminisce about their better days or listening to them as they express their last wishes. My tongue piercing has never kept me from speaking words of encouragement to a newly diagnosed patient or from comforting a family that is grieving.”
As I thought about it, I believe the following response would be just as wonderful and touching:
“I can’t recall a time that my hair color has promoted my providing lifesaving treatment to one of my patients. My tattoos have never pressed them to hold my hand...as they lay frightened and crying because Alzheimer’s has stolen their mind. My multiple ear piercings have never promoted my hearing them reminisce about their better days or listening to them as they express their last wishes. My tongue piercing has never compelled me to speak words of encouragement to a newly diagnosed patient or to comfort a family that is grieving.”
Fact is, what she can't recall and doesn't know cannot serve as proof that no patient has been offended by her hair, tattoos or piercings. She may be a wonderfully competent nurse who does a great job, but she might be able to do a great job without these things as well. If I were in bad shape, I wouldn't be worried about what the nurse who was taking care of my health looked like. That isn't proof that it won't bother someone else.

Friday, July 22, 2016

What's Wrong with the Greek?

Nothing! But much is wrong with the way some preachers use, misuse and abuse the Greek language and Greek texts of the Christian Bible. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and the New Testament in Greek. Our English Bibles are translations from those language into our language. The antagonistic use of the Greek language in the average pulpit seems to fall into two primary categories, though these are by no means exhaustive. References to the Greek are (1) often used to cast aspersion on the King James Bible, and (2) often used to make elevated clerical pronouncements to an uninformed laity (i.e. You do not know the Greek and I do, ergo, I am right). These two approaches strip away confidence in God's Word and one's confidence to study it without an interpreter. Brethren, these things ought not to be!

I propose to give examples of the use of the Greek language in an improper manner with negative effect.[1] I build no straw men. All of these examples given I have heard in Baptist pulpits.

Use, misuse and abuse
One misconception implied by some preachers is that they the original text. They state in the pulpit, "the original says thus and so..." This may be used to contradict (most often) the King James Version (KJV) or perhaps another Bible version they use, or it may be used to prop up a pet view that the English translation does not clearly support. The facts are: (1) the are a number of Greek fragments, manuscripts and text, and (2) we have not have the "originals". By original is meant the first copy that came from the hand of the author. No teacher, preacher, seminary -- no, not even a museum -- possesses the first writing of Matthew, Mark. Luke or John. A test won't find Paul's fingerprints or Peter's DNA. To imply otherwise is false and misleading, and inserts the preacher in a special category unavailable to the average "pew sitter". The implications of not having the originals must be considered. Some insist that only the original manuscripts, the autographa, are inspired.[2] If by this they meant that the direct breath-inspiration of God was only on the original writers this would not be problematic. But most also mean that no copies or translations can be considered inerrant and infallible. This is problematic. If the second is true, we cannot have the inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God today. In trying to deflect criticism of copies and translations, preachers and conservative scholars play into the hands of liberals and infidels. An accurate copy of the inspired Word of God is still the inspired Word of God. An accurate translation of a copy of the Word of God is still the inspired Word of God. Can a translation be considered the inspired (i.e. infallible, inerrant) Word of God? Did not the inspired New Testament authors, writing in the Greek language, include quotations from the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew? Did not Jesus, teachings his disciples and the multitudes, make references to the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew? They considered the translation an accurate reflection of the original autographs and their copies. If so, then a translation can be considered reliable. If not, Jesus and the New Testament writers erred in quoting them as God's Word.

This misconception of the "original" is further exacerbated by faulty comparison of translation to Greek text. The King James Bible is based on the Stephanus text of 1550 (though others were consulted).[3] The majority of modern versions of the New Testament are based on the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (most commonly available in Nestle's and Aland's Greek text). Preachers, whether ignorantly or with motivation, often give a reading from the KJV, compare it to the reading in the Nestle-Aland text, and then proceed to charge the KJV with a translation error. Even those who do not accept the accuracy of the King James Bible, the Textus Receptus, or the Majority Text should be able to recognize this as dishonest and distorted debate tactic. Those who are ignorant need to learn better. Those who are dishonest need to repent. The Nestle Greek New Testament  was first published in 1898, and the Nestle-Aland in 1963. These did not serve as either a basis of translation or a means of consultation for the 1611 Authorised/King James translation of the Bible. The KJV translators should not be charged with mis-translating from a text they did not even use!

The italicized words of the King James Version are often held up for criticism. These italicized words are words that have no direct equivalent in the Greek text, but are needful for the English grammar or meaning.[4] Therefore, there are supplied by the translators. For this reason, some have thought they can leave out any italicized they wish, or that all italicized words don't belong and should be skipped. This fails to recognize any differences between the original and receptor languages. We should not suppose these supplied words are created out of thin air! In our own language we often speak and even write with "understood" subjects, verbs, and so forth. When translating in to another language, these "understood" words often need to be supplied to be understood, to make our statements coherent. This is the same kind of thing the italicized words perform in English translation.

Three examples of leaving out italics, and the consequences, are:
Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;Colossians 1:19 For it pleased that in him should all fulness dwell;
Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.Philippians 1:21 For to me to live Christ, and to die gain.
1 Corinthians 14:2a For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God:1 Corinthians 14:2a For he that speaketh in a tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God:
In Colossians 1:19 the object Father is "understood" and in Philippians 1:21 the verb is is "understood" in the Greek text, but these are needed in the English. The translation of 1 Corinthians 14 (in the KJV) is often vilified for use of the italicized word unknown. Tongue means language. The context of 1 Corinthians 14 shows the tongue or language discussed is one not comprehended or understood by the hearer. If the contextual meaning is not supplied, 1 Corinthians 14:2a reads as a misleading or statement statement -- For he that speaketh in a tongue (i.e. language) speaketh not unto men, but unto God. In fact, people speak every day in languages that are understood by other people. They are not just speaking to God. When we know this is an unknown (to the hearer) tongue/language, then the meaning becomes apparent. It is frightful to see people (usually preachers) drop italicized words, especially because they don't support their theology. It is dishonest or ignorant for anyone who uses any Bible to attack the KJV for its italicized words. All English Bible versions supply words that have no Greek equivalent, whether they signify them or not. Isn't it better to use a Bible that plainly identifies where they are used?

Another abuse of the Greek is using word studies to deflect or negate the meaning of the text. This may be done with assumptions concerning roots, synonyms, possible meanings, etc. Words have meanings, but they almost always have a range of meaning. Therefore, their meaning is found in the context of their usage, and not just a favorable definition we pull out of a dictionary, concordance or lexicon. Context is key. When it is not, the interpretation of a text may depend on the interpreter's definition of one or two words, even while contradicting more reliable witnesses. One common misconception is the root fallacy, where the root or origin of a word is overemphasized to determine its meaning. An everyday English example of this is our common farewell, "Good bye." Good bye is a contraction of "God be with ye." Even though this is true, it does not warrant our believing that everyone who says "good bye" means "God be with ye." It is often asserted that any New Testament text using the Greek word agapao always refers to a special kind of Godly or spiritual love. A widely-accepted interpretation of John 21:15-17 demonstrates this. The interpretation is controlled by assigning different meanings to agapao (Gk. to love) and phileo (Gk. to love) -- regardless of the immediate context (verses 15-17) and the larger context (the gospel of John). It can be seen without diluting the context that both Jesus and Peter understand the two words to mean the same. It can also be seen that John used the word interchangeably in other places. Just because the complete semantic range of two words are slightly different does not imply we can assign arbitrary meaning as it suits us. The John 21:15-17 sample involves no major doctrine. Nevertheless it illuminates how easily a text can be forged by word studies to accommodate false doctrine.

Some seem to believe that the appeal to the Greek is the final appeal -- the last word which cannot be contradicted. It is best to follow the maxim "if you can't prove it with the English Bible, you can't prove it with the Greek."[5] The Greek is not a rabbit's foot used to settle all questions. Folks who have intimate understanding of the Greek language differ in their biblical interpretations just like the rest of us! Do not some of those who hold baptismal salvation understand the Greek as well as some who hold sola fide? Why do they not agree, if Greek is the "final appeal"? Studying and understanding the Greek language is a help, but it is not magical! Else, all Greek scholars would agree. Further the language scholar must depend on a transcription as much as Bible students must depend on a translation. Don't accept something as "gospel" just because someone asserts, "It's in the Greek."

Warnings

  • Realize, you who know a little about the Greek language should be careful that this limited knowledge does not cause you to overrule more obvious and dependable witnesses such as context, comparing scripture with scripture, etc. Many fanciful figments claim a Greek foundation.
  • Beware; you in the pews must not become mindless robots that depend on preachers to interpret the Bible for you because "he knows the Greek." Even the newest Christian must "search the Scriptures" and "study to shew thyself approved unto God."
  • Understand, some so-called and self-made scholars are not fluent in the Greek language. They may only be repeating what they've read and heard from others. Instead of getting God's enlightenment from the "original" you may only be getting second or third hand commentary.
  • Remember, those who crucified our Lord understood Greek, Hebrew and Latin! See Luke 23:38.

Finally
This is not written to argue that the Greek or Hebrew languages have no place or merit in Bible study. They do. But it should be understood properly and approached with common sense. Be warned that language studies are not only used, but often misused and abused. Nothing is wrong with the Greek, but something is wrong with the way it is sometimes used, whether maliciously or ignorantly. 

Footnotes
[1] I deal with the Greek language for the following reasons: (1) It is the Greek that is more often the center of controversy, and what is most referenced in American pulpits and religious discussions; (2) the Greek is much closer to our language, and therefore more easily understood and follow by us; and (3) my knowledge of Hebrew is next to nothing. Though the Hebrew language is not discussed, the principles mentioned here in reference to the Greek also apply to the Hebrew.
[2] The autographa is simply a theological term meaning the original manuscripts. It is regularly used in theological discussions about the Bible. Sola autographa is the view that the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible only applies to the first or original manuscripts. This is the predominant view of American evangelicals and fundamentalists. On the other hand, etiam apographa (apographa are the copies of the autographs) recognizes that accurate copies of the autographa may also be considered infallible and inerrant.
[3] Some sources say Theodore Beza's 1598 version of Stephanus' text. The Textus Receptus or Received Text is the name of a certain group of printed Greek texts of the New Testament within the Byzantine/Majority Text tradition (The term Textus Receptus originated in the 1633 printing of Abraham Elzevir, but has been applied backward to its predecessors). The German New Testament of Luther, the William Tyndale translation of the New Testament in English, and the Reina-Valera Spanish translation of the New Testament were based on this text. In fact, most New Testament translations in Europe were originally based on it.
[4] When the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible was first printed, it used roman type to signify words supplied by translators. Later roman type became common and began to be used for printing the KJV. In order to distinguish words supplied by the translators, their type style was changed to italics.
[5] If you don't read the Bible in English, then insert your own language -- "if you can't prove it with the Spanish Bible [for example], you can't prove it with the Greek."

This post is adapted from the article "What's Wrong with the Greek." which first appeared in The Baptist Waymark, Vol. III, No.3 , May-June 1995, pp. 1-2.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Baptism is Important

In Chapter 3 of Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, Daniel Akin give an unique presentation of "The Meaning of Baptism." Akin exposes seven implications of the meaning of baptism from Romans 5:12-6:14 -- we are now identified with the man of life, not the man of death (5:12-21); we can no longer delight in sin, we are dead to sin (6:1-2); it identifies us with Christ in His death (6:3); it identifies us with Christ in His life (6:4-5); it affirms we are no longer enslaved to sin (6:6-7); it reflects confidence in the life in Christ that will never end (6:8-10); and it is the basis of the daily mortification of the flesh (6:11-14).

I thought that was interesting and plan to study it further when I have more time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Dinosaur and the Dodo Bird

Recently we made a trip to Glen Rose, Texas, including Creation Evidence Museum, Dinosaur Valley State Park and Dinosaur World. Glen Rose is probably best known for and associated with dinosaurs by outsiders. The Creation Evidence Museum story of dinosaurs promotes a biblical worldview of creation, while Dinosaur Valley State Park and Dinosaur World accept the standard evolutionary origins model.

Most everyone seems to have heard of the dodo bird, even though it was only known to live on one island in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius and has been extinct over 300 years. The dodo has suffered the indignity of perceived stupidity and was even for a time called a "scientific fraud". I've always joked that we have pretty well survived the extinction of the dodo bird and are none the worse for it, but in a way its extinction is a sad commentary on human interaction with the rest of God's creation. In 1977 University of Wisconsin ornithologist Stanley Temple claimed that the extinction of the dodo bird was responsible for the near extinction of the tambalacoque tree in Mauritius -- theorizing that the seeds of the tambalacoque germinated only after passing through the digestive system of the dodo bird. An interesting theory, it has since been proven false, though it still finds much press as the truth.

An interesting recent development in the study of the dinosaur is the discovery of "soft tissue" (blood cells and blood vessels). Since most modern scientists reject creation and a young earth, and since the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil with the soft tissue was dated at 70 million years, and and since biochemical decay rates do not allow for findings of soft tissue this old, there was a dilemma. Mary Schweitzer, the paleontologist who made the discovery, stated: "Finding these tissues in dinosaurs changes the way we think about fossilization, because our theories of how fossils are preserved don't allow for this." Evolutionary scientists, including Schweitzer, complain that her "research has been hijacked by 'young earth' creationists, who insist that dinosaur soft tissue couldn’t possibly survive millions of years." A statement of paleontologist Thomas Holtz Jr. (University of Maryland) shows how evolutionary scientists dogmatically approach the matter. He says that Schweitzer’s work is "showing us we really don’t understand decay." They are only willing to ask the decay question -- not the age of the earth question! That invokes too many problems for their well-set theories. Some people act as if scientists and paleontologists* are neutral arbiters of nature's truths, with no agendas or presuppositions. This simply isn't true. They can be driven by frame of reference, feelings, folly, fame and fortune.

Illustrative of such states of mind is the 19th century "Bone Wars" competition between paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel C. Marsh. Among other things, the Bone Wars gave us the well-beloved Brontosaurus. It is "alive and well" today, even though it never actually existed and hasn't been recognized by paleontologists for well over 100 years!

"Nebraska Man" was not only a case of mistaken identity, but also of scientific bluster and braggadocio. In short Nebraska Man was a possible human ancestor identified on the basis of a tooth found in Nebraska in 1917. Though found by another, Henry F. Osborn made the identification, though within the decade the ID was retracted when it was discovered to be was a peccary/wild pig tooth. Osborn engaged in gleeful repartee with William Jennings Bryan and even "suggested mockingly, the animal should have been named Bryopithecus 'after the most distinguished Primate which the State of Nebraska has thus far produced'." [Bryan was from Nebraska. Osborn was engaged to testify on behalf of John Scopes and evolution at the Scopes Monkey Trial (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes). Bryan was engaged in the prosecution. Before the trial began, Osborn went quiet about Nebraska Man and opted out of testifying.]

David R. Herhey investigated "The Widespread Misconception that the Tambalacoque or Calvaria Tree Absolutely Required the Dodo Bird for its Seeds to Germinate" and reported his findings in Plant Science Bulletin, Volume 50, Number 4, Winter 2004. His "Lessons From The Dodo-Tambalacoque Myth" provide welcome advice to our "dinosaur approach" as well.
1. Peer review in even the most prestigious journals, such as Science, sometimes fails and results in flawed articles being published. Therefore, readers should retain a healthy scientific skepticism even for published articles. Rigorously, but objectively, evaluate the experiments and arguments that the author(s) makes.
2. Once a flawed, but appealing, hypothesis is published in a prestigious scientific journal, it may have tremendous staying power even when rebutted in print.
3. Scientific articles sometimes lack the required scientific objectivity and try to provide only support for an hypothesis and ignore contrary evidence or alternative hypothesis.
I'm no scientist, but I don't have to believe something just because scientists say so. According to evolution, I should be able to eat worms and bang my head against a tree every day, and in a billion or so years my descendants could become human woodpeckers. According to common sense, I'd die of head trauma and intestinal problems and my descendants would politely pronounce my eccentricity and quietly go about their human choices.

* Scientists who study the fossil record

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lord's Supper guarded least in the church

Intriguing thought on the Lord's Supper guarded least in the church by Matt Wade:
I was thinking today (yes, believe it or not) and it occurred to me that most churches that hold to close or open communion place more restrictions on who can sing in their church than on who can partake in the Lord's Supper. It seems odd to me that churches will not allow members of their own church to sing (because they require auditions, etc.) yet these churches will allow any person walking in off the street to partake in the Lord's Supper.
Should our microphones be more closely guarded than the Lord's Supper?

Baptist history vindicated, and other links

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

  • Baptist History Vindicated -- "At this juncture of time the providence of God brought to this city one Mr. Canne, a baptized man; it was that Mr. Canne that made notes and references upon the Bible."
  • Brief History of the SBC Conservative Resurgence -- "Officials and trustees were often defensive, obstructive, even deceptive in dealing with doctrinal concerns."
  • Greek Nuggets or Fool's Gold? -- "Bible believers are constantly bombarded by Greek experts, who claim to have special insight to the hidden nuggets of the Greek N.T."
  • Historical Take on Baptism -- "Baptism is never described in the Bible as the ‘seal’ of anything."
  • Notes on London’s Oldest Baptist Church -- "In spite of all the [Kiffen Manuscript] has passed through it is still very reliable. The KM says nothing to discredit John Spilsbury, William Kiffen or Paul Hobson and the first three Particular Baptist churches formed in the 1630s."
  • Original Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention -- "We, the delegates from Missionary Societies, Churches, and other religious bodies of the Baptist Denomination, in various parts of the United States, met in Convention, in the city of Augusta, Georgia..."
  • Philadelphia Baptist Association, Circular Letter, 1808 -- "Again, the term Church is thoughtlessly applied to every body of people in the world who profess the Christian name, whether they stand in the truth of Christ or not..."
  • Pilgram Marpeck: ExposĂ© of the Babylonian Whore -- "But no one may coerce or compel true faith in Christ, for it is concerned not with temporal but eternal life."
  • Seven Summits Worth Climbing in Church History: Balthasar Hubmaier -- "Though born into the peasant class, Hubmaier grew to be called the “Doctor of Anabaptism” in recognition of his educational attainments under the famous Roman Catholic apologist, Eck of Ingolstadt."
  • The Baptism of Jesus -- "If John's baptism was not Christian: - The Christ was without Christian baptism.
  • The Baptism of the Holy Spirit -- "...the same Spirit influences all nations to yield an obedience to the instituted appointments of Jesus Christ, and so come into the union of the body the church."
  • The Controversy -- "...in the 20th century for the first time, the integrity of the Scripture began to be questioned in the upper echelons of Southern Baptist educational and denominational life in stark contrast to the millions of Southern Baptists in the pews every Sunday."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Customs of Primitive Churches, Eldresses

PROP. XIII. Of the office of eldresses.

XIII. The office of eldresses hath foundation in scripture and antiquity. It is to be exercised only among the women. It consists in praying, and teaching in their separate assemblies; presiding there for maintenance of rules and government; consulting with the sisters about matters of the church which concern them, and representing their sense thereof to the elders; attending at the unction of sick sisters; and at the baptism of sisters, that all may be done orderly. The process by which they are put in the office may be like that of the teaching elders viz. by choice of the church &c. Their manner of performing the office is laboriously. They are to be veiled when they preach or pray, especially if men be sent to their assemblies. Their reward is honour, and maintenance. Their qualifications are specified by Paul.

1. The office hath foundation is scripture, Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father--the elder women [Gk. eldresses] as mothers. Tim. v. 1, 2. If the word elders, in the first verse, refers to office and not age. the term eldresses must do the same in the second verse. It is likely the same word refers to office in Tit. ii. 3. The preaching and praying women mentioned in Rom. xvi, 1 Cor. xi, Phil. iv, also those widows mentioned in 1 Tim. v. to be understood of these eldresses.
2. Antiquity is in favour of the office; for by a council held at Laodicea it appears, not only that eldresses were in the church but that, theretofore, they had been put in the office by ordination.
3. They are to exercise their office only among their own sex. That there were teaching women is plain from, Rom. xvi, 1 Cor. xi, Phil. iv, Rev. ii. 20; that the office was to continue, appears by the directions given how such women are to behave, 1 Cor. xi. 5 &c. But in the church they were not allowed to exercise their gifts, 1 Cor. xiv 34, 35, 1 Tim. 2. 9-12. Therefore at the religious assemblies of women. That there were such assemblies is plain from Act. 16. 13, ch. xii. 12, for from ver. 17 it is probable there were no brethren at the meeting of prayer held at the house of Mary. The church of Thyatira is not blamed for suffering a woman to teach, but for suffering a bad woman to teach bad doctrines. The Quakers, Methodists, &c. have, in effect, eldresses to this day. We only blame the former for suffering them to preach and pray in the church, and that unveiled.
4. Their office consists (1) In praying 1 Cor. xi. 4 Every woman that prayeth &c. ver. 13 Is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 1 Tim. v. 5 A widow indeed continueth in prayer night and day. (2) Teaching. Every woman that prophesieth with her head uncovered, &c. Those women which laboured with me in the gospel, Phil. iv. 3. Persis which laboured much in the Lord. Rom. xvi. 12. Suffer not a woman to teach in the church. 1 Tim. ii. 12. 1 Cor. xiv. 34. Rev. ii. 20. Tit. ii. 3. (3) To preside in womens meetings for maintenance of rules, &c. Therefore they, like the ruling elders, are called helpers. Rom. xvi. 3. (4) To consult with them about church matters that concern them, and represent their sense to the elders; for as they must keep silence in the church, reason would that they have the necessary liberty elsewhere. (5) To attend the elders at the unction of sick women; and at the baptism of women Jam. v. 14. 1 Cor. xiv. 40.
5. They are to be put in office by the election of the church, &c. Let not a widow be taken [or as in the margin, chosen] into the number &c. This signifies a choice to office; [for] helpless widows that want many of the qualifications might and ought to be taken into the number of pensioners.
6. Their manner of performing the office is (1) Laboriously, Women which laboured in the gospel Phil iv. 3. Rom. xvi. 12. (2) With their heads veiled or covered when they pray or preach 1 Cor. xi. 5, 13, and when any messengers from the church are in their assemblies. 1 Cor. xi. 10 Because of the angels viz, the messengers, as the same word is elsewhere translated, 2 Cor. viii. 23.
7. Their reward is (1) Honour, Honour widows that are widows indeed 1 Tim. v. 3. (2) Maintenance,  Let not the church be charged that it may relieve them that are widows indeed, 1 Tim. v. 16.
8. Their qualifications are specified. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse 1 Tim. v. 9-11.
9. We have not seen the ordination of an eldress but reckon the process should be as similar to that of an elder as the case will bear. See prop. xii. 

Customs of Primitive Churches, Morgan Edwards, pages 41-42