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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Academia may be beyond satire, 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.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Customs of Primitive Churches, Of the word church

PROP. I. II. Of the word church.

I. The word church which occurs so often in the english testament is allowed to have been formed from Κυριου Οικοσ, and therefore does not necessarily signify more than a “house dedicated to the Lord;” but the original word Εκκλhσια (coming from Εκκaλομαι to be called out) must of necessity refer to persons, and not to a building, viz. to an “assembly of persons met together in pursuance to some call.”

1. The above word εκκλεσια even in the gospel is applied to various forms of assemblie; as (1) To a court of judicature. It shall be determined in a lawful assembly [Gr. in a lawful church] Act xix. 39. (2) To an assembly of tradesmen of like occupation. The assembly [Gr. the church] was confused &c. He dismissed the assembly [Gr. the church] &c. Act xix. 32. 41. (3) To the host of Israel in the desert, The church in the wilderness. Act vii. 38. (4) To a christian assembly: of which more hereafter.
2. The etymology of the word renders an application of it to a building improper, though custom hath reconciled the impropriety. By the writers of the Newtestament it is never so applied; in I Cor. ix. 18. 22. it refers to the people rather than their place of worship. The heathen temples, which our translators read churches in Act xix. 37, are expressed by a very different word in the original.

II. Church, in the gospel, properly means all the elect or that mystical body whereof Christ is the head and Saviour: but because this body is divided into those already in heaven; those now on earth; and those not yet called: and because also those now on earth are subdivided into distinct and separate societies it hath so come to pass that the whole, the parts and subdivisions are styled churches with the following epithets of distinction, catholic, triumphant, militant, invisible, particular.

1. The church catholic means all of the human race that have been, are, and shall be saved. And this vast body may be styled the church, or assembly of outcalled, because, in the purpose of God they are all called out of the world and gathered together in heaven, whom he did predestinate them he called-them he glorified, Rom viii. 30. Mr. Downham reckons up eleven texts which speak of this universal church. He gave him to be head-to the church-which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all, Eph. i. 22, 23. iii. 21. v. 23, 32. Act ii. 47. Col. i. 18, 24. This body is divided into three parts; whereof,
2. The first is called the church triumphant, meaning all the saints who are already in heaven. The church of the firstborn-in heaven-the spirits of just men made perfect. Heb. xii. 23
3. The second part is called the church militant, meaning all the saints on earth. There are about nine passages which refer to this church. Upon this rock will I build my church, &c. Math. xvi. 18. Act. viii. 3. 1 Cor. x. 32. xii. 28. iv. 9. Gal. i. 13. Eph. iii. 10. Phil. iii. 6. I Tim. iii. 15.
4. The third part is called the church invisible, meaning all the church not yet called.
5. The second of the above parts is again divided into innumerable little distinct and separate societies, each of which is called a particular church. Of this sort of church frequent mention is made in the gospel; and is the church wherewith the following sheets have to do. Some of the passages that relate to it are these. Tell it unto the church. Matth. xviii. 17. If the whole church be come together in one place, I Cor. xiv. 23. The church in their house, Rom. xvi. 5. I Cor. xvi. 19. The church in thine house, Phile. 2. The church in Jerusalem. Act. viii. 1. The church at Antioch. Act xiii. 1. The church in Babylon, I Pet. v. 13. The church in Ephesus, Rev. ii. 1. The church in Smyrna, ver. 8. The church in Pergamos, ver. 12. The church in Thyatira, ver. 18. The church in Sardis, ch. iii. 1. The church in Philadelphia, ver. 7. The church in Laodicea, ver. 14. The churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria, Act ix. 31. All the churches of the saints, 1 Cor. xiv. 33. Here follows Dr. Goodwin’s definition of a particular church.

PROP. III. IV Of the distinctions and definitions of a church.

III. “A particular church is a company of saints assembling together in one place, built by a special covenant into one distinct body which, as occasion is, is to be fitly ordered to enjoy constant fellowship with Christ, in all his ways and ordinances, to their own mutual edification and the glory of God through he Spirit.”

1. The above definition does not make a sufficient difference between a church essential and a church complete: the former is but a mere fraternity; the latter is a fraternity duly officered. Nor does it make a proper difference between a church absolute as on the independent plan; and a church subordinate as on the episcopal and presbyterian platforms. We therefore add the following definition which refers to an independent and complete church.
2. “It is a company of persons called by the gospel, and statedly meeting in one place for the exercises of the christian religion; who are so confederate among themselves as to be one body, distinct from all other bodies of the like-or of different sort; and so impowered and authorized, as to be sufficient of themselves to manage their own church affairs, so as to obtain the end of a church.”

Customs of Primitive Churches, Morgan Edwards, pages 3-4

The means of the word, ordinances and prayer

"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened." -- The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, 14:1

Sunday, January 29, 2017

In those days came John the Baptist

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John...And Herod sent, and beheaded John in the prison. (John 1:6; Matthew 14:10)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

8 great smarts, and other reviews

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Do not have your concert first, 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.)

"Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards." -- Hudson Taylor


"Great ideas that become nothing more than interesting are little more than entertainment." -- Fred Smith, Sr.


"While the lives of all other founders of religions reveal to us men who sought after truth and strove to attain religious insight, the life of Jesus Christ alone reveals the God of love and righteousness seeking to save fallen humanity." -- J. N. Geldenhuys


"Disappointment gives us the opportunity to know ourselves much better than success does." -- Fred Smith, Sr.


"There is no known law of nature, no known process, and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter." -- Dr. Werner Gitt


"We don't need to re-write the Bible; we need to re-read it." -- attributed to Lester Roloff


"Religious liberty is either universal or phantasmal." -- Bart Barber


 "I can explain it to you; I can't comprehend it for you." -- Ed Koch


"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." -- Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Every Baptist’s hat is his own church." -- old saying

"Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve." -- Tom Landry

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bible reading ease (or not)

Last week I posted about difficulty reading the Bible. The post contained links to Bible Gateway's and Mardel Book Store's attempts at defining the reading level difficulty of various Bible translations. I was able to contact and receive a response from Bible Gateway’s Customer Support. They replied, “We got the reading levels/ages from information provided by the publishers of the various translations.” In other words, The Lockman Foundation supplied the reading levels for the NASB, Thomas Nelson for the NKJV, Biblica for the NIV and NIrV, and so on. Bible Gateway was not sure what method or methods the publishers used to determine the reading levels, or whether the publishers used the same method. In addition the information may be colored by the publishers’ own sense of promotion.

Three years ago, I wrote about Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Levels Tests and Bible versions. I concluded that the Flesch-Kincaid tests actually tell us very little about comparing actual readability of various Bible versions. I cannot respond specifically to the Bible version reading levels provided by Bible Gateway and Mardel, since I am unable to determine how they arrived at their comparisons. If one publisher uses a different method than another publisher, we are not even “comparing apples to apples.” According to the featured reading levels, the New International Readers Version is “generally accessible” for 3rd graders and can be “fully read" and understood at age 7 and up. On the other hand, the Common English Bible is “generally accessible” for 7th graders and can be “fully read” and understood at age 12 and up, while the King James Bible is “generally accessible” for 12th graders and can be “fully read” and understood at age 17 and up. Regardless of supposed “scientific method” there is a certain amount of subjectivity and distortion in reaching these conclusions. For example, in promoting his NIrV, executive editor Ronald F. Youngblood wrote “...the children’s Bibles now available have all been evaluated at a fourth-grade reading level or higher.” Yet the Bible Gateway material lists two editions other than the NIrV that have the same readability. In considering the topic we will focus on the New International Readers Version.

Purpose
The NIrV was a simplification of the already-existing New International Version. This Bible version (the NIrV) was “developed to enable early readers to understand God’s message.” The project was conducted by the International Bible Society (now Biblica). According to the executive editor of the NIrV, their goal was to produce a Bible at a 3.5 level (third grade, fifth month). The complete NIrV (Old & New Testaments) was first published in 1996, but perhaps has not caught a lot of attention until now. It was released in an updated form in 2014. Promotional materials identify it as “the ideal choice for children and adults who are learning to read, adults who are unacquainted with the Bible, and readers for whom English is a second language.”

On the surface the stated goal of making the Bible easier to understand seems a commendable endeavor. We want everyone to understand the Bible, right? William Tyndale, pioneer of English Bible translation, is often brought to the bar to testify. He supposedly told a Roman cleric, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”[i] This however does not demonstrate that Tyndale wanted a translation that grade-schoolers could read. He wanted a translation accessible to those who did not read or speak Latin. His statement should not be equated with the concept followed by such bibles as the ICBNCV, and NIrV. The work of Tyndale and other Bible translators was originally intended to provide the Scriptures to the people of the world in their own languages. Now American Bible publishers try to tap every available market from toddler to slang to Klingon!

The proliferation of English Bibles can’t be explained by citing the simple desire to have an accurate readable translation. Bible Gateway has 55 English Bibles alone – 52 complete Bibles and 3 New Testaments. There must be something else operating under the surface.

Considerations
The idea of creating a 3rd grade reading level Bible is built on a false premise. Its arrival is a symptom of our modernity and individualism. It removes edification and accountability from the community of faith. Certainly we should study the Bible alone, but we must study together as God’s people (Acts 17:11). It pridefully wishes to never ask the question of the eunuch of Ethopia “How can I (understand it), except some man guide me?” Rather than a Bible “developed to enable early readers to understand God’s message” perhaps we should return to Christian parents reading the Bible to their children and guiding them in the understanding of it (Deuteronomy 6:7; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15).

Those who focus on grade reading level and reading ease should take their cue from the reading and maturity level of the original writings. Though none seem to speak of it, it seems fairly obvious that Moses and Joshua, Isaiah and Daniel, James, John and Paul did not write to an eight year old audience. Even the NIrV translation of 2 Peter 3:16 acknowledges that “Paul writes…some things that are hard to understand.” Merely composing short sentences with simple words will not substitute for the experience needed by those who “have trained themselves to tell the difference between good and evil.” (For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14)

Bibles like the NIrV simply can’t deliver what they promise. I’m nearly 60 years old, but when I read Exodus 28:17 or Leviticus 11:19 in the NIrV,[ii] I have to pull out a dictionary or other study helps to determine what carnelian, chrysolite, beryl and hoopoes are. (And since I’m nearly 60 years old, I may have to pull it out again the next time I read it!) No matter how much one changes, simplifies and interprets,[iii] there will always be things in the text that are hard to understand.

Simple words and grammar are not the main problem of understanding the Bible, though many would like to reduce it to that. It is a spiritual issue. It is a book unlike any other. It is a spiritual book that is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:11-14). Yes, we need to study words and grammar, but an atheist can comprehend words and grammar – and sometimes do so at a higher level than many Christians. To understand the Bible we need the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth. We cannot, we must not, decide there is some better way!

See also



[i] Ironically, promoters of easy-reading expect us to be able to understand what Tyndale said.
[ii] Exodus 28:17 (NIrV) Put four rows of valuable jewels on it. Put carnelian, chrysolite and beryl in the first row. Leviticus 11:19 (NIrV) They also include storks, hoopoes, bats and all kinds of herons.
[iii] One weakness of the NIrV and other “simplified” Bibles is that in order to achieve the desired for simplicity interpretation is supplied in place of translation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

California Digital Newspaper Collection, 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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Critical Text

The Critical Text is a concept, a theoretical Greek text of the New Testament constructed from various sources. The notion is to draw from ancient Greek manuscripts and their variants to construct a text of what the editors believe is the most accurate wording.

In 1881 B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort printed their reconstructed New Testament, which became known as the Critical Text. They placed special emphasis on two 4th-century manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. This Critical Text (with its updates and revisions) has become the most popular Greek text today. Its early form was the basis for the English Revised Version and American Standard Version translations. More recently it has been the basis for the Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, the New International Version, as well as most other modern translations of the Bible.

Merrill M. Parvis (University of Chicago Divinity School, Emory University, et al.) explains, "We have reconstructed text-types and families and sub families and in so doing have created things that never before existed on earth or in heaven. We have assumed that manuscripts reproduced themselves according to the Mendelian law. But when we have found that a particular manuscript would not fit into any of our nicely constructed schemes, we have thrown up our hands and said that it contained a mixed text." (Parvis, in "The Nature and Task of New Testament Textual Criticism," The Journal of Religion, XXXII (1952), 173, as quoted by Wilbur N. Pickering in The Identity of the New Testament Text II, page 21)

The gist is this. The Critical Text as constructed had no historical existence. It is a combination of variant readings from various manuscripts. Its existence as a single text came to fruition in the mind of the redactors. Only after it was put together on paper did it become an historical reality. In contrast to the Critical Text, the Byzantine text-form demonstrably existed for over 1,000 years and has been in constant usage by the Greek-speaking church during that period. (See, for example, New Testament Textual Criticism: The Case for Byzantine Priority by Maurice A. Robinson; "...the Byzantine Textform is the form of text which is known to have predominated in the Greek-speaking world from at least the fourth century until the invention of printing in the sixteenth century.")

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Strength of this Country by Shane Wootten

The following was written by Shane Wootten of DeKalb County, Alabama and posted on Facebook on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017. It is shared here with his permission.
Today we inaugurate a new president, some of us voted for him, some of us voted against him, and some of us did not vote. Regardless of which category we fall into, he is now our president. In four years we will again inaugurate a president, and four years later another president will be inaugurated, and so on. Yes, each president will make their mark on the future of this country. Some marks will be small and some could be large, some will be considered an improvement and some will be considered a step in the wrong direction. That is the way it has been throughout the history of this country and it's worked out pretty well for us. We are privileged to be citizens of the greatest country on earth, we aren't perfect but we continuously strive to be better. Ultimately the strength of this country is found in the American people, not in the president. Whether we supported the new president or not, let us all work together to make this country better tomorrow than it is today. Let us love our neighbors, let us help each other when we are in need of help, let us encourage each other when we are in need of encouragement, and most of all let us resist the temptation to hate each other no matter what our differences.
We the people can make this country strong, but we the people can also make this country weak. The question is: What are we going to do? What are you going to do? Are we going to let a president or the political parties or the media continue to divide us? Are we going to continue taunting each other with Facebook posts and memes? Are we going to continue demoralizing people because of the way they voted in the presidential election? Or are we going to resist the urge to inflame the divisions that we have and try harder to understand each other? Are we going to strive to be better?
I choose to continue to strive to be better, I hope you choose the same. Yes, I will fail at times but when I do I pray that I will realize my failures so that I can learn from them and do better the next time.
God Bless America, ALL of America!!

Walk by one and the same Rule

"...although the particular congregation be distinct and several bodies, every one a compact and knit city in itself; yet are they all to walk by one and the same Rule, and by all means convenient to have the counsel and help one of another in all needful affairs of the church, as members of one body in the common faith under Christ their only Head." -- Article 47, London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1644

Sunday, January 22, 2017

3 days and 3 nights

A suggested timeline of the crucifixion and resurrection events, which I developed about 30 years ago:

Friday, January 20, 2017

50 crazy laws, 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.

Trump-ettes

Like 44 presidents before him, Donald Trump has been elected as President of the United States under the rules of the Constitution. The people elected electors, who elected Trump, whose votes were certified by the Congress. He is the legitimate POTUS regardless of who says otherwise and whether you or I like it. He will be inaugurated today, regardless of all the flap, boycotting and backlash concerning it. The most odious expression to me is the many who are not satisfied to boycott Trump's inauguration -- they must also bully those who have chosen not to do so. Let and let live, I say.

Anyway, thought these "Trump-ettes" might be interesting to some readers:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

You can't legislate morality

How many times have you heard it? How many times have you agreed?

"You can't legislate morality" is a misunderstanding and myth which the majority of people in the U.S. seem to have bought into. It is a misunderstanding and miscalculation on the part of some, in that they propose that laws can't actually make or keep people moral (which is true). It is a myth and misrepresentation on the part of others in that they discourage and oppose laws they do not like, based on their so-called "universal truth" that "you can't legislate morality". 

The fact is that laws by their very nature declare some behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong. Therefore, law in its nature and purpose correlates to the definition of morality. Morality is "a particular system of values and principles of conduct, the distinction between right and wrong." What happens in practice is not whether we legislate morality -- it is a question of whose morality we legislate! All laws are designed to encourage and discourage certain behaviour by citizens. They include penalties for citizens who do not accept/follow those behaviours. The government and law isn't neutral on issues like murder, theft, assault and rape -- they take a moral stand. Most everyone wants that kind of morality legislated! When law is enforced and crime is punished -- a manner of morality has been legislated.

"You can't legislate morality" has a modicum of truth with an  elephantine edifice of error erected upon it. The shaky foundation cannot support the weight. Let it fall.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Difficult reading?

Here are a few thoughts on reading the Bible, evoked by readers who feel that the King James Bible is difficult to read and therefore use something else.
  • On the one hand are the mischief-makers. These generally disrespect the King James Bible and may often claim it is written in another language we cannot understand. The radical KJV-onlyists no doubt incite some of this behaviour, but intelligent folks should not make such false claims, regardless of the reason. (Interestingly, some of these who claim to be unable to read 1611 KJV would have us know they are reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew!) Of course, the type and fonts are different from modern type -- see this facsimile (in a reduced size) of the Bible published in 1611 -- but it is not unreadable to anyone of average intelligence.
  • On the other hand are the considerate. These generally respect the King James Bible and make amicable concessions about it while still deferring to some other version on the ground that the KJV is harder to read and harder to understand than modern translations. They sometimes are like those who treat the elderly with respect, while assuming they have nothing to learn from them.
To the mischief-makers I say: If you are so dull that you cannot read a 1611 English Bible (difficult though it might be), I cannot respect your intelligence to make any other claims at all about this or any other Bibles.

To the considerate I say:
  1. Overcome the difficulty and read it anyway. Any serious Bible translation has some things that are difficult from the standpoint of English language (though some obviously more so), as well difficult from the point of human understanding. It is worth the effort.
  2. Embrace the difference you see and hear. Even though I am a committed KJV user, I listen every morning on KHCB radio to Max McLean's "Listen to the Bible" (NIV). The differences I hear catch my attention and make me think more deeply. A. T. Roberson said that “The very words of the English become so familiar that they slip through the mind too easily.” It’s true, and at times we need a shake-up from that familiarity. The differences you find in the KJV will get your attention.
  3. Savor the distinction of the singular and plural pronouns. Our modern English has lost the distinction of "you" and "you" and the KJV affords the Bible reader the best opportunity to discover it as we read the Bible. Many may discover this distinction when studying, but often miss it while reading.

Side note: What are the reading levels of the Bibles on Bible Gateway? and Mardel Book Store Bible Translation Guide are two attempts at defining the reading level difficulty of various Bible translations.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Clear-cut political suicide

“It would be political suicide to give that speech,” said an aide to his boss.

“He’s right, Senator,” chimed in another aide, “It’s just one clear-cut statement after another.”

(Morrie Brickman, in the Reader’s Digest, April, 1983)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Roman Road to Salvation

What is the Roman Road (or Romans Road) to salvation? According to GotQuestions.org, “The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news of salvation using verses from the Book of Romans.” This is a popular method used by Christian witnesses to “lead the lost down the Romans Road map to salvation.” The method is a basic presentation using, usually, six or seven texts from the book of Romans.

The “Roman Road” verses, as often presented:
  • We are all sinners (Romans 3:10,23).
  • The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
  • Jesus paid for sin on the cross (Rom. 5:8).
  • Salvation comes by faith, confessing with our mouths and believing in our hearts (Romans 10:9,10).
  • Call on the Lord/pray for salvation and get saved (Romans 10:13).
I recently noticed someone call attention to the fact that this “Roman Road” method was created and coined by Fundamental Baptist pastor Jack Hyles. In his June 1970 sermon There Remaineth Yet Very Much Land to Be Possessed Hyles recalls it this way:
“By the way, you folks who don’t come on Wednesday night don’t know this, but about twenty-two years ago, in a little East Texas Church, I came up with a little plan of presenting the plan of salvation called ‘The Roman Road’ whereby you take Verses contained in Romans and show people how to be saved using Romans 3:10, and Romans 3:23, and Romans 5:12, and Romans 5:8, and on and on. I termed it, ‘The Roman Road,’ and from the ‘Roman Road’ I wrote the little book, Let’s Go Soul Winning. Over one hundred and thirty-five thousand copies of that book have been printed. It has been translated into several foreign languages: Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, French, and others, and has literally gone around the world.”
He further stated, “Just before he left Japan and retired, Douglas MacArthur got a copy of the ‘Roman Road to Salvation’ that we started in 1948 or 1949 in East Texas…”

I have searched and as yet have not found any reason to doubt Jack Hyles’s claim that he came up with the “Roman Road” plan of presenting the plan of salvation. As best I can determine, Hyles must have been attending East Texas Baptist University in Marshall and pastoring Grange Hall Baptist Church at the time this happened.* It also appears accurate that he based the plan in his book Let’s Go Soul Winning on “The Roman Road”. Here is part of what he writes:
I contend that you can be a soul winner if you don’t know a single verse of Scripture, if you can draw a map in your Bible to tell yourself where to go. All you need do is find Romans 3:10 and you won’t have to know a single verse of Scripture. Right beside Romans 3:10, write the next verse to tell you where to go in your Bible. Actually what you do is draw yourself a little road map in your Bible to explain where to go next.
First, turn to Romans 3:10. That is all you have to remember. Underline the verse. Beside it write 3:23. After you have read Romans 3:10, it tells you where to go next. Now turn to Romans 3:23. Underline that verse and beside that write 5:12. Turn to 5:12 and underline 5:12 and write beside it 6:23. Underline 6:23 and beside it write 5:8. Underline 5:8 and write beside it 10:9-13.  Now that is a map for you. You don’t have to know a single verse of Scripture to be a soul winner if you draw a map in your Bible. You follow the map until you learn the Scriptures. Of course, as you go along, you will learn many other Scriptures that will help, but these are the basic ones.
Let’s Go Soul Winning: Step-By-Step Lessons in How to Win a Soul to Christ by Jack Hyles (First Printing: April, 1962; First Electronic Printing: May, 1994)
All the verses used in the “Roman Road” are Bible truths. The tactics used by certain soul-winners when presenting the “Roman Road” are unethical at best and fiendish at worst. Nevertheless, I thought it interesting to find this tidbit of history concerning the beginning of “The Roman Road to Salvation.” If anyone knows of this method and name occurring before Jack Hyles, I would be glad to know of it.

* Note: Jack Hyles’s pastorates in East Texas were Marris Chapel Baptist Church (aka Morris Chapel) of Bogata, Texas, Grange Hall Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, and Southside Baptist Church of Henderson, Texas. The latter two still exist as Southern Baptist churches. I am not sure about the first. From what I found online, 1949 seems to be about the time he was at Grange Hall.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

An unguarded strength, 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.)

"An unguarded strength is a dual weakness." -- Oswald Chambers ("Unguarded strength is actually a double weakness, because that is where the least likely temptations will be effective in sapping strength." From My Utmost For His Highest)

"Hollywood actors and star singers seem to be filled with an inflated sense of their own importance that leads them to opine on the liberal causes they champion." -- Dave Miller

"A perpetual learner is the best teacher." -- Fred Smith, Sr.

"It isn't fair...the caterpillar does all the work, and the butterfly gets all the glory." -- George Carlin (George, you whiner, you)

"You either get better or you get worse — you don’t stay the same." -- Peyton Manning

"The preacher should be with his time as the miser is with his gold—saving it with care, and spending it with caution." -- “An old writer” (unidentified)

"This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilisations which disregard it." -- G. K. Chesterton

"Some people can brighten up a room simply by leaving it!" -- copied

"Do you sometimes feel like you missed plan A for your life. Perhaps you feel you are on plan F or G. I say, Praise God for a big alphabet and press on!" -- George Verwer

"Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks." -- credited to Bob Jones, Sr., and others

"If [Southern] “elected leaders should proportionally reflect the constituents they represent,” then we should have about 75% or more of our leaders that have NO idea what they really believe and and a great percentage who are not even saved. Now that is REALITY and that should be the focus of our prayers and efforts!" -- Written by a Southern Baptist using the initials H.B.

“The only consistent arminian is an open theist.” -- James R. White

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Viewed by the eye of faith

"Viewed by the eye of faith, blessings in providence come down from heaven steeped in mercy. And yet how short, oh, how infinitely short do these temporal blessings, which perish in the using, fall of spiritual blessings, which endure for evermore! A striking proof of this is that when we are privileged to draw near to a throne of grace with some measure of faith and feeling, the heart’s desire is wholly towards spiritual blessings; and the eye of the soul is so wholly and solely fixed upon them, that there is scarcely left place either in the heart or lips to ask for any other." -- J. C. Philpot

Friday, January 13, 2017

Denominations, Denominations, Denominations

Roger E. Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, will be the editor of the next (14th) edition of the Handbook of Denominations. This book has served me as a good resource over the years. If you want to stay abreast of the numerous denominations in the United States, I recommend it to you for that purpose. I believe that Olson will make a great addition as editor. Here are some of his writings on the topic of "Denominations," generally.

Note: Don't be confused. The Amazon link above is to the 13th edition, which is currently available, rather than the upcoming 14th edition. I just linked that as an illustration of the book.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Credit Card Giving

Because fewer people are carrying cash or writing checks, Green Acres Baptist Church of Tyler, Texas (and an innumerable host of other churches) are devising new and unique ways to obtain their contributions. At Green Acres, in addition to “offering receptacles…situated at most entrances,” ways to give include Apps for iOS and Android, text, online, and mail. Further, “Giving Centers are located in the Worship Center and CrossWalk foyers. These electronic kiosks accept credit and debit card contributions.”

For one reason or another, this can be shocking to us “old-timers,” while many youngsters may be wondering, “What took you so long?” On the other hand it brings about a sincere question from both young and old, “Should a church offer its attendees the option of using a credit card instead of just ‘passing the plate’?” What is the answer?

First, “giving via plastic” is not inherently wrong – no more so writing a check or giving a “Federal Reserve Note” drawn on the United States of America. So if it is not wrong, not sinful, shouldn’t we move full steam ahead? Or should we?

While this offers a convenience for those who are giving anyway, I think this should be a “road less travelled.” Two reasons I recommend we leave this alone are:
  • Credit card giving encourages debt giving. Perhaps not deliberately so – many churches’ online giving pages warn against going in debt – but practically so, by holding out the ease of access and temptation to give what one does not have (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:11-12). When a person falls to the temptation, isn’t the church “bidding God-speed” – playing a part in another person’s financial irresponsibility?
  • Credit card giving enforces the perception that churches are “all about money.” Online giving instructions mentioned on a church’s web page may be unobtrusive enough, but giving centers placed all around a church’s facilities reminds visitors of the not-so-subtle push to fund the ministries of the church.
The primary argument for “credit card giving” is convenience. One church’s deacon said, “I rarely have more than a few bucks in my wallet. I don’t use checks. It is an easy way not to forget to give.” Another asked, “Why not make it easy for people to give?” The church sells it on convenience and the congregation buys it. They want and like the convenience. For the church it is a practical way to be sure funds are collected. Yet that convenience and practicality are poor motives to hinder both those who cannot manage their money well and those who think the church cares more for their money than their souls. Like Paul we should not use this power (freedom, liberty), lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12).

Some few of us regard the New Testament teaching on stewardship much differently than most modern American churches. The modern American church business model moves in human procedures, forward budgeting and pledge collection. The modern American church theological model is driven by “tithes and offerings” – tithes being the 10% one must give and offerings being all one should give about that. In this model the church is the conscience, collector, depository and distributor of those “tithes and offerings.” Under the stewardship model of the New Testament, individual Christians are stewards of all that God gave them, determining – under the teaching of the Scriptures and the leadership of the Holy Spirit – how much to give to the church, how much to give elsewhere, how much to keep and how to use what is kept.

If your “credit card giving” is a matter of expedience rather than theological conviction, why not consider the leaving it alone?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Am I a Christian, 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.