Monday, June 30, 2008

Reviewing "God and Evil"

God and Evil: The Problem Solved, Gordon H. Clark. Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation. Large paperback, 48 pages, [1996] 2004, 0940931737. $5.95.

If someone has solved the "problem" of a good God and the existence of evil, I want to know it. The Trinity Foundation has so re-titled what is Chapter Five of Gordon Clark's
Religion, Reason, and Revelation to say that he did.

Who is Gordon Haddon Clark (1902-1985)? He was a preacher, author, philosopher, theologian -- and sometimes lightning rod within the Presbyterian Church. He was an educator for 60 years and author of over 40 books, including A Christian Philosophy of Education, Logic
, Essays on Ethics and Politics, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, The Johannine Logos, Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine? and The Biblical Doctrine of Man. He wrote commentaries on about 12 New Testament books.

Many Christians avoid the subject of God and evil. It is (so they say) controversial, unedifying and embarrassing (p. 12). Yet it is a serious topic that cannot be avoided. "How can the existence of God be harmonized with the existence of evil?" (p. 9) Gordon Clark, in his logical and methodical manner, sets about to tell us just that, believing the "...system known as Calvinism and expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith..." provides the answer. The words "Calvinism" and "
Westminster Confession" may put off some early on, but patience will yield some interesting fruit. In his review Darrin R. Brooker wrote, "God and Evil...sets forth the only coherent and consistent answer to the problem [of evil]." Earlier he wrote, "Quite simply, the problem only exists where there is an errant view of the character of God."

Clark first provides an historical exposition of the subject/problem, including proposed solutions of both secularists and religionists -- e.g. both good and evil deities, God is not omnipotent, there is no evil, etc. The author serves his readers by clearly defining his terms, a service at times not well performed by authors. Free will is "...the equal ability, under given circumstances, to choose either of two courses of action." (p. 15) " faced with incompatible courses of action is as able to choose any one as well as any other." Free will is not free agency (p. 31). " agency -- or natural liberty -- means that the will is not determined by physical or physiological factors." Choice is "...a mental act that consciously initiates and determines a further action. The ability to have chosen otherwise is an irrelevant matter and has no place in the definition." (p. 32) Whether the reader agrees with Clark on these definitions, he will know of what the author speaks when he uses a particular term.

One is easily swept along by Clark's logic. His presuppositions admitted, his conclusions are easily accepted. He leads the reader through the "Calvinistic system" to the ultimate question, "Is God the author of sin?" Mr. Clark posits that God IS NOT, though he is "...the sole ultimate cause of everything." (p. 38) God is not sinful. God is not responsible for sin. If anyone has come close to solving the problem, Clark has.

God and Evil is well-written and demands close attention and deep thinking on the part of the reader. It is short enough to read in one sitting. Large side-margins with large print quotes give instant eye appeal (though eventually the older reader may wish the print was larger!). Clark quotes others such as John Gill (Baptist) and Augustus Toplady (Anglican) to demonstrate he is not just espousing a Presbyterian position (p. 29, 30). The Crisis of our Time by John Robbins and a list of books available from Trinity round out the volume to 61 pages.

There are few defects in the work. At times Clark can be a little too heady toward his opposers ("If Arminians had a keener sense of logic they would not be Arminians." p. 28). I noticed one citation error. On p. 31 the text attributes a quote to Toplady while the large print quote on the side margin attributes it to Gill.

Gordon Clark's view of God and evil is well-integrated into his "system known as Calvinism," though it seems to one could embrace Clark's conclusion without adopting Calvinistic soteriology. Whatever one believes, surely Clark is right when he writes, "...the doctrine should be fully integrated with the rest of God's revelation..." (p. 35)

At some point most every God-believer wonders, "If God is all-good and if God is all-powerful, why are sin and suffering in the world?" (p. 7) Gordon Clark is either right or wrong. Regardless, this book is one of the best succinct presentations of the problem of "God and Evil". A philosophic journey on the road to understanding the relationship of God and evil should pass through this place. If your problem isn't solved, perhaps it's just begun.

A nice companion book in publication style and subject is Gordon Clark's

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Is this thy kindness to thy friend?

Is this thy kindness to thy friend.
2 Samuel 16:17 And Absalom said to Hushai, "Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?"

1 Poor, weak, and worthless though I am,
I have a rich almighty friend;
Jesus, the Savior, is his name,
He freely loves, and without end.

2 He ransomed me from hell with blood,
And by his pow'r my foes controlled;
He found me, wand'ring far from God,
And brought me to his chosen fold.

3 He cheers my heart, my wants supplies,
And says that I shall shortly be
Enthroned with him above the skies,
O! what a friend is CHRIST to me.

4 But ah! I my inmost spirit mourns,
And well my eyes with tears may swim,
To think of my perverse returns;
I've been a faithless friend to him.

5 Often my gracious Friend I grieve,
Neglect, distrust, and disobey,
And often Satan's lies believe,
Sooner than all my Friend can say.

6 He bids me always freely come,
And promises whate'er I ask:
But I am straitened, cold and dumb,
And count my privilege a task.

7 Before the world that hates his course,
My treach'rous heart has throbbed with shame;
Loth to forego the worlds applause,
I hardly dare avow his name.

8 Sure were not I most vile and base,
I could not thus my friend requite!
And were not he the God of grace,
He'd frown and spurn me from his sight.

-- John Newton
Olney Hymns, Book 1. Hymn 30, L.M.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It is said

It is said that Civil War veteran Joseph Dark instructed his family to engrave an old Irish poem on his gravestone. It reads something like this:
  Remember, friends, as you pass by,
  As you are now, so once was I;
  As I am now so you must be,
  Prepare for death and follow me.

It is also said that James Burr V Allred (Governor of Texas 1935-1939) sometimes referred to this epitaph in his talks and travels. He added:
  "To follow you I'm not content
  Until I know which way you went."

[Note: Since posting this several years ago, I have found the grave location of Major Dark and added a link.]

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tweedledee and Tweedledum

"This year's Republican primary did provide a wonderful aberration, however, to the usual choices between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Republicans had an opportunity to nominate a real American constitutionalist, a statesman in the similitude of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. That man was Texas Congressman, Ron Paul. Unfortunately, the Republican faithful seem to be incapable of discerning the marks of true greatness, not to mention fidelity to constitutional government. It is doubtful that most of them even understand what constitutional government is. And as for Christian conservatives, they can barely see any issues beyond abortion and 'gay rights'. To try and convince them to support a constitutionalist candidate is like talking to a brick wall."

From Only a miracle can save America now by Pastor Chuck Baldwin; click link for more

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Like a child at home

"There would I find my settled rest,
While others go and come,
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home."

Love it. This portion of a hymn was quoted in the article Baptism-Rebaptism by Gilbert Beebe in 1856. If anyone knows the hymn or its author I would be interested in finding it. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Does God cause man's choices?

When one biblically and theologically accepts the idea of a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, it often taxes our feeble thoughts to reconcile the idea in the human mind. One question that may come to mind is, "Does God cause man's choices?" This make take the form of wondering about all of, some of, or any of man's choices? Here are a few Bible incidents to think about.

Deuteronomy 2:26-35 And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left. Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet; (As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us. But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took.

Did God cause Sihon to choose to refuse the Israelites passage? Did He do so that He might bring judgement on Sihon and Heshbon? If so, was Sihon still responsible/accountable?

I Kings 22:20-23 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

Did God send a lying spirit to Ahab's prophets that they would prophesy falsely? Did He do so as the means of leading Ahab to his death? If so, are the prophets still responsible/accountable?

Exodus 7:13; 9:12; 10:1,2,20 And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said...And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses...And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD...But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Did God harden Pharoah's heart so that he would not agree to set Israel free, and also as an that God might bring judgement on Egypt and their gods? If so, was Pharoah still responsible/accountable? [Also, compare Psalm 105:25]

BTW, if you object to God directly causing men's choices, do you feel better about it if He instead uses means to do so? For example, Exodus 23:28 - And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. Human philosophy has created an idol called free will. To many, human free will cannot be touched by God; it has an almost independent existence. To some, more moderately, God has chosen to leave free will inviolate. The problem with either theory is that they are not consistent with the complete record of God's word. Some will admit to allowing God to cause man's actions indirectly -- as in sending hornets to change their will -- but won't allow God the right to directly or without mediation cause man's actions.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What others say

Augustus M. Toplady: "In the supernatural agency of grace on the heart, compulsion is quite excluded, be that agency ever so effectual; since the more effectually it is supposed to operate, the more certainly it must engage 'the preference of the mind'."

"The beggar incurs no merit when he opens his hands to receive a free gift." -- Ken Keathley in Salvation and the Sovereignty of God: the Great Commission as the Expression of the Divine Will

"I, for one, am fed up with this baloney, because what we are actually faced with is not the 'lesser of two evils' but 'the evil of two lessers'." -- Chuck Baldwin on voting

"No theological tradition has cornered the market on arrogance. I have been accused of it (sometimes, I fear, with very good reason). Yet there seems to be – though I’m sure that what I say here is highly fallible – an amazing quantity of it among the New Calvinists." -- Thomas McCall

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Wasted Vote

John Quincy Adams said, "Duty is ours; results are God's." Let us determine to do our duty (vote on principle) and know that God has determined the results.

Every election year, seems the pickings get slimmer and slimmer -- especially in the higher offices. Some will consider voting for a third party candidate, and will hear "Voting for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. There is no chance that person can ever be elected."

Want to hear what I think is a wasted vote?? (Possibly not, but I'll tell ya anyway). A wasted vote is a vote for a person you know does not hold anything near your principles (or doesn't have any principles). Some people call it holding their nose and voting. Voting that violates your conscience is a wasted vote. Voting for a worthless candidate who actually gets elected is the most wasted vote!!!!

This year there are a few folks I won't vote for because the chances they will be elected are too great. Wouldn't want to have that on my conscience.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cowardice, expediency, vanity and conscience

"A weasel word is a word that is intended to, or has the effect of, softening the force of a potentially loaded or otherwise controversial statement. "

"Cowardice asks the question–is it safe? Expediency asks the question–is it politic? Vanity asks the question–is it popular? But conscience asks the question–is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right." -- Martin Luther King, Jr. [bold mine]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thou Fountain of bliss

Thou Fountain of bliss, Thy smile I entreat;
O'erwhelm'd with distress I mourn at Thy feet;
The joy of salvation, when shall it be mine?
The high consultation of friendship divine!

Awakened to see the depth of my fall,
For mercy on Thee I earnestly call;
'Tis Thine the lost sinner to save and renew;
Faith's mighty Beginner and Finisher too.

Thy Spirit alone repentance implants,
And gives me to groan at feeling my wants;
'Midst all my dejection, dear Lord, I can trace
Some marks of election, some tokens of grace.

Thou will not despise a sinner distressed;
All-kind and all-wise, Thy season is best.
To Thy sovereign pleasure resigned I would be,
And tarry Thy leisure, and hope still in Thee.

Augustus Montague Toplady, (1740-1778)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Southeast Texas Singing

The Southeast Texas Sacred Harp Singing will be held (d.v.) Saturday, June 21, 2008 at the Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church on FM 1452 near Madisonville, Texas. Singing will start at 10:00 a.m. and go till around 3:00 p.m. The 1991 Revision of the Denson Sacred Harp will be used. Map at the link above.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A solemn year

June 19 marks one year that Shirley Hunt has been missing. Though absent in body, she is present in our hearts and minds.

Missing person posters for Shirley may be viewed and printed HERE, HERE and HERE.

Relatives Searching For Wife, Mother One Year Later is an article recently posted on Tyler Morning Telegraph's site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still missing

Maxine Ethington is still missing. The family has added a $10,000 reward to search. Please be on the lookout and contact the Shelbyville, Kentucky police at (502) 633-2323.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An example of sportsmanship

Touching Them All, an April 2008 softball story; a story of Sara Tucholsky (who had never hit a home run), Mallory Holtman (her school's career home run leader), "fate", a torn knee ligament, and real sportsmanship.

Thanks to Matt Gholson for calling attention to this.

A lot of years

But good ones.

June 17, 2008 around 7 p.m. marks thirty years I have been married to Miss Kimberly Hunt. Happy Anniversary.

Monday, June 16, 2008

God's foreknowledge: contingencies or definities?

How do you view God's foreknowledge? Some who believe in it seem to see it as a foreknowledge of an endless number of possibilities based on numerous choices that many different people could make. Or, IOW, not particularly a foreknowledge of exactly what will happen, but a foreknowledge of all the endless possibilities that could happen.

Let me put forth a piece of history to make the discussion concrete.

Did God foreknow that U.S. President John F. Kennedy would die Friday, November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas? Did He foreknow John F. Kennedy would be assassinated?

If your answer is no, please explain how an omniscient God could not know this.

If your answer is yes, then (1) Could John F. Kennedy have chosen not to go to Dallas on November 22, 1963? and (2) Could the assassin have chosen not to shoot President Kennedy?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thoughts on King James

...the Bible, not the man

And now, a few random comments on KJV subjects (the Bible, not the man):

In his book The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), James White provides five "KJV Only" categories: (1) those who like the KJV best, (2) those who support the KJV textually [e.g. those who "are joined by their common belief that the underlying Hebrew and Greek texts used by the King James translators are, for various reasons, superior to all other original languages."], (3) those who are Received Text only, (4) those who believe the KJV is inspired and inerrant, (5) those who believe the KJV is advanced or new revelation [e.g. Peter Ruckman]. I provide this for what it's worth in helping the reader understand there is a wide variety of supposed "KJV Only" people.

Among the fifth category of so-called "King James Only" people are some who believe most or all of the following: that the KJV was given by inspiration; that the KJV is superior to the Hebrew and Greek texts upon which it was based; that the KJV is advanced revelation over the Hebrew and Greek text (and therefore used to correct Greek or Hebrew manuscripts); that Bible translation into other languages should be based on the KJV rather than Greek and Hebrew manuscripts; and finally, that a person can only be saved through hearing the gospel from the King James Bible.*

As a point of reference, I use the King James Bible in private study and public ministry -- not because of convenience, but because I believe its accuracy of translation and underlying Greek texts are superior. I recommend only it to others for personal study, public use and private devotions. That being said, the Peter Ruckman/new revelation issue IS NOT a King James Bible vs. Modern Versions issue. There are people on both sides of the KJV/MV fence who believe that Mr. Ruckman's teachings are heretical and disruptive. No one should charge that a position against Ruckman's teaching is inspired by hatred of the King James Bible. That simply is not true!

The Old Testament and New Testament authors were inspired. The KJV translators were not inspired. I believe they DID accurately translate the Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek scriptures into the English language. I neither use nor recommend modern versions of the Bible; but, for example, any part of the NASB that is accurately translated is as much the word of God as the KJV. If a "thou" becomes a "you" it is still the truth. {though the "thee's", "thou's", "ye's" and "you's" of the KJV have advantage of denoting number and usage}.

Some American detractors say that the 1611 King James Bible is almost unreadable. This is probably more of a reflection on the typical modern American than it is on the King James Bible. I am of average intelligence (I hope). I own a 1611 KJV, and I read it all the way through one year for my Daily Bible readings. Admittedly, the type, spellings, etc. all give own cause to take care, but I see no reason why one who can read any other version of the Bible could not read a 1611 KJV. A few have said the 1611 KJV "isn't even close" to the KJV Bibles we have today. I am no authority on this. But I am quite familiar with the present KJV, and noticed no major difference of real consequence in my reading. A reasonable person who has both a 1611 and a modern print KJV will notice there are changes in spelling and punctuations, and probably corrections of typographical errors, etc. as well. But to say it "isn't even close" is an exaggeration or misrepresentation of the facts.

* I am indebted to David Cloud of Way of Life Literature for clear explanation of some of these teachings.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Zion Hill sings...

...Sacred Harp, every third Sunday in June. For some reason someone decided to designate Father's Day on the day of Zion Hill's singing. The singing predates Father's Day.

The annual Sacred Harp singing and cemetery day will meet this year on Sunday
June 15, 2008 (d.v.). Singing will begin at 10:00 a.m. and continue until about 3:00 p.m. Dinner on the ground will be served. The Cooper book will be used.

Come join us in singing the old songs of Zion "that our fathers and mothers used to sing". Zion Hill Church is located on County Road 368, about 11 miles southeast of Henderson, Texas. For more information,
Click here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Perichoresis, perichoretic

Word for today

According to Wikipedia, "Perichoresis in Christian theology, refers to the mutual inter-penetration and indwelling of the Father and the Son. The doctrine is based on John's Gospel that 'the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father'."

" John's apocalypse...the Trinity is central, this time in perichoretic imagery." p. 231, Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches: a Review

Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches. Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Editors. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008. pb. 272 pages. $18.99

According to Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler, this " a book urgently needed and well timed." Ten Southern Baptist Ph.D.'s and one Ph.D. candidate (Daniel Akin, David Allen, Emir Caner, Mark Dever, Jason Duesing, John Hammett, Jason Lee, Stan Norman, Thomas White, Greg Wills, Malcolm Yarnell) take on modern challenges to Baptist theology and ecclesiology in the areas of regenerate church membership (2 chapters), baptism (4 chapters), the Lord's Supper (2 chapters), church discipline (2 chapters), and the priesthood of believers (1 chapter). All of these I conceived as problems 25 years ago as a young preacher, and tried to address them to some extent in the small church I pastored and the small periodical I edited. I am pleased to see these issues taken up by men of credentials and influence.

In the introduction Thomas White lays out the challenges facing local Baptist congregations and the Baptist doctrine of the church in the five areas named above. Then John Hammett and Mark Dever expound regenerate church membership. Hammett deals with the biblical foundation of regenerate church membership, its demise in the early church and its recent decline among Baptists. He considers regenerate church membership a "Baptist mark" of the church (p. 21), but believes "...regenerate church membership...dramatically declined in Baptist life in the twentieth century and is in desperate need of recovery today." (p. 23) Two examples of the problem are (1) attendance to membership ratio -- about 37% on Sunday mornings -- and (2) moral problems as common among Baptist church members as non-church members. Mark Dever defines a church and church membership, and associates membership with love commitment. His story of squirrels in a church building vividly and humorously illustrates the truth and absurdity of the problem of "absentee membership". Both Hammett and Dever connect regenerate church membership with believer's baptism and church discipline, subjects stressed later in the book. They also offer solutions for restoring a regenerate and meaningful church membership.

One of the most objectionable "solutions", in my opinion, is requiring that a professor pass new membership classes prior to baptism and church membership. This area reveals an area in which Baptists need to meditate deeply in connection with restoring integrity. Can we decry New Testament practice while "restoring integrity" in Baptist churches? This solution makes New Testament practice (immediate baptism) violate New Testament principle (regenerate church membership). Hammett even takes the example of the early church (2nd century) over that of the New Testament church, and, further, dismisses immediate baptisms with an interpretation that (followed to its end) could be used to dismiss baptisms altogether. While seeking to restore integrity, Baptists NEED to examine the discrepancy of (seemingly) arbitrarily choosing or rejecting New Testament practice as it suits us. Do we even have any system here? Why do we follow one example and reject another? If we don't know, it is no surprise we are in a deficit needing to restore integrity. I hope this is an area of research serious and studious minds will soon engage.

Chapter 3 begins the study of baptism with Daniel Akin's "The Meaning of Baptism." In an unique presentation, Akin exposes seven implications of the meaning of baptism from Romans 5:12-6:14. If he approaches correct doctrine on the meaning of baptism, it raises serious questions about delaying baptism. Should we delay testifying our death to sin, our identity with Christ and His resurrection life, our future resurrection and the daily mortification of the flesh? Discussing Romans 6:8-10, Akin touches on the relationship of baptism and eternal security (a recent hot topic in the SBC). But he does not grapple with the implications of that relationship. David Allen follows with "Dipped for Dead", on the mode of baptism. About now some Baptist may say, "I've heard all this before." Hang on. This is important. In the dipper's denomination in America in the 21st century a number is clamoring for laxity on the mode, and many English Baptists have long since adopted open membership. No doubt Allen correctly states "(t)he time is ripe to revisit the theology of baptism." (p. 82) Allen examines linguistic, biblical, historical, archaeological, and theological evidence. The weight of his arguments should crush any hope of defending sprinkling or pouring as the mode of baptism. Thomas White follows by addressing 6 categories related to valid baptism -- subject, mode, meaning, place, administrator, and formula. The first three and last find general agreement among most Baptists, with the 4th and 5th often seen as connected to the Landmark controversy among Southern Baptists. 'Place' deals with baptism as a church ordinance. 'Administrator' inspects who, if anyone in particular, is authorized to perform baptism. While differing in theory with the Landmark view of church authority and administrator, White's explanations on pp. 117-118 make unlikely much variation in practice. His definition of the essentials of a church (being/esse) allows room for a pedobaptist body to be one. But his ideas on baptism make it unlikely that he could accept an immersion from a pedobaptist church. Jason Lee concludes the baptism section exploring baptism and covenant ecclesiology. He examines the historical practice of believers covenanting together to be a church body, and examines the relationship of baptism and the church covenant (as well as connecting covenant and regenerate church membership).

The next chapter is exactly what the title suggests, "A Baptist's Theology of the Lord's Supper." Thomas White does an excellent job of providing an overview of the Lord's Supper and encouraging its meaningful celebration. He addresses thanksgiving, remembrance, community, anticipation, elements, meaning, recipients, administrator, and frequency. With a few changes this chapter could make a good independent overview of the Lord's Supper. Curiously, White advises grape juice as the element because wine "has been the subject of strenuous debate and such debates need not occupy the mind during the celebration of the Supper (p. 143)" -- evidently never conceiving that grape juice is the other side of the debate and that it might also "occupy the mind during the celebration". Emir Caner deals mainly with the participants of communion, connecting it with church discipline (which prepares well for the following two chapters). Even though they don't carry the baggage of some other/older terms, I find it unfortunate that Caner prominently uses three uncommon expressions -- laissez-faire, cracked and locked -- to refer to certain views on the participants of communion. Perhaps these will catch on some day. But not today.

Greg Wills' "Southern Baptists and Church Discipline" reminds us the book is written by Southern Baptists, for Southern Baptists. Wills inspects the shift that made church discipline implausible for Southern Baptists -- they "...based church practices on their apparent effectiveness...redefined Baptist identity...and...modified the church's mission..." (p. 185). Wills believes that together these three changes undermined the effective practice of church discipline. This chapter serves as strong condemnation of the direction of many Southern Baptists. But let us who are not Southern Baptist not "pile-on". Let us rather reflect on how far we have also walked down this same path. It is not peculiarly a Southern Baptist problem. Stan Norman urges the reestablishment of proper church discipline. Both Wills and Norman cite the growth of individual autonomy as a foe of church discipline (which relates well to Chapter 11). Norman examines the biblical foundation of church discipline, church discipline in Baptist thought, the occasion, purpose, decline, relationship to covenant, and practical procedures. Considering the procedures, Norman inexplicably seems to change "tell it to the church" to "tell it to the leaders of the church." (p. 215) He notes well a problem most modern Baptists have seen far too often -- disciplinary action seldom recognized by sister churches. He also candidly addresses two pragmatic fears related to church discipline -- the loss of revenue and the fear of lawsuits.

Malcolm Yarnell calls on Baptists to reclaim of the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believers for local Baptist churches. An untutored look at the subjects might leave one wondering why Yarnell's subject is "out there" all alone -- that is, not interconnected with the other four subjects. But it truly is an integral part, which a reading of "Restoring Integrity" will make plain. Yarnell inspects the biblical witness and Christian history on the subject, and draws conclusions of what the theology of the royal priesthood does and does not mean. There is a key difference between "the priesthood of the believer" versus "the priesthood of believers". Two important facts from Yarnell's research are that Christ's priesthood is primary and unique, and that the royal priesthood is plural and thus communal or congregational in nature.

Jason Duesing wraps up with "Maintaining the Integrity of the Church for Future Churches." He believes indifference to ecclesiology and the doctrine of the believer's church is a major obstacle in the way of preserving biblical principles. He further confirms a restoration of the believer's church (including regenerate church membership, believer's baptism and church discipline) as a vehicle for preserving the essentials of the Christian faith.

Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches is well-written, well-edited and well-published. The authors are well-versed in the Bible and church history. I was glad to see the wonderful return to footnotes (often endnotes are used in scholarly tomes). A complete index would be helpful and perhaps could be added to future printings. These are not just miscellaneous essays by random authors. Rather these are intertwined issues addressed by authors committed to restoring integrity in Baptist churches. The book addresses necessary elements of restoring integrity. This book is not an end, but a beginning. May it begin a dialogue between those who share the burden. The focus of this book is events, problems and solutions of the Southern Baptist Convention. But most Baptists (in America at least) are not far behind. A few are ahead. I believe this book will speak to you even if you are not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Some of you may find Restoring Integrity too liberal. Some of you may find it too conservative. But find it! Buy it. Read it.

Related to Restoring Integrity

On a related note, the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution on regenerate church membership, one of the subjects of "Restoring Integrity".

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Review of Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches: Introduction

This September will mark the 25th year of my sojourn as an ordained Baptist elder. The route has been sometimes pleasant, sometimes arduous, and quite circuitous (I am once again preaching at the church that called for my ordination 25 years ago). In 1986 I started what would be a 12-year project -- editing a periodical called The Baptist Waymark. "Waymark" comes from Jeremiah 31:21 "Set thee up waymarks." The goal of that still wet-behind-the-ears preacher was to "mark the way" -- the way of the old paths, the way our fathers trod. Early on, I became concerned about the very issues that 11 Southern Baptist scholars would address in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches -- regenerate church membership, baptism and the Lord's Supper (always issues of import for Landmarkers), church discipline, and the priesthood of believers. The latter I knew not how to approach as does Yarnell in Restoring Integrity. But it was obvious to me that historically Baptists had stood for free exercise of religion without giving license for church members to believe whatever they wanted. Research in Baptist church minutes made it apparent that church discipline had been jettisoned. The Baptist Waymark printed a series of L. S. Walker's church discipline. "Let the Redeemed say so" pressed the issue of returning to requiring a clear and credible profession of faith prior to baptism. And so on. These problems I endeavored to address to some extent in a small periodical that reached no more than 500 people (assuming they all read it). This year 11 men of influence produced a book that might potentially reach a hundred times that many people. May God bless it to be so.

As an introducation to my review of Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, I would like to introduce you to some of the thoughts of the writers. Michael Haykin called the book "a gold-mine of informed reflection." The quotes are placed in order and divided by the particular chapters in which they are found.

Regenerate church membership
"While Baptists have acknowledged that regeneration is an internal and invisible work, they have interpreted the Bible as assuming that regeneration will have visible results." -- John S. Hammett (p. 30) "If you love to read Wayne Grudem and John Piper but won't inconvenience yourself to go pick up an older person and give that person a ride to church, I don't know if you are a Christian." -- Mark Dever (p. 55)

"That there might be an unbaptized believer in Jesus Christ would be an oxymoron to Paul." -- Daniel Akin (p. 70) "In fact, in ancient Greek, Septuagint Greek, and first-century A.D. Greek, the word [baptizo] consistently meant 'to dip, dunk, or immerse'. It is a simple linguistic fact that rantizo ('to sprinkle') and eccheo ('to pour') both occur in the New Testament but never in connection with baptism." -- David Allen (p. 92) "When presenting the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip did so in such a way that the eunuch responded not with a prayer or by signing a card but by asking to be baptized." -- Thomas White (p. 111) "The local or visible church is a group that has covenanted with God and with each other." -- Jason Lee (p. 126)

The Lord's Supper
"The Baptist theologian must properly navigate this strait [transubstantiation, consubstantiation, Calvin's mystical view and the "mere symbol"] and present a view that results in a meaningful, symbolic celebration barren of needless mystical infusions." -- Thomas White (p. 161) "...many are guilty of espousing in the Lord's Supper the same faulty hermeneutic as those whom the ardently criticize regarding baptism." -- Emir Caner (p. 164)

Church discipline
"They [Baptists] believed that Christ commanded a specific church order and pledged to carry it out no matter how impractical or ineffective it appeared." -- Greg Wills (p. 181) "Contemporary Baptists seem instead to understand themselves as autonomous individuals casually associated together in loose-knit groupings called churches." -- Stan Norman (p. 199)

The royal priesthood
"The egalitarian nature of this communal concept [of the Christian royal priesthood] militates against the confinement of ecclesiastical authority to any single person or group of persons within the churches." -- Malcolm Yarnell (p. 239)

" Switzerland and South Germany in 1525 the distance between believer's baptism, the believer's church, the gospel, and death was short." -- Jason Duesing (p. 248)

I feel to draw the quotes out here rather than intersperse them into the review will break up better for a blog posting. Tomorrow (d.v.) I will post a review of the book quoted above. At least two online reviews have preceded mine: Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches: a Book Review by Michael A. G. Haykin and the review at Baptist by Richard D. Piles of Camden, AR. I hope you will take the time to read them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Divine Division

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:4

The LORD has revealed HIMSELF as a great DIVIDER, first of all by making a difference (or division) between the light and the darkness.
HE divided the waters of the Red Sea. “He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as a heap.” (Psa 78:13; see Ex.14:21)
HE divided the promised land among the children of Israel . “And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names.” (Num 26:52-53)
HE divided the five loaves and two fishes. (see Mark 6:41-44) “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19)
HE came to cause division among men. “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” (Luke 12:51) CHRIST is a line of demarcation. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
HE will divide the sheep from the goats. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Mat 25:31-34)

By Mike McInnis; excerpted from Grace Gazette Vol 6 Iss 11

Monday, June 09, 2008

Here I stand

The religious views of Martin Luther were condemned as heretical by Pope Leo X. Luther was summoned to renounce his views but would not, saying "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract..." In that context he said something like "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" (Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise). Those words of Luther are well known in the western and Protestant world. I am not Lutheran, but respect Luther or any other person who will stand on his or her views until convinced otherwise by the proofs of Scripture.

Some weeks ago I started to write a post on an idea that derived from "Here I Stand". By now that I have gotten around to writing, I've forgotten just what that idea was (no elderly jokes, please). So, instead, a few sentences.

Here I stand. By the grace of God I am what I am.
Here I stand. By the grace of God I am who I am.
Here I stand. In one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
Here I stand. With loins girded about truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.
Here I stand. In the liberty with which Christ made me free.
Here I stand. By faith.
Here I stand. By the grace of God I am what I am, and who I am.
Here I stand. Regardless of where I stand, God's counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Worthy of repeating

Last year, Donald E. Martin (elder) of Florida heard the following comment from another preacher and passed it on……

“The first Adam, loved his wife so much that he chose to die with her”.
“The last Adam, (Christ) loved his bride so much that he chose to DIE FOR HER”.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Oak Flat homecoming

The annual homecoming and singing for the Holleman Cemetery and Oak Flat Community will be held Sunday June 8, at the Smyrna Missionary Baptist Church (d.v.), FM 2496 between Laneville and Mt. Enterprise, TX. Starts 10:00 a.m.

Also there is a Sacred Harp singing at the City Hall building in Mandeville, LA, Saturday June 7.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sacred Harp Concordance

The Sacred Harp Concordance by Chris Thorman is an index to every word and verse in 1991 Revision of The Sacred Harp (228 pages, 9" x 7", perfect binding). Available from Lulu in book form, or free PDF download.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Shelby County, Kentucky Woman Missing

"Maxine Ethington is 5'5", weighs 170 pounds and is believed to be wearing a pink or beige nightgown." Mrs. Ethington is probably driving a silver gray 2001 Buick Century with Kentucky plates 186-BLY (or may have an old plate with 495-JYT). Her niece writes that she "is 87 years old, limited ambulatory ability, suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and exhibits early signs of dementia." If you have seen her, please call Shelbyville Police at 502-633-2323 or Shelby County Dispatch at 502-633-2323.

Shelby County is located in north central Kentucky. But since she is in a vehicle she could be far from the area. Please be on the lookout for her. She has been missing since May 25th

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Supplies in the wilderness

Supplies in the wilderness.

When Israel by divine command
The pathless desert trod;
They found, though 'twas a barren land,
A sure resource in God.

A cloudy pillar marked their road,
And screened them from the heat;
From the hard rocks their water flowed,
And Manna was their meat.

Like them we have a rest in view,
Secure from adverse pow'rs;
Like them we pass a desert too,
But Israel's God is ours.

Yes, in this barren wilderness
He is to us the same;
By his appointed means of grace,
As once he was to them.

His word a light before us spreads
By which our path we see;
His love a banner o'er our head,
From harm preserves us free.

Lord, 'tis enough; I ask no more,
These blessings are divine;
I envy not the worldling's store,
If CHRIST and heav'n are mine.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A little is enough

John Brown (1722-1787), Scottish pastor and teacher, wrote in a letter to Alexander Waugh, one of his students:

"I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself, on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at His judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough."

-- From John Brown of Haddington, by Robert Mackenzie, BOT, 1964, p.150-151

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing

The pre-publication offer for Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing among the Baptists has expired, but you will still be able to order the book.

I don’t expect this to be a best seller, so we’re somewhat basing the number of copies to print on our pre-publication orders and other expressed interest. If you’re waiting until the book is in print to buy it, we’d still be interested in hearing from you. If you think you will buy one later, you can register that interest by e-mailing Waymark Publications at baptist.waymark[at] Thanks.