Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who said it, music and singing

"Musical concerts with viol and lute belong to Apollo, to the Muses, to Minerva and Mercury who invented them; ye who are Christians, hate and abhor these things whose very authors themselves must be the object of loathing and aversion." -- Tertullian

"We render our hymns with a living psalterion and a living kithara, with spiritual songs. The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument."-- Eusebius

"Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." -- Martin Luther

"The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other is by music." -- Jonathan Edwards

"Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven." -- John Wesley

"What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, bellows, and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it." -- Charles Spurgeon

“Instrumental music formed a part of the Temple worship; but it is nowhere commanded in the New Testament; and it is less adapted to the more spiritual services of the present dispensation.” -- John L. Dagg

“Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because they can unite in the Word.” -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Praise is more than singing, it’s the saint reflecting the life of Christ." -- Anonymous

Singing and the Regulative Principle

If the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture, and if singing is a part of the corporate worship of God, then we should look to the directions of Scripture – not tradition, popularity, predominance or accommodation – in order to understand how singing relates to our coming together to worship God. Psalm 66:4 relates singing to the worship of God:
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
We are commanded in both Testaments to sing (and declare God's works), e.g. Psalm 9:11; 30:4; 47:6; 96:1; 100:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13. Below I give a lists of verses of Scripture that I believe express how, why, what, and when we should sing. Hoping that the readers will find the bulk of the texts generally self-explanatory, I present them as a simple list. Some texts will be found in more than one list and there is some degree of overlapping (e.g. marking distinct occasions and events tells us something about both what and when we should sing). The lists are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to promote serious contemplation of these elements of our songs.

  How should we sing
Singing is worship (Cf. Psalm 66:4), and we worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24
Singing is teaching and admonishing. Col. 3:16
Singing is the duty of a steadfast heart. Psalm 57:7
Sing with understanding Psalm 47:6-7; 100:3; 1 Corinthians 14:15;
Sing with the spirit. 1 Cor. 14:15; Psalm 77:6; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
Sing together; sing corporately. Psalm 109:30; Isaiah 52:8-9; Matt. 26:30; Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16 
Sing aloud and make a joyful noise. Psalm 81:1
Make a joyful noise; come before Him. Psalm 100:1-2
Sing with our lips (mouth, voice), not just our hearts. Psalm 109:30; Hebrews 13:15
Sing to God, to others (one another) and for ourselves (in our hearts). Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16

  Why we should sing
For God is the King of all the earth. Psalm 46:7
For the purity of His word and works Psalm 33:3-4
To praise the Lord. Exodus 15:1; Psalm 146:1
Because it is good, pleasant and comely. Psalm 147:1
Because we're merry. James 5:13 
Out of gratitude. Isaiah 12:5; 35:6
To remember. Deuteronomy 31:19-30; 32:1-44
As an expression of our faith/belief in God. Psa. 106:12
To glorify God. Romans 15:9-11; Revelation 15:3
To mark distinct occasions and events. Psalm 18 (title); Psalm 30 (title)
To teach and edify others. Col. 3:16

  What should we sing
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
Sing praises. Judges 5:3; 2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 147:1
Acknowledge specific acts of God. Numbers 21:16-17
Give thanks and acknowledge His holiness. Psalm 30:4
Acknowledge the mercies and faithfulness of the Lord. Psalm 89:1
Bless His name, tell of His salvation and declare His glory. Psalm 96:1-3; 1 Chronicles 16:23
Of the beauty of the love of God for His people. Song of Solomon 1:1ff.
Sing of mercy and judgment. Psalm 101:1
Tell of His wondrous works. Psalm 105:2
Praise and give thanks. Hebrews 13:15

  When we should sing
While we live and have ability. Psalm 146:1-2; Psalm 104:33
When we come together in the church. Hebrews 12:2
Not confined to the church meeting Acts 16:25; James 5:13
To mark distinct occasions and events. Psalm 30 (title)
Always. Psalm 30:12; 61:8; 75:9

Some do not deeply consider letting Scripture govern the worship of singing, but rather sing the way they like, what they are comfortable with, or what they have always done. Others who do seriously hope to allow Scripture to govern their worship in singing still do not come to all the same conclusions about how it should do so. I hope to examine that further in the next few posts.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's all in the numbers

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

10 Basic Facts About the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize
10 theories that explain why we dream
9 Reasons Why Church Leaders Struggle with Prayer
8 Things Baptists Believe
7 Proofs of Unconditional Salvation
7 Reasons Husbands Should Pray for Their Wives
7 Wikipedia Topics More Controversial Than Jesus
5 Most Misdiagnosed Diseases

The Regulative Principle

I grew up in a country Baptist church. It had many advanced Bible students. On the other hand, we were simple unsophisticated folks. Knowledge of the Bible came from the Bible and the study of it. No sophisticated scholars with dangling degrees and no talk in fancy seminary terms to describe and categorize. The people basically held the “regulative principle” without having ever heard of it. If any had ever heard of it, they did not speak of it. They spoke of believing the Bible and “doing what the New Testament church did.” However, this was never articulated in some overarching principle like the regulative principle. I don’t fault my forefathers. I am a product of their faith (and glad of it). They never read the words “regulative principle” in the Bible, but they understand the simplicity of taking the Bible alone for a rule of faith and practice. Nevertheless, that simplicity began to break down under the assault of a modern post-World War II era that arrived with a vengeance. The simple life of farm folk was no longer sufficient to hold the interest of the rising generation. Preachers were now as often products of the seminary as products of the local church pews. Moreover, the simple “doing what the New Testament church did” did not suffice for those of greater ambition who realized we actually didn’t always do what the New Testament church did. So why did we, for example, immerse believers but not hold all things in common?

I spent a great part of my early ministry trying to understand why we had done what I instinctively believed was right – try to follow the example of the apostles and the New Testament churches. It was, for all intents as purposes, the regulative principle. The Regulative Principle of Worship is a principle derived from and implicit in the Second Commandment, that God and not man ordains how He will be worshipped. Along the way, I would find this principle articulated in plentiful parts and various vocabulary. This was in contrast to the normative principle.

The normative principle holds that whatever is not forbidden in the Scriptures may be lawfully used in the worship of God. If a practice which is not explicitly contrary to God’s Law has not been forbidden in the Word, then it may be employed in worship. This was the growing practice of the post-World War II churches and is rampant now among 21st century Baptists. In contrast, I was learning to articulate the less popular varieties of the regulative principle.

I learned expressions like “command, precept and example” or “command, example, and necessary inference.” John Spilsbury would invoke such in his rejection of infant baptism, stating that “there is neither command, or Example in all the New Testament for such practise.” Likewise, Hercules Collins on the same subject wrote, “We have neither precept nor example for that practice in all the Book of God.” Daniel Parker would raise the issue in his rejection of the missions system, saying, “It has neither precept nor example to justify it within the two lids of the Bible.” Though not belonging to them, through consistent usage the useful phrase “command, approved example and necessary inference” has become almost synonymous with the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement.

I learned about “the law of exclusion” – or “inclusio unius, exclusio alterius” – the idea that the specification of one thing is the prohibition or exclusion of every other thing.[i] For example, if Jesus commanded His disciples to immerse professed believers, the specification of that excludes the sprinkling of professed believers, or the immersion of professed unbelievers, etc. This is exclusion due to specificity, most often explained by God’s command to Noah, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” To use any other kind of wood would be disobedience of the highest order.

Another iteration of this is “apostolic practice as normative” – that the practice of the New Testament churches based on apostolic teaching and example provides the standard for present church practice.[ii] New Testament worship is regulated by explicit precepts, approved examples, and good & necessary inferences derived from Scripture. New Testament Christianity means New Testament practice (I Cor. 11:2; 14:33). The New Testament, which is our only rule of faith and practice (Acts 20:27-28; II Tim. 4:2) enjoins following the “traditions” taught the churches by the apostles.

Defining the Regulative Principle
The term “Regulative Principle” may not come up much in modern Baptist discussion, except in Reformed-leaning Baptist circles. Nevertheless, it is not a new idea.  Though not using the terminology, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, 22:1 expresses it this way:
“...But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.” 
Writing on The Regulative Principle of Worship Derek Thomas says, “Put simply, the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.” Others have said:
“...Scripture regulates what is permissible to do in public worship.” – Aaron Menikoff
“God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word.” – John Calvin
“Churches are not free to do whatever they want to do; they must do what Scripture instructs and requires them to do.” – Terry Johnson
The regulative principle is a belief actually held by many Baptists, though it does not seem common for many of them to express it under this terminology unless influenced by the recent upswing in Reformed theology. For the average Baptist, it might be put in more colloquial terms, requiring “command, precept or example” for a corporate practice and rejecting extra-biblical practices as “offering strange fire” (Cf. Lev. 10:2-3). The regulative principle is also rejected by many Baptists, who have swallowed – hook, line, and sinker – stunts like preachers getting on top of the church building in their underwear and swallowing goldfish. May God deliver us!

[i] I did not know the Latin terminology back when.
[ii] “Apostolic practice as normative” is not related to “the normative principle.” This view expects that the way the apostles and early church did a thing is the way that God expects we ought always to do a thing, or that it is the best way to do a thing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hot links and smoked sausage

11 hot links, one of which is about Bar-B-Q/smoked sausage (some of the best)
The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Another Non-Calvinist Encounters a Calvinist: The Sandemanians Challenge Fuller
Child injuries from falling TVs increasing in U.S.
Couple Born on Same Day, Married 75 Years, Die One Day Apart
Dragons + Damsels: Educating our Children
Indianapolis Church Mourns 3 Who Died in Bus Crash Colonial Hills Baptist Church
Legalize It and They Will Analyze It
On Church and Relationships and Not Seeing Others as a Means to an End
Spacecraft Sees Giant 'Hole' In the Sun
The New Theist: How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy's boldest apostle
The Barbecue Capital of Texas

New Testament Hymn Fragments

As someone who likes hymns, singing, and the Bible, discussion of hymn fragments in the New Testament is a made-to-order attraction. Many scholars believe what have become known as the Benedictus, the Nunc dimittis, the Magnificat, and the Gloria in excelsis are examples of hymns in the New Testament. It seems an increasing number of scholars view quotes in Paul’s epistles as fragments of earlier Christian hymns – perhaps excerpts of what he himself had written. J. B. Lightfoot favored this view, and modern professors such as Reggie M. Kidd of Westminster Theological Seminary believe that fragments scattered through the New Testament represent hymns written by the apostle and sung by the early churches.

Texts identified as hymns or hymn fragments
The entry Hymn in the Holman Bible Dictionary identifies the following New Testament hymns and fragments: "Luke 1:46-55, Mary's song—“The Magnificat”; Luke 1:68-79, Zacharias' prophetic song—“The Benedictus”; and Luke 2:29-32, Simeon's blessing of the infant Jesus and farewell—“The Nunc Dimittis.” Numerous doxologies (Luke 2:14; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 4:8, for example) doubtless were used in corporate worship. Other passages in the New Testament give evidence of being quotations of hymns or fragments of hymns (Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 5:14; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13; Titus 3:4-7)." In addition to those names in Holman, the following texts are often identified as fragments of hymns and/or doxologies: Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 4:11, 5:9b-10, 12-13; 11:17-18; 15:3-4; 19:6-8. From the six pericopes in Lawrence DiPaolo, Jr's Hymn Fragments Embedded in the New Testament: Hellenistic Jewish and Greco-Roman Parallels we can also add John 1:1–18, 1 Corinthians 8:6, and Hebrews 1:3–4 to the growing list.

Going beyond simply identifying hymn fragments, Leading This Generation in Worship (Spring 2011) editor Ken E. Read divides them into two categories: "Christ-hymns, which exalt Jesus" (e.g. Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:3-4), and "one-another-hymns, in which the church is encouraged in its belief or action" (e.g. Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 5:14; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

Criteria for identifying hymn fragments
Modern scholarship has developed various criteria for identifying hymn fragments. For example, here is a summary of seven criteria of Christian D. von Dehsen*:

* The passage contains vocabulary which is different from that of the surrounding context
* The passage is written in poetic form, that is, it exhibits rhythmical patterns and careful structure
* The content of the passage interrupts the context
* The name of the deity is absent and is replaced by a relative clause or a participle
* Words are used in the passage which are found nowhere else in the New Testament
* The cosmic role of God or Christ is emphasized
* Theological concepts and Christological doctrine are expressed in exalted and liturgical language

Similarly, the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (edited by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard, p. 397) suggests six criteria used in identifying New Testament fragments of hymns:

* Use of introductory formulas
* Parallelism
* Use of a relative pronoun at the beginning (e.g. Phil. 2:6; 1 Tim. 3:16)
* Descriptive participles
* Use of conjunctions introducing indirect discourse or causal clauses
* Vocabulary differing from the context

DiPaolo believes “we are encountering one [i.e. a hymn, rlv] when we encounter a break in the prose narrative in which the author digresses from his expound upon the characteristics of Christ or recount some aspect of Christ’s life.” (p. 22)

Hymn fragments subjective and controversial
While some have thought that "biblical scholars generally agree that certain passages of scripture were early Christian hymns," this is far from accurate. The divining of hymn fragments out of the prose text of the New Testament is a subjective venture and a controversial topic.

After noting four "canticles of the New Testament" that "appear within the Gospel narratives," Ruth Ellis Messenger states: "In the remaining portions of the New Testament other hymn fragments are found. Some of these are direct quotations from known sources."**  Despite her enthusiasm for the subject, Messenger cautions, "It is interesting to re-read the New Testament in the search for hymns, but one should remember that the field is controversial."

In Chapter 2 of his book, Exclusive Psalmody, A Biblical Defense Brian Schwertley points out "A study of the literature which speaks of these so-called hymnic fragments reveals that the methodology for determining what is and is not a hymn fragment is totally subjective and unreliable." The polemical context of Schwertley's writing must be noticed, but his point should not be dismissed. No hymns are identified as such by the biblical writers. While we may see them in our studies, we must be careful not to have a motive for finding them there. Let us not fall prey to a "when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail" debility.

NT hymn fragments and exclusive psalmody
In addition to New Testament interpretation and understanding, hymn fragments supply an element of controversy in the exclusive psalmody versus inclusive hymnody debate. According to Wikipedia, Exclusive Psalmody "is the practice of singing only the biblical Psalms in congregational singing as worship." In Exclusive or Inclusive? (Part 1), Michael R. Kearney identifies "three general categories of beliefs" on biblical worship in song:
1. The 150 divinely inspired biblical psalms are the only acceptable songs for worship. [Exclusive Psalmody, rlv]
2. Only biblical songs may be sung in church, but selections outside the psalms, such as the songs of Zacharias, Simeon, and Mary, may be used. [Permissive Psalmody, rlv]
3. The use of biblical psalms and songs is encouraged, but non-inspired hymns are also appropriate for worship. [Inclusive Hymnody, rlv]
It is not uncommon to find the presence of New Testament hymn fragments developed as an argument against exclusive psalmody and in favor of inclusive hymnody. While the presence of hymns in the New Testament, if proven, can strike a blow at exclusive psalmody this in itself does not provide an argument FOR inclusive hymnody. The New Testament by nature is inspired and hymns written after the close of the canon by nature are not. What New Testament hymns and hymn fragments considered alone would prove is Kearney's No. 2, permissive psalmody which embraces Old Testament psalms and New Testament hymns and scripture songs.

Schwertley writes, "A common method for arguing against exclusive Psalmody is to appeal to the existence of hymnic fragments within the New Testament.  The existence of these hymnic fragments, we are told, teaches us that the apostolic church was engaged in hymn writing, and thus we also ought to compose our own hymns.  The problem with this argument is that it is not based on solid scriptural evidence, but is basically the speculation of modernistic theologians and commentators." Further, he says, "Those who find justification for the singing of uninspired songs… from the “hymn fragment” argument, are letting their presuppositions and emotional attachment to uninspired hymns influence their exegesis." Though Schwertley is too dogmatic, his point is well-taken. Much of the writing about New Testament hymn fragments is speculative and is not a solid foundation on which to build a theology of inclusive hymnody.

I read the New Testament and find passages that feel like “poetry”. I think some hymns may be there. But I remain unconvinced of positive or irrefutable proof for the existence of hymn fragments in the New Testament. A biblical argument can be developed for inclusive hymnody on other grounds (which is beyond the scope of this piece). Exclusive psalmody is antithetical to the fact of New Testament revelation and the inspiration of the Scriptures. If we can only sing the Psalms, we cannot sing John 3:16 or Acts 1:8 or Galatians 2:20 or Romans 8:28-39*** – all of which are the divinely inspired inerrant word of God given His churches! We can read it but not sing it? That makes no sense to me.

There may be some hymn fragments in the New Testament. Their existence cannot be conclusively proven in cases where the writer does not identify them as hymns.

References and further reading
A Symphony of New Testament Hymns, by Robert J. Karris
"Homologies and Hymns in the New Testament: Form, Content and Criteria for Identification," W. Hulitt Gloer, Perspectives in Religious Studies 11 (1984) 115-32
Hymn Fragments Embedded in the New Testament: Hellenistic Jewish and Greco-Roman Parallels, by Lawrence DiPaolo, Jr.
Hymn Singing in the New Testament, part two: So Which Scriptures are Fragments Of Worship Songs? by Bobby Gilles
Philippians 2:5-11: Hymn or Exalted Pauline Prose?, by Gordon Fee
Sing a New Song, Chapter 5: The Psalms and Their Tuning Fork, by Michael Kearney and James Oord
Some Reflections on New Testament Hymns, by Ralph P. Martin

* Christian D. von Dehsen, “Hymnic Forms in the New Testament,” Reformed Liturgy & Music, 18, No. 1 (Winter, 1984), p. 8
** Apparently meaning the Old Testament; See Christian Hymns of the First Three Centuries Ruth Ellis Messenger, New York: Hymn Society of America, 1942
*** For example, in our church we sing the words of scripture of Galatians 2:20. Examples of this, though with different tunes than we use, can be found on YouTube: Galatians 2:20 (Crucified with Christ) and Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:1-3. There is also Sing the KJV! Verbatim Full-Chapter Scripture Songs.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Copied and heard, sources unknown:

"Many Baptist have solid, biblical orthodox theology. They could pass a theology exam on the fundamentals of the faith with flying colors. They are right; unfortunately they are “dead right”."

"You can't den with a skunk and come out smelling like a rose."

"If you meet someone without a smile, give them one of yours."

"We find it strikingly strange that liberals believe a warning label will deter smokers, a fine will make us buckle up, but the death penalty will not deter murder!"

"Your strength is seen in what you stand for, your weakness in what you fall for."

"Exposure to the Son may prevent burning."

"He with a heart full of love is richer than he with a hand full of gold."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Baptist missions controversy

Several years ago, I read the following statement from Mark Green:
"It is worth noting that when the division with the Missionaries happened, it was not Fullerite doctrine that was specified in the Kehukee Declaration, but it was entirely matters of practice. Peddlers of doctrine are notoriously slippery in their terminology. Spinners of words are skilled at their craft. Practice, on the other hand, is much simpler: either he did it, or he did not do it. Practice and doctrine are always related. Erroneous practice will flow from erroneous doctrine, or men will invent new doctrines to justify their pet practices. They are always related, but the practice is much easier to see and to pin down."
I think this is right on the money. Many historians make the "anti-missionary/missionary" controversy about Calvinism. Such misses most of the point. Yes, there were differences on the doctrines of grace, but these were not the driving force of the division. It was practice. Daniel Parker's book  A Public Address to the Baptist Society, and Friends of Religion in General, on the Principle and Practice of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions for the United States of America lays down point upon point about ecclesiology and methodology. This was the grand objection.

DeBaptismal Certificate

The atheists and freethinkers at the Freedom From Religion Foundation can't seem to think too well apart from religion. If there is no God and baptism means nothing, why would someone would want to be "debaptized"? Yet, that's just what they're "doing".

If Baptists would stick to their dogma -- consensual baptism of believers -- there would be little of the certificate to which they could object. Language such as "before reaching an age of consent" and "baby...must be cleansed of [Original Sin] by baptism" belongs to the paedobaptists. Usually Baptists will gladly, with freethought and reason, "exclude from any claims of religious affiliation" those who deny their faith and practice. The certificate includes several items important to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, with the motto “Freedom depends upon freethinkers” at the bottom.

We are proponents of freedom and religion (which includes from religion for those who wish it) -- but it's a mite scary if “Freedom depends upon [the freethinking of the] freethinkers [at the Freedom from Religion Foundation].” 

At least they're having fun with it, and I suppose you can't fault them for that.

Find a link to the language and PDF of the DeBaptismal Certificate HERE.

 [Note: "Annie Laurie, by the way, is one of the lucky 18% of FFRF members who grew up in a freethinking home and was spared baptism by water, fire or Sunday school." I noticed this little blurb on the "debaptism" page. I wonder if the atheists and freethinkers at FFRF subject their children to atheism and freethinking in their homes "before reaching an age of consent"? Or maybe they teach religion to them?? Oh, the quandry!]

Friday, July 26, 2013

Linkage to thinkage

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

Author challenges readers to ‘Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart’
Has God Called You? Discerning the Call to Preach
Infants Too Young to Be Regularly Left Overnight? Study Cautions Against It
Is 'Background Information' Ever Necessary to Understand the Bible?
Kirk Cameron's 'Unstoppable' Trailer Was Lost, Now Found
NSA spying revelations prompt some ordinary citizens to rethink computing habits
The Perspicuity of Scripture
The Problem with Sexual Compatibility
With Liberty and Polygamy for All

Stop the Insanity!

Seems like back yonder somewhere I remember a media star or personality who would shout "Stop the Insanity!" Where are they now?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation -- from their sarcastic DeBaptismal Certificate to protests where they have no legal standing (and where the people they are supposedly standing for often have no interest) -- now has a wonderful new target -- a Star of David on a Holocaust memorial! Seriously?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the Star of David represents Judaism in the same way the cross represents Christianity. They simply have that wrong. In fact, many Orthodox Jews reject this symbol. It is associated with Judaism in a sense because Judaism and national Jews are so intertwined and inseparable (even when the Jews themselves are not religious, or even atheist). There is no evidence that this symbol originates out of the Hebrew Bible, or that as a symbol of the Jews it has anything more than a semi-modern origin (17th century). It was chosen by the Zionist movement as their symbol in 1897.

The Star of David has a particularly significant and poignant connection to the holocaust. This emblem was used by the Nazis as a way of identifying Jews. Yes, others were victims of the holocaust as well, including Romani and Christians. About 2/3 of the nine million Jews residing in Europe before the Holocaust were killed during this period.

Even if the Star of David represented Judaism in the same way the cross does Christianity, no one will be surprised or traumatized to see a Star of David at a Holocaust Memorial, even one on state property. No one except the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who choose to traumatize themselves for reasons unknown to average folks.

Stop the Insanity!

Read and/or View
Atheist Group Battles Planned Holocaust Memorial's Inclusion of the Star of David
Statehouse Holocaust Memorial Causes Protest

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why the Baptist preacher's baby was not sprinkled

J. B. Jeter’s* wife was a Presbyterian. A baby was born in that home. His wife said something like this: “Mr. Jeter, you knew I was a Presbyterian when you married me. As an honest Presbyterian I believe that our baby ought to be baptized.” He consented on condition that she would consent to his holding the baby while the ceremony was performed. She thought it would be a feather in her cap to have the most prominent Baptist preacher in Virginia and one of the best known Baptist editors in the South to hold their baby, while a Presbyterian preacher baptized it.

So she consented. J. B. Jeter announced in his church in Richmond, that he would be out of his pulpit to be present at the Presbyterian church and why. That church was jammed and packed. The scholarly and dignified Presbyterian preacher preached and then announced that those who had babies to be baptized would please bring them forward. Bro. Jeter and his wife arose and he took the baby in his arms and they walked to the front. He was careful to get at the end where they were to begin. Quite a number of other parents had children present for that purpose. Just as the honoured pastor of that Presbyterian Church raised his hand to say the baptismal formula and baptize Bro. Jeter’s baby, Bro. Jeter said something like this “My brother, you and I have been good friends for many years. My wife has been a member of your church and I have never tried to proselyte her to my faith But as a Baptist I believe that we ought to be able to give a Thus saith the Lord for all that we do. This is my baby as well as my wife’s. Before you sprinkle my child, I want you to take your Bible and read out of the Book your authority for what you are about to do.” The scholarly, old-school Presbyterian preacher slowly raised his hand and pronounced the benediction. Mrs. Jeter soon became a Baptist. She said that her pastor was one of the most scholarly Presbyterian preachers in the South. If he could not find infant baptism in the Bible then it must not be there. If infant baptism was not in the Bible, she had never been baptized, for infant baptism was all she ever had. With an open Bible she soon was led to the truth and obeyed her Lord in baptism. 

From Why Be a Baptist by H. Boyce Taylor (1932) as quoted in The Baptist Waymark, August 1986, Vol. 1 No. 3, p. 4

* Jeremiah Bell Jeter (1802--1880), editor of The Religious Herald, author of Campbellism Examined and a number of other books, was born in Bedford County, Virginia, July 18, 1802. Jeter was ordained as a Baptist minister in May, 1824. He died February 18, 1880.

Reading about Spiritual gifts, links

A collection of links to provide as a resource for follow-up study on extraordinary spiritual gifts:

Cessationism in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12
On the cessation of the charismata: The protestant polemic of Benjamin B. Warfield
The Hermeneutics of Noncessationism
The Meaning of "The Perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
1 Corinthians 13:8–13 and the Cessation of Miraculous Gifts

Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem
Continuationism and Cessationism (Part 2): An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem
Tongues! Signs! Wonders! An Interview with Dr. Sam Waldron
Tongues! Signs! Wonders! An Interview with Dr. Sam Waldron (Part 2)

Blog posts and other online material
A Posteriori Cessationism
Cessationism again
Cessationism and Continuationism: a Debate over Spiritual Gifts
"Charismatic Continualists" and "Non-Charismatic Continualists"
Charismatic Debate – Finishing Off Dan Phillips (This should provide links to the entire debate on cessationism/continuationism between Dan Phillips and Adrian Warnock.)
Did Supernatural Gifts End with Apostolic Age?
Open but Cautious
Questions Cessationists Should Ask: A Biblical Examination of Cessationism
To Be Continued, Continuationism blog
The Case For Continuationism – Sam Storms
The Nature of the Biblical Gift of Tongues: Consideration of Relevant Non-Narrative New Testament Passages
The Ultimate Cessationism Resource
When Did Miracles Cease?
You're probably a cessationist, too

Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views Wayne Grudem, editor (a Google Book preview)
The Nine Gifts of the Spirit Are Not in the Church Today, or the Answer to the Modern Tongues and Healing Movements B. F. Cate (Amazon)
Religious Experience of the Pneuma: Communication With the Spirit World in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 By Clint Tibbs (a Google Book preview)
To Be Continued?: Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today? Samuel E. Waldron (Amazon)
To Cease or Not to Cease: Spiritual Gifts Today? Mark Anderson (Amazon)
Understanding Spiritual Gifts: A Verse-By-Verse Study of 1 Corinthians 12-14 edited by Robert L. Thomas (a Google Book preview)

White papers
Commentary on the LifeWay Research Division Study of Private Prayer Language
Southern Baptists, Tongues, and Historical Policy
Speaking of “Tongues,” What Does the Bible Teach?

Bibliography of Works on Cessationism

It will be interesting to see what new materials might come from the 2013 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics -- Has Cessationism Ceased? (or Do the Sign Gifts Continue?)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Tater Family

This family is looking for a church home. Beware if they come to yours. Here's how to recognize them.

Dick Tater -- husband and father; he likes to run everything.
Carmen Tater -- wife and mother; she talks about what others are doing.
Tess Tater -- oldest child; she wants to have her will even when she's not there.
Adge I. Tater -- middle child; she stirs up controversy.
Speck Tater -- youngest child; he sits on the sidelines watching others do the work.
Hessie Tater -- Dick's younger sister; she can't make up her mind about anything.

Be a "doer" of the Word and not a "Tater".

* Adapted from The Baptist Waymark, Vol 1, No 9, February 1987


Continuationism is a theory that posits the miraculous gifts have not ceased. According to Scott Lencke, "There are varying beliefs within continuationism, but mainly it is the belief that all spiritual gifts are still available today."

For the open but cautious continuationist, like the a posteriori cessationist, this is a practical deduction. Some open but cautious continuationists may expect that miraculous gifts are still operable, but are not certain that they have witnessed them in operation. They are likely to be more open or desirous of finding that miraculous gifts are currently operable. In theory they hold that they either are or could become operable, but are more cautious of ascribing the work of the Spirit to certain events (such as miracles as tongue-talking) as others in the continuationist camp. The 2nd belief statement of the North American Baptist Conference is a possible example of an "open, but cautious" Baptist statement on the gifts: "At regeneration and conversion, the believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit indwells, seals and gives spiritual gifts to all believers for ministry in the church and society." (Robert L. Saucy, author of the "open, but cautious" view in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views, is an ordained minister of the North American Baptist General Conference.) In contrast, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship is a group that initially formed with the National Baptist Convention, USA to  focus was on spiritual gifts. Statement II in "Full Gospel Distinctives" of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship: "We believe in the perpetual and continuing ecclesiastical value of all spiritual gifts for the edification of the body of Christ until the end of this Church Age, which will be consummated by the return of our Lord Jesus Christ."

For the moderate but full continuationist, this moves toward a theological deduction. These continuationist are roughly equivalent to the Third Wave View presented by Sam Storms in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views. They are "moderate" in their view of the miraculous --  particularly that they are not distributed to all Christians -- but they are "full" in their belief and witness that all spiritual gifts are operable in the present day. They believe the Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion, rather than being an event subsequent to conversion, but the believe that signs and miracles should and will accompany the gospel.*

For the charismatic and pentecostal continuationist, this is a biblical and practical deduction. They would interpret the Bible to teach that the extraordinary gifts still are and must continue be operable. At the furthest end of this spectrum, they may question the credibility of the professed Christian in whom the gifts are not operable.** Few of these are found among Baptists, as they usually gravitate away from the main body of Baptists after adopting such a belief system. Since Baptist churches are autonomous, some do choose to maintain the Baptist name, either as an independent local church or forming groups such as Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship or the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church.

(to be continued)

* E.g. excerpt from the "The Ministry of the Holy Spirit" in the Vineyard Church's Core Values and Beliefs: "We believe in the present ministry of the Spirit and in the exercise of all of the biblical gifts of the Spirit. We practice the laying on of hands for the empowering of the Spirit, for healing, and for recognition and empowering of those whom God has ordained to lead and serve the Church."
** E. g. No. 8 of the "Statement of Fundamental Truths" of the Assemblies of God: "The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit - The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance."

In memory of Evelyn Steinruck

Tragedy struck Sunday within the Berks County Sacred Harp Community in Pennsylvania. Young Evelyn Steinruck died after she was accidentally backed over by a car. All parties we at a Sacred Harp singing at the Friends Meeting in Exeter Township. Evelyn's funeral will be held on Friday, July 2, 2013 at 10 a.m.

As an extended member of the Sacred Harp community, I offer my condolences and prayers to God for everyone involved.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

3 reasons why Christians should not divorce

It is common to hear that the divorce rate among Christians is as bad the world. There is some truth in that, if we consider all who make any claim to the name Christian. But if we consider those who have a religious commitment and practice as opposed to nominal Christians, a difference begins to emerge. For example, analysis by W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia says that  those he defines as active conservative Protestants who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to others who have no affiliation. On the one hand many who self-identify as Christians do not live out this faith. On the other hand, salvation and discipleship does have an effect on people's lives, including their marriages.

Here are at least three reasons why Christians should never divorce:

1. They have the Word of God to teach them.
2. They have the Spirit of God to guide them.
3. They have the Church of God to help them.


Cessationism is a theory that posits the miraculous gifts have ceased.

For the a priori cessationist, this is a biblical deduction, the result of the interpretation of one or more biblical passages to mean that tongues and other miraculous gifts have ceased. This position is held before the fact of or without hearing tongues and seeing miracles. If they hear tongues or see miracles, they do not recognize it as a spiritual gift because they believe these gifts are inoperable in this age. A common proof of a priori cessationism is 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 8 through 10. This may be a waning view, but yet it is very common among conservatives and fundamentalists. 

For the a posteriori cessationist, this is a practical deduction. Some a posteriori cessationists may expect that miraculous gifts have ceased, but are not certain that the Bible clearly proscribes them. But reasoning from observed facts they do not believe any miraculous gifts are currently operable (i.e. after the fact of hearing a possible occurrence of tongues, they do not believe it actually meets the biblical criteria). In theory they may hold that they could become operable, but once they accept by observation an occurrence being a miraculous gift, such as speaking in tongues, they move from the cessationist camp into the continuationist camp. Bart Barber writes, "Some people call themselves “open, but cautious” with regard to things like speaking in tongues. A more pedestrian way to describe a posteriori cessationism would simply be “open, cautious, and still waiting.”"

For the e contra cessationist, this is a biblical deduction, but of lesser proportions than that of many a priori cessationists. It is not uncommon for the a priori cessationist to say that all gifts have ceased and only faith, hope and love remain.* On the one hand the e contra cessationists hold cessationism, but on the other hand they believe in the continuation of what they would not consider practical spiritual gifts (e.g. teaching, helps, or administration). The e contra cessationist would not say there are no spiritual gifts today, but unambiguously deny the practice of such gifts as speaking in tongues.**

The largest Baptist denomination in the United States -- the Southern Baptist Convention -- has a very conservative bent, but no official statement on the practice of spiritual gifts. Note's answers to Frequently Asked Questions: "8. What is the SBC’s official view of "speaking in tongues" and other "charismatic" gifts?

"There is no official SBC view or stance on the issue.  If you polled SBC churches across the nation on the topic of 'charismatic' practices you would likely find a variety of perspectives. Probably most believe that the 'gift of tongues' as described in the Bible ceased upon the completion of the Bible."

(to be continued)

* E.g. No. 9 of the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association: "We believe that miraculous spiritual manifestation gifts were done away when the Bible was completed. Faith, Hope and Love are the vital abiding Spiritual Gifts."
** E.g. No. 11 of IFCA International Articles of Faith and Doctrine on "The Ministry and Spiritual Gifts": “We believe that God is sovereign in the bestowment of all His gifts; and, that the gifts of evangelists, pastors, and teachers are sufficient for the perfecting of the saints today; and, that speaking in tongues and the working of sign miracles gradually ceased as the New Testament Scriptures were completed and their authority became established. (IFCA International was founded in 1930 as The Independent Fundamental Churches of America.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The perfect number of quotes

“Not everything that happens in a worship service is strategic. Spontaneity happens. People do things 'just because' in worship all of the time. Sometimes it is good; sometimes it is bad; sometimes it just is.” -- Bart Barber

“All I want to know is why do feminists hate women?” -- Jenny Erikson

"We need to keep in mind that we are not free to do whatever we want, whatever works, or whatever the people ask us to do. For our good, God has given us parameters. Corporate worship is to be Word-centered, gospel-centered, congregational, for the church, and led." -- Aaron Menikoff

"Never put a question mark where God puts a period." -- Lyle Petty

"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." -- John Stuart Mill

"Some actions are wrong even though they don't hurt anyone." -- Jonathan Haidt

"If you don't avoid the bait, you'll end up on the hook." -- copied

Views on the New Testament spiritual gifts

Within Christian-denominated churches there are various beliefs about the extraordinary spiritual gifts -- tongues, miracles, gift of knowledge, etc. The two extremes are that either none are operable today or that all are operable. Between these two extremes and all along the continuum are sundry systems of belief. My goal is to sort these views out, particularly as they might be held by Baptists, into a list or categorization that "makes sense" to me.

There are sundry lists already in existence, which offer pros and cons. In its simplest form, believers are either "cessationist" (believing that the extraordinary gifts have ceased) or "continuationist" (believing that the extraordinary gifts continue to be operable today).

Mark Heath saw the "common division of evangelicals" in three distinct groups -- cessationist, open but cautious, and charismatic -- though he felt the three divisions were "over-simplistic". The "Open but Cautious" description was developed for the book Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views. Heath notes that many in the “open but cautious” camp are in practice “closed and critical.”

Perhaps one of the best known list is the "four views" presented in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views, edited by Wayne Grudem. The editors actually saw five distinct views which they condensed to four for the purposes of the book. They are:
1. Cessationist View (by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.) --  no miraculous gifts today; they were for the apostolic age
2. Open but Cautious View (by Robert L. Saucy) -- they do not have a theological persuasion against extraordinary spiritual gifts, but they are not convinced that the things which proceed under the name is actually a work of the Spirit
3. Third Wave View (by C. Samuel Storms) -- they believe the Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion, that tongues is not necessarily for all, but that signs and miracles should accompany the gospel.
4. Pentecostal/Charismatic View (by Douglas A. Oss) -- they believe all gifts are in operation today; the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift subsequent to conversion rather than occurring at conversion; tongues is a sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Charismatics and Pentecostals share many characteristics that distinguish them from the first three groups, but do not hold the same theology across the board. For example, some Charismatics may believe that tongues is a sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, while Pentecostals may hold that is a necessary and only sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.)

For my own understanding and purposes, I have developed the following categories of the views of gifts.

I. Cessationism - believe that the miraculous gifts have ceased
1. a priori cessationism: a priori is deductive, or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions (e.g. before the fact of or without hearing tongues, they do not believe it)
2. a posteriori cessationism: a posteriori is inductive, or derived by reasoning from observed facts* (e.g. after the fact of hearing tongues, they do not believe it)
3. e contra cessationism: (Lat. on the other hand) on the one hand they hold cessationism of tongues, miracles, prophecies, but on the other hand they believe in the continuation of what they would not consider "extraordinary" spiritual gifts (e.g. teaching, helping or administrative gifts)**

II. Continuationism - believe the miraculous gifts are operable in the church
1. open but cautious continuationism; "open" because they have no theological persuasion that extraordinary spiritual gifts have ceased, but "cautious" of the things often attributed to the  work of the Spirit
2. moderate but full continuationism; occupies a "moderate" position between the other views of continuationism, but "full" or complete in their acceptance of extraordinary spiritual gifts
3. charismatic and pentecostal continuationism; differentiated especially by their viewing that the Baptism of the Spirit (and associated gifts) is a second work (or second blessing) of the Spirit which is subsequent to conversion

There are some problems with the above categorization. Some people believe the miraculous gifts have ceased and that some believe the miraculous gifts are still operable. That is simple enough. It is the positions that fall in between that are harder to classify. For example, some believers are non-cessationist in regard to certain spiritual gifts -- e.g. teaching, helps or administration. On the other hand they are cessationist regarding revelatory and sign gifts such as prophecy and tongues. Further, “a posteriori cessationism” and “open, but cautious continuationism” are practically the same thing. Yet, those who prefer the term “a posteriori cessationism” seem to feel more comfortable within the cessationist camp, while many who describe themselves as “open, but cautious” seem to be hopeful that the claims of operable spiritual gifts could be true. So this distinction might be one more of outlook rather than theology. These points are where the two distinct views of Cessationism and Continuationism come together and practically merge.

(To be continued)

* This terminology was coined by Bart Barber, who writes, "An a posteriori cessationist (which I am) I am defining as someone who, if he were to encounter something resembling the biblical gift of tongues, would acknowledge it as such, but who sees no evidence of that gift in operation in present-day Christianity."
** I coined the term e contra cessationist to somewhat parallel the Latin of the other two cessationist terminologies; it is workable but not as clear or appropriate as the other terms. I am "open" to other suggestions.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Answer

Confused?     Jesus is the truth.
Lost?             Jesus is the way.
Hungry?        Jesus is the bread of life.
Thirsty?         Jesus is the living water.
In Darkness? Jesus is the light of the world.
Sick?             Jesus is the great physician.
Dead?           Jesus is the life.

Whatever your question, Jesus is the answer!

Links for Today

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

Baptist because
Breastfeeding Note From Pizza Waitress Pays It Forward
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not wear a hoodie
Foot Washing
How many ways are there to disbelieve in God?: six types of atheists
Interview with Johnathon Kelso
Is Scripture Enough?
Later retirement may help prevent dementia
Should Pastors Blog?
Surprisingly Unhealthy Work Habits
The Flawed Logic of Naturalism and Homosexuality
What Is the Longest Book in the Bible?
Why are some people mosquito magnets?
6 Pillars of a Christian View on Suffering