Saturday, October 31, 2020

Things I thought

Or at least I thought I thought.

“Jesus’s love is higher than the cross on which he hung, stronger than the wood and nails between which he placed his hands and feet, keener than the spear that pierced his side, and deeper than the grave that could not hold him. Jesus’s love is sovereign, eternal, sacrificial, and unfathomable.” [related to Romans 8:38-39 (et al.) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.]

“If our history hadn’t been our history, what would our history be?”

“Works for salvation does not work for salvation.”

“Some people say that our country needs more tolerance and civility. The Bible does not say, ‘Tolerate your enemies’ or ‘Husbands, be civil to your wives.’ Tolerance and civility often teaches us to pretend each other are right. Love demands that we act right toward those we think are wrong.”

“If we never change, we must already be right about everything, or we are unwilling to admit we are wrong about anything.”

“We should always be careful about arguing about words to no profit.”

“If you have the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God all figured out, you’ve got it all wrong!”

“To be New Testament Christians, we must answer questions with New Testament answers.”

“Death cures all things temporal.”

Friday, October 30, 2020

$300 Million Telemarketing Scheme, and other links

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

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election

Contrasting thoughts from John Piper and Wayne Grudem.

John Piper explains why he will not support either presidential candidate on Nov 3rd in Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin.
“May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold, ‘Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.’”
“As is characteristic of Piper’s personal humility, he allows that ‘you need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently,’ and adds, ‘my way need not be yours.’...Piper’s argument fails to recognize that people can decide not to imitate the sins of a leader, but they cannot do that with laws. Laws require obedience. But millions of people have seen and decided not to imitate Trump’s character flaws. The most frequent comment I hear from Trump supporters is something like, ‘I don’t like his insulting tweets or his personality,  but I’m supporting him anyway because he has brought about good laws and policies.’”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

5 Awesome Mausoleums, and other links

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Church councils

A combined paragraph of my thoughts, the writing of James Madison Pendleton, and Edward Thurston Hiscox.

Councils and presbyteries may be called and convened to give advice in cases of the moment. They are not standing bodies; they are advisory only, and not authoritative. Baptist Churches are independent and autonomous under their Head, Jesus Christ. There is no court of appeal, whose decisions can nullify those of the individual church. Councils are advisory bodies that have unquestioned utility. Biblically-informed brethren are called to give scriptural advice in cases of serious and unresolved difficulties. There is good in hearing and heeding Godly counsel. There is danger if churches assume councils have authority over the churches. There is no higher earthly authority in ecclesiastical affairs, than the individual church. Each church acts under the truth of the Scriptures and leadership of the Holy Spirit, and, ultimately, will answer to her Head.

Monday, October 26, 2020

In other words, agitation and propaganda

  • agitprop, noun. Propaganda; especially, political propaganda promulgated chiefly in literature, drama, music, or art (agitation-propaganda, borrowed from Russian Agitprop).
  • ambitus, noun. The action of seeking to obtain an office or position through underhanded means; esp. the use of bribery to gain electoral support.
  • chicken-pecked, adjective. Designating an adult (esp. a parent) who is ordered about by a child. Compare henpecked.
  • Christophany, noun. An appearance or manifestation of Christ, especially before the incarnation. Also: this appearance or manifestation as a phenomenon.
  • communis opinio, noun. Common opinion; prevailing doctrine, or generally accepted view, often in an academic field (from the Latin).
  • coram Deo (Latin phrase). In the presence of God; in Christian theology summarizes the idea of a Christian one’s life in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the glory of God (coram, before; in the presence of + Deo, God).
  • deleatur, verb (intransitive). ‘Let it be deleted’: used as an instruction to indicate that a word, sentence, etc., should be deleted from a page or text.
  • dictate, verb. To say or read (something) aloud for another person to transcribe or for a machine to record.
  • dictitate, verb. To speak or say repeatedly.
  • dulciloquy, noun. A sweet or pleasing manner of speaking; sweetness of speech. Also: an instance of this.
  • ethnobotany, noun. The traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants; the scientific study or description of this.
  • garboil, noun. Confusion, turmoil; disturbance, tumult; discord, controversy; also: an instance or state of confusion, disturbance, discord, etc.
  • headwark, noun. Pain in the head; a headache.
  • henpecked, adjective. Browbeaten, bullied, or intimidated by one’s wife, girlfriend, etc. Compare chicken-pecked.
  • ovidian, adjective. Belonging to or characteristic of the Latin poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso), born 43 b. c., died a. d 17; resembling the style of Ovid.
  • rooked, adjective. Deprived of money through fraudulent or underhand means; swindled, fleeced.
  • ruderal, adjective. Of a plant: growing on waste ground or among rubbish, esp. as a pioneer.
  • schlep, verb, (transitive). To haul, carry, drag.
  • woodhenge, noun. (The remains of) a prehistoric monument consisting of a circular or elliptical timber structure (usually interpreted as a circle of large free-standing timber posts), typically surviving only as one or more rings of postholes.

The doctrine of creation

“Understanding and believing the doctrine of creation in the book of Genesis is foundational in accepting, listen carefully, that the Holy Bible is to be taken seriously when it speaks to the real world.”
John MacArthur
“It is not accurate to say that the days are God’s days. God ad intra does not have days. Creation is an act proceeding outwardly from God…. Appealing to the eternal Sabbath is also of no avail. Although God’s Sabbath is certainly endless, that cannot be said of the first Sabbath…. The use of the term ‘day’ in Genesis 2:4 is figurative, but in Genesis 1 figurative language is not used. What one must show is another place in Scripture where a first, a second, a third day, etc., are just as sharply separated and and nevertheless describe periods of time. The ‘day of the Lord’ of the prophets refers to a specific day—that is, a day on which the Lord appears for judgment, even though His judgment may last longer than one day.” 
Geerhardus Vos

Sunday, October 25, 2020

My Home Above

The following text is probably found only in Cooper Revision of The Sacred Harp. John Wesley Miller (1862–1931), a singer, composer, and music teacher, wrote both text and tune around 1913, and it was included in The Sacred Harp, Eighth Edition. He was a member of the revision committees of the 1907 and 1909 editions of the Cooper Sacred Harp Book.

The song’s title is My Home Above, and it is found on page 524 of The Sacred Harp, Revised Cooper Edition, 2012. The hymn itself is Long Meter (8,8,8,8), and in the particular style of the song, adds a chorus that is 8s. with 6 lines. When the song was written it was dedicated to fellow singer M. J. Harmon of Tyler, Texas.[i]

The hymn reminds us that this world is not our permanent home, but a place of tenting. Christians do not expect to find rest in this world, but in that home above the skies, where there are no aches, or sobs, or sighs. The blessing of the temporary rest and transitory home is to spend our days for Christ.

1. While tenting here I have no home,
I’ll work and toil ’till death shall come,
For in this world I find no rest,
I’ll seek a home among the blest.

2. My home is not beneath the skies,
Where tempests rage and storms arise;
I have a home that’s built above,
Where all is peace, and joy and love.

3. There in that home above the skies,
They know no aches, or sobs, or sighs;
But all is joy and peace and love,
And Christ shall lead the host above.

O Lord, if I must live this life,
Then let me spend my days for Christ;
Let not my work of life be vain,
Lord help me sing a sweeter strain,
O Lord if I must live this life,
Pray help me spend my days for Christ.

[i] I believe this was Moses Jethro Harmon, who lived in Tyler, but later moved to Fort Worth, Texas.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bolo, bogo

BOLO -- Be on (the) look-out

BOGO -- Buy one, get one (free)

FOMO -- Fear of missing out

FUBU -- For us, by us

YOLO -- You only live once

Friday, October 23, 2020

History of the Interpretation of Acts 19:4-5

I have engaged in some recent discussions of John’s baptism and Christian baptism (as in, whether the same or different). There are several ideas about the baptisms in Acts 19:1-7.

4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Several years ago, I read in John Gill’s (1697-1771; Particular Baptist) commentary concerning Acts 19:4-5. He introduced this idea, that those referred to being baptized in verse 5 are not the 12 in Ephesus, but the people who heard John. In other words, no “rebaptism” occurred in Acts 19:1-7. I considered this novel idea unique to Gill – I had never heard it before. I simply dismissed as odd. Recently I have noticed a few others who made this claim. First is the quote from the commentary of Gill.
Verse 4
Then said Paul,.... In reply to their answer, understanding them that they were baptized by John, he takes it up, and gives an account of John’s baptism: showing how agreeable it was, and that it was the same baptism with the baptism of Christ, being administered in his name:

John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance; which required repentance antecedent to it, and was a fruit and effect, and so an evidence of it:

saying unto the people; the people of the Jews, the common people, the multitude that attended on his ministry:

that they should believe on him, which should come after him, that is, on Jesus Christ; so that he preached faith in Christ, as well as repentance towards God; and made the one as well as the other a necessary prerequisite unto baptism; which shows, that his baptism and Christian baptism are the same.

Verse 5
When they heard this,.... That is, the people to whom John preached, his hearers; when they heard of the Messiah, and that Jesus was he, and that it became them to believe in him:

they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; not the disciples that Paul found at Ephesus, but the hearers of John; for these are the words of the Apostle Paul, giving an account of John’s baptism, and of the success of his ministry, showing, that his baptism was administered in the name of the Lord Jesus; and not the words of Luke the Evangelist, recording what followed upon his account of John’s baptism; for then he would have made mention of the apostle’s name, as he does in the next verse; and have said, when they heard this account, they were baptized by Paul in the name of the Lord Jesus: the historian reports two things, first what Paul said, which lies in Acts 19:4 then what he did, Acts 19:6 where he repeats his name, as was necessary; as that he laid his hands upon them, which was all that was needful to their receiving the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, having been already baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus: which sense is the more confirmed by the particles μεν and δε, which answer to one another in verses 4 and 5, and show the words to be a continuation of the apostle’s speech, and not the words of the historian, which begin in the next verse. Beza’s ancient copy adds, “for the remission of sins”.
My curiosity became whether there is any history of this interpretation or if this is just someone’s odd claim that a couple of other people followed. I have found the following comments, which you may find interesting.

Horatio Balch Hackett (1808-1875; American Baptist clergyman)
Hackett claims that “older writers” maintained “that Luke records these words as a continuation of Paul’s remarks” in order to “rescue the passage from those who appealed to it, in order to justify rebaptism.” He concluded that, “No one, at present, contends for that interpretation.” (A Commentary on the Original Text of the Acts of the Apostles, H. B. Hackett, Boston, MA: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852, p. 266)
Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711; Dutch Second Reformation):
This misunderstanding is a result of separating the words of verse 4 from those in verse 5, and by acknowledging the words of verse 4 to be the words of Paul, but deeming the words in verse 5 to be those of Luke, the writer of this history—as if he were recounting what followed upon the instruction of Paul. This, however, would have to be proven. These words integrate very well when one conjoins verses 4 and 5, and considers them to be the words of the apostle Paul. He instructed the disciples in verse 4 about the manner in which John baptized and taught, and thereupon declared that all who heard it were obedient and believed John’s preaching, were baptized by him.
Francis Turretin (1623-1687; Reformed):
Acts 19:4-5 does not prove that the Ephesian disciples, who had John’s baptism, were rebaptized by Paul. For the words “when they heard they were baptized” (akousantes de ebaptisthēsan, v. 5) are not the words of Luke narrating what followed Paul’s discourse to them, but rather a confirmation of the Pauline oration to those Ephesians, by which he teaches that those who had received baptism from John, had been baptized in the name of Christ and so had no need of a new baptism.
William Attersoll (English clergyman, died 1640)
For first of all. the words in verse 5, And they which heard it were baptized: are not the words of Luke the writer, but of Paul the speaker, continuing his speach of John’s disciples and hearers, and are not to be understood of the twelve, as appeareth by the two Greek conjunctions, which are used by the makers of that tongue to join and to disjoin, having relation one to the other, and knitting together the parts of the sentence answering fitly each to other, as may be seen in many places, wherefore, Luke speaks not here of Paul’s baptism, but Paul speaks of John’s baptism. He sets down the office of John verse 3, then the prose cuts both the parts of it, mentioning his preaching verse 4. and his baptizing verse 5. Again, these twelve abiding at Ephesus dwelling far from the land of Judæa where John preached and baptized were living about 30. or 40, years after the death of John, could not hear his doctrine from his own mouth, or receive baptism at his hands. Now, whereas they are said to be baptized to John’s baptism, the meaning is, they embraced & professed the same doctrine which John preached by word, and sealed with his baptism.
Joannes Drusius, (1550-1616, Flemish Protestant clergyman, Quaestiones Ebraicae, lib. i. q. 8, 3., 1599)
Du Veil refers to Drusius observing on verse 5 “that this verse is taken, as if they were Luke’s words, which they are not. ‘The apostle Paul,’ saith he, ‘speaks of John’s baptism, which he proved to be the same with Christ’s baptism, partly by his doings, partly by his sayings, as being one that preached Christ to come, and baptized such as believed in him: and this is it which be saith, they were baptized in the name of Jesus; such as, to wit, while John preached, embraced the faith of Christ, of which number those disciples were; but because those believers had not as yet received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, therefore the apostle asks them, by who baptism they were initiated, and when he knew the matter, laid his hands upon them, and immediately the Spirit coming down upon them they began to speak with tongues and to prophecy, even as Luke mentions in the context of this history.” (A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, C. M. Du Veil, London: J. Haddon, 1851, p. 406; Charles-Marie Du Veil, ca. 1630-ca. 1690, was a 17th century Jew who converted to Catholicism, then later became a Baptist)
John Calvin (1509-1564; French Protestant Reformer)
Other some deny that baptism was repeated; because they were baptized amiss by some foolish enemy of John. But because their conjecture hath no color; yea, the words of Paul do rather import that they were the true and natural disciples of John, and Luke doth honorably call them disciples of Christ; I do not subscribe to this opinion, and yet deny that the baptism of water was repeated, because the words of Luke import no other thing, save only that they were baptized with the Spirit. (John Calvin’s commentary on Acts)
Arator (6th century Christian poet)
Hillier indicates Arator saw a “rebaptism” here when he discusses that the incident has not relevance to the church’s teaching on rebaptism because these were two baptism of a different nature. (Arator on the Acts of the Apostles: A Baptismal Commentary, Richard Hillier, Oxford: Clarendon press, 1993, p 26).
Cassiodorus (circa AD 490-ca. 583) in Complexiones
(Acts 19:1) And it came to pass, while Apollo was at Corinth, that Paul having passed through the upper coasts, came, etc. While Apollo was at Corinth, it came to pass that Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus, where, having found certain disciples, he asked if they had received the grace of the Holy Ghost when they were baptized. They declared that they were entirely ignorant of that name, but had been consecrated in John’s baptism. Paul baptized them while invoking the Trinity, and the Holy Ghost came upon them, making them able to prophesize in various tongues. Paul, staying there for three months, preached about the Lord Christ in his customary manner.
John Chrysostom (circa AD 347-407)
I am not sure I understand what Chrysostom is talking about much of the time, but it seems clear that he believes Paul baptized the 12 at Ephesus. (Homily 40 on the Acts of the Apostles)
Others any of you know about?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Answering a Question I Get, and other links

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Boomtown Pandemic, and other links

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Who Baptized the Apostles?

Q. Who baptized the apostles?

A. The Bible does not provide a specific answer, so that one can quote “John baptized X.” Nevertheless, it provides information to lead to a reasonable conclusion. Consider the following biblical evidence. The Bible is not explicit that John the Baptist baptized the 12 apostles, yet there is more reason to believe that he did than to believe he did not. The reason to believe that he did not is based on silence (i.e., saying that we cannot find a passage in the Bible that explicitly says “John baptized X”). The reasons to believe that he did are from putting together the unavoidable implications of Scripture.

John was a prophet sent from God (John 1:6; Luke 7:28). John was not operating in a priestly role under the Jewish law, but came with a new message authorized by God. John came to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:16-18). He preached the kingdom of God and baptized disciples. Those who obeyed John’s message received John’s baptism. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3-6; Matthew 3:1-6; Mark 1:1-5; Luke 3:3-4, 21) and those who received his message were baptized. Apparently, the apostles and other early disciples of Jesus received John’s message. The other option would be that they rejected John’s message, yet followed Jesus anyway (which is not plausible).

John’s baptism was from heaven (Mark 11:29-31). Submitting to John’s baptism “justified God” – probably signifying that they acknowledged God’s truth by submitting to the baptism of the man that God sent. John Gill says, “they expressed their sentiments by their obedience.” They declared God was right by receiving baptism. Luke 7:29-30 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. It seems true that (1) the disciples were there among those that heard him, and (2) that those whom Jesus called to follow him had not rejected the counsel of God against themselves!

John’s baptism divided the people into two classes – those that “justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John” and those that “rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” Those that justified God were numerous. Luke writes, “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized…” (Luke 3: 21). Those who rejected the counsel of God were usually the religious leaders and teachers. It makes nonsense of the Bible to conclude that Jesus’s disciples rejected the baptism of John (see Luke 7:30).

Two of John’s disciples followed Jesus after John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God. One of these was Andrew, an apostle. John 1:35-37, 40 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus…One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. John baptized Andrew. Following the first chapter of John leads further to the implication that other disciples of Jesus were baptized by John.

Even after the disciples of Jesus began to baptize (under his authority) John continued to baptize. His commission to baptize continued until his death. John fulfilled his course (Acts 13:23-25). John 3:22-23 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. John 4:1-3 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) he left Judæa, and departed again into Galilee.

An apostle to replace Judas was chosen from those who had been with them from the time of John’s baptism. Acts 1:21-23 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. The phrase “baptism of John” (βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου/ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάννου) is never used to refer only to the baptism of Jesus by John, but to the baptizing that John did (Matthew 21:25; Mark 11:30; Luke 7:29; Luke 20:4; Acts 18:25).

The apostle John affirms of himself and the other apostles (us) that they saw and heard things “from the beginning.” Mark characterizes the beginning with the proclamation of John the Baptist, which he styles “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1: 1; see also Luke 1:1-2). 1 John 1: 1-3. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

John baptized his disciples, and John’s disciples followed Christ. It is difficult – to the point of deliberate – to reject this as the scriptural conclusion of the matter.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Simple church

“To be New Testament Christians, we need to ask New Testament questions and give New Testament answers.”

The differences between liberals and

The differences between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians  and their difficulty in getting along  spring from distinct moral views held by equally sincere people. They understand human nature differently.
From Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, New York, NY: Vintage Books Edition, 2013)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Lodestone of Thy Love


The tune Lodestone, 2013

The following hymn is Part IV of “A Prayer for Persons Join’d in Fellowship,” by Charles Wesley in Hymns and Sacred Poems of 1742, pages 86–87. It a Common Meter hymn and has been set to a number of tunes, including Balerma, Boylston, Evan, and Naomi.

1. Jesu, united by thy grace,
And each to each endeared,
With confidence we seek thy grace,
And know our prayer is heard.

2. Still let us own our common Lord,
And bear thy easy yoke,
A band of love, a threefold cord,
Which never can be broke.

3. Make us into one spirit drink;
Baptise into thy name;
And let us always kindly think,
And sweetly speak, the same.

4. Touched by the lodestone of thy love,
Let all our hearts agree,
And ever toward each other move,
And ever move towards thee.

5. To thee, inseparably joined,
Let all our spirits cleave;
O may we all the loving mind
That was in thee receive.

6. This is the bond of perfectness,
Thy spotless charity;
O let us (still we pray) possess
The mind that was in thee.

7. Grant this, and then from all below
Insensibly remove:
Our souls their change shall scarcely know,
Made perfect first in love.

8. With ease our souls through death shall glide
Into their paradise,
And thence, on wings of angels, ride
Triumphant through the skies.

9. Yet when the fullest joy is given,
The same delight we prove,
In earth, in paradise, in heav’n,
Our all in all is love.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

There are three things, and other music quotes

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

“There are three things I like about Sacred Harp: I like the songs they sing; I like the way they sing them; and, most of all, I like the folks that sing them.” -- Curtis Owen

“When we sing to God, we are looking hard in his direction.” -- J. I. Packer

“The Bible’s aesthetics should be the taproot of our contemporary worship aesthetics.” -- Scott Aniol

“We want to have some good singing and it is impossible to have good singing in sorry books, so everybody come and bring your Sacred Harp book.” -- Conrad, Oaky Grove community reporter to Abbeville Herald newspaper

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” -- Bono

“I feel most alive when I'm singing along to old gospel music.” -- Judith Hill

“The sacred harp singing tradition is as American as ‘Yankee Doodle,’ only much older and more so.” -- E. W. Carswell, in Pensacola News Journal, October 25, 1970

“Gospel music [is] calming. It’s soothing. It gets right to the point of whatever you’re dealing with.” -- Yolanda Adams

“Rhythm, harmony, and melody...must from the earliest age penetrate deeply into mind and soul through imitation and natural enjoyment.  Only in this way, by ordering the soul in harmony and giving it a sense of the meaning of proportion and relationship, can it be induced later to become fully rational, and to derive pleasure from the theoretic contemplation of ideas.” -- Stratford Caldecott, in Beauty for Truth’s Sake

Friday, October 16, 2020

Since all the downward tracts of time

The football world is in turmoil about an ill-advised statement by former coach and analyst Tony Dungy. Dungy was making a point about the football future of the Dallas Cowboys, rather than extolling the virtues of their quarterback’s injury. The comment was not intentionally malicious, but the blowback has been swift and harsh.

While others are focusing on that, I turn to the idiom itself. The idiom apparently originated in a hymn by James Hervey. Written earlier, it was first published in 1746, in Reflections on a Flower-Garden, In a Letter to a Lady. The poem is set amidst the prose asserting, “that God is unerringly wise” and “does not overlook thee.” Hervey advocated accepting whatever God choses to bestow – allowing that things which do not appear to be blessings may well be “blessings in disguise.” The hymn usually appears in the form below, though often beginning, “Since all the varying scenes of time.”

1. Since all the downward tracts of time
God’s watchful eye surveys,
O! who so wise to choose our lot
Or to appoint our ways?

2. Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies;
E’en crosses from His sovereign hand
Are blessings in disguise.

3. Why should we doubt a Father’s love,
So constant and so kind?
To His unerring, gracious will
Be every wish resigned.

James Hervey (1714–1758) was an Anglican clergyman and writer. Influenced by John Wesley and the Methodists, he ultimately became a thorough-going Calvinist and remained in the Anglican communion. Next is how the poem appears in “Reflections on a Flower-Garden.”

Since all the downward Tracts of Time
God’s watchful Eye surveys
O! who so wise to chuse our Lot,
And regulate our Ways?

Since none can doubt his equal Love,
Unmeasurably kind;
To his unerring, gracious Will,
Be ev’ry Wish resign’d.

Good when He gives, supremely Good;
Nor less, when He denies;
E’en Crosses from his sov’reign Hand
Are Blessings in Disguise.

Current chatter aside, there truly are many Blessings in Disquise.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Role of Government

I have previously written at some length on the biblical view of government HERE. With the current climate, discussions and counter-discussions, I decided to make some more comments (probably much the same).

As Christians, first and foremost we must find our view of what government is and ought to be within the lids of the Holy Bible. As Americans, we expect our government to operate within the framework of our founding document, the Constitution. As Christians who are also Americans, we may express our right to address areas in our government’s laws and actions that we believe fall short of the biblical ideal.[i]

Primarily we look to the principles taught in the New Testament to develop a biblical worldview of government. We also look into the Old Testament for universal moral principles. However, since Israel was a theocracy under specific covenant and laws given by God, we do not look to its situation as parallel to the relationship of church and state among non-covenant nations in either the Old or New Testaments or in the time in which we now live. Also instructive are the messages of Old Testament prophets to pagan rulers and non-covenant nations about their obligations. These rulers and nations should function under God’s principles function. The New Testament does not detail a specific form of government, but following its guidelines, we can develop a form of government that “punishes the evil and rewards the good.” This “ideal” government’s role is “negative” more than “positive.”[ii] The most relevant passages in the New Testament, though not the only ones, are Matthew 22:17-21, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-14.

Romans 13:1-7

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Government punishes the evildoer. It is a “minister of God to thee for good…a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Before Romans 13, Paul admonishes, “avenge not yourselves,” (as much as possible) “live peaceably with all men,” and give place unto wrath.” This is possible under a stable government system. Ultimately, God will right all wrongs, but in the now, government is one of his tools for accomplishing this. Restraining wrong and punishing bad behavior is primarily a “negative” role for government. The passage, though some might wish otherwise, does not constrain the government to give goods to its citizens, but to praise good by creating an environment in which good rather than evil is cherished and can flourish. Commenting on “praise” in verse 3, John Murray writes:

The praise given by the magistrate is not a reward in the proper sense of the term…The praise could be expressed by saying that good behaviour secures good standing in the state, a status to be cherished and cultivated.[iii]

Government fills a “negative role” by punishing evil, and a “positive role” by promoting good.

1 Timothy 2:1-2

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

Prayers for secular authorities recognize their legitimacy before God. Governmental authority provides the framework for people to live together peaceably. Prayers for secular authorities recognize the role of law in promoting safety and security. Safety and security – leading a quiet and peaceable life – promotes godliness and honesty by allowing us to better pursue them.

1 Peter 2:13-14

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”

Peter here echoes and agrees with the principles in Romans 13. Government fills a “negative role” by punishing evil, and a “positive role” by promoting good. Submission to the proper role of government equals submission to God, for the “are sent by him.” Government “gives praise” to those who do well, by securing their good standing in the state. Government should primarily protect God-given rights so that citizens may “do” rather than creating “rights” by doing for its citizens.

Matthew 22:17-21

“Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus identifies the role of government as legitimate, yet limited. Government has a God-given role. Its citizens, including Christians, should support its role. Its role is limited to “the things which are” the government’s.[iv] Ultimate allegiance belongs to God and not government.

Christians subject themselves to authority, recognizing it as an intrinsic good. God establishes the principle of government. Authority is better than anarchy. The state provides order and stability by protecting rights and punishing wrongs. God is the highest authority, and allegiance to him supersedes allegiance to worldly powers (Acts 5:29).

“We ought to obey God rather than men.”

[i] As well as the Constitutional ideal.
[ii] Negative rights and positive rights in political parlance are rights that oblige either no action (negative rights) or action (positive rights). In laymen’s terms, negative rights are rights to be left alone by government (i.e., to think, say, and do, what we wish as long as our behavior does not harm others. Positive rights are rights to get things from the government, such as education, health care, etc.
[iii] The Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997, p. 151.
[iv] As Christians, we base the theory of what government should be on the teachings of the Bible. As Americans, we further base what government should be on the framework of the Constitution.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Ethics of Voting

Some interesting thoughts on politics from Jonathan Leeman, an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church, (currently meeting outdoors in Greenbelt, Maryland) and author of recently posted “The DC Mayor Doesn’t Get to Define Church.” The following is excerpted from “What Makes a Vote Moral or Immoral? The Ethics of Voting.”

“When you vote in a democratic system, you’re actually participating in the role of the “governing authorities” that Paul and Peter describe. Your job is to align your objectives with the purposes which God gives to the government in Scriptures, such as “punish[ing] those who do evil and praise[ing] those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13–14; see also, Gen. 9:5–6; Rom. 13:1–7; etc.).

“Therefore, your vote requires you to make a moral evaluation about what’s good and what’s evil, or wise and unwise (see Prov. 8:15–16), and then to act on behalf of your evaluation. You are morally responsible for this evaluation and act of judgment.

“Suppose then candidate Jack says he believes in positions a, b, c, d, and e, while candidate Jill supports issues l, m, n, o, and p. When I cast a ballot for Jack, I am giving Jack the agency—that is, the power or ability—he needs for turning a, b, c, d, and e into law over and against l, m, n, o, and p. If Jack is elected and succeeds in writing a, b, c, d, and into law, I become morally culpable for those laws, at least in some measure, by the simple formula of cause and effect with my vote as the first cause. Our votes create the requisite agency. We’re handing Jack or Jill the sword of state…

“Suppose you believe issue is wicked, yet vote for Jack because you really care about a, b, c, and d. Still, you cannot discount what your vote does. It gives Jack agency to pursue a, b, c, d, and e, and you remain morally responsible for that. There’s no way to absolve yourself of moral responsibility for the one thing you don’t like and to keep it for the four things you do like.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Pro-Life Neo-Evangelicals raise the White Flag

In the name of “pro-life,” a group of evangelicals has run up the white flag. On their home page they claim to support the sanctity of human life from beginning to end – but cut off the beginning in the race to the end.

As pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with Vice President Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion. But we believe a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end…For these reasons, we believe that on balance, Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore, even as we continue to urge different policies on abortion, we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president.

They assert, “Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism and climate change are all pro-life issues.” Certainly none of this is unimportant, but surely the vacuity of thought resounds in the insertion of smoking as a problem comparable to abortion. The murdered baby will never have the opportunity to choose to smoke or reject it. The murdered baby will never know wealth or poverty, racism or the lack thereof, or whether climate change is all it is cracked up to be. Accessible health care? Instead, give the babe in the womb accessible death care!

Joe Biden on abortion, at the 2019 Democratic National Committee gala in Atlanta, Georgia, said, “I support Roe. I support a woman’s right to choose under that Constitutional guaranteed provision.” At the New Hampshire Democratic Debate on February 7, 2020, David Muir asked Joe Biden, “Would there be a litmus test on abortion?” (That is, would he only appoint judges who support abortion, Roe v. Wade, etc.) Jo Biden answered, “Yes.” As a senator, Kamala Harris co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prevent states from enacting certain restrictions on access to abortion. While running for President, Harris promised that she would require that states would have to go through her Justice Department for approval of abortion-related laws. She also co-sponsored the EACH Woman Act, which would undo the Hyde Amendment, an amendment that bans federal funding of abortion. (Harris’s positions are directly aligned with the Democratic Party Platform, which states, “We will repeal the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify Roe v. Wade.”)

Fellow Christian, your dislike of Trump resonates with me. Disliking Trump does not justify supporting Biden and the pro-death Democrats. Why not fight for better politics, a third party that stands for real Christian values? No, we won’t get there this year. Probably not four years from now either. We won’t ever get there as long as we keep settling for the choice of one of two very poor options!

Fact is, “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Abortion,” er, I mean Biden – if you do not support life in the beginning, you do not support it to the end, because in a Biden/Harris/DNC scenario the beginning is the end.

Notes: In 2019, abortion was the leading cause of death worldwide. It is the leading cause of death in the United States as well (in latest counts, over 600,000 abortions annually per CDC, or 800,000 abortions annually per Guttmacher). Are “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden” willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of unborn babies annually, because they prefer the other policies of the Democrats? Apparently so, even though other parties oppose (or at least do not promote) abortion while differing on the best ways to achieve some of the other issues. Republicans also want good health care for all Americans. You may not prefer the way they go about it, but they are not trying to kill us all. Libertarians favor a free market health care system, and are not promoting death. The current administration’s economic policies (at least before the pandemic) promoted prosperity and helped alleviate poverty. President Trump has repeatedly repudiated white supremacy while continually being smeared with it. He promoted and signed into law the First Step Act, reforming criminal justice laws that seem to affect blacks disproportionately. Further, he promoted and signed a bill providing secure funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. AND I am not aware of any political party that is promoting cigarette smoking! Ultimately, this so-called “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden” movement is likely just another expression of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Like COVID-19, it has many random symptoms.