Monday, July 31, 2023

The reader can rely on the word

Thomas Newberry (1810-1901) was a Plymouth Brethren minister in England. In the late 1800s he edited and published The Englishman’s Bible. The following quote is credited to Newberry in several biographical sketches of his life.

“As the result of a careful examination of the entire Scriptures in the originals, noticing and marking where necessary every variation of tense, preposition, and the signification of words, the impression left upon my mind is this, not the difficulty of believing the entire inspiration of the Bible, but the impossibility of doubting it … The godliness of the translators, their reverence, the superiority of their scholarship, and the manifest assistance and control afforded to them by the Holy Spirit in their work, is such that the ordinary reader can rely upon the whole as THE WORD OF GOD.”

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Old-Time Songs

“The Old-Time Songs” poem describes a (perhaps imaginary) singing that uses Christian Harmony, Sacred Harp, and Temple Star song books. It is not unrealistic to believe a singing in 1913 could have used all three of these popular books. However, the page numbers and words (though real song words) do not correspond with the songs in these books on the numbers mentioned. Perhaps “D. G. B.” simply intended to be humourous.

The Athens (Georgia) Banner, Sunday, August 17, 1913, page 4

Will the Waters Be Chilly was never in The Christian Harmony, so far as I know, but it is a good song.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Voulgaris Vindicated, and other links

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

Friday, July 28, 2023

Rain when we need it.

It’s hot and dry out there, but, then again, it is summer in East Texas.

My paternal grandfather used to say, “We will get rain when we need it.” Some people seem to think that is an absurd assertion, and that we often need rain before we get it. Granddaddy died when I was a little boy, so his climate theology was mediated to be me by others. I never had the chance to ask him what he meant. However, I have thought about it a lot and here is what I think he meant.

Granddaddy was not some rich man living on gilded streets. He was a farmer whose life and livelihood depended on the sun and rain in proper proportions at the suitable seasons. Perhaps he thought it is not so much the condition of the soil but the condition of our heart that determines what we receive. And, ultimately, that it is not the opinion of man but the will of God that determines what we need. He who hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and who sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust is the determiner of need.

Sometimes what we want is not what we need, as any good parent knows.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Answering William’s Thirty Questions

Thirty questions on our ecclesiology, by William Thornton, posted on SBC Voices.

William is a retired SBC pastor who is quite amiable, with whom I have interacted in a couple of forums (Baptist Life & SBC Voices), and who I would describe as slightly to the right of moderate. On the Baptist Life forum, which tended very moderate to liberal, he stood out as conservative there.

The subject of women pastors is one of high alert in the SBC at the moment. Discussions abound. In their June 2023 Convention the delegates voted to uphold the decision of the Executive Committee, which sees churches with women pastors in violation of the Baptist Faith and Message (the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture) and not in friendly cooperation with the Convention. One was the high-profile Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, founded by Rick Warren. A lot of current SBC discussion is nuanced on positions that may not be pastoral but has pastor or minister in the job title, or positions that are pastoral, but do not have pastor or minister in the job title (e.g. director, instead).

I am not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of the questions are really outside my interest, since they are pretty specific to the SBC. On the other hand, I noticed few people at SBC Voices seemed willing to tackle them head on. Rather, they just post what they want to say, throwing something in the general vicinity of the questions. So I thought I would do so, primarily to exercise my slumping brain on the subject of Baptist ecclesiology (a very important subject).

The thirty questions and thirty answers:

  1. If a church has multiple pastors, who is the pastor and how does the congregation express this?

If a church has a scriptural plurality of pastors (elders) then they would express it by calling them all pastors equally. The problem is that many churches that have multiple pastors usually have an hierarchy of employees called “pastors” while employing many of them in positions that have little resemblance to biblical pastoral ministry.

  1. Is the fresh-faced nineteen-year-old summer student pastor the same as his ultimate supervisor?

I have no idea what a “summer student pastor” is, and less inclination to find out. It does not sound like a biblical pastoral position to me.

  1. The SBC spent decades with a pastor/deacon model. Those decades were the greatest in our growth. Why is that model so easily discarded?

I am not SBC, so probably not highly qualified to answer this question. The one SBC church with which I am most familiar concerning their “pastor/deacon” model may have employed it successfully, but not scripturally, in my opinion. The business of the church was conducted in the private deacon’s meeting and then presented to the church for approval by “perfunctory” vote (see William’s question 24). I think that model should be discarded.

  1. How much of our ecclesiology can be traced to American affluence and liberty?

I believe that American affluence and political views on freedom, liberty, and democracy have influenced the ecclesiology in Baptist Churches in the U.S. I have no idea how much, but do believe it has had some negative effect – in the sense of looking to the “U.S.” as a model rather than the Bible.

  1. If churches didn’t have buildings and budgets would church governance look different?

I expect so, at least somewhat. Nevertheless, our bigger problem is the more general lack of focus on biblical faith and practice.

  1. Is it fair to say that Southern Baptists, once megachurches and their celebrity pastors moved to the multi-site model, changed their ecclesiology to accommodate that?

Yes, I think megachurches and celebrity pastors have negatively affected the ecclesiology of Southern Baptists, as well as other Baptists in the U.S. A church meeting in several locations does not meet the biblical definition of a congregation.

  1. Concomitantly, why do we always avoid the title “bishop” when referring to the pastor who has charge of multiple churches?

I do not think this is new. It is my own experience in the churches with which I have been associated in my lifetime, that they have generally either avoided or neglected the use of the word “bishop” to refer to pastors. This was well before megachurches, multi-site churches, and (mostly) celebrity pastors. It is my opinion that this scriptural word was avoided mainly because of its misuse by other denominations and in a desire to steer clear of misunderstanding – that “elder” and “pastor” would carry less baggage than bishop in most cases.

  1. If any kind of woman pastor is constitutionally prohibited, don’t we have to get into the business of functional job duties?

No, just do not have women in pastoral job duties. However, it is problematic that some churches give women the same functional job duties they would consider pastoral, but skirt the issue by calling them by some “title” other than pastor.

  1. If we delve into job duties are we not then forced to decide on the age of males at which females are prohibited from teaching, supervising, and directing?

Yes, I would say that some churches give women authority over males at certain ages, which, if they were called pastors, to which they would object.

  1. Is there any ecclesiastical component other than women as pastors that would receive the level of scrutiny that we are now giving to churches?

Is there? I don’t know. Should there be? Yes – divorce and remarriage in the ministry being one of them. And all the other qualifications should be resurrected with proper emphasis. It is a fact that many churches have punted the biblical qualifications in favor of instead judging one’s experience, educational and executive qualifications, and such like.

  1. Is the focus on women motivated in large part by the ease at which men can distinguish between a woman and a man?

Probably not. Hopefully Southern Baptists still can distinguish, but many in our society cannot profess to tell the difference between a woman and a man.

  1. Is there any other qualification of pastor that is likely to receive such scrutiny? Why not?

Traditionally, “husband of one wife” has received a lot of scrutiny, but that bird seems to have flown the coop. See also question 10.

  1. If a church has an executive pastor, why can that position not be filled by a woman?

What is an executive pastor, biblically? If it is a biblical position to be filled according to the qualifications of I Timothy and Titus, how can it be filled by a woman?

  1. What does a worship pastor pastor?

What is a worship pastor, biblically? If it is a biblical position, wouldn’t all pastors be “worship pastors” whose qualifications are set forth in Timothy and Titus?

  1. What other major statement of faith, creed, or confession utilizes forward slash phrases?

Huh? This was initially meaningless to me, until I found that William refers to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message using slashes in Article VI – “pastor/elder/overseer.” William always like to insert a little humor.

  1. How much sense does it make to declare that your church can cooperate with other churches that have female directors or ministers but not cooperate with those who have female pastors?

A local church is autonomous, and so can cooperate with whomever she wishes. However, biblical cooperation is based on biblical principles. Are there any biblical principles for female directors, female ministers, or female pastors? What is the difference? I assume William is probably hinting at a hypocrisy hidden in there being no difference in function, only in name.

  1. One of our few success stories of this century is the increasing proportion of African American and other ethnic churches who identify as SBC. Does it concern anyone that we may totally undermine these successes?

How is this being undermined? William does not say. We are not SBC, so this question is somewhat immaterial to us. Our church, as a local church, fellowships with “ethnic churches” based on shared biblical faith and practice rather than our supporting a common program.

  1. If a mixed adult group has man/woman team teacher and the main teacher is the woman, is this a problem?

Yes, it sounds like a way of circumventing not having a woman teach adult men (i.e., by calling in a team).

  1. How long has it been since your church prohibited women from speaking in a church conference?

We do not prohibit it, though they do not run the church business. We do not prohibit men who are not pastors from speaking in church conference either. Prohibiting women from speaking in conference is more an issue of one’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34 than with the issue of women pastors. I know some churches that do prohibit this, based on that Scripture in 1 Corinthians. Is William trying to imply churches are inconsistent to refuse women pastors while allowing them to speak in church conference? We also allow women to sing and testify.

  1. If our constitution says a woman may not be “any kind of pastor” is it acceptable to have other titles, e.g., minister, director, assistant?

This seems to be rooted in a progressivism that desires to create positions that the Bible does not create or recognize as Scriptural offices.

  1. What is a co-pastor?

I suppose it is according to what the church that uses it means. Sometimes it has the sense “together; joint or jointly; mutual or mutually” (suggesting equality); “sometimes it has the sense “auxiliary, subsidiary” (suggesting subordination). A group of equal plural elders would be “co-pastors” in a sense according to the first definition. A group of “under-pastors” serving under a the direction of a senior pastor would be “co-pastors” according to the second definition.

  1. If a church has pastors, elders, and deacons should they be excluded?

What? Excluded from what? I do not understand this question.

  1. If deacons have administrative authority, and in most SBC churches this is the case, how is this unbiblical?

Biblically, deacons are servants of the church. If the church assigns them administrative duties, then they could be biblically serving the church. If they have administrative authority over the church, it would be unbiblical.

  1. Is a church legitimately congregational if only perfunctory votes are taken?

Perfunctory is likely a matter of perspective. Do you think some other church’s votes are perfunctory, and does that church see that operation as perfunctory? Perfunctory in this context likely means “performed merely as a routine duty.” The votes of the church I mentioned in question 3 seemed “perfunctory” to me. However, it is likely that their “routine” approval of the deacons’ motions and seconds could turn to something else if the deacons proposed something they did not like. So, though I did not like their system, and perhaps they were not congregational carefully enough, but in the end still exercised congregational oversight.

  1. Should all women who have affixed to their church position the term “pastor” be considered carnal Christians, ipso facto disobedient, and out of fellowship with God?

They would be disobedient to the extent they disobeyed the biblical faith and practice. Same as a believer who refuses to be baptized, or one who deliberately chooses sprinkling over immersion, and so on.

  1. How has our American system of itinerant ministry shaped our ecclesiology?

Here I am assuming William means the common practice of preachers moving from church to church (often upwardly), rather than ministering long-term in one church (especially the church in which they were raised and ordained). To me, a true itinerant minister is not a pastor. However, that has often be the effect in churches. A pastor is called, becomes acclimatized, and the church soon gives him to the boot. Or, a pastor is called, becomes acclimatized, but soon finds a much better offer which “calls” him away. I am not sure this has shaped our ecclesiology in terms of definitions (though perhaps so), but I do believe it has negatively shaped our ecclesiology in practice.

  1. Is ordination a consideration in any discussion of women pastors or ministers?

Yes, it should be. If women should not be pastors (and they should not), then they also should not be ordained.

  1. What determines whether or not speaking is preaching? Is it the furniture involved or the gender of the speaker?

Preaching is an act of public biblical proclamation and teaching. Furniture and gender do not determine it; the Bible is our rule of faith and practice.

  1. How long before Lottie, Annie, and Bertha lose their high standing in today’s SBC?

I have no idea, but have always thought it a bit odd to have all the big offering pushes in the SBC named after women.

  1. Do you think folks in the pews care about all this?

Yes, in our pews in our church they do care.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Louis Gaussen on Preservation

(6.) Last, by a new assemblage of other facts, not less striking and incontestable, all of which attest, with equal force, the same continued agency of the Most High for the preservation of the New Testament.

422. This doctrine, we affirm, is already proved, for every one who believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures, by the simple consideration of the divine wisdom and veracity.

This is almost a question of the plainest common sense. Only suppose that a clever watchmaker, by a wonderful exertion of his abilities, prepares and finishes, at great expense, all the parts of a perfect chronometer, which is intended for the use of his beloved son in his travels to foreign parts; shall we not admit, as we would an axiom, that, having thus made it, he would not intentionally leave it out of doors exposed to all the accidents of the weather, or to injuries of passers-by? And who, then can admit that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would cause His only Son to come down from heaven for His chosen people, without guaranteeing for them the record of His life and teachings? or that He would have commissioned His apostles to write their books by the Holy Spirit, without taking care to preserve in aftertime so precious a deposit? that He watched over these books while they were being written, and ceased to watch over them when once they were given to the world? that He cared no more about them when the churches had received them from the hands of the apostles? and that, in consequence, they have been transmitted from age to age, from country to country, from one generation to another, abandoned henceforward, like any common book to all the hazards of eighteen centuries? Would such negligence be in harmony with the principles of His government; with the care which He takes of the Church to the end of time; with His declarations of the value of the Scriptures, and the permanent certainty of their declarations; with His denunciations against the crime of adding anything to them, or taking anything from them? He numbers the hairs of our head, and would He not number the books of His oracles? He does not allow a sparrow to fall to the ground without His permission, and would He allow the Scriptures to fall from heaven to the ground, which have been given by Himself for the universal gathering together of His elect? What good to give them divinely inspired, unless He transmit them divinely guarded? Why preserve them from all error, if not preserved afterwards from all dangers? He who said, “Every word of God is pure, .... add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee,” will He not keep a jealous eye upon it? And if, by the mouth of Paul, He pronounced an anathema against any who should preach “any other gospel than what His apostles preached,” would He afterwards permit this condemnation to fall on the entire collection of their oracles, by allowing inspired writings to be lost from it, or forged writings to be admitted into it? This is not possible. And we must all admit that, the inspiration of the Scriptures being recognised, our doctrine is already proved by the simplest knowledge of the wisdom and veracity of God.

Francois Samuel Robert Louis Gaussen in Le Canon des saintes ecritures au double point de vue de la science et de la foi (The Canon of the Holy Scriptures from the Double Point of View of Science and Faith) 1860, pp. 430-432.

Since Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, ‘created all things in heaven and earth, and by him all things subsist,’ (Col. i. 16) I said to myself, how could I doubt that He has taken care of His own revelations, whether in giving them at the first, or in their subsequent preservation and transmission? Our only business, was to study them for the purpose of regulating each one’s faith, and conscience, and life.

Francois Samuel Robert Louis Gaussen in Le Canon des saintes ecritures au double point de vue de la science et de la foi (The Canon of the Holy Scriptures from the Double Point of View of Science and Faith), p. viii.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Bible preservation and Deism

It sadly has become quite popular in supposedly conservative Christian circles to claim that God’s inspired word has been preserved by natural causes no differently than the words of Genghis Khan, Hugo Grotius, or John Gill. Notice William W. Combs in the “The Preservation of Scripture” (pp. 9-10):

“…the preservation of Scripture is not different in method from any other ancient book God has determined to preserve, as, for example, Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War—both Scripture and Caesar’s work have been preserved providentially, by secondary causation, by essentially ordinary human means.”

Harry A. Sturz, in The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism (p. 38), wrote, “God…was under no special or logical obligation to see that man did not corrupt it.” Others like Daniel Wallace and Edward Glenny go further than Combs. For example, Wallace says, “I don’t hold to the doctrine of preservation.” The essential difference of Wallace and Combs is not in the historical process or end result, but rather the unwillingness or willingness to attach any theological significance to preservation (i.e., as a “doctrine”). Combs writes: “…we must distinguish between belief in a doctrine of preservation and, simply, belief in preservation” (pp. 6-7). It seems to me that the natural and incidental view of the preservation of Scripture has superseded the providential and supernatural view as the mainstream position among the conservative evangelical classes. Regretfully, we have allowed many foreign ideas to flood in and water down our once strongly-held absolute support of an inspired, infallible, and preserved Bible.

While listening to Jeff Riddle’s presentation on biblical preservation (How Has God Preserved His Word? at the 2023 Trinity and Text Conference of the Trinitarian Bible Society), something struck me about the natural view of the preservation of Scripture. It seems somewhat akin to Deism. In the religious theology or philosophical position of Deism, the Creator does not intervene or interfere in human affairs. In the naturalistic view of preservation, the Creator does not affect or intervene in the history of the transmission of his inspired word.

I meditated on this from my own standpoint as a sometimes “creator” of written records. Unlike God, I obviously cannot produce an errorless and infallible document. However, in the course of its transmission I take an interest in it. I try to correct any errors I find. When and where able, do not leave it to its own devices. When I find an error online, I correct it. If it is something in print, if able, I will correct when I reprint. On the other hand, we are led by the naturalistic and incidental view to accept that God is either disinterested or powerless in the face of the historical transmission of his word – or both! He does not care or is not able to care? Who can believe it?

Does not God rather by his infinite power and wisdom uphold, direct, dispose, and govern not only the inspiration, but also the preservation, of his Scripture by his wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of His own will: to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Did Eve lie?

“Some have said the woman [i.e., Eve, Genesis 3:3, rlv], by her answer, added to the words of the Lord, in His commandment, for there is no record of His having told them not to touch the tree. However, this is hardly acceptable. If the Lord did not expressly command them to touch the tree, it was, nevertheless, clearly implied. If they should not eat it, neither should they touch it. And if the woman here lied to the serpent she had already sinned, and it was not necessary for her to continue to the taking of the forbidden fruit to have fallen from her state of innocency.”

J. W. Griffith, Lectures on Genesis, Henderson, TX: 1984, p. 9

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Worship the Lord

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. Psalm 96:9

1. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore him, the Lord is his name.

2. Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness,
High on his heart he will bear it for thee,
Comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
Guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.

3. Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
Of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine:
Truth in its beauty and love in its tenderness:
These are the offerings to lay on his shrine.

4. These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
He will accept for the name that is dear;
Mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
Trust for our trembling, and hope for our fear.

5. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel, and adore him, the Lord is his name.

This hymn is commonly paired with the tune Sanctissimus ( by William H. Cooke (1820-1912). The hymn is by John Samuel Bewley Monsell. He was born in Ireland in 1811 and died at Surrey, England, in 1875. He married Anne Waller in 1835. She died in 1885, and they are both buried at the Guildford Cemetery in Guildford, Guildford Borough, Surrey, England.

Monsell was ordained in 1835 and served several churches in Ireland before transferring to England in 1853. He was rector of St. Nicholas Church in Guilford from 1870 until his death  in 1875, which was due to a construction accident at the church building. 

11 book collections of his hymns over 37 years are: 

  • Hymns and Miscellaneous Poems, 1837
  • Parish Musings, or Devotional Poems, 1850
  • Spiritual Songs for the Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year, 1857
  • His Presence, not His Memory, 1855/1858;
  • Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church’s Year, 1863
  • The Passing Bell; Ode to The Nightingales, and Other Poems, 1867
  • Litany Hymns, 1869
  • The Parish Hymnal after the Order of The Book of Common Prayer, 1873
  • Simon the Cyrenian; and Other Poems, 1873
  • Nursery Carols, 1873
  • Watches by the Cross, 1874

These collections contain about three hundred hymns by Monsell (some are repeated in various editions).  In addition to his prolific poetical work, he also issued prose works, including Our New Vicar and The Winton Church Catechist.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Sound and light waves

Someone said or wrote:

“We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos. We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.”

However, it WAS NOT Albert Einstein who said or wrote it.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Church autonomy and church discipline

Autonomy” means the right or condition of self-government or self-control. In Baptist ecclesiology, this principle and practice means that each local congregation is self-governing. A Baptist church recognizes no secular governmental control or religious denominational control over her faith and religious practice. A local congregation of baptized believers is independent of outside entities. However, she governed by her head and lawgiver, Jesus Christ, the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and the inspired word (the Bible, John 17:14) that he has given.

In some sense we should also see there is interdependence of local congregations co-labouring together with God – not a surrender of autonomy, but a similarity of goals and direction in following the same Head and believing the same Bible. (“in all churches” is a treasured phrase of Paul.) One area in which we see this is church discipline. Each local congregation, and not another, exercises discipline over her members. But biblical church discipline doesn’t work well when congregations refuse to recognize the biblical disciplinary work of other churches. 

If an excluded church member can simply go down the road and join another church of like faith and order, then discipline breaks down. An autonomous church may make a mistake in church discipline. Another autonomous church is not helplessly bound by the other church’s act. However, if the first church acted biblically, it is biblical to recognize the discipline of that church. If that excluded member wants to join the church down the road, the church down the road should send them back home to repent, be restored, and repair the bond of fellowship with the church of their membership. Anything less is a flaunting of the authority of the head that bought them and the word that taught them. Some churches an pastors take autonomy to the extreme, refusing to work together with other churches of like faith and order to maintain a pure witness of the gospel.

Often churches are too indifferent to doctrine and too eager to obtain new members by whatever method available to them. A church should not be hasty to encourage a prospective member coming from a nearby church of faith and order. Why are they coming? Are they moving closer to your local congregation, are they disgruntled, are they leaving a mess in their home church, or perhaps fleeing church discipline? Let not numbers glaze our eyes from truth.

The principle of local church autonomy must operate consistently and distinctly within biblical theology and ecclesiology. Biblical church autonomy allows us to operate independently while also cooperating in matters of truth with other churches.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

King James Only Tracks in History

Some opponents of “King James Onlyism” – such as Gary Hudson and Doug Kutilek – tell a sort of Wilkinson-Origin-Only (WOO) story of its historical origin. Yet, historical examples demonstrate types of “King James Onlyism” before Benjamin Wilkinson’s birth, much less his writing a book. For example, when the Barren River Association of Baptists organized in 1830, they included as their first Article of Faith: “We believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as translated by the authority of King James, to be the words of God, and is the only rule of faith and practice.” 

Ascribing the origin of “King James Onlyism” to Benjamin Wilkinson assumes (1) that bodies such as the Barren River Association had neither heirs nor influence, and (2) that individual Christians and gathered congregations cannot on their own, without the documents and directions of others, come to believe that the Bible they hold in their hands is the inspired word of God. Neither assumption is correct.

The facts exhibit “multiple origins” for “King James Onlyism” – that is, the variety of beliefs that might be considered “King James Onlyism” cannot be traced to one source. Since the 1611 publication of the new translation authorized by King James, the belief that it alone is the word of God has traveled down various tracks through history. Initially, my idea is to use a diagram chart to try to illustrate relationships. The chart below is an initial attempt. What you see is a couple of times on the left (Tennessee & Kentucky Baptist Associations) where a King James Only view was asserted in response to local issues. Further to the right you see the wider and more inclusive support of the King James translation triggered in reaction to the English and American Revised Versions. What that tries to illustrate is both independent and interconnected responses. (For example, as far as I know, the views of Aberhart, Mauro, and Wilkinson rose independently of one another, but all show they are familiar with Burgon.)

This is limited by size (lot of history left out), my inability to manipulate Excel to make it look like I want, and some other factors. I am afraid the point is not obvious and needs too much explaining. Perhaps others have ways and means to improve the idea.

KJV-Only, Multiple Streams of Origin

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

“The ‘Greatest’ Bible News in 341 Years”

“The Greatest Bible News in 341 Years” was a popular promotional slogan or theme adopted for the unveiling of the Revised Standard Version of 1952. Below is an example of a full-page advertisement taken out in many U.S. newspapers.

The (Louisville, Ky) Courier-Journal, Sunday, September 28, 1952, page 31

Three endorsements by religious leaders who preferred the RSV can be seen on the right side of the advertisement. These three men are Norman Vincent Peale, Henry Knox Sherrill, and Harry Emerson Fosdick. All these men had distinctly liberal reputations. Peale (1898–1993) was notorious for denying the simple gospel, and was a chief promoter of “the power of positive thinking.” Sherrill (1890–1980) was an Episcopal ecumenicalist promoting a social gospel, the first president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America, and (in 1954) was elected one of six presidents of the World Council of Churches. Fosdick (1878–1969) was one of the most infamous liberal preachers in the 20th century, a major force for modernism in the American Fundamentalist–Modernist controversy.

One need not look for a conspiracy here. It is a great yet simple illustration of the principle “birds of a feather flock together.” Many of the purveyors of the new Bible were so detached from the common Christian folks in the pew, it probably would not have occurred to them how radically and negatively the endorsement of the RSV by these three men would impact the English-speaking churches of North America. An unleashed storm of criticism would soon teach them.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Thus is it from God

“Thus God, who himself began the writing of the word with his own finger, Exod. xxxi. 11. after he had spoken it, Exod. xx. appointing or approving the writing of the rest that followed; Deut. xxxi. 12. Josh, xxiii. 6. 1 Kings ii. 3. 2 Kings xiv. 6. xvii. 13. 1 Chron. xxi. 15. 2 Chron. xxv. 4. Ezek. ii. 9, 10. Hab. ii. 2. Luke xvi. 29. John v. 39. xx. 31. Acts xvii. 11. doth lastly command the close of the immediate revelation of his will, to be written in a book; Rev. i. 11. and so gives out the whole of his mind and counsel unto us in writing; as a merciful and stedfast relief, against all that confusion, darkness, and uncertainty, which the vanity, folly, and looseness, of the minds of men, drawn out and heightened by the unspeakable alterations, that fall out amongst them, would otherwise have certainly run into. 

“Thus we have laid down the original of the Scriptures, from the Scripture itself; and this original is the basis and foundation of all its authority. Thus is it from God; entirely from him; as to the doctrine contained in it, and the words wherein that doctrine is delivered, it is wholly his; what that speaks, he speaks himself. He speaks in it, and by it; and so it is vested with all the moral authority of God over his creatures.”

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 4, pp. 399-400


Sunday, July 16, 2023

Blessed Redeemer, the music first

“Most hymns usually begin as a poem, and an existing tune is used, or a new tune is composed to fit the text. ‘Blessed Redeemer’ began as a tune composed by Harry Dixon Loes, an admired music teacher at Moody Bible Institute who died in 1965. In 1920 he was inspired to write the music while listening to a sermon on the Blessed Redeemer. He then sent the tune to his friend, Mrs. Avis Christiansen, suggesting the title and asking her to write the lyrics.”

For more of the story, see: “Blessed Redeemer - Avis M. B. Christiansen” at Melody Moments.

1. Up Calvary’s mountain, one dreadful morn,
Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;
Facing for sinners death on the cross,
That He might save them from endless loss.

2. Father forgive them! thus did He pray,
E’en while His lifeblood flowed fast away;
Praying for sinners while in such woe
No one but Jesus ever loved so.

3. O how I love Him, Savior and friend,
How can my praises ever find end!
Through years unnumbered on Heaven’s shore,
My tongue shall praise Him forevermore.

Blessèd Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree;
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading,
Blind and unheeding—dying for me!

Friday, July 14, 2023

A Curious Clue, 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, July 13, 2023

The blast of God

“Degrees of inspiration! The older theologians, thank God; did not know them—nor own them. Why should they? As well discuss degrees in Deity, in Predestination, in Providence, as talk about degrees in that of which Augustine says: ‘Whatsoever He willed that we should read either of His doings or sayings, that He commissioned His agents to write, as if their hands had been His own hands.’

“‘God breathed’ sweeps the whole ground. God comes down as a blast on the pipes of an organ,—in voice like a whirlwind, or in still whispers like Aeolian tones, and saying the word, He seizes the hand, and makes that hand in His own the pen of a most ready writer.

Pasa Graphe Theopneustos! ‘All Sacred Writing’” More exactly, ‘every sacred writing’—every mark on the parchment is ‘God-breathed.’ So says St. Paul

Pasa Graphe Theopneustos! The sacred assertion is not of the instruments, but of the Author; not of the agents, but of the Product. It is the sole and sovereign vindication of what has been left on the page when Inspiration gets through. ‘What is written,’ says Jesus, ‘how readest thou?’ Men can only read what is written.”

George Sayles Bishop, The Doctrines of Grace, and Kindred Themes, pp. 33-34.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Baptist Whipped for His Convictions

The story of Obadiah Holmes running afoul of the Church and government in Massachusetts is a well-known and oft-repeated story in Baptist history. He was publicly whipped for his religious beliefs in September of 1651. Before Obadiah Holmes, there was Thomas Painter. Painter was whipped 7 years earlier, for holding anabaptist convictions and refusing the baptism of his child.

In his July 15, 1644 journal entry, Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop wrote the following:

“A poor man of Hingham, one Painter, who had lived at New Haven and at Rowley and Charlestown, and been scandalous and burdensome by his idle and troublesome behavior to them all, was now on the sudden turned anabaptist, and having a child born, he would not suffer his wife to bring it to the ordinance of baptism, for she was a member of the church, though himself were not. Being presented for this, and enjoined to suffer the child to be baptized, he still refusing, and disturbing the church, he was again brought to the court not only for his former contempt, but also for saying that our baptism was antichristian; and in the open court he affirmed the same. Whereupon, after much patience and clear conviction of his error, etc., because he was very poor, so as no other but corporal punishment could be fastened upon him, he was ordered to be whipped, not for his opinion, but for his reproaching the Lord’s ordinance, and for his bold and evil behavior both at home and in the court. He endured his punishment with much obstinacy, and when he was loosed he said, boastingly, that God had marvelously assisted him.” Winthrop’s Journal, “History of New England” 1630-1649 Volume 2, James Kendall Hosmer, editor. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901, p. 171.

Not even a year earlier, at the court at Boston “the 5th of the 10th month, 1643” Painter was sentenced to time in the stocks for “disturbing the Church.” This likely shows the beginnings of his anabaptist convictions, though the court record is not specific as to how he disturbed the church.

“Painter stockt. Thomas Painter for disturbing the Church of Hingham, was censured to bee sett in stock a Lecture day, at Lecture time, except hee humble himself, and give the Church satisfaction.” Records of the Court of Assistants of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, 1630-1692, Volume II, Boston, MA: County of Suffolk, 1904, p. 135.

Thomas Painter was apparently a charter member of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island.

“The last name on the list is that of Painter, the Christian name being omitted, probably Thomas Painter, of Hingham [Massachusetts].” History of the First Baptist Church in Newport, R. I.: A Discourse Delivered on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1876, Comfort Edwin Barrows. Newport, RI: John P. Sanborn & Co., 1876, p. 15.

Thomas Painter was born in England in 1610. He was in the American colonies by 1630, when he married Katherine (Last Name Unknown) in Boston, Massachusetts. Some sources report his death occurred in 1706, looking it seems somewhat lacking in solid corroboration.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Emma Jernigan, poet

When I wrote my companion book to The Sacred Harp, 2012 Cooper Edition, Songs Before Unknown, I was unable to settle on the identity of Mrs. Emma Jernigan, who wrote the poetry for the song The Gates of Paradise (580) and I Love to Sing of Jesus (584). Since the composer, T. J. Allen, married Laura Addrana Jernigan, I suspected it might be his sister-in-law Emma Alice Jernigan. I tentatively included in the book: “One could assume that Mrs. Emma Jernigan, who wrote the words to 584 and 589, might be some of his wife’s relatives; Emma Alice Dean Weed married Henry R. Jernigan, Allen’s brother-in-law, in 1898 (sic), and might be this person.” However, I had nothing more than the same name and close relationship. Circumstantial, but not substantial enough. Now I have found some evidence that this Emma Jernigan was a poet, and feel more confident she is the right person. Upon her death, her sister-in-law Willie Griffin Dean wrote that “She was a noble character who loved poetry,” and then quoted a poem that was “part of a tribute written by Emma for my son, Buck Dean, who was killed in the World War of 1917.” (Willie Dean, “In Memory of Mrs. Emma Jernigan,” Southern Star, Thursday, September 2, 1943, p. 8)

Jernigan, Emma (October 8, 1860–August 13, 1943) Emma Alice Dean was born in Dale County, Alabama, the daughter of James Jefferson Dean and Martha Ann McGee. She married first, Samuel Lafayette Weed. They had two children. In 1897 she married Henry B. Jernigan. Emma wrote poetry, including the words of “The Gates of Paradise” and “I Love to Sing of Jesus” used by her brother-in-law T. J. Allen with two tunes published under those names in The Sacred Harp in 1927. She died in Dale County, Alabama and is buried at the Bethel Assembly of God Church Cemetery at Ariton, Dale County, Alabama.

While working on Emma Jernigan, I also discovered the burial location of her niece, Maud Allen, and have rewritten her biography.

Allen, Maud Lee (May 27, 1888–December 19, 1965) was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Allen and Laura A. Jernigan. She wrote the alto parts for several songs, and composed one tune which was later removed from the book. Maud Allen married Atlas T. Hargrove (d. 1952) after 1910 and before 1920. They lived in Montgomery, Alabama – according to the 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses. Maud and A. T. Hargrove are buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama.161

Monday, July 10, 2023

Words, not media

“Certainly, the physical properties of the autograph (whether papyrus, parchment, wax or wooden tablet, etc.) helped to shape the text, however, it is the text—the wording—that was inspired, not the physical medium of the material autograph. Passages in the scriptures, such as Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonian 5:27, and 1 Timothy 4:13, imply a copying and distributing process. For Paul, addressing these congregations, it was imperative that the recipients received the text of the epistle, not the original physical material autograph penned by the sender of the letter.”

Timothy N. Mitchell, in “Where Inspiration is Found: Putting the New Testament Autographs in Context,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 24.3 (Fall 2020, pages 96-97)

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Beneath the Sacred Throne of God


Sacred Throne is a beloved Sacred Harp song. It was added to Original Sacred Harp, Denson Revision in 1966. According to Warren Steel in The Makers of The Sacred Harp, Hugh McGraw arranged the well-known arrangement by Hugh Wilson of a Scottish tune (called Avon, Martyrdom, et al.) by adding his own treble and alto. The treble has much similarity to the treble of the tune Avon in The Southern Harmony (page 290), and might perhaps be considered an alteration of it. The Southern Harmony does not have an alto part.[i]  

A friend who shares a love of Sacred Harp, Will Fitzgerald, recently brought up and discussed the hymn by John Kent which is used in Original Sacred Harp with this tune (page 569).[ii] The words in The Sacred Harp book have an unusual feature in the 3rd stanza (4th stanza from Kent’s original). The hymn by Kent is found in his own hymn book with the heading “Everlasting Love.”[iii] The words appear as follows in A Collection of Original Gospel Hymns (Hymn XCV [95], page 85, 6th edition, 1826).[iv]

XCV     C.M.
Everlasting Love.
1. Beneath the sacred throne of God
I saw a river rise,
The streams were peace and pard’ning blood
Descending from the skies.

2. Angelic minds cannot explore
This deep, unfathom’d sea;
’Tis void of bottom, brim, or shore,
And lost in Deity.

3. I stood amaz’d, and wonder’d when,
Or why, this ocean rose,
That wafts salvation down to men,
His traitors and his foes.

4. That sacred flood, from Jesu’s veins,
Was free to take away
A Mary’s or Manasseh’s stains,
Or sins more vile than they.

5. Free to the sinner, dead to God,
Who sought the road to hell;
That trampled on a Saviour’s blood.
And on his buckler fell.

6 Triumphant grace, and man’s free will.
Shall not divide the throne; 
For man’s a fallen sinner still, 
And Christ shall reign alone.

Thomas Reed, 1835.

An interesting adaptation of Kent’s hymn is found in A Collection of Hymns, intended for the use of the citizens of Zion, by Thomas Reed in 1835. This version of the hymn has 5 stanzas. It leaves out the original 5th stanza, then revises the 6th stanza, making it the new 5th stanza. It is not clear whether this might be an attempt to mute some perceived miswording in the 6th stanza, or perhaps indicates a desire to add proclamation of the news to the hymn. The rest of Reed’s hymn book suggests he agrees with Kent’s Calvinistic theology. Reed’s stanza is as follows:

Triumphant Grace! thy mighty fame,
Shall dwell upon my tongue; 
With saints above, will I proclaim 
The wonders thou hast done.

I was unable to identify Thomas Reed – other than that he was a minister of the gospel – or his denominational affiliation.

Original Sacred Harp, 1966.

This brings us back to Kent’s hymn and its presentation in The Sacred Harp. Hugh McGraw chose to use stanzas 1, 3, and 4, introducing some differences in his stanza 1 and 3.[v] There are a few other minor differences that I will not discuss at this time.

1. Beneath the sacred throne of God
I saw a river rise,
The streams where peace and pard’ning blood
Descending from the skies.

3. That sacred flood, from Jesus’ veins,
Was free to make a way;
And Mary’s or Manasseh’s stains,
Or sins more vile than they.

Stanza 1 in The Sacred Harp has “where” in line 3 rather than “were.” This variant is found in several previous books, including some printings of Kent’s own Original Gospel Hymns.[vi] It was likely found that way in McGraw’s source. In my opinion, “were” is  the intended word in the first stanza. If Kent had meant “where,” a more likely sentence would be “The streams where peace and pard’ning blood, descended from the skies.” In fact, after printing “descending” in the 1966 and 1971 editions, the 1991 edition changed the word to “descended,” probably for that reason.

The variants in stanza 3 are “Jesus’ veins” instead of “Jesu’s veins” and “make a way; And…”[vii]  instead of “take away a…” The first is a simple modernization that appears many times before it was used in The Sacred Harp in 1966. However, the second variant is an unusual one that seems to be unique to The Sacred Harp. As of today (9 July 2023), I have checked 28 hymn (or hymn & tune) books other than Kent’s that include this hymn. None of them have this variant other than The Sacred Harp 1966/1991. It does not appear that it was copied from elsewhere, but originally printed this way in 1966.

This raises the question – is this a printing error or a deliberate modification? With Hugh McGraw no longer living, unless he left some record of it, we will probably never know. 

It seems the more common idea is that this is a printer’s error. Perhaps it is, but it seems to be an unusual one, in changing “take” to “make,” “away” to “a way,” and “A” to “And.” That embraces several changes rather than the simple slip of a letter. That at least suggests intentionality. Nevertheless, it might have been an unintended error, especially if the printer tried on his own to interpret what was written and messed it up (and then no one caught it in the editing process). On the other hand, this could encompass a slightly different theological interpretation. “Take away” expresses the work of the “sacred flood from Jesus’ veins” more sovereignly than “make a way” – which could be taken as the atonement making a way whereby man can then make a choice from his free will. One could wonder whether Hugh McGraw would be too concerned about a technical change in the theology of verse 3, though. There are texts in The Sacred Harp that might be considered as much or more Calvinistic than the 4th stanza in Kent’s hymn.

Only Hugh knows for sure. (Unless he wrote it down or told someone.)

John Kent.

Kent was born at Bideford, Devonshire in 1766. He was a shipwright by trade.[ix] He was writing poetry by 1799, since some of it was published in A Selection of Evangelical Hymns (Samuel Reece, Plymouth-Dock: J. Heydon, 1799). His own book was first published in 1803. Its popularity can be seen in its going through eight editions in his lifetime, and at least a couple more after his death.

Despite the popularity of Kent’s hymns, they seem to have gradually fallen out of general acceptance. According to John Julian (1892, p. 623), “The greatest use made of them in modern hymn-books has been by Mr. Spurgeon (O. O. H. Bk., 1866) and Mr. Snepp (Songs of G. & G., 1872).”[viii] Josiah Miller (pp. 333-334) says there are 12 Kent hymns in Spurgeon’s hymn book, some altered. Julian, however, failed to mention Gadsby’s hymn book. I found 16 Kent hymns in the 1838 edition of Gadsby’s A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship. More were added as the book was increased in size. It currently includes 53 hymns by John Kent. “Beneath the sacred throne” is not in the 1838 book, but is hymn 914 in the current edition.

The strong Calvinism of Kent’s hymns limit their use in churches that have no such a theological system. For example, Kent writes in one popular hymn:
“’Twas with an everlasting love, that God his own elect embraced; Before he made the worlds above, or earth on her huge columns placed...”
The majority of his hymns still in common use are found used among the Strict Baptists in the United Kingdom and Primitive Baptists in the United States.[x] However, the (Southern) Baptist Hymnal of 1991 (# 218) includes Kent’s “’Tis the church triumphant singing.” In Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal (p. 258), Donald C. Brown writes, “Its obvious emphasis on praise made the hymn acceptable to some who rejected others of his hymns because of their Calvinistic leanings.”

I found little mention in biographical notes of the church affiliation of John Kent. However, in his son’s “Memoir of the Author” in Original Gospel Hymns and Poems (p. xxviii), (published posthumously) he mentions Kent’s worshipping at Rehoboth Chapel in Plymouth-Dock. This appears to have been an independent church (possibly Baptist or Presbyterian).

According to Duffield (English Hymns), Kent lost his sight some years before his death, which occurred on November 15, 1843. He apparently suffered a great deal. His son records many of the last thoughts of his father, including his dying words, “I am accepted—accepted.” The place of his burial is unknown to this author.

Hugh Wilson.

Hugh Wilson was born at Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland around 1766. He was a Scottish composer, mathematician, schoolteacher, and learned the shoemaking trade from his father. He was a member of the Secession Church that separated from the Church of Scotland, and served as precentor at the church in Duntocher. He died at Duntocher, Scotland in 1824. According to Bert Polman, before his death Hugh Wilson instructed that his music manuscripts be destroyed. Knowledge of his composing a few songs – such as Martyrdom/Avon – has survived.

The Psalter Hymnal Handbook of 1987 relates the following story of Hugh Wilson’s tune adaptation – which they call Martyrdom. (The tune has several other less common names as well.) According to this work, Martyrdom was an 18th-century Scottish folk melody used for the ballad “Helen of Kirkconnel.” Wilson adapted the folk tune into a hymn tune, circa 1800. Wilson’s tune was in duple meter. In 1825 Robert A. Smith (1780-1829) published an adaptation in triple time (3/2) in his book Sacred Music (No. 32). Later there was a legal dispute over who was the composer, which was settled for Hugh Wilson. (Wilson was no longer living at this time.) Despite the tune being credited to Wilson, the triple-time adaptation appears to be the favorite of a majority of singers and publishers. The song is more often printed in 3/4 time (as it appears in The Sacred Harp 1966/1991).

[Note on John Kent’s church affiliation, added August 1st: “John Kent was a shipwright at Plymouth Dock (now Devonport) and was a member of Dr Robert Hawker’s C of E congregation at Charles Church, Plymouth. It was said that his hymns contain the ministry of Dr Robert Hawker in verse.” David Woodruff, Strict Baptist Historical Society Librarian, 28 July 2023.]


[i] The alto shows some similarity to the alto on Avon in The Sacred Harp, 1911, J. L. White. It certainly is not a copy of it, but Hugh probably looked at it to see what ideas it might provide.
[ii] The song continues in The Sacred Harp, 1991 Revision – the successor to the Original Sacred Harp, Denson Revision.
[iii] Some later hymn books, such as Gadsby’s, add a reference to the Bible texts Ezekiel 4: 5 and Zechariah 14:8.
[iv] According to hymnologists, Kent’s hymn book first appears in 1803. It is not known whether “Beneath the sacred throne of God” was in that edition. A Selection of Evangelical Hymns by Samuel Reece, 1799, was the first book to include any of Kent’s hymns. “Beneath the sacred throne of God” is not in it. It is in Hymns Composed on Various Subjects by Joseph Hart, 1811 (No. 261), and A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors by William Williams, 1819 (No. 17).
[v] William Penrose also altered the 3rd stanza, but not in the way it is found in The Sacred Harp: “Love sent its streams through Jesu’s veins, in blood to take away…” A Selection of Hymns, 1843, Hymn 232. 
[vi] I found scans of Kent’s Original Gospel Hymns on Google Books that give it both ways, the older being “were.”
[vii] Though interpreted by the committee or printer as “away” in 1991, the text appears as “a way” in 1966 and 1971.
[viii] Fifteen hymns by Kent are listed in the index of the 1880 printing of Songs of Grace and Glory.
[ix] In “Images of Sin and Salvation in Sacred Throne,” Will Fitzgerald notes that this shipwright (builder and/or repairer of ships) uses a lot of “water imagery” in this hymn [river, streams (st. 1), deep, unfathomed sea (st. 2), ocean (st. 3), flood (st. 4)].
[x] And perhaps other Calvinistic Baptists or independent churches in England, of whom I know little of their hymn use. Other books I have found to include something by Kent are: Hymns for the Church of God (London: 1852), Little Flock Hymn Book (Wigram, Exclusive Brethren), and Trinity Hymns (London: 1876).