Archive for November, 2005

Those Blogs with Latin Names

November 30th, 2005 Posted in Uncategorized

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of some of the Latin titles adorning not only this blog but other blogs? Mine is fairly obvious. “Church History.” When I see it, it reminds me of the great work by the Venerable Bede on the history of the English Church during the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon eras. Or those classic works by early Church historians Eusebius of Caesarea, Socrates and Sozomen. Or even the mother of all church histories: The Book of Acts by Luke the historian. As I said, though, mine is fairly easy.

But what about Kevin Bauder’s blog? Have you thought, what exactly does Nos sobrii mean? Well, here is your opportunity to learn the meaning of his blog’s name, as well as learn some Latin and enjoy an excellent post on how to live in this frivolous and shallow age: What Does It Mean?

Listening to the Devil

November 30th, 2005 Posted in Uncategorized

The central ethical dilemma for eighteenth-century, transatlantic British society was that of running the slave-trade and of owning slaves. It was only resolved when British Evangelicals came to rightly realize that they had to fight in the political realm for the right of persons of African descent to be recognized as full human beings. And in so doing, they used the democratic processes of their day to take on those powers that supported the slave trade and slavery, which John Wesley rightly depicted as “that execrable sum of all villainies.” [The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley A.M, ed. Nehemiah Curnock (London: The Epworth Press, 1914), 5:445-446].

There are few today who would dispute the rightness of that moral struggle. But central to a number of critical ethical issues of our day is the very same question: what does it mean to be human? The resolution of the ethical dilemmas surrounding, for example, abortion and genetic engineering cannot be found unless this question is answered. It strikes me that just as our eighteenth-century Evangelical forebears’ activism against the slave trade and slavery was rooted in their conviction of the utter sinfulness of the slave trade, so today the clarity regarding the vileness of abortion must issue in action.

Now, the truth about the perverse thinking of those who would defend abortion can be seen in various statements of an abortionist by the name of William F. Harrison of Fayetteville, Arkansas. For the full report of the horrific candour of his views, see Al Mohler’s “The Perverse Logic of Abortion,” today’s entry on his website www.AlbertMohler.com. For instance, something of the perverse stance of this man can be seen in the Reproductive Freedom Task Force newsletter, where Harrison claimed to have heard “a still, small voice asking, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ to which I was at last compelled to reply, ‘Here am I, send me’.” Harrison is parodying of course the call of Isaiah the Prophet in Isaiah 6.

Let me suggest without mincing any words that the still small voice that Harrison has been heeding is not from the Glorious One that called Isaiah and Who is the awesome Maker of all life in the womb, but from his wicked adversary, a murderer from the beginning!

Free Pdf Facsimile of Codex Vaticanus!

November 30th, 2005 Posted in Uncategorized

Here is a colour PDF facsimile of Vaticanus that can be downloaded for free at: http://www.lulu.com/content/188586. This free PDF is only of the New Testament, though, not the LXX. Still it is utterly amazing! For further info see also Free Codex Vaticanus @ the fabulous blog Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Confessional Christianity & Baptists

November 30th, 2005 Posted in Church History

Lack of interest in confessional Christianity is nothing new. Among the most fascinating figures of the 18th century is Robert Robinson (1735-1790), at one time clear in his confessional identity as a Calvinistic Baptist and the author of the well-known hymn “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing.” Yet, by the end of his life, it was said of him:

“[Robinson] hath his own opinions of the nature of God, and Christ, and man, and the decrees, and so on: but he doth not think that the opinion of Athanasius, or Arius, or Sabellius, or Socinus, or Augustine, or Pelagius, or Whitby, or Gill, on the subjects in dispute between them, ought to be considered of such importance as to divide Christians, by being made the standards to judge of the truth of any man’s Christianity.” [Seventeen Discourses of Several Texts of Scripture; Addressed to Christian Assemblies in villages near Cambridge. To which are added, Six Morning Exercises (New ed.; Harlow: Benjamin Flower, 1805), p. iv-v].

This is sad, to say the least. As an excellent corrective to a replication of this state of affairs in our day is the announcement that Reformed Baptist Academic Press is soon to publish Jim Renihan’s True Confessions. Baptist Documents in the Reformed Family.

It was with a deep sense of “finally” that I heard of this new work by Dr. Renihan, who heads up The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. We have long needed this detailed and tabular comparison of the foundational documents of our Calvinistic Baptist heritage—the First London Confession of Faith (1644), the Second London Confession of Faith (1677/1689), The Baptist Catechism (sometimes called Keach’s Catechism) and Hercules Collins’ The Orthodox Catechism (1680)—and their sources. This work will remind lovers of that heritage that those who drew up these documents saw themselves as part of a Calvinist International, “a broader Reformed community” as Renihan puts it. As such, this book will be vital in helping us, who are the heirs of the men who wrote these texts, know not only what we must affirm in this day of doctrinal confusion but also know whence we have come and who belongs to our extended family, as it were, within the great body of Christian believers.

May it further these ends and the study of confessional theology among us Baptists, and so avoid the sad latitudinarianism of Robert Robinson in his final days.

Leftist Thinking & Human Sexuality

November 28th, 2005 Posted in Current Affairs

Here is a good article noticed by Justin Taylor. Jennifer Roback Morse, who, according to her bio, “is the founder and chief visionary of Your Coach for the Culture Wars, a business devoted to supporting organizations that want to preserve their core values and achieve prosperity by taking a stand in the Culture Wars,” writes on Why the Left Hates Sex.

Spurgeon Speaks to Our Day

November 28th, 2005 Posted in Great Quotes

How I love the bracing way that Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) still speaks across the years. So often it is as if he was living in our day and facing our distinct challenges. See Phil Johnson’s latest Spurgeon selection: “Let’s not lose in truthfulness what we gain in charity.”

An Advent Reflection

November 27th, 2005 Posted in Uncategorized

Here is a thought-provoking meditation by Russ Moore on the Christ that should occupy our minds before Christmas — “The Apocalypse at Christmastime.” Despite the advent of Christmas, Moore decided to lead his Sunday School class in thinking about “Jesus as a conquering Warrior Messiah, dripped in blood and destroying his enemies”. As Moore notes: “With Bethlehem before her, Mary also had Armageddon on her mind. So should we.”

He is right on. Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, are meant to provide us time to reflect on the second coming of Christ, his second advent. He has come as Saviour—we know await his coming as a conquering King.

And that Day when he comes will be a day of reality, an awful unveiling when the plasticity of so many will be melted away by the awesome fire of his presence and the true state of their lives exposed. For all of their talk about love and tolerance and live and let live, they will be shown to be narrow-minded, having ever refused the expansive love of God in Christ, and filled with hate for Him who is the Source of all that is truly good and pure.

But it will also be a day of vindication for the people of God when they will see that their love for Christ—so often maligned and scorned here and slandered for being intolerant and hateful—has its true reward: everlasting joy in the presence of Christ.

And far from being hateful, true Christians are men and women of love, who desire ultimately the best for those who are not Christians. As Moore further notes: “We must remember that our love for family and friends and Christmas includes our responsibility to plead with them to be found in Christ before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”

May God give us, who look for his appearing, such an opportunity this Christmas. And if you are reading this and you are not a Christian, now is the time to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Do not delay. For his coming draws nigh! For a good guide to how to become a Christian, read Dialogue on Christianity.

The Spiritual Brotherhood of the Puritans

November 26th, 2005 Posted in Puritans

In his address at the inauguration of the Puritan Resource Center, located in the library of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (www.puritanseminary.org), Sinclair Ferguson, senior pastor-elect of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, spoke on “The Puritans: Can They Teach Us Anything Today?” [PRTS Update 2, No.4 (December 2005), 1-5]. It is vintage Ferguson.

He mentions four things in particular that we need to learn from the Puritans, those ecclesial Reformers of the British Isles and New England who longed for Spirit-wrought revival.

  • The “significance of spiritual brotherhood in the movements of the Holy Spirit” (p.2-3)
  • The necessity of “the recovery of the pulpit for the recovery of the church” (p.3-4)
  • Driving the Puritans was “their deep sense of the infinite glory of a Triune God” and thus they mining of Scripture produced a theology with a “Trinitarian character” (p.4-5)
  • The Puritans were men and women devoted to the Bride of Christ: they “recognized with great clarity the significance of the church in the purposes of Christ” (p.5)

To all of these points I heartily say amen!

I was especially struck by the first point: the need for a spiritual brotherhood—Christians with “a common vision and a common burden, a common prayer life, and therefore a common goal” (p.3). What was true of Puritan leaders like Richard Greenham, John Cotton, and Richard Sibbes—men bound together in a spiritual family tree—is true of all true movements of the Spirit. Here, as Ferguson emphasizes, one thinks of the Cappadocian Fathers or the circle of friends around Augustine (p.2). Or one might think of two “Puritan” style groups in the 20th century, the circle of men around Martyn Lloyd-Jones and those men mentored by William Still of Aberdeen.

And the same must be true if we are going to see any forward movement of the Spirit in our day. We, who have been made to delight in the sovereign grace and glory of the Triune God, need to learn to esteem one another highly for the sake of the Gospel. This does not mean becoming wishy-washy in our convictions. But it does mean breaking down the barriers erected by distrust and pride and the pettiness of turf-wars. It means ongoing displays of genuine humility and repentance. O for a clear eye centred on the things of first importance and not bedimmed by the things of this passing world.

Some of this is taking place. I am thinking of the upcoming Together for the Gospel conference hosted by Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler with special guests John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul in Lousville next April. But we need to see far more initiatives like this one. May God be gracious to us.

The Gospel of Thomas for Today?

November 25th, 2005 Posted in Uncategorized

The main theme of the 57th Annual Meeting of ETS a couple of weeks ago was “Christianity in the Early Centuries.” For me one of the highlights was Nicholas Perrin’s brilliant presentation on the Gospel of Thomas, “Thomas, the Fifth Gospel?” (see my posting, 57TH ANNUAL MEETING OF ETS). Perrin argued for a late dating of this Gospel and a Syriac provenance. From a methodological point of view, his arguments appeared to be sound.

Within a few days of hearing Perrin, I found myself reading through Ron Miller, The Gospel of Thomas: A Guidebook for Spiritual Practice (Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths Publ., 2004), which is an attempt to use this Gospel to forge a spirituality for modern western sensibilities. Miller sees this Gospel as a call to each human being to realize that he or she is the “twin” of Jesus (which he derives from the name of the supposed author, Thomas Didymus, that is “twin”). What this means is to realize that all of us are actually as much God as Jesus is! (p.79-80). Such a remark makes a mockery of the early Christian experience recorded in the New Testament and the works of men like Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons. Alongside such unorthodx remarks are remarkably fatuous statements like “we all derive from a virgin birth” (p.86-87).

Miller, a one-time Jesuit, has a deep hostility towards any expression of orthodox Christianity that highlights the unique deity of the Lord Jesus and upholds his death for sins as the pathway of salvation (p.xii, 81-83, for example). Miller believes that true spirituality—being a “Thomas believer,” as he puts it—must move beyond any such exclusivism and embrace all religions as being true (p.xi, 2, 87). Miller is confident that the Gospel of Thomas contains such an all-embracing pluralism.

Yet time and again, I had the distinct feeling that the spirituality Miller claims he finds in the Gospel of Thomas is shaped far more by post-modern infatuations than by the actual text of this Gospel. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas emanated from circles committed to asceticism and a dislike of bodily existence. Yet Miller believes that he can claim to be wholly in sync with the teachings of this Gospel and also affirm the “holiness” of “sexual desire” and that Catholic parishioners (which he had once been ) should make love before coming to the Mass (p.17-18)! If Miller cannot get such basic worldview issues of the Gospel of Thomas right, how can I trust him in the rest of his interpretation of the Gospel? Let me say clearly that—as the Song of Songs bears witness—sexual desire within marriage is a holy thing. Miller is surely right here. But the Gospel of Thomas simply does not advocate this way of thinking.

Nor am I convinced that the Gospel of Thomas is as pluralistic as Miller believes it to be. Many Gnostic groups—and Miller is right to stress their diversity (p.xii and 125, n.3)—were as exclusivistic as their orthodox opponents. That is simply a fact of history. Of course, Miller may respond by saying that this is simply my personal read of the Gospel. As he writes in the Introduction: “My reading of the Gospel of Thomas may not be that of other scholars in the field and may even disagree with what the original author (or authors) intended” (p.xii). At such a point, though, interpretation becomes thinly veiled eisegesis and real discussion as to the meaning of the text is at an end. Why not come clean and admit that the supposed ancient spirituality of the Gospel of Thomas is only as old as the concerns of western post-moderns?

Praying with Tertullian

November 24th, 2005 Posted in Church History, Prayer

One of the most poignant lines from the writings of the Latin Church Father, Tertullian, comes at the end of his early treatise On baptism: “This only I pray, that as you ask [in prayer] you also have in mind Tertullian, a sinner” (tantum oro, ut cum petitis etiam Tertulliani peccatoris memineritis, De baptismo 20).

Who of us who writes cannot echo this request? For those brothers and sisters who think of me from time to time, please remember me, a sinner saved solely by grace, in prayer. Can you pray especially for my ongoing work on Samuel Pearce? I have been wanting to write his biography for fifteen years now, and so many other projects always seem to be intervening. Please pray that by God’s grace this will be accomplished. Thank you.