Archive for June, 2006

Andrew Fuller on Genesis 45:4-8

June 5th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Two hundred years ago this year, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), who normally preached in an expository manner, had his series of sermons on Genesis printed by his friend and fellow pastor, John Webster Morris for the London publisher J. Burditt. I have had a first edition of volume I for a few months now and serendipitously found just recently a first edition of volume II for sale at Aaron’s Books in Salem, Ohio (www.aaronsbooks.com).

It just arrived in the post and is in fairly good shape, though it needs rebound. Glanced through it and read a little from Fuller’s sermon on Genesis 45, where Joseph makes himself known to his brethren. At one point Fuller draws an analogy between Joseph’s telling his brothers not to grieve or be angry with themselves (verse 4-8) and “the case of a sinner on Christ’s first manifesting himself to his soul.” Fuller notes that:

“the more he views the doctrine of the cross, in which God hath glorified himself, and saved a lost world, by those very means which were intended for evil by his murderers, the better it will be with him. He shall not be able to think sin on this account a less, but a greater evil; and yet he shall be so armed against despondency, as even to rejoice in what God hath wrought, while he trembles in thinking of the evils from which he has escaped.”
[Expository Discourses on the Book of Genesis, interspersed with Practical Reflections (London: J. Burditt, 1806), II, 203].

Contrary to the thinking of some, Fuller was a crucientric theologian, of which the above extract is a good example.

Further on Beautimous

June 5th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

H Schoolma commented on my query about “BEAUTIMOUS: ITS MEANING?” and said that it means “tremendous inexplicable loveliness that defies our ordinary vocabularies.” He noted, in contrast to a comment by Paul W. Martin, that the word is used coast to coast. Well, this is quite helpful and gives a good spin to the word.

Gribben on Da Vinci

June 5th, 2006 Posted in Current Affairs

The amount of material on The Da Vinci Code is reaching, I suspect, staggering proportions. It is a full-time job to keep up with all of it! Here is a good review, though, by Crawford Gribben: “Cracking the code.”

Women in Office

June 4th, 2006 Posted in Theology

Women and ministry? It seems that I have been thinking about—wrestling with—pondering—this subject for ages. In fact, I recall distinctly teaching a series on the issue back in 1981-1982 at what was called by those involved “The Tuesday Night Bible Study,” a bible study of anywhere between seven or eight and thirty or so.

[This bible study originated with the conversion of a number of individuals through the “I Found It” evangelistic campaign of Bill Bright in 1979 or so. This group of individuals became linked to Stanley Avenue Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario, where I was a member. They began to meet and somehow I became involved as a teacher. It ran for over fifteen years and it was a great training ground for me, as I taught through tons of Scripture and some church history as well].

Well, among the topics I taught on was the issue of the role of women in the life of the church. It was a contentious issue then and is even more so now. Over the years, having thought about the issue at a number of levels, especially with regard to what should be said and what approach should be taken in a seminary context, my convictions have deepened that the complementarian viewpoint is the only position that does justice to both the text of Scripture and its deep structures that address life in this world.

Of course, women should be involved in various ministries in the life of the church. One cannot read Romans 16:1-16, for example, and not see the evidence that women were involved in this way in the Pauline communities. But can they be ruling, teaching elders? To be sure, one’s answer to this question is not one that affects one’s salvation. In that sense, it is like other secondary issues, such as ecclesial polity or baptism.

Yet, unlike one’s decision on these two issues, contemporary egalitarianism (to be distinguished from that of the Methodist or Holiness movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) often does entail a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. Yes, one can be an egalitarian and affirm scriptural inerrancy. But the egalitarian who is committed to inerrancy has to argue that scriptural statements on the whole range of male-female relationships in the church and in the home are no longer applicable. There are various ways this is done today, but common to them all, it strikes me, is an implicit denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.

Of course, those who recognize the discontinuity introduced by the new covenant also argue that portions of the old covenant are no longer applicable. But in the case of egalitarianism, it is new covenant affirmations that are being ruled as passé and this raises the question, “Does egalitarianism necessarily undermine Scriptural sufficiency?”

For further helpful reflections on this issue as it is currently impacting those in the Reformed community, see Ligon Duncan’s thoughts on “Complementarianism and the Conservative Reformed Community” at this post on the Reformation 21 blog.

HT: David Shedden.

Beautimous: Its Meaning?

June 3rd, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

“Beautimous”: is this a word? I found it on Steve McCoy’s Reformissionary: Wi-Chi. I like it. I can even envisage its use: “Is that not beautimous?” But what does it mean exactly? Overwhelmingly beautiful? Or what?

Terrorists in Canada and the Kingdom of Christ

June 3rd, 2006 Posted in Current Affairs, Theology

In the recent arrest of 12 men and 5 youths planning terrorist activities here in Canada (see this CTV report here), Luc Portelance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) commented: “It is important to note that this operation in no way reflects negatively on any specific community or ethno-cultural group in Canada. Terrorism is a dangerous ideology and a global phenomenon. As yesterday’s arrests confirm, Canada is not immune from this ideology.”

This is interesting, for in the list of names released on the report, all of them are clearly Muslim. I am convinced that it would be a despicable act of utter folly and downright racism to argue that this means all people of Muslim descent in this country are potential terrorists. After all, my own birth-name was Azad Michael Anthony Hakim and my forebears were Kurdish Muslims from Kirkuk, Iraq. I endured enough racist slurs as a young boy growing up in England and Canada in the 1960s to know the error and personal pain of such racial stereotyping.

On the other hand, this surely does mean that threats to our country’s safety are more likely to come from this community than from among immigrants from Brazil, say, or Thailand. And it would be equal folly for we who love Canada to think that she would be immune from the struggle that has engulfed other Western nations like Britain, Australia, Spain, and the U.S.A. I suspect we have thought that because the hatred of many in this world has been directed against America, we will get off scot-free, since we are clear that we are not Americans, but Canadians. But the distinctions that we love to make between ourselves and our friends to the south is completely lost in the eyes of many who are filled with loathing for all things Western. As our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, emphasized: “We are a target because of who we are, how we live, our society, our diversity and our values—values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law—the values that make Canada great.” (By the way, what a joy to have such a man as our Prime Minister!)

In these dangerous times, though, we who have a commitment to Christ have another responsibility above and beyond love of country: love of Christ and concern that his Kingdom embrace men and women of every clime and tongue. This is a Kingdom that is not of this world and cannot be brought in by the clash of arms or weapons of human destruction. It is by gospel proclamation, words of witness, deeds of love and Christian community—and above all the grace of the Holy Spirit’s converting power—that this Kingdom moves forward. And we must never forget that among the people for whom our Lord Jesus died are those who today call upon Allah. And there is coming a great day when they will cast this idol to the winds, the bats and the moles, and be converted and worship the Lord Christ.

God, hasten the day!

HT: Paul W. Martin.

The Marriage of Learning & Piety

June 3rd, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

One of the great challenges to contemporary Evangelicalism is the mentalité that divorces piety from learning. Yet, it’s not a new problem. It was, for example, during a trip that Samuel Davies (1723-1761), a Presbyterian minister from Virginia, made in September 1753 to Great Britain on what would turn out to be an arduous, though highly successful, fund-raising expedition for the then-fledgling College of New Jersey (later to be renamed Princeton University) that he encountered Baptist disdain for learning. He was gone for a total of eighteen months, and met quite a number of key British evangelicals and churchmen, among them the leading Baptist theologian of the era, John Gill (1697-1771). He paid a visit to Gill on January 30, 1754, and found him, in his description, “a serious, grave little Man.” Gill was quite willing to lend his support to the College, but he told Davies not to expect much from the English Baptists as a whole: “in general,” he said, the Baptists “were unhappily ignorant of the Importance of learning.”

Being a convinced Baptist I am happy that there have been a goodly number in the Baptist tradition who have successfully married what Gill called “the importance of Learning” with vital piety—Gill himself being a good example. But there have been, and still are, far too many Baptists whose thinking on this subject is that of those whom Gill knew and of which he was rightly critical.

But it is not simply Baptists who exhibit this problem. Gill’s Evangelical contemporary, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), without doubt the most important theologian from the eighteenth century, was fond of emphasizing that genuine spiritual affections are “not heat without light.” In his thinking, genuine Christianity entails both spirituality and reason. Trust in the Scriptures as the supreme authority when it comes to truth and error does not entail, for Edwards, the casting aside of the use of one’s mind. And it is noteworthy that, in contrast to much of later American Evangelicalism that emphasized the “religion of the heart” over theological reflection, Edwards was firmly committed to an “affectionate knowledge” that avoided both “an anti-intellectual enthusiasm” as well as “an unfeeling rationalism.” In particular, Conrad Cherry has rightly argued, Edwards, “unlike the revivalists of a later America,…avoided the sanctimonious conclusion that religious intuition is sufficient unto itself and that theology is a waste of time.” [“Imagery and Analysis: Jonathan Edwards on Revivals of Religion” in Charles Angoff, ed., Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Influence (Cranbury, New Jersey/London: Associated University Presses, 1975), 19-21].

Of course, this interface of heart and mind has even deeper roots than the ones I have just noted. It can be found in the theological synthesis of Reformation thought that issued from the pen of John Calvin (1509-1564), whose motto was Cor meum tibi offere domine prompte et sincere, “Unto you, Lord, I give my heart, promptly and sincerely.” It’s there in the theology of Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), whose work was shaped by his motto fides quaerens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding.” And we find it in an Augustine (354-430), who, about thirteen years or so after his conversion described what God had done in his life in a deeply learned Latin:

“You called me; you cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness. You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me; you put my blindness to flight. You shed your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour. I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of your peace” (Confessions 10.27).

Of course, the root of all of these thinkers and theologians are the Scriptures that display a piety that is suffused with learning and a doctrinal faith that burns for the glory of God. With such mentors before us, and with the Scriptures as a foundation, let us seek in our day to be distinctly counter-cultural and develop a piety that is aflame with the coals of doctrinal orthodoxy. What God has brought together, let not man put asunder!

A Thought about Azusa Street

June 3rd, 2006 Posted in Theology

We have our differences with classical Pentecostalism, especially with regard to the work of the Holy Spirit. But there is little doubt of classical Pentecostals’ love for Christ and their passion for missions. William J. Seymour (1870-1922), the preacher at the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street, where Pentecostalism was born, was very Christocentric. “The baptism with the Holy Ghost gives us power to testify to a risen, resurrected Savior,” wrote Seymour. “Our affections are in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” [cited Gary B. McGee, “From Azusa Street to the Ends of the Earth.”]

While I would strongly disagree with Seymour’s understanding of the baptism of the Spirit—he was actually a holiness preacher who believed that the baptism of the Spirit was a third work beyond conversion and entire sanctification—I can honour his passion for the glory of the Risen Christ and his desire to see that glory spread to the nations.

A discussion of centennial celebrations of what took place at Azusa Street in 1906 can be found here: Azusa Street Centennial. The section on the history is very well done.

Confession of Sin

June 3rd, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Confession of sin is a lost “art” among Evangelicals. We are big on petition and more recently are learning again the beauty of praise and adoration. But confession of sin should naturally follow upon adoration and praise, for when we see how great a God we have, how holy and majestic, we also see how low and filthy we are in comparison (Isaiah 6.1-5).  We ought therefore to confess our sinfulness and unworthiness (Luke 18.13; Matthew 6.12; 1 John 1.9). We cannot simply saunter into God’s presence as if all was well with us. It is not. We must come with confession on our lips and repentance in our hearts..

Confession of sin ought to be made speedily after sinning.  If a seamstress has lost her needle that is vital to her trade, she looks until it is found. Similarly, when we sin against God (for in the final analysis, all sin is against God), we should not wait days till we confess it; we must seek His forgiveness as soon as possible.  As the Scripture says: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”  (Proverbs 28.13).

Andrew Fuller’s Epitaph

June 3rd, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

On the “Epitaph” erected in memory of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), he was remembered for:

“His ardent Piety,
The strength and soundness of his Judgment,
His intimate knowledge of the human heart,
And his profound acquaintance with the Scriptures.”

It was these things, the “Epitaph” went on to say, that “eminently qualified him for the Ministerial Office.” In a nutshell we have here what early nineteenth-century Baptists viewed as vital for the task of pastoral ministry.

For a picture of the “Epitaph,” see http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/bios/fullerepitaph.jpg.