Archive for November, 2010

A Christian writing nonsense

November 27th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Sometimes Christians, in their desire to uphold biblical truth, are led into strange statements, even remarks that are downright silly. Recently I was reading early 19th century issues of The Gospel Magazine when I came across a series of articles by an author who signed his name as Boanerges. This said author had a bee in his bonnet about another Christian periodical of the era entitled The Evangelical Magazine, which during this very time period was supported by a number of key Baptist figures, including Andrew Fuller, John Ryland, Jr., and John Fawcett (see, for example, the title page of The Evangelical Magazine for 1807). “Boarnerges” wrote a series of review pieces on The Evangelical Magazine during 1806 and was quite severe in his judgment on this Christian monthly.

In one piece, he reviewed the “Memoirs of the Life of the Mr. Abraham Booth,” which appeared in The Evangelical Magazine  for August 1806. Booth, Boanerges was sure, was “a subject of God’s regenerating grace,” but as he got older he got “lost…in the maze of Arminianism” and “very much departed from the purity of the gospel” [“Review of the Evangelical Magazine for August 1806”, The Gospel Magazine, 2nd series, 1, no.10 (October 1806), 452]. I was amazed when I read this, though as I read more of the review, “Boanerges” sounded like a Huntingtonian and that made some sense as to why he would rank Booth as an Arminian. But if Booth be an Arminian, then terms have no sense at all and all is nonsense!

 Thankfully, a certain correspondent, who simply signed his name as “S.G.U.” wrote in to the editor on November 4, 1806, and stated forthrightly, “I was much surprised to find it asserted that Mr. Booth” was an Arminian. He then went on to quote a lengthy text from Booth’s Divine Justice essential to the Divine Character (1793), which S.G.U. was confident “satisfactorily shews that Mr. Booth was not an Arminian” [“Mr. Booth Not An Arminian”, The Gospel Magazine, 2nd series, 2, no.1 (January 1807), 33–34]. Grateful for S.G.U.’s defence of Booth, I could not help but wonder what kind of author could make such assertions as Boanerges did and still desire to be taken seriously as a Christian thinker!

Sarah Gibbard Cook’s doctoral thesis on John Owen

November 26th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

I have been reading Sarah Gibbard Cook’s doctoral thesis, “A Political Biography of a Religious Independent John Owen, 1616-83” (Unpubished PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1972). It really is very well written and filled a notable gap at the time, namely a substantial biography of Owen from the point of view of his politics. Peter Toon’s biography of Owen was about to be published when Cook was writing and she references his unpublished manuscript. But, believe it or not, I am finding Cook a much better read than Toon, except in one particular, namely Toon’s attention to theology, which Cook does not touch unless it bears on her examination of Owen’s political views.

We need a good biography of Owen that takes into account all of the recent research by such Owen experts as Trueman and the major amounts of work done on the era in which he lived.

A codicil on Christian unity

November 26th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

By the way, lest anyone think I am going soft on theological purity, let me add to the previous post on Christian unity this word: there is, of course, a time to break fellowship because true fellowship has ceased. “They went out from us but they were not of us.” Of course, I believe that. But my concern was the far-too-hasty, and frankly sinful, breaking of fellowship over issues that could never be properly classified as primary or even secondary matters.

Thank you, brothers and sisters in Christ!

November 25th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

A big thank you for those who took the time to wish me a happy birthday: it reminded me afresh of the undeserved grace of being part of the Body of Christ. I hope I never take this privilege for granted. It is a precious privilege to be in unity with blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.

Had to drive to London, ON, today to meet with a dear brother, Stephen Mawdsley, an architectwe are doing a work together on architecture and Christianity. More on that as it develops.

Had an hour there and an hour back to pray and ponder. I rarely have the radio or podcasts or MP3s playing on such occasions. I simply love the silence. Spent some time thinking about the theme of my first paragraph above. Specifically, spent time thinking about the divisions that sometimes occur between true Christians. Whether it was power-brokerage or prickly temperaments or plain old sin that led to the breaks in the first place, so often far too many believers who have broken with other believers in the past seem quite happy with the status quo and are seemingly content to let the years go by without any attempt to reconcile. To be sure, theological purity is often adduced, but how rarely such is the real reason for the division. Maybe it is because I have been spending so much time reading Paul and his high view of the Church that such quarrels increasingly seem so petty to me and so foreign to the mindset of the Apostle.

It breaks my heart, though, to see the attitude of such brothers and sisters. And in the light of such, I understand better (though this too booggles the mind!) why one occasionally hears of true believers who, seeing such, give up on the local church. Shades of A.W. Pink!! Oh, for biblical balance and a willigness to confess sin and walk in the Light…

Truth will out!

November 23rd, 2010 Posted in Philosophy

Truth will out. And though the disciple of Jesus wants it to be now, she can wait, by grace, for the eschatological day of reckoning. Be wise, therefore, soldier of Jesus: love the truth, and never fear to own your faults, foibles, and failings. Don’t be like the world: covering the truth with veneer and lacquer. For truth will shine through.

Robert Plant’s new CD Band of Joy

November 23rd, 2010 Posted in Music

What versatility and diversity there is on Robert Plant’s new CD, Band of Joy (2010), from rock and folk to country (the latter never my favourite, but in this case, I make an exception. Apologies to certain friends!). The entire collection on the CD is a delight to listen to, especially the final two songs that are gems: “Satan your kingdom must come down” (a bit of a surprise I must confess) and “Even this shall pass away.” Highly recommended.

The Martyrdom of Perpetua

November 22nd, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

November 22 is the anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy (and C.S. Lewis). But it is neither of these whose death I wish to remember today. Rather it is that of an early Christian martyr.

One of the most amazing documents historians of early Christianity are privileged to have is the prison diary of a young woman who was martyred in the year 202 in Carthage as part of a civic celebration. Her name is Vibia Perpetua. It’s an amazing, complicated story. The diary is in kind of a sandwich. The editor introduces the story (Pass. Perp. 1-2). Then there’s the authentic diary of Perpetua (Pass. Perp. 3-10). Then there is a diary from the hand of another of the martyrs, Saturus (Pass. Perp. 11-13). Editorial conclusions follow which conclude the account (Pass. Perp. 14-21).

The Christian community in Carthage was probably at this time around 2,000 in a city of up to half a million. Perpetua had been arrested, along with the slaves Felicitas and Revocatus, and two other Christians Saturninus and Secundulus. Soon one Saturus, who deliberately declared himself a Christian before the judge, was also incarcerated.  This took place during the reign of Lucius Septimius Severus (r.193-211), who was devoted to the Egyptian god Serapis. He issued an edit in 202/203 that forbade conversion to either Judaism or Christianity upon pain of death.

Perpetua was a member of the urban upper middle classes, whose family may have held an estate near Carthage. She can speak Greek (Pass. Perp. 13) which indicates a fair degree of education for she was living in Latin-speaking Africa. At one point in her diary, she says this (Pass. Perp. 3):

“A few days later we were lodged in the prison; and I was terrified, as I had never before been in such a dark hole. What a difficult time it was! With the crowd the heat was stifling; then there was the extortion of the soldiers; and to crown all, I was tortured with worry for my baby there.”

“Then Tertius and Pomponius, those blessed deacons who tried to take care of us, bribed the soldiers to allow us to go to a better part of the prison to refresh ourselves for a few hours. Everyone then left that dungeon and shifted for himself. I nursed my baby, who was faint from hunger. In my anxiety I spoke to my mother about the child, I tried to comfort my brother, and I gave the child in their charge. I was in pain because I saw them suffering out of pity for me. These were the trials I had to endure for many days. Then I got permission for my baby to stay with me in prison. At once I recovered my health, relieved as I was of my worry and anxiety over the child. My prison had suddenly become a palace, so that I wanted to be there rather than anywhere else.”

Below is a picture taken by an acquaintance on a recent trip to the ruins of Carthage. It is said to be Perpetua’s prison cell. It is very sobering to view this picture and think of our elder sister Perpetua and our other brothers and sister Felicitas waiting in this very place for death–and glory!

(Click image to enlarge)

Thrum and thrill: a brief reflection on ETS 2010

November 21st, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

ETS 2010 (meeting in Atlanta) is now history. Like other years, there were some great papers (I think of the four papers on Thursday morning on American history by Peter Beck, Donald Macleod, Paige Patterson, and Greg Wills) and some not so good (one speaker—maybe more—did not show, a real disappointment, as I was looking forward to the paper), rich conversations and fellowship with brothers, and superb plenary sessions. This year the topic was justification, and saw Tom Wright, Tom Schreiner (a colleague at SBTS), and Frank Thielman speak to this issue. Wright was dynamic, witty, a great communicator—but in the final analysis and in the opinion of this author, wrong on the key issue. He was not so far wrong that his view did not have much appeal. And much he said resonated with many of us, I am sure: especially the emphasis on the Christian community and the appeal that he was on Calvin’s side as opposed to Luther when it came to the third use of the law. Before Tom Wright spoke, Tom Schreiner had delivered a well-crafted analysis of the issue and why Wright was wrong.

At the end of the day I was struck by the fact that for Wright: Augustine’s failure to understand justification set the stage for the wrong directions of the Middle Ages, and hence the misguided response of the Reformers. He certainly favoured Calvin over Luther, but in the final analysis he remarked that history would have been so different if these two great Reformers had begun with Ephesians rather than Romans or Galatians. I was also deeply struck by his firm rejection of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The latter, though, is central to the gospel: without holiness no man shall see the Lord. If God be holy—holy beyond our conception—how can we envisage a salvation that does not involve being made as holy as Jesus? Also noted that Wright emphasized that no one he knew who had embraced his view had swum the Tiber—but I can think of a few—if not the Tiber, then the Hellespont!

It was over twenty years ago—around 1987 or 1988—that I first heard this view enunciated—in a joint faculty meeting between what was then Central Baptist Seminary and Toronto Baptist Seminary. And while I have a better understanding now of what the so-called New Perspective on Paul (NPP) entails, I am more than ever deeply convinced that it fails to capture the heart of the Apostle’s thought. To the advocates of the NPP the old perspective is mere dull thrumming, but for us it has lost none of its joyful thrill.

“An Irish Christmas” with Keith and Kristyn Getty

November 12th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

(Click image to enlarge.)

Southern Seminary will host “An Irish Christmas” with Keith and Kristyn Getty on Dec. 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm in Alumni Chapel.  Tickets are available here for $10.00 ($8.00 for SBTS Students, Faculty, Staff, and their spouses).

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

Interview on 17th century Particular Baptists

November 1st, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Make sure you watch this interview with Dr James Renihan of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies on 17th century Particular Baptists on the social context of these Baptists and their use of the Fathers: . Good stuff!