Archive for June, 2012

“Spotty spirituality”

June 28th, 2012 Posted in Biblical Spirituality, Books

Today, I was able to spend some time at the University of British Columbia campus with my wife and daughter—and no surprise, bookstores occupied much of the day: the UBC bookstore where my daughter found a goldmine of Loeb classics, and Regent College Bookstore, which is an absolutely awesome place. I found a new book on William Wilberforce and his wife Barbara Spooner by Anne Stott, and also a fresh translation of Athanasius’ letters to Serapion and Didymus the Blind’s On the Holy Spirit. I also picked up the latest Crux magazine that has an article on A. Fuller by Keith Grant.

I also picked up The Regent World, 24, no.1 (Winter 2012),where, on p.6, in an advertisement for a pastors’ conference entitled “Overflow—Spiritual Rhythms and Practices that Draw from Christ’s Fullness” (featuring Bruce Himdmarsh, Darrell Johnson and Susan Phillips), mention is made of pastors, due to demands on their time, being reduced “to a spotty spirituality and to sporadic fullness.” The phrase “spotty spirituality” is “spot-on” as a way of describing a leading affliction of Christian leadership in our day. Hopefully, what we are also doing at Southern in our programs on biblical spirituality will help diminish this affliction.

Nine books: my summer 2012 reading

June 27th, 2012 Posted in Books

Books are so much a part of my life—and summer is great when I can read some books that I would normally not have time to read. Here is a small list of some I have already read this summer and a few that I hope to read in July and August:

  1. Adrian Murdoch, The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World, where Murdoch examines the life and legacy of  Flavius Claudius Julianus (332–363), who failed to reverse the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Read this at the beginning of the summer and loved its historical finesse, though Murdoch is down on Christians, including one of my ‘favs,’ Gregory Nazianzen.
  2. Peter Popham, The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi. When I was in Florida in May, I picked up this biography and could not put it down: a tremendous story of a remarkable woman.
  3. Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones, Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The life and legacy of ‘the Doctor’: regretfully this collection of essays, the product of a conference held in 2011, is not available yet on this side of the Atlantic—despite a negative review in The Banner of Truth, I found the essays uniformly good and very insightful.
  4. Robert Lacey, The Queen: A Life in Brief: I am not one to normally read biographies of modern royals, but in this year of her Diamond Jubilee, I thought I would read a brief overview of Queen Elizabeth II, an important player in our world (witness her speech at Dublin Castle in 2011 and her imminent meeting with past-IRA commander Martin McGuinness).
  5. Jane Brown, Lancelot ‘Capability; Brown: The Omnipotent Magician 1716–1783: I have long admired this gardener who changed the face of Georgian England and am looking forward to an engrossing read.
  6. Paula Frederiksen, Sin: The Early History of an Idea: picked this up this past Monday in a Vancouver Chapters bookstore—she examines sin especially in a number of second-century authors and then compares the concept in Origen and Augustine—looking forward to a stimulating read, though I fear Augustine will be cast as the bad guy.
  7. Peter Clarke, Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship”: also picked this up on Monday and am currently reading it—hard to imagine finding a new angle on Churchill that has not been explored, but Clarke has found such: Churchill as an author and historian. A fascinating read so far.
  8. John Owen, The Priesthood of Christ: this is a modern rendition of an excursus in Owen’s famous Hebrews commentary—my recent study of Hebrews over three years changed forever my thinking about the relationship between the covenants and highlighted the importance of Hebrews’ teaching about Christ as our high priest. Am looking forward to this a meditative read.
  9. Augustine, Confessions, trans. Garry Wills: I have normally read this work in R.S. Pine-Coffin’s translation—have decided to venture out and taste Garry Wills’ new translation. I tried this a few years ago with Henry Chadwick’s translation—but the experiment didn’t work. Maybe Wills will capture my allegiance—we shall see.

Andrew Fuller’s signature in the trust deeds of Cannington Baptist Church

June 25th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized

Yesterday I was privileged to speak at the 125th anniversary of Cannington Baptist Church in Cannington, Ontario, roughly two hours’ drive from where I live. The congregation had gathered to celebrate God’s goodness, a worship service beautifully planned by deacon Ian Archibald. A group called “The Reflections” helped us worship in heart as they sang a number of traditional and contemporary songs. They were really excellent. And I was enabled to speak from Hebrews 13:7–8, a great text for arguing for the importance of history, a text I had already used in S. Ireland at the Cork Summer Bible Week.

In preparing for the delivery of the Word today, I had looked over a history of the Church—prepared twenty-five years ago in 1987, the centennial of the church—in which the doctrines set forth in the Trust Deed were spelled out. It is a classic summary of Baptist convictions. Those who had a right to use the building for worship were to hold these beliefs:

The being and unity of God: the existence of three equal persons in the Godhead: the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, the total depravity of man: election according to the foreknowledge of God: the Divinity of Christ and the all sufficiency of His atonement; justification by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ; the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration; perseverance of the saints; the resurrection of the dead; the final judgement [sic]; the punishment of the wicked, and the blessedness of the righteous, both eternal; the immersion of believers in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the only baptism; the Lord’s Supper, a privilege peculiar to baptised believers: A Church, a company of baptised believers, voluntarily associated and meeting in one place on the first day of the week for mutual edification and the maintenance and propagation of these doctrines, the Word of God a complete and infallible rule of faith and practise; the religious observance of the first day of the week; and the obligation of every intelligent creature to believe the record which God has given of His Son.

In this statement we see the influence of the fourth-century Trinitarian debates and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed of 381; the Augustinian emphasis on human depravity and the necessity of divine election; the Reformation watch-cry of solus Christus; the great Baptist distinctives of congregationalism, believer’s baptism and closed communion; Puritan sabbatarianism; the belief in the inspiration and infallibility of the Word of God—common to all ages of the Church—and lo and behold pure Fullerism in the final statement about “the obligation of every intelligent creature to believe the record which God has given of His Son.”

I did not expect to see Fuller’s signature in such a place, but there it was: good to see it! Fuller is such a good mentor, because he delighted in proclaiming the gospel to all and sundry.

History of Hughson Street Baptist Church authored by Michael Haykin & Ian Clary

June 12th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized

Rivers of Living Water: Celebrating 125…Dr. Haykin recently collaborated with Ian Clary on a history of the 125-year-old Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. The book, titled “Rivers of Living Water”: Celebrating 125 Years of Hughson Street Baptist Church, Hamilton, Ontario, 1887-2012, was recently reviewed by Mark Nenadov.

For information on how to obtain a copy of this volume, please contact Dr. Haykin at mhaykin@sbts.edu.

“How would you respond to the Catholic argument that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is a fairly recent innovation?”

June 12th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized

Dr. Haykin has responded to a question recently submitted on this website’s “Ask Me a Question” feature. The question was: “How would you respond to the Catholic argument that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is a fairly recent innovation?” Dr. Haykin responded here. Feel free to interact with his response and share your own opinions in the comment section for this post.

Andrew Fuller and the modification of Calvinism?

June 6th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized

It may be the case that Calvinistic soteriology is wrong-headed biblically—if so, many, if not most, of our Baptist forebears in the 18th century were wrong-headed. But my concern is not so much there right now as with regard to some recent statements circulating about Andrew Fuller made by Dr W R Estep. Contrary to Dr Estep’s “Calvinizing Southern Baptists” (was that his title? And has not this piece made the rounds before?), there was no modification of Calvinism by Andrew Fuller. He was a full-blown Calvinist: in fact, he called himself a “strict Calvinist” in opposition to the confused views of Richard Baxter, on the one hand, and the hyper-Calvinism in certain quarters, on the other.

According to Estep, “Andrew Fuller wrote The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation [GWAA] against [John] Gill’s Calvinism, concluding: ‘Had matters gone on but a few years, the Baptists would have become a perfect dunghill in society’.” Actually, GWAA did not include that statement. It comes in a letter to Archibald McLean, the Scottish Sandemanian Baptist (see Works, III, 478) dealing with what Fuller frequently called false Calvinism.

In one very insightful text, a review of two sermons by a hyper-Calvinist by the name of W.W. Horne, Fuller writes this (Works, III, 583):

“In calling the doctrine defended by Mr. Horne false Calvinism I have not miscalled it. In proof of this, I appeal to the writings of that great reformer, and of the ablest defenders of his system in later times—of all indeed who have been called Calvinists till within a hundred years. Were you to read many of Calvin’s sermons, without knowing who was the author, you would be led, from the ideas you appear at present to entertain, to pronounce him an Arminian; neither would Goodwin, nor Owen, nor Charnock, nor Flavel, nor Bunyan, escape the charge. These men believed and preached the doctrines of grace; but not in such a way as to exclude exhortations to the unconverted to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. The doctrine which you call Calvinism (but which, in reality, is Antinomianism) is as opposite to that of the Reformers, puritans, and nonconformists, as it is to that of the apostles.

We do not ask you to relinquish the doctrine of salvation by grace alone: so far from it, were you to do so we would, on that account, have no fellowship with you. We have no doubt of justification being wholly on account of the righteousness of Jesus; nor of faith, wherever it exists, being the free gift of God. …But we ask you to admit other principles, equally true, and equally important as they are; principles taught by the same inspired writers, and which, therefore, must be consistent with them.”

Ah, this is what I love about Fuller: his balance—a profound embrace of sovereign grace coupled with a passion for the salvation of sinners. These doctrines are never at odds, but companions in the extension of Christ’s kingdom. So what are we to make of the statement by Dr Estep that “Fuller’s modification of Calvinism among the Baptists made possible the foreign mission movement of which Carey became the catalyst.” Respectfully, we have to say, he has not read Fuller aright.