Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kirk Cameron's Interview of John MacArthur





These videos demonstrate well what I like so much about John MacArthur, and why I am beginning to appreciate Kirk Cameron more and more all the time. What is most amazing about these videos, however, isn't that MacArthur says what he says on television. We are used to seeing him faithfully proclaim the Gospel on TV shows like Larry King Live, for example. But these videos are taken from an interview on TBN! Do the people who run that network even realize that virtually everything Cameron and Macarthur say is an indictment against them? I guess the complete lack of discernment by those who run TBN has worked in favor of the truth for a change. I just pray that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts to this truth.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Sanctity of Life Sunday was actually last Sunday, but, since I somehow forgot about it last week, I will focus on the issue this week instead. I was reminded by a Justin Taylor post at the Between Two Worlds blog. The post was entitled The Case for Life, Around the Web, in which Justin does a good job of gathering together some, excellent pro-life material:

John Piper, Lincoln's Logic on Slavery Applied to Abortion

R.C. Sproul, Video series on abortion (streamed on the web for free)

Robert P. George, Our Struggle for the Soul of Our Nation

Ed Whelan, Senate Testimony on Roe v. Wade (2005)

Michael New, The Case for Pro-Life Optimism

Star Parker and Gary Bauer, A Dream Unfulfilled: Roe v. Wade has Played a Big Role in the Devastation of the African-American Community.


You may also want to check out these two later posts:

Abortion and the Early Church

Abortion and Obama's First Few Days

May God bring an awakening to this country that will bring with it the will to end abortion!

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Bit of Calvinist Humor in Song



I saw this video over at InternetMonk.com and thought it was humorous. The song, "I Think My Wife's a Calvinist," is by Brandon Milan. His wife, Leah, helped him write the song and is the one playing the mandolin.

Personally, I am glad my wife is a Calvinist, but I guess that's because I am too!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Suggested Changes to the Baptist Confession of 1689

Back in September I posted a blog entry about a couple of articles written by Robert Gonzales, Dean and Professor at Reformed Baptist Seminary, on "The Danger of Reformed Traditionalism." As I observed in that post, in the second of his two articles, Gonzales not only cautions us more specifically about not allowing the Baptist Confession of 1689 to overwhelm our commitment to Sola Scriptura, he also suggests some changes to the confession in the process:

So here’s where “the rubber meets the road.” It’s one thing to affirm one’s commitment to sola Scriptura and offer a general warning against an imbalanced commitment to one’s Confession of Faith. Most won’t object too strongly. It’s quite another thing, however, to venture suggestions as to how one’s Confession of Faith might have some deficiencies that need improvement. I don’t expect that all my readers will fully agree with all of my suggestions—at least immediately. But I do hope that you’ll give the matter careful prayer and reflection. In general, I think there are at least three ways in which the 1689 London Baptist Confession can be improved.
The three areas of improvement Gonzales goes on to suggest are: 1) "updating the language of the confession," 2) "adding theological affirmations to the confession" (such as a clear statement on the Biblical roles of men and women), and 3) "making modest refinements to some doctrinal formulae" (such as "fine-tuning" some of the confession's statements about covenant theology). So far, to my knowledge, he hasn't written anything more specific to date, although I certainly hope he does so soon, because I think he would do a very good job.

As for Gonzales' suggestion that we update the language of the confession, some attempts at this have been and are being made, as I indicated in my January 3 post about Modern Versions of the Baptist Confession of 1689. But today I would like to begin a series of articles offering some suggestions about the other two areas mentioned by Gonzales, namely "adding theological affirmations to the confession" and "making modest refinements to some doctrinal formulae." My goal in writing these articles is not stir up controversy or debate – although I am not so naive as to think this unavoidable – but rather to encourage what I believe is a necessary and potentially fruitful discussion. At least I hope it will be a fruitful discussion.

Most of the suggestions made will be my own. In fact, most of the suggestions I will offer have already been adopted by the elders and congregation of Immanuel Baptist Church, where I am privileged to serve as the primary teaching elder. But I will also include good suggestions made by others when I discover them. For example, I would like to kick off this series of posts with A Suggested Addition to the Second London Confession, by Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He suggests making additions to Chapter 20, "Of the Gospel, and of the extent of the Grace thereof." Here is the section of his article in which the specific wording is offered:

I transcribe the text of the chapter with additions. My suggested additions are in italics along with the suggested Scripture proofs. Locations within the larger confession that support the suggested additions are discussed beneath each respective paragraph.

1. The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners. [Genesis 3:15; Revelation 13:8] This promised grace assumes the creation truth that mankind bears of the divine image and is thus made for the love and praise of God. God’s purpose, therefore, of restoring an elect people to His favor through Christ and reinstating Himself as the sole source and object of their praise and worship does not exclude any of fallen humanity from the duty to pursue the ends of the Gospel [Ephesians 1:9-12; Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-11, 15-17.]

[Compare Chapter 4, paragraph 2 entire but particularly “rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created.” Also, Compare chapter 7, paragraph 2 which states “Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.”]

2. This promise of Christ, and salvation by Him, is revealed only by the Word of God; neither do the works of creation or providence, with the light of nature, make discovery of Christ, or of grace by him, so much as in a general or obscure way; much less that men destitute of the revelation of Him by the promise or gospel, should be enabled thereby to attain saving faith or repentance. [Romans 1:16; 10:14-17; Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 25:7; 60:2, 3] God provides, therefore, by command and providence, that proclamation of the full counsel of God be made to all men as sinners. The law initially written on the heart, as well as the moral law revealed to Israel, fully complies with the grace of the Gospel. This reality most forcefully implies that Christ’s Gospel be proclaimed to all fallen humanity. The decree of salvation for the elect of every tongue, tribe, nation, involves of necessity the proclamation of both the Gospel and the accompanying duties of repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus to all men everywhere. [Revelation 5:12-14; 7; Acts 17:24-31; 1 Timothy 1:12-16]

[Compare chapter 2, paragraph 2 “to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.” Also compare chapter 5, paragraph 6, “whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, under those means which God useth for the softening of others.” Also compare chapter 19, paragraph 2, “The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, etc.” paragraph 5, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others … neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.” And paragraph 7 “Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.”]

3. The revelation of the Gospel unto sinners, made in divers times and by sundry parts, with the addition of promises and precepts for the obedience required therein, as to the nations and persons to whom it is granted, is merely of the sovereign will and good pleasure of God; not being annexed by virtue of any promise to the due improvement of men’s natural abilities, by virtue of common light received without it, which none ever did make, or can do so; and therefore in all ages, the preaching of the gospel has been granted unto persons and nations, as to the extension [extent] or limiting [streightning] of it, in great variety, according to the counsel of the will of God. His secret will and good pleasure in this wise providence, however, is not the rule of our action; but rather his church must be governed by his commission of the gospel to all nations as the means of their calling. The apostolic work of careful dissemination, defense, and confirmation of the Gospel among all nations bore
fruit only by virtue of the sovereign, inscrutable, and insuperable work of the Spirit embedding the preached word with vital power, and at the same time manifested the apostolic understanding of his command to make disciples. [Acts 13:48; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 2 Timothy 2:8-10; James 1:17, 18; 1 Peter 1:22-25]

[Elements of this original article give direct refutation to the Arminian contention that fallen humanity by virtue of universal prevenient grace may respond positively to natural revelation and thus gain God’s favor for a further hearing of the gospel or even perhaps having their natural religion account to them as virtual faith in Christ, though they never have heard the gospel. {See chapter 10, paragraph 4 on this account also.} Thomas Grantham, a general Baptist, specifically taught this and taught that apart from such prevenient grace, sinners could not be held responsible for their refusal to comply with the implications of natural revelation or of the preached gospel. Compare chapter 3, paragraph 1 – “nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away.” Paragraph 6. ‘foreordained all the means thereunto.” Chapter 5, paragraph 2 “yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out
according to the nature of second causes, either, necessarily, freely, or
contingently.” Chapter 10, paragraph 1 – “by his word and Spirit … enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;” paragraph 4 “Much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved.” Also chapter 14, paragraph 1, “The grace of faith . . . is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word.”]

4. We, therefore, affirm and have joyful confidence in these indivisible truths: the gospel is the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, [omit semi-colon and insert comma] there is moreover necessary, beyond the mere persuasive power of bare truth, an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God. [Psalm 110:3; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:19, 20; John 6:44; 2 Corinthians 4, 4, 6] The substance of all missionary and evangelistic labors, therefore, must be the proclamation of the Gospel. Apart from this message we may not expect God’s Spirit to honor our efforts with the reclaiming of the lost. In the context of such labors one may always hope that the Spirit will lead the lost to Christ.

[Compare also chapter X on effectual calling paragraph 1: “inlightening [sic] their minds, spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;” also paragraph 4; “although they may be called by the Ministry of the word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ.” Also see chapter XIV.1, “Of Saving Faith;” “The Grace of Faith, whereby the Elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the Ministry of the Word.” And XIV.2 “By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself; and also apprehendeth an excellency therein, above all other writings; and all things in the world … and so is enabled to cast his Soul upon the truth thus believed.”]

An addition such as this would be consistent with the full light of Scripture truth, the historical flow of Baptist history, and the internal implications of the Confession itself. For at least a two-fold purpose such an addition holds promise for edification and conscientious discipleship: One, we should articulate a clear theological motivation for personal and world-wide evangelization, avoiding the error of the hyper-Calvinist; Two, we must help correct the tendency to abort evangelism from its theological womb but must insist that it be nurtured and matured and kept alive by its fructifying connection with the whole of doctrinal truth.

I encourage the reading of Nettles' entire article and welcome your responses as always. An example of one helpful – albeit brief – response comes from Robert Gonzales, in the above mentioned article, in a footnote (#7), in which he observes:

Nettles’ suggested addition does underscore the church’s responsibility in general but does not seem to highlight the responsibility of every individual disciple of Christ to propagate the gospel. He does, however, cite Article XI of The Baptist Faith and Message (2000), which does: “It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means that birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ [emphasis added].”
The added emphasis suggested by Gonzales could easily be inserted into what Nettles has himself offered, and in my view would make a good proposal that much better. What say you?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Good Bible Reading Plan for 2009

For those of you who have never read through your Bible in a year, it is still not too late to start for 2009, and I would like to recommend a very good plan for you to follow.
Every year Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary publishes a Bible reading plan that takes you through the whole Bible in one year. With this plan you will read two Old Testament chapters every day of the year, one poetry chapter each weekday, and one New Testament chapter each weekday.
This plan has been quite popular over the years at Immanuel Baptist Church, where I have had the privilege of serving as primary teaching elder for the last 14 years or so. If you want to check it out, you can download a free copy. If you would like to order a copy (or a number of copies for your church, perhaps), you can call FBCS at 1-800-409-3305.
They can send you a perforated cardboard version that pulls apart into a series of three handy bookmarks for each area of daily Bible reading. It is very convenient and also gives a balanced diet of Scripture throughout the year.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Modern Versions of the Baptist Confession of 1689

There are a couple of modern English versions of The Baptist Confession of 1689 that it is good to be aware of:

1) The Founders Ministries website has made freely available online A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 Rewritten in Modern English ©1975, Carey Publications, Ltd.

2) Stan Reeves, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Auburn University and an elder at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, Alabama, has been working on a modern version of the 1689 Confession since August of this past year. He is publishing his work a chapter at a time using Blogger, which makes it easy for others to comment on his progress in order to ask questions or offer suggestions. He is also posting it alongside the original for easy comparison while reading. He just published chapter 15, "Repentance to Life and Salvation," this week. So far it looks like a very promising work. Here is the purpose statement from his first post:

I have long wanted to update the language of the 1689 Confession to make it more accessible to modern readers. I'm aware of other modern versions, but I object to the cost and copyright restrictions on the Carey edition (the most widely available version), and I've found that none of them seem to be very consistent in the way they approach the update. For example, the Carey edition seems to be nothing more than a paraphrase in some places and yet quite stilted in others.
I approach this whole thing with fear and trembling, and that's why I'm putting this on the web. I fear inadvertently changing the doctrine or confusing something that was clearer in the original. So I'm posting my attempts at an update so that folks can comment and make suggestions and corrections.
My goal is to maintain the structure and language to the extent that these lend themselves to clarity to the modern reader. When they don't, I will consider modern equivalent terms or rephrasing. In more difficult cases, I may rework the structure of a paragraph if it can be stated in a significantly more natural way in modern English without compromising the meaning. I don't pretend that the result will be readable on a 6th-grade level. The concepts in the confession simply don't lend themselves to such simplistic expression. Furthermore, I don't want to change well-established theological terms unless I judge that they are fairly obscure and can be greatly clarified by a modern expression.
As I wrestle through the rewording, I will be referencing and learning from the Carey edition, the Kerkham edition, the Masters edition, as well as the original, including the facsimile copy published by B&R Press. I expect my version to be sufficiently different from all the other modernized versions that there will be no violation of copyright. I've included links to electronic versions of the ones I'm consulting, except for the Masters edition, which I haven't found online.
I relish all constructive comments. I may not be able to respond to all comments or explain my reaction to them, but I will do my best to read and consider them.
Until I've finished all the edits and released a final form, I claim a copyright on the work in progress and do not grant permission to make copies. I will eventually provide permission to copy under certain conditions once I've finished it.
Thanks Stan!