Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gospel Convictions: A Statement From Matthias Media

Recently Matthias Media, publisher of The Briefing (one of the best Christian magazines available), began to draw up a list of principles they have entitled Gospel Convictions: A call to evangelical integrity in truth and life.

In the process of writing these principles, they have been seeking feedback, especially from subscribers to The Briefing. Here is the statement as it currently stands:

THE STATEMENT

Scripture teaches us that true life is to be found only in the knowledge of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It also warns us that the times we live in will be marked by doctrinal error and godless living. We therefore commit ourselves to proclaim and contend for the following teachings of the Bible, being convinced that these truths express not only the liberating faith once for all delivered to the saints, but the points at which that faith is under threat at the present time.

1. The truth and centrality of the gospel of Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ.

The gospel is the momentous news concerning God's divine Son, who was sent into the world by his Father and who became the man Jesus Christ. The gospel declares that Jesus was God incarnate, that he lived a sinless life, that he died on the cross to bear God's righteous anger at us because of our sin, and that he was bodily raised from death and exalted to the right hand of God as the Lord and Ruler of the world
(i.e. ‘the Christ’). According to this same gospel, Jesus Christ will return as judge of the living and the dead, bringing eternal punishment on those who have not obeyed him, but salvation from wrath and eternal life to all who have repented and put their trust in him. The gospel thus commands a twofold response: turning back from our rebellion against God to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord (repentance), and trusting in the risen Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and eternal life (faith).

This gospel of Christ crucified demonstrates the wondrous love and righteousness of God, and reveals his eternal plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth under one head, even Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glory and grace. By the proclamation of this gospel, God is gathering from every nation a people for his own possession—a people who are justified by Jesus' blood and zealous for good works.

Accordingly, we are opposed to any teaching that denies the unique and universal Lordship of the risen Christ as the only name under heaven by which people must be saved, that rejects the penal substitutionary atonement of the Cross, or that diminishes the reality of future judgement and hell. We also oppose any practice of Christian ministry that displaces the clear, faithful and frequent speaking of this gospel in favour of other emphases, such as social action or personal fulfilment, or
that promises salvation without personal repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We also resist the call to any Christian ‘unity’ that is not based on the truth of this gospel.

2. The necessity of the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit to initiate and enable repentance and faith.

In view of the universal sinfulness and spiritual deadness of all people, only the inward life-giving work of God's Holy Spirit can open our eyes to the truth of the gospel, and initiate repentance and faith (these being also the basic ongoing responses to God's grace throughout the Christian life). All Christian believers are baptized in the Spirit, and by his power are born again to eternal life with God as our Father and Jesus as our Lord. The Spirit leads us to put to death the misdeeds of the body and to produce the fruit of holy living. He unites us as one body in Christ, and draws us together in local assemblies to love and encourage one another.

Accordingly, we reject any teaching that denies God's predestining sovereignty in bringing believers to new birth by his Spirit, and we oppose the worldliness that resists the Spirit's leading towards daily holiness and love of our neighbour. While affirming the powerful and miraculous work of God by his Spirit in our world today, we are opposed to any teaching that divides Christians according to their experience of the Spirit—whether on the basis of a so-called ‘second blessing’ or ‘baptism’ or ‘filling’ of the Spirit, or a higher level of emotional experience, or the exercise of miraculous gifts such as ‘speaking in tongues’, or the claim of complete victory over sin in this life.
3. The assurance of salvation that belongs to those who have been justified by the blood of Jesus and sealed by his Spirit.

Those who by the Spirit's work trust in Christ's blood alone are now justified before God, are given eternal life and are assured of their salvation at the Last Day. This true living faith will always lead to the good works God has prepared for us to do, but these good works do not earn our salvation, either now or on the Last Day.

Accordingly, we are opposed to any teaching that undermines assurance of salvation for believers, either by denying our present justification, or by questioning our experience of the Spirit, or by requiring the performance of certain religious observances as necessary for salvation.
4. The authority and sufficiency of the God-breathed Scriptures for gospel truth and life.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is revealed and explained in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. All the words of the Bible are God's words. They are not only true, reliable and authoritative, but God's sufficient means for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training his people in every age. Whatever else it may entail, or however it may be supported, all Christian evangelism and ministry centre on the prayerful speaking of the Bible's truth.
Accordingly, we refute any view that diminishes the Bible's authority, such as those who place the Bible under the authority of the Church or scholarship. We also oppose the claim that sections of Scripture are erroneous (e.g. in rejecting the bodily resurrection of Christ) or no longer relevant (e.g. in denying the continuing validity of biblical gender distinctions or the Bible's teachings on sexual morality). We also stand opposed to any who reject the Bible's sufficiency by claiming access to new or fresh revelation—whether by ecstatic experience, words of knowledge, meditative contemplation, church councils or liturgical ritual.
5. The tension of gospel living in the world today.

As those living between the resurrection and return of Christ, we rejoice and give thanks for all the good gifts we receive from God's hand in creation. We also count it
all joy when we suffer the inevitable trials, illnesses and persecutions of this present evil age, knowing that in his goodness, God uses them to prove and strengthen our faith. In the midst of our trials, we entrust ourselves to God and devote ourselves to doing good, confident that he will deliver us, either now or in the age to come. We long for the resurrection of the dead and the new creation, which God will bring decisively in his own secret time, and in which all the blessings won by Christ will be experienced in their fullness, including freedom from sickness, pain, injustice, poverty and death.
Accordingly, we stand opposed to the ‘social gospel’, the ‘prosperity gospel’ and the ‘healing gospel’—all of which falsely seek to draw into this age the blessings of the
next. We also lament how many are in love with this present world and its pleasures, rather than longing for the age to come.
6. The urgency of gospel living in the world today.
By their nature, these glorious gospel truths demand not only to be proclaimed and contended for, but also to be lived. To assent to these truths without also enacting them in our lives is neither to understand them nor really to believe them.
Thus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and with our hearts compelled by the love of Christ, we declare our determination to:

- abandon our lives to the honour and service of Christ in daily holiness and decision-making
- pray constantly in Christ's name for the fruitfulness and growth of his gospel
- speak the Bible's life-changing word whenever and however we can—in the home, in the world and in the fellowship of his people.
Revised July 2009.
These uncompromising Gospel convictions are part of what I like so much about The Briefing, and I would imagine this blog's readers would agree. However, if you would like to weigh in on the formulation of these principles, please send your feedback to the folks at Matthias Media.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Subscriber Will Receive Two Free Journey Books For Christmas

This is just a reminder to the blog's readers that, as I announced on September 1, I am going to offer a free copy of two of the Journey books for Christmas this year to one of the blog's email subscribers. They will include the recent book, A Journey in Heresy, and the first book in the Journey series, A Journey in Grace. If you already have the first book, then I will allow the substitution of another from the series. On December 11 I will draw from the addresses included in the email subscriber list from FeedBurner. So, if you want to have a chance to receive these books, then make sure you sign up as an email subscriber to the blog using the Subscribe in a reader link on the right panel of this page. And make sure you click the "Get Reformed Baptist Blog delivered by email" option. Current email subscribers are already in the running. I will send the two books to the first email subscriber drawn or that I can contact, so make sure that your email address is valid.

I suspect that once you have read a couple of the books, you will want to read more of them and will recommend them to others as well. As a pastor, I have found that folks have really been helped by them and have found them enjoyable reading as well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What is a Reformed Baptist Church?

Back in July I posted a brief defense for Why I Call Myself a Reformed Baptist. In that article I also mentioned a poll I had conducted in 2007-2008 that revealed some significant diversity among those who would call themselves Reformed Baptists. I have also previously cited a paper by Jim Savastio entitled What is a Reformed Baptist Church?, in which he summarized well the (sometimes frustrating) diversity in the usage of the term Reformed Baptist.

Today I would like to inform the blog's readers of yet another attempt to define what it means to be a Reformed Baptist. This paper is also entitled What is a Reformed Baptist Church?, and it was written back in 1999 by Andrew Kerkham, the pastor of Tauranga Reformed Baptist Church in Papamoa, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Here is the the complete text for your consideration:


WHAT IS A REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCH?

1. IT HOLDS TO HISTORIC CHRISTIANITY

It holds to the essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith as set out in creeds such as the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed.

1.1 The Bible: The Bible in its original writings is fully inspired by God, and is therefore the supreme and final authority for belief and practice.

1.2 God: God is one in essence, eternally existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

1.3 Jesus Christ: Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, and is therefore truly God and truly human; he lived a holy and sinless life, died on the cross bearing our guilt as our vicarious substitute, rose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return personally, visibly, and in power and glory.
1.4 The Human Race: God created human beings in his own image, but Adam the first human being sinned, and through this transgression every one of us inherits a sinful nature which results in personal transgression and guilt, incurring the penalty
of death, both physical and spiritual.

1.5 Salvation: Salvation is through regeneration by the Holy Spirit (the new birth), justification by faith alone without works of righteousness, and sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit which produces the fruits of righteousness including good works.

1.6 The Future: There is a future bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust, the just to eternal blessedness in heaven and the unjust to eternal banishment in hell.
2. IT HOLDS TO REFORMATION DISTINCTIVES
It holds to the great doctrines emphasized during the Reformation as set forth in documents such as the Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, Heidelberg Catechism, Westminster Confession of Faith, and Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). These may be summed up in the threefold statement:
Sola scriptura - Sola gratia - Sola fide
Scripture alone - Grace alone - Faith alone

2.1 Sola Scriptura: The Bible in its original writings is verbally and fully inspired by God and therefore the inerrant Word of God to the human race; it is therefore the
supreme and final authority for belief and practice. (For a modern statement see
the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978). Neither human reason, experience nor the Church can be our final authority. Therefore liberal theology (which exalts the authority of human reason), the charismatic movement (which exalts the authority of human experience) and Roman Catholicism (which exalts the authority of the church) are all viewed as inadequate systems of belief.
2.2 Sola Gratia: Salvation is entirely by the grace of God. The implications of this statement are summed up in the so-called "Five Points" (TULIP):
2.2.1 Total inability (or, total depravity): Sin has affected human beings to the extent that every part of our beings—body and soul, mind will and emotions—have been contaminated by sin, so that no one is able to do anything to gain salvation. We are therefore all under the condemnation of God.

2.2.2 Unconditional election: Since we are incapable of effecting our own salvation, God in his grace has chosen to call out specific individuals from the condemned human race to be his people. This election is unconditional in that is it based entirely on God's grace and good pleasure, not on any merit, neither intrinsic nor foreseen, in us.

2.2.3 Limited atonement (or, particular redemption): If election is particular (individual) and Christ's death is a vicarious and substitutionary sacrifice, then the atonement is limited in its design or purpose to the elect.

2.2.4 Irresistible grace (or, efficacious calling): If the Father has elected specific individuals for salvation, and the Son has died a substitutionary death for them, then the Holy Spirit in time calls them irresistibly and efficaciously to salvation.

2.2.5 Perseverance (or, security) of the saints: If the Father has specifically elected us, and the Son has died specifically in our place, and the Holy Spirit has irresistibly called us to eternal life, then our salvation is secure, for (by God's grace) we shall persevere in holiness to the end and be assured of heaven.


2.3 Sola Fide: In salvation we are justified by faith alone.

2.3.1 Justification: Justification is God's forensic (legal) declaration
that a sinner is not guilty. This declaration is based entirely on the
righteousness of Christ, who himself bore the sinner's penalty of death in
his substitutionary death on the cross. Since we have no righteousness of
our own, in justification Christ's righteousness is imputed (reckoned, accounted) to the sinner.

2.3.2 Faith: Justification is effected through the instrument of faith. This faith involves various aspects, in particular, knowledge, assent and trust.

2.3.3 Faith alone: Justification is by faith alone. Justification is not on the basis of our own merit or righteousness, nor is it on the basis of baptism or penance.
3. IT HOLDS TO BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES

It holds to Baptist distinctives that distinguish it from non-Baptist churches, namely:

3.1 The Church: The Church is the whole company of those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The local church, as a manifestation of the universal church, is a community of believers in a particular place where the Word of God is preached, the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are observed, and scriptural discipline is exercised. It is fully autonomous, and remains so notwithstanding responsibilities it may accept through voluntary
association.
3.2 Congregational Church Government: A constituted church meeting, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and through the guidance of the Scriptures, is the highest court of authority for the local church. Elders and deacons are chosen and lead through the common consent of the church itself. Each individual member has a right and responsibility to participate fully in the life and government of the church, particularly in the appointment of its leaders.
3.3 Believer's Baptism: Baptism is an outward sign of an individual's union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, and is a confession of personal regeneration, repentance and faith. Its scriptural mode is immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3.4 The Priesthood of Believers: Each believer has direct access to God through
Christ our High Priest, and shares with him in the work of reconciliation through intercession, worship and faithful service.
3.5 Liberty of Conscience: Each believer has the right to private conscience, and has an obligation to interpret the Scriptures responsibly and to act in the light of
his/her conscience, and should not be coerced by any State, secular, ecclesiastical or religious group in matters of faith. Nevertheless, it is right and proper that like-minded believers should express their fellowship in voluntarily submitting to confessions, creeds and statements of faith.
4. THE EFFECTS OF THESE DISTINCTIVES ON PRACTICE

The effects of these historic, reformed and baptist distinctives should be seen in the life and practice of the church as follows:
4.1 Preaching: Preaching of the Word of God is the method that God has ordained for proclaiming the name of Christ and building up the body of Christ. No other methods (e.g. music, films and other art forms; debate, discussion, broadcasting or other communication forms) should detract from or replace the faithful and public exposition of the Scriptures and the preaching (proclamation) of the gospel of Christ.
4.2 Evangelism: While God knows who the elect are, we do not, so God has ordained that his church should preach the gospel (the good news) of his salvation to all people throughout the world. Evangelism is conducted with confidence, knowing that it does not depend on human persuasiveness, but on the irresistible working of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is based on the preaching of the Word of God, and both
the message and the method of evangelism must be founded on Scriptural principles.
4.3 Worship: Worship is viewed as a serious and reverent approach to God, who is majestic, glorious and holy. Worship therefore should be free from all superficiality, frivolity and irreverence. Although worship is conducted in a serious and reverent manner, it is also joyful as we rejoice in the God of our salvation.
4.4 Godly Living: Individual believers are expected, on the grounds of Scripture and as proof of their salvation, to live godly lives in obedience to the Law of God, to seek to be holy even as God is holy, to love one another as Christ has loved them, and to do good works as an expression of the love of Christ within them.
© 1999 by Andrew Kerkham
kerkham at gmail dot com

I am in essential agreement with Pastor Kerkham, as I would imagine most Reformed Baptists are. For those who are interested, he has also penned a modern English version of the Baptist Confession of 1689.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Suggested Changes to the Baptist Confession of 1689 - Chapter One

In an earlier post, I wrote about the suggestions offered by Tom Nettles regarding Chapter 20, "Of the Gospel, and of the extent of the Grace thereof." I also took note of a suggested alteration of Nettles' proposal offered by Bob Gonzales. Today, however, I would like to begin a series of posts offering some suggestions of my own for quite a few chapters of the Confession. I will take up each of these chapters one at a time.

I will begin with Chapter 1, "Of the Holy Scriptures." I would like to offer three suggestions for possible changes to this chapter.

First, beginning in paragraph 1, I would suggest an assertion making explicit the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. The suggested language appears in bold type:

1. The Holy Scripture, fully and verbally inspired and inerrant in the original manuscripts, is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable, yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times, and in many ways, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterward for the better preserving, and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment, and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of Gods revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.
I realize that many may see no need for such an addition, especially since the modified sentence already contains a reference to the Bible's infallibility. As a matter of fact, some point out that the term infallibility is an even stronger term than inerrancy. John Frame, for example, has made this point in an article entitled Is the Bible Inerrant? He observes that:

If we are permitted, again, to use the dictionary — and why shouldn't theologians use the dictionary!? — "infallible" is a stronger term than "inerrant." "Inerrant" means there are no errors; "infallible" means there can be no errors.
While I agree with Frame's point, I am nevertheless disturbed by the lack of clarity the term infallible possesses for many today. For example, A Student's Dictionary for Biblical and Theological Studies, by F.B. Huey and Bruce Corley, offers this definition for the terms inerrancy/inerrant:

The term infallibility properly means the Bible is incapable of error, not liable to deceive or mislead. Although the adjectives inerrant and infallible are often used synonymously, some scholars apply the word infallible only to what the Bible teaches, in order to avoid the connotation of historical and scientific accuracy in all matters implied in the word inerrant.
Herein lies the problem. The terms are often used interchangeably or with less precision than they should be, and this means that more precision and clarification of the language in the Confession would be helpful. The Theopedia article on The Inerrancy of the Bible also demonstrates the difficulty here:

Some scholars see infallibility as a less restrictive term than "inerrancy" in discussing the reliability of the Bible. For example, Davis suggests "The Bible is inerrant if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any topic whatsoever. The Bible is infallible if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any matter of faith and practice." Thus Davis argues that infallibility does not necessitate a doctrine of inerrancy. In this sense, infallibility is seen as a nuanced and less-restrictive view of the Bible's reliability. [I assume the author has in mind here Stephen T. Davis' The Debate about the Bible: Inerrancy vs. Infallibility]

However, others see it the other way around, i.e. infallibility is the stronger term and specifically implies inerrancy. In article XI, the Chicago Statement says, "We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated." This then is contrary to Davis' view above.
Further, in article XII, the Chicago statement says, "We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science."

Adding to the potential confusion is the layman's tendency to use the terms interchangeably.

Given the difficulties that have arisen surrounding the meaning of these terms, I think it best to include a statement along the lines of the one I have proposed above.

Second, I suggest making a change to paragraph 6, bringing the language back to what it was in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The suggested change is again in bold type:

6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and government of the Church common to human actions and societies which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
The current wording, "or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture," seems less precise to me and thus open to being more easily misunderstood. I am not sure why the change was made from the previous language in the first place, although Sam Waldron sees it as clarifying the wording of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The phrase 'or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture' is equivalent to the phrase in the Westminster Confession it is intended to clarify: 'or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture'. What may be by sound logic deduced from Scripture, that is to say, what is necessarily contained in it, has the authority of Scripture itself. (A Modern exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, pp. 42-43)
Am I the only one that thinks the older language was clearer? If the language was really intended to indicate that we must accept as authoritative "what may by sound logic be deduced from Scripture," as Sam suggests, then doesn't the original language say this better? Or perhaps we should just adopt Sam's own wording and amend the Confession to read, "the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or may by sound logic be deduced from Scripture."

Third, I would like to suggest a change to paragraph 10, clarifying the meaning of the obscure old term private spirits.

10. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private interpretations or revelations, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered our faith is finally resolved.
It has become clear in recent scholarly discussion of the meaning of the term private spirits that the idea of personal revelations is meant, even if there has been debate over whether or not the Westminster Confession of faith or the Baptist Confession of 1689 allows support for some forms of private revelation or prophecy. James Renihan sums up the issue well in a blog article entitled Frequently Asked Symbolics Questions: Private Spirits:

Over the years, I have taught Symbolics in many places. Without fail, my students are bright and interested and ask me very useful and thought provoking questions. For the next few days, I want to explore some of those questions here. Let’s begin with Chapter 1. What is intended by the phrase ‘private spirits’ in paragraph 1?
This question arise out of the claims of some (influenced by Wayne Grudem) that the phrase implies support for some form(s) of personal revelation. It has been debated in the scholarly literature in articles such as Byron Curtis, “‘Private Spirits’ in The Westminster Confession of Faith 1.10 and in Catholic-Protestant Debate (1588-1652),” Westminster Theological Journal 58 (1996): 257-266, and “’Private Spirits’ in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in Protestant–Catholic Debates: A Response to Byron Curtis” by Garnet H. Milne in the Spring 1999 fascicle of WTJ. More recently, Milne has published the exhaustive study The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2007). He shows that the term frequently had reference to personal claims to a ‘testimony of the Spirit’ experienced by some believers. But is this akin to revelation? The simple answer is ‘no.’ You will do well to consult Milne on this question! I want to add one or two thoughts:
The language of 2LCF (and WCF and Savoy) does this: it may acknowledge that there were some claims to private revelation, but in no way authorizes or legitimizes them. Rather it is seeking to state comprehensively that there is nothing men may claim that is above or beyond Scripture. Notice how “private spirits” is preceded by “doctrines of men.” There is no way that the WCF legitimizes “doctrines of men.” Notice for example 21:2 and its clear statement as well as Chapter 16 scripture
reference b; ch. 21 “n”; ch. 30 “f”.

Similarly, one must factor in the challenge that was presented, from the late 1640s, by the Quakers. They regularly and frequently accused the Puritans of holding to a ‘dead letter’ by the Puritan focus on the centrality of the written word. For the Quakers, the living internal testimony of the Spirit was of exceedingly greater importance than dry and dead words printed on a page. In the case of the Confession, even claims to ‘private spirits’ (without giving any credence to them) had to be subordinated to the Scripture, given by the Spirit, as a fixed rule of faith.

So does the Confession in any way authorize or permit private revelation by the use of this phrase? No way.

Again, whether or not one believes there is room for a concept of prophecy or revelation such as Wayne Grudem supposes, it is pretty clear that the term private spirits does refer to such a phenomenon, at least as others claim to experience it, and I think a clarification of the meaning of the term would help us to see how the Confession does, in fact, speak to such matters today. On thing is certain: Very few people today have any idea of what the original term means!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Journey in Heresy is Now Available

As the regular readers of this blog already know, Dr. Belcher has recently contributed a series of four articles concerning the heresy of Charles G. Finney. But I wanted to remind the blog's readers that Dr. Belcher has also recently finished his latest book in the Journey series of theological novels, A Journey in Heresy, and I am looking forward to reading it. He tells me that the heretical character at the center of the book is actually based upon Charles Finney, so I am anxious to see the way that Dr. Belcher shows the dangers inherent in this aberrant theology in the churches today and how the main character of the book deals with it Biblically. Here is the description from Richbarry Press:
What is one supposed to do when he teaches in a Christian seminary, which is about to be invaded by clear and undeniable heresy? Yet, the one who is bearing the heresy is a powerful preacher and personality, who most all think is sound in doctrine, because he is a great evangelist, who can get so many “decisions” for Christ! This is the dilemma of Ira and Dink, as they try to open the eyes of others to the danger of this man and his doctrine. Dink even faces a group of the board of trustees of the seminary, who are meeting behind the scenes, to seek to fire Dink from his position at the school, so they can hire this man, who seems to be so sound in doctrine but is not.Follow Ira and Dink, as they face this new challenge of seeking to alert others of false doctrine, when the Christians of the day, and even the preachers around them, seem more concerned and enlightened about getting decisions and numbers and large crowds, than they are about truth and doctrine.
I have appreciated Dr. Belcher's love for the Church over the years and his desire to help believers grapple with serious theological issues in an accessible way. The Journey series of "theological novels" have provided great help to many Christians in this regard, and I heartily recommend them.

Also, in celebration of Dr. Belcher's joining the Reformed Baptist Blog and as an encouragement to read his books, I am going to offer a free copy of two of the Journey books for Christmas this year to one of the blog's email subscribers. They will include the recent book, A Journey in Heresy, and the first book in the Journey series, A Journey in Grace. If you already have the first book, then I will allow the substitution of another from the series. On December 11 I will draw from the addresses included in the email subscriber list from FeedBurner. So, if you want to have a chance to receive these books, then make sure you sign up as an email subscriber to the blog using the Subscribe in a reader link on the right panel of this page. And make sure you click the "Get Reformed Baptist Blog delivered by email" option. Current email subscribers are already in the running.

I suspect that once you have read a couple of the books, you will want to read more of them and will recommend them to others as well. As a pastor, I have found that folks have really been helped by them and have found them enjoyable reading as well.