Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Journey Series of Theological Novels

For any Reformed Baptist Blog readers who have not yet discovered Dr. Richard Belcher's Journey Series of theological novels, I highly recommend checking them out here:

Journey Books - Part 1

Journey Books - Part 2

This series is a good one for all of you pastors to recommend to folks in your congregations. You may even want to consider getting them for your church library and encouraging the youth to read them. They do a great job of presenting solid doctrine -- from a Reformed Baptist perspective -- in an enjoyable, understandable, and practical way. And the continuing saga of the series' primary character, Ira Pointer, is very engaging!

Dr. Belcher has informed me via email that he hopes to have his latest offering, A Journey in Evangelism and Missions, available by April 1 or perhaps a little earlier. It will address the false argument that "Calvinism kills evangelism and missions." It should be a great weapon to add to your arsenal to help folks correctly understand that the Doctrines of Grace not only do not destroy zeal for evangelism and missions but that, properly understood, they provide a tremendous motivation to take the Gospel to the whole world. I am looking forward to reading it and will announce it here on the blog when it is available.

P.S. I have invited Dr. Belcher to contribute to the blog if he can. I know he is a very busy man, still traveling and writing a lot, so he may not be able to post here, but the invitation is always open!

Ten Percent of SBC Pastors Call Themselves 5-point Calvinists

Ten percent of SBC pastors call themselves 5-point Calvinists
Published September 28, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — While LifeWay Research found the number of Southern Baptist pastors embracing five-point Calvinism to be relatively small,
it is undeniable that the conversations on Calvinism within the Southern Baptist
Convention have brought renewed interest to the theological system. Surveying
413 pastors, the study found that 10 percent of Southern Baptist pastors consider themselves five-point Calvinists. That number, while still relatively small compared to the 85 percent who do not consider themselves five-point Calvinists, still is a large enough group to deserve attention. The survey also showed that 4 percent of respondents “don’t know” if they are five-point Calvinist. Another 1 percent refused to answer one way or another. LifeWay Research also found that a slight majority (51 percent) of Southern Baptist pastors address Calvinism from the pulpit once
a year or less, while 45 percent of SBC pastors address Calvinism several times a year or more from the pulpit.

I wonder how many of the 4 percent who said they "don't know" if they are five-point Calvinists responded this way because they are four-point Calvinists and are thus still essentially Calvinistic in their theology? Or, for that matter, how many of the 85 percent who do not consider themselves five-point Calvinists might fall into the four-point category? At any rate, it is an interesting survey.

See the Baptist Press story.

See more on the LifeWay Research findings.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reformed Blacks of America

I have been both intrigued and pleased to discover Reformed Blacks of America. Encountering their website and beginning to read some of the material there has been an enriching, learning experience. Here is the ministry's stated purpose:
Reformed Blacks of America, Inc. (RBA) is a center that seeks to build and maintain an infrastructure and network among African-Americans in a Reformed theological context for indigenous leadership, church growth and theological research for today's world.

RBA was led to its existence due to the lack of an intentional multifaceted structure through which the Reformed Black community in all its diversity can reach its fullest potential in America. The cultivation of this infrastructure will be fulfilled through these three aspects of the mission of RBA: (1) the advancement of indigenous Black Reformed leadership, (2) growth of Reformed Black churches and (3) theological research that addresses the pathologies of Black America and the challenges of this complex world.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Michael Marlowe's Review of the NET Bible

Perhaps many of you have already heard about or made use of the NET Bible made available by the folks at If you have had opportunity to use this free resource, you will no doubt have also discovered its many useful footnotes (60,932 translators’ notes). But you will no doubt also have observed its tendency toward dynamic equivalence translation and to embrace the occasional odd reading. However, Michael Marlowe, in his August 2006 review of the NET Bible, shows that the problems with the version run considerably deeper. Here is the conclusion to Marlowe's review:

The NET Bible has some good features. The primary strength of the version is its value as a free internet resource for fledgling scholars who would otherwise have no convenient access to the kind of grammatical and text-critical information presented in the notes. But the "tn" and "sn" notes cannot be relied upon to inform the reader where scholars differ on important points of interpretation. When they do notice other interpretations, they tend to be dismissive, defensive, and sometimes misleading. These notes are in need of some careful revision. Students who are studying the notes of the NET Bible should realize that many of them barely scratch the surface of the interpretive issues, and they are no substitute for a comprehensive exegetical commentary.

It would be to their advantage if the editors were to get a clearer sense of the purpose of the version. Apparently it was originally conceived as a Bible for students who required a fairly literal translation for close study, with detailed exegetical notes; but revisions moved the text in a paraphrastic direction, as if it had to be understandable to uneducated and casual readers, to those who are offended at "sexist" language, and even to such dull readers as those who cannot understand obvious metaphors (e.g. "under his feet"). The result is, the translation itself is not very useful for close study. And there are already several versions which present a more idiomatic translation for readers who need one. What is needed is a version that will be useful to the same readers who will benefit from the scholarly marginal apparatus. It does not make sense to attach such an apparatus to a version intended for uneducated readers. The translation should be much more literal than it is now.

We also would like to see the un-Christian treatment of the Old Testament repaired, but it seems that the editors have committed themselves to this approach. The explanation for it in the preface is facile and theologically inadequate. We cannot overlook the rationalistic presuppositions of their approach, which practically excludes the apostolic interpretations of the Old Testament. Although the editors seem to hope that their version will be "acceptable to Bible readers everywhere," they must know that it will not be acceptable to conservatives as long as they persist in this treatment of the Old Testament. The editors should not imagine that they have been "responsible to the universal body of Christ" when they merely invite people to send email to their website. The body of Christ has been around for nearly two thousand years, and it is no small thing to be responsible to it. When modern scholars cherish novelties, show contempt for the universal Church's heritage of interpretation, and boast of their independence from all "ecclesiastical" bodies, they minimize their responsibility to the Church.
I think Marlowe does a good job of demonstrating the validity of the issues he raises and would recommend reading the entire review. I will continue to personally make good use of the resources available at, including the NET Bible with its generally helpful and informative notes, and I would recommend these resources as well. But I would recommend using them with a critical eye and great care, and I am thankful for Michael Marlowe's help in being more properly discerning.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Response to the House-Church Movement: Introduction

Recently I have encountered a growing number of my fellow believers who have become enamored with the House-Church Movement. These believers are Baptistic and hold to the Doctrines of Grace, but they have become disillusioned with the current state of the church and have become convinced that the work of reformation begun in the sixteenth century has not been taken far enough. These believers have pointed me to a couple of websites that have been influential in their new thinking: and the New Testament Reformation Foundation.
Today I want to introduce a series of posts in which I will interact with and respond to some of the primary emphases of the House-Church Movement. First, I will take up the requirement to meet in houses for worship. Second, I will respond to the argument for fully participatory worship, in which no one leads but each contributes in a spontaneous manner. Third, I will respond to the argument that the Lord's Supper may only be rightly observed if the the context of a "full meal." And, fourth, I will discuss the matter of elder leadership and authority.

I will only be dealing briefly in the weeks ahead with each of the subjects I have listed, but I hope to at least outline a preliminary response to what appear to be the major emphases of the movement. I will restrict my interaction to writings available at the two aforementioned websites, given that these are the sites that have been most influential to those with whom I have dealt. Please check back in the coming weeks for the rest of this series.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Debate on Baptism: For Infants or Believers Only?

The baptism debate between James White and Bill Shishko is a good example of what fair, honest, respectful, and scholarly debate between two Reformed men ought to look like. White argues that "Baptism is ONLY for those who have personally repented & believed in Christ," while Shishko argues that ""Baptism is NOT only for those who have personally repented & believed in Christ."

I highly recommend checking out the free download of the audio of this engaging and illuminating debate. Even if you have come to solid conclusions on one side of the issue or the other, there is still something to be learned, not the least of which is how such debate can be conducted in a manner that honors Christ and brings glory to the Father through the power of the Spirit.

Calvinists "Worse than Muslims"?

Many of you may be aware of the consistent anti-Calvinist teaching of Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Theological Seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. But are you aware of just how strident and unjust his characterizations of Calvinists sometimes are? Here is an example of one such unwarranted attack from his QUESTIONS ON NEO-CALVINISM, PART 1 post at
A: Yes, absolutely. For a small portion of these people, just daring to question the Bezian movement is heresy. They will blog and e-mail incessantly. I call it a “Calvinist Jihad,” because just like Muslims, they believe they are defending the honor of their view. They can discuss nothing else. I have even had a few call for my head! Dr. Falwell and I have laughed about it, because they are so insistent, and they miss the point completely. There are plenty of schools to which the neo-Calvinists can go, but Liberty will be a lighthouse for missions and evangelism to the “whosoever wills.” Period.
The difference is, Muslims know when to quit - for these guys, it is the only topic about which they can talk.
Without getting into details about what Caner might mean by the term "neo-Calvinist" -- a term he has invented to describe a group of Calvinists I am not sure even exists (i.e. a straw man), but that he seems to think includes just about anybody who would call himself a Calvinist in any sense -- I would simply point out that, even if there are some who would call themselves Calvinists and who have "called for" Caner's head, he should know better than to paint all professed Calvinists with the same brush. And he should know better than to try to paint us all as though we are worse than Islamic extremists, which is what naturally comes to the mind of most people when language such as his is used these days.

I praise the Lord, however, that I am a Calvinist (in the true sense of the word), holding steadfastly to the Biblical doctrines of grace, and that I thus know God has some sovereign purpose in all this and will turn even the childish rantings of Caner to our good!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Richard Belcher an Unsung Hero of the "Calvinist Comeback"

Back in September Christianity Today published a cover story entitled "Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback—and shaking up the church."

I am somewhat late in responding to this article, but perhaps this is fitting given that Christianity Today is pretty late in publishing such an article. The resurgence of the Doctrines of Grace among Baptists, for example, has been underway for quite some time, although admittedly of much greater notice with the rise to prominence of men such as John Piper, John MacArthur, and Albert Mohler.

But I would like to mention an unsung hero of the resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists, in particular. That man is Dr.Richard Belcher, who has influenced many men both within and without his home denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. He taught at Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) for many years and has authored the influential Journey series of "theological novels." The first of that series is a book entitled A Journey in Grace, which tells the story of a young man who comes to embrace the Doctrines of Grace as he studies Scripture. Along the way he deals with the many objections and arguments concerning these Biblical doctrines. I have found this book to be an excellent resource for helping believers discover these doctrines in all their beauty.

But Dr. Belcher's teaching and writing are only as influential and powerful as they are because of the man himself, who has not just ably taught and defended these crucial teachings of Scripture, but has lived them out in his own life. He has especially been a wonderful example - by the grace of God - of the way in which these doctrines provide such a great and inexhaustible motive for holy living and sharing the Gospel. He has tirelessly devoted himself to the evangelizing of the lost, most notably of the many yet unreached people of India.

I remember when I was a student of his back in the late '80's that I once heard Doc say that he was a "seven point Calvinist," a "TULIPER," as he put it. The 'E' denotes a commitment to evangelism, which he saw as Biblical and as flowing out of the other doctrines. And the 'R' stands for responsibility, the responsibility of the believer to live a life of holiness and obedience. Dr. Belcher is no hyper-Calvinist! Instead, his is a Calvinism that correctly and beautifully exemplifies Paul's instruction to each believer to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12a-13).

I just wanted to share with gratitude about a man who has done so much to bring about the resurgence of the Doctrines of Grace among so many, especially among Baptists, and who has personally helped to shape my own theology and ministry.

P.S. A good review of the Christianity Today article may be found at the Founders Ministries Blog. The article is written by Tom Ascol and is entitled Calvinism's "Comeback" and the reformation we need .

Friday, November 17, 2006

Online Sources for Sermon Illustrations

There are numerous online sources for sermon illustrations or illustration ideas, but I thought I would tell my fellow elders or Bible teachers out there about a couple of my favorites.

First is the user-friendly, easy to search and navigate Sermon Illustrations section at This is just one of the helpful features that makes one of the sites I frequent most when doing personal Bible Study or when preparing to teach.

Second is SID, the free Sermon & Illustration Database. Once you have downloaded the free software, you can then go to the David Holwick's Kerux Illustration and Sermon Database site to download some sermon/illustration sets. The database sets are updated periodically so that the list just keeps growing.

David Holwick has also provided a list of Questionable Sermon Illustrations, what he calls "illustrations that are too good to be true."

If you are like me and need a good source of input for sermon illustration ideas, I highly recommend these resources.