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.