Thursday, January 24, 2008

John Piper on Dialog Between Christians and Muslims

Most of the blog's readers are no doubt already aware of the open letter entitled A Common Word Between Us and You, which was issued by a group of Muslim leaders back in October. This was later followed by a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, entitled Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to A Common Word Between Us and You, which was written by several scholars at Yale Divinity School's Center for Faith and Culture and was signed by over 300 Christian leaders and scholars.

Well, not surprisingly, this "Christian" response left a lot to be desired, and John Piper has done a great job in the above video explaining why. I couldn't agree more with John on this issue, and I am indebted to Justin Taylor of the Between Two Worlds blog for bringing his response to my attention. Justin also offers another great recommendation for those who would like to hear more from John on these issues, a 2002 article entitled Tolerance, Truth-Telling, Violence, and Law: Principles for How Christians Should Relate to Those of Other Faiths.

Thanks, John, for you typical candor, common sense, and commitment to Scripture in your response to this increasingly important matter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

e-Sword Update Released

The latest update to e-Sword (v7.9.4) was made available just a few days ago, on January 19. I apologize to the blog's readers for my tardiness in posting the information here.

For those who already use e-Sword and may be interested, here is a list of recent updates taken from the e-Sword website Downloads page (Click on 'View Update Changes' in order to see a list of these and all previous version changes):

e-Sword version 7.9 changes from 7.8
User files are now stored under the Windows user's "Personal Folder" directory on 2000, XP, and Vista. Due to Windows permissions issues this change was necessary. This also makes backing-up user files easier as these files are isolated to this
This version has a new Sermon Illustrations feature.
Stronger Strong's implementation throughout the program. Popup ToolTips now in commentaries, dictionaries, notes, etc.
Alternate dictionaries keyed to Strong's numbers can be selected for display in popup ToolTips. Select "Options, Strong's # ToolTip..." from the e-Sword menu. All dictionary modules tied to Strong's numbers have been updated to accommodate
this new feature.
Multiple monitors fully supported.
Antialiasing algorithm available in Graphics Viewer. This provides a clearer display image when shrinking under 100%. Select "Options, Antialiasing" from the Graphics
Viewer menu to toggle use.
Fixed some Vista display issues.

Some of you may recall my earlier post about e-Sword, that included a link to a nice review. If you have yet tried this terrific - free - Bible study software program, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Monthly "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll Update

It is the sixth month running this poll, and there continues to be well over half of those responding (62%) who do not think strict adherence to the Baptist Confession of 1689 is necessary to being a Reformed Baptist. Here is the breakdown thus far (found at the bottom of the page):

20% thought that one only had to be a Baptist who held to Calvinistic soteriology.

34% thought that one must be a Baptist who holds to Calvinism and Covenant Theology.

38% thought that one must be a Baptist who holds to the 1689 Confession.

6% thought that one must hold to the 1689 Confession for the most part, but thought that this should not have to include adherence to the Sabbath requirement.

The sample from which this is taken is getting larger - with 109 responses so far - but I remain hopeful that I may be able to get several hundred responses to the poll over the course of its one year lifespan. There are 182 days left, so if you haven't responded yet, scroll down to the bottom of the page and weigh in.

P.S. Some of you may have noticed that the percentages Blogger lists don't always add up to 100. This appears to be due to Blogger's rounding the numbers up or down. But the tallies still give us a pretty good idea where things are. At the end of the year, I will try to figure the percentages more accurately.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 Improved is one of those sites I use constantly, and now it has been completely redesigned and is easier to use than ever. It has so many helpful articles and Bible study tools that it would be hard to list them all here. I am especially fond of the way I can have it list all their articles according to the Scripture passage I am currently studying.

I also find the 'Pastoral Helps' (under 'Communities') section very worthwhile. It has a wealth of information, from various preaching and teaching aids for special occasions (such as weddings or funerals) and holidays to administrative and organizational aids. I also use their database of sermon illustrations (under 'Study Tools') on a regular basis. You can search for illustration by topic or Scripture passage. Long-time blog readers may remember that I recommended this feature of in an old article entitled Online Sources for Sermon Illustrations. Well, I haven't changed my mind, it is still one of the best and easiest to use online resources available.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reformed Baptist Theology Isn't Perfect....

I remember one of my professors as Covenant Theological Seminary declaring in class one day that "Reformed theology isn't perfect; it is just the best we can do." Well, of course he was referring to Reformed Presbyterian theology, so I cannot agree that it is the best we can do. But I would say the same thing about my own Reformed Baptist theology. It is not perfect, but it is indeed the best we can do.

The reason it is not perfect is that it is our human attempt to systematize the various doctrines taught in Scripture and – as long as it is us doing the systematizing – we must humbly admit that it cannot be perfect. And we must also humbly admit, I think, that our system of theology has its problem passages just as does any other system of theology. But I would argue that our problem passages are much fewer in number and that we have much better answers for them than any other system of theology.

Our forefathers in the faith, the writers of the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, knew that the only perfect source of knowledge about God is found in the Scriptures, which is why they emphatically asserted that...

[t]he 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 spirits, 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. [1.10]
This means, of course, that the Baptist Confession of 1689 itself – and the system of theology contained therein – is also not to be elevated to a place of authority over or equal to Scripture. Reformed Baptists, then, with their strong commitment to the principle of Sola Scriptura and to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, should of all people recognize the danger of allowing our confessions and traditions to take on an authority they do not and cannot ever possess.

Yes, we should respect our heritage and the teachings that have come down to us by the grace of God, but the best way to do that is by remaining humble before Scripture and recognizing that Reformed Baptist theology isn't perfect, even if we believe it is the best we can do.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"New Year's" Resolutions or New Life Resolutions?

The USA.GOV website lists these thirteen as the most popular New Year's resolutions: 1) lose weight, 2) pay off debt, 3) save money, 4) get a better job, 5) get fit, 6) eat right, 7) get a better education, 8) drink jess alcohol , 9) quit smoking now, 10) reduce stress overall, 11) reduce stress at work, 12) take a trip, and 13) volunteer to help others.

When I read these I couldn't help thinking that many of them would be good things for Christians to resolve to do, but I was also reminded of what one notable Christian man - Jonathan Edwards - resolved to do in his own life, and it makes most of these common New Year's resolutions seem trite at best. This is why I have chosen to post his resolutions here for any of the blog's readers who may not already be familiar with them. You will quickly see as you examine them, that Edwards was not interested in fleeting resolutions to be quickly forgotten, but rather wanted to make resolutions that would help him to keep Christ at the center of all of his life. They were resolutions that required whole-hearted dependence upon God and a burning desire for His glory. Rather than calling them New Year's resolutions, we might instead call them new life resolutions. Anyway, here they are for your consideration:



Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in
general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722)

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God' s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Proverbs 20:6, "A faithful man who can find?" may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call
for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord' s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's; agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12, 1723.

44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. January 12, 1723.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5, 1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that
I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man: "knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord." June 25 and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. January 14 and July 13, 1723.

64. Resolved, when I find those "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those "breakings of soul for the longing it hath," of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton' s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. August 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. August 17, 1723.
P.S. If you should like a copy of these Resolutions for e-Sword, you may download it on the website's Downloads page under the category "e-Sword - Miscellaneous." Keith