Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Latest News on Possible Noah's Ark Find on Mt. Ararat

The Fox News website updated an article today entitled Has Noah's Ark Been Found on Turkish Mountaintop? The article reports that:
A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say wooden remains they have discovered on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey are the remains of Noah's Ark.

The group claims that carbon dating proves the relics are 4,800 years old, meaning they date to around the same time the ark was said to be afloat. Mt. Ararat has long been suspected as the final resting place of the craft by evangelicals and literalists hoping to validate biblical stories.

Yeung Wing-Cheung, from the Noah's Ark Ministries International research team that made the discovery, said: "It's not 100 percent that it is Noah's Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it."
You can read the rest of the story here.

Update 29 April 2010

There are a couple of articles that express doubt about this find.

First, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) posted an article Tuesday entitled Chinese Explorers Claim Noah's Ark Find, in which Dr. John Morris expresses uncertainty about the find.

Second, the Christian Science Monitor posted an article yesterday entitled Doubt Cast on Noah's ark found in Turkey, in which Dr. Randall Price of Liberty University is cited as expressing some grave doubts about the authenticity of the find.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

e-Sword Updated From 9.5 to 9.6

e-Sword, what I recommend as the best free Bible study software program, has been updated and now includes the capability to highlight and mark in commentaries and dictionaries. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Help Understanding Post-Modernism and the Emergent Church

I first saw this video over at Jonathan Christman's blog. In it Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, and Ravi Zacharias offer illuminating commentary on Post-Modernism and the Emergent Church. We would all do well to heed their wise counsel concerning this twin threat to the Church.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Enjoying Robert Gonzales' Book Where Sin Abounds

I have been slowly making my way through Dr. Robert Gonzales' excellent book Where Sin Abounds: The Spread of Sin and the Curse in Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives. So far I have really been enjoying it. In fact, I've had a hard time putting it down. It is well written and insightful, and it interacts with a broad spectrum of other scholarly works. It is also filled with rich footnotes, which are informative and helpful in further study. (You do know that you haven't read a book without reading all the footnotes, don't you? OK, so I am obsessive-compulsive about it, but that doesn't mean it isn't true!)

I am already certain that this book will become a standard reference for me when studying Genesis. But it isn't just another work on Genesis. And what makes it unique isn't just that it is written from a solidly Reformed Baptist perspective. Rather it is Gonzales' treatment of the book of Genesis from a standpoint often overlooked. He laments the way in which the patriarchs are often viewed through rose colored glasses to the point where the important themes of the spread of sin and the curse are missed in much of the Genesis account. He sees this as being due in part to the way scholars often wrongly divide the primeval and patriarchal histories along the lines of a "sin versus grace dichotomy" (p. 3ff). He observes concerning this false dichotomy:
In primeval history, the narrator focuses upon the origin and spread of sin, as well as God's consequent curse and judgment on humanity. Although God's blessing begins the narrative (1-2) and his grace surfaces from time to time after the fall, the main emphasis of primeval history is on sin and the curse. In patriarchal history, however, the spread of sin theme falls off the radar of most scholars. Here, it is generally argued, the narrator shifts the emphasis to God's promise of blessing in the lives of his chosen people, the family of Abraham. (p.3)
Gonzales goes on to assert that, "As a result of this tendency to contrast the primary theme(s) of primeval narrative with patriarchal narrative, the spread of sin motif fails to receive adequate treatment in Genesis 12-50" (p.4). He also gives a description of what he terms "the Plaster-Saint Syndrome":
Another factor that sometimes blinds scholars to the spread of sin theme in the patriarchal narrative is an inordinate emphasis on or exaggeration of the piety of the patriarchs. Of course, the patriarchal narratives as well as the rest of Scripture bear witness to the exemplary faith and obedience of these saints. Yet Jewish and Christian exegetes have sometimes stressed patriarchal piety to the point of minimizing or excusing the patriarch's faults.
I must admit that this has been a tendency that I have seen as well, not only in Bible scholars and commentators, but also on a popular level. In fact, I have found myself repeatedly reminding my own congregation that, as we read these narratives, we must never forget who the real hero of the story is. It is not Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or Joseph. It is God! And we will not see this as clearly as we ought unless we are willing to see these men as clearly as we ought. And none of these men, by the way, would ever have wanted us to come away thinking he was the hero of the story anyway.

I am thankful for Gonzales' reminder of this important fact, and, as I have already noted, I am certain that his book will be on my short list of volumes for the study of Genesis. I have scanned through much of the book already, and now I am thoroughly reading through it very slowly, taking the time to soak in as much as I can (still only in part two!), but I have been very impressed. I recommend the book to all, even if it is just to balance out the rest of the works on your shelves, which is important in and of itself.

You may also want to check out these positive reviews.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dr. R. Albert Mohler on Paying Taxes After Obamacare

Earlier today Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, posted an excellent article entitled Render Unto Caesar? On Paying Taxes After Obamacare. In the article Dr. Mohler argues on the basis of such passages as Mark 12:7, Romans 13:1-7, and 1 Peter 2:13-14 that Christians are required to pay their taxes even if the government is corrupt and uses some of the tax money for evil purposes.

In my view, Dr. Mohler has correctly assessed the Biblical evidence and offered sound counsel for Christians who struggle with Obamacare, especially with its potential for allowing taxes to pay for abortions. Dr. Mohler tackles the issue head-on. Here are his final conclusions:
With the power to govern comes the power to tax, and government is a divinely-ordained institution. Christians are commanded to pay taxes, and were commanded by Christ and the apostles to pay taxes even to a pagan government involved in immoral and ungodly policies — including the oppression of the Jews and the nation of Israel. Thus, the question of paying taxes after Obamacare is put in its proper perspective.
We cannot and must not bend the knee to Caesar, accepting the government as our ultimate sovereign. We cannot submit to accept idolatry and idolatrous practices. But paying taxes is a matter of our Christian obligation.

There is no Christian mandate against tax avoidance — which is the use of lawful and legitimate measures to limit tax exposure. In other words, Christians are not mandated to seek to maximize their tax bills. But tax evasion is another matter, as is tax resistance. Those who seek by illegitimate and illegal means to resist or evade taxes run into direct confrontation with the commands of Christ and the teaching of the apostles.

Abortion is a moral catastrophe. The murder of the unborn is one of the greatest sins any society can tolerate, much less subsidize by taxation. The impact of the new “Obamacare” health care legislation is not yet fully clear, but the legislation lacks any adequate protection for the unborn. Immorality is added to immorality when the power of the government to tax and confiscate the funds of citizens is involved in such a catastrophe.

For this reason, Christian citizens should be involved at every level in the political process, seeking to use legitimate means to establish full protection for the unborn and for all other vulnerable persons. Elections have consequences, and this new legislation is a reminder of the power of government to do both good and evil.

But to refuse to pay taxes is to deny the legitimacy of the government itself, and to declare it beyond political remedy. Even to Christians suffering under the repressive, murderous, and dictatorial yoke of Rome, Jesus instructed the payment of taxes. Caesar, Christ knew, will one day face the judgment of Almighty God. Rome would one day be brought under his own feet and made subject to him.

We do not “render unto Caesar” because of our confidence in Caesar. We render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, because we are committed with our lives and confidence and consciences to render unto God that which is God’s.
For those who may be interested, I have dealt with a similar issue, namely whether it is right for Christians to rebel against their government, in a February 6 article entitled The American Revolution: Was it Biblical?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Arthur W. Pink - Predestination Now Available

For those who have wondered what happened to Dr. Belcher of late, he has been busy working on books and speaking engagements. After having recently published his latest Journey book (A Journey in Dispensationalism), I am pleased to tell you that he has now also published a new, updated edition of his book Arthur W. Pink---Predestination.

For those who would like a foretaste of what the book has to offer, Dr. Belcher has graciously made available both the Table of Contents and the Introduction to the book for your consideration. First, here is the Table of Contents:

Arthur W. Pink---Predestination
by Richard P. Belcher
(An analysis of the doctrine of predestination in the writings of A. W. Pink)

Introduction . . . . . . . . . .1


CHAPTER I---A Definition of Predestination . . . . . . . . . . 9

Concerns All Things: He Has Ordained Whatsoever Comes to Pass!
Extends to All Events and Creatures!
Extends to the Nations and History!
Extends to all Events!
Extends to All Men and Every Aspect of Their Lives!
Extends to the Lives of the Wicked!

CHAPTER II---Positive Clarifications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Is by the Most Wise and Holy Counsel of His Will!
Is Free from Any Cause or Influence Outside of Himself!
Is Unchangeable!

CHAPTER III---Negative Clarifications . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

Does Not Make God the Author of Sin!
Does Not Cause the Will of the Creature's Actions!
Does Not Destroy the Contingency of Causes!
Does Not Deny Human Responsibility
Is Not Based on the Prescience of Future Events!


Chapter IV---Election and Reprobation in General . . 63

The Order of God's Decrees
The Goal of Election and Reprobation
The Number of the Elect and Reprobate Is Certain

Chapter V---Election in Particular . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

The Time of Election: Eternity Past
The Ground of Election---God's Purpose and Will
The Union of Election---with Jesus Christ
The Goal of Election---God's Glory
The Goal of Election for the Elect---Everlasting Glory

Chapter VI---Reprobation in Particular . . . . . . . . . . 104

A Definition of Reprobation
Biblical Support for Reprobation

Chapter VII---Analysis and Critique . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121

Pink and the Philadelphia Confession of Faith---Agreement
Pink and Scripture---Disagreement
Concerning God's Freedom
Concerning Election and God's Other Attributes
Concerning the Man Christ Jesus As the First Recipient of Election
Concerning the Elect's Super Creation Relation with Christ from Eternity Past


Following is the complete text of the Introduction:
Introduction to the Book
Arthur W. Pink---Predestination
by Richard P. Belcher

In a previous work the present writer attempted to set before the public the life of Arthur W. Pink. In many ways that life was a paradox. Pink was a popular preacher and public minister in his early days, but he spent the last seventeen years of his life in virtual seclusion and isolation. So withdrawn was he in those latter days that he died in obscurity with few noticing or caring. His entire life and ministry during those years of seclusion centered on the production of his monthly periodical titled Studies in the Scriptures. This was a magazine he had started in 1922 and that he had maintained on a shoe-string existence with dogged perseverance. At his death it appeared Arthur W. Pink would soon be forgotten, as few had valued his person or his writings.

The paradox was reversed again and completed, when just a few years after his death, he was vaulted to prominence and esteem in a manner never afforded him in his life. That which lifted him to recognition and appreciation was the publication of his writings that previously had only been read by the faithful advocates of his periodical. Now his books (see several bibliographies listed on the Internet) have been printed in great number by several publishing companies. They are found on the shelves of nearly every pastor's study, and also in the collections of numerous laymen.

This is not to say that every pastor or layman agrees with Pink's writings. There is a central theme running through his works that was partly responsible for his lack of popularity during his lifetime. That central theme is the doctrine of predestination. A reader does not progress very far into any of his books until he is confronted with references to election or predestination or discussions of these subjects. For example, in what was probably his earliest book, he mentions the subject of predestination on the first page of the introductory chapter. In what was probably his last work, the subject is introduced on the second page of the introductory chapter. In the remainder of those two books and in his other works, the subject surfaces again and again, giving clear evidence that the doctrine of predestination was a key doctrine in the theology of Pink, even perhaps the central and foundational doctrine.

No one will deny the controversial and difficult nature of the subject of predestination. It is a very difficult doctrine to understand or to explain. It is no wonder that men often balk with questioning minds when they read Pink's works and are faced continually with references to the subject. Often Pink makes passing reference to the doctrine, as he applies a verse or section of Scripture. At other times he goes into a lengthy discussion of the subject, as he expounds a text. Because of the centrality of the doctrine in Pink's writings, and the numerous references to predestination, it is a common statement by new readers of Pink that they like his writings, but do not agree with his strong view of election and predestination.

When this writer has heard that statement, he has wanted to ask the speaker if he knew exactly what Pink believed on the subject of predestination. In the few instances he has raised this question, he has been assured by the speaker that Pink was some kind of fatalist or hyper-Calvinist. The present writer then wondered if the speaker could define these strong terms which he had pinned on Pink. A correct definition of fatalism clearly excludes Pink from that category, because fatalism is a blatant determinism without an all-wise and righteous God working His will. Pink indisputably recognized an omniscient and righteous God in his doctrine of predestination, so he was not a fatalist!

Hyper-Calvinism is a little more difficult to define in a way that would be satisfactory to all. In fact it would be impossible to define it in a manner that would be acceptable to all. The present writer would define hyper-Calvinism as a view of predestination that would deny or minimize the human responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, because of an inability to do so in light of the doctrine of the total depravity of man. Furthermore, hyper-Calvinism would deny the necessity of a universal offer of the gospel to all men, because it is felt that God will call out the elect in His own time and manner. Thus hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of our applying the means to accomplish the will of God, because it is felt that the will of God will be accomplished---regardless of human means!

Therefore, we have many questions to ask as we read Pink and seek his view of predestination---not just the ones already mentioned, but even others. To name several, we shall look for answers to the following questions as we study Pink's writings. Did he deny that all men have a responsibility to repent and believe the gospel? Did he deny our responsibility to offer the gospel to all men? Did his view of predestination make God the author of sin? Did he believe that God's decree of predestination brought force on the will of the creature? Did he teach a view of predestination that destroyed the contingency of causes? Did he believe in single or double predestination, that is, a predestination of the elect only or a predestination of the elect and the reprobate? Was he committed to the view of infralapsarianism (the decree of God to elect some followed the decree of God to allow the fall of man) or was he supralapsarian (the decree to elect preceded the decree to allow the fall)? Thus, we could continue to ask many questions of Pink's view of predestination.

The point is that one cannot say he agrees or disagrees with Pink on the subject of predestination until he understands his view. Even then, it may be one will agree with some points of his view and disagree with others. The purpose of this work is to set forth clearly Pink's convictions on the subject, because the present writer is fearful that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have at times misunderstood him.

We will deal with Pink's doctrine of predestination under two main headings. First, we will define his view in a general manner and clarify this definition further by some positive and negative statements. The second main division of this work will deal with Pink's view of predestination in the areas of election and reprobation. The conclusion will summarize Pink's doctrine in this area and test it against one of the well-known Baptist confessional standards. One already familiar with that confessional standard will notice terminology and phraseology from these documents throughout this work, even perhaps in the outline, as it unfolds. This is intentional, because in its earliest form these thoughts were expressed in a doctoral dissertation, which compared Pink's view of predestination with the Westminster Confession of Faith.

It is truly the hope of the writer that his presentation of Pink's view of predestination will carry the warm and encouraging practicality for the Christian in his daily life, as it did for Pink. He was not a writer and theologian, who coldly set forth a doctrine in a dead and mechanical way. Rather, all he wrote was for the purpose of feeding the people of God. Theology not applied was an abomination to him. He obviously applied this doctrine of predestination to his own life. It was the foundation that enabled him to remain faithful through his many discouragements, especially the apparent failure of his pulpit ministry. This was the doctrine that kept him at his desk writing twelve hours a day, six days a week, even though few at that time cared to read what he wrote. He was convinced he served a sovereign God, and it was his duty to obey Him, even when he could not understand all God was doing in and through his life.

One final word to the reader is necessary before we proceed---a word of caution and warning. We are entering a very difficult subject area, an area which raises many questions and controversies. May we allow the Word of God to speak to us. May we constantly weigh what Pink says on the subject against the Word of God. This would be his desire for us. And if, when our task is finished, we do not agree with Pink, may we not allow our disagreement with him or with one another to divide us in the body of Christ. No one will ever find anyone who will agree with him in every minute detail of theology, especially in the area of predestination.
As you can see, Arthur W. Pink---Predestination is as much a Biblical and theological study of the crucial doctrine of predestination as it is a study of Pink's view of it. Pink's view of predestination is the focus of the book and the lens through which the Biblical doctrine is viewed and revealed to the reader, but at the same time the reader gets a solid overview of all the various aspects and issues of the doctrine. This book helps the reader to get a clearer understanding of a man who is often misunderstood, but whose legacy has helped to lift many pastors and churches out of the anti-theological, anti-Calvinist doldrums that have plagued them for so long.

You can order the book from Richbarry Press, c/o Dr. Richard P. Belcher, 105 River Wood Dr., Fort Mill, SC 29715. The cost of the book is $8.00 plus postage.