Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Giveaway - The Fatal Flaw or Two Journey Books

This year the Reformed Baptist Blog would like to thank our readers by offering an opportunity to two of the blog's email subscribers to receive free books for Christmas this year. One of our readers will receive a free copy of Dr. Jeff Johnson's book The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism, which I believe is the single best book on the subject from a Reformed Baptist perspective. It is also a good book for understanding Covenant Theology from a Reformed Baptist perspective.

Another of our readers will receive a free copy of two of Dr. Richard Belcher's Journey books. They will include the first two books in the series, A Journey in Grace and A Journey in Purity (see here for more information). If you already have the first two books, then we will allow the substitution of any two of the other books in the series. I suspect that once you have read a couple of the Journey 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.

On December 12 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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Answering Bart Ehrman

Ps 12:6-7, Isa 40:8, Matt 5:18 and Luke 16:17 directly or indirectly refer to God’s promise to protect and sustain the written revelation of God. Yet, Bart Ehrman has sold thousands of books (e.g., Forged, Misquoting Jesus and God’s Problem), and has gained the approval of National Geographic, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel by denying the faithful transmission of New Testament text. Ehrman not only claims that the Greek New Testament text has been corrupted, but that all the extant manuscripts are polluted to the point that it is impossible to reconstruct a trustworthy critical Greek text of the New Testament.

Ehrman is quick to point out that there are around 400,000 variants within the extant New Testament Greek manuscripts, and that there are no two manuscripts which perfectly agree with each other. Given that the autographs (the original documents) have been lost, and given the fact that there are no error free Greek manuscripts, it may appear that Ehrman is right. As we analyze the historical and textual evidence, are we to conclude that God has failed in fulfilling His promise to perverse His Word? Some seek to save God’s reputation by closing their eyes to the textual evidence and denying that there are any textual problems. Yet, we do not have to close our eyes to the textual evidence to believe in the supernatural preservation of God's Word. The evidence is on our side.

Ehrman stands in opposition to the consensus of the community of textual scholars and the overwhelming textual evidence. Yes, there are approximately 400,000 variant readings, and there are no two identical manuscripts, but no ancient piece of literature can boast of a more faithful transmission than the Scriptures. First, no other ancient book has more extant manuscripts than the New Testament—close to 6,000. Second, no other ancient work has extant manuscripts that are so close to the original autographs—P52 dates between 100-115 AD, and we have a host of papyri manuscripts that date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. Third, of the 400,000 variants, 75 percent are spelling errors, which do not do any damage to the faithfulness of the Greek text. Fourth, another 24 percent of the variants are concerned with word order, but this too does not create much of a problem seeing that the subject of each sentence in the Greek is determined by word endings rather than by word placement. Fifth, that leaves only 1 percent (around 400) of variants that are of any importance, yet of those 400 variants, the majority are concerned with minor issues such as gospel harmonization. Sixth, only around 15 percent of the 1 percent of variants (about 50) is considered of any major significance, yet there is no doctrinal compromise in any of the variant readings. The virgin birth, the Trinity, the gospel and every other doctrine stands firm in the textual evidence.

Considering that there are 27 books and approximately 180,000 words in the New Testament, it is amazing that there are only 50 variants of any major concern. The evidence is amazing! The harmony between the manuscripts and textual families is amazing! Thus, it is my belief that only supernatural providence can account for such accurate and thorough preservation of the Scriptures.

Note: The above material is taken from an appendix to the forthcoming Behind the Bible: A Primer on Textual Criticism, to be published by Solid Ground Christian Books.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

e-Sword Has Been Updated to Version 10.0.5

e-Sword, what I recommend as the best free Bible study software program, has been updated to version 10.0.5. Here is the description of the update from the e-Sword website:

e-Sword version 10.0 changes from 9.9
The Journal Notes, Study Notes and Topic Notes editors have been completely redesigned! You can now insert pictures, create tables, format with columns, have headers and footers, even work in print layout! There are dozens of new and improved features in the editors for you to enjoy working with.

A new Reference Library feature is now built into the program. With it you can view all Topic Notes and the new Reference Books modules downloaded from the e-Sword web site, as well as those created by others. No longer are these mixed in the Topic Notes editor with your own personal notes.

A new feature is now built into the program. Working with the folks at, we have provided an easy way for you to listen to nearly a half million sermons on any passage of the Bible!

The Resources feature has been updated to allow the management of Topic Notes and Reference Books.
 If you haven't already tried e-Sword, I suggest you check it out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Salute to the Men Who Served Aboard the USS Caron

Today I just want to take a few minutes to thank my fellow veterans for their service. I pray that God will bless you and keep you, and for those of you who have not yet come to trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior, I pray that God will open your hearts to the Gospel soon. I pray that you might come to believe that Jesus died on the cross for sinners such as you and me, so that we might have forgiveness of sins and peace with God, and that He rose from the dead that we might have everlasting life. I also offer you my testimony as to how the Lord Jesus saved me and pray that He will open your eyes to the truth just as He did mine. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to know more.

I also want to take some time to offer a special salute to the many men who served aboard the U.S.S. Caron (DD 970, pictured left) during her relatively short history. I count it one of the privileges of my life not only to have served with so many fine sailors in the U.S. Navy, but especially to have served aboard the Caron during the Reagan administration and at the height of the Cold War. Here is a brief history of the Caron:
During Caron's more than 20 years of service, she was involved in nearly every conflict that the U.S. had been involved in since her commissioning. Caron was in Grenada, Gulf of Sidra, Beirut, Black Sea, CentAm SpecOps, Gulf War and Haiti. Caron was the first warship to fire Tomahawk missiles in two separate combat engagements when she fired twelve missiles on 17 January 1993, destroying a nuclear weapons development facility outside Baghdad.

1974: Laid Down.
1977: Commissioned.
1979: Black Sea Ops with USS McCandless FF-1084. Soviets stage a mock missile attack against Caron.
1983: Operation Urgent Fury. Caron fires 5" guns in combat.
1983-1984: Multi-National Peacekeeping Force Beirut, Lebanon. Caron fires guns in multiple engagements.
1985: Classified Operations in Central America (SpecOps)
1986: Operation Attain Document I, II, III, Operation El Dorado Canyon and Operation Prairie Fire against Libya.
1988: Black Sea Ops. Caron is rammed by Soviet Mikra II Class frigate.
1991: Operation Desert Storm. Fired Tomahawk missiles in engagement with Iraq.
1993: Fired tomahawk missiles in engagement with Iraq.
1993: Enforced UN sanctions against Haiti.
1996: Operation Southern Watch in Persian Gulf.
2001: Decommissioned.
2002: Sunk near Puerto Rico.
I served aboard the Caron from 1985-1987, during which time the Lord Jesus saved me and I met my wife, Kim, in Haifa, Israel. So, as you can imagine, the Caron holds special memories for me. In fact, when I heard the U.S. Navy had sunk her after demolitions testing in 2002, I am not ashamed to say that I actually cried.

The Caron was a very special ship for another reason, though, since she was a spy ship, a fact that meant she was often in dangerous situations, particularly during the Cold War era. In fact, the May 1988 edition of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists devoted an article to the Caron's role as a spy ship, with a particular focus on her Black Sea operations. Although I don't think the article is fair in its assessment of the Caron's operations in Soviet waters, the article does get the basic facts about her basic configuration, mission, and operations right, as when it states:
The Caron is a specially and uniquely appointed spyship; it is a modern day Pueblo. Its very configuration and mission deny it rights that might be accorded to other ships. Since its commissioning in October 1977, it has been loaded with signals intelligence sensors. It is the Navy's premier ship equipped with the "Classic Outboard" system, which performs over-the-horizon targeting and surveillance. It was the first ship to be equipped with digital computers directly linked to its sonar and other sensors.
Since 1980 the Caron has led 24 intelligence collection missions for the Atlantic Fleet. In 1980-81, the vessel was dispatched above the Arctic Circle and into the Baltic Sea to follow the Kiev aircraft carrier battle group and practice new over-the-horizon targeting and surveillance techniques against the Soviet Union. Besides its latest escapade [referring to the 1988 ramming of the Caron by a Soviet frigate in the Black Sea], the Caron has conducted three other Black Sea surveillance operations [during which I was aboard], including the incident in March 1986 in which it and the U.S.S. Yorktown came within six miles of the Soviet coast.
But the lion's share of the Caron's work has been in the Third World -- off the coast of Central America, in the eastern Mediterranean, and around Libya -- where the ship has conducted 16 separate intelligence missions since 1980. The Caron was the first ship to arrive on station in the Caribbean for operation "Urgent Fury," the 1983 invasion of Grenada. The Caron has spent more time off the coast of Nicaragua than any other U.S. Navy ship since Ronald Reagan took office. In 1981, the Caron was the first ship to track Libyan Fitter fighters reconnoitering U.S. Navy operations. In 1986 the Caron was the first to cross the "line of death" into the Gulf of Sidra before the bombing of Libya.
The article then goes on to give a (partial) timeline of the Caron's operations. To give you an idea of the some of the things the Caron was called upon to do, I offer their timeline for the year 1986, during which time I was aboard as part of the Combat Systems Division:
January 1: Caron begins four months of duty in various "Operations in the vicinity of Libya," including Gulf of Sidra operations January 7-February 1 and February 7-17.
March 10-17: Caron takes time out of Libya surveillance to conduct Black Sea operations with the U.S.S. Yorktown (CG-48), entering on March 10. On March 16 the ships come within six miles of the Crimean Peninsula near Sevastopol. There are three Black Sea deployments in 1986.
March 18: The Soviet Union delivers a note to the U.S. embassy in Moscow protesting the incursion of two U.S. Navy vessels into Soviet territorial waters. A White House spokesman says the vessels were testing the "right of innocent passage," and insists it was not meant to be "provocative or defiant" deployment.
March 22-29: Caron serves as flagship for Destroyer Squadron 20 which leads a three-ship surface-action group to be the first vessel to cross the "line of death" in the Gulf of Sidra.
April 16: Caron ends its operations in the vicinity of Libya.
Although the information that is publicly available is somewhat sketchy, it is clear the type of ship the Caron was and why the many men who served aboard her over the years are so proud to have done so. Especially during the Cold War, the men who served aboard the Caron truly were on the leading edge of America's military providing an invaluable service to their country. The ship's motto was "Vision, Victory, Valor," and her crew always sought to live up to these ideals.

Here are some photos to help you get a better picture of the Caron.

The photo above shows the Caron "haze gray and underway" in calm seas.

The photo above shows the Caron turning.

The photo above shows the Caron in the Panama Canal, a trip I sadly missed.

 The photo above shows a Soviet frigate coming in close to the Caron during Black Sea operations.

The photo above shows the Caron firing an anti-submarine rocket (ASROC) from the launcher mounted on the forecastle (that box-like launcher on the front end of the ship shown in several photos above). My job, as a part of the Anti-Submarine Warfare section of the Combat Systems Division, was to operate and maintain the ASROC launcher.

The photo above shows the Yosemite Sam one of my shipmates painted on the side of our ASROC launcher. 

The photo above shows the Caron in some rough seas.

 The photo above shows a lifering on the aft end of the ship while underway.

The photo above shows the Caron being used for explosives testing off the coast of Puerto Rico shortly before she was sunk on December 4, 2002.

The two photos above show the Caron in her final moments. What sad pictures!

The photo above shows one of my shipmates, Gary Harvey, who was one of the key men the Lord brought into my life to share the Gospel with me and to lead me to faith in Christ. What a happy picture!