Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Religious Liberty

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Women
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Church, Ministry, & Sacraments"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Religious Liberty


In his book, Baptists Through the Centuries, Dr. David Bebbington begins his discussion of the Baptist record on religious liberty by quoting George Truett who in 1920 stated that "Baptists have one consistent record concerning liberty throughout all their long and eventful history." (197) Truett, who spoke these words while speaking in Washington DC and suggested that Baptists "had always been in the vanguard of calls for freedom, civil as well as religious." (197) Most Baptists assume this is the case, but Bebbington suggest that this claim "requires careful evaluation."

Bebbington then states his main thesis in this chapter:
The notion that Baptists had been rigorous in their demands for freedom of conscience from the start of their existence calls for scrutiny. It is true that their stance represented a major break with the long tradition, dominant since the time of the empoeror Constantine in the fourth century, that any Christian ruler should try to promote true religion within his realms, by the sword if necessary. baptists did not relish the state enforcement of particular pattern of belief and practice. Yet how scruplous they were in their early years in upholding the rightness of religious neutrality by the authorities needs investigation. Again, the issue arises of how careful Baptists were in subsequent periods to take a firm stance on the avoidance of state interference with private convictions. They may have been inclined to favor conscientious dissent, but were they as wholly consistent as Truett believed? The attitude of Baptists to questions of religious liberty may turn out to have been rather more varied than he supposed. (197-198)
Let us begin with the first baptist: John Smyth. Bebbington points out that when Smyth embraced believers baptism he did not at the same time abandon the common assumption - shared by Anglicans, Puritans, and Catholics alike - that Caesar had a God-given responsibility to defend the one and true faith. He quotes Smyth as writing, "the Magistrates should cause all men to worship the true God, or else punish them with imprisonment, confiscation of goods, or death as the qualitie of the cause requireth." (198) It would only be later when Smyth began to change his view and that was the result of the influence of Mennonites in his life and theology. It was Thomas Helwys who would later defend a more robust view of religious liberty.

Truett's claim, therefore, is false. From here, however, there remained much debate as to the extent of religious liberty. Should it be limited to only Christian sects - Protestant, Catholic, etc.? Or should religious liberty include all faiths - Jews, Muslims, etc.?

In the Colonies, another question of religious liberty was debated, even among the Baptists. Is public support of worship and spiritual practices consistent with religious liberty or should the state be completely removed from any say in spiritual practices and beliefs. Bebbington notes that Isaac Backus approved of "compulsory public worship, state-sponsored days of fasting and thanksgiving, and the exclusion of Roman Catholics from public offices." (204) John Leland, on the other hand, "argued for a strict separation between church and state." (205-206) Leland even went farther:
Unusually for his day and going much further than Backus, Leland pursued the principle to secular conclusions: there should be no publicly declared days of fasting or thanksgiving; there should be no exemptions for ministers from taxation; conversely, there should be no public tax to pay chaplains, mail could be handled b the post office on Sunday, and Christians should not petition against dueling, lotteries, or alcohol. Leland was a rigorous proponent of the view that organized religious and public life must stay entirely separate. (206)
Though Bebbington would expand on this point and continue his historic survey of the relation between Baptist history and theology and religious liberty, perhaps we should consider briefly the debate mentioned above. Who is right and who should be the standard bearer of Baptist views on religious liberty, Isaac Backus or John Leland?

It think there should be a balance between the two. In his description of Backus' view on this issue, words like "compulsory" and "state-sponsored" and the belief that Roman Catholics or non-Christians should be excluded from public office is troublesome. The unnecessary fear that Catholic John F. Kennedy would be a puppet of the Pope is dumbfounding. Equally so, the fear that Mitt Romney's almost-election to the nation's highest office would be a great travesty is unnecessary. The existence of the state is the result of Adam's fall. Common grace is great enough that even non-believers can lead well. And let us not fool ourselves, our nation has been led by genuine non-believers regardless of their claim otherwise.

Lelend, on the other hand, seems to go too far the other way. The state must know that their job is made easier when citizens are faithful to their God. Thus tax exemptions for churches and minister housing is a means of doing that. I do not believe they violate religious liberty especially since it is applied across the board. Likewise, Christians must speak prophetically in the culture. I find it hard to believe that even Leland would not petition the government in defense of the unborn.

In the end, this debate over religious liberty remains as lively today as ever. In light of that, there should be a few principles to guide us. First, religious liberty must be applied equally to all. We must not just defend the liberty of Christians only. Secondly, it is best, I believe, to side with the religious in a legal debate than with the state. Give the state an inch, and they will take a mile. Thirdly, the right of religious liberty presumes limited government. The larger the state gets, the more it encroaches religious and economic liberty. Finally, religious liberty is a right that must always be defended.

Baptists have a rich history on this issue. Most of it is great, some of it is not. But moving forward I believe that Baptists are on (dare I say) the "right side of history."

All Around the Web - December 30, 2014





Ligonier - Bible Reading Plans for 2015 

The Gospel Coalition - Why You Should Read Bavinck

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Things Jonathan Edwards Teaches Us about the Christian Life



Denny Burk - Top 10 YouTubes of 2014 


Design Taxi - Photographer Captures Grandeur Of Some Of The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries


Monday, December 29, 2014

"The First Family Detail" by Ronald Kessler: A Review

If agents often feel underappreciated and abused, there are compensations. Former agent Patrick Sullivan recalls returning to Washington on Air For One after four reelection campaign stops across the country for President George H. W. Bush.

“It was ten o’clock at night when we’re all sitting on Air Force One on our way back,” Sullivan says. “We were complaining about the long day, and our shift leader looked at us and said, ‘You know those people who got their picture taken with him paid some ungodly amount of money just to stand next to him and get their picture taken. Do you know what they’d pay to be in that seat that you’re in right now?’” (245)

It is a dangerous thing to browse the “just in” books at your local library. I promise I only went in to find a few books to read to my two young kids. I was just curious. There was a busy week ahead of me and no way could I start (and finish) a new book. Upon seeing the title and cover of Ronald Kessler’s book The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the President, my interests was piqued.

I had seen a few interviews of Kessler promoting this particular book and the back cover of the book confirmed my impression of those interviews. The book is part insight into one of the most fascinating security teams in the world and part gossip. The back cover informs the would-be reader what they would find inside. Details of Vice-President Joe Biden ordering the Secret Service to keep the “nuclear football” a mile behind him – a serious breach of national security. Details of former President Bill Clinton’s current blonde mistress. Details of just how nasty Hillary Clinton is in private. Details of a secret coverup regarding the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. And more.

Ultimately, this book has three main topics. First, the author provides real insight into the world of the Secret Service. My interests in the Presidents is well-established on this website. Along with that comes those who work in the White House and service the President, especially the Secret Service. The amount of work that goes into protecting the most powerful man in the world is certainly fascinating.

When Kessler turns his focus, periodically, on this, the book is at its best. He informs the reader on how early the Secret Service canvasses an area before the President arrives. He describes security measures inside the White House. My favorite is the security buttons hidden in plain sight that the President can push when needed. Sensors inside the gate at the White House to detect intruders (did they not work in light of recent events).

The second main emphasis of the book regards the sordid details of many of our Presidents. Some, according to Kessler’s interviews with anonymous Secret Service agents, Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and first ladies were loved. At the top of this list is former first lady Laura Bush. Other leaders like Vice-President Dick Cheney, President George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan receive high marks in this book (yes, I did notice that they are all Republican).

The one’s that receive the most negative press here are (at the top) Hillary Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, one of President George W. Bush’s twins, and others. However, more than just addressing poor opinions of the character of some of these leaders, the author details the immoral actions of many of them. Most notably to me regards former President Lyndon B. Johnson who is pictured as someone who never knew when to put his clothes on. Presidents like John F. Kennedy, LBJ, and Bill Clinton are characterized as sex-crazed maniacs who were always on the prowl. Sometimes these details seem a bit over-the-top or at least greatly exaggerated. The assumption of the author is that Bill Clinton is the only one that has the persona of a womanizer only because the press didn’t report those sort of things in previous generations.

Though this was my least favorite part of the book (though at times it seemed to have consumed its pages), there is this one gem I greatly enjoyed featuring one of my favorite Presidents, Ronald Reagan:

    When the news broke that Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart was having an affair with Donna Rice, Reagan was returning to the White House from an evening event.

    “We were in the elevator going up to the residence on the second floor of the White House,” says former agent Ted Hresko. “The door of the elevator was about to close and one of the staffers blocked it. The staffer told Reagan the news about Donna Rice and Gary Hart.”

    Reagan nodded his head and looked at Agent Hresko.

    “Boys will be boys,” he said to the agent.

    When the door of the elevator shut, Reagan added firmly, “but boys will not be president.” (107)

The authors ultimate point in revealing some of the gossip and salacious detail might sell books, but the purpose is to make an important point. Character shapes our leaders. The White House will not make one wise or moral, it will inflame the convictions a politician already has. On this point, I am in complete agreement with the author. Power showcases our strengths all the while it reveals our many weaknesses.

The third part of the book regards the many security breaches and short-cuts the Secret Services continue to take. The back of the cover highlights one of the main breeches that took place during President Obama’s first term:

    Secret Service agents were ordered to ignore security rules and allow the SUV carrying actor Bradley Cooper to drive unscreened into a secure restricted area when President Obama was about to deliver his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Back Cover)

The number of recent breeches highlighted by the author are numerous. He does address the prostitutes scandal and other most well-documented and reported scandals involving the Secret Service. No doubt if recent events were included in the book, its pages would increase noticeably. The author’s point here is to call the public’s attention to the laxidasical attitude of its leadership. The President is at risk and the public needs to know about it.

In the end, I would recommend this book only to those interested in the lives of the Presidents with a clear warning about some of its detail. I pray that our Presidents are not guilty of the sort of behavior reported in this book. If so, then may we focus as much on the character of our elected leaders as much as their policies. Both are crucial to good leadership.


For more biographies on the Presidents
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review


American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

All Around the Web - December 29, 2014

MBTS - Through the Eyes of Spurgeon Documentary

The Gospel Coalition - Ordinary Cook, Unlikely Hero

Thom Rainer - 10 New Year’s Commitments for Healthy Church Growth Leaders

Kevin DeYoung - Do You Know Who He Was?

Dave Neely - 10 Things Every Pastor Wishes They Could Tell Their Church


Friday, December 26, 2014

From Lewis's Pen: The Cry of the One New-born

From his poem, "The Turn of the Tide":
So death lay in arrest. But at Bethlehem the bless'd
Nothing greater could be heard

Than a dry wind in the thorn, the cry of the One new-born,
And cattle in stall as they stirred.

All Around the Web - December 26, 2014


Thom Rainer - Seven Myths about a Pastor’s Workweek

Pew Research Center - Less than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family

John Stonestreet - The Other Right

Joe Carter - How to Change Your Mind 

Owen Strachan - Best of 2014


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sermon - Luke 2:21-38 | The Wait is Over: Why the Hope of Every Human Heart is Found Lying in a Manger

Below is the sermon and notes from the sermon I preached at East Frankfort Baptist Church on Sunday evening December 21, 2014. First, the scriptural text:
21 And when eight days had passed, [i]before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s [j]Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, [k]to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A Light [l]of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and [m]rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, [n]Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in [o]years and had lived with her husband seven years after her [p]marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very [q]moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Audio
Notes

Sermon | Luke 15:11-32 - The Tale of a Gracious Father

Below is the audio and notes from my sermon from Sunday morning December 21, 2014 from Luke 15:11-32. First, the Scriptural text:
11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his [d]wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and [e]hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the [f]pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to [g]his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and [h]in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to [i]his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and [j]embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never [k]neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your [l]wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you [m]have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

Audio
Notes

From Lewis' Pen: Bigger Than Our Whole World

From The Last Battle:
Tirian looked round again and could hardly believe his eyes. There was the blue sky overhead, and grassy country spreading as far as he could see in every direction, and his new friends all round him laughing.

“It seems, then,” said Tirian, smiling himself, “that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places.”

“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”

“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

- C. S. Lewis, from The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

Advent: God With Us

Wow!  Simply Wow.  Here is the gospel with emphasis on the prophecy, birth, death, resurrection, and return of Christ.  Thanks to the Village Church and Isaac Wimberley for writing this and producing this video.

If the video doesn't work, you can view it here.



Advent: God With Us from The Village Church on Vimeo.


HT: Justin Taylor


The people had read of this rescue that was coming through the bloodline of Abraham
They had seen where Micah proclaimed about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem
Daniel prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem
Isaiah’s cry about the Son of God coming to them
So for them—it was anticipation
This groaning was growing, generation after generation
Knowing He was holy, no matter what the situation
But they longed for Him
They yearned for Him
They waited for Him on the edge of their seat
On the edge of where excitement and containment meet
They waited
Like a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waited
Like a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited
And in their waiting, they had hope
Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen
To a God who had promised a King
A King who would reign over the enemy
Over Satan’s tyranny
They waited
So it was
Centuries of expectations, with various combinations of differing schools of thought
Some people expecting a political king who would rise to the throne through the wars that he fought
While others expecting a priest who would restore peace through the penetration of the Pharisee’s façade
Yet a baby—100% human, 100% God
So the Word became flesh and was here to dwell among us
In His fullness, grace upon grace, Jesus
Through Him and for Him, all things were created
And in Him all things are sustained
God had made Himself known for the glory of His name
And this child would one day rise as King
But it would not be by the sword or an insurgent regime
It would be by His life
A life that would revolutionize everything the world knew
He would endure temptation and persecution, all while staying true
Humbly healing the broken, the sick and hurting too
Ministering reconciliation, turning the old to new
A life that would be the very definition of what life really costs
Saying—if you desire life, then your current one must be lost
And He would portray that with His own life as His Father would pour out and exhaust
And Jesus would be obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross
So just 33 years after the day that He laid swaddled in the hay
He hung on a tree suffocating, dying in our place
Absorbing wrath that is rightly ours, but we could never bear the weight
So He took that punishment and he put it in the grave
And He died
And when I say that He died, what I mean is that He died
No breath, noheartbeat, no sign of life
God is a God of justice, and the penalty for our sin equals death
That’s what Christ did on that cross
Then… On the third day, in accordance with scriptures, He was raised from the grave
And when I say that He was raised, what I mean is that He was raised
Lungs breathing, heart pumping, blood pulsing through His veins
The things that He promised were true
He is the risen Son of God, offering life to me and you
Turning our mourning into dancing
Our weeping into laughing
Our sadness into joy
By His mercy, we are called His own
By His grace, we will never be left alone
By His love, He is preparing our home
By His blood, we can sing before His throne
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
So now we, as His bride, are the ones waiting
Like the saints that came before, we’re anticipating
He has shown us that this world is fading
And He has caused our desire to be for Him
So church, stay ready
Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady
Worship Him freely, never forgetting
His great love for you
Immanuel, God with us


Originally published November 29, 2011

All Around the Web - December 25, 2014


Washington Examiner - Shock study: Marriage rate declines with porn use, threatening economy, society

John Stonestreet - Responding to the LGBT Movement's Southern Strategy

The Gospel Coalition - My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2014

Thom Rainer - Eight Changes in the Church with Potential High Conflict

The Blaze - Infographic Reveals the 10 Most Popular and Shared Bible Scriptures of the Year


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Deal of the Day: "The Story of Christianity" by Justo Gonzalez

One of the best introductory books on the history of Jesus is the 2-volume "The Story of Jesus" by Justo Gonzalez. The publisher is now offering each volume for $3.99 each. Thsi is a great deal that I would encourage Kindle readers to not miss out on. The links and descriptions of each volume are below:

Volume 1 - The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation
In this fully revised and updated edition, the lauded church historian Justo González tells the story of Christianity from its fragile infancy to its pervasive dominance at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. The Story of Christianity, volume 1, relates the dramatic events, the colorful characters, and the revolutionary ideas that shaped the first fifteen centuries of the church's life and thought.

From Jesus's faithful apostles to the early reformist John Wycliffe, González skillfully weaves details from the lives of prominent figures tracing core theological issues and developments within the various traditions of the church. The Story of Christianity demonstrates at each point what new challenges and opportunities faced the church and how Christians struggled with the various options open to them, thereby shaping the future direction of the church.

This new edition of The Story of Christianity incorporates recent archaeological discoveries to give us a better view of the early Christian communities. Among these are advances in the recovery of Gnostic texts that have revealed a richer diversity of "Christianities" in the first century. González also includes important research done in the past twenty-five years revealing the significant role of women throughout the history of the church.

With lively storytelling incorporating the latest research, The Story of Christianity provides a fascinating introduction to the panoramic history of Christianity.

Volume 2 - The Reformation to the Present
Beginning with the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, this fully revised and updated second volume of The Story of Christianity continues the marvelous history of the world's largest religion. Award-winning historian Justo Gonzalez bring to life the people, dramatic events, and theological debates that have shaped Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. From the monk Martin Luther, who dared to stand up to a corrupt pope, to the surprising spread and growing vitality of today's church in Africa, Asia, and South America, The Story of Christianity offers a complete and up-to-date retelling of this amazing history.

With new information on the important contributions of women to church history as well as the latest information on Christianity in developing countries, Gonzalez's richly textured study discusses the changes and directions of the church up to the twenty-first century. The Story of Christianity covers such recent occurrences as the fall of the Soviet Union and the return of the Russian Orthodox Church; feminist, Africa-American, and Third-World theologies; the scandals and controversies facing the reign of Pope Benedict XVI; interfaith dialogue; and the movement toward unity of all Christian churches. This revised and updated edition of The Story of Christianity concludes with a thoughtful look at the major issues and debates facing Christianity today.

"Baptists Through the Centuries: Blogging Through Bebbington: Church, Ministry, & Sacraments

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Women
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Church, Ministry, & Sacraments


In his book Baptists Through the Centuries, Dr. David Bebbington begins each chapter with a basic thesis of the chapter. Chapter 11 is no different. He writes:
There are certain convictions about the nature of church life that Baptists have upheld with a high degree of consistency. Prominent among them has been their belief in the principle of a gathered church. (177)
There are a number of theological distinctives among the baptists. They include religious liberty, priesthood of all believers, believer's baptism, and regenerate church member. Bebbington now tackles a number of them beginning with regenerate church members a position, he says, "was an unusual position in Christendom" until the rise of the Baptists (178).

But what of the Lord's Supper? The author begins by noting that Baptists have always rejected two extremes. First, "They repudiated the Roman Catholic teaching of transubstantiation" (181). The other is the Lutheran modification called Consubstantiation. Though united in their rejection of these two doctrines, Bebbington suggests "They differed among themselves, however, on the significance of the ceremony" (181). Some were Zwinglian while others were more Calvinistic in their understanding of communion. The Reformed view was shared by the Baptist giant Charles H. Spurgeon.

In the end, the early Baptists held a high view of both ordinances: the Lord's Supper and baptism. That all began to change with a steady decline of "high churchmanship." "Baptists," Bebbington notes, "started to treat them as insignificant aspects of the faith." The reasons for this, as suggested by the author, are numerous. Some are worth highlighting. First, like most other classical doctrines of the faith, the Enlightenment took hold in many churches. Furthermore, the Great Awakening fostered the evangelical movement where revival experience, mission work, and inter-denominational effort resulted in a declining of a high view of the ordinances.

Finally, Bebbington suggests "the steady advance of high respectability."
As wealth increased, so did expectations, especially in large urban congregations. Men of affairs required their churches to be organized on businesslike principles, with careful management, annual reports, and audited accounts. (189)
This "steady advance of high respectability" became most clear in two areas. First
This resulted in a decrease of discipline in churches "from around the middle of the nineteenth century, and moral problems that once would have called formal censure were now referred to a standing committee or else to the pastor and deacons. A Baptist mark of the church was disappearing. (189-190)
Secondly, "the ministry was increasingly treated as a profession" (190). Bebbington writes:
From around the middle of the nineteenth century, Baptist ministers began to use the title "Reverend." Prosperous congregations required and could afford well-educated ministers. Training for the ministry therefore became more academic, with new colleges and seminaries being formed. Between 1870 and 1900 the number of English Baptist ministers with college training increased by a fifth. By the 1930s over a third of Northern Baptist ministers in the United States had received a seminary education. There were still, especially in the American South, many rural congregations, both black and white, led by men without any formal qualifications, but the trend was toward professionalization. The effect was often to raise the level o respect for the minister and, in that sense, to resist the tendency to a lower churchmanship. The imitation of secular professions, however, generally meant that the new breed of minister was disinclined to adopt high views of church or sacraments. He liked efficiency rather than display. Respectability tended to reinforce the decay of earlier Baptist ecclesiastical convictions. (190)
A couple of thoughts in light of the above. First, I am guilty, at times, of failing to emphasize the ordinances. I have grown up in a church culture where baptisms were performed as needed and the Lord's Supper was done only once every quarter usually at the end of the service when everyone was ready to go home. Now as a pastor myself, I have failed to place the sort of emphasis on these as I ought to.

Furthermore, I appreciate what he has to say about the professionalization of the ministry. I am uncomfortable with the title "Reverend" outside of professional contexts. And having been seminary trained, many treat ministry as a career as much as a calling. If you don't believe me, see how many applicants a rural, bi-vocational churches receive. Being a pastor is as much, any more, about how nice you dress as it s about how great a gospel you proclaim.

All Around the Web - December 23, 2014




The Blaze - Ancient Rock Believed to Offer Key Evidence of Biblical Account






Monday, December 22, 2014

"41" by George W. Bush: A Review

I have been searching in vain for some time for a solid biography on former President George H. W. Bush. The closest the former President himself has come to an autobiography is a collection of letters published after his retirement. Though intriguing, that is not what I have been looking for. Of all of the modern Presidents, the one-term senior Bush does not garner much interests among biographers and historians.

Thus I quickly got my hands on his sons take on his father. The book is entitled 41: A Portrait of My Father and is written by his oldest son and former President George W. Bush. Bush 43 introduces the work noting a conversation he had with noted historian David McCullough who visited him in the White House shortly after publishing his biography on John Adams. McCullough laments that Adams’ son, John Quincey Adams, who also served as a one-term President, never wrote any biographical material on his father.

That comment struck Bush 43. McCullough and W. both were aware of some of the similarities between W. And Quincy Adams. Both men are the only Presidents to also be the son of a President. So with that lament in mind, Bush 43 has published this fascinating work on his father, Bush 41.

In seminary, I had a professor who suggested that all biographies are either critiques or hagiographical in nature. This work is certainly (and openly) the latter. The author does not deny his bias and the reader would be foolish to be surprised by it. W. clearly loves his father and pens a biography from perspective of a loving son who idolized his father.

Though I feared that this might be over-the-top and that W. would not be able to write a serious biography, I was wrong. Bush 43 is a good writer and he tells the fascinating story of Bush 41 in a way that is a real joy. Regardless of how one feels about the policies of H. W., one will still enjoy W’s take on his dad.

The author provides insight information from his own experience of the former President. He traces his story from his birth to his old age. H. W. has not lived a boring life and his drive for success made him the man he is. I especially enjoyed reading about HW’s experience during Watergate when he was the head of the RNC. From W’s perspective, Bush 41 believed character should trump party. I think he’s right.

I especially enjoyed his take on his father’s presidency. Though clearly bias, he provides the sort of insight one would enjoy. Most notable here is how W. handle’s the Persian Gulf War. Though W. explains his father’s actions, the reasoning behind them, and the aftermath, Bush 43 does provide a lengthy take on his own war in Iraq. Some might think W. dwelt on this too much. I will let the reader decide. But it was noticeable.

I also enjoyed W’s reflection on his father’s loss in 1992. The truth be told, Bush 41 had lost as many elections as he had won. Yet this lost hurt more than the others. Much of the blame, according to W.’s take, lies at the feet of Ross Perot and Bill Clinton. The 44th President is simply the best politician in a generation, hands down. Regarding Perot, I don’t think there is any doubt that he sabotaged Bush the Elder’s chances of winning re-election.

Politically speaking, though, HW remains the only President since Taft to win the Presidency after service two full terms as vice-president. One would have to go all the way back to Taft to find one who did what Bush 41 did. All other Vice-Presidents lost (Gore, Dole, Nixon, and others) lost.

I really enjoyed this book and found myself staying up late just to finish it. W. presents his father in a loving way with special emphasis on his character and his affection for his family. At the end of the day, that matters more than his political views. I highly recommend this work written from one former President to another.


For more biographies on the Presidents
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review


American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

All Around the Web - December 22, 2014

Kevin DeYoung - Top Ten Books of 2014

Challies - My Top Books of 2014

Thom Rainer - 8 Reasons for Leaders to Give God a Blank Check

Church Tech - Five Reasons Your Church Should Have a .church URL

The Blaze - The Top 10 Movies of 2014, According to Facebook


Friday, December 19, 2014

Spurgeon: Grace has a discipline

From his sermon on Titus 2:11-14:
Secondly, I have to call your attention to THE INSTRUCTION which is given to us by the Grace of God which has appeared unto all men. Our translation runs thus—“The Grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” A better translation would be, “The Grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, disciplining us in order that we may deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” Those of you who know a little Greek will note that the word which, in our version, is rendered, “teaching,” is a scholastic term and has to do with the education of children—not merely the teach- ing, but the training and bringing of them up. The Grace of God has come to be a schoolmaster to us, to teach us, to train us, to prepare us for a more developed state. Christ has manifested in His own Person that wonderful Grace of God which is to deal with us as with sons, to educate us unto holiness and so to the full possession of our heavenly heritage. We are the many sons who are to be brought to Glory by the discipline of Grace. 

So then, first of all, Grace has a discipline. We generally think of law when we talk about schoolmasters and disci- pline, but Grace, itself, has a discipline and a wonderful training power, too. The manifestation of Grace is preparing us for the manifestation of Glory. What the Law could not do, Grace is doing. The free favor of God instills new principles, suggests new thoughts and, by inspiring us with gratitude, creates in us love to God and hatred of that which is opposed to God. Happy are they who go to the school of the Grace of God! This Grace of God entering into us shows us what was evil even more clearly than the Commandments do. We receive a vital, testing principle within whereby we discern be- tween good and evil. The Grace of God provides us with instruction, but also with chastisement, as it is written, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.” As soon as we come under the conscious enjoyment of the Free Grace of God, we find it to be a holy rule, a fatherly government, a heavenly training. We find not self-indulgence, much less licentiousness, but, on the contrary, the Grace of God both restrains and constrains us—it makes us free to holiness and delivers us from the law of sin and death by “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” 

All Around the Web - December 19, 2014


Denny Burk - The “celibate gay Christian” movement: How should we think about it?

Thom Rainer - Five Things Pastors Need to Say to Their Children

Russel Moore - Questions & Ethics: How should I handle family tensions during the holidays?

The Gospel Coalition - TGC Staff Cite Best Books from 2014

Thinking Christian - Bill Nye, Deniable Guy: Promoting Science and Rationality, He Blunders On Both


Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Women

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Women


In his book Baptists Through the Centuries, Dr. David Bebbington begins his chapter on baptists women with this pronouncement: "The role of women among Baptists has generally been neglected by historians" (157). Part of the reason for this is simple. Most notable baptists, from theologians to pastors to leaders, have been predominantly male. "Yet," the author notes,"a majority of church members have normally been female."

Therefore, Bebbington offers a historic survey of the role of women in baptists life and it is a fascinating tale. Although I will not rehash the full story here, it is important to note that women have always played a central role among the Baptists. The author notes that in 1607, John Smyth "asserted that the prophets in the church, the expositors of God's word, must be male only," yet "Smyth accorded women and young people a share in the decision-making of the church" (159)

He then goes on to highlight a number of influential women including Catherine Scott, Dorothy Hazzard, Martha Stearns Marshall, Sarah Jonhston Stearns, Ann Judson, Lotti Moon, and others.

What primary roles did women play in Baptists life? Bebbington notes several. "One was the cultivation of Christian experience" (164). Another was writing. Several influential books over the centuries were penned by women. Furthermore, the roles of childcare and philanthropy were prominent roles. Perhaps most significant was the role they played in missions. Most notable here are Ann Judson, who died on the mission field, and Lotti Moon.

Then there is the following:
In society at large Christian women played an increasing role as reformers as the nineteenth century wore on. In its earlier years, female Baptists were to be found in the Northern pressure groups designed to abolish slavery, and they were active in the burgeoning temperance movement on both sides of the Atlantic. The Women's Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1873 in order to achieve the prohibition of alcohol, mobilized more American women than any other organization of the century. The campaign for social purity also gathered large-scale support, aiming to rescue prostitutes from their way of life, to oppose the double standard in sexual morality that tolerated male patronage of brothels, and to protect children from sexual exploitation by raising the age of consent. By the First World War it was expected that baptist women would endorse a range of good causes. The Women's Missionary Union of the Southern baptists announced in 1917 its support for "those forces in our country which make for righteousness: patriotism, Sabbath observance, the sacredness of the home, the effort toward a more general re-establishment of the family altar, and the crusade against poverty, disease, illiteracy, vice, and crime." These causes brought women into the political fray even though they did not have the vote. Some saw exclusion from the franchise as an injustice to be fought, and Baptists were to be found in the ranks of those demanding votes for women. . . . Baptist women, though usually dutiful toward their fathers and husbands, were by no means always silent and passive. (169)
Much of the rest of the chapter focuses on the question of women in ministry. This discussion is inevitable and I will not rehash it here. He notes that two major events include the women's suffrage movement in the early half of the twentieth century and the modern radical feminists from the 1960s. Though the issue remains debated today, it has largely become a background issue. Churches largely identify as either egalitarian or complimentarian.

Ultimately, however, what we ought to get from this chapter regards the important role of women in baptists life. Too often we give notice to theologians and pastors without realizing that much of their work is done in the background by lesser known persons. No church would survive without its female members. God uses us all regardless of gender.

All Around the Web - December 18, 2014


Trevin Wax - Time to Move Beyond “Defending” Marriage to “Rebuilding” Marriage

Justin Taylor - What is Liberal Theology?

John Stonestreet - Time for a New Sexual Revolution

Ligonier - What Does the X in Xmas Mean?

The Guardian - Unseen CS Lewis letter defines his notion of joy


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spurgeon: The Gem of Gospel Gems

From his sermon on Titus 2:11-14
We learn, also, at first sight, that Paul believed in a great redemption. “Who gave Himself for us that He might re- deem us from all iniquity.” That word, “redemption,” sounds in my ears like a silver bell! We are ransomed, purchased back from slavery and this at an immeasurable price—not merely by the obedience of Christ, nor the suffering of Christ, nor even the death of Christ, but by Christ’s giving Himself for us. All that there is in the great God and Savior was paid down that He might “redeem us from all iniquity.” The splendor of the Gospel lies in the redeeming Sacrifice of the Son of God and we shall never fail to put this to the front in our preaching! It is the gem of all the Gospel gems! As the moon is among the stars, so is this great doctrine among all the lesser lights which God has kindled to make glad the night of fallen man! Paul never hesitates—he has a Divine Savior and a Divine redemption—and he preaches these with unwavering confidence. Oh that all preachers were like Paul! 

All Around the Web - December 17, 2014

The Spectator - Gay marriage and the death of freedom

John Piper - How to Pray for the Pastoral Staff

The Gospel Coalition - 10 Historical Myths About World Christianity

Chuck Lawless - Eight Ways to Bridge Generation Gaps in Churches

The Week - Obama quotes nonexistent Bible verse in immigration speech

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race


Thus far, there has only been one chapter I have not enjoyed in David Bebbington's book Baptists Through the Centuries. My distaste for it does not regard the author or his writing, but the tragic history he tells in it. Baptists do not have a history on race relations worth bragging about it. As a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, our history is particularly distasteful. The challenge of racism is yet another reminder of why theology should trump cultural assumptions.

The author begins by stating that early on, Baptists "drew in people of color from an early stage" (139). Later, however,
race was a profoundly divisive issue. For much of the history of the Baptists, many of the white members of their churches saw themselves as inherently superior, while members of other racial groups were victims of neglect, disdain, or far worse. In particular, slavery was enforced by white Baptists on black people who were often their coreligionists. Human beings were bought, sold, and treated as pieces of property like sheep or cattle. Even after the abolition of slavery, Baptists in the United States deliberately denied full civil rights to their fellow citizens on the basis of race. (140)
We already know that tragic story. But Bebbington also reminds us that that story is not the full story. He adds:
There is, however, another side to the story. Baptists participated in the struggles against the salve trade and the institution of slavery. Subsequently they played a foremost part i the campaign against he denial of civil rights. So, at times, some members of the denomination were perpetrator so racial discrimination, but equally others became champions of its demise. The Baptists' engagement with racial questions forms a remarkably checkered history. (140)
What follows in this chapter is the story between of how some Baptists held on tightly to racial discrimination while others fought hard to abolish racism. Heroic names like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, and Billy Graham feature prominently in this chapter. I was surprised and unaware of W. A. Criswell's stance on this issue. Fortunately the SBC publicly repented and apologized for its part in racial discrimination in 1992.

In the end, two observations are worth being made here. First, though racism is largely abolished in America it still remains that the most segregated hour each week is Sunday worship. It should bother the Christian conscience that there remain black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches, etc. The work of reconciliation will not end until people of every tongue, tribe, nation, and race worship together here as we will there.

Secondly, theology should drive the acts of the church, not culture. Racism, especially in the South, became part of their identity. Instead of seeing the evil of slavery, many held on tightly to "the way things have always been."

Fortunately the gospel is more powerful than racism. Let us pray it continues to open eyes.

All Around the Web - December 16, 2014

Samuel James - The Strange Oprahfication of Rob Bell

Thom Rainer - Top Ten Bible Translations, 2014

Don Whitney - 10 Questions to Ask at a Christmas Gathering

The Blazing Center - Confessions Of A Hardcore Homeschooler

The Blaze - The 10 Most Talked-About Topics on Facebook in 2014


Monday, December 15, 2014

"The Man Christ Jesus" by Bruce Ware: A Review

The atoning death of Christ was only efficacious because Jesus who died for our sin was a full and integral human being. Now granted, he had to be more than merely a man to die for our sins. To be sure, he had to be the God-man for the atonement to be efficacious. But while he had to be  more than a mere man, he could not have been less than fully a man. (111)

Jesus was fully God. Scripture is clear about it and ask the average conservative, orthodox believer and no doubt such truth is rightly affirmed. Christians have historically, from its very conception, affirmed the deity of their Savior.

Equally important is his humanity. Not only is Jesus divine, he is equally human. The ancient creeds (like Nicea and Chalcedon) affirm this, yet in many modern, orthodox churches his humanity has been greatly diminished. The motivation, I do not believe, is not rooted in poor theology, but fear. Liberal theology emphasizes Jesus’s humanity to a point that one can easily associate his deity with orthodox and his humanity with heresy. Yet sound theology must affirm and preach both.

As a result of this de-emphasis of Jesus’ humanity, many churches present Jesus as a glorified Superman figure that acts, wills, and works as a divine being trapped in a human body. Of course such churches would not admit that, more than likely, the impression is clearly there.

It is for that reason I was excited to read the book The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ from one of my favorite theologians, Dr. Bruce Ware. The author himself states: “My sense, though, is that evangelicals understand better Christ’s deity than they do his humanity, and so my focus here will be on the latter” (13).

Originally, I assumed Ware had written a basic introductory textbook on Christology with emphasis on his humanity. Though in many ways it is that, the book is, as the subtitle suggests, a collection of theological reflections on various aspects of Jesus’s humanity.

Each chapter looks at an important Christological verse in the New Testament and then shows the reader what it has to say about his humanity. Some are worth going back over in order to grasp it all. Most notable in this category include his discussion on what it means that Jesus grew in stature and wisdom (Luke 2) and what the writer of Hebrews means when he wrote that Jesus learned obedience through suffering.

Two sections worth noting in some detail include his discussion of the Spirit’s work in Jesus’s life and ministry and the role that the humanity of Jesus played in his atoning work. First, regarding the Spirit, Ware helpfully notes:

Notice one further point here, if you would. Can you imagine that the similarity in language between Acts 10:38 (“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”) and Acts 1:8 (“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”) is accidental or merely coincidental? I highly doubt it. It seems rather that Luke’s point would be this: the very power by which Jesus lived his life an carried out his mission (acts 10:38) is now ours since the Holy Spirit who was on him is given to us, his followers (Acts 1:8). What incredible new-covenant reality is now ours in Christ, by the indwelling Spirit! The long-awaited internalization of the spirit (Ezek. 36:27) is granted only as that Spirit first dwelt in Jesus, empowering his life and obedience, only then to be granted to Jesus’s followers. This side of the empty tomb and Pentecost, we, too, may live lives marked by that same supernatural Spirit-wrought empowerment for obedience and faithfulness. The very resource of Holy Spirit empowerment granted to Jesus for his life of obedience and faithfulness to the Father is now granted to Jesus’s disciples as they carry forward the message of Christ, living lives of obedience to Christ, all in the power of the Spirit. (38-39)

I have come across this argument before and I think it is an important one. The same Spirit that led Jesus is the same Spirit that now indwells and leads us to righteousness.

The second important point regards the atonement. Ware writes:
The atoning death of Christ was only efficacious because Jesus who died for our sin was a full and integral human being. Now granted, he had to be more than merely a man to die for our sins. To be sure, he had to be the God-man for the atonement to be efficacious. But while he had to be  more than a mere man, he could not have been less than fully a man. (111)
This aspect of the atonement is rarely discussed. Jesus died as a man. Suffered as a man. The wounds, blood, and cries from the cross were real.

Later he adds, “Penal substitution lies at the root of Christus Victor” (115-117) as well as all other proper views of the atonement. On this point, which I will not elaborate, I agree. I particularly enjoyed his argument here. I believe the three main purposes of the atonement are: Penal substitution, Christus Victor, and Christ Exemplar. At the root of these three lies penal substitution.

In the end, Dr. Ware has written a helpful book to the theological student. Ware ventures into a difficult part of theology and he walks the orthodox line carefully. Though the book is at times too deep for the average believer sitting in the pew, Ware offers a helpful work of exegesis and Christology. Let us marvel, ultimately, in the “man Christ Jesus” – the theoanthropic one – who lived, breathed, walked, suffered, died, and was raised as a man . . . and God.

All Around the Web - December 15, 2014

Thom Rainer - Ten Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

Fast Company - Church Giving Tops $50 Billion A Year In U.S.—And Its Future Is Not A Collection Plate

Canon and Culture - 7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture

Crossway - 10 Benefits of Reading the Bible - Part 1

Jim Hamilton - SBTS Publications in 2014




Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

MacArthur: Preach Theology & Practical Living

From his sermon on Titus 2:1:
Any pastor, any church leader is certainly called to this responsibility. Now let me make it very clear what he is saying. He is not saying speak sound doctrine. That's already been covered basically back in verse 9 of chapter 1 where the leaders of the church are instructed to hold fast the faithful Word and exhort with sound doctrine. What he is now saying is you must speak the things which are properly to be associated with sound doctrine, that is those things which issue in the matter of daily living. Teach the practical requirements for every day life that suit true doctrine. You can't just fill people's head with theology. You must be truly useful by teaching the required behavior that is consistent with sound doctrine. Healthy teaching, yes. And then instruction about healthy living. You can't just teach it without forcing the application, to some degree.
Later he adds:
So holy living is proper. Holy living is suitable. Holy living is fitting. Holy living is inseparable from sound doctrine. That's the point. So we are called then as those who lead the church to teach you healthy doctrine and to call you to healthy living. Diseased meat is not allowed to be sold in our country that's why we have agencies in the government that inspect meat and approve it because diseased meat can make you sick. It can even kill. And so can diseased teaching. Diseased teaching can make people sick and it is deadly. But on the other hand, even good meat eaten in wrong proportions or out of balance or in over indulgence can create sickness as well. It must be applied in the living of life and exercise and use to gain its benefit. And so it is with healthy teaching. Healthy sound teaching must be followed up by the call for healthy living.

All Around the Web - December 12, 2014

The Gospel Coalition - Can We Identify Those Who Prey on our Children?

Justin Taylor - A 20th Century Classic: “The Master Plan of Evangelism”

Denny Burk - Is same-sex attraction sinful? Charles Hodge sheds biblical light.

Trevin Wax - A “Dull Preacher” is a Contradiction

Wired - What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos


Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization "Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel


Should fundamentalists be blamed for the rise of the social gospel in the 20th century? Although the accusation sounds outlandish at first, Dr. David Bebbington makes a case that they might deserve some of the blame. In chapter 8 of his book Baptists Through the Centuries, Bebbington surveys the development of the social gospel in the twentieth century as well as how it affected and critiqued by the baptists around the world.

I must admit that the social gospel is a particular interests of mine. Its premise is simple which is why it continues to rear its ugly head over a hundred years later. Fundamentalists run afoul by limiting the gospel to a purely individualistic level. The social gospel responds by going the other extreme: the gospel is limited purely to a societal, communal level.

Bebbington begins his survey by highlighting the economic conditions that precipitated it. I will not rehash the statistics here, but no doubt lower and middle class Americans lived a poor life. However, there are other factors involved worth mentioning.

First, "Most Evangelicals of the nineteenth century professed postmillenialism" (125). Such an eschatology feeds right into the social gospel narrative. Later as dispensationalism developed and adopted by conservative and fundamentalist Christians, the social gospel was clearly inadequate.

Secondly, Prohibition played a major role in the rise of the social gospel. Prohibition was a fundamentalist cause. "Drunkenness" the author writes, "was widespread, leading to violence, sexual license, and incapacity to work, and so giving up strong drink seemed a solution to many problems" (127) This point is rather striking. The thinking behind Prohibition is strikingly similar to the economic and political causes of later social gospel peddlers. The basic assumption is that government reform transforms communities and individuals. Get rid of alcohol, and the rest will resolve itself. Add to this the "moral preoccupation" of many Evangelicals "to rescue prostitutes" (128) and the cultural background for the social gospel becomes clear.

But the greatest influence on the social gospel was not fundamentalist social causes but German theology. Bebbington highlights German theologians Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf Harnack and certainly they two towering figures. The author suggests that these men and their ideas "were particularly influential over [Walter] Rauschenbusch . . . In 1891," he then adds, "he spent nine months on a trip to Germany, absorbing Ritschl and hearing Harnack. The kernal notion that the gospel had originally been focused on creating a just earthly community became the hallmark of Rauschenbusch's thought. the community was the kingdom of God." (130)

Ultimately, the social gospel is liberal theology applied on the popular level. Because liberalism denies the basic doctrines of the faith, there is nothing left for them but social economics and politics. Salvation is about the here and now. It has to be. They deny the "then and there."

One point of critique. Bebbington makes the rather startling claim that Rauschenbusch was not as heterodox as one assumes. Bebbington begins by stating "It is true that Rauschenbusch was drawn to a broader theology than was normal among Baptists." He goes on to add
The younger theologian was sufficiently in tune with the Evangelical temper of the denomination to retain widespread confidence. . . . In an article on the "New Evangelism" in 1904, Rauschenbusch contended that fresh methods of spreading the gospel must not break with the old. Instead, the new evangelism "will have to retain all that was true and good in the old synthesis. Rauschenbusch saw his teaching as expanding the tradition rather than as undermining it. His version of the social gospel, though molded by German liberalism, still retained many hallmarks of of Evangelical religion. (132)
To suggest that Rauschenbusch's theology was "broad" isn't strong enough. His systematic theology, called A Theology for the Social Gospel is not Evangelical by any standard. The influence of German theology is clear. Perhaps I am reading Bebbington wrong, but I see no hint of a "broad theology" in the social gospel leader, only a liberal one.

Regardless, Bebbington provides a helpful survey of the social gospel movement of the twentieth century. It is important for the reader to know that studying the social gospel of the modern era remains prevalent among postmodern liberals. The language might have changed over the past century,  but the theology is very much the same.


For more:
A Theology For a Social Atonement: Walter Rauschenbusch & the Foundation of the Social Gospel - Links
"The Kingdom is Always But Coming" by Christopher Evans: A Review
"The Social Principles of Jesus" by Walter Rauschenbusch: A Review
Sanctification Demands It: The Necessity of the Atonement
You can read Waltar Raushenbush's groundbreaking book, "A Theology for the Social Gospel" online here.