Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Bibliology

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Introduction to Theology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - One-Volume Systematic TheologiesWhere to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Bibliology


Some time ago I came across a list of 25 theological books composed by Bruce Ashford he believes young theologians should read and invest in. I share my enthusiasm for most on his list and would recommend his post (you can read it here) but felt that for those brand new to the study of theology, many of the writings would be overwhelming and perhaps not the best place to start. For example, Augustine's City of God is a classic but is also an academic work that is over 1,000 pages with a unique historic context. I would not recommend a new theologian to begin there.

With that in mind, I want to compose my list of books for young theologians in various categories of theology of mostly modern books for young, budding theologians that I believe may be easier to understand. They are not classics, but I do believe they will be helpful resources to sink your teeth into.

In this third installment, here is a list of helpful bibliological books.

All Around the Web - August 30, 2016


Russell Moore - Why You Need a Church (Not Just a Campus Ministry)

Center for Spurgeon - 6 Things Spurgeon Didn't Say

Desiring God - Wait to Date Until You Can Marry

Jason K. Allen - How Expository Preaching Should Engage Cultural Concerns (Part II)

The Wardrobe - Why Do Americans Change Churches?

Chuck Lawless - 5 Reasons Church Growth Strategies Matter

Sam Storms - The Trinity in the Book of Revelation

Tim Challies - One Very Good Reason to Read Your Bible

Erik Raymond - Pastoral Ministry Does Not Have to Be Sedentary

Albert Mohler - Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is Settled in Heaven: The Unchanging Word in an Age of Mega-Change


Monday, August 29, 2016

"The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells: A Review

One cannot choose but wonder. Will he ever return? It may be that he swept back into the past, and fell among the blood-drinking, hairy savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone; into the abysses of the Cretaceous Sea; or among the grotesque saurians, the huge reptilian brutes of the Jurassic times. He may even now--if I may use the phrase--be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age. Or did he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are still men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I, for my own part cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment, fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man's culminating time! I say, for my own part. He, I know--for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made--thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so. But to me the future is still black and blank--is a vast ignorance, lit at a few casual places by the memory of his story. And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers --shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle--to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man. (116-117)

The question of time travel has always been of interest to man. If you could go back and time, when would you and what would be the repercussions of our actions in the present world? Likewise, what would it be like to venture into the future - into a world unknown? It is this latter question that H. G. Wells explores in his classic story The Time Machine first published in 1895.

In this narrative, Wells tells the story of an unnamed time traveler who builds a time machine and ventures into the future into the year 802,701 only to return a week later. What he discovers allows Wells to explore through the means of narrative the dual worldviews of capitalism and communism.

In this futuristic world, the time traveler finds the descendants of humanity broken into two groups. Those on the surface are the Eloi who are described as somewhat lazy human-like creatures who live a largely care-free, vegetarian life. Later in the story, the Time Traveler saves an Eloi, named Weena (the only named character in the narrative) because the rest of the Eloi do not seem to care to risk their own lives.

Below the surface are the Morlocks who are meat-eating machine builders who steal the time machine. They are cannibals who live in the dark and hunt Eloi at night. Naturally, they are the story's antagonists and the Time Traveler is only at danger when he is near them.

These two people-groups are the basis of Well's political ideology. Through the means of narrative, Wells, as many scholars have pointed out, is not merely telling us a good story, but making a prediction about the worldviews of communism and capitalism. To Wells, capitalism creates two classes: the haves and the have-nots. The Eloi represent those who have benefited from the riches of capitalism off of the back of the workers. They have since grown soft. The Morlocks, on the other hand, represent the working class who are the under-dwellers who after millennia of capitalism have become savages.

Here we see Well's criticism of capitalism which is sympathetic to communism. Yet to leave the critique of the book there is misleading. Before the Time Traveler discovers the wicked Morlocks, he assumes that in 802,701 he has finally arrived at the modernistic dream of Utopia. The Eloi are largely at ease because there is no longer anything to struggle against. No class warfare, no racial bigotry, and no gender bias. The secular hope of that mankind would progress to a type of heaven on earth, at first, was witnessed by the Time Traveler. When this was his presumption, Wells is critical of communism, though briefly.

As to Well's view of economics and politics, I will leave it to his biographers. I, however, read such classics as a Christian and there is something rarely discussed among critics and scholars of The Time Machine. Many see this as a criticism of unchecked capitalism in Victorian England and perhaps that was Well's intention, but something bigger is going on here: the vanity of the modernity. Wells describes a dystopian future of perpetual war and violence. There is no peace or Ubermensch here, just the same evolutionary struggle for existence. In Well's crystal ball, the future is not bright, but dark. Even after escaping to 802,701 AD, the Time Traveler moves millions more years into the future only to briefly see the earth begins its slow, natural destruction. Even the descendants of the Eloi, in this far future world, are not more evolved but actually devolved.

Maybe Wells is criticizing free market capitalism but it is hard to believe that communism will save us from such a dark future. Whether he meant to or not, Wells puts a mirror before the modernists and shows that their experiment is vanity. Man left to his own intellect cannot and will not save himself. This is the real value of The Time Machine. The future is dark apart from a vision bigger than political-economic debates among (post)modernists. Ecclesiastes explained that centuries ago. Maybe the unnamed Time Traveler should have gone to the past and spoken to Solomon. He could have told him the same story without the danger and hassle of losing his time machine tot he savage Morlocks.

All Around the Web - August 29, 2016

Rod Dreher - We Have Been Warned

Joe Carter - The FAQs: What You Should Know About Human-Animal Hybrids

Trevin Wax - How Donald Trump Divided and Conquered the Religious Right

Andrew Walker - Can Christian Sexual Ethics be Thrown into the Dustbin of History?

John Stonestreet - Settled Science? Not!

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things That Stress Out Returning Missionaries

Thom Rainer - Four Kinds of Church Members Your Church Will Always Lose 

Sam Storms - What Piper Said at Google: Is Jesus Christ an Egomaniac?

KBC - What do new overtime regulations mean for churches?

The Blaze - Comedian Couple End Their TV Show to Focus on ‘Most Important Project’: Their Five Kids


Friday, August 26, 2016

"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 5

It is clear that religious liberty is being lost in America. As such, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources of previous generations defending and promoting religious liberty from noted Christians. To begin, let us look at Isaac Backus essay An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppression of the Present Day published in 1773.


"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part1
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 2
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 3
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 4
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 5

Conclusion

And now our dear countrymen, we beseech you seriously to consider of these things. The great importance of a general union through this country, in order to the preservation of our liberties, has often been pleaded for with propriety; but how can such a union be expected so long as that dearest of all rights, equal liberty of conscience is not allowed? Yea, how can any reasonably expect that he who has the hearts of kings in his hand, will turn the heart of our earthly sovereign to hear the pleas for liberty, of those who will not hear the cries of their fellow-subjects, under their oppressions? Has it not been plainly proved, that so far as any man gratifies his own inclinations, without regard to the universal law of equity, so far he is in bondage? so that it is impossible for any one to tyranize over others, without thereby becoming a miserable slave himself: a slave to raging lusts, and a slave to guilty fears of what will be the consequence. We are told that the father of Cyrus, tho' a heathen,
 
"Had often taught him to consider, that the prudence of men is very short, and their views very limited; that they cannot penetrate into futurity; and that many times what they think must needs turn to their advantage proves their ruin; whereas the gods being eternal, know all things, future as well as past, and inspire those that love them to undertake what is most expedient for them; which is a favor and protection they owe to no man, and grant only to those that invoke and consult them."
 
And we are told by the same author, of another wise heathen, who said, "'Tis observable, that those that fear the Deity most, are least afraid of man." And shall not christians awake to a most hearty reverence of him who has said (and will ever make good his word), With what measure ye meet, it shall be measured to you again.
 
Suffer us a little to expostulate with our fathers and brethren, who inhabit the land to which our ancestors fled for religious liberty. You have lately been accused with being disorderly and rebellious, by men in power, who profess a great regard for order and the public good; and why don't you believe them, and rest easy under their administrations? You tell us you cannot, because you are taxed where you are not represented; and is it not really so with us? You do not deny the right of the British parliament to impose taxes within her own realm; only complain that she extends her taxing power beyond her proper limits; and have we not as good right to say you do the same thing? and so that wherein you judge others you condemn your selves? Can three thousand miles possibly fix such limits to taxing power, as the difference between civil and sacred matters has already done? One is only a distance of space, the other is so great a difference in the nature of things, as there is between sacrifices to God, and the ordinances of men. This we trust has been fully proved.
 
If we ask why have you not been easy and thankful since the parliament has taken off so many of the taxes that they had laid upon us? you answer that they still claim a power to tax us, when, and as much as they please; and is not that the very difficulty before us? In the year 1747, our legislature passed an act to free the baptists in general from ministerial taxes for ten years: yet because they increased considerably, when that time was about half expired, they broke in upon the liberty they had granted, and made a new act, wherein no baptist church nor minister was allowed to have any such exemption, till they had first obtained certificates from three other churches. By which the late Mr. John Procter observed (in a remonstrance that he drew, and which was presented to our court) that they had as far as in them lay,
"disfranchised, unchurched and usurped an illegal power over all the religious societies of the people in said act called anabaptists throughout this province:--For where is it possible for the poor anabaptists to find the first three authenticated ministers and churches to authenticate the first three!"
 
So we have now related a case, in which a number of our brethren were put to new cost for copies to notify others, with hope of relief to themselves, and yet in the same session of court, they had a worse burden laid upon them than before; and their repeated cries, and then the petition of our united churches, were all rejected.
 
A very great grievance which our country has justly complained of is, that by some late proceedings a man's house or locks cannot secure either his person or his property, from oppressive officers. Pray then consider what our brethren have suffered at Ashfleld.
 
Many think it hard to be frowned upon only for pleading for their rights, and laying open particular acts of encroachment thereon; but what frowns have we met with for no other crime? and as the present contest between Great-Britain and America, is not so much about the greatness of the taxes already laid, as about a submission to their taxing power; so (though what we have already suffered is far from being a trifle, yet) our greatest difficulty at present concerns the submitting to a taxing power in ecclesiastical affairs. It is supposed by many that we are exempted from such taxes, but they are greatly mistaken, for all know that paper is a money article; and writing upon it is labour, and this tax we must pay every year, as a token of submission to their power, or else they will lay a heavier tax upon us. And we have one difficulty in submitting to this power, which our countrymen have not in the other case: that is, our case affects the conscience, as their's does not: and equal liberty of conscience is one essential article in our charter, which constitutes this government, and describes the extent of our rulers authority, and what are the rights and liberties of the people. And in the confession of faith which our rulers and their ministers have published to the world, they say,
 
"God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing contrary to his word; or not contained in it; so that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also."
And a most famous historian of their's, after mentioning some former violations of that liberty, says,
"The great noise that hath been made in the world about the persecution made in New-England, I will now stop with only transcribing the words uttered in the sermon to the first great and general assembly of the Massachusetts-Bay, after the two colonies of Massachusetts and Plymouth were by royal charter united. (from 2 Chron. 12. 12.)"
 
Things will go well, when magistrates are great promoters of the thing that good is, and what the Lord requireth of them. I do not mean that it would be well for the civil magistrate, with civil penalty to compel men to this or that way of worship, which they are conscientiously indisposed unto. He is most properly the officer of human society, and a christian by non-conformity to this or that imposed way of worship, does not break the terms on which he is to enjoy the benefits of human society. A man has a right unto his life, his estate, his liberty, and his family, although he should not come up unto these and those blessed institutions of our Lord. Violences may bring the erroneous to be hypocrites, but they will never bring them to be believers; no, they naturally prejudice men's minds against the cause, which is therein pretended for, as being a weak, a wrong, an evil cause.
 
These things were then delivered and were received with the thanks of the house of representatives, and ten years after were spread by the historian thro' the nation, with the express design of stoping any further complaints about New-England's persecutions. But if the constitution of this government, gives the magistrate no other authority than what belongs to civil society, we desire to know how he ever came to impose any particular way of worship, upon any town or precinct whatsoever? And if a man has a right to his estate, his liberty and his family, notwithstanding his non-conformity to the magistrates way of worship, by what authority has any man had his goods spoiled, his land sold, or his person imprisoned, and thereby deprived of the enjoyment both of his liberty and his family, for no crime at all against the peace or welfare of the state, but only because he refused to conform to, or to support an imposed way of worship, or an imposed minister.
 
In a celebrated oration for liberty, published last spring in Boston, a maxim was recited which carries it's own evidence with it, which is this, no man can give that which is another's. Yet have not our legislature from time to time, made acts to empower the major part of the inhabitants in towns and precincts, to give away their neighbours estates to what ministers they please! And can we submit to such doctrines and commandments of men, and not betray true liberty of conscience! Every person is or ought to be, benefited by civil government, and therefore they owe rulers honor and a tribute on that account; but the like cannot be truly said of an imposed minister; for as the gospel ministry is an ordinance of God and not of man, so the obligation that any person or people are under to obey and support any man as a minister of Christ, arises from the consideration of his appearing to them to resemble his Master in doctrine and conversation, and from the benefit which people receive under their ministrations. From whence the law of equity makes the free communications of our carnal things to Christ's ministers, to be a matter that as really concerns the exercise of a good conscience toward God, as prayer and praise do; for they are both called sacrifices to him in the same chapter. Heb. 13. 15, 16.
 
Thus we have laid before the public a brief view of our sentiments concerning liberty of conscience, and a little sketch of our sufferings on that account. If any can show us that we have made any mistakes, either about principles or facts, we would lie open to conviction: But we hope none will violate the forecited article of faith so much, as to require us to yield a blind obedience to them, or to expect that spoiling of goods or imprisonment can move us to betray the cause of true liberty.
 
A late writer in the Boston papers, has taken much pains to prove, that some other colonies have imposed upon people in such affairs worse than New-England has; and to prove it he informs us, that an act for ministers maintenance, was passed in New-York near eighty years ago, which succeeding rulers have turned to support a denomination that had very few representatives in court when the act was made, while the denomination who made it, have been denied any benefit from it. If so, how loud is the call to every man that is a friend to liberty, and who regards the, good of posterity, to rise and exert all his influence, to demolish the engine which has done so much mischief in all ages! We are far from trying to represent the fathers of New-England as the worst of the colonists; We believe the contrary. But our veneration for their memory, is so far from reconciling us to, that it fills us with greater detestation of, that mystery of iniquity, which carried them into such acts or imposition and persecution as have left a great blemish upon their character. And since these are tedious things to dwell upon, we shall close with this remark.
The Massachusetts ministers, in their letter to governor Jencks and other baptists in Providence, said, We hope and pray that ancient matters that had acrimony unhappily in them may be buried in oblivion. Now we are told that acrimony signifies that quality in one body whereby it corrodes, eats up or destroys another, This eating destroying quality is truly unhappy: but how can it be buried before it is dead? The worst of criminals are to be executed before they are buried. Therefore let this cruel man-eater be fairly executed, and we are ready to join heart and hand to bury him, and not to have a bone of him left for contention in all the land. If it be so hard to our opponents to hear of these matters, what has it been to those who have felt their eating and destroying influence for these hundred and forty years? And how can any person lift up his head before God or man, and say he hopes to have these things buried, if he at the same time holds fast, and tries hard to keep alive the procuring cause of them!
 
The foregoing appeal, having been examined and approved by many of his brethren, is presented to the public, by their humble servant,
 
Isaac Backus
 

Postscript

Since the above was written, I have received direct accounts, that at Montague (whose case is mentioned p. [349].) they continue from time to time, to make distress upon the principal members of the baptist church there, whom the law directs to sign their certificates, while they let the rest of the society alone. Also that William White a regular member of the baptist church in Ashfield, who lives in Chesterfield, and has had his standing in said church certified according to law; yet had a cow taken from him on August 25, 1773, and sold the 30th, for the pedobaptist ministers rate; and that in both of these places, the civil charges of the town, and the ministers salary are all blended in one tax (contrary as I am informed to the law of our province) so that our brethren who would readily pay their civil tax, yet cannot do it, without paying the ministers also! Now the grand pretence that is made for the use of the secular arm to support ministers is, that thereby equality is established among the people; but what religion, equality or equity can there be in the above proceedings!

All Around the Web - August 26, 2016

WORLD - Christian judge fights to keep job
 
WORLD - Dodging a bullet

Trevin Wax - The 3 Minor Prophets Who Wrecked Me

Denny Burk - Asking the Right Questions about Intersex Athletes — Part 1

Evangelical History - The Faith of Woodrow Wilson: An Interview with Barry Hankins

Sam Storms - Is It Ever OK for a Christian to Lie?

Jared Wilson - 5 Words of Advice for Young Seminarians

Kevin DeYoung - Pastoral Anxiety

Chuck Lawless - Preaching to the Unchurched: 3 Adjustments I’ve Made

Sunday Mag - 10 Ideas for Using Snapchat at Your Church

BibleX - How Long Is the Average Sermon Series?




HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2

Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2


The Meaning

Writing about the Jewish slaves in the Exodus narrative, George Morrison said, “It took one night to Israel out of Egypt, but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.”[1] Freedom is not a matter of location or title or legal declaration. Freedom is not something we can give ourselves, but can only be found in Christ. Though the writers of Prison Break never went that far, they came close.

All of the characters of the story are in prison whether they find themselves behind literally bars or not. Michael Scoffield, for example, is a prisoner to wanting to be a savior. Once he discovers his brother is innocent, he goes to the extreme of imprisoning himself in order to break his brother out. In each season, Michael feels guilty for his failures. The victims of "T-bag," he feels, are on his hands. He, personally, did not save those victims. He is to blame. Had he figured out a way to prevent Bagwell from breakout with him, they would still be alive. Likewise, when Michael and Lincoln finally arrive in Panama, Sara is on trial and he plots how he might save her. He is a slave to this. Early in the series we discover that Michael suffers from low latent inhibition which feeds his empathy towards those who suffer.

Lincoln is no different. From the time he was a child he acted rashly and without thought. He was in constant trouble and prison. This created a fractured relationship between him and Michael. While Michael always had a plan, Lincoln is quick to act. He is more of a bull in a china shop than a thinker. Yet Lincoln is no killer until season 3 as his character becomes very dark and non-remorseful. Lincoln is a man who is never in control. Though he is strong, he controls nothing. The one time he is innocent, he is declared guilty. He involvement in the case was due to his need to pay off mounting debts. Lincoln is portrayed as being strong enough to fight five men at one time, yet he cannot win a single fight. He, even as a free man, is a prisoner.

Sara Tancredi is also a prisoner. At first she is portrayed as a sacrificial, empathetic doctor who is the daughter of the Illinois governor who works at a local prison out of the kindness of her heart. Yet we discover she is a drug addict. She has used her position as a doctor to steal drugs for herself. The escape of the "Fox River Six" fuels her drug addiction until Michael wins her heart again. Her love for Michael does not cure her addition, it replaces it. Her affection for the escaped convict with questionable morals causes her to make poor and dangerous decisions herself. She is the Harley Quinn of the story and she too is a prisoner who cannot escape.

All of the other characters are the same. Theodore Bagwell was sexually abused by his father and pursues true love only to revert to violence when women do not return the favor. There is a brief moment of redemption for him when he refuses to murder his "true love" and her family and instead lets them go free. In season 4, Bagwell summarizes this overarching theme when he states (as a free man), "We are captives of our own identities living in prisons of our own creation."

Bagwell eventually takes on the persona of Cole Pfeiffer, one of the best salesmen for Gate. After it all falls apart, Bagwell asks an undercover FBI agent if such a lifestyle fit him. Bagwell was starting to believe that he could move away from crime, yet in the end he doesn't. Its a fantasy for the murderer to believe he could ever be free. He, as he said himself, is a captive of his own identity. Cole Pfeiffer was a myth.

Alexander Mahone is another great example. He is introduced in season 2 as a self-confident FBI agent assigned to catch the fugitives. Yet as his story unfolds, we discover he is a man riddled with guilt. He is a workaholic who obsesses with each case. A previous case proved to be detrimental to his mental, emotional, and spiritual health. One fugitive proved impossible to capture until finally Mahone secretly murdered the man and literally buried him in his own back yard. That guilt ruined his marriage and explains his involvement with the Company who organized his role as the lead investigator to capture the Fox River fugitives. Mahone, a free man, "manages" his guilt by taking strong, addictive pills to numb the pain. He eventually lands himself in Sona, a dangerous prison, where he must take even stronger drugs.

John Abruzzi, eventually killed in season 2, is a prisoner to his pride and power as a mob boss. Even as an escapee he insists on taking revenge on the man who turned him in. His wife protests yet he refuses and his stubborness leads to his death. Brad Bellick is a prisoner to wealth who cons prisoners while working at Fox River. When fired he chases the escaped convicts in pursuit of the $5 million. Through his entire narrative, he proves himself to be a man without a moral compass willing to sell anyone out for security and personal benefit.

The same could be said for virtually all of the major characters. Whatever side of the prison bars they are on, they are in chains. This does not imply, however, there is no redemption in the show, it is to say that imprisonment defines us all.

Regarding redemption, there are two ultimate options the show offers and neither are the right answer. The first is death. Both the deaths of Abruzzi and Haywire, the mentally disturbed escapee, are portrayed as liberating. Haywire was in pursuit of Holland and is told by Mahone that jumping to his death will get him there. His suicide is portrayed as liberating. While the rest of the convicts are running, Haywire is resting. C-Note, too, tries to commit suicide in order to protect his family though he ultimately fails. Such an act is viewed as heroic. Bellick's death is also heroic because of its sacrificial nature. In each of these cases, the characters do not find freedom until they find death.

The second source of redemption is hope rested in a faith in mysterious chance. Over and over again when their backs are up against the wall, the brothers tell each other that they "gotta have faith." At best, their faith is in luck which continues to be on their side. There is no God in the worldview of Prison Break. He is rarely mentioned and never a serious part of the narrative. So when the brothers mention "faith," they are not speaking of providence, but are trusting in a faceless and nameless force. There is no real freedom, let alone hope, in that.

This is why there is no real resolution to the story in the end. Yes the convicts and other characters are "justified" (to borrow a Christian term) when Scylla is finally recovered and the Company distroyed. Even with their acquittal, the show had established that they are prisoners even without the threat of imprisonment. Michael, the main character, is the closest thing the story has to a savior and even he falls short as he remains in bondage all the way to the end. Even his sacrificial death is not that of a spotless lamb. Perhaps this is why there must be a Season 5.

In the end, however, Prison Break puts a mirror up to human nature. We are all in bondage regardless of our "rap sheet." The only hope to freedom we have is a savior - a real one - that is not, himself, in chains. Michael Scoffield is not that Savior. Jesus is who, though like us in every way, was without sin, without bondage and therefore, can alone set us free.
You know we spend so much of our lives not saying the things we want to say . . . The things we should say. We speak in code, we send little messages; origami. So now, plainly, simply, I want to say that I love you both. Very much. And I want you to promise me, that you're gonna tell my child . . . that you're gonna tell my child how much they're loved everyday. And remind them how lucky they are . . . to be free, because we are. We're free now, finally. We're free.
-Michael Scoffield, final words




For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office
Christianity and the Small Screen: "Smallville"
Christianity and the Small Screen: Fox's "House, M. D."
Christianity and the Small Screen: NBC's "Crisis"
Christianity and the Small Screen: FBI Files   

All Around the Web - August 25, 2016

Happy birthday to my wife!


Joe Carter - Danger to California’s Christian Colleges Has Been Avoided—For Now

Albert Mohler - What Became of the Christian Intellectuals? There is More to the Story

Chuck Lawless - 10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Church’s Attendance This Weekend

Tim Challies - The Bestsellers: The Love Dare

Thom Rainer - Four Types of Churches That Will Soon Die

Eric Metaxas -  Faith at the Olympics

RC Sproul - Can the Devil Read My Mind?

Denny Burk - Hillbilly Elegy lives up to the hype

Chuck Lawless - 8 Experiences All Church Leaders Need

George Guthrie - 4 Interesting Facts about the Production of the King James Translation


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Dust on Our Bible's

From his devotion Reading the Scriptures:
If this be the Word of God, what will become of some of you who have not read it for the last month? "Month, sir! I have not read it for this year." Ay, there are some of you who have not read it at all. Most people treat the Bible very politely. They have a small pocket volume, neatly bound; they put a white pocket-handkerchief around it, and carry it to their places of worship. When they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning; then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat and goes to chapel; that is all the poor Bible gets int he way of an airing. That is your style of entertaining this Heavenly messenger. There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write "damnation" with your fingers.




All Around the Web - August 24, 2016

The Federalists - Pressed By Common Core And LGBT Agenda, More Families Homeschool

Russell Moore - Signposts: Why Christians Must Keep Christianity Strange

Sam Storms - Is it ever OK for a Christian to take an Oath?

Evangelical History - Where Did the Footprints Poem Come From?

Managing Your Church - Who Should Know What People Give?

Crossway - Why Study the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah?

Chuck Lawless - 9 Values of a Church Staff Retreat

Cold-Case Christianity - The Apostles Wrote the Gospels as Eyewitness Accounts

Bible Gateway - The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: The Tower of Babel

Deadline - TriStar, Mark Gordon & eOne Revive ‘The Chronicles Of Narnia’ With ‘The Silver Chair’


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - One-Volume Systematic Theologies

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Introduction to Theology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - One-Volume Systematic Theologies


Some time ago I came across a list of 25 theological books composed by Bruce Ashford he believes young theologians should read and invest in. I share my enthusiasm for most on his list and would recommend his post (you can read it here) but felt that for those brand new to the study of theology, many of the writings would be overwhelming and perhaps not the best place to start. For example, Augustine's City of God is a classic but is also an academic work that is over 1,000 pages with a unique historic context. I would not recommend a new theologian to begin there.

With that in mind, I want to compose my list of books for young theologians in various categories of theology of mostly modern books for young, budding theologians that I believe may be easier to understand. They are not classics, but I do believe they will be helpful resources to sink your teeth into.

In this second installment, here is a list of helpful one-volume systematic theologies.

  • Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology - This is the most helpful introduction one-volume resource to systematic, historic, dogmatic, and biblical theology I have come across. I would highly recommend young theologians invest in it and read it.
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine - This is, I assume, the best selling one-volume systematic theology in recent years. It was the textbook of the college and seminary I attended. It is a helpful book. Grudem is a five-point Calvinists with soft charismatic tendencies.
  • Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology:A Biblical and Systematic Approach - I like a lot that Bird does in this volume, though I do not like everything about it. The best part of this book is its emphasis on the gospel. That alone makes it worth your investment. Bird is an Anglican.
  • Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth - This is perhaps the simpliest of books in this category and worth having on your bookshelf. Ryrie is Arminian and dispensational.
  • Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe - Although Driscoll's ministry has fallen on hard times in recent years, I still consider this as his best work. Driscll and Breshear offers a systematic theology written in a biblical theology approach. I find this book to be a really helpful introduction to theology and the writers are engaging and insightful. They write from a Calvinist perspective with soft charismatic leanings.
  • RC Sproul, Everyone's a Theologian - This is, in essence, a introductory systematic theology by Sproul. He walks the reader through the various loci of theology. Sproul is a well-known presbyterian Calvinist and writes from that perspective. He is also an accomplished philosopher and uses those skills. 
  • James P. Boyce, Abstract of Theology - Though written over 150 years ago, I still enjoy the founder of Southern Seminary's systematic theology. I wouldn't recommend it as the first systematic theology to read, but it is worth having on your shelf.

All Around the Web - August 23, 2016

Relevant - Will The Big Screen Narnia Reboot Finally Get CS Lewis Right?: Probably not.

John Stonestreet - The NIH Wants Pig Men: H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis Revisited

Sean McDowell - Did the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Exist?

John MacArthur - Social Media and the Me Monster

Thom Rainer - Six Terrible Ways to Recruit Ministry Volunteers in Your Church

Chuck Lawless - 4 Reasons Pastors Don’t Trust Each Other . . . and 5 Ways to Address It

Jason Allen - How Expository Preaching Should Engage Cultural Concerns (Part I)

Grace to You - Are We Physically Healed By Jesus's Stripes?

Erik Raymond - Creation’s Alarming Parody

Five Thirty Eight - Hosting The Olympics Is A Terrible Investment


Monday, August 22, 2016

Harry S. Truman: An American Experience

Here is the American Experience documentary on Harry S. Truman.




American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience 
Harry S. Truman: An American Experience
Lyndon B. Johnson: 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


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: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Rebel in Chief" by Fred Barnes: A Review
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President George H. W. Bush - "The Quiet Man" by John Sununu: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza
President Ronald Reagan - "Rawhide Down" by Del Quentin Wilber: A Review
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President Lyndon B. Johnson - "Lyndon B. Johnson" by Charles Peters: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "JFK, Conservative" by Ira Stoll: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "The Kennedy Assassination - 24 Hours After" by Steven Gillon

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 Harry S. Truman - Harry S. Truman" by Robert Dallek: A Review
President Calvin Coolidge - "Coolidge" by Amity Shlaes" A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
President Abraham Lincoln - "Manhunt" by James L. Swanson: A Review
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review
"Baptism By Fire" by Mark Updegrove: A Review
"The First Family Detail" by Ronald Kessler: A Review
"Double Down" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: A Review 

Harry S. Truman" by Robert Dallek: A Review

Harry Truman complained constantly about the burdens of the presidency. "Liars and demagogues," in his words, abused him and he had little means to make them "behave." he told his sister in November 1947 that "all the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway."

He also repeatedly stated his readiness, indeed eagerness, to retire after his term was up. But the truth was that he loved political combat and relished beating opponents who had repeatedly underestimated him. He also believed - as did everyone who has ever run for the office - that he could serve the national well-being better than any of his competitors. And so he resolved to run to become president in his own name in 1948. (68)

If all the Presidents of the 20th Century whose popularity has rebounded the most, no doubt Harry S. Truman is at the top of that list. Truman had the double burden of succeeding a wildly popular and influential President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and did so following his death. Those presidents who inherit the presidency largely confess they feel as if they did not earn the office and the people let them know about it.

For much of his presidency, especially as he left office, Truman was an unpopular leader. His election in 1948 is nothing short of earth-shattering and unexpected. Yet even with being elected President, Truman's popularity only continued to tank until he passed the reigns over to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Nevertheless, Truman's popularity has climbed over the years. This theme was explored in Robert Dallek's biography simply titled Harry S. Truman and is part the American Presidents series. Dallek is a well known presidential historian and his insight is made evident here.

Unlike the other books I have read in this series, Dallek's biography is dominated by Truman's presidential experience. Typically the American Presidents series, at least those I have read, explore with equal time the childhood, young adult life, presidency, and post-presidency. Dallek does the opposite. In a single chapter, the reader is briefly introduced to Truman's birth, childhood, and early political career. The rest of the book, outside of the epilogue, is dedicated to his years in office. I, for one, prefer Dallek's approach.

As the story unfolds, the author reminds the reader just how unpopular Truman was throughout his presidency, yet today he remains one of the more beloved commander and chiefs of the US in the 20th century. Why? Dallek offers several examples most of which come from the reason of validation. Truman led the way on civil rights long before there was a civil rights movement. Though he could have done more, the reader should not fail to see the courage this took. Likewise, the Truman Doctrine on how to deal with the communist threat was proven correct in 1991 when the Soviet Union eventually collapsed. He ended the second world war and his persona as a simple, everyday America who spoke in plain language with the American people appeals today.

All of this leads Dallek to both introduce and conclude the book with the assertion that Truman should be considered as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century. The first paragraph of the book says:
Of the eighteen twentieth-century American presidents, beginning with William McKinley and ending with Bill Clinton, only four currently have claims on great or near-great leadership: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. Perhaps in time Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton may join this elite group, but at this juncture such a judgment is premature.(1)
This sentiment is repeated at the end of the book, and yet even after reading Dallek's biography, I cannot agree with him. In terms of "great or near-great leadership" (to use his categorization) in the 20th century, no doubt the Roosevelt cousins belong in that discussion. Woodrow Wilson is debatable (his progressive liberalism greatly damaged this country). Ronald Reagan certainly ought to be named with the Roosevelt's and perhaps JFK and Dwight Eisenhower ought to be there. Though Truman was not the worse president of the 20th Century (I'm looking at you Jimmy Carter), I do not believe he belongs among such an elite group of men.

Truman is known as a straight shooter with good character, yet often the opposite comes out. Yes the buck did stop at Truman's desk, but he was a politician who played the game and his primary strategy in 1948 was not to run on vision but fear-mongering.

Regardless, Dallek does offer a helpful introduction to Truman. Though I disagree with his thesis, that does not diminish the rest of the book. When Dallek focuses on Truman the man and the president, his skills as a historian really shine through.


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: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Rebel in Chief" by Fred Barnes: A Review
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President George H. W. Bush - "The Quiet Man" by John Sununu: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza
President Ronald Reagan - "Rawhide Down" by Del Quentin Wilber: A Review
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President Lyndon B. Johnson - "Lyndon B. Johnson" by Charles Peters: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "JFK, Conservative" by Ira Stoll: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "The Kennedy Assassination - 24 Hours After" by Steven Gillon

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 Harry S. Truman - Harry S. Truman" by Robert Dallek: A Review
President Calvin Coolidge - "Coolidge" by Amity Shlaes" A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
President Abraham Lincoln - "Manhunt" by James L. Swanson: A Review
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review
"Baptism By Fire" by Mark Updegrove: A Review
"The First Family Detail" by Ronald Kessler: A Review
"Double Down" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: A Review 


American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience 
Lyndon B. Johnson: 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 - August 22, 2016


Russell Moore - Should the Church View Homosexuality Like Divorce?

Joe Carter - The FAQs: The World Vision Gaza Scandal

Trevin Wax - 3 Dangers of Dividing People By Generation

The Gospel Coalition - How God Saved Me from the Prosperity Gospel

John Stonestreet - A Temporary Win for Religious Universities in California

Focus on the Family/Albert Mohler - The Value of Marrying Young

Timothy Paul Jones - Leadership: Your Church Is Not Your Platform

Chuck Lawless - 08/16/16 Mixed Emotions of Ministry

The Resurgent - The Liberals Have Put Us in a Race War

The Atlantic - The Reality of Those 'Real People, Not Actors' Ads


Friday, August 19, 2016

"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 4

It is clear that religious liberty is being lost in America. As such, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources of previous generations defending and promoting religious liberty from noted Christians. To begin, let us look at Isaac Backus essay An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppression of the Present Day published in 1773.


"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part1
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 2
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 3
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 4

Section III

A brief account of what the baptists have suffered under this constitution, and of their reasons for refusing any active compliance with it.
 
Many are ready to say, the baptists are exempted from ministerial taxes, therefore why do they complain? Answer, We would be far from forgetting or undervaluing of our privileges: but are willing thankfully to acknowledge, that our honored rulers do protect our societies, so as not to allow them to be interrupted in their worship; and as the taking cognizance of marriage belongs to them, we take it as a favour that they grant our ministers power to administer it, so that we may have marriage solemnized among ourselves. Many other liberties we also enjoy under the government that is set over us, for which we desire to be thankful, both to the author, and to the instruments of them. Yet if our opponents could once put themselves into our place, we doubt not but they would think it was high time, to seek for more full liberty than we have hitherto enjoyed, a short view of but a little part of what we have met with, may be sufficient to evince this.
 
Our charter, as before observed, gives us equal religious liberty with other christians: yet the pedobaptists being the greatest party, they soon made a perpetual law to support their own way, but did nothing of that nature to exempt our denomination from it, for 36 years; and since that time, what they have done in that respect has only been by temporary acts, which have been so often changed, that many times their own officers have hardly known what the law was, that was in force; and as an exact conformity to the letter of their laws is much insisted upon in their executive courts, while those acts have never been enforced with penalties upon their own people, they have often broken them, and we have had but little chance to get them punished for so doing. For in all their acts till the last, they have imposed a name upon us, that signifies re-baptizers; which we cannot understandingly own. In many acts the words "belonging thereto" were inserted so ambiguously, as to leave it disputable, whether a being church members or only a belonging to the congregation or worshipping assembly were intended; and in the case of Haverhill, where their certificate was otherways compleat, and the case had been determined in the baptists favor, in that which both parties had agreed should be the final trial, yet another hearing was obtained in which the want of them ambiguous words in the certificate, was made, the main plea by which an action was turned against us, of near three hundred dollars. All their latter acts have required a list or lists of our societies, to be given in annually, by a certain day, signed by three principal members, and the minister if there be any; and because one of our churches of above 50 members (and which is now a church in good credit) happened one year to have such a difficulty with their minister, as prevented the giving in of said list, they were taxed to pedobaptist ministers; and tho' some of the society were advised to apply to their county court for relief, yet instead of obtaining any, the court took away 20 dollars more from them. Another church gave in their list by the direction of a noted lawyer, yet they were all taxed to the pedobaptist worship, and one of the principal members of the baptist church, which the law directed to sign the list, was strained upon; and both the inferior and superior court turned the case against him, because he was a party concerned.
 
Here note, the inhabitants of our mother-country are not more of a party concerned, in imposing taxes upon us without our consent, than they have been in this land who have made and executed laws, to tax us to uphold their worship. This party influence has appeared in a much larger number of instances than we are willing to trouble the public with at this time but one instance more will set our case in such a striking light, that we must ask for a very serious attention to it; we mean that of Ashfield, formerly called Hunts-town in the county of Hampshire. One of the conditions on which that plantation was granted by our legislature, was their settling a learned orthodox minister, and building a meeting-house. Now in the year 1761, full two thirds of the inhabitants called and settled a minister, who they believed was taught of God and truly orthodox. But not being of the same mode with the court (for they were baptists) other people were prompted on, before this society could get up a meeting-house, to settle another minister, and to tax the first minister with all his people to support their way. This burden the baptists bore for a number of years, till in 1768, they presented a petition to our general court for relief; who ordered that they should serve the town and proprietors of Ashfield with a copy of the petition, that they might shew cause, if any they had, at the next session of the court why it should not be granted, and that a further collection of taxes from the petitioners should be suspended in the mean time. Yet in the same session of the court, a law was made which cut the baptists in that place, off from any exemption from ministerial taxes at all. In consequence of which several hundred acres of their lands were sold at public auction, for but a small part of their real value; of which ten acres belonged to the baptist minister. And after five or six journies of above an hundred miles to seek relief, and long waiting without success, their messenger was at last plainly told, by a number of our representatives, "That they had a right to make that law, and to keep the baptists under it as long as they saw fit." Hereupon notice was given in some Boston papers, of a design among our churches of joining to seek redress from another quarter.
Accordingly at an association or general meeting of our churches at Bellingham, in September, 1770, these things were considered, and it was unanimously agreed upon to apply to his majesty for help, if it could not speedily be obtained here; and a committee and agents were chosen for that purpose. When news hereof was spread, our committee were urged by leading men both in church and state, to apply again to our general court; which therefore they did in October following. In the mean time a piece dated from Cambridge, where the court was then sitting, was published in all the Boston news-papers, wherein it was represented that, "All possible care had been taken to prevent our suffering the least disadvantage from our religious sentiments"; and we were challenged to shew the contrary if we could.
 
Upon this the pious and learned Mr. John Davis, who from Pennsylvania had not long before been ordained pastor of the second baptist church in Boston, and who was clerk of our committee, called them together to consider of this matter. And though they were far from desiring to enter into a news-paper controversy, yet they advised him to make some reply to that challenge: He did so; and on Dec. 27, published a brief and plain view of the case of Ashfield: but instead of any fair and manly treatment upon it, he in the Evening-Post of Jan. 7, 1771, was not only insulted with the names of, "A little upstart gentleman; enthusiastical biggot; and, this stripling highfliar"; but had it also insinuated that he was employed "by the enemies of America to defame and blacken the colonies, and this town in particular." And they had the impudence to pretend to the world, that all this was wrote by a catholic baptist . And they inflamed the populace so against Mr. Davis, that his most judicious friends were afraid of his being mobbed. But can it be in the power of others to blacken any people so much, as by this treatment of a worthy stranger (now at rest) they have blackened themselves! Instead of honestly coming to the light (which our Lord gives as the criterion to know him that doth truth, John 3. 21.) how do they hover in the works of darkness.
 
The first article in our committee's petition to the legislature, being for Ashfield, they were ordered to notify the proprietors thereof: They did so; and in the spring session of the assembly, they came with a long address against us, in which they begin, with saying more generally of the baptists in that part of the province,
 
"The proprietors conceive it to be a duty they owe to God and their country, not to be dispensed with, to lay open the characters, and real springs of action of some of these people."
 
Then they go on to say,
 
"The rule the petitioners have set up and on which alone they seem to ground their claim of exemption, is falsly applied, and therefore all arguments bottomed on it must be inconclusive. Natural rights, as the respondents humbly conceive, are in this province wholly superceded in this case by civil obligation, and in matters of taxation individuals cannot with the least propriety plead them."
 
Having thus denied us any claim from natural rights, they resume what they call an indispensible duty, viz, an attempt to lay before our honored legislature the baptists character, and the springs of their actions; and after a number of mean reflections without any proof at all, they sum up the springs of the actions of most of them to be "Pride, vanity, prejudice, impurity and uncharitableness." Very dreadful indeed if it could be proved! but that is referred to a hereafter, and they say, "At present we shall content ourselves with assuring your excellency and honors, that the foregoing account is not exaggerated."
 
From this they proceed to observe, that as it belongs to rulers to "protect and support all regular religious societies of protestants," so they say, "Whenever any religion or profession wears an ill aspect to the state, it is become a proper object of attention to the legislature. And this is the religion of the people whom we have been describing." How much does this resemble the language of him who said, It is not for the king-s profit to suffer them! or theirs who cried, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend!
 
After thus representing that the religion of the baptists that way, wears an ill aspect to the state, they go on to speak of the conditions upon which Ashfield was granted; and then try to prove that Mr. Ebenezer Smith, pastor of the baptist church there, "is not a minister in law," because he has neither an accademical degree, nor a testimonial in his favor from the majority of the ministers of that county. And to give an idea of the smallness of his ability for teaching, they say,
 
"Taking occasion in one of his discourses upon that passage of scripture, in which mention is made of the thick bosses of God's buckler; instead of buckler , he gave his hearers the word butler. Being interrogated by one occasionally present as to his meaning, he explained himself so as clearly shewed, he meant to connect the other part of the sentence with the word butler, in the commonly received sense of the word."
 
The clearest light we have gained in the matter is this. After Mr. Smith had been preaching in a neighbouring town some years ago, a minister who was present asked him what a butler was? he readily replied, Pharoah's cup-bearer. After a little more talk, said minister asserted, that Mr. Smith used the word butler instead of buckler in his sermon. He did not remember that he had; but if he did so, how injurious is the above representation? is it not the evil which we read of in Isa. 29. 20, 21? Having made this reflection upon Mr. Smith, they say, "He has none of the qualifications of a minister according to the laws of Christ, or of this province, unless those of simplicity and orthodoxy." We wish his accusers were so well qualified. 2 Cor. 1. 12. and 4. 2.
 
In April, 1771, the address we have made a few remarks upon was referred to a committee of both houses of our general court, who reported that, "Your committee find, that in the sale of those lands there was no unfairness, but every thing was quite fair, quite neighbourly, and quite legal." And as to our plea for exemption from ministerial taxes they say, "There is an essential difference between persons being taxed where they are not represented, therefore against their wills, and being taxed when represented." So they advised the court to dismiss our petition as unreasonable; and though the honorable house of representatives did not accept that advice, but voted to repeal the Ashfield law; yet the council refused to concur with them therein; so that if his gracious majesty in council had not disannuled said law for us, our brethren of Ashfield must, for ought that appeared to the contrary, have been entirely stripped of the inheritances, which they had purchased, and subdued at the peril of their lives, because of the sword of the wilderness.
 
It may be remembered that the pedobaptist proprietors of Ashfield, represented that the baptists there were not worthy of the protection of our legislature. The following narrative may help to explain what they meant by it. The news of what our king had done for them, arrived and was published in Boston the latter end of October, 1771, at which their oppressors discovered great uneasiness; and on the 8th of November came two officers with numerous attendants, to the house of Mr. Smith, father of the baptist minister in Ashfield (and very much of a father to that society), with a warrant from the chief judge of that county, to seize his person, and to search his house and shop for bad money: and it was said they had a like warrant for the minister, but he happened to be then absent on a journey. His father was made a prisoner before he was out of his bed in the morning, and though he promised the use of his keys, and desired that no lock might be broken, yet while he was at prayer with his family, for which he obtained leave of one officer, the other broke open his shop, and did considerable damage there; and after searching both that and his house as much as they pleased, they carried him before the aforesaid judge and others; where it plainly appeared that the complaint was entered against Mr. Smith from a report, that he had put off a counterfeit dollar; which report was then proved to be a false one. Yet the old gentleman was not released, but was kept a prisoner through a cold night, in circumstances that greatly injured his health, and next day was bro't on further examination, when even his frequent retirement for secret devotion, which he had practised for above forty years; was catched hold of to raise a suspicion of his being guilty: and he was bound over with two sureties to the next superior court in that county. Hereupon the following men who had been called as witnesses against him, gave him their testimony in writing, declaring that they were ready to make oath to it, in the following terms, viz.
 
Ashfield, Nov. 11, 1771
 
We the subscribers, who have been summoned to prove an indictment against Chileab Smith, of his coining and putting off bad money, do testify and say, that we did not, nor cannot understandingly attest to one tittle of the indictment, nor of any circumstance tending to prove the same. And we never saw nor heard any thing in him that gave the least ground to mistrust, that he kept a shop of secrecy, or did any thing there that he was afraid should be known; and do believe the reports to the contrary are entirely false. As neither did we in our judgments hear any of the said indictment in any measure proved by any of the rest of the evidences; as witness our hands,
 
Ebenezer Sprague,
Nathaniel Harvey,
Jonathan Sprague,
Nathan Chapin,
Moses Smith. 2d.
Chileab Smith, jun.
Nehemiah Sprague.
 
Also Leonard Pike, to whom the report was that Mr. Smith had put off a bad dollar, gave from under his hand that said report had no truth in it. These are eight of the ten witnesses that were summoned against Mr. Smith; & tho' much pains was taken to procure evidence against him at the superior court, yet he was entirely acquitted; and the law was open for him to come back for damages, for a malicious prosecution; but they had contrived to have the complaint against him entered by a bankrupt, so that no recompence might be obtained by him. Are these the goodly fruits of having a particular mode of worship established by law, and their ministers supported by force!
 
Though we are often accused of complaining without reason, yet no longer ago than the 26th of last January, three men of good credit, belonging to a numerous and regular baptist society in Chelmsford, were seized for ministerial rates (notwithstanding they had given in a list according to law) and though one of them was above four score years old, another very infirm in body, while the third had no man at home, able to take care of the out-door affairs of his numerous family, yet they, in that cold season, were all carried prisoners to Concord gaol.
 
These accounts we have received from good authority, and have taken great pains to have them stated as exactly and truly as possible; and if any can point out the least mistake in what has been now related, we shall be glad to correct it. At the same time we are far from charging all the evils we complain of, upon the whole congregational denomination without distinction; for we believe there are many among them in various stations, who are sorely grieved at these oppressions. We are willing also to make all the allowance that is reasonable, for the influence of old customs, education and other prejudices, in those who have injured their neighbours in these affairs; but is it not high time now to awake, and seek for a more thorough reformation! We agree with the committee of our honored legislature in saying, there is an essential difference between persons being taxed where they are represented, and being taxed where they are not so; therefore the whole matter very much turns upon this point, viz. Whether our civil legislature are in truth our representatives in religious affairs, or not? As God has always claimed it as his prerogative, to appoint who shall be his ministers, and how they shall be supported, so under the gospel, the peoples communications to Christ's ministers and members, are called sacrifices with which God is well-pleased. Phil. 4. 18. Heb. 13, 16-18. And what government on earth ever had, or ever can have any power to make or execute any laws to appoint and enforce sacrifices to God!
 
In civil states the power of the whole collective body is vested in a few hands, that they may with better advantage defend themselves against injuries from abroad, and correct abuses at home, for which end a few have a right to judge for the whole society; but in religion each one has an equal right to judge for himself; for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done (not what any earthly representative hath done for him) 2 Cor. 5. 10. And we freely confess that we can find no more warrant from divine truth, for any people on earth to constitute any men their representatives, to make laws to impose religious taxes, than they have to appoint Peter or the Virgin Mary to represent them before the throne above. We are therefore brought to a stop about paying so much regard to such laws, as to give in annual certificates to the other denomination, as we have formerly done.
 
1. Because the very nature of such a practice implies an acknowledgment, that the civil power has a right to set one religious sect up above another, else why need we give certificates to them any more than they to us? It is a tacit allowance that they have a right to make laws about such things, which we believe in our consciences they have not. For,
 
2. By the foregoing address to our legislature, and their committees report thereon, it is evident, that they claim a right to tax us from civil obligation, as being the representatives of the people. But how came a civil community by any ecclesiastical power? how came the kingdoms of this world to have a right to govern in Christ's kingdom which is not of this world!
 
3. That constitution not only emboldens people to judge the liberty of other mens consciences, and has carried them so far as to tell our general assembly, that they conceived it to be a duty they owed to God and their country, not to be dispensed with, to lay before them the springs of their neighbours actions; but it also requires something of the same nature from us. Their laws require us annually to certify to them, what our belief is concerning the conscience of every person that assembles with us, as the condition of their being exempted from taxes to other's worship. And only because our brethren in Bellingham, left that clause about the conscience out of their certificates last year, a number of their society who live at Mendon were taxed, and lately suffered the spoiling of their goods to uphold pedobaptist worship.
 
4. The scheme we oppose evidently tends to destroy the purity and life of religion; for the inspired apostle assures us, that the church is espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ, and is obliged to be subject to him in every thing, as a true wife is to her husband. Now the most chaste domestic obedience, does not at all interfere with any lawful subjection to civil authority; but for a woman to admit the highest ruler in a nation into her husband's place, would be adultery or whoredom; and how often are mens inventions about worship so called in the sacred oracles? And does it not greatly concern us all, earnestly to search out and put away such evils, as we would desire to escape the awful judgments that such wickedness has brought on other nations! Especially if we consider that not only the purity, but also the very life and being of religion among us is concerned therein; for 'tis evident that Christ has given as plain laws to determine what the duty of people is to his ministers, as he has the duty of ministers to his people; and most certainly he is as able to enforce the one as the other. The common plea of our opponents is, that people will not do their duty if rulers do not enforce it; but does not the whole book of God clearly shew, that ministers as often fail of doing their duty as the people do? And where is the care of rulers to punish ministers for their unfaithfulness? They often talk about equality in these affairs, but where does it appear! As Christ is the head of all principality and power; so the not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and hands having nourishment ministred, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God, but bringing in an earthly power between Christ and his people, has been the grand source of anti-christian abominations, and of settling men down in a form of godliness , while they deny the power thereof Has not this earthly scheme prevailed so far in our land, as to cause many ministers, instead of taking heed to the ministry received from the Lord; and instead of watching for souls as those who must give an account, rather to act as if they were not accountable to any higher power, than that of the men who support them? and on the other hand, how do many people behave as if they were more afraid of the collector's warrant, and of an earthly prison, than of Him who sends his ministers to preach his gospel, and says, He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; but declares, That it shall he more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom, than for those who receive them not? Yea, as if they were more afraid of an earthly power than of our great King and Judge, who can this night require the soul of him that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God; and will sentence all either to heaven or hell, according as they have treated Him well or ill, in his ministers and members.
 
5. The custom which they want us to countenance, is very hurtful to civil society: for by the law of Christ every man, is not only allowed, but also required, to judge for himself, concerning the circumstantials as well as the essentials, of religion, and to act according to the full persuasion of his own mind ; and he contracts guilt to his soul if he does the contrary. Rom. 14. 5, 23. What a temptation then does it lay for men to contract such guilt, when temporal advantages are annexed to one persuasion, and disadvantages laid upon another? i.e. in plain terms, how does it tend to hypocrisy and lying? than which, what can be worse to human society! Not only so, but coercive measures about religion also tend to provoke to emulation, wrath and contention, and who can describe all the mischiefs of this nature, that such measures have produced in our land! But where each person, and each society, are equally protected from being injured by others, all enjoying equal liberty, to attend and support the worship which they believe is right, having no more striving for mastery or superiority than little children (which we must all come to, or not enter into the kingdom of heaven) how happy are it's effects in civil society? In the town of Boston they enjoy something of these blessings, and why may not the country have the same liberty? The ministers who have had the chief hand in stirring up rulers to treat us as they have done, yet have sometimes been forced to commend the liberty we plead for. When they wanted to get footing in the town of Providence, they wrote to governor Jencks and other rulers there, in the following words, viz.
"Honorable gentlemen,
 
"How pleasing to almighty God and our glorious Redeemer, and how conducible to the public tranquility and safety, an hearty union and good affection of all pious protestants whatsoever particular denomination of account of some differences in opinion would be, by the divine blessing, yourselves as well as we, are not insensible: and with what peace and love societies of different modes of worship have generally entertained one another in your government, we cannot think of it without admiration: and we suppose under God, 'tis owing to the choice liberty granted to protestants of all perswasions in the royal charter graciously given you; and to the wise and prudent conduct of gentlemen that have been improved as governors & justices in your colony."
 
And after more of this nature, they close with saving.
 
"We hope and pray, that ancient matters (that had acrimony unhappily in them) may be buried in oblivion; and that grace and peace and holiness and glory may dwell in every part of New-England; and that the several provinces and colonies in it, may love one another with a pure heart fervently. We take leave to subscribe ourselves, your friends and servants,
 
"Dated Oct. 27. 1721. Peter Thatcher,
 
"John Danforth,
 
"Joseph Beicher,
 
"Committee of the Association."
 
The town of Providence wrote them an answer the next February, in which they say,
 
"We take notice how you praise the love and peace that dissenters of all ranks entertain one another with in this government. We answer, this happiness principally consists in their not allowing societies any superiority one over another; but each society support their own ministry of their own free will, and not by constraint or force upon any man's person or estate. But the contrary that takes any man's estate by force to maintain their own or any other ministry, it serves for nothing but to provoke to wrath, envy and strife, and this wisdom cometh not from above, but is earthly, sensual and devilish. And since you wrote this letter, the constable of Attleborough has been taking away the estates of our dear friends, and pious dissenters to maintain their minister; the like hath been done in the town of Mendon. Is this the way of peace? Is this the fruit of your love? Why do you hug the iniquity of Eli's sons, and walk in the steps of the false prophets, to bite with the teeth, and cry peace; but no longer than men put into your mouths than you prepare war against them. Since you admire our love and peace, we pray you to use the same methods, and write after our copy and for the future never let us hear of your pillaging conscientious dissenters to maintain your ministers. You desire that all former injury done by you to us may be buried in oblivion. We say, far be it from us to revenge ourselves; or to deal to you as you have dealt to us, but rather say, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. But if you mean that we should not speak of former actions, done hurtfully to any man's person, we say, God never called for that, nor suffered it to be hid, as witness Cain, Joab and Judas, are kept on record to deter other men from doing the like."
 
Here the public may take notice, how desirous pedobaptists ministers are to have odious things on their side buried out of sight, but how contrary has their practice ever been toward us? Even to this day they can hardly preach a sermon, or write a pamphlet for infant-baptism, without having something to say about the mad men of Munster, who they tell us rebelled against their civil rulers: Whereas in truth we never had the least concern with them, any more than our opponents have with the pope or Turk. Indeed they often assert, that those mad men were the first that ever renounced infant-baptism; but there is proof enough from their own historians, that this story which they have so often told from their pulpits, is as absolute a falshood as ever was uttered by man. And though one learned and pious president of Cambridge college, was brought to embrace our sentiments, and to bear his testimony in the pulpit there, "against the administration of baptism to any infant whatsoever"; for which he suffered considerable abuse with much of a christian temper: While his successor, another "very learned and godly man" (who therefore must have been well acquainted with the original), held that "baptism ought only to be by dipping or plunging the whole body under water["]: yet these and other honorable examples in our favor have been passed over, and every scandalous thing that could he pick'd up, has been spread, to prejudice people's minds against our profession in general. And let it be remembred, that when pedobaptist ministers wanted to be favored in Providence, they declared, that they could not think of the peace and love which societies of different modes of worship have generally entertained one another with in that government without admiration; and they experienced so much of this from the baptists in Providence, that when some others made a difficulty about admitting Mr. Josiah Cotton (the first minister of the pedobaptists there) as an inhabitant in the town, Col. Nicholas Powers (a leading member of the baptist church) became his bondsman to the town: therefore we hope that our honorable rulers and others, will be cautious about giving credit to stories of a contrary nature, when they are told to procure or to justify the use of force in supporting ministers; especially since ministers refuse to share in the reproach of such proceedings. For a minister who has exerted himself very much of late, to support the cause of those called standing churches, yet says,
 
"It is wholly out of rule, and quite injurious, to charge the churches or their ministers with sending men to gaol for rates, for these proceedings are evidently the acts of the civil state, done for it's own utility. The doings of the civil authority, and of that alone."
 
Where are the rulers that will stand alone in that practice, without either ministers or truth to support them!