Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith – 5th edition

If you haven't yet purchased the recently published 5th edition of A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith by Sam Waldron, or if you would like another copy to give as a gift to someone else, then now is the time to take advantage of the great discount price offered at Grace and Truth Books. Here is a brief description of the book:
Long awaited, this 5th Edition of Dr. Samuel Waldron’s work is the definitive version, now in hardcover.
Modern Christianity is awash in a flood of doctrinal relativity. Satan and his forces love the imprecision and ambiguity which are rampant in our day. As C. H. Spurgeon observed, “The arch- enemy of truth has invited us to level our walls and take away our fenced cities.”
This exposition was originally published in 1989 to mark the 300th anniversary of the publication of the Second London Confession, which also became known as the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Today, Reformed Baptists worldwide hold this Confession in high esteem and many churches continue to regard it as their official statement of faith. In this extensive exposition, the author Sam Waldron shows that the 1689 Confession is a masterly statement of the historic Christian faith. He writes in a direct and lucid style that will help ministers, students and laymen alike to a clear understanding of this Confession and to its relevance and application to our modern age.
Right now Grace and Truth Books is offering the book for just $23.95, so pick up your copy soon. This is one of those books every Reformed Baptist ought to have.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"A Curious Clue About the Origins of the New Testament Canon" by Michael Kruger

Over at the Canon Fodder blog -- which is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs -- Michael Kruger has written an intriguing post entitled A Curious Clue About the Origins of the New Testament Canon, in which he highlights evidence from 2 Corinthians 3 regarding the concept of a canon of Scripture and the formation of the New Testament canon. Here is a portion of the post, which follows evidence from passages speaking of the Old Covenant as something that is written:
These passages indicate that covenants were largely conceived as something written or read; i.e., something in a book.  It is precisely for this reason that warnings were given not to change the text of the covenant (Deut 4:2), and there were concerns about it being in the proper physical location (Ex 25:16).

If so, then what shall we make of Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 3:6 that he and the other apostles are “ministers of a new covenant”?

Given Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 3:14 that we just noted, it would be natural to think that Paul has in mind a new set of written documents that testify to the terms of the covenantal arrangement in Christ.

As Carmignac argues, “In order to use the expression ‘Old Testament’ he [Paul] must also be aware of the existence of a ‘New Testament.’” Carmignac even goes further and suggests that this ‘New Testament’ may have had contained a number of books in order for it to be parallel with the Old.

The likelihood that Paul views the new covenant as having written documents increases when we make the simple observation that Paul is claiming for himself this distinctive covenantal authority within a written letter to the Corinthians. And scholars have observed how this very letter functions as a “covenant lawsuit”against the Corinthians.
I recommend reading the entire post. I also highly recommend Kruger's book Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books, which is the best book I've read on the subject.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Five Lessons Learned from Practicing Church Discipline" by Tom Hicks

Today Tom Hicks posted an excellent article on the Founders Ministries blog entitled Five Lessons Learned from Practicing Church Discipline. In it he offers some lessons he has learned from practicing church discipline over more than ten years of pastoral ministry.

Tom says that he has learned or had reinforced for him the fact that he is a greater sinner than he knew, that anyone can fall into great sin, that it's possible to move too quickly or too slowly in practicing church disciple, that pastors need to know the whole counsel of God, and that a full pastoral ministry is vitally important.

I recommend reading the article in order to hear some solid, Scriptural wisdom about each of these points.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Discovered

Some of our readers may already have seen the reports of a discovery of another Dead Sea Scrolls cave by archaeologist Randall Price, which brings the number to twelve. The cave includes finds of Neolithic remains, including arrowheads and knives, broken jars which would have contained papyri, and small fragments of parchment and papyrus (see photo by Randall Price at left), as well as at least one linen used for wrapping scrolls. The Logos Academic Blog has a nice article on the find here.The article also holds out hope for the discovery of a thirteenth cave in the near future:
It is hard to believe it, but Price and his team seem to have discovered a twelfth cave, something Scrolls scholars have been dreaming about for sixty years. And not only that, Price thinks there may even be a thirteenth cave near the Qumran ruins.
Unlike the newly discovered Cave 12, the mouth of the suspected thirteenth cave is concealed — which means there is a chance that it has not been looted. If that is the case, more texts could be discovered. If that happens, who knows what new things we might learn?
Such a discovery would be very exciting indeed!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

"Can A Christian Lose Their Salvation?" Debate




Here is the description posted on YouTube:
Watch as Trent Horn of Catholic Answers and Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries debate the theology surrounding the topic: "Can A Christian Lose Their Salvation?" This debate was moderated by Michael O'Fallon on January 18, 2017. Sovereign Alliance sponsored the event at the 2017 G3 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia with over 1,300 audience members in attendance.
Of course, I think James White was on the right side of this debate.

Friday, February 03, 2017

eStudySource.com Offers Good Prices on e-Sword Resources

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have been a long time user of e-Sword (alongside BibleWorks) and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a free Bible study software program that rivals many that you would have to pay for and is better than most. This program also makes basic word studies a breeze and has been of great use to those in my congregation to whom I have recommended it. In fact, they often tell me that they love the layout and how user-friendly the program is. There is not a very steep learning curve with this program, so most anyone can catch on to it quickly, and there is a complete set of training demos available.

Regular readers may also recall that I have previously recommended BibleSupport.com as a great place to find many excellent free resources, as well as helpful support, for e-Sword. I have also pointed out the free ESV resources available for e-Sword. Today, however, I would like to recommend eStudySource.com as a good place to buy premium e-Sword resources. They offer a number of outstanding Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries for very good prices. Here are some of the modules I have purchased and used over the years and which our readers may find helpful:
Holman Christian Standard Bible
New King James Version
Ancient Christian Commentary, 29 Vols (Tom C. Oden, Editor)
IVP Bible Background Commentary OT & NT (OT: John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas , NT: Craig S. Keener)
IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 20 Vols. (Grant R. Osborne, D. Stuart Briscoe, and Haddon Robinson, Editors)  
New International Commentary of the Old Testament, 25 Vols. (Robert L. Hubbard Jr, General Editor)
New International Commentary on the New Testament, 18 Vols. (Gordon D. Fee & Joel B. Green, Editors)
The Preachers Commentary 35 Vols (Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Editor)
Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs
To give some idea of how good the prices are (and there are regular sales as well), consider the cost of one of the more expensive modules, the New International Commentary of the Old Testament (NICOT), which currently lists for $139.99. That sounds expensive until you think about what it would cost to buy the set in book form, which is currently listed on Amazon Prime for $1,353.00, although other sellers offer it for as little as $948.00, which may not include shipping. And, by the way, one would currently have to pay $984.99 for the Logos Bible Software version of NICOT.

To further highlight the difference, right now I am studying to teach through Proverbs, and one of the commentaries I am using is the excellent two volume set by Bruce Waltke, which is part of the NICOT set. For both volumes in book form (which I own), I would have to pay $90.58 right now through Amazon Prime, and it would cost $74.87 in Kindle format. But I can own the entire Old Testament set for $139.99 and make use of it in e-Sword wherever I can take my laptop. That is something to think about.

If you are a regular e-Sword user, as I am, you may want to check out some of the resources at eStudySource.com. It may be well worth your while.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Wisdom of Obeying Your Parents (Luke 2:39-52 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: One of the central passages of the New Testament concerning Jesus' obedience is found in Philippians 2. In it the Apostle Paul sets forth Jesus as our example of obedience:
NKJ  Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Here Paul says that believers are supposed to have the same mind as Jesus had when He obeyed His heavenly Father even to the point of death. This means that we are supposed to have the same obedient attitude in our hearts that Jesus had. But, due to His having taken on humanity, Jesus had to learn this kind of obedience just as we do. This is what the author of Hebrews tells us when he writes:
NKJ  Hebrews 5:8 ... though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
In the context of this statement, the author of Hebrews has Jesus' suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross primarily in view, but we know He began to learn obedience and to suffer long before that, in part because the passage before us today tells us so. In this passage we can see how Jesus is an example of obedience for us both toward His earthly parents and toward His heavenly Father. We will examine each of these aspects of obedience, but we shall do so with a particular emphasis upon the importance of believing children seeing in Jesus Christ a special example for them.

I. Jesus Sets an Example of Diligent Obedience Toward His Earthly Parents vs. 51

This can be clearly seen in the first part of verse 51:
NKJ  Luke 2:51a Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject [ὑποτάσσω, hupotássō] to them ….
The Greek word Luke uses here to describe Jesus as being subject to His parents can be used of involuntary obedience, where someone is forced to submit to someone else and do what they say. It is later used this way by the 10:17 when the seventy disciples return from their preaching mission “with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject [ὑποτάσσω, hupotássō] to us in Your name.'”

But here in Luke 2 this Greek word is used to describe voluntary obedience, where someone submits to someone else because he wants to. In other words, Jesus willingly obeyed His parents. He didn't do so begrudgingly and with a sinful attitude like the demons who obeyed the seventy disciples! Sadly, however, there are many children who obey their parents like the demons obeyed instead of like Jesus obeyed. They have a bad attitude and only obey because they have to instead of obeying because they want to honor their parents as Jesus honored His parents. In this way He obeyed one of the Ten Commandments that God spoke directly to all children. It is the same one that the Apostle Paul later commanded children to follow:
NKJ  Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey [ὑπακούω, hupakoúō] your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 'Honor [τιμάω, timáō] your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise….
You see, when you obey your parents as Jesus obeyed His parents, you honor them. This means that you show them respect and treat them as though you think highly of them.

Notice also that the commandment tells children to obey both of their parents, not just their fathers or their mothers, but both their fathers and their mothers. And this is just what Luke says that Jesus did. He says that Jesus was “subject to them” (italics mine), meaning both Joseph and Mary.

Sadly, there are many children that don't do this. For example, maybe their mother has to tell them that they will be in big trouble when their father gets home in order to get them to obey. But this should never happen! You should never have to be threatened by punishment from your father in order to obey your mother. When this happens it just shows that you do not honor your mother as you should, as Jesus honored His mother Mary by obeying her just as he obeyed Joseph.

But what about when your parents do something wrong or treat you unfairly? Or what about when it is hard to obey them because they don't seem to understand your point of view? Well, I think you can find encouragement from Jesus' example here as well, because you can see that He understands what you are going through when it is sometimes hard to obey your earthly parents.

We see in verses 48-50 that Jesus knows what it is like to be misunderstood by His parents.
NKJ  Luke 2:48-50 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” 49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.
Mary was not being fair when she scolded Jesus for staying behind and talking with the teachers in the Temple. She and Joseph should have known that He was supposed to be about His heavenly Father's business, but they clearly did not understand this. Nevertheless, Jesus went back home with them and obeyed them anyway.

But this leads to another way in which Jesus understands what you might sometimes go through as young people who are called to obey your parents, for Jesus knows what it is like to be midway between following God's will for His life and that of His parents.

Again, Jesus' parents ought to have understood that He must be about His Father's business. After all, they both knew who His true Father was! But we have seen in this passage that Jesus had to learn to balance His desire to follow His heavenly Father's will with His obligation to obey His parents who struggled to understand. This is a part of what it means when Luke later says that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (vs. 52). This leads us to our next main point.

II. Jesus Sets an Example of Diligent Obedience Toward His Heavenly Father vs. 49, 51-52

We have already seen how diligent Jesus was to obey God even as a child. This is what He was talking about when He responded to his parents as He did in verse 49:
NKJ  Luke 2:49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?”
He clearly expected them to know that His Father's business was the top priority of His life. But, as we have seen, in the face of their misunderstanding, He graciously submitted to them and obeyed them, and in doing so obeyed His heavenly Father in continuing to learn as a dutiful and loving earthly son ought to do.

In fact, I would submit to you that Jesus learned obedience to His heavenly Father even better through learning obedience to His earthly parents. As a child, Jesus had to grow just like the rest of us. And, even though He never sinned or disobeyed His parents, He still needed to learn as He grew more and more about what it meant to obey His parents, and sometimes this even meant that He had to suffer being treated unfairly by them.

Conclusion: As we conclude our examination of this passage, remember again the verse from Hebrews:
NKJ  Hebrews 5:8 ...though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
The ESV Study Bible notes give a good explanation of the meaning of this verse:
Jesus, though fully divine, was also fully human. he learned obedience through what he suffered. Though always without sin (4:15; 7:26) and thus always obedient, Jesus nevertheless acquired knowledge and experience by living as a human being (cf. Luke 2:40, 52), and he especially came to know firsthand what it cost to maintain obedience in the midst of suffering (see notes on Heb. 2:9; 2:10; 2:18; 4:15). As Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52), successive temptations were no doubt more difficult to deal with (cf. Luke 4:12), and as he obeyed his Father in the face of each temptation, he “learned obedience,” so that his human moral ability was strengthened. (BibleWorks)
Do you want to learn to obey your heavenly Father as Jesus learned to obey Him? If you do, then you must start with learning to obey your earthly parents just as He did. In doing so He left you a good and encouraging example. But if you struggle, then pay attention to what it says in verse 40:
NKJ  Luke 2:40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Even though you will never be perfectly and sinlessly obedient as Jesus was, through His saving work you can have the same grace of God upon you that was upon Him! And you, too, can increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (vs. 52).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Aquinas Is Not A Safe Guide For Protestants" Debate

Toward the end of last year and the beginning of this year there was a minor, although interesting debate on The Aquila Report , a conservative, Presbyterian news and commentary website. The debate began with a two part series of articles by Dewey Roberts:
Aquinas Is Not A Safe Guide For Protestants: Reading Aquinas with care and caution (October 16, 2016)
Aquinas Not a Safe Guide for Protestants – Part 2: Why Aquinas is not a theologian you should closely study or follow (November 3, 2016)
In these articles the author also repeatedly points out the close affinity between the ideas of Aquinas and the teaching of Federal Vision theology (FV). In fact, he was led to read Aquinas because of the way FV proponents had been citing his teaching. At any rate, these two articles were then followed by a response from Travis James Campbell:
Should Ole Aquinas be Forgot and Never Brought to Mind: A Response to Dewey Roberts’ “Aquinas Not a Safe Guide for Protestants” (December 11, 2016)
This article then led to a response from Dewey Roberts:
Aquinas Is Still Not a Safe Guide for Protestants: A rejoinder to “Should Ole Aquinas be Forgot and Never Brought to Mind?” in the discussion on Aquinas (January 8, 2017)
There has not yet been another article posted in this debate, at least not that I have seen. However, I do encourage reading the articles that have been posted. In my opinion, both men raise some very important issues, but I have a definite affinity for Roberts' point of view. What do you think?

Friday, January 13, 2017

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll Results

Twelve months ago I began a poll on the blog. I asked those who identified themselves as Reformed Baptists to respond to the question, "What is a Reformed Baptist?" I ran the poll for one year, and I supplied four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term. Here were the four possible answers:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
More than three hundred people responded to the poll over the past year (306 to be exact), and here are the final results:
13% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

25% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

42% say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility) in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

20% say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.
As I explained when I first posted the poll, I have regarded "substantial adherence" to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as adherence to the theology contained in it, but not such strict adherence that modifications or refinements are not welcomed if deemed Scripturally appropriate. I recognize that there is a fair amount of debate as to what "substantial adherence" should mean, but I hoped I had phrased the question in such a way as to clarify what was intended for the purpose of this poll. The word substantial was taken primarily to mean being largely but not wholly that which is specified, but it was also intended to emphasize agreement concerning essential doctrinal matters while allowing differences on some matters deemed less essential to Scriptural orthodoxy. For example, I explained that one might be willing to modify the confession with regard to such things as the proper understanding of the Regulative Principle of Worship, Divine Impassibility, or the proper nature of Sabbath observance. The term modify was used simply with the meaning make one or more partial changes to. I included the example of Divine Impassibility, in particular, since that is a current topic of debate in which some are arguing that a modification in the statement of the doctrine -- not a rejection of it -- should be allowed, and some are arguing against it. At any rate, with these points in mind, I would like to make several observations regarding the results of the poll.

First, the poll revealed that a strong majority (87%) of self-identified Reformed Baptists think that simply holding to Calvinistic soteriology, together with the Baptist distinctives that are presupposed in the respondents, is an insufficient basis for properly regarding oneself to be a Reformed Baptist. In fact, only 13% thought that this was sufficient. So, there is a strong consensus that a Calvinistic Baptist who holds, say, to Dispensational Theology, should not properly be regarded as a Reformed Baptist, a fact that should not come as a surprise.

Second, the poll revealed that a majority of self-identified Reformed Baptists think that one must hold to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (whether strictly or substantially) in order to properly be regarded as such. However, this majority was only a 62% majority, which means that well over a third of self-identified Reformed Baptists (38%) do not think that one must hold to the Baptist Confession of 1689 at all in order to properly be regarded as such. This, too, is not surprising. As I pointed out in response to a previous poll conducted back in 2008, this state of affairs reflects the historical fact that not all of those who have called themselves Reformed over the centuries would necessarily adhere to the English confessions written in the 17th century. For example, there are many Reformed of a Presbyterian stripe that would not adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith (such as the many Dutch Reformed and those springing more directly from this background). So, it should not be surprising that many Reformed Baptists should similarly regard the 1689 Confession, which so closely reflects the Westminster standard, as being too narrow a definition of the term Reformed as applied to them. In other words, the poll results in this regard are well within the limits of what one should expect, at least if one has a fair knowledge of the history of Reformed theology, together with a basic knowledge of what has become the Reformed Baptist movement. The former indicates more flexibility in the use of the term Reformed than with reference strictly to the Westminster tradition, and the latter indicates more flexibility in the use of the term Reformed Baptist than with reference strictly to the 1689 Confession.

Third, the poll revealed that, among those who regard holding to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as essential to properly identifying oneself as a Reformed Baptist, a majority think that only substantial subscription should be required. In fact, more that twice as many held this view rather than the view that would require strict subscription. There were 42% of the respondents who would say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 over against only 20% who would say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist. These strict subscriptionists, then, apparently make up a rather small minority among self-identified Reformed Baptists. It is also noteworthy that, given that the example used to differentiate between substantial and strict subscriptionists was a willingness to modify the Confession with respect to the doctrine of Divine Impassibility, those who hold the strict view concerning this doctrine are also in the minority. To be sure, this poll is not at all scientific, and we do not settle doctrinal issues by taking a poll anyway, but it is nevertheless remarkable that a majority think that a modification in the statement of the doctrine -- not a rejection of it -- should be allowed. As with the other results of the poll, so also this result is not surprising, since there have been differences among Reformed theologians concerning this doctrine for some time. However, I don't doubt that this result will come as a surprise to some, since those who hold the strict subscriptionist view have been so vocal of late and have perhaps left the impression that they are actually in the majority.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Sam Waldron's Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel on Hyper-Calvinism

Sam Waldron recently posted a four part blog series containing an interview with Curt Daniel concerning the issue of Hyper-Calvinism. Here are the links to each post:
Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 1 of 4)

Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 2 of 4)

Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 3 of 4)

Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 4 of 4)
As the interviews reveal, Curt wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh on “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” back in 1983. Curt has expert knowledge of the issue, as well as of the history and theology of Calvinism in general. In fact, I also highly recommend checking out Curt's teaching series on The History and Theology of Calvinism.