Thursday, July 27, 2006

Railroad Graffiti and the Imago Dei

I'm not sure why, but railroad graffiti intrigues me. Maybe it is because of its mobile nature, or the fact that it is essentially vandalism, or the fact that some one (or ones) created all of this by hand with just a few cans of spray paint. To say the least, it is very creative, reflecting a creative Creator who made us in His own image. Every one of us reflects the image of God at some point, no matter how debased or debauched. Although I have made it a practice to post one of my photos each Friday, this is my first official offering of Friday Photo, which is made up of several bloggers who set aside Friday's posts for posting their favorite photos of the week. You can see the groups offerings on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Semantic Gymnastics and Scriptorture - Is Dr. Patterson Guilty of Blasphemy?

The presidents of Southeastern and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminaries have each weighed in on the alcohol issue, both taking a total-abstinence stance, each from different positions. In his article in Baptist Press on June 30, Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern came from a personal, anecdotal position, thus effectively denying the sufficiency of Scripture. I wrote about alcohol and the sufficiency of Scripture in my post, The Sufficiency of Scripture - I'll Drink to That. Now, the July 7 issue of Baptist press features Dr. Paige Patterson's approach to the alcohol issue, in which he attempts to stay a little closer to Scripture. The only problem with the article is, well, that it's basically all wrong. Between Dr. Patterson's knowledge deficiency in the biological sciences, and his atrocious hermeneutics, there is very little of value in this article, except to point out a fine example of Fundamentalism on steroids. Let me point out just a few examples of what I am talking about by citing a few examples from Dr. Patterson's article.
The wines varied in kind and strength. However, four basic varieties may be distinguished, all of which are described indiscriminately by "oinos:"
If they are all indiscriminately described by one word, how is it that they are distinguished?
(1) Freshly pressed grape juice, which had been stomped out by the, hopefully, clean feet of a local family in their private wine vats, or else crushed in grape presses of stone. In the climate of Palestine, fermentation began within 24 hours, so pure unfermented grape juice was available only for a brief time.
The "four basic varieties" that Dr. Patterson speaks of is more of a bad description of the wine-making process. The grape is an amazing berry. In many ways it is quite unique. It has a low enough acidity, with a pH of about 3, to prevent spoilage bacteria from getting a foothold during the fermentation process. It also has a high enough sugar content to create a wine containing about 10 per-cent alcohol. There is one thing missing from the above description by Dr. Patterson. When a grape approaches ripeness, it begins to have a frosty look, the way a cold window pane looks when you breathe on it. You can see that frosty look on the grapes pictured above. That's called the "bloom", which is yeast. Now, the farmer doesn't"t put that yeast on the grape. God puts it there. He has put it there ever since Genesis 1:12. We need to be very careful not to throw around the term "pure" when we are talking about what God has made. An amazing thing happens when the skin on a ripe grape is broken: the yeast takes the sugar on the other side of that grape skin and immediately begins to turn it into alcohol. Man doesn't have to coax the yeast, or add some other "foreign" ingredient, to make it happen. It just happens. That is why man has been making wine for millennia. The grape was made to make wine. And Dr. Patterson is wrong: in Palestine fermentation doesn't happen within 24 hours. It happens immediately.
(3) Sometimes the wine would be left on the lees to ferment still further. This provided a real knock-out punch, one evidently imbibed by only a few since it often turned insipid and unbearable. (Jeremiah 48:11).
One would get the impression from this paragraph that the lees somehow cause fermentation, which is not true. As I have pointed out the yeast takes the sugar and converts it into alcohol. When the sugar has been consumed the fermentation process stops. To leave wine on the lees, even in the time of Christ would be an act of sloth. The lees is nothing more than solid matter from the pulp, seed parts, and bits of skin. The resulting impact of such a practice would be to make the wine bitter, not insipid. It had no "knock-out punch". The reference to Jeremiah 48:11 is ill placed. I cannot see why it is used at all. This is a example of terrible hermeneutics. Let's look at Jeremiah 48:11-13: "Moab has been at ease from his youth and has settled on his dregs [ or lees, KJV]; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed. "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces. Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence. (Jeremiah 48:11-13 ESV) In this passage God is clearly using metaphor to describe Moab as having not experienced any chastisement from God, in spite of their gross wickedness. The punishment of Moab is being described in wine-making terms. Wine, after the initial fermentation period was poured off into new containers, leaving the lees, or dregs, behind. There is no stretch of the imagination that can make this mean what Dr. Patterson implies.
In strict fairness, one must acknowledge that the ancients, however noble, imbibed without reluctance. Evidently the prophets and the apostles did not view this as wrong, so long as it was a small glass of wine (see varieties Nos. 1, 2 or 4 mentioned above) taken with the noon or evening meal. These wines, of course, were locally produced.
From what source would Dr. Patterson conclude that the prophets and apostles did not view this as wrong? Scripture, maybe? I can't think of any extra-scriptural documents authored by the prophets or apostles. So if they expressed in the Scriptures that there was nothing wrong with consumption of wine, then I would guess that is what God wanted them to express within the pages of sacred Scripture. And this qualifier of a small glass . . . taken with the noon or evening meal - I didn't catch the reference to those passages of Scripture. But wait. It gets even more convoluted.
At this point, however, a significant difference exists between what is permissible and what is best for the child of God. In addition to the constant clear identification of drunkenness as a highly disreputable and debilitating sort of sin, please note the following: -- The Nazarite (one who was especially separated unto God) was prohibited from the use of wine altogether (see Numbers 6:3; Judges 13:4-7, 13-14). -- In Jeremiah 35:1-10, the Rechabites are highly commended by God and by Jeremiah for their total abstinence. -- John the Baptist, touted by Jesus as "the greatest born among men," was a total abstainer. He was evidently patterning his lifestyle after that of the Nazarite Law, and thereby expressing God's prescription for what is the best for a godly man.
I cannot read how Dr. Patterson can conclude that these instances show how total abstinence is the best for a godly man. Also consider the following problems with Dr. Patterson's treatment of these passages. 1. The passages Dr. Patterson quotes from Judges are in reference to the to-be mother of Samson, who was a Nazarite. Now wasn't he a fine example of a godly man? So I can be a womanizer and still be a godly man, just so long as I never drink wine. 2. The Numbers passage and one of the Judges passages also prohibits the consumption of grapes, raisins, and vinegar made from wine. Is it best for a godly man to abstain from these items as well? Do you think Dr. Patterson has never eaten a grape or a raisin? 3. If John the Baptist was the greatest born among men, simply on the basis of of his total abstinence, what does that say of Jesus, who did not abstain? At this point in Dr. Patterson's article he provides labels for a number of passages of Scripture that warn against strong drink. Many of these passages have to do with drunkenness and not merely the moderate use of alcohol. Here is just one example from this section:
-- Another result of strong drink is overindulgence. "Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!" (Isaiah 5:11).
Yes, I can see it. That strong drink pins you to the floor and pours itself down your throat until you have overindulged. The drink doesn't make you overindulge. A man's gluttony, which is sin, is what makes him to overindulge. Now, look at how Jesus making the water into wine in John 2 is explained away:
In Jesus' miracle at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11), one can neither affirm with certainty that Jesus turned the water into a non-intoxicating wine nor that He drank no wine Himself.
I think we can safely say that the wine which Jesus made was alcoholic. As I have pointed out at the first, that is what wine is all about: the grape and the yeast getting together. Dr. Patterson creates a stage-one oinos that is a myth. There is no such thing.
But the following evidences cannot be easily bypassed: -- The text nowhere indicates that Jesus participated. Either way the argument is from silence.
Jesus didn't participate? Heavens, he made the stuff. Silence under most circumstances is no argument. It usually indicates that something is so obvious that it doesn't need to be mentioned. Of course Jesus participated. It would be rude not to.
-- The governor of the feast obviously was able to identify "good wine" by tasting it, indicating that there was no intoxication on his part. On the other hand, by the governor's own testimony, by the last stages of such a feast participants generally had their senses sufficiently dulled so that they could not differentiate between good and bad wine. Was this feast different? Is this why Jesus agreed to attend?
John 2 says nothing about senses sufficiently dulled. John 2 doesn't indicate that the lesser wine comes out last because the participants can't differentiate between good and bad wine. Bad wine isn't even mentioned in this passage either. Dr. Patterson can't even recount what is in the passage accurately.
-- From a standpoint of logic, the "oinos" that Jesus produced was more likely pure, rather than fermented, grape juice, since that which comes from the Creator's hand is inevitably pure. Also, there was no time for fermentation to take place subsequent to the miracle. Furthermore, the ancients always acknowledged that the best "oinos" was the unfermented "oinos," i.e., that which came from the initial mixing of the grapes.
1. Logic and Dr. Patterson are not personally acquainted. 2. We have already dealt with this pure thing. I think I would be perfectly frightened of blasphemey if I kept talking about what came from the Creator's hand when I didn't know what I was talking about. 3. No time? Duh! Why do you think it was called a miracle? Duh, and double duh. 4. Where is the citation of these ancients always acknowledg[ing]?
-- The accusation that Jesus, in contrast to John, was a socialite, a glutton, and a winebibber is manifestly void of foundation (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Because Jesus enjoyed social contacts and openly mingled with the people, some assumed that He had a propensity for food and drink. If Jesus had been a winebibber, He must have also been guilty of gluttony, which is clearly identified as a sin. In fact, Jesus was neither, and again there is no evidence that He drank "oinos" or anything other than the fresh, natural fruit of the vine.
Yes, it was void of foundation, but just because Jesus was not a winebibber, doesn't mean He didn't drink wine. In the Matthew 11 and Luke 7 passages, Jesus clearly states that The Son of Man came eating and drinking. Read between the lines. If Jesus was accused of winebibbing, then it's probably because He was seen with a glass of wine in His hands, and He was drinking it. And here we go again with this fresh, natural and pure bit. We can't get away from this nightmare without "SOME ADDED OBSERVATIONS" to wrap things up.
-- In the accounts of the Lord's Supper in the Gospels and in 1 Corinthians, the word wine (oinos) is mysteriously absent. The disciples took "the cup" and drank the "fruit of the vine." The absence of the term "oinos" is curious, to say the least.
Acne, bad breath, and ear wax are also mysteriously absent from Scripture, but that doesn't mean Jesus didn't have them, and many other things I won't go into. None of those things seem curious by their absence (to me, anyway). In this article there was just way too much arguing from silence.
-- Wine has one, unqualified, good use in Scripture and that is as a metaphor for the wrath of God. This metaphor is utilized in both Old and New Testaments (see Revelation 19:15). The "oinos" of God's wrath is unmixed or undiluted, fresh from the wine press, unhindered by fermentation of any kind. Hence, purity of judgment is emphasized.
This is simply not true. Why does he not cite the following two passages? And there are many, many more. You do the work on your own. Do a word search on wine. Psalms 104:14,15 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart. Proverbs 3:9, 10 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
-- The bishop (pastor) is to be free from wine (1 Timothy 3:3). One would presume that this admonition, at least in part, is for an example. If so, here again the ideal would be total abstinence for all who make up the body of Christ, i.e., the church.
Dr. Patterson must be referring to the King James here, where it says not given to wine, which is properly translated into modern English in most recent translations as not a drunkard, or not a brawler. Good grief, I am no Rhodes scholar, but I have enough grasp of Elizabethan English to know what not given to wine means. Come on, Dr. Patterson.
-- For the believer to say, "Let me get as close to sin as I can without being guilty," indicates a strange mentality indeed! The object should rather be to stay as far away as one can from even the appearance of evil, and as close to Christ as possible (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
What serious Christian ever says this? By this logic I need to stay as far away as possible from food, my wife, and my Ricky Skaggs CD's. it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." (Matthew 15:11, ESV) The end is in site. Dr. Patterson concludes:
(1) Many of the most excruciating and debilitating events of history are associated with wine. The Bible has almost no good word about it and, in fact, usually associates tragedy and sin with the use of wine. For example, after a life of exemplary behavior, Noah became a stumbling block to his own children, necessitating a curse on his grandson, as a result of wine. This first mention of wine in Scripture is bad.
By this logic, we should ban airplanes, since airplanes dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We should also ban firearms, since they commit murder. Let's quit eating food, as it commits gluttony. Baptists need to become a monastic order, as sex causes adultery and fornication. We all need to become vegetarians, as meat clogs our arteries.
(2) To whatever extent wine was used by Jesus, clearly it was in small quantities and either at meals or for medicinal purposes. Certainly no tragic industry was supported by the selling and buying of wine. This latter point is crucial for the believer. A believer in no way can justify drinking if thereby he is contributing to the sustenance of an industry responsible for two-thirds of the violent deaths, two-fifths of all divorces, one-third of all crime, and untold millions of dollars in damage to private property. Such would violate all laws in the Bible, and especially the Corinthian principles outlined below:
Dr. Patterson does finally abandon the sufficiency of Scripture here at the last. After all, it is the industry that causes all of these evil things, and not the sinful heart of man. Conclusion: There is much more that I didn't touch on, but my time is limited. suffice it to say Dr. Patterson uses semantic gymnastics and scriptorture in his article, from first to last and everywhere in between. He may have stayed closer to Scripture than Dr. Akin, but he was never very close to the true meaning of the passages he cited. If I were a student at Southwestern, I would be embarassed. As I have said in my previous post on this subject, the issue is not about wine, but about rightly dividing the Word of God. What we have here is a prime example of fundamentalism deluxe and a gross lack of true scholarship, which amounts to the same thing. I am really sorry. I didn't intend to be mean. Believe me, I tried to hold back my sarcasm as much as possible. This kind of nonsense ought to make us weep, not laugh. I am not laughing. Your comments, please.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Baptist, What Do You Believe? #10

In this lesson we are going to look at Article six of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, concerning the doctrine of the Church. What is the church? Who makes up the church? When did the church begin? Who is in charge of the church? What is the duty of the church? Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions as we look at Article six: The Church. What is a church? Let’s begin by defining what a church is not. A church is not a building. There were no church buildings for the first 300 of the church’s history. Believers gathered in homes or barns or out in the open, or if they were being persecuted, even in caves and catecombs. The building is where the church meets – thus the New England Puritans spoke of the Meeting House – the house in which the church met. A church is not simply an organizational unit of any particular religion. You will never hear anyone talking about the Buddhist church or Jewish churches. In that sense the church is a thoroughly Christian term. The New Testament word for church is ekklesia. The prefix ek means out, and the root kalien means to call. Thus the church or ekklesia is literally the called out ones. Now, on the positive side. According to the NT, the church is primarily a body of people who profess and give evidence that they have been saved by God’s grace alone, for His glory alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The church is the collection of people committed to Christ and to one another in a given area. (Acts 2:41-47) The word church also carries a broader meaning, which is reflected by the second brief paragraph of Article six. The word ekklesia appears in the New Testament 115 times, and 93 of those occurences refer to the local assembly of believers. The other 22 occurences refer to the church in a universal, or catholic sense. The word catholic, when used with a small c, is a very good word. It is used to signify the redeemed of Christ in every place, in all ages. In this way the church is divided into two categories: the church militant, and the church triumphant. The church militant is made up of all believers currently living; those who are still fighting the fight here on earth. The church triumphant is made up of all those believers whose rest is won, all those who have gone on to be with the Lord. Let us look now at Article 6, on the church.
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ… The church is the possession of the Lord Jesus. It is the bride of Christ. We must not loose sight of the fact the church belongs to the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 5:22-32). is an autonomous local congregation… What is meant by autonomous? It literally means a law unto itself. Is each local Baptist church really its own boss? Well, yes and no. In the sense that there is no church hierarchyabove the local level, each individual church is autonomous. The associations and conventions a church might be member of have no authority over that local church. In the sense that Christ is the head of the church, then He governs over each and every local church, as the later phrase governed by His laws points out. Every local congregation is under the lordship of Jesus Christ. of baptized believers... This is one of the hallmarks of the Baptist church. We are a "believer’s" church, unlike some Christian denominations that baptize their infants and consider them members of that local church body. Granted, these denominations, Presbyterians most noteably among them, do not grant full membership priveledges, or consider these little ones to be saved, but they do consider them a part of the church family. Associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel… What does it mean to be in covenant? To be in covenant with a local body of baptized believers means that you are not there just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others. We are agreed serve one another, as in Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:16, and 1 Peter 4:10. We voluntarily unite ourselves to one another around common beliefs. In this way we are doing physically on earth what we are spiritually in Christ, that is united (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). In our fast paced, mobile society, this is a fact that is very often overlooked in many churches. This short phrase in Article 6 could and should be strengthened by adding and union with Christ. Observing the two ordinances of Christ… And they are baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which will be discussed in our next article. Here the BF&M 2000 gets it right. The church belongs to Jesus Christ, and so too do these two ordinances belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not ordinances of the church, as Article seven claims. In our next lesson we will look at the differences between these two views, and what difference it makes.. governed by His laws, We are governed by His word, the Scripture. Even this Baptist Faith and Message 2000, that we are studying, is not what governs us. exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. This phrase continues the thought of our governance by God through His Scripture, and especially emphasizes our desire and responsibility to evangelize (Matthew 28:19) Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. Though the local church seeks the Lord’s will through prayer and study of His word, the day-to-day implementation of governance is carried out by its congregation in a democratic fashion. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. This sentence should be one that makes each one of us, as members of a local church, to take seriously the decisions we do make as a congregation. Nothing we do is without consequence, and we will have to give an account to our Lord for decision we make, both in church matters and elsewhere, therefore we should approach all church business prayerfully and carefully. (Romans 14:12) Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. That second sentence is an addition to the 1963 edition, and has created quite a stir among some. Note first, that those officers which are prescribed from Scripture are pastor and deacons. That does not mean that the local church is limited to those two offices. The church can, as they see the need, have lesser officers such as Sunday-school directors, ministers of music, or other ministry administrators. Secondly, note that the limitation of men only to the office of pastor is not an issue of gifts or abilities, but rather an issue of Scriptural mandate (1 Timothy 2:9-14). Men are are further limited based on qualifications deliniated in Scripture. The pertinent passages on this subject are 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, and the role and origin of the office of deacon is found in Acts 6. The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. What a thought. The church is not only a local body of believers, but the body of all believers of all ages in every place. One of the practical implications of this concept is how we view the church thorughout all of history. Humanly speaking, what we have of our faith as Christians in general, and Baptists in particular, has been handed down from one generation to the next, many times at very great expense. Many have even lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel. We have a responsiblilty to treasure up what has been entrusted to us, and pass it on to the next generation. What a great responsibility and priveledge. Paul uses the word entrust(ed) twelve times in his epistles. Look how he instructs Timothy to pass on what has been entrusted to him by Paul, so that the process can continue on till the end of the age (1 Timothy 2:1,2). Also, the unity (again, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) that all believers have by virtue of all being in Christ, combined with his being in our midst (Matthew 18:20) when we gather in His name, then each and every local worship service is quite a gathering. That can best be described by quoting Hebrews 12:18,19,22-24:
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
I would again like to thank my pastor, Rod Harris, for supplying his study notes on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, of which I have leaned heavily, especially on this lesson. You can listen to his Wednesday evening messages on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 at Previous lessons in this series Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1 (An Introduction) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #2 (On the Doctrine of Scripture) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #3 (On the Doctrine of God) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #4 (On God the Father) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #5 (On God the Son Baptist, What Do You Believe? #6 (On God the Holy Spirit) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #7 (On the Doctrine of Man) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #8 (On the Doctrine of Salvation) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #8 (Continued) (On the Doctrine of Salvation) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #9 (On God's Purpose of Grace)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The alcohol resolution and the Dallas Morning News

Pastor Ben Cole of the Baptist Blogger, has bit down on this alcohol deal like a bulldog, and it appears he is not about to let go any time soon. Read his article in the Dallas Morning News, responding to the resolution on alcohol presented last month at Greensboro. I guess this ruins his chances for SBC president any time soon. God's blessings be upon him.

Rain Lilies

Rain lilies are one of my favorite summer flowering bulbs. Their common name comes from the fact that they have a tendency to bloom profusely right after a summer shower. Here in Oklahoma any summer shower is a welcome site, but this summer has been particularly dry. God blessed us with about three inches over a two-day period last week. Over the next few days the various Rain lilies in our flower beds were just a bustin’. The Rain liliy pictured here is Zephyranthes grandiflora, a standard pass-along plant in the south that has been shared over back-yard fences for ever. It is the first species of rain lily we started with more than a dozen years ago. The grandiflora, signifying this species of Rain lily as having a rather large bloom, in fact the largest bloom in the genus. The genus Zephyranthes gets its name from the fact that the delicate, paper-thin flowers dance in the lightest breeze, or zephyr. You can view the other species of Zephyranthes we grow over at Flickr.
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound [and see what it does], but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7-8 (ESV)

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Sufficiency of Scripture - I'll Drink to That

At Greensboro many of the "sermons", reports, and speeches used a common word: Inerrancy. It was almost always in connection with the conservative resurgence. I am very thankful that a faithful group of men fought that fight twenty-thirty years ago. Without that fight, at this year's convention we might have been voting on same-sex marriage and whether or not to ordain gay bishops (sorry Jeff), like some other conventions were doing. Inerrancy is very important, but it doesn't go far enough. As was evident by the wide popularity of the resolution on alcohol at this year's convention, the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture is in short supply among Southern Baptists. This one subject of alcohol is not really so important, in and of itself, but it is an indicator of bigger problems. Ignoring the sufficiency of Scripture (among some) is the source of a good deal of the problem(s) currently being experienced in the IMB. Back in April Wade Burleson cited a definition for Fundamentalism, which he cited from John Piper, who had in turn cited from J. Gresham Machen. It contained a list of seven indicators. It was quite a good definition. I would like to submit my own definition of Fundamentalism, one that contains just one point, but one, I believe that takes in most of the seven cited on Pastor Burleson's blog: Fundamentalism is inerrancy without sufficiency. The first four verses of Matthew 23 comes readily to mind, but that is probably too harsh for good men who probably do mean well. Perhaps Mark 7:1-16 would be a bit more appropriate, though still a bit harsh. A good number of the younger bloggers have argued against the alcohol resolution using the sufficiency argument, and they did quite a good job of it too; at least until they began to clarify and qualify themselves among the give and take of the comments after their post. They would virtually undo all they had argued for in their posts by "apologizing" their way out from under sufficiency. After an anecdotal challenge or two virtually all of them would respond with something like "Oh, the stuff has never touched MY lips." or "I teach my children that total abstinence is the best policy in today's society." This leads me to believe that they were holding to sufficiency only in theory. I ask you, are we just playing with ideas, or are we taking every thought captive to obey Christ? What better way to show our Miller-Time society how Christians can responsibly enjoy all of the good gifts that God has given us, and give Him glory in the process. You notice I have not laid out my argument for alcohol from Scripture. I don't need to. I failed to mention that there was one young man who did a superb job of defending the position of the normative use of alcohol from the Scriptures, without crawfishing, even from the remote recesses of the comments section. That young man would be Pastor Joe Thorn at Words of Grace. You can read his three straight-shooting posts here, here, and here, in that order, and don't skip the comments. So now, what to do? Let's all dig in and be men and women of the Word. Hold it not only as inerrant but also as sufficient. We should begin anew to ask "What does God's word say on a particular subject?", and cease from asking "What do the precious, long-held, beloved traditions of men say?" Alcohol is not the problem topic in the SBC today. Sufficiency of Scripture is. Let's get back on track and get as many laborers as possible into the field, for they are white for harvest. Sometimes I think there are many in the IMB who have lost site of this. Let's help them remember.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. It is well with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And has shed his own blood for my soul. My sin--O the bliss of this glorious thought!-- My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! O Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend; "Even so"--it is well with my soul.
Horatio Spafford was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago in the 19th century. He was a lawyer by profession, and held considerable real estate on the shore of Lake Michigan just prior to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, which wiped those holdings out. He penned the words to this hymn sometime shortly after the drowning at sea of his four daughters late in 1873. "It Is Well With My Soul" is this week's offertory music (found in the sidebar), and was presented by David Hoyt.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Baptist, What Do You Believe #9

Introduction In this lesson we are going to look into the purpose of God in saving sinners. This article naturally flows out of the one that came before it, namely the article on salvation. Even at first glance, a common theme stands out in these two articles. The four terms that are defined at the end of article 4 are the same four terms that make up the gracious purpose of God in the first paragraph of this article. Those four terms are regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. We saw in last lesson that the process of salvation is made up of these four acts, and that all four of these acts are brought about by God and not man. That is why the two paragraphs in this article occur together. Salvation that begins with God, ends with God. One of the questions we asked in our last study concerned the nature of salvation as respects time. Are we saved all at once, in an instant, or is salvation a process that takes our whole lives? The basic answer to this question is yes. We are saved in an instant when God pronounces "Not guilty." at our justification, as our regenerate hearts believe in Christ, and we repent of our sins. We are also being saved the rest of our lives as the Holy Spirit is working in us, sanctifying, conforming us (Romans 8:29) to be more like Jesus, until one day, either at His return, or glorified in heaven, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). In this lesson we will try to explain this mystery. V. God's Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.
God has a purpose, and it is to save a people for Himself. Why and how He saves is His business, and we really don't have the right to question Him(Romans 9:20,21 and 11:34) You cannot get around the word election because both the word and the concept are there in Scripture many times. Now, many people try to get around the election of God by arguing that God's foreknowledge allows Him to look down the corridor of time and tell who will and who will not believe in Jesus, thus determining who He will elect. That would be fine, but who would God see if He were to do such a thing? Would He see some with faith and some without faith? This simply does not work. Ephesians 2:8 tells that even the faith that we exercise is a gift of God. Romans 3:9-18 tells us that no one seeks after God. If God used his foreknowledge to elect, then nobody would be saved. Note that this purpose of God is gracious. God does not have to save any one, yet He does, and at the highest price imaginable, the death of His only begotten Son. We are all rebellious sinners, guilty of cosmic treason against God, and deserving of hell, yet God graciously is saving a people for His own possession from every nation, tribe, and tongue.
It is consistent with the free agency of man,
So how do you square God's sovereignty with this free agency of man? The basic answer is that God is Sovereign, and man is free, but not autonomous. Autonomy gets to the heart of original sin. Satan said to Eve "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). This has been the desire of mankind ever since, to be independent, to be autonomous. We want to be the captain of our own ship, the master of our own destiny. The key to it all is that God is God and we are not. Man is free. Unless physically forced by someone stronger, we always freely act according to our greatest affection. Every moment of every day of our lives our choices are driven by our greatest desires. The only thing that limits us in choosing God is our nature. All of us have a sin nature, which basically amounts to the fact that we are out to please ourselves and not God. The unregenerate individual has no concept of his greatest joy being found in God (Psalm 37:4).
and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.
One of the objections some people raise is that if I am elect of God, then I don't need to do anything. God is going to save me no matter what I do. The only problem with that is that we are commanded from God's word to repent and believe (Acts 2:38). We are commanded to come to Jesus (Matthew 11:28). As believers we are commanded to preach the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 9:16). Others will raise the objection that if I am not among the elect of God, then there is nothing I can do to change that situation. The Bible is full of Whosoever's (Luke 6:47, John 3:15, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Romans 10:13, 1 John 4:15, Revelation 22:17). As we saw in Article 4 on the doctrine of salvation, the gospel is offered freely to all. Salvation doesn't happen in a vacuum. We are saved by the gracious act of God, but we are also saved when we hear the gospel of grace, are convicted of our sins, respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, and believe and repent (Romans 10:14-17). One of the counter objections that I would raise is that if God does not elect some, if salvation is up to us and not to God, then why should we ever bother to pray? Why pray for the salvation of a friend or loved one? Why ever pray for the Holy Spirit to come down and save? Why should we ever pray for revival and renewal?
It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
The best commentary on this is found in the first chapter of Ephesians and the eleventh chapter of Romans. If salvation is all of God and none of man, then it naturally excludes boasting, and promotes humility. All we can do is fall on our faces and worship a great God who graciously has saved us.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
This is the easy part. Since salvation is not a date on a calendar - the day you walked forward and gave your heart to Jesus - but rather the gracious four-part action of God spoken of in the article on salvation, then the God who regenerates you is the same God who justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies you. The God who has the power to bring the spiritually dead to life also has the power to faithfully keep us to the end. This endurance is not a passive thing. Surely it is God who saves us and keeps us saved, but we are also commanded to see to our salvation on an ongoing basis (Philippians 2:12, Hebrews 4:1, and 12:15). As I have said before, salvation is not a date on a calendar. Saving faith involves the ongoing question you must ask yourselves constantly: "What (Who) am I trusting in right now for my salvation?" Salvation is who you believed in and on back when you first believed, but salvation is also who you believe in and on right now. This paragraph emphasizes the firmness of our salvation to the end, but also points out the consequences of sin. Sin brings misery, always. That misery can come in a multitude of forms, but that misery always includes lost fellowship with God, and that is the worst misery the true believer can experience. Note the causes of sin in the believer: neglect and temptation. We must always be diligent to use the means of grace given to us. We should not neglect regular worship (Hebrews 10:25), prayer (Luke 21:36, Luke 22:40, Ephesians 6:18), and the regular reading of God's word (2 Timothy 3:16). What about those who once "followed Christ" but no longer do so? John says that those who no longer walk with us were never one of us, else they would never have left us (1 John 2:19). So, those who are God's children, God will keep, and God's children will be careful and diligent and use the means of grace to endure to the end. The old tongue twister I learned years ago was The faith that fizzles before the finish was never firm at the first. May we all be diligent and be found faithful in that great day. Previous Lessons: Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1 (An Introduction) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #2 (On the Doctrine of Scripture) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #3 (On the Doctrine of God) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #4 (On God the Father) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #5 (On God the Son Baptist, What Do You Believe? #6 (On God the Holy Spirit) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #7 (On the Doctrine of Man) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #8 (On the Doctrine of Salvation) Baptist, What Do You Believe? #8 (Continued) (On the Doctrine of Salvation)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Independence Day

In recognition of Independence day, and an overly political Southern Baptist Convention, here's a '49 Chevy shot March 1, 2006, in the middle of the night at a UPS facility near Vinita, Oklahoma. Happy fourth, everybody.