Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Have you ever wondered about the meaning of some of the Latin titles adorning not only this blog but other blogs? Mine is fairly obvious. “Church History.” When I see it, it reminds me of the great work by the Venerable Bede on the history of the English Church during the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon eras. Or those classic works by early Church historians Eusebius of Caesarea, Socrates and Sozomen. Or even the mother of all church histories: The Book of Acts by Luke the historian. As I said, though, mine is fairly easy.

But what about Kevin Bauder’s blog? Have you thought, what exactly does Nos sobrii mean? Well, here is your opportunity to learn the meaning of his blog’s name, as well as learn some Latin and enjoy an excellent post on how to live in this frivolous and shallow age: What Does It Mean?


The central ethical dilemma for eighteenth-century, transatlantic British society was that of running the slave-trade and of owning slaves. It was only resolved when British Evangelicals came to rightly realize that they had to fight in the political realm for the right of persons of African descent to be recognized as full human beings. And in so doing, they used the democratic processes of their day to take on those powers that supported the slave trade and slavery, which John Wesley rightly depicted as “that execrable sum of all villainies.” [The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley A.M, ed. Nehemiah Curnock (London: The Epworth Press, 1914), 5:445-446].

There are few today who would dispute the rightness of that moral struggle. But central to a number of critical ethical issues of our day is the very same question: what does it mean to be human? The resolution of the ethical dilemmas surrounding, for example, abortion and genetic engineering cannot be found unless this question is answered. It strikes me that just as our eighteenth-century Evangelical forebears’ activism against the slave trade and slavery was rooted in their conviction of the utter sinfulness of the slave trade, so today the clarity regarding the vileness of abortion must issue in action.

Now, the truth about the perverse thinking of those who would defend abortion can be seen in various statements of an abortionist by the name of William F. Harrison of Fayetteville, Arkansas. For the full report of the horrific candour of his views, see Al Mohler’s “The Perverse Logic of Abortion,” today’s entry on his website For instance, something of the perverse stance of this man can be seen in the Reproductive Freedom Task Force newsletter, where Harrison claimed to have heard “a still, small voice asking, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ to which I was at last compelled to reply, ‘Here am I, send me’.” Harrison is parodying of course the call of Isaiah the Prophet in Isaiah 6.

Let me suggest without mincing any words that the still small voice that Harrison has been heeding is not from the Glorious One that called Isaiah and Who is the awesome Maker of all life in the womb, but from his wicked adversary, a murderer from the beginning!    


Here is a colour PDF facsimile of Vaticanus that can be downloaded for free at: This free PDF is only of the New Testament, though, not the LXX. Still it is utterly amazing! For further info see also Free Codex Vaticanus @ the fabulous blog Evangelical Textual Criticism.


Lack of interest in confessional Christianity is nothing new. Among the most fascinating figures of the 18th century is Robert Robinson (1735-1790), at one time clear in his confessional identity as a Calvinistic Baptist and the author of the well-known hymn “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing.” Yet, by the end of his life, it was said of him:

“[Robinson] hath his own opinions of the nature of God, and Christ, and man, and the decrees, and so on: but he doth not think that the opinion of Athanasius, or Arius, or Sabellius, or Socinus, or Augustine, or Pelagius, or Whitby, or Gill, on the subjects in dispute between them, ought to be considered of such importance as to divide Christians, by being made the standards to judge of the truth of any man’s Christianity.” [Seventeen Discourses of Several Texts of Scripture; Addressed to Christian Assemblies in villages near Cambridge. To which are added, Six Morning Exercises (New ed.; Harlow: Benjamin Flower, 1805), p. iv-v].

This is sad, to say the least. As an excellent corrective to a replication of this state of affairs in our day is the announcement that Reformed Baptist Academic Press is soon to publish Jim Renihan’s True Confessions. Baptist Documents in the Reformed Family.

It was with a deep sense of “finally” that I heard of this new work by Dr. Renihan, who heads up The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. We have long needed this detailed and tabular comparison of the foundational documents of our Calvinistic Baptist heritage—the First London Confession of Faith (1644), the Second London Confession of Faith (1677/1689), The Baptist Catechism (sometimes called Keach’s Catechism) and Hercules Collins’ The Orthodox Catechism (1680)—and their sources. This work will remind lovers of that heritage that those who drew up these documents saw themselves as part of a Calvinist International, “a broader Reformed community” as Renihan puts it. As such, this book will be vital in helping us, who are the heirs of the men who wrote these texts, know not only what we must affirm in this day of doctrinal confusion but also know whence we have come and who belongs to our extended family, as it were, within the great body of Christian believers.

May it further these ends and the study of confessional theology among us Baptists, and so avoid the sad latitudinarianism of Robert Robinson in his final days.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Here is a good article noticed by Justin Taylor. Jennifer Roback Morse, who, according to her bio, “is the founder and chief visionary of Your Coach for the Culture Wars, a business devoted to supporting organizations that want to preserve their core values and achieve prosperity by taking a stand in the Culture Wars,” writes on Why the Left Hates Sex.


How I love the bracing way that Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) still speaks across the years. So often it is as if he was living in our day and facing our distinct challenges. See Phil Johnson’s latest Spurgeon selection: “Let’s not lose in truthfulness what we gain in charity.”

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Here is a thought-provoking meditation by Russ Moore on the Christ that should occupy our minds before Christmas — “The Apocalypse at Christmastime.” Despite the advent of Christmas, Moore decided to lead his Sunday School class in thinking about “Jesus as a conquering Warrior Messiah, dripped in blood and destroying his enemies”. As Moore notes: “With Bethlehem before her, Mary also had Armageddon on her mind. So should we.”

He is right on. Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, are meant to provide us time to reflect on the second coming of Christ, his second advent. He has come as Saviour—we know await his coming as a conquering King.

And that Day when he comes will be a day of reality, an awful unveiling when the plasticity of so many will be melted away by the awesome fire of his presence and the true state of their lives exposed. For all of their talk about love and tolerance and live and let live, they will be shown to be narrow-minded, having ever refused the expansive love of God in Christ, and filled with hate for Him who is the Source of all that is truly good and pure.

But it will also be a day of vindication for the people of God when they will see that their love for Christ—so often maligned and scorned here and slandered for being intolerant and hateful—has its true reward: everlasting joy in the presence of Christ.

And far from being hateful, true Christians are men and women of love, who desire ultimately the best for those who are not Christians. As Moore further notes: “We must remember that our love for family and friends and Christmas includes our responsibility to plead with them to be found in Christ before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”

May God give us, who look for his appearing, such an opportunity this Christmas. And if you are reading this and you are not a Christian, now is the time to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Do not delay. For his coming draws nigh! For a good guide to how to become a Christian, read Dialogue on Christianity.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


In his address at the inauguration of the Puritan Resource Center, located in the library of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (, Sinclair Ferguson, senior pastor-elect of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, spoke on “The Puritans: Can They Teach Us Anything Today?” [PRTS Update 2, No.4 (December 2005), 1-5]. It is vintage Ferguson.

He mentions four things in particular that we need to learn from the Puritans, those ecclesial Reformers of the British Isles and New England who longed for Spirit-wrought revival.

  • The “significance of spiritual brotherhood in the movements of the Holy Spirit” (p.2-3)

  • The necessity of “the recovery of the pulpit for the recovery of the church” (p.3-4)

  • Driving the Puritans was “their deep sense of the infinite glory of a Triune God” and thus they mining of Scripture produced a theology with a “Trinitarian character” (p.4-5)

  • The Puritans were men and women devoted to the Bride of Christ: they “recognized with great clarity the significance of the church in the purposes of Christ” (p.5)

To all of these points I heartily say amen!

I was especially struck by the first point: the need for a spiritual brotherhood—Christians with “a common vision and a common burden, a common prayer life, and therefore a common goal” (p.3). What was true of Puritan leaders like Richard Greenham, John Cotton, and Richard Sibbes—men bound together in a spiritual family tree—is true of all true movements of the Spirit. Here, as Ferguson emphasizes, one thinks of the Cappadocian Fathers or the circle of friends around Augustine (p.2). Or one might think of two “Puritan” style groups in the 20th century, the circle of men around Martyn Lloyd-Jones and those men mentored by William Still of Aberdeen.

And the same must be true if we are going to see any forward movement of the Spirit in our day. We, who have been made to delight in the sovereign grace and glory of the Triune God, need to learn to esteem one another highly for the sake of the Gospel. This does not mean becoming wishy-washy in our convictions. But it does mean breaking down the barriers erected by distrust and pride and the pettiness of turf-wars. It means ongoing displays of genuine humility and repentance. O for a clear eye centred on the things of first importance and not bedimmed by the things of this passing world.

Some of this is taking place. I am thinking of the upcoming Together for the Gospel conference hosted by Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler with special guests John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul in Lousville next April. But we need to see far more initiatives like this one. May God be gracious to us.

Friday, November 25, 2005


The main theme of the 57th Annual Meeting of ETS a couple of weeks ago was “Christianity in the Early Centuries.” For me one of the highlights was Nicholas Perrin’s brilliant presentation on the Gospel of Thomas, “Thomas, the Fifth Gospel?” (see my posting, 57TH ANNUAL MEETING OF ETS). Perrin argued for a late dating of this Gospel and a Syriac provenance. From a methodological point of view, his arguments appeared to be sound.

Within a few days of hearing Perrin, I found myself reading through Ron Miller, The Gospel of Thomas: A Guidebook for Spiritual Practice (Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths Publ., 2004), which is an attempt to use this Gospel to forge a spirituality for modern western sensibilities. Miller sees this Gospel as a call to each human being to realize that he or she is the “twin” of Jesus (which he derives from the name of the supposed author, Thomas Didymus, that is “twin”). What this means is to realize that all of us are actually as much God as Jesus is! (p.79-80). Such a remark makes a mockery of the early Christian experience recorded in the New Testament and the works of men like Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons. Alongside such unorthodx remarks are remarkably fatuous statements like “we all derive from a virgin birth” (p.86-87).

Miller, a one-time Jesuit, has a deep hostility towards any expression of orthodox Christianity that highlights the unique deity of the Lord Jesus and upholds his death for sins as the pathway of salvation (p.xii, 81-83, for example). Miller believes that true spirituality—being a “Thomas believer,” as he puts it—must move beyond any such exclusivism and embrace all religions as being true (p.xi, 2, 87). Miller is confident that the Gospel of Thomas contains such an all-embracing pluralism.

Yet time and again, I had the distinct feeling that the spirituality Miller claims he finds in the Gospel of Thomas is shaped far more by post-modern infatuations than by the actual text of this Gospel. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas emanated from circles committed to asceticism and a dislike of bodily existence. Yet Miller believes that he can claim to be wholly in sync with the teachings of this Gospel and also affirm the “holiness” of “sexual desire” and that Catholic parishioners (which he had once been ) should make love before coming to the Mass (p.17-18)! If Miller cannot get such basic worldview issues of the Gospel of Thomas right, how can I trust him in the rest of his interpretation of the Gospel? Let me say clearly that—as the Song of Songs bears witness—sexual desire within marriage is a holy thing. Miller is surely right here. But the Gospel of Thomas simply does not advocate this way of thinking.

Nor am I convinced that the Gospel of Thomas is as pluralistic as Miller believes it to be. Many Gnostic groups—and Miller is right to stress their diversity (p.xii and 125, n.3)—were as exclusivistic as their orthodox opponents. That is simply a fact of history. Of course, Miller may respond by saying that this is simply my personal read of the Gospel. As he writes in the Introduction: “My reading of the Gospel of Thomas may not be that of other scholars in the field and may even disagree with what the original author (or authors) intended” (p.xii). At such a point, though, interpretation becomes thinly veiled eisegesis and real discussion as to the meaning of the text is at an end. Why not come clean and admit that the supposed ancient spirituality of the Gospel of Thomas is only as old as the concerns of western post-moderns?

Thursday, November 24, 2005


One of the most poignant lines from the writings of the Latin Church Father, Tertullian, comes at the end of his early treatise On baptism: “This only I pray, that as you ask [in prayer] you also have in mind Tertullian, a sinner” (tantum oro, ut cum petitis etiam Tertulliani peccatoris memineritis, De baptismo 20).

Who of us who writes cannot echo this request? For those brothers and sisters who think of me from time to time, please remember me, a sinner saved solely by grace, in prayer. Can you pray especially for my ongoing work on Samuel Pearce? I have been wanting to write his biography for fifteen years now, and so many other projects always seem to be intervening. Please pray that by God’s grace this will be accomplished. Thank you.


One of the most prominent aspects of the life of Samuel Pearce—which I have been studying now for the past seventeen years—was his passion for the lost. One excellent example of this is found in a missionary trip he took to Ireland in 1795. In July of that year he received an invitation from the General Evangelical Society in Dublin to come over to Dublin and preach at a number of venues. He was not able to go until the following year, when he left Birmingham at 8 a.m. on May 31. After travelling through Wales and taking passage on a ship from Holyhead, he landed in Dublin on Saturday afternoon, June 4.

Pearce stayed with a Presbyterian elder by the name of Hutton while in Dublin who was a member of a congregation pastored by a Dr. McDowell. Pearce preached for this congregation on a number of occasions, as well as for other congregations in the city, including the Baptists.

Baptist witness in Dublin went back to the Cromwellian era to 1653 when, through the ministry of Thomas Patient (d.1666), the first Calvinistic Baptist meeting-house was built in Swift’s Alley [B. R. White, “Thomas Patient in England and Ireland”, Irish Baptist Historical Society Journal, 2 (1969-1970), 41]. The church grew rapidly at first, and by 1725 this church had between 150 and 200 members [Joshua Thompson, “Baptists in Ireland 1792-1922: A Dimension of Protestant Dissent” (Unpublished D. Phil. Thesis, Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, 1988), 9]. A new meeting-house was put up in the 1730s.

By the time that Pearce came to Ireland in 1796, though, the membership had declined to roughly forty members. Pearce’s impressions of the congregation were not too positive. In a letter he wrote to his close friend William Carey (1761-1834) in August, 1796, the month after his return to England, he told the missionary:

“There were 10 Baptist societies in Ireland.—They are now reduced to 6 & bid fair soon to be perfectly extinct.
When I came to Dublin they had no meeting of any kind for religious purposes… Indeed they were so dead to piety that, tho’ of their own denomination, I saw & knew less of them than of every other professors in the place” [Letter to William Carey, August, 1796 (Samuel Pearce Carey Collection—Pearce Family Letters, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford)].

This opinion does not appear to have dampened his zeal in preaching. A Dublin deacon wrote to a friend: “We have had a Jubilee for weeks. That blessed man of God, Samuel Pearce, has preached amongst us with great sweetness and much power.”  And in a letter to a close friend in London, Pearce acknowledged:

“Never have I been more deeply taught my own nothingness; never has the power of God more evidently rested upon me. The harvest here is great indeed; and the Lord of the harvest has enabled me to labor in it with delight” [Memoir of Rev. Samuel Pearce. A.M. (new York: American Tract Society, n.d.), 132].

This passionate concern for the advance of the gospel in Ireland is well caught in a sentence from one of his letters to his wife Sarah. “Surely,” he wrote to her on June 24, “Irish Zion demands our prayers” [Letter to Sarah Pearce, June 24, 1796 (Samuel Pearce mss.)].

If Pearce were alive today, I would suggest that he would still breathe this prayer. May God pour out his Spirit upon the churches in Ulster and in Eire do the same and so advance his Kingdom throughout the Emerald Isle!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


One of the great joys of my life has been the study of the classic treatise on the person of the Holy Spirit, written by Basil of Caesarea (c.330-379) and entitled simply On the Holy Spirit.

In the early 370s Basil found himself locked in theological combat with professing Christians, who, though they confessed the full deity of Christ, denied that the Spirit was fully God. Leading these “fighters against the Spirit” (Pneumatomachi), as they came to be called, was one of his former friends, indeed the man who had been his mentor when he first became a Christian in 356, Eustathius of Sebaste (c.300-377). The controversy between Basil and Esuathatius, from one perspective a part of the larger Arian controversy, has become known as the Penumatomachian controversy.

Eustathius’ interest in the Spirit seems to have been focused on the Spirit’s work, not his person. For him, the Holy Spirit was primarily a divine gift within the Spirit-filled person, One who produced holiness [Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, “Eustathius von Sebaste”, Theologische Realenzyklopädie, 10 (1982), 548-549]. When, on one occasion at a synod in 364, he was pressed to say what he thought of the Spirit’s nature, he replied: “I neither chose to name the Holy Spirit God nor dare to call him a creature”! (Socrates, Church History 2.45).

For a number of years, Basil sought to win Eustathius over to the orthodox position. Finally, in the summer of 373 he met with him for an important two-day colloquy, in which, after much discussion and prayer, Eustathius finally acquiesced to an orthodox view of the Spirit’s nature. At a second meeting Eustathius signed a statement of faith in which it was stated that:

“[We] must anathematize those who call the Holy Spirit a creature, those who think so, and those who do not confess that he is holy by nature, as the Father and Son are holy by nature, but who regard him as alien to the divine and blessed nature. A proof of orthodox doctrine is the refusal to separate him from the Father and Son (for we must be baptized as we have received the words, and we must believe as we are baptized, and we must give honour as we have believed, to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and to withdraw from the communion of those who call the Spirit a creature since they are clearly blasphemers. It is agreed (this comment is necessary because of the slanderers) that we do not say that the Holy Spirit is either unbegotten for we know one unbegotten and one source of what exists, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or begotten, for we have been taught by the tradition of the faith that there is one Only-Begotten. But since we have been taught that the Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father we confess that he is from God without being created. (Basil, Letter 125.3).

In Basil’s thinking, since the Spirit is holy without qualification, he cannot be a creature and must be indivisibly one with the divine nature. The confession of this unity is both the criterion of orthodoxy and the basis upon which communion can be terminated with those who affirm that the Spirit is a creature. This pneumatological position thus defines the precise limits beyond which Basil was not prepared to venture, even for a friend such as Eustathius.

Another meeting was arranged for the autumn of 373, at which Eustathius was to sign this declaration in the presence of a number of Christian leaders. But on the way home from his meeting with Basil, Eustathius was convinced by some of his friends that Basil was theologically in error. For the next two years Eustathius crisscrossed what is now modern Turkey denouncing Basil, and claiming that the bishop of Caeasrea was a Modalist, one who believed that there were absolutely no distinctions between the persons of the Godhead.

Basil was so stunned by what had transpired that he kept his peace for close to two years. As he wrote later in 376, he was “astounded at so unexpected and sudden a change” in Eustathius that he able to respond. As he went on to say: “For my heart was crushed, my tongue was paralyzed, my hand benumbed, and I experienced the suffering of an ignoble soul…and I almost fell into misanthropy… [So] I was not silent through disdain…but through dismay and perplexity and the inability to say anything proportionate to my grief.” (Letter 244.4)

Finally, he simply felt that he had to speak. His words were those of the one most important books of the entire patristic period, On the Holy Spirit.


In an earlier post I mentioned that I heard one or two bad papers at ETS last week. Given the number of papers given it is not surprising that there are some in this category. One that I did not hear and that sounds like it was completely out in left field was by Luther Seminary professor Alan Padgett, who maintained in a paper that Christ submits to the church. According to a news report by Jeff Robinson, in “the question and answer session that followed his presentation, Padgett—who serves as professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.—asserted an even more radical idea: in the New Jerusalem the church will no longer submit itself to Christ”! For the full report, see


Here are two more tributes to the leadership of Adrian Rogers, both worth reading and pondering: this by Tom Ascol, “Adrian Rogers--A Tribute”; and this by Al Mohler, A “Patriarch Passes--The Death of Dr. Adrian Rogers” (see the post for Tuesday, November 15, 2005 @

Monday, November 21, 2005


One of the great things about the ETS meetings are the books that have been significantly discounted and even some that are given away free. One that I received free was by C. Gordon Olson entitled Getting the Gospel Right: A Balanced View of Salvation Truth (Cedar Knolls, New Jersey: Global Gospel Publishers, 2005), which is an abridgement of an earlier volume entitled Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: An Inductive Mediate Theology of Salvation.

The book comes highly endorsed by men like Tim LaHaye, who writes the Foreword, and Earl Radmacher, whom I heard with great profit as a graduation speaker at Central Baptist Seminary, Toronto, many years ago. I have not had time to read the book, but glanced at a few pages, including ones in which Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was mentioned. On page 111 Fuller is given as an example of the way in which subjective introspection can be an obstacle in the way of finding assurance of salvation. On pages 121-122 the author argues that Fuller’s theology helped establish the foundation for the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), which I think is true (see also page 350 in this regard). But then Olson states that “George Whitefield, Andrew Fuller, the New Divinity preachers, Charles Finney, Moody, and Spurgeon” were “key figures in moving Protestantism back to a more simple gospel presentation” (p.122). Putting all of these men together as if they believed the same thing does not bode well for a good understanding of biblical truth about salvation. Finney was an out and out Pelagian, while Moody was probably somewhat atheological. The others were clear-cut Calvinists.

On page 334 Fuller is rightly called William “Carey’s friend & theol[ogical] mentor,” though Olson wrongly states that Whitefield was saved through reading Philip Doddridge’s The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. It was reading Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man that God used to bring Whitefield to the new birth. On the following page the impact of Jonathan Edwards and Joseph Bellamy’s True Religion Delineated on Fuller’s thought is noted.

Finally, on page 347, Olson reiterates the fact that Fuller “was moved from extreme Calvinism” by Edwards’ writings and those of the neo-Edwardsians, namely men like Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins. What he does not make clear is that Fuller remained a Calvinist—in his words, a “strict Calvinist.” Olson is right to point out that Fuller’s The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1st ed.: 1784; 2nd ed.: 1801) “caused a firestorm” for it challenged the Baptists of that day to engage in fervent evangelism. The impression given, though, is that by becoming committed to missions, Fuller and his friends abandoned Calvinism. This is simply not true. For Fuller, Calvinism and evangelism were ever warm friends.

How vital it is for a historian to get his or her facts right! If these are not right, it raises questions about the rectitude of other assertions—in this case the getting of the gospel right!          

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Material on Augustine is legion. The quip that warns potential graduate students not to get into the Latin master because they won’t get out is so true. Nevertheless, knowing this colossus of the Faith is so important, not least because of his enormous influence on the present. But knowing about that influence does not automatically mean that one knows how Augustine would have answered many of the questions that we are seeking to answer.

As Gerald Bray reminds us in a very helpful review of Mark Ellingsen’s The Richness of Augustine: His Contextual and Pastoral Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005)—in the November 2005 of Reformation 21—“we cannot go back to the past and make it fit our own notions of what the people who lived then should have been like.”



Here are two interesting posts by Kevin Bauder on hymns and creeds respectively: Two to Recommend & Good WHAT?


I have been at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, this past week. The meeting ran from Wednesday, November 16 to Friday, November 18. As with any conference of this magnitude there were good sessions and papers and some not so good. Among the former that I considered outstanding, and which I heard, were the following:

  • Nicholas Perrin’s brilliant presentation on the Gospel of Thomas, “Thomas, the Fifth Gospel?”, that convincingly argued for a late second-century dating of the Gospel and a Syrian provenance;

  • Daniel Williams, “Theological Hermeneutics of Tradition before Nicaea,” in which Dr Williams from Baylor University examined the patristic understanding of the relationship between Scripture and tradition;

  • Brian Vickers’s well-argued examination of the doctrine of imputation in Romans 5: “Made Righteous: The Fundamental Language of Redemption in Romans 5:19”;

  • Paul Hartog from Faith Baptist Theological Seminary who spoke on “Polycarp, Scripture and Ephesians”—an excellent study of Polycarp’s reference to Ephesians as Scripture;

  • John A. Nixon’s paper on “Athanasius’ Understanding of the Relationship between Theology and Scripture”—this was a very fine study of the utterly vital role that Scripture played in the formulation of Athanasian theology; at its conclusion it would have been very difficult not to have recognized that Athanasius was a bibliocentric theologian;

  • Timothy Larsen’s detailed examination of the way in which David Bebbington’s 1989 magisterial study of the history of British Evangelicalism was received during the 1990s: “The Reception Given Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain Since Its Publication”;

  • And Thomas Kidd’s “ ‘Prayer for a Saving Issue’: Evangelical Developments in New England Before the Great Awakening”, in which Kidd, a historian from Baylor University, convincingly showed the presence of Evangelical-style sermons and thinking in New England long before the Northampton revival that Dr Bebbington dates as the start of Evangelicalism in the world of Transatlantic Anglophones.

Of course, in addition to listening to papers there were the joys of fellowship and discussion and the books being sold! Next year the conference is in Washington, DC, and the topic is “Christians in the Public Square.” It really is a must for anyone who loves Evangelicalism and wants to deepen his or her grasp of its history and contemporary expressions.


Thursday, November 17, 2005


Here is a picture of the church where Alexander Whyte—see entry for November 10, 2005, ALEXANDER WHYTE, A "SPECIALIST IN THE STUDY OF SIN" —ministered for many years in Edinburgh. See Why Free St. George's? The blog, in which this entry appears, is called Free St. George’s and looks like it will be an interesting blog. I really like the goal of the blog as expressed in its subtitle: “Turning the light of Scottish Church History on the Problems of the Modern Church.”


Here is a fabulous anecdote about the late Dr Adrian Rogers by Phil Johnson. It speaks volumes about Dr Rogers as a true Christian gentleman—and also tells us much about Johnson’s keen sense of humour. Sad to say, such etiquette is a lost art for far too many believers today . See “This is where I am going to be Today.”

Note Phil’s words about Dr Rogers: “I had the highest respect for him, a great love for his preaching ministry, and a special appreciation for the courage and diligence he showed in resisting the erosion of confidence in the Scriptures in some SBC circles.”

For two other personal appreciations of Dr Rogers, see George Grant: “Adrian Rogers (1931-2005)”; and Nathan Finn: “A Tribute to Adrian Rogers Dr. Adrian Rogers pass...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


My friend and colleague Clint Humfrey has posted a very thoughtful entry on his blog entitled “The Apostle Paul: Paleo-Blogger?” Clint makes a good point in noting that Paul’s use of the letter as a medium of communication between himself and his churches bespeaks his pastoral heart and he rightly evidences 2 Cor 10:9-11 as proof.

He also argues that there is a distinct similarity between the Apostle’s letters and the nature of blogging. In his words, “The use of blogging as a means of occasional correspondence to a wide range of readers—some of whom we may never meet—seems to offer parallels to Paul’s ministry.” He thus suggests that it is significant that the Apostle did not “draw up a circular Manual of Discipline, or a 95 Theses, or construct a Didactic Constitution for Christianity.”

Putting aside the question of whether each of these genres of litearture would have been available to the Apostle in his cultural environment, I think it is important to stress that Paul’s letters cannot be fully understood as being primarily, as Clint puts it, “ ‘occasioned’ by a situation needing to be addressed.” This is certainly not true of the circular letter we know as Ephesians and is hardly true of the heart of Romans (1:16-11:36). Some would argue that 1 Timothy has a “church manual” feel to it, though I personally would differ with this view of the purpose of the letter.

Granted there are distinct historical situations that give rise to the other letters—the issue of the Judaizers in Galatia, Paul’s impending death in 2 Timothy, etc.—yet Paul is well aware that he is writing Scripture (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:10, 25; 14:37-38; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2, 8; Colossians 4:16), and, as such, he is aware that his letters have a message that transcends that which occasioned them (see Romans 15:4; cp. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 and 2:2). And he was not alone in thinking this way (see 2 Peter 3:15-16).

Thanks, Clint, for stimulating these thoughts—iron sharpening iron!

Monday, November 14, 2005


In one important respect C. H. Spurgeon is a great model for today’s preacher in that he consistently sought to make his sermons Christ-centred and Christ-exalting. Throughout his preaching ministry, Spurgeon was faithful to the intentions that he declared when the Metropolitan Tabernacle first opened in 1861. The various meetings and services that accompanied the opening of the Tabernacle went on for a month and Spurgeon knew that they would be widely attended and reported. As Timothy Albert McCoy has rightly noted [“The Evangelistic Ministry of C. H. Spurgeon: Implications for a Contemporary Model for Pastoral Evangelism” (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1989), 132], the words that he spoke in his first sermon in the new home for his congregation’s worship were therefore carefully chosen.

“I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, & as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, “It is Jesus Christ.”  My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity, admirable & excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin & bind myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system, or any other human treatise; but Jesus Christ, who is the sum & substance of the gospel, who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, & the life.” [C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, compiled Susannah Spurgeon and J.W. Harrald (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899), III, 1].

We find the same emphases in a sermon which he preached on April 24, 1891, to graduates of his College who had gathered for the annual conference which took place under the auspices of the Tabernacle. “Ah, brothers! the Holy Ghost never comes to glorify us, or to glorify a denomination, or, I think, even to glorify a systematic arrangement of doctrines. He comes to glorify Christ. If we want to be in accord with him, we must preach in order to glorify Christ.”[“Honey in the Mouth!”, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 37:381.].

Spurgeon was conscious that devotion to the doctrines of grace and dedication to Baptist principles can well exist without the all-essential heart of Christianity, namely, devotion to the Lord Jesus. He was determined that when he preached it would be the Lord Jesus who was pre-eminently exalted in his sermons. As Nigel Lacey, an English Baptist pastor, has observed, Spurgeon detested any preaching ministry that did not centre upon the Saviour [“Spurgeon—The Preacher”, Grace Magazine (January 1992), 6].

At the same time it should be understood that he never sought to conceal his doctrinal convictions as a Calvinistic Baptist. In a remarkable address which he gave at the Tabernacle on August 19, 1861 in honour of the centenary of the birth of William Carey (1761-1834), he declared to a packed auditorium of 6,000 that Carey’s theology was profoundly influenced by what he called “the noblest type of divinity that ever blessed the world,” that is, the theological convictions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the great eighteenth-century American theologian.

He then went on to emphasize that “Carey was the living model of Edwards’ theology, or rather of pure Christianity. His was not a theology which left out the backbone and strength of religion—not a theology, on the other hand, all bones and skeleton, a lifeless thing without a soul: his theology was full-orbed Calvinism, high as you please, but practical godliness so low that many called it legal.” Moreover, Spurgeon stated that he admired “Carey all the more for being a Baptist: he had none of that false charity which might prompt some to conceal their belief for fear of offending others; but at the same time he was a man who loved all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ.” [“C.H. Spurgeon’s tribute to William Carey”, Supplement to the Baptist Times, (16 April, 1992), 1].


Philip Ryken (@ Reformation 21) congratulates Dr. Carl R. Trueman on his inauguration as Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary on Wednesday, November 16, 2005, at 10:30am.  I would like to add my congratulations and pray the Triune God’s richest blessings on Carl’s labours at this important school and further afield in the Church.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Sharon Howard, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wales, who also hosts the Early Modern Resources site, blogs at Early Modern Notes. In a recent post entitled So, why would I champion academic blogging? she discusses why she blogs as an academic, as well as the value of blogging for research. What she writes echoes my thoughts entirely about one of the reasons I am blogging:

“Blogging research lets you develop the very first drafts of ideas. Bits and pieces that don’t yet amount to articles (or even conference papers), but they may well do some day. And something else, sometimes: last year I was having trouble thinking up any new ideas at all, but blogging old ideas, often attached to new sources, meant that I kept writing, if only a few hundred words a week, without having to worry about it being original or impressive. And now, because it’s all archived and easy to find, I can look back over some of that work and see potential themes, little seeds of ideas that are worth working on, start to make them grow. …Another thing: writing for a slightly different audience than in the usual academic contexts. This is an amazing opportunity to reach out.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Although there are certain problem areas about the theological perspective of the Scottish preacher and author Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), he was right on when it came to his emphasis on the pervasiveness and odious deceitfulness of sin. In a very real sense he sought to be what he called a “specialist in the study of sin.” [“Preface” to Lord, Teach Us to Pray. Sermons on Prayer (New York: George H. Doran Co., [1923]), xi.]

As he commented on one occasion: “I know quite well that some of you think me little short of a monomaniac about sin. But I am not the first that has been so thought of and so spoken about. I am in good company and I am content to be in it. Yes, you are quite right in that. For I most profoundly feel that I have been separated first to the personal experience of sin, and then to the experimental preaching of sin, above and beyond all my contemporaries in the pulpit of our day.” [Bunyan Characters, Fourth Series (Edinburgh/London: Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, [1908]), 195].

Late Victorian British society, with its overly romantic view of the Christian life and its faith in a God who was more a doting Father than the awesome Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, presented real temptations to Whyte to focus on things less morbid. Yet he steadfastly refused to change his ways.

Little wonder his assistant John Kelman stated in his funeral sermon that Whyte was “a Puritan risen from the dead, and prophesying in pagan times to a later generation,” who had “no respect whatever for those who thought lightly of sin” [“Whyte of St. George’s” in Ralph G. Turnbull, ed., The Treasury of Alexander Whyte (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1953), 25, 26-27.].

On one occasion Whyte was walking with a friend in the Pass of Killiecrankie and the name of Henry Drummond (1851-1897) came up. Drummond was a popular author and essayist, whose thought was an eclectic blend of Darwinism and Christianity. “The trouble with Hen-a-ry,” Whyte told his companion,  “is that he doesna ken [know] onything aboot sin.” [Cited Alexander Gammie, Preachers I Have Heard (London: Pickering & Inglis, Ltd., 1945), 12].

Nor was this preoccupation with sin simply a Pharisaic focus on the sins of others. Whyte was very conscious of his own sinfulness, failings, and shortcomings. “Blessed are we…if we know our sin,” he could say honestly (Bunyan Characters, Fourth Series, 124).

As he recalled when fifty years of age: “The first text I ever heard a sermon from was that great text in Zechariah, ‘Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’ ‘It is I, Lord,’ my young heart answered; and my heart is making the same answer here to-day.” [G. F. Barbour, The Life of Alexander Whyte (7th ed.; New York: George H. Doran Co., 1925), 305].

Whyte told an astonished audience on one occasion that he had discovered the name of the wickedest man in Edinburgh. “His name,” he told them in whispered tones, “is Alexander Whyte” (Kelman, “Whyte of St. George’s”, 29). It was, therefore, in all honesty that he could state, “I would rather take my degree in [sin] than in all the other subjects set for a sinner’s examination on earth or in heaven. For to know myself, and especially, as the wise man says, to know the plague of my own heart, is the true and the only key to all other true knowledge.” [Bunyan Characters, First Series (2nd ed.; Edinburgh/London: Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier, 1895), 57-58].

This concern to plumb the depths of the human heart is well captured by a Latin phrase that Whyte loved to quote: generalia non pungunt, “generalities do not pierce deep” (Barbour, Alexander Whyte, 305).


With the world media regularly abuzz with the atrocities committed in the name of Allah by his followers, here is a post well worth pondering by a dear friend, Kirk Wellum: Al Qaeda "Takes Responsibility".

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Here is an endeavour that I fully support: Haldane House.


Here are two recent very good blog posts from Coloratura Christian: "Let a Woman Learn in Silence" & Thoughts on Self-righteousness.


One of the questions frequently raised with regard to Christian preaching by some of its earliest hearers in the Roman Empire is one that is rarely heard today: why has this new way of thinking or mode of living just appeared now if it is really true? It was axiomatic among the ancients—both Greeks and Romans—that what was true was old and that what was new was questionable and probably false. Our culture, it should be noted, has the opposite problem with regard to the Faith. It regards what is old as useless and ready for the garbage heap. That which is the latest is regarded as the best and most desirable. Christianity—with its antiquity—seems far too antiquated for far too many in our world.

But to the ancient world, Christianity’s big problem was its novelty. Since Christianity appeared to take its rise from the appearance of Christ, this was a major question that had to be answered. Theophilus of Antioch (fl. c.180 A.D.), an early Christian apologist, noted that pagans responded to his testimony about Christ with the assertion that the Christian “Scriptures are new and modern” and are therefore utter nonsense. He quoted some pagans as saying that the Christian “message has been made public only recently, and that we have nothing to say in proof of our truth and our teaching; they call our message foolishness.” [To Autolycus 3.1, 4, trans. Robert M. Grant, Theophilus of Antioch: Ad Autolycum (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 101, 105].

The standard answer among Christian apologists was Christianity was rooted in the Old Testament era. Seen in this light, Christian truth had a much better claim to antiquity than either Greek or Roman thought, neither of which were over a millennium old.

The Letter to Diognetus

One early defence of Christianity against the pagan charge of novelty, though, takes a somewhat different approach to this question. The Letter to Diognetus, an anonymous tract written in defence of Christianity some time in the late second century, argues that although God conceived the design of sending his Son to redeem humanity, at first he told it to nobody but the Son. Then, when men and women had shown by their “unruly instincts and…sensuality and lust” that they were both “unworthy to achieve life” and “unable to enter into the kingdom of God by [their] own power,” God sent forth his Son Letter to Diognetus 8.9-9.2 [trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Early Christian Writings (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1968), 147, altered].

The unknown author does not say a word about the Old Testament period of preparation for the coming of Christ. One possible reason may be that while Christianity is indeed the Ancient Faith, it does partake of a quality of newness that the author does wish to emphasize, as we shall see.

“O sweet exchange!” Something new

The author has argued that God revealed his plan of salvation to none but his “beloved Son” until men realized their utter and complete inability to gain heaven by their own strength. But then, when men were conscious of their sin and God’s impending judgment, God,

“instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickednesses against us, he showed how long-suffering he is. He bore with us, and in pity he took our sins upon himself and gave his own Son as a ransom for us—the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incourruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except his righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for!—that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One righteous, and the righteousness of One should justify the countless wicked!” [Letter to Diognetus 9.2-5 (trans. Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 147-148, altered)].

This is a truly marvellous text, as the author, overwhelmed by what took place at the cross, is lost in rapture, awe, and praise. Here, as so often happens in the writings of Paul, theological reflection leads to praise and worship and doxology.

Yet, the doxological nature of this passage should not lead us to overlook the way that it also contributed to the author’s defence of the Christian worldview. Why should the truth claims of Christianity be weighed seriously? Because, unlike other religions, it deals decisively with the ever-perennial problem of human sin. A renowned historian of this era, Henry Chadwick, puts this point well when he states that one of the major reasons for the growth of the church was the fact that the gospel it preached “spoke of divine grace in Christ, the remission of sins and the conquest of evil powers for the sick soul, tired of living and scared of dying, seeking for an assurance of immortality” [The Early Church (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), 55].

And this was something truly new for the pagan world and something that that world truly needed to hear.

“At once so ancient and so new”

But that message—“at once so ancient and so new” (Augustine, Confessions 10.27)—is equally needed in our world that seems capable of only being fired up by what is modern and up to date. The ancient message of the new birth and the new covenant is still good news to modern—or should I say post-modern?—men and women and children grappling with the ever-present problems of sin and death and meaning and hope.


In a blog entitled Four reasons there was no regular blogpost today Phil Johnson directs his readers to a three-part series of talks that John Piper is doing on the great fourth-century Church Father, Athanasius (c.297-373). Well did Louis Berkhof regard Athanasius as “by far the greatest man of the age, an acute scholar, a strong character, and a man who had the courage of his convictions and was ready to suffer for the truth” [The History of Christian Doctrines (7th ed.; Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 87]. Listen to Dr Piper’s series here:


Tuesday, November 08, 2005


A few blog posts ago I blogged about the French riots. Here is further evidence of those riots’ ideological face: Radical Islam blamed for French riots. Thanks to my assistant, Ian Clary, for the referral to this news item.


Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries—has just begun a blog on the subject of worship: Kauflin hopes to have blog entries five days a week. Justin Taylor, from whom I discovered Kauflin’s blog, says that he expects “it to become a must-read.”

Monday, November 07, 2005


The words of C. H. Spurgeon at the opening of the Metropolitan tabernacle in 1861 are well-known. Below are some of the words spoken by his distinguished predecessor John Gill (1697-1771) when the Carter Lane meeting-house opened in Southwark, London, on October 9, 1757. Gill was preaching from Exodus 20:24, in the course of which he stated:

“As we have now opened a new place of worship, we enter upon it recording the Name of the Lord by preaching the doctrines of the grace of God, and free and full salvation alone by Jesus Christ; and by the administration of gospel ordinances, as they have been delivered to us. What doctrines may be taught in the place after I am gone is not for me to know; but as for my own part, I am at a point; I am determined, and have been long ago, what to make the subject of my ministry. It is upwards of forty years since I entered into the arduous work; and [the] first sermon I ever preached was from these words of the apostle, “For I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”: and through the grace of God I have been enabled, in some good measure, to abide by the same resolution hitherto, as many of you here are my witness; and, I hope, through divine assistance, I ever shall, as long as I am in this tabernacle, and engaged in such a work.”

Over the course of the past 250 years there have been especially four distinguished ministries in this congregation—those of John Rippon, C.H. Spurgeon, Tydeman Chilvers, and currently that of Peter Masters. Like that of Gill, they have faithfully upheld “the doctrines of the grace of God, and free and full salvation alone by Jesus Christ” and we trust that Gill, if he could have seen the future, would have rejoiced in this remarkable succession of biblical preaching.


The one-volume 1845 Bohn edition of Andrew Fuller’s works, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, has just been released on CD. K. David Oldfield, who is the pastor of Calvary Independent Baptist Church in Post Falls, Idaho, and who has done the scanning of this work via OCR, rightly notes in the “Preface to this Electronic Edition” that “modern Baptists may have heard about this man and his theology, but very few have ever directly read any of his material. In many cases, based upon hearsay, people have formed negative conclusions about him and in the process dismissed the wealth of wisdom and instruction that he has left us.”

Oldfield also believes that a hard copy of Fuller’s works that is available may be too prohibitive cost-wise for wide circulation. Is he referring to the three-volume edition that Sprinkle Publications issued a number of years ago: The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (1845 ed.; repr. Harrisonburg, Virginia: 1988)? If so, it should be mentioned that this three-volume work has certain other inadequacies, including its incompleteness, the small font size of the text, and the lack of both critical annotation and adequate indices.

This electronic edition by Oldfield also suffers from not being complete, for there are two volumes of additional writings of Fuller that it does not contain. These are not included in any of the standard hard-copy editions of his works and neither of them is readily available today: J. W. Morris, collected, Miscellaneous Pieces on Various Religious Subjects, being the last remains of the Rev. Andrew Fuller and Joseph Belcher, ed., The Last Remains of the Re. Andrew Fuller (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, [1856]). Nevertheless, having Fuller’s works in electronic form is fabulous, both in terms of research possibilities and usability.

Oldfield rightly notes that although “most of us would quarrel with Fuller in some areas of theology, in the main, most sovereign grace Baptists would not only agree with him, but would be blessed by reading his expositions and closely thought-out arguments against the heretics of his day.” And as he further notes, modern-day Baptists are deeply indebted to Fuller, for “along with a few others,” Fuller “was instrumental in bringing Baptists back to their “evangelical” and New Testament roots, helping to send William Carey as a missionary to India and imploring the lost of Great Britain to come to Christ.”

The CD can be ordered from at a very reasonable price. The Works on the CD come in WordPerfect, MS Word and Adobe PDF.


Here is a helpful chronology for the study of the Apostle Paul’s life and ministry: “A Chronology of the Apostle Paul” @ Novum Testamentum. A more extensive chronology by the author, Brandon Wason, can be found here: Paul's Chronology.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


John Calvin’s love for the Church made him reluctant at first to embrace the Reformation for fear of involving himself in an unholy schism. But he soon realized, as he put it: “The communion of the Church was not instituted to be a chain to bind us in idolatry, impiety, ignorance of God, and other kinds of evil, but rather to retain us in the fear of God and obedience of the truth.”


It is interesting that the full details about the current rioting in Paris and its suburbs are not being given in most of the media. Here is the opening line of a report from today on AOL: “Bands of youths torched more than 750 cars and burned warehouses and a nursery school in a ninth night of violence that spread from the restive Paris suburbs to towns around France.” You have to read most of the article to find out that the rioting is taking place in areas that are “home to large populations of African Muslim immigrants and their children living in low-income housing projects marked by high unemployment, crime and despair.” The riots are being done by Muslims. Similar riots have also been taking place in Denmark, which are clearly religiously motivated. See this post at Southern Appeal.

What will it take for the western media to realize that Islam is not a religion of peace, as so many blithely claim, but one that clearly espouses violence and that in its holy book? “Holy” violence is at the heart of Islam from its earliest history and is central to its current reality. Of course, this is not to deny that the poverty and despair of the housing estates play a significant factor in the cause of the riots. But the western media, and especially that in France, have been reluctant to admit that what is going on here is really a clash of civilizations, to use a well-worn phrase made popular by Samuel P. Huntington, a Harvard political scientist.  

Huntington used this phrase in his Summer 1993 Foreign Affairs essay “The Clash of Civilizations?” and he later expanded the idea into a book. In essence, he argued that Islam has bloody borders and wherever it is currently advancing in the world there is violence. Huntington’s hypothesis has not been without significant critique (see the items listed @ Clash of Civilizations?), but it does seem to have substantial evidence to back it up. The rioting in France seems to offer further support for Huntington’s hypothesis.

How then do we, who are believers, need to live in such a day as this? We need to pray passionately for the invincible advance of the gospel (see the model for this in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). And we need to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers amidst the harvest fields of Islam, ever confident that God will save his people. Is the salvation of a spiritually dead western secularist easier than that of a fervent, yet also spiritually dead, Muslim? Of course not! The power needed to bring about salvation of both is alike to the Spirit. Oh the comfort of irresistible grace!    

Friday, November 04, 2005


Check out this potted history of the rightly famous Metropolitan Tabernacle and its pastors @ fatbaptist ( A Correspondent Writes...


In teaching Church History I have often mentioned how we stand in a lineage coming down from the Reformers and even the Fathers and the Apostles. Here is one attempt at tracing the lineage back to Calvin from the present day by John Babri, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on his Blog The Cutting Edge (John Babri):  “I am at SBTS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fabulous, brother John, stand firm!          

Thursday, November 03, 2005


It was a good number of years ago in the mid-1980s that the band of brothers associated with William Carey gripped my attention and it has not wavered since. So anything linked to Carey and his friends is of interest.

I just came across this entry @ Oren Martin: William Carey (posted by cindy) . It contains an excellent summation of the Serampore Form of Agreement (1804) drawn up by the Serampore Trio: Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward.

For an essay on Carey that discusses the Serampore Form of Agreement, see this blogger’s “A Wretched, Poor, And Helpless Worm”: The Life And Legacy Of William Carey (1761-1834).


What a precious text is Ephesians 5:25b: “Christ … loved the church and gave himself for her.” Before time began or space was formed, the One we know as the Lord Jesus Christ had set his heart on dying for those human sinners who would one day make up the church, the Bride of the Lord Jesus. Not out of necessity or from need, not by constraint or grudgingly, but from a heart of love, out of mercy and kindness, freely and willingly, Christ came into this world to die for the church.

It is unfortunate that our word “church” is commonly used as a description of the building in which God’s people meet to worship. We thus talk about “going to church.” Early Christians, of course, were spared such confusion, for until the late third century believers did not have distinct buildings set apart for worship. Instead they would meet in Christian homes and for them the church easily had the quality of a family. And it was in the intimacy of this setting that they learned to truly love one another. So the Apostle refers to fellow-believers in the church at Rome as “my beloved Epaenetus” (Rom 16:5), Amplias, “my beloved in the Lord” (Rom 16:8), and “Stachys, my beloved” (Rom 16:9).

And earlier in the chapter, Paul shows us true love in action. Aquila and Priscilla, husband and wife, loved Paul so much that they were willing to risk their very lives for the Apostle. Literally, they put their necks on the line for Paul (Rom 16:4). When this happened we do not know. But that it happened spoke volumes for Paul about what it means to be in Christ. He never forgot what could have been a very costly display of love. He treasured the memory of the incident and the love that lay behind it. The love of Aquila and Priscilla powerfully illustrated genuine Christlikeness.

If we love Christ we cannot but love what he loves and be filled with the sweet love he has for his church.


A close friend of mine, Stéphane Gagné, a Baptist pastor in Québec, went on a missions trip this past summer to Europe. A passionate student of history, Stéphane took time to visit key places associated with Francophone Evangelicalism. He was deeply moved by  being in Lausanne where the great French Calvinist Antoine Courtborn March 17, 1695, at Villeneuve-de-Berg in France, and died June 12, 1760, in Lausanne, Switzerland—founded a seminary. By God’s grace, Court played a central role in the restoration of the Reformed churches in France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) and after the devastation caused by the disorderliness of the French Prophets.

The story of the French Reformed community is a both a thrilling one and one of profound sadness—the missionary zeal during the Reformation, the steadfastness under persecution, the destruction of Reformed communities under the French sovereigns of the 17th century, the recovery of many of these communities under Court, the falling away of many into liberalism in the late 18th century, and then Le réveil of the 19th century—all areas of rich instruction. Yet, much of it is terra incognita to the Evangelical worlds of Anglophones and even Francophones. How much there is for us to read in the story of the Church!    


I have long lamented the current craze that rejects classical hymnody. The singing of the classical hymns of the past is possibly one of the few places, if not the only place, that many modern evangelicals have contact with our evangelical forebears. The rejection of these hymns, and by extension much of our past, is utter folly and will be devastating. May God wake us up and enable us to save our hymns.

Alongside this, though, we need new hymn writers, writers of lyrics that share all of the features of classical hymnody. Praise God there seems to be a revival of genuine hymnody. Dr. Al Mohler draws attention to the work of Keith and Kristyn Getty in his most recent piece on his blog: “Oh, to See the Dawn”—A New Hymn Worth Singing… Over and Over Again” ( Keith Getty co-wrote the well-known “In Christ Alone” with Stuart Townend. Check out Getty Music at and hear excerpts from their new album, “Hymns for the Life of the Church” (New Irish Hymns 4, Kingsway Music), released in October.

May our glorious Triune God continue to empower this brother and sister and others like them, and raise up even more new hymnists to pen songs for his people to sing his praise!

P H MELL (1814-1888)

P. H. Mell (1814-1888) was an outstanding 19th century Southern Baptist leader. His life reveals the way in which a fervently evangelical Calvinism was the norm in 19th century Southern Baptist circles. See this nice sketch of his life and ministry by Nathan Finn, a doctoral student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Patrick Hues Mell (1814-1888): Southern Baptist Ed...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


It has been estimated that Augustine of Hippo Regius (354-430) preached somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 sermons, many of which were recorded by notarii, that is stenographers, and some of which he dictated for distribution.

In his sermons Augustine was well aware that a preacher must not only teach (docere) but also delight (delectare) [David Dunn-Wilson, A Mirror for the Church: Preaching in the First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 2005), 93]. Augustine was well fitted for such a role because of his literary training. He appealed to intellectuals because of his vast knowledge of Roman history and classical literature. But it is noteworthy that he also had time for those who were not learned. He used words that they could understand and asked them sometimes in the middle of the sermon if he had “expounded the text too hastily” (Dunn-Wilson, A Mirror for the Church, 93).

He was often transparent in his preaching, apologizing when he felt he had not done justice to a text and promising to return to it later. And unlike classical speakers who rarely regarded brevity as a virtue, Augustine never forgot that the congregation had to stand during the preaching and so he would apologize if his sermon was too long  (Dunn-Wilson, A Mirror for the Church, 93-94).

He was a master of similes:

  • “Hope” is like an egg;

  • The Scriptures are likened to “the hem of Christ’s garment”;

  • Human life is like a leaky ship;

  • And human beings are “frailer than glass.”

He drew his imagery from diverse sources: the law-court, the realm of the gladiator, farms, doctor’s surgeries, orchards, athletic contests (Dunn-Wilson, A Mirror for the Church, 94).

At the heart of his preaching, though, was the exegesis of Scripture, a task that he loved, for “the words of the Lord,” he said, “are always sweet” [Hom. 75.1, on 1 John 5:2 (cited Dunn-Wilson, A Mirror for the Church, 94)]. He knew much of the Scripture by heart, and quoted it from memory when he was preaching, which he usually did extempore. On his love for and respect for Scripture, see Sermon 162C.15: “Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Here is an exellent bibliography on “Decisional Regeneration (Altar Calls)” at the provocations and pantings blog. The first item on the list is David Bennett, The Altar Call: It’s Origins and Present Usage (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2000), which is the definitive examination of this evangelical phenomenon. When I read it a few years ago, I thought, finally someone has detailed the history of this unbiblical practice. Find it and read it.


As any student of the Reformation knows, this powerful gale of spiritual life that blew across western Europe had a major impact on the political realm. In the Scandinavian kingdom of Sweden and its dependency, Finland, for instance, the Reformation occurred against a background of considerable political and social upheaval. It was really not until the 1590s that the Reformation there was securely established. Though Gustavus Vasa (1496-1560), the ruler of Sweden from 1523 till his death, was committed to making Sweden a Protestant nation, the Reformation lacked widespread popular support until well after Gustavus Vasa’s death. Finally in 1593 the Swedish Church adopted the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530) as its statement of faith. In fact, so deeply rooted was the Swedish Reformation in the first decades of the seventeenth century that the key champion of Protestant Europe was none other than Gustavus Adolphus, the grandson of Gustavus Vasa.

Gustavus Adolphus (1595-1632)

Gustavus Adolphus was schooled in the classics and various European languages. By the age of sixteen he was not only conversant in Swedish and German, his native languages, but he had also mastered Latin, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Russian and Polish! Due to the fact that he was expected to inherit the throne, his father, Charles IX (r.1604-1611), also introduced him at an early age to the realms of politics and warfare. His reign, which commenced in 1611, dramatically transformed Sweden from a position of political and military insecurity into one of the most powerful nations in Europe. The Swedish king became known as one of the greatest men of his age, a skilled diplomat and a brilliant military commander. Gustavus Adolphus’ personal appearance gave further lustre to his political savvy and martial know-how, for he was a tall, muscular man with blond hair. The Italians called him Il Re d’Oro—the Golden King.

However, Gustvaus Adolphus had inherited an extremely difficult political situation. Sweden was involved in two separate struggles in the Baltic when his father died. A fratricidal war with the Danish was brought to an end in 1613 and one with the Russians was concluded very advantageously for the Swedes in 1617. A series of wars with Poland, though, which began in 1621 dragged on for most of that decade. With the final conclusion of the Polish Wars in 1629, the Swedish King could turn his attention to what was a pressing concern for all Protestants in Europe, the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

The Thirty Years’ War

This war—really a succession of armed conflicts—was essentially religious in nature. It began in May, 1618, when Calvinists in Bohemia revolted against their king, the Jesuit-trained Ferdinand II (1578-1637), by tossing two of his officials out of a palace window in Prague. The two men apparently survived a seventy-foot fall because, some claimed, they landed in a pile of manure! Ferdinand, who was also the Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Austria, was determined to subdue Bohemia since it supplied a significant amount of his wealth. Moreover, the monarch had dedicated himself to the restoration of Roman Catholic power in central Europe. Ferdinand thus sought to roll back the religious gains of the Reformation in his lands with the power of the sword. He was counting on the support of such Catholic allies as Spain to achieve these goals. The revolt in Bohemia plunged Europe into a series of wars that lasted for thirty years.

The high point of this struggle for the Roman Catholics was the forcible expulsion by Austrian arms of some 30,000 Protestant families from Bohemia—long a bastion of the Hussite Church and Protestantism. In the words of one historian, Owen Chadwick, this was “the most signal and permanent triumph of the Counter-Reformation.” An edict passed in the same year as this Roman Catholic victory, 1629, stripped all Calvinists in the various German states comprising the Holy Roman Empire of their civil rights. Moreover, the edict required all lands acquired by German Protestants since 1552 to be restored to Roman Catholic powers. All would have been lost for German-speaking Protestantism if had not been for the providential intervention of Gustavus Adolphus and his army.

The warrior

It is important to note that while political reasons were not absent from Sweden’s entry into this war, Gustavus’ religious convictions were a central motivation in his decision to lead an army into the heart of Europe. He rightly believed that he could not sit idly by and watch fellow believers suffer to such a degree and in such large numbers.

The success that attended his campaign in the Thirty Years’ War and other military ventures is usually completely ascribed to his genius as a tactician. He realized, for example, that mobility was critical in battle, and accordingly he had the equipment of his soldiers lightened as well as the artillery pieces. Furthermore, due to the fact that Sweden at this point in history had a population of only 850,000 (with Finland having another 350,000), it was impossible for Gustavus to field a completely Swedish army capable of waging war on the European continent. He thus made skilful use of well-trained soldiers from other nations, of which those from Scotland were the most notable.

The loyalty he inspired among his soldiers was also a key factor in his success as a general. One Scottish officer who served under him wrote: “Such a General [as Gustavus] would I gladly serve; but such a General I shall hardly see, whose custom was to be the first and last in danger in himself, gaining his officers’ love, in being the companion both of their labours and dangers.” Even his enemies recognized the love his army had for him. An Italian by the name of Gualdo Priorato, who had actually fought against Gustavus, stated: “No prince was ever so beloved as he was…no general was obeyed with greater affection and readiness.”

Gustavus would die on the field of battle on November 6, 1632, at the Battle of Lützen.

The Christian

Finally, and most importantly, the fact of Gustavus Adolphus’ deep-seated Christian piety as a factor in the success of his army should not be ignored. Like the piety of another great Christian soldier of the seventeenth century, Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Gustavus’ evangelical faith shaped his army and gave it purpose and resolve.

No Christian worthy of the name likes war, and in this Gustavus is no exception. There is no evidence that the Swedish monarch engaged in the wars that he did for military glory. The glory, though, that Gustavus Adolphus longed for was the glory of God. This is quite different from many warriors of the early modern era. Lord Nelson, about whom we have been blogging recently, actually sought for glory in war.

Yet, Gustavus also knew himself to be a man called to a huge responsibility: securing the welfare of his nation and succouring the Protestant cause in Europe. He was convinced that God had called him for the hour in which he lived. And if he had not had acted, German Protestantism would have been well nigh annihilated. There is little doubt that Gustavus Adolphus helped change the course of European history.

The kingdom of God is not ushered in through force of military arms, but such wars as Gustavus fought—wars essentially for self-defence—are not ruled out by the Word of God, as a careful reading of passage like Romans 13 shows. The name of Gustavus Adolphus belongs with those of other military commanders like Oliver Cromwell, James Gardiner (1688-1745), Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), and T.J. Jackson (1824-1863)—men who loved the Lord Jesus and who did not feel their calling conflicted with their Christian faith.