Friday, June 30, 2006


I went with Nigel Pibworth today to Cambridge, England, one of my favourite cities. Saw a number of things that I hope to blog about: most deeply impressed with seeing Hugh Latimer’s pulpit in the church where Thomas Bilney and Robert Barnes began to proclaim Reformation truth. According to the website of this church, St Edward King and Martyr:

“The church played a unique role in the early days of the Reformation. A group of evangelicals in Cambridge, of whom Thomas Bilney was the first, had been meeting regularly in the early 1520s. They were influenced by a fresh translation of the New Testament by Erasmus and by the ideas of Luther, and believed passionately in the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“At the Christmas Midnight Mass at St Edward’s in 1525 one of them, Robert Barnes, preached what was probably the first openly evangelical sermon to be preached in any church in the country, proclaiming the Christian gospel and accusing the Church of its heresies. St Edward's can thus claim to be ‘the cradle of the Reformation’ in England. Other reformers preached regularly at St Edward’s, including Hugh Latimer until he left Cambridge in 1531. Some of his sermons preached here have been preserved, and the pulpit from which the reformers preached is still in use.”


The doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is being challenged today by some Evangelicals. They are far are not only from Scriptural truth but also our Evangelical heritage rooted in that truth.

Here is Thomas Chalmers, from his introduction to Abraham Booth’s The Reign of Grace from its Rise to its Consummation (1768):

“Had we fulfilled the law of God, heaven would have been ours, and it would have been given to us because of our righteousness.  We have broken that law, and yet heaven may be ours, not because of our righteousness, but still because of a righteousness; and the honor of God is deeply involved in the question, What and whose righteousness this is?  It is not the righteousness of man, but the righteousness of Christ reckoned unto man.  The whole distinction between a covenant that is now exploded, and the covenant that is now in force, hinges upon this alternative.  If we make a confidence of the former plea, we shall perish; and if of the latter, we shall have everlasting life.

“The merit of His well-beloved Son is to Him the incense of a sweet-smelling savor, so that the guiltiest creature who takes shelter there, has posted himself on the very avenue, along which there ever rolls the tide of divine complacency.  We should invest ourselves then with this merit, and wrap ourselves firmly in it, as in a covering.  We should put on Christ, who is offered to us without money and without price.  We should present ourselves before God, with His invitation as our alone warrant, and the truth of His promises, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, as our alone confidence.  His place in the new covenant is to declare our forgiveness, through the blood of a satisfying atonement.  Our place in the covenant, is to give credit to that declaration.”

Reader: is what is delineated in the second paragraph a reality in your life?

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I must admit I do love large metropolitan areas: the life and energy, the bookstores and libraries, the variety of people, the press of life and the urgency of reaching them for Christ... I love Manhattan for all of this. And London where I went today.

Spent some time at the THE BRITISH LIBRARY - The world’s knowledge. Awesome to see Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, two of the most precious Biblical codices.

Also thrilling was seeing the book for which the British Library paid the equivalent of well over two million dollars in 1994. Dr. Brian Lang, the chief executive of the Library at the time, described it as “certainly the most important acquisition in our 240-year history.” The book? A copy of the New Testament. Of course, it was not just any copy. In fact, at the time it was purchased there was only one other known New Testament like this one in existence, and that one, which is in the library of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, is lacking seventy-one of its pages.

The New Testament that the British Library purchased was lodged for many years in the library of the oldest Baptist seminary in the world, Bristol Baptist College, Bristol, England. It had been bequeathed to the College by Andrew Gifford (1700-1784), a London Baptist minister. It was printed in the German town of Worms on the press of Peter Schoeffer in 1526 and is known as the Tyndale New Testament after its remarkable translator—William Tyndale. It was the first printed New Testament to be translated into English out of the original Greek, and is indeed an invaluable book. Since then a third copy has been found in a German library.

But what a thrill to see it. How much we owe, under God, to Tyndale.


Nathan Finn has been blogging about closed communion. Some good stuff here, check it out. Also he has a very interesting post on Baptism, Church Membership, and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. I too think that the slippery slope argument can be overworked in terms of historical precedent, but this is a very sobering post. Read it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Here is an important announcement from my dear friend and now full-time colleague Kirk Wellum: A Time of Change.


I am currently in the UK—in Biggleswade, Beds., England, to be exact—staying with my dear friends Nigel and Janice Pibworth.

I flew over last night into Heathrow on British Airways. Nigel picked me up and today he and I visited nearby Moggerhanger Park—For more information visit the Moggerhanger Website (click here)—built by Sir John Soane and linked with the Thorntons of the Clapham Sect (the abolitionist friends of William Wilberforce), and Moot Hall in Elstow, which is associated with John Bunyan (1628-1688) (see Elstow Moot Hall photo).

There is so much Evangelical history in this area of England! What a delight to the soul to remember the works of the Lord in the past and trust him to do similar great things again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


In a recent review of Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (Nextbook/Shocken, 2006), literary critic Harold Bloom notes that “Spinoza’s God is scarcely distinguishable from Nature, and is altogether indifferent to us, even to our intellectual love for him” [“The Heretic Jew”, The New York Times Book Review (June 18, 2006), 7]. Despite some critical remarks about Spinoza as a thinker, Bloom feels that his Ethics is quite illuminating, though “light without heat” [ibid., 7]. I could not help but think of Jonathan Edwards when I read this remark, for Edwards loved to use this metaphor of light and heat. But how different Edwards’ philosophical reflections: there we find both heat and light.

And, although Bloom calls Spinoza “greatly cold and coldly great” in his thinking about God, he feels that this perspective is vastly better than the situation that currently prevails in what he calls “our religion-mad” United States. For in the latter, many are “persuaded that God loves each of them, personally and individually” and this, from Bloom’s vantage-point, is surely one of the reasons for “the daily slaughters on the streets of Baghdad” during “this era of George W. Bush.” [ibid., 7].

The logic here is tenuous at best and at worst is a mockery of what is at the heart of biblical Christianity. Belief in a personal God who is active in history and loves men and women as individuals does not necessarily entail what Bloom claims. And how can one explain the passion we feel and the longing for both heat and light if our Maker is merely Cold Light?


This week I am at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—one of my most favourite places in the world—teaching a course on Baptist theologians. At the end of the week we shall be looking at Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), that remarkable preacher-theologian. Here is a taster of the theological riches to be found in his preaching. These texts speak of the need of our churches to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. May God enable us to learn the theological lesson these texts proclaim.

In an early sermon, “The Superlative Excellence of the Holy Spirit,” Spurgeon emphasizes that the Spirit must be treated with “deep awe and reverence.” Believers must be careful not to grieve him or provoke him to anger through sin. Moreover, if “the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us do nothing without him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring his blessing.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 10:338).

In a later sermon, entitled “The Paraclete,” which was preached in 1872, Spurgeon reminded his audience that if they truly considered the Spirit to be their “sole force,” then they ought to: “Love the Spirit, worship the Spirit, trust the Spirit, obey the Spirit, and, as a church, cry mightily to the Spirit. Beseech him to let his mighty power be known and felt among you.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 18:564). And putting his own advice into practice, Spurgeon went on to cry:  “Come, Holy Spirit now! Thou art with us, but come with power and let us feel thy sacred might!” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 18:564).

Spurgeon was all too aware of the consequences of failing to heed such advice. In a sermon preached two years before “The Paraclete,” the Baptist preacher laid before the congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle what he called “A Most Needful Prayer Concerning the Holy Spirit.” His text was the prayer of David in Psalm 51:11: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” After a personal confession, in which Spurgeon declared that he “would sooner die a thousand times, than lose the helpful presence of the Holy Ghost,” he used a vivid illustration, fresh in the minds of his hearers, to depict the church from which the Spirit has departed.

On the other side of the English Channel the Franco-Prussian War was raging, and, as Spurgeon preached, the war was going badly for the French, who would suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Prussians at the end of that year. “Any church from which the Spirit has departed,” Spurgeon declared, “becomes very like that great empire with whose military glory the world was dazzled, and whose strength made the nations tremble. France, mistress of arms, queen of beauty, arbiter of politics, how soon has she fallen!…The nation once so great now lies bleeding at her victor’s feet, pitied of us all none the less because her folly continues the useless fight. Just so have we seen it in churches; may we never so see it here.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 16:562).

Spurgeon turns to the geography of Egypt to drive his point home even further. Areas of land in Egypt which were once fertile because of life-giving irrigation canals drawn from the Nile River are now desert simply because these canals have been allowed to lapse into disuse. So it is with churches, Spurgeon emphasizes. Churches “irrigated by the Spirit,” he declared, “once produced rich harvests of souls;      left of the Spirit the sand of the world has covered them, and where once all was green and beautiful there is nothing but the former howling wilderness.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 16:563).

Sticking with Egypt for a further illustration, Spurgeon takes up an aspect of the history of that land. The nineteenth century witnessed the systematic ransacking of the Egyptian pyramids by European archaeologists and explorers. Prominent amongst the treasures found in these pyramids were the mummified bodies of the Pharaohs. Spurgeon clearly has little sympathy with the removal of these bodies of the ancient Egyptian kings. Their discovery and exposure to “every vulgar eye” awakens in Spurgeon “melancholy reflections.” These poor mummies, “once a Pharaoh whose voice could shake a nation and devastate continents,” are now mere objects for a museum. And now Spurgeon draws the comparison with the local church.

“[A]live by the divine indwelling, God gives it royalty, and makes it a king and priest unto himself among the sons of men; its influence is felt further than it dreams; the world trembles at it, for it is fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners; but when the Spirit of God is departed, what remains but its old records, ancient creeds, title-deeds, traditions, histories and memories? it is in fact a mummy of a church rather than a church of God, and it is better fitted to be looked at by antiquarians than to be treated as an existent agency.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 16:563).

Monday, June 19, 2006


Here is a good quote from C.H. Spurgeon on his 172nd birthday by Darrin Brooker:

Also happy birthday to Blaise Pascal, born on this day in 1623.    

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I have been working through the life of James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) by his close friend John A. Broadus (1827-1895), just reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books as A Gentleman and a Scholar: Memoir of James P. Boyce (2004). It is a tremendous study, exhaustive and rich with Broadus’ comments on the life and times of Boyce. I suspect the time is ripe for a new biography of Boyce, especially with the sesquicentennial of the founding of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary upcoming in 2009.

Here is one priceless comment by Broadus on the teaching of Church History. He is in the midst of discussing the great sacrifice made by Boyce in 1872, for theological reasons, of giving up his favourite subject, Systematic Theology, to his colleague William Williams to teach. William Williams taught as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government. In his ecclesiological convictions, though, Williams believed that immersion in a Paedobaptist congregation or immersion by the Campbellites was a valid baptism.  Understandably, there were objections to this view, and Boyce, knowing that his own views on the issue were more mainstream offered to switch teaching responsibilities. It was a great sacrifice, not least, because Broadus says, church history is “a subject so vast, and demanding boundless reading” (A Gentleman and a Scholar, 227).

How true this is! Whenever someone tells me that they would like to study church history among the traditional curricula of theology, I urge him to consider this truth about church history: it is “a subject so vast, and demanding boundless reading.” You must be a reader and be prepared to attempt to survey the vast picture. Quite a challenge!

And even more so now than when Boyce took it up. Why so? Not only do we have another 150 years of church history, but also because the breadth of methodological tools have increased. In that day, the focus was very much “a history of ideas and institutions” approach. But today an historian must be familiar with tools of sociological and cultural analysis. Who is sufficient for such things?

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Frequently those of us who describe ourselves as Evangelical Calvinists and Calvinistic Baptists get labeled as Hyper-Calvinists who have no interest in or passion about evangelism. To anyone who knows the history of Calvinistic Baptists and what is Hyper-Calvinism, the charge is so patently ridiculous and often indicates that the individual making the charge has never really known a Hyper-Calvinist.

Just so that one knows what the nature of a live Hyper-Calvinist is really like, see this blog entry by Terry Leap on Hyper-Calvinism in eastern Kentucky: “Caners continue mis-characterization knowingly...

Not one Calvinistic Baptist I know has anything remotely in common with this Hardshell Baptist! Here is what the Calvinistic Baptists I know look like: the Spurgeon who preached to all and sundry: see Darrin Brooker’s post on Stupid Sinners.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


“South Carolina Baptists, and Southern Baptists, have no more important pioneer than Oliver Hart” [Oliver Hart 1723-1795. A Biography (Greenville, South Carolina: The South Carolina Baptist Historical Society, 1966), 3.]. Hart served as Pastor of First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina—the oldest Baptist work in the South—from 1750-1780.

Hart strongly promoted theological education of young men for the ministry. Here he is speaking in a sermon entitled A Gospel Church portrayed and her Costly Service pointed out (1791), which he preached on 2 Chronicles 29:35b (“So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order.”). The “house of the Lord” in question was the Temple in Jerusalem. But the idea of “good order,” Hart emphasizes, pertains to “the whole of social, publick [sic], gospel worship” and thus can be viewed as a principle for New Testament churches. It is, he goes on to emphasize, “a mere burlesque on religious worship, to attend on it, in a confused, clamorous, frantick [sic] manner, as some do,” so that “the house of God…seems to be metamorphosed into a bedlam.” [A Gospel Church portrayed and her Costly Service pointed out (Trenton, 1791), 6-7]. This is an interesting remark that indicates that our Baptist heritage has sought to achieve a balance between freedom (of the Spirit) and all things in worship being done in order and decently.

Now, of the key elements that help maintain order in the church, Hart mentions those in leadership, namely ministers, whom he likens to pillars within the structure of the house. Ministers are like pillars in three respects. First, just as a pillar must be “erect” and “unwarped,” so ministers are to be “upright in their outward deportment” and orthodox in theology. When “a minister inclines to and embraces error,” he not only falls himself, but he “generally brings down others with him, and occasions a terrible breach in the church.” (A Gospel Church portrayed, 15-16).

Then, pillars support a building. Similarly ministers are “set for the defense of the gospel,” and should be able to “preach and defend” Scriptural truth and encourage those among God’s people who are weak and fearful (A Gospel Church portrayed, 16).

Third, Hart notes that pillars often have an ornamental function in buildings. So, he argues, faithful ministers provide a sheen and beauty for the church. In his words:

“Pillars are ornamental to a building; for which end they are hewn, planed, painted and varnished. None need be informed how much an able and faithful ministry adds to the beauty, as well as strength of the church. For this purpose they are hewn by the ax of the law—smoothed by the plane of the gospel—painted by the gifts and graces of the Spirit, and varnished by human erudition. This varnish, some deem superfluous, although a qualification of great importance, and ought never to be dispensed with, when it can be obtained.

“In ancient times, there were schools of the prophets; and they are not less needed now. May such institutions be encouraged. We can do little or nothing else towards preparing these pillars [i.e. ministers]. It is a pity we should be reluctant in this. I am sorry to say, that several young ministers, of bright natural parts, and gracious endowments, are groaning for want of this advantage.” (A Gospel Church portrayed, 16-17).

Hart’s focus here is on the necessity of a learned ministry. Some consider learning, or “human erudition,” a matter of little significance in the training of ministers. From one perspective Hart is prepared to grant this. True ministers are created by the Spirit of God, and given “gifts and graces” by him. No amount of education can render a man a true minister of the gospel where this work of the Spirit is absent. In this light, “human erudition” must be considered simply a “varnish” that beautifies and finishes the pillar (i.e. the minister).

On the other hand, Hart is confident that learning is “a qualification of great importance” and if it can be obtained, it should be. In other words, Hart believes that some sort of formal theological education, while not sufficient to make a man a minister, is nonetheless needful.


A gem from the 18th century Baptist minister Oliver Hart (1723-1795), who pastored First Baptist Church, Charleston, from 1750 to 1780:

“I apprehend the spirituality of worship…consists in communion with God, through Christ, by the operations of the Holy Ghost. I am sensible there are many who discard the doctrine of divine influences, as enthusiastical [i.e. fanatical]; but I look upon it as the quintessence of religion, without which there can be no spiritual, acceptable worship at all.”

[A Gospel Church portrayed and her Costly Service pointed out (Trenton, 1791), 37-38].


“Islamoschmoozing”: now, that’s a word! What it means in terms of a dictionary entry is obvious. For an essay on the potential threat of this to the fabric of Canadian society, see this article by Mark Steyn. Good reasoning without being hyper.

HT: Ian Clary.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Among the two main vehicles of teaching that have shaped Evangelical theology have been the Scriptures obviously and then the hymns that they have sung. This is why great care must be taken in choosing what a congregation will sing. What it sings sinks deep into the soul and informs the theological perspective of the singer.

For example, read the following hymn by Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795), which was entitled “Prayer for Ministers” when it was first published [Hymns adapted to Public Worship, or Family Devotion (London, 1818), #700], and consider what it conveys about the nature of pastoral ministry.

Beddome is one of my favourite hymn-writers. Yes, his hymns are not as consistently good as those of Watts or Wesley or Cowper. But they are solid in their Bible teaching, usually pursuing one main idea. Many of his hymns were written to accompany a specific sermon, thus the single-eyed focus of his hymns.

1 Father of mercies, bow thine ear,
   Attentive to our earnest prayer;
   We plead for those who plead for thee,
   Successful pleaders may they be!

2 How great their work, how vast their charge,
   Do thou their anxious souls enlarge;
   Their best acquirements are our gain,
   We share the blessings they obtain.

3 Clothe thou with energy divine
   Their words, and let those words be thine;
   To them thy sacred truth reveal,
   Suppress their fear, enflame their zeal.

4 Teach them aright to sow the seed,
   Teach them thy chosen flock to feed
   Teach them immortal souls to gain,
   Nor let them labour, Lord, in vain.

5 Let thronging multitudes around,
   Hear from their lips the joyful sound;
   In humble strains thy grace adore,
   And feel thy new-creating power.

6 Let sinners break their massy chains,
   Distressed souls forget their pains,
   And light thro’ distant realms be spread,
   Till Zion rears her drooping head.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I must confess that as I grow older and think of what the Lord has done in my life, I am constrained to cry out with Spurgeon “I am become more and more convinced, that to attempt to be saved by a mixed covenant of works and faith is, in the words of [John] Berridge, “to yoke a snail with an elephant”.”

That’s John Berridge (1716-1793) of Everton that Spurgeon is quoting. Berridge had some delightful eccentricities, but he knew his Saviour and knew what true gospel salvation is. So did Spurgeon. But we are living in a sad day when professing Evangelicals—who by their very name and heritage should be gospel people—are doing the very thing Berridge and Spurgeon rightly see as folly: yoking snails to elephants!

For a great biography of Berridge, see Nigel Pibworth The Gospel Pedlar: The story of John Berridge and the Eighteenth-Century Revival (Evangelical Press, 1987). Here is a “Short summary of the life of John Berridge.” And here is Spurgeon’s own estimate of Berridge: “A brief summary on Berridge from the Spurgeon archive.” Best of all, though, read Pibworth on Berridge!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


My good friend Crawford Gribben has got a new template for his blog—I like it. I should, since it was the one I first used when blogging. I still like it even though I have shifted to something more, well, let’s say something more post-modern! Thanks for the compliment, Crawford, or is it a hint to switch back? See “It’s a new template - in homage to Michael Haykin!...


Music, Meaning, and Mentoring”: this is a really great post by Russell Moore about the nature of mentoring. It is something that many Christian men long to have happen in their lives (witness the posts by Tim ChalliesA Desperate Jealousy & A Desperate Jealousy - Further Thoughts from last year), but so many do not have.

Why is mentoring in such short supply? Well, partly, I suspect, because so many of the generation of Christian leaders from the generation before mine (I’m a boomer) were not mentored and they did not know how to do it with others. Then today so many men feel so rushed for time—and mentoring takes time, time to be with others and pour into their lives and have their lives impact you.

One model here biblically here is 2 Timothy 3:10-11. Here is what is happening in mentoring and as you can easily see it takes time.

One thing that I have been especially reminded of with regard to this whole subject is that I also need to be involved in mentoring my kids. There is no excuse for that not happening! I still remembering reading of the great Christian historian Herbert Butterfield, how one of the greatest impacts on his life were nightly walks after dinner with his father.

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, June 05, 2006


The title of this blog intrigued me: The wonders of the written word. It looks like it will be a good one. Check it out.


Here are some good reflections on Peter’s betrayal of Christ and Judas’ betrayal of our Lord by Kirk Wellum, who has been preaching through the entirety of Matthew (we’re planning to have him teach it this fall at Toronto Baptist Seminary): “Learning From Peter’s Denial of Jesus” & “Learning From Judas’ Betrayal (Part 1).”


Two hundred years ago this year, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), who normally preached in an expository manner, had his series of sermons on Genesis printed by his friend and fellow pastor, John Webster Morris for the London publisher J. Burditt. I have had a first edition of volume I for a few months now and serendipitously found just recently a first edition of volume II for sale at Aaron’s Books in Salem, Ohio (

It just arrived in the post and is in fairly good shape, though it needs rebound. Glanced through it and read a little from Fuller’s sermon on Genesis 45, where Joseph makes himself known to his brethren. At one point Fuller draws an analogy between Joseph’s telling his brothers not to grieve or be angry with themselves (verse 4-8) and “the case of a sinner on Christ’s first manifesting himself to his soul.” Fuller notes that:

“the more he views the doctrine of the cross, in which God hath glorified himself, and saved a lost world, by those very means which were intended for evil by his murderers, the better it will be with him. He shall not be able to think sin on this account a less, but a greater evil; and yet he shall be so armed against despondency, as even to rejoice in what God hath wrought, while he trembles in thinking of the evils from which he has escaped.”
[Expository Discourses on the Book of Genesis, interspersed with Practical Reflections (London: J. Burditt, 1806), II, 203].

Contrary to the thinking of some, Fuller was a crucientric theologian, of which the above extract is a good example.    


H Schoolma commented on my query about “BEAUTIMOUS: ITS MEANING?” and said that it means “tremendous inexplicable loveliness that defies our ordinary vocabularies.” He noted, in contrast to a comment by Paul W. Martin, that the word is used coast to coast. Well, this is quite helpful and gives a good spin to the word.    


The amount of material on The Da Vinci Code is reaching, I suspect, staggering proportions. It is a full-time job to keep up with all of it! Here is a good review, though, by Crawford Gribben: “Cracking the code.”

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Women and ministry? It seems that I have been thinking about—wrestling with—pondering—this subject for ages. In fact, I recall distinctly teaching a series on the issue back in 1981-1982 at what was called by those involved “The Tuesday Night Bible Study,” a bible study of anywhere between seven or eight and thirty or so.

[This bible study originated with the conversion of a number of individuals through the “I Found It” evangelistic campaign of Bill Bright in 1979 or so. This group of individuals became linked to Stanley Avenue Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario, where I was a member. They began to meet and somehow I became involved as a teacher. It ran for over fifteen years and it was a great training ground for me, as I taught through tons of Scripture and some church history as well].

Well, among the topics I taught on was the issue of the role of women in the life of the church. It was a contentious issue then and is even more so now. Over the years, having thought about the issue at a number of levels, especially with regard to what should be said and what approach should be taken in a seminary context, my convictions have deepened that the complementarian viewpoint is the only position that does justice to both the text of Scripture and its deep structures that address life in this world.

Of course, women should be involved in various ministries in the life of the church. One cannot read Romans 16:1-16, for example, and not see the evidence that women were involved in this way in the Pauline communities. But can they be ruling, teaching elders? To be sure, one’s answer to this question is not one that affects one’s salvation. In that sense, it is like other secondary issues, such as ecclesial polity or baptism.

Yet, unlike one’s decision on these two issues, contemporary egalitarianism (to be distinguished from that of the Methodist or Holiness movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) often does entail a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. Yes, one can be an egalitarian and affirm scriptural inerrancy. But the egalitarian who is committed to inerrancy has to argue that scriptural statements on the whole range of male-female relationships in the church and in the home are no longer applicable. There are various ways this is done today, but common to them all, it strikes me, is an implicit denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.

Of course, those who recognize the discontinuity introduced by the new covenant also argue that portions of the old covenant are no longer applicable. But in the case of egalitarianism, it is new covenant affirmations that are being ruled as passé and this raises the question, “Does egalitarianism necessarily undermine Scriptural sufficiency?”

For further helpful reflections on this issue as it is currently impacting those in the Reformed community, see Ligon Duncan’s thoughts on “Complementarianism and the Conservative Reformed Community” at this post on the Reformation 21 blog.

HT: David Shedden.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


“Beautimous”: is this a word? I found it on Steve McCoy’s Reformissionary: Wi-Chi. I like it. I can even envisage its use: “Is that not beautimous?” But what does it mean exactly? Overwhelmingly beautiful? Or what?


In the recent arrest of 12 men and 5 youths planning terrorist activities here in Canada (see this CTV report here), Luc Portelance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) commented: “It is important to note that this operation in no way reflects negatively on any specific community or ethno-cultural group in Canada. Terrorism is a dangerous ideology and a global phenomenon. As yesterday’s arrests confirm, Canada is not immune from this ideology.”

This is interesting, for in the list of names released on the report, all of them are clearly Muslim. I am convinced that it would be a despicable act of utter folly and downright racism to argue that this means all people of Muslim descent in this country are potential terrorists. After all, my own birth-name was Azad Michael Anthony Hakim and my forebears were Kurdish Muslims from Kirkuk, Iraq. I endured enough racist slurs as a young boy growing up in England and Canada in the 1960s to know the error and personal pain of such racial stereotyping.

On the other hand, this surely does mean that threats to our country’s safety are more likely to come from this community than from among immigrants from Brazil, say, or Thailand. And it would be equal folly for we who love Canada to think that she would be immune from the struggle that has engulfed other Western nations like Britain, Australia, Spain, and the U.S.A. I suspect we have thought that because the hatred of many in this world has been directed against America, we will get off scot-free, since we are clear that we are not Americans, but Canadians. But the distinctions that we love to make between ourselves and our friends to the south is completely lost in the eyes of many who are filled with loathing for all things Western. As our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, emphasized: “We are a target because of who we are, how we live, our society, our diversity and our values—values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law—the values that make Canada great.” (By the way, what a joy to have such a man as our Prime Minister!)

In these dangerous times, though, we who have a commitment to Christ have another responsibility above and beyond love of country: love of Christ and concern that his Kingdom embrace men and women of every clime and tongue. This is a Kingdom that is not of this world and cannot be brought in by the clash of arms or weapons of human destruction. It is by gospel proclamation, words of witness, deeds of love and Christian community—and above all the grace of the Holy Spirit’s converting power—that this Kingdom moves forward. And we must never forget that among the people for whom our Lord Jesus died are those who today call upon Allah. And there is coming a great day when they will cast this idol to the winds, the bats and the moles, and be converted and worship the Lord Christ.

God, hasten the day!

HT: Paul W. Martin.


One of the great challenges to contemporary Evangelicalism is the mentalité that divorces piety from learning. Yet, it’s not a new problem. It was, for example, during a trip that Samuel Davies (1723-1761), a Presbyterian minister from Virginia, made in September 1753 to Great Britain on what would turn out to be an arduous, though highly successful, fund-raising expedition for the then-fledgling College of New Jersey (later to be renamed Princeton University) that he encountered Baptist disdain for learning. He was gone for a total of eighteen months, and met quite a number of key British evangelicals and churchmen, among them the leading Baptist theologian of the era, John Gill (1697-1771). He paid a visit to Gill on January 30, 1754, and found him, in his description, “a serious, grave little Man.” Gill was quite willing to lend his support to the College, but he told Davies not to expect much from the English Baptists as a whole: “in general,” he said, the Baptists “were unhappily ignorant of the Importance of learning.”

Being a convinced Baptist I am happy that there have been a goodly number in the Baptist tradition who have successfully married what Gill called “the importance of Learning” with vital piety—Gill himself being a good example. But there have been, and still are, far too many Baptists whose thinking on this subject is that of those whom Gill knew and of which he was rightly critical.

But it is not simply Baptists who exhibit this problem. Gill’s Evangelical contemporary, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), without doubt the most important theologian from the eighteenth century, was fond of emphasizing that genuine spiritual affections are “not heat without light.” In his thinking, genuine Christianity entails both spirituality and reason. Trust in the Scriptures as the supreme authority when it comes to truth and error does not entail, for Edwards, the casting aside of the use of one’s mind. And it is noteworthy that, in contrast to much of later American Evangelicalism that emphasized the “religion of the heart” over theological reflection, Edwards was firmly committed to an “affectionate knowledge” that avoided both “an anti-intellectual enthusiasm” as well as “an unfeeling rationalism.” In particular, Conrad Cherry has rightly argued, Edwards, “unlike the revivalists of a later America,…avoided the sanctimonious conclusion that religious intuition is sufficient unto itself and that theology is a waste of time.” [“Imagery and Analysis: Jonathan Edwards on Revivals of Religion” in Charles Angoff, ed., Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Influence (Cranbury, New Jersey/London: Associated University Presses, 1975), 19-21].

Of course, this interface of heart and mind has even deeper roots than the ones I have just noted. It can be found in the theological synthesis of Reformation thought that issued from the pen of John Calvin (1509-1564), whose motto was Cor meum tibi offere domine prompte et sincere, “Unto you, Lord, I give my heart, promptly and sincerely.” It’s there in the theology of Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), whose work was shaped by his motto fides quaerens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding.” And we find it in an Augustine (354-430), who, about thirteen years or so after his conversion described what God had done in his life in a deeply learned Latin:

“You called me; you cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness. You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me; you put my blindness to flight. You shed your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour. I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of your peace” (Confessions 10.27).

Of course, the root of all of these thinkers and theologians are the Scriptures that display a piety that is suffused with learning and a doctrinal faith that burns for the glory of God. With such mentors before us, and with the Scriptures as a foundation, let us seek in our day to be distinctly counter-cultural and develop a piety that is aflame with the coals of doctrinal orthodoxy. What God has brought together, let not man put asunder!


We have our differences with classical Pentecostalism, especially with regard to the work of the Holy Spirit. But there is little doubt of classical Pentecostals’ love for Christ and their passion for missions. William J. Seymour (1870-1922), the preacher at the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street, where Pentecostalism was born, was very Christocentric. “The baptism with the Holy Ghost gives us power to testify to a risen, resurrected Savior,” wrote Seymour. “Our affections are in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” [cited Gary B. McGee, “From Azusa Street to the Ends of the Earth.”]

While I would strongly disagree with Seymour’s understanding of the baptism of the Spirit—he was actually a holiness preacher who believed that the baptism of the Spirit was a third work beyond conversion and entire sanctification—I can honour his passion for the glory of the Risen Christ and his desire to see that glory spread to the nations.

A discussion of centennial celebrations of what took place at Azusa Street in 1906 can be found here: Azusa Street Centennial. The section on the history is very well done.


Confession of sin is a lost “art” among Evangelicals. We are big on petition and more recently are learning again the beauty of praise and adoration. But confession of sin should naturally follow upon adoration and praise, for when we see how great a God we have, how holy and majestic, we also see how low and filthy we are in comparison (Isaiah 6.1-5).  We ought therefore to confess our sinfulness and unworthiness (Luke 18.13; Matthew 6.12; 1 John 1.9). We cannot simply saunter into God’s presence as if all was well with us. It is not. We must come with confession on our lips and repentance in our hearts..

Confession of sin ought to be made speedily after sinning.  If a seamstress has lost her needle that is vital to her trade, she looks until it is found. Similarly, when we sin against God (for in the final analysis, all sin is against God), we should not wait days till we confess it; we must seek His forgiveness as soon as possible.  As the Scripture says: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”  (Proverbs 28.13).


On the “Epitaph” erected in memory of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), he was remembered for:

“His ardent Piety,
The strength and soundness of his Judgment,
His intimate knowledge of the human heart,
And his profound acquaintance with the Scriptures.”

It was these things, the “Epitaph” went on to say, that “eminently qualified him for the Ministerial Office.” In a nutshell we have here what early nineteenth-century Baptists viewed as vital for the task of pastoral ministry.

For a picture of the “Epitaph,” see

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Here is a gem from Mark Dever on “Remembering for the Future,” the story of James Smith, an antebellum Christian who was a slave.


The blogosphere being such a new entity and such a fluid medium it is not always clear, at least to me, what the rules of engagement are. Certain things should be basic, at least for Christian bloggers—things that have to do with kindness, love, speech that does not full under the prohibitions of a text like Ephesians 4:25-5:2.

But what about comments left anonymously? Specifically, should a blogger reply to such? My inclination is no. Not because I am ornery—I do not think this is a major part of my makeup. But I have identified myself when I blog and if someone wishes to comment on what I say, I deem it appropriate in terms of mutual transparency for them to let me know who they are. If this is off the wall, let me know (but don’t do it anonymously!).    


Here are three great quotes from Thomas Chalmers, whose life was recently remembered by Darrin Brooker.
  • “My God, spiritualise my affection! Give me to know what it is to have the intense and passionate love of Christ.”

  • “We do not steady a ship by fixing the anchor on aught that is within the vessel. The anchorage must be without. And so of the soul, when resting, not on what it sees in itself, but on what it sees in the character of God, the certainty of His truth, the impossibility of His falsehood.”

  • “Only three things are truly necessary in order to make life happy: the blessing of God, the benefit of books, and the benevolence of friends.”
The second one applies to my penultimate post on Holland. The third could well form the three headings of a talk. I would love to see what a Spurgeon would have done with three such headings!

HT: Darrin Brooker: Thomas Chalmers ; Ian Clary: Thomas Chalmers.


How far can a nation turn away from the light that it has known is well illustrated by this recent news item from Reuters about the attempt to form a party in Holland that advocates a “cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals” (“Pedophiles to launch political party”). This is horrific and it has understandably caused outrage in Holland. But unless there is a transcendent ethic that enables one to critique such perverse thinking, it will eventually carry the day.

And though many in our culture would be equally outraged, this may well be the future for our nation as well, unless God intervenes in revival. I am deeply saddened by this news item, since I have so many dear Dutch brethren in Christ. But the bell of death is tolling not simply for Holland, but also for Canada.

HT: Darrin Brooker: Sliding Down the Slippery Slope.