Secularism and Our Christian Hope

oliphintby K. Scott Oliphint (original source here)

Words cannot adequately describe the race to irrationality that characterizes the Western world today. Absurdity attacks from every side. Foolishness is daily fodder; the abnormal has become the norm.

A couple of obvious examples: Many of us now live in a world where certain theories of science, such as evolution, are taken as bedrock, unassailable truth. The evidence, we’re told, is clear and unrelenting.

But then we’re told by the same secularists that when it comes to something as obvious as a person’s gender, science is silenced and gender identity is determined by how we feel. When it comes to gender, “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.”

Or when the world is exposed to the dismemberment and sale of fetal baby parts, science isn’t even invited to the discussion. As long as the horror of such a practice is transferred from the brightly illuminated isle of cold, hard facts to the murky, generic bin of “women’s health,” we’re supposed to be convinced that it was all just a false alarm.

“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams famously quipped. But their stubbornness pales into insignificance compared to the vice-grip tenacity of a secular mindset. When the spectacles of secularism see the facts, they can adjust their vision accordingly. If the facts threaten those secular commitments, they can change the focus so that they become blurry beyond recognition. If they happen to see something that fits their ideology, they’ll gaze intently, and quickly point it out to the blurry-eyed among us. Continue reading

What is a Reformed Baptist?

question6Article by Tom Hicks (original source at the Founders Ministries blog here)

(Tom serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Clinton, LA. He’s married to Joy, and they have three little girls: Sophie, Karlie, and Rebekah. He received his MDiv and PhD degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a major in Church History, emphasis on Baptists, and with a minor in Systematic Theology. Tom is the author of The Doctrine of Justification in the Theologies of Richard Baxter and Benjamin Keach (PhD diss, SBTS). He serves on the board of directors for Founders Ministries and is the Founders Blog administrator.)

What is it that makes a “Reformed Baptist” distinct from other kinds of Baptists and Reformed folks? Reformed Baptists grew out of the English Reformation, emerging from Independent paedobaptist churches in the 1640’s for some very specific theological reasons, and they held to a particular kind of theology. Here are some of the theological identity markers of Reformed Baptist churches.

1. The Regulative Principle of Worship. This distinctive is put first because it is one of the main reasons Calvinistic Baptists separated from the Independent paedobaptists. The Particular (or Reformed) Baptists come from Puritanism, which sought to reform the English church according to God’s Word, especially its worship. When that became impossible due to Laud’s authoritative opposition, the Puritans separated (or were removed) from the English church. Within the Independent wing of Puritan separation, some of them saw a need to apply the regulative principle of worship to infant baptism as well, considering this to be the consistent outworking of the common Puritan mindset. The earliest Baptists believed that the elements of public worship are limited to what Scripture commands. John 4:23 says, “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (see also Matt 15:9). The revealed “truth” of Scripture limits the worship of God to what is prescribed in Scripture. The Second London Baptist Confession 22.1 says:

“The acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”

Because the Bible does not command infant baptism, early Baptists believed that infant baptism is forbidden in public worship, and the baptism of believers alone is to be practiced in worship. This regulative principle of worship limits the elements of public worship to the Word preached and read, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, the singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and whatever else the Scripture commands.

Many Baptists today have completely abandoned the regulative principle of worship in favor of entertainment-oriented worship, consumerism, individual preferences, emotionalism, and pragmatism. Such Baptists have abandoned the very principle that led to their initial emergence from paedobaptism. One wonders whether a church can depart from a doctrine necessary to the emergence of Baptists in their English context and still rightly identify as a “Baptist” church.

2. Covenant Theology. While Reformed paedobaptist churches sometimes insist that they alone are the heirs of true covenant theology, historic Reformed Baptists claimed to abandon the practice of infant baptism precisely because of the Bible’s covenant theology.

Reformed Baptists agree with Reformed paedobaptists that God made a covenant of works with Adam, which he broke and so brought condemnation on the whole human race (Rom 5:18). They also say that God mercifully made a covenant of grace with His elect people in Christ (Rom 5:18), which is progressively revealed in the Old Testament and formally established in the new covenant at the death of Christ (Heb 9:15-16). The only way anyone was saved under the old covenant was by virtue of this covenant of grace in Christ, such that there is only one gospel, or one saving promise, running through the Scriptures. Continue reading

Luther & Anti-Semitism

In this excerpt from Ligonier’s 2017 National Conference, Stephen Nichols and W. Robert Godfrey discuss whether Martin Luther was guilty of anti-Semitism.

Transcript

Stephen Nichols: You know, this is a question you hear a lot, and I think we’ve got to look at the broad context of Luther and then we need to say, that we need to understand him in that context, but we also need to not give him a free pass. So, the first thing we see in Luther is his initial writings to the Jewish people are very favorable. He actually is countercultural in that, and he goes against the current consensus and actually favors a good treatment towards the Jews. As the Reformation went on and a few years on, Luther fully thought that that good treatment towards the Jews would result in their paying attention to the gospel and coming to Christ, and he was not seeing that happen. And he began to question, perhaps, he was too easy on them in his initial writings and should have pressed more, in order for them to be more aware and perhaps be challenged and then come after the gospel.

So, his early writings are very favorable. He begins to think through this, though, in his later writings and the writing that really trips Luther up is his, On the Jews and Their Detestable Lies. And it’s in that writing that Luther unleashes his rhetoric against the Jews and is very forceful in his rhetoric. Now we need to say that he was an equal opportunity offender. It wasn’t just—that rhetoric was not just reserved—for the Jews, he used the same rhetoric for the Papists, for the Anabaptists, for the nominal Christians, that he used for the Jews. But he was wrong. He spoke harshly, and I think he abused his influence that he had in speaking harshly. And so, we need to say that Luther was wrong in that. But this isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, that’s really a 20th-century phenomenon. What Luther was interested in was really following the lead of the Apostle Paul and following the lead of the New Testament. He saw this as a betrayal of Christ, a betrayal of the gospel, as a failure to recognize Jesus’ coming as the Messiah. And so, it was not an ethnic motivation that prompted Luther to this, it was a theological one. So, the answer to this is we need to understand him in his context, but we should not give him a free pass. And we need to recognize that he has legs of iron but feet of clay. And this is one of those instances where his feet of clay do in fact come through.

W. Robert Godfrey: Just to add one more thing, that’s exactly right—but the one little that should be added is Luther, all his life, longed that Jews should be converted and join the church. Hitler never wanted Jews to join the Nazi party. That’s the difference between anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. Luther wasn’t opposed to the Jews because of their blood. He was opposed to the Jews because of their religion. And he wanted them to join the Christian church. If you’re really anti-Semitic, you’re against Jews because of their blood and there’s nothing Jews can do about that. There’s not change they can make to make a difference. You’re absolutely right, Luther’s language should not be defended by us because it’s violent against the Jews. It was not against an ethnic people, as you said, but against a religion that he reacted so sharply.

Tongues??

Dan Phillipsby Daniel J. Phillips

(original source here)

[The following is summarized from my larger book, Sound Doctrine Concerning the Holy Spirit: His Person, Work, and Gifts (not yet published). It is intended as a brief summary of Biblical data concerning tongues, based on exegesis developed at greater length in my book.]

What Biblical Tongues Were:

The manifestation was supernatural (Acts 2:1-4).

The manifestation involved speaking. (We read in Acts 2:4, “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in different tongues, just as the Spirit was giving them to declare” [emphases added]. In fact, we must notice that this activity of speaking in tongues began before any of the listeners heard the speakers. The stress is on what the believers say, not on what the listeners hear. They spoke in other languages. Also, in v. 6 we read, “each one was continually hearing them speaking in his own dialect”; and again, in v. 11, “we hear them speaking in our own tongues the mighty deeds of God” [emphases added]. There is a reason it is referred to as the gift of “tongues,” not “ears.”)

The manifestation involved languages that were intelligible. (Cf. Acts 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 14:19), known (Greek glossa means language; cf. also Corinthians 12:10, 28; 14:21, 22), and not naturally learned (Acts 2:7).

Tongues were unsought (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12:11, 18).

Tongues were of low priority (1 Corinthians 12:28, etc.).

Tongues were designed to be temporary (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

Tongues were a sign for specific unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:21, 22).

Tongues were subject both to self-regulation and to external regulation (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26-27). (The suggestion that all claims to speaking in tongues must be accepted, and cannot be prohibited, has no basis in Scripture.)

What Biblical Tongues Were (and Are) Not:

Not ecstatic (i.e. gibberish, or “exalted non-language”; Greek glossa never once means gibberish, which the dictionary defines as “rapid and incoherent talk; unintelligible chatter”; it consistently has the well-attested and common meaning of language. Gibberish is not a language.)

Not intended for self-edification (1 Corinthians 14:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:24; 12:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Not a “prayer-language.” (There is no positive statement that this is tongues’ design, it does not fit the stated design, and the passages cited do not teach that this is tongues’ purpose.)

Not a merit badge signifying superior spiritual maturity or status. (Simply ask yourself: which assembly is the only church in the New Testament that was said to feature tongue-speaking on a regular basis? It was the church in Corinth. Then ask further: what was characteristic of the spirituality of that church? They were as men of flesh, infants in Christ [1 Corinthians 3:1]; it was a church featuring schisms, outrageous heresy, stunning immorality, and petulant stubbornness. None of this consitutes a glowing testimony as to the tongue-speaking Corinthians’ superior spirituality.)

Not contemporary. (Whatever is happening today, it is not Biblical tongues. The modern phenomena simply do not measure up to Biblical standards. While studies of thousands of modern “tongue-speakers” have been performed, not one instance fitting the Biblical criteria has been documented. Unbelievers rightly find the modern practice absurd and laughable — which contrasts rather starkly with Acts 2:6-12. On the day of Pentecost, no serious observer, saved or unsaved, doubted the supernatural nature of the occurrence. Today, by contrast, no impartial observer believes the genuineness of “tongues” as unlearned foreign languages!)

Not a large-group activity (1 Corinthians 14:27). (If five hundred people are speaking in tongues in church assembly, at least four hundred and ninety-seven are sinning against God’s declared will.)

Not to be altogether forbidden (1 Corinthians 13:39b). (However, note well: Paul does not say “do not forbid gibberish, do not forbid babbling, do not forbid so-called ‘tongues’ even if they bear no similarity to genuine tongues.” No pastor has had occasion to “forbid” speaking in tongues for the last 1900 years, because no documented case of Biblical tongue-speaking has occurred.)

Geographical Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Lecture – Dr Simon Gathercole “The Journeys of Jesus and Jewish Geography” given 05/07/2016 at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX

Simon Gathercole—Reader in New Testament Studies and Director of Studies at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University—recently gave a lecture at Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas, on “The Journeys of Jesus and Jewish Geography.”

Here is a description:

The Gospels in the New Testament contain a remarkable amount of geographical information, especially in the quantity of references to areas, towns, and villages that Jesus (and John the Baptist) visited.

Are these genuine or fictitious?

Some Jesus skeptics have doubted the existence of places like Nazareth and Capernaum.

Even many New Testament scholars are unaware of the evidence for Gospel sites.

Strikingly, however, a huge proportion of the place-names in the Gospels are paralleled in Jewish literature outside the New Testament, even down to some of the small villages.

This illustrated lecture will examine the historical evidence, some already known, some presented for the first time, for the places in the Gospel. It will show how this evidence has clear implications for the reliability of the Gospel narratives.

You can watch the lecture below (and view the slides here):

Does My Soul Sleep After Death?

john-piperQuestion and Answer with Dr. John Piper (original source here)

Transcript

Gabriel, a listener from the Philippines, asks a very common question: “Pastor John, when we die, does our consciousness continue somewhere? Or do we just sleep awaiting the second coming and the judgment? And why is sleep so often used to describe death, even by Jesus himself? And where in the Bible can I be more confident of what happens to me or to someone I love when they die? Should I imagine them sleeping, awaiting Christ’s return. Or already in heaven or even in hell?”

I hear two questions: 1) Why is the word “sleep” or the image of sleep used to describe death even by Jesus? And 2) What is the experience of people between death and bodily resurrection? So, maybe we should start by not taking for granted the biblical teaching that God’s purpose is not just to have someday lots of spirits in heaven, but bodies on the new earth.

The resurrection of the body was a scandal to many Greeks who loved the idea of the immortality of the soul, but disliked the idea of the resurrection of this body. Christianity is not Greek in this regard. The body will be raised from the dead, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus in a form that could be recognized and that could be touched and that could eat fish was the prototype of our resurrection body. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And when people scoff in this chapter and say, “What kind of body do they come with?” he answers in verses 42–44, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” So the resurrection of the body is absolutely essential to Christian doctrine.

Now the question is: What about the time between death and the resurrection of the body? Why is it sometimes called “sleep”? And we were talking earlier, Tony, as we began this, that this is really fresh for me, because at 8:00 this morning a very good friend of mine went into this state. So where is she? What is happening to her? Right now, it is 3 hours and 16 minutes — picture it — she is 3 hours and 16 minutes into what we are talking about right now. That is awesome. That is awesome to think about.

Here is what the Bible says about sleep. This is why he raises the question. This is 1 Thessalonians 4:14: “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” All right? That is a reference to Christians who have died. Why does he say it that way? Or 1 Corinthians 15:17–18, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” So there’s another reference to falling asleep as a picture of dying.

And then there is Jesus where he raised the little girl. We named our daughter after this experience where he says: “Talitha, cumi” (Mark 5:41). He raised this little girl from the dead. And we know that she is dead because in Mark 5:35 they say, “Your daughter has died.” And when Jesus arrives to deal with this, he says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but sleeping” (Mark 5:39). Well, she was dead and he calls it sleeping. Why?

My answer is that this is the way the body looks and acts. It is simply a description of death by a softer picture of what it actually looks like. If you have ever looked at a person who has just died, you ask, Have they died or are they just sleeping? Because they look like they are just there, like they have always looked. And they are just asleep. So I think it is a picture, it is a pictorial description in a softer way of the actual reality that they have died.

Now why do I say that? Why do I jump to that idea of meaning instead of just saying, “Well, no, no, they are not conscious on the other side of death. They really are undergoing something like soul sleep. They will have no consciousness until the resurrection?” Why don’t I say that? And the reason I don’t is because Jesus and Paul teach otherwise. So for example, the two key passages in Paul are Philippians 1:21–23, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that mean fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose, I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” So when Paul contemplates his own dying, he calls it “gain,” not because he is going to go unconscious and have zero experience for another thousand years, but because he goes into the presence of Christ with Christ in deeper, more intimate way — and it is, he says, vastly better than anything he has known here.

And then he says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:6–9, “We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” So, dying in the body means going to be at home with the Lord.

And here’s Jesus. He tells this story about the rich man and Lazarus, and he doesn’t say that it is a parable. Now I don’t know for sure, frankly, whether it was a parable or not, but it doesn’t say it was a parable. He just describes it like it really happened. And if it did happen or if it is a parable, it seems to be making the point that after death there is not oblivion or sleep, unconsciousness. There is life in torment or in bliss.

It goes like this: “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:19–23). So the picture Jesus paints — the parable or something that really happened — is one of a conscious life in torment or in happiness beyond death.

So, my conclusion is that Christians have a double encouragement for those who are dying or have died. For the believer who trusts in Jesus Christ, Christ’s blood and righteousness have removed the condemnation for every believer and secured for us both final resurrection of the body in a new heaven and a new earth, and now, after death, an intimate, sweet experience of being in Christ’s presence between death and resurrection. It is a blessed hope in both ways. We are safe. We are safe in him now, we will be safe in his presence at the moment of death, and we will be supremely happy in a new and healthy body forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth.

The Costly Battle of Christ’s Headship

The truth of God has come to us on a sea of blood, both by the blood of Christ in redemption, and by the blood of the martyrs in Christian history, as they stood (at great cost) for the biblical truth of Christ’s Sovereign headship over His Church.

Text: Ephesians 5:23