Archives for July 2007

on the next installment of our legalism series

We took one week off for a week of evangelistic meetings. The meetings went reasonably well, we had a number of visitors and there seemed to be a positive reaction to the proceedings. Time will tell if the week will make an impact in lives or not.

Yesterday I returned to our summer series, ‘Law, Legalism, and Life’. The message this week was entitled “The Saved are Being Saved”. Our topic was the ongoing work of grace in our lives after salvation. Our text was Titus 2.11-12:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

The first part of the message explained the nature of ongoing grace. There is such a thing as saving grace, the grace that saves men the moment they put their trust in Christ, repenting of their sins. If one were to die immediately after being born again, the grace of God in salvation would usher the soul into heaven.

Very few people enter heaven this way! Most believers are left on earth to experience the ongoing grace of ‘being saved’, the process of ongoing sanctification. Our passage says first that saving grace has appeared (most translations I consulted insert the word ‘bringing’ into v. 11, but the Gk suggests that ‘salvation for all men’ is in apposition to ‘the grace of God’. The main point of the verse is that saving grace has appeared.

The next verse begins with a word that shows us the process of ongoing sanctification: saving grace is ‘instructing’ us – in other words, a process of instruction is going on, all brought about by the saving grace of God working its way in our lives.

The content of the instruction is first seen in the negative, then the postive aspects. Saving grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Ungodliness is that which has contempt for God and spiritual things. Worldly lusts are those desires characterised by a ‘world-like-ness’, they are like the corrupt world around us. For example, some of our world exalts violence and rage – do you think grace has something to say to us about violent video games or movies or the like? We could multiply examples of things of this world in various categories, but grace teaches us to deny these things, to renounce them.

Saving grace also teaches us to live soberly (sensibly), i.e., with a disciplined mind under control. It teaches us to live righteously, i.e., according to a rule and standard. Yes! Standards are biblical! What is the ultimate standard? Jesus Christ. And saving grace teaches us to live godly, i.e., with our whole pattern of life, every moment of every day lived according to a rule of reverence for God and the things of God. It is the notion of 24/7 religion, not just Sunday AM religion.

May God help us to learn the lessons of grace, eschew the world, and live for Christ!


Rory gave us another excellent message on identifying ourselves with Christ, not considering the risks to a Christian testimony, but trusting God for the power and love and sound mind to identify one’s self with the Lord. His text was 2 Tim 1.1-7, his title: “Take Your Stand for Jesus Christ.” His message was an excellent complement to the one I preached, but he arrived at his text and message with independent study and no hint from me what I was preaching about. Who do you suppose arranged that?


We had fifty folks in church this week, mostly regulars with only a few visitors. We seem to be making some progress and have a solid group gathering together each week.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

UPDATE: Oops, forgot to post the notes for this message. Thanks to Jerry Bouey for pointing it out.

on the non-stand against false apostles by Charisma

Greg Linscott points us to an editorial on the Charisma magazine website. In it the columnist speaks against abusive practices by ‘prominent preachers’ demanding exorbitant appearance fees and even worship by conference attendees. Some apparently demand cash gifts for a moment of counsel from the ‘big man’. [And some accuse fundamentalist preachers of being egomaniacs!]

The article concludes:

New Testament Christianity is humble, selfless and authentic. And those who carry the truth don’t preach for selfish gain or to meet an emotional need for attention. May God help us root out the false apostles and false teachers who are making the American church sick with their man-centered, money-focused heresies.

You won’t root out false teachers without naming names, brother. You won’t cure your assemblies without separating from such.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the week that was – Calgary

A few more thoughts from last week…

The first two days last week were spent at a meeting in Calgary, AB, sponsored by Foundation Baptist Church and Cornerstone Baptist Church. These churches are pastored by friends of mine from my student days in Greenville, SC: Bud Talbert at Foundation and Rod Alsup at Cornerstone. The conference featured the preaching of Dr. Bob Jones III and Dr. Stephen Jones, both of Bob Jones University, our alma mater.

We all profited from the preaching of the Joneses. Dr. Bob is very familiar to me, and his messages ‘felt like home’. I have heard him preach countless times over the years. This was my first occasion to hear Stephen preach – he was ‘just a lad’ when I was a student at BJU. My wife, when on staff at BJU, frequently was asked to take care of Stephen and his siblings when their parents were away. Thus, to hear Stephen preaching now as president of BJU was a special treat for me. He gave us a fine message on the confidence we can have in the Bible as our sure Word from God.

I guess about fifteen or twenty preachers managed to attend the conference meetings. Most were from Alberta, with a few from as far as Manitoba and me representing the opposite extreme in British Columbia. The distances between towns [something I exulted in with my earlier post] is a factor in the difficulty of ministry in Canada, especially in the West. From the ferry to the meetings is almost 700 miles for me. If my kids had not been attending camp, I would have been unlikely to attend. I am sure others considered the distance too great to make a special trip.

The camaraderie in such meetings, even regular fellowship with like-minded preachers in a local coffee shop, is a great encouragement in the ministry. Our geography makes this difficult. The work of several fellows to build the fellowship of preachers on the prairies is commendable and a great help to them. Of course, distances make it prohibitive for some, but I appreciate the effort that is being made. I want to make it a point to support at least the major meetings of the fellowship and to encourage younger fellows coming up to do the same.


A few words about church planting in Western Canada:

The two churches I mentioned in Calgary both meet in Community Centres. Property of their own would be a great blessing, but property isn’t easy to come by in Calgary. Land costs are high. Even with congregations that are becoming self-supporting, the necessary funds are long in coming. To build churches in such an environment requires long term vision and diligent effort.

There are similar challenges to church planting in Victoria. The people of Calgary will tend to be less left-wing politically than those in Victoria, but they are just as secular. Calgary is a city of over a million people now. Yet it has only a few really solid fundamental churches. It has a few other churches in the evangelical camp, but most of these wouldn’t be considered conservative evangelicals.

The dearth of solid fundamental churches in Calgary is replicated in every city in Western Canada. We need more churches and men who are willing to spend years in small, difficult works. Occasionally God will bless with tremendous results in a particular church, as has been seen in Meadowlands Baptist in Edmonton, pastored by Jim Tillotson. Yet the usual pattern is slow growth which requires long-term commitments.

In the real estate world I was told that Japanese mortgages are sometimes taken for terms of 100 years. Their view of the family is that the investment is not for the first generation, but for the third generation. In some ways, ministry in a secularized culture (from a formerly ‘Christian’ culture) must take on this same outlook. Our labours are not in vain, they are not for ourselves, they are for the Lord and for the future, if He tarries. May God find us faithful.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on a dangerous reactionary response to legalism

Dr. Thurman Wisdom in his excellent book, a Royal Destiny: The Reign of Man in God’s Kingdom made this little comment near the end of the first chapter:

Legalistic excesses never justify licentious extremes. [p. 28]

This quote came to mind reading the blog of a fellow who was raised in a fundamentalist church of some kind. He apparently continues as a member of such a church. I don’t know him or his church. I only know what he has written on his blog. Some of the things he says show a discontent with fundamentalism as such, something all too common among many. In fact, my involvement in the fundamentalist ‘blogosphere’ is largely due to my dismay at the attitudes so many openly express.

While I often contend that legalism is in the eye of the beholder, there is no doubt that Pharasaic tendencies exist within fundamentalist ranks. (The fact is, these tendencies exist in any social group, especially and including doctrinaire evangelicalism, but that is another post.) I am currently working on a series of messages about Christian standards and legalism, contrasting the difference between legalistic hairsplitting over minutiae and personal devotion, the practice of submitting one’s whole life to the searching gaze and approval of the Holy Spirit. Pharisaism is about pleasing man – either self or others – with one’s own efforts. Devotion is about seeking to please God.

The fact is, personal devotion may look like Pharisaism to an outside observer. David Hesselgrave makes that point clear in an article posted by Bob Bixby, referenced earlier in my blog. The devotee is earnest about following God and eschewing the world (i.e., personal separation from the world). Both the Pharisee and the devotee can coexist within one local church body without either really being aware of the difference. On the outside, the lifestyle is the same. The Pharisee, in fact, may even appear more holy than the mere devotee. The difference is largely a matter of heart. It is an attitude towards Christian living, a matter of goals and objectives.

The presence of Pharisaism on the one hand and the devotee on the other can and does lead some to cry, ‘a pox on both your houses’. In reaction to Pharisaism, some will entirely abandon the heart attitude fundamentalism intends to foster. To them, fundamentalism equals a myriad of rules, establishing the length of men’s hair [short] and women’s skirts [long] and a host of other things.

Fundamentalism is not really about establishing how long a man’s hair or a woman’s skirt should be. The devotee will want to answer those questions for himself and to some extent will answer them for others, even making such applications a part of his preaching. But fundamentalism isn’t a new Pharisaism, it is a political position within ‘broader Christendom’. Fundamentalism is a reaction to the abandonment of doctrine and holiness by modernists/liberals and a resistance to the compromise of doctrine and holiness by evangelicals.

As movements decay (and they always do) proponents can descend into petty nitpicking about minutiae which can produce a drive to maintain ‘the standards’ as the be all and end all of spiritual life. Quite frankly, such an approach reduces religion to the minimums and quenches the development of personal devotion to some extent. That is, it quenches the Spirit. The pursuit of minutiae leads to Pharisaism, the attempt to please self or others by the perfections of one’s own disciplined life.

Individuals tend to react to Pharisaism in differing ways. Some try to ‘out-Pharisee’ the rest, perpetuating the ossification of the movement. Others rebel, one way or another. Usually rebels don’t just move ‘one notch’ over, to a more ‘reasonable’ position. Instead, they cast off all the restraints they feel imposed on them and move fairly far afield from their original moorings. Some may even abandon Christianity altogether. Most will at least abandon fundamentalism.

All of these reactions are a great concern to me. I believe that the philosophy of fundamentalism is biblical, though the practice of fundamentalists (including, alas, myself) often is not. My writing and thinking on this subject has one aim: to urge others not to abandon fundamentalism while wrestling with the biblical applications of fundamentalist thought. In other words, don’t abandon holiness and separation from the world, false teachers and disobedient brethren just because no fundamentalist is perfectly obedient!

Having said all that, let me get back to the blog that motivated this post. The fellow has a somewhat oxymoronic section on his blog called ‘Current Status of My Beliefs’ […how can something in a state of flux be a belief?]. This fellow evidently comes from a King James Only background. He is seriously questioning that position as well as a number of other points of his fundamentalist background. Evidently along with the KJO position, his background includes a seemingly heavy dose of Pharisaism [although I make that statement based only on his observations, I don’t know anything about the reality of the churches this fellow has been involved with].

For example, on a page re-evaluating fundamentalism, he says this:

A lot of the legalism that our church teaches is due to their understanding of “Holiness”. Are they correct? Holiness is why we can’t wear shorts to church functions in summer. It’s why we can’t go to the movie theater. Why we can’t drink, smoke, have piercings or tattoos. Why we can’t listen to music with drums. How do you quantify holiness?

The points following this post indicate the fellow senses something wrong with the church and identifies the problem as ‘fundamentalism’. [At least, that is the way I am reading it.] As I understand what this fellow is saying, his response is typical of many who are wrestling with the fundamentalist label. They are disgusted with something which they think equals fundamentalism. What they are disgusted with is Pharisaism. I would suggest that their disgust with Pharisaism is appropriate. The Lord never intended for us to descend to the level of the Pharisees. In fact, Jesus said our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.

On another page our blogger friend also questions what he calls ‘teetotalism’. The page illustrates my point in making today’s lengthy post. It is a reactionary approach to Pharsaic legalism. Once the tent pegs are loosened, the whole tent comes down. Consider this statement in that light:

Teetoalism [sic] is taught by my church, most of the ideas of which I am suspect [sic] right now.

To be fair, the points that follow on this page are barely a cursory examination of the premise. Further, I don’t really want to debate the issue of alcohol itself in this post. I draw attention to the post since this is one of the areas that a reactionary response to legalism seems to immediately go.

I have gone round and round on this with many people who claim to be fundamentalists. It is shocking to me that there is an argument at all. Alcohol is a drug with particularly harmful side-effects. The arguments made for its use ‘in moderation’ could be made for almost any illegal drug – and sometimes are, by Christians. The only restraint on illegal drugs in the minds of some is that they are illegal.

An online friend, Scott Aniol, notes that perhaps after music, no subject is more contentious than the question whether Christians should use alcohol as a beverage. Scott points us to a

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by my friend Gary Reimers as well as an article Gary has written on the subject. Bob Bixby posted a passionate article in opposition to the use of alcohol some months back. He posts on the topic here as well. I have posted the notes from sermons I have preached on the subject here and here.

But as I said, I don’t want to rehash the arguments against alcohol here. What I want to point out is that antagonism to Pharisaism often leads people far from their fundamentalist roots to a place of casting off restraints and indulging the flesh. Though right in suspecting the legalistic excess of Pharisaism, they fail to exceed the Pharisees in righteousness as Jesus calls us to do.

Recall Dr. Wisdom’s comment:

Legalistic excesses never justify licentious extremes. [p. 28]

Is it true that fundamentalists are guilty of legalistic excesses? Well, are fundamentalists human? Of course some of them are guilty. Perhaps all of us are guilty of it at one point or another. What human being isn’t? We all like to approve ourselves and we all are most impressed with our own righteousness. Sometimes we are able to impress others with our righteousness as well.

But how should we react to the legalistic excesses of others? Is the right response a move towards less restraint? Towards more self-indulgence?

We see many young people raised or trained in fundamentalist homes, churches, and institutions moving lemming-like towards increasingly wilder forms of music, lowering the restraints on alcohol, lowering the bar on various forms of entertainment, spending their leisure in increasingly self-indulgent ways. They embrace the world and call it godliness. Is this a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees? Is this kingdom living?

Is this a violation of Dr. Wisdom’s wise counsel?

Legalistic excesses never justify licentious extremes. [p. 28]

It really ought to be a concern to us when the ‘solution’ to fundamentalism is self-indulgence. In particular, the instinctive reaction of spiritually minded Christians against alcohol use is not Pharisaism. It is wisdom. It is holiness. It is Christian love. It is self-preservation.

There is no need for using alcohol as a beverage today. It serves no purpose but self-indulgence today. It is a means Satan uses for seducing the unwary into all kinds of licentiousness.

I urge any Christian, of any kind, to turn away from the temptation to indulge self with alcohol. I especially urge young fundamentalists to consider the danger of falling into bitterness over Pharisaical failures by some fundamentalists. Bitterness will only propel you to ruin. Beware of your own brand of Pharisaism, seek to help others caught up in Phariasaism, but don’t be tempted to abandon the cause of holiness and orthodoxy that Christian fundamentalism truly is.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on J. C. Ryle’s work on the Gospels

Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service has just announced a deal on the newly published 4 volume set of J. C. Ryle’s commentaries on the Gospels. Ryle is an Anglican and Calvinistic, but an excellent and godly man. His book Holiness is well worth having. I expect these volumes are also worthy. This 4 volume set is on for just $32.99.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on our legalism series – ‘how does faith work?’

I guess I need to get caught up…

I want to give you a summary of our message last Sunday, preached after my marathon across the mountains the day before. I am thankful for portable computing! I had my message all ready for printing and preaching before I left Alberta.

Our subject this week: How does Faith Work? The idea of the message was to impress on our people the fact that saving faith is recognizable. The proposition I was working on was this: Faith is seen in the fruit it bears. Faith is the life of heaven lived on earth. There are several ways the notion of faith is seen in the New Testament. First, we have faith as a noun. “The faith”, Jude calls it. He refers to ‘the faith’ as a shorthand for an objective confession that is the foundation of saving faith. Without it, you cannot be a Christian. Paul speaks about believing in the Lord Jesus and confessing the resurrection in the heart. John speaks about confessing the Lord Jesus as the Christ come in the flesh. From incarnation to resurrecton, and every aspect of the doctrine of Christ in between, this is ‘the faith’. If you won’t accept this, you cannot have Christ.

The next aspect of faith is faith as a verb. This is Hebrews 11 faith. Faith that trusts. Faith that trusts God’s promises, though invisible, though not yet reality. This is how our understanding of creation works: we weren’t there, but we trust God’s word. God made promises to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. and they believed God. These men staked their lives on the invisible promises of God. As a matter of fact, we who are called believers today must also stake our lives on God’s invisible promises as well. Faith is a verb. We trust God.

Last, we looked at faith as a work or as a way of life. This is James 2.18 faith. ‘Show me’ faith. How does James urge us to ‘show’ faith. By caring for widows and orphans. By keeping unspotted from the world. By bridling the tongue. By self-control. By being a doer of the word. Faith works by personal devotion to the standards of holiness God lays out for us in the scripture. Faith works by love (Gal 5.6) – love for Christ, first of all, and for the saints throuh Him. Those who claim that Christianity has no need to conform to standards of holiness have a low regard for the Christ who bought them.


In our afternoon service, Rory preached on the subject of Paul’s conversion under the title ‘Getting to Know God’. Rory’s message described how Saul’s life was radically changed by the gospel and called us to know God as Paul did in order to experience the same kind of change for ourselves.


Next week we have evangelistic meetings with evangelist Dan Manka. He has his family here to minister with us on Sunday through Friday. We are handing out many flyers for the meetings and hope to see a few new faces in the meetings. A few? Well, we hope to see many, but we are of little faith.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the week that was

In my last post, I mentioned I was headed to the ferry and to Alberta to take a couple of my kids to camp. A number of events highlighted the trip and I thought them worthy of a post or two…

First, Alberta.

What is there about Alberta that so enthralls me? It is the land of my birth and rearing. Of course I am partial to it for these reasons. If you are not prairie born and raised, you may find my fascination with a mostly flat province a little odd. I have always said that there is nothing wrong with BC that clear-cutting and a lot of dynamite can’t fix! I love the flatlands. The flatlands are not really flat, each long rise of the undulating prairie reveals new and gorgeous vistas. In some places you can see fifty miles or more. There is a spot on the highway home where you can see my home town from over 20 miles away. The effect is best at night, when the lights of the town twinkle in the distance. During the day it is a little harder to distinguish the town in the distance. I am always reminded of the verse, ‘a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid’ when I see my home town twinkling in the distance.

July is the month of harvesting hay all over Alberta. The sight of fields being cut, or cut hay curing in the sun, or fields filled with bales for mile after mile is a welcome and familiar site to me. The smell of freshly cut hay is one that spells summer time and sunshine. Many of the fields of Alberta are sown in canola, in full flower during haying season. Canola fields are a brilliant yellow, stretching sometimes for miles, bordered by patches of green … hay, oats, wheat, barley, whatever… The oats, wheat, and barley will turn golden by the harvest with new vistas spread before your eyes as the summer wanes into fall..

The roads of Alberta are mostly straight and a good many of them are lightly traveled. You can go miles without seeing another vehicle, especially off the ‘main drag’ between Edmonton and Calgary. When I was younger, I put my first car (1972 Dodge Charger, 400 cu in engine) to the test on a lonely stretch of these highways. When I hit 110 mph with my car not straining at all, I decided that was fast enough. I drove over that same stretch of highway on this trip. My more sedate Dodge Caravan wasn’t up to Charger standards (and I am more mature now???). The roads of Alberta invite going out ‘for a spin’ just for the sheer pleasure of driving and looking out over those distant miles. When I was a youngster and began driving, it was nothing for someone to run into Edmonton (90 miles away) for a cup of coffee. The prairies invite such mobility, especially now that we have passed the muddy pioneer days and are in the days of the automobile and paved highways. I suppose people don’t take such larks that much anymore. We even have several coffee shops in my home town these days, even a McDonald’s!

Most people we know rave over the beauty of my current home in British Columbia. But for me, the Alberta countryside beats the Pacific rain forest hands down.

The needs of people are the same in both places. Secular, worldly, and in need of a Saviour. I am not overly partial to the big cities in either place. I am a small town boy, after all. But if I had my druthers, you could bury me on the lone prairie.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on God’s view of righteous human works

Our next installment in our ‘Law, Legalism, and Life’ series addresses the subject God’s Viewpoint of Righteous Human Works.

The main idea of the message is that God evaluates all human works. The Bible reveals that certain kinds of human works are unacceptable to God while other kinds of human works please God. The devoted Christian must turn his mind to understanding what those works are that please God.

There are two sorts of righteous works that are unacceptable to God. First are those that are intended to oblige God’s grace. This is salvation-by-works legalism. It is an attempt to manipulate God as if he were an idol. The notion is this, ‘If I stroke God certain ways, he will give me what I want.’ Thus the prophets of Ba’al attempted to manipulate their idol on Mt Carmel. The fact is God’s grace is obliged to the works of one man, Jesus Christ, who perfectly kept the law for fallen men. All men who are ‘in Christ’ are recipients of God’s obligations to the perfect obedience of his Son.

The second sort of righteous works that are unacceptable to God are works intended to impress man. These are the works of the Pharisees who sounded the trumpet when they gave alms. They had their reward. These are the works of the Pharisees when they sought to please themselves with their own righteousness. God has no time for self-righteous hypocrisy. No higher spiritual plane is found by ‘working the right works.’

Nevertheless, there are works that do please God.

Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

There are many other passages that highlight this concept. Eph 2.8-10 tell us that salvation is not of works, but unto works that we were ordained to walk in. This is where a godly Christian ministry points the saints to. I said this, ‘Our ministry among you is to call you to a life of spiritual fervour — we aren’t satisfied with merely supplying ‘fire insurance’, i.e., ‘get out of hell free’ cards.’ We are after developing devoted saints who delight to please God and delight in the things of God rather than the things of the world.


After the morning message, two of our youngsters and I are off to Alberta for C.O.W.s – a traveling mission camp ministry that we are glad to support. While the kids are at camp, I will get to hear Dr. Bob and Stephen in Calgary, then off home to Drayton Valley to visit my parents.

Rory is preaching our afternoon message as we travel. We plan to be back next Saturday for another great day in the Lord.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on paganism is alive and well in north america

Today is 7/7/07 – perhaps thousands of couples are besieging churches, chapels, and justices of the peace in order to ‘say their vows’ on this supposedly especially fortuitous day. One woman, the proprietor of a wedding chapel in Las Vegas, said that she has never seen it so busy in fifty years in the business. Cars were ‘lined up’ for the ‘drive thru’. The drive thru??? You can have a drive thru wedding? Unbelievable!

The news about the multitudes of wedding plans on this day made the front page of the National Post today, one of Canada’s major newspapers. I imagine the same was true of many papers around North America.

Isn’t it a bit pathetic that people are so insecure in their souls that they think a day with some numbers on it will make them perhaps that much more fortunate in their wedding vows? Don’t they realize how arbitrary calendars are? If we were still following the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one, July 7, 07, would be long gone by now. [Not to mention that the year 1 is off by at least four years. We should be in 2011-2013 by now.]

Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

Quite clearly, the problem is that these people do not know God. They are bound by superstition and pagan thinking.

Our church only has a few young people in it, none of them close to marriage. If we had eligible couples though, I think I would have refused them this day, just because…

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on one of my liberal magazines

I am just about through with my latest issue of Biblical Archaelogical Review. The magazine can’t really be classified as a Christian magazine, though the articles usually relate to Bible topics. The general editor and the vast majority of contributors appear to come from at best a fairly liberal position, which is to say an unbelieving position. The editorial pages are especially galling, and I have to remind myself that I don’t subscribe for the editorials!

The content of the articles is usually a fairly objective discussion of the facts along with argumentation oriented to one archaelogical theory or another. Occasionally there are liberal notions present and the galling dating system BCE/CE. I mostly am looking for background information concerning the biblical record from this magazine and on that score it delivers.

For example, the recent issue has an article on Joseph, asking a question about the passage in Gen 41.14 where Joseph is said to have shaved prior to his first audience with Pharaoh. The auther asks why would Joseph do this? The suggested answer is that the Pharaoh would be considered a god in the Egyptian system and as such could only be attended by people who were ‘clean’. In the Egyptian system, the priests were completely shaven, all bodily hair removed, as a sign of their cleanness entering into the courts of their gods (i.e., the temples, including the palace). The reference in Genesis, one I noticed again just the other day in my regular reading, is fairly obscure and perhaps isn’t intended to convey a lot of meaning. But understanding the context of this ‘by the way’ type of remark might cast some light on the whole story, including the relationship between Pharaoh and Joseph and contributes to a better understanding of why Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him at all. He would have appeared comepletely other-worldly to them, if indeed his hair, beard, etc, were all completely shaved off in his position as second in command to Pharaoh.

The previous issue contained a particularly distressing article on the loss of faith. Four archaeological scholars were interviewed, two who claimed to have lost their faith, two who claimed not. Given BAR‘s slant, it is not surprising that it appears none of these men actually ever have had saving faith. Those who claimed to have lost faith came from fairly conservative evangelical backgrounds, but their current testimonies show they never exercised living faith. Such stories are heartbreaking.

Resources like BAR can be useful, but they must be handled with care. There be dragons [of unbelief] there.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3