Archives for November 2007

on Nehemiah’s wall

It was real! [To quote Gomer: Surprise, surprise, surprise!!] Check out this article describing the find.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on softness and specifics

I sort of agree with the complaints voiced over at My Two Cents in critique of an article entitled “Fundamentalism’s Great Softness”. I have wanted to jump in and add my voice to the comments, but have restrained myself! (Amazing but true!)

Of course, that restraint is only “so far” and “until now”.

I want to add some ‘wait a minute’ statements:

  • I am reading Isaiah right now in my devotions. Last week I read Micah and Hosea. Beyond identifying the group of people these prophets spoke to (i.e., Israel, Judah, Ephraim, etc.) how often were the prophets specific in their charges or against specific individuals/institutions within Israel/Judah? Must a current writer be specific in order to make a point?
  • Does anyone really deny that there is a ‘softness’ creeping over fundamentalism? Consider the many blogs purporting to be by fundamentalists yet advocating such things as contemporary music styles, looser standards of dress, and even going so far as to advocate the use of alcohol. I could list more subjects, but does anyone really deny that there is a push towards looser personal standards?

    By the way… in some respects, I am looser than some of my fundamentalist forbears, especially in areas like dress standards. I stand against immodest and worldly dress [as I understand it] but I am not against such things as ‘pants on women’ or insist on men wearing suits to church or even as a pastor dressing in a tie during the week… call me a liberal…

    My point, though, is this: let’s not kid ourselves about the lack of softness in fundamentalism. Softness is everywhere. Some of it may be a legitimate softening of previously unreasonably hard positions. Some of it is compromise with the world, plain and simple.

  • Ivan Foster, no softie, publishes an article by “an American Observer” [i.e., read Anonymous Coward] entitled “Radical Changes afoot at Bob Jones University” In the article University spokesmen are quoted saying that things said in the past wouldn’t be said in the present, at least not the same way. Would you say that this is evidence of softening or hardening?

    By the way, the BJU folks may be right in making these changes. I am personally reserving judgement to see where things end up. I am concerned, as an alum and a parent of current students. May God keep the University as the premier fundamentalist institution in the world! But the changes bear watching and who can deny that this is a softening of previously held positions?

I cannot speak for the writer of The Projector article, but these last two points may be the kind of thing he was aiming at.

It is undeniable that fundamentalism has softened in many respects. I have offered examples of softening at two ends of the spectrum, so to speak. I think that the reader can supply plenty of evidence of softening in between the ‘lower level’ of softening exhibited by individuals and the ‘higher level’ of softening at some (all?) of our fundamentalist institutions. Many many churches with fundamentalist heritages are softening. Some are softening right out of fundamentalism altogether.

Some softening may be warranted. Is all of it? We don’t know the answer to that question yet.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on a wise word from a young fundamentalist

My Number One Son sent me a link to an article written by a friend of his. I guess since they are both young and fundamentalists, that makes them ‘young fundamentalists’.


Not of the usual sort. That is, not of the usual sort of mindset you think of when that term is used. The article is entitled The Errors of “Recovering Fundamentalists” by Lincoln Mullen.

If you haven’t seen this article, I encourage you to read it. It is refreshing to read a young man with an unapologetic approach to fundamentalism.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on Rm 1.7 and Lk 11.1-4

I see I have posted nothing since our last sermon summaries. It has been a busy week with a few of my men as they helped me repair my deck. I thought it would be a two day job. I should know by now to multiply my time estimates by at least 2 and a half. At least the job is pretty much done, just a few finishing touches left this week if the weather cooperates. Now for this week’s sermons:

To all that be in Rome (Rm 1.7)

I told our people today that my aim was to make the message of Romans personal, as if the letter was written personally to them. After all, as Paul addresses the letter, it is to a local church, made up of real believers – and only believers. These believers are seen in the three terms describing the church in Rome in 1.6-7: called of Jesus Christ [belonging to Christ]; beloved of God [just as Christ is God’s beloved, so we, in Christ, are beloved], called saints [named as holy ones, by virtue of the new birth].

The people addressed by ‘to all that be in Rome’ have these three characteristics, clearly and distinctly they are Christians. This is a Baptist idea. The local church should attempt to maintain an exclusively regenerate membership by careful examination of applicants and purging of false professors who may accidentally be admitted.

But the infinite blessing of the passage is that which is offered the local church of Rome by God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace & peace. For grace, I like this line I found in Donald Grey Barnhouse: "Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace." [Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans, Vol.1, p. 72.] Peace is the Hebrew part of Paul’s formulaic greeting – it is a regular formula, but full of meaning. The Hebrew concept is shalom, wholeness, well-being in the whole person. This is the blessing offered to the local church at Rome, and I believe, to every local church through time since then. This is what makes the letter to Romans personal. I closed with this application:

1. Does God have any less care for you or for this local church than he does for the ‘Grace Baptist Church of Rome’ in ad 57?

I have prayed with some of you when you made things right with God. At that moment, I believe God our Father stooped down from heaven and spoke grace to you and our Lord Jesus Christ gave you peace.

I have sat by your bedsides in the hospital, offering prayers for your physical well-being. At that moment, I believe God our Father stooped down from heaven and spoke grace to you and our Lord Jesus Christ gave you peace.

I have walked to graves with some of you, and will probably do so again… At those moments, I believe God our Father stooped down from heaven and spoke grace to you and our Lord Jesus Christ gave you peace.

2. Our union as a local church is created in the love of God and the grace and peace offered personally to you in Jesus Christ.

Our conclusion invited anyone who is outside the beloved to repent of their sins and enter the household of God.

When Ye Pray (Lk 11.1-4)

We continue our series on prayer, begun last week. The Lord’s answer to the disciple’s prayer, "Lord, teach us to pray" is first of all to give us the prayer we call "The Lord’s Prayer". This is similar to the record given us in Matthew 6, but the differences in the passages make it clear that the same teaching was given on two separate occasions. The fact that the Lord taught the same thing twice indicates that it was a regular feature of his teaching and highlights the importance placed on it by the Holy Spirit. Understanding and practicing the concepts in this prayer is vital to our spiritual lives.

There are essentially five petitions in this model prayer as given in Luke:

  1. The prayer for hallowing God’s name: if you long for a day when this is true in the world, pray for it! If you long for a day when this is completely true in your life, pray for it!
  2. The prayer for the kingdom: do you agree with the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, the 12, and the seventy? Is the Lord your king? Pray for your submission to his rule and for his kingdom to come in the earth.
  3. The prayer for daily bread: the Lord provides all we have, though in our culture we may be much less aware of it than the 1st century. There is only enough food on the Island to last us a few weeks – if we were suddenly cut off from the mainland by some catastrophe, we would be very aware of our utter dependence. Prayer for our bread and other physical needs is legitimized by this petition taught us by the Lord.
  4. The prayer for forgiveness: our spiritual neediness is a daily concern – read 1 Jn 1.6-2.1 if you think you have no need of regular forgiveness of sin and restoration to fellowship with God. If you forgive others (Eph 4.32) you display evidence that God is your Father and can have assurance that this petition will be heard.
  5. The prayer for deliverance out of temptation: what Christian does not need to pray for this? It is essentially a prayer for one’s own faithfulness. May God keep us in all our trials.

There is much more that could be said about the Lord’s prayer and these petitions. May God bless our study and meditation on these Scriptures.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on Romans and prayer

We continue with our Romans series today and begin a new series on prayer.

By Whom and Among Whom (Rm 1.5-6)

Last week we completed Paul’s summary of the gospel. This week we move from doctrine to impact in human lives. The gospel is more than just intellectual theorizing; the gospel is the life-changing transformation from death to life. Paul speaks first of the gospel impact on his own life, and the lives of the apostles. God’s work is first and primarily through God-called Men. Men called by grace and sent by God carry the Message of ‘obedience of faith’, the obedience which is faith. The result is an impact on the Multitudes, those who are among the nations called by the gospel to bring glory to Christ.

The gospel of God … the gospel from God … the whole mission of Christ, extended through the apostles and God-called men of every generation is all about this: ‘among whom are ye’.

Teach Us to Pray (Lk 11.1)

When it comes to prayer, what sincere Christian is satisfied? An unnamed disciple asked the Lord, ‘teach us to pray’, after observing the Lord at prayer. The true disciple longs for vital communion with God in prayer. As we begin to consider the topic, we observe first of all our Lord Jesus Christ, our exemplar in prayer. Luke’s gospel records many situations in which the Lord is found praying – at his baptism, choosing the disciples, in private times alone, in public, in intercession, and on the cross. Our Lord’s dependence on the Father and his communion with the Father is our great example in prayer. We observe also our longing for prayer in the prayer of the disciple. Have you ever thought about this request made of the Lord? It is a prayer itself, one in keeping with the Father’s will, and one that is immediately answered (read Lk 11.1-13). The first lesson the disciple learns is learned unconsciously and spontaneously: he asks something of the Lord in the Father’s will, "teach us to pray". Last, we observe our predecessor in prayer, John the Baptist. The Lord is our example, fully man, fully dependent on the Father, but John is our predecessor, only man, and as fully dependent on the Father. J. Vernon McGee observed that this passage is the last mention of John the Baptist in the Gospels, and it marks John as a man of prayer. Prayer ought to mark our lives as well.

We closed this message with an illustration out of E. M. Bounds book, The Necessity of Prayer and a hymn by William Cowper out of the Olney Hymnal:

“A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the chase, told me the following story: ‘Rising early one morning,’ he said, ‘I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw a young fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover, that its race was well-nigh run. Reaching the rails of the enclosure, it leaped over and crouched within ten feet from where I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, when the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round, fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its weakness had appealed to my strength.’ So is it, when human helplessness appeals to Almighty God. Well do I remember when the hounds of sin were after my soul, until, at last, I ran into the arms of Almighty God.” — A. C. DIXON.[1]

Exhortation to Prayer by William Cowper

What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy–seat?
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.

Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they failed,
That moment Amalek prevailed.

Have you no words? ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow–creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To heav’n in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft’ner be,
Hear what the LORD has done for me. [2]


Today was a blessed day in our services with 50 in attendance. We have been a bit up and down for the last couple of months with various people away, but today almost everyone who regularly attends was there. We also had a visit from a couple who are friends of another couple in the church. Today was an encouraging day. The Lord has done great things for us this year and we look forward to whatever is in store in the coming year.

[1] Quoted in E. M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer, Ch. 1, from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, (Accessed 11.17.07).

[2] William Cowper “Exhortation to prayer.” Olney Hymnal, Hymn 60.

on the Evangelical Theological Society and fundamentalists

Recent events at the ETS meetings again call into question fundamentalist participation. The Christianity Today LiveBlog reports on a session by J. P. Moreland of Talbot Seminary. The session had this arresting title: "How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It"

Consider this statement as reported by LiveBlog:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.”

or here’s another treat:

Likewise, Moreland argued, “because the human soul/spirit and demons/angels are real, it is possible, and, in fact, actual that extra-biblical knowledge can be gained about these spiritual entities. … Demons do not exist in the Bible. They exist in reality.”

By not researching how demons work, how to fight them, and other such issues by, for example, working with exorcists, Christian scholars are harming the church, Moreland argued. In a similar vein, he thinks evangelical scholars and the movement as a whole are rejecting “guidance, revelation, and so forth from God through impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom.”

This session was some kind of ‘breakout’ session at the meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I don’t know if the transcript will be represented by a formal paper published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) or not. Regardless, this kind of thinking is obviously part of the milieu at ETS. I have an electronic copy of JETS and occasionally find some interesting articles there, although I don’t find it a "go to" resource because JETS general tenor tends towards this kind of unbelief. That is not to say that such blatantly unbiblical thinking is present in every JETS article, but that JETS tends in that direction.

Which brings me to the issue of fundamentalist participation in the ETS. I have discussed this on another blog somewhere, although I can’t remember exactly where or when. Some prominent fundamentalists defend the association. I can’t imagine how they can defend their association with such unbelief.

In a related post, LiveBlog reports on an attempt to amend the doctrinal statement of the ETS. At the moment, members of the ETS must adhere to a very simple doctrinal statement. They must affirm belief in the Trinity and in the inerrancy of the Bible. That is all. The attempt to amend the doctrinal statement comes from men who don’t think the current statement is sufficient and that it allows for heretics to be members. I recommend that you read the whole thing, but I am struck by how much this sounds like the attempts of the fundamentalists to clarify orthodoxy in the Presbyterian church and in the Northern Baptist Convention back in the 1920s. It’s sort of deja vu all over again.

The effort at ETS will likely fail, just as those efforts in the 1920s also ultimately failed.

But again, why are fundamentalists involved in something like this at all? Did we learn anything from the 1920s or not?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the highway of heroes

November 11 is called Remembrance Day in Canada. From my youth it has been a day of older men in medals, somber speeches, and poppies on lapels. The poppies are a distinctly Canadian memorial, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, by Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD, a Canadian military doctor who died of pneumonia during WWI.

Some TV news items on the day pointed us to a new Canadian memorial of our war dead, this time from the battlefields of Afghanistan. When the bodies of our soldiers arrive home in Canada, they are flown first to an air force base in Trenton, ON. From there, they travel in a funeral procession led by police cars up the 401 highway to Toronto for autopsy.

Our Canadian people have taken to lining the overpasses on the highway, waving flags and saluting the fallen heroes as they return home. I can’t find the news item I saw, but these links will tell the tale. I found the last one, a video with no sound from within one of the cars in the procession, to be quite moving.

A-Channel article on the highway

Canada AM interview with creator of petition

a view from the procession

John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

on an Alberta perspective of a certain theological development

I read the blog of an Alberta church-planting pastor whom I have never met. He comes from a quite different background from me and is just a bit younger. But I find his articles quite interesting. His latest is called The Reformed Renewal in which he analyses the backgrounds of various Calvinistic leaders in the Baptist world.

I think you will find his analysis interesting. He is talking primarily about backgrounds, not necessarily current position. However, I can’t help but think there is still something of the background in each man’s current position. Notice especially what he says about Piper and MacArthur.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on 11.11.07

In Canada, Nov 11 is Remembrance Day. We all wear poppies in our lapels to honour our war dead. It is a particularly moving experience these days, especially as our nation is now at war in Afghanistan. Though our casualties are very light compared to the World Wars, the loss of young men to their families and our nation is still tragic.

Our messages this Sunday brought us once again to the book of Romans. I took both morning and afternoon services to advance a bit in our study.

The morning message was from Rm 1.3, The Gospel of the King. The proposition for the message was: "The coming of Jesus Christ to earth brings forward the royal man who fulfills every longing of creation ruined by sin." Mankind, fallen, broken, and insecure looks for the leadership of strong men, heroes, in order to provide peace and security. Every human king fails, but in Christ we have the one King who will not fail. Our passage tells us how the eternal Son became of the seed of David, as far as his human nature is concerned, in order to provide himself for us as the ideal champion all men are really looking for.

In the afternoon, we looked at Rm 1.4, The Gospel of the Resurrection. Proposition: "The resurrection marks out this one man as the only man able to provide dead men their one and only escape from the grave." In v. 4, we see that our Lord is not merely our royal Hero-Messiah, not merely the Hero-King of the seed of David, but he is, as to his divine nature, ‘Son of God in power’, and that power is especially the power to cause certain men to live forever. Our Lord is declared to be such by the resurrection out of the dead, the first among many brethren. He leads the way and he provides the life.


What a mighty God we serve. Our focus in these beginning weeks of Romans has been ‘the gospel of God.’ Words cannot extol our Lord enough as we consider these powerful themes.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Lloyd-Jones on sin

From D. M. Lloyd-Jones, preaching on Rm 1.5, By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith

Lloyd-Jones notes that the text should read ‘obedience of faith’, where the word ‘faith’ describes what kind of ‘obedience’ the apostles were striving after, an obedience which is faith, i.e., saving faith is a submission of obedience to God. In preaching on this point, Lloyd-Jones gives this definition of sin:

"Sin primarily is disobedience. Sin is not just that which I do that is wrong and which makes me feel miserable afterwards; sin is not just that which spoils my life and makes me feel miserable and unhappy; sin is not just that thing which gets me down, and which I would like to overcome. It is all that, but, my friends, that is not the first thing to say about sin; indeed, that is not the most important thing to say about it. But there are many people who think of sin like that, and they are looking for someone who is going to help to overcome sin. They want happiness; they want peace; they don’t want to go on falling to a particular temptation; they want deliverance, and they hear that Christ can do that for them, so they say, I will believe on Him, I will accept Him, if He will help me and make me happy, and deliver me from my problem. We all want to get rid of problems, don’t we? And there is a great danger that we shall think of the Lord Jesus Christ simply as someone who helps us to get out of our difficulties.

"Thank God He does that. But before we even begin to think of that we must think of something else. What is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law. Primarily, it is rebellion against God. Sin is refusal to listen to the voice of God. Sin is a turning of your back upon God and doing what you think. That is ultimately what sin is. And you see the importance of realizing that. It comes out in this way. You have all met nice people who say to you, ‘You know I really cannot regard myself as a sinner; I have never felt that I am one.’ What do they mean when they say this? Well, they mean that they have never got drunk; they have not been guilty of adultery or murder; they have not committed certain sins. I have known nice, respectable people who have been brought up like this, who have said sometimes quite sincerely and genuinely — I almost wish that I had been a drunkard, or something like that, in order that I might have this great experience of salvation. Perhaps some of you have felt like that. Do you know what that is due to? It is due to a wrong definition of sin. This is sin: a refusal to listen to the voice and to the Word of God. So that if you are living your own life in a very respectable manner, and are not listening to God, you are still a terrible sinner. If you are living that little self-contained, self-satisfied life in which you really only think of God now and again, and remember perhaps morning and evenings that there is a God, and you say your prayers; if that is your attitude to God, if you are not waiting upon Him and listening for His Word, and seeking it everywhere, and living to practise it, then you are as much a sinner as the drunkard or the adulterer; you are not listening to God. That is the essence of sin." Lloyd-Jones, Romans 1: The Gospel of God, p. 138-139.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3