Archives for February 2011

contend for the faith – quotable (3)

Commenting on Gal 1.8, Vincent of Lerins says:

“‘Even though an angel from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’ It was not enough for the preservation of the faith once delivered to have referred to man; he must needs comprehend angels also. ‘Though we,’ he says, ‘or an angel from heaven.’ Not that the holy angels of heaven are now capable of sinning. But what he means is: Even if that were to happen which cannot happen, – if any one, be he who he may, attempt to alter the faith once for all delivered, let him be accursed.”

Vincent of Lerins , “A Commonitory For The Antiquity And Universality Of The Catholic Faith Against The Profane Novelties Of All Heresies,” in The Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. C. A. Heurtley, electronic ed. (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000), 8.22.


contend for the faith – quotable (2)

“Again: Hippolytus refers to the action of the suburbicarian bishops in provincial council. And here is the place to express dissatisfaction with the apologetic tone of some writers, who seem to think Hippolytus too severe, etc. As if, in dealing with such ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing,’ this faithful leader could show himself a true shepherd without emphasis and words of abhorrence. Hippolytus has left to the Church the impress of his character as ‘superlatively sweet and amiable.’ Such was St. John, the beloved disciple; but he was not less a ‘son of thunder.’ Our Divine Master was ‘the Lamb,’ and ‘the Lion;’ the author of the Beatitudes, and the author of those terrific woes; the ‘meek and gentle friend of publicans and sinners,’ and the ‘lash of small cords’ upon the backs of those who made His Father’s house a ‘den of thieves.’ Such was Chrysostom, such was Athanasius, such was St. Paul, and such have ever been the noblest of mankind; tender and considerate, gentle and full of compassion; but not less resolute, in the crises of history, in withstanding iniquity in the persons of arch-enemies of truth, and setting the brand upon their foreheads. Good men, who hate strife, and love study and quiet, and to be friendly with others; men who never permit themselves to indulge a personal enmity, or to resent a personal affront; men who forgive injuries to the last farthing when they only are concerned, – may yet crucify their natures in withstanding evil when they are protecting Christ’s flock, or fulfilling the command to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.’ What the Christian Church owes to the loving spirit of Hippolytus in the awful emergencies of his times, protecting the poor sheep, and grappling with wolves for their sake, the Last Day will fully declare. But let us who know nothing of such warfare concede nothing, in judging of his spirit, to the spirit of our unbelieving age, which has no censures except for the defenders of truth: –

“‘Eternal smiles its emptiness betray,
As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.’”

A. Cleveland Coxe, “Elucidations on ‘The Refutation of All Heresies’ by Hippolytus,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 5, electronic ed. (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000), 12.


the evangelical disconnect

So here’s Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, talking about something he calls Vision 2020 and the direction he wants the Convention to go over the next few years. (The Executive Committee is charged with running day to day SBC operations between the actual annual convention meeting, according to SBCnet.)

Among other things, he said:

"As we all know, our convention over the last decades has taken a stand for biblical inerrancy. I thank God for that," Page said. "But I believe that now a unified understanding and a call for an affirmation of an inerrant, infallible Word of God shall lead us to an even greater obedience of that Word. I believe that is where we need to be focusing now. As we affirm its inerrancy and infallibility, let’s do so by fleshing it out and living it in this world."

I wonder what he means by that, in light of this article that came out yesterday:

SBC Executive Committee decides not to oust Alliance churches

By Bob Allen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) –Membership in a group that welcomes and affirms gays does not automatically disqualify a church from participation in the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC Executive Committee decided Feb. 22.

Hmmm… ‘fleshing it out and living it in this world…’ I wonder how the Executive Committee reconciles that vision with their decision about the Alliance churches.

Frank Page was President of the SBC in 2006 and 2007, I believe. I think he would be considered a conservative.



Interesting report from AtC Conference

Kevin Mungons reports on today’s panel discussion at the Advancing the Church Conference in Lansdale. I am not sure if this is a verbatim transcript or not, it looks a little edited. However, Kevin reports these words from our friend, Dave Doran:

Doran: I doubt we all agree with each other on the right way to solve that problem, but I do think (I’ll speak for myself on this one) that we are committed to the same principles of separation that we have always been, yet I do and have tried to acknowledge that there have been changes that have forced me to think through the applications differently than I have since becoming a pastor 22 years ago…[.in the midpoint of the last dedade, 2005-2006 there were some things that I thought were significant in a change of landscape, both internally and externally

Dever: I’d be curious to hear—what were those changes?

Doran: In early 2005 there was a meeting in which Kevin and I were both speakers. Both of us tried to make a case (I’ll try to say this as tactfully as possible) for drawing a circle, to say that if you are going to identify with historic fundamentalism,  certain theological aberrations have to be rejected. We tried to make an ernest appeal, but I didn’t think that that was actually going to get traction. I would say that outside [fundamentalism] in March 2005, Phil Johnson did his presentation on “Fundamentalism: Dead Right?” We spent four or five weeks going back and forth about it. The month right before that I had asked the folks at Grace [Community Church, John MacArthur’s church] very specifically on the issue of secondary separation, an idea they never publically accepted. But in his presentation, Phil Johnson said “we do believe it is valid, but has not been used properly.” So that was a significant change.

And later…

Doran: Right. And his book was beginning to talk about this. There’s probably a dozen books that began to talk about the problems of the evangelical left. Grudem in his book on Open Theism. Carson, Love in hard Places…the necessity of separating over the gospel. Mohler’s chapter in Horton’s book….so there actually was an uptick of talk about separatism among a certain segment of evangelicalism, that’s what I meant by a change in the landscape. [The evangelicals] were not as thorough and as consistent as I would have preferred…

I am cutting off a bits on these quotations, so please read the whole article for yourself to get the whole context.

It is interesting to note a few things here:

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contend for the faith – quotable (1)

I’ve been doing a little research on the phrase ‘the faith once delivered’. In the process I’ve found a few gems. Here’s the first:

“Justification by faith, I have said, is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel. It is vital. It is ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’ No system from which it is excluded, can ever be justly regarded as embodying the religion of Christ. It was taught by the apostles, and early ministers, constantly, forcibly, emphatically. It was cherished by the primitive churches as a priceless truth. How can we account for its abandonment by the professed followers of Jesus Christ? There is, I answer, an inherent tendency in human nature, renewed though it may be, to pass from the substance to the forms of religion. The transition is so easy that it can only be prevented by perpetual vigilance. The influence of this propensity the early churches did not very long escape. Among the first of the corruptions they admitted and embraced, was the undue importance which became attached to religious ceremonials. They gradually exalted the rites above the doctrines of Christianity, while both were perverted and misapplied. Baptism, especially, was imagined to possess great and peculiar virtues. Thus justification through grace by faith, was ultimately displaced by justification through grace by baptism. Popery was the result, the doctrine of which, on this subject, is thus expressed by the Council of Trent: — ‘Justification is by means of the sacraments, either originally infused into us, or subsequently increased, or when lost, again restored.’ Thus the Christian world was plunged into darkness, which remained unbroken for a thousand years.”

R. B. C. Howell, Evils of Infant Baptism (Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1851), 102-103.

A few points to highlight:

  • The inherent tendency to pass from the substance to the forms of religion. A very pernicious trait.
  • The first of the corruptions was the undue emphasis attached to religious ceremonials. Desiring the subjective experience more than exercising faith? The charismatic impulse?
  • From forms to popery. A slippery slide? The fact that the slippery slide slips slowly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.


Contend (3)

To continue the discussion of Jude 3, I’d like to discuss the ultimate objective of Christian contention. (See these links for Part One and Part Two of this discussion.)

Various objectives have been suggested for Christian contention, and especially the Fundamentalist version of it. Ernest Pickering subtitled his book Biblical Separation with the line, ‘the struggle for a pure church.’ Certainly a pure church has to be an objective, but is it the one Jude has in mind ultimately?

Others suggest that Fundamentalist contention is simply lust for battle, ego and megalomania. Fundamentalists are the berserkers of Christianity, or the Idi Amin’s. Such suggestions aren’t very charitable, to say the least.

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Contend (2)

I wrote about Jude 3 a few days ago. That post motivated me to study the passage in more detail. The verse is really a profound statement, vv. 3-4 serving as Jude’s thesis statement for the epistle.

I preached on the passage this past Sunday. The message really centered around the dominant word of the passage and was entitled simply, “Contend”. This post reflects some of my observations from that sermon.

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The Exchange

I’d like to commend to you the ministry of my friend, Jeff Musgrave. His heart’s interest is seeing lost souls come to Christ and  The Exchange is the vehicle he wrote as a tool for communicating the gospel.

Jeff and his wife Anna trained our people in The Exchange soul-winning presentation this week. The training involves two parts – a four session Bible study and a short gospel presentation distilled from the longer study.

The highlights of the week for me included a reminder that in conversing with lost people we need to direct the conversation to heart issues rather than engage head issues (deal with need rather than prove one’s point) and hearing two testimonies from two of our people who were able to share the gospel during the week.

One obstacle Christians face in soul-winning is lack of confidence about what they will say when they witness for Christ. The Exchange provides an excellent tool for presenting the truths of the gospel to a lost person. I heartily recommend it.

Bob Jones University Press is now publishing the soul-winning Bible study and leader’s guide, as well as a twelve week discipleship program to follow up on the evangelistic Bible study.

For an idea of what The Exchange is like, here is our friend Jeff Musgrave, presenting the content of The Exchange.


hard-hitting CT

Well… from the department of ‘bet-you-never-thought-you’d-see-this’, Christianity Today calls today calls a spade a (gasp) liberal!!!!

The spade in question is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the article in question can be found here.

Pretty amazing. More gutsy than some conservativish evangelicals, too.