Archives for March 2012

Slavery and Alcohol

Seemingly two disparate topics, no? I don’t know of a direct connection, but I’d like to examine current Christian reactions to both. This post is prompted by remarks made by D. A. Carson at the EFCA Theology Conference and transcribed for us here. In these comments, Carson notes the difference between the American slave trade and slavery in the ancient Roman empire. The American slave trade was basically ‘men-stealing’ (Ex 21.16; 1 Tim 1.10), whereas the Roman system functioned in many ways as a social safety net for the insolvent (men-stealing was also involved, but was not the primary source of Roman slaves).

Is there anyone today who would argue that Christianity allows for any legitimacy to slavery at all? We don’t deny that Christians, sadly, have made such arguments. It’s more than sad, its an embarrassment that otherwise respected Christians of the past could not see the evil of the slave trade.

What is the Christian argument against slavery?

We agree that slavery is an evil. We stand together against it. On what basis do we take this stand?

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does this strike you as funny?

The latest 9 Marks eJournal is out. There is an article by Owen Strachan attempting to sketch the history of the doctrine of conversion in America. In the article, he cites George Whitfield in the line of the classic Calvinistic preachers who believed in conversion of a Calvinistic sort, the kind where a man is first regenerated (i.e., converted), then has faith given him, after which he is expected to respond to God’s invitation, repent and believe, in order to be converted after having already been converted.

Here’s the quote from Whitfield

But thus it must be, if Christ be not your righteousness. For God’s justice must be satisfied; and, unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed and applied to you here, you must hereafter be satisfying the divine justice in hell-torments eternally; nay, Christ himself shall condemn you to that place of torment. And how cutting is that thought! Methinks I see poor, trembling, Christless wretches, standing before the bar of God, crying out, Lord, if we must be damned, let some angel, or some archangel, pronounce the damnatory sentence: but all in vain. Christ himself shall pronounce the irrevocable sentence. Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, let me persuade you to close with Christ, and never rest till you can say, "the Lord our righteousness." Who knows but the Lord may have mercy on, nay, abundantly pardon you? Beg of God to give you faith; and, if the Lord gives you that, you will by it receive Christ, with his righteousness, and his All. (From The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, London, 1771-1772, accessed here online.)

And here is Strachan’s following paragraph:

Like Edwards, Whitefield told his hearers to entreat the merciful Lord for pardon. He simultaneously explained the righteous character of God, detailing the way Christ has accomplished his mission of salvation, and implored his audience to close with Christ. The sermonic material was always God-centered. Whitefield made it clear that conversion occurs by God’s pleasure, yet that hearers were still responsible to respond.

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is your conscience uneasy? (part 1)

Carl F. H. Henry. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Kindle Edition
First of a series of posts reviewing the book by Carl Henry.

An oft mentioned but possibly neglected book, Carl Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism is often credited as a seminal work in the development of evangelicalism. Al Mohler calls it “a manifesto of a movement later to be known as the ‘new evangelicalism.’” (Albert F. Mohler, Jr., “Carl F. H. Henry, Theologians of the Baptist Tradition, Timothy George and David S. Dockery, eds., p. 283.)

In my opinion, every fundamentalist should read Henry’s book. Newly reprinted with a foreword by Richard Mouw, it is highly instructive of the evangelical mind that was to become the ‘new evangelicalism’ and of the evangelical mind that continues to this day. I read it in the Kindle edition, which suffers from an unfortunate limitation on copying and note-taking imposed by the publisher. (One sympathizes with the desire of publishers to prevent piracy, but this is the first Kindle book where I ran into this limitation. Other commercially published works I have purchased haven’t been so restrictive.)

In any case, as I said, I think all fundamentalists should read this book. The generation of fundamentalists who faced the challenge of new evangelicalism are passing off the scene. Those of us who follow in their footsteps need to be aware of the challenges they faced. We face very similar challenges today. The challenges to orthodoxy today are not the frontal attacks of blatantly heretical modernism as in the era of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. They are much more subtle than that. The challenge is no longer called ‘new evangelicalism’ (it is hard to stay ‘new’ for long), but the essential arguments and values of those challenging fundamentalism are basically the same. So read Henry’s Uneasy Conscience. It is worth considering what it meant to the fundamentalists of its day as well as what its philosophy means for fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals today.

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discerning the discerners

Kent Brandenburg has an excellent analysis of recent comments by Todd Friel and Phil Johnson at a “Discernment (?) Conference.” Part 2 really lays it out, but you need Part 1 to get the context.

Part 1

Part 2


spiritual gifts revisited

The great scholar*, Charles Ryrie, says:

  1. A spiritual gift is not a place of service. The gift is the ability, not where that ability is used. Teaching can be done in or out of a formal classroom situation and in any country of the world. Helping can be done in the church or in the neighborhood.
  2. A spiritual gift is not an office. The gift is the ability and can be exercised whether one holds an office in a local church or not. In this regard much confusion exists over the gift of pastor. The gift is the ability to shepherd people. This can be done by the person who occupies what we call, in our modern ecclesiology, the office of the pastorate. Or it can be done, say, by a dean of men or a dean of women in a school. Or it can be done by the wife and mother in a home.
  3. A spiritual gift is not a particular age group ministry. There is no gift of youth work or children’s work. All ages need to be served by pastors, teachers, administrators, helpers, etc.
  4. A spiritual gift is not a specialty technique. There is no spiritual gift of writing or Christian education or music. These are techniques through which spiritual gifts may be channeled.
  5. A spiritual gift is different from a natural talent. I have already mentioned that a talent may or may not serve the body of Christ, while a spiritual gift does. Let’s notice some further contrasts between spiritual gifts and natural talents.

Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999), 423-24.

I thought I said that. Not so well, but that was what I meant.


* Great scholar: one of my professors gave this definition of a scholar: “Somebody who agrees with me.” Since Ryrie agrees with me here, it is quite obvious that his status is exceptional. On this one point, at least.