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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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.

the Bible is a living book

Can you guess who said this? The author has long gone on to his reward. I think he shows great insight in this quote. Just one rule: No Googling!

The Bible is a living Book; and if you will come to the Bible merely to argue with it, it will not talk to you. You will find the Bible will be like the Incarnate Word. They asked Jesus certain questions, and He answered them not a word, because He knew the motive that lay behind the questions. And the Bible will not speak to the man who comes merely to prove his own case: it will not yield its secrets to him.


what is the gospel?

Donn Arms has an excellent article on the topic, “Gospel Indicatives/Gospel Imperatives”. In it he calls for us to use the term ‘gospel’ in exactly the same way the New Testament uses it. I say a hearty ‘Amen’, to that. Be sure to read this one. The New Calvinists won’t like it, but it is absolutely right on… and coming from an “Old” Calvinist, I guess… but not ‘olde’!


a plea for real exposition

I ran across a sermon the other day. The preacher bills himself as an expository preacher. He was dealing with a very important text, full of material for application to our present scene. His approach to the text was to read a verse, and then talk about his view of what he thought of that theme in relation to our modern situation. After awhile, he would read another verse and carry on with the development of his own opinions.

I think he might have defined a few of the words from the original language. At one point, he began mis-pronouncing one of the Greek words underlying the point he was making. He kind of lost me there, and I imagine he lost his congregation too. Most of them probably don’t know Greek.

Other than defining a few of the words, there was no interaction with the text. There was no explanation of the thoughts of the text, how they related to one another, what the apostle was teaching through the argumentation of the text, and what that argumentation meant for our situation here and now.

There was a bit of historical context offered. It was… ah… how shall we say it? Not germane to the text. It actually fit more with another text in another epistle. In short, it didn’t expose anything about the text so the hearer could read, hear, and see, “Ahah! that’s it, that’s right, that’s what the text means, and this is what God is saying to me here and now through this ancient text.”

In short, if this was exposition, there wasn’t a whole lot of exposing going on.

Oh, brothers! Please! Be an expositor! Let the text speak! Get yourself and your opinions out of the way! Speak as of the oracles of God!


is it right to be NASB-only?

In a previous thread, one of my good on-line friends posed a real dilemma that he says happened in our circles. I am sure he is reporting accurately, I am not accusing him of making any misstatements or misrepresentations at all.

The scenario is that of a missionary from a fundamentalist mission board who is required by his board to use the KJV when preaching in English in the USA. He wants to present his mission at a local church that has made the NASB the only version that can be used in its pulpit.

Obviously, if there is no give on either side, the missionary would have to forego that meeting. (From a missionary’s perspective, given the odds of getting support from any given church, missing one isn’t that big a problem.)

And from a local church perspective, I think establishing such a policy is certainly within the rights of a local church. We can quibble as to the wisdom of the policy, but it is within the purview of any local church to make a decision about a standard version for their church.

However, the scenario raises a few questions that I wonder how my readers might answer.

  1. While I can understand standardizing on a version for your local ministry, wouldn’t it be better to allow visiting speakers some flexibility in use of translations?
  2. Wouldn’t a rigid inflexibility here tend to communicate the same error that rigid King James Onlyism makes? (i.e., Only the KJV is the Word of God … or, in this scenario, Only the NASB is the Word of God.)
  3. How would you feel if you did allow guest speakers limited flexibility and they used…
    1. … the KJV in your services?
    2. … the NASB?
    3. … the ESV?
    4. … the NKJV?
    5. … the Holman?
    6. … _______? (you fill in the blank)

Just a little thought experiment. I am not pontificating, just wondering.

I am also, of course, assuming that versions other than the KJV are permissible. So, my KJO friends, this is not a thread to raise the KJV debate. I won’t post any comments that get into that fight. I am just interested in discussing this scenario and these questions. If you would only ever use the KJV, then this thread is probably not for you.


the first tendency of evil prohibited

Another advantage of the Biblical morality arises from the fact that it lays its prohibition on the first tendency to evil in the heart. It does not wait for the overt act, nor for the half-formed desire. It denounces the slightest parleying with temptation, the entertaining for the briefest moment of a corrupt wish. In its view, the apostasy did not consist in plucking the fruit. The race was ruined, when the first suggestion of the tempter was not instantly repelled. Death eternal hung on a moment’s weakness in the will. All hope was gone when the moral principle wavered. In the estimate of God’s law, the highway robbery is comparatively innocent. The crime was in the covetous glance of the eye-in not instantaneously crushing the avaricious desire. What is called a fraudulent bankruptcy may be venial. The guilt was in the assumption of obligations which there was no reasonable prospect of discharging, or rather it was in the state of mind which first began to elevate riches into a god. The degenerating process began in the idolatry of gold, in the first turning of the feeblest current of the affections in the wrong direction. Men charge the deviation of the youth from the paths of virtue to some overmastering temptation, to some public and astounding offence. But the divine precept laid its finger on the desire, years before, to read a certain book, against which, at the time, conscience remonstrated. Thus the Word of God becomes the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. No latent desire can evade its searching glance; no recess of the soul is so barred as to exclude it.”-Bibliotheca Sacra, February, 1846.

quoted by Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 100, 399 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1943), 389.

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.


an unfortunate example of depravity

Perhaps you’ve seen this story. It’s about a man who altered a document in the American National Archives and gained some fame as a Lincoln scholar by making it out that Lincoln pardoned a Civil War deserter on the very day Lincoln was assassinated.

It is a reminder to us that for a price (the price of our pet sins) we may do something that will bring shame to us. For Christians, such deeds will also bring shame on the name of Jesus Christ, so we should be doubly cautioned.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of the line in Isa 59.7… “Their feet run to evil…” But read the whole chapter. It is mostly an indictment of the depravity of men. That is us, my friend.

But the chapter is also a message of God’s grace:

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:


Isaiah 59:15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. 17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke. 18 According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. 19 So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. 20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. 21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

I realize that some of this is probably eschatological, but the promise for men is that there is righteousness outside ourselves that can be imputed to us and we can be saved. Praise the Lord for his works, and his mighty deeds among the children of men!

And note the next words in Isa 60…

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.


a side-bar issue: biblicist

A recent discussion at Mike Riley’s blog raised the term ‘biblicist’. It is a term that seem to raise the ire of some. Mike Harding, in post #5 calls it a ‘euphemistic term’ and a ‘circumlocution’. Mike Riley, responding to me in post #6 says it is ‘unhelpful’ and ‘presumptuous’.

Mike rightly pointed out that my focus on the term would distract from the subject matter of his post. But I thought I would do some thinking about the term here on oxgoad and invite the response of readers. (By the way, Mike’s post and the discussion that follows are quite interesting. You should also read Mark Snoberger’s follow-up and Mike’s response. And also, congratulations to Mike and his wife on the arrival of their first-born daughter!)

So… Biblicistwhat does the term mean and is it presumptuous or a circumlocution?

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