Thursday, July 7, 2022

My Second Amendment Anecdote

 

I survived a life-changing event approximately 30 years ago. Late one night, my wife, daughter, and I heard a knocking at the front door. I answered the door, stepped out, and began talking to 2 friendly young men. Despite the lateness of the hour the 3 of us had not yet retired for the evening, and I was dressed in an ancient reversible T-shirt from my engineering school days at Oregon State University, and almost as old a pair of gray sweatpants, and shower thongs.

They had the name of a fellow written down on a small piece of paper and asked if he lived at my address. I assured them I did not know him and that he did not live with me. They appeared to be a bit confused and were emphatic that the address was correct. I did not realize until the next day that the person they were looking for had recently moved into the apartment next to ours.

Chatting with those fellows, I suggested that because of the lateness of the hour, they go home and come back the next day, and I would gladly help them locate the fellow they were looking for. For some reason, my suggestion to help them enraged them. The pair’s leader got up in my face and defiantly insisted that I had no right to tell him what to do. When he was a ¼ inch from my nose, I detected that he was intoxicated. While he was yelling at me, his friend began circling behind me.

This was not my first rodeo. Having reached the age of 40 after growing up on Indian reservations and being the only white kid in the school, I had passable skills. When the two-on-one skirmish began my next-door neighbor, Linda, could be heard screaming into her phone to the 911 operator to get the police over here as quickly as possible, “Two big guys have jumped my neighbor!”

I survived. The two guys who jumped me survived, barely. And one of them would never again have the same profile. Despite the lateness of the hour, two police officers showed up in a patrol car 40 minutes later. Note that. 40 minutes later!

While Ofc. Galvan was interviewing me for his incident report; he remarked that it was good that those two guys were white, or they would almost certainly have been armed with knives or pistols.

That episode was a life-changing event for me. I did not know those guys. I did not know what they wanted. However, I was the only person between those two men and my wife and little girl. The police did arrive on the scene, but they came 40 minutes after the 911 dispatcher told them I was under attack. They arrived 40 minutes after the incident had concluded.

As nearly as I can conclude, I survived as an approximately 40-year-old man while being attacked by two young men who were in their 20s only because I had learned things in the school of hard knocks growing up on Indian reservations. To that point in my life, I owned no firearms. But what if my assailants had been armed? Or what if those same two men were to attack me now? My present age is 72?

According to economist Thomas Sowell, I am what is called an intellectual. He roughly describes an intellectual as a person whose profession involves thoughts and ideas rather than producing a physically tangible work product. Having been a gospel minister for almost 50 years, I suppose Thomas Sowell is correct.

However, I was a spacecraft design engineer before my almost half-century in the gospel ministry. Before I was a spacecraft design engineer, I was a construction worker. Before I was a construction worker, I was a United States Air Force Academy cadet. And before I was a United States Air Force Academy cadet, I lived on Indian reservations throughout the United States, spending a significant amount of time demographically outnumbered several hundred to one in school.

I know what it is like to be in the minority. I know what it is like to be in the majority. I know what it is like to be in physical conflict while unarmed and incapable of defending yourself except with your fists. I also know what it is like to be an old man who can no longer protect myself with my fists.

Add to that the fact that I am a husband. Further, add to the fact that I am the father of a daughter. As well, consider that the only time in my life I needed the police to be on hand immediately to guarantee the personal safety of my daughter, my wife, and me, they arrived on the scene 40 minutes after they were informed of my danger. The police station was only one mile away!

As an intellectual, I am very comfortable considering theories, hypotheses, and abstracts. I would be delighted to discuss the Second Amendment with anyone with the moral courage to sit down with me over a cup of coffee for a discussion about the absolute right of every human being to defend his life and the lives of his loved ones.

However, I suspect that a discussion of principles will not sway anyone. What will persuade someone is a personal experience that you survive. Another of my Hoover Institute heroes besides Thomas Sowell is Victor Davis Hanson, the classicist, historian, author of more than 25 books, and fifth-generation farmer in the San Joaquin Valley of California. While I cannot remember the specific topic that gave rise to the conversation, his response to someone who inquired about his passionate involvement with an issue was, “It is obvious you have not woken up in the morning to find a dead body in your front yard.”

It really does take something like that to persuade most people. If you have not yet had such an experience as mine, I would be delighted to advocate the Second Amendment to you. However, if you have already survived the situation in which you were the only person standing between a threat and your wife, or a threat and your defenseless child, and you do not yet understand the importance of having immediate access to a firearm equalizer to scare off the threat or to defeat the threat, then I have no use for you. You are already a victim.


     While I do not suggest anyone regularly watch Bill Maher, the following YouTube clip shows that depending upon law enforcement can prove to be problematic. And if law enforcement cannot be depended on to arrive until after the threat has passed, who is left but the armed citizen?

https://youtu.be/hey_GizvWyQ  

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Father's Day Reflections

 

I want to provoke your thoughts about our annual observances of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. These practices are the arguable result of a Christian worldview and the desire for people to honor their mothers and fathers. But I’m wondering how informed our Church-going population is regarding what it is to honor one’s mother and to honor one’s father. 

One hundred thirty-six verses are found to contain the word “honour” in the English Bible. The usual Hebrew word, honour, is related to making honor, honoring, honor, and glorify.[1] The usual Greek word, honour, refers to counting as valuable, value, or revere.[2] 

Understand that I have not studied the matter thoroughly but am musing the topic in the hopes that you (and I) can benefit from our brief consideration. 

I have seven considerations for you, with related verses below: 

#1   Perverse honor. Genesis 49.6 records part of Jacob’s death bed will, his opinion about Simeon and Levi’s retaliation against Shechem and Hamor for the defilement of his foolish daughter, Dinah. Their retaliation was motivated by their perverted sense of “honor.” But Jacob identifies “mine honour.” Thus, their revenge was wrong, and their retaliation to avenge their father’s honor was misplaced. This suggests to me that honor is the possession of the one to be honored, not the possession of the one who seeks to display honor. 

2.    Determines Honor. Exodus 14.17-18 reinforces the idea that honor belongs to the one who should be honored, rather than the one who does (or ought to) show honor. 

3.    Nation Building. When God redeemed the children of Israel from four centuries of Egyptian bondage, He parked His people at the foot of Mount Sinai for one year and gave Moses the Law on two tablets of stone. The first four commands were written on the first tablet, showing the vertical relationship between God and His chosen nation. The second tablet contained the commands showing the horizontal relations required to form and preserve a rightly ordered nation. Interesting to me is that the fifth command, to honor fathers and mothers, precedes the command not to kill. This shows the crucial ingredient of honoring one’s parents in any nation and culture. That this command is repeated in the New Testament establishes it as a timeless principle in human relations and thus of profound importance. Exodus 20.12; Deuteronomy 5.16; Matthew 15.4, 6; 19.19; Mark 7.10; 10.19; Luke 18.20; Ephesians 6.2 

4.    The Aged Are To Be Honored. Leviticus 19.32 is the verse that was observed by my grandparents when they trained my parents to rise from a chair whenever an aged person walked into the room, giving them the choice of where they were free to sit. It also establishes the principle of showing honor to the aged. I have not observed this to be a pattern of instruction of late. 

5.    Honoring the LORD involves giving. One cannot honor God without giving to God because honoring someone necessarily includes more than a cheap display of respect. It is substantial, Proverbs 3.9. So with God, and so with others to whom honor is shown, as you will see if you read First Timothy 5.3 and 17. 

6.    What Comes First, Honor Or Humility? Proverbs 15.33 and 18.12 establishes that God’s plan for His creatures is that we humble ourselves. Humility chronologically precedes honor. It must be so? Why? James 4.10 answers: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Honoring oneself is self-exaltation, which is a demonstration of pride. 

7.    Who Owns Honor? Malachi 1.6 reinforces the concept that honor belongs to the one who is to be honored. Thus, the LORD refers in this verse to “mine honour.” I submit that you consider the concept that your honor is yours and my honor is mine, just as God’s honor is His. 

Let me bring this together in my thoughts. Two days ago, my daughter honored me. That is, she demonstrated respect for me in a manner that displayed her recognition of my ownership of my honor. She treated me respectfully to honor me by showing me love and courtesy, preparing me a fine meal to celebrate Father’s Day, and giving me a gift. Thus, her display of honor toward me was not her notion of what she ought to do, divorced from a recognition that the honor was mine to receive, and apart from fulfilling my wishes, she would not have honored me. 

Dad? Were you honored two days ago by your children? Did they show you courtesy, display love and affection toward you, and perhaps even bless you with a gift? That is what it is to honor one’s father or mother. 

Perhaps you convince yourself that being honored is not so important. I would suggest that a matter raised many times in the Bible establishes its importance beyond doubt. I urge you to communicate to your children and grandchildren the importance of showing honor to their parents, not in how they want to show honor, but in how those who are honored want to be honored. Honoring parents and the aged is an essential ingredient in a nation’s health and a family’s constitution. 

Ge 49:6          O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.

Ex 14:17        And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

Ex 14:18        And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

Ex 20:12        Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Le 19:32         Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

De 5:16          Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Pr 3:9              Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

Pr 15:33         The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

Pr 18:12         Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.

Da 4:37          Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Mal 1:6           A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

Mt 15:4           For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

Mt 15:6           And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

Mt 19:19         Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Mr 7:10           For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

Mr 10:19        Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Lu 18:20         Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Joh 8:49         Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.

Joh 12:26       If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Ro 12:10        Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Ro 13:7          Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Eph 6:2          Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

1Th 4:4           That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

1Ti 1:17          Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1Ti 5:3            Honour widows that are widows indeed.

1Ti 5:17          Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

1Ti 6:1            Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and [his] doctrine be not blasphemed.

1Pe 2:17        Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

1Pe 3:7          Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

2Pe 1:17        For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Re 4:9            And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

Re 4:11          Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Re 5:12          Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Re 5:13          And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

Re 7:12          Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Re 19:1          And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:

Re 19:7          Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.



[1] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 457.

[2] Cleon Rogers, Jr. and Cleon Rogers III, The New Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), page 445.

Monday, June 20, 2022

This installment is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter 44, The Doctrine of Reprobation.

The chapter under review will likely evoke a more hostile response than any of the chapters reviewed thus far. Many unsaved people are angry at the thought of God, angry at the thought of eternal damnation, and angry with the concept of God’s sovereignty. As well, many believers are hostile to any consideration of issues they are not comfortable with. It serves no purpose to respond angrily to any discussion between committed Christians seeking to understand what the Bible teaches. With that in mind, I take up my reportage of chapter 44. 

The chapter is divided into ten sections. 

What Is Reprobation? Three paragraphs. The author acknowledges this is one of the hardest doctrines in the Bible to understand and accept. “Relatively few Christians believe in it. Some vigorously oppose it.” “The Westminster Confession gives us this definition which has been taught for hundreds of years by Calvinists: The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.” “Reprobation is not the same as total depravity. All men are totally depraved; only some are reprobate. It is not the same as the foreordination of sin. God foreordained to allow sin to exist; reprobation is the foreordination of the punishment of some sinners. Nor is reprobation the same as the unpardonable sin, supralapsarianism, or Hyper Calvinism. Simply put, reprobation is non-election.” 

A High and Humbling Doctrine. Two paragraphs. References made to Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Gottschalk, Luther, and Calvin. “This doctrine found credal expression in the Canons of the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession, the Baptist Confession of 1689, and others. It is explained in most of the standard Reformed systematic theologies.” 

Reprobation in Romans 9. Six paragraphs. “Romans 9 is the clearest passage on reprobation in the Bible.” “He puts forth Jacob and Esau as examples.” “Paul then gives another example of reprobation: Pharaoh (v.17).” 

The Potter and the Clay. Five paragraphs. “Then Paul uses the illustration of the Potter and the Clay, which the Jews would recognize from Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:2-6; and Lamentations 4:2.” 

Other Texts on Reprobation. Seven pararaphs. Passages referred to include First Thessalonians 5:9, Acts 13:48, Second Thessalonians 2:13, John 15:16; 17:12; 15:19; 17:9. Also mentioned are First Peter 1:2; 2:8-10; Luke 2:34, and Second Peter 2:12. 

Still More Texts. Six paragraphs. Matthew 7:23; 11:25-26; Luke 17:34; Romans 8:29-30; Revelation 13:8; Proverbs 16:4. 

Pretermination and Pre-damnation. Seven paragraphs. “Note the divine justice in reprobation. God gave mercy to the elect, but He did not give injustice to the non-elect.” 

Unconditional Reprobation. Seven paragraphs. Mention is made of contributions by Christopher Love, William Ames, Klaas Schilder, John Calvin, and John Lafayette Girardeau. 

Both Election and Non-Election Are Biblical. Five paragraphs. The author’s discussion includes references to D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Arthur C Custance, Heinrich Bullinger, John Calvin, George Whitfield, Edwin Palmer, F. F. Bruce, and concludes with a criticism of Karl Barth. 

Objections. The author deals with eight objections against reprobation:

Objection 1: “Reprobation is another term for the unforgivable blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.”

Objection 2: “Reprobation makes God the author of sin.”

Objection 3: “The reformed doctrine of reprobation presents God as capriciously and maliciously saying, ‘Now home am I going to Dan today?’”

Objection 4: “Election is eternal by God, but reprobation is temporal by man. “

Objection 5: “Only Christ is reprobate.”

Objection 6: “The doctrine of reprobation gives lost sinners an excuse at Judgment Day: ‘You can’t condemn me. I never had a chance. You did not elect me. You created me only to damn me.’”

Objection 7: “Doesn’t God will everyone to be saved?”

Objection 8: “Reprobation isn’t fair!” 

Conclusion. Three paragraphs. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

That's Our Stand!

 

I went to a pastor’s fellowship in another county several weeks ago. On my way there, I met and began conversing with two 50-year-old lesbians. One of them had grown up in Malibu, the daughter of a 93-year-old engineer who likely worked on the same covert satellite design project I worked on almost 50 years ago.

During our conversation, one of them asked if I had led our Church to discontinue services during the pandemic lockdown. I informed them that we had not suspended our services because I was not persuaded that, as the pastor of the Church, I had the authority to tell Church members not to gather for worship. They were delighted to hear that and informed me that they had begun attending church services during the pandemic lockdown to support pastors and congregations who have read and understood the Constitution. What an experience! Two lesbian artists told me they began attending Church because they understood how unconstitutional government lockdown mandates were and wanted to support pastors and Churches doing the right thing!

While eating lunch at the pastor’s fellowship, I was asked about fellowship meetings in my area. I commented that not many pastors have a desire to interact with me at fellowship meetings. One of the wives asked, “You know why most preachers don’t want to interact with you at fellowship meetings, don’t you brother John?” I asked her. “What do you think is the reason?” She said, “it’s because you ask hard questions.” She meant that as a compliment, and I took it because I am convinced hard questions must be asked. It is unlikely that correct answers will be found unless correct questions are asked.

The conversation with the two artists and the remark by the pastor’s wife got me thinking about something. I will not relate to you the entire process but will skip to this thought. Have you ever noticed what a pastor says when asked to justify a decision he has made or a position he has embraced that is scripturally indefensible? Likely as not, the pastor will say, “Well, that’s our stand.” The phrase “That’s our stand” is designed to end the discussion, shut down the conversation, and escape any responsibility to defend a scripturally indefensible position or stance.

From time to time, I observe Baptist pastors engaging in very non-Baptistic approaches to ministry. Allow me to cite three examples:

Some pastors staked out their turf as strong fundamentalists by tilting at the windmills of dress codes for women. They establish rules forbidding females to come to the Church facilities unless they wear dresses, skirts, or culottes. They decry trousers as immodest indications of ungodliness. Methinks they had forgotten that the New Testament was written during the days when trousers, dresses, skirts, and certainly culottes did not exist. Back in the day, people wore togas, with the togas men wore differing only in degree from the togas women wore. Yet some guys make it a rule that a mom is not allowed to drive the Church campus to pick her children up from the Christian school wearing slacks! Really? Sadly, Church members put up with that nonsense, deacons tolerate such unscriptural lunacy, and pastors who do not engage in that brand of idiocy are nevertheless silent around other pastors who do. Such a dress code is not only unscriptural but also anti-Baptist. Keep reading, and you’ll see why.

A 2nd example has to do with Bible translations. I have been in the gospel ministry for almost 50 years and have chosen to employ only and always the King James version of the Bible. I use that translation for reasons of textual criticism. I also use that translation despite the advocacy of a Seventh-Day Adventist and a thrice-married brilliant man who was not biblically qualified to comment or even attempt to lead others in spiritual matters. Quite aside from the case of the King James Version of the Bible is the erroneous notion that any spiritual leader has been granted authority from God to insist that a child of God use one translation of the Bible and not another. A bit of history will convince anyone with the eyes to see that the first on the scene to insist on an inspired translation of the Bible was the Roman Catholic Church demanding that only the Latin Vulgate translation be used. Our Baptist forebears were martyred for their stand on the principle that no one has the right to demand that a Christian use a version of the Bible but that individual. So, more than a thousand years later, we have Baptist preachers demanding and commanding their church members to use a version of the Bible while denying them the Christian liberty to make their own choice. It does not matter to me that the version pushed by such spiritual dictators is the same version that I use. What matters is that no one has been granted the spiritual authority to demand and command another child of God what translation of the Bible they must use. I am appalled at the number of men in the gospel ministry who do not recognize this gross violation of biblical principles and Christian liberty.

The final example in this iteration of Ministerial Musings is related to the lockdown. I mentioned my conversation with two women who recognized the incongruity of pastors and Churches locking down because of an illegal, unjustified, unscientific, and unconstitutional government mandate. Yet all over the United States of America, gospel ministers were willing to knuckle under government edicts issued unconstitutionally and complied with by pastors unscripturally. Regardless of whether or not I agreed that a lockdown was scientifically and medically appropriate, a gospel minister has not been given scriptural authority to tell Church members not to gather for worship. Even more aggravating to me, videos are airing on the Internet showing Baptist pastors who purport to be leaders, who conduct leadership seminars, but who demonstrate no leadership during a time of crisis. And when you finally see them stick their heads up above the bushes, they are playing 2nd fiddle to charismatics. This is intolerable to me.

Whether it is a dress code, the insistence that Church members use a specific translation of the Bible (even if it’s the only translation I use), or compliance with illegal and unconstitutional government mandates, I grow weary of pastors adopting scripturally indefensible positions.

Rather than engage in an in-depth study of God’s Word at this point, allow me to reproduce the work product of my friend, Dr. W. R. Downing (followed by concluding remarks):

 

Baptist Distinctives

There are several great Baptist distinctives which characterize the biblical and historic Baptist position. These major distinctives include:

First, the Scriptures as the only and all-sufficient rule of both faith and practice. This stands in contrast to other historic criteria such as religious tradition, ecclesiastical authority, creeds, church councils, rationalism and modern religious irrationalism which stresses subjective experience and emotionalism.

Second, salvation by grace alone. Salvation by grace implies: that salvation must be scripturally viewed in the context of the eternal, infallible redemptive purpose of God (Rom. 8:28-31; Eph. 1:3-14) and that grace is unmerited favor in the place or stead of merited wrath. Grace and works or human ability cannot be commingled (Rom. 9:6-24; 11:5-6; Eph. 2:4-5, 8-10). Grace is more than a principle. It is at once a principle-as opposed to works or human ability, a prerogative--God freely and sovereignly bestows this grace on whom he will, according to his eternal, infallible purpose; and a power-which enables· the sinner to freely and effectively lay hold of Christ by faith (Phil. 1:29); Regeneration or the "new birth" precedes faith and repentance (Jn. 3:3, 5-8; Acts 16:14; Jas. 1:18); Gospel holiness and righteousness are necessary characteristics of experimental salvation and Christian experience (Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 1:3-6; 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10; 1 Thess. 1:3-5).

Third, believer’s baptism by immersion. This Baptist distinctive derives from the truth of the New Testament as to both mode of-immersion, and subjects--believers. There is no record of the immersion or sprinkling of infants, or the intentional baptism of unbelievers in the New Testament. On this New Testament distinctive, the Baptists stand in opposition to both Western and Eastern Catholicism, and traditional Protestantism. We can change neither the mode nor the subjects without altogether changing the significance of the ordinance.

Fourth, a regenerate church membership. This is distinctive of a true New Testament or Gospel church, and necessarily implies:

·        That church membership is voluntary. A church that practices the immersion or sprinkling of infants and considers the Church to be composed of both believers and their children is largely involuntary in membership and alien to the New Testament.

·        That the membership is bound by a common personal faith and saving interest in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Acts 2:41-42, 47).

Fifth, the priesthood of the individual believer. In the context of the New Covenant and New Testament, there is no priest-cult or sacerdotal mediator between the individual believer and his Lord. Every believer is a “king-priest,” and has immediate access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1-3; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 4:13-10:18; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6).1 The priesthood of the individual believer stands in the closest relationship to soul-liberty or freedom of conscience.

Sixth, the autonomy of the local assembly under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The autonomy, or self-governing nature of each local body of Christ, presupposes four realities:

·        The terms Pastor, Elder, and Bishop all designate the same office in the local assembly. There is no ecclesiastical hierarchy, or church office that exists apart from or beyond that of the local assembly.

·        The New Testament does not teach an “Apostolic Succession,” therefore Baptists do not recognize any authority above the local assembly, except that of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his inscripturated Word. Matthias replaced Judas to fulfill the prophetic Scripture (Acts 1:15-26), but no one ever succeeded the original Apostles of the New Testament era into that office.

·        There is no extra-biblical authority that rules beyond the local assembly, such as presbyteries, councils, synods, denominational conventions, national churches or associations.

·        The so-called “First Church Council” held at Jerusalem in Acts 15, although attended by the inspired Apostles, was actually a conference between two local churches and possessed no authority beyond the agreement of the Apostles who attended.

 

Seventh, soul Liberty or freedom of conscience. Only the Word of God can command the conscience of the Believer. It is foreign to the teaching of the New Testament to bind the conscience by religious tradition, ecclesiastical decree, denominational standards; or attempt to enforce religious convictions by means of the civil authorities. Church discipline, or exclusion from membership and its privileges, is the extremity of church action. Further, this is not done by degrees, but by a definitive act of the membership.

All Baptist distinctives derive from the Scriptures, predominantly the New Testament. Any given church is therefore a New Testament or Gospel church to the extent that it conforms to the New Testament; conversely, to the extent that any given church departs from the New Testament, to that extent it ceases to be a New Testament or Gospel church.2

1 Cf. Heb. 5:5-6; 6:20; 7:1-25 for the perpetuity or everlasting nature of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Cf. esp. 7:23-25. “unchangeable” is parbaton, lit: “inviolable, untrespassable.” No Romish, Mormon, Jewish or Protestant priest can trespass upon the priesthood which our Lord holds.

2 Appendix III, W. R. Downing, The New Testament Church, (Morgan Hill, CA: PIRS Publications, Revised 2006), pages 274-275.

 

Notice especially the 7th of the Baptist distinctives, soul liberty or freedom of conscience. Is a Church pastor granted scriptural authority to tell people what clothes to wear? Is a Church pastor granted scriptural authority to tell people what version of the Bible to use? Is a Church pastor granted scriptural authority to tell people not to gather for worship in compliance with an unconstitutional government mandate?

As I understand God’s Word, not only is the answer to each of these three questions a resounding “No!” but leaders of congregations who violate these principles, despite how they might self identify, are clearly not Baptists in the classical sense of the term. There is nothing wrong with respectfully challenging and querying spiritual leaders about their positions and practices. However, as soon as possible fellow tells you, “Well, that’s our stand,” you know you are speaking to a man who is not really a Baptist at all.

Friday, May 20, 2022

“The Getty Center 25th Anniversary Reflections”

 

I am fascinated with relics, libraries, landmarks, and museums. I have been to both Bush presidential libraries, the Reagan presidential library, the Nixon presidential library, the Carter presidential library, the Eisenhower presidential library, the Truman presidential library, the FDR presidential library, the Lincoln presidential library, and the Kennedy presidential library.

I have visited most of the sites in and around Washington DC, New York City, and Boston. I love visiting and touring Israel, the UK, and Greece. I may someday relate to you the time I chastised a Park Ranger at Mount Rushmore and the occasion when a United States Army major and I ruined a tour guide’s day who referred to the names on the Vietnam War Memorial wall as the names of baby killers.

One of the features that make the Los Angeles area somewhat more tolerable for me is the art galleries, landmarks, the La Brea tar pits, automotive museums, the Huntington Library and art gallery, the Griffith Park Observatory, the Norton Simon Museum, and the two excellent Getty museums (the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu).


I have always been a fan of Francis Schaeffer and thoroughly enjoyed reading his five-volume set presenting his understanding of a Christian worldview. Reading him gave me an appreciation for art and culture that I had not been taught as a child. So, I wasn’t upset that Southern California Edison shut down our neighborhood’s power supply today, including both the church facilities and my home. I noticed that the public school half a block away was unaffected, with a normal school day interrupted by a power outage.

Within an enforced day off, and with my wife scheduled for two events that took her elsewhere, I had intended to spend the day riding. Morning showers rule that out, so I decided to go to the Getty Center on the west side of Los Angeles, across the 405 freeway from Bel Air.

Upon my arrival, I was surprised to learn that the Getty Center is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its location at that world-famous facility and architectural marvel. A flood of memories from my first visit to that location a week after they opened for the first time came back to me. Over the last quarter-century, I have visited the Getty no less than 50 times, thoroughly enjoying each visit thanks to Francis Schaeffer.

The museum and surrounding structures sit atop a hill overlooking Los Angeles from the Northwest. The parking structure is at the base of the mountain, and on my first visit with several young adults from the church, we had to hike up the hill to visit the four pavilions. It was only during the grand opening that anyone took notice that the architect, Richard Meier, and his team neglected to provide restrooms for the North Pavilion, a two-story structure containing sculptures, manuscripts, and paintings. What a blunder.


Several months later, I was there by myself on the ground floor of the South Pavilion when I asked an elderly gentleman if I could sit on the bench next to him. He granted permission, and after hesitating for just a moment, he excitedly told me that his son was one of the facility’s architects. Moments later, a man my age approached the two of us, and the older gentleman introduced his architect son to me. We enjoyed a bit of a chat, and he told me that he was the architect responsible for the design of the South Pavilion. I then asked him: “If the Getty Museum is a tribute to Western civilization and culture, with artwork from ancient Greece all the way to modern Europe, why is there a Japanese garden next to the West Pavilion?” The architect responded explosively, saying, “That’s what I want to know! But regardless of the incongruity of it all, if the man who signs the checks wants a Japanese garden, he gets a Japanese garden.” He was hot, I was amused, and we parted company.

Ten or fifteen trips to the museum later, I had the opportunity to meet the son of the man who owned the stone quarry in Italy, where all the travertine was obtained that covers every building on that hilltop. The quarry has been used for almost 2000 years and owned by that family for centuries.

On another occasion, I was doing my turn as a good citizen summoned for jury duty. Though I will never be called to serve on a jury (Baptist pastors are thought too radical to serve on juries), I enjoy jury duty because it gives me hours and hours of uninterrupted time to read and a chance to meet new people. As it turns out, a man sitting nearby me was a sheet metal contractor who spent most of his career doing the metalwork for the Getty Center site. He told me that although he was the high bidder for the work, he got the contract following an interview with the architect. “Why should we hire you to do this metalwork, with your bid being so much higher than everyone else’s?” He responded, “You should hire me because I do better work than anyone else, and you will never be unhappy with what you get from me.” That response, he told me, landed him the contract.

Why do I love going to museums? Because I think Francis Schaeffer correctly understands the Bible in that regard. The human race is depraved, desperately needing the salvation only Jesus Christ provides, and utterly incapable of taking even the smallest step in God’s direction. Even so, sinful men bear God’s image and are capable of doing some remarkable things. Whether it be art, engineering, science, or literature, that the human race bears a marred image of God means that although no sinner can move toward God except he is drawn, that does not mean humans cannot do anything. Art galleries, science exhibits, air and space museums, libraries, and other such things provide a glimpse of what humanity might have been capable of but for sin.

Below are a few pictures related to this visit to the Getty Center. I hope you will be able to visit it someday. I think it is worth the trip.


What you see when you step off the tram from the parking area.



How I learned about the 25th anniversary.


What follows is from the latest exhibit in the North Pavilion.








Looking South Southwest and overlooking where O. J. Simpson murdered two people.



The South Pavilion where I met the architect and his father.



Overlooking the Japanese garden just West of the tribute to Western civilization.



Overlooking southward to West Los Angeles.



A grand view of the Getty Center complex with downtown Los Angeles in the distant background.




Friday, May 13, 2022

“I Mistakenly Thought They Were Lazy.”

 

It has always frustrated me that many pastors, evangelists, and missionaries do not read. Have you ever wondered why so few pastors read, as in reading theologies, commentaries, and deeply? A now-retired pastor friend of mine who is a weighty thinker with a vast and much-used library now lives in a different part of the country and mentioned that his new pastor declared to him one day, “I don’t read. I listen to podcasts.” My friend was taken aback by that shocking admission.

Today, during my devotions that include slowly progressing through Proverbs a verse a day and reading John Gill, Charles Bridges, and Bruce K. Waltke’s fine two-volume commentary, I read Proverbs 12.1: Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.

Before checking out the comments of the above-mentioned worthwhile men’s comments, I checked in with John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1985), on page 930, where Sid S. Buzzell writes, “To love (i.e., willingly accept or desire) discipline (musir, moral discipline or correction; cf. 1:2, 7; 10:17) shows that a person loves (desires;) knowledge. He wants to be on the right path, to be wise. To hate (reject and despise) correction shows that one is stupid (ba'ar, to be brutish or dull-minded like an animal; also used in 30:2, ignorant). Similar thoughts are given in 12:15; 13:1, 13, 18; 15:5, 10, 12, 31-32.

I had always imagined that pastors, missionaries, and evangelists who did not read (or read much, or read deeply) were men who did not read well. But I have family members who were poorly educated and read only with great difficulty upon graduating high school. They later became capable and devoted readers because they wanted to learn and overcome their earlier deficiencies.

It had not crossed my mind before why some Gospel ministers do not read. They do not want to read, stupidly (to quote Buzzell’s understanding of Proverbs 12.1) avoiding correction because they do not love knowledge and desire correction.

What is your opinion regarding the shortage of readers in the Gospel ministry? Feedback would be appreciated.