Thursday, December 2, 2021

This installment is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Thirty-Nine, Election in Christ.

 

This chapter is divided into five parts. 

“Election was the work of God alone. Neither angels nor men were involved, for they did not even exist yet and were themselves the object of election. God is a Trinity, and whatever He does He does as a Trinity. Each member has a distinctive yet cooperating role in everything, including election.” 

The Trinity and Election. Three paragraphs. Passages that are mentioned are Ephesians 1:3–4; John 15:16; 13:18; 15:19; Matthew 28:19. 

Election in Christ. Ten paragraphs. The three verses that teach that election is “in Christ” are Romans 16:13, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 1:4. “Election is completely Christ related. It is in Christ, through Christ, by Christ, for Christ, to be in Christ. There is no election outside of Christ; all election is in Christ. This has bearing on salvation. There is no salvation except by Christ and through faith in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). This also relates to union with Christ. The elect were united covenantly with Christ in election and then united experimentally with Christ in conversion, with the result that they are now in Christ.” In the eighth paragraph of this subsection the author asserts a problem exists for dispensationalists. I am unpersuaded by his argument. 

Christ as the Elected One. Seven paragraphs. “Christ is not only the subject of election but in a sense is also the object of election.” A discussion follows, citing Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 12:18, Matthew 3:17, 17:5, Ephesians 1:6, Psalm 89, Luke 23:35, 9:35, 1 Peter 2:4, 6, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 106:23, Exodus 3, Numbers 16:5, 17:5, Psalm 78:68–72, 1 Samuel 16:7–12. Comments made by Christopher Love, Jonathan Edwards, and John Calvin are cited. 

The Barthian Theory. Three paragraphs criticizing Karl Barth’s position. 

Conclusion. “These are deep waters which we must swim with humility, caution, and wonder. Election is in Christ and related to Christ’s election in a mysterious and glorious way. As God He is co-elector. As man – or better, the God-man – He is chosen to be Savior, Mediator, and Head of His people. In fulfilling His predestined office, Christ receives great glory, which in turn redounds to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5–11). Thus Christ has the preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18), including election.


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

This installment is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Thirty-Eight, Election and Foreknowledge.


In this chapter with seven subdivisions the author pointedly addresses differences between Calvinistic and Arminian positions using word studies, Old and New Testament passages, and reputable citations.
 

“When one studies the subject of election, sooner or later he faces the question of its relation to foreknowledge. The question is: Did God choose the elect solely by sovereign grace or because He foresaw that they would believe? Calvinists agree with the first; most non-Calvinists accept a form of the second. What saith the Scriptures?” 

Foreknowledge and Foresight. Four paragraphs. The author establishes that foreknowledge is not foresight. 

Election by Foreknowledge in 1 Peter 1. Two paragraphs. The author further establishes that foreknowledge is not foresight. 

Election by foreknowledge in Romans 8. Five paragraphs. William Perkins the Puritan who popularized the term “the Golden Chain” to describe Romans 8:29–30 is mentioned. “Paul there sets forth salvation in five links: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. The chain began in eternity past (links 1 and 2), continues in time (links 3 and 4), and concludes in the future (link 5), so certain that it is spoken of in the past tense. He does not mention other links such as faith because they are not pertinent to his argument. The popular Arminian interpretation is reviewed and refuted. “Arminian exegesis wrongly says that verse 29 means foresaw their faith. But Paul says God foreknew them, not their faith. Faith is not even mentioned. It is whom, not what in each link. It also hinges on the meaning of the word foreknew. Paul would use it again in 11:2 with reference to election in verses 5 and 6. While some Reformed interpreters take Romans 8:29 to mean foreordination, by far most take it to mean forelove.” 

Election Is Not by Foreseen Faith. Six paragraphs. A portion of the Canons of Dort is cited. The author then writes, “If election is based on foreseen faith, where did that faith come from? Faith is not something that fallen sinners can generate. It must be given to them. To say that God foresaw that He would give them faith, then, is much the same as to say that He foreordained that He would give them faith. Calvinists affirm this; Arminians deny it… Acts 13:48 teaches this: ‘And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.’ This is sometimes misquoted as ‘Those who believed were appointed to eternal life.’ God pre-appointed that certain people would believe. That is election. It is a question of cause and effect. The cause is God’s pre-appointment; the effect is faith. Arminianism reverses the order. Robert Haldane commented: ‘Faith cannot be the cause of foreknowledge, because foreknowledge is before predestination, and faith is the effect of predestination.” Francis Turretin: ‘If election is from foreseen faith, then God would not have elected man, but man would have elected God, and so predestination should be called post destination.’ God is a God of order, not confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). When we tamper with God’s order, theological confusion arises… We can also dismiss any hint that God chose us based on foreseen holiness or good works. Ephesians 1:4 and 2:10 clearly state that these were predestined by God and therefore cannot be the cause of predestination. God did not choose anyone because He foresaw they were better than others. In point of fact, the elect are often worse than the non-elect. But the degree of one’s sinful state has no bearing whatsoever on one’s election. Would anyone suggest that God chose someone because he was better – or chose him because he was worse than others? Paul considered himself the chief of sinners yet was elect. The foreseen good character of the regenerated elect was no more the basis of their election than the foreseen bad character of the reprobate was the basis of their non-election. Character has nothing to do with it. Sovereign grace has everything to do with it.” Several Arminian arguments are then refuted. 

Foreknowledge in Another Sense. Two paragraphs. “Foreknow can also mean forelove. In the Bible, to know can mean more than to accumulate factual information. It can mean personal affection. In his classic book Knowing God, J. I. Packer shows that there is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally… Now we know God because He first knew us Galatians 4:8–9; 1 John 4:19. God took the initiative in this personal knowledge. And He did it back in eternity when He foreordained to do so in time. That is what is meant by affectionate foreknowledge. It is forelove. That is what is meant in Romans 8:29 and perhaps also 1 Peter 1:2. It is not just causative; it is causally affectionate and affectionately causal.” 

Foreknowledge as Forelove. Six paragraphs. The author discusses Hebrew and Greek words as well as Old Testament and New Testament passages. 

Conclusion. “The answer to the question at the beginning of this chapter is this: God chose the elect solely out of sovereign grace, not because He foresaw that they would believe. He did so because He chose to. And He did it out of love.”

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Scheduling A Preacher’s Funeral

Honor to whom honor is due. I guess I’m kind of funny about that, being a preacher myself. But I find that the older I get the more attention I pay to honoring someone and the more aware I am of how others demonstrate their respect of me. 

For that reason, I’ve always done my best to attend every memorial service for a preacher friend or a preacher friend’s wife. During the time of his wife’s mourning, and during the time of her husband’s mourning, I want to be among the friendly faces that are remembered for being there when the dearly departed could do nothing for me personally. The only reason for attending is to show respect, to provide some comfort, and to reassure the surviving spouse that their life’s partner meant something to me, as well. 

I know that most memorial services are properly not conducted by Christians for the benefit of other Christians, but rather as Gospel opportunities. At memorial services we can bring the unsaved family and friends of the departed into close contact with their own mortality, the fact that eternity is a lot longer than life on this earth, and gently but firmly point them to our gracious Savior. 

With respect to a preacher’s memorial service, I find it strange that so many families choose to schedule a departed preacher or preacher’s wife memorial service on a Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Preachers, I suspect more than most others, have other preacher friends who tend to be very busy on weekends and find it impossible to travel to an out-of-state funeral service scheduled for Monday. Yet some of my most beloved friends and acquaintances, with so many out-of-state friends who would come to their memorial services if they could, are prevented from doing so when their surviving families schedule the service for days preachers typically are unable to attend. 

Preacher? Please do me a favor. Talk to your wife and your children to urge them not to schedule your memorial service on a Saturday or a Monday. Make it possible for preacher friends who live far away to have a day of flying time to make it to your funeral service, especially if you live outside a major metropolitan area. 

Not too long ago, a preacher friend of mine in his mid-90s, who had a massive footprint and impact not only nationwide but also worldwide, was promoted to glory while living in a city not very close to a major metropolitan area with an international airport. My guess is that thousands might have attended his memorial service, but for the fact it was scheduled on a Monday. How does one get to a midsized middle America city from overseas, or from America’s West, America’s East, or America’s deep South, in time to attend a Monday funeral service? 

I have traveled far to honor men of God who had been promoted to glory. However, I am not inclined to miss a Sunday so that I can travel to arrive in time to attend a Monday funeral service. 

I will soon have more to say about preachers planning their own funeral services. But for now, I close with a plea. Please do what you can to make sure your funeral is not scheduled for a Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Time I Preached The Gospel In A Synagogue

After conducting a wedding on Saturday and preaching both services on Sunday (yes, our church still has two services on Sunday), I decided to go for a ride earlier today. I headed west from Monrovia to Calabasas, over to Malibu, down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica, north on the 405 to Wilshire Blvd, and downtown Los Angeles before going home. 

Heading east on Wilshire Boulevard, I decided to stop across the street from Sinai Temple, a synagogue a couple of miles west of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The memories flooded back into my consciousness as I remembered the blessed opportunity God gave me almost 30 years ago to present the unsearchable riches of Christ to about 100 Jewish Holocaust survivors in that synagogue one Saturday night. Let me tell you about it.


I first met Ben Friedman, the founder of the Committee of Concerned Christians,[1] at the old Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, where the Academy Awards were initially held back in the day. I was with another Baptist pastor, the two of us dining with Ben and discussing his concern that something like the Jewish Holocaust might very well happen again, despite the slogan “never again.” 

Ben had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish home in one of the New York City boroughs. He left his orthodoxy behind when he moved to Houston, Texas, to make his fortune as a developer before moving to the Los Angeles area for his retirement years. I surmised that his exposure to various Christian denominations while living in Houston gave him a perspective unique to those raised in Jewish orthodoxy. Ben’s awareness of the historical anti-Semitism of most Christian denominations, coupled with the tragic disconnect from the history of the Holocaust and World War II, alarmed him to the point of doing something about it. Ben spoke to an extremely wealthy Jewish backer, founded the Committee of Concerned Christians, and began speaking to denominational leaders and congregational ministers to challenge them to keep the history of the Holocaust and past anti-Semitism before their people. 

Ben Friedman was a very hard worker. He developed an impressive list of Christian leaders to support his efforts, the most prominent being the late Richard Halverson, the chaplain of the United States Senate. When he asked me if I would be willing to be listed on his letterhead with the others, I declined but told him I was glad to help in any way that I could. 

From time to time, Ben and I would lunch at the Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. But he was on a diet so strict that it was hardly worth it for him. Over time Ben and his wife Phyllis became good friends of my wife Pam and me. 

My second fondest memory with Ben was when the four of us went to Thousand Oaks one Sunday evening after church to see “The Sound Of Music” performed. After the play, we stopped off on the way home at Jerry’s Famous Delicatessen on Ventura Boulevard (sadly, now shuttered because of the Covid lockdown). 

My fondest memory with Ben was when he called me up and asked me if I would like to speak to a group of Holocaust survivors at a synagogue on Wilshire Boulevard, and I agreed. He gave me the address and told me to meet him there Saturday evening after the Jewish Sabbath had ended. Let me now tell you about one of the most thrilling experiences of my ministry. 

I’m terrible with dates, but since Richard Halverson was still the United States Senate chaplain, I guess that I spoke at Sinai Temple in 1994 or 1995. I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof, and I arrived, parked my car, and walked through the entrance and my first ever experience in a Jewish synagogue. I had been invited to speak, but I had no idea what I was going to say for the life of me. 

Once inside, I greeted Ben and asked him if it would be okay for me to spend my time answering the audience's questions. He said that would be great and reminded me that the 100+ people there mainly were Holocaust survivors who had been born and raised in Hungary, many of them with the last name Gabor. I had heard of Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor but learned that night for the first time that Gabor is as common as Smith in England or Johnson in Minnesota among Hungarian Jewish people. 

I greeted the friendly faces, introduced myself by name, rehearsed to them that I had been born in Texas and had grown up on Indian reservations throughout the United States, my father having worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I then told them how I became a Christian. That done, I told them that I would be willing to answer any question they cared to ask me. 

For the next 90 minutes, I answered dozens of questions. The questions initially focused on whether all gentiles are Christians. Then they explored the differences between Christian denominations. Eventually, we got around to the Jewishness of Jesus Christ, the Jewishness of the apostles, the anti-Semitic history of all Christian denominations except for the Baptists, the significance of baptism, who I believed Jesus of Nazareth was, and the importance of His crucifixion at the hand of the Romans. 

The questions they posed allowed me to present my understanding of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the promise God made to Abraham, the typology of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, any human cannot keep the Law of Moses, and the numerous Old Testament predictions that the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled. As the interactions unfolded, I felt myself marveling at their curiosity, hospitality, and willingness to ask follow-on questions when the things I said challenged their beliefs. 

I could not have prepared a message that dealt more fully with the Gospel claims of Jesus Christ than was made possible by their many probing questions. When my time was up, Ben announced that there was time for one more question. A delightful elderly woman in the front row raised her hand and asked me, “Are you telling us that we need Jesus as our Savior?” 

I realized that the last question of the evening was the most important question of them all and that my answer was crucial. I said, “If my mother needs Jesus as her Savior, everyone needs Jesus as their Savior.” They looked at me for a moment, then the woman who asked me the question nodded her head in approval. I thanked them for their gracious hospitality, and Ben and I went outside. I thanked him for the invitation and drove home as if I was dreaming. 

I will not know until I get to heaven whether that opportunity ever bore fruit. I know God’s Word does not return unto him void. And I know my audience of Jewish Holocaust survivors, each of them with tattoos on their left wrist, listened carefully. I pray and dare to hope some of those men and women will greet me when I arrive at my appointed time.


[1] https://jewishjournal.com/old_stories/294/

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Hemeneutics

This installment is titled “Hermeneutics.” 

Pr 30:11     “There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.”

Pr 30:12     “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

Pr 30:13     “There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.” 

“Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to interpret.’ Traditionally it has meant ‘that science which delineates principles or methods for interpreting an individual author’s meaning.”[1] 

Every human being who has ever lived employs a hermeneutic, a system by which the individual tries to understand what he is seeing, hearing, or reading. No one does not employ a hermeneutic. Yet there is a generation that displays such arrogance and conceit that they are perfectly described by Proverbs 30.11-13. 

When they read the Bible, they never imagine that they have a hermeneutic. They assume their approach to reading, studying, and understanding the Bible is necessarily the correct one. Of course, that is presumption. Some even go so far in their lofty arrogance that they set aside any reading of Bible commentaries, supposing themselves to be so spiritual and well-informed that they have no need of the humility that sits at the feet of others who took the time to study, plan, and write for the benefit of others. 

Still others suppose that in place of studying the Bible with the help of commentaries written by others (which requires reading) they will substitute listening to podcasts as they drive, supposing that the minuscule amount of attention that can safely be devoted to listening while driving can somehow substitute for the focused and prayerful attention of a diligent student of God’s Word. 

Rather than commenting on the broad subject of the various tools that can be employed in the study of Scripture, from the learning of and resorting to language tools, to the reading of the various types of commentaries that range from devotional to exegetical, I want to spend a few minutes on this topic of hermeneutics. 

Everyone employs a hermeneutic. You employ a hermeneutic. I employ a hermeneutic. The question for you is whether or not you know what hermeneutic you employ in fact rather than in theory. How would you know what your approach to interpreting God’s Word is when you rarely if ever discuss that precise topic with anyone or subject your personal hermeneutic to anyone else’s scrutiny? 

You may say, “I employ a historical-grammatical hermeneutic.” Do you? Are you sure you do? Do you have any idea how many allegorical interpreters of Scripture claimed they had such a hermeneutic, believed they had such a hermeneutic, yet did not? How would anyone know such a thing who does not, who will not, read up on the subject? 

Of course, as a Gospel minister, my concern at this point is the hermeneutic employed by those who are Gospel ministers. Rather than subjecting your hermeneutic to me, or me subjecting my hermeneutic for your scrutiny, I wonder if you have ever subjected your hermeneutic to anyone’s scrutiny? 

Do you imagine that a man given over to the calling of ministering God’s Word to others should assume without real evidence that the hermeneutic he employs is the correct one? Or that his hermeneutic is so accurate that it is not necessary or beneficial to him or others to scrutinize it and refine it? Do you imagine God would not want you to consciously and conscientiously seek to improve the skills you employ when studying His Word? 

We preachers talk about our high estimation of the Bible. We preach about our high estimation of the Bible. But does a person really have a high estimation of the Bible who has not and will not review the approach he uses to study and interpret the Bible? Can a preacher or teacher of the Bible really have a high opinion of God’s Word who will not focus some of his attention on the hermeneutic he employs? 

To that end, and without further comment, following is a list of books of various qualities and usefulness (in no particular order) that I recommend for reading and studying by those who claim God’s Word is your treasure and delight: 

Peter Masters, Not Like Any Other Book, (London: The Wakeman Trust, 2004)

W. R. Downing, An Introduction To Biblical Hermeneutics, (Morgan Hill, CA: P. I. R. S. Publications)

William Evans, The Book Method Of Bible Study, (Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1915)

Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991)

Robert A. Traina, Methodical Bible Study, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985)

D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, editors, Hermeneutics, Authority, And Canon, (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986)

Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, (www.ForgottenBooks.com)

Patrick Fairbairn, Opening Scripture, (Birmingham, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Books, 1858 reprint)

Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Third Revised Edition, 1970)



[1] Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991), page 5.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

“The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Thirty-Seven, The Election of Grace.

 


This chapter has seven subdivisions. 

I have a pastor friend whose relationship with his beloved pastor began to deteriorate when my friend began asking him questions on such topics as are covered by this chapter. My pastor friend and his pastor never had a falling out, but the relationship chilled over time because my pastor friend wanted to ask his pastor questions about such topics as this and his pastor was unwilling to discuss such topics. My first pastor displayed the same attitude. There were certain topics of importance in the Bible he was unwilling to discuss with anyone, including young Christians such as me. I find that appalling. Everything in the Bible should be on the table of topics a God called pastor is willing to discuss with members in the Church where he serves. My own opinion is that the wickedest of copouts is to say, “Well, that’s my stand.” If you cannot explain your stand, perhaps it is not the stand you should take but a matter mature believers should be allowed to disagree about. 

Sovereign Election. Four paragraphs. “The Reformed doctrine of election can be summed up in three words: ‘He chose us’ (Ephesians 1:4). God did the choosing, not man. It does not say, ‘We chose Him,’ or ‘We chose ourselves.’ Man does not elect himself any more than a president elects himself (though they usually vote for themselves!). God is the only one who votes in this election. Not even the angels were given a vote. God is the subject; we are the object. God is active; we are passive. It is ‘your election by God’ (1 Thessalonians 1:4). The biblical order is absolutely critical.” “The subject – object relation is evident in Christ’s words in John 15:16: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you.’ Nothing could be more explicit. It is a waste of time trying to say that this only refers to His choice of the twelve to serve as apostles. This is a common Arminian misinterpretation. First, Jesus did not address these words to Judas, for he had already left (13:30). Second, it must be interpreted in light of 13:18 when Judas was still there: ‘I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen.’ Judas was never chosen to salvation, only to apostleship (cf. 17:12). Third, John 15:19 indicates that Christ is speaking of election to salvation, not to mere apostleship: ‘I chose you out of the world.’ This obviously did not include Judas, for he was always ‘of the world.’ The others were not of the world anymore (John 15:19; 17:14). 

He Chose Us. Three paragraphs. “Why do some sinners believe, and others do not? It is because God sovereignly chose some and not others. The chosen will eventually believe; the unchosen will never believe.” Augustine is cited. “We know God because God first knew us, not vise versa as Arminianism says. First John 4:19: ‘We love Him because he first loved us.’ Would anyone dare reverse this holy order?” 

Election By Grace. Six paragraphs. “God did not elect on the basis of foreseen faith, for as Calvin put it: ‘Election is the mother of faith,’ not its daughter.” “J. I. Packer commented: ‘Where the Arminian says, ‘I owe my election to my faith,’ the Calvinist says, ‘I all my faith to my election.’ The first produces pride and in gratitude; the second produces humility and thanksgiving.” “There is spiritual romance in this. Christ chose the elect to be His precious bride. He chose us in eternity and proposed in time, and she accepted. His choice was by sovereign grace, as Spurgeon commented: ‘It always seems inexplicable to me that those who claim free will so very boldly for man, should not also allow some free will to God. […] Why should not Jesus Christ have the right to choose His own bride?’” 

Election by Sovereign Grace in Romans 9. Five paragraphs, explaining why some Jews are saved and not others, as well as why some Gentiles are saved and not others. Puritan Edward Polhill is quoted. 

Election by Sovereign Grace in Ephesians 1. Three paragraphs. “Love is part of both election and predestination.” 

The Book of Life. Seven paragraphs. Matthew Mead and Robert Peterson are quoted. Three erroneous theories are addressed, including that of Charles Hodge. 

Conclusion. “Putting all this together, one might wax theologically romantic and put it like this: Out of His infinite love and free grace, the Lord of Love chose a bride to bestow His love on and have her return it to Him in grateful love. When He chose her, He wrote her name down in the Book of Love that belongs to the Lamb of Love.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Bridge To Nowhere Good

 

Some benefits accrue to longevity and activity in the Gospel ministry. If God blesses you with longevity and activity, you can sometimes observe events of significance. Following is but one example. 

On a phone call yesterday with a colleague in the Gospel ministry, I related to him events that I saw unfolding in 1999. He recommended that I record my observations for posterity, and this is that record. 

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a conference hosted by Pastor Christian Torres, who serves the Riverside Baptist Church in Riverside, California. He hosted a two-day conference conducted by a longtime friend, Dr. David C. Innes, the Hamilton Square Baptist Church pastor in San Francisco, California.


 Dr. Innes presented “What Is A Fundamentalist? A Seminar Focusing on Biblical Fundamentalism.” Notes for the study and a plastic business card with an embedded thumb drive containing many PDF documents were handed out. It was the most beneficial treatment of biblical fundamentalism I have ever read, heard, or experienced. I recommend contacting Dr. Innes or going to the Church website (www.HamiltonSquare.org) to obtain the material, schedule a seminar, or learn where the seminar is presented nearby. It is time well invested. 

After the seminar, I ordered David Beale’s latest book, Christian Fundamentalism in America: The Story of the Rest from 1857 to 2020.” I have a voracious reading appetite, so I am surprised halfway through Dr. Beale’s book by the surprises he has in store for the reader. I anticipate writing a review that will include my recommendation that every Baptist pastor, including every Gospel minister who self-identifies as an evangelical, take the time to read this well-researched book.


 To borrow the phrase from the notorious Jen Psaki, let me “circle back” to yesterday’s telephone conversation with Dr. Innes’s seminar and Dr. Beale’s book on my mind. During yesterday’s telecon, I mentioned Jerry Falwell’s controversy with the Teletubbies in 1999 and his arrival to speak at a fundamental Baptist pastors conference in San Diego. The man I was talking to reminded me that he also preached at that same conference.


 The messages were outstanding. What was most memorable to me about that conference was the presented music pageant, which reminded me of a ritualistic Greek Orthodox liturgy. I had recently attended a Greek Orthodox funeral, and the similarities were jarring to me, so much so that I recall mentioning it to a pastor sitting near me.

 Months later, I attended another fundamental Baptist pastors conference in the Denver, Colorado, area. The music program presented the night the keynote speaker delivered his address was a pageant that once more reminded me of a ritualistic Greek Orthodox liturgy. For those unfamiliar with fundamental Baptists, we are not much given over to anything like a liturgy, and our spiritual lineage eschews formalism. Yet, there I sat, for the second time in four months, watching a large fundamental Baptist Church performing a ritualistic Greek Orthodox style music pageant for those in attendance.

 Advance several months again, with me now attending a Southwide Baptist Fellowship meeting at the once-famous Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a distinctively fundamental Baptist pastors meeting. The essential difference between the pastors who gathered in Chattanooga and those who had gathered in San Diego and Denver would be their alma maters and the looming personality of the late J. Frank Norris. Norris did not figure in any way in the spiritual ancestry of the fundamental Baptist preachers gathered in Chattanooga, as he had figured in the spiritual lineage of the fundamental Baptist preachers in San Diego and Denver.

 Lo and behold, guess what I witnessed that evening before the featured speaker’s message? You guessed it. The Highland Park Baptist Church featured a music pageant almost identical to the two ritualistic Greek Orthodox-style pageants I watched in San Diego and Denver. Not that the skill of the musicians or singers lacked in any way. As previously, there was no issue with the quality of the program. All three were produced and performed with skill and evident commitment to excellence. The problem for me was the question of where this ritualistic Greek Orthodox style pageantry came from.


 After the service concluded, I sought out and introduced myself to the music director of the Highland Park Baptist Church. He was most gracious. I mentioned to him that the pageant presented that evening was most interesting. He interpreted my comment as a compliment. I then asked him where it came from, referring to the spectacle. 

With glee, he said, “I got it at Jerry Falwell’s Super Conference. Isn’t it great? Jerry got it from Jim Cymbala’s wife at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. She said she got it from the Greek Orthodox Church.”


 There you have it. Ritualistic Greek Orthodox style pageantry was embraced by a Pentecostal Church and passed on to fundamental Baptist Churches via Jerry Falwell’s Super Conference. If you think that demonstrates nothing and portends nothing, you are admitting to possessing the spiritual discernment of a flat rock. Jerry’s Super Conference was a bridge, a bridge to nowhere good. Only the pragmatist would value a ritualistic liturgy borrowed by fundamental Baptists from a Greek Orthodox Church, paying no heed whatsoever to the centuries-old anti-Christian theological system that produced that liturgy.