Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

B.H. Carroll on the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture

This past week, I've been unable to blog because I've been reading 900 pages for a class I'm taking here at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. These 900 pages came from two lengthy books: The Baptist Reformation by Jerry Sutton and Baptists and the Bible by Russ Bush and Tom Nettles. While reading these in such a short amount of time has been hectic, I have enjoyed the opportunity of being exposed to such a wealth of material on Baptist history and doctrine.

Though both of these books are historically important, I have to give a special place of honor to Baptists and the Bible [and I think that Jerry Sutton would agree with this assessment], which provides a great wealth of primary-source documentation in regards to the beliefs concerning Scripture that Baptists have held throughout history. That Baptists have historically held the highest view of Scripture is obvious, for if they had believed anything other than Scripture as the Word of God having specific and final authority over the conscience, then they certainly wouldn't have been willing to be persecuted for the recovery of immersion of believers as definitional to "baptism" in the first place.

Throughout Church history, controversy over specific doctrines central to the Christian faith have provoked Christians to study the Bible with more diligence and to exercise greater precision in articulating points of doctrine. So in the second century, the Marcionite heresy caused the Church to be more precise in recognizing the canon of Scripture; in the fourth century, the Arian heresy caused the Church to be more precise in recognizing the doctrine of the Trinity; in the early fifth century the Pelagian heresy caused the Church to be more precise in recognizing the doctrine of Grace; and in the mid fifth century the Eutychian and Nestorian heresies caused the Church to be more precise in recognizing the doctrine of the person of Christ.

Beginning in the post-Reformation era [late sixteenth to early seventeenth century], the Church had to exercise greater precision in speaking of the doctrines concerning the nature of Scripture in order to refute Roman Catholic errors and the growing skepticism of certain philosophers. The English Baptist movement, beginning in the seventeenth century, was embroiled in controversy over the nature of Scripture from very early on, in disputes against the errors of the Quaker sect. The doctrines concerning the nature of Scripture began to take center-stage for Baptists [and for all of the Church] in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the growing popularity of "higher criticism." In response to such criticism, Baptists and others began to speak of doctrines such as the "plenary-verbal" inspiration of Scripture and the "inerrancy" of Scripture- words and phrases that were new, but that expressed truths historically affirmed by the Church [both Reformer Martin Luther and Baptist John Smyth wrote of the Bible being "without error"].

Those holding to higher criticism were [and still are] especially allergic to the doctrine of verbal inspiration- that every single word of Scripture [in its original writing] is "God-breathed." Some critics who still claim Christianity attempt to assert that every thought of Scripture is inspired, but that the words of Scripture are the product of Man alone. Taking this critical view, some assert that whereas the Scripture is inspired and therefore true as a whole [which is the doctrine of plenary inspiration], any certain word of phrase might be faulty.

Yet Baptists who have embraced higher criticism's questioning of verbal inspiration have stepped outside the bounds of historic Baptist belief, historic Christian belief, and, indeed, outside the bounds of a reasonable view of Scripture altogether. As B.H. Carroll (1843-1914), founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary pointed out:

It has always been a matter of profound surprise to me that anybody should ever question the verbal inspiration of the Bible. The whole thing had to be written in words. Words are signs of ideas, and if the words are not inspired, then there is no way of getting at anything in connection with inspiration... What is the object of inspirations? It is to put accurately, in human words, ideas from God... When you hear the silly talk that the Bible "contains" the word of God and is not the word of God, you hear a fool's talk. I don't care if he is a Doctor of Divinity, a President of a University covered with medals from the universities of Europe and the United States, it is fool talk. There can be no inspiration of the book without the words of the book. [Quoted in Baptists and the Bible, 281.]
So, studying Baptist history these past few days has helped me to appreciate the legacy of biblical fidelity that we have as Baptists and has better equipped me to give a reasonable [and, following Texan B.H. Carroll, forceful!] defense of my trust in God's Word. I commend similar study [though not, perhaps, at such a pace] to readers of this blog as well.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bible Reading Like An Apostle: Reading for the Purpose of Argument

In the previous posts of this series, I briefly discussed how we should follow the apostles' example in reading the Bible for the purpose of application, allusion, and allegory. This post will give a brief discussion of reading the Bible, like an apostle, for the purpose of argument.

The word "argument," as it is commonly used, has almost entirely negative connotations in contemporary culture. When one hears that two parties have engaged in an argument, the immediate assumption is that there has been a highly emotional confrontation in which each party was trying to impose his or her selfish will upon the other. This kind of situation is obviously undesirable, and so most people today try to avoid arguments altogether.

But arguments, in the purest sense of the the word, are absolutely necessary for meaningful communication to take place. Patrick J. Hurley's Concise Introduction to Logic defines an argument as follows:
Argument: A group of statements, one or more of which (the premises) are claimed to provide support for, or reason to believe, one of the others (the conclusion).
Consider the following scenario: I may say to my wife, "Dear, we're out of milk and so we need add it to the grocery list." She may reply, "I don't think so, honey- when I looked in the fridge an hour ago we had plenty of milk." Then I may say, "But after you looked, you put some milk in the recipe to bake the cake you're taking to church on Sunday, and I used the rest of the milk to fix us French toast for breakfast, so we need to buy some more." (This is a fairly realistic depiction of what may happen at our house.) Now, we may have been sweet toward each other during that conversation (an outside observer might say 'sickeningly sweet'), and we probably wouldn't say that we'd had an 'argument' that morning- using the popular understanding of the term. But, according to the definition of an argument listed above, we had both offered conclusions, 'we need to buy more milk,' or, 'we don't need to buy more milk,' and gave reasons (premises) for those conclusions.

When we examine the way that the apostles read the Scriptures, we discover that they were consistently arguing for specific conclusions about the person and work of Jesus Christ using premises drawn from what we know as the Old Testament. In this they were following the example set by Jesus Himself who, to mention just one instance among many, cited Psalm 110:1 as a premise in order to lead His hearers to the conclusion that He is greater than King David (see Matt. 22:41-46).

Similarly, the Apostle Paul regularly turned to the Scriptures to argue for the truth of the Gospel, as demonstrated in passages such as Acts 17:2-3:
And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining to them and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." (NASB, Emphases added.)
Since all Christians are Christ's ambassadors (see II Cor. 5:20), we must follow the Apostle's example, as the Apostle Peter also instructs us in I Peter 3:15:
... sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give a defense [a word that can be translated "argument," as the NASB notes] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (NASB)
From this passage, we see that we are actually commanded to be ready to give an argument, and we also are commanded as to what attitude we are to have when arguing. While not shrinking away from giving an argument- or "reasoned defense"- for the Faith, we are not to be "argumentative" in the worldly sense. We are to, as much as possible from our end, live at peace with all people (see Rom. 12:18). When arguing to defend our faith or proclaim the Gospel, our goal is not to belittle others to make ourselves look good so that others think, "What smart people those Christians are!" Rather, our goal is to glorify God alone by persuading others to trust in Christ and submit to Him. The content of our argument must be from the Scriptures, as the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy in II Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB, Emphasis added.)


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

We're having a boy!

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.
(Psalm 127:3 NIV)

When I called my Grandma (that is, my mother's mother) back in March to tell her that Abby and I are having a baby, she asked, "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?" Well, I tried to do the good thing and respond that I have no preference as long as the baby's healthy, but as I tried to get the words out of my mouth I realized how unconvincing I sounded, so I finally blurted out, "I want a son!" Subsequent to that conversation, as Abby and I talked about preparing for the baby, I realized that I really would be equally happy if the baby were a girl... but yesterday the ultrasound confirmed that we are having a baby boy!

We plan to name our son Christian Amadeus Lindsey.
"Christian" means "Christ-like" and "Amadeus" means "loved by God." These names reflect our hopes and prayers for our child.
"Lindsey" (which we have little control over) is, as far as I can tell, some Old English geographic reference concerning the place where my family was known to live at some point in the forgotten past.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Together for the Gospel 2008 Conference Registration Now Open

Mark Dever
Ligon Duncan
C.J. Mahaney
Al Mohler

John MacArthur
John Piper
R.C. Sproul

Near the end of 2005, when my friend Jorge Ponce first told me about the then-upcoming 2006 Together for the Gospel conference (the conference was held about this time last year), I was certain he must be mistaken. I honestly thought that he had just seen a list of the most excellent preachers currently speaking in America today and somehow had become confused, thinking that they were all speaking at the same place. (Sorry, Jorge!) Once I found out Jorge's information was accurate, I finally registered to go.

Having been tremendously blessed by the event in 2006, I was extremely excited to hear that another T4G conference would take place in 2008. Registration for this conference recently opened, and just after I registered myself, I began writing this post. I would strongly encourage any minister reading this to consider attending. All of the men of God listed above are scheduled to return, as well as Thabiti Anyabwile.

A video concerning the 2008 T4G conference can be seen HERE.