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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Exemplary Sermon by Tray Earnhart

A good sermon is one that carefully and clearly explains the meaning of a text or texts of Scripture in light of the good news of Jesus Christ, and then gives application of that text or texts- application that is specific to the particular audience that is being addressed. (Due to universal features of human existence, specific application will also include general truths beneficial to other audiences who may hear or read the sermon.)

The above, simplified explanation of what constitutes a good sermon is based upon the sermons and letters that we see in the New Testament.

Throughout church history, faithful Christian preachers have struggled in giving application- in instructing their hearers concerning appropriate actions that should be taken based upon the Scripture- without falling into legalism. What makes the Christian message distinctive from all other world religions is that whereas other systems of belief are focused on works that people must do to merit God's favor, Christianity focuses on the work that God has done in Christ to rescue sinners who cannot merit His favor. And so, in giving application during a sermon, the faithful Christian preacher can never lose sight of the good news of Jesus Christ; the actions that we take in response to what is taught can never be presented as if those actions constitute our hope for salvation.

Two weeks ago last Sunday at Kosmosdale Baptist Church Tray Earnhart gave what I believe to be an exemplary sermon. (FYI: Tray has been out-of-town for the two Sundays after he preached this sermon, and so this is not meant as a comment on his more recent preaching.) I was out of the country when this sermon was preached, but people were still talking about the sermon when I returned, so I've listened to it on Tray's sermon on July 12 was titled "When Is It A Sacrifice? (Part 2);" the text of the sermon was Luke 21:1-4. Having explained the text in Part 1 of this sermon, Tray returned to the text for additional explanation and to demonstrate what the widow's sacrificial giving in this text teaches us about true sacrifice. When impressing upon the church our need to imitate the spirit of this widow's sacrifice, Tray never lost sight of the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf and that any sacrifice we make for Him is simply and expression of our gratitude for what He has done for us.

The most insightful and challenging part of the sermon, in my opinion, was near the end, as Tray spoke about how the church is to have right doctrine and right practice (and I've heard this 'right doctrine and right practice' discussion before in other contexts), but he added that we are also to have right affections (Tray cross-referenced Revelation 2:1-7). He then spoke passionately about how our church, which has pursued right doctrine and right practice, needs a renewal in our affections.

This sermon was a challenge and a blessing to me and to many at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. I commend it to anyone reading this post. The sermon can be heard by following the link HERE.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dr. Peter Masters' False Hermeneutic in Promoting an Allegorical Reading of Psalm 150

...we know the Psalm [Psalm 150] is not talking about literal instruments for worship, because if it were talking about literal instruments, it would be massively contradicting all the rules given in the Old Testament.

No, we know that this Psalm is obviously including not only temple worship, but the civic festivities of the Jews- the thanksgiving days for battle victories and things of that kind- when little girls, shaking their tambourines, would walk in front of open air civic processions. This was not worship, this was the wider scene.

And Psalm 150, as most of the Puritans would insist, was talking not about instruments in worship, but about the spirit of worship. So, it's a very figurative Psalm, and it names instruments of triumph, instruments of solemnity, instruments of- associated with- sincerity and so on, and it uses them as figures for the wide range of emotions that are represented in sincere worship. But if you say, 'Ah! There it is! Psalm 150 justifies everything'- it's painful to hear, you know, a Bible-believing teacher saying a thing like that, when it represents such ignorance of the Scripture, and producing such contradictions and difficulties.

In the above section from his sermon on June 21st, Dr. Peter Masters offers two contradictory arguments against those who would use Psalm 150 to support a multiplicity of instruments in worship. Dr. Masters states, on the one hand, that Psalm 150 does not support a multiplicity of instruments in worship because (he says) Psalm 150 is not about worship- it is about the use of instruments in "civic festivities." On the other hand, Dr. Masters asserts that Psalm 150 does not support a multiplicity of instruments in worship because (he says) Psalm 150 is not about instruments- it is "about the spirit of worship."

Even if Psalm 150 is primarily focused on "civic festivities" (and a distinction between "temple worship" and "civic festivities" does not seem to be in view in this Psalm- the Psalm begins, "Praise ye the LORD; praise God in His sanctuary"), it would seem that the Jewish people would have used literal (rather than "figurative") instruments in their "civic festivities." And so Dr. Masters' second argument against the use of Psalm 150 to support a multiplicity of instruments in worship is undermined by his first argument.

Given Dr. Masters' wider argument- that a multiplicity of instruments is an indicator of "worldliness"- it would seem irrelevant whether the instruments in Psalm 150 were used in "civic festivities" rather than "temple worship." For "worldliness"- the capitulation of the church to the corrupt values and evil practices of fallen human societies- is unacceptable in "civic festivities" as well as in "temple worship." If Psalm 150 advocates a use of a multiplicity of instruments, in whatever setting, then such a practice cannot be indicative of "worldliness."

Perhaps it is a realization that his first argument leads to the conclusion just mentioned that leads Dr. Masters to advance his second argument- that Psalm 150, in mentioning "instruments" is (contrary to appearances) NOT indicating worship with a multitude of instruments, but is indicating certain things about the "spirit of worship" God's people are to have when worshiping Him. (How these instruments, being- according to Dr. Masters- inappropriate for worship, could properly indicate the appropriate attitude for worship is somewhat unclear.)

Based on the authority of an unnamed group of Puritans- a kind of Protestant magisterium, as it were- Dr. Masters teaches that "praise Him with harp and lyre" does not mean "praise Him with harp and lyre," it means, 'praise Him in solemnity and sincerity without using a harp or a lyre.' But where in the Bible does Dr. Masters find a key that lets him know that instruments symbolize attitudes; where does Dr. Masters find a passage that tells him 'harp equals solemnity, lyre equals sincerity,' etc? Without backing such an interpretation from Scripture, it seems that Dr. Masters is practicing eisegesis- reading his own meaning into the Bible- rather than exegesis- bringing out from the Bible the meaning that the author intends.

Furthermore, an interpretation like the one mentioned above is a step away from the Reformation principle of literal Bible interpretation back to the Roman Catholic practice of allegorical interpretation. The theologians of the Protestant Reformation were able to recover simple, soul-freeing gospel proclamation from the Bible because they were convinced that the Bible is clear, able to be understood by common people, and free from an arcane system of symbols that can only be understood by highly trained professionals. When the Reformers pointed out the many places that the Bible contradicts the Roman Catholic church, Catholic theologians would protest that the Bible is to be read figuratively rather than literally. The Reformer Martin Luther responded to one such Roman Catholic apologist (Erasmus) as follows:

...let this be our conviction: that no 'implication' or 'figure' may be allowed to exist in any passage of Scripture unless such be required by some obvious feature of the words and the absurdity of their plain sense, as offending against an article of faith. Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and the habits of speech that God has created among men;
I say, then, that for me it is not enough for you to say: there may be a figure [of speech]; my question is, whether there need be, and must be a figure; and if you do not prove that there must necessarily be a figure there, you achieve nothing. [Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), 192-193.]

Dr. Masters says that this text must be figurative on the basis of his assertion that, taken literally, the text would contradict other passages: for reasons explained in my last post in this series, I believe that Dr. Masters' charge of contradiction falls flat.

Without proving that a literal reading of Psalm 150 entails a contradiction, Dr. Masters is guilty of unnecessary allegorizing. And without proving his specific interpretation of Psalm 150 from the Bible, Dr. Masters is guilty of eisegesis, even as he charges those who do not reach his conclusions with "ignorance."


Friday, July 17, 2009

Notes from Dr. George Martin's "Biblical Basis of Christian Missions" class: Inerrancy

[Notice, these are NOT from the outline that Dr. Martin gave to the class, but are only an outline based on the lecture as I heard it.]

I. Definition:
A. "The Scriptures, in their original autographs, do not affirm anything that is contrary to fact."
B. "All Scripture is totally true and trustworthy" (BF&M 2000).
C. "Inerrancy" takes into account figures of speech, such as phenomenological language.
D. "Inerrancy" does not apply to grammatical errors.
E. "Inerrancy" does not indicate scientific precision (i.e., numbers might be rounded, information may be presented topically rather than chronologically, etc.).
F. "Inerrancy" does not preclude free citation (quotes from other texts may be summarized or restated).
G. "TRUE science and the Bible will not contradict one another."

II. Problems with denying inerrancy:
A. If the Bible is not inerrant, then what is our authority?
B. A denial of inerrancy exalts Man's opinions over God's revelation.
C. Error in minor details radically distorts the overall message of Scripture.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Notes from Dr. George Martin's "Biblical Basis of Christian Missions" class: Special Revelation

[Notice, these are NOT from the outline that Dr. Martin gave to the class, but are only an outline based on the lecture as I heard it.]

I. Definition
A. "God's particular communication of Himself to particular persons at particular times."
B. "Special revelation equals Scripture."

II. Necessity of special revelation
A. Special revelation is necessary for obtaining spiritual life.
1. Special revelation is necessary FOR US:
a. God was under no external obligation to grant us special revelation.
b. We have been given special revelation by grace.
2. Sin makes special revelation necessary for us if God's purpose in saving a people for Himself is to be fulfilled.
3. Knowledge of the gospel does not come through general revelation (nature nor conscience), but only through special revelation.
B. Special revelation is necessary for sustaining or maintaining spiritual life.

III. Forms of special revelation:
A. Historical events as recorded in Scripture
B. Divine speech
C. Covenants
D. Divinely revealed names of God

IV. Progression of special revelation
A. "From the beginning God has taught all truth [though not exhaustively- AJL], and nothing but truth."
B. "God was the first contextualizer."
C. "Later revelation builds upon earlier revelation."


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

John Calvin's Refutation of Seven Arguments


You will often hear theology students debating whether John Calvin himself was a "5 Point Calvinist" (that is, whether Calvin held to each of the doctrines of "TULIP"- Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints). The debate over Calvin's "Calvinism" is well-known in historical theological circles. Much less well-known is the fact that John Calvin certainly considered himself to be a two-point Lutheran.

In 1543, John Calvin wrote Bondage and Liberation of the Will to answer attacks by Roman Catholic apologist Albert Pighius against the theology of the Protestant Reformers (who were, at that time, all referred to as "Lutherans" by the Roman Catholics). John Calvin wrote that he and all the Reformers agreed with Martin Luther's writings concerning two essential points that were denied by the Roman Catholic theologians: 1) all things occur according to absolute necessity (that is, God is sovereign over everything that happens), and 2) 'free-will' after the fall of humankind into sin (as recorded in Genesis 3) is an empty term, existing in name only.

In Book II of Bondage and Liberation of the Will John Calvin answered seven objections to the two-point Lutheranism mentioned above. The reader is encouraged to research Calvin's arguments for his- or herself and to compare these arguments to Scripture, but I offer an outline of Calvin's defense below:

Objection 1: If God is in [absolute] control, why bother [with doing anything]?

A: God's providence works through us. Proverbs 16:9- "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" [all Bible quotes in this outline are from the NASB].

Objection 2: Why punish crimes if they are committed of necessity?

A: Necessity does not exclude evil will [on the part of the criminal]. "Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger, and the staff in whose hands is my indignation" (Isaiah 10:5). [In Isaiah 10, Assyria arrogantly intends to subjugate other nations, and so Assyria is worthy of God's condemnation, even though God is ultimately in control of the fact that the other wicked nations will be defeated by Assyria.]

Objection 3: Necessity undermines law and order. [Laws and government are seen as unnecessary if God is in absolute control.]

A: God works through secondary causes in ruling His creation. ["Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves" (Romans 13:1-2).]

Objection 4: Necessity undermines religion. [If God is in absolute control of all things, why would one attend to one's religious duties?]

A: The doctrine of God's providence "trains a person only to be humble, to fear God, to place his trust in God, and to ascribe glory to God, which are the chief components of true religion."

Objection 5: The doctrine of providence [God's absolute control over all things] makes God the author of evil deeds.

A: God uses human sinful actions without being the author of sin. "He is a wonderfully expert craftsman who can use even bad tools well. We shall be compelled to admire His justice, which not only finds a way through iniquity but also employs that very iniquity to a good end."

Objection 6: Original sin implies that nature itself is evil.

A: "Nature" is biblically defined "in two ways: first as it was established by God, which we declare to have been pure and perfect, and second as, corrupted through Man's fall, it lost its perfection." Calvin quotes from Augustine: "Human beings are the work of God insofar as they are human, but they are under control of the devil insofar as they are sinners, unless they are rescued from there through Christ" [Against Two Letters of the Pelagians].

Objection 7: The doctrine of radical depravity [that sin affects all human faculties, including the heart and thus the will] exposes God to ridicule. [Presumably, because God gives commands which no one obeys.]

A: Command does not indicate ability, for the role of the law is not to teach us what things we can do to bring ourselves into a right relationship with God. Rather, the Law exposes the guilt and the moral inability of the sinner, by which he is brought into a state of humiliation and driven to cry out for the mercy of Christ.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Notes from Dr. George Martin's "Biblical Basis of Christian Missions" class: The Nature and Character of Scripture

[Notice, these are NOT from the outline that Dr. Martin gave to the class, but are only an outline based on the lecture as I heard it.]

I. There is a distinction between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology (BT as a discipline)

II. There is a progressive nature to God's revelation

III. Scripture as God's "Self-Revelation"
A. Purpose of the Old Testament
Q: "Why has God given to us this material?"
A: "That people might know God"/"to make Himself known" through WORDS and DEEDS
1. The WORDS of Scripture are God's words (ex. Hos 1:1,2,4; 2:1; Joel 1:1; Amos 1:1-3,6,9,11,13, etc.)
2. "This is a God who ACTS in history" (Gen 1:1; Exod 3)
3. Words and deeds are especially focused into COVENANTS with His people
4. God reveals Himself by telling His people His NAMES, as recorded in Scripture
B. Knowledge of God
1. knowledge=experience;relationship (see Gen 3:22; 4:1, in which word "to know" is used)
2. knowledge of God affects knowledge of all else:
a. knowledge of the Divine
b. knowledge of self
c. knowledge of society

IV. Inspiration of Scripture
A. "In essence, what 'inspiration' means is that these are God's words."
B. God's words are recorded so that God may be known and obeyed.
1. Moses was specifically commanded to write down God's words.
2. The prophets were specifically instructed to write down God's words.
C. God's words are, by definition, true; therefore, Scripture is inerrant.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

That To Understand Psalm 150 As Indicating a Multiplicity of Instruments in Worship Does Not Contradict Other Biblical Texts

How many women visited the tomb of Jesus following the resurrection? John 20:1 only mentions Mary Magdalene. Matthew 28:1 says, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary." Mark 16:1 records, "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome." Luke 24:10- "Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them." Critics of the Bible point to these accounts as examples of contradictions between the Gospels, but in doing so they are committing a logical fallacy. Mary Magdalene is present in each account, with the various Gospel authors giving more or less detail as to who else was with her; if John had written that ONLY Mary Magdalene has visited the tomb or that Magdalene AND NO ONE ELSE visited the tomb, then there would be a basis for positing a contradiction, but these limiting phrases are absent from the text.

(An additional example: if I were to write about how I visited the Metropolitan Tabernacle on June 21, and were to later write about how my wife and I visited MetTab on that occasion, it would obviously be irrational to charge me with contradiction just because my wife's presence was left unmentioned in the first account.)

In his sermon on June 21 of this year, Dr. Masters was emphatic that the use of Psalm 150 to establish a multiplicity of instruments in worship directly results in implying that the Bible contradicts itself. Dr. Masters claims that the Bible only allows four instruments for the use of worshiping God, and since Psalm 150 mentions more than these four, the Psalm must not be referring to instruments used in worship, or else we have a contradiction. In his sermon Dr. Masters does not provide proof for his claim about four instruments in worship, but elsewhere he has cited various passages from 1 Chronicles (1 Chronicles 15:16, 28; 16:5, 6, 42; 25:1, 6). The reader will note that none of these passages that mention four types of instruments include limiting phrases: NONE of the passages say ONLY these instruments or these AND NO OTHERS. If there were not additional evidence we may conclude that only these four types of instruments were allowed, but as God-inspired authors of the Psalms mention other instruments in worship (in places such as Psalm 149 and Psalm 150) we may conclude that a multiplicity of instruments were allowed, and we may reach this conclusion without a hint of contradiction.