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, January 31, 2011

Graeme Goldsworthy on "Scripture Alone"

[The following is quoted from Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 48-49. I'm posting this because I've been thinking a lot about sola Scriptura recently.]

Nothing exists except by the decree of God. We know this fact, and we know that God, only because he has revealed himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we know this fact, and we know Jesus Christ, only because he is revealed to us in Scripture. When the Reformers enunciated the principle of Scripture alone they asserted that there is no other source of truth available to us by which we can know Christ and, through him, God. Negatively, they repudiated the notion of a living tradition of the church as a separate source of truth that enjoys a similar authority to that of the Bible. They were not repudiating the role of tradition as such, but only seeking to subordinate it to the final authority of Scripture. It was not tradition that was the concern, but tradition that contradicted Scripture. They rejected the doctrine of a teaching magisterium that alone could provide the true interpretation of Scripture. Instead of the Roman Catholic assertion that, since the church gave us the Bible, the church alone could interpret the Bible, the Reformers rightly said that God, by his word, creates the church, which must therefore submit to biblical authority. For the ordinary Christian Scripture alone simply means that we must read the Bible or hear the message of the Bible if we are to know God. The relationship of the God of the Bible to the whole of reality is such that no empirical facts are ultimately understood until they are understood as facts of the Creator. To know God and his creation, we have to take account of the nature of Scripture and of the phenomena that present themselves in Scripture. Hermeneutics is concerned with the practical application of Scripture alone.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sermon Notes from Jude 17-23, "How To Keep Watch" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The is available to hear on-line HERE.]

I. Opening illustration:
Imagine a bomb squad that was trained to identify bombs, but not trained how to diffuse them; many in the Church are like this: they can identify our problems, but very few can offer proper solutions.

II. Examples from the Bible of wrong solutions:
A. Aaron responding to people complaining by building the golden calf.
B. Saul responding to Samuel's delay by offering sacrifices himself.

III. Examples from the Bible of right solutions:
Paul offering gospel-centered solutions to problems in the churches to which he wrote.

IV. The First Solution offered by Jude to the problem of apostasy = "remember:"
A. The Church is to continually remember the words of the apostles concerning apostates.
B. Description of the apostates:
1. Mockers
2. Followers of their own ungodly desires
3. Divisive
C. When we see those fitting the description of the apostates:
1. Don't be taken off guard
2. Don't lose hope
3. Don't try to redefine the apostates as Christians

V. Application:
When we see apostate-like tendencies in our own hearts, we must repent and flee to Christ in faith.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Compilation of Posts Responding to Dr. Peter Masters, re: Worship Music

This morning, I had a short discussion with a dear Christian brother regarding worship music.

This conversation lead me to reflect on some previous blogposts I had written re: the use of a variety of instruments in Christian worship, particularly in response to the teaching of Dr. Peter Masters on this issue. I realized that I have not previously compiled these posts, to link them from a single entry, so here they are now:

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When the Term "Brother" = "Father"

In a recent post on sola Scriptura, I drew attention to some traditions' use of the title "Father" for their clergy in light of Jesus' words, recorded in Matthew 23:9, "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (ESV). I argued, based on other New Testament occurrences of the word "father," that Jesus was not prohibiting the natural use of the term in regards to family relationships, but that, in context, He was forbidding His disciples from using the term "Father" as a religious title.

If I am correct about the meaning of Jesus' words, then people in many religious traditions are sinning against His command in calling their clergy "Father" so-and-so. Now, this would seem to be a sin from which Baptists are exempt; I have never heard of a Baptist preacher called "Father Beauregard," etc. But I would further argue that there is a common Baptist practice that contradicts Jesus' words in Matt 23:8-12 as surely as if we did call our clergy "Father" or "Rabbi:" namely, the tradition by which the senior pastor of a Baptist church is called "Brother" so-and-so.

In Matt 23:9, Jesus does not forbid the title "Father" because He dislikes the sound of the letters "pi-alpha-tau-eta-rho" [spelling the Greek word for "father"] when applied to church officers. In forbidding the titles "rabbi," "father," and "instructor" within the church, He was not inviting creativity in regards to thinking up alternative titles. Instead, by saying, "you are ALL brothers... you have ONE Father... you have ONE instructor... The greatest among you shall be your servant," Jesus was pointing to an equality under God among His followers, an equality that does not preclude people from holding certain church offices (He did, after all, appoint apostles who appointed elders; Matt 10:1-2; Titus 1:5), but that IS signified in the lack of religious titles for clergy.

And so, we should strive to honor the words of Christ. Pastors should teach their congregations, on the basis of Matt 23:8-12, not to call them "Father" or "Brother" (or "Rabbi" or "Right Reverend Doctor" for that matter).

On a final note: I will say that I have known at least one pastor who is called "Brother" by everyone in the congregation, yet he consistently calls fellow Christians "Brother" or "Sister" so-and-so, and he urged his congregation to return to the traditional practice of referring to each other (not just him) as "Brother." Though I think it unlikely that this traditional practice can be restored to an extent that the congregation would avoid using "Brother" as a distinct title for the pastor (in violation, I have argued, of Matt 23:8-12), I understand that this pastor (and probably, in a similar way, some others like him) genuinely desires us to honor the New Testament words about us all being brothers and sisters in Christ, and he is not seeking some special religious title. There are many other Baptist pastors, however, who seem well content to be the only man in the room called "Brother," and these might as well be called "Father" or don a pointy hat.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sermon Notes from Jude 14-16, "Apostates: Who Are They?" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The is available to hear on-line HERE.]

Intro. We cannot allow the world to define "judging." (See John 2:13ff., Jesus cleansing the temple.) Jesus had righteous indignation, as Paul wrote, "Be angry and do not sin."

v. 14. "these " = "apostates"
The prophecy of "Enoch, the seventh from Adam," who "walked with God" during the days when the world was in general wickedness and who was taken up into heaven (see Gen 5) is used as an illustration. The prophecy is treated as historically accurate, though Jude's use of this prophecy does not imply an endorsement of 1 Enoch as a whole.

v. 15. 1 Enoch does not use the word "ungodly" as much as Jude. (Jude emphasizes the ungodly character of the apostates.) These "ungodly" people are in the church. These "ungodly" people are not saved.

v. 16. The "ungodly" people are complaining, discontent people. This discontentment leads to:
a. following their own evil desires;
b. arrogant boasting;
c. favoritism.

Apostates hate an atmosphere in which God's Word is front and central in all things, so that they are constantly confronted with their sin.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sola Scriptura: Compilation

An attempt to define and defend sola Scriptura, and to describe some concerns regarding the consequences of abandoning this doctrine:

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Sola Scriptura: 5. Additions to God's Words -> Contradictions of God's Word

In the account of the first human sin from Genesis 3, it is evident that an addition to God's words was closely followed by a violation of God's words.

And this is the normal pattern followed by those who deny the principle delineated by the term sola Scriptura.

So we see again that in the Gospel accounts Jesus says to the Pharisees, who were infamous for adding human innovations to God's Law, "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8 ESV). [See Mark 7:1-13.]

In another place, Jesus spoke to his disciples against the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees, who loved to be called "rabbi," etc., saying,

8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt 23:8-12 ESV)

Now when Jesus forbade his disciples from using the terms, "rabbi, father, and instructor," He was NOT saying that these words must be discarded from their natural use. In the previous passage I have cited, Jesus approvingly quoted from Mosaic Law, saying, "Honor your father and mother" (cf. Mark 7:10; Exodus 20:12); so, in Matthew 23, Jesus is not teaching his disciples to dishonor their parents by discarding the honorific terms of "father" and "mother." Again, in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), when the son repented before his father, he addressed him as "father" (Luke 15:17,21); in this illustration, Jesus certainly does not present the prodigal calling his earthly father "father" as a violation of His words. Finally, in Romans 4, Paul, the servant of Christ Jesus (Rom 1:1), writes of "our father Abraham" (Rom 4:12), having previously explained that Abraham is "our forefather according to the flesh" (Rom 4:1); in using the title "father Abraham" to refer to an ancestor in this way, Paul was certainly not violating the commands of Christ.

If, therefore, Jesus, in Matthew 23:9, was not issuing an absolute prohibition against applying the title "father" in regards to family relations [and, I would similarly argue from other New Testament uses of the word "teacher," that Jesus is not calling for an absolute abolition of the term "teacher" in its natural use], then what does, "call no man your father on earth," mean? From the context, we see that Jesus was speaking against the practice of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:2), who used special religious titles for themselves (Matt 23:7), in order to claim a spiritually privileged position over the community of God's people.

And this is one way that we see Jesus' command directly violated today, especially in "churches" following traditions that reject sola Scriptura. Due to traditions of people that have been added to God's Word, every adult in the church may be on a first name basis, but there is one especially serious guy in front called "Father" so-and-so, in direct violation of Matthew 23:9.

This would be a serious matter in itself, for Christians are supposed to be people who follow, and not contradict, the Lord Jesus Christ, but my concern is that once a church tradition can blatantly ignore Jesus' words in a (relatively) small matter, such as the one discussed above, they can ignore God's words in essential matters, such as the teaching of how sinners are declared righteous in God's sight: i.e., the doctrine of justification.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Sola Scriptura: 4. Scripture + "X" = God's People Oppressed

A denial of sola Scriptura necessarily entails the conclusion that people need something instead of or in addition to Scripture in order to persevere in life and godliness. The person who rejects sola Scriptura believes that God's words must necessarily be supplemented by human words; the commands of people are thus added to the commands of the Holy Lawgiver and Judge.

We see the project of adding to God's commands initiated during the first temptation. Whereas God had said, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:" (Gen 2:17a), in relating God's command to the serpent, under pressure, Eve added to God's command and said, "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it" (Gen 3:3b, emphasis added). By adding to God's words, the sufficiency of what God had said was called into question. The addition of "neither shall ye touch it" seemed to be a good idea (it is certainly hard to eat fruit off of a tree if you never touch the fruit), but such a prohibition added an extra burden to the conscience, and thus the woman had been placed in a position to do exactly what the tempter desired: namely, to question the goodness of God.

Burdening people with additions to God's Law was widely practiced by the religious leaders of Jesus' day, and thus He declared,

Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, yet you yourselves don't touch these burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46, HCSB)

Today, due to a neglect of sola Scriptura, there are many Christians similarly burdened by rituals, requirements, and religious programs that are never found in the Word of God.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sola Scriptura: 3. Primordial Institution

All Scripture is, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, breathed out by God. Scripture is presented as the very speech of God. The statements of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 do not stand alone, but are part of a grand theme concerning the speech of God that begins in the very first verses of the Bible.

In Genesis 1, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1-2). Immediately, a direct quote from God is recorded in the text as God said, "Let there be light," and there was light (Gen 1:3). Notice that in this creative speech-act, as well as with the other words of God by which He formed the earth and the heavenly bodies (Gen 1:4-27), God's speech is efficacious and sufficient. God's words have the exact result He intends (Gen 1:31), and they need no additional creaturely help.

In co-ordinating sola Scriptura with the first quotes from God recorded in the Bible, God's first words to Man are especially pertinent. So in Genesis 1 we read that immediately upon creating Man, God said to him,

Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat: (Gen 1:28-30)

God then added a singular condition to what He stated above, saying,

Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2:16b-17)

Notice the sufficiency of God's speech at this earliest stage of human history. Man could and should, with the few words I have quoted above, have lived life sola Scriptura, according to the way I have previously defined, because God's speech was the final and sufficient authority concerning matters of life and godliness for Man. The clear implication of the text is that if Man had lived in simple obedience to God's words, he would have eventually eaten of the tree of life and been confirmed in deathless, blessed communion with God (cf. Gen 2:9 and Gen 3:22-24).

It is only after the introduction of satanic doubt and denial (Gen 3:1,4) concerning God's words and human additions to God's words (Gen 3:3) that Man falls into sin and the creation is brought under the curse.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sola Scriptura: 2. Proof

My friend wrote:
Show me Sola Scriptura in Scripture and I will believe it...
With this statement, he was asking for scriptural proof for sola Scriptura. My first response is to cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (which I incorrectly identified as 1 Timothy 3:16-17 on his Facebook page).

How is this passage a proof for sola Scriptura in the way that I have argued the doctrine must be defined?

Notice, especially, what 2 Tim 3:17 says about Scripture: "that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

How equipped does Scripture make the man of God? THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED. (Other translations render this phrase, "perfect" or "complete.")

For what is the man of God thoroughly equipped by the Scriptures? EVERY GOOD WORK.

Notice, also, that no similar statement is made by the Scriptures for any other possible source of authority.

And so the inevitable conclusion is that Scripture alone is the only the sufficient, final arbiter of all disputes concerning matters of life and godliness.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sola Scriptura: 1. Clarification

Recently, a friend of mine issued the following challenge and assertion on Facebook:
Show me Sola Scriptura in Scripture and I will believe it... I reject the protestant tradition of Sola Scriptura because I think it is un-scriptural.
This week, in response to my friend's challenge, "Show me Sola Scriptura in Scripture and I will believe it," I will seek to provide a clarification of the definition of sola Scriptura, a proof-text for sola Scriptura, and an examination of how God's Word functioned as the final and sufficient authority from the very beginning of recorded history (what I will here refer to as the "primordial institution" of sola Scriptura). In posts next week, I hope to examine some consequences of rejecting sola Scriptura.

1. Clarification

Before a biblical defense can be given for the doctrine of sola Scriptura, it is important to note what sola Scriptura does NOT mean, as well as what this term DOES mean.

a. Scripture is NOT the Absolute Only Authority

The doctrine of sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone") does not teach that Scripture is the only authority. The idea of Scripture as the absolute only authority is not what sola Scriptura meant to the Protestant Reformers, and it is not what the term means to theologians today. Scripture is not the final and sufficient authority for how to perform heart surgery or fly an airplane. If you asked your surgeon or pilot how they acquired their skills, and they said, "Well, I just studied the Bible every day for 20 years," you would certainly have cause for concern.

b. Scripture is not the ONLY Authority in the Church

Nor does the doctrine of sola Scriptura teach that Scripture is the absolute only authority in the Church. The Bible itself acknowledges officers in the church (specifically: [1.] overseers, bishops, pastors, or elders, and [2.] deacons, Phil 1:1, etc.), and these officers are assumed to have some form of authority. Certainly, a brief review of the history of the Reformation would demonstrate that the Magisterial Reformers (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etc.) held positions of authority in their various provinces.

In my own study of Original Sin, I am looking to a number of authorities (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Edwards, etc.) on the subject of that doctrine. But notice how I am utilizing these authorities. Augustine et al. are authorities on the subject of Original Sin NOT in the sense that their statements on that doctrine are true merely because they said them, nor do I feel compelled to necessarily believe everything any particular "authority" on Original Sin has written. But I utilize these theological authorities in the same way that a news program looks to authoritative experts; these "experts" are authorities in their various fields because they have invested a great degree of time and energy in studying a limited area of knowledge, and so their opinions carry a certain amount of intellectual weight in public discourse. So, for example, when a nationally covered trial is taking place, a news agency will consult an authority on criminal law about the details of how the trial is unfolding; the "authority" being interviewed does not create the law about which he is being interviewed, nor must the viewers necessarily accept everything the authority has to say.

c. Sola Scriptura is NOT a Protestant Innovation

The doctrine of sola Scriptura began to be articulated in a precise form during the early 1500s as the Protestant Reformers argued against various beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. And so my friend mentioned "the protestant tradition of Sola Scriptura." And some people view sola Scriptura as an innovation of the Protestant Reformation. But just because the doctrine of sola Scriptura was not precisely articulated before the 1500s, this does not mean that earlier generations of the Church did not view Scripture in a way that was consistent with sola Scriptura. In a similar way, the language of Trinitarian doctrine developed slowly over the first four centuries of the Church in response to controversies with groups like the Adoptionists, Sabellians, and Arians, but just because Christians in the first century would not have used the exact language of the Nicene Creed to describe God, this does not mean that they would have thought of God in terms that were inconsistent with this Creed, nor does it mean that the doctrine of the Trinity was invented at Nicea (or Constantinople).

It is important to note that the Protestant Reformers themselves believed that they were returning to an older understanding of scriptural authority, one found in the Bible itself and corrupted slowly over time. So, to give one early Church example: during the fourth century controversies with the Arians, various bishops and councils condemned and deposed Athanasius, the defender of Trinitarian doctrine. With such "authorities" against him, how did Athanasius respond? As a reading of his On the Incarnation of the Word will show, while it is true that Athanasius strove to demonstrate that his views were consistent with the earlier church, he appealed to Scripture itself as the final arbiter.

d. The Definition of
sola Scriptura

In my own personal confession of faith (which is, I believe, in line with numerous historic Baptist confessions of faith- authorities in a sense consistent with the discussion above- such as the 1689 London Confession, the Abstract of Principles, the Baptist Faith & Message, etc.) I write:
All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, is infallible and inerrant, and is the sufficient, final arbiter of all disputes concerning matters of life and godliness (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Consistent with this statement, I would define sola Scriptura as the teaching that Scripture alone is the final and sufficient authority concerning matters of life and godliness for the individual believer and the church as a whole.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

In American churches today, there is much confusion over the definition of "hyper-Calvinism." I have personally heard several misguided notions of how to define "hyper-Calvinism;" for example, I've heard people say that a hyper-Calvinist is 'anyone who is more Calvinistic that you are,' or that a hyper-Calvinist is 'someone who holds to Limited atonement' [which is strange, since Limited atonement is one of the traditional 'five points of Calvinism']. But it is important to correctly define "hyper-Calvinism" so that one may accurately refute the grave, anti-Great Commission error represented by this term.

There are numerous competing scholarly definitions of hyper-Calvinism, and many of these definitions offer different characteristics in identifying hyper-Calvinism.[*] Common to all these definitions is the denial of “duty-faith” as essential to hyper-Calvinism. hyper-Calvinists reject the idea that every person is under obligation to trust in God; because hyper-Calvinists understand that only the elect are able to believe, and because they claim that obligations are co-extensive with ability, hyper-Calvinists teach that an individual must have a reason to think that he or she is numbered among the elect (i.e., a “warrant to believe”) before he or she is called to repent and believe.

A hyper-Calvinist is one who will not indiscriminately call sinners to immediate repentance and faith due to the doctrinal commitments mentioned above. As followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has called us to be witnesses for His gospel, Christians have a duty to reject the doctrine of hyper-Calvinism. We also have the duty to reject any hyper-Calvinist tendencies that would make us reluctant or timid to call upon all people everywhere to repent and trust in Christ (Acts 17:30-31).

[* See, for example: Jim Ellis, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?” Reformed Perspectives Magazine 10 (2008); James Leo Garrett, Baptist Theology: A Four Century Study (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009), 89-91; Timothy George, Amazing Grace: God’s Initiative- Our Response (Nashville: Lifeway, 2000), 90-91; Phillip R. Johnson, “A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism” [on-line], accessed 16 April 2010; available from; Internet; Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986; reprint, Lake Charles, LA: Cor Meum Tibi, 2002), 385-91; Peter Toon, “Hyper-Calvinism,” New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP, 1988), 324.]


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Pearls Before Swine: Probably Unintentional Illustration

re: the biblical view of the fallen heart

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
HT:: Dan Phillips