Shakespearean Chapel: A Liturgical Southern Baptist Worship Service

That’s not an oxymoron in the subtitle, it really does happen—Liturgical Southern Baptist Worship, that is. Drs. Autrey and Wood have given me permission to set the order of worship in chapel this coming Monday, so on Monday at SWBTS Houston we will have a chapel that will, I hope, be something like what the ancient church did when it met for worship. At least, I’m told that the order of worship that we’ve adapted (Richard Fields did most of the work) “bears resemblance to the Western Rite Liturgy.”

I’ve tried to describe what I refer to as Shakespearean Worship here, and if you want to read the process of planning such a worship service, you can do so here. I’ve suggested that this can be a healthy response to the impulse that has produced the Emergent Church here. We actually do this every Sunday at Baptist Church of the Redeemer, and you can see an example of our order of worship here.

If you're in the Houston area, I hope you’ll join us for worship on Monday, and if you want to read over and pray through the sermon text beforehand, asking God to prepare your heart (always a good thing to do), I’ll be preaching the book of Nahum.

So if you come to chapel on Monday, perhaps you’ll encounter two things that Southern Baptists don’t normally experience: (1) a sermon on Nahum, and (2) liturgical worship. Don’t misunderstand me, though, I’m not doing this to be cute. My hope and prayer is that everything about the worship service will be God focused, Christ exalting, and soul nourishing. After all, we’re preparing people to go out and die for the gospel, whether it be the death of a martyr or the long slow obedience of laying down one's life for the people of God. I hope you’ll come ready to worship the risen and reigning King.

Is God Worthy of This?

I just watched the second installment of ABC’s “The Ten Commandments,” and I’m grateful that the movie prompted me to think about some things the Bible says. For instance, there was a scene in which the faithful Israelites killed the idolatrous Israelites who refused to worship Yahweh after the golden calf incident (see Exod 32:26–29). As I watched these scenes, what came to my mind was the fact that not only do those who refuse to worship Yahweh meet with misery and death in this life, they face an eternal conscious torment.


Why do people go to hell forever?

Has this landed on you? Is it real to you that those who do not know God as he is will face his wrath forever? Have you thought about whether you think people deserve to suffer forever for not worshiping God? Can you think of any reason that would justify eternal conscious torment for a human being?

It can only be because this God whom they have refused to honor and thank as God is of infinite worth. Do we know God in this way?

If we don’t know God in this way, we probably won’t take worshiping him very seriously, which probably explains why so many churches don’t seem very serious about knowing and worshiping God.

When we think of God, do we think of him as being this worthy?

When we speak of God, do we speak of him in a way that reflects that he is this serious about his rights as God?

When we sing to God, do we do so in a way that corresponds with the gravity with which he regards himself?

To know God as he is means that we hold him so highly that we regard eternal conscious torment as what is justly due to those who neither honor him as God nor give thanks to him.

To understand mercy is to perceive that the only difference between those who will be saved and those who will face his wrath forever is that God was pleased to show mercy to the saved and justice to the damned.

Do you worship God in a way that reflects the awful weight of a mercy that freely pardons those who trust Jesus—forgiving us of sins for which we rightly deserve to suffer forever?

Is the God you worship so important that those who spurn him deserve hell? If not, your concept of God is not biblical.

You are hereby invited to trust this God. Call on the name of the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Rom 10:13).

The Ten Commandments and the Justice of God

My sweet wife and I just watched the first installment of ABC’s production of The Ten Commandments. I think that the fact that we are now the parents of one especially precious 2 year old boy (our first born) made the death of the first born of Egypt especially poignant to us.

The Bible is clear—and the movie gets this part right—that God put to death the firstborn sons of Egypt (Exod 4:23). In the movie, viewers are presented with a sympathetic Egyptian, Moses’ brother Minnereth (this character doesn’t come from the Bible), who protests that he and his son were not present when the Egyptians of a previous generation killed the Hebrew children. This naturally raises the question of how God can be just in slaying seemingly innocent first born children of decent Egyptian parents like Minnereth.

The truth is that far more upsetting to us than the death of these seemingly innocent children should be the fact that God is not glorified as God or thanked for his merciful kindness (Rom 1:21). We must pray that God will give us such an all encompassing understanding of his infinite worth that we are more emotionally troubled when he is denied the glory and thanks he is due than we are when little ones die. Do we believe that God is this great, this worthy of glory and gratitude?

The great problem in the universe for us should not be why bad things happen to people, rather, we should be provoked when God is not given the thanks and praise he is due. God must enable us to perceive his own incomprehensible wealth of magnificence and mercy so that we can see beyond the apparent decency of people and stare into the truth that they owe God heartfelt, constant thanks and praise. And the fact that they do not render to him the worship that he deserves must become for us the greatest ugliness in all creation.

Only when our minds are fixed on the infinite worth of the one by whom and for whom all things exist will we be able to say by faith that when all the evidence is presented on the last day, no one will question what God has done. All will say that everything he did was right.

If in our minds the worth of God is not this great, or if we are not confident that he will be justified in all he has done when all the evidence is brought forth, let us pray for grace to search the Scriptures and see there that the one from whom, through whom, and to whom all things are is indeed worthy of all the glory (Rom 11:36).

Creed of Athanasius with Subtitles

A few days ago I mentioned in a post that I often read the Creed of Athanasius to my 2 year old before I put him down for a nap. I had occasion to type it up for something else, and I decided to add subtitles. So I'm posting the Creed below with my subtitles. If you have better suggestions, I would love to hear them. I think what I have reflects the movement of thought in the Creed, but there might be better places to divide it up, and there might be better titles for the sections. I welcome your suggestions.

It is important to note that the word “Catholick” here does not mean “Roman Catholic” but “Universal.” That is, this is what all Christians believe. And the truth is that those who believe these truths, as well as other biblical doctrines such as justification by faith alone, are more catholic than the Roman Catholics.

One other note before the Creed. I thought about dropping the line about Jesus descending into hell, since I don't think the Bible teaches that Jesus descended into hell. I decided to leave it and make a point about the nature of Creeds. We use these great statements of faith to summarize what the Bible says and the church believes. But these Creeds are not inspired and they are not authoritative in the way Scripture is. Thus, I think that whereas Christians are bound to believe everything Scripture teaches, Christians must evaluate everything that is not Scripture by Scripture. So I think I'm being perfectly consistent to believe everything the Creed says except the part I think is unbiblical (see Wayne Grudem's essay, "He Did Not Descend Into Hell: A Plea For Following Scripture Instead Of The Apostles' Creed," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34.1 (1991): 103-113.).

So without further ado, here's the Creed of Athanasius plus my subtitles:


Introductory Preface

Whosoever will be saved: before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith.
Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

Trinity in Unity
And the Catholick Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost.

Uncreated, Incomprehensible, Eternal, and Almighty
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate: and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal: and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals: but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated: but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty: and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties: but one Almighty.

Three Persons, One God, and One Lord
So the Father is God, the Son is God: and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods: but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord: and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords: but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity: to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
So are we forbidden by the Catholick Religion: to say there be three Gods, or three Lords.

Of None, Begotten, Proceeding
The Father is made of none: neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons: one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

Equality of Essence and Worth
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other: none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together: and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

Necessary Christian Belief
He therefore that will be saved: must thus think of the Trinity.

The Two Natures of Jesus
Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation: that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is that we believe and confess: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds: and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God, and Perfect Man: Of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead: and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood.
Who although he be God and Man: yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether, not by confusion of Substance: but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man: so God and Man is one Christ.
Who suffered for our salvation: descended into hell, rose again on the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty: from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

The Second Coming
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies: and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting: and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

Closing Significance
This is the Catholick Faith: which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Michael Haykin on Francis Wayland

We Baptists would do well to know more of our heritage, and Michael Haykin, principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary, is one from whom we have much to learn. Read his post on Francis Wayland, president of Brown University (which was a Baptist school) here.

Students of history will also want to check out Dr. Haykin’s website, where you can read his writings, hear his lectures, and be blessed by his fascinating “favorite quotes.” I was especially interested in the project he is participating in to produce the Works of Andrew Fuller. Andrew Fuller was a five point Calvinist who argued, with William Carey, that the Gospel should be indiscriminately proclaimed to all. He “held the rope” when Carey “went into the pit.” Let’s hope the works of Fuller are more affordable than the works of Jonathan Edwards (!), and let’s hope that the combination of theological acumen and missionary fervor that characterized Carey and Fuller will fill the hearts and minds of Baptists.

I hope to download and listen to some of Dr. Haykin’s lectures in the near future. There are 12 historical lectures on everyone from Irenaeus to William Cowper. Enjoy!

The Inside Scoop: Mark Overstreet’s New Blog

When I finished up my schooling at SBTS, in God's great mercy, I was blessed with a job here at SWBTS Houston. I am so thankful to be where I am, and I praise God for blessing me with this place of service. I say that because of what I am about to say: most people blessed with places of service upon completion of their Ph.D. programs become lowly Assistant Professors like me. Assistant Professor doesn't mean I'm an assistant to some other professor, they really do let me teach, but it does mean that in the academic world, I'm the low man on the totem pole.

Other people, by contrast, before they even finish their Ph.D. programs, become Vice Presidents! Well, okay, so I only know one person who became a Vice President of a college before he even finished his dissertation: Mark Overstreet. Dr. Overstreet has a new blog, and as he is one of the most knowledgeable people I know, I'll be checking this page often. I'm sure you'll want to mark this page as well.

Augustine on Suffering

Arguing that Christianity is not to be blamed for the sack of Rome by the Goths, Augustine explains in The City of God that both good and bad men suffer. He writes:

But as for the good things of this life, and its ills, God has willed that these should be common to both [good and wicked men]; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer. . .

. . . the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor. . .

He then enumerates three benefits from the suffering Christians endure:

First of all, they must humbly consider those very sins which have provoked God to fill the world with such terrible disasters . . . . For every man, however laudably he lives, yet yields in some points to the lust of the flesh. Though he do not fall into gross enormity of wickedness, and abandoned viciousness, and abominable profanity, yet he slips into some sins . . .

[Second], . . . the good are chastised along with the wicked . . . not because they have spent an equally corrupt life, but because the good as well as the wicked, though not equally with them, love this present life; while they ought to hold it cheap . . .

Then, lastly, . . . that the human spirit may be proved, and that it may be manifested with what fortitude of pious trust, and with how unmercenary a love, it cleaves to God.

City of God, 1.8-9

Hamilton Family Worship

Recently I’ve been exposed to a number of families who do “Family Worship.” When I first heard of this, I was both intimidated and uninterested. I had little desire to try to replicate what I think of as a worship service (prayers, hymns, sermon, etc.) on a nightly basis at home with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love prayers, hymns, and sermons, but it seems like an awful lot to pull together on a nightly basis.

As I’ve reflected on this, however, I think this is probably not what my friends mean when they speak of “Family Worship.” Actually, I’m not sure what they mean, but I thought I would describe what we do at our house. This is intended to be suggestive for anyone interested in this type of thing (in other words, I’m not being prescriptive), and if you have something that you do differently with your family or that you think we would benefit from I would love to know about it.

Disclaimer: We are new at parenting, and we make no claim to having it all figured out. We have a 2 year old and a 3 week old, and I pray that the Lord will give them mercy and overcome the errors and deficiencies of their Dad (their Mom doesn’t have any errors and deficiencies). Also, these things don’t happen every day. Sometimes I leave in the morning before the kids get out of bed. Sometimes we're lazy. Sometimes I’m not home for dinner. Sometimes we have family in town or friends over. Sometimes I’m out of town, etc.

When we rise up:
We sometimes read a collect (i.e., a prayer) from either the Book of Common Prayer or a book called The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, which is a compilation of the prayers Thomas Cranmer wrote for the Book of Common Prayer. The third collect for morning prayer is the one we use when we do this, and it reads as follows:

O Lord our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(This basically hasn’t happened since the new baby was born).

As we walk by the way:
Our 2 year old has the answers to the first two questions of The Baptist Catechism memorized, and we’re working on the answer to the third. He doesn’t know what the words mean, but he can memorize them now and one day he’ll understand. I copied the text of the catechism with the Scripture references, pasted it into a word document, and as we move to the next question I paste the text of the Scripture references that go along with the question onto a word document so we can print that question and answer with its verses and hopefully learn the verses too. We have 18 years or so to work on it, and I’m pleased with our progress so far.

At the Lunch Table:
My wife has a stack of pictures of family and friends, and after the meal, she and Jake take up the next photo and pray for the people in the picture (I’m often not around for lunch).

At naptime:
Our two year old loves hymns. If we’re singing one, he can usually surprise us with how much of it he can sing along with us. His favorite song is “How Firm a Foundation,” and he knows almost all the words to it. He also loves “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and many others. So at naptime we often sing several hymns from the hymnal by the rocking chair next to his bed (he loves to “sing from the red hymdal,” as he calls it).

When I get to put Jake down for his nap I sometimes read the Creed of Athanasius to him. I’m hoping this great Trinitarian Confession will become part of the fabric of his brain, and it’s blessing me as I read it over and over too!

After Dinner:
At then end of our meal I read a portion of the Bible. We’ve read the whole book of Psalms after meals, and soon we’ll finish Hebrews. I usually read 10 to 15 verses. This is a good time for a Bible reading since we’re already all gathered together. Our two year old is used to it now, and so when we finish the meal he says, “Daddy read Bible!”

At Bedtime:
Every night we sing at least one hymn, and when I’m organized and have one picked out, we have a “hymn of the week.” Singing the same hymn every night helps us all memorize the words.

Sometimes if we have time we’ll read the Big Picture Story Bible before we sing.

Every night when we finish everything else we pray the Lord’s Prayer together. Jake knows all the words to this, but he doesn’t always say them all. He loves these routines, and I pray God gives us grace to continue in them. How I hope that my children will bleed Bible, that they will trust the Lord with their whole hearts, and that God will make me faithful to those entrusted to my charge, especially those most dearly and closely entrusted to me, my sweet wife and our boys.