The One Who Does Them Shall Live by Them?

Leviticus 18:5 says, “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” And Paul quotes this text in Galatians 3:12, “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’”

So does this mean that salvation was by works in the old covenant? You can read what I think about it here.

Planning the Service of Worship

This post is mainly in response to Bret's questions in his comments on my last post. He asked: How much does your order of worship change each week and how (and do you always) do you determine the order?

At this point we haven't deviated much from the order that can be seen linked to the last post. As for the determination of the order, here's something of the process.

First I try to determine what I'll be preaching. I've gone through all of Revelation, then we did a series on the church, and this Sunday will be the fifth of five sermons on the Pentateuch. One sermon per book of the Pentateuch. On Christmas Day, Lord willing, we'll start a series on Luke.

I heard Mark Dever talk about the way that he plans things out in advance, determining the text to be covered and a title for the message that is mainly designed to grab attention.

So once I have the text to be preached and a general idea about what the main ideas of that text are, I fill in the blanks of the service with material that relates to the main ideas of the text. This way, hopefully by the Spirit's guidance in my growing understanding biblical theology, the whole service can be themed to the text that will be preached.

The blanks to be filled in are these:
(1) Call to worship
(2) hymn
(3) OT Scripture
(4) hymn
(5) pre and post-confession Scripture
(6) catechism/creed
(7) hymn
(8) NT Scripture
(9) hymn
(10) Sermon Scripture
(11) benediction.

The easiest part is matching the OT and NT readings with the text for the sermon because there are so many connections between the biblical texts. From there I try to put shorter texts that are related in the call to worship, usually from the Psalms. So also–shorter related texts–for the pre and post confession Scripture and the benediction. It's generally easy to find good hymns that go with something in the text to be preached, and sometimes things come together so that what has just been read in the OT reading, for instance, can be echoed in the hymn that follows the reading.

The hardest part for me, or at least the part that generally takes a bit of research, is matching a question from a Baptist Confession of faith or a Baptist Catechism or one of the great Creeds of the faith to what is being preached.

It may look involved, but in 2-3 hours it's really not hard to plan ahead for a month or more. Once the thing is planned and handed off to the person doing the bulletin I don't have to think about it.

I think what I find most beneficial about Shakespearean worship is that it feels like the worship service is full of Bible and robustly God-centered.

May the Lord inhabit the praises of his people!

A Liturgical Southern Baptist Church?

My last two posts have been on Shakespearean Worship, so I thought I would post Redeemer's order of worship from last Sunday, December 4, 2005 in case you are interested in seeing how we are trying to give this hands and feet. If you want to worship with us, we invite you to visit Baptist Church of the Redeemer (directions at

Shakespearean Worship and the Emergent Church

The Emergent Church’s creative and asthetic attempts to help people worship call us to ask how we can best enjoy God as gathered congregations. If we don’t learn anything else from the Emergent Church, I hope that many churches will be spurred to examine the service of worship that they have cultivated.

Ultimately, the issue is not atmosphere, form, and style. The issue is knowing and experiencing God.

I have been to too many worship services in churches that claim to believe that God is revealed in the Bible, but they barely have any Scripture in the worship service before the sermon (if they have Scripture in the sermon). This seems simple to me, but I’ll spell out the logic anyway:

God reveals himself in the Bible.

Worship is our response to God’s revelation of himself.

Doesn’t a natural deduction from these two premises present itself?

If we want to worship, won’t we seek to exalt God by relating what he has revealed of himself in the Bible?

Let’s use Bible in our call to worship. Let’s read a passage from the OT before we sing, then sing something with vigor that has biblical and theological conten, then read another passage from the NT, then sing some more.

I suspect that one reason many “worship services” are not very worshipful is that they don’t have much Bible in them. Too many churches substitute comedy, personality, and warm fuzzy for the revelation of God in the written word of Scripture. The result is that people may feel good about themselves, but they have not encountered God.

You don’t have to be Emergent, and you don’t have to be Shakespearean (see below), but if you are a Christian who wants to worship God, you do have to be biblical.

Shakespearean Worship

Some churches thrive on a big personality, a trendsetter who draws crowds by sheer magnetic personality. The worship in most churches, however, is led by ordinary people from whose lips profound theology does not spontaneously fall. Is it possible to have a powerful worship experience that is not dependent upon big personality-trendsetting-celebrities? Can we have worship services that are powerfully moving times when the Lord’s presence is real and people’s lives are changed without extremely talented people?

One way for worship leaders to compensate for a lack of talent, style, and pizzazz would be for them to rely on something other than their own ingenuity to make worship meaningful. Worship leaders could tap into the beauties of liturgy. Thomas Cranmer shaped the liturgy of the Anglican church, and Diarmaid MacCulloch has this to say of his efforts: “Cranmer’s prose shows a tremendous sense of how language can work to produce a play: a play performed countless times over centuries by millions on millions of people day by day, week by week, year by year. This is a play which has outperformed every drama by Shakespeare, Marlow, Ben Johnson, any playwright in the English language.”

It seems to me that a lot of contemporary worship services are trying to entertain, like a television program. Many of these churches are trying very hard to be hip, and many have the same feel—like they’re a half step behind the culture minus all the racy stuff. The exceptional churches that pull this off usually have extraordinary people leading them. One big problem with the TV model of church is that if you don’t have a trendsetter you have a flop. The church will be uninspiring, and because it is trying to be like a sitcom, it usually does not give itself to teaching theology and Bible. And it dare not suggest that there is a holy, sovereign God before whom we live.

Some cultural forms elevate our capacities, others drag us down. Some things make us smarter—like reading Shakespeare—and others make us dumber—like watching television. MacCulloch writes of Cranmer, “How fortunate that Cranmer did not seek to scintillate. Liturgy does not demand jokes or punchlines: purple passages which sound exciting once and then become embarrassing. The need is for words which can be polished as smooth as a pebble on a beach by repetition, to become part of the fabric of individual people in the middle of a communal act.”

Liturgy is a prescribed form or set of forms for public worship, and the reality is that even informal churches have an unwritten liturgy. These informal liturgies are not only like sitcoms in their banality, they also, like sitcoms, generally proceed with a minimum of audience participation. Some churches even have the equivalent of a laugh track in the way they pump the praise team’s vocals through the speakers so that one cannot hear oneself or the congregation sing.
Even more problematic is the lack of biblical and theological content in the TV liturgy. It is sometimes said that we must “leave room for the Spirit to move.” There’s nothing wrong with leaving room for the Spirit; the problem is that we have abandoned carefully prepared, theologically full statements for whatever comes to mind at the moment. Expecting the Spirit to move in a biblical and theological vacuum is like expecting a fish to swim where there is no water. If the truths of the Gospel and the words of the Lord are not being announced, will the Spirit move? Sometimes the claim that we are “leaving room for the Spirit” sounds like an excuse for the contemporary allergy toward anything formal. Our unplanned informality fails to produce meaningful worship because for the most part we are theologically and biblically illiterate. There are some among us who know Bible and theology, but even they often fail to come up with something profound to say on the spur of the moment. Thus, so many worship services are bland pap.

Rather than being spontaneously dull week after week, why not draw from the vast body of profound statements that have been prepared for use in the worship of the Triune God? Here’s what I mean by Shakespearean church: establish an intentional pattern that the service of worship will follow, and prune from that pattern anything that distracts the congregation’s attention from the God whom we are responding to in worship. Do the announcements before the service starts so that they don’t interrupt later. Plan the service so that there is a natural flow from song to Scripture reading to song to confessional statement to song to Scripture to sermon. After the Scripture is read, train those who read to say, “The Word of the Lord,” and train the congregation to respond, “Thanks be to God!” Incorporate some kind of congregational affirmation of the faith (Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.). Develop a rhythm that sweeps from a call to worship to a confession of sin to the celebration of forgiveness through the blood of Christ. Train the pianist or organist (or guitarist!) to begin the first note of the next song as soon as the last word of the reading or confession has been spoken. But most importantly, relentlessly direct the congregation’s attention to the exalted Christ, the image of the Father, whom the Spirit will glorify as the Word is read and the truth of the Gospel is spoken. This pattern, or liturgy, can serve the church the way that the sonnet form and iambic pentameter served Shakespeare.

Some might fear that these forms could stifle creativity. On the contrary, the form is the dress that clothes creativity with significance. It is true that forms can be lamed by uninspiring statements, which raises the question of where we get the content that will make the forms fly. Perhaps responsive readings could be taken from the great confessions and catechisms of the past, or from a resource like The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennet. Cranmer’s work in the Book of Common Prayer is readily available, and profound quotes from theologians of the church are at our fingertips thanks to Google searches. Why not seek creative ways to incorporate the high theology of theologians past? The Spirit can move through the reading of a prepared quotation, and the Spirit might be more likely to move through a rich theological utterance than through the flippant comments made in so many worship services.

While the TV worship style may be engaging, rarely does it teach theology or cultivate reverent worship. One way to stave off the monotony that does plague liturgical worship is for those leading the congregation to do so with enthusiasm. Paul does speak of exulting in God, and the free tradition is right to cultivate a celebratory atmosphere in worship.

At first read, Shakespeare looks difficult. But the more you read the easier it gets, and the happy things he does to the mind are worth learning 16th century English to experience. The old hymns are also worth learning because they teach sound doctrine and express what we would say if we could put it so well.

Let us pursue a contemporary—stylish but not faddish, historical—orthodox but not dank, theological—deepening but not boring, and, most importantly, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated way of doing worship. Cranmer’s liturgy can help us in this task, and if we are successful it won’t be because we’re brilliant or because of our celebrity persona. Rather, the moving worship will come because we tapped into something bigger than ourselves—centuries of truth about Almighty God—and he visited us in power, inhabiting the praises of his people and honoring the exposition of his word.

The Servant King

T. Desmond Alexander’s little book, The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of the Messiah, deserves far more attention than it has received. This is a fast read that anyone can understand, and more importantly, this slim volume provides a hermeneutically legitimate way of reading the Old Testament as a messianic book. In other words, Alexander convincingly shows how the OT points to Christ, and along the way he avoids the interpretive pitfalls that sometimes make such arguments less than compelling. Take and read!

Salvation History for the Wee Ones

My friend Rob Lister recommended to me The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm, illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker. Following Graeme Goldsworthy, this fine volume teaches the Bible’s story to little tots.

What a great thing to read to the children before bed! I found its depiction of the fall particularly moving. Thankfully, unlike presentations such as the Veggie Tales, The Big Picture Story Bible doesn’t censor the Bible but straightforwardly presents the story with all its sin, misery, mercy, and joy.

Thanksgiving Hymn: We Gather Together

The Wall Street Journal has a great piece on the history of a hymn that has come to be associated with Thanksgiving, We Gather Together. Those of us not blessed to have this melody woven into the fabric of our minds can remedy the deficiency by listening to it at the Cyber Hymnal. And, if you’d like to strum it on a guitar, or improvise with the chords on a piano, you can get the chords here.

Schreiner’s Stuff Now Online!

My Ph.D. mentor, Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner, has done us another invaluable service. He has posted links to many of his articles, presentations, book reviews, and editorials on his faculty web-page on Southern Seminary’s website. Here’s the full address:

I think that Dr. Schreiner’s book reviews are so helpful that they’re one of the main reasons I subscribe to the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, and now past reviews are available online! This is a treasure trove for pastors, students, and scholars too. Enjoy!

Songs for Suffering Saints

Along with John Piper’s Advent Poems, some of the best poetry being written in our day is by Eric Schumacher, who is offering a great deal ($3.50!) on a collection of his newly written hyms (just in case you want the address, here it is:

We have employed several of Eric’s hymns in worship at Baptist Church of the Redeemer, and they are among our favorites.

Elders in Baptist Churches

Two recent books have taken up the question of how churches ought to be led, Who Runs the Church and Perspectives on Church Government. I’m a Baptist, so my main interest is in the arguments in these books as to whether congregational churches ought to be led by a single elder or a plurality of elders.

The best argument for the single elder view is based on the nature of the churches described in the NT. This view holds that, for instance, in Acts 20:17 when Paul summons the elders of the church in Ephesus, what Luke has in view is not a single church in Ephesus that has a plurality of elders but a multitude of house churches, each of which has one elder. In summoning the elders of Ephesus, Paul is summoning all the pastors of these various house churches. This way of understanding the churches in the NT is then used as a grid through which all of the texts referring to multiple elders are read.

I don’t think this view works because I don’t think it does justice to two texts: Acts 14:23 and James 5:14. If the "single elder in each house church making up a plurality in a city" view doesn’t work in these two texts, all the other texts that speak of elders in the plural should probably be read as single churches that have multiple elders—including Acts 20:17 (see also Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:17; Tit 1:5; 1 Pet 5:1, 5).

In Acts 14:23 we read that as Paul and Barnabas made their way back to Antioch in Syria from their first missionary journey, "they appointed for them elders according to church." I have rendered this very literally to bring out the sense of the text, which is that each church (sg.) had elders (pl.). This is usually translated, "they appointed elders for them in every church," which makes the same point. Luke does not say that they appointed elders in every town, which would support the single-elder position. He says that in each church (sg.) elders (pl.) were appointed.

In James 5:14 we read, "If someone is sick among you, let him call the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." I find it highly unlikely that a sick member of a certain church should summon pastors from different churches in his city. It seems far more plausible that James envisions a particular church having multiple elders who gather to pray over the sick in their own congregation.

On the SWBTS Oxford Study Tour we found some evidence that early English Baptists read the New Testament to indicate that churches should have multiple elders. In Tewksbury we visited the oldest surviving Baptist church structure in England. Baptists began meeting in this little chapel sometime around 1620. While there, we found this old picture:

You will notice a little box in the bottom right of the picture, and a close up of that box looks like this:

Here is the text from this box:

"Messengers" 1655
John Fluck
Thomas Smith
Wm Haines
"Elders" 1663
John Cowell
John Brian
John White
"Minister" 1688
Eleazer Merring

I don’t know what the first title, "Messengers" refers to. It could be that the three men named were "apostles," since "messenger" is a valid translation of the word "apostle" (apostle is simply a transliteration of its Greek equivalent). Or it could be that these men were "messengers" to associational meetings in the way that current churches send "messengers" to state and national conventions. I take it that the second title, "Elders," refers to men who served as pastors and teachers. The last title in the list, "Minister," could refer to a Deacon—since "minister" is a valid translation of the Greek word for "deacon" (like "apostle," "deacon" is simply a transliteration of the Greek word for "deacon," which means "servant/minister"). It is more likely, however, that "Minister" here is used in the sense of "Pastor," since under the man’s name is the abbreviation "V.D.M.," which stands for Verbi Domini Minister, which means "Minister of the Word of God." If "minister" here means "pastor," then this photo may indicate that in 1663 the church had a plurality of elders, and then in 1688 they had a "single elder" model with one pastor whom they referred to as "minister."

We also visited Bedford, where John Bunyan pastored. In the museum at his church they have a copy of the minutes of the church from when Bunyan was pastor, and the book is open to a page with his signature. He has signed the minute-book after a paragraph detailing an instance when the church disciplined(!) one of its members. Under Bunyan’s name is a list of other men’s names. The tour guide said that those names were the names of the other elders of the church.

Here is a photo of that page:

These historical examples only prove that in Baptist history Baptist churches have been led by multiple elders, even when one of them is as prominent as John Bunyan. The real issue for us as Baptists is what the Bible says, and as noted above and argued here, I think that the most biblical way for Baptists to do church is to have a plurality of elders.

Oxford Study Tour Video

For the last 19 years Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has taken students on an Oxford Study Tour. This year I was one of the chaperoning faculty. We take SWBTS students to Oxford, teach them there, spend loads of time together at meals and on buses, and tour major Baptist history sites. You can view our itinerary from this year’s trip here. I produced a video of the trip, and you can download a big or small version of it here.

If you have high speed internet access it might work to stream the big version, otherwise it will probably be best to right click and choose "save target as," then save the video to your desktop. Once the whole thing downloads, you can either ok the "open" box that comes up, or double click it on your desktop and it should play.

Special thanks to Richard Fields for his work on getting this video posted on Baptist Church of the Redeemer’s website. I am also very grateful for the artists who gave me permission to use their music for this video: Huck’s Acoustic Revue, Indelible Grace, Derek Webb, Highland Baptist Church’s Worship Ministry, and The Critics. Their music makes the video much better than it would otherwise be. Thanks are also due to Dr. Malcolm Yarnell for telling the story of how Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer were martyred. Finally, this video is dedicated to Dr. Roy Fish, in gratitude for his 40 years of faithful service to Jesus Christ and Southwestern Seminary.

Where the Battle Rages

Justin Taylor recently posted this famous quote from Martin Luther:

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." (Luther's Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.)

These words should spur us to think on where the battle is raging in our day, and here are my thoughts on where the fire is hottest (1) in the academy, (2) in the church in the USA, and (3) on the street:

In the Academy:

1. Open Theism: the view that the future choices of free creatures do not exist to be known, therefore not even God knows them. Thankfully the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 added a line to its statement on God to address this issue: "God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures."

2. Inclusivism: the view that people can be saved apart from conscious faith in Jesus Christ. I am in the process of reading Terrance Tiessen’s Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions. Tiessen is arguing for "accessibilism," which holds that "God does save some of the unevangelized." I will eventually post a review of this book.

3. Justification: The New Perspective on Paul has called for a re-evaluation of the Protestant understanding of Justification by Faith, but the best explanation of all the evidence remains the one provided by the reformers. Justin Taylor links to a series of articles on the topic in a new online magazine called Reformation 21 here.

4. Egalitarianism: A vocal minority argues that the gender roles the Bible gives for the home and the church should be set aside. I think that Bible believing people are going to keep right on reading their Bibles and seeking to live out the gender roles outlined in passages such as Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15. You can read my attempt to put these things together in a paper presented at this year’s Wheaton Theology Conference here.

Those of us in the academy must contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). I appeal to those not engaged in these academic discussions to pray that as these battles are fought we will exhibit clear minded, courageous love for Christ and his church, and that we will love the truth of God more than we love our own egos and reputations.

In Church in the USA:

1. Doctrinal Indifference: Many evangelicals seem to think that theology and careful Bible study are just not very relevant. This is frightening, because in essence this is to say that knowing God and understanding what he has revealed is not helpful for life in the world he created. Evangelicals would never put it this way, but it is implicit in the suggestion that something other than theology and Bible study are central for ministry. I am not alone in thinking that evangelicalism needs a reformation (see the new Reformation 21 website). For my view of what a reformation and revival would look like, see my earlier post here. For what I have done so far on A Call to Reformation see this post.

The next three problems are symptoms of the disease of biblical and theological ignorance.

2. Semi-Pelagianism: Pelagius disagreed with Augustine over the extent to which sin affects our ability to respond to God. Augustine thought that humanity had no ability because we are dead in trespasses and sins (cf. Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1). Pelagius thought that sin had not produced death in us, but that it did make us very sick. According to Pelagius, we have the ability—apart from divine grace—to take the first steps toward our own salvation. Semi-Pelagianism does not deny divine grace altogether and holds that the first steps toward salvation are made by the human will. The main problems with this view are that it fails to account for the Bible’s many statements regarding human inability (cf. John 3:3, 5; 6:63; Rom 3:10–20) and it demeans the gracious character of salvation. If we are to be thanked for having taken the first steps toward God, then how can Paul exclude all human boasting before God? (cf. Rom 3:27–28; 4:1–5; 1 Cor 1:26–31).

3. Materialism and Worldliness: Only God can judge our hearts, and only he knows where our treasure is, but judging from exteriors it sure looks like we value what the world values. Who do we give awards to and why do we give those awards? Whose opinions do we value and why do we value them? What intimidates us and why? When we think of God’s blessing, do we think of the things that Jesus said were blessed (cf. Matt 5:3–12)?

4. Pragmatism: Far too often we evaluate things on the basis of what we think will work, or on what produces the most visible results. The measure of our "success" is not how many people get baptized, how much money our ministry takes in, how smoothly our "operation" runs, or how pretty our buildings are. The measure of our success is simply this: Have we been faithful to God and his word through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit?

Do we do what we do in ministry because we love Christ and we think that he is calling us to do this or that, or do we do what we think will produce the results we want to see?

May the Lord be pleased to provoke a revival of interest in knowing himself in our churches, and may he thereby drive us to the Bible and clear up all these symptoms of the disease of friendship with the world and disinterest in God.

On the Street:

Others are better at cultural analysis than me (see especially Al Mohler and Russ Moore), but here are my thoughts nonetheless. These thoughts pertain more to the culture at large than they do to the culture of the church.

1. Relativism: We are far too good in our culture at accepting mutually exclusive truth claims.

2. Skepticism: Not only do we allow assertions that contradict one another to stand side by side, our culture is profoundly resistant to any claim to absolute truth. Far too often the culture fails to distinguish between exhaustive knowledge, which we can never hope to possess, and real knowledge of true things, which we can possess. Many people have concluded that if we cannot know something exhaustively, we cannot know it truly. As a result, the culture of the age of information is on the verge of abandoning the very concepts of truth and knowledge.

3. Hedonism: We are fools if we choose momentary pleasure over the deep satisfaction of the pleasures of the long slow climb of faithfulness and obedience. And we are fools.

There is nothing wrong with a worldling that regeneration won’t cure. May the Lord give us a great harvest of souls as we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and returning.

Calvinism and Arminianism: A Debate over First or Third Order Issues?

Dr. Al Mohler has written a helpful piece on theological triage. Briefly, theological triage is an attempt to "sort" the doctrines of Christianity according to their relative significance to the faith. First order doctrines are things that one must believe to be a Christian—things like the Triunity of God and the two natures of Christ. If you don’t believe Jesus died for your sins, you’re not a Christian, and this is the nature of a first order issue. First order issues divide Christians from non-Christians.

Second order doctrines are important, but believing Christians can and do disagree on them—things like who gets baptized and how we baptize them. Christians divide from each other over these issues.

Third order issues are, in Mohler’s words, "doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations." An example of a third order issue is the question of whether or not there will be a millenium. Disagreement over this doesn’t mandate that we not worship together in the same church (it doesn’t affect our view of baptism or the Lord’s supper).

So here’s the big question: Is the dispute between Calvinists and Arminians a first, second, or third order dispute? I would like to suggest that, depending upon one’s view of the relationship between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, it is either a first or third order issue. The fact that there have been both general (i.e., Arminian) and particular (i.e., Calvinistic) Baptists, along with the existence of Calvinistic Methodists, keeps this from being a second order issue.

So what determines whether this is an issue of the first or third order? This is probably an oversimplification, but because I think it is helpful I will suggest that if both Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility are affirmed, this is a third order dispute over whether the emphasis should lie more on God’s initiative or humanity’s freedom. But if one denies either Divine Sovereignty or Human Responsibility, this becomes a first order issue.

Some Calvinists assume that all Arminians deny Divine Sovereignty. But it is not fair to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a theological position by its worst representatives. The truth is that there are Arminians who have a high view of God’s sovereignty. After all, Charles Wesley wrote "And Can It Be," and a glance through Grant Osborne’s excellent commentary on Revelation will show that an avowed Arminian can affirm the absolute sovereignty of God (see for example Osborne’s comment on Revelation 17:17, Revelation, 627).

Some Arminians assume that all Calvinists deny human responsibility and as a result think that things like evangelism and prayer are unnecessary. I have often heard people talk about "hyper-calvinists"—people who deny human responsibility and say that evangelism is not necessary. But never in my life have I ever actually met a self-described hyper-calvinist, someone who would affirm this position. If someone denies the necessity of evangelism and prayer, the problem is not that some aspects of their thinking are Calvinistic, the problem is that they are ignoring the clear teaching of the Bible. Some Arminians seem to forget that William Carey, the father of modern missions, was a five point Calvinist, as was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the "prince of preachers" (and many other evangelistic Calvinists could be cited). To assume that these evangelistic Calvinists are the exceptions that prove the rule is no more fair than the assumption that a biblical Arminian is an exception that proves the rule.

John Hannah often says we owe two things to everyone: (1) to understand their position as they would articulate it; and (2) to interact with that position fairly. Let us think charitably of one another as we contend for biblical and theological precision.

More could no doubt be said, but we must believe that God is sovereign and humans are responsible. If we sacrifice either of these truths we are unbiblical. Errors on both sides affect one’s view of God, and one’s view of God is determinative for one’s world-view. This is why many react to the dispute between Calvinists and Arminians as a first order issue—because one’s view of God determines everything (or should).

We must believe everything the Bible says about God. I maintain that as long as one can affirm that God is sovereign and humans are responsible, this is a third order debate. We should all be in the process of biblical and theological growth, and may the Lord give us grace to live up to the theology we have attained (Phil 3:16).

Typological Fulfillment?

Earlier this month I presented a paper to the Biblical Theology Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship arguing that when Matthew claims that the events of Jesus’ birth "fulfill" the words of Isaiah 7:14 he is referring to typological fulfillment. If you’re interested, the essay is posted here. May the Lord help us to understand his Word.

Judgment on the Harlot Babylon: A Sermon on Revelation 17–18

May the message of Revelation 17–18 keep us from whoring ourselves on the immoral wine of the condemned strumpet. May the Lord keep us from temptation by convincing us that the things that we are drawn to are satanic and destructive. The judgment on these hellish lies is certain. You can listen to my sermon on Revelation 17–18 here.

I’ve been in England for 3 weeks on the SWBTS Oxford Study Tour. I hope to post a highlight video I made of the trip somewhere online, but at present the video is 205MB. Please alert me if you know of a place that will let me post something that big for free.