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How Not to Illustrate


kids sled That’s more or less as I remember it.

Last Sunday I preached on Ephesians 4:14, “…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…” Harkening back to Homiletics 101, I thought it might be a good idea to open the sermon with an observation about the importance of steering. With that thought, an illustration was born.

It’s winter in Wisconsin, so of course I thought of sleds. I talked about how much sled technology has changed. We see children with bumps and bruises because they were hit by sleds. Of course, if anyone had been run over by a sled when I was a child, he would have been seriously hurt. I don’t recall it happening, though, because as solidly built as our Rosebud-style sleds were, they also included a flexible steering bar. Today’s sledder is…

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Random Thoughts


young sowell A young Thomas Sowell, before I made him famous by stealing his column format.

The formal charges once filed against J. Gresham Machen are one illustration from history of a near-universal fact. Whenever a church or denomination divides over doctrine, the side which has rejected historic orthodoxy insists that the division had nothing to do with doctrine.

Strident criticism frequently proceeds from those who have not worked to comprehend what they are criticizing. The most strident criticism is often from those who have not bothered even to read what they criticize.

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What’s Inside John Piper’s Geodes?


geodeHere’s a true story: A man I once knew traveled during his youth to Colorado with a friend who was a knowledgeable mineralogist. They stopped at a field to take in the view, and as they walked the mineralogist stooped to pick up a roundish, mud-colored rock. With great excitement he took it back to his pickup, found a tool, and broke it open to reveal purplish crystals. He had found and recognized an amethyst geode. Now upon looking about, this man realized that the field was full of roundish, mud-colored rocks, and – knowing something of the price of these gemstones – he immediately went into town, found a land office, and bought the field. He then spent a few days gathering geodes, which he shipped out in a rented truck. He relisted the property before leaving town. Eventually it sold, but he had already turned a tidy profit…

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What If Jesus Never Came?


deadI know it’s popular at this time of the year to see this sort of sermon: what if there were no Christmas. I’m not going to boor you with the absence of tinsel and of neighbors singing “Silent Night,” though. I’m asking a serious question, and one which every person on the earth ought to consider. Not, “What if there were no Christmas,” but instead: “What if there were no Christ?”

Neither do we need to make this a game of idle speculation, because Jesus himself addressed the question. He actually told a story about it. No doubt you know the story, but have you really understood that this is what it is, a story of life without a Messiah?

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Random Thoughts


sowell Sowell reacts to my last column. Thomas Sowell hasn’t sued me yet, so here are some more “random thoughts on the passing scene.”

Everybody loves Owen. Presbyterians and Reformed on both sides of the sanctification debate are trying to claim him. Baptists have loved him for a long time; I wonder exactly how many of us have named sons after him? But when he showed up on a Baptist book cover, objections were raised by – of all people – an Anglican who wanted to claim him! All this would likely amuse the man himself, who was once stripped of his living by Presbyterians and denied preferment by the Church of England when he would not conform. At least the 17th century Baptists didn’t persecute him; herbivores at the bottom of the food chain never persecute anyone.

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Godfrey and the Baptists


godfrey3 W. Robert Godfrey

This week I have been addressing the matter of friendship and cooperation across denominational boundaries within the broader Reformed world. Yesterday, in writing about the example of cooperation being set by Westminster Seminary California and the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies, I mentioned a recent article by W. Robert Godfrey, WSC’s president, entitled “The Belgic Confession and the True Church.”

The article is being published in By Common Confession, a festschrift for James Renihan, dean of IRBS, and addresses the question, “Does the Belgic Confession, as some claim, require its subscribers to confess that all Baptist churches are false churches?” What is remarkable in this essay is that Godfrey does not reject confessional rigor as a means of adapting to the ecumenical spirit of the day. Instead he approaches his confession as a true subscriber and endeavors to determine from it whether or not his cooperation…

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The Challenge of Cooperation


handshake Oh, we totally trust each other!

Yesterday I wrote about the spirit of friendship and cooperation which has formed at least part of the true history of interaction between Presbyterians and Reformed on the one hand and Reformed Baptists on the other. Fellowship has flourished where there has been mutual appreciation and trust. Yet it seems that recently, distrust is growing. I concluded by asking:

In this context, two questions arise. First, is similar friendship and collaboration sustainable any longer? And second, is such cooperation across denominational and confessional lines even a good idea?

My answer to each of those questions is a resounding “Yes.” First, though, we need to understand why such fellowship is challenged.

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A Response to the Arguments for “Covenant Child Baptism”


pope “Schismatics! Every one of you! Repent, already!”

Last week the Aquila Report published an article by Pastor Jason Van Bemmel of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church entitled “15 Arguments in Favor of Covenant Child Baptism.” The article was structured as ten arguments regarding subject (but with an eleventh “bonus” argument), and five more regarding mode.

This helpful list sumarizes every major Presbyterian and Reformed argument on baptism in one place, which is surprisingly rare. Various arguments have been advanced over the years, and not all paedobaptists agree with every argument. A list of arguments is therefore helpful for a number of reasons.

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The Works of William Tyndale

Lee Gatiss

TyndaleA review of The Works of William Tyndale

The Banner of Truth Trust have blessed us with a two volume edition of The Works of William Tyndale. Inside, these are facsimiles of the 1849 and 1850 Parker Society volumes, and begin with a 76 page biography of Tyndale (1494-1536), who was of course a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation and a courageous and talented biblical translator.

These substantial volumes contain his key works, The Practice of Prelates, A Pathway into Holy Scripture, and The Obedience of a Christian Man (the latter of which was very influential on Henry VIII), a whole raft of his prologues to various books of the Bible (greatly influenced by Luther), and his expositions of the Sermon on the Mount and 1 John.

Tyndale was very much interested in what has become known as covenant theology (“Seek therefore in the scripture, as…

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Book Review of Samuel Renihan, God Without Passions: a Primer


passionsDuring the last year I have written a number of times on the doctrine of divine impassibility. This is the doctrine that God, being immutable, does not experience emotional fluctuation as do we. The Scriptures speak of God’s anger burning or of his compassion rising up, but this is analogous to it speaking of his arm or his ear: it is a communication to us of truths about God in human terms which we will understand. Still, God is not a man, and we must not think of him as having “ups” and “downs.”

My interest in this topic of course reflects the conversation which has taken place among Reformed Baptists, particularly within ARBCA, about the nature of God. However, it is a matter of great importance to all Christians. If we think of God wrongly (which almost always means imagining him as being one of us!), then we will…

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