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Archive for the month “August, 2012”

The Reformed Reader

Product Details  In August of 1662 around 2,000 ministers left the national church of England for the sake of conscience (they were called the non-conformists).  You’ll have to read about this significant church history event elsewhere since I simply want to point out a few prayers of repentance that two pastors prayed the last Sunday of their parish ministry in the English state church.  The pastors were Edmund Calamy (d. 1666) and Thomas Watson (d. 1686).  Here are excerpts from their prayers.  Notice the depth of their repentance and confession of sin.

“We confess we have forfeited all our mercies; we have heard much of God, Christ, and heaven with our ears, but there is little of God, Christ, and heaven in our hearts.  We confess, many of us by hearing sermons, are sermon-proof; we know how to scoff and mock at sermons, but we know not how to live sermons”…

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Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Over lunch last Sunday, those sitting at my table began discussing the benediction (blessing or “good word”) that typically concludes our worship services at CRBC.  After the closing prayer I typically pronounce a Scriptural benediction upon the congregation.  In the AM service, this is usually the so-called Aaronic blessing of Number 6:24-26 (“The LORD bless thee and keep thee….”), and in the PM service Paul’s trinitarian blessing from 2 Corinthians 13:14 (“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ….”).  I sometimes transition from the closing prayer to the benediction by saying (something like), “And now we receive this blessing from God’s own Word…..”  Of late, I have sometimes also said to the congregation, “And now you may lift your eyes to receive the benediction….”

The questions discussed at our table were along these lines:  Is the benediction a prayer?  Where do we find warrant for the benediction in Scripture?  Is it OK to receive the…

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Of Logical Fallacies

This brief essay examines, in part, an interview of Pastor Ralph Green which can be found in full at http://sbctoday.com/2012/08/21/lifeways-gospel-project-returnedinterview-with-ralph-green-senior-pastorcalvary-baptist-church-bel-air-md/  Note: Pastor Green will not be available for comment.

Pastor Jared Moore http://jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com/ , perhaps in jest, asked for a count of logical fallacies in the article and I decided to read it. In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I am not affiliated with the SBC nor are we currently using the curriculum in question. I do plan to review it at some point. I offer these in the interest of avoiding the logical fallacies that can afflict us all in any discussion.  The key for this particular list is drawn from http://www.logicalfallacies.info/people-who-viewed-this-product-bought-thi/

For the sake of brevity I have excerpted the paragraphs best suited for the examples (identified at the end of each selection) and have included a brief description of the logical fallacies at the end.

What are some of the deacon’s findings?

I have his permission to share his information, so let me give you what he wrote as a summary statement of his investigation. His research has led him to conclude the following:

“Love is the Achilles heel of Calvinism. The Calvinists cannot explain it or fit it into their philosophical system. Therefore, they ignore it and substitute erudition, eisegesis and the like for it. Perhaps their weakest point is that they see no responsibility on God’s part to love us, only our responsibility to love Him. Therefore, in straight up, honest Calvinism, God hates His enemies and they go to Hell. Yet, we are commanded to love our enemies. Since God is love, if we do not understand His love, and especially if He does less than He commands us to do, we cannot know God well in spite of how much about God we think we know.

Calvinists do not know what to do with the love of God and the restraints it places on God. To the Calvinist, God’s sovereignty is somehow undone by His love in a way that the Calvinist cannot fully understand or accept. They cannot fathom that God’s love allows everyone the opportunity to choose to love Him or not. Part of this is the fact that their philosophical/logical view of ‘sovereignty’ is not biblical, but they are stuck with it. This is part of the philosophical system and approach that is driving the faulty ‘theology’ of TGP. This clearly begs the question: What to do about it?

Finally, [TGP’s] Advisory Board is virtually completely Calvinistic and only about half SBC. Yet, they are overseeing SBC materials for SBC churches. Apparently, the SBC is allowing LifeWay to pursue ecumenicity rather than Southern Baptist theological distinctives. Question: Is this the background/source of the Sunday school approach and material we want used and taught at [our church]?

LF 1 Genetic Fallacy LF 6 Red Herring

LF 9 Begging the Question / Circular Reasoning

Obviously, any pastor who received such observations from a deacon/Sunday school teacher would be concerned and would follow up with his own investigation. What were some of your findings?

First of all, I need to say that my associate pastor and I both earned M.Divs. from Southeastern Seminary. That means we have the training and resources to use in serving the members of our church. With these tools, we spent hours examining the curriculum and came to the conclusion that we, as a church, could not use it. We boxed up the whole order and shipped it back.

Next, my awareness that the advisory board is almost totally Calvinist, and many of the lesson writers are too – that gave me a predisposition toward the curriculum. So, I had concerns that every time I read the word “grace” I wondered, “Is this the Calvinistic ‘irresistible’ grace or the traditional Baptist view of grace?” This drew my attention to other theologically laden terms in the curriculum that were not defined. That, too, was another great concern to me. I was left wondering if there wasn’t a hidden theological agenda.

LF 1 Genetic Fallacy LF 6 Red Herring

From lesson one (p. 14, Fall 2012 TGP Leader’s Guide), is this statement that I believe is a problem:

“It is also an act of grace that God would reveal Himself to us personally. God was under no obligation to pull back the curtain and let us see aspects of His character and evidences of His power. He could have spoken the world in existence and then never spoken again, leaving us in ignorance about our Creator and our purpose.”

The problem is that the last sentence of the above hypothetical statement is not true because it dismisses a major aspect of God’s character, His love. One thing God cannot do is to act in a manner contrary to His own nature. The Bible teaches that God’s love compelled Him to plan to reveal Himself to us to redeem us. But the hypothetical statement above means that God could have ignored man, who was created in His image and after His likeness, prior to any sin. However, the hypothetical statement in question provides no biblical evidence to support this view as part of God’s nature that is inclusive of love, mercy, compassion, and relational capacity. Man did not obligate God to act in love. God obligated Himself to act in love and to reveal Himself, according to both His nature and His plans. In order for this hypothetical statement to be true, God would have had to have turned from His own plan to communicate His blessings and His commands to man created in His own image, to forego His plan for redemption, and to decide to do all of this before man ever sinned. I find such a position unthinkable especially in light of the following passages: I John 4:7-9; Rom. 8:37-39; Deu. 7:9; Eph. 1:4 & 2:4; John 3:16; Micah 6:8; Matt. 25:34; I Peter 1:20, James 1:17, Mal. 3:6.

LF 11 False Dilemma / Bifurcation Fallacy

LF 12 Hasty Generalisation Fallacy

What other issues did you discover?

This quote noting the temptation of Adam and Eve (p. 51, Fall 2012 TGP Leader’s Guide) says: “The point of the story is not about the type of fruit, as if the fruit juices would poison the minds of Adam and Eve. No, the poison of sin coursed through their veins before the fruit entered their mouths. ‘It was the not the nature of the tree that made it dangerous, the bearer of covenant curse and death, but what it stood for, obedience to the word of God.’”

LF 6 Red Herring

Does this mean the first couple was fallen before they fell?

Some have voiced that observation to me. But, taken at face value, those statements make God the author of evil which is clearly contrary to Scripture. And the tree as the bearer of covenant curse? That sounds like Calvinistic theology to me. And how can it not be? The last sentence is attributed to Michael D. Williams, a writer for P&R Publishing.

LF 1 Genetic Fallacy LF 6 Red Herring

How many Southern Baptists will know that P&R stands for Presbyterian and Reformed?

How many will know he is a systematic theology professor at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis? That’s not a Southern Baptist Seminary. However, he and other non-Southern Baptists are cited in the curriculum as “Voices from the Church.”

So you think that Southern Baptists in a Southern Baptist Sunday school class reading from literature published by a Southern Baptist entity would think “Voices from the Church” implies that the “Voices” are Southern Baptists?

It’s worse than that. The theological persuasion of some of these “voices” is not revealed.

Why is that problematic?

Well, one of these “voices” is Graeme Goldsworthy (p. 58, Fall 2012 TGP Leader Guide). He is an Anglican, who, if true to his church’s doctrine, holds that baptism and the Lord’s Supper impart grace. Southern Baptists reject that the “sacraments” are necessary for salvation. Also, Goldsworthy is a prominent figure on http://www.monergism.com. Monergism is the notion that the Holy Spirit is the only effective agent in regeneration and the human will cannot cooperate in regeneration. TGP recommends Goldsworthy more than once as an additional resource for study. I believe some of Goldsworthy’s theological convictions violate our Baptist Faith and Message.

I have similar objections to Stephen Lennox being cited as a “Voice from the Church” (p. 57, Fall 2012 TGP Leader Guide). He’s not a Southern Baptist. He’s a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University. And, if I understand correctly, Wesleyans also believe that the Lord’s Supper and baptism impart grace.

Two more “Voices from the Church” who are not Southern Baptists are Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen (p. 60, Fall 2012 TGP Leader Guide). Bartholomew is professor of philosophy at Redeemer University College that has Calvinistic leanings, and he is an ordained minister of the Church of England. Goheen is Professor of Worldview and Religious Studies at Trinity Western University, an Evangelical Free institution. Goheen holds a Master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, which has a Calvinistic foundation.

These two men have written a book called “Living at the Crossroads.” A review of the book at this web site, http://www.reformedreflections.ca, said: “Living at the Crossroads is a thoughtful book that draws on the rich tradition of Reformed thought.” Are Southern Baptists to believe that the contributions of these men to TGP will not also be influenced by that same “rich tradition of Reformed thought”? Well, the answer is no because Southern Baptists who use TGP will have no way of knowing the theological foundations of these two “Voices from the Church.”

Dorian G. Coover-Cox is cited on page 59 as a contributor to the Holman Christian Standard Bible. But she is not cited as a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary – another non-Southern Baptist institution with a Calvinistic foundation.

With the obvious theology of these “Voices,” how can Southern Baptist pastors and church members know that these contributors to TGP aren’t filtering Scripture through their T.U.L.I.P. colored glasses?

LF 1 Genetic Fallacy LF 6 Red Herring

TGP also cites Andre Gide (p. 50, Fall 2012 TGP Leader Guide), who was born to a Huguenot family. He won a Nobel Prize, and nobelprize.org says of Gide: “… his work lived on the never resolved tensions between a strict artistic discipline, a puritanical moralism, and the desire for unlimited sensual indulgence and abandonment to life.”

A web search of Gide also reveals a few stunning quotes:

“There are admirable potentialities in every human being. Believe in your strength and your youth. Learn to repeat endlessly to yourself, ‘It all depends on me.’”

“Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself – and thus make yourself indispensable.”

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

Nothing in TGP warns that Gide is a skeptic and a humanist, who says people should totally transfer their allegiance from God to themselves. To cite Gide is to endorse Gide.

LF 1 Genetic Fallacy LF 6 Red Herring

Did you note any others cited as part of the curriculum?

Sure. Not everyone has Calvinistic convictions or is a professor at a non-Southern Baptist institution. I did find it curious that the late Adrian Rogers was cited as a “Voice from Church History” and not a “Voice from the Church.” He was a prominent Southern Baptist, and not a Calvinist. Go figure.

LF 3 Irrelevant Appeals: appeal to novelty

Your examination of TGP – was it only of the Leader Guide?

No. I reviewed the youth curriculum, too, and found it to be more problematic. It’s hard enough to gain and keep the attention of middle school aged boys. But TGP’s packaging and graphical design is slick. I am concerned that TGP will indoctrinate the next generation into Calvinism.

LF 10 Slippery Slope Fallacy

LF 12 Hasty Generalisation Fallacy

I  understand you had a telephone conversation with TGP Editor Trevin Wax.

Yes, I did. Our conversation was straightforward, but it was also congenial. I shared my concerns with Trevin, and he said he took them seriously and would use them to inform the spring quarter literature for TGP. But when Trevin told me that he was a 4-point Calvinist — this only confirmed for me that I had made the right decision in returning the curriculum.

Trevin said he would try to achieve a more balanced approach in the future. But when I told him a balanced approach seemed impossible since every member of the advisory board holds Calvinistic views, he did not deny this.

I also told Trevin that I was initially excited to hear that LifeWay was writing a curriculum to deal with the tough issues and would essentially be a systematic theology for lay people. But I added that LifeWay ruined a great idea by stacking the theological deck with Calvinists as advisors and lesson writers. I suggested that, at the very least, TGP needed to clearly tell people up front who these lesson writers and commentators are. The footnotes just don’t cut it, and I shouldn’t have to spend time researching these men’s backgrounds.

I cited a passage from one lesson that was problematic for me and told Trevin I was taking it at face value. He told me I shouldn’t do that. And when I noted another passage I felt I couldn’t take at face value, he told me I should. Not only was that confusing, I concluded I had been hearing double-speak.

LF 9 Begging the Question / Circular Reasoning

LF 11 False Dilemma

Did you ask Trevin why the lesson writers, recommended resources and advisory board were imbalanced to favor Calvinism?

Yes, and he cited a survey saying that about 30 percent of Southern Baptists claim to be Calvinists and 30 percent don’t. That means about 40 percent are in the middle. However, that also means that about 70 percent do not identify with Calvinism. If those numbers are correct, how does LifeWay justify a curriculum so heavily biased toward Calvinism and the repeated quoting of non-Southern Baptists? Why must we quote so many Calvinistic professors from non-SBC seminaries when we have six SBC seminaries with theology departments full of professors who are paid with Cooperative Program dollars? Of the materials I investigated, I recall only three SBC seminaries represented.

LF 2 Bandwagon Fallacy LF 5 Naturalistic Fallacy

I’m frustrated. I’m extremely disappointed. I feel like I’ve been deceived, and I don’t appreciate that. I will never buy another LifeWay curriculum without inspecting it from stem to stern. And you know, I shouldn’t have to work that hard on materials my own denomination produces. I don’t have time to be looking for hidden meanings. That irritates me. It bothers me that I can’t trust what LifeWay sends me.

LF 3 Irrelevant Appeals: appeal to Pity

What kind of feedback have you gotten regarding your original blog post?

Overwhelmingly positive. Church members have thanked me for protecting the church and our doctrine. I’ve heard that at least three pastors in our association have decided not to use the curriculum. I also got a letter from someone in Valdosta, Ga., who had resigned a Sunday school teaching position because the church was planning to use TGP. This person had just left another church because there was so much emphasis on election.

LF 14 Tu Quoque Fallacy

What kind of problems did you envision if you had decided to use the curriculum?

One problem would have been this: I really do have rocket scientists in our congregation. Given their tendency to do research, they would have discovered many of the same problems I did and would have asked me why we decided to use that kind of material.

Also, it’s hard enough to get folks to witness. They come up with every excuse as to why they can’t. If we add to that the thought that God saves who He wishes, then we think we’re excused from witnessing, but are still acceptable to God for our lack of obedience to His Great Commission.

LF 4 Moralistic Fallacy  LF 9 Cum Hoc Fallacy

LF 11 False Dilemma

Why can’t we go back to being Baptists?

LF 6 Red Herring  LF 11 False Dilemma

LF 1 Genetic Fallacy

Explanation

The genetic fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.

LF 2 Bandwagon Fallacy

Explanation

The bandwagon fallacy is committed by arguments that appeal to the growing popularity of an idea as a reason for accepting it as true. They take the mere fact that an idea suddenly attracting adherents as a reason for us to join in with the trend and become adherents of the idea ourselves.

LF 3 Irrelevant Appeals

Explanation

Irrelevant appeals attempt to sway the listener with information that, though persuasive, is irrelevant to the matter at hand. There are many different types of irrelevant appeal, many different ways of influencing what people think without using evidence. Each is a different type of fallacy of relevance.

LF 4 Moralistic Fallacy

Explanation

The moralistic fallacy is the opposite of the naturalistic fallacy. The naturalistic fallacy moves from descriptions of how things are to statements of how things ought to be, the moralistic fallacy does the reverse. The moralistic fallacy moves from statements about how things ought to be to statements about how things are; it assumes that the world is as it should be. This, sadly, is a fallacy; sometimes things aren’t as they ought to be.

LF 5Naturalistic Fallacy

Explanation

There are two fundamentally different types of statement: statements of fact which describe the way that the world is, and statements of value which describe the way that the world ought to be. The naturalistic fallacy is the alleged fallacy of inferring a statement of the latter kind from a statement of the former kind.

LF 6 Red Herring

Explanation

The red herring is as much a debate tactic as it is a logical fallacy. It is a fallacy of distraction, and is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic. This can be one of the most frustrating, and effective, fallacies to observe.

LF 7 Straw Man Fallacy

Explanation

A straw man argument is one that misrepresents a position in order to make it appear weaker than it actually is, refutes this misrepresentation of the position, and then concludes that the real position has been refuted. This, of course, is a fallacy, because the position that has been claimed to be refuted is different to that which has actually been refuted; the real target of the argument is untouched by it.

LF 8 Weak Analogy

Explanation

Arguments by analogy rest on a comparison. Their logical structure is this:

(1) A and B are similar.
(2) A has a certain characteristic.
Therefore:
(3) B must have that characteristic too.

LF 9Begging the Question / Circular Reasoning

Explanation

An argument is circular if its conclusion is among its premises, if it assumes (either explicitly or not) what it is trying to prove. Such arguments are said to beg the question. A circular argument fails as a proof because it will only be judged to be sound by those who already accept its conclusion.

LF 9 Cum Hoc Fallacy

Explanation

The cum hoc fallacy is committed when it is assumed that because two things occur together, they must be causally related. This, however, does not follow; correlation is possible without causation. This fallacy is closely related to the post hoc fallacy.

LF 10 Slippery Slope Fallacy

Explanation

Slippery slope arguments falsely assume that one thing must lead to another. They begin by suggesting that if we do one thing then that will lead to another, and before we know it we’ll be doing something that we don’t want to do. They conclude that we therefore shouldn’t do the first thing. The problem with these arguments is that it is possible to do the first thing that they mention without going on to do the other things; restraint is possible.

LF 11 False Dilemma / Bifurcation Fallacy

Explanation

The bifurcation fallacy is committed when a false dilemma is presented, i.e. when someone is asked to choose between two options when there is at least one other option available. Of course, arguments that restrict the options to more than two but less than there really are are similarly fallacious.

LF 12 Hasty Generalisation Fallacy

Explanation

A hasty generalisation draws a general rule from a single, perhaps atypical, case. It is the reverse of a sweeping generalisation.

LF 13 Post Hoc Fallacy

Explanation

The Latin phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc” means, literally, “after this therefore because of this.” The post hoc fallacy is committed when it is assumed that because one thing occurred after another, it must have occurred as a result of it. Mere temporal succession, however, does not entail causal succession. Just because one thing follows another does not mean that it was caused by it. This fallacy is closely related to the cum hoc fallacy.

 

LF 14 Tu Quoque Fallacy

Explanation

The tu quoque fallacy is committed when it is assumed that because someone else has done a thing there is nothing wrong with doing it. This fallacy is classically committed by children who, when told off, respond with “So and so did it too”, with the implied conclusion that there is nothing wrong with doing whatever it is that they have done. This is a fallacy because it could be that both children are in the wrong, and because, as we were all taught, two wrongs don’t make a right.

 

For fuller reviews of the interview see http://hereiblog.com/observations-ralph-greens-criticisms-lifeways-gospel-project/  and http://thedailybleat.com/ralph-greens-evidence-of-calvinist-bias-and-indoctrination-in-lifeways-gospel-project/ and http://www.seektheholy.com/2012/08/21/response-to-ralph-green-on-the-gospel-project/

Schreiberspace

Have you truly, sincerely, and freely forgiven anyone who has done you wrong? (Have you told them so?)

This is so important that it is included in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)!  We ask our heavenly Father to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v.12).  Would you or I be happy if God forgave us exactly the same way and only to the same extent that we have forgiven others?  Because that is exactly what we are asking Him to do every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer.

And then, just in case we miss the point, Jesus repeats it a 2nd time in v.14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.”

Evidently our Lord knew that we His people would…

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Live Life! God's way

Journaling is a wonderful spiritual discipline.   In the introduction to the “Valley of Vision” Arthur Bennett writes –

Many of those who held the doctrines of grace wrote down a record of God’s intimate dealings with their suls, not with an eye to publication….but to test their spiritual growth and to encourage themselves by their re-perusal in times of low spiritual fervour.”  (p. X)

Granted you don’t have to hold to the doctrines of grace to do this, but their is value in tracking daily what God is teaching you, what you are learning and records of His marvelous gracious Providence.   Well might we sing as we look back over our lives, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home….”  I think I’ll start signing off by e-mails with  “s.t.f.b.g.” – safe thus…

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Yankee Gospel Girl

Introduction to the posted video, written to give information about it, such as the name (“Title of the Song”) and artist (Da Vinci’s Notebook). Explanation that this parody is meant to provide a basic template for boy band songs. Repetition of caveat that while all MMH clips are clean, not all MMH sources create entirely family-friendly material, which applies to today’s artist. Expectation that my readers will enjoy.

Assurances that you will understand why I’m writing my sentences like this after watching the video.

Request for all reader reactions to be written in this fashion.

😀

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Working out Salvation with Fear and Trembling

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice” (Zechariah 4:10).

Zechariah was sent to encourage the continued building of the temple of God after the return from Babylon. Some who saw the temple and remembered Solomon’s temple, despised the new temple as it paled in comparison. Zechariah reminds the people, that Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, will finish the temple, and it will be a grand thing, even though it will not be like Solomon’s. I am reminded of this verse today as I reflect on our VBS last week.

Our culture in North America is one of an ever increasing “bigger and better” nature. The only things that are ever seen as successful are the things that are bigger and better. Whether it’s who can build the tallest building, who can run the 100 meter dash the fastest, or who’s stadium can…

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Live Life! God's way

My last post on elders and their roles has prompted some exchange of comments that have driven me to begin to do more thorough research on church government from a biblical, historical and practical perspective.  There is nothing like digging deep into Scriptures and examining one’s own pre-conceived idea of what a church is really like.   Those of us who were part of a church (in some way) before we were even born inherited certain traditions.   To do proper research I must gather the tools, identify my own biases and get to work.   This could take some time……  but in the meantime on with my Titus blog.

10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers   and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households   by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

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