Do You Really Like Spurgeon?

April 30, 2007

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It is true that many in Evangelicalism see C. H. Spurgeon as a hero of sorts. Yet, many, who do not embrace the theology that Spurgeon embraced, blindly believe him to be their hero, when probably they are not.

There is a fantastic article found here by Alan Maben that truly asks you the question as to whether you really like Spurgeon or not. After reading this you may find out you don’t!


A Review of “Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis” by Crawford Gribben – Chapter 5 – “Left Behind, the Church and the Christian Life”

April 30, 2007

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Gribben continues his critique of Left Behind and generally all rapture fiction by dealing now with issues of ecclesiology and the Christian life in general. Gribben at this point will begin to cause people to perk up their ears; especially dispensationalists. Many may not agree with Gribben’s critiques of dispensational theology, but overall, he is on track in noting the many problems within the Left Behind theology.

His first issue he finds in the Left Behind material as well as in most dispensational writing is the problem of not referring to those who are saved after the rapture as the Church. Gribben is right to note that the phrase “tribulation saints” does not occur anywhere in the Scriptures to refer to those saved after the rapture. But, what should we call those who are saved after the rapture? If the rapture removes the church from the physical sphere of the earth? Then who are these Christians? Dispensationalists would normally argue that these hearken back to Old Testament believers. For instance, dispensationalists argue that there is no need for the ordinances since the Church has been removed. There is no need to celebrate communion for the Lord has come (1 Cor 11:26).

The major problem though, is the Gribben does not offer a reasonable alternative. He is right to note that these ordinances are a “means of grace” in a sense (p. 86). He does not adequately deal with what dispensationalists argue regarding the ceasing of the ordinances following the removal of the church at the rapture. He also is not very convincing in his reasons for calling these individuals “the church.” Regardless, he is right in my opinion regarding the low view of the church in today’s theology. But, not calling these individuals the church, I am not convinced, creates a low view of the church. Of course, progressive dispensationalists do not necessarily argue that there are two peoples of God (I believe in one people of God) but that there are two distinctions between the two groups (Israel and the Church) (see p. 82).

Also, I would correct Gribben’s thinking about dispensationalism and the New Covenant (p. 85). Many modern dispensationalists argue that the church does indeed participate in the New Covenant today (see R. Bruce Compton’s, “Dispensationalism, the Church, and the New Covenant” in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal).

Regarding worship and church life as depicted in the Left Behind series, I would whole-heartedly agree with Gribben in that the series seriously downplays the required corporate element of being part of the Church (whether we call it the church or not). Of course, this is quite typical of our salad bar type Christianity today where you take what you want and leave what you do not and never commit to anything. The local church is of such importance to us in this dispensation (to use a good dispensational term!) that our whole lives should be governed around it. The local church is of the highest priority in the life of the believer, despite what modern Evangelicalism believes. With Gribben I agree with this. The Left Behind series does a serious disservice to Christianity on this issue.

Also, Gribben is right to note the problems with the spirituality outlined in the Left Behind series. It does reflect a very mystical spirituality which is foreign to the Scriptures.

Gribben also has issues with how the Left Behind series portrays the relationship of the Christian to the Law (p. 91). Of course, Gribben is right to note the difference between what classical dispensationalism has taught on the issue compared to the idea of being under no law at all in the Left Behind series. Of course, dispensationalists are not antinomians. We are under the Law of Christ. But, we are not under the Law of Moses (although Gribben is incorrect regarding dispensationalists and the teaching of Christ. Only some believe the teachings of Christ [i.e the Sermon on the Mount for example] are not for today). You cannot divide the law up into various arbitrary divisions because you do not want to be under the civil or ceremonial law. The law is one whole. You are either under it, or you are not (see Alva McClain’s, Law and Grace).

Finally, Gribben’s covenant theology permeates a lot of thinking. He is very opposed to the idea of not calling those in the tribulation period the church, because of course he believes that all covenant believers, regardless of the dispensation, have been the church. This of course as a dispensationalist I cannot agree with for various reasons. I would of course direct readers to a number of publications that deal with this issue most specifically, Charles Ryrie’s, Dispensationalism and Renald Showers’, There Really is a Difference!

Apart from these caveats, I agree with Gribben’s premise. There is a low view of the church today and the Left Behind series are not helping. Do not turn to them for effective teaching in areas of ecclesiology. We, covenant theologians, new covenant theologians, and dispensationalists alike, should uphold a very high view of the church today.


The Importance of Studying the Church Fathers

April 30, 2007

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You all need to check out this brief article at Reformation21 written by Dr. Michael Haykin on the importance of studying the Early Church Fathers. This is something really that no Christian can do without reading!

Also, keep in the back of your minds that the next issue of Eusebeia: The Bulletin of the Andrew Fuller Centre for Reformed Evangelicalism will be dedicated to the Early Church Fathers. For information on that, please feel free to contact me.


“Listening to the Past – Lessons from Andrew Fuller” 15

April 30, 2007

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In a circular letter to the Northamptonshire Baptist Association in May 1785, Fuller offers some tremendous reasons for pursuing the study of Church History. Specifically he is writing about how to respond to the fact that the church is falling into sin and lethargy. This is his first way to begin to solve the problem.

This portion can be found in The Armies of the Lamb, pp. 105-106.”

First, let us recollect the best periods of the Christian church, and compare them with the present; and the best parts of our lown life, if we know when they were, and compare them with what we are now. A recollection of the disinterestedness, zeal and godly simplicity of the primitive Christians, and their successors in after-ages, millions of who, in Christ’s cause, loved not their lives unto death, would surely make us loathe ourselves for our detestable lukewarmness! As Protestants, let us think of the fervent zeal and holy piety of our Reformers–think what objects they grasped, what difficulties they encountered, and what ends they obtained! As Protestant Dissenters, let us reflect on the spirit and conduct of our Puritan and non-conforming ancestors. Think how they served God at the expense of all that was dear to them in this world, and laid the foundation of our churches in woods, and dens, and caves of the earth! Say, too, was their love to God more than need be? Is the importance of things abated since their death? Might not they have pleaded the anger and cruelty of the times in excuse for a non-appearance for God, with much more seeming plausibility than we can excuse our spirit of hateful indifference? O let us remember whence we are fallen, and repent!”


What Kind of Baptist was Fosdick?

April 26, 2007

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I was reading a message preached by Dr. T. T. Shields (1873-1955) January 16, 1944 at Jarvis Street Baptist Church titled Does “Killed in Action” Mean “Gone to Heaven?” In it he deals with differring denominations and that in all of them there are those who are in need of being saved. He had a comment regarding Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) which made me chuckle.

“What about Baptists? Surely that are all right! They ought to be, but I have met hundreds of Baptists who were just as dry as my Presbyterian friend, though they had been immersed! Harry Emerson Fosdick is a Baptist of sorts.”

According to Shields, Fosdick was a Baptist in name only. He did not possess true saving faith necessary to make him a true Baptist.


Andrew Fuller the Reader Conference Details

April 18, 2007

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For all of you have been waiting with baited breath for details about the up-coming Andrew Fuller the Reader Conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on August 27-28, 2007 here you go!

Please go here to download a copy of the brochure which now has all the up-to-date information regarding speakers, times, registration, and costs!

Here is the newly revised schedule:

Monday, August 27

7:30-9:15 am Breakfast & Registration

9:30 am Michael Haykin (Toronto Baptist Seminary)
Andrew Fuller the theological reader

11:00 am Jeff Jue (Westminster Theological Seminary)
Andrew Fuller: heir of the Reformation

12:30 pm Lunch

2:00 – 2:40pm Parallel sessions

a. Michael McMullen (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Editing Andrew Fuller’s diary

b. Barry Howson (Heritage College, Cambridge, ON)
Andrew Fuller and his reading of John Gill

c. Allen Mickle (University of Wales, PhD student)
Andrew Fuller and the Johnsonians: early theological reading

2:50-3:30 pm – Parallel sessions

d. Paul Brewster (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Ph.D. student)
Andrew Fuller as a pastor-theologian

e. Nigel Wheeler (Pretoria University Ph.D. student)
Andrew Fuller’s ordination sermons

f. Chris Chun (St.Andrews University Ph.D. student)
Andrew Fuller and the sense of the heart

6:00 pm Dinner

7:30 pm Russell Moore (Vice-President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Banquet speaker
The contemporary significance of Andrew Fuller

Tuesday, August 28

7:30-8:30 am Breakfast

9:00 am Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary)
John Owen’s influence on Andrew Fuller

10:30 am Tom Nettles (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Jonathan Edwards — theological mentor to Andrew Fuller

12:00pm A closing word


Forthcoming Publication

April 18, 2007

I wanted to let you all know about an interesting new resource coming out from Blackwell Publishers called The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. It is to be published in 3 volumes and is due out in 2008. Here is some information about it.

“The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization is a study of the cultural complex and civilization created during the past 2000 years by the Christian Church. Even as modern secular civilization has become the dominant cultural force in the world, Christianity remains a civilization in its own right with its own norms, values, institutions, forms of expression, terminology, and modes of communication. Further, there are elements of modern secular civilization that are of distinctly Christian origin, the calendar being the most obvious example. Even today, the pervasive influence of Christian ideas and legacies is evident in sectors of life that are far removed from the mainstream of Christian history. The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization will examine the sources of Christian culture and civilization, the depth of its historic influence on human culture and the reasons for its enduring strength.

I have the privilege of contributing two brief biographical entries in this encyclopedia. John Gill, the great Baptist Theologian, and Bob Jones, Sr., the 20th century evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Keep a look out for this helpful up-coming encyclopedia.