Book Review – Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing Among the Baptists

December 22, 2008

Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing Among the Baptists. By R. L. Vaughn. Mount Enterprise, TX: Waymark Publications, 2008, 232 pp., $21.99, paper back.

 

Baptists are well-known for holding two commands of the Lord as specific ordinances to be performed in the context of the local church on an ongoing basis. Believer’s baptism by immersion sets Baptists apart from many other groups who practice paedobaptism. The Lord’s Supper is practiced yet debate over who may partake and how often it is to be practiced exists over it. Yet, who would have thought that foot washing is an ordinance practiced by many Baptists in the past and still practiced by some today? R. L. Vaughn has provided the church of Christ with a fascinating collection of primary source materials regarding the practice of feet washing among Baptists. I myself as someone who pursues Baptist history with a passion, was surprised at how many groups practiced some form of feet washing.

 

The book first gives a biblical overview of feet washing from both the Old and New Testaments and proceeds to survey the topic of feet washing from the beginning of the church to approximately 1500 AD. He then progresses to looking at feet washing among the continental Anabaptists, and in the British Isles and finally making it to North America. He then begins to survey the use of feet washing by different groups including Particular Baptists, Free Christian Baptists, Free Will Baptists, General Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Regular Baptists, Separate Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, Union Baptists, and United Baptists. Then he helpfully moves beyond looking at feet washing by groups to feet washing by geographical regions. This most extensive area deals with America but there is also a treatment of Canada and Mexico as well. He then provides a survey of feet washing among Baptists in other areas of the world.

 

He helpfully includes arguments against feet washing by Calvin, Owen, Dagg, B.H. Carroll, and others. He then includes many appendices in order to helpfully provide more information for the eager researcher in exploring this strange but important area of Baptist history.

 

The major value of this work is very simply that it provides in one location so many varied and helpful primary source materials related to feet washing and Baptists. Instead of being isolated incidents in the history of the Baptists there were many who claimed the name Baptist that practiced feet washing as an ordinance. Vaughn’s comments are few but where they are found they are helpful. I have found this to be an excellent volume and it has really broadened my views when it comes to Baptist history and feet washing. It has not convinced me of feet washing as an ordinance for the church today but it has opened my eyes to the many Baptists that have seen it this way. And if many of practiced the intent behind feet washing on a regular basis then perhaps we would have more loving churches.

 

This is a very helpful book for those studying Baptist history or the history of feet washing in general. It is highly recommended and I hope it has a wide readership. Brother Vaughn is to be commended for preparing this excellent resource.

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Book Review – ESV Study Bible

December 22, 2008

I’ve had my NIV Study Bible since the early 1990’s. My parents got it for me and it has become one of my favourite Bibles. In seminary I used it profusely since I was convinced the “dynamic equivalence” model of translation theory was the best one. I did not like the NASB (a popular edition when I was in seminary) as it seemed rather wooden in places. There were places I was not thrilled with the NIV but I was happy with it for the most part. And I really enjoyed the study notes.

 

Then, something rather amazing happened! Well, actually something rather common happened. Another study bible was released. This was the ESV study bible. I had only briefly looked at the ESV and thought it to be similar enough to the NASB that I really did not give it a second look. But so many people were coming to embrace it that I thought it should be something I should look at. And now since seminary I review many books, I can get most books I ask for to review, so I asked Crossway for a copy of the ESV study bible. All I can say is that this is my new favourite Bible!

 

The ESV itself takes a more literal approach to translation theory than I have preferred but makes valuable improvements in both the weaknesses of the NASB and the NIV. Where the NASB was overly wooden, the ESV is much smoothers. Where the NIV took too much liberty in interpretation, the ESV is more literal. I feel the ESV strikes a nice balance between both the NASB and the NIV. It is solidly conservative and easy to read. If I had to pick a new favourite translation, I think I am leaning more and more from the NIV to the ESV. But, what about the study notes? I had become accustomed to the ones in the NIV so the ESV had some hard work to convert me. At least I thought it did. Instead, it took less than a minute.

 

My only complaint at the outset is the paper that most bibles use in hardcover editions (the one I was sent). It is very thin and hard to turn the pages and can tear easily. In leather editions this is not as much of an issue, but this is my main issue with the hardcover edition.

 

The first thing that struck me about the study bible is the incredible amount of resources it contains. It contains 66 articles and essays ranging from topics on the Trinity, Bioethics, Reading the Bible as Literature, the Septuagint, and a History of Salvation in the Old Testament. These resources written by major Evangelical scholars are weighty but succinct providing just the right amount of helpful information that satisfy’s the questions but prompts the reader for further study.

 

The next thing that strikes you is the full colour maps and illustrations. No study Bible I have ever had had full colour anything unless you count the maps that are put at the back of the bible. But every illustration and map throughout the bible is in full colour. This makes things really stand out and provides nice clear pictures to help aid in the study process.

 

When it comes to the notes themselves they are very thorough and balanced. They list major options of interpretation and usually let the reader decide. One of the most helpful items in the notes are what I will call the contextual notes. These, with a slight highlight, outline the sections in the text and give helpful brief notes focusing on the context of individual sections. So, not only are individual verses parsed specifically and given helpful specific information but even whole sections are given notes to help facilitate reading the text as a piece of literature. This helps the readers see the big picture of how each individual section fits into the work as a whole.


Before each book there is a helpful treatment of authorship, dating, and other common features. What sets the ESV apart from others are the literary features section which help to explain what is going on overall in the book and the history of salvation summary which put the content of the book in the context of the redemption story of the whole Scripture. This is a very helpful addition as it helps to put into context the book as a whole and helps to prevent moralizing the text but instead interpreting it in light of the rest of Scripture.

 

Obviously each note cannot be critiqued here in a brief review like this, but one will be looked at which always seems to generate much discussion, and that is the nature of the millennium in Revelation 20. Under Revelation 20:1–6 it describes this as “Interlude: The Thousand Years of the Dragon’s Binding and the Martyrs’ Reign.” Each of the premillennial, postmillennial, and amillennial, positions are described and represented fairly. It highlights different approaches to the next (literal versus symbolic) and the representative features of each position. The notes do not take a position on the issue but helpfully simply say, “Likewise, each of these views falls within the framework of historic Christian orthodoxy” (p. 2492). This is the sort of congenial attitude we need to have when discussing issues of debate that are not part of the fundamentals of the faith. While obviously this reviewer would take a particular position, he appreciates how fairly his position is described and would not hesitate to recommend this particular note to those of any eschatological persuasion.

 

Overall, I find the ESV study bible to be probably the best study bible on the market. Obviously, please continue to use your other study bible’s but if I was to recommend just one, I would highly recommend the ESV Study Bible. Now I just have to wait to get my hands on the Black Genuine Leather edition!

 

Get your hardcover ESV study Bible here or see all the editions available here.


This Illness Does Not Lead to Death…

December 22, 2008

“But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it'” (John 11:4, ESV).

On Friday December 19 I found out I had Type-2 Diabetes. I had previously found there was a good chance of this on the previous Wednesday. Unlike others who comment on life threatening afflictions and note no worry or fear and a perfect trust and reliance in God, like the Psalmist of old I railed against my God. I was fearful and I worried. I cried and I shouted. This was one of the hardest things I could face in my life.

It started previous to this last week when, in applying for some life insurance, I was turned down and told some results of my blood work were the reason and it was sent to my doctor. It took some time before I found out the results of the blood work. My blood glucose was very high (3 times the normal amount). It worried me quite a lot. That was Tuesday morning. I spent the rest of the day in the office struggling to understand it all. I thought I was too young to experience some life changing medical condition. I thought, I will have to deal with this the rest of my life. I didn’t want to bear the many things I had become accustomed to in life and consider taking medication for the rest of my life and pricking my fingers day in and day out until I exploded in frustration. I closed my office door and cried. I cried and I cried. 

My wife was away with her parents in Pennsylvania which made it all the harder. I called her but it was as if she were a million miles away. I was so worried and scared about it all. I couldn’t find the “peace” that so many claimed to find when finding out about life changing conditions. Instead I cried out to God for Him to explain how this was just and righteous of Him. I cried out for mercy and for freedom from this. I even held out hope that perhaps the results were wrong and that when I went for further tests I would find out I didn’t have diabetes. That was misplaced hope.

My wife though said one thing to me in an e-mail that Tuesday that helped me put things into perspective. It was “I think we need to just calm down here.” She was right. I needed to calm down. I didn’t even know for sure I had diabetes at that stage but it was good to hear. I needed to calm down and remember God is sovereign and in control and fully good. I struggled still with it, but even come Friday when the doctor told me officially I had diabetes and that I had to start taking medication and adjust my diet and start pricking my fingers, I was not as upset. And as I shared with my wife in reflecting on this rather sudden change in our lives (the one thing my wife noted was how young I am; she anticipated having to deal with things like this but not so early in our marriage), John 11:4 came to my mind.

Now, the context of John 11 is the sickness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus’ sisters sent to Jesus to tell him he was sick. Jesus replied, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now, Lazarus did die, but Jesus allowed this for a greater showing of His glory through the resurrection of Lazarus. But, this still brings comfort to me.

While diabetes is a serious illness, it is not one that leads to death. Sure, it can contribute to death, and of course death faces all of us, but if one is careful at how he manages his diet, gets exercise, and check his sugar often, he can live a long and normal life. So, I revel in that this illness does not lead to death. I can have many years of ministry and many long years with my wife. One day the Lord will take me to be with Him, but even then, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, even whatever illness that leads to my physical death will not lead to my spiritual death as I await the incorruptible to cover over corruptible; as I wait for an eternity of worshipping and glorifying my great Lord and Saviour.

So, this illness does not lead to death. And as the Lord told Paul long ago, my grace is sufficient for you. His grace is still sufficient for me, and Lord willing God would be glorified in this illness. That is my prayer. That the Lord would help me to live my life in a way that prolongs my life upon the earth so I have more time to serve Him and serve my family. I pray that I can be a solid testimony of the reality of sin and its effects but also of the peace and grace that are available to us through Christ Jesus. Will I struggle and become frustrated in this condition? I most certainlywill. Do I worry any longer? No. I know that my God provides all I need for a life of faith and godliness through Christ Jesus my Lord. And my prayer then is for many long years of life on this earth so I can glorfiy my God in all that I do, including living with this illness that does not lead to death.


What to Learn from Jonathan Edwards

December 15, 2008

“In this day, some three hundred years after Edwards’ time, there is a desperate need for a new generation to arise onto the scene of history that will prize and promote the glory of our awesome God. Beholding the soul-capturing vision of this all-supreme, all-sovereign, and all-sufficient God transforms individuals in life-altering ways. This is what we learn form Edwards, and this is what we must experience in our own lives. Our lofty theology, centered on God Himself, must be translated into daily Christian living in practical ways.”

Steven J. Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008), p. 154.


W. C. Burns on the Glory of the Church as a Motivation for Missions

December 15, 2008

W. C. Burns, Presbyterian missionary to China, in a letter written to his mother on July 25, 1849 reflects on the glory of the church and the motivation that is for motivating us for missions.

“While Jesus lives, the Church whis is his body shall live also, each member receiving by faith out of his fulness and grace for grace. How securely must the Church of the living God be built, when it can stand unshaken while so many who seemed to be pillars are removed! But in the church above, those who are ‘made’ to be pillars ‘shall go no more out’. Blessed, holy, gloriou society of the redeemed in the presence of God and the Lamb! May our hearts be ever there until amazing grace open the door of that inner sanctuary, and call us to come in! Oh! when shall the nations on earth–the many millions of these distant Gentiles–hear the call of the Son of God, bringing them intot he Church below to be prepared for the church above! The change will be great indeed when this takes place! May we have grace to pray and labour that the time may be hastened!”

Michael McMullen, God’s Polished Arrow: W. C. Burns Revival Preacher (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publishers, 2000), pp. 308-309.


Thankful for my Mom

December 15, 2008

This is a picture of all the ladies in my life. On the left, my youngest sister Rebecca. On the right, my other sister Jacqueline. To her left, my beautiful wife Tracy, and finally to her left, my mother Cynthia. While all of these ladies are dear to me, today I want to take some time and be thankful for my mother.

Today is my mother’s birthday. She was born and raise in the small farming community of Harrow, ON. Her mother came over from Yugoslavia and cut hair out of their small Harrow home. Her father was French Canadian and worked for Chrysler’s in Windsor. My mother is the middle of three girls.

From an early age she attended the local Baptist Church, Harrow Baptist, even though her parents were not Christians. It was here that mom was saved and baptized and served the Lord. Through some providential work of God, she met my father, Allen, who she began to date. And eventually on July 10, 1976 they were married at Harrow Baptist Church.

Mom had attended St. Clair Community College in Windsor to be a nurse. While she has had many difficult days in her career over the years, she genuninely likes to help people and still serves as a Labor and Delivery nurse in Detroit, MI. While she could have been a lawyer or a doctor, God put her in this place and she has used her gifts from Him to this day as someone who helps bring new life into this world!

She did not always have things easy. My dad had said many of the right things before they got married but was hardly a Christian. She often had to invest in her children the teachings of the Scriptures on her own. My father was a Mormon and we attended there for sometime. But my mother, not wanting us to be under the ungodly teaching of the Mormon church, ended up as our Sunday School teacher in that church and, right under the nose of the church, taught her children (and other children!) Regular Baptist Press Sunday School curriculum.

It was she too that was instrumental in bringing us back to her home church of Harrow Baptist. It was here where all three of her children were saved (although Rebecca was baptized elsewhere) and even her own husband was saved and baptized. He acknowledged it was through the many prayers and great ministry to him by his family that brought him to Christ.

Even now she seeks to serve. My father is now pastor of Walkerville Baptist Church in Windsor, ON. My mom helps in any way she can in the ministry of the church as the pastor’s wife. She has been supportive of me and caring to me in all my many years, especially in my pursuits of the ministry and my moving all over the place. She has sacrificed greatly for her family and for that we should all be thankful.

Even through much bodily pain endured daily (following a work accident a number of years ago) she perseveres in the faith and faithfulness and labors tirelessly in her work not only ministering bodily to the patients and ther families but spiritually as well. She is even finishing up her degree so that she can now have her B.S.N. as well.

In all my days I could not have had a better mother. She is kind and loving. She is good and generous. She is helpful and caring. She’s not perfect (and who is?) but I count it through the love and care and discipline of my parents that I am the man I am today (although I qualify that all my faults are my own!).

So, today, December 15, I celebrate the birthday of my mother. I love her so much and am so thankful for her. She has been used by God greatly and will continue to be used in the many years to come. Sometimes the things she has helped with are behind the scenes, but the lives she has impacted for Christ over the years will only be known on the other side of glory, for which she most desperately yearns. To be with Christ is her great desire. Our desire for her, is to be with us for many years to come!

I love you mom!

 

 


W. C. Burns on God’s Providence

December 15, 2008

William Chalmers Burns (1815-1868) was a Scottish Presbyterian revival preacher and missionary to China. He preached in Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s church in New Dundee, Scotland when M’Cheyne was away in Israel. It was there that St. Peter’s in Dundee came into a grand revival through Burn’s ministry. Eventually Burns was called to go to China. He ministered there planting churches and schools and preaching the Gospel to the Chinese people from 1847 until his death. Michael McMullen has done us all a great favour in providing a biography of Burns and selections from his journals and letters and sermons titled, God’s Polished Arrow: W. C. Burns Revival Preacher. In reading the book a little bit last week I noticed an interesting entry from his journal which highlights the providence of God. This can be found on pp. 197-198 of McMullen’s above book. The entry is listed as Grandtully, Wednesday, September 16, 1840

Being tired last night, and having told the servant that she need not awaken me in the morning, I slept until past ten a.m.m, and got up, fearing to be too late for the Lochlomond coach, which passed up to Grandtully on the other side of the Tay at eleven o’clock, and trembling at the thought of being hurried so quickly through my secret duties. I got hastily ready, and without taking any breakfast got my luggage ready and set off. On reaching the ferry-boat I learned to my grief that the coach had passed fully a quarter before the usual time, and was already out of sight, and that thus I was left to walk a distance of six miles.

I went on with my bag in my hand, thinking that the Lord might have some design of a gracious kind concealed under this frowning occurrence, and when I had gone about one-and-a-half miles, and was passing through the little village of Balnaguard, I discovered one which fully explained his mysterious intention. For after I had passed a great number of people engaged under the burning sun in cutting down and also in gathering in the plenteous fruits of the earth, two men in the primeof life came running to meet me, evidently under concern about their state, and pointing to a schoolhouse besid us, the shurtters of which were shut in consequence of it being the harvest season, pressed me to meet the people there though it were but for half an hour.

I went in, and in the course of not more than seven minutes the room was crowded to the door by people of all ages, from the child of seven to the grandfather of seventy. We prayed; I read the 70th Psalm in the metrical version, and made a few remarks on the last eight lines; we then prayed again, and I came away leaving these dear people in as solemn frame, to all appearance, as I have ever witnessed any audience.

There could not be fewe than 120 present, and amongst these I hardly saw one that was not shedding tears. The wonderful providence by which we had been brought together affected us much, and I was so much struck with the dealing of God in this this and in the state of the people, that I intimated another prayer meeting among them or Friday afternoon, when I expected to pass them on my way to visit Dowally a second time. During the time of our meeting I noticed a farmer of the name of M’G of H, of Grandtully, come in and stand listening with the most riveted attention to what was aid. He was a rough-looking man, and one whom I noticed in this character the first night that I was at Grandtully, saying to myself, ‘How wonderful it would be to see that man brought under conviction of sin.’ From his appearance at Logierait on Sabbath, and now at this meeting, I entertained a hope that this might be the case.

When I came out and met him, my hope was agreeably confirmed. Having to go from home on business, and being anxios to be at our meeting at Grandtully in the evening, he had set out very early and was now returning in the utmost haste. When he heard that I was at Balnaguard he sent home his horse that he might be present and accompany me home. We accordingly had a good deal of solemn converse on the way. He semed under deep concern, and pressed me to go in, though my time was nearly gone, and pray with them. I did so, and hardly had I entered when the room was filled with old and young, collected from the harvest-field. Without saying a word we joined in prayer, and so remarkably was the presence of God granted that all were in tears, and some cried aloud.

After prayer I left this scene, which was certainly one that displayed the finger of God as much as any one in which I ever was, and walked home in company with RD, a stepson of M’G’s, and the boy cried out in the church at Grandtully on the first night that I was there. He seems to continue under deep concern, and has got some comfort since that time. He went, dear boy, with me to carry my bag. When we had got to a considerable distance, a number of those who had been affected in the hosue came running acdross the fields to mee tus again, weeping bitterly, but I did not encourage this, and sent them to secret prayer.

I arrived at Grandully by five o’clock, and hardly conscious of fatigue. ‘The Lord will give strength to his people.’ ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be!’