A Christless democracy will be as bad as...

For consider that the Gospel which proclaims Jesus as the Saviour is the only thing which deals with the deepest fact in our natures, the fact of sin; gives a personal Deliverer from its power; communicates a new life of which the very essence is righteousness, and which brings with it new motives, new impulses, and new powers.

Contrast with this the inadequate diagnosis of the disease and the consequent imperfection of the remedy which other physicians of the world's sickness present. Most of them only aim at repressing outward acts. None of them touch more than a part of the whole dreadful circumference of the dark orb of evil. Law restrains actions. Ethics proclaims principles which...


Spurgeon on preaching: "...pieces of meat from a butcher's block..."

A couple great quotes from Spurgeon on preaching:

A sermon...comes with far greater power to the consciences of the hearers when it is plainly the very word of God—not a lecture about the Scripture, but Scripture itself opened up and enforced...

It is infamous to ascend your pulpit and pour over your people rivers of language, cataracts of words, in which mere platitudes are held in solution like infinitesimal grains of homeopathic medicine in an Atlantic of utterance.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another...

Many object to the practice of confessing sins to one another, believing they need only confess their sins to God. Those who hold such a belief reason other brothers and sisters are not to be trusted with such confessions and, in the end, lack the power to do any good in the situation. Certainly all sins should be confessed to God. No one denies that. But categorical refusal to confess our sins before one another is a rejection of the gracious goads God uses to bring us to repentance and our brothers' effectual prayers. Only an unbeliever wouldn’t want those helps...

Five Aspects: another excellent ministry to commend...

BillMouserThis past October 1st, we were blessed with a fly-by visit from Father Bill Mouser and his wife, Barbara. On sexuality, if would be hard to do better than taking our churches through the Mousers' Five Aspects curriculum--Five Aspects of Man/Woman. My closest friend, Pastor Robert Woodyard, is using Five Aspects with men in his church and has found it excellent. Here at Clearnote Church, Bloomington we have a Saturday morning program...

Soft and effeminate Christianity hides behind lofty and ethereal theology...

This is an excerpt from Horatius Bonar's God's Way of Holiness. Much here that is helpful to men and women of God. Read carefully, to the very end. It's packed with meat. Paragraphing is mine. (TB, w/thanks to Tim C. by way of Matt B.)

* * *

"The man who knows that he is risen with Christ, and has set his affection on things above, will be a just, trusty, ingenuous, unselfish, truthful man. He will “add to [his] faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:5-7). He will seek not to be “barren nor unfruitful.” “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” (Phil 4:8), these he will think upon and do.

"For there is some danger of falling into a soft and effeminate Christianity, under the plea of a lofty and ethereal theology...

Reeling in the years...

WheatonMcGovernMy Mary Lee is cleaning out old boxes and found this pic that ran in the Friday, October 13, 1972 issue of the Trib under the headline, "McGovern Tries for DuPage Converts." Presidential candidate George McGovern had just finished speaking in Edman Chapel to the Wheaton College student body, faculty, and aministration. Following his address, an admirer named Tim Bayly was in the small throng angling to shake his hand. Thought you all would get a kick out of it.

By the way, I think the horn-rimmed glasses wearing a man's face opposite me belong to my brother, David. (Joke.) And yes, I voted for McGovern and Carter. All the Baylys voted the Democratic ticket then. And yes, it's utterly disgusting. And yes, I shook his hand. I also wired Mother Teresa for sound. We had to find a place for the wireless mic in her sari and she was quite good-natured about it. These are my claims to fame.

Let me remind you of the two quotes that sum up my deepest political convictions in these United States, today:

Why sir, most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things. (Samuel Johnson)

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times--I'm a Republican! (Joe Sobran)

Tornado hits Bloomington, Bob Kaplowitz improves, and Jonathan Edwards reminds us...

Playhouse Last night a tornado came through our back yard and moved on east wreaking havoc across the west side of Bloomington. Three lots down it rolled our son-in-law and daughter, Doug and Heather Ummel's, backyard playhouse which is the size of a middling storage shed and, being made all of wood, very, very heavy. A little way down Highway 45, it devastated Don and Heather Van Timmeren's yard, but left their house intact. Most of their trees are down.

Then it hit the trailer court on our son-in-law and daughter, Ben and Michal Crum's, street just a block from their house and just up the road from us. No one was seriously injured, but Michal took this movie and you can see all the trailers were moved across the court or obliterated, as were the trees. See the car flipped upside down?

Taylor's best friend, John Alberson, is a jarhead grunt just back from deployment on the Pakistani border of Afghanistan. (We praise God for his safe return!) Taylor and Jon were here when the tornado hit and went out with the chain saw and helped clear trees until 5 AM. (The storm hit about 11 PM.)

We thank God no one was seriously injured here in Bloomington, but looking at the many, many deaths in Missouri and knowing we could just as easily have been killed last night...

Good Uns...

(Tim) Last night on our way out to Vienna, Virginia for Joe Sobran's wake, Brian and I (Charlie Dugdale is also with us) traded Sobran quotes for a while, writing down our favorites.

  • A college education teaches one the correct views on racial minorities and provides the means to live as far away from them as possible.
  • The U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.
  • Politician's lexicon: Greed is wanting to keep as much of your wealth as possible. Need is wanting someone else's wealth. Compassion is the means by which the transfer is arranged.
  • Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, I'm a Republican.
  • Quoting Chesterton: The modern and morbid habit of sacrificing the normal on the altar of the abnormal.
  • The U.S. Constitution bears the same tenuous relationship to our government as the Book of Revelation does to the Unitarian Universalist Church.
  • Quoting Charles Peguy: No one will ever know how many acts of cowardice have been committed out of the fear of seeming insufficiently progressive.

John Calvin: Lifting hands helps "jolt us out of our laziness" in worship...

(Tim) One commenter (who, from charity, shall remain nameless) commented under an earlier post that he considered the discipline of lifting hands and kneeling in prayer to be unworthy of reformed worship. Maybe a sort of pietistic emotional manipulation?

"So lifting hands is wrong? Why? Who said so?"

"Well, any idiot can see it's those nasty Pentecostals and charismatics who do that sort of thing! Ugh! Who wants to be mistaken for a charismatic? Or a Vineyard type? Ugggghhhh!"

"So we don't do it because we don't want to have anyone think we're Pentecostals--is that it?"

"Well, no; of course that's not the only reason. There are lots and lots of reasons, but I can't spend all day telling you something you should know without thinking. Lifting hands is wrong. End of story. No self-respecting, proud, cerebral, Old School Presbyterian slothful in worship would ever be caught dead lifting his hands in prayer! Now, stop bothering me. I have more important things to do with my time than argue with you!"

Please read David's sermon; also, several helpful things from the Archibolds...

(Tim) First, if you haven't read the sermon David preached yesterday posted just below (A Sermon for the President--and for the People of God), I commend it to you. We need sermons like this to be preached across our country until those called by God as civil magistrates lead us to return to the fear of God and mercy to the poor, helpless, sojourners in our midst, and unborn. Note particularly David's comment about our self-made bonds.

Second, we're still getting the occasional Christmas/Easter letter and I thought we'd all benefit from this statement from my dear Roman Catholic friends from Denver, John and Molly Archibold:

We have been extraordinarily blessed through joys and sorrows. (Molly)

Just right...

In which contextualization becomes compromise and the fortress becomes a countryseat...

(Tim) One of my favorites from Kierkegaard:

"Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an eternity. There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea to build bridges over the moats--so as to be able to attack the besiegers. Charming! He transforms the fortress into a countryseat, and naturally the enemy takes it. So it is with Christianity. They changed the method--and naturally the world conquered."

                                -Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christendom"


Minced confessions...

(Tim) Since entering the ministry in 1983, countless times I've read statements like this in recently published evangelical commentaries by scholars highly esteemed within their own guild:

Doug Moo concludes that "there is reason to doubt whether any important part of the narrative in Matthew 27:3-8 has been created under the influence of Old Testament passages." -R. T. France, Tyndale Commentary on Matthew, p. 385.

Let me remind us that here in Matthew 27:3-8 we have in our hands the very Word of God as it has come down to us from Heaven through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So it is, and yet it really isn't a "narrative." And to say "there is reason to doubt" that Matthew "created" any "important part" of God's Word is...

Darwinists throw their own monster's ball...

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

(Tim) If our Lord tarries, this coming Thursday, February 12th, will be the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. As her holy day approaches, Annie Laurie Gaylor of Madison's Freedom from Religion Foundation is plastering buses and billboards with intellectual cheesecake for fellow misanthropes. Real creative stuff like, "Imagine No Religion" and "Praise Darwin - Evolve Beyond Belief."

The president of the Skeptics Society (which publishes Skeptic magazine), Michael Shermer, isn't waiting for the holy day to celebrate. He assures fellow homo sapiens that his cult's high priests have a "pretty good outline" of the origin of life. But then he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid like...

Phil Ryken's errors alive and well four months later...

(Tim) Back on June 15, I wrote Phil Ryken, pastor of Philadelphia's historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, to point out two significant errors in a sermon he gave at Tenth later published as a commentary on 1Timothy by P&R as a volume in their Reformed Expository Commentary series. Then I followed up our private correspondence with a public post warning the church at large of these errors.

After the post, Phil and I exchanged several private e-mails in which I asked Phil to correct his errors by amending the PDF offered on his church's web site and inserting an errata sheet in any future copies of his commentary shipped by P&R.

It's now four months later.

A week ago at our Ohio Valley Presbytery meeting we received a document justifying woman officers in the PCA. Phil's commentary was cited with errors intact and prominently featured in the document's arguments. One of Tim Keller's Redeemer churches distributed the document as justification for the statement to us by their session that "It remains the conviction of Redeemer's session (Indianapolis) that there is no scriptural basis to differentiate between men and women serving as Deacons under the authority of the Session." (Emphasis in the original. Here's an article giving some of the past history of Ohio Valley Presbytery's work with Redeemer in Indianapolis.)

Seeing these errors continue to be cited by churches not in conformity with our Book of Church Order, I wondered whether the PDF on Tenth's web site had been corrected? On the way home, I pulled up the PDF from Tenth's web site and found...

From 1874, Scottish Presbyterian A. B. Bruce on worship...

The aim and effect of the liturgical system is to make the mass of worshippers as independent as possible of the individual minister; the aim, if not the effect of our system, is to make individual ministers as valuable as possible to the worshippers, for their instruction and edification. The one system may secure a uniform solemnity and decency, but the other system tends to secure the more important qualities of fervor, energy, and life; and we believe, whatever fastidious critics may allege, it does to a considerable extent secure them. At lowest, the non-liturgical method secures that the worship of the church shall be a true reflection of her life, and therefore, however beggarly, at least sincere. -from A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve p. 58.


Owen and Edwards on creation's First Cause...

Two Puritan quotes came across my desk last week, one from Chris Taylor and the other from Iain Murray's biography of Jonathan Edwards. Both demonstrate the biblical wisdom our church fathers brought from the Word of God into every other area of human knowledge. These particular quotes demonstrate the timelessness of their perceptions concerning God's Creation as we look backwards from this time in which Darwinists are so loathe, in the main, to admit that "It is He Who hath made us, and not we ourselves."

John Owen:

(In this sermon, Owen is speaking of the variety of ways God's providence guides His gracious act of election and regeneration.)

"Now, is all this variety, think you, to be ascribed unto chance, as the philosopher thought the world was made by a casual concurrence of atoms? Or hath the idol free-will, with the new goddess contingency, ruled in these dispensations? Truly neither the one nor the other, no more than the fly raised the dust by sitting on the chariot wheel;--but all these thing have come to pass according to a certain unerring rule, given them by God's determinate purpose and counsel." (Owen, John. Works, Vol. VIII, 12. This sermon was preached in 1646)

Chris Taylor's comment: I find Owen's logic interesting. As evolutionists refuse to attribute glory to God's wisdom and power in the creation of man, so Arminians refuse to give God the glory in the re-creation of men in regeneration.

Jonathan Edwards:

"An infinite length of time has no tendency to alter the case. If we should suppose people traveling in the snow, one after another, thousands in a day for thousands of years together, and all should tread exactly without the least variation in one another's steps so as, in all this time, to make no beaten path but only steps with the snow not broken between, this is a demonstration of intention, design, and care. Or if we suppose that, in the showers of rain that fall out of the clouds on all the face of the earth for a whole year, the drops should universally fall in order on the ground so as to describe such figures that would be Roman letters in such exact order as to be Virgil's Aeneid written on every acre of ground all over the world, or so as exactly to write the history of the world and all nations and families in it through all ages without departing from truth in one fact or minutest circumstance - that would distinctly demonstrate a designing cause. Length of time has no tendency at all to produce such an effect of itself. If we multiply years never so much to give large opportunity, it helps not the case without a designing cause." (Murray, Iain. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust. pp. 139-140.)

I'll be home for Christmas...

During the holidays, here's a helpful warning from Pascal:

All the misfortunes of men derive from one single thing, which is their inability to be at ease in a room [at home]. (Pascal, Blaise; Pensees , ii.139)

The Pharisee and the tax collector revisited...

And (Jesus) also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

This searching comment from Helmut Thielicke's excellent short commentary on the parables, The Waiting Father:

Many of us are less like the Pharisee, with his uplifted head and his solid moral character, than we are like the publican--but a somewhat different publican from the one described in the parable. Perhaps like a publican who says, "I thank Thee, God, that I am not so proud as this Pharisee; I am an extortioner, unjust, and an adulterer. That's the way human beings are, and that's what I am, but at least I admit it, and therefore I am a little bit better than the rest of the breed. I commit fornication twice a week, and at most ten percent of what I own comes from honest work. I am an honest man, O God, because I don't kid myself, I don't have any illusions about myself. Let your angels sing a hallelujah over this one sinner who is as honest as I am, honest enough to admit that he is a dirty dog and not hide it beneath his robes like these lying Philistines the Pharisees.'

If all episcopalians are gentlemen, are all gentlemen...

Seeing my favorite smells-and-bells Episcopalian, Father Bill Mouser, posting an interesting comment under the piece on weddings immediately below reminds me of a quote I've kept for years that's always seemed to me to be the quintessential episcopalian quote. Wishing to offend no one, I finally bring it out of the moth balls of my hard drive for the edification of our good readers:

When William T. Manning, a former Bishop of New York, was asked whether salvation could be found outside the Episcopal Church, he replied,

"Perhaps so, but no gentleman would care to avail himself of it."

("Profile of Bishop Paul Moore, Jr." in The New Yorker, April 28, 1986, p. 46.)


Drawing boundaries or transformation...

So what ought we to expect from the new president of Princeton Theological Seminary? Check out this excerpt from The Presbyterian Outlook, a newsweekly focused on the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA):

On the Sunday evening in his closing address to the Assembly, the retiring Moderator Professor Iain Torrance, who has recently been appointed President of Princeton Theological Seminary, chose to reflect on the need for a new approach to Christian ethics.
Just about all of us were brought up to believe that Christian ethics is a matter of drawing boundaries, of shoulds and shouldn'ts. I simply no longer believe that. Christian ethics is about transformation first and last. We persist in imprisoning ourselves within the frame of reference of 16th century issues. The disputes between Luther and Zwingli on whether the body of Christ is present or absent at communion ...is all very interesting, but it is not today's issue. What matters today is not whether we can define the mechanism of the real presence, but whether our worship encourages a mind-set of expectation and gratefulness to God, and loving openness to others...

There was plenty of food for thought in his words, not least in his quotation from Seneca about gladiators.

When the gladiator enters the arena, he has no fixed strategies. He improvises on the basis of long ingrained skills. The task of the church is to foster those skills, not to offer preset solutions in a Windows world with drop down menus for each situation.

-Simpson, Dr. James A. "Letter from Scotland: First woman Moderator Chosen" The Presbyterian Outlook (September 27, 2004):11.

To postmodern ears it sounds good. Who in his right mind would oppose exchanging the "drawing of boundaries" for "transformation"?

What do you think, good reader?