Monday, May 15, 2017

On A High Hill: I Blinked and He Was Grown!

On A High Hill: I Blinked and He Was Grown!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How Ken Ham Won the Debate

I watched the debate with great interest; I watched reactions to the debate with greater interest.  I think Dr. Albert Mohler had the best immediate summary. Compliments and criticisms have not been hard to find from either side’s supporters or opponents.  Some secularists were disappointed with Bill Nye; some Christians (especially old earthers) criticized Ken Ham.
Ken Ham won the debate. Here’s how he did it.
  1.  Because of how the debate question was framed: Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in Today’s Modern Scientific Era? When I saw the actual question I was surprised.  I sensed the question was tilted in Ken Ham’s favor and I was curious that Bill Nye allowed it to be asked in that manner.  The question only requires a modest defense of viability in a model of origins. Not superiority, not exclusivity – viability.  Why Bill Nye allowed this particular question became moot because he never addressed it, nor did he answer it. Ken Ham demonstrated that scientists who hold to creation as a model of origins function well in our scientific era, practically.  Ken Ham also made the case that the creation model encourages scientific inquiry -and confidence in that process, philosophically.
  2. Because of how emotional and religious fervor obviously drives Bill Nye’s viewpoint.  As I watched the debate it became apparent how devoted Bill Nye is to the religion of secular humanism.  He speaks of “science” as though it were a pet or a grandchild with all kinds of wonderful potential and precociousness. It was really quite touching; but logically unpersuasive.
  3. Because of how Bill Nye was unable to define or defend words.  He did not want to admit the difference between historical and observational science; he did not want to admit the difference between speciation and macro-evolution.  He did not want to grant that creation is a viable model of origins.
  4. Because of how Ken Ham based his arguments on the Bible. Some thought he would downplay the pre-suppositional  apologetics that Bible believers clearly hold. He did not. He presented a coherent world-view that explains the origin of sin, death and more importantly the hope of eternal life. Bill Nye presented his religion, too – an optimism based on no real facts – a religion that hopes life will get gradually better through scientific discovery.
Ken Ham won this debate.

See for yourself.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review of: Isaiah 40 – 55, Concordia Commentary. R. Reed Lessing.

Isaiah 40 – 55, Concordia Commentary. By R. Reed Lessing. St. Louis, Mo: Concordia Publishing House, 2011, 737 pp., $49.99.
The author is Professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the graduate school at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He received degrees from St. John's College, (B.A.), and Concordia Seminary (M. Div., S.T.M., Ph.D.). He also served pastorates for some thirteen years. The book is part of the Concordia Commentary series which, the publisher says, endeavors to “enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the biblical text.” Further the series interprets “Scripture as a harmonious unity centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every passage bears witness to the Good News that God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord's life, death, and resurrection. The commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes ‘that which promotes Christ’ in each pericope.”
This is an exceptional commentary and is to be highly commended and recommended. Any serious student of Isaiah, and particularly of this section (chapters 40 -55) of Isaiah, would benefit from the accessible scholarship in this volume. Lessing demonstrates a skilled touch with the text, offering his own translation, and is clearly comfortable in dealing with the vocabulary, syntax and thematic diagramming that provide the basis for his interpretations. His analogy of a ‘sonata allegro’ is well considered and shows an extensive and intensive grasp of the text: “The main theme of Isaiah 40-55 is stated in 40:1-2 and is then repeated and developed throughout the 16 chapters. The way in which Yahweh comforts His people, speaks to Jerusalem’s heart, ends her warfare, and forgives her sins comes through the second topic of the Suffering Servant, which complements the main idea. Yahweh’s plan of comfort through His Servant is further developed as other themes are explored such as Cyrus, creation, idolatry, and mission.  These sections come in unpredictable places and are connected to the main composition while also distinct from it.  Other multiple keys enhancing the composition are employed as Stichworter, or ‘catchwords.’ They include ‘arm, peace/well-being, everlasting, covenant love, and gather’” (page 49).
Lessing focuses on the “Servant Songs: in 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13- 53:12 and effectively unveils that is it Jesus of Nazareth who entirely fulfills the four servant songs. It is a masterful treatment: “While this commentary considers typology to be the hermeneutical employed by the NT citations of 42:1-9, rectilinear prophecy defines the manner in which the NT understands the Servant in the Second, Third, and Fourth Songs.  This Servant is Jesus, and Jesus alone” (page 83).
There are substantial bibliographical resources cited, some 400 entries. Lessing weaves an effective argument for the literary, historical, canonical and poetical designs of Isaiah in general and of this section in particular. He also offers a succinct summary of the historical theologies as they touch on Isaiah. The Index of Subjects (28 doubled column pages) is very detailed and complete. The Index of Passages (36 triple column pages) is both useful and illustrative as to the attention the author has given to all of the Scriptures. Lessing always seems to write with clear, confident connections to the greater context of Isaiah and to the whole Bible. He does so without slighting either the near or far view of Scripture’s scope and sequence. This is not a small thing and is one of the great strengths of this commentary.
In the setting of such earnest scholarship it is also refreshing to read: “Commentary writers are not doing the primary work of the church. To import a war analogy, the front line of the battle is taking place as pastors preach and teach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper… Authors of commentaries are behind the front lines, assisting soldiers to be fully equipped with their chief offensive weapon: ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’” (page 11).
In light of that, this volume serves as an exegetical and hortatory resource for preachers and teachers. It would serve the beginner well but also the seasoned expositor. There is a considerable devotional thread woven throughout the volume and Lessing has managed to avoid the pedantic pitfalls of commentaries that conceal more than they reveal. The design – to make this commentary useful – may also explain the few faults that might be found in this volume. Minor to be sure, but they are noticeable.
At times the commentary takes a colloquial turn with a penchant for cliché (“the tables will be turned’) but on the whole this may help expositors, especially inexperienced ones, and so that mutes the criticism.  In addition, stylistically, the fifteen thematic icons are not different enough in appearance and at times seem to clutter the margin. However,  repeated use would make them more identifiable and effective. The thematic name of each icon listed as it appears throughout the volume would enhance a future edition.
One further caveat: this volume is distinctively Lutheran, conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran, but definitely Lutheran. For example, considering Election the author says: “Jesus is the Elect One and through His election, the baptized are elected before the creation of the world.” (page 220); and in Isaiah 43 the author finds assurance that salvation comes “through the Word and the saving Sacrament of Baptism” (page 319). To Lutherans that may prove an advantage; to others surely a distraction.
Lessing concludes his treatise with powerfully evocative praise: “Throughout Isaiah 40 – 55, creation celebrates Yahweh’s restoring gift of shalom. ‘Sing to Yahweh a new song. …Let the wilderness and its towns lift up [their voice]’ (42: 10-11). The cadence is picked up in 44:23 and again 49:13.  Why is the music so loud? Because Yahweh has condemned Babylon, ‘the great prostitute who defiled the earth by her immorality. And He has avenged the blood of His servants from her hand.’ (Rev. 19:2; see Isaiah 47).  The world empire is deposed and ‘the Lord God Almighty reigns’ (Rev. 19:6; see Isaiah 52:7). The opening words of Isaiah  40 – 55 ring with hope: ‘comfort, comfort my people’ (40:1). In the closing words of Isaiah 40 – 55, Yahweh promises ‘[My Word] will do that which I please and it will accomplish [that purpose for] which I send it” (55:11). The ancient promises to Abraham and Sarah will be repeated.  The exodus of Moses will happen again. The covenant of mercy with David will be renewed! Eden and with it all creation will be restored.  Because of Christ’s shed blood and His resurrection power, we have this prophetic Word made more certain. When He returns, we will be led forth into the new Jerusalem, where everything will be marked by shalom” (page 671).
This is a commentary that draws the reader more deliberately into the Scripture it seeks to exposit. It makes the original text more accessible and understandable.  It never attempts to undermine or obfuscate the message the Holy Spirit has given.  Lessing never loses sight of the metanarrative of redemption and emphatically keeps the glory of God at the center of the study. 

David Pitman
John Leland Baptist College, Georgetown, KY

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Founders Ministries Blog: Laying Hold of the Truth

Founders Ministries Blog: Laying Hold of the Truth: I love God’s Word and delight in its truth. Yet too often I find that after reading my Bible or hearing a sermon, the truth, so necessary to...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Andrew Fuller and His Forgotten Friend: Beeby Wallis
A Friendship Portrait Drawn in Three Sketches

Sketch One

Friendships are often marked by memorable places and events as well as by the normal routine of life. Our first sketch remembers a gathering of some fourteen individuals on October 2, 1792.  Present are:William Carey, Leicester; John Ryland, Northampton; Reynold Hogg, Thrapstone; John Sutcliff, Olney; Andrew Fuller, Kettering; Abraham Greenwood, Oakham; Edward Sharman, Cottisbrook; Samuel Pearce, Birmingham; Joseph Timms, Kettering; Joshua Burton, Foxton; Thomas Blundel, Arnsby; William Heighton, Roade; John Bristol Ayres, Braybrook; and William Staughton, Bristol.

These men meet to form the Baptist Missionary Society. The impact of their society is well-known; some of the particulars, less so. Their offering[i] collected that day was something over 13 £ 2s 6d.  Ryland and Hoog each gave £2-2;  Most of the rest gave £1-1 (perhaps a guinea); Mr. Staughton gave nothing – perhaps because he was a ministerial student at the time.  William Carey made no donation that day but did offer the proceeds from the sale of his book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.

But for the purpose of this sketch, attention is drawn to the house in which they meet and to one noticeable absence. The house[ii] is that of Deacon and Mrs Beeby Wallis. Cathcart said:
 “The little parlor which witnessed the birth of this society was the most honored room in the British Islands, or in any part of Christendom; in it was formed the first society of modern time for spreading the gospel among the heathen, the parent of all the great Protestant missionary societies in existence.”

Andrew Fuller comes to the meeting bearing the sorrow of his wife’s terrible illness that summer; Fuller was by his wife’s side twenty two hours a day for the three months; Mrs. Fuller died in August.  He comes to a home also bearing grief. Absent from the gathering was Beeby Wallis, who had died in April. Mr. and Mrs.Wallis used their home and their wealth for kingdom work in their church and  the Baptist Mission even after their deaths.[iii]
 Beeby Wallis was Andrew Fuller’s friend.

Sketch Two
Andrew Fuller becomes the Secretary of the new mission society, continuing as pastor of the Kettering church where he had ministered since October, 1782. The Baptist Quarterly says:
The chief hinge on which the gates of opportunity turned for Fuller was his removal to Kettering… Once at Kettering a new world opened out before Fuller. Ryland junior, at Northhampton, and Sutcliff, at Olney, he already knew, but they had been inaccessibly remote [in] those pre-railway, pre-mail coach days. Now they could meet. Pierce was near enough, at Birmingham to be visited occasionally. That seraphic soul, too good for this hard world, and destined not long to remain in it, had a strange fascination for rough and gruff Andrew Fuller, whose private prayers contained thereafter a line of unusual character: “God of Samuel Pierce, be my God!”  Soon young Carey came into their circle, and the yeasty ferment in that visionary’s mind communicated itself to the group of brave hearts who were destined to lead a reluctant church forward with the gospel into the heathen world.[iv]

The Divine hand that seems so clearly to have brought Fuller to Kettering made use of a human hand as well.  That human agency, more than any other perhaps, was Beeby Wallis.
Fuller’s first pastorate at Soham was a struggle financially.  Married, with a young family, Fuller had tried a business and then a school to supplement a salary that never reached £13 a year. Yet he was fully devoted to the little church at Soham and it took a year for him to come to the decision to move to Kettering. His diary records the tears and the trauma for Fuller and his first church.
Beeby Wallis first sought Fuller out and over the year through letters and visits made his case for Fuller to come to Kettering.  From that a friendship was forged that seems to have stood the test of time.  Pastor and Deacon would serve together and find common cause and uncommon cordiality.
Beeby Wallis was appointed a deacon by Thomas Benford on October 27, 1768. His signature can be found appended for several years to the Letter to the Association. He also signed the Covenant and confession of faith for the Kettering church along with John Brown, Pastor and another Deacon, Joseph Timms – a name that appears among those gathered to form the Missionary Society. Wallis also served as the first treasurer of the Particular Baptist Association, from which the Missionary Society would come.

Sketch Three

The last scene is a funeral service. Andrew Fuller’s funeral sermon at the death of Beeby Wallis was printed and published: “The Blessedness of the Dead.”
Fuller speaks of “a steady, faithful, and judicious friend.”
I have often admired the wisdom and mercy of God in these things.  We see the threatening hand of God laid upon our dearest friends or relatives – and at first we think we can never endure the loss – but the affliction continues – meanwhile the weight which he sustained is gradually removed, and falls by degrees upon his friends about him – life becomes a burden to himself  - at length the very same principle that made it appear impossible for us to endure a separation, renders us incapable of praying or even wishing for his continuance – and thus the burden that we should scarcely have known how to bear becomes tolerable by being let down, as it were, gradually upon our shoulders.

About five years after [Wallis] was chosen to the office of a deacon, an office which he has filled with honour and satisfaction for twenty-four years.  It was a great blessing to the church, especially when, for the space of five years, they were destitute of a minister, that he was invested with this office, and was then in the prime of life and usefulness.  It will long be remembered with what meekness of wisdom he presided in the church during that uncomfortable interval; and how , notwithstanding all the disadvantages of such a situation, they were not only preserved in peace, but gradually increased, till a minister was settled among them.

The stability of the church, and its ability to support a minister was a crucial factor in the call and coming of Andrew Fuller to Kettering.
God endued him with a sound understanding, and his observances on men and things, ripened by long experience, were just and accurate.  He had a quick sense of right and wrong, of propriety and impropriety, which rendered his counsel of great esteem in cases of difficulty.

Fuller speaks of an industrious, diligent, active man but elaborates on Beeby’s most prominent features:
One of the most prominent features of his character was sincerity, or integrity of heart.  This was a temper of mind that ran through all his concerns.  In a cause of righteousness he possessed a severity which rendered it almost impossible for treachery to stand before him.
… “I wish to do what is right,” he would say “and leave consequences.”
…He would neither flatter, not be flattered by others.  The true secret by which he obtained esteem, was an unaffected modesty, mingled with kindness and goodness.

On Beeby Wallis’ tomb, an end panel bore an inscription said to have been written by Andrew Fuller:
Kind sycamore, preserve, beneath thy shade,
The precious dust of Him who cherished thee:
Nor Thee alone; a plant to him more dear,
He cherished, and with fost’ring hand upreared.

Active and generous in Virtue’s cause,
With solid wisdom, strict integrity,
And unaffected piety, he lived
Beloved amongst us, and beloved he died.

Beneath an Allon-Bachuth[v], Jacob wept:
Beneath thy shade we mourn a heavier loss.

Beeby Wallis was Andrew Fuller’s friend.  He was used of God to bring Fuller to Kettering; to support and sustain his pastoral ministry there, and to enable Fuller’s wider ministry to the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Late in his life, Beeby Wallis said, “I reckon it the greatest honour of my Life to have been employed in promoting the interest of Christ.”

[i] In 1790, £13 2s 6d would have the same spending worth today of £735.39 ( I estimate about $1200 US dollars.)
[iii] Mrs. Beeby Wallis, by will proved in Prerogative Court of Canterbury 6 May 1813, gave £400 to the minister and deacons of the Particular Baptist Congregation upon trust to apply the interest yearly as to £2 10s. to the minister for preaching occasionally in neighbouring villages, £2 10s. in Bibles and hymn books for poor of congregation, £5 to poor of congregation, £4 10s. in repair of Meeting House and residue for minister. The money was invested in Consols, which were sold in 1897, and the proceeds, £455 1s., after being placed on mortgage were subsequently invested in £480 17s. 7d. 5 per cent. War Stock, with the Official Trustees, producing £24 0s. 10d. yearly. In 1924 £16 10s. was placed to the general fund of Fuller Chapel, £2 10s. to the Hymn Book and Bible Fund, and £5 was distributed to the poor.

[v] The KJV transliterated this as “oak of weeping.”

Selected Bibliography

Brewster, Paul. Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian.Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. 2010

Fuller, Andrew. The Blessedness of the Dead. Reproduction from British Library. London: ECCO . 1792

Fuller, Andrew Gunton, Editor.  The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth. Reprint, 2007.

Taylor, John, Historical Collections relating to Northamptonshire. Northhampton: Taylor & Sons. 1896. Reprint.

Top Ten Reasons Sports Should be Banned in America

10. The competitive spirit it engenders is contrary to the guaranteed outcomes-equality desired by our society.

9. The perpetuation of gender inequities continues without any sign of ultimate resolution.

8. The carbon footprint of sports in America is larger than that of the general population of Europe and South America combined.

7. Injuries and deaths continue to accumulate among participants and spectators.

6. The religious devotion of fans to teams, many of which utilize public-financed facilities, is a defacto violation of the separation of church and state.

5. The announcers, color commentators and analysts are systematically destroying the proper use of language and logic.

4. The lost revenue, due to unreported gambling proceeds, hinders the expansion of the welfare state that we all envision as best for America.

3. The pyramid structure of sports is designed to eliminate more and more participants at each higher level with great income received by only a select few at the pinnacle of the Ponzi –like scheme. It reeks of “Capitalism.”

2. The advance of digital graphics allows for the replacement of actual sports with computer-generated models suitable for entertainment at a fraction of the cost.

1. Arenas are sure to be needed when Christianity is outlawed for being hateful and intolerant. The only crimes left to be punished in our perfect society. The Christians could be fed to lions – always highly entertaining and not without historical precedent.