Theology Thursday - John Smyth on Baptism

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful characters. Some are orthodox, but decidedly outside the Baptist orbit. Others are completely heretical. Regardless of heresy or orthodoxy, we hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3).

John Smyth on Believer’s Baptism

“[B]aptism is the external sign of the remission of sins, of dying and of being alive, and therefore does not belong to infants.”1

“The Holy Baptism is given unto these in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which hear, believe, and with penitent heart receive the doctrines of the Holy Gospel. For such hath the Lord Jesus commanded to be baptized, and no unspeaking children.” Read more about Theology Thursday - John Smyth on Baptism

Making a Covenant with Abraham (Part 2)

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The whole episode in Genesis 15 is highlighted by the time stamp in verse 18, “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram.” Yahweh declares that He has already given the land to Abram’s descendants. Therefore, as we have said, the covenant serves to reinforce and amplify the plain and clear word of God.

But what about the dimensions of the Promised Land? Can they be determined? If they can, can we say that Abram’s descendants have received it all? Has the gift ever been fully given?

The answer to the question in part hinges on what is meant in verse 18 by “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” Is the river of Egypt the Nile? Or is it a seasonal Wadi? The less usual term nahar for river (of Egypt) persuades most commentators that the Nile is not intended. Also, we should observe the fact that the adjective “great” (gadol) is used of the Euphrates only and not of the river of Egypt. Read more about Making a Covenant with Abraham (Part 2)

Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 1)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission.

By Timothy E. Miller1

Introduction

C. S. Lewis has been hailed as one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century. A great measure of his success was due to his appeal to large segments of the “Christian” religious community. Duncan Sprague commented on this phenomenon: “I am amazed the extreme positions within Christendom that claim Lewis as [their] champion and defender…liberals and the fundamentalists; the Roman Catholics and the evangelical Protestants…the most conservative Baptists to the most charismatic Pentecostals claiming Lewis as one of their own.”2 This led Walter Hooper, a prominent Lewis scholar, to brand Lewis as an “Everyman’s apologist.”3

A major portion of Lewis’s wide appeal should be attributed to his concept of Mere Christianity. When engaged in apologetics, Lewis believed he ought to avoid controversial issues that divided Christians.4 Instead, only the core of Christian doctrine should be advanced and defended to unbelievers. Consequently, since most of Lewis’s doctrinal comments are contained in apologetic works, it comes as no surprise that many—even strongly opposed movements—could claim him as their own. Read more about Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 1)

God's Messenger & the Trinity

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We continue our journey through the Gospel of Mark, mining for gold on Jesus and the doctrine of the Trinity along the way. Here is our text:

As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (Mark1:2)

As what was written in the prophets?1 Mark is explaining that the beginning of the Good News of Jesus, Messiah, the Son of God came about … just as2 it is written in the prophets. The prophets foretold the Messiah would come. The prophets also foretold Messiah would be the Son of God. Now, Mark quotes a few passages rapid-fire to get this point across. This is a composite verse; it’s made up of two different quotations. Read more about God's Messenger & the Trinity

Why "Preach the Gospel to Yourself" Is Not Enough

A battle has been raging for some years now regarding how believers progress in sanctification. It has probably been raging in one form or another for centuries. For those who have not been following it, a few words on why the question is important.

First, by definition, genuine believers want their character and conduct to please the One they call Lord. Second, they also discover quickly by experience (if not by reading the NT) that they do not immediately please Him completely and consistently. Third, they want to know what they should do to improve. In short, “What must I do to be sanctified?” is a question every true disciple is interested in answering correctly.

One school of thought that has made major inroads in the last few years generally reacts negatively to calls to Christian duty and obedience—especially when those calls focus on our nonconformity to the world we live in. Warnings against “legalism” and appeals to “get the gospel right” or to be truly “gospel centered” are typical. To the extent that this perspective offers a clear view of sanctification at all, it often boils down to “just preach the gospel to yourself; that’s all you need to do; God will do the rest.” Read more about Why "Preach the Gospel to Yourself" Is Not Enough

How should a Christian respond to Banned Books Week?

Every year, book lovers and avid readers build up a head of steam about Banned Books Week. The purpose of Banned Books Week is to celebrate the freedom to read, and to highlight the importance of free and open access to information.

Parents who want to protect their children from harmful influences may sometimes challenge books with objectionable content, which causes a conflict between a freedom loving society and Christian values. How should a Christian respond?

Banned or Challenged?

The term “banned” is a little misleading. The American Library Association’s Banned Books List includes any book that is “challenged,” for whatever reason. Read more about How should a Christian respond to Banned Books Week?

Ordering Finances Wisely, Part 5: The Personal Income and Expense Statement

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In various phases of life I have spent money without giving much thought or planning to it. The first was when I was in seminary and I had to have the latest book. A professor would mention a book and I would have to have it. Another was when I bought my first CD player. The first CD I bought was an Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass album. I soon thought I had to have a library of CDs. The third time was when I bought our first DVD player. First, it was “Lawrence of Arabia,” then many more followed. Another phase—and this probably sounds like “true confessions”—is when I had to have the latest modem (2400 baud) or software (Word Perfect) or hard drive.

A single CD, or book, or DVD, or device is not much of a problem, but unchecked anything becomes a spending issue. My wife, who handled our finances during these phases, put up with a lot! Many counselors can testify that finances are a major cause of marital strife. A secular study from 2009 attempted to quantify the effect finances had upon marriages:

Of all these common things couples fight about, money disputes were the best harbingers of divorce. For wives, disagreements over finances and sex were good predictors of divorce, but finance disputes were much stronger predictors. For husbands, financial disagreements were the only type of common disagreement that predicted whether they would get a divorce. (New York Times)

Read more about Ordering Finances Wisely, Part 5: The Personal Income and Expense Statement

Contextualization in Missions Today

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2016. Used by permission.

The very mention of the word “contextualization” in evangelical circles has engendered a variety of reactions. For some, contextualization is absolutely indispensable in cross-cultural ministry. For others, it is a word fraught with compromise that diminishes the purity and clarity of the gospel message. What accounts for these two opposite reactions? In this edition of the Faith Pulpit, Professor Mark Lounsbrough, chair of the Missions and Evangelism Department at Faith Baptist Bible College, examines the issue and gives clarity in this important debate.

By definition contextualization is putting a word, a thought, or a concept in its proper context. That concept seems innocent enough, so why do some object to its use? Part of the reason for the objection is that the word was popularized in an ecumenical context and so broadly applied that essential elements of the gospel were altered or omitted for the sake of making the message of Jesus more palatable to unwelcoming people groups. Read more about Contextualization in Missions Today