Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 2)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. This section continues to examine Baxer’s concept of mere Christianity. Read Part 1.

Baxter’s Non-Denominational Stance

The source of Baxter’s anti-denominational stance is explained by multiple factors. A major factor was grounded in Baxter’s belief that all worship is faulty. The Presbyterian will criticize the Anglican mode of worship, and the Anglican will respond in like manner. But Baxter believed that neither had the higher ground. He arrived at this conclusion by consideration of human depravity. That is, since every aspect of man’s life is fallen, even the best worship will be marred. Thus Baxter says,

For while all the worshippers are faulty and imperfect, all their worship will be too: and if your actual sin, when you pray or preach effectively yourselves, doth not signify that you approve your faultiness; much less will your presence prove that you allow of the faultiness of others. The business that you come upon is to join with a Christian congregation in the use of those ordinances which God hath appointed, supposing that the ministers and worshippers will all be sinfully defective, in method, order, words, or circumstances: and to bear with that which God doth bear with, and not to refuse that which is God’s for the adherent faults of men, no more than you will refuse every dish of meat which is unhandsomely cooked, as long as there is no poison in it, and you prefer it not before better.1

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How to Insult Your Pastor Creatively

I have concluded that most church people are positive, encouraging, and supportive. Nonetheless, it generally takes at least ten encouraging things to offset one discouraging thing (this varies a lot with intensity).

The greatest discouragement most pastors face is from within the Kingdom. Jesus warned his disciples that they would have to bear insult because they belong to him (Matthew 5:11). What Jesus did not warn his disciples about is that Christians would insult fellow Christians, and particularly that Christians would insult or demoralize their leaders. I call these offenders the “ungracious ten per cent.”

Most insults are passive-aggressive—insinuation and inference. Here are some common insults—coupled with my subjective rating scale rating intent to insult. Read more about How to Insult Your Pastor Creatively

Ordering Finances Wisely, Part 6: Helping Another in Financial Crisis

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Pastors and other leaders are often faced with helping others in personal financial crisis. The crisis may take several forms:

1. job loss whether by layoff or firing
2. a major medical crisis
3. debt at the tipping point
4. divorce or other family crisis
5. death of a spouse or family member
6. societal economic crisis with widespread impact

Job loss, whether by layoff or firing

The income flow stops (as in the case of being fired) or will soon stop (as in the case of a layoff) but the outflow does not. Single income homes are more susceptible to financial impact because the second income of a spouse may cushion the blow. Read more about Ordering Finances Wisely, Part 6: Helping Another in Financial Crisis

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