Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm not offended

UNC-TV host D. G. Martin has an interesting book review in the Southern Pines Pilot today.

Forget about your "race" as the main thing that sets you apart from other Southerners. Down here we are all "creoles" of one sort of another. It is your ethnic background even more than your race that distinguishes you from others.

In the past we have usually defined Southern people in terms of black and white, but a new volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture shows that race has been overemphasized and ethnicity underemphasized as keys to understanding who we Southerners are.

He sketches out how this academic volume builds the case that twenty generations of cultural exchange - "creolization" - have created a regional identity that transcends skin color. It's an intriguing and potentially unifying idea, if it's valid -- or we work to make it so.

His one criticism is for the editors' desire to reform the traditional term "Scotch-Irish" to reflect the more correct identifier "Scots". Scots Irish? "Let's put that petty criticism aside," he says.

I for one appreciate the nuances of language, to the point that I pronounce "Celtic" with the properly hardened Gaelic "c" (i.e. /keltic/) ... but I will freely admit to continuing the traditional pronunciation of Boston's pro basketball team, the "/seltics/".

Agreed that "Scotch" refers to whiskey and "Scots" to people, but really, as one of their descendents, I'm not bothered by the label "Scotch-Irish". It flows pretty well.

HT: Carolina Journal

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Upcoming Events

There is no record that the Swiss reformer John Calvin ever visited China.

His namesake did it in 2005, and he's going back this Sunday.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Workshop info on having large families

Here are a few resources to go along with our workshop "Yes, We Know What Causes That",

North Carolinians for Home Education Annual Conference
Session 11 -- Saturday, May 24, 2007

Theodore Roosevelt on a tour of the Midwest:

"Three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Bower and their really satisfactory American family of twelve children!"

Books to Help You Make the Decision or Explain It To Others

A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ by Rick and Jan Hess
Be Fruitful and Multiply: What the Bible Says About Having Children by Nancy Campbell
The Bible and Birth Control by Charles Provan
The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality by Mary Pride

Email Groups to Encourage You

Quiver-Full! is an email discussion group for those committed to or interested in the Lord planning their family.

MOMYS Mothers of Many Young Siblings is for mothers who have ever had four or more children eight years and younger at the same time -- others can subscribe as "read only MOMYS". This one is a great encouragement and you know the advice comes from people who really know.

Biblical Resources - "To the Law and to the testimony!" (NKJV unless noted)

Man and woman were created to be fruitful

Genesis 1:27-28 - The Mandate from Creation, before the Fall
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; ...

Genesis 9:1, 7 - Repeated to Noah after the Flood
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth ... And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.”

Genesis 35:10-11 - Repeated at the establishment of God's covenant people
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body.

Children are a primary purpose of marriage

Malachi 2:14-15
Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring.

Children are a blessing and a gift from God
Psalm 127:3-5
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

God's people should expect to have children from Him

Psalm 128:1-4
Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

Leviticus 26:9 - God's promise to His people
"For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you."

1 Chronicles 25:5 - Seventeen children given as a special blessing
All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer to exalt him according to the words of God, for God gave fourteen sons and three daughters to Heman. (NASB)

God provides for His children

Psalm 37:25
I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.

Raising a family is meant for hard times, too

Exodus 1:7-9 - Israel as a refugee nation in a time of famine
But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, ... And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we ... "

Jeremiah 29:5-7 - God's word to His people carried off to Babylonian exile
"Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace."

Friday, May 25, 2007

A House NOT Divided: Promoting Unity in the Homeschool Family Notes & Resources

A House NOT Divided: Promoting Unity in the Homeschool Family
Notes from Hal and Melanie Young's presentation
North Carolinians for Home Education Conference

I. Introduction

II. Family Vision/Mission

Practical Ways to Impart a Sense of Unity in the Family

III. A Family That Desires Unity Tears Down Obstacles

A. Our evil habits destroy our regard and love for one another.
1. Don't allow pesting or bullying
2. Don't tolerate name calling
3. Punish provocation as well as reaction
4. Stop sarcasm and smartmouthing
5. Make competition healthy
6. Encourage peacemaking
7. Encourage shared emotions Romans 12:15-16

B. How can we change?
1. Recognize that bickering and discord is sin Proverbs 6:16-19
2. Deal with it as seriously as we do other sin

IV. A Family That Desires Unity Builds Memories

A. Form family traditions
1. Holiday means "holy day"
2. Feasting is approved by Scripture
3. Form traditions around other holidays
4. Let anticipation build
5. Be unique and don't be afraid to be alone

B. Share interests and accomplishments
1. Develop family hobbies and shared interests
2. Share adversity
3. Seek out a challenge

C. Be sure your children know you value them
1. Children pick up your attitude toward them.
2. Children will also pick up your attitude toward more babies. Psalm 127:3
3. Your parenting is impacted if you believe your children are a gift from the Lord

V. A Family That Desires Unity Reminds Themselves of It Everyday in Little Ways

A. They identify with their family
1. Matching clothes or dress code
2. Fellowship as families
3. Have a healthy sense of pride in your family
4. Have special family code language and code words

B. They guard each other's hearts and feelings
1. Criticism stops at the threshold
2. This starts with the parents
3. He's my brother...
4. Wash your dirty laundry privately

C. They spend time together
1. Quantity trumps quality
2. Bring a child on errands
3. Take the family on business
4. Read or play together as a family
5. Remind yourself of why you are doing this Deuteronomy 32:46-47

VI. Conclusion
A. Summary
B. Glorify God in your family
C. Oswald Chambers quote:

"Our family life in Perth was a very united one; each evening, after the home-lessons were done, was given up to games of various kinds. We found our enjoyment and entertainment in our home; no outside amusements could possibly compare with the fun and happiness to be found there. We never had any desire to be out playing or walking with chums... "I feel traits in my character which I knew not of before, and it causes me to bow in deeper gratitude for that home training which I have now left, for the training and disciplines of life. Oh! What a mighty influence home life has on us! Indeed, we do not know how deep a debt we owe to our mothers and fathers and their training."

D. Theodore Kuyler quote (see more of this fantastic quote in another blog entry here)

"Everything that attracts our children to their homes is very apt to be, in the end, an attraction towards heaven. "

Resource: Doorposts Brother-offended Checklist

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Q&A Time

Melanie answers individual questions from audience members
following her session on early homeschooling Thursday

A Meeting in the Concourse

Keynote Speaker Chris Klicka of Home School Legal Defense Association
chats with my wife Melanie between sessions.

In Conference

My wife and I will be blogging and speaking at the 23rd annual North Carolinians for Home Education Conference in Winston-Salem the next few days. The "NCHE ConferBlog" is located here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where Do You Begin?

WRAL is reporting that the suspect in an armed robbery in Duplin County was shot and killed following a 130-mph chase through four counties, ending when he emerged from his disabled vehicle with a weapon at the intersection of I-40 and the Beltline in Raleigh.

There will be enough said in the next few days about the chase and its conclusion, but I was struck by the sequence of events at its beginning:

1. Stage daring gun-in-the-face daylight gas station hold-up
2. Walk outside and fill up gas tank
3. Flee

God takes no delight in the death of the wicked so I'm not rejoicing in this guy's end. However, it boggles the mind that the bandit would casually top off the petrol while the clerk he just threatened calls the constabulary. It reminds me of one of Dorothy Sayers' novels, Unnatural Death, where Lord Peter asks his Scotland Yard friend Charles Parker just where we'd be if criminals were not so stupid in the end.

Or could this have been a suicide by law enforcement?

A Mark of Distinction

My children and I attended a "Friday Favorites" concert of the North Carolina Symphony last week, and I read in the program notes that the tuba player, David G. Lewis, occupies the Governor and Mrs. James G. Martin Jr., Chair with the orchestra.

Well, you learn something new every day. I had never heard that our most recent Republican governor is an accomplished tuba player.

That ought to be high on anybody's resume.

For what it's worth, here's another politician who played tuba -- Trent Lott.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

You Run Your Business, I'll Run Mine

Recent events:

  • Major Big Box Office Supply Place: I needed manila envelopes for a business mailing. The box of 100 standard, house brand 9x13 envelopes was priced thirty cents less than the box of 50. That's right -- we'll pay you thirty cents to carry out the second box. If I get a thousand, can I have them free?

  • Major Big Box Pharmacy: I was buying an over the counter medicine on Wednesday, and the clerk asked if I'd like the M&M's at three for a dollar. Okay, I said, and bought a bag full for my host's kids. (He's got seven and Mom needs some too) Next day, I pass by the same store on my trip home and thought I'd get some to provision the lonely miles ahead. The clerk rang them up at $1.60. I told her they were three for a dollar (as she had just sold to an elderly lady ahead of me). She told me that was with tax. No, I said, three for a dollar plus tax is about one dollar and seven cents. She gamely cancelled the transaction and rang them up again. They're still coming up $1.60, she told me. Never mind ...

So back to my own business now ...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Before Thomas Jefferson

Before the Declaration of Independence, there was the Mecklenburg Declaration, signed May 20, 1775. Historian David McCollough, author of John Adams and 1776, was in Charlotte today commemorating the event, and unlike some historians -- and Jefferson himself -- believes the document is authentic.

Not quite that early, but very close to home, is the following brief statement that was signed on June 4, 1775, only fifteen days on the heels of the "Mec Dec":

The actual commencement of hostilities by the Britsh troops in the bloody scenes April, 19 last, was Boston, the increase of arbitrary impoisitions from a wicked and despotic ministry – and the dread of instigated insurrection in the colonies are causes sufficient to drive an oppressed people to the use of arms.

We, therefore the subscribers, inhabitants of South Carolina holding ourselves bound by the most sacred of all obligations, the duty of good citizens toward an injured country and thoroughly convinced under our present distressed circumstances we shall be justified before God and man in resisting force by force, do unite ourselves under every tie of religion and of honor and associate as a band at her defense against every foe; hereby solumnly engaging that wherever our continental or provincial counsils shall decree it necessary, we go forth and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes to secure her freedom and safety. This obligation is to continue in full force till reconciliation shall take place between Great Britain and America, upon constitutional priniples, an event which we most ardently desire and we will hold all those persons inimical to the liberty of the colonies who shall refuse to subscribe to this association. [1]

Not quite as distinct as the Mecklenburg document, and holding out a hope of reconciliation which the Mecklenburg signers didn't, but drawing a line on principle nevertheless.

We may have a family connection to the Mecklenburg Declaration -- several of the signatories were named Alexander, and there are Alexanders in the Smith side of the family though all the relationships haven't been sorted out yet.

However, the declaration from South Carolina was signed by several direct and collateral ancestors on the Young side --
  • Four named Singleton, including Matthew, John, Joseph, and Robert Singleton (my 6g-grandfather);
  • Josiah and Caleb Gayle (likely brothers of Robert Singleton's wife Sarah Gayle); and
  • Thomas and Richard Bradford (thought to be my 6g- and 7g-grandfathers; Thomas Bradford's son Richard married Robert Singleton's daughter Elizabeth).
  • There were also Wrights and Rodgers in the list though I'm not sure about them.

So if Charlotte has its May 20th Society, perhaps the Youngs can celebrate June 4th.


[1] McCrady's South Carolina, vol.,II, p. 792; quoted in Hugh Charles Haynsworth, Haynsworth-Furman and allied families: (including ancestry and descendents of Sarah Morse Haynsworth) (Sumter, SC: Osteen Publishing Co.., 1942), 39-40.

Romney Heads South of the Border

Anyone who drives along I-95 should realize I mean south of the line between the two Carolinas, not all the way to Mexico (where his father was born, incidentally). The thought of a presidential candidate visiting Pedro Land near Dillon, SC, is amusing, anyway.

While I was in South Carolina on a business trip, the Republican presidential hopefuls met in Columbia, SC, for a "debate" sponsored by Fox News. As it happened, I did not have time to stop and observe, but one thing was apparent -- Romney's campaign is already planting yard signs along the Interstate exits.

I have to wonder if this was simply in connection with his appearance at the debate, or if this presages another outreach to evangelicals, coming to this very conservative state from his recent visit to Regent University (formerly CBN University, founded by Pat Robertson, and home of the law school formerly hosted by Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma). Certainly this is the group Romney will have to convince if he's going to gain an edge over Giuliani and McCain -- or the undeclared Fred Thompson, for that matter.

What's next? A visit to Bob Jones University? Seems like McCain did that last time and got castigated for his pains. Maybe Romney should head to BJU's more mainstream neighbor, Furman, if that's his strategy -- but then, he couldn't get much more conservative than BJU, and he's got a lot of ground to make up already.

First Posted on Five Points

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dr. Falwell's Graduation

As I was driving to visit an out-of-state customer this morning, I heard the news that Rev. Jerry Falwell had been found unconscious in his office and taken to the hospital "critically ill". An hour later, I heard that he had in fact died.

At the moment CNN is running its series of reports and retrospectives on Dr. Falwell's career. We were just treated to Larry King interviewing Tammy Faye Baker Messner -- what a remarkable pair to reflect on Falwell. Oh, now we get Robert Schuler from the Crystal Cathedral. At least Franklin Graham will be coming up later.

I have to say Jesse Jackson was surprisingly positive, acknowledging the wide differences between their political views, but saying they enjoyed an "odd couple" friendship and shared some public events in the fight against poverty. Ditto Al Sharpton, who said that "You couldn't dislike him if you got to know him."

Jimmy Carter's contribution, however, lives up to his continuing downward spiral; CNN is replaying a sound bite where Carter said of Falwell, "I say, in a Christian way, that he can go to hell," which speaks volumes of Carter. Of course, Carter libeled the deceased Rev. Adrian Rodgers in print last year (Our Endangered Values), sending his family a belated apology after the book was on the shelves, so what should we expect. Christopher Hitchens has just called him "a toad", "a horrible little person", and "an evil old man" who "teaches lies to children", but then, Hitchens seems determined to construct himself as the most outrageously bitter atheist in the media.

They're in the minority. Most of the comment so far has been more positive than simple nihil nisi bonum mortuis would require. There will be a tremendous amount said about Falwell the next few days so all I can contribute is a few anecdotal observations. I feel like I need to, though. My wife graduated from Liberty University; I took graduate courses from there by extension, so every time I think about completing the M.A., I think about Falwell's institution. His ministry has cast a long but benevolent shadow in our family.

I know a lot of my fellow believers really didn't care for Dr. Falwell, the Calvinists maybe because he was an icon of Baptist fundamentalism. Certainly I was upset last year at the seminary president Ergun Caner's outrageous remarks saying Calvinists are as bad as Muslims in his book; nothing like a brother calling you an infidel. For that matter, I know some fundamentalists didn't like him, either, because he was more open to teachers and pastors outside the fundamentalist camp. For one example, the hard-line fundamentalist paper Sword of the Lord took sharp exception to Falwell's acceptance of Dr. Ed Dobson, an open Calvinist, on the faculty at Liberty University in the 1980's.

Overall, I would call Falwell a moderate among fundamentalists, firm in his beliefs but open in his fellowship, and his late-career move into the Southern Baptist Convention aligned him with men like Charles Stanley rather than the harder-edged fundamentalists like Curtis Hutson.

I know many people in both the Christian and the secular worlds hated his constant fundraising efforts. I didn't care for his style of fundraising either, but what he did with it is remarkable. Falwell grew a church from 35 members to well over 20,000, twice the size of my home town. The college he founded in Lynchburg grew to over 24,000 students in thirty years, larger than the major state college I graduated from. Other projects beyond the Moral Majority included homes for unwed mothers and recovering alcoholics and countless other ministries, missions, and service groups. Al Sharpton said Falwell had an incredible gift for organization and he gave him great credit for that, even though Sharpton says he didn't agree with much of what he organized.

My wife knew him and his family from her time as a student at Liberty University, and she said their home and cars were not lavish and Falwell's salary was consistent for a college president. And he was known for his personal generosity. A student called in to Sean Hannity this afternoon and shared how Falwell had written her a personal check for $1200 to complete the funding for a mission project she had organized to Central America. My wife said that was Dr. Falwell's way, and many of her fellow students told similar stories. His fundraising was never about personal enrichment, it was always for the ministry.

Compare this with several other prominent "televangelists" who come to mind from the 1980's and 1990's -- most of whom imploded their ministries with scandals, infidelity, or criminal convictions. While Dr. Falwell occasionally made provocative statements, some of which he later moderated, I never heard of a scandal concerning him or any of his family members. While running his "multi-million-dollar religious empire" as CNN put it, he always maintained reliable counsel and board members that kept the ministries on an even ethical keel -- something sorely lacking among others.

I only spoke with Dr. Falwell personally one time. I ran into him at the Republican National Convention in 2004, introduced myself as one of his distance students from the university, and chatted for a minute while we headed to the seats. My one encounter was consistent with what students on campus are saying this evening -- Falwell was not an inaccessible icon, but a "regular guy" with a talent for reaching out to anyone.

In all the debates and confrontations I saw Dr. Falwell engage on television, I never saw him lose his temper or lash out at an opponent. Even CNN can't quite get over the geniality of the man, as much as they'd like to, and the short news clips and interview segments they are airing show this clearly. And in all the discussion about Falwell's impact on American politics -- others will document just how huge it has been -- even the carefully edited footage can't keep out the man's heart to share the Gospel and to challenge America to live in accordance with Scripture.

I have to say, with Dr. James Dobson, that the church has lost a general. And in a way, though I hardly knew him, I feel like I've lost a friend, too. It seemed like Dr. Falwell was always somewhere in the background of our lives, and I do appreciate many of the things he accomplished or made available to the country and to us individually.

Rest in peace, Brother, and rejoice in your new Home.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Online Interlinear Greek NT

In the New King James version, Ephesians 2:1 reads, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trepasses and sins ...", the italics indicating a translator's insertion. I though that was a pretty significant phrase to insert, so

I went online to see what the other versions' readings were:

NKJV: And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins
KJV: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
NASB: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins
NIV: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins

So off to the Greek:
Stephanus 1550 :
και υμας οντας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις αμαρτιαις
Westcott-Hort 1881:
και υμας οντας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις αμαρτιαις υμων

Not that I can read much of it. However, this site, encourages readers to "overcome the language barrier and get in touch with the Original". They offer, along with a Hebrew counterpart, an online interlinear Greek New Testament that includes the koine text, transliteration, grammatical notes, direct translation, and suggested reading, along with the KJV rendering for comparison. (Interestingly enough, the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus, while this interlinear uses the Westcott-Hort text; on this verse it doesn't make much difference, it seems.) Here's a screen shot of a later verse if you can read it:

Their rendering for Ephesians 2:1 is something like "And ye being dead in the offenses and sins of ye".

Regardless of the translation, one thing's for certain -- apart from God's redemption and forgiveness, we're all dead.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Baptism of John Calvin

Our eldest son, John Calvin Young, testifies to his faith in Christ before being baptized on April 29, 2007. The ceremony took place at Seth Allen's pond near Smithfield, N.C. It was the first baptismal service for our church, the first among our children, and the first administered by myself.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Judaic Resource

I commented a few days ago on the usefulness of John Gill's commentary for understanding matters of Jewish custom and belief. I just found another resource which I've used in the library but is now online -- the 1906 edition of the 12-volume Jewish Encyclopedia.

Obviously there are places where the encyclopedia treats New Testament history as legend, for example the accounts of the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus, but there is a wealth of other information which is purely historical or relevant to the Old Testament. At the moment I'm preparing to preach on the trials of Jesus in Matthew 26:57-68, so information on the workings of the Sanhedrin and the two high priests Annas and Joseph Caiaphas is helpful.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sounds like Baghdad

Headline this morning: Bush tours flattened town

They did? Wow.

The newspaper style books do that kind of thing. They meant "[President] Bush tours [the tornado-] flattened town" but it comes across like some sort of Administration-sponsored vandalism

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Is Christianity Good for the World?"

Christianity Today is hosting an exchange between atheist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisoned Everything) and Reformed pastor and commentator Doug Wilson (Credenda/Agenda) on the question.

I consider Wilson 50% profound, 25% wrong but respectable, and 25% infuriating, but he is always trenchant. For example:
In your concluding paragraph you make a great deal out of your individualism and your right to be left alone with the "most intimate details of [your] life and mind." Given your atheism, what account are you able to give that would require us to respect the individual? How does this individualism of yours flow from the premises of atheism? Why should anyone in the outside world respect the details of your thought life any more than they respect the internal churnings of any other given chemical reaction? That's all our thoughts are, isn't that right? Or, if there is a distinction, could you show how the premises of your atheism might produce such a distinction?
This looks promising. Calvinism is not a squishy theology, and Wilson has about as hard an edge as any five-pointer I've read. Hitchens may have found a worthwhile opponent this time.

HT: Dr. Michael Sanera in The Locker Room

Monday, May 07, 2007

Everything is Under Control

The sermon yesterday at church was on the arrest of Jesus in Matthew 26:47-56 (parallels in Mark, Luke, and John).

One of the major points that Dave brought out was that throughout the event, Jesus remained in charge, a fact very clear in John's account how a simple word from Him literally flattened the entire force brought to take Him into custody. He was not overwhelmed nor surprised by their numbers, but consented to the entire undertaking that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, even clearing the way for His disciples' escape.

On that last matter, it is a continual amazement to me how many layers of God's Providence are unfolded in Scripture -- how He that ordains ends also ordains the means, and while God is sovereign in all things, yet His creatures bear responsibility for their own choices and actions, even as they fulfill prophecy of centuries before.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gotta Draw the Line Somewhere

The Church of Norway (I would assume "lutheran" with a small L) recently held a one-day conference with Muslim imams, billed as "Shoulder to Shoulder". The meeting ended on a disappointing note -- the priests v. imams soccer game was cancelled when the Muslims objected to playing soccer with women priests, and the priests decided "it would send the wrong signal" to agree to a man-to-man match.

Well, good for them. If it took the issue of ordination of women, something even Christians argue about, to force a stand of no compromise with members of a faith group that denies the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, I wonder what agreements the Church did offer that day.

As far as the end game, I'd ask the question, "Which religious leaders were holding to the historic tenets of their faith?"

My guess, to put it in soccer terms, would be Imams 1, Priests 0.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Grace and Glory

I've often used John Gill's commentary to get information on the Jewish understanding of different Biblical passages, most recently to give context for the reaction to Jesus' teaching. I find Matthew Henry and J. C. Ryle much more readable and devotional, but I haven't found anyone who beats Gill on the nuances of Hebrew thought, something I am totally unequipped to dig out myself.

Gill, however, has suffered from a reputation as a hyper-Calvinist, an allegation that extends all the way back to his own times. That reputation may be undeserved, though.

I'm re-reading Tom Nettles' By His Grace and For His Glory, a thorough history of the teaching of Calvinistic doctrines by Baptist churches since the 1600's.[1] Early in the book Nettles takes an entire, lengthy chapter to discuss the theology of John Gill, using lengthy quotations from Gill's contemporary and modern critics to give the case against him, then refuting their contentions from several of Gill's works.

Calvinist he was, no question, but to do as one writer and decide a priori that Gill is the definitive hyper-, then comb Gill's works to write your general definition of hyper-Calvinism, is both unjust and historically and theologically inaccurate.

Nettles does a good job showing that Gill's theology was not antithetical to evangelism. One interesting example is the distinction Gill made between grace and the gospel. Grace is the sovereign mercy of God which He bestows on His elect; the gospel, and the duty to repent and believe in it, is the responsibility of all men everywhere.

If God does not extend grace to a particular sinner, then He doesn't add anything to the sinner's own guiltiness, which stems from the sinfulness of his inborn character. Men die for their active sin, not for lack of grace.

But Gill contended that the preacher was bound to call all sinners to Christ, because none who come to Him will be cast out, and even knowing that there are relatively few that will come, the preacher is still commanded to proclaim the gospel to all. The difference in Gill's view is that grace is God's gift, not something that human ministers extend and offer. It's not the preacher's role, or really even the sinner's, to try and predict who has received grace and "warrant to believe"; preachers are commanded to preach, and sinners are commanded to believe. Simple enough.

Interestingly enough, Gill excused some theological inaccuracies from hymn-writers and preachers whom he thought were overwhelmed with zeal to bring sinners to Christ -- hardly consistent with a hard-line, uncompromisedly hyper- sort of Calvinist. The fact that he held up a universal call to Christ, relying fully on the concepts of duty-faith and duty-repentence which true hyper-Calvinists reject, is further evidence of his evangelical orthodoxy. For many of us, Gill might be worth reconsideration in the light of history and his own writings, not the reputation given by his opponents.


[1] I just discovered the new 20th Anniversary edition on the Founders Conference website. My copy is the first edition, bought the year it was published at the church I attended in Clemson (Covenant Baptist Church, now passed from the scene). I first read it the summer I was married, and when I got my copy down this week, I found a sheet with notes about our wedding plans used as a bookmark.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Speaking at Lighthouse

This evening I was privileged to speak at the monthly meeting of Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association, in Wake Forest. I've had the opportunity to meet with them and their leaders several times and they are one of my favorite groups in the Triangle. Thanks to all fifty of you for having me over!

I promised the group I'd post the link to the two articles I mentioned, so here they are:

"North Carolina's Wall of Educational Separation"
The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty (Foundation for Economic Education), July 2005

"Homeschooling in North Carolina"
Family North Carolina (N.C. Family Policy Council), October/November 2006

And some other links of interest:

North Carolinians for Home Education