Archive for December, 2010

Glory to the newborn King

13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This hymn is based on a poem with 10 four-line stanzas by Charles Wesley published in 1739. Wesley wrote the poem within a year of his conversion to Jesus Christ, and it stands as one of the finest of his more than 6,500 hymns. It has gone through many revisions since its original writing, beginning with a modification by George Whitefield in 1753.

Wesley’s original line was:

                        Hark, how all the welkin (archaic for “heavens” or “sky”) rings,

                        Glory to the King of Kings!

Which Whitefield changed to its present form:

                        Hark! The herald angels sing

                        Glory to the newborn King.

As with most of Wesley’s hymns, this song is written as a condensed course in the biblical doctrine, with the focus of this song being Christ’s birth.

  • Stanza One—recaptures the message of the angels to the shepherds and places special emphasis on the work of the child as Savior.
  • Stanza Two—Wesley summarizes the essentials of Christ’s person: pre-existence and eternality (1st line), virgin birth (2nd line), two natures and incarnation (3rd line), and fulfillment of the Messianic promise of Emmanuel (4th line).
  • Stanza Three—Wesley draws on OT prophecies to describe the glory of Christ’s person and work: Prince of Peace comes from Isaiah 9:6 and Sun of Righteousness is drawn from Malachi 4:2.

Wesley finishes the third stanza by pointing to the true significance of Christ’s birth:

            Mild He lays His glory by,

            Born that man no more may die,

            Born to raise the sons of earth,

            Born to give them second birth.

What a powerful summary of the purpose for Christ’s coming! I hope we will give that message its proper place as we celebrate Christmas. How can you do that? (1) By thinking about the meaning of these wonderful hymns we sing so that our minds and hearts engage in genuine worship, (2) by telling others why the Son of God really came, and (3) by making sure that your own family’s Christmas celebration does not ignore Christ—read the Scriptures together and offer thanks to God for the gift of His Son.

(Originally posted on 12/24/2009)

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On the public nature of resolutions and critiquing them

Since this objection is commonly raised, let me just say plainly that I do not believe that I was wrong to challenge the resolution publicly. My reasoning for that is twofold: (a) since the resolution was a matter of public expression, public interaction is completely warranted; and (b) the resolution itself expressed a concern about certain “Fundamentalist institutions” which just as much publicly calls into question those institutions as any critique of the resolution raises questions about the ACCC. It is unreasonable for people who are concerned about the truth to demand that it only be discussed privately. I don’t find fault with the ACCC for passing a resolution about something which they perceive to be a public concern. I also don’t regret challenging the resolution publicly. I do regret making a weak argument and some wrong assumptions.

More later.

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How not to write a post…

Well, the blog came back to life just in time for me to eat some crow. It sat dormant for over a month with technical glitches, which meant, to my chagrin, that the post regarding the ACCC resolution was front and center the whole time. Why did that cause me chagrin? One reason is simply that I acknowledged in the post that I am sympathetic toward the ACCC’s position on separatism, so I did not want my very specific disagreement to be over-magnified (like I was rubbing it in their faces for 30 days).

A larger reason was that I had concluded, based on a comment made by Frank Sansone over at SharperIron, that I needed to make a correction to the post. Frank rightly pointed out, I believe, that I had allowed myself to use a bad argument with regard to the Jack Schaap situation. By dragging that back into the picture I made it seem like my concern was limited to the Baptist Friends Conference (BFC), when I was really just trying to illustrate a principle—we look negatively at decisions made by those perceived to be outside of our movement, yet interpret as positively as we can those decisions made by people perceived to be on the inside. The bottom line is that Frank’s comment caused me to reread what I had written and I realized it wasn’t written well. FWIW, because my blog was down, I re-joined SI in order to make the clarification, but it took a day for my permission to get done and by that time the thread had deteriorated so I decided to wait until the blog came back up. Nobody here thought it would take over a month for that to happen.

So, I already felt a little bad that the second half of that post was written so poorly, when, as providence would have it, on the day the blog comes back up I receive a letter from a good brother who is connected to the ACCC. His letter was both gracious and firm—the kind of letter one should write to express disagreement in a manly way (if I may use a non-pc phrase). He wasn’t trashing me for the post, but he took strong exception to it. I don’t agree with all of his arguments against it, but my heart sank as I read portions of it because he was right.

Specifically, I was wrong to accuse the ACCC of a “glaring inconsistency” because they passed a resolution about T4G but there was no resolution against the BFC. That accusation represents a kind of judgmentalism on my part that was uncharitable (and therefore ungodly) and an arrogant assumption on my part that they were deliberately ignoring the other conference (when in fact they may have had no knowledge of it). I played the fool in charging them with this and I need to apologize publicly since my wrongful speech was public. I have wrongly accused the men who crafted and passed this resolution and I am very sorry to have done so.

I am not sure what the proper blog process is for correcting the old post, but I will try to figure out something that acknowledges the weakness of its argument and the wrongful accusation. At this point I believe I will edit the old post and then offer a further word of clarification regarding my original point in a day or so. I am thankful that this brother challenged me about what I had written. Obviously, I needed it. I hope you will also feel the liberty to bring to my attention anything in what I write that you believe needs to be challenged. SDG.

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How not to make an argument for separation

While the blog was down, I posted this over at SharperIron, but also wanted to put it up here.

Recently, Pastor Tod Brainard has published two articles in which he addresses the issue of ecclesiastical connections between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. The two articles overlap in argument, and portions of his arguments have also been passed along by David Cloud. I receive The Projector via mail, so I read his article a couple of weeks ago when it arrived. Earlier today I had someone pass along the Cloud email, then I noticed that a blog based in the toxic state of Illinois also published a modified version of the article. The article is pretty weak in general, but one particular argument he makes serves as an illustration of how we separatists often hurt ourselves when making our case.

In trying to show that Mark Dever is a compromiser, Brainard writes:

Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and R. Albert Mohler were contributors to a document issued Together for the Gospel (T4G) which lists the imperatives of the movement. they write: ‘We deny that any church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or DIVISION without betraying the Gospel.’

Who can argue that the church should accept discrimination and racial prejudice, but to say that ‘division’ betrays the Gospel is to say exactly what the New Evangelicals said in the late 1940’s and the early 1950’s. Division over error is how the Gospel (which by the way includes the whole of Scriptures, not just salvation truth) is kept pure and protected for God’s glory, yet we are led to believe that ‘division’ betrays the Gospel. Unity at all costs is the heart throb of New Evangelicalism” (Tod Brainard, “The Convergence of Fundamentalism and Non-Separatist Evangelicalism,” The Projector, Fall 2010, pp. 6, 9).

Brainard’s completely misinterprets the T4G document. This statement (“We deny that any church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or DIVISION without betraying the Gospel” [emphasis added by Brainard but not acknowledged]) does not in any way mean that they reject any and all divisions. In fact, when Brainard himself concedes that discrimination and racial prejudice are wrong, he is acknowledging that the statement is addressing racial issues, but for some reason he separates division from those other two components and makes it mean something other than what the statement says. They wrote about ”racial prejudice, discrimination, and division” (emphasis added to highlight that the the word racial modifies all three).  They are talking about racial prejudice, racial discrimination, and racial division. Oddly, Brainard recognizes that racial applies to discrimination, but somehow he feels justified in separating it from division.

This was an argument in search of a place to land that found it by dislocating a word from its context. That statement had nothing to do with ecclesiastical separation at all. It was about race relations. In case you think I am being uncharitable in my assessment, here’s what the affirmation portion that is joined to the denial states:

We affirm that God calls his people to display his glory in the reconciliation of the nations within the Church, and that God’s pleasure in this reconciliation is evident in the gathering of believers from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. We acknowledge that the staggering magnitude of injustice against African-Americans in the name of the Gospel presents a special opportunity for displaying the repentance, forgiveness, and restoration promised in the Gospel. We further affirm that evangelical Christianity in America bears a unique responsibility to demonstrate this reconciliation with our African-American brothers and sisters.

Nothing there about separation. Brainard imports that concept into the statement so he can score a point. But it’s a total straw man and straw man arguments only serve to reinforce already held conclusions.

This is my concern. I believe there are great biblical arguments for separation, but when people make arguments like this it diminishes the case for genuine separatism by making separatists look ignorant and/or dishonest. I am fine with having those who reject the Gospel think I am ignorant for embracing it, but I am pretty sure that there are no crowns to be gained by failing to read properly and handle people’s words honestly. We can do much better than this kind of stuff.

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Almost back…

Well, you’ve probably noticed that there has been zero activity on the blog for a while now. We were having some serious tech problems, so it led to major changes and that always takes time (and depends on outside companies, etc.).

We think we are back up and running, but we’ll see when we start posting things. I’d like to do some work on the missional stuff, but we’re also heading into Christmas, my oldest son’s wedding on the 31st, and some big ministry things after the 1st. That means the missional series may hold until after we clear these.

I am sure, though, that there will be things to be said! I will work hard to keep those things separate from the things which should be left unsaid.

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