Friday, March 30, 2012

He Was Buried

All four Gospels clearly and intentionally relate that after Jesus was crucified he was buried. Have you ever wondered why that is? Does Jesus' burial have anything to do with the gospel?

It does indeed. Join us this Lord's Day to see what the Gospel of John says about Jesus' burial.

'Tis the Christ (#150)
How Sad Our State (#333)
Amazing Grace (#247)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#249)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 29:1-25; Psalm 22
New Testament: Philemon

"He Was Buried" - John 19:38-42

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs


Few words in the New Testament have been subjected to more distortion than the word "Spiritual." Frequently it is used to denote what is little more than vague sentimentality. "Spiritual" in the New Testament refers to that which is of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual man is the person who is indwelt and controlled by the Holy Spirit and a spiritual state of mind is a state of mind that is produced and maintained by the Holy Spirit.

John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 165-6.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"But Hafly Reformed"

Thoughts on the Puritans continued... (for introduction, see "Who Were the Puritans?" Part 1 and Part 2)

“Canterbury fought with Rome in the days of Henry VIII and Edward VI and with Geneva in the days of Elizabeth….What made the second battle so acrimonious was that it was between foes in the same Protestant household.”[1] So writes Horton Davies in Worship and Theology in England: From Cranmer to Hooker 1534-1603, and this is an accurate summation of the matter. The Puritans were convinced that the Church of England was “but hafly reformed.” They wanted to restore pure worship as they saw it in the Scriptures.

The Puritans’ Work Toward Reform

            When it became evident that Elizabeth was not about to institute sweeping reform of worship in England, the Puritans set to work in Parliament and in parish churches. Fairly broad unanimity had been achieved doctrinally with the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563, 1571), but the practice of the church left much to be desired. Many parish ministers began to conduct public worship as they pleased. In the convocation of clergy in 1563, the Puritans set forward their desired reforms:
“…that at the celebration of the Lord's Supper the posture of kneeling, as suggesting the adoration of the elements, should be left indifferent; that the sign of the cross in baptism should be disused; that the wearing of copes and surplices be abolished, so that all ministers should use 'a grave and comely side (i.e., long) garment' or preaching gown; and that they should not be compelled to wear such caps and gowns as the Romish clergy.
“This overture not being approved, a motion was then brought forward to the effect that while Sundays and the special feasts associated with the events of our Saviour's life should be religiously observed, all other holidays should be abolished; that in all parish churches the minister in common prayer should turn his face to the people; that the cross in baptism be omitted; that kneeling at the sacrament be left to the discretion of the minister; and that it should suffice if he wear the surplice once, provided that no minister should say service or minister the sacraments but in comely garment or habit. After some discussion this motion was carried to the vote, when it appeared there was a majority in its favour by forty-three against thirty-five. But the proxies had then to be counted and these reversed the decision by one vote and only one, there being now fifty-eight for the motion and fifty-nine against. So that by the vote of one man, who was not present at the debate—that 'odd, shy man' as he has been called, it was thus determined to make no alteration in the ceremonies, and the Court party, therefore, carried their point in that memorable Convocation.”[2]

            The Puritans were stung by this defeat, but they were also emboldened by the knowledge that they had such widespread support. They continued their push for changes in worship. However, in 1566, Archbishop Matthew Parker laid out his “Advertisements” which reinforced the status quo.
            The Puritans continued to work for change in Parliament, and their attacks zeroed in on the Book of Common Prayer. But in addition to this they began to publish and preach relentlessly. Not only did they put out polemical literature, they also published much devotional material, seeking to revive true religion in England from the ground up through families. The wealthier Puritan supporters endowed Emmanuel College at Cambridge University to keep a steady supply of well-trained Puritan pastors and teachers. They supported lectureships in various towns to disseminate sound doctrine. An entire network of “prophesyings” arose, which were meetings at which Puritan ministers would discuss the meaning and application of Scripture.
            We now need to ask, “If the two factions were in broad doctrinal agreement, what differences in beliefs drove this struggle?”

Concepts of Scripture

            Article Seven of the Thirty-Nine Articles, “Of the Sufficiency of the Scriptures for Salvation,” reads, “Holye  Scripture  conteyneth  all thinges necessarie to saluation: so that whatsoeuer is not read therein, nor may be proued therby, is not to be required of anye man, that it shoulde be beleued as an article of the fayth, or be thought requisite as necessarie to saluation” (1572). The Puritans believed that the Church of England was not following this article to its true conclusion in its form of church order and worship. They believed that the Scripture governed more than simply doctrine and ethics. The Scripture provided the model by which the church should be structured. The church ought not to practice anything in worship which did not receive direct sanction from the Bible. The later influential Puritan theologian, William Ames, expressed it this way:
“All things necessary to salvation are contained in the Scriptures and also those things necessary for the instruction and edification of the church….Therefore, Scripture is not a partial but a perfect rule of faith and morals. And no observance can be continually and everywhere necessary in the church of God, on the basis of any tradition or other authority, unless it is contained in the Scriptures.”[3]
            The “Anglicans,” on the other hand, argued that God had indeed given us everything we need for salvation in the Scriptures. However, God has not given us everything that is to be done in church in particular. God was not concerned about the details, if you will, and he had left those to be determined by the wisdom gained from church tradition and right reason.
            The Puritans thought this too convenient. It made it far too easy to set aside anything in the Bible which did not fit with contemporary practice. Instead, for the Puritans the Bible was the comprehensive word of God for all of life.

Concepts of Mankind

            In addition to differences in their handling of Scripture, the two parties differed in their estimation of mankind. Although both believed in original sin, the Puritans held that the effects of original sin were much more pervasive than the Anglicans did. Thus, the Puritans tended to have a dim view of man’s reason, while the Anglicans had a more positive estimation. The Puritan William Perkins taught that original sin “is corruption engendered in our first conception, whereby every faculty of soul and body is prone and disposed to evil.”[4] As Davies says, “If the Anglican apologist claimed that all God reveals must be comprehended by human reason, because the author of both revelation and reason is God, the Puritan replied that this was to make reason a judge over revelation, and man an arbiter of God.”[5]

Concepts of the Church

            While both Anglicans and Puritans believed in a national church, they differed over exactly what that meant. Puritans believed that the church comprised everyone in the kingdom; however, it was a mixed multitude. While all were baptized and thus members of the church, not all who were church members were actually converted. Furthermore, the Puritans sought to restore the church as it was practiced by the apostles. The Anglicans, on the other hand, did not agree that the Puritans were correct. They believed that the New Testament did not prescribe a once-for-all form of the church, and that with a Christian state there were important difference between the church in apostolic times and the church in Elizabethan England.

Concepts of the Sacraments

            Both Anglicans and Puritans agreed on the basic nature of the sacraments as means of grace. They denied the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Zwinglian view of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, there was a noticeable difference in emphasis between the two groups. Anglicans saw the sacraments as primary channels of the knowledge and grace of God, but Puritans elevated preaching to this position. “In other words, for the Anglican the sacramental was the primary mode of Christ’s presence, but for the Puritan the primary mode of Christ’s presence was kerygmatic.”[6]

[1] (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 40. I am indebted to Davies’ monumental study for the main structure of this post.
[2] John Brown, The English Puritans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910). [Available online at brown_englishpuritan.html]
[3] The Marrow of Theology as cited by Davies, Theology and Worship in England, 52.
[4] The Golden Chain, reprint ed. (np: Puritan Reprints, 2010), 23.
[5] Worship and Theology in England, 56.


My friend John Aloisi, who teaches church history at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, has taken the opportunity for reflection created by the awful murders of Afghan civilians to push us to consider further what kind of a society we live in. He has an excellent post entitled "Boys Will Be Men" which you ought to read.

When incidents like the killing of innocent civilians take place, people usually go searching for answers. But events like the cage matches at Fort Hood should also be cause for cultural introspection. How did we get to the place where those in military leadership think it’s a good idea to encourage male soldiers to fight women in cage matches? Furthermore, when did young men come to the conclusion that it is okay to enter a competition where those who do well will probably have to fight women and either deck or get decked?

When God sends judicial blindness upon a people, they cannot even see the most basic distinctions between men and women. They honor destruction.

Read the whole thing.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Real Community

Some musings on "community"...

It is popular now-a-days to talk about how much we need and want "community." Churches are supposed to be a real community. But I still don't think we mean it. If we do mean it, we don't know how to practice it very well. Our actions say differently.

What makes a real community? Here are a few observations.

We do not have a real community by virtue of the fact that we really like being together.

We do not have a real community by virtue of the fact that we support each other through tough times.

This is good, of course, and it will be found to some degree in real communities, but it still isn't enough.

A good sign of a real community is that we stick together even when we don't like our community or other people in our community because we are bound together by something much more important and much more powerful than what we want or choose. It is not that we don't work toward liking each other, but simply leaving is not a viable option if there is a real community. In a real community, everyone senses that simply leaving is a nuclear option, and there will be real fallout.

The church is to be a community characterized by love - the love of the Father for the Son. This love is poured out on the people given by the Father to the Son by the Spirit. This love calls forth from his people a love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which love creates a common bond and purpose for the glory of God and the cause of Christ. This is our vision for our church.

Note that this is a conservative vision, very much in contrast to the prevailing liberal consensus in our society. As David T. Koyzis recently wrote,

Historic liberalism is predicated on the assumption that all communities can be reduced to mere voluntary associations of sovereign individuals uniting with each other for specific self-chosen purposes amendable at their own discretion. This is behind the contractarian vision of the state, and it also obviously has relevance for the institutional (or not so institutional) church. Is it mere coincidence that North America, whose culture has been deeply influenced by Locke, is disproportionately populated by churches with voluntaristic polities and a commitment to what has been called “decisional regeneration”?

 We need to drop a good deal of what we have been discipled to believe and begin seeking for a Spiritual community. A real community will be a scandal in our day, but it will also be a light to the world.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Read What Is There, Not What You Want to Be There (Exegesis)

In his discussion of Romans 6:1-10 on the topic of baptism, James Dunn again reads into the text unwarranted assumptions. For example, he writes,

Paul is dealing with the spiritual reality of death to sin (and life to God) and in vv. 3–6 he depicts this theme under a series of different images. The first metaphor we are already familiar with – vbapti,zein eivj Cristo.n VIhsou/n. It is drawn from baptism, but does not itself describe baptism, or contain within itself the thought of the water-rite, any more than did the synonymous metaphors of putting on Christ (Gal. 3.27) and being drenched with the Spirit (I Cor. 12.13). The first and only concrete reference to water-baptism in Rom. 6 is the phrase dia. tou/ bapti,smatoj; this phrase marks an extension of Paul’s thought to embrace the water-rite, and indicates the relation between the metaphors (of baptism and burial) and the rite itself in the actual event of conversion-initiation, as we shall see. But when is used in its metaphorical sense any element which is involved is the Spirit, and what it describes is the spiritual mystical reality of union with Christ effected by God. Union with Christ means union with his death. Of the completeness of this death the rite of baptism is an excellent symbol: the disappearance, however brief, below the surface of the water represents a burial rather well – and in this case, participation in the completeness and finality of Christ’s death…. In short, each metaphor points directly to the spiritual reality and not to baptism, which is itself a metaphor. [Dunn, J. D. G. (2011-08-22). Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Kindle Locations 3105ff). Kindle Edition.] 

Notice, however, that he assumes that Spirit baptism and water baptism are mutually exclusive. There is nothing in the context which would indicate that the text is not talking about water baptism, unless we read the text with the prejudice that water baptism has nothing to do with union with Christ. But reading the text this way is eisegesis, importing our preconceived notions into the text. 

Douglas Moo is much more in line with the actual text when he comments,

Paul’s reference is to the Roman Christians’ water baptism as their outward initiation into Christian existence. To be sure, a few scholars have denied any reference to water baptism here….But, without discounting the possibility of allusions to one or more of these ideas, a reference to water baptism is primary. By the date of Romans, ‘baptize’ had become almost a technical expression for the rite of Christian initiation in water, and this is surely the meaning the Roman Christians would have given the word (Romans, 359).
Thomas Schreiner is correct, then, to say, 

We are asking the wrong question, therefore, if we ask whether Spirit or water baptism is in view in Rom 6:3-4. Other Pauline texts suggest that water baptism and reception of the Spirit occurred at conversion. In my judgment Paul would have been initially puzzled if we asked him, ‘Do you mean Spirit or water baptism in these verses?’ He would reply, when he understood the question, ‘Both’ (“Baptism in the Epistles” 74).


It Is Finished

This coming Lord's Day our text is the simple but profound utterance of Jesus on the cross - "It is finished." I hope that those words mean everything to you and that you will come to hear them with happy ears.

And Can It Be? (#35)
Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners (#434)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
The Name High Over All (#31)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 28:22-43; Psalm 119:161-176
New Testament: Galatians 6:1-18

It Is Finished - John 19:30

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Campaign Stumps

Back in the election year of 2008, I put up a post with J. Budziszewski's list of moral errors into which those who go by the label of political conservatives can fall. Since we are in another election year, and especially since the Republican primaries are in the news, I thought it might be helpful to direct your attention to that post again. Being aware of these potential errors helps us to wisely and biblically evaluate what we hear from the campaign stumps.

"Christianity and Political Conservatism"

The eight errors are
  1. Civil religionism
  2. Instrumentalism
  3. Moralism
  4. Caesarism
  5. Traditionalism
  6. Neutralism
  7. Mammonism
  8. Meritism
Read it all here.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pay Attention to Your Parallels (Exegesis)

Dunn sees a strong contrast between John’s baptism and the baptism in Spirit and fire. He makes this point at length, but here is one example where he writes, “Moreover, in Mark the contrast between the two baptisms is exceedingly sharp:
evgw. evba,ptisa u`ma/j u[dati( auvto.j
de. bapti,sei u`ma/j evn pneu,mati a`gi,w|Å
Here the emphasized words are ‘I’ and ‘He’, ‘water’ and ‘Holy Spirit’. Water is set over against Spirit as that which distinguishes John’s baptism from the future baptism. It would seriously distort the sense of the logion if Spirit-baptism was equated or conflated with water-baptism.” [Dunn, J. D. G. (2011-08-22). Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Kindle Locations 756-760). Kindle Edition.]
            However, Anthony Cross insightfully notes, contra Dunn, that the Baptist’s saying is not antithetical parallelism but step parallelism, “in which ‘the second strophe takes up the thought of the first strophe and advances the thought one additional step. As a result, the second line…is an additional, although related, statement that brings the entire saying to its climax and completion’” (citing R. H. Stein). He says, “This sees Jesus’ baptism in the Spirit as the climax/fulfillment of John’s baptism not its antithesis” (“Spirit- and Water-Baptism,” 131).
            Stein adds, “[These two baptisms] are not portrayed in Luke-Acts (Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 11:16) as standing in opposition to one another but in apposition. Christian baptism is not exclusive, but inclusive, with respect to the baptism of John; the former is not only a baptism of repentance with water, but a baptism of repentance with water and the Holy Spirit as well” (“Baptism in Luke-Acts,” 36).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who Were the Puritans? (Part 2)

Elizabethan Settlement

            Since Elizabeth had been brought up and trained as a Protestant, many viewed her accession to the throne in 1558 with great hopes. She certainly moved in Protestant directions; however, the Queen left certain practices in place which made her full intentions ambiguous. The first Parliament of her reign passed two significant acts for the future of the English church – the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity. The former reinstated the monarch as the head of the church, although the title “head” was changed to “governor.”
            The latter act was an attempt to ensure not only uniform doctrine but also uniform discipline and ceremony. It provided the 1552 Book of Common Prayer as the standard for all church services, with some modifications. One change that irked all of a puritan stripe was the “ornaments rubric,” which reinstated all priestly vestments. The act also imposed strong penalties on any who would not conform. It is worth reading the relevant portions provided here to get a clear picture of what dissenters reacted against.

…Be it therefore enacted by the authority of this present Parliament, …that the said book, with the order of service, and of the administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies, with the alterations and additions therein added and appointed by this statute, shall stand and be, from and after the said feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist, in full force and effect, according to the tenor and effect of this statute; anything in the aforesaid statute of repeal to the contrary notwithstanding.

...And that if any manner of parson, vicar, or other whatsoever minister, that ought or should sing or say common prayer mentioned in the said book, or minister the sacraments, from and after the feast of the nativity of St. John Baptist next coming, refuse to use the said common prayers, or to minister the sacraments in such cathedral or parish church, or other places as he should use to minister the same, in such order and form as they be mentioned and set forth in the said book, or shall wilfully or obstinately standing in the same, use any other rite, ceremony, order, form, or manner of celebrating of the Lord's Supper, openly or privily, or Matins, Evensong, administration of the sacraments, or other open prayers, than is mentioned and set forth in the said book (open prayer in and throughout this Act, is meant that prayer which is for other to come unto, or hear, either in common churches or private chapels or oratories, commonly called the service of the Church), or shall preach, declare, or speak anything in the derogation or depraving of the said book, or anything therein contained, or of any part thereof, and shall be thereof lawfully convicted, according to the laws of this realm, by verdict of twelve men, or by his own confession, or by the notorious evidence of the fact, shall lose and forfeit to the queen's highness, her heirs and successors, for his first offence, the profit of all his spiritual benefices or promotions coming or arising in one whole year next after his conviction; and also that the person so convicted shall for the same offence suffer imprisonment by the space of six months, without bail or mainprize.

And if any such person once convicted of any offence concerning the premises, shall after his first conviction eftsoons offend, and be thereof, in form aforesaid, lawfully convicted, that then the same person shall for his second offence suffer imprisonment by the space of one whole year, and also shall therefore be deprived, ipso facto, of all his spiritual promotions; and that it shall be lawful to all patrons or donors of all and singular the same spiritual promotions, or of any of them, to present or collate to the same, as though the person and persons so offending were dead.

And that if any such person or persons, after he shall be twice convicted in form aforesaid, shall offend against any of the premises the third time, and shall be thereof, in form aforesaid, lawfully convicted, that then the person so offending and convicted the third
time, shall be deprived, ipso facto, of all his spiritual promotions, and also shall suffer imprisonment during his life.

And if the person that shall offend, and be convicted in form aforesaid, concerning any of the premises, shall not be beneficed, nor have any spiritual promotion, that then the same person so offending and convicted shall for the first offence suffer imprisonment during one whole year next after his said conviction, without bail or mainprize. And if any such person, not having any spiritual promotion, after his first conviction shall eftsoons offend in anything concerning the premises, and shall be, in form aforesaid, thereof lawfully convicted, that then the same person shall for his second offence suffer imprisonment during his life.

And it is ordained and enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons
whatsoever, after the said feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist next coming, shall in any interludes, plays, songs, rhymes, or by other open words, declare or speak anything in the derogation, depraving, or despising of the same book, or of anything therein contained, or any part thereof, or shall, by open fact, deed, or by open threatenings, compel or cause, or otherwise procure or maintain, any parson, vicar, or other minister in any cathedral or parish church, or in chapel, or in any other place, to sing or say any common or open prayer, or to minister any sacrament otherwise, or in any other manner and form, than is mentioned in the said book; or that by any of the said means shall unlawfully interrupt or let any parson, vicar, or other minister in any cathedral or parish church, chapel, or any other place, to sing or say common and open prayer, or to minister the sacraments or any of them, in such manner and form as is mentioned in the said book; that then every such person, being thereof lawfully convicted in form above said, shall forfeit to the queen our sovereign lady, her heirs and successors, for the first offence a hundred marks.

And if any person or persons, being once convicted of any such offence, eftsoons offend against any of the last recited offences, and shall, in form aforesaid, be thereof lawfully convicted, that then the same person so offending and convicted shall, for the second offence, forfeit to the queen our sovereign lady, her heirs and successors, four hundred marks.

And if any person, after he, in form aforesaid, shall have been twice convicted of any offence concerning any of the last recited offences, shall offend the third time, and be thereof, in form above said, lawfully convicted, that then every person so offending and convicted shall for his third offence forfeit to our sovereign lady the queen all his goods and chattels, and shall suffer imprisonment during his life.

And if any person or persons, that for his first offence concerning the premises shall be convicted, in form aforesaid, do not pay the sum to be paid by virtue of his conviction, in such manner and form as the same ought to be paid, within six weeks next after his conviction; that then every person so convicted, and so not paying the same, shall for the same first offence, instead of the said sum, suffer imprisonment by the space of six months, without bail or mainprize. And if any person or persons, that for his second offence concerning the premises shall be convicted in form aforesaid, do not pay the said sum to be paid by virtue of his conviction and this statute, in such manner and form as the same ought to be paid, within six weeks next after his said second conviction; that then every person so convicted, and not so paying the same, shall, for the same second offence, in the stead of the said sum, suffer imprisonment during twelve months, without bail or mainprize.

And that from and after the said feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist next coming, all and every person and persons inhabiting within this realm, or any other the queen's majesty's dominions, shall diligently and faithfully, having no lawful or reasonable excuse to be absent, endeavour themselves to resort to their parish church or chapel accustomed, or upon reasonable let thereof, to some usual place where common prayer and such service of God shall be used in such time of let, upon every Sunday and other days ordained and used to be kept as holy days, and then and there to abide orderly and soberly during the time of the common prayer, preachings, or other
service of God there to be used and ministered; upon pain of punishment by the censures of the Church, and also upon pain that every person so offending shall forfeit for every such offence twelve pence, to be levied by the churchwardens of the parish where such offence shall be done, to the use of the poor of the same parish, of the goods, lands, and tenements of such offender, by way of distress.

And for due execution hereof, the queen's most excellent majesty, the Lords temporal (sic), and all the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, do in God's name earnestly require and charge all the archbishops, bishops, and other ordinaries, that they shall endeavour themselves to the uttermost of their knowledges, that the due and true execution hereof may be had throughout their dioceses and charges, as they will answer before God, for such evils and plagues wherewith Almighty God may justly punish His people for neglecting this good and wholesome law....

            Added to these acts in 1559 were injunctions from the Queen, and one in particular reignited the vestments controversy. Injunction XXX read: “Item, her majesty being desirous to have the prelacy and clergy of this realm to be had as well in outward reverence, as otherwise regarded for the worthiness of their ministries, and thinking it necessary to have them known to the people in all places and assemblies, both in the church and without, and thereby to receive the honour and estimation due to the special messengers and ministers of Almighty God, wills and commands that all archbishops and bishops, and all other that be called or admitted to preaching or ministry of the sacraments, or that be admitted into any vocation ecclesiastical, or into any society of learning in either of the universities, or elsewhere, shall use and wear such seemly habits, garments, and such square caps, as were most commonly and orderly received in the latter year of the reign of King Edward VI; not thereby meaning to attribute any holiness or special worthiness to the said garments, but as St. Paul writeth: Omnia decenter et secundum ordinem fiant. I Cor. 14 cap.”
            Thus early in the reign of Elizabeth we find the makings of two reforming parties. The one was content with the changes and wished to uphold the state. The other could not accept things like vestments as indifferent and wanted nothing imposed which could not proved from Scripture. There was fair agreement between these parties on doctrinal matters, but their ideals on church practice began to diverge. As Peter Toon says, “To zealous Protestants who had either suffered under Mary or fled to the Continent, the use of vestments, the sign of the cross in baptism, the rite of confirmation, the retention of such words as ‘priest’ and ‘absolution’ and other matters were papistical. Further, they felt that not enough emphasis was put…upon the preaching of the dynamic Word of God.”[1]

“Puritans” and “Precisionists”

            The term “puritan” was first used in 1564, and it was not a compliment. It carried connotations of those who were religious extremists, in some ways similar to the term “fundamentalist” today. Now that we have laid the historical groundwork, we can see more clearly who these people were.
            Peter Toon identifies the Puritans with six characteristics.
  1. A commitment to the Bible as the Word of the living God and as authoritative in all matters of faith, morals and worship.
  2. A commitment to Reformed theology. Now since there were variations of emphasis within Reformed thought…there were variations of theological emphasis amongst Puritans….
  3. A desire for a reformed, national Church of England….
  4. A belief in the necessity of personal regeneration, of justification by faith and sanctification by the Spirit. Salvation came no other way.
  5. The need for reformation at national, local and domestic level by means of legislation, catechizing, religion in the home and fervent prayer and fasting.
  6. A strong sense that the last days had dawned or were about to dawn. It was felt that the Roman Catholic Church was under God’s condemnation and would soon collapse…; that Biblical religion would triumph and that Christ was soon to return to earth in glory….[2]
These are helpful descriptions. However, we must keep in mind that these characteristics were true of many who were not identified as puritans. We need a little more clarity.
Carl Trueman describes the Puritans as “those who wished to see a further reformation of worship in the Established Church in a direction which emphasized liturgical simplicity and the centrality of preaching and which thus wanted to see the church move beyond the basic settlement established by Elizabeth I and focused on the Book of Common Prayer. Such Puritans were not separatists, however, as by and large, they remained within the church until expelled in 1662.”[3]
J. I. Packer speaks clearly to the identity of these people called puritans. He writes,
“This was a clergy-led movement which for more than a century was held together, and given a sense of identity too deep or differences of judgement on questions of polity and politics to destroy, by three things. The first was a set of shared convictions, Biblicist and Calvinist in character, about on the one hand Christian faith and practice and on the other hand congregational life and the pastoral office. The second was a shared sense of being called to work for God’s glory in the Church of England by eliminating popery from its worship, prelacy from its government and pagan irreligion from its membership, and so realising in it the New Testament pattern of true and authentic church life. The third was a shared literature, catechetical, evangelistic and devotional, with a homiletical style and experiential emphasis that were all its own.”[4]
            Packer argues that in order to properly understand the Puritanism we must see it as a revival movement. This is supported by three broad facts. First, “spiritual revival was central to what the Puritans professed to be seeking.” Second, “personal revival was the central theme of Puritan devotional literature.” Third, “the ministry of Puritan pastors under God brought revival.”[5]
            By examining the Puritans, we are seeking to understand God’s mighty acts as Christ builds his church.

[1] Puritans and Calvinism (Swengel, PA: Reiner Publications, 1973), 12.
[2] Puritans and Calvinism, 9-10.
[3] John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), 2.
[4] A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 35-6.
[5] Ibid., 37-42.

Reasons for Success in the Work of the Gospel

While recognizing that the Spirit blows where he will, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) reflected on the factors that had supported his spiritually successful ministry in Kidderminster. J. I. Packer summarizes it this way.

What was the secret of Baxter's success (so far, at least, as this can be analyzed in terms of the means to ends)? He notes, as significant factors in the situation, that his people had not been gospel-hardened, that he had good helpers, both assistant clergy and members of the flock, that his converts' holy living was winsome while the town's black sheep made sin appear most repulsive, that Kidderminster was free of rival congregations and sectarian bickerings, that most of the families were at home most of the time, working as weavers, so that they had "time enough to read or talk of holy they stand in their Loom they can set a Book before them or edify one another." Also, it was helpful (Baxter continues) that he fulfilled a long ministry, that he practiced church discipline, that being unmarried he could concentrate on serving his people, that he gave out Bibles and books (he received every fifteenth copy of each of his own books in lieu of royalties for free distribution), that he gave money to the needy, and that he fulfilled for a time the role of amateur physician-effectively, it seems, and without charge-until he could persuade a qualified doctor to move to the town. He held that all these factors helped the gospel forward, and no doubt he was right. But the key element in his success, humanly speaking, was undoubtedly the clarity, force, and skill with which he communicated the gospel itself. ("A Man for All Ministries" Reformation & Revival 1.1 (Winter 1992), 66)

There is much to be learned from this godly ministry and its good fruit.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, March 16, 2012

To Fulfill the Scriptures

When we gaze on the cross, what do we see?

If we are seeing as we ought to see, then by reading the Gospel of John we will see Jesus as the crucified King. But that is not all. John also makes crucial connections with Old Testament texts to open our eyes to an entire panorama of who Jesus is and what he did on the cross. Come to church with open eyes this Lord's Day.

The Living Stone (#225)
Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands (#230)
There Is a Fountain (#267)
I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (#268)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 28:1-21; Psalm 119:145-160
New Testament: Galatians 5:16-26

To Fulfill the Scriptures - John 19:16b-37

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Singing Fathers

This post - Dads, Sing Like You Mean It Because Your Kids Are Watching - came to my attention, and it fit so well with our seminar last Lord's Day that I had to share it with you. It is a son's testimony to the impact his father's singing had on him and a moving example of how our worship can pass on the faith to our children.

Though I hold many cherished memories of him, perhaps the most vivid was his excitement over singing certain hymns. By all accounts he possessed at best an “average” voice when it comes to uniqueness and tonal quality. But he sang his favorites with a conviction that was beyond convincing and was by far one of the loudest and most joyful voices in a congregation of approximately 350. I remember looking up at him and “checking him out” while he was singing… “Is he for real?” I would wonder. When he would catch me looking at him he would simply “lock-eyes” with me and sing all the louder while he broadened his grin to match proportion with his pleasure.

Do read the whole thing.

And while I'm on this topic, allow me to direct your attention once again to the series of articles by David de Bruyn on how we shape our children's hearts to grasp a right relationship with God.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who Were the Puritans?

Since I have been studying the Puritans lately, I'd like to post some of my thoughts and notes about them. My hope is that it will stir you to consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Persecution and Anti-Popery

            When King Edward VI died on July 6, 1553, Mary Tudor successfully made her bid for the throne. In doing this, she fully intended to return the kingdom to Roman Catholicism. Unlike her half-sister Elizabeth, Mary appears not to have subordinated her religious views to her political instincts. She earnestly pressed for full implementation of Roman Catholic beliefs and worship practices. Her marriage to Philip II of Spain was a Catholic marriage which she hoped would produce a Catholic heir. Her hopes for a son and a Catholic renewal of England both failed to come to pass. In fact, her vigorous persecution of “heretics” produced the opposite effect she hoped for. Diarmaid MacCulloch states,
Mary made her own vital contribution to the Protestant Reformation by restoring the heresy laws, and burning Cranmer and his various colleagues. That bitter experience became a central part of English consciousness in succeeding Protestant centuries. It tied Protestant England into an active and deeply felt anti-Catholicism which was the particular forte of Reformed Protestant Christians. If anything was the glue which fixed the kingdom into a Reformed Protestant rather than a Lutheran mould, this was it.[1]
            The persecution by “Bloody Mary” was immortalized by John Foxe in his Actes and Monuments. Nearly 300 Protestants are believed to have met their death under her reign for refusing to submit to Catholic doctrine.
            Two of the most famous executions that took place were those of Nicolas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, both Protestant leaders under Edward VI. After being imprisoned for a time in the Tower of London, both were brought before a council of the papal party to defend their beliefs. The commissioners skillfully selected Romish articles which would force the defendants to side with Rome or else expose their Protestant beliefs.
1.      “In the sacrament of the altar, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really present the natural body of Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, under the kinds of the appearance of bread and wine; in like manner His blood.”
2.      “After the consecration there remaineth no substance of bread and wine, nor any other substance, but the substance of God and man.”
3.      “In the mass there is the lively sacrifice of the Church, which is propitiatory as well for the sins of the quick as of the dead.”
Latimer wrote a reply which appealed to the Word of God in rejection of the Roman doctrines. He concluded with these words:
“Thus have I answered your conclusions, as I will stand unto, with God’s help, to the fire. And after this, I am able to declare the majesty of God, by His invaluable Word, that I die for the truth; for I assure you if I could grant o the Queen’s proceedings, and endure by the Word of God, I would rather live than die; but seeing they be directly against God’s Word, I will obey God more than man, and so embrace the stake.”[2]
            Latimer and Ridley did indeed embrace the stake on October 16, 1555. John Foxe described the scene.
“Then they brought a fagot, kindled with fire, and laid the same down at Dr. Ridley’s feet. To whom Master Latimer spake in this manner: ‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.’ And so the fire being given unto them, when Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried, with a wonderful loud voice… ‘Lord, Lord, receive my spirit:’ Master Latimer crying as vehemently on the other side, ‘O Father of heaven, receive my soul!’”[3]
            Whether or not Latimer spoke those words, it does seem true that Mary’s persecution identified Catholicism with tyranny in the minds of many people.

Exile and Return

            Mary also sowed other seeds which would contribute to a Puritan harvest. Many Protestants who fled the country to escape persecution went to Reformed cities in Europe, such as Strasbourg and Frankfurt. But the most important place of refuge was in the Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva, home of John Calvin. Here the English exiles were able to see first hand the changes in worship which the Swiss Reformed Christians implemented. Here they had direct contact with the theological leaders of the Reformed doctrine. Here they saw the government of entire cities changed to reflect what the reformers saw from the Bible. These ideas and connections proved very influential when the exiles returned to England.

[1] “Putting the English Reformation on the Map,” Transactions of the RHS 15 (2005), 86.
[2] Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer: A Biography (London: Religious Tract Society, 1904), 423.
[3] Latimer’s words are not found in Foxe’s first edition, and it is not certain where he obtained this information. Therefore, there is some doubt about their authenticity.


"Conservative Liberals"

Its been pretty quiet on this blog lately, but, deo volente, I'll be able to put up some helpful content more consistently in the near future. In the meantime, here's an intriguing quote from Alasdair MacIntyre in Which Justice? Whose Rationality?

...the contemporary debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals. There is little place in such political systems for the criticism of the system itself, that is, for putting liberalism in question.

Beauty Teaches Us What We Ought to Want

In the last analysis there is as much objectivity in our judgements of beauty as there is in our judgements of virtue and vice. Beauty is therefore as firmly rooted in the scheme of things as goodness. It speaks to us, as virtue speaks to us, of human fulfillment: not of things that we want, but of things that we ought to want, because human nature requires them.

Roger Scruton, Beauty, 147

Friday, March 09, 2012

Theology of the Cross

The cross of Christ was to the world an instrument of shame, degradation, torture, and death. And truly it was all those things. Yet at the same time it was to Christ a lifting up to exaltation and true glory. Looking at the cross and seeing the glory there provides the model for how we must look at all of life when we embrace Jesus as our crucified King. Join us this Lord's Day for an eye-opening experience.

Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy (#134)
Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed? (#141)
'Tis the Christ (#150)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 27; Psalm 119:129-144
New Testament: Galatians 5:1-15

Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified King (continued) - John 19:16b-37

Friday, March 02, 2012

Exalting the Crucified King

Perhaps no inscription in the history of the world has been so double-edged as this one: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." The Jews hated it because it heaped the shame of the cross on them. Pilate loved it because he hated the Jews. Christians love it because it is true. In that horrible crucifixion, mentioned so simply by John, Jesus was lifted up as the saving King. He fought the fight and won the battle, fulfilling the Scriptures and saving his people from their sins. What humiliation and yet what hope this ought to provoke in us! Join us this Lord's Day to worship Jesus as the sovereign King.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded (#139)
Not All the Blood of Beasts (#136)
It Is Finished (#138)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 26; Psalm 119:113-128
New Testament: Galatians 4:21-31

Jesus the Exalted King - John 19:16b-37

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs