On the danger of controversy
‘Consciousness of the danger of controversy—the way that it engendered “angry passions” harmful to the soul and fed into “bitter words” that made deep emotional wounds and gashes in the souls of others—was a consistent theme in the best evangelical writers of the eighteenth century. One only has to read the writings of men like Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), the American Congregationalist divine who once rebuked the great evangelist George Whitefield (1714–1770) for unwise public comments about those who disagreed with the Great Awakening, as well as the Anglican John Newton (1725–1807), and his protégé, the Particular Baptist John Ryland (1753–1825), to see this. It was a long-held maxim of Ryland, for instance, “Never to dispute with the infallible,” a reference to men who prided themselves on never having changed their minds on non-essential issues and who were utterly resistant to persuasion.’
5 questions about church membership
Jonathan Leeman: ‘Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship in that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation.’
What does it really mean to be the salt of the earth?
Andrew Wilson answers this one: ‘An awful lot of Jesus’s disciples, the very people whom he identified as the salt of the earth, are still not entirely clear on what he meant. Lots of us have heard explanations of it—our job is to make the world taste better or stop it from rotting—but these explanations often conflict with each other and suffer from various problems.’
The latest edition of Themelios – The Gospel Coalition free online journal – is now out. It’s almost always worth a look.
Build the pastoral muscle of compartmentalisation
‘How can you go from the counseling room to sermon prep without being distracted in the study? How can you go home and be with your family when your heart is shredded by the guy who just destroyed his family? How can you get the sleep at night that you desperately need when you are worried about how the church will respond to a divisive church member? How can you be a pastor who fights through the weight of ministry? And, how can you do this without checking out? How can you close the door without closing your heart? I think learning how to compartmentalize will help.’
Blasphemy and the church
‘If there is any commandment that is broken more consistently, habitually, historically, and egregiously by Christians than by non-Christians, it is the third commandment. That’s because taking God’s name in vain goes a lot farther than saying “Oh my God”. What God has in his sights is the abuse and misappropriation of his name, which tends to happen more when you use the name more. In fact, the higher up you go in professional piety or ecclesiastical authority, the more blasphemy you are going to encounter.’
From the archive: Some common ground between Baptists and paedocommunion advocates
‘What has always interested me, however, is the fact that paedocommunion is not the majority view amongst paedobaptists. Paedobaptists who reject paedocommunion want to suggest that children are members of the church and ought to be baptised into it whilst simultaneously arguing that they do not have the right of access to the table. They (on a Baptist view) have a two-tier membership system: members with full access to the privileges and responsibilities of membership and members with limited access to those things. This is pointedly lived out in the admittance of some church members to the table and the refusal of others despite both apparently being in membership and neither being in open, unrepentant sin that would – in any church – bar them from participation.’