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  1. The Monster at 3801 Lancaster

    January 14, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    This is the most emotionally and spiritually devastating piece I’ve watched in memory.  I’ve sobbed for the greater part of this 20 minute documentary.  I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be able to get the images out of my mind.

    I suggest you watch it immediately.

    No doubts, Kermit Gosnell is a monster.  So too are the government officials in local, state, and federal government who are tasked to supervise this “industry” and failed to do so.   However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that much of what he did is not common practice in the abortion clinic nearest your neighborhood.

    I live in Cookeville, TN.  Here is the website for our local Crisis Pregnancy Center.  This pro-life organization is a front-line effort to protect women and children from this predatory enterprise destroying women and children.  Give them a call and see how you can help out.  If you don’t live in our area here are links to the National Right to Life Committee and the Pro-Life Action League; either site should help you find out how to get involved in the pro-life movement.


  2. A Christian Perspective on Suffering and Tragedy

    December 16, 2012 by Jeff Wright

    In the same week as the tragic school shooting in Connecticut the music minister at the church I pastor was unexpectedly struck with a devastating health crisis.  Here is my best attempt to present to our people what God’s Word says about suffering and tragedy.  I share it here in the hopes it would be beneficial to a broader audience.

    &

    Jeff Wright – Midway Baptist Church – 12.16.12 – A Christian Perspective on Suffering and Tragedy

    (Click on the link above to stream, right click and select Save As to download)


  3. 300 More Hours, Babylon, and Your Family

    December 12, 2012 by Jeff Wright

    The latest buzz in government education is the trial run of a Federal Department of Education program that would add 300 hours to the educational year.  Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee are demoing the program but the aim is to move it into broader application.  United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said unambiguously that these 5 states represent “the kernels of a national movement.” 1

    Just so we’re clear, 300 hours represents an additional 37.5 school days in the year; assuming the normal 5 day school that is an additional 7 weeks of school.  For comparison, and an idea of what will be trimmed to make room for the additional time, summer break typically runs for 10 weeks.  Granted, schools systems are considering longer school days, more days to the calendar, or both.  Nonetheless, drastic schedule changes are in the making.

    Sound extreme?  Get used to it.  Duncan has a bold vision of how education should be done in this country: “In all seriousness, I think schools should be open 12, 13, 14 hours a day, seven days a week, 11-12 months of the year.” 2  300 hours may very well be the tip of the iceberg.

    At this point it would be prudent to consider the first chapter of the book of Daniel.  If you aren’t fresh on the historical context for that book let me summarize: the pagan King of Babylon subjugated the nation of Israel.  Afterwards he conscripted the most promising Israelite children into a program designed to craft them into ideal servants of his royal court.  What steps did the king take to accomplish this goal? He removed the children from their families into the royal household and had them educated “in the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (vs. 1-5).  Apparently this program was wildly successful; based on the Biblical record only four of the subjects failed to conform to the culture of their conqueror. 3

    At this point it’s pretty clear where I’m going with this, isn’t it?

    Make no mistake: the federal government is coming for your children – and they are doing so in the name of education.

    Again, Arne Duncan, the man at the helm of the good ship Public School, cannot be accused of being unclear about what is driving his vision of public education in the United States.  Our kids aren’t performing up to snuff and the solution is to put them in the government’s care for longer periods of time: “Schools in countries that are beating us are going to school 25-30 days more than us. If you practice basketball five times a week, you’re gonna be better than the people who practice three times a week.” 4

    Of course, more time in government schools means less time in the hands of their parents.  That’s okay with Duncan though; the government obviously knows best how to educate children and, after all, taking care of kids is a pain anyway, amiright?

    “As you guys know, our world has changed, our economy has changed,” said Duncan. “The days of telling kids to go home at 2:30 and having mom there with a peanut butter sandwich, those days are gone. Whether it’s a single parent working one, two, three jobs or two parents working, the hours from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock are a huge anxiety, and that’s why we have to keep our schools open longer.” 5

    Taking care of your kids from late afternoon through dinner time and into bed time?  “Huge anxiety”; got to keep the schools open longer so parents don’t have to deal with that mess.

    It seems pertinent now to take us back to the text of Scripture and this time look at the game plan God has lain out for the training of children, specifically training children for life and the love of the Lord.

    Deuteronomy 11:18-21 – You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

    See the problem?  Time in the home is key to training children in the ways of the Lord.  Time in the home is also the specific thing the Federal Government wants to take away from parents and children in order to have more time to learn the ways of the Chaldeans embrace the curriculum of the government school system.

    It is truly amazing that the government continually proposes more of what has already failed as a remedy for that failure (rather than, you know, something different).  That is, however,a different concern than we address here.  In 2005 Al Mohler called for Christians to develop a strategy for exiting the public school system.  7 years later his words sound both prophetic and entirely timely.

    I believe that now is the time for responsible [Christians] to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. This strategy would affirm the basic and ultimate responsibility of Christian parents to take charge of the education of their own children. The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families, and offer alternatives. At the same time, this strategy must acknowledge that [Christian] churches, families, and parents do not yet see the same realities, the same threats, and the same challenges in every context. Sadly, this is almost certainly just a matter of time.

    It has long been time for an exit strategy.  Arne Duncan and his agenda, driven by all the might of the Federal government, makes that truth ever more clear.  Ironically, Duncan unintentionally makes a compelling argument for home and private Christian education.  “This quiet revolution is driven by motivated parents who want better educational options for their children,” said Duncan. “They know how important education is to succeed and… they insist on the very best, and they are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.” 6

    Indeed.  Motivated parents, insisting on the very best for their children and willing to sacrifice to make it happen?  That sounds like an exit strategy if I’ve ever heard one.  Dad, mom – it’s time to get your kids out of Nebuchadnezzar’s hands.

    Notes:

    1. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57556708/schools-in-5-states-to-add-at-least-300-hours-of-classroom-time-in-2013/
    2. http://dailycaller.com/2010/07/28/education-secretary-calls-for-12-hour-school-days-longer-school-years/
    3. That these four became such spectacular thorns in the side of Nebuchadnezzar is divinely wonderful but doesn’t change the fact that only four were able to resist the Babylonian attempt to paganize them.
    4. Daily Caller
    5. Ibid.
    6. Ibid.

  4. A Pastoral History of Southern Baptists

    November 19, 2012 by Jeff Wright

    I prepared the following for a short presentation at my church on the origins of modern Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention[1].  I post it here in the hope of benefiting someone else.

    - – - – - – -

    Baptist Distinctives[2]

    1. The Authority of Scripture

    2. Regenerate Church Membership

    3. Baptism by Immersion

    4. Soul Competency/Priesthood of the Believer – “the right and ability of an individual to approach God directly without any human intermediary” (such as an earthly priest).

    5. Religious Freedom – “the human, temporal realm [read: government] has no authority to coerce religious commitments.  God alone is sovereign over human conscience… [this doctrine] guarantees the right of each individual to believe as he or she chooses without fear of [earthly] penalty.”

    6. Believer’s Baptism

    7. The Lordship of Christ

    Four Dominant Theories on Baptist History

    1. Successionism

    a. Landmarkism – aka “Baptist Bride” – began in 1851 largely by James Robinson Graves of Memphis; Only independent Baptist churches are truly churches; these Baptist churches trace back to the Apostolic church or John the Baptist; the members of these Baptist churches are the “Bride of Christ” – other believers will be either servants, guests, or family members in the Heavenly state; the Southern Baptist Convention distanced itself from Landmarkism through formal resolutions in 1859.

    b. Trail of Blood – a lighter version of successionism than Landmarkism – takes it’s name from a pamphlet titled The Trail of Blood: Following the Christians Down through the Centuries – or, The History of Baptist Churches from the Time of Christ, Their Founder, to the Present Day by Dr. James Milton Carroll published in 1931 but the ideology is older than the publication (Charles Spurgeon apparently held a view very close to this one).  This theory argues  there has been an unbroken chain of churches since the days of Christ which have held beliefs similar to (though not always the name) of current Baptist churches. The inherent problem with this position is that it puts Baptists in direct descent from some not-so orthodox groups like such as the Montanists, Paulicians, Cathari, Waldenses, and Albigensess.

    2. Anabaptist Kinship

    “Anabaptist” –meaning Re-baptizer – is a catch-all term that refers to a broad collection of religious movements active in the Reformation, sometimes called The Radical Reformation.  Advocates of this theory see modern Baptists as directly descended from the Anabaptists who emerged from Zwingli’s reformation in Zurich, Switzerland in the early sixteenth century, specifically 1525.  This theory was more popular in days gone by but is still advocated by Page Paterson as well as Ergun and Emer Caner.  This theory, if correct, establishes a link between modern Baptists and contemporary Anabaptist groups like the Mennonites and the Amish.

    3. English Separatist Descent

    This theory of Baptist origins also traces the modern Baptist movement back to the Reformation but rather than starting with Zwingli in Zurich it sees the story of Baptists begin in the Anglican, or Episcopalian, Church in England in 1609- moving from Anglicanism through the Puritans, into the Separatists, and eventually birthing a distinctive movement recognizable as modern Baptist theology.

    a. Nettles’ Spilsbury Hypothesis – possibly the most respected Baptist historian of our day, Tom Nettles of Southern Seminary, has argued that modern Baptists emerged as a group contemporary to English Separatists in 1638 in the ministry of John Spilsbury.

    4. Convergent[3] or Polygenetic[4] Origins

    This position argues that Anabaptism, English Separatists, and perhaps some medieval religious sects feed as streams into the river that is the modern Baptist movement.

    But the earliest Baptists were aware that they were not the first baptistic Christians since the New Testament era. In fact, just like us they were aware that there had at least occasionally been free church movements in church history. Some of these groups likely immersed, though there is evidence that there were soteriological deficiencies and other shortcomings among the independent medieval sects. But Baptists knew that they were not taking a historically novel step in arguing for religious liberty, believer’s churches, and credobaptism.

    The English Baptists represent the culmination of the reformation era, agreeing with the basic evangelical soteriology of the magisterial reformers and some Anabaptists and the radical ecclesiology of the orthodox Anabaptists and some English Separatists. They also recognized and appreciated that some medieval sects were correct in at least some aspects of their ecclesiology. But Baptists did not agree with these positions because they were affirmed by Waldenses, Lutherans, Reformed, or Anabaptists, but because Baptists believed an evangelical gospel and a free believers’ church represented the heart of New Testament Christianity.[5]

    Our study will approach the issue of Baptist history from the fourth perspective.

    I. Ancient History

    a. The early church quickly developed into a movement concentrated in major population centers.

    • Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome become churches of dominant influence.
    • From this group, Rome emerges as dominant.

    -  In 189, assertion of the primacy of the Church of Rome may be indicated in Irenaeus of Lyons’s Against Heresies (3:3:2): “With [the Church of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree…and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.”

    - Stephen I is the first Pope to claim primacy (254-257)

    - Pope Gelasius (492-496) stated:

    “The see of blessed Peter the Apostle has the right to unbind what has been bound by sentences of any pontiffs whatever, in that it has the right to judge the whole church. Neither is it lawful for anyone to judge its judgment, seeing that canons have willed that it might be appealed to from any part of the world, but that no one may be allowed to appeal from it.”

    b. Rome and Constantinople come into conflict, eventually exploding in The Great Schism in 1504, which separated the church into a Western & Latin Speaking Branch (Rome) and an Eastern & Greek Speaking Branch (Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem).

    II. Reformation History

    a. Ulrich or Huldrych Zwingli was born in modern day Switzerland in 1484.  He was educated in Vienna and Basel, eventually coming to be influenced by the humanist Erasmus.  He was ordained to the Priesthood in 1506 and begins his ministry in Glarus, moving to Einseldeln, and eventually to Zurich.  During this time he begins to study the Bible in Greek and Hebrew.  He also starts preaching through the New Testament and by 1520 began coming in to significant conflict with the Roman church.  By 1525 he formally breaks with the Roman church through asserting:

    (1) that the church is born of the Word of God and has Christ alone as its head;

    (2) that its laws are binding only insofar as they agree with the Scripture;

    (3) that Christ alone is man’s righteousness;

    (4) that the Holy Scripture does not teach Christ’s corporeal presence in the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper;

    (5) that the mass is a gross affront to the sacrifice and death of Christ;

    (6) that there is no biblical foundation for the mediation or intercession of the dead, for purgatory, or for images and pictures

    (7) that marriage is lawful to all

    b. In 1519 Zwingli began studying scriptures with a group of people who come to be called The Swiss Brethren.  Their studies of the New Testament in Greek helps to solidify Zwingli’s thinking.  The group also comes to (a) reject infant baptism and (b) embrace believer’s baptism.  Notable names amongst the Swiss Brethren:

    • Conrad Grebel
    • Felix Manz
    • George Blaurock

    This created a crisis for Zwingli. He was the city preacher of Zurich and taxation was directly tied to infant baptism – when a child was born the parents brought him or her to church to be baptized; the state registered the child on the tax register and from there on the child is subject to taxation.

    Zwingli began to separate from his students and public disputations between he and they begin to take place.  On January 17, 1525 this breakdown came to a major point of division:

    • Zwingli recognized that the Zurich Council would not support rejection of infant baptism; he needed Council’s support for his Reformation
    • So he called for suppression of Swiss Brethren at public disputation on baptism
    • Zwingli coined term “Anabaptists”: Re-baptizers
    • Decision: Brethren to stop meeting & have children baptized or leave Zurich in 8 days

    On January 21, 1525 George Blaurock asked Felix Manz to baptize him, which he did in the home of Conrad Grebel.  This marks the beginning of Anabaptism as a movement.  These gentlemen, their families, and other followers covenant together as what we would today recognize as a church.  Their commitments:

    Covenant

    • To live separate from the world
    • To teach the Gospel faithfully
    • To hold steadfastly to the truth

    Doctrine

    • Formed church after NT model
    • Affirmed absolute lordship of Jesus
    • Affirmed church based on voluntary commitment
    • Refuted popular doctrine of infant baptism
    • Rejected role of magistrate, or civic government, in religion

    c. Zwingli and the magistrate began a system of organized persecution against the Swiss Brethren.  Zwingli accused his former friends of sedition; Grebel, Blaurock, and Manz are imprisoned numerous times but escape.

    • Grebel died of the plague.
    • Manz is martyred on January 5, 1527.  Zurich prosecutors decided punishment would be “third baptism”, i.e. drowning.  Manz’s hands were bound to his knees, with a stick thrust between arms & legs and he was thrown into icy waters of the Limmat River.  His last words were reportedly “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”
    • On the day of Manz’ martyrdom, Blaurock was beaten & banished from Zurich

    He began preaching throughout Switzerland until he was banished in April 1527.  He then moved on to Tyrol in the Austrian Alps, where many believers were baptized & churches were started.  He eventually died on September 6, 1529 by being burned at stake.

    This marks the beginning of widespread persecution of the Anabaptist movement.  They began to teach that persecution and Martyrdom is a sign of the true church.  Anabaptists were eventually persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants, with the result that there were more Anabaptist martyrs in the 16th century than there were in the Christian church during the first three centuries under the Roman empire.[6]

    b. English Developments starting in the Anglican Church 

    In 1534 King Henry VIII separated the English church from the Roman Catholic church.  As the Church of England developed reformers within the Anglican Church called Puritans worked for greater doctrinal purity.  In 1662 the Uniformity Act expelled the Puritans, swelling the ranks of the Separatists who had already left the church because the believed reform from within wasn’t possible.

    The story of modern Baptists picks up with 1609 with John Smyth, a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge who began meeting in England with 60-70 Separatists.  In this year he baptized himself and several others.  He was supported by a layman named Thomas Helwys.  Smyth and Helwys, in the face of significant danger, moved their people to Amsterdam.  During this time Smyth published a tract where he argued that infants are not to be baptized and converts are to be admitted to the church through believer’s baptism.  Eventually Smyth left the group and Helwys took over, moving the congregation back to England in 1611.  In 1612 Helwys wrote a book, which he sent to the King, where he said “The King is a mortal man and not God, therefore he hath no power over the mortal soul of his subjects to make laws and ordinances for them and to set spiritual Lords over them”, bold declaration of his belief that church and state are to be kept separate.  The King promptly had Helwys arrested and he died in prison in 1616 at approximately 40 years of age.

    By 1644 there were 50 Baptist churches in England (including the important congregation of John Spilsbury, founded in 1638).  From this group came Roger Williams and John Clarke who fled to the New World to escape religious persecution.  In 1638 Williams founded a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island while Clarke founded one in Newport in 1644.  Williams, founder also of the Rhode Island colony, argued for believer’s baptism and the separation of church and state.  Rhode Island was the only colony where citizenship didn’t require membership in a particular church.

    In the mid-eighteenth century America was taken by “a surprising work of God” in the first Great Awakening, associated primarily with Jonathan Edwards.  Though Edwards wasn’t himself Baptist the Great Awakening was good to Baptist causes.  A Baptist evangelist named Shubael Stearns saw great fruit in the area of North Carolina, establishing more than 40 churches.  During this time Baptists began to divide into Separate Baptists in the South and Regular Baptists in the North.  The difference between the two was largely a matter of belief in the number of ordinances -  Separates recognized nine rites: baptism, the Lord’s supper, love feasts, laying on of hands, washing feet, anointing the sick, the right hand of fellowship, kiss of charity, and devoting children. The Regular Baptists held to two: baptism and the Lord’s supper.

    c. The Rise of the Southern Baptist Convention

    In 1814, Baptists unified nationally under what became known as the Triennial Convention (because it met every three years) based in Philadelphia. It allowed them to partner in support of international missions. The Home Mission Society, affiliated with the Triennial Convention, was established in 1832 to support missions in frontier territories of the United States. By the 1830′s tension cropped up between the Northern and Southern Baptists. The chief issue dividing the Baptists was slavery. Northern Baptists believed God would not allow for treating one race as superior to another while Southerners said that God intended for races to be separated. Soon southern state Baptists began complaining that they weren’t receiving money for mission work. The Home Mission Society decreed that a person could not be a missionary and wish to keep his slaves as property. As a result of this division, Baptists in the south met in May of 1845 and organized the Southern Baptist Convention.  It took until 1995, for the Convention to formally acknowledge the failure of its founders to honor God on the issue of slavery.  However, the SBC did so conclusively, voting to adopt a resolution renouncing its racist roots and apologizing for its past defense of slavery, segregation, and white supremacism.  In 2012 the Southern Baptist Convention elected the first black president of the SBC, Fred Luter of New Orleans, LA.

    Perhaps the greatest theological event in SBC history was what is known as the Conservative Resurgence.  In July 1961, Prof. Ralph Elliott[7], an Old Testament scholar at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, published a book entitled The Message of Genesis containing his interpretation of the first book of the Bible in which he argued that Genesis 1-11 was purely mythological and his speculated that Melchizedek was a priest of Baal and not, as generally believed, of Yahweh.

    This led into the 1963 re-working of the confessional standard of the denomination, The Baptist Faith and Message, to accommodate more liberal theology.  Up until the late 1970s theological liberalism flourished in the institutions of the SBC (i.e. seminaries) while the people in the pulpit remained theologically conservative.

    In 1976 Judge Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson, then of Criswell College in Dallas, began meeting with an eye to restoring the convention to its conservative theological roots.  They were joined in 1978 by W.A. Criswell and Adrian Rogers and met with a group of determined pastors and laymen at a hotel near the Atlanta airport to launch the resurgence/takeover. They understood William Powell’s contention that electing the president of the Southern Baptist Convention was the key to redirecting the entirety of the denomination. The Atlanta group determined to elect Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, as the first Conservative Resurgence president of the convention which they did in 1979.  From there the Conservative Resurgence has grown to take the dominant position in Baptist life, making the SBC the only mainline Christian denomination to return to conservativism from a prevalent liberalism.

    Further Reading

    1. Comparison of the 1925, 1963, and 2000 Edition of The Baptist Faith and Messagehttp://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfmcomparison.asp

    2. Baptists through the Centuries: A History of a Global People by D. W. Bebbington

    3. The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention by Jerry Sutton

    4. Southern Baptist Beginnings - http://www.baptisthistory.org/sbaptistbeginnings.htm

    5. The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives – http://www.sbhla.org/



    [1] Hence my calling it a “pastoral history.”  My sources are frequently (and obviously) uncited.  They include my own memory, blogs, Power Point presentations, Wikipedia, and The Encyclopedia Britannica.  As a result you are welcome to distribute what I’ve written but I would strongly caution against any citation or use in something even resembling scholarship.  I also welcome correction in anything I’ve gotten wrong.

    [2] This list is sourced from R. Stanton Norman’s More Than Just A Name (Broadman & Homan, 2001), particularly chapter two “Formation of Doctrine”.

    [5][5] Nathan Finn, Toward a Convergent View of Baptist Origins Part 2

    [6] www.nobts.edu/faculty/atoh/…/ch2_unit_1e.anabaptists.ppt

    [7] A graduate of Tennessee’s own Carson-Newman College and the recipient of their Distinguished Alumnus award for 2005-2006.


  5. From the Archives: The True Heart of Worship

    May 22, 2007 by Jeff Wright

    Here is a post I dredged up from my old Blogspot blog. It addresses an issue that I believe will always need discussion as the church seeks to honor her Lord. As always, comments are most welcome.

    ———————————-

    I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

    I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

    As I’m sure you are already aware, those lyrics belong to a song by Matt Redman entitled Heart of Worship.  If you have been involved in any contemporary church services in the last five years you have sung this song at least once. More likely you have sung this song enough to burn it’s lyrics into your brain to the point you can sing it by rote memorization, intoning like a robot if you so choose each word.

    Wherever you are, I’m sure you do appreciate the intention behind the song: To remind us, the worshippers, that the act of worship must be entirely focused on the object of worship, which is of course God. This song spoke well to a movement with passionate hearts but a tendency to turn worship into an exhibition of one’s own feelings about God as opposed to the actual worship of God.

    This lyrical reminder regarding the proper intention of worship summarizes most completely what I understand to be the right foundation for worship whether corporate or individual. This foundation is most commonly called the Regulative Principle.

    I chose to write this blog entry on the issue of the Regulative Principle because I was reminded today in conversation that it’s a principle foreign to many well intentioned men and women of God yet is still vital, perhaps even more so in light of it’s neglect amongst the present day church.

    The most simple way I know to state the Regulative Principle is this: God has given His people the proper modes and manners by which He is to be worshipped. Therefore we as His people are free to worship Him in accordance with His revelation by explicit command, example, and reasonable inference alone.

    I believe this principle is the most logically consistent application of Sola Scriptura to the worship of the believer or believers. Few within evangelicalism would argue with the idea that in Holy Scripture we’ve been given everything necessary for life and faith. Does it not follow that the God who has revealed Himself so clearly in His Word would see fit to show His people how He is to be worshipped? I believe the answer to be clear.

    I think the two clearest examples of the Regulative Principle in play in the Bible are found in 2 passages: The story of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-7 and the story of Uzzah and the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6.

    Regarding Nadab and Abihu you will remember that they were the sons of Aaron who ministered before the throne offering burnt offerings. Verse 1 of the chapter tells us that they “offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (Emphasis mine)

    We don’t have any record of what exactly the brothers placed on the altar before the Lord. God chose not to record that fact for posterity. What we do know is that they took their regular instruments of worship and they went to their regular place of worship (both of which were in obedience to what God had revealed). From there they went off course, offering God something “which He had not commanded them.”

    The punishment might seem a bit harsh to us. Instantly and completely God struck, removing them from amongst the company of Israel. We might even think God overly harsh if we read further on in the passage where He forbids Aaron to mourn the death of His sons.

    God does allow (and commands) the gathered people of Israel to mourn but the mourning doesn’t seem to be entirely connected with the deaths of the young men but rather that God had to visit them with such judgment. His words following immediately set help us understand clearly what His actions meant:

    “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored. So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” (Vs. 3)

    Here God clearly ties reverence for His holiness to obedience to His revelation regarding how He is to be worshipped. The second text is perhaps more familiar to us. To set the context remember that the Philistines had taken the Ark of the Covenant from its place and brought it into their encampment. God, who is jealous for His own name, visits plague on the camp and the Philistines wisely decide to return the Ark to the Israelites. It is taken to a territory on the outskirts of Israelite territory and remained there for many years. David, in a typical display of his emotional commitment to the Lord, decided that it was time to bring the Ark to its rightful place and set out personally with a company of men to see to it’s return.

    David took possession of the Ark and 2 Samuel tells us that he “placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab.”  This sounds well and good until we remember that God had laid out precise instruction regarding how the Ark was to be transported in Exodus 25:10-22.

    The chapter goes on to record this tragic scene in verses 4-7:

    “So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.”

    Notice the setting: The people of God, led by there earthly King, are involved in a joyous time of worship. Uzzah, who obviously had nothing but the best of intentions, reaches out to keep the Ark from tumbling from the cart and God visits him with the same judgment with which He appeared to the sons of Aaron. Joyous worship and pure intentions there may be but God called the action “irreverence.”

    These two passages might lead us to view God as overly cruel, even brutal if we didn’t understand the He was a God of mercy, grace, and patience – the same God who came to earth and died on a cross for the sins of men. In light of this reality we are bound to seek an alternative interpretation for God’s action in these passages. It seems that we should view these records as strong indications that God takes the issue of how He is worshipped very seriously and strictly intends for His people to use the methods He has prescribed and those methods alone.

    I most often see the Regulative Principle violated in our churches today in regards to how our corporate worship services are conducted. It seems more and more common to see movie clips, clown and puppet shows, or drama ministries taking the place of the preaching of God’s Word during our corporate worship.

    Remember Paul’s Words in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians: “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Remember also “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” God has chosen the “foolish” method of preaching His Word to be the means by which unregenerate people are converted. We would be wise not to tamper with His formula.

    I realize this is a long post, even for me. However, I think it’s an important issue that those of us who seek to be students of God’s Word, lovers of truth, and lovingly obedient children of our King need to be aware of. Others have written finer treatments of the issue. I simply hope to encourage you to be a worshipper that seeks the will of the Lord in all things.

    Before I close I’d like to address some objections and/or questions that might arise from looking at this issue.

    1. Do we not need to communicate the gospel in ways that our audience will understand? Not many will sit attentively through a sermon in this day and age.

    Answer: We do need to communicate the gospel clearly but we should seek no innovation to the method by which we communicate. Remember what Paul (and God’s) verdict on mankind’s spiritual condition is: “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor 2:14)

    Man has no ability to understand or respond to the gospel apart from God’s enlivening by His Spirit. If we don’t obey His commands regarding how to communicate the gospel what right do we have to expect Him to work by His spirit?  Scriptural precedence indicates that He will in fact not, regardless of what wonderful and effective means we devise.

    2. Aren’t you requiring the New Testament church to hold to principles developed from the Old Testament?

    I don’t believe that we are. The issue of the right worship of God is an issue that supercedes what time period His people are in. Worship of God has taken place at all times since His creation of the angels and will continue into eternity. Therefore we are right to look to the clearest text on the issue, regardless of what part of God’s revelatory chronology it is a part of.

    3. How are we to draw a “reasonable inference” regarding the worship of God from His Word?

    I would caution that we need to be incredibly careful in this at this point. We should draw the majority of our worship practices from the clear teachings of scripture rather than seeking to draw out a great number through inference. A good example of a reasonable inference might be the best way to begin a journey down this road.

    Some in the Church of Christ refuse to allow music instruments into their worship services because we have no clear indication that the New Testament church used these devices. In light of God’s revelation that His people have used musical instruments in the past (Old Testament) in their worship of Him and that the redeemed in heaven will use instrumentation as well it;s not a reasonable inference that the church today shouldn’t use musical instrumentation. That is an argument from silence, which doesn’t hold up well under the scrutiny of logic nor the entire body of God’s revelation.

    On the other hand, we have the New Testament issue of how people are to be baptized. Every clear example we have of New Testament baptism is immersion following a person’s profession of faith in Christ. Add to this that baptism literally means, “to immerse” and it stands to reason that we should only baptize believers and do so by immersion. (Note: I write that fully aware that Godly and wise men have written arguments well grounded in scriptural exegesis for an alternative position. I have included this discussion merely as example.)

    4. Aren’t you elevating a “thing indifferent” to the level of high doctrine?

    I don’t hold the Regulative Principle to be an issue to divide over necessarily. One can hold the gospel and not adhere to that principle. So if the question is in regard to Christian fellowship then no, I don’t hold it to be an issue to divide over.

    However, if one considers the issue to which the Regulative Principle speaks it is indeed of major importance. Those who are Normative in practice (opposite of the Regulative Principle) tend to worship God arrogantly, although I believe this arrogance to be unintentional. To dictate back to God what is proper to use in His service, especially in light of His revelation on the issue. In that regard being settled on this issue is of great importance.

    Further Reference:

    1. The 1689 London Confession (Baptist) gives the classic (to my mind) articulation of the Regulative Principle.
    2. Two good online articles on the Regulative Principle can be found here and here.
    3. The book that won me to the position I now hold can be ordered here. I highly recommend it to your library.


  6. Common Threads in the Calvinism “Debate”

    February 18, 2006 by Jeff Wright

    What remains so stunning to me as I read the thread on the Founders’ Blog regarding Johnny Hunt’s SBC Presidential Candidacy and the Calvinist Gadfly’s thread induction of Johnny Hunt into the Arminian Hall of Fame (along with every other example of of the “debate”) is the similarity of methodology by both parties in the Calvinism “debate” .

    However, as much as both agree regarding tactics they are equally blind to the similarities.

    For example:
    Unhelpful Labeling
    Calvinist: Armininan
    Non-Calvinist: Semi-Presbyterian

    Vitrolic Hyperbole
    Calvinist: “Remember Calvinism is just a nickname for the true gospel.”
    Non-Calvinist: “Five Point Calvinism is a VIRUS.”

    Faulty Evangelism
    Calvinist: You don’t care about legitimate conversions, only numbers.
    Non-Calvinist: You don’t care about evangelism, period.

    Faulty Icon(s) (the names are taken from the thread but others could be substituted)
    Calvinist: Johnny Hunt is anti-calvinist. Watch out. Look to a godly man like John Piper, can’t imagine any one having a problem with him.
    Non-Calvinist: John Piper is a hyper Calvinist. Watch out. Look to a Godly man like Johnny Hunt, can’t imagine anyone having a problem with him.

    Misrepresentation
    Calvinist: Dang it, we are not fatalistic, deterministic, or unevangelistic. However, if you aren’t a Calvinist you are an Arminian.
    Non-Calvinist: Dang it, we are not Arminians. However, Calvinists are fatalistic, deterministic, and unevangelistic.

    Cheap Potshots in Public Places
    Calvinist: I’m going to put Johnny Hunt in the Arminian Hall of Fame
    Non-Calvinist: Well, I just hope no one gets saved that’s not supposed to.

    And you know what? Both sides justify their methods with
    (A) They did it first.
    (B) They did it worse.

    All the while they are pulling from the same bag of tricks and launching the same weapons from opposite corners of the ring at fellow believers.

    It isn’t a solution but a lot of this could change if we saw the issue from this perspective. Add to it that the debate over Calvinism isn’t simple, easily reducible, or without room for disagreement between truly Orthodox (and well thought out, for that matter) positions.


  7. Pastoral Careers: Distressing Numbers

    September 13, 2005 by Jeff Wright

    The September-October edition of Facts and Trends (a magazine published by Lifeway “designed to assist pastors, church staff and denominational leaders in their roles of ministry by informing them about LifeWay resources and how they relate to current issues in Christian ministry”) contains data culled from a poll of Protestant Pastors conducted by Ellison Research.

    This particular poll addressed the tenure of Pastors within various protestant denominations. 872 ministers nationwide were polled.

    The study turned up lots of information, amongst which I found the following figures. These numbers address why Pastors chose to resign a position of ministry in favor of another:
    * 27% changed due to a “desire to serve in a different type of community or a different region of the country
    * 20% moved after “getting promoted to a higher position, such as from an associate pastor at one church to the senior pastor of another church
    * 16% left because they were “wanting to pastor a larger church
    * 12% left their current position of ministry because they were “feeling the move is God’s will, or being called by God to another church
    * 11% changed churches because they desired “better pay and/or benefits

    (more…)


  8. Book Review: Read,Think,Pray,Live by Tony Jones

    September 1, 2005 by Jeff Wright

    Review:Read,Think,Pray,Live by Tony Jones.

    I had been made aware of aspects of Tony Jones’ theology through my friend Jared‘s experiences at MissionFuge this summer. Therefore, my interest was piqued when I found a book written by Jones on the shelves of my local bookstore.

    I read the book and have composed a review. I would like to share what I found in the hopes that it will make you aware of the material contained therein. It is my belief that this type of material is nothing more than rebadged paganism in Christian garb and as such is harmful to the church.

    (more…)


  9. The Frustrations of An Unmarketable Minister

    August 2, 2005 by Jeff Wright

    The original post can be found at this link.

    Notes:
    1. If viewing this post from the “Search” function or “My Favorite Posts” on the sidebar please click the post title to activate link location.
    2. Please place any new comments here as opposed to placing them on the old site. Thank you.


  10. In Pursuit of Excellent Theology

    August 2, 2005 by Jeff Wright

    Part 1 can be found at this link.

    Part 2 can be found at this link.

    Notes:
    1. If viewing this post from the “Search” function or “My Favorite Posts” on the sidebar please click the post title to activate link location.
    2. Please place any new comments here as opposed to placing them on the old site. Thank you.