Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sermon Transcribers

I highly recommend Sermon Transcribers sermon transcription service – first mentioned by Justin Taylor – for all of your sermon transcription work. I just received my first transcribed sermon from them. Their work is head and shoulders above other sermon transcription services I have used in the past.

Sermon Transcribers’ June special still has two days left! I would encourage you to upload a sermon for them to transcribe so that you may evaluate their work.

 

 

For Calvinism, Against Calvinism

Now this ought to be good….

For Calvinism.  The other book is written by a guy who needs to read some texts more carefully.

Enjoying the Institutes: The hypocrisy of sinners and the need to look into the face of God

“On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also —He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.”

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.1.2. I am reading the Beveridge edition (B%R Samizdat Express, 2009) on my Kindle, along with reading Wilson and Lane in print.

How a true Calvinist fights

How a true Calvinist fights.

RAY ORTLUND|11:50 AM CT

How a true Calvinist fights


“As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. . . . I would have you more than a conqueror and to triumph not only over your adversary but over yourself.  If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded.  To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations . . . .

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.  This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him, and such a disposition will have a good influence on every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom are very applicable: ‘Deal gently with him for my sake.’  The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him or treat him harshly.  The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.  In a little while you will meet in heaven.  He will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now.  Anticipate that period in your thoughts.  And though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger.  Alas!  ‘He knows not what he does.’  But if God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now, and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel.  If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we who are called Calvinists are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation.”

John Newton, writing to a young minister, The Works of John Newton (Edinburgh, 1988), I:268-270.

“Epistle to the Reader,” Calvin’s Institutes [1559]

I love reading Calvin, of whom Karl Barth said, “Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from the Himalayas, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately,” (Karl Barth, Revolutionary Theology in the Making, trans. James D. Smart [Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964], 101, quoted in Douglas Wilson, A Study Guide to Calvin’s Institutes [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2011], 14). Calvin is throughly Biblical, deeply read (of the Church Fathers in particular), wittingly polemical (primarily against the “papists”), and profoundly colorful as he speaks in simple yet lofty and holy terms about the Creator.  (Members of the Way living centuries after him would do well to read Scripture with Calvin’s Institutes and commentaries close at hand.) In reflecting on the material in his “Epistle to the Reader” section, I am struck and encouraged by three things:  1) Calvin was shocked by the success – widespread reading and reception – of the Institutes; 2) although maligned maliciously by his enemies, he would not be deterred from his task by false accusations fueled by the Evil One; and 3) while making a text for training future pastors and doctors of the church, he thought the Institutes should be accessible to anyone who comprehends what he wrote – that is, a reading member of the church should be able to pick up his book and enjoy it.

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Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin

“Epistle to the Reader,” [1559].

In the first edition of this work, having not the least expectation of the success which God, in his boundless goodness, has been pleased to give it, I had, for the greater part, performed my task in a perfunctory manner (as is usual in trivial undertakings); but when I understood that it had been received, by almost all the pious with a favour which I had never dared to ask, far less to hope for, the more I was sincerely conscious that the reception was beyond my deserts, the greater I thought my ingratitude would be, if, to the very kind wishes which had been expressed towards me, and which seemed of their own accord to invite me to diligence, I did not endeavour to respond, at least according to my humble ability. This I attempted not only in the Second Edition, but in every subsequent one the work has received some improvement. But though I do not regret the labour previously expended, I never felt satisfied until the work was arranged in the order in which it now appears. Now I trust it will approve itself to the Judgment of all my readers. As a clear proof of the diligence with which I have laboured to perform this service to the Church of God, I may be permitted to mention, that last winter, when I thought I was dying of quartan ague, the more the disorder increased, the less I spared myself, in order that I might leave this book behind me, and thus make some return to the pious for their kind urgency. I could have wished to give it sooner, but it is soon enough if good enough. I shall think it has appeared in good time when I see it more productive of benefit than formerly to the Church of God. This is my only wish.

And truly it would fare ill with me if, not contented with the approbation of God alone, I were unable to despise the foolish and perverse censures of ignorant as well as the malicious and unjust censures of ungodly men. For although, by the blessing of God, my most ardent desire has been to advance his kingdoms and promote the public good,—although I feel perfectly conscious, and take God and his angels to witness, that ever since I began to discharge the office of teacher in the Church, my only object has been to do good to the Church, by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness, yet I believe there never was a man more assailed, stung, and torn by calumny [as well by the declared enemies of the truth of God, as by many worthless persons who have crept into his Church—as well by monks who have brought forth their frocks from their cloisters to spread infection wherever they come, as by other miscreants not better than they].  After this letter to the reader was in the press, I had undoubted information that, at Augsburg, where the Imperial Diet was held, a rumour of my defection to the papacy was circulated, and entertained in the courts of the princes more readily than might have been expected.

This, forsooth, is the return made me by those who certainly are not unaware of numerous proofs of my constancy—proofs which, while they rebut the foul charge, ought to have defended me against it, with all humane and impartial judges. But the devil, with all his crew, is mistaken if he imagines that, by assailing me with vile falsehoods, he can either cool my zeal, or diminish my exertions. I trust that God, in his infinite goodness, will enable me to persevere with unruffled patience in the course of his holy vocation. Of this I give the pious reader a new proof in the present edition.

I may further observe, that my object in this work has been, so to prepare and train candidates for the sacred office, for the study of the sacred volume, that they may both have an easy introduction to it, and be able to prosecute it with unfaltering step; for, if I mistake not, I have given a summary of religion in all its parts, and digested it in an order which will make it easy for any one, who rightly comprehends it, to ascertain both what he ought chiefly to look for in Scripture, and also to what head he ought to refer whatever is contained in it. Having thus, as it were, paved the way, as it will be unnecessary, in any Commentaries on Scripture which I may afterwards publish, to enter into long discussions of doctrinal points, and enlarge on commonplaces, I will compress them into narrow compass. In this way much trouble and fatigue will be spared to the pious reader, provided he comes prepared with a knowledge of the present work as an indispensable prerequisite. The system here followed being set forth as in a mirror in all my Commentaries, I think it better to let it speak for itself than to give any verbal explanation of it.

Farewell, kind reader: if you derive any benefit from my labours, aid me with your prayers to our heavenly Father.

Geneva, 1st August 1559.

The zeal of those whose cause I undertook,Has swelled a short defence into a book.

“I profess to be one of those who, by profiting, write, and by writing profit.”—Augustine, Epist. 7.

The New Atlantis » What Neuroscience Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

The New Atlantis » What Neuroscience Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.

Kindle and Dad’s Day, hint, hint….

I have been enjoying my Kindle, Wi-Fi from Amazon for a little more than two months. It is a wonderful tool and is helping me stay organized in my reading. If you do not have a Kindle or other wireless reading device, I would encourage you to get one! At this point, I am carrying much of my summer reading on it, as well as about half of the St. John’s College Graduate Institute’s reading curricula (for many of these titles are free). I started with the Kindle app for my phone, which is a good place to start if you cannot afford the Kindle at this moment.

Father’s Day is around the corner! Why not get dad one? Surely he does not need another tie, pair of socks, cologne set, or game for his Xbox. But the vast majority of us could stand to read much more than we do. Reading helps us to love the Lord with our mind (although much more is involved in loving God with the mind than reading), to write better, and to think with greater cultural literacy.

Make it easy for dad! He might pick up more reading simply because of the novelty of the wireless reading device. You even can order him a few Kindle books as gifts.

Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

By Thabiti Anyabwile | 5.25.2011

This past Lord’s Day, I had the privilege of preaching 1 Timothy 5:17-20.  “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’  Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.  Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.”

It was an honor to preach this passage to a congregation that has been full of love, support, and encouragement to me and my family these past five years.  There was great liberty in unfolding text without fear of being misunderstood, without need of rebuking the people, and withut having to fight against an impulse to complain or to pander because we’ve been treated with “double honor” since arriving.  What a blessing!

But if I am to believe some of the survey statistics published on pastors and their view towards the ministry, the vast majority of my fellow pastors do not feel this way and are not receiving proper care from their people.  Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:

Hours and Pay

  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Training and Preparedness

  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Health and Well-Being

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Marriage and Family

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Church Relationships

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Longevity

  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.

That’s a sad and alarming picture, isn’t it?  Work long hours in a job with too many demands for too little pay.Many have the wrong skills and the wrong expectations. Families being pressured and battered.  Pastors are discouraged and depressed. No friends, serious conflict once a month, and people who will not follow.  Is it no wonder so many quit so soon?  

According to one survey, only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, in their church, and in their home.

I suspect, however, that men in these situations might be crippled all the more were they to faithfully preach a text like 1 Tim. 5:17-20.  They would be seen as self-serving and courting with more hostility and dissatisfaction from a people already running afoul of God’s call to churches to honor faithful servants.

So, I’m hopeful at least some of God’s people would consider these statistics, reflect upon their church’s treatment of their pastors, and perhaps lead a conspiracy to make sure faithful elders receive “double honor” from those they teach and lead.  Let’s face it: we can’t get survey statistics like these unless it has become an unchecked commonplace among congregations to gossip and gripe rather than to breathe grace toward church leaders.  These statistics indicate a pandemic culture of disregard and dishonor aimed at pastors.  That’s to the church’s shame.

I’m praying that Hebrews 13:17–rather than rejected as giving too much authority to leaders–might be embraced by individual members and congregations as one means to growth in Christ and deeper joy as the family of God.  “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”