Monthly Archives: May 2012

Spurgeon, The Pastor/Theologian (and Calvinist)

From Founders Journal 85 · Summer 2011 · pp. 22-33. Reprinted by permission. (I encourage the reader to subscribe to Founders Journal.)


Tom Nettles

Whatever else he was, Spurgeon was a Christian theologian, preeminently a “Pastor/Theologian.” He wanted to see the gospel preached and presented in light of a full grasp of the biblical revelation. Whether in apologetics or preaching, Spurgeon looked for fullness, proportion, symmetry and uncompromised clarity as hallmarks of a faithful presentation of God’s gospel.

Don’t Stop Short

Spurgeon saw no half-way house to the gospel. For him the only true theology was a fully Christian theology and any attempt to gain a hearing by stopping short of a fully evangelical presentation of the gospel, even in apologetic situations, was a betrayal of the call of the Christian. “That department of polite literature called Natural Religion leads nowhere and profiteth nothing,” Spurgeon maintained. An apologetic attempt by R. A. Redford in The Christian’s Pleas Against Modern Unbelief failed in the lead task of making a truly Christian plea, Spurgeon pointed out. Redford made a noble attempt to create a neutral intellectual position by breaking down the citadel of objections in order to show that theism, the possibility of revelation, the existence of the miraculous, and other foundational issues were not irrational positions. “Our author imagines,” Spurgeon observed, “that simple theism may become an adytum to the inner sanctuary of more select evidences.”[1] In his attempt to tear down the negative he has made a fundamental error by omitting an aggressive proposal of the positive. Spurgeon believed this approach mistakenly assumes that the philosophical argument for possibilities createsreceptivity. Spurgeon was skeptical of the method and felt that best approach was always an insistence on the full package of the gospel.

Bare theism and natural theology filled the air “with volatile sentiment, and expresses itself in lackadaisical phrases about ‘the benevolence of the Creator,’ ‘the beauty of his works,’ or ‘the traces of design that are scattered through the universe.'” Such affirmation are a “paltry subterfuge” when what such poor souls need is saving faith; no good comes from dalliance with their prejudices. Spurgeon, therefore, believing that it was preposterous for a Christian minister to plead with an infidel to become a theist, proposed a more robust and aggressive approach to dealing with “Modern Unbelief.” His first postulate was, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” The second was, “He that believeth in God must accept Christ as a mediator.” The third continued, “He that accepteth the one mediator between God and men must receive the atonement.” Any method that encourages less leaves a person with no reason to rejoice in God or sing praises to him with spirit and understanding. Apologetic methods that focused on creating neutrality and failed to embrace the full presentation of the gospel would be like trying to solve a crime problem by “intreating burglars not to carry fire-arms.”[2]

Spurgeon wanted no theology or apologetic that was not fully Christian and eschewed any method of presentation intended to bring unbelievers only half way to truth. Such methods tended toward the opinion that openness to theism constituted right standing before God. The cure for limp and languid convictions on theology was a good soaking in the reality of one’s own sin, a perception of the “sovereignty of divine grace, a participation in the renewing work of the Holy Ghost, and an abundant entrance into that life which deals with spiritual and eternal verities.” Theology was not just a right head, much less a half-right head, but a healed heart. Without that, “savage orthodoxy usually begets a frivolus unbelief.”[3]

He was fully in favor, therefore, of apologetic works that aimed at disproving the validity of attacks, either direct or indirect, on the inspiration of Scripture. All parts of the Bible had been “vigourously assailed” at some time, but great powers of faith and ability had come to its defence and “left it more confirmed than before.” Luthardt’s defense of the Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel was worthy of the immense labor it involved in its establishment of the authenticity of the history of that book. All biblical students should be grateful to such defenders of the faith for “an attack upon the outworks of inspiration is aimed in reality at the citadel itself.” Zeal for one must accompany zeal for the other.[4]

Spurgeon advocated a pure Biblicism for theological construction. He believed, confirming the position of Robert Rainey, that the Scripture contained a perfect system “gradually developed in the Old Testament, and speedily completed in the New.” When Rainey, however, filled out this biblical system with doctrinal developments in church history and the discoveries of modern times, and pointed to the “corporate teaching capacity” of the church, Spurgeon resisted. He knew of no corporate church and thus of no such teaching capacity. We may gain assistance through others that interpret Scripture doctrines, but no addition to the doctrines themselves may be allowed. “Development of Christian doctrine in the Scriptures is one thing, and the development of those doctrines after the completion of the Scriptures is another.”[5]

These things should not be confounded. Christian Doctrine, to the degree that God wants us to know, has mature development in Scripture and the church may not add to, diminish, amend, or dilute by false synthesis any assertion of the biblical text. We may find a way to give clear teaching on a variety of subjects and seek to show their mature biblical development and relations, and we may surely benefit from the way Christians through the ages have formulated these biblical truths and their practical applications, but any effort to go beyond the biblical text and its own internal development perverts the truth.

The way Spurgeon related these ideas served as a foundation for his criticism of R. W. Dale’s Laws of Christ for Common Life. Spurgeon questioned, if not the candor, at least the relevancy of Dale’s approach in his statement, “A man may believe in the Nicene Creed, and in the Creed attributed to Athanasius, or in the confession of Augsburgh, or the confession of the Westminster divines; but if he does not believe in the Sermon of the Mount–believe it seriously as containing the laws which must govern his own life–he has denied the faith, and is in revolt against Christ.”[6] Spurgeon considered such paragraphs to assert a “vicious irrelevancy,” of the nature of asking if a person preferred Jotham’s parable in the book of Judges to Calvin’s Institutes. The inferences that underlie the comparison amounts to a discrediting of the “choicest standards of orthodoxy.” Spurgeon asked pointedly if Dale were revolting against all creeds including those “ancient Catholic Creeds, which sound Protestants, with one consent, were willing to accept.” As for his own part Spurgeon was jealous for such ancient landmarks, and believed that Dale’s resistance to the imposition of any creed on the ministers or members of the Congregational churches could only lead to fragmentation and eventual decline as a force for truth and godliness. “What can you expect if you lack any element of cohesion.” How all of this confessional concern relates to biblical authority Spurgeon revealed when he put forward another inquiry that he felt equally pertinent to Dale’s strange proposition. “Why put forward an early discourse of our blessed Redeemer before he had set forth the full purpose of Redemption,” Spurgeon queried, “or ever he said, ‘The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’–as if the Sermon on the Mount is to be accounted a complete body of divinity?”[7]

Dale’s failure at the confessional level extended from an interpretive method that pushed him into misapplication and disfigurement of biblical truth. If one does not see the moral teaching of Christ in light of his redemptive work and his own humanity’s dependence on divine grace, then his supposed preference of the words of Christ to the words of a creed is not that at all–rather, it amounts to a preference of one’s own narrow idiosyncratic creed to the confession of the church at large through the centuries. Which of these actually presents the greatest faithfulness to the Bible?

Find the Center

Spurgeon, therefore, looked at the meaning of all texts as expressive as one part of the larger biblical synthesis of meaning. The synthesis that satisfied Spurgeon’s overall grasp of biblical teaching was covenant theology. “The subject is the basis of all theology, and ought to be a chief point of study among believers,” he contended.[8] This idea he found perhaps the single most encouraging concept in the Bible. He began a sermon entitled “The Wondrous Covenant” with the words, “The doctrine of the divine covenant lies at the root of all true theology.”[9] A preacher who grasps and maintains clarity on the distinctions within the covenant is a master of divinity. “I am persuaded,” he affirmed, “that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and of grace.”[10]

In “The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant,” Spurgeon asserted that every relation we have with God has a covenant character and “that he will not deal with us except through a covenant, nor can we deal with him except in the same manner.”[11] He described the covenant of grace as “made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity.” In this covenant “Christ stood… as man’s representative.” Though individual men would benefit personally from this arrangement, no individual man stood as a party to the arrangement. “It was a covenant between God with Christ, and through Christ indirectly with all the blood-bought seed who were loved of Christ from the foundation of the world.”[12] The power of Spurgeon’s theological conceptions and the joy of preaching consisted in grasping and conveying a clear vision of this divine initiative.

It is a noble and glorious thought, the very poetry of that old Calvinistic doctrine which we teach, that long ere the day-star knew its place, before God had spoken existence out of nothing, before angel’s wing had stirred the unnavigated ether, before a solitary song had distributed the solemnity of the silence in which God reigned supreme, he had entered into solemn council with himself, with his Son, and with his Spirit, and had in that council decreed, determined, proposed, and predestinated the salvation of his people. He had, moreover, in the covenant arranged the ways and means, and fixed and settled everything which should work together for the effecting of the purpose and the decree.[13]

Within the framework of the covenant Spurgeon found his only source for the encouragement of Christians; his understanding of the gospel was built on covenant theology; all of God’s actions toward creation, sin, redemption, providence, and final consummation were built on the covenant; his own exhilarating spiritual experiences flowed from lengthy meditation on the eternal and sure provisions of the covenant. “My soul flies back now, winged by imagination and by faith, and looks into that mysterious council-chamber, and by faith I behold the Father pledging himself to the Son, and the Son pledging himself to the Father, while the Spirit gives his pledge to both, and thus that divine compact, long to be hidden in darkness, is completed and settled–the covenant which in these latter days has been read in the light of heaven, and has become the joy, and hope, and boast of all the saints.”[14]

The sweetest consolation for the despondent saint comes in reflection on the everlasting covenant, an understanding of “what God did for us in past times.” Nothing can give joy to the spirit and steel to the soul like a song of “electing love and covenanted mercies.” When you are low, Spurgeon advised, it is well to sing of “the fountain-head of mercy,” the “blessed decree wherein thou wast ordained to eternal life, and of that glorious Man who undertook thy redemption.”[15] To see the “solemn covenant signed, and sealed, and ratified, in all things ordered well” reflecting that one is an object of eternal electing love is a “charming means of giving thee songs in the night.”[16]

For the sake of planting the reality of the covenant firmly in the minds of his people, he loved to set it forth as a discussion between the persons of the triune God, though he knew clearly that he could not tell it “in the glorious celestial tongue in which it was written” but would “bring it down to the speech which suiteth to the ear of flesh, and to the heart of a mortal.”[17] The substance was the same in each successive libretto though the exact words differed in accordance with context. In “The Gracious Lips of Jesus,” a sermon preached around 1857, Spurgeon said, “When God the Father originally made the covenant, it stood somewhat in this form.”[18]

My Son, thou desirest, and I agree with thee, to save a number, that no man can number, whom I have elected in thee. But in order to their salvation, that I may be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly, it is necessary that some one should be their representative, to stand responsible for their obedience to my laws and their substitute to suffer whatever penalties they incur. If thou, my Son, wilt stipulate to bear their punishment, and endure the penalty of their crimes, I on my part will stipulate that thou shalt see thy seed, shalt prolong they days, and that the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in thy hands. If thou to-day art prepared to promise that thou wilt bear the exact punishment of all the people whom thou wouldst save, I on my part am prepared to swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that all for whom thou shalt atone shall infallibly be delivered from death and hell, and that all for whom thou bearest the punishment shall hence go free, nor shall my wrath rise against them, however great may be their sins.[19]

The conversation continued with an appropriately worded response from the Son in scriptural language, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” On the basis of that covenantal arrangement all the saints were justified in the mind of God prior to the shedding of one drop of the Redeemer’s blood. “The surety’s oath was quite enough; in the Father’s ears there needed no other confirmation,” for by his Son’s oath, the Father’s heart was satisfied. His Son had sworn to his own hurt and would not change.[20]

Another of these dialogues constructed by Spurgeon included the stipulations made by the Spirit, as well as the agreement entered into by Father and Son. The Father and the Spirit carried one side of the covenant, and the Son the other. The Son carried the side that related to man while the Father and Spirit, in ways appropriate to each, pledged to honor the work of the Son on behalf of man. He imagined the Father speaking thus,:

I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto my only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by him washed from sin, by him preserved, and kept, and led, and by him, at last, presented before my throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of my eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make my sons and daughters, and these shall reign with me through Christ eternally.

In the same vein he envisioned the Spirit in viewing how the Father had given a people to the Son joined in full harmony with the words,

I hereby covenant that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless.

That pledge in the covenant presently is operative, being scrupulously kept. Christ Himself then took the other side as the representative of the people, and covenanted with His Father.

My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for my people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all my people. Thou shalt exact their debts on me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by my stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered. I will endure the curse of thy law, and all the vials of thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon my head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at thy right hand; and I will make myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by thy blood, thou hast constituted me the shepherd–I will bring every one safe to thee at last.[21]

On the side of the Son, the covenant is perfectly fulfilled. Only now he continues to intercede to bring all his blood-bought ones safely to glory.

Given the reality that all things are included in this covenant, should a sinner come to be sure of just one part of it, then he may assume that all of it is his. All parts of it stand or fall together, for the one true God, the triune Jehovah has pledged as a manifestation of His own glory, faithfulness, and truth to accomplish every part of it–nothing of all events and things can be omitted from the provisions of this covenant for creations, providence and redemption all serve its end. Thus if the most lowly and meek of sinners can be assured of forgiveness, he can be denied nothing from the eternal bounties of divine mercies or the temporal goodness of his providence. “When I know I am pardoned, then I can say all things are mine.”[22] Spurgeon exuded an exhausting amount of spiritual energy on this point and stretched his gifts to the limit in emphasizing it.

I can look back to the dark past–all things are mine there! I can look at the present–all things are mine here! I can look into the deep future–all things are mine there! Back in eternity, I see God unrolling the mighty volume, and lo! In that volume I read my name. It must be there, for I am pardoned; for whom he calls, he had first predestinated, and whom he pardons, he had first elected. When I see that covenant roll, I say It is mine! And all the great books of eternal purposes and infinite decrees, are mine! And what Christ did upon the cross is mine![23]

Spurgeon continued in an unrestrained accounting of all the things that the pardoned person could count as his on the basis of the unity and immutability of the covenant. On he went through the list with some indication as to the purpose of each gift contained in the covenant of grace. All the wheels and circumstances of Providence, afflictions, prosperity, all the promises of the Bible, the future of the earth’s dissolving in a great conflagration, the great judgment, the river of death, the resurrection, and heaven–all belong to the pardoned sinner. “What though there be palaces there of crystal and of gold, that sparkle so as to dim mortal eyes; what though there be delights above even the dream of the voluptuary; what though there be pleasures which heart and flesh could not conceive, and which even spirit itself can not fully enjoy the very intoxication of bliss; what though there be sublimities unlawful for us to utter, and wonders which mortal men can not grasp; what though the Divinity hath spent itself in heaven, and doth unravel his glory to make his people blessed–all is mine!”[24] The covenant not only served as the basis for coherent theological construction, but embraced every point of the shield of faith wherewith one could quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.

In his devotional study Morning and Evening the covenantal arrangements of the triune God consistently make their way into the text. For example, on December 26 for the morning Spurgeon wrote:

Jesus is the federal head of his elect. As in Adam, every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race as considered under the law of works; so under the law of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since he is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love. The apostle Paul declares that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him: it is a certain truth that the believer was in the loins of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, when in old eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure forever. Thus, whatever Christ hath done, he hath wrought for the whole body of his Church. We were crucified in him and buried with him, and to make it still more wonderful, we are risen with him and even ascended with him to the seats on high. It is thus that the Church has fulfilled the law, and is “accepted in the beloved.” It is thus that she is regarded with complacency by the just Jehovah, for he views her in Jesus, and does not look upon her as separate from her covenant head. As the Anointed Redeemer of Israel, Christ Jesus has nothing distinct from his Church, but all that he has he holds for her. Adam’s righteousness was ours so long as he maintained it, and his sin was ours the moment that he committed it; and in the same manner, all that the Second Adam is or does, is ours as well as his, seeing that he is our representative. Here is the foundation of the covenant of grace. This gracious system of representation and substitution, which moved Justin Martyr to cry out, “O blessed change, O sweet permutation!” this is the very groundwork of the gospel of our salvation, and is to be received with strong faith and rapturous joy.

The theme occupied his thoughts again on the morning of August 26, when he commented on Psalm 111:9, “He hath commanded his covenant forever.”

The Lord’s people delight in the covenant itself. It is an unfailing source of consolation to them so often as the Holy Spirit leads them into its banqueting house and waves its banner of love. They delight to contemplate the antiquity of that covenant, remembering that before the day-star knew its place, or planets ran their round, the interests of the saints were made secure in Christ Jesus. It is peculiarly pleasing to them to remember the sureness of the covenant, while meditating upon “the sure mercies of David.” They delight to celebrate it as “signed, and sealed, and ratified, in all things ordered well.” It often makes their hearts dilate with joy to think of its immutability, as a covenant which neither time nor eternity, life nor death, shall ever be able to violate–a covenant as old as eternity and as everlasting as the Rock of ages. They rejoice also to feast upon the fulness of this covenant, for they see in it all things provided for them. God is their portion, Christ their companion, the Spirit their Comforter, earth their lodge, and heaven their home. They see in it an inheritance reserved and entailed to every soul possessing an interest in its ancient and eternal deed of gift. Their eyes sparkled when they saw it as a treasure-trove in the Bible; but oh! how their souls were gladdened when they saw in the last will and testament of their divine kinsman, that it was bequeathed to them! More especially it is the pleasure of God’s people to contemplate the graciousness of this covenant. They see that the law was made void because it was a covenant of works and depended upon merit, but this they perceive to be enduring because grace is the basis, grace the condition, grace the strain, grace the bulwark, grace the foundation, grace the top-stone. The covenant is a treasury of wealth, a granary of food, a fountain of life, a storehouse of salvation, a charter of peace, and a haven of joy.

During the year Spurgeon encouraged spiritual growth by meditation on the covenant in 72 different devotions. March contained only one that spoke of the covenant while December had nine The least amount, other than March, was four in June and August.

Sermons regularly employed the covenantal arrangement of salvation as a vital part of his proclamation. The covenant of works made with all mankind through Adam posited life, corporate life, on the basis of obedience, but death for the whole on the occurrence of disobedience. When he fell, we all fell and became inheritors of sin and heirs of wrath, bound to sin and subject to misery. Though the covenant of redemption was made before creation within the eternal will of God appropriate to the distinct operations of each person of the Trinity, Spurgeon viewed its effectuality as dependent most significantly on the Son. In “Christ in the Covenant,” he dealt with the place of Christ in the “covenant of eternal salvation” under the assumption that “Christ is the Sum and substance of the covenant.”[25] He then summarized His attributes as eternal God and perfect man, His offices as prophet, priest and king both in His humiliation and His exaltation, all the works of Christ that He did in our stead, all the fullness of the godhead in bodily form put in motion for empty sinners, the life of Christ in whom His people are hid, and the very person of Christ in His glorious, ravishing, delightful, endearing presence that contains all these other gifts and transcends them by taking us into the depths of pleasure that only may be found at His feet. Consistent with but beyond all the offices and descriptions of attributes, “the person of Christ is the covenant conveyed to you.”[26]

Work for Symmetry

Such a lofty center of theology some would convert into an excuse for passivity and pessimism. Not Spurgeon. He saw reason for action and great hope. Scripture was filled with ideas, doctrines and motives to drive us to make our calling, and thus, our election, sure. The Covenant embodied all of divinity in its rich fullness and perfect symmetry–God and man, sin, judgment, and salvation, faith and action, heaven and hell. None need overstep the established boundaries of revelation or understate the things surely revealed. If we know that where sin abounded grace abounded all the more, we need not conclude that we magnify grace by pursuing sin. Spurgeon discovered as one of the treasures of divine revelation its power to halt the fallacious journeys of our sophomoric and sinful logic.

In a sermon on Deuteronomy 22:8, entitled “Battlements,” Spurgeon expressed his view of the expositor’s task in deriving theological ideas from Scripture. Battlements were placed around the roves of houses to protect children, or inattentive adults, from falling off the roof to their death. While this implies, from the practical side, our obligation to do what we can for the temporal safety and well-being of our fellow man, its more profound application is that we not overstep designated boundaries for the spiritual and eternal safety of our own souls and the souls of others.

Spurgeon affirmed that none need fear the “most high and sublime doctrines” of divine revelation, for God had “battlemented” it. No one need fear the doctrines of election, eternal and immutable love, or any point of revelation concerning the covenant of grace. It is a high and glorious truth, a truth of clear revelation, that “God hath from the beginning chosen his people unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth.” Many simpletons, however, have perverted this doctrine, perhaps some purposefully, into antinomianism, leaping over the battlements God has placed around it. Not only does God have a chosen people, but those will be known by the fruits of holiness, and their zeal for good works; not only will they be forgiven of sin, but purged from sin. The same holds true for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints–“A housetop doctrine indeed!”–in that while it holds great promise and comfort for the believer, yet battlements are in place to prevent its abuse. Spurgeon quoted Hebrews 6 and other warnings as applicable to Christians in order to show that “if the first salvation could have spent itself unavailingly, there would be no alternative, but a certain looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation.”[27] Even so, in the doctrine of justification, the free, unmerited declaration of righteousness by which God pronounces the ungodly forgiven and esteemed as law-keepers, if no sanctification follows, then the presence of justifying faith is dubious. “Where faith is genuine, through the Holy Spirit’s power, it works a cleansing from sin, a hatred of evil, an anxious desire after holiness, and it leads the soul to aspire after the image of God.”[28] Paul and James cooperate in making sure both tower and battlement are in place. “Thus is each doctrine balanced, bulwarked, and guarded.”[29]

He explained the necessity of seeking such biblically integrated doctrinal fullness as a special stewardship for the preacher. Expounding the subject of faith and regeneration in 1871, Spurgeon gave insight into the dangers and difficulties involved in this pastoral delicacy. In making “full proof of his ministry” a pastor requires much divine teaching, not only in the manner and spirit of his ministry, but also much in the matter of his ministry. “One point of difficulty, ” Spurgeon advised, “will be to preach the whole truth in fair proportion, never exaggerating one doctrine, never enforcing one point, at the expense of another, never keeping back any part, nor yet allowing it undue prominence.” Practical result depends on an equal balance, (symmetry and proportion as Jonathan Edwards would say), and a right dividing of the Word. One vital doctrinal area where much depends on such proper relationship is in the positioning of the work of Christ for us, and outside of us, and the operations of the Spirit within us. “Justification by faith is a matter about which there must be no obscurity, much less equivocation; and at the same time we must distinctly and determinately insist upon it that regeneration is necessary to every soul that shall enter heaven,” for Christ himself has made it essential. Spurgeon feared that “Some zealous brethren have preached the doctrine of justification by faith not only so boldly and so plainly, but also so baldly and so out of all connection with other truth, that they have led men into presumptuous confidences, and have appeared to lend their countenance to a species of Antinomianism.” A dead, inoperative faith should be dreaded and special attention must be given to avoiding it. To stand and proclaim, “Believe, believe, believe,” without explanation as to the nature of faith, “to lay the whole stress of salvation upon faith without explaining what salvation is, and showing that it means deliverance from the power as well as from the guilt of sin, may seem to a fervent revivalist to be the proper thing for the occasion, but those who have watched the result of such teaching have had grave cause to question whether as much hurt may not be done by it as good.”[30]

At the same time, Spurgeon saw an equal danger in the other extreme. While the emphasis on the new creature as necessary to salvation is clearly biblical, “some have seen so clearly the importance of this truth that they are for ever and always dwelling upon the great change of conversion, and its fruits, and its consequences, and they hardly appear to remember the glad tidings that whosoever believeth on Christ Jesus hath everlasting life.[31] Some have set so high a standard of experience and have been so “exacting as to the marks and signs of a true born child of God, that they greatly discourage sincere seekers, and fall into a species of legality” that is just as necessary to be avoided as antinomian fideism. The sinner, deeply aware of his damnable failings, must never receive the impression that he is to look within for the ground of his acceptance before God, but must see clearly “the undoubted truth that true faith in Jesus Christ saves the soul, for if we do not we shall hold in legal bondage many who ought long ago to have enjoyed peace, and to have entered into the liberty of the children of God.”[32]

Spurgeon proposed that the perfect balance in the connection of these doctrines appears in the third chapter of John where both the necessity and secret sovereignty of the Spirit is taught along with the powers of simple faith in Christ. “So, too, in the chapter before us,” Spurgeon said in calling his congregation’s attention to John 3, “he insists upon a man’s being born of God; he brings that up again and again, but evermore does he ascribe wondrous efficacy to faith; he mentions faith as the index of our being born again, faith as overcoming the world, faith as possessing the inward witness, faith as having eternal life–indeed, he seems as if he could not heap honour enough upon believing, while at the same time he insists upon the grave importance of the inward experience connected with the new birth.”[33] As a true Pastor/Theologian, Spurgeon insisted, “I earnestly long that these two doctrines may be well balanced in your souls.”[34]


Like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon saw a coherent biblically induced, systematically arranged theology as foundational, not only the Christian ministry, but to a healthy Christian life. The theme that most naturally embraced all the doctrines of Scripture and from which they radiate in perfect symmetry is the eternal covenant of redemption. In explicating this covenant faithfully, giving due attention to all its truths in their proper relation to each other and to the central purpose of the covenant, the minister will give opportunity for the right integration of truth in the spiritual formation on His sheep–repentance and faith, fear and hope, examination and confidence, justification by imputation and sanctification by the renewing of the mind, rest in Christ’s perfect work and pursuit of Christ-likeness. Pastors, arise! Be theologians that our churches may be inhabited by Christians indeed that know the hope of their calling and desire to walk worthy of that calling. n


1 The Sword and the Trowel [S&T], November 1881, 582.

2 Ibid.

3 S&T, January 1883, 28.

4 S&T, January 1876, 44.

5 S&T, January 1876, 44.

6 S&T, May 1885, 238.

7 Ibid.

8 S&T, June 1878, 312

9 Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia, [SEE] 5:449.

10 Ibid.

11 CHS, “The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant,” in Revival Year Sermons, 36; Spurgeon’s Sermons, [SS] 6:212. Spurgeon’s Sermons consists of twenty volumes published in America by Funk & Wagnall beginning in 1857. The last volume [20] consisted of a biography by G. Holden Pike, who eventually wrote a six volume biography of Spurgeon.

12 SS, 6:215.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 SS, 2:173.

16 SS, 2:173-74.

17 SS, 6:216.

18 SS, 4:97.

19 Ibid.

20 SS, 4:98.

21 New Park Street Pulpit, 1859, 417ff.; SS, 1:216-17.

22 SS, 4:65.

23 SS, 4:65.

24 SS, 4:67.

25 SS, 2: 395.

26 SS, 2:402.

27 S&T August 1865, 351.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid., 352.

30 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, [MTP] 1871, 133f.

31 MTP, 1871:134.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid., 135.

Deconstructive Reading of “Obama, Gay Marriage and the Black Church Vote”

In the article, “Obama, Gay Marriage, and the Black Church Vote,” the second paragraph includes these words:

Therefore, while your daughters could not image their friends’ same-sex union parents being treated differently, you, as their father, would have the responsibility to tell them that their friends’ parents participate in immoral acts, although they might be otherwise nice people. This should not be difficult for you to share with your girls, for we suspect you teach them something similar about their friends’ parents who commit adultery, and about the subtle racism of some tax-paying Americans.

However, before one of my kind, Ivy League-educated friends read over the first draft of the article for content editing, the second paragraph originally read this way (with bold added so that I might emphasize the differences for you):

Therefore, while your daughters could not image their friends’ same-sex union parents being treated differently, you, as their father, would have the responsibility to tell them that their friends’ parents participate in immoral acts, although they might be otherwise nice people. This should not be difficult for you to share with your girls, for we suspect you teach them something similar about the subtle racism of some tax-paying Americans, and about the terrorist ideals of Al Qaeda fathers who play fútbol with their sons before they kiss them and tuck them in bed each night.

Upon reading the reference to Al Qaeda fathers, my friend wrote me these words of caution:

This paragraph I think takes things in a wrong direction. I come to the end and think…wait, this pastor thinks gay people are like Al Qaeda terrorists? Basically, they want to destroy America? I think that will not help your readers take this seriously…. I mean, parents who are Christians should be the first to say, yes, we don’t agree with how they are living, but we interact with those who do not know Christ all the time. How do we do that in a way that is faithful, loving, and truthful? And, we ourselves are the ones who can see how far short of the biblical standards for chastity and fidelity we fall. (Honestly, I am just thinking of people in your church or my church who might struggle and fight same sex attraction and this just alienates them completely and gives them no gospel hope.)

I am grateful for my friend’s sensitivity to the way the culture might (mis)read words. I know that my friend fully understood my words and their intent, and that my friend was playing the role of a common reader. However, it amazes me how people potentially could miss the nature and objects of comparison in an accessible piece of writing.

In the paragraph, I am describing the President’s fatherly task of making distinctions – for his daughters – between outwardly good-appearing parents and some not-so-good-actions of these same individuals. The comparison is between the content of what the President should teach about parents in same-sex unions and fathers who are members of Al Qaeda. That is, parents in same-sex unions can be cordial, hardworking, faithful, neighborly, self-sacrificing, and attentive to their children’s every need. They can be outstanding citizens, professional role models, philanthropists, and people who participate in crime-prevention activities in their own communities. Nevertheless, this does not mean that all of their other activities are things of which we would approve, as holds true for all heterosexual parents too.

In the same way, if we set aside images of terrorists living in cave-like compounds in the mountains of Afghanistan, we might be able to imagine a well-groomed, Eastern, business professional who runs a small business in an Arab state, but is a member of Al Qaeda. When he closes his shop for the day, he goes home and eats dinner with his family while watching Al Jazeera. He helps his son and daughter finish their eleventh-grade calculus homework, and then dad and children go outside to kick the fútbol around with a few friends living on the same street. Afterwards they come inside and have a lively discussion about the coming 2012 Olympics, and then the children each take turns showering before bed. The dad kisses both children goodnight as the children turn in for the evening.

Once dad has put the children to sleep, he leaves his house to meet with other men like him who help fund the activities of those who carry out terrorist acts. The words they use to speak of the US and their allies are angry, bitter, venomous, and vengeful, as the men assemble around a gambling table in their version of a smoke-filled war room. The dad and his friends curse Obama and his Jesus—the god of America and the West. They vow to bring down every US drone, to burn the White House with fire, and to shoot Air Force One out of the sky with weapons made in American factories. The dad in our story leaves the meeting with both a wide smile and the hope of an Al Qaeda victory, and he goes home to enjoy his wife (who has equal hatred for the US and its friends). The next morning he sends his children to school well prepared for their day, and opens his shop to offer his business with fairness and kindness toward all of his customers.

While this story is fictional, it could very well represent the lifestyle of a member or supporter of Al Qaeda. If it does, and that man lives and works in Lanham, MD rather than in an Arab state, and he is later convicted of plotting terrorism against the US, would it be wrong of me, as a father, to say to my children that their eleventh grade friends’ father, although a nice man with whom they enjoyed playing soccer on our street after school, is also vile man who participated in evil activities? No, for I would be making a good and important distinction, and one that also is truthful.

If I next said to my children that something similar holds true for two other neighboring parents of another eleventh grade friend – parents in a same-sex union – would my children understand me to be saying that homosexual activity is akin to terrorism? Or would my children understand me to be saying that seemingly nice people – like Mr. and Mr. Homosexual Dads, and Mr. Terrorist Dad – can participate in wrong acts?

Pedophiles appear to be innocent elementary school custodial workers or English teachers. Homegrown spies, who sell US secrets to our enemies, live in nice homes in gated communities. Illegal dog-fighting participants can be sports icons; identity thieves and adulterers can coach little league baseball teams. A university president can be found to dabble in telephone sex. Even the eventual First Black President (as opposed to the First Gay President), played his saxophone on late night television, but later was found to be guilty of committing inappropriate acts with one of his interns; he is a nice guy, but he still committed wrong acts.

I used exaggeration in my initial comparison so that the reader would understand that making distinctions between people’s decent public works and their wicked private works is a normal part of good parental instruction, even for the President of the United States. Unfortunately, we have so deconstructed our ability to read that we miss the point of simple analogies.

Oh, and yes: The comparison between the Presidents of the two firsts intends to exemplify what this article is about—how we read texts. Most anything else on this Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, and E. D. Hirsch, have said already.


Resources (above)

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read A Book, rev. ed., Touchstone, 1972.

E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, Yale University Press, 1967.


From the blog of Wm Dwight McKissic:


What Mitt Romney and President Obama Believe

By Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

A Message to be delivered at the Cornerstone Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas, May 20, 2012

“And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,” (Matthew 19:4)

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” (Acts 17:26a)

God’s universe centers around His Kingdom. At the heart of His Kingdom is His Dear Son. His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. His Kingdom is to rule over all the earth. The Bible is the constitution of His Kingdom. Love is the language of His Kingdom. Faith is the currency in His Kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the governor and guide of His Kingdom. Citizens in His Kingdom are often called Christians, and their allegiance and loyalty are first and foremost—to God who sits on the throne; and His Son seated at His right hand; and His Spirit that is our intercessor on earth (Romans 8:26). The Kingdom of God is God’s total answer for man’s total needs. Righteousness is the precious commodity in His Kingdom and is to be sought after (Matthew 6:33). The first and foremost responsibility of a Kingdom citizen is to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The Bible says in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” If righteousness will exalt a nation, what will unrighteousness, disobedience and rebellion do? Unrighteousness will abase or devalue a nation.

The purpose of this message is to speak prophetically to our nation and to President Obama and Mitt Romney on the subjects of race, family and the Kingdom of God. The very foundation, fabric, future and the definition of the family—as we know it today—is at stake. Redefining the family and expanding the definition of a family is a very serious matter that should not be redefined or expanded without sound, solid, scientific, sane, scriptural or even common sense reasons to do so. America needs to understand and weigh the full ramifications and gravity of this situation.

I am equally as concerned about Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith and what the Mormon “Bible” teaches about race. If Mitt Romney is elected President of the United States of America, for the first time in American history, we will have elected a President that ascribes to a “Bible” that teaches that “blackness of skin” is a curse. That is a huge obstacle that he will have to overcome, if he expects “blackness” of skin people to take him serious as a Presidential candidate. The media made a big-to-do out of Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s views on race, while they completely ignore Mitt Romney’s “Bible” view on race. This is the height of duplicity and hypocrisy.

As it relates to the racial views of Mitt Romney’s Bible and the same-sex marriage views of President Obama, my thesis is simple. History, Natural Law and the Bible are all in disagreement with President Obama and Joe Biden’s view of same-sex marriage. The Bible, the Constitution of the United States and majority evangelical thought are in disagreement with Mitt Romney’s “Bible” regarding its belief on race and other topics too numerous to deal with within the allotted time. My goal in this message is to advance the Kingdom of God as opposed to advancing any political party, personality, or people group. What does the Bible teach on the subject of marriage and race? God made a male and female and joined them together for the purposes of procreation, recreation, unification and evangelization of their offspring; and from one blood, He made all nations of men (Matthew 19:4-6; Acts 17:26). Therefore, I want to articulate a Kingdom response to (1) Mitt Romney’s “Bible” views on race (2) President Obama’s views or same-sex marriage (3) and to discuss, how should Kingdom-citizens vote given these realities?

I.  Mitt Romney’s Mormon “Bible” View of Race vs. The Kingdom of God

1.  The Word of God—the constitution of the Kingdom—teaches, “God is no respecter of Person” (Acts 10:34); He has taken “one blood” and made all nations of men (Acts 17:26); and all men should be respected and treated equally (Malachi 2:10).

2.  In the Mormon religion, The Book of Mormon is equally as authoritative as the King James Version of the Bible. Recorded in The Book of Mormon in The Second Book of Nephi, 5:21 & 25, are revealing thoughts about the Mormon view of the origin of darker complexion people and their attitude toward them:

 “5:21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

5:22 And thus saith the Lord God; I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.”

3.  We get a deeper insight into the Mormon view of race as recorded in one of their four “Bibles,” namely, The Pearl of Great Price, also written by Joseph Smith (A Selection from the Revelations, Translations and Narrations of Joseph Smith, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., 1968, The Book of Moses (7:8-12), page 20):

 “8. For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.”

4.  Also recorded in The Pearl of Great Price in The Book of Abraham, 1:24, (page 31), is a summary thought related to darker complexioned people:

 “24. When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.”

Clearly these Mormon “Bible” verses teach that Black people are “cursed,” “loathsome,” “despised” justifiably and derived the “blackness” of their skin color as a result of a Divine curse. The view of Mitt Romney’s Bible on race leaves me most uncomfortable with him occupying the Office of President of the United States. I question how the evangelical White community can support a man whose “Bible” contains these racist, wrong and unbiblical views.

II.  The Obama/Biden View of Same-Sex Marriage vs. The Kingdom of God

1.  Marriage has everything to do with The Kingdom of God. Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to a king who arranged a marriage for his son (Matthew 22:2). When a husband and wife come together and produce a child, the three reflect the trinity of the Trinitarian God who made them. God established marriage to populate His Kingdom and spread His name to the generations (Psalm 145:4) that would be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:27-28).

In Malachi 2:15-16, God makes it clear that a primary purpose of marriage was to produce “godly offspring”. That’s why the Lord hates divorce—but not divorced people.

 “15But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one?
He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

16 “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

How can a same-sex couple produce a “godly offspring”? They can’t! It is biologically impossible, because God never intended for two person of the same sex to marry! Adultery and fornication are also sin in the Kingdom of God. The Bible also calls adultery an abomination (Hebrews 13:4).

2.  In the Kingdom of God Jesus declared that marriage was God’s idea—not Sasha and Malia Obama’s. God set the parameters on marriage. In Matthew 19:4, in response to a question by the Pharisees regarding marriage and divorce, Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female”? Marriage 101 is that marriage is comprised of a male and female. The Word of God should not take a backseat to contemporary culture. Contemporary culture must take a back seat to the Word of God. Kingdom citizens/Christians should not compromise on this issue.

3.  The testimony of history supports marriage between a man and a woman, and same-sex marriage violates the constitution in the Kingdom of God.

4.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was not supportive of homosexual relationships. In response to a boy who wrote Dr. King admitting to having an attraction to other boys, just as he also was attracted to girls; Dr. King had this to say:

 “Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was writing an advice column in 1958 for Ebony Magazine when he received an unusual letter.  “I am a boy,” an anonymous writer told King. “But I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do?”

In calm, pastoral tones, King told the boy that his problem wasn’t uncommon, but required “careful attention.”

“The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired,” King wrote. “You are already on the right road toward a solution,since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”  ( (Emphasis mine)

Dr. King’s view on this subject trumps all of the current so-call Black leaders, who unfortunately have abandoned the biblical position and bowed at the culture of political expediency and correctness. My posture will remain true to the word of God! In the words of the old Negro spiritual when it comes to approving of same-sex marriages—“I shall not, I shall not be moved; I shall not, I shall not be moved. Just like a tree planted by the waters, I shall not be moved.” God has called the church to be the moral guardians of society, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

The church cannot be seduced by the government, but rather, speak truth to the government. Jesse Jackson, Otis Moss, Jr., Al Sharpton, Michael Dyson and Julian Bond all need to be placed in an intellectually dishonest debtors’ prison for comparing slavery to the practice of homosexuality. This is an insult to the slaves and the entire African American community. The suffering of the slaves is so far greater than anything that so called “same-gender loving” people have experienced; how can these men compare people who prefer their primary identification to be their libido, in the same sentence with persons who were enslaved because of their racial classification that they had absolutely no control over. Most homosexuals claim that they discovered that they were homosexuals when they were 10, 15, or 25 years of age. Black people did not have to wait 20 or 30 years to discover they were Black. I dare you compare the plight of the slaves to the plight of the homosexuals. This is insulting, offensive and demeaning to compare the slave’s skin to their sin. This is not an issue of marriage equality, but an issue of moral sanity.

George Washington Carver was a strong Bible-believing Christian in addition to being an agricultural and science professor at Tuskegee Institute. He taught Sunday School weekly on the campus of Tuskegee Institute. He clearly viewed Genesis 19 as an illustration of the judgment of God on a nation that embraces homosexuality. While discussing Sodom and Gomorrah, Dr. Carver asked his class, “And what happened to these wicked cities?” He viewed the desire and activity of same-sex involvement as “wicked.” He then used his scientific talents to cause a sudden burst of flames and fumes to shoot up from the table, and the Bible students fled. He sure knew how to make Sunday School interesting and to illustrate his point. George Washington Carver taught against the practice of homosexuality. (George Washington Carver; An American Biography, by Rackham Holt, 1943, Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, p. 198)

In September 1929 Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., published a series of sermons on sexual perversion, (as per an article written by John McWhorter entitled, “What the Harlem Renaissance Teaches about Gay Rights”). Powell stated that homosexuality was one of the powers that debased a race of people and could destroy the Black family.

“Powell considered this “perversion” to be “one of the most horrible, debasing, alarming and damning vices of present-day civilization.” He decried “contact and association” with gay people, considered them a threat to the “Negro family.” He hated homosexuality for “causing men to leave their wives for other men, wives to leave their husbands for other women and girls to mate with girls instead of marrying.”(

It appears that politicians and preacher/politicians are teaming together to destroy the Black church’s strong opposition to homosexuality. This is also an attack on the Black family; and it is a vicious and violent assault of the kingdom of darkness against the Kingdom of God.

Augustine said:

 “Those shameful acts against nature, such as were committed in Sodom, ought everywhere and always be detested and punished. If all nations were to do such things, they would be held guilty of the same crime by the law of God, which has not made men so that they should use one another in this way (Confessions 3:8:15 [A.D.400]).” (

The truth of the matter is that the act of homosexuality is unnatural. A female biologically uniquely responds to a male in a manner that is biologically impossible for a male to respond to another male; thus proving that homosexual sex is unnatural. I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Same-sex attractions are not innate or natural; they are produced from cultural or environmental factors.”

I agree with Rev. James Meeks:  “I love my President, but I love my Bible even more.”

It is my conviction that Romans 1:32 forbids me from supporting anyone who supports homosexuality.

Y-Love (a Black, male, Jewish rapper) illustrates this problem in his statement:

 “‘I’m ready to find a husband,’ Jordan continued. ‘I’m ready to live without fear of being outed or the stress of keeping my whole self from people. And I’ve waited too long to do that.” (

That is not marriage equality—that is moral insanity! Our President is now asking us to approve of this insanity. Same-sex marriage destroys the natural argument analogy that Jesus used to explain Christ as the groom and the Body of Christ as the bride. Marriage between a man and woman is not discrimination against same-sex marriage, but is simply a standard.


There are persons that say, no one should be a one-issue voter. I disagree. It depends on what that one issue is. If one candidate was advocating placing people of color back into slavery if he or she were elected, we would all become one-issue voters. If one candidate advocated paying females workers systematically less than male workers, those of us with females in our families would become one-issue voters. If a presidential candidate ran on a platform requiring all eighteen year-olds—male and female—to be drafted and to spend a minimum of two years in the military, there would be many one-issue voters, voting against this. There are certain single issues that rise to a degree of importance and impact, or violate one’s conscience and convictions to the extent that one would make a voting decision based on that single issue.

There is at least a single issue—the Mormon “Bible” race issue—that leaves Mitt Romney extremely askance as I look through Kingdom eyes. The same-sex marriage issue leaves President Obama extremely askance as I look through Kingdom eyes. It is my prayer that both men would have a change of heart so that I could have an option in voting. But if there is no change by Election Day, I will vote for other persons on the ballot, but I will not cast a vote for President.

Some people say, vote for the lesser of “two evils.” That I will not do. I don’t have to settle for lessor, because I serve a God who is greater, and He’s my King. At the end of the day, I agree with the Apostles; “…there is another king”—Jesus (Acts 17:7). Thank God that I belong to another Kingdom—the Kingdom of God. In His Kingdom, the definition of marriage is clear. In His Kingdom, every kindred, tongue tribe and nation are equally loved and accepted. In His Kingdom, the wicked shall cease from troubling and the weary shall be at rest. In His Kingdom, the gospel is preached to the poor. In His Kingdom, the hungry are fed; the naked are clothed; the sick and in prison are visited. In His Kingdom, He sits on the throne, high and lifted up. It is a scandal-free Kingdom.

If I’m allowed to write in a candidate for President, I will write in JESUS…Because that’s my King. He is a righteous King. He is judicious in His justice. He’s matchless in His mercy. He’s bountiful in His blessings. He’s merciful in His compassion. He’s majestic in His splendor. He’s holy, as none other. He’s awesome, in His acceptance of whosoever will—let Him come. He’s the Lord of life. He’s the Rock of Ages. He’s the fairest among ten thousand. He is a great Shepherd. He is a great Physician. He is a great Savior. He is a burden bearer. He feeds the hungry. He heals the sick. He governs, and He guides. If I have to, on Election Day, I will vote for Jesus. There is another King. His name is Jesus. Martin Luther said, “My conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me…here I stand!”

All hail the power of Jesus’ name
Let angels prostrate fall
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all

Obama, Gay-Marriage, and the Black Church Vote

My article, “Obama, Gay-Marriage, and the Black Church Vote,” posted at Baptist Press this afternoon. Here is an excerpt:

Wide is the gap between what you and we are teaching our children — the next generation of American workers and leaders. Christian parents have a responsibility to raise their children to fear the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Because the Bible reveals God’s standards for right and wrong, there will be many times when the Lord’s words come into conflict with human sensibilities. Therefore, while your daughters could not imagine their friends’ same-sex union parents being treated differently, you, as their father, would have the responsibility to tell them that their friends’ parents participate in immoral acts, although they might be otherwise nice people. This should not be difficult for you to share with your girls, for we suspect you teach them something similar about their friends’ parents who commit adultery, and about the subtle racism of some tax-paying Americans.

Eric C. Redmond:

Rebloging from Convergence:

Originally posted on Convergence:

I don’t believe in white church or black church, but not because I’m color blind. I believe that one of the most offensive things anyone can say to me or any person of another race is that they don’t see color. To me, that’s a complete denial of the essence of a person and part of the fabric that makes them who they are. I just don’t believe that the Bible instructs us to have separate churches. On the same token, I don’t believe God or the Bible calls for us to abandon our cultural identity once we become a Christian. Of course, our number one allegiance is to God, and through him we are all one in spirit. But I tend to favor the stir-fry theory of multi-culturalism over the melting pot idea…After all, what kind of world would we be without the diversity of various cultures?

That being…

View original 656 more words

Preaching — From Today’s Broadcast with Pastor Christopher Brooks

Today on, Pastor Christopher Brooks and I discussed what to look for in preaching each Sunday. I mentioned the importance of the average believer reading his own Bible faithfully, using commentaries to bolster his own understanding of God’s word, and listening for the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son. Here are some recommendations:

The NIV Application Commentary Series seems to be written with the layman in mind as it examines passages of Scripture by moving from the original text to contemporary meaning (e.g., application). I would encourage the reader to start by reading a chapter per week of the Proverbs commentary in this series, along with the appropriate verses of Proverbs in the Bible. The Proverbs commentary in the Preaching the Word series also is very good.

An ESV Study Bible is an outstanding resource to help one read through the Scriptures with helps on every page of the Bible itself.

Both the daily Bible devotional, For the Love of God, and the complementary work, The God Who is There , each are good for giving the reader the ability to read through the entire Bible in one year with understanding. For the Love of God is available as an RSS feed or daily email.

Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons, and the complementary, The Priority of Preaching, are good works to help laypeople listen to sermons with discernment, understanding, and joy.

What is the Gospel?, and, The Gospel and Scripture, are two practical booklets that explain what should be central in understanding Scripture (and thus in the preaching of Scripture).

Why Black Women Are Fat by Alice Randall in the NYT

Alice Randall, Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University and author of, Ada’s Rules, proposes the need for a cultural understanding of obesity in African American women. She writes,

FOUR out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.

Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal black woman.

What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.

The black poet Lucille Clifton’s 1987 poem “Homage to My Hips” begins with the boast, “These hips are big hips.” She establishes big black hips as something a woman would want to have and a man would desire. She wasn’t the first or the only one to reflect this community knowledge. Twenty years before, in 1967, Joe Tex, a black Texan, dominated the radio airwaves across black America with a song he wrote and recorded, “Skinny Legs and All.” One of his lines haunts me to this day: “some man, somewhere who’ll take you baby, skinny legs and all.” For me, it still seems almost an impossibility.

Chemically, in its ability to promote disease, black fat may be the same as white fat. Culturally it is not.

Read the rest in the NYT.