4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner;g neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.h
(g) Col 1:18; Matt 28:18-20; Eph 4:11-12
(h) 2 Thess 2:2-9


I would add that any man (or woman) that exalts himself in this manner is anti-Christ, including non-Papists, and Southern Baptists.

An article by Todd Pruitt over at Ref21 dealing with this issue.

So… the “Son of God” movie just came out today…

Orthodox Catechism Hercules CollinsQ. 105. What is the second commandment?

A. You shall not make any graven image, nor the likeness of anything which is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor in the waters under the earth: you shall not bow down to them, nor worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and show mercy to thousands of them who love Me, and keep My commandments.

Q. 106. What does the second commandment require?

A. That we should not express or represent God by any image or shape and figure (a), or worship Him any other way than He has commanded in His word to be worshipped (b).

(a) Deut. 4:15ff.; Isa. 40:18ff.; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:23ff. (b) Deut. 12:30ff.; 1 Sam. 15:23; Matt. 15:9.

Q. 107. May any images or resemblances of God be made at all?

A. God neither ought, nor can be represented by any means. As for things created, although it is lawful to depict them, God nevertheless forbids their images to be made or possessed in order to worship or honor either them or God by them (a).

(a) Exod. 23:24; 34:13-14, 17; Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:5; 12:13; 16:22; 2 Kings 18:4.

Q. 108. But may not images be tolerated in churches, which may serve as books to the common people?

A. No, for that would make us wiser than God, who will have His church to be taught by the lively preaching of His word (a), and not with speechless images (b).

(a) 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19. (b) Jer. 10:8ff.; Hab. 2:18-19.

From “An Orthodox Catechism – Chapter 10 The Third Part: Of Man’s Thankfulness (The Law of God)”



Several  years ago I began to use the word “reformed” to describe my theology. A few people at my church weren’t very thrilled by the use of that term. “Baptists aren’t Reformed. They have never needed to be. Jesus and Paul weren’t reformed, so why should we be?” they would reply. Our church is historically an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church that has held to a Calvinistic soteriology. It has also been influenced by Landmarkism. The church has never officially held to this “Baptist perpetuitism,” or its associated belief of “Baptist bride-ism,” but has seen that Baptists were never a part of Rome and therefore didn’t need to be reformed of anything.

Since we have adopted the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, we’ve come to be more open to associating formally as well as rejecting Landmarkism. As I continued to use the word “Reformed” in reference to my doctrinal beliefs I was given a short treatise on the subject of “Reformed Baptist” by Laurence Justice, a pastor of a Baptist church in Missouri. Let me begin by giving the title of his pamphlet: “Are Baptists Reformed? Emphasizing the Truth that Baptists Are Not Reformers and Reformers Are Not Baptists.

I do not intend to say anything about Dr. Justice himself. What I know about him is that he is a godly man, a faithful pastor, one committed to his church and God’s Word, as well as a man who takes doctrine seriously. I appreciate the work he has done in his church for missions, defending God’s sovereign grace, and his Credobaptist belief.

What I do intend to do is interact with what Dr. Justice has written in this pamphlet. I will state up front that I have no problem with being a Reformed Baptist. I own the title. I also don’t think one MUST call himself a Reformed Baptist. We will see that there are some Baptists who are “Calvinistic” while not being reformed. But we also must see there is no such thing as “just Baptist,” for there are all types of people who call themselves Baptist that have a broad range of doctrines. Let us begin our interaction with “Are Baptists Reformed?”

By way of introduction to his text, I want to summarize his pamphlet and review his sections outlining why he does not believe Baptists should be called “Reformed.” I will then answer each section in subsequent blog posts critiquing his argument.  He gives an introduction and then gives 5 arguments against being reformed as a Baptist. He defines Reformed as those “which had for its object the reform of the Roman Catholic church leading to the establishment of Protestant churches.” In other words, Reformed are Protestant and Protestant are Reformed. He continues in his introduction that, although the greatest Baptist confession of faith was the 1689 London Confession, Baptists aren’t Protestant. Even though Baptists believe the same things regarding salvation as the Reformed Churches and the Westminster Presbyterians, they aren’t Reformed or Protestant. He then continues with 5 statements.

  1. Because of What Baptists Believe About God’s Word
  2. Because of What Baptists Believe About the Church
  3. Because of What Baptists Believe About the Relationship of Church and State
  4. Because of What Baptists Believe About Baptism
  5. Because of the Un-Christian Way the Reformed Have Treated Baptists Through the Centuries

In my reading I saw that Dr. Justice makes 2 mistakes

  1. He generalizes his use of “Baptist.”

– He picks and chooses which Baptists he identifies with in making his various arguments

  1. He does poor history

– He doesn’t recognize the point of statements of faith throughout the last 2,000 years

– The Particular Baptists put out their statement of faith for a reason, and I don’t know that this is ignored or if it is unknown to Dr. Justice

These 2 mistakes permeate all of his arguments. I hope to point them out for correction, hoping this will lead to greater fellowship among Baptists who hold to a particular redemption. Also, confessional Baptism is at stake here. We must understand the context in which statements of faith are written and avoid an anachronistic reading of them. Next week we will pick up our interaction with his text, discussing Baptist Confessional history as well as looking at the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

To Resolve or Not To Resolve? The Yearly Existential Question

Once this entry posts it will be nearly a week into the new year. Most of us have already stopped going to the gym after resolving to lose weight. Many resolve to stop doing many things, yet very early on in the year certain habits are resumed. Most have earthly goals they wish to attain. Since I will be writing to a largely Christian audience, your experience may be less of an earthly goal and perhaps more of a heavenly or spiritual goal. But, let us pause here for a moment and consider why we make resolutions for the new year. Why do we even make resolutions at all? What are resolutions and are they a practice Christians should involve themselves with? If so, how should we go about approaching and making resolutions?

First of all, resolutions are actions in which we determine to do something.  Many of us don’t recognize the promissory nature of willing to do an action. We, in essence, vow or promise to undertake an action which we would like to pursue. It may not be an explicit promise to do something, but underlying it is a promise to oneself. Many have even sought to be public in their resolutions in order to fulfill them.  Historically, Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year, as did the Romans to their god Janus (the god the month January is named after), medieval Christians, etc. The practice typically has to do with self-improvement and historically been a religious affair. The most well-known person in American Christianity to practice resolving is Jonathan Edwards. He made 70 of them from 1722-1723. They can be found at:,%20Jonathan/Resolutions.pdf

We can see that many people throughout all religions, including Christianity, have taken up the task of resolution making. Is this something we should practice? The short answer is yes and no. As a Reformed Baptist, I hold to the 1689 London Confession of Faith. In chapter 23 the subject of lawful oaths and vows is taken up. In it the writers confess that a lawful oath or vow is a part of religious worship. I would submit to you this is how we should view resolutions: as a part of religious worship, whether pagan or Christian. It is a natural thing that fallen man does for we are creatures and were made for worship. Unfortunately, man is fallen and we must take appropriate measures to resolve appropriately. What measures should we take?

The measures we should take are laid out in the rest of the chapter on lawful oaths and vows. We should swear by God alone. We should swear with all holy fear and reverence. And we should not swear by any other thing for it is sinful. The writers direct us to Jesus’ and James’ words, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’” (Matthew 5:34,37; James 5:12) Jesus and James tell us not to swear by any created thing, but to simply let our everyday speech by full of truth and no conceit or deceit. In my review of Edwards’ resolutions, my attention was caught by Resolution 34. Here is what he says, “Resolved, in narrations, never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.” He echoes the words and sentiment of our Lord and James.

Since we can see that this is a biblical and historic Christian practice we must approach our resolutions with great care. We should not resolve to do anything we’re not able to do or intend to do. Again the writers of the confession give us sound teaching: “An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.” If you know you will break your resolution, don’t take it. If you think you might break your resolution, be careful. I can’t say don’t take it because we’re sinful and are prone to breaking our resolutions. Make simple resolutions and follow through.

In conclusion to our question “To resolve or not to resolve,” we see that it is a part of natural law to worship and that resolutions are a part of religious worship. We may and should resolve to carry out certain actions and that we should do so out of holy fear and reverence. We ought to carry out our resolutions if we intend them with great care. We should not resolve to do anything we cannot do or intend to do. You are free to make resolutions out of worship and only what you know to be true with God as your witness and your judge.

The Baptist Layman’s Catechism, Questions 2&3

Q.2. Are church and denominational creeds necessary and desirable?

A. Creeds or confessions of faith are necessary from the nature of the human mind and the character of revealed truth. Without a creed there could be no preaching, no church organization, no doctrinal fellowship, no evangelical faith, no singing and no praying.

Q.3. Why do so many religious teachers, both in oral and written discourse, disparage the use of creeds and confessions of faith in matters of religion?

A. (1) When the grounds of their objections are disclosed, it is generally plain that these teachers do not object to creeds as such, but only to such as are out of harmony with their views and oppose their methods. The young man, representing the Young Men’s Christian Association, with a limp Bible under his arm, often objects to creeds, but no one has more creed than he has; he is objecting to any one’s having any creed but his; it is all right to believe as he does. He is not alone. (2) Again, the substitution of a creed for piety and a Christly life has no doubt driven many really earnest people to disparage creeds, regarding them as substitutes for vital Godliness. Good old Andrew Fuller says, “The man who has no creed has no belief, which is the same thing as being an unbeliever; and he whose belief is not formed into a system has only a few loose, unconnected thoughts, without entering into the harmony and glory of the Gospel. Every well informed and consistent believer, therefore, must have a creed–a system which he supposes to contain the leading principles of Divine revelation.” (Fuller’s Works, Vol. 3, p. 449.)

an excerpt from R.A. Venable’s The Baptist Layman’s Hand-Book, pp.9-10.

Pragmatic Churches and Pastoral Ministry Students, Pragmatism as a Philosophy

For context, be sure and read the first three articles listed here.

Considering that pragmatism, as a worldview and lifestyle was already in full effect long before James and Dewey began to write, one might argue that the only contribution James and Dewey really brought to the discussion was clarification and application. They clarified the pragmatic position in the realms of philosophy (the study of wisdom) and epistemology (the study of knowledge), and demonstrated how it might be applied in matters of religion, ethics, and education.

Pragmatism Proper. William James is famous for turning pragmatism into an epistemological system, asking, “What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”[1] In James’ epistemological system, if a propositional truth statement yields a beneficial result, it has earned for itself the right to be properly deemed true. If it does not yield the expected result, it is assumed to be demonstrably false. James’ Pragmatism was “an attempt to find meaning by tracing the practical consequences of a concept or notion.”[2] Ultimately, according to James, there can be no intrinsic or absolute truth. As James explains, “Truth happens to an idea.”[3] The truth of an idea cannot be discovered, then, until an idea has already been employed and its consequences measured.

The means by which this truth is discovered is that of experience. Enter John Dewey. Dewey carried the banner for James’ particular brand of Pragmatism, and sought specifically to apply it in his own field of expertise: education. Dewey was so committed to the Pragmatic notion of discovering the truth of an idea by observing its consequences, that he sought to exclude anything from the educational process that might stand between the student and the idea itself. The role of the teacher, then, became that of facilitator. Dewey argued:

“When education is based upon experience and educative experience is seen to be a social process, the situation changes radically. The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities.”[4]

Dewey did not believe there was any “such thing as educational value in the abstract.”[5] That is to say that there is no good and proper result of education except that which results from a good and proper education. Considering that “traditional” education operates from the foundation of absolute truth and abstract universals, it will always guide its students toward its preconceived conclusions. The goal of an experience-based education (a pragmatic education) is to allow the students to arrive at their own conclusions, though in a safe environment, apart from any possible bias influencing their assessment of the data provided. The idea is to provide the student community with plenty of data and rewarding enough results at the end of each experiment to keep them trekking ever forward toward newer and better experiences all the time, the only satisfactory goal of any proper education, according to Dewey.

The problem of Pragmatism. Such a system ultimately leads its subjects into a perpetual cycle of searching for the truth with the presupposition that such truth is only as true as the one experiencing it. Thus, each subsequent generation must artificially be provided with similar experiences in order that the ‘truths’ of the previous generations might be handed down. Otherwise, each generation’s search for truth will have ended with the truths they supposedly discovered through their experiences being lost to the passing of time through subsequent generations who have not benefitted from the same experiences.

The pragmatist must either artificially recreate situations that he believes came to him by chance in order to propagate the truth that he supposedly discovered through said process or in the end suffer the loss of all that came to him by way of the pragmatic method of discovering truth. At the end of the day, the core tenant of Pragmatism is the idea that previous generations offer nothing to the current one, except perhaps some hypocritical assertion that certain situations lead to proper truth, while others do not. Of course, the assertion that those situations are more optimal for the discovery of truth will only be proven by way of the testing of the generations to follow. Such reasoning dies the death of a thousand deaths.

The end of Pragmatism. Ultimately, this insistence upon experience as the basis for any proper acquiescence of true knowledge leads to a recognition, on the part of pragmatists, of many of their own limitations. Recognition of personal limitations, subsequently, leads to a certain natural dependency upon an expert class: those who have had better or more accredited experiences in the field in question. In a nation like America where there is no aristocracy or ruling class, these few intellectuals quickly become the ruling class by way of monopoly of expertise, and they often go largely unquestioned. After all, they are the experts. Who are the masses to question their experience?

Observing the era that witnessed the rise of men like James and Dewey, Hofstadter boasted, “The most abstracted of scholars could derive a sense of importance from belonging to a learned community which the larger world was compelled to consult in its quest for adequate means of social control.”[6] Hofstadter was interested in seeing the rise of an elite intellectual class that would rule over society with their superior intellect and expertise. However, Christian intellectualism, as propagated by such thinkers as Harry Blamires and Mark Noll, seeks to incite intellectual interest in every member of the Christian community, and to encourage them to seek answers in the unchanging, unfailing truth that finds its source in the Trinitarian God of the Christian Bible. Hofstadter’s intellectualism feeds off of American Pragmatism, whereas true Christian intellectualism can find no greater enemy.

[1]William James, Pragmatism (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981), 92.

[2]Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2008).

[3]James, Pragmatism, 92.

[4]John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), 59.

[5]Ibid., 46.

[6]Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Vintage Books (New York: Random House, 1963), 205.

Pragmatic Churches and Pastoral Ministry Students, Pragmatism in History:

For context, be sure and read the first two articles listed here.

Though the early figures in the history of pragmatism did not have a working system of philosophy called Pragmatism to which they adhered, a minimal definition of pragmatism is necessary from the outset. Pragmatism, minimalistically speaking, is a commitment to the functional and the beneficial over all other considerations. This method of reasoning could be, and has been, applied to many different areas of life: ethics, epistemology, education, government, etc. There are two general rules that guide it: if it is working do not fix it, and if it does not work it is either wrong or there must be something better. In cultures that thrive on immediacy and productivity, such methods of reasoning easily gain dominance.

Pragmatists in Plato’s Greece. Perhaps the earliest group to be accused of using this type of reasoning was a group that surfaced sometime before the life of Plato known as the sophists. Plato was a theist who believed in universal truths he called forms.[1] The sophists of his day were traveling tutors-for-hire who taught a vast array of subjects, but particularly specialized in rhetoric. They were largely comprised of atheists and agnostics[2] who held abstracts such as morality to be largely relative, shunning absolutes. Plato did not hold sophists in a high regard.

Plato argued that the sophists only concerned themselves with persuasion and would use any means possible to arrive at that end. He further argued that they were not concerned with truth, because truth did not always lend itself to persuasion. If Plato’s critique of the sophists was true, they were pragmatists in the truest sense. As a man who valued virtue and absolute values, Plato took issue with this form of pragmatism. Indeed, Plato understood sophistry to result “when men who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and consort her unworthily.”[3]

Pragmatic Governance. This brand of thinking would resurface more than a millennium later in the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli. Counseling the princely class in much the same way as the sophists of ancient Greece, Machiavelli argued for a form of governance that primarily concerned itself with results. He insisted, “In all men’s acts, and in those of princes most especially, it is the result that renders the verdict when there is no court of appeal.”[4] Such reasoning in politics would eventually become commonplace in governments worldwide. In many ways, it is still prevalent today.

Pragmatism pervading society. Nearly a century before William James and John Dewey systematized the American philosophy known as Pragmatism, Alexis de Toqueville observed traces of it already in existence in American thought. Toqueville bore witness as laissez-faire capitalism and American rugged individualism began to take shape in the new nation. Breaking from their aristocratic roots in Europe, the Americans were confronted with opportunities to advance out of the long-standing bonds of the feudal system. Alongside these new developments was a growing lack of concern for how one obtained the object of one’s desires. As Toqueville noted, the average American was “aiming for the result without allowing oneself to be shackled to the means.”[5]Americans’ tendency toward pragmatism, then, spawned from a desire for individual advancement in a society built on the prospect of greater opportunity. America’s unique brand of pragmatism spawned from discontentment.

[1]Plato, Republic, trans., G.M.A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992), 3.492-493.

[2]Albert Henrichs, “The Sophists and Hellenistic Religion: Prodicus as the Spiritual Father of the Isis Aretalogies,” in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 88 (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard Univ Pr, 1984), 140.

[3]Plato, Republic, 6.496a.

[4]Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, trans., Daniel Donno, Bantam Classic (New York: Bantam Dell, 2003), 70.

[5]Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans., Stephen D. Grant (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000), 171.

Pragmatic Churches and Pastoral Ministry Students, Introduction to Part One:

For context, be sure and read the introductory article found here.

Last week I posted the introduction to my senior thesis on this blog. In the weeks to come, I will be offering up the rest in bite-sized chunks. I will be dividing it up into six articles. The following is a synopsis of how they will logically progress:

The first set of articles will be devoted to conducting a proper inquiry into the history, the philosophy, and the biblical passages most pertinent to the subject being examined. Because the pragmatic method and worldview long predated its systematization and popularization, the first article will address pragmatism where it has surfaced throughout history. The second article will then be devoted to its systematization and popularization, and the third article will demonstrate how this pragmatism has infiltrated the thinking of the church. In short, the first set of articles will show how, via the influence of pragmatism, evangelical churches in the West have lost their mind.

The second set of articles will demonstrate how churches might learn to think more christianly in just one of the many areas where American churches have lost their mind: their responsibilities in the lives of pastoral ministry students. Article four will speak to the necessity of testing pastoral ministry students before sending them out to shepherd flocks in other sectors of the universal church. The Bible mandates that a pastor be tested in at least three areas: creed, aptitude, and character. Article five will likewise be devoted to demonstrating congregations’ unique qualifications and responsibilities to test them in these same areas. Article six, then, will be devoted to demonstrating pastors’ unique qualifications and responsibilities in testing pastoral ministry students’ creed, aptitude, and character.

I hope you see fit to read these future posts.

Pragmatic Churches and Pastoral Ministry Students, Introduction

This post begins a series taken from the senior thesis I wrote in my undergraduate studies. For more, check out this page.

The evangelical church in the West has lost its mind. Even in regard to the things that are most crucial for the life of the church, they have ceased to consider the joint testimonies of Scripture and church history. Certainly, Western churches have not ceased to think altogether. Many have, however, begun to think merely in terms of what works. In a results-oriented culture, obedience is valued far less than utility. A command or precept of Scripture is far more likely to be obeyed by Western evangelicals if it immediately and consistently yields a desired result. The act of mining the Scriptures or church history for precepts that are not immediately apparent is seen as unnecessarily laborious and strange. In church life, to question why a thing is or is not done or how it might be done differently often draws immediate suspicion, if not accusation, discouraging any investigation into alternative, more biblical (and / or historical) approaches. Such investigation is all but nonexistent regarding the question of churches’ responsibilities in the lives of pastoral ministry students. Through examination of church history and philosophy, the articles to come show how churches have generally become pragmatic in how they relate to pastoral ministry students and offer, by exegesis of appropriate Bible passages, principles to guide churches to a more biblical approach.