I Shouldn’t Be a Reformed Baptist

I am regularly asked why I don’t go to the largest, fastest growing church where most twenty somethings go in our town. It doesn’t make sense to some why my wife and I choose to be part of a simple average sized church. By Bible-Belt expectations, I shouldn’t want to go to church where the worship is boring and the teaching is irrelevant. However, I find the Reformed Baptist tradition and others like it not only compelling but needed for my generation in particular.

My generation grew up in a declining fundamentalism and a rise in “attractional” or “seeker sensitive” churches. Entertainment started being thrown at us every week in an effort to keep church relevant for teens who seemed to be leaving after having gone off to college. Now we are adults and an entertainment church with a program or ministry to offer for everyone is the assumed model. In this context, many are finding the Reformed tradition refreshing.

Substantive Theology

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

The answer for the restless young Christian is not deemphasizing doctrine but rather a theology that takes God seriously. This is evidenced in the rise of the “Young, Restless and Reformed.” Substance was found where something was obviously lacking.  Reformed theology was the answer to my discontented faith. I found a reasonable faith that not only answered my questions regarding Christianity but quenched a thirst for spiritual growth that lacked what was to be found in contiual substance. This led to an empowering knowledge and relationship with God that then led to experiential devotional practice.

Reformed theology presents us with a God who is more than we realized before, sin that is greater than we previously thought, grace that is even greater, and people who seek a real relationship with God. A real relationship requires that we learn about someone else. Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying that professional theologians are the only ones who can truly know God. Rather, I recognize that everyone is a theologian. We want to know God, the question is how are we attempting to know Him? We must find God through Scripture alone, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone. Anything else will be found lacking.

Substantive Worship

God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24

At least from my experience, there seems to be a growing interest in a liturgical styled church service. Millennials in particular are often attracted to this format of worship and I don’t think it is due to hipster inclination. A simple but serious service is compelling when in most worship experiences casualness replaces reverence. Instead of showing up on Sunday morning to “experience worship” we arrive to participate in worshiping in spirit and in truth. Typically, Reformed churches follow a simple recipe for corporate worship that is Word-centered. Praying God’s Word, Singing God’s Word, Preaching God’s Word, Seeing the Word through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as well as fellowshipping around God’s Word. I found these simple but real acts of worship to be fulfilling on Sunday mornings. A Word-centered service that is simple, structured, repetitive, and consistent  becomes attractive because it is what we need.

From a cultural-Christianity perspective it is unlikely that I would be a Reformed Baptist. However unlikely, I am glad that the Lord has brought me to this tradition. Of course no tradition is perfect no matter how thankful we are to be a part. So let us all seek to know God through the scriptures, and worshiping together in spirit and in truth.

Grace and Peace,

Danny Thursby

Semper Reformanda Baptist Library

Back in January of 2014 I posted here that Stuart Brogden has made freely available a fairly extensive library of works pertinent to Reformed Baptists. He describes his website as the “Home of the Semper Reformanda Baptist Library, a free tool intended to encourage and equip my fellow Baptists to stand firm and dig into our rich history and theology, while never growing weary of reforming to the Word of God.” I received a message yesterday stating that the web pages had been updated to provide links to library content by topic. Check it out and let us know what you think, or suggest other sites for our readers to check out.

Free eBook of Old Paths by J.C. Ryle

I have discovered that Monergism.com has made available the free eBook of Old Paths: Being Plain Statements On Some Of The Weightier Matters Of Christianity. You may download it here in ePub, .prc (Kindle) or .pdf formats. Here is a selection from the preface, in which Ryle explains his purpose:

“If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” – 1 Corinthians 14:8

The volume now in the reader’s hands consists of a series of papers, systematically arranged, on the leading truths of Christianity which are “necessary to salvation”.

Few, probably, will deny that there are some things in religion about which we may think other people hold very erroneous views, and are, notwithstanding, in no danger of being finally lost. About baptism and the Lord’s Supper, about the Christian ministry, about forms of prayer and modes of worship, about the union of Church and State, about all these things it is commonly admitted that people may differ widely, and yet be finally saved. No doubt there are always bigots and extreme partisans, who are ready to excommunicate everyone who cannot pronounce their Shibboleth on the above-named points. But, speaking generally, to shut out of heaven all who disagree with us about these things, is to take up a position which most thoughtful Christians condemn as unscriptural,narrow, and uncharitable.

On the other hand, there are certain great truths of which some knowledge, by common consent,appears essential to salvation. Such truths are the immortality of the soul, the sinfulness of human nature, the work of Christ for us as our Redeemer, the work of the Holy Ghost in us, forgiveness,justification, conversion, faith, repentance, the marks of a right heart, Christ’s invitations, Christ’s intercession, and the like. If truths like these are not absolutely necessary to salvation, it is difficult to understand how any truths whatever can be called necessary. If people may be saved without knowing anything about these truths, it appears to me that we may throw away our Bibles altogether, and proclaim that the Christian religion is of no use. From such a miserable conclusion I hope most people will shrink back with horror.

To open out and explain these great necessary truths, to confirm them by Scripture, to enforce them by home, appeals to the conscience of all who read this volume. This is the simple object of the series of papers which is now offered to the public.

The eBook was actually produced by the folks at PreachtheWord.com, who have done a good job creating a very mice-looking and easily navigated eBook. They also have a number of other such sources freely available here.

A New Seminary

Grace Bible Church of Conway, Arkansas, where I am privileged to pastor, is starting a church based seminary called Grace Bible Institute of Pastoral Studies. See here.
This is truly amazing. Planting the church over fifteen years ago in my living room, I never thought this would be something God had in store for us. We are thanking God for this great opportunity.
In some ways, the seminary has been forced on us. With more and more young men joining our church with a desire to minister and preach the Word, our responsibility to train them became more and more evident. I have felt for some time now that it is the local church’s responsibility to equip the next generations of pastors. 2 Tim. 2:2 teaches us that pastors are responsible to train pastors. After starting a class that would meet once a month, more pastoral students have been sent to us by God. With such a reservoir of men, and with God supernaturally supplying the financial resources, it became clear to us that we needed to start a more robust training program.
Our objective is to equip, ordain, and send out the next generation of church leaders by providing faithful men with a doctrinal education and pastoral experience within the context, oversight, and accountability of our local church. We not only desire to offer a rigorous education in the classroom, but supply practical, real-life experience under the mentorship of our pastors.
So we created a degree program that is based on four avenues of study. First, we are offering four module courses a year where we will bring in some of the leading professors in America. Over an extended weekend, our students will be able to earn 3 credit hours in a classroom setting. Second, we will provide four residential classes a year that are taught by the elders of the church—including myself. Third, we will require six credit hours of self study a year that will be guided and overseen by the Institute’s staff. Fourth, preaching and counseling practicums will be required throughout the program.
If you want to view our course list, check here.
Dr. Bob Gonzales taught our first module on the Doctrine of the Word, and Dr. Tom Nettles is scheduled to come and teach Baptist Church History next week. For more information on this, see here.
We desire to train pastors who self-sacrificially care for God’s sheep.
Though we are not currently accredited, our goal is to become affiliated and then accredited with the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries.
If you would like to help us, we are seeking to build a robust theological library and would appreciate book donations. We are in the mist of the building construction of our new church and seminary facilities, and with limited wall space, we plan to build a 25 by 16 foot bookshelf with a spiral staircase and catwalk at the 8 foot mark. So, we need books.
Most importantly, we could use your prayers as our goal is not to make a great name for ourselves, but to help ordain and send out laborers into the harvest.

Download A. H. Strong’s Systematic Theology For Free

For any interested readers, here is a link to download or read online Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Systematic Theology: A Compendium Designed for the Use of Theological Students for free. For those of you not familiar with A. H. Strong, here is a description from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (where the same work is also available for free):

Augustus Hopkins Strong was born in Rochester, NY on August 3, 1836. He was brought to Christ while attending Yale College, from which he graduated in 1857. He began his theological studies at Rochester Theological Seminary and completed his D.D. in Germany.

After serving Baptist churches in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and Cleveland, Strong was elected president of Rochester Theological Seminary in 1872. He was an active promoter of Baptist missions throughout his life, and from 1907 to 1910 he served as the first president of the Northern Baptist Convention (now the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.).

In his forty years at Rochester Seminary Strong taught a theology that combined traditional Reformed emphases, distinctive Baptist convictions on the ordinances and the organization of churches, and a relative openness to modern ideas. He published his multivolume Systematic Theology in 1886. This influential work was revised several times by Strong himself and continues in print to this day. Although Strong was consistently orthodox, he did use the results of modem critical scholarship more than, for example, his near Presbyterian contemporary Charles Hodge. Also, unlike Hodge, Strong was comfortable with the idea that God may have created the world through the processes of evolution. In the 1907 edition of his theology, Strong summarized his views on modern thought: “Neither evolution nor the higher criticism has any terrors to one who regards them as part of Christ’s creating and education process.”

Yet late in his life Strong spoke out strongly against those who used modem thought to compromise belief in Christ’s divinity or his saving work. In the 1907 revision, Strong proposed the counter to modernism that he maintained until he died: Christ as “the one and only Revealer of God, in nature, in humanity, in history, in science, in Scripture.”

Although, sadly, Strong never abandoned his Theistic Evolution, he is definitely worth checking out. Just keep a discerning eye as you read him. At many points, he reads like a Baptist version of Charles Hodge, but at other points, as the above description maintains, he goes too far into modern critical thinking. For those who use e-Sword, his Systematic Theology is also available for free as an e-Sword module here.

Bob Gonzales Reviews "Confessing the Impassibile God"

The blog’s regular readers will no doubt remember our support of Bob Gonzales’ writing on the doctrine of the impassibility of God here. Well, now I would like to call your attention to his review of Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. In this review Bob manages to put into words what has troubled many of us regarding the current debate over the doctrine of divine impassibility. The review is entitled From Dust to Deity: Some Critical Reflections on a Critical Book, and I highly recommend taking time to read it. And, while you’re at it, you might want to take some time to read more of Bob’s excellent, thoughtful, balanced and Biblical writing on his It Is Written blog. The slogan under the blog titles says, “Promoting the Supremacy of Scripture,” and that is exactly what Bob does, not only on the issue of impassibility but on every issue about which he writes.

The Absurdity of Unbelief by Jeff Johnson Is Available Now!

Today my blog partner, Jeff Johnson, announced on Facebook that The Absurdity of Unbelief, his new book on apologetics, is now available on Amazon.com. Here is the description of the book on the Amazon webpage:

Because all non-Christian worldviews are indefensible, it is not sufficient for skeptics to attack Christianity without also defending the foundation for their own unbelief. Everyone has a worldview, even atheists and skeptics, but only the Christian worldview is not self-contradictory. The Absurdity of Unbelief demonstrates why every possible reason for unbelief is irrational and ultimately meaningless by exposing the various self-refuting systems of thought in which these objections are rooted.

“Agnostics and atheists have been making a lot of noise in recent years, in spite of the fact that their belief systems are so obviously flawed. To counter their propaganda we need a flow of books exposing just how flimsy their arguments are. Jeffrey Johnson has chosen the word ‘absurdity’ to characterise these, and he has chosen well. Chapter by chapter he strips unbelief of any vestige of credibility, then shows with crystal clarity why the biblical case for God stands supreme when contrasted with all other philosophical and religious belief systems. I predict that this book will be as great a help to many of its readers as it has been to me, and I commend it warmly.” John Blanchard

“As Christians struggle to hold onto a semblance of sanity in the midst of the collapse of Western morality and thought, a sound foundation upon which to stand in explaining our unwillingness to bow the knee to Caesar is a must. In The Absurdity of Unbelief, Jeffrey Johnson provides a clear and compelling case for the Christian faith, readable and usable for believer and unbeliever alike.” James R. White

Having read the book myself, I highly recommend it as a must read on the subject. As I said in a post earlier this week, it as an excellent example of presuppositional apologetics. It is one of those books on apologetics that every pastor should read and have on his shelf for future reference.