Andrew Davies – George Whitefield & the Evangelical Revival

The next lecture in our Church History Lectures will be Andrew Davies on

George Whitefield & the Evangelical Revival

Date: 23rd Mar 2015
Time: 7.30
Place: Bulkington Congregational Church, Bulkington.

If you can make it, it would be great to see you. Andrew lectured for many years on Church History at London Theological Seminary. He has Pastored several Churches here in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Though retired, he now has a much appreciated itinerant ministry.

Andrew Davies – Sermons
Evangelical Movement of Wales
Sermon Audio

Geoff Thomas – The Legacy of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I’ve been a bit slow in posting this but Geoff’s lecture is available from the website at Bulkington Congregational website and eventually at my own website.

The lecture was given by Geoff in his own unique way – warm and homely, yet packed full with lessons and exhortations to the church of our own day. There were a number of people at the lecture that attended Westminster Chapel and went to the Friday bible studies. And one friend that did attend Westminster testifies ‘that God was in that place’. And by that he means in a way that is not apparent today.

A service of worship isn’t like anywhere else and it shouldn’t be like anything else. There should be a sobriety when gathering to meet with God yet with deep thankfulness at the privilege of being able to worship this awesome God. This is the God, the true and living God, that sent into this world of sin His only Son to die and rise for sinners.

Listen to the lecture. Go HERE. You know what to do.

Using Film as an Evangelistic Tool

I wrote a piece a few years ago for my own interest on the ‘evangelistic’ video ‘Who is this Jesus?’. I am in the process of listening to a series of podcasts by Dr Scott Clark on The Ten Commandments – the latest one I listened to is on Worshipping the Right God in the Right Way. Some of the discussion was on the ‘image’ of Jesus and it made me think of evangelistic films and this film in particular.

So here my scattered thoughts on the video. Hope you find it thought-provoking and helpful.

I sat and watched this video with a member of a church, where the church was intent on using it as a tool for evangelism. While watching I made a few notes, and typed the following scattered thoughts.

The principle behind the use of this video is this, ‘if it works it must be right’. It is my belief that this thinking is to say the least, unhelpful, particularly as you just cannot argue that because something works (i.e., people are converted) it is good or right. We are back again to the regulative principle, a principle that sections of the church would like to hold, but is unable to practice it in a media controlled world. We have to use only those means that God has given to the Church, regardless of – as far as we can tell – whether they ‘work’ or not. If they do not seem to work, then we should call upon the Lord to honour the means of His own appointing.

Some general comments on Video Use

1. Non-objective. It is a subjective use of images and editing.

2. Centred on man. What happens if the subject (the ‘celebrity’ star) i.e. the central character backslides or falls into serious sin? The charge then becomes the opposite of the original premise. That is, ‘look it works’ becomes ‘look it doesn’t work’. Man first, God second. Because of the way it is presented.

3. Relativism. It works for you, or the subject of the film. (See ‘Truth Decay’ p.163 The Hidden Dangers of Relevance) Subjective truth & Absolute truth.

4. Competing images. It tries to play the world at its own game. It will lose.

5. Manipulation. The (any) presentation will be highly scripted, not only this, but lighting, location, clothing, items in the room or ‘set’ etc. The whole presentation will be designed to manipulate the viewer. This is not the view of the apostle Paul and it shouldn’t be ours either.

6. Preaching is the presentation of objective truth. As Paul Cook recently (when I originally made the notes) said at a history lecture ‘we need to get back to preaching, and to believe in preaching’.

7. Many (not all) Media writers, I feel, would urge caution in the use of media where images are edited, scripted, and manipulated.

8. Theology. What is the theology (if any) of the Director and the Producer? This will influence the presentation.

9. Some Christians will argue for it because of the ‘well he uses it at school’ argument. So what has that to do with it?

10. Who is the intended audience? Again, this will greatly influence the production.

11. Is it really glorifying to God and his salvation.

12. ‘Documentary’ tends to give an authority that is probably not warranted.

13. Even if the video is very good, this is still no reason to use this type of method in evangelism.

14. The presenter is alive and likely to change. The presenter has been chosen, not for his spirituality, not for his gifts in exposition or preaching, but for his media personality, that he has a well-known face. In other words, media marketing is the name of the game.

The Video itself

Is it a documentary? Strictly speaking it is a ‘Docu-Drama’ as it utilises actors in playing a role, including playing the role of Jesus. It is a documentary in so much as it is attempting to communicate a series of propositions.

It may be worth noting that if this video presented the case for evolution, I suspect there would be stringent criticism of it.

The Use of Testimony.

You will notice that there is a housewife (a homemaker in these liberating days), a musician, a Rugby player, a care worker and a former gang member. Many differing faiths give the ‘convert’ a testimony. The whole use of testimony, to me is fraught with difficulty. It seems to be the opposite of ‘let me declare unto you this Jesus’. Instead we have ‘let me tell you what happened to me’. It very subtly shifts the centre of attention, from God to man.

Images and music used in the video.

Emotive use of music combined with images, or when talking of the cross.
If this were a ‘Billy Graham’ crusade, many churches would have nothing to do with it, as using emotive techniques to create a response. This video does exactly the same thing. This is particularly striking when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with use of emotive music and images. As Neil Postman states that the music is there to inform the viewer what emotions they should be feeling at the time.

Content of the video.

As far as I know, the geographical information is correct. However, it is worth mentioning that the Romans flattened Jerusalem in AD 70 putting the exact location of many places in doubt. I would however be more concerned about the message or should I say the lack of message. The gospel as far as I could tell was absent. The question then, is, what is the gospel? Some might say this video is nothing but a tool, a way to open people up, to make them willing to talk about spiritual truths. I commend the desire, but is this video really necessary in that case? Surely as we get to know people, opportunities will come, a word here, a word there, maybe an extended conversation that gives you a real God-given opportunity to ‘preach’ the gospel to them. Maybe they asked the question, what made you become a Christian? Then you can tell them. They will listen. Although the presenter talks of sin, we are never (as far as I could tell) told in necessary detail what it is. Nowhere is sin explained, or judgement (so as not to put people off presumably) or the nature of man. More seriously, the cross is only ever explained in terms of physical suffering and never in its spiritual sense. The physicality of it is far more emotive (making for good TV) than the spiritual aspect. This is quite deliberate. This is the serious point of the video. Any aspect of a filmed production has within it only those items that are meant to be there. It will be highly scripted, which I suppose explains the deliberate need for a professional actor (and actors).
The costumes were pretty poor, it has to be said, the hessian headgear looked brand new which to my mind made it pretty laughable.

We are told that many millions round the world believe. Is this really a valid argument, millions around the world are Catholics or Muslims, or Hindu’s, or Sikhs, or atheists for that matter! We have to stick to a propositional truth because it is truth, not because millions of others think it is true.

I can see what they are attempting in the video, and they are to be commended for their desire, but it is debatable as to what it is that they actually achieve. As for me, I think it is just another way of side-lining or denigrating preaching and further making us less likely to speak of The Lord Jesus Christ without the aid of a prop.

What says the scripture?

2 Corinthians 4:2-5

2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

2 Corinthians 2:17 (also 2:14-17)

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

The following quotations are from ‘Amusing ourselves to death’ by Neil Postman.

P90 ‘…all television programmes are embedded in music, which helps to tell the audience what emotions are to be called forth’

P119 ‘…not all forms of discourse can be converted from one medium to another. It is naïve to suppose that something that has been expressed in one form can be expressed in another without significantly changing its meaning,…’

P124 ‘I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.’

Spurgeon Documentary – Free to watch online

There’s a Free to Watch (Streamed) documentary on C. H. Spurgeon, the great 19th Century preacher. Here’s the Blurb from the website.

The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But how much do those of us who esteem him so highly really know about Charles Spurgeon, the man?

What were the events that shaped his life and made him the man who would be known as the Prince of Preachers? Through the Eyes of Spurgeon invites you to explore with us where and how Spurgeon lived, to follow his steps, to embrace the legacy he has left us.

Join us in seeing the world of Charles Spurgeon through his eyes.

You can watch the documentary HERE. Hat Tip to Jeremy Walker – one of the contributors.

In the Image of God

We had an excellent sermon this morning from Pastor Paul Watts on the text:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26

As Paul pointed out, being made in the image of God is a vital Biblical Doctrine and has massive implications for the Church and for society.

I recommend listening to this. For young preachers, here is a good example of preaching. Download / link of the sermon HERE.

Strange Fire Conference – Some thoughts

I started this post some time ago and was going to drop it because I had ‘missed the boat’ of opportunity. But thanks to a comment by James White I realised that it might be better not to worry about that. If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing even though a bit late in the day. Ones things for sure, this is a topic that will not be going away any time soon – if at all. So onto the post.

It’s a funny thing given my interest in this, I wasn’t even aware of this conference. There had been so much going on at a personal level that even the use of ‘Strange Fire’ as a tagline passed me by. Just before the conference I had thought about revisiting my dissertation about worship (‘Public Worship within Independent Reformed Evangelicalism’) and turning it into a book, but wondered if it still had any traction (see how I avoided the word ‘relevance’ there). I was personally convinced the topic of worship will always be current. The ‘Strange Fire’ conference then shows how the topic still really manages to touch a nerve. If I put my Historian / Sociologist hat on it’s of immense interest to me and confirms the value of studying worship. As Christians though, it is central to all we do – of that I have no doubt. And, it doesn’t matter where you stand on the subject, any discussion always raises the temperature! I can guarantee the subject of worship causes more discussion and disagreement than almost any other topic because it touches on so many areas – differences in theology and of course, personal preference! That fact, in and of itself, is worth thinking about! Why is this so? Worship is not just a case of turning up, singing a few songs, listening to a ‘message’ and then going home. Sadly, it can seem like it at times. But when the Church gathers for worship something extraordinary is going on – and it doesn’t need music either.

Strange Fire (or unauthorised fire) comes from the passage in Leviticus 10 and the best book (IMHO) on this passage is by Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs called ‘Gospel Worship’. I remember well my very first reading of Leviticus 10:1-3 and was (still am) especially struck – stunned even – by Aaron’s reaction to the death of his sons and what had just taken place. ‘So Aaron held his peace’ – there’s a sense of awe in the face of God’s judgement.

There are going to be an awful lot of people  around the world wishing JM et al had kept quiet on this. But, having said that it will probably disappear into the mists of time, only to be remembered by those interested in the topic. Like me. Anyway, I have very slowly worked my through the ‘Strange Fire’ audio and thought a few broad comments could be worthwhile.

1. To have a bunch of people clapping at several points in the message really grated on me. A very good elderly (in his 80’s) friend of mine was a member of Westminster Chapel when Dr Lloyd-Jones was the minister. One of the things that marked a service of worship was the reverent silence. I’m told the Dr would enter the pulpit and say the exact same phrase every time and this ‘Reverent Silence’ would be present. My experience is that when God makes His presence known there is reverence and awe. Maybe the odd ‘Amen’. To have a conference where the theology and practice of Charismatic worship is put under the microscope and then have in that same conference applause for the speaker is to me problematic. Maybe it’s my English sensibility.

2. I haven’t always appreciated the tone of the messages, they have come across as hyper critical, even arrogant at times and in places have really made me wince. Having listened to them, this style I felt was only in the first couple of messages and not representative of them all. However, the more involved in the conference as it were, the more I have found myself either nodding in agreement or saying ‘that’s right’. So the longer I’ve listened, and perhaps because it’s taken a while to get through the audio, and listening at a distance, the more appreciative I have become. BTW. The ‘Strange Fire’ book arrived in the post today – 30/04/2014. I was surprised at the absence of Burroughs in the index: maybe it will be in the text somewhere.

3. Comment on the presentation. The audio quality is excellent. It does make a difference when listening. The website and the availability of the audio and video is very much appreciated. And hat’s off to whoever organised and did the transcribing of the messages – monumental! Big thanks for this.

4. The content, that is the theology, has been first-rate. I’ve listened to them all now, but to single out a two messages, Dr Steve Lawson’s presentation (except for a lot of clapping and playing to the gallery – I am English) on John Calvin and his message on Sola Scriptura were excellent. Also listened  with much profit to Phil Johnson on ‘Throwing out the Baby with the bath water’.

I really appreciated the first Q & A session. I only heard the audio but the clips played were ‘jaw-dropping’ . John M’s comment on ‘turning the music off – all of it!, and changing the lights bulbs and to try selling that’ was not only brilliant but fundamental to all our Churches. If the preaching of the Gospel ALONE is not enough there’s a big problem!

So here’s a question for Grace Church and many other Churches. If it were decided to do away with the music – the orchestra or music group – what would the reaction be? Would members be banging on the Pastors door; ‘we want our music back! Or would there be ‘we have the Gospel, it’s enough’. For example when John Bunyan met secretly in the woods did he need to bring his praise band or learn to play the lute to worship? NT worship is markedly contrasted to the OT by its simplicity.

The change from Old Covenant worship to New Covenant worship is from shadow to reality. Old Testament worship was as elaborate and complex as it was bloody and the simplicity of New Testament worship is a million miles away and unnecessary. It might seem a bit odd to be using an OT passage to justify doing away with OT Worship, but the message of the passage in Leviticus is that we don’t come to God any old way we choose. To have a NT understanding of this read the passage in Hebrews coming to Jerusalem. NT worship is even more awesome (I use that word in the way it should be used!) The Lord is a consuming fire. See Hebrews 12:18-29. We worship then with reverence and awe with some understanding of where all the OT ceremonies and sacrifices were heading – to The Lord Jesus Christ.

If I don’t post this now it will never happen, so I’ll leave it there and come back to this topic another time – as I said, it’s not going away.

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Limited Atonement

John Samson has stood in on the Dividing Line while James White is away. His broadcast on Limited Atonement or more preferably Particular Redemption is well worth a listen.

There were a number of reminders that echoed my own grappling with this doctrine. What clinched it for me was a combination of The High Priestly prayer (John 17: 1-26) and the specific Stones on the Breastplate worn over the heart by the High Priest. As John Samson so rightly said – once you see it, you see it everywhere. At the time I was asking a lot of ministers about this and the best advice came from Stuart Olyott when he said ‘you need to see it for yourself’. In other words, you need to search the Scriptures!

It took me a lot longer than the 9 months it took John though! At the time I was involved in an Open-Air preaching ministry and needed to sort out the question – what do we say to people? To cut a long story short: Particular Redemption means we can offer a full Gospel of absolute certainty. Praise God Jesus came and completed the work and not some sort of half-hearted effort that saves no-one.

And so we are able to say with confidence ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’. Romans 10:13

Here’s the You Tube of it:

 

 

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A World Without Books?

The main Entrance to Old College at Aberystwyt...

Had the opportunity of visiting the Old College building yesterday, part of Aberystwyth University. I went into what was a Library, but without any books! Every single shelf is empty! That was quite surreal but it made me wonder: imagine what sort of world it would be without books.

Reading, it’s one of the distinguishing marks of our humanity. More than that it’s part of being made in the image of God. What a blessing it is to be able to read. God has chosen to reveal himself to us in Words. Many an illiterate person upon becoming a Christian is a desire to read – and read the Bible! What does the word Bible mean – Biblion, greek for Book.

For example at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel:

Luke 1: 1-4 Dedication to Theophilus

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

A world without books?
A world without books?

Also Luke 3:4

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

At the end of John’s Gospel: Ch 21: 24 & 25

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Luke again at the beginning of Acts 1:1

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up…

In the Book of the Revelation 20:12

12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

Empty of books!
Empty of books!

Clearly this is based on the fact that Jesus is The Word of God. So it’s not surprising that God communicates the Gospel through Words. So preachers preach the Word of God. This simple act of ministry is the way God has chosen. Not with music, not with imagery, neither smells or anything touchy feely but through words. Some of those things had their place under the Old Covenant but were always pointing towards the Final Word – Jesus. It should come as no surprise therefore to find an end to the sign gifts as the Canon of Scripture is complete and closed.

Revelation 22:18 – 19

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

And Finally:

Hebrews 1: 1-4. The Supremacy of God’s Son

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Praise God that He has spoken, and spoken clearly.

Geoff Thomas on Romans 1:19 & 20

Pastor Geoff Thomas
Pastor Geoff Thomas

Enjoyed one of our regular trips to Aberystwyth this last weekend – this time to collect our daughter. As usual we went to Alfred Place Baptist Church where Geoff Thomas is the Pastor. In the evening Geoff preached on Romans 1: 19 & 20. There can be no excuse, there will be no excuse for anyone because God has made it plain. Weasel excuses like, ‘not enough evidence’ or ‘he never appeared to me’ will not cut it at the judgement seat of Christ. There is an abundance of evidence because God has made it so!

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (ESV)

I like the NIV here;

Romans 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (NIVUK)

There can only be one response, and that is to call upon the Lord for salvation.

Had a lovely chat with Geoff afterwords where he recounted addressing a group of ministers on Van Tillian apologetics without a single objection. Later my son (a deacon at AP – Alfred Place) told me Geoff said to him ‘some Van Til for your Dad tonight Chris.’

Here’s the link to the Sermon audio. Here’s the link to the Sermon transcripts page (when they upload it). The transcript is always slightly different to the sermon as Geoff writes them out in full and makes copies available for the service. It can be interesting to follow his typed sermon while listening.

Joan Bakewell interviews Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1970

Now this is definitely worth watching! What a clear presentation of Gospel Truth. No weasel words and nothing namby pamby about this. And, the Gospel isn’t buried under a pile of intellectual clap trap and verbiage.

Hat tip to Gary Benfold