Reconstruction Part 2

If the foundations be destroyed,
what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

Throughout her history, the Commonwealth of Virginia has seen much in the way of tumult.  Indian massacres, settler uprisings, slave revolts, terrorist attacks, and open warfare have left their mark on the Old Dominion.  The English settlers from the Jamestown period learned quickly what privation was all about.  Despite starvation, disease, and attacks from the local tribes, they forged ahead and were able to convene the first legislative body on the continent just 12 years from the time they landed.  Experiencing the same kinds of dangers, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians pressed on to the west and scratched out humble settlements on the Appalachian frontier.  By the time Virginia joined the other colonies in seceding from the British Empire, she was already seasoned and ready for what was to come.

With independence came a period of relative peace and prosperity.  This was punctuated by the War of 1812, Nat Turner’s bloody slave revolt in 1831, and John Brown’s terrorist attack on Harper’s Ferry in 1859.  Sectional tensions boiled over and Virginia joined the rest of the South in seceding from the United States in 1861.  The war that followed brought the Commonwealth to her knees: the land was ravaged, the economy wrecked, and a great portion of her young men would never return home.  To add insult to injury, 50 of Virginia’s western counties were stripped away.  It was a disaster to say the least.  The humiliating and vindictive policy of Reconstruction followed in the aftermath.  Despite military occupation and the corrupt politicians they imposed, Virginians would endure much yet again.

I give this brief historical outline simply to point out how resilient the Old Dominion has been in the past.  What sustained the people of Virginia for a better part of three centuries was the Christian ethos and worldview which dominated from the beginning.  Now that we are well into the 21st century, there is nothing more than a remnant of this culture left and it’s rapidly fading away.  Last year’s elections for the House of Delegates and State Senate were simply the proverbial canary in the coal mine, confirming the cultural rot which had set in decades ago.  Now that the Democrats control the entire State government, we’re about to experience what I refer to as Reconstruction Part 2.

Unless God graciously intercedes, Virginia will be “fundamentally transformed” as a civil polity: abortion will be radically expanded, monuments honoring our heritage will be torn down, gun rights will be severely restricted, parental rights will be assaulted, sexual immorality further promoted, casino gambling legalized, medical freedoms curtailed, and religious liberty for Christians will be greatly eroded.  This is to say nothing of the increased tax and regulatory burdens along with the elimination of any integrity left in our electoral process.  The new session of the General Assembly hasn’t even begun, yet the Democrats already carry with them the same vindictive spirit witnessed during the original Reconstruction.  The Left aims to fight, and fight they will.  They possess a religious zeal for their causes and they will accomplish their goals no matter the cost.

And that’s the issue: the vast majority of conservative Christians don’t realize (until it’s too late) what’s at stake and how this political conflict is actually being fought.  Conservatives are out-gunned and flanked because they mistakenly think that this is a war of ideas.  Instead, politics has become extremely tribal and that’s going to be the new norm.  America has balkanized and fractured along the lines of race, religion, and region.  The conservatives I talk to think that what’s happened in Virginia (and elsewhere) will simply be turned around in the next election, totally ignoring the demographic realities which have turned the Commonwealth “blue” in the first place.  In short, there is nothing which holds us together as a people anymore.  What’s happening here is not something we’re going to vote our way out of.

What we’re witnessing right now in Virginia is God’s judgment upon the Commonwealth.  That can’t be emphasized enough.  Our response needs to be a thorough and genuine repentance.

So where do we go from here?  What’s the way forward?  What ails Virginia and America as a whole is an identity crisis rooted in the broader apostasy taking place in the West.  As biblical Christianity fades it will be replaced by a completely different worldview with a completely different set of values.  We’re seeing this happen now.  What we desperately need is a reformation that impacts not only the church but extends into each family as well.  It is an absolute necessity that fathers lead their families in this direction, being faithful in ways that Christian husbands/fathers haven’t been in a very long time.  Pastors and other elders in the church need to encourage this return to biblical patriarchy.  Family worship, the catechizing of our covenant children, and the spiritual nourishment of our wives need to become, once again, daily responsibilities for Christian men.

For their part, the churches in our land must return to biblical standards in terms of worship, teaching, and polity.  Church leadership needs to ditch worship centered on entertainment and instead be faithful to what the Bible says about how God is to be worshiped.  Get rid of the stage and bring back the pulpit.  A man-centered theology needs to be abandoned in favor of Christ-centered teachings.  The Law of God must once again be preached and taught rather than avoided.  The full counsel of the Word of God must be taught, Old and New testaments.  Pastors do their job well by showing their flocks how to apply God’s word to every aspect of their lives.  If the church is to survive, then we need to have a generational vision rooted in the biblical truth of God’s kingdom progressing in every age.  Too many churches today are cold, antinomian, and exhibit a pietistic defeatism.

In saying all of this, no reformation will succeed without the faithful prayers of God’s people.  We must recover even the most basic of practices.  Small steps in the direction of faithfulness–family by family, church by church–that’s what will turn things around.  We need to start there.  My wife gave birth to our youngest daughter back in November.  At her baptism a few weeks later, we were reminded of the deep importance of raising her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Her baptism and the promise it contains is a seed for the future–the future of our family, church, and community.  The foundations will be rebuilt in small steps just like that.  May the Lord restore His people in this land and bring glory to Himself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Book Review: “Debt-Free Living” by Larry Burkett

Recently I went looking for a good book on personal finance, especially an audio book I could listen to on my way to work.  The late Larry Burkett’s book, Debt-Free Living, did not disappoint.  This particular book has been updated to reflect the environment after the “Great Recession” hit about a decade ago.  It reads well and is very easy to understand.

This is one of those books many of us wish we would have read decades ago.  In fact, I think every young couple (especially engaged couples) should read it.  Rather than being boring and overly technical, this book is mostly a series of short stories about people who have endured financial problems and how they found their way out of the proverbial hole.  These stories reflect the decades of experience the author had counseling couples going through various crises.  Toward the end of the book, there is more technical information and counsel regarding how to avoid debt as a way of life.  There’s also an interlude which talks about the history of how modern American society got to be so debt-ridden in the first place.

Everyone has heard of Dave Ramsey and his approach to fighting debt.  Indeed, Ramsey has a lot of good things to say.  Yet Burkett’s book is written for fellow Christians whereas Ramsey is writing for a wider, secular audience.  Throughout Debt-Free Living, Burkett cites Scripture and gives biblical reasoning for his counsel.  He shows how the Word of God applies to our particular financial situations today.  That was a breath of fresh air.  Numerous times, for example, Burkett emphasizes the importance of tithing–even when your financial situation isn’t great.  The necessity of placing one’s trust in the Lord is not something you normally hear from financial counselors.

There are some excellent admonitions in the book against unwise attitudes and decisions regarding money.  Impulse buying and other low self-control behavior patterns are discussed as the debt-traps that they are.  Another example is Burkett’s wise counsel not to buy brand new cars.  He also lays out the importance of finding accountability with others and especially the notion of being transparent with one’s spouse about money matters.  The reader can really tell that Burkett is motivated to help marriages and families.

The original edition of Debt-Free Living was written about 20 years ago.  If there’s any drawback to the book at all, it’s the fact that the 1990s-era complementarianism is communicated throughout the text.  Burkett does indeed acknowledge that the husband is the head of the home, but this isn’t emphasized enough.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a notion of father-rule, especially in terms of household finances.  Both husband and wife are said to complement each other in terms of their respective strengths and weaknesses.  Fair enough, but I don’t recall Burkett saying that the husband should take primary oversight regarding finances and be the ultimate decision-maker.

Overall, Burkett does an excellent job with this book.  The use of narratives to communicate sound financial advice is an excellent approach and helps to put the proverbial flesh on abstract concepts.  Additionally, he’s not afraid to call out the hypocrisy of so many Christians living in tons of debt.  After going though this book, I’m definitely more motivated to improve my role as head of my family’s finances.  I highly recommend this book as it provides a God-centered dose of sanity to our debt-obsessed culture.  I hope more Christians take advantage of it and become better stewards of what the Lord has given us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christian Institutions Go A Whoring

And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so. (Judges 2:17)

Throughout the history of Christendom, formal institutions associated with the church have endured a rather predictable downgrade.  Over time the usual rot settles in, almost always the result of corruptions from within.  Worldliness, rather than the Word of God, becomes the standard.  Orthodoxy wanes, the leadership becomes corrupt, and these once-fruitful branches are ready to be cut off and cast into the fire.  Of course this does happen with churches and whole denominations, but the genesis of this is usually the so-called Christian academy.

So it is with Liberty University, nestled in the hills of Virginia.  Having begun in 1971 as Lynchburg Bible College, this ostensibly Christian school grew into a phenomenon unto itself.  Founder Jerry Falwell, Sr. had a penchant for political involvement, eventually casting his lot with the Republican Party after having been one of the key players in creating the “Christian Right.”  Partisan politics would permeate everything about Falwell’s ministry including Liberty University.  He wanted to play the role of kingmaker within the GOP, only to be unwittingly played by the Republicans themselves.

The University became a necessary stop for any Republican candidate wishing to get the endorsement of the Christian Right.  Certainly this might sound like an ideal situation for any Christian institution wishing to influence the culture, but eventually the exact opposite begins to happen.  An institution like Liberty will learn to love the attention given by politicians and other powerful men.  The leadership begins to lust after it, make compromises in order to get it, and actually subverts their own original mission in the process.  Being salt and light in the world is no longer the goal.  Instead, they go a whoring after the false gods of this world in their various forms.

A case in point is Jerry Falwell, Jr. who took over Liberty after his father’s death in 2007.  Almost from the beginning of his tenure, he made it pretty clear that continuing to play the political game would be a staple of the school’s mission and part of his own personal ambitions as well.  During the days of the Tea Party movement, he maintained a cozy relationship with Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck.  When Donald Trump was running for president, Falwell, Jr. rode those coattails as much as he could.  He happily endorsed a man for president whose personal ethics were on par with former President Bill Clinton.  I’m old enough to remember when Falwell, Sr. blasted Clinton for his sexual sins.

Yet the compromises and the whoring didn’t end there.  Enter Virginia Congressman Denver Riggleman.  Over the summer, this first-term member of the U.S. House sparked outrage in many quarters when he presided over a fake same-sex “wedding.”  A sitting member of Congress giving an official blessing to an act of sodomy was apparently a bridge too far for many in the conservative 5th District.  They rightly objected to this abomination and caused something of a stir within certain GOP county committees.  Apparently there was enough of a backlash because Falwell, Jr. decided to break his silence by writing an official letter endorsing Riggleman:

This is where decades of compromise and mission creep get you.  The motivations are pretty simple: a lust for power and filthy lucre.  Falwell is not unique in that way, but his sordid tale reveals much.  Sacrifices will be made on behalf of the one whom you worship, whoever or whatever that may be.  This is what our Lord Jesus was getting at when He said that a man cannot serve two masters.  This most recent episode reveals just how much Falwell and the other leaders of Liberty University are willing to go in order to keep Republicans in power.  When it came down to a choice between God’s law and Riggleman, the leadership of Liberty chose the latter.

In whoring after the gods of worldly approval, wealth, and influence, these so-called Christian institutions become the canary-in-the-coalmine for the massive apostasy we are seeing before our eyes.  Let the faithful among us come out from among them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Template of Apostasy

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out,that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.  (1 John 2:19)

The recent brouhaha over Joshua Harris’ announcement that he is abandoning the Christian faith underscores just how deep the modern church’s obsession is with celebrity culture.  This announcement was proceeded by an earlier and similarly shocking announcement that he and his wife are separating.  That he chose to reveal both of these on Instagram is indicative of this banal cult of personality.

Harris is perhaps most famous for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye which was a polemic in favor of courtship in order for young Christians to avoid the pitfalls associated with modern dating.  Others have written elsewhere about how it was so foolish for so many Christians to imbibe a book written by a 21 year-old who hadn’t raised any children of his own.  Additionally, there’s much great commentary calling into question the church leaders who immediately scooped up Harris and effectively groomed him to be their next celebrity pastor.  I won’t add anything to that except to say that this whole train wreck of a story should cause every church in America to consider whether their standards for leadership actually line up with Scripture.

What I offer here is simply my own perspective as someone who came into the Christian faith just as Harris was getting off the ground with the aforementioned book.  I had heard mention of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and someone I knew in college actually recommended it to me.  For whatever reason, I never got around to actually reading it.  Yet I could see in many of the conversations at the time that it was having at least something of an impact.  Indeed, his book became staple reading content for a segment of Evangelicalism which vigorously promoted sexual purity.  And this leads me to the point of this post.

The apostasy of Joshua Harris, sad as it is, reflects a template of apostates everywhere in modern Western civilization.  What he’s said and done is so utterly trite and predictable that he’s basically made a caricature of himself.  Like all apostates in our present age, he calls into question the clarity and authority of the Bible.  He then apologizes for many of the things he used to teach.  Even before his apostasy became official, Harris vociferously apologized for his book on courtship, claiming that it hurt so many people.  Usually in the process of apostasy there is revealed some kind of personal moral failure.  Next on the apostasy checklist is genuflecting to the “LGBT” crowd.  Just days after he came out of the closet as an unbeliever, Harris happily participated in a sodomite parade.  Color me shocked.

Apostates of a high-profile nature like Harris rarely keep their mouths shut after they renounce Christianity.  More often than not they become trumpets for preaching an anti-gospel.  They get a media platform and then begin a new career of tearing down the very faith they once claimed to have and uphold.  Harris has been talking about doing just that.  In reality, he’s just exchanging one pulpit for another.  Am I overly concerned that Harris is going to be yet another bomb-thrower, propagating lies against Christianity and so forth?  Not really.  He’ll be preaching to the choir.

The real damage, unfortunately, is being done by those who are still within the church who will use Harris’ apostasy as fodder for their respective agendas.  Antinomians who rail against “purity culture” immediately began using him as the poster-child for why the church shouldn’t teach against sexual sin.  The feminists will pile on with grievances of their own.  And so on.  Harris loves to affirm people in their supposed victimhood and this fifth-column within the church will milk this for all it’s worth.  At the risk of sounding cynical here, I’ll just reiterate my point that this is all predictable.  It’s almost like a script.

In an effort to end on a positive note, let me point out as well that God is using this to actually purify His church.  The fall of Joshua Harris is just another nail in the coffin of this celebrity culture which has long infected the church.  We serve a God who uses famous apostates for His own glory and for the good of His people.  And if we’re going to read anyone, let us read dead guys whose lives have been lived and their contributions to Christ’s church fully vetted.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

UVA, Secularism, and the American Mind

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Virginia chartering what became the University of Virginia, an institution which remains to this day one of the most prominent schools in the South.  Indeed, the school boasts of its multiple disciplines and has numerous famous and accomplished alumni.  The campus itself is beautiful and the architecture is something to marvel.  Its reputation is such that the school has become a focal point for gatherings both good and evil.  In 2017, for example, the campus infamously attracted a group of white nationalists who protested their grievances openly by torchlight.  Other events on the campus, however, were not so dark.  The point remains that UVA has become a symbol in its own right.

UVA’s influence on the shaping of the American mind is ultimately traced to its founding.  Thomas Jefferson’s dream of establishing a state-funded school of higher education came to reality late in his life and this also meant that it would be a school which reflected the rationalist worldview of its chief founder.  Over time, Jefferson soured on his alma mater–the College of William and Mary–because of its lingering Christian ethos.  Students there were required to learn and recite a catechism, not to mention Jefferson thought that the school was not adequately teaching the sciences.  UVA was established, in part, as a way of correcting what he considered to be deficiencies within American education.

The particulars of UVA’s creation were not only intentional, but revolutionary.  It was the first institution of higher education in America to be founded on secularism.  As much as was possible in the culture at the time, Jefferson wanted to create a school that was detached from any Christian influence.  For example, UVA was created with no divinity school and was completely independent of any outside religious organization.  Even the layout of the university was influenced by rationalism.  Traditionally, a chapel would be placed at the center of a college or university.  At UVA, the library would be placed at the center in order to emphasize the ultimate authority of human reason.

Jefferson’s secular scheme would not go unnoticed, however.  The capstone of his efforts was the appointment of philosopher Thomas Cooper to be a professor of natural science and law at UVA.  While a spirit of apostasy had prevailed among the elites of the South in the late 18th century, this sentiment had already reached its zenith and was fading away as revival had begun to sweep through the region.  Historian Ernest Trice Thompson provides us a chronicle of what happened after Cooper’s appointment:

Presbyterians were also interested in the University of Virginia…. Jefferson secured the election of Dr. Thomas Cooper, a rationalist, who shared his views regarding the separation of church and state, as a professor in the new institution.  The Virginia Evangelical and Literary Magazine, edited by Rev. Dr. John Holt Rice, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, had favored the establishment of the university, pointing out at the same time that religion could not be excluded from its walls.  “As surely as the University of Virginia shall be established,” its editor had written in 1818, “…it will be either Deistical, or Socinian [i.e., Unitarian], or Christian.”  Dr. Rice now opposed Cooper’s appointment because of his Unitarian leanings; his rejection of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; his belief that if a man were a good citizen society had no grounds of complaint, even though he were an atheist; and his ridicule of orthodox religion.  To permit Dr. Cooper to come to the university, he declared, would “alienate a very considerable part of our people.”  The opposition of this influential Presbyterian journal led to Dr. Cooper’s resignation from the faculty, to the considerable disappointment of Jefferson, who regarded Cooper as “the greatest man in America in the powers of mind and in acquired information.”  The watchfulness of the Bible societies of the state, in which Presbyterians were particularly active, also prevented the appointment of two other suspected professors from Unitarian New England. ¹

With this event, the threat of Unitarianism to the Virginia and the rest of the South had been halted in its tracks.  Cooper later served as president of South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) until he was forced to resign again because of his Unitarianism.  With revival in the South came a resurgence and vigorous defense of biblical orthodoxy.  More and more of the Southern elites were affirming those very truths which they themselves had mocked and derided.  What became known as the Second Great Awakening had already started in places like Hampden-Sydney College under the prayerful direction of such devout men as John Blair Smith. ²

Much to his chagrin, Jefferson had to grapple with the changes taking place all around him.  The Holy Spirit was working to change the hearts and minds of the people of these institutions, both students and faculty alike.  Indeed, those who came after Jefferson had to make certain concessions regarding the religious climate at UVA:

Probably to meet this criticism, arrangements were made this same year [1826] for Episcopal and Presbyterian clergymen to conduct religious services on alternate Sundays in the rotunda of the university.  Five years later an annual chaplaincy was established, supported by voluntary contributions, with the chaplains being selected in turn from the four leading denominations–Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, and Baptist. ³

While the Presbyterians and their allies had won the battle over men like Jefferson and Cooper, they lost the war in the long run.  As the fires of revival faded into embers and then went out entirely, UVA was left with its rationalist foundations as its default educational philosophy.  Indeed, no school can ever rise above the worldview of its founders.  That history doesn’t go away and its baggage will remain in perpetuity.  Going on the campus of UVA today, you’d never know that a revival ever touched the place.  Like so many other colleges and universities, it’s a popular venue for evangelistic groups like the Gideons to distribute Bibles and proclaim the Gospel.

In light of that reality, there’s an argument here for why Virginia and other States should have retained their religious establishments (or at the very least simply modified them).  As many people have argued before, no civil government operates in a state of neutrality.  And that reality extends to all of its chartered institutions.  If the newly independent Virginia had humbly acknowledged the Lordship of Christ and declared herself to be a Christian commonwealth, then the creation of UVA as it was would have been impossible.

UVA does indeed have a religious foundation and worldview, but it’s one which is a product of the so-called “Enlightenment.”  As universities go, this has proven to be the norm in America–and our current culture is a testament to that fact.  While higher education is certainly not the only culprit in the West’s cultural decline, it has made one of the largest impacts.  Our society’s collective act of dethroning God and putting human reason in His place was the ultimate goal of Jefferson, et al.  To that end they succeeded, having the University of Virginia as the template for their success.

¹ Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South–Volume One: 1607-1861 (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1963), 258.

² Al Baker, “Hampden-Sydney College: “What Hath God Wrought?,”, May 21, 2013,

³ Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, 259.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Discerning Children’s Books

One of our older daughters started reading the classic book The Incredible Journey when she alerted her mother and me to something in the book.  Right before the book begins, there’s a selection from a poem by Walt Whitman entitled “Song of Myself”:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.

The author of the book, Sheila Burnford, no doubt inserted this poem at the beginning in order to make a statement about the differences between human beings and animals.  Whitman was himself something of a humanist and a universalist, his worldview (and presumably that of Burnford) on full display.  The book is a tale of fiction about two dogs and a cat making their way home across the Canadian wilderness.  It’s a fairly popular tale, having sold over three million copies according to the back cover.  The 1993 film Homeward Bound was based upon it.

That a popular children’s book could contain such a strong dose of humanism right before the opening chapter suggests that the vast majority of parents didn’t discern what their children were reading all of these years since it was originally published in 1961.  But then again, a poet like Walt Whitman is just another figure in Americana, right?  Kudos to our daughter for having that level of discernment at such a young age.  It’s just another reminder to be careful about the books our kids consume, even (and perhaps especially) the ones which are considered classics.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Us and To Our Children

I’ve wanted to write this post for some time but I’ve lacked the right words (and frankly, the right amount of motivation) to do so.  I also wanted to let the dust settle after I basically let the proverbial cat of the bag regarding my new stance on baptism.  I had both positive as well as negative reactions.  And I expected as much.  I’m not saying that going from credobaptism to paedobaptism cost me friends or anything like that, but a lot of people who know me wanted to know exactly why I landed where I did.  So here we are.  I promised some good friends of mine that I’d write such a post and so I’ll do my best to articulate my reasons.

This is by no means an exhaustive argument for the Reformed view of paedobaptism.  I’m not writing an polemic or theological treatise on the matter.  This is merely an expression of my own journey to covenant theology through a careful examination of the Scriptures and the implications of what I was reading.

The Status of Children

When I was a Baptist, something always bothered me about the status of children in the New Covenant.  I was taught that the covenant sign and seal which we see given to children in the Old Covenant (circumcision) was replaced with baptism in the New.  This is true.  Yet only those who could articulate a profession of faith in the New Covenant were supposed to receive the sacrament of baptism.  There was a clean break rather than a continuity between the covenants.

Certainly we were to do our best to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  Everyone agrees with that.  Yet I kept wondering in what sense children of believers differed from children raised by pagans.  I even had a Reformed Baptist pastor acknowledge to me that children of believers do indeed have a special blessing and benefit, but he couldn’t really articulate what that is or what really set them apart as such.  This nagged at me as time went on.  If my children are outside of the covenant, then how do I pray for them?  How do I disciple them?  These were serious questions which demanded serious answers.

The Nature of the New Covenant

Was the New Covenant something so drastically different from the Old that only professing believers could receive membership into the covenant people of God?  One thing I knew for sure was that the debate over baptism was not going to be solved by debating what was meant by the word “household” in the New Testament.  To me, these are merely supplemental arguments as part of the bigger picture.  What it really boils down to in the end is having a proper understanding of the nature of the New Covenant itself.  In order to justify their position, credobaptists routinely invoke Jeremiah 31:31-34 as their proof text:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lordbut this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

What we see here is a covenant people whose hearts are changed.  They are delighting in God’s law because they have a genuine faith wrought in them by the Holy Spirit.  This, credobaptists argue, is the nature of the New Covenant as we see it today.  Thus, the only valid recipients of baptism are those who outwardly profess the Christian faith and demonstrate a changed life as a result.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Indeed, as we read in Hebrews 8:6, Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant.  And what better covenant do we have than when all of its members exhibit the outward signs of an inward reality of salvation?

The Problem of Apostasy 

Yet there’s a problem with this interpretation.  There remains in the New Covenant people of God today the problem of apostasy.  The credobaptist practice of limiting the covenant sign and seal to those who profess faith in Christ does not in any way solve the problem of apostasy.  I can recall over the years people I knew in the church who made what seemed like a genuine profession of faith, were examined, received the sacrament of baptism, and yet are no longer abiding in the Christian faith today.  And certainly credobaptists themselves acknowledge the fact that there are those in their midst who become apostates.  We all agree that such persons were never regenerate to begin with and their departure from the church signals an inward reality of its own (1 John 2:19).

In other words, no church today is a pure church.  On this end of the Parousia, the church will always be a mixture of wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-30).  As we’ve seen both in Scripture itself as well as examples throughout church history (especially the American church today), there are those in the visible church who do not in fact possess a saving faith.  Since we are fallible human observers, we cannot see into the hearts of men.  At times, the tares in the church reveal themselves through their apostasy.  But scary as it may sound, there are those tares who remain in the visible church and who go to their deaths with a false assurance of salvation (Matt. 7:21).  This should rightly give us pause.

So how should we understand Jeremiah 31:31-34?  I humbly assert that we need to see this passage in light of future fulfillment.  Indeed, this isn’t speaking about the church as we see it today in our age but rather in the age to come.  We can accurately assert that credobaptists who use this passage in order to argue in favor of their position have an over-realized eschatology in that sense.

A Better Covenant?

All of this brings me back to Hebrews 8 and the discussion about the New Covenant being a better covenant, one that is inherently superior to the Old.  What Paul is doing here (and yes, I believe in the Pauline authorship of Hebrews) is exegeting Jeremiah 31:31-34.  He says that the New Covenant is built on better promises (v. 6) and then proceeds to explain what these promises are.  At the end of the chapter, Paul articulates that the Old Covenant is passing away.  Consistent with the theme of Hebrews itself, he’s pointing to the fact that the entire ceremonial system of the Old Covenant is obsolete and no longer binding upon the people of God.

That God’s covenant people possess these inward spiritual realities is an example of the “already but not yet” dichotomy.  We see solid examples in the present church of hearts changed and genuine faith lived out, but we also realize that we aren’t seeing these promises manifested perfectly in this current age.  The church is continually sanctified and the promises of the New Covenant ultimately point toward that day when we will perfectly obey and love our Lord.

So what does all of this have to do with baptism?  The fact that this is a better covenant has implications for how we view this baptism debate.  Last year I read through the 1541 edition of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and came across a passage where the Reformer picked up on this point:

What excuse, therefore, do we have for not testifying and sealing it today as was formerly the case? It cannot be claimed that circumcision was the only sacrament appointed to witness to it, and that circumcision is now abolished. There is a ready answer to that: our Lord ordained circumcision for a time, but after circumcision was ended there was still reason to confirm the covenant, since it is common to us and to the Jews. That is why we must always carefully reflect on what we jointly have in common and what is different. The covenant is common, and the reason for confirming it is the same. The difference lies only in the fact that for them it was circumcision which confirmed it, and that for us baptism now serves that purpose. Otherwise Christ’s coming would have meant that God’s mercy was less familiar to us than it was to the Jews, supposing we were denied the testimony which they had concerning their children. If such a thing cannot be said without greatly dishonouring Jesus Christ, through whom the Lord’s infinite goodness has been more richly than ever exhibited and shed upon the earth, we must allow that God’s grace must not be more veiled or less assured than it was under the shadows of the law.

In other words, Calvin is pointing out that it is a contradiction to say that this is a better covenant if we’re also at the same time going to conclude that the children of believers are now excluded from the covenant.  It can’t be a better covenant if our children are in a worse position in the New Covenant.  For me, this was the most powerful argument and served as the tipping point for me moving to embrace paedobaptism.

Abraham is the Model

A proper reading of Scripture gives us a proper understanding of the covenants.  When we compare the people of God in the Old Testament with the people of God in the the New Testament, we see that there is one overarching Covenant of Grace separated into two administrations–the Old and New covenants.  Even though we no longer practice circumcision (an administration of the Old Covenant), the substance of the Covenant of Grace remains the same.  Baptism replaces circumcision, but the candidates who receive the sacrament are still the children of believers.

Put another way, Abraham is still the model.  The pattern established in the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 17:7-8 is repeated in Acts 2:37-39.  There is a continuity despite these different administrations in the Covenant of Grace.  Again, this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of this issue.  I’m only laying out the issues as I came to see and understand them.  There are plenty of books, articles, podcasts, and blog posts out there which go much deeper than what I’m doing here.  I urge my readers to avail themselves of these resources.

Today my family and I are members of a Reformed Presbyterian congregation.  As of this year, all of our children have received the covenant sign and seal of baptism.  I don’t write this with any sense of pride.  In fact, those who seriously wrestle through issues like this quickly learn to bury their pride.  I was wrong about baptism before and I now humbly submit to biblical teaching on this matter.  And so I write this as an encouragement to other men who also wrestle with this issue and are looking to lead their families accordingly.  I’m thankful that God placed men in my life who helped me as I struggled to understand.

Most of all, I’m thankful that I can now tell each of our covenant children that Christ is their Mediator.  I can disciple them accordingly and rest in the promises God has given to believing parents.  In pointing them back to their baptisms, I can show them these promises in a very tangible way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Review: Gideons Brown Leather Personal Bible (KJV)

As a member of the Gideons International, there are numerous types of Scriptures which I can order. The vast majority of these Scriptures are intended for evangelism purposes. There are a handful of Bibles, however, which are for personal use. One of these is a brown leather Bible which, according to the website, is carried by many Gideons. I purchased one of them late last year and I decided to write a review of it.


When I use the word “leather,” I really mean it. The color is a “chocolate brown” with gold fringe on the pages. When most people receive a Gideon-produced copy of the Scriptures, it’s usually made of the imitation leather material used in their evangelistic copies. The reason for this is cost. A Personal Workers Testament (PWT) in the KJV only costs $1.35 for this reason. That’s great if you’re handing out PWTs on a college campus or something like that, but not for a personal Bible. That’s why I was so pleased to see this particular copy they produced was made of genuine leather.


Note the phrase, “personal Bible.” It’s size is decent, but it’s definitely not the size of a family Bible or even a “preaching Bible.” I believe it was designed mainly for devotional use or just general reading. True to this point, there are no marginal notes or cross references within the text. Its approximate size is 5.5″ x 8.25″ x 1.25″ to be specific. No font size is listed either on the website or within the Bible itself, but my guess is that it’s roughly 10-point. For some people this may not be adequate, but I think this is a decent font size given the relatively compact nature of the Bible itself.


Cost – At $24 per copy, that’s a price that can’t be beat for a medium-sized leather Bible.

Quality – I’ve been using it almost exclusively for over six months now and I have yet to see any kind of serious wear or tear. Granted, that’s certainly not long-term use, but it definitely seems to be well made.

Simplicity – Some people will object that there are no notes or cross references, but I think that’s part of this Bible’s strength. There are times when study notes and things like that tend to get in the way of a good, devotional reading.


“Floppage” – In terms of “floppage” (I didn’t coin that term), it tends to rank very poorly. If you’re not familiar with that term, a Bible’s “floppage” refers to its ability to lay flat when opened to a given page. With this particular Bible, you’ll have to use both hands to hold it open unless you happen to be reading through the Psalms or some other section in the middle.

Exclusivity – Unfortunately, only members of the Gideons International are able to order this Bible (and that’s true of all their other materials). Even so, you can still obtain a copy if you happen to know a Gideons member (more on this below).


Outside of the positives and negatives, there’s not much else which can be said. There’s a golden Gideons emblem stamped on the lower right corner of the front cover. Inside the Bible, you’ll find the usual things you’d expect to find in a Gideon Bible: a basic Gospel message with Scripture proofs, John 3:16 printed in various languages, and various Scripture helps. It also comes with a yellow ribbon to mark your page.

I recommend this Bible for use as a simple, devotional copy of the Scriptures. It makes a great gift as well, especially for someone who has never had a nice Bible before. As a service to my readers, I’m willing to purchase a copy on your behalf should you desire it. So please contact me if you’d like a buy a copy. I won’t be making any profit on this whatsoever. My desire is simply to meet the needs of those who are without a quality Bible. Hope you were blessed by this review!

Posted in books, reviews, Scripture | 7 Comments

Book Review: “Apostate”

We live in interesting times to say the least.  Many within the church struggle to make sense of what we now call the “post-Christian era” in which civilization itself appears to be falling apart.  Many Christians are wondering just how Western society got to this point.  In the midst of this searching for answers, Kevin Swanson presents his arguments in his new book, Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West.  While anyone can easily lament the decline we see before our eyes, Swanson takes the reader on a historical and biographical journey to demonstrate where things went wrong.  His analysis is sure to be controversial, even within Reformed circles.  Those who know Swanson (and particularly his eschatological viewpoints) won’t be surprised by what they’ll find in this book.

This might be a crude comparison to make, but Swanson’s book is basically the Calvinist equivalent of Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West.  Whereas the trajectory of Buchanan’s book is more political in nature and focuses more on demography, Swanson’s writings are far more theological in nature and focus on the toxic philosophies of unbelieving humanists.  My overall impression of Apostate is generally good, but this book is definitely not without its flaws.  While some reviewers have chosen to attack the text because they disagree with Swanson’s eschatology and his views on theonomy, I’m not going to take that approach.  While I certainly have theological differences with Swanson here and there, I aim to judge the book based upon its own merits.

In chapter after chapter, Swanson gives a biographical overview of those “big name” apostates in Western history.  Each biographical sketch is designed to fit into the larger narrative of societal decline.  All of these men added their own fuel to the fires of apostasy.  Perhaps the most controversial name given in the list of apostates is that of Thomas Aquinas.  While Swanson admits that he is hesitant to call Aquinas an apostate, he sees the 13th century theologian as the starting point for a centuries-long decline in the West.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m not crazy about much of what Aquinas taught, but I would probably fall short of actually labeling him an apostate.  So far as we know, he did not depart from the Christian faith.  There’s certainly a broader discussion to be had about the legacy of Aquinas, but I’ll save that for another time. Continue reading

Posted in books, civil government, culture, history | 2 Comments

The Gideons and the ESV

As I noted in this blog about a month ago, I officially joined the Gideons International.  They have a solid reputation for worldwide Bible distribution and I’ve heard plenty of people say that the Gideons are responsible for giving them the first Scriptures they’ve ever had.  To date, the Gideons have distributed complete Bibles and New Testaments to the tune of 1.7 billion in over 190 countries.  As we ponder over that, we must praise God for this ministry and their efforts to bring the Word to so many people.  With a legacy such as this, I can say that I’m proud to be a part of this organization.

Yet with such a high volume of Bible distribution, shouldn’t it matter which translation(s) the Gideons are using?  Most people who have any degree of familiarity with the organization know that the Gideons have been handing out the King James Version (KJV) since the ministry was founded.  Even today, the KJV is the rock-solid standard of the organization.  However, the Gideons also pass out a modern English version as an alternative.  The version used for the modern translation has changed over the years.  I’m told that the New International Version (NIV) was used at one point but later abandoned, probably because of the cost of the royalties (all modern translations have copyrights).  After that, they switched to the New King James Version (NKJV).

Setting the NKJV as their choice for a modern translation was probably one of the best decisions the Gideons ever made.  I say that because, in my humble opinion, the NKJV is the best modern translation available.  While I won’t go into all of the reasons why I say that, suffice the say that I believe the textual basis is superior, the translation itself is trustworthy, and it is very readable.  This year, however, the Gideons International decided to drop the NKJV.  I was taken aback by this, especially since their usage of the NKJV as a modern translation was one of the main reasons I joined the organization.  I was very much looking forward to ordering cases full of Personal Workers Testaments in the NKJV.  No more. Continue reading

Posted in evangelism, Scripture | 42 Comments