Friday, January 11, 2019

Word of Truth Conference: the 2018 Sermons are Online

The messages from the 2018 Word of Truth Conference are now online.  You can listen to audio on the Word of Truth Conference website, where messages all the way from the 2018 conference back through 2009 are available.  These messages constitute some fantastic preaching that would be highly edifying to the brethren in the Lord's churches, and, especially, to those either training for the ministry or in the ministry.  The video is also available on the 2018 Word of Truth Conference playlist on YouTube; I would encourage you to "like" the videos and subscribe to the Bethel Baptist YouTube channel ("BethelElSobrante"), as well as commenting on the messages (all these things both can help you identify with the truth and can contribute to YouTube ranking the videos more highly).  Bethel has also created playlists for the 2017 Word of Truth Conference, the 2016 Conference, the 2015 Conference, the 2014 Conference, the 2013 Conference, and the 2012 Word of Truth Conference.  Here again, please feel free to "like" the videos and comment on them.  You can also embed the videos elsewhere to increase their viewing audience.

I have also put a slightly revised version of the notes I employed for my message at the 2018 Conference on the tests of life and assurance of salvation in 1 John on my website, as well as embedded the link to that message.  Schools such as Ambassador Baptist College, Baptist College of Ministry, and others in fundamentalism have been influenced by the heresy of Zane Hodges that 1 John does not provide marks that distinguish the regenerate and the unregenerate, but only (allegedly) a higher class of believer from a lower class of believer, while assurance is (allegedly) unconnected to one's lifestyle.  God is highly dishonored, Satan's kingdom is advanced, many unregenerate people receive false assurance and are sent to the eternal fires of hell, and numbers of regenerate people are confused by Hodges' heresy on 1 John, and it needs to be purged out of the Lord's churches, while those who advocate it need to be confronted, and, if they do not repent, marked and avoided (Romans 16:17).  The notes from my two sessions on the role of faith in salvation (justification, sanctification, and glorification) in the 2018 Word of Truth Conference are essentially also online on my website here.

I would encourage you to attend the 2019 conference if the Rapture has not yet taken place and you are not providentially hindered.  I would also encourage you to watch the messages from the previous years; they will strengthen you spiritually--they certainly have been a blessing in that way to me--and as they are careful expositions and applications of God's Word, they will also help others you commend them to (John 17:17).


Friday, January 04, 2019

Bart D. Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist? Useful Quotes for Christians, part 1 of 4

Professor Bart D. Ehrman is one of the most famous non-Christian scholars in the United States.  He is overly skeptical of the New Testament and the view of the New Testament as reliable, as, indeed, the Word of God, contains far better historical support then does his agnostic-with-atheist-leanings skepticism (see, e. g., my work on Archaeological Evidence for the New Testament.)  However, because Dr. Ehrman is a genuine scholar, even if an anti-Christian and very skeptical one, he makes quite a number of statements in his book Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) that are very useful for the Christian who is dealing with non-scholarly non-Christians who believe fantastic nonsense such as that the record of Jesus Christ was copied from pagan religions or that He did not exist (both positions advocated by men such as Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation; see how his argument that the Old Testament is copied from pagan myths fared in my two debates with him "The Old Testament is Mainly Fiction, not Fact" and "Archaeology and Prophecy Validate the Bible as the Word of God." and the review of the two Dan Barker - Thomas Ross debates and of Old Testament mythicism here, as well as how Mr. Barker fared arguing against the existence of Jesus Christ in his "Was Jesus a Myth?" debate with James White here.)  Note the following quotations from Dr. Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist? so you can be aware of what all serious scholars, whether Christians or agnostic/atheist, need to acknowledge about the historical Jesus:

On the universal evidence for Jesus’ existence:

I should emphatically state the obvious.  Every single source that mentions Jesus up until the eighteenth century assumed that he actually existed.  That is true no matter what period you choose to examine:  the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, Late Antiquity, and before.  It is true of every source from our earliest periods, the fourth century, the third century, the second century, and the first century.  It is true of every author of every kind, Christian, Jewish, or pagan.  Most striking, it is true not just of those who came to believe in Jesus but also of nonbelievers in general and of the opponents of Christianity in particular. . . . Not even the Jewish and pagan antagonists who attacked Christianity and Jesus himself entertained the thought that he never existed.  This is quite clear from reading the writings of the Christian apologists, starting with such authors as the . . . writer of the Letter to Diognetus and the more famous writers Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen (all from the second and early third centuries), all of whom defend Jesus against a number of charges, many of them scandalous.  But they do not drop one hint that anyone claimed he did not exist.  The same is clear from the fragments of writings that still survive from the opponents of the Christians, such as the Jew Trypho, discussed by Justin, or the pagan philosopher Celsus, cited extensively by Origen.  The idea that Jesus did not exist is a modern notion.  It has no ancient precedents.  It was made up in the eighteenth century.  One might well call it a modern myth, the myth of the mythical Jesus.[1]

On the unscholarly nature of Jesus mythicism:

[Concerning] skeptical literature . . . [denying or questioning] whether Jesus existed as a human being . . . none of this literature is written by scholars trained in New Testament or early Christian studies teaching at the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe (or anywhere else in the world).  Of the thousands of scholars of early Christianity who do teach at such schools, none of them, to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed. . . . The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist. . . . [T]he view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet. . . . [E]very relevant ancient source . . . assumes that there was such a man . . . It is striking that virtually everyone who has spent all the years needed to attain [scholarly] qualifications is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure. . . . Many of these scholars have no vested interest in the matter.  As it turns out, I myself do not either.  I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promoting a Christian cause or a Christian  agenda.  I am an agnostic with atheist leanings . . . I am an agnostic who does not believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. . . . Jesus existed, and those vocal persons who deny it do so not because they have considered the evidence with the dispassionate eye of the historian, but because they have some other agenda that this denial serves.  From a dispassionate point of view, there was a Jesus of Nazareth.[2]

It is fair to say that mythicists as a group, and as individuals. . . . Arthur Drews . . . Earl Doherty . . . Robert Price . . . Thomas L. Thompson . . . Richard Carrier . . . George A Wells . . . D. M. Murdock[,] . . . nom de plume Acharya S . . . are not taken seriously by the vast majority of scholars in the fields of New Testament, early Christianity, ancient history, and theology.  This is widely recognized, to their chagrin, by mythicists themselves.[3]

At a reputable university, of course, professors cannot teach simply anything.  They need to be academically responsible and reflect the views of scholarship.  That is probably why there are no mythicists—at least to my knowledge—teaching religious studies at accredited universities or colleges in North America and Europe . . . their views are not widely seen as academically respectable by members of the academy. . . . [M]ythicists . . . [are] marginal. . . . [T]he mythicist view does not have a foothold, or even a toehold, among modern critical scholars of the Bible.[4]

On the failure of Jesus mythicists to define myth:

Rarely do mythicists define what they mean by the term myth, a failure that strikes real scholars of religion as both unfortunate and highly problematic[.][5]

On the areas where Jesus mythicism is widespread:

For decades [Jesus mythicism] was the dominant view in countries such as the Soviet Union. . . . Vladimir Ilyich Lenin . . . [was] convinced that Jesus was not a real historical figure.  This, in large measure, led to the popularity of the myth theory in the emerging Soviet Union.[6]

Jesus mythicism driven by religious bias:

Humanists, agnostics, atheists, mythicists . . . wrongly and counterproductively . . . insist . . . that Jesus never existed. Jesus did exist. . . . It is no accident that virtually all mythicists (in fact, all of them, to my knowledge) are either atheists or agnostics.  The ones I know anything about are quite virulently, even militantly, atheist. . . . [M]ythicists all live in a Christian world for which Christianity is the religion of choice for the vast bulk of the population. . . . And mythicists are avidly antireligious. . . . What this means is that, ironically, just as the secular humanists spend so much time at their annual meetings talking about religion, so too the mythicists who are so intent on showing that the historical Jesus never existed are not being driven by a historical concern.  Their agenda is religious, and they are complicit in a religious ideology.  They are not doing history; they are doing theology.
            To be sure, they are doing their theology in order to oppose traditional religion.  But the opposition is driven not by historical concerns but by religious ones. . . . [A]s a historian[,] when I try to reconstruct what actually happened in the past[,] I refuse to sacrifice the past in order to promote the worthy cause of my own social and political agendas.  No one else should, either.  Jesus did exist, whether we like it or not.[7]

On the burden of proof in Jesus mythicism:

[S]ince every relevant ancient source . . . assumes that there was such a man, and since no scholar who has ever written on it, except the handful of mythicists, has ever had any serious doubts, surely the burden of proof does not fall on those who take the almost universally accepted position.[8]

Ehrman on Dorothy Murdock and her The Christ Conspiracy:

Acharya S[.] [or] D. M. Murdock published the breathless conspirator’s dream:  The Christ Conspiracy:  The Greatest Story Ever Sold. . . . This book [argues] . . . that Christianity is rooted in a myth about the sun-god Jesus, who was [allegedly] invented by a group of Jews in the second century CE.
            Mythicists of this ilk should not be surprised that their views are not taken seriously by real scholars, that their books are not reviewed in scholarly journals, mentioned by experts in the field, or even read by them.  The book is filled with so many factual errors and outlandish assertions that it is hard to believe that the author is serious.  If she is serious, it is hard to believe that she has ever encountered anything resembling historical scholarship.  Her “research” appears to have involved reading a number of nonscholarly books that say the same thing she is about to say and then quoting them.  One looks in vain for the citation of a primary ancient source, and quotations from real experts (Elaine Pagels, chiefly) are ripped from their context and misconstrued. . . . One cannot help wondering if this is all a spoof[.] . . . [A]ll of Acharya’s major points are in fact wrong.  Jesus was not invented [as she claims] in Alexandria, Egypt, in the middle of the second Christian century.  He was known already in the 30s of the first century, in Jewish circles in Palestine.  He was not originally a sun-god (as if that equals Son-God!) . . . [but] a Jewish prophet and messiah.  There are no astrological phenomena associated with Jesus in any of our earliest traditions.  These traditions are attested in multiple sources that originated at least a century before Acharya’s alleged astrological creation at the hands of people who lived in a different part of the world from the historical Jesus[.] . . . In short, if there is any conspiracy here, it is not on the part of the ancient Christians who [allegedly] made up Jesus but on the part of modern authors who make up stories about the ancient Christians and what they believed about Jesus.[9]

On the idea that Jesus was made up from pagan myths:

[Mythicists] Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy [in] The Jesus Mysteries:  Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? . . . [argue that] Jesus was a creation based on the widespread mythologies of dying and rising gods known throughout the pagan world. . . .
            Real historians of antiquity are scandalized by such assertions—or they would be if they bothered to read Freke and Gandy’s book.  The authors provide no evidence for their claims concerning the standard mythology of the godmen.  They cite no sources from the ancient world that can be checked.  It is not that they have provided an alternative interpretation of the available evidence.  They have not even cited the available evidence.  And for good reason. No such evidence [for pagan godmen] exists.
            What, for example, is the proof that Osiris was born on December 25 before three shepherds?  Or that he was crucified?  And that his death brought atonement for sin?  Or that he returned to life on earth by being raised from the dead?  In fact, no ancient source says any such thing about Osiris (or about the other gods). . . . Freke and Gandy . . . “prove” it by quoting other writers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who said so.  But these writers too do not cite any historical evidence.  This is all based on assertion, believed by Freke and Gandy simply because they read it somewhere.  This is not serious historical scholarship. It is sensationalist writing driven by a desire to sell books. . . . [W]hat we know about Jesus—the historical Jesus—does not come from Egypt toward the end of the first century, in circles heavily influenced by pagan mystery religions, but from Palestine, among Jews committed to their decidedly antipagan Jewish religion, from the 30s. . . . [Their] book [is] . .  . filled with patently false information and inconsistencies. . . . The views they assert . . . no scholars hold to them today.[10]

We don’t have a single description in any source of any kind of baptism in the mystery religions. . . . [T]he Greek name Jesus . . . is the Greek name for the Aramaic Yeshua, Hebrew Joshua.  It is found in the Greek Old Testament, for example, long before the Gospel writers lived and is a common name in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus. . . . [In relation to the mythicist contention that the] [“]Romans were renowned for keeping careful records of all their activities, especially their legal proceedings,” making it surprising that “there is no record of Jesus being tried by Pontius Pilate or executed” . . . If Romans were careful record keepers, it is passing strange that we have no records, not only of Jesus, but of nearly anyone who lived in the first century.  We simply don’t have birth notices, trial records, death certificates—or other standard kinds of records that one has today. [Mythicists who make this argument], of course, do not cite a single example of anyone else’s death warrant from the first century.[11]

[1]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 96.
[2]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 2, 4-7, 37, 71
[3]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 17-21.
[4]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 220, 268.
[5]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 3.
[6]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 3, 17.
[7]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 336-339.
[8]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 38-39.
[9]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 21-25.  Dr. Ehrman continues:
Just to give a sense of the level of scholarship in this sensationalist tome, I list a few of the howlers one encounters[.] . . . Acharya claims that:
·     The second-century church father Justin never quotes or mentions any of the Gospels (25). [This simply isn’t true:  he mentions the Gospels on numerous occasions . . . and quotes from them, especially from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.]
·     The Gospels were forged hundreds of years after the events they narrate. (26) [In fact, the Gospels were written [in] the first century . . . and we have physical proof . . . [in a] Gospel manuscript [that] dates to the early second century.  How could it have been forged centuries after that?
·     We have no manuscript of the New Testament that dates prior to the fourth century (26).  [This is just plain wrong:  We have numerous fragmentary manuscripts that date from the second and third centuries.] . . .
·     Paul never quotes a saying of Jesus (33).  [Acharya has evidently never read the writings of Paul . . . he does quote sayings of Jesus.]
·     The Acts of Pilate, a legendary account of Jesus’s trial and execution, was once considered canonical. (44).  [None of our sparse references to the Acts of Pilate indicates, or even suggests, any such thing.]
·     The “true meaning of the word gospel is ‘God’s Spell,’ as in magic, hypnosis and delusion” (45). [No, the word gospel comes to us from the Old English term god spel, which means “good news”—a fairly precise translation of the Greek word euaggelion.  It has nothing to do with magic.
·     The church father “Irenaeus was a Gnostic” (60).  [In fact, he was one of the most virulent opponents of Gnostics in the early church.]
Dr. Ehrman lists numbers of other examples of Ms. Murdock’s utter lack of even a rudimentary understanding of the topic on which she writes.
[10]          Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 25-27.
[11]          Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 28-29.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Index for "What Is Truth"

During my short sabbatical from writing here at my blog, What Is Truth, I've been working on an index for this blog (the link to the index is all over this post, so click on it and use it). As a result, it is constantly changing.  Right this moment, the index functions up to March 2014.  It includes everything that I wrote at the Jackhammer blog, which ran between 2006 and 2011.  It includes everything published here, as of this moment, up to March of 2014, which also includes all of what Thomas Ross has posted here.  The Jackhammer posts are marked by (J) and the Thomas Ross posts are marked by (T).

The index is topical and scriptural.  I preach expositional mainly, not topical, but I write here in a topical way primarily.  I have chosen subject matter through the years that has interested me to write about.  Because of that, I wrote a lot about certain topics that are under attack from the world, in the culture, and among professing Christians.  I focus on the doctrines and practices that are historical and yet are disappearing because of a general apostasy.

When I am done with the index, I will make some finer delineations to the index.  You won't have to look at the whole index at one time, because I will divide into varied sections:  smaller alphabetical sections, Old Testament and New Testament, and then certain common themes.  I will replace the index of specific regular topics that are over in the right column at present.

I have some plans before I get back to writing again.  One, I am going to post my online debate with Frank Turk here.  It was online at his debate site, but he has erased all his debates.  In a sense, it is unfair because I wrote my half and he just eliminated it.  I'll bring it back, hosted here.  It will give you a good back and forth on the issue of preservation of scripture, how a debate would go on the subject, to see if the other side can stand up, giving its best material.  Two, we have been planning for awhile to have a video blog or podcast, so we need to work on that.  We will keep you updated on that.  Three, I have books and parts of books, and a tract, I need to work on to get them out.  We sold out of A Pure Church, so I need to give some attention to the reprinting.  There are many other things that go on, but these are keeping me busy.

In the meantime, use the index and read old articles.  If you didn't know about them, they will be like a new post for you.  Even though I'm not writing right now, this index is like writing, because it gives you plenty to read while I'm not writing.  You can find what you want now here without having to use the search function.  I will, Lord-willing, be back writing again, but until then you will have this index with hundreds and hundreds of articles or posts.  Enjoy.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Evan Roberts: Destroyer of Welsh Christianity, part 22 of 22

As the work of Evan Roberts filled congregations with false doctrine, filled church membership rolls with unregenerate people, and hardened Wales to a true work of the Holy Spirit, serious spiritual declension manifested itself as soon as the strange fire died down.  Already by 1909 a very serious “decline of evangelical Christianity [was] most manifest” throughout Wales.[1]  “All over the Principality there [was] not only a serious and general falling off in the number of adherents, but there [was] hardly any interest taken in fundamental theology.”[2]  Wesleyan Methodism was confronted with a serious decrease of membership, and the “spiritual state of the Wesleyan Church” became the matter of the “greatest apprehension.”[3]  Losses also began to multiply among the other Nonconforming bodies, for these had “unquestionably lost their old grip upon the people.”[4] A “grave note of religious pessimism” came to “pervad[e] Welsh Nonconformity,” as there was a “lamentable falling-off in Welsh Sunday schools, in the attendance, in the interest taken and in the registered results.”[5]  Roberts’s revivalism had failed to produce lasting positive results, but it produced terrible and long-lasting negative ones that contributed to the transformation of Wales from a notably God-fearing nation into a spiritual wasteland.  A contemporary source stated:  “[T]he Welsh Revival of 1904-5 . . . has not been followed by any marked progress of either a political or religious character. . . . There has not sprung up in its track anything of a general and permanent character. . . . Vital religion has not been made more effective[.]”[6]  This lack of lasting godly transformation resulted in “a great change . . . in public opinion . . . and events justify the change.  Ministers in general are distressed at the number of [alleged] converts who have cut themselves off from the way of His life.  Their judgment is not a hasty one.  People seem harder than ever—due to the effects of the Revival.”[7]  In sharp contrast to the revivals in the Bible, and real revivals in church history, only four years after the ministry of Evan Roberts burned out, nothing positive was evident:
[I]n the sense of curbing the passions of the great masses of the people, in the purifying of their common speech and in eradicating their criminal tendencies.  If a plebiscite of the magistrates, solicitors, colliery owners, and prison officials, were taken [in 1909], their unanswerable reply would be in the negative.  A disenchanted nation remains neither stimulated in thought nor enriched in character.[8]
Indeed, by 1909 historians could record:
[I]n looking back at the Welsh Revival of 1904-5 we find that its success is by no means commensurate with its proportion, with its excitement at the time, with its professed statistics of individual or collective results, or even with the money expended upon it. . . . [There was a] complete failure of the Revival to permanently regenerate churches and districts to any considerable degree. . . . [T]he Revival . . . . did not produce subsequent discipline of morals, but it was subversive of, and antagonistic to, the spirit that produces results in practical life.  The religious disappointment of thousands of individuals in Wales today is such as to have made their “last state worse than the first.” . . . The moral condition of the Welsh people . . . [i]n many ways . . . was better . . . before the Revival than it is today. . . . The whole attitude of the people has undergone a deplorable change, and the change is both rapid and widespread.  No one conversant with the inner life of Wales can fail to observe the alarming spread of the personal and domestic disuse of the Bible. . . . There is an alarming ignorance of the contents of the Bible among the rising generation . . . [t]he Bible is becoming less and less the Book of the rank and file.  The . . . preacher [engages in] less close study of the Bible.  Preaching is more topical than expository. . . . [The] methods [of] . . . Evan Roberts . . . did undoubtedly repel not a few, and hardened rather than softened the hearts of some who longed for a higher life. . . . It is a fact within the knowledge of any and every man that football, the music-hall, and the public house, are the dominant interests of . . . the very thousands that thronged the various chapels during the Revival season.  Sunday shows of various sorts, that were compelled to close their doors at that time, are now in the zenith of their popularity, and there is not power enough in the churches or among the ministers and clergy to check their progress.  Since the Revival various socialistic organizations have invaded the valleys, and . . . thousands . . . hear the “socialistic gospel” . . . the social application of the “New Theology” [theological modernism].  If materialistic socialism, without a tinge of reverence for sacred things and sacred institutions, is either the direct or indirect result of the Revival of 1904-5, then it cannot but be a source of sorrow to God-fearing people that the Revival ever came.  The reaction is on a large scale . . . and the reaction is still in progress. . . . Many—very many—of [the] . . . Free Churches . . . have been obliged to revise their roll of membership [downward], and are now lamenting over the deadly indifference that has overtaken the flock.  The apathy, the levity, the decay of religious faith, the lapse in the habit of prayer, the disinclination to take part in religious work, the non-attendance of adherents, and the decline of the Sunday School, together with the prevalence of vice in its various aspects . . . have followed the Revival.  The general condition of the churches is worse than it was in the days preceding the outbreak in 1904.  There is a loss of appeal in the Gospel message, and an alarming disregard of sacred institutions. . . . The fall of the spiritual thermometer is very marked. . . . [I]n very many instances contributions towards foreign missions and the maintenance of the ministry have decreased . . . [so that they are] much less than they were two and four years previous to the Revival. . . . [T]he general condition of things among the churches in the Principality is worse since the Revival than before. . . . [T]here is a retrogression and a reversion to a more unsatisfactory type of religious life. . . . [The] mission . . . [of] Evan Roberts . . . did not produce a reversion to a higher type of reverence or moral life.  The converse is true.[9]
The evils associated with Evan Roberts’s work, feared by many Baptists and other old-line evangelicals who believed in the older and more Scriptural theology of revival, had come to pass.

[1]              Pg. 15, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[2]              Pg. 15, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[3]              Pg. 205, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[4]              Pg. 206, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Many drifted into Anglican sacramentalism (pg. 206, 208, Ibid.) or simply into rationalism and infidelity.
[5]              Pg. 219, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[6]              Pgs. 242, 254, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[7]              Pgs. 241-242, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[8]              Pgs. 254-255, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Italics in original.
[9]              Pgs. 74, 78-79, 88-89, 127, 251, 254-257, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Italics in original.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christian Meditation & Recreation

I thought that the following resources on Christian meditation, and on rules for lawful recreation, would be worth a discussion here at What is Truth?  May they be a blessing.

1.) Christian Meditation

I relatively recently listened through the Free Grace Broadcaster's issue on Meditation.  (As with many books, instead of sitting down to read it cover to cover, I cut and pasted it into my computer and listened to it while doing other things.)  The articles were the following:

  • A Very Profitable Exercise - Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
  • What Meditation Is - Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)
  • The Duty of Meditation - Thomas Manton (1620-1677)
  • The Nature of Meditation - Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)
  • Occasional Meditation - William Bates (1628-1699)
  • Solemn and Set Meditation - George Swinnock (1627-1673)
  • Dangers of Neglecting Meditation - Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
  • Helps for Meditating on God - John Owen (1616-1683)
  • Chewing the Bread of Life - Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
  • Matter for Meditation - Thomas Watson (1620-1686)
  • A Meditation on Love to Christ - Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
  • Sweet Meditations on Christ - Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

I have not heard a great many sermons on meditation, but it is a clear Biblical duty:

Gen. 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
Josh. 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Psa. 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Psa. 5:1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.
Psa. 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psa. 49:3 My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
Psa. 63:6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Psa. 77:12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
Psa. 104:34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.
Psa. 119:15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
Psa. 119:23 ¶ Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.
Psa. 119:48 My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.
Psa. 119:78 Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.
Psa. 119:97 MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Psa. 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
Psa. 119:148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
Psa. 143:5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
Is. 33:18 Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?
Luke 21:14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
1Tim. 4:15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

How faithful are you to the Biblical practice of meditation?  Do you even know what it is, and how it radically differs from Eastern, pagan meditation?

If you have read (or after reading this post, end up reading) the Free Grace Broadcaster above, or have other helpful thoughts on how you practice Biblical meditation, please include them in the comment section below.

2.) Christian Recreation

I am reproducing below Richard Baxter's Directions for Amusements and Recreations.  He has a number of good thoughts.  Any comments of agreement or disagreement, with Biblical argumentation, are appreciated in the comment section.
If you wish to avoid the sin and danger of unbiblical amusements masquerading as acceptable recreations — you must understand what acceptable or lawful recreation is, and its legitimate purpose. No wonder Christians sin, if they do not know what is right!

Without doubt, some amusement and recreation is lawful, indeed, necessary to some people. Lawful recreation is the enjoyment of some natural thing, or participation in some activity which is not forbidden, for the stimulation of the natural spirits. It may be for the use of the mind, or the exercise of the body. It is some pleasurable activity or exercise, ultimately intended to fit the body and mind for their normal duty to God.

Amusement, sport and recreation are special terms. We do not call arduous labor by such terms, though it may be better for us and more necessary. Nor do we call every enjoyment by these terms, for eating and drinking may be pleasurable, and holy things and duties may be delightful, yet they are never termed sports or recreations. It is the imaginative faculty that is chiefly delighted by amusements.

All of the following factors are necessary to render an amusement, sport or recreation lawful, and the lack of any one of them will prove it to be unlawful.

1. The genuine purpose or intention behind your indulging in it, must be to fit you for your service to God. It must help you to function better either in your work, or in His worship, or for some work of obedience in which you may please and glorify Him. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do — do all to the glory of God."

A lawful recreation must be a means fitly chosen and used to this end. If it has no ability to improve us for God's service in our ordinary callings and duty — then it cannot be to us a lawful recreation (though it may be lawful to another person to whom it is a real help).

2. All recreations are unlawful, which are for their own sakes preferred before our callings.

3. All recreations are unlawful, which are used only to delight a carnal imagination, and have no higher end than to please the sickly mind that loves them.

4. All recreations are unlawful, which hinder and spoil our fittedness for the duties of our callings, and for the service of God; or, which, putting the benefit and hurt together, hinder us as much or more than they help us.

5. All recreations are unlawful, which take up any part of the time which we should spend in greater works.

6. All recreations that take up more time than is reasonable for a recreation, are equally unlawful.

7. If an activity is profane, such as making sport of holy things, it is a mocking of God. It is wickedness demanding God's heaviest punishment, and cannot be lawful.

8. All recreations which wrong other people are unlawful. (This includes the activities of stage players and comedians who ridicule others to their injury.)

9. It is also sinful to make fun of the sinful ways of others, or to act them ourselves, which is common with comedians and other profane wits.

10. Immoral, obscene stage plays and recreations are unlawful, in which filthiness is represented without due expression of its odiousness, or with obscene words or actions. To Christians, Ephesians 5:3-4 applies: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place."

11. Those amusements are unlawful, which involve the multiplying of worthless words, engaging the participants in foolish, needless, unprofitable chattering.

12. Those amusements are sinful, which tend to excite lust in ourselves or others, swearing, cursing and railing, and fighting and squabbling.

13. Those amusements and recreations are sinful, which involve covetousness, to win money from others; or that tend to stir up covetousness in those you play with.

14. Cruel recreations also are unlawful: such as taking pleasure in watching duellers, fighters, or any that abuse each other; or any animals that are made to needlessly torment each other.

15. A recreation is unlawful if it is too costly, for we are God's stewards, and must be accountable to Him for all we have. It is sinful to spend needlessly on amusement.

16. Lastly, if you have the choice of various recreations before you, you must choose the fittest. If you choose one that is less fit and profitable, when a fitter might be chosen, it is sin; even though that which you chose would have been lawful, if you had no other.

By all this it is easy, for example, to judge the lawfulness of our common stage plays.

What is a fit recreation? It is either the body or the mind that needs recreation most. Either you are sedentary people, or those who work physically. If the former, then it is the body that has most need of exercise and recreation. In this case, to sit at sedentary amusements or recreations, instead of exercising your bodies, is to increase the need of exercising them. It does you much more harm than good.

If, however, you are hard laborers, and need rest for your bodies and recreation for your minds, or are sick, so that you cannot use bodily exercise — then surely a hundred profitable 'exercises' are at hand which are more suitable to your case. You have books to read (including the Word of God) which can increase your knowledge in history, geography, and arts and sciences.

Here are some questions to ask yourself from time to time about your recreations:

1. Do you think that either Christ or His apostles used stage plays or similar entertainments and amusements, or ever sanctioned or encouraged addiction to them?

2. Does not your conscience tell you when your delight is more in your amusements than it is in God? Such recreations (those we love more than the things of God) in no way increase our delight in God, but take it away.

Do you not feel what a plague certain pleasures are to your affections — how they bewitch, befool you, and take you out of love with holiness, and make you unfit for anything that is good?

3. Do you bestow as much time in praying and reading the Word of God and meditating on it, as you do in your sports and recreations? Do you not know the value of those precious hours which you play away?

4. Would you be found at stage plays or vain amusements when death comes? Would you not rather be found at some holy or profitable labor?

5. Will it be any comfort to you when you are dying, to think of the time which you spent in plays and vanities?

6. Dare you pray to God to bless your sports and amusements to the good of your soul or body? Would not your conscience tell you that this would mock God?

7. If you are sure that you sin not in your games or sports, either by excess or addiction or neglect of spiritual duties, are you sure that your companions do not? If you say, "We are not bound to keep all other men from sin," I answer: You are bound to do your best towards it; and you are bound not to contribute willingly to their sin. If Paul would never eat meat while he lived rather than make a weak person offend, should not your sports be subject to as great charity?

If you know what sin is, and what it is to save or lose one's soul, you will not aid and abet other men's sin, nor so easily contribute to their plight. In such cases, "we then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak [that is, to help them, as we do children in their weakness], and not to please ourselves [to their hurt]. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification [that is, prefer the edifying of another's soul, before our own pleasure]. For even Christ pleased not himself." If Christ lost His life to save men from sin, will not you lose your amusements for it?

8. What kind of people are they that are most addicted to games and plays, and what kind of people are they that avoid them, and are against them? With whom are these activities most identified? Judge wisely!
Here are some helpful counsels about choosing a recreation:

1. When you understand the true nature and purpose of lawful recreation, try to determine just how much and what sort of recreation is needful to you in particular. In this you must have respect, (a) to your bodily strength; (b) to your mind; (c) to your type of work. And when you haw determined what and how much is needful and appropriate to help you in your duty, allow it its proper time and place, as you do your meals, and see that you do not allow it to encroach upon your duty and service.

2. Try normally to join profit and pleasure together, that you lose no time. It is a sin to idle away any time which we can turn to better account.

3. Watch against inordinate, sensual delight, even in the most lawful activity. Excess of pleasure in any such 'small' or lesser activity of life is very corrupting to the mind. It puts it out of relish with spiritual things; and turns it from God, and Heaven, and duty. To this end keep a watch upon your thoughts and desires, that they run not after sports and pleasures. Else you will be like children that are thinking of their sport, and longing to be at it — when they should be at their books or business.

4. Avoid the company of revelers, lovers of pleasure, and similar time-wasters. Come not among them, lest you be ensnared. Usually, amusements rate as foolishness to serious men; and they say of this mirth, as Solomon, 'it is mad' (Ecclesiastes 2:2). It is great and serious subjects which make serious men.

5. Be zealous and apply yourself to your calling and spiritual service. Laziness breeds a love of amusement. When you must please your flesh with ease — then it must be further pleased with vanities.

6. The sickly and the melancholy (who are usually least inclined to sport) have much more need of recreation than others, and therefore may allow it more time than those in health and strength.

7. Be much more severe in regulating yourselves in your recreations, than in censuring others for using some sports which you dislike. For you know not perhaps their case, and reasons, and temptations. An idle, time-wasting, sensual pleasure-seeker — everyone should look on with pity as a miserable wretch.

If you are sedentary, walking or some honest, bodily exertion that joins pleasure and profit, is a fit kind of exercise for you. If you are a laboring person, and need only pleasure for your mind, you can take pleasure in Scripture, in holy conference, or in good books. We have flowers and trees and beasts and birds and other creatures to behold. We have fields or gardens or meadows or woods to walk in. We have our near relations to delight in; our wives or children, and our friends. We may talk with godly, and wise, and cheerful people, about things that are both pleasing and edifying to us.
God has given us a world of lawful pleasures. But stage-plays are, at best, very questionable, and most are to be condemned as unlawful. Should one who fears God and loves his salvation — choose so doubtful a recreation in preference to so many undoubtedly lawful ones? And you must know what a time-wasting sin excessive leisure is. Suppose the activity is lawful — is it lawful to give so many hours to it, as if you had neither souls, nor families, nor other responsibilities or service to perform?
For myself, when my mind needs recreation — I have a variety of relaxing and invigorating books, and friends, and business to do that. And when my body needs it — the hardest labor that I can bear is my best recreation. Walking serves instead of games and sports as profitable to the body, and more to my mind. If I am alone, I may improve the time in meditation. If I am with others, I may improve it in profitable, cheerful conference.

I do not condemn all sports or games in others, but I find none of them all to be best for myself; and when I observe how far the temper and life of Christ and his best servants were from such recreations — I avoid them with the more suspicion. And besides, I note that most people, by instinct, view ministers with distaste when they see them pursuing frivolous recreations.

Reproducing and linking to the studies on Biblical meditation and on recreation above are not by any means an endorsement of the Calvinism of Baxter and the authors of the studies on meditation referenced.  Calvinism is unscriptural for the reasons mentioned on this webpage.