Thursday, July 30, 2009


I mean it this time. Bethel Baptist Church of El Sobrante, CA will have the very first WORD OF TRUTH CONFERENCE on November 11-15, 2009. So it's coming up. That means you'll need to get your transportation to be in the San Francisco Bay Area at that time.

November 11-15 is Wednesday to Sunday, so everything will start on Wednesday night and end on Sunday. What does this mean? It means that we will have a regular Wednesday mid-week service, then have something on Thursday morning and evening, Friday morning and evening, Saturday morning, and then all day Sunday until early evening.

This will be a preaching conference. As such, many men who come to the conference will preach. However, in the mornings we will also have longer teaching sessions that will cover the doctrine of separation. Those who attend the conference can purchase a notebook that will have in it the notes from these sessions. After three years of this conference, we hope to have finished a book on the doctrine of separation. Every year of these three years we will invite two speakers, who will cover some of the chapters of this book. When we're done it will be a biblical theology of separation. Nothing like this book, I believe, has been written, which is why we want to write it. It will, among the doing of other things, exegete the passages of scripture on separation.

We will announce shortly who the first two speakers will be. In addition to the two, we will also have Pastor David Sutton (from Bethel) and myself be teaching portions of this book every year. If you come every year, you won't even have to buy the book, because you'll have heard it all taught by the time the three years are over. When we're done with this book, we'll start on another one in year four, Lord-willing.

In addition to these teaching sessions, which will alone be worth attending, we will have preaching from men in attendance. As men let us know that they will be attending, we will schedule some of them to preach in the preaching times. We will also provide for meals for conference attendees---lunch and supper. There will be limited housing available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We will be providing hotel information for those who desire to stay in a hotel.

Saturday afternoon and evening, and each afternoon, will be available for sightseeing. The San Francisco Bay Area is a unique and beautiful location with plenty to see. One of the reasons we are having it in November is because men from cold weather locations can come to California when it is relatively warm here. It could be raining here at that time, but this is usually right before we get into the serious rainy season. The plane tickets will be cheaper too, because this isn't a holiday time, and it is a down time for ticket sales, so you can probably get some good deals. You may want to sandwich a getaway with your wife at this time around the conference, getting the best of both worlds.

The morning sessions will go from 9:30am to 12:00 noon. The evening sessions will go from 6:45pm to 9:00pm. On Sunday we will have sessions during our normal service times. However, we will have an early evening service with a potluck for our members and guests. Everything will end at about 5:00pm on Sunday evening. We will be letting you know more information as we get closer.

Here is contact information to let us know if you are coming or if you have any questions:

Bethel Baptist Church
4905 Appian Way
El Sobrante, CA 94803
email: betbapt at flash dot net (typed this way to avoid getting bombarded by spam)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who Is Sovereign over Sovereignty?

What is sovereignty? I'm going to show you the verses in the Bible that have the word "sovereignty" in them. Get your pen and paper. I'm going to type them between two parenthesis. OK, here they are:


Did you get them down?

OK, the term "sovereignty" isn't found in Scripture. Of course, that doesn't mean that God isn't sovereign. He is. I don't deny that. I proclaim that, support that, and love that. However, God is also sovereign in His sovereignty. We don't determine what His sovereignty is. He does. If we make His sovereignty different than how He has revealed it in Scripture, then in fact we are sovereign in His sovereignty. That would be kind of odd for someone who says he supports God's sovereignty, wouldn't it?

Sovereignty is one of those theological terms. It isn't in the Bible, like "trinity" and "rapture" aren't. All theological terms should represent some theological reality from scripture. We don't make up a theological term based on our own thoughts, our own reasoning, and our own predisposition, and then force that understanding on scripture. God wrote the Bible. Through the Bible He revealed to us Who He was. We don't do better by revising what God wrote to make it fit what we want it to mean.

The sovereignty that God presents in scripture is as sovereign as it can get. We can't get more sovereign than the sovereignty that God describes in the Bible. We haven't glorified God more than others because we make his sovereignty "more" sovereign than He actually has. In other words, we need to limit our understanding of sovereignty to what the Bible says about sovereignty. Adding to the Bible on the topic of sovereignty doesn't honor God. It does say that God somehow hasn't been up to the task of presenting His own sovereignty clearly enough in His Word, so that the Bible isn't really sufficient in its presentation of sovereignty.

Let me give you an example of an overweening portrayal of sovereignty. Judas Iscariot willfully betrayed Jesus. In the forty passages that refer to Judas' betrayal of Jesus, in every instance he is portrayed as someone who did it of his own accord, and in certain instances, he did it against the warning and wooing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet God also prophesied that Judas would betray the Lord. God used Judas as one means by which Jesus would go to the cross to die. It was part of God's plan for Judas to betray the Lord Jesus Christ. But how could Judas have willfully rebelled against Christ if it was the sovereign will of God for him to do so? Well, since God is sovereign, Judas could not have had any will in making that choice. That would take away from the sovereignty of God. You can't believe that Judas betrayed Jesus on his own. No, Judas was made to do that. He couldn't help but do that. His will wasn't involved.

Do you see what has happened in this all-too-typical illustration? Someone doesn't like sovereignty as it is fleshed out of scripture, so he reads in his own position on it. If Judas had a choice, then Judas was sovereign. Really? If I must have a sovereignty that is separate from or beyond what the Bible actually teaches, then I don't want that sovereignty. If sovereignty is the one presented in scripture, I'll take that sovereignty.

The two concepts, Judas' will and God's sovereignty, are compatible in the Bible. Judas' will doesn't erase God's sovereignty. Because Judas' made a choice of his own volition, that doesn't mean that God isn't in charge. Although we may feel a tension, God doesn't. It is a moment to test our faith. Will we not just take God at His Word? Or must we show off a false humility in order to alter the meaning of scripture in compatibility with our own logic or reasoning?

Man can choose and God remain sovereign. God will use the choice for His divine purposes. Just because man chooses doesn't mean that God's sovereignty has been lowered one or two notches. God is sovereign on giving a choice. He's sovereign on taking that choice and using it for His purposes. If He can't give a choice, even though the Bible says He can and does, because our logic says that He can't, then we have become sovereign instead of Him. We haven't elevated His sovereignty, but diminished it.

The Bible defines and describes God's sovereignty with perfection. It is God's Word. It is what God wants us to know about everything. We don't do better by going outside of it. What we do is become sovereign over sovereignty.

(Here's another example of someone being sovereign over sovereignty.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

God So Loved the World

This will be a new feature on my blog. I will highlight great English or American sacred choral music.

Monday, July 13, 2009

History and Deuteronomy 22:5 (part two)

Deuteronomy 22:5 isn't hard to understand.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

Even if someone were to rely on modern translations (which are made from the same Hebrew text in this instance), he would come to the same conclusion about what it says:

NASV A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.

NIV A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

We see nothing in the verse about Canaanite worship or women in the military or transvestism. It is about as straightforward as it can get.

Even further, and this is important, the verse doesn't say, "women, don't look like men," "men, don't look like women," or "you've got to be able to tell the difference between men and women." Those are only means by which someone can ignore the verse. It also doesn't say, "This issue is a joke!" Which is the most common argument that I hear. Or another version of the same argument, "This is so stupid!" Given by outstanding Bible scholars.

In almost every case, I've found in a debate or discussion over Deuteronomy 22:5 that those who do not want to obey it will start with arguing about what it means. Once they find out that they can't get any traction there, then they argue about the application. When someone has been unbiased and without predisposition in studying a passage, he won't discuss or debate this way. He starts from scratch with the desire to understand the meaning and the application, not explain it away.

I've dealt with the interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5. Now I will show you that women in dresses and skirts and men in pants is how that it has been practiced. I'm just the messenger. I think men and women are equal. They have differing roles. The differing roles are seen in their distinct design. Men and women are different. God wants those differences reflected in designed distinctions in their clothing. Western civilization and particularly the United States practiced these designed distinctions. They still have never been replaced with other designed distinctions. This is reflected in the comment of experts in the history of fashion.

Kidwell, Claudia Bush Kidwell and Valerie Steele write in Men and Women: Dressing the Part (pp. 2-14):

In analyzing gender identities, we use the term gender conventions to refer to the social and cultural expectations of behavior, clothing, and images that have divided men and women into separate spheres. . . . [T]he existence of these behavioral standards has always been an integral part of our social structure. . . . When we examine how clothes define an individual, we must also set the man or woman within the context of their (sic) place and time. . . . The full impact of these gender conventions on fashion is only revealed when the two sexes in fashion history are examined side by side. It then becomes obvious that historically clothing has served to separate men and women. . . . Consider the image of a woman dressed in pants. It is a clothing symbol laden with gender meaning. . . . The most obvious division in clothing today is between trousers and skirts. . . . In Europe, over the centuries, flowing robes became associated with femininity and tailored trousers with masculinity. . . . Women in Europe did not wear trousers because the garment had acquired such strong masculine connotations.

Allison Lurie in The Language of Clothes (p. 224) writes:

Real trousers took much longer to become standard female wear. It was not until the 1920s that women and girls began to wear slacks and even shorts for sports and lounging. The new style was greeted with disapproval and ridicule. Women were told that they looked very ugly in trousers, and that wanting to wear The Pants in our culture, for centuries, the symbolic badge of male authority, was unnatural and sexually unattractive. . . . This freedom, however was limited to the private and informal side of life. Wearing slacks to the office or to the party was out of the question, and any female who appeared on a formal occasion in a trouser suit was assumed to be a bohemian eccentric and probably a lesbian. . . . At Frick Collection library in New York (in the 1960s) women [were] not admitted unless they [were] wearing skirts; a particularly ancient and unattractive skirt [was] kept at the desk for the use of readers ignorant of this rule.

Ann Hollander in Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress (p. 53) writes:

Trousers for respectable women were publicly unacceptable except for fancy dress and on the stage, and they were not generally worn even invisibly as underwear until well on in the nineteenth century. At that period the common adoption of underpants by women seems to represent the first expression of the collective secret desire to wear pants, only acceptably brought out on the surface with the bicycling costumes of the 1890's, and only finally confirmed in the twentieth century with the gradual adoption of pants as normal public garments for women. . . . Pants were still a forbidden borrowing from the male, so unseemly that they could only be generally hidden until their time finally came.

The movement away from gender distinct dress has been termed the "unisex movement." This movement was a purposeful erasing or blending of the delineating lines between male and female appearance. An article in the 1970 Compton Encyclopedia Yearbook states, "Paris couturer Jacques Esterel states that identification of the sexes in terms of clothes will become a thing of the past. He designed an identical tunic and pants outfit for father, mother, and child . . . unisex clothes." In Life magazine, January 9, 1970, Rudi Gernreich writes, "When proposing his vision of the future of fashion in 1970, he predicted that the traditional apparel symbols of masculinity and femininity would become obsolete, . . . women will wear pants and men will wear skirts interchangeably. The pant-skirt controversy is a male-female role controversy." Kidwell and Steele write (p. 144):

Controversial fashion changes such as women adopting trousers can only take place after women's roles in society have altered. The mass acceptance of a style may accompany a change in public opinion, but does not precede it. Dress reformers were correct in seeing the connection between women's roles and their clothing, but erred in believing that by changing the costume, changes in gender conventions would automatically follow.

Our country practiced the pants as male dress and the dress or skirt as the female dress. Those were the designed distinctions. None other served as the distinction between the genders. They were erased by the culture because the culture didn't care to keep those distinctions any longer, despite what God had said. They were replaced by nothing.

For more information on this topic, read the study here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

History and Deuteronomy 22:5 (part one)

Writing on Deuteronomy 22:5 isn't my favorite activity. However, it is one of the those truths under attack in our culture. It becomes a practical squeaky wheel. Therefore, I keep applying the oil. As it applies to this particular issue, I like this quote from Martin Luther (Luther’s Works, St.L. ed., vol. 9, pg. 825):

When the devil has persuaded us to surrender one article of faith to him, he has won; in effect he has all of them, and Christ is already lost. He can at will unsettle and take all others, for they are all intertwined and linked together like a golden chain so that if one link is broken, the entire chain is broken and can be pulled apart. There is no article which the devil cannot overthrow once he has succeeded in having reason dabble in doctrine and speculate about it. Reason knows how to turn and twist Scripture in a masterly fashion into conformity with its views. This is very agreeable, like sweet poison.

This isn't a difficult issue. Deuteronomy 22:5 isn't hard to understand. It isn't even hard to apply in our culture. However, like many other issues, it becomes difficult because of the pressure of this world system in which we reside. What men have done to Deuteronomy 22:5 reminds me of what they also do with 1 Corinthians 11:3 among other verses. Theologians go back into history and etymology to define "head" as "source" instead of "authority over" (an article that deals with this issue, and another). They do this to support an egalitarian society without male headship, removing distinctions in role between men and women.

In the case of Deuteronomy 22:5 men use the same types of arguments . I think they're even worse. They simply speculate the intention of the biblical text. God prohibits women from putting on the male garment and men from putting on the female garment, but instead the intention was to avoid Canaanite worship rituals or to stop women from impersonating men for purposes of seduction, or if those don't work, to keep women from attempting to join the military. All of those read into the text something that isn't there.

I believe that the intention of the text of Deuteronomy 22:5 is interesting. However, what we're guessing was the intention could not be the intention if it changes the plain meaning of the words and syntax of the verse itself. You can't start getting into intention until you understand what the verse is saying. Nothing in the surrounding context of the verse will help us understand the intent. Explaining a probable intention after understanding the meaning of the verse could help someone who doesn't wish to obey the verse. It could help someone comprehend why God would say someone is an abomination. However, we shouldn't allow possible intent to alter the clear meaning of the verse. I believe what men are doing is what Jesus warned the Pharisees about in Mark 7:13:

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

The Pharisees didn't just teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mk 7:7). They also made the Word of God of none effect. Many professing Christians want to make Deuteronomy 22:5 of none effect. They don't like the law. It embarrasses them before the world. So they nullify it with all sorts of strained hermeneutical ploys. Know what? You can chop the verse up however you want to. You're still responsible to keep it. And don't tell me you love God if you won't.

How Men Have Understood Deuteronomy 22:5

Here are some commentators and their understanding of this plain verse.

Barnes' Notes were published in 1884-1885, and it states,

[D]istinctions between sexes is natural and divinely established, and cannot be neglected without indecorum and consequent danger to purity (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3-15).

Keil and Delitzsch, foremost Hebrew scholars, wrote:

As the property of a neighbor was to be sacred in the estimation of an Israelite, so also the divine distinction of the sexes, which was kept sacred in civil life by the clothes peculiar to each sex, was to be not less but even more sacredly observed. There shall not be man's things upon a woman, and a man shall not put on a woman's clothes.

Pulpit Commentary states,

[T]his is an ethical regulation in the interest of morality. . . . Whatever tends to obliterate the distinction between sexes tends to licentiousness, and that the one sex should assume the dress of the other has always been regarded as unnatural and indecent.

Lange's Commentary reads,

The distinction between the sexes is natural and established by God in their creation, and any neglect or violation of that distinction, even in the externals, not only leads to impurity, but involve (sic) the infraction of the law of God.

Louis Entzminger wrote in 1936,

Notice v. 5 (Deuteronomy 22), forbidding women to wear male attire. This law was given to preserve the distinction of the sexes which was established at the creation of male and female.

Joseph Excell wrote in 1849, as recorded in The Biblical Illustrator: Deuteronomy:

God thought womanly attire of enough importance to have it discussed in the Bible. Just in proportion as the morals of a country or an age are depressed is that law defied. Show me the fashion-plates of any century from the time of the Deluge to this, and I will tell you the exact state of public morals. Ever and anon we have imported from France, or perhaps invented on this side of the sea, a style that proposes as far as possible to make women dress like men. The costumes of the countries are different, and in the same country may change, but there is a divinely ordered dissimilarity which must be forever observed. . . . In my text, as by a parable, it is made evident that Moses, the inspired writer, as vehemently as ourselves, reprehends the effeminate man and the masculine woman.

In a sermon entitled, "The Sinfulness of Strange Apparel," Puritan preacher Vincent Alsop said in the mid 17th Century:

Nothing can justly pretend to be lawful ornament, which takes away the distinction which God has put between the two sexes.—That law, Deut xxii. 5, is of moral equity and perpetual obligation: . . . That which pertaineth, keli—The word signifies any "vessel, instrument, utensil, garment, or ornament," military or civil, used for the discrimination of the sex: so Ainsworth (In Pentateuchum). . . . God therefore will have the distinction between the sexes inviolably observed in the outward apparel. . . . What particular form of apparel shall distinguish the one sex from the other, must be determined by the custom of particular countries; provided that those customs do not thwart some general law of God, the rule of decency, the ends of the apparel, or the directions of scripture.

Matthew Poole wrote in 1560,

Now this (a woman wearing a man's garment) is forbidden, partly for decency's sake, that men might not confound nor seem to confound those sexes which God hath distinguished, that all appearance of evil might be avoided, such change of garments carrying a manifest umbrage or sign of softeness and effeminacy in a man, of arrogance and impudency in the woman, of lightness and petulancy in both, and partly to cut off all suspicions and occasions of evil, which this practice opens wide door unto.

Jewish scholar Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in 1966:

It seems to us that it is clear that, according to this way of taking the prohibition, is not so much disguising one's sex by dressing in female clothes as forbidding each sex that which is more specifically pertaining to the nature of the opposite one. A man is just as little to get himself up with powder and paint and lipstick, etc.; which is all quite in order for women to do, and is in accordance with feminine nature, as a woman is to appear in a profession which belongs to the nature of men.

The Jewish Publication Society Commentary: Deuteronomy, states,

"Put on a man's apparel," Literally, "a man's keli may not be on a woman." The translation "apparel" makes this clause synonymous with the second part of the verse; it is based on the fact that the plural of keli means "clothing" in rabbinic Hebrew. . . . The halakhah combines both views: women may not wear armor or clothing, hairdos, or other adornments that are characteristic of men, not may men wear what is characteristic of women (what is characteristic of each sex is defined by local practice).

Walter C. Kaiser, who has a tremendous handle of the Old Testament law, writes concerning Deuteronomy 22:5,

The maintenance of the sanctity of the sexes established by God in the created order is the foundation for this legislation, and not opposition to idolatrous practices of the heathen. The tendency to obliterate all sexual distinctions often leads to licentiousness and promotes unnaturalness opposed to God's created order. Such a problem can arise in contemporary culture when unisex fashions are aimed at producing the bland person in a progressive desexualization of men and women. Thus, this provision aims mainly at one's clothes as an indication of one's sex.

Baptist Commentary says,

The text teaches that Israel was to maintain a clear-cut distinction between the sexes. It was, thus, necessary that clothing, as well as other things, which pertained to one, must not be utilized by the other.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says,

It is this fundamental principle which underlies the opening requirement of this section (i.e., of Deut. 22) that the distinction between man and woman should not be blurred by the one's appropriating the characteristic articles of the other (Deut. 22:5).

Davis' Dictionary of the Bible reads,

By the Mosaic law a man was forbidden to wear a garment that pertains to a woman, and a woman to wear that belonging to a man (Deut. Xxii.5; cp. 1 Cor. Xi. 6, 14).

J. Ridderbos in the Bible Student's Commentary: Deuteronomy, states,

The wearing of clothes of the opposite sex is forbidden.

Fred H. Wright in Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, writes,

The law of Moses forbade a man to wear a woman's clothing and a woman to wear a man's clothing (Deuteronomy 22:5).

Merrill Unger says,

While the costume of men and women was very similar, there was an easily recognizable distinction between the male and female attire of the Israelites, and accordingly Mosaic law forbids men to wear women's clothes, and vice versa (Deuteronomy 22:5).

Jack S. Deere on "Deuteronomy" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, writes,

The same Hebrew word translated "detests" (toebah, lit., "a detestable thing;" KJV, "an abomination") is used to describe God's view of homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). . . . Since this law was related to the divine order of Creation and since God detests anyone who does this, believers today ought to heed this command.

For those who try to make "intention" guide the actual meaning of the verse, we have these commentators.

Jewish rabbi, Rabbi Tilson, reports what the Jewish literature says about this position:

Some commentators have noted, however, that this understanding as explained by Rashi and the Shulhan Arukh does not seem to be based on the language of the verse. If the Torah had wanted to prohibit men from going out among women in women's dress it could have said that. This context of social mixing of men and women is imposed on the verse.

Earl S. Kalland writes in the Expositor's Bible Commentary:

The prohibition against a woman wearing the habiliments of a man and of a man wearing the clothing of woman can scarcely refer to transvestism . . . evidence for religious transvestism in ancient Canaanite religion is not conclusive.

For more information on this topic, read the study here.

More to Come. I'll be showing that this is the historic application of Deuteronomy 22:5.

Whose Fault Was the Mortgage Crisis? Read this New York Times Article from 1999

Read this archived NY Times article from 1999 to understand who gets big credit for the mortgage crisis that has caused our current financial mess. The tell-tale paragraph reads:

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

This is the NY Times, who would have been proud of the Clinton Administration at this point.