Monday, January 10, 2011

Remembering the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer

I did not know the Internet Monk, but, surely, I am inheritor of his efforts at blogging. That is, he was a leader in the efforts to establish blogging, and I benefitted by following in his path. Forerunner is a noble and notable occupation. There was one known as John who led the way.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Theology of the Great Awakenings

My research into the Theology of the Great Awakenings, based upon the writings of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Newton, The Minutes of the Philadelphia and Charleston Baptist Associations (including especially their circular letters), the Memoirs of John Gano, John Leland, John Taylor, the Historical Writings of Morgan Edwards, along with the many other writings of the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Reformed, and Congregational (Puritans), indicates that the salvation which was the main spring of thos Awakenings was what is known as Sovereign Grace or Calvinism or Augutinianism. Even John Wesley made some concessions to that end in his letter effecting a reconciliation in response to Whitefield's appeal. Irresistible Grace was well put by one young lady in the 1960s, when she said in response to a question as to why she responded so readily, "Oh, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." It seems clear that Dr. John Eusden caught the essence of it, when he wrote in his introdution to his translation of William Ames' Marrow of Divinity that, "Predestination is an invitation to begin one's spiritual pilgrimage...." Could this be the key to the Thrid Great Awakening? I believe it is, and, consequently, it is my prayer that God would begin to open eyes to the doctrines of grace and raise up believers in the same who are willing to pay the price in agonizing prayer and suffering labors to advance to that end. When I entered seminary in 1972, few believed or taught these truths. Now several on the faculty teach the same, and ministers are going out who believe and preach such truths. There is still much to be learned as to how best to set forth this different, this older, this original perspective of the truth. "Getting on together responsibly with compassion and gentleness" is not a method learned in a fortnight nor even over many years without a great deal of hard an unremitting warfare wherein one suffers defeats daily and almost despairs of ever succeeding. Such, however, has been the case in the past, and yet God wrought so wondrously that the participants had to take notice of His intervention. As one said in 1816 that the work during the awakenings was so unusual that while it might be supposed that no miracle did take place yet something remarkably like it did. My researches into the period suggest that the nature of old Sovereign Grace theology made people balanced, flexible, creative, and magnetic, and those so affected were the very people who would make America into a nation that to this day many risk their very lives to enter. We need a return of such a spirit, such creativity, in this day, when there will be no jobs in the future due to automation, computerization, and robotics (not to mention nanotechnology). Already the voices of fear (those who want to conserve their wealth and power) call for the extermination 5.5 billion people (just follow the conspiracy topics on the Net), not knowing they endanger their own future as well. But we expect better things of the Lord Jesus Christ, even the conversion of the whole earth by gentle persuasion, tender love.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Father of Southern Baptist Missions

Rev. Luther Rice came to the Sandy Creek Baptist Association's annual meeting in 1816, and he was appointed to chair the committee that drew up the Confession of Faith in 1816. Among the memebers named was Elder Hezekiah Harmon who founded the church that I pastored from 1972-1983, the Gum Springs Batist Church of Moncure. Another member of the committee was identified by title, namely, the clerk of the Association, a young man named Basil Manly (later to be called Senior as he had a son who bore the same name. It is clear from the confession that the Association and its members and guest believed in Sovereign Grace. Interestingly enough, ths past week I received a copy of Rev. Rice's Memoirs published in 1840 and edited by James Taylor. Few people seem to realize that Sandy Creek was founded by Elders Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall who were Puritans in their soteriology. Both were converted under Ev. George Whitefield, and every indication available from the limited sources suggest that they and the association retained this theology into the 1800s. In 1787 in the Union of Separate and Regular Baptists the first exception was noted, namely, that it would be no barrier to communion to preach that Christ tasted death for every man. This clearly implies that the normal preaching of the atonement was for particular persons, i.e., those whom God had chosen or, in other words, particular redemption. Since the founders of Sandy Creek Assn. were converted in the First Great Awakening (circa 1740s) and the members of it experienced the Second Great Awakening (circa 1801), it follows that the theology of the Great Awakenings was Sovereign Grace or Calvinism. The same theology was involved in the origin of the Great Century of Missions (Dr. Latourette's term) as is clear from the Confession of 1816. Such theology might be likened to the paadoxical interventions of professional counselors (cf. Erickson, Frankl, It seesevident that a paradox, an opposite, freely embraced, restores a measure of control to the individual by some mysterious process. If such be the case, then the opposition to so-called Calvinism is really a problem of human enmity to Divine Sovereignty rather a matter of justice being violated.