On novelists

Just read J.I. Packer's evaluation of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky: Who Is the Greatest Novelist of All Time? (HT: Justin Taylor). There must be something wrong with me! I can appreciate the depth of this novelist's faith, but I could never get into or through any of his novels. I really do not like his work! But then I have not been able to read any of the Russians, except for A Solzhenitsyn, whose Red Wheel cycle I loved (but then I cannot read his Gulag series or any of his other novels). But what can you expect from someone who has never been able to make it through Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress ?!!  No, my favourite author in the 19th century is Jane Austen (can anything be more different than Dostoevsky?) and in the 20th J.R.R. Tolkien (now there is an epic writer!).

Ten years ago

Some of my friends on Twitter have been reminiscing about where they were ten years ago. Ten years ago, I was a year into my first job outside of academia: the editorial directorship of Joshua Press. To think what has happened in this decade: I had three more years at Joshua Press, a position I loved, and then nearly came to Southern in 2002, but drew back at the last moment, and only came part-time. Instead I served as Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary from the summer of 2003 to the fall of 2007. And now have been at Southern since January 2008 full-time. Two full years, and two of the best years of my life.

Avatar: a few scattered impressions

My family and I just got back from seeing James Cameron's Avatar. Without a doubt the graphics were amazing. The Na'vi were beautiful as were the animals of the world of Pandora. I am sure this is in part what inspired some of the culture critics' raving about the movie. But the storyline was thin and so predictable, and if one looks at it from a philosophical angle, it has a very distinct political message that, to this viewer, seems to be the standard "hate the West" rant that the Left has indulged in for years. Along with that, the Mother Earth Goddess worship of the movie is naively presented and a far cry from the horrific reality that the ancients knew.

I am fully committed to ecological stewardship--surely the mandate of Genesis 1 commits us in this direction, despite the way some have misinterpreted the text. But Avatar would pin the blame for ecological disaster on one culture--the West--when the situation is far more complex. But is this not the problem of the medium of celluloid? It cannot tackle complex issues, but is good for getting the blood boiling and thrilling the imagination.

The Second London Confession 3

It is extemely important that The Second London Confession (SLC), when it came to the section "Of Gods Decree," did not reproduce The Westminster Confession (WCF) holus-bolus. Chap. 3 of the WCF has eight paragraphs. Chap. 3 of the SLC has only seven. One, that on reprobation, has been entirely omitted. The WCF essentially reproduced the doctrine of double predestination that was part of the strong Augustinian tradition that ran from Augustine through the Venerable Bede (c.673-735) and Gottschalk (c.804-c.869) to the Reformers. The authors of the SLC, however, embraced a milder Augustinianism.

This needs exploring by someone in more detail!

An 18th Century Great Commission Resurgence

Dr. Michael Haykin is currently writing a series of articles for the state paper of Oklahoma Baptists on the 18th Century Great Commission Resurgence which launched the modern Baptist missionary movement.  The Baptist Messenger is edited by the very capable Douglas E. Baker.  The first two in the series are now online and others will be posted in the weeks ahead. The first article looks at the conditions among 18th-century Baptists which made a Great Commission Resurgence necessary.  The second article focuses on the the Prayer Call of 1784 which preceded the move of God which we know as the dawn of the modern missionary movement.  It is hoped that these articles and the ones which follow might provide a historical perspective on a contemporary phenomenon, the Great Commission Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

The Trellis and the Vine

Am reading Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Kingsford, NSA: Matthias Media, 2009) and loving it. This struck me today: the comment that "According to Paul, gospel partnership is the normal Christian life" (p.66). A hearty Amen to that! How can churches not be linked purposefully with others in gospel initiatives and defence? That some are speaks not of gospel fidelity but of disobedience to the Word.

La belle province and the gospel

On a much more pleasant note, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to have been in Quebec twice in the past two months. Once for the Montreal Calvin conference (see the picture of the participants attached) in late October (thanks to Drs. Andre Pinard and Jason Zuidema for arranging the details of this), and then just this past week, teaching La Reforme at SEMBEQ.

The needs of Quebec are great--in some ways, greater than any in the rest of North America: a largely Roman Catholic society that, since the Quiet Revolution, has thrown off all of the legalism of the Roman Church, and embraced modernity with a passion. It is easily one of the most secularized cultures I have taught in. But teaching trips to la belle province are always a delight, mainly because of all of the dear brothers and sisters there.

Many years ago, in 1978 to be precise, I heard a French Baptist preacher, Elisee Beau (d.2009), speak at my home church of Stanley Ave. Baptist in Hamilton, ON. I had the distinct impression that I needed to learn French. That impresson was God-given and I wished I had followed it up. I spent time mastering written French, but I wish I had put the effort and energy into also mastering conversational French (my spoken French always embarasses me!).

It was five years later that Francois Picard--then a student at Central Baptist Seminary, Toronto, where I had just begun to teach, and now the President of SEMBEQ--asked if I would be willing to come to Quebec to teach at SEMBEQ. And over the past quarter of a century (wow, hard to believe it has been that long), I have been involved with teaching courses, mentoring, and giving conferences. I would not have missed it for the world. It has been so enriching!

Brothers and sisters: pray for Quebec, and for SEMBEQ and for the Evangelical Baptist churches there, for one of the most challenging mission fields is right on our doorstep here in N America.