Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Church, But What It Can Do for You

I spoke last night to a new seminary student here at BJU. He just arrived from another undergraduate institution. I looked through his eyes at the choices he is about to make—especially about church attendance—and I trembled a bit.

A word to him: You are the product of your influences. Go to Bob Jones Seminary, listen hard, and you’ll preach a certain way. Go to Bob Jones Seminary, invest yourself in one local church during your time in school, and you’ll preach a somewhat different way than the guy next to you in Soteriology who attends another church. As my pastor says, “Good preaching is caught as much as taught.”

Seminary is your time of preparation, so choose a church on that basis. What you learn you will carry with you to the ends of the earth. So don’t fear to ask what a church will do for you rather than what you will do for it. If you have the right heart, you will serve your church! You can’t help but do so! And ultimately you will better serve those you pastor in the future.

You don’t know the force of sustained scriptural exposition unless you experience it, and most of us didn’t get that growing up. You may miss out on the key formative influence you should be receiving if you go right away to a little country church that’s crying for help. If you let need drive you, you wouldn’t be in seminary in the first place.

Have a little humility. Continue the learning process by choosing a church based on the quality of the preaching ministry—a ministry you will feed on now and feed to others later.

Literacy Rates and the King James Version

Literacy in the U.S. is embarrassingly low.

Nearly 50% of the adult US population reads at a 7th grade level or lower. Nearly 25% has reading proficiency so low they cannot read instructions on medication bottles, the manual that comes with a piece of machinery, or a newspaper. This means roughly 40 million Americans cannot do something as simple and critical as read the handout a pharmacist gives them that warns them of lethal drug interactions.

[From Blog Action Day 2008: Attack Poverty Through Literacy]

What does this say about the continued use of the King James Version in American churches?

The kids I have tried to evangelize over the past 10 years can’t even read the New American Standard. I’ve explained the theme verse at my one long-time weekly ministry—”Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck”—to countless low-income junior highers, and I’m not sure any of them ever understood it.

God used the common language of the day in the New Testament, Koine Greek. Koine (Κοινη), in fact, simply means “common.” We should not fear to do the same. The Bible contains some passages and truths that are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Some are impossible to grasp without divine enablement (1 Cor. 2:14). But why make understanding impossible by using a language no one in this world speaks?

P.S.

I’ve already posted a list of a few verses in the KJV that are unintelligible. I just found a new one, Joshua 17:18. “It is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine.”

The Sins of the Bloggers

I publish these comments from the latest Themelios with some trepidation: I don’t want to be guilty of these sins. But I publish these comments with some hope: I don’t want to be guilty of these sins!

D. A. Carson:

Because the Internet is spectacularly accessible, almost anyone can voice an opinion or make a claim. In this sense, it is the most “democratic” of the media. Occasionally this means that voices otherwise silenced, voices that should be heard, are indeed heard. Much more commonly, voices multiply that are ill-informed, opinionated, often pretentious and arrogant. A higher percentage of these voices were weeded out when the distribution was via print, radio, or television; by democratizing the delivery system, every voice can be published, and it becomes culturally unacceptable even to suggest that some voices are not worth publishing. This does nothing to enhance either discernment or self-discipline. As Michael Kinsley likes to ask, “How many blogs does the world need?”

Carl Trueman:

The title ‘scholar’ is not one that you should ever apply to yourself, and its current profusion among the chatterati on the blogs is a sign of precisely the kind of arrogance and hubris against which we all need to guard ourselves. Call me old-fashioned, but to me the word ‘scholar’ has an honorific ring. It is something that others give to you when, and only when, you have made a consistent and outstanding contribution to a particular scholarly field (and, no, completion of a Ph.D. does not count). To be blunt, the ability to set up your own blog site and having nothing better to do with your time than warble on incessantly about how clever you are and how idiotic are all those with whom you disagree—well, that does not actually make you eligible to be called a scholar. On the contrary, it rather qualifies you to be a self-important nincompoop, and the self-referential use of the title by so many of that ilk is at best absurd, at worst obnoxious.

N.B.: Don’t miss the latest Themelios. Trueman is always worth your time, as is Carson. And check out Keller (who in turn relies helpfully on Jonathan Edwards).

BJU Statement on Racism

I applaud Bob Jones University, my alma mater, for stating this clearly in a statement released today:

Bob Jones University has existed since 1927 as a private Christian institution of higher learning for the purpose of helping young men and women cultivate a biblical worldview, represent Christ and His Gospel to others, and glorify God in every dimension of life. BJU’s history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well.

For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

Praise the Lord for the humility and wisdom of BJU President Stephen Jones. I have prayed for him and the University in the past to do the right thing with regard to this issue, and I prayed for him during the small (Facebook) controversy which gave rise to this statement. My prayers were answered beyond what I expected, and I rejoice.

My Wedding Vows

Originally my thinking about wedding vows ran like this: The Bible doesn’t require a church wedding; it’s more the best of my cultural tradition that I’m honoring when I don a tux and Laura a white gown. That cultural tradition is primarily English, as are the vows which in various mangled forms survive to the present: “for richer, for poorer,” etc. Why not, then, go ad fontes and use the original Church of England vows?

I discovered why not when I looked:

  1. Many contemporary audiences of good Christian people would be confused by the wording.
  2. Thinking Christian people will object to the phrase “with my body I thee worship.”
  3. Admittedly, using the antiquated English of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer sounds elitist, hoity-toity, or even silly in the wrong context.
  4. Non-Christians, inured by custom, will hear only religious drivel.

So I updated some of the language and changed some more. For your perusal, I submit my vows (for comparison to the original, click here). The last vows, the “further pledge,” are the place where I made the most changes. Apparently the Puritans didn’t like “with my body I thee worship” any more than I did, but their replacement was wordy and I wanted to include some Bible truths especially precious to Laura and me.

Ward Wedding Vows

Mark, will you have this woman as your wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of marriage? Will you love her, lead her, comfort, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, cleave only to her, as long as you both shall live?

The Man shall answer, I will.

Then he shall say unto the Woman,

Laura, will you have this man as your wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Will you obey him, follow him, help him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, cleave only to him, as long as you both shall live?

The Woman shall answer, I will.

Then shall the Minister say,

Who gives this woman to be married to this man?

Father:

Her mother and I do.

Then shall they pledge their faithfulness to each other in this manner.

The Minister, receiving the Woman at her father’s hands, shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand, and to say after him as follows.

I, Mark, take you, Laura, as my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance. This I pledge in a covenant of love.

Then shall they loose their hands; and the Woman, with her right hand taking the Man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the Minister,

I, Laura, take you, Mark, as my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, respect, and to obey, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance. This I pledge in a covenant of love.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Man shall give unto the Woman a ring. And the Man holding the ring there, and taught by the Preacher, shall say,

By this ring I make a further pledge: by the grace of our God I will love you with the true love of delight. I will love you as my own body, for we today become one. With joy I take my role as head. This I declare in the presence of the eternally rejoicing triune God. Amen.

Then the Man leaving the ring upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Woman shall give unto the Man a ring. And the Woman holding the ring there, and taught by the Preacher, shall say,

By this ring I make a further pledge: by the grace of our God I will love you with the true love of delight. I will honor you as my head, for we today become one. With joy I take my role as helper. This I declare in the presence of the eternally rejoicing triune God. Amen.