Monthly Archives: March 2011

Good Friday in Toronto

This year’s joint Good Friday service will be held at the Winter Garden Theatre – 189 Yonge Street, Toronto. Five congregations will be coming together to share in the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion, but others are welcome. The service was held last year at Westminster Chapel and the walls were busting with the hundreds of people who came (they didn’t have enough communion cups!). See the flyer for more info {HT: Dash House}.


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Michael, Anthony Cross and Ian at Anthony’s, Peasedown St. John

From a trip to Britain with Dr. Haykin

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Camus’ “La Chute”: Profoundly Christian

La Chute is not a caricature, but a probing of man’s nature as known to Camus through his own experience: Clamence is certainly not Camus, but is the arrangement of mirrors through which Camus inspects that experience and causes it to be reflected. Nor can the specifically Christian, or pre-Christian elements in La Chute–so clearly signalled both in the title and in the name of the narrator-protagonist–be glossed over. Under its surface of irony, and occasional blasphemy, La Chute is profoundly Christian in its confessional form, in its imagery and above all in its pervasive message that it is only through the full recognition of our sinful nature that we can hope for grace. Grace does not, it is true, arrive and the novel ends on what is apparently a pessimistic note. Yet the name of the narrator*–that of the fore-runner–hints, however teasingly, at the possibility of a sequel.

Conor Cruise O’Brien, Camus Fontana Modern Masters (London: Fontana/Collins, 1970), 81.

The narrator’s name is Jean-Baptiste Clamence.

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This is a freaky picture, on many levels.

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The Morality of Footnotes

My friend Steve Weaver, pastor of Farmdale Baptist in Kentucky, recently wrote a blogpost called “On the Use of Footnotes” where he castigates scholars who write academic works with little use of footnotes. He gives a helpful critique of the otherwise excellent book by Adam Nicolson, God’s Secretaries, on this very score. I commend the post to historians and aspiring-historians to help them think through the why’s and how’s of sharing and supporting their research.

Steve’s post reminds me of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s similar opinion in an essay that she originally wrote in 1991 for the New York Times Book Review that now appears in her 1995 collection of  essays, On Looking into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society. The essay, “Where Have All The Footnotes Gone?” is one of a number in the book that deals with historiography. In it she calls the lack of footnotes in major scholarly works a “moral lapse” and argues that this all began with Rousseau’s transition to using endnotes in his 1755 work Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequity Among Men. She not only laments the transition to endnotes, but also the use of discursive footnotes–she says “they’re almost as reprehensible as endnotes.” Himmelfarb accounts for the growing use of endnotes (and subsequent abandonment of any citations at all) by pointing to the commercial appeal of academic works that don’t look tedious and scholarly to the untrained eye. Non-specialists are not as likely to buy a book that is full of notes at the bottom of each page. I think she’s probably right in this assessment, which is a sad commentary on popular culture.

I’ve often been frustrated in reading a book where I have to constantly flip back and forth between endnotes and the main text. Himmelfarb shares in this annoyance, complaining that such require two bookmarks to keep track of two places in the book. But worse than this, she insightfully points out that the use of endnotes allows an author to develop a “cavalier attitude” to the form of citations resulting in negligence not only when it comes to how one cites a work, but indifference to content as well. She then shares some personal reflections on Miss (Himmelfarb highlights the “Miss”) Kate Turabian, whose book on dissertation-writing is a standard reference in colleges all over the world.

There is much more to what Himmelfarb has written in the piece (she singles out particular works that are guilty of lack of citations and subjects them to deft criticism, she also gives an interesting analysis of the “multicultural” excuses some scholars give for their failing to note references), so I link it here for you to read further if you are so interested. But be aware that the book that the essay appears in has–be ready!–endnotes! I really don’t understand why this is the case. Is it a funny joke? Is it a gross judgement in editing? Either way, this is a very good essay and is an encouragement to me, at least, to be assiduous both in terms of footnoting my work and doing so with honesty.

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Heresy, What Is It?

My friend Alex emailed a bunch of us asking the question, How does one define heresy? I’d been meaning to respond with a quote from Michael Haykin’s book on early church apologetics called Defence of the Truth. Because the definition he gives in the book is a good clarification on a confused issue, I thought I’d post it here for more general consumption:

What exactly is heresy? In the ancient church, that is the church up until the sixth century, the term “heresy” became a technical term to describe aberrant teaching that undermined the fundamental truth of the Christian faith. It was deemed so serious that those who were described as heretics were considered to be beyond the bounds of salvation.

Our English word “heresy” comes from a Greek word hairesis, which, in classical Greek meant “choice.” This use of this term does not occur in the New Testament. Six out of nine occurrences of the word in the New Testament are best translated by the words “sect” or “party.” Thus, for instance, in Acts 26:5, the apostle Paul claimed that “according to the strictest party [hairesin] of our religion I lived as a Pharisee.” And in Acts 24:5, Paul is described by the Roman lawyer Tertullus as a “ringleader of the sect [haireses] of the Nazarenes.” Hairesis, though, can also have a decidedly negative meaning. Paul lists it as one of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20, where he has in mind factionalism, not heretical teaching.

In only one New Testament verse, however, does the word carry the full meaning of our word “heresy.” That occurs in 2 Peter 2:1 where Peter says that false teachers will “secretly bring in destructive heresies [haireseis], even denying the Master who bought them.” But even a cursory reading of the New Testament letters will reveal that although the term “heresy” is not used, this is indeed what a number of the letters are seeking to protect God’s people against. Paul, for example, had to stand against those who denied the resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15 and repudiate those in Galatia who would compromise the cardinal truth of justification by faith alone. And Jude, referred to earlier, is clearly dealing with aberrant theology that we could call “heresy.”

Michael A. G. Haykin, Defence of the Truth: Contending for the Faith Yesterday and Today (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2004), 10.

A couple of helpful resources on the issue of heresy are, of course, G. K. Chesterton’s Heretics, Harold O. J. Brown’s Heresies which are now both considered to be classic treatments of the subject. More recently, Alister McGrath has written Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2010).


Filed under apologetics, books, church history, heresy, michael haykin, patristics, quotes

First Things (March 2011)

I recently picked up the March 2011 of First Things. I’ve slowly made my way through it and think that it was one of the best issues I’ve read yet–and I’ve been reading First Things for years. I was particularly taken with the articles on Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History by Wilfred McClay and on reading the bible with the reformers by Timothy George. The website has posted the articles online, so I’m linking to them in the order they appear in the print edition:

RJN and First Things – James Nuechterlein (a short reflection on Neuhaus)

An exchange on liberal conservatism

Real Death, Real Dignity – David Mills (powerful personal reflections on the “dying with dignity” shibboleth)

Blurring Sexual Boundaries – Douglas Farrow (from McGill University, on transgender issues and law)


The Dialectic and the Double Helix – Thomas Albert Howard (about the relationship between Europe and America regarding religion and democracy since the Enlightenment)

Reading the Bible with the Reformers – Timothy George

Newman’s Ideal University – Edward T. Oakes, S. J.

Thomas Merton and Confucianism – Wm. Theodore deBary (this is the only one I skimmed through)

Whig History at Eighty – Wilfred McClay


White Coat, Black Hat by Carl Elliott – Gilbert Meilaender (didn’t read this)

Defending Constantine by Peter Leithart – Robert Louis Wilken (an eminent patristic scholar gives the book a positive review)

Mathematics and Religion by Javier Leach – David P. Goldman

Blessed and Beautiful by Robert Kiely – Paul J. Contino

All Things Shining by Dreyfus and Kelly – David Bentley Hart (a pretty critical take on the book by an awesome writer)

The poetry in this edition was particularly good, especially “Late Night” by Robert Pack (it touched my northern Ontario sensibilities) and “At Stake” by Paul Lake where he references Hus, Tyndale and Kindle all in four lines!

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“The desire of the righteous ends only in good;
The expectation of the wicked in wrath.”

Proverbs 11:23

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St. Patrick and Human Trafficking

On a day of drunken revelry, the National Post has an article on the life of St. Patrick that offers a sobering reminder. Just as Patrick was stolen from his homeland and brought into forced labour as a shepherd in Ireland, many in our day are sold into slavery in horrific conditions. May Clint Humfrey’s article give us all pause to think both on the life of the apostle to Ireland and the plight of those who, this very day, are living a life of abject terror. Here’s a quote:

Green beer sales mark the globalized celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and for many who are only Irish once a year little more is thought of.   But it may be time for St. Patrick’s Day to become an occasion of global awareness for something more than the taste of Guinness, namely the problem of human trafficking.

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Hell Is Eternal

With all of the chatter about Rob Bell’s potential universalism in the blogosphere one discussion that has emerged is the use of the Greek word aionos in relation to an eternal hell. This reminds me of a discussion I had with a prominent proselytizer in the Toronto Jehovah’s Witness community a couple of years ago. The Watchtower Society is notoriously annihilationist—they deny that humans go to hell for eternity, rather they are just snuffed out—and so this very discussion of aionos came up. The conversation was unfortunately one-sided as the only Greek he knew was the little he’d been armed with to attack unsuspecting evangelicals. Thankfully I had my diglot, so it was easy to demonstrate from the Greek text that hell is indeed eternal.

My argument came from a comparison of two texts found near the end of Revelation that use the phrase eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn which can be translated literally as “into the age of the ages” but is better understood idiomatically as “forever and ever.”

The two texts that we looked at are Revelation 20:10 and 22:5. The first deals with the devil, the beast and the false prophet who have been thrown into the lake of fire where “they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever” (v. 15 includes those not in the book of life). The second is from that glorious passage about the New Heavens and New Earth that speaks of there being no night and no need for light or the sun because the Lord God will shine. We are told by the Revelator that the saints will “reign forever and ever” in this glorious new dwelling place.

It was a simple comparison and made the point with clarity; so much so that my JW friend admitted that he did not know what to say. I have questioned him since then and have yet to receive an answer. The problem for him, of course, is that he wants to affirm that God’s people will reign forever and ever, so he gladly takes the phrase literally in 22:5. However, his theology drives him to deny that hell is a place that is forever and ever, and when confronted with the same phrase in 20:10—written by the same author and appears only within a few chapters of each other—he was placed in quite a condundrum. We could add to his problem—I didn’t, he had enough to deal with already—the fact that the phrase is regularly used in Revelation to refer to the eternal life and dominion of the Lamb (Rev. 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7) and in two other places in reference to the damned (Rev. 14:11; 19:3). When the weight of verses are brought to bear upon the meaning of 20:10, it can only be concluded that the lake of fire will be a place of endless torment for the damned (cf. Rev. 14:9-11; 21:8). Greg Beale agrees: “The context here [20:10] and in the whole Apocalypse must determine whether this is a limited time or an undending period, and both indicate clearly that the expression refers to an unending period” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation NIGTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 1030).

Note: This post will appear on the Sola Scriptura Ministries blog.

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Starr Bibliography Online

SCORE! I just found Edward Starr’s A Baptist Bibliography online at the Baptist Heritage site. I love stumbling upon resources online. Starr is a classic reference for Baptist historians, but typically it requires finding it in a library and working through the massive mint green set. I am extremely happy to find it (PDF).

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Art, Civil Society, and Public Justice: A Double Book Launch

Join authors Jonathan Chaplin and Lambert Zuidervaart in celebrating the launch of their new books in social and political philosophy. Jonathan and Lambert will introduce their books, respond to your questions, and talk about one another’s work. Come greet the authors, enjoy refreshments and conversation, and purchase your signed copies of Herman Dooyeweerd and Art in Public.

Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society. University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. ISBN 9780268023058

The twentieth-century Dutch philosopherHerman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) left behind an impressive canon of scholarly works. Jonathan Chaplin shows that Dooyeweerd helps us understand how state and civil society should be related to achieve justice and the public good.

Dr. Jonathan Chaplin is the first director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Cambridge. He was Associat Professor of Political Theory at the Institute for Christian Studies, where he held the Dooyeweerd Chair of Social and Political Philosophy


Art in Public: Politics, Economics, and a Democatic Culture. Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780521112741 (hardback), 9780521130172 (paperback.


Lambert Zuidervaart makes a vigourous case for government arts funding, based on crucial contributions the arts make to civil society. He proposes an entirely new conception of the public role of art, one with wide-ranging implications for education, politics, and cultural policy.

Dr. Lambert Zuidervaart is Professor of Philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies and founding director of ICS’s Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics. He is an Associate Member of the Graduate Faculty in Philosophy at the University of Toronto.

2 pm, Wednesday, March 23, 2011 At Leonard hall, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto 5 Hoskin Avenue, Toronto (Enter from Tower Road)


Sponsored by Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethis at the Institute for Christian



Hosted by Crux Books







More Info: 416-979-2331 (ICS) or 416-599-2749 (Crux)



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Shedd on Coleridge

I find it amazing that the Works of the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge were collected in the nineteenth-century by none other than the Calvinist dogmatician William G. T. Shedd. While Shedd maintained a robust Calvinism based on the Westminster Standards, he was none-the-less very interested in the writings of what we would call the Romantic period. Another Shed, David Shedden to be precise, has written a series of blogposts about Shedd’s take on Coleridge. Dave is a friend, though strangely we’ve never met (he being a Scottish expat in Ireland [can you be a Scottish expat in Ireland?], and me being a Canuck), but I have come to appreciate his writing over the years. He is serving in a Reformed Baptist Church in Clonmel, Ireland. Dave did his ThM at Princeton Seminary a few years ago where he studied evangelicalism.

Shedd on Coleridge Part 1

Shedd on Coleridge Part 2

Shedd on Coleridge Part Three – Trinity

Also be sure to check out Dave’s series on Shedd and the atonement which is worth the read.

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Athenagoras and the Trinity

Athenagoras (d. ca. 185) was another early apologist whose work A Plea for the Christians is a beautifully written defense of the faith against accusations of atheism (among other things) leveled at Christians by their society. The text itself was likely written around AD 177 and shares similarities with those of Aristides and Justin Martyr; both in terms of its use of Greek philosophy and in addressing like charges. It was addressed to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus and appeals to their learning as philosophers.

What I’d like to highlight is a statement found in chapter 12, “Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism,” where Athenagoras gives us a very clear statement about the Trinity. This is a particularly useful quote against those who would argue that trinitarian doctrine is a later construct.

Are, then, those who consider life to be comprised in this, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” and who regard death as a deep sleep and forgetfulness (“sleep and death, twin brothers”), to be accounted pious; while men who reckon the present life of very small worth indeed, and who are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity; and who know that the life for which we look is far better than can be described in words, provided we arrive at it pure from all wrong-doing; who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent, that we not only love our friends (“for if ye love them,” He says, “that love you, and lend to them that lend to you, what reward will ye have? “), shall we, I say, when such is our character, and when we live such a life as this, that we may escape condemnation at last, not be accounted pious?

Athenagoras, “A Plea for the Christians” in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, eds., Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1867), 2:388.

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Bunny in a Blender

Here’s a provocative ad from the American Life League about the amount of U.S. taxpayer dollars that goes to funding Planned Parenthood {HT: Challies}:

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Aristides on God

Aristides was an early Christian apologist, sometimes known as Aristides the Philosopher. He wrote The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher probably around AD 125, the English of which is translated from Syriac by D. M. Kay of the University of Edinburgh’s semitics department. The Apology had only been known to us in quotations by other fathers. For instance, Eusebius of Caesarea tells us that the text was presented to the emperor Hadrian at Athens. In the late nineteenth-century, however, an Armenian fragment was found and in 1889 the full-text was discovered in the library of St. Catherine’s in Sinai. The purpose of the document is to argue against Barbarian, Pagan and Jewish views of God–although Aristides writes using Greek categories of thought and is of course influenced by certain parts of the Old Testament.

Here is a sample from Aristides’ discussion of God that I thought was good:

I say, then, that God is not born, not made, an ever-abiding nature without beginning and without end, immortal, perfect, and incomprehensible. Now when I say that he is “perfect,” this means that there is not in him any defect, and he is not in need of anything but all things are in need of him. And when I say that he is “without beginning,” this means that everything which has beginning has also an end, and that which has an end may be brought to an end. He has no name, for everything which has a name is kindred to things created. Form he has non, nor yet any union of members; for whatsoever possesses these is kindred to things fashioned. He is neither male nor female. The heavens do not limit him, but the heavens and all things, visible and invisible, receive their bounds from him. Adversary he has none, for there exists not any stronger than he. Wrath and indignation he possesses not, for there is nothing which is able to stand against him. Ignorance and forgetfulness are not in his nature, for is altogether wisdom and understanding; and in his stands fast all that exists. He requires not sacrifice and libation, nor even one of things visible; he requires not aught from any, but all living creatures stand in need of him.

The full-text can be found in volume ten of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, 259-279.

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Futato on Translations

Mark Futato, Academic Dean of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, is interviewed on Fox News about bible translations in light of the updated NIV and NAB.

US Catholic Bishops unveil new Bible, also available on the iPad:


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There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere of late about the bible’s teaching on hell. In light of this, I thought I would post a link to a sermon I preached on it last year at Grace Baptist in Essex. Here it is.

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Notes on Carson’s “Style of Scripture” – Part 1

The following are point-form notes that I’ve taken on Alexander Carson’s (1776-1844) work The Characteristics of the Style of Scripture as Evidential of its Inspiration that can be found in the third volume of his collected Works.

Preface (ix-x)

  • Carson expresses the pain he feels in having to critique fellow Christians on such a key doctrine as the inspiration of Scriptures
  • He believes that this is a doctrine that all Christians should be united on: “Might it not be expected that all would unite in exalting the perfection of our common standard?” (ix)
  • However, in spite of this pain, he is constrained to take up the task of defending truth
  • Those Christians that he critiques he loves: “my love to these in error is not abated” (ix)
  • He recognizes this doctrine, and the defense of it, as something that transcends denominational distinctions
  • He makes the startling affirmation that “though a Christian should reject everything which I hold, but the way of salvation through faith, in the righteousness of the Son of God, I will receive him, as I trust God, for Christ’s sake, has received me” (ix)
  • It is a serious matter to theologize and theologians have a great responsibility to not misrepresent truth or sway others into error
  • “Nothing but the conviction that I am pleading the cause of God and truth could console me in opposing so many distinguished writers on the nature and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (x)
  • He again affirms that this question is “not a party question” (x)
  • The doctrine of Scripture is something that all Christians should unite on: “Let us all celebrate the perfections of our common standard—the Bible” (x)


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