Monday, May 25, 2009

Year of Calvinism: America's Teacher

These, my dear brother, are some of my views of the calvinistic doctrines and their effects. These doctrines, in the main, I do believe to be evangelical...

Noah Webster, 1809

Yes--the man that wrote your 1828 dictionary was a Calvinist.

He was born-again by the power of the Spirit during the Second Great Awakening in 1808. The year of his conversion his two older daughters and wife attended the local Congregational church to his chagrin. They were attracted to the local revival. He disliked "enthusiasm" in religion, preferring a "rational religion" of being good to the neighbor and acknowledging a divine Being. He could not swallow the doctrines of Calvinism found in the confession of the Congregational church. He even desired to attend the Anglican church instead, yet he was torn to see his family thus divided. He rationalized his resistance to the revivals of the town,

"The impressions [religious concerns] however grew stronger till at length I could not pursue my studies without frequent interruptions. My mind was suddenly arrested...I closed my books, yielded to the influence, which could not be resisted or mistaken and was led by a spontaneous impulse to repentance, prayer and entire submission and surrender of myself to my maker and redeemer."

This account, written to his brother-in-law, explained that his life was radically changed by the sovereign power of the Spirit,

"This my dear friend, is a short but faithful narration of facts. That these impressions were not the effect of any of my own passions, nor of enthusiasm is to me evident, for I was in complete possession of all my rational powers, and that the influence was supernatural, is evident from this circumstance; it was not only independent of all volition but opposed to it. You will readily suppose that after such evidence of the direct operation of the divine spirit upon the human heart, I could no longer question or have a doubt respecting the Calvinistic and Christian doctrines of regeneration, of free grace and of the sovereignty of God. I now began to understand and relish many parts of the scriptures, which before appeared mysterious and unintelligible, or repugnant to my natural short my view of the scriptures, of religion, of the whole christian, scheme of salvation, and of God's moral government, are very much changed, and my heart yields with delight and confidence to whatever appears to be the divine will."

Such a change in his heart brought a public boldness missing today. The opening quote about Calvinism is found in the article, "Doctrines of the Gospel Explained and Defended," which was published in the Panoplist in 1809, two-hundred years ago. It highlights key doctrinal points, as summarized above, explaining in a newborn way the doctrines of special Providence (God is intimately involved in every-day life), regeneration and predestination and free-will. Webster concludes:

"I am therefore of opinion that the doctrines of divine sovereignty, the divinity of Christ, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and free grace through Christ, are fundamental in the gospel scheme of salvation. Those who reject these doctrines appear to me to tear out the vitals of Christianity, leaving nothing but a lifeless skeleton. The cold doctrines of Arminianism almost exclude the divine agency in man's salvation...In short, they never reach the heart, and appear not to alter the life and character."

He responded to a rebuttal of this article (under the pseudonym Calvinist) but ceased anymore public debate thereafter. Being a young Christian he felt unequal to the task. Yet such an attitude did not reflect a weak man. For soon after his conversion his fatherhood and career were radically changed. He began anew his domestic fatherhood with daily family worship. And he began anew his destined role as the father of American education.

[Biographical information from Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, p.44ff.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Year of Calvinism: Famous Calvinists in America

The past that many conservative Christians pine for never existed.

There was never a Christian America as many understand it.

It was a Calvinist America.

50-80% of American churches were Calvinistic in 1780. And that was after their peak influence. The New England Puritans, New York Dutch, Pennsylvania German and Southern Huguenots were all confessional Calvinists.

That would strongly imply a large base for political leadership; that many of the local and state-level men were or were raised Calvinists.

But more to the point of this short series: a number of well-known Americans were Calvinists.

Can you guess who they were?
Can you accept the implications for today of such historical truths?

Read on!

1. America's Teacher
2. America's First Judge
3. America's Famous Preachers
4. America's First Black Preacher

[More to follow...]

Saturday, May 23, 2009

For A Day in Thy Courts

For a day in thy courts [is] better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

I grew up singing the Psalms. At least occasionally. However, my theological understanding never caught up with my increasing ineraction with the Psalms: what exactly were they about?

Praise. Sure. God. Certainly. But how was it applicaable to me--to the 21st century?

First of all, context is important. This verse is embedded in a larger worship-context (v.1, 2, 4, 10). In fact, this verse lists "courts" and "house" in contrast to "tents." Does this mean that we need to live at the local church building?

Yes & No.

Yes insofar as Heaven will be a state of continuous worship unfathonable to our earthly minds. Hebrews 12:22-24 combines our earthly worship with "company of firstborn who are registered in heaven."

No insofar as God has not required this from us this side of eternity. We still have six days of work.

Secondly, the language is important. "Courts" and "house of my God" clearly refer to where God dwells. In the OT language, temple, court, house and tabernacle speak first of all to the physical local in Jerusalem. They speak secondly (and ultimately and most significantly) of God's spiritual dwelling among His people. This is not to deny God's omnipresence. It is to point out that God has chosen in a unique and special manner to manifest His presence at the temple.

And how did the average Jew participate in God's presence? Through public worship. They were required to bring sacrifices whenever sin was discovered (peace offerings, etc.). Three times a year the men were to attend public worship (Ex. 34:22, 23). And these sacrifices (just another form of worship) were accomplished at the temple. The priests were always present at the sacrifices and actually enacted most the sacrifices solely.

Thus you can see how important is the knowledge of the NT. The entire book of Hebrews points out that the sacrifices, temple and priests all pointed to Christ. To understand the person and work of Christ in OT language was to attend public worship wherein various and sundry sacrifices graphically pictured sin and redemption.

So what? How does this apply to you today?

If you wish to echo this godly desire of David, then desire public worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that worship in Jerusalem would not longer be required (John 4:23). What He did not say was that public worship itself would no longer be required (Acts 20:7). Who would really believe that?

It is in public worship that you have a foretaste of heaven. It is there that God especially dwells amongst His people's praise. Where two or more are gathered in God's name there He especially is.

A day in the public worship of God is better than a thousand days anywhere else. I had rather be a lowly servant in the church of my God than to live with the wicked of this world.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009


No cigar to smoke.
No gum to chew.
No more nails to gnaw.

Pre-labor all weekend.
No sleep.
False start on Monday.
Now the real thing.


A baby brought by Almighty.
A precious soul to wait upon.

The Real Thing takes patience.
The Real Thing takes time.

I pace; I race.
I walk.
I trekked a trench in the hardwood floor.
My feet pounded the ground into powder.


God be praised I'm here to wait.
To learn patience. To endure for another.
As God was longsuffering with me.

To wait for our little Nora Renee.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, May 04, 2009

How to Avoid the Swine Flue


In God We Trust...?

"Should the motto "In God We Trust" be removed from U.S. currency?" is posting that question on the internet. It's a question that agitates many Conservative Americans. In fact, out of 13 million responses a whopping 87% are against removing this motto.

But what does that mean? That Americans are religious...even Christian?

Let's look at other polls:

1. Only 1/3 of Americans strongly disagree that Jesus sinned.

2. 45% of Christian Americans do not believe the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches.

3. About 60% of self-described Christians agreed with or were undecided about the Bible being on par with the Koran and the book of Mormon.

4. Only 25% of Americans pray and read the Bible (outside church) and attend church.

5. Only 9% of Americans have a loosely defined Christian worldview.

At least one thing is clear from these numbers: Americans are woefully confused about God and His Bible. How can someone claim to trust God and have such ignorant views of His Word?

When conservatives flock to vote on this issue--as I already have--I hope they realize that retaining our motto is not the same as retaining our soul.