Bags of Bran

Liturgical Dance?
July 12, 2017, 10:07 am
Filed under: Biography

Kevin Bauder gets to the real issue with the Redeemer offertory: it has no place in a New Testament worship service.


Strange, Strange Colossians
June 30, 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Biography

The book of Colossians simply doesn’t click for me. The background stuff is bewildering. What on earth was going on there?

I ran across a bizarre passage in the Testament of Solomon, an occultish Jewish document that was very likely extant in Paul’s day, while I was doing some research in Colossians.

72. And I commanded another demon to come before me. And there came before my face thirty-six spirits, their heads shapeless like dogs, but in themselves they were human in form; with faces of asses, faces of oxen, and faces of birds. And I Solomon, on hearing and seeing them, wondered, and I asked them and said: “Who are you?” But they, of one accord with one voice, said1: “We are the thirty-six elements, the world-rulers 2 of this darkness. But, O King Solomon, thou wilt not wrong us nor imprison us, nor lay command on us; but since the Lord God has given thee authority over every spirit, in the air, and on the earth, and under the earth, therefore do we also present ourselves before thee like the other spirits, from ram and bull, from [35] both twin and crab, lion and virgin, scales and scorpion, archer, goat-horned, water-pourer, and fish.

The bold text is what is so interesting. The word here rendered “elements” is the same word Paul uses in Colossians 2:8, translated “elementary principles,” and I think Paul is using it the same way.

Things Unchanged
April 27, 2017, 10:17 am
Filed under: Biography, Pastor Stuff

As I’ve been working through The Benedict Option in fits and starts, I have started to pay more attention to the background and life settings in which saints of other times lived. Recently someone made a remark to the effect that so-and-so was tap-dancing blindfolded in a yard full of rakes. That paints a mental picture, does it not?


As I savored the mental picture, the word “rakes” evoked a memory from the dusty cellars of my college education.* It’s a quote from an Anglican preacher named John Berridge, who lived from 1716-1793, and was one of the preachers involved in the Evangelical Revival in England. Note this well: I am most certainly not advocating everything that came out of the Evangelical Revival, nor am I advocating everything that came out of John Berridge; but he is precisely right on this matter.

The context was this: England was a Christian country, but of the superstitious sort that placed a premium on human works for salvation. In fact, for much of his life, Berridge preached a message of works-righteousness. But he later became convinced that true righteousness before God was a matter of faith, and therefore good works were only good as they were expressions of love and gratitude for God’s grace.

But what kind of person could receive God’s grace? Only one who was aware of his own sinfulness: one could not simply look to his good standing in a Christian community; that was not the standard of comparison. Berridge writes:

And if this was the case in the purest age what else can be expected in succeeding ages? But you say we sojourn in a baptized country. True, the country swarmeth with baptized rakes, baptized worldlings, and baptized infidels. A watery profession without the Spirit’s baptism will never wash the heart from pride and subdue it to the gospel doctrines, and legal righteousness will set the heart still more against them. No one can truly bear the doctrines till he cannot bear himself. Jesus Christ inviteth them that are weary [of] themselves and laden with their guilt and sinful nature. Only such received him in Judea and only such receive him in Great Britain. These are prepared for his gospel [who] know what poverty of spirit means and feel that brokenness of heart which God delighteth in and where he only dwells.

America is only a “Christian” nation in the sense that Berridge’s England was a “baptized” country. We may be crawling with evangelicals, but their profession is wearing thinner and thinner in every generation as “more and more people are won to less and less Christianity.”

One of the things that Dreher gets right in The Benedict Option is that much that is called Christianity is utterly devoid of sacrifice. Ours is a country that “swarmeth with baptized rakes, baptized worldlings, and baptized infidels” too. Let the swarms swarm; let us make our institutional commitments with people who share our values and goals.

*If I could only bring people’s names to recall with such alacrity, I’d be set.

Spurious Josephus Quotes?!
April 11, 2017, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

“They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.”

Google this quotation, read some of the results, and then tell me that citation and plagiarism problems are new to this age.

Supposedly this quote comes from Josephus. I would have loved to find it and read it in its context because I’m studying resurrection for my sermon. I saw it first in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (unattributed, except as Josephus). Here is the paragraph:

There is a remarkable passage in Josephus, which proves that the best informed among the Jews believed in the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness. ‘They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.’  Not less remarkable is a passage in Shemoth Rabba, ‘Why doth Moses say, (Ex. 32:13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  R. Abin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, I look for ten men from thee, as I looked for that number in Sodom.  Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people.  Then saith Moses, Behold, here am I, and Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Phinehas, and Caleb, and Joshua; but, saith God, there are but seven:  where are the other three?   When Moses knew not what to do, he saith, O Eternal God, [hayim hem ha-metim,] do those live who are dead?  Yes, saith God.  Then saith Moses, If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’

Fascinating, no? Josephus believed that Jews held to the immortality of the soul? What an excellent thing to quote in a sermon!

Except I looked in Josephus: it’s not there. Not in the wording above; not in similar wording. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” only occur together once, in a different context. I tried key words; I tried key concepts. Nothing.

So I tried Google, in case it was from a different edition of Josephus. Searching for the initial phrase, I found the same paragraph, but with “Josephus (De Maccab. c. 16)” as the attribution. But again, I have searched Josephus’ entire corpus in vain, manually and electronically, for such a quote. But I found roughly a dozen old books that reproduce the entire paragraph almost verbatim!

The earliest book that contained the quote (and the surrounding paragraph is in Adam Clarke’s commentary on the book of Luke (published 1825). Perhaps he lifted it from someone else? Another book had the paragraph bracketed and the source was listed as Bagster, but I could find no information on it.

Who knows.

Quick thoughts about the Benedict Option
April 1, 2017, 10:34 am
Filed under: Biography, Destined to get me in trouble

Got it!

I have officially 120-some pages of another really good book before I dig into this one. Even though there have been enough reviews done that I have a pretty good idea what I’m in for, it’s still more or less my duty to read it.

I wonder if it will give me new categories to answer the following non-dilemma though:

A popular pastorbloggertwitterer just now cast dust on his head and shreded his garment on Social Media about Dr. Who, the British science fiction show (for those of you who don’t watch it either). Evidently Dr. Who is (and who could have predicted this) coming out, and has a consort. In response to this, Pastorbloggertwitterer suggests (tongue in cheek) that a Biblically faithful sidekick would add some depth and variety to the show.

I say, stop watching it.

And when Marvel superheroes start (start?) getting ambivalent about good and evil, stop watching them. And when Transformers start coming out of the closet, stop watching them. And when classic fairy tales are commandeered to transport enemy troops, stop watching them. Move on.

What do you really have to lose?

When “innocent fun” ceases to be innocent, do we hold funerals for it; or, do we set it aside for permanent things? We are supposed to train our senses to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14) so that we can stop approving evil things and turn our attention to “the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). Too expensive?

In anticipation of the book, I wonder if there would be profit in revisiting the Fudamentalist/Modernist controversy.

No Discipline Is Safe
February 8, 2017, 10:08 am
Filed under: Biography

I wonder if Zondervan would publish this paragraph today:

The doctrine of the unity of God has both philosophical and devotional implications of the greatest importance. Somewhere in Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe has a beautiful passage in which she describes the devout Christian, Uncle Tom, spelling out the words of his Bible by the light of the fire in the darkness. The Christian mind, she says, is not afraid of evil spirits in the dark, for faith in God somehow brings with it the conviction of the orderliness of the universe.

James Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 103.

Calvin on Eternal Security/Perseverance
January 11, 2017, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

Eternal Security vs. Perseverance of the Saints: which idea is more biblical?

Many teach and insist upon Eternal Security as an entirely passive state: “fire insurance” or “once saved always saved” or what have you. The sinner’s prayer was, and is, and ever will be, all you ever need. But this is not the way the New Testament reads:

“…holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…”

Concerning these words, Calvin says:

Seeing it is so, let us take heed when God has given it to us, that we keep it in this way and not lose it. And how can we do this? Of ourselves (as I have often said) we are so frail that whatever we have today is gone tomorrow; nay, it does not even tarry that long; one minute of an hour is enough to deprive us of all the gifts that God has bountifully bestowed upon us.   This is our case. Yet God has not given us faith so that we would enjoy it only for a little while and afterwards be deprived of it. He wants us to possess it forever.

And how may that be? He shows us here the way: it is this, that we go on forward with all reverence once God has shown us the way of salvation, that there be no hypocrisy in us, but instead this uprightness and openness which he speaks of in this place, and that we be no light-headed enough to be carried away with our violent lusts; that we be not also double-hearted to mock God and his grace.

As we see that there are many at this day who would take the Gospel for a cloak to cover all their villainies and think that when they have the name of God in their mouths, their sins become sanctified, and they be completely forgiven them. We must take good heed that we do not in this way profane the word of God, but keep it in a good conscience. And when we do so, let us not doubt that God will give us a steadiness that will never be overcome, though all the winds in the world blow, and all surges and seas rise up against us, in so much that we may seem to be in danger of drowning a hundred times a day, yet God will keep us safe.

John Calvin, sermon on 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (Kindle location 2185 or so)

Paul uses active-tense language: “fight the good fight;” “keeping the faith in a good conscience;” while the others “have rejected” (NASB) and “have made shipwreck of their faith” (ESV). [NB: Grammatically, the rejection and the ship-wrecking of the faith are related, but whichever is the primary activity, it is an activity.]

Therefore, Calvin says. “We must take good heed that we do not in this way profane the word of God, but keep it in good conscience.”

Persevere, therefore, and do not be like those whom Calvin describes thus:

For those who play with God and make only a jesting matter of it, once they know the Gospel they are always talking about it, yet they are given still to all their vanities and are profane persons who will at last be sunk and drowned.

Unknown. John Calvin’s Sermons on 1 Timothy (Kindle Locations 2169-2171). . Kindle Edition.


Celebrating Revivalism and Other Noxious Pieties


\"If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God.\" - Bengel


Like sawdust, but edible.

Broad Meadow

I have spoken the truth coldly; who cares for the truth? To be useful, one must be charming, and my pen has lost that art.

Planting churches with the Baptist Confession in one hand and Tolkien in the other

Orchard Keeper

Plucking fruit from the grove of biblical and theological studies

Jubilate Deo

Music in the service of the church


Theology, apologetics, ramblings

Towards Conservative Christianity

Promoting true conservative Christianity


"a changeless sword, By pen and paper lies, That it may moralise My days out of their aimlessness." - Yeats

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