Friday, 25 November 2016

More on David Cloud and Calvinism

Much of what David Cloud writes generally is good. It is Fundamental and one discerns that he has indeed received help over the years from his use of Reformed Commentaries and Bible aids. We all stand in the debt of the great Reformers and those who seek to follow in their footsteps. Although Cloud is on record of declaring what he likes about Calvinism, he himself  is not a Calvinist and I have had to refute some of his stuff before:

Here is the latest offering from his pen which is easily refuted below. I really do wish that I had the time to refute it even further and deeper. This would simply necessitate looking up Calvin and other Reformed commentators on the Bible verses which Cloud references. Yet, even the simple things take time and I just don't have it to afford. However, the two examples below show that his criticism is misplaced and therefore, while of fodder significance for this blog, is really of little significance in the overall scheme of things.

Click on photograph to enlarge

Click on photograph to enlarge

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Book Review - Heavenly Conference

Image result for heavenly conference sibbes 
 Title of book: A Heavenly Conference
Author: Richard Sibbes
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Publisher’s Address or address where book may be obtained: 3 Murrayfield Rd, Edinburgh EH12 6EL, Scotland
Year of publication: 2015
Number of Pages: 167
Hdbk or pbk: Pbk
Price: £5.00
ISBN: 13: 9781848716339

 Reading a Puritan pastor opening up and expounding a text of Scripture reminds us of the Lord Jesus feeding the five thousand with just a few loaves and fishes.  Just as the Saviour dipped again and again into the physical smallness of the supply, so too the Puritan could oft return to one or two verses of Scripture and feed his flock with countless expositions of the doctrines it contains along with the practical lessons for life.

Sibbes is the classic example of the observation which we have just made. His ‘Heavenly Conference’ took place between the Risen Christ and Mary Magdalene who was first at the tomb on the Resurrection morning as recorded in John 20.  This is the occasion when she was ministered unto by the angels and on seeing Christ, supposed Him to be the gardener. However, when he addressed her by name, she responded “Rabonni” that is to say “my Master”. He forbade her to touch Him because He would be ascending to “my Father and your Father , my God and your God.”  (v16-17)

Personally, I found the doctrinal part concerning the relationship within the Trinity and its effect upon the believer a little difficult to follow at times, but the applicatory parts were good, especially seeing that Mary’s commission to go and tell the disciples is linked to their recent forsaking of the Saviour. The Puritan always excelled in ministering to hurting saints. 

The book is well presented and up to the usual standard expected from a Banner of Truth production. It is also available in Kindle (.mobi)  and EPUB for those equipped to read it in a more modern format. While the price remains the same, yet (if registered with the Banner of Truth) the book really is yours for life, even when your Kindle reader etc. goes the way of all the earth. 

Colin Maxwell. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

CS Lewis

I had opportunity to read two books last week, with the first leading me to look at the second. The first book was Ravi Zacharias' "The real face of atheism" which I found very good and helpful. On a number of occasions, he quoted (as many modern Evangelical writers are wont to do) from CS Lewis and particularly from Lewis's autobiography "Surprised by Joy." Lewis was a hard boiled atheist before coming to embrace the Theist position. As providence would have it, I discovered the second book in a charity shop where the bargain was 3 books for £1, so the costs was negligible. I read the book last Friday evening, finishing it off on Saturday morning. Here are a few thoughts.

The only other books which I read by Lewis were "Mere Christianity" and a few chapters of his Screwtape letters, where the bookmark still lies half way through the unfinished book. Maybe that tells you something about the latter, or something about me. 

CS Lewis was not an Evangelical Christian. David Cloud characteristically digs the dirt on Lewis here, drawing partly from an article about him in Christianity Today which effectively does the same thing, even if only with less conviction. 

To be positive, CS Lewis (who taught at Oxford) is a powerful writer. He has a way with words that engages you and even, at times, leaves you filled with admiration. All is good, but only as far as it goes. It makes his books a joy to read - see above for my diminished list of books I have actually read - but the experienced reader knows that this is not enough.  To keep myself right, I certainly would not recommend the reading of CS Lewis' books to any one, but articles like this can still draw out the enjoyable parts and share them. If you feel you should read Lewis for more, then go ahead. (It is still a free country.) But do read with care, and remember that the shortcomings are not easily dismissed.  

In the first 14 chapters of Surprised by Joy, Lewis tells us how he came to embrace atheism and then reason himself out of it and into Theism. He commences chapter 15 with the words: "It must be understood that the conversion recorded in the last chapter was only to Theism , pure and simple, not to Christianity."  He had found atheistic books generally entertaining but shallow and came slowly to see how philosophy demanded the existence of a Deity. He uses some powerful word pictures to describe the journey. Near the end of his atheism, he makes powerful allusion to the "Great Angler" who he said "played his fish and I never thought the hook was in my tongue." (p.163) I assume that the Great Angler was God Himself. He uses the countryside allusion once more when, again near the end of his atheism, he likened himself to a fox being chased by hounds. The moment of the kill was surely near because the fox was out of "Hegelian Wood" (Hegel being the atheistic philosopher) and "was now running in the open" with the "hounds barely a field behind." (p175) More powerful imagery changes the metaphor to a chess game where, as he surveyed his atheistic reasons for not believing in a Supreme Deity, he observed: "All over the board my pieces were in the most disadvantageous positions. Soon I could no longer cherish even the allusion that the initiative lay with me. My Adversary began to make His final moves." (p168) (He calls the chapter describing his limited conversion "Checkmate"

What tends to be worrying is that he describes his limited conversion as a response to the "absolute  leap in the dark" that was "demanded." Certainly no recognition here of the word of God shining its light etc (Psalm 119:105/130) That said, he does talk about his struggle with the Almighty. He had been using, in his last days of atheistic struggle, language that avoided giving the impression that he was now starting to believe in God's existence. He spoke about the "Spirit" (which, I suppose, could mean whatever you want it to be mean) and any actual references to God were qualified with the snide "the God of popular religion." However, God wasn't having it. I must admit I like the way that Lewis puts it: "My Adversary waived the point. It sank into utter unimportance. he would not argue about it. he only said, 'I am the Lord'; 'i am that I am'; I am.'"(P177) His actual (limited) conversion is described in these words: 

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted, even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." 

After this conversion to Theism, Lewis toyed with what God/god he was going to believe in.  This is hardly the language of one who has been convicted and led into truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. He tells us that he was left with a virtual choice between Hinduism and Christianity and opted for Christianity. But, as we have referred to already, a Christianity that was sadly very defective with a chronic denial of the inspiration of Scripture and even the penal atonement of Christ. 

So that's that. Who knows, but I might restart or reread the Screwtape Letters again and see some flashes of literary genius there with some spiritual lessons? 


Saturday, 27 August 2016

#WhatThinkYe? Audioboo

I have been on audioboom for quite a while under my weecalvin (Now defunct) identity. This was before I got hacked on Twitter and had to change my Twitter name to @weecalvin1509, but I saw no need to update the original name on audioboom. I wrote a whole spiel about the 3 minute limit that existed (if I remember right at that time) for those of us who choose not to pay for their services.  This suited me down to the ground. for reasons stated.

I didn't keep up the weecalvin audiboom exercises. I effectively stopped recording for two main reasons:

(1) Some of the 3 minute recordings didn't actually record. Or at least, they won't play back on my computer while some others do. This was very discouraging. All that time and effort for nothing. If you press on some of the programmes listed, you will find - or at least I did - that they just sit there mute. This is particularly annoying because I had developed the tendency to do a series of messages on one subject and a missing message upset the whole flow of thought.

(2) It takes quite a bit of effort to write a script for a 3 minute podcast and then record it to a satisfactory standard. I just don't have the time to spare. 

However, I found some recent inspiration from my old Twitter friend and blogger, Pastor Ryan Hayden of Mattoon Bible Baptist Church in IL who is a bit of a techy. He does an excellent podcast called A Minute With Jesus which I enjoy very much. (I notice that he claims in his blog to have "restarted" it - maybe all podcasters get waylaid from time to time?) As indicated, it only lasts about 60 seconds, which is a lot less work (more than a third, BTW) than the 3 minute stuff. So, I have started another  audioboom podcast. I had to fish around for a title before deciding to call it "What Think Ye?" My introductory broadcast dealing with the reason behind the title is here.

My once broad Belfast accent has modified over the years, but hasn't gone away. Many people over the world adore the Belfast accent. The rest of us positively cringe, but that's another story :o) Like Ryan's efforts, each podcast is about 1 minute long.  I write the script out by hand - as I still do in my regular Lord's Day sermons - and in my  semi legible scrawl, a minute's reflections takes about 11 lines on a jotter page. After a while, I will get a #WhatThinkYe? index up and running on this blog, but it is early days yet. I hope to regularly podcast as time permits. I invite you to join with me.



Thursday, 25 August 2016


Bridlington Free Presbyterian Church, St John's Road.
 OK. It has been a while since I blogged. Apart from the fact that I don't blog as much as I used to anyway, I am just back from a great family holiday in Bridlington. "Brid" (as the locals fondly call it) is a seaside town on the east Yorkshire coast and home to one of our congregations in the Free Presbyterian Church. Numerically, it is not a large church, but very faithful people and it fell my lot (with a little bit of help on my side) to preach there for two Lord's Days (14th and 21st August) and two prayer meetings. We were joined on both Lord's Day by some visitors, including the McMullan family who were over on CEF business. Thursday morning is the outreach coffee morning in the church which is situated very strategically at a major T junction in an approach road to the city centre. The congregation has been pastorless since their previous minister, Rev. Dessie McComb, retired and so are dependent on relief preachers to supply the pulpit. Talking of pulpits, John Wesley preached in the pulpit here, although it was situated in another church at the time and obviously in another era. The present church was built around 1905 and carries the name of "Mount Zion" which is still incorporated into the congregational name. 

Castle Howard
We did the usually holiday things in glorious weather, including (among other things) two great day trips to York and took in the famous Minster, an hour long boat trip up the River Ouse, the Pickering to Whitby railway (out on one of the old diesel trains and back home on a puffer train), a visit to Eden Camp which housed German and Italian POWs in World War II, and a lovely visit to Castle Howard, best known for its use in the TV series Brideshead Revisited. All this costs a lot of money, but there is a 3 day York (and beyond) pass which works out tremendous value if you pick the right places to visit. It cost us £135 for 2 adults and 1 child, but when we totted up the admission prices and the food discounts, then we would have spent a total of £233, so you can see the value there. 

Did all the second hand bookshops but little to purchase when space on the shelves back home is at a premium. I did secure Authentic Christianity (IVP) which is an anthology of John Stott's works along with John Knox and the Reformation (Banner of Truth) by Martin Lloyd Jones and Iain Murray. I had taken a couple of books over with me and got time each evening to read JC Ryle - Prepared to stand alone (BOT) again by Iain Murray and The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (IVP) by John Piper. Both Stott and Piper would not be my cup of tea in many things, but the text that they author is pretty good and I just swerve round the odd pothole in the road.

Appleby on the Pennines
The trip home yesterday was glorious back to Cairnryan in Scotland to get the ferry back to Belfast. A total trip each way of 350 miles plus the sea journey. The trip over the Pennines from Scotch Corner to Penrith is breath taking. Even travelling all day didn't water down the holiday feeling any.  

All in all, a good time away, even if "a busman's holiday" and good to be back again and pretty relaxed. I am due to preach this Lord's Day and so on the only read wet day when we confined to the mobile home (graciously provided by a lady in the congeregation) I worked on the Lord's Day morning message. Still off the rest of this week, but will fit in another sermon preparation. 

So that's it for another while. 


Wednesday, 3 August 2016


(Apologies for the irregular font formations in this article. This is a gremlin in the works as I have tried on numerous occasions to fix them. Don't let them prevent you from reading the article and benefitting from it.) 


The  words that adorn mar the beginning of this article are attributed to one John Ryland Senior when William Carey, William Fuller and others of like mind spoke at a Minister's Fraternal meeting about seeking to convert the heathen in India and other places to saving faith in Jesus Christ. I have seen this story disputed (I forget the source at the moment) on the basis that Ryland never referred to it at all. Laurence Vance used the word "supposedly" in relation to it. I have read of the speech being"perhaps with some embellishment" (Sketches of Church History by SM Houghton, BOT) while Peter Masters from the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon's) in a public address indicated that, although basically true, the words are really a paraphrase of what was actually said.

If true (and I am not entertaining any doubts on the matter) then these words display a horrible Hyper Calvinistic spirit, totally inconsistent with true Biblical Calvinism. True, authentic Calvinism believes that when it pleases God to convert the heathen, not only will He raise up missionaries to go forth an reach them with the gospel, but that He has already displayed that pleasure and has already been raising up missionaries to fulfill His divine will and will continue so to do until the end of the age. John Calvin himself was a strong believer in the conversion of the heathen through gospel preaching. He wrote: 

 "It is no small consolation to godly teachers that, although the larger part of the world does not listen to Christ, He has His sheep whom He knows and by whom He is also known. They must do their utmost to bring the whole world into Christ's fold, but when they do not succeed as they would wish, they must be satisfied with the single thought that those who are sheep will be collected together by their work." (Comment on John 10:27)

Understandably - but only to a certain point - Ryland's words have been greedily seized upon by those who oppose Calvinism and who argue that it destroys the burden of evangelism and the need of world missions etc., However the story of William Carey is much bigger than one quote, paraphrased or otherwise, by  John Ryland Senior. If we are going to examine the role of the Calvinists in this incident, then please consider the following facts and then decide whether John Ryland Senior should be allowed to be the representative Calvinist as our opponents make him out to be. There is a certain shallowness and indeed injustice that seizes upon an individual quote and tries to effectively father it, or the thinking that lie behind it, on a whole school of thought.

* William Carey himself was a Five Point Calvinist. This important point is usually overlooked by those who repeat this incident to discredit Calvinism. David Cloud never bothers telling it. Laurence Vance, mentioned above, did so, but doggedly, and in my opinion very foolishly, fought on maintaining that Carey was an inconsistent Calvinist. I do not know what Dave Hunt wrote on the matter and I will hold my counsel until I gain more information.

* Carey's missionary friends were likewise Five Point Calvinists. Andrew Fuller was perhaps the best known among them - see below.

* The interest of Carey and his friends in missionary work was stirred, at least in part, by a book written by Jonathan Edwards of Northhampton, New England. Jonathan Edwards was another Five Point Calvinist and one of America's greatest soul winners, witnessing real, true revival in his church. Edward's book was entitled: "A humble attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God's people in extraordinary prayer for the revival of religion and the advancement of Christ's Kingdom on earth." There could hardly be a more practical outcome to this book than having men of Carey's zeal and calibre offering themselves for missionary service with the subsequent results.

* William Carey tells us that he drew inspiration from the soulwinning zeal of an earlier Calvinist missionary, David Brainerd. I quote:"I was much humbled today by reading Brainerd. Oh, what a disparity between me and him! He is alway constant, I am as inconstant as the wind! (Diary for April 19th, 1794) 

* Twelve ministers from Ryland's denomination formed the "Particular (Calvinistic) Baptist (Missionary) Society, sacrificially contributing the initial sum of £13 2s. 6dwhich was all they could afford. These men were all Five Point Calvinists. This society is still operating today.

* Five Point Calvinist, William Carey, one of the above twelve, had already published a small pamphlet urging Christians to use all the means at their disposal in missionary effort. This booklet was entitled: "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are Considered." The title is immediately followed by Paul's inspired missionary argument drawn from Romans 10: 10-15. 

* Five Point Calvinist Andrew Fuller published his book called "Gospel Worthy of all Exception." The Hyper Calvinists totally loathed it, but it was well received by those Calvinists of Calvin's own stamp. Later CH Spurgeon (another Five Point Calvinist) would refer to this book as a "classic of our faith" and mention it in the same breath as "Hodge's Outlines" and "Owen on the Spirit". Spurgeon also considered Fuller to be "the greatest theologian of his century" 
(cited Laws, Andrew Fuller, 127) and felt "so honoured" in the fact that he had been branded as a "Fullerite" (MTP: 12:68)  In the foreword of his book on the "Sovereignty of God" AW Pink referred to Fuller's name as "eminent and honored."

In all my reading of books on Calvinism or by Calvinist writers, I have never seen anyCalvinist since defend John Ryland Senior's remarks. We have all been so quick to put as much ground as we can between us on him on this issue.

* The practical refusal of those who oppose Calvinism to hardly acknowledge the existence of Hyper Calvinism (as opposed to real, authentic Calvinism) displays either gross ignorance of the subject or a desire to blacken the names and stands of good men. Phil Johnstone's primer on Hyper Calvinism is a good place to start. 

* Much opposition to Carey and friends came not only from the Hyper Calvinists but also from the Socinians whose presence and influence riddled many of the mainline denominations. However, all true Calvinists (and others) supported these men in their endeavours.

* It would be interesting to see a list of those who supported or encouraged these Five Point Calvinists in their soul winning work. We know that the Missionary Society in that hotbed of Five Point Calvinism in Princeton University wrote to encourage William Carey in 1821. John Calhoun in his History of Princeton records that the Princeton students wrote, "The different names by which we are known in the Christian church, and the different views we take of points not essential, will not be suffered to affect our feelings towards you, or to damp our joy at your success." 

* Why is it that those who are so opposed to the Doctrines of Grace are prepared to ignore the many examples of Calvinistic missionaries in order to highlight this one example of Ryland senior? If the definition of a missionary is one who leaves his homeland to preach the gospel in another, then Calvin himself was a missionary. Furthermore, his church in Geneva sent forth young men as missionaries to Brazil. These young Calvinists perished on the mission field. To say that any Calvinist missionary is the EXCEPTION rather than the rule (David Cloud's strange emphasis) is surely a non starter of an argument. Surely that can be said of missionaries from any doctrinal position? How many members does your denomination have? What percentage of them are on the mission field? Anything less than 50% of the membership being actively involved is the exception rather than the rule.

* We see similar tactics used by the enemies of Calvinism in regards to Spurgeon. Again, David Cloud likes to remind us all that many Hyper Calvinists opposed Spurgeon in his indiscriminate gospel appeals - except Cloud seems to have a phobia about using this term"Hyper Calvinists" and somewhat mischievously brands them as "Calvinists". What he doesn't tell his readers is that many prominent Five Point Calvinists agreed with Spurgeon, including the eminent Presbyterian John Kennedy of Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands (who brought Spurgeon to open his new church building) and many other Scots Presbyterians. ("Dinnae forget Spurgeon" was the cry of one Scots wife to her husband going  into the nearest market town) and other men like the Bonar brothers etc., Spurgeon's sermons saw great circulation, among Calvinists and non Calvinists alike, including the Five Point Calvinists in the Southern Presbyterian Church in the USA. It was only when Spurgeon criticised slavery that the sales fell somewhat in those quarters, but his warm evangelistic Calvinism matched their own and he was popular on that account. Incidentally, the Calvinists of today still love Spurgeon and seek to see his sermons circulated. 

This is a theme I would like to develope as more information becomes available. However, I believe I have done enough here to show that the Calvinists in the situation are best represented by Carey and his friends rather than by one man.