You’ll see in my blogroll a link to The Shooting Salvationist Blog. In case you missed my post a few weeks ago, there’s a book on the verge of being released focusing on the murder trial of Texas Independent Fundamental Baptist leader and former pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, J. Frank Norris. My faith in Christ began and was early nurtured in a church founded by a pastor who studied under Norris, and so did David Stokes, the author of the upcoming The Shooting Salvationist–I here in Ft. Worth, and Stokes up in Detroit, Michigan, where Norris would eventually co-pastor Temple Baptist Church with Baptist Bible College founder G. Beauchamp Vick.
Anyway, I just noticed at The Shooting Salvationist site that author David Stokes has posted a video interview about his book. This post is primarily to share the link to this interview which may be watched here. Stokes also just posted today that on July 18, just a few days after the book is released on July 12, 2011, he will be at Book People in Austin for a speaking/signing event which will be broadcast on C-SPAN Book TV (I’ll update this post when I get a date for the broadcast).
This book had been previously released under a different title, which is no longer available. But if you’d like to see what I wrote about Norris and the story of his notorious public ministry (celebrated by many “Old Fashioned Fundamental Baptists”) and murder trial, click on the category “J. Frank Norris” in my sidebar or here.
Teaching of the Decalogue’s Preface
44. What doth the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us?
A. The preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all of his commandments (Luke 1:74-75; 1 Peter1:14-19).
Blest Are the Undefiled
(play file 557 in “T&D mp3″ sidebar widget)
Blest are the undefiled in heart,
Whose ways are right and clean,
Who never from the law depart,
But fly from ev’ry sin.
Blest are the men who keep your word
And practice your commands;
With their whole heart they seek the Lord,
And serve you with their hands.
Great is their peace who love your law;
How firm their souls abide!
Nor can a bold temptation draw
Their steady feet aside.
Then shall my heart have inward joy,
And keep my face from shame,
When all your statutes I obey,
And honor all your name.
One of the many factors that won me over to embrace Reformed theology and practice was the fascinating Trinity Hymnal (c. 1990). Back when I worked at what I endearingly call “The Reformation Station,” the print shop where God cornered me after years of on-again, off-again confrontation by the TULIP and other aspects of Reformed belief and behavior, I had the opportunity to print the bulletins for a local PCA church, which would include in its liturgy hymns selected from the Trinity Hymnal, printed in the bulletin, music and all! For this reason, there was a copy of the hymnal in the office, which they could use to prepare those bulletins, and which I could peruse from time to time and thereby enter the world of Reformed psalmody and English hymnody, and further tie my heart to my future spiritual and theological home in the Reformed tradition.
Due to my abundance of affection for the Trinity Hymnal, I was very pleased to notice that I wouldn’t have to wait long to learn its history in Daryl Hart’s OPC history, Between the Times: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Transition, 1945-1990 (c. 2011, The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church). The reader of this volume is treated to the story of the hymnal in chapter two, under the simple title, “Trinity Hymnal, 1944-1961.” Here’s a synopsis of what you’re in for if you purchase Hart’s history.
In 1933, the PCUSA revised their hymnal, dropping 400 traditional hymns in favor of songs that reflect the liberalizing trend in the mainline denomination. J. Gresham Machen knew this was a problem. Reasoning from the old adage that the laity learn more theology from singing hymns than from systematic theology, he resolved that something had to be done about it. In the Lord’s providence, from the seed of this thought process on the part of Machen in response to the PCUSA’s threat to further corrupt the doctrine of rank and file Presbyterians, until the final publication of the Trinity Hymnal, a truly orthodox Presbyterian hymnal, 28 years would come and go. But what a glorious harvest of sound theology and biblical doxology would result from such a careful process of cultivation and fertilization.
With this opening anecdote, Dr. Hart surveys the history of American Presbyterian hymnals. Since the first one rolled off the press in 1831 there had been an average of one new hymnal per decade due to the number of controversies and divisions within the PCUSA between 1831 and 1961 (the date of Trinity Hymnal’s eventual publication). Although it would not be published under the auspices of the liberal mainline denomination, the Trinity Hymnal shares this common origin with its predecessors in the crucible of theological controversy. For this reason, it would be compiled with a commitment to aid the worship of the church in accordance with eternal truths, not contemporary trends.
American Presbyterians also produced so many hymnals so frequently because Reformed and Presbyterian practice regarding the Word of God sung as an element of corporate worship was undergoing a transformation from the Scottish and Dutch commitment to exclusive psalmody, to embrace the English hymnody of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley and others, in order to better respond to the gospel of Christ in terms of the full revelation of Christ in both Testaments.
Much discussion among the members of the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God over the propriety of this historic move away from the stance of earlier Reformed churches would consume a number of General Assemblies between 1944 and 1961. Dr. Hart reports for us the discussions between the “foreign” element of “psalm-singers” on the committee lead by the Scottish John Murray and his cadre of Scottish and Dutch dissenters and the more Americanized majority who would eventually prevail in the appropriation of English hymn into the practice of not only orthodox Presbyterians in general, but the OPC in particular.
With the conclusion of this discussion would arise more rubber-meets-the-road problems like financing the hymnal. We learn the various ideas considered and how the Lord would provide just in time, enabling them to pay off the loans obtained to supplement the giving of Orthodox Presbyterians toward this end, neither too soon, nor too late.
Finally, the reader is pleased to learn just how successful the hymnal was once it hit the market. There really was a need for just such a hymnal among many conservative Protestants outside the OPC.
Chapter two of Hart’s Between the Times is a joy to read, especially if you love the Trinity Hymnal as much as this reviewer does. But with the recent 78th General Assembly of the OPC, we learn that the work of compiling psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to aid the worship of the Reformed is to march forward as it was announced that the OPC will be teaming up with the URCNA to publish a new Psalter-Hymnal in the years to come. I believe there will be enough love in my heart for both of these hymnals to share!
Here’s a helpful paragraph from D. G. Hart’s new history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), released at the 78th General Assembly of the OPC two weeks ago in celebration of the OPC’s 75th anniversary. Here, Hart describes J. Gresham Machen’s reasons for objecting to Princeton Seminary President, J. Ross Stevensons proposal at the 1920 General Assembly of the PCUSA “for a grand plan to unite the largest Protestant denominations into one denomination” (p. 16). Hart writes:
The disadvantage of the plan for union, as Machen and most of his Princeton colleagues pointed out, was that by entering into a united church, Presbyterians would be abandoning those aspects of Protestantism that made them Presbyterian. If predestination, infant baptism, and Presbyterian polity, for instance, were actually revealed in God’s word as true and necessary for faithful witness, how could Presbyterians give away their teaching and practice to join with Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians in a generic Protestant church? The other problem with organic union, as Machen argued in a series of articles for church periodicals, was that it was based upon doctrinal indifferentism. Union turned away from serious doctrinal and ecclesiastical differences among Protestants and implied that these were less important than the greater good that a united church could achieve by transforming American society. Opposition to this sort of ecumenism, which was directly linked to the Social Gospel’s goal of ushering in the kingdomof God, was precisely the impetus for Machen’s important book, Christianity and Liberalism (1923). Not only did he argue that Christianity and liberalism were two different religions, and so liberalism needed to be excluded from the church. Machen also showed how American Protestant interdenominational cooperation stemmed from an indifference to Christian teaching and so distorted the gospel into a message of works righteousness.
D. G. Hart, Between the Times: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Transition, 1945-1990 (2011, The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,Willow Grove,PA), pp. 16-17. opc.org/publications.html Check out Hart’s blog, Old Life: Reformed Faith and Practice.
In all my searching and discussing the issue of the interpretation of the days of creation in Genesis 1, Google directed me to a statement from Westminster Theological Seminary declaring the results of their research into the history of how this issue has been treated by the leaders of the Augustinian and Reformed traditions going all the way back to Augustine himself. The statement is called, “Westminster Theological Seminary and the Days of Creation.“
The discussion among Presbyterians revolves around the reasons the Westminster Divines selected the language they did in when they framed the chapter on Creation in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The phrase in question will be highlighted in the following citation:
I. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.
The question is raised as to why the wording “in the space of six days.” Why not simply “in six days”? The statement explains:
“The paraphrase view is doubtful because if the Standards had intended simply to utilize biblical language, “in six days” would have sufficed and been a more natural choice. The words “the space of,” as the other view above recognizes, seem deliberately chosen as an interpretive or clarifying addition that functions both to affirm and to exclude or negate.
To make the long story short, the statement concludes that the divines intended to exclude Augustine’s view that God created everything instantaneously inspiring the six days, as Calvin described the view (which he did not hold), “for the mere purpose of conveying instruction.” You can read more about this discussion in the statement itself. You can link to it from the title above, and I have also added a link to the page on my “Recommended Sites” page for future reference.
Finally, here’s a quote that sums up the entire issue as they see it. I find it rather helpful:
With Augustine and E. J. Young, the revered teacher of our senior faculty members, we recognize that the exegetical question of the length of the days of Genesis 1 may be an issue which cannot be, and therefore is not intended by God to be, answered in dogmatic terms. To insist that it must comes dangerously close to demanding from God revelation which he has not been pleased to bestow upon us, and responding to a threat to the biblical world view with weapons that are not crafted from the words which have proceeded out of the mouth of God.