William Carey’s View of History

One of the complaints I sometimes hear from students is that their church history and Baptist history classes are not “practical” enough. Instead of asking, with Tertullian, “what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem,” many of them want to know what any of it has to do with Burnt Hickory Baptist Church. Many of these same students complain similarly about their theology, ethics, biblical languages, and philosophy classes. My response is always to try and convince my more pragmatically minded students that history actually has a unique role to play in their theological education and can lend practical help to any number of contemporary concerns.

As Timothy George likes to say, there is a whole lot that happened in church history between Jesus and your grandma. Because we have two thousand years of Christian history behind us (as well as 400 years of uniquely Baptist history), we do not have to repeat the same mistakes that have already been made. We do not have to commit the same theological errors. We do not have to get trapped in some of the same practical quandaries. Our 21st century ministries can be informed by our forefathers from previous centuries. We can learn from their mistakes, and we can benefit from their successes. Your ministry should not occur in an historical vacuum.

William Carey understood this well. The second section of Carey’s famous An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens was devoted to historical precursors in foreign mission. Carey discussed New Testament mission, medieval Catholic mission, Reformation mission, New England mission, and especially Moravian mission. Though he is often known as the “father of the modern missions movement,” Carey was keenly aware that he stood in continuity with a long tradition of Christian cross-cultural evangelism. And he applied his knowledge of history to both his personal piety and his ministry.

History influenced the missiology of Carey and his associates. Scholars argue that the Moravians, David Brainerd, and John Eliot were all taken into consideration when Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward drew up their famous Serampore Form of Agreement. In other words, Carey and friends understood that there was nothing new under the sun and they wanted to learn from the successes and failures of missionaries who had gone before them. History was used in the service of cross-cultural evangelism and church-planting.

In at least one case, history also served as an aid to Carey in his personal piety. Carey tells us in his journal and correspondence that he read regularly from David Brainerd’s famed diary. Like thousands of missionaries who have come after him, Carey found Brainerd a source of spiritual strength and missional inspiration. History was used in the service of personal piety.

My own desire is that we would use history in the same ways as Carey. As with Carey, ministry examples from the past have much to offer 21st century Baptists. We have much to learn from the preaching of John Chrysostom, Ulrich Zwingli, and B. H. Carroll. We have much to learn from the evangelistic zeal of Francis of Assisi, Pilgram Marpeck, and Daniel Taylor. We have much to learn from the pastoral theology of Martin Luther, Richard Baxter, and Andrew Fuller. And we have much to learn from the missionary zeal of St. Patrick, Adoniram Judson, and Samuel Zwemer.

Past saints also have much to contribute to our present pursuit of godliness. We need the devotional theology of Athansius, John Owen, and John Dagg. We need the fire of Savonarola, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon. We need the gospel-driven piety of John Bunyan, David Brainerd, and Robert Murray M’Cheyne. We need the same God-centered commitment to Christian scholarship as Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, and J. Gresham Machen.

William Carey resolutely believed that the sovereign Lord of all creation was moving history toward a glorious denouement when He will make all things new. Those who preceded Carey in the faith were a part of that history, even as he himself was a participant in all that God was doing to make His name great among the nations. You and I are also a part of that history, and it is my prayer that each of us will own Carey’s God-centered view of history as we seek to live rightly before God in our own time “between the times.”game download

Why We Believe Children Who Die Go to Heaven

WHY WE BELIEVE CHILDREN WHO DIE GO TO HEAVEN

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin

Few things in life are more tragic and heartbreaking than the death of a baby or small child. For parents, the grief can be overwhelming. For the minister, to stand over a small, white casket and provide comfort and support seems to ask for more than he can deliver.

Many console themselves with the thought that at least the child is now in a better place. Some believe small children who die become angels. They are certain these precious little ones are in heaven with God.

However, it is important for us both to ask and answer some important questions if we can. Do those who die in infancy go to heaven? How do we know? What evidence is there to support such a conclusion? Sentimentalism and emotional hopes and wants are not sufficient for those who live under the authority of the Word of God. We must, if possible, find out what God has said.

It is interesting to discover that the Church has not been of one mind on this issue. In fact, the early and medieval Church was anything but united. Some Church Fathers remained silent on the issue. Ambrose said unbaptized infants were not admitted to heaven, but have immunity from the pains of hell. Augustine basically affirmed the damnation of all unbaptized infants, but taught they would receive the mildest punishment of all. Gregory of Nyssa offered that infants who die immediately mature and are given the opportunity to trust Christ. Calvin affirmed the certain election of some infants to salvation and was open to the possibility that all infants who die are saved. He said, “Christ receives not only those who, moved by holy desire and faith, freely approach unto Him, but those who are not yet of age to know how much they need His grace.” Zwingli, B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge all taught that God saves all who die in infancy. This perspective has basically become the dominant view of the Church in the 20th century.

Yet, a popular evangelical theologian chided Billy Graham when at the Oklahoma City memorial service he said, “Someday there will be a glorious reunion with those who have died and gone to heaven before us, and that includes all those innocent children that are lost. They’re not lost from God because any child that young is automatically in heaven and in God’s arms.” The theologian scolded Dr. Graham for offering what he called “. . . a new gospel: justification by youth alone.”

It is our conviction that there are good reasons biblically and theologically for believing that God saves all who die who do not reach a stage of moral understanding and accountability. It is readily admitted that Scripture does not speak to this issue directly, yet there is evidence that can be gleaned that would lead us to affirm on biblical grounds that God receives into heaven all who have died in infancy. Some evidence is stronger than others, but cumulatively they marshall strong support for infant salvation. We will note six of them.

First, the grace, goodness and mercy of God would support the position that God saves all infants who die. This is the strongest argument and perhaps the decisive one. God is love (1 John 4:8) and desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). God is love and His concern for children is evident in Matthew 18:14 where Jesus says, “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” People go to hell because they choose in willful rebellion and unbelief to reject God and His grace. Children are incapable of this kind of conscious rejection of God. Where such rebellion and willful disobedience is absent, God is gracious to receive.

Second, when the baby boy who was born to David and Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:15-18), David did two significant things: 1) He confessed his confidence that he would see the child again and, 2) he comforted his wife Bathsheba (vs. 23-24). David could have done those two things only if he was confident that his little son was with God. Any other explanation does not do justice to the text.

Third, in James 4:17, the Bible says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” The Bible is clear that we are all born with a sin nature as a result of being in Adam (Roman 5:12). This is what is called the doctrine of original sin. However, the Scriptures make a distinction between original sin and actual sins. While all are guilty of original sin, moral responsibility and understanding is necessary for our being accountable for actual sins (Deuteronomy 1:30; Isaiah 7:16). It is to the one who knows to do right and does not do it that sin is reckoned. Infants are incapable of such decisions.

Fourth, Jesus affirmed that the kingdom of God belonged to little children (Luke 18:15-17). In the passage he is stating that saving faith is a childlike faith, but He also seems to be affirming the reality of children populating heaven.

Fifth, Scripture affirms that the number of saved souls is very great (Revelation 7:9). Since most of the world has been and is still non-Christian, might it be the untold multitude who have died prematurely or in infancy comprise a majority of those in heaven? Such a possibility ought not to be dismissed too quickly. In this context Charles Spurgeon said, “I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to paradise. Think what a multitude there is of them.”

Sixth, some in Scripture are said to be chosen or sanctified from the womb (1 Samuel 1:8-2:21; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15). This certainly affirms the salvation of some infants and repudiates the view that only baptized babies are assured of heaven. Neither Samuel, Jeremiah or John the Baptist was baptized.

After surveying these arguments, it is important for us to remember that anyone who is saved is saved because of the grace of God, the saving work of Jesus Christ and the undeserved and unmerited regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Like all who have ever lived, except for Jesus, infants need to be saved. Only Jesus can take away their sin, and if they are saved it is because of His sovereign grace and abounding mercy. Abraham said, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). We can confidently say, “Yes, He will.” When it comes to those incapable of volitional, willful acts of sin, we can rest assured God will, indeed, do right. Precious little ones are the objects of His saving mercy and grace.

CONCLUSION

On September 29, 1861, the great Baptist pastor, Charles Spurgeon, preached a message entitled “Infant Salvation.” In that message he chastened some critics who had “. . . wickedly, lyingly, and slanderously said of Calvinists that we believe that some little children perish.” Similar rumblings have been heard in some Baptist circles of late. Spurgeon affirmed that God saved little ones without limitation and without exception. He, then, as was his manner, turned to conclude the message with an evangelistic appeal to parents who might be lost. Listen to his plea:

Many of you are parents who have children in heaven. Is it not a desirable thing that you should go there too? And yet, have I not in these galleries and in this area some, perhaps many, who have no hope hereafter? . . . . Mother, unconverted mother, from the battlements of heaven your child beckons you to Paradise. Father, ungodly, impenitent father, the little eyes that once looked joyously on you, look down upon you now and the lips which had scarcely learned to call you “Father” ere they were sealed by the silence of death, may be heard as with a still, small voice, saying to you this morning, “Father, must we be forever divided by the great gulf which no man can pass?” If you wilt, think of these matters, perhaps the heart will begin to move, and the eyes may begin to flow and then may the Holy Spirit put before thine eyes the cross of the Savior . . . if thou wilt turn thine eye to Him, thou shalt live . . .

Little ones are precious in God’s sight. If they die, they go to heaven. Parents, who have trusted Jesus, who have lost a little one, if they have trusted Jesus, can be confident of a wonderful reunion someday. Are you hopeful of seeing again that little treasure God entrusted to you for such a short time? Jesus has made a way. Come to Him now and someday you will see them again.

[Note: This article and hundreds of other resources are available at http://www.danielakin.com.]

mobile online game

A Theologically-Driven Missiology (Pt. 3: The Triune God)

Note: This series of posts deals with the relationship between doctrine and practice in general, and between theology and missiology in particular. It argues that sound theology should provide the starting point, trajectory, and parameters for missiological practice. It seeks a “theologically-driven” missiology both for the United States and international contexts.

The doctrine of God is absolutely central to all of the church’s life. Ironically, however, we seem to have the most difficult time allowing this doctrine to drive our practice. How does such a lofty and majestic doctrine speak to concrete and even mundane practices? How do God’s Trinitarian nature, His creativity and His sovereignty affect our strategies and methods? To begin with, here are several:

God as Trinity

One of the central tasks of proclamation is to communicate the gospel across cultures and across languages. We are called to communicate the precious truth of a God who took on human flesh, who lived and died and rose again, and who will return and bring with him a new heavens and a new earth. And we are called to do so with people who speak different languages and who live in cultures far removed from our own.

This challenge lies at the heart of missiology. Entire forests have been chopped down to make way for the books, articles, and essays on cross-cultural communication and contextualization. But nearly all of these publications fail to recognize that the success of this enterprise rests squarely on the shoulders of the Triune God. In fact, the Trinity is a model of accomplished communication. The Triune God is God the Father (the One who speaks), God the Son (the Word), and God the Spirit (the one who illumines and guides and teaches); God the Father speaks through His Son and we as humans are enabled to hear and understand that communication by His Spirit. The Trinity is a demonstration, contra Derrida and others, that accomplished communication is possible.

God as Creator & King

It is God who created this world in which we minister and God who gave us the capacities to minister. As Creator, he gave us the world in which we now live, and it is a good world. It is ontologically good and-although it is morally corrupt-we ought to use any and all aspects of God’s world to bring Him glory. We are able, like Abraham Kuyper, bring the gospel to bear upon the arts, the sciences, and the public square. We may, as Martin Luther urged, bring the gospel to bear upon our multiple callings-workplace, family, church, and community. In short, we have the great opportunity to give God glory across the fabric of human existence and in every dimension of human culture.

Indeed, it is God who made us in his image, capable of being spiritual, moral, rational, relational, and creative. Although it is Jesus Christ who is Himself the image of God (Col 1:15), we human beings are made in the image of God. Moreover, salvation includes the conforming of sinful men to the image of the Son (Rom 8:29), in which we are remade into the image of our Creator (Col 3:10). The gospel, therefore, affects all aspects of man in the image of God, and further all aspects of man in the image of God ought to be used to minister in God’s world.

Furthermore, it is this same God who claims sovereignty over all of his creation, and directs His church’s mission to extend across all of creation. He is the Lord over every tribe, tongue, tongue, people, and nation-over every type of person who has ever lived across the span of history and the face of the globe. And he is the Lord over every facet of human life-over the artistic, the scientific, the philosophical, the economic, and the socio-political. “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1).

God and His Name

The Scriptures describe how God does all that He does for the sake of His name, for His renown, for His glory. He created man for his glory (Is 43:7) and chose Israel for His glory (Is 49:3). God delivered Israel from Egypt for His name’s sake (Ps 106:7-8) and restored them from exile for his glory (Is 48:9-11). He sent our Lord Jesus Christ so that the Gentiles would give Him glory (Ro 15:8-9) and then vindicated His glory by making propitiation through His Son (Rom 3:23-26). He sent the Spirit to glorify the Son (Jn 16:14) and tells us to do all things for His glory (1 Cor 10:31). He will send his Son again to receive glory (2 Thess 1:9-10) and will fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory (Hab 2:14; Is 6:1-3). Indeed, all of this is so, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10).

Indeed God in all of his blazing glory stands at the center of the universe. He is the fountainhead of all truth, all goodness, and all beauty. And it is the increase of His glory that is God’s ultimate goal and man’s ultimate purpose.

One implication of this for mission is that we have the great joy of proclaiming that God’s goal to be glorified enables man’s purpose, which is to be truly satisfied. The Psalmist writes, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Ps 63:1). Man’s deepest thirst turns out to be God’s highest goal-for man to bring glory to God in all that He does. The road toward pleasing God and giving Him glory and the road toward knowing deep happiness are not two roads; they are one. The message we bring to the nations is one that, for them, is profoundly good news.

Another implication of this for the missional Christian is that if our ultimate goal is God’s glory, then we are set free from unbridled pragmatism. Our ultimate goal is to please God, not to manipulate or coerce professions of faith, church growth, or church multiplication. And so, we are directed away from the temptation to engage in evangelism and discipleship that subverts the gospel or the health of the church, and are free to proclaim the gospel God’s way and leave the results to God.

God’s Mission

Finally, and this point will be expanded upon at a later time, mission finds its origin in God. Mission is God-centered rather than man-centered, being rooted in God’s gracious will to glorify Himself. Mission is defined by God. It is organized, energized, and directed by God. Ultimately, it is accomplished by God. The church cannot understand her mission apart from the mission of God.