"AS I SEE
Volume 4, Number 7, July 2001
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
MUSIC IN THE CHURCH: SOME PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS
I am no expert in music. I cannot
read music, nor can I play any musical instrument. I had a couple months of
piano lessons when I was 8, but they were torture to me and I am sure to the
teacher as well; I later tried for a time to learn piano in high school and made
small progress. I can pick out a tune on the piano with some difficulty. I can
sing a bit, and back in the 70s served 6 months as an interim song-leader in a
church in Ohio.
With such small qualifications, what business do I have expressing an opinion about music in the church? First, consider what Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) stated, "You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables." Similarly, one need not be a musician to be able to distinguish good music from bad. Furthermore, to justify myself, let it be noted that the issue of music in the church is first of all and pre-eminently a theological matter, and in this regard I have both a great interest and, I believe, adequate qualifications to express an informed opinion. In addition, since I have traveled a great deal in my ministry, I have been able to observe the good, the bad, and the ugly in church music in numerous churches in the States and in four foreign countries, gaining some perspective which others may not have. And, while I am not gifted at making music, I am experienced at knowing what kind of music stirs my soul and what kind offends my sensibilities, and why it is so in each case.
I will not endeavor to prove that music has a place in the church. It is a self-evident truth, if one has even a minimum amount of perception. Jesus and the Eleven sang a Psalm before departing for Gethsemane. Paul commands the believers at Ephesus to speak to themselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, to sing and make melody in their hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). The glorified believers in heaven are constantly singing (Revelation 5:9). The legacy of spiritual blessing derived from suitable Christian music is abundant historically and need not detain us. Nor will the question of the use of instruments in the church be addressed. Instruments string, wind and percussion were employed in the temple, and may be assumed to be suitable for Christian use as well (though far more discretion is warranted in the use of instruments than is commonly witnessed). Such being said, we plunge into our subject.
All music in the church under whatever varied circumstances must have as its ultimate purpose the glorifying of God and not man. It is worthy of note, that after Paul told the Ephesian believers to speak to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, he further defined what he meant by adding, "Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord," which I take to mean that God and not man is to be the chief focus of our Christian music. And to this clause Paul adds "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything," (Ephesians 5:19, 20). Gratitude toward God, then, should have a large part in that music. This purpose--glorifying God--may be manifested in a variety of ways; or, inversely, it may be negated in a variety of ways.
The first consideration in evaluating any Christian music is this: do the words, the lyrics, express biblically accurate and theologically correct truth? One fundamental purpose of Christian music is instruction, that is, the teaching and re-enforcing of Biblical doctrine. It is obvious, at least to me, that it is wrong to teach through music what is not biblically true. I care not how touching or beautiful the words or music, if a song expresses sentiments or affirms doctrines contrary to the teaching of the Bible, it is not suitable for Christian use. Period. Just as it is wrong to teach or preach heresy or false doctrine from the pulpit, so it is wrong to sing or play it. As a consequence, every hymn or song must be carefully evaluated for its doctrinal content. Many hymns, songs, and choruses are used as a matter of course without any such careful examination.
(There was a remarkable and appalling example at the closing ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 of the mass stupidity of people in singing words they cannot possibly believe. Multiplied thousands joined in unison singing John Lennon's song "Imagine," though even the most cursory examination of the words would reveal the message of the song to be nothing but atheistic Marxism from start to finish. Yet this congregation of mindless fools sang it with gusto. How many Baptist church members "in good standing" were among them?)
I must note that there are numerous hymns and songs in commonly used hymnals that teach false doctrine, and as a consequence, I refuse to sing them when they are included in a song service. Let me note some examples (these are merely those that came first to mind out of the many). I will not sing the chorus to "We've a Story to Tell to the Nations" because it plainly teaches post-millennialism, that is, that the Christian message will gradually win over the entire world, following which Christ will return to earth. As a committed and convinced pre-millennialist, I won't sing what I do not sincerely believe.
Or, consider "The Church's One Foundation"--it teaches baptismal regeneration in the words "it is his new creation by water and the word." I won't sing heresy. And if you reject, as I do, the notion of a universal invisible church, you won't want to sing "elect from every nation but one o'er all the earth."
And there is the not-all-that-scriptural Christmas carol, "Silent Night," which speaks of "radiant beams from thy holy face," which is pure nonsense. There was no unearthly glow to Jesus' human face (except when specifically transfigured in Matthew 17 and Revelation 1). "Away in a Manger" has the absurd "no crying He makes." There is nothing necessarily sinful about infants crying--it is their only way to communicate the presence of pain or the need for food or for being changed or burped. I have no doubt that the infant Jesus cried for such reasons like any other genuinely human child.
And there is "The King is Coming," one of Bill Gaither's signature songs. I challenge anyone to find anything anywhere in the Bible that describes the Second Coming of Christ in the serene sentimental imagery Gaither concocted. Rather, it is uniformly described as a time of great wrath, judgment and destruction for unbelievers. Some assert further that Gaither also presents a sort of post-tribulationism in this song. Whatever the case, it is not Bible-based in its imagery.
And I note that nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus died on a hill, though we have dozens of songs that affirm it. The evidence is that Jesus died on a cross erected along the road just outside the Damascus Gate of the city of Jerusalem--where the passing masses could be closely and visibly warned of the consequences of running afoul of Roman law and justice. The tradition that Jesus died "on a hill far away" arose in the fourth century A.D. as an accommodation to the mis-identification and mis-location of Calvary/Golgotha at the present site of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is located, contrary to Scripture, inside the walls of ancient Jerusalem. I cringe when I hear affirmations of "up Calvary's mountain." Call me a stickler for Biblical precision. I plead guilty as charged.
And not only must a song not teach false doctrine, it must positively affirm true doctrine. And just here is the failing of a great deal of modern "Christian" music--it is about as devoid of solid Biblical teaching as a Robert Schuller sermon. Instead of Bible-based truth, it affirms a mushy sentimentality. Consider as an example the second verse of "Because He Lives"--"How sweet to hold a newborn baby," etc. Pure sentimental slop that has nothing whatsoever to do with great truth that Christ lives today. Such thread-bare, anemic lyrics are not unique to the modern age, but can be found at all periods, though they seem to find more willing acceptance today than in the past. My problem with many popular choruses of the present day is not that they are choruses (after all, "The Hallelujah Chorus" is to my mind the greatest piece of music and words ever composed, and which has no rival), but they are either devoid of real content or affirm things that are not Biblically so. I have stood stoically silent more than once when some such ill-considered chorus was being forced on the congregation, though I normally sing at full volume. I find highly offensive choruses that seem to show a too great familiarity with God, rather than standing in awe of Him.
I very much prefer the kind of solid Biblical content commonly expressed in hymns by Charles Wesley. His "Hark, the Herald" is to me the finest of Christmas songs, not because it is 250 years old but because its every sentiment and practically every word comes straight from Scripture. It is genuinely and thoroughly Biblical. Likewise for his great "And Can It Be?" No one could ever mistake that for something Bill Gaither has written.
I do find some Christian music from all periods including the present era that passes the "content" test, but a great deal cranked out today fails on this point miserably. We rob and debase ourselves by tolerating such inferior stuff, while neglecting that which is far better. My soul has been often stirred by that great missions hymn of a few years back, "So Send I You" but it is sadly neglected in the churches these days, perhaps because it speaks the truth about necessary self-sacrifice, a thing sadly "out of step" with the modern spirit of self-indulgence and "me-first"ism. Any careful analysis of modern choruses and hymns will reveal that the primary of subject of much of it is "me" and not "God."
It should go without saying, but needs affirming that there must be a certain congruity between the words and the music (the Greek philosopher Plato affirmed as much in his famous work The Republic). I recall that as a newly-converted teen-ager in a Southern Baptist Church ca. 1970, we were taught by the youth pastor to sing "Amazing Grace" to the tune of "The House of the Rising Sun," a rock song by the Animals about a man whose life is ruined in a brothel in New Orleans. This is massively incongruous and utterly degrading to Newton's great hymn. And there was the case of more recent occurrence of the youth pastor in an independent Baptist church of my acquaintance who chose as his Sunday school class theme song the theme music to the TV program "Cheers," (…where everybody knows your name") an 80s and 90s sitcom which focused regularly on adultery and drunkenness as chosen themes. I can only ask, "What were these guys thinking, or were they thinking at all?"
Yet another factor in music is the matter of balance. Even good music, over-emphasized, or given too prominent a place in church services is a spiritual detriment rather than an encouragement. Music, assuming that it is of the proper sort, is on the one hand not be treated as an unwelcome step-sister, or something to serve as a mere segue between announcements and sermon, or to mask congregational noise while the offering is being taken. It can have a very positive, up-lifting place. Spurgeon understood this and made it a point to personally and with great care select the hymns to be sung at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, so that they would enhance the sermon and not detract from it. But on the other hand I must ask, is a regular schedule of 12 or 13 choruses, hymns, and specials before the sermon evidence of balance, especially when the public reading of the Bible finds no place at all in the Lord's Day services of most fundamentalist churches? Are we trying to entertain people into the kingdom of God? Someone has lost sight of something somewhere.
And then there is the matter of "specials" and "performers" (I frankly dislike the contemporary term "worship leaders." For the most part, I don't need anyone to lead me in worship; instead in too many cases I very much needed for them to get out of the way so I can worship God!). All too frequently it is not a case of singing from the heart and singing to the Lord (as Ephesians 5:19 requires) but of singing for the accolades and praise of men. I personally refuse to clap for any musical performance by anyone in the church. If the music has been a blessing, an audible "amen" may be appropriate, but a round of applause--or worse, a standing ovation--smacks of the world and the praise of men, and for me breaks any mood of worship the music might have created. (I've thought that perhaps the way to break a congregation of a clapping habit would be to hook the auditorium lights to "the Clapper").
And may I step outside the church doors and speak to the issue of the "Christian" entertainment industry? Call me intolerant, but I would not walk across the street to see a single famous Christian "recording artist" perform. There is a consistent legacy of a carefully manufactured public image that seems wholesome and Christian but a reality that is wholly at odds with the image. I can recall when the Oakridge Boys were a big-name "Christian" group (all the while drinking and smoking back stage before performances), until they discovered there was more money in country & western music. And shall I mention Amy Grant (given a lot of promotion by Billy Graham), or Sandi Patti (whom friends assured me was "genuine"), or the nameless (to me) "Dove" award winner who several years ago turned in his award a week after receiving it, confessing in the process that he was an adulterer. And I could mention the member of "White Heart" that was arrested--and found guilty--of child molestation. Why even Pat Boone admitted to at least seven adulterous relationships all the while singing sweet hymns to the gullible Christian public. Examples could be multiplied. Frauds, phonies, hypocrites. No thanks.
Even in churches, people of lives inconsistent with the words they sing are sometimes allowed to sing from the church platform, representing--or really, misrepresenting--both God and the church. Years ago I was a member of a church in which a couple sang a Sunday night "special" though the man was known, even by the pastor, to be an active adulterer. We did not remain in that church long. No one of markedly inconsistent life should sing on stage, either in the choir or "specials."
One feature that absolutely ruins the possibility of any spiritual value coming from choir or special numbers is inattention to the matter of the volume level at which musical accompaniment is played. All too frequently the instruments--usually the bass guitar and drums, if used--are at such a high decibel level that the words of the song are drowned out. More than once, I have felt the walls and floor of a church vibrate from the force of the bass and drums with no possibility for me to understand the words sung. Unless I am sadly mistaken, it is the words that are of utmost importance, but if the loudness of the music makes the words unintelligible, the whole is an exercise in futility (cf. I Corinthians 14:6-11) and we would be better served by silence.
Finally, what say I of "canned" music, that is, of taped accompaniment? Some object to it because those who make such tapes are in some cases unbelievers. This is not wholly different that objecting to using a microphone because some unbeliever made that, or refusing to use sheet music because an unbeliever printed it. My objection to canned music, while not an absolute one, is that it has far less impact than a "live" performance (if you doubt this, ask yourself why people will spend $30, $40, even $50 to hear some famous musician "live" while they could buy his CDs for a fraction of the price and hear them over and over again). Second, much of the taped music is played vastly too loud, with the inevitable consequence of unintelligibility. A live and spiritually-minded musician is always to be preferred.
Music of the right kind in the right proportion can and will be a spiritual blessing. Of the wrong kind, in the wrong proportion can and will be a curse. Let us exercise discernment in this regard.
FOOTNOTES TO THE PREVIOUS ISSUE
In our previous issue (4:6), we commended and published the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship resolution of 1995 regarding Bible texts and translations. We have been informed that the wording of the resolution is chiefly the work of Dr. James Singleton of Tempe, Arizona, a fact which comes as no great surprise to us, judging from the high quality of other writings from his pen which we have read in the past.
Regarding the biography of E. W. Bullinger by Juanita Carey which we reviewed, one reader reported that he possessed the first edition (we reviewed the second) and in it, Carey dedicated the book to Victor Paul Wierwille, the founder of the Arian cult "The Way." The reader suggested that because that cult, which Carey seems to be in some way associated with, teaches soul sleep, such a belief in the theology of Bullinger would not have struck her as odd or worth mentioning. It might be worthwhile to see in what other ways the first edition differs from the second. I wonder if Kregel is aware of Carey's Wierwille connection? When they published D. O. Fuller's Which Bible?, they were unaware that almost half of that book was the work of an Adventist.
"Every Tub Must Sit on Its Own Bottom"
When I lived in Cincinnati, my good friend Rick Iles and I once discussed famous non-Scripture "Scripture," that is, those quotations which are commonly ascribed to the Bible, but which are nowhere to be found in the sacred volume. One I mentioned in our discussion was that favorite of those who "trust in themselves that they are righteous," namely, "God helps those who help themselves." I have heard this quoted with all seriousness as "from the Bible" many times (even by one of my grandmothers) though when challenged, no one could show its location. Indeed, it is a serious corruption and inversion of the great truth that "When we were without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6). God does indeed NOT "help those who help themselves;" rather, He helps the helpless who acknowledge themselves to be so.
Rick contributed a non-Scripture "Scripture" commonly quoted among hill-people in Kentucky: "Every tub must sit on its own bottom." When he told me this, I was quite sure that he was pulling my leg--it doesn't even sound like the Bible! Nevertheless, he assured me that it was commonly quoted as Scripture. Some while later, I ran across this quotation in John Bunyan's famous allegory, A Pilgrim's Progress, and immediately understood the widespread attribution of the quote to the Bible. In earlier days when books was rare, a pioneer home, if it had any books at all, was usually limited to little if any more that a Bible, a copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and Bunyan's A Pilgrim's Progress, and those who read only these books could easily and inadvertently ascribe things found in one to one of the others, hence Bunyan's sentence began to be credited to Scripture. Bunyan's exact quotation is: "Presumption said, Every fat [vat] must stand upon his own bottom."
There is a bit more to the story, which we shall here briefly relate. Bunyan published his book in 1678, but the quote about the tub or vat was not original with him; it was indeed a common English proverb of his and earlier times. Burton Stevenson in his massive, erudite and exceptionally valuable The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Familiar Phrases (New York: MacMillan, 1948) [see our discussion of this and other valuable books of quotations in As I See It, 3:6, June, 2000], traces this quote back a century before Bunyan. John Ray, in English Proverbs (1670), p. 102, is quoted as writing, "Every tub must stand upon its own bottom. Every man must give an account for himself." Before him, John Clarke in Paroemiologia, p. 66 wrote, "Every tub must stand upon his own bottom." And before him, Gervase Babington wrote in 1583 in his Exposition of the Commandments, vi, p. 53, "They would have every fatte [vat] . . . stand on his own bottom." And ultimately, we discover that William Bullein in 1564, A Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence, p. 65, wrote, "Let euerie Fatte [vat] stande vpon his owne bottome." Not the bon mot of Paul, Peter or John, nor one of the Old Testament prophets, and not even Bunyan, originally, but one William Bullein, a noted physician and prolific writer on medical subjects. Thus Burton Stevenson traces this non-Scripture "Scripture" back a century before Bunyan.
THE PROVIDENTIAL PRESERVATION OF SCRIPTURE:
THE VIEWS OF BENTLEY, DABNEY AND KENYON
No Biblically-conservative writer that I know of denies that God has preserved His inspired written word in the copying process of the past many centuries. However, there are two distinct views afield today as to what is meant by Divine preservation of Scripture. On the one hand, those in the more extreme wing of the "King James Only" camp insist on the precise and perfect verbal preservation in a specific Greek or Hebrew text, or in a particular translation (in English, of course), though they are rather short on specifics as to which ONE Greek or Hebrew manuscript or printed edition, or which ONE edition of the KJV is THE perfectly preserved--to the very jots and tittles preserved--edition.
On the other hand is the view which has been dominant in Christian history, especially among conservative scholars expert in matters of the text and translation of Scriptures, namely, that God's preservation has been general and providential, that God has allowed no doctrinal corruption of the text in the copying and translating process, though not preserving scribes and translators from any errors whatsoever as they performed their work. In short, the doctrinal integrity and reliability of the text has not been compromised. In previous issues of AISI, we have run sound and judicious quotations emphasizing this point from such respected authorities as T. H. Horne, F. H. A. Scrivener, J. W. Burgon and J. L. Dagg (see AISI 2:3, and 4:2). To these we add the considered opinions of men from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, namely Sir Richard Bentley, Robert L. Dabney, and Sir Frederic G. Kenyon.
Sir Richard Bentley (1662-1742), universally acclaimed as one of the greatest classical scholars of all time, and a defender of the Scriptures against the attacks of deism, is referred to by F. H. A Scrivener on this subject:
"On a point of such vital moment I am glad to cite the well-known and powerful remark of the great Bentley, at once the profoundest and the most daring of English critics: 'The real text of the sacred writers does not now (since the originals have been so long lost) lie in any MS. or edition, but is dispersed in them all. 'Tis competently exact indeed in the worst MS. now extant; nor is one article of faith or moral precept either perverted or lost in them; choose as awkwardly as you will, choose the worst by design, out of the whole lump of readings.' And again: 'Make your 30,000 [variations] as many more, if numbers of copies can ever reach that sum: all the better to a knowing and a serious reader, who is thereby more richly furnished to select what he sees genuine. But even put them into the hands of a knave or a fool, and yet with the most sinistrous and absurd choice, he shall not extinguish the light of any one chapter, nor so disguise Christianity, but that every feature of it will still be the same.' " [footnoted by Scrivener as from "Remarks upon a late Discourse of Free Thinking by Phileleutherus Lipsiensis," Part I, Section 32] Scrivener goes on to add, "Thus hath God's Providence kept from harm the treasure of His written word, so far as is needful for the quiet assurance of His church and people." (F. H. A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co., 1883, 3rd edition. Pp. 6-7)
Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) was a leading conservative Southern Presbyterian theologian in mid- to late-19th century America. Though his knowledge of NT textual criticism was neither accurate nor extensive, as a proponent the textus receptus (vs. Westcott-Hort) text, he shows that those in that camp likewise saw no theological peril in the revised Greek text:
"This received text contains undoubtedly all the essential facts and doctrines intended to be set down by the inspired writers; for if it were corrected with the severest hand, by the light of the most divergent various readings found in any ancient MS. or version, not a single doctrine of Christianity, nor a single cardinal fact would be thereby expunged. . . .If all the debated readings were surrendered by us, no fact or doctrine of Christianity would thereby be invalidated, and least of all would the doctrine of Christ's proper divinity be deprived of adequate scriptural support. Hence the interests of orthodoxy are entirely secure from and above the reach of all movements of modern criticism of the text whether made in a correct or incorrect method, and all such discussions in future are to the church of subordinate importance." ("The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek," in Discussions by Robert L. Dabney: Theological and Evangelical, vol. I, edited by G. R. Vaughn. Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle, 1982 reprint. Pp. 351, 389).
I do not quote Dabney because of the superiority of his knowledge on the subject of the text of the New Testament--indeed, I have found his knowledge of the whole to be seriously defective in many particulars--but because, as a defender of the textus receptus against the revisions of Westcott and Hort, even he recognized that it was not a theological issue, and that the so-called critical text resulted in no doctrinal alteration to the New Testament.
Among the pre-eminent British experts in the first half of the 20th century on the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament was Sir Frederic G. Kenyon (1863-1952). In discussing the differences between the traditional and the Alexandrian text-types, in the light of God's providential preservation of His words, he wrote, "We may indeed believe that He would not allow His Word to be seriously corrupted, or any part of it essential to man's salvation to be lost or obscured; but the differences between the rival types of text is not one of doctrine. No fundamental point of doctrine rests upon a disputed reading: and the truths of Christianity are as certainly expressed in the text of Westcott and Hort as in that of Stephanus" (Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. London: MacMillan and Co., 1901. P. 271)
These sober and sensible judgments from three decidedly diverse thinkers stand in marked contrast to the almost manic hysteria found in the writings of some detractors of critical texts who write as though such texts were a Pandora's box of heresy. In truth, all text families are orthodox, and a person could choose at random any one of the more than 1,500 distinct printed editions of the Greek New Testament without the least concern that God's truth was somehow missing from that text. A dispassionate evaluation of evidence is very much to be preferred to the emotionally charged tirades that characterize much of the current discussion.
THE LIFE OF JOHN CALVIN by Theodore Beza. Evangelical Press, 1997. 144 pp., paperback. $10.99
This modern English translation of Theodore Beza's centuries' old biographical sketch of John Calvin is of particular interest because it is written from personal acquaintance and knowledge, and is therefore a first-hand account of Calvin's life and character. Beza (1519-1605) was associated for several years with Calvin (1509-1564) in the work in Geneva, Switzerland, and was his successor there.
While this volume is much inferior in perspective and information to the biography of Calvin found in Philip Schaff's multi-volume History of the Christian Church, vol. 8, pp.223-680, it is an adequate introduction to the man.
The immensity and intensity of the labors of Calvin as pastor, preacher, teacher and writer are astonishing. He was forever expounding some Biblical book to students or preaching through some other to his congregation (always without notes) or correcting proofs, or writing a treatise against some false doctrine or practice, or visiting members of his congregation, or meeting with pastors or foreign exiles who sought refuge in Geneva. He ate little and slept less. His unremitting toil accounts for his death at the comparatively young age of 54. He simply wore himself out with work. His expositions cover most of the Bible, and are still worthy of consultation today.
NEWMAN THE CHURCH HISTORIAN by Frederick Eby. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1946. 203 pp., hardback
I first became acquainted with the writings of Baptist church historian Albert Henry Newman almost thirty years ago during my student days at Baptist Bible College, when his two-volume Manual of Church History was the required textbook in the church history course. And a wise choice it was. I read through both volumes then and found them worthwhile and informative reading, though I am sure I did not, at that neophyte stage in my education, appreciate them as much as I should have. I have since referred to them once and again, always with profit, often greatly so.
Who was this A. H. Newman? A knowledge and understanding of a writer's background, education, academic qualifications and personal character are valuable, even essential matters in evaluating the merit of his literary productions. This biography, written by Newman's son-in-law, himself a university professor, does much to answer the question.
A. H. Newman (1852-1933) was a native of Edgefield County, South Carolina, and was converted there to faith in Christ at age 14. He was tutored in Latin and Greek by his pastor, then went to Mercer College, where he was granted advanced standing as a junior (though only 17 years old), and graduated at the head of his class of 15 in 1871. There he added the knowledge of German to his linguistic apparatus. He taught school for a year then went north to Rochester Theological Seminary in New York, where A. H. Strong was president and professor of theology. There Newman studied under Horatio B. Hackett, perhaps the leading NT scholar among Baptists of the North in those days. For a time he focused on theology and NT exegesis, but switched to OT and Hebrew. In these latter studies, he was instructed in part by Bernard Pick, an expert in rabbinic literature.
Though planning on spending a year studying in Germany, instead Newman spent the time in Greenville, South Carolina at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary studying Greek with John Broadus and Semitic languages with Crawford Toy. He then went back to Rochester to teach church history, where he remained 4 years, until a falling out with Strong led to his departure.
For 20 years (1881-1901), Newman was professor of church history at McMaster University in Toronto, Canada. It was during this period that he was most productive in writing. Here he wrote his two-volume ManuaL, his notable A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States (New York: The Christian Literature Co., 1894; 513 pp.), which was vol. II in the "American Church History Series," and his monumental, The History of Antipaedobaptism (1897), which demonstrated that apostolic and early Christian baptism was solely of believers and by immersion, that baptismal regeneration and later infant baptism were subsequent human inventions, and that there have been groups throughout church history opposing these innovations. It was also during this time that Newman was chosen to be editor of articles relating to church history in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, edited by Samuel M. Jackson, which remains to this day one of the most valuable reference works in its field. Though he continued to write articles for various publications after leaving Canada, he produced no books for publication
After leaving McMaster for Texas, and successive labors at Baylor University (1901-1907), Southwestern Baptist Seminary (1907-1913) and Baylor again (1913-1921), he spent six years at Mercer (1921-1927) and three semesters at McMaster (1927-1929). In all, he taught church history continuously for over 50 years, and gained a reputation as the pre-eminent church historian in North America.
While Newman's lectures seem to have been characteristically drab (he rarely looked directly at the students as he taught, and he had no perceptible sense of humor), his writings are characterized by thoroughness of research and precision and accuracy in statement. He was in short, a most judicious, industrious and careful scholar. His knowledge of languages and literature, both in and outside his field of expertise, was encyclopedic and detailed, as any student who asked him a question or sought information about a subject soon discovered.
Theologically, Newman was "an old-fashioned Baptist," and a self-styled "fundamentalist," though he seemed to grow more latitudinarian with age. He accepted a theistic evolutionary origin of man's body and soul, though insisted that the spirit was a direct creation of God (his son, Horatio Hackett Newman, a professor of zoology, went much further, and served as an "expert witness" for the defense in the famous Scopes trial of 1925). He seemed to espouse a semi-pantheism not markedly different from A. H. Strong's "ethical monism" (which, no doubt, was the source of this line of thought). In eschatology, he, like B. H. Carroll, was post-millennial.
This volume is informative though not always deeply interesting. It affirms that the writings of A. H. Newman on church history may be read with a high level of confidence in their accuracy, thoroughness and reliability. Any reader who finds Newman's 2-volume Manual Of Church History (that most likely to be met with) available for sale is well-advised to buy it at once. It is the first title on church history one should place in his library.
AN ICE AGE CAUSED BY THE GENESIS FLOOD by Michael J. Oard. San Diego: Institute for Creation Research, 1990. 243 pp., paperback. $20.00
One long-standing "problem" for young-earth, literal-flood creationists was accounting for the ice age or ice ages for which there is irrefutable evidence in the geology of North America and northern Europe. Standard secular geology has settled on 4 ice ages that came and departed rather slowly--many millennia being involved in each of the supposed four ice ages, from start to finish, with the first beginning something on the order of a million years ago, and the last ending about 10,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years.
Michael Oard, at the time of writing, was a meterologist (M.S. in atmospheric science) with the U.S. Weather Bureau (whether he is still employed there we do not know). By thorough research and careful reasoning, Oard convincingly demonstrates that there was only one ice age, that it lasted, from start to finish approximately 700 years, that it commenced immediately following the world-wide flood of Genesis 6-8, and was in fact a consequence of geologic, oceanographic and atmospheric conditions that existed at the conclusion of the flood. Three important features in the onset of the ice age were 1. the relatively warm (and uniformly warm, top to bottom) oceans; 2. an ice-free Arctic Ocean; and, 3. continuing extensive volcanic activity in the post-flood world. These led to atmospheric cooling and extensive precipitation in the northern latitudes of North America, resulting in the rapid development of continental glaciers, first in North America, and later in northern Europe. This glaciation also resulted in the lowering of the oceans, as water was stored as snow and ice in the glaciers. Surprisingly, in the more northerly latitudes, winters were much milder than currently (the standard view of secular geology is that the ice age must have been much colder than at present).
Oard's expertise in meteorology serves him in good stead as he discusses probable weather patterns, precipitation amounts, summer snow melt, and other related matters. He gives viable explanations for many phenomena which yet puzzle secular geologists who seek in vain for uniformitarian causes of the ice age(s), as well as numerous enigmas such as warm and cold climate mammal remains found in close proximity, and the mass extinction in Siberia of the woolly mammoth (but not of other mammals). Oard even accounts for the ocean bottom sediment that has served as "exhibit 'A'" for those who argue for oceans much older than Genesis seems to allow.
The writing is at times technical, but necessarily so, due to the subject matter. Oard has written what surely will be the standard young-earth creationist work on the ice ages. This is an important and persuasive treatment.