Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: Noel Gibbard: R.B. Jones: Gospel Ministry in Turbulent Times

R.B. Jones of Porth is probably best known as one of the leaders of the 1904-5 revival in Wales. His life work stretched over the years from 1893 to 1933, and thus he was one of the leaders of Welsh Evangelicalism in the early years of the 20th century. He also had a rather controversial reputation, as a fundamentalist, and a man who could be rather intemperate in his language. Despite this prominence, he has never had a full biography – until now. Noel Gibbard’s latest book is a carefully-researched study of this complex figure, a Welsh Baptist leader who founded a Bible college and was a leader of Keswick-style teaching. This book is not a hagiography, but at the same time it is broadly sympathetic to the subject. R.B. was a staunch defender of the faith, obnoxious to those who denied the fundamentals of that faith. Though he could be fierce in controversy, he was a friendly, pleasant man in company, and sympathetic towards those in need. This book is a well-written portrait of a man of God that seeks to portray him in all his complexities.

Of course the book deals in detail with RB’s part in the revival, but it deals with so much more. It is the portrait of a Gospel minister, and will inspire and encourage ministers. It shows that he was far from the fire-breathing fundamentalist of legend. I close with a quotation from the final assessment of RB, dealing with the question of RB’s fundamentalism. It will be seen at once that if RB was a fundamentalist, far too many fundamentalists today are a mere caricature of fundamentalism as it was. What was a mere canard with RB is sadly an accurate description of some modern fundamentalists. I fact, I dare say that many modern fundamentalists would condemn RB as a liberal! He, in turn, would have condemned them as fanatics!

“Although labelled a fundamentalist, RB was an enlightened fundamentalist.
He was criticised for accepting everything in the Bible literally, and for
believing, because of his literalism, that everything in the Bible was of equal
value. But very often the critics ignored RB’s actual statements and arguments.
One correspondent claimed that RB and other fundamentalists believed not only
that the original writers of the books of the Bible were inspired, but that
later copyists and translators were inspired too. Another correspondent
suggested that RB believed that the authors of Scripture were passive
instruments driven by some external power; that the writers placed themselves in
the path of the Spirit, and God spoke through them.

“RB however was quite clear in his doctrine of Inspiration:

‘The Bible as we have it, in its various translations and revisions, when
freed from all the errors and mistakes of translations, copyists and printers,
is the very Word of God, and consequently without error.’

“He refuted the theories of ‘intuition’, ’illumination’ and ‘dictation’,
and argued for ‘dynamic inspiration’. Commenting on the ‘dictation’ theory, he
stated that it

‘could not account for the peculiar style of each human writer. Also, much
of what they wrote needed not to dictated for they knew it already.'

“He then gave his own definition: ‘Dynamic inspiration denotes the action
of the Holy Spirit upon living men, working according to the natural laws of
their minds, and using them as active and not passive instruments.’”

In my opinion this is one of the best books of this year.

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Friday, September 04, 2009


As of 10th September, God willing, I will be working with Bethel Evangelical Church, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, and thus preaching every Lord's Day for the next three months at least at Bethel, as well as taking other meetings, engaging in outreach, and so on.

Bethel is a relatively small church in a town-centre location. We have a small bookshop attached to the building, and the membership doesn't bite. I thank God for their offer, and ask for the prayers of readers that all will go well, and we shall be a blessing to one another.

Bethel is well-placed for students from Keele University and Staffordshire University's Stoke-on-Trent campus, and we would welcome any students.

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