Two “New” and Noteworthy Books: “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel” and “Believing Bible Study”

In this post I wish to highlight a couple of “new” books that have come into our Seminary library and which are of interest to our audience. I put “new” in italics because both of these titles are reprints of previous editions, with one being updated and revised once again.

PrintThat title is David J. Engelsma’s Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: An Examination of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980, 1994, 2014; 224 pgs.). As you will note, this is the third edition, and this edition contains further additions and enhancements (such as pictures and descriptions of those whose positions are stated in the book). In his preface to this edition Engelsma sets forth the continued need for this book after thirty years:

Does it still address a significant, lively issue in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches and among theologians who regard and present themselves as Calvinists?

The truth defended in the book is sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel. The book contends that this truth is fundamental to the theology of the Reformed faith in its entirety, that is, to scripture’s gospel of salvation by grace alone and to the authoritative confession of the gospel by the Reformed creed, the Canons of Dordt.

The charge against the truth, by nominally Reformed theologians and churches, that the book refutes is hyper-Calvinism. This is the charge that the doctrine of particular grace in the preaching of the gospel is, or necessarily leads to, the error of preaching only to the elect, including calling only the elect to repent and believe.

The heresy that the book exposes and condemns is the teaching that the promiscuous preaching of the gospel with its unrestricted call to all hearers to repent and believe is, in fact, the saving grace of God to all who hear the preaching, reprobate ungodly as well as elect. It is the false doctrine of universal, impotent, saving grace with its concomitant error that the efficacy of the saving grace of God in the preaching, and therefore the salvation of sinners, depend not on the grace of God made effectual by the Holy Spirit, but on the acceptance of an offered salvation by the sinner himself.

The heresy that the book exposes  parades shamelessly in the Reformed community of churches, seminaries, and book stores, like a brazen whore in the seductive ‘come hither’ scanty garb of the well-meant offer of salvation.

It is my conviction, as evidently that also of the publisher, that the truth defended by the book continues to call for defense in 2013 (xv-xvi).

This edition also contains the Foreword of Dr.John H. Gernstner found in the previous edition. You are encouraged to obtain this new edition and to read and study carefully its apologetic. Not only if you are a PRC member who needs to be informed again of this essential element of our Reformed faith, but also if you are a Reformed Christian who needs better to understand the nature of the preaching of the gospel, especially because of the rampant error of the free offer and its counterpart, hyper-Calvinism.

BelievingBible Study-EFHills-2014-front_Page_1The second book of note in this post is one we received as a gift from Russell H. Spees, friend of the PRC Seminary and of the late Dr.Ted Letis, and President/Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies. The book is titled Believing Bible Study (3rd ed., Christian Research Press, 2014) by Dr. Edward F. Hills (1912-1981), who served as a mentor to Dr.Letis and from whom Letis grew in his passion for and defense of the Traditional text (textus receptus, or “received text”) in the church. Hill was also an ardent defender of the King James Version (Authorized version) of the Bible as the best English translation for the church today (See his The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts, 1956).

In his cover letter with the book, Spees states:

IBTS was pleased to work with the Hills family (Christian Research Press) to provide a digital reprint of Dr. Hills’ sequel to his “King James Version Defended.”

We thank the Hills family for faithfulness in keeping Dr.Hills in print. We acknowledge Mr.Paul Watson for his design of the book cover. We thank our supporters for prayer support and certainty of God’s hand in the project. We thank our Sovereign God for preserving his Holy Word to and for us.

To get a taste of Hills’ starting point in this work I quote his opening paragraphs in chapter 1, Believing Bible Study, Old Testament”:

The man who is well pleased with himself, with his prospects, and his whole manner of life will never read the Bible believingly. His entire outlook must be changed before believing Bible study becomes possible. For this reason God often uses the hard experiences of life to prepare His children for believing Bible study. Bereavement, childlessness, loneliness, longings that have never been satisfied, ambitions that have never been fulfilled, vain regrets over lost opportunities, the severe limitations of poverty, the pain and weakness of sickness, and the approach of death – these are the things that bring men low. These are the harrows which God uses to soften hardened hearts. These are the hammers with which He is wont to bend proud necks and make men willing to read His holy Book believingly.

Reader, if you are perishing in the furnace of affliction, or if you are walking in darkness with no light, or if your heart i s fretted with anxieties and corroding cares, or if your will is bound under wretched slavery to sinful lusts, or if your soul is chilled with the fear of death and the unknown, then the Bible is the Book, the only Book for you. For the Bible will show you how your sins may be overcome by the power of Christ and how you may enter into everlasting life through the door of hope and obtain your inheritance in the everlasting glory. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgives us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I include here the cover (front and back) because of the information about the book and its author which may be found there. A search revealed that the book is not yet available on the IBTS website or Amazon. But it may be ordered  through this address (Christian Research Press, P.O. Box13023, Des Moines, IA 50310-0023; phone: 515-249-4304) or by emailing: email@kjv-ibts.org or Christianresearchpress@yahoo.com.

BelievingBibleStudy-EFHills-2014-back_Page_1

 

Have You Heard About the British Reformed Journal?

While Missionary-pastor Martyn McGeown was in the U.S. on vacation, he stopped by the Seminary a couple of times. He is a avid reader and always eager to review new books, which I truly appreciate! I was able to set him up with some good books for Standard Bearer reviews, so both of us are happy.

BRFellowship image

He also asked me to promote the British Reformed Journal, a solidly Reformed journal published by the British Reformed Fellowship (see link below). From its website we learn this about the magazine:

The British Reformed Journal (BRJ) is the publication of the British Reformed Fellowship, usually with contribution from members, and currently published biannually. It contains doctrinal articles aimed at the propagation of the Reformed faith throughout the British Isles, Europe and abroad.

Currently, only a small selection of the past articles are available online. However, we are working on making all past issues available online free of charge for members of the public.

Rev.McGeown also sent me this note of information and invitation for your benefit:

Rev. McGeown invites you to subscribe to the British Reformed Journal, of which he is the editor. Recent articles have included “A Double Minded God Is Unstable In All His Ways;” “D.A. Carson’s Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God;” and “Hypercalvinist: A Response to Phil R. Johnson’s Primer on Hyper-Calvinism.”
Subscription for 4 issues is 20 USD.

If you would like to subscribe, please mail a check payable to Mary Stewart with your name and address to Mr. Fred Hanko, 2315 Chippewa St, Jenison, MI 49428

For more information, see http://www.britishreformed.org/
It would be well worth your time to check out the website, browse a few of the intriguing and edifying articles, and then sign up to receive this fine Journal. The BRJ would make a great addition to your theological reading!

When Is It Right to Separate from People in the Church? – Sinclair Ferguson

Guidelines for Separation by Sinclair Ferguson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT June2014As we continue to review the June Tabletalk, we come to the next main feature article on the theme of separating from other Christians and churches (“Guilt by Association”). Dr.Sinclair Ferguson penned the next article titled “Guidelines for Separation”, and it too is very helpful in drawing some important lines (principles) for going about such a painful process.

For our purposes today we will quote the part of Ferguson’s article where he treats separation within the church (He also addresses our spiritual separation from the world – the antithesis just prior to this.). I encourage you to follow the Ligonier link to read all of his worthwhile article.

Second, there is a separation out of the church of false teachers, denying them spheres of influence. Second John 7-11 counsels believers to beware of anyone who teaches a false view of Christ. We are to separate them from any assistance and support. John has in view itinerant teachers who by definition needed welcome and hospitality to further their “ministry.” Notice, again, that this is balanced intriguingly by John’s warning against the false separation exercised by Diotrephes, who “refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 9-10). Separation here involves the preservation of the church, but not our separation from it or our domination over it.

Third, there is a separation from the church of those who pollute or threaten to destroy it. Evident sin in the believer must be met by ongoing efforts to effect repentance (Matt. 18:15-18). Personal admonition is first; if that fails, admonition in the presence of one or two others; if that fails, admonition by the church. And only when there is obstinate resistance throughout these three stages is a member to be regarded as “a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Only where there is flagrant, public sin that brings public shame on the congregation are these steps collapsed into one (as apparently in 1 Cor. 5:1-5). Even then, the goal of the actions is always restoration (1 Cor. 5:5Gal. 6:1). The purpose of surgical amputation is to save, not to destroy. Again, we find a complex statement: when major spiritual surgery is necessary, the patient must be protected from the infection of despair (2 Cor. 2:5-11). When tough action is required, it is to be done by men who are Jesus-like, characterized by meekness and gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1Gal. 6:1).

In addition, I also read “When God Goes Missing” – a fine article about what can often be absent when today’s church worships – and in our own worship! Read it and be challenged to make sure God is present in your heart and mind when you stand in His presence!

Here’s just a little snapshot:

When I discover that my approach to God in the assembling of His people is “casual,” I cannot blame it on an effort to be authentic or on my informal surroundings. If I am honest with myself, I must confess that I have forgotten the primary purpose of my attendance. I have forgotten His presence and His true identity. Sometimes, the blindness and deafness that once kept me from seeing and hearing Him partially returns and prevents me from perceiving His nearness and His character.

Rev. John P. Sartelle is assistant minister at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oakland, Tennessee.

Why Should Christians Separate from One Another? – Carl R. Trueman

Reasons for Separation by Carl R. Trueman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT June2014The June issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the subject of separation, that is, when it is right (and when is it wrong) for Christians and churches to separate from other professing Christians and churches (See last Tuesday’s introduction to this matter.)? Under the theme “Guilt by Association”, the June “TT” addresses this subject with carefulness and completeness.

Writing the second main article on this subject, Dr.Carl R. Trueman speaks to the reasons for separating, and offers several principles for consideration. While you may not agree with all that he writes, his thoughts help us think through the issues involved and how we ought to deal with the issue of separation.

I post the heart of his thoughts here and encourage you to read his full article at the Ligonier link above.

How is the Christian to approach the issue of separation in the current heated and complicated context? It is difficult to give a one-size-fits-all list of guidelines in a short article, but here are some of the basic principles that must be addressed in thinking about biblical separation.

First, while much modern discussion has tended to focus on doctrinal deviation as the basis for separation, we must remember that the Bible teaches that practical immorality is also a basis. First Corinthians 5 makes this abundantly clear: a person committed to a path of sexual immorality has no place in the Christian fellowship and is to be expelled from it.

Second, while the idea of separation can sound to us like something oppressive or pharisaical, we should realize that those who are theologically or morally deviant are the true agents of separatism. In Romans 16:7, Paul talks about those who are divisive because they have deviated from the true doctrine, and he urges the believers in Rome to keep away from them. Notice the order: the deviants have divided themselves from the people of God by their actions; we might perhaps describe the faithful believers’ reaction to be that of simply acting in such a way that the existing divisiveness of the unfaithful is made manifest.

Third, we need to make a distinction between different degrees of fellowship and separation proper. I write as a Presbyterian. I cannot serve as a pastor or elder in a Baptist church. Nor can a Baptist serve as an officer in my church. Yet, I can enjoy fellowship with many Baptist friends in numerous settings, some more formal and some less. I have close friends in ministry who are Baptists. I have shared conference platforms with Baptist speakers. I have had Baptist friends preach at my church. In short, while I am not able to enjoy full, institutional fellowship with Baptist friends, I am not separated from them as if we held to completely different systems of belief.

By the way, there is also a fine article for women by Susan Hunt under the rubric “Heart Aflame”. I encourage you ladies to read “The Goodness of Gender” at the link provided here.

Introducing the June 2014 “Tabletalk”

Contending for Peace and Purity by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

This past weekend I opened and began reading the June issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine.

Let me start by pointing out that the daily devotions (the heart and soul of the magazine) continue with the book of Romans, covering the precious eighth chapter this month. One of the things I started to do this year is memorize the suggested Bible passage for the week. This first week of June it is Romans 8:1. Why not join me in doing that?! It is a wonderful verse to take with us this week!

TT June2014Second, the theme this month is on a significant and sensitive subject – the Christian’s associations with other professing believers and churches. The title the editors have given to this subject is “Guilt by Association”. In the article linked above, editor Burk Parsons introduces this subject pointing out the tension in our calling: we are to contend for both peace and purity in the church.

Here are a few of his opening thoughts:

For nearly twenty years, I have seriously considered his words and the principles of separation that he instilled within me. Both then and now, I have found that I am more aligned with the principles of separation and association with J. Gresham Machen than anyone else. Dr. Machen pursued right association for the sake of the unity and peace of the church with as much earnestness as he pursued necessary separation for the sake of the purity of the church and the gospel. For there cannot be true peace and unity in the church without purity. God calls us not only to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) but to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Both are necessary, but it takes wisdom from above to do both in a biblical way that glorifies God.

Like Machen, Francis Schaeffer, who early in his ministry was part of the Bible Presbyterian Church, taught that the church should practice two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of visible community. As we strive for both, God calls us to contend earnestly on our knees in prayer and to stand up and speak the truth in love for the sake of the name of Christ and the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Christ.

I also read the first main article on this theme, “Degrees of Separation”, a helpful article by Dr. David Murray. I include the link here so that you too may begin reading on this subject as you have time. To get you started, this is how he begins his article:

One of the most difficult challenges to address in the Christian life is our relationships with other Christians. It’s like walking a tightrope with heavy weights on each end of our pole. On the one side is the biblical command to unite with professing Christians, while on the other is the biblical demand to separate—at times—from professing Christians.

Unite!” and “Divide!” Complicated and challenging, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just choose one or the other? Some do. They decide to separate from everyone who does not agree with them on everything, producing sinful schism and division in the body of Christ. Others decide there is virtually nothing that justifies separation from anyone and unite in unholy alliance with anyone who says he is a Christian, no matter what he believes.

But both of these are unbiblical extremes that throw us off balance, tipping us into dangerous and damaging sin. Although we might prefer a simpler life, God calls us to walk this precarious tightrope carrying both weights on the ends of our pole.

Biologos, Theistic evolution, and the Pelagian heresy – creation.com

Biologos pelagian heresy – creation.com.

“The Aquila Report” carried this powerful article as one of its “top 10″ this past week (April 1, 2014), but I also went to the original source, which is Creation.com (cf. the link above).

creationvsevolutionThere you will find the complete article, “BioLogos, Theistic Evolution, and the Pelagian Heresy”, written by Richard Fangrad, CEO of Creation Ministries International-Canada. Fangrad makes a significant connection between the old heresy of Pelagianism and the “new” one of theistic evolution, especially that part of “TE” that now wants to deny the historical reality of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

I give you a portion of his article here; read the rest at this link.

May Fangrad’s thoughts show us even more clearly why we must reject all forms of evolutionism, root and branch. Not to do so leads one to forfeit the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, it IS that serious.

Today we Christians find ourselves at an interesting place in Church history. Although Scripture has been with us for 2,000 years (and is sufficient for determining how and when God created), we now have decades of research that supports what the Bible has always said. Today we are blessed with mountains of scientific evidence supporting the biblical record of a recent creation followed by a global flood and all humans originating with Adam and Eve. Despite all of this, aspects of an old heresy relating to the creation account are increasingly infiltrating the Church. This is the falsehood known as Pelagianism.

No Adam: no original sin, no need for the cross

The heresy of Pelagianism (see the box below for details) asserted that Adam’s sin had no effect on the human race, that we have not inherited a sin nature from Adam, and that all humans are born with the ability to live a sin-free life. This renders the work of Christ on the cross superfluous. If we can achieve Heaven without any work of God whatsoever (that is, if we have no sin) then there is no need (it is even nonsensical) for God to bear the penalty for our sin. The reality is that at the cross Christ died for us as a substitute. He paid the penalty that we incurred, in our place and simultaneously transferred His righteousness to us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes this double transfer. The sinless Christ pays for our sins in our place (so that we don’t have to!), and His righteousness is transferred to us. That single verse is Paul’s simple one-sentence summary of the Gospel. The whole Gospel message is contained in outline in those words and is, of course, detailed throughout the rest of Scripture.

Bible scholars at the time of Pelagius recognized the contradiction between his teachings and Scripture. As a result, Pelagianism was condemned as heretical at many church councils including the Councils of Carthage (in 412, 416 and 418), the Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Orange (529). The intervening 1600 years have merely strengthened and further refined the biblical truth confirming that Pelagianism is heretical. This rich history of the battle for truth is a great advantage for us today. When Pelagianizing tendencies infiltrate the church today we should simply look back at that history, remember the error of the past, and avoid repeating the same error. Unfortunately, Pelagianism is alive and well today. One of its modern forms, mutated and renamed, is called ‘theistic evolution’.

“Semper Reformanda” – The Reformation Isn’t Over – James White

The Reformation Isn’t Over by James White | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-March2014On the last Sunday of March I finished reading the final articles of this month’s Tabletalk, including this fine one by Dr.James R.White. Since the March issue carried a Reformation theme (“John Knox & the Scottish Reformation” – see my previous Monday posts this month), it was fitting to have such a piece pointing us to the ongoing need of reformation in the church today, especially in the battle against Rome.

I pull a few paragraphs from the end of White’s article here, encouraging you as always to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

Should the Reformation continue to hold a place of importance in the church that faces such immense opposition as that coming from radical, gospel-hating secularism? Wouldn’t a united front, free from partisan bickering, help the cause of Christ? The answer has to be, “Of course the Reformation remains important, and, in fact, its work must continue in our day, and into the future as well.”

The reason is not hard to see, even if it seems hidden to many in our day. Wonderfully nebulous catchphrases like “the cause of Christ” often hide the truth: the cause of Christ is the glorification of the triune God through the redemption of a particular people through the cross-work of Jesus Christ, which is a rather Puritan way of saying, “The cause of Christ is the gospel.” Each of the emphases of the Reformation, summed up in the solas, is focused upon protecting the integrity and identity of the gospel itself. Without the inspiration, authority, harmony, and sufficiency of Scripture, we do not know the gospel (sola Scriptura). Without the freedom of grace and the fullness of the provision of the work of Christ, we have no saving message (sola fide). And so on.

The Reformation fought a battle that each and every generation is called to fight simply because each and every generation is made up of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and hence there will always be those who seek to detract from the singular glory of God in the gospel through the addition of man’s authority, man’s merit, man’s sovereignty. Is this not the meaning of semper reformanda, the church always reforming, always seeking to hear more clearly, walk more closely, to her Lord?

With the ebb and flow of human history, the forces arrayed against the church and her Lord and the particular front upon which the battle rages hottest will change. Rome’s theology has evolved and her arguments have been modified, but the issues remain very much what they were when Luther and Eck battled at Leipzig, only modified and complicated. God’s kingship, man’s depravity and enslavement to sin, and the insatiable desire of sinners to control the grace of God will always be present. And today, the sufficiency, clarity, and authority of Scripture are at the forefront, just as they were then. The need for the Reformation will end when the church no longer faces foes inside and out who seek to distort her purpose, her mission, her message, and her authority. Till then,semper reformanda.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 125

Psalm125To help guide our minds and hearts as we prepare for our worship in the Lord’s house of prayer this day, we turn to the sixth of the “songs of Ascent”, Psalm 125. As we read this portion of God’s Word, we can hear the men, women and children singing this song as Mt.Zion, the mountain of God, and Jerusalem, the city of God, come into view and the pilgrims begin making the climb to their destination. Listen to them:

Psalm 125

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.

2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.

4 Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.

5 As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

Jerusalem-Ancient imageCan we picture it? With the help of a picture of Jerusalem built on Mt.Zion, one of the seven peaks in that area, we can. And then we can understand why this metaphor entered the psalmist’s mind and became the inspiration for writing this psalm, under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ.

The people would have come a long way by the time they reached the holy city, and they would have come through many dangers. The site of the mountains around Jerusalem pointed the saints to their temporal and eternal security in the Lord their God. Jehovah, their mighty Savior and strong Defender, surrounded them in His grace and love. In Him they were safe in the face of all natural dangers and spiritual evils. Their arrival at the gates of Jerusalem proved that to them.

And seeing the mighty hills of God around Jerusalem and seeing the temple on Mt.Zion taught them to place all their trust in this God alone, v.1. They must live by faith and not by sight. That faith would be rewarded in their worship, as they would receive from the Lord God the assurance of their salvation from and security in Him.

It is no different for the NT church and people of God. Though we no longer go up to the physical city of Jerusalem when we worship, we do go up to the spiritual mountain of God’s presence and we do enter the spiritual city of God’s sovereign rule and protection in Jesus Christ. Wherever God’s church gathers, even if it is only two or three saints and in a flimsy shelter or open field, God surrounds her and is in the midst of her; she cannot be moved (Ps.46:5). Yes, wherever we meet today today, our King is with us and around us, and we are safe and secure by sovereign grace and the Spirit of our Lord! Nothing and no one can take us away from our God or remove us from His saving presence! The gates of hell cannot prevail against Christ’s church (Matt.16:18)! Are we conscious of this today as we go up to the hill of our God?

But then we too must trust in Him, v.1! Not the safety any building affords us or the security any earthly ruler may grant us must give us our confidence. Our hope and trust must be in the Lord alone! Our faith must be in the One Who surrounds us in Christ! We must look up, not to any physical mountains, but to the Lord and His sovereign presence with us! Are we doing that, even now as we prepare for worship?

Then we too will not want the rod of the wicked to rest on us, v.3. We will not seek the rule of evil in our midst, lest we join the wicked around us and stretch out our hands to iniquity. Many churches and people have done exactly that, as they have fallen into unbelief and departed from the good ways of God’s Word and covenant. Israel of old did too and was severely chastised. And we are certainly capable of that sin of apostasy. Let us learn and be warned! Let us seek only the Lord and His ways of truth and righteousness! Let us continue in the ways of His covenant, walking in the friendship and fellowship of our God!

And so, let us pray, as the saints did in this song, v.4: “Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” “Good” by grace alone, of course. For we know well the curse of the Lord that comes on those who turn aside and walk crookedly, v.5. We want the peace of God on Israel. And that can be only when God is good to us in Christ, pardoning our sins, making us holy so as to delight in His ways, and preserving us unto our eternal home. For that we must pray. Daily. On the Lord’s Day too. Shall we?

May you and I, in the way of trusting in this mighty God of grace, experience this peace and security today.

If you wish to meditate on this psalm through the music of the Psalter, we give you this versification of Psalm 125 and point you to this page where you may also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along.

1. Like Zion’s steadfast mount are they
Who in the Lord confide;
Secure, immovable they stand,
Forever to abide.

2. As round about Jerusalem
The mountains give defense,
Jehovah is His people’s guard,
Their lasting confidence.

3. No tyrant’s scepter o’er the good
Shall undisturbed abide,
Lest righteous men, oppressed by wrong,
To evil turn aside.

4. O Thou Jehovah, to the good
Thy goodness now impart,
Thy lovingkindness show to them
That upright are in heart.

5. All those that turn from righteousness
With wayward, wandering feet,
With sinners God will lead them forth,
The sinner’s doom to meet.

6. O Thou Who are Thy people’s shield,
Their helper and their guide,
Upon them let Thy grace and peace
Forevermore abide.

And a New “Standard Bearer” – Dec.1, 2013 Issue

SBLogoThis weekend I also received the latest issue of The Standard Bearer, published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association, with close ties to the PRCA. While the previous issue was the annual special Reformation issue, containing the speeches of the recent Heidelberg Catechism conference (See this post.), this issue returns to the regular rubrics and articles.

Rev.James Slopsema has the meditation this time, based on 1 John 3:2-3 and titled “The Hope of the Sons of God.” Prof.Barry Gritters has a thought-provoking article under the attention-grabbing title “Rare as a White Crow”. To what is he refering? To a lack of discipline in the contemporary church world, something Abraham Kuyper decried in his own day with these very words. I read this article yesterday and it is essential reading for pastors, officebearers, and church members.

Rev.Cory Griess continues his series on Reformed, covenantal worship by treating “The Element of Singing”. Rev.James Laning pens a new article for “Taking Heed to the Doctrine”, this time on the the contemporary issue of “Redefining Election”. For his rubric “All Around Us” Rev.Nathan Langerak addresses issues taking place in the Reformed churches of the Netherlands (always of concern to us who stand in the line of the Dutch Reformed). Rev.A.den Hartog writes a second installment about “Disciplining Our Covenant Children in Love”, and missionary-pastor R.Smit pens an intriguing article under the title, “Queen Esther: A Model for Foreign Missions Today?”

And finally, Rev.W.Langerak writes one of his fine little surveys of key words in the Bible (“A Word Fitly Spoken”), this time on the word “exceeding”. You may find this article along with many others in this series on the PRC website here. This is how he opens this one:

Among the many wonderful virtues of the true, eternal, and living God is that He is exceeding. We might be inclined to think of the word ‘exceeding’ merely as some ordinary adverb or adjective. But in Scripture, ‘exceeding’ is  a perfection of God. God exceeds in everything (except sin and unrighteousness, of course). And although Scripture applies ‘exceeding’ to many different things and activities, it also makes clear that ultimately only God is exceeding. Whatever or whoever else Scripture may call exceeding is always exceeded by God Himself. Whereas  nothing can or does exceed Him, p.109.

To subscribe to The Standard Bearer, visit the website. You will not be disappointed :)

An Overview of the 13th Century Church – Nick Needham

The 13th Century by Nick Needham | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Sept2013Are you, as I was, in need of a refresher course on church history during the 13th century, the heart of the Medieval period? Need to know about Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) and his significant policies which further centralized the Roman Catholic Church? Need to learn about the 4th Lateran Council (1215) and the first official RC statement on transubstatiation? What about the Waldensians and Cathars, a couple of the dissenting groups during the Middle Ages? the rise of the Inquisition, that heresy-hunting committee? And, lest we forget, what do you remember about scholastic theology?

Then the excellent summary article of this period of church history by Nicholas R. Needham linked above will be of great benefit to you. The significant items I linked above are just some of the topics he treats in this month’s Tabletalk,  now available on the Ligonier website. I read this article before worship services yesterday, and found that, though the Medieval period of the church as often viewed as dry and drier, Needham makes it come alive in covering these important aspects. I give you this introduction to Needham’s treatment of two dissenting groups in the Medieval church and encourage to to work your way through the various topics he treats. You will have a much better view of what the church of the 13th centruy was about. And it will make you appreciate all the more the reforms that were needed at the time of the great Reformation in the 16th century – reforms which were already being prepared by the sovereign Lord of history.

WALDENSIANS AND CATHARS

This loss of the sense of security and belonging, and the development of great social inequality produced a fertile soil in which new religious movements could flourish. The two most widespread of these movements were the Waldensians and the Cathars. The Waldensians originated in Lyons in the 1170s as a movement of lay preachers, whose inspirational founder seems to have been named Valdes. Friction with local episcopal authority, however, eventually drove the Waldensians out of the church. Rather than extinguishing the movement, this enabled it to grow rapidly and spread widely. Unconstrained now by the need to conform to Roman Catholic orthodoxy, the Waldensians evolved into an embryonically “Protestant” movement, anticipating many of the concerns of the sixteenth-century Reformation.

The Cathars are a more controversial movement. A previous generation of Protestant scholars saw them as essentially akin to the Waldensians—an Evangelical movement of dissent. This, then, gave way to the view that they were a basically gnostic movement. Now some modern scholars deny they existed at all. I take the view that they did exist and were basically gnostic. One reason for taking this view is that there was a parallel movement in the Eastern Byzantine world, the Bogomils, who were gnostic—the Eastern Cathars, as it were, whose existence I see no reason to doubt. The Cathars flourished outside the confines of the church (which they denounced as the “Great Whore of Babylon”), and they made a notable impact on southern France, where they were known as Albigensians.

Dr. Nick Needham is senior minister of Inverness Reformed Baptist Church and tutor in church history at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland.
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