Reformation Trust, the book publishing division of Ligonier Ministries, has recently released the next title in their “A Long Line of Godly Men Profile” series. This one is on Martin Luther, titled The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, and is authored by the editor of this series, Dr. Steven Lawson. Lawson focuses on Luther’s commitment to the Word of God and his powerful preaching of that Word. To this point, titles in this series have been on Calvin, Knox, Edwards, and Spurgeon. Posted yesterday on the Ligonier website was an interview by Nathan Bingham with Dr. S.Lawson about this new book on Luther. You are encouraged to watch/listen to the interview and also start adding these fine titles to your library. These are high quality, hardcover books, around 140 pages each. They are also available in several e-Book formats. Click on the Ligonier link above for details on the book and the interview.
…Catholicism has produced the most stimulating literary figures of the Christian tradition, broadly considered. First, there is the incomparable G.K. Chesterton. Humor and irony in the service of theology? Can a Protestant do that? Well, Luther would have approved of the idea; it’s there at the very inception of the Protestant tradition, and it is a great shame we have lost it. If you want to know how much we have lost, then spend a few hours perusing the works of Chesterton, who does for basic creedal Christianity what Terry Eagleton does for Marxist literary criticism.
Then for anyone wanting to wrestle with issues of evil and redemption, is there a better novel than Brighton Rock by Graham Greene? And to this one can add the names of Walker Percy (I recently picked up my first Percy title – cjt), Flannery O’Conner, Evelyn Waugh, and (at least arguably – I know scholars divide on the issue) William Shakespeare. Tolkien too – although, as a loyal English Brummy, I tend to claim him geographically for the Midlands, rather than theologically for the church. All of these writers offer literary expressions of various grand moral and theological themes with which Protestants should be able to resonate. Indeed, as a good Calvinist, I find myself more in agreement with Greene’s take on human nature than I do with the sort of Pelagian tosh one finds in most Christian bookshops (pp.146-47).
Carl R. Trueman in his eighteenth chapter, “Beyond the Limits of Chick Lit”, in Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone (P&R, 2012).
During the month of February, as well as since we began this series, we spent much time focusing on and hearing from Zacharias Ursinus, the principal author of the Heidelberg Catechism. But starting today we also want to pay some attention to the other contributor to the “HC” – Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587). We already did a little biography on him and gave other links to information on him back in January, but now I would like to focus for a few weeks on one of the main works we have by him, now translated into English. I refer to his An Exposition of the Apostle’s Creed (which has the additional sub-title of or the Articles of Faith, in which the main points of the gracious eternal covenant between God and believers are briefly and clearly treated.). This title has recently been translated by Lyle D. Bierma and published by Reformation Heritage Books (2009), and it includes an informative introduction by R.Scott Clark. It is from this introduction that I quote in this post.
Clark points out well that Olevianus was not an “ivory-tower” theologian, though he was indeed appointed to be professor of dogmatics in the University of Heidelberg in 1561 and later that year was advanced to “doctor of theology”. But, as it turned out, he held this post for only a year or so. Why? Because he felt called to be a “preacher to the Germans” first and foremost. Clark explains:
He did not remain in the university. In 1562, he gave up his university post to be appointed to the Heidelberg Consistory and serve as preacher in St.Peter’s Church and in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Heidelberg. …Though this essay emphasizes Olevianus’s academic work, it should be remembered that Olevianus’s chief desire was to be a preacher to the Germans. In 1566, his ministerial commitment was tested, as the plague afflicted the electorate. The court withdrew and the university closed. Most pastors fled, except for Olevianus and Zacharias Ursinus (p.xvii).
From there Clark shows how the Reformed (Calvinistic) movement grew in Heidelberg under Olevianus and others (e.g., Frederick III), including preaching on the Heidelberg Catechism.
During his tenure in Heidelberg, Olevianus was part of a confessional, Calvinist coterie. …Early on, the Reformation in the Palatinate progressed on Calvinist lines. …The ‘Kirchenordnung’ (church order -cjt) was also reformed along Genevan lines. It required everyone to attend church on the Lord’s Day except for illness. The city of Heidelberg was divided into quarters. The minister and one elder attended to each district. …Each family was visited annually to prepare them for communion.
…Olevianus had a significant influence over what parishioners heard each Sunday, since sermons were reviewed by the superintendents. Preaching became more frequent. Daily devotions were ordered and divine services were established on Wednesdays and Fridays, in which German psalms and hymns were sung before and after the sermon.
…The first stages of the new Calvinist church order were consolidated with the publication of the fourth edition of the Heidelberg Catechism….
The Heidelberg Catechism played a central role in the new church order, which entailed a rigorous indoctrination. It directed that the catechism should be read from the pulpit, in worship, over nine Sundays. The pastors were also to lace their sermons with references to the catechism, followed by sermons based on the catechism and examination of catechumens each Lord’s Day afternoon (p.xviii).
I hope that these historical comments on Olevianus help us understand better the nature of the Reformation as it progressed in Heidelberg and how God was pleased to use this young and faithful servant to ground His reforming church in the truth of His Word.
Sunday morning before worship I read the next feature article in this month’s Tabletalk, appropriately on “Listening to God’s Word in the Church” by Jonathan Leeman. Relating his article to this month’s theme, “The Lost Virtues of Listening, Meditating, and Thinking”, Leeman writes about the vital importance of hearing God’s Word publicly in the context of the church – as opposed to simply hearing it privately at home. After introducing his topic, Leeman gives seven (7) reasons “our growth should be centered on listening to God’s Word in the context of the local church”.
Perhaps these are not new things to those of us accustomed to membership in a local church and public worship, but Leeman’s presentation is excellent and his reasons are worth reading again. By all means read his article; here are the first two reasons he gives to get you started:
1. FOR THE SAKE OF OBEDIENCE. The author of Hebrews tells his readers, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:24–25). How do we stir up and encourage others when we gather? With God’s Word. This is what we see the early church doing—gathering to listen and encourage: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship” (Acts 2:42).
2. FOR THE SAKE OF RECEIVING JESUS’ GIFTS. Paul tells us that after Jesus ascended, He gave the gifts of pastors and teachers to His church (Eph. 4:8– 11). Your elders are gifts. They are better gifts than anything you will find wrapped under a tree, because these gifts will build up you and your brothers and sisters in Christ until you reach maturity, unity, and Christ-likeness (vv. 12–14). Think about it: Jesus loves you so much that He has grabbed a bunch of men by the collar, pulled them off their career tracks, and told them to devote their lives to serving you and your favorite Christian friends by studying the Bible and explaining it to you—every week. Are you not amazed? And even if the well-known podcast pastor is a better preacher, he doesn’t know your congregation, and he’s not applying the Word to you like old Bob will.
The interview is this month’s Tabletalk is with a unique and interesting individual: Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Reformed Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa and principal of the Reformed Baptist Preachers College in Zambia. The needs of the church in Africa are great and the difficulties she faces are many (false doctrine, poverty, shortage of good pastors, etc.), but Mbewe has encouraging news as well – including some lessons we can learn from these Christians. I will give you a small part of the interview below; read all of it at the Ligonier link above.
Carl R. Trueman wrote this great post over a year ago (Sept.25, 2011), but it is just as current now as then. He commented on how the Reformation gave back to the church a Biblical concept and practice of the preaching/pastoral ministry, and he questions whether those who claim the name “reformed” in their ministries today understand this in light of their “multi-site” churches and “video-link” sermons.
And, with this month designated as “pastor appreciation month”, it is good we express our gratitude to God for the faithful pastor/teachers He has given us, to lead us by and feed us with His Word week after week. Indeed, “Thank You” for your sacrifices and service!
Below are a few of his thoughts – worth reading the entire, brief post at the link above:
Time was that the megachurch was not highly thought of by those who claimed the name Reformed or looked to the Reformation for their historical inspiration. This was consistent with two basic concerns which had high priority for the Reformers: opposition to things such as pluralities (ministers holding multiple appointments) and absenteeism (ministers not actually ever being where they ministered); and the fear of turning leaders into fetishes.
Reforming pastoral ministry along these lines was a hallmark of Reformation Protestantism. It had, after all, started with a pastoral problem and rapidly became an issue of the nature of church authority. In the process, the importance of putting in place educated ministers who could articulate the faith and offer pastoral nurture to the people was never far from the centre of concern.
On the whole, that lasted until about five to ten years ago when, all of a sudden, megachurches started to arise which sounded a bit like the Protestant Reformers, at least in the buzzwords and catchphrases they use. Now, strange to tell, there are actually debates going on in small ‘r’ reformed circles about whether pluralities and absenteeism (today known as multi-site ministries) are a good thing or not.
This is clearly antithetical to the ecclesiological concerns of the Reformation. The lack of pastoral care such multi-sites engender is common knowledge. Further, the whole idea seems clearly to turn certain preachers into fetishes. Medieval Catholics liked to obtain the body, or even just a fragment, of a saint for their church building in order to make it an authentic church, or a better church than the one in the neighbouring town (see the undignified fight for the corpse of St. Anthony of Padua); today we need a virtual piece of a famous preacher in our locale to have access to the magic.
…The problem with the way `Reformed’ is often used today is that it divorces certain things (typically the five, or more often, four points of Calvinism) from the overall Reformation vision of pastoral care, church worship, Christian nurture and all-round approach to ministry. The Bible becomes sufficient for the doctrines of grace; but what works, what pulls in the punters, becomes the criterion for everything else, especially ecclesiology and pastoral practice.
…The Reformation was about more than a doctrinal insight into justification; it was also about abolishing the fetishisation of certain great figures as if they possessed some special magic and about instituting an ideal of educated, personal, local ministry. Maybe the Reformation is nearly over; and maybe it is not Benedictine Catholicism but actually the new reformation, with its multi-sites and its virtual pastors, that is finishing it off. That is quite a sobering and ironic thought.
Today I’d like to introduce you to a few new titles in the PR Seminary library. This summer did not bring in a lot of brand new books, though we did acquire a number of Baker Book House remodeling/clearance/used titles ($1.00 specials!), and my usual Thrift store bargains (: But we do have some new titles as well, and those I would bring to your attention. I will pick those for a broader audience – with profit for all of you.
The first noteworthy one is the second volume of Calvin’s sermons on Genesis, covering chapters 11-20 (cloth, 917 pp.). Published by Banner of Truth this year, it follows their first volume of Calvin’s sermons on Genesis covering chapters 1-10. The publisher notes that these are the “first and only” English translations of Calvin’s sermons on Genesis. They also include this description.
Preaching as Calvin undertook to do it extends far beyond the confines of a carefully written manuscript. It is not bound by the niceties of style, sentence structure, and the like. it is marked by an immeasurably greater degree of intensity, by an obvious determination to instruct and persuade, by an astounding capacity to confront hearers both with the truth of divine revelation and with the implications of that truth for faith and obedience. There are distinct advantages, therefore, in having before us these sermons on Genesis precisely as they were delivered. They let us see and hear a man aflame with love for the lord and his Word, a preacher who spent himself utterly in the work of summoning his people to repentance, faith and holiness. The feature that has struck me most powerfully is the sermons’ immediacy. As I have read them, it has quite often seemed to me almost as though I were sitting with the congregation in Geneva and listening to Calvin himself as he opened up the passage, and then carefully, deliberately, and sometimes with painful specificity applied its teaching to those who heard him. In his masterful translation Dr. McGregor has quite wonderfully brought the preacher back to life and allowed us the privilege of being able, with a little imagination, to take our places in St. Peter’s Church on those cold autumn and winter days with the Reformer himself in the pulpit.
If you have never or rarely read Calvin’s sermons, it is time you did or did more. They will richly feed your mind and heart, and give you a more appreciative perspective of this great Reformer as preacher and pastor.
A second title of note is The Triumph of Christianity by Rodney Stark, World magazine’s “Book of the Year” for 2012. Published by HarperOne in 2011 (HC, 544 pp.), this book represents historian Stark’s mature thought and writing on how Christianity has not only survived but triumphed throughout the ages. This is how the publisher describes it:
In Stark’s groundbreaking book The Rise of Christianity, he examined the early success of Christianity and how it conquered Rome. Now, in The Triumph of Christianity, Stark tells a far more extensive story, beginning with the religious and social situation prior to the birth of Jesus and continuing to the present.
More than 40 percent of the people on earth today are Christians, and their number is growing more rapidly than that of any other major faith. In The Triumph of Christianity, acclaimed religious and social historian Rodney Stark explains how an obscure Jewish sect became the largest, most thriving religion in the world.
With his signature knack for making the boldest and most original scholarship accessible to all readers, Stark presents the real story behind the tragedies and triumphs that have shaped the trajectory of the Christian faith and, indeed, much of global history. For scholars and armchair historians alike, this is a brisk and thought-provoking journey through events we think we know-and need to reconsider.
One more title we feature today is an old/new book: Early Protestant Educators: The Educational Writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Other Leaders of Protestant Thought (including Philip Melanchton, John Knox and the Anabaptists – cjt) by Francis Eby (312 pp.). This book was originally published by McGraw-Hill in 1931, but it remains available as a POD title (print-on-demand). We purchased a nice hardcover copy for the library. Eby was the professor of History and Philosophy of Education at the University of Texas. This excellent work is a compilation of the original writings of the main Reformers on Christian education. I obtained this book in part to assist Prof.R. Dykstra in his sabbatical research and writing on Christian education, but it would be useful to any of our teachers and parents interested in studying what the Reformation contributed to the vital task of education.
One more thing: remember that our library exists for YOUR benefit too. Feel free to stop in, browse, and/or check out a book (or two!) anytime (M-F, 7-5 p.m.; Sat. by appointment).
Last evening at Grandville PRC (MI) the Protestant Reformed Theological School (Seminary) held its annual convocation to mark the beginning of a new school year. Rev. Ken Koole, President of the Theological School Committee, opened the night by leading us in singing, prayer, and Scripture reading (Deut.6). The audience was then treated to three special numbers sung by the men’s chorus, the Hope Heralds.
Rev.Koole then introduced Prof.Ronald Cammenga, professor of Dogmatics and OT Studies, as our speaker for the evening. Prof.Cammenga gave a fine address to the students, faculty, and audience on the vital relationship between our Seminary and the “good Christian schools”. Grounding his remarks on Deut.6, Article 21 of the Church Order of the PRC (see below), and the Reformed, confessional teaching on God’s sovereign, unconditional, and unilateral covenant of grace with elect believers and their spiritual children, he demonstrated how the Seminary in all of its work serves to support, encourage, and promote the Christian schools, specifically, those started and maintained by Protestant Reformed parents.
His speech was a stirring reminder of how the PR Seminary serves this significant cause of our Lord’s kingdom. It also stirred up gratitude within me – both for our Seminary and for our good Christian schools. As the Seminary seeks to prepare men for the gospel ministry and leadership in Christ’s church, these preachers and officebearers will play an important role in the Christian school movement. God grant us faithful men who will promote our Christian schools in all their preaching and teaching!
On the back of last night’s program (above image) was a quote from one of the decisions of the great Synod of Dordt (1618-19) on the establishment of Reformed Christian schools (image below). You will find the entire program above and this quote below. Click on the images to enlarge them for reading.
As always, it would have been nice to have a larger crowd last evening, to show support for the Seminary and to encourage our professors and students. Yes, life is busy, but the Seminary too needs and is worthy of your support. Whether you were able to come last night or not, you can and ought to pray for the Seminary daily. Will you commit to doing that, starting today?
Article 21 of the PRC Church Order (basically the CO of Dordt) states:
The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.
Additionally, if you are looking for a “good read” on Reformed Christian education, allow me to recommend David J. Engelsma’s (retired professor from our Seminary) Reformed Education: the Christian School as Demand of the Covenant, published by the RFPA and available here. Every Reformed Christian ought to read, study, and commit to the principles of this important book.
“The Aquila Report” (great Reformed/Presbyterian/Baptist news source) re-posted this item from a Reformed Baptist source on August 8, 2012. It is based on the counsel of Benjamin Keach, a particular Baptist preacher of the 17th century. Though it comes from a tradition outside of our own (writing as a Reformed Christian), it is an excellent reminder from the Scriptures of what our responsibilities are toward our godly, faithful pastors. As they prepare to lead us in worship and bring God’s Word to us tomorrow, shall we take to heart once again these duties?
Here are the first three duties; find the rest at the link above.
1. It is the duty of every member to pray for his Pastor and Teachers.
“Brethren pray for us” (1 Thess 5:25; Heb 13:18) that the Word of the Lord may run and be glorified. Again, saith Paul, “praying also for us that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ” (Col 4:3). Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. Those that neglect this duty seem not to care either for their Minister, or their own souls, or whether sinners be converted, or the church edified or not. They pray for their daily bread, and will they not pray to have the Bread of Life plentifully broken to them?
Motives to this:
- The Minister’s work is great: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor 2:16).
- The opposition is not small which is made against them (see 1 Cor 16:9).
- God’s loud call (as well as Minister’s themselves) is for the saints’ continual prayers and supplications for them.
- Their weaknesses and temptations are many.
- The increase and edification of the church depends on the success of their ministry.
- If they fall or miscarry, God is greatly dishonored, and his ways and people reproached.
2. They ought to show a reverential estimation of them, being Christ’s ambassadors, also called Rulers, Angels, etc.
They that honor and receive them, honor and receive Jesus Christ. “Esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess 5:13). Again, he saith, “Let the elders that rule well, be accounted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in word and doctrine” (1 Tim 5:17). That is, as I conceive, those that are most laborious.
3. It is their duty to submit themselves unto them, that is, in all their exhortations, good counsels, and reproofs.
When they call to any extraordinary duty such as prayer, fasting, or days of thanksgiving, if they see no just cause why such days should not be kept, they ought to obey their Pastor or Elder, as in other cases also. “Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves” (Heb 13:7).
This past Tuesday, Vernon Ibe, our recent Seminary graduate from the Philippines, came by the Seminary one more time before leaving for home yesterday. I was hoping that he would be in again, as I wanted to get a few pictures of him too with the gift from the Berean PRC in the Philippines – the carved carabao (see last week Thursday’s post and pictures, July 5). As you can see, I did, and I am so glad I could get these pictures. Prof. Barry Gritters was also present, and being the Missions professor, it seemed right to have him in a picture as well.
We said our (yes, tearful) final goodbyes. Vernon and Melody, MJ and LJ left with the Kleyns (Missionary-pastor Daniel and Sharon) yesterday and should be back home in the Philippines sometime tonight. Continue to pray for safety in their travels – and for God’s blessings on their life and labors in that land. God be with you till we meet again!