“Tabletalk” Interview with Reformed Pastor, President, Professor W. Robert Godfrey

Reformed Pastor, President, Professor by W. Robert Godfrey | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

One of the first articles I read in this month’s Tabletalk magazine was the interview feature, in part because I always find these to be interesting, but mostly because the March interview is with well-known “Reformed pastor [United Reformed Church], president [Westminster West Seminary], and professor [of church history], Dr. Robert Godfrey.

Yesterday, because I was finished with all the other articles, I re-read this interview, and remembered that if I had the time and space, I would post a few parts of it here. You may find the entire interview at the Ligonier link above, but I found these sections of Godfrey’s comments on Seminary training to be interesting and edifying.

I find much of his comment and counsel relevant to our own Seminary setting as well, and trust that you will too.

TT: Why is seminary education necessary today, especially when the Internet makes so many resources readily available?

RG: As you cannot learn surgery on the Internet, as you cannot have a church on the Internet, so you cannot get a good pastoral education on the Internet. The Internet is valuable for various kinds of information, but it cannot provide the kind of personal interaction and mentoring necessary for seminary education. The community of faculty and students and the community of students interacting with fellow students are both crucial for learning academic and interpersonal skills.

TT: Is seminary only for men seeking ordination as pastors? Who else should consider attending seminary, and why?

RG: While our seminary is focused vocationally on the education of future pastors, it also o—ffers education in the Bible, theology, and church history to men and women who are interested in learning. They then can use that learning for their own personal edification, to teach in the local church, or to serve churches around the world.

TT: What are two ways that churches can better prepare young men for the pastorate?

RG: First, seminaries need the support of churches to do their work. Prayer and financial support from the churches are vitally necessary for the seminaries to do their work of pastoral preparation. We work for the future of the church, and we need the help of the churches to flourish. Second, churches need to take on seminarians as interns to give them experience and encouragement. Seminary can teach many things, but the actual experience of serving and working in a church can only happen in the church.

TT: What is the main challenge that U.S. Seminaries face today? How is Westminster California working to meet that challenge?

RG: A great challenge that seminaries face today is the increasingly poor preparation that many students receive in their undergraduate education. Too many are not prepared to read analytically, to write research papers, or to study a foreign language. Many also are far less familiar with the English Bible than was the case in earlier generations. So our seminary has introduced a series of entrance exams that determine whether a student needs to take specific remedial courses. We invest a great deal of time in the careful teaching of Greek and Hebrew because they are so foundational to everything else we do. We are excited by the emergence of a college like Reformation Bible College, which we hope will send us much better prepared students.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (15)

JCalvinPicWe continue on this Sunday night our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in Jan./Feb./March 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his fourteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:1-6, which includes Calvin’s commentary on God’s call to true conversion on the part of His erring people in v.4 – “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem…”:

‘For why’, he says, ‘has circumcision been enjoined? Does not God by this symbol shew, that if a man rightly aspires after true religion, he ought to begin by putting off all the evil propensities of his flesh? Is he not to deny himself, and to die as it were both to himself and to the world? for circumcision includes all this.’

Then the Prophet shews that the Israelites had no excuse, that they went not astray through mistake or through ignorance; but they were acting perversely and deceitfully with God; for circumcision, by which they had been initiated into God’s service, sufficiently taught them, that God is not rightly nor faithfully served, except when men deny themselves.

…Circumcision was their great boast; but only before men; for nothing but ambition and vanity ruled in them, while they openly exulted and boasted that they were God’s holy and peculiar people. Hence the Prophet bids them not to value what was of no importance, but to become circumcised to Jehovah; that is, he bids them not to seek applause before the world, but seriously to consider that they had to do with God (204-5).

This lecture Calvin fittingly concludes with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to alienate ourselves from thee by our sins, and as thou yet kindly exhortest us to repent, and promisest to be appeasable and propitious to us, – O grant, that we may not perversely go on in our sins, and be ungrateful to thee for thy great kindness; but that we may so return to thee, that our whole life may testify that our repentance has been unfeigned, and that we may so acquiesce in thee alone, that the depraved lusts of our flesh may not draw us here and there, but that we may continue fixed and immovable in our purpose, and so labour to obey thee through the whole course of our life, that we may at length partake of the fruit of our obedience in thy celestial kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

“Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.” -Gerrit Vos

The following quote is taken from a meditation Rev. Gerrit Vos (pastor of Hudsonville PRC at the time) wrote for the March 1, 1964 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.40, #11), in connection with the church’s remembrance of the suffering and death of her Lord Jesus Christ. It is based on Matt.16:21“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”

The Unspeakable GiftLater, these meditations such as these were pulled together and published by the Men’s Society of Hudsonville PRC under the title The Unspeakable Gift: The Gift of God’s Son – Selected Meditations. This book is available through the Reformed Book Outlet in Hudsonville, MI.

Rev.Vos was gifted with a unique style of writing, a style that matched the intent of a meditation well (As did his preaching!). That is reflected in these words that form the closing part of the above-linked meditation. May its reflection on the gracious gift of God’s Son for us sinners serve to stir our souls and fill our mouths with humble thanks and praise to the God of our salvation.

However, when that happens, do not despair. But, rather, rejoice, and be very glad, for such was done primarily to Jesus, and to you for Jesus’ sake.

Partake of Jesus’ suffering, and . . . you will also partake in His glory.

For that is the third part of God’s program which must come to pass.

Although it seemed as though all was lost when Jesus hung on the accursed tree, He, nevertheless, obtained a glorious victory.

All the foregoing, no matter how horrible, was eternally necessary.

Jesus is the great Vicar, Substitute. Jesus is the Substitute for the elect church, which in itself is damn-worthy.

And Jesus takes over all their damn-worthiness and in their stead treads the weary pathway to everlasting death and condemnation.

And the elders, chief priests and scribes are the agents of God. Look up Acts 4:27, 25.

Necessary, I said. It was the only way of God’s wisdom. Only through the horrible spectacle of Golgotha could God come to the highest glory of His name. It took that Cross to reveal just how lovely and attractive our God is.

Looking at that bleeding Lamb unto all eternity it will not be too long to tell of His praises and to tell of His dory.

The cross of Jesus tells us of a lovingkindness that beggars description. Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.

God does not need us at all. He is the Self-Sufficient in Himself. He needs no world, no angels, no elect men, no heavenly music and chorus of millions of voices in order to enjoy Himself unto all eternity.

He has His everlasting Covenant life in Himself, and is happy.

God was happy in eternity before the world was.

He does not need the creature.

But He wanted to show to untold millions how limitless is His love and lovingkindness. He wanted to make His Name and His power known, and so He willed the wicked and the devils and the hosts with their devilish howling about that Cross and that Suffering Servant of Jehovah. He wanted the Blood of the Innocent as a Testimony of the everlasting power of His love.

Oh yes, we see it, we love it, we adore it, and we sing of it. And we shall never grow tired of telling Him how we love Him.

And so our Jesus rose from the dead, and took our glorified new nature smith Him to heaven. And He works in heaven, and shall work until all the saints are safe and time ended.

In your suffering, shame and reproach, remember: God loves you!

New Edition of “In the Beginning God” – Homer C. Hoeksema

In the Beg God - HCH - 2015The Reformed Free Publishing Association has just released a fresh edition of Homer C. Hoeksema’s (1923-1989) In the Beginning God (c.1966; 2nd ed., 2015). The book was the fruit of three timely lectures Prof. H.C. Hoeksema delivered in the old First PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) in the winter and spring of 1966.

The timeliness and importance of this book is noted in the publisher’s description:

The 1960s were years of challenges to the infallibility and inspiration of scripture. These attacks were precipitated by the increasingly popular theory of evolution, which was making inroads into Reformed churches and schools. In contradiction to this creeping heresy and in unequivocal defense of the doctrine of scripture, the Reformed Free Publishing Association published In the Beginning God.

Since then the conflict between creation and evolution as the explanation of the origin of the world has intensified, and the doctrine of scripture is increasingly compromised, even in historically Reformed churches and schools.

God’s people must be knowledgeable regarding the doctrines of scripture and of creation so that they are able staunchly to defend these truths. To this end the Reformed Free Publishing Association is pleased to republish this explanation and defense of these timeless truths.

With the timely reissue of this work we heartily concur, recommending this book to our PRC members but also to the broader Christian and Reformed community. Given the bolder and wider attacks against Scripture, and particularly against the opening chapters of God’s Book, especially now in the most conservative Evangelical and Reformed churches and institutions of higher education, the message of this significant work is important to digest and heed.

And the starting point for any serious discussion of and defense of the origin of the world is indeed where “HCH” placed it – the infallibility of holy Scripture. Listen to these words in his opening chapter:

The scriptures as we have them are the written record of the word of God. This is a great wonder. From among all books and all writings you can single out the scriptures and say about them, ‘This book is the word of God himself.’

…This is important practically with respect to inspiration, infallibility, and the various problems and questions that arise in connection with these truths. I fear that we are sometimes inclined to forget this. When we do forget, we are inclined to take a rationalistic approach and attempt to meet the opponent of the scriptures and of infallibility on his rationalistic ground. When we cannot succeed in overcoming his apparently well-reasoned arguments, we weaken and begin to have doubts concerning inspiration and infallibility, and we become inclined to compromise.

Hence we must remember that the Bible and its inspiration and its infallibility are strictly matters of faith. This means that the truth of infallibility is a spiritual matter: not a matter of the head, but a matter of the heart. The unbeliever cannot recognize the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God. That is a matter of the heart, a matter of faith. We stand on holy ground when we talk about scripture, and we ought to be deeply aware of this. Faith does not start with the question, is the Bible the word of God? Faith starts with the proposition that the Bible is the word of God.

…The Bible as the word of God in its divinely inspired and infallible character towers far above any human, sinful efforts to contradict the Bible, and it towers above any merely human efforts to defend it. The truth of the Bible depends on neither. It depends on God. God’s word and its truth are not dependent on our understanding, but our understanding is dependent on the word of God (9-11).

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Bookstores – ChristianityToday.com

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Booksto… | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

90-minutes-in-heaven-9780800759490Here is a healthy development in the world of Christian books: removing from shelves and stores books purporting to relate one’s experiences of going to heaven – a wildly popular form of writing, publishing, and reading these days. And part of the reason for doing so is also good – the sufficiency of Scripture to tell us about the afterlife.

“CT” carries this story from Baptist Press in this week’s summary of Christian news (“Gleanings”). I post the first part of the story here; find all of it at the “CT” link above.

NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Resources has stopped selling all “experiential testimonies about heaven” following consideration of a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”

LifeWay told Baptist Press about its decision to halt sales of heaven visitation resources today (March 24) in response to an inquiry about the book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, which is being made into a movie slated for release this fall. The book recounts Piper’s supposed experience of heaven following a severe auto accident and has sold 6.5 million copies in 46 languages.

…Though LifeWay “was not mentioned in the SBC resolution affirming the sufficiency of biblical revelation and affirming the truth about heaven and hell,” King told BP in an interview, “the resolution was approved overwhelmingly and was considered during our process.”

The resolution, adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in June, warned Christians not to allow “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience” to “become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife.”

…The resolution affirmed “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”

The 1950 PR Young People’s Convention and 25th Anniversary PRC Field Day

Last week several old issues of the Beacon Lights, the magazine “for Protestant Reformed Youth” were put away in the PRC archives. Bob Drnek  brought a few of them into my office because two of these were PR Young People Convention issues (1950 and 1968) and had some good pictures in them.

So I scanned a few pages from the August, 1950 “BL”, since this also included a report on the PRC Field Day held in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of our denomination – an event that drew 2700 to Spring Grove in Jamestown! We post these today, though some of the pictures are quite dark. But I hope you will recognize a few folks and enjoy another ride down “memory lane” – at least for some of you, since others of us didn’t come along until 1958!

Come along! Here we go! [As always, you may click on the picture to enlarge it.]

1950 BL Cover_Page_1

 

1950 Fed Board_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0005_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0006_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0001_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0002_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0003_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0004_Page_1

Books Riddled with Gilt – Abe Books

AbeBooks: Riddled with Gilt.

Poems by W.B. YeatsWhile we are thinking about looking back in our posts today, I believe you ought to see some of these gorgeous gilded books from the past.

Abe Books recently did a feature on them, and I reference that here today. The post included “25 shining examples of gilt-decorated books.”

Dunvegan Castle by Harold Steward Rathbone

Here’s a part of their short introduction along with a few of their examples. Follow the link above to browse the others.

Gilding is an age old art which consists of applying gold in powder or thin sheet (gold leaf) form to an object – in this case, a book’s pages or even cover boards.

The gold in gold leaf has typically been mixed or alloyed with other metals such as silver or copper. But there are other options, and not all that glitters is gold. Some cheaper editions simply have gold-colored paint, which can dull quickly, while at the other end of the spectrum are firms like Easton Press, who still accent editions in genuine 22kt gold.

If you ever get the chance to add one to your library, do so. I have a few among my treasures, including one that I keep in my office here. Below is the gilded cover and the inside page with Psalm 23 in special calligraphy.

Song of Syrian Guest-1911

Syrian Guest-inside-Ps23

Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 3:50 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Special Seminary Guests: Heritage CS 4th Graders (Group 1)

This morning the Seminary was privileged to host the 4th grade class of Ms. Elizabeth Van Drunen from Heritage Christian School (Hudsonville, MI). We have had these special guests for some years now, and we are always grateful for the interest the 4th grade teachers take in the Seminary (next week Wednesday Mrs. J.Woudenberg’s class comes!) and for the excitement of these nine-year-olds as they enter the building.

I have taken some pictures again and share them with you here. Prof.Gritters introduced the work of the Seminary to the class and then gave them the tour. Following that, they enjoyed with us the snacks they had taken along for coffee time. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once again, we say, Thanks for coming, 4th graders and Ms.Van Drunen! We are truly thankful for your interest in and support of our Seminary by means of this visit. And we hope that some of you boys will start thinking about whether God is calling you to the highest calling on earth (beside that of mother – and that’s for you girls!) – minister of the Word. It’s never too early to start thinking about this. :)

 

Synesthesia – Are You a Synesthete?

Synesthesia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For our Word Wednesday feature today we are going to learn about a rather unique phenomenon involving mixing words with food.

What is this condition and how do you know if you are a synesthete? In answer to that, here is part of what one finds on Wikipedia under this word:

Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia; from the Ancient Greek σύν syn, “together”, and αἴσθησις aisthēsis, “sensation“) is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.

One of the really unique aspects of this mixing of the senses is associating words with food – a condition known as

Lexical-gustatory synesthesia

This is another rare form of synesthesia where certain tastes are experienced when hearing words. For example, the word basketball might taste like waffles. The documentary ‘Derek tastes like earwax’ gets its name from this phenomenon, in references to pub owner James Wannerton who experiences this particular sensation whenever he hears the name spoken. It is estimated that 0.2% of the population has this form of synesthesia.

One of the reasons for bringing this up is due to a recent article that appeared on the Smithsonian online - “Meet the Man Who Can Taste Words” (there is some adult content linked in this article, so be aware). Here’s an example of someone with this sensory ability:

For [James] Wannerton, words are a constant source of distraction because the consonants give them taste. “College” tastes of sausage. “Karen” tastes of yoghurt. “Yoghurt” tastes, foully, of hairspray. “Most” tastes of “crisp, cold toast with hardly any butter on it”.

Now, there is another reason for mentioning this unique “skill” today: one of our own Seminarians is a synesthete. I discovered this amazing talent a few summers ago when he first helped me in the library. And boy, did I have fun with this! I don’t think he will mind being exposed, and you really ought to ask him about it sometime. You might be surprised to know what food your name is associated with in his mind. Then, again, maybe you don’t want to know.

O, the unique young man is Senior Ryan Barnhill. I just hope this doesn’t come out at Synod. :)

Published in: on March 25, 2015 at 10:08 AM  Leave a Comment  

Being Productive = Being Fruitful in Good Works – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanAs I read chapter five of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), I found many good thoughts (even if they were not new). Yet, on the whole, I was disappointed – not so much for what was said as for what was left out. Let me explain.

Chapter five is titled “Why the Things You Do Every Day Matter,” and as he continues to apply the gospel to our daily work (being productive, that is, getting the right things done), Perman is answering the question, “What, then, does God want done?” And his answer is “good works. What God wants done are good works” (73). This calling he then ties to Matt.5:16, which Perman states is “the purpose of the Christian summed up for us in one sentence. The entire purpose of our lives – what God wants from us – is to do good for others, to the glory of God” (74). And he concludes by redefining productivity in this way: “Productive things, then, are things that do good. Productivity always has to be understood in relation to a goal, and God’s goal is that we do good works. Hence, we can redefine productivity this way: to be productive is to be fruitful in good works” (74).

From there, Perman emphasizes our calling to be fruitful (abundant) in good works: “We are not to be scant and scarce in our good works, or even nominal and mediocre, but abundant and liberal in doing good” (75). And in answer to the further question, “Where do we do this good?”, he properly emphasizes that the doing of good works is not limited to those “rare, special, extraordinary, or super spiritual things we do,” but to the everyday things we do – our daily work and tasks done in faith – “anything we do in faith” (77).

As such, as I have no issue with this. A bit simplistic, perhaps, but true nonetheless. This is, in fact, how the gospel does transform the way we get things done. BUT, what was missing, to my mind, was the vertical relationship – our relationship to GOD. Over and over Perman defines good works as those which are done for the good of the neighbor. He stresses the fact that being productive is being loving for the neighbor’s good. That is, good works are fulfilling the second table of God’s law. Proper and important, to be sure.

BUT, the first table of the law is, well, first. Good works are those done first and foremost out of love for God and in service to Him. Our lives are to be primarily concerned with doing the good God wants us to do in relation to Him – having no god but Him, worshiping Him alone (and in the right way!), confessing His name always and everywhere, and resting in Him on His day – the first four commandments of God’s law.

If productivity is doing the right things to the best of our ability to the glory of God (being fruitful in good works), then before we can be properly productive in relation to the neighbor, we must be properly productive in relation to God. If I don’t love Him, I cannot love my neighbor. If I don’t worship Him alone, I cannot serve my neighbor rightly. If I don’t confess His name in my daily work, I cannot do any good for my neighbor’s name. If I don’t use my risen Lord’s special day to rest (Sunday), I cannot work for six days and do anything useful for the neighbor.

That, to my mind, is the missing element and emphasis in this chapter. If it’s still coming in the book, I stand to be corrected. But if it’s not coming, then we should get it straight now. God is first, always and ever. That’s the gospel. And that gospel transforms my life – and my work.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 536 other followers