Book Alert! Christianizing the World – David J. Engelsma

christianizing-world-DJE-2016Time for another book alert, this time relating to a new publication from the Reformed Free Publishing Association. The book is titled Christianizing the World: Reformed Calling or Ecclesiastical Suicide?, and is the substance of a speech given by emeritus professor David J. Engelsma (PRC Seminary) in 2014 in the Grand Rapids, MI area.

The book is occasioned by the recent translation and publication of Abraham Kuyper’s major Dutch work on common grace and  addresses the contemporary theological and ecclesiastical fascination with this doctrine, especially as it relates to Christianity’s calling in regards to culture – summarized by the author as “Christianizing the World.”

This is how he describes it in his preface:

For many years, it has been widely accepted in Reformed circles worldwide that the theory of common grace developed by the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper and the project of Christianizing the world by this common grace, which Kuyper exhorted, are Reformed orthodoxy. Of late, this thinking spreads among evangelicals both in North America and across the world.

…Few, if any, question this quixotic (ad)venture with regard to its biblical and Reformed bases. Conservative and liberal Reformed theologians, scholars, churches, and seminaries alike enthusiastically endorse and promote the project and its theological foundation and source in a common grace of God.

This book examines the theory of common grace and its cultural ambitions in light of the Reformed creeds and holy scripture, particularly the passages of scripture to which Kuyper and his disciples mainly appeal. The book also calls attention to the deleterious effects of the theory of common grace upon the churches and schools that have adopted it and put it into practice (p.9).

Below is the publisher’s description of the new book:

This book is a critique of Abraham Kuyper’s cultural theory of a common grace of God and of the grandiose mission of this grace, and of those who confess the theory and evidently intend to promote it so that it accomplishes the end Kuyper claimed. The book exposes Kuyper’s biblical basis for his theory and its practical mission.

The first and main part of the book is a much-expanded version of the public lecture given in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2014 under the auspices of the evangelism society of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan. The second part of the book consists of questions raised by the audience at the conclusion of the lecture and of the answers by the speaker at the lecture.

  • 192 pages
  • hardcover
  • ISBN 978-1-944555-02-3

As you can judge, the book is a significant work in light of the contemporary Reformed-Christian scene. This is a work you will want to read carefully and reference repeatedly if you are interested in the Reformed doctrine of grace and in the calling of the Christian in this world.

Visit the RFPA website for information on ordering this new title.

Note to Self: Stop Pretending

Note-to-self-ThornSome good thoughts for us as we start this week of work and school.

Start by reading Romans 1:12.

Dear Self,

Like everyone else, you are pretty good at pretending. It is not malicious, but you can put on a good face when in reality things are not that good. You want to appear strong even when you are weak, or you at least do not want to appear weak. This superficial persona is the front of pride that only encourages the sin to continue in yourself, and it ultimately robs you of gospel influence – the kind of influence Paul had with the church in Rome, and they had with him.

When you pretend, you lose gospel influence in two ways – inwardly and outwardly. You lose the inward influence of the gospel in that you are not honest with others and deny them the opportunity to speak into your life. When you lack transparency, people are left without the opportunity to encourage you where you need it most. For example, sometimes you become anxious, but you have a good poker face. So you hold it together on the surface, but underneath it all you are in trouble. You need to tell the truth about what you are going through, and you need someone to tell you the truth of God. You need to hear of God’s sovereign and good plan for the lives of those who love him, and how this is rooted in the gospel. You need to see the strong faith of others so that you can persevere through such times of anxiety and fear. You pretend to protect yourself but wind up sabotaging your own spiritual life by not being real.

…Know this – it is the gospel that allows you to be real. It admits us all as sinners and establishes us all as saints. Your local church is the only place where this reality, and not pretending, can be the culture of gathered community. Be real. Admit where you are and what you are. This will allow others to minister to you, and you to minister to others.

Taken from Chap.15 “Stop Pretending” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.67-68.

Should Not Perish – Guy Richard

TT-May-2016As we noted last time, the featured articles in this month’s Tabletalk (May 2016) focus on the theme of the Reformed theology of John 3:16. As Reformed Christians, we must not let the Arminians, who have so abused and misused this text, rob us of its true gospel content and comfort.

Another featured article that I read and profited from today was this one from Dr. Guy M. Richard, a PCA pastor in Gulfport, Mississippi. Carefully and clearly, according to the Scriptures, he explains what the word “perish” signifies and what the promise of John 3:16 means when it says that those who believe on Jesus Christ will “not perish.”

This is how he ends his article, but you may find all of it at the link below. As we end this Lord’s day, let us who have placed our trust in the only Savior rejoice that we will not perish, as we deserve.

This understanding of the word perish is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching about hell. In Matthew 25:31–46, for example, Jesus sets the “eternal life” that is reserved for “the righteous” over against the “eternal fire” (v. 41) and the “eternal punishment” (v. 46) that is reserved for everyone else (referred to as both “goats” who do not follow the shepherd and as “cursed”). Those who do not receive eternal life do not simply die or cease to exist. They experience an eternity of “destruction” or “punishment” that manifests itself in “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 18:8; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 3:17) or in the “fiery furnace” in which “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42, 50). This is what it means to perish. It is an eternity of getting what our sins and our rejection of Jesus Christ deserve.

And this is precisely why John 3:16 is so encouraging for the Christian. It holds out to us the promise that “whoever believes” in Jesus Christ will not perish. Although our sins and our rebellion clearly deserve an eternity of destruction, that is not what we will receive from God. He will be merciful. He will spare us from destruction. He will not give us what we deserve. Jesus has ensured that. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift (2 Cor. 9:15).

But John 3:16 also stands as a warning that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are perishing and those who believe in the Son and are thus spared from perishing; those who “remain” under God’s wrath for eternity and those who believe and receive eternal life instead (John 3:36). Each person’s response to Jesus determines which of the two categories he or she is in. Those who respond to Him in faith and obedience (which is the fruit and, thus, the proof of genuine faith) will not perish but will have eternal life. Those who do not respond in faith and obedience will not be shown mercy. The wrath of God will remain on them for eternity.

The good news of John 3:16 is that, though we were all at one time numbered among the perishing, now, through faith in Christ alone, that is no longer the case. We have been shown mercy. And for that reason, we will not perish.

Source: Should Not Perish by Guy Richard

What It Means to Be Reformed: Christian Life – Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerIn the May 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer Prof.B. Gritters concluded his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed.” The last segments of the series treated the Reformed Christian life.

One of the sub-points in this part of the series was the truth that the Reformed Christian lives a “dual citizenship” in this life – in the church and in the world. This is how he explains the first citizenship:

When the Reformed Christian’s spiritual GPS asks him to assign an address for “Home,” he enters “Church.” Membership in and life in a true church is the starting point and ending point of his existence. The center of his life is the church— the church as institute. Although he has many interests in the world and a multitude of responsibilities, these interests and responsibilities all trace their significance back to his membership in the church.

What demands that he make the church central is his union with Christ. Christ Himself makes the church central. He ascended into heaven “that He might appear as head of His church,” as the Heidelberg Catechism says. God “put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1. “The church He loveth well,” the Psalms teach us to sing. For the Reformed Christian, no minimizing of church is permissible. Hold that thought.

But, then, he also goes on to show that the Reformed Christian lives a full life in this world – though he is not “of it.”

Reformed Christians also live in, and have a citizenship in, the world. They are citizens in a particular country and reside in an earthly community where not all are Christians. They have responsibilities there. They do not flee the world, Anabaptist-fashion, but live as productive citizens in it, engaging freely but cautiously in all its dimensions. They seek an occupation that fits their gifts, study to advance understanding in science and the liberal arts, and delight in good music and arts. In other words, they live broadly as productive citizens with a view to the welfare of the community. Part of that life is submitting to the magistrate. Reformed Christians usually cast votes for their leaders and, if necessary, write letters of concern to the powers that be. Some will sign petitions to keep a business closed on Sunday, or to
bar from the neighborhood a so-called Gentlemen’s Club, an abortion clinic, or a casino. Others will join with fellow citizens—of course, in a manner that does not compromise their Christian principles—to oppose evils like abortion, or do good for the community or nation in which they live. They are citizens of an earthly country.

In that connection, he also points out the real danger of neglecting this part of the Christian life:

There is a real danger that we Reformed Christians belittle or even shun these components of the Christian’s existence, huddle in a little corner, and avoid contact with the world. There is a history of Christians making this mistake, and we must not repeat it by an unbiblical understanding of antithetical living. Living antithetically does not mean physical separation from the world. Healthy Reformed Christians grasp the teaching of the Belgic Confession’s Article 36, and appreciate its reference to I Timothy 2’s call to pray for rulers. And even if they do reject the new, but common and foolish, interpretation of Jeremiah 29:7—that Babylon must somehow be transformed by our efforts and even become the friend of the church—they also properly understand Jeremiah’s call to seek the peace of today’s “Babylon.”

How then shall we live? In this way, by God’s sovereign grace.

Seriousness in Worship – J. Helopolous

TT-May-2016This month’s issue of Tabletalk (May 2016) centers on the theme of the Reformed theology of John 3:16, with eight articles devoted to explaining the glorious gospel of that text. We hope to reference a few of these articles yet this month (for now, you may read editor Burk Parsons’ introduction).

In the back of this issue is a hidden gem on the subject of worship written by Rev. Jason Helopolous, assistant pastor to Rev. Kevin DeYoung at University Reformed Church in Lansing, MI. The title, as you will see above and below, is “Seriousness in Worship”, and on this Lord’s Day when we are participating in this holy activity of worship, it is good to read some of this thoughts.

I encourage you to read the entire article at the link below, but this is how Helopolous ends:

Remind Yourself

Third, in worship, tend to your heart. As your mind drifts in the service (which happens to the best of us), remind yourself of the great privilege of corporate worship. My friends, we are meeting with the triune God of the universe—never lose sight of this. The Lord of glory is speaking to us and the grace of Christ is being extended to us. Nothing in all the earth is more significant, monumental, and remarkable than the reality that God chooses to meet with us week in and week out.

Reflect

Finally, reflect on the worship service afterward. Ask each family member on the drive home to explain what they heard in the service, how the Lord convicted them, and what delighted their soul. Use the Lord’s Day afternoon to reread and pray through the passage preached. Plead with the Lord to reveal your own sin, teach you new truths, uncover your weaknesses, increase your faith, and bind your wounds.

Worship is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy. Attending to it with seriousness is paramount. That does not mean moroseness or in some kind of stiff formality, but rather with intention, attention, and delight. God chooses to meet with us. That reality should rattle the Christian’s soul with joy.

Source: Seriousness in Worship by Jason Helopolous

Family Worship: Read, Pray, and Sing – D.Whitney

family-worship-whitney-2016In the last few months we began to exam a new publication of Crossway that I requested for review. The book is Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.), and after tracing the history of family worship (to inspire us to continue a long-standing tradition!), the author takes us into the elements of family worship in chapter three.

Whitney gives to this chapter the title that covers the three main elements of worship in our homes: read, pray, and sing. Allow me to give you a few of his brief but beneficial points in this section (pp.44-51).

First, about reading the Bible, he says:

Chapter by chapter, read through the books of the Bible together. The younger the children, the more you will want to use narrative passages and read shorter sections. As the children get older, set a goal to read through the entire New Testament, and later through the entire Bible.

Read enthusiastically and interpretively. In other words, don’t be one of those people who reads the Bible as apathetically as if reading a phone directory out loud. It is the Word of God – read it to the best of your ability.

Also, explain any words the children may not understand. Clarify the meaning of key verses. To improve their understanding, perhaps ask the children to choose a verse or phrase to explain to you, and then have them pick one for you to explain to them.

Second, about praying, Whitney offers this good idea:

    Some families, regardless of where they were reading in the Bible, always go to the book of Psalms when it’s time to pray and turn the words of a few verses there into a prayer. If praying through Psalm 23, for instance, after reading the first verse you might thank the Lord for being your Shepherd, ask him to shepherd your family through certain events or decisions, and so forth. And as you have time, continue through the passage line by line, speaking to God about what comes to mind while reading the text.

And, thirdly, concerning singing, he writes in part:

    Some people sing a different song each time; some sing the same song for a week so that they can learn it. As to music, some families sing along with recordings, while others use family musicians. My perception is that most families – even when it’s only a husband and wife – simply sing without accompaniment.

One more thing of profit I want to reference yet from this chapter. Toward the end of this chapter, Whitney has a section headed by “If Time Permits…”, and here he speaks of time for three other things during family devotions: catechizing (yes, how practical and profitable is this?!), memorizing Scripture (again, a great opportunity to do this!), and reading other books.

Yes, not surprisingly, that last is the one I want to key in on:

Again, time permitting, you might begin your family gathering with some general family reading, after which you enter family worship. Or, at the close of family worship, you might take advantage of the opportunity to read a Christian book or biography to your family.

You’re probably aware of studies which demonstrate the many benefits received by the children whose parents read to them. For many families, there’s no easier way to ensure a family reading time than by attaching it to another daily event for everyone in the household: family worship.

How is your practice of family worship going? Are you reading, praying, and singing together?

Calvin College in 1927 – Students & Professors

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanLast year in connection with history and archives features on Thursdays we began quoting from John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College.

We have been drawing especially of late from chapter five, “Golden Branches Among the Shadows,” where Timmerman describes in detail his own experience of life at Calvin as a student. Today we pick up where we left last time, as he gives us a glimpse of the college as a whole.

In 1927 seventeen professors taught 320 students in a college almost wholly supported by the Christian Reformed Church. Tuition was $100 a year for students from Grand Rapids, $75 for those from Paterson [New Jersey], and even less for those from more distant places. There were no scholarships, and student aid came in the form of pay for serving in the kitchen, sweeping floors, and shoveling coal. There were a few names like Yared, Washington, and Uhl, but the student body was overwhelmingly Dutch.

Professors taught fifteen hours a week. There were two professional offices, usually unoccupied, and counseling was nonexistent except when asked for. Professors prepared their studies at home, filled their briefcases with the results, emptied the contents out in class, and hurried back. The only professor’s home I was ever in was President R.B. Kuiper’s. He had a sense of humor; he invited some students who had pilfered applies in the dormitory over on a Sunday evening and gave them apples. Professors were much more distant than they are now, and the only really approachable professors I had were Dr. W.H. Jellema and Prof. H.J. VanAndel. The rest were not unfriendly; they were just aloof. On the whole, they practiced what Prof. Johannes Broene preached when he said, ‘The faculty is the heart of the college.’ It did indeed move the institution, but it did not move about with its students (pp.32-33).

Note to Self: Keep Seeking God

Start by reading Psalm 119:9-10.

Dear Self,

You tend to forget that seeking God is not only a quest for the lost, but is also to characterize the life of the found. The whole of your life should be seen as a seeking for God. This is not, of course, seeking for that which you do not know or have. God has found you, bought you, and owns you. You have been adopted, and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus. Yet your need to seek God never ends.

Seeking God means that you are continually aiming and working at knowing him more deeply, depending on him more thoroughly, and experiencing his grace more richly.

….It is unfortunate that you forget your need to seek God, for though you are right that God is enough, you forget that he is only found to be enough by those who seek him. Seeking God means that in all you do, you keep his honor in your mind, his Word in your heart, and his glory as your goal – so you are seeking to actually know him and make him known.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.12 “Seek God” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.58-59.

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship – D.Hyde

Psalm122The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has a new aspect to its Internet witness and that is “Meet the Puritans,” a brief daily article highlighting Puritan teaching and practice. In a recent post, pastor Danny Hyde (a URC minister whose name many of you may be familiar with) wrote about the importance of having and attending BOTH services on the Lord’s Day.

After a quote from John Owen, one of the great Puritan preachers and writers, Hyde points to a recent note he gave his congregation about being faithful in attendance at the evening service. While not everything he communicates matches our own (PRC) experience, we can certainly appreciate his ten practical reasons for maintaining our own attendance at the second service on Sunday.

A while back in my weekly email to my congregation, I gave my people my “Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship” in an ongoing effort to educate, encourage, and exhort. They are not exhaustive and they apply to my context, in particular, but the principles should be applicable to any who reads this. May God move his people in our time to sanctify the Christian Sabbath, leading to a renewal of evening worship.

  1. God promises to be present in our midst unlike anywhere else in public worship.
  2. This is a practical help for us to sanctify the Lord’s Day with morning and evening bookends.
  3. This lays a foundation for our children to be evening attenders as well when they grow up (and not what the Dutch call a “oncer”).
  4. Since the Word of God is the food for our souls, we get “breakfast” and “dinner” every Lord’s Day with two sermons.
  5. We also read through the Old and New Testaments in evening worship with a chapter from each.
  6. We sing through the biblical Psalms together with two Psalms a week [we’ve done this 10+ times in 15 years].
  7. Our evening service is based on the historic form of evening prayer from the Protestant Reformation, thus giving us a sense of the communion of the saints through the ages.
  8. We pray biblically-saturated, ancient prayers together at evening worship, thus giving us a sense of transcendence.
  9. We get to bear each other’s burdens as we lift up prayer requests in each other’s midst.
  10. Since there is no Sunday school after, we have more time to fellowship and enjoy each other’s presence after the evening service.

Source: Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship – Meet the Puritans

Coined by God: Legacy

CoinedbyGod-MallessIt has been a while since we served up a “Word Wednesday” feature, so let’s return to it by considering another entry in the book Coined by God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in the English Translations of the Bible , the combined work of Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain (W.W. Norton, 2003).

Our selection today is the word “legacy, an oft-used word today which never made it into the main English translations of the Bible. About this common English word Malless and McQuain write (pp.49-50):

LEGACY: (noun) anything handed down by a predecessor; bequest

One of Wycliffe’s major linguistic legacies is the infiltration of the English language with many loanwords from the Vulgate Latin of Jerome’s Bible. His literal borrowing of legacy, however, led to a semantic as well as a translational dead end.

The noun appears in a section of 2 Corinthians where Paul exhorts the faithful to become ‘ambassadors of Christ’: ‘Therefore we are set in legacy [legacie]…for Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). ‘Ambassador’ would be the English translation of Jerome’s word legationem (from the verb legare, ‘to send an ambassador’), but Wycliffe chose to stay with the Latin. Consequently, legacy was dropped from the 1388 Wycliffite version, never to appear again anywhere in the Bible, and its literal meaning of ‘legateship’ became obsolete by the end of the eighteenth century.

Today, traces of that earlier coinage survive in delegate, but the most common legacy has been in the sense of a figurative bequest. This the first annual Hurston/Wright Legacy Award was recently announced to honor published writers of African descent. …But perhaps Shakespeare said it best in All’s Well That Ends Well: ‘No legacy is so rich as honesty’ (III. v.13).

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