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.

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.

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

When I Feel Stuck (or Handling “Wet Wednesdays”) – Neil Stewart

TT-April-2016This fine article from the April 2016 Tabletalk on how to deal with seasons of discouragement and depression in our lives is worth your reading, in my estimation. And worth passing on to a friend or family member who also struggles with these very real things in his/her Christian life.

I give you a portion of it here; you will find the rest at the Ligonier link below.

Stewart begins by describing the condition we experience:

The soul knows its own wet Wednesday afternoons. All prodigals, we walk home through a world blighted by Adam’s choice. Fallenness dampens every joy. Burdens heavy with guilt, shame, and regret bite into our shoulders. Fears within and troubles without loom black like thunder. We yearn to hear more of the running footsteps of a welcoming father, his strong arms wrapped around, his tears warm and salty on our cheeks. But disappointed longings follow us as constant companions. Our best moments are always interrupted, and like the weekend for the midweek schoolboy, heaven can feel far enough away to seem forever away.

The worst of these times go unexplained. No particular sin, failure, or mistake stands out as the culprit. We feel “blah” and don’t know why (Ps. 42:5). In this far place, we fall easy prey to a dark theology built upon feelings. A depressing inevitability follows: We don’t feel God speaking, so we stop reading our Bibles. We don’t sense God listening, so we stop saying our prayers. Inertia dampens everything; we go nowhere. What to do?

Indeed, what to do?! Here is part of his answer:

First, remember: you are not alone. All God’s children have trodden these paths before. How often the psalmists felt abandoned, yet they still reached for God in song. David cried out: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1). The Sons of Korah asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (42:1). These saints were coming before the Lord and asking how long God would hide His face from them. There is a lesson here: good men often feel worse than they are. These men begin in a moment of dark despair, but they do not end there. As the psalmists agonize, their hearts leak Scripture. In the darkness, back beneath the sense of dereliction, God is still there, giving them words, helping them Godward, inspiring the Bible. Yahweh is always nearer to us than we feel.

Yes, that “first” is truly first! “Hope thou in God!” Psalm 42:5

Source: When I Feel Stuck by Neil Stewart

Note to Self: Be Humble in Your Theology

A good theologian is humble.

…The more robust, the more detailed your theology, the more humble you should become. Why? Because you did not figure God out; he revealed himself to you. Don’t you remember the words of Jesus to Peter when the disciple correctly acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah? ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but m y Father who is in heaven.’ (Matt.16:17) The theologian owes his knowledge to God himself, who has not only made himself known in creation and Scripture but has also opened our eyes to understand and embrace the truth.

…You understand that you did not uncover the truth of God like some kind of rock star archeologist. He sought you, caught you, and gave you sight, knowledge, and life. Humility should be borne out of your theology because you are so entirely dependent on God for it.

…It’s possible to be technically accurate in your theology and yet miss the mark of humility. Be passionate for God, fight for truth, content for the faith, but be humble. Your knowledge is a cause to be humble, not a reason to boast in your insight or tradition.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.10 “Be Humble in Your Theology” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.54-55.

Note to Self: Jesus is Enough

First, read Philippians 4:11-13.

     Are you satisfied? It is pretty obvious that the answer is often no. …It is true; you need what you lack, but what you lack is satisfaction in Jesus.

When you find your deepest satisfaction in Jesus, you are protected from bitterness in times of want and pride in times of abundance. The world and all good gifts within it are temporal blessings. For you, Christian, their presence should remind you of the Giver, and their absence should remind you of that which never fades nor can be taken away.

…Both guilt and greed in times of abundance are the responses of your heart when Jesus is not more glorious to you than the worldly gifts God has also given. If Jesus is your greatest treasure, you respond to God’s generosity in all areas of life with great joy and the desire to share what God has given you – both the worldly goods and the heavenly gospel.

On the other hand, you know what it is like to have little in this world and then struggle with jealousy and bitterness. But the root of the problem is the same – Jesus is not your greatest treasure. Jesus is enough. Do you believe that? …But that kind of satisfaction is only experienced when we understand our greatest needs to be redemption and restoration. God in Christ has reconciled us to himself, is renewing our minds, and promises to raise us from the dead, and we will dwell in righteousness and peace forever. If you have this, what more do you need?

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.8 “Jesus is Enough” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.49-51.

On My Shelf: Life and Books with David Wells

If you are not familiar with David Wells and his books, you ought to become so. Wells is research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts and author of such titles as God in the Wasteland, No Place for Truth, and The Courage to be Protestant – all good reads.

In this interview with Gospel Coalition’s Ivan Mesa (posted Feb.9, 2016) Wells reveals what books have shaped him, what he’s currently writing, his favorite books, and more.

I quote two sections of the interview where – the two where Wells talks about the books that have most influenced him as a Christian. I think you will find his comments profitable. Find the rest of the interview (and more on what books he enjoys!) at the link below.

What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel? 

The gospel is the message of salvation and, as such, it’s the place where our understanding of God, sin, grace, and Christ all come into tight focus. On those subjects I drank deeply from Heinrich Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics. This is a selection of the best in Reformed thinking from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It put me in touch with the deepest thought in the life of the church.

I love the Princetonians, especially Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, and some of B. B. Warfield’s writings.

J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, at a popular level, is on this same list.

What books have most helped you teach others about Jesus? 

I first heard John Stott (1921–2011) when he visited the University of Cape Town on a gospel mission. At the time, I was a rebellious student who knew nothing about Christian faith. I was converted soon thereafter, and immediately read Basic Christianity, which solidified my understanding.

Two years later I moved to London and, as it turned out, was able to live with Stott in the All Souls Church rectory. What made such a deep impression on me was seeing the seamless connection between the biblical truth he preached and wrote about, and the way it was worked out in the practical setting of a church. Many other books followed, of course. Later came his The Cross of Christ and then his commentary on Romans, which is the most lucid exposition of Romans available. These books all have the ring of authenticity and they have shaped the way I see things.

Source: On My Shelf: Life and Books with David Wells

Note to Self: Sing

      You really should sing more. You should sing more than at gathered worship with the church. You should sing in the car, while working in the yard, and in your home. And when you sing, you should do so with more than lungs and lips. You should sing with your heart, mind, and soul.

…People sing about the things that capture their hearts and things that give them joy. People sing of heroes, victory, longing, and hope. People even sing as a way to express their sorrow. Does anyone have more reasons to sing than you? As a sinner who has been forgiven, a slave who has been freed, a blind man who has received sight, a spiritual cripple who has been healed – all by the gospel – you have real reasons to be known as a person of song!

It is one thing to tell the world of God’s work of redemption in Jesus; it is another to sing of it. Anyone can parrot truth, but to sing of it – from the soul – reveals how you feel. Song is the natural and appropriate response to the gospel, because singing is one of the highest expressions of joy.

So why aren’t you singing ‘always, only for [your] king?’ Have the mercies of God grown small in your heart? Is there little joy, little gratitude, little wonder? Do you just not feel like singing? The confession of sin and gospel meditation will lead you to song, so start there. There are songs of praise, thanksgiving, confession, lament, and victory that need your voice.

…So join the chorus of God’s people, who have always been known as a people who sing.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from “Part One: The Gospel and God” (Chap.4 “Sing”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.41-42.

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