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.”

Why Inerrancy is Essential – Michael Kruger

Why It’s Essential by Michael Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015Yesterday before worship services I finished reading through my March Tabletalk, including the final articles on this month’s theme, “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

The first of these final articles is by Dr. Michael Kruger (professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC) and titled “Why It’s [Inerrancy] Essential.” One of the things he does in his article is answer various objections that have been raised in the Christian academic world against the doctrine of inerrancy. I find this form of apologetics to be most helpful, and include here for  your benefit one such objection that he answers (for the full article, follow the Ligonier link above).

3. Inerrancy is not taught by the Bible itself. Some have suggested that there is no exegetical argument for inerrancy, but only a theological one based on the fact that God is a God of truth and cannot lie. Who are we (so the argument goes) to determine what kind of book God could or could not inspire? But again, this argument proves to be a straw man.

First, there is nothing inappropriate about theological arguments—some doctrines flow naturally from other doctrines that we already believe. For instance, many of our beliefs about the Trinity are not based on simple proof-texting, but are pieced together from a variety of theological considerations (for example, God is one, yet Jesus is God). If we believe the Bible is the very Word of God—that is, when Scripture speaks, God speaks—then it follows that the contents of the Bible are truthful. One need only consider Jesus’ own view of the Old Testament. Time and again, Jesus appeals to Old Testament passages and always receives it as truth, never correcting it, criticizing it, or pointing out inconsistencies. Indeed, He not only refrained from correcting the Scriptures, but He also affirmed the Scriptures “cannot be broken” (John 10:35), and that “[God’s] Word is truth” (John 17:17). It is unthinkable that Jesus would ever have read an Old Testament passage and declared, “Well, this passage is simply wrong.”

A second beneficial article I read on this subject is that which immediately follows Krugers in the magazine, “Just Me and My Bible?” by Rev.Terry Johnson (pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA). In this interesting article Johnson shows that the Reformed faith too has a healthy regard for the church’s tradition (contra Rome, but understood properly), most prominently in her creedal heritage, when it comes to understanding the Bible.

I also leave you with a portion of his article, encouraging you to read the rest at the link above (at his title).

Bible study is meant to take place in an ecclesiastical context, one that stretches back to the Apostles. We read Scripture in light of what properly ordained pastor teach, but also in light of what the creeds and councils, the confessions and theologians—of the catholic (universal) and Reformed tradition—have taught. Too many contemporary Christians barely hide their contempt for “traditional ways of doing things.” By way of contrast, Paul urges the Corinthians to “maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2; see 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). He urges them to maintain not merely the “message,” the “good news,” the “teaching,” the “instruction,” or the “commandment,” but the “tradition.” In the immediate context, Paul is talking about the infallible Apostolic tradition that we know today as the New Testament. Still, there is a secondary application—those who have gone before us could err and have erred, but it is wise for us to give the benefit of the doubt to the great men and women of God who interpreted the Bible before us.

This tradition is the interpretive or exegetical heritage of those who hold to the Reformed faith. I am to read my Bible not in isolation, but in consultation with that heritage, its teachers (both alive and deceased), and its implications for theology, ecclesiology, ethics, worship, and family life. What did our ecclesiastical ancestors say about a given passage of Scripture? What was their consensus on a given doctrinal theme? A given church practice? Humility demands that we go beyond “just me and my Bible” as we seek to be faithful in our generation.

A Spiritually Thriving Christian – J.Owen

The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen  -     By: Ryan M. McGraw<br />
This weekend I started to do some reading in a new title I had received for review from Reformation Heritage Books. The book, edited and introduced by Ryan M McGraw, is a small (in size and length – 150 pgs.) paperback titled The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, part of their series “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality”.

The work, which purposes to introduce the reader to the theology of Puritan John Owen (1616-1683), consists mainly of brief selections (41 in all) from Owen’s writings, tying together the main themes of his theology: the Trinity (communion with God) and public worship (piety).

As I read through some of these brief chapters, I was struck by this one, “A Spiritually Thriving Christian”, taken from Owen’s The Nature and Causes of Apostasy. Keep that broader title in mind as Owen describes how important the church’s means of grace are for the spiritual health and growth of the believer. I believe you will find his thoughts a fitting cap to our Lord’s day in God’s house of fellowship and worship.

Again, there is not anything in the whole course of our obedience wherein the continual exercise of faith and spiritual wisdom, with diligence and watchfulness, is more indispensably required than it is to the due use and improvement of gospel privileges and ordinances, for there is no other part of our duty whereon our giving glory to God and the eternal concern of our own souls more eminently depend.

And he is a spiritually thriving Christian who knows how duly to improve gospel institutions of worship and does so accordingly, for they are the only ordinary outward means whereby the Lord Christ communicates of His grace to us and whereby we immediately return love, praise, thanks, and obedience to Him, in which spiritual intercourse the actings of our spiritual life principally do consist, and whereon, by consequence, its growth depends. It is therefore certain that our growth or decay in holiness, our steadfastness in or apostasy from profession, are greatly influenced by the use or abuse of these privileges (81).

“And so He (Christ, the Son of God) died.” – Rev. H.Hoeksema

After describing all that death is and what it signifies, Rev. Herman Hoeksema applies it to Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died on the cross at Calvary:

And so He died.

O, yes, it was necessary that He, too, should die the physical death. He might not simply suffer the agonies of death on the cross, in order then to be revived or glorified in the sight of the enemies. He must bear the wrath of God to the end. The sentence of God in physical death is that the sinner has absolutely forfeited every right to his existence in the world. This sentence must be executed upon Christ also. God takes away His whole earthly house. His very name perishes. His body, too, collapses, and He gives up the ghost. Also upon Him the sentence is pronounced that He is unworthy to exist on the earth.

Only, as the Head of His people, He agrees with the sentence of God with all His heart. He makes of death an act. His life He lays down even as God takes it. His spirit He commends to God, His body He delivers over into the place of corruption. His name and position He freely offers up to the righteousness of God. And in delivering up His soul unto death He confesses: ‘Thou, Father, art just and righteous, when Thou judgest that the sinner has no right to be, should be utterly destroyed from the earth, and should sink into everlasting desolation. Take my life, my name, my all. Freely I offer it in love to Thee. For even now it is my meat to do Thy will!’

…Only His death, the death of the Son of God Himself in human nature, could be so deep, so precious in the sight of God, that by His obedience many could be made righteous. Only when the death of the cross is the death of the Son of God can we have the assurance that our sins are blotted out for ever, and that in Christ we have the righteousness of God by faith.

Triple Knowledge-10vols-2015Taken from Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s explanation of Lord’s Day XVI (16), Q&As 40-44, of the Heidelberg Catechism, as found in The Death of the Son of God (Vol.3 of “The Triple Knowledge”; originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946 and now being reprinted by the RFPA), p.247-250.

Where Does Scripture’s Authority Come From? – Keith Mathison

What We’ve Received by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015The above-linked article in this month’s Tabletalk is the third one centered on the theme of the March issue – “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

Dr.Keith A. Mathison is the author of this article, and in it he treats the authority of Scripture in connection with how we know in the first place what books belong to the Bible (its “canon”). As he shows us the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, he refutes Rome’s claim that the church is the body that determines the canon of the Bible and therefore she is the one who gives Scripture its authority. Mathison shows plainly that the Bible carries its own authority because it is the Word of God.

What I appreciated about this article is its solid historical and confessional foundation rooted in the great Reformation. Repeatedly Mathison takes us to the historic Reformed creeds of the Reformation (Westminster Confession, Scots Confession, Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.).

This is a lengthy article, but well-worth your reading. I give you a portion of it here, where Mathison gets at the heart of the controversy between the Reformed and Rome. Find the full article at this link (or the one above).

The question at the heart of the debate between Rome and the Protestants regarding the canon and the authority of Scripture may be stated as follows (using Michael Kruger’s terminology): Is the canon of Scripture community determined or is it self-authenticating? According to Rome, the authority of Scripture depends upon the authority of the church. The most fundamental problem with this view, however carefully it may be nuanced and qualified, is that it unavoidably and inevitably places the authority of God beneath the authority of the church. It completely reverses the true state of affairs. If we are to believe in the authority of Scripture, according to Rome, we must assume the authority of the church. But why should we accept the authority of the church? Is it self-authenticating? No, Rome says, and she appeals to Scripture to establish the authority of the church just as she appeals to the church to establish the authority of Scripture. The circular nature of this appeal has been pointed out since the Reformation.

To say that the canon and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating is to say what the Reformed confessions say. It is, to use the words of William Whitaker, to say that “the Scripture is autopistos.” It has “all its authority and credit from itself.” Why? Because it is the Word of the living God, and God does not have to appeal to the church in order to establish His own inherent sovereign authority. God is God. The church is not God.

So, how is it that the church has come to recognize the right books and only the right books? Jesus Himself gives us the answer when He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). As Roger Nicole has pointed out, the best way to describe the way in which we know the canon is “the witness of the Holy Spirit given corporately to God’s people.” Recognition of the canonical books is due to the action of the Holy Spirit’s enabling God’s people to hear His voice.

The Paradox of the Cross – H.Hoeksema

And the expression of this wrath, i.e., the pain and agony, the suffering and misery, the sorrow and anguish of soul, the desolation and darkness, the fear and terror, the death and hell, that becomes the experience of him against whom God directs His wrath, Christ experienced!

That is the explanation, but at the same time the paradox of the cross!

At the moment of His deepest and most perfect obedience, He endures the agonies of the damned!

At the moment when God is most highly pleased with Him, He experiences all the terror of being forsaken of God!

But this is exactly why hell is still a question, an outcry to God for an answer! And that is the reason, too, why, even from the darkness of hell, and in the condition of utter desolation, the obedient Servant can still cry out: ‘My God, My God!’

He, that knew no sin, is made sin!

And that is also the reason, why his question, pressed from His utterly forsaken and agonized soul, has an answer. In the hell of mere sinners there is no question. It is the answer, the final answer, the answer of everlasting wrath. But the suffering Servant of Jehovah, because He is obedient and yet forsaken, has a question: Why me? And it receives an answer presently, an answer to which the Servant responds even at the cross: It is finished!

Triple Knowledge-10vols-2015Taken from Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s explanation of Lord’s Day XV (15), Q&As 37-39, of the Heidelberg Catechism, as found in The Death of the Son of God (Vol.3 of “The Triple Knowledge”; originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946 and now being reprinted by the RFPA), p.214

The Central Principles of J.Edwards’ Thought – G.Marsden

JEdwards-MarsdenFound in the “Introduction” of George M. Marsden’s monumental and splendid work on American theologian, pastor, and missionary Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale Univ. Press, 2003), are these significant statements summarizing the theology and life of Edwards:

The central principle in Edwards’ thought, true to his Calvinistic heritage, was the sovereignty of God. The triune eternally loving God, as revealed in Scripture, created and ruled everything in the universe. …Edwards avoided allowing God’s rule to be thought of as a distant abstraction, as it could become. Rather, he emphasized that God’s very purpose in creation was the great work of redemption in Christ. Everything in the universe pointed ultimately to the loving character of the triune God.

If the central principle of Edwards’ thought was the sovereignty of God, the central practical motive of his life and work was his conviction that nothing was more momentous personally than one’s eternal relationship to God. …He built his life around disciplines designed constantly to renew that eternal perspective. In his sermons and writings he turned his immense intellectual powers to rigorously following out the implications of God’s sovereignty for understanding human destinies, as defined by his biblicist and Calvinistic heritage. If there is an emphasis that appears difficult, or harsh, or overstated in Edwards, often the reader can better appreciate his perspective by asking the question: ‘How would this issue look if it really were the case that bliss or punishment for a literal eternity was at stake?’ (4-5).

Our book club met to discuss this work this morning, and I regret that I could not be there to participate.

If you have not read anything from or about Edwards, you really ought to, since you cannot understand American Christianity or history apart from him. He is that significant a figure in the history of the church in this country. You are hereby encouraged to read this work (yes, all 615 pages!), or at least his abbreviated version, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Eerdmans, 2008 – 176 pages!).

“Think upon Christ in that upper room!” – Rev.M.De Vries

SB-March1-2015The March 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is out and it opens with a wonderful meditation by Rev. Michael DeVries, pastor of our Kalamazoo, MI PRC. Appropriate for the church season of remembering and reflecting on our Savior’s suffering and death, Rev. DeVries bases his meditation on the familiar passage in John 13 and the recorded event of Christ’s washing of His disciples feet.

He titles his meditation “Christ’s Example of Servanthood”, and after explaining its significance for Christ and His humiliation, he points us to its significance for us. It is from this section that I quote tonight, leaving you with some of his practical thoughts about what Christ’s example means for us, who also profess to be His disciples.

But what about this example?  Plainly there is a calling here that falls to each one of us in the communion of the saints:  “Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet”!  Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Master do this…”  What about it?  Is this beneath us?  Do we suppose that we are somehow exempt?  Or that we are too good, too important, too popular, too talented?  Are there some things that Jesus did that are simply beneath our dignity?  If this be the case, we are proud!  And we show that we have not learned the first thing about the kingdom of heaven.  “Be clothed with humility.”  That, is the heavenly example we must follow!  The followers of Christ are to manifest that humility that is in Him so beautifully and wonderfully!

What a struggle it is to count others better than ourselves, to be concerned, first, not with our own welfare and advantage but with the welfare of others.  Let us seek not the praise and honor of men, but the approval of the God of our salvation!  Our Heidelberg Catechism puts it so beautifully in Answer 55:  “… that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.”    Do you seek the good and spiritual welfare of the brother or sister?   That is the implication of washing one another’s feet.  Do you help one another in the daily battle of faith?  Do you do that as servant, not in haughty pride, not looking down your nose at the erring brother or sister, but in the humility of a servant, loving the brother, seeking the salvation of his soul?

How is that possible?   Christ is the power of our humility!  Always the humility that characterizes the life of the saints is a humility that is rooted in regeneration.  It is a virtue that comes by grace alone.  It is worked in us through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  By His Spirit He works the humility of His own cross within our hearts.  Never does this humility come of ourselves!  God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)!

…Let us pray then for the beautiful grace of humility!  May humility more and more characterize all of our lives.  Think upon Christ in that upper room!  Esteem each other better than yourself!  In love serve one another!  And in that way we truly serve our God.

To learn more about the contents of this issue of the “SB”, click on the cover image here. To learn about how to subscribe to this edifying Reformed magazine, visit the website link above.

The Bible’s Inerrancy: How We Got Here – Stephen Nichols

How We Got Here by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015As we mentioned last Tuesday (see my March 3 post), the March Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.” Yesterday I read two more featured articles on this theme, including the one linked above by Dr.Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL.

Nichols provides a brief history of the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy, starting with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in 1978 and its “counterpunch”, the Rogers/McKim proposal of 1979. But from there, he works his way back through church history, from Augustine to Calvin to Luther to Warfield. Though a brief survey, Nichols’ treatment shows that the church has always maintained the inerrancy (and the infallibility) of the Bible.

I leave you with a brief section of his article today, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

And if you want a brief but handy glossary of terms on the doctrine of Scripture, Kevin Gardner provides that in this opening article, “Defining Our Terms”.

Augustine understood that we owe submission to God’s Word because we owe submission to God. John Calvin makes this exact point in his commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16. There, he writes, “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone.” In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin adds, “The full authority which [the Scriptures] obtain with the faithful proceeds from no other consideration than that they are persuaded that they proceed from heaven, as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.”

Martin Luther called the Bible our foundation. He warned, “We must not deviate from the words…Else, what would become of the Bible?” Luther once said that when it comes to the Bible, everything it teaches is believed or nothing it teaches is believed.

Luther’s statement here bears consideration. What option do we have next to the doctrine of the entire inerrancy and utter truthfulness of the Bible? Limited inerrancy? Why not simply call that limited errancy? Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, as well as a host of others, all sound the alarm regarding the danger of a view of biblical truthfulness that is less than full inerrancy. This has been the orthodox Christian position throughout the ages.

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