We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: http://www.amazon.com/Book-Common-Prayer-Biography-Religious/dp/0691154813/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417814005&sr=8-1&keywords=jacobs+book+of+common+prayer. January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Cranmer-English-Reformation-1489-1556/dp/1592448658/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420055574&sr=8-1&keywords=A.F.+Pollard+Cranmer. February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Cranmer-Jasper-Ridley/dp/0198212879/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422892154&sr=8-1&keywords=jasper+ridley+cranmer&pebp=1422892151110&peasin=198212879
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Continue reading on Examiner.com: New Book Puts PA Minister in New Light - Harrisburg history | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/history-in-harrisburg/new-book-puts-pa-minister-new-light#ixzz1EviFIzQ4
For more see:
New Book Puts PA Minister in New Light - Harrisburg history Examiner.com
Monday, February 21, 2011
Book Review: Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way by Packer and Parrett « Heidelblog
When Scott Clark speaks, one is always compelled to weigh his perspective.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Good old, Reformed, Confessional Dutch Calvinistic Psalm-singing. As Archbishop James Ussher said, "I would be very comfortable in a Dutch Reformed Church as in mine."
Good old Dutch Calvinists, singing the Psalms.
The downtown house of worship acknowledges the 35th anniversary of the sinking of the ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’
By George Bulanda
It’s dwarfed by the towering RenCen hovering over it, but Mariners’ Church of Detroit on East Jefferson is a giant in its own right.
What other church can boast of escaping demolition, being moved 900 feet, and appearing in Life magazine? It also provided refuge for slaves on their way to freedom in Canada, won a landmark case against the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, and gained fame in a hit 1976 song.
Since opening its doors in 1849, the limestone structure, which was founded to minister to Great Lakes sailors, has charted its own independent course.
In 1842, Julia Ann Anderson’s will stipulated that the site of her mansion, at Woodward and Woodbridge, be left for the construction of a mariners’ church. She further demanded that it have “free” pews. It was common practice at the time to charge parishioners for seating, and the nearly destitute sailors were relegated to the rear of churches.
Although its congregation is more diverse today, Mariners’ Church still conducts an annual Blessing of the Fleet in March and holds a Great Lakes Memorial Service each November to honor those who died on the Great Lakes, as well as those who perished in the armed forces. This year, it will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 7.
Though it follows the traditional Anglican liturgy, the church is an independent denomination, as cited in its charter. In the 1980s, when the Episcopal Church claimed that Mariners’ was under its domain, Mariners’ fought — and won — the suit, which was settled in the ’90s.
Mariners’ is no ordinary church — and neither is its rector, the Rev. Richard W. Ingalls Jr. The affable 62-year-old, who’s been rector since 2006 and a member of the congregation since 1965, practiced law for nearly 25 years. Before that, he was a Russian linguist in the U.S. Army Security Agency.
It was his father, the Rev. Richard W. Ingalls Sr., who tolled the church’s bell 29 times 35 years ago on the morning of Nov. 11, 1975, for each man lost on the freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in Lake Superior during a storm the previous night. The practice continued until 2006, which was also when Ingalls Sr., who was later made a bishop, died.
The sinking is still remembered as part of the broader Great Lakes Memorial Service. In 1976, Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot released the ballad The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, whose lyrics include: In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed/In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral/The church bell chimed ’til it rang 29 times/For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
At the memorial service on Nov. 7, the 35th anniversary of the Fitzgerald tragedy will be acknowledged with a performance of Lightfoot’s song, along with a special prayer for the men who perished.
On the 10th anniversary of the sinking, Lightfoot himself attended the memorial at Mariners’ Church, an event Ingalls remembers well.
“He didn’t want [the occasion] to be about him, so we took him up a back stairway,” Ingalls says. “We put him in a front pew with his back to the congregation, so they didn’t know who he was.
“We always had a choir member perform the ballad, but when it came time for it, Lightfoot slipped out of his pew, sat on a stool, picked up his acoustic guitar, and played. First, there was a gasp, but after that, you could hear a pin drop.”
On that occasion, Ingalls says that Lightfoot turned to the congregation and announced he would henceforth change the lyrics.\
Recalls Ingalls: “He said, ‘I made a mistake referring to this as a musty old hall, but I had never been here before. There’s nothing musty about this place. It’s beautiful. From now on in concert, I’m going to sing rustic old hall instead.’”
Ingalls says Lightfoot has visited the church twice since then and has remained in touch with the rector.
“When my dad died, he called me at home. He had just lost his father, and we had a nice chat,” Ingalls says. “He’s just a very thoughtful guy.”
Twenty years before the Fitzgerald sinking, Mariners’ Church itself was in danger. To accommodate the new Detroit Civic Center, aging buildings in the old wharf district were targeted for razing. However, one of the church’s trustees, George W. Stark, was a popular writer at The Detroit News and used his column as a platform to save the edifice, even suggesting the church be moved.
“He appealed to people to send in their $5 or $10, and it took off like wildfire,” Ingalls says. “There were thousands of individuals, corporations, and politicians who got behind it.”
The church was moved, ever so glacially, 900 feet east to its present location near the entrance of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. During the excavation, a bricked-up tunnel was discovered in the basement.
“Runaway slaves would go through that tunnel and, under the cover of night, were picked up by rowboats, which took them to Canada — and to safety,” Ingalls says.
At the time, the move of the 6-million-pound church was chronicled by Life magazine in its April 25, 1955, issue. Stark’s fundraising appeal was so successful that there was money remaining for stained-glass windows and a new bell tower.
While Ingalls takes his visitor through a tour of the church and its adjoining offices, a nautical theme clearly emerges. There are ships’ bells, anchors, and a large collection of marine paintings by Detroit painter Robert Hopkin (1832-1909).
But most striking is a jewel-toned rose window in the shape of a sailor’s compass, a symbol, perhaps, that guides Mariners’ Church through stormy and calm seas alike.
Mariners’ Church of Detroit - Hour Detroit - November 2010 - Detroit, MI
The home church in Detroit.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
"We are in a spiritual war in America and we are losing battles in too many areas"
"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."Jer. 6:16
By David W. Virtue in Greensboro
February 12, 2011
A Beeson Divinity School professor and Anglican church planter says there is a dreadful war for souls in America with more young people being converted to Islam and other Eastern religions. Christians are losing the war to "complacency in the face of pagan opposition."
The Rev. Dr. Lyle W. Dorsett told 1200 Anglicans attending the annual winter conference of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA) that there is a malaise across the church today. "We don't believe the old paths are very effective. We are in a spiritual war in America and in Western nations in general and we are losing battles in too many areas.
"Trends show that Christianity is no longer the fastest growing religion in Nth. America, it is now Islam partly due to immigration and this is one cause in an unprecedented change in the country. Numerous North Americans are converting to the Muslim faith. Young men and teenagers are converting to the Muslim religion because they are crying out for direction and help. Hispanics are converting to the Muslim faith as are many cultural Catholics. Many young people in this country are becoming Buddhists and Hindus and are fascinated by Eastern religions as well as a galloping secularism. We can't just blame the media we are also to blame. The churches have forsaken the old paths. We are too busy entertaining people. We should be inviting people to worship and to be expectant about what God wants to do. We need to be an expectant people. What are people finding in other religions? Our own children are being proselytized in a variety of ways. We are too complacent. Our children must be taught to evangelize, the clergy isn't supposed to do it all."
Dorsett, a C.S. Lewis scholar and former head of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, IL (Lewis's papers are maintained there), is now the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School. He asserted that church leaders need to return to serious prayer, preaching, exercise spiritual power and be prepared to be persecuted for their faith. "Jeremiah was burdened by the unfaithfulness to God of the religious leaders of his time and he saw the complacency of the Israelites in the face of pagan opposition. We are seeing the same thing today.
"God is calling us to wake up and see the (spiritual) war. He is calling us to total mobilization in this conflict. We want to see the entire church family, children youth and adults free to get everyone mobilized for this conflict. We are losing battles because we are asleep."
For more, see:
VirtueOnline - News - Exclusives - GREENSBORO, NC: Evangelism Professor Presses Anglicans to Fight Complacency
A good article from America's premier Anglican windbag, providing cover for charismatics, non-confessional Anglicans and Anglo-Romewardizers. Having rightly impugned the windbag, this article has commendable comments. A hat tip to Virtue to which we rightly yield.
Monday, February 14, 2011
The windbag, VOL, puffs along as a non-theologian and non-historian, without definitions re: Anglicanism. Standard VOL windbaggeries.
Romanist Watch: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - entry PBS Frontline program reports on Catholic sex abuse scandal in Alaska
The 20-minute episode will focus on the village of St. Michael and the sex abuse by ministers who included missionary Joseph Lundowski, according to the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, which cooperated with the journalists from 'Frontline."
Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - entry PBS Frontline program reports on Catholic sex abuse scandal in Alaska
For more, see:
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - entry PBS Frontline program reports on Catholic sex abuse scandal in Alaska
Thank God for the scholars, like Lee Gatiss.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
A hidden camera installed by a reporter at a school in Birmingham recorded a preacher telling pupils "the disbelievers are the worst creatures, they are the worst creatures".
The 11-year-olds are then told not to trust more liberal Muslims.
Their teacher said: "The person who's got less than a fistful of beard, then you should stay away from him the same way you should stay away from a serpent or a snake."
Another group of pupils are told in an assembly at the school: "The disbelievers, they are the worst of all people.
For more, see:
Mosques 'teaching extreme views' to children
Rejoinder to Clark Response to Review
My review makes it clear that I believe there was essential concord between Calvin and the Calvinists. I take issue with Clark not over his assertion that there was a confessional consensus in the Reformed tradition; rather, I contend that Clark's version of that consensus is more narrow and uniform than the somewhat broader consensus that actually existed. Because people understood van Mastricht when he said "Reformed" does not militate against this point. "Reformed," defined confessionally, now means something still quite clear, if a bit broader than in 1550, or even 1650, hardly surprising given theological and other development since that time (two examples of such sound development: Vos and Van Til). If we are called to recover a past that Clark represents as more uniform than warranted, such a call tends to make the demand for present conformity more strict than it should be, especially in a book that likes some developments (modern scientific currents influencing exegesis) but not other (the use of instruments in worship).
That there was a bit more diversity even back then can be seen, for instance, in the Strasbourg liturgy (developed by Zell, Capito, Bucer and others from the conviction that sola scriptura should be applied to worship), which influenced Calvin and thus much of the continent. This liturgy had form prayers, prayer responses, and other elements that the Scots, particularly the covenanting sort of the seventeenth century, took to be a violation of the "regulative principle" (a modern term: we all agree on that). Strasbourg also recognized festal days (Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost), a practice verboten to the English Puritans.
To be sure, all those parties, largely, agreed on singing metrical psalms. However, some Independents objected even to this for the same reason as form prayers. This objection was similar to that of the Anabaptists, who had their own, arguably stricter, version of the sola scriptura principle applied to worship (as did Zwingli), which by the way, was the primary point of Hughes Oliphant Old (confirmed in private correspondence). The Westminster Directory for Public Worship (1644/5) was not a liturgy or service book, and the old Genevan/Knox liturgy was seen by some Puritans as contrary to the regulative principle, violating the liberty of ministers by the use of set forms, especially for prayer.
All this is to say that there were some significant disagreements among those who called themselves Reformed as to what the scriptural or regulative principle of worship meant in practice. These differences among the Reformed of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries need to be exposed so that when Reformed folk in the eighteenth century, who still held to a scriptural principle of worship, argued that hymns based on the Word were acceptable, we recognize that the regulative principle has never enjoyed a single uniform interpretation and application. This is to say nothing, in other respects, of the differences between the followers of Cocceius and Voetius on the Sabbath, the Testaments, and other matters theological and philosophical (as well as the disputes about Ramism). There have always been internecine debates within confessional bounds, and this is what many of the debates that divide Reformed people today involve.
Good men differ on Jonathan Edwards, though I do not think that Clark reads him with the care and understanding with which he reads many of the figures of post-Reformation Reformed orthodoxy. Clark makes a misleading claim that Edwards required some "necessary religious experience" (90) (perhaps not unlike his seventeenth- century New England forbears who insisted that prospects for communicant membership give a "narrative of grace" detailing their conversion). However, Edwards in rejecting his grandfather Stoddard's "converting ordinance" view of the Supper, sought to require nothing more than a credible profession of faith to come to the Lord's Table.
Clark also implies that Edwards departs from the classic Reformed treatment of Romans 7, particularly vs. 24–25 (105). But an examination of Edwards on these verses in his Blank Bible show just the opposite: Edwards affirms that Romans 7 refers to a saint whose "carnal appetite" makes him transgress, which appetite "he cannot get rid of having its bent toward sin." Edwards makes it clear that Romans 7 refers to a "saint' and not a "wicked man" (1006). Relevant treatises, sermons, miscellanies, etc., may also be consulted to support this point.
Clark's citation of an essay by Peter Wallace (97, fn. 107) is also misleading: Old Side leader John Thomson did indeed oppose the excesses of the Great Awakening (as did Edwards), but, as Wallace's essay demonstrates, came to appreciate a better version of it as exemplified in the ministry of Samuel Davies, who Thomson admired and with whom he successfully ministered. Thus Wallace is cited to make the point that Thomson was opposed to the New Side, when in fact he was ultimately opposed to only some expressions of it. The Old Side/New Side split was not as stark as it first appeared. Differences were worked through, and the two sides came back together in 1758 in a happy reunion.
I have written elsewhere that of the eight points in the 1758 Plan of Union between the Old and New Sides, most were "wins" for the Old Side, with the last point giving only qualified approbation to the Great Awakening, while affirming more generally the necessity of a saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God's people. Charles Hodge, as representative of the Old School mainstream, is so committed to the points in the 1758 Plan of Union that he writes: "Those who adhere to the principles here laid down, are entitled to a standing in our church; those who desert them, desert not merely the faith but the religion of our fathers, and have no right to their name or their heritage" (Constitutional History, Part II, 281). These are but a few examples of how Clark made Edwards and other moderate Great Awakening supporters appear worse than they were to shore up his case against all awakenings everywhere.
It is lamentable that Clark appears at points to couch this interaction in terms of an institutional debate, by referencing Chicago deep-dish pizza and particularly by saying that my review might be expected from Azusa Street but not Dyer, Indiana. Is this supposed to be stinging or merely funny to identify me with Pentecostalism? I did not mention anything institutional in my review and do not assume that Clark speaks for his institution in all his particular arguments. Clark takes issue with my reference to "practical deism," about which I believe all the Reformed must ever be watchful: the temptation to see God in His sovereignty as "up there" and the means "down here" in such a way that the vital spiritual link is severed. The sovereign Spirit must always make effectual the means appointed, and we must wait on him in prayer for that.
I neither call Clark unconfessional nor imply that he is, and I do not for a moment question his confessional commitment, though we might have disagreements within confessional bounds. His book and his response continue to imply that those who differ with him on what some of us believe to be lesser matters are outside confessional bounds. This is why I thought, and continue to think, that this is not a good path for men to go down, especially young ministers, and is not a good prescription for the needed restoration.
Obviously Clark and I as confessionalists have a good deal in common and I indicated such in several paragraphs of my original review. But I chose to spend what little time I had in that review pointing out some not insignificant differences at least in terms of tone or emphasis. I agree with the British humorist Michael Frayn who wrote: "The homogeneity of a group seen from the outside is in inverse proportion to the heterogeneity seen from the inside," or "Likeness is in the eye of the unlike; the like see nothing but their unlikeness" (in his article on "school" in the Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy). We who subscribe to confessions have far more in common than we do separating us.
When one writes, however, as has Clark, a book seeking to define what it means to be Reformed and does so in a way that flattens out even the contours of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and rejects many developments since then, all in the name of rejecting revivalism, such a project merits criticism. This book amounts to a rather wholesale rejection of American Presbyterianism if carefully read. And it is not a product I intend to buy, and Clark should not be surprised when some of us object, even though we may agree with many of his theological points.
Alan D. Strange, a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is associate professor of church history and theological librarian at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. Ordained Servant Aug./Sept. 2009.
Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice, by R. Scott Clark. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008, 384 pages, $24.99, paper.
Scott Clark, in his new book Recovering the Reformed Confession, makes a case that all is not well in the confessional Reformed and Presbyterian churches. He not only seeks in this book to diagnose what ails the church, however, but also to prescribe the remedy for our ecclesiastical shortcomings. We have departed, Clark argues, from the old paths of the Reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some have argued in response to that claim of declension that a return has begun in recent years, seen particularly in many younger evangelicals coming to embrace soteriological Calvinism (343–345).
Clark maintains, however, that the emergence of what Christianity Today and others have called the "young, restless, and Reformed" does not necessarily mean that the recovery we need is underway. Though some observers of these newly Reformed claim that, because of them, "Calvinism is making a comeback" (343), Clark, like Gershwin's classic character Sportin' Life, demurs, "it ain't necessarily so." Clark argues that these so-called newly Reformed folk may be predestinarian in their soteriology, but they are not otherwise Reformed and covenantal, falling short in terms of theology, piety, and practice. And to recover the Reformed confession (note the singular), Clark argues that we can do so only by recovering Reformed theology, piety, and practice.
A bit of initial analysis might be helpful here. What it means to follow the Reformed confessions (note now the plural)—to develop one's theology, piety, and practice from such—is more textured and varied than Clark lets on in this book. It is not accurate to present such a thin slice of what it means to be Reformed and argue as if that constricted view is exhaustive of the Reformed faith. Clark occasionally cites Richard Muller in support of his approach, as if Muller's project of showing concord between Calvin and the Calvinists was intended to present a narrow, uniform Calvinism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Muller's work, however, sought to demonstrate that a variegated Calvinism remained a united Calvinism, though it was never a monolith. Clark's attempt at repristination often de-contextualizes historical moments and re-contextualizes them in an expression that is not quite like any of those moments taken on their own terms. Hughes Oliphant Old, Horton Davies, and other liturgical historians have better depicted the greater complexity that obtained among the Reformed with regard to worship practices (despite Clark's disagreement with Old, 231–232). Clark in this book cherry picks post-Reformation church history to form a pastiche that models what he thinks the church should look like.
Clark proceeds after his general assessment of Reformed deficiencies (1–36) to address more pointedly "the crisis," as he terms it, in the church. He sees two primary problems: "The Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty" (QIRC), and "The Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience" (QIRE). There are, Clark writes, "three movements in our churches that by their existence give evidence of the influence of the QIRC: the movement to make six day, twenty-four interpretation (hereafter 6/24) of Genesis 1 a mark of Reformed orthodoxy, theonomy, and covenant moralism" (41). What Clark means by QIRC is what Phillip Schaff meant by "rationalism ... , the quest to know what God knows, the way he knows it" (5). For those committed to QIRC, "there is no distinction between essential and non-essential doctrines or practices, since QIRC renders them all equally important" (5). Clark further describes as QIRE what Schaff called "sectarism," which is "the pursuit of the immediate experience of God without the means of grace (i.e., the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments)" (5).
The QIRC, in its rationalism, would, in addition to 6/24, theonomy, and covenant moralism, include things like a "KJV only" position, a conviction of "no women in combat," employing the Bible as a science or psychology text, using the Scripture as a "guide to civil government and moral renewal for America," as well as a denial of the free offer of the gospel (39–40). Clark argues that "liquid modernity," including the epistemic uncertainty of postmodernism, has engendered a "search for solids" among certain evangelical and Reformed folk that has yielded an unlikely fundamentalism (42–47), resulting not in the stance of historic Calvinism with respect to such things (as noted in this paragraph) but an "anti-intellectual" obscurantism (47).
Clark engages in a useful survey of science and Scripture, especially with respect to the question of the length of the creation days (47–61). He shows that 6/24 has never been a Reformed boundary marker and that, historically, in the Reformed faith, we have not changed our commitment to the complete veracity of Scripture due to new science (59), though some who have abandoned the faith may have. We have, however, changed our interpretation of Scripture at points, due to the various paradigm shifts that have occurred, particularly from a world in which all was viewed through the lens of Aristotle to that of Newton.
Clark often seems to reject any modifications in theology, piety, and practice since the era of the Reformed confessions. However, he gladly acknowledges scientific development (even permitting science to modify exegesis) and ecclesiastical/social development (the idea of Christendom, so important to the Reformers, now regarded as passé). He, rather unaccountably, does not recognize the same in other areas, such as developments in piety and practice (as if the regulative principle of worship, or some version of it, meant precisely the same thing on the continent and in Britain over the whole course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). This propensity to pick and choose historically and to call what one chooses "Reformed" and what one rejects "not Reformed" is pervasive—and troubling—in this work.
The QIRE is akin to mysticism: direct, unmediated experience of God (71). Further the QIRE stresses the individual at the expense of the corporate, privileging the private and subjective and seeing Christian piety chiefly in such terms (73). Clark then critiques contemporary corporate Reformed piety as exemplified in its public worship, using a variety of techniques (flashy music, drama, etc.) to garner interest and support in our current climate. Clark continues, "It is the contention of this chapter that reformation and revival are distinct and largely incompatible models of theology, piety, and practice" (74). Though some, like Iain Murray, have distinguished "revival" and "revivalism," Clark equates them, seeing all revival as revivalism. Clark argues that the need of the hour is reformation and restoration, not revivalism. "The basic difference between revivalism and reformation is evident in the terms themselves. The first speaks to the interior world of the believer (however conceived), and the latter describes objective institutional change and doctrinal reorganization" (74).
Clark, in fleshing out the participants in the QIRE, surveys some mystics (75–6), Anabaptists (76–7), then Ames and Voetius, who as partisans of the Nadere Reformatie were "committed to a piety oriented around the means of grace" and thus have rendered the adjective "pietist," when applied to them, so elastic and inconclusive as to become meaningless (77). Clark had earlier defined pietism as a "retreat into the subjective experience of God," arguing that it is always a critique of orthodoxy (74). Clark maintains that Ames, Voetius, Coccieus, and others of the Nadere Reformatie, were not pietists, though "Theodore Frelinghuysen and perhaps Jonathan Edwards are more aptly called pietists." Along these same lines Clark is also critical even of the piety of the Princeton theologians (82), noting that Alexander and others, while differing from Jonathan Edwards, and other revivalists, on some significant matters, nonetheless drank too deeply, at points, from the well of American revivalism.
Speaking of Jonathan Edwards, Clark then proceeds to criticize Edwards at some length for promoting an almost entirely subjectivized piety that undercut the public administration of the means of grace (84–98). He also finds Edwards deficient, or potentially so, in his metaphysics, his doctrines of God, creation, man, and Spirit (including Edwards's allegedly compromised view of justification), and ecclesiology (particularly his requirements for communion). Clark wants to make it clear that the Reformed "confess a vital religion, but it is not identical to the religion of Edwards's Affections" (114). Rather, the Reformed faith, as Clark sees it, is concerned chiefly, as pertains to sanctification, with the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit (as opposed to the apostolic gifts of the Spirit), achieved through the due use of ordinary means (112).
In the second major part of his work ("The Recovery"), Clark transitions from diagnosis to prescription. He begins with two chapters entitled "Recovering a Reformed Identity (1) [and] (2)." The first of those chapters contains a rather lengthy exposition and defense of the archetypal/ectypal distinction, arguing that human knowledge is analogical (not univocal) to God's, particularly as that has been developed in the Creator/creature distinction as a part of classic Reformed theology (133; 150–151). This reviewer agrees here and elsewhere with much of what Clark sets forth. However, it must be said that while Clark's particular setting forth of the archetypal/ectypal distinction is confessionally warranted it is not confessionally mandated and to write as if it is seems misleading (and his treatment of John Frame, among others, thus inequitable, 129–31).
In the second chapter on "Recovering a Reformed Identity," Clark discusses confessional subscription, asserting that "among confessional Protestants there have been primarily two approaches to subscribing the confessions": the "quia (because) approach" in which "the confession is said to norm and bind subscribers because it is biblical. The second approach is quatenus (insofar as), in which the confession is said to norm and bind subscribers only insofar as the confession is biblical" (160). Clark argues that, though the Scots in 1560 (with the Scottish Confession) and in 1647 with the adoption of the Westminster Confession took a strict, or quia, approach, such was not what came to prevail in America (some would argue even as early as the Adopting Act of 1729, though Clark tends to view 1729 as maintaining the quia approach). Gradually, "looser" subscription came to prevail in the mainline churches, leading ultimately to the doctrinal train-wreck known as the Confession of 1967 (162–70).
Even in the confessional churches, a looser, or "system," subscription came to prevail, in its more lax form among the New School Presbyterians but in some form even among the Princetonians. At the same time, there have always been some who maintain a stricter, or full, subscription position (170–177). Clark argues not only for a return to quia subscription (178), but also for the abolition of "two levels of subscription, one for laity and another for ordained officers" (179). Clark wants, in fact, the churches to stop regarding the creeds and confessions as museum pieces and thus be prepared to revise them and require strict adherence to them, so that the confessions reflect what the church not only really teaches but requires all its members to believe. "The Joy of Being Confessional" (chapter 6) sounds a positive note and argues for a confessional approach that is biblical, catholic, vital, evangelical, and churchly.
Chapters 7 and 8 both have to do with recovering Reformed worship, which is central to our identity and well-being as Reformed. In chapter 7, Clark argues that public worship should be strictly in accordance with God's Word, i.e., it should follow the regulative principle of worship. In this regard, he not only strongly stresses Word and Sacrament but that the Reformed need to experience a recovery of historic Reformed worship in which we sing only Scripture (predominately psalms), no hymns, and in which musical instruments play no part. Clark argues that instruments, justified on the basis of being a circumstance, not an element, have come to play an elemental role in our worship. Reformed recovery will be enjoyed when our worship looks more like that of our ancestors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as Clark understands it. Chapter 8 calls for a recovery of the second service on the Lord's Day. This is not merely, of course, a call for such in the barest sense, but a call to keep the Lord's Day with greater fidelity and to be in the public worship every time such is held so that one might most benefit from the means of grace therein offered.
How might we further assess this rather wide-ranging work? We need, indeed, as Clark argues, to be sanctified, to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, and to do so by profiting from the means of grace. We need preaching, the sacraments, and prayer. We need discipline, fellowship, biblical and confessional fidelity. We need to sing the Psalms much more and not have an undue emphasis on musical instruments. We need to recapture a high view of the Lord's Day and of fidelity to the second service. Clark points out many things that would improve our churches and we would be well-advised seriously to consider the many proposals that he sets forth and reforms for which he calls. But we need more than these things.
The whole of our spiritual lives needs an inner dynamic expressive of the union that we enjoy with Christ and the communion that we have with God and each other as members of his mystical body. There is a reason that the WCF has a chapter on "The Communion of the Saints" (chapter 26) following the one on the Church (chapter 25): Without such, we are liable to fall into a formalistic view of the means of grace. Clark pooh-poohs R.—B. Kuiper's warning about "orthodoxism" as if there were no such creature (98). There is, and this book seems headed in that direction at times. I would see "orthodoxism" as an emphasis on the forms, on the means of grace, for example, in which the means threaten to become ends in themselves, failing to keep in view that the means (and the forms of their administration) serve to engender spiritual life as we draw near to Christ, who is the end of all the means and to whom the means are to lead us.
Clark is not wrong to note the propensity to yield either to rationalism or mysticism. But it is never enough to dismiss a position with which one disagrees by consigning it to a category that one has already defined as problematic and then dumping everything deemed objectionable into that category. Might not such an approach be guilty of faulty generalization or other informal fallacies, if not, more seriously, involve a category mistake? It is doubtful, whatever problems may pertain in the approach of 6/24 as a test of orthodoxy, theonomy or covenant moralism, that rationalism, thus constructed, lies at the root. All of these approaches or schools must be dealt with exegetically and theologically and may not be dismissed simply by labeling them as savoring of the QIRC.
Similarly, with QIRE, to assert that all the religious experience pursued by Edwards and the like is illegitimate needs considerably more proof than it enjoys here. Perhaps Lloyd-Jones, with his non-cessationist views of a sort, falls, arguably, into this category, but I am not sure that Edwards does, merely because he speaks of being love-sick with reference to Christ, such language being found in a host of writers of the time (92). There may be lamentable excesses in Edwards, but a careful reading of him permits one to profit from a remarkably sin-sensitive, Christ-centered writer. Space forbids citing other instances of inequity in Clark's treatment of Edwards.
A problem that often bedevils Reformed spirituality is what Larry Wilson has pegged as the tendency of the Reformed to fall into "practical deism": God is out there and we are down here with our theology, lacking vital communion with and connection to our gracious covenant God. One of the chief remedies against such is a vital prayer life, not only publically but privately. Clark argues, however, that "private prayer is not a means of grace" (112; though highly valued nonetheless). He argues along the same lines (329–330), that the Westminster Standards viewed prayer as a means of grace only in public worship. But this is not true. WCF 21.6 says, "Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto." Prayer, according to Westminster, is a means of grace, not only publically, but also privately (in families) and secretly (in one's own personal prayers).
The restoration that we need is not to be had by the sort of blueprint that Clark would impose on the church. If young ministers try to enforce such outward conformity, especially in their own strength, disaster lies ahead. We need charity and its fruits, first and foremost. We need to wait on the Lord and to not stop asking him to cause his face to shine upon us, to bless the means that he has appointed (the Word, sacraments, and prayer), so that in them we are truly drawn to him, being transformed more and more, enabled to die to sin and live to righteousness. We need restoration in which the outer follows the inner. This was the dynamic of the great Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Alan D. Strange, an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is associate professor of church history and theological librarian at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. Ordained Servant, June-July 2009.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Old Life Theological Society » Blog Archive » Forensic Friday: Calvin on Trent
The new report said a senior church official charged with investigating allegations of sexual abuse by priests had in fact allowed some of those accused to remain in posts that gave them continued access to children. It charged him with endangering the welfare of minors and accused three priests and a teacher of raping two boys between 1996 and 1999.
“By no means do we believe that these were the only two parishioners who were abused during this period,” the report said.
At least 37 priests who are subject to “substantial evidence of abuse” are still in roles that bring them into contact with children, the new report said, and 10 of those have been in place since before 2005, when the last grand jury made its allegations.
For more, see:
Philadelphia Priests Accused by Grand Jury of Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up - NYTimes.com
Bravo! The time for criminal legal actions against Romanist clerics is long overdue!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
An interesting article on strategic and tactical operations--in Churchmanship.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Shane's blog is: http://reformedreader.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/complete-outline-of-hortons-st/
We praise God that He has lifted up serious thinking Churchmen like Shane and Michael. We shall avail ourselves of this outline and use/modify (as needed) it as we read Mike's book. Mike's ST is due to arrive here 14-17 Feb 2011. Some say it is better than Berkhof, although we are not convinced. We will have more to say in the future.
American Anglicans, take note. This type of quality work is not coming from your arid precincts.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said technology was not a substitute for being present when admitting sins to a priest.
"One cannot speak in any way of confessing via iPhone," Father Lombardi said, adding that confession required the presence of the penitent and the priest.
"This cannot be substituted by any IT application," Lombardi added.
Confession: A Roman Catholic app, thought to be the first to be approved by a church authority, walks Catholics through the sacrament and contains what is described as a "personalised examination of conscience for each user."
The application is not designed to replace going to confession but to help Catholics through the act.
Pope to go on Facebook as Vatican embraces online technology 20 May 2009
Some reports on its approval by the Catholic Church in the US suggested confession would now be possible via iPhone.
Catholics 'cannot confess via iPhone'
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Romanist Prattle: Priests are clothed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary ~ Canterbury Tales by Taylor Marshall
"Father Serafino M. Lanzetta of the Franciscans of the Immaculate recently wrote something very beautiful:
Mary is always present in the life of the priest; she guides him in the midst of his trials, of the difficulties and the joys of his ministry. Begetting every priest in the Son, Mary re-clothes them with her perpetual virginity.
- Missio Immaculatae May/June 2010
I just wanted to share that because it reveals the glory of our Blessed Mother and the glory of the priesthood in Chirst. Priests, if they choose, have the honor of wearing the perpetual virginity of Blessed Mary.
Priests are clothed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary ~ Canterbury Tales by Taylor Marshall
Reformation Theology: Horton's Systematic Theology - Now Shipping!!!
SermonAudio.com - 5} The Potter's Freedom
Now, if he could get the covenants, baptism, confessions, inspiring liturgy (1552 BCP), Psalm-singing, and ecclesiology right, we would share some tribal values. We are not Baptistic.
Machen’s Warrior Children - ReformedForum.org
The Gospel-Centered Life Conference Audio - White Horse Inn Blog
Confession: A Roman Catholic app, thought to be the first to be approved by a church authority, walks Catholics through the sacrament and contains what the company behind the program describes as a "personalized examination of conscience for each user".
"Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology," said Patrick Leinen of the three-man company Little iApps, based in South Bend, Indiana.
For more, see:
Bless me iPhone for I have sinned - Yahoo! News
For a $1.99? The price cannot be beaten. Penance-to-go? McPenance-Drive Thru? The I-pad mercy and reconciliation machine? It saves a trip to the parish. Saves on gas in these tight economic times.
This app may be the perfect aid for every Romanist penitent. With a personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament, this app prepares the Romanist to prayerfully prepare for the Rite of Penance. Does it say, Ego te absolvo?From the Romanist Catechism
THE SACRAMENT OFPENANCE AND RECONCILIATION
"Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion."
I. What Is This Sacrament Called?
It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father5 from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.
It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession"—acknowledgment and praise—of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."6
It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God."7 He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."
For more, see:
Rep. Peter King Rejects Criticism of Homegrown Terror Hearings - NYTimes.com
We'll be watching this 7 March and following re: the inquiry to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, an oath every military officer and enlisted troop, as well as Presidents, Congressmen, Senators and Judges take. The upshot: attacks on--among other things--religious expression and the free exercise of religion.
Representative King might want to inquire about "free speech" amongst American liberal Episcopalians. Ever lived in the la-la-land of theological liberalism? We've seen what that looks like--first hand. Time to turn those tables as well, only without Congressional inquiry.
This is one of many documents directing Bishops to withhold documents re: sexual scandal. Although this one does not pertain to paedophelia, the modus operandi in this document is illustrative. Having assisted in "outing" Navy Chaplaincy coverups to the Associated Press years ago and having talked with one class action lawyer representing abuse victims, the VATICAN MOST CERTAINLY DID DIRECT BISHOPS TO WITHHOLD materials in discovery in municipal and state criminal cases. It is NO mistake that there was a central coverup directed from the Vatican. This above is one example.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Luther famously began one of his 1520 treatises with 'The time for silence is over; the time for speech has come.' Let's pray that many around the world won't be afraid to speak and keep on speaking until repentance comes or the Lord returns.
For more, see:
Theological Theology: Theses for a new reformation in the Anglican Communion
Dr. Mark Thompson offers 12 theses for the needed Reformation in Anglican congregations, dioceses, and communion. A telling claim by Mark re: the communion, "It already stands under the judgment of God." This is notably so in the USA, home to mush, muddling, confusion, and weakness. That's not harsh, just factual. Mark's thoughts are a nice start.
And they all, Catholics and Anglicans, quite simply belonged to very different kinds of institution. It isn’t just that Catholics and Anglicans believe different doctrines: it’s that there is between them a fundamental difference over their attitude to the entire doctrinal enterprise. I remember very vividly, in my days as an (Anglican) clergy member of the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod, a debate on one of the ARCIC documents followed by a vote on whether to recommend to the General Synod in London that it should be accepted. The document was accepted overwhelmingly. At lunchtime, standing at the bar with a number of clergy, I asked how they had voted; they had all voted affirmatively. I then asked them if they had read the document. None of them had; and most of them, it became clear, had little idea of what it contained. “Well”, I asked, puzzled, “why did you vote for it, then?” “The point is,” one of them replied, “the important thing is unity. The RCs are frightfully keen on doctrine. You have to encourage them: so I voted for their document”. There you have it: what the late Mgr Graham Leonard, when he was still an Anglican bishop, once called “the doctrinal levity of the Church of England”.
For more, see:
And now, ARCIC III: isn’t it time to bring this ecumenical farce to an end? CatholicHerald.co.uk
So there one has it, "doctrinal levity" with Anglicans. We've been saying that for years as the modern "Huffington Posters," e.g. David Virtue, opine about sodomists, pluralists, indifferentists, mysticists and ignoramuses amongst them. The Anglican "Huffington Puffers" do have a point. The Romanists, on the other hand, have the robust CCC and the Anglicans have--well, what do they have? They can't even uphold let alone update their Articles. "Doctrinal" lite-weights. The former Anglican-turned-Romanist Bishop, Leonard Graham, gets at it: "doctrinal levity." We quite agree with Leonard, the Monsignor. As to the ARCIC, it has always been a one-sided affair in Rome's favour...always has been, but the muddlers and mushers have never seen it. The Romanist writer above has it quite right. Perhaps some will understand why we've headed to "Higher Ground," rather than the swamp-low-levels. Tough-minded, for sure, but--as a Marine--quite right.
Pope: ‘I don’t believe young people are not interested in the Catechism’ CatholicHerald.co.uk
Pope Benedict XVI has urged young people to study a youth catechism called “Youcat” published next month in advance of Madrid’s 2011 World Youth Day.
Writing in the foreword to the book, the Pope said: “Some people tell me that the youth of today are not interested in the catechism, but I do not believe this statement and I am certain that I am right. They are not as superficial as they are accused of being; young people want to know what life really is about.”
The book is written for teenagers and young adults and is the official catechism for World Youth Day. It includes a question and answer section, illustrations, definitions of key terms, Bible citations and quotes from the saints and other Church teachers.
In his foreword Benedict XVI said the book could be just as gripping as a crime novel.
He said: “A crime novel is compelling because it involves the fate of other people, but it could be our own, this book is compelling because it speaks to us of our own destiny and therefore is closely related to each of us.”
But he said the catechism did not offer “empty praise” or “easy solutions”, but “requires a new life on your part”. He urged young people “to study the catechism with passion and perseverance! Sacrifice your time for it!”
The Pope said: “You need to know what you believe, you need to know your faith with the same precision with which a computer specialist knows the operating system of a computer… You need divine help, so your faith does not dry up like a drop of dew in the sun, so you do not succumb to the temptations of consumerism, so your love is not drowned in pornography, so you do not betray the weak, the victims of abuse and violence”.
In the foreword the Pope wrote about the project to produce the official Catechism of the Catholic Church in the 1980s. He said it was a “difficult” period, when “many people did not know what Christians should really believe, what the Church teaches, if it can teach something outright, and how this might fit into the new cultural climate”.
Pope Benedict said he “was afraid of this task”, and that he had doubts over its success. He described its existence as a “miracle”, the labour of many meetings and “passionate discussions over individual texts”.
By Rev. Dr. Charles Erlandson (Tyler, Texas United States) -
Michael Horton's "The Christian Faith" is a welcome gift to the 21st century. It's a massive (1000 page) one-volume systematic theology that's written with life, passion and the needs of the 21st century in mind. While as an Anglican, I don't necessarily agree with all that Horton writes, I highly recommend his book to a wide variety of readers: seminarians and seminaries, pastors, teachers, and educated laymen. Horton's work is an incredible achievement in that he has taken the worn out discipline of systematic theology and injected it with new life.
How has he done this? First, Horton clearly writes from a position as one who understands the 21st century and the monumental changes we are seeing that are often categorized as the transition from modernity to postmodernity. Horton also draws from a wide range of sources: he not only delves into the historical background to various theological issues but also makes reference to a variety of church traditions, and not just his own Reformed tradition. He also manages to integrate his systematic theology into a living whole by the way he ties everything together through key concepts such as the covenant, Drama, Dogma, Doxology, and Discipleship. This means that Horton's work is useful not just as one more systematic theology but also as a primer in narrative theology, an inspiration to worship, and a resource for all who seek to be more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Horton's work has been said by some to be one of the most important systematic theologies since Berkhof's. In fact, Horton's is better than Berkhof's, which is a work that betrays a much more modern mindset that categorizes things without necessarily showing how they all relate. Horton's work is a book that should be in the hands of a great many Christians!
The book begins with a wonderful Introduction that pictures systematic theology as a "theology for pilgrims on the way." He also relates the 4 "D" words he will use in the rest of the work to hold things together: Drama, Doctrine, Doxology, and Discipleship. It all begins with the greatest story ever told, which means that Horton is aware of the importance of narrative theology, and not just an old-school propositional theology. The Drama of the gospel inevitably leads to Doctrine, and Doctrine leads to Doxology or praise. Ultimately, theology must lead to Discipleship as well. Horton wants his work to reflect and embody the goal of doctrine, which must not only be understood and articulated but also "preached, experienced, and lived as a `community of theater' in the world today."
Horton writes from a specifically Reformed perspective, but he is careful not to begin and end his thought with only Reformed categories of thought. Instead, he interacts with exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions from a historically informed position. I'm also glad to see that he has not only acknowledged Eastern Orthodox theology but has clearly benefited from its wisdom and perspective.
Part 1, which consists of the first 5 chapters of "The Christian Faith," deals with "Knowing God: The Presuppositions of Theology." Although these chapters don't begin Horton's systematic theology, they lay a crucial foundation for it. This section may be difficult and not as relevant for all readers, but in these chapters Horton profitably deals with important foundations for theology, which has become more necessary in an age of postmodernism.
It's always interesting to see how a writer handles some of the more difficult aspects of his material, so I was keen to see how Horton dealt with predestination, the Trinity, and the Church, as just three examples of important material. In Chapter 8, Horton tackles the doctrine of the Trinity, which has undergone a resurgence of interest in recent decades. In this chapter, he gives the important and necessary historical background that enables the reader to understand the various views of the Trinity that have been held. This historical background also enables Horton to offer a theology of the Trinity that integrates the best insights of Augustinian, Orthodox, and other views while avoiding some of the potential errors that come from an overemphasis these historical positions are often open to.
While Horton's discussion of predestination in Chapter 9 is useful, he fails to adequately explain how God's predestination relates to the need for human agency in doxology and discipleship (he does deal with this, but inadequately). Likewise, I found his presentation on the Church to be one of the places where Horton's own Reformed perspective triumphs over an attempt at incorporating other views. The book would have been stronger if, in this section, he had dealt more with the views of the early church, as well as the views of other traditions, as he does elsewhere.
In spite of some weaknesses, Horton's work is a superior and delightful achievement. Through his use of the covenant, he's able to integrate the various components of systematic theology into a pleasing whole that should become a standard work for decades to come.
Horton breaks down his book in the following way, which manages to reflect the traditional categories of systematic theology while at the same time revitalizing this field.
Part 1 - Knowing God: The Presupposition of Theology
1. Dissonant Dramas: Paradigms for Knowing God and the World
2. The Character of Theology
3. The Source of Theology: Scripture
4. Scripture as Covenant Canon
5. The Bible and the Church: From Scripture to System
Part 2 - God Who Lives
6. God: The Incommunicable Attributes
7. God: The Communicable Attributes
8. The Holy Trinity
Part 3 - God Who Creates
9. The Decree: Trinity and Predestination
10. Creation: God's Time for us
12. Being Human
13. The Fall of Humanity
Part 4 - God Who Rescues
14. The Person of Christ
15. The State of Humiliation
16. The State of Exaltation
Part 5 - God Who Reigns in Grace
17. Called to be Saints: Christ's Presence in the Spirit
18. Union with Christ
19. Forensic Aspects of Union with Christ: Justification and Adoption
20. The Way Forward to Grace: Sanctification and Perseverance
21. The Hope of Glory
22. The Kingdom of Grace and the New Covenant Church
23. Word and Sacrament: The Means of Grace
24. Baptism and the Lord's Supper
25. The Attributes of the Church: Unity, Catholicity, and Holiness
Part 6 - God Who Reigns in Glory
27. A Dwelling Place
28. The Return of Christ and the Last Judgment
29. The Last Battle and Life Everlasting
Reformed Theology: The Christian Faith: "A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way" by Dr. Mike Horton
We just ordered and will be digesting The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Dr. Mike Horton.
Michael S. Horton (Ph.D., University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He is the president of White Horse Media, for which he co-hosts the White Horse Inn, a nationally syndicated, weekly radio talk-show exploring issues of Reformation theology in American Christianity. The editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine, Horton is the author of more than 20 publications. His most recent book, People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology was awarded the 2009 Christianity Today Book Award for Theology and Ethics.
Product description from www.amazon.com.
Michael Horton's highly anticipated The Christian Faith represents his magnum opus and will be viewed as one of---if not the---most important systematic theologies since Louis Berkhof wrote his in 1932. A prolific, award-winning author and theologian, Professor Horton views this volume as 'doctrine that can be preached, experienced, and lived, as well as understood, clarified, and articulated.' It is written for a growing cast of pilgrims making their way together and will be especially welcomed by professors, pastors, students, and armchair theologians. Features of this volume include: (1) a brief synopsis of biblical passages that inform a particular doctrine; (2) surveys of past and current theologies with contemporary emphasis on exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions; (3) substantial interaction with various Christian movements within the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodoxy traditions, as well as the hermeneutical issues raised by postmodernity; and (4) charts, sidebars, questions for discussion, and an extensive bibliography, divided into different entry levels and topics.
Review by Douglas VanderMeulen:
This work by Michael Horton may be the finest systematic theology since Berkhof's classic which I believe was written in the 1930's. Clear, insightful and what I would call a page turner. It is so full of theological jewels I often found myself excited to turn the page or anxiously wanting to get back to reading it after a short break.
Written in a style that is easily reachable even for the common layman, Horton weaves historic, biblical and systematic theology in a way that highlights not only the truth of Scripture but why and how the Christian world-view is necessarily antithetical to pagan and atheistic world-views. Horton has written his text in a manner much different than many systematics. He writes in a style almost like telling a story. His writing style definitely holds the readers attending is not the dry technical style found most systematic theologies.
Dr. Horton, writes from a consistently reformed and covenantal perspective. That said, the author understands covenant not to be a system forced upon the Bible but raises from text itself. The Bible, as a record of the covenant making-keeping God's redemptive drama from eternity to eternity, is inherently covenantal. Therefore, covenant becomes the motif for properly understanding God's redemptive purpose and the Biblical doctrines that reveal it. The author interacts with "past and current theologies with contemporary emphasis on exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions".
There are three very helpful tools at the end of the hard copy for the new or not highly trained theology reader. The first is a glossary of terms. The author has given short definitions to key theological terms, Latin phrases and historical events, theological systems and theological movements. This will prove to be very helpful for someone just beginning their dive into serious theological reading. The second tool Dr. Horton's annotated bibliography of recommended reading. This list is broken down by doctrine and each work is listed as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. With this reading list, the student is directed into a lifetime of great theological reading. Finally, the author has supplied not just a scripture index but on for the reformational creeds and catechisms sited in this work. This could prove to very helpful for the teacher seeking to cross-reference this systematic theology and the creeds and confessions.
It is a rare systematic theology that can prove to be helpful to both the pastor-teacher and the layman. I can't wait to get this into the hands of our congregation. Dr. Horton's, "The Christian Faith" is written not just to promote sound theology, but consistent thinking and living pilgrims growing in faith in Christ.
A must have for anyone seriously interested good theology. Makes a great gift for your pastor, Bible school student or anyone interested in mastering the great truths of the Bible
Dr. Schmidt authored “The Great Divide: the Failure of Islam and the Triumph of the West.” We pull this from www.amazon.com at:
Alvin J. Schmidt PhD., (University of Nebraska) retired in 1999 as a professor of sociology at Illinois College. He has contributed to many journals and is the author of several best selling books including: Under The Influence - How Christianity Transformed Civilization and The Menace of Multiculturalism - Trojan Horse In America.
Here's a product discussion:
These days, the hills are alive with the sound of musings about Islam. Publisher's Weekly reported this spring that a spate of new books on the religion are hitting the bookstores, and they're unlike the critical books that came out after September 11; the new tomes assure readers that Islam is a religion of peace. That, as Alvin Schmidt points out Thre Great Divide, is wishful thinking. Muslims are right to point out that the Bible has its parts (such as the book of Joshua) that sound bloodthirsty to modern readers, but the Quran is Joshua all the way through, without its contextualization in the peace-emphasizing prophetic and New Testament books. Professor Schmidt does not hack away at Islam, nor does he attack Christianity because of headlined absues that arise in it. He doesn't hyperventilate about the Abu Ghraibs of Christianity - the misogyny of some church fathers, the bloody entry of the Crusaders into Jerusalem, the pro-slavery rhetoric of some antebellum fire-eaters. Instead, he compares the normal practice of Christianity and Islam. He shows how Christianity grew by the blood of its martyrs, but Islam grew by killing those who opposed it. He compares the view of women in the New Testament and the Quran, showing how Christ's teaching eventually led to the development of complementary roles for men and women but Muhammad's teaching eventually led to the development of complementary roles for men and women but Muhammad's teaching led to subservience. He shows how Christians looked at slavery critically over the centuries and how many fought for its abolition; Islam, though, has no intrinsic anti-slavery position, so it's no surprise that some Islamic countries today still allow it. Christians who understand these specific differences, delineated in Schmidt's book, will strengthen their own faith and be ready to enter into discussions with Muslims without offering either appeasement or shotgun-blast aggression.
Here's one review:
There is a story that both the Democrats and the Republicans won't tell. It is the story of a failed foreign policy based on political correctness rather than facts. Supposedly we are in a "war on terrorism" and/or fighting a few "evil men." Why they are evil and why they are terrorists is never explained by our leaders. What our eventual goal in our war with these "evil men" is, is not explained. It can't be articulated because there is an elephant in the room that few have the political courage to mention.
The unmentionable elephant is Islam. It is unmentionable because according to the currently acceptable rules of political correctness, we are never, ever, EVER allowed to say anything unkind about any one's religion. In fact we can't even mention "Islam" in the same breath as "terrorism" unless we preface our remarks with words like "fundamentalist" or "extremist" or "radical" or "Islamist" to prove we don't mean to disparage the "vast majority of Muslims" who are said to be peace loving and misunderstood Jeffersonian democrats as harmless as the Amish and of sweet disposition, something like the late Mother Theresa. We are told again and again that if we only would take the time to "understand Islam" we'll come to love it.
Now at last there is a book that gives us the facts. Islam is a failure measurable by every standard from science, to economic development to human rights. In "The Great Divide" Alvin Schmidt has done a great service to his readers. The first chapter begins by comparing the life of Jesus Christ with Muhammad. A lot of the information revealed in this chapter cites highly unfavorable, but corroborated facts about Muhammad, facts that Muslims are not permitted to hear, read, or talk about in Islamic countries.
The second chapter focuses on how early Christianity grew and expanded during its first 300 years without resorting to any form of violence, even when countless numbers of Christians were severely persecuted, as opposed to Islam, which from the time of its inception in 622 frequently and widely employed the sword to expand and grow.
The third chapter surveys the role of women in the West versus the role of women in Islamic countries. Chapter 4 concentrates on the moral issue of slavery. It shows that slavery was first outlawed in the West, where Christianity had its greatest presence. Unknown to many, this chapter documents and shows that slavery still exists today in some Islamic countries in Africa.
In the fifth chapter the Christian concept of charity is compared with the Islamic practice of Zakat. The latter is often loosely translated as "charity." But the chapter shows that the two are not the same, especially not in terms of what charity originally meant. The sixth chapter, "The Crusades and the Rest of the Story," provides evidence that the Crusades began as defensive just war as a result of the West having experienced numerous military attacks and invasions from Islamic forces.
Chapter 7 shows the differences regarding liberty and justice between the West and Islamic countries are significant and prominent. Chapter 8 explores the question of which religion, Christianity or Islam, has provided the most favorable conditions to the growth and development of modern science.
The ninth chapter discusses the differences between Islam and the West in regard to the relationship between religion and the state. The tenth chapter examines the question of whether Islam is a "peaceful religion," as is often heard today. To answer this question, the chapter looks at Islam's 1,400-year history, including what the Koran and the Hadith reveal on this matter.
The last chapter discusses the effects Islam's apologists (Muslims and non-Muslims) are having in the West today. It notes that apologists in the West's current environment of political correctness not only are disallowing discussion regarding anything unfavorable to Islam, regardless of the facts, but also, are posing a major threat to the Judeo-Christian culture of the Western world.
This is the best book on the subject and should be read by everyone. "The Great Divide" is a masterpiece.
Ron Gleason discusses his new intellectual biography of Herman Bavinck. The book, titled Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian, is published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishers.
The Life and Thought of Herman Bavinck - ReformedForum.org
Our dear boy, you quite misunderstand the problem. So long as Christians continue to understand the Book to contain truths, claims about the way things really are, about the enemy, about Him-who-ought-not-be-named, about His Paraclete, about humans as contracting with us, and about the resolution of all things — one shudders — we shall never succeed. It is, therefore, imperative that you convince them to reckon the Book as a guide to personal fulfillment and especially a way to exquisite, euphoric experience. That is our best product.
You will, of course, recognize this approach. It worked the first time and continues to sell. You will remember that He had offered the woman and the man everlasting bliss on condition that they obeyed Him utterly. Seeing his opportunity, our lord approached the woman and suggested to her that she was missing out, that she could have an experience that transcends mere truths, and, most deliciously of all, that what He says is not really true. It was thrilling. Our great leader affirmed and denied the existence of His truth in the same breath without ever directly challenging what He said. Never be so obvious! You must appear to accept what He says, but you must give the impression that what you are offering is nothing more than a mere codicil to what He has written.
For more, see:
Divorcing Doctrine from Scripture by R. Scott Clark | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
by Gary E. Gilley. (December 2007)
As humiliating as the Axis failure had to be for Willow Creek, the latest bombshell dwarfs it by comparison
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It has been a tough year for the Willow Creek Community Church, the flagship congregation of the “seeker-sensitive” movement. Most know that Willow Creek has set the pace for 30 years in its redesign of the local church. More recently Rick Warren, and his Saddleback Community Church, have stolen the spotlight from Willow and, to some degree, eclipsed its influence on new paradigm churches. But rest assured, Willow, along with its Willow Creek Association, which boasts 12,000 member churches from 90 denominations, is still charting the way for those who look to felt-needs, surveys, the latest innovations and market strategy, instead of Scripture, for their structuring of the local church.  When Willow speaks, church leaders listen. When Willow marches out a new product or method, churches around the globe fall in line. Whatever Willow promotes others emulate.
So, as I said, it has been a tough year for Willow Creek and for its followers as well. It was only in September of 2006 that Willow shuttered its highly acclaimed Axis experiment. Axis was Willow’s “church-within-a-church” designed for 20-somethings. At one point the ten year project boasted 2000 worshipers at services designed especially for Generation Xers, but had fallen to 350 when the leadership decided to shut it down. What Willow discovered was that “Axis didn’t connect young adults with the rest of the congregation. Once they outgrew the service, Axis members found it hard to transition into the rest of the Chicago-area megachurch. Young adults also struggled to meet and develop relationships with mentors in the larger congregation.”  Who would have thought that separating the young people from the body of Christ for a decade would result in integration issues when they grew up? Somebody must have missed the fine print in a Barna survey. At any rate, Willow recognized its error and folded Axis into the larger congregation. This move came too late however for hundreds of Willow clones who were in lock step with the mother church. Many started similar church-within-a-church congregations under Willow’s leadership and most will now suffer the same fate.
As humiliating as the Axis failure had to be for Willow Creek, the latest bombshell dwarfs it by comparison. Willow’s leadership now admits, in the words of Bill Hybels, “We made a mistake.” Hybels, founder, Senior Pastor and Chairman of the Board of the Willow Creek Association, is referencing Willow’s philosophical and ministerial approach to “doing” church. This is the approach pioneered by Hybels and company, honed to perfection and dissimulated to eager church leaders worldwide. This is the approach which distinguishes the seeker-sensitive model from other models. It is this approach that Hybels now admits is a mistake.
First, let me say that I admire Willow’s transparency and humility on this matter. Not many people or groups would make a public admission of error of this magnitude. To actually admit that the model of “doing church” which they have poured 30 years and millions of dollars into has been a mistake is incredulous. This is not to say that Willow’s confession is without flaw, for while they profess mistakes they still apparently think they have done pretty well. And they still believe that they are the ones to lead the church into the future, even if they have been wrong for three decades. But more on that later; for now what are the specifics of the confession?
One of the executive pastors of Willow Creek, Greg Hawkins, became deeply concerned that despite all the efforts of the megachurch perhaps they were not being as effective as they thought. As he watched people dropping money in the offering plate week after week the thought nagged him, “Are we spending those folks money in the right way?”  In 2004, with Hybels’ permission Hawkins led a study of the congregation asking the people how effective the programs and ministry of Willow Creek had been in their lives. Later Hawkins turned to 30 other Willow Creek Association churches to see if the results of the study at Willow would be comparable at these churches – they were. These results, which have been published in a new book, Reveal: Where Are You?, have been described by Hybels as everything from “earth breaking” to “mind blowing” in a disturbing way.
What are the specifics? Hawkins defines Willow’s ministerial goal as “trying to help people who are far from Christ become disciples of Christ characterized by their love for God and other people.” This is a most commendable goal, but how has Willow gone about trying to accomplish this goal? “We do that,” Hawkins states, “by creating a variety of programs and services for people to participate in. Our strategy is to try to get people, far from Christ, engaged in these activities. The more people are participating in these sets of activities with higher levels of frequency it will produce disciples of Christ.”
This has been Willow’s methodology of discipleship throughout the years – the philosophy that has been transported and reproduced around the globe. But what was discovered, via the multi-year, multi-church study, was disturbing. Hawkins identifies three major discoveries. First, that increasing levels of participation in these activities does not predict whether a person will become a disciple of Christ.
Secondly, in every church there is a spiritual continuum in which “you can look at your congregation and put them [the people] in one of five unique segments. The segments are aligned around someone’s intimacy with Jesus Christ and how important that relationship with Christ is to their lives.” The segments into which a local church’s people can be neatly slipped are:
Segment #1 – Those who are just exploring Christianity. Therefore, these are nonbelievers who are attending services or activities provided by the church (i.e. unbelievers).
Segment #2 – Those who love Jesus and have a relationship with Him and are growing in that relationship but are fairly new in that relationship (i.e. new Christians).
Segment #3 – Those who are close to Christ; their relationship with Christ is important to them on a daily basis. These are people who “might pray, read the Bible and have thoughts of God” on a daily basis (i.e. nominal believers).
Segment #4 – Those who center their lives on their relationship with Christ. Their relationship with Christ is the most important relationship in their entire lives (Hybels calls these “fully devoted followers of Christ”).
Segment #5 – Believers who are stalled in their relationship with Christ. They are not investing time on a regular basis in their relationship with Christ. Although they are actually investing time in church events on a regular basis they are not investing time in their personal relationship with Christ (i.e. nominal Christians).
For more, see:
WC Admission of Failure