—Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oneworld, 2000), 183
This Lord’s Day evening I had the privilege of attending the inaugural service for Sovereign Grace URC, a new church plant meeting on the northeast side of Grand Rapids in the Vos Chapel at Kuyper College. If you live on the northeast side and are looking for a Scripture-based, Christ-exalting, God-centered church, then come join the brothers and sisters who are gathering for worship just off the Beltline.
In the first place we shall, of course, remember that all that we have received has been by grace. And if those who hold the Reformed faith do greater justice to the idea of God’s grace in the salvation of sinners, then they ought to be the humblest of all men. They ought to enter most sympathetically into the mind and heart of him who makes this objection. Did they not themselves kick against the pricks and rebel against the overtures of God’s grace?
And this attitude of humility holds over against those who with him name the name of Christ, as well as over against the unbeliever. With Bavinck let us say that all true Christians are at heart Augustinian and with Warfield let us say that every Christian who calls out unto God in anguish of heart is really a Calvinist.
Books by Van Til
The church will have to return to its erstwhile emphasis upon its teaching function if it is to fulfill its God-given task of bringing the gospel to all men. Its present recourse to jerky evangelism as almost the only method of propaganda is itself an admission of paupery [sic.; i.e. paucity]. . . . The propaganda of orthodoxy seems to be limited almost exclusively to evangelization in the narrow sense of the term. When this propaganda turns to teaching as a means, it all too frequently employs uncritically the conceptions of “reason” and “fact” as these are understood by those who make no profession of Christianity. The result is that there is no teaching of Christianity as a challenge to unbelief. Revivalists ought to make themselves unnecessary as quickly as possible. Orthodoxy must take over the teaching function of the church anew, and do it with a better knowledge of the requirements of that work than ever before.
Books by Van Til
Much Honored Sir,
I long to hear how your soul prospereth. I wonder that ye write not to me; for the Holy Ghost beareth me witness, that I cannot, I dare not, I do not, forget you, nor the souls of those with you, who are redeemed by the blood of the great Shepherd. Ye are in my heart in the night-watches; ye are my joy and crown in the day of Christ. O Lord, bear me witness, if my soul thirsteth for anything out of heaven, more than for your salvation.
Love heaven; let your heart be on it. It were time that your soul cast itself, and all your burdens, upon Christ. I beseech you by the wounds of your Redeemer, and by your compearance before Him, and by the salvation of your soul, lose no more time; run fast, for it is late. Ye are now upon the very border of the other life. Your Lord cannot be blamed for not giving you warning. I have taught the truth of Christ to you, and delivered unto you the whole counsel of God, and I have stood before the Lord for you, and I will yet still stand. Awake, awake to do righteously. Think not to be eased of the burdens and debts that are on your house by oppressing any, or being rigorous to those that are under you. Remember how I endeavored to walk before you in this matter, as an example. ‘Behold, here am 1, witness against me, before the Lord and His Anointed: whose ox or whose ass have I taken? Whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed?’ (I Sam. 12.3). Who knoweth how my soul feedeth upon a good conscience, when I remember how I spent this body in feeding the lambs of Christ?
The Lord is my witness above that I write my heart to you. I never knew by my nine years’ preaching so much of Christ’s love as He has taught me in Aberdeen by six months’ imprisonment. I charge you in Christ’s name to help me to praise; and show that people and country the loving kindness of the Lord to my soul, that so my sufferings may someday preach to them when I am silent. He has made me to know now better than before what it is to be crucified to the world.
I would not exchange my sighs for the laughing of my adversaries, for He has sealed my sufferings with the comforts of His Spirit on my soul. Now, Sir, I have no earthly comfort, but to know I have espoused, and shall present a bride to Christ in that congregation. The Lord has given you much, and therefore He will require much of you again; number your talents, and see what you have to render back again; you cannot be enough persuaded of the shortness of your time. I charge you to write to me, and in the fear of God, be plain with me, whether or not you have made your salvation sure: I am confident, and hope the best; but I know, your reckonings with your Judge are many and deep. Sir, be not beguiled, neglect not the one thing, your one necessary thing, ‘the good part that shall not be taken from you’; look beyond time; things here are but moonshine; they have but children’s wit, who are delighted with shadows, and deluded with feathers flying in the air.
Desire your children in the morning of their life, to begin and seek the Lord, and ‘to remember their Creator in the days of their youth’, to ‘cleanse their way, by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word’. Youth is a glassy age. Satan too often finds a ’swept chamber’, and a ‘garnished lodging’ for himself and his train, in youthhood. Let the Lord have the flower of their age; the best sacrifice is due to Him; instruct them in this, that they have a soul, and that this life is nothing in comparison of eternity; they will have much need of God’s conduct in this world, to guide them bye those rocks upon which most men split; but far more need when it cometh to the hour of death, and their compearance before Christ. Oh that there were such an heart in them, to fear the name of the great and dreadful God, who has laid up great things for those that love and fear Him!I pray that God may be their portion.
Show others of my parishioners, that I write to them my best wishes, and the blessings of their lawful pastor. Say to them from me, that I beseech them, by the bowels of Christ, to keep in mind the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which I taught them; so that they may lay hold on eternal life, striving together for the faith of the Gospel, and making sure salvation to themselves. Walk in love, and do righteousness: seek peace; love one another. Wait for the coming of our Master and Judge. Receive no doctrine contrary to that which I delivered to you. If ye fall away, and forget it, and that Catechism which I taught you, and so forsake your own mercy, the Lord be Judge betwixt you and me. I take heaven and earth to witness, that such shall eternally perish. But if they serve the Lord, great will their reward be when they and I shall stand before our Judge. Set forward up the mountain, to meet with God; climb up, for your Savior calleth on you. It may be that God will call you to your rest, when I am far from you; but ye have my love, and the desires of my heart for your soul’s welfare. He that is holy, keep you from falling, and establish you, till His own glorious appearance.
Your affectionate and lawful pastor.
Who is John Gordon of Cardoness?
John Gordon, the elder, laird of Cardoness, was a very difficult parishioner, and a man of strong passions. His estate was heavily burdened by debt. Part of the purpose of this letter is a protest against the attempt to meet his debts by an inequitable raising of the rents of the farms and cottages on the estate. And there was a son (to whom a later letter is addressed, letter 34), who was following the example of his father’s wild youth. See also Letters 36 and 46.
About “Rutherford Thursdays”
- See my introduction to the “Rutherford Thursdays” series of blog posts.
- Selection from His Letters is a public domain text hosted by CCEL. I have arranged and formatted Rutherford’s text and Hugh Martin’s editorial comments, added headings, paragraph separations, etc., for presentation on this blog.
- Letters of Samuel Rutherford is a nice print edition of Rutherford’s letters for under $5.
- For a brief biographical sketch of Rutherford’s life, see Hugh Martin’s forward to Selections. And see Martin’s glossary for help with outdated vocabulary.
- Rutherford Resources:
- The Post-Reformation Digital Library lists free e-books by Rutherford.
- Samuel Rutherford by Andrew Thompson. This book, now freely available via Google Books, presents two parts: First, a biography of Rutherford’s life; Second, a selection of Rutherford’s letters entitled “Honey from the Honeycomb.”
- Fire and Ice index to S. R.
- Samuel Rutherford: A New Biography of the Man & His Ministry. This biography by Kingsley G Rendell provides an excellent introduction to Rutherford’s life and work.
Saudi Arabia’s former Minister of Information, Muhammad Abduh Al-Yamani, gives his perspective on 9/11 (it has been unfairly pinned on “Islam”) and Christianity (its scriptures are corrupt, and Islam calls Christians back to true monotheism).
On Al-Yamani’s former argument, American Christians may need to at least be willing to listen patiently. With his latter arguments Al-Yamani gives fairly standard Muslim apologetic defeaters against Christianity. Are we Christians ready with loving and sound apologetic defeater-defeaters?
So far my attempt to think through a faith Christian response to Fitna has (1) introduced Geert Wilder’s film, (2) surveyed its political repercussions, and (3) examined how the Christian world is officially responding to Fitna. In the final two parts I will (4) fill out the Protestant picture by exploring the laity’s response and (5) suggest a theological trajectory for living out your own Christian response.
What do we see, then, in the Protestant picture when we add the laity?
Filling in the Protestant Picture: “Unofficial”/lay response
In the conclusion to Part 3 I suggested that more must be added to the picture in order to see the whole Protestant landscape; That “more” is the laity. Although Protestant groups such as the WCC (World Council of Churches) and PCN (Protestant Church in the Netherlands) have stood with Muslims in strongly condemning Fitna as heinous political propaganda, Protestantism’s laity does not fully agree with her leaders. Some Protestant parishioners even support Fitna.
Painting with broad brushes, two basic attitudes have emerged among Protestant laity in response to Fitna.
Seeing Two Basic Lay Responses: Arrogant “Amen!” or “Nuance Needed”
First, one group of Protestants is saying a hearty “Amen!” to Wilders’ Fitna film and is thanking him for simply “showing the scriptural [Koranic] authority for a lot of the acts we see on the news today.” Apparently, such Protestants interpret Wilders’ film as an unbiased, fair representation of the truth about Islam. This “Amen” approach is seen, for example, in Jay Smith’s response to Fitna:
(Excursus: Speaking from my own experience visiting Mosques and attempting to forge friendships across the Cross and Crescent divide, the arrogance, ignorance, and odiousness of such “Amen!” responses from Protestants is appalling, especially to those of us who are actively engaging in Muslim evangelism. When Muslims themselves, Christian leaders, political leaders, and news media all admit that Fitna is obvious political propaganda, Christians who give a hearty “Amen!” to Fitna allow themselves to be used as vessels of political fear mongering and preachers of bigoted social exclusion. Such actions are directly contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which calls upon all Christians to love their neighbors, including their enemies. How shall we ever share the Gospel with Muslims if we do not love them enough to even listen to what they have to say about violence in their own religion, but instead paint them all as terrorists?)
Second, a contrary Protestant voice can also be heard by those who see Fitna not as an unbiased presentation, but rather as an obvious display of political propagandizing. For example, Australia’s Center for Public Christianity produced a Fitna response calling for a nuanced and loving Christian response which sees through the political smoke and mirrors without ignoring real difficulties:
(See also the Center for Public Christianity article by Richard Shumack, Fitna: A Christian response to an anti-Islamic film.)
Comparing the Protestant Response to the Political
While surveying the international political responses to Fitna in part 2 I noticed two basic attitudes: derision or downplay. The common element is that both attitudes recognized Fitna‘s genre to be political propaganda: One group saw the film and shrugged off the propaganda; the other condemned the propaganda; but, both groups saw the propaganda.
Although the Protestant response also reveals a basic twofold division (“amen” or “nuance needed”), the demarcation is different. On the one hand the “nuance needed” Protestants see Fitna‘s genre clearly as political propaganda, and these Protestants condemn the film and/or call for a much more nuanced approach to Christian-Muslim relations. On the other hand the “Amen to Fitna!”portion of the Protestant church does not account for the film’s genre and thus praises Fitna for shining an unbiased light of truth. How could Protestants, then, be so divided especially when the film’s genre seems so obviously propaganda?
This important question leads us into our fifth and final post in which we will briefly sketch the underlying theological framework Christians need to live out their own faithful response to Fitna in their local churches and communities.
Reforming Pastoral Ministry is a collection of essays written by (mostly) Reformed baptist pastors with the goal of encouraging younger pastors toward Scriptural reformation and revival. The book is supposed to be a modern rendition of Richard Baxter’s classic work, The Reformed Pastor. As a third year Presbyterian seminarian looking to enter the pastoral ministry, I thought the essays by Beeke, Marcellino, and Elliff were the most penetrating and helpful.
While it is always beneficial to learn from the wisdom of experienced pastors, overall, the book has a Baptistic, Puritan feel. The lack of a robust covenantal hermeneutic is evident throughout. Thus, at times throughout the book I was left wondering whether the authors had failed to consider the implications of Christ’s active obedience. (I have in mind here Kline’s covenantal critique of Fuller’s Unity of the Bible.)
The subtitle, “Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Time,” is a little misleading; for, the book does not discuss postmodernity (i.e. tribalism, pluralism, etc.) as much as modernity (i.e. consumerism, pragmatism, industrialization, personal-public dichotemy). If the book is about postmodernity, then some of the essays are slightly outdated, quoting sources and dealing with issues from the ’70s, ’80s, and 90s (see Newton’s essays on church growth); this is not to say the essays are unhelpful, but would be perhaps more accurately labeled modern instead of postmodern.
Overall, I think there are better books worth reading on pastoral ministry. Instead of spending your time and money on this modern book, perhaps pursuing Baxter’s classic is a more rewarding investment.