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.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church recently announced the publication of an online archive for The Presbyterian Guardian (1935-1979). All 611 issues can be downloaded individually, and the entire archive can be downloaded as one large PDF (~1 GB).
This is a welcome resource not only for historians and historical theologians, but also for the third generation of upcoming OPC leaders, many of whom, like myself, were not reared in Presbyterian faith or practice. The Guardian is a large part of our small denomination’s story, and to ignore this publication is to distance ourselves from our own identity. As we seek to advance the vanguard, we ought not remove the rearguard–the pens of the patroi tou pistou whose steady hands laid the foundation upon which we seek to build.
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
- Facing Hard Times
by Ross W. Graham
- Missionary Impossible
by David Winslow and Kathleen Winslow
- The Challenges for an Army Chaplain
by Graham C. Harbman
- Charity and Criticism
by “Uncle Glen”
The August–September issue of New Horizons is an encouraging read, especially in two departments:
- First, the Home Missions section reveals the diversity (ethnically, culturally, geographically) and deep commitment to church planting evident throughout the OPC. Such diversity is impressive for our so-called “sideline” size and status, and the commitment to Reformed faith and practice even in large urban settings (like Chicago and NYC) is a testimony to God’s presence accompanying His means of grace.
- Second, the report on the 2009 Timothy Conference reveals the church’s pro-active efforts to bring up the next generation of ministers, a pressing need for anyone who has seen the domination of grey and balding “crowns” on display at a General Assembly. What a strategic time to cast a compelling vision of biblical ministry to young men entering the years of their lives when their future courses are being set.
Praise God for His continued work through our humble kirk, for His keeping His covenant promises even through our hard times.
Listen to the debate or download the MP3s below:
Dr. Thomas Schreiner: Credo-Baptism (30 min.)
Dr. David VanDrunen: Paedo-Baptism (30 min.)
Q & A Session Between Schreiner & VanDrunen
- Listen to James White (Baptist view) and Bill Shisko (Presbyterian view) debate infant baptism.
- Listen to Dr. Robert Strimple (Presbyterian view) and Dr. Fred Malone (Baptist view) debate infant baptism.
- Free video online: Why Do We Baptize Our Children? — by Dr. Richard Pratt
- Purchase the DVD.
Books on Baptism
- Listen to James White (Baptist view) and Bill Shisko (Presbyterian view) debate infant baptism.
- Listen to Dr. David VanDrunen (Presbyteran) and Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Baptist) debate infant baptism.
- Watch video online: Why Do We Baptize Our Children? — by Dr. Richard Pratt
- Purchase the DVD.
Books on Baptism
To Lady Kenmure On the Eve of Banishment to Aberdeen
Noble and Elect Lady,
That honor that I have prayed for these sixteen years, with submission to my Lord’s will, my kind Lord has now bestowed upon me, even to suffer for my royal and princely King Jesus, and for His kingly crown, and the freedom of His kingdom that His Father has given Him. The forbidden lords have sentenced me with deprivation, and confinement within the town of Aberdeen. I am charged in the King’s name to enter against the 20th day of August next, and there to remain during the Kings pleasure, as they have given it out.
Howbeit Christ’s green cross, newly laid upon me, be somewhat heavy, while I call to mind the many fair days sweet and comfortable to my soul and to the souls of many others, and how young ones in Christ are plucked from the breast, and the inheritance of God laid waste; yet that cross of Christ is accompanied with sweet refreshments, with the joy of the Holy Ghost, with faith that the Lord hears the sighing of a prisoner, with undoubted hope (as sure as my Lord liveth) after this night to see daylight, and Christ’s sky to clear up again upon me, and His poor kirk; and that in a strange land, among strange faces, He will give favor in the eyes of men to His poor oppressed servant, who dow not but love that lovely One, that princely One, Jesus, the Comforter of his soul.
All would be well, if I were free of old challenges for guiltiness, and for neglect in my calling, and for speaking too little for my Well-beloved’s crown, honor, and kingdom. This is my only exercise, that I fear I have done little good in my ministry.
I apprehend no less than a judgment upon Galloway, and that the Lord shall visit this whole nation for the quarrel of the Covenant. But what can be laid upon me, or any the like of me, is too light for Christ. Christ dow bear more, and would bear death and burning quick, in His quick servants, even for this honorable cause that I now suffer for. Yet for all my complaints (and He knoweth that I dare not now dissemble), He was never sweeter and kinder than He is now.
My dear worthy Lady, I give it to your Ladyship, under my own hand, my heart writing as well as my hand welcome, welcome, sweet, sweet and glorious cross of Christ; welcome, sweet Jesus, with Thy light cross. Thou hast now gained and gotten all my love from me; keep what Thou hast gotten! Only woe, woe is me, for my bereft flock, for the lambs of Jesus, that I fear shall be fed with dry breasts. But I spare now.
Madam, I dare not promise to see your Ladyship, because of the little time I have allotted me; and I purpose to obey the King, who has power of my body; and rebellion to kings is unbeseeming Christ’s ministers. Madam, bind me more (if more can be) to your Ladyship; and write thanks to your brother, my Lord of Lorn, for what he has done for me, a poor and unknown stranger to his Lordship. I shall pray for him and his house, while I live. Now, Madam, commending your Ladyship, and the sweet child, to the tender mercies of the Lord Jesus, and His good-will who dwelt in the Bush.
Edinburgh, July 28, 1636
Who is Lady Kenmure?
About “Rutherford Thursdays”
- See my introduction.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
In a world full of hurt we need to be reminded often of our hope. Such is the purpose of the weekly Sabbath rest lived by God’s people. Professor Gaffin explains:
We obscure the meaning of the Lord’s Day if we detach it from the other six days of the week. The weekly cycle—which structures human existence in virtually every time and place—itself provides a kind of “philosophy of history.” The pattern of six days of activity interrupted by one day of rest is a continuing reminder that human beings are not caught up in a meaningless flow of days, one after the other without end. History has a beginning and an ending. We are heading toward final judgment and the consummation of all things.
Every time we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, it encourages us to “think big.” It reminds us of the truly large picture we are part of as God’s redeemed children. The weekly Sabbath is a God-given sign that our lives are not meaningless and without purpose. Every time we neglect to consecrate the Sabbath day to God, we actually steal hope from ourselves. Every time we fail to keep the day holy to God, we actually obscure our witness to the world of hope in Christ. Every Sabbath day is a gracious reminder that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). (Quoted from “A Sign of Hope” by Dr. Richard Gaffin. Paragraph break added.)
Daryl Hart’s provocative and penetrating collection of essays, Recovering Mother Kirk, is a profound read; it invites Christians into a way of life that at first sounds like an oxymoron (21-40) and secondly sounds like an evangelical swear word: high-church Calvinism.
Hart reaches out to evangelicals who, having grown fed up with the shallowness of evangelicalism’s individualistic revivalism and subjective idiosyncrasies, are taking the Canterbury Trail or the Roman Road in search of a more historic, objective, meaningful liturgy and Christian life. Hart’s appeal to such liturgical pilgrims is, “If anything, this book’s aim is to show that Geneva should be another option for Protestants seeking a corporate and liturgical expression of their faith.”
Hart’s call for recovering “churchly piety” is rooted in the riches of the Reformed tradition. The title and purpose of Hart’s book comes from John Calvin’s description of the nature and necessity of the church in Book Four of his Institutes (IV.1.4):
But as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Mt. 22:30). For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify (Isa. 37:32; Joel 2:32). To their testimony Ezekiel subscribes, when he declares, “They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel” (Ezek. 3:9); as, on the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true piety are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem. For which reason it is said in the psalm, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance” (Ps. 106:4, 5). By these words the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal.
Reformed Faith Drives Reformed Praxis
By unfolding Calvin’s implications for today’s evangelical scene, Hart seeks to call atomized, motherless Christians back to their organic “Mother Kirk.” This Geneavan/churchly way of life–and it is indeed an entire life system organized around glorifying and enjoying God according to His Word–demands recovering the connection between a theology of churchly Motherhood and her practicing of the corporate means of grace (i.e. WSC 88).
As a sort of road map to Reformed liturgical recovery, Hart skillfully weaves together key theological underpinnings that drive the praxis of Motherly piety: the spirituality of the church, spirit-filled worship according to the truth, special office, spiritual jurisdiction and discipline, liturgy and forms, Psalter singing, and denominational self-consciousness. Without these robust, scriptural truths, Reformed liturgy as a way of life cannot come into its own.
Master of Irony
Knowing full well that the churchly Christianity of which Calvin speaks is mostly alien in today’s American evangelicalism, Hart carefully uses irony to get behind evangelicalism’s presumptions, exposing the theological barrenness of Motherless Christianity. Time and again Hart points out that evangelicalism’s follies in practice arise from her foibles in theology.
Pay careful attention when you see the words “irony” or “ironically” in Harts essays, for he usually unfolds his theses close to these words.
While the book is a work of historical theology, not exegesis, Hart will challenge you to examine your own presumptions on key ecclesial texts such as:
- Jesus’ worship discourse with the woman of Samaria (John 4)
- Jesus’ institution of the Keys of the Kingdom (Matt. 16:13-20)
- Jesus’ statement, “where two or three are gathered…” (Mat. 18:20)
- Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20)
Humble Suggestions for Improvement
For a book so strongly advocating churchly piety as an entire way of life–and rightly so–the case for Reformed liturgy could have been strengthened even further by making more connections between Sunday life and the rest of the week. While this topic is dealt with briefly under the discussion on transformationalism (i.e. 172-175), the two cities/two-kingdoms concept is so foreign today that perhaps a couple of essays with titles such as, “What does it mean to be a ‘churchly Christian’ Monday through Saturday?,” and, “The other 6 days of the week,” could facilitate more consistent thinking about liturgical Christianity as a way of life. Along the same lines, common grace is a theological topic directly related to Hart’s two-kingdoms-type thinking, yet this topic is strangely absent in the essays.
In my mind Hart’s essays raise some good questions which they do not answer:
- How does family or individual worship relate to corporate worship?
- Are the corporate means of grace related at all to “private” means of grace?
- What does it look like to be a faithful Christian at my job?
- How do I evangelize and confess Christ before men without being a licensed minister?
- How does my purpose in life as a redeemed image of God relate to my vocation in life?
- What is the difference between “dead orthodoxy” and “churchly piety”?
Furthermore, the book does not address enough of the difficult realities of trying to live an organic/churchly/familial Christianity within a post-agrarian, industrialized, highly-mobile society. More essays need to be written both for ministers and laity on how to connect liturgical theology to life in the third millennium in concrete, rubber-meets-the-road terms (no urban or suburban puns intended!).
Two Thumbs Up
All in all Recovering Mother Kirk is an excellent, provoking, and intriguing read. Even if you don’t agree with all his points, Hart will stimulate your thinking about the the role of the church in your Christian life. I commend the book heartily, especially to Reformed church ministers and elders seeking to guide their parishioners deeper into the Reformed way of life.
- “Reviving the Liturgy,” a Relevant Magazine article by LisaMarie Goetz. While written from a broad perspective, Goetz explains that as more and more Christians become fed up with “seeker-sensitive” worship, they look to liturgy as a way to deepen their Christian experience.
- “Worship in the Church: Pastors’ Roundtable,” a Modern Reformation article: “Michael Horton talks with pastors from three denominations – Lutheran, Reformed, and Presbyterian – about what it means to give glory to God through worship in the church, and in turn receive God’s gifts of peace, righteousness, and satisfaction.”
- What does the Lord pray for?
- Why is this unity important?
- How is this impossible task accomplished?
Free New Horizons Articles
- “That They Might Be One”
by Philip T. Proctor
- Helps for Worship #23: Old and New Covenant Readings
by William Shishko