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The Attraction of Reformed Theology

Sitting around a table I was enjoying some post-dinner conversation with three theologically eclectic and charming people when I was startled by an unexpected question: “Kyle, what is the attraction of Reformed theology?” It was a sincere question and I was grateful for the sudden opportunity to give an answer. As all eyes turned to me I hesitated for a moment and then said the first four words I could think of: the glory of God.

Simply defined, Reformed theology is that stream of thought summarized in the great confessions of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches such as the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. These confessions are not minimalist bullet-point statements, but neither are they so exhaustive as to exclude a place for charitable disagreement. However, when taken as they are, they present a coherent and consistent system of belief in doctrine, worship, and piety that I am convinced is faithful to the Bible.

I wasn’t always convinced of that. I grew up far from some of the commitments of Reformed theology, and when I was first introduced to it (nearly twenty years ago) I adamantly resisted it. In time, I grew to appreciate many of […]

Lent: Glitter or Gold?

Every Sunday night before evening worship I meet in my study with the middle schoolers in our church to discuss the morning sermon. That goal isn’t always achieved. As I’ve gotten to know them they have also gotten to know me. Sometimes they use that to their advantage to derail the normal topic of discussion. They have figured out that the quickest way to have a tangential conversation is to ask me a serious question. I’ve never told them—and maybe I don’t need to—but these are some of my favorite times as a pastor. In one manipulatively planned digression I was asked about the practice of Lent.

Over a century ago William Ingraham Kip wrote: “For some years past each return of Lent has been, we believe, regarded with additional interest.” That observation remains true today. As Ash Wednesday marks the start of another Lenten season many of us will encounter it. In the spirit of the Apostle Paul who said “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) we should think biblically about the Lenten season.

Lent is regarded by many to be on of the oldest and most important practices of the church calendar. Traces of its observance can be found in the […]

Pro-Life For All Life

I have not done much in a public way to speak or write about abortion. That is not because I find abortion acceptable or even slightly defensible. Far from it! It is the holocaust of our generation, and even that is probably not strong enough language to describe it. Too many have turned what should be the safest place in all of creation, the womb of a mother, into a tomb. Rather, I have found it to be true that my engagement changed when I had to begin dealing with abortion face-to-face. It changes things when someone says, “Pastor, I’ve had an abortion. What should I do?” Suddenly, the faceless person has a face and the nameless person has a name. You’re no longer dealing with a vitriolic opponent but a tender soul that needs to work through the shame and guilt by the forgiveness, hope, and freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That changes things. But I’m breaking from my relative public silence to offer a few thoughts.

Yesterday marked forty-four years since the Supreme Court invented a Constitutional right to kill babies in the womb. Since that date there have been nearly sixty-million little boys and girls murdered […]

If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit.

Here’s a proposition for the new year. I propose that if church isn’t necessary, we quit. I mean it. If it’s not necessary let’s cancel all of our services, board up the windows, lock the doors, and send everyone on their merry way. Sure, Christians have been gathering together to hear the Word read and preached, to sing with grace in their hearts, and observe the sacraments for over two thousand years. But if it’s not necessary let’s be the first generation to finally end the practice. Let’s silence the pulpit, close up the song books, dry up the baptismal waters, and put away the bread and wine. If church isn’t necessary, let’s quit.

Why? Because I’m convinced if it’s not necessary it’s too difficult and not worth my time. Listening to sermons is hard and it’s not really my learning style. So, let’s quit. Singing is outdated and the thought of someone hearing me slightly off key or out of tune is unbearable. Let’s quit. Praying together is boring and I’m too easily distracted. Let’s quit. I have my own friends and family and people at church can be hard to get along with. Let’s quit. It’s also too time […]

Coming February 2017–The Jerusalem Chamber

The Jerusalem Chamber is a unique collaborative podcast between pastors Shawn Anderson, Kyle Borg, Nathan Eshelman, and Joel Wood to provide a round table discussion on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

The Jerusalem Chamber gets its name from the meeting room at Westminster Abbey where, from 1643-1653, the Westminster Divines met to produce, among other things, the Westminster Confession of Faith. This confession remains one of the most enduring summaries of evangelical truth and remains the teaching of Presbyterian churches. Far from being an irrelevant relic of the past, it is our belief that the health of the church depends on continuing to pattern our doctrine, worship, and piety after it.

There are many good commentaries and works that explore the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The uniqueness of The Jerusalem Chamber podcast is that it provides an audio discussion with pastoral application of every paragraph of the confession. In February 2017 join Shawn, Kyle, Nathan, and Joel–four good friends and fellow pastors in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America–as they discuss “the humble advice of the Assembly of Divines.”

Find them at: www.JerusalemChamber.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Fair Anwoth by the Solway

I used to keep a copy of the Letters of Samuel Rutherford on my nightstand to read each evening before going to bed. The grand theme of his letter writing was the loveliness of Jesus Christ–though even Rutherford knew that his pen could never express it fully. To read these pastoral epistles is to read the heart of one who was well acquainted with his Savior. For that reason alone I have often retreated to them when my own affections seem dull and faint and have found, again and again, a kindling spark for my cold heart. But the value of these letters does not end there. Rather, as a pastor writing to many members of his congregation, Rutherford displays the soul of a shepherd that is worth imitation.

Born around 1600 Samuel Rutherford was a man of remarkable talent both in learning and in preaching. At the age of 27 he became the pastor of the insignificant parish of Anwoth. It was the very ideal of a country church though far removed from influence and a place of little consequence. According to his biographer, Andrew Bonar, that was never a concern for Rutherford: “[Anwoth] had no large village near the […]

A Congregant’s Guide to Preaching

As I was browsing my book shelves the other day I discovered that I have just over thirty books whose primary subject is the study of preaching. Aside, perhaps, from Charles Spurgeon, that is more books than I have on any other single subject. Of course, that’s probably to be expected. You wouldn’t be surprised to find a lawyer’s shelves full of law books, or a doctor’s with medical books, or even an auto mechanic with mechanical books. Preaching isn’t something I dabble in or fill my spare time with as some hobby. As a pastor, preaching is what I have been primarily called to. John Jennings once wrote: “To preach Christ, therefore, is our charge, our business, and our glory.” That’s why I study preaching and will continue to do so throughout the whole course of my ministry.

But, of course, you don’t have to be a lawyer to study law, a doctor to study medicine, or a mechanic to study mechanics. Neither do you have to be a preacher to study preaching. In fact, as a pastor I don’t simply want my congregation to hear preaching, I want them to know something of what preaching is. I want them […]

Rural America: Is Anyone Listening?

I suppose as the citizens of the United States begin to digest the results of Tuesday’s election a lot of us will don the appearance of political pundits. Given the historic upset of the Presidential race there will, no doubt, be an endless flow of commentary, dissection, and analysis. If you’re an armchair politician it might prove fascinating if not also a bit entertaining, but if you’re looking for a measure of peace and quiet it seems this campaign season will not fade so quickly into silence.

I’m not a political pundit or intellectual scholar. Of course, after last night I’ve lost confidence in political “science” and the opinions of the experts. Nevertheless, any reflection I might add to the noise may prove to be superficial or, at worst, completely wrong. While I didn’t support either of the major candidates I cannot help but think last night was a stinging indictment of—maybe even a victory over—the political, social, and media elite. The mainstream seemed completely unable to comprehend what was happening and, to his credit, NBC’s Lester Holt noted several times: “This is because of us.” After hours of wrestling with results the one comment that stuck with me was how […]

Christian Love

In his wonderful book, Christian Love, Scottish theologian and pastor Hugh Binning wrote: “In [love] a Christian should be like his Father, and there is nothing in which he resembles him more than in this, to walk in love towards all men.” For the Christian, love is not one grace among many, but it is the unity of all graces and the crown of our profession. I’ve had to think often of that as I have recently finished preaching a series through the well-known “love chapter” that is 1 Corinthians 13. I’m not entirely sure how those messages were received by the congregation, but for my part I was often led to repent for my lovelessness, to swell in gratitude for the Father’s love in Jesus shed abroad by the Holy Spirit, and to long for heaven which is, as Jonathan Edwards put it, “a world of love.”

It would be impossible to rehearse all the ways I profited from my preparation and preaching of Christian love. But I want to offer a few reflections that have especially stuck with me.

First, the love of 1 Corinthians 13 is to be earnestly desired. Within the context that’s Paul’s point. As much as […]

The Monster We Created: Councils, Brand Names, and Celebrities

In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, conjures up a way to give life to the nonliving. His ambition leads him to an unorthodox science experiment that breeds a grotesque creature for whom he will claim no responsibility. In the course of time his monster becomes all his grief and ruin. With his lofty ambitions shattered by despondency, Victor determines that his only destiny is to “pursue and destroy the being to whom I gave existence.” But it’s too late. The monster couldn’t be contained.

I’m not a literary critic and, to be honest, I’m only superficially familiar with Frankenstein. But among its several themes the story line stands as a warning against overreach and creating what was not meant to be created. While Shelley’s novel is the Romantic movement’s pushback against the Industrial Revolution, perhaps there’s a small prophetic voice to remind the church how quickly ambitions can spiral out of control and result in misshapen monsters that actually prove to be destructive to the noble aspirations with which we began. I say that because, as it appears to me, this is exactly the kind of monster the broader evangelical movement has created. In the laboratories of […]