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Archive | Church History

Totaled Image Bearers

With this entry, I’ll begin a series of meditations upon the meaning and application of essential   Calvinistic beliefs.    I hope these thoughts will encourage all who read and be a particular encouragement to those grappling with Calvinism or wrestling with the claims of Christianity in general.  (Note:  Sorry for the formatting issues -I’m still learning!)

Calvinists subscribe to what are popularly called the Doctrines of Grace. These are summarized in five headings and planted in the acronym TULIP. This entry will deal with the T: Total Depravity.

Priceless words about the Psalms

An interlude in the blog series on Calvinism – here are wonderful, heart-felt and heart filling words regarding our Savior’s relationship to the Psalms –

“Here the language of the Bible comes to meet the very thoughts of our hearts before these can even clothe themselves in language and we recognize that we could not have expressed them better than the Spirit has expressed them for us . . . Our Lord himself, who had a perfect religious experience and lived and walked with God in absolute adjustment of his thoughts and desires to the Father’s mind and will, our Lord himself found his inner life portrayed in the Psalter and in some of the highest moments of his ministry borrowed from it the language in which his soul spoke to God, thus recognizing that a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.”   

 – taken from “Songs from the Soul” preached by Geerhardus Vos in 1902.  The sermon can be found in Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary, The Banner of Truth Trust,Carlisle,PA:  1994.

Coming to Grips with Calvinism, part 2: Transformational Truth

           The last (and first!) entry ended with a plea to consider the claims of Calvinism for whatever biblical truth they may represent and expound.  This next series of entries will examine (relatively briefly) the major theological claims of Calvinism and consider what these claims “look like” when they are lived out, i.e. truly believed.

           But before we get to the particulars, let’s be reminded from Scripture of the nature of theological belief.  I’m currently preaching through the book of James – talk about a book with a sanctifying sting!  James continually puts before us the nature of true faith in Christ.  True Christian belief is demonstrated by actions in accord with the doctrine believed.  Anything less is self-deceit – 1:22.

           For the Christian heart, to know who God is and what He has done in Christ is to act in accord with that truth.  Thus, in Scripture, commands from God (the imperatives) always proceed from doctrinal statements about God (the indicatives).  The indicatives often segue to the imperatives with the simple word “therefore.”  Consider Romans 12:1 as a classic example.  The command in 12:1 is based on all that precedes it in chapters 1-11.  The indicatives imply and demand the imperatives.  Biblical doctrine […]

Dr. William VanDoodewaard: Discipleship and Church Planting

Over the past five years, several of us have been blessed with the friendship of Dr. William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Bill spent a few years with Barry York in Kokomo, Indiana, and many of us in the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery came to know and love him in those years as well. He recently submitted the following article to Gentle Reformation describing his experience.  This article was first printed in Outreach North America, the church planting newsletter of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and is reprinted with permission.  Bill and his wife Rebecca blog regularly at The Christian Pundit. – James Faris

Marion’s Men

Last Lord’s Day evening, I had the great joy of preaching at the ordination and installation of two new elders in the Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church (Kokomo, Indiana). The event was special because I was involved in the Kokomo work from age six through high school. And the event was doubly special because I was able to lay hands on my father-in-law, Joe Marcisz, and Scott Hunt, a friend of many years. Finally, the Lord encouraged us that evening because the congregation is looking forward, in time, to church planting in the city of Marion, Indiana, which is 30 miles east of Kokomo. These two men are the first to be ordained to the office of elder who live in Marion. They will focus especially on leading the outreach ministry in Marion and on shepherding members who live there. This makes them the first of Marion’s Men.

Coming to Grips with Calvinism, part 1: A Protestant’s (ongoing) Reformation

I’m deeply thankful to have been invited to write for this site.  I thought I’d begin by introducing myself in light of the site’s name and nature.

Writing for a blog entitled “Gentle Reformation” is a bit of an historical irony for me.  During my first decade or so of life in Christ, the terms “gentle” and “reformed” did not really apply.

When I first learned of Calvinism in college, I immediately and vehemently opposed it.  I thought it taught a puppet master God, a fatalistic view of history and an unnecessarily dark view of humanity.  I hated what Calvin taught.  True, I had never read Calvin, but that did not deter my zeal!

I read just enough of the Reformer to feel justified in my preformed conclusions.  Brimming with what I deemed righteous indignation, I felt I had found my purpose, the great contribution I’d make to Christ’s church.  I announced to one of my college roommates that my life’s mission was to debunk Reformed Theology. 

National Covenanting: A Realistic Solution for the Economy?

I’ve been thinking about the current economic crisis, and whether the Covenanter doctrine of National Covenanting is for such a time as this. I thought I would post some of those thoughts here to invite discussion from anyone interested—mostly as an exercise in thinking through the practical application of that biblical doctrine we call, “National Covenanting.”

Contemporary Roman Catholic Theology – Dr. Robert Strimple

Mary is the mother of Jesus.
Jesus is God.
Therefore, Mary is the mother of God.
God commands us to honor our mother and our father.
Therefore, Mary as the mother of God deserves to be especially honored (insert veneration).

Sometimes our reasoning can slip out of joint; bend in directions not entirely proper.  In the case of Roman Catholicism, I’ve found that they’re extremely good at formulating some real head scratchers; lines of argument that make you feel uneasy, even if you can’t put your finger on the exact point where the logic runs askew.

Here I’m reminded of something Melville once wrote.  In his classic work, Moby Dick, which I might add, is the single greatest work of English literature (sorry, Jane Austen fans), and with which, I might also add, R.C. Sproul agrees (see here), and which, ahem, inspired the last chapter of my book, Melville provides an interesting little twist in “Christian” logic.  In the following quote, Ishmael is debating whether or not he should bow down to the idol of his new friend, Queequeg.  Ishmael reasons as follows:

RP Hearts and Hands in the Revolution

As recounted last month,  Rev. William Martin, on June 4, 1780, preached to the Covenanters of Rocky Creek, South Carolina, and stirred them up to fight in the revolutionary cause. As we celebrate Independence Day in America, it is good for us to recall what happened in the following days that year. The story continues from Mrs. Green whose first-hand account can be found in William Glasgow’s History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, followed by a few personal reflections.

Loving Mercy

This week, I was humbled twice with reminders that the people of God must be about the work of Isaiah 58:6-7 in response to the great grace that the Lord has shown us. In the examples that I saw this week, I was struck with the need not simply to honor the work of those saints of yesteryear but to take up similarly costly work today in service to the King today. Both stories tell of people who personally gave up their lives in some capacity to show mercy to one person at a time. Is there at least one needy person in your life currently to whom you are intentionally showing mercy?