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3GT Episode 42: The Glories of Ecclesiology

It’s summertime, and that means one thing. The ecclesiastical courts are in session! Across the country, various denominations are gathering for their annual meetings. A visitor to another assembly, Barry describes what it was like to be a little RP minnow in the big PCA pond. Kyle leads the guys in a discussion on the types of church governance, and explains why we should not roll our eyes about this topic. Aaron explains how he appreciates the representative nature of being a Presbyterian. The 3GTers go on and do more than just offer the biblical and practical necessities of presbyterianism – they glory in it and invite you to so as well!

Listen and learn with the guys as they seek to bring life to what many view as a dry topic!

https://threeguystheologizing.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/3gt-episode-42.mp3

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You’re Invited: A Day of Prayer and Fasting

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13

Our session (at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette) has called for a day of fasting and prayer on Thursday, September 8th. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you and your congregations to join us. 

RPIC 2016 Messages

As Nathan explained a few days ago, several of us at Gentle Reformation were at the quadrennial Reformed Presbyterian International Conference last week. A number of people have inquired how they might listen to the messages that were given at the conference, so I thought it would be helpful to have the links collected in one place for easy reference.

Preaching Sessions

Several brothers preached throughout the week. I was grateful to sit under the Word as they brought powerful, relevant, and searching messages to us.

A Child’s Powerful Witness (II Kings 5:1-5) | Gordon Keddie

Power. Prayer. Providence. (Ephesians 3:7-21) | Matt Kingswood

Seasoned for the Flames (Matthew 5:1-16) | Jeff Stivason

Can You See It? (Nehemiah 6) | Peter Smith

Plenary Sessions

I spoke five times on the theme of “The Sacrificing Church: Ministering Faithfully as Priests in the Local Congregation.”

The Sacrificing Church As a Worshiping Temple (I Peter 2:4-10)

The Sacrificing Church As a Praying Priesthood (Revelation 8:1-5)

The Sacrificing Church As a Believing Community (Romans 12:1-21)

The Sacrificing Church As a Merciful People (James 1:26-2:13)

The Sacrificing Church As a Mission Outpost (Hebrews 10:19-39)

Women in Combat, Presbyterianism, and Cases of Conscience

Presbyterianism has its advantages. One of those advantages is giving the church a framework by which to answer difficult questions. Last Thursday Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that all U.S. military combat positions–infantry, armor, reconnaissance and special operations units–will be open to women, with “No exceptions.” As this new policy goes into effect and women begin to be integrated into these jobs there will be significant ramifications. Already, Army Secretary John McHugh has suggested that if the goal is “true and pure equality,” then Congress will need to decide if women will have to register for the draft. Josh Earnest said on Friday that the White House is trying to figure out “if additional reforms or changes are necessary in light of this decision.”

This is a huge decision. Since at least half the population is female, since many of us are parents of daughters, or have served in the armed forces, or amuse ourselves by playing armchair politicians, or are citizens of the U.S., I imagine we have some strong feelings about this issue. But how should the church approach this topic? At this critical juncture we’re going to need to answer some important questions. There are two that immediately […]

Seminary. Be Here!

One of the most exciting developments in seminary education is distance learning (DL). Taking courses online is becoming an increasingly popular means for students to pursue theological education. In seminaries accredited by ATS, more than a quarter of the students have taken at least one course online and this number is only expected to grow. At the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary where I serve, the number of credits for online classes nearly tripled from the fall of last year to this year.

DL can be a blessing to the church for many reasons. Students can remain longer in their local ministry context without uprooting their families from their homes and congregations.  DL allows for flexibility to family and work schedules that the traditional classroom does not. Seminaries can reach students in foreign lands who otherwise would not be able to attend due to such things as visa restrictions or moving costs. People who may not want to be pastors but desire to deepen their theological knowledge can take or audit classes more easily. DL encourages the further connection and cooperation between the seminary and the local church, as pastors can work with students enrolled in online courses and see what they are learning.

However, […]

The RP & ARP Synods; A Family Reunion of Churches

This week, the highest courts of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church met concurrently in Flat Rock, North Carolina at the Bonclarken Conference Center. The RP and ARP courts are both called “synod” – distinct from the term “general assembly” used by most other Presbyterian denominations. A general assembly is historically seen as the highest court, with a synod being lesser. In seminary, I was taught that our denominations have chosen to keep synods, in part, as a reminder that the visible church is yet fractured due to sin. Until there is biblical union, a general assembly cannot truly be convened.

The essential difference between our two cousin denominations involves christology. We understand Christ’s office as king slightly differently which is evidenced more visibly in areas such as the content and manner of song and music in worship. Our differences are such that merger or formal union was not the purpose of this concurrent meeting, though we do pray with Jesus that we might be one ecclesiastically.

This meeting served as something of a family reunion of churches that have been separated as they are since 1782. We have rich theological similarities, a shared history […]

Where Faith Goes to Die

It’s an old joke among Christian leaders to “accidentally” refer to seminary as cemetery.  “Back when I was in cemetery…er, seminary…” Or to a young prospect for the pastorate:  “So, you’re heading to cemetery…er, seminary, eh?  Well, hang in there.  You’ll be involved in real ministry eventually.”  The joker’s purposeful subliminal slip assumes that theological education and vital, faith-filled ministry are in tension with one another, if they’re not outright enemies.  Well, if seminary is where an aspiring minister’s faith goes to die, then Presbytery meetings must be purgatory.

For Presbyterian denominations within Christ’s church, Presbytery is the deliberative assembly of elders from a particular geographical region that gathers to make decisions which will guide the local congregations within that region.  The Synod (or General Assembly) is the Presbytery meeting of all Presbyteries in the denomination.  All the stereotypes, the alleged faith-killing aspects of seminary – dry discussions of dust-accumulating documents written by dead theologians who were barely interesting in their own day – are made to live again in debates among seminary graduates and other church leaders.  Any vitality from fresh ideas in these debates is short-lived; soon those sparks of life are laid to rest in the coffins of […]

The RPTJ is Now Available!

Recently the faculty of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary published the first edition of a new journal. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal will be an online publication in order to make it more readily available.  The plan is to publish two issues per year, and will be found on the resource page of the seminary’s website.

For a further explanation, read the opening column of the journal entitled “From Rutherford Hall” by our president.

As I write this column, I am sitting in my office in Rutherford Hall, the grand, former Horne Mansion situated on the small campus of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By God’s grace, the Seminary has a long and noble history like the building itself, dating back to its establishment in 1810. Given Rutherford Hall is the location where so much of the life of RPTS takes place – classes, chapel services, conferences, meals, fellowship – that is the name given to this column. We anticipate this feature being a regular part of this new journal being launched by RPTS. The journal, to no one’s surprise, will be called the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal.

I believe you will find the Reformed Presbyterian Theological […]

J.G. Vos’s Temperate Views on Temperance

It is without doubt that JG Vos changed the RPCNA. Many will tell you of their experiences in his classroom at Geneva College and how they came to love the Word of God under his ministry. As the son of one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, he brought attention to the RPCNA at a time when it was often isolated from the greater reformed community. JG Vos popularized amillennialism in the RPCNA. He, along with Philip Martin, are credited by some for keeping the RPCNA from ordaining women elders. He renewed interest in the Scottish Covenanters through his writing. He renewed interest in confessionalism through the Blue Banner Faith and Life magazine. Many cite Vos’s preaching as the means of grace God used for their own conversions.

Today’s RPCNA would be quite different without JG Vos and his work. One area of change in the RPCNA that began with Vos is the RPCNA’s current view on abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Beginning in the late 1930s our Synod began a debate regarding the relationship between the Christian and alcohol, a debate that eventually led to a decision 60 years later to reverse its stand […]

J.G. Vos’ Work of Theological Renewal in the RPCNA

Recently Gentle Reformation writers did a series on J.G. Vos for the Reformed Presbyterian Witness magazine.  The following article was my contribution.  In the article I referred to a tract that Vos and another minister wrote, and have received inquiries to its availability.  To my knowledge the tract was only in printed form, so I have scanned it for easy reference.  Click “Are Women Elders Scriptural?” to read it.

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In the flow of denominational history, periods occur where the church can be threatened and even overrun by liberalism.  Indeed, a look at the ecclesiastical landscape today would make one think there is never much of an ebb and flow but only irreversible tidal waves!

The RPCNA has been no exception to such concerns.  In an article he wrote regarding the history of the RPCNA, Tom Reid recounts the state of the denomination in the first half of the twentieth century.  “Over time, the RPCNA’s interest in bringing reform to society gradually was deformed into something approaching social gospel liberalism.” However, in our ongoing look at the influence of J.G. Vos on the RPCNA, we want to highlight how the Lord raised him up to stem the tide of modernism by bringing theological renewal.  His influence […]