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Archive | Church History

The Half-Way Covenant & Whole-Hearted Youth Ministry

Baptists and Presbyterians can agree regarding one application of child baptism in church history. What was known as the Half-way Covenant was a bad idea. Yet from it we can gain a valuable lesson regarding the church’s gospel duty to young people.

Jonathan Edwards was the pastor during colonial America to the Congregational church in Northampton, Massachusetts. His preaching in the mid-1700’s was one of the means God used to create the Great Awakening, where multitudes of people turned to the Lord. Yet in the midst of this great fruitfulness, a difficulty arose prompted by a practice in the church established by Edwards’ grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, who preceded Edwards as the minister in Northampton.

Children had been baptized in the Northampton congregation, grown up, and had not clearly professed Christ. Yet their names were left on the roll as baptized members. Then they began to have children. Stodddard, in the hope of influencing this later generation with the gospel, allowed the grandchildren of believing members to be baptized. In response, since church membership at the time was socially desirable, many parents who did not have saving faith in Christ readily agreed to have their children baptized. This Half-way Covenant, as it came […]

3GT Episode 50: The Noble Martyrs

Yes, they made it to 50 (and maybe even a little beyond like the prof)! The guys reflect a bit on their experience with 3GT and hope they can at least double the number of episodes as they carry on.

Then they dig into the subject of martyrdom. Admitted history novices, the guys discuss how each of them began to learn about those who gave their lives for Christ. They share some of their favorite stories. They talk of why believers should know of the martyrs, then offer ways congregations can be helped in learning more about these faithful witnesses.

A sober but needed reminder that we are to know of these ones of whom the world was not worthy.

https://threeguystheologizing.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/3gt-episode-50.mp3

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References

(Note: In the reference to the Philippine missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, Barry misspoke when he inferred they had both been martyred. After being held hostage for over a year by Muslim terrorists, Martin died but Gracia was rescued and recounts their story in the book In the Presence of My Enemies.)

John Foxe | Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Elizabeth Elliot | Shadow of the Almighty, Through Gates of Splendor, The Savage My Kinsman

Joel Beeke, Sinclair Ferguson, Michael Haykin | […]

Biographies Towards Community

We live in a time when many in the church struggle to connect with other members of the body. Many consider connectedness something that happens online rather than through living in community. If you don’t believe me, ask the closest millennial–his or her deepest relationships may be with people they know via pixels and screens. We are “alone together” as sociologist Sherry Turkle has put it. The struggle for community is a problem in the world and increasingly it is also a problem in the church.

Besides this lack of connection—or communion—the 21st century North American church is also largely ahistorical. Being ahistorical, having a disregard for the history of the church, has led to old errors being revived, to a disconnection with ancient Christianity (hence the number of evangelicals that go to Rome or the Eastern Church in search of historical connection), and to an inability of individual Christians to gauge their experience against the experience of others.

Lack of connection and community, as well as an ahistorical approach to Christianity, has caused a deficiency in the lives of believers. What can be done to help encourage connection, community, and history? There are several vital remedies for regaining vibrant and experiential […]

Neither Jew nor Gentile: The Musings of a Modern Covenanter on Racial Reconciliation

This past Friday I had the privilege of conversing with Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. In that short exchange, Dr. Duncan expressed similar sentiments to ones he later posted the next day on Facebook, which read in part: “Just as a little historical tip for those interested, no Presbyterian and/or Reformed denomination in America has a better record for taking a biblical stand on slavery and racism than the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The Covenanters were right on this long before the rest of us caught on.” You can see the rest of his comments here. 

His remarks sparked me to share the following article by Michael LeFebvre, Pastor of Christ Church in Brownsburg, Indiana, and Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Board President. As you can see, Dr. LeFebvre recounts this history, not for the sake of any prideful boasting, but to encourage greater modern applications of the history where racial divides still exist. This article originally appeared in Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal, Spring 2017 (Vol. 3, Issue 2). Used by permission.

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Introduction

Several months ago, I was at a large Christian university. I was there for a conference, and a campus tour was offered during an afternoon break. On […]

The Eschatological Insufficiency of the Archaic

In the church, as in life, it’s often hard to give up things that have become old friends. Sometimes, it’s hard to know when they have outlived their usefulness, and we must exercise wisdom in removing archaic fixtures.

You might have seen that Basking Ridge Presbyterian’s 600-year old white oak tree has died. Under that tree in Bernards, New Jersey, George Whitefield preached to over 3,000 people in 1740. Legend has it that George Washington picnicked beneath its outstretched limbs. My own ancestors worshiped at that church; indirectly, the shade of that tree has helped shape my own soul. That which served so well has died and must be removed.

Remove archaic fixtures we must, because devotion to the archaic reveals in us an insufficient eschatology. Loving what met needs in the past over what meets the need of the moment fails to anticipate the glory that is to be revealed. It trades a vision for the glory of Christ for earthly forms that are passing away. With the Apostle Paul, we must always seek fidelity to Christ as we count everything as loss for the sake of Christ that we may ultimately attain the resurrection from the dead. With Paul, we forget […]

Presbytery Exam Fun with J. Gresham Machen

For those in the Presbyterian tradition, oral exams for students of theology pursuing licensure to receive a call as a pastor can be terrifying. Students sit on a platform before dozens of elders and answer questions on Scripture, theology, history, ministry, and more. However, after many hours of exams in one day at a presbytery meeting, the exams can also become quite tiring for elders who must listen, ask follow-up questions, and vote to sustain or not to sustain the students.

As my fellow students of theology and I went through our exams more than a decade ago, we noticed these trends over the several years during which we sat before presbytery. We decided to try to spice things up just a bit as we sat before these men whom we deeply loved and respected. So, we occasionally worked rather obscure bits of history or theology into our answers for the fun of watching the faces of our examiners. And it was fun, even as we took our exams very seriously.

Later, one of my comrades read Ned B. Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, a father of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. There, we learned to our surprise and joy that we had […]

Who Built That?

President Obama famously said while campaigning in 2012, “You didn’t build that,” as a way of emphasizing the role of government in the success of various business ventures.  While seeming to undercut the value of risk-taking and initiative, the former president did stumble upon a biblical truth that everyone in the church needs to keep front and center.

A Day in God’s House in the 1850s

The following is a lively description of a typical Lord’s Day in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana in the 1850s. The author, Daniel Cargill Faris (1843-1919), recounts his experience in the church of his youth. He was the son of James Faris who was the first pastor of the congregation. The account is found in his personal writings. Daniel Cargill Faris would later serve as the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Barnet, Vermont.

“PREACHING”

by D. C. Faris

Written on Nov. 21, 1904

While the building in which the congregation gathered for worship on the Sabbath was called the “meeting house”, the services held there were not called “meeting”, that name being given to the week-day services held from house to house in the homes of the people. The religious exercises in the “meeting- house” were named from their principal part, “preaching”. That is the meaning of the noun which I am not able to find in the dictionary; but it was so used among us in my boyhood. My mother might have said to us, “It is time to get ready to go to “preaching”; and one of the boys might have asked […]

I believe in the (cryogenic) resurrection of the dead

I just heard on the news this morning that in a landmark ruling a judge in England granted the dying wish of a 14 year old girl with cancer to have her body cryogenically frozen until the day when medical knowledge is sufficiently advanced to revive and cure her. In a letter to the judge she wrote,

‘I am only 14 years old and I don’t want to die but I know I am going to die. I think being cryopreserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up – even in hundreds of years’ time. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they may find a cure for my cancer and wake me up. I want to have this chance.’

Isn’t it tragic that the very thing this girl was longing for was exactly what is being held out in the gospel? Isn’t it tragic that she put her trust in a quasi-scientific fairy tale for her hope of resuscitation life rather than the resurrection life the Lord Jesus Christ achieved when he rose from the dead on the third day? Isn’t it just so unspeakably sad that someone would put their […]

The Trumpet Blasts that Were Never Heard

We live in times where the church is needing to think through her relationship with the state and the rulers over us. This is not the first time in the history of Christianity where we have had to meditate on our doctrine of the magistrate or our relationship to those in authority. This is not the first time that we have had to choose between losing our right hand and losing our left. Where would you turn to read about the relationship between the church and an oppressive government?

Looking for a book on the relationship between the church and a tyrannical government may be useful for the church in the next few decades. Consider the following statements:

* It is not by birth that one can rule over a people; those under him must approve of that rule.
* Those who practice idolatry or are living publicly scandalous lives are not to be placed in public office.
* If a ruler proves to be a tyrant or is willfully disobedient to God’s Word, then not even an oath can keep him in office.
* If people too quickly or without due consideration put someone in office and it is later found that he is […]