"Hope springs eternal in the human breast." So wrote the eighteenth century poet, Alexander Pope. Platitude? Yes, but true for all that. I have to confess the lines (from An Essay on Man) come to mind frequently at dinner when my dog lies at my feet, his gaze fixed on every morsel entering my mouth. Try telling him that this is but a platitude!

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Thomas Cranmer is often remembered for his last dramatic hours of this life. After signing four documents of submission to papal authority and two statements of recantation of his previous beliefs, he shocked his large complacent audience by turning his last repentance speech into a repudiation of “all such bills and papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation.” Before being rushed to the pyre, he was able to shout, “forasmuch as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished there-for!”

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it’s good to travel back about 1400 earlier, when a concerned pastor and missionary to today’s France sat down to write a well-informed and comprehensive work, in order to provide some clarity in his confused theological times.

 

Early Life and Studies

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This article is the third part of an article called "On the Hermeneutics of Subscription." Read part 1 and part 2

Scotland and Ireland Prior to the Adopting Act

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I’m very thankful for the opportunity to contribute a column at Place for Truth, and I pray the Lord will use my contributions for the furthering of His kingdom.

Given the Alliance’s clear emphasis on the subject (coupled with evangelicalism’s increasing murkiness), I can think of no better theme for my first post than this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Two texts are particularly helpful for understanding what Paul means by this.

     Over the last year, I have interviewed a number of believers who are trying to love their neighbors and change the way work is done in their field. Listening to them, I have come to a clearer understanding of the way social reform works. Generally speaking, people who bring positive reform normally have high skill, passion for a cause, a position that guarantees that they will be heard, and an ability to win allies. Beyond that, I see men and women whose faith spontaneously shapes their work. That makes sense.

My father's family escaped the Soviet Union in 1934, a few months after the United States established diplomatic relations there, in 1933. They had Russian roots and naively returned to visit an ailing relative in 1922. The Russians said "Welcome back, comrades," seized their passports, and kept them for twelve years. In God's providence, my grandfather was a well-known musician and artist, with friends in Germany and France, so his family became three of 1,800 people that the Soviets released in 1934.

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Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem.  But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation.  In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.

This week on Theology on the Go, Dr. Jonathan Master is joined by Dr. Liam Goligher, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia, PA. As pastor of Tenth Presbyterian, Dr. Goligher has done much thinking and teaching on the topic of missions, and how Christians are to reach the lost. This installment of Theology on the Go gives a glimpse of some of that teaching as Dr. Goligher chats with Jonathan about the doctrine of missions.

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The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WCF 1:6a)

Calvin’s and Beza’s thought was so fertile as to spawn many followers. Summaries of Ponet, Daneau, Hotman, and many others are worth consulting at any Inauguration. Another disciple who particularly refined this theory was the Marian exile, Christopher Goodman, whose ideas will be explored briefly below. 

The popular Federalist Papers in many ways reflect the continuation of Calvin’s view of man and the state.[1] Alexander Hamilton began The Federalist Papers by asserting that the people of this country have reserved to themselves the important question of whether “societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government” (Federalist #1).[2] While he admitted that the people must cede to that government certain prerogatives (#2), Ham

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It is fascinating to see how St Paul looks back over his Christian life in face of his fast approaching departure from this world. Writing to Timothy, he describes it as a race to be run, a faith to be kept and also as a fight to be fought (2 Ti 4.7). Each metaphor sheds its own light on how we understand our new life in Christ. It involves endurance: ‘The one who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mt 24.13). It requires fidelity – both to the doctrines to which we have been committed (Ro 6.17); but also to the kind of life to which they call us (Eph 4.1).

It was John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, who added discipline to the word and sacraments as the third mark of a faithful church. Perhaps it was because the Celts are an unruly lot by nature and he felt the latter two needed the firmer hand of the former to bring the Scottish churches into line! Nevertheless, he rightly highlighted the need for this third element of church life for the church to be what it ought to be under Christ, its sole King and Head.

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The first Psalm sets the stage for the entire Psalter. Its attention on the covenant God and covenant blessing and cursing, as well as its preoccupation with God’s Word as the source for our understanding, focus the entire Psalter. In fact, as scholars like O. Palmer Robertson have contended, Psalms 1 and 2 serve as the “pillar or gates” to the whole edifice of the Psalter.[1] They are the great building blocks that support the whole.

A Stew Pot

One of the more frequently visited proverbs of my childhood came to me from my mother. “A stew pot never boils,” she would say. I felt what it meant long before I actually understood it. Explanation of the phrase came in its fuller version: “A stew pot never boils when watched.”

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The Apostles’ Creed has long been admired, memorized, and confessed in worship due to its simplicity in form, clear statement of factual belief, and its brief summary of vital, core theological points. Christians in all ages have needed those creedal hooks upon which to hang their hats of understanding. “The third day he rose again from the dead” anchors two hooks that really are of utmost importance for Christians to believe: 1.) THAT Jesus rose from the dead, and 2.) WHEN Jesus rose from the dead. Now, as said, ALL of the Apostles’ Creed is vital.

Perhaps the phrase that gets stuck in the throat when reciting the Apostle’s Creed is “He (Christ) descended into hell.” And if it does, it wouldn’t surprise me. It was difficult for John Calvin to utter the phrase despite having used the Apostle’s Creed to formulate his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Nor was he able to leave it without comment. He argued that Christ’s descent into hell happened on the cross prior to His death.[1] Perhaps you explain it in similar fashion.

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As the West experiences a proliferation of worldviews and cultural influences, there is growing consternation about the health and longevity of the Church.  While this may seem like a cause for dismay, the history of the Church – especially in the pivotal Second Century – gives us encouragement going forward.

When studying the history of the Church, we tend to jump from the apostolic era right to the third century and beyond, where theological controversies were taking shape and ecumenical councils were being called.

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