Editor's Note: For more from Ian Hamilton, be sure to check out the latest "A Place For Truth" booklet (Providence) at ReformedResources.org.
"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!
Philip Melanchthon was a brilliant scholar (one of the greatest Greek interpreters of his day), an insightful theologian, and Martin Luther’s right-hand man. Today, his memory is often limited to his mention in some of Luther’s most famous quotations.
John Knox considered Anne Locke one of his dearest friends and valued her advice and support. He confided in her at some the most difficult times of his life, even in the midst of military battles.
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.
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.
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. 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). While he admitted that the people must cede to that government certain prerogatives (#2), Ham
The theme of joy in Scripture finds its focus in the joy of knowing God as our God and Saviour. As we seek his glory (as opposed to our own) we experience a joy that is utterly different from all the joys of earth combined. Nevertheless, amazingly, this joy can be found and experienced on earth.
In the American Declaration of Independence, ‘the pursuit of happiness’ was listed along with ‘Life’ and ‘Liberty’ as one of three ‘inalienable rights’ common to all people. It is a striking and curious inclusion. But, whatever lay behind its place in this history-making document, it recognises that joy lies at the very heart of our humanity.
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. 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.”
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. Perhaps you explain it in similar fashion.
Christ and Covenant Theology
Jonathan and James invite Dr. Cornelis Venema for a conversation about his collection of essays entitled Christ and Covenant Theology.
Pastor Herman Bavinck
Many know Herman Bavinck as a reputable Dutch theologian, whose Reformed Dogmatics continues to shape the thoughts of theologians, pastors, and lay Christians alike. What is largely unknown is that Bavinck was also a devout and heartfelt preacher.