“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” (In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas). That statement has often been attributed to St. Augustine who almost certainly did not say it. It seems to have its origins in the 17th century either from Roman Catholic or moderate Lutherans in Germany. Whatever the case, the saying stuck. It has found its way into the common vernacular of many churches and denominations. I once served in a non-denominational church where it was repeated copiously.
The 48th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was held in St. Louis last week (June 29-July 1) and so far, the dust has not yet settled. Having missed a year because of the COVID crisis many of us were eager to address issues which had been causing controversy in our denomination since the first Revoice conference in the summer of 2018 (hosted by Memorial PCA in St. Louis).
Calvin identifies in the polemics of transubstantiation a fatal hermeneutical flaw: interpret the text to fit the theory rather than allow the theory to be governed (in this case, abandoned) by the text.
Every week, important church related matters come streaming into the inbox of my email account. Many of those matters also make their way into the inboxes of our elders. On many occasions, one of our ruling elders (i.e. a lay elder who was elected by the congregation to volunteer his time in the service of the church) offers thoughtful analysis, objective input or a willingness to take the lead in a response to whatever need has surfaced.
As Christians who have fixed our hope on the appearing of our Lord Jesus, we have been called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. Thus, the call of discipleship is a central theme of the Christian life and this calling is intimately connected to our sanctification. Jesus Himself gives an important prerequisite for anyone who claims to be His disciple.
“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Thomas Watson (ca. 1620-1686) was a great Presbyterian Puritan preacher who wrote much and whose books are still read today. Watson’s most famous work, A Body of Practical Divinity, published posthumously in 1692, consisted of 176 sermons on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Watson was a clear writer, adept at providing memorable phrases and illustrations. He joined theological understanding with warm spirituality and piety. When he died suddenly, he was engaged in private prayer.
The following letter comes from The Works of the Rev. John Newton (London, 1808) pp. 346–353. Reader beware: Newton's portraits are both humorous and piercing.
Whatsoever Things are lovely, whatsoever Things are of good Report, — think on these Things. – Phil. 4:8.
By now you’ve heard that Mortification of Spin has moved to a bi-weekly format. For the next two months, we’ll use the “off” weeks to bring you an encore episode of another Alliance podcast: Theology on the Go, featuring Jonathan Master and James Dolezal. You’ll find more episodes at TheologyOnTheGo.org, or when you subscribe to the podcast.
Note: The following is adapted from a letter sent in response to a gracious correspondent who was concerned about Dr. Trueman’s representation of the words of Rev. Greg Johnson. It is published here rather than First Things due to the intramural nature of the matter involved.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (Jam. 1:27).
Preachers love pulpits. We dream of Calvin’s crowned pulpit with the spiral staircase, Spurgeon’s rail pulpit in London, Palmer’s marble pulpit in Columbia, or the “high pulpit” of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah. But my favorite is the pulpit I have the privilege to fill each Lord’s Day. It’s made of hand-carved, quartersawn oak. Once the furniture makers’ lumber of choice, quartersawn boards are milled perpendicular to the tree’s growth rings, like hands on a clock.
When I told a friend in Italy that I was not familiar with the name Patrick Zaki, he was surprised. Zaki’s name has appeared frequently in the Italian news ever since his arrest in Cairo, Egypt, about nineteen months ago. And the news media continue to follow as his trial is repeatedly postponed.
Zaki has particularly caught the attention of Italians because he has studied there, at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the western world. And his name has filled the news because his arrest appears to be as unjust as the discrimination he denounced.
Dane C. Ortlund. Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners. Crossway, 2021. 192 pages, hardback. $21.99.
Dane C. Ortlund is the author of the widely-acclaimed book Gentle & Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners & Sufferers (Crossway, 2020), which has won awards, drawn the ire of certain readers, and was given away for free to every church who wanted it.
I recently returned from a speaking engagement in the desert, otherwise known as Tuscon, Arizona. While there I was captivated with the Lord’s handiwork of cacti and mountains, the sunrise and sunset. Even more so, as I taught God’s word, I was captivated with the Lord’s faithfulness to His people and the greatness of our God. As I left to return home my heart was singing!
It had been a long, hot summer. The heat wave outside seemed to match the heat wave in my own heart of anger, chaos, disappointment, fear, grief, insecurity, loneliness, and physical pain. One night things seemed particularly bad. I was overwhelmed with the different needs of each of my four children, then ranging from age ten to a baby. As I lay in bed, unable to sleep, Psalm 60 steadied my soul. I had a banner to run to in my fear. The Word of God would anchor my soul. It would give me the right answers.
When you set up your shepherding plan you could not have imagined that your entire congregation would be hunkered-down attempting to stay clear of Covid-19.
These are times in which the flock needs to hear from their shepherds for comfort and assurance. I have urged our elders to put a priority on reaching out to their sheep, especially to those who are especially vulnerable.
I recently received this encouraging email from my friend Ken Jones, Shepherding Pastor at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama:
John Bulmer – Lessons Learned in Bringing Christ to Australia
The name John Bulmer may not be familiar in the history of missions, especially outside of Australia, but he is a good representative of the sentiments and efforts of many Christians who witnessed, denounced, and tried to counteract the abuses, dispossession, marginalization and massacres of the Aborigines by white colonialists.
From Cabinet-Maker to Missionary
Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington
“And what if you save (under God) but one soul?”
This question, addressed to a still hesitant John Wesley, is a good summary of the life goal and drive of Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon.
Selina’s Early Life
Command these things
1 Timothy 4:11: “Command and teach these things.”
1 Timothy 5:7: “Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach.”
1 Timothy 6:3: “Teach and urge these duties.”
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 much-loved hymn, ‘I greet thee who my sure Redeemer art’ – included in the Strasbourg Psalter of 1545 and attributed to John Calvin – contains the lines,
Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou, and no bitterness
These words have often drawn comment, or been quoted because they point to a divine attribute we can easily overlook.
How little we appreciate the privilege and blessing of prayer. That we, sinful mortals as we are, should have access to God beggars belief. That he should even consider us, let alone countenance our requests is astounding. Yet he calls us to pray, he has opened the way of access in Christ for us to approach him in prayer. He has even given us his Holy Spirit to enable us to pray, stirring the desire and giving us words. Jesus even gives us a model prayer that helps us shape the kind of prayers we know God delights to hear.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is pleased to announce that Dr. Jonathan Master has joined the Alliance Board of Directors. Visit the Alliance Leadership page to see the complete list.
Jonathan is a long-time partner with the Alliance, having served as event co-chair, conference speaker, and writer. He and James Dolezal co-host Theology on the Go, a podcast that discusses important topics in a thoughtful and accessible way.
Yesterday, I found myself in the enviable position of explaining the difference between reformed theology and “not” reformed theology. I was asked by my small audience for an example of the difference, and the first example that came to mind was God’s sovereignty in salvation. As I spoke about this doctrine, I could see the gears cranking in her mind. Her eyebrows furrowed, her head tilted, and then came the inevitable question: “how is that fair?”
The Sweet Aroma of Tulips
Dr. Wayne Spear writes, “The collection for the relief of famine suffered in Jerusalem occupied Paul’s attention and organizing skills for several years during his third missionary journey. Since the apostle, with his great zeal for evangelism, gave his time and energy to an international and intercultural ministry of mercy, the church today ought to follow his example.” The Lord Jesus through His apostles ordained deacons to ensure that we do.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on reformation21 in June 2007.
It was twenty years ago that Lisa Maxwell and I walked down the aisle at the First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As a minister, I go to more weddings than most people, but Lisa is still the prettiest bride I have ever seen and marrying her was—by far—the best decision I have made since giving my life to Jesus Christ.
Editor's Note: For more from Ian Hamilton, be sure to check out the latest "A Place For Truth" booklet (Providence) at ReformedResources.org.