“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).
One of the other debated issues in the Lord's Supper, in addition to the question of presence, is that of fencing the table. Who may participate? What does it mean to eat and drink unworthily? Who is worthy? Who is unworthy? Calvin takes up these questions in 4.17.40 - 42. He also deals with the question of how it is to be administered in terms of the liturgy of the communion service (4.17.43). Finally, he tackles the question of frequency (4.17.44). All of these questions are worthy of book-length treatments in and of themselves.
Calvin continues his discussion of the errant Roman Catholic view of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper by prattling on about one of his favorite subjects to rail upon: superstition and idolatry. The two, for Calvin, go together like ham and eggs. These practices, in this particular instance the piled on traditions of the adoration of "consecrated host," are repugnant to Calvin because they are extra-biblical (actually, he makes the case that they are anti-biblical) and injurious to the Christian life. How quickly the church can lose its way; how quickly we can lose our way.
Any child of the 80’s will remember the catchy theme song from the short educational cartoons, Schoolhouse Rock, which opened with that memorable phrase, “It’s great to learn, because knowledge is power!” And as far as much of life is concerned, this is true. Knowledge and wisdom can often be the keys to success in many of our life endeavors.
The Greek noun word Γυναῖκας (Gynaikas) has been translated with both the English word “women” (NASB 1995) and with the word “wives” (NKJV and ESV) in various places in Scripture.
In 1 Timothy 3:11, we read:
Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things (1 Tim. 3:11, NASB 1995).
Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things (1 Tim. 3:11, NKJV).
It is becoming a more common practice in some PCA churches for sessions to make the intentional decision not to ordain the deacons of the church. I could spell out in more detail my understanding of why that is, but instead I’d like to do something more focused. I’d like to explore the idea of ordination and ask the question: what does ordination do? Why would someone want to be ordained? Why not just serve the church without being ordained? What are we missing out on as a church if we have officers functionally serving without the church actually ordaining them?
The podcasting world’s most interesting pair is joined by “the Queen,” as her husband calls her. It’s not Elizabeth II (sorry, Carl!) or the 80s rock band, but Mary Beeke; author, wife of Joel Beeke, mother of three adult children, a former nurse and elementary teacher, and long-time servant of the church.
Believe it or not, our hosts can be positive every once in a while. This week, they sit down to chat about the encouraging outcomes of this year’s PCA General Assembly. What happened at the GA that is giving Todd such encouragement about the future of the denomination? (It’s been well-documented that Carl couldn’t care less!)
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.
Bestiaries are fascinating things--part fact and observation; part fiction and superstition. From Herodotus, Pliny, and Aristotle through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, these descriptions of animals, birds, serpents, and fanciful beasts provide a rich tapestry to understand the mind of the Medievals--especially in the realm of Scriptural understanding and artistic allusions.
Cards on the table: Stephen N. Williams is a fellow Welshman whom I have known for over thirty-five years. I am still pondering a question he asked me on a visit he made to my home in 1977 when I was a student at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi, and both of us fellow-exiles from our native country. He was then a doctoral student at Yale, and was reflecting on some Barthian dynamic or other. His question? What place silence has in a Protestant theology!
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
As I begin the New Year, I find myself meditating on the fruits of justification by faith, especially the great principle that it brings us access to God. Paul says that through Christ, “we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2a). Peace with God creates access to God, so that we can stand before him fearlessly. By grace, we can stand calmly before God. Illustrations may help us take this benefit to heart.
One summer, a family man (and personal friend) traveled to Paris, where he spent a morning enjoying Luxembourg Gardens. In time, he noticed a group of mothers who, he realized, were so engrossed in their conversation that they tilted toward neglect of their children. He watched as one child wandered ever farther from her mother in the crowded park. Not yet two, she began to follow a family, apparently thinking its mother was her mother. When the group crossed a street and hurried onward, the child was finally quite alone.
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.
A theological earthquake shook my life over twenty years ago. I can still see the classroom lit by the afternoon sun. It was mostly quiet and peaceful that day with one exception. A classmate was standing in front of me trying for all he was worth to persuade me of definite or limited atonement. If the terminology is unfamiliar to you just remember that it is standard nomenclature used to describe the nature and the extent of Christ’s atonement. To flesh this out even further, a Calvinist believes that “God’s method of saving men is to set upon them in his almi
Let us not take away half the love of God by saying he only started to love us at our baptism or only after we came to faith. Let us not take away half the love of God by saying he only loved us in a trickling, generally vague way until we ourselves harnessed and focused his love like a laser through our own reciprocation.
We probably all have bank accounts with savings, and maybe investments and 401(k)s. Wisdom would suggest that while we trust God we also should be good stewards and save. You want to have in inheritance—at the end of the road of your work life, you want to have a nest egg. This doesn’t make you greedy, in most cases it means you were prudent. But all of this should make us ask, where is my real inheritance? What is the real price? Where, or better, in whom is my true retirement.
What season did we recently enter? Spring. What comes next? Summer. Then what? Fall. Then what? Winter. And then? Spring. And so on until Christ’s Second Coming. The year’s seasons are cyclical—and somewhat predictable. So the seasons of our years should not surprise us but rather inspire our adaptability, acceptance, and appreciation.