Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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I love this time of year but it’s not because the temperature drops, or the leaves fall. I love it because it gives me an opportunity to revisit the history and theology bound up in the Reformation. Many years ago, I made it a habit of watching the 1953 movie Martin Luther staring Niall MacGinnis...
We sometimes hear about the doctrines of Grace in a negative context. For example, we have all heard about the “cage stage Calvinist.” And apart from any caricaturing that may go on in the description there is some truth in it. But we have decided to move in a different direction with the series of...
Christians are people of “ the Book.” What is more, Christians believe that this book is essential for all of life. Life can’t be lived without its message. So, we are thankful that God, in due time, inscripturated His Word, that is, the eternal God had them committed to writing “for the better...
Christians are people of the Book. What does that mean? Well, it obviously means that Christians find the book useful. It is a functional book. It directs us how to be saved. Put crassly, if we were trapped in a burning building and a security guard was directing us out through the maze of hallways...
Jonathan Gibson has gifted the church a wonderful book titled, I will build My Church: Selected Writings on Church Polity, Baptism, and the Sabbath , published by Westminster Seminary Press (2021). I say that Gibson has gifted the church, but he is the editor and not the author. Who is the author?...
The Federal Vision speaks a lot about the objectivity of the covenant. What does that mean? Doug Wilson puts it somewhat crassly when he says, “It can be photographed and fingerprinted.” [1] For Wilson, the fingerprint is baptism. [2] Baptism, though an external sign, is like that of circumcision...
Hannah Arendt was a political philosopher. She was the author of several books and was professor at New School for Social Research and was a visiting Fellow of the committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. I have been reading her 1951 book titled, The Origins of Totalitarianism . It...
High school students love biology class for one simple reason. They get to dissect frogs, worms and other once living things. In addition to grossing out their weak stomached classmates they also learn a thing or two. They learn things not otherwise gleaned if the subject of dissection were still...
Many years ago I was listening to Christian radio. It was in the early 90s and there was a lot of talk about self-esteem. In fact, if you were raised in the 80s and 90s you probably remember the government, media, books and lingo associated with the self-esteem craze. Maybe you were small enough to...
In November I became the Majority Inspector of Elections in my county. My first foray into the jungle of election administration was during the primaries. I served with three others at our election site and I learned a lesson or two that I would like to pass along. But let me clear up the why...
Over the last several years, some in the church have argued that a person may be oriented toward homosexuality but not act on the inclination or tendency. That may or may not be the case. However, the burden of this article is not that. In this article, I will demonstrate that to claim that...
The second commandment is tricky business. Let me state the matter in the form of a question. Do verses 4-6 of Exodus 20 constitute another commandment, a second commandment, or are these verses simply part of the first commandment stated in verse 3? Roman Catholicism says, no, they are a...
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof….neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation” (WCF, 19.5) Obviously, the Westminster Divines were not...
Last night I finished my pilgrimage through Augustine’s City of God . Considering it took Augustine almost a decade to finish book nineteen after starting I would say that I made better time on the reading than he did the writing. I wish that I could say all twenty-two books and eight hundred and...
As we come to the conclusion of our study on the beatitudes it will be good to ask, how we should respond? What are we expected to do about this set of familiar blessings? Certainly these blessings are part of a larger sermon and so should be viewed in that light. For example, just as the sermon...
Philosophy is the love of wisdom. However, as soon as some hear the sound of the word they think of an unbearable heaviness. They immediately think thoughts that don’t often approximate what philosophy really is at its heart. What is more, theology and philosophy have enjoyed a close relationship...
Several years ago I was reading or re-reading various old books. As I read, a theme struck me. It was the theme of companionship or friendship. For example, in H. G. Well’s strange little book, The Invisible Man , the man invisible, named Griffin, is an unfriendly loner. He is completely isolated...
C. S. Lewis once wrote an essay to a very old book wherein he commended the practice of reading old books. He, as a modern writer, did not want people to stop reading modern books but to generously sprinkle their reading of modern books with old ones. However, and this gets his point across, he...
Some passages of Scripture are better known than others. How can they not be? The Lord’s Prayer is recited across the landscape of Christendom along with the Twenty-third Psalm and the Ten Commandments. But there are others. In fact, it’s interesting how the popular conception of a passage can...
Shepherding visits are helpful for shepherds and sheep. For the flock, the visit provides informal genuine care and guidance. Among many blessings, shepherding affords the under-shepherd an opportunity to glean information that will enable him to better care for the flock in the future. Several...
Recently I read Anthony Everitt’s The Life of Rome’s first Emperor: Augustus . Everitt is an excellent writer. From his pen, history reads like the story it is. But I was struck by something in the narrative that encouraged me upon reflection. After the death of Julius Caesar two-thirds of the...
I know what it’s like to suffer at the hands of anxiety and I also know the debilitating effects of what has been called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The two are often partners in crime. If one is near the other is not far off. For me, anxiety and OCD settled in just before my senior year...
I have fond memories of growing up in my neighborhood. I was raised in a little country town with one stop light. My friends and I played cops and robbers and the only girl in the neighborhood was as tough as any of us! We would run through the woods with our toy guns yelling, “Bang, bang!” and the...
Families tell stories. Often they tell the same stories over and over again. They elicit the same laughter at just the right moment. They are familiar. I heard one person even quip that instead of retelling the stories they should number them so at family gatherings they can call out the numbers...
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 office of deacon is an important one. In one sense the deacon or servant is not distinctive. Christ described himself as a servant in Mark 10:45 saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The word serve is the verb form of...
You are a pastor in a small city. You’ve known your barber for almost twenty years. One day while he trims he asks for help in prayer. He, like many others, struggles in that area. So, you decide to go home and write a brief thirty-four page guide for him. You even incorporate your friend in the...
In 381 the Council of Constantinople wrote the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. In that creed we find the attributes of the Church. The famous line says that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” However, in the days of the Reformation disputes arose. The Roman Catholics contested the...
It is said that when Martin Luther heard of his father’s death he took his Psalter and retreated to his room and was not seen the rest of the day. This news came to the great German while he was at the Castle Coburg during the Diet of Augsburg. We may wonder what such a great man did in the...
Have you ever wondered about the topical and logical order of the Westminster Confession of Faith? Not all of it; just the ordo salutis . After chapter nine lays out man’s fourfold state chapter ten begins with what we might think of as a typical ordering of those blessings which accompany a Spirit...
In today’s world of tolerance and conciliation even theologians have a tendency to stray from the old paths and act as if postmodernity has the ability to build new roadways to places not traveled in a long time. For example, one theologian has gone on record as saying that the Reformation’s...
Not long ago I sat across from a young man who complained, “The Bible itself does not teach Sola Scriptura .” In that meeting I took him through several passages and because the divide between Reformed Protestants and Rome is as great as it ever was these texts bear unearthing in this series of...
Today the Roman Catholic Church does not sound like the Roman Catholic Church of the Counter Reformation of the 16 th century. I am not talking about tone but rather content. For example, in the first canon of the twenty-second session of Trent the Mass is defined as a “true and proper sacrifice.”...
In the last section of the golden book Calvin asks how the present life and its comfort should be used by the Christian. The question of use invites us to think about fit. In other words, says Calvin, we must let the use of God’s gifts “be governed by their author’s purpose.” [1] Imagine a group of...
A beautiful singing voice is amazing. But then again the whole notion of music can be unfathomable. Maybe you think that is an overstatement or editorial license. But think about it. How can some people with aphasia, a communication disorder, sing with fluency? We see the same phenomenon with those...
The raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11 always elicits memories of what older preachers have said as they thundered through the text. I’m not sure who said it but someone somewhere once said, “Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb by name lest all the dead arise!” And I can imagine George...
Many years ago my wife and I participated in a very large scavenger hunt. We had tremendous fun and wasted a lot of gas! But imagine a humorous scenario. Picture one of our colleagues finding a clue and instead of using it to press on to find the next clue he became enamored with the current clue...
Disciplines and vocations have access points. When you enter college as an economics major you start with Economics 101. When you begin an exercise program for the first time you hire a trainer or as an experienced friend for help. You may even read a basic book on nutrition. Why? Because you are...
On December 24, 1920 Benjamin B. Warfield fell ill after being struck with angina pectoris. He died on February 16, 1921. Why should we pause this week to remember a Princeton theologian who has been with the Lord for one hundred years? Perhaps Isaac Newton’s reason is enough, “If I have seen...
Goodness is a word that can obviously mean upright. Think of the oft used comparison between good and evil. But the word can also point up the benefit or qualities possessed by another. We might say something like, “The teachers are good here.” Of course, by that we mean that the teachers are the...
The dangers facing the church today are subtle. They are like those facing the family. Imagine a young man sits his parents down at the kitchen table for a talk. He then outs himself as gay or perhaps transgendered. The danger facing that family at that moment is very real. Traditionally they have...
What Metaphor? The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians five brings to mind images of an orchard. It’s a serene and beautiful scene. However, the more I look at the text of Galatians I start to think that the orchard metaphor may be a more pleasing one but not entirely consistent with what we find in...
Perhaps you have noticed by now that Proverbs 6:16-19 is not simply a list of ills that God hates though it most certainly is that. But it is more. On the surface of this list is an explanation. God is not only telling us the things He hates but why He hates them. Have you noticed what is included...
As we come to the end of our series on walking in the book of Ephesians it is appropriate that Paul would urge believers to walk carefully. [1] The adverb “carefully” has the idea of walking deliberately. I can just imagine a young person carelessly trundling along only to hear his mother bark out...
When I was in college I took a class on various religious traditions. My class visited a Jewish synagogue and while there the priest said this in response to a question asked of him that I no longer remember, “You Christians claim to have Jesus but we Jews have something better. We have the law.” I...
The holidays are a wonderful time of year. However, for some they are a time of guilt. The season reminds them of things they said and did or did not say or do and those thoughts bring guilty. Strikingly, man is able to pull the galaxies close through a telescope and a microscope can enlarge a...
When I was a young teen trying to get comfortable in my own skin words were a commodity that could make or break you. Utter one wrong word and social standing could be tenuous. The best you could do was hope that people had short memories and so never bring up your words again. Today things are...
Several years ago I sat across from someone who lied to me. At the time I would have called him a friend. He certainly was no friend. However, in the moment he lied to me I had one up on him. I knew the very story he was attempting to falsify. I knew that every word dribbling off of his tongue was...
How do we think about the Old Testament saint’s believing experience in relation to our own? Perhaps we think better of them than we do of ourselves! Or maybe we use them as an excuse for our bad behavior. For instance, how many times has David’s name been invoked as an excuse for unfaithfulness?...
Paul once commented to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [1] This text tends to make the typical American Christian uncomfortable. They immediately compare their experience to that of the underground church in China or something similar. Yet...