Posts by Mark Johnston

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According to its introductory statement, Place for Truth is a forum for reflections on theology in its entire spectrum from biblical through to its practical expressions. In light of these parameters, I did wonder whether or not this particular reflection belongs here, or perhaps somewhere else...
Too often 'tradition' has become a red flag word to the ears of evangelical Protestants. Especially when it is used in relation to 'Scripture' in the same sentence. The reason for this, of course, is the way in which the Roman Catholic Church throughout its history has subordinated the authority of...
There is more to being a preacher than preachers often realise. Biblically speaking it is the primary means by which God's truth revealed in Scripture is to be propagated, not just to the church, but also throughout the world; but for it to be effective, we need to appreciate its twofold dynamic.
Almost from the very first time I read the Westminster Confession of Faith I remember being struck by its choice of words to describe the character of Bible translations. It says they should be in 'the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come' (WCF 1.8).
Given the frequency with which 'the fear of the LORD', or one of its variants, is mentioned in the Bible, it is more than a little unusual that so little seems to be said about it in the church today.
Democracy is a wonderful thing; but it has a major Achilles' Heel: the voters of which it is comprised. When the majority of the Demos wants something that is inherently wrong, nothing can stop them getting what it desires.
'New Perspective' has become something of a red flag in many Christian circles because of its associations with the so-called 'New Perspective on Paul'. But if we allow one dubious doctrine linked to contaminate a phrase - however bad the guilt by association may be - we end up consigning a...
In its definition of 'Saving Faith' the Westminster Confession of Faith enters a very significant caveat that is all too often overlooked. Namely, 'This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the...
What does it mean to be 'Reformed'? Different things for different people, to be sure! For Arminian Dispensationalists it is an anathema. For some secular observers, it is the religious equivalent of being to the right of Genghis Khan. But even for those who call themselves 'Reformed' there is...
We belong to a generation that is obsessed with its perceived 'entitlements'. From human rights to civil rights, gay rights to children's rights, the list is seemingly endless as to the permutations of personal fiefdoms people want to protect by law.
I came across one of those stories recently that are funny, but true. It was in a church on the island of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides - probably the last place in the British Isles that still feels the lingering afterglow of a spiritual awakening that took place over half a century ago. Some who...
What makes for sermons that are well delivered and readily received? In some ways it is easier to answer that in the negative. There are may examples of Reformed and evangelical preaching that look good on paper and are beyond reproach in content, but have little or no impact on those who listen...
'Diversity' has become one of the buzzwords in evangelical Christianity in recent times. At one level, this is a good thing, but at another its trendy inclusion may come at an unwelcome price. Just as a perfectly good adjective like 'missional' became a cover for some less than good theology, we...
The devil made the headlines in Britain earlier this month. On February 13th the General Synod of the Church of England genteelly voted him into retirement. In one sense it came as no surprise. The reference in its baptismal liturgy to fighting 'manfully against the world, the flesh and the devil'...
There has been a long-running debate in Christian circles generally and Reformed Christian circles in particular as to whether or not using images of Jesus in children's Bible story books, or for illustrations in children's talks, is a breach of the second commandment. It is a genuine debate, and,...
For some reason - possibly Superbowl Sunday - the past few weeks have seen a flurry of articles relating to the Sabbath being published online. As pastors across the US braced themselves for a major drop in attendance at their evening service [if they actually had one] it again raised the question...
The temptations of Christ are recorded in three out of the four Gospels, so clearly they are meant to highlight a significant component of Jesus' mission to save. But, despite their prominence in the Gospels, they have been subjected to a range of interpretations - some of which tend towards...
The last of the four challenges I believe the church is facing in this century takes us to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian and what differentiates authentic Christianity from that which is mere imitation. Although the other three challenges mentioned in my previous posts may be...
Over a year has passed since my family and I were forced to leave the US and return to Britain under rather unusual circumstances. We had moved to America in 2010 in response to a call from Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, PA for me to become its next Senior Pastor. Given that we had...
It may seem more than a little strange to include this issue as one of the major challenges facing the church in the 21st Century, but the sad reality is that it is. The glaring evidence for this can be seen in the way the church in many parts of the world has allowed itself to be backed into a...
In our first piece in this mini-series on challenges faced by the church in the 21st Century we considered the challenge of getting the gospel out to those who need to hear it. The main thrust of this is, of course, the verbal and propositional communication of God's message of redemption through...
Not long ago I was asked to speak to a group of postgraduate students in Cambridge, England, on the subject of 'Challenges facing the 21st Century Church'. Some of these men were training for the ministry, others were elders and deacons in their church, all of us wanted to get a better perspective...
The season of Advent is once more upon us and the church around the world will soon be celebrating the birth of our Lord. It is a season of the year that has an interesting and uneven pedigree, not to mention a few curiosities and anomalies. Perhaps the greatest of the latter being that the focus...
This post is the last in what the English satirist, Douglas Adams, would call 'a trilogy in five parts'! These reflections on what it means for Christians to be 'aliens and strangers' on this earth were never meant to run beyond three parts, but they did and I'm not quite sure what the five-part...
I was talking recently with a dear friend who has been going through significant housing issues with all the mental, emotional and spiritual turmoil that have come with them, when she interjected, 'But then I realised, Jesus didn't have a home.' And she was absolutely right. Our Lord himself summed...
The Babel fiasco in Genesis, which we looked at in the previous instalment of this mini-series, is quickly followed in the timeline of salvation by the account of Abraham (Ge 12.1ff). This looks very much like a ray of light into what otherwise looks like a very dark landscape in a very dark world...
For almost as long as I can remember as a Christian I have found myself musing on the question of what makes a good Bible translation. I grew up in a part of the world in which, for many professing Christians, this was simply a non-question There was only one 'good' version and it was 'Authorised...
There is something deep within the human psyche that longs to be 'home' - to be settled in a place where we belong. Yet for many it is a frustrated longing. For some because they are, by virtue of their circumstances, dislocated from where they want to be. It may be because of schooling, or the...
Fides sola est quae justificat; fides quae justificat non est sola. Latinisms can have a wonderful way of crystallising issues in theological reflection - so with this one: 'It is faith alone that justifies; but faith that justifies is never alone!' This isn't just a statement about the alone-ness...
When the Banner of Truth Trust published the second volume of his Collected Writings in 1977, John Murray's views on effectual calling sparked off animated debate in Reformed circles at that time. He challenged the formulation found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism that defines effectual...
There are few places in Scripture where we are given deeper insight into the anatomy of a life of prayer than in the book of Daniel. The well-known words of the old children's chorus, 'Daniel was a man of prayer' could not be more apt! This great man who was so greatly used for such a great length...
It's the kind of question a child so often asks, but also the question that adults find so hard to answer; then again, it's the question that pastors most dread facing. When someone has died and there is no indication they were ever converted, where do they go when they leave this world behind?
They are the unsung heroes of the 21st Century - an entire army of family members, friends and neighbours who just want to help. They are the 'Carers'. Some care for disabled children and adults, others for those whose lives have been shattered through accident, war or addiction, for those with...
Life and relationships have become all too superficial in our present age. It is the easiest thing in the world to say we know someone and yet really have nothing more than a nodding acquaintance. Indeed with the influence of the media - television in particular - it is possible to see some famous...
There is, however, another crucial strand in this whole discussion: it is the way the New Testament handles material from the Old Testament when it comes to Adam and the role he played, not just in the history of the human race, but also in the history of redemption.
Having made comment about the limits of science, it is only appropriate that we acknowledge that the Bible also has its limits. That may come as a surprise to some sensitive Christian ears, but it is actually self-evident: the Bible does not pretend to say everything that can be said about...
There is nothing new about the question of how science relates to the Bible - it is as old as the Copernican Revolution of the 16th Century and older. There is, however, real urgency to the question in our present age when science is being increasingly exalted to an almost supreme status as the...