Friday, July 30, 2010

Reformation in the City: On Ruling Elders in the PCA

Over at Reformation in the City, Ruling Elder Kenneth Kang-Hui has written a great post on Ruling Elders in the PCA. He makes several good points regarding the nature of the office and the responsibilities that come along with it. A few things I really liked in his post were:

- His emphasis on the parity of Teaching and Ruling Elders. Too often people (elders included) view the pastor as the head elder or the "real" authority, and the ruling elders are seen as either yes-men or (conversely) as men whose job is to "keep the pastor in check." Neither of these options are biblical and neither will lead to a healthy church.
- His point that the training of men for the office of elder should neither focus exclusively on theology nor should it be " just a 'baptized' version of the latest business management methodology."
- His suggestion for ongoing training of Ruling Elders. I think this could be a great way to keep REs informed of the latest theological issues and help prepare them to better shepherd the flock.

Head on over to Reformation in the City and read the whole article. And thanks to RE Kang-Hui for posting his thoughts!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Right There on the Surface

Sometimes, you have to study very carefully the writings of someone to determine if what they are saying is biblical or not. But, sometimes, it doesn't take much effort at all. (HT: Tim Phillips)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Puritan Library

Last week, I encouraged you to read the puritans and pointed you to an article by Joel Beeke highlighting many excellent reasons to do just that. Today, I have been shown a resource devoted to helping you do just that. is a site which allows free access to hundreds of Puritan writings from a variety of authors. The site is run by the same fine folks who run (and which is a great source for buying books!).

Two notes about First, everything is available as PDFs. This is a good thing and I'm glad they chose this format as opposed to plain text files or some obscure file format. Second, the texts are not searchable. I wish they were, but even without this function, it is still a great resource.

Now, go and read the Puritans!

EDITED TO ADD: Upon further inspection, I realize not everything is available as a PDF file. Some links are to Google Books, and some are to HTML pages. Despite this, I still think it is a wonderful site!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Presbyterian Paganism in the ARP?

Rev. Chuck Wilson has posted a new article over at ARPTalk asking why the Erskine lawsuit has not yet been dropped? If you remember, a compromise agreement was reached near the conclusion of Synod in June which basically said, the ARP will back away from trying to restructure the Board of Erskine, if the lawsuit against the denomination is dropped. The Synod approved this compromise. It's been a month and a half, and the lawsuit has not been dropped. What is preventing Taylor, Young and Chesnut (the three men who brought the suit) from dropping it right now?

Go read Rev. Wilson's article The Commission Was Right! The Erskine Lawsuit is Still Active! to hear his opinion on the subject.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Read the Puritans!

Joel Beeke has posted an excellent article over at Ligonier Ministries site entitled "Why You Should Read the Puritans." He gives a brief summary of just exactly who the Puritans were, and then lists nine excellent reasons why you should be reading them:

1. Puritan writings help shape life by Scripture
2. Puritan writings show how to integrate biblical doctrine into daily life
3. Puritan writings show how to exalt Christ and see His beauty
4. Puritan writings reveal the Trinitarian character of theology
5. Puritan writings show you how to handle trials
6. Puritan writings explain true spirituality
7. Puritan writings show how to live by wholistic faith
8. Puritan writings teach the importance and primacy of preaching
9. Puritan writings show how to live in two worlds

I could not agree more with what he has to say. The Puritans represent one of the most pure forms of Biblical Christianity ever in the history of the Church. We all could learn so much by reading what these godly saints have to say, and so I exhort you: Read the Puritans!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Matthew Poole on the Days of Creation

On Genesis 1:5:
Others by evening understand the first night or darkness which was upon the face of the earth, ver. 2, which probably continued for the space of about twelve hours, the beginning whereof might fitly be called evening; and by morning the succeeding light or day, which may reasonably be supposed to continue the other twelve hours, or thereabouts. And this seems the truer opinion...

Were the first day; did constitute or make up the first day; day being taken largely for the natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours: these were the parts of the first day; and the like is to be understood of the succeeding days. Moreover, God, who could have made all things at once, was pleased to divide his work into six days, partly to give us occasion more distinctly and seriously to consider God's works, and principally to lay the foundation for the weekly sabbath, as is clearly intimated, Gen. 2:2-3; Exodus 20:9-11.
On Genesis 1:14:
He speaks here of natural days, consisting of twenty-four hours.

On Exodus 20:11:
In six days, and neither in more or less time, as he could have done.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Also, I don't believe it is accurate to say that there are a myriad of 'Reformed' views of the Mosaic [covenant]. Reformed is defined, in the main, by our Reformed confessions, not by the differing views held by individual Reformed theologians."
[Emphasis added]

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Variety of Things

A friend recently recommended this blog on his Facebook page. He said, "Check out this blog. Good discussion on a variety of topics!" Now, my friend was very kind to recommend this blog, but he said something that I never intended to be said about this blog: "a variety of topics" is discussed here. When I started this blog, its purpose was to "document and discuss what it means to be a Ruling Elder." If you go back in the archives and scan through old posts, you would be tempted to say that I very quickly departed from that stated goal. My friend's recommendation gave me opportunity to reflect on this.

What I have come to realize is that being a Ruling Elder requires one to be familiar with a variety of topics. It's not all Confessions and Book of Church Order. As a matter of fact, higher levels of church government perhaps take up about 1% of a Ruling Elder's time. Don't get me wrong; it's a very important 1% and too often is neglected altogether. But 99% of the time a Ruling Elder spends doing "ruling elder" things does not involve parlimentary procedure. Instead, you are asked questions by members of the congregation about whatever topic is affecting their lives, whether it be issues of science or law or ethics or Bible study. Very rarely will a member of the church come up and ask you "What do you think of the latest Synod/General Assembly news?" Ruling Elders need to be prepared for Synod/General Assembly (and Presbytery, too), but Ruling Elders also need to be prepared for questions about a thousand other topics as well.

This blog does discuss a variety of topics, but I believe I have stayed faithful to my original intent to "document and discuss what it means to be a Ruling Elder" because being a Ruling Elder means discussing a variety of topics.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Joey Pipa for President! (of Covenant Seminary?)

Over at the Bayly Blog, Pastor David Bayly has posted some final thoughts on the PCA General Assembly. His first is:

Joey Pipa should be made President of Covenant Seminary.

I wholeheartedly agree! I have read a couple of Dr. Pipa's books, heard him preach, and had opportunity to meet him. He is a gracious, learned man who loves the Reformed faith. Any seminary would be better for having him as their president.

Now, I'm not sure how serious Pastor Bayly was, and quite honestly, I doubt Dr. Pipa would ever be offered or take the position of President of Covenant Seminary, but I echo the sentiment. In the meantime, Dr. Pipa is president of another seminary: Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Thank God for men such as Dr. Pipa!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"How to Think About Science" Audio Posted

The audio from the radio show I was on last Friday night/Saturday morning has been posted here.

Host Lindsay Brooks, special guest Dr. Leslie Wickman, and I discussed many things on the show including: What is knowledge and can science give it to us? What is the scientific method and how does that relate to "knowledge"? Are science and Christianity in conflict? And did Christianity help lay the foundation necessary for science?

I had a great time on the show and hope to go back to discuss other science and Christianity related questions, soon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did God Create in 6 Days? Sale

I just received an e-mail from Reformation Bookstore telling me that Did God Create in 6 Days? is on sale for only $5.00 (plus shipping). It usually costs $26.95, so this is a great sale. This is perhaps the single best book on the topic on the issue of Creation I have ever read. I continually refer to it whenever the topic comes up (which, when you are studying for an M.A. in Science and Religion is rather often).

Three quick things I really appreciate about this book:

1. A solid theological and historical argument is made for 6 normal, 24-hour days of creation in Genesis 1.

2. Views opposed to the traditional 6-day view are presented by learned men who hold those views. The chapter on the Literary view is written by Jack Collins (Covenant Seminary), the chapter on the Framework view is written by Mark Ross (Erskine Seminary). In other words, the editors let the opposing views speak for themselves rather than put words in their mouths.

3. Some great research on the views of the Westminster divines is presented by David Hall, showing that any divine that commented on the length of the days of creation or the age of the earth held to a young earth or literal days view. This, to the best of my knowledge, had never been done before and undercuts the argument often used by old-earth/framework Presbyterians that the Westminster divines were being "purposefully vague."

If you don't already own a copy of Did God Create in 6 Days? I can't recommend it highly enough. If you do already own a copy, now is your chance to buy a second copy at a great price to give away. This book needs to be read!

Review of Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions iPhone/iPad App

Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions [iTunes link] is a free iPhone app put out by Westminster Seminary California. Its content includes: The Apostles', Nicence, and Athanasian Creeds; The Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt, the Westminster Confession, and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

The app is very easy to use and has a couple of really nice features. First, the search feature is great. Searching for any term, such as "faith" returns every instance of the word "faith" as expected; however, you can also use certain keywords such as NEAR to modify your search. For example, if you search for "faith NEAR justification" the app will give you every instance where the word "faith" is with 10 words of the word "justification" in any of the creeds, confessions or catechisms.

Another feature I really like is the ability to look up Scripture references using your preferred online Bible site. The app comes with two "built-in" sites: the Crossway ESV and the BibleGateway ESV sites. However, if, like me, you prefer another version such as the New King James, you can insert the link to the NKJV site in the Settings of this app, and the Scripture reference links will load from the NKJV instead of the ESV. (To change versions using the BibleGateway link, simply replace "ESV" with "NKJV" or "KJV"or whatever you preferred version is in the link on the Settings page.)

There is one serious problem I have with this app. That is, although in the table of contents it lists "Westminster Confession of Faith, London, England (1647)" it, in fact, does not contain the original version of the Confession. It is the American version of the Westminster Confession, more specifically, the version adopted by the OPC. I want to be clear that my issue is not so much with the American version (although I prefer the original), as much as it is with the fact that the table of contents claims something that is not true. This error needs to be corrected.

Overall, this is a very helpful app and I find myself using it on a regular basis. Westminster Seminary California is to be commended for making this available to us all for free.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Thoughts on David Norman's Thornwell Lecture

I have now had time to read and re-read Dr. David Norman's Thornwell Lecture he gave on the 4th at First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC. Let me summarize my comments in this way: Dr. Norman has been President of Erskine for 12 days. I believe we can neither overly praise nor condemn him based on one speech. Dr. Norman has my full support and I hope he has yours as well.

Now, for specifics. There were many things to be pleased with in Dr. Norman's lecture. First, I greatly appreciated the kind words he had to say about Dr. DeWitt:
I do not know Dr. de Witt very well. But I do know him to be a man of the Gospel, and as such I will not sit quietly if his reputation is truly in jeopardy.
Knowing the vitriol that is spewed out against Dr. de Witt by some, this statement by Dr. Norman took a great deal of courage. Well done, Dr. Norman!

I also agree that the phrase "integration of faith and learning" needs to be better defined. Dr. Norman said:
I don’t particularly like the phrase because in many circles it has become an empty slogan of dead liturgy, and what the phrase means is way too important to abandon to the mindless mortuary of recitation and sloganeering.
Anytime a phrase becomes mindless recitation, it can no longer have any force. If we do not clarify what we mean by "integration of faith and learning" and if, after clarifying, we do not enforce what we mean by the phrase, then we have become a "sounding brass or a clanging cymbal," but do no one any good.

Certainly, there are other issues that I wish Dr. Norman would have addressed, but he only had a certain amount of time and I think he did a good job of touching on the major issues.

Again, I state: Dr. Norman has my full support, and I hope he has yours as well. Continue to pray for him!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Notes from Last Night's Show

Last night (well, technically, this morning), I was a guest on the Radio show on KKLA 99.5 here in Los Angeles. The topic of the show was "Science." I had prepared notes for several theological presuppositions which Christianity provided before "science" could be practiced. During the show, I didn't have time to go over them. So, I am posting my notes here, for anyone who is interested. These notes are based 98% on Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton's excellent book The Soul of Science [TSOS], most notably chapter one.

Christian Doctrines that Laid the Foundation for Science
  1. Reality of Creation (TSOS, 22)
    1. The Bible teaches that nature is real
    2. This is opposed to various forms of pantheism and idealism teach that finite particular things are merely appearances of the One, the Absolute, the Infinite. Individuality and separateness are illusions. Hinduism is one such example.
    3. Creation teaches that finite objects are not mere appearances of the Infinite, but that God made them; they have a real existence. The doctrine of creation implies the world is not illusory.
  2. God’s Creation is Good (TSOS, 22-23)
    1. The ancient world often equated the material world with evil and disorder; hence, denigrating anything to do with material things.
      1. Manual Labor was left to slaves
      2. Many historians believe this is one reason the Greeks did not develop an empirical science, which requires practical, hands-in observation and experimentation.
    2. Christianity teaches that the world has great value as God’s creation.
      1. Throughout the Creation account in Gen. 1 we find that phrase “And God saw that it was good.”
      2. Creation is to be studied because it is a good thing which God has given to us.
      3. Calvin wrote: “There is need of art and more exacting toil in order to investigate the motion of the stars, to determine their assigned stations, to measure their intervals, to note their properties.”
  3. Creation/Creator Distinction (TSOS, 23-24)
    1. Nature is good, but it is not a god. It is a creature.
    2. Pagan religions are typically animistic or pantheistic. Spirits or gods reside in nature.
      1. Pagan man lives in “an enchanted forest”
    3. Christianity teaches that God does not inhabit the world in the way these pagan deities do.
      1. He is not the personalization of natural forces.
      2. He is not the world’s “soul”
      3. He is its CREATOR
      4. In this way, Gen. 1 stands in stark contrast with other ANE religions by rejecting any religious status to things such as the Sun, the Moon, and the stars
    4. This “de-deification” of nature was a necessary precursor to science.
      1. As long as nature commands religious worship, dissecting her is judged impious.
      2. If the world is charged with divine beings and powers, the only appropriate response is to supplicate them or ward them off!
    5. When the world was no longer an object of worship, then--and only then--could it become an object of study.
  4. Rational God
    1. Paganism taught a multitude of gods; Christianity One.
    2. This meant that the Creator’s handiwork was unified and coherent.
    3. The God of the Bible is trustworthy and dependable
      1. Therefore the creation of such a God must likewise be dependable
    4. Nature exhibits regularity, dependability, and orderliness.
      1. Historical example: Copernicus
        1. He knew the universe was “wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”
  5. Laws of Nature
    1. Pagan culture saw nature as alive, and moved by mysterious forces
    2. Christianity led to the belief, based on the trustworthiness of God, that all natural occurrences are lawful and intelligible.
    3. God is a Law-Giver, therefore we can look for Laws in Nature, just as we find His Laws in Scripture.
    4. Note the order: God first then laws, NOT laws therefore God.
      1. Biblical presuppositions!
  6. Creation Ex Nihilo (TSOS, 27)
    1. Pagan religions posited creation from some pre-existing substance.
      1. Plato’s demiurge merely injects reason (Ideas) into reason-lass matter
      2. Even this the demiurge did imperfectly
      3. In short, this Greek creator’s hands were tied
      4. Greeks, therefore, expected a level of imprecision in nature
    2. Christianity teaches there is no pre-existing material that God simply forms into all things
      1. God creates out of nothing the world exactly as He wills.
      2. Historical example: Kepler and elliptical orbits
  7. The Image of God (TSOS, 29)
    1. Science depends on the sheer act of faith that the universe possessed order and could be interpreted by rational minds.
      1. If only God is rational, but none of His creators are, what good does it do us?
    2. In Christianity, man is made in the Image of God, and is therefore a rational creator, just as God is a rational Creator.
    3. Humans can “think God’s thoughts after Him” as Kepler put it.
    4. The Natural world is comprehensible because the same Logos that is responsible for its ordering is also reflected in human reason. (Kaiser, TSOS, 29)
  8. The Freedom of God (TSOS, 30-32)
    1. God had created a rational knowable creation out of nothing, and He was free to create it in any manner He saw fit.
    2. God was not constrained by Aristotelian Forms
      1. Rational intuition of the Forms is contrary to experimentation
    3. 1277, Bishop of Paris (Etienne Tempier) condemned this form of Aristotelianism
      1. God could not allow any other planetary motion than a circular one
      2. God could not create a vacuum
      3. “Voluntarism” taught that there was no limitation on God’s Power
      4. Natural Law was not Forms inherent in nature but as divine commands imposed from outside nature
      5. Matter was driven not by internal rational Forms, but by the sovereign commands of God.
    4. Historical Example: Robert Boyle
      1. God as “the free establisher of the laws of motion”
      2. These laws “depend perfectly on His will.”
    5. Not surprisingly, this lead to experimental methodology
      1. If God created freely rather than by logical necessity, we cannot gain knowledge of creation by logical deduction. Instead, we have to go out and look, to observe and experiment.
      2. Ian Barbour: “The world is orderly and dependable because God is trustworthy and not capricious; but the details of the world must be found by observation rather than rational deduction because God is free and did not have to create any particular kind of universe.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Radio Show: Science and Christianity

Tonight, from midnight to 2AM (Pacific Time), I will be on the Radio show with host Lindsay Brooks and special guest Dr. Leslie Wickman of Azusa Pacific University discussing the history, philosophy and practical outworking of Science and Christianity. Topics to be addressed include:

How Christianity led to Science.
How you can be a Christian and a Scientist.
What can we actually know from Science?

And others, as time allows. You can listen in live (and call in, if you like) by going to the KKLA website. You can also download the podcast after the broadcast, if, like most of the world, you are asleep between midnight and 2AM.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dabney on the State of the Pulpit

The state of the pulpit may always be taken as an index of that of the Church. Whenever the pulpit is evangelical, the piety of the people is in some degree healthy; a perversion of the pulpit is surely followed by spiritual apostasy in the Church. And it is exceedingly instructive to note, that there are three stages through which preaching has repeatedly passed with the same results. The first is that in which scriptural truth is faithfully presented in scriptural garb—that is to say, not only are all the doctrines asserted which truly belong to the revealed system of redemption, but they are presented in that dress and connection in which the Holy Spirit has presented them, without seeking any other from human science. This state of the pulpit marks the golden age of the Church. The second is the transition stage. In this the doctrines taught are still those of the Scriptures, but their relations are moulded into conformity with the prevalent human dialectics. God's truth is now shorn of a part of its power over the soul. The third stage is then near, in which not only are the methods and explanations conformed to the philosophy of the day, but the doctrines themselves contradict the truth of the Word. Again and again have the clergy traveled this descending scale, and always with the same disastrous result. The first grade is found in the primitive and in the Reformation churches of the first and the sixteenth centuries. The second grade may be seen in the scholasticism of Clement of Alexandria and his pupils, and in the symbolical discourses with which the continental pulpit echoed during the seventeenth century. The last is found in the Dark Ages and in Rationalism. This cycle is strikingly illustrated also by the history of the New Theology as it is completing itself in our day in America. When the Protestant churches of this country were founded, the ministry had not lost the Reformation impulse, and belonged to the first stage. The generation, unwittingly introduced by the great and good Jonathan Edwards, marks the second; during which the doctrines of grace were not openly impugned, but they were successively stretched into the schemes of metaphysics—the "exercise scheme," the "light scheme," the "greatest benevolence scheme"—which fascinated a people of narrow and partial culture and self-confident temper. The next generation was called to witness the apostasy which turned the truth of God into a lie, and took both the methods and the dogmas of the Socinian and the Pelagian. Let us, my brethren, eschew the ill-starred ambition which seeks to make the body of God's truth a " lay figure" on which to parade the drapery of human philosophy. May we ever be content to exhibit Bible doctrine in its own Bible dress!

Robert Dabney, Sensualistic Rhetoric, 27-29.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dr. Norman's Thornwell Lecture

Dr. David Norman, President of Erskine College and Seminary gave the Thornwell Lecture at First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC over the weekend. The full text can be found here.

I will be posting a few comments tomorrow, if I am able. What I have read thus far, I like. Continue to pray for Dr. Norman!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Robert's Rules of Order: Challenging the Chair

"It has been more important institutionally to have gained a mastery of Robert's Rules of Order...than either the Bible or the Westminster Confession."
So wrote Gary North in Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church. In light of this, I occasionally will offer summary or tip on a particular parliamentary procedure taken from Robert's Rules of Order (see my previous entry on "To Adjourn"). Ruling Elders need to be familiar with these rules and be able to use them effectively.

Today, I bring to your attention a procedure that is not used very often, but which is very important: Challenging the Chair.

It is the Moderator's job to determine when a certain action is "out of order"; however, the Moderator's decision is not final. It can be appealed. If the Moderator rules something out of order, any member of the body can immediately rise and state "Mr. Moderator, I appeal from the decision of the chair," regardless of who has the floor. An important point to note is that this must be done immediately, because if any other business transpires between the Moderator's ruling (that something is out of order) and the challenge, the challenge can no longer be made.

Once the challenge is made and seconded, the question is put to the body: "Shall the decision of the chair [Moderator] be sustained?" The body then votes; a "yes" will be in favor of the Moderator's ruling, a "no" will be against the Moderator ruling.

The most important thing to remember though, is that if a motion/action/speech/etc. is ruled out of order by the Moderator, that decision is not final, and may be appealed.

For another description of Challenging the Chair, see: Simplified Rules of Order: Challenging the Chair.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Quick Note: PCA GA 2010

In case, for some reason, you were unaware of it, the Presbyterian Church in America is holding their General Assembly this week. Updates have been posted to The Aquila Report, but I would also encourage you to check out TE Wes White's blog for more frequent and sometimes more insightful updates.