What Harm Is It?

Our White Horse Inn Discussion Group meets tonight to consider episode WHI-1116, “Worship in Spirit and Truth.” The episode deals with the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well as recorded in John 4. At one point Jesus tells the woman, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know,” Calvin, commenting on this sentence says:

This sentence should be noted carefully. It teaches us that we should not do anything religious in a rash or haphazard way. If we do not know what we are doing, we will be worshipping an idol or a ghost rather than God. Like a thunderbolt, this sentence strikes down all good intentions, as they are called. It teaches us that everybody must go wrong if they are guided by their own opinion rather than by the Word or command of God.

Are we ever sufficiently suspicious of our good intentions?

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Practical Heretics

From Cornelius Van Til’s essay “The Significance of Dort for Today” in Crisis in the Reformed  Churches:

…Modern philosophy has shown us that nobody knows or can know anything about a god existing in an eternity of bliss above the world.

We know therefore, that the historic Protestant position with respect to God and his relation to man is nothing but pure speculation.

What then shall we preach about? Well, let us postulate a good Good as a practical device. True, we know nothing of such a God. But we must believe somehow good people will be rewarded and evil people punished. We can all believe this. We can, accordingly, have one church. When we have organized this one church we shall send out missionaries to the ends of the earth to tell all men everywhere, not that they must believe what took place on a certain date of the calendar, in a certain little country called Palestine, but that they are already in Christ.

Theoretically, there will then be no heretics. All men must, to be men at all, be in Christ. But practically there will be some heretics. The practical heretics are they who will not reconstruct their theology in accordance with the principle of human autonomy.

Among these remaining practical heretics some of the most stubborn will be those followers of Dort. They will be most stubborn because they alone are, in the last analysis, unwilling to compromise their view that it is on the basis of presupposition of the self-deterministic triune God of Scripture that any human predication has meaning at all.

Here then, in the last analysis, lies the significance of Dort for today. The followers of Dort, together with their brethren, the followers of Westminster, alone have the wherewithal to proclaim the gospel of the sovereign grace of God at all. Today the battle of Armageddon is on. It is up to those who prize their heritage as children of the Reformation and, more specifically, of the Reformed Reformation to lead all the true followers of the self-identifying Christ of Scripture against unbelief without and unbelief within the church (pp230-231).

 

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When is Reformed not Reformed – Nonsense from the PCUSA

From the Dec/2012 issue of the Layman (article starts on page one) :
A synod Permanent Judicial Commission (SPJC)not only declared Santa Barbara Presbytery’s plan to re-form as a union presbytery with a newly-created, Reformed denomination “null and void,” it also stated that the new denomination – ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians – is not a Reformed body, but a “special interest group.”In its Nov. 10 decision, the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii Permanent Judicial Commission (SPJC) sustained 18 of the 19 counts made against the presbytery by the session of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara,

 


One of the counts Santa Barbara was found guilty of was mischaracterization of ECO as a “Reformed” body:
The SPJC also upheld the charge that the
presbytery had mischaracterized ECO as a
“Reformed” body, stating that “In spite of evidence that the history of the Reformed Tradition did involve adherence to ‘essential tenets’
and required signed affirmation of same for
short periods of time, it is the current understanding that the Reformed tradition rests on a
clear understanding that Jesus Christ alone is
Lord of the conscience, and this assertion not
only appears in the Form of Government but is
supported by the guidance of the Theological
Declaration of Barmen.”
The decision continued that “it is also a
Reformed affirmation that membership in any
worshiping body that claims the label
‘Reformed’ has as its only membership
requirement one’s personal faith in Jesus
Christ as Savior and Lord. The preponderance
of the evidence demonstrates that the requirements of ECO are otherwise, and by requiring
a signed agreement of like belief, exist beyond
the boundaries of what it is understood to be
Reformed.”
This must be disheartening news to all NAPARC (see links) churches. In trying to remain faithful to the historic confessions they have disqualified themselves from actually being considered a Reformed body. All the time and effort for naught when the only requirement to remain Reformed was the all inclusive ‘personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.’ Of course, the PCUSA, in its ongoing attempts to be the arbiter of all things theological and political will define what ‘personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord’ entails. It is hard to believe that the leadership cannot see that these attempts to obliterate the contours of the Reformed faith in order to be all things to all people makes them indistinguishable from the surrounding culture and makes them increasingly irrelevant as either a proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus Christ or in their aspiration to be agents of change.
Nonsense!


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So What’s This Reformed Stuff About?

In Daniel R Hyde’s Welcome to a Reformed Church, Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters, in the foreword writes:

In the church of Jesus Christ, signs all around are pointing to renewed spiritual life. A younger generation of men and women has embraced Reformed theology in numbers unparalleled in recent memory. Web sites, conferences, publishing houses, and seminaries dedicated to promoting Reformed theology are flourishing. Most important, God is changing lives by the gospel of His grace. He is bringing dead sinners to new life in Jesus Christ, and longtime Christians are experiencing the beauty and glory of the sovereign grace of God in a newfound power and depth. These Christians are flocking to join churches where the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is taught without reservation and without compromise.

So what’s this Reformed stuff about?  Dr. Waters continues to write that a survey of the Reformed faith can be had by answering three interlocking questions: What do Reformed churches believe?  How do Reformed churches live?  How do Reformed churches worship?

Using these questions as a framework, we will begin our survey by exploring what the Reformed churches believe, and by asking and answering a follow-up question:  Do what the Reformed churches believe distinguish them from other Christian churches?

 

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Another New Church — So What’s the Big Deal?

I thought it good news when I heard that Zachary Wyse, a classmate of my son at WSCAL, was looking into planting a new chuch on the western side of Cincinnati, OH. In my area alone, and off the top of my head, I can name a dozen churches. Several of these are within easy walking distance. While the arrival of another church is news, what is it about this particular church plant would cause me to think it good news. Certainly the fact that a classmate of my son is involved in this endeavor contributes to my thinking this good news, but that is just a small part. What really makes this good news is that this is going to be a Reformed church.

What is it about being a Reformed church plant, at least in my estimation, that raises the announcement of it from being just news to the status of being good news? C.S. Lewis said:

Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

I am not going to tell you that you should think of this Reformed church planting as more than merely news. What I hope to do is to describe a Reformed church in such a manner that you will find it good news, too. In the following months, drawing on various resources, I will endeavour to portray the Reformed faith, and its expression in the church, that you may come to find it as satisfying and comforting as I believe it to be.

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