Articles

Paul and the Faithfulness of God: A Review

Article by   July 2014
Let me begin by stating the fact that most obviously strikes the recipient of a copy of Paul and the Faithfulness of God (henceforth, PFG): it is 1658 pages long. At one point, probably about a third of the way or half-way through, I had a feeling which - unprompted - interpreted itself in words similar to those of John Newton's Amazing Grace: 'When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun | We've no less days to sing God's praise, as when we first begun'. I felt at this stage at the book that, having read hundreds and hundreds of pages, I still had as many to go as I did when I first begun. One of the chapters is over 250 pages. But I did make it all the way through to what I assume was the George Herbert allusion at the end. continue

Objections to K. Scott Oliphint's Covenantal Properties Thesis

Article by   July 2014
Paul Helm has recently offered criticism of certain aspects of K. Scott Oliphint's book, God With Us (Crossway, 2012), and Reformation21 has published responses by Oliphint and Nate Shannon. (1) It is striking that neither Oliphint nor Shannon offers much discussion of Oliphint's central thesis and arguably his most innovative proposal, that God relates himself to the world by taking on "covenantal properties" in addition to his essence.(2) Shannon's article in particular contends that Oliphint advances the Reformed commitment to Scripture by rejecting presumably corrupt elements of the classical Reformed doctrine of God. In my estimation Shannon's criticism of the tradition is somewhat overwrought and misguided. The question of the Reformed scholastics' doctrine of God, and especially of divine simplicity, has been settled. They deny that God can add properties to himself. (3) And while the merits or demerits of that position may be debated, the issue at hand is whether or not Oliphint's own doctrine of covenantal properties is a suitably orthodox alternative to the classical Reformed teaching on God. It is my contention that it is not. In what follows I aim to briefly set forth what I perceive to be the leading difficulties with the covenantal properties thesis. This critique is here stated tersely for the benefit of those just tuning in. (4) My objections are theological in nature and do not require that one adhere to any particular school of philosophy. continue

Amazing Grace

Article by   July 2014
Eric Metaxas. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. 320 pp. Paperback. $10.99/£7.99In a time when genuine heroes are scarce, a book on William Wilberforce is always welcome. Eric Metaxas wrote Amazing... continue

Sanctification and the Heidelberg Catechism, Part Two

Article by   July 2014
The HC gives serious and careful attention to the requirements of God's law as a guide for the Christian life (Q. 92-113). This section does not teach sinners how to live in order to be saved, as if salvation could be earned by works of the law. Rather, it teaches those who are already saved through faith in Christ how to "behave towards God" and "what duties we owe to our neighbor" (Q. 93). continue

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Article by   July 2014
Thomas Piketty. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014. 696 pp. Hardcover. $24.99/£24.99To say that Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century has become a sensation would be a... continue

Sanctification and the Heidelberg Catechism, Part One

Article by   July 2014
In the recent and engaging discussions on the doctrine of sanctification, I have found it interesting that some in my own denomination, The Presbyterian Church in America, are quicker to reference the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) than the Westminster Standards to assert their views on this crucial issue. But why? Could it be that some view the HC as less demanding in its teaching on progressive sanctification, law, piety, and good works in the Christian life? The HC is invoked to assert, among other things, that gratefulness is the sole motivation for Christian obedience, and that the only effective way to cultivate real spiritual growth is to look back to our justification in Christ. However, these views - often touted as the Reformed position - are supported neither by Scripture nor the HC. continue

J.A. Alexander 1809-1860

Article by   July 2014
Joseph Addison was born the third son of the minister of the Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Archibald Alexander, D.D., on April 24, 1809. His mother, Janetta Waddel Alexander, was the daughter of James Waddel who served as a minister in Virginia and was sometimes called "the blind preacher of Virginia." Archibald Alexander continued his pastoral service in Philadelphia until he was called by the denomination to open the doors of the Presbyterian Seminary at Princeton in 1812. At the time of Archibald Alexander's death in 1851 his seven surviving children included one daughter, Janetta (named for her mother), James Waddel, Archibald, Samuel Davies, Henry Martyn, William Cowper, and Joseph Addison. Three of the sons were ministers, two were lawyers, and one was a physician. continue

Holy Communion

Article by   July 2014
Hughes Oliphant Old, Holy Communion: In the Piety of the Reformed Church. Powder Springs: Tolle Lege Press, 2013. Hardback. 919 pp. $39.95Introduction When I was in seminary I was introduced to what is perhaps the standard taxonomy of the different views... continue

Modifying Classical Theism: Chalcedonian Theology Proper and Reformed 'Tradition'

Article by   July 2014
The campus tour offered to prospective students by the admissions office at Westminster Seminary emphasizes the institution's five distinctives. One of those distinctives is what founding professor of systematic theology John Murray called a "radically non-speculative" approach to dogmatics. All he meant is that we don't make things up. The first fact of theology is that the self-existent triune God has non-necessarily moved to create and to reveal himself to his creatures. In the words of another founding faculty member, this means that man is to be receptively reconstructive of the authoritative speech of God. Autonomy is to be avoided always. This second founding professor, Cornelius Van Til, distinguished himself by arguing that this radical prioritization of the voluntary self-revelation of God applies to all of creaturely knowledge and action, not only to dogmatic theology. Not only our doctrinal theology but our knowledge of all things is receptively reconstructive of divine revelation. Van Til had learned from Geerhardus Vos that Scripture did not drop out of the sky, offering a sect of post-Jewish religioners an exciting new way of looking at the world; rather, Scripture is the Spirit-inspired, redemptively efficacious record of the triune God's eschatological covenanting with image-bearers: a voluntary, divine condescension in the Son from beginning (alpha) to end (omega) continue

The Rise of Liberal Religion

Article by   June 2014
Matthew S. Hedstrom. The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century. Oxford, 2013.288  pp. $39.99/£29.99Reformed Christians pride themselves in being well informed of major eras in the development of Christian theology. They can articulate... continue

The Gospel and Total Depravity

Article by   June 2014
This month, I want to continue in my studies of the Affirmations and Denials on the Gospel and Sanctification, which touch upon so many significant issues. Having started with Article 1, which says that Legalism Is a Real Problem, I move now to Article 2, The Gospel and Total Depravity. We start with the affirmation: We affirm that unregenerate man, being totally depraved, is unable to obey or please God unto salvation. continue

One with Christ

Article by   June 2014
Marcus Peter Johnson, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 256 pp. $19.99/£12.99Though I am not a Calvin scholar, there are few theologians who have influenced me as much, and consistently help me more than the... continue

Treading Through the Tenets: Of Metaphysics and Marriage

Article by   June 2014
This month we look at the man-ward side of God's natural revelation, which means, what we do with what God is doing. Last month, we saw the God-ward side of that revelation. God is, always and everywhere, from the time of our existence into eternity future, making himself known to all people, at all times. Note carefully: God is the actor here, and not we ourselves. God is the one revealing, and ensuring that his revelation gets through to every creature. There is no possibility of getting an "F" on the "Knowing God" exam on judgment day. There is no possibility that the knowledge that God reveals is in any way false. The sober and substantial truth of the matter is that all people, by virtue of being image-bearers of God, begin their existence as knowers of God, because knowers of creation. This has massive theological, and epistemological, implications for every person. Christians, and philosophers, would do well to tuck this truth away in their bag of necessities and have it handy to pull out each and every day, first thing in the morning. This is the way to begin to interpret ourselves, and the world around us. Because God is actively revealing himself, that revelation hits its mark every time. We know because he reveals; it's that simple. continue

Politics and the Order of Love

Article by   June 2014
Eric S. Gregory. Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 417 pp. $28.99/£20.99This is not a book to be undertaken lightly by the unsuspecting reader, lured in by the... continue

Insider Movements Defined...Biblically

Article by   June 2014
Insider Movement (IM) advocates arrive at their conviction by a variety of different ways. For example, the behavioral sciences are viewed as furnishing a hermeneutical key that unlocks both the Bible and the door into other religions. Other advocates of IM are bare pragmatists and find in IM a possible solution to reaching resistant peoples when all other options have been tried and apparently failed. Still others are universalists and see in other religions a spark that will spontaneously ignite into "christianities" of different forms. Then there are the ecumenicists outside of the evangelical camp who see the lines between Christianity and other religions as blurred beyond recognition. Lastly, there are the pietists who do not concern themselves with doctrine and perceive IM as a movement of the Holy Spirit authenticated by astonishing anecdotes. Some advocates are open to any of these avenues while others are more selective. continue

Jennings and Garner Final Responses

Article by   June 2014
Dr. Nelson Jennings's Final Response It is indeed a privilege to testify to God's goodness and greatness, as well as to try and work together regarding how best to serve the cause of the Christian gospel. It is a painful reality, however, to be thoroughly misunderstood and mischaracterized on important matters too numerous to list, much less to try and discuss, in this brief response. My earlier response (and essays) already attempts to address some of the misunderstandings and mischaracterizations. Let me quickly add that, insofar as I have (unintentionally) misunderstood and misrepresented Dr. Garner on certain points, I sincerely apologize continue

The Study Committee on Insider Movements Minority Report - Concrete or Abstract?

Article by   June 2014
The title "Realities on the Ground - An Additional Perspective" for Minority Report 2014 is misleading. What is set forth in this document is not a perspective that compliments or supplements the SCIM Report but rather one that is wholly contrary as it is founded on a contrary premise. What it claims to be "reality" is in fact based on abstractions. This essay argues that the SCIM Minority Reports, 2014 in particular, has confused what is concrete and what is abstract and thereby present a perspective that is not simply confused, but false. continue

Divine Providence and Human Agency

Article by   June 2014
Alexander S. Jensen, Divine Providence and Human Agency: Trinity, Creation and Freedom. Farnham, Surrey, Ashgate, 2014. 215 pp. $104.99/£57.99How would you go about developing the theme that is the title of this book? The typical reader of Reformation 21 would... continue

Is the Insider Movement Really That Bad?

Article by   June 2014
As I prepare to serve as a commissioner to the 2014 PCA General Assembly, I have been refreshing myself on the Insider Movement/s (IM) debate. I began with the study committee's report, a powerful case against IM that David Garner has ably defended. However, although I had read some pro-IM material in the past, I decided to read for myself what some consider the most attractive and compelling work, Carl Medearis's Muslims, Christians and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships (Bethany House, 2008). continue

Tolle Lege: A Brief Response to Paul Helm

Article by   June 2014
I have decided, with some reluctance, to respond to Paul Helm's recent critique of God With Us. The reasons for my minor reluctance are two. First, I consider Paul a friend. I have learned much from him and, for example, wanted to make sure our students here at Westminster were exposed to his teaching, so was pleased to invite him to teach a doctoral course here a few years ago. I do suspect, however, that his antipathy to Van Til is some of what motivates his comments below. These disagreements, I trust, remain disagreements among friends -- at least I would hope they do. continue

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