While civil disobedience may sometimes be acceptable in the socio-political sphere, ecclesial disobedience (especially on the part of church officers) is only justified in the most extreme cases. If defying or ignoring church law makes a sort of sense in congregationalism (where the majority/mob rules) or in an episcopal structure (where unjust and arbitrary rule may easily flourish), it makes no sense in a well-ordered, biblically-faithful presbyterian church.
Presbyterianism is pretty simple. As the name suggests, presbyters (elders) are essential to the church. Congregations elect qualified men to ensure that the means of grace (word, prayer, and sacraments) and discipline are maintained. These men—one or more of whom is an elder qualified and approved to preach—constitute the local session, and are accountable to higher courts that have the oversight of larger geographical areas (regional presbyteries and synods or general assemblies).
Crossway’s newly published Volume 7 of Owen’s Complete Works is made up of two treatises: The Reason of Faith (p.71-208) and The Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God (p. 209-349). It features an excellent Editor’s Introduction, situating John Owen and this particular volume in their historical context. The introduction by itself is already an invaluable help for students of Owen and of the Puritan tradition.
The Scandal of Undisciplined Disciples: Making Church Discipline Edifying. James Durham. Reformation Heritage Books, 2022. 165 pp. Softcover. $14.
The dying words of Rev. James Durham (1622-1658) was his major writing on the vital need for proper ecclesiastical disciplinary procedures in, A Treatise concerning Scandal. Its original 1658 title? The dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland.
It seems like everywhere you turn there are discussions being had about bad pastors. Indeed, multiplied books, podcasts, articles, and documentaries airing on such streaming services as Netflix and Hulu seem to pop up every week or so. And, of course, there are bad pastors, and they should be refused the responsibility of leadership among God’s beloved flock. But has the focus on bad pastors been overdone? Has the proliferation of what some people have dubbed “scandal porn,” produced a skewed vision of reality?
Church plants and revitalization is a unique and difficult ministry. Unlike many ministers who serve in an established ministry context, church planters and revitalizers often encounter situations and problems that is distinctive to their contexts. Problems such as facing financial difficulty with the ministry, being introduced to the underlying tensions inside the church, or handling the impermanent location of worship, many unique problems can easily put burdens and stress on ministers of church planting and revitalizing context.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (Jam. 1:27).
Note: The following is adapted from a letter sent in response to a gracious correspondent who was concerned about Dr. Trueman’s representation of the words of Rev. Greg Johnson. It is published here rather than First Things due to the intramural nature of the matter involved.
Carl and Todd sit down with long-time friend and Theology on the Go podcast host, Jonathan Master, to discuss his latest book, Reformed Theology. In this practical book, Jonathan provides a helpful primer for church leaders, study groups, and anyone who wants a well-rounded and concise overview of Reformed theology. Now what was it that Carl said that had Jonathan so concerned? Tune in and find out.
Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck sparked a theological tradition in the Netherlands that came to be known as Neo-Calvinism. While studies in neo-Calvinism have focused primarily on its political and philosophical insights, its theology has received less attention. Carl and Todd welcome Cory Brock and Gray Sutanto to discuss their new book, by the same name as this podcast, which provides a thoroughly theological introduction to neo-Calvinism, which many consider much needed.
Calvin's sensitivity to the different circumstances in which people live lead him to flip-flop, or at least to be somewhat ambivalent in his attitude to the magistrate. Citing the case of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27), Scripture requires obedience to bad kings, and even to pray for the well being of the country of exile (Jer.29). No doubt Calvin has his own city of exile, Geneva, in mind. But should not rulers, who also have responsibilities, be kept on track? Yes, but not by ourselves, but by Almighty God. This leads to discussion of the vexed question of civil disobedience.
No doubt having the Anabaptists in mind, and having already defended the right to litigate, Calvin proceeds to defend the entire judicial process. He discourages using the law for the taking of revenge, but upholds the use of due process, 'through which God may work for our good'. (It is interesting that in his teaching Calvin primarily seems to have mind not Geneva, which by this time in his career he believed was governed along right lines, but countries where the law may remain hostile to evangelical Christianity).