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).
When you set up your shepherding plan you could not have imagined that your entire congregation would be hunkered-down attempting to stay clear of Covid-19.
These are times in which the flock needs to hear from their shepherds for comfort and assurance. I have urged our elders to put a priority on reaching out to their sheep, especially to those who are especially vulnerable.
I recently received this encouraging email from my friend Ken Jones, Shepherding Pastor at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama:
Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization (P&R, 2022), 240 pages, Paperback, $24.99.
Psalm 147:7 commands, “Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving…” for providing us everything as individuals, the church, and a country. Verse 20 speaks of gratitude for God’s special care of Israel as a nation. Though not a Theocracy, yet we His people should appreciate our nation’s history and official call upon its citizens to acknowledge God’s providential care over us as a people.
In the year 1789, U.S. President George Washington said the following during his National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation:
A pastor in our area once told me that the median age of his church was somewhere in the mid-20’s, and that he had no one over the age of 50. Many would have been impressed by such a fact. However, I was a bit sad to hear it—mainly because my friend was missing out on the incredible blessing of elderly saints. Sure, there are always a few that are cantankerous and surly—as with any other age group—but, on the whole, I am overwhelmingly and especially thankful for this group of congregants.
"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.
Alisa Childers knows the difference between “live the truth” and “live your truth.” In her new book, the former ZOEgirl singer/songwriter explains how modern lies disguised as truth in today’s culture have taken hold in many churches. Does Scripture call Christians to “follow their hearts” and “make their dreams a reality?” Alisa points the way to freedom and relief from popular deceptions that can leave us anxious, exhausted, and self-obsessed.
One of our guests encourages parents listening in to enforce a “PG-13” content label on today’s show, but—remembering some disturbing stories Todd has shared on the podcast—we confidently move forward with today’s topic. On the table: a frank discussion of the ongoing fallout from the Revoice conference and other sexually-charged issues challenging the Church.
“Follow your heart.” We hear this time and again, the world’s mantra to find assurance in emotion and intuition. Yet this is hardly a consolation for the Christian who knows that the heart is ever-fickle and oft-misleading. When the weight of sin overwhelms, or when doubts arise, or when fears assail, what comfort is there to be had? When weary saints distrust their salvation, where can they look for assurance, rest, and peace?
As Thanksgiving approaches, we Christians, above all others, ought to be marked by a spirit of joy and thankfulness. The reason is simple: We have received innumerable blessings from the hand of our God and Father. In fact, the key to cultivating genuine gratitude in the Christian life is to appreciate this filial relationship that we enjoy with God as Father.
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).