“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” (In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas). That statement has often been attributed to St. Augustine who almost certainly did not say it. It seems to have its origins in the 17th century either from Roman Catholic or moderate Lutherans in Germany. Whatever the case, the saying stuck. It has found its way into the common vernacular of many churches and denominations. I once served in a non-denominational church where it was repeated copiously.
The 48th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was held in St. Louis last week (June 29-July 1) and so far, the dust has not yet settled. Having missed a year because of the COVID crisis many of us were eager to address issues which had been causing controversy in our denomination since the first Revoice conference in the summer of 2018 (hosted by Memorial PCA in St. Louis).
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).
Following Elijah’s stunning victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, he turns his attention to drought that continued to linger over the land. Back in 1 Kings 17, Elijah had announced a drought on the land because of the apostasy of the people. They had backed into Baalism and paganism. And their failure to remain faithful to the Lord carried the judgment of God removing his word from the people, signified by the lack of rain or dew. This was also a polemic against Baal, the storm god. The Baal cycle would be broken and the LORD would show himself to be God.
"With which person in the Bible do you most identify?" This is a question I have often asked others in the church over the years. Most of us lack even enough self-awareness to able to answer the question. Others among us have a propensity to appeal to the best characters in Scripture.
Despite the inestimable success of his most recent book, Carl finds himself “cancelled” by a school where he was to deliver a speech. It’s an outcome that raises Dr. Trueman to an even higher level of recognition; he’s now almost as important as Ryan T. Anderson, who was famously cancelled by Amazon!
Carl publicly concedes that he’s no match for our special guest’s husband after losing their “mustard-colored trouser” Facebook contest a few years ago. That guest is Catherine Stewart, and she’s the editor of Surviving the Fishbowl: Letters to Pastor’s Kids. Catherine reveals what motivated her to lead the project, assembling an exceptional host of contributors.
The last few years have seen a significant – and most welcome – revival of interest in the Christian doctrine of God among Reformed and evangelical writers. Scholars working in patristic, medieval, and Reformation periods have enriched our knowledge of the creedal and confessional heritage of the church; and, as our knowledge of what the creeds and confessions meant has deepened, many of us have become acutely aware of the (unintentionally) heterodox and even heretical nature of many of our own previous beliefs on these matters.
Gerald Bray, The Attributes of God: An Introduction (Crossway, 2021), 160 pp., Paperback, $15.99.
Orientation to the Book
Occasionally in this blog I am going to address things that bug me. Here is the first one: church planters are shepherds, too!
It is the first in this category that I write about not because it is the thing that bugs me most but because it came to mind first. What bugs me is that I have heard folks make a somewhat hard distinction between pastors and church planters. Even putting it this way is a false dichotomy. To clarify, folks who talk this way are talking about pastors of established churches in contrast to church planters who are called to start churches.
I recently had the opportunity to consult with elders who are striving to develop a shepherding ministry though they are in the search for a new senior minister. Some might think that they should wait until the new pastor arrives. Don’t wait! This is exactly the right time to begin a shepherding ministry. In fact, there is no better time to initiate regular contact with the sheep than when members might be concerned about the continuity of care without a pastor in place. You will probably preclude some of the straying away that happens whenever a pastor leaves a church.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon and His Struggle with Depression
Charles Spurgeon is known as one of the greatest preachers in history. Not everyone knows about his ongoing battle with depression. Even fewer people know about his advocacy for people who lived with the same – or a similar - condition.
Fabiola and Her Radical Charity
On a Saturday before Easter, most likely in AD 393, Fabiola stood outside the full church of Saint John Lateran in Rome. She was dressed in sackcloth, with her hair disheveled, her unwashed cheeks streaming with tears.
“Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b).
Back in 1959 a short book appeared under the title The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. It was the fictional account of a troubled teenager who took up running to deal with his inner troubles and it was later turned into a movie under the same title. I have often wondered if there might be mileage for book for those in ministry under a similar title: The Loneliness of a lifetime Pastor. There are many aspects of a pastor’s calling that he and he alone must carry. Issues he has to face that few other people can grasp or enter into.
Church was never intended to be the spiritual equivalent of a spectator sport. Yet, somehow, this is how it has come to be treated, not only by many Christians; but by their pastors as well. Those who serve as ministers of Christ can easily approach their calling as though it is their job to please their people. While those who are under their care can hear them in such a way as to think it is indeed their job to do just that. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that congregations expand and shrink on the basis of perceived performance ratings.
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We have everyday encounters with rejection in job searches, auditions, and relationships, and yet it never seems to get any easier. Rejection undercuts our deep desire to belong, and too often we settle for the shallow approval of the world rather than the eternal embrace of the Father. Our culture peddles self-love and inclusion, but it’s standard of acceptance is a moving target. It waxes and wanes based on what we have to offer, and how well we conform to their ideals. Despite our misplaced desire for approval, God's response to us is counterintuitive to what we might expect.
To understand anger and its peaceful Biblical therapies, we make use of the Puritan John Downame’s book, The Cure of Unjust Anger. Downame focuses on Ephesians 4:26 to frame his discussion: Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
Evangelism Around the World
Jonathan and James have the privilege of speaking with Anthony Curto, professor of Missions and Apologetics at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Anthony also has extensive experience serving as a pastor, church planter, and missionary worldwide, all of which qualifies him as the ideal guest for today’s conversation.