“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).
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.
Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was born in Somerset England in 1620 and was baptized on March 31 of that same year. J.C. Ryle, writing a brief memoir of Manton (found in volume 2 of Manton’s Works) noted that Manton was “a man who could neither say, nor do, nor write anything without being observed.” Observation is a very good thing. Children learn by observation. Observation draws us closer into understanding our world, our vocations, and even ourselves. (Thus, Paul often calls upon the churches to follow and imitate him: Philippians 3:17; 4:9; 2 Timothy 1:13.)
“There is a great deal of comfort in skepticism,” writes Gordon H. Clark. “If truth is impossible of attainment, then one need not suffer the pains of searching for it… Skepticism dispenses with all effort… Skepticism is the position that nothing can be demonstrated.”
Three events this week have given me pause both for thought, nostalgia, and hope. The first was the arrival of an email on Thursday containing the memoir manuscript of a well-known Welsh Baptist pastor who served only one congregation in his ministry, and that for over fifty years. He asked me to read it with a view to offering a commendation, though he couched the request with comments about how busy I must be, and how many more important books I no doubt have to read. Read it with a view to commendation?
"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).
Several months ago the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus provoked the ire of many with their controversial song, “We’ll Convert Your Children.”
“You think that we’ll corrupt your kids,
if our agenda goes unchecked.
Funny, just this once, you’re correct.”
The song continues,
“We’ll convert your children.
Happens bit by bit.
Quietly and subtly.
And you will barely notice it…
We’ll convert your children.
We’ll make them tolerant and fair…
Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing Doubt in the Church. Edited by Ivan Mesa. The Gospel Coalition, 2021. 139 pp. Paperback. $16.99
Dane C. Ortlund. Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners. Crossway, 2021. 192 pages, hardback. $21.99.
Dane C. Ortlund is the author of the widely-acclaimed book Gentle & Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners & Sufferers (Crossway, 2020), which has won awards, drawn the ire of certain readers, and was given away for free to every church who wanted it.
Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington
“And what if you save (under God) but one soul?”
This question, addressed to a still hesitant John Wesley, is a good summary of the life goal and drive of Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon.
Selina’s Early Life
Pablo Besson - For the Gospel and Religious Freedom
When Pablo (then Paul) Besson received a request from Mathieu Floris, a Belgian emigrant to Argentina, to help him find an evangelist to spread the gospel in that country, he did his best to promote the cause. When no one answered, he understood that the call was for him.
From an Inherited Religion to an Understanding of the Gospel
Guns in Church
When I was a pastor, ten years ago, I learned that a married couple, both FBI agents, joined my church. We already had two police officers in attendance, but I welcomed the news in a day when church shootings, like school shootings, were in the news. "It makes me feel safer," one person noted, even if she didn't know how rare church shootings really are (See: StatisticsImadeupbutmustbetrue.com):
Chance of being wounded by a bullet, in a church: 1 in 100 million
As we pass Labor Day and settle into the fall, I want to label a few of the most influential ideas about work in Western thought and invite you, my reader, to see which thoughts might be informing you and supplanting more biblical ideas about work. Without further ado
Most Greeks thought work was a curse. They especially despised manual labor. Leaders tried to foist it on servants or slaves, so they would have time for philosophy and friendship. To this day, many follow the Greeks in thinking of work as an evil to avoid, if possible.
The much-loved hymn, ‘I greet thee who my sure Redeemer art’ – included in the Strasbourg Psalter of 1545 and attributed to John Calvin – contains the lines,
Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou, and no bitterness
These words have often drawn comment, or been quoted because they point to a divine attribute we can easily overlook.
How little we appreciate the privilege and blessing of prayer. That we, sinful mortals as we are, should have access to God beggars belief. That he should even consider us, let alone countenance our requests is astounding. Yet he calls us to pray, he has opened the way of access in Christ for us to approach him in prayer. He has even given us his Holy Spirit to enable us to pray, stirring the desire and giving us words. Jesus even gives us a model prayer that helps us shape the kind of prayers we know God delights to hear.
Learning about the battle between popes and civil authorities in medieval Europe feels a bit like an episode of Oprah’s show: “You get excommunicated; you get excommunicated; everyone gets excommunicated.” Of course it famously culminated in Henry VIII finally not going along with the program and breaking away from the Roman Church after Luther had already published the blueprint. During that period of history, excommunication was a weapon used by the pope to force his political will on the world: do what I tell you or face an eternity in hell.
This Church Discipline series focused on guiding members in need of repentance by formal levels of rebuke. But the hopeful prayer of elders at each point of censure along the way is that it need never go further, especially not to the final act of excommunication.
What Hath Athens to Do With Jerusalem?