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:
Gary L. Steward, Justifying Revolution: The American Clergy’s Argument for Political Resistance, 1750-1776(New York, NY; Oxford University Press, 2021), 232 pages, Hardcover. $74
More Than a Battle: How to Experience Victory, Freedom, and Healing from Lust. By Joe Rigney. B&H Publishing, 2021. 224 pages, paper, $17.99.
Joe Rigney has written an excellent book for men who are dealing with the sin of pornography in their own lives or in the lives of other men. The book has several distinguishing features:
Is it possible to “get saved” without getting sanctified? The 1689 Confession, in accordance with the Bible, answers with a resounding “No!” Sanctification is not an optional extra for Christians; it is an essential part of the salvation God gives to all who are in union with his Son. Every Christian is sanctified.
When does this sanctification start? Consider again the opening clause of the LBCF 13.1:
James W. Alexander lived a fascinating life. Like his father, the Rev. Archibald Alexander, James Alexander served as an American Presbyterian pastor and professor. Unlike his father, Alexander also authored a number of hymns and translated others (including “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”). He even served as the president of a private social club for intellectuals.
"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.
Having established that Carl has neither the hair nor the physique to hang with Snooki and company at the Jersey Shore, our curmudgeonly cohosts welcome the much better-behaved Chad and Emily Van Dixhoorn into the mix. The pair met at seminary, married, and—five children later—offer sound advice for couples desiring to build a Gospel-Shaped Marriage.
Iceman and Maverick (aka J.V. Fesko and Craig Carter) are feeling the need…the need for creeds. Though neither will claim the title of “top gun,” both will speak of the necessity of creeds in the life of the Church as they headline the 2022 Prince George’s Conference on Reformed Theology in September. In addition, Iceman—uh, Fesko—has penned an exceptional book on the subject, which provides the foundation for today’s conversation.
In his classic work, The Doctrine of Repentance, the great Puritan Thomas Watson lists six ingredients necessary for true repentance:
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).