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.
Spoiler alert: If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk, a straw, a broom, crayons, and eventually another cookie. The lesson of the story is simply that actions have consequences, which then lead to new circumstances demanding new actions. Every effect becomes itself a cause. This is a helpful way to teach your four-year-old to think before prying up mystery gunk off the sidewalk. It’s also a useful primer on logic for the rest of us.
Iain Murray describes biblical revival as consisting of “…a larger giving of God’s Spirit for the making known of Christ’s glory… a sense of God… not only in conviction of sin but equally in the bewildered amazement of Christians at the consciousness of the Lord who is in their midst" (Revival & Revivalism, p. 30). Revival is not a constant reality in church history or in the life of any specific congregation.
"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.
After a few moments of whining about their generous Alliance salaries, our pouty podcasters welcome a return guest—a "repeat offender," as Carl sees it—to the Spin. In the second installment from his series Suffering and the Christian Life, Mark Talbot encourages readers to place their suffering within the arc of the entire biblical story. In doing so, we better understand our suffering and can take courage and find comfort in God as we walk through it.
Reaction from both sides of the debate to the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade has been swift and predictable. So, what exactly happened that Friday in June? Did the Supremes actually vote to make abortion illegal? And where do we go from here?
Satan is the great enemy of our souls. When he realizes that he cannot stop God’s saving a person, he does all that he can to trouble and vex that soul. Recognizing this, the Puritans spent a great portion of their sermon ministering to wounded souls in their congregation. For example, consider these words from Christopher Love:
I once spent a cracking day at the Evangelical Library in London, attending a "Reading John Owen" conference. Those lectures (including Nigel Graham's exceptional popular introduction to the life of Owen) left me hungry to do more reading and re-reading of John Owen. I was reminded, by my own efforts and those of others, why I do and may and must enjoy the privilege of reading such profound theology.
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).