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.
So far in our study of chapter 13 in the 1689 London Baptist Confession, we have seen how sanctification is properly both decisive at conversion and ongoing throughout life. Simply put, the Christian is holy, and is being made holy. In the second paragraph of the chapter, the Confession asserts that this sanctification extends to every part of the person:
Israel was envious. The nations around them had flesh-and-blood kings, while their ruler was only the eternal spirit-without-a-body Creator of the universe, Yahweh. The people obstinately demanded that God give them a king like all the other nations—and God, in a display of His immense patience, condescended to hear them. But He also warned them that their king would be intolerable and oppressive, waging war and levying heavy taxes on the people. And to all this the people simply said again, “We want a king.”
"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.
Carl and Todd are, for the first time in quite a while, recording their podcast face-to-face within the Alliance compound. Careful to remain socially distanced—not because of COVID, but to prevent any regrettable chance of human contact whatsoever—the pair welcomes Dr. Neil Shenvi to the mix. He’s a former Yale and Duke University researcher turned homeschooling father with a passion for Christian apologetics.
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.
Is it possible to undervalue Christ’s sufferings by overemphasizing the cross?
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:
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).