Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Queen's Christmas Message 2010

All was well until about 3:18 minutes into it. The first section was on the great King James Bible as a force of education, learning, lanugage and God's message. Then, we get a lecture about sports?

Most surreal and an huge disconnect!?!?! Unbelievably, well...unbelievably empty. Almost cartoonishly stupid.

Yes Prime Minister - on Religion

Yes Prime Minister on Church of England

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Differences between Baptists and Reformed Theology

Salutary articles by Dr. Clark on the differences between the Reformed and the Baptist-AnaBaptist world.

Quitting the Church

A very important note by Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster. We would recommend any bloggers to connect and follow this blog regularly---a trusted outpost.

Westminster Seminary California

Quitting Church

Michael S. Horton
Some interesting things have happened over the last 18 months to justify my sense that contemporary evangelicalism is literally unchurching the churched. Admittedly, it's an odd conclusion, but it is supported by a number of developments. Not only has there been a decline in the percentage of professions of faith in American churches during the megachurch era; numerous studies over the last few years have documented a massive decline in the knowledge of even the basics of Christian faith and practice among professing believers.

However, I never thought I would see the day when high-profile pastors and church leaders would justify this unfaithfulness. In 2007, the Willow Creek Association published its findings that the most highly committed Christians at Willow Creek Community Church (in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington) were most dissatisfied with their own personal growth and the ministry of their church. Expressing their concern for deeper instruction and richer worship, these respondents were the most likely to be ready to leave Willow Creek. The obvious conclusion drawn by the church's leadership was that the church becomes less important for personal growth as believers mature and they should be taught to become "self-feeders." Believers grow out of their dependence on the church's ministry the same way children outgrow their parents' supervision, the leadership concluded. Over this same period, church marketing expert George Barna wrote two books urging that we move beyond the organized church altogether and find our "spiritual resources" elsewhere, particularly through Internet "communities." He offered statistics to back up his triumphalistic claim that this is already happening. People need spiritual coaches, he insisted, but not the church.

In the summer of 2008, Baker released a book titled Quitting Church, by Washington Times journalist Julia Duin, pointing to a growing exodus from evangelical churches, just as many of their parents had left mainline Protestantism. According to Duin, the reasons many people gave for leaving include shallow preaching and teaching, trivial worship, and a lack of any real sense that it makes any difference.

Ironically, Willow Creek and Barna interpret the failure of churches as evidence of the need for the sheep to become their own shepherds, while Duin and numerous writers for secular newspapers recognize that this makes the church virtually irrelevant.

In my book, Christless Christianity, I argue that we are entering an era of zeal without knowledge, fervor without content, faith without an object, and a bland moralism that is always our default setting as sinners. No one has to teach us that we are basically good people who need a few good plans and maybe a good coach to help us save ourselves and our world. No one has to catechize us in self-centered spirituality. On the contrary, we have to be taught out of this natural religion by the Word and sacraments that Christ has ordained.

I do not expect schools like Westminster Seminary California—or the churches they serve—to thrive under these conditions. However, we do have Christ's promise that he will build his church, through his means, with his enduring presence to the end of the age. At a time when many seminaries are capitulating to the market forces and trading crucial tools of biblical exegesis for courses in appealing to niche demographics, it is more important than ever that those who demand fidelity to Scripture support institutions committed to training future pastors, missionaries, teachers, and evangelists for the future. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" and followed his disciple's affirmative answer with the command, "Feed my sheep." Sheep are not self-feeders, although many are having to find sustenance here and there wherever they can outside of the ordinary ministry of the church. Shepherds need first to be fed themselves and to be given the resources to find lush pastures for their flock. If we want more faithful shepherds, we need to be more willing than ever to contribute to their training—and the schools that train them—for a lifetime of ministry.

Propers for John Wycliffe - Translator, Theologian and Preacher

Propers for John Wycliffe - Translator, Theologian and Preacher

The Collect.

O Lord, thou God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give thee thanks for thy servant John Wycliffe, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we beseech thee that thy Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to thy righteous will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1588: Thank God

1588: Thank God.

Thank God for Elizabeth 1's repulse of the Spaniards in the English Channel, 1588. Otherwise, England might be full of Spaniards, Spanish prayer books, bishops, Tridentine and anti-Christ theologies, and we might be doing tours on Romanist prayer beads for devotions.

As a result, we gained an English Prayer Book and Bible in the West.

Thank God for 1588. Thank God for Elizabeth the First and England's pro-Protestant, Reformed and Anglican victory over Papist-satellite states like Spain.

As a result of 1588, the West was never the same.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Handel's Messiah - 'But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming'

One thought. How may Rowan in Canterbury deal with this question? How shall he stand when "He appeareth?"


Handel's Messiah - 'He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd'

Better than every sermon heard this day--and I tour the nets. HM keeps His elect, as He has promised.

Opera Company of Philadelphia "Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture

This is better than all the preaching throughout the world tonight, including the Vatican (whom we monitored). This is Protestant and Reformed joy at the efficacy, majesty, and glory of our Saviour's final and efficient atonement at Calvary! We, unlike the Papists and Pentecostalists (justification by loudness), have sound reason for prostrate praise! Semper Fi, Catholic Christians of the Protestant Reformation!

Is this not grand?


A salute to fellow Vets and those Sailors at home, at sea, in port, submerged, aloft or afar. Semper Fi on Christmas Eve.


A salute to Marines, afar, afloat, aloft, or ashore at home. Semper Fi this Christmas Eve.

Westminster Seminary California

Westminster Seminary California

Machen once observed, "Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces first, a gracious act of God" (from Christianity and Liberalism, 47). The simple truth is either we save ourselves or God saves us.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 11, Speaks Tomorrow on BBC

Christmas Day

3 pm BST: Queen's Christmas Broadcast – BBC Radio 4 and BBC 1 Television [UK only]

6 pm BST Carols for Christmas Day: From Winchester Cathedral – BBC 2 Television [UK only]

Advent 2010: A Word from the Vatican and Roman Archbishop in England

23 Dec 2010: "An Unforgettable Journey"

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Britain shares reflections on the long term impact of Pope Benedict's visit to Britain last September and outlines challenges facing the Church over the coming year.

BBC - King James Bible: The Story of the King James Bible

BBC - BBC Radio 4 Programmes - King James Bible: The Story of the King James Bible

The Story of the King James Bible.

James Naughtie tells the story of the King James Bible and its literary legacy.

1/3. James Naughtie tells the story of how King James commissioned a new Bible translation. 3 Jan 2011 0900 and 2130, UK time. Or, 0400 and 1730, EST.

2/3. James Naughtie on how a committee of Bible translators produced a "national epic." 4 Jan 2011 0900 and 2130, UK time. Or, 0400 and 1730, EST.

3/3. James Naughtie on the enduring place of the King James Bible in British culture. 5 Jan 2011 0900 and 2130, UK time. Or, 0400 and 1730, EST.

Story of the Venerable Bede: Durham Cathedral

"My chief delight has been to teach and to study."

How did Bede, an obscure English monk from the 8th century, help shape Christianity?
To the left, Bede's tomb at Durham's Cathedral.

Also, see:

"Bede the Venerable, Saint." Britannica Biographies (October 2010): 1. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 24, 2010).

Bede also spelled Baeda or Beda (born 672/673, traditionally Monkton in Jarrow, Northumbria—died May 25, 735, Jarrow; canonized 1899; feast day May 25) Anglo-Saxon theologian, historian, and chronologist, best known today for his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (“Ecclesiastical History of the English People”), a source vital to the history of the conversion to Christianity of the Anglo-Saxon tribes. During his lifetime and throughout the Middle Ages Bede's reputation was based mainly on his scriptural commentaries, copies of which found their way to many of the monastic libraries of western Europe. His method of dating events from the time of the incarnation, or Christ's birth—i.e., &AD;—came into general use through the popularity of the Historia ecclesiastica and the two works on chronology. Bede's influence was perpetuated at home through the school founded at York by his pupil Archbishop Egbert of York and was transmitted to the Continent by Alcuin, who studied there before becoming master of Charlemagne's palace school at Aachen.

Nothing is known of Bede's parentage. At the age of seven he was taken to the Monastery of St. Peter, founded at Wearmouth (near Sunderland, Durham) by Abbot St. Benedict Biscop, to whose care he was entrusted. By 685 he was moved to Biscop's newer Monastery of St. Paul at Jarrow. Bede was ordained deacon when 19 years old and priest when 30. Apart from visits to Lindisfarne and York, he seems never to have left Wearmouth–Jarrow. Buried at Jarrow, his remains were removed to Durham and are now entombed in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral.

Bede's works fall into three groups: grammatical and “scientific,” scriptural commentary, and historical and biographical. His earliest works include treatises on spelling, hymns, figures of speech, verse, and epigrams. His first treatise on chronology, De temporibus (“On Times”), with a brief chronicle attached, was written in 703. In 725 he completed a greatly amplified version, De temporum ratione (“On the Reckoning of Time”), with a much longer chronicle. Both these books were mainly concerned with the reckoning of Easter. His earliest biblical commentary was probably that on the Revelation to John (703?–709); in this and many similar works, his aim was to transmit and explain relevant passages from the Fathers of the Church. Although his interpretations were mainly allegorical, treating much of the biblical text as symbolic of deeper meanings, he used some critical judgment and attempted to rationalize discrepancies. Among his most notable are his verse (705–716) and prose (before 721) lives of St. Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne. These works are uncritical and abound with accounts of miracles; a more exclusively historical work is Historia abbatum (c. 725; “Lives of the Abbots”).

In 731/732 Bede completed his Historia ecclesiastica. Divided into five books, it recorded events in Britain from the raids by Julius Caesar (55–54 &BC;) to the arrival in Kent (&AD; 597) of St. Augustine. For his sources he claimed the authority of ancient letters, the “traditions of our forefathers,” and his own knowledge of contemporary events. Bede's Historia ecclesiastica leaves gaps tantalizing to secular historians. Although overloaded with the miraculous, it is the work of a scholar anxious to assess the accuracy of his sources and to record only what he regarded as trustworthy evidence. It remains an indispensable source for some of the facts and much of the feel of early Anglo-Saxon history.

Choral Evensong, 22 Dec 2010, from Chester "Protestant and Reformed" Cathedral

Choral Evensong, 22 Dec 2010, from Chester "Protestant and Reformed" Cathedral.

The adjectives, "Protestant and Reformed" rightly, historically and legally apply, given the Coronation Oath of 1701, averred by Her Majesty in 1953.

Bible Films Blog

Bible Films Blog

Appears to be an excellent resource. We will know more as we follow Matt.

Turretin on the Celebration of Days « Johannes Weslianus

Turretin on the Celebration of Days

In this section (Institutes, 11.15.13–15), Francis Turretin sets forth a balanced view of the celebration of days in the church. He urges toleration for those who celebrate them and those who do not, provided they agree in rejecting the superstitious use of them and the idolatrous rites of the Papists. On the other side, he gives cautions concerning their use and explains how they can be used in a right and wrong way. He writes:

XIII. If some Reformed churches still observe some festivals (as the conception, nativity, passion and ascension of Christ), they differ widely from the papists because they dedicate these days to God alone and not to creatures. (2) No sanctity is attached to them, nor power and efficacy believed to be in them (as if they are much more holy than the remaining days). (3) They do not bind believers to a scrupulous and too strict abstinence on them from all servile work (as if in that abstinence there was any moral good or any part of religion placed and on the other hand it would be a great offense to do any work on those days). (4) The church is not bound by any necessity to the unchangeable observance of those days, but as they were instituted by human authority, so by the same they can be abolished and changed, if utility and the necessity of the church should demand it. “For everything is dissolved by the same causes by which it was produced,” the lawyers say. In one word, they are considered as human institutions. Superstition and the idea of necessity are absent.

XIV. If some days with certain churches are designated by the names of apostles or martyrs, it is not to be supposed that they were instituted for their worship or should be terminated on their honor, as the papists do. Hence Bellarmine asserts “that the honor of the festivals immediately and terminatively pertains to the saints” (De Cultu Sanctorum,” 3.16 Opera [1857], 2:555). Rather they are referred to the memory of the saints by whom Christ built up his church for our advantage (to the worship, however, and honor God alone, who conferred upon the apostles and martyrs whatever thing worthy of praise they possessed, did or underwent). They neither invoke nor burn incense t them, but to God alone, whom they invoke. They give thanks on account of the benefits redounding to us by their ministry and example. Hence we cannot approve the rigid judgment of those who charge such churches with idolatry (in which those days are still kept, the name of the saints being retained), since they agree with us in doctrine concerning the worship of God alone and detest the idolatry of the papists.

For more from Turretin and his sane comments about the liturgical calendar (unlike many "purist" Puritans):
Turretin on the Celebration of Days « Johannes Weslianus

Advent 23 Dec 2010: BBC Radio 4 Programmes - Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (King's College, Cambridge)

Live from King's College, Cambridge. 1000-1130, EST. 1500-1630, UK-time. Clearly, this scribe and wife need to move to Cambridge for worship, study, a quiet retirement, and recourse to the libraries on Reformation and Reformed Anglicanism. This reminds me of the great and truly Catholic, Protestant, Reformed, Holy, and Apostolic Church of England--pruned of Popedom, sacerdotalism, and other superstitions (in her better days...example of recent Curial imperialism at: Sorry, Rev. Joseph Ratzinger, Protestant and Reformed Anglicans have answered the imperious mail from the Office of the Holy Inquisition, now euphemistically renamed, the Office of Doctrine.)

Now, if we may think of better things than darkness, a prayer for our ecclesia mater.

Almighty and Everlasting God, restore, we beseech Thee, the Church of England, her ministers and ministries, that Thy glory, majesty, and Thy Gospel of the Cross and Reconciliation may once again shine. Grant, we pray, that the Church of England may again be Light-bearing heralds with orthodox faith and Confessional integrity and unity of voice and life. This we imperfectly present to Thy Sovereign and Holy Majesty through our one and only Advocate and Mediator, Christ Jesus, whom with Thee and the Holy Spirit, we worship as the one True and Living God, now and evermore, world without end, Amen.

The service booklet with music can be accessed at


BBC - BBC Radio 4 Programmes - Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

At 1400-1530, UK-time, this service will be re-broadcast on 25 Dec 2010. This will be found at BBC Radio 3 Programmes. This means 0800-0930, EST. That URL is:

Order of Service

Once in royal David's city (descant Cleobury)

Bidding Prayer read by the Dean

This is the truth sent from above (arr Vaughan Williams)

First lesson: Genesis 3, vv 8-19 read by a Chorister

Adam lay bounden (Ord)

A Virgin most pure (arr Cleobury)

Second lesson: Genesis 22 vv 15-18 read by a Choral Scholar

In dulci jubilo (arr de Pearsall)

If ye would hear the angels sing (Tranchell)

Third lesson: Isaiah 9 vv 2, 6-7 read by a Representative of the Cambridge Churches
Sussex Carol (arr Ledger)

God rest you merry, gentlemen (arr Willcocks)

Fourth lesson: Isaiah 11 vv 1-3a, 4a, 6-9 read by a Representative of the City of Cambridge

A tender shoot (Goldschmidt)

Det är en ros utsprungen (arr Sandström)

Fifth lesson: Luke 1 vv 26-35, 38 read by the Master over the Choristers

Hymne à la Vierge (Villette)

Sunny Bank (Hurford)

Sixth lesson: Luke 2 vv 1, 3-7 read by the Chaplain

Mariä Wiegenlied (Reger)

The holly and the ivy (arr Nixon)

Seventh lesson: Luke 2 vv 8-16 read by the Director of Music

While shepherds watched (descant Cleobury)

Illuminare, Jerusalem (Weir)

Eighth lesson: Matthew 2 vv 1-12 read by the Vice-Provost

Christmas Carol (Rautavaara - first performance, commissioned by King's College)

Ding! dong! merrily on high(arr Wilberg)

Ninth lesson: John 1 vv 1-14 read by the Provost

O come, all ye faithful (arr Cleobury)

Collect and Blessing

Hark! the herald angels sing (descant Willcocks)

Organ voluntaries:
In dulci jubilo BWV 729 (Bach)
Prelude & Fugue in B (Dupré) [broadcast on Radio 3 only]

Director of Music: Stephen Cleobury
Organ Scholar: Ben-San Lau
Producer: Simon Vivian.

1611--King James Bible and 400th Anniversary in England

"Have a guess who said this: "We are a Christian culture, we come from a Christian culture, and not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian." No, it's not former archbishop George Carey complaining again about Christianity being marginalised in modern Britain. In fact this is Richard Dawkins, lending his support to next year's 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Fans of the feisty atheist need not worry that their hero has gone soft. "It is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource," he added. I had a little chuckle at that one. Religion? Hijacking the Bible? Whatever next."

For more, see:
A fetish for the Bible | Giles Fraser | Comment is free | The Guardian

St. Andrew's Protestant, Reformed Anglican Cathedral, Sydney: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

Jesus' birth celebrated at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

CBC News - World - Catholic Church only true church, Vatican says

Standard Papist hubris, dis-seating Confessional Churchmen. Nothing new. Jean Cauvin forever put the military boot to Rome's exposed neck in Book IV, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Of course, Bishop Gregory the Great (Rome, c. 600) stated that if any Bishop claimed "universal supremacy," such a one was "an anti-Christ." ECT-dialogicians from the evangelical world need to get the real sense of it. This much, Joseph Ratzinger knows where the line in the sand (=cement with barricade) is drawn.
CBC News - World - Catholic Church only true church, Vatican says

The Vatican issued a document Tuesday restating its belief that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.

The 16-page document was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a doctrinal watchdog that Pope Benedict used to head.

Pope Benedict XVI was elected Pope in April 2005.

Formulated as five questions and answers, the document is titled "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church."

It says although Orthodox churches are true churches, they are defective because they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.

"It follows that these separated churches and communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation," it said.

The document adds that Protestant denominations — called Christian Communities born out of the Reformation — are not true churches, but ecclesial communities.

"These ecclesial communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood … cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense," it said.

The document is similar to one written in 2000 by the Pope — who was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time — that sparked an angry reaction from Protestant groups.

"I suspect there will be some reactions that are rather passionate," said Raphaela Schmid, director of the Becket Institute, a group that advocates religious freedom. "I hope they will not be angry because we all try to understand about each other."

The document is issued by Benedict's successor in doctrinal matters, Cardinal William Levada, and endorsed by the Pope, said Reuters.

The decree comes days after liberal Catholic and Jewish groups spoke out against the Pope's move to authorize the wider use of a traditional Latin mass.

The Tridentine mass includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews. Its use was restricted following the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.

Pope Benedict issued a decree last week authorizing its broader use in an effort to reconcile with followers of an ultratraditional excommunicated bishop.

The Jewish Anti-Defamation League in New York called it a "body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations."

Read more:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

CLC - I'm A Pentecostal

"I'm Pentecostal" (Anti-mindsville, USA: Tradition-hating, Mind-hating Pentecostal Publishers, no date). This contains the "Pentecostal Confession of Faith" to a tee. They should publish this. This contains their quintessential themes.

Time to "lock n' load." Hit the beaches and take these loons out. "Hit em' fast, hard and often." ADM Bull Halsey.

This is their Pentecostalist arrogance. Time to hit this arrogance HARD, FAST AND OFTEN. Tired of them, their illiteracy, their assumptions, their accusations, their impenitence, and the list goes on.

Vets protest plan opening military to homosexuals

Vets protest plan opening military to homosexuals

Creedal Christian: Barna Group Highlights Six Megathemes of American Church Life

The six megathemes noted below by Creedal Christian are significant and serious.

Creedal Christian: Barna Group Highlights Six Megathemes of American Church Life

Barna Group Highlights Six Megathemes of American Church Life

In an article published by The Barna Group on December 13, 2010 entitled "Six Megathemes Emerge from Barna Group Research in 2010," we get "a time-lapse portrayal of how the religious environment in the U.S. is morphing into something new." Here are the six megathemes which the article explores in greater detail:

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.

Here are a few snippets I found particularly noteworthy (and troubling):

"What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans--especially young adults. ... The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency."

"As young adults have children, the prospect of them seeking a Christian church is diminishing--especially given the absence of faith talk in their conversations with the people they most trust."

"Practical to a fault, Americans consider survival in the present to be much more significant than eternal security and spiritual possibilities. Because we continue to separate our spirituality from other dimensions of life through compartmentalization, a relatively superficial approach to faith has become a central means of optimizing our life experience."

"Our biblical illiteracy and lack of spiritual confidence has caused Americans to avoid making discerning choices for fear of being labeled judgmental. The result is a Church that has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies. This increased leniency is made possible by the very limited accountability that occurs within the body of Christ. There are fewer and fewer issues that Christians believe churches should be dogmatic about. The idea of love has been redefined to mean the absence of conflict and confrontation, as if there are no moral absolutes that are worth fighting for. That may not be surprising in a Church in which a minority believes there are moral absolutes dictated by the scriptures."

"American culture is driven by the snap judgments and decisions that people make amidst busy schedules and incomplete information. With little time or energy available for or devoted to research and reflection, it is people’s observations of the integration of a believer’s faith into how he/she responds to life’s opportunities and challenges that most substantially shape people’s impressions of and interest in Christianity."

Read it all.

I shared this article with one of my clergy colleagues who responded: "Barna has done us an enormous service. We simply have to improve our teaching or we won't have a church to lead."

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols | King's College, Cambridge

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols | King's College, Cambridge

URL's are available for distance-listening.

Advent 2010: Dr. Fowler White of Ligonier Academy

"Other than the Holy Spirit, they are the most pivotal players in the drama that we know as the Christmas story; they are the most pivotal players in the accounts God gave us about the birth of Jesus our Lord.

Matthew the Evangelist tells us that it was one of them who brought the announcement of the upcoming birth to Joseph. Luke the Evangelist tells us that it was one of them who brought the announcement of the upcoming birth to Mary. And Luke again tells us that it was a host of them who brought the birth announcement to shepherds."

A three-part series by Dr. Fowler White, formerly of D. James Kennedy's seminary in Ft. Lauderdale (Knox Seminary) and presently running R.C. Sproul's new academy, Ligonier Academy in Orlando, FLA.

For more from Dr. Fowler White, see:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Advent and Christmas Carols and Music: 2010

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

GAFCON Witness

Jerusalem Declaration eyewitness from on Vimeo.

2010 Christmas Message: Archbishop Phillip Jensen

2010 Christmas Message from on Vimeo.

Exploring Our Matrix: Online Dissertation on Paul's Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-9

An Arminian doctoral dissertation.

Exploring Our Matrix: Online Dissertation on Paul's Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-9

Online Dissertation on Paul's Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-9
Thanks to Matt Montonini for pointing out that Brian Abasciano's doctoral dissertation from the University of Aberdeen "Paul's Use of the OT in Romans 9.1-9" is available online. The book resulting from the dissertation was published by T&T Clark and apparently a less expensive edition is due out in 2011.

Stethoscope and Handel

You'll need to watch to and through the end.

The Principles of Theology - Article 5 by W.H.Griffith Thomas

The Principles of Theology - Article 5
by W.H.Griffith Thomas


Part 2. The Scripture Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit

1. This is clearly a Bible doctrine and cannot be derived from any other source. It is essentially a truth of revelation. Naturally the subject is not so prominent in the Old Testament as in the New, but it is referred to in about half of the thirty-nine books, and the idea of the Spirit in Genesis is regarded as quite familiar, just as it is in St. Matt. 1.

2. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament calls for attention, first of all, and it is noteworthy that the New Testament identifies the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of God in the Old Testament, thereby showing that there is no difference between them. Indeed, the New Testament conception of the Spirit is very largely only intelligible when read in the light of the teaching of the Old Testament. There are three main lines of teaching in the Old Testament in regard to the Holy Spirit: (a) the cosmical, or world-relation of the Spirit of God. The Spirit associated with creation and human life as a whole; (b) the redemptive relation of the Spirit. The connection of the Spirit with Israel; (c) The personal relation of the Spirit. This is concerned with the spiritual life of individuals. It is often asked whether there are indications of development in the Old Testament of the doctrine of the Spirit of God. In the earlier books the Spirit is certainly depicted as a Divine energy, but in the later there seems to be something like an approximation to the doctrine of the Spirit as a Personal Being (Isa. 48:16; 63:9, 10; Zech. 4:6). Perhaps, in general, the Spirit in the Old Testament is a Divine Agent rather than a distinct Personality. God is regarded as at work by His Spirit. One strong confirmation of the truth that the doctrine of the Spirit is a Bible doctrine is the fact that for all practical purposes the period of the Apocrypha from Malachi to Matthew contributed nothing to it. It is only when we come to New Testament times that we are enabled to see the real implications of the Old Testament in the fuller light and richer experience of the days of Christ.

3. The New Testament is very full of the subject of the Holy Spirit, and it is found in every book, except three short and personal ones. It emerges naturally and clearly from the revelation of Jesus Christ. When we look at it in the light of the New Testament we notice three main divisions:

(a) The character and teaching of Christ. In the Synoptic Gospels we have the Holy Spirit in relation to Christ Himself at each stage of His earthly manifestation. Then there is the teaching of Christ, the general idea being that of the Holy Spirit as a Divine power, promised to the disciples for the fulfilment of the Divine purpose of redemption. The Fourth Gospel is much fuller and more thoroughly developed, though it is particularly noteworthy that here, as in the Synoptic Gospels, there is a clear assumption of familiarity with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32 ff.). But there is a distinct development of teaching in the Fourth Gospel, where the Spirit is personal, and closely associated at all points with the redemption of Christ. Perhaps the most important feature in this Gospel is the use of the new term “Paraclete,” which is found in connection with the detailed teaching of chapters 14-16. The general idea of the Johannine teaching is that the departure of Christ was to issue in the gift of the Holy Spirit, as the special bestowal of the new covenant for the purpose of perpetuating Christ’s spiritual presence and effecting His redemptive work. Thus, the Holy Spirit would at once be a revelation of truth, a bestowal of life, and an equipment for service.

(b) From the Gospels it is natural to pass to the Acts of the Apostles as expressing the first thirty years of the Church’s life and work, and the prominence given there to the Holy Spirit is very remarkable. There are at least seventy references, and on this account the book has been well called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” This emphasis is really a testimony to the prominence of the Divine over the human element, and starting from the Day of Pentecost we see that the Spirit of God is at work, and, indeed, in supreme authority in every part of the early Church. His Person, His gifts, and His work are everywhere, and the book is dominated throughout by the Spirit, because the life of the Church was controlled by His Divine presence and power.

(c) The teaching of the Epistles will naturally follow, and in this St. Paul’s work is of the very first importance. A remarkable fullness is seen in his writings and the teaching touches every part of his message. The usual fourfold grouping of his Epistles reveals references to the Spirit in a variety of ways, and both in regard to the work and the nature of the Spirit St. Paul has very much to say. The Holy Spirit is closely related to God (Rom. 8:9); is regarded as possessing personal activities (Eph. 4:30); and is intimately bound up with Christ (Rom. 8:9). The activity of Christ as the Redeemer and Head of the Church is regarded as continued by the Holy Spirit, and yet with all this intimacy of association they are never absolutely identified. A careful study of St Paul’s teaching will support the view of a well-known writer that “the Apostle’s entire thinking stands under the influence of his estimate of the Spirit.”[3] Other parts of the New Testament are slight and insignificant in comparison with the writings of St. Paul and St. John.

4. The summary of the teaching of the Bible on the subject of the Holy Spirit suggests the following lines: (a) A close and essential relation of the Spirit to Christ; (b) The Holy Spirit as “the Executive of the Godhead” in and for the Christian Church; (c) the Deity of the Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14); (d) the Personality of the Spirit.

It will be seen from a study of the New Testament that the distinctions in the Godhead are always closely connected with Divine operations rather than with the Divine nature. While there is nothing approaching the metaphysical Trinity of later days, the association of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit with Divine operations is a clear implication of essential Deity. The fundamental conceptions are the same throughout the whole of the New Testament, and there is no development of the doctrine of the Spirit through Ebionism to Orthodoxy.

>> Part 3. The History Of The Doctrine

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Works of Augustus Montague Toplady, Vol. 5, through P.143

The Works of Augustus Montague Toplady, Vol. 5 at:

Total Depravity and Inability:

We must " Beware and take heed, that we do in no wife think in our hearts, imagine, or believe, that we are able to repent aright, or to turn effectually unto the Lord, by our own might and strength. For this must be verified in all men, Without me ye can do nothing. Again, Of ourselves we are not able as much as to think a good thought. And, in another place, It is God that worketh in us both the will and the deed. For this cause, though Hieremie had said before, Turn unto me, faith the Lord; yet afterwards he faith, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God. And therefore that ancient writer, and holy father, Ambrose, doth plainly affirm, that the turning of the heart unto God, is of God; as the Lord himself doth testify by his prophet, faying, And I will give thee an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they (hall return unto me with their whole heart." First homily on repentance, p. 330, 331. So far is the Church of England from making the grace of God strike to the free-will of his creatures!

" By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God, and not of works, lest any man should glory. And, to be short, the summary of all Paul's disputation is this: That if justice" [i.e. justification] "come of works, then it cometh not of grace; and, if it come of grace, then it cometh not of works. And to this end tend all the prophets, as St. Peter faith in the xth of the Acts. Of Christ all the prophets (faith St. Peter) do witness, that through his name, all they, that do believe in him, (hall receive the remission of fins. St. Hilary speaketh these words plainly, in the ixth Canon upOn Matthew, Faith only justifieth.' And St. Basil, a Greek author, writeth thus: "This is a perfect and whole rejoicing in God, when a man advanceth not himself for his own righteousness, but acknowledgeth himself to lack true justice....

Page 140, justification not by works, deeds, or evangelical obedience of faith and repentance.

" Man cannot make himself righteous by his own works, neither in part, nor in the whole. For that were the greatest arrogance and presumption of man, that Antichrist could set up against God, to affirm that a man might, by his own works, take away and purge his own sins, and so justify himself. But justification is the office of God only, and is not a thing which we render unto him, .but which we receive of him; not which we give to him, but which we take of him, by his free mercy, and by the only merits of his most dearly beloved Son, our only Redeemer, Saviour, and Justifier." Ibid. p. 15, 16.

" It is of the free grace and mercy of God, by the mediation of the blood of his Son Jesus Christ, without merit or deserving on our part, that our sins are forgiven us, that we are reconciled and brought again into his favour, and are made heirs of his heavenly kingdom." First homily on fasting, p. 165.

" To fast, with this persuasion of mind, that our fasting and cur good works, can make us perfect and just men - and, finally, bring us to heaven : this is^ a devilish persuasion." Ibid. p. 168.

"It" [namely, the parable of the pharisee and publican] is spoken to them that trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others. Now, because the pharisee directeth his works to an evil end, seeking by them justification, which indeed is the proper work of God, without our merits; his fasting twice in the week, and all his other works, though they were never so many, and seemed to the world never so good and holy, yet, in very deed, before God, they are altogether evil and abominable." Ibid. p. 169.

He must have piercing eyes indeed, who can discover anything in our homilies, from whence to infer the conditionally of justification. What Arminians call conditions, our Church calls gifts of God; and those graces, which are the gifts of his own free favour, can never be the conditions of obtaining it. "Two things," fays the Church, "are chiefly to be respected, in every good and godly man's prayer; his own necessity, and the glory of almighty God. Necessity belongeth either outwardly to the body, or inwardly to the soul; which part of man" [i. e. the soul], " because it is much more precious and excellent than the other, therefore we ought, first of all, to crave such things as properly belong to the salvation thereof: as the gift of repentance; the gift of faith ; the gift of charity and good works ; remission and forgiveness of fins, &c. and such other like fruits of the spirit." Third Homily on Prayer, p. 198.

Page 142, Justification by faith alone belongs to the Church of England.

Some Arminians, of more subtlety and refinement than the rest of their sect, acknowledge, indeed, that we are not justified by moral works and performances of our own, but by the To credere, or the act of believing : which faith itself, say they, is imputed to the believer, in lieu of that perfect righteousness which the law demands. This opinion is as totally unscriptural, and anti-scriptural, as the doctrine of justification by works. It is equally absurd in itself, and derogatory to the merits of Christ. I shall, however, in this place, content myself with proving, proving that this imaginary imputation of faith to righteousness, is not the doctrine of the Church of England. ," The true understanding of this doctrine, we be justified freely by faith without works, ,or that we be justified by faith in Christ only; is not, that this our own act, to believe in Christ, or this our faith in Christ, which is within us, doth justify us and deserve our justification unto us, (for that were to count ourselves to be justified by some act or virtue that is within ourselves).—So that, as St. John the Baptist, although he were never so virtuous and godly a man, yet, in this matter of forgiving fin, he did put the people from him, and appointed them unto Christ, saying thus unto them : Behold, yonder is the Lamb of God which taketh away the fins of the world; even-so, as great and as godly a virtue as faith is, yet it putteth us from itself, and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ, for to have only by him remission of our sins, or justification. So that our faith in Christ, (as it were; faith unto us thus : It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only, and to him only I fend you for that purpose ; forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts and works, and only putting your trust in Christ." Homily of salvation, part II. p.16.

A.M Toplady (Vol.5, 118-132), C of E, Calvinism, Arminianism, Justification, Total Depravity. All the stuff you will not hear, read, see or be exposed to at other Anglican centres of review and advertisement.

The Works of Augustus Montague Toplady, Vol. 5 at:

For pages 1-42 and comments, see:

For pages 43-82 and comments, see:

For pages 83-96 and comments, see:

Luther on the Devil

We might learn something here in our anti-metaphysical era. Food for thought in view of the Temptation of His Majesty, our Saviour, in the wilderness.

Grisar, Hartmann, Luther, Martin, 1483-1546 (London : K. Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1916), p.5.

"To add a new difficulty to the rest, Luther is quite certain of the overwhelming power of the devil. The devil sways all men in the world to such a degree, that, although we are `lords over the devil and death,' yet `at the same time we lie under his heel ... for the world and all that belongs to it must have the devil as its master, who is far stronger than we and he clings to us with all his might, for we are his guests and dwellers in a foreign hostelry.'"

With Luther, we might add this, to wit, "The Devil is a scum-bag with ears. A skull with lips. A steamy turd with legs. A knucklehead. An "universal blockhead," to quote a mentor, Dr. John H. Gerstner, PhD, Harvard. That wicked one has Roman theology, the Pope and the Vatican.

We shan't give the bonehead the pleasure of yielding on Protestant, Reformed, Calvinistic, Catholic, and Apostolic Christianity." We shan't yield to Tractators either. Sorry, B16. Sorry, Continuers.

Raise the toast to the Bonehead's final disposition. "Enjoy hell, you low-life Bonehead!"

Reformation Italy » Archive » “Protestant Fatigue” by D.G. Hart

Reformation Italy » Archive » “Protestant Fatigue” by D.G. Hart

Several years have passed since Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom co-authored, Is the Reformation Over? An Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism (2005) but their recognition of Rome’s growing appeal to evangelical Protestants is no less true today than it was when the book appeared. In 2007 the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, Francis Beckwith, a philosophy professor at Baylor University (a Baptist institution in Texas), converted to Rome partly because the Roman Catholic church had history on its side and also because Rome apparently explained biblical teaching on justification as well as if not better than Protestantism. According to Beckwith, “I thought it wise for me to err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians that followed Christ’s Apostles.” And part of the wisdom informing Beckwith’s decision, as Noll and Nystrom point out, is that Roman Catholicism takes more seriously the creeds, liturgy, and institutional church than born-again Protestants do.

The shift in Protestant attitudes to Roman Catholicism may seem remarkable. But going back to the first effort of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” a 1992 gathering of Protestants and Roman Catholics led by Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson to arrive a common areas of theology and practice, evangelical Protestants have been indicating that they are tired of fighting Rome. This is an echo of the old Tareyton cigarette ad, “I’d rather switch than fight.” For some Protestants, especially those no longer willing to put up with the bad taste and triviality of megachurches, seeker-sensitivity, or emergent experimentation, they would rather become Roman Catholic than remain part of a loose, fragmented, and sometimes irreverent branch of Christianity.

Noll and Nystrom do raise an interesting point. If evangelicalism is the logical outcome of Protestantism, does it make sense to remain Protestant? If born-again Protestants are as unreliable on justification and Scripture as many supposed Rome to be, why not join a communion where a believer can receive a more comprehensive and coherent account of Christianity?

The problem with this view obviously is that going from one set of problems to another batch is hardly a solution. For all of evangelicalism’s problems its weaknesses do not constitute a reason to be Roman Catholic. In fact, most of the reasons for being Protestant, those articulated in the sixteenth century at the time of the Reformation, are as much at stake today as they were when Martin Luther first objected to Roman Catholic teaching on purgatory. What is more, those reasons for not being Roman Catholic are also good excuses for not being evangelical. Noll and Nystrom are correct to observe that the differences between Rome and evangelicalism are increasingly insignificant. But Reformed Protestants, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Anabaptists all still have good reasons for not being under the oversight of the Bishop of Rome. Those reasons will be the subject of future posts. - Church Times 100 Years Ago - How Things Change - Church Times 100 Years Ago - How Things Change

Confessional Lutheran Sources

‎Thanks to Ken Howe for these Confessional Lutheran Resources, especially as a locus of inquiry in relation to the English Reformation. Ken is a brother predestined before the ages, elected by His Majesty's sovereign decree, justified by Christ's imputed merits alone, a recipient of the the sovereign and unilateral judgment of mercy, and a Lutheran brother in His Majesty's grace and service. We differ at some very significant points, but not very many. Updated 22 Dec 2010. This list will grow. We would like to develop this bibliography and produce a 20-30 page digest on Confessional Lutheran thought--after all, the Germans gave us Englishmen the Gospel again in the English Reformation. Lest we forget. Thanks, Ken.

Augsburg Confession--the definitive statement of Lutheran doctrine, showing that Lutherans teach the catholic faith.

Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession--Melanchthon's expansion of the Augsburg Confession, responding to criticisms that the Roman church had raised against the former document.

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009). 441 pages.

---The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959). 304 pages.

---Age of the Reformation (Krieger Publishing, 1983), 192 pages.

Concordia Triglotta--3-language edition of the Book of Concord (an English-only edition is available from CPH)

Chemnitz, Martin. Examination of the Council of Trent (Three Volumes)
---Loci Theologica
---The Lord's Supper

Elert, Werner. The Morphology of Lutheranism

Formula of Concord Epitome--the "executive summary" of the document that resolved fundamental issues within Lutheranism and responded to some Reformed contentions.

Formula of Concord Solid (or Thorough) Declaration--the full Formula of Concord. Absolute must-reads in it are the articles on free will and on the Lord's Supper.

Johann Gerhard, A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper

Grisar, Hartmann, Luther, Martin, 1483-1546 (London : K. Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1916). 616 pages.

Krauth, Charles Porterfield. The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians
--Small Catechism--a very simple presentation
--Large Catechism--still very much in laymen's terms, presents catechetical material in more detail
--Commentary on Romans

Marquart, Kurt. Anatomy of an Explosion

Oberman, Heiko. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. (New York: Image Books, 1992), 363 pages.

Paulk, Wilhelm, Ed. Melancthon and Bucer: Library of Christian Classics (Westminster John Knox Press, 1981). 432 pages.

Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics (Three Volumes). (St. Louis: Concordia Press).

Preus, Robert . The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism
--Justification and Rome
--A Contemporary Look at the Formula of Concord

Quenstedt, J.A. The Church

Sasse, Hermann. We Confess

Schaff, Philip. Creeds of Christendom.
---A History of the Christian Church, 1517-1530, Vol. 8 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 774 pages.

Edmund Schlink, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions

Spitz, Lewis W. and Kenan, William R., ed. The Protestant Reformation: Major Documents (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Press, 1997). Pages 36-76 (40 pages). Includes the Preface to the Book of Romans, Ninety-five Theses, Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality, Treatise on Christian Liberty, and Melancthon’s Funeral Oration over Luther.

Sheldon, Henry. History of the Christian Church, Vol.3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), pp. 45-119. (74 pages).

Smalcald Articles--a more forceful statement; Melanchthon had been polite in the Augsburg Confession. Luther, in the Smalcald Articles, wasn't so polite.

Raymond Surburg, Principles of Biblical Interpretation

Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope--the definitive piece on Lutheran ecclesiology

Walther, Carl F.W. Walther, Church and Ministry
---Law and Gospel

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Francis J. Hall’s Dogmatic Theology « Prydain

Francis J. Hall’s Dogmatic Theology « Prydain

An American Tractarian's Dogmatics.

Francis J. Hall’s Dogmatic Theology
Many of us are familiar with the works of Francis J. Hall, DD; he was a professor of dogmatic theology at the Episcopal Church’s General Theological Seminary in the early 20th century and (or so it seems to me) tended towards the Anglo-Catholic side of doctrine. He wrote a ten-volume Dogmatic Theology that is actually still being printed by the APCK’s American Church Union, but is in the public domain and hence Google Books has scanned them and made them available as PDF files.

While I am not in agreement with everything Dr. Hall wrote in his books, nevertheless I do have a great deal of respect for him as I think he represents perhaps the best of the American heirs of the Tractarians. Therefore, since I have now been able to locate and upload all of the ten volumes of his Dogmatic Theology to this blog, I am making them available on this page for public, noncommercial use as per Google’s usage guidelines. (Note: Volumes V (Creation and Man), VII (The Redemption and Exaltation of Christ) and VIII (The Church and the Sacramental System) have now been added.)

Volume I: Introduction

Volume II: Authority

Volume III: Being and Attributes of God

Volume IV: The Trinity

Volume V: Creation and Man

Volume VI: The Incarnation

Volume VII: The Redemption and Exaltation of Christ

Volume VIII: The Church and the Sacramental System

Volume IX: The Sacraments

Volume X: Eschatology and Indexes

Psalm Prayers

Psalm Prayers

Collects on the Psalms from our Lutheran cousins in the Catholic Church, reformatory of the upstart and novelistic Papists.

EV News :: Rise in number of Anglican Churches

A rise of 10 churches in England? Crowing over this?

EV News :: Rise in number of Anglican Churches

Rise in number of Anglican Churches

The Daily Telegraph reports that the number of Anglican churches in Britain has risen for the first time in more than a decade, according to new research.

The figures, to be published this week by Christian Research show that between 2007 and 2008, the total number of Anglican congregations in the UK rose from 18,198 to 18,208 – the first increase for ten years.

Benita Hewitt, director of Christian Research, said that the overall picture of the Church in Britain was encouraging.

"It's been in decline for many years, and there have been many predictions of the death of the Church, but things have changed in recent years," she said.

"It is too early to predict growth for the future, but it shows that the churches' attempts to adapt to the changing society are paying off."

Click here for article

(Source: The Daily Telegraph, 19/12/10)

Reformation Italy » Archive » Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562)

Simonetta Carr wrote the following article for Evangelical Times. It appears on page 24 of the January 2011 issue. With the permission of ET, Carr shared her article with Reformation Italy.

It was the summer of 1542 in Italy. After the previous year’s disappointing attempt to conciliate Roman Catho­lics and Protestants at the Diet of Regensburg, Pope Paul III was pressed on all sides.

In Rome, the consistory had just agreed to renew the Roman Inquisition under the oversight of Cardinal Giampietro Carafa. On the other hand, throughout Italy, embers of the Protestant religion had steadily been flickering into flame, largely promoted by reli­gious orders embracing an Augus­tinian view of justification.

Protestant books were smug­gled in from the north, mostly through Venice. Scholars were arriving from all over Europe, bringing new ideas.

For more of this excellent article, little expounded amongst Anglicans, yet so important to the English Reformation, see:
Reformation Italy » Archive » Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562)

Incarnation Conference « The Confessional Outhouse

Incarnation Conference « The Confessional Outhouse

I want to be a leader in the church - Head Heart Hand

A commendable and thought-provoking inquiry from experimental Puritans.

I want to be a leader in the church - Head Heart Hand

I want to be a leader in the church
It’s not usually expressed quite so blatantly or bluntly; but however well the call to the ministry is dressed up, there is usually at least an element of desire for leadership present. Some might say, "No, no, I don't want to be a leader. I just want to preach the Gospel and teach God's people." However, even teaching and preaching involve leadership (1 Tim. 2:12).

The question is, "Does the ambition or desire to lead automatically disqualify a person from the ministry?" As J Oswald Sanders asks: “Is it not better for a position to seek out a person than the person to seek out the position?”

In earlier American history, it was thought improper of anyone to want to be President. If it happened, it happened, but you certainly didn’t seek it. So what about the ministry? Does the desire to be a pastor or preacher disqualify a person? There have been notable cases, like Calvin’s or Knox’s, when men were virtually forced into church leadership. That’s rare today, although in some limited circles the idea persists that a man is not called to the ministry unless God has more or less forced him into it against his will.

What usually happens today is that a man goes to his pastor or elders, and says something like, “I believe God is calling me into the ministry." That sounds very passive and humble. The desire and activity is all on God's side. But, there is nothing wrong with a man wanting to be a pastor and taking steps to implement that desire. Paul said that if any man wants to be an elder, he desires a good work (1 Tim. 3:1). As another version puts it: “To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.” The potential problems do not lie in the desire or aspiration itself, but with the strength and nature of the desire.

Powerful desire
When a man tells me he feels he is being called to the ministry, I want to test the strength of that desire with questions such as: “Do you really want to be a pastor or minister? If so, how much do you want it? What difficulty would stop you from becoming a pastor? How would you respond if your pastor or elders rejected your application? Is there anything in life you desire to be or do more than be a pastor?” There should be very clear and definite answers to these questions. If a man does not have a strong desire to be a pastor, he might just about get through his Seminary studies, but he won’t last long in pastoral ministry. (Similar questions may be asked of anyone seeking other kinds of ministry positions.)

Pure desire
Once a strong desire is established, then the motive behind the desire should be examined. While Paul commended the desire to lead, Jeremiah said that if anyone seeks great things for himself, he should stop right there (Jer. 45:5). Diotrephes, who loved the preeminence, was a classic example of what Jeremiah warned against (3 John 9-10). Church History is littered with the ministerial corpses of those who had strong but unholy desires to lead.

Maybe Jeremiah’s words are more relevant to Americans than Paul’s. When Paul was complimenting men who wanted to be church leaders, he and they both knew that such positions guaranteed persecution, financial hardship, and a lifetime of stress. In that context, the desire to be a church leader was good and honorable – and rare. But when there are significant rewards associated with being a church leader, as there are in many American settings, then sinful ambitions and selfish motives are going to be much more common.

So, if some desires for church leadership are good and holy, while others are sinful and selfish, how do we distinguish them? Well obviously anyone with a bit of savvy can say the right words to please a questioner. No question on earth will guarantee the exposure of real motives if someone is determined to disguise them. All we can really do is ask the man to prayerfully examine his own motives over a period of time. Perhaps provide him with a list like this and ask him if he finds his desires in the God-glorifying column, or in the self-glorifying column.

God-glorifying desires
1. I want to exalt God by my life and my lips
2. I want to serve God and His people
3. I want to see sinners saved and Christians equipped for works of service.
4. I want to teach people about the Bible and lead them in worship
5. I want to prepare people for eternity
6. I want to see the Church reformed and strengthened
7. I want to see the Church make an impact on my community, country, culture

Self-glorifying desires
1. I want to be famous
2. I want to be rich
3. I want to be powerful and influential
4. I want to be respected and recognized
5. I want to serve on important Committees and Boards
6. I want to be more fulfilled in my life
7. I want more time at home with my wife and kids
8. I’m getting on in life and fancy an easier job
9. I’m not happy in my present work, and thought I should try ministry
10. I want to make up for the wrong I’ve done in my life
11. I want to be the next Tim Keller, John Piper, Joel Beeke, etc
12. I want to make something of myself
13. I want to control others’ lives
14. I want to be wanted
15. I want to be free of a boss
16. I want to read and study
17. I want a title
18. I want to work where I don't have to listen to cursing and swearing all day.

You’d be amazed at how many of these self-centered motives I’ve actually heard expressed!

May God give His servants powerful and pure desires!

A Christmas sermon ‘from Luther’ : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia

(For the Puritans who are still complaining about Christmas and the Christian calendar._

A Christmas sermon ‘from Luther’ : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia

“Dr. Rod Rosenbladt preaches a Christmas sermon borne of Martin Luther’s writings, constructed by Dr. Roland Bainton, who taught history at Yale University from 1936 to 1961. Though Luther never wrote nor preached this sermon, it is assembled from his writings as a series of parts, as Dr. Bainton envisioned Luther could have written a Christmas sermon. This audio was dug up from the archives…”

– a 14 minute 9.6MB mp3 file from The White Horse Inn. Listen with a smile. (h/t Faith by Hearing.)

Meet the Ministries: Ligonier Ministries | Challies Dot Com

Last year I posted a series of interviews under the banner of Meet the Ministries. It was a means of introducing you to some of the great ministries that serve the church today. You got to meet Grace to You, Desiring God, Acts 29, Peacemaker Ministries, CCEF and Truth for Life. I am continuing that series this fall with another set of interviews. It began with Eternal Perspective Ministries and now turns to Ligonier Ministries.

I interviewed Chris Larson who serves as Ligonier’s Executive Vice President.

For more on this important ministry, its influences, and legacy, see:
Meet the Ministries: Ligonier Ministries | Challies Dot Com

Church Times - Plea to rebel Primates: ‘Bring your wisdom to next meeting’

AN ARCHBISHOP in the Church of Nigeria has urged Primates from the Global South not to boycott the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin in January (News, 26 November).

Writing in the Church Times today, the Archbishop of Kaduna, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who was a member of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor report, pleads with the Primates “not . . . to give room for the Communion to break up, during the time God has given [them] the privilege to represent [their] various provinces”.

“An archbishop may hold a strong position on a particular theological debate, but that should not be a reason to silence those of his colleagues with an alternative opinion as representatives of their dioceses,” Dr Idowu-Fearon writes.

For more, see:
Church Times - Plea to rebel Primates: ‘Bring your wisdom to next meeting’

A Childlike Beginning: Swiss Reformation

Periodically, we shall, DV, update this childlike beginning on the Swiss Reformation, including our concerns and inquiry into its relationship to the English Reformation. A few volumes are already available, as per the URL's. Some must be purchased. The list needs extension to about fifty volumes.

D’Aubigne, Jean Henri Merle. History of the Reformation after the Sixteenth Century, Vol.1 (New York: American Tract Society, 1847 ), pp.261-470. (209 pages)

Gordon, Bruce. The Swiss Reformation. University of Manchester Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0719051180.

Miller, Andrew. Miller's Church History. 1880. Chapter 41.

Gilbert, W.: Renaissance and Reformation. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas: Carrie, 1998.

Luck, James M.: A History of Switzerland / The First 100,000 Years: Before the Beginnings to the Days of the Present, Society for the Promotion of Science & Scholarship, Palo Alto 1986. ISBN 0-930664-06-X.

Ranan, David. "Double Cross - The Code of the Catholic Church". Theo Press Ltd, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9554133-0-8

Scott, John. Calvin and the Swiss Reformation. (London: R.W. Seely and W. Burnside, 1832), 404 pages.

Sheldon, Henry. History of the Christian Church, Vol.3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994). pp.120-167 (47 pages).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 1595 Lambeth Articles and the So-called “Calvinist Consensus” (2)

The 1595 Lambeth Articles and the So-called “Calvinist Consensus” (2)

The Anglo-Reformed Movement - The Lambeth Articles (1595)

The Anglo-Reformed Movement - Anglicans in the Wilderness

The Lambeth Articles (1595)

The Lambeth Articles were drawn up by Dr. William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge, with input from Dr. Richard Fletcher (Bishop of London), Dr. Richard Vaughan (Bishop-elect of Bangor) and Humphrey Tyndall (Dean of Ely). They were formally approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. John Whitgift), the Archbishop of York (Dr. Matthew Hutton), the Bishop of London (Dr. Richard Fletcher), the Bishop-elect of Bangor (Dr. Richard Vaughan), and other prelates convened at Lambeth Palace, London (20 November, 1595) whose intent was that they be not new laws and decrees, but rather an explanation of certain points already established by the 39 Articles, particularly its soteriology. This view, that they represented a compromise, is not the majority view today. Rather, the majority view is that they represented an extreme Calvinist view that served only to promote argument. See Article.

Although the Lambeth Articles were never formally added to the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles (1563), they were accepted by the Dublin Convocation of 1615 and engrafted on the Irish Articles (1615), which are believed to have been largely the work of James Ussher, who was to become Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland (1625-1656). In the Church of Ireland, the Lambeth Articles obtained for some time a semi-symbolical authority. It is stated that they were exhibited at the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) by the English deputies, as the judgment of the Church of England on the Arminian controversy.

Sadly, today, in most Anglican churches around the world, the Lambeth Articles are either unknown or rejected. Even before 1595 the soteriology of the Church of England had begun to drift away from Calvinism, and in the years to follow the falling away would become ever more pronounced, eventually resulting in the rejection not only of the predestinarian views of the Lambeth Articles but also of those in the 39 Articles, and their replacement by the works-righteousness and free-will views of Roman Catholics and Wesleyans.

One suspects that the Lambeth Articles of 1595 were drawn up in expectation of Anglicanism's doctrinal difficulties that were yet to come, and in hopes that they might be avoided.

The Lambeth Articles (1595)

1.God from eternity has predestined some men to life, and reprobated some to death.
2.The moving or efficient cause of predestination to life is not the foreseeing of faith, or of perseverance, or of good works, or of anything innate in the person of the predestined, but only the will of the good pleasure of God.
3.There is a determined and certain number of predestined, which cannot be increased or diminished.
4.Those not predestined to salvation are inevitably condemned on account of their sins.
5.A true, lively and justifying faith, and the sanctifying Spirit of God, is not lost nor does it pass away either totally or finally in the elect.
6.The truly faithful man—that is, one endowed with justifying faith—is sure by full assurance of faith ("plerophoria fidei") of the remission of sins and his eternal salvation through Christ.
7.Saving grace is not granted, is not made common, is not ceded to all men, by which they might be saved, if they wish.
8.No one can come to Christ unless it be granted to him, and unless the Father draws him: and all men are not drawn by the Father to come to the Son.
9.It is not in the will or power of each and every man to be saved.

The Federal Vision: Reources

The Federal Vision

A set of several videos by Doug Wilson on Federal Vision.

KOINOS online - Armerding, Carl - OLD TESTAMENT 101

KOINOS online - A Certificate in Christian Education - Armerding, Carl - OLD TESTAMENT 101

Set of six OT lectures.

Reasonable Christian: A Critique of John Piper's "Christian Hedonism" by Manuel Kuhs

Reasonable Christian

A Critical Examination of John Piper's "Christian Hedonism"
Written by Manuel Kuhs
Sunday, 12 September 2010

[First published in the Spring/Summer 2010, Issue #52 of the British Reformed Journal]

To all those children of God who, due to false teaching and their own sin, struggle each day to believe they really are children of God.

The title of this essay contains a grave charge against a much-respected teacher in conservative evangelicalism and even in many conservative Reformed churches. As a personal testimony, I have benefited in many ways from the teaching ministry of John Piper, having been influenced by him in my late teens. Positively, the Lord used him to cement my belief that God's Word is “living and active” as well as to expose the prosperity gospel for what it is (all of which is not so clear in the “Evangelicalism” that I come from)–a false, carnal “gospel”. And for this I thank John Piper.

However, as I began to grow in my knowledge of God's Word, I began to examine in more detail Piper's “Christian Hedonism”. I found the following deadly errors:

1. Christian Hedonism is utilitarianism–serving God ultimately in order to get something from Him (in this case, spiritual “pleasure”).

2. It redefines faith to include a fruit of faith (joy), thereby deviating from the biblical, Reformed view of faith and destroying all true assurance and joy.

3. Its elevation of emotions and feelings leads to charismatic pharisaism, where people judge their own and others' spiritual standing by outward emotional expressions and accordingly are tempted to “produce” these feelings.

4. A denial of gratitude as the main motivation for obedience, replacing it with the desire to “meet conditions” for “future grace”.

5. Its “conditional grace” theology is a definite deviation from salvation by grace alone, committing Christian Hedonism to joining the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul movements on a gradual journey back to Rome.

Christian Hedonism is therefore in direct conflict with the Three Forms of Unity on multiple points, and as such cannot be tolerated in Reformed churches–unless one wishes to change the Three Forms.

A quick caveat: By no means am I saying that all the followers of Christian Hedonism, nor even Piper himself, necessarily consciously believe these things. They are, however, as I will prove, integral to the theology of Christian Hedonism and a necessary consequence of it.

Since these are indeed grave charges, I will attempt to carefully prove them from Scripture, the Reformed Confessions[1] and Piper's writings. I hope you will give me an objective hearing.

What is “Christian Hedonism”?
Instinctively, a Christian will be repulsed by the title which Piper has chosen to give his teaching. Piper himself says, “I put little stock in whether anybody calls this vision of God and life “Christian Hedonism”... my prayer is that the truth in it will run and triumph”[2]. Accordingly, we will reserve our judgment of this doctrine for the “truth in it”, though we certainly object to the terminology.

It is, first, a “vision of God and life”. That is, it is a world-and-life view, a high claim indeed, and one that renders Christian Hedonism worthy of careful scrutiny.

However, the claims get higher. Says Piper:

Unless a man is born again into a Christian Hedonist [sic.: emphasis is Piper's] he cannot see the kingdom of God[3].

That is, Christian Hedonism is a doctrine of salvation. This begs the question which everyone involved with John Piper must, for the sake of his own soul, answer: is it the historic, orthodox, biblical and Reformed doctrine, or is it heresy? Did Piper merely reformulate the truth and give it a bad name?

Piper adds another astonishing claim:

Christian Hedonism... is what the whole universe is about.[4]

So what is this vitally-important “Christian Hedonism”?

The meaning of the term “hedonism”, especially in the context of the controversy over Piper's usage of it, has itself become controversial. Conveniently, Piper provides his own definition, which we will take as an accurate representation of what Piper means by it:

Hedonism is “a theory according to which a person is motivated to produce one state of affairs in preference to another if, and only if, he thinks it will be more pleasant, or less unpleasant for himself”.[5]

Christian hedonism, then, is a “philosophy of life”[6] whereby a man should do something “if, and only if” it results in pleasure in God, since it is only in God through Christ as revealed in Scripture that man can truly and ultimately be satisfied. This supposedly gives God the most glory since, to quote one of the main slogans of this theory, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.

Further, “Christian Hedonism” claims that it is the antidote to two great evils plaguing Christianity, dead orthodoxy and carnal Christianity (i.e. antinomianism); the former it aims to alleviate by claiming that joy in God is a duty commanded by Him and not merely an accidental side-product of obedience–and thence joy-less worship is not pleasing to God; the second it battles by teaching that to “think [one] believes” on the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough–rather, one must also “treasure him more than anything else”[7].

If it seems that there is a large emphasis placed on emotions, this is indeed correct. Words such as “to treasure”, “joy”, “pleasure” and “satisfaction” appear on nearly every page of Desiring God and The Dangerous Duty of Delight, the two main books in which Piper sets forth his theory (the latter being an abridgment of the former).

However, “Christian Hedonism” is not, as many claim, merely condemning “joyless” worship and teaching that joy is a duty commanded by God. Neither is it merely identifying “carnal Christians”[8] as being no Christians at all–the Protestant Reformed Churches heartily agree with these things[9].

“Christian Hedonism” is more than this; far more. It is, in fact, both hedonistic utilitarianism and a false view of faith and assurance. To prove these allegations we will now proceed.

As we do so, we must keep in mind that Piper contradicts himself at many points. Any reader of Piper should be aware that false teachings never openly identify themselves as such. At times, he teaches the orthodox doctrine; but it is where he is developing his new “Christian Hedonism” that he becomes heterodox and often contradicts things stated previously. One can think of Augustine who at one point staunchly defended the irresistible grace of God and at another taught that some of the regenerate can fall away from salvation. Whether Piper is consciously attempting to fool his readers or whether he is fooled himself only God knows, though we believe with the judgment of charity, and certainly hope, that it is the latter. It is not the intent of this article to pass judgment upon Piper himself, and we would hope that any readers of this article would not childishly see it as such and then refuse to examine the actual issues. However, this certainly does not detract from the need to oppose his heretical teachings. Even more so, we hope the Lord would be pleased to use this work to grant him repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (II Tim. 2:25).

Hedonistic Utilitarianism
Piper clearly teaches that God created all things for the purpose of glorifying Himself. This he makes abundantly clear, for which we commend him. He then modifies the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism to render it thus: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by [instead of “and”] enjoying him forever”. Piper then interprets it thus: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”[10].

From this one would expect Piper to conclude that the highest thing man should seek after is to make “glorifying God” the end and “enjoying him forever” the means thereof. And indeed, here becomes apparent that Piper carries two faces. For sometimes, this is indeed his view:

I must [sic.: emphasis Piper's] pursue joy in God if I am to glorify Him as the surpassingly valuable Reality in the universe.[11]

However, this is not “Christian Hedonism”. Several paragraphs later, Piper shows his other face:

Christian Hedonism as I use the term does not mean God becomes a means to help us get worldly pleasures [notice the qualification - MK]. The pleasure Christian Hedonism seeks is the pleasure that is in God Himself. He is the end of our search, not the means to some further end... Christian Hedonism does not reduce God to a key that unlocks a treasure chest of gold and silver. Rather, it seeks to transform the heart so that “the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver” (Job 22:25).[12]

God is not the means toward “worldly pleasures” - why qualify it with “worldly”? Because “worldly” pleasure wouldn't satisfy us; rather, He is the means toward “the pleasure that is in God Himself”. God is not “reduced” to a “key that unlocks a treasure chest of gold and silver” - again, such a treasure wouldn't satisfy us; rather, this god is exalted to a key that unlocks the treasure chest of joy that is found in him. As Piper says later on, “Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy”[13]. Notice: God is a means for man to attain pleasure.

Piper continues:

Christian Hedonism does not make a god out of pleasure. It says that one has already made a god out of whatever he finds most pleasure in. The goal of Christian Hedonism is to find most pleasure in the one and only God and thus avoid the sin of covetousness, that is, idolatry (Colossians 3:5).[14]

That it is idolatry to find pleasure in anything apart from God we do not deny, and that therefore we should seek pleasure in God we do not deny either; but what we do deny, and what makes “Christian Hedonism” turn pleasure into a god, is its claim that the pleasure received from worshiping God should be the highest motivation for that worship (remember Piper's definition of “hedonism”). It is notable that even in this paragraph Piper presents finding “most pleasure” (in God) as the “goal of Christian Hedonism”.

This is (supposedly) acceptable because God also gets what He wants: glory. As Piper summarises, “we get the happiness in Him; He gets the honour from us”[15]. A splendid business deal indeed!

Piper explains the relationship between us seeking pleasure in Him and He being glorified in this way:

Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary... Suppose on this day I bring home a dozen long-stemmed roses for [my wife]. When she meets me at the door, I hold out the roses, and she says, “O Johnny, they're beautiful; thank you” and gives me a big hug. Then suppose I hold up my hand and say matter-of-factly, “Don't mention it; it's my duty.”

... If... she asks me, “Why do you do this?”... the answer that honors her most is “Because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you”.

“It's my duty” is a dishonour to her.

“It's my joy” is an honour.

There it is! The feast of Christian Hedonism.[16]

Which one critic has succinctly summarised thus:

Let us use the earthly analogy of marriage to address this question. I have two possible options of what to say to my wife...

Option 1) I love you; therefore I will live to please you alone [and try to find pleasure in you], even sacrificing my life and my earthly pleasures if need be, so as to ensure you are cared for and all your needs are met.

Option 2) I love pleasure; and I have chosen you as the vehicle through which all my pleasure will be derived, and only through you will I pursue any pleasure, and you will satisfy my every desire so as to give me the pleasure for which I live, and any loving or beneficial thing that I do for you will only be done contingent on the expectation that I will somehow benefit from that action by experiencing pleasure from it.

If your wife thinks that Option 2 is as selfish as my wife thinks that it is and if she thinks that Option 1 is the truly loving position to take (in fact she is still waiting for me to get down on one knee, gaze up into her eyes and reread Option 1) then imagine praying Option 2 to a jealous God. If a wife wants to hear you say, “I love you and will live to please you” do you not think that God Himself wishes to hear the same? Do you really believe that God wants you to pray to Him and say, “Dear God, I love pleasure, therefore I only worship You to get pleasure in You, so please me in all that I do”?[17]

It does not glorify God when we ultimately make Him the means whereby we receive pleasure and try to keep Him happy with this by claiming that this glorifies Him the most! The greatest commandment is to love God Himself, not pleasure in God (Mat. 22:36-38). The highest thing we are to seek after is God Himself and His glory and not pleasure in God.

If a “Christian Hedonist” will only do something “if, and only if” he receives pleasure from it, then it follows that he will obey God “if, and only if” this gives him pleasure.

In other words, the Christian Hedonist's chief motivation in all things is his own pleasure. That is, the Christian Hedonist is–a hedonist.

Piper even admits it: “all genuine emotion is an end in itself”[18] and, “Happiness in God is the end of all our seeking. Nothing beyond it can be sought as a higher goal”[19].

This is plain idolatry. We should “seek first the kingdom of God” (Mat. 6:33) and not our own pleasure. Paul commands that even our “genuine emotion” should merely be a means to an end: the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

All Piper's supposed scriptural proofs can be reduced to this: He quotes passages in which the worth of God is exalted by the pleasure that is found in Him, and passages in which the saints are commanded to find their delight in Him. From these, Piper concludes that the pleasure found in God is the highest thing we should seek after and should be our highest motivation in all obedience. However, there is simply not a single text in all of Scripture that teaches this.

Christian Hedonism (CH) is nothing more than utilitarianism–reducing God to a means whereby we may obtain what we desire.

This theory he develops and applies to every area of the Christian life; chapter titles of Desiring God include: Conversion: The Creation of a Christian Hedonist; Worship: The Feast of Christian Hedonism; Love: The Labour of CH; Scripture: Kindling for CH; Prayer: The Power of CH; Money: The Currency of CH; Marriage: A Matrix for CH; Missions: The Battle Cry of CH; Suffering: The Sacrifice of CH [abbreviations mine]. All these holy callings of the Christian life are turned ultimately into a means for us to get pleasure (in God).

Considering the weakness of his scriptural “proofs”, perhaps the most serious defence that Piper puts up, especially for those who subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity, is his claim that “the entire [Heidelberg Catechism] is structured the way Christian Hedonism would structure it”.[20]

Piper jumps at the Catechism's usage of the words “comfort” and “happiness” the way a Unitarian jumps at the phrase “Son of God”. Yes, the Catechism is themed around the comfort of the Christian; yes, Christ is “our only comfort in life and death”; but where in all of the Catechism does it ever claim that the ultimate motivation for us coming to God and obeying Him is to receive comfort? Or where does it say that our motivation for everything should be the seeking of pleasure?

Asks Piper,

Why did the original framers of the four-hundred-year-old catechism structure all 129 questions so that they are an exposition of the question “What is my only comfort?”

Zacharias Ursinus, one of the principal authors of the Catechism, answers this question in his commentary on the Catechism:

The question of comfort is placed, and treated first, because it embodies the design and substance of the catechism. The design is, that we may be led to the attainment of sure and solid comfort, both in life and death.[21]

Nowhere in the Catechism is the comfort received in God made the highest reason for obedience. The “design” of the Catechism is “comfort” ultimately because God commands, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (Isa. 40:1). Not because the seeking of comfort should be the highest motivation for the worship of God.

Furthermore, the “comfort” of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is nothing but the comfort of the Gospel, is the “certain knowledge” and “assured confidence” that “I, with body and soul, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ”[22]. This “comfort” is not a mystical “feeling” or some sort of spiritual “pleasure”, as Piper seems to think (more on this in the next section), but is a certain knowledge and assured confidence.

In short, “Christian Hedonism” teaches that ultimately we should worship God in order to be satisfied (and fortunately for both parties involved God is also happy because this way He is supposedly most glorified); the Scriptures teach that ultimately we should find our satisfaction in God in order to worship Him (I Cor. 10:31).

“Christian Hedonism” makes an idol out of pleasure.

A Redefinition of Faith: The End of Joy and Assurance
In accordance with the purpose of “Christian Hedonism” to make the seeking of pleasure in God the highest goal of a Christian, it teaches that seeing a “spiritual delight in God” in oneself is a necessary prerequisite for assurance of salvation:

This... delight in God is the self-authenticating evidence that God has called us to be beneficiaries of his grace. This evidence frees us to bank on the promise as our own.[23]

That is, according to Piper, a Christian cannot correctly be convinced that the promises of salvation revealed in God's Word are for him unless and until he sees within himself a “delight in God”, until he observes himself “delighting... [and] being satisfied with [God]”, which is, according to Piper, “the heart of saving faith”.[24]

The key question is: If “being satisfied with God” is the “heart of saving faith”, what does Piper mean by “being satisfied”? If his definition here is not the historic definition of faith, then he is denying the historic doctrine of justification by faith alone.

It has always been the most ardent confession of Reformed churches that good works are a necessary result of, but never part of, faith itself. That is, justification and sanctification, though inseparable, are distinct. As the Apostle says,

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Rom. 11:6; cf. Rom. 3:20; 23-24,28; 4:2-3,9,6)

After himself proving this from various Reformation creeds such as the Augsburg and the Westminster confessions, Piper expresses agreement:

In no way do I mean to confound justification and sanctification.[25]

His agreement must however be taken with a pinch of salt. Although Piper approvingly quotes Reformed Confessions in his book Future Grace, we have already seen that he really does not understand the Confessions, and he himself states in Desiring God, in reference to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Not that I care too much about the intention of seventeenth-century theologians [i.e. the authors of the Westminster].[26]

(This attitude is also a denial of I Cor. 12:21.)

The biblical, Reformed and orthodox definition of saving faith is expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism thus:

Q. 21. What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge (Jn. 6:69, 17:3; Heb. 11:3,6), whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence (Eph. 3:12), which the Holy Ghost (Rom. 4:16,20,21; Heb. 11:1; Eph. 3:12; Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 1:21; Ac. 16:14; Matt. 16:17; Jn. 3:5) works by the gospel in my heart (Rom. 10:14,17; Matt. 9:2); that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin (Rom. 5:1), everlasting righteousness, and salvation (Gal. 2:20) are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits (Rom. 3:24-26) [emphasis added–MK].[27]

Similarly, the Belgic Confession states:

We believe that... the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, appropriates Him, (Eph. 3:16-17; Ps. 51:13; Eph. 1:17-18; I Cor. 2:12) and seeks nothing more besides Him.(I Cor. 2:2; Ac. 4:12; Gal. 2:21; Jer. 23:6; I Cor. 1:30; Jer. 31:10) [28]

This “certain knowledge” is not merely intellectual; for then it would not differ to the knowledge of the devils and reprobates (James 2:19; John 2:23-24). Rather, it is a spiritual knowledge which is worked in us by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:10-16).

The “assured confidence” whereby faith “embraces Jesus Christ” and knows that “not only to others, but to me also...” is also worked in us by the Spirit. David J. Engelsma says it well:

The Spirit binds the word of God on the regenerated heart of the elect child of God, so that he believes the word of God concerning Jesus Christ [i.e. certain knowledge] and believes on Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Precisely in this way–the way of hearing and believing–and at this moment–the moment of hearing and believing–the Spirit witnesses to the spirit of the believer that the believer is forgiven and saved, as Romans 8:16 teaches [i.e. assured confidence–MK].[29]

Therefore, Piper correctly states that a mere intellectual assent to and understanding of the truth is not saving faith. He then correctly states that there is a spiritual aspect, that the sinner must “embrace all that God promises to be for us in Christ Jesus”, as Piper words it.

However, what Piper means by creedal words such as “spiritual”, “resting” and “embrace” is emphatically not what the Reformed creeds mean by it.

Says Piper:

Therefore, two things are necessary for saving faith to emerge. One is [knowledge]... The other is that we must apprehend and embrace the spiritual beauty and worth of Christ through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Without this compelling spiritual taste of Christ's captivating excellence, a person's conviction about a testimony may be no more than the devil's useless assurance that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He “believes” it, but he does not apprehend it as beautiful and precious and wonderfully suited to accomplish good and holy purposes. He assents in one way, but with a hearty, or, as the Puritans say, “cordial” assent. He does not taste Christ as compellingly attractive. His “faith” is dead because it is not animated by the essential thing: spiritual apprehension of spiritual beauty [emphasis added–MK].[30]

Spiritual apprehension and taste... moves the heart to embrace and savor [sic.: emphasis Piper's] the reality.[31]

We must have a spiritual “taste” that he is gloriously precious beyond all competing values and treasures. When this happens, we not only affirm Christ as the true object of someone else's testimony; we also “embrace” him as the spiritually excellent treasure of our souls. This is the essence of faith [emphasis added–MK].[32]

I say that saving faith must “include” delight.[33]

What we must say about resting is that to be a saving resting it must be a repose, not merely of safety from hell, but also a repose of satisfaction in the beauties of God (Psalm 16:11) [emphasis added–MK].[34]

An essential element of faith is delight in the goodness of God, attraction to him and confidence in him [emphasis added–MK].[35]

When the Reformed creeds say that faith is “embracing Christ”, they mean that it is a resting in Him alone for salvation, a cessation of the performance of works in order to merit salvation; when Piper talks about “embracing” as part of faith, he means a spiritual “tasting”, a “repose of satisfaction in the beauties of God”, “delighting”, etc.

Piper means mystical, “spiritual” emotions and feelings.

That this is a radical departure from historic orthodoxy becomes strikingly clear when, after quoting Charles Hodge as stating on behalf of the Reformed faith that “joy” is “produced” by faith, Piper ominously says:

But I want to say a bit more than Hodge does [emphasis added–MK]. I don't want to say merely that faith in promises produces “confidence, joy and hope”, but that an essential element in the faith itself is confidence and joy and hope [sic.: emphasis Piper's].[36]

How then does this arrival of joy relate to saving faith? The usual answer is that joy is the fruit of faith... But there is a different way of looking at the relationship of joy and faith... Before the confidence [of being saved–MK] comes the craving. Before the decision comes the delight [emphasis added–MK].[37]

Piper is indeed correct in that confidence is not only produced by faith but is inherent to it. But now it has become clear beyond dispute: Piper has made “joy” (by which he means mystical experiences and “spiritual feelings”) part of faith itself as opposed to the infallible product of it!

A redefinition of faith!

And therefore a denial of justification by faith alone!

Says Piper:

I use different words to unpack what believe means. In recent years I have asked, “Do you receive Jesus as your Treasure?” Not just Savior... Not just Lord... [sic.: emphases Piper's] The key is: Do you treasure Him more than anything else?... Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, “Believe in the Lord”, but, “Delight yourself in the Lord”?[38]

By thus redefining “believe” with “treasuring Christ” (by which he means mystical, spiritual emotions), he has clearly and unambiguously departed from the historic, Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone.

What are the implications of this for the daily life of the child of God?

“Justification” refers to a legal declaration that someone is righteous (Pro. 17:5; Deut. 25:1). Therefore, one essential aspect of justification by faith alone is that faith is the only and exclusive way in which God declares to us that He has forgiven us our sins. Therefore, to define “faith” is to define how I may be assured by God that my sins are forgiven and that I am righteous in His sight. Says Engelsma:

Justification is not simply the forgiveness of sins. Justification is the forgiveness in the forum of the believer's consciousness [sic.: emphasis Engelsma's].[39]

This is the clear, simple teaching of Scripture. In the following passage, assurance of salvation is an intrinsic part of justification by faith.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Rom. 5:1-5)

Thence, Piper's redefinition of faith is a redefinition of how I may be assured of my own salvation.

What results from this redefinition is a hideous doctrine which leaves believers in a terrible predicament.

Let every reader observe this carefully:

If “spiritual joy” is of the “essence” of faith, and if this “evidence” is necessary in order for us to “bank on the promise as our own”; that is, if we must observe within ourselves a “delight” and “attraction” to the “beauties of God” before we can be assured we are saved, it is then necessary that we rejoice and delight in God while we as yet believe (or at least suspect) ourselves to be lost, damned, hated by God and on the broad road to hell with no hope!

If Piper is correct, then we will never properly be assured of the forgiveness of our sins and God's love for us! For who but a deluded fanatic can take pleasure in and rejoice in a God who is opposed to him and will soon destroy him in the eternal lake of fire, inflicting fiery vengeance upon him? As the Scriptures say:

There is no peace... unto the wicked. (Isa. 48:22)

Says Calvin:

If we... are uncertain whether we have the love or the hatred of God, our felicity will be cursed, and therefore miserable.[40]

The Canons of Dordt express it thus:

If the elect were deprived of this solid comfort [i.e. assurance–MK]... they would be of all men the most miserable.[41]

It is completely absurd to say one must rejoice in God before believing that one is saved and loved by God. In this way, no-one can ever arrive at true joy! For joy comes fundamentally from “being justified by faith” (Rom 5:1)!

Far from encouraging true delight in God, Piper's doctrine of assurance destroys the comfort of believers and thereby prevents them from rejoicing in the God of their salvation and doing good works accordingly.

Ultimately, since (according to John Piper) “delight in God is the self-authenticating evidence” that enables us to believe we are saved, and since (according to Scripture and common sense) it is impossible to have true joy in God before having the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, there can therefore no-one be properly assured of their salvation.

This terrible doctrine goes against the whole testimony of God's Word[42] and is nothing but the Romish doctrine of assurance (our rather, of doubt).

Think of Abraham:

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead [emphasis added], when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (Rom. 4:19-22, emphasis added)

Piper would say, “no, Abraham; it is not enough to merely look to God and believe Him, you must also examine your own heart to see whether you delight in and treasure God before you can “bank on his promises””.

Everywhere Scripture commands us to look to Christ for our assurance (Num. 21:8-9; Isa. 45:22; John 3:14-15; 6:40) not to ourselves. For “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

Is not a looking away from self to God the very nature of faith?

Says Calvin:

Free promise we make the foundation of faith... this promise [of salvation–MK] must be gratuitous; for a conditional promise, which throws us back upon our works, promises life only in so far as we find it existing in ourselves. Therefore, if we would not have faith waver and tremble, we must support it with the promise of salvation [i.e. an unconditional promise–MK].[43]

Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works [anything we do, e.g. joy–MK] in what way the Lord stands affected towards us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture [emphasis added–MK]: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity.[44]

Piper's doctrine of assurance is nothing but mysticism. And this is no surprise, considering the influence of the Puritan Jonathan Edwards on Piper:

It is no secret, from what I have written elsewhere, that I am deeply indebted to Jonathan Edwards in the development of my understanding of God and life. J. I. Packer said of my book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, “Jonathan Edwards, whose ghost walks through most of Piper's pages, would be delighted with his disciple.” That was a very generous tribute. I hope it is true of this book as well. I write with Edwards looking over my shoulder.[45]

Though Piper does not go so far as to claim, as did many of the Puritans as well as the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, that assurance is not part of faith, his mystical redefinition of faith requiring joy in God before one can be assured of salvation makes assurance equally subjective and introspective. Engelsma's evaluation of the Puritan doctrine of assurance therefore applies:

[According to this false view of assurance] the sinner is looking mainly, if not exclusively, within himself for assurance of salvation, rather than away from his sinful, uncertain self, with its fickle feelings, to Jesus Christ “out there” in the promise of the gospel.

Mysticism's way to assurance is illusory, deceiving and perilous. Those who desperately seek and work for assurance along the way of mysticism either doom themselves to a life of doubt (because they never can obtain the “overpowering light” or achieve the “greatest experience”), or, if they do finally find the feeling they think they are seeking, consign themselves to perpetual questioning, whether the feeling was genuine (so much depends on the feeling, after all), or, if they do firmly base their assurance on an experience, subject themselves to God's condemnation (for He will have assurance of salvation, like salvation itself, come through faith that rests on Jesus Christ as evidently set forth in the Scriptures, and through faith only).[46]


[1] When I quote from the Reformed confessions, I am not thereby placing their authority on par with that of Scripture (the confessions themselves declare the Scripture to be the only authoritative, infallible rule of faith; see for example Article 7 of the Belgic Confession). The reasons I quote them are multiple. First, they represent the beliefs of the Church of the past, which, though one might hesitantly and respectfully disagree with parts of them as a child with an erring father, only an arrogant fool would completely ignore them. Second, they are the binding doctrinal standards of all those Reformed and Presbyterian churches which still subscribe to them. Third, the Three Forms of Unity are the doctrinal standards to which I submit personally as being faithful summaries of the teachings of Scripture. Fourth, they state many things far better than I could ever hope to do.

[2] John Piper, 1995. The purifying power of living by faith in Future Grace, Inter-Varsity Press, 2003, p. 399. Thenceforth referred to as Future Grace.

[3] John Piper, 2003. Desiring God, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Multnomah Publishers, p. 55. Thenceforth referred to as Desiring God.

[4] John Piper, 2001. The Dangerous Duty of Delight, Multnomah Publishers, p. 21. Thenceforth referred to as Dangerous Duty. In its Preface, Piper states that Desiring God is “the longer version of this book”.

[5] Desiring God, p. 366.

[6] Ibid., p. 28.

[7] Ibid., p. 55.

[8] Those opposed by James in the second chapter of his inspired epistle.

[9] A brief search on for words such as “joy” will verify this.

[10] Desiring God, p. 17,18

[11] Ibid., p. 23.

[12] Ibid., p. 24.

[13] Ibid., p. 70.

[14] Ibid., p. 24.

[15] Ibid., p. 12.

[16] Ibid., p. 93,94.


[18] Desiring God, p. 92.

[19] Ibid., p. 90.

[20] Ibid., p. 27. If this claim were true, I would by God's grace endeavour to have my church amend this error, and if this were not possible, I would not be able to subscribe to the Catechism.

[21] Zacharias Ursinus, 1584. The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, Elm Street Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1888. Available at:

[22] Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1, 21.

[23] Future Grace, p. 19.

[24] Ibid., p. 196.

[25] Ibid., p. 26.

[26] Desiring God, p. 17.

[27] Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 21.

[28] Belgic Confession, Article 22.

[29] David J Engelsma, 2009. The Gift of Assurance. Thenceforth referred to as Gift of Assurance.

[30] Future Grace, p. 202.

[31] Ibid., p. 201.

[32] Ibid., p. 202.

[33] Ibid, p. 203.

[34] Ibid, p. 204.

[35] Ibid, p. 205.

[36] Ibid, p. 205.

[37] Desiring God, p. 71-72.

[38] Desiring God, p. 55.

[39] Gift of Assurance, p. 7.

[40] Institutes, III, II, 28.

[41] Canons of Dordt, V, 10.

[42] For a detailed proof of this, see Gift of Assurance.

[43] Institutes, III, II, 29.

[44] Ibid., III, II, 38.

[45] Future Grace, p. 387.

[46] Gift of Assurance, p. 41-42.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 September 2010 17:13

Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer
Posted by Charlie J. Ray at 9:49 AM 0 comments