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Archive for February, 2010


This morning I’m working on some PCA history.  Interesting.  I see some interesting parallels with much of what has gone one with the “Confessing Church” and “New Wine” movements in the PC (USA) over the last decade.  Prior to the formation of the PCA, the “Continuing Church” movement was supported by The Presbyterian Journal, The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, The Presbyterian Churchmen United and Concerned Presbyterians Inc.  These were both ministerial and lay-led groups that sought to reform the Southern Presbyterian Church.  These groups eventually provided the necessary foundation for the structure of the PCA.  They found that working through the church courts failed, since they were a minority.  They found that severing themselves from a corrupted body was the only option.

With that, we move to church censures & councils.

Chapter XXX: Of Church Censures

245. What is the nature and extent of Church power? The keys of the kingdom include the power to retain and remit sin, to excommunicate the impenitent, admit the repentant thru the ministry of the gospel.

246. What is Church censure (discipline)?  It is formally addressing the sin of another to promote repentance, and utilizing certain consequences to warn the impenitent.

247. Is Church discipline necessary? Why? It is necessary to restore sinners, defend the honor of Christ, and protect the church from unholy influences.  Our propensity to sin makes it necessary.

248. What are the steps of Church discipline? Demonstrate from scripture.   Mt. 18- admonish privately, if not repentant admonish with 2-3 witnesses, if not repentant inform the Session who will take appropriate action (rebuke, suspension or excommunication).

249. Are you personally committed to Church discipline? Yes, though it can be difficult without the support of the Session.

Chapter XXXI: Of Synods and Councils

250. Upon what grounds does the believer in Christ owe obedience to the church courts?  They are duly appointed authorities to which we owe our submission unless to do so is to sin (Heb. 13).

251. May church councils err? Give an example where this has occurred.  Yes, they can.  First they used “like substances” instead of “same substance” to describe the Trinity with respect to the Son.

252. Explain how you understand subscription to the second ordination vow.   I understand it to be subscription to the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards.  Some matters are of greater import than others, “striking to the vitals.”  Exceptions to the vitals of the Westminster Standards should not be permitted.  In lesser matters, exceptions may be permitted according to the wisdom of the court.

Let me say that while technically I argue for “loose” subscriptionism I am personally a strict subscriptionist.  Theological legalism can be as great a danger as theological libertarianism (once again, witness the Marrow Controversy).  My sole exception on the Westminster Confession is regarding recreation on the Sabbath.  I take a Continental Position, argued for by John Calvin.  The current use of loose subscriptionism is not like that of earlier generations which was used to gut the faith of its essentials.  A key difference to keep in mind.

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Here is my study material on the Westminster Confession of Faith, for your personal edification.

Chapter XXV: Of The Church

232. What is the church? It is the whole number of the elect who have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head of the church; his spouse, the body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.

233. Distinguish between the visible and invisible aspects of the church?  The visible church is the church on earth.  It is imperfect, a mixture of elect and false professors and their children throughout the world.  The invisible church is the elect only, and therefore perfect.

234. When did the Church begin?   In Eden with the creation of Adam and Eve.

235. Who are the members of the Church? Those who profess the true religion and their children.

236. What are the marks of a Church?  Preaching of the gospel, proper administration of the sacraments, and public worship.  I’d add church discipline.

237. What is meant by a church being ‘more or less pure’? Does a church ever cease to be a Christian church? Sin taints every church with false doctrine, obscuring the gospel by degrees, improper administration of the sacraments, worship that is impure by degrees.  Some have departed so far in one or more area that they cease to be true churches (though true Christians may be found in them).

238. The attributes of the Church (not to be confused with the marks of the Church) are Unity, Catholicity, Apostolicity, and Holiness. Define each of these.  Unity points to our spiritual unity in Christ, not an organizational unity.  Catholicity reminds us that the church covers the world, not just our congregation or denomination.  Apostolicity points us to the doctrine of the apostles are believed by the church.  Holiness points us to the fact that the church is set apart for God and that its behavior should reflect this.

239. What is a credible profession of faith? One which points to Christ alone for salvation & which bears some fruit in a changed life.

240. With what gifts has the Church been gifted? Word Gifts: prophecy, apostle, teaching, evangelist, pastor, discernment, exhortation; Deed Gifts: Leadership, Administration, giving, service, helps, mercy, hospitality, prayer, faith, wisdom, knowledge, celibacy; Sign Gifts: tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, miracles.

241. Have any of these gifts ceased since the apostolic age? Yes, the sign gifts and prophecy & apostleship.

Chapter XXVI: Of the Communion of Saints

242. What is union with Christ and what implications arise from union with Christ for the Church?  Union with Christ means that we are spiritually united with Christ thru faith such that all that is His is ours.  We have common graces and fellowship not only with him but one another.  We are to display love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, bearing their burdens as our own.

243. What are the duties of believers to one another? We are to maintain holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, to edify one another and assisting one another when in need.

244. Are all believers united to one another in Christ, including those who have gone to be with Christ?  Yes.

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I am not really part of the intended audience of Lisa McKay’s You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes (and other great advice from an unlikely preacher’s wife).  That’s okay.  CavWife didn’t expect to be a pastor’s wife but married into the role.  She got a crash course.  With a new call on the horizon, I thought I would pick up a review copy to 1. better understand some of her struggles, 2. give her a resource in dealing with some of the realities of being a pastor’s wife.  In fact, if she ever gets around to reading it (in her defense, we have lots going on right now) I hope to have a Q & A with her about the book.

Despite the fact that I’m not in the intended audience, I found the book interesting and helpful.  She shares some of her personal experiences, brings Scripture to bear on important issues.  Lisa also utilizes interaction from her blog to provide other viewpoints on the topics at hand.

Lisa sounds like a Calvinistic Baptist.  She loves John Piper’s books, and often refers to book by John McArthur.  Her husband went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He has served primarily in the South.  But the relationships she has developed online transcend those particulars.  Of course, the human condition being what it is, the problems pastor’s wives face also transcend those particulars.

Among the things she addresses are false expectations, stereotypes, having good expectations for your kids, protecting your kids from knowing too much, leaving one church and embracing a new one (CavWife may want to fast forward to that one).

This was a funny book!

Perhaps it is because I’m a guy, but I didn’t find it a witty and funny as the cover and some blurbs claim.  Really, I have a good sense of humor.  Okay, a strange sense of humor.  Being married, I know that CavWife and I don’t always agree on what is funny.  So maybe she’ll laugh as much as I did reading Blue Like Jazz.

A minor thing that annoyed me was her talk of “mutual yielding” though she says she loves Piper’s book What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.  Perhaps I’m being too simplistic, but in Ephesians 5 we see that wives submit and husbands sacrifice.  Those are different.  She recognizes his authority and responsibility before God, while he is called to do what is best for her (listening to her may help him figure that out).  Minor thing.  But the quote by Tony Evans at the beginning of the chapter was very funny.

“Submission is knowing how to duck so God can hit your husband.”

This same chapter, I Can Potentially Be My Husband’s Worst Enemy, best illustrates my other issue with the book.  Maybe it is another one of those male/female things.  I like linear arguments, and knowing where an author is going.  Not very much of the chapter is about how a wife can undermine her husband’s ministry or just plain make his life miserable.  There were sections on how he can be on the phone too much at home (maintaining boundaries in ministry is difficult), pastors neglecting their wives and similar things.  Certainly need to be addressed.  It just didn’t seem to be the right place.    Or the chapter was not titled properly.

These minor issues aside, this was a good book.  It was easy to read.  It was informative, and I thought much of her advice was helpful.  I think my wife will benefit from reading this book, and so will many pastor’s wives.

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Now that the date of my exam is set, what better way to celebrate than post some more of my study notes.  Today we’re covering the chapters on the Civil Magistrate and Marriage.

Chapter XXIII: Of The Civil Magistrate

222. From whom does the civil magistrate derive his authority?  God.

223. What is the purpose which the civil magistrate is called to serve?  To defend and encourage the good and punish evil (Rom. 13).

224.What is meant by separation of church and state? The state is not to determine what the church must believe or how it may worship, nor appoint its officers. The church does have a prophetic message for the government, but only where the Word of God is clear.  It is not to dictate policy to the civil magistrate beyond this prophetic message and the power of the vote.

225.What are the implications of your view for the following:

War (just war / women combat)  Governments have a responsibility to defend the helpless against aggressive, greedy nations.  Women in combat is not a hot button issue for me.  Women have been killed in combat, and killed others in combat for thousands of years.  I am distressed at the loss of femininity that accompanies the practice, but I’m not sure the church should be dictating policy to the civil magistrate.

Political involvement – Christians are to be good citizens and use godly wisdom in voting for representatives.  Christians can and should run for office.  Christians should be concerned about a variety of issues, and need not vote only for other Christians.

Patriotism in worship – worship is to honor and worship God.  You can thank God for the many privileges we enjoy in a particular nation, but since our primary citizenship is in heaven I find patriotism in worship inappropriate, particularly since we are ‘idol factories’ and often make idols of our nationality.

226. Under what circumstances is it right for a Christian to disobey the civil authorities?  It is right to disobey the civil authorities when they either prohibit the Christian from obeying God or try to force him to break God’s law.  We are to do so in humility, and willing to suffer the consequences even as we declare how unjust the government is in the matter.

Chapter XXIV: Of Marriage and Divorce

227. Demonstrate from Scripture that marriage is a divine institution. Marriage is instituted in Genesis 2 that humankind may fulfill the Creation Mandate given to us.  In Ephesians 5 we see that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Jesus also affirms the divine institution of marriage in his teaching on marriage and divorce (Mt. 19).

228. Why is marriage not a sacrament?  It is not a sign and seal of our salvation, nor does it convey grace. It is not commanded of all Christians, which a sacrament is.

229. Should a Christian and an unbeliever marry? Should a Christian marry a Papist?  No, we are to marry in the Lord lest we be led astray to worship idols.

230. What are the legitimate reasons for divorce? Adultery (Mt. 5, 19) and abandonment (1 Cor. 7)

231. Under what conditions may the divorced remarry?  They may remarry if they were divorced for legitimate reasons, and may only be equally yoked.  If a person converts to Christianity after an illegitimate divorce (and their spouse has remarried) they may remarry.

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I’m slowly working my way through The Letters of John Newton.  There is some great material in his letters.  Today I read his first letter to Lady Wilberforce, William Wilberforce’s aunt.

He is addressing her experience of indwelling sin.  His counsel is counter-intuitive, but gospel-centered.

“I would not wish you to be less afflicted with a sense of indwelling sin.  It becomes us to be humbled into the dust; …”

He sees the role a sense of indwelling sin plays in our lives- to humble us.  Where we do not have much or any sense of indwelling sin, we quickly become self-righteous and filled with pride.  Rather than run from the sense of our sinfulness, Newton wants us to embrace it.  Let’s see why.

“Sin is the sickness of the soul, in itself mortal and incurable, as to any power in heaven or earth but that of the Lord Jesus only.  But He is the great, the infallible Physician.”

(more…)

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Chicken Little is crying up a storm.  People think the world is coming to an end.  Let’s take a quick look at what happened, and what is happening.

Last offseason the Patriots suffered setbacks in 2 areas.  First they lost people due to success.  Pioli and McDaniels left to pursue success apart from B Squared.  This has not worked out well in the past (ask Romeo, Charlie and Man-genius).  The Chiefs may have a chance with Romeo and Charlie as their new coordinators.  The Broncos had a streaky season, and will probably do better this year.  Second they lost some key locker room leaders to trades and retirement.  Fans were shocked at the trades of Vrabel and Seymour.  They were sad to see Tedy retire.  The defense took some serious hits.  Those showed up at critical moments.

The Patriots’ defense has been vulnerable to giving up leads under Dean Pees.  Without Mike, Richard and Tedy this problem multiplied.  Mayo’s injury limited there key game changer on the defensive side of the ball.  Pees is gone, and many feel that one problem was too many voices in the players’ ears.  Different messages.  Pees was pushed out, and the remaining guys are solid coaches who share the same philosophy as B Squared.  The “problem” of not having a defensive coordinator seems to be one of politics.  Patricia is the guy they would probably name, but didn’t want to upset Pepper Johnson (who they definitely want to keep) or Bill O’Brien who has not been named offensive coordinator.  This was a bad year to evaluate O’Brien’s work, so he may be given the title after a good season.

(more…)

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As I begin preparation for my examination in theology, Bible, government and sacraments, I thought I would resume the process of putting my study notes on-line.   It’s been awhile since I put some material on the Westminster Confession of Faith up here.  So today I’m covering the chapters on Religious Worship & the Sabbath Day, and Lawful Oaths and Vows.  Some good things to consider (the same caveats apply- I’m not arguing with anyone: if I misrepresented a position let me know).

Chapter XXI: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

214. Explain the significance of the statement: “… the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture”.   Scripture provides us with the elements of worship, and also prohibits some other practices.  We are not to imagine that our understanding of acceptable worship is better than God’s.  There is freedom in how we carry out those elements of worship so they are culturally appropriate.

215. Given your understanding of this principle, what would you consider to be prohibited in worship (particularly those elements currently practiced in other churches)?  The use of crucifixes, patriotic music or services, pictures of “Jesus”, worshipping the elements of the Supper as if they were Christ himself, snake handling, women preaching.

216. What are the “elements” of worship?  Call to Worship, Prayer, Creeds (Confession of Faith), Confession of Sin, Songs of Worship, Scripture Reading & Preaching, Giving, Sacraments, Benediction

217. What is the function of preaching in worship? With what attitude should it be received?  It should exalt God, edify Christians and evangelize the lost by making known & applying the Scriptures expositionally with a focus on Christ’s work for us, in us and thru us.  It is to be heard in faith and love to be stored in our hearts and practiced in our lives.

218. Is the fourth commandment a perpetual part of the moral law? How do you sanctify the Lord’s Day?  Yes, in that we should rest & worship one day in seven.  I spend a day resting from my ordinary work, spending time with my family.  On the Lord’s Day we worship Him.

Chapter XXII: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

219. What is a lawful oath? Why is an oath a part of religious worship? The person calls God as a witness to what he asserts or promises to do.  It is part of religious worship lest we use God’s name loosely or falsely.

220. What is a vow? What are some examples? When is it lawful to vow? A vow is like a promissory oath.  You may vow to give 25% of your income to the church for missions.  It must be made to God and done voluntarily.

221. Are there vows or oaths into which a Christian should not enter, either within or outside the church (for example, those related to secret societies, military service, or civic organizations)?  We are not to take vows which would lead us to sin by either omission or commission.

One of my exceptions is regarding the Lord’s Day/Sabbath.  I take a more Continental view (as opposed to the Puritan view) which was held by John Calvin.  It permits recreation since you are ceasing from your regular work to provide for your family.  In most things I tend to fall in line with Calvin.  I find him most consistent with Scripture.

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