Reformed theology

A conference for the whole family...

Conferences get a bad rap around here, and for good reason. Generally speaking, conferences tend to be about money and personalities and book sales and money and self-promotion and money and stuff, for instance. They're also a really great opportunity for super-spiritual people to go and listen to their favorite super-apostles so they can feel super-righteous about their super-awesome understanding of supralapsarianism or something like that.

But if you're like me, there are still a few conferences out there that you like the idea of going to...


Lutheran and Roman Catholic evangelism: we have sacraments that actually do something...

[If you're interested in the magazines-for-Christian-intellectuals scene, read on. If the scene makes you yawn, skip the next four paragraphs and start with the paragraph, "Let me call..."]

Before founding First Things, Richard John Neuhaus edited the Rockford Institute's Religion and Society Report and I was a subscriber. Then came the May 1989 nastiness when the Rockford bumpkins booted Neuhaus from his editorial digs in New York City. What became known as the "Rockford Raid" left Neuhaus shaking the dust off his captoes and moving on to found First Things. My favorite quote of the fracas comes from the Rockford side: "A lot of folks in New York aren't used to being judged by the Midwest." Rockford saying "no" to Manhattan was just chutzpah...


J. Gresham Machen and Reformed ministry today...

After posting on Tim Keller and Redeemer, it seemed good also to post this excerpt from J. Gresham Machen's classic critique of early twentieth century liberalism, Christianity and Liberalism. If you have not read it, you simply must. This past Tuesday in our noon meeting with our church pastors and the students in our Clearnote Pastors College, I read the following excerpt out loud, making the point that this description of the liberalism of the early twentieth century is a very good placeholder for the culture of liberalism within PCA and other Reformed churches today. I say "culture" because the vocabulary of presentation has changed, but the substance is the same. There is no preaching of repentance in the PCA. Only grace everywhere and always. But grace without repentance is no grace at all. Instead, we preach to good people who just need to be a little less...


Adam first, then Eve...

For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man... (1Corinthians 11:8)

God had a purpose in creating Adam first and His purpose is not complicated.

Creating Eve second established order between the sexes. Man is the glory of God and woman is the glory of man. Man is to be responsible and woman is to help man. 

Sadly, we're so contaminated by our culture of rebellion that we turn into weasels...


Teaching God to be fair...

Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said, "Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? Or do you have an arm like God, And can you thunder with a voice like His?" (Job 40:6-9)

Do you blame God for your poverty? Unhappy marriage? Sickness or suffering? The accident you had last week? Having to work at a job you don't like? Not being able to be an overseas missionary? Not being an elder?


Clearnote pastors' written prayers, set forms, and clothing...

In light of the discussions concerning "set," "fixed," or "written" prayers, worship forms, as well as the clothing worn by pastors, let me clarify a few things. First, here at Clearnote Church, Bloomington, we regularly (weekly) use...


A Baptist and Yale are left promoting Edwards...

Just got an e-mail from the Edwards Center at Yale promoting a summer course on Edwards as missionary to the Stockbridge Indians. I've put the course description at the bottom of this post. It looks like an interesting course.

Edwards's move from Northampton to Stockbridge is one of the things I respect most about Edwards. For the love of God and His sheep, he stood against the Halfway Covenant and tried to discipline the Covenant children of Northampton. Inevitably, this resulted in the ruling elite kicking him out of Northampton. Edwards knew it was a large risk to warn his flock, but he trusted in God and stood firm for the protection of the souls under his care. After he was exiled from Northampton, he moved to a very small church in a very small village serving a few ruling elite and the Indians. There too, his commitment to the souls under his care caused conflict with the ruling elite.

Then he died.

Reformed academics and the pastors they train are dismissive of Edwards for a number of reasons...


Feminists who claim to be daughters of Calvin, Bullinger, and Knox...

Check out this post opposing what the author refers to as "Biblical patriarchy." It's written by a complementarian woman who styles herself "a daughter of the Reformation." With respect to the matter of God's Creation Order of sexuality, though, Ms. Miller is no daughter of the Reformation.

Her arguments are a combination of error, straw men, and straightforward repudiation of the Biblical doctrine of sexuality taught by Protestant church fathers through the centuries, starting with Luther, Calvin, and Knox, and continuing unbroken down through the centuries until a very few years ago.

First, the error: the post's author, Rachel Miller, quotes a Phoenix Seminary prof saying Don Bloesch was a complementarian. Don was not.

Don and his wife, Brenda, were good friends. One night my wife and I joined two Roman Catholic sisters...


Finish training your sons and daughters here in Bloomington...

Here's an interesting article on manhood today. (Or should I say boyhood?) It's the Wall Street Journal so maybe their paywall will keep you out? Teaser:

Except perhaps in very conservative communities, men with sufficient social skills can find sex and companionship without need of a matrimonial commitment (and for those who lack social skills, a willingness to marry is unlikely to provide much compensation). The culture's unrelenting message—repeated in Hymowitz's article—is that women are doing fine on their own. If a woman doesn't need a man, there's little reason for him to devote his life to her service.

George Gilder said it all back in the seventies in a book titled Sexual Suicide (since updated and retitled Men and Marriage). But you know, George Gilder is gauche. Admitting you've read him is sort of like admitting to being a collector of Dennis Rodman memorabilia or a fan of Charles Murray. Anyhow, did you get that "except perhaps in very conservative communities?"

Sadly, I'm not sure Protestant Reformed churches qualify any longer.

In our experience here in a university community where we watch college students individuate from their PCA and Reformed Baptist (including SBC) parents, the prevailing message of Reformed parents to their college and grad student children is that a good education trumps sexual purity and holiness. Of course, they don't put it so honestly. Instead, they tell their daughter that she must...


Why Evangelical and Reformed gnostics hate Doug Wilson, RCJR, and Doug Phillips...

One longtime friend of Baylyblog commented under Pastor Wegener's post, "What's up with the Aquilla report...". First quoting another's criticism of Doug Phillips, Ross followed with his own question:

//Maybe because Doug Phillips was a legalist who majored in minors and encouraged people to live by an increasingly strict set of man made rules?//

With an eye to the reputation Bill Gothard got for himself, is this comment about Doug and the Vision Forum ministry a fair one? (I don't know, honest).

To which I respond:

Ross, the other thing worth saying about Doug Phillips, RCJR, and Doug Wilson—the three patriarchalists that female feminists claiming to be Christians live to gossip about and spit on—is that, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

But let's change this slightly: in the land of blind Reformed Evangelicals, the one-eyed man is a monster. Evangelicals, Reformed or otherwise, hate any man who has faith, particularly when that faith is demonstrated in the most earthy and organic matters of sexual body parts and what we do or don't do with them.

Because Reformed Evangelicals are gnostic, we refuse to be pinned down with anything except words—and even those confessional words have no visible content...


Grace that is greater than all my sin...

...the common assertion, "You just need to believe the gospel more," essentially undermines the position of the antinomian... - Antinomianism, Mark Jones

Yesterday, I was speaking with a young student about his faith and he was describing a church he'd attended when he was in high school. He said that, while wrong on a number of Biblical truths, the church "got grace."

A few minutes later, he spoke of the first Sunday he attended another church. He'd been displeased by the preaching because it focussed on specific Biblical truths. As he saw it, specific truths weren't needed as much as simple faith in Jesus, so he left the worship service angry. Another student met with him during the following week, and as he described it, "(John) did an excellent job helping me to see my pride. It was the first time I saw my sin. Grace."

Yes, that's precisely how he said it. "Grace" came out sort of under his breath, as an afterthought. He didn't say, "It was the first time I saw my sin and God's grace." He didn't say, "It was the first time I saw my sin and understood grace." He said, "It was the first time I saw my sin." Full stop. Then a soft and almost imperceptible...


R2K men stand for nothing, nowhere, and never...

Regular readers of Baylyblog know David and I have been warning souls against the R2K error for years, now. We are quite serious in saying that the men who promote this error pose one of the gravest threats to the Church of our time because their sales pitch is perfectly tuned to the sinful tendencies of postmodern Reformed church officers who feel shame at the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Worldling: "Are you really telling me I shouldn't love the man I love simply because he's a man, and not a woman? What gives you the right to diss my love life? Who do you think you are?"

R2K man: "No, you misunderstand me; I'm not telling you that you shouldn't love the man you love simply because he's a man, and not a woman. I'm telling you that I shouldn't love a man simply because he's a man, and not a woman. But I don't want to be triumphalist about it. I think you should have marriage rights just like everybody else! So now, dont' you think I'm a nice guy?"

Watch that word 'triumphalist'—it's key...


Lutherans masquerading as Reformed...

If you tired of the discussion under Craig French's post Tullian's therapeutic grace..., bear with me and read my comment just made at the bottom of that post's comments, on October 23 at 3:50 PM. And in that connection...


Is a believer's sanctification simply believing more in their justification...

In connection with the suppression of sanctification by endless repetition of the justification-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone mantra so endemic within the Reformed church today, it's encouraging to receive notification of this conference to be held at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Titled "Sanctification: Overcoming Modern Challenges," the conference will address:

Is a believer’s sanctification simply believing more in their justification? What place do effort and discipline have in this process?


They assert their firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself...

An Escondido seminary teacher who works alongside Michael Horton starts a 6,200 word blog post with this question: 

There is concern by some in the Reformed community that there is too much emphasis on grace, in the doctrine of sanctification, and not enough emphasis on obedience and even godly fear. The question has arisen how this matter should be addressed.

"The question has arisen how this matter should be addressed" might lead the reader to conclude the author of the post believes these concerns are valid and he shares them. But sadly not. Plowing through the Escondido man's endless words, the readers is led to see the fear of God as a very dangerous thing promoted by those who deny the Reformed doctrine of sola fide—that man is justified by faith alone. In other words, if a Christian starts talking about the fear of God or Christian obedience, watch out! "Holiness" people and Tridentine Roman Catholics are lurking just around the corner.

Now truthfully, in the Reformed church today it should be universally acknowledged that the grace mantra never stops suppressing obedience and the fear of God...


Joe Bayly to Marvin Olasky: Capital punishment is Biblical...

Here's a column Dad published on the subject of capital punishment in a thoughtful and mature Reformed magazine called "Eternity" back in May of 1977. Titled, "Bloodthirsty or Biblical: Hang the man or hang the logic," Dad turned away from the (even then) trendy hand-wringing over the death penalty. After all, he had studied Scripture and listened carefully to the fathers of the Reformed faith.

* * *

One element has been missing from discussions of Gary Gilmore’s recent execution and of the larger question of capital punishment.

We’ve heard a lot, mostly con but some pro, about the deterrent effect of capital punishment, and about the thwarted possibility of reformation. And more has been said about “murder” by the state, about the effect on the condemned man of waiting for time and appeals to run out, about society’s voyeurism, even about the suffering of the condemned man compared to that of his victim and the victim’s family.

But I have not seen a serious presentation of the one element in capital punishment that has found general historical agreement, among Jews and Christians: retribution, the punitive effect.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that this is absent from our consideration of the ultimate punishment, since it is also the missing element from our consideration of punishments for lesser crimes.

I am not especially concerned about the rejection of retribution by the secular mind, which in our day to a large degree is humanistic. Reformation of the criminal is the only reason for incarceration or other punishment, according to this way of thinking. But I am deeply concerned about its rejection by the Christian mind. As in so many other recent instances, it seems to me that we have in this turned from the Word of God and accommodated our theology, attitudes and values to this present evil world and its ruler...


Michael Horton gives us space to maneuver...

A week or so ago, I read this from Escondido Westminster Seminary's Michael Horton:

Instantaneous creation of Adam and Eve is not explicitly required by the text or its subsequent interpretation, but the historicity of a first human couple with whom God entered into covenant is indispensable to theology at significant points in almost every locus. (from Horton's Lord and Servant, p. 118; quoted by Daniel Wells)

How scandalous this should be among the people of God. Westminster Escondido's Michael Horton joins Covenant Seminary's Jack Collins in declaring that "the text" of Genesis does "not explicitly require" that Adam was created by God "instantaneously" from the ground, or that Eve was created by God "instantaneously" from Adam's rib. Rather, Horton says the Bible would allow for—what? Adam and Eve's extrusion, evocation, emanation, or evolution over a period of time?

And what of the water Jesus changed into wine?


Tim Keller's transformationalism...

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. - 1Timothy 2:12

Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an eternity. There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea to build bridges over the moats—so as to be able to attack the besiegers. Charmant! He transforms the fortress into a countryseat, and naturally the enemy takes it. So it is with Christianity. They changed the method—and naturally the world conquered.

- Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christendom, (Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 138.

- In (her book, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles), author and co-founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church Kathy Keller ...encourages women to teach and lead in the church in ways that may startle some complementarians. (from Mrs. Keller's ad copy for her book on Amazon)

Upon the release of Tim Keller's "transformationalist" Bible, it's important to scrutinize the fruit of Tim's particular brand of transformationalism as it relates to the Biblical doctrine of sexuality. The past few days, I've been working with a man in the Philly area who is writing a document opposing his Reformed church's recent move toward women elders, and in the process of this work it's become clear that my friend has been led by Tim and Kathy Keller into error. Through the years, Baylyblog has not been appreciated for our work documenting how Tim Keller and his Redeemer Presbyterian Church have rebelled against the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America and Scripture in their election and practice of woman officers...


R2K is segregationist...

It's a regular theme in the New Testament history that the Jewish religious leaders felt the need to guard the precarious relationship that existed between their fractious nation and the Roman Empire. If they did not keep the peace, who would? And if the peace was not kept, what would happen to their synagogues and to the Temple and to their authority and wealth and status?

It is always the established religious leaders who feel the threat God’s servants the prophets pose to their carefully negotiated separation of powers between church and state. The balance is precarious and only they are qualified to maintain it—for the good of the people, of course!

Why "R2K" instead of "2K"?

First, a word about names. Why do I make it a habit to refer to this modern novelty as “R2K,” the initial 'R' standing for "Radical" or "Revisionist" two kingdom theology, rather than simply “2K” standing for "Two Kingdom"?

In the Reformed and Protestant world, fathers of the Church have long referred to “two-kingdom” distinctions they have employed as necessary to delineate the proper spheres of authority of state and church; of city councilmen on the one hand and deacons, pastors, and elders on the other hand. These two kingdoms or spheres of authority Martin Luther variously referred to as the Kingdoms of this World and the Kingdom of Christ, the Kingdoms of God’s Left Hand and the Kingdom of God’s Right Hand. So in that sense we could say that, insofar as the modern Escondido Theology or R2K men are speaking about the distinctions between the state and Church, and therefore the distinction between the Kingdom of this World and the Kingdom of God, they are joining a large and long conversation dear to the heart of each one of us pastors, elders, and believers living in this world while not of it.

In his helpful article, “One Kingdom or Two?”, Cornelius Venema writes:

…the two kingdoms [R2K] doctrine is alleged to be the venerable, original position of the Reformed churches. …(This) historical claim on the part of two kingdoms [R2K] advocates… represents a tendentious reading of the historical record.

- in "One Kingdom or Two? An Evaluation of the 'Two Kingdoms' Doctrine as an Alternative to Neo-Calvinism," by Cornelis Venema. Mid-America Journal of Theology 23 (2012): 77-129.

In Protestantism, both Presbyterian/Reformed and Lutheran, we now have five centuries of discussion and debate of this distinction and how best to work it out. No one has arrived at a solution to the tension and conflict that have always prevailed between the two kingdoms and it was this same conflict that led to this exchange between Pilate and Jesus Christ...{C}


Theological critique of Escondido Two Kingdoms theology (X): "There is no such thing as a secular society."

In its use of society as the foundational term for human community, modern political philosophy conceives of civic life on the pattern of a group of acting subjects in a purely human space. The ever recurring image of such a group is one of players around a table. As Thomas Hobbes wrote, "It is in the laws of a commonwealth, as in the laws of gaming: Whatsoever the gamesters all agree on, is injustice to none of them." It is to be found again in the work of Adam Smith, who speaks of the "great chess-board of human society." The image loses its metaphorical self-consciousness and becomes conceptually foundational in later authors. John Rawls' description of the original position provides a good example. And history takes political theory seriously. Our political communities have become "societies" resembling ever more closely a club of gamblers.

For the game to be fair, it must be secular. The space of our democratic societies is flat. Nobody is allowed to stand higher than others. The first to be excluded is the One Above, especially when people claim to have received from him some message or mission that puts them closer to his divine reality—and thus higher... {C}