Reformed theology

Here I sashay, I cannot do otherwise...

…no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon the same level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man's opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty.  (Preliminary Principle Number Four, 1788 Synod of New York and Philadelphia, 1789 General Assembly)

When the Reformed men who founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) decided to include Lutherans in their parachurch organization, their compromise was a harbinger of things to come. So, for a couple decades now, Reformed academics looking for a place to make their name, not content to rehearse the history of the Westminster divines forever, have turned toward the importation of Lutheran doctrine and practice to the Reformed church.

The popularity of Federal Vision and Lutheran emphases concerning the sacraments, liturgy, sacerdotal (priestly) accoutrements, the repudiation of the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and so on, all viewed alongside other contributing factors such as the kissing-cousin relationship of the PCA's Covenant Theological Seminary and the LCMS's Concordia Seminary—both in St. Louis—have produced a growing number of bright young pastors enamored with the neo-Lutheran project. But sadly, because their credentials reside in churches and denominations confessionally Reformed and Presbyterian, they haven't been willing to raise the "Lutheran" flag or adopt a name as forthright as "Neo-Lutherans."

When asked about their Lutheranism they're quick to list several things that cause them to prefer Presbyterian credentials. They defend their doctrinal, sacramental, and liturgical innovations within Reformed churches as being merely "Biblical." But this is rather disingenuous. It's as if a Marine corporal were to watch as, patrol after patrol, his squad were being wounded and killed by enemies wearing the uniform of the United States Marine Corps; and complaining to his Platoon Commander, he were to get the response, "Look, uniforms are out...


Last chance for Clearnote Summer Conference 2014...

We've now gone over 400 registrants, adults and children, for our Clearnote Summer Conference July 11th & 12th here in Bloomington, Indiana. The conference is titled,"Salt and Light: Confessing Christ in the Public Square." Are you coming?

We have a few spots left so go on over to the registration page and snag one. We'll look forward to seeing you.


Hipsters are conformist...

If you're a hipster into analogue, fixies, and vinyl, you'll love Clearnote Church, Bloomington. We use tip-up concrete to build, mothers to raise our children, chemical barrels for our acoustics, and we receive pastoral care from an elder who recently sold a third of his personal classical vinyl record collection to the Library of Congress—20,000 of his 60,000 records.

We're so hip we're on Bloomington's west side and young couples from our fellowship are whole-hog into rehabbing ranches from the sixties and split-levels from the fifties. People do raised bed, heirloom seeds, and a growing number of our cars have rebuilt titles. Oh yeah, and we also subscribe to the seventeenth century's Westminster Standards, which is to say, we're pretty sure we're unique. Pretty sure, although it turns out unique is the new Company Man...


Where do F-V men worship when on vacation...

Searching Baylyblog just now for a story from my first pastorate, I came across this text written by Pastor Jeff Meyers of the Presbyterian Church in America. It seemed worth resurrecting here on the main page in light of my concern recently expressed that proponents of what some call "Oatmeal Stout" Federal Vision are more comprehensible when we think Lutheran rather than Reformed.

Myers wrote...


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...