Reformed world

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...


Tim Keller: hundreds of sermons, but no repentance...

A longtime pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) sent me an e-mail with an excerpt from a Yelp review of Tim Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Going over there, I read all the reviews and here are some interesting excerpts...


Stalin's daughter has this to say about George Kennan...

During the twentieth century, close to half the world's population suffered behind Communism's Iron Curtains. And behind those curtains, murder was systematically practiced on a scale the world had never before known. Obscene bloodlust against their own subjects was the common denominator of Communism's leaders including Cambodia's Pol Pot, China's Mao Zedong, and the Soviet Union's Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin—better known as "Papa" Joe Stalin. Stalin himself slaughtered at least fifty million of his fellow citizens.

The March 31, 2014 issue of The New Yorker has a short profile1 of Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, who spent much of the second half of her life here in these United States of America. Until he died a few years ago, Svetlana's closest friend was the American diplomat of the Cold War, George Kennan. Their relationship was up and down...


Tetzel, eat your heart out...

"As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs." - Johann Tetzel's pitch as he sold the indulgences that funded the Sistine Chapel.

Amazon has started a Christian book imprint called Waterfall. Publisher Mark Pereira explains Waterfall's mission to the Library Journal:

Our main focus [at Waterfall] is to publish books that entertain and inform readers with a transforming message (that includes) Christian Living through spiritual refreshment and personal growth (as well as) stories in the romance, mystery, and suspense genres.

Books with a transforming message that entertains readers. Christian Living and spiritual refreshment through mystery, suspense, and romance. 

The recent merger of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Publishing is now called HarperCollins Christian Publishing and the same Library Journal article reports this explanation by HC Christian Publishing executive Tracy Danz of their market for Christian fiction...


Menlo Park Presbyterian Church leaves the PC(USA)...

The cost John Ortberg and Menlo Park Presbyterian Church have agreed to pay in order to be dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) is around $11,000,000.

Back in 1991 when our church in Wisconsin left the PC(USA), our presbytery simply confiscated everything. They recognized our congregational vote for transfer into the PCA as legitimate, they dismissed Rosedale Presbyterian Church as a church, and then they confiscated the church building, the baptismal font made by our elder's grandfather, the cemetery, the manse, the banners our children had made for Easter... They changed the locks on the doors immediately.

We made no protest.

My final sermon was on September 15, 1991. Our  text was Hebrews 10:32-34 and the sermon title was "You ...Joyfully Accepted the Confiscation of Your Property." During the sermon...


Post on John MacArthur's money: answering objections...

Back on January 30th, we ran a post updating readers on the latest IRS Forms 990 filed by John MacArthur's non-profit companies and what they show about his annual income. Since the post, several commenters have questioned whether MacArthur really had any say over his study notes being packaged with the neutered New International Version, whether we're saying MacArthur's income is sinful; and if so, what specific sin we're accusing him of? Here are some responses to those questions and challenges:

Brothers,

I've been out of the loop for a while. I appreciate others who have responded to some of the more recent objections to this post. Now, a couple responses of my own.

First, John MacArthur himself had absolute control over whether or not to package and sell his MacArthur Study Bible notes with the neutered Bible now sold under the name New International Version. It was his decision and he alone is the man who could have stopped it. His elders board did not make the decision.  Zondervan doesn't control MacArthur's study notes. John MacArthur controls John MacArthur's study notes. This is how publishing works.

John decided he didn't want to lose out on one of the largest Bible markets in the English-speaking world, so after negotiating royalties (which unlike John Piper's royalties, remain a secret), he signed an agreement with Zondervan to sell his own study notes in the text of a Bible that everyone knows has gagged God's words for the sake of pacifying the feminists.

There's no debating these simple facts. Readers may differ concerning the reason MacArthur did this, but it's certain he made the decision to sell the neutered Bible he had previously opposed because of its unfaithfulness to the text of Scripture.

Second, the Bible commands us to exclude men from ministry who are greedy:


John MacArthur revisited...

[NOTE: This post has been edited to correct a mistake concerning chronology.]

Today, I decided to check to see what happened to John MacArthur's compensation by Grace to You and Masters College and Seminary as reported in the 2012 IRS 990s? The 2012 990s (reporting on 2011) are the next year of figures that have been made available since the last time we wrote here on Baylyblog. Again, the IRS requires MacArthur to reveal these numbers. Thus the numbers here that are not estimates are public records.

Here then are the more recent 2011 figures compared to our previous 2010 figures...


Planetary conviviality, human flourishing...

You may casually dismiss this stuff, but this is the future of Evangelical religion. It will be toned down, somewhat, when it's taken out there to the hinterlands, and localized, but this sort of pantheistic, radically subjective, mystical ad copy is not transparently evil to people acclimated to Christian religion by men like Tim Keller. They're good prep for emotive blather such as "planetary conviviality."

Again, from Union Theological Seminary's e-mail update:

FORREST CHURCH MEMORIAL LECTURE: Dr. Keller [not Tim] develops the relational potential of a theology of becoming. Her books reconfigure ancient symbols of divinity for the sake of a planetary conviviality—a life together, across vast webs of difference...


Church...


Where there are many words...

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. - Proverbs 10:19

Dad was fond of saying criticism is the manure Christians grow best in. As you can imagine, I get a fair bit of it and do my best not simply to pass it off. I meet with the Clearnote Pastors College men each Tuesday for two hours of discussion surrounding a text of Scripture. From time to time, criticism comes up and one thing I try to remember to say is that, while we should not treat them with much respect, we should always read anonymous letters. Often they're anonymous because of a deep root of bitterness in the author, but not always. And usually such letters say things I need to hear and take to heart. (On the other hand, anonymous letters of thanks and praise are always, always perfectly true. These are to be sincerely believed, meditated on, and placed under our pillow at night where we might nuzzle them with our cheek during the wee hours of the morning.)

You won't be surprised that my initial response to criticism is often to be defensive and argue with my critic. Over the years this has declined, as I trust my dear Mary Lee would testify. She's always been my first and best critic, particularly since my dear Mother died. And when the defensiveness is there at first, usually it doesn't take very long for me to see whatever truth is in the criticism, at which time I go back and thank the critic telling him his words were true and helpful. And if my defensiveness was sinful, I ask his forgiveness.

In the past three weeks, I've received three criticisms of the blog and those criticisms highlight another aspect to responding to critics that's quite important...


Inoffensive "Bibles" bear toxic fruit...

London's Mail Online reports: "Parents and godparents no longer have to ‘repent sins’ and ‘reject the devil’ during christenings after the Church of England rewrote the solemn ceremony. The new wording is designed to be easier to understand... In the original version, the vicar asks: ‘Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?’ Prompting the reply: ‘I reject them.’ They then ask: ‘Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?’, with the answer: ‘I repent of them.’ 

But under the divisive reforms, backed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and already being practised in 1,000 parishes, parents and godparents are asked to ‘reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises’ – with no mention of the devil or sin. The new text ...also drops the word ‘submit’ in the phrase ‘Do you submit to Christ as Lord?’ because it is thought to have become ‘problematical’, especially among women who object to the idea of submission."

Yes, yes; "the new wording is designed to be easier to understand." Reading this news piece reminded me of the corruption of the text of Scripture in our new Bible versions. Reformed Evangelicals justified it too with the claim they were making Scripture "easier to understand." But it's all bunk. The problem our new Bibles are designed to address is not readers' lack of understanding, but the text's offensiveness. And if we're honest, we'll admit we've only begun our quest to render God's word innocuous.

Why stop with the removal of words like "Jews," "old wives tales," "man," "brothers," and "effeminate" when words like "devil," "rebellion," "sin," "submit," and "repent" remain in the text? And why do we have such little faith in the understanding of simple Christians. It was not always that way.

Starting in the seventeenth century, the Protestant, Reformed Christians of New England had one of the highest...


Establish the work of our hands...

For whatever reason, I just spent five minutes reading a bunch of Reformed superstars' tweets being exchanged among Reformed groupies. Glorious truths of God are reduced to sound bites recirculated by fan-boys who come away thinking they have struck a blow for the Gospel by tweeting twenty words and attaching some super-apostle's name.

The Bible tells us "solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). But we're fat Americans, so instead of "practice" and "training," we have become facile, glib, feebleminded, giddy, and frothy in our repetition of the banal, phylacteried, hackneyed, and bromidic.

If you don't know those words, there's a reason.

Typical of the stuff we cycle through is, "Jesus didn't die so he could say he did his part. No, he died to save his elect in full." Then we attach a name to these twenty words, as if anyone could own copyright on such an obvious truth repeated by every pastor since the Apostle Paul.

Poor Mark Driscoll was caught...


A call to transform neither individuals nor society...

After having this post up for several hours, I've decided to take it back private. Sorry for the on-again off-again disruption. Also, I ask the forgiveness of my friend Bob Patterson, his friend Darryl Hart, and Baylyblog readers for posting this in the first place. In writing this post, I sinned against Christian humility and charity.


What's up with the Aquila Report...

Once upon a time, I used to check the Aquila Report, daily, to see what was up in the Reformed World. But now, something has changed over there and I'll check it no more.

You could almost hear the squeals of delight when Doug Phillips issued his apology for his moral failure. Several articles have been posted saying, “I told you so—that’s what you get with patriarchy.” All that was missing were emoticons of shaking heads, clucking sounds, and "meows"....


Tim Keller's "divine dance": the Trinitarian twist...

Reading some of Tim Keller's books recently, certain emphases stood out. One being something he calls the "divine dance." Keller prefers framing discussions of the Trinity with this analogy. He concludes with it in The Reason for God and opens with it in King's Cross (aka Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God)...

Exploring the background to this analogy, I came across a very helpful book, Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical, contributed by various authors, including Pastor Kevin J. Bidwell.


Thank God for Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile...

A week or two ago, Thabiti Anyabwile, a faithful Reformed pastor from the Cayman Islands, ran a post calling for Reformed Christians to recover their ability to feel shame and revulsion at sodomitic practices (The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and "Gay Marriage"). Pastor Anyabwile pointed out how those practices perverted God's sexual design and this made his readers mad, so they inundated Pastor Anyabwile's blog with catcalls and rotten tomatoes and Pastor Anyabwile apologized.

Through many years working with men and women fighting against temptations to same-sex intimacy, I've learned the precious truth that the straight and narrow road of Christian faith runs right next to the straight and narrow road of body parts and shame... {C}


An account of Abraham Kuyper's conversion: "one had to be born again"...

In connection with David Wegener's review of James Bratt's Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat and his discussion of Kuyper's conversion, here is a piece of correspondence that complements Bratt's own account. The letter was written by P. H. A. van Krieken, niece of Maria Hartman who was longtime housekeeper to the Kuypers, recounting her own knowledge through her aunt of Kuyper's conversion and subsequent change in his pastoral work and preaching. The account warmed my heart and I'm guessing it will strengthen the faith of readers of Baylyblog, also. It is used by kind permission of its translator, Prof. Harry Vandyke.

* * *

Some third-hand information about Kuyper’s conversion

[The following letter was found in a typewritten copy among the papers of M. C. Smit in the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto. Presumably the original is in the Dr. H. Colijn Archive at the Free University, Amsterdam.]

Letter from: P. H. A. van Krieken Huize Zonneweelde, Looydijk 158, [name of town left off]

Addressed to: His Excellency Dr. H. Colijn; Minister of State, The Hague

Dear Sir,

I was delighted to read in the Utrechtse Nieuwsblad that on 29 Oct. 1937 a commemoration is to be held of Dr. Kuyper, and because I come from Beesd and was born in 1868 I heard a lot about him, since my Aunt Maria Hartman was his maid for five years and experienced his whole turnaround [omkeering] and also knew Pietje Baltus as friend and always visited her conventicle [gezelschap] on Sundays, who told me everything that she went through with him, and I knew the elders who sat with him in Church Council.

His first round of visits that he paid as pastor in Beesd was announced to Pietje Baltus: Rev. Kuyper is in the neighborhood and will soon come to you too.

She says to that neighbor lady: That rascal might as well stay away, I don’t care for him...


Abraham Kuyper: a giant we need...

A Review of James Bratt, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat.

In history today, studying the “little people” is in and studying the giants is out. Kuyper was a colossus and has not been particularly well-served by biographers. When we study him, we can see further ahead since we are dwarves standing on the shoulders of a giant. Consider his accomplishments and the highlights of his life.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) had two conversions, three nervous breakdowns, and at least four vocations in his extraordinary life. He started a political party, a university and a denomination. He wrote book after book, column after column, gave speech after speech, and was one of the finest devotional writers of his era. As we say in my family, he was...


Carolyn Custis James is right...

The Carolyn Custis James who's made a name for herself dissing housewives and puffing theologettes has moved on to opposing spiritual abuse. In a post titled, "The Enablers of Spiritual Abuse... or when silence isn't golden," Ms. Custis James writes:

In July, when I was in the airport and spotted an abandoned backpack, I didn’t assume it was someone else’s responsibility. I knew the drill. “If you see something, say something.” So I did.

One of the many disturbing aspects of spiritual abuse and a prime reason that it thrives unchecked in so many churches and in highly respected Christian institutions and ministries is because instead of “saying something” when signs of abuse surface, we take the path of least resistance.

“If you see or hear something, mind your own business!”

Ms. Custis James is exactly right. The most wicked spiritual abuse suffered by sheep is pastors and elders who see sin and recognize error, yet betray their calling by saying nothing to oppose it. Take feminism, for instance...