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ECHOing Across Generations

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” Thomas Edison said. But not by John Hanson. John is a ruling elder at Southside Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis and has worked as an educator. For over two decades, he has hauled teams of young people from our presbytery each summer to North Fort Myers, Florida to serve at ECHO.

ECHO stands for Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization. It is a Christian organization with a vision to “Honor God through sustainable hunger solutions.” From the farm in Florida, it equips people, most often missionaries, with “agricultural resources and skills to reduce hunger and improve the lives of the poor.” They serve workers in more than 165 countries and are being used to change the lives of millions of people.

In 1989, Rich Johnston, another elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, took the first team of young people from our presbytery to serve at ECHO. He and others had known ECHO’s director, Dr. Martin Price, and his wife Bonnie from their years in Indianapolis, at Geneva College, and at Purdue University. The Prices had begun their work at ECHO in 1981, and the work was still […]

The RP & ARP Synods; A Family Reunion of Churches

This week, the highest courts of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church met concurrently in Flat Rock, North Carolina at the Bonclarken Conference Center. The RP and ARP courts are both called “synod” – distinct from the term “general assembly” used by most other Presbyterian denominations. A general assembly is historically seen as the highest court, with a synod being lesser. In seminary, I was taught that our denominations have chosen to keep synods, in part, as a reminder that the visible church is yet fractured due to sin. Until there is biblical union, a general assembly cannot truly be convened.

The essential difference between our two cousin denominations involves christology. We understand Christ’s office as king slightly differently which is evidenced more visibly in areas such as the content and manner of song and music in worship. Our differences are such that merger or formal union was not the purpose of this concurrent meeting, though we do pray with Jesus that we might be one ecclesiastically.

This meeting served as something of a family reunion of churches that have been separated as they are since 1782. We have rich theological similarities, a shared history […]

How do I know what is morally wrong?

In two different Bible studies in different settings that I have led in the last month, the question has been asked, “How do I know what is wrong?” – as in morally wrong. In one case, the inquirer was an atheist, and in the other case, the question came from a life-long church attendee of various churches that never encouraged substantial study of the Bible. It is a wonderful question – especially since it flowed from genuine, personal interest as we studied God’s word.

The succinct answer of Westminster Shorter Catechism question and answer 14 helps greatly in such discussions. It asks and answers, “What is sin?” “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”  The context of our Bible study called for the language to be modernized, and it was – sin is not doing what God commands or doing what he forbids (James 4:17 & Leviticus 5:17).

“But how would I know what those things are?” came one reply. Where in the Bible do we find guidance so that we will know what we ought to do – or when we need to ask forgiveness? Sin is of course more than simply doing the wrong […]

The Chickens of Postmodernism

The chickens of postmodernism and the social construct theory of truth are coming home to roost. They have been for a while, but it is helpful to consider the implications from time to time.

The social construct theory essentially asserts that truth is what the society agrees upon as being the truth; the one absolute is that there are no absolutes. Thus, murder is wrong because everyone agrees that it is wrong, not because it is objectively wrong. When I talk to people in our republic about the nature of truth and probe for their understanding of it, the social construct theory is by far the most frequent explanation people give – especially young people.

What are the implications when we abandon the objective truth of divine revelation? There are many, for sure. Here are five implications that have struck me recently from various events in our culture. Of course, not everyone who believes in the absence of revealed or objective truth would express these five perspectives in belief or action; many are blessedly inconsistent. However, these are consistent with the position and are increasingly evident:

Might makes right. The truth is established by the 51%. Thus, political and judicial processes must establish […]

The Tender Heart of the Mother

For your encouragement in anticipation of Mothers’ Day, the following are the reflections of D. S. Faris on his mother Nancy Faris (1806-1881) upon her death. Earlier this week, this article highlighted her husband. In a biographical sketch, her son wrote of her life, including her industrious nature and business savvy; these selected paragraphs sample his praise for her motherly virtue. She raised seven sons and one daughter in the fear and admonition of the Lord. May the Lord continue to raise up such mothers:

Her talk to the children was from the heart to the heart. Besides teaching them the catechisms she gave them practical lessons about heaven, hell, God and Christ, justification and good works. From her lips I first learned the sinfulness of sin, and that self-righteousness will not justify.

It is the mother that makes the coming man. Her husband may be the pattern, but she does the molding and finishing. So long as there are sterling mothers, we can be sure of the coming generation. But the decay of womanly virtue brings the wreck of morality and manhood. It may be that woman did her best when she contented herself with giving to the world sons and daughters brought […]

Faris Way, Bloomington, IN 47408

In April 2015, the trustees of Indiana University named a road within its athletic complex on the Bloomington campus “Faris Way.” The land on which Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall sit is that of the historic Faris family farm. James Faris (1791-1855), my great-great-great grandfather, originally owned the land. More than sixty years ago, the trustees’ minutes instructed that “in view of the fact that this land has been the Faris homestead since the original entry, the name ‘Faris’ be preserved by so designating a street or other part of the proposed development” (October 23, 1954). The street name was promised in negotiations when the state condemned the farm through eminent domain against the will of the family to construct the stadiums.

When I was five years old in 1982, my father took me to a Syracuse versus Indiana football game at Memorial Stadium. From the stands, he pointed at the land all around the stadium and told me that this land had belonged to my namesake but had been taken. That night, I was instructed to remember this injustice and the abuse of governmental power against God-given liberty.

Today, the street name Faris Way seems fitting and will serve as poignant reminder […]

Indiana’s Opportunity

Those of us living in Indiana live at a rare juncture in history. We made big news a month ago with our Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in the statehouse. The waters have calmed for now, and many people wish the whole episode would just disappear. Maybe the whole attempt to pass the RFRA was unwise on the part of the Christians who authored the bill. Whether it was or was not, proponents of LBGT rights have promised to press for more comprehensive protections in next year’s general assembly. Rare is the occasion when a people have the promise of a spotlight and the opportunity to prepare for eight months before taking the stage.

Fellow Hoosiers of various persuasions should take time to serious think through the possibilities and implications that are before us. Whether you are convinced that your side will win or lose the political contest, you will have many open doors for discussion if you live here that could powerfully impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Rather than run from the discussion, let’s embrace the opportunity set before us.

Marvin Olasky has long argued that Bible-believing Christians today are less like the ancient Jews in […]

Training In Christian Piety

Matthew Myer Boulton is president of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana and is a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He comes from a very different theological perspective than I do, but in seeking to get to know my neighbor better, I have enjoyed his work Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation, and the Future of Protestant Theology. There, his educated speculation on the title of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is fascinating as he seeks to show how practical Calvin intended his magnum opus to be. Boulton writes:

What should we make of the Institutio’s title? The most familiar English translation, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” is unfortunate in several respects. First, the phrase “the Christian Religion” rings today as if Calvin is picking out Christianity from among the world’s religions, but the modern notion of “religion” had not yet taken hold in sixteenth-century Europe, and so for Calvin and his early readers, religio meant something quite different. Wilfred Cantwell Smith has argued that in Calvin’s work the term religio refers to a universal, innate “sense of piety at prompts a man to worship”; Brian Gerrish has suggested that “Calvin’s use of the words religio […]

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

You must read Nabeel Qureshi’s autobiography. Nabeel vividly tells the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity which was published in 2014. Nabeel converted in 2005 after wrestling with the claims of Christ through his college years. Today, this brilliant young man serves as an apologist with Ravi Zachariah International Ministries. You may have seen him in debates online such as this one from last week, or perhaps you have seen clips of him answering questions from Muslims like this.

Nabeel grew up in the West, in a strongly Muslim family with Pakistani roots. Because Nabeel must begin the account by describing his Eastern family environment in the midst of a Western context, the book began a bit slowly for me and for others I know who have read Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Eastern history, names, words, and customs do not immediately resonate with most of us as Westerners. But, within a few chapters, I was hardly able to put the book down. Nabeel recounts the ministry of David Wood, a Christian classmate at Old Dominion University, who quickly became his best friend. The two were evenly matched […]

Of RFRA and the Resurrection

Last week, I was on vacation with my family, away from our hometown of Indianapolis. From hundreds of miles away, I watched with consternation as the media ripped our state lawmakers to shreds over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Not many bills in the Indiana statehouse warrant a Wikipedia page, but Senate Bill 101 did after all of the publicity. The attempt to protect ours as a culture of pluralism became more complex by the “fix” our lawmakers and governor added in response to the media frenzy and outcry from public figures and corporations. Little remains to be said that has not already been said, so I will simply add one thought.

No one I saw or heard in the public square connected Easter with the RFRA. Easter weekend followed the bulk of the RFRA controversy. Both were on the front of our society’s mind. Yet, virtually no one publicly connect the resurrection of Christ with the right and obligation to obey the living God.

In the book of Acts, the resurrection of Jesus was the defining feature of the apostles’ life and proclamation. The Council in Jerusalem sought to silence Jesus’ disciples for speaking of the resurrection, “But Peter and […]