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Guest Post: J.K. Wall on the Two Kingdoms Debate

J.K. Wall is a business journalist in Indianapolis, where he is a member of the Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian congregation. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, writing his master’s thesis on the early sermons of Augustine of Hippo. His book Messiah the Prince Revisited, a modern update on Scottish theologian William Symington’s book, was published in September by Crown & Covenant Publications.   J.K. applies Symington’s work to a current theological issue in this guest post entitled “Avoiding Double Vision: A Helpful Historical Lens for the Modern Two Kingdoms Debate.”

It’s natural that we look to past thinkers for guidance in the midst of contemporary theological debates—like the one between two kingdoms theology and the one kingdom, neo-Calvinist viewpoint.

So in recent years, there have been numerous back-and-forth arguments as to whether Augustine’s concept of “two cities” or Luther’s concept of “two kingdoms” or Calvin’s comments about the “twofold government” of a spiritual kingdom and political kingdom give the upper hand to one side or the other of this discussion.

Over at the Reformation 21 blog, Matthew Tuininga declared it “anachronistic and impossible” to fit Calvin into the contemporary two kingdoms controversy—a prudent warning that clearly applies more broadly than [...]

Weekend Quote: Bonar on Coverings for Sin

From Light and Truth, Bible Thoughts and Themes by Horatius Bonar, in reference to Adam and Eve covering themselves with fig leaves after eating the forbidden fruit in the garden.

Man thinks he can cover himself.  He knows not the greatness of the evil; he does not calculate on the penetration of the all-seeing eye.  He sets to work and makes himself a covering, and he says this will do.  What sin is, or what the sinner needs or what God requires, he has no idea of.  Each sinner has his own way of covering himself; he weaves his own web, whatever may be the substance of which it is composed.  He wishes to be his own coverer, the maker of his own raiment.  He thinks he can do it himself.  He has no idea that it is utterly beyond his power.  He trusts to the skill of his own hands to provide the dress that shall hide his shame from the eye of God and man.  He thinks it an easy thing to deal with shame, and fear, and conviction, and conscience.  He will not believe that these can only be dealt with by God.  This is the last thing [...]

Browse Worthy: Holding Hands

Often it is a little look, a quiet gesture, a soft touch that communicates so much.  I wanted to highlight these two articles in the hope that you might stop today, take a loved ones’s hand in yours, and dwell on the beauty and love that simple gesture conveys to another.

R.C. Sproul Jr., now a widower, offers wisdom in Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand.  After his wife passed away two years ago, he tweeted “I wish I had held her hand more.”  Don’t have the same regret.

We also need to hold our children’s hands.  Melissa Edgington writes her thoughts about doing so in a touching post fitly titled So Many Stories in a Mama’s Hands.

After you read these posts, you might then think about how many times the gospels tell us Jesus touched others with his hands.  Blessing babies.  Touching a leper.  Raising a child.  Healing a bent woman.  Those he loved he touched.

STAR Bible Reading Program

Over the years I have used a number of Bible reading programs.  From choosing different books of interest to McCheyne’s classic plan to a consecutive Genesis-through-Revelation-in-a-year approach, when it comes to Bible reading plans I have either tried them or discussed them at length with those who have.

One of the struggles I have always had with reading programs is the guilty feeling that comes when inevitably a reading is missed.  Usually the first few times I try to make it up, but get distracted from enjoying the reading because I “have to” get caught up.  As my own personal reading rhythm is more inclined toward pausing and meditating on certain passages when I am touched by a truth, the need to check off a completed reading usually ends up frustrating me. Why does one of the sweetest means of grace have to have built-in legalism battles?

This struggle became especially acute a few years ago when I tried the 3650 Challenge (also known as Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Program).  This method has you read ten chapters from different places in the Bible per day (the 3650 obviously coming from the multiplication of the number of days in a year by ten).  At first I enjoyed reading from ten different places in the [...]

Weekend Quote: Predestination and Holiness

From The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin (Book 3, 23:12):

Another argument which they employ to overthrow predestination is that if it stand, all care and study of well doing must cease. For what man can hear (say they) that life and death are fixed by an eternal and immutable decree of God, without immediately concluding that it is of no consequence how he acts, since no work of his can either hinder or further the predestination of God?”

Calvin then responded to this charge of predestination leading to inactivity.  How?  He reminded those opposed to it what the predestinated are predestined to do!  He quoted from Ephesians 1:4, where Paul states believers are elected “that we should be holy, and without blame before him.”  Calvin then followed with this statement.

If the end of election is holiness of life, it ought to arouse and stimulate us strenuously to aspire to it, instead of serving as a pretext for sloth.

A Sermon P.S.

This past Lord’s Day I preached from Psalm 51 on the subject of confession. The message was based on Psalm 51:16, “The sacrifices of God are a broken heart, a broken and contrite spirit, O God, you will not despise.”  My emphasis was how the Lord wants us to offer our broken hearts and sin to him as we worship, not as a precondition to worship.

Toward the end of the message, I was calling the congregation to look afresh at Christ’s work on the cross.  I urged them to see his love and mercy for them, and seek the deep heart washing David yearns for in the psalm.  At that moment I mentioned doing this with “besetting sins.”

Afterward, in the customary handshaking after the service, a wise, older gentleman greeted me.  He then expressed respectfully to me a desire.  He said he wished that I would have gone on to address the question as to what those with ongoing struggles with besetting sins should do.  My message could have been interpreted that there is an easy fix to a deeply-rooted problem.

I have been meditating on that wish further, as it was a good question.  How would I encourage the believer with a besetting sin?  Since I [...]

The Shepherding Seminary

A year ago this month I was inaugurated into my position at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  In reflecting on my time teaching here, I looked over recently what I said that evening and thought it might be an encouragement to some of you, especially in light of the podcast we did the other day on distance education and the seminary.  The address follows below.

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“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. 

“I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick;

but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.”

-Ezekiel 34:15-16

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President O’Neill, Esteemed Board, Distinguished Colleagues, Faithful Predecessor, Wonderful Administrative Staff, Supportive Students, and my Loving Family & Friends:

With a grateful and humbled heart I thank each of you for this evening and for blessing it with your presence.  I would not be here without God using your counsel, guidance, and support as confirmation.  The honor I feel in my heart is only outweighed by the sense of my unworthiness of it all.  Let this evening stand as a testimony that our [...]

Weekend Quote: Subduing Sin

From Through Baca’s Vale by J.C. Philpot:

How many poor souls are struggling against the power of sin, and yet never get any victory over it!  How many are daily led captive by the lusts of the flesh, the love of the world, and the pride of life, and never get any victory over them!  How many fight and grapple with tears, vows, and strong resolutions against besetting sins of temper, levity, or covetousness, who are still entangled and overcome by them again and again!  Now, why is this?  Because they know not the secret of spiritual strength against, and spiritual victory over them.  It is only by virtue of a living union with the Lord Jesus Christ, drinking into his sufferings and death, and receiving out of his fulness, that we can gain any victory over the world, sin, death, or hell.  Let me bring this down a little to your own experience.  Say your soul has been, on one particular occasion, very sweetly favoured; a melting sense of the Savior’s precious love and blood has come into your heart, and you could then believe, with a faith of God’s own giving, that he was eternally yours; and through this [...]

Podcast: Distance Education and the Seminary

Online education is dramatically changing the playing field in higher education.  In 2011, 89% of four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S. were reported to offer online classes. Though seminaries have lagged behind, in 2011-2012 nearly 20,000 of about 74,000 seminarians enrolled at accredited schools had completed at least one online course while still on campus.   Seminaries are having to learn how to navigate the strange, new world the Digital Age has brought in.

Recently Austin and I discussed with Dr. Jerry O’Neill, president of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Aaron Sams*, Director of Distance Education at RPTS, the new online courses being offered at RPTS.  We heard about the incredible blessings as well as the intriguing challenges this form of education brings to the seminary.  Click below to listen along!

*Just wanted to add a congratulations to Aaron, who this past weekend was honored with his colleague Jon Bergmann for their work in using technology in the flipped classroom approach at the Bammy Awards in Washington, D.C.  The educational equivalent of the Grammy Awards, the Bammy Awards are sponsored by The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and give recognition to dedicated and innovative educational leaders.

http://gentlereformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Distance-Education.mp3

 

 

 

 

A Trinitarian Approach to Conflict

Over the past two years, I have been looking at many different books on pastoral care written through the ages.  One characteristic I have noticed in many of the writers is the emphasis they give on how varied the body of Christ is yet how united it should be under his headship.  A pastor must recognize this quality about the flock of God.  If he does not, he will be severely handicapped in ministering to them.

Seeing the church in this manner flowed out of these ministers’ emphasis on the Trinity.  They recognized that the God who is both three and one has created his church to be many and one.  They paid close attention to passages such as this one found in I Corinthians 12:4-6, where Paul speaks of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the context of describing the church as a body with many differing members:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth century church father, was especially insightful in viewing the church in this manner and applying [...]