Optimistic Thoughts from a Pessimist

In 284 AD Diocletian, then the cavalry commander of the Roman army, was proclaimed emperor of Rome. In 302 he consulted the oracle of Apollo at Didyma and there became persuaded that those who forsook Roman worship needed to be exterminated. His government would usher in the last, largest, and bloodiest of all the official persecutions of Christianity in Rome. Thousands of men, women, and children were burned, drowned, decapitated, crucified, starved, and torn apart, so much so, that Eusebius wrote, “the murderous sword was blunted, and becoming weak, was broken.” While many nobly suffered martyrdom, others could not bear up under the threats and renounced the faith, sacrificed to pagan gods, and encouraged others to do the same.

Persecution has often served to purge and purify the church of Jesus Christ. Our Lord taught that some would hear his word but having no root would only “endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately fall away” (Mark 4:17). It would be good for any who hold to the word of Jesus to consider this teaching seriously and searchingly—and, let me add, with a degree of fear and trembling. It would be far […]


The RPTJ is Now Available!

Recently the faculty of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary published the first edition of a new journal. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal will be an online publication in order to make it more readily available.  The plan is to publish two issues per year, and will be found on the resource page of the seminary’s website.

For a further explanation, read the opening column of the journal entitled “From Rutherford Hall” by our president.

As I write this column, I am sitting in my office in Rutherford Hall, the grand, former Horne Mansion situated on the small campus of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By God’s grace, the Seminary has a long and noble history like the building itself, dating back to its establishment in 1810. Given Rutherford Hall is the location where so much of the life of RPTS takes place – classes, chapel services, conferences, meals, fellowship – that is the name given to this column. We anticipate this feature being a regular part of this new journal being launched by RPTS. The journal, to no one’s surprise, will be called the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal.

I believe you will find the Reformed Presbyterian Theological […]


Missing Jesus With Thomas

On the evening of the first Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas was absent. The other disciples were gathered together when Jesus came and stood among them displaying his nail pierced hands and feet and speaking “Peace” to them, but Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24). It wasn’t until the following first day of the week that Thomas would have the benefit of seeing Jesus. Now, we don’t know why he was absent. Matthew Henry suggests, “Perhaps it was Thomas’s unhappiness that he was absent–either he was not well, or had not notice; or perhaps it was his sin and folly–either he was diverted by business or company, which he preferred before this opportunity, or he didn’t come for fear of the Jews; and he called that his prudence and caution which was his cowardice.” Whatever his reason was–and we don’t know–we do know that because he was not gathered with the disciples he neither shared in their joy or the blessing of meeting with the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Thomas’s experience is all too often the experience of many Christians who, for whatever reasons, absent themselves from the gathering of saints on the Lord’s […]


“Not In Our House!!”

Have you ever tried to resist the inevitable?  I do this whenever I sit down to eat.  No matter how much I try to avoid it, my superlative skills in unintentionally creating social awkwardness will kick in, and some of my food will end up on me rather than in me.  Sometimes I think I should purposely dump the contents of my plate on my lap as soon as I sit down, just to kill the anticipatory tension.  Either way, wearing my food is an unpleasant inevitability.  But have you ever tried to resist something that is inevitable, but also absolutely wonderful – in fact, the very best thing that could ever happen to you?  I have, and if you are a Christian, you have, too.     


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 […]


The Quest for the Historical Adam – GenRef Podcast

It was our pleasure to sit down with Dr. William VanDoodewaard, author of the new work The Quest for the Historical Adam.

With the eye of a historian and the care of a theologian, Dr. VanDoodewaard has produced a book of considerable importance. He tackles the question of Adam and Eve head on, bringing to the discussion both scholarly insight and an even hand. The book cannot come more highly recommended.

Join us as we dip into the subject!


That Last Old Testament Verse

Often home schooling advocates and family ministry speakers quote the last verse of the Old Testament.  Malachi 4:6 brings the Old Testament to its conclusion with this promise about life in the age of Christ: “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Clearly, calling people to claim a Scriptural promise that Christ’s ministry will restore healthy relationships between parents and children is a beautiful hope to offer them.

However, though that might be a possible application of this verse, it is not the proper interpretation of it.

In their classic commentary on the Old Testament, Keil & Delitsch state the following:

The meaning of this is not that he will settle disputes in families, or restore peace between parents and children; for the leading sin of the nation at the time of our prophet was not family quarrels, but estrangement from God. The fathers are rather the ancestors of the Israelite(ish) nation, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and generally the pious forefathers, such as David and the godly men of his time. The sons or children are the degenerate descendants of Malachi’s own time and the succeeding ages.”

They go on to explain that […]


J.G. Vos’s Temperate Views on Temperance

It is without doubt that JG Vos changed the RPCNA. Many will tell you of their experiences in his classroom at Geneva College and how they came to love the Word of God under his ministry. As the son of one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, he brought attention to the RPCNA at a time when it was often isolated from the greater reformed community. JG Vos popularized amillennialism in the RPCNA. He, along with Philip Martin, are credited by some for keeping the RPCNA from ordaining women elders. He renewed interest in the Scottish Covenanters through his writing. He renewed interest in confessionalism through the Blue Banner Faith and Life magazine. Many cite Vos’s preaching as the means of grace God used for their own conversions.

Today’s RPCNA would be quite different without JG Vos and his work. One area of change in the RPCNA that began with Vos is the RPCNA’s current view on abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Beginning in the late 1930s our Synod began a debate regarding the relationship between the Christian and alcohol, a debate that eventually led to a decision 60 years later to reverse its stand […]


J.G. Vos’ Work of Theological Renewal in the RPCNA

Recently Gentle Reformation writers did a series on J.G. Vos for the Reformed Presbyterian Witness magazine.  The following article was my contribution.  In the article I referred to a tract that Vos and another minister wrote, and have received inquiries to its availability.  To my knowledge the tract was only in printed form, so I have scanned it for easy reference.  Click “Are Women Elders Scriptural?” to read it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the flow of denominational history, periods occur where the church can be threatened and even overrun by liberalism.  Indeed, a look at the ecclesiastical landscape today would make one think there is never much of an ebb and flow but only irreversible tidal waves!

The RPCNA has been no exception to such concerns.  In an article he wrote regarding the history of the RPCNA, Tom Reid recounts the state of the denomination in the first half of the twentieth century.  “Over time, the RPCNA’s interest in bringing reform to society gradually was deformed into something approaching social gospel liberalism.” However, in our ongoing look at the influence of J.G. Vos on the RPCNA, we want to highlight how the Lord raised him up to stem the tide of modernism by bringing theological renewal.  His influence […]


God Cares About Unity More Than I Do

I’m preaching through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Great news: everything I thought was there is still there. Interesting news: something is in the book that I’ve never really noticed before, not even when I memorized much of the letter back during my college years. One of the great themes of this loving and powerful letter is simply that God cares – deeply and seriously – about the unity of His church.