Category Archives: Church History

Analyzing the Character and State of the PCA

“The Christian Curmudgeon” was a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) since its founding. He recently left the PCA for his own reasons and is now ministering in the Reformed Episcopal Church. In the past few weeks, you may have noticed that The Aquila Report has posted two articles expressing the growing concern over the state of the PCA. In light of this, The Christian Curmudgeon has written a very helpful post characterizing the various theological and practical trajectories represented by the first generation of the PCA. The point being that the PCA was never intended to be a strictly confessional Reformed denomination. This sheds light on how they got into the chaotic state they are in today. Read his informative post, “I Don’t Have a Dog in this Fight, But That Doesn’t Keep Me From Having an Opinion.”

Divine Inspiration Evidenced by the Providential Preservation of the Holy Scriptures

 

Lithograph of the Reverend John Brown of Haddington

Lithograph of the Reverend John Brown of Haddington

VI. The providence of God has, in a most marvellous manner, PRESERVED the scriptures of the Old and New Testament from being lost or corrupted. While perhaps millions of other books, once of considerable fame in the world, and which no one sought to extirpate, are lost and forgotten, the Scriptures, though more early written, and though Satan and his agents unnumbered have hated them, and sought to cause their memory to perish from among men, or to corrupt them, still remain, and remain in their purity.

In great wisdom and kindness, God, for their preservation, ordered an original copy to be laid up in the Holy of Holies (Deuteronomy 31:26); and that every Hebrew king should write out a copy for himself (Deuteronomy 27:18); and appointed the careful and frequent reading of them, both in private and public. With astonishing kindness and wisdom has he made the contending parties who had access to the Scriptures–such as the Jews and Israelites, the Jews and Samaritans, the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Jews and Christians, and the various parties of Christians–MUTUAL CHECKS upon each other for almost three thousand years past, that they might not be able either to extirpate or to corrupt any part of them. When the Christians had almost utterly lost the knowledge of the Hebrew originals, God, by his providence, stirred up the Jewish rabbins to an uncommon labour for preserving them in their purity, by marking the number of letters, and how often each was repeated, in their Masoras.

By what tremendous judgments did he restrain and punish Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syro-Grecian king; Dioclesian, the Roman emperor; and others who attempted to destroy the copies of Scripture, in order to extirpate the Jewish or Christian religion! And he has bestowed amazing support and consolation on such as have risked or parted with their lives rather than deny the dictates of Scripture, or in the least contribute to their extirpation or misinterpretation.

By quickly multiplying the copies or the readers of the Scriptures, he rendered it impossible to corrupt them in anything important, without causing the corruption all at once to start up into every copy dispersed through the world, and into the memories of almost every reader;–than which nothing could be more absurd to suppose. Nay it is observable that of all the thousands of various readings which the learned have collected, not one in the least enervates any point of our faith or duty towards God or man.

We Don’t Need No Education

For those of you still awaiting my closing post on “Gender Roles: Complementarianism,” rest assured I have not forgotten, but the post is still not ready. Stay tuned, true believer! In the meantime, I enjoyed the following video…

Listen as Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President and Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California and Ligonier teaching fellow, discusses the tendency toward anti-intellectualism throughout church history, and calls believers to not only love God with their hearts and their strength, but also with their minds. This lecture was delivered at the 2012 Ligonier national conference on “The Christian Mind.”

Watch: We Don’t Need No Education

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34

Thinking through the Campbellite Denial of Original Sin

If you are a Campbellite, a former Campbellite, or otherwise knowledgable about the nuances of Campbellite doctrine and logic, please critique the following syllogism I have devised in my attempt to think through the reason Campbellites would deny the doctrine of original sin.

Alexander Campbell

Alexander Campbell

It is my understanding that Campbellism does affirm that Adam’s posterity inherited a natural predisposition to commit sins, so the only distinction between Augustinians and Campbellites with which I’m dealing lies in the Campbellite denial of the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s sin to his posterity.

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo

I am also prepared for the possibility that Campbellites might object to my assertion in the first proposition “that baptism literally washes away sin.” It would also be good if anyone could help me articulate this proposition more precisely.

Here is my working syllogism:
Campbellites agree with Augustine that baptism literally washes away sin;
Campbellites disagree with Augustine that baptism is for infants;
Therefore, Campbellites conclude that infants are not affected by original sin, but are rather born innocent.

The Hermeneutics of Insider Syncretism

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On this week’s episode of the Christ the Center podcast (#263, “Insider Movements“), Dr. David Garner is interviewed about his recent article in Themelios, “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel,” analyzing the hermeneutics underlying the Insider Movement, a sociological and anthropological approach to contextualizing evangelism without calling on people whose identities are tied to other world religions like Judaism, Islam and Hinduism to disassociate themselves from those religious, cultural and family ties, but to work inside them and transform their approach to those religions in light of the teachings of Jesus. While it is noble to attempt to find a way to minimize the risk of loss or danger a Jew, Muslim or Hindu (for example) may face upon becoming a Christian, it is unfaithful to the Jesus they claim to follow if they would settle for living to distort their new-found faith with the teachings and practices of the religion with which they have previously been associated. Living to syncretize Christianity with non-Christian world religions is not a faith worth living for or dying for.

This movement is clearly in contradiction with the teachings of Jesus to those who would follow him. Jesus carried his cross and died on it for those who believe, and he calls on believers to take up their cross, follow him, and be willing to live publicly for him and, if need be, accept rejection by leaders of other religions, communities and families, even if such rejection includes dying for him.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV).

I know it’s easy for me to say, and to criticize those who would find a way around it, but I too have a cross of self-denial to carry if I am to follow Jesus. I must kill my own sin (a struggle which involves suffering and risk of social rejection on my part), and publicly acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and associate myself formally with his people, the Church (Hebrews 10:25), serving him with my time, talent and treasure–loving, forgiving and giving to my brothers until it hurts. Should the time come that the culture or community in which I live demands that I deny my Lord Jesus Christ, I am called upon to defy such a demand and willingly suffer the consequences in reliance upon the grace and goodness of God, knowing that if such is happening to me, it is no more than what he sacrificed for me.

One of the interesting things about this movement which Dr. Garner points out in the article and the interview is that the intellectual source of such innovation in world missions comes from the same root as the church growth movement–Donald McGavran (d. 1990) and his School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary (formerly the famous School of World Mission).

Donald Anderson McGavran (December 15, 1897–1990) was a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. A child of missionaries in India and later amissionary himself (1923–1961), McGavran spent most of his life trying to identify and overcome barriers to effective evangelism or Christian conversion.

McGavran identified differences of caste and economic social position as major barriers to the spread of Christianity. His work substantially changed the methods by which missionaries identify and prioritize groups of persons for missionary work and stimulated the Church Growth Movement. McGavran developed his church growth principles after rejecting the popular view that mission was ‘philanthropy, education, medicine, famine relief, evangelism, and world friendship’ and become convinced that good deeds – while necessary – ‘must never replace the essential task of mission, discipling the peoples of the earth’. [HT: Wikipedia]

While McGavran’s efforts in his time were more theologically conservative and a reaction against liberal missionary trends, a student of his named C. Peter Wagner built on McGavran’s principles and create the church growth movement which has brought us such phenomena as seeker-sensitive worship and the modern megachurch. Incidentally, he is also the one who coined the phrase New Apostolic Reformation for the worldwide sweep of Charismatic and Word of Faith theology with a special emphasis on the restoration of the apostolic office, which movement in America has recently frightened the political Left because so many who would fall under this umbrella have modified the theonomist views of R. J. Rushdoony (for more on that, see this) and declared that they would “take dominion” over every sphere of influence in America.

Syncretism in the name of saving one’s life is no way to spread Christianity. A new generation around the world must hear the age-old truism: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” [paraphrasing Tertullian, Apology chapter 50].

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