Pot Calls Kettle Black
John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and recent host of the controversial Strange Fire Conference, predicted in an interview with Christianity.com that what he calls the “Reformed Revival” will reverse itself in the next few years. He thinks this is so, because he sees so many of the younger generation who seem to be merely adding the doctrines of sovereign grace to their otherwise non-Reformed modes of operation like contemporary worship music, drinking beer, and Arminian forms of evangelism. He says in time, their Calvinist soteriology will fall by the way side because of the contradictory positions they hold.
Watch the video first, then read my comments below:
I find it ironic that this pastor should offer this critique of other pastors when he himself has added the five points of Calvinism to a non-Reformed view of eschatology. Reformed theology, after all, is not the home of Dispensational Premillennialism. Those who embrace total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, effectual calling and perseverance of the saints but reject the Covenantal theology in which these doctrines were developed, should think twice before criticizing others for selectively embracing popular elements of Reformed theology without embracing the whole system.
I also find it amusing that he should critique Calvinists for drinking beer. The enjoyment of alcoholic beverages in moderation is historically more Reformed than otherwise.
But I am in agreement with MacArthur that the five points of Calvinism isn’t enough. I would encourage him and members of the movement which a few years ago was called the Young, Restless and Reformed to take another look at the rest of Reformed theology. If it’s so right about the sovereignty of God in election, redemption and regeneration, what makes you think it’s so wrong about eschatology, church government and the sacraments?
The Christ of the Bible
HT: Cado Odac
The Son of Man Coming on the Clouds
When I was a child, and a member of a Dispensational Premillennial IFB church, I would often hear my pastor commenting on any given Sunday, “It’s cloudy today—this might just be the day the Lord returns.” At other times, he would conclude the opposite: “I didn’t notice any clouds in the sky, so I guess the Lord may not return today. But this is Texas, and the weather could change at any moment.” The literal presence of clouds in the sky was seen as a necessary condition of Christ’s Second Coming. Why is this? It’s because of the Lord’s words in Matthew 24:30.
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Matthew 24:30 ESV)
Was Jesus predicting that on the day of his return, it will literally be cloudy? No, Jesus was alluding to a prophecy by Daniel of the coming of “one like a son of man” who comes “with the clouds of heaven.” What would be the point of predicting whether it would be cloudy on the day of the coming of the Son of Man? Let’s look at Daniel’s prophecy to which Christ alludes (the key phrases will be highlighted):
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
(Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)
The first thing to notice is the fact that this prophecy contains poetic language. That’s why the ESV editors (and those of most modern English versions) format the prophecy in a poetic style. Ancient Hebrew poetry does not have the same standards for literalism as historical narrative does. It is true that the Gospel of Matthew is a historical narrative, and so it is literally true that Jesus quoted Daniel’s prophecy, but the prophecy Jesus quoted in this historical narrative Gospel account is still a poetic reference.
If the reference to clouds in association with the coming of the Son of Man bears poetic, symbolic meaning, then what might that meaning be? Let’s look at a few other poetic Old Testament passages that similarly associate clouds with the activity of Yahweh.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
If we are to take Christ’s reference to coming with clouds literally, then are we also to take Psalm 104’s statement that the LORD makes the clouds his chariot literally? Does an infinite, omnipresent Spirit need to stand on a cloud, hold a set of reins and be transported by means of atmospheric water vapor? Well, has he also literally laid giant wooden beams across a body of water and built chambers in which he might dwell? Does wind literally have wings? Of course it doesn’t. This is nothing but poetic imagery. So, what idea does this imagery of clouds convey? Basically, it conveys the idea of God’s terrifying power and authority. Notice how the Egyptians and their idols react to the image of the LORD riding on a cloud in Isaiah 19:
An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
With these things in mind, let’s go back and take another look at Matthew 24:30: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
I hope we can more clearly see now, that the significance of the coming of the Son of Man “on the clouds of heaven” lies in the fact of his terrifying power and great glory whose appearing will make all the tribes of the earth mourn, and at which time will occur the Last Judgment and the ultimate consummation of his Kingdom. This is just one of many examples of the need to genuinely take into account the literary structure of a passage in order to determine its proper interpretation.
Shooting Salvationist Author on Book-TV
This weekend C-SPAN2 is airing a speech delivered by David R. Stokes, the author of The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America (©2011 Steerforth Press) at a recent book signing in Austin, TX. It played last night at 9pm (Eastern), it has replayed once this morning, but you can still catch it one final time this afternoon at 3pm (Eastern).
The program has already been added to the BookTV online archive, so it may be accessed there if you miss this afternoon’s showing.
Don’t forget to purchase your copy of The Shooting Salvationist at Amazon.com or from the book’s official website.
Confessions of a Restlessly Reforming Evangelical Fundamentalist
Dig my latest comment at Darryl G. Hart’s Old Life Theological Society. His post is titled, “Young, Restless and Lutheran?” He questions whether the broad approach of the Young, Restless and Reformed movement isn’t so broad that it might be more accurate to call it “Young, Restless and Lutheran,” given that, in Hart’s view, it’s less about Reformed theology in general or the five points of Calvinism in particular (no pun intended), and more about having been inspired by a bigger vision of God at the hands of John Piper channeling Jonathan Edwards, and generally begins reminding us all how much less Reformed they are than he and his Truly Reformed OPC brethren are (among whom I eagerly anticipate numbering me and mine). This is my summary, anyway, be it accurate or not.
I found the post and some of the resultant comments engaging enough that I just had to share my own experience at moving from Fundamentalism, through Evangelicalism and into Reformed Confessionalism. Although I write with tongue-in-cheek, the experiences are all very real (and they’re just the tip of the iceberg).
Confessions of a Restlessly Reforming Evangelical Fundamentalist:
Fortunately, I bypassed the whole Piper YRR movement (Piper’s creative and independent streak is waaay too Baptist for my taste) and swallowed the whole TR thing hook, line and sinker…Or so I thought. The further one goes, the more one discovers which exaggerates the differences between what it means to be Evangelical (in modern Western Christianity, that is) and what it means to be Reformed.
First, you fall for the 5 points; then you get over the hump about baptism (my logic was, “if the seventeenth century Baptists agreed with Presbyterians on so much,” as I was then coming to perceive, “then what makes them think Presbyterians are so wrong about baptism?”)…
…then you deal with stuff like exclusive “Acapulco” psalmody, and, for me living in a region where there is no glut of Reformed churches, I take the lazy man’s approach and say this isn’t an issue I have the luxury of standing for, even if I were persuaded of it. And some of their arguments I do find attractively compelling. If it weren’t for those of the advocates of instrumental hymnody.
Now that I’m preparing to join an OPC church, and begin reading all this vast literature about this “splinter group” of a denomination, I feel I’ve come full circle in some ways back to a Presbyterian version of my separatistic IFB background (even the local church planting missions emphasis is reminiscent of the IFB, without the Faith Promise giving campaigns), if you consider some of you more outspoken OPC guys’ position and attitude about TGC and T4G.
Yes, growing up among separatistic fundamentalists, yet consuming my fair share of big tent Evangelical media, it is quite a process in coming to a point where you can confidently call yourself “Reformed” without crossing your fingers behind your back.
This Is No Texas Tall Tale
“J. Frank Norris Week” continues! Last night I joined David R. Stokes, author of The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America at the Fort Worth Sundance Square Barnes & Noble Bookstore, where he spoke for a few minutes before sitting down to sign books. The pictures in this post are from last night’s signing. The text is my semi-formal, though concise, review of the book, which has also been posted at the book’s Amazon.com page. As emotionally dependent as I have become on this book, it was hard for me to step back and write an objective review that is comparable to a professional, or at least experienced, reviewer’s work until I decided to recommend the book in an email to another writer, who shall remain nameless. I gave him the following summary, and decided that this is about as good a review as anyone’s ever going to get out of me. Hope you find it helpful, and feel free to help us spread the word about this story that has been gratefully recovered from historical obscurity.
David R. Stokes is a columnist for Townhall.com. He is also a pastor of a non-denominational church in Fairfax, VA. He studied for the ministry at the same Missouri Bible College from which the late Jerry Falwell got his Bachelors degree before he moved on to bigger and better things. This Bible College, Baptist Bible College, to be precise, has its roots in the ministry of the man who is the subject of the book he is now promoting, The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial That Captivated America (2011 Steerforth Press).
Norris was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth Texas between the years 1909 and 1952 (the year of his death). In the early years of his ministry, he ditched the tame, sane, responsible approach to ministry in which one makes an effort to get along with everyone, for an approach that would generate so much heat it would draw huge crowds to him so he could introduce them to the Light, if you know what I mean. In the process, he was a self-appointed thorn in the side of the underground liquor and gambling interests in Texas, the budding theological liberalism in his alma mater, Baylor, the mayor of Ft. Worth and Star-Telegram founder and all-around entrepreneur Amon G. Carter. This got Norris in hot water with one of the mayor’s friends, another Ft. Worth business leader, Dexter Elliot Chipps, who stormed into Norris’ office one day, threatened to kill him, then walked out. Chipps’ mistake was that he didn’t keep going. He turned for some unknown reason and attempted to reenter the pastor’s office and was met with three or four bullets in the chest. The resulting 1926 murder trial was as big of a media circus as Norris’ hero, William Jennings Bryan’s, recent Skopes Monkey Trial had been, or for those of us in the 21st century, Casey Anthony’s.
The book is a narrative non-fiction work. It reads somewhat like a novel, but all the dialogue, and much of the narration, even, is directly lifted from his sources which include not only older bios of Norris (pro and con), but much of the most prominent journalistic accounts, legal transcripts and records, as well as personal archives of Norris, Meacham and Carter. The outrageous tactics of Norris in his early ministry make for quite a train wreck, and the history is fascinating, but for folks like myself who grew up in Fort Worth, it gives a lot of new information to an old legend that has lingered in the background of all of our lives, and provides quite a bit of closure as well. I’d like to share with you this fascinating tale that we could only wish were nothing more than a “Texas Tall Tale.”
Politics, Religion and a Gun
David Stokes’ interview with 90.1FM KERA host Krys Boyd on her D/FW local NPR talk show, Think with Krys Boyd, has been uploaded. You can listen to it here.
And so, J. Frank Norris week continues at The Misadventures of Captain Headknowledge! Just wait until tomorrow…
The Shooting Salvationist Released Today!
Join me next Wednesday night, July 20 at the Barnes and Noble in Sundance Square in Fort Worth to meet the author of The Shooting Salvationist, David R. Stokes, get his autograph and/or a pic. I’m planning to post a review of the book just as soon as I finish my Advance Reading Copy. Probably next week.
PS–As an added bonus, you’ll probably also get to meet Rev. Roy E. Falls of The J. Frank Norris Historical Society protesting out front. When Stokes met him last year, he said he was sweet. A good time should be had by all (with the possible exception of Rev. Falls)!
Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Start Time: 6:00 pm End Time: 8:00 pm
(Time Zone: US/Central)
Location: Barnes and Noble – Sundance Square
Category: The Shooting Salvationist Book Tour
Phone: (817) 332-7178
Contact: Debby White
More Info: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/store/2788
Barnes and Noble – Sundance Square
401 Commerce Street
Fort Worth TX 76102
Misadventures in Fundamentalism
The following is best read aloud in a booming announcer voice 😉
Allow me to introduce you to the book I’ve been anticipating most for the past year–The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial That Captivated America (2011, Steerforth Press–Distributed by Random House. Foreword by Ft. Worth native Bob Schieffer of CBS News). Perhaps you’ll recall how last year I went on and on about a book about J. Frank Norris‘ murder trial. Well, that caterpillar quickly entered its cocoon and the butterfly is soon to be released! July 12 is the scheduled date for Pastor David Stokes’ thorough narrative non-fiction work on one of the most colorful fundamentalists of the early 20th century.
A rising star in the Southern Baptist Convention, J. Frank Norris resolved to spread God’s Word in a populist and sensationalist manner–taking on every villain, real or perceived, that crossed his path–doing battle royal in the most public manner as he could to make a big name, not only for himself, but also for the Savior whose cause he strove to promote. Norris’ tactics however, epitomized the very definition of “misadventure.” A burr in the saddle of local Fort Worth, Texas powerful elites, a sworn enemy of the “liquor interests” and self-appointed defender of the faith against the liberalizing tendencies at his alma mater, Baylor University, almost all agree that J. Frank Norris generated more heat than light. The growing crescendo of sensational exploits on these and other fronts would culminate in devastating tragedy and make headlines across the country when Norris shot an infuriated opponent to his death.
The murder trial of J. Frank Norris in the 1920’s was literally the “OJ Trial” of that generation. A relentless media circus hung on every detail of the trial as they kept the country buying paper after paper to learn the fate of this ambitious religious ringleader. You’ll never believe that a story like this is true. You simply have to read it for yourself!
The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial That Captivated America is available for pre-order at the book’s new website. I’ll also be adding The Shooting Salvationist Blog to my blogroll so we may all keep up with it.
White/Moorman KJV Only Debate on YouTube!
For those of us who missed the debate live (though not for a lack of trying–my computer is a mess!), the live London debate on the exclusive use of the King James Version between Dr. James White and Dr. Jack Moorman has been posted on YouTube by one viewer. Here it is for your (and my) viewing pleasure:
Two and a Half Hours Until the White/Moorman KJV Only Debate!
Be sure to visit this page to watch live the debate between Dr. James White and Dr. Jack Moorman of London, England debating the question “Should We Exclusively Use the King James Version?”
“Should We Exclusively Use the King James Version?”
How appropriate that during the year of the quadricentennial of the King James Version of the Bible, a debate on the question of King James Onlyism should be held. Reformed Baptist apologist Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries is just on his way to London, England. RevelationTV in London is hosting a debate Wednesday night at 9pm GMT (if I’m not mistaken, that should be 3 pm CST), between Dr. White and Dr. Jack Moorman, an American fundamentalist Independent Baptist missionary in England, pastoring Bethel Baptist Church, Wimbeldon, London. The subject of the debate is, “Should we exclusively use the King James Version?” To my knowledge, it has been quite a while since a KJV Onlyist has stepped forward willing to debate Dr. White, author of The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?
This should be good. Dr. White never disappoints.
A Review of Dr. John Fesko’s Lecture on Word, Water and Spirit, part 1
On Friday, January 21st, 2011, Dr. John Fesko, Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, was the featured speaker at Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, pastored by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. He was invited to speak on his comprehensive new book, Word, Water and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism (© 2010 by J. V. Fesko, published by Reformation Heritage Books). The link to Dr. Fesko’s lecture may be downloaded from this post at the Riddleblog. First, Dr. Fesko describes the background to his book, then he summarizes respectively the history of the doctrine of infant baptism (paedobaptim–Part I of his book), the Biblical-Theological Survey of the Doctrine (Part II), and finally he briefly describes Part III: Systematic-Theological Construction of the Doctrine. This first in a series of posts will review Dr. Fesko’s discussion of the background to his writing of the book.
The background, we learn, is ultimately connected to his upbringing. As an infant, Dr. Fesko was baptized in the mainline denomination of the Presbyterian Church (USA). His parents apparently held nominal ties to this Reformed heritage, and the Fesko family wound up attending a number of churches over the years, landing among the Baptists in the end. While in college, Dr. Fesko listened to R. C. Sproul tapes on his Walkman, which lead him to realize that he was more Reformed than he was Baptist, and so he resolved to examine the outstanding Reformed doctrines he’d yet to deal with to be sure they were true–issues like infant baptism, so that, were he to minister in a Reformed church one day, he would not have to “hold his breath” as he administered the sacrament.
After seminary, while attending the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Dr. Fesko read a book by Paul Jewett which he says is called, A Case Against Infant Baptism, which inadvertently impressed upon him the indispensability of covenant theology and laid the groundwork to his finally embracing paedobaptism. In searching the web for this title, however, I was unsuccessful in tracking it down, but found instead a book by the same author called Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace: An Appraisal of the Argument That As Infants Were Once Circumcised, So They Should Now Be Baptized, which apparently argues for the practice. Unfortunately, Dr. Fesko has a little trouble with recall on this and another title below, but, we can afford to forgive him this minor oversight. I share a marginally similar experience to the one Dr. Fesko describes, in my own examination of the issues related to the biblical doctrine of baptism. Over the past several years since my transition to theologically Reformed convictions, including the truth of infant baptism, I would periodically revisit the case for the Baptist view of believer’s baptism (credobaptism). Each time, after re-exposing my newfound paedobaptistic persuasion to the critique of the Baptist doctrine, I would come away with new reasons to believe that Scripture in fact does command and exemplify infant baptism, although not in a manner that satisfies the Baptistic hermeneutic (method of interpretation) which emphasizes as central the differences between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, rather than their points of continuity.
The Reformed covenantal hermeneutic emphasizes how the nature, promises and signs of the Covenant of Grace outweigh the various administrative changes between the Mosaic and New Covenants. Big-picture issues like these bring into sharper relief the seemingly unclear Biblical testimony to infant baptism. In other words, with all due respect to my Baptist friends, when it comes to the Mosaic and New Covenant administrations of the overarching Covenant of Grace, they seem unable to see the whole covenantal forest for the New Covenant trees.
The second element in the background to Dr. Fesko’s writing of Word, Water and Spirit comes from his ministerial environment in the South. He says, “if you cannot throw a rock in the Bible without hitting a covenant, in the South, you cannot throw a rock without hitting a Baptist church.” Many Baptists, who, in the providence of God, come to embrace Reformed theology and appreciate so much about the doctrine and practice of a Reformed Presbyterian church will hold out on the Reformed practice of infant baptism. In his ministry to such believers in his congregation, Dr. Fesko tried to provide comprehensive evidence to help his converted Baptist congregants understand and believe in infant baptism, and the degree to which he would prepare such material for their benefit also facilitated his desire to publish on the subject of the Biblical and historical case for infant baptism.
Dr. Fesko was also interested in making sure his congregants understood the Biblical doctrine of baptism as a whole, not just the aspect of it that related to its administration to the infant children of believers. He observes that there is a troubling trend toward church growth by downplaying more objectionable doctrines, like paedobaptism. He desired not only to help people understand infant baptism, he wants them to understand what a sacrament is, what Biblical covenants are, and even the true nature of God’s grace itself. Many struggle to understand what grace is. I, too, struggled to understand the classical definition of grace as “unmerited favor” until I was introduced to the Reformed doctrines of grace. Once I came to grips with the fact that a sinner is unwilling to believe because as one who is dead in sin, he cannot (“Total Depravity”); that God’s election of him is not conditioned on God’s foreknowing or foreseeing that he would receive Christ (“Sovereign Election”); that the atonement of Christ for the elect in particular is properly understood in terms of his mercy, rather than his resentfully seeing such an act as inherently unjust of God’s part (“Particular Redemption”); that when the Holy Spirit enables a sinner who was dead in sin to believe and to willingly embrace Christ as his own crucified and risen Lord (“Effectual Calling”); and that God will not only prevent me from “losing my salvation,” but will graciously preserve me in such a way that I will, by his grace, persevere in my faith in him (“Perseverance of the Saints”–for more biblical testimony on these doctrines of grace, see the link in my Featured Sites widget in the sidebar), then and only then did it make sense to me how it is that grace is God’s favor for me which I in no way earned. It is in this way that God’s grace is truly unmerited favor. Just as Reformed theology helps one truly understand the nature of grace, so does Reformed covenant theology as a whole help the believer understand the Bible’s full teaching on the significance, proper candidates and proper attitude toward the mode of baptism.
God’s progressive revelation of his redemption of the elect in Christ was something Dr. Fesko often found insufficiently treated in the typical book or essay promoting the Reformed doctrine of baptism. Why is redemptive history important in relation to baptism? It helps us to better understand the nature of circumcision and baptism, the connection between the two, and why the sign of the Covenant of Grace is changed from the former to the latter with the transition from the Mosaic to the New Covenant at the first advent of Christ. Dr. Fesko finds that Reformed presentations of infant baptism often focus more on the New Testament in defense of infant baptism, and not quite enough on the Old Testament revelation of the subject. He would remind his readers that as important as the New Testament witness to infant baptism is, Christians ought not to build their doctrines on only half of the Bible, but on the entirety of the Scriptures. Too many do not realize that indeed the doctrine of baptism is, in fact, found in the Old Testament. Pierre Marcel’s book, Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (actually, Marcel wrote Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism), which was possibly re-titled Infant Baptism (again, we’re apparently relying on Dr. Fesko’s memory), writes, for example, that for Karl Barth, the Old Testament matters little when it comes to most doctrines, with the possible exception of the doctrine of the atonement.
Dr. Fesko finds that theological journals provide perhaps some of the most helpful information on any doctrinal question, baptism among them. He therefore desired the readers of Word, Water and Spirit, who ordinarily have no access to such information, to benefit from such journals and show them where they can go to learn more on the subject of baptism. This was another compelling reason for him to write the book.
In the next post, we’ll follow Dr. Fesko’s summary of the historical-theological section of the book, which makes up roughly half of its contents.
Mary’s Declaring Women’s Liberation from Feminism!
There’s another great post I am compelled to share with you over at the Gospel Coalition. Dr. Mary Kassian, Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the author of Girls Gone Wise and The Feminist Mistake (I love that title! In case you missed the in-your-face pun, there was a leading feminist book of bygone days called The Feminine Mystique). Dr. Kassian says we’re in a “Post-Feminist” society. But don’t rejoice yet–unlike Francis Schaeffer’s past declaration that America has moved into the “Post-Christian” era, this does not mean that Feminism has lost its influence. It’s simply moved from a movement to an institution. Says Kassian,
“Virtually everyone is a feminist. Yet virtually no one would identify him/herself as such. Feminism has seeped into people’s systems like intravenous drugs into the veins of an unconscious patient. The majority of people in today’s churches are feminists—and they don’t even know it.”
If this doesn’t ring true to you, you’re not paying attention. Our endemic feminism has taken a toll on American local church ministry and American marriages in the past several decades. In the shameful “glory days” when feminism was a movement, all the ideals of feminism were heralded by activists and educators in a counter-cultural push toward so-called “progress,” and not without resistance from the establishment culture. In other words, back then it had to be taught. Nowadays, we and our children of both sexes are so regularly exposed to feminist ideals that feminism is simply caught. Today, it’s the Biblical ideal of manhood and womanhood that has to be purposefully and energetically cultivated.
But thank the Lord that a new counter-cultural movement has arisen in the American church to do just that, teach the complementarian nature of Biblical manhood and womanhood. Feminism has brought America into an age of what is called “egalitarianism,” where the most obvious distinctions between men and women are no longer assumed. Professor Kassian heralds this positive trend and appears resolved to promote it, but not without a caveat. The last thing we need, according to Kassian, and I agree, is to move from this lifestyle of feminist license, declare liberty from feminism for the sake of the Christian family’s faithfulness to God’s Word, and allow it to degenerate into a legalism in which our focus is removed from the cross and onto an over-emphasis on the Biblical roles of manhood and womanhood that would inevitably facilitate yet another swing of the pendulum back in the direction of the radical anti-Scriptural feminism of the 1960’s and ’70’s.
Christian ladies, and gentlemen, check out the Gospel Coalition’s interview with Professor Kassian and learn that more and more Christian women are breathing the air of liberation from the cultural tyranny of feminism!
The Biblical Basis of the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms
As a member of a local confessional Presbyterian church and coming from my background as an Independent Baptist, I can’t help but notice how easy it is to confirm the common accusation that “Presbyterians often seem to cite the Confession more readily than they do the Bible.” As I listen to teaching (that of no one in particular, and this is not restricted to my own congregation), I often find myself listening to it as if I were a Baptist who was hearing this presentation for the first time. It doesn’t take long before all the biblicist defenses go up. A Reformed teacher will teach a vital biblical truth and then they will cite the Westminster Standards or something from the Three Forms of Unity (click on the “Creeds, Etc.” link at the top of this webpage for more information on these Reformed doctrinal standards). The response a self-respecting biblicist is trained to make to a presentation like this is, “That’s nice, now what does the Bible say about it?” or, more boldly, they might declare, “I don’t care what your confession or catechism says, what does the Bible say?”
It occurs to me that if Presbyterians and those of other confessional Reformed denominations want to persuade those from outside their tradition, like Baptists, to believe that what Reformed confessions and catechisms teach is based on the Bible, then perhaps it would be time well spent to express their biblically based confessional statements by first disclosing what the Bible says and working from this to showing how what the confession or catechism says is solidly based on what the Bible says.
After all, a “Confession” is not intended to be a rival for the Bible, but an expression of what Reformed churches believe the Bible teaches. To use the word “Confession” alone does not necessarily communicate this ultimate point to those from outside the tradition. That’s why when I personally explain things related to the Confession of Faith, I will put the word “Confession” in a sentence that attempts to fully express what a Confession of Faith is. For example, “This biblical truth (whatever it may be) is worded this way, or that way, in the Confession of what Reformed churches believe best summarizes the teaching of the Bible.”
Now I realize there are many good Reformed teachers who are careful to base their arguments on Scripture, but the stereotype that the Reformed in general have a bad habit of quoting the confession more than they do the Bible is grounded in verifiable reality. I love hearing an explanation of what the Confession teaches, but then, I have already gotten over the hurdle of being persuaded that what the Confession teaches is what the Bible teaches, although not infallibly, of course.
For this reason, I have decided to engage in a little exercise for a while, which I will share with my readers. In the spirit of how I would like to hear the teaching of the Reformed confessions and catechisms expressed, I’m simply going to take the Scripture Proofs cited for almost any given phrase in the Westminster Larger Catechism (which my church currently happens to being going through), summarize the point being highlighted in the verses, cite the verses themselves, then explain that this is the reason the Catechism reads the way it reads.
Sound like fun? I hope you’ll join me! In the following post, I will give this treatment to the first clause in Question and Answer #73 of the Westminster Larger Catechism.