Category Archives: Reformed Theology

The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace

pink-tulips-2009

Tulips are a major industry in the Netherlands, where a controversy over the doctrines of grace was settled by the Synod of Dort in 1619.

God is sovereign in his gracious salvation of sinners. These doctrines have been summarized by the popular acronym, TULIP.

T– The “Total Depravity” of the Sinner
Sinners are so completely sinful that they are unwilling and unable to do anything good to prepare themselves for salvation, let alone save themselves by good works. They do not always do the most sinful thing they possibly could, but no work of any kind that they perform can merit the righteousness they need to avoid eternal condemnation. This doctrine is also called “Radical Corruption.”

Romans 3:10-18

as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive (Psalm 5:9).”
“The venom of asps is under their lips (Psalm 140:3).”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Psalm 10:7).”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known (Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7-8)”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes (Psalm 36:1).”

Romans 8:7

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

U–The “Unconditional Election” of the Father
Before creation, God graciously chose a remnant of fallen humanity and gave them to his Son as his Bride. No righteous merit of any kind in them serves as the basis of God’s gracious choice of these sinners; only God’s own pleasure and will.

Acts 13:48

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Romans 9:11-13

…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Ephesians1:3-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

L–The “Limited Atonement” of the Son
On the cross Jesus Christ paid the ransom to the Father and effectually redeemed the remnant of fallen sinners which God graciously chose to give to him as his Bride. Sinners whom the Father has not graciously chosen are not redeemed by Christ on the cross. Christ’s atonement is necessarily “limited” in one way or the other: either it is limited in extent (Christ dying for the elect alone), or it is limited in power (only able to redeem sinners who by their own free will decide to receive this redemption). Also called “Particular Redemption.”

John 10:11

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Ephesians 5:25

…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

John 17:2

…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him…

I—The “Irresistible Grace” of the Spirit
Those fallen sinners whom the Father has graciously chosen according to his sovereign will and whom the Son has redeemed on the cross will not fail to come to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit effectually gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead and in this way enables the chosen sinner to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3), and enter it (John 3:5) through faith alone in Christ alone. Also called, “Effectual Calling” (see also 2 Peter 1:10; Romans 11:29)

1 Corinthians 1:9

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (literally, “drags”) him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Acts 16:14b

The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

P—The “Perseverance” of the Saints
Those whom the Triune God has saved in this effectual way according to his sovereign grace and power he will keep, and they will persevere in faith and repentance until the end, be it his own death or the return of Christ.

James 1:4

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Matthew 24:13

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Reforming–Not Rejecting!–My Love for Christmas

My sister and me enjoying Christmas in the late 1970’s.

I love Christmas! Mostly because I am an overgrown child. But judging by the look of this blog, you may have already picked up on that. No matter how old I get, or how much money we throw away, I still look forward to the big day–the hanging lights part, not so much. One thing my wife dislikes is the shortened period of daylight because it’s depressing to drive home from work after sundown. I love the earlier evenings, though, because it means that Christmas is coming!

My enthusiasm for the holiday is in no way deterred by the debate surrounding the origin of the Christmas holiday. Since my days in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement, I have seen some leaders advocate for December 25 as the true date of the birth of Jesus, while most I have seen take no position on the date, but certainly promote the celebration of the “official,” if not actual, anniversary of the incarnation and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being the revivalists that they are, fundamentalists would never discourage church attendance by downplaying Christmas! In fact, part of my personal love for Christmas is probably rooted in the virtual show-and-tell encouraged by my beloved childhood pastor, who had the children bring their favorite Christmas gift to church to show it off and tell us about it.

Since about the year 2000, however, I have embraced Reformed theology, and since 2010, my wife, youngest daughter, and I have worshipped in a congregation of the Orthodox (as in, not liberal!) Presbyterian Church. The attitude and practice of my new denomination and theological tradition regarding Christmas is much more varied. I find a few who reject it entirely, many like myself who love and celebrate it with enthusiasm, and leaders who walk a very diplomatic public line between the varying opinions. The fact is that the Reformed wing of the Protestant Reformation is the historical source of the rejection of Christmas and Easter, although many sects and factions who reject these holidays often do so for reasons completely foreign to the Protestant Reformation.

So, the question of the true origin of Christmas continues to be an issue of interest for me. In the past I have promoted Touchstone Magazine‘s interesting article,” Calculating Christmas.” This article takes the “Mere Christianity” approach to defending the Christian origin of Christmas against claims of its pagan origin.In other words, it deals primarily with issues agreed on by each major branch of Christendom: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. Some details of Touchstone’s case remain a matter of debate; however, their full-throated affirmation of the Christian origin of Christmas appeals to a guy like me. Nevertheless, Touchstone’s ecumenical approach leaves a few issues outstanding as the issue of celebrating Christmas relates to a Reformed believer’s observance of the holiday.

Reformed theology subscribes to Scripture’s authority to regulate the worship of the church–a doctrine we call “the regulative principle of worship” (RPW). Nowadays, Reformed churches differ on how this principle applies to the observance of Christmas. Some, while rejecting the Catholic Church Calendar on the grounds of the RPW, retain the observance of Easter and Christmas. This view seems to predominate today among Reformed churches. Others reject even these two holidays in favor of only observing the Lord’s Day, applying the Old Covenant Sabbath principles to New Covenant worship. They say we celebrate 52 holidays on the Reformed “church calendar.” While the former agree with the latter on the primacy of the Lord’s Day, they do see a place for the commemoration of the anniversary of the incarnation and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of the church, even on the Lord’s Day. The goal of the Protestant Reformation was to reform the doctrine and practice of the church according to the Scriptures and the customs of the ancient church (Clary, Glen. The Eucharist in the Didache; Abstract, p. v).

This year, I thought to inquire into further reading by a more Reformed source on the subject. Who better to ask than my own presbytery’s scholar on the customs of the ancient church, Dr. Glen Clary, Pastor of Providence OPC in Pflugerville, Texas, and a regular contributor to the Reformed Forum through his Ancient-Reformed Worship blog. Pastor Clary, who studied under the great Hughes Oliphant Old, directed me to his post, “The Origins of the Church Calendar.” This lengthy piece features quotes by many early writers like Chrysostom, Clement and Jerome on the subject of the history of the Church Calendar and the Easter and Christmas traditions. There is much interesting content in this article, to which I would direct your attention. Allow me to whet your appetite for the details by sharing Clary’s nuanced conclusions regarding Christmas, and leave it to you to go back to his article yourself to work through the evidence he presents (emphasis mine):

“Those who argue for the derivation of Christmas from this festival [the Roman festival of the Invincible Sun, dies natalis solis invicti] lay great emphasis on the role of Constantine, who is known to have been a devotee of the Sun prior to his protection of Christianity.

“However, it should be noted that although we find several places in the Church fathers where Christmas is compared and contrasted with Sol Invictus, it does not necessarily follow that Christmas was instituted as its substitute.

“One manifest weakness of this theory is that Constantine did not institute the observance of Christmas on December 25 in Bethlehem after dedicating the Church of the Nativity.

“As we have just seen in Jerome’s sermon, Bethlehem continued to observe January 6 as the Nativity until the end of the fourth century or even the beginning of the fifth.

“Furthermore, Constantine does not institute the observance of Christmas in the new capital of his empire either. Christmas first came to Constantinople in 380 when it was introduced by the newly installed bishop, Gregory of Nazianzus.

“One conclusion that we may draw from this historical data is that the nativity of Christ was not widely observed in the church on December 25 until the late fourth or early fifth century.

That is not to say that Christians did not celebrate the nativity of Christ before that time. They certainly did! But the point is that December 25 was not regarded as a holy day by most Christians until pretty late in church history.

“The church calendar is something that evolved over a very long period of time. Even after the first two or three ecumenical councils, the church calendar was still in a state of flux.

As diligent students of the church fathers, the Reformers were well aware of that fact.

“The Reformers knew that there was an unbroken tradition of Lord’s Day worship handed down from the apostolic age. And they were eager to preserve that apostolic practice.

“But many of them had misgivings about the church calendar. One reason for those misgivings was the lack of evidence from the ancient church to substantiate its apostolic origins.

The Captain’s Eight Theses: On the Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism


1. Israel is the Church–the Church is Israel.

2. God commanded Israel to circumcise their households (believers, their children and anyone else of any status in the household). 

3. Divine Commands remain in place if they are never rescinded. 

4. Israel, by the plan of God, was a mixed multitude of believers whose circumcision signified the circumcision of their hearts (their faith and repentance), and unbelievers whose circumcision was a constant reminder to them of their need to circumcise their hearts (to repent and believe).

5. In Christ, the sign of circumcision–the sign and seal of faith (Romans 4:11)–was changed to baptism (see how the one is identified with the other in Colossians 2:11-12), and this sign continued to be given not only to individuals, but also to households in the New Testament. 

6. The command to apply the sign and seal of faith to households is nowhere rescinded in the New Testament; therefore, the command remains in force. 

7. For this reason, it is biblical to baptize the infant children of believers before they make a profession of faith. 

8. In conclusion, the Bible teaches Christians to baptize their children with a view to raising them to repent and believe in the providential timing of the Lord. 

“Christianity and Its Discontents”: Carl Trueman’s Day-Higginbotham Lecture Series

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Dr. Carl Trueman speaks in Williams Reception Hall at the Naylor Student Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, hosts the Day-Higginbotham Lectures each year. “…[E]stablished by an endowment fund in 1965 donated by Mrs. Edwin M. Reardon, III as a memorial to the late Paul Clanton Higginbotham and to Mr. and Mrs. Riley Day, Mrs. Reardon’s parents.” In 2014, when Southwestern Seminary President Dr. Paige Patterson introduced Carl Trueman (Paul Wooley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) who preached on Elijah in a chapel service (see my post on that), Patterson said while he generally “has no use for Calvinists,” he does appreciate Carl Trueman’s work as “a critic of the culture.” The lectures Dr. Trueman delivered at the 2016 Day-Higginbothm Lectures certainly demonstrate what Patterson appreciates most about him.

In his introduction to the second lecture, Dr. Trueman explains that his denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is known more for the “spirituality of the church”, rather than for “engaging the culture,” and that social commentary has not always been his focus, but that the rapid change in modern American culture toward the LGBTQ movement is a case of “the culture engaging the church,” making it a moral issue which stands to trigger important changes in the way the Christian church relates to the issues of sexual identity politics in the years to come.

The title for Trueman’s series of lectures is “Christiantiy and Its Discontents,” a title which alludes to Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. He also cited much from another early twentieth century philosopher, Wilhelm Reich, and Trueman shows how much of what both writers thought about issues related to sexual identity so many decades ago is bearing fruit in today’s rapid change of attitudes about the definition of marriage and more recently with the issue of transgenderism. He also recommends Phillip Rieff’s book Triumph of the Therapeutic, now available in it’s 50th anniversary 2016 edition (couldn’t find a link to it, but here’s its 40th anniversary edition).

Dr. Trueman opened his first lecture on Thursday morning with a reading of Genesis 2:15-25, focusing on verse 24:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:15-25 ESV)

In his second lecture Thursday night, Trueman explained that verse 24 was not a sentimental or emotional description of human sexuality, but that it focuses on the way sexuality serves as a social rite of passage to adulthood in the ancient world, and continued to do so even in the peasant societies of the late medieval and early modern eras of Western civilization, evidenced by the fact that marriage was consummated in the view of witnesses, if not put on public display as a means of making this formal relationship a matter of public record, so far from being some form of voyeurism.

Trueman helps us understand that when Christians argue that what it is they are against is homosexual activity, the broader culture still insists on seeing it as an attack on the very psychological identity of a segment of society, and therefore the Christian’s words fall on deaf ears at best, and are taken as a form of political oppression at worst. We aren’t conceding the presuppositions of the world, therefore the world rejects our attempts to explain our rejection of homosexual behavior.

Trueman discusses pornography, explaining that it is a perennial problem which has existed for as long as humans have had the capacity to convey images of sexuality, but that it’s recent sharp increase in accessibility by everyone who has internet access is unprecedented in history and is now the #1 pastoral problem in the Christian church, even seeing a sharp increase in usage among females.

I was unable to take down a precise outline of Dr. Trueman’s remarks, but the above is an introduction to the issues he describes as currently changing the modern world and challenging the Christian church.

By Grace Through Faith (Galatians 2:15-21)

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

(Galatians 2:15-21 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

IMG_0686 Pastor Joe Troutman preaching at San Antonio Reformed on June 21, 2015. HT: Billie Moody

On Sunday, November 15, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “By Grace Through Faith” from Galatians 2:15-21.

You are justified in God’s sight not because of what you have done, but only by what Christ has done for you, and imputed to you by God’s free grace.

1. By God’s Free Grace—It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, all are justified by grace through faith in Christ. Justification is, in God’s Court, your being declared righteous. If our righteousness is filthy rags, then justification by God is a gift.

2. He Pardons All Our Sins—In the case of your standing before the Lord, it is impossible to plead innocence. If you only ever committed the least sin, you stand condemned by the Law, because it is holy, good…

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Hear, O Israel (John 10:22-30)

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, hin the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are ithe Christ, jtell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do lin my Father’s name bear witness about me, but myou do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and pthey will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of tthe Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Sermons JohnOn Sunday, October 18, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “Hear, O Israel,” from John 10:22-30.

Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father but who became a man; he is the Good Shepherd out of whose hands no one may snatch those who believe in him.

1. Insufficiency of Evidence–The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him as the Son of God and the Messiah; however, though we point to evidence of his divinity, his miracles and the historical fact of his resurrection, and many will refuse to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence because evidences alone are unable to generate the faith sinners need to be born again.

2. Faith Comes from Hearing–Jesus’ sheep hear his voice because they’ve been enabled to hear by the Holy Spirit. Those who never hear it, neither want to, nor are they able to hear his voice.

3.

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Gnosticism and Docetism

“[T]he idea of the presence in man of a divine “spark”…, which has proceeded from the divine world and has fallen into this world of destiny, birth and death and which must be reawakened through its own divine counterpart in order to be finally restored. This idea…is ontologically based on the conception of a downward development of the divine whose periphery (often called Sophia or Ennoia) has fatally fallen victim to a crisis and must–even if only indirectly–produce this world, in which it then cannot be disinterested, in that it must once again recover the divine “spark” (often designated as pneuma, “spirit”).”

–Congress on the Origins of Gnosticism in Messina, 1966 (cited in Rudolph, Kurt; Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. Harper & Row, 1987. Page 57)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

The Pleroma in the Valentinian System The Pleroma in the Valentinian System

On Sunday, October 25, 2015, elder Wayne Wylie taught on Gnosticism, and introduced Docetism in his series on Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Elements of the ancient heresy of Gnositicism include the ideas of dualism, the elitist attitude of the “Gnostikoi” who are the chosen few favored with secret knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, and some discussion of how this two-tiered attitude is reflected in various Christian movements to this day. Another prominent custom among modern Christians which bears some parallel to the notion that Christians have direct knowledge of God apart from Scripture is in the notion of receiving individualistic “guidance by the Holy Spirit,” often appealed to in day-to-day decision making. Important varieties of Gnosticism, such as that of the arch-heretic Marcion and the school of Valentinus were also introduced.

In Gnosticism, knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, rather…

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The Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

(John 10:1-21 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Podcast Art JohnOn Sunday, October 11, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “The Good Shepherd” from John 10:1-21.

Jesus Christ is the Door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd. He is the only way we may be saved, and he gently leads us through this life and into the next.

1. I Am the Door—The Pharisees are illegitimate shepherds. The true shepherd comes to the flock by means of true doctrine and obedient life. The true shepherd is not passive, but rather, active in guarding the sheep. “Life more abundantly” is often misused by false teachers. Spiritual, rather than material, abundance is meant by and provided by the Good Shepherd.

2. I Am the Good Shepherd—A shepherd seeks his own lost sheep, binds up the wounded, defends them from wolves. Jesus needs nothing from us, but gives us all things.

3. I Lay Down My Life—The Good Shepherd…

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While I AM is Still Near (John 9:1-7)

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Podcast Art JohnOn Sunday, September 27, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “While I AM is Still Near” from John 9:1-7.

The Lord may be found only while he is here on earth. First, he was present in person; now he is present in his Body, the Church.

1. Who Sinned?—The fall of Adam brought the world into a state of sin and misery; therefore, we live with the daily consequences of our corporate sin in Adam in a fallen world.

2. God’s Works on Display—The real purpose of the man’s blindness, was to put the work of God on display. Doing the works of Jesus is the duty of followers, too.

3. As Long as I am in the World—The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him to be the Creator and the Son of God. Jesus was the Light of the world during his earthly ministry. Since…

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Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens Theatrical Poster Released

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterThe jurisdiction of this blog just expanded. I know many Reformed blogs have always posted on personal interests that lay outside the realm of Reformed theology, but I had rarely, or never done so myself. This changes today.

Yours truly, nerding out.

Yours truly, nerding out.

Facebook friends of mine have become painfully aware of the fact that I have, in the past year, reverted to where I left off at about age nineteen, in my interest in comic books and Star Wars. I have been calling 2015 “The Year of Star Wars” since the announcement that George Lucas had decided to sell Lucasfilm to Disney and the joint announcement that Disney’s newly acquired company would begin a new trilogy of Star Wars feature films, along with a handful of spin-off films. There is also talk of a live-action Netflix series in the works (see this for the new canon). But, most significantly for myself, is the fact that now that both Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm are under the Disney umbrella, the twenty-plus year run of Dark Horse brand Star Wars comics is coming to an end, and Lucasfilm’s new sister company will resume publishing Star Wars comics, which they originally did since the 1977 release of the ground-breaking original Star Wars film when I was six years old, which somehow managed to wrap its tentacles around my brain.

Some of you may be aware that yesterday, the long-awaited official theatrical poster of Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released, as a fore-runner to the fashionably late debut of the first full trailer for the film, to be aired during half-time on Monday Night Football on ESPN tonight.

HT: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Facebook Page

HT: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Facebook Page

But, thank the Maker for DVR technology! I needn’t sit through a game I’m not interested in to catch the trailer. I’ll record it, watch my normal shows, probably check in on the progress of the game in order to catch it live, then back to my preferred viewing. Then I’ll protect it in my DVR so I can re-watch it as often as I like.

The infrequency of my blogging on theological issues may largely be explained by the fact that since 2010, when my family finally joined an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, my formerly frustrated need for sound theology began being met, and my compulsion to seek interaction with others who believe as I do–few and far between as we often find ourselves–has found relief in my enjoyment of weekly ministry of the ordinary means of grace at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas.

In 2013, we moved from our original rental facility, the Airport Area YMCA to a small building on 1.6 acres on Brown Trail in Bedford. With that move, the deacon in charge of the library asked me to take over directorship of our small collection of books, and also requested that I come up with a way to facilitate online discussion of our books among our library patrons. This lead to the launch of my second blog, the MCOPC Library Blog. I have been posting our titles on this blog, which will serve as an online card catalog in the hopes that one day I will learn how to provoke a church full of ordinary people who are not already avid bloggers to open up and review, comment, raise questions and engage in discussion or debate on our humble blog with other library patrons. This strikes me as a daunting task. But perhaps with time, more of that will begin to happen.

I will begin reblogging those posts here as well, if only to increase the frequency of Reformed-content blogging. I also have intentions to resume my devotional series I started in 2006, which broke down with the increased difficulty in pairing questions and answers from the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the Ten Commandments with hymns featuring related content from the Trinity Hymnal. But I have a source which will assist me in that, my pastor has managed to do so in his Sunday evening service teaching ministry on the catechism, and has invited me to benefit from his work in that area, for which I am grateful.

But in the meantime, I hope you will enjoy geeking out with me about Star Wars and Marvel Comics from time to time. Let me know what you think about the Force Awakens poster, speculate about why you think Luke is missing, and check back here for more forty-something fanboy misadventures.

With All Your Heart | DFW RefCon 2015!

Click here to register today!

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Dr. Craig Troxel, pastor of Bethel OPC in Wheaton, Illinois, will be speaking on the biblical meaning of the heart. He’s working on a book on this subject, so this conference will be a preview. The conference will take place at my church, Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas (1810 Brown Trail, Bedford, TX, to be exact)

The subject of this conference is specially related to a major theme underlying this blog. There is a distinction assumed by fundamentalists and evangelicals between the head, where one supposedly only crams facts about the Bible, and the heart, where it is said, that knowledge of the Bible must move before one genuinely benefits from his knowledge of the Bible. Dr. Troxel will explain how this is a fallacious concept. I look forward to being enlightened on the biblical teaching on the heart, and passing it on to you.

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I highly recommend you join us by registering by first clicking at the link in the sidebar. If you live outside this region of north Texas, I hope some of you will make the effort to come.

Event Details

“With All Your Heart:” Thinking (again) about What You Know, Love & Choose

If you are going to get at your real motives; if you want to grow in repentance and faith; if you desire true Spiritual renewal; if you are going to pursue sincerity and avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy; if you need honest communication in your marriage; if you want to encourage believing friends with more clarity; if you long to pray and examine yourself with greater transparency—then you need to know what the heart is and where it is in your relationship with God. Interested? You should be. If you want to love God, obey God, seek God and know God, you must do so with “all your heart.”

Schedule

  • Friday 7:00 p.m. #1 – Knowing: The Mind of the Heart
  •  Sat. 9:30 a.m. #2 – Loving: The Desires of the Heart
  •  Sat. 11:00 a.m. #3 – Choosing: The Will of the Heart
  • Break for Lunch 12:00–1:30 (Free BBQ grilled on-site!)
  • Sat. 1:30 p.m: #4 – Keeping: Preserving & Protecting the Heart
Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Speaker Bio

A. Craig Troxel was born and raised in rural western Nebraska by the sixth generation of immigrants from Switzerland.

He is a graduate of Anderson University (B.A.), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.A.T.S.), and Westminster Theological Seminary (Ph.D.).

He has served as the pastor of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois since 2007. He is Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and an Adjunct professor of Ministerial Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. He also serves on his denomination’s Committee on Christian Education. In addition he served as moderator of the 81st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

He has published scholarly articles in Trinity Journal, Calvin Theological Journal, Westminster Theological Journal, Fides et Historia,Presbyterion, and in popular publications like Ordained Servant, New Horizons, and Modern Reformation.

Pastor Craig’s interests lie in preaching, spirituality, the doctrine of the church, and he is currently writing a book on what the Bible teaches about the heart.

He and his wife Carolyn live in Wheaton together with three of their five children, Phil, Tommy and Maggie. The Troxel family enjoys playing all sports, taking excessively long road trips, reading books and growing the ingredients for salsa in their garden.

Lastly, and most relevant to this blogger, Pastor Troxel was my pastor’s pastor when he attended Westminster Theological Seminary! I am very much looking forward to learning from him on this much-misunderstood topic. Register today and do so along with me!

http://www.dfwrefcon2015.eventbrite.com

Craig Troxel on Trends and Biblical Reformation of the Church

Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Craig Troxel, Pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Wheaton, Illinois, will be speaking at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church’s 2015 DFW Reformation Conference (Nov. 13-14, 2015) on the subject of “With All Your Heart: Thinking (again) About What We Think, Love and Choose.”

Pastor Troxel has spoken on Reformed theology in Texas previously down in Pflugerville, Texas, at our sister congregation, Providence Presbyterian Church at their 2009 Calvin Conference.

IMG_1155Perhaps a few of you who are thinking about attending this year’s conference in Bedford would enjoy sampling Pastor Troxel’s work.

Semper Reformanda: Under Renovation or Seeking

The Emerging Church: The New Voice in the Conversation 

Every Member Matters: The Priesthood of All Believers 

Presbyterian Salsa: Westminster Calvinism’s Recipe for “The Communion of the Saints”

Register for the 2015 DFW Reformation Conference (Nov. 13-14, 2015) at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (1810 Brown Trail, Bedford, TX 76021).

Today is J. Gresham Machen’s birthday


One hundred thirty four years ago today was the birth of Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Princeton Seminary Professor of New Testament, author of Christianity and Liberalism, co-founder of Westminster Theological Seminary (1929) and first moderator of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1936). Machen’s integrity as a defender of orthodox Christian doctrine and practice, and his leadership in exemplifying and declaring the same, are a legacy we as confessional Reformed Protestants (Presbyterian & Reformed Churches) build upon to this day.
The following link provides numerous resources on the life, ministry and legacy of J. Gresham Machen.

http://opc.org/machen.html

I also highly recommend the series on Machen by historian Darryl G. Hart, which were podcasted on Historian Ecclesia, a resource of ReformedForum.org:

http://reformedforum.org/category/series/machen/

Humility, Prayer, Study and Meditation

Title Page to Brown's Self-Interpreting Bible

Title Page to Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible

The following continues a series of excerpts from “An Introduction to the Right Understanding of the Oracles of God,” by the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, as published in his Self-Intepreting Bible (1859 edition). (Punctuation and Scripture references have been modernized).

Chapter II

OF RULES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE SCRIPTURES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS

  1. Let us labor, in much fervent prayer and supplication, for the powerful influence and inhabitation of the Holy Ghost (who perfectly understands the Scriptures, and indited and appointed them for our spiritual edification,) that he may effectually interpret and apply them to our heart. He is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ; He it is who searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God:–He is the Anointing, that is Truth, and teacheth all things. He can enlighten our eyes, and make us to know things freely given us of God, and to see wondrous things out of God’s law; can make us by the Scriptures,–wiser than our teachers—wise unto salvation (Ephesians 1:17-18; 3:16-19; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12; 1 John 2:20, 27; Psalm 119:18, 96-109; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
  1. Being renewed in the spirit of our minds, and having in us the mind of Christ, we ought, under a deep sense of God’s presence and authority in the Scripture, earnestly, and with much self-denial, to search the Scriptures, by much serious reading and meditation thereon; chiefly that we may spiritually know the mind, behold the glory, and feel the effectual power of God therein, in order to our faith in, and obedience to them. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: it is the man who feareth God to whom he will teach his way, and reveal the secrets of his covenant;–it is the man who hat the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ–who hath seen the Lord, and tasted that he is gracious—the man who hath had his eyes opened, that can discern, judge of, and understand the matter or manner of Scripture revelations (1 John 2: 20, 27; Psalm 25:12, 14; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; John 14:21-23; Luke 24:45; Psalm 114:18). A deep sense of our ignorance, and of our absolute need of Scripture influence, must animate us to the earnest study of knowledge. He, who thinks that of himself he knows divine things to any purpose, knoweth nothing as he ought to know—only with the lowly is wisdom. God, who resisteth the proud, giveth grace to the humble: the meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way. The mysteries of the kingdom he hides from the self-conceited, wise, and prudent; and reveals them unto babes (1 Corinthians 8:2; Proverbs 11:2; James 4:6; Psalm 25:9; Matthew 13:11; 11:25). Scarcely can anything then more effectually to blind the mind, and harden the heart, than the searching of the Scriptures in a philosophical manner, regarding merely or chiefly the rational sense of the passage. Hence multitudes of preachers, who daily study the Scriptures for the sake of their external performances, are of all men the most ignorant how Christ’s words are spirit and life. The god of this world blinds their minds; so that hearing many things, they never open their eyes; and seeing many things, they never behold one truth, or the subject thereof, in its glory (Isaiah 6:9-10; 42:18-19; 56:9; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

“Heart knowledge” of Scripture’s Self-Attesting Evidences Persuades of Its Divine Inspiration and Authority

Brown's Self-Interpreting Bible (1859 edition)

Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (1859 edition)

The following continues a series of excerpts from “An Introduction to the Right Understanding of the Oracles of God,” by the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, as published in his Self-Intepreting Bible (1859 edition).

X. Though the above arguments are sufficient to silence gainsayers, and to produce a rational conviction that the Scriptures are of divine original and authority, it is only the effectual application of them to our mind, conscience, and heart, in their SELF-EVIDENCEING DIVINE LIGHT and POWER, which can produce a cordial and saving persuasion that they are indeed the word of God. But, when thus applied, this word brings along with it such light, such authority, and such sanctifying and comforting power, that there is no shutting our eyes nor hardening our hearts against it; no possibility of continuing stupid and concerned under it: but the whole faculties of our soul are necessarily affected with it, as indeed marked with divine evidence, and attended with almighty power; 1 Thes. 1:5; 2:13; John 6:63.

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