“Christianity and Its Discontents”: Carl Trueman’s Day-Higginbotham Lecture Series
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.
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.
I also highly recommend the series on Machen by historian Darryl G. Hart, which were podcasted on Historian Ecclesia, a resource of ReformedForum.org:
Westminster West–Texas, that is!
Congratulations to Rev. Jeremy Boothby, the newly ordained and installed pastor of Christ Covenant OPC in Amarillo, Texas. This is a sister church in my church’s Presbytery of the Southwest, which facilitates the connectedness of our Orthodox Presbyterian congregations located in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Last Friday was the day of the installation service, where Drs. Lane Tipton and K. Scott Oliphint both spoke. Amarillo is the hometown of Dr. Oliphint, along with his brother, Rev. Kyle Oliphint, who is now pastor of Grace Community PCA on the north side of Fort Worth, near Keller, Texas. I decided to post this playlist because I knew there would be a few of you out there who just have to see Lane Tipton and Scott Oliphint doing what they do. I can’t say that I blame you. The videos are courtesy of Pastor Andrew Moody of San Antonio Reformed Church. Don’t let the YouTube channel confuse you, the events in the videos take place in Amarillo, even though they are posted by a guy from San Antonio.
I got to know Pastor Boothby when my wife and I were counselors at camp down in Leakey, Texas. Jeremy and I led a team of campers in putting together a skit featuring the camp’s theme. Jeremy had the idea to imitate those commercials with the guy sitting at a table asking a group of kids “Which is better?” in which hilarity ensued. We had a unique combination of personalities on our team, which gave us some good “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” moments. I also got to see what a capable athlete he was on the basketball court, which I suppose is why I commented on the video of the newly installed Pastor Boothby giving his first real live benediction that his smile looks like he’s repressing the urge to dance in the end zone or something. I wish I could find those camp pictures but we’ve been slowly transferring files from an old computer to a new one and I haven’t been able to locate them, not even on our Carbonite account. If I find them soon, maybe I’ll update the post.
May Pastor Jeremy Boothby enjoy many fruitful and happy years pastoring Christ Covenant OPC in Amarillo, Texas!
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.”
The Hermeneutics of Insider Syncretism
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].
Thankful for the Committee on Christian Education
I just finished watching the latest video uploaded to the Reformed Audio YouTube page, Rev. John Galbraith, Address at GA on 75th Anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Galbraith, age 98 at the time of the delivery of this address back in June of 2011, was in attendance and stood to vote for the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church on June 11, 1936. The extent of his service to the church is outlined in the introductory material under the video on the YouTube page as follows:
Rev. John P. Galbraith, founding member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936 and retired minister, addresses the General Assembly of the OPC’s Committee on Christian Education on the 75th Anniversary of the OPC on June 11, 2011. Rev. Galbraith graduated from Westiminster Theological Seminary in 1937 (where he studied under J. Gresham Machen until his untimely death) and was ordained to the gospel ministry that same year. During his 75 years as a minister in Christ’s church, Rev. Galbraith served as the pastor of three OPC churches, clerk of the OPC General Assembly for six years (1940, 1984-88), General Secretary of the Committee for Foreign Missions for thirty years, General Secretary of the Committee for Home Missions, and on numerous other denominational committees. In this address, at the age of 98 years old, he reflects on the mission of the OPC and God’s goodness to the church for 75 years, as well as challenges the church faces. Introduction by Rev. Danny Olinger. For more of Rev. John Galbraith, please visit www.reformedaudio.org/Galbraith
In his address, Rev. Galbraith comments that J. Gresham Machen’s “two pillars” of the church are that 1)The Bible is the Word of God, and 2) It Must Be Obeyed! Built upon these pillars, the young denomination would organize the Committees on Home and Foreign Missions in order to “speak to those who are without,” and underscores how that it is the mission of the Committee on Christian Education to “speak to those who are within”–to teach the teachers. He goes on to urge the OPC to watch out for the inclusivism which ultimately destroyed the PCUSA, and commends toward that end a firm committment to the Westminster Standards as our corporate confession of our ultimate guide, the Bible. Finally, upon his conclusion and stirring recommendation, those in attendance rise to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.”
You will be challenged and encouraged to renew your faith in and obedience to the Bible in this address.
Reformed Forum: Nature and Scripture
I just thought I’d share the video of one of my favorite podcasts, if you’ve got the time.
Reformed Forum is a reformed theology media network, which seeks to serve the church by providing content dedicated to issues in reformed theology. (Link)
The flagship podcast of the Reformed Forum media network is the weekly program, Christ the Center. Hosted by Camden Bucey, a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is often joined by a panel of other students, Christ the Center features interviews of authors and theologians, as well as discussions among the panelists themselves. While accessible and engaging, these guys are not afraid of dealing with the technical and academic aspects of Reformed theology, but I know everyone will find something that will benefit them.
The most recent episode posted at the Reformed Forum YouTube channel deals with the issue of “Nature and Scripture”:
In 1946, the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary published a symposium on the doctrine of Scipture titled The Infallible Word. Cornelius Van Til’s contribution, an essay titled “Nature and Scripture,” is an important work describing the relationship of general and special revelation. In this episode, Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster, expounds on this essay and connects it to contemporary issues in philosophy and theological methodology. (Link)
A “Friend” Tells Our Story
In case I’ve never mentioned it, I love the way Penguin publishes their books! It’s probably just the nostalgia associated with the first Penguin Classic I ever bought as a teenager, Pilgrim’s Progress.
Recently, I was browsing at Barnes and Noble and discovered a recent church history book published by Viking (Published by the Penguin Group). Naturally, I was drawn in. The book is called Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Oxford Professor of Church History, Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Perusing the introduction, it became clear that, while this writer may be a super scholar (he’s got a long list of awards and other honors to his name), he is not a believer, although he used to profess faith. In fact, he was an Anglican deacon, but refused to enter the priesthood due, fortunately, to controversy swirling around homosexual clergy. See his Wikipedia entry linked above for more on this story.
Although intrigued, I was not quite sure if I should spend my money on the book, so I visited that old place where people can check out books temporarily without having to pay for them, unless they are returned late. Remember libraries? Pretty cool places.
Reading the introduction is a roller coaster ride for an orthodox Christian like myself. MacCulloch, as close as he has always lived to Christianity, makes some rather odd observations about the development of Christianity, but he assures the reader he is a “candid friend of Christianity” (p11). Fair enough. The writing is very engaging, and I have a healthy respect for common grace as it relates to the vocation of unbelievers, and I am sure there is much good information I can gain from this book.
My pastor and his family swung by our house this afternoon, and I showed him that I was reading MacCulloch’s Christianity, and wanted to learn what he knew about the writer. He said they used his previous history, Reformation, as a textbook at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also said that the British WTS Church History prof, Carl Trueman, knows MacCulloch and respects his work. My pastor also wants me to let him know what I think after I read it. If any of my readers are familiar with MacCulloch’s work, please share your thoughts and reactions with us in the comments section.
So, with such a hearty endorsement, I suppose I can afford to set aside the other books I’m bogged down in, and focus on this one for a few weeks until I can’t continue. As much as I love books, I’m a slow and easily distracted reader. My “ADD” will kick in at some point, I’ll return the book to the library (on time, hopefully), and then go purchase the paperback edition of both Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and Reformation: A History.
Here’s a BBC interview of MacCulloch on his history of Christianity, in case you’re interested in what’s in store for me as I read his book:
Union with Christ and Justification
Happy Reformation Day! October 31, 2011 marks the 494th anniversary of the legendary event considered the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation when Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences(commonly known as the 95 Theses) to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. In the years that followed, Luther lead the movement to reform the church’s understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of justification by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. The Lutheran tradition would build on Luther’s work on justification, and they placed it at the center and starting point of all of the benefits of the redemption purchased
by Christ for his people. But biblical reformation of soteriology didn’t end with Luther and the Lutherans. The Reformed movement also grew alongside of the Lutheran movement, and while both were co-belligerents against the Roman doctrines of justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ, they differed on the most biblical way to systematize these truths.
Friday on the Reformed Forum’s podcast, Christ the Center, Camden Bucey, Jim Cassidy and Jeff Waddington interviewed Dr. Lane Tipton, the new Charles Khrae Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Tipton was allowed two hours to spell out the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed approaches to justification and many current issues related to this essential aspect of Protestant theology, such as whether Dr. Michael Horton’s academic work on the subject is moving Reformed theology toward a more Lutheran, and therefore,according to Dr. Tipton, semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification. Listen to the podcast at this link.
I was introduced to Reformed theology by Michael Horton’s materials and the Lord used his parachurch ministries Christian United for Reformation (CURE) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) and the White Horse Inn radio show to gradually bring me around to embrace it. I will certainly be looking forward to a future Christ the Center program in which Dr. Horton responds to Dr. Tipton’s characterization of his work on justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ. More public dialogue on this ought to take place, IMHO. At this point, Dr. Tipton’s case sounds convincing and more in line with the Reformed confessions and catechisms, as opposed to Dr. Horton’s efforts to, as I once heard him state on the air, build a kind of ecumenism between Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican traditions. I can see how some synthesis may be taking place in that effort. But what do I know?
Reformata, Semper Reformanda!
In all my searching and discussing the issue of the interpretation of the days of creation in Genesis 1, Google directed me to a statement from Westminster Theological Seminary declaring the results of their research into the history of how this issue has been treated by the leaders of the Augustinian and Reformed traditions going all the way back to Augustine himself. The statement is called, “Westminster Theological Seminary and the Days of Creation.“
The discussion among Presbyterians revolves around the reasons the Westminster Divines selected the language they did in when they framed the chapter on Creation in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The phrase in question will be highlighted in the following citation:
I. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.
The question is raised as to why the wording “in the space of six days.” Why not simply “in six days”? The statement explains:
“The paraphrase view is doubtful because if the Standards had intended simply to utilize biblical language, “in six days” would have sufficed and been a more natural choice. The words “the space of,” as the other view above recognizes, seem deliberately chosen as an interpretive or clarifying addition that functions both to affirm and to exclude or negate.
To make the long story short, the statement concludes that the divines intended to exclude Augustine’s view that God created everything instantaneously inspiring the six days, as Calvin described the view (which he did not hold), “for the mere purpose of conveying instruction.” You can read more about this discussion in the statement itself. You can link to it from the title above, and I have also added a link to the page on my “Recommended Sites” page for future reference.
Finally, here’s a quote that sums up the entire issue as they see it. I find it rather helpful:
With Augustine and E. J. Young, the revered teacher of our senior faculty members, we recognize that the exegetical question of the length of the days of Genesis 1 may be an issue which cannot be, and therefore is not intended by God to be, answered in dogmatic terms. To insist that it must comes dangerously close to demanding from God revelation which he has not been pleased to bestow upon us, and responding to a threat to the biblical world view with weapons that are not crafted from the words which have proceeded out of the mouth of God.
The Bible’s Inconvenient Truth
The following was preached on March 6, 2011 by Rev. Joe Troutman, pastor of Mid Cities Presbyterian Church, in Bedford, Texas. This just happened, in the providence of God, to be the weekend after the controversy about which I’ve been posting for the past couple of weeks. The heresy of some becomes an opportunity for the orthodox to proclaim the truths of the Bible with all the more clarity. I hope you find the following words at the same time edifying and challenging.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50 ESV)
The third parable, which is found in verses 47-50, is the longest of the four. There is some similarity here to the first two, but overall it is different. Some commentators group it with the parable of the wheat and the tares because it describes a harvest–a harvest of the sea, as opposed to a harvest of the field. In this parable, Jesus says again, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea, and gathered fish of every kind. Like the second parable, there is a great search taking place. But instead of a search for a precious pearl, it is a search for fish. This search is being done, it says, by angels.
The first two parables describe men who find the Kingdom, but this parable is about the Kingdom finding men. We may think we found God. We may think that in some way we stumbled across him; that in our search in the marketplace, we have found the pearl of great price. But in reality, the parable shows, Jesus is continuing to tell us that it is God who found us. It is God, the Lord Jesus Christ himself—who sought us out. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The value of God’s Kingdom, and the place of God’s elect in it, are so great that the purchase price was nothing less than Jesus Christ himself. It is, in fact, more than you and I could pay. More than we could ever pay. It is a debt that is too great for us. Because God made a covenant with himself to save a people for himself, he was willing to go to any length to procure his people’s salvation. He was willing to give his Son as a ransom for lost sinners like you and me. This is what the Lord was willing to do for all who truly believe.
In this parable, the Kingdom of heaven is compared to a net. Don’t think of a fishing net, don’t think of a net that’s at the end of a pole, that people use to scoop up a fish at the end of a fishing line. Don’t necessarily even think of a net that is cast out into the water. This is a large net. This is a dragnet. This is what may be termed a seine. One of the things my dad, my grandfather, my brother and I would do when we were younger, we had a creek running through the property of our farm, and every so often we would take a seine and we would go, men on one side and men on the other, and go up the creek and catch whatever we could find–turtles, snakes, fish–whatever it was, we would try to catch it. This is the kind of thing that Jesus is describing here in this parable. The angels, the reapers, are catching whatever they can get, and the sorting of the good fish from the bad ones would take place on the shore, which is what Jesus says in verse 48. He says, “When it was full, men drew it ashore, and sat down and sorted the good into containers, and threw away the bad.”
Then he explains this part of the parable in verses 49-50. He says, “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” What is Jesus talking about? He’s talking about the final judgment. He’s talking about when he returns; when he returns as the Savior of his people and the Judge of those who have rejected him. What is he saying will happen? He is saying that some will be kept, and some will be thrown away. There will be a final sorting that takes place: some will be welcomed into glory by their Savior, and others will be cast into hell by their Judge.
This is what Jesus is teaching. Yet if we affirm this, we are in danger, we need to know, as being regarded as radical fundamentalists by most of the people in our society–even by fellow evangelicals. Yet there is an inconvenient truth for those who would deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment in it by the Lord. And this is it: Scripture says it exists! Scripture repeatedly talks about the existence of hell. The weeping and the gnashing of teeth, the casting of those who refuse to believe into hell, Jesus himself–regarded by many on the more liberal side of the church as just a friendly and nice guy, a lovable teddy-bear type of Savior–Jesus himself talks about hell. It is inescapable.
Now we are not to revel in it; it should sadden us that some are lost. And yet, in God’s casting unbelievers into hell, he is glorified. This may be difficult for us, but just because it is difficult does not give us the right to throw this doctrine away. In so doing, we are throwing portions of Scripture away. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned his followers not to fear someone who could kill the body but not the soul; he says instead to fear him who can destroy both the body and the soul in hell. In other words, fear God.
The book of Revelation also has something to say about that. It is the place where Satan and his angels and everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It is described in Revelation 21:8 as the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the Second Death. There are many today who are challenging Jesus’ teaching in our passage, and many others that say he will save some and send others to hell, but they are denying God’s Word. If they’re denying that he sends some to hell, they are denying his Word, and they have nothing left to stand on when they make their own pronouncements.
In the photo above, Rev. Troutman is posing with Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He came to town as a speaker at the recent Full Confidence Conference, about which I posted a few weeks ago. In the Q & A Session at the end of the conference, Dr. Oliphint concludes the entire event with some very compelling words on the nature of hell as eternal, conscious torment. I highly recommend you give it a listen as well.
Full Confidence Audio
At last we are able to download the lectures delivered at the recent Full Confidence Conference at Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. A link to the messages may be found on GCPC’s home page, or you can simply link to the messages from the list below.
Having heard the lectures in person myself, I must say that I was awed by Dr. Oliphint’s ability to make the point of his messages (both the one at the conference, and his Sunday morning sermon at Mid Cities OPC, which I will provide in a future post) very powerfully by presenting opposing viewpoints, effectively dismantling them, and then so unpacking the truth of God’s Word in such a way, that the hearer (at least, I was) has such a clear concept in his mind of the given topic that it is simply overwhelming, effectively prompting a spontaneous response of worship of the Lord.
Also, don’t miss Dr. Oliphint’s remarks about hell at the end of the Q&A session. It’ll prove a helpful defense of the orthodox doctrine of eternal conscious torment in hell in the light of the current controversy with Rob Bell.
Likewise, Dr. David Garner’s communication skills shone through in his messages. He is a genuine word smith.
I’m sure that you, too, will find much to admire and learn from each of the three conference speakers.
Session 1: The Context for Confidence (Dr. K. Scott Oliphint)
Session 2: the Gospel from Above (Dr. David Garner–not recorded due to technical difficulties)
Session 3: Who Says? (Dr. Timothy Witmer)
Session 4: Vital Inspiration in a Virtual World and Q&A Session (Dr. David Garner/All of the above)
Full Confidence Conference Photo Gallery
The folks at the Full Confidence Conference didn’t know they had a representative from the shallow end of the Refomred blogosphere covering them until I stuck my camera in their faces. When the audio of the messages are made available, I’ll provide summaries and links, but for now, here are a few photos of some of the folks involved:
Here’s a blooper I just can’t resist sharing with you. Here are Pastor Kyle Oliphint and Dr. David Garner losing focus and starting to chat and look around just as I snap their picture…Hey Kyle! I’m over here! 🙂
Next is a look at the “emerging” Westminster generation–Jonathan Brack with Dean of Admissions and son of Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Jared Oliphint. I hope they enjoyed their little family reunion.
And finally, I took the opportunity to get a snapshot with one of my heroes of the faith, a man who successfully lead his family out of fundamentalism and into the Reformed faith intact, Dr. Thomas R. Browning (Hey, Bob Hayton! Here’s a real, live “Fundamentalist Reformer” for you!). He is the Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church, and can be found teaching the adult Bible study in the sanctuary most Sunday mornings. In many ways, I am indirectly a product of his influence, in that he taught the guys who, after years of on-again, off-again considering of the doctrines of grace, lovingly latched onto my ankle (like the Calvinist bulldogs they are) and didn’t let up until I said “Uncle!” Every time I think of this guy, I recall the touching tribute once spoken by his son, Gage (a former co-worker): “My dad is my favorite preacher.” Learn more about Dr. Browning and his ministry of preaching and teaching here and here.
The Words of Life
Thought I’d tease you with a Luther quote given by Dr. David Garner in his message, “The Gospel From Above,” last night at the Full Confidence Conference at Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. The highlighted portion is the portion to which Dr. Garner made reference, the rest shows a little context of what Luther was discussing:
“The neglect of Scripture, even by spiritual leaders, is one of the greatest evils in the world. Everything else, arts or literature, is pursued and practiced day and night, and there is no end of labor and effort; but Holy Scripture is neglected as though there were no need of it. Those who condescend to read it want to absorb everything at once. There has never been an art or a book on earth that everyone has so quickly mastered as the Holy Scriptures. But its words are not, as some think, mere literature (Lesewort); they are words of life (Lebewort), intended not for speculation and fancy but for life and action. By why complain? No one pays any attention to our lament. May Christ our Lord help us by His Spirit to love and honor His holy Word with all our heart. Amen.” (LW 14:46)
More to come next week…
Westminster Releases Tome on Doctrine of Scripture
Pleasing to the eye, desirable to make one wise 😉 Get one for yourself, and one for your church library!
Edited by Richard Gaffin and Peter Lillback of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. Click image to view at wtsbooks.com.