Seen & Heard

What Do You Know?

In January, Meet the Puritans began a new series studying Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Join Danny Hyde in Week 6 as he discusses not just what we know, but how we know:


What's theology? What does God know? What can we know? How do we know what we know? How do we know what we know is true? And how do we express it? That's what this week's reading is all about. Muller deals with the Reformed Orthodox discussion of the parts of true theology, so helpfully distinguished by Franciscus Junius as theologia archetypa, God's own knowledge of himself, and theologia ectypa, what we know of God.

Why this distinction? One of the insights Martin Luther rested on was the late medieval critique of Thomas Aquinas by men like John Duns Scotus. Aquinas said there was an anaology of being between God and man; Scotus said it was impossible for man to derive a description of God apart from an authoritative testimony from God himself. Hence Luther's theology of the cross—what God revealed—took precedence over the theology of glory—what God has kept hidden. John Calvin added to this the radical effects of original sin upon the mind of man so much so that apart from God's self-revelation, true knowledge of God is inaccesible to us. Therefore, Reformed Orthodox writers distinguished theology as God knows it (theologia archetypa) from theology as we creatures can know it (theologia ectypa), whether in this life as pilgrims (theologia viatorum) or the life to come (theologia beatorum). In other words, we as creatures before the Fall, after the Fall in sin, after redemption in Christ, and even in glory, are limited in what we can know of God. We know what God knows is reality; and what we can know is tethered to whatever he decides to reveal to us in a manner appropriate for our creaturely capacity.

Why is this distinction important? Let me illustrate...


Read more at Meet the Purtians today! 

 


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The Rock Badgers Would Like a Word With Us

Starting with a crazy question, Danielle Spencer taught her children about God's sovereign provision. Here is a brief part of their discussion: 


“Do you know what would happen if the world suddenly stopped spinning?” I asked my kids during our morning Bible time. My 12-year-old consulted one of her favorite books What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.1 If the earth and all terrestrial objects stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity, almost everyone would die immediately. If you weren’t swept away by the thousand-mile-per-hour winds, you’d certainly be pulverized by the thousand-mile-per-hour impact of all the debris flying about. You would be safe for a time if you were deep underground or in a polar research station (since the strongest winds would be nearest the equator), but not for long. The wind would eventually stop by way of friction with the earth’s surface, but that would heat the air and atomize the surface of the ocean, resulting, among many other phenomena, in massive global thunderstorms. After that, for 6 months one side of the earth would bake in the heat of the sun and the other would freeze since the sun would no longer rise and set once per day, but only once a year. Eventually, the moon would get us spinning again, but “us” would be long gone.

Now that I had their attention, we read Psalm 104--in which we have 35 verses praising the Lord for his power, control, and care over his creation...


Read more over at The Christward Collective


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Faith at Work: Sola Scriptura

Tradition is helpful, but even Protestants can be guilty of treating Augustine or Calvin as a magisterium. This week, Dan Doriani encourages readers to have a proper understanding of Sola Scriptura.


The difference between Catholic and Protestant teaching is more subtle than people realize, for Catholics confess that Scripture is inspired, infallible, and authoritative. It is wise to remember, too, that the first Reformers were encouraged to study Scripture by scholarly Catholics: Staupitz told Luther to get his doctorate in biblical studies, Erasmus encouraged Zwingli's studies, and Faber Staupulensis and Lorenzo Valla inspired others. The difference lies in our views of the sufficiency of Scripture.    

The Catholic position is that Scripture is part of God's revelation. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) said Scripture "is the true rule and a foundation of faith for Christians." Notice "a foundation," not the foundation. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) explained: "The controversy between the heretics [Protestants] and ourselves focuses here on two points: first, when we affirm that the Scripture do not contain the totality of necessary doctrine, for faith as for morals… Apart from the Word of God written, it is necessary to have his non-written Word, that is to say, divine and apostolic traditions."

So the RCC affirms prima scripture, the primacy of Scripture. Scripture is the primary source for theology, but not the final source. Tradition and church teaching effectively limit Scripture's authority. If a matter is uncertain in Scripture, and tradition has an authoritative interpretation, then it has the final word...


Head over to Place for Truth to read the rest of the article! 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

2017: 10 Posts that You Loved Last Year

We looked at the most popular posts from across Alliance websites in 2017. Did you miss one of these last year? Do you want to read one your favorites again? Just click the article title! 


10Calvin's Life: The Servetus Affair by Jeffrey Stivason

Opponents of John Calvin are quick to blame him for the trial and execution of Michael Servetus. But is that fair? Jeffrey Stivason offers a brief history of the event and Calvin's involvement. 

9. Marital Love Must Be Sexual by Joel Beeke

This is the last in a series of posts about the Puritan view of marriage. The Puritans emphasized the romantic side of marriage, and considered monogamous sexual union in marriage as holy, necessary, and good. 

8. No Little Women: Know What We’ve Got Before She’s Gone by Grant Van Leuven

Grant wrote this beautiful piece in February, reflecting on femininity and the value of womanhood after the passing of his wife only five months earlier.

7. Game of Dethroning Sexual Sin by Nick Batzig

Should Christians watch a show like Game of Thrones, which is widely-acclaimed yet filled with explicit and debauched sexuality? Nick Batzig offers some insight into this divisive issue. 

6. Words Matter: Recovering Godly Speech in a Culture of Profanity by Jon Payne

"So what does the Bible teach about our words?" Jon Payne asks this question in an age of obscenity. His answer: "God created our mouths to be fountains of blessing, not gutters of cursing."

5. Mike Pence, "Truth's Table" and Fencing the Law by Richard Phillips

2017 was a year of conversations (and battles) over sexuality and gender. In this article, Richard Phillips navigates some difficult issues, pointing out both problems in the culture and pitfalls we face in the Church. 

4. A Few Questions About the New CBMW Statement by Aimee Byrd

The Nashville Statement, published in late August, offers what many consider to be an orthodox and biblical understanding of human sexuality. Yet Aimee Byrd has a few reservations, particularly related to the CBMW's stance on gender roles and the Trinity. 

3. The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard Phillips

Some think it possible to flirt with liberal doctrines and still maintain orthodox faith in Christ. As the example of Fred Harrell shows, the slope towards heresy may be more slippery than they think. 

2. Sundays are for Babies by Megan Hill

Small children may disrupt your Sunday morning, but this day of rest is for them too! As Megan Hill remarks, "Sundays may mean disrupted naps and delayed meals, but our children are trading earthly provision for something far better for their undying souls." 

1. Pray for Your Church Leaders by Christina Fox

Church Leaders and their families carry heavy loads, beset on all sides with stress and temptation. Christiana Fox calls us to remember them in our prayers, knowing that "the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16). 


That's all for now. We look forward to 2018, and to another year of proclaiming biblical truth!

 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

A Word from an Alliance Board Member

Thomas Martin, member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals board of directors, reflects on the legacy of R.C. Sproul and his relationship with the Alliance:


When James Boice died of liver cancer in June of 2000, his close friend R. C. Sproul was asked to speak at the memorial service. As Sproul rose to the pulpit, he reminded the crowd (as he often did) of a historic parallel. Philip Melanchthon, at Martin Luther’s funeral in 1546, compared the death of Luther to the heavenly ascension of Elijah (the prophet whose very name meant "Yahweh is God!”). Melanchthon quoted  Elisha's lament at the loss of his dear friend and mentor: 

“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

“And Elisha saw it, and he cried, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.’ And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

“He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

“And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?’ and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over” (2 Kings 2:11–14).

It took a few hours for the death of R.C. Sproul to sink into my soul. R.C. was a giant, and a true Christian. Imperfect, to be sure, yet a man with a genuine heart and love for Jesus. He exemplified the work of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. In a real sense, I had the feeling that the Alliance came about because Jim Boice wanted others to know R.C. Sproul as he did: a man catholic in spirit, but unbending in the truth of the holy Scriptures.

Now both are gone. Others must carry on, and we shrink from the reality that we no longer have R.C. to share in the work of the Kingdom of God. We want to cry out "My father! My father!" Yet we see him no more. 

We must recall that even in his sorrow, Elisha "took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him.” The power of God is not diminished by the loss of God's saints. As John Wesley wrote: "God buries His workers and carries on His work." May the God of Elijah, the God of Jim Boice, and the God of R.C. Sproul carry on His work until Jesus comes again.

–Thomas Martin 


The Alliance is offering free R.C. Sproul MP3 downloads from Alliance conferences spanning over 30 years. Head to ReformedResources.org/R-C-Sproul for your free download. 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

Lion in our Midst: A Eulogy for R. C. Sproul

We grieve today at the news of R. C. Sproul’s departure from this life, while so blessed at the knowledge that he basks in the glory of the Savior he served and loved.  

In mourning our loss of this great preacher and church leader, my mind searches back to the early 1990’s, when what is now called the Reformed Resurgence was only an envisioned hope.  I was converted to faith in Christ in 1990 under the preaching of R.C.’s close friend, James Montgomery Boice.  This meant that I soon was exposed to the live phenomenon of R. C. Sproul in the pulpit in the prime of his vigor.  I had never and never will see again such a combination of passion, intellect, and theological courage.  Those of us who were swept up into the Reformed faith during those years were blessed with a band of true pulpit heroes: Boice, Eric Alexander, J. I. Packer, John Gerstner, and others.  But even in that band of astounding men of vision and gospel power, R. C. Sproul stood out.  He was a lion in our midst, and when he roared we lifted up our hearts to God in faith.  For so many of us in the generation that followed these prophets, experiencing R. C. first hand at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and then the Ligonier Conference, inserting the much-anticipated tape-of-the-month cassette into our car stereos, and hearing the life-changing audio recording of R.C.’s The Holiness of God impacted us so deeply that we raced forward to lay our own swords at the feet of Christ.  God dramatically changed our lives through the voice of R. C. Sproul and we have loved him for it.

I have been one of many who are privileged to have known R. C. personally, though I would not claim to be an intimate.  A few remembrances might illuminate the personal charm that accompanied the pulpit brilliance.  In late 1997, council members of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals gathered at a hotel in Orlando to draft a response to the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement (ECT II).  I was present as aide-de-camp to Dr. Boice, being still in seminary and new to the organization.  Our first night, Boice thought it appropriate to introduce me and so he started in on a lengthy bio of Rick Phillips.  About 10 seconds into it, R. C. interrupted and said, “Jim, is this your guy?”  Boice testily replied, “If you don’t mind, R. C., I’d like to continue.”  Twenty seconds later, R. C. interjected, “Jim, we don’t really care about any of this.  Is Rick your guy?”  Boice again brushed aside R. C.’s interruption and continued.  Finally, R. C. exclaimed, “Jim, we really don’t want to listen to this.  All we want to know is if this is your guy.”  Boice replied, “Yes, R. C., he is my guy.”  At this, R. C. gave me that impish grin of his and said, “Hi, Ricky.  If you’re Jim Boice’s guy then we’re pals!”  And so we were, much to my blessing.

For that meeting, Boice and Sproul each brought proposed replies to ECT II and all we did was put them together into a unified document (“An Appeal to Fellow Evangelicals”).  Then we held a conference call with the evangelical leaders who had participated in and were promoting the joint accord with Rome.  To describe this conversation as alarming and distressing is an understatement, and we went to bed dejected that evangelical scholars could, in our view, so terribly compromise the gospel.  The next morning we slumped together in the hotel breakfast area.  But R. C. perked up and said, “Boys, we have found a hill to die on!  We sing Luther’s hymn, ‘let goods and kindred go,’ and now’s the time to do it!”  For a young minister in training, it was an electrifying experience.  R. C.’s stalwart leadership in defense of justification through faith alone was one of his great accomplishments, and his clarity of insight and courage of spirit were essential in rallying the gospel cause.  Only a few short years after that experience, I had the task of giving R. C. daily reports on the rapid decline of Jim Boice’s health, and we wept together on the phone after I had told him of his best friend’s passage into glory.

These experiences come to mind as I thank the Lord for the life and witness of R. C. Sproul.  I might add numerous personal acts of kindness that he and Vesta performed for my wife and me, together with his warmth of heart and humor that made his great ministry so wonderfully human.  Because he took hard stands for gospel truth, there have been those who disliked R. C., just as Spurgeon had enemies and critics.  But he was a lion in our midst and the call of his voice will resound in our hearts until we are rejoined to this captain and leader in the glories about which we have so joyfully sung here below.  

But lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way.
Allelujah!  Allelujah!

— Richard Phillips.


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

Theological Roots and Moral Fruits of Reformation

The following is taken from an article posted by Dr. Dan Doriani. Dan’s new column at Place for Truth draws from his experience as both a professor and a pastor. This column is titled “Faith at Work,” because, as Dan puts it, “we are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone.” The Reformers knew that the Gospel demands a response; Dan helps us revisit that truth today, particularly as it relates to the our roles in the workplace.  


The leader of a major campus ministry recently said "If forty people approach a campus minister with an objection to Christianity, one worries about Bart Ehrman and his attacks on the authority and reliability of Scripture. The other thirty-nine have moral questions: Why does the Bible have a repressive sex ethic? Why is it silent about abuse of power? Why do evangelical churches support politicians who tolerate racism and misogyny? Why do so many pastors say "God wants you to be rich" and get rich pushing that message? In short, they ask, "Can I look to the church for moral direction?"

The Reformation era had similar questions and they fueled a desire for reform in an era when the church was society's dominant institution. Priests were everywhere and their flaws were clear. For example, Zurich had a population of 5,000 people and about 400 priests – over 20% of the adult male population. They lived beside the people, who saw that most of them had concubines and illegitimate children. At the time, popes like Alexander VI and Julius I had acknowledged children.

We rightly assent to the doctrinal elements of the Reformation, but it began as a moral movement and retained a moral flavor… 
 

Read the rest of Dan’s article over at Place for Truth today!

 

 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

6 Ways to Redeem Thanksgiving

To view Nick Batzig's original post, head over to The Christward Collective.


A number of years ago, I concluded that it is officially an American tradition to have stressful interactions with parents, in-laws, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins on Thanksgiving Day. I have experienced some extremely relationally tense times with family members on Thanksgiving Day. I have a suspicion that I am not alone. Recently, a member of our congregation was telling me how thankful they were that a particular family member would not be with their extended family over Thanksgiving. This sentiment is not foreign to many in our church fellowships--though it is one for which our hearts should grieve. In light of the stress, tensions and discord that often serve to make Thanksgiving a time for which many are not thankful, here are six simple things each of us can seek to implement to help redeem Thanksgiving:

1. Pray in advance. Often the most important thing we can do to redeem Thanksgiving is the last thing that we do. Why would we expect peace, love and joy in our time with extended family if we are not seeking that peace, love and joy from our Father in heaven. As James says in his letter, "You have not because you ask not. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." (James 4:2-3). We should give ourselves to pray in preparation for the short time that we will be together. Ask God to make you loving and patient, gentle and encouraging, joyful and thoughtful as you plan for this potentially stressful time.

2. Plan a time of collective thanksgiving. No matter what place you hold in the family, you can always encourage the group to have a time of collective thanksgiving. This might include an opening devotional (I usually read a passage like Luke 17:11-19 --i.e. about the ten lepers whom Jesus healed). Then everyone present can take a minute to write down things for which they are thankful to the Lord concerning the events of the past year. Once they have, everyone can share those things with the group. It is amazing to watch how even unbelieving family members appreciate this practice. Finally, you could offer to thank God for those things in prayer or ask someone else to do so for the group. This way, you do not embarrass those who are not believers and who would be highly uncomfortable being asked to pray publicly by encouraging everyone to go around and pray.

3. Encourage a time of singing Thanksgiving hymns. Thanksgiving, like Christmas and Easter, is one time in the year when just about everyone will sing hymns. Plan on bringing some hymns printed out for the group to sing. If you play piano or guitar and have one accessible, you could offer to accompany the time of singing. Otherwise, there is no shortage of hymns on Spotify. There is a beautiful album called, "Thanksgiving Songs and Hymns on Piano" that you can stream on Spotify while the family comes to a time of singing. Here are few of the songs that I love to sing off of that album with family at Thanksgiving: "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing;" "Come Ye Thankful People, Come;" "Now Thank We, O, Our God."

4. Show an interest in others. One of the most straightforward ways to help foster joy and thanksgiving when gathered with family members is to ask them a lot about themselves. Ask about how their year has been. Ask them about their jobs. Ask them about their travels. I realize that some people are very closed off and do not like to open up too much; but, everyone I have ever met loves to talk about themselves and their lives. When you do this, expect that no one will ask you anything about your life. That's the common experience that my wife and I have had when seeking to show an interest in those with whom we get together in just about every setting. Nevertheless, we are called to care about the needs and interests of others.

5. Seek to serve others. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for some family members because they have taken up the call to help prepare 500 times more food than any rational person would ever think necessary for a group the size of the group with whom you are gathering. Offer to help bring things in advance; offer to help with food preparations; offer to help set the table; and, offer to help with the Turkey cutting. As soon as the Thanksgiving meal is finished, pick up plates and dishes and wash them for the group. This unburdens those who may have been burdened with preparations. One or two people usually get stuck with the clean up at most of the Thanksgiving gatherings at which I have been present. Take the initiative to be that one person--and do so with a joyful heart, not seeking thanks for helping to carry the burdens.

6. Participate in restful activities together. In addition to the above mentioned, I encourage you to play grames, watch football and enjoy doing other restful activities together. Everyone is overworked, underrested and in need of time off. Thanksgiving is a time when we can pull away from the busyness of life and enjoy spending time being refreshed and refueled. 

While there is no sure way to guarantee a peaceful and joyful time with extended family, I do believe that if we seek to implement these things we will help stir up thankful hearts to God and redeem the time for all who are present. May the Lord grant that we have such times as we gather with family in the days ahead.

~ Nick Batzig


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

On Friday your support of the Alliance can go even further!

On Friday, November 17th the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is participating in a special day of extraordinary giving. Visit ExtraGive.org, make a donation to the Alliance, and for every dollar you donate Alliance donors are matching up to $25,000, dollar per dollar. In addition, the Lancaster Foundation and their presenting sponsors will stretch your gift even further with their $500,000 stretch pool.

The world needs a strong voice of sound doctrine. Through your gift to the Alliance you will share the Gospel, proclaim biblical doctrine, engage the culture, and equip the church via this web site, as well as through our broadcasts and events.

Since first joining the Extraordinary Give in 2014, donors like you have yielded tremendous growth. In 2016 an extraordinary $41,860 was raised! This year your participation can more than double your impact. 

Please prayerfully consider partnering with us during the ExtraOrdinary Give


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

Conflict, Comfort, and the Cross

To view Adam Parker's original post, head over to reformation21.

Last week, a gunman entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26 people, wounding 20 others. The massacre was brutal and left what will surely be scars on all of those who survived, many of whom were young children. Usually there is some sort of grieving period that decorum allows in the aftermath of such events, but as civilization abandons any pretense at care or compassion that grieving period is quickly disappearing.

One of the nastiest things about the internet is that it allows angry and grieving people to abstract the people they are writing about from reality. People are able to speak freely even when they know what they have to say is cruel or even evil. It should be no secret in the Christian community that the world thinks that we're foolish. We acknowledge it, but sometimes we see it in ugly ways.

Perhaps the most despicable reactions came from Actor Michael McKean, who mocked the dead on Twitter and attacked those who encouraged prayer for the people in the church: "They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else." Wil Wheaton attacked one politician who expressed sympathy and prayers for those who had lost so much: "If prayers did anything, they'd still be alive."

I do not wish to judge these men as human beings. I don't know them in their everyday lives. I don't know what they've been through or what they've seen, but someone who understands the cross would never say these sorts of things. These are the responses of people who do not understand the cross.

The mockery of the unbelieving world assumes a few significant things. It assumes that God would never permit his people to die. It assumes that suffering isn't part of God's plan. It assumes that if prayer "worked" then God's people would just keep on living. And most fundamentally it assumes that God builds his church on power and strength. There's an entire worldview of assumptions that have to be true if their mockery could have any basis, but of course all of these assumptions miss the cross.

The cross was the ultimate and willing display of weakness. When many think of the cross they think, perhaps of an identifying marker, a beautiful piece of jewelry, or some elaborate symbol. But the cross was horrible, ugly, and nonsensical. It was a weapon of death, akin to the rack or the guillotine. At the core of the Christian religion is the conviction that death is the road to life and weakness is the road to strength. That's totally upside down from the rest of the world.

Paul says that "the world did not know God through wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:21). What he means is that if you were trying to dream up a way to rescue people from hell, the conclusion that reason would take you to is a show of power, a demonstration of strength. This is why the religious leaders mocked Jesus as he died: "Let him come down from the cross, and [then] we will believe in him." And in a sense that mockery is echoed in the sentiments of men like Wheaton and McKean. The cross is foolish to these men (1 Cor. 1:18-25). What else would we expect?

You see, the mockers also don't understand that Christians are called by Christ himself to carry the cross, too. If McKean, Wheaton, and their tribe don't understand the cross, then they certainly won't get what Christians are called to carry. What the saints at First Baptist Church were called to carry last week. Jesus spent a huge quantity of his earthly ministry preparing his disciples to suffer and carry the cross.

I do fear, however, that as Christians, we also forget these truths. How often do we prize earthly power, success, cultural authority, and the respect of those outside of the church? Prizing these things is a sign that we've learned to think like the world, too.

Sometimes I fear that as Christians we are far too easily embarrassed by the opinions of the watching world. The base ideas about Christ that the world works with assume the narrative of power and strength. The truth we need to remember is quite the opposite.

The truth that suffering and loss is intrinsic to the Christian religion and to our own lives as believers means that church shootings, religious persecution, and difficulty shouldn't be the exception for Christians. We should understand comfort and ease to be the real exceptions.

~ Adam Parker


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.