Conference: Reformed in America





Truly a needed conversation by two experts – Drs. Alan Strange and D.G. Hart – in Des Moines, IA.
ReformedinAmericaThe Reformed In America conference will be held in Des Moines, IA, on November 1 – 2, 2013. Hosted by Grace OPC and Providence URC, the conference organizers ask that you RSVP to ReformedInAmericaDM2013 AT gmail DOT com. From the PDF flier:

Is there an American form of Christianity? Many believers who live in the United States would be content simply to identify themselves as Christians, others as American Christians, and still others would be inclined to say they are Christians in America. But are believers in any of these groups able to identify distinctive traits of American Christianity? Do you know enough of the history of Christianity in this country to recognize how your own expression of Christian faith and practice has been shaped by America in the modern age, for good or ill?

None of us are simply “biblical Christians” but have a history that has shaped us in one way or another. Reformed Christians have a rich heritage going back to the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Europe, but they also have a peculiar history in the United States. Join us for this free two day conference which will explore some of the major outlines of the history of Reformed & Presbyterian Christianity in the United States.

You can find more at their Facebook and Twitter (@ReformedInUSA13) locations.


Friday, November 1
Session 1 at 7:00pm
Alan Strange: “The Tumultuous Beginnings of American Presbyterianism”
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What Is the Definition of Missional?

jeff-vandersteltJeff Vanderstelt on the definition of “missional” (around the 1:55 mark of this video):

A man stood up at a conference and said, “Missional is the new ‘seeker’… the church finally getting its hands dirty.” Someone asked me to respond to him.

When we say missional, what we mean is:

God’s church is so saturated in the gospel and the mission of Jesus, that they see themselves as the sent ones of Jesus in all of life, to make disciples who make disciples, so that the earth is saturated with people who love Jesus and God is glorified in all things. That’s what I mean when I say missional… I want you to understand there are lots of definitions out there, but I when I say [missional] that’s what I mean.

Could you get behind that definition of “missional?” Why or why not?

Certainly, some terms need to be parsed out. As much as I appreciate Vanderstelt’s ministries, I’m not sure his definition of “God’s church” is the exact same as the Reformed confessions. Nevertheless, there is a lot of good here to chew on.

Vanderstelt also suggests that we ought not quibble over terminology: Why I’m tired of Hearing About “Missional”.

WSCal_2008MRFor more, go back to WSCal’s 2008 annual conference Missional & Reformed: Reaching the Lost & Teaching the Reached. The audio lectures up for free are:

  • Why the Mission Needs the Marks of the Church
  • The Mission and the Confession of the Church: Friend or Foes?
  • Why the Marks of the Church Need the Mission
  • Mission According to Paul
  • Mission in a Pluralistic Age
  • Mission and Missions: Evangelism in the 21st Century
  • Missional and Reformed (Q&A Session)

Michael Horton sums it up: “The mission of the Church is to evidence & execute the marks of the Church.”


Reformed Piety


Hodge“The thesis of this study is that Charles Hodge manifested the attributes associated with Calvinistic confessionalism (strong adherence to creedal religion, liturgical forms, and corporate worship) as well as characteristics of evangelical pietism (the necessity of vital religion marked by conversion, moral activism, and individual pious practices)…

The unique combination of confessionalism and pietism characterized Charles Hodge’s spiritual life from the cradle to the grave.”

Hoffecker pp. 32 – 3

Pro Omnibus Sanctis

Celebrated in the earliest days of the Church as Αγίων Πάντων (All Saints), this is a fantastic rendering of the eighteenth century hymn by Indelible Grace. As you ponder the church militant (Christians laboring for Christ on yet on earth) and the church triumphant (those saints who have entered into their rest), may this song encourage you to labor on til that yet more glorious Day.

Ten Propositions from Christ the Lord

After the Lordship-Salvation controversy between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges in the 1980’s, the White Horse Inn crew released Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation (Baker, 1992). At the end of their collection of essays, ten propositions are put forward. Here they are for you to chew on. Thoughts?

  1. It is impossible that saving faith can exist without a new nature and thereby new affections (love, a desire for holiness, and so on).
  2. Saving faith is nevertheless not the same thing as such affections or desires and does not include in its definition the effects of which the new birth is the cause.
  3. It is not enough to say that we are justified and accepted by grace alone, for even Rome has agreed that is is only by God’s grace that we can become transformed in holiness. We must add that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone, and it is a great error to change the meaning of faith to include acts of obedience and repentance in an effort to make a disposition other than knowledge, assent, and trust a condition of justification.
  4. The definition of saving faith is: Knowledge, which we take to mean the intellectual grasp of the relevant historical and doctrinal facts concerning Christ’s person and work and our misery; Assent, or the volitional agreement of our hearts and minds that these facts are true; and Trust, which is the assurance that these facts that are true are not only true generally, but true in my own case. In this way I abandon all hope for acceptance with God besides the holiness and righteousness of Christ.
  5. Continue reading

Reforming lectio divina

Spirituality is still a huge topic with evangelical Christians, and increasingly practices such as lectio divina are encouraged even for Reformed Christians. But is this practice helpful? And how can it be used by Christians in the Reformed tradition?

Lectio divina (or, divine reading) as described by Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97.

The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.

It consists of four elements.

  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. Normally, one chooses a verse or a brief passage from the chapters read from the Old and New Testaments in morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to reflect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Contemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our hearts.

I think there is much to appreciate about lectio divina, especially its Agassiz-like focus on a text. Further, that Scripture ought to bid us pray and that our prayers ought to be filled with Scripture is an axiom of this discipline, so to the extent that the lectio divina encourages this is a boon. I would even go so far as to say – due to the importance of prayer in the Christian life – that anything that encourages prayer in the life of believers is a good thing. But having said all of this, let me turn to a few concerns. Continue reading

Aquinas and Calvinism

I once remember hearing that not only was the predestination of John Calvin not unique, it wasn’t even controversial among the deeper thinkers in Christian history. In fact, no less than Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) could said to be something of a “5 Point Calvinist!”

The idea that Aquinas had a clear and strong view of predestination should be beyond dispute. No only does Aquinas’ masterpiece, Summa Theologica, contain several pertinent sections related to predestination, but Robert Mulligan translates several other relevant sections from his writings in Thomas Aquinas: Providence and Predestination (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1953). He can say things like, “Clearly predestination is like the plan, existing in God’s mind, for the ordering of some persons to salvation. The carrying out of this is passively as it were in the persons predestined, though actively in God. When considered executively in this way, predestination is spoken of as a ‘calling’ and a ‘glorifying’, thus St. Paul says, ‘Whom he predestinated, them also he called and glorified.'” (Mulligan, 164).

But can Aquinas account as a 5 Point Calvinist? I rooted around for some quotes, and all of the following come from the Summa unless otherwise noted. Any emphasis is added by myself.

Total Depravity

“I answer that: Man’s nature may be looked at in two ways: first, in its integrity, as it was in our first parent before sin; secondly, as it is corrupted in us after the sin of our first parent. Now in both states human nature needs the help of God as First Mover, to do or wish any good whatsoever, as stated above. Continue reading