Understanding Baptism From Evangelism

green (evangelism early church)-wrk01.inddWhat does the early Church’s experience of evangelism and discipleship have to say to us about baptizing infants?

Michael Green’s Evangelism In The Early Church (Eerdmans, 1970) is a stimulating read that has always rekindled a personal zeal for evangelism. Many churches and ministry contexts can actually work to numb Christians to the pressing need of evangelism. Reading realistic accounts of God’s triumphs in the early church helps stir us to remember Paul’s exhortation to “do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5).

In the wake of evangelism, when the Spirit brought regenerating grace, how did the early Church handle baptism of new converts’ children? Green points out that this is not his main point, but his research sheds some light on the topic. Continue reading

Godfrey On the Puritans

I’ve loved this series by one of my favorite historians, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. He will surely be missed at WSCal! Thanks to Ligonier for having these resources! (Click the image for the video)

Puritan Piety

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Inward apathy toward the Lord masked by outward obedience is a real and constant threat in any church. Keenly aware of this danger, the Puritans zealously proclaimed the importance of heart-felt affection for the Lord. They sought to nourish genuine faith and piety especially through passionate preaching, Bible studies, and conscientious Sabbath observance. Though frequently portrayed as joyless legalists, we will see in this lesson that in reality, Puritans were more frequently characterized by their pursuit of joyful, sincere devotion to the Lord.

Puritan Politics

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During the mid-seventeenth century, England was embroiled in a civil war between the king’s forces and those of parliament. The aftermath of this conflict saw political change and much theological reflection. It was during this time period that the Westminster Assembly met to reform doctrine, church government, and worship. In this lecture, you will study this tumultuous time period, focusing on the connection between the Puritans and politics. You will also come to a better understanding of the climate within which the Westminster Assembly took place. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, John Calvin

But with the immediate (helpful and true) caveat:

In his own words, don’t celebrate the birthday boy unless he helps lead you deeper into a Gospel-soaked piety.

Is Calvin, the man born this day in 1509 in Noyon, France, still relevant? Fortunately, Pope Francis is helping keep Calvin’s ideas current by issuing a new indulgence today:

Pope Francis will grant a plenary indulgence – a remission of all temporal punishment due to sin – to World Youth Day Catholic participants, the Vatican announced July 9…

They will also need to invoke “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Brazil (with the title Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Aparecida) as well as other patrons and intercessors of the same meeting, that they may encourage the young to reinforce their faith and lead a holy life.”

The granting of indulgences by the Pope comes from Jesus’ response to Peter, the first Pope, when he proclaimed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16.

Scott Clark points out that Calvin (like Luther) had quite a bit to say about indulgences:

Now very many persons see the base tricks, deceits, thefts, and greediness with which the indulgence traffickers have heretofore mocked and beguiled us, and yet they do not see the very fountain of the impiety itself. Continue reading

Was Chrysostom Anti-Semitic?

StJohnChrysostomSo says the Rev. James Martin, SJ over at HuffPo: “Saint John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, writing in the fourth century, used Judas as an example of the wickedness of Jews in general.”

In an article gearing up for the Easter season, the Jesuit author reflects on how Judas has been portrayed through the years, noting that a pillar of the church no less than Chrysostom used Judas as an occasion to unfairly portray Jewish people.

Chrysostom (the name means “golden mouth,” a tribute to his skills as a preacher) was one of several saints whose writings were tinged with — and contributed to — the virulent anti-Semitism common at the time. Judas was evil not only because he had betrayed Jesus, but because he was Jewish.

Chrysostom sees the suicide of Judas as foreshadowing the suffering of the Jews, and comments on this approvingly. In his Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, he writes: “This desolation [his fate] was a prelude to that of the Jews, as will appear on looking closely into the facts.” That one of the most influential figures in the patristic era could write so cruelly shows not only the rapid assimilation of anti-Semitism into Christianity, but the hardening of the Christian imagination against Judas.

(source)

Martin goes on to deal with other examples – in the Renaissance and later periods – of Judas being used as cannon fodder.

Is this really an accurate way to handle the data, or is there another angle for reading Chrysostom? Continue reading

Theology for Pastors from John Calvin

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Dr. Scott Manetsch lectures on Calvin’s Pastoral Theology. This video was taken from the RCA Integrity conference, which we’ve linked to in the past.

There are a wealth of resources there for Midwest ministry, so look for more information from that in the future.

In the meantime, ponder what Calvin’s theology and praxis means for ministry today.

Home to Reformation Midwest

John Calvin’s Birthday

July 10 is the 503rd anniversary of John Calvin’s (1509 – 64) birthday. Many blame Calvin for coming up with a novel and unbiblical theology that centered on predestination. I think that, not only was Calvin’s theology eminently biblical, but it wasn’t novel either. I’ve looked before at similarities between Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. On this his birthday, consider a few quotes comparing Calvin’s so-called “5 Points” with select quotes from the early Church Fathers.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners…No good thing dwells in us…For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit…Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God…He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life…Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold…Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly.”

Origen (A.D. 185): “Our free will…or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner.”

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
Irenaeus (A.D. 198): “God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life…Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever.” Continue reading

Select Works of Samuel Miller (1769 – 1850)

Recently, I came across Miller’s Thoughts on Public Prayer, and was greatly helped. I knew Miller to be a staunch Old School Presbyterian, and so I wondered what else of his I could find online for free. Turns out, pretty much everything he wrote is at Google Books. Help yourself!

UPDATE: The original post was by no means exhaustive, but thankfully the PCA Historical Center already had compiled the Samuel Miller Collection. While there aren’t many links at the Collection, there is a complete bibliography listed. I was reminded of this by The Confessional Presbyterian which points this resource out.

A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803, 1805)

A Sermon on Lamentations 2:1, 13 (1812)

An Able and Faithful Ministry (1812)

Memoir of the Reverend John Rogers (1813)

Letters on Unitarianism (1821)

Letter on Christmas Observance (1825) Continue reading

449 Years of Our “Only Comfort in Life and Death”

A Wordle of the Catechism

On January 19, 1563 the first edition of the Heidelberg Catechism was sent to the printers by Elector Frederick III. The catechism, penned by Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, has served as a masterpiece of theological and pastoral wisdom from God’s Word for Reformed Christians for centuries.

Q. 60 How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that – though my conscience daily accuses me, that I have greatly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil – nevertheless, God, without any merit of mine, but only by His mere grace, grants and imputes to me: the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefits with a believing heart.

What’s so great about the Heidelberg Catechism? Here are ten characteristics for you: Continue reading

Edwards’ Resolutions

Of all things penned by the inestimable Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758), his “Resolutions” is one of the more widely known works alongside “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” As we come into a new year (2012), it is helpful to revisit his ideas, his zeal, and his resolutions for considering how we will conduct our own lives in the time God grants to us.
Penned in a span of two years, when Edwards was himself barely out of the teenage years and just embarking on adulthood, these words stir our souls and challenge us to behold God’s grace work powerfully in our own lives.

Briefly, Desiring God lists the Resolutions according to topic and with subheadings. Steve Camp gives us a good perspective on how Edwards viewed these Resolutions as a mature man and seasoned Christian later in life.  Without any further ado, the Resolutions.

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Edwards’ Resolutions (1722 – 23)
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it. Continue reading