A Forty-year Providence

When I first saw it, it was all jumbled up with grocery ads and direct mail fliers that urged me to consider the metaphysical significance of my current gutter system. But this piece of mail, this greeting-sized envelope postmarked from Long Island, NY, was less noisy, unassuming somehow. I recognized the handwriting as belonging to my husband’s grandmother—a carefully-formed script that she’d learned through hours of instruction in elementary school, back before the ubiquitous keyboards and touch screens that now dominate our lives.

The card, I assumed, would be a late birthday card with the requisite birthday check. I’d heard from my mother-in-law how sorry her own mother was about the delay and how they had had so many things happening and to look for it soon. But when I opened it, it wasn’t what I expected. The envelope did include a check, but instead of a birthday card, it was a “Get Well Soon” card. Inside the same script had written:

Hope this card is inappropriate and that your recovery is complete!! Oh, and by the way—Happy Birthday!!

Still, it was fitting. I had been sick a couple weeks earlier and so perhaps a belated “Get Well Soon” was as relevant as a belated “Happy Birthday.” Read more about A Forty-year Providence

Why Routines are Not Always Ruts

A while back I lost hearing in one ear. I made an appointment with my doctor and suggested the problem might be sinus pressure. He corrected me: my problem was earwax. After the physician removed the blockage, my hearing instantly returned.

But a strange thing happened: I was now hearing all sorts of things. When I walked, I could hear the fabric of my pants rubbing. I heard birds and trucks and high frequency noises that I didn’t remember hearing before. After a few days, my experience returned to normal and I heard just as I had before.

What happened? The answer is that my mind selectively targeted what to focus upon and what to blot out. It did this by habit.

Let me share two major advantages of habits, routines, and unwritten rules. Read more about Why Routines are Not Always Ruts

The Doctrinal Value of the First Chapters of Genesis

(About this series)

CHAPTER VI - THE DOCTRINAL VALUE OF THE FIRST CHAPTERS OF GENESIS

BY THE REV. DYSON HAGUE, M. A., VICAR OF THE CHURCH OF THE EPIPHANY; PROFESSOR OF LITURGICS, WYCLIFFE COLLEGE, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA

The Book of Genesis is in many respects the most important book in the Bible. It is of the first importance because it answers, not exhaustively, but sufficiently, the fundamental questions of the human mind. It contains the first authoritative information given to the race concerning these questions of everlasting interest: the Being of God; the origin of the universe; the creation of man; the origin of the soul; the fact of revelation; the introduction of sin; the promise of salvation; the primitive division of the human race; the purpose of the elected people; the preliminary part in the program of Christianity. In one word, in this inspired volume of beginnings, we have the satisfactory explanation of all the sin and misery and contradiction now in this world, and the reason of the scheme of redemption. Read more about The Doctrinal Value of the First Chapters of Genesis

Book Review - Shepherding God's Flock

“The importance of church leadership can so easily be either overstated, or understated” (p. 283).

It is common knowledge that when it comes to the leading of people by people, everything rises and falls on leadership. Whether it is a small business or a large multi-billion dollar corporation, both can be brought to their knees under bad leadership. Moses’ father-in-law realized as much when he approached Moses and suggested that he divide his oversight by appointing capable men to rule over Israel along with Moses. People need competent men and enough of them to lead them rightly.

For centuries Protestant churches have debated over proper and biblical polity, particularly regarding the office of elder and deacon and the roles they play within the local church and beyond. This issue continues to attract attention and there is no end of new books on all sides of the debate being published regularly. Writing from a Baptist perspective, Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner have teamed up with a number of Baptist pastors and theologians to bring us Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond from Kregel (2014). This book provides a thorough presentation of Baptist polity while also evaluating Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian forms.

Overview

While the book contains 10 chapters and no sections, there are essentially two sections to the book: chapters that address the issues raised theologically and those that handle them historically. Read more about Book Review - Shepherding God's Flock

Eternal Security and Christian Living

Practice is from position, never to position. The ethical mandates of the New Testament are decisively clear that believers are to walk in the richness of the position we have been given (Eph 1:3), and that the position is actually necessary for the walk (Heb 11:6). Never is a believer warned that their position as a child of God is in danger because of their walk.

Certainly there are warning passages. Hebrews 4:1 warns us to fear lest we “may seem to have come short” of entering His rest. Hebrews 4:11 prescribes diligence so that “no one will fall.” In the same context, the writer exhorts, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). Why else would we need continuing grace and mercy if we were without sin in our practice?

Later, the writer reminds, “we are not of those who shrink back to destruction (Heb 10:39). There is no future of destruction for believers because “the believing one has eternal life” (Jn 6:47). Once eternal life is given, then by definition, it is eternal. Any end to it would make it something other than eternal.

The warnings, then, are not about loss of position, but about loss within that position. One whose practice is lacking will suffer loss—even losing reward—but that person is still secure in position (1 Cor 3:12-15). Read more about Eternal Security and Christian Living

Understanding the New Calvinism: Personalities & Networks

With a basic explanation of the Calvinistic aspect of the New Calvinism completed, it is time to move forward to an understanding of New  Calvinism. What makes New Calvinists new? How do they differ from historic Calvinists?

New Calvinism is more easily identified and described than defined. E. S. Williams’ definition that it is “a growing perspective within conservative evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th-century Calvinism while also trying to be relevant in the present-day world,”1 while somewhat helpful, could also define any number of modern evangelical efforts and movements which are trying, in one fashion or another, to reach postmodern people with the gospel.

The current wave flowing through evangelical cutting-edge ministries of all stripes is that the church is hopelessly out of step with the surrounding culture and that if it does not change it will die.2 As Hugh Halter and Matt Smay state in their book The Tangible Kingdom, “What worked in the past simply does not work today, and we must adjust to culture.”3 Virtually all of those associated with New Calvinism would subscribe to a similar philosophy, but this is not uniquely defining of the movement. Nor is New Calvinism exclusively found in an official organization or denomination, as it transcends such structures and is more ecumenical in nature. Rather it is better identified by personalities, conferences, blogs and websites which are promoting Reformed-charismatic philosophies, doctrines and concepts of engaging culture. Read more about Understanding the New Calvinism: Personalities & Networks

Understanding the New Calvinism: Core Doctrines

There is a great deal of interest and confusion about a movement within conservative evangelicalism sometimes called “New Calvinism” or Neo-Calvinism. As with many movements it is not monolithic and therefore describing its teachings is not always easy. Some have labeled virtually everyone who is a member of the Gospel Coalition or speaks at Together for the Gospel conferences as a New-Calvinist but that is surely painting with too broad a brush. Some hail Neo-Calvinism as a breath of fresh air that has united the passionate ministry of the Holy Spirit with the solid doctrines of the Reformation. Others see it as a dangerous departure from the faith which opens the door to aberrant teachings of extreme Pentecostalism. While some fear the movement, others cheer it. Therefore it is important to take a careful look at what New Calvinism is and what it is not.

If there is a New Calvinism then by necessity there must be an “old” Calvinism. We need to start then with the teachings of classical Calvinism and see in what ways the new variety is similar and how it is different. Proponents of historical Calvinism would certainly trace its roots to Scripture. But the theological system known today as Calvinism finds its beginnings in the works of a number of theologians, the first of which was Augustine. Nevertheless, it was the famous Reformer John Calvin who mapped out the essential doctrines of the theological structure that bears his name. Read more about Understanding the New Calvinism: Core Doctrines

The Science of Conversion

(About this series)

CHAPTER V - THE SCIENCE OF CONVERSION

BY REV. H. M. SYDENSTRICKER, PH. D., WEST POINT, MISSISSIPPI

1. THE CASE STATED

The penetration of scientific investigation into the erstwhile unknown regions of things is one of the wonders of the age. All departments of creation are yielding up their secrets to the searching eye of science.

The causes of things are being sought after, not only in the natural world, but in all realms as well, so that things may be brought more certainly and directly under the human will. The unseen operations by which powerful results are produced are forced to yield and tell their secrets. New powers are discovered in all realms of investigation and subdued as never before to the service of man. Practically everything is reduced to science, and men are learning the how and the wherefore of things physical, mental and spiritual. The better these things are understood, the more completely are we the masters of the world for whose subjection man was commissioned. Read more about The Science of Conversion