The Reformed Catholic Family: Timeless Wisdom From A Westminster Divine by Blake Blount

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An Introduction To The Series on Building a Godly Home by William Gouge

By now I ought not to be surprised that an old Reformed churchman is a fountain of godly piety, encouragement, and conviction, but here I am again. William Gouge’s practical handbook on family life is a refreshing stream of water flowing from such a wellspring. Modernized in three volumes under the title Building a Godly Home, the book was originally released in a single volume as Domestical Duties, and it excellently presents the blessings we have in Christ, along with the duties we owe to Him and to one another in our homes. It’s just what you’d like to see from an honored member of the Westminster Assembly: warm, firm, attentive, fatherly, compassionate, biblical, and catholic. It’s a work worthy of rediscovery in all the churches of God.

To that end, I’ll be posting a series of excerpts from Building a Godly Home.

The first is the very opening lines of the book:

It has pleased God to call every one to two vocations. One vocation is general, in which certain common duties are to be performed by all men (as knowledge, faith, obedience, repentance, love, mercy, justice, truth, etc.). The other is particular, in which certain specific duties are required of individual people, according to those distinct places where divine providence has set them in the nation, church, and family.

Therefore God’s ministers ought to be careful in instructing God’s people in both kinds of duties; both those which concern their general calling and those which concern their particular calling. Accordingly Paul, who, like Moses, was faithful in all the house of God (Num. 12:7), after he had sufficiently instructed God’s church in the general duties that belong to all Christians, regardless of sex, state, degree, or condition (Eph. 4:1-5:21), proceeds to lay down certain particular duties, which apply to particular callings and conditions (Eph. 5:22-6:9). Among these particular duties, he notes those which God has established in a family.

With excellent skill he passes from those general duties to the particular ones, laying down a transition between the with these words, “ Submitting your selves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). The form and manner of setting down this verse, with the participle “submitting,” shows that it depends on that which was said before. Again, the fact that the word itself is the very same which is used in the following verse, shows that this verse contains the sum of that which follows, and connects the general to the particulars. This manner of passing from one point to another, by a perfect transition which looks both to that which is past and to that which is coming, is very elegant and frequently employed by our apostle.

Thereby he teaches us to pay attention to that which follows, while we do not forget that which is past. While we must give diligent attention to that which remains to be said, we must also retain that we have heard, and not let it slip. Otherwise, if (as one nail drives out another) one precept makes another be forgotten, it will be altogether in vain to add line to line, or precept to precept.

Let us not upon pretext of one duty, though it may seem to be the weightier, think to discard another, lest that fearful “woe” which Christ denounced against the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:23) fall upon our heads. As God is careful to instruct us how to act both towards His own majesty and also towards one another, so in both let us seek His approval. Remember what Christ said to the Pharisees, “These ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42). The same Lord that requires praise to His own majesty instructs us in mutual service one to another. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

As was the case throughout, I was struck by how pointedly this speaks to our modern moment, which is to say: pitting duties one against another to avoid the ones we don’t like is a timeless temptation. One of the two broad classes of duties Gouge identifies here often cannibalizes the other. In teachings on the sexes, for instance, it’s not hard to find folks denying that there are manly duties distinct from womanly duties; all are simply to “be like Christ.”

But while all are to be like Christ with regard to our general duties, we must also render our due according to the particular callings to which we are called. Likewise, I see in young men (myself included) a tendency to use particular calls to defend the Faith as a cover to their lack of general, personal holiness. It is a deadly poison. Let us all endeavor to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and not think to discard one duty on the pretext of another.

Counterpoint: Critiques Of Aimee Byrd’s Proposals by Shane Anderson

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A compendium of online critiques of Aimee Byrd’s proposals, sometimes called “thin-complementarianism”:


“My Christian Sisters and the Pence Rule (Why Aimee Byrd Is Misreading Scripture)” by G. Shane Morris:

“Byrd’s categorical mistake should be getting clearer, now. The grace of union in Christ does not abolish or supersede the natural distinctions of male and female, husband and wife, brother and sister. It adds to and sanctifies them. Given her apparent reading of the sibling metaphor as abolishing or superseding the biological realities that make close male-female friendship so fraught, it’s fair to ask why she doesn’t follow liberal theologians in taking Galatians 3:28 (‘There is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor free…male and female’) as an abolition of all natural distinctions between the sexes within the church. Does Byrd (who is an otherwise conservative Protestant) support female presbyters and pastors? If not, why not? There is, after all, ‘neither male nor female’ in Christ Jesus!”

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/troublerofisrael/2018/04/my-christian-sisters-and-the-pence-rule-why-aimee-byrd-is-misreading-scripture/


“Why It’s Very Difficult For Men And Women To Just Be Friends” by Wendy Wilson via The Federalist

“Byrd doesn’t seem to want to give men a say if their perspective contradicts hers, nor does she seem willing to give women who support measures like the Pence rule a fair hearing. Like secular feminists, she is adamant that such safeguards objectify women, reducing them to temptresses while reducing men to predators.”

https://thefederalist.com/2018/05/29/difficult-men-women-just-friends/


“Book Review: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part I- Houston Is There A Problem?” by Peter Jones:

“Do we have a problem? Yes. But it is not the one Mrs. Byrd assumes. The problem is in a different direction. And if you assume the fire is going out but it is burning hot your solution will only make things worse.”

https://singingandslaying.com/2018/07/16/book-review-why-cant-we-be-friends-part-i-houston-is-there-a-problem/


“Book Review: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part II- What Exactly Is She Proposing?” by Peter Jones:

“Once we understand her proposal we see what a fundamental, sea change Mrs. Byrd is recommending. She is upending 2000 years of church teaching and practice as well as the teaching and practice of most human societies, on how men and women should interact.”

https://singingandslaying.com/2018/08/21/book-review-wcwbf-part-ii-what-exactly-is-she-proposing/



“A Sexual Or Asexual Public Square” by David Talcott via First Things:

“A Complementarianism that is so thin that it limits itself to a single point circumscribed within two narrow spheres does not do justice to the fact that “from the beginning God made them male and female.” This mysterious and unique human partnership of male and female extends to every part of our lives; it is not limited to small cloisters.”

https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/09/a-sexual-or-asexual-public-square


“Natural Complementarians: Men, Women, And The Way Things Are” by Alastair Roberts:

“I have identified three different areas where an unhelpful narrowing of focus can be seen in Byrd’s piece. First, she fails to attend to the pronounced empirical differences between men and women as groups that Stanton highlighted. Second, she handles historical understandings of gender roles as if unalloyed ideology, rather than as practical attempts to respond to and address prevailing social realities, realities that arose in part on account of natural differences between the sexes. Third, she restricts her biblical analysis to an unclear term in relative isolation, rather than seeking to ascertain the larger biblical picture. At each of these points, she limits the part that nature, empirical reality, and scriptural narrative are permitted to play in the conversation. As these dimensions are marginalized, unchecked gender ideologies are given ever freer rein. Christian teaching on the subject becomes ever more of an abstraction, slipping its moorings in concrete natural, historical, and biblical reality.”

https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/13/natural-complementarians-men-women/


“A Few Brass Tacks On ‘Christian Teaching’” by E. J. Hutchinson

“Have our natures been warped and deformed by sin? Of course; and even when renewed they continue to show its effects. But they have not been obliterated by sin. Our condition, then, makes all the more needful, first, a greater attentiveness to our irreducible and indestructible and natures and, second, a renewed vigor in Christian reflection upon those natures, precisely because human beings are otherwise prone to attempt the impossible: to reduce and destroy our natures.”

https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/15/men-women-nature-christian-teaching-two-responses-aimee-byrd/



“A General Response To Aimee Byrd” by Alastair Roberts via The Calvinist International

“By far the most significant point of difference between us, presuming that we are not speaking past each other, concerns the relationship between our natures and God’s moral command. I see a very close bond between nature and virtue. Virtue is the realization of the appropriate telos of our nature and is about us attaining to the full stature of what we are. It isn’t merely about obeying external commands. Virtue is seen when man is fully, truly, and gloriously man and woman is fully, truly, and gloriously woman.”

https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/15/men-women-nature-christian-teaching-two-responses-aimee-byrd/


“Can’t Men And Women Be Friends?” by Winfred Brisley via The Gospel Coalition

“While Byrd offers a thoughtful consideration of biblical siblingship and rightly draws out heart issues, on this point I fear she goes too far. Though our sanctification enables us to avoid sin, so long as we remain in our fallen state, the possibility of any particular type of sin won’t be removed. It’s certainly possible to go so far in trying to avoid sexual sin that we become pharisaical, potentially hurting others as well as ourselves. But it’s also possible to be overly optimistic about the likelihood of refraining from sin, particularly when placing ourselves in precarious situation”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/why-cant-friends/


“Men Of Straw” by G. Shane Morris via Breakpoint

“Aimee Byrd of Carl Trueman’s popular ‘Mortification of Spin’ podcast recently shared how ‘triggered’ she is by the ‘pervasive’ emphasis on masculinity in the evangelical church. In reaction to a Patheos blog post by one pastor who advised men to give firm handshakes and limit how often they touch other men’s wives, Byrd heaps 1,600 words of scorn and 1950s caricatures on the very idea that we need to raise men to act differently from women. This is the same Aimee Byrd, by the way, who thinks the ‘Mike Pence Rule’ is ‘pickpocketing purity,’ and argues in a recent book that men and women ought to have more frequent and intimate one-on-one friendships with one another (what could go wrong?).”

http://www.breakpoint.org/2019/01/men-of-straw/


The PCA And Liberalism: A Warning From Our History by Shane Anderson

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(The following is a post, reproduced here in its entirety, by Lacy Andrews, Regional Home Missionary for the Presbytery of the Southeast of the Orthodox Presbyterian church.)

I rarely get involved in theological discussions online, but I believe it’s important that I express a concern over developments in the PCA and especially the latest GA. Sorry for the length of this post. For those who don’t know me, I’m a minister in the OPC. This concern has grown as I’ve read different responses to what was unfolding at the GA. Some expressed alarm, but then settled down after seeing many positive signs at the assembly. I’ve even read posts of repentance for statements made rashly.

One thing I’ve not seen anywhere in the posts that I’ve read is any real reflection of church history regarding watershed General Assemblies in Presbyterian denominations. I took note of some of the strategies employed by conservatives in the PCA, and though I sympathized greatly with what they did and rejoiced in things said, I wondered if they were repeating a conservative error that has plagued the church in the face of rising progressivism in the past.

The 1923 and 1924 General Assemblies of the PCUSA were watershed GAs in the battle between conservatives and progressives (then often called fundamentalists and modernists). The thing we need to note is that conservatives left both of those assemblies greatly encouraged, believing that their show of power had reclaimed the church. After an initial loss (the election of the moderate, Charles Wishart as moderator over the fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan) in 1923, the conservatives believed they’d won the day on virtually every issue to come before the assembly. First, the assembly sided with the conservatives regarding the preaching of Harry Emerson Fosdick, and second, the assembly voted to require all officers to affirm the Five Fundamentals. Though conservatives rejoiced, they failed to realize that neither action had any teeth. Subsequent to the assembly, the Presbytery of New York essentially ignored the directive of the GA regarding Dr. Fosdick. Also, the modernists convened a meeting to strategize how to respond to the conservative “wins” at the GA that concluded with the writing and signing of the Auburn Affirmation. Sadly, those who signed the Auburn Affirmation understood the constitution of the PCUSA better than the conservatives who were trying to defend it. By adopting the Five Fundamentals the conservatives added extra-confessional requirements for ordination. Though the Five Fundamentals spoke directly to the issue at hand, they provided an open door for the progressives to cry “foul.”

All of this came to a head at the 1924 GA. The conservatives struck first and elected Clarence E Macartney as moderator, who appointed Maitland Alexander as chairman of the Bills and Overtures Committee. William Jennings Bryan also served on the committee creating a false-sense of security for the conservatives at the GA. An overture came to the GA from the Presbytery of Cincinnati putting the matter of the Auburn Affirmation before the GA. Though the dynamics on the Bills and Overture Committee were complex (with a liberal majority of 13 to 9), in the end, no action was taken on the overture as it was placed on the table. There were no dissenting votes recorded to placing it on the table, and it’s been noted by OPC historian, Danny Olinger, that J. Gresham Machen was a commissioner and even he didn’t record a negative vote. The result was that nothing of consequence happened to those who signed the Auburn Affirmation. The conservatives had given them a foot-hold by essentially adding extra-confessional requirements for ordination, which enabled the signers of the affirmation to get away with the egregious aspects of the affirmation which affirmed the Five Fundamentals as truths, but as truths open to various broad interpretations. In the end there was no discipline. The conservatives, by focusing upon the Five Fundamentals instead of the Standards of the Church, made it almost impossible to bring charges against those whose doctrine was contradicted by the Standards. This error of exposing modernism in the church, but not bringing charges against those espousing false-doctrine would continue over the next few years. Interestingly, while conservatives celebrated saving their church after the 1923 and 1924 assemblies, it was only 12 years later that the leading conservative in the PCUSA, J. Gresham Machen was deposed as a minister by that same church. The fall happened rapidly, a conservative majority was caught off guard, the church was lost. I’m not making any predictions about the PCA, only reminding you of history. I understand the sentiment of bringing the Nashville Statement before the Assembly. It is a Biblical Statement, but I’m concerned the battle wasn’t fought by bringing the Westminster Standards to bear, instead of using an extra-confessional statement established by a para-church organization.

In the early 2000s, conservatives (moderates to most of us) in the PC(USA) repeated the same error as the conservatives did in the 1923/1924 General Assemblies. Of course, the confessionalism of the PC(USA) was already eviscerated by the adopting of a contradictory Book of Confessions and watered-down ordination vows, yet still, the same method was used with the establishment of the Confessing Movement. This time, the conservatives selected three Fundamentals instead of five: (1). Salvation only in Jesus Christ, (2) The authority of the Bible for Faith and Life, and (3) sexual fidelity in monogamous hetero-sexual marriage. I had a conversation with a PC(USA) conservative at that time who was excited about the Confessing Movement and reminded him of what had happened in 1923/1924. I also pointed out that the PC(USA) had already abandoned any semblance to confessionalism and pled with him to leave the church. He was sure that the conservatives had turned the tide and were going to win the day. Alas, see what’s happened to the PC(USA). Interestingly, those who opposed the Confessing Movement in the PC(USA) developed their own Auburn Affirmation. Again the progressives understood their history better than the conservatives.

This is a plea for my conservative brothers in the PCA to remember our history and to take note of previous mistakes.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Against Racism by Shane Anderson

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In 1974 the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) received the report of its Committee On Problems Of Race.

This report, the Bible (which is the OPC’s official primary standard), and the Westminster Confessions and Catechisms (the OPC’s secondary standards) all reject the sins commonly referred to under the term “racism.” Additionally, both the good news of Christ which is for all people and nations and the law of God, given in creation and again summarized plainly in the Ten Commandments, call all Christians to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and to live in such a way that the world can vividly see the love of Christ by the way we treat people.

Studying the people, doctrines, and practices of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, one will see that the overarching question for this small communion of Christians has been, by God’s grace, “how can we be faithful to God according to His Word and so bring Christ glory?” This impulse fueled the work of the 1974 Committee On Problems Of Race, and the General Assembly’s concern that the churches live out this mission of faithfulness in matters of race relations:

Although there are marked distinctions and even divisions among men, including those of race, mankind, according to the teaching of the Bible, has a single origin. Later distinctions and divisions are indeed significant and may not simply be pushed aside; nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches that the gospel is universal in its offer and its call. All those who are in Christ are united together with Him as their Head in a new humanity, in which the distinctions and divisions that otherwise separate men are transcended in a new unity. This is also true of the divisions occasioned by race. True, the distinctions mentioned in the Bible as having been overcome in Christ are not primarily those of race, nor does the Bible think along lines that correspond with the distinctions of race as we understand them today; nevertheless, racial distinctions and divisions as we know and understand them today certainly fall under those things that have been transcended in Christ. How, then, is the new unity in Christ to be expressed in the communion of the saints today as it bears on the question of race?

In a world marked by violence, bigotries, self-centeredness, injustice, anger, and all manner of sins surrounding matters of race, the Bible presents an ethic of love for God and neighbor according to his law. This law has never been followed perfectly in Christ’s church, and it sometimes has been directly contradicted by what Christians (including Presbyterians) have taught or done. But, let it be clear to the fair observer, the Orthodox Presbyterian church is no refuge for those who want racial strife, but it has been a refuge for those who want to live lives pleasing to God and good for our neighbors.

Also See: Mark Robinson’s article in the OPC New Horizons magazine “Four Theses for Reforming Race Relationships”

 “A Public Statement on the Shooting at the Chabad Synagogue” by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Training Your Children in the Covenant by Jacob Morse

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Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

If you are a parent, you know that kids are observant. Kids know the schedules and the daily routines, even if they don’t always want to follow them. They notice when other kids have new shoes or the newest phone. They probably even know where you hide your secret stash of chocolate chip cookies!

Observation plays a big part in the development of children. Often what they regularly observe translates into actions and behaviors down the road; child sees, child does. Consequently, who do children watch more than anyone else? Their parents.

Teachers, coaches, friends, and classmates can all have a major impact on a child and their development, but it is the parents who most influence their young ones. A parent’s words and actions have a significant effect on their kids, and it is their example that most resonates in the mind of the child.

Proverbs 22:6 teaches that we are to train our children to follow the way of the Lord so that they will not depart from the Way later in life.  However, this task is not taken seriously in many Christian homes today. For many, their training is nothing more than giving their children a picture Bible and praying before eating dinner. These parents have no problem spending hours teaching the proper baseball pitching mechanics or helping their child memorize their speaking lines for the school play, but when it comes to teaching their children the things of the Lord, there is a sense of apathy.

Parents, please understand this: if you are apathic in the manner in which you serve God, do not be surprised when your children reciprocate.  

We must teach our children how to live according to the will of God. We must teach them the laws and statutes that are given in His Word. We must teach them what it means to profess that Jesus is Lord and how every facet of our lives must reflect that allegiance to the King. Teach them when they are young, and teach them these things often.

We must teach them these things and then, just as importantly, we must demonstrate what they look like. The way in which we live is just as important as the words that we teach them. The expression, “practice what you preach” is especially true in parenthood. Reading Scripture to your children every night will hold no real value if your own actions do not match what you are reading.

If you tell your children that they are not allowed to watch certain movies, then you must not be watching vulgar television shows every week. Send your children to Sunday school, but then go to the adult Sunday school class yourself, instead of drinking coffee in the foyer. Make prayer and devotion an intricate part of the day and not just an activity that is easily dropped.

Deuteronomy 6 and 11 exhort that we are to lay God’s words on our hearts and souls, that we are to bind them as a sign on our hands and before our eyes. But it also tells us to teach them to our children when we are at home and while we are on the road, from the moment we rise to the time when we lie down.

Your children are watching. Are they seeing what it looks like to be a follower of Christ?

About the author: Jacob is the youth director at Knox Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Harrison Twp., MI. He graduated from Kuyper College with a degree in Bible and Theology and is currently enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary’s Distance M.Div. program. He and his wife are expecting twins in September.

The Fall Was Not A New Creation: Bavinck On Nature, Sex, And Socialism by Blake Blount

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“In all these issues Reformed theology was able to make such sound judgments because it was deeply imbued with the idea that Adam did not yet enjoy the highest level of blessedness. Sin undoubtedly has cosmic significance. As is evident from the phenomenon of death, sin also impacts our physical existence and has brought the entire earth under the curse. Without sin the development of humanity and the history of the earth would have been very different—though still unimaginable. Still, on the other hand, the state of integrity cannot be equated with the state of glory. We may not draw conclusions from the former for the conditions of the latter. Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25 can no more be applied to the state of human life before the fall than Mark 12:25; Luke 20:36; and 1 Corinthians 6:13 (etc.). Though the form (forma) has changed, the matter (materia) of humankind, plant, animal, nature, and earth is the same before and after the fall. All the essential components existing today were present also before the fall. The distinctions and dissimilarities between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends; the numerous institutions and relations in the life of society such as marriage, family, child rearing, and so forth; the alternation of day and night, workdays and the day of rest, labor and leisure, months and years; man’s dominion over the earth through science and art, and so forth—while all these things have undoubtedly been modified by sin and changed in appearance, they nevertheless have their active principle and foundation in creation, in the ordinances of God, and not in sin. Socialism and communism, also the socialism and communism of many Christian sects, are right in combating the appalling consequences of sin, especially also in the sphere of society. But these systems do not stop there; they also come into conflict with the nature of things, the creation ordinances, and therefore consistently take on, not a reformational, but a revolutionary character.”

From Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2. ch. 13 on Human Destiny

Godliness Evidenced When Against The Stream: Richard Baxter by Shane Anderson

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I know law, and custom, and education, and friends, when they side with godliness, are a great advantage to it, by affording helps, and removing those impediments that might stick much with carnal minds. But truth is not your own, till it be received in its proper evidence; nor your faith divine, till you believe what you believe, because God is true who doth reveal it; nor are you the children of God, till you love him for himself; nor are you truly religious, till the truth and goodness of religion itself be the principal thing that maketh you religious. It helpeth much to discover a man's sincerity, when he is not only religious among the religious, but among the profane, and the enemies, and scorners, and persecutors of religion: and when a man doth not pray only in a praying family, but among the prayerless, and the deriders of fervent constant prayer: and when a man is heavenly among them that are earthly, and temperate among the intemperate and riotous, and holdeth the truth among those that reproach it and that hold the contrary: when a man is not carried only by a stream of company, or outward advantages, to his religion, nor avoideth sin for want of a temptation, but is religious though against the stream, and innocent when cast (unwillingly) upon temptations; and is godly where godliness is accounted singularity, hypocrisy, faction, humour, disobedience, or heresy; and will rather let go the reputation of his honesty, than his honesty itself. 

From Richard Baxter’s “Christian Directory”  http://a.co/0rbSMSd

It’s Easier To Get New Religion Than To Get A New Heart: A Warning From Baxter by Shane Anderson

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 “Either a religion made up of loose opinions, like the familists, ranters, libertines, and antinomians, and the Jesuits too much; or else made up of trifling formalities, and a great deal of bodily exercise, and stage actions, and compliments, as much of the popish devotion is: and a little will draw a carnal heart to believe a carnal doctrine. It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart. And then the devil tells them that now they are in the right way, and therefore they shall be saved. A great part of the world think their case is good, because they are of such or such a sect or party...”

If you’ve engaged in social media for long, you surely have seen at least some religious conversions and de-conversions. The modern context puts everything on display, making observations of human tendencies as easy as a click away. Even for the well-grounded Christian, it can be disconcerting to see someone falling into various doctrinal and practical sins. Or, it can be disappointing to see people stay in unbiblical churches, opinions, and practices when you hoped better for them. Particularly troubling is when someone seemed to know and love Christ and his Word, but later falls to a sect with a false gospel, false worship, false piety.

Sometimes the problem is less severe, at least outwardly. In our context, there are so many religious options that a person can simply find whatever degree of soundness they can tolerate and settle there, until they again are strongly challenged (by the Word or Providence) in the particulars of their own life before God. Then they simply move on again to somewhere that feels easier to the flesh.

In this quotation from Baxter’s Christian Directory he warns of two kinds of sects that appeal to this sort: on one side are those that are of “loose opinions” (what I call “free range”) and on the other side are those that excel in man-made religious activities (exotic liturgies, false worship, special works or missions, and extras of all sorts.) So then, as you see if you are observant and wise, times have not changed! These great Scylla and Charybdis still wreck many souls. As Baxter says, “It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart.”

10 Godly Expectations For Husbands & Fathers by Shane Anderson

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At the start of a new year, it is a seasonable time to re-evaluate ourselves in our calling as husbands and fathers. In light of this opportunity, Pastor Uriesou Brito of Providence Church CREC of Pensacola, Florida offers “Ten Straightforward Godly Expectations for Husbands/Fathers in 2019.” He’s graciously allowed them to be shared here:

  1. It doesn't matter how many times I say it, it needs to be repeated until it pierces the Christian masculine soul: Under normal circumstances, church is not optional. It is God's fourth commandment requirement of you. Men, if you allow your wife or other circumstances dictate your faithfulness to worship God with his people, you are weak and need to be rebuked.
  2. Your children (to borrow Peterson's language) will grow to be annoying to you if you do not invest in them now. Love. Care. Spend time. Read. Play. Hug. Kiss. Instruct. You won't be annoyed with your future children when you invest in the present.
  3. Don't just "date night your wife," but kiss her, love her, write to her, romance her, cook for her, and make her job at home as easy as possible by making yourself useful. If you don't know what that looks like, ask her. She will tell you.
  4. Family devotions are either too boring or non-existent in the home. Secret: make them short and participatory. Men, most of you are not pastors and don't play one on TV. Don't  play preacher to your kids. They will resent you.
  5. Read. If you don't read at least 3-5 books in a year, you're a poor leader in the home. "But I don't like to read!" Then get yourself an audible subscription and have at it.
  6. Pray like a man. "But I don't have a habit of praying for me or my family." Then get a copy of the "Valley of Vision" or Evelyn Underhill's "Prayer Book" on amazon. And read those and learn how to pray by reading people's prayers.
  7. Serve your church. "But I work odd hours and only have a few hours to spend with my family on the weekends." That's irrelevant. If your church has set-up to do, or if they have widows and shut-ins in need, or a host of things, there will always be time for service. And if you are concerned about not spending enough time with your kids, take them with you to serve. I guarantee you your family time in service will be doubly as profitable as just about anything you can do together.
  8. Sing God's songs together. "But I can't sing." Ever heard of youtube? Contemporary, psalms, hymns or whatever, it's all there. No more excuses, gents. Gather around dinner with a few printouts and sing something.
  9. Get together with other men. "But my wife says I am not allowed to go out at nights with my friends." Tell her it will make you a better husband if you spend time with other godly saints. Don't isolate your masculinity. On the other hand, if you don't extend the favor to your wife, you're an idiot that needs gentle but a firm rebuke.
  10. Watch good movies together. Quit isolating your styles from others in the household. A little here and there is okay, but when you have adult kids watching one thing, you watching something else and your spouse watching something else frequently, you have isolated the family from an exercise that may build healthy bonds and provide a forum for interesting conversations.

Men, don't waste your leadership!

They Live On Earth But Their Citizenship Is In Heaven: The Epistle to Diognetus by Shane Anderson

The Epistle to Diognetus is an early, apologetically oriented, Christian writing (c. 150-250 AD). It survived into the modern era by only one manuscript that eventually was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War. You can find the text online in many places, one of which is here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-roberts.html

The letter feels quite familiar to modern Christians and contains some beautifully written sections. This one describes the place of the Christian Church in the world: 

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For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Always In Christ Alone: Baxter On Sanctification by Shane Anderson

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I am continuing slowly through Richard Baxter’s monumental Directory and am sharing various ideas and quotations I have found particularly encouraging. Immediately preceding this quotation, he has been challenging the person who wants to please God to rid himself of any thought of self-merit or deserved acceptance before God in anything but Jesus Christ. Conversion and the beginnings of new life are only in and by Christ, but so it the way of sanctification and ultimate victory:  

 Alas! without Christ,

we know not how to live an hour;

nor can have hope or peace in any thing we have or do;

nor look with comfort either upward or downward, to God, or the creature;

nor think without terrors of our sins, of God, or of the life to come.

Resolve, therefore, that as true converts,

you are wholly to live upon Jesus Christ,

and to do all that you do by his Spirit and strength;

and to expect all your acceptance with God upon his account.

A Cheerful & Constant Use Of The Means & Helps Appointed By God: Richard Baxter by Shane Anderson

I’ve recently begun reading Baxter’s monumental  “A Christian Directory, Or A Sum Of Practical Theology And Cases Of Consience.”  In this post I provide a quotation of a brief section in which he next lays out the road map of spiritual growth. He describes the means God gives and we must use to progress spiritually. I hope it will be a help to you, and may the Lord provide you with each of these means and the grace of His Spirit to use them cheerfully and constantly!

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If You Aren’t The Victim by Shane Anderson

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  “...Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

If you aren't the victim, you are the perpetrator. Or so they say.

What is it with kids (men, women, actual kids, and uniquely-self-identified individuals) these days? Well, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning say that we are in the midst of a transition of moral cultures, from a society that used to be honor based, then was dignity based, to one which is victim based.

In an honor-based society, people were obligated to maintain their reputation through direct, forceful responses to insults or slights. Think duels and such. In a dignity based culture, people maintain their dignity by ignoring insults and slights, “rising above them” and then using the force of government or other authorities to step in if things get crazy. But in a victimhood culture, the first one to cross the victimhood finish line wins! Slights and insults are to be uncovered, their naked wickedness publicly exposed and then assaulted through “empowered victims” who “are given a voice” and “a seat at the table” where they can use power to eradicate “systemic injustices.”

The implications for educational environments are already being seen. During my first undergraduate and graduate studies (1993-2001), I did not experience this approach. I reentered the education environment in 2008 for graduate studies in nursing, and I’m working on my second nursing degree now (update: finished in 2016! Now I’m a nurse practitioner in family medicine—Whoop!). At both a major private university and two public universities, I have personally witnessed the massive inroads this way of thinking has made. “Safe spaces” are being created for the student who is “triggered” by an “uncomfortable discussion.” Special educational plans are being developed for students individually, so that their special specialness is never slighted and always celebrated. Aggrievement processes and sensitivity discussions occupy a large percentage of lecture content. And “I don’t feel safe” isn’t about being mugged or raped, it’s about being “attacked” verbally, which sometimes means simply overhearing something you don’t like.

As others have noted, a victimhood culture creates perpetual conflict: drama, inefficiency, perpetual discussion and litigation.

Where does this leave us as Christians? Here are a few modest proposals for navigating this new cultural morass.

  1. Be wise.
    As people around us (and we ourselves) are influenced by this way of thinking, notice it, discern when it is happening, and watch your step. Perpetual fighting, visits to HR, social media shaming, and lawsuits are in your future. So pay attention, think, be careful: “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Proverbs 14:8

  2. Don’t let this nonsense infiltrate the church.
    I have already begun to witness both within the churches and its governments the sad drift toward this approach. Is the aggrieved to be listened to more because he or she (or ze?) is more “hurt” than the one they accuse? Are we to parse the words of others to find hidden oppressive meanings and subtle “attacks” against us or whomever we are choosing to “give a voice?” Do we foster a “brokenness” culture in our churches where being a “beautiful mess” is lauded? Unless we see that this victimhood culture approach is a substitute for biblical living, we will begin to co-opt this foolish way in our lives and congregations.

Follow the Ten Commandments.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” Psalm 19:7 The way of wisdom is expressed perfectly in God’s law, and it is a light to our feet so we will sufficiently know how to live in this world. The days are evil, but the way of the righteous will prosper.

How do the Ten Commandments provide an alternative to the victimhood culture? Primarily they do this by rightly orienting all of our relationships under the saving kingship of the Triune God. Because He is our Savior in Christ, we now have the true and living God over us as our only “end game.” Our finish line is not dominance over others, by the means honor cultures, dignity cultures, or victimhood cultures offer. Our finish line is the full maturity of the complete man in Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments lived out in faith, hope, and love point the way forward. If we believe this and are buoyed up in hope by God’s promises given to that way of life, we will navigate this cultural change just fine.

 

 

(originally posted at Torrey Gazette November 2015)

Wisdom And Authority: A Response to Brad Littlejohn by Michael Spangler

In a recent article, “What’s So Bad about ‘Worldview’?”, Dr. Brad Littlejohn, president of the Davenant Institute, speaks seriously about some serious issues in Christian thought. He discusses the weakness of the term “worldview” and offers as a replacement the term “wisdom,” which he defines as “the soul’s attunement to the order of reality.”

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Bavinck: The Unanimous Opinion Of The Reformed Regarding Covenant Children by Shane Anderson

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Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4, p. 56 

“Reformed theologians unanimously agreed on the following points:

  1. That the benefits of the covenant of grace were usually distributed by God in connection with the means of grace; hence regeneration is in connection with the Word;
  2. That God, however, is not bound to these means, and hence he could also take an unusual route and regenerate and save especially young children without the Word;
  3. That he, as a rule, worked that way in the case of children of believers who were taken by death before reaching the age of discretion;
  4. That the baptized children of believers who were part of the life of the congregation had to be considered elect and regenerate until the contrary was evident from what they said and did; and
  5. That this however, was a judgment of charity, which must indeed be the rule for our attitude toward these children but cannot claim to be infallible.

On the other hand, from the very beginning there was disagreement over whether the children of believers, to the extent that they were elect, were regenerated already before, or in, or only after baptism.  Some—like Martyr, a Lasco, Dathenus, Alting, Witsius, Voetius, Mastricht—tended to favor the first view.  But the majority—Calvin, Beza, Musculus, Ursinus, de Bres, Acronius, Cloppenburg, Walaeus, Maccovius, Bucanus, Turretin, Heidegger, and others—left the question undecided.”

Zealous For Good Works: What Are Good Works (part 3)? by Shane Anderson

You have been recreated by the grace of the Spirit in Jesus Christ to live for God in the doing of good deeds—living in a way that pleases him. All objections and excuses must fade away in light of this truth, and we must be convinced that as Christ came to do the Father’s will, so he leads us forward in life as his new creation to do the same. Good works manifest the love of God to him and our neighbors. Good works are the imitation of Christ by the Spirit. 

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Free Resource Focus: “Free Daily Bible Study” by Shane Anderson

Resource: “Free Daily Bible Study” 

Where:https://freedailybiblestudy.com/

What: An easy to used daily Bible Study and podcast that goes through the Bible one chapter at a time, following the M’Cheyen reading plan. It is simple in expression but theologically sound. You can subscribe via email or follow along on the blog, reading one chapter of the Bible at a time, or the whole M’Cheyen plan.

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Zealous For Good Works: What Are Good Works (part 2)? by Shane Anderson

In light of some recent online controversy surrounding the place of good works in the lives of Christians, I am engaged in this series of posts with the aim of encouraging zealousness (rather than mere theological debate) for good works. In the previous post, I began to discuss what we mean by “good works” by attempting to clear out some misconceptions. This post turns in a more positive direction, seeking to answer the question more directly—soon enough we will be on to examining excerpts from historic Reformed preaching and writing.

But first, what are good works?

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When The Truth Sounds Like Heresy: Piper and A. W. Pink On The Need For Repentance by Shane Anderson

I was struck then by A. W. Pink’s old explanation of the necessity of repentance. In the passage below he shows his concern over similar problems that Piper and representatives of the historic Reformed tradition are addressing: the necessity of sanctification, repentance, and good works is a pressing need for our lawless day, but some in our own circles not only sound an uncertain sound, they actually often actively fight against these biblical and necessary emphases. 

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