2013 Reformation Society Conference Sanctification Overcoming Modern Challenges


Is a believer’s sanctification simply believing more in his or her justification? What place do effort and discipline have in this process? How can we focus on growing in Christ as we live in a fast-paced and distracted society? Through this conference, Dr. David Murray and Tim Challies will address these questions, focusing on four modern challenges to our sanctification and giving practical steps to overcome them so that we daily grow more and more to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. They will address the radical and extra-ordinary kind of life strongly advocated by many Evangelicals and look at the modern version of “let go and let God.” They will call us to live lives of focused godliness and pursue positive sanctification. In all, we will be strengthened as we seek to fight the “good fight of faith” and press on in righteous and holy living.


The conference is free of charge. A freewill offering will be collected to help defray expenses.


For more information, see the conference brochure athttp://www.secondrpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-brochure.pdf

Confusion in the Camp / Merit and Reformed Theology


Confusion in the Camp

Merit and Reformed Theology

In the Reformed Church, there has been much debate in the past decade over issues such as Natural Law, The Two Kingdoms, the Law-Gospel distinction, Justification and Sanctification, the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and even the definition of the Gospel.

In the past few years, it has come to the attention of some ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that doctrinal confusion has arisen over the doctrine of republication. The heart of the issue lies in a particular formulation of the Mosaic covenant, including the notion that Israel as a “corporate Adam” is under a typological arrangement which entails meritorious works on the temporal level. This confusion is coming to the forefront in OPC Presbyteries when licensure and ordination exams are being conducted. As I understand it, these issues are having far reaching consequences as the church pursues its peace, purity, doctrinal integrity, and practice.

In April of 2012, an Overture was proposed to the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC. This overture called for the 79th General Assembly to establish a study committee to examine teachings propagated in a publication, The Law is Not of Faith, edited by Bryan D. Estelle, J. V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen. Overtures are proposed requests for consideration of doctrinal matters or how things should function in the church. At the April 2012 meeting of the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC, the motion to approve the overture was replaced with a motion to establish a Special Presbytery Committee to study the issues concerning the doctrine of Republication as presented in the teachings of Meredith Kline and the book The Law is Not of Faith. This teaching has far reaching implications concerning the doctrines mentioned in the first paragraph.

Three Ministers from the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC (Randy Bergquist, Andy Elam, and Rob Van Kooten), have submitted their own study regarding the presbytery committee’s new proposed overture for all to review. The study first sets out to give some historical background for the publication the The Law Is Not Of Faith. It discusses the motives and reasons that are stated in the book itself. Next, it analyzes the covenant theologies of John Murray, Norman Shepherd, and Meredith Kline. The authors of the study booklet believe that these three men are the main reasons that this issue of Republication has come to the forefront in recent theological discussion. Their teachings are examined in light of the Westminster Confession of Faith and historic Reformed thought. Part 2 of the booklet turns to a critical examination of the doctrine of republication. Its basic thesis can be summarized as follows: ….the Republication Paradigm (ie., the views of Kline and The Law is not of Faith) uses traditional language and concepts, but redefines them in the service of its own paradigm. Not only do these new definitions fail to harmonize with those contained in the Westminster Standards, they may lead to other systematic changes in our confessional theology.” I would also note that when there are systematic doctrinal changes, there will also be changes in how we apply the Scriptures and practice our faith.

All three ministers are graduates from Westminster Seminary California from which most of this controversial teaching is emanating. A pre-presbytery discussion will be held on September 26, 2013 at First OPC in Portland, Oregon.



Is the PCA liberal or just going off the rails a bit?


     I am one who wants to conserve Confessional Integrity because I believe the Westminster Standards are a wonderful summary of the Holy Scriptures. Anyone who doesn’t want to conserve Confessional Integrity wants freedom from them on some level. If that makes them liberal then so be it, I guess.
1. to prevent injury, decay, waste, or loss of:
     The Confession is a whole document. It is historically tried and truthful in my estimation. I admit there are things that are unclear to me and my Church has a testimony that runs along with it. But it is my whole denomination’s testimony and we confess it. Maybe we are liberal in some ways compared to what others think.The term Liberalism is not monolitic in understanding. It definitely needs some attachment to a topic.
     There are topics that seem to be more pertinant than others maybe.  The first area that concerns most people has to do what they think about the nature of Scripture. The Confession speaks concerning that issue. Another area has to do with God and who he is. The Confession speaks to that issue. I guess we need to discern what issue we are discussing. When it comes to Soteriology the Confession is quite clear on that issue also. While a person may affirm the confessional standards concerning the nature of scripture and who God is they might not affirm the confessional standard concerning soteriology.
     In the Presbyterian Church the integrity of the Westminster Standards is what the measuring stick is. At what point do we start to label someone liberal? That is a hard question. J. G. Machen definitely set a standard and noted that Liberalism is not Christianity. I guess I need to reread him and find out where he drew the line maybe. Concerning his libertarianism I might consider him a Liberal. LOL. I do not believe the Westminster Standards are Libertarian.
     I have been catching up on some of the Greenbaggins blogs. I normally stay away from it because the commentators seem to speak past each other and it is so disheartening. The recent last few blogs have had to do with the past G.A.( General Assembly)  From appearance and reports even outside of the PCA the last G. A. looks more like American Politics where posturing and heathen tactics are being used.than the methods of assembled prayer and seeking God’s face. As I noted, it is starting to look more like heathen godless politics than a Church following Jesus Christ. How is it that this came to be? Whatever happened to the High Calling in Christ Jesus and the reverence we are to have for His Kingship?
     As sheep we are to consider the conduct of our Elders and follow them. Where does this leave the laymen now? According to Hebrews 13 we are to consider the conduct of our Elders and follow them. Liberal or not, this can’t be anything the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote that we are to consider the conduct of our Elders and follow them. I pray that repentance springs from somewhere. This is too confusing to be from the Hand of The Lord. I don’t want to see a situation likened unto the past where Moses said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” Exodus 32:26 I am saddened in spirit and for our brothers.
 I have heard communication that other PCA Elders wouldn’t recognize the blog posts on Greenbaggins (concerning the General Assembly) as being accurately reported.
My reply to that is…

In all due respect, maybe that is part of the problem. I am not relying upon Greenbaggins. I have been hearing ripples even outside and they aren’t necessarily the bloggers who are of the mind to announce overly harsh criticism. Sure there are plenty of those. There are some solid facts being presented from others that are acknowledging the polity and the results as the things that should have happened per polity. But the discord and maneuvering appears more like political wrangling than looking like a Church that is to seek Christ and adhere to a Standard known as the Westminister Confession of Faith.

It is probably a sad thing that most PCA Elders don’t recognize it as being accurate. I remember when the Federal Vision started raising its head. I was in the PCA then. Most Pastors were clueless as to what it was or even if it was a problem and the Doug Wilson books were filling the pew sitter’s libraries as the teaching was. Most PCA Pastors are tending to real life issues and working out situations in their congregations. That is hard work. They didn’t have the time nor see the urgency of the situation. They were Pastoring (dealing with sinners) and preparing for worship. So they were clueless for a time being. It just seemed like a heresy hunt to some. And I understand that.

All I am trying to say is that I am praying and hope many others are for a recovery. We have a wonderful set of Standards and they are not silent on these issues. We have God’s word and I know it isn’t silent either. The situation represented by many resembled more of a picture of English Parliament and American Politics than it did the picture given to us in Acts 15.  Maybe I am wrong. Either way, where is our example?

I was encouraged to have an optimistic outlook (by a very sound Deacon with whom I have a lot of respect) and consider the fact that the PCA cannot allow false confessionalism to stand as in the recent cases brought up. Especially concerning baptism, justification, Union with Christ, the visible Church, invisible Church, covenant of works, etc. I was exhorted to see that some people do not believe that there is significant sentiment in the denomination for the contrary views that have been discussed recently.

There was also reason to have hope as we see a very committed man heading Covenant Seminary now. We should also recognize that in Revelation 1-3, most of the types of Churches then (and now) have attributes of both commendation and chastisement. Most have some struggle with maintaining right doctrine and even those that were apostatizing sometimes are commended for having a faithful remnant in there midst.


My reply…

I appreciate the optimism some people have. I also appreciate the advice about protecting the good name of our neighbor.  At the same time I cringe because of the many issues I have been noticing in the past few years concerning Law / Gospel, Creationism, Communion, Soteriology, etc, have not been dealt with as they should have been. There are many issues that have been discussed and cautioned about. The leading authors in the PCA today are not leading others down the paths that Dr. Sproul and others from the past 30 years were solidly contending for. For instance, I steer my kids and disciples away from some prominent PCA authors. Do I need to name them? Some are very popular right now.

Also when we consider Revelation 1-3 we should note that Candlesticks were removed as The Lord promised. That isn’t something we should neglect. There was a reason for their removal. We surely don’t want to see that happen. But realistically there are major problems that seem to be swept under the carpet for the time being. As I noted above the recent situation should bring a lot of concern. Whose example are we to follow? Why is the leadership appearing to perform on a level of ineptness that renders confusion and looks more like political wrangling than a Church seeking the Lord’s will?

I appreciate the optimism but it seems to neglect a lot of the reality. Things are not being dealt with properly on a level it seems it should be. We have a PCA Church here in town that has an art museum exhibit as one of its main attractions. It is obviously a model Church from one in New York where many strange issues are spewing forth from. The New York Church is touted by many as a model to immulate. This ought not be in my estimation as I see a lot of confusion and strangeness being spewed forth from that place. There is much to be concerned about. Whose example are we to follow?

I hope this past G. A. is not one that will be touted as a fine example. Ineptness is what it seems to be marked by. Sure the praise and worship may have seemed to be edifying but I am wondering what The Lord thought of it. I am not going to pretend to know the mind of The Lord concerning how edifying the worship was. If the worship was all that great and uplifting I would have thought that it would have transferred over into the other areas of the General Assembly and it appears it didn’t.

I appreciate the optimism but I am very cautious about it also. There does seem to be something very amiss somewhere.

Objection to Establishmentarianism answered by John Brown of Haddington


Again, Joshua Hicks has noted another fine answer to an objection concerning Establishmentarianism.  The first one he noted is here. https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/objection-answered-concerning-establismentarianism-a-nations-acknowledgement-of-christs-rule/

Another objection commonly put to Establishmentarianism is the fear of tyranny on the part of a non Christian magistrate.  If we press a state established religion, what if a Muslim, Mormon, __________ comes to power? Relatedly, John Brown of Haddington has this to say (and, really, I think his last sentence is quite pithily to the point):

[Objection]:The Christian law of doing to others that which we would have them do to us, demands, That we should allow every man to think, profess, and act in religion as he pleaseth. If we think men heretics, blasphemers or idolaters, our proper method is to manifest the utmost kindness and familiarity to them, that we may gain them to the truth. Every other method is no less dangerous than uncharitable. If orthodox Christian magistrates restrain and punish the spreading of Heathen, Mahometan, and Popish errors or worship,—Heathen, Mahometan and Popish princes will be thereby tempted to restrain and punish the spread of gospel-truth in their dominions, and can plead the very same right for their conduct.
(1.) Strange! Did not God know the meaning of his own law of equity and kindness between man and man, and the true method of securing or propagating his own religion, when he made or encouraged the laws against seducers, idolaters, and blasphemers above mentioned;—when he commanded his people to avoid false teachers, and not so much as to lodge them in their houses.
(2) With all your pretended benevolence, Would you familiarly lodge in your in your family a notorious pick pocket or an harlot, along with your own children, in order to gain them to the ways of piety and virtue? You would not. Why then, in direct contradiction to the command of God, do you plead for familiarity with robbers of God, defilers, or murderers of souls!
(3) The Christian law of kindness and equity requires me to do all that for the real welfare of my neighbour, in subordination to the glory of God, which I could lawfully wish him, in like circumstances, to do for me? But, must I do evil that good may come, rendering my damnation just? Must I procure “my just liberty to believe and serve God according to his own appointment, by granting my neighbour an unjust, an authoritative licence to insult and blaspheme God, and worship the devil in his stead? Because I wish my neighbour to be helpful to me, in honouring God, and in labouring to render myself and others happy in time and eternity, Must I assist and encourage them in horribly dishonouring God, and destroying themselves and others. None but an atheist, who believes no real difference between moral good and evil, can pretend it.
(4.) When and Where have Faithful adherents to gospel-truth, got much liberty and safety by means of their friends encouraging and protecting gross heresy, blasphemy and idolatry?. . . .
(5) Ought Elijah to have spared, nay protected and encouraged the prophets of Baal, as a mean of securing for himself the protection of Ahab and Jezebel, or, because she was disposed to avenge their death? Must thieves and robbers be benevolently used, protected and suffered to pass unpunished, for fear of provoking their associaus to revenge the just severities used towards them? Let magistrates do their duty, and leave events to God.

(6.) Till you honestly profess yourself an atheist, who believes no intrinsical difference between moral good and evil, never pretend that magistrates, who have their whole power from God, have any power against the truth, or have a right to exercise that power derived from God for the good of mankind, to his dishonour and to the hurt of mankind. Astonishing! Because a power originating from God may be rightfully exercised in promoting his declarative glory, the spread or protection of his gospel, and the happiness of mankind,—May it, must it, therefore, in the hand of other magistrates, be rightfully exercised in promoting blasphemy and robbery of God, and worshipping of devils?—Because it may be rightfully exercised in punishing obstinate and notorious heretics, blasphemers and idolaters,—May it, must it, therefore be rightfully exercised in persecuting and murdering the faithful preachers and professors of Gospel-truths, and worshippers of the true God?—Because magistrates in Britain have a right to punish thieves and murderers, must these in France have as good a right to use Alms givers and skilful and diligent Physicians in the same manner?—Because that which tends to the highest honour of God, and temporal and eternal happiness of mankind ought to be authoritatively tolerated, nay established, every where,—may,—must, that which tends to his highest dishonour, and the most dreadful temporal and eternal ruin of mankind, be every where, in like manner, tolerated or established?—Because in a dearth, benevolent persons may be tolerated, nay highly encouraged in freely distributing wholesome provisions to the poor and needy, may, or must, malicious murderers be therefore tolerated and encouraged in distributing their poisoned morsels, especially if abundantly sweetened among the unwary infants or others?

(7.) The restraint or suitable and seasonable punishment of that which is contrary to God’s law, being commanded by himself, can never have any tendency to introduce corruptions in religion, or persecution for an adherence to gospel-truth. And if some will abuse their power, that must not hinder others, either in church or state, to use theirs aright.