Religious Autonomy, The Scripture, and the Church


…Deism makes human beings independent of God and the world, teaches the all-sufficiency of reason, and leads to rationalism. Pantheism on the other hand, teaches that God discloses himself and comes to self-consciousness in human beings and fosters mysticism. Both destroy objective truth, leave reason and feeling, the intellect and the heart, to themselves, and end up in unbelief or superstition. Reason criticizes all revelation to death, and feeling gives the Roman Catholic as much right to picture Mary as the sinless Queen of Heaven as the Protestant to oppose this belief. It is therefore noteworthy that Holy Scripture never refers human beings to themselves as the epistemic source and standard of religious truth. How, indeed, could it, since it describes the “natural” man as totally darkened and corrupted by sin in his intellect, … In his heart, … in his will, … as well as in his conscience. For the knowledge of truth Scripture always refers us to objective revelation, to the word and instruction that proceeded from God,… And where the objective truth is personally appropriated by us by faith, that faith still is never like a fountain that from itself brings forth the living water but like a channel that conducts the water to us from another source.

Rome, understanding perfectly well this impossibility of religious moral autonomy, bound human beings to the infallible church on pain of losing the salvation of their souls.  For Roman Catholic Christians the infallible church, and so in the final analysis the infallible pope, is the foundation of their faith.  The words Papa dixit (the Pope has spoken) is the end of all back talk.  History teaches, however, that this theoretical and practical infallibility of the church has at all times encountered contradiction and opposition not only in the churches of the Reformation but inside the Roman Catholic Church as well.  It is not unbelievers primarily but the devout who have always experienced this power of the hierarchy as a galling bond to their consciences.  Throughout the centuries there has not only been scientific, societal, and political resistance but also deeply religious and moral opposition to the hierarchical power of the church.  It simply will not do to explain this opposition in terms of unbelief and disobedience and intentionally to misconstrue the religious motives underlying the opposition of various sects and movements.  No one has been bold enough to damn all these sects because they were moved to resist the church and its tradition. Even Rome shrinks from this conclusion.  The extra ecclesiam nulla salus (no salvation outside the church) is a confession that is too harsh for even the most robust believer.  Accordingly, the “law” we see at work in every area of life is operative also in religion and morality.  On the one hand, there is a revolutionary spirit that seeks to level all that has taken shape historically in order to start rebuilding things from the ground up.  There is, however, also a false conservatism that takes pleasure in leaving the existing situation untouched simply because it exists and—in accordance with Calvin’s familiar saying—not to attempt to change a well-positioned evil (malum bene positum non movere).  At the proper time everywhere and in every sphere of life, a certain radicalism is needed to restore balance, to make further development possible, and not let the stream of ongoing life bog down.  In art and science, state and society, similarly in religion and morality, there gradually develops a mindless routine that oppresses and does violence to the rights of personality, genius, invention, inspiration, freedom, and conscience.  But in due time there always arises a man or woman who cannot bear that pressure, casts off the yoke of bondage and again takes up the cause of human freedom and that of Christian Liberty.  These are turning points in history. Thus Christ himself rose up against the tradition of the elders and returned to the law and the prophets. Thus one day the Reformation had the courage, not in the interest of some scientific, social or political goal, but in the name of Christian humanity, to protest against Rome’s hierarchy…

Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics Volume I pp.80-82

The Wedding of Exclusive Redemptive-HIstorical Hermeneutics with neo-Two Kingdoms Theory


I’m convinced that the wedding of exclusive redemptive-historical hermeneutics with neo-Two Kingdoms theory, resulting in the view that pastors shouldn’t teach/preach on public policy issues lest they jeopardize “the spirituality of the pastoral call,” would have excluded from ordination and the pastorate John Calvin, John Knox, and pretty much all the English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, including pretty much all the members of the Westminster Assembly. A theory the implication of which would be that is, I think, simply not credible.

Let the neo-Two-Kingdom guys urge that we maintain the centrality of the focus on the gospel; let them urge that we keep our priorities straight; let them urge that before pastors speak on public policy issues they take the time really to learn enough about them to speak credibly; let them even recommend, as a matter of prudence, that no pastor devote more than, say, 5 hours a week to studying a public policy issue, and therefore that he not presume to teach on it until he’s been studying it (i.e., the broad principle question–a specific legislative or regulative proposal might be new and susceptible of much quicker understanding) for at least two years, or something like that. But, unless they really just want to jettison the Reformed/Presbyterian heritage (and for that matter the heritage of all the Biblical prophets), let them not say that pastors must simply eschew teaching about public policy issues. The members in the pews, some of whom must fill public offices and all of whom are called, in this democratic republic, to vote for those who will fill public office, need their Biblically–and economically or historically or scientifically, etc.–informed wisdom.

E. Calvin Beisner 

The Legacy of Faithful Parents

I first read this article in Table Talk magazine in 1992.  The author, Russ Pulliam, is my Elder and faithful friend at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This article reveals the level of importance that we need to place upon our availability and accessibility in the lives of our children.   I have known Russ for about 30 years now and I am watching him perform at the same level and with the same results that Dr. Charles Hodge did.  I pray this article will benefit you as it did me and all those whom I have shared it with these past many years.  



The Legacy of Faithful Parents

by Russ Pulliam



Jacob blessing the sons of Isaac, by Rembrandt, Superstock, NY

He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.

—Psalm 78:5–6

A HARD TEST OF A father’s Christian faith is his capacity to pass it on to his children. It is a test that challenges any Christian and drives fathers and mothers to the Scriptures and prayer. Further wisdom is available through the pages of Christian history. How did some parents prepare their children for service to Christ’s kingdom? Where did others seem to fall short and why, and how?

In the nineteenth century, several influential theologians and church leaders were also influential fathers. Their example provides a perspective for parents who want to learn from the success of others.

In the United States, Charles Hodge (1797–1878) is well known as a theologian, the dominant teacher at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of a three-volume systematic theology. He was involved in the training of an estimated 3,000 pastors, but he should also be famous as a father and grandfather.

His two sons, Archibald Alexander Hodge and Caspar Wistar Hodge, followed in their father’s footsteps at Princeton Theological Seminary. Archibald first served as a missionary in India, then a pastor and teacher in the United States. Near the end of his father’s life, he joined the Princeton faculty, succeeding his father when he died. He also was the author of Outlines of Theology, which is still being published. The other son, Caspar Wistar Hodge, served as a pastor for several years before joining the Princeton faculty.

From the second son’s marriage came a grandson and third-generation teacher at the seminary, also named Caspar Wistar Hodge. All three generations shared the same basic orthodox Christian faith, based on the authority of the Scriptures, in a time of intense pressure to shift into modernism or theological liberalism.



Charles Hodge, Princeton University Archives.

Charles Hodges’ own personal walk with the Lord must have been a crucial factor in the lives of his children, as well as his careful attentiveness to them. His story, told by his son, Archibald, in The Life of Charles Hodge, reveals the flexibility that his father developed: “They were at every age and at all times allowed free access to him. If they were sick, he nursed them. If they were well, he played with them. If he were busy, they played about him.”

Another important nineteenth century American theologian was Augustus H. Strong (1836–1921), author of Systematic Theology and president of Rochester Theological Seminary. There is some contrast between Strong and Hodge, in their intellectual development and perhaps in their attentiveness to their children. Yet Strong, a Baptist, and Hodge, a Presbyterian, would agree on so many of the classical Christian doctrines.

In the 1880s and 1890s, however, Strong wrestled with modernist views of relativism which had undermined much Christian scholarship in that era. To an extent, Strong accepted it yet retained some conviction about the truth of the Christian faith. As a result, both fundamentalists and modernists claimed Strong as one of their own. Which was he? Probably some of both.

Was he able to pass his faith on to his children? Yes and no. One son, John, was an evangelical theologian, like his father, and was not allowed to succeed his father as president of Rochester Theological Seminary. The modernists had control of the seminary by the time his father had retired. Yet many of those modernists had been appointed by his father.

Another son, Charles Augustus Strong, a teacher of psychology at Columbia University, repudiated the Christian faith, and wrote A Creed for Skeptics. In his autobiography, A. H. Strong suggests that he reacted too much to the philosophy his son learned at Harvard. But could the content of the Harvard education have been the problem? One of Strong’s grandsons, Richard Sewell, remembers that his grandfather did not have time to spend talking to children. Perhaps the open study door for his young children was missing, or at least was not as open as the door to the study of Charles Hodge.

With respect to doctrine, did A. H. Strong play with the modernistic spirit a little, only to see one son carry that indulgence to an extreme? As seminary president, Strong practiced a kind of theological pluralism, appointing both modernists to the faculty, as well as evangelical teachers.

What we tolerate a little bit of in our lives, our children may carry to an excess. King David indulged in some polygamy, then his son Solomon had 700 wives, with devastating consequences. Can we see a warning about sins we tolerate? And can we see the importance of opening the door of our study, or business, or mission, to our children and grandchildren? If the door is shut, or we are too busy, the children may turn to other influences.

Across the ocean in Scotland, William Symington (1795–1862), was a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Symington and his wife taught their seven children at home. “The evenings are devoted to family reading,” he wrote. “Besides, I give the children a part of every forenoon and afternoon. Now that I have got into it, I do not dislike teaching them.” Why did his children continue in the Christian faith of the father? His willingness to teach his own children may have been a factor, like the open door to the study of Charles Hodge.

Contrast this with J. C. Ryle (1816–1900), bishop of Liverpool, a leading evangelical in the Church of England. Ryle’s son Herbert did not abandon all faith in Christ or openly reject Christ. But he accepted much of the liberal modernist thinking of his time. Higher criticism appeared to be more progressive, more respectable, compared to traditional belief in the trustworthiness of Scripture.

Why did he part company with his father over the authority of Scripture? Turning the education of the children over to others, far away from home at boarding school, may have played some part. “Poor little Herbert cried most bitterly at parting,” Ryle wrote after he put Herbert on the train to boarding school at the age of 9. “Herbert’s life … has been so easy and happy hitherto that he naturally feels this first wrench. And he has been so accustomed to look up to me and be always with me … that the separation strikes him more. It is sad work, and nothing but the sense of positive duty and the wisdom of it would make me go through it.”

What about fathers and daughters? Lyman Beecher and his daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, offer a family history worthy of study. Her novels reveal a clear Christian worldview and grasp of vital Christian character qualities, such as her depiction of the cynicism of Aaron Burr contrasted with the Christian faith of other characters in The Minister’s Wooing. Her most famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was a major inspiration in the movement to abolish slavery.



Charles Hodge, Princeton University Archives.

What can we as parents, potential parents, or as grandparents learn from these family histories?

1) CONSISTENCY—at least one parent in these families had a consistent and faithful walk with the Lord. The parents were growing and changing Christians, based on regular, daily personal Bible study and prayer.

2) PRAYER IS SO CRUCIAL—we need a consistent time in prayer for the children, for the church, for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, is famous for her prayers for her son. But a pattern of parental prayer reveals itself in so many of the biographies of Christians who were prepared well for kingdom service by their parents.

3) A GOOD AND GROWING relationship to the local church also has been used by God in the lives of the children over the long run. An indifference to the church, in contrast, must send a wrong message on to subsequent generations.

4) PSALM-SINGING WAS A part of the family worship in several of these families. You cannot measure the impact of singing God’s Word over the years, especially the early years of a person’s life (see Isaiah 55:11).

5) THE OPEN DOOR that Charles Hodge kept in his study for his children suggests the attentiveness our children need. The point is to provide concentrated time with our children, reading to them, talking with them, being especially attentive to the development of their minds and hearts.

The purpose of this kind of research is not to point a finger of judgment across the generations. But the lesson is to discern what has worked well, through the Scriptures, as well as through people who have sought to apply the Scriptures in passing their faith on to the next generation.

And who is equal to such a task?

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves; our competence comes from God (see 2 Corinthians 2:16; 3:5). ▲

Russ Pulliam is an editor for The Indianapolis Star and a longtime Ligonier student.



In The Life of Charles Hodge, his son, Archibald Alexander Hodge recalls his father’s open-door policy in his study, allowing easy access for children and grandchildren and providing a vivid example of Deuteronomy 6:5–9.

“His study had two doors, one opening outward toward the seminary for the convenience of the students, and a second one opening inward into the main hall of the home. Hence his study was always the family thoroughfare, through which the children, boys and girls, young and old, and after them the grandchildren, went in and out for work and play. When he was too lame to open the door, and afterward when he was too busy to be interrupted by that action, he took the latch from the doors and caused them to swing in obedience to gentle springs, so that the least child might toddle in at will unhindered. He prayed for us all at family prayers, and singly, and taught us to pray at his knees with such soul-felt tenderness, that however bad we were our hearts melted to his touch.” ▲




[1] Pulliam, R. (1992). The Legacy of Faithful Parents. In R. F. Ingram (Ed.), Tabletalk Magazine, July 1992: The Covenant Family (R. F. Ingram, Ed.) (7–9). Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Personal Update


It is 2014. In 2000 I was diagnosed with Viral Cardio-Myopathy. A viral infection had attacked my heart and greatly enlarged and weakened my left ventricle. Some people do recover from it. For some it is just a downward weakening and after years of taking it easy they succumb to the damage. I asked the Lord to grant me life till Samuel Rutherford, my youngest son, turned 18 and graduated. God has been very gracious to me and my sons by allowing me to live this long. I have acquaintances who weren’t granted that privilege who had the same disease and level of damage done. So I am grateful.

Some of my friends know that this past year has been rather hard on me. I have had a pacemaker / defibrillator put in and experienced a few episodes where my Congestive Heart Failure has flared up. The outer shell or part of my heart is hardening and losing its elasticity. The left Ventricle valve is also weakening so that after it pumps blood the blood does swish back in to the chamber evidently. I have been trying to stay active and live life as I have for the past many years Drag Racing Slot cars and doing things with my Church family. But I have slowed down significantly this past year with Church and my Racing. Things really wear me out more significantly. But I have been blessed to be able to spend a lot more time with my Sister and Mother going antiquing and wondering around local cities visiting stores and working in my yard and on the house. I love spending time with Mom and Sis. I have also been able to spend good time with my Dad.

Recently some of you know I have started having problems with coughing up blood from my lungs. It was rather alarming to me. I have had a few blood tests done and I am awaiting results from an xray I had done on Monday. It seems my CHF is acting up again and during the coughing episodes it may be that some blood vessels have burst in my lungs. So my dosage of my water pills have been increased and it seems to be doing the job.

I usually don’t like talking about this openly but I shared a bit on the Puritanboard and asked for prayer as I was anxious about it. I personally don’t like being the center of attention and hate drama. Life is good and focusing on the bad stuff usually just depresses me. So I try to focus on the positive stuff. I prefer to be thankful my cup has some water in it at all instead of thinking about how much is gone. Contentment is priceless and I struggle to be content. Especially as I look upon my life and all the failure I have given myself to. God is surely a merciful, gracious, and Loving God.

Anyways, I just thought I would update you all and say thank you all for the warm friendships I have and all of the kind hugs, words of encouragement, and gifts to help me overcome lifes wonderful trials. Yes, my trials have been wonderful (even though I have not liked many of them) as God has proven himself to be my God and my Treasure. They have also proven to me who my friends are and how important the body of Christ is. Without the faithful guidance and oversight of my friends and Elders I would have been ship wrecked many times over as I am given to desire many things that are not pleasing to God or beneficial for life in general. Faithful are the wounds of a friend as the scriptures say.

I plan on spending more time reading good books this year and reading my Bible a bit more purposefully. After all, Jesus said man cannot live by bread alone but by EVERY WORD that proceeds out of the mouth of God. We know that we have that word written down for us as St. Peter called it A MORE SURE WORD as he compared it to the audible voice of God which he heard in the Mount of Transfiguration.

(2Pe 1:12) Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

(2Pe 1:13) Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;

(2Pe 1:14) Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

(2Pe 1:15) Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

(2Pe 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

(2Pe 1:17) For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

(2Pe 1:18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

(2Pe 1:19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

(2Pe 1:20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

(2Pe 1:21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

I don’t think I am ready to pass anytime soon but I do love St. Peter’s admonition to pay more attention to God’s word. I certainly do and admonish all of my friends and loved ones to run to the word and keep their lamps fully fueled as the 5 wise virgins in Matthew 25. Having been a student of the scriptures for over 30 years complacency has set into my life a few times. May I not be apathetic nor complacent. It is so easy for me to become complacent and be like the 5 foolish virgins.

(Mat 25:1) Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

(Mat 25:2) And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

(Mat 25:3) They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

(Mat 25:4) But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

(Mat 25:5) While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

(Mat 25:6) And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

(Mat 25:7) Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

(Mat 25:8) And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

(Mat 25:9) But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

(Mat 25:10) And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

(Mat 25:11) Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

(Mat 25:12) But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

(Mat 25:13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Pray for my sons. They need it. Two aren’t walking with God at all. One of those two has totally abandoned the faith. The youngest one struggles as we all do. I was a poor example in many ways. I let my battle scars show too much in front of them and it effected them. Being a single parent was hard. We all are still close and love each other very deeply. At least God has given us grace to know and love each other despite ourselves. There is still a lot of work for me to do here so I am not ready to give in to my health issues. God’s grace is sufficient.

Thanks for your prayers and love.
Sincerely in Christ,