Sunday, October 26, 2008

The WCF into the 21st Century:

But Not Without Confusion on the Regulative Principle of Worship, Psalmody and Musical Accompaniment.
(From a Dec. 2005 review revised, corrected and updated through Feb. 1, 2009)

A Long Overdue Review in Part of:
The Westminster Confession of Faith in the 21st Century,
Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly,
Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, (Vol. 1, 2003, 443 pages), Vol. 2, 2004, 540 pages.

This symposium on the Westminster Confession of Faith flows from the 350th anniversary of the 1643 Assembly at Westminster Abbey. While the actual lectures given at that commemoration in 1994 are perhaps better known (See To Enjoy and Glorify God, BoT, 1994), the introduction to the WCF in the 21st Century (WCF21) tells us that the purpose of the essays enclosed is to inform, challenge, evaluate and commend the Assembly and its theology to today’s church (p.x), a most (note) worthy goal. While not outstanding, on the whole the two volumes are worthwhile. Particularly in the second volume, the focus of this review, Ryken on the pastoral ministry of Oliver Bowles, the oldest member of the Assembly and J.L. Duncan, the series editor, on the consensus between Calvin and the Westminster Assembly regarding the Lord’s Supper are good efforts. (Unfortunately the proposed translation of Bowles’ Puritan classic on the pastoral ministry, A Treatise on the Evangelical Pastor is on hold.)

Drs. Kelly and Needham
That said, the essays by Drs. Kelly and Needham on the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) - the good and necessary consequences of the Second Commandment as confessed in the reformed catechisms and creeds - and its application to the singing of psalms and musical instruments in worship, fall short of the mark and leave much to be desired, if not that their shortcomings should corrected in the planned third volume. Of the two, Needham’s is by far the longest, if not the centerpiece of all the essays in WCF21 at 116 pages with the next closest in length being Fesko’s 50 pages on Calvin, the Confession and supra/infralapsarianism, while Kelly's at 36 pages is seventh of fourteen articles and about average in length.

General Error and Negligence
Whatever their respective lengths though, the general error of Kelly and Needham is a twofold negligence of the primary sources and the secondary literature.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Public and Hopefully Reformed Reply

Greetings J & D,

Thank you for your recent on repentance. On the one hand, the spirit in which it is written is appreciated and the desire for reconciliation of all parties involved is commendable. With that we find ourselves in complete agreement.
Likewise to be in hard pursuit of a clear conscience and whether we like to admit it or not, mortifying our own sins is harder than decrying those of others. Further, there is no question that sin accompanied the Effort meeting and what it endeavored. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Letter of Repentance

September 15, 2008

Dear Friends and Brethren in Christ,

In March 2007, the Elders of the former RPNA (GM) produced a document entitled “Sins Committed By 'The Effort' And Steps To Repentance” wherein they sought to identify various and particular sins committed by people involved in the group informally named the Effort which organized to bring common questions unto the Elders. The sins the Elders identified can be fairly summarized as: 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Tattoo Depression?

Okay, some folks might not find this too funny (Prov. 17:22, 14:13), but we're not making this up. Rather in light of certain official ecclesiastical pronouncements on the subject which one could be presumably excommunicated for disagreeing with, it could be considered quite relevant. Over at the papist libertarian LewRockwell site they have a mp3 podcast/interview entitled - believe it or not - "Tattoo Depression". (They got the free market Austrian economics wired, but leave something obviously to be desired in the religion department.) It seems in an financial downturn, according to the economist interviewed and what your common sense might tell you, people turn conservative. They start saving money, women's hemlines drop etc. So too it seems with tattoos and body piercings, all those popular and hip pagan post Christian fads. People - employers, employees, the general public - retreat from all that far out way cool stuff.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Witsius on 1 Cor. 11:4 and Headcoverings

Human nature being what it is, in an over reaction to a series of disagreeable events, many might be tempted to throw the baby out with the baptism water. This especially when it comes to anything having to do with what called itself in the end, the "Session of the RPNA(GM)". Nevertheless, in light of the official PRCE/RPNA position on headcoverings, the excerpt below regarding 1 Cor. 11:4 and headcoverings by Herman Witsius (1636-1708) ought to be of some interest.

His Sacred Dissertations on the Lord's Prayer, from which this is extracted was first published in Latin in 1689 and then translated into English in 1839. Presbyterian & Reformed Publications reprinted it in 1994, as well as his Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles Creed in 1993 (Latin 1681, English 1823). Previously P&R distributed a 1990 reprint of Witsius' The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man (Latin 1677). This last title was to make Witsius' name among English speaking churches and divines of his day. Reformed Academic Press has also reprinted his "Inaugural Oration on the Nature of a True Theologian" given on his induction in 1675 as professor of theology at the university in Franeker, which was first published in English in 1856 and very popular in Scotland.

That is to say Witsius at one time was a well known and highly esteemed Dutch Reformed theologian, however forgotten or ignored until recently. His Economy of the Covenants did what it could to mediate between the systematic theology of his teacher, Voetius and and the federal/covenantal/biblical theology of the German theologian Cocceius which was tearing apart the Dutch church of his day. Today, in that the Federal Vision theology - which is tearing apart the contemporary P&R churches - outright denies the covenant of works, Witsius is necessary and profitable theological reading for the church of Christ; perhaps even more pointedly, for those conservative and still orthodox North American Reformed churches which also deny the covenant of works, Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed and Schilder and the Canadian/American Reformed.

Granted, the Protestant Reformed deny the Federal Vision theology along with the covenant of works and only go on to teach eternal justification, but the covenant of works is taught in the Argument prefacing the Dutch Staten Vertaling or States General New Testament which is the annotated translation of the Old and New Testament called for by the historic Synod of Dordt of 1617-19 and published 1637. (See Haak's English translation of 1657 requested in 1645 by a number of Westminster divines including the Scots in toto, reprinted in 2002.) Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711) was a contemporary of Witsius, as well an eminent Dutch pastor and theologian in his own right of the Dutch Nadere Reformatie or Second Reformation which ran roughly at the same time as English and Scotch Puritanism. In his classic The Christian's Reasonable Service (1701) only recently translated and reprinted in English in 1992 -1995, Brakel has this to say about the covenant of works:
Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well (p.354).
Truly there is nothing new under the sun. "(T)hat Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect" is precisely what the Federal Vision theology denies in the Joint Statement of 2007 as is clear from the sections on Covenant of Life and Union with Christ and Imputation (pp.5,6). Christ not only atoned for and washed away the stain and guilt of sin, he actually fulfilled the positive duties of the moral perfectly. Yet we digress.

In that Witsius' favorite saying was "in necessariis, unitas; in non-necessariis, libertas; in omnibus, prudentia & charitas" or " in the necessaries, unity; in the unnecessaries, liberty; in all things, prudence and charity" and since he considered the headcoverings of 1Cor. 11 to belong to the category of liberty - arguably pertaining to men only - all parties and sides on the question might find his comments below of interest.

Beginning on page 84 with the Hebrew and Roman custom on headcoverings in worship, on page 87 he says:
. . . I wanted to show that the Romans had their heads covered during the worship of their gods. It was on this account that L. Vitellius, on his return from Syria, resolving that, with fawning and affected adulation, he would give divine honors to Caesar, went to him with his head covered and knelt down before him. (Suet. Vitel. Cap. II) On this passage of Suetonius the reader may consult the observations of Torrentius, who will furnish him with others on the same subject.

The Grecian institutions were very different. Macrobius uses this language. “In those places divine worship is performed, according to the Greek custom, with uncovered head.” (Satur. Lib. VIII) In this manner, Grotius informs us, the passage must be read, Chap. x where worship is said to be rendered to Saturn with uncovered head, according to the foreign, that is, the Grecian custom. Plutarch, writing about these same Saturnalia, says that they were performed with the head uncovered. (̀απαζαχαλ̀υπτω χξφαλή) Lucem facere, Festus tells us, was the phrase usually employed in that sense.

Paul, when writing to the Corinthians who were Greeks, gives preference to that custom. (1 Cor. 11:4) In doing so, he did not intend to lay down a universal law which should everywhere be observed. He [87] merely accomodated himself to a custom of civil life observed, at that time, by those whom he was writing. This is admirably, I think, explained by Altingius in a discourse already quoted. The Greeks, we have said, were wont to perform their sacred rites with uncovered heads, in the worship of their idols. Those who perpetrated dishonourable actions were in the habit of concealing their heads by throwing over them old tattered clothes. Those, again, who were engaged in any honourable occupation, were wont to keep their heads uncovered. Hence originated the proverbial expression, γυμνή χεφαγή, with naked head, applied to those who did anything openly and without shame. Now, as nothing is more noble than religion, they thought that its services should be observed with bare or uncovered head. At a subsequent period, however, when the Greeks, in considerable numbers, had abandoned idolatry, and gone over to the Christian faith, they appeared to have departed from the practice of laying bare the head, either in imitation of the Jews, or from an aversion to the ancient custom. From this change in their outward services, some of the their Greek neighbors might apt to fancy that they treated the Deity with profane contempt, in consequence of their abstaining from every expression of reverence in their new religious observances. Paul, therefore, exhorts that in praying or prophesying, they should attend to the proprieties of manner which were customary among the Gentiles, and that, after becoming Christians, they should not hold out [88] to strangers the appearance of being more ashamed of their new religion than they had been of their former idolatrous services. Such is the view given by Altinguis.

To this observation may be added one by Ludovicus Capellus. Both among the Greeks and Romans, says he, all respectable persons appeared in public without any covering on their heads, and were not accustomed to cover the head except when the were compelled by mourning, by disease, of by any necessary cause, or when broken down by effeminate softness. Paul, therefore, did not wish the Corinthians to attend religious services with the head covered, according to the custom of superstitious or idolatrous persons. Such a practice would argue a perverted, and certainly uncalled for ambition to follow the Jewish customs, or would betray δεισιδαιμονίαή, an unhappy and slavish dread of the Deity, and not that open freedom and boldness which Christians should cultivate and profess toward God. Or, in fine, he would give no countenance to an approximation, in Christian assemblies, to the effeminacy of some persons of that age, who gave out that they were unable to endure any severity of weather.

It must not be supposed that the same rule, which he had given to the Corinthians from a regard to their customs, would have been invariably given to Jews dwelling in their own country, or to Egyptians, or Arabians, who followed a different custom. The usages of civil life are endlessly varied by place and time. Consequently what, at one place and time, [89] is sufficiently becoming, would be, at another place and time, highly unbecoming. Yet the Apostolic rule has been in force, since that time, among almost all Christians. Is it because keeping the head uncovered is universally regarded by them as a token of reverence? I hardly think so. It has spread widely in the north, through the nations of France and Germany. But among the Jews, the Greeks, ancient Italy, and the whole of the east, the custom is wholly unknown. It appears, therefore, to belong to the liberty of the New Testament. With uncovered head, says Tertullian, because we are not ashamed. . . [90]

To this the Dutch Annotations mentioned above would seem to agree.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Furious and Imperious Presbyterianism

Links updated and added 8/2/08

The latest essay on the Trinity Foundation website is “Imperious Presbyterianism” by Kevin Reed.
Pavlov aside, the names of both should ring a bell for contemporary presbyterians.

Kevin Reed set up Presbyterian Heritage Publications in 1983 to publish historic and contemporary works defensive and expository on presbyterian worship and government. Other than a complete backlog of PHP titles published on CD-Rom in 2001, Reed and PHP have been  pretty much silent.  Aside from the P&R churches which still observed historic reformed worship and after GI Williamson,  PHP played an important part in laying the foundation for the explosion in literature about and interest in the regulative principle of worship in the ‘90's.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Link to Old Sidebar Links

This site originated in a controversy over church government which resulted in a number of excommunications in a now defunct ecclesiastical body, the RPNA(GM).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What This Was And Now Is

Updated and links added 8/3/08, 12/25/09

This site was originally started because of the lack of any real public record - or even due process - in the RPNA(GM) which in part led to, if not exacerbated the excommunications adjudicated by the extraordinary court of that body, the "Session of the RPNA(GM)". 

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jeremiah or Judas? Rev. Wright or Wrong?

Much ado has recently been made in the popular press about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, senior pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago, Illinois, where Senator Barak Obama, a leading 2008 US Democratic Presidential candidate has attended and held membership for over 20 years. Wright’s remarks about God damning America for its foreign policies particularly predominate in the sound clips that are played. These comments are considered unpatriotic and unAmerican, if not also unChristian and divisive by the mainstream media which presents little substantial criticism to the status quo and current policies of either of the mainstream parties, Democratic or Republican.

Wright for his own part, particularly as we note below in his address to the National Press Club Breakfast, has declared all this in reality to be nothing more than an attack on the black church and its traditions, largely unknown to mainstream white and racist America. To be fair to Wright, he does make some valid points and he is addressing in part a hostile and ignorant audience. As Wright mentions repeatedly, The Bill Moyers Show edited out some of his taped interview and he has to keep repeating himself to the media. 

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The "Federal Vision" Confusion is Not Enough, Only the Roman AntiChrist Will Do.

[Updated 5/3/08.]

In that Robbins and Gerety's Not Reformed At All answers, if not largely obliterates Doug Wilson's ""Reformed" is Not Enough", it was a stroke of genius to put Brueghel's masterpiece, "The Parable of the Blindmen" on the front cover of NRAA. In other words, so much for Wilson's touted "medieval mindset"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Recent Demise of the RPNA(GM) Court on 3/10/08

What appears to be the real deal regarding the dissolution of the RPNA(GM) Session has surfaced.
Further, both Prov. 25:25 and Prov. 24:17,18 would seem to be applicable:

"As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country".
"Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him".

DV more comments will follow.


Announcement of the Session of the RPNA(GM)

March 10, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters under the inspection of the Session of the RPNA(GM).

On December 2, 2007, we sent a letter to you explaining that due to financial inability we faced the possibility of formal dissolution.

In that letter we stated:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

3/16/08, Landmarks To The Abuse of Scripture, History and Reason

Updated Remarks on the Recent "Moving the Landmarks" Sermon.

The chief contention in all that follows with the sermon of 12/23/07 in the subtitle, is that it does not go far enough and penetrate to the real state of affairs in that particular corner of Zion known as the RPNA(GM). Much ado is made about moving the doctrinal landmarks of the church, primarily the Terms of Communion of the historic Reformed Presbyterian Covenanted Church and not without merit. Yet nothing at all is said about the erection of additional conscience binding landmarks by the "lawful spiritual eldership" of the RPNA(GM) to stand alongside those historic Terms of Communion.

In other words, as before, we are speaking of the unofficial, but still very official papers from the "Session" of the RPNA(GM), Tattoos and the Word of God (TATWOG) (4/30/06) and the Position Paper on Sessional Authority (PPSA) (6/4/06). As in you may, you can and you really will get excommunicated for disagreeing with or having doubts about them, although inconsistently the "Confidential" Oath only includes the last. And just as in the sermon, you will also be hard pressed to find any mention of them at all publicly, even on the official RPNA(GM) website. As a consequence of this officially approved omission, these two items might be very inauspicious motes, but they are motes nonetheless in the eagle eye of our RPNA(GM) sermonizer, who all the while criticizes the scandals and shortcomings of others. To whom much is given, much after all, is required (Lk.12:48), whether they are willing to acknowledge it or not.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2/12/08, A Reply to A Question About Ron Paul’s ‘08 Presidential Campaign

[revised 12/18/09]

While there is much to agree with in Chuck Baldwin’s column of Jan. 28, ‘08 on Ron Paul and his supporters, “Why Are Ron Paul's Supporters So Angry?”, let’s not put the “high horse” of politics before the gospel or Christianity. Contra the conservative Baptist pastor’s closing comments, if American Christians would just support “the principles of liberty, the U.S. Constitution, and limited government” is not enough in itself to provoke “a spiritual revival as well”, however much that is needed. Rather the problems of modern American Christians are far worse than just their “elitism, and partisan phoniness,” though their “ignorance” does have a lot to do with it.

Neither was it because “America's Colonial preachers and Christian people fought for liberty and independence, [that] God gave us two Great Awakenings.” Rather the First Great Awakening preceded the struggle for independence and arguably the Second Awakening in the 1830's deteriorated into the revivalism and pelagian perfectionism of Finney that plagues the American church to this day. Finney’s abolitionism also arguably deteriorated into the radical atheistic abolitionism that plunged this country into a bloody civil war, while at the same time every other major Western power abolished slavery without bloodshed. 

Sunday, February 03, 2008

2/3/08, The Reformed Argument Against Musical Instruments in Public Worship

2/21/08, Updated Addendum to the Federal Vision's Fraudulent Revision of Reformed Worship.

John L. Girardeau's exposition of the historic reformed argument against musical instruments in public worship is little known and somewhat beside the point of the previous comments on Federal Vision's mischaracterization of the Regulative Principle of Worship. Nevertheless it is still worth mentioning, not only in order to persuade people to further examine the question, but also purely for the love of the truth alone (2 Thess. 2:10), without which nothing good or great can be accomplished. Yet not only has Girardeau's Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (1888) been reprinted along with Robert Lewis Dabney's review of it a year later, G.I. Williamson, who is well known in American presbyterianism for his popular study guides on the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism, also wrote a not so well known tract on Instrumental Music in Worship.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1/30/08, Hiding Behind the Landmarks and Other Sanctimonious Monuments

[As promised previously in . . . . And In Secret Have I Said Nothing the following should be self explanatory. It consists of some remarks in red with links in italics on the original sermon "Moving the Landmarks" in black.
Further, in that Part II, Chapt. 23:7 of
Reformation Principles Exhibited on "Christian Worship" says. "The ministers of religion have no warrant for reading their Sermons to the congregation", there are some interjections/additions to the sermon below when it is given/read from what we know of the practice in the RPNA(GM) although we didn't listen to the mp3 which is also available on the Albany website. However, we can just about guarantee that any further remark by the minister as the sermon below was delivered, steered pretty clear of any remarks in red, verbatim or substantively. Consequently the whole story was not given and a less than forthright defense of what is supposed to be the truth, prevailed - in our opinion. The reader of course, may judge for themself.]

Moving The Landmarks
Proverbs 22:28
Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church, Albany, NY
December 23, 2007
Rev. Greg L. Price

Boundaries are given to us by God so that we stay where we ought to stay and so that we do not stray from those areas that God has appointed for us into forbidden territory. We can see the benefit of having property boundaries and landmarks so that we know where our property ends and where our neighbor’s property begins. In fact, you could be subject to civil sanction if you disregarded those property boundaries and built your home so that it overlapped onto your neighbor’s property.

It is paradoxical how individuals, families, church courts, churches and nations recognize this principle and yet how often when the subject shifts to moral issues and God’s commandments they do not want to hear about God’s boundaries. To the contrary, they want to talk about freedom by which they mean to be free of God’s moral boundaries found in His Law. This is one of the purposes of God’s commandments--to set moral boundaries for all men including elders, women, and children in thought, word, and deed.