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Archive for the ‘presbyterian’ Category

Steven Lawson. John Knox: Fearless Faith.  Ross-Shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, November 2014. 126 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Westminster Amazon

Of all the major Reformers John Knox is one that I probably know the least about.  It was therefore a delight for me to read this book on John Knox by the preacher and biographer of preacher Steven Lawson.  One would expect this work would have been part of the series of “A Long Line of Godly Men” which the author is the editor for but this work was instead published by Christian Focus as a stand-alone work and I suspect it is because Steven Lawson has been greatly impacted by John Knox and wanted to write about Knox even though someone else contributed to the John Knox volume for the “A Long Line of Godly Men” Profile Series.  What follows in this review is a summary of the chapters of the book followed by my thoughts of the contents of the book.

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Princeton Seminary 1812-1929 Gary Steward

Gary Steward. Princeton Seminary (1812-1929): Its Leaders’ Lives and Works.
Phillipsburg, NJ: Crossway Books, 2014. 321 pp.

The legacy of Princeton Theological Seminary has been hotly debated over the years yet fascinatingly enough a revival of interests into the theology and professors of Old Princeton has been growing in light of the growth of Calvinistic expressions of the Christian faith.  This book tells the story of Old Princeton during the years of 1812 through 1929 by giving the readers a biographical account of theologians that has defined the Seminary.  I enjoyed how the book not only gave us the life of these theologians but also each biographical chapter on a theologian is followed by a chapter that takes a closer look at the respective man’s particular theological writing and contribution.  This format allows us to get a sense of the “life and doctrine” of Old Princeton.  It also helps to advance the author’s thesis that Old Princeton held to two uncompromising conviction: (1) rigorous academic theologizing which is compatible with (2) personal piety and holiness.  I think Steward does persuasively makes his case and after reading the book I think it is unfortunate that Old Princeton has become so maligned even among Christian circles.

The first chapter of the book covers the founding of Princeton Seminary.  I appreciated the author giving us a larger context of theological education for Pastors prior to the Seminary being formed.  Obviously there was a need before the founding of Princeton.  I learned from the book that before 1746 ministers had only three options for their education: Harvard, Yale or Europe.  It certainly makes one appreciate the contemporary landscape in North America with countless seminary to choose from.  I also learned from the first chapter of the book of the Log College that would serve as a model for Princeton Seminary with its emphasis on spiritual experience and intellectual cultivation.  At first the Presbyterians founded a college (later Princeton University) but eventually the need for a separate Seminary independent from the college led them to found the Seminary.  Early on Princeton Seminary was founded to accomplish the goal of producing men who were capable scholars of the Bible that was able to handle the Scripture in its original languages and faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith in their application of the Word of God to ethics and apologetics.

The first biographical chapter in the book was on the Seminary’s first full time professor, Archibald Alexander.  Alexander was an incredibly intellectually gifted man.  In an era in which it was hard to acquire books Alexander was able to purchase the library of a minister from Holland that allowed him to become well acquainted with Dutch Reformed thought, early Patristic, Renaissance philosophers and the history of the larger Protestant theology.  With all his contribution in his prime of his life it is amazing to read that he worked hard even towards the end of his life with the last ten years his most productive.  The author also examined more closely Archibald Alexander’s work titled Thoughts on Religious Experience which focuses on one’s examination of religious experience to see if its Scriptural and authentic, thus showing how early in the Seminary history Old Princeton faculty was not only about the mind but ministered with nuance sensitivity in taking into account all of man’s faculty.

Other theologians that the book focused on included Samuel Miller (their second professor in the Seminary), Charles Hodge, James and Joseph Alexander (sons of Archibald Alexander), and Archibald Alexander Hodge (son of Charles Hodge and obviously named after Archibald Alexander).  I was intrigued to learn that Charles Hodge was the first in the faculty to go to Europe to study abroad.  This was in order for Hodge to familiarize himself with the bad theology coming from Liberal scholarship especially from Germany.  Of course later other professors from Old Princeton (and at other seminary I would add, including today) would follow suit.  I wonder if that was a wise precedence for others to follow since one who is not theologically grounded can come back with dangerous ideas and teachings that can “infect” a good seminary.  In the case with Charles Hodge it was beneficial.  I was very encouraged with the biographical account of James Alexander who first became a missionary who later on did much work in reaching the urban poor and develop materials for the Sunday School movement.  The personality of A.A. Hodge with his ability to effectively popularize Princeton theology and illustrate spiritual truths for people’s understanding was equally encouraging for anyone desireingto follow the model of a “Pastor-Scholar” or “Scholar-Pastor.”

I wished the book would have also given a full chapter each on the life of B.B. Warfield and Machen.  Both Warfield and Machen were important figures in the twilight years of Old Princeton but the author lumped the two of them together in a brief sketch in the last chapter of the book.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciate is the historical perspective that one gets to look at the times through the College/Seminary and its faculty.  These faculty members lived through some amazing time period of American history.  Sometimes they also participated in American history such as Witherspoon, Rush and Stockton of Princeton College who participated with the cause of American Independence and even signed the Declaration of Independence!  Yet we also see as a general trajectory a caution among the faculty of the Seminary itself, such as Miller who backed away from the political the older he became, Charles Hodge’s reluctance to fan the flame before the Civil War by even adopting a moderating tone while being against slavery but being cautious towards full abolitionists and Secessionists in the South.  Towards the end of the Civil War Charles Hodge did become more vocal about the Union, even seeing the North’s victory a sign of God’s providence.  Hodge’s own son also was against slavery but was able to see the difficult question and concern for church entanglement politically with the slave question.

In conclusion I was greatly encouraged and challenged by the book and the examples of the theologians of Old Princeton to be a minister of the Word who continue to strive to grow in intellectual ability in articulating, preaching and defending the faith while also continue to grow in personal holiness.  This book would be a great gift to encourage your pastor and also for Seminarians to see their studies with the need to be pastoral.  It definitely encouraged my soul as a Pastor.  I pray that I can follow in these men’s footstep and be to some degree the kind of men these guys were.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

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God's Work of Providence 2014

The last two years I’ve enjoyed listening to the entire audios from the Spring Conference of  Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary on topics that non-Presbyterians would also benefit from.  In 2012 the conference was on Old Princeton from Greenville Seminary 2012 Conference and in 2013 it was on a Biblical doctrine of Man.

This year’s theme is on God’s Works of Providence in which they will be examining what providence is and such topics as its relation to evil, sin, suffering, and prayer.

Here’s the schedule:

are unable to attend the entire conference.


Tuesday : March 11

9:00 – 10:00 The Flow of the Psalms Part 1 (Dr. O. Palmer  Robertson)

10:15 – 11:15 The Flow of the Psalms Part 2 (Dr. O. Palmer Robertson)

11:15 – 12:15 Prospective Student Luncheon at GPTS

11:00 – 1:00 Registration Table Open at Grace Baptist Church

1:00 – 1:15 Conference Welcome and Announcements

1:15 – 2:30
  • Calling All Christians! Calvin’s Doctrine of Vocation
  • Dr. James McGoldrick
  • Professor of Church History at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

3:00 – 4:15
  • Just a Lot of Noise: Providence & the Problem of Evil
  • Dr. Benjamin Shaw
  • Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

4:15 – 4:45 Question and Answer

4:45 – 7:00 Dinner Break (not catered)

7:00 – 8:30
  • The Definition & Beauty of Providence*
  • Dr. Joel Beeke
  • President and professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation.

Wednesday : March 12

9:00 – 10:15
  • Calvinism & the Origin of Sin
  • Dr. James Anderson
  • Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.

10:35 – 11:50
  • Providence & “Middle Knowledge”: A Question of “Now You See It, Now You Don’t”
  • Dr. Derek Thomas
  • Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, SC. Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Atlanta).

11:50 – 12:15 Question and Answer

12:15 – 1:45 Lunch Break (not catered)

1:45 – 3:00
  • Beautiful In Its Time: A Preacher’s Journey Through the Mists of Providence
  • Rev. Benjamin Miller
  • Pastor of Trinity Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Huntington, NY.

3:30 – 4:15 Question and Answer

4:45 – 6:45 Catered Dinner at GPTS

7:00 – 8:30
  • Providence or Fatalism*
  • Dr. Joseph Pipa
  • President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology..

 

Thursday : March 13

9:00 – 10:15
  • The Devil Made Me Do It
  • Dr. Joseph A. Pipa
  • President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology.

10:35 – 11:50
  • The Heidelberg Catechism: Its Gripping History & Teaching on Providence
  • Dr. Joel Beeke
  • President and professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation.

11:50 – 12:15 Question and Answer

I can’t wait to listen to it online already!

 

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toy train wreck

Thanks to Sye Ten Bruggencate for pointing out this story.

Christianity Today has an article titled, “My Train Wreck Conversion” about Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a former Lesbian Feminists who became a Christian and repented of her ways.   It is a touching testimony of God’s Grace that she tells and you can read the whole thing if you click here.  What intrigued me the most is her account of her interaction with a Conservative Presbyterian pastor that the Lord used to bring her to the faith.  Seeing the mention of “Presbyterian” made me wonder if the guy might have employed Presuppositional apologetics or had any engagement in witnessing to her that is worldview conscious.  Then I read this portion of her article:

While on the lookout for some Bible scholar to aid me in my research, I launched my first attack on the unholy trinity of Jesus, Republican politics, and patriarchy, in the form of an article in the local newspaper about Promise Keepers. It was 1997.

The article generated many rejoinders, so many that I kept a Xerox box on each side of my desk: one for hate mail, one for fan mail. But one letter I received defied my filing system. It was from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a kind and inquiring letter. Ken Smith encouraged me to explore the kind of questions I admire: How did you arrive at your interpretations? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God? Ken didn’t argue with my article; rather, he asked me to defend the presuppositions that undergirded it. I didn’t know how to respond to it, so I threw it away.

Later that night, I fished it out of the recycling bin and put it back on my desk, where it stared at me for a week, confronting me with the worldview divide that demanded a response. As a postmodern intellectual, I operated from a historical materialist worldview, but Christianity is a supernatural worldview. Ken’s letter punctured the integrity of my research project without him knowing it.

That was the beginning of what Rosaria Champagne Butterfield called being “friends with the enemy.”

I find it fascinating that the Pastor, Ken Smith asked her to defend her presuppositions and that it made her asked question of her own historical materialist worldview.  Praise God that the Lord used this to begin a journey to bring her to know the Lord.

For the Christian, Presuppositional apologetics is warranted as the result of the implication of what Scripture says about the nature of man, God’s revelation, sin and salvation.  In the past, I have seen some of it’s Christian critics dismiss Presuppositionalism on the basis that it does not lead people to Christ, because they can think of people who converted as the result of other schools of apologetics.  While God can bring people to salvation any way He wants, we must also be faithful to the norms of Scripture and have the Word of God dictate our apologetics methodology.  Our apologetics methdology must be shaped by Biblical truths and obedience to those truths regardless of the “results” that we see right now.  However, it’s also good to see this testimony of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield become a Christian and the Lord using in certain significant moments in her life, the use of a Reformed Pastor pressing the antithesis.

For those that want to read her story in more details, she has also written a book titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert which is available on Kindle if you click here.

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Over at “The Continuing Story”, a blog which features the primary sources on Presbyterianism, they have recently concluded a series in which they posted up the interaction between Oliver Buswell, Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til concerning Presuppositional Apologetics, as taught by Van Til.

This is a great archive series for those who are interested in the historical side of Presuppositional Apologetics!

1. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Arguments from Nature to God: Presuppositionalism and Thomas Aquinas—A Book Review with Excursions,” The Bible Today 41.8 (May 1948): 235-248.
2. Schaeffer, Francis A., “A Review of a Review,” The Bible Today 42.1 (October 1948): 7-9.
3. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Fountainhead of Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 41-64.
4. Young, G. Douglas, “Dr. Young’s Letter”, The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 65.
5. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “Warfield vs. Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.6 (March 1949): 182-192.
6. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.7 (April 1949): 218-228.
7. Anonymous, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.8 (May 1949): 261.
8. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism Concluded,” The Bible Today 42.9 (June-September 1949): 278-290.

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Dr. James Anderson is now on the Faculty with Reform Theological Seminary

Dr. Anderson is the guy who runs Van Til info

I hope and pray that as the years go by, we would see him contribute more towards a Presuppositional Apologetics of the Christian faith!

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Latest Trinity Review feature portions from a new reprint of Gordon Clark’s “In Defense of Theology” that is now published by John Robbins of Trinity Foundation

See the Trinity Review in PDF file here:

http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/270-InDefenseofTheology.pdf

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