Something Reformed

Archive for the ‘Something Reformed’ Category

John Piper and affections

leave a comment »

We previously mentioned Paul Helm’s recent articles on Jonathan Edwards and religious affections. In a new article, Helm connects some of the same critiques to John Piper and his doctrine of “Christian hedonism.” Sometimes Calvinistic Christians can be tempted to accept everything they hear from their “Young, Restless, Reformed” celebrities. Helm sounds an important warning. Find his article here.

Advertisements

Written by Joshua Peterson

July 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Something Reformed

More on revival

leave a comment »

D.G. Hart states more succinctly some of the concerns expressed in the previous post. Here’s the link to the full article.

Here are his main points:

1. Revivalism is anti-formal.
2. Revivalists disregard the importance of the sacraments.
3. Revivalism cultivates an appetite for the extraordinary in matters of devotion.
4. Revivalists don’t know what to do with the children of the covenant.

Written by Joshua Peterson

July 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Something Reformed

Some questions about revival

with one comment

I recently read of another gathering of leaders from various churches and denominations coming together to pray for “revival.”  I have to admit, I get nervous when people talk about revival. I realize this may sound like I’m about to say something critical or cynical, but let me explain.

I’ve noticed some of the language and methods used to discuss, pray for, and bring in “revivals” seem to imply some pretty astonishing conclusions about the work of the Spirit and the mission of the church, especially for those in the Reformed tradition. Now, God in his providence is certainly free to allow his church to endure periods of, oh let’s say “lesser light.” And indeed this has happened in church history. Even by the end of the 1st century, most of the churches referenced in the Apocalypse were chided for some measure of disobedience. And certainly the “dark ages” was a time when many heresies crept in and gained footholds in the visible church. But even in response to perceived lifelessness or faithlessness, I’m not convinced that forming a para-church network or organization to pray for God to do something fresh and new is really the right solution.

Here are some questions that arise in my mind when that does happen…

Aren’t the Scriptures clear about the means that God uses to sanctify his people, namely what we call the ordinary means of grace? Or are we told it will come through “concerts of prayer” or “evangelistic crusades” conducted by non-churches? I believe God has not only ordained ordinary means–the preaching of his Word and the administration of the sacraments with discipline–but hasn’t he also promised to build his church through these means, so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against him? Indeed hasn’t he promised that the Spirit’s call to salvation is effectual and that he indeed will redeem all the sheep he has chosen, sheep of every nation, tribe, and tongue and unfailingly sanctify them by the sovereign work of the Spirit?

The promise of God to call a people to himself and to spread the knowledge of the Lord over the earth as the waters cover the sea, cannot be divorced from the means through which he has promised to work. Wanting revival is a good thing in one sense, but we must be content with the mean God has given, namely the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments with discipline. It is through these things that God promises to work, not the clever innovations we may come up with.

But more than just an apparent minimizing of the means of grace, laments about revival also seem to imply that the Church is weak, dead, or dying. But how does this notion square with Christ’s promise to build his church so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against her? Is he just being more or less faithful to that promise throughout history? Or has the Spirit failed to sanctify a sufficient amount of faithful elders to persevere in the administration of the means of grace? See, even if we blame faithless Christians or pastors, we still sort of implying that Christ’s promise to build and sanctify his church is not being honored, at least not to the degree that we’d like to see. So I’m forced to ask, when and why did the Church die that she now needs reviving?

So, if the itch for what you call a revival is persistent, here’s my proposal for scratching it. First, let’s not step out of the local churches to go to Chicago and pray for revival with men who we wouldn’t even allow to stand in our pulpits. If God promised to work through the means given to the local churches, then true revival will happen in the churches. So, you want revival? Support the Word and sacrament ministry of the local church. Second, let’s be careful in our longing for revival that we don’t downplay or denigrate the work God is and has been doing through the ordinary means of grace. His kingdom comes with power when his Word is preached, even when it’s from a tiny church on the outskirts of a forgotten town where 25 saints gather for the preached Word and the Supper. If their children come to faith and they go home with their sins forgiven, who says that’s not revival?

 

Written by Joshua Peterson

June 27, 2011 at 2:46 am

Posted in Something Reformed

Obsessed with an experience

leave a comment »

I would say that it’s a western/American evangelical thing, but the reality is that people everywhere of all different times have been on what R. Scott Clark has called a “quest for illegitimate religious experience.” As fallen humans, we are so prone to measure truth and significance based on feelings and experiences of a sensual nature (not sensual in a sexual way, but rather things perceived with our five senses).  And while experiences aren’t necessarily evil, how we understand them can be dangerous when we put God’s Word in subjection to them.

I’ve often heard arguments made against biblical doctrines based on what someone “saw with their own eyes” or “heard first hand.” My response to such statements is an attempt to establish the primacy of God’s Word and usually involves an illustration like this: “If you look up and see that the sky appears to be blue, but then you read in God’s Word that it is red, it’s red; your eyes are wrong.” Now that is certainly a crude and ridiculous example, but the point I’m making is clear. Experiences are to be interpreted in subjection to and in light of God’s revealed Word, not the other way around.

Recently, yet another “I’ve-been-to-heaven-and-back”/”I have extra insight about God and eternity that you can’t find in Scripture” blockbuster book has been written. This time the story of a 4 yr old boy (one who perhaps also thinks that Santa Clause is real) is fascinating Christians everywhere.

On the danger of these types of books and the inordinate influence they bear on Christians and unbelievers alike, see this brief article: Heaven is for real…well duh.

Written by Joshua Peterson

June 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Is Jonathan Edwards Overrated?

leave a comment »

Many of the s0-called New Calvinists (think John Piper) make much of Jonathan Edwards, and even look to him as a pillar of the reformed faith. And yet, both in his day, and presently, Edwards has received much criticism from more consistently reformed churches and thinkers on a number of issues.

Paul Helm has written several articles in the past few months explaining some of these issues. Daryl Hart offers a short excerpt about Edwards and emotionalism here. It’s worth a read.

For something more academic, you can listen to Richard Muller give a lecture on how Edwards differs from the traditional Reformed understanding of free will.

Written by Joshua Peterson

June 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Something Reformed

Yet another Christian blogger…

leave a comment »

After reading many Christian blogs for several years, I finally decided to begin scribbling down some thoughts of my own. Most likely, I will end up just linking to other blogs and articles that I’m reading. But, should I feel compelled to do so, I’ll now have an avenue for writing about the things I’m thinking through. Most posts will be related to Reformed faith and practice, although I’m sure red wines and high quality hand-made cigars will come up at some point. Please feel free to interact with the posts by submitting comments.

Written by Joshua Peterson

June 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Something Reformed

Twelve years of conferences

leave a comment »

There is a gold mine of conference audio from the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s annual conference available at their website. Great topics and great speakers. One of my favorites is a debate on the issue of exclusive Psalmody found under the conference on worship.

Here is the link.

Written by Joshua Peterson

June 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Something Reformed