What Hath Amsterdam to do with Princeton? (Donny Friederichsen)

In 1898 B.B. Warfield invited the Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper to deliver six lectures at Princeton Seminary for the inaugural Stone Lectures. These lectures were eventually bound and printed as Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism. In these lectures, Kuyper discussed what he believed to be the manner by which a Calvinist and Reformed worldview ought to be applied to quite a number of spheres of life. The inaugural Stone Lectures forever linked the theology of Dr. Kuyper with Princeton Seminary. This connection was further solidified in the creation of the Kuyper Prize, awarded by the Kuyper Center for Public Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life “is awarded each year to a scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the Neo-Calvinist vision of religion engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance in one or more of the ‘sphere’ of society.”1
The recent controversy surrounding the reversal of the decision to award the 2017 Kuyper Prize to Dr. Timothy Keller, while disappointing, is not surprising. The history of Princeton Seminary, as a microcosm of the mainline Presbyterian denomination, would seem to lead to no other conclusion than one where a man would be deemed unworthy of an award because he too closely holds to the views of the award’s namesake.

The reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929 put it on a course where the supposed form of Kuyper, Reformed Theology, and the even the Scriptures is upheld, but the actual material of them is rejected. Old Princeton (prior to 1929) was marked by an unrelenting commitment to the Westminster Standards, the Reformed Faith, and historic orthodox Christianity. With the appointment of Dr. J. Ross Stevenson in 1914 and the passing of Warfield in 1921, Old Princeton had effectively died. In its place was a Princeton that emerg…

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Jesus and the Federal Budget? (Adam Parker)

One of the interesting aspects of Scripture is that it doesn’t tell us the precise way in which moral principles should be implemented in the civil sphere–even while it contains ironclad moral commands and lasting principles for the lives of God’s people. This makes sense for quite a number of reasons.

In the first place, it is important for us to note that the Old Testament was written in the context of a theocracy–a situation far distant from our own. Today, the theocratic nation of Israel is a matter of history and no longer in existence. The Westminster Confession of Faith even goes so far as to say that that “sundry judicial laws…expired together with the State of that people” (WCF 19.4).

The New Testament was written in the context of an underdog atmosphere where the ability of Christians to have any influence on the laws of Rome would have seemed laughably absurd. The New Testament doesn’t envision a scenario of cultural/political conquest for Christians, but instead assumes that the readers are powerless minorities who need to learn how to live as a minority in the face of opposition.

In spite of these realities, we continue to find ourselves in an environment where Christians of various stripes insist that the Bible gives us very specific commands for how the government should be run. One of the clearest examples of this at the moment is last week’s announcement that over 100 evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders made a joint statement challenging the proposed budget set forth by the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.

The letter, which is addressed to Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, and Nancy Pelosi, states that America has a moral responsibility to not reduce its International Affairs Budget. One might wonder whether the Bible instructs governments as to how to set their budgets. According to the letter in question, it is found in Matthew 25, where Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the l…

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A Pastoral Letter to Myself (In the Case that I Fall) (Nick Kennicott)

Dear Self,

You’re much weaker than you think. Remember that Scripture says, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). It’s easy to look at men who have fallen in ministry with a hint of disgust and harsh judgment when they don’t simply disappear. But, let’s be honest; you know how much you would struggle to fade away from public life if the same thing happened to you. Pernicious pride is always lingering within. God-forbid that this letter ever becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; but if it should, pursue humility, accountability and godliness. By God’s grace, diligently pursue repentance and holiness. If you should sin in such a way that you are no longer qualified to serve in pastoral ministry, please put the following counsel in practice:

1. Remember that you only have yourself to blame.

Ever since the garden, man instinctively seeks to shift blame on others for his sin. You’re like your father, Adam. Remember the way in which he sought to blame even God for giving him Eve; and, remember how he blamed Eve for giving him the fruit (Genesis 3:12)? Guard against the temptation to blame others for your own sin. As a Christian, you are not obligated to sin; and, when you do sin, it is a willful transgression against the Law of God. No one else made you sin. Now you must own it. You’re not helping anything by scandalously blaming others, publicly exposing them, and ensuring they take a fall with you. If someone else was involved in your sin, there are appropriate means that God has appointed for dealing with them, and you are not part of it now. Repent! Begin working through a process of spiritual restoration. Trust the Lord and His church to rightly handle others.

2. Stay off of public platforms.

Your repentance should be as public as your sin (not in the sense of parading it, but in the sense of making it evident); and, if at some point you have a public platform of which people outside your local church …

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When you shop, Amazon gives (Robert Brady)

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support the Alliance every time you shop on Amazon, at no cost to you. Bookmark and visit smile.amazon.com, designate the Alliance as your charitable organization. It’s that simple!On Thursday, March 16, Amazon will donate 5% (10 times the usual donation rate!) of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Get started at smile.amazon.com/ch/23-1352120….

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Preaching Christology or Preaching Christ: What is Preaching? (Ryan McGraw)

Good teaching begins with definitions. Effective schoolteachers tell their students what they are doing and why in order help students learn well. This often means defining terms specific to each subject. Math students need to learn what a hypotenuse is and students of physics need to understand what mass, acceleration, and velocity mean. The Bible also has its own vocabulary, which includes “preaching.” Yet many Christians sit under sermons, and some even preach them, without a working definition of what preaching is in light of Scripture.In 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2, the Apostle Paul gave an implicit definition of preaching when he wrote, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

The passage cited above implies that preaching is a public authoritative proclamation of the gospel, through ordained ambassadors of Christ, who plead with people to be reconciled to God on Christ’s behalf, on the grounds of Christ’s person and work. Understanding what preaching is helps us understand its purposes and what we should expect when listening to sermons. This is important because Christ designed preaching to be an ordinary part of evangelism and discipleship (Matt. 28:19-20).

This text teaches us what preaching is. Preaching is a public, authoritative proclamation of the gospel. Paul’s preaching was public proclamation. He implored people and he pled with them. His self-description as an “ambassador” meant that his preaching carried autho…

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Wise Technological Parenting (Jon D. Payne)

It is the apex of foolishness for parents to allow their children to have free and unaccountable access to technology– smart phones, tablets, iPods, computers, etc. Before I explain the reasons why I believe this, I want to make clear, in no uncertain terms, that I’m not a Luddite. I’m not against the advancement and use of modern technological devices. Indeed, I have no desire to go back to the sixteenth-century! Quite the contrary, I’m profoundly grateful for the seemingly endless and valuable functions of iPhones, iPads, and computers. It’s wonderful to be able to stay in touch with family and friends around the world through FaceTime and Skype, as well as through social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. Even so, there is a dark and insidious side to our brave new world of information and connectivity; and, we would be exceedingly foolish to ignore it. Here are a few reasons why our children should not have free and unrestricted access to technological devices:

Internet Pornography. Internet porn is a pandemic of massive proportions. The statistics related to this wicked industry are staggering (see http://www.covenanteyes.com). The porn industry generates thirteen billion dollars of revenue each year in the United States alone. One in eight online searches is for pornography, and the same goes for one in five searches on mobile devices. Twenty-four percent of smart phone users admit to having pornographic material on their device. Fifty-six percent of divorce cases involve one spouse with a porn addiction.

These statistics do not bode well for our youth. Did you know that nine out of ten boys and six out of ten girls are exposed to pornography before the age of eighteen? The average age that boys first come into contact with porn is twelve, and sixty-eight percent of young adult men (18-24 years old) use porn at least once a week. Nineteen percent of 18-24 year olds have sent a pornographic text (i.e. sext). It is most often during pube…

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Ecclesiastical Eclipse: Evangelicalism and the Reformation (Bruce Baugus)

The Reformation’s heritage–a topic of intensifying reflection as this quincentenary year rolls on–will be the theme of the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting in Providence, RI. This is a good thing; however, my expectations are limited because the broadly evangelical discussion of the Reformation often reduces its legacy to a set of disembodied ideas about salvation (e.g. sola gratia and sola fide) and theological method (e.g. sola Scriptura). While the cultural and political implications of these ideas are much discussed (and sometimes exaggerated), the centrality of the church and the character of the Reformation as a fundamentally ecclesial affair are often neglected or under appreciated.

In fact, Evangelicalism, as a loosely confederated movement of extra-ecclesial institutions such as parachurch ministries, schools, publishing houses, websites, speakers, bands, and conferences, has a rather awkward relationship with this aspect of the Reformation’s legacy.

Churchly Character of the Reformation’s Legacy

From the beginning and throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the object of reform was not so much the doctrine debated in universities but the institutional church–its worship, ministry, discipline, and government. While the Reformation was certainly marked by profound doctrinal development within prolegomena and the loci of soteriology and ecclesiology, the central ideas of the Reformation were neither as unprecedented nor distinct as they are sometimes portrayed.

This, at least, was the argument advanced by the next several generations of Protestants who argued their interpretations and teachings of the gospel were not only true to Scripture but also in line with the best strands of the catholic tradition. Unprecedented, new, distinct, or other adjectives that suggested genuine novelty of thought were close to condemnations at that time; being a reformer was a delicate and often dangerous vocation.

Conversely, even the most d…

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The Ecclesiastical Pendulum Swing (Nick Batzig)

I was baptized in the Reformed Episcopal church, spent time in Reformed Presbyterian Churches (mainly PCA and OPC) as a boy, was extremely rebellious and dechurched for over a decade, came to Christ in repentance and faith in my 20’s and now pastor a moderately liturgical Reformed Presbyterian (PCA) church. I am Reformed because of biblical convictions about soteriology and committed to Presbyterianism out of biblical convictions about ecclesiology. My own experience has fueled my interest as I have seen others make dramatic shifts in their ecclesiastical affiliation over the years. The tensions that have recently arisen on account of the debate surrounding the use of the Liturgical Calendar have me once again revisiting this subject. Why do so many, who were brought up in broad evangelicalism move to Anglicanism, Episcopalianism, Anglo-Catholicism, Roman Catholicism and other High Church Liturgical fellowships? While I certainly do not believe that I have all the answers, I do believe that there are numerous reasons that help explain the swing from one end of the ecclesiastical spectrum to the other. In 1985, Robert Webber sought to answer this question from his own experience in his massively influential work Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. Webber, who grew up the son of a Baptist minister and who became a graduate of Bob Jones University and the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, swung from broad evangelicalism into Reformed Presbyterianism and finally into Episcopalianism. The pendulum swung as far as possible (without taking him to Rome!)–from one end of the ecclesiastical spectrum to the other. Webber’s end goal in writing Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail was to aid those bogged down with the same disenfranchisement he had experienced in evangelicalism. Webber was massively successful at doing so during his tenure at Wheaton. The first explanation that Webber gives for his transition seems to have to do with a reaction to what I call “retre…

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Redemptive History, Union with Christ and the Liturgical Calendar (Nick Batzig)

The word “liturgy” continues to be a trendy–yet often indeterminate–buzzword among young(er-ish) Christians. This is especially so with regard to those who have recently made the shift away from broad evangelicalism and toward historic worship practices of Christendom. Alongside this phenomenon lies the ever present willingness of many professedly Protestant churches to embrace, either in part or whole, the liturgical calendar for the structuring of their worship services. One can see the apparent appeal. After all, many have suggested that the Liturgical Calendar offers a recognition of the organic unity of Scripture centered on the redemptive-historical nature of Christ’s saving work and participated in through the corporate worship of God’s people. But is this actually the case? Does the Liturgical Calendar enhance or undermine the redemptive historical nature of Christ’s saving work? Not surprisingly, many Anglicans–at one and the same time–acknowledge the lack of biblical support for a liturgical calendar while insisting upon a pragmatic adaptation of it. For instance, N.T. Wright suggests:”There is nothing ultimately obligatory for a Christian about the keeping of holy days or seasons. Paul warns the Galatians against adopting the Jewish liturgical calendar (Gal. 4:10)…However, many churches have found that by following the liturgical year in the traditional way they have a solid framework within which to live the Gospels, the Scripture and the Christian life. The Bible offers itself to us as a great story, a sprawling and complex narrative, inviting us to come in and make it our own. The Gospels, the very heart of Scripture, likewise tell a story not merely to give us information about Jesus but in order to provide a narrative that we can inhabit, a story we must make our own. This is one way we can become the people God calls us to be.”1While adherents of the liturgical calendar frequently insist that it aids our experience of the redemptive histo…

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Evangelism, Baptism and Evaluating Church Health (Brian Tallman)

If I’ve heard it once I have heard it a thousand times: Christians who are members in Reformed Churches tripping over themselves to apologize about how poorly the Reformed Church does evangelism. Related to this is the tried and true self-deprecation: “We need to see more adult baptisms.” What turns my stomach most of all, however, is hearing such individuals says things like, “Evangelical churches win people to Christ and then we disciple them.” Such a statement is almost entirely untrue. In this post, I wish to challenge the assertion that the Reformed Church is bad at evangelism by focusing attention on the sacrament of baptism.

It has been both my pleasure and privilege to baptize more adult converts than I ever could have imagined when I first became a pastor. However, it is probably the case that the majority of baptisms that I have performed have been those of the children of believers. For some– even among those who gladly wear the Reformed and Confessional label–this is not a good thing. “We need more adult baptisms,” they say. Generally speaking, those who talk like this seem to have embraced a scale by which they judge baptisms: Infant baptism, good; older children (in a family that has transferred from a non-Reformed Church) baptized by profession of faith, better; college students/young professionals baptized on profession of faith, even better; middle aged or senior converts, even better still. The problem with this scale is that people who unnecessarily create levels of baptism unfortunately reduce the beauty of covenantal baptism, and unwittingly undermining baptism itself. Covenantal (i.e. household and infant baptism) is baptism. We should, therefore, rejoice in the same manner and with the same passion and emotion at each and every baptism. Sadly, it is often the case that, for many, simply speaking of “infant baptism” subtly undermines baptism.

Those who have adopted a baptism scale miss what is actually taking place during the baptism of the…

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