"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This Day in Presbyterian History

Wayne Sparkman, director of the PCA Historical Society, has a daily blog that highlights different men and events in Presbyterian History. All Presbyterians that love history (but I repeat myself) will enjoy the entries:


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

PCA FV Study Report 2007

Looking back at the Presbyterian Church in America's Federal Vision Study report from 2007, I merely wanted to reproduce the 9 declarations that the PCA adopted as the right understanding of our Standards, and under those declarations also the fine recommendations of the Study Committee Report.

[ You can find the whole report here: http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/07-fvreport.pdf ]

Nine Declarations of the PCA FV Study Report:

1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.

2. The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

3. The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

4. The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

5. The view that “union with Christ” renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

7. The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, such as
regeneration and justification, and yet not persevere in those benefits is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.


1. That the General Assembly commend to Ruling and Teaching Elders and their congregations this report of the Ad Interim Committee on NPP, AAT and FV for careful consideration and study.

2. That the General Assembly remind the Church, its officers and congregations of the provisions of BCO 29-1 and 39-3 which assert that the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, while “subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word of God,” have been adopted by the PCA “as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.”

3. That the General Assembly recommend the declarations in this report as a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards, and further reminds those ruling and teaching elders whose views are out of accord with our Standards of their obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views.

4. That the General Assembly remind the Sessions and Presbyteries of the PCA that it is their duty “to exercise care over those subject to their authority” and “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 31-2; 13-9f).

5. That the Ad Interim Study Committee on NPP, AAT and FV be dismissed with thanks.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Book Review: A Neglected Grace

“God is worshipped everywhere, in spirit and in truth, as, in private families daily…” –Westminster Confession 21:6.

The scene is idyllic. A family gathered around the father in the living room or at the dinning table, with Bible open, hymns or psalms being sung, and prayers being offered by all. I say idyllic, because many of us have never seen this Christian Norman Rockwell scene. The practice of family worship has a strong and influential history in Reformed and evangelical homes, but the practice today has become so rare as to expect that such a scene is expected to be found only in a museum.

This does not have to be the case, nor ought it be the case. Jason Helopoulos, Assistant Pastor at University Reformed Church in Michigan, offers readers a challenge and also great helps in recovering this important and necessary practice in the raising of our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. “A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home” is a book I wish existed before it did. Our church made a push for families to begin the practice of family worship, however when looking at the resources available many seemed, although thorough and well grounded, also overwhelming to a layman. Family Worship with complicated orders of worship or long justifications do not keep the attention of the average reader. In this book, Pastor Helopoulos gives an extremely readable and even at points humorous look into simple family worship. I read the book in two or three short sittings and then gave the book to my wife who began to read and enjoy it as well.

The book begins with a helpful look at the different “spheres” of worship. The author identifies corporate, private (or individual), and also family worship. With three spheres of Christian worship, the reader is instructed that “A Christian will find it most beneficial to practice secret worship, corporate worship and family worship.” (27) Such a distinction was helpful for this pastor who typically has collapsed those spheres to two: private and public.

After establishing the legitimacy of the sphere of family worship, the author then quickly moves on to the “why?” - Why should we engage in family worship. Rather than merely emphasizing the duty and command of family worship, or merely the benefits, he combines the two: “It is our joyful responsibility!” Such a response fits the mood and theme of the book, family worship is not a mere burden or another item in the list of responsibilities of a head of household, it is a blessing and a grace that if skipped, we miss out on.

Thankfully, immediately after establishing the joyful duty of Family Worship from Scripture, the book moves on to the important question of “how?” I have several volumes on my shelf that suggests several deep and intricate orders of family worship to resemble a Sunday morning worship service. These have guaranteed that they may look good on paper, but are rarely tried. Pastor Helopoulos suggests something eminently more reasonable: simplicity. Family worship can be simple enough to just contain three simple elements: Scripture, prayer and song. Although additional elements are suggested for later, if it is too complicated, it will distract from intention of the time: the simple worship of God.

Much of the rest of the book is what makes this a unique offering and why I wish it was available to our church sooner. The rest of the book wrestles with the practical overcoming of difficulties, written by a father and husband who has practiced family worship and learned the hard way what to do with energetic small children and disappointing nights when it seems like the entire venture was a waste of time.

At the end of the book, I must warn you, you will be out of excuses. You will have a clear picture of family worship, and it will become a possible reality rather than a wistful fantasy. You will flip through the appendixes and find sample simple worship orders you can follow without handing out trifold bulletins to your 4 year old. And what's more, it will get you excited to reclaim the grace most Christian families have neglected unnecessarily.

I’d recommend this book to most all Christian families, as well as to churches as a resource. The price makes it easy to grab a dozen copies for a church book table or to have it available to give during pre-marital counseling, to aid couple in understanding the importance of family worship early on.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Justification in Westminster Confession 11.1

I have yet to find a more succinct or accurate exposition of justification, especially in WCF 11.1:

"Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God." -Westminster Confession of Faith 11.1