Top Posts of 2018
This is a list of my top (i.e. favorite) posts from the past year. This list is most helpful for me to look back later to see what captured my attention during 2018.
- Why don’t we pray for arms to regrow? This posts addresses this question and discusses the nature of prayer and God’s will.
- I wrote several posts on the question of exceptions and scruples. This is a subject I intend to address again, but my focus over the past year was on the freedom of pastors to teach on a subject where they disagree with their confession of faith. My conclusions were that if a pastor is granted an exception, he is free to teach it and the presbytery cannot prohibit that teaching. However, a pastor being granted an exception does necessarily free him in his practice, and does not grant that exception to the congregation by proxy.
- I wrote an extensive analysis of the confessionalism of the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). ECO and the EPC are closely related, and my hope in that analysis was to provide a charitable and robust critique of ECO’s confessional approach in order to better foster a deeper partnership between our churches.
- I wrote two very different posts on sexual ethics. The first is on children in the worship of the church when the scriptural subject is sex. The second was a biblical argument for adultery disqualifying elders from serving as elders again.
A list of my top posts from 2017 can be found here.
2019 Reading Project: Athanasius of Alexandria and John Murray
I started a tradition this past year of selecting a theologian and attempting to read most of their works over the course of a year, as well as reading some biographies on them and commentaries on their work. I started with St. Anselm of Canterbury. It was incredibly enriching. I am continuing this new tradition into 2019, but am trying something a bit bolder: I am selecting two very different theologians to read. I discovered with Anselm that if I had tried just a bit harder I could have read all his work much faster than I did, without compromising depth of understanding. So to test that theory I am reading two people this year. Another difference is that this year I am actually creating a schedule in order to help that theory prove correct.
The first is Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 293-373), one of the great fathers of the church…
On the Vocabulary of Church ‘Membership’
People who are part of a particular congregation are often called church “members.” This language is profoundly biblical, and is a visible, covenantal manifestation of the believer’s union with Christ.
μέλος (melos) is the Greek word used to describe the individual parts of a body (literally “body member”). For example, the tongue is an individual member of the body (James 3:5-6). μέλος is used metaphorically to describe the relationship between believers and Christ. Individual believers are all μέλη (members) of Christ (Romans 12:4-5), because we are in Christ. This union with Christ is total: even our bodies, as part of ourselves, are μέλη of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15, Ephesians 5:29-30). We have been united to Christ as his members through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The abiding of John 14 is best described in terms of our union with Christ, our membership in and with him…
The Limits of ECO’s Confessionalism
A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) is a sister denomination to my own EPC. ECO began as a church in 2012, composed of congregations departing from the PCUSA. I have a few friends ministering in ECO, and I have made some efforts at better institutional unity between our churches. At the EPC’s 2017 General Assembly I sat on the Standing Committee (i.e. temporary committee limited to that meeting) on Fraternal Relations. I convinced the rest of the committee to recommend to the Assembly that the Permanent Committee on Fraternal Relations should be instructed to begin dialogue with ECO aimed at forming a fraternal relationship. This recommendation was approved by the Assembly and encouraging work has begun in that direction.
I mention this to make clear that I like ECO. My hope is that the EPC and ECO formally unite as one church. But there are some significant barriers that need to be overcome if that union is to occur. The most substantial barrier is the issue of confessionalism and doctrine…
Anthony Burges on the Definition of Justification
…If the word [justification] should signify as much as ‘to make righteous’, as to sanctify does signify ‘to make holy’, still we could grant it, though not in the Popish way; and indeed the Apostle [in] Rom. 5. says, ‘many are made righteous by the second Adam’, which if not meant of inherent holiness, does imply, that the righteousness we have by Christ is not merely declarative, but also constitutive; and indeed one is in order before the other, for a man must be righteous before he can be pronounced or declared so to be…so that there are these two things in justifying, whereof one is the ground of the other, first to make righteous, and then to pronounce or declare so.
-Anthony Burges, The True Doctrine of Justification.