The EPC prides itself on allowing differences in “non-essentials” among its churches, and this has included the thorny issue of the eternal fate of people who die in infancy.
The Westminster Confession of Faith states,
Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
The Confession strikes an agnostic position that borders on a tautology: elect infants dying in infancy are the ones who are saved. This position allows for a great deal of flexibility, since the who and how of election for those incapable of being outwardly called is not identified.
In 1903 the PCUSA added a declaratory statement to the beginning of the WCF which functionally amended it. The declaration stated, in part, that,
…with reference to Chapter 10, Section 3, of the Confession of Faith, that it is not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost. We believe that all dying in infancy are included in the election of grace, and are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how he pleases.
This declaration had the effect of eliminating flexibility from confessional subscription. Now only one position, namely that all who die in infancy are elect, was permitted. The EPC formed in 1981, and had to choose which amendments and alterations to the Westminster Standards it should adopt. The Declaratory Statement was one of the items considered…
R. Scott Clark comments on the Distributed Education (DE) seminary model, which instead of having students come to a campus sends the professors to the students. It is primarily a response Tim Keller’s suggestion that the current seminary model is now inadequate and a different approach is needed.
Until parishioners are prepared to see physicians or surgeons who earned their medical degrees online, they should not accept ministers who have only an online degree. There is a reason why we send physicians to brick and mortar schools, because we know from experience that to do otherwise is to cut corners and we are not prepared to do that with our physical health. Why then are we willing to consider training the physicians of our souls with less care?…
Students traveled to them for a reason: education is not a consumer product that can be distributed by Amazon. Education is a process. It is a culture. It is a habit that is formed in community. It takes time in a community of scholars…Distributed education seeks to disconnect the outcome of education from the process: initiation into a culture and the formation of habits. It assumes that education is what happens when a prof travels to a church and delivers lectures thereby transmitting information. That is not itself education. The lecture is only a beginning of education for the student. Lectures are clues to a world of learning but they are rudiments, bread crumbs that invite the curious to continue learning.
Clark’s whole post is worth reading, and there are a few points I think are worth adding.
The first is that DE disconnects students from other students. The community aspect of education is not just student-to-professor, but peer-to-peer…
Reading each of the gospels as a single story can be helpful in drawing out information. For instance, Mark 3:6 says that the Pharisees plotted along with the Herodians to destroy Jesus. The Herodians are introduced here as a new player, another antagonist against Christ. But they only show up again in Mark 12:3, the discourse about paying taxes to Caesar (the only other time they are mentioned in scripture at all is Matthew’s parallel to this account).
Herod and his allies do not have a prominent role in Mark, unlike in Luke where Jesus stands in trial before Herod. It would be easy to treat the alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodians as a minor detail, or only about the desperate pragmatism of the Pharisees. Yet the Herodians occupy an important place in Mark…
You can’t just analyze words by what they say, you also have to analyze words by what they do. . . . When I go through [the Statement]—if you go really, really strictly—I think just about anybody would take about eighty percent of it. . . . But in the end what concerns me most about it is not so much what it’s saying but what it’s trying to do. . . . It’s trying to marginalize people who are talking about race and justice. It’s trying to say, “You’re really not biblical.” And it’s not fair in that sense…Even if I could agree with most of it, I don’t like it. It’s what it’s doing that I don’t like.
He approaches the statement from the perspective of speech act theory: the idea that language is not just about the content of words, but how the words are used. Keller is not saying that the arguments of the statement are unimportant, but the effect, what the statement is doing, matters as much in evaluating it.
John MacArthur was active in creating the statement, and over at his ministry Grace to You, the response has been harsh:…
Dan Wallace on the demise of pastoral understanding of the biblical languages:
Now, half a millennium after Luther nailed his theses to the door of the great Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, theological seminaries are on a rapid decline. Greek and Hebrew continue to be casualties. Genuine study of the biblical languages is being replaced by “Greek/Hebrew appreciation” courses—a euphemism for anything but deep appreciation, or nothing at all. Bible software, which can be an absolutely amazing tool for profound study of the original languages, has too often become a crutch. Rely on it enough and it becomes a wheelchair. One really needs to get immersed in Greek for a couple of years before being able to profit fully from Bible software that deals with the Greek…
Evangelical churches are frequently seeking pastors who have amazing speaking abilities, but who can’t exegete their way out of a paper bag. This is hardly what the Reformers had in mind. Listen to Luther:
“In proportion as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others.”
“And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.”
The Reformers argued, correctly, that if the church were to truly hold to scripture as its authority, then it needed pastors capable of reading and understanding scripture in its original languages. The common practice of pastors relying on Bible translation software and interlinear translations is a surrender of the pastoral prerogative to exegete and expound scripture to the church. Instead, the tools have become “wheelchairs” that do the work of exegesis on our behalf.
Copyright © 2018 Joy and Solemnity