I have an article up at Reformation 21 on the identity of those who do the work of gospel ministry: pastors. Here’s an excerpt,
God’s gracious, redemptive covenant has been administered in different ways to his people throughout history. All of these ways in the Old Testament, circumcision, the Paschal meal, the Mosaic sacrifices, prefigured Christ, and were shadows anticipating him who is the substance of God’s grace. This is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 and Colossians 2:17, and what is taught in Hebrews 8 when the Mosaic sacrifices, described as copies and shadows of Christ, are contrasted with the better leitourgia (ministry) obtained by Christ in the new covenant. Jesus is the leitergous (liturgist!), the administrator or server, of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:2) of which he is the substance. In other words, in the new covenant, gospel ministry is Jesus serving himself to his people.
This article is the probably the best biblical summary of my theology of my ministry.
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…
Why have so many evangelicals openly embraced such compromises? The answer is very simple. It’s the next logical step for a church that is completely ensnared in efforts to please the culture. For decades the popular notion has been that if the church was going to reach the culture it first needed to connect with the style and methods of secular pop culture or academic fads. To that end, the church surrendered its historic forms of worship. In many cases, everything that once constituted a traditional worship service disappeared altogether, giving way to rock-concert formats and everything else the church could borrow from the entertainment industry. Craving acceptance in the broader culture, the church carelessly copied the world’s style preferences and fleeting fads…
The Westminster Theological Society is a group a ministers in the EPC who are striving to keep the denominational discussions and priorities centered around scripture. In 2017 they began publishing the Westminster Society Journal, which is aimed at EPC ministers, ruling elders, and interested lay people. I contributed an essay to the 2018 volume, ‘The Needful Duty of Improving Our Baptism’. A copy of the journal can be found here. The opening paragraphs of my essay are below.
Prayer by its nature acknowledges the supernatural dimension of creation. There is a God who transcends and upholds the universe, yet is also so immanent as to hear the cries of creation. Prayer presupposes that the transcendent God is not only capable of controlling and altering the mechanics of the universe, but actually does providentially intervene in response to prayer. This is why God’s people can, in confidence, petition him to heal those who are sick. We understand that even if the normal means of healing are ineffective, he can still act and provide restoration to the broken.
But we do not pray for severed arms to regrow. Why not? At first glance this case seems similar to other medical conditions, like terminal cancer: there is an aspect of creation, someone’s body, that is broken and in need of healing, and the available medical resources are inadequate to repair the damage. God can intervene and heal, right? But we don’t pray for the regeneration of a lost limb, and tend to scoff at those who do as acting in futility. It is here that atheists reject prayer as a foolish superstition. It cannot seem to follow its own rules when it matters most and falls into special pleading…
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