Theology of the Westminster Confession: Marriage and Divorce

My church is in the middle of an extensive adult Sunday School class.  The topic is the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).  The idea is that each teacher will develop a set of slides to aid in presentation and discussion.  We hope the completed set of slides (the goal is to cover all 33 chapters of the WCF) is a valuable resource not only for our folks at church, but also for individuals, other churches and schools to use (and modify) for their own purposes.  Here is the set of slides that present chapter 24 of the WCF on “Marriage and Divorce.”  Enjoy and let me know what you think.  Are these helpful?  How could they be improved?

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Ancient Christian Devotional – B (Book Review)

Every year I try to read a “devotional” book and a book that takes me back in Christian history.  And when I say “back” I mean “waaay back,” like back to the first few centuries after the apostles.  This period of history is sometimes called the Patristic era because the church had not yet divided between East (the Orthodox) and the West (the Roman Catholic).  Since I had already read with profit a book titled Ancient Christian Devotional a few years ago, it seemed appropriate to try the sequel: Ancient Christian Devotional on Lectionary Cycle B (ACD-B).  In terms of my reading experience in the church fathers, 2017 was much like the last year I went through the first one.

There are not too many places for an evangelical to become familiar with the writings of the early church leaders, which is why InterVarsity’s Ancient Christian Devotional trilogy (Lectionary Cycles A, B, and C) is such a breath of fresh air.  Edited by Cindy Crosby (the late paleo-orthodox Thomas Oden served as General Editor), ACD-B collects readings and arranges them in a four-part devotional keyed to representative passages from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and the Gospels.  While the Bible texts are not included (just the references), significant portions of ancient sources follow each Bible reference—sometimes a couple of sentences, other times the better part of a whole page.  Some of the sources the editors cull from include:

A few early church fathers have become some my favorites for various reasons—their clarity, insight, zeal for holiness, evident love for God—include Augustine of Hippo (of course!), Ambrose of Milan, Basil the Great, Bede the Venerable, Gregory the Great, Ignatius of Antioch, John Cassian, Leo the Great, Origen, and Theodore of Heraclea.  In all I count 80 different pre-medieval church fathers quoted in ACD-B. Continue reading

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How Can We Better Understand Each Other?

Last month my friend who is a Lutheran minister asked me to speak at a local “Pub Theology” gathering.  I had just attended my first meeting in November with a couple folks from my church and walked away impressed with the group and the possibilities of discussing life’s big questions over food and drink and laughter.  Since I’m a Presbyterian he suggested I talk about something particular to the Calvinist tradition, but me being the glutton for punishment that I am, I countered with a topic called “perspectivalism.”  Both my friend and I had graduated from the same seminary.  And both of us had studied this weirdly-titled philosophy advocated by John Frame and Vern Poythress.  “OK, that sounds fine…good luck with getting people to understand you!” he replied.  And so I got to work preparing for introducing this new way for our motley crew to better understand each other.

When the time finally arrived for us to talk about perspectives, I basically told the folks around our table that I was going to attempt to share with them a couple of ways people from different viewpoints have tried to understand reality and each other, how those ways have failed, how a way called perspectivalism can give us a helpful way forward, and why they should believe me.  So with that plan for discussion, I started with a parable. Continue reading

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Theology of the Westminster Confession: Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

My church is in the middle of an extensive adult Sunday School class.  The topic is the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).  The idea is that each teacher will develop a set of slides to aid in presentation and discussion.  We hope the completed set of slides (the goal is to cover all 33 chapters of the WCF) is a valuable resource not only for our folks at church, but also for individuals, other churches and schools to use (and modify) for their own purposes.  Here is the set of slides that present chapter 21 of the WCF on “Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.”  Enjoy and let me know what you think.  Are these helpful?  How could they be improved?

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Opening Day at the Museum of the Bible

What a birthday present!  Way back in August my wife reserved 2 tickets for opening day on November 18, 2017 to the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) in Washington DC.  Two and only two tickets, which of course means the kids were not coming with us (thanks to the grandparents for watching them all day).  So my beautiful bride and I got an all-day date at a museum for the first time since we began having kids.  We’ve been to several museums, including a few Smithsonian ones, with the kids.  But no parent can actually enjoy the museum experience as a curious adult-child when the kids are in tow.  When families visit museums, the parents can’t help acting like tour guides for their kids.  That’s fun, but not an experience full of learning and wonder (at least not for the grownups).  So it was a special treat to visit the MOTM on the first day open to the public.  Most people, even those in the DC area, didn’t hear much about the museum until the week (and sometimes the day) before it opened its doors.  But I’ve been following the news for about a year.  Based on what I read, heard, and saw, it looked like MOTB could be a game-changer in terms of world-class museums.  And boy, it didn’t disappoint!  What should you expect when you visit the MOTB? Continue reading

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Controversy of the Ages (Book Review)

Dangitbill readers know that a little while back I set out to study the topic of the age of the earth.  There are basically 3 logically possible positions (old, young, and eternal).  Only the first 2 are scientifically viable today since even the most committed philosophical materialists admit the universe looks like it had a beginning.  You know, the Big Bang and all that?

Christians are not allowed to be materialists.  That option is not open to us because we are convinced that God is, and therefore two things must be true.  (1) God is eternal, and (2) the universe is not.  Having that option closed off to me is not a problem because I don’t think the evidence points to materialism being true.  My conundrum as a curious creationist has been finding updated, reputable, and compelling books that present a case for either young earth creationism (YEC) or old earth creationism (OEC).  Not a summary, mind you.  Anyone can find decent summaries on the web one or three clicks away.  What I’ve been searching for is to be convinced.  If at all possible, I would like to achieve “cognitive rest” on the age of the earth issue.  Alas, what I’m beginning to discover is how tall an order mine is.  This question is a Rabbit Hole of rabbit holes because there are perplexing puzzles associated with every possible view. Continue reading

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A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Book Review)

“It’s not my fault,” I keep telling myself.  If the issue of the earth’s age doesn’t even enter my mind when Christian preachers and teachers become new to me, I can’t help it that my favorites believe the earth is likely very old—much older that the standard 6-10 thousand year range offered by young earth creationists (YECs).  So what if I think one of today’s best preachers is Tim Keller?  What’s it to you that one of the best Reformed discussions about the things that matter most in life happens weekly on the White Horse Inn broadcast?  Do you care that I think some of the insightful and groundbreaking scientific work by Christians is happening within the Intelligent Design (ID) movement?  And for a ready dose of “clear thinking Christianity,” is it OK that I admire and listen to Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason?  I can’t help it.  So sue me. ;-)

Of course most Christians won’t really care that all of the above appear to be old earth creationists (OECs)—or at least they lean that way.  Either way, that’s not why I pay attention to any of them.  So again, I reiterate—It’s not my fault.

It’s not my fault that I’m trying to give YECs a fair hearing but they keep accusing folks like me of theological liberalism we don’t agree with their interpretation of scientific facts.

It’s not my fault that I’m wondering if hard concordantism (the belief that the scientific data ought to always cohere to YEC) is the right way to read the Bible.

It’s not my fault that when I consider both sides of the biblical creation debate (YEC and OEC), I see strengths and weaknesses in the arguments of both, so that neither side seems to have an open-shut case.

At least that’s the way I’m leaning after studying a popular and well-regarded book from the OEC-camp called A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (BCOE), by David Snoke.  The author is a professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh and an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (my denomination).  Snoke is licensed to preach in his presbytery, so he is clearly both an active scientist and churchman.  His book, which was published in 2006, presents a humble thesis: that OEC is a viable and acceptably orthodox position to hold as a conservative, evangelical Christian.  At just under 200 pages and written for the intelligent non-scientist, BCOE is an accessible introduction to some of the main arguments proposed for believing the earth is probably as old as the secular scientific consensus. Continue reading

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