1.26.2011

WILLIAM PERKINS on COMMON GRACE--And You Can't Call Him an ARMINIAN

Perkins was the father of Elizabethan Puritanism, and his works outsold Calvin's three to one. Now no one has ever called Perkins an Ariminian (have you seen his supralapsarian chart on the order of causes?) and here he clearly believed in common grace.  Perkins writes,

Grace must be distinguished; it is twofold, restraining grace, or renewing grace.  Restraining grace, I term certain common gifts of God, serving only to order and frame the outward conversation of men to the law of God, or serving to bereve men of excuse in the day of judgment.  By this kind of grace, heathen men have been liberal, just, sober, valiant, merciful.  By it, men living in the Church of God, have been enlightened, and having tasted of the good word of God, have rejoiced therein, and for a time ourwardly conformed themselves thereto. 

Renewing grace is not common to all men,  but proper to the elect, and it is a gift of God's spirit, wherby the corruption of sin is not only restrained, but also motified, and the decayed image of God, restored in righteousness and true holiness. 

...When our savior Christ heard the young man make a confession of a practice but of outward and civil righteousness, "He looked upon him, and loved him" (Mark 10:34).  Therefore no doubt, he will love with a more special love, and accept as the good subjects of his kingdom, those that have received a further mercy of God, to be born anew of water and of the spirit." William Perkins, The Workes: A Graine of Mustard Seed, Vol. I (John Legatt: London, 1616) 638.

Thoughts...?

1.22.2011

WORSHIP--WHAT IS YOUR CHURCH REALLY DOING?

Here is a ten minute challenge I recently gave on ABOUNDING GRACE Radio challenging those who who attend church to evaluate their worship as I address things like children's church, sentimentality, stylistic preference, theater-driven approaches, etc.  It received quite a bit of response, so please give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Click Here to Listen: The Church Motivation Challenge

You can get this is written form HERE

1.17.2011

The REFORMED RENAISSANCE & THE WOODEN SHOES PART I

In his preliminary history of the United Reformed Churches of North America, Cornelis Venema states, “the URCNA must find a way to ‘burn the wooden shoes’ of a parochial ethnic and cultural identity while preserving all that is biblical and confessionally Reformed in the rich inheritances of the past.”  It’s a great statement.  There is something about it that makes those who have come into the Dutch Reformed tradition without the cultural and “parochial” identity smirk a bit. There always has been something really irritating with the “if you ain’t dutch, you ain’t much” mentality.  It always made outsiders who lacked a name or family connection feel as if they could never really be part of the club. “Dutch bingo” has always been intimidating for those who have no cards to play with.

But those of the tradition itself, who understand the history behind the wooden shoes metaphor, know that such an attempt at this needed separation, recognized by Venema above, was a catastrophic one in the Christian Reformed Church of North America, doctrinally speaking.  Most in the CRC were very conscious that cultural exclusivisim was wrong.  In fact, it was this very concern that motivated the editors of the Banner, a publication of the CRC, to issue one of its most controversial issues on November 3, 1980 which had a picture of wooden clogs burning; a clear promotion for the CRCNA to abandon its parochial, ethnic and cultural identity.  Unless one understands the particular ethos of the CRC, it’s difficult to communicate how momentous, and offensive, this picture was for CRC. Conscious that such a change was Biblically mandated, the CRC over the next thirty years would make a serious overhaul of her identity to be a more “embracing” church. The problem is what the CRC would also burn in the process—the whole denomination.  The project was a failure, and the CRC has followed in the trajectory of other liberal denominations that have chipped away all their particulars until nothing remains. In other words, the CRC failed to preserve those things that made her distinctively Reformed, and stuffed within the burning shoes were the very confessions that defined her, resulting in the complete loss of any Biblical and confessional identity. 

Understanding this history is crucial for anyone who has taken up membership in URCNA. The URC was birthed out of this struggle, and the majority of her members still have deep wounds over the long, protracted fight that occurred in the CRC. You can only imagine how difficult Venema’s statement is today for those who have already attempted the project, a project some thirty years in the making, only to see the particulars of the what they never dreamed could be compromised, go right down the drain.  It should be of no surprise, therefore, if many in the URC struggle to let go of the cultural identities that, alongside of biblical and confessional Reformed distinctives, also belong to the “rich inheritances of the past.”  Right or wrong, new comers who arrogantly attack these cultural distinctives are ignorant of just how willing many of their brothers and sisters were to burn their wooden shoes, only to see, once done, everything else so easily ripped away from them.  New ideas, new theological terms, along with attacks on Dutch dishes, and Dutch bingo, made by those who have no idea of the long history that lies behind the particular ethos, just isn’t going to fair well in the URC until some real time passes. 

Over the past few years, we have witnessed some real polarization in the URC.  There have been divides over issues such as two-kingdoms theology, Christian day school, how the covenant on Sinai relates to the covenant made with Abraham, covenant of works, law and gospel, and more.  These discussions are important to have and no one questions that serious doctrinal errors may result if these distinctions aren’t correctly understood and applied. It’s my contention, however, that these discussions are often driven by a greater problem, one primarily motivated by anger and fear.

In other words, I believe we could have many of these discussions in a much more unified and civil manner if they were not motivated by the deeper fear of what was outlined above. I can’t stress this point enough; there is a particular historical struggle that is not being appreciated in current theological exchange.  For instance, in his recent critique of David Van Drunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, Nelson Kloosterman writes the following:

Stated simply, given the history and identity of these URCs emerging from controversy within the CRCNA, with which I have been intimately involved, I judge the NL2K project to be an alien intruder that will eventually erode historic commitments and challenge significant sacrificial programs among us, especially in the areas of Christian day school education and Christian socio-political activity in the public square.

This, it seems to me, is the root issue for those of the tradition itself. Agree with Kloosterman’s assessment or not, these are for many--notice the language--"eroding historic committments".  Don't you hear in that statement an echo of fear and frustration in the face of another long protracted battle, correctly perceived or not, ready to start all over again? It's déjà vu. We have to be cognizant of this sentiment. Yes, it's obviously doctrinal and confessional committments that concern Kloosterman, but I wonder how our current theological discussion, which spans a broader period of Reformed development, might play out if that particular ethos and theological identity that many are fighting for now in the URC had not been so recently ransaked in the CRC? It's worth considering. New comers will have to be aware of this dynamic.

In the next part, we will look the particular dynamics in the URC that have led to the present struggle.  
My history: I was born, baptized, and raised in one of the oldest and largest of California’s CRC churches.  My father was of the German Reformed heritage, my mother of Church of Christ background. I was a product of both the CSI and public school systems as a youth, and attended a secular university in California for my undergrad. Upon graduating, I taught in the CA public school system, later to become the high school Bible teacher in a CSI Christian school. I attended Westminster Seminary in CA, and I now pastor the United Reformed Church of Lynden, WA. 

1.11.2011

REFORMED BIBLE COLLEGE LECTURE SERIES on JOHN--SIGN UP NOW!

I will be teaching a twelve week course on John's gospel at the Reformed Bible College in Canada starting this week.  Here is the info.  Would love to have you!







When: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Where: Aldergrove Canadian Reformed Church, 2469 267 St., Aldergrove
Duration: Twelve weeks
Subject: The Gospel of John
Cost: $ 150 for the whole series; students $ 100.
Registration and more information: www.rbcollege.com or contact H. Schouten
Speaker: Rev. Chris Gordon

About the Speaker

Rev. Christopher Gordon was ordained to the Ministry of the Word in October, 2004.   Rev. Gordon is a native of Central California, and prior to answering God's call into the ministry; he was a high school Bible teacher in the Central Valley of California.  Rev. Gordon, having a love for Reformed theology, pursued further theological studies and received his Master of Divinity degree from Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA, where he studied under such scholars as Drs. Michael Horton, and W. Robert Godfrey. He has been the pastor of the Lynden United Reformed Church since 2004 and is the host of Abounding Grace Radio, a daily Christian radio program airing throughout the Western WA and Vancouver B.C. 

Course Description

The course will consist of an exegetical study of the Fourth Gospel, focusing on John's important thematic and theological issues. Lectures will cover a wide range of issues including the structure, syntax, and cultural background in relation to the major theme of belief in Jesus Christ.  There will be careful analysis of individual texts and how they function in the narrative development of the whole gospel.  Special emphasis will be given to the contrasted themes of light and darkness, life and death, truth and falsehood, love and hate as they relate to the revelation of the person and the work of Jesus Christ.