“Our Plaine Confession”

May 4, 2013

“…this is our plaine confession, which we simply and boldly do affirme, that Rom. 8., this is a stable and immutable foundation, “The Lord knoweth his own, that no creature is able to seperat his Elect frome his love, which in Christ Jesus he beareth to them.’”
John Knox, Works, 5:256

Lots of very helpful material in Knox. Nearly finished a chapter on him for a forthcoming volume on Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland.

Thomas Chalmers

April 3, 2013

Thomas ChalmersMy friend Andy Murray (who fed me many times in my student days!) has posted an article of mine on Thomas Chalmers on his blog “Ragged Theology“. To visit the post go here:

The Life & Times of Thomas Chalmers

Andy’s blog is well worth reading on a regular basis.

John Murray on the Free Offer Again…

March 28, 2013

Here is a nugget from one of John Murray’s reviews:

It should be distinctly understood that the doctrine of universal atonement is not indispensable to, nor an inference to be drawn from, the free and full offer of the gospel to all. The Reformed doctrine of limited atonement stresses emphatically the universal offer of the gospel and the will of God to the salvation of all referred to in such a passage as Ezekiel 33:11. [However] The will of God expressed in the free offer must be distinguished from his decretive will.
John Murray, Collected Writings, 4:296

Is the Westminster Confession “scholastic”?

February 27, 2013

To follow in the footsteps of the Reformed orthodox, “we distinguish”! Here is Richard Muller on the issue of “scholasticism” and the Westminster Confession:

… the Westminster Confession, although produced in an era of scholastic doctrine, does not itself follow the method. As the theologians of the day would have noted, a confession is not “scholastic”; rather, it is positive or declarative and belongs to a genre parallel to that of a catechism … it is doubtless true that the architectonic vision and patters of definition found in the Westminster Assembly’s confession and catechisms reflect the concerns for clarity, precise definition , and logically presented argument characteristic of a mind trained in scholastic forms, but the documents themselves are not strictly “scholastic”.
Richard Muller, After Calvin, 27

Johannes Wollebius – Statements on Scripture

February 15, 2013

In a context where the evangelical doctrine of Scripture is being “rethought” in various places it is good to be reminded of the historic teachings of the Reformed churches on Scripture.  Here are some extracts from the great Reformed theologian Johannes Wollebius (all from Beardslee’s Reformed Dogmatics):

  • We … acknowledge no other basis for theology than the written word of God.
  • That the Holy Scripture is of divine origin and authority is a doctrine held without question among all Christians
  • Therefore, it is improper for a Christian to question whether Scripture, the Holy Bible, is the word of God. Just as in the schools there is no debate against anyone who denies postulates, so we ought to regard it as improper for anyone to be heard who denies the basis of the Christian religion.
  • The witness [to the divine quality of Scripture] is twofold … The primary witness is that of the Holy Spirit, both externally, in the Scripture itselt, and internally, speaking in the heart and mind of a believing person … The subordinate witness is that of the church.

May God’s word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path!

The Viva is Over … The PhD has been Awarded!

February 8, 2013

On Tuesday this week I was in Lampeter at the University of Wales Trinity St David. I was there to have my viva where I had to defend my dissertation “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to  The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”.  The outcome was the award of the PhD with no changes to the dissertation other than the  correction of typos- the end of 6 years hard study and writing! Soli Deo gloria!

The viva itself was a good experience.  I had been well prepared by my supervisor (Dr. Gwyn Davies) but he constantly emphasized you can never tell where the challenges are going to come from! In the event questions focused on:

  • How did the 17th C Reformed theologians make the case that a well meant gospel offer was consistent with a particularist soteriology?
  • Did they really in practice preach a well-meant gospel offer?
  • Why did I chose the three later controversies over the free offer that I did as evidence of “ongoing” disputes over the free offer? (I looked at the Marrow Controversy, the credal revision controversy in America leading up to the 1903 revisions to the Westminster Confession and the disputes over the “three points of common grace” in the Christian Reformed Church.)
  • Was James Durham’s theology sufficiently Trinitarian? Was it as Trinitarian as I claimed?
  • Had I given enough time to, and treated fairly enough, those who deny the Reformed tradition has held to a well-meant gospel offer?
  • What are the implications of a well-meant gospel offer for the doctrine of God?

But overall the conclusion of the viva was that the dissertation made its case in a convincing manner and was therefore passed. The external examiner was Rev. Professor Andrew McGowan and the internal examiner was Professor Densil Morgan. Thanks are due to both men for their challenges to, and engagement with the dissertation, but most especially to Professor McGowan as the expert in the area.

Well, now that the PhD is over … I have some articles I can finally get round to writing :-)

Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal 2013

January 24, 2013

Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal, vol.3, 2013

Continuing the trend of only posting about new journals it is good to see that the 2013 Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal is now available.

The table of contents is below.  My copy is now in the post!

‘John Knox and the Destruction of the Perth Friaries in May 1559′
Douglas Somerset

‘The Covenanters, Unity in Religion, and Uniformity of Church Government in the 1640s: Presbytery by Coercion or Co-operation?
Jeffrey Stephen

‘The Scots Church in Rotterdam – a Church for Seventeenth Century Migrants and Exiles. Part I’
Robert J. Dickie

‘Alexander Shields, the Revolution Settlement and the Unity of the Visible Church. Part II’
Matthew Vogan

‘The Attitude of James Begg and The Watchword Magazine to the 1872 Education Act’
Andrew R. Middleton

‘The Witness of the Kames Free Presbyterian Church, Argyllshire’
Norman Campbell

‘Movements in the Main-Line Presbyterian Churches in Scotland in the Twentieth Century’
John W. Keddie

‘The Sabbath Protest at Strome Ferry in 1883′
Norman Campbell

Confessional Presbyterian Journal 2012

December 31, 2012

The Confessional Presbyterian Journal volume 8 (2012)

The 2012 Confessional Presbyterian Journal has now been published. This is an excellent journal full of good quality Reformed material.  The emphasis this year is on the legacy of Princeton Seminary – 2012 being the 200th anniversary of the founding of the seminary.

The usual features of the CPJ are all here again.  However, there is also the very welcome addition of a new section – “Views in Review”. This section hosts exchanges on contemporary debates in the Reformed community, this time focusing on the “distinctive” views being taught by Westminster Seminar California. Of particular note here, I think , Is Dr Venema’s reply to Dr Fesko. Very worth while reading.

2012 – The Year in Retrospect

December 27, 2012

The plans for 2012 were outlined in this post. It is always sobering to look back and see how little of what is planned actually gets done! So here are the aims for 2012 with updates:

1) Finish the PhD … before the summer… without using up another family holiday :-)

Update: Not quite … but dissertation was submitted early October with viva scheduled for February 5th.

2) Deliver a lecture on “James Durham and the Free Offer of the Gospel” for the Scottish Reformation Society in Stornoway in February.

Update: Done. Audio from a very similar paper given in Inverness four years ago is available here. (Audio quality is not great.)

3) Present a paper on the Protestor/Resolutioner controversy at the Ecclesiastical History Society postgraduate colloquium in February.

Update: Done.

4) Work on said paper for publication in a journal: “Protests, Resolutions and the Piggy in the Middle: James Durham (1622-1685) and Schism in the Kirk”.

Update: Still a work in progress … hopefully next year, DV. The protestor/resolution controversy is full of lessons for the Reformed church of today … but untangling the history is very complicated.

5) Work on an article “Obadiah Sedgwick – A Study of his Soteriology and Federal Theology”.

Update: Nearly there … but that was also the case 9 months ago…

6) Possibly, time permitting, work on an article “Missing, Presumed Misclassified: Hugh Binning the ‘lost’ Federal Theologian”.

Update: This became a paper at the WEST research conference.  I will hopefully submit an article based on this for publication in early 2013.

7) Start another exciting (to me) project that I can’t say more about at the moment, but hopefully can shortly

Update: Time got the better of me due to finishing off the PhD so, alas, this never happened.

“A Puritan Theology” on the Well Meant Offer

November 19, 2012

Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life   -             By: Joel Beeke, Mark Jones    Joel Beeke and Mark Jones have recently produced an exceptional work A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. I hope to offer reflections on a number of the chapters in due course but here is an extract from the chapter “The Puritans on Coming to Christ” which touches on the free offer of the gospel:

“The Canons of Dort explain the international Puritan and Reformed perspective [on the gospel call] well in head 3-4, articles 8-9 … The Canons make plain that there is no insufficiency in God’s willingness to save sinners. The invitation does not lie or decieve; it is a true, rich, full, free invitation. The gospel is a well-meant offer. Christ has declared Himself ready and willing to receive all who to come to Him and to save them … The call is based on the condition of faith, but it is a true invitation … Judgement day will confirm this truth. No one will stand before God on the last day and say … “I received the invitation, but I did not think it was sincere.” The call to come to Christ is a well-meant offer of salvation addressed to every human being.”

Amen!


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