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.”


Reformation Studies Colloquium 2012

September 8, 2012

So, this was the week of the “Reformation Studies Colloquium” in Durham. I’ve seldom been to a better organised and catered conference! It was good to meet new people and to spend time with people interested in the history of the long Reformation – the bulk of whom come from a very different perspective to my own.

My own paper was entitled “Betraying the Reformation? John Knox’s Doctrine of Predestination in the Hands of the Seventeenth Century Federalists”. It was generally well received. Hopefully I’ll expand on the paper and turn it into an article for publication – but we shall see! The core of the paper was relatively uncontroversial in this setting, namely that the Torrance/Bell “Knox against the Knoxians” thesis is, well, wrong. Perhaps more interestingly in the secondary literature there is also a strong “Knox against Knox” stream of thought which argues that the thoughts Knox expresses in An Answer to a Great Number of Blasphemous Cavillations Written by an Anabaptist, and Adversary to God’s Eternal Predestination (1560) are not true to the teachings of his other writings . Needless to say I was arguing against that!

I’m also now four weeks away from submitting my doctoral dissertation with the viva tentatively scheduled for December. So a few weeks of frantically checking and rechecking footnote references lie ahead!

Assurance – Ryken on Boston

August 29, 2012

Product: Thomas Boston As Preacher Of The Fourfold State Image[M. Charles] Bell has not been alone in arguing that the later Calvinists ‘turned [man] back on himself to examine himself,’ replacing Calvin’s Christological basis for faith and assurance with a ‘subjective base intra nos in our own sanctification, and thus one lost the possibility of certainty.’ But this is to misunderstand both Calvin and later Reformed theologians, for whom assurance is based on divine activity – within as well as without the soul – and not simply on human initiative. The work of Christ inside us (intra nos) is capable of providing subordinate certainty just because it is the fruit of the work of Christ outside us (extra nos).
Philip Ryken, Thomas Boston as a Preacher of the Fourfold State, 176

Well said Dr Ryken! As an aside Thomas Boston as a Preacher of the Fourfold State is a pleasure to read.  It is very well written for a dissertation and provides a sound guide to one of the most important theologians of the Reformed tradition in Scotland .

It is available for a very reasonable £10 at Authentic Media.

Rutherford vs Hoeksema – “The Preached Covenant”

July 9, 2012

One of the many helpful chapters in Samuel Rutherford – An Introduction to his Theology is Sherman Isbell’s “Samuel Rutherford and the Preached Covenant”.  In this chapter Isbell accurately sets out Rutherford’s covenant thought (against the background of earlier covenant theology) and in drawing contemporary application sets him is sharp contrast to Herman Hoeksema. I don’t have time to go through the chapter in detail on the blog (maybe one day!) or set out Isbell’s arguments but I will quote his conclusion that:

“Hoeksema’s variance with the Westminster standards may be seen on many points of doctrine. But more that disagreement on a number of individual points, there is a systemic contrast. His opposition to the free offer is not incidental to his theology, but is integral to his wide-ranging reconstruction of covenant theology.”

Supporters of Hoeksema need to recognise that he is not a faithful representative of the system of Reformed though contained in the Westminster Standards.

New Book on Samuel Rutherford’s Theology

June 23, 2012

An exciting new volume has been published by the Scottish Reformation Society on the theology of Samuel Rutherford (“Samuel Rutherford: An Introduction to his Theology”).

The volume is edited by Matthew Vogan and includes a good variety of essays by recognised Rutherford scholars.  It is well worth a look.

A table of contents is available on the preview link here.

HT: The Holdfast

Manton on why the Gospel is Offered to All

February 16, 2012

Thomas Manton considers why the gospel offer and exhortations come to all rather than just the elect.

He notes that it could be said that “This is only for the elects sake, who certainly ‘are the called according to purpose,’ Rom. viii. 28; whereas others are called obiter, ‘by the by,’ and as they live and are intermingled with them … they [the elect] are hidden amongst others, and therefore the reprobate have the like favour in external means with them. The world standeth for the elects sake, yet the sun doth not shine upon them alone…”  However, Manton goes on to say that  “This might be answer enough; but that which I rather say is, that these exhortations have their use; for they carry their own blessing with them … As for others that are not converted by them, it is for their conviction, and to bridle their fierceness, and a means to civilise them, and keep them from growing worse, whereby many temporal blessing do accrue to them…”

I think there is biblical wisdom in Manton’s approach.

Journals, Journals, Journals!

January 17, 2012

One encouraging sign in the reformed world is the continued publication of a number of thoughtful journals.  To highlight some recent publications:

Mid-America Journal of TheologyMAJT Volume 22

Volume 22 (2011) recently arrived.  This journal is always helpful, as any publication with regular contributions from Cornelis Venema and Mark Beach is likely to be.  Two particular articles to highlight.

“In This Way All Israel Will Be Saved”: A Study of Romans 11:26 by Cornelis P. Venema.  Worth a careful read in entirety the article concludes that Paul taught “the future ingathering and conversion of the people of Israel.”

Calvin’s Treatment of the Offer of the Gospel and Divine Grace by J. Mark Beach.  This is a helpful article concluding that “Calvin is not squeamish about using offer language … in addressing the matter of the offer of the gospel to sinners, thus to elect and non-elect alike, Calvin does not refrain from talk of divine mercy, fatherly favour, paternal love, maternal kindness, goodness, and grace directed towards all people.”


The Confessional Presbyterian JournalThe Confessional Presbyterian Journal volume 7 (2011)

In its seventh year the CPJ continues to impress with the three articles of most interest to me being:

“Holy Communion in the Theology of John Knox” by Glen J. Clary

“John Knox and the Reformation by the Rev. Dr. James Begg” by Iain Wright,

“The Early Reformation in Scotland” by W. Duncan Rankin.

The reviews section is also always interesting.


Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal
Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal vol.2

Volume 2 of this journal is now available.

As I haven’t read the journal (it is in the post) I cant comment on the highlights but the contents look interesting and cover a wide range of aspects of Scottish Church History.