A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: Two Kingdoms in Luther

September 3, 2015 Leave a comment

theroadofgrace / 1 week ago

Read the first two posts here and here.

In the previous article, we discussed Augustine’s classic work City of God as a means of demonstrating how the Church interacts with the culture in the public sphere. Now, we will examine Martin Luther’s development of Augustine’s ideas.

Much of Luther’s public theology can be examined by interacting with Luther’s 1523 essay Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed. In this essay, Luther taught that the temporal authority (i.e. the civil state) exists by divine ordinance (cf. Genesis 4:14-15; 9:6), having existed since creation and having been confirmed by Moses, John the Baptist, and Christ Himself. Luther divided the human race into two groups, one belonging to the kingdom of God and the other belonging to the kingdom of the world. Luther argued that the citizens of the kingdom of God need neither law nor sword, whereas the citizens of the kingdom of this world need both. In light of this need, God has established two governments (one spiritual and one temporal). The spiritual government is for the Holy Spirit to produce righteous Christians under Christ’s rule, and the purpose of the temporal government is for restraining the wicked and non-believers by the sword.

Kingdom vs. Government

It’s important to note here that Luther introduces an important distinction between kingdom and government. The two kingdoms are mutually exclusive (reminiscent of Augustine’s Two Cities), but the two governments are not mutually exclusive. As Luther articulates the idea of the two governments that rule these two kingdoms, Luther makes clear that the temporal authority, which executes the legal and coercive government of the earthly kingdom, brings Christians and non-Christians under its sway. In Luther’s thought, we have a supplement to Augustine’s doctrine of the Two Cities, which David VanDrunen describes this way:

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Charles Spurgeon’s Letters-Letter 28

September 3, 2015 Leave a comment

CAMBRIDGE, —, 1853.

MY DEAR AUNT, —

Can you kindly inform me whether Mr. James Spurgeon, Junr., of the parish of Stambourne, Essex, is yet alive? I have written two letters to the said gentleman, and, as he was a particular friend of mine, I begin to feel somewhat anxious seeing that I have had no reply. If you should find, among the papers he has left, any letter directed to me, I shall feel obliged by your forwarding the same.

When I was last at his house, he was extremely kind to me, and I flattered myself that, if I should ever have occasion to ask a favor, I should not be refused; or, if denied, it would be in so kind a manner that it would not look’ like neglect. If he is alive, and not gone beyond the seas, please to give him my kind love the first time you meet him, and tell him I suppose he must have gout in his hands, so that he cannot write. Should it turn out that it is so, keep all wines and spirits from him, as they are bad things for gouty folk; and be so good as to foment his hands with warm water boiled with the heads of poppies. By this treatment, the swelling will subside; and, as soon as he is able, if you find him at all tractable, put a pen in his hand, and make him write his name, and post it to me, so that I may be sure he is alive. Ah, ‘tis a sad thing people will get gouty!

But perhaps he is gone. Well, poor fellow, he was not the worst that ever lived; I felt sorry to part from him the last time, and, as the Irishman said, I hoped he would, at any rate, have let me know that he was dead. I thought you were the most likely person to know him, as I have seen you at his house several times when I have been there. I trust you will just send me a line to let me know how the poor fellow is, if alive at all.

With best love to you and the little ones,
I am,
Yours truly,

CHARLES H. SPURGEON.

The Legitimacy and Use of Confessions of Faith

September 2, 2015 Leave a comment

by Dr. Robert Paul Martin

The year 1989 marked the 300th anniversary of the publication of the Second London Confession (also known as The Assembly Confession or The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689). Although written and published anonymously in 1677, after the ascension of William and Mary to the throne of England and after the Act of Toleration, the Particular Baptists of England met in open assembly, signed their names to the Confession, and republished it for the consideration of the Christian public. The Savoy Declaration published by the Independents in 1658 (behind which stood the Westminster Confession of 1647) was used as the basic framework of the Second London Confession, albeit with modifications. Some of these modifications were the work of those who drew up the Confession; others were adopted from the First London Baptist Confession of 1644. The purpose for this method was to show, wherever possible, the continuity of faith which existed between the Particular Baptists and their other reformed brethren in Great Britain. Today Reformed Baptists hold the Second London Confession in high esteem and many of the churches continue to regard it as their official statement of faith.

The enthusiasm, however, which many have for the great reformed confessions is not shared by everyone. Sadly we live in a non-creedal, even an anti-creedal, age marked by existential relativism, anti-authoritarianism, and historical isolationism. Many professing Christians regard creeds and confessions of faith as man-made traditions, the precepts of men, mere religious opinions. Speaking of his day, Horatius Bonar said, “Every new utterance of scepticism, especially on religious subjects, and by so-called ‘religious’ men is cheered as another howl of that storm that is to send all creeds to the bottom of the sea; the flowing or receding tide is watched, not for the appearance of truth above the waters, but for the submergence of dogma. To any book or doctrine or creed that leaves men at liberty to worship what god they please, there is no objection; but to anything that would fix their relationship to God/ that would infer their responsibility for their faith, that would imply that God has made an authoritative announcement as to what they are to believe, they object, with protestations in the name of injured liberty.”1

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

“A Comparison of Systems”

September 2, 2015 Leave a comment

by A. A. Hodge (1823-1886)

1. What, in general, was the state of theological thought during the first three centuries?

During the first three hundred years which elapsed after the death of the apostle John the speculative minds of the church were principally engaged in defending the truth of Christianity against unbelievers — in combating the Gnostic heresies generated by the leaven of Oriental philosophy — and in settling definitely the questions which were evolved in the controversies concerning the Persons of the Trinity. It does not appear that any definite and consistent statements were made in that age, as to the origin, nature, and consequences of human sin; nor as to the nature and effects of divine grace; nor of the nature of the redemptive work of Christ, or of the method of its application by the Holy Spirit, or of its appropriation by faith. As a general fact it may be stated, that, as a result of the great influence of Origen, the Fathers of the Greek Church pretty unanimously settled down upon a loose Semi-Pelagianism, denying the guilt of original sin, and maintaining the ability of the sinner to predispose himself for, and to cooperate with divine grace. And this has continued the character of the Greek Anthropology to the present day. The same attributes characterized the speculations of the earliest writers of the Western Church also, but during the third and fourth centuries there appeared a marked tendency among the Latin Fathers to those more correct views afterwards triumphantly vindicated by the great Augustine. This tendency may be traced most clearly in the writings of Tertullian of Carthage, who died circum. 220, and Hilary of Poitiers (368) and Ambrose of Milan (397).

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Poll: SBC pastors have ‘mix of beliefs’ about Calvinism

September 2, 2015 1 comment

My comment: Is it any wonder that the SBC has fallen on hard times and is having to cut missionaries. A good majority of the SBC has traded the theology of God for the theology of man.

LifeWay Research presented a slate of statements about Calvinism to a randomly selected sample of senior pastors in the SBC to gauge their theological inclination and whether they are concerned about the impact of Calvinism in the convention.

Sixty-six percent of pastors surveyed do not consider their church a Reformed-theology congregation, while 30 percent agreed (somewhat or strongly) with the statement “my church is theologically Reformed or Calvinist.” Four percent did not know.

By the same token, 64 percent of SBC pastors also disagreed (15 percent somewhat; 49 percent strongly) that “my church is theologically Arminian or Wesleyan.” Thirty percent of respondents classified their church as Arminian or Wesleyan, with 6 percent selecting “don’t know.”

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Southern Baptist Agency to Cut Missionary Force by 600

September 2, 2015 Leave a comment

The Southern Baptist Convention’s international mission agency will cut its overseas force by as many as 600 missionaries in 2010.

Due to a severe budget shortfall, the International Mission Board decided to reduce the number of missionaries it has on the field, with the process already starting this year. The board will not bring home missionaries already serving on the field, but the reduction instead will result from natural attrition.

“We are simply not going to be sending as many new missionaries,” explained Wendy Norvelle, IMB spokesperson, to The Christian Post on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

The Wednesday Word: 12 Marks of the Grace Believer!

September 2, 2015 1 comment

1. Grace Believers trust that they are saved entirely and utterly by someone else, the Lord Jesus Christ. They believe that their sole qualification for salvation is found, not in their worthiness, but in their unworthiness. The Grace Believer sees Christ as his complete acceptance before God (Philippians 3:4-9). The Grace Believer holds that Christ alone is his saviour. He believes, like the faithful of other generations that,“There is no Priest but Christ, no Sacrifice but Calvary, no Confessional but the Throne of Grace and no Authority but the Word of God.”

2. Grace Believers understand, along with the greats of the past, that to know Christ and Him crucified is not the minimum of spiritual knowledge but the maximum. The Grace believer knows that all doctrines find their hub in Christ Crucified. All doctrines indeed lead to and from the Christ of the cross. All teaching, responsibilities, and Christian activities find their centre in Christ Crucified. In Christ alone, the Grace Believer discovers the treasures of wisdom, knowledge and spiritual understanding (Isaiah 45:3; Colossians 2:3).

3. Grace Believers, as they grow in grace, rather than become self-satisfied and hard spirited, continue to develop in their understanding of their lack of worth. As the gospel-hammer breaks them, they increase in the comprehension that they receive favour, not because of themselves, but because of being in Christ! They understand that Christ’s worthiness is the source of all their blessings (1 Corinthians 4:7).

4.Grace Believers know that they have the full favour of God, not because of any works they have done or are doing. They have the full favour of God because of Christ alone. By faith, they grasp that the Father is well pleased with them and indeed rejoices over them. (Zephaniah 3:17) Indeed, the Father cannot be more delighted with His people than he already is. Grace Believers know they are not accepted by having their own righteousness which comes by fulfilling rules and regulations. They are in Christ and have Christ’s entire righteousness credited and reckoned to them (see Philippians 3:9).

5. As they grow in grace, Grace Believers refuse to make resolutions, vows and pledges to enable them to serve God in a fuller way. Grace Believers put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

6. Grace Believers are not so foolish as to try self-improvement techniques. Instead, they focus on Christ and his glory. They know that change comes from looking outside themselves to the glorious person of Christ. They rejoice in 2 Corinthians 3:18; “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”.

7. Grace Believers are confident of God’s past, present and future grace, yet they refuse to make a practice of abusing that grace. Grace, not Law teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Grace, not law, teaches them to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:11-12).

8. Grace Believers are learning to not get permanently discouraged with their performance. Instead, they are learning to focus on Christ and His performance on their behalf. One of the Grace Believer’s theme songs could be;

“It is finished!” yes, indeed,

Finished, every jot;
Believer, this is all you need,
Tell me, is it not?
Till to Jesus’ work we cling

By a simple faith,
“Doing” is a deadly thing—
“Doing” ends in death.
I’ll cast my deadly “doing” down—

Down at Jesus’ feet;
I stand in Him, in Him alone,
Gloriously complete.

9. The Grace Believer is so reduced by the sight of himself as a wretch … a sight graciously granted by the Holy Spirit in a non-condemning manner … that he soon discovers he has no room to practice arrogance and pride.

10. The Grace Believer holds that devotion to God arises, not from an obligation to repay God. On the contrary, the Grace Believer knows that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Devotion to God comes through the gospel.

11. The Grace Believer does not believe that blessings come as the result of our acts of consecration to God. That is to reverse God’s order. That is to teach law and not gospel. The Legalist makes man’s blessing depend on his personal dedication and devotion. Also, the legalist insists that the more we consecrate ourselves to God the greater will flow the blessing. According to his scheme, we move the hand of God by our works. To think like this, however, is to remove ourselves from the enjoyments of gospel blessings. This is to cease to look to Christ alone as our only acceptance before God.

12. The Grace Believer knows that grace has not made us a debtor to God. The Grace Believer does not try to repay the debt of grace he feels he owes. The Grace Believer holds that God, in giving His grace, did not put us into any contract with accompanying clauses and conditions. It is grace that saves and grace alone. It is faith alone which receives that which Grace alone in the person of Christ alone has accomplished. The Grace Believer does not serve God because he feels he owes God something. Rather, he serves God because He loves God and he loves God because God first loved Him.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

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