Pastor John MacArthur’s recent sermon on Acts 2:42-47 takes up an issue near and dear to our own hearts: the ordinary Christian life and the ordinary church. You can find audio, video, and a transcript of the sermon here. We agree with him that the primary problem is American revivalism and the pervasive influence of Charles Finney.
Last week we inadvertently uploaded the Sept 14th audio rather than the podcast file for Sept 7th. So if this week’s program sound’s like a re-run, you need to go back and listen to the Sept 7th program, which you can access here. Sorry for the mixup!
Rather than trusting in God’s provision, the people of Israel “demanded the food they craved” as they wandered in the wilderness, This unbelieving generation cried out saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” (Ps. 78:19). On this program, Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, Justin Holcomb, and Steve Parks will discuss the sinful human tendency to question God’s promises rather than to rely on his fatherly kindness.
I’ve just returned from nearly 3 weeks in Australia, encouraged and enlightened. I went to Moore Theological College in Sydney to deliver the annual Moore Lectures, founded in 1977 with F. F. Bruce. My topic was “Lord and Giver of Life: A Theology of the Holy Spirit.” I added a week-long intensive course at Sydney’s Presbyterian seminary (Christ College), finishing up in Brisbane on Saturday (Queensland Theological College) and Sunday (preaching at Village Church).
Founded in 1856, Moore College is not only the premier Anglican seminary in Australia, but has long been a model and resource for evangelical Anglicans worldwide. As the website puts it, “The college has a strong tradition of conservative evangelical and Reformed theology with a strong emphasis on biblical languages, the use of primary sources and, critically, the importance of learning in community.” With 600 students, Moore continues to train all of the ministers in the Sydney diocese as well as many others. There aren’t many seminaries (much less Anglican dioceses) with an unbroken succession of evangelical ministry. Especially when compared with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and Canada, Sydney churches are thriving. And they’re planting churches locally in challenging mission-fields (including Muslim neighborhoods) as well as training ministers for Asia, India, and beyond.
I first became familiar with Moore as an outsider when I was doing my doctoral work in Oxford, England. You might recognize other Moore faculty from the recent past, such as Broughton Knox, Paul Barnett, Peter Jenson, Graeme Goldsworthy, and the recently retired but still (happily) active New Testament scholar, Peter O’Brien.
Today Moore College is led by Mark Thompson. Prof. Thompson has written a number of key articles and books on the theology of Luther and Calvin as well as critiques of contemporary challenges to classic views of Scripture and Christ’s saving work. Mark is also a key leader in the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the result of the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. GAFCON leaders called for the event because of “a false gospel” actively promoted in the Anglican Communion that “denies the uniqueness of Jesus Christ” and affirms homosexual practice “as a universal human right.” I met Mark in Oxford many moons ago (sharing Alister McGrath as a supervisor) and he was my host—with his wife Kathryn and four lovely girls for the two weeks in Sydney. Fellowship with faculty members and their family over dinner and morning tea with scholars like Peter O’Brien were additional privileges.
Over one afternoon, Glen Davies, Archbishop of Sydney, explained the work that the Lord is doing not only in Sydney but through “confessing Anglicans” globally. I also taught a week-long intensive course at Sydney’s Presbyterian seminary, Christ College.The course was “Reformed Ecclesiology in Changing Contexts,” with a full class of students, pastors, and—to my delight—faculty who were especially encouraging and informative. I also gave their annual Ferrie Lecture. The Presbyterian Church in Australia is composed of the 600 congregations (with 54,000 members) that refused to join the Uniting Church in 1977 and is engaged energetically in church planting and missions.
The trip concluded with a weekend at the Presbyterian seminary in Brisbane (Queensland Theological College) and preaching at Village Church. It was especially nice being hosted by a good friend from Oxford, Gary Millar, and his family. Gary is a superb Old Testament scholar and is actively engaged in missions. You may know him as a regular participant in The Gospel Coalition, both in the States and in Australia.
As Archbishop Davies pointed out, there are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in the Church of England and the Episcopal denominations of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand combined. The same can be said of Reformed and Presbyterian churches: with 8 million Nigerian members, compared to 367,000 members in the Presbyterian Church in America, the largest conservative Reformed denomination in the US.. Establishing closer ties with reformers in key centers of the Global South will be crucial for us at WHI especially as we seek to help brothers and sisters in the developing world to avoid catching North American viruses and to help them to know what they believe and why they believe it.
The hosts begin a new series exploring the feasting themes from Genesis to Revelation. After eating the forbidden fruit, humanity was cast into sin and death. As Scripture unfolds, we discover God’s gracious plan of redemption which culminates in the great feast at the end of the ages. We who were strangers and enemies of God are welcomed to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Join the hosts as they begin this new series on Divine Hospitality. Michael Horton and Kim Riddlebarger will be joined in discussion with special guests Justin Holcomb and Steve Parks.
Chad Van Dixhoorn
We need your help, dear readers, for a future issue of Modern Reformation magazine.
Have you made the switch from a broadly evangelical megachurch to a church in one of the Reformation traditions that does ministry…shall we say, slightly differently?
We’re particularly interested in hearing from people who were on staff at church A and now are working in some form or fashion at church B. We want to ask some questions about the differences, the similarities, and the challenges with making the switch.
Even if you weren’t on staff at the megachurch, but have recently made the switch yourself from megachurch to a Reformational church, we’d like to hear about your experience, too. What led to the switch, how have you adjusted, what do you miss, what have you gained?
Feel free to leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and, according to many, that number is likely to double over the next twenty years. How are we to reach this group with the gospel of Jesus Christ? What do we need to know in order to be effective in our witness toward Muslims? On this edition of White Horse Inn, Michael Horton discusses these questions with Fikret Böchek, who recounts his fascinating conversion from Islam and his current ministry among Muslims in Smyrna, Turkey.
White Horse Inn
Many project that by 2020, the majority of Brazil’s Christian Population will be Evangelical Protestant, ninety percent of whom come from charismatic or Pentecostal churches. But according to our guest on this program, there is a new interest in Reformation theology among Brazil’s Pentecostals. Michael Horton discusses this trend with Walter McAlister, who is the Bishop of what he refers to as a network of over two hundred “Reformed Pentecostal” churches. In the second half of the program, Michael Horton will be speaking with Herber Campos Jr. about the state of Brazilian Christianity.
White Horse Inn
The West is dying. The poet Archibald Leach once said, “An era dies when its symbols, although seen, no longer mean.” Do we believe what our fathers in the faith believed? Many will say yes. And of course, in one sense, they are right. The creeds, confessions, theologies, hymns, and liturgies, are repeated and taught. But faith is more than mental ascent. True faith requires courage. “Courage” comes from the root word which means “heart.” In other words, the life of faith must have its roots both in our hearts and minds together.
Many contend for a return to a stronger confession. According to them it is a reaffirmation of key doctrines that are lacking in our day. This is, no doubt true. We have become historically myopic, theologically obtuse, and biblically illiterate. But we have become blindsided by a foe, who in plain sight inspires no opposition or even consternation. Our society has become profoundly, tragically, and even fatally superficial. We have become a mass of consumers that skim malls, surf channels, and scan Twitter feeds. We have “news” blasted in any political or ideological flavor we prefer, 24/7. And it is in this chaotic and media saturated world of personal unrelenting choice, that our hearts and minds have been filled with pablam. We have become the consumers of the banal.
But the problem is not merely out there in the world. Christians themselves have essentially become consumers of religious products and services. We have privatized the Christian life. We walk it alone, choosing what to see, who to hear and what to believe. We hire pastors who become service providers in this increasingly media oriented faith milieu. Even in the modest venues of small local churches, there is little fidelity to a pastoral authority (a concept all but obliterated in a consumer culture, in which we no longer adhere to a covenant of fellowship). Our lives have almost nothing to do with what is said on Sunday. And even when we enter a church we hear superficial sermons in the increasingly prevalent culture of self-help, self-realization, and therapeutic deism (for more on this, see Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity). We worship the flag, which we place on our own platforms beside the cross and sing its hymn on the fourth of July, as “good Christians are meant to do” (something any Christian in the world, outside of the USA, finds incomprehensible). We mortgage our future and risk our fiduciary sanity in order to build a house a bit larger that has more walk-in space, and a deck. In short. We are lost.
We have no heart when it comes to faith. It does not inform our priorities, our work, our leisure, our consumption, or even our sexuality. In fact, it has almost nothing at all to do with they way we live. So we simply do church on Sunday, where we sit in a semi-comatose trance in order to hear another self-help message. On Monday, we will go about being as non-Christian as those who think that Evangelicals are just a bunch of bigots who don’t love homosexuals. It is no wonder that the kids are leaving the church in droves. Any statistician will tell you that the church is rushing towards bankruptcy. But our true loss is one of the heart. There is no doubt that there are great things happening in the Church. There are true believers and great pastors out there. However, there is even greater danger on the horizon.
It is never internal flaccidity that destroys the church. Its growing weakness only makes the Church ripe for conquest. More and more, we will have to take heart to be Christians in the face of real opposition that is getting more and more militant. What we need therefore is courage. It is time to weep and pray. It is time to realize that in our perceived wealth, our true poverty has been obfuscated. We are dying. By taking the Christian life and reducing it to a decision or profession of faith, we have lost the precious message of the pilgrimage. We no longer make disciples, instead we’ve become entertainers. Perhaps we need to become less multimedia and more personal. We must become less oriented to the celebrity and more relational in the community of the strong and weak alike. We must return to prayer, and to the renewing of our minds.
Can this happen? Yes it can. Will it happen? Short of a miracle, no. As has happened in the past, the religious status-quo will likely continue to sink into decay. The light will become increasingly dim. But Christ is faithful. I believe that he will revive, reform and revitalize his Church in his own good time. And we will once again find men of courage. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “We have reached a crossroads. If we turn to the right, our sons and the sons of our sons will follow. But, if we turn to the left, unborn generations will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to his Word.”
May God have mercy on us all.
Walter McAlister appears on the Aug 24th edition of the White Horse Inn (Reformation Brazil, Part 2). He has been a minister for 33 years and is the leader of a small fellowship of Reformed Pentecostal churches in Brazil, called The New Life Christian Church Covenant. Founding president of the seminary Instituto Bispo Roberto McAlister de Estudos Cristãos, and of the Anno Domini Publishing company, he is author of the 2011 Brazilian Christian Publisher’s book-of-the-year, The End of an Era (O Fim de Uma Era). Married to Marta, he resides in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With over 40,000 students, Mackenzie University in São Paulo is often referred to as “the Harvard of Brazil.” An institution of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Mackenzie had, like countless other schools, succumbed to theological liberalism. But in recent years something amazing has happened. The school has officially abandoned its liberalism and reaffirmed its belief in the inerrant Scriptures and the Westminster Confession. On this program, Michael Horton speaks with the leaders of this movement and of the opportunities for Reformation in the country of Brazil.
White Horse Inn