White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

A New Site

Welcome to the new White Horse Inn website. We’ve created this site to make our resources easier to find and easier to use. Thousands of people from over ninety countries regularly visit White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation. We hope this reconfigured site makes it easier for you to find the tools to help you “know what you believe and why you believe it.”

Where should you start? Our First Time Visitors tab has a number of streaming WHI shows and articles that will get you up to speed. Our FAQ tab can answer some of your basic questions. But feel free to drop us a line if you need to know something more specific.

Whether  you’re a long-time friend of the Inn or a newcomer, we’d also invite you to consider donating to the cause. Although the economy is making things difficult for a number of nonprofits these days, we’re happy to report that our supporters are behind the mission of White Horse Inn and we’re poised for growth (this new facelift to our website is just the first of many improvements in the works). Your donation to White Horse Inn won’t just keep our lights on, it will help spread the message of the Reformation–a message we think is necessary for the church to recover her witness and work in this in-between age.

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Interview with Simonetta Carr

41a2oi3u65l_sl150_Modern Reformation recently sat down with Simonetta Carr, the author of John Calvin (published by Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), and asked a few questions about her work and the philosophy behind children’s literature.

Why is it important for our children to read Christian biography?

There are several reasons. I was motivated to write this biographical series for young readers when I realized that most children today are not aware of the concept of “church history” as the progress of God’s people throughout the ages. They read Bible stories, they see other believers today, and they read a few stories about a few individual Christians who lived in between, but the connecting thread seems to be missing.

With these books, I don’t want to tell children, “Look how wonderful these people were! Let’s all be like them.” There are other biographies that do that. I want to explain how some Christians have impacted history – secular and non-secular – and how their teachings affect what we believe today. I am also hoping to introduce children to the real characters, with all the struggles and the intensity of emotions that have accompanied their decisions.

How should parents use this series and your book?

Some parents have read the book to their children in one sitting, and others have used it as a study guide, one chapter at a time, and both of these approaches seem to work well. My hope is that these books will be readily available to our young people, who can then read and re-read them on their own, and that they will spark an interest which parents will be able to encourage with additional material. As I read with my children devotional books based on quotations by John Calvin, I notice that their level of interest is much higher now that they understand how God shaped Calvin’s life and moved him to write what he wrote.

For homeschooling families, these books can provide a basis for unit studies. Currently, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is using the book on John Calvin to formulate a series of lessons that will be used within their clubs.

Why does the story of John Calvin resonate with young readers?

I passed this question on to my own children, and they said that they were impressed to see how Calvin kept faithful, in spite of great difficulties and opposition, to the truth and to God’s calling in his life.

What is the most important point you want children to take away from the life of John Calvin?

His humanity. Calvin never tried to set himself up as a Protestant Pope, as some critics accuse him to have done. His actions and his writings were conscientiously motivated by a compelling love for God’s truth as it is revealed in Scriptures and for Christ’s church.

What is your next writing project?

I have completed a book on Augustine of Hippo, which is presently being reviewed by experts in the subject, and will be published, God willing, in December 2009. I am also beginning research on John Owen for a book scheduled to be published in December 2010.

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The Limits of the Law

One of our favorite radio programs around here – other than White Horse Inn of course – is This American Life. Rarely does a week go by without the program taking up some theme that makes us pause and reconsider some great truth about Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.

The May 1, 2009 broadcast (available on the show’s archives page at thisamericanlife.org) begins with a story of one Florida judge’s attempt to instill shame in young convicts who have been caught stealing from local stores. The law-breakers must wear a sign indicating their crime (“I stole from this store”) and parade themselves in front of the store so that everyone who drives by can observe their humiliation.

The show’s producer asks the court minder what the percentage is of those who have been sentenced to this shame who eventually commit another crime. Although statistics aren’t available, the lady says she can see it in someone’s eyes. And so the stage is set to determine what course the young woman wearing the sign that day will do: she is unapologetic, the sentence has done nothing to dissuade her from crime, and she will definitely steal again, she says.

The law, even in the hands of an imaginative Florida judge, cannot create righteousness, nor as he found out after hearing this episode of This American Life can it always prevent sin. All the law can do is create a reluctance to sin again (because of fear of consequences) or shame over sin (because one has been exposed) or begrudging acceptance of a power that constrains our behavior.

Righteousness can’t be created out of whole cloth; it can only be given to those who do not deserve it, don’t expect it, and wouldn’t accept it unless they had been transformed by the new birth. Sadly, the church (in it’s effort to replicate a form of godliness without the power thereof, otherwise known as Christless Christianity) has settled for morality instead of the gospel. We are happy if people are reluctant to sin. We are still happier if they feel shame over their sin. We are living off of a fading power to constrain behavior, a power that has already disappeared in some sectors of society.

The health and eventual success of the church depends not on regaining this power of constraint, nor even of moral influence. It depends solely on our ability (or is it willingness?) to proclaim again the gospel of a righteousness that comes to us while we were yet sinners. Anything more or less is a corruption of the gospel.

Eric Landry
Executive Editor, Modern Reformation

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Rent Asunder and Distressed

The familiar lines of Samuel Stone’s hymn The Church’s One Foundation have doubtlessly been in the minds of all those who long to see a unified Reformed witness–particularly in these days of celebration around the five hundredth anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. Such hopes seem to have been revived among evangelicals in the Church of Scotland recently. News from the Kirk is that evangelicals are considering whether or not they can convince the Free Church to give up exclusive psalmody in an effort to open the doors to potentially hundreds of ministers and churches after the Church’s approval over the weekend to the transfer of a gay minister to a new church.

Why must every effort at reunion require one or more of the merging partners to lose their unique characteristics? Is there a way for the evangelicals in the Church of Scotland to have formal communion with the Free Church without the Free Church giving up their long history of and principled stand on exclusive psalmody?

In 2005 Modern Reformation was proud to feature an article by W. Robert Godfrey titled A Reformed Dream. In the article Godfrey envisions a day when each current denomination is distinguished by its practices or ethnic heritage into Synods while at the same time gathered together into a worldwide general assembly according to its common confession of faith. For more on Godfrey’s vision see http://tiny.cc/MR80

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The Last Gasp of Civil Religion

On the May 16, 2009, episode of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor ended his The News from Lake Woebegone with a group sing of It is Well With My Soul. The entire episode is vintage Keillor: what happens when a lapsed Baptist from Georgia wants to walk the aisle at the Lutheran church?!

As I listened to the broadcast, I was struck by the audience’s willingness to sing the hymn and their familiarity with it. Granted, the show was being recorded in Georgia, but for how much longer will an audience at a public event be willing and able to sing a Christian hymn?

While a decent percentage of that audience may have had Christian convictions or backgrounds, I also wondered about those who, undoubtedly, did not have such convictions: were they (like other public choirs) just enjoying the sounds of many voices melded together in music regardless of the words they sang? Did they respond in any way to the hymn they sang?

Civil religion can be an enjoyable thing when it props up your own beliefs, but there is a significant danger, too: not having been confronted with the claims of Jesus and the demands of the Law, an individual can salve his own conscience with the singing of a hymn. Having done his religious duty or achieved some sort of religious feeling, the heart is ultimately hardened. Christian emotion divorced from Christ-centered preaching, the church, and the sacraments is no better than the hearty singing of a patriotic anthem.

http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2009/05/16/

Eric Landry
Executive Editor, Modern Reformation

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The High Places of Power and Privilege

The changes are dramatic and telling: Christians used to occupy the top jobs in government and universities, they made up the professional class, and were blessed with wealth they used strategically. But over the last one hundred years, and especially in the last generation, the Christian population of the Middle East is declining, both in numbers and influence.

Mideasts Christians Declining in Influence (an article in the May 13, 2009, edition of The New York Times) provides an interesting counterpoint to our own society in which Christians have held places of privilege, but now feel themselves shut out and disenfranchised because of their beliefs. A throw-away line in the middle of the article provides a significant point of comparison between the situation of believers in America and in the Middle East: In America, secularism is often blamed as the reason for the loss of power and prestige. In the Middle East, the article claims, secularism is the only hope for a Christian future in the region.

The challenge for Christians in any age or location is to live as pilgrims, strangers, and exiles with feet planted firmly both in the kingdoms of the world and in the kingdom of God. Our hope isnt in nationalism (either of the American or Middle Eastern kind) or influence peddling. Instead, our confidence is that no matter in what circumstances we live, the Lord still expands his kingdom through the worship and witness of the church.

Despite our circumstances of ease and affluence or persecution and want, all Christians live under the cross in this present age. And whether we are lauded or hounded, we must constantly endeavor to resist conformation to this world (Rom 12:2). Failing to engage our culture with transformed minds that discern the will of God means that we will too-often mistake social success for divine effectiveness or social ostracism for divine disfavor. Can we have confidence in our calling even if the kingdom of man fails to give us the keys to the city?

Fixing our hope on the kingdom that cannot be shaken gives us confidence no matter what the situation is around us. May God sustain the community of Christ in the Middle East. And may God rescue the church in America from doomsday prophets and smiling preachers, both of whom confuse the kingdoms, confuse the sheep, and distract us from our high calling.

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They Need a Choice

Michael Gerson, in today’s Washington Post, reviews the current project of sociologists, Robert Putnam and David Campbell, “American Grace: How Religion Is Reshaping Our Civic and Political Lives.” In their new book, Putnam and Campbell examine the religious commitments of the newly popular “nones,” or those Americans (predominantly youngish) who do not claim adherence to any established religion.

Gerson writes:

“But Putnam regards the growth of the “nones” as a spike, not a permanent trend. The young, in general, are not committed secularists. “They are not in church, but they might be if a church weren’t like the religious right. . . . There are almost certain to be religious entrepreneurs to fill that niche with a moderate evangelical religion, without political overtones.””

What does “moderate evangelical religion” sound like? In Gersom’s opinion, it would be marked by “grace, hope and reconciliation…a message of compassion and healing….”

While the message of the cross will always be foolishness and a scandal to some, those of us with Reformation sensibilities would do well to heed this sound advice. If our ministries are in accord with Paul’s view of the church’s mission (1 Corinthians 5:18ff), we may, for once, be ahead of the game. With apologies to Barbara Mandrell, we were all about grace when being all about grace wasn’t cool.

(HT: mockingbirdnyc)

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Caring for Orphans in Their Distress

The New York Times reported today on a new movement in foster care for the children of parents in distress. Instead of waiting until a parent’s distress turned criminal (through neglect, abuse, abandonment, etc.), state agencies are turning to nonprofit (primarily church-related) groups to provide temporary “parents” for children, often at a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Volunteer “parents” step in to provide a home for children for any length of time, from one day to several months.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/us/07safe.html

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