White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Lent and the Regulative Principle

Update: We left out an important word in Mike Horton’s response below. We’ve put it in bold to draw your attention to it. Sorry for the confusion!

One of our Facebook friends asked a great question and we’ve asked Mike Horton to clarify some remarks he made in his recent Christianity Today article on Lent.

Justin asked:

Not trying to start a fight, I am trying to humbly submit this question: when did the Reformed start participating in the “we do it for pragmatic beneifts” woship stuff instead of “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the … See Moreimaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture (WCF 21.1)”? Truly wondering how our confession just quoted squares w/ Horton’s statement in the CT article: “Unlike the Old Testament, however, the New Testament does not prescribe a church calendar”? Again, I’m not trying to be malicious, but humbly submitting myself to your guidance, how should we think about Lent in terms of WCF 21.1 and not the pragmatic benefits (which too many use to vilify so much un-godliness in the church today) of it?

Mike Horton responded:

Great question, Justin, and thanks for raising it.  You quote my statement, “Unlike the Old Testament, however, the New Testament does not prescribe a church calendar.”  Before that remark, I listed Israel’s various festivals.  My point was that we cannot use these old covenant festivals as a justification for new covenant festivals, such as Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ascension Day, etc..  In other words, observance of these Christian holidays cannot be considered as necessary for true worship.  Some (most of the Westminster divines) would eliminate (did eliminate) all Christian holidays, although they encouraged special days for thanksgiving.  The Continental Reformed tradition did not do this, however, and continues the tradition of calling stated services on these special days.  With respect to the regulative principle, it’s definitely a line-call and there are those on both sides of the issue who affirm the principle.  I hope this helps!

Join the conversation and friend us on Facebook through White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation!

Elton John on Jesus–A Candle in the Wind?

According to this CBS post in a recent interview, Elton John provocatively stated that Jesus was “a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.”

At first glance, this statement borders on the absurd–how can Elton make these claims about the historic Christ, and so boldly? It contradicts the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus.

His statement, however, raises questions about how our society (in general) views love, compassion, and intelligence. By saying that Jesus was a “compassionate, super-intelligent gay man,” Elton seems to equate these attributes with homosexuality itself (i.e. if you aspire to or live by these virtues, then you are either supportive of the homosexual community, or actually homosexual).

This leaves Christians with an important question: how do we respond? Obviously, we do not believe that Jesus was gay, and we know that homosexuality is a sin. But wouldn’t a vitriolic response automatically make us seem less loving and compassionate (based on Elton’s claims)?

So, how would you respond?

Why Lent?

Mike Horton was asked to contribute to a series of articles in a recent issue of Christianity Today exploring the meaning and practice of Lent.  In addition to reading Mike’s reflections on Lent, we’ve also made available this article from the Modern Reformation archives that makes the case for using the church calendar as helpful signposts for our Christian pilgrimage.

2001-1-smallA Year of Signposts–Following the Church Calendar
(January/February 2001, Vol 10. No. 1, pages 18-19)

I realize that following the Church calendar is not the practice of some churches. However, it has been effective in many of our churches that have inherited it from ancient practice, and it’s being discovered by others today. While it should never be followed slavishly or with superstition, it helps to have signposts in the year that focus our attention on the momentous events in the life of Christ and the founding of his New Covenant assembly. It is another way of getting us to orient our Church life around the divine drama: Advent (culminating in Christmas), Epiphany (the appearance of the wise men-or, more properly, the appearance of Christ to the Gentiles), Circumcision (the beginning of our Lord’s consecration), Lent (Jesus’ wilderness temptation of forty days, culminating in Good Friday), Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. This is a marvelous tool for education over many years, as long as it doesn’t deteriorate to mere habit. Click here to read more.

WHI-984 | The Book of Galatians (Pt 4)

On this edition of the program the hosts discuss Paul’s allegory of two mountains, and two mothers in Galatians chapter 4. Why does the apostle argue that the present city of Jerusalem corresponds with Hagar, rather than Sarah? Why are the children of Mt. Sinai born in “slavery?” Though it may take a little work, understanding this allegory may be one of the best ways to understand the entire Bible.

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WHI-983 | The Book of Galatians (Pt 3)

How does one qualify for God’s heavenly inheritance? Does it come by obedience to the law, or by trusting the promise? In their continuing survey of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the hosts further outline the distinctions between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, and point to Christ alone as the ground of our acceptance before a righteous and holy God.

RELATED ARTICLES


a target=”_blank” href=”http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/an-exposition-of-galatians”>Sermons on Galatians
Kim Riddlebarger (offsite)
What God Requires
Justin Taylor & John Piper
Justification In Galatians
Charles Hill

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WHI-982 | The Book of Galatians (Pt 2)

On this program the hosts explain why Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a good place to begin in order to understand the basic message of Scripture. In this letter Paul explains the difference between the covenant of grace promised to Abraham, and the national covenant made with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. At the heart of this discussion is whether our eternal destiny is determined by our own efforts and law keeping, or by God’s promise to save his people “by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.”

RECOMMENDED BOOKS


Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free
F.F. Bruce
Notes on Galatians
J. Gresham Machen
The Gospel-Driven Life
Michael Horton

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Wish You Were Here…

Dr. Horton is currently in the Philippines and on the first day after his arrival, he speaks at Febias College of Bible in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila

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Tomorrow Reformation Philippines presents “Putting Amazing Back Into Grace” at Quezon City Evangelical Church

According to blogger Keren – the conference is sold out but you can follow @keren for LIVE tweets and updates

There are a few more dead guys to read now!

Reformational Christianity has been characterized as a “Religion of the Book.” Not only does this apply to the highest view of Scripture, but it also means that we publish our thoughts and ideas for the masses to read. The Reformation that swept through Europe in the 16th century was, in large part, fueled by the printing press and the ability for people to be “taught by” the first generation of Reformers through their writings.

In the centuries that followed Luther and Calvin, their successors continued to write volumes concerning Scripture and the fundamental truths of the Reformation. However, many of those works were written into Latin and other languages not known to our current English-speaking theological culture. We have much to learn from our forefathers in the faith, if only we could read them!

Recently there has been a group of scholars and pastors who have undertaken the task of translating these previously hidden works of Classic Reformed theologians into English-most for the first time. These works are being published in the series “Classic Reformed Theology” published by Reformation Heritage Books. Currently there are two volumes that have been released, but many others are in varying stages of production.

These works promise to be great value not only to scholars and pastors, but also to lay-people who want to have a deeper understanding of the Reformed tradition as it was formulated and articulated by the first generations of Reformers.

Here are the two volumes that have been released thus far:

  • Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (Purchase here)
  • William Ames, A Sketch of the Christian’s Catechism (Purchase here)

One of the editors of the series, R. Scott Clark (a WHI guest and contributor to MR), was recently interviewed concerning the series on the Office Hours podcast of Westminster Seminary California. Information concerning that audio can be found here.

WHI-981 | The Book of Galatians (Pt 1)

What is the book of Galatians about, and what doctrines does it address? We recently put questions like these to students at an Evangelical Bible college, and their answers reveal once again that Christians themselves need to recover Scripture. On this edition of the program, the hosts interact with these on-the-street interviews and explain why Paul’s letter to the Galatians is such a crucially important book to read and think through. The White Horse Inn: know what you believe, and why you believe it!

RELATED ARTICLES


Sermons on Galatians
Kim Riddlebarger (offsite)
The Doctrine of Justification
J.A.O. Preus
The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy
David Nienhuis

RECOMMENDED BOOKS


Galatians
Leon Morris
The Message of Galatians
John Stott
Commentary on Galatians
Martin Luther

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Note: This is the extended edition of the WHI which our Architect and Reformer partners receive every month. To learn more about our partnerships click here.

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Five for Friday: The Robert Morrison Project

Five for Friday is an occasional interview series on the WHI blog that features Reformation pacesetters: those who are actively bringing Reformation into their own circles.  In this edition, we’re talking to the people behind the Robert Morrison Project, a nonprofit publishing enterprise dedicated to legal publication of Christian books in China.

What is the Robert Morrison Project?

Starting about ten years ago it became possible to legally publish some forms of Christian literature in China. Slowly, over the past few years, more and more titles entered legal circulation.  The door is not completely open but it is cracked open and some good quality Reformed titles are being published and distributed in China. Most amazing of all, the genres of literature that the government has been allowing to be published are the very genres that Reformed publishers have been focusing on for the past 50+ years.  In recent years the government has been allowing biographies, old books with historical value (e.g. Pilgrim’s Progress), and marriage and family books to be published.  Soli Deo Gloria, Evangelical Press, and especially the Banner of Truth, are all extremely strong in these areas and have a large number of titles that have a good chance of passing government censorship.  With the church in China approaching 100 million members and growing at 9% a year and with a very small number of Christian titles in legal circulation, this is an opportunity that we can not ignore. Currently, neither the local church nor the Chinese Christian publishing companies are able to self finance high quality translations in large numbers.   In most cases, foreign funding is required.  The purpose of the Robert Morrison Project is to raise funds to help lay the foundation for the long term, legal presence of Reformed literature in China.

What sorts of books are at the top of your list to be published?

Biographies and old literature with historical value from the Banner of Truth, Solid Ground Books, Evangelical Press, etc. all show great promise in China.  We will also seek to publish local Chinese authors.  All titles have been reviewed by an editorial team in China to evaluate whether or not they can pass government censorship.

What effect has the Project already had in China?

The Robert Morrison Project is only two months old.  So far we have not raised sufficient funds to finance our first title but we hope to do so in the near future.

What are your long term goals?

The English language is highly, highly saturated with quality Reformed literature.   There are approximately 35 reformed publishers in the US and UK publishing books in English.  In China, however, there is a massive publishing vacuum of Christian literature.  Our initial goal over the next five to ten years is rectify this publishing imbalance by translating and publishing 50 titles in China.  By publishing these titles we will be increasing the total number of Christian books in circulation by approximately 12%.   Another goal is to respond to the heretical literature now in print.  Currently, few titles are available to answer these authors. Looking even further down the road, our goal is to establish independent, financially self-sufficient Reformed publishing companies in China and Asia.

How can people get involved?

There are many things that people can do.  Most important of all, please pray!   Publishing a Christian book in China is often a very long, difficult process.  Typically, it takes 6 to 24 for months for a title to pass government censorship and sometimes the approval process can be rather arbitrary.  Pray that God would open the door for more Reformed titles to be published.  Tell your friends about us!  Place a link on your church or organization website to our website.  Finally, please consider making a monthly donation to this Project (we have 501(c)3 tax exempt status). Including us in your church or family budget would be a big help.  Income on a monthly basis will help us set long term publishing goals.

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