Hello… NEWMAN. The Proper Assessment of Church History

John Henry Newman was a British churchman, a sometime member of the Oxford Tractarian movement. The movement was an attempt at course correction in the Anglican church at a time when it was moving left. They saw a recovery of tradition and traditionalism in worship as the way forward. Newman was one who didn’t stop there, however, but went on to join the Roman Catholic Church, and was eventually named a cardinal. Newman’s intellect and…

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The Case Against Christian Nationalism

Christian Nationalism is getting a lot of attention at present, and Stephen Wolfe’s The Case for Christian Nationalism is held forth by some as the most persuasive argument. There is simply too much in the book to comment on everything, but I will appraise the main arguments of the book. I want to begin by listing what I think Wolfe gets right. His assessment of the current state of things in the United States is…

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Is the Office of Priest Found in the New Testament?

From time to time I have posted comments about the nature of ministry in the New Testament. Some have difficulty accepting the idea of a non-hierarchical ministry, but when we look at the Scriptures, this is what we find. I summarize this by saying that the New Testament never refers to Christian ministers as priests; this is a title reserved for all the people of God (or for the Lord Jesus alone.) The truth of…

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Atoning for Unbelief?

Does the “Double Payment” Argument have merit? In a prior post, I looked at the idea of faith purchased on behalf of believers. This argument is often central to a defense of definite atonement. Seeing such a purchase seems to require a commitment to the covenant of redemption—at least, in the thinking of John Owen it does. Faith and the transfer of it to the elect is included in the death of Christ, and this…

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Is Christian Platonism the Fix for Failed Hermeneutics?

Craig A. Carter’s 2018 book Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis was recently recommended to me. I suppose one could call this a review, but I think of it more as a “book dialogue.” I wonder if I, as an evangelical on the conservative end, am the target audience for the book, because at many points as I read, I found myself saying “of course, who would think otherwise?”…

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What is Sacramentalism?

In a recent interview about a book I wrote, the interviewer asked me for a definition of sacramentalism. This is because in the book I use this term to describe a system, usually found in the hierarchical churches, that treats grace in a particular way. That way is to affirm that grace flows to the believer through the rites and rituals defined by the Church. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, it goes…

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Davenant’s Defense of God’s Sovereignty in the Atonement

The Bishop of Salisbury insists God is sovereign to save anyone at any time. John Davenant is part of a rich heritage of “English Hypothetical Universalism.” That is, men who believed and taught that salvation was possible to any and every sinner while they yet lived. This was in contradistinction to definite atonement, that Christ died only for a collection of sinners whom God designated for salvation by his pretemporal decree. Davenant was also a…

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Is Biblicism the Problem in the Church Today?

The diffuse nature of evangelicalism means it is both difficult to define what it now is, but also that it is popular, that is, of the people. These facts have without question led to doctrinal aberration and heterodoxy. The solution some put forth is we need to overcome biblicism and return to classical theism. But the counsel is not self-evident, in that it rests on definitions that may not be commonly held. One writer offers…

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Is There a Difference between Church Membership and Commitment?

In a much of church culture, there is an emphasis on membership, as a way to get believers to commit to the local church. Yet membership and commitment are not synonymous, and looking at the distinction can help us understand the importance behind these ideas.   Almost all local churches have a membership process, often entailing a class one takes, and then signing a covenant about member responsibilities. Usually (one hopes!) there is an interview…

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Two Truths and a Lie

The game “two truths and a lie” is a popular ice-breaker for youth ministry gatherings, at least it was when I was working with high school youth groups. A person states three “facts” and the hearers must guess which of the the three is a lie. The game plays on expectations and what people know—or think they know—about the person. Laughter usually ensues at the admission of what is actually true. “I did not expect…

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