Sanctifying The Common

distinctively Christian cultural activity contra the neotwokingdoms view

The earlier (or paleo-) "two kingdoms" view held by Reformation thinkers (Lutheran and Calvinist) is, in brief, that God rules people both immediately or directly by His Spirit (in the regenerate), and mediately or indirectly by authority delegated to human offices.  At least among the Reformed (Calvinists) who held this view, it was affirmed that Christians' activities in whatever area of cultural vocation can and should be done in a genuinely Christian manner, for the only alternative would be to do such things in a way at odds with the Christian faith.  This conviction is shared by neocalvinism.

The contemporary (or neo-) two kingdoms view of the relationship between Christianity and culture takes the distinction of kingdoms to be between the institutional church (conceived as the holy spiritual kingdom) and the state with all other non-ecclesial societal institutions (conceived as the common civil kingdom).  Creation or the providential order is correlated exclusively with the latter; and Redemption is correlated exclusively with the former.  This position holds that activities in non-ecclesial areas can in no way be holy; a Christian's cultural activity, while good, can never be done in a redemptive or Christian way.

Despite a shared commitment to the confessionally Reformed faith and covenantal redemptive-historical hermeneutic of Scripture, there are several significant points of disagreement between neotwokingdomism and neocalvinism regarding the relation of Christianity to culture.  It seems to me that the question of whether a Christian's cultural activity can be properly Christian is at the root of the disagreement.  I'm not interested in defending every view that has gone by the name neocalvinism or that has invoked a quotation of Kuyper for support. And not every so-called "transformationalist" view of culture is neocalvinist.  But it is my hope that fellow confessionally Reformed believers will be persuaded of a genuine neocalvinist position.  Perhaps the following considerations will be helpful.

To my knowledge the first expression in print of neotwokingdomism was Michael Horton's 1995 book Where In The World Is The Church? Horton writes:
Because God has created this world and upholds it by His gracious providence, there is no secular activity that is barred from Christians, unless that activity is specifically forbidden by God in Scripture. It does not have to be “Christianized” or “spiritualized.” For instance, we do not need to write Christian philosophy or Christian music, Christian poetry or Christian fiction, although we do need Christian theology, worship, evangelism, and ethics.
All of life is not sacred, but that which is simply common (ie, “secular”) is nevertheless valuable and honorable because it is part of God's creation. He is as much the Lord of the secular as He is of the sacred. Political activity is not “kingdom work,” but the advance of earthly cities was the original task given to Adam and his posterity in the cultural mandate... These are secular callings that have God's blessing by virtue of creation, not “kingdom activities” that have God's blessing by virtue of redemption.

More recently, in his 2010 book Living In God's Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen writes that he hopes the neotwokingdoms vision will liberate his readers "from well-meaning but nonbiblical pressure... to find uniquely "Christian" ways of doing ordinary tasks" (p.27).  Most interestingly, VanDrunen affirms that Christians "should take up cultural tasks with joy and express their Christian faith through them.... [T]he effects of sin penetrate all aspects of life. Christians must therefore be vigilant in their cultural pursuits, perceiving and rejecting the sinful patterns in cultural life and striving after obedience to God’s will in everything.... Christians should seek to live out the implications of their faith in their daily vocations" (p.13-15).  And yet VanDrunen maintains that a Christian "does not have to adopt a redemptive vision of culture" to do so.

One might wonder how, given the ubiquity of sin and its effects in all areas of life, Christians can perceive and reject sinful patterns in their cultural activities and, moreover, express and live out the implications of their faith in and through such cultural activities entirely apart from any effect of redemption on their view of or actual participation in cultural tasks.  Neotwokingdomism may seem equivocal in holding that Christians should somehow express their faith through cultural activities, and maintaining, nevertheless, that faith makes no difference at all in how one does such activities.  VanDrunen even affirms "that Christians should transform culture in the sense that they seek to have a beneficial influence on this world as they perform cultural activities with excellence and interpret them rightly" (p.13 fn)  But, according to the neotwokingdoms view, it must always be kept in mind that the benefit, excellence, and right interpretation wrought by Christians in cultural activities has no distinct Christian character, and is not in any way a result of redemption.

Contrary to neotwokingdomism, Calvin's comments on 1 Timothy 4:3-5 may shed some light on the redemptive view taken up by neocalvinism.
vs.3 "by believers"
What then? Does not God make his sun to rise daily on the good and the bad? (Mat 5:45) Does not the earth, by his command, yield bread to the wicked? Are not the very worst of men fed by his blessing? When David says, “He causeth the herb to grow for the service of men, that he may bring forth food out of the earth,” (Ps 104:14) the kindness which he describes is universal. I reply, Paul speaks here of the lawful use, of which we are assured before God. Wicked men are in no degree partakers of it, on account of their impure conscience, which, as is said, “defileth all things.” (Titus 1:15)

And indeed, properly speaking, God has appointed to his children alone the whole world and all that is in the world. For this reason, they are also called the heirs of the world; for at the beginning Adam was appointed to be lord of all, on this condition, that he should continue in obedience to God. Accordingly, his rebellion against God deprived of the right, which had been bestowed on him, not only himself but his posterity. And since all things are subject to Christ, we are fully restored by His mediation, and that through faith; and therefore all that unbelievers enjoy may be regarded as the property of others, which they rob or steal....

vs.4 "every creature of God is good"
The use of food must be judged, partly from its substance, and partly from the person of him who eats it. The Apostle therefore avails himself of both arguments. So far as relates to food, he asserts that it is pure, because God has created it; and that the use of it is consecrated to us by faith and prayer. The goodness of the creatures, which he mentions, has relation to men, and that not with regard to the body or to health, but to the consciences. I make this remark, that none may enter into curious speculations unconnected with the scope of the passage; for, in a single word, Paul means, that those things which come from the hand of God, and are intended for our use, are not unclean or polluted before God, but that we may freely eat them with regard to conscience.

If it be objected, that many animals were formerly pronounced to be unclean under the Law, and that fruit, which was yielded by the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was destructive to man; the answer is, that creatures are not called pure, merely because they are the works of God, but because, through his kindness, they have been given to us; for we must always look at the appointment of God, both what he commands and what he forbids.

vs.5 "it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer"
This is the confirmation of the preceding clause, "if it be received with thanksgiving." And it is an argument drawn from contrast; for “holy” and “profane” are things contrary to each other. Let us now see what is the sanctification of all good things, which belong to the sustenance of the present life. Paul testifies that it consists of “the word of God and prayer.” But it ought to be observed, that this word must be embraced by faith, in order that it may be advantageous; for, although God himself sanctifies all things by the Spirit of his mouth, yet we do not obtain that benefit but by faith. To this is added “prayer;” for, on the one hand, we ask from God our daily bread, according to the commandment of Christ (Mat 6:11) and, on the other hand we offer thanksgiving to Him for His goodness.

Now Paul’s doctrine proceeds on this principle, that there is no good thing, the possession of which is lawful, unless conscience testify that it is lawfully our own. And which of us would venture to claim for himself a single grain of wheat, if he were not taught by the word of God that he is the heir of the world? Common sense, indeed, pronounces, that the wealth of the world is naturally intended for our use; but, since dominion over the world was taken from us in Adam, everything that we touch of the gifts of God is defiled by our pollution; and, on the other hand, it is unclean to us, till God graciously come to our aid, and by ingrafting us into his Son, constitutes us anew to be lords of the world, that we may lawfully use as our own all the wealth with which he supplies us.

Justly, therefore, does Paul connect lawful enjoyment with “the word”, by which alone we regain what was lost in Adam; for we must acknowledge God as our Father, that we may be his heirs, and Christ as our Head, that those things which are his may become ours. Hence it ought to be inferred that the use of all the gifts of God is unclean, unless it be accompanied by true knowledge and calling on the name of God; and that it is a beastly way of eating, when we sit down at table without any prayer; and, when we have eaten to the full, depart in utter forgetfulness of God.

And if such sanctification is demanded in regard to common food, which, together with the belly, is subject to corruption, what must we think about spiritual sacraments? If “the word,” and calling on God through faith, be not there, what remains that is not profane? Here we must attend to the distinction between the blessing of the sacramental table and the blessing of a common table; for, as to the food which we eat for the nourishment of our body, we bless it for this purpose, that we may receive it in a pure and lawful manner; but we consecrate, in a more solemn manner, the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, that they may be pledges to us of the body and blood of Christ.

So, just as neocalvinism holds, and contrary to neotwokingdomism, while the things of this life are common to believers and unbelievers, the lawful use of them is distinctively Christian.  Although good in themselves, by sin all cultural activities have been defiled, polluted and become unclean, profane. Yet through redemption by Christ and the Spirit's gift of true knowledge of God, in faith and prayer, a Christian's cultural activities may be sanctified, made holy and Christian.

This does not eradicate the distinction between holy and common, but we will have to leave further elaboration to a future post.  We will also address the distinction between "structure" and "direction" that is key to understanding what neocalvinism means in holding to a redemptive view of culture; that a Christian's cultural activities may be done Christianly, in a distinctively Christian way.


Lot o' Tens

So it is the tenth of October two-thousand ten, at ten minutes after ten o'clock in the morning.
10/10/10  10:10am


Recovering The Reformed Communion (2)

from Alexander and Rufus: Dialogues on Church Communion by John Anderson (1820)
excerpted pp.4-6, 21 and edited by Gregory Baus

Here is stated in summary what we believe to be the truth according to the Scriptures concerning sacramental communion of the church, often called close communion, taught and practiced by the genuinely Reformed Church.

First, the visible communion of Christians in any particular church or local congregation consists in their declared agreement to adhere to one public profession of the Christian religion, and in their joint endeavors to maintain and propagate that profession.

Second, this profession is a profession of the whole Christian religion. We cannot warrantably decline the explicit profession of one jot or tittle of it; since the authority of the Divine Testimony, which binds us to receive any part, binds us equally to receive the whole.

Third, while the profession of the Christian religion attained by a particular church, as well as her practice, is imperfect; and while much of her profession is rejected by many bearing the Christian name; it is necessary that the articles of her public profession, which are the matter of her communion, be ascertained with precision.

Fourth, every person who joins in the public ordinances of a particular church, and especially in the Lord's Supper, declares that he has communion with her in her public profession and acknowledges it to be his own profession. For the public profession that is made in the participation of the public ordinances of Christianity can be only one; that is, the profession of the particular church in which these ordinances are administered.

Last, persons cannot reasonably pretend to have communion with a particular church in her public ordinances, and especially in the Lord's Supper, while they openly persist in an obstinate opposition to any article of her profession. Persons may indeed share in that communion who have but a small measure of knowledge, but obstinate opposers to any article can have no communion in it at all.

The visible communion of Christians is expressed in Scripture by the holding fast of their profession, one profession only, not many or different professions (Heb 4:14; 10:23), by glorifying God with one mind and one mouth, speaking the same thing, joined together in the same judgment (Rom 15:6, 1Cor 1:10), and serving him with one accord (Zeph 3:9). Their communion among themselves in the exercises of religious worship, and in all the other parts of Christian practice, belongs to the joint maintaining of one profession of the Christian religion.

As the agreement of a number of men to unite their efforts for the raising of a weight, or for the working of a ship, may be called a mechanical communion; so the agreement of a number of Christians to adhere to and maintain one profession of the Christian religion is church communion. In the common affairs of life, there can be no rational communion among any number of persons, unless the matter about which they are to have communion be exactly determined. Thus, if it be the raising of a heavy body, it is necessary in order to communion in that work to determine by what means it is to be raised; whether by a lever, for example, or by a pulley, or by an inclined plane.

So in order to the communion of persons in a particular church, it is necessary that the articles of the public profession which she has attained and which constitute the matter of her communion, be ascertained by her creed, by her confession, or by her declaration and testimony; and that it should be one important part of the work of her ministers in their public discourses to explain and vindicate that profession. When a church is honest and faithful in the use of these means, it is easy to know what is the matter of her communion. Faithfulness in this respect is one principle mark by which a reforming may be distinguished from a backsliding church.

Christians are “to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3) for every article of the faith at whatever time delivered, whether in the Old or in the New Testaments, whether in the personal ministry of Christ, or afterwards by the apostles. When a particular church refuses to communicate with opposers of some of her articles considered more essential to salvation, and yet agrees to communicate with the opposers of other articles considered non-essential, this is contrary to the duty of earnestly contending for the faith, and resents injury done to Divine truth when opposition is contrary to their own salvation, but not whenever it is contrary to the authority and glory of God.

For a particular church, or her members, to have sacramental communion with the obstinate opposers of any of the truths or ordinances of Christ, as professed to be agreeable to his word, is inconsistent with that Great Commission Christ gave his ministers at his ascension, that they should “teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them” (Matt 28:20). For what are the things in which Christians are to have sacramental communion? The answer is in all the things which the apostles and other ministers ought to teach as the things of Christ –and these are not only some things, or the most important things, but all things that he commands. All that truly belongs to the Christian religion was delivered by Christ as the Great Prophet of the church; and the Divine injunction is, “Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you” (Acts 3:22).

Only such close communion is agreeable to the representation which the apostle gives of the partakers of the Lord's Supper. “We being many,” he says, “are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1Cor 10:17). According to these words our participation of one bread in this ordinance imports a joint profession of the Christian religion just as partaking of the sacrifices in the idol's temple imported a joint profession of idolatry. As Christians in receiving the Lord's Supper partake of one bread, so they make one profession of the Christian religion. The profession of receiving Christ as tendered in the Lord's Supper is a profession of the whole Christian religion. For it is a profession, not only that we rely on Christ as a Priest for pardon, but that we fully assent to all he teaches us as a Prophet, and that we cordially submit to all the laws and ordinances which he has delivered to us as our King.

The prominent scheme of sacramental communion that is not close communion differs from the apostle's communion in at least two respects. First, a public profession of the whole Christian religion is necessary to the sacramental communion of the apostle, for it implies a joint profession of receiving Christ as tendered to the partakers. Whereas the public profession of only those parts of the Christian religion that are termed essential is necessary to sacramental communion according to this non-close scheme. Second, the public profession of each communicant is the profession of all who partake of the same sacramental bread, according to the apostle. But according to this non-close scheme the public profession of some of the partakers may be different from, and in some respects opposite to, the profession of the rest.

The profession of religion which is made by the partakers of the Lord's Supper in any particular church is to be considered, either as a merely personal or as a joint profession. If it be considered as merely personal (the profession of each individual only), there may be as many different professions as there are partakers, and there will be no communion at all in the same profession. On this supposition the apostle could not have justly inferred from their partaking of that one bread that they are one body. But if the profession made in the act of communicating be a joint profession, then it must be the profession of the particular church by whose ministers this ordinance is dispensed. No other public profession of the Christian religion is or rightly can be made in the act of communicating in that particular church.

and more about Rev. John Anderson

UPDATE: below is an outline of the first part of Alexander & Rufus, which I posted in a comment section discussion here.

1. The evil of divisions in the church
2. Some separations from particular churches unlawful
3. Secession from corrupt churches lawful
4. False methods of healing divisions
5. Scriptural church communion stated
6. An approbation of the public profession of a particular church implied in the partaking of her sacramental communion
7. The distinction between the essentials and the non-essentials of Christianity, considered.

8. The scheme of catholic communion now pleaded for, inconsistent with the regard due to all the truths of God
9. This scheme unwarrantable on account of the uncertainty of the grounds on which it proceeds
10. The evils tolerated by this catholic communion, not matters of mutual forbearance according to the Scriptures
11. Confessions of faith justly considered as terms of church communion
12. The catholic communion pleaded for, inconsistent with the due exercise of church discipline.

13. The character of a church with which we are to have sacramental communion
14. The import of Calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus.
15. Sacramental communion with what may, in some sense, be termed a true church of Christ, not always our duty
16. Sacramental communion with those with whom Christ has communion, in some cases, not warrantable
17. Nor, in some cases, with those that belong to the catholic church
18. Nor always with a particular church, on account of its duty to dispense the Lord’s supper
19. The Christian character which entitles to sacramental communion.

20. The instances of sacramental communion recorded in the New Testament, no examples of the catholic communion in question
21. The charge of unchurching other churches, and of spiritual pride on account of our declining sacramental communion with those from whom we are in a state of secession, shown to be unjust
22. Declining to attend on the public administrations of ministers on account of their erroneous profession, lawful
23. The promotion of love to the brethren by this catholic communion, considered
24. Of the evils said to arise from our limiting sacramental communion to such as make the same public profession
25. The nature and tendency of this catholic communion inferred from what has been advanced in the preceding conversations.

26. The adoption of this scheme of catholic communion by the whole church, in any
period, incredible
27. What sort of instances are not to be admitted as examples of this catholic communion
28. No approved practice of such communion in the time of the apostles
29. Nor for some centuries after their decease shown,
first, from the designations of the truths which communicants professed to receive,
secondly, from the exclusion of some from sacramental communion who were
esteemed as true Christians,
thirdly, from the authority of the decrees of councils in the primitive church
fourthly, from the uniformity of public profession in the primitive church
30. The practice of this catholic communion not proved by the different usages that obtained in the ancient churches
31. Whether it was the sense of the ancients, that separation from a particular church, holding the essentials, is always separation from the catholic church
32. Whether the Fathers condemned the Novatians and Donatists simply on account of their separation from the churches of Rome and Africa
33. Errors of the Donatists; The principles and reasoning of these sects very different from those of many who now oppose the modern scheme of catholic communion
34. Whether it was the judgment of the Fathers, that by this very fact of separation from the churches of Rome and Africa, the Novatians and Donatists cast themselves out of the catholic church
35. Whether the different opinions expressed by the Fathers concerning church government, proves that they practiced the catholic communion in question
36. The practice of those witnesses who separated from the church of Rome, contrary to this catholic communion
37. The case of God’s people who continued within the pale of the church of Rome, no example of this catholic communion.

38. Of the reformation from Popery
39. The principles on which our forefathers separated from the church of Rome, contrary to this scheme of catholic communion
40. The doctrine of the Reformed churches, concerning the marks of a true church, contrary to this scheme
41. How the expression true church is to be understood, as it is used in the Confessions of the Reformed churches
42. The design of the Confessions of the Reformed churches contrary to this scheme of catholic communion; Also, the harmony of these Confessions
43. An article of the Augsburgh Confession concerning the Lord’s Supper, considered
44. Some words of the Saxon Confession and Luther and Melancthon, considered
45. Several plans of union proposed among the Protestant churches different from this scheme of catholic communion in question
46. An account of Calvin’s proposal and of the agreement of the churches in Poland
47. The communion of the Reformed church of Holland with other Reformed churches, considered.

48. The separation of the Puritans in the reign of Queen Elizabeth from the established church of England
49. The ground of their separation farther illustrated
50. The declared design of the meeting of the Westminster Assembly
51. The Solemn League and Covenant inconsistent with this catholic scheme of sacramental communion
52. The Westminster Confession designed to be a bond of church communion; connected with the Presbyterial form of church government
53. Such government is of Divine institution, required by the Scriptures
54. Worship, discipline, and doctrine included
55. And contrary to the opinions of the Independents
56. This scheme of catholic communion not consonant to the 26th chapter of that Confession
57. Christian communion distinguished from church communion
58. Of a harmony of the Reformed Confessions; of the Westminster Assembly’s letter to the Reformed churches; and of a passage in Neal’s History concerning the Anabaptists
59. Of a quotation from the preface of a book entitled, Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici
60. Of the Savoy Confession
61. Of Dr. Owen’s judgment concerning church communion
62. Of the sentiments of other divines on this subject.
63. The proper sense of certain common expressions
64. Of the non-conforming ministers in England
65. Of Mr. Claude’s position
66. Of a certain Act of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly concerning strangers
67. Mr. Dunlap’s inconsistency
68. The witness of faithful churches
69. Of the proper zeal for truth, and the remedy for divisions

APPENDIX: criticism of the book by Robert Hall


Recent Miscellany

Back in January I visited my brother, Jeff, for a week at Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma. I posted their informational video (Ecce Fiat), so you can see a bit about life there. [ and see latest news article about them here ]

It was mostly below freezing, I had a cold the entire time, and I was only able to hang out and talk with "Br.Anthony" for about an hour a day.  But it was great to see him in person and get a firsthand sense of his environment and routine.  Here's a decent photo of him; he's sitting far left, face down towards book (as always).

I've now added the Epiphany season tune for Te Lucis Ante Terminum to a list of favorites. 

If you haven't checked out my & K's foodblog, give it a look.  We really enjoy documenting the cooking experience this way. For our recent entry I meant to have a photo of my taking a bite, but forgot, because the donuts tasted so good. We will probably include restaurant reviews at some point.

As of this past November, Owen and Lilly have a new baby brother, Daniel; and I'm an uncle a third time over. Love and thanks go out to my sister and bro-in-law for all their labor.

Some time ago, I posted Herman Dooyeweerd's online in-English bibliography.  If you fancy yourself Reformed and academic, and you haven't read any Dooyeweerd, you must.  I recommend beginning with The Secularization of Science.  His most accessible, book-length work is Roots of Western Culture.  In my bib, you'll find a link for the entire original publication of that book in PDF.

Four 2009 articles by Roy Clouser are also online.  [ See, too, Glenn Friesen's response to Clouser's essay on Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique ].  And, finally, a book of Robert Knudsen's * writings has been published.  Now, if only WTS would put his lectures online/iTunesU!

I was glad to see Robert Godfrey's pro-Kuyper/ian presentations in sessions 1 and 6 at Westminster Seminary California's conference Christ, Kingdom, and Culture.

Recently watched the UK independent sci-fi film Moon, and liked it quite a lot.  Hoping that Solomon Kane comes to the US.  I had fun discussing the weaponry with Aaron Larsen.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all, especially to brother Gary and Irish friends here and there.


Bowling For Calvin

Sub-Sabbatarian Myth-Busting
this essay first appeared in the Nicotine Theological Journal, Summer 2009 (volume 13, number 3)

Being a thrifty Calvinist, I couldn't justify the expense of attending the Calvin500 events in Geneva this past July. I wish I could have gone. Among the other things I would liked to have witnessed was the mass of Calvin enthusiasts gathering after Sunday morning worship for a jolly pétanque competition.

In reality, I suspect no such Calvin-inspired game of boules actually occurred. But I wonder how many of the Reformed churchmen who may have luxuriated in the cafés or otherwise recreated that Lordsday afternoon during the conference felt reassured of their orthodoxy in calling to mind the common anecdote about Calvin's habit of "lawn-bowling" on the Sabbath (typically to the consternation of Knox --that silly, overwrought zealot).

I've probably been told the story more times than I've heard the 4th commandment read in worship. In my experience, even among those who hesitate to labor at their regular employment, or to employ others in servicing them at stores and restaurants on Sundays, many bristle against abstaining from recreations. All I need do is turn down an invitation to watch a film, sport, or to play a game on the Lordsday. Without fail I will be told how we are able to fellowship with others and glorify God by enjoying these activities, and inevitably the godly example of Calvin on the public greens comes into it.

The main problem with citing Calvin's Sabbath bowling practice, other than it being used to contravene Presbyterian standards, is that it is entirely unsubstantiated and contradicts Calvin's own stated views on the matter. Over a decade ago, Chris Coldwell (now general editor of the Confessional Presbyterian Journal) researched the legend with some thoroughness. In his essay titled Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines: Or, Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath? Coldwell surveys the relevant literature and historical record on the question.

An unambiguous conclusion emerges as we are guided back from recent references through prominent sources of preceding centuries to Calvin's own time. Coldwell's essay deserves a read by sabbatarian, sub-sabbatarian, and anti-sabbatarian alike, if only because the story is so persistently popular. I must note, for example, this folklore found its way onto page 342 of R.C. Sproul's Truths We Confess, A Layman's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Vol. 2 (P&R 2007).

Is there a lesson here that we all should more critically assess received wisdom? Or is it that we should be more critical toward criticism of received wisdom? Or maybe the lesson is that formation of either doctrine or piety by anecdote is neither right nor safe. In any case, this is how Coldwell concludes:
“Calvin should be afforded the courtesy to speak for himself, and the tendency some have toward using the bowling myth to reinterpret him should be abandoned. While some evidence may be found in future to verify the tale, it seems unlikely. But, until such evidence is found, let us take the Reformer at his word that we should 'dedicate that day wholly unto Him so as we may be utterly withdrawn from the world.' 'If we spend the Lord’s day in making good cheer, and in playing and gaming, is that a good honoring of God? Nay, is it not a mockery, yea and a very unhallowing of his name?' ” 

Psalm 105: 1-12 / 1 Chronicles 16:8-19 in Common Meter

suggested tune: Tiverton by Joeseph Grigg (c.1765)
Oh thank the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among
the people.  Sing praises to Him. His wonders tell in song.

And boast now in His holy name. Be glad the hearts of you
who seek the LORD; seek Him, His strength, always seek His face too.

Recall to mind again His works of wonder He has done;
Marvels and judgments from His mouth, His chosen, Jacob's sons.

Oh seed of Israel, His servant, He is the LORD our God;
know that His judgments reach to all the places one may trod.

Remember this: His covenant forever --a thousand
generations are subject to that word of His command.

For this He made with Abraham, an oath to Isaac sworn,
a statute to Jacob confirmed, our cov'nant evermore.

Saying, “To you I'll give the Land; as your inheritance,”
when you were small and very few and still strangers in it.
~ metrical version by Gregory Baus, MARCH 2010
[traditional 1650 version here]


Recovering The Reformed Communion

John Anderson (c.1748 - 1830) was born just south of Scotland's border near Tweed (perhaps the River Tweed, or Berwick-upon-Tweed).  He grew up in the "Associate" (1733 Secession) Church of Scotland (cf. Erskines).

Licensed and commissioned by the church in Scotland, Anderson arrived in Pennsylvania to assist the development of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania (which was to form the Associate Synod of North America in 1801). He was ordained in 1788, serving as pastor for various congregations in the Beaver County area.

In 1794 Anderson was appointed to be the founding professor of the first Presbyterian seminary in the United States [the third theological seminary overall; the first being a Dutch Reformed seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1784, and the second being a Roman Catholic seminary in Baltimore, Maryland in 1791].  This Presbyterian seminary eventually became what is today known as Pittsburgh Theological.

Anderson was said to be only 5 feet tall with a poor voice for public speaking, but he was a godly, powerful intellect and influential church leader.  He served as pastor and professor until 1819, retiring for poor health. Anderson's tremendous work, Alexander and Rufus: Dialogues on Church Communion, was first published in 1820.

Part One (initial 200 pages or so) of this book ably articulates the old school, confessionally reformed & presbyterian doctrine of "close communion."  This biblical doctrine is contrasted with the contemporary, latitudinarian teaching which holds
"that there may be several articles in the public profession of a particular church, which, however clearly founded on the Holy Scriptures, are not essential or necessary to salvation, and therefore ought not to be terms of church communion. 'The obviously vital doctrines of the gospel,' say they, 'which whoever renounces cannot be a Christian, are a sufficient basis of sacramental communion.' This scheme... has too long prevailed in the protestant churches, and deprived them, in so great a measure, of their purity and true glory."
(from the author's Preface)
Alexander and Rufus is available online at googlebooks and internet archive in its two editions. It is also copy-reprinted in its original 1820 version by Kessinger Publishing [here, amazon]; and copy-reprinted in its 1862 version by Still Water Revival Books [here and here].

What Anderson writes in this book can help the reformed churches realize that "while corruption is the native consequence of latitudinarian schemes, scriptural order in sacramental communion tends to make the visible church a heaven upon earth to the faithful, terrible as an army with banners to her enemies, and to her King and Head for a name, for a praise and for glory."  This is the way forward for churches wanting to reform and to be reformed according to the Word of God; the way to recover the Reformed confession and communion.

An essay by Anderson addressing the same topic, Of the Church's Toleration of Any Thing Sinful (1780) is also now available online.

also see PART 2