This week, question 4:

How and why did God create us?

God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

This week’s question seems to be drawn from SC1 and SC10.

The accompanying verse is of course Gen 1:27. Commentary by John Charles Ryle (never heard of him); video by Larry David; prayer by Jonathan Edwards.

On first blush, this question seems redundant with NCC1 (God owns/created you, so live for his glory rather than your own), which is kind of a waste of space when restricting to only 52 questions and having to leave out some important material. It would have been better if the “How” part of the question were to include more than just “male and female”, but also “in knowledge, holiness, and righteousness,” i.e. unfallen, rather than spending 16 words on the redundant second sentence of the answer. See also upcoming Q14, where the pre-fall state is given rather short shrift.

Posted in Catechesis, Compare and Confess, Confessionalism, Confessions, Family, New City Catechism, Protestant piety, Resources, Review, Spiritual discipline | 1 Comment


This week, question 3:

How many persons are there in God?

There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

We continue stealing (and again, that’s a good thing!) from Westminster. This is basically the same as SC6 (and LC9). Hard to go wrong there.

The accompanying verse is the benediction in 2 Cor 13:14 “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Probably good not to lean on the Johannine Comma. I’ll throw the Great Commission in there as well.

Commentary by Richard Baxter, prayer by Heinrich Bullinger, and the guy on the video doesn’t look familiar to me, but he’s Young, and he looks kinda restless. The video is really a pretty good overview of the Trinity, but I’ll be supplementing also with this video (which my boys already know and love).

Posted in Catechesis, Compare and Confess, Confessionalism, Confessions, Family, New City Catechism, Protestant piety, Resources, Review, Spiritual discipline | 2 Comments

Vos Study #2

Vos study #2 is posted over at Christ the Center. (Here’s the CO post for #1, the introduction).

The assigned reading, pp 3-11, was fascinating — and I had the extra benefit of all the underlining and margin notes made by my dad, since he loaned me his copy.

The audio recording focused on the distinction between liberal, rationalistic “Biblical Theology” as it was already known in Vos’ time through the work of J. P. Gabler, and the orthodox “Biblical Theology” that Vos boldly (and I think most would say, successfully) set out to reclaim. Gabler’s version is focused on the history of what Jewish people thought, with no reference to any objective reality or revelation behind that thought. Here Vos brilliantly diagnoses in rationalism antipathy not only towards the past, but also the future:

[Rationalism] has by preference asserted itself in the field of religion even more than in that of pure philosophy. This is because in religion the sinful mind of man comes most directly face to face with the claims of an independent, superior authority. Closely looked at, its protest against tradition is a protest against God as the source of tradition, and its whole mode of treatment of Biblical Theology aims not at honouring history as the form of tradition, but at discrediting history and tradition. Further, rationalism is defective, ethically considered, in that it shows a tendency towards glorification of its own present (that is, at bottom, of itself) over against the future no less than the past. It reveals a strong sense of having arrived at the acme of development. The glamour of unsurpassability in which rationalism usually sees itself is not calculated to make it expect much from God in the future. In this attitude, the religious fault of self-sufficiency stands out even more pronouncedly than in the attitude towards the past. (p. 10)

“Glamour of unsurpassability” — that’s a phrase I gotta remember to use!

Another section earlier in the reading that was not touched on much is the dissection of Exegetical Theology into four disciplines:

(a) the study of actual content of Holy Scripture;

(b) the inquiry into the origin of the several Biblical writings, including the identity of of the writers, the time and occasion of composition, dependence on possible sources, etc. …

(c) the putting of the question of how these several writings came to be collected into the unity of a Bible or book…

(d) the study of the actual self-disclosures of God in time and space which lie back of even the first commital to writing of any Biblical document, and which for a long time continued to run alongside of the inscripturation of revealed material; this last-name procedure is called the study of Biblical Theology.

The order in which the four steps are here named is, of course, the order in which they present themselves successively to the investigating of man. When looking at the process from the point of view of the divine activity, the order requires to be reversed, the sequence being

(a) the divine self-revelation;

(b) the committal to writing of the revelation-product;

(c) the gathering of the several writings thus produced into the unity of a collection;

(d) the production and guidance of the study of the content of the Biblical writings.

It’s an interesting inversion there. Also, the notion of studying those things “which lie back of even the first commital to writing of any Biblical document,” in one sense seems scary (are we trying to go beyond scripture? To understand what scripture does not reveal?); but it also kind of makes sense. Scripture is not just words; there’s real stuff behind it, real history, and that’s what we want to get at.

Lots of interesting stuff in this section also (perhaps the most important stuff!) about how Revelation and Redemption are progressive and organic, and develop in tandem — and how Revelation ceased together with the “central, objective” elements of Redemption, although there are still “personal, subjective” elements of Redemption that continue to occur (individually within all of us Redeemed).

Can’t wait until the next installment is posted. I don’t know how far the reading assignment will go, maybe the rest of chapter 1? Maybe it will be posted here before the episode is released?

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OK, on to question 2:

What is God?

God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

While last week‘s question was based on Heidelberg, this one is Westminster, it’s got bits of CC1-3 and SC4,7-9 in it. In particular, we retain SC4’s trio of “eternal, infinite, and unchangeable”, but SC4’s septet has been scrambled some, and holiness and being were swapped for power and glory; I suppose two p’s and two g’s aids memorization, but otherwise I’m not sure I see the point of changing the original list of qualities that many would have already memorized.

Video by Don Carson (lacking the John Waters mustache I’ve seen on him before) will surely be good. The prayer, which focuses on sovereignty, is by John Wesley!

I believe, O sovereign Goodness, 0 mighty Wisdom, that thou dost sweetly order and govern all things, even the most minute, even the most noxious, to thy glory, and the good of those that love thee. I believe, O Father of the families of heaven and earth, that thou so disposest all events, as may best magnify thy goodness to all thy children, especially those whose eyes wait upon thee.

Sounds pretty Calvinist to me!



Posted in Catechesis, Compare and Confess, Confessionalism, Confessions, Family, New City Catechism, Protestant piety, Resources, Review, Spiritual discipline | Leave a comment


nccq123Lord willing and time permitting (which I guess is redundant), tonight at dinner begins my family’s year of working through the New City Catechism (introductory thoughts here…). Last year I never got around to it, but I’ve got another opportunity in the new year to grab hold of the structure and try to persevere. Originally, I was not sure whether I wanted to take my family through this newfangled catty-schism, but at this point I’m thinking that, even if it’s not better than SC, it is better than continuing to not keep up with SC (i.e. it’s better than nothing). Also, it’s easy; at least I think it’s an attainable goal to stick with it through 52 weeks and get er done.

This week’s question is plagiarized from HC1 (and that’s a good thing):

What is our only hope in life and death?

That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

That colored portion there is the children’s answer. (As I mentioned before, I like this feature of getting two catechisms for the price of one, by embedding a children’s answer inside each full answer.)

So my thoughts on this Q/A are that it’s OK, it is not wrong, but comparing to the full HC1, it seems kind of meager. I will be extending our table talk with the fuller, richer content of HC1.

The additional resources provided by NCC (verse: Rom 14:7-8, commentary by Calvin, video by James Carville, prayer by puritan Thomas Brooks) are not aimed to make up for this deficit, but rather steer the focus away from what God has done for us in Christ, to what we therefore owe to God who owns us. For instance, Calvin:

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us…. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him.

It’s like this question paraphrases the beginning of HC1, but then jumps right to the final “and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him” without bothering to mention all that gospel stuff in the middle. NCC1 would be vastly improved (and not unduly lengthened) by simply tacking on “…who died for me” or the like.

I think my plan will be to use the NCC website as-is for a couple days, and then towards the end of the week, bring in HC1. Kind of a Law-Gospel hermeneutic there.

I’ll drop back and comment on how it goes; I welcome anybody else’s thoughts on this question, feedback, comments about using NCC with your family, etc.

Posted in Catechesis, Compare and Confess, Confessionalism, Confessions, Family, New City Catechism, Protestant piety, Resources, Review, Spiritual discipline | 3 Comments

Taste, Touch, Handle

Franklin Street Presbyterian Church, Baltimore…that you may consecrate to God an enriched man.

From This Day in Presbyterian History, Machen reflects on his father. I especially enjoyed this bit:

He was a profoundly Christian man, who had read widely and meditated earnestly upon the really great things of our holy Faith. His Christian experience was not of the emotional or pietistical type, but was a quiet stream whose waters ran deep. He did not adopt that “Touch not, taste not, handle not” attitude toward the good things or the wonders of God’s world which too often today causes earnest Christian people to consecrate to God only an impoverished man, but in his case true learning and true piety went hand in hand. Every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and on Wednesday night, he was in his place in Church, and a similar faithfulness characterized all his service as an elder in the Presbyterian Church. At that time the Protestant churches had not yet become political lobbies, and Presbyterian elders were chosen not because they were “outstanding men (or women) in the community,” but because they were men of God. I love to think of that old Presbyterian session in the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. [pictured, above right]

It is a refreshing memory in these days of ruthless and heartless machinery in the Church. God grant that the memory may some day become actuality again and that the old Christian virtues may be revived!

Posted in Being Human, Christian life, Civil religion, Fundamentalism, History, Links, Machen, Old Life, Pietism, Protestant piety, Quotes, Reformed piety, Spirituality of the Church, Two-kingdoms | 2 Comments

Vos BT Study Starting Up

I’m pretty excited about this. If you don’t follow Reformed Forum’s Christ The Center podcast, you should check out the new series just starting on Vos’ landmark work Biblical Theology. In the introduction, host Camden Bucey and guest Lane Tipton talk a little about what Biblical Theology is, how Vos reclaimed BT from German liberals and higher critics, and how the long-running “Vos Group” of “Our Lady of Glenside” is the model for this study.

Even though this is the same Lane Tipton that was taking bizarre potshots at Horton two years ago (CTC 200, 207, 213), it was encouraging to hear him explain how study of Vos helps combat the “twin errors of Theonomy and Dispensationalism” by striking a balance between hyper-continuity and hyper-discontinuity. (See also Kline, lecture 9).

Also encouraging, is the incredibly slow pace planned for this series. Episodes are planned approximately monthly, covering only very small amounts of the book each time. The first assignment is pp 3-11 (Banner of Truth edition). At that rate, even I can keep up!

Posted in Books, Covenant Theology, Plugs, Resources, Theonomy, Vos | 1 Comment