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Faithful and Fruitful Ordained Ministry

Healthy churches have healthy elders and deacons. When a local congregation is blessed with faithful officers the results are bountiful (Acts 6:7). William Boekestein and Steven Swets speak about ordained ministry in its manifold dimensions. Boekestein and Swets have edited, Faithful and Fruitful: Essays for Elders and Deacons (Reformed Fellowship), which provides current and future church leaders with an exciting opportunity of personal development. 

Like its companion (Called to Serve), this collection of essays offers biblical and practical essays written by seasoned churchmen drawing upon a wealth of leadership knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Engaging study questions for each essay can help readers make the most of the Bible’s instruction and encouragement for those tasked with the responsibility and privilege of leading Christ’s church.


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Schools of Biblical Criticism

Will Wood discusses various approaches to higher criticism, including source, form, and redaction criticism. This conversation dives into a topic that was covered briefly in an episode on the authorship of Isaiah.

Biblical higher criticism demonstrates several presuppositions that are contrary to orthodox understandings of history and the Bible. For example, predictive prophecy cannot exist. As a result, there is no a priori reason in their view for the Bible to have been written in the form we now possess.

Source criticism seeks to investigate how the various Bible books came into being through the use of disparate sources.

Form criticism does not look for written precursors to biblical texts but to oral precursors. Form critics believe earlier Israelite society was pre-literate. Therefore, sources that supposedly came to comprise the Bible were passed down through different oral forms, or getungen, which help to access the sitz im leben, or setting in life of the community.

Tradition-historical criticism uses methods from both source and form criticism. It distinguishes between traditium, which is the particular tradition content passed down, and traditio, which is the process of transmission.

Redaction criticism asks how the biblical books were brought into the full text we have today. Redaction critics are not merely concerned with oral or written sources, but with the activity of a type of editor, who brought them together.


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Theology in the Life of the Church

Doctrine is not optional for the body of Christ. Yet, neither is it to be pursued in abstraction. Christians must speak the truth in love, applying that truth in the changing circumstances of daily life.

Using the biblical metaphors of a shepherd and a pilgrim, Jeff Waddington and Camden Bucey comment on a variety of challenges in the ministry and the importance of presenting every person mature in Christ (Col. 1:28).


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Archibald Alexander and Princeton Seminary

Travis Fentiman and James M. Garretson speak about the new book, God, Creation, and Human Rebellion: Lecture Notes of Archibald Alexander from the Hand of Charles Hodge (Reformation Heritage Books). Fentiman discovered the handwritten notes through the Internet Archive and embarked on a crowdsourcing project to transcribe the notes. Dr. Garretson contributed a wonderful introduction.

In this episode we discuss the historical context of American Presbyterianism in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the unique contribution of Archibald Alexander, and the significance of Princeton Seminary to both American and global presbyterianism.


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The Authorship of Isaiah

The New Testament cites the book of Isaiah more than any other Old Testament book. Scripture itself treats the book as a literary work by a single author. In this episode, Will Wood, discusses critical approaches to this prophecy that tend to view the book of Isaiah as a composite work of many different people and even different groups. All the while, we will come to see that the question of authorship is not self-contained; it raises significant issues regarding fundamental matters of the faith.

Will Wood is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia.


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Reformed Apologetics

J. V. Fesko has written Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Baker Academic, 2019). In the book, Dr. Fesko criticizes, among others, Cornelius Van Til. In this conversation, we interact with the book and compare its claims with those of Van Til. A central claim of Dr. Fesko’s is that Van Til rejects “common notions.” He writes:

in the middle of the seventeenth century, philosophers such as John Locke (1632–1704) rejected the idea of common notions. In the twentieth century, this rejection made its way to liberal and conservative Reformed theologians alike, including Karl Barth (1886–1968) and Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987).”[1]

He draws particular attention to Van Til’s discussion of authority and reason on pages 168–169 of Defense of the Faith (3rd edition).[2] On those pages, Van Til makes an important distinction:

A word must now be said about the idea of ‘common notions’ referred to in the quotation given above. The present writer made a distinction between notions that are psychologically and metaphysically, that is revelationally, common to all men, and common notions that are ethically and epistemologically common.[3]

Van Til continues, “All men have common notions about God; all men naturally have knowledge of God.”[4] So, what is Van Til getting at? There are notions common to all men, but there are some things common to believers and others common to unbelievers. Van Til explains what is also common to natural man as a consequence of total depravity:

It is this actual possession of the knowledge of God that is the indispensable presupposition of man’s ethical opposition to God. There could be no absolute ethical antithesis to God on the part of Satan and fallen man unless they are self-consciously against the common notions that are concreated with them. Paul speaks of sinful man as suppressing within him the knowledge of God that he has. . . . It is these notions of human autonomy, or irrational discontinuity and of rationalistic continuity that are the common notions of sinful or apostate mankind.[5]


[1] J. V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019), 24.

[2] Fesko, 24n56.

[3] Cornelius Van Til, Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: P & R Publishing, 1967), 168.

[4] Van Til, 168.

[5] Van Til, 168.

[6] Van Til, 168.


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Reformed Forum, the Church, and the Great Commission

Reformed Forum exists to present every person mature in Christ (Col. 1:28). We do that specifically by supporting the Church in her God-ordained task of accomplishing the Great Commission. In this episode, we discuss our mission and vision and share exciting news about the future of our ministry including Camden Bucey’s transition to become our full-time Executive Director.

Reformed Forum is an organization committed to providing Reformed Christian theological resources to pastors, scholars, and anyone who desires to grow in their understanding of Scripture and the theology that faithfully summarizes its teachings. We are committed to the principles of the Reformation and a redemptive-historical approach to Scripture. We believe these faithfully represent the teachings of the Bible, which is our only standard for faith and practice.

During the Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy of the early twentieth century, E. J. Young wrote to J. Gresham Machen, the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary and key figure in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which had yet to be formed:

Within the church there should be an organization, entirely independent of the formal church, which would act as leaven. This organization should be composed of ministers, elders and laymen of the new church alone, who not only believe the Westminster Confession but who are on fire with it. The purpose of this organization should be to propagate and to defend the Reformed faith, to point out the errors of modernism, sacerdotalism, premillennialism, Arminianism, Trichotomy, and so much of the anti-Scriptural evangelism of today. Furthermore, this group would seek to propagate Reformed literature, such as your book, Christianity and Liberalism, Boettner’s book and works of that type. It would seek to propagate this literature not only among the clergy but also among the laity. In other words, it would be a missionary agency whose primary field is the church. Further, it would eventually seek to promote truly Reformed Bible Conferences and Evangelistic Campaigns, would seek to start Reformed Bible classes and prayer meetings and would seek to encourage Reformed radio broadcasts, etc.

E. J. Young, letter to J. Gresham Machen, October 2, 1935.

Seventy-three years passed before Reformed Forum was founded and much has changed regarding technology, but providentially we have become such an organization. There is a need today just as there was then, because the theological challenges persist. We are committed to be faithful to Scripture to the end that Christ would be glorified in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.


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