fbpx

Pliny the Younger and Worship in the Ancient Church

What was worship like in the early church? Did it differ significantly from our present practices? A letter written by a Roman official in 112 AD provides a window into these ancient Christian liturgical practices.

Pliny the Younger was appointed governor of Bithynia in 111 AD by the Emperor Trajan (98–117). Trajan knew that there was social unrest in that province, with a growing number of political factions causing divisions within the city. Among other things, he tasked Pliny with dissolving all associations or clubs in service of keeping the peace. This led him into a quandary regarding the Christians.

In one of the cities, trouble of some kind had arisen regarding the Christians, who were in several cases brought into court and accused of atheism, sexual immorality, incest, and even cannibalism. Pliny the Younger’s letter offers a window into the liturgical practices of ancient Christians and how they were often misunderstood by the world.

Suggested Reading


Participants: ,

Warfield’s Doctrine of Inspiration

In 1894, B. B. Warfield published an article in which he compared the views of the Westminster divines and the Reformers on the mode of inspiration. According to Warfield, the Reformers argued for a mode of concursus while the Protestant Scholastics argued for dictation. Dr. Jeff Stivason analyzes this characterization, speaking to Warfield’s historical context and his understanding of progressive orthodoxy.

Jeff Stivason is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania and professor-elect at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. His article, “Is Warfield’s Claim True that Calvin is Better than Westminster on Inspiration?” is available in the Westminster Theological Journal Vol. 81, No. 2 (Fall 2019), pp. 279–293.


Participants: , ,

All That Is in God

James Dolezal discusses his book All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism (Reformation Heritage Books, 2017). Dr. Dolezal serves as associate professor in the school of divinity at Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

In this conversation, and the book that guides it, Dolezal addresses the doctrines of classical theism as well as contemporary models of theology proper, which reject, compromise, or otherwise diminish the classical formulations. Interacting with primary sources from theologians such as Bruce Ware, John Frame, and K. Scott Oliphint, Dolezal charitably offers a critique while reaffirming that all that is in God is God.

Links


Participants: , ,

Echoes of Exodus

Dr. Bryan Estelle joins us to speak about Echoes of Exodus: Tracing a Biblical Motif (IVP Academic, 2018). Israel’s exodus from Egypt is the Bible’s enduring emblem of deliverance. It is the archetypal anvil on which the scriptural language of deliverance is shaped. More than just an epic moment, the exodus shapes the telling of Israel’s and the church’s gospel. Estelle traces the motif as it unfolds throughout Scripture.

Dr. Estelle is professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. He is also the author of Salvation through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah. He has contributed essays to Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California and The Law Is Not of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant.


Participants: ,

Vos Group #61: The Mode of Communication of the Prophecy

We turn to pages 230–233 of Vos’s book, Biblical Theology, to speak about the mode by which the Lord delivers his message to the prophet. Man is made in the image of God, which means he has a special capacity to commune with God. Vos marvels at the way in which divine speech is transmitted to those made in his image. God’s word is communicated in servant form without evacuating the message of any of its divine characteristics, such as inerrancy or infallibility. The Holy Spirit works in the prophet in such a way as to inspire and superintend the entire activity of the prophet—whether in speech or inscripturation.


Participants:

The Kingdom of God

Dr. S. M. Baugh joins us to speak about his book, The Majesty on High: An Introduction to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament. Beginning with a definition of the kingdom of God based on the new creation, Baugh introduces the reader to the kingdom and its foundational issues.

Dr. Baugh is professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. He is also the author of Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC).


With All Your Heart

Dr. A. Craig Troxel speaks about With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires, and Will toward Christ (Crossway, 2020). Whereas contemporary culture identifies the “heart” with feelings and emotions, Craig Troxel speaks about the range of uses of the word “heart” in the Bible. The heart knows, desires, and chooses. This fuller conception of “heart” helps us understand our battle with sin and the redemption that has been wrought by Jesus Christ.

Dr. Troxel is professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California. He previously served as pastor of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois and Calvary Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Glenside, Pennsylvania.


Participants: ,

Politics after Christendom

David VanDrunen speaks about his forthcoming book, Politics After Christendom (Zondervan Academic), reflecting upon the status and responsibilities of Christians in their contemporary pluralistic political communities. Dr. VanDrunen presents a biblical-theological model of political engagement and exploring themes such as race, religious liberty, justice, authority, and civil resistance.

David VanDrunen is Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He is the author and editor of several books, including Aquinas Among the Protestants, God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought, and Divine Covenants and Moral Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law.


Participants: ,

Vos Group Excursus: John 20:1–18 — Rabboni

We take a brief break from our regular schedule in Geerhardus Vos’s book, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, to discuss Vos’s sermon “Rabboni,” on John 20:16. This sermon is found in Grace & Glory, a collection of Vos’s sermons preached at the chapel of Princeton Seminary.

John 20:1–18 (ESV)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. 


Participants: ,

Abraham Kuyper’s Public Theology

Dr. Jordan J. Ballor, senior research fellow and director of publishing for the Acton Institute, joins us to speak about Abraham Kuyper’s public theology. Dr. Ballor is a general editor of Abraham Kuyper’s Collected Works on Public Theology published by Lexham Press. Kuyper was something of a polymath/renaissance man. Along with being an influential theologian and also a journalist, he served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905. He established the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, which upon its foundation became the second largest Reformed denomination in the country behind the state-supported Dutch Reformed Church.

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; PhD, Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as part of the “What Good Markets Are Good For” project. 


Participants: , ,

reformed-forum-logo-white400

Email Newsletter

Contact

Reformed Forum
115 Commerce Dr., Suite E
Grayslake, IL 60030

+1 847.986.6140
mail@reformedforum.org

Copyright © 2020 Reformed Forum