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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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History and the Life of the Church

Christianity is based in history. Contrary to the teaching of classic liberalism, without the historical fact of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, Christianity is nothing. Moreover, God has been working in the lives of his people from the very beginning. It is essential that the church would remember God’s dealings with the generations that have gone before in order that she would rightly press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). Our shared memories and the lessons of the past shape our ecclesiastical context and guide our present practice. Dr. Alan Strange and Rev. Brian De Jong discuss the role of history in the life of the church.

Dr. Strange is professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. He is the author of The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards and The Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church in the Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge.

Rev. De Jong is pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the author of Honoring the Elderly: A Christian’s Duty to Aging Parents.


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The History of Heaven

Lane Tipton speaks about his recent conference addresses and his newly available video course, Foundations of Covenant Theology. In this conversation, we seek to address the question of the Spiritual character of the law as an administration of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament and set the priority for the history of heaven as a frame of reference for understanding covenant theology in general and the law’s relationship to the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace in particular.

In the beginning in Genesis 1:1, “heavens” is a reference to an archetypal temple-dwelling of God. Before God creates an earthly temple or tabernacle, he makes a heavenly temple dwelling that he fills with the glory of his Spirit and populates with angels. The earth is a replica of these invisible heavens. Prior to a history on earth per se, there is a bona fide history of heaven, which results in the Lord being enthroned in heaven at the end of the creation week. Covenant history now moves forward with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to this throne and his return when he will bring his people into this glory.

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The Law and the Spirit in Old and New Covenants

Glen Clary and Camden Bucey speak about their addresses at the recent theology conference. Glen covered the topic of ascending the mountain of the Lord and the role of the tabernacle and sacrificial system in the Sinai Covenant. Camden compared Galatians 2–4 with Romans 7–8 in order to address Paul’s phrase that “the law is Spiritual” in Romans 7:14.


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The Imputation of Active Obedience in the Westminster Standards

Dr. Alan Strange discusses the Westminster Assembly and the Westminster Standards and whether they affirmed the imputation of Christ’s active obedience as necessary for our justification. Strange has written, The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards, which is published by Reformation Heritage Books in their Explorations in Reformed Confessional Theology series.

In the book, Strange gives a survey of church history before and during the Reformation to see how the Assembly relates to the tradition before it. He reflects on the relation of imputation to federal theology, modern challenges to the doctrine, and important rules for interpreting the confessional document.

Dr. Strange is professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana.

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Strange, “The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ

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Petrus Van Mastricht’s Theoretical and Practical Theology

Todd M. Rester speaks about the theology of Petrus Van Mastricht (1630–1706). Dr. Rester has served as a translator of Mastricht’s Theoretical-Practical Theology, which is being published by Reformation Heritage Books and edited by Dr. Joel Beeke. As of this interview, the first two volumes (Prolegomena and Faith in the Triune God) are available. Mastricht presents a theological method particularly instructive for contemporary readers, treating every theological topic according to exegetical, dogmatic, elenctic, and practical concerns.

Dr. Rester is associate professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. He has served as a post-doctoral research fellow for the EU European Research Council project and at Queen’s University Belfast.

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Christian Perspectives on Sport Hunting

Dr. Bracy V. Hill, senior lecturer in history at Baylor University, speaks about Christian perspectives on sport hunting. While hunting isn’t the first thing on the minds of biblical scholars, hunting is mentioned and used in numerous metaphors throughout Scripture. One particularly mysterious account is that of Nimrod in Genesis 10. Moreover, the activity of hunting raises many important theological issues, such as man’s relationship to creation, the nature and eschatology of death, and the Christian’s directedness away from a wilderness toward a heavenly city.

Dr. Hill is co-editor of God, Nimrod, and the World: Exploring Christian Perspectives on Sport Hunting in which many of these themes are addressed. Dr. Hill is the author of many article and wrote a dissertation titled, “The Language of Dissent: The Defense of Eighteenth-Century English Dissent in the Works and Sermons of James Peirce.” He also appeared on the Meateater Podcast to discuss many of these themes but to an audience of hunters.

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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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Vos Group #58 — Revelation through Speech and Hearing

In this episode, we turn to pages 216–220 of Vos’s book, Biblical Theology, to discuss the reception of divine revelation through speech and hearing. Vos treats this topic because, among other things, it lies at the heart of true religion. If God is not speaking, then we do not know him. If it is merely men who speak, we do not know God and therefore are not in a religious bond of covenantal fellowship with him. It is of the essence of true religion to affirm that God speaks and that prophets hear God speaking and then speak that same Word to the church. You cannot have true religion without such supernatural verbal revelation.

This requires that God speaks to the prophet before the prophet spoke. This is critical, since it utterly destroys the liberal theories that locate the actual words in human agency alone, such as the kernel theory we talked about earlier. The speaking of God is not meant in a figurative way, “but in the literal sense it appears in various ways” (p. 217).

Vos next makes a point that the verbal communication from Jehovah is both external and internal, and that internal (to the soul or audible only to the prophet) does not collapse into the “consciousness theology” and the subjectivism of the liberal concept of “revelation” where revelation simply means a heightened moral consciousness or awareness of nearness to the ethical ideal of the prophetic religion.

Vos urges us not to probe the proportion of internal and external revelation, but to accept that both forms come to the prophets, making them bearers of words that have divine authority.


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