Category Archives: Presbyterianism

Reformed in America Conference Now on Youtube

You can now see the Reformed in America conference.  Thanks to Imagineering Studios, Inc. for filming.



Filed under Church, Presbyterianism, Spirituality of the Church, Two Kingdom

Presbyterian Proverbs


Greek Fables (close enough)

An advantage of being in the same church for a long time is that you have an opportunity to see things play out.  You can observe parenting and then watch the “parented” children grow up.  You can see folks go from young parents to empty nesters.  You can see all sorts of people just passing through. In short, you’re around long enough for time to tell its story.  And if it told proverbs about Presbyterian church life, they might sound like this.

  1. One who speaketh in his first Sunday School class will evaporate like the morning dew.   It’s uncanny – visitors who enter by sharing their brilliance in their first Sunday School class won’t be around for long.  And, really, you don’t want them around for very long.
  2. Better an early grave than the sneer of an alpha church lady.  Thinking of confronting her? Just find something else to do.
  3.  Like an idol under a hammer is family legalism under actual parenting.  No kind of schooling or parental style is guaranteed to produce the child of your imagination.  A man is arrogant indeed if he is not humbled by parenting. A man is a moralist indeed if he rigidly insists upon all his preconceived family dogmas.
  4.  The fatted calf buys no loyalty.  You can go all out for a visitor or new member, but your sacrifice will be forgotten if his whim leads him elsewhere.
  5.  Sin happens.  Your church is not immune from the sin virus.  There will be ugly things to deal with.
  6.  Your gut speaketh truly but it matters not.  Yeah, you might have good hunches about people and situations but that doesn’t make you lord of them; usually all you can do is watch things play out. At least you have a front row seat.
  7.  Does a kangaroo stop hopping?  If your new members have been church hoppers, your church is a temporary landing spot. Use pencil when you write their names on the roll.
  8.  The heart knoweth not why it leaves a church.  Or at least it isn’t telling. Either they don’t really know or they don’t feel like telling, because departing members say some pretty weak things.



  9.  More welcome is a leper than a former elder.  Members who depart (when circumstances don’t demand it) draw devil horns on their former pastor and session.  Don’t say “see you later,” just say “goodbye.”
  10.  Better a morsel of faithfulness than a feast of victories.  Because you don’t really know what a victory is. Not yet.
  11.  Grace walks softly.  Loud and flashy don’t awaken it and they seldom describe it. Mix simple worship, solid preaching and the sacraments – let grace appear in its own time and its own way.
  12.  Catholic converts cleaveth unto the church but Evangelicals are a church unto themselves.  Former Catholics respect the church and its government while broad Evangelicals take years to “get it,” if they ever get it at all.
  13.  When a wife ruleth, the family shall go the broad way.   More often than not, the passive husband / dominant wife combo lists toward broad evangelicalism.
  14.  A Presbybaptist wedding cake is sweet but a sour stomach followeth. It may not seem like a big deal for a Presbyterian to marry a Baptist but eventually there will be serious conflict that centers on baptism or child rearing.
  15.  There is a man who taketh a vow like he downloads programs.  “A vow? Yadda yadda yadda, I do what I want.”
  16.  Whoever speaks of leaving has already left.  If a member wants to talk to you about leaving the church it’s not a conversation but an announcement.



  17.  A clearly preached gospel gives more hope than anything else you can say or do.
  18.  There is more growth when roots go deep into the church.  Those who have a high view of the institutional church are more prone to listen and learn.
  19. Those who major in the minors will not be silent. Call them hobby horses, obsessions, or whatever you wish, but people thus imbalanced will leave if they aren’t put in office, allowed to teach, or given some outlet to spread their virus. In this regard the Session is an anti-virus program.  (To provide balance to gender statements above, we’re looking at you, patriarchalists.)
  20.  Peace in the sanctuary is peace indeed. If you’re doing preaching, worship, and the sacraments right you should have a healthy measure of contentment and be able to put other problems in perspective.
  21.  Spareth the deacon, sidetrack the preacher. Good deacons are good for everyone, and make it unnecessary to have a Pastor Jack of All Trades.
  22.  An ounce of Presbytery is worth a pound of discipline. This one could be hotly disputed in places, but if you are connected to your Presbytery you can receive some assurances that you and your pastor are not off track. If your Presbytery is not doing well, you need to know that and do your part to improve it.  A bunker mentality is just congregationalism.

Of course, some of these could be regional proverbs, or based on a small sample size, but there’s twenty-two. That’s roughly one per year; I’ll have enough to update this list by 2034.


Filed under Church, Presbyterianism

Reformed in America Conference – November 1 & 2


D.G. Hart

Is there an American form of Christianity? Many believers who live in the United States would be content simply to identify themselves as Christians, others as American Christians, and still others would be inclined to say they are Christians in America. But are believers in any of these groups able to identify distinctive traits of American Christianity? Do you know enough of the history of Christianity in this country to recognize how your own expression of Christian faith and practice has been shaped by America in the modern age, for good or ill?


Alan Strange

None of us are simply “biblical Christians” but have a history that has shaped us in one way or another. Reformed Christians have a rich heritage going back to the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Europe, but they also have a peculiar history in the United States. Join us for this free two day conference which will explore some of the major outlines of the history of Reformed & Presbyterian Christianity in the United States.

Friday, November 1

Session 1 at 7:00pm

Alan Strange: “The Tumultuous Beginnings of American Presbyterianism.”  The beginnings of American Presbyterianism, with a focus on the First Great Awakening and the Old Side/New Side controversy. We’ll also briefly reflect on the Reformed in America and the phenomenon of “becoming American.”

Session 2 at 8:15pm

Darryl Hart: “The Challenge of Americanism.”  The talk will cover the problems posed by new ways of recruiting and sustaining Christians (through the Second Great Awakening).  It will cover Reformed responses to the predicament from German Reformed, Dutch Reformed, and Presbyterians.


J. Gresham Machen

Session 3 at 9:30am

Alan Strange: “Politics and the Pulpit.”  Charles Hodge developed his doctrine of the spirituality of the church in a subtle and nuanced fashion that permitted him to distinguish the church from the state and its political concerns while allowing the church to retain a prophetic voice to society. We’ll examine Old School Presbyterianism with respect to the spirituality of the church and the place of the doctrine among the Reformed.

Session 4 at 10:45


Abraham Kuyper

Darryl Hart: “Kuyper & Machen–Models of Reformed Witness.” This talk will examine the differences between Machen and Kuyper’s attempts to recover a consistent Reformed witness, especially those that stem from the differences between church life in the United States and Netherlands.

Lunch 12:00pm ($5.00 Fee for all participating)

Session 5 at 1:00pm

Alan Strange: “Unity without Union — Beyond Acronyms.”  The CRC recognized and congratulated the OPC on its formation and the OPC did the same with the URC on its formation. We’ll look at OPC/CRC union talks, the formation of the URC and OPC/URC relations.

Session 6 at 2:15pm

Darryl Hart: “Anti-Modernism.” This presentation will examine the efforts of conservative Presbyterians in the United States and Reformed Protestants in the Netherlands to combat theological liberalism and indifference in the dominant churches.  It will also discuss the need for secession or separation when those efforts were no longer viable.

Session 7 at 3:30

Q&A with speakers

Reformed in America” will take place at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church (3615 University Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa).  This conference is hosted by Providence Reformed Church and Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, which are both congregations in Des Moines.

Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church (OPC):

Providence Reformed Church (URCNA):

Please RSVP to:


Filed under Church and State, Culture Wars, Presbyterianism, Spirituality of the Church

Presbyterian Transparency

reflective building

For those who would like to paint the OPC as litigious, there was great disappointment at the 2013 General Assembly.  The presbyters spoke of missions, crisis relief efforts, the collaborative effort (with the URCNA) on a psalter/hymnal, and proper financial care for ministers.  There was just one judicial appeal, and that appeal could be best described as a rogue appeal expressed in intemperate language.

That appeal was pretty much dead on arrival but it did foster a discussion that was so OPC.  It was, on the surface, a mundane discussion of what should be included in the minutes of the General Assembly.  But, as it turned out, there was a lively, principled, and well-argued exchange on what might be characterized as a Presbyterian drive for decorum and order over against transparency. Continue reading


Filed under Presbyterianism

Mock Trial for the Church

Law schools don’t just expose their students to a plethora of laws to commit to memory. What they actually do is alter the thought processes of their students. Spouses of law school students are the first to see this as the law student discovers a greater ability to win marital arguments while also learning the thrill of victory can sometimes be a cold comfort.

Anyway, lawyers think in a certain way and that way of thinking can be generalized into a series of inquiries. What is the law or issue? Given the law or issue, what are the important facts? What are the best arguments, both pro and con? And so forth.

All of which is to suggest a certain approach to analyzing issues in the church. Church matters can’t be reduced to legal analysis, but there are questions involving matters like jurisdiction, the law (moral), and procedures (fair) that are familiar territory to the lawyer. There’s enough in common that it can be a profitable exercise to do church-court hypothetical scenarios to analyze issues Christians confront.

And, yes, I have a hypothetical in mind. It’s an issue that’s been bouncing in the blogosphere, and it could be an illuminating one. But before we get to that difficult hypothetical, let’s do an easier one. We’ll start with a factual situation and then apply the scriptures and standards to it.

1. Specification. On October 7, 2012, Pastor Smith preached that the members of his congregation should vote Mitt Romney for President.

Continue reading


Filed under evangelical politics, Presbyterianism, Spirituality of the Church, Westminster Confession of Faith

Looking Across the River: Presbyterians Critique the Claims of Rome

The defection to Roman Catholicism of Presbyterian Church in America pastor Jason Stellman has Presbyterian blogs taking a closer look at the claims of Rome.

At Green Baggins, PCA Pastor Lane Keister asks:

what is the linchpin of Romanist claims? Surely, it is the Petrine succession argument for the Popes. Without an ironshod succession from Peter to Benedict XVI, there is no sacramental magisterial authority at all. It does no good at this point to claim that the apostolic succession can be legitimated without the Papal succession, since the Papal succession is what legitimates all the rest of the succession down to the ordination of priests. If the Papal claims are void, then so are the ordinations that come from a false Papacy.

As I write 631 comments follow his question.

Given the historical nature of the Romanist claims, it’s nice to have a historian in the house. In response to the Romanist church history D.G. Hart presents a Protestant view:

From a historical perspective, not to mention the way we understand ourselves, truths don’t simply fall out of the sky, pile up in neatly proportioned columns, steps, and arches, and remain intact for time immemorial.

…The church began among the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem and then spread to the center of the ancient church in Asia Minor and eventually to Europe. The Eastern Church remained relatively strong until the rise of Islam. The Western Church picked up the pieces of the Roman Empire and had fewer threats from Islam. Both of these churches, though different in culture and language, did not formally sever ties until the eleventh century. After 1054 Constantinople went into decline, Rome went the opposite way. The papal reforms of the eleventh century improved the authority of Rome. But even during the heyday of the papacy’s vigor — the high middle ages –Rome hardly controlled what was going on in the British Isles or France. Europe had no trains, not postal service, and little political consolidation. Trying to give coherence to Christianity was an impossible proposition until modernity gave us print, the nation-state, and effective transportation.

…The contention here, then, is that justification came late to debates in the Western Church. Protestants initiated those debates and made proposals. Rome rejected those proposals outright at least at Trent. But prior to Trent Rome had no official position on justification. Protestantism accordingly developed within Roman Catholicism, which developed from relations with churches in the East, which developed from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles in Jerusalem. To say that what we have in Roman Catholicism is what the early church had in the first three centuries is like saying that some angel of God left some gold plates containing the final revelation buried underground somewhere in upstate New York.

For those inclined to “blame” Stellman’s conversion on his Two Kingdom perspective, Hart has discovered a blog entry in which a Roman Catholic credits transformationalists John Frame and Tim Keller for helping him to appreciate images.

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Filed under Church, Presbyterianism

The Judiciary, Presbyterianism, and Office

“The Office,” USA Version.
(I loathed Michael Scott)

We’ll start today’s post with a quiz.   Guess whom – by name or role – was interviewed for  the following:

. . . [he] vows he won’t stand quietly by if opponents of same-sex marriage launch a potent campaign . . . “If someone wants to attack me, I’m not going to let them bully me,” . . . “If asked to, I’ll speak up for myself. The others didn’t do that last time. I will.”

You gave reasonable answers if you thought the interviewee was a politician or activitist, so you would be reasonably wrong. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Presbyterianism

Why I Like Presbytery

{Not an actual OPC Presbytery}

1. I average 3.4 hearty laughs per Presbytery meeting.

2. Everything I ever learned about Robert’s Rules I learned at Presbytery.

3.  Even when I’ve disagreed with final votes I’ve never suspected they were politically or factionally motivated.

4. The level of debate is so high that I really listen and sometimes change my mind.

5. It’s one place where the next generation of pastors is well-counseled and well-examined. 

6. It’s a reliable level of accountability and appeal from our local church.

7. What’s the point of being Presbyterian if you aren’t either going to Presbytery or getting reports about Presbytery?

8. Good, or at least loud, singing.

9. It’s good to see that Presbyters are not spending too much money on their clothes.

10. Only one person says “exciting” a lot.

11. Motions to adjourn are undebatable. Yup, it’s good to be there and it’s good to leave. Funny, that.

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Filed under Presbyterianism, Uncategorized