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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Defense of Marriage Act and Same-Sex Marriage

From The Wittenberg Door archives . . .

The Obama administration recently announced that it will no longer legally support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The act, signed into law by then President Bill Clinton, defines marriage as between one man and one woman. It also stipulates that a same-sex union considered a marriage in one state does not have to be recognized as such in another.

In order to advance the ball put into play by the Obama administration, House and Senate Democrats will be drafting legislation both to repeal DOMA and to replace it with something more palatable to their sensibilities.

In this post we’ll consider the reasons put forth as justification for overturning DOMA.

(Quotes below are from the Huffinton Post.)

State Interest

"The president's move is another step in the increasing realization that there is no conceivable justification for DOMA, that it is motivated, was motivated, purely by irrational considerations and fear and that there is no rational basis that will stand up to a constitutional challenge," said Nadler [Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee]. "Hopefully, that will make it somewhat easier to pass legislation in Congress."

DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Rep. Nadler, instead of advancing an argument to substantiate his claim, simply resorts to motive questioning: those who don’t agree with him are motivated by irrationality and fear. Furthermore, he claims “that there is no rational basis that will stand up to a constitutional challenge.”Again, no reason is given. He just makes a claim.

Unlike Rep. Nadler, I will make a case for my side, and I’ll do so without questioning his motives. I’ll let the reader be the judge as to whether or not what follows is irrational.

The State’s only interest in marriage is that it is the best way for it, the State, to perpetuate itself. Mommies and daddies are from where the next generation of citizens will come. And the best environment for the raising of responsible citizens is a married, monogamist, heterosexual household. Married and monogamist because that brings stability to the home; heterosexual because both the mother and the father bring something in particular to the childrearing enterprise.

This unit is the best way to secure society’s future. Therefore, the State has an interest in favoring and protecting marriage between a man and a woman. It has no such interest in same-sex unions

All You Need is Love

"As a Member of the Judiciary Committee, it is my intention to introduce legislation that will once and for all repeal the Defense of Marriage Act," [Sen. D-CA] Feinstein said in a prepared statement. "My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that. I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It was the wrong law then; it is the wrong law now; and it should be repealed."

Sen. Feinstein’s comments bring to mind the Beatles’ song, All You Need is Love. Great song; bad social policy. Is it true that we can marry anyone we love and with whom we enter into a “contract”? Can I marry my two neighbors' wives as long as we love each other? Can I marry my sister if we stipulate that we wouldn’t breed? Can I marry myself (if I likewise promise not to breed)? We could go on-and-on with scenarios, but I think the point has been made: love is an insufficient reason to redefine marriage.

Another point is that the state isn’t interested in whether or not the happy couple love each other. On a marriage form there is no “Check Here to Swear That You Love This Person.” Why? Because the State doesn’t care. They care about the union for the reasons above, not about our emotional commitment to one another.

Conclusion

For all of recorded history marriage has been between men and women—never between the same sex. There have been variations on the theme of marriage, but the theme remains. Consider, though, the amazing chutzpah of the Senator and Congressman: They and their compatriots on the Left are morally superior to all religious leaders of all times, and to all generations that preceded this one. (I suppose Sen. Feinstein can teach Jesus a-thing-or-two about morality.)

If the Congressman and the Senator take truth, intellectual honesty, and the fabric of society seriously, then they’ll offer something more substantial than “all you need is love, and if you disagree it’s because you’re irrational and fearful.”

--The Catechizer

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Today in Church History: Adopting Act (PCUSA, 1729), Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A

On September 19, 1729, the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church in colonial America adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as its confessional basis for church office holders.

Ordination standards up that point were varied, and colonial Presbyterianism was divided between Puritans in New England (who argued that subscription conflicted with liberty of conscience) and Scotch-Irish in the middle colonies (who sought to maintain Old World subscription practices). The 1729 Adopting Act was a compromise effort that limited subscription to "all essential and necessary articles" of the Standards. Ever since, American Presbyterians have disputed what the words, "necessary and essential," have meant, some arguing for strict subscription and others understanding those words to allow some flexibility.

John Muether

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 13 – Arminianism: Uncertain Perseverance

In the last post on this topic, Part 12, we finished looking at the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace. Now we’ll take a look at the Arminian doctrine of Uncertain Perseverance: Although God’s grace has been extended to, and accepted by, the believer, he may still “fall from grace” and thus lose his salvation.

At the moment of new birth, the believer is granted eternal life and has passed from death to life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

He who believes in the Son has eternal life . . .

John 3:36

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 5:24

The believer is then kept by the power of God and He will not allow anything to come between Him and His people, nor will He allow them to turn from Him.

I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.

Jeremiah 32:40

I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You Holy Father, keep them in Your name . . . I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

John 17:11, 15

35) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36) Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."

37) But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

38) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

Furthermore, His people will never be lost nor come under His judgment.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Romans 5:8-10

7) so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

8) who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9) God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:7-9

To be continued . . .

--The Catechizer

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Today in Church History: William Tennent

On September 6, 1718, William Tennent landed in Philadelphia, with his wife, four sons, and daughter.

Trained as a Presbyterian in Scotland, Tennent had served in the Anglican church in Ireland before setting sail for the new world. Ten days after his arrival, he was admitted into the Presbytery, and he labored in parishes in New York before moving to Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, in 1727. There he established the "Log College" in his home, where he would educate his four sons and others in Presbyterian ministry. The school (the formation of which historian Leonard Trinterud called "the most important event in colonial Presbyterianism") became the focus of controversy in its short history. Critics claimed that the ministerial education it provided was deficient, and its graduates (especially Tennent's son, Gilbert) enthusiastically endorsed the Great Awakening and formed the leadership of New Side Presbyterianism.

- John Muether

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Today in History: William Penn Sets Sail for America

William Penn was a constant source of frustration for his father, a wealthy English admiral. The rebellious younger Penn got kicked out of Oxford University for refusing to attend Anglican (Church of England) services. The he joined the Society of Friends, a religious sect known as the Quakers because their leader had once told an English judge to “tremble at the Word of the Lord.” Quakers’ religious beliefs and refusal to swear allegiance to any king but God led to their persecution. William Penn found himself imprisoned more than once.

Admiral Penn was an old friend of King Charles II and loaned the monarch a good deal of money. When the admiral died, William asked that the debt be paid with land in America. The king liked William, despite his religious beliefs, and granted him a huge tract of wilderness, which Charles named Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s woods.”

On August 30, 1689, William Penn sailed for America to begin his “Holy Experiment”—a colony that would be a refuge for not only Quakers but settlers of various faiths. Penn’s guarantee of religious freedom was then one of the most comprehensive in the world. Indeed, his plan to include diverse populations while extending a broad measure of religious and political equality was nothing less than revolutionary for its time.

Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, French Huguenots, and even Anglicans rushed to settle the rich lands. By 1700, Pennsylvania had as many as 21,000 settlers. The capital, Philadelphia (“City of Brotherly Love”), became a thriving metropolis, soon the largest of North America’s colonial cities. As settlers arrived—English, Scots-Irish, Welch, German, Dutch, Swedish, and more—Penn’s woods began to resemble the famous American “melting pot.”

American History Parade

1682 - William Penn sets sail from Deal in Kent, England, for Pennsylvania.

1781 - A French fleet arrives at Yorktown, Virginia, with 3,000 troops to help the British army.

1836 - Brothers Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen found Houston, Texas.

1862 - Confederate forces defeat Union troops at the Second Battle of Manassas, Virginia.

1967 - The Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice on the Supreme Court.

1983 - Guion S. Bluford Jr. becomes the first black American astronaut to travel in space when the shuttle Challenger lifts off.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Today in Church History: Huguenots, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

On the night of August 23, 1572, thousands of French Calvinists (Huguenots) were massacred in Paris and other French cites in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

In the preceding decades, Calvinism had spread rapidly in France despite fierce persecution. The French Wars of Religion had begun in 1562 and continued until 1594. The mass killing, ordered by Catherine de Medici, queen mother of France, and carried out by Roman Catholic nobles, was the most violent episode of the warfare. Estimates of the victims ranged from 5,000 to 10,000. Included among them was Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligney, who had arranged for a short-lived peace agreement between Calvinists and Catholics in France in 1570.

The massacre prompted further development within Reformed thought of the principle of civil disobedience and rebellion against tyrannical civil authorities. In the years that followed, French Calvinists would continue to experience persecution and would not attain full religious toleration until the French Revolution under Napoleon.

- John Muether

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Today in History: The Liberty Tree

On August 14, 1765, a group of Bostonians calling themselves the Sons of Liberty gathered under a large elm tree to protest the Stamp Act imposed by England. From a branch they hung an effigy of the Boston official in charge of administering the hated Stamp Act tax. The elm became known as the Liberty Tree.

By the time of the Revolution, just about every American town had its own Liberty Tree, a living symbol of freedom and resistance to tyranny. Patriots met under the trees to swap information and plot rebellion. In some towns, folks erected a tall Liberty Pole to symbolize a tree.

Thomas Paine wrote a popular song called “The Liberty Tree” to rouse Patriots’ spirits. “From the east to the west, blow the trumpet to arms; through the land let the sound of it flee,” the song ran. “Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer, in defense of our Liberty Tree.”

During the Revolutionary War, Patriot solders sometimes carried into battle flags emblazoned with a Liberty Tree. Some banners carried the words “An appeal to Heaven” to show that the colonists sought guidance from God for their cause.

A 1999 hurricane dealt a deathblow to the last of the Revolutionary War-era Liberty Trees, a 400-year-old giant tulip popular in Annapolis, Maryland. The conservation group American Forests grew fourteen from the tree’s seeds to plant in Washington, D.C., and the thirteen original states.

American History Parade

1755 - During the French and Indian War, George Washington is appointed commander in chief of Virginia forces protecting the frontier.

1765 - In Boston the Sons of Liberty protest the Stamp Act under the Liberty Tree.

1784 - On Kodiak Island, Russian fur traders found the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska.

1848 - Congress creates the Oregon Territory, an area encompassing today’s Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and western Montana.

1945 - Japan surrenders unconditionally, ending World War II.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Today in Church History: Geerhardus Vos

On August 13, 1949, Geerhardus Vos died in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After a brief tenure at Calvin Seminary, Vos was Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary for nearly 40 years, where he taught most of the founding faculty of Westminster Seminary. Unlike his Princeton colleagues, Vos labored in relative obscurity. Charles Dennison wrote:

His Princeton years (1893-1932) had to be a disappointment to some. If they expected a man capable of hand-to-hand theological combat, what they received was a quiet, peaceful, even private man. He was more of an Isaac than an Abraham. A theologian's theologian, hardly an aggressive spokesman for the cause, hardly energetically engaged in the courts of the church, Vos spent his time out of the limelight in class preparation and in extensive reading and writing. The bibliography of his writings covers thirteen pages and it reveals a different sort of Christian soldier in the battle for Reformed orthodoxy. In Vos, we are face-to-face with a theological intelligence effort. He studied the enemies' movements so thoroughly that he was able to anticipate them. This is especially evident in the way he was answering Albert Schweitzer even before Schweitzer was publishing his most influential works. Positively, Vos remained a theologian capable of making even Murray and Van Til stretch.

In retirement, Vos fell into even greater obscurity. Moving first to Southern California and then to Grand Rapids, Vos devoted the last years of his life to writing poetry. The handful of attendees at his funeral in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania included no representatives from Princeton Seminary. After his death, with the republication of many of his books, including Biblical Theology, there has developed a resurgence of interest in Vos within the OPC and beyond.

John Muether

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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Today in Church History: Gordon H. Clark

On August 9, 1944, the Presbytery of Philadelphia ordained Gordon Clark.

A complaint against his ordination, filed in the Presbytery and eventually reaching the General Assembly in 1945, launched the "Clark Controversy" within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The dispute took place on three levels. First, the complaints noted irregularities that attended the ordination (Clark was licensed to preach and ordained in the same meeting). The General Assembly agreed that the Presbytery erred, but it did not overturn the ordination. Secondly, there were concerns whether Clark's views on divine and human knowledge gave adequate account for the "incomprehensibility of God." Finally, the controversy was part of a larger debate over the direction of the denomination between more Reformed and more evangelical parties.

Convinced that the OPC was becoming too narrow and sectarian, Clark left in 1948, transferring his ministerial credentials into the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Later, he joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. At the time of his death in 1985, he was retired from teaching philosophy at Butler University and Covenant College.

John Muether

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 12 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In Part 11, we closed-out our discussion of the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace, with one question still lingering:

Arminians often respond to the Calvinistic doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election with the following objection: “So you’re saying that God drags people into heaven against their will, while those sincerely desiring to get in can’t because they’re not the elect?”

Banging on Heaven’s Door?

We’ll start with the second objection: Is it the case that there are sinners who want to reconcile with God but God won’t let them because He didn’t elect them?

Here’s the problem with this objection: it doesn’t take into consideration the state of man. Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to us all (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; John 11:24-26; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13).

As a result, men are spiritually deaf, blind, and completely corrupted (Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14); also, men are slaves of sin (John. 8:34; Rom. 6:20; Tit. 3:3) and children of the devil (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; 1 John 3:10).

So how does natural man respond to the revelations God has given him? He suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Consequently, man in his unregenerate state hates God and is therefore not seeking Him.

10) as it is written,
"THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;

11) THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

12) ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."

Romans 3:10-12

Kicking and Screaming?

Now to the former part of the objection: Is God forcing people into heaven against their will?

As we’ve just seen, man is dead in his sins and in complete and utter rebellion against God. Man’s plight is not simply that he needs to add a few doctrines to his belief system—no, he needs to be made a new creation (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 5:17–18), to have his nature renewed (Due. 30:6; Ezk. 36:26–2; 1 Pet. 1:3).

Being made alive by the Spirit (John 5:21; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13), the sinner is granted repentance (Acts. 11:18, 16:14; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25–26). Now with a new disposition towards God, he lives a life characterized by thankfulness and service unto the Lord (Rom. 6:1-14; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13).

Conclusion

The Arminian objection falls flat, for it does not truly represent the state of man, nor does it truly represent the gracious work of God in salvation.

In his fallen state man is an enemy of God. He not only doesn’t seek reconciliation and entrance into God’s kingdom, but he is daily seeking to further himself from His holy Creator. The sinner’s only hope is a rescue operation—a sovereign work of God upon his heart. Once regenerated, the new believer lives a life of thankfulness and dedication to his magnificent benefactor.

In the next post in this series we’ll take-up the Arminian doctrine of Uncertain Perseverance: Although God’s grace has been extended to, and accepted by, the believer, he may still “fall from grace” and thus lose his salvation.

--The Catechizer

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