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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Today in Church History: Carl McIntire

On May 17, 1906, Carl McIntire was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, McIntire followed his mentor, J. Gresham Machen, to Westminster Seminary (where he graduated in 1931) and into the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at its founding in 1936. Soon, however, he would have a falling out with Machen and the "un-American" theology emanating from Westminster, represented in the likes of R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, and Cornelius Van Til. In 1937 he led an exodus from the OPC and formed the Bible Presbyterian Church and Faith Theological Seminary, committed to a more rigorous form of separatism.

McIntire's fiery combination of fundamentalist theology and conservative politics expanded steadily in popularity during the height of the America's cold war. His Collingswood, New Jersey, church grew to 1,200 members, his Christian Beacon newspaper claimed 100,000 subscribers, and his "Twentieth Century Reformation Hour" was broadcast on over 600 radio stations. Through these media he took on Catholics, communists, and evangelicals " especially Billy Graham. McIntire also led in the formation of the American Council of Christian Churches (1941) and the International Council of Christian Churches (1948).

Eventually, several church splits (largely stemming from his domineering personality) and legal battles with the FCC would greatly diminish his following. He retired after over 60 years in the ministry, and he died on March 20, 2002, at the age of 95.

John Muether


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Thought of the Day: Assurance

There are two aspects to the assurance of salvation: one is objective in nature and the other is subjective. Our assurance is objective in that the believer’s salvation is secured and guaranteed by God. The subjective aspect is psychological in nature, so it can be adversely affected by the on-going struggle with sin. Another way to put it is that I know that I’m saved, but sometimes I don’t feel that I am.

--The Catechizer

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reformation Begins with the Pulpit

There is . . . a great need for a reformation of the evangelical pulpit. To reform the pulpit is to reform the church. What is needed is not simply more preaching, but God-enthralled, Christ-magnifying, Spirit-empowered preaching. If this is to occur, the church must regain a high view of the pulpit. As was prevalent during the Reformation, the preaching of the Word must be central in the worship of the church in this generation.

Dr. Steven Lawson points out at the Aquila Report that a second Reformation is desperately needed in our day, and that it will only come if the church has a) a high view of Scripture, b) a high view of God, and c) a high view of the pulpit. In his post, which is an excerpt from his book, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, he focuses on the need for a reformation of the Evangelical pulpit.

In an age where pulpits have been replaced by Plexiglas stands fronting mockups of Opra’s TV stage, and where Genevan robes have been ousted for tee shirts, torn jeans, and flip flops, and where exegetical, Christ-centered preaching has given sway to “live your best life now” pep talks, we do indeed have a lot of work to do. The pulpit, though, is where this work needs to start. Dr. Lawson comments on this need:

In this critical hour of church history, pastors must recapture the glory of biblical preaching, as in the days of the Reformation. Preachers must return to true exposition that is Word-driven, God-glorifying, and Christ-exalting. May the Lord of the church raise up a new generation of expositors, men armed with the sword of the Spirit, to once again preach the Word. The plea of Spurgeon, who witnessed the decline of dynamic preaching in his lifetime, must be heard and answered in this day:

We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land… . I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.

You can read the rest of Dr. Lawson’s prescription here.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Today in History: Mother’s Day

Credit for starting Mother’s Day goes to a schoolteacher named Ana Jarvis. Here campaign to organize a holiday began as a way to honor the memory of her own mother, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis. The elder Jarvis had devoted much of her life to the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church of Grafton, West Virginia, and in May 1908, at Anna Jarvis’s urging, the church held a service honoring mothers. Anna Jarvis, who lived in Philadelphia, also convinced merchant John Wanamaker to join her cause in establishing Mother’s Day, and he held an afternoon service in his store. Within just a couple of years, the custom had spread to other states.

At one of the first Mother’s Day services, Jarvis distributed white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower. Many people still follow the tradition of giving and wearing carnations on Mother’s Day—white flowers in memory of deceased mothers, and brightly colored ones for living mothers.

Jarvis and her supporters convinced ministers, politicians, and businessmen to support the goal of starting a national observance. On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a joint resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Mother’s Day presidential proclamation, calling for “a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

American History Parade

1541 - Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto reaches the Mississippi River.

1846 - General Zachary Taylor wins the first major battle of the Mexican War at Palo Alto, Texas.

1884 - Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third U.S. president, is born in Lamar, Missouri.

1886 - Druggist John S. Pemberton sells the first Coca-Cola at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.

1914 - Congress establishes the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

1945 - Americans celebrate victory in Europe over Nazi Germany (VE Day).

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Friday, May 08, 2015

Today in Church History: John Murray

On May 8, 1975, John Murray died in Bonar Bridge, Scotland, the town where he was born on October 14, 1898.

Long-time professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary, where he taught from 1930 to 1967, Murray was also an active Orthodox Presbyterian churchman. He attended meetings of the Presbytery of New York and New England whenever possible, and he served on several General Assembly committees, including the Committee on Foreign Missions, the Committee on Local Evangelism, the Committee on Texts and Proof Texts to the Westminster Standards, and the Committee to Revise the Form of Government and Book of Discipline. In 1947, along with William Young, he presented a Minority Report of the Committee on Song in Public Worship, where he argued that the Psalter was the exclusive hymnbook for the New Testament church. His most popular book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (1955), began as articles published in the Presbyterian Guardian, where he was a frequent contributor.

The Banner of Truth described Murray's funeral in this way:

The dignity and simplicity of the service, in true Reformation style, was just as Professor Murray would have desired. John Murray had gone forth from this small community to become one of the world's leading theologians. Having finished his course and kept the faith, it now seemed fitting that the small cemetery on the shores of the Kyles of Scotland should contain the remains of this worthy servant of Christ until the day break and the shadows flee away.

John Muether


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Reforming Church Architecture

Call me old fashioned, but I think churches should look like churches. Not like shopping malls, coffee houses, or amusement parks. I recall when I moved to San Antonio, TX, (before I moved to the Texas hill country), coming over the hill on the 10 freeway, I saw a brick building with a high roof and a jutting steeple; a true architectural antithesis when compared to the large retail stores and auto dealers around it. I told my family, “I bet that’s our new church”; and sure enough I was right. Easily recognizable, it was set apart, distinct, a true statement of contrast. It looked like a house of worship, not a house of commerce—it looked like a place where God met His people.

David Gobel weighs in by contributing to a series at the The Gospel Coalition Web site on church architecture. Here’s an excerpt:

I suggest that we approach church architecture in terms of worship and witness. Worship is the purpose of the church. Worship, as we understand it from the teaching of Scripture, consists of the reading and preaching of the Word, public prayer, congregational singing, and the celebration of the sacraments. The building in which we worship is the physical setting for this supremely important activity, but it is not to be worshiped itself, nor should it distract us or lead us to worship any created thing. A Reformed church architecture should be, at the outset, supportive of and subordinate to Christian worship. But this does not mean that it must be unattractive or drearily utilitarian.

According to John Calvin, the chief principle governing public worship is decorum, a concept that describes how we are to behave, dress, and, I would add, build. Decorum is a general principle that encompasses propriety, gracefulness, dignity and, yes, beauty. Indeed, these are the qualities that should be sought in church architecture. The dignity, decorum, and beauty that we seek in designing places for public worship should extend also to the external witness of the church. We must not forget that, besides being a gathered body of believers, the local church is also an earthly institution. Like all civic and commercial institutions, when churches construct buildings, they are building public statements about their identity. All buildings—whether art museums, gas stations, big-box retailers, or churches—bear witness to the institutions they serve.

Churches cannot ignore their civic role. The location, site planning, quality of materials, craftsmanship, and design of a church building either contribute to or detract from the overall quality of the built environment of a community. Churches must consider, not only the architectural design of their buildings, but also their relationship to the streets, blocks, and neighboring buildings of the surrounding community. Like all of society, our culture’s built environment is in dire need of reformation. Sprawling landscapes of multilane highways, disconnected developments, and warehouse-style buildings are indicative of a self-absorbed society that is far from pursuing the true chief end of man. The automobile-oriented, big-box, entertainment-style worship centers built by many churches today seem only to perpetuate such culture. How we build our churches is a matter too long ignored. Refor med churches should build buildings fit for the supreme task of corporate worship while contributing to the beauty and welfare of the city of man.

You can read the rest here.

PS. The church pictured above is the one of which I am currently a member, Christ Presbyterian Church of New Braunfels, Texas (PCA). I believe it examples David Gobel’s insights: In contrast to the medical and retirement facilities around it, it’s clearly discernable as a church. Moreover, it exemplifies dignity, decorum, and beauty, all the while remaining consistent with the Alamoesque architecture popular in South Texas.

Click here to see some amazing—and sometimes strange—examples of church architecture.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Today in Church History: Cornelius Van Til

On May 3, 1895, Cornelius Van Til was born in Grootegast, Groningen, the Netherlands.

After immigrating to the United States with his family in 1905, Van Til studied at Calvin College and Seminary before enrolling at Princeton Seminary, where he studied under Geerhardus Vos, C. W. Hodge, and Robert Dick Wilson. In 1927 he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. Following a brief pastorate in the Christian Reformed Church, Van Til became a member of the original faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929, teaching apologetics until his retirement in 1972. In 1936, he transferred his ministerial membership into the newly-formed Orthodox Presbyterian Church where he remained throughout his life, declining several invitations to return to Calvin Seminary and the CRC.

In all of his work Van Til consistently championed the apologetic approach of presuppositionalism. "The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to 'facts' or 'laws' whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to the debate," he wrote. Van Til vigorously challenged traditional approaches to apologetics, both Catholic and evangelical, because they conceded too much to non-Christian ways of thinking and denied God as the ultimate judge of reality. In works such as The New Modernism (1946), he also warned against the seductive teachings of Karl Barth and the emerging neo-orthodox movement.

John Muether


Friday, May 01, 2015

Today in History: National Day of Prayer

The first Thursday in May is the National Day of Prayer, a day that encourages Americans to pray for the United States, its people, and its leaders.

The tradition of a National Day of Prayer dates to 1775, when the Second Continental Congress set aside a day for Americans to pray to “be ever under the care and protection of a kind Providence” as they began the struggle for independence. In the following decades, Congress and the president set aside various days for prayer. In 1863, for example, Lincoln proclaimed “a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer” to help the country get through “the awful calamity of civil war” and for “the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

In 1952 Congress and President Truman established a National Day of Prayer as a yearly event. Truman called for a day “on which all of us, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, may beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow, and strength and patience to pursue that course steadfastly.”

In 1988, President Reagan designated the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer, urging Americans to ask God for “His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our Nation, our friends in the defense of Freedom, and all mankind, now and always.”

American History Parade

1749 - George Washington receives his surveyor’s license from the College of William and Mary.

1809 - Mary Kies of Connecticut becomes the first woman to receive a U.S. patent, for a technique for weaving straw with silk and thread.

1864 - The Battle of the Wilderness begins in Spotsylvania Country, Virginia.

1925 - John T. Scopes is arrested in Tennessee for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

1961 - Astronaut Alan Shepard becomes the first American to travel into space during a fifteen-minute suborbital flight.

1988 - The first Thursday in May is designated the National Day of Prayer.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Today in History: President Washington’s First Official Act

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took office in New York as the first president of the United States. In his inaugural address, he began his duties by giving thanks to the Almighty for the blessings the new country had received during the Revolution and making the Constitution:

It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own. . . . No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.

American History Parade

1789 - George Washington takes office as the first U.S. president.

1803 - The United States concludes negotiations with France for the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the young republic for $15 million.

1812 - Louisiana becomes the eighteenth state.

1939 - Lou Gehrig plays his last game with the New York Yankees, ending his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played.

1939 - Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first president to appear on TV as he opens the World’s Fair in New York City.

1975 - The last Americans evacuate Saigon as South Vietnam surrenders to the Vietcong.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Today in History: Jamestown, Virginia

On April 26, 1607, three small ships from England named the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery sailed into the Chesapeake Bay in what now is Virginia. On board were 104 colonists who came ashore, erected a wooden cross, and gave thanks to God for their passage across the Atlantic. In the following days they ventured inland along a wide river they name the James, after their king, and established themselves on a low island sixty miles from the bay’s mouth. Jamestown would turn out to be the first permanent English settlement in North America——the very beginning of what would become the United States.

That the colony survived comes close to being a miracle. The land the settlers chose was swampy and mosquito infested. The drinking water was bad. Malaria, typhoid, and dysentery took their toll, as did the clashes with the Indians. Some of the colonists were ill prepared for frontier life. At times they spend more energy looking for gold than trying to stay alive. During the first summer, fifty died.

More ships arrived with more colonists and supplies, but still it was a tough going. During the winter of 1609–1610, a siege by the Indians brought the “starving time.” One settler remembered that “many times three or four [died] in a night; in the morning their bodies trailed out of their cabins like dogs to be buried.” Out of about 214 colonists, only 60 survived. They decided to go back to England but had sailed only a few miles downriver when they met a new governor arriving with yet more settlers, so they turned around.

Jamestown endured partly due to the discovery of tobacco——a crop as good as gold——but largely because of dogged perseverance. By 1619 the colony had grown enough to elect its own House of Burgesses——the first representative legislative assembly in the Western Hemisphere.

American History Parade

1598 -An expedition led by Spanish explorer Juan de Onate reaches the Rio Grande.

1607 - English colonists come ashore at Cape Henry, Virginia, en route to founding Jamestown.

1865 - Federal troops surround and kill John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln, near Bowling Green, Virginia.

1961 - The integrated circuit is patented by Robert Noyce.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America