f The Wittenberg Door: September 2014

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Today in Church History: Westminster Theological Seminary

On September 25, 1929, Westminster Theological Seminary opened in the Witherspoon building in Philadelphia, with an enrollment of fifty students.

In his opening address, "Westminster Theological Seminary: Its Purpose and Plan," J. Gresham Machen set forth the school as the successor to Princeton Seminary, which had been recently reorganized to include modernists on its Board:

[T]hough Princeton is dead, the noble tradition of Princeton is alive. Westminster Seminary will endeavor by God's grace to continue that tradition unimpaired; it will endeavor, not on a foundation of equivocation and compromise, but on an honest foundation of devotion to God's Word, to maintain the same principles that the old Princeton maintained. We believe, first, that the Christian religion, as set forth in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, is true; we believe, second, that the Christian religion welcomes and is capable of scholarly defense; and we believe, third, that the Christian religion should be proclaimed without fear or favor, and in clear opposition to whatever opposes it, whether from within or without the church, as the only way of salvation for lost mankind. On that platform, brethren, we stand. Pray that we may be enabled by God's grace to stand firm. Pray that the students who go forth from Westminster Seminary may know Christ as their own Savior and may proclaim to others the gospel of his love.

Though an independent school, Westminster Seminary proved crucial to the founding and development of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Most of the church's ministers have graduated from Westminster, and its founding faculty, all of whom were ministerial members in the OPC, were active and prominent churchmen. In the words of Charles Dennison, the two institutions developed "one of the most amazing relationships in Presbyterian history.”

John Muether


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.


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


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


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?


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


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