Aquila Report – Dear Worship Pastor: It’s Not About You

And for the new year, The Aquila Report has posted an [article]( written by Timothy Dalrymple from urging better ‘praise and worship’ style leadership, with this as the introductory paragraph:

> I enjoy praise and worship. I really do. And I appreciate the enormous effort and the talent that goes into excellent worship leadership. I hesitate to admit the following, because it seems like someone with a theology doctorate ought to be motivated by more cerebral concerns, but a significant (major but not main) part of why I made Perimeter Church my home church is because I enjoy it so much when Laura Story (whose “Blessings” won a Grammy this past year) leads worship there. That woman has an anointing; that’s the only way I can explain it. I am *moved* by her voice and her worship leadership.

Wow. So much broken in such a short introduction — where to begin?

* The Aquila Report focusses on news from a very broadly Reformed and Presbyterian interest perspective; what a shame that an article focussing on fine-tuning ‘praise and worship’ style leadership is worthy of editorial interest in such a religious news venue. Note, it definitely *is* the right editorial choice given the Presbyterian and Reformed landscape today. *That’s* what is a shame.
* Perimeter Church hides it well, but it is a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. From what I know of modern church growth dogma, strong denominational convictions are considered a hinderance to outreach, so that may be the motivation for the leadership of Perimeter Church downplaying their PCA affiliation. I could be thankful that they don’t make their affiliation obvious since their worship practice is so embarrassing, but of course Perimeter’s practice is exactly what the mainline of the PCA is all about. So really, why hide it?
* Practically speaking, Dr Dalrymple considers Laura Story of Perimeter Church to be a Worship Pastor. I suppose that Perimeter’s leadership would dispute that assessment, but this is a practical reason why we shouldn’t have women lead in worship. The role of leading in worship is *pastoral* and thus belongs to the ordained ministry, the pastors of the church.
* And, Dr Dalrymple has determined that Laura Story has an anointing! She is uniquely and supernaturally gifted by the Holy Spirit for her pastoral office and calling? Really? By his own confession, this is his *emotional* assessment. However, we know from the Scriptures that his is an errant assessment. This is a good example of why we worship ‘head first’ so that our heart may be enflamed by truth and not led into error.

Let us pray for a revival of Confessional Presbyterianism in our day. Let it start with us.


Bookmarks for 7 December 2012 through 25 December 2012

These are my Pinboard links for 7 December 2012 through 25 December 2012:


Dr Sproul on the Church Celebrating Christmas

Mistletoe - WikipediaThe Aquila Report published a story from the Ligonier Ministries web site where the esteemed Dr R. C. Sproul shared his thoughts on the church celebrating Christmas. In that post Dr Sproul comments, ‘I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.’

That statement is rather startling as it stands (Really? Nothing more pleasing to Christ?), but I suppose we should understand Dr Sproul to be speaking with some measure of hyperbole. Dr Sproul continues.

While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation…

While Dr Sproul imagines that the invention of an annual church holiday celebrating the Incarnation is a good thing, he admits it is not something required by God in Scripture.

This is remarkable coming from a conservative Presbyterian minister who suggests that the Westminster Standards ‘are the most precise and accurate summaries of the content of biblical Christianity ever set forth in a creedal form…’ That creed speaks specifically and clearly to the matter of worship approved by God, as well as to the matter of ecclesiastical holidays invented by men.

But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. (From Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, ¶1.)

Acceptable worship is only that which God has revealed as approved in His Word. This means that God may not be worshipped according to what we imagine may be good but rather He is to be worshiped only in the way He Himself has established in Scripture.

And this is not an isolated teaching of this creed, but is integral to the doctrine of holy worship which it confesses to be revealed in Scripture.

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God … [in] any … way not appointed in his word. (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 51)

Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; all … corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever… (Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 109)

Now, presumably Dr Sproul simply doesn’t believe the portions of this creedal standard that speak to the matter of biblical worship, but Dr Sproul goes much further, even admiring Rome for manufacturing holy days!

I wish we had more annual festivals. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, celebrates with great joy the Feast of the Ascension every year. Some Protestant bodies do, but most do not. I wish we would celebrate that great event…

Christ has established a holy day, the first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath. We have 52 of these divinely appointed holy days each year. Each one of these sacred holidays is filled up to overflowing with worship ordinances that are saturated with the Word and commanded by God! Each Lord’s Day the New Testament priesthood of believers celebrates the fulness of Christ, our exalted Prophet, Priest, and King in all His glorious self revelation through Word and Sacrament. Is this not sufficient for our spiritual good? Are God’s appointments inadequate so that we must manufacture our own holy days and our own ritual piety to meet our own spiritual needs? Does not God’s Word go far enough in telling us what is pleasing to Him in sacred matters? Must we rather add our own inventions? When did God approve of such a thing ever in all of Scripture? To the contrary, has not this behaviour eventually brought the severest judgements of God upon His people?

Let me hasten to say how much I appreciate the benefits I have experienced from the teaching ministry of Dr Sproul. He has been a blessing to countless people and has been used by God to revive the teachings of Calvinism in our day. Also, let me be clear that I am not opposing voluntary annual seasonal festivities by families or general society outside of and altogether apart from the worship of the church and her thankful obedient observation of the one true holy day, the Christian Sabbath.


Bookmarks for 25 November 2012 through 3 December 2012

These are my Pinboard links for 25 November 2012 through 3 December 2012:


Bookmarks for 7 November 2012 through 24 November 2012

These are my Pinboard links for 7 November 2012 through 24 November 2012:


Bookmarks for 25 October 2012 through 31 October 2012

These are my Pinboard links for 25 October 2012 through 31 October 2012:


On the use of analogies in explaining the Trinity

Sassafras2 300A friend of mine asked about using analogies to explain the Trinity to children. I tend to avoid analogies for explaining the Trinity — note, I do not condemn or discourage such analogies if they are used carefully. However, I find that such analogies fall so far short of the reality that they tend to add confusion rather than clarity. The Trinity is the most profound mystery at the very centre of all reality; it is no surprise that this is beyond our comprehension.

When I explain the doctrine of the Trinity to my children I make a point of saying I do not fully understand it and, indeed, no one can because it is just that profound and amazing! This is ultimate reality! I give the child as much as I can but, personally, I do not try to make the mystery more accessible with analogy. Again, I’m not condemning doing that! I’m just sharing what I’ve done.

God has revealed something of Himself in regard to His Being — this mysterious ‘ultimate reality’ — and what He has revealed we can understand and affirm so far as He has granted us the ability. This mysterious God is always and forever One and Three but in different respects.

I usually explain to the child that, just as we understand what it is to know different persons (Mommy, brother, Daddy), we know that there are three distinct persons when we talk about God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But unlike us, these Three aren’t separate each from the other in the same way that we are. Here is part of the mystery! Depending on the age and capacity of the child, that may be enough for the time, or I may introduce language about ‘Being’ and ‘Essence’, and how that distinguishes us each from the other, but in the case of the mysterious Trinity this is the very thing in which the Three are One! It’s heady stuff and I want them to develop an awe of it! I want them to be comfortable with the idea that God is ultimately so amazing that I cannot fully grasp everything about Him! That’s okay! He’s just that profoundly marvelous!

So, my thinking on this approach is that analogies of the Trinity are inherently frustrating and counterproductive. An effective analogy must have some fundamental aspect in common with the thing it is intended to illustrate. But this is precisely where every analogy of the Trinity breaks down so quickly! Nothing is ‘three’ in precisely the way the Divine Persons are Three! Nothing is One in precisely the way God is One! Consequently, the very thing the analogy is intended to do it is profoundly ill equipped to accomplish. The more one uses an analogy to grasp the Trinity, the more failing the analogy becomes! So, instead, I encourage my child to embrace the mysterious nature and awesome incomprehensibility of our marvelous God. I encourage him to hold onto what God has given us, but be satisfied with the limits of our comprehension.

I only offer this as a warm recommendation of the direction I have chosen, not at all as a condemnation or discouragement for those who have chosen a different direction. God must bless our efforts as parents and teachers or all our efforts should surely fail! God grant us wisdom in shepherding the godly offspring He desires!


Bookmarks for 11 October 2012 through 25 October 2012

These are my Pinboard links for 11 October 2012 through 25 October 2012:


Excellent resources on a biblical view of evangelism

2009 06 7 OSA recent request from a friend led me to look for something concise written on the topic of a classically Reformed view of evangelism. Gladly, I found just such a concise collection in the June-July 2009 edition of the [OPC](’s periodical *[Ordained Servant](* entitled “[Evangelism: Whose Responsibility?](”

The editor begins his introduction as follows.

> The late Rev. Charles Dennison was relentless in challenging me to found my views of the Christian’s duty in evangelism and culture on the text of Scripture and the confessional understanding of that text. I am pleased that my dear friend lived to see me change my views substantially in both areas. I was already convinced of the exegetical principle, which my ordination vows required me to believe. But like the proverbial pudding, the proof was in the exegesis. Shortly after I was ordained in 1980, Charlie gave me a copy of a paper he had presented to the Presbytery of Ohio that same year, “Evangelism and the Church,” in which he upheld a high view of the visible church and its offices with reference to evangelism. He courageously took issue with the prevalent view that evangelism is the obligation of every believer. During the previous decade every-member evangelism had been popularized within NAPARC churches by D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion (1970).

The periodical contains three articles that are concise, biblical, confessional, and make helpful historical connections.

* [Ambassadors of the Heavenly King]( by Gregory E. Reynolds

* [Evangelism and the Church]( by Charles G. Dennison

* [Evangelistic Responsibility]( by T. David Gordon

While one never endorses everything written by particular authors, these have, on the whole, done an excellent job here on this topic.

In the [March 2010]( issue, *Ordained Servant* published a [thoughtful rejoinder]( by Dr R. Fowler White to Dr T. David Gordon’s earlier article. In the same edition, Dr Gordon’s [response]( is included, continuing his defense of the classical Reformed position.

* [T. David Gordon’s Essay “Evangelistic Responsibility” in Ordained Servant Online: A Critique and an Alternative]( by R. Fowler White

* [Reply to R. Fowler White’s “Critique and Alternative”]( by T. David Gordon

I hope these articles will be found helpful by all in coming to a more biblical view of the duties of evangelism.


North’s Brief Analysis of 2016: Obama’s America

Obama2016I dislike Gary North’s writing style immensely and as a prognosticator North has done much to destroy his own credibility. However, in his brief analysis of Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary film 2016: Obama’s America,1 North presents a straightforward critique directly related to his field of expertise (economics), and I found this article to be a worthwhile read.

In his article entitled If Only D’Souza Were Right, North incisively takes issue with the primary thesis of D’Souza’s documentary, that our national economic woes are primarily due to the policies of the Obama administration. On the contrary, North argues, the Obama administration is the ‘operational successor of the Bush administration.’ I’m sure that must sound preposterous to Democrats and Republicans alike, but on the matters in view, especially the economic matters, North backs up his apparent overstatement.

North focuses our attention upon what he deems to be the best part of the documentary, an interview with David Walker, the former comptroller general of the United States under the last Bush administration. North makes three important observations here.

  1. ‘The deficit is vastly worse than the movie portrays.’ Specifically, the documentary focuses attention upon the ‘on-budget debt of $15 trillion’ while the far more economically relevant figure is the ‘$222 trillion present value of the unfunded liabilities of the off-budget deficit’.

North cites a Bloomberg article, and here’s the relevant part. ‘The U.S. fiscal gap, calculated (by us) using the Congressional Budget Office’s realistic long-term budget forecast — the Alternative Fiscal Scenario — is now $222 trillion. Last year, it was $211 trillion. The $11 trillion difference — this year’s true federal deficit — is 10 times larger than the official deficit and roughly as large as the entire stock of official debt in public hands.’

Seriously, stop a moment and take that in. It’s an unimaginable mountain of debt obligation, and far more important to recognise than the much smaller (though equally unimaginable) figure typically bandied about.

  1. ‘[Walker] blamed George W. Bush as much as he blamed Obama. He says on camera that the turning point on the deficit began with Bush’s presidency. He showed that we are headed for a fiscal disaster, and it may overtake us during the presidency of whoever is elected in 2016.’

North agrees, and emphasises that in relation to our economic situation we are ‘dealing with a single political administration, which began in January 2001.’ That is, both administrations have pulled in the same direction in relation to the most critical political and economic policies.

  1. ‘[N]either Walker nor D’Souza mentions on-screen what should be the obvious constitutional fact — namely, that it is the Congress that legally initiates all spending bills, and it is the House of Representatives that holds the hammer constitutionally.’

As North points out,

We are living in a bipartisan, congressionally mandated, slow-motion train wreck. The Congress of the United States could stop Obama today as easily as it could have stopped Bush. Congress is not interested in stopping the deficit; it is interested in avoiding all responsibility for the annual $1.2 trillion on-budget disaster that is the federal budgetary process.

Finally, North points out that the documentary leaves unaddressed the other big player in the economy, the Federal Reserve System. This agency operates largely as a private banking conglomerate with some Federal governing oversight and involvement at the highest levels. It’s structure is designed to allow it to act independently in relation to its most critical powers over the U.S. economy.

North concludes, D’Souza keeps the ‘Federal Reserve in the background in the thinking of the viewers, when the Federal Reserve ought to be in the foreground, with the presidency in the background. This is basic economics. D’Souza does not know what he is talking about with respect to economics.’

  1. Dinesh D’Souza‘s documentary film 2016: Obama’s America is based on D’Souza’s book Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream. Wikipedia describes D’Souza as ‘an Indian American conservative political commentator, public intellectual and author who is currently the President of The King’s College in New York City.’