January 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Distinctive Calvinism

The wording of the postal telegram in 1933 was simple enough to Rienk Bouke Kuiper, who was president of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.   Printed in all capital letters, it said, “UPON THE UNANIMOUS RECOMMENDATION OF THE FACULTY AND THE TRUSTEES OF WESTMINSTER SEMINARY IN SESSION MAY NINTH BY A UNANIMOUS VOTE HAVE ELECTED YOU TO THE CHAIR OF PRACTICAL THEOLOGY.  THE SECRETARY OF THE BOARD WILL SEND YOU FULL INFORMATION.  WE HOPE AND PRAY THAT YOU MAY BE LED TO ACCEPT THIS POST.  (signed) C. E. MACARTNEY, SAMUEL CRAIG, T. EDWARD ROSS, (for the board).

R. B. Kuiper was not unknown to the faculty and trustees of this new Presbyterian seminary in Philadelphia.  He had served the first year of its existence as professor of Systematic Theology, but then had left it to become the president of Calvin College.  Now he was being asked to return two years later to become the professor of practical theology.  The prospective teacher had all the spiritual gifts necessary for such a post.

Born January 31, 1886 in the Netherlands to a ministerial father, the family had emigrated to the United States so the father could take a congregation in Michigan of the Christian Reformed Church.

Later, R. B. Kuiper was educated at the University of Chicago, Indiana University, and with a diploma from Calvin Theological Seminary, he  finished up his training at Princeton Seminary in 1912.

After this latter instruction from some of the finest minds of the Presbyterian world, such as B.B. Warfield, R.B. Kuiper began his ministry in the pastorate, serving several congregations in Michigan. He would have all that was necessary to be a pastor of practical theology from that experience.

Below, the Westminster faculty as composed upon Kuiper’s arrival, 1933-34.

R.B. Kuiper answered the telegram’s invitation in the affirmative  and went to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, where he taught for 20 years.  One of his students remarked that he had the gift of making the profound simple as he proclaimed the whole counsel of God.

Among that broad span of the whole counsel of God, and one which seminary professors and students often fail, is the area of Reformed  evangelism.   Listen to his words in his book “To be or Not to Be Reformed.”  He wrote “May God forbid that we should become complacent about our progress in evangelism!  Our zeal for evangelism is not nearly as warm as it ought to be.  Our evangelistic labors are not nearly as abundant as they should be.  Our prayers for the translation of souls from darkness into God’s marvelous light must become far more fervent.” (p. 77)   What R. B. Kuiper wrote fifty years ago is no  less true in our day.   Ask yourselves the question?  Am I a zealous evangelist?

Words to Live By:  “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the LORD, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The apostle Paul, Acts 13:48 (ESV)  “Divine election, and it alone, guarantees results for evangelism.”  R.B. Kuiper

Pictured above: Some of the courses taught by R.B. Kuiper in his first year at Westminster.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 11 – 13

Through the Standards:  Creation, according to  the catechisms

WLC 15 “What is the work of creation?
A.  The work of creation  is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.”

WSC 9  “What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.”

Photograph source: The Presbyterian Guardian 5.3 (March 1938): 50.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Competent to Counsel

You wouldn’t think that it was so, but many theological seminaries in the past which had at their calling that of training Christian workers in the church, placed little or no emphasis on pastoral counseling.  As a result, so often ministers of the gospel went out into the church world with this gaping hole in their preparation.  This was the case with Jay E. Adams.   He had the experience of having a man approach him one Sunday in obvious distress.  Adams, by his own admission, was unable to help him.  When the individual died a month later, the young minister resolved in prayer to become a better counselor.  A lot of pastors can empathize with Jay Adams in this case.

Jay Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 30, 1929.  About fifteen years later, he was born again when a friend gave him a copy of the New Testament.  After an undergraduate degree from John Hopkins University, he earned degrees from Reformed Episcopal Seminary and Temple University.  A doctorate degree from the University of Missouri in Speech, not counseling,  as many mistakenly think, was earned later.  Adding to these educational degrees was practical experience in two congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  It was at his first congregation that the illustration of the distressed man, who  had been told that he had a short time to live, occurred on that Sunday.

All attempts from books and course studies to find some help in  counseling, failed for the young minister.  The reason was simply in that they  all originated in non-biblical approaches to the topic.  In fact, Adams began to effectively apply the Word of God to specific situations in the congregation.  That procedure began to bear fruits in people’s lives.

A turning point came in 1965 when Adams partnered with O. Hobard Mower.  Though not a believer, this person differed from all modern day psychologists by emphasizing the need to confess deviant behavior and assume responsibility for one’s actions.  In other words, the need to acknowledge their own failures to meet the problems of life was the issue.  Now Jay Adams, as a Christian, recognized that God wasn’t in the picture in this approach of Mower.  But even with that caveat, Adams watched as the majority of patients in two mental institutions were emptied by the team of counselors.

What Jay Adams did was to take the the secular methodology and put it through the sieve of biblical revelation, elevating the whole approach toward Christian counseling.  All of this was encapsulated in the best selling book, “Competent to Counsel” in 1970.  Readers were reminded of the Bible verse “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14 NASV)  And the modern Biblical counseling movement, of which Jay Adams is the “father,” was on its way.

Words to Live By: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3 NASV)

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 11 – 13

Through the Standards:  The work of creation

WCF 4:1
“It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,  for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.”

For further reading:
The earliest published work by Rev. Jay E. Adams that we could locate was titled “Does God Disown His Children?,” a brief exploration of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which appeared in the May 1955 issue of The National Missions Reporter (vol. 8, no. 4, p. 13-14). His first major publication was Realized Millennialism, a self-published work issued from St. Louis, 87 pages in length. This was essentially a defense of the amillennial position, though it caused some controversy, as some saw it as an attack upon the premillennial position. But Dr. Adams real mark upon the world came with the 1970 publication Competent to Counsel, and it is safe to say that most know him today for his work in the field of Christian counseling, specifically for the approach which he has termed nouthetic counseling. Dr. Adams presently heads up the Institute for Nouthetic Counseling, and his ministerial credentials have been with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church since December 5, 1989.

Also on this date:
January 30, 1912 marks the birthdate of Francis A. Schaeffer. [thus making this year the 100th anniversary of his birth.]

 

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Only Scripture

Please bear with me as I turn our attention today from the people and events of historic Presbyterianism, to an exposition of the second question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. That question is, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?  And the answer is, “The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”

Our only rule is the Word of God.  Let me repeat that sentence.  Your only rule is the Word of God, the Bible.   And if we ask,  what is the Word of God, our Confessional Fathers reply in question 3 of the Larger Catechism that “the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.”

It is true that the Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God “by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince, and convert sinners, and to build up believers unto salvation.” (Larger Catechism No 4)

It is also true that only the Holy Spirit can only fully persuade us that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God by Him bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in our hearts.

Think of how many of your fellow citizens and maybe even  some of your fellow church members are following other rules for faith and obedience. In the case of the former, your fellow citizens, it is an every day occurrence.   We see their courses of action and often tragic results.   In the latter case, your fellow church members,  it comes when a crisis comes upon them.  They may try a dozen other rules, and then as a last resort, go to the Bible.

Other rules other than the holy Scriptures may be some other religion, some influential person in society, even some religious leader, their conscience, tradition, a relative or close friend,  or believing that each situation has its own ethics.  All of these  become their rules for faith and obedience.

Let this not be said of you however.  Indeed, let your faith and trust in the God of the Scriptures and the Scriptures of your God, be the witness which your neighbors see in your life.  That can lead to the introduction of the Savior to them.  Live the Word of God!

Words to Live By: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man. (Shorter Catechism No. 3)

Through the Scriptures:   Exodus 5 – 7

Through the Standards: The execution of God’s decrees

WLC 14  “How does God execute his decrees?
A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.”

WSC 8  “How did God execute His decrees?
A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence.”

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Death of Joseph A. Alexander

Joseph Addison Alexander, third son of the Rev. Archibald and Janetta (Waddel) Alexander, was born in Philadelphia on 24 April 1809. His early education was obtained under the immediate supervision of his parents, and owing to an intellectual vigor rare indeed, his powers of acquiring knowledge were amazing, especially in the department of languages. In 1825 he graduated at the College of New Jersey (since 1896, Princeton University), with the highest honors of his class. He was elected Tutor, but declined the appointment, and, with Mr. Patton, founded Edgehill School at Princeton. He studied theology at home and at the University of Halle and Berlin, in Europe. He was licensed and ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1832, and became assistant instructor of the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible, in the Princeton Theological Seminary; in 1835 he was appointed Associate Professor, and in 1840 sole Professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature; in 1851 he was transferred to the chair of Biblical and Ecclesiastical History; and in 1859, at his own request, he was assigned the department of Hellenistic Greek and New Testament Literature. The main business of his life was with the Holy Bible, giving to theological research and instruction all the energies of his massive intellect.

[» The Edgehill School, Princeton, New Jersey, co-founded by J.A. Alexander & R.B. Patton »]

Dr. Alexander’s gigantic mind was in full vigor until the day before his death. On the morning of that day he was occupied with his usual course of polyglot reading in the Bible, being accustomed to read the Scriptures in some six different languages, as part of his daily devotions. He seems also to have entertained himself, during some part of the day, with one of the Greek classics, Herodotus, as a pencil mark on the margin, “January 27th, 1860.” is said to show. In the afternoon of that day, he rode out in the open air for the first time since his attack of hemorrhage. During that ride, however, which was not continued more than forty-five minutes, a sudden sinking of life came on him, so much so that he was borne almost entirely by the help of others from the carriage. The sinking continued all Friday night, and on Saturday he was hardly conscious of anything until he died. His death was perfectly calm, without a struggle, without one heaving breath. His death occurred in his study, January 28th, 1860.

[Wilson’s Presbyterian Almanac for 1861 (p. 71) notes that his death, at the age of 51, was caused by diabetes. Alexander’s brother, James Waddel Alexander, had died of dysentery not six months earlier, in 1859, at the age of 55.]

Dr. Alexander’s sermons were sure to be original, evangelical, forcible, elegant and tending to practical effect upon the conscience. He was a frequent contributor to The Princeton Review, and for a time served with Professor Dod as its editor. As an author he took high rank. A volume of his fragmentary “Notes on New Testament Literature and Ecclesiastical History” was posthumously published in 1861. In 1851 his “Psalms Translated and Explained” appeared in three volumes. In 1857 “The Acts of the Apostles Explained,” in two volumes. In 1858 “The Gospel, According to Mark, Explained,” in one volume. the Commentary on Matthew was unfinished at his death, but so much as he had prepared was published in 1861, as the last work on which his pen was engaged.

Words to Live By:  A man of great gifts, Dr. Alexander was well used of the Lord in the advancement of His kingdom. Yet for all this, we must not covet. The Lord has a place and a role for each of His children, and it is not unusual to find that “the least of these” are often enabled to bear great witness to the glory of God in the Gospel.

Through the Scriptures:  Exodus 1 – 4

Through the Standards: Proof Texts for God’s eternal decrees:

Acts 13:48

 “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord, and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (NIV);

2 Thessalonians 2:13

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God  chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (NIV);

 1 Thessalonians 1:4

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.”  (NIV);

Romans 8:29, 30

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also jusified, those he justified, he also glorified.” (NIV);

 Read also Ephesians 1:1 – 14

Biographical sketch and portrait image from Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884), pp. 21-22. Image of the Edgehill campus from The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer of the Church, for 1861 (Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson), page 341. All scans performed by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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This day in Presbyterian history :

Birth of William Henry Green

William Henry Green was born on the twenty-seventh day of January, 1825; born into a family which possessed traditions and ideals, born an heir to definite high opportunities of life, and born a child of the covenant. Though his family had ancestral ties to Princeton, William was sent to the classical school in Easton, and from there he entered Lafayette College at the age of sixteen. “He was a sunny-faced, bright-eyed, pure-minded boy in college, and led a blameless and winsome life.” By the time he was twenty, he had settled on serious study of theology. Upon graduation from seminary, he was invited to assist in teaching and spent the next two years teaching Hebrew grammar, before answering a call to pastor the Central Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, 1849-1851.

That pastorate was terminated in 1851 when the General Assembly elected him to the chair of Biblical and Oriental Literature in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, when he was but twenty-six years old. He began those labors on August 28th of that year and continued there until his death in 1900. Once during his Princeton career he prayerfully considered leaving for missions work in India. Some fourteen years later he also declined to serve as president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). He remained where he was needed.

When he began his work as Professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature, his faculty colleagues were Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge and Joseph Addison Alexander. Dr. Samuel Miller had died the year before, in 1850, and Dr. Archibald Alexander was soon called home to glory on October 22, 1851, three weeks after Professor Green’s inauguration. “In outward appearance he was tall, straight, strongly knit, energetic; with brown hair, firm mouth, piercing blue eyes that looked out from under heavy brows; dignified in manner, reserved, modest, at times almost to diffidence, earnest, reverent, and without self-seeking; thorough in his own work and rigorous in the recitation room, meeting his classes with unfailing regularity, going straight from the lecture-room to the study, evidently swayed by the sense of duty. These characteristics, apart from the external change seen in growing grayness of the hair, whitening of the beard and stoop of the shoulders due to advancing age and years of study, marked him to the end.”

Professor Green brought to the study of Biblical literature a sincere faith in the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. He came to the work of criticism “convinced by the most abundant evidence that these Scriptures are the infallible Word of God.” We are not left in the dark as to the nature of that “abundant evidence.”  It was the common evidence which has convinced the Church: the claim of the Scriptures themselves to have divine authority, the heavenliness of their matter, the efficacy of their doctrine, their adaptation exactly to meet the needs of sinful men, the fulfillment of their prophecies, the constant appeal of prophets and apostles to historic objective revelations of Almighty God as the basis of their work, the attributes of Christ, and the persuasion which the Holy Spirit produces in the heart that the Scriptures are divinely true. These considerations and others of like character constituted the abundant evidence.

Shortly after Professor Green had entered upon his work, the first low mutterings of a coming debate regarding the origin of the Old Testament were heard. The storm burst in its full fury toward the end of the 1870’s. The new theory let loose at that time could not maintain itself without first ridding itself of much of this “abundant evidence;” and when Dr. Green saw that it required, to quote his own pregnant statement, “a new doctrine of the province of reason, a new doctrine of inspiration, a new doctrine of the evidential value of miracles, a new doctrine of the fulfillment of prophecy, a new doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible,” he saw that the new theory bears on its face the marks of desperation. He suspected that its principles are wrong or its methods perverted. And he said in his own modest way : “There can be no impropriety in subjecting novelties to careful scrutiny, before we adopt conclusions at war with our most cherished convictions and with what we hold to be well-established truths.”

To a large body of earnest scholars, Dr. Green has done yet more than vindicate the scholarliness of conservative criticism.  In their opinion, after they have weighed all the evidence adduced by both parties to the controversy, he has demonstrated in general and along certain lines in particular, that the Bible’s own account of itself satisfies the actual phenomena involved better, to say the least, than does any other theory, with less constraint upon text and exegesis and the acknowledged course of Hebrew history; that it is further supported by unbroken and unanimous testimony reaching back from Christ and His apostles into the earliest literature, and that it and it alone requires no rejection and no minimizing of well-ascertained truths.

Not long after Dr. Green’s death, a pastor of wide experience, a close friend of Dr. Green’s for more than fifty years, said of him, “A more humble and holy-hearted man I never knew.” Side by side with this tribute to his humility and holiness of heart there comes to mind another characteristic of Dr. Green : his sense of sin and his apprehension of the grace and amazing love of God in Christ…It was this that made him frequently rise very early in the morning that he might enjoy a season of undisturbed communion with God. It was this that sent him daily to the Scriptures for devotional reading, outside of his professional work. (He once alluded to his practice of reading the Book of Psalms through devotionally, generally once a month.) It was this that sank personal ambition and made him labor for the glory of God alone. It was this that made him feel his own need for that system of theology, known as Calvinistic, Augustinian, Pauline, which he found in the Bible. It was this that added such strength to his intellectual faith in the fact of a supernatural revelation.

Words to Live By: It was also said of Dr. Green that “He rose to the dignity of the great issues at stake, and conducted his debate with truth and honor. He was a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again.” Speaking of Dr. Green, “The pure-minded boy had become a man advanced in years, and he was still the simple-hearted child of God. He was an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile.”

We live in an age when truth is under assault from all sides, and must be defended. Yet we can and must stand for truth in a way that observes and honors the Lord of all truth. The Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way. At best we are only sinful witnesses to His truth, and so we speak with humility and in love, remembering all the while that God alone is Judge. He will uphold His truth. His Word will not fail.

Through the Scriptures:  Job 38 – 42

Through the Standards: Predestination to be handled with care

WCF 3:8
“The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.  So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.”

For further reading:
Celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the appointment of Professor William Henry Green as an instructor in Princeton Theological Seminary

Sources: Photograph from The Life and Work of William Henry Green : A Memorial Address, by John D. Davis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Theological Seminary, 1900. Image scanned by the staff of the PCA Historical Center. Biographical text freely adapted from this same address by Dr. Davis.

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