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Dr. Michael Heiser has generated a good amount of interest in evangelical circles over his “divine council” theory and related OT-hermeneutical positions. I find some of Heiser’s positions and insights intriguing. Some of them, however, don’t at all seem half as ‘new and innovative’ as it seems he thinks they are; and some of his views are kind of goofy and rather problematic at best.

Jordan Cooper has offered three podcast episodes dealing with Heiser from a confessional Lutheran position. I would commend his critique of Heiser. It’s head-on, but fair and measured.

An Evaluation of Heiser’s Divine Council Theology

A Critique of Heiser’s Interpretation of the Nephilim

An Alternative to Heiser’s Divine Council Theology

And a postscript. One feature of Heiser I find especially unsettling is his gripe with ‘confessional encumbrances’ on biblical interpretation. His supposed ‘Naked Bible,’ however, belies a biblicism that merely operates on an unwritten confession. And a part of that unwritten confession appears to be ANE custom and practice. In the end, such biblicism tends to make a guru (oracle?) of the academic, fosters another magisterium, and paves the way for rationalism. Friends, nothing is new under the sun. Listen to Heiser, but listen to him with a good helping of caution.

“Our Reformers were men of great wisdom, undaunted courage, irrepressible zeal and strong faith. They relied not on human expediency, vain traditions, or worldly wisdom, but on God’s promised blessing on His own means. They went direct to the Bible for all their plans, and the result was that every rag of rotten Popery, and every relic of the Amorite was purged away, and cast forth as things accursed into the region of eternal detestation, and the pure evangel set up instead. In the language of George Gillespie:

‘The Church of Scotland was blessed with a more glorious and perfect reformation than any of our neighbor Churches. The doctrine, discipline, regiment, and policy established here by ecclesiastical and civil laws, and sworn and subscribed unto by the king’s majesty and [the] several presbyteries and parish churches of the land, as it had the applause of foreign divines; so was it in all points agreeable unto the word; neither could the most rigid Aristarchus of these times challenge any irregularity of the same.'”

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These words are drawn from the opening of David Hay Fleming’s four-part series of articles in the Original Secession Magazine in 1878 entitled, “The Discipline of the Reformation.” I’ve just finished recording the fourth today. Listen to them here. The PDF is below. And check out more titles in my expanding amateur audio library.

I do not suggest that everything our fathers in the Reformation and Second Reformation did or said regarding discipline should be carried over in toto today. Nor do I think Fleming himself thought this. But before we too quickly dismiss what we may judge austere or harsh, let us consider that we are just as much creatures of our time as they were. And if we shouldn’t be slaves to their judgments, yet we still ought to honor father and mother. And listen to them in the first case!

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Just finished reading-recording this sermon by the founder of Connecticut, the Puritan Thomas Hooker, entitled, “The Danger of Desertion.” This was Hooker’s farewell sermon to his congregation in England before venturing across the Atlantic. It is one of the most impactful, profound, and weighty sermons I have read in some time. Please, please do yourself a favor and read it. If you are a sincere Christian not in a state of gross backsliding, it will hit you square in the eyes. And if you are, it just may jolt your out of your complacency!

Cling to God. Hard. Until your knuckles are white. And your nailbeds bleed. Do not let Him go! That’s the message. And more, it was a message to England, and so to any Christian nation that has had the privilege of the presence of God.

And here’s the same in PDF:

Ever read this classic of pastoral theology? Perhaps you should. But if you could use it in audio format, I’m making progress in recording it into mp3. Access it here (and more to follow).

Consider these contemporary endorsements from the Banner edition, then I challenge you not to ‘take up and read.’ Or, now listen, if you prefer!

“This book has been my companion for almost fifty years. First published in 1830, it is arguably more needed now than then. It is a classic, serving as a guide to all who are aware of the perils and privileges of pastoral ministry.” — Alistair Begg

“People ask me, “What’s the very best book for Ministers?” Overall for the ministry, and for passionate preaching, and how to preach to different kinds of people – there’s nothing like The Christian Ministry.” — Joel Beeke

For more titles, see my growing amateur audio library. [And if any links fail, kindly drop me a note: mjves dot refparish at gmail dot com. Thanks!]

Here is a truly momentous and historic sermon by John Cotton. Richly theological, eminently practical, and tenderly pastoral. On the occasion of the embarking of John Winthrop and company to the Massachusetts Bay in 1630.

The sermon is especially valuable for its contribution to a “theology of place” and the Christian ethics of travel, relocation, and lawful acquiring of land. Have a listen!

One precious gem: “Ruth dwelt well for outward respects while shee dwelt in Moab, but when shee cometh to dwell in Israel, shee is said to come under the wings of God: Ruth 2. 12 . When God wrappes us in with his Ordinances, and warmes us with the life and power of them as with wings, there is a land of promise.”

And check out my growing audio library, including the Puritan fathers of New England.

[video now posted here]

Watch by FacebookLive, or tune in at linktr.ee/prcofri

​”The rise of sectarianism that has accompanied the Protestant movement is a dark and negative phenomenon. It manifested itself already at the beginning of the Reformation, but it has never flourished as it has in our age. New church after new church is established. In England there are already more than two hundred sects. In America they are innumerable. The differences have become so many and so insignificant that one cannot keep track of them. There are even voices arguing for a new discipline in theology itself devoted to the comparative history of church confessions. What is even more serious is that this sectarianism leads to the erosion and disappearance of church consciousness. There is no longer an awareness of the difference between the church and a voluntary association. The sense that separation from the church is a sin has all but disappeared. One leaves a church or joins it rather casually. When something or other in a church no longer satisfies us, we look for another without any pangs of conscience. The decisive factor turns out to be our taste. Exercise of discipline thus becomes virtually impossible; it loses its very character. What preacher is left who dares, in good conscience, except perhaps in extremely rare instances, to use the form for excommunication? The worst result of all this is that by breaking the unity of doctrine and the church, Christians do violence to the communion of saints, deprive themselves of the Spirit’s gifts of grace, by which  other believers labor to build up the saints, shut themselves up in their own circle, promote spiritual pride, strengthen Rome, and give the world occasion for scorn and mockery.”

-Herman Bavinck, “The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church”

This message was delivered at the Presbytery Conference of the Presbyterian Reformed Church on June 16, 2022. The audio is available here. Special thanks to Susan Abel for her selfless efforts in transcription!

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Isaiah 35:7-10, “And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Revelation 21:1-3, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Amen, this is the Word of the living God.”

Last month I had the personal privilege of going back to my old stomping grounds—at least, one of them— as a boy. I had not been to Homestead, Florida, just south of Miami, since I was about fourteen years old, not long after my father went to glory. It was a place, notwithstanding the bitterness of the memories of the loss of my father, [that] was overall a time of great delight: many good memories, especially on this particular street. And I am sure my children can tell you, that I would mention the many late nights when we would play a pick-up game of baseball, and take some charcoal and make some bases, and have an awful lot of fun. Well, as we drove up and came into the neighborhood, memories started flooding back—a lot of good memories. And finally I came with my wife to this home, and there it was, largely as I remembered it, although it had a new coat of paint. And much was the same, and much was so very sweet and so very special. I even got to meet the next-door neighbor whom I did remember as a boy (and I got to have a selfie with them!). So it was quite special.

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It is very common for professing Christians to draw a distinction between essentials and non-essentials in religion, and to infer that, if any fact or doctrine rightly belongs to the latter class, it must be a matter of very little import­ance, and may in practice be safely set at naught. The great bulk of men take their opinions on trust; they will not undergo the toil of thinking, searching, and reasoning about anything, and one of the most usual expedients adopted to save them the trouble of inquiry, and to turn aside the force of any disagreeable fact, is to meet it by saying, ”The matter is not essential to salvation; therefore we need give ourselves little concern on the subject.”

If the distinction here specified is safe, the inference drawn from it is certainly dangerous. To say that, because a fact of Divine revelation is not essential to salvation, it must of necessity be unimportant, and may or may not be received by us, is to assert a principle, the application of which would make havoc of our Christianity. For, what are the truths essential to salvation? Are they not these: That there is a God; that all men are sinners; that the Son of God died upon the cross to make atonement for the guilty; and that whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved? There is good reason for believing that not a few souls arc now in happiness, who in life knew little more than these—the first principles of the oracles of God—the very alphabet of the Christian system; and if so, no other Divine truths can be counted absolutely essential to salvation. But if all the other truths of revelation are unimportant, because they happen to be non-essentials, it follows that the Word of God itself is in the main unimportant; for by far the greatest portion of it is occupied with matters, the knowledge of which, in the case supposed, is not absolutely indispensable to the everlasting happiness of men. Nor does it alter the case, if we regard the number of fundamental truths to be much greater. Let a man once persuade himself that importance attaches only to what he is pleased to call essentials, what­ever their number, and he will, no doubt, shorten his creed and cut away the foundation of many controversies; but he will practically set aside all except a very small part of the Scriptures. If such a principle does not mutilate the Bible, it stigmatizes much of it as trivial. Revelation is all gold for preciousness and purity, but the very touch of such a principle would transmute the most of it into dross.

Read the entire treatise, Which is the Apostolic Church?, by Thomas Witherow, below. Or, listen to an audio version here.