• August 10, 2015 /  Uncategorized

    The following was written by my wife.  I agree with her on the matter.  This is not to justify the sins of the North which were many before, during, and after the Civil War.  It is to point out that the main reason that that the Southern States, and the South as a culture fought the war was to preserve an unbiblical form of slavery that was race-based, permanent, did not give effect to slaves becoming Christians, and was based on kidnapping (a capital offense).

    Because of those that still defend the honor of the South among Christians, there is a need for repentance among churches that defend the motives of the South in the Civil War, and their peculiar type of slavery which exceeded the evil of most other nations in its design.

    And now, what my wife wrote:

    Southern Slavery and the Civil War

    The more I look into these issues, the more upset I get about 1) Christians defending the sin and evil of Southern slavery and 2) Christians distorting history about why the Civil War was fought.

    Part  1  Southern slavery was unbiblical, wicked and cruel.

    The slavery of the Old Testament was similar to indentured servants, not Southern slavery.  A debtor became a slave for 7 years to work off his debt.  At the end of 7 years, he was liberated with a gift of material goods to help him get restarted in life.  He was a human being with rights.  He could not be beaten to death.  If a master had sexual relations with a female slave (where did all the “mulatto” slaves come from?)  he had to marry her.

    Southern slavery existed because of kidnapping.  Kidnapping is an offense of the 6th commandment, Thou shalt not kill, and is punishable by death.  Life for life- you steal someone’s life, you lose your own.  Southern slavery was in perpetuity, down through the generations.  At minimum, slaveholders should have released slaves who became Christians and thus brothers, sending them off with material gifts.  Biblically, it was a great sin to have a slave who was a brother Israelite for more than 7 years.  (Bill Edgar states that slaveowners even denied baptism to their Christian slaves.)

    So how would you like to be kidnapped, taken to another continent, permanently separated from your family, and forced into a life of hard labor for the rest of your days .  If you marry and have children, then they will also live lives of bitter hard labor and their children too.  The grand majority of slaves were forced to work on cotton or sugar plantations, doing only what their master tells them to do, getting only what he chooses to give them. They were kept in line by fear of whipping, execution, or their worst fear, separation from their families- wives permanently separated husbands, small children permanently separated from parents- this was commonly done.  A minority of slaves who had proven they were cooperative were rewarded with the easier life of a house slave, slave craftsman  or personal servant.  These slaves had an incentive to serve well, otherwise they would be demoted back down to field slaves.

    Would you say to these brethren, yes, your  situation is lamentable, it is a tough providence, but you’re in the system now, you’ll just have to make the best of it?  Or would you try to correct the injustice, as Scripture commands us to do and seek to free the oppressed?

    People also give the ridiculous argument that these were slaves taken in war.  Maybe this could be considered if Americans actually fought a war with Africans and brought the slaves home as booty.  It cannot refer to Europeans, Arabs, and Africans raiding African villages to capture Africans, in order to get rich selling them into slavery, a market incentive provided by America.  This counts as kidnapping, not taking slaves in war.  (Do these same people who say Southern slavery was legitimate because the slaves were taken as booty in war think it would have been fine to bring back Germans from WWI and WWII as booty to be our slaves?  Or is it only acceptable in modern times if it’s blacks who are enslaved?)

    People also make the ridiculous statement that most masters were kind and most slaves were happy.  Some were happy with their masters providing for them, many desperately wanted to be free.  You can read the memoirs of slaves after the Civil War, as well as consider how many were killed trying to escape or executed after recapture.  The greatest fear of the slaveholders was a slave revolt- hardly a picture of happy, loyal slaves.  Yet even if we can picture kind masters and happy slaves, unjustly depriving a human, made in the image of God, of liberty is cruel.

    Virginia was one of the states where it was against the law to teach slaves to read, thus keeping blacks in a subservient role, not allowing them to advance intellectually.  (Everyone knows that with education comes a greater yearning for freedom. )  I find this particularly abhorrent because it denied  slaves the opportunity to read the Bible.  As the Puritans said, the most important reason to learn to read is to be able to read the Bible.

    The slave market in America and the Caribbean was huge.  The world had never before seen kidnapping on such a grand scale.  Nothing in history can compare with the size of the system of slavery in place in America and the Caribbean, not to mention the African Holocaust- millions dying in the forced overland march, left unburied, millions dying on the ocean voyage, chained in their own feces and urine.  For over 300 years. And it was a system that was entirely race-based.  Most Southerners, and some Northerners, despised all blacks, considering them an inherently inferior race and fit only for servitude.  Read the speeches and writings of Southerners in the 1800’s.  (And this is why even poor Southern whites who did not own slaves supported the institution.)

    How can people be so up in arms over the tyranny of Lincoln, when the tyranny of the Southern plantation owners was much more horrible?  Scripture is full of scathing condemnation of those who build their wealth by oppressing those who cannot defend themselves.  The opulent lifestyle of the Southern upper class was built on the backs of those who were unjustly in bondage.  The great hypocrite, Thomas Jefferson, so eloquent about all men entitled to the right of liberty, admitted that he could not free his slaves because it would mean financial ruin.  While it is commendable that a few godly men like Stonewall Jackson taught their slaves the Bible, they should have also freed them and sent them off with material gifts, according to Biblical pattern.  If it left them impoverished, it is better to be poor in this world then be guilty before God of the oppression  of unjustly denying liberty to a fellow Christian.

    God hears the groaning of His children who are unjustly enslaved, even as He heard their groaning in Egypt.  The Southern Presbyterians, rather than remaining silent or participating in such a great evil, should have denounced Southern slavery and excommunicated slaveholders, as the RPCNA did.  And Scripture calls us to repent of and ask forgiveness for the sins of our forefathers.

    Part 2  To say that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery is to perpetrate a lie and attempt to rewrite history.

    Yes, the North fought the war initially and primarily to preserve the Union.  But the South seceded primarily over the fear that slavery would be not only limited, but abolished.  That is what they themselves said.  Anyone can read the primary source  documents.

    Along with their Articles of Secession, four states issued Declarations of Causes, to explain their reasons for secession.  (Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and Mississippi)  Look them up on the internet and read them.  The predominant reason given is the fear that slavery would be abolished.


     She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.

    In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

    By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments. They have proclaimed, and at the ballot box sustained, the revolutionary doctrine that there is a ‘higher law’ than the constitution and laws of our Federal Union, and virtually that they will disregard their oaths and trample upon our rights.

    We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.


    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

    South Carolina’s Declaration goes on at length about states’ rights.  After several paragraphs they explain the state right that is threatened- the right of negro slavery, which they say was guaranteed them in the Constitution.

    According to themselves, the Confederates were fighting to protect the institution of slavery.  Fearing the North was going to abolish that institution, they were fighting for their state right to own slaves.

    Here is a quote from a speech given at the Virginia Secession Convention. From Wikipedia:

    At the Virginian secession convention in February 1861, Georgian Henry Lewis Benning, who would later go on to join the Confederate army as an officer, delivered a speech in which gave his reasoning for the urging of secession from the Union, appealing to prejudices and pro-slavery sentiments to present his case. He outlined the reasons why Georgia had decided to declare secession from the Union, and urged Virginians to do the same:

    What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. … If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. By the time the north shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that? It is not a supposable case … war will break out everywhere like hidden fire from the earth, and it is probable that the white race, being superior in every respect, may push the other back. … we will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth; and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate in imagination. That is the fate which abolition will bring upon the white race. … We will be completely exterminated, and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become another Africa… Suppose they elevate Charles Sumner to the presidency? Suppose they elevate Frederick Douglass, your escaped slave, to the presidency? What would be your position in such an event? I say give me pestilence and famine sooner than that.

    As for our discussion about why Virginia seceded, there was no imminent invasion by Lincoln of Virginia at that point.  There wasn’t a federal army at that point.  They voted to secede in response to Lincoln calling up volunteer militias from each state, including Virginia, after the ‘fire eaters”  (i.e. hotheads) in South Carolina fired on Fort Sumpter (preempting  those on both sides who were trying to negotiate.  The” fire eaters” forced the hand of  both sides into a war that especially devastated the South.)  Virginians stated they could not go to war against another Southern state. It seems their decision was driven by regional loyalty, as opposed to state loyalty or national loyalty.

    What prompted the South to secede was the election of a president- a president they loathed the way we loathe Obama.  Ideologically, what they feared was the abridgement of their right to own slaves, upon which their economy and lifestyle depended and upon which their social order depended (i.e. their sense of superiority)  Ironically, Lincoln and the Republican Party were not at the time at all interested in interfering with slavery in the South, only in its expansion to new states and territories.  Perhaps the South was correct in fearing that total abolition would eventually come, but the Southerners who pressed for secession actually hastened the demise of slavery as a result of the Civil War.

    “The South felt like a colony of the North.”  They were being outvoted (even when counting slaves as 3/5 of a person)  Nobody likes to be outvoted, but it is constitutional.  Before the Civil War, nothing had been done that was unconstitutional.  Except that the South viewed slavery as a constitutional right.  And they also wanted the North to do a better job of returning their runaway slaves and to better enforce the Fugitive Slave Act – an act which made it dangerous for even legitimately free blacks in the North.  They could be captured and enslaved, with no legal recourse.

    I agree with Lincoln, that the Civil War was a judgment on the nation for tolerating the wicked institution of slavery.  I also think that the tyranny of an expanded federal government is part of that judgment.  But as a tiny side note, since everyone decries Lincoln’s occupation of Maryland, did you know Confederate troops occupied parts of Tennessee and Alabama to keep them in the Confederacy?

    Much as I support states’ rights, I would not have fought in a war to protect my state’s right to slavery, just as I would not fight a war to protect my state’s right to abortion.  Like our Covenanter forefathers, I also would not have fought in a war to keep the South in the Union. But again, like them, I would have helped the Underground Railroad, just as Christians helped Jews escape in WWII and Christians now are involved in the fight against abortion.  Scripture calls us to fight for those who are unjustly oppressed.

  • May 11, 2015 /  Uncategorized

    From the Translators Preface of Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Zechariah:

    ‘There have been many Commentators before and after the time of CALVIN, but it may be doubted whether any of them possessed his combined excellencies, especially the capacity of being so plain as to be understood by common readers, and of being at the same time so profound as to be interesting and instructive to the most learned; so that his Comments do in this respect retain, in a measure, the character of the book he interprets and explains.  Of his superiority over his predecessors we have the striking testimony of the learned Arminius, who, as he differed from him on several points of no small importance, may justly be considered to have been an impartial witness.  His words are remarkable,–

    “Next to the reading of Scripture, which I strongly recommend, I advise you to read the Commentaries of Calvin, on whom I bestow higher eulogies than Helmichius did; for I consider that he is incomparable in interpreting Scripture, and that his Commentaries are of more value than all that the library of the Fathers transmits to us; so that I concede to him even a spirit of prophecy superior to that of most, yea, of all others.”‘

    The quotation is a translation from the Latin from Merits of Calvin, p. 51, according to the translator of Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Zechariah.  I have not verified this.




  • December 30, 2013 /  Uncategorized

    This is the outline of a psalm sing that we did at Trinity RPC on 12/29/2013.  It used the red psalter, The Book of Psalms for Singing.

    This highlights why Christians need to sing the Psalms, rather than uninspired hymns, because hymns do not deal with affliction, which is common to man.  Hymns typically deal with lightweight ideas that appeal to those who recognize no problems in their lives.

    If you don’t have affliction now, you will have it later in life, with high probability.  Being a Christian means having a share in the sufferings of Christ.  Look at Psalm 88, and see if that does not describe out Savior on the cross, taking on the sins of all of God’s elect saints.

    Topic Psalm Selection Verses to highlight
    Affliction is Normal 23C Whole psalm – there is comfort amid troubles in the valley of the shadow of death, and enemies
    Affliction is sometimes a test 66B Vv 10-12 How do we react to affliction?  Do we go to God, tough it out, complain, etc.?
    God’s Word comforts us in affliction 119G Vv 49-50 Recalling God’s Word brings peace.  Read it, memorize it, and meditate on it.
    Affliction leads us to learn God’s Word 119I Vv 67-68, 71-72 Often we don’t understand the value of God’s Word, until we are chastised for sin, or afflicted by God.
    Affliction makes us value God more 71A, B, C & D Whole psalm – Calling out to God for help, trouble from enemies, taking hope in God, and the strength that He gives, leading to revival of spirit, and praise to God.
    Affliction leads us to pray 77A & B Vv 1-15 We pray even we seem to get no answer from God, then we remember how God has acted in the past to save his people and us.
    Affliction shows us Christ and His sufferings 88A & B Whole psalm – We gain comfort knowing that the afflictions that Christ bore, and his perfect obedience through them, were necessary for our salvation.
    Affliction helps reveal God’s protection of us 124B Whole psalm – God protects us amid many who would harm us.  He guards and protects his Church.

    I hope you gain spiritual benefit from this.  We really benefited from it today, as it fit in with the sermon, and adult Sabbath School class, without any coordination.

  • August 9, 2010 /  Uncategorized

    I wrote the following in 1999 to a pastor in the RPCNA who foolishly invited two students for the ministry to visit a local Steelite who has a notable library.  The students were amazed by the library, but confused by the Steelite, who is a formidable debater.


    Dear YYY,

    Things have been exceptionally busy here so my remarks will be summary in nature.  My main difficulties with Steelites are: (not in order)

    1)  Tone.

    2)  Divisions in their midst.

    3)  Perfectionistic Ecclesiology.

    4)  Hermeneutics.

    5)  We cannot bind future generations to things which are:

    a)  not under their direct control.

    b)  not necessarily applicable to all Christians everywhere.


    I have generally resisted criticizing Steelites because I appreciate their serious approach to Calvinism.  What I write may not apply to all of them in entire.  Some it may not apply to at all, but I doubt it.

    Regarding point 1, the wisdom that comes from above is easily entreated, kind, teaching, leading, etc.  Some Steelites have adopted what seems to me to be a double-sided approach to criticism.  They can give it, but can’t take it.  Others slander them, in their eyes, but when I compare rhetoric, the attempt to injure is often stronger on the Steelite side.

    On point 2, who are the Steelites?  Are there any?  There are enough groups off in the wilderness calling themselves Steelites, that it is difficult to sort out which group is right.  The divisions are often over narrow (not necessarily unimportant) issues, which I can’t decide for myself.  I would prefer to call a church council to decide such things — I am not capable of differentiating between two sides which seem equally likely.

    If they unified, I might find them attractive — at least I’d know of a well-identified alternative to the RPCNA.

    The third point flows from the second.  They can’t unify with each other, much less with established groups.  Further, the discredited Traditional Postmillennialism that justifies the fragmentation, as there is no church in the period prior to the Millennium, to me is merely convenient, and not serious thinking.  I agree there are boundaries, and we ought to enforce them more tightly (I favor closed communion), but when the boundaries become so narrow that one has practically no one to worship with, there is trouble.

    On hermeneutics, church history is an excellent commentary on the Scriptures, particularly because we can see the accumulated results of false and true doctrines, with the results they have had as time progressed.  But to limit the scope to one narrow line of the church has dangers.  It virtually dictates the conclusion from the premises.  When one of the Steelites was asked by me what the difference was between his view, and that of Roman Catholic Tradition, the answer was stark, “Easy.  They’re wrong.  We’re right.”

    If he thought that was convincing, it had the opposite effect.  Tradition *per se* should not affect how we interpret Scripture, except to the degree that it teaches us how others viewed the Scripture.  We can learn from their arguments; we aren’t the first generation to interpret the Bible.  We keep the views of those that have gone before us if those views are correct, and if not, we give their views a dignified burial.

    On the final point, I like the Solemn League and Covenant; I believe it is a useful paradigm for how Christian States should interact.  But it is primarily a treaty between nations.  Once renounced by a nation, it would be a sin to those leaders renouncing it, but not to the next generation of leaders, though the results of the prior sin may still come as a punishment to the nation while they lead.

    For ordinary individuals, it is not possible for them to maintain the SLC.  The most they can do is pray and lobby.  Even that is done once any reasonable chance of reinstating the SLC is gone; it is then outside the power of those having sworn to uphold it.  As to binding children, it is even more true that we cannot compel them to maintain something outside their ability to accomplish.

    Imagine an oath that binds our children, and their children in perpetuity, only to marry within our fictional denomination, entitled “The Best Christian Group.”  It works well for a couple of generations, while TBCG is sound.  After that, TBCG begins to decay.  Are the great-grandchildren bound by the oath?  I say not, and it dangerous at minimum to commit to an oath that we cannot assure will lead to good.  I am leery of taking oaths for my children beyond the necessary God-appointed one of Baptism.  Beyond that, they must covenant with God themselves.

    I am also concerned with binding individuals to something not all individuals would be bound to.  With the Westminster Confession of Faith, I believe all Christians are bound to it, indirectly, because it is a faithful exposition of Scripture.  With the SLC, not all Christians are bound because of geography and ability.  I can see a French Calvinist at the time admiring the principle of International Calvinism, and praying for the day when France would have a similar treaty.  But he is not bound by the SLC; he might be bound by the principle involved if it is within his scope of power.


    I have gone on too long, and too late.  There are probably some errors and inconsistencies in what I wrote.  If so, point them out at your leisure.  I know my arguments are not nearly as precise as those of the self-called Steelites.  They probably can’t be; for them it is a full time vocation.  I have burdens.

    I am cc’ing A, B, and C on this one, for their review and advice also.  If you get anything useful out this Y, you are free to use it more widely.  My policy is this: Just ask me *before* you do it; I might have second thoughts.

    In Christ,



    Then, there was what a friend of mine wrote on the topic.  I include it because he is so erudite.


    This letter is a warning regarding certain teachings and practices of the Puritan Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This group is causing division and chaos in the body of Christ, primarily through the efforts of Reg Barrow and Still Waters Revival Books. Before I discuss the details, I would like to make it known that I am a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. I believe firmly in the regulative principle of worship, exclusive a cappella Psalmody, exclusion of holy days beside the Lord’s Day, social covenanting, Presbyterian church government, headcoverings and the silence of women in the church, etc. These beliefs are shared by the Puritan Reformed Church, but in their efforts to bring believers back to the old paths, they have clearly gone beyond the requirements of Scripture.

    1. All Churches are Unduly Constituted (except the Puritan Reformed Church of Alberta).

    The session of this church teaches that the P.C.A., the O.P.C., and the R.P.C.N.A., etc., are not duly constituted churches, therefore apostate and without any authority. They regularly counsel people to disregard their vows of church membership and separate from their churches immediately (in violation of Deut. 23:21-23, Num. 30:2, Ecc. 5:1-7, etc.). They shun transfer of membership, responding to church discipline, or working for reformation within one’s own denomination as this would recognize the courts of other churches as being valid. Here is a typical quote from their literature:

    “Therefore, if the P.C.A. is not sound; and this being the case, the authority of the session at your particular church is unlawful. And, if the authority of the session at your particular church is not lawful, we cannot submit to it for conscience sake unless we wish to call God a liar, to have other gods before Him, and to make a mockery of the marks of a true church (by acknowledging the P.C.A. as a true church). Since you have made a claim upon our conscience in calling us to stand trial, we must refuse such a claim, choosing rather to obey God than man. We cannot and will not interact with you in any way that would force us to recognize your (alleged) lawful ecclesiastical authority.” (Larry Birger, “Why the P.C.A. is Not a Duly Constituted Church and Why Faithful Christians Should Separate From this Corrupted ‘Communion'”, 1996, found on the Still Waters Revival Books web page).

    The Puritan Reformed Church is thus actively engaged in sheep-stealing, as it views itself as the only duly constituted church known today. If you think this sounds cult-like, you are correct. If you think I am exaggerating ask Greg Price (the pastor), Greg Barrow (a ruling elder), and Reg Barrow (president of SWRB) to name an acceptable, duly constituted church, beside their own. Furthermore, can they name a duly constituted church anywhere on earth before March, 1996 when they adopted these doctrines?

    2. Elevating Second Reformation History to the Level of Scripture.

    Although they claim to believe in Sola Scriptura, this group in practice regards Covenanter church history as indispensable in obeying the Bible. Reg Barrow writes of his pastor: “Price demonstrates how and why uninspired historical testimony must be a term of communion … Price also proves how one cannot even keep the inspired commandments of God without the use of uninspired history [emphasis mine] (using the fifth and ninth commandments as examples).” He also writes: “How do you keep the fifth commandment without uninspired historical testimony? It’s impossible to keep the fifth commandment if you do not know who your parents are; and you can only know your parents via uninspired historical testimony…” (Reg Barrow, in an email response to a debate on covenanting, April 1997; similar comments are also found on the SWRB home page).

    This is simply Romanism in a new dress! The Edmonton group derives this cult-like approach from the writings of David Steele, who split from the R.P.C.N.A. in 1840 to form the Reformed Presbytery. David Steele, in The Law and the Testimony, equates Covenanter church history with the Testimony spoken of in Scripture (cf. Is. 8:20). The Bible is not enough, it must be supplemented with the historical experiences of the one true church (i.e., the faithful remnant church [e.g., the Steelites] ). Reading the literature produced by the Edmonton Steelite group and speaking with them personally, you will find little Biblical exegesis. Various Steelite and early Presbyterian authors are quoted as a defense for the Edmonton position in the same way a papal bishop quotes the church fathers, or an orthodox Jew quotes the Talmud.

    3. A Perfectionist View of the Church.

    The Edmonton Steelites also have an unbiblical perfectionist view of the church. (this point is intimately related to point number one) They follow David Steele’s teaching that any church that departs from the attainments of the Second Reformation in Scotland (1638-1659) is not a true church. Reg Barrow writes:

    “In sum, Christ commands us to flee from unlawful teachers, who are working for the destruction of his church (in perpetuating backsliding from reformation attainments)…we are forbidden by Scripture to remain in ecclesiastical fellowship with those who publicly deny the corporate testimony of the church as it has been attained at any given point in history (Eccl. 3:15) … Back sliding from attained growth in grace (i.e., corporate sanctification) is not edification, but destruction. Therefore, no authority working against any of these former biblical attainments bears God’s stamp of approval: God has granted no authority for backsliding.” (Saul in the Cave of Adullam, 1997, pp. 25, 29, 12).

    This is the linchpin of the Steelite heresy; it explains their cult-like isolationism and sectarianism. (Their new “converts” across the country worship in their homes alone with an order of service and a recorded sermon from Greg Price.) Throughout history, Christ’s church has had periods of Reformation and periods of backsliding. But, according to the Steelites, the moment a church backslides from any of the former attainments it no longer is a true church.

    This view is wrong because everything that the church was to believe and practice was taught by the apostles in the first century. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) I believe the apostles were psalm-singers, practiced Presbyterian church government, required headcoverings, etc. Thus, the people of the Second Reformation in Scotland were simply following apostolic doctrine. The idea that any deviation from the former attainments renders a church unduly constituted is absurd, for no one in history has perfectly held to the attainments of the apostles. For example, the Second Reformation Church did not reestablish the order of widows taught in 1 Timothy 5:9ff and practiced for over three centuries in the early church. Calvin restored it to an extent, but it lost during the debates of the Westminster divines. Rutherford and Gillespie were in favor of the idea of the order of widows but did not restore the practice. Does this mean that the Second Reformation Church was unduly constituted because they did not adhere to the full attainments of the apostles and of Calvin in the First Reformation? The Steelites cannot even apply their own doctrine consistently.

    Furthermore, Calvin regarded the Lutheran church in his day as a true church and was close friends with Melanchthon until his death. Luther did not cling to the attainments of Calvin in Geneva. Was Luther part of an unduly constituted church; a false minister? John Knox regarded the Episcopal church of his day as a true church (though needing reform) and even preached in Episcopal churches when he lived in England. Furthermore, the Scottish church during Knox’s own lifetime backslid from some of the attainments of the First Reformation (e.g., the Tulchan bishops). Did John Knox immediately flee the church because he regarded it as unduly constituted? No. If John Knox, Andrew Melville, and others had been Steelites, there would have been no Second Reformation, for the church would have been abandoned as soon as it departed from the former attainments. The Steelite theories of attainment lead to ecclesiastical chaos — the church would have split every time there was the least bit of declension.

    The Steelite doctrine of attainments leads to absurdity, unbiblical perfectionism and ecclesiastical chaos. Furthermore, they are not even consistent with their own teaching. How do they regard ministers in these unduly constituted churches? According to the Edmonton group, all ministers in “unduly constituted churches” are participating in gross evil. These ministers are considered pretenders, false teachers, wicked covenant breakers. This would include Charles Hodge, Dabney, Bannerman, McCrie, John Murray, Greg Bahnsen, Van Til, Machen, Thornwell, G.I. Williamson, Carl Bogue, Shedd, Girardeau, etc., who all rejected Steelite distinctives. However, contradicting his own doctrine, Reg Barrow sells the works of many of these authors. Shouldn’t he be disciplined by his church for spreading this heresy?

    The apostle John warned of such men: “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” (3 John 9-10) “Now I urge you brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)

    For a more detailed discussion of this type of error, see also Richard Bacon’s book, The Visible Church and the Outer Darkness, and Church Unity: The Sin of Schism by John Macpherson reprinted in Napthali Press, Winter 1989.

    I do believe that there is declension in the P.C.A., O.P.C., and the R.P.C.N.A., but these are still true churches of Jesus Christ. They are not apostate like the Roman Catholic Church or modernist churches. As believers we must obey God, honor our vows, respect the church courts and patiently work for reform. Leaving a Calvinistic church should be the last resort, when efforts at reform have been rejected.

  • February 8, 2010 /  Uncategorized

    I have seen the consummation of all perfection, But Your commandment is exceedingly broad. [Ps 119:96, NKJV for all Bible Quotations]

    Most people, even most Christians, try to reduce God’s Law in some way in order to give themselves breathing room for things that they like to do, many of which the Bible would condemn as sin.  There are the simple ways of doing it:

    1) Saying that the Christian is under grace, and not under law, and thus there is no longer any law that the Christian is subject to.

    True, we don’t earn our salvation.  It is gracious in every way.  Consider Ephesians 2:8-10:

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

    We are saved by grace, and faith is the instrument that shows we have been saved.  Even the faith is a gift from God.  But after that, God calls the believer to good works, which are also the hand of God moving in the believer’s life.

    But, good works are not we we deem to be so, they are what God deems.  And the Law of God was given to the Church graciously. Consider Exodus 20:2, where God introduces the law to his people Israel.

    “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

    In a figure to Christians, God says to Israel that he has saved them without them having to do one single thing.  Now that He has saved graciously, He asks them to keep His Law to please Him, not that through it they might be saved.  No one, except Jesus, could perfectly keep God’s Law, and thus be saved — and that is why the Jews had sacrifices prefiguring the one ultimate sacrifice that could forgive, Jesus Christ.

    2)  Many Christians pick out notable sins, and call those the sum total of sin, and ignore lesser sins.  In some eras, it would be drinking, dancing, smoking, lewd entertainments, etc.  The sad thing is that people think that if they avoid only their subset of sins, they are than not sinning.

    We must point them back to the Law of God, which defines Sin.  As Romans 4:15b says “…where there is no law there is no transgression.”

    We can also mention that the Pharisees had a far more detailed code that attempted to make God’s Law easier to keep by making the rules more precise, using the teachings of the Rabbis of the past.  But, making the rules more precise means that the heart gets cut out of them.  It is more useful for me to know that I ought not to seek my own pleasure on the Sabbath, than to say, “Don’t do A, B, C, D, etc.”  The Law is powerful as it is; it needs no helpers.

    3)  Still others deny that God could care about what they do, if he exists at all.

    To these we should speak of the Last Judgment — that they will stand before God for everything that they have done, said or thought.  Their own consciences have a sense of right and wrong, given by God, yet warped by them, accusing others, excusing themselves for the evil that they do.  And, maybe we have to tell them about Hell.  Yes, Hell, with torture there forevermore, because they have sinned against the knowledge that they have, and have ignored the entreaties given by God through the Church and its members.

    4) Then there are sloppy Christians (myself sometimes included) who understand that the obeying the Law of God is a goal to be pursued, but don’t want to think too hard about the implications, because they are having too much fun.  They don’t want the details.  Some aim for a minimalistic version of the Ten Commandments, because like the Rich Young Ruler, they vainly think that they could keep such a demanding standard.

    Even Theonomists, who love the Law of God do something like this.  I like the works of R. J. Rushdoony, and would recommend them to you, but he errs in one place, where he says that the implications of God’s Law are not God’s Law.  No, the implications, if they are good and necessary, are also part of God’s Law.  How could it be otherwise?  Judges apply the Law and its principles to varying situations, because not everything is the same across cultures.


    There is a richer way to view the Law of God.  Jesus was the second Moses, and he brought the Law back to its original meaning.  The Saducees had clipped the Law down to the Pentateuch, and the Pharisees had confounded it with their traditions.  Jesus came and said (Matthew 5:17-20):

    17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Until Heaven and Earth disappear… the Law is valid until the Last Judgment.  Our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Not easy to do; they were focused.  But Christ came to fulfill the Law, which has two senses: to keep it for his elect people, and to teach its fullness.  It is the latter concept that I want to focus on.

    In the next verses Jesus said:

    21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

    Jesus goes for the heart of the law, and not its mere statement.  It not only forbids the thing in itself, but everything tending toward it.  It not only forbids the thing in itself, but commands the virtues entailed in preventing the sin.  Jesus brings the Law back to its original meaning by making it apply to our hearts, which includes our thoughts and words, as well as our actions.

    The rest of Chapter 5 goes through many other related issues, including adultery, oaths, and more.

    The complex term that describes this interpretation is called Synecdoche. The idea is that there is the broad principle of the Law that represents a broader aspect of behavior.  The Law not only means don’t do that, but do do good things that are the opposite of the thing commanded against.  Also, the Law means don’t do lesser things related to the law in question.  Avoid all aspects of evil.  Let your aim be to promote good at all points.

    The Larger Catechism is a unique rendering of the what the Law of God means.  It takes the concept of synecdoche further, applying what the Scriptures say to each commandment, pressing the sense of the commandments positively and negatively.  The Larger Catechism looks at the Scriptures in broad and in detail, and sets out what the Scriptures condemn and approve.

    I will finish this next week, Lord willing.

    Your commandment is exceedingly broad
  • November 30, 2009 /  Uncategorized

    Isaiah 58:13-14 (New King James Version)

    13 “ If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

    Psalm 37:4 (New King James Version)

    Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.


    Tav Blog has been more irregular than I want it to be, but I have caught up with many of my elder duties, and can post again.  Tonight’s topic is the Sabbath.

    There is a confusion in evangelicalism about the Sabbath.  There is the general neglect of the Sabbath by most evangelicals because there is seemingly no reiteration of it in the New Testament.

    God does not need to reaffirm what he has already said.  Once He has said something, he would need to inform you of any changes.  If he says nothing, you should assume there is no change.  After all the Scripture says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” and in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”

    We know that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.  Once the perfect sacrifice came, there was no longer any need for further sacrifice of animals that did not in themselves forgive sin, but pointed to the sacrifice of Christ.

    But of the moral law, Christ himself said in Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    Christ affirmed the Law in full, while fulfilling its ceremonial aspects as the perfect sacrifice.  Thus the moral demands of the law continue.  Even if the New Testament does not explicitly repeat the commands against incest (leave aside what John the Baptist said to Herod Antipas the Tetrarch), those commands still stand because God has not repealed them.

    The Main Point

    Okay, so we should still keep the Sabbath.  Americans by nature interpret all the commands of God in the most latitudinarian way, so, once convinced of the Sabbath, they do not see it as a time of holy rest from the things common to man in the rest of the week, but rather as a time for human rest and leisure: Watch Football. Gardening is so relaxing. Yack with friends over matters that are not very spiritual at all.

    But the idea of the Sabbath is expressed in clear terms in Isaiah 58.  The Sabbath is not a day where we are to do our own pleasure.  We are to do that which pleases God explicitly.  Following our own pleasure, whether in things that excite us, or immoderate physical rest (don’t take a significantly longer nap on Sunday than you take the rest of the week), or doing anything else that we enjoy that does not fit into the framework of Piety, Mercy or Necessity is not keeping the Sabbath.

    Is this too much to ask?  Only if our hearts are not with God.  I encourage you, fill the Sabbath full of good things that the Lord loves.  The antidote to not keeping the Sabbath is to look to the good things that we are supposed to do, and do them.  Catechize your children.  Memorize Scripture.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Have discourse over the things of God.  Read the writings of faithful saints on the matters of God.

    But turn aside from doing your own pleasure on the Sabbath day.  Ignore what you want and live to please God, as you will do in Heaven.

  • July 13, 2009 /  Uncategorized

    In 1995, I wrote a letter to Grace Valley Christian Center’s elders.  I did not write it to the general congregation, though I had received a membership directory from a family that had recently left GVCC.  I’m not a divisive guy — I talk with the leaders, not those who are lead.

    In my letter, I included my paper on Authority, a doctrine that GVCC had abused badly.  I wrote this to try to convince the elders of GVCC of their error.  The elders wrote many scathing responses to me and I summarize them here, together with my counter-responses.

    After so many years, I have no bitterness against the elders of GVCC, but I am puzzled at their lack of willingness to respond without recourse to threatening harrassment lawsuits.  What are they trying to hide?  Or, did Pastor Mathew command them to say that?

    Abuse of authority in the church is not unheard of, but is unusual.  I am no friend of antinomians who try to tear apart church government because there are some churches that govern badly, with self-interest.

    Go ahead and read what I have written.  Unlike Pastor Mathew, I am not beyond criticism, and am willing to take rebukes where needed.  I serve as an elder in my Presbytery, and have the respect of the brothers.  If you find I have spoken amiss, and will not repent, please speak to them.  (I will provide the proper e-mail adresses upon request.


    To those at Grace Valley, I have one recommendation: leave.  If you don’t know where to go I have one excellent church in mind: Covenant Reformed Church of Sacramento.  It’s the best church in the area; I say that having been a member there, and knowing the leadership.  They lead gently, but firmly.

    Consider what I write: I am a conservative elder in a conservative denomination.  I have submitted what I have written to some of the smartest elders in the denomination, and they approved of what I wrote.  Do not listen to Pastor Mathew, who is self-appointed, and who has appointed elders directly, rather than via election, as most elders receive their office.  There was no presbytery that called PG Mathew.  Beware Grace Valley.

  • April 27, 2009 /  Uncategorized

    This is _______, the church planter in _________ – we spoke a few times at Synod this year.

    I’ve been enjoying your blog (or rather, the 25% or so that I as a financial layman can follow). Your prognosis (correct me if I’m wrong) seems to be short/medium-term “doom and gloom” – thinking aloud, for instance, that once we reach a debt load of 150% of GDP foreign lenders will probably chicken out. That sounds like a move toward a second Great Depression.

    Now, I’m not writing you for investing advice or anything like this. Instead, I’m writing as a fellow church leader to get a discussion going on what you think the church can do in view of such a scenario. The typical evangelical reaction (see Hal Lindsey; Y2K, et al.) seems to be panic and self-defense: I’ll move into a bunker with canned soup and a rifle in case anyone comes for my stash or my family – and I’ll certainly “flee the burning cities” (to quote Doug Wilson’s letter to Gary North pre-Y2K). That seems more than a little different from the historic Christian reaction to disaster. It was Christians who, over the ages, went back into the plague cities to care for the sick and dying, often at the cost of their own lives.

    Further, riffing on Nassim Taleb (I just read Black Swans), it’s wiser to prepare than to predict. So, ruling elder Merkel, how do you think the church (as local congregations especially, but also as denominations and presbyteries) should be changing its way of operating to prepare for the unknown?

    I appreciate the Christians that read The Aleph Blog.  Hey, you are my brothers in Christ.  I owe you far more than everyone else.

    As for my pastor friend who wrote to me, he brings up an important issue.  What do we as elders do in times of trouble?

    I have thought about this a great deal, and this is my opinion: first, as elders and pastors, we do not seek our own safety, but we seek the best for those that we care for in our flocks.  We are shepherds; we do not abandon the sheep.  I knew of some ministers that panicked ahead of Y2K, but what does that say to the members of the congregation?  We must tend the sheep.

    Second, we counsel our flock to be generous in adversity, giving as much or more in bad times, that we might aid those in our congregations who fall on hard times, and even those beyond our congregations, where the needs lend toward the furtherance of Christ’s Kingdom.

    Third, we must keep the lines of communication open in the flock to find the needs as they arise.  We must teach members to seek our help, and not go over the the credit card companies, who will devour them if they get a chance.

    Fourth, much as we teach against greed, we must teach against fear, which comes from a greed for safety.  Our safety is in our Lord, as much as our prosperity is, so call the flock to trust in their God for their safety.

    Fifth, beyond that, we should be prudent with the resources of the church, so that we have something to give when the need arises.

    Sixth, we should set up a diaconal network among the congregations, to aid in needs that are too big for any one congregation to meet.  We should do it at two levels — a presbyterial network, and then a synodical network.  That will bind our congregations together in a proper way.

    Seventh, we should pray.  Pray that our God would have mercy on his church, and that the gospel would be furthered in hard times.

    May the Lord bless us in hard times.  Things are looking a little better now, but I think it is an illusion that will be shattered.  May the Lord have mercy.

    Your Brother in Christ,


  • March 9, 2009 /  Uncategorized

    Acts 2:32 sets forth the claim of the apostles and disciples — they had seen Jesus Christ (Y’shua ha’mushiach — pardon my poor transliteration of the Hebrew) risen from the dead in a physical bodily form.  This witness is a major key of Christianity.

    Many, perhaps most of these men and women would go to their deaths concerning this witness.  Thus, most of the usual tales of why the Bible is not accurate fall flat.  People don’t go to their deaths to defend something they know is not true.

    Those listening to Peter preaching at Pentecost (Feast of Weeks / Shavuot) could go and talk to the apostles/disciples and see if a consistent story was told.  They could listen to the prophecies that were fullfilled from Psalms 16 and 110, and Joel 2.  Three thousand were converted that day.  The story circulated by the authorities that the disciples stole the body of Jesus could not stand up to the miraculous signs and wonders of the day, and the witness of those that had seen the risen Jesus Christ, of which there were at least five hundred.

    What could make despondent followers of a dead teacher react with fervor?  The truth that the teacher was alive, and was ruling from heaven.  After the death of Jesus the disciples and apostles hid.  They did not want to be killed as well.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the empowering of the Holy Spirit overcame their fears, and the taught the truth of the risen Messiah, Jesus Christ.

  • March 2, 2009 /  Uncategorized

    My congregation, Trinity RPC, has tried planting churches over the last seven years without much success.  We ran into difficulties, but one of the main ones was households where the wife or children ran the show.  The husband/father might be in favor of a more Biblical type of church, like ours, but the wife would whine and moan (I am not exaggerating) about how the small congregation would not meet the needs of their children.  We would need to have extensive ministries that were children-specific within their exact age groups to qualify with the wife, and/or the kids.

    That is an example of a very American family that wants church on its own terms, rather than on Biblical terms.  Americans are culturally individualistic, rather than Biblical in their beliefs.  The Bible stresses that families are the predominant form of social order, and secondarily, the Church.  Wives and children should submit to their husbands/fathers, and if the congregation he deems best isn’t the most fun, well, learn to love it.

    Church is not about fun, it is about faith in Christ.  It is about learning to please God, and please your neighbor in all ways consistent with the Bible.  Anyone who chases their own personal pleasure implicitly or explicitly runs away from Christ, who asks us to take up our cross (regard ourselves as dead to the pleasures of the world) and follow him.

    Congregations are built through sacrifice.  Someone has to be the first family there, with children happy to worship God, even if they have no peers as friends.  Is that less pleasant than a large well-established church?  Of course, but I have seen men abdicate their responsibilities to the truth in order to make their wives and children happy at a larger church where the gospel is not faithfully taught, but there are extras that tantalize the wife and children.

    Men, if you do not rule your wives, if you do not rule your children, your families are useless to the kingdom of God.  You must put first things first in your lives, and put the church of God first, where the word is ministered faithfully, even if that church is small.  Look to the teaching of the Word first.  It is that that changes lives, not optional youth programs.

    Husbands and Fathers, choose what is best for your wives and children.  Seek the pure teaching of the Word of God, and do not settle for something that pacifies their desires for religion that is fun.