A few days ago I had the joy of being part of a presbytery meeting of the Great Lakes Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA. This was my first ever opportunity to witness the functioning of a presbyterian church and I was really excited. The agenda of the meeting was to examine two candidates; one candidate was examined to be ordained for pastoral ministry and the other was examined to be given a license to preach.
The examination of the first candidate began with a preaching assignment, which he did admirably well. However, it was the next examination component that really interested me – the Personal Godliness exam. An elderly presbyter and the candidate sat next to each other, facing the audience (other presbyters), and the latter was questioned on his personal life. Questions ranged from subjects like Bible reading habits, current books being read to family worship, personal finances and the support of the wife for his pastoral endeavor. The questions were put forward graciously and the candidate responded in an equally gracious manner. After each exam there was a voice vote where the delegates either sustained or declined to sustain the candidate’s performance. In this case there was a unanimous vote approving the performance. Then a similar exam followed called the Soundness of Faith exam in which questions relating to difficult doctrines like election, free-will, holy days, worship were asked. The candidate answered the questions with alacrity and confidence. The presbytery examined the second candidate also and unanimously agreed to give him a license to preach.
The presbytery meeting demonstrated to me how the Church can obey the clear commandments of scripture on choosing an overseer. Paul says that on overseer must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2); the preaching assignment (and this one being just one out of many such preaching assignments) adequately gauged this quality in the candidate. In the book of Titus Paul adds that the overseer must also be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9) – meaning that he must possess knowledge of and skills to refute false arguments. To me, the Soundness of Faith exam examined this quality well in the candidate. Finally, Paul mentions a list of things on personal integrity and family management in both his epistles as qualifications for elders. The personal godliness exam (which is conducted twice in the life of a candidate taken under care of the presbytery) admirably did the job of ascertaining these character traits in the candidate.
I want to thank God for the presbyterian form of church government. At the risk of appearing chauvinistic, my prayer is that God would raise up many presbyterian churches in India so that the church of Christ will have godly people in leadership who will feed the flock and preach the gospel faithfully.
The last two points of Calvinism are known as Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of Saints. The form the I and P of the TULIP acronym.
By Irresistible Grace we mean that it is the Holy Spirit who calls a sinner out of his deadness in sin and makes him alive in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:15; Col2 :13; 1 John 5:1). This call – which is often termed as the internal call or effectual call – cannot be resisted. There are plethora of passages from which this doctrine can be proved. I will choose just two. In John 6: 37, Jesus says that all whom the Father has given him will come to him. On the other hand, in John 6:44 , he says that no one come to the him unless the Father draws that person. These two verses form a logical construct called syllogism. From these two verses we can easily conclude that all that God the Father draws towards Jesus will put their faith in Jesus; and none but these only. This ‘drawing’ happens through agency of the Holy Spirit (Eze 37:3-6, 11-14; Joh 3:3-8). This act of drawing a sinner or making him alive is termed in theology as Regeneration. Continue reading
I owe a great deal of debt to John Bunyan. When I was going through a crisis in my life, it was his book, the Pilgrim’s Progress, which brought me immense comfort and encouragement. The same book also introduced me to Calvinistic theology, a set of doctrinal truths which have become the anchor of my soul. So as I went through another difficult season in my life I did not hesitate to turn to another of Bunyan’s writings to find solace and encouragement. This time it was his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
This book is short account of the most important phases of Bunyan’s life. Bunyan recounts his pre-conversion years (1-117), his evangelical experience (118-132), his fight with temptations and his victory over them (133-264), his pastoral ministry, his imprisonment and his trials. One of his friends adds a brief account of his death and his character. Continue reading
Son of Hamas – A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices . The tag line of this book should probably have read - A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices which all worked together for the good of someone who loves God and is called according to his purpose.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, popularly known as the Son of Hamas, by virtue of being the eldest son of a founding member of Hamas- a Palestinian terrorist organization – is now, can you believe it, a son of God. This book takes you right into the heart of Israel-Palestine politics. It gives you a first hand account of the ideologies and motives behind the actions that have split the earth beneath them. And Mosab does all this not from a wishy-washy secular perspective but from a Biblical perspective, which is why this book is a delightful reading for any Christian. Continue reading
Continuing from my previous post, here I would like to mention a few things in Think which I found to be unpersuasive and sometimes disturbing. I realize that these points, on which I am going to comment on, are larger aspects of Piper’s theology and not the main points of this book itself. Disagreements on these points did not rob me of the benefits I derived from this book.
Also I should mention that while doing this exercise I am greatly aware that I am toddler in theology and layman with far lesser experience and maturity than John Piper, who has served the Lord for well over 35 years. Also, since I do not want to sound acrimonious, which has come to characterize much of Reformed blogosphere, I am going to address John Piper as Bro. Piper in order to always remind myself that he is my brother in the Lord and not some third person whom I delight in critiquing. Continue reading
Think is a neat little book written by John Piper. As the title suggests, it is a book on thinking. More importantly, it is a book on how thinking is related to loving God – the great commandment that all Christians are called to fulfill.
In this book John Piper contends that thinking is something wholly indispensable for a Christian; but it is not an end in itself. It serves the larger purpose of loving God. And what is loving God? The essence of loving God is treasuring him above all things. All thinking is but a means to this end. This is the main thesis of the book. The following sentence may capture the essence of the book
“loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things. Treasuring God is the essence of loving him, and the mind serves this love by comprehending (imperfectly and partially, but truly) the truth and beauty and worth of the Treasure” (Page 19) Continue reading
October 31 2010 was the 493rd anniversary of what has now come to be known as the Reformation Day. On the same day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. That event sparked off the Protestant Reformation which altered the course of Christian History decisively.
However, sadly, this event has been forgotten with the passage of time. Indian Christians, especially, have very little knowledge about it. Hardly any churches have this important day in their church calendar to commemorate it. Many also think that since the Reformation got sparked off in Europe, it is something specific to that geographical region and is probably irrelevant to Indian Christians. However, as I pointed out, this event was so crucial to the universal visible church as a whole that it shapes our church life even to this day. All of us who identify ourselves as protestants need to know what we are protesting about. Hence it is good to remind ourselves of the real issues in the Reformation.