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Wherein consists reformed spirituality?

Category Articles
Date May 2, 2002

Greenville Seminary Theology Conference Focuses on ‘Communing with Our Glorious God.’

In Taylors, South Carolina (March 12-14, 2002) Reformed Spirituality was the theme for Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s Spring Theology Conference. The three-day event, which focused on “Communing with our glorious God,” challenged the participants with regard to personal piety, including Sabbath observance; and also witnessed a debate between an advocate of redemptive-historical preaching and an advocate of a more traditional homiletic approach.

Communion with God

Delivering the first lecture was the Rev. Ian Hamilton, a minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales and pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church. A native Scotsman, Mr. Hamilton utilized the insights of John Owen, a 1 7th century English churchman and theologian. Using I John 1:1-7 as his text, the UK pastor spoke of the intimate communion believers enjoy with each member of the Trinity, as well as the special sense of communion during the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Mr. Hamilton also emphasized the fullness of the “koinonia” which Christians enjoy with the Almighty.

The Puritan Practice of Meditation

The opening afternoon also saw the Rev. Dr. Joel Beeke speak on how the Puritans focused on a diligent use of the means of grace, including meditation. According to Dr. Beeke, more than 40 Puritans wrote on the art of Biblical meditation. The basic meaning of meditation is to “muse.” The speaker stated that the word “meditation” is used more in the Psalms than in any other book of the Bible; and argued that what makes meditation in the Christian tradition distinct from other forms of meditation is that it is rooted in the Word of God.

Furthermore, the Puritans “taught that you must meditate in order to do. He who meditates on God moves his intellect and moves his emotions. . True meditation penetrates the door of understanding,… the door of the heart, and . . . the door of practical doing. Meditation was a duty that gave rise to every other duty. It lubricates all the other means of grace.”

Two Types of Meditation

Dr. Beeke, who pastors the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, noted that Puritans spoke of two kinds of meditation: occasional and deliberate. Occasional meditation occurs when one “takes what one observes with his senses and uses that to climb to heaven.” Biblical examples of this type of meditation include Psalm 8, where the psalmist meditates on the glory of the Creator in the heavens and the earth; and John 4, where Christ used the well water to teach the Samaritan woman spiritual truths. “This type of meditation, the Puritans said, is really quite easy. A spiritual man can easily spiritualize natural things.”

However, the Puritans were also aware “that there were dangers with occasional meditation,” and were especially concerned lest occasional meditations go beyond Scripture, perhaps even into the excesses of Ignatius Loyola. What reigned in the Puritans was a deep commitment to Scripture.

Deliberate meditation, according to the Puritans, is to be done every day, as a man deliberately sets aside time to meditate upon Christ and heaven. There were two foci in this type of meditation – dogmatic (or theological) and practical.

The Duty and Necessity of Meditation

The Puritans argued for the duty and necessity of meditation. The same God who commands us to believe, commands us to meditate, and provides numerous Biblical examples of such. “One cannot be a Christian without meditation,” in the view of the Puritans.

Furthermore, without meditation, preaching won’t benefit us, our prayers won’t be effective, and we will be unable to defend the truth.

Puritans recommended frequent meditation, ideally twice a day, but certainly at least once daily. A person should set a particular time for the practice, and stick with it. The Lord’s Day should be used for heavier doses of meditation, which would help to exclude worldly talk. Special times of refreshment, and turmoil, and spiritual stirring, should also be improved by meditation.

The Art of Meditating

How does one engage in meditation? First, by clearing his mind of the things of this world. Secondly, by cleansing his heart from sin. Third, by approaching the task with utmost seriousness. Fourth, by finding a quiet place, characterized by secrecy, silence, and rest (i.e., no motion). Fifth, by adopting a comfortable body posture.

The first task of meditating is to ask the Holy Spirit for assistance: Puritans suggested that the one meditating read some Scripture and adapt a verse or doctrine, picking one subject at a time, usually a subject that is most applicable td the present circumstances. Memorizing the selected verse aids one in meditating on it. Indeed, fixing one’s thoughts upon the Scripture without going beyond what God has revealed is key. Other guidelines included: stirring up one’s affections (love, desire, hope, courage, gratitude, joy); applying the meditations to one’s self; turning personal applications into resolutions, such as the resolve to fight against temptation; concluding the time of meditation with prayer and thanksgiving and Psalm-singing; and not breaking too quickly with meditation in order to go back into worldly activity.

Appealing to historians, Dr. Beeke contended that Puritans were more diverse in their topics than were the Roman Catholics in their meditations. Among the numerous theological rubrics on which Puritans wrote with respect to meditation, “eschatology wins the day,” including topics such as heaven, death, judgment, and hell. Christians must meditate especially on heaven.

There are many benefits to meditation, including that it helps us focus on all three persons of the Trinity; it takes the veil away; it augments one’s affections; it hatches good affections; it helps us worship; it enables us to discharge religious duties; it provides relief in affliction; and it promotes gratitude and thus glorifies God. It’s not the Christian who reads, but who meditates, most, who will be the most blessed and the sweetest Christian.

Obstacles to Meditating

The Puritans acknowledged that there were many obstacles to meditating, among them the following: wandering thoughts; busyness; spiritual lethargy; worldly pleasures and friendships; and adverseness of heart. But, the Puritans would remind their listeners that the Christian has a duty to meditate; that great busyness should move us to greater meditation; and that heaven is the reward of them who take the kingdom by force.

Self-examination and Meditation

According to Dr. Beeke, “meditation was a comprehensive method for Puritan devotion.” And, meditation always led to self-examination. For the unbeliever, he must ask himself the question, “Why isn’t God in all my thoughts?” For the saved, the Puritans warned that “neglecting meditation was dangerous; it will destroy your love for God, dampen your fervor for Him, and lead you to sin.”

Seeing God’s Glory

Dr. Beeke also spoke on Tuesday evening, this time from Exodus 33 on Moses’ yearning to see God’s glory. “This is Biblical Christianity yearning for God, declared the preacher. He noted that Moses’ request was circumstantially motivated, and wondrously answered.

“Seeing the glory of God is the essence of what conversion is,” said Dr. Beeke. “An unbeliever never truly beholds the glory ……… When you can see the glory of God, that glory is far more beautiful . . . than this drab black and white world.”

In the midst of circumstances which drained Moses spiritually, and in view of what would be a forty-year wandering in the wilderness, Moses “needed the spiritual strength of seeing God’s glory.”

What is God’s glory? “It is the sum total of all His attributes as He has revealed them to us,” according to Dr. Beeke. Two attributes in particular He revealed to Moses, as He passed by the Cleft of the rock: His goodness and His sovereignty.

Referring to his own experience of being mugged in Latvia a few months ago, Dr. Beeke testified that while he was bound and blindfolded and lying on the floor, “I saw the goodness of God …I saw in Jesus’ blood [the goodness of God].”

The preacher averred that “God’s goodness without His sovereignty will give you a truncated view…. Our God is graciously sovereign, our God is sovereignly good.” Making contemporary application, he noted that “a god of capricious sovereignty is the god of Islam.”

Dr. Beeke concluded his message by maintaining that the place of Christ’s crucifixion Golgotha “is God’s cleft in the rock.”

The Lord’s Day and Communion with God

On Wednesday morning, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Pipa boldly proclaimed the importance and necessity of Sabbath observance for communion with God. He has already written a book on the subject, “The Lord’s Day.”

The President of Greenville Seminary began his address by reference to nineteenth century Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney, who stated that “the sacred observance of one day in seven is God’s appointed means for the cultivation of piety” and “when piety vanishes, orthodoxy vanishes.”

Using Exodus 31:12-18, a text most often employed. by those who believe that the Sabbath was a ceremonial ordinance only, Dr. Pipa presented three basic points:
1. God commands careful observance of the Sabbath;
2. God appoints the Sabbath as a sanctifying sign for the Old Covenant people;
3. God continues this for the New Covenant.

Sabbath Observance

On the first point, Dr. Pipa stated that “God calls us to a very careful and precise observance of the Sabbath,” as he noted that the Sabbath is mentioned in every genre of both Old and New Testaments. “The things that God thinks is important, He emphasizes.”

God set forth in the Sabbath ordinance His own pattern of rest. “God ceased from work. And in that resting, He took a particular delight in contemplation of that work. We then are to cease from our own work.” All kinds of work are prohibited, including mental and manual. “On the Sabbath we are to cease from all ordinary work.” Even the construction of the tabernacle was to cease on the Sabbath.

This resting is not merely a negative concept. There is also the notion of refreshment, and of celebrating the Sabbath. “We are to do, to perform, certain acts for the due celebration of the day. The Sabbath is not a time of inactivity, but rather we are freed from other  activities so that we can spend the whole day in private arid public worship.”

Dr. Pipa called for the Christians who go out to restaurants on Sunday, and some ministers who fly home on Sunday afternoon or evening, to change their practice. Both of these activities involve other people in unnecessary work and deprives them of a blessing.

A Sign to the Old Covenant People

With regard to the second major point, Dr. Pipa noted that the Sabbath was one of several signs, including the rainbow, circumcision, and the Passover, given to the Old Covenant people. “The Sabbath is the sign that God is their Creator. It’s also a sign of the promise of eternal life. The seventh day in the Garden was an open-ended day, pointing forward to eternity.” Therefore, the Sabbath was on the seventh day for two reasons: one, to commemorate Creation; and two, to point forward to the redemption to come.

The Sabbath, which totally set apart the Israelites from the nations around them, also entailed responsibility. Besides idolatry, Israel was judged for Sabbath-breaking. “The Sabbath was appointed to be a great means of grace.” It was, to use the old Puritan phrase, “the market-day of the soul.”

Dr. Pipa did not shun away from the traditional understanding of Isaiah 58:13-14 and its proscription of worldly employments and recreations. If Israel would keep the Sabbath; then she “would have an experimental enjoyment of the blessing of God,” denominated in that passage as the “heritage of Jacob.”

A Sign for the New Covenant, Too

For the third point, Dr. Pipa maintained that the text “teaches us that the Sabbath is a perpetual, moral obligation.” Verse 18 of Exodus 31 “reminds us of the extraordinary manner in which God gave Ten Commandments,
engraving the commandments with His finger. And it’s ludicrous to pull one of the commandments out of the middle of the Ten Commandments and say that it’s ceremonial.” Furthermore, Christ teaching that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath teaches that the Sabbath is a means of blessing. The. way in which man enjoys that blessing is by recognizing that the day is holy to the Lord. In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, God has a “propriety” in it..

Even the sanction for violation of the Sabbath the death penalty indicates that the Sabbath is part of the moral law, for “there is no violation of ceremonial law that led to death.”

Even so, there were ceremonial aspects which attached to the Sabbath in the Old Covenant. One of those ceremonial aspects was the observance. Of the day of rest on the seventh day of the week. The change to the first day of the week was in commemoration that “our redemption was accomplished on the first day of the week…. We need no Easter Sunday. Every Sunday is ‘Easter’ for us.”

Sabbath and the Gospel

The continuing validity of the Sabbath gives Christians a “great opportunity to witness” to the world. When unbelieving friends invite Christians to engage in forbidden activity on the Sabbath, the believers can use their polite and gracious declining the invitation to speak of their faith. The world may then clamour: “Introduce, me to a God who has such a claim on your life.”

But the church’s “flagrant disregard for the Sabbath is why the church is impotent today.” Dr. Pipa noted that the church had substituted a humanly-invented list of piety in the place of Sabbath observance: “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t date girls that do… don’t go to movies.

“The Sabbath reminds us that we will triumph over sin, Satan, and death. The Sabbath puts a knife in the heart of our idolatry. The Sabbath helps us to conform us to the image of Christ. The Sabbath reminds us that this is a day of communion.”

Essential for Piety and Orthodoxy

Dr. Pipa observed: “Piety is vanishing. And understand from Dabney that orthodoxy is not far behind.” He punctuated his point with powerful pithy
statements: “The Sabbath is not some non- essential . . . as I was told again just last week.” “To rule it as a non- essential will destroy any church, presbytery, or denomination that declares it to be such.” “There is no ‘continental view of the Sabbath’ during the time of the Reformation…. Calvin may not have got there the same way, but he got there [i.e., to a Sabbatarian position].”

Dr. Pipa concluded by calling for “an exuberantly entering into the glories and privileges of this day, that you and I may enter into the joy of the Lord.”

Experimental. Calvinism

Also on Wednesday morning, Ian Hamilton spoke on “experimental Calvinism, that is, the piety that must characterize every true Calvinist as well as every true Christian.

The Formative Principle of experimental Calvinism for Mr. Hamilton is not that of predestination, but that of “the glory of the Lord God Almighty.” The primary question, then, is not, “How shall I be saved?”, but, “How shall God be glorified?”

The Foundational Experience is seen in Isaiah 6, where the prophet was brought to a deep awareness of his need for God, of his corruption, of God’s forgiving grace, and of his having to yield his life unreservedly to God. Mr. Hamilton quoted Borden of Yale, the millionaire who had given up his fortune and committed himself to go to the mission field, as he lay
dying: “No return, reserve, no regrets.” Mr. Hamilton added: “That’s experimental Calvinism.”

The Fundamental Features are that it honors God’s unconditional sovereignty; it lives life before the face of God; it shapes all of life by the revelation of God’s unimpeachable holiness; it exercises faith in God being able to do His will; it loves God’s law; it is content and satisfied with Scriptural worship; and it cherishes God’s grace and will seek to emulate God’s love.

John Calvin’s Spirituality

On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. James McGoldrick, recently retired from a long tenure as history professor at Cedarville University in Ohio, lectured on the spirituality of the great Genevan reformer. Currently Professor of Church History at Greenville Seminary, Dr. McGoldrick distinguished between piety and spirituality. In the sixteenth century, because the latter term was associated with Roman Catholic mysticism, the Protestant reformers preferred the term pietas, a Latin word which signified worship, then reverence, then charity toward needy people. The Protestants challenged the Romanist notion of a sacred/secular dichotomy,
which was expressed, for example, in the monastic lifestyle.

But the reformers certainly were deeply interested in genuine spirituality,
or true godliness. For Calvin, true godliness “embraces God’s
righteousness and produces a greater desire to die than to displease God.”

For Calvin, like the other reformers, “God’s revelation is the basis of true Christian living.” Nevertheless, there also must be a subjective knowledge of God, a topic with which Calvin dealt in Book III of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin’s magnum opus was not “so much a summa theological as it was summa pieta.” This approach fit well with Calvin’s pastoral side, and his belief that “theology was for all believers,” not for an elite class.

Calvin’s practical piety was also reflected in his emphasis on congregational singing, especially of the Psalms. For Calvin, adoration was the central feature of worship: “He wanted to avoid liturgy becoming an appeal to our feelings.”

Calvin’s theocentric focus led him also to view the love of self as “a mortal plague that Christians must rip out. What we’ve been given is to be given to others.”

The Glory and Beauty of God

Joseph Pipa preached on Wednesday evening, from Psalm 93. In his exposition, he marked out God’s majestic reign, the conquering power of the majestic Christ, and our response to the majestic King.

“There are few things more powerful than flood waters,” Dr. Pipa noted. By means of the figure of a flood, the psalmist “is picturing for us the tumultuous things of life,” both circumstances and spiritual matters, as well as the rebelliousness of the nations. But the Lord reigns over all.

With regard to our response, President Pipa pointedly proclaimed that “to refuse to submit at any point is rebellion, and if persisted in, means that you have no grounds for believing you are converted.”

Part of our response to the King is to worship Him. “When the elders turn the keys, they open the doors of heaven itself, and a mysterious transaction takes place. We mount up and join With the awesome angels, and all the departed saints. We have transactions with the King in corporate worship. With this awareness, worship will not be dull or boring, and you will not be dull or boring.”

Redemptive-Historical vs. Traditional Preaching

Thursday morning was given over to a discussion as to what type of preaching, redemptive-historical or traditional, is the most Biblical.

The Rev. Dr. William Dennison, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Covenant College and a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), presented the case for redemptive-historical preaching. He began by stating that, in his view, there was no longer a peaceful co-existence between the two positions, but that rather there was a cloud of suspicion hanging over the debate. He noted that the Biblical theological approach which he represented had come in for three basic criticisms. One, Biblical theology has its origin as a specific theological discipline in the German Enlightenment. Two, the historical-redemptive genre is one of many genres of Scripture, and therefore the redemptive-historical approach is not the only legitimate one. Three, Biblical theology fails to apply the text of Scripture to the lives of God’s people. Biblical theology has been said to be analogous to the way an air plane flies, i.e., never touching the ground.

Dr. Dennison maintained that both sides in the dispute agree on the necessity of application, and the reality of progressive revelation. The problem is the presuppositional grid that informs each perspective. The discussion needs a dose of Cornelius Van Til’s methodology, viz., transcendental critique.

The Covenant College professor then gave an overview of Western thought,
as he spoke of the interrelationship of ethics, history, grammar, and rhetoric. The classical view of history was to make it subservient to ethics, and the Medieval church, as well as the Protestant Reformation, largely adopted the Greco-Roman approach to history.

“The relationship among rhetoric, history and ethics found a home in the church, especially with respect to preaching. Preaching was viewed as an application of history.” Ethics thus took precedence over history, with the result that the study of history was appreciated more for the moral lessons which it teaches than for its own sake.

Professor Dennison applauded the Reformers for helping to turn the classical world upside down. However, in his view, they like all of us were products of their time, and so did not fully liberate their world-and-life view from the liberal arts tradition.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, it was Geerhardus Vos, an Old Princeton scholar, who helped to define the discipline of Biblical Theology, and in so doing to recapture some of the pristine perspective of the original Reformers. “Vos saw the focus of history in Christ, not ethics. The focus of history is on Christ, not on morality.”

For Dr. Dennis on, the traditional approach of grammatico-historical exegesis should be reversed, so that the emphasis is upon history – an historico-grammatical exegesis.

In his opinion, “Good preaching does not apply the text to you, but applies you to the text. The preacher is not drawing the text into your world, he is drawing you into the world of the text.”

An Opposing Voice

Responding to Dr. Dennison was the Rev. John Carrick, also a minister in the OPC. Mr. Carrick, who is Assistant Professor of Applied and Doctrinal Theology at Greenville Seminary, began by stating that the explanation and application of the text is the traditional approach. After referring to Robert Lewis Dabney, who said that preaching is “to make men do”, Professor Carrick attacked those who in the Exemplaristic Redemptive/Historical Controversy in Holland in the 1930s and 1940s eschewed the use of Biblical characters as examples. The redemptive-historical advocates also charged the exemplarists with moralism and anthropocentricity.

Professor Carrick, on the other hand, wants to maintain a balance between the objective and the subjective, or between the indicative and the imperative – a balance which he believes “is illustrated by Apostolic preaching.”

In his view, redemptive-historical preaching has gone astray in its “failure to note and to implement the indicative-imperative pattern.” J. Gresham Machen, one of the founders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, “highlights the fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity by saying that liberalism has only the imperative, while Christianity has the indicative as the foundation of the imperative. The Christian preacher begins with a triumphant indicative.” However, Machen does not leave it there, but goes to application: “Christianity is not always in the indicative mood.”

The New Testament reveals a double indicative into which a double indicative is interwoven. Christ died for sinners (indicative); therefore, repent and believe (imperative). You are dead to sin (indicative); therefore, reckon yourself dead to sin (imperative).

The Necessity of Balance

Professor Carrick, while expressing appreciation for a redemptive-historical perspective, argued for a balanced approach, and he attacked what he called the extremes of the redemptive-historical movement. He noted that Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, generally considered one of the champions of a redemptive-historical approach to Scripture, has himself been critical of some in the redemptive-historical camp who have apparently not been willing to grant a legitimate use of example and of the imperative. With respect to James’ use of Elijah as an example of a man of fervent prayer, Dr. Gaffin, according to Professor Carrick, “points out that James has seized on an incidental and subordinate point and turned it into a major point.” The Greenville professor rhetorically asked: “Does
the redemptive-historical school regard James’ appeal to I Kings 18 to be ‘atomistic’ and moralistic?”

He continued: “The fact that Christ is our Saviour does not mean that He is not also an example.” Atoning value and exemplaristic value lie
side-by-side. Using Gaffin-type language, Professor Carrick declared,
“Christocentricity must not be permitted to
degenerate into Christomonism.”

Professor Carrick again appealed to Dr. Gaffin, who has expressed concern that “some redemptive-historical preaching is one-sided, especially because it has an eye only for the typological institutions of the Old Testament. Old Testament figures should be regarded as believers, as well as types.” Furthermore, we must not “polarize by underplaying the continuity.” And, “some so-called redemptive-historical preaching doesn’t do justice to the imperative. There is a concreteness and specificity about the imperatives of Scripture.”

Professor Carrick took to task the overemphasis on eschatology, which “goes hand-in-hand with an underemphasis on the ethical. It’s one thing to assert that eschatology is prior to soteriology in logical terms; it’s another to assert its priority in terms of importance.

Bill Dennison Replies

Dr. Dennison replied by saying, “I don’t see myself in terms of the Netherlands discussion [i.e., the exemplaristic v. Redemptive/Historical Controversy, Ed.]. I don’t see myself as one who is carrying this battle cry of being against application.”

The college professor professed that he didn’t recognize himself in the critique that John Carrick had presented of the redemptive-historical school, especially with regard to the lack of the imperative. Dr. Dennison later made reference to a 1979 article of his in the ‘Calvin Theological Journal’ in which he wrote (approvingly) on the indicative-imperative paradigm. For Professor Dennison, the contemporary controversy is the result of the redemptive-historical and the traditional approaches operating on two different paradigms, with the result that application looks differently to each of the two schools. He agrees that Paul holds up Israel as an example in I Corinthians 10, but he does so in terms of eschatology. “We use examples; but they’re examples in the sense that you are in the eschatological drama.” In Exodus 32, “Israel was rejecting union with Jehovah God. If they stayed in union with the God who brought them out of Egypt, they would not have made idols. The imperatives [of Scripture] are nonsense without union.”

Rejecting Professor Carrick’s call for “balance,” Dr. Dennison declared, “I’m not interested in ‘balance’ – that’s an Aristotelian golden mean idea. . . The Christian life is indicative and imperative. I’m interested in the intimate . . . or existential union. You just don’t have the Christian life [without] … loving God and keeping His commandments.”

He continued: “Your life is found in the Bible. In terms of ‘example,’ it’s not the example of aspiration but the example of assimilation. Aspiration is Platonic – ‘Jesus is the ideal to which you aspire to be.”‘ Rather, you assimilate the life pattern. Aspiration is works-religion. “You’re called to suffer in the world, and as you do so, you will be exalted with Christ. He allows you to live the exact same life pattern. . . . You walk in the world as a suffering servant. . . . The Platonic model of aspiration … is nothing but works-righteousness.”

John Carrick Responds

Prof. Carrick said that it was reductionistic to attribute the exemplary or moralistic strain in interpretation uniquely to the classical tradition, as if the word of God itself did not sanction the use of such a strain.

Despite Dr. Dennison ‘s protestations, Professor Carrick stated that
Kerux, a journal on biblical theological preaching edited by James T. Dennison, Bill’s brother, “does represent the extreme wing” of the redemptive-historical approach. Speaking of the sermons found in Kerux, he
stated: “You can count the imperatives on the fingers of your hands. It’s all in the indicative mood.”

Prof. Carrick also rejected Bill Dennison’s assertion: “When Christ died, I died with Him. There is no imperative beyond that paradigm.” Carrick noted that it was wrong so to highlight definitive sanctification that one neglected the imperatives of progressive sanctification with which the New Testament literally teems.

He maintained that “we do believe in Biblical theology; but, we don’t want to emphasize Biblical theology to the exclusion of systematic theology and the grammatico-historical approach.”

[As in past years, Greenville Seminary is making plans for publishing a book based on the lectures at the conference. Previous volumes include Did God Create in Six Days? (l~99), Written for Our Instruction: The Sufficiency of Scripture for All of Life (2000), and Sanctification: Growing in Grace (2001). For ordering information, call 864-322-2717 or visit the seminary’s web site at]


They Said It…

“I was shaken by one thing in my talk and that is that I have seven points. But when I heard that Ian had nine, I took fresh courage.” Joel Beeke.

“When I meet people with the lines of their the theology clearly and neatly demarcated, I try to avoid them.” Ian Hamilton, speaking on the reality of seeing through a glass darkly.

“You ask, why do you consider A. A. Hodge to be a Southern Presbyterian? Because he wrote his systematic theology while at Fredericksburg, Virginia.” Morton H. Smith.

“He was part of the group that came from Belhaven [College] over to Reformed Theological Seminary. That particular group believed what we were teaching at that time.” Morton H. Smith, speaking of Joseph Pipa, one of his students in the early days at RTS.

“It has been a learning experience to come to the South. I have learned that there was no Civil War it’s the War of Northern Aggression.” Ian Hamilton.

“A woman asked me what a Calvinist is. [After explaining it,] she looked at me somewhat puzzled and said, ‘But isn’t that what a Christian is?”‘ Ian Hamilton.

“Coming from the Church of Scotland,… I thought that they would be a little more rigorous and heart-searching than they were.” Ian Hamilton, on being examined for licensure by Mississippi Valley Presbytery (PCA).

“The drift [of seminaries] begins not because they adopt a different hermeneutic, but when the heart is not gripped with the glory of Christ.” Ian Hamilton.

“‘And Isaiah got up and did a holy dance.”‘ Ian Hamilton, with tongue-in-cheek regarding Isaiah 6 after Isaiah saw the glory of God.

“‘Lord, we are worms…. And he paused and he prayed, ‘Lord, make us glow worms. “‘ Ian Hamilton, speaking of the late (and idiosyncratic) William Still in a prayer meeting in Aberdeen, Scotland.

“A proud Calvinist is a theological oxymoron.” Ian Hamilton.
“God, save us from a church that is obsessed with programs.” Ian Hamilton. “People… like to portray John Calvin as a semi-human being…. Few people in history have suffered from misrepresentation as much as has John Calvin.” James McGoldrick.

“So often our piety is marked by this sterility of missed expectations.” – Joseph Pipa.

“Nebuchadnezzar’s confession [in Daniel 4] is more sound than a lot of evangelicals today.” Joseph Pipa.

“When you pick up the newspaper in the morning, you are reading of the work of the King.” Joseph Pipa.

“Some of us grow weary in our struggles within our denominations. But it’s not our church. It belongs to the King.” Joseph Pipa.

“I have become convinced that this is not a fruitful discussion – and yet, here I am today.” William Dennison.

“Eschatological this, eschatological that-at times I feel eschatologized to death!” John Carrick, speaking of the emphasis in redemptive-historical preaching on eschatology.

“It was he who did introduce me to the duties of Sabbath keeping. I did used to watch the Super Bowl. I used to rationalize doing things with youth after service in the evening. He’s ruined me-I’m not fit for today’s church and it’s all his fault.” – Joseph Pipa, affectionately referring to Morton H. Smith.

“One or two had heard that Joey [Pipa] has horns. I assumed then they were well hidden. People warmed to Joey and Sissy as a couple when they came to Cambridge. They realized they were normal people.” Ian Hamilton.

Coeburn, Virginia 24230 Web Site

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