f The Wittenberg Door: August 2014

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Today in History: William Penn Sets Sail for America

William Penn was a constant source of frustration for his father, a wealthy English admiral. The rebellious younger Penn got kicked out of Oxford University for refusing to attend Anglican (Church of England) services. The he joined the Society of Friends, a religious sect known as the Quakers because their leader had once told an English judge to “tremble at the Word of the Lord.” Quakers’ religious beliefs and refusal to swear allegiance to any king but God led to their persecution. William Penn found himself imprisoned more than once.

Admiral Penn was an old friend of King Charles II and loaned the monarch a good deal of money. When the admiral died, William asked that the debt be paid with land in America. The king liked William, despite his religious beliefs, and granted him a huge tract of wilderness, which Charles named Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s woods.”

On August 30, 1689, William Penn sailed for America to begin his “Holy Experiment”—a colony that would be a refuge for not only Quakers but settlers of various faiths. Penn’s guarantee of religious freedom was then one of the most comprehensive in the world. Indeed, his plan to include diverse populations while extending a broad measure of religious and political equality was nothing less than revolutionary for its time.

Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, French Huguenots, and even Anglicans rushed to settle the rich lands. By 1700, Pennsylvania had as many as 21,000 settlers. The capital, Philadelphia (“City of Brotherly Love”), became a thriving metropolis, soon the largest of North America’s colonial cities. As settlers arrived—English, Scots-Irish, Welch, German, Dutch, Swedish, and more—Penn’s woods began to resemble the famous American “melting pot.”

American History Parade

1682 - William Penn sets sail from Deal in Kent, England, for Pennsylvania.

1781 - A French fleet arrives at Yorktown, Virginia, with 3,000 troops to help the British army.

1836 - Brothers Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen found Houston, Texas.

1862 - Confederate forces defeat Union troops at the Second Battle of Manassas, Virginia.

1967 - The Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice on the Supreme Court.

1983 - Guion S. Bluford Jr. becomes the first black American astronaut to travel in space when the shuttle Challenger lifts off.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Today in Church History: Huguenots, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

On the night of August 23, 1572, thousands of French Calvinists (Huguenots) were massacred in Paris and other French cites in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

In the preceding decades, Calvinism had spread rapidly in France despite fierce persecution. The French Wars of Religion had begun in 1562 and continued until 1594. The mass killing, ordered by Catherine de Medici, queen mother of France, and carried out by Roman Catholic nobles, was the most violent episode of the warfare. Estimates of the victims ranged from 5,000 to 10,000. Included among them was Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligney, who had arranged for a short-lived peace agreement between Calvinists and Catholics in France in 1570.

The massacre prompted further development within Reformed thought of the principle of civil disobedience and rebellion against tyrannical civil authorities. In the years that followed, French Calvinists would continue to experience persecution and would not attain full religious toleration until the French Revolution under Napoleon.

- John Muether


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Today in History: The Liberty Tree

On August 14, 1765, a group of Bostonians calling themselves the Sons of Liberty gathered under a large elm tree to protest the Stamp Act imposed by England. From a branch they hung an effigy of the Boston official in charge of administering the hated Stamp Act tax. The elm became known as the Liberty Tree.

By the time of the Revolution, just about every American town had its own Liberty Tree, a living symbol of freedom and resistance to tyranny. Patriots met under the trees to swap information and plot rebellion. In some towns, folks erected a tall Liberty Pole to symbolize a tree.

Thomas Paine wrote a popular song called “The Liberty Tree” to rouse Patriots’ spirits. “From the east to the west, blow the trumpet to arms; through the land let the sound of it flee,” the song ran. “Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer, in defense of our Liberty Tree.”

During the Revolutionary War, Patriot solders sometimes carried into battle flags emblazoned with a Liberty Tree. Some banners carried the words “An appeal to Heaven” to show that the colonists sought guidance from God for their cause.

A 1999 hurricane dealt a deathblow to the last of the Revolutionary War-era Liberty Trees, a 400-year-old giant tulip popular in Annapolis, Maryland. The conservation group American Forests grew fourteen from the tree’s seeds to plant in Washington, D.C., and the thirteen original states.

American History Parade

1755 - During the French and Indian War, George Washington is appointed commander in chief of Virginia forces protecting the frontier.

1765 - In Boston the Sons of Liberty protest the Stamp Act under the Liberty Tree.

1784 - On Kodiak Island, Russian fur traders found the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska.

1848 - Congress creates the Oregon Territory, an area encompassing today’s Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and western Montana.

1945 - Japan surrenders unconditionally, ending World War II.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Today in Church History: Geerhardus Vos

On August 13, 1949, Geerhardus Vos died in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After a brief tenure at Calvin Seminary, Vos was Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary for nearly 40 years, where he taught most of the founding faculty of Westminster Seminary. Unlike his Princeton colleagues, Vos labored in relative obscurity. Charles Dennison wrote:

His Princeton years (1893-1932) had to be a disappointment to some. If they expected a man capable of hand-to-hand theological combat, what they received was a quiet, peaceful, even private man. He was more of an Isaac than an Abraham. A theologian's theologian, hardly an aggressive spokesman for the cause, hardly energetically engaged in the courts of the church, Vos spent his time out of the limelight in class preparation and in extensive reading and writing. The bibliography of his writings covers thirteen pages and it reveals a different sort of Christian soldier in the battle for Reformed orthodoxy. In Vos, we are face-to-face with a theological intelligence effort. He studied the enemies' movements so thoroughly that he was able to anticipate them. This is especially evident in the way he was answering Albert Schweitzer even before Schweitzer was publishing his most influential works. Positively, Vos remained a theologian capable of making even Murray and Van Til stretch.

In retirement, Vos fell into even greater obscurity. Moving first to Southern California and then to Grand Rapids, Vos devoted the last years of his life to writing poetry. The handful of attendees at his funeral in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania included no representatives from Princeton Seminary. After his death, with the republication of many of his books, including Biblical Theology, there has developed a resurgence of interest in Vos within the OPC and beyond.

John Muether


Saturday, August 09, 2014

Today in Church History: Gordon H. Clark

On August 9, 1944, the Presbytery of Philadelphia ordained Gordon Clark.

A complaint against his ordination, filed in the Presbytery and eventually reaching the General Assembly in 1945, launched the "Clark Controversy" within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The dispute took place on three levels. First, the complaints noted irregularities that attended the ordination (Clark was licensed to preach and ordained in the same meeting). The General Assembly agreed that the Presbytery erred, but it did not overturn the ordination. Secondly, there were concerns whether Clark's views on divine and human knowledge gave adequate account for the "incomprehensibility of God." Finally, the controversy was part of a larger debate over the direction of the denomination between more Reformed and more evangelical parties.

Convinced that the OPC was becoming too narrow and sectarian, Clark left in 1948, transferring his ministerial credentials into the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Later, he joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. At the time of his death in 1985, he was retired from teaching philosophy at Butler University and Covenant College.

John Muether


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 12 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In Part 11, we closed-out our discussion of the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace, with one question still lingering:

Arminians often respond to the Calvinistic doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election with the following objection: “So you’re saying that God drags people into heaven against their will, while those sincerely desiring to get in can’t because they’re not the elect?”

Banging on Heaven’s Door?

We’ll start with the second objection: Is it the case that there are sinners who want to reconcile with God but God won’t let them because He didn’t elect them?

Here’s the problem with this objection: it doesn’t take into consideration the state of man. Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to us all (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; John 11:24-26; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13).

As a result, men are spiritually deaf, blind, and completely corrupted (Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14); also, men are slaves of sin (John. 8:34; Rom. 6:20; Tit. 3:3) and children of the devil (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; 1 John 3:10).

So how does natural man respond to the revelations God has given him? He suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Consequently, man in his unregenerate state hates God and is therefore not seeking Him.

10) as it is written,



Romans 3:10-12

Kicking and Screaming?

Now to the former part of the objection: Is God forcing people into heaven against their will?

As we’ve just seen, man is dead in his sins and in complete and utter rebellion against God. Man’s plight is not simply that he needs to add a few doctrines to his belief system—no, he needs to be made a new creation (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 5:17–18), to have his nature renewed (Due. 30:6; Ezk. 36:26–2; 1 Pet. 1:3).

Being made alive by the Spirit (John 5:21; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13), the sinner is granted repentance (Acts. 11:18, 16:14; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25–26). Now with a new disposition towards God, he lives a life characterized by thankfulness and service unto the Lord (Rom. 6:1-14; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13).


The Arminian objection falls flat, for it does not truly represent the state of man, nor does it truly represent the gracious work of God in salvation.

In his fallen state man is an enemy of God. He not only doesn’t seek reconciliation and entrance into God’s kingdom, but he is daily seeking to further himself from His holy Creator. The sinner’s only hope is a rescue operation—a sovereign work of God upon his heart. Once regenerated, the new believer lives a life of thankfulness and dedication to his magnificent benefactor.

In the next post in this series we’ll take-up the Arminian doctrine of Uncertain Perseverance: Although God’s grace has been extended to, and accepted by, the believer, he may still “fall from grace” and thus lose his salvation.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 11 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In our last discussion on this topic we took a look at the work of the Trinity in salvation and considered the gospel call. In this post we’ll see what the Scriptures have to say about the efficacy and application of God’s grace.

Scriptural Considerations

The Spirit, working through the Word, causes the sinner to be born again.

3) Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

4) Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

5) Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7) "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

8) "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

John 3:3-8

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

Titus 3:5

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 1:23

Also consider: John 1:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 5:4

Like Lazerus being brought back to life through the command of the Lord, so the Spirit brings the spiritually-dead to life.

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

John 5:21

even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)

Ephesians 2:5

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions

Colossians 2:13

Although the external call is often rejected, the internal call is effectual and therefore cannot be rejected.

and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Romans 8:30

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

2 Timothy 1:9

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

1 Peter 5:10

Also consider: Rom. 1:6-7, 9:23-24; Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 4:4; Heb. 9:15; Jude 1; 1 Pet. 1:15, 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 17:14

Salvation is through God’s sovereign will and therefore cannot be resisted nor thwarted.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Romans 9:16

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

James 1:18

Also consider: John 3:27, 17:2; 1 Cor. 3:6-7, 4:7; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 John 5:20


As we’ve seen, Scripture does not support the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace. The Spirit, working through the Word, causes the sinner to be born again, bringing him from death to life. Just as babies cannot choose not to be born, and Lazarus could not resist the resurrecting work of Christ, so men cannot—and will not—resist the sovereign work of God in salvation.

Stay tuned for Part 12!

--The Catechizer