Faith and Practice #2

In this second edition of the “Faith and Practice” segment Dr. Joseph Pipa sits down and interacts with questions from our listeners.  This is a new monthly feature of the podcast and you can get more information about this feature here.

In this edition we dealt with the following questions:

A Christian valedictorian in Pickens County, S.C. recently set aside a school-administration approved graduation speech which complied with a rule to avoid any religious references. Instead, we spontaneously delivered an alternative speech thanking his parents for raising him to fear God and then offering the Lord’s Prayer.

Was he justified in deceiving and disobeying school authorities to give his Christian testimony in public?

— Garry, Greer SC

Read an article on cessationism and the author (DeJong from Alberta CA) used 1 cor. 4:6 and Paul’s admonition not to go beyond what is written as a warning against modern charismatics and/or grudem’s idea of prophecy.  Would you say it is an appropriate use?  I’m often discussing this with my pentecostal friends, as I’m an ex-pent and ex-charismatic myself.

— Nancy, Ridgewood NY

My friend is a beginner Molonist. Yet when I confront him with the condition of man he ignores it and doesn’t deal with what the Scriptures have to say about the Condition of man.  Are their any major, obvious errors and other weak points in  Molonism?

— David, Reading PA

A family wants to join our fellowship from a Baptist background. They understand we are covenant children in baptizing and that they can be part of our congregation and hold their believers only position; which will exclude him from office but not membership. Their question to me; “When our children make a profession of faith could we have them immersed?” My Question ~ How to approach such a request in a Pastoral manner that does not drive them away. Could we Immerse as Reformed Presbyterians without violating any Biblical theological tenant.

— Mark, Upton MA

Dr. Pipa,

Our church is currently debating the issue of music, contemporary vs. traditional. This seems to always be a very divisive debate. The debate at our church centers around the use of certain instrumentation (drums and guitars or piano and organ). Can you address the issue of instrumentation in reformed worship? Do drums and guitars assist in worship that is to be done with fear and trembling, reverence and awe?

— Scott, Lake City FL

I have recently read and heard some criticism of the “Puritan” doctrine of assurance.  This purported position suggests that assurance is not only something difficult to “earn” but that few in this life should ever expect to “earn” it.  Many have pointed out that sometimes almost whole churches go for years without taking communion due to an overemphasis on “waiting long” and “striving” to gain assurance.  To give an example of what I’m getting at, these are the words of Puritan Thomas Watson who puts it in this way:

“Now though this full assurance is earnestly desired, and highly prized; and the lack of it much lamented; and the enjoyment of it much endeavoured after by all saints—yet it is only obtained by a few. Assurance is a mercy too good for most men’s hearts; it is a crown too weighty for most men’s heads. Assurance is optimum maximum—the best and greatest mercy; and therefore God will only give it to his best and dearest friends.” Works of Thomas Brooks, (Edinburgh: Banner, 1980,) Vol 2. p.335.

This is very extreme and some put this in contrast with John Calvin’s teaching on the subject, viz,

“Lastly, there was another most pestilential error, which not only occupied the minds of men, but was regarded as one of the principal articles of faith, of which it was impious to doubt: that is, that believers ought to be perpetually in suspense and uncertainty as to their interest in the divine favor. By this suggestion of the devil, the power of faith was completely extinguished, the benefits of Christ’s purchase destroyed, and the salvation of men overthrown. For, as Paul declares, that faith only is Christian faith which inspires our hearts with confidence, and emboldens us to appear in the presence of God (Rom. 5:2). On no other view could his doctrine in another passage be maintained: that is, that “we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). ” The Necessity of Reforming the Church in Calvin’s Tracts Relating to the Reformation, (Edinburgh: Calvin’s Translation Society, 1844), p. 136

Assuming these two are reasonable representatives of the two positions, did the later Reformers/Puritans (or a sect thereof) adopt an unBiblical perspective on assurance?  Or, ought the Christian who is conscientiously trying to follow Jesus live life unsure of God’s love for him in keeping with the Puritan position?

(Mind you, I’m not trying to bait you into contradiction our Standards – I think that they allow for lack of assurance, but do not demand that most Christians ought to expect no assurance of salvation.)

Thank you for your ministry:

— Christopher, Dayton OH

With the growing popularity of paedocommunion in Reformed circles there have been a number of helpful books and resources which have come out offering biblical, historical, and theological critiques of this movement.  I’m thinking particularly of things like Cornelius Venema’s book, “Children at the Lord’s Table” or “Children and the Lord’s Supper” edited by Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan.  I believe that these resources offer us a compelling response to the demands for paedocommunion in our circles today.

However, my question is about the related issue of young communion.  By young communion I mean the practice of allowing a 3, 4, 5, or 6 year old to come to the table based on a simple profession of faith.  Many argue, “as long as Susy can give a three year old version of the gospel (i.e. Jesus loves me and died for my sins) there is nothing wrong with admitting her to communicate membership”.  Many churches seem to be denying “hard paedocommunion” in favor of this more “soft” approach.  Yet this seems to stand in contrast to the traditional view of waiting until a later age.  My question then, is this: how would you respond to these soft paedocommuninist and what resources are out there to help us deal with this kind of thinking?

Thank you for your consideration of this question!

— Ben, Wichita KS

What book or portion of the Bible would you consider as of the first importance one should teach in a Basics of Christianity class to new Christians or those with a low to average Bible IQ?

— Greg, Paris IL

Listen Here:

#38 Faith and Practice #2

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