December 2005


As a student of divinity, I have opinions on almost all topics that deal with religion and theology. As any good theologian and aspiring theologian- the study of God and His Word is taken very seriously in my home.

If you are a veteran of this weblog, you know that the issue of youth ministry comes up often. Youth ministry is something that I take with a grain of salt and feel strongly that it does little lasting good to those that are involved. For the most part I see many of these programs doing nothing more than producing immature Christian adults (which is often evidenced by the number of Christian college students who use the NIV Student Bible.) I am also under the impression that “youth ministers” are often annoying 20 year olds with their roots bleached blond(e) and their noses pierced. I find this to be of little use in the kingdom of God, even though this is the norm for those doing ministry.

(Harsh? Maybe…True? Definitely.)

I have often thought that youth ministry needed to be reformed so that it could be done in the context of the covenant of grace. We know that the promise of the covenant is for us as well as for our children; and in some way genuine ministry to the youth of the church needs to be a reflection of that fact. Mark DeVries, who is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, has written a fantastic book that made me say out loud (on numerous occasions) “that is exactly what I have been trying to say!”

Pastor DeVries uses his 25 years of experience with youth and explains the “crisis” that this discipline is currently in, as well as gives his analysis of what it is going to take to reverse the damage that we are doing to our covenant children through current youth ministry. This book is worth the time for anyone that is interested in what could become the new model for youth ministry. He challenges those that are in the church to reach out to the youth and to build the relationships that are needed to aid in the maintaining of a living and active faith in Jesus Christ.

“Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rule. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful.”
-Jonathan Edwards

Our culture is one that is rebellious and has little respect for morality or of the law (which is a reflection of a people’s morality). In the covenant that God made with Noah, he established the punishment of wicked crime would be punishable by death.
This was reaffirmed with Moses and the death penalty was expanded beyond the shedding of human blood.
The New Testament affirms this penalty for crimes in the writings of Paul. The magistrate was equipped with the sword for the punishing of evil doers.

In Puritan New England many crimes were to be punished by either death or banishment. (Banishment would lead to death). This was to ensure that the society would be one that outwardly reflects the morality of Christ- while praying that inwardly they would have hearts converted to Christ. John Cotton gives us look into the early civil practices as well as the crimes and punishments of this early era of American history. We may not be a Christian nation, the framers of our constitution may have been humanists (or HUME-anists); but Puritan New England was different. This was a time when the number one printed book was the Bay Booke of Psalmes and the people loved the Lord Jesus Christ. What did their laws look like?

Of Crimes. And first, of such as deserve capital punishment, or cutting off from a man’s people, whether by death or banishment.

1. FIRST, blasphemy, which is a cursing of God by atheism, or the like, to be punished with death.
2. Idolatry to be punished with death.
3. Witchcraft, which is fellowship by covenant with a familiar spirit, to be punished with death.
4. Consulters with witches not to be tolerated, but either to be cut off by death or banishment.
5. Heresy, which is the maintenance of some wicked errors, overthrowing the foundation of the Christian religion; which obstinacy, if it be joined with endeavour to seduce others thereunto, to be punished with death; because such an heretick, no less than an idolater, seeketh to thrust the souls of men from the Lord their God.
6. To worship God in a molten or graven image, to be punished with death.
7. Such members of the church, as do wilfully reject to walk, after due admonition and conviction, in the churches’ establishment, and their christian admonition and censures, shall be cut off by banishment.
8. Whosoever shall revile the religion and worship of God, and the government of the church, as it is now established, to be cut off by banishment. [I] Cor. 5:5.
9. Wilful perjury, whether before the judgment seat or in private conference, to be punished with death.
10. Rash perjury, whether in public or in private, to be punished with banishment. Just is it, that such a man’s name should be cut off from his people who profanes so grosly the name of God before his people.
11. Profaning of the Lord’s day, in a careless and scornful neglect or contempt thereof, to be punished with death.
12. To put in practice the betraying of the country, or any principal fort therein, to the hand of any foreign state, Spanish, French, Dutch, or the like, contrary to the allegiance we owe and profess to our dread sovereign, lord king Charles, his heirs and successors, whilst he is pleased to protect us as his loyal subjects, to be punished with death. Num. 12:14, 15.
13. Unreverend and dishonorable carriage to magistrates, to be punished with banishment for a time, till they acknowledge their fault and profess reformation.
14. Reviling of the magistrates in highest rank amongst us, to wit, of the governors and council, to be punished with death. I Kings 2:8, 9, & 46.
15. Rebellion, sedition, or insurrection, by taking up arms against the present government established in the country, to be punished with death.
16. Rebellious children, whether they continue in riot or drunkenness, after due correction from their parents, or whether they curse or smite their parents, to be put to death. Ex. 21:15, 17. Lev. 20:9.
17. Murder, which is a wilful man-slaughter, not in a man’s just defence, nor casually committed, but out of hatred or cruelty, to be punished with death. Ex. 21:12, 13. Num. 35:16, 17, 18, to 33. Gen. 9:6.
18. Adultery, which is the defiling of the marriage-bed, to be punished with death. Defiling of a woman espoused, is a kind of adultery, and punishable, by death, of both parties; but if a woman be forced, then by the death of the man only. Lev. 20:10. Deut. 22:22 to 27.
19. Incest, which is the defiling of any near of kin, within the degrees prohibited in Leviticus, to be punished with death.
20. Unnatural filthiness to be punished with death, whether sodomy, which is a carnal fellowship of man with man, or woman with woman, or buggery, which is a carnal fellowship of man or woman with beasts or fowls.
21. Pollution of a woman known to be in her flowers, to be put to death. Lev. 20:18,19.
22. Whoredom of a maiden in her father’s house, kept secret till after her marriage with another, to be punished with death. Deut. 22:20, 21.
23. Man-stealing to be punished with death. Ex. 21:16.
24. False-witness bearing to be punished with death.

Friends, as the physical seed of Abraham remembers their protection during the time of the Maccabees, I would ask that you take these eight days to remember the Jews in your family worship. Pray that the Lord will keep his promise to convert the Jews and bring them back into the fold of God. May they see Jesus Christ for who he is- The King of the Jews.

Romans 11:25-26. For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

What do we pray for in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer?

In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan,we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

Question 191, Westminster Larger Catechism

Ladies and gentleman, we cannot be grinchy all of the time, so I thought that it would appropriate to sing some carols as we go into Christmass eve… let us start with that old time favorite that glorifies the tree and tells it how lovely it is. I believe that we find that one in the scroll of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 10.2-4

Thus says the Lord:
Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.For the customs of the peoples are vain;

For one cuts a tree from the forest;

The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.

The famous Baptist Preacher, Charles Spurgeon’s thoughts are to be reflected upon on this day which is regarded by 96% of Americans as a high and holy day:

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmass: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).

When it can be proved that the observance of Christmass, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, “Is this a law of the God of Jacob?” and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty. (from Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4.)

Here are some other fun links for your Christmass enjoyment!

Some Christmass Carols

Origins of Christmass

Christmass and the Reformed Faith

A W Pink on Christmass

“Mom, if you lied about Santa Claus….what about this Jesus guy that you are always trying to get me to talk to?”

FOX NEWS, NEW YORK —
Yes, Chris Rock, there is a Santa Claus. Parents with young children who happened to watch “Everybody Hates Chris” in the past week had some explaining to do when the character of Rock’s brother suddenly told his younger sister that Santa doesn’t exist. “Everybody knows there’s no Santa Claus,” Drew said to Tonya on the UPN sitcom. “Come here, let me show you something. I’m taking you to the toys … Santa doesn’t come down the chimney. We don’t even have a chimney. We have radiators.” Disillusioned, she stomps out of the room. But wait. It gets worse.Put on the spot, Tonya’s dad Julius tells her the Easter bunny and tooth fairy don’t exist, either. “Somebody better give me my teeth back,” the girl fumes. A blindsided UPN received “a handful” of complaints about the Santa expose on its sitcom based loosely on Rock’s life growing up in Brooklyn, a spokeswoman said. The Santa episode, titled “Everybody Hates Christmas,” aired on Dec. 15 and was repeated on Monday. “Everybody Hates Chris’ is a semi-autobiographical show,” said Ali LeRoi, its executive producer and co-creator. “We try to get humor out of tough subject matters. It never occurred to me what a 6-year-old would think about the subject of Santa.” Not, at least, until busted by his own 6-year-old son. LeRoi admitted that his boy was upset when he saw the episode. “My wife told him it was just a TV show and to ignore it,” he said. “It worked. He believes her. Kids trust their parents that way.”
There’s no word on whether Rock knew his show could be a holiday spoiler. His spokesman didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages for comment. On the show, young Tonya becomes a lot more cynical. Her mother explains that Santa Claus is a symbol and asks: “So you do understand?” “Yeah,” the girl replies. “It’s OK to lie.”

Yeah, I saw the movie. Did I like it? Why of course I did, it was a very good movie for the most part. I really thought that some of Christian imagery came across nicely. We were able to see a small taste of the gospel of Christ; maybe even enough to whet the appetite for someone to pick up their Bible and attempt to find where the imagery comes from.

The most thrilling part of the movie for me? When Aslan the lion (the Christ figure) declares, “It is finished!” after the army defeated the white witch and her posse of uglies. As a Christian this was very moving to the religious affections.

Some of the things that I did not like about the movie:
1. You never grow to love Aslan before he dies. He comes and he dies quick as that. There is no connection to him emotionally.
2. Edmund never repented after Aslan was slain for his sin. He continued to defy the authority of his brother Peter. I do not like the antinomian quality of this.
3. The prophecy of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve did not seem to be taken very seriously by anyone. It was very down-played in the movie.

The point of this look into the film has more to do with the man behind the Lion though. It has been a few years since I have read any Lewis; I had to read some for my undergraduate degree, but I do not recall picking him up since. The one book that I remember liking the most was Till We Have Faces. Maybe that is because it was not theological in nature, but was more in the discipline of Lewis- literature.

I began to investigate some of the ideas that Lewis had regarding theology since I recall at Calvin we talked about some of his EXTREME non-evangelical ideas. I began to parouse some of his material again- and just as it was before, there is a lot that evangelicals would find to be distasteful.

The point? (Again, defending myself- I really liked the movie a lot. I enjoy his Narnia series as literature, I like some of the thoughts that he has had.) But why do evangelicals love this guy so much? I honestly think that if you put his list of doctrines infront of most evangelicals they would think that he was a hell bound heathen. (I am not commenting on his eternal state.) I find it odd that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (who was very Roman Catholic) have a stronger impact on American Christianity today than almost any other thinker, philosopher, theologian today.

Below is just one of the numerous articles that are available concerning his doctrine. (Some of the others will have extensive lists from his books that talk about various topics. Those are nice as well.)

WAS C.S. LEWIS A BIBLE BELIEVER?

Was C.S. Lewis a Bible believer? By no means, as even Christianity Today admits. “Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration” (“C.S. Lewis Superstar,” Christianity Today, Dec. 2005).

Lewis believed in prayers for the dead and purgatory and confessed his sins regularly to a priest. He was given the Catholic sacrament of last rites on July 16, 1963 (C.S. Lewis: A Biography, pp. 198, 301). Lewis denied the total depravity of man and the substitutionary blood atonement of Christ. He believed in theistic evolution and rejected the Bible as the infallible Word of God. He taught that hell is a state of mind: “And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind–is, in the end, Hell” (Lewis, The Great Divorce, p. 65). D. Martin Lloyd-Jones warned that C.S. Lewis had a defective view of salvation and was an opponent of the substitutionary and penal view of the atonement (Christianity Today, Dec. 20, 1963). In a letter to the editor of Christianity Today, Feb. 28, 1964, Dr. W. Wesley Shrader, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, warned that “C.S. Lewis … would never embrace the (literal-infallible) view of the Bible” (F.B.F. News Bulletin, March 4, 1984).

Lewis lived for 30 years with Janie Moore, a woman 25 years his senior to whom he was not married. The relationship with the married woman began when Lewis was still a student at Oxford. Moore was separated from her husband. Lewis confessed to his brother Arthur that he was in love with Mrs. Moore, the mother of one of his friends who was killed in World War I. The relationship was definitely sexual in nature. See Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, pp. 82, 94. At age 58, Lewis married Joy Gresham, an American woman who pursued a relationship with Lewis even while she was still married to another man. According to two of Lewis’s friends, Gresham’s husband divorced her on the grounds of desertion (Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter Hooper, Light on C.S. Lewis), though it also true that he, in turn, married his Joy’s cousin.

In the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken, a personal letter is reproduced on page 191 in which Lewis suggests to VanAuken that upon his next visit to England that the two of them “must have some good, long talks together and perhaps we shall both get high.”

Lewis claimed that followers of pagan religions can be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ: “But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. … There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, pp. 64, 208, 209).

Discussion Point:

-Everyone has an opinion about this, no need!

It seems that here at PRESBYTERIAN THOUGHTS, I do not get a lot of fan-mail. As far as we are concerned it appears that there are a lot of readers that do not appreciate the Paleo-Presbyterian religion and find the old paths of Christianity to be rather noxious. Christian hate-mail is the more common response; but there are those that find PRESBYTERIAN THOUGHTS to be rather edifying, encouraging and uplifting.

The reason that I share this note with you is not to pat myself on the back and say what a great site I am running here, but to encourage those readers (and myself) that there are others who benefit from the old paths as well. May the revival of the Reformed religion touch the lives of all readers, and love for Christ and His Word abound in your lives. Enjoy!

Dear Nate,

Just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you for running your blog. It has meant a lot to me as I have been down _______. I miss everyone greatly, and your blog, and its links to many others, lets me have a little taste of home.
In addition I have often found your meditations and suggested questions very helpful in redirecting me back to the Lord, and the heart of the Reformed faith. Also, the Lord is giving you the wisdom to dialogue well with others on your blog. You display discernment, patience, and appropriateness, while still being signature Nate Eshelman.

Thank you again.
Keeping you and your family in prayer.
God bless.
Love through Christ, _________

PRESBYTERIAN THOUGHTS reads and appreciates all mail that is received. If you are so moved by the Spirit, the hate-mail is welcomed too. Mail to: nleshelman@yahoo.com

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