View Full Version : help on class
May 19th 2005, 03:58 PM
Class notes on the history of american presbyterianism.
working on civil war now.
starts in 2 weeks, only the second time i've taught.
i'm more than a little apprehensive.
thanks for advice, help and references.
June 2nd 2005, 02:54 PM
well i am all set for the first class Sunday. behind in my writing however, i will only be able to printout the first 5 of the 12 class in time for the first class. for those interested here is the introduction section:
Introduction to the Class
I. overview of the class
To study Church history with the objective of understanding what God intends for us to learn from history particularly in reference to the issues of today. It is not an academic interest or knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but preparation for answering the questions posed in the denomination today and tomorrow. It is studying with a purpose, that purpose being a consistent striving for godly conduct and doctrine in our Church.(#4) "Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes."
---Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1865
It seems just a little arrogant to claim any special or particular insight into God's will or God's intentions in history, the best i can offer is a little of what i've found is important in the history of our Church. So each class, each idea is explicitly labelled as 'i think' or 'i hope that or 'maybe you will find this useful'. As such it reveals a little more of myself then i am comfort with and will consciously and systematically attempt to walk a boundary between sharing and teaching, staying on the sharing side as much as i possibly can.(#8) But the big point of the class is that God has a purpose for history and we ought to heed it's message, that the Church is of great importance to God and Church history is significant. Lincoln's warning in the light of:
Isa 55:8 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Isa&chapter=55&verse=8&version=kjv) For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isa 55:9 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Isa&chapter=55&verse=9&version=kjv) For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. means we should begin this class with humility and trepidation.
fear, humility and trepidation. that's me, i belong in the back of a class, not up front.
June 8th 2005, 05:18 PM
the second class is on creeds confessions and subscription
Creeds, Confessions and Subscription
I. Overview of the class
Here is the cliff hanger paragraph from last week's class that forms the introduction to this week's lesson:
The first issue, that I am going to try to refer to consistently as subscription is almost totally a question of boundary drawing, gate creation and the subsequent enforcement of these lines and gates. I'm just going to outline the issue now, most of class 2 will be concerned with it. It is a set of concentric circles, the first is the boundaries of the visible church, this is the issue of creedalism. The second is the boundary of the denomination or better understood as the boundaries around a small set of sister denominations- this is confessionalism. The third is the issue of gates, who creates them and who enforces them- this is the issue of subscriptionism.
I'd like to break today's class up into two big pieces, mostly because I don't know how much we can get through in our allotted time, I intend to present general information on the 3 issues first, then go back and defend the Biblical and theological correctness of these 3 circles after that. This will allow maximum questions and interaction and be sure we can see the basic generalities without rushing things and if necessary leave the details to your own interest and reading during the week.
a. Introduction to Creeds
We have three distinct boundaries to look at and to understand. The first is the boundary between those who are part of the visible Church and those who are outside of it. The first and most foundational question is always the same for us---is this a Biblical distinction? Without going deeply into the issues of covenant theology, we understand and trace the foundation of the Church through the ethnic division of Israel and the Gentiles (in the O.T.) to the book of Acts where we see God creating the visible institution of the Church (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn1) at Pentecost. It is God Himself who creates the boundary between those inside the invisible Church and those outside of it, the elect and the reprobate. However this boundary is 'locked up' in the eternal counsel of God and is not available to us. We try to draw another boundary that of the visible Church, attempting to capture something of this invisible Church line, however unsuccessful we are, it is both necessary and Biblical (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn2).
To show necessity is easiest on a more personal level. (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn3) Say you are doing your grocery shopping and you run into a neighbor, a nodding acquaintance but not a friend and they mention that they are buying groceries for the Church potluck tomorrow. How do you react to this information? Of course, you ask-"what church?” Why is this such a natural thing to do? Because those within the boundaries of the church are our brothers and sisters, we are all the adopted children of God and therefore a Christian is within a certain mental and emotional boundary where the unbeliever is strictly outside of it. Why did we almost automatically ask what Church? Because we are aware of the problem of apostasy and heretical churches, the problem of wolves in sheepskins (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn4).
Point 1-the problem of apostasy and heretics==>creedal boundaries for the visible Church
The Church through history is learning this same lesson as we learn dealing with people like LDS and JW's (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn5). There are those who present themselves as God's sheep who are in fact, hungry wolves. The Church has dealt with this predator problem by writing creeds. The early universal or Catholic creeds were written to combat very specific errors (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn6) that the church needed to distinguish itself from (it's counterfeits), partly as a process of (institutional and theological) maturation, partly to protect the sheep. These instruments were not only just like the question "what church?" on a personal level, but on an institutional level were needed to keep out the hungry wolves who would eat the sheep alive. Essentially becoming the gatekeepers tool to identify the sheep as they attempted to enter the church, as well as to id the wolves before (and after) they got inside, where they could do real damage. As we confess our Christian Faith each Sunday morning with a distinctive creed that unites us not just with fellow believers across the world, but with our brethren through the ages of the Church, we ought to be aware of this unifying function of the creeds. Most often these, in our church, are either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed, but we sometimes use one of our church's confessional pieces: WCF, LC, or SC (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn7).
What was asked of you when you met with our church's elders to join the church? A creedal level confession of faith, that is, assent to, and sufficient knowledge of the basics incorporated into one of these creeds (http://www.dakotacom.net/%7Ermwillia/hap2.html#_ftn8). Now oftentimes we are asked for a specific profession or testimony of faith, something that expresses the personal application of this knowledge to ourselves. We will touch upon this experiential testimony next week as we discuss the New Side vs. Old Side split in the mid 18thC. For now we ought to be able to understand creeds as the boundary CREATORS for the visible church. For a matter of completeness, creedalism's other main purpose is catechism or the systematic teaching of the faithful the fundamentals of theology, it is a learning tool. However it is the boundary determining function I wish to concentrate upon.
there ought to be enough "no creed but the Bible, and no confession but Jesus" people here to actually have a conversation on the issues....
June 10th 2005, 08:14 PM
if anyone is interested the best defense i found of creedalism is:
there is a baptist defense that is good at:
(in 3 parts, change the 01 to 02 and 03)
fyi i posted by diagram for the class at:
but i suspect only confessional church members would be interested in it.
June 23rd 2005, 08:23 PM
I've been working on the early 19thC and Presbyterian history for the Sunday School class. The issue i want to concentrate on for this lesson is the rise of denominationalism, of extra-eccelesiastical institutions and how the Old School reacted to them. I found a really good resource in a Phd thesis at:
which is pointing the way towards a change in how the church thought about catholicity. I'm looking for more information and perhaps if someone who has looked carefully at the associated ideas can help with some images to share in the class to show this change.
it looks like a really important issue and i'm sure i only see part of it.
here is one of the key ideas.
New School advocates claimed that the catholicity of the visible church was replaced by the Old School with a narrow sectarianism that focused on the institutional church. Indeed, this was the question: does the catholicity of the visible church simply mean unity among individual Christians in missionary and reform efforts across denominational boundaries (the New School vision)? Or does it mean cordial relations among denominations while each pursues its own missionary efforts in different regions (the Old School vision)?
Of course, to ask the question in this fashion is to reveal the fact that the older concept of the catholicity of the visible church was already dead. It was impossible for antebellum Presbyterians to affirm the older vision of the church, because they no longer believed in that older idea that each region should have only one church. The idea of “catholicity” had been redefined: the New School grounded the concept of catholicity in the invisible church (harmony between individual Christians), while the Old School emphasized the visible church (harmony between denominations)
But while the Old School sought to convince the moderates of the immediate dangers, they could not allow what they considered grave errors to continue unchecked. Since Old School Presbyterians were convinced that the New England doctrines departed significantly from the church’s Confession, they charged some of the New School leaders with heresy in the church courts. There was no attempt to go after every “heretic.” Instead Old School Presbyterians targeted the leaders. The idea was that those who were not influential were not seen as a threat. Here we see an assumption of the older idea of catholicity and conscience: if the church draws a clear boundary in the case of an influential heretic, those who may sympathize with his views will feel constrained to bring their practice into line with the common conscience of the church. They saw no need to prosecute every one with erroneous doctrine. The issue was the general direction of the church–isolated exceptions were not a problem so long as they did not stir up controversy. Hence the targets of heresy charges were invariably either professors or pastors who published their views.
thanks again for any help you can offer.
June 24th 2005, 05:34 PM
i'm starting to gather together the pieces for an analysis of the liberal-conservative split in the Christian church.
i have this so far:
Hart is excellent and a good read to boot.
cheap if you order from the OPC historian's office.
these are online resources:
Machen's Christianity and Liberalism is at:
machen's virgin birth is at:
randy oliver on machen at:
the presbyterian conflict by rian
the root of this page is at:
which has several other interesting books
The Death of a Church
The New Neutralism II
John E. Ashbrook
and this idea:
rise of liberalism
I'm trying to make the case that liberalism in the Presbyterian Church starts its rise in the aftermath of the Civil War. What i am particularly curious about is the relationship of political progressivism and theological liberalism. They both seem to have a secularized version of an optimistic if not post-millennialism. Based on the enormous success of science and technology their hopefulness that this curve of success was transferable to the social and political spheres, especially in the wake of the destructiveness of the Civil War.
i can see the notion of progressiveness, the optimism in changing the world, ideas that changing institutions change people (vs the evangelical notion that changing hearts changes institutions). But what i don't see is the connection between these ideas and the challenge of German higher criticism against the unity of Scripture, the liberalizing principle that inspiration was not at the textual level but at the principle/meaning level, and the attack on the authority of Scripture by seeing it as man's record of contact with God rather than God's reaching down to mankind. It looks like a key idea is progressive revelation extended to history, that is the Bible was fine for its time but now we are more advanced than that and we know better what it really is, a human record of man reaching for God.
anyone read something along this line that i could follow up on?
i have Ministers of Reform and Metaphysical Club for a start.
so far i have 4 classes planned.
end of the civil war and the rise of progressivism
the trial of C.A.Briggs and the entry of higher Biblical criticism in the presbyterian church
and the trial of JG Machen and the institution victory of liberalism in the northern church.
finally will be the separation of the PCA from the southern church in 1972.
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