30 September 2023

Norwich's History of the Papacy

Having recently finished Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich (first published in 2011), I must say I was in the overall – disappointed. My hopes were already diminished as I have interacted with some of his other works and found him to be wanting. This book was no exception. There were numerous errors and I found his analysis frustrating at many points. I wanted to give him another try as the nature of the volume intrigued me. He writes about topics that greatly interest me but there's something a bit off about his approach and degree of acumen.

21 September 2023

Richard Bennett on the Waldensians

The former Irish Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett (1938-2019) has always been a figure of sympathy and respect in my book. He was so thankful to have been released from the bondage and false Christianity represented by Rome. His sincerity was palpable and it was almost impossible not to empathize with him and his emotional response to his deliverance from that bondage.

17 September 2023

A Libertarian Perspective on Food Freedom (II)

Listening to Mogel's arguments, there are almost too many ironies to enumerate. On the one hand these folks vigorously push for endless exponential population growth and decry any caution or concern to that end and yet seem oblivious to the fact that growth in population means that farming will have to be pursued on a massive scale which is not conducive to small farmers or local food and economically is bound to destroy it.

A Libertarian Perspective on Food Freedom (I)


This episode of Iron Sharpens Iron caught my eye as it touches on a larger topic of attitudes about food and what is 'natural' that have emerged in more extreme Right-wing Christian circles. I have notes and a partially completed piece on this topic that's been on the back-burner for a couple of years. God willing I'll get to it before the end of this year. It's important and discussions like this remind me of this fact and the need to counter these assumptions.

09 September 2023

Antithesis and Small Town Church Dynamics

I live in a very rural area and while some small-town churches can be warm and friendly others can seem cold and unreceptive.

07 September 2023

Another Exchange with an Evangelical Pastor

I recently called an Evangelical pastor with some questions as his church website provided little in the way of substantive information.

28 August 2023

The Collapse of Yellow and its Context

The collapse of the Yellow Corporation in August 2023 made a brief splash in the news cycle – probably a little too brief. Many individuals and analysts have reason to be concerned when considering the volatility of the US economy as demonstrated by not only this collapse but the numerous banks that have faced difficulty and near collapse over the past year or so.

24 August 2023

Inbox: Can an Unbaptized person take Communion?

It seems like this subject is coming up a lot lately as I've encountered it in churches, in conversation, and even in podcast discussions. Sadly, the understanding of this question is often lacking.

15 August 2023

The Synagogue Shooter and the Death Penalty

Pennsylvania media has long been fixated on the trial of the man who went on a murderous Anti-Semitic rampage at a synagogue in Pittsburgh back in 2018. Eleven people were murdered and six more suffered injury. The Federal trial resulted in a death penalty verdict and this has generated a range of responses. As I took them in and reflected on them in light of Scripture, I found myself not a little frustrated by the many false assumptions being made both within and without the Christian community.

08 August 2023

The Gnadenhutten Massacre

When one thinks of religious conflict and persecution in the Americas, the slaughter of Huguenots at the hands of the Spanish necessarily comes to mind. Hundreds were killed in northern Florida during the sixteenth century as Spain took exception to the notion of a French Protestant colony proximate to their vast Caribbean empire.

28 July 2023

Gothardism Under the Microscope and a Christian Parent's Response (II)

Were the Beall's disturbed by watching their little five year old disappear into the bowels of a big institutional facility? They should be. It isn't natural. It's actually highly disturbing and historically anomalous but people have been conditioned to think it's normal. As a Christian not only is it an abdication of parental duty and calling, it is just plain crazy to hand over your precious and innocent covenanted child to authorities that are going to spend all day, five days a week, for at least a dozen years – during your child's most formative period in life, attempting to undermine all the most fundamental things you believe in.

Gothardism Under the Microscope and a Christian Parent's Response (I)


The new Amazon Prime documentary on The Duggars (Shiny Happy People) is apparently one of the most popular shows of the year, even breaking all kinds of viewing records. What a sad thing. This is what they've brought on themselves – an on the larger Church.

26 July 2023

Confessional Presbyterianism: A System of Syncretism, Tradition, and Bureaucracy


We've just passed General Assembly season in the Presbyterian world and thus there's a lot of talk about polity, discipline, and procedure and yet as this article demonstrates, most of it is off-base and has little if anything to do with actual New Testament polity, but is instead rooted in tradition and what amounts to a functional rejection of Scriptural Sufficiency.

24 July 2023

Postmillennial Clash: American Theonomy and British Whig-Revivalism

Having recently worked through Crawford Gribben's 2021 Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest, I was struck by many things but I have repeatedly revisited his reporting on the exchanges between American Theonomy and British outlets like the Banner of Truth. Later as Theonomy would emerge onto a larger stage it would be met with no small degree of hostility from within theologically conservative and Reformed circles in Britain. I don't believe Gribben sufficiently explored this and yet I think the episode to be rather instructive.

30 June 2023

Inbox: Christian Kids in State Colleges (II)

For as 'woke' as the environment supposedly is – he's been appalled at the Establishment-friendly narratives (that while sometimes critical of the United States) in the end defend it and justify American policy and conduct in such contexts as Vietnam and its other more recent wars. And so while a Right-wing adherent would be critical of what's being said, a New Testament Christian is left offended by what is in the end a defense of the Establishment regime and its countless episodes of imperialist theft and murder. And it would only be worse in the context of a Christian college.

Inbox: Christian Kids in State Colleges (I)

After having stated on repeated occasions that I don't believe Christians should send their children to public school, how can I justify sending my son to a state or public college? Isn't this the same thing?

27 June 2023

The Ripples of Evangelical Collapse

Looking at a social media photo of members of our wider family circle (a network of relations connected by marriage) – I'm struck once again by the rapid fall of American Evangelicalism. The photo is of a mother, her daughters and their 'spouses'. One of the daughters stands boldly and unashamedly with another woman.

24 June 2023

Myths Concerning Second Temple Judaism

Having recently finished Gerard Russell's Heirs of Forgotten Kingdoms (Basic Books, 2014) I found myself once again irritated and put off by popular but erroneous narratives concerning Second Temple Judaism.

17 June 2023

John MacArthur Continues to Disappoint


In recent weeks, as the media focused on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Israel's founding, I have been musing on Dispensationalism and its geopolitical influence. I happened to come across a video of John MacArthur appearing on the Ben Shapiro show back in 2018.

04 June 2023

Desiring to be Teachers of the Law (II)

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is repeatedly invoked but with a Dominionist overlay that re-casts the passage in terms of a Christianisation that does not exist, that has no premise in the New Testament, is refuted by the New Testament, and in no way reflects Christ's imperative in the passage. He was exhorting His followers to make disciples of the nations – in other words the gospel message is not restricted to the Jewish nation but now goes out into the world and is open and available to all people – a point reiterated and reinforced by Pentecost and the Book of Acts. That offer did not include the Mosaic Law as Acts 15 makes clear.

Desiring to be Teachers of the Law (I)


This podcast typifies the kind of confusion that seems to reign at the moment in Reformed and Dominionist circles. There is a Theonomic overlay to the conversation and yet the roundtable discussion is in the end rendered as something of the absurd – all but pointless. The assumptions of Theonomy are effectively invoked and yet the overriding ethos of the participants is that of Libertarianism. The fact that these two approaches are not only incompatible but antithetical seems to escape them. The topic in question is whether or not the government has the right or should be able to impose a regime of licenses and permits. In every case their impulses are effectively libertarian in their rejection of all such mechanisms – a point we will return to below. But there are other preliminary issues that must be considered first.

27 May 2023

Two Kingdoms and the Reformed Tradition (III)

It must be granted the appeal to different understandings of law and its implications for Kingdom thinking by Evans is rather astute and is worthy of more reflection – but that's a question of historical theology and while interesting, is of a secondary importance. In terms of the question of Law vis-à-vis the New Testament, the Lutheran Law/Gospel paradigm is certainly artificial and forced, an outworking of the school's absolutising of Sola Fide – to the detriment of other aspects of soteriology, in particular sanctification. The Reformed understanding is more nuanced and remains a point of contention – different camps understanding it in different ways. There certainly is a case to be made (and one badly needed!)for a Law-Gospel distinction in terms of Redemptive History, but this is not the same as the Lutheran attempt to relegate all New Testament imperatives to a contrived category of law.

Two Kingdoms and the Reformed Tradition (II)

Common Grace is a reality, a mercy, and restraint while the Church bears witness in the world and (this is critically important) wins by losing. We win by bearing the cross, we conquer by being sheep for the slaughter. By living as pilgrims and rejecting the world, we testify against it and to the spiritual powers that undergird it – and proclaim a way of life, a coming Kingdom, and a coming doom. This is foolishness to the world, madness, and supremely unappealing and unattractive. Only people who have lost their minds would embrace such a message and calling – or so it would seem. It's tragic that the majority of Christians think the same as the world does on these points and view such glory and victory, such testimonies to the power of the Holy Spirit as pessimism, defeat, cowardice, and offensive foolishness. One wonders if such thinking has in fact grasped even the broad strokes of the gospel message and the core principles of New Testament doctrine – let alone its ethics. No wonder Christ's words concerning mammon (and the security and power it represents) are incomprehensible to them.

Two Kingdoms and the Reformed Tradition (I)


The cited article by William B Evans provided a well-argued and concise analysis of the question of Two Kingdom theology viewed from the perspective of Reformed Confessionalism and as such provides a good opportunity for some interaction and comment. Reading this essay alongside the work by Evans will hopefully assist readers in understanding the nature of the issues and just what is at stake.

13 May 2023

Inbox: Protestantism as Progress

I was asked to elaborate a bit on the question of proto-Protestantism's relationship to Magisterial Protestantism and the question of conservative vs. progressive movements.

24 April 2023

Vigilantius and the New Piety

In a Journal of Early Christian Studies article from the 1990's David Hunter argues contrary to Jerome and later interpreters (such as Edward Gibbon) that the late fourth century protests of Vigilantius of Calagurris were not the result of innovation on his part, nor the lone voice of an outlier, but rather represented an extant and thus older tradition in protest to a newly developing piety.

14 April 2023

Berkhof on the Early Church (II)

The problems involved that Berkhof refers to concerning the Godhead and the Incarnation are dilemmas only for the systematician who thinks he can dissect the very nature of God. Our task is not to parse, disassemble, and re-engineer Biblical doctrine into a form that fits our limited, temporal, and fallen notions of symmetry or aesthetics (as some have argued) but rather to submit to what has been revealed.

Berkhof on the Early Church (I)

Louis Berkhof's The History of Christian Doctrines (published in 1937) is a great resource if one is looking for a broad overview of historical theology. As a systematic theologian, Berkhof seems to struggle at times and grows frustrated with men like Augustine who are able to present theology in the framework of a dynamic. To Berkhof this is to embrace contradiction, even if the dynamic is supported by Scripture. This demonstrates the tendency of systematicians in their endless quest for coherence to subordinate Scripture in order to maintain the integrity of the dogmatic edifice to which they are committed. This point comes to mind every time I see the book on the shelf. Recently I picked it up again and revisited Berkhof's assessment of the ante-Nicene period.

31 March 2023

The Wider Implications of The Ukraine War (II)

The hypocritical and frankly spurious ICC indictment of Putin for war crimes was timed perfectly to coincide with Xi's recent trip to Moscow, and meant to embarrass the Asian leader who got to claim the credit for the Riyadh-Tehran agreement. Washington's posture regarding the ICC is hypocritical, self-serving, and even ridiculous as the American government consistently claims the court (which it helped to create) has no jurisdiction over either the United States or Israel because they are not signatories to the treaty. However, when it comes to non-signatories such as Russia (who also refuses to acknowledge the court), the ICC has full jurisdiction – or so it is argued.

The Wider Implications of The Ukraine War (I)

These are mostly points that have been touched on over the past year and even well before the war erupted in February 2022. However, some of these points demand revisiting as the dynamics continue to change and the implications of this war are becoming more pronounced and profound. The Ukraine War is affecting global politics and economics but it's also starting to look like the opening chapter in what history may reckon a much larger war of consequence – even possibly a world war. There are certainly those clamouring for it. Perhaps some readers are tired of hearing about Ukraine but in reality one can barely discuss anything right now that touches on geopolitics or the economy without discussing the war in Eastern Europe.

19 March 2023

Scholasticism and Muller's Concession


Critics of the Calvin vs. the Calvinists thesis often seem to suggest that those who posit the notion have erected a straw man – the supposed epistemological and methodological divide between the first generation of Magisterial Reformers and their seventeenth century descendants just isn't there.

03 March 2023

Melia and The Waldenses (II)

Many of the doctrinal points Melia wishes to make (which he does by means of collating numerous quotations and references) are troublesome to the type of Protestant history one encounters with someone like JA Wylie. Melia wants to show how Catholic the Waldenses were and thus drive a wedge betwixt the group as they appeared in history and the romanticised narratives of later historians.

And yet for someone like myself who argues the First Reformation was essentially different on many key points than the Magisterial Reformation, these claims made by Melia are not troubling in the least.

Melia and The Waldenses (I)

The Origin, Persecutions, and Doctrines of The Waldenses by Pius Melia. The original was published in 1870. The copy I read was a 1978 AMS re-print of James Toovey's 1870 edition published in London.

It's a short book but packed with useful information. The Jesuit theologian pulls no punches. It is his intention to dismantle and deconstruct many of the popular narratives surrounding The Waldenses. The book despite its significant flaws is not without value.

26 February 2023

Responding to Kenneth Bailey on the Role of Women in the New Testament


While there are certainly some advantages to understanding the context of the Ancient Near East and while this knowledge can sometimes elucidate certain episodes in Scripture, Bailey provides a sterling and noteworthy example of how this should not be done.