Purpose of This Blog

The Final Goal of this Blog is to work towards the unification of the seceding denominations (and the one true original denomination) into a unified and public body of believers so as to properly fight the False Presbyterian Church (better known as the PC (USA)) and to subdue it from preaching a false gospel.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Second Question For Unification

A suggestion was made that we move on from EP to another question that may cause tension in the seeking of a unified body. The Question that we will now take a look at is the observation of the Sabbath. Now it is of my knowledge that until at least 50 years ago in the United States practically all people, religious or not, were made by civil law to abstain from doing certain things on the Sabbath. I do not know what part this has to play in this particular discussion but I thought it was worth noting. Below I have posted two articles, one pro and one con from sources that fit the mold of the direction that we want to take. AS I did with EP I will create a section in the margin where you can visit other links and denominational positions on the subject.

Here is an Article from Pulpit Magazine, John MacArthur's work, arguing against a strict Sabbatarian viewpoint.:

Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today?

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ.

Here are the reasons we hold this view:

Bullet Point In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is included, with the phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refering to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11).

Bullet Point The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

Bullet Point The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath. On the other hand, each of the other nine commandments are reiterated in the New Testament.

Bullet Point In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

Bullet Point Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so. That is strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle.

Bullet Point There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.

Bullet Point When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.

Bullet Point The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.

Bullet Point In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).

Bullet Point In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).

Bullet Point The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship (contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century).

Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord’s Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord’s people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as “the Sabbath.”

John Calvin took a similar position. He wrote,

There were three reasons for giving this [fourth] commandment: First, with the seventh day of rest the Lord wished to give to the people of Israel an image of spiritual rest, whereby believers must cease from their own works in order to let the Lord work in them. Secondly, he wished that there be an established day in which believers might assemble in order to hear his Law and worship him. Thirdly, he willed that one day of rest be granted to servants and to those who live under the power of others so that they might have a relaxation from their labor. The latter, however, is rather an inferred than a principal reason.

As to the first reason, there is no doubt that it ceased in Christ; because he is the truth by the presence of which all images vanish. He is the reality at whose advent all shadows are abandoned. Hence St. Paul (Col. 2:17) that the sabbath has been a shadow of a reality yet to be. And he declares elsewhere its truth when in the letter to the Romans, ch. 6:8, he teaches us that we are buried with Christ in order that by his death we may die to the corruption of our flesh. And this is not done in one day, but during all the course of our life, until altogether dead in our own selves, we may be filled with the life of God. Hence, superstitious observance of days must remain far from Christians.

The two last reasons, however, must not be numbered among the shadows of old. Rather, they are equally valid for all ages. Hence, though the sabbath is abrogated, it so happens among us that we still convene on certain days in order to hear the word of God, to break the [mystic] bread of the Supper, and to offer public prayers; and, moreover, in order that some relaxation from their toil be given to servants and workingmen. As our human weakness does not allow such assemblies to meet every day, the day observed by the Jews has been taken away (as a good device for eliminating superstition) and another day has been destined to this use. This was necessary for securing and maintaining order and peace in the Church.

As the truth therefore was given to the Jews under a figure, so to us on the contrary truth is shown without shadows in order, first of all, that we meditate all our life on a perpetual sabbath from our works so that the Lord may operate in us by his spirit; secondly, in order that we observe the legitimate order of the Church for listening to the word of God, for admin-istering the sacraments, and for public prayers; thirdly, in order that we do not oppress inhumanly with work those who are subject to us. [From Instruction in Faith, Calvin’s own 1537 digest of the Institutes, sec. 8, “The Law of the Lord”].


And here is a Pro-Sabbatarian message delivered by Dr. John Murray

The Fourth Commandment

According to the Westminster Standards

John Murray

A perusal of the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith and of the Larger and Shorter Catechisms bearing upon the fourth commandment will show that the position taken in these Standards is that of the universal and perpetual obligation of the Sabbath and that this obligation rests upon divine commandment. The commandment to which reference is made is, of course, what we know as the fourth in the decalogue. These Standards, however, imply that the Sabbath law, expressed in the fourth commandment, was not first instituted when the ten commandments were promulgated to the children of Israel at Sinai. We know that the Sabbath institution goes back to creation; we know that there is explicit allusion to the observance of the Sabbath and of divine commandment bearing upon that observance prior to Sinai. Of such facts these Standards are not forgetful, and so the language is carefully framed to include and guard these facts. Nevertheless, the law that had been instituted at creation did receive at Sinai formal enunciation and promulgation. It was included in the ten words given to Moses and written with the finger of God upon the two tables of stone.

At Sinai, then, the Sabbath law was set forth with fullness and explicitness and we do not have evidence that it had before then received similarly full and formal pronouncement. So, for our knowledge of what the content and import of the Sabbath institutions are, we are largely dependent upon the fourth commandment. What is this law or institution?

The Sanctity of the Day

First, and most elementally and centrally, it is that one day in seven is distinguished from the other six. That day is to be sanctified, and at the heart of the word sanctify is the idea of distinction and separation. This one day is set off, it is placed in a distinct category. This import of the word cannot be evaded and it is to be very carefully marked, for on it depends the whole notion of what we may and must call the sanctity of the Sabbath.

It is not, however, the bare notion of distinction or separation that is expressed in the commandment. The command to sanctify occurs in a context. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” And it is not only in the context of the remainder of the commandment, but also in the context of the other commandments. “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” It is separation, therefore, to God, to the specific purpose of contemplation upon Him and specific occupation with His work in contrast with their own work. In this kind of distinction or sanctity the meaning of the fourth commandment resides. Abolish it, and the essence of the commandment is destroyed. There is no purpose in contending for the moral obligation of the commandment unless this sanctity is recognized and preserved, for it is the core around which all else is formed and without which all else disintegrates. Just as there is an ineradicable distinction between the six days of creation and the day of rest by which they were followed, so it is here. And it is precisely with this reminder that the commandment itself ends, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

Israel truly was a holy people; they were separated unto God Jehovah. It might, then, be supposed that the sanctification of one day in seven was inconsistent with the totality of their devotion to God. Yet it is an inescapable fact that this kingdom of priests and holy nation was in the most direct way commanded to separate one day from the other six for a specific purpose. And unless our conception of devotion to God, and of time as it is related to Him, can embrace and appreciate this notion, together with the divine wisdom embodied in it, we can have no understanding of the fourth commandment.

Every Recurring Seventh Day

But second, the law or institution of the Sabbath implies that every recurring seventh day is to be sanctified. It is not simply a seventh of our time, not simply one day out of every seven, but it is every recurring seventh day in regular succession.

The controversy that has turned on the question as to whether or not, in the Christian dispensation, the Sabbath is the first day of the week or the seventh, and as to whether we can be said to observe the fourth commandment when we substitute the first day of the week for the seventh, has too often been allowed to obscure the central principle, namely, that every recurring seventh day was by divine ordination distinguished from every other day. The difficulty that may be encountered in determining which day of the week is the Sabbath should never be used as a subterfuge to escape from the central and straightforward import of the commandment, that every recurring seventh day is specifically holy to God. At the cost of repetitiousness, may we say, that the principle should never be perplexed or prejudices by the further question: which day in the succession of days should be accorded that distinction? We may not minimize the importance of this latter question. But we must not allow the difficulties that may attend this question to unsettle what is antecedent and even more central, the obligation, so far as the fourth commandment is concerned, to recognize the divine distinctiveness of every recurring seventh day. And it must be said that the position taken by the Westminster Standards, to wit, that with the advent of the New Testament dispensation there was signalized the change from the seventh day of the week to the first, in no way interferes with the strictest fulfillment of this principle in the Christian Lord’s Day.

The Sabbath a Perpetual Obligation?

But some will say, “All this is conceded with respect to the meaning of the fourth commandment. But of what practical concern is that to us? The fourth commandment does not obligate the Christian.” This objection we must now face.

If the fourth commandment is not binding in the Christian dispensation, then we have to take one of two positions. We have either to take the position that the fourth commandment occupies a different position from the other nine commandments in the decalogue, or to take the position that the whole decalogue has been abrogated in the Christian economy. We shall now discuss the former of these two alternatives.

If we say the fourth commandment is abrogated and the other nine are not, we must understand what we are saying. It would indeed be an amazing phenomenon that in the heart of the decalogue there should be one commandment — and one given such prominence and meticulous elaboration — that is totally different from the others in this regard that they are permanent and it is not. Surely no one will dispute that in the Old Testament the ten commandments constitute a well-rounded and compact unit. And surely no one will dispute that the Old Testament is itself throughout conscious of that fact. If the ten commandments were a loose and disjointed collection of precepts, there would be nothing very extraordinary about the supposition we are now discussing. But that is precisely what the decalogue is not. And so to establish this supposition that the fourth commandment is abrogated, when the other nine are not, would require the most explicit and conclusive evidence.

As we read the Old Testament we do not find any warrant for discrimination between the fourth and the other nine. Nor indeed do we find any intimation in the Old Testament that in the Messianic age the Sabbath law would cease. If any commandment is emphasized it is the fourth. Obedience to it is a mark of faithfulness and severe retribution follows its breach. The text we are about to quote epitomizes the Old Testament outlook and emphasis. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. 58:13-14). If there had been in the Old Testament some evidence that would create a presumption in favour of discrimination, if there had been even something that would justify a strong suspicion that in the Messianic age the Sabbath law would no longer bind, then, of course, even slight confirmation from the New Testament might clinch that suspicion and warrant the inference that the fourth commandment had been abrogated. But no such suspicion is created and the evidence is altogether against such a supposition.

So nothing short of compelling and conclusive evidence from the New Testament would warrant the position that the fourth is to be discriminated from the other nine.

Abrogated in the New Testament

When we come to the New Testament, do we find such evidence? A good deal has sometimes been made of the alleged silence of the New Testament. It must be admitted that the argument from silence may be made to appear very plausible. But it will have to be said at the outset that an argument from silence is not the compelling and conclusive evidence that would in this case be required. In the Old Testament we have continuous and accumulating emphasis upon the Sabbath law that in no way suggests any distinction in the matter of morality between the fourth commandment and the other nine. Indeed, as we found, the emphasis upon the fourth mounts to a degree that constitutes the very opposite presumption. It is with that manifold of emphasis that we are placed on the threshold of the New Testament economy. Silence on the part of the New Testament will not fulfil the exigencies of the kind of evidence required for abrogation.

We must not, however, conclude that the New Testament exhibits the silence alleged. It is not necessary now to enter into a detailed discussion of the implications of all the allusions found in the four gospels to the Sabbath. We need not deal in detail with the implications inherent in our Lord’s attitude to the Sabbath. The proper insight and care should show that in the very rebuke that our Lord gave to the unwarranted accretions and impositions with which pharisaic tradition had obscured and perverted the Sabbath institution, there is implicit the same kind of sanction for the Sabbath law in itself as there is in similar episodes of His example and teaching for other commandments. Suffice it to refer to the one affirmation of His, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

The Sabbath Made for Man

In this affirmation, contrary to much glib but wanton appeal to it, there is not the least hint that the Sabbath law was about to be abrogated. What Jesus was combating on this occasion was the travesties of application by which the Jews had made void the law of God. Jesus’ unsparing condemnation of those artificialities that had turned a beneficent institution into an instrument of tyranny no more argues the abrogation of the institution itself, than does His condemnation of the traditions by which the Jews had made void the fifth commandment argue for the abrogation of the fifth (cf. Mark 7:8-13). If His condemnation and correction of the tradition by which the Jews of His day had made void the Word of God in the fifth commandment in no way relieves but rather reinforces the divine obligation of this commandment itself, so His statement with reference to the Sabbath quoted above furnishes no support for the abrogation of the fourth commandment. But let us examine Mark 2:27-28 more closely.

“The sabbath was made for man.” Of course, when it is said that it was made, there is but one meaning, namely, that God made it. It is not a device of human expediency or utility. It is a divine creation. It is God’s day. The reasonable inference is that this is an allusion to the primeval institution as recorded in Genesis 2:2-3. We know that the Sabbath institution existed prior to the promulgation of it at Sinai. So the making of it referred to by our Lord cannot reasonably refer simply to the giving of the law at Sinai. And since we must go back to something that antedates Sinai, what is there that more naturally or perfectly suits the allusion than that referred to in Genesis 2:2-3?

It was “made for man.” Perhaps the fact that Jesus says it was made for man and not simply for Israel has sometimes been unduly pressed to establish the universality of the Sabbath law. But recoil from exaggeration must not be allowed to obscure the real force of what is meant. The Sabbath, after all, was made for man, and in that word man there inheres a reference to what man’s very nature as man and man’s highest need as man require. When we bear in mind that the point of time referred to in the making of the Sabbath antedates all ethical distinction, we are constrained to find in this simple statement confirmation of the universality of the obligation and blessing of the Sabbath institution.

Jesus’ Lordship and the Sabbath

But Jesus in this passage also asserts His own Lordship over the Sabbath. “The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The title Son of man is distinctly Messianic and points to the dominion which He in His capacity as the Messiah exercises. It is in His capacity as the Son of man that He exercises this Lordship over the Sabbath. And this simply means that, within the universal Lordship and authority that is His as the one to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been committed, the Sabbath has its proper place and function. Abolition of it is, as B.B. Warfield says, “as far as possible from the suggestion of the passage.”

Further we must observe that Jesus says “even of the Sabbath.” The presence of the word even serves to show the extent of Jesus’ Lordship. This Lordship is so comprehensive that it even includes the Sabbath, and surely such an emphasis discloses the high conception of its sanctity and authority Jesus entertained.

Finally, the reason assigned for this Lordship over the Sabbath is the fact that the Sabbath was made for man. It was for the sake of man that Jesus came into the world, it was for man’s sake that He died and rose again, it is for man’s sake that He is exalted as the Messiah to supreme mediatorial sovereignty. But it was also for man’s sake that the Sabbath was made. If then, it was for man’s sake that Jesus came, and suffered, and died, and rose again to ascend up where He was before, is it possible that that which was made for man — the Sabbath — should be annulled and abrogated by that which He became and did for man’s sake? There is complete congruity between His Messianic work and Lordship on the one hand and the Sabbath ordinance on the other. They both serve the same purpose. And so His Lordship embraces the Sabbath institution, embraces it too for the purpose of preserving it, confirming it and blessing it. He is Lord of the Sabbath too.


Professor John Murray was born in Scotland and was at the time of this writing a British subject. He was a graduate of the University of Glasgow (1923) and of Princeton Theological Seminary (1927), and he studied at the University of Edinburgh during 1928 and 1929.
In 1929-1930 he served on the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary. After that he taught at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he served as Professor of Systematic Theology.
He was a frequent contributor to theological journals and is the author of Christian Baptism (1952), Divorce (1953), Redemption Accomplished and Applied (1955), Principles of Conduct (1957, The Imputation of Adam's Sin (1960), Calvin on the Scriptures and Divine Sovereignty (1960), The Epistle to the Romans, Vol I, Chapters I-VIII (1960) and The Atonement (1976).

This article appeared in The Calvin Forum, May 1941.


Rhea said...

Hi! I stumbled across your blog and just wanted to say a few things. I haven't been able to read a lot of your blog, but I've enjoyed what I've read so far. I do appreciate the concern that you have for what you call a "false gospel" that the PCUSA teaches. I don't know A LOT about them, or what they teach (as in I'm not specifically sure what you consider to be a "false gospel" that they teach), but I do know that they have some liberal leanings, and it concerns me about certain things that I hear that they teach...things that I think ANY Christian would be concerned about, reformed or not. Also, I see that you're from Scotland. My mother was born and raised in Edinburgh and was a member of the Church of Scotland until she died. Her faith and life really laid the foundation for my faith, even though I did not become a Christian until after she passed away.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Thanks for checking out my blog Rhea. You are more than welcome to visit and comment anytime you like.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

As far as the PC (USA)'s "false teaching" I would lay out a couple of things.

1) Denial of the Authority of Scripture

2) Allowance of practicing Homosexuals and Adulterers and Blasphemers to ordained leaders in the church.

There are many others but these are a couple to begin with.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Hey Rhea, welcome to our blog. My Grandparents were from Caruthersville, MO, just across the river. They also had a summer place on Kentucky Lake, about 15 miles from Murray. I spent a lot of time there growing up. My brother flunked out of Murray State (twice.)

Good to have some homefolks among this august international crowd.


Gary said...

Well, I'll comment on the U.S. blue laws(I think that's what they were called). I do not think the government should be forcing sabbath observance. After all that's no better than the Taliban.

But without the government sword behind it, its very hard to be able to observe it because of conscience especially when your working for minimumn wage. You work when they want you to work or they'll find someone else. And you can try to claim religious discrimination but that pretty hard to prove and if you fail, court costs money.

After all we're living in a society where k-mart and the like think they need to be open on national holidays like Thanksgiving. Heaven forbid the high schoolers and retired people and whomever working there get an opportunity to be with their families. They gotta have their minimumn wage workers working.

As for the Sabbath observance, I'm on the side of MacArthur I guess. The other one seems like legalism to me. Although I can understand the desire.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...


Is it like the Taliban when the government enforces laws against stealing or murdering or lying in court?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I think the question behind the question is,

"Is there any warrant from scripture for assuming that the Fourth Commandment is in a different and unique category than the other commandments?"

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...


I sent you a personal email at your yahoo address. Did you get it, or did the spam filters snag it?


Gary said...

The government is there to regulate and keep society civil because people are incapable of living without laws that regulate the interaction between people. So there's a difference between the government enforcing laws that impacts someone's own life and the way someone effects someone elses.

Murder impacts the other person and society by the loss of that person
Stealing impacts the other person
Lying in court impacts the other person on trial

Not observing the sabbath impacts the person not observing and God. And God is above any manmade government and so the government has no business regulating the relationship. God is quite capable of dealing with it himself and doesn't need the state interfering with his business. God is just in his decisions. Man is not which is why the government is needed for interaction on earth. Otherwise people go beyond the just punishment and vigilante justice reigns. So since the government is there to keep order on earth it needs to stay out of the person's relationship with God. Otherwise it justifies the ridiculous idea that a person can't change their religion without first petitioning the government thus making the government higher than God.

I also think the government has no business protecting someone from themself. Ie. No laws banning or regulating transfats. Don't like the way the food is prepared somewhere don't eat there.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

So, just to be clear, your position is that the government has no business regulating anything that doesn't "affect other people" is that correct?

So, would you be in favor of the legalization of prostitution? Are you in favor of repealing the laws against homosexual behavior and adultery? How about recreational drug use?

Finally, may I ask you to recall, what are the three purposes of the Moral Law of God, according to Calvin?

Gary said...

Cohersed obedience of moral law is not obedience. Its what's in the heart that God judges. Not murdering someone but wanting to is still sin. Going to Church on Sunday and refraining from work on the Sabbath because of earthly punishment is not obedience. You want to be elsewhere so your actions are meaningless to God. God wants willing observance. Not cohersed.

If you truly believe, you will not use drugs, prostitution, or commit adultery or homosexual acts. Because if you believe everything you do must glorify the Lord. And God is clear none(ok maybe not drugs but the principle...) of these are acceptable behavior.

The government should be far removed from personal lives.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...


So you would support the legalization of drugs, prostitution, homosexual behavior and adultery? That seems to be what you are saying.

You are mixing two separate categories of thought together, which was why I asked you what Calvin's three purposes of the Moral Law of God are.

The first purpose is to show the sinner his sin and drive him to the throne of grace.

The second purpose is for the restraint of evil and the promotion of civic virtue and ordering of the common good.

The third purpose is to show what sanctification looks like in the true Christian... the goal towards which we are to strive (see Calvin's "Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life" on the third point.) This positive use of the Law in sanctification is why Reformed people keep the Sabbath in some way. The Christian life should reflect obedience to the Ten Commandments in all their implications (and there are many implications.)

You need to understand that that the point of view you are espousing represents a modern, libertarian outlook and not a Biblical and Reformed outlook. Libertarianism is at its heart antinomianism. Even a Wesleyan Arminian in the 18th or 19th or century would not agree with your assertions

Coerced obedience does not save, certainly, but it does restrain evil and provide order for the common good. Paul says it's why God gave the magistrate the sword. (Rom 13:1-4)

You may speed with impunity when you can get away with it, and your speeding will probably not "hurt anybody." But the minute you approach a place that's a well-known speed trap, you slow down to avoid the ticket. That coerced obedience is better than no obedience at all. On Dub's side of the pond they have these infernal speed cameras everywhere. They have cut down on speeding... in the places where the cameras are. In the places where they are not, people speed with impunity. Less speeding is still better than more speeding.

I think you've got at least a mild case of the antinomian flu. That's why you're having such a reaction to the Westminster formulations of the Sabbath and calling them legalism. To an antinomian, any mention of the Law of God provokes the reaction, "Legalism!"

May I recommend as a remedy Thomas Watson's book on the Ten Commandments? I'll buy it for you and have it sent to you, if you'd like:



Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

BTW, if the government did coerce you to go to church on Sunday, it certainly would not be a sincere obedience. But you would come regularly under the sound of the Word of God being preached, which is God's ordained means of converting the soul.

I'm not recommending that the government do that. I'd be satisfied with prohibiting the business from opening on the Sabbath. But it has been done by Reformed people in the past and that was the rationale for doing so.


Gary said...

I'm keeping the government out of the role of the church. It is the churches job to see that its members know what sin is and to avoid it.

What happens if Joseph Lieberman becomes President. Then the Sabbath laws are changed to force everyone to not work on Saturday. Or what if Obama becomes president and decides his father's religion is correct after all. Then it becomes Friday.

The church should do its job. The people in the pews should do their job of evangelism and bringing in more people/influencing the non-members around them. Not have the government force people into the pews.

I do not think anyone is interested in living in a society like they have in Muslim countries. The government should have no role in religious life. The church should have control over religious life of its own members.

Don't like the Stores being open on Sunday? Then preach against shopping on the Sabbath. Influence the people in the pews so they do what is right and also influence the people they know outside the church to do the same. Don't look to the government to enforce it. I do not offer businesses any business on Sunday UNLESS its an emergency like I'm out of toilet paper. And I don't remember having to go shopping on Sunday.

And if you speed you sin. Disobeying the just laws of men is sin. Speed limits are just because they protect the lives of others. Seat belt laws are unjust because they only protect the one wearing them. I still wear a seatbelt though because I think its stupid not to.

The cry: "Government! Protect me from myself" is ridiculous.

And the church willfully giving its authority to the government is foolish since the church in power can easily be changed.

Just look at what has happened with public schools teaching atheism. The government listens to the most vocal. Really want them having control over religious life? I don't.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

No, no. You're misunderstanding the point I'm trying to make. I'm sure it's my fault. Let me try to rephrase things more clearly:

Assuming a Christian worldview (and not a pluralistic one) please answer the following question for me. On what basis should the governing authorities prohibit murder, lying, and stealing?

Answer that question and we'll go from there.

Gary said...

Based on the Ten Commandments and Jesus's summary of the Commandments.

(BTW, this word verification thing... it never accepts the first submit for me. Anyone else have this problem?)

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Yes, I have the same trouble with the verification thing sometimes. It seems to have something to do with how long I take to write my post.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

"Based on the Ten Commandments and Jesus's summary of the Commandments."

Right. Absolutely correct. You could even simply say, "The Moral Law of God."

Now, on what logical basis are you making a difference between those three commandments (lying, stealing, murdering), which you believe the government ought to enforce, and the other seven commandments, which you believe it would be Taliban-like for the government to enforce?

Gary said...

This isn't a Christian nation. This is a pluralistic society.

And more importantly: The Golden Rule.

I don't want people stealing from me
I don't want them lying about me
I don't want them murdering me

I don't want atheists forcing their beliefs on me
I don't wants Muslims forcing their laws on me
I don't want other religions forcing their laws on me

To do otherwise is to be just like the Taliban.

Alan said...

Wow, what a conversation. Gary, I think you are still missing Rev. Carpenters point, you can't pick and choose which of God's laws you would like the government to enforce and which you don't. If you want the government to enforce the moral law of God then you must want the entirety of that law enforced, not just your pet issues.

As far as the sabbath is concernec, this is what this post was about, right? I am not sure I am clear on the issue. I do not believe the sabbath has been abrogated. I would agree with John Murray, however, is there and issue within this discussion of whether the sabbath should be Saturday or Sunday? If so I am not as sure of my position.

Gary said...

I don't want the secular government enforcing God's Moral Law. Laws against stealing and murder are basic fundamentals of government to preserving society.

Gary said...

You do realize the most likely version of Christianity to come into power would be Catholic since Protestants simply will not be willing to compromise among themselves and Catholics are the largest single denomination in the US? That means laws about protecting the image of the Pope ala Mohammed in the Islamic countries. I much prefer being able to call him the heretic that he is.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...


This post was supposed to be about the differences concerning the observance Sabbath between those NAPARC groups from a continental background vs. those of a Presbyterian/puritan background. These might be a barrier to union.

My foolishly belabored point is that the government is already enforcing God's Moral Law when it prohibits lying, murdering, and stealing.

The Bible actually says that this is the government's job. It's why God empowered the government (even bad governments.) The magistrate is God's agent for restraining evil. The very definition of restraining evil is punishing it and enforcing good laws. All good laws are based on the Moral Law of God, which is why the Westminster Confession says that "the general equity" of the civil laws of the Hebrew nation must be considered when writing our laws today.

To be fair to Gary, he's trapped in the worldview that has followed on the heels of the failed American Experiment.

Our Founding Fathers decided that in order to avoid all of the conflict that Europe had experienced in its religious wars and persecutions, they would write our laws to be congruent with the Second Table of the Law (the Fifth thru the Tenth Commandments) and take no position concerning how to obey the First Table of the Law (the First thru Fourth Commandments.)

Whether coherently, or incoherently, our forbearers elected to have the Fourth Commandment publicly enforced as an aid to the Christian churches. This was seen as a moral issue (and it is a moral issue, since it is a part of the Law of God.) But it was also seen as an expression of the Protestant cultural consensus and as a means of preserving a basically moral civic culture.

I'm not trying to change Gary's mind. I doubt I could. But since he is working on a Master's Degree with the intention of teaching religion or theology at a university level someday, and he is a member of my denomination. Therefore, I do want him to understand that his point of view is at odds with classical Reformed orthodoxy.

He has already deprived himself of any philosophical framework which would allow him to oppose adult oriented businesses, prostitution, the use of recreational drugs, criminal or civil sanctions for adultery and homosexual behavior, and suicide.

He has slid fairly far into postmodernism and cannot see that for a godly magistrate, his duty to love his neighbor as himself might include restraining his neighbor from doing evil via the God-granted power of his office.

Actually, WLC, in its meditations on the Fifth Commandment says this is his positive duty before God, and puts it this way:

Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?

A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

That is what it means for a Christian magistrate to love his neighbor as himself.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

As important as all of these issues are, I think there is still an issue behind the issue.

I think the reason that many of the PCA's presbyters at 2003's GA didn't vote to pursue NAPARC union has to do with what I will choose to call the TR/PR divide.

TR stands for "Totally Reformed." It's a pejorative term coined by our brothers and applied to those who hold to the older, narrower, more closely confessional point of view.

TR's tend to be intellectual. They tend to see that theology is a system and you can't mess with one part of a system without impacting other parts of it, often in ways that are not forseen. They respect the integrity of the system. They believe the system is correct. They love the system.

Sometimes their love for the system comes close to idolatry. They also tend to be relationally clumsy, curmudgeonly, and arrogant. They tend to live in their own heads. They (we, for I count myself among them) are also not very evangelistic. We suffer from a peculiar quietism on this front which I think is driven by fear and our poor relationship skills. The TR was likely a nerd in High School whom God saved. A Reformed Christian engineer will almost always be a TR.

The PR's (a term I coined in response to the TR moniker) will now stand for "partially Reformed." They tend to be relational. They tend to be action and results oriented, thus they are pragmatists. They are concerned about things like church growth. They are much more willing to adopt ideas and practices from the broader Evangelical world. They are genuinely concerned about evangelism and reaching the lost, and genuinely love spirituality (in the modern sense of the word.)

They also tend to be less intellectual. For instance, they would see nothing wrong with a presentation of the gospel using the Four Spiritual Laws from Campus Crusade. They don't understand the system. That means that they tend to equate growing the church and reaching the lost. Therefore, within certain broad parameters, anything that "makes the church grow" is by definition a good thing. Anything that "keeps the church from growing" (yes, they actually think we can keep the church from growing) is by definition bad. They think certain things in the Westminster Standards (like rigorous Sabbath observance and the prohibition against images of Christ and the regulative principle in worship)are just stupid and weird. Stupid and weird things inhibit church growth because they are unattractive. Therefore they take a "cut and paste" approach to theology. If you ask them how the Divines arrived those stupid and weird conclusions, they can't tell you. But that's okay with them, because they're not that interested in finding out. They wouldn't want to do them, even if they did find out. It was mostly PR's who engineered the passage of the good faith subscription overture.

They are very concerned about image and perception, sometimes to the point of being man-pleasers. They are politically savvy because of their relational skills, so they tend to dominate in large groups and build large churches. There is more than a whiff of rebelliousness about a PR. The PR is likely a popular high school jock or member of some other popular subgroup in high school who got saved.

One of the reasons I wasn't worried about how the PCA was going to vote on the Federal Vision/NPP thing at our most recent General Assembly was simply because the guys who hold to it tend to be TR-ish, and the PR's who dominate the PCA by a narrow majority would be instinctively resistant to it. That would be true even if they hadn't the foggiest idea what we grumpy TR's were fighting about. The PR's don't know why they should care that somebody denies the Covenant of Works. A PR would simply ask WWBCD? (What Would Bryan Chapel Do?) and then vote accordingly.

The URC, the RCUS, the OPC and the RPCNA are TR denominations. The PCA is a mix. The EPC is completely dominated by PR's, and thus wasn't even invited to the NAPARC club. Personally, I think it is charitable to the point of dishonesty to call the EPC a Reformed church.

Now, I actually believe this divide is fundamentally a divide at the level of personality and gifting. I actually believe the two sides need each other, and God planned it that way. The PR's need the TR's to keep them on track. Left to themselves the PR's will have a denomination falling into all kinds of heresy within a generation or two. The TR's need the PR's to get them out of their heads and into the world. Left to themselves the TR's will run a viable denomination into the ground. Both sides are blinded by pride.

One of the things I've noticed about the British situation is that they suffer much less from this divide. The men who taught me that the divide can be bridged are all British... Alistair Begg, Eric Alexander, Derek Prime, Dick Lucas, to a much lesser extent, Sinclair Ferguson.

I have actually made it my life's work to bridge that gap, first in myself and then in my presbytery. It is the paradigm through which I look at much of my churchmanship. It's why I named my blog what I did. I was the sole TR on the staff of a church dominated by PR's before I moved to Sturgis. I benefited greatly from their influence. Unless I miss my guess, they benefited a little bit from mine as well. I think that's how it should be.

Gary said...

" he's trapped in the worldview that has followed on the heels of the failed American Experiment."

No he's trapped in a world where the American government shows time after time that it cannot do ANYTHING right.

Gary said...

Oh and I guess the full verse actually has "shake off the dust from your sandals and then run to the government and have them arrested"?

I guess that's the FIV(fully intellectual version).

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Having already stated that man is the subject of two kinds of government, and having sufficiently discussed that which is situated in the soul, or the inner man, and relates to eternal life, we are, in this chapter, to say something of the other kind, which relates to civil justice, and the regulation of the external conduct. For, though the nature of this argument seems to have no connection with the spiritual doctrine of faith which I have undertaken to discuss, the sequel will show that I have sufficient reason for connecting them together, and, indeed, that necessity obliges me to it; especially since, on the one hand, infatuated and barbarous men madly endeavour to subvert this ordinance established by God; and, on the other hand, the flatterers of princes, extolling their power beyond all just bounds, hesitate not to oppose it to the authority of God himself. Unless both these errors be resisted, the purity of the faith will be destroyed. Besides, it is of no small importance for us to know what benevolent provision God has made for mankind in this instance, that we may be stimulated by a greater degree of pious zeal to testify our gratitude. In the first place, before we enter on the subject itself, it is necessary for us to return to the distinction which we have already established, to avoid falling into an error very common in the world, and injudiciously confound together these two things, the nature of which is altogether different. For some men, when they hear that the gospel promises a liberty which acknowledges no king or magistrate among men, but submits to Christ alone, think they can enjoy no advantage of their liberty, while they see any political power placed above them. They imagine, therefore, that nothing will prosper, unless the whole world be modeled in a new form, without any tribunals, or laws, or magistrates, or any thing of a similar kind, which they consider injurious to their liberty.....

Yet this distinction does not lead us to consider the whole system of civil government as a polluted thing which has nothing to do with Christian men. Some fanatics, who are pleased with nothing but liberty, or rather licentiousness without any restraint, do indeed boast and shout, "Since we are dead with Christ to the elements of this world, and, being translated into the kingdom of God, sit among the celestials, it is a degradation to us, and far beneath our dignity, to be occupied with those secular and impure cares which relate to things altogether uninteresting to a Christian man." Of what use, they ask, are laws without judgments and tribunals? But what have judgments to do with a Christian man? And if it be unlawful to kill, of what use are laws and judgments to us? But as we have just suggested that this kind of government is distinct from that spiritual and internal reign of Christ, so it ought to be known that they are in no respect at variance with each other. For that spiritual reign, even now upon earth, commences within us some preludes of the heavenly kingdom, and in this mortal and transitory life affords us some prelibations of immortal and incorruptible blessedness; but this civil government is designed, as long as we live in this world, to cherish and support the external worship of God, to preserve the pure doctrine of religion, to defend the constitution of the Church, to regulate our lives in a manner requisite for the society of men, to form our manners to civil justice, to promote our concord with each other, and to establish general peace and tranquility; all which I confess to be superfluous, if the kingdom of God, as it now exists in us, extinguishes the present strife. But if it is the will of God, that while we are aspiring towards our true country, that we be pilgrims on the earth, and if such aids are necessary to our pilgrimage, they who take them from man deprive him of his human nature. They plead that there should be so much perfection in the Church of God, that its order would suffice to supply the place of all laws; but they foolishly imagine a perfection which can never be found in any community of men. For since the insolence of the wicked is so great, and their iniquity so obstinate that it can scarcely be restrained by all the severity of the laws, what may we expect they would do, if they found themselves at liberty to perpetrate crimes with impunity, whose outrages even the arm of secular power cannot altogether prevent?

But for speaking of the exercise of civil polity, there will be another place more suitable. At present we only wish it to be understood, that to entertain a thought of its extermination is inhuman barbarism; it is equally as necessary to mankind as bread and water, light and air, and far more excellent. For it not only tends to secure the accommodations arising from all these things, that men may breathe, eat, drink, and be sustained in life, though it comprehends all these things while it causes them to live together, yet, I say, this is not its only tendency; its objects also are that idolatry, sacrileges against the name of God, blasphemies against his truth, and other offences against religion, may not openly appear and be disseminated among the people; that the public tranquility may not be disturbed; that every person may enjoy his property without molestation; that men may transact their business together without fraud or injustice; that integrity and modesty may be cultivated among them; in short, that there may be a public form of religion among Christians, and that humanity may be maintained among men. Nor let any one think it strange that I now refer to human polity the charge of the due maintenance of religion, which I may appear to have placed beyond the jurisdiction of men. For I do not allow men to make laws respecting religion and the worship of God now, any more than I did before; though I approve of civil government, which provides that the true religion which is contained in the law of God, be not violated, and polluted by public blasphemies, with impunity. But the perspicuity of order will assist the readers to attain a clearer understanding of what sentiments ought to be entertained respecting the whole system of civil administration, if we enter on a discussion of each branch of it. These are three: The magistrate, who is the guardian and conservator of the laws: The laws, according to which he governs: The people, who are governed by the laws and obey the magistrates. . . .
Here it is necessary to state in a brief manner the nature of the office of magistracy, as described in the word of God, and wherein it consists. If the Scripture did not teach that this office extends to both tables of the law, we might learn it from heathen writers; for not one of them has treated of the office of magistrates, of legislation, and civil government, without beginning with religion and Divine worship. And thus they have all confessed that no government can be happily constituted, unless its first object be the promotion of piety, and that all laws are preposterous which neglect the claims of God, and merely provide for the interests of men. Therefore, as religion holds the first place among all the philosophers, and as this has always been regarded by the universal consent of all nations, Christian princes and magistrates ought to be ashamed of their indolence, if they do not make it the object of their most serious care. We have already shown that this duty is particularly enjoined upon them by God; for it is reasonable that they should employ their utmost efforts in assertion and defending the honour of him, whose viceregents they are, and by whose favour they govern. And the principal commendations given in the Scripture to the good kings are for having restored the worship of God when it had been corrupted or abolished, or for having devoted their attention to religion, that it might flourish in purity and safety under their reigns. On the contrary, the sacred history represents it as one of the evils arising from anarchy, or a want of good government, that when "there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes." These things evince the folly of those who would wish magistrates to neglect all thoughts of God, and to confine themselves entirely to the administration of justice among men; as though God appointed governors in his name to decide secular controversies, and disregarded that which is of far greater importance—the pure worship of himself according to the rule of his law. But a rage of universal innovation, and a desire to escape with impunity, instigate men of turbulent spirits to wish that all the avengers of violated piety were removed out of the world. . .

Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion"

Gary said...

So the church should bow down and do as the government says because those in power think they have the right idea on what scripture says? Thus government should dictate its doctrines. And those learned in the Bible should keep their traps shut.

So what would your response have been with Bill Clinton as head of faith?

BTW, to be reformed to me is going back to the Bible which is what the entire Reformation was about and not living by the traditions of man.

Ebenezer Erskine said...


I think you need to read Calvin more closely. I do not see how what you have said has any relation to Calvin's interpretation of civil relations with the Church. Also take note of what WCF says in the post I made above.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...


Look, brother, I've tried to be patient with you, but we need to address an issue.

I don't mind in the least you disagreeing with me and stating your positions. I enjoy the give and take of debate and respect your right to your opinion. I'll do my best to take it as well as I dish it out, and to get as good as I give. If you land a solid blow, I'll give you your props.

But you are not reasoning. You are emoting. You are not reading things carefully. You are assigning interpretations to them that are, in cases, actually contrary to what they say, or drawing implications from them that simply aren't there or intended by the writer. You are not listening to others carefully. Charity and integrity demand that you understand before you attempt to refute.

You have espoused several positions which are at odds with historic Reformed orthodoxy and the Westminster Standards. You have the right to believe what your conscience, subject to the Word of God, tells you is right. But how do you justify your membership vows in a PCA church?

Gary said...

I draw implications by what is written to show the worst case scenario that can rise by allowing the government to take over the church's role.

I know you don't intend the worst case scenario. I am just pointing out what I see.

Yes. It would be great if the government could be trusted to get it right. To actually enforce the true Moral Law of God because the Moral Law of God is just. But I don't think the government would. BECAUSE it needs true CHRISTIANS in power to do it. Instead, I think it would become a Pharisee or Taliban. Which would result in the government using the laws to shut up their political enemies and having special perks for themselves. Once again just like the Taliban.

Now I will shut up and go back to my own blog.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

"BECAUSE it needs true CHRISTIANS in power to do it."

No. It doesn't. That's just my point. Christians have never been the majority in power, and the ones who get into power don't stay there very long. Read Machiavelli and you'll understand why. What is needed is someone who understands the moral Law of God and will carefully craft laws to implement it in the civil realm. This is why Luther said, "I'd rather have a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian as a ruler."

To say to businesses, "Unless your business is necessary to the public well being, you shall not open on a Sunday" will not lead to the Taliban. I know it will not lead to the Taliban, because it was the law of this land for 150+ years and we are not the Taliban and never have been. The "Blue Laws" began being repealed in the early 1900's, but were only abandoned wholesale in the 1960's. Ask yourself, is America a better or worse place to live than it was pre 1960's?

It would benefit the church. It would benefit society. It would benefit the environment. It would be win/win. Would it require some adjustment? Sure. Perhaps painful adjustment? Sure. In Christian circles we call that painful adjustment "the mortification of the flesh."

Forms of it are actually still the law (or were up until recently) in post-Christian, secularized states like Germany.

I do wish that instead of hyperventilating and then picking up your dolls and going home you'd stick it out and continue the discussions with us, Gary.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Rev. Carpenter,

Machiavelli? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Anyway there seems to be a blind knowledge of the religious make-up of many of the "founding fathers" (or as we call them here, terrorists). I do not think even 5% of them would be classified today as "evangelical" or anything of the sort.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

First a comment:

Dub, you're just jealous because we opened up a big can of whoopass on you (twice) and then saved your bacon from the Krauts (twice) and put new words to the tune of "God save the Queen."

There is much debate as to the veracity of the Christian faith of our forefathers. I think the issue is not settled by any means.

Now an apology. In my last post I wrote the following:

"I do wish that instead of hyperventilating and then picking up your dolls and going home you'd stick it out and continue the discussions with us, Gary."

That was a most unhelpful and unkind way to put things. I sinned, and I ask Gary's forgiveness.


Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Oh, and by the way, this just occurred to me. John MacArthur is probably not the best one to argue against a Westminster understanding of the Sabbath since he is a dispensationalist.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Any suggestions on who I should place for a Con-Sabbath with that knowledge?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...