Friday, January 17, 2020

The Vision (1.17.20): Reflections on Government (Elder Jeff Clark)

Image: Capitol Building, Richmond, Virginia

The Christian worldview holds that government is a necessary “evil” because all men are sinners (cf. Romans 13:1-5).

The Challenge of Government

There must also be control of the sinners that govern, as they attempt to govern other sinners.  The powers of the state will necessarily enlarge or shrink in proportion to the degree that the governed are self-controlled. Or, we can say that the less self-control the individual has, the more external control will be required. 
Therefore, those who have the responsibility to govern others ought to be among those who exemplify self-control, informed by the basic reality, namely, that God rules and overrules the affairs of men. 

Here is a foundational principle: Human rights come from God, their Creator.  The purpose of government is to protect the rights of the citizens who are governed by it.

In (2 Kings 11:17) we see that human governments are properly instituted as a covenant between God and the rulers; God and the people; and the people and the rulers:

And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD'S people; between the king also and the people. (2 Kings 11:17)
The Consequences of Ignoring Reality

The goal of godless governments is to make government “god” and, thereby, the arbiter of all aspects of human life and death. If government is the dispenser of “rights”, it also can withhold those rights.  It is free to define and invent rights to be given without equity to persons of groups.  The problem comes when such governments require genuine, “God given” rights to be abridged.

These abuses already exist and are but evidence that the foundations have been destroyed (cf. Psalm 11:3). Sometimes it seems that the great edifice of “government by the people, and for the people” is collapsing.  Will it be replaced by a government made up of willful tyrants who rule a mostly ignorant and uncontrolled populace of self-seeking hedonists? A population created by an educational system controlled by those possessed by utopian delusions?

Pray for Those in Authority

As with everything, our only hope is Christ.  Let us heed Paul’s admonition to Timothy to pray earnestly “For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Elder Jeff Clark

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.6-8: Origen's Notorious "Rash Act"

Image: Manuscript representation of Origen, c. 1160.

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 6, chapters 6-8. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue the account of the life of Origen.

Chapter 6 provides brief mention of Orgien’s teacher, Clement of Alexandria, who had succeeded Pantaenus.

Chapter 7 makes reference to another notable writer of the Severan period, a certain Judas, who wrote a discourse on the book of Revelation. Eusebius notes that Judas anticipated the coming of the Antichrist, in light of the persecutions the church was enduring.

Chapter 8 is more extensive. It provides an account of a notable “rash act” undertaken by Origen, that sprang from “an immature and youthful mind.” He took Christ’s comments that there are those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom (Matt 19:12) “in too literal and extreme a sense” and apparently emasculated himself.

He is said to have done this out of faith and self-control and to avoid any hint of scandal in his instruction of women.

Origen had attempted to hide this act from others, but it became known to his pupils.

Eusebius reports that Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, at first approved of Origen’s zeal and sincerity. Later, however, when he did not approve of Origen’s appointment as an elder by the bishops in Caesarea and Jerusalem, Demetrius described it as a “monstrous” deed and a “grave scandal.”

Turning to transitions, Eusebius notes that Severus was succeeded by his son Antoninus as emperor, and, in the Jerusalem church, Alexander was made bishop alongside Narcissus, while Narcissus still lived.


This section provides one of the most colorful and oft repeated anecdotes about Origen: his youthful “rash act.” Modern historians have raised questions about the anecdote’s historicity. Even Eusebius notes that the story was only circulated in opposition to Origen’s appointment as a presbyter. At the least, it is consistent with the presentation of Origen in Eusebius as a rigorous and zealous ascetic.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Sermon Recommendation: Defending the Traditional Text

I listened yesterday to this sermon, titled "Defending the Traditional Text" (alt. title: "Confessional Bibliology and the Long Ending of Mark") by Colin Samuel, pastor of Great Basin Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) in Reno, Nevada.

Though there might be a few things I would want to tweak (e.g, he suggests that Masoretic text of the OT is not being significantly challenged by modern text criticism, in favor of things like the DSS and the LXX [but it is], and he makes reference to NT "text types," though this is less talked today about with the rise of the CBGM and modern text criticism), overall this is a very good presentation. Nice to hear a young, confessionally Reformed man, defending the traditional text in his public preaching and teaching.



Monday, January 13, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.4-5: Origen and the Alexandrian Martyrs

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 6, chapters 4-5. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These two chapters expand on the note at the end of 6:3, which referred to those instructed by Origen who suffered martyrdom.

Chapter 4 begins the list:

First, there was Plutarch, whom Origen himself had comforted on his way to death, risking his own life.

Second, Serenus, who  proved his faith “through fire.”

Third, Heraclitus, a catechumen.

Fourth, Hero, one newly baptized.

Both Heraclitus and Hero were beheaded.

Fifth, another man named Serenus, tortured and then beheaded.

Sixth Herais, a woman preparing for baptism, but who, Origen said, received “baptism by fire.”

Chapter 5 continues the list:

Seventh mentioned is Basilides. Basilides was a soldier who led “the famous” beautiful, virtuous, chaste, young Christian maid Potamiaena to her death. She was tortured by having boiling pitch slowly poured over her body. Then she and her mother, Marcella, were both “perfected by fire.”

Basilides testified that three days after her martyrdom, Potamiaena appeared to him, wreathing his head with a crown. Thereafter he confessed himself a Christian and was beheaded.


These chapters continue both the admiring presentation of Origen and the glory of the martyrs. Origen’s distinction is demonstrated, in part, by the zeal he instilled in his students for faithful in martyrdom. The conversion of Basilides offers an early trope of the persecutor, who is converted by the witness of the martyr (going back perhaps even to NT itself and the conversion of Saul, as a persecutor of the church, in Acts 9).


Saturday, January 11, 2020

WM 148: Interview with Howie Jones, Before Another Bible

I have posted WM 148: Interview with Howie Jones, Before Another Bible. Listen here.

In this episode I interview my friend, Howie Jones, a businessman and RB layman from Vancouver, Canada, who has written a new booklet title, Before Another Bible: A position paper from the pew, concerning the text of Scripture. You can read a pdf of Before Another Bible here.

Howie offers a charitable challenge to "the professor, the pastor, and the [the person in the] pew" to consider the spiritual world view issues involved in the distinction between the modern and the traditional text of Scripture.

He also introduces SEAWL: the five points of text criticism.



Image: Seawall, Ferguson Point, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Vision (1.10.20): The Lord provides for the widow, the barren, and the bereaved

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 2 Kings 4:1-37.

And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? (2 Kings 4:2a).

2 Kings 4:1-37 describes three distinct episodes from the ministry of Elisha:

1.    The Lord provides for a widow (vv. 1-7);
2.    The Lord provides for a barren woman (vv. 8-17);
3.    The Lord provides for a bereaved woman (vv. 18-37).

There is so much here to be applied, one hardly knows where to begin or where to end.
Think of that widow commanded to pour from her one meager pot into all those gathered vessels. She witnessed the miraculous and powerful provisions of the Lord. Consider how are we being commanded to gather up vessels, to be obedient, in anticipation of his pouring out all that we need?

Think of that “great woman” (v. 8) and her passion for ministering to the saints, and especially of ministering to the ministers, as she extended hospitality to Elisha. Think of her discernment. She rightly perceived that Elisha was “an holy man of God” (v. 9). And consider how the Lord acknowledged what she had done and blessed her in this life, beyond what she ever could have asked or imagined, with a son.

Think of that same woman who lost that precious son and how the prophet, at her bidding, was the instrument that brought him back to life. See her as a model of relentless and persistent prayer. In Luke 18:1-8 the Lord told his disciples the parable of the persistent widow, “to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

We might well see in these episodes from the life of Elisha a foreshadowing of the ministry of Christ, as he was working miracles that showed his mastery over creation, whether in feeding five thousand or walking on water. Elijah and Elisha were great, but Christ is greater!

Think also of Christ going into the room where the Jairus’s daughter had been laid and consider how he raised her to life: “And he took the damsel by the hand and said unto her, Talitha cumi, which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say to thee, arise” (Mark 5:41). Or recall when he interrupted the funeral procession, to raise to life the only son of the widow of Nain, saying, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise” (Luke 7:14). Or, when he raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). All this anticipates what he will do at the end of the ages, when the dead will be raised to life (John 5:28-29).

And consider how he laid his own life down and then took it up again in the resurrection.

More than anything else, we see in these accounts the heart of God in the face of Christ. He is a God who provides for the widow, for the barren, for the bereaved. He is the Lord who hears the cries of the needy, the desperate, the poor, the weak, the dying, and he gives them life.

This is the God who saves sinners who have come to the end of themselves and know that Christ is not one option among many, but their only hope!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.1-3: Origen of Alexandria, Early Life

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 1-3. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These three chapters provide a biographical introduction, tracing the formative years, of the influential early Christian writer and exegete, Origen of Alexandria (c. 184-c. 253). You might recall that Eusebius has been the student of Pamphilius, who, in turn, had been a student of Origen. Origen thus played a formative role in Eusebius’s own views.

Chapter 1 begins by noting the persecutions Christians endured, especially in Alexandria, under the Roman Emperor Severus. Among the Alexandrian martyrs of this time was Leonides, the father of Origen, who was beheaded for the faith.

Chapter 2 begins to trace Origen’s life, noting that even from his boyhood he was known for his zeal and piety. His passion for martyrdom was so great during the time of persecution that his mother hid his clothing from him so he would not go out and present himself for martyrdom alongside his father! It is reported that when his father was imprisoned awaiting execution that Orgien wrote to him, urging him, “Take care not to change thy mind on our account.”

It is also noted that he was zealous for the Scriptures, even as a lad, and, even then, he sought their “inner meaning” and not just the literal. Of course, his mark as a mature teacher would be his mystical and allegorical interpretations of Scripture. This zeal had well pleased his father, while living.

At this father’s death, Origen (age 17), his mother, and six younger brothers were left destitute. They were aided by a wealthy lady of Alexandria, who also aided a heretic named Paul of Antioch. The young Origen accepted this lady’s assistance but avoided with the heretic, who was also being aided by her.

While his father had lived, Origen had been trained in secular literature and excelled as a scholar.

Chapter 3 relays how, with the church weakened by persecution, Origen was appointed as head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria by its “president” Demetrius, at only 18 years of age. He was indeed a theological prodigy!

Among his noteworthy early pupils were Plutarch and his brother Heraclas. He won wide acclaim for his piety and his encouragement to the martyrs, nearly escaping death himself.

Eusebius reports that his zeal for the study of Scripture led him to abandon secular teaching and dispose of his “volumes of ancient literature”, which he had previously cherished.

He lived a “philosophic” life of austerity and asceticism. It is said, for example, that only slept on the floor, went several years without wearing shoes, refrained from drinking wine, and ate little. His zeal attracted many followers.


Again, these opening chapters provide an important sketch of the early life of the influential teacher Origen of Alexandria. Though many of Origen’s views were later condemned as unorthodox, he shaped the views of many early Christians, including Eusebius, who greatly admired him.