What We Believe

Baptism in Our Confessional Standards

Baptism testifies to us of God's gracious, saving work (Matt. 28:19). He uses means to communicate his saving grace to his people by his Spirit (Acts 2:37-47). Christ's mediatorial work (Westminster Confession of Faith, chap. 8) is applied to us, then, by his Spirit through appointed means, namely, the Word, the sacraments, and prayer (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 88; WCF 25.3). Baptism, as a sacrament, is one of those means. That God gives us his salvation through means indicates that he is no distant, absentee landlord, but a God who delights to dwell with his people and to draw near to them as they draw near to him (and each other, WCF 26.1) in the means of grace. A right understanding of the Spirit's ministry to us through the means of grace serves as an antidote to the practical deism that can afflict us even in the Reformed faith. The Westminster Larger Catechism instructs us as to the basic nature of baptism: Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the ... Read more

A Better Case for "Infant Baptism"

October 19, 2006, brought a long-awaited "great debate" between Dr. James White and myself on the topic, "Resolved: The subjects of Christian baptism are only those who have personally repented and believed in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord." Dr. White, pastor of a Reformed Baptist church in Phoenix, Arizona, a well-known author, and the director of Alpha Omega Ministries (a Christian apologetics organization), presented and defended the affirmative. I, as a "paedobaptist," presented and defended the negative. Dr. White and I have been friends for many years, and we approached the debate as Christian brothers and fellow servants of Christ. Many commented on that aspect of the debate. It was attended by perhaps five hundred people. The purpose of this article is to reflect on this debate. We can learn from projects like this, and become better able to respond biblically to those who differ with us. (The entire debate may be downloaded from our church website, opcli.org , or it may be ordered on CD ... Read more

Prison Ministry

Jesus offers a challenge to his disciples: "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest" (John 4:35). Like the apostles, we often find that, while we can see the fields, we're unsure of how to gather in the harvest. What tool could possibly yield so many hearts for Christ? For many congregations, the answer is prison ministry. In 2006, members of Christ Presbyterian Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, joined the local jail's chaplaincy program. The volunteers, including some who come from other local churches, are not required to be ordained. Due to the work of these volunteers and the involvement of the congregation, a mission of ministry and discipleship of limited means has developed for the Lord's people. Through corporate prayer and volunteer instructors using the Crossroads Bible Institute (CBI) correspondence Bible study program, Christians are reaching people behind bars. ... Read more

The New Atheism

In recent months, atheism has become big news, and has also demonstrated its tremendous market potential. Books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have proved very popular; Dawkins and Harris, at least, have proved to be best sellers. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen people sitting on the train or on a bench reading one of their works. As to Hitchens, he is surely one of the sharpest journalistic minds at work today, and nothing he writes is, in my experience, less than stimulating and thought provoking. And this readable atheism is no preserve of the nonfiction section of Waterstones or Borders. With Phillip Pullman's popular fantasy novels, such as The Amber Spyglass , atheism has found its very own C. S. Lewis: a gifted writer of exciting adventure stories, which might well be described as epics of anti-Narnianism. Atheism is, of course, nothing new. Nor is the use of compelling and exciting prose to communicate such. Throughout the centuries, some of the ... Read more

Helps for Worship #27: How Should I Come to the Supper?

"Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." (1 Cor. 11:28) Westerners tend to be reductionistic in their thinking: everything should be reduced to one all-encompassing idea. So we say things like: "Worship must be joyful." "Worship must be serious." "Worship must be God-centered." In fact, worship is all of those things, and many more. As Christians, our thoughts should be expansive. Our thoughts should expand to be as wide and full as God's word would have our thoughts be. This helps us know how to answer the question, "How should I come to the Lord's Supper?" The Lord's Supper is for believers in Christ who have professed their faith and are members of true Christian churches. But how should believers come to the Supper? Here's a brief, but expansive, list of answers to that question: I should come in faith: I come believing that Christ has ordained the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that Christ is present (by the Spirit) at its ... Read more

College Chapel

Dear James, I was talking to your Mom after church last Sunday, and she mentioned that my last letter to you was somewhat beside the point. She says you are convinced that going to church for Sunday evening worship is a good way to keep the entire Sabbath holy, even if studies and socializing sometimes prove to be distracting. The real trouble you face on the worship front is college chapel. She did not elaborate, but I can well imagine your objections. When your Dad and I were in college, we knew various schemes (and sometimes used them) to avoid being counted absent from chapel, even though we were in fact absent. I am not proud of those tricks, but cutting chapel free from consequences is one of those temptations that come to most students at Christian colleges. I realize that the services often function more as pep rallies than as means for corporate expression of devotion and praise. I cannot imagine what your services are like now with the dominance of contemporary Christian music. Back in your ... Read more


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