What We Believe

Go Big or Go Home? The OPC and Evangelicalism

Orthodox Presbyterians have a long history—as long as their existence—with figuring out the relationship between being Reformed and being evangelical. This dilemma was baked in to the communion’s batter thanks to so many leaders of the neo-evangelical movement having ties to J. Gresham Machen as professor both at Princeton Seminary and then at Westminster. Important figures, like Harold John Ockenga, in the new institutions that gave organizational coherence to neo-evangelicalism—the National Association of Evangelicals [NAE] (1942), Fuller Seminary (1947), and Christianity Today magazine (1956)—had either studied with Machen or took inspiration from the conservative theology and tradition of scholarship that Westminster Seminary inherited from Old Princeton. As George M. Marsden observed in his history of Fuller Seminary, the first generation of evangelical scholars had a zeal for scholarship that owed to the influences of Calvin and Augustine, but, most notably, they had remained “vigorous in ... Read more

Reformed Confessionalism v. The Genius Theologian

Forces of culture influence and shape our thoughts. In turn, what forces shape evangelicalism and the Reformed faith? Two different forces have shaped each theological movement: the Romantic idea of the genius on one end of the spectrum and the doctrine of the church on the other. The two forces produce very different outcomes—in evangelical churches, the genius theologian looms large as the one who molds a theological movement. Reformed churches, on the other hand, have a commitment to a scripturally subordinated confessional authority, or confessionalism, that shapes the church. Herein lies a significant difference between evangelicalism and the Reformed faith. When we understand these different shaping forces, we can seek to pursue the path of confessionalism rather than that of a genius theologian. In confessionalism, a person commits to a corporate confession of faith written by the church throughout the ages, whereas in the genius theologian approach, a lone individual creates a school of thought ... Read more

Learning from Mars Hill

A year ago, Christianity Today magazine ran a twelve-episode podcast on the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,” the improbable story of Mark Driscoll and his Seattle church. It documented the rapid transformation of a small home-group Bible study into a fifteen-thousand-member megachurch (nearly half the size of the OPC!), in one of America’s most secular cities, followed by its equally spectacular collapse, all in the space of less than two decades (1996–2014). Though I am not in the habit of podcast-listening, this series quickly gained my interest, not least because producer/narrator Mike Cosper, a former Mars Hill staff member, told the story so well. His extensive interviews included pastors, theologians, historians, sociologists, experts on abuse, and former members and staff of the church. Pastor as Brand Image Driscoll is not the first celebrity pastor, nor did he invent the megachurch. What makes him distinctive is that he is the first social media celebrity as a pastor, and this is the ... Read more

The Present Challenges to Orthodox Protestantism

It is a hardy perennial of church history that every generation believes itself to be living in a time of terminal spiritual decline. Whether it is Luther in 1527 lamenting in his own inimitable style that the Reformation gospel had merely given people the excuse to live like “irrational pigs,” the Puritans complaining of the empty formalism of establishment Anglicanism, or Baptists railing against the evils of alcohol and movies, the world—and the visible church—are always apparently on the verge of destruction. Yet, amazing to tell, the church is still here, people still believe the gospel, and Jesus still finds people who gather Sunday by Sunday to praise and honor his name. Thus, when commissioned to write an article on the present challenges facing orthodox Protestantism, it is important to begin by acknowledging that God is still sovereign, that the promises of victory to the church are still sound, and that the temptation to despair is not new nor well-founded. But if abject despair is ... Read more


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