Men's Forum

Next Meeting: 

  • Nov 15, 6:30 PM @ Rev. Spotts’ house 

  • dinner provided

  • Topic: heavenly hymnody

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Text: Songs of the Seer: The Purpose of Revelation’s hymns” (.pdf, 10 pages)

About:

This article is much shorter than usual but merits discussion. Basically, it asks what we can gather from the inspired form, content, and purpose of the numerous songs found in the book of Revelation. Beyond informing our hymnody, I hope that focusing on these glorious anthems will prove an encouragement to everyone. Hope to see you there! — Rev. Spotts

Questions to consider:

  1. What are the purposes of the songs of the Apocalypse?

  2. What effect are they intended to produce?

  3. How are they similar and different from the psalms?

  4. Do our hymns and songs concentrate on praising God for his character and his mighty acts in history on our behalf?

  5. Is the language we use as powerful and as simple as the language used in the material given to us by John?

  6. Do our hymns challenge us to take a firm stand against every manifestation of Satan’s power and to bear faithful witness to the truth of the gospel?

 

What it is

The Men's Forum provides a great occasion for study and fellowship, for long-term members as well as those considering PURC as a church home.

Each meeting revolves around different articles (appx. 5-25 pages) from classic Christian thinkers. Articles are posted here in advance. After an a brief introduction we discuss the material, followed by fellowship. We compare Scripture and talk about real-life implications of these ideas. 

WHY WE LIKE this format...

Since topics change monthly, those who miss a meeting aren't “cut out” of future gatherings. Also, reading is limited to brief articles (under 20 pages). This allows us to encounter a wide variety of voices and topics ranging from biblical and cultural issues, history, systematic theology, and practical ministry.

 

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Past Topics

Oct 16, 2018 — The Reformation of Worship

Text: Soli Deo Gloria: The Reformation of Worship” by Mark Earngey

About:

It is often said. “As a man worships, so he believes.” While the Reformation period reflected a great amount of liturgical diversity, it was unified on the conviction that worship significantly informs and shapes our theology. Join us we consider together the theme of worship and the Reformation’s role in shaping our own worship in the 21 st century.

Questions for study:

  1. What elements of Mark Earngey’s article were particularly striking/intriguing to you and why?

  2. What conceptions of God are formed by historic Reformed worship vs. broadly evangelical worship? Is there anything that we can learn from both approaches to worship?

  3. In what fundamental way (s) was Reformation worship distinguished from Roman Catholic worship?

  4. While many Reformation churches embraced the Biblical fundamentals of worship, they showed a great amount of liturgical diversity. What were some different liturgical practices among Reformation churches and what do you think about them?

  5. Some brusquely contend that in many Reformed churches the various elements of worship are “hoops to jump through” to get to the sermon. Your thoughts?

  6. How might a worship leader (minister or elder) make worship intelligible and accessible to unbelievers?

  7. On p45, we read, “The great Reformers Thomas Cranmer and John Calvin both understood the contextual nature of liturgical diversity in reforming the church and wisely encouraged liberty and charity where necessary.” How do you understand this quote and why is it important?


Sep 13, 2018 — The Covenant of Grace

Text: The Covenant of Grace,” from Our Reasonable Faith by Herman Bavink (1956) p.260-79

HermanBavinckBig.jpg

I struggled over which chapter to select from Our Reasonable Faith, a popular condensation of Bavink's four-volume magnum opus, Reformed Dogmatics. They are all worthwhile! In the end, I chose “The Covenant of Grace” since it does a fine job of establishing a concise framework for covenant theology, central to Reformed thought (other contenders were “The Doctrine of Scripture” and “Man's Origin, Essence, and Purpose”). Perhaps you'll get a taste for Bavink's lucid depth and track down other chapters for yourself.

Questions for study:

  1. Describe differences/similarities of natural (false) religions (pp. 262-64).

  2. How is the Biblical faith unique from all other religions? (p. 265)

  3. Why is the Counsel of God a comforting doctrine? (p.269)

  4. Where does Bavink stand on the doctrine of the covenant of works? (pp. 271-72)

  5. Explain the relationship between the Counsel of redemption and covenant of grace (pp. 273-74).

  6. From what does the covenant of grace derive its name? (p. 274)

  7. Is grace a “legacy transferred by natural birth” to children of the covenant? If not, what might it be likened to? (p. 277)

  8. How does Bavink think we should distinguish the way true and false professors participate in the covenant of grace? (pp. 278-79)

Supplimentary reading: 

  1. Covenant” by Michael Horton at Ligonier.


Aug 16, 2018 — The Greatest Thing in the World

Text: The greatest thing in the world” by henry drummond (.pdf)

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The story goes that one night, students asked the 19th-century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, to give a short meditation. Feeling tired, he turned to his friend, Henry Drummond, and asked if he would, instead. Opening to the famous “love passage” of 1 Corinthians, Drummond proceeded to give an extemporaneous message. Afterward, Moody pleaded with him to write down what came to be known as “The Greatest Thing in the World.” From then on, the sermon was read aloud at the start of every school year to incoming seminarians.

Multitudes have praised Drummond's message for containing many edifying jewels. Others have criticized it, however, for spreading subtle imbalances and errors which came to permeate modern Evangelicalism. This month, the Forum will examine this classic of American popular theology against our Reformed backdrop.

Questions for study:

1. Did anything stand out as particularly edifying or beneficial?

2. Were any of Drummond's points newly instructive to you?

3. Did you detect anything worthy of criticism or greater distinction?

4. In what ways might Drummond reflect his time/place in church history?

Supplimentary reading: 

  1. Biography and Controversies surrounding Drummond (.pdf)


July 19, 2018 — Origin and limits of civil authority

Text: Summary of Rutherford's LEx Rex (.pdf)

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From where do rulers derive power? And under what conditions may they be resisted? Keeping with the spirit of July 4th, we're embarking on a (dignified) discussion of the Biblical and historical origins of the State, according to Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 29 March 1661). This Presbyterian pastor-theologian was a member at the Westminster Assembly. Having already suffered exile for not conforming to the Anglican church, he was later condemned for high treason on account of his book Lex, Rex. He argued that all magistrates are subject to God's law and dissolve their authority through systemic tyranny

Rutherford's ideas were widely influential and helped lay theological groundwork for the American Revolution. King George III went so far as to call it the “Presbyterian Rebellion.” This reading provides a summary of Rutherford's ideas and presumed basis in Scripture. Admittedly, it's not the easiest thing we've read, but it is the kind of meat the forum sometimes chews on!

Questions for study:

  1. What are Rutherford's main arguments against authority based solely on conquest or birth? Do you agree or disagree?

  2. According to Rutherford, what is significant about the time following Saul and David's anointing by Samuel the prophet?

  3. God instills in man a just desire for self-preservation. How does Rutherford believe this contributes to the origin of rulers?

  4. When and in what way does Rutherford argue that it is appropriate to resist governing authority?

Supplimentary reading: 

  1. The Presbyterian Rebellion” by Richard Gardener

  2. Origins of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Rutherford’s ‘Lex, Rex’” by David Kopel at The Washington Post


June 21, 2018 — Adolph Monod's Farewell to His Friends

Text: pp. 1-18 of “Adolphe Monod’s Farewell to His Friends and to His Church” (.pdf)

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We discussed the deathbed addresses of a French Reformed pastor, Adolph Monod (1802–1856)., to a small company of ministers and friends. Regarded by some as the “Spurgeon of France,” Monod accepted his early passing with remarkable peace, viewing it as an opportunity to teach others how to die well. This little section (pages 1-18) will give you a glimpse into great faith and godliness in the midst of trial.

Questions for study:

  1. What do you make of the tension Monod expresses between his depravity and the high call to holiness? (p. 7-8)

  2. According to Monod, in what ways can believers view life and death as blessings? (p. 10-11)

  3. Evaluate Monod's perspective on the frequency of Communion in light of Scripture, Church history, and personal experience (p. 12).

  4. Given our largely-Baptist context, American Christians are sometimes taken aback at the strong language of Christ's "real presence" found in classic Reformed theology. Reflect on the quote (p.12) taken from the Gallican Confession (1559) drafted by John Calvin. Thoughts?

  5. How does Monod's example instruct you about Christian suffering (p.15-16)

  6. Describe the "two ways" Monod says Scripture should be studied (p.17)


May 10, 2018

“Brighton and Breakdown”: Abraham Kuyper’s Foray into Evangelical Revivalism

Text: Brighton and Breakdown” (.pdf)

About:

Our next topic combines both theology and history. It revolves around a revival meeting in Brighton, England in 1875. It was attended by a delegation of Dutch Reformed folk, including the venerable Abraham Kuyper. This month's article offers some perspective on the revival, Kuyper's initial support of it, and his later reservations about it. The article also spells out some of Kuyper's warnings about Christian perfectionism.

Questions for study:

  1. What was Kuyper facing personally, ecclesiastically, and politically prior to the Brighton meetings that appear to have shaped his initially favorable response?

  2. Do you think Kuyper’s many challenges may have contributed in some way to his response? If not, why not? If so, how?

  3. The Brighton meetings occurred approximately 25 years before Kuyper wrote his book entitled “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” What lessons did Kuyper learn from his Brighton experience that may have shaped his writing on the Holy Spirit?

  4. What is your response to Christian perfectionism?

  5. Imagine having attended the Brighton meetings. What elements of the meetings would you have found positive? Negative?

  6. Our assigned reading recounts the rise and fall of the very popular Pearsall Smith. What are some of the unique dangers ecclesiastical celebrities face?

  7. Historian James Bratt wrote: “To the main current of Anglo-American
    evangelicalism Kuyper’s hard-nosed Calvinism offered a clear alternative.” In your estimation, what clear alternatives did Kuyper’s “hard-nosed Calvinism” offer Anglo-American evangelicalism?

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Apr 12, 2018

IMITATING THE INCARNATION

Text (.pdf): Imitating the Incarnation” by B. B. Warfield

About:

Numerous pastors and professors count this short essay, on the meaning and implications of Christ's humility in Phil 2:5-8, to be among the most potent and cherished of Reformed writings. Warfield writes, “Do we not rightly say that next to our longing to be in Christ is our corresponding longing to be like Christ; that only second in our hearts to His great act of obedience unto death by which He became our Saviour, stands His holy life in our world of sin, by which He becomes our example?” A few sections are somewhat dense, but build to a crescendo.

Questions for study:

  1. What does Paul mean when he says Christ had “the form of God”?

  2. What kind of nature did Christ assume in the incarnation?

  3. In what spirit did Christ perform his task?

  4. In what manner are believers now called to imitate Christ's incarnation?

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Mar 15, 2018

Reformed And american

Text: “Reformed and American” by George Marsden (.pdf)

This introduction lays out various currents that have shaped the Reformed stream in America and may help us understand the various currents that affect our personal lives as well as PURC as a church.


Feb 15, 2018

A Reformed View of Sanctification

Text: A Reformed View of Sanctification by Wilhelmus a Brakel (.pdf)

It might be one of the most insightful things you ever read on sanctification. Wilhelmus a Brakel, a Dutch Reformed theologian, really brings the goods. He makes clear and biblical distinctions of Old and New Man, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and how we practically wage war on sin.


Jan 18, 2018

"order vs ardor"

Timothy Keller on Ardor vs. Order in the ministry of Francis Schaeffer (.pdf) from City Church.


Dec. 14, 2017

"Job: Mystery and Faith," by D. A. Carson

Is there a straightforward answer for why God allows his children to suffer? According to D. A. Carson, there is always a mystery to the question, but there can also be faith. In this essay, Carson explores themes of suffering, sovereignty, and faith in the book of Job.

Job: Mystery & Faith.pdf


Nov 9., 2017

"Silence and Solitude," by Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life

Life in the digital age can feel like a relentless stream of updates and distractions. This time around, we're considering the spiritual benefits of silence and solitude based on a chapter from Don Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines.

Silence & Solitude .pdf


Oct 12., 2017

“The Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus,” Author Unknown

This month's article was the wonderful So-Called Letter to Diognetus (this version is specially abridged for the Forum). It's short but substantial, touching on themes related to Christian culture and Christ's atonement.


Sep 14., 2017

“A Simple Guide to Prayer,” by Martin Luther.

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We kicked things off with Martin Luther's memorable letter to his barber, A Simple Way to Pray. It's short but rich.

Supplementary resources: