What We Believe
i
Gregory Reynolds

From the Editor. On becoming a Christian fifty years ago, one of the first changes that took place in my thinking was a new interest in history, especially church, family, and local history. Christianity is, of course, inherently historical, rooted in the history of redemption—of our covenant God redeeming his people. When I asked John Muether to write an article appropriate to his retirement as the historian of the OPC, I was thinking more along the lines of articulating a Christian philosophy of history; however, John came up with a topic more immediately important to help foster a sense of the importance of history, especially the particular histories of our congregations. What he refers to as “pastlessness” reminds me of another problem—presentism. Recently James A. Sweet, professor of history at University of Wisconsin at Madison and president of the American Historical Association, had to apologize for an essay he published in which he takes on presentism:

The present has been creeping up on our discipline for a long time. Doing history with integrity requires us to interpret elements of the past not through the optics of the present but within the worlds of our historical actors. Historical questions often emanate out of present concerns, but the past interrupts, challenges, and contradicts the present in unpredictable ways. History is not a heuristic tool for the articulation of an ideal imagined future. Rather, it is a way to study the messy, uneven process of change over time. When we foreshorten or shape history to justify rather than inform contemporary political positions, we not only undermine the discipline but threaten its very integrity.

Congregational histories are a unique kind of historiography; they are not as easily subjected to presentism, and they help cultivate an antidote to pastlessness. Muether’s article should motivate congregations to elect a historian and encourage congregational participation in recording that history. An example of such local congregational histories can be found in the church I helped plant: Heritage: A History of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church.

Having commented on the preface of his “Commentary on the Book of Discipline of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church” last month, Alan Strange now begins with part 1 of his commentary on Chapters 1–2, which should prove enormously helpful to ministers and sessions.

Darryl Hart reviews Reformed & Evangelical Across Four Centuries: The Presbyterian Story in America by Nathan P. Feldmeth, S. Donald Fortson, III, Garth M. Rosell, and Kenneth J. Stewart. He continues to make a cogent case for the uniqueness of Presbyterianism, distinct from evangelicalism.

Ryan McGraw reviews Theoretical-Practical Theology, Volume 3: The Works of God and the Fall of Man by Peter van Mastricht. This is the third of seven volumes in this monument to the power of post-Reformation dogmatics. Unlike modern systematic theologies, Mastricht applies his theology to the Christian life and the church, while maintaining precision of thought and depth of insight. Perhaps some modern theologian will attempt to imitate this method.

My review article, “Theology in a Time of Persecution,” is a review of The Theology of the Huguenot Refuge: From the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the Edict of Versailles. This volume, edited by Martin I. Klauber, gives profound insight into the history and theology of the Huguenot refugees. It also provides encouragement to Reformed Christians in a time such as ours.

Our poem this month is by Ann Bradstreet (1612–72), “In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth.” She was the first and the most prominent colonial American writer to be published. This is a long poem well suited to remembering Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign was so long. Her old-fashioned virtues are those that come from historic Christianity. Modernity can barely fathom such.

The cover photo is of the barn cupola behind our home in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Blessings in the Lamb,
Gregory Edward Reynolds

FROM THE ARCHIVES “HISTORY, CHURCH HISTORY”

http://opc.org/OS/pdf/Subject_Index_Vol_1-30.pdf

Ordained Servant exists to help encourage, inform, and equip church officers for faithful, effective, and God-glorifying ministry in the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Its primary audience is ministers, elders, and deacons of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as well as interested officers from other Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Through high-quality editorials, articles, and book reviews, we will endeavor to stimulate clear thinking and the consistent practice of historic, confessional Presbyterianism.

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