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2006 Issue 4

On the sixth day, God contemplated his finished creation in its vast splendor and saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). But he did not yet see the “very best.” That was because even before he created, God had decreed that “the best of all possible worlds” was not to be at the beginning, but rather at the end of history. That, too, was why he made Adam and Eve to be his image bearers—to give them the privilege and responsibility, unique among his creatures, of working for their Creator-Lord and so to bring the creation to its intended consummation.

Our first parents, however, proved to be unfaithful and unprofitable servants, and the rest is history—the sad, calamitous history of human sinfulness and God’s just wrath and curse on that sin. “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20). In his wrath, God did remember mercy (Hab. 3:2). God purposed, despite sin, not to abandon the creation. He purposed to save a people for himself. He sent his own, only begotten Son to be the new, “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). By his life, death, resurrection, and ascension he has not only canceled out the punishment we sinners deserve, but has also secured the realization of God’s original purposes for the entire creation. As “head over everything for the church” (Eph. 1:22), he is presently working, by his Spirit, for the full realization of those purposes at his return. Then, as he surveys the new heavens and the new earth in their final, unshakable perfection (Heb. 12:26–28), he will in fact see the “very best.”

During the reign of Henry VIII, the reformation of the church in England was largely “a contest between the king and the pope. The purpose, which Henry VIII set before himself, was to free the state from foreign influences exerted by the pope through the church; and his efforts were directed, with great singleness of aim, to the establishment of his own authority in ecclesiastical matters to the exclusion of that of the pope. In these efforts he had the support of Parliament, always jealous of foreign interference; and was not merely sustained but urged on by the whole force of the religious and doctrinal reform gradually spreading among the people, which, however, he made it his business rather to curb than to encourage. The removal of this curb during the reign of Edward VI concealed for a time the evils inherent in the new powers assumed by the throne. But with the accession of Elizabeth I, who had no sympathy whatever with religious enthusiasm, they began to appear; and they grew ever more flagrant under her successors, (“Bloody Mary,” the pervert James I, and the devotee to the tenet that “the king is law,” Charles I). The authority in ecclesiastical matters, which had been vindicated to the throne over against the pope, was increasingly employed to establish the general authority of the throne over against the Parliament. The church thus became the instrument of the crown in compacting its absolutism; and the interests of civil liberty soon rendered it as imperative to break the absolutism of the king in ecclesiastical affairs as it had ever been to eliminate the papacy from the control of the English Church.

The positive, often referred to as the secular, law is one of the most influential and decisive elements in our society. Its extent is mind boggling. It touches on every role in which we function—individually and collectively. Every facet of our complex society is involved with the law from cradle to grave, womb to tomb: education, welfare, business, labor, family, church, etc. The scope of the law has undergone almost geometric expansion.

It is not an overstatement to say that the law affects everything. It cannot leave our lives untouched. It has to do with the way we live and the way we are as a people.

Christians today are confronted by obscene images on all sides. The standards of decency for many magazines and newspapers have been falling, television frequently features semi-pornographic material, and even billboards in some cities feature scantily-clad people. You can’t get away from this filth.

Some might argue that this is the price we pay for living in a “free country.” We have the freedom to preach the gospel, and by the same token others have the freedom to promote offensive and obscene material. Fair is fair.

But there’s something strange about this. The surge in filthy public images and messages has only been occurring for about 30 years or so. Haven’t Canada and many other Western countries been “free societies” for more than 30 years? Why was it that before the late 1960s there was freedom to promote the gospel, but television and other forms of media contained relatively wholesome messages? Was there a double standard?

WHAT sort of people do you have living next door to you? I hope if they are not Christians they are at least nice and friendly. When houses and gardens out back are tightly squeezed close up against each other, it matters a lot whether your neighbors are pleasant or unpleasant. Of course, do not forget that you are “the next-door people” to somebody else. I hope they think they have nice neighbors!

How irritating it can be when your neighbor has his music blaring away for hours on end. Nearly all my life I have lived next door to the most pleasant and agreeable of people. The best time of all was when our neighbors were true people of God.

On Being Presbyterian is designed to introduce Presbyterianism to those who are new to it, or those who wonder what Presbyterianism is. It is written on a popular level for laymen. The book is divided into three sections: Beliefs, Practices, and History of Presbyterianism.

The focus of the book is on evangelical and reformed Presbyterian churches, particularly the PCA of which the author is a member. Sean Lucas is dean of faculty and assistant professor of church history at Covenant Theological Seminary, the PCA Seminary.

In the course of this short book, he touches on many important aspects of Presbyterianism and generally does a fine job of summarizing the Presbyterian position.