Foundations: No.79 Autumn 2020


Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. 
(Ps 124:8, NKJV)

It is my pleasure to introduce another edition of Foundations. Again, this edition appears in difficult and troubling times, so I am particularly grateful for those who have made the time to write and to seek to enrich the Church despite the constraints and pressures we are living with.

The first article in this edition is from Affinity council member Lee Gatiss. Lee reflects so very helpfully and pastorally on what can often be a difficult concept to get our heads around: the impassibility of God. Perhaps we struggle to relate the language of Scripture (God being grieved over sin, or angry and distressed over our actions) with the theological conviction that God is unchangeably blessed and happy (or as Lee says, God “is not vulnerable to bouts of unhappiness, despair, or depression because we have been naughty or cruel or unfaithful”). It may even be that the former causes us to deny and question the latter and reject what has become known as “classical theism” (a helpful term, which should not however be used to flatten out genuine diversity within an overarching unity). If we have puzzled over these matters then we will find Lee a faithful guide.

The next article tackles what is an increasingly controversial area, the current debates and varying practices within what is known as “complementarianism”. I am very grateful to Sarah Allen for the work she has done to describe the current lie of the land in broadly complementarian churches. This is an area where further theological reflection and discussion is needed. Without this we will either increasingly simply drift with society, or potentially react against this drift by unthinkingly preserving the cultural norms of the church culture we grew up in. Sarah’s article raises a number of important questions, and I hope authors (reflecting the breadth of views in our ecclesiastical circles) will take up the challenge to write further in this area for Foundations. Needed areas of reflection range from the nature of gathered Lord’s Day worship through to the kind of complementarity there is between men and women (i.e. the question of ontology).

Following Sarah’s article is a piece by David Filson of Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville and Westminster Theological Seminary on the apologetics and theology of Cornelius Van Til. Van Til and the orbit of Westminster Theological Seminary had a profound influence on apologetic practice in reformed and evangelical churches in the twentieth century. To help us understand Van Til, Filson takes us to a controversy over apologetic method in the mid-twentieth century, unpacking what Van Til meant by a presuppositional apologetics and how the idea of “paradox” features in his theology. There have been a number of recent criticisms of Van Til’s methodology. It is good, in response, to pause and reflect on Van Til’s teachings in the hands of a pastor and academic like Filson.

Two more historical studies make up the remaining two articles. The first is a paper by Steve Bishop on Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, politician, academic and all-round polymath. At the one hundredth anniversary of his death it is good to be able to reflect on Kuyper’s legacy. The final article is on Samuel Rutherford and antinomianism by Song-En Poon. This was initially suggested for publication by William MacKenzie, and I am grateful for his recommendation. Seventeenth-century debates may seem far removed to us, but this one touches on issues of our relation to the law of God and the nature of faith and assurance. These are perpetually important matters.

What I hope is evident in these articles is a breadth of interest, ranging as they do from theology with a pastoral edge, to current church practice, to apologetics, to historical theology. My desire for Foundations is that it will be used by members of Affinity and the broader evangelical circles in which we move to reflect on all these kinds of areas that together we might “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).

Dr Donald John MacLean
Editor of Foundations
Elder, Cambridge Presbyterian Church and Trustee, The Banner of Truth

October 2020


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