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From the Editor. ’Tis the season to think about Christmas. My essay “Elf on the Shelf or Christ on the Cross” is such a meditation. We hear enough jeremiads against commercialism. As a child in a liberal Congregational church, we took up the banner of “Keep the Christ in Christmas” not realizing that the X in “Xmas” is the Koine Greek letter abbreviation for Christ. The Puritans and Pilgrims wanted nothing to do with Christmas, considering it both Papish and Pagan. The ancient church considered celebrating the incarnation a powerful alternative to the Pagan celebration of the winter solstice. I have sympathy with each the Puritans and Pilgrims, but since Christmas is part of American culture, it seems prudent to think about the incarnation and the alternative reasons people celebrate during this season. Our church is not dictating this (which was one of the main Puritan objections); nor do we have a church calendar. It is merely a matter of wisdom and an opportunity for the gospel. It is my contention that Santa Claus and the Elf on the Shelf send the wrong message.

This issue is dedicated to the memory of G. I. Williamson and his ministry. Many of us owe a debt of gratitude to him for his salutary influence on our lives and ministries. I first encountered G. I. at Covenant College through his commentary on the Westminster Confession. Later on I got to know him when he came regularly to the annual conference in Franklin Square. During those visits he often preached in Westchester OPC. Then, of course, I had the honor of being his successor as editor of Ordained Servant in 2006. He was a stalwart, and thus my first editorial, “Galvanized Iron,” alluded to the old nickname for U. S. Army soldiers. He was a soldier of the cross.

So, in honor of G. I., James Gidley presents “G. I. Williamson: Encounters with the Life of a Faithful Servant of God,” along with Archibald Allison, “G. I. Williamson’s Farewell Sermon.”

As I mentioned in the August-September editor’s introduction,

When I left seminary (Westminster Theological Seminary, 1979), I was a fan of what is known as the Majority Greek Text (and earlier in 1611 the Textus Receptus or the Received Text), which underlies the King James Version and the New King James Version. After several years of sermon preparation using the third edition (1975) of The Greek New Testament of the United Bible Society (UBS 3), I realized that the UBS edition gave me access to a much wider variety of Greek manuscripts than either the Textus Receptus of Erasmus or the Majority Text. Concern with the accuracy of the Greek text is the concern of what is called Lower Criticism, whereas Higher Criticism calls into question the divine authority of the text.

A well respected elder in the OPC, Bruce Stahl, sent a thoughtful article defending the Majority Text in response to T. David Gordon’s article, “Textual Criticism,” in the August-September issue. I asked Gordon to respond to Stahl’s piece. Gordon is a retired New Testament scholar who taught lower criticism throughout his career. Stahl was grateful and made some revisions, and he is happy for me to publish his article, “The Case for the Majority Greek New Testament Text,” with Gordon’s response, “The Case for the Eclectic Greek New Testament Text,” in this month’s Servant Exchange.

It has also come to my attention that some churches use the New King James Version (NKJV), based on what I believe is the mistaken idea that it is based on a more accurate Greek text. After years of using the NKJV in my preaching and in the pew (from the mid-eighties to 2006), when the Committee on Christian Education and our Sunday School publisher Great Commission Publications decided to use the newly published English Standard Version (ESV) for all their publications (2006), our church changed to the ESV. It would seem wise to use the translation that our denomination and Sunday School publisher use, especially when it comes to memory work. I believe that the ESV is based on a sound Greek text and translated by faithful Greek scholars.

It would be remiss of any Reformed publication to forget an important one hundredth anniversary of one of the most important popular theological books of the twentieth century. Justin McLendon demonstrates the relevance of Machen’s work today in “Theological Daylighting: Retrieving J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism.” Kudos to World Magazine for its cover story on Machen’s eye-opening 1923 book.

“The Trumpeter of God, Fulfill Your Office” is the ninth chapter of The Voice of the Good Shepherd. In it I focus on the importance of defining the role of the minister of the Word according to Scripture, not culture, and centering that role on the task of preaching.

An Older Elder presents his final (No. 10) letter to a Younger Ruling Elder, “Be a Presbyter.” His advice in this letter demonstrates the Presbyterian churchmanship of the older elder. This series is worthy of every elder’s and session’s consideration. This would seem a good precedent for another series by an older deacon and one by an older minister—any volunteers? Meanwhile, don’t forget the Ruling Elder and Reformed Deacon podcasts, accessible on our OPC website.

David VanDrunen reviews Neo-Calvinism: A Theological Introduction, by Cory C. Brock and N. Gray Sutanto, contending that its focus on Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck is narrower than the movement known by that name. “This is not really a book about neo-Calvinism. It is a book about Kuyper and Bavinck, the progenitors of neo-Calvinism.” He also asserts that the discussions of theology rarely move beyond the topic of Christianity and culture, despite assertions in the introduction to the contrary.

This month’s poem is by Robert Herrick (1591–1674), “An Ode of the Birth of Our Saviour.” Educated at Cambridge University, Herrick was mentored by Ben Jonson. Herrick became the pastor of the Anglican church in Devonshire. Literary critic Harold Bloom observes that unlike the Metaphysical poets like John Donne, “Herrick charmingly transmutes his classical models—Horace, Catullus, the Greek Anthology—into a Devonshire pastoral poetry.”[1] He was also somewhat unique in publishing his sacred devotional poetry (Noble Numbers, 1648) separately from his secular love poetry (Hesperides, the golden apples of the sun gathered by Heracles, 1648).

Blessings in the Lamb,
Gregory Edward Reynolds

FROM THE ARCHIVES: “ORIGINAL LANGUAGES”
https://opc.org/OS/pdf/Subject_Index.pdf

  • “Help in Using the Original Languages in Preaching” (Jay E. Adams) 3:1 (Jan. 1994): 23

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.

Endnotes

[1] Harold Bloom, The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer through Frost (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 157.

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