Tag Archives: Setting Course

20% Off All Providence Press Titles

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You can get 20% off all Providence Press titles until tomorrow night (May 2) at 11:59 PM.  Titles include:

The Beautiful Bride of Christ:  The Doctrine of the Church in the Belgic Confession

The Gospel Under the Northern Lights: A Missionary Memoir

Setting Course: Sermons and Essays Shaping the Vision of a Local Church 

We Believe: The Creeds and Confessions of the Canadian Reformed Churches

Use the coupon code SILEO at the checkout to get your 20% discount.

Cyber-Monday Sale!

It’s Cyber-Monday and I’ve got some discounts for you.  I’ve cut the price on Setting Course to $6.49We Believe, the book containing the Three Forms of Unity, is now at $6.95.  By using the code CYBERMONDAYCA305 you can get another 30% off at the checkout.  The proceeds on these books go to good causes:  Setting Course supports the building fund at my church; We Believe supports the Reformed Reading Room in Recife, Brazil.


Setting Course — Excerpt from Chapter 6

Our (Canadian/American Reformed) History

Revivalistic pietism was not only an American phenomenon.  In fact, pietism began in Europe, specifically in Germany.  The revivalistic side of things doesn’t really seem to have caught on the continent, but you do find it in Great Britain.  In fact, Whitefield was British.  But what did pietism look like in Europe?

In the time of the Reformation and the century following, confessional Protestantism placed a lot of emphasis on the doctrine of justification – what God does for the believer outside of the believer, declaring the believer righteous because of Jesus Christ and his redemptive work.  Though it is often attributed to Martin Luther, it was J. H. Alsted, a Reformed theologian, who first said that justification is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.  However, beginning in the seventeenth century, voices were heard that placed more emphasis on sanctification – what goes on in the believer’s life and the believer’s obedience to God.  Pietism stressed the holiness of the Christian and godly living.  Of course, the Bible teaches that we are to be holy as God is holy, that without holiness no one will see the Lord, that if we love Christ we will keep his commandments, that faith without works is dead, and that we are to live godly lives in Christ Jesus.  Those are biblical truths we should all affirm.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that a Christian life is inconsequential, irrelevant or unimportant.  This is about where the emphasis falls in our churches and in our general view of the Christian faith.  In pietism the emphasis fell on the Christian life.  The gospel was sometimes taken for granted and the focus was on holy living.  An obedient life became the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.

Philipp Jacob Spener was one of the pioneers of pietism in Europe.  He founded the University of Halle, a college devoted to training Christians for obedient lives, as well as providing instruction in academic areas.  When he established this college, there was a fear that this emphasis on being inward looking and focusing on man’s efforts would result in a far-reaching subjectivity and even anti-intellectualism.  Doctrine would be made out to be irrelevant and the slogan of “deeds and not creeds” would triumph.  These concerns were well-founded.  The children of the first pietists were leaders in the attack on the Christian faith that took place during the Enlightenment.  Men like Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Soren Kierkegaard undermined the very foundations of the faith.  As Michael Horton noted, “The war would come from the prayer closet, not the classroom, and it would be led by those who insisted that they were pious Christians, not vicious atheists.” (Made in America, 108).  There is a trajectory in history from pietism to activism to unbelief.

There have been waves of pietism in European church history.  One particular wave took place in the nineteenth century.  In the early 1800s, a pietistic movement took place in Geneva, Switzerland.  This movement was Calvinistic in its orientation.  It placed emphasis on personal faith and regeneration, but was not concerned with the state of the church.  This movement was known as the Reveil.  Though it originated in Switzerland, it soon spread to other European countries.  For instance, it spread to Germany and there focused mainly on alleviating social misery, addressing poverty and injustice.

It also spread to the Netherlands.  People were reacting against the rationalism and materialism of the late Enlightenment period – not realizing that the very rationalism they were reacting against had itself grown out of earlier pietistic movements!  Many of the followers of the Reveil in the Netherlands were upper class folks who were concerned for social justice.  Rather than becoming a movement to reform the Reformed Church, which was desperately adrift, it settled on being a movement which stimulated people to social and political action.  As such, it did a lot of good for the Dutch poor and Dutch society in general, but it did little to recover the gospel in Dutch churches.

As I just mentioned, the situation in the Dutch churches was ugly.  Though it’s hard to imagine, men would become ministers in the Reformed churches without ever having studied or read the Canons of Dort.  There are accounts of men administering the Lord’s Supper and joking about it, making a mockery of it.  Even the name of John Calvin was virtually unheard of, to say nothing of the true gospel of Christ.  Those were dark days.

In the 1820s and 1830s, a reformatory movement took place in the Dutch Reformed Church.  We know this as the Secession or Afscheiding and it’s typically associated with the year it began, 1834.  The Secession was a movement to re-establish confessional orthodoxy in the Netherlands.  It was led by men like Hendrik de Cock and H.P. Scholte.  Through various means, ministers like de Cock were introduced to the gospel for the first time and they believed it and it transformed them and their ministry and led to massive changes in the ecclesiastical landscape of the Netherlands.


The above is an excerpt from chapter 6 of Setting Course:  Sermons and Essays Shaping the Vision of a Local ChurchYou can order the book here.  Until August 15, you can get 15% off by using the code MYBOOK305.  All proceeds go in support of the building fund of the Providence CanRC.

Setting Course — Excerpt from Chapter 3

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God….  Colossians 1:10

As you may have heard, the airshow is coming back to Hamilton later this spring.  Those of you who’ve been, know that there are two parts to an airshow.  There is the flying part where all the aircraft perform for the audience – this is the part where you might get to see the Snowbirds.  This is the dynamic part of an airshow; there’s lots of movement and action.  But there is another part of most airshows:  the static display.  The static display is where all the aircraft are standing still and you can check them out.  Some of them you can even climb aboard and look around.  You can do that because the aircraft are static – in other words, they’re not moving or going anywhere.

Static or dynamic.  If our church were an aircraft, which would we be?  Would we be the CF-104 mounted facing skyward at the Warplane Heritage Museum?  It looks nice, but it’s old and is never going anywhere again.  Or would we be the Westjet flight lifting off of runway 30 and headed for some far off destination?  Are we static or dynamic?  Standing-still-status-quo, or actively moving forward?

This is a question of vision.  How do we see ourselves as a church?  As we develop the expression of that vision, we need to be guided by the Word of God.  What does Scripture say about how we should see our church and especially the question of static versus dynamic?

That’s what we’ve attempted to answer in the Providence Vision…


The above is an excerpt from chapter 3 of Setting Course:  Sermons and Essays Shaping the Vision of a Local ChurchYou can order the book here.  Until June 30, you can get 20% off by using the code SUNSHINECA305.  All proceeds go in support of the building fund of the Providence CanRC.

Setting Course — Now Available!

Earlier this year, the Providence CanRC adopted a vision statement.  This new book is about the Providence Vision.  Setting Course is about the biblical basis for the main statements, as well as outlining what our priorities should be as a church.  It’s primarily intended for Providence church members, but I hope that others will also find it thought-provoking.  You can order it here.  It’s $8.59 US for the paperback (plus shipping) and $3.49 for the e-book.  Until June 30, you can get 20% off by using the coupon code SUNSHINECA305.  All proceeds go towards the building fund of the Providence CanRC.

Here’s the Table of Contents:


The Providence Vision

Part One — Sermons

Chapter 1  Make Disciples of All Nations

Chapter 2  Got the Plot?

Chapter 3  Moving to Maturity and Ministry

Chapter 4  A Courtroom Confrontation

Chapter 5  How to Be Useful for the Master

Part Two — Essays

Chapter 6  Christians Amidst Christless Christianity

Chapter 7  Gospel-Centered Church Growth

Chapter 8  Different People, Different Places