Thanks to Albert V. Medina, here’s a detailed outline of the just-concluded Pastors’ Conference on Theology featuring Dr. Joel Beeke.
For a printer-friendly PDF version of these notes, click here.
These notes would give you an idea of the teaching that we received from Dr. Beeke. For those who had a chance to sit under the teaching of one of the best Biblical scholars todayâ€”for free!â€”but did not, it is sad indeed. You might have another chance next year.
DAY 1 (May 4, 2009)
Session #1: What does it mean to be Reformed? (Text: Romans 3:19-29)
A.Â The Reformed got its name from three developments:
- Protestant Reformation. Luther’s discovery of sola gratia and sola fide. The 95 Theses. Luther’s followers came to be called Protestants.
- Zwingli as a Reformer. He agreed with Luther on most doctrines. But they strongly disagreed on the presence of Christ in the Supper. Zwingli’s followers were named the Reformed.
- John Calvin and his theological successors, preeminently the Puritans, further developed what is now known as Reformed Theology.
B. Â The Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation
- Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone vs. Roman Catholic Tradition, and the Papacy
- Sola Gratia – Grace Alone vs. Roman Catholic view of grace
- Sola Fide – Faith Alone vs. Roman Catholic view of the relationship between faith and works, and the ground and instrument of justification
- Solus Christus – Christ Alone vs. Rome’s view of Mary, the saints, and the effect of the sacraments
- Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone be the glory
C. Â Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone as Scripture alone teaches (cf. Rom. 3:19-29).
The Reformed Faith spread to Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the British Isles, and North America.
1. Two Reformed traditions:
- Continental Reformed (holding the Three Forms of Unity)
- Presbyterianism (holding the Westminster Standards)
2. Four Reformed groups which migrated to America:
- Dutch Reformed
- French Huguenots
- German Reformed
- Scots-Irish Presbyterians
3. Where the Reformed differed from the Lutherans:
- The Lord’s Supper. The Reformed reject Lutheran consubstantiation.
- The use of the Law.
- Salvation. [I wasn’t able to follow this closely. Dr. Beeke mentioned sanctification.]
- Worship. The Reformed believe in the Regulative Principle of Worship.
- Predestination. The Reformed believe in both unconditional election and reprobation.
- Reprobation is always sovereign and just.
- Calvin said that election is a friend of sinners.
- There is resurgence of the Reformed faith in many countries like the Philippines.
- TIME magazine (March 12, 2009) ranked Calvinism as third among the “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now”.
- Why sola fide?
- Faith is the means by which we receive Christ. It is a receptive hand.
- It is alone as an instrument because faith is other person-centered.
Session #2: Reforming the Head (Theology)
A. Â What is the center of Reformed Theology? It is the fatherly sovereignty of God in Christ Jesus. (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 1)
B. Â What is salvation in Reformed Theology? (Synod of Dort vs. Arminianism)
- Sovereign Grace Unconditioned–Unconditional Election
- Sovereign Grace Merited (by Christ)–Particular Redemption
- Sovereign Grace Needed–Total Depravity
- Sovereign Grace Applied–Effectual Calling
- Sovereign Grace Preserved–Perseverance of the Saints
C. Â Apart from election, no one will be saved because we are all totally depraved.
D.Â Â Election compels evangelism. Election leads to holiness.
E. Â Rejecting particular redemption leads to a confusion among the Persons of the Trinity in the work of salvation.
F. Â Application:
- The error of both Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism is trying to make everything logical to the mind of man.
- We cannot repent and believe the gospel, but we are commanded and are responsible to repent and believe. Both are true and the seeming tension should cause us to flee to God.
- Total consecration of man totally to Christ totally.
Session #3: Reforming the Heart (Piety)
A. Â For Calvin, piety involves a proper attitude, true knowledge, filial fear, careful submission and love.
B. Â Calvin believes that piety is a response to God and that it is through it that we glorify God.
C. Â True piety confides itself to Scriptural boundaries.
D. Calvin’s Piety:
- Piety has a profound root: mystical union with Christ
- Piety has a double bond:
- The Holy Spirit which brings union with Christ
- Saving faith
- Piety has a double cleansing:
- Piety is through the church: the preached Word and the sacraments.
- In the sacraments, God personalizes the gospel to stir us up to have piety. We receive Christ by grace, and we return to Him in gratitude.
- The Psalms. They speak to us in a special way.
- Practical Christian Living
- Prayer – chief element of piety for Calvin
- Repentance – the Christian life is viewed by Calvin as lifelong repentance
- Self-denial – the sacrificial dimension of piety
- We do not belong to ourselves.
- Yielding everything we have to God.
- The desire to seek the things of God in all our life.
- Cross-bearing – focuses on outward Christlikeness
- The present and the future life (Phil. 1:21)-Christians look to heaven as a better place. But they also enjoy their life here on earth in a way unbelievers cannot.
- Obedience – the glory of God compels disciplined obedience.
Session #4: Reforming the Hand (Application)
Living the Christian life – Reformed Theology affirms this confessionally and practically.
- Scripture is the Christian’s handbook in faith and in duty.
- Christian freedom consists in being a bondservant of Christ.
- The glory of God as the motivation for good works
- The Puritan view of marriage and the family
- Good marriages are the direct effect of Reformed Theology. What are the duties of marriage?
- mutual duties – love between the husband and wife is spiritual, superlative and sexual.
- husband’s duties – husbands must love their wives
- wife’s duties – loving submission to the husband
- Raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1).
Dr. Beeke mentions infant baptism in passing, and said that the Puritans had many children. Teaching children was through family worship:
- Family prayer
- Reading the Bible
- Singing songs to God
- Good marriages are the direct effect of Reformed Theology. What are the duties of marriage?
In the Q&A session, a man asked whether there is any Reformed doctrine of divorce. Dr. Beeke explained and defended the historic Reformed consensus on this issue (WCF Chapter 24) saying that only in the early 20th century did a small Reformed denomination in North America with a presence now in the Philippines start questioning it.
DAY 2 (May 5, 2009)
Session #5: Biblical Preaching
The Puritans’ plain style. They hide their study behind their preaching.
A. Experimental/Experiental Preaching
- How the Christian life should go
- How the Christian life does go (there are many trials and tribulations)
- The end goal of the Christian life
Experimental/experiental preaching addresses how the Christian experiences the truths of God’s Word. The preacher tells Christians what they should be like.
B. The Characteristics of Experimental Preaching
- Always Word-Centered and Christ-Centered
- Applicatory Preaching
- Discriminatory Preaching. cf. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 83-85)
- Realistic and Idealistic
- Stresses inward knowledge (Prov 4:23)
- Centered not on self, but on the Triune God (Theocentric) and others (sees any unconverted person as a mission field)
- Aims for balanced thinking
- Sincerely earnest. The Puritans did not appeal to the people’s humor vs. the use of jokes by many pastors today in their preaching
- Coincides with holy living. Ministers must be what they preach.
- Always marked by dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Session #6: Biblical Evangelism
God extends His kingdom by His sovereignty through human responsibility (Acts 13:48). Election involves the use of means. Prayer used by God to extend His kingdom.
A. Why Evangelize?
- It is the means which God uses to gather His elect.
- It glorifies God.
- We want to please God.
- It is our duty before God.
- It is our duty to fellow sinners.
- We evangelize out of gratitude to God.
B. What Did Calvin Actually Do?
- His own congregation. Part of evangelism is teaching your people how to listen.
- His own city: Geneva
- International: Brazil. There is a Reformed movement today in Brazil.
C. Calvinism Loves Evangelism
- Election comples evangelism.
- The greatest evangelists of the last few centuries were Calvinists (e.g., Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Carey).
- Dr. Beeke also discussed the implications of Acts 18:9, 10. The Lord has a people wherever the Word is preached, “I have many in this city who are my people.”
- How should our belief in Reformed Theology affect evangelism?
- It should make us humbly bold in evangelism.
- It will make us patient in evangelism.
- It ought to drive us to prayer.
[NOTE: Dr. Beeke chose to discuss Biblical Counseling first before Biblical Prayer.]
Session #7: Biblical Counseling
Ten Practical Guidelines
- Guide all counseling along the lines of historic doctrines, moral principles and godly examples as found in the Word. Use the Bible.
- Be familiar with behavioral, cognitive and eclectic counseling.
- Collect all relevant data by means of using effective and empathic listening skills.
- Some problems need to be solved before other problems can be solved.
- Deal with both relationship and issues.
- Bear in mind that your own example will affect your counseling.
- Be goal-oriented. Move from problem to solution.
- Assign homework.
- Have a list of professional sources which you can recommend for further reading.
- Stress the importance of prayer.
Session #8: Biblical Prayer
The problem in the church today is “prayerless praying.”
The preaching of the Reformers and the Puritans were blessed by God because they were men of prayer.
Suggestions by Dr. Beeke
- We need to maintain the priority of prayer in our personal and official life.
- Cultivate a habit or life of prayer. Praying my way through the day (1 Thess. 5:17).
- Treasure the value and efficacy of prayer.
- We need to plead with God upon His own Word and promises.
- Lean on your double intercessor, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
- Let us pray for God’s glory. Expect great things from a great God.