Demonic Possession Today

This is a personal topic for myself, Travis Fentiman, MDiv., LPN.  Until I became a nurse, I never had any first-hand experience with demonic possession.

But since then, after talking to and observing many persons who hear ‘voices’ in their head, I have become persuaded that most schizophrenics, who hear such malevolent voices, are demon possessed.  This means that more people than we have imagined today are possessed by demons, and are around us in some number in society (about 1%).

These webpages were born out of need.  When a person is being tormented in front of you in tears and despair, how does one help them?  Can one deliver them?

I have written a personal account of my experience and clinical observations with these things, and hope it may be helpful and eye-opening.  See the Introduction on this new page:

On Demonic Possession

I wish I had time to write an introduction to the following page as well, giving the results of my investigations into Scripture, reformed theology and history, but I have not.  Nonetheless, this might be the only collection of historic, reformed resouces available on the topic:

On Exorcism

Polemical Theologies

Polemical Theology is Scriptural theology that is organized around refuting false doctrines and religions.  The brilliance of the light is often most clearly seen in contrast to the darkness of error.

Little is it known that nearly every single theological or practical question about Christianity today has already been hammered out by the reformed in near exhaustive detail and length during the 1500’s & 1600’s.

If one can find out which erroneous sect erred on the issue during that time, then you will find a wealth of literature proving the Scriptural position in detail in the many reformed, polemical writings against that sect.

Hence, as a gateway into this literature, we have compiled all the important reformed handbooks of polemical theology since the Reformation that we could find.  Most of them are in Latin.

Polemical Theologies

This is just a beginning.  We hope to fill out the webpages against the sects in much greater detail in the future, and hope, if the Lord wills, to build a system of literature, reformed according to the Word of God, on every last aspect of Christianity.  May the Lord see it through.

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“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

Jn. 17:17

What Constitutes the Fundamentals of Christianity & How Bad are Errors Beyond Them?

What precisely must one believe to be saved?  Given the variety of people’s background, understanding and what is told them of Christianity, even as exampled in Scripture, that is not an easy question to answer.

If people profess serious errors that seem to overturn the fundamentals of Christianity, though they yet profess to believe in those fundamental teachings of the True Faith, will they be saved?  Are they professing Christians?  May we have fellowship with such a Church?

The topic of the fundamental and secondary teachings of Christianity is at once a profoundly basic issue, and yet it is incredibly complex with many real world implications.  Should a baptist be allowed to be a member of a church reformed according to the Word of God?  Should an Arminian?

Little is it known that there was a large, reformed consensus in these issues amongst the presbyterians in the puritan era, even in the minute details, and that not simply from human agreement, but as it was proved by the Word of God and the light of nature.

You will learn a lot.  See especially Witsius.  And, as usual, git wrekt by Rutherford:

Of Fundamental, Secondary & Tertiary Matters of Christianity, of Errors Therein & of Communion, Discipline & Separation Thereabout

More Writings of the Westminster Divines

Around Thanksgiving we had over 890 online writings of the Westminster divines collected on our site.  Realizing there were some that we had missed, we kept digging, searching and scurrying.

We are glad to announce that, by the blessing of God, we have been able to cull together for you 1,118 volumes of the divines that are freely available online, for a total of 1,260 referenced on our page:

All of the Writings of the Westminster Divines in English Online

This is currently the largest collection (by far) on the net.  You may be wondering why we do this: it is not an antiquarian interest; it is our livelihood.

We hope within several months to add all of the sermons of the divines to our Sermon & Textual Index (which is currently the largest print, textual index with links on the net).

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“For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.”

Isa. 11:9

On Political Theology

How can politics be reformed according to the Word of God?  Christians more than ever need to gain a more thorough understanding of what Christianity says about politics and law.  To say that political theology has been neglected in modern times is an understatement.

We have collected all of the webpages related to political theology on ReformedBooksOnline onto one page:

On Political Theology

The Westminster Assembly Against God being the Author of Sin

The following piece may be the least known, but most important, short document of the Westminster Assembly.  A book was circulated in London arguing that God is the Author even of Sin, this being purportedly for the benefit of saints taking comfort in this in their trials.

The Westminster Assembly requested the English civil Parliament to suppress this blasphemous book.  The Parliament ordered the burning of the book, and that the Westminster Assembly draw up a declaration in order “to declare to the people the abominableness of it.”  The declaration, unanimously approved by the Assembly, with none dissenting, very helpfully and carefully condemns the sentiments of the book that go too far, as many do today, and precisely defines how God orders sin for good, while not being the efficient cause of it, sin coming solely from the creature at God’s effective permission.

In this short piece, see a model example of how the civil government and the Church ought to cooperate between their distinct jurisdictions unto godly purposes, and how censorship of that which is immoral (it violating God’s Law) is good and necessary.

The Westminster Assembly – ‘A Short Declaration of the Westminster Assembly, by Way of Detestation of the Doctrine that God is the Author of Sin’  (London, 1645)  6 pp.

For Thanksgiving: The Works of the Westminster Divines

We are so thankful to God that we are able to give you this Thanksgiving gift:

A few months ago Phase II of Early English Books Online, which contains over 35,000 volumes, became freely open to the public online.

Hence, we have been able to add several hundred volumes to:

All of the Writings of the Westminster Divines in English Online

which now contains over 890 works by the Westminster divines, at your fingertips.  This is the largest collection online.

May all thanks be unto God, the source of every good gift (James 1:17).

Twisse on God Willing the Salvation of All Men Indiscriminately

William Twisse, a moderator of the Westminster Assembly, has been known as a very ‘high’ Calvinist; so high, in fact, that many persons have used his very strong and continual language about God’s purposed destruction of reprobates against the notion that God wills their good or salvation in any way.  In fact, we long ago gave up trying to find in Twisse anything of the latter.

However, sure enough, we happened upon some places in Twisse where, in qualifying himself, he does, as Scripture, affirm God’s end of leading all men indiscriminately to repentance and salvation.

William Twisse on How God Wills the Salvation of Men Indiscriminately

There was a diversity of language and categories that the reformed used in the 1600’s on this subject, as is evident in Twisse here arguing against John Cotton, who used a stronger paradigm and language than Twisse.

On Jurisprudence

Rulers are to rule in equity (Ps. 99:4; Prov. 17:26).  While even the humblest believer can recognize the rightness or wrongness of a case laid before him (1 Cor. 6), yet we are to exercise our senses in order to be able to discern good and evil in greater maturity (Heb. 5:14), especially as we are called to as mothers and fathers, elders and those who hold offices in business or the civil government.

History has bequeathed to us an extensive and profound collection of writings elaborating on what constitutes equity according to Natural Law.  This is a field in which believers can learn a lot in from natural men.

Many books of Church order are surprisingly sparse with respect to guidance in many particulars.  Rather than making things up as one goes, expand your awareness of the principles of equity and justice:

On Jurisprudence

Specifically, we have been happily surprised with how much profit, spiritual as well as natural, we have found in collections of Legal Maxims.

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“He loveth righteousness and judgment…”

Ps. 33:5

A New Translation of Rollock

There is a short tract in Latin on God’s decree of predestination by Robert Rollock, the early and formative Scottish theologian, which was left untranslated in his two volume Select Works.  It has now been translated and made publicly available for the first time.

Rollock here treats of the important distinctions to be recognized within God’s decree of predestination, especially as it comes to be variously executed through time in providence.  Of special interest is his formulations relating to what would be later known as the sincere free offer of the Gospel:

“Approval without the decree belongs to all good things with respect to themselves, though they are not at any time realized, of which sort are the conversion, faith, and salvation of reprobates; which God surely approves of simply, but does not decree to come about…  1 Tim. 2:4, ‘Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’”

Rollock’s early paradigm appears to have been influential through later reformed thought as reflections of it occur in later reformed scholastics, including in the Metaphysical Disquisitions of Samuel Rutherford at the end of his Latin treatise on Providence.

Treat yourself to some of the best reformed theology extant:

Rollock, Robert – A Brief Instruction on the Eternal Approval & Disapproval of the Divine Mind  1593/4  6 pp.  trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman

How does One Distinguish Between Legitimate & Illegitimate Authority?

Authority is not well understood by Christian people today.  For some it means, ‘You are required to obey what we determine.’  Right authority, however, is, ‘You are required to obey what God has determined.’

Many people can recognize authorities arbitrarily tyrannizing.  But that is only a negative recognition.  What is the positive side that characterizes, and is requisite for all legitimate authority?

Learn the Scriptural answer from our reformed forefathers, and let it re-form you, deeply:

That the Mere Will, Determination, Judgment or Saying So of Authorities is an Insufficient Ground of Faith & Obedience, & that Authorities are Never to Act or Require Something without a Naturally, Morally or Spiritually Sufficient Reason, & that Manifest to Consciences

An Extraordinary Calling

Sometimes persons claim to have an extraordinary calling to the ministry, not being under any Church government.  Is this legitimate?

Interestingly, this difficult, but Biblical topic of an extraordinary calling was well hammered out in the Reformation and puritan eras.  Rutherford, thankfully, seemed to treat every in and out of the topic in his controverting with congregationalists.

To be able to wrap one’s mind around the issues surrounding a Biblical and divine extraordinary calling is truly profound, coming to grips with the most foundational elements of ecclesiology and the will of God.

May this new page of resources be a great help to being able to carefully discern the Lord’s will in these matters:

On an Extraordinary Calling

Classifications & Degrees of Sin

Not all sins are the same, nor affect the believer, and God’s grace in them, the same.  Exploring the reformed material and distinctions on this new page of resources will help you to become much more acquainted with the nuances of our Lord’s will in these things.

Specifically, the Romanists distinguished between venial (light) sins, which need not to be forgiven, and mortal (deadly) sins, which extinguish the work of grace in the Christian.  While the reformed outright rejected the distinction in the Romanist sense, as all sins are worthy of condemnation, yet they not infrequently used the distinction nonetheless in Biblical and reformed senses.

On the Classifications & Degrees of Sin, & the Distinction Between Venial & Mortal Sin

A big thanks to Rev. Andrés Eduardo Garcia Gonzalez of Venezuela who provided most of the materials on the page.

Contra Romanism, the Apostate Church

What does one do when a very good defender of Romanist doctrines poses arguments that seem legitimate, and one is not able to answer them?

We have built a library of works (concentrated on the 1600’s) that systematically refute Romanism doctrine by doctrine in order that you can quickly skim through them, find your subject matter, and find in-depth, reformed, catholic, material refuting that exact point of Romanism, no matter how minute:

Romanism

Is the Roman Church, though apostate, a part of Christ’s visible Church?  Is the Roman ministry and Romish baptism valid?  There is immense confusion on these questions today, with many coming to the wrong answer.

The near-universal reformed consensus during the Reformation and puritan eras to these questions was ‘Yes’.  Find out the Biblical reasons for this.  The established Reformed Church largely defended the validity of her ministers on the validity of the Roman Church being a Church.  Yet they also were convicted that the Protestant separation from Romanism was morally and Scripturally necessary.

And lastly, may Romanists be saved?  Read the classic reformed answers to these questions on this new page.  See especially the Intro and the writings of Samuel Rutherford:

On the Roman Catholic Church being a Church, her Baptism being Valid, that the Reformers’ Ministerial Calling was Valid, the Necessity of Separation from Her & Whether Romanists may be Saved

Great News!

Phase 2 of Early English Books Online has just been made publicly available on the net (ahead of schedule); the collection has over 35,000 volumes, including many reformed and puritan works.

To celebrate, we have updated and collated as many volumes as we could find from Phase 2 for these two pages:

Every Reformed Systematic Theology Online  175+

Reformation & Puritan Bible Commentaries  705+

We are working on updating the rest of our pages with the newly available works as time permits.  Hopefully this can be done before the end of the year.

 

 

How Far Human Laws Bind the Conscience

One of the most constantly relevant and important ethical questions in the Christian life is how far human laws and commands bind us.  We are constantly presented with commands in school, work, in the family, in the Church and in our State which are less than obviously, morally necessary.

The best strand of historic, reformed theology, including Perkins and Rutherford, has answered that only God’s natural, moral and positive laws can bind creatures.  Human, positive commands bind only insofar as they reflect God’s laws.

While we are to honor God-given human authorities (by God’s moral law, the 5th Commandment) and are to seek to prevent scandal (by God’s moral law, the 6th Commandment), yet human authorities can add no morally binding obligation whatsoever to a matter; rather, they are to use their God given office, station, power and resources to enforce God’s moral law, and in so doing, they exercise true authority from God’s Will.

Hence human laws and commands bind only insofar as they reflect God’s laws in the situation, and to that degree only.  As all authorities have only been given authority from God for good, truth and edification, any action other than that is outside the powers of their office (ultra vires) and does not inherently bind.

All this is to say that all persons and authorities are to obey God’s natural, moral and positive laws, even when authorities do not rule accurately according thereto, as God is to be obeyed before men and as He is the Lord of the conscience alone.

Learn from the best of reformed theology and walk more closely in the Lord’s paths:

How Far the Laws & Commands of Human Authorities Bind the Conscience

On Arbitrary Laws & Implicit Faith & Obedience

God’s Law is the only thing that can morally bind his creatures, as there is fundamentally only one Lawgiver (Isa. 33:22; James 4:12).

Hence, all human laws and commands, including from those who hold public offices of God, only oblige as far those commands reflect God’s Law inherent in the situation itself, and to that degree.

Yet persons and authorities often expect to be obeyed simply because they have so willed it.  When you are presented with this unpleasant situation, here is a page of reformed resources that will help you understand this error (and the truth it opposes) better, and it will confirm you in walking in this life as a servant of God, and not of men.

On Arbitrary Laws & Commands

Likewise, to give anyone besides God our implicit faith and obedience (if they demand of us to believe or obey anything wherein a sufficient moral reason is not perceived or given to our conscience) is against the 2nd and 7th Commandments:

It is written: “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to…  love Him and to serve the Lord thy God…” (Dt. 10:12)  But to serve the will of man apart from being able to serve God’s will in the matter is idolatry, to enthrone service to the creature above God.  It is also to perversely give up our soul’s most precious inner-chamber, reserved for God alone, to be used by men.

On Implicit, or Blind Faith & Obedience

On Positive Laws

One of the most important ethical distinctions, extensively relevant to the Christian life and on which there is very little teaching in the Church today, is the difference between (1) Natural Law & (2) Positive Laws.

(1) Natural Law includes the inherent designs that God created into Creation, natural human inclinations and fundamental natural principles of obliging force.

(2) Positive Laws are all specific commands and laws of humans in society, which ought to be based on natural laws, though they inherently contain some amount of arbitrariness to them.

In necessity, Natural laws override Positive Laws.

A great familiarity with this distinction and its extensive relevance all around us is most needed during our societal response to COVID (some of which response is good and some of which is not adequately based on Natural Law), during riots and even in the very mundane issues of work and family life.

It also very much applies to the government of the Church and defending oneself under unjust Church discipline.

Further, the issue is theological:  God makes ethically binding positive laws, and He abrogates them.  Delve into the rich things of the Lord’s revelation and greatly expand your understanding.

Lastly, how far do positive laws bind the conscience?  In contrast to the fuzziness and lack of clarity on this point in the modern Church, there was a large puritan consensus on the matter which is both clear, precise and dead-on right.

Read the Introduction on the page and grow in your walking before the Lord and men:

On Positive Laws & Ordinances, & the Law of Nations

Church Ordinances & Order

The Reformation recognized that numerous commands in Scripture were for the good-order of the Church in their given context, and were not absolutely binding, without qualification, on all times and societies.

This Scriptural category of ‘Church ordinances’ was a common-place in Reformation theology, though it is virtually unrecognized in the conservative, reformed Church, especially among Biblicists.

With Churches adapting to the Corona outbreak, it is more necessary than ever to understand the ethical theology undergirding Church ordinances.  What is their binding nature?  May they be broken without guilt?

Read the Introduction and explore our Lord’s instruction with these reformed resources:

On the Ordinances, Order & Policy of the Church

Needless to say, it does not appear that any other significant collection on this topic exists on the net.  You will look in vain for a detailed discussion on this subject in modern systematic theologies, or any other theological book for that matter.

Tread in the old paths that were derived from the Word of God and have stood firm through many generations.

May the Magistrate Forbid Church Assemblies in a Time of a Severe, Spreading Disease?

May the Magistrate rightly quarantine and restrain assemblies, including those of the Church, upon sufficient natural and civil warrant?

Rutherford’s answer to that question was ‘Yes’, along with other reformed figures in that era, including the civil government of the Netherlands during the time of the Synod of Dort (1619).

The Reformation, Puritan and presbyterian doctrine, that the Church is subject to the Magistrate in legitimate civil laws and matters circa sacra (around the sacred) is evidenced even in our own day by civil governments (rightly) enforcing fire codes, zoning laws and sound ordinances, etc. upon churches.

See many theological points related to this topic documented from the Reformation and puritan eras, especially from Gillespie and Rutherford, on this new page:

On the Civil Magistrate’s Just Authority for Restraining the Congregating of Citizens, even the Church, and Quarantining, etc., with Sufficient Natural Warrant, according to God’s Moral Law

(The page does not address every issue that ought to be considered in relation to the current response to the Corona virus, such as, what churches should do if the magistrate does not have sufficient natural and moral warrant to forbid their assembly.)