My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

31 March 2006

Examining Theology

Thursday and Friday saw presbytery come and go somewhat quickly. We did good work, I believe; most exciting was the work of the presbytery at planting a church in Atlanta. This is certainly a matter of prayer. Other important work was gauging men's readiness for pastoral ministry through tests. Each "student under care" must undergo ten tests before he's licensed to receive a call, then three more tests before he is ordained. The tests range from theology to personal godliness to history to sermons.

I thought I'd jot down the major questions asked a student last week during a test on theology to give you an idea of what these guys ought to know, what the presbyters (elders) think is important for your pastors to know. It could be a fun way to test yourself. Don't get down if you don't know many - even the students don't answer every question well or at all.

1. What classes in systematic theology have you taken?

2. If someone called the church and asked, "What do Reformed Presbyterians believe?" how would you answer?
3. How would you explain the doctrine of the Trinity to an 8 year old?
4. What are the five solas of the Reformation and can you support each with Scripture?
5. How is the idea of covenant foundational to God's Word and what are the covenants of Scripture?
6. What is sanctification?
7. What is double predestination and is it biblical?
8. What is the correct ordo salutis (order of salvation) and why is it important?
9. Is Jesus unique among world leaders and how?
10. What offices does Christ execute as our Redeemer?
11. For whom did Christ die and what did his death accomplish?
12. Can a person lose his or her salvation - why or why not?
13. Which point in TULIP do you find hardest to defend and why?
14. How would you defend the RPCNA practice of having women deacons?
15. What's the value/importance of being a confessional church?
16. How is an understanding of genre important to a proper understanding of the Bible?
17. How would you explain the importance of the church to a leader in a para-church organization who hasn't been in church for a few years?
18. What doctrine is under-emphasized by the RPCNA and why did you pick it?
19. Someone wants to treat you to see The Da Vinci code - what would you tell that person?
20. Literal 6-day creation?
21. Effects of the fall?
22. Speaking in tongues today?
23. Work of the Spirit?
24. Marks of the true church?
25. Biblical reasons for divorce?
26. Man - 2 or 3 part?
27. Yes or no - dispensationalism? Perfectionism? Reality of hell? Open Theism? Regulative Principle of worship? Voting for the lesser of two evils?
28. What are the distinctives of the RPCNA?
29. Why should we sing the Psalms in worship?
30. Why should we sing a capella?
31. What is foreswearing and why is it wrong? (I had to look that up. Foreswearing means to break an oath.)
32. What's our position on secret societies?
33. How would you defend infant baptism to a baptist friend?
34. What happens in the Lord's Supper?
35. How do you and yours keep the Lord's Day?
36. Do you agree with the RPCNA's theology and principles? Any major disagreements?

Questions from the floor (one elder gives the student the majority of the questions, then the rest of the elders have ten minutes to question him further - many times, the questions from the floor seek clarification or greater depth on the questions above):

1. How does the Old Testament inform our worship?
2. What is adoption?
3. What are the privileges of adoption into God's family?
4. Why is the church necessary - how would you defend that to a person in a para-church ministry?
5. What is the Federal Vision and how do you respond to it?
6. What is your eschatology and how did you come to it? What are the other views, along with their strength & weaknesses?

Not very many could answer all these questions. It's a very trying thing, to be examined by so many men you really respect. But in the end I believe it is an important work, the presbytery ensuring (to the best of its ability) that the congregations we oversee are taken good care of.

Would you add any questions to list above? What question would you want every pastor to be able to answer?


Micah & Emily said...

Well, I would ask them if they are aware that they can get free mp3's from Mars Hill Audio (the bonus cuts from the CD) online RIGHT NOW.
If they stumble and know not of what you speak, they should not be trusted.

nryan said...

some good questions for pastors might be:
- what are the essentials for theological unity for your church?
- how do you explain the presence of evil in the world?
- is there a church structure laid out in scripture, and what should it look like today?
- what is the place of women in the church?
- are small groups necessary?
- is church membership necessary for every believer?

ellyn olivetti said...

What is double predestination?

When reading all of these intimidating questions, I assumed, at some other time, you are examining these men concerning each man's personal walk in the faith. You asked what other questions could be asked. I would want to know about the personal walk with the Lord, what Jesus means to that person, etc.

I would want to see the heart of the man, not just the head knowledge.

I'm sure your denonimation does this also. I just wanted to mention that here, in case some might be thinking this is an examination of head knowledge only and not of practice.

Alicia said...

The most blaring question that I didn't know the answer to is "What is the Federal Vision and how do you respond to it?"

No idea!

I would be interested to have pastors answer a question regarding how the church can retain its youth when those youth head to college and into adult life.

Also, perhaps, how a particular pastor would respond to someone in the church who is serious sin.

Catherine said...

Jared, are you going to do another post with the answers or references to where we could look up the ones we are clueless about (which for me was quite a few of them!)?

Aaron said...

Having witnessed some examinations before, I know one of the examinations is about personal godliness.

Who writes these questions? If my memory is correct, the student of theology does not have access to the questions beforehand, so they are not always the same questions for every student. Does the elder who asks the bulk of the question write them?

Robbie said...

i would ask their view on Church disciline... can a person repent and come into the flock... can a murderer in his younger years become a Christian and an elder? i would also ask what do they see repentance being.

I have my answers :-) The ones i could not get are the ones from the floor... i only have a limited understanding of the federal vision. Well the Ot on worship was fun.

Jared said...

Good thoughts! To answer some of your questions (in reverse order).

Rob - I think questions about church discipline and government probably come under the "pastoral and evangelistic gifts"

Aaron - the elder (most commonly a pastor) giving the test writes the questions. It's up to him whether the student sees the questions or not. One of the reasons I posted this exam was because it was one of the better ones I've heard, as far as the quality and breadth of the questions.

Catherine - I hadn't planned on giving answers to each question. But I'd be happy to give a shot at a few. Which ones are you wondering about?

Alicia - Federal Vision is a new take on covenant & baptism & justification being set forth by Doug Wilson, Doug Jones, Steve Schlissel and several others. It's causing quite a stir in several reformed denominations but, thankfully, not yet our own...though I do know of a couple churches that have had to deal with it.
I think the question about retaining youth is good; it would probably fit into the pastoral & evangelistic gifts test.

Mom - Double Predestination is really the idea of reprobation, that just as God sovereignly elects some to salvation, He sovereignly passes over others. While this appears to be logical (and Biblical), some have rejected it, most notably Lutherans.
Your thoughts about the heart of the man are right on, I think. A lot of this comes out in the personal godliness exam(s), which can be quite revealing to the spiritual state of a man.

Nick - Good questions! Out of curiosity, what do you think about small groups - necessary, just a good idea, damaging?

Micah - nice, shameless plug.

Catherine said...

Now that question 7 about double predestination is answered, I still wonder about:

15 - what is a confessional church? Just one that believes certain creeds (versus a non-denominational church)?

17 - I know what I think about parachurch organizations vs. churches, but I don't know what the official answer is.

19 - Is this about whether it's right to see movies that are ungodly, or how to refute the da Vinci Code?

26 - I don't know what 2 or 3 part means

27 - I'm interested in the voting for the lesser of two evils part

32 - I don't know what the position on secret societies is

and I was just asking Josh if there is something I could read to help me understand/explain the refutation for Federal Vision (after reading the latest Credenda/Agenda which I probably ought to just stop reading entirely...), especially since Doug Wilson is a very persuasive writer. The fact that the proof texts for it seem to come from exegesis of the Catechism rather than Scripture gives me pause, but I'm not sure I could defend myself in an argument and that bothers me.

If you don't have time for all of the questions, I'm especially concerned about the Federal Vision part.

Jared said...

catherine - i'll try to take a stab at the harder questions (parachurch, Federal Vision) in the next few posts. Thanks for the direction.

Here's a few, quicker answers:

Confessional means a church that believes it's important to summarize and affirm Scripture's doctrine within a confession on which the church can stand. This is opposed to "Bible-only" or "no creed but Christ" churches who refuse to submit to any confession or standards (such as the Westminster Confession or the Dutch Three Forms of Unity).

The question about the da Vinci code was sort of confusing. I myself would probably go just to see it (if it was relatively "clean"). But I think the question was more of, "How do we interact with these assaults on Christianity?"

Our position on secret societies is a firm negative. RPCNA Testimony 25:19 - "...Oathbound societies usually involve an improper requirement of secrecy, aims which are immoral, intimate fellowship with unbelievers or participation in unbiblical worship. Membership in such organizations is inconsistent with a Christian profession, however good their announced purposes may be." (You might see the context and Scripture if you have more questions)

2 or 3 parts - this has to do with our doctrine of man - Dichotomy (body & soul) vs. Trichotomy (body, soul, spirit)? Generally speaking, dichotomy is the far stronger position, Scripturally and in ministry. I've heard Trichotomists really mess up some counseling ideas by prescribing different methods to change each three parts. Plus, dichotomy fits better, I believe, with our catechism, which speaks of our body and soul.