Pergamos: A Church Dwelling Where Satan’s Throne Is (3)
Rev.Angus Stewart, pastor of Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N.Ireland
Having considered the wickedness of Pergamos (Rev. 2:13) and other cities famous for sin in both biblical and modern times in the last two issues of the News, we now need to ask the question, What is, and ought to be, our response? Should Christians vacate the cities? Should churches leave metropolitan areas or at least the most wicked ones, the ones showing most evidence of being places where Satan has a throne? Should the church cease to investigate cities as potential areas for mission labour? Should existing missionary works in urban areas be shut down?
Some in the so-called “New Calvinism” movement charge that this is what “old” Calvinism has been, and is, doing. They claim that “old” Calvinism has left, and is leaving, the cities, that it is in retreat from the metropolitan areas, that it is afraid of cities.
“New Calvinism” is a misnomer because it is very weak on the truth of God’s grace. Its spokesmen and devotees claim that God loves everyone and desires to save everybody and so sent His Son to die for all head for head in some sense, contrary to the Canons of Dordt (1618-1619), which is creedal Calvinism. The first word in the name of this movement is, however, appropriate for it is indeed new in that it tries to weld Charismaticism and modern, trendy, worldly worship with its supposed Calvinism, while sitting loose to the historic Reformed creeds. On the other hand, real or true Calvinism (rather than the pejorative “old” Calvinism) has always been creedal, has always opposed Charismaticism and “will worship” (Col. 2:23) and seeks not to be “conformed to this world” but “transformed by the renewing of [its] mind” (Rom. 12:2).
In the Western world today (though not usually in other parts of the world), it is often or usually the case that the church is stronger in the country than in the cities. For example, in the twenty-first century, Christianity is more influential in the highlands and islands of Scotland than in urban areas. However, when the Reformation came in the sixteenth century, the Reformed faith was stronger in the cities than in the remote parts of the country. The explanation is that, by God’s grace, the new biblical ideas of the Reformation spread first in urban areas whereas the old Roman Catholic superstitions were deeply rooted in the countryside. In later centuries, the highlands and islands were evangelized, whereas modernist or heterodox views started, and gained their strongest footing, in the cities.
So what was Christ’s word to the church at Pergamos, where Satan had his seat (Rev. 2:13)? It was not, “Relocate! Leave the area!” Instead, the Lord Jesus called that congregation to faithfulness to God’s Word as a good witness there (12-17)!
What is our response to the so-called “New Calvinism” regarding cities? The Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) is situated in Ballymena, which is one of the ten largest towns in Northern Ireland. The Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF), the mission work of the CPRC, is located in the third most populous city in the Republic of Ireland.
Our sister churches in North America, the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC), have thirty-one congregations in both urban and rural (e.g., Randolph, Wisconsin; Doon, Iowa; Edgerton, Minnesota; Lacombe, Alberta) areas. Covenant of Grace PRC, organized in 2009, is in Spokane, a city in the east of Washington state. They have four churches in and around Chicago, and twelve congregations in the Grand Rapids area. Missionary work is being done in Pittsburgh.
The PRC is engaging in fruitful, foreign missionary labours in the Philippines, with one of their churches and both of their missionaries being based in the capital and second largest city of Manila. The PRC’s faithful sister church, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC), is located in the island city-state of Singapore which has a population of about 5.3 million.
The CPRC has cordial relations with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Australia. On the island of Tasmania, Winnaleah EPC is rural and Launceston EPC is in the island’s second largest city. The two EPC churches in mainland Australia are both in urban areas: Brisbane and Londonderry, a suburb of Sydney.
Concerning the CPRC (and indeed any true church), Christ says, “I know ... where thou dwellest” and how strong the devil is in the area (13). The omniscient Lord Jesus knows we are located in Ballymena in the middle of County Antrim in N. Ireland. He knows that there are a large number of non-Roman Catholic churches in the area and that the Christian influence is declining, along with the departure of various denominations and congregations. As in many places, political correctness’s insidious attack on truth in general and the truth of Jesus Christ in particular is making inroads. Even in N. Ireland, we are seeing Islam’s chilling influence on free speech, with the Christian proclamation of the truth of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ and His substitutionary atonement on the cross for elect sinners as its ultimate enemy. As elsewhere, there are difficulties in obtaining jobs that do not entail working on the Lord’s Day (I am not now referring to works of necessity or mercy).
But Christ’s promise is faithful and blessed: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Listen to Him: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (17)!
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 3
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851