J. Ligon Duncan III

"There is a God we want and a God who is, and the two are not the same"

"There are two ways to commit idolatry. You can worship something other than the one true God, that’s way one. There is another way as well. You can worship the one true God by some other means than those that He has appointed."


Westminster Calvinist: I embrace the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as my personal confession of biblical, Christian belief. I am thus strongly committed to Covenant Theology. 5-point Calvinism, and am a Paedobaptist.

Eschatology: The specifics of the millennial question have never been the main focus of my teaching on eschatology, but I suppose I'd be characterized as amil or postmil on most matters relating to that (I say a- or post- partly because on the one hand I look for continuity between the already and the not yet in terms of the reign of God's kingdom on earth [in a way that most amils don't], and yet on the other hand do not conceive of a "golden age" in the way that classic postmillennialism does – I see a simultaneously increasing opposition to the kingdom growing alongside an ever advancing and expanding kingdom).

Ecclesiology: I am strongly committed to the ordinary means of grace as the way God grows his church. The "ordinary means of grace," as you know, are "the Word, sacraments, and prayer." I believe that these are the ordinances given by God with which spiritual life is nurtured in the local church. By ordinances we mean spiritual instruments of grace and growth in grace appointed by God in the Bible. So, when we say ordinary means of grace-based ministry, we mean a ministry that focuses on doing the things God says are central to the spiritual health and growth of his people. Hence, the key things that the church can do in order to help people know God and grow in their knowledge of God are: (1) emphasize the public reading and preaching of the Word; (2) emphasize the assuring and nourishing efficacy of the sacraments; and (3) emphasize a life of prayer, especially expressed corporately in the church.


 Furman University, B.A.
 Covenant Theological Seminary, M.Div., M.A.
 University of Edinburgh, Ph.D.


Ligon Duncan is the Chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. Ligon was born in Greenville, SC, and reared in the home of an eighth generation Presbyterian ruling elder. A 1983 graduate of Furman University (B.A. History), he received the M.Div. and M.A. (Historical Theology) from Covenant Theological Seminary. He earned the Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, New College, Scotland, in 1995 (under the supervision of renowned Reformation and Patristics scholar, David F. Wright). While in Scotland he also studied Systematic Theology at the Free Church of Scotland College (now Edinburgh Theological Seminary) with Professor Donald Macleod.

Ligon’s pastoral experience began in his twenties, while in seminary. At the age of 24, he was licensed to preach by Calvary Presbytery (PCA) and since then he has preached in Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Baptist, Congregational, Anglican, Methodist, and Independent churches (including PCA, ARP, EPC, OPC, RPCNA, PC(USA), CRC, RCA, URCNA congregations, churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention as well as various Reformed Baptist and evangelical Anglican groups). While in Britain, Duncan supplied pulpits in Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland congregations, as well as Presbyterian Association of England churches (now called The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales). His pastoral ministry now spans three decades and four congregations: The Covenant Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, Missouri; Trinity Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Miss.; First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Miss.; and historic First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Miss., where he served almost 18 years.

At 28, Ligon was elected to the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). In 1990, Duncan was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and began to teach at RTS, Jackson, Miss., where he eventually became chairman of the department of systematic theology, and the John R. Richardson Professor of Theology. Over time at RTS he has lectured regularly at three of the campuses (Jackson, Charlotte, and Orlando) and he has taught all of the core Systematic Theology courses, Pastoral/Social Ethics, Apologetics, History of Philosophy and Christian Thought, Covenant Theology, Patristics, Evangelism, Worship, Church History, Philosophical Theology, Scottish Theology, Contemporary Theology, and Theology of the Westminster Standards. He left his full-time position at RTS to become Senior Minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church (1837) in Jackson, Miss., in 1996 and served until 2013, while continuing to teach at RTS as adjunct. He returned to the regular faculty of RTS in 2012 and became Chancellor/CEO of RTS in 2013.

Ligon has authored, co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 35 books including, The Underestimated Gospel (B&H, 2014), The Unadjusted Gospel (Crossway, 2014), Gospel Clarity: Challenging the New Perspective on Paul (with Bill Barcley) (Evangelical Press, 2011), Children and the Lord’s Supper (Mentor, 2011), Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Crossway, 2011), Entrusted with the Gospel (Crossway, 2010), Perspectives on Christian Worship (B&H, 2009), Does Grace Grow Best in Winter? (P&R, 2009), Fear Not (Christian Focus, 2008), Women’s Ministry in the Local Church (Crossway, 2006), Should We Leave our Churches (P&R, 2004), The Westminster Confession in the 2lst Century: Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, (Mentor, 2003, 2004, 2009), Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (P&R, 2003), The Genesis Debate, (Crux Press, 2000), and Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer, (Christian Focus Publications/Christian Heritage, 1994).

Duncan is an active churchman, and has been involved in the presbyteries and general assemblies of the PCA in various ways for many years. He was appointed to the PCA Strategic Planning Committee, was on the PCA Committee on Psalmody, served on GA Committees of Commissioners for Covenant Seminary, MNA, and Bills and Overtures. He was Chairman of the Credentials Committee of the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley, Vice-chairman of PCA Creation Study Committee, on the Search Committee for Coordinator of Reformed University Ministries, and served twice as Chairman of the PCA GA Theological Examination Committee. Duncan has been Moderator of the Presbytery of Calvary (SC) and Moderator of the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley. He was also elected Moderator of the PCA General Assembly (2004-2005) – the youngest minister to serve as moderator in the denomination’s history.

Along with his friends Mark Dever, Al Mohler, and C.J. Mahaney (joined by John Piper, John Macarthur, and R.C. Sproul) Duncan co-founded Together for the Gospel (“T4G”) in 2006. T4G has become a major catalyst for the young reformed resurgence. He is founder and chairman of Reformed Academic Press and serves on numerous boards/councils including The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Highland Theological College, The Gospel Coalition, and Reformed African American Network. He is the chairman of the RUF Midsouth Committee which gives oversight to university campus ministry throughout the region.

Duncan has given academic lectures and addresses widely, including the following: the University of Edinburgh, New College; the Free Church of Scotland College (now Edinburgh Theological Seminary); Rutherford House (Edinburgh Scotland); Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama; Belhaven University (Jackson, MS), the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne, Australia, the University of Chester, England, national and regional meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society; the annual national meetings of the North American Patristic Society; the annual national meeting of the Social Science History Association (Atlanta, GA, 1994); International Theological Seminary (of LA, CA in Hong Kong); he has given the Mullins Lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY, 2004), the den Dulk Lectures, Westminster Theological Seminary, California, and the Adams Lectures, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC, 2011).

Ligon and his wife Anne have two teenagers and reside in Jackson, Miss.

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  • Worshipping God Together: Congregational Worship at First Presbyterian Church. (author) FPC Publishing, 2005.
  • Confessing Our Hope, (contributing author) GPTS Press, 2004.
  • Letters to Timothy, (contributing author) Founders Press, 2004.
  • The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, (contributing author) IVP, 2004.
  • Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches, (contributing author) Founders Press, 2003.
  • The Westminster Confession in the 2lst Century: Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, (general editor and contributing author) Mentor,Vol. 1, 2003; Vol. 2, 2004; Vol. 3, 2009; Vol. 4 [forthcoming].
  • Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer (editor).Christian Focus Publications/Christian Heritage, 1994.


Author Related Links

Dr. Duncan's Blog
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals [http://www.alliancenet.org/]
First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi [http://www.fpcjackson.org/]
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [http://www.cbmw.org/]
Reformation 21 [ http://reformation21.org/1/]
Together for the Gospel (Blog) [http://blog.togetherforthegospel.org/]

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