Posts belonging to Category Church Life

The only Catholic Man

“To the last fiber of his being Luther was German, Calvin was French, Knox was Scotch; Augustine bears the unmistakable impress of the Roman, and Chrysostom is as certainly Greek. Paul, with all his large heartedness and sympathies is a Jew, always a Jew. Jesus Christ is the only One who is justly entitled to be called the Catholic Man. Nothing local, transient, individualizing, national, or sectarian dwarfs the proportions of His wondrous character.” – Rev. William Moorehead,  from his essay, “The Moral Glory of Jesus Christ as Proof of Inspiration,” in The Fundamentals.

Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word – Martin Luther

Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

The Eternal and Sovereign God – Isaac Watts

      The Lord Jehovah reigns,
      And royal state maintains,
         His head with awful glories crowned;
      Arrayed in robes of light,
      Begirt with sov'reign might,
         And rays of majesty around.

      Upheld by thy commands,
      The world securely stands;
         And skies and stars obey thy word:
      Thy throne was fixed on high
      Before the starry sky;
         Eternal is thy kingdom, Lord.

      In vain the noisy crowd,
      Like billows fierce and loud,
         Against thine empire rage and roar;
      In vain, with angry spite,
      The surly nations fight,
         And dash like waves against tile shore.

      Let floods and nations rage,
      And all their powers engage;
         Let swelling tides assault the sky;
      The terrors of thy frown
      Shall beat their madness down:
         Thy throne forever stands on high.

      Thy promises are true,
      Thy grace is ever new;
         There fixed, thy church shall ne'er remove;
      Thy saints with holy fear
      Shall in thy courts appear,
         And sing thine everlasting love.

Nice irony here

Most people who keep up with modern justification controversies are familiar with N.T. Wright, the former Bishop of Durham of the Church of England. He published a book on justification that was poorly received by many in the Reformed camp because it introduces some doesn’t fully embrace the traditional explanation of the topic.

I have been making my way through the four volume set of books known as The Fundamentals, written in the early 1900’s as a conservative response to the ascending liberalism within Protestant Christianity. When I came to the chapter on justification by faith (one which does take the traditional Reformed teaching on the topic), who should be the author but H.C. G. Moule. The name meant little to me until I read that he was at the time of publication Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. This is a nice twist to the justication discussion, don’t you think?

God’s Infantry

In Psalm 8:2, we’re told that God ordained small children to praise Him “because of Thine (God’s) enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” That God determined for small children and infants to praise Him is wondrous enough. But the reason is even greater: the God’s enemies would be stopped. Don’t go Baptist on me and spiritualize who the babes are (a.k.a. new born spiritual children). While that is true, David was referring to actual babies.

When you think about the entire Psalm, one that extols God for all His majestic works in creation and how He has given man dominion over all the earthly creatures, this verse might seem out of place. But it is exactly where the Father intended for it to be. The first exercise of dominion over all flesh is the act of praising God, an act which begins in infancy. This same act is an act of warfare against God’s enemies. While they are born in sin just like you and I are, God never calls His covenant children “vipers in diapers.” It would be closer to calling them God’s infantry.

And don’t forget Richard Hooker

I’ve had some discussion with friends recently about the “Future of Protestantism” discussion at Biola University with Dr.’s Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders, and Carl Trueman. I listened to the discussion in its entirety and was impressed with portions of it; other portions were less inspiring. (If you haven’t seen it, you can go here.) I will give full disclosure to the fact that I attend church with Dr. Leithart and he is a mentor to me. I try to learn from him whenever I can. His gracious style is not just a public display; he is just as gracious in person as he is in public. I’ve read Dr. Sanders and Dr. Trueman before but have no personal contact with either one of them.

To begin with, I have long agreed with Dr. Leithart that the differences between modern-day Protestants and modern Roman Catholic theology is closer than many realize. That’s not to say that there is no difference; I despise the adoration of physical elements (also known as idolatry); think praying to Mary is useless (at its best); and believe that infused righteousness is no righteousness at all. That being said, I believe, along with all the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century, that  Rome is in some form a church. If you doubt this, let me ask you: were the churches at Laodicea, Thyatira, or Philadelphia real churches despite the great sin taking place in them? If you say, “No” then your standards for a church surpass that of Jesus Himself. Despite her sinful beliefs, Rome believes in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, the atonement once for all for our sins, and the resurrection of the body. They are a church.

In fact, they are closer to Protestant theology than before. That is not to say that efforts like these answer all the questions, but it is a start. And Dr. Leithart is not calling as much for hierarchical meetings on doctrine as decentralized meetings in cities and towns throughout the country with ministers working together for the good of the cities in which they minister. The prototype for this is from Pastor Rich Bledsoe in Boulder, Colorado. He divided the city into parishes and established pastor gatherings in each one. In these gathers pastors from all Christian churches would get to know one another. It is going well and is being attempted in other cities. This is on-the-ground unity; the type that is more in line with Scripture than top-down unity agreements that many times paper-over differences. (more…)

What’s New Out There?

I’ve been insulated as a Primitive Baptist pastor for the last five-plus years, which certainly has its advantages. There’s been a lot of change in the Evangelical world since then and I’ve just now finding out about it. I’ve noticed it mostly in the area of corporate worship, but that is just one of many areas. Being away for a few years has given me a fresh perspective. A few things come to mind initially and I hope to write a few posts about them.This list includes both Baptist and Presbyterian churches we’ve visited.

First of all, there has been a decline in reverence for worship. Now call me a stick in the mud (a term I’ve started to embrace) but since when did ministers stop wearing ties? Since when did members start dressing like they were going on vacation? I understand someone coming in from working 3rd shift wearing work clothes, but most people aren’t in that position. If this were the only symptom I wouldn’t suspect there was a disease, but it goes deeper than that. Worship in most churches has all the gravity of a kernel of popcorn. And this is in conservative churches. Of course this is not to say all churches are this way. But too many are. And the way people dress (at least in the South) is one indicator of how much priority they put on worship. Does this mean you don’t love God if you don’t wear a tie? Of course not. But when the people at Wal-Mart are better dressed than people in the church, it raises a few questions. (more…)

Against Christmas / For Christmas

We have just ended a time of year that many people enjoy. No I don’t mean the time of rejoicing that God became man in the incarnation. I mean the time when people complain about the low state of the world. It seems that this time of year is especially ripe for finding things to complain about. Whether it’s consumerism, liberalism, or the commercialism of a holiday, whiners who have time off of work don’t taper off; they raise the complaining lever three notches.  “Too many people are buying too much stuff. Can you believe that the lady at Joe’s Hardware said ‘Happy Holidays’ to me instead of ‘Merry Christmas?’ I’m not going to celebrate Christmas at all because it’s become on big commercial?” And my personal favorite: “They are taking Christ out of Christmas.”

Now I realize that there are some who choose not to celebrate Christmas from biblical conviction, and I understand where they are coming from. But most of the people who complain the loudest are the ones who continue to participate in celebration, while maintaining their excuse to play Oscar the grouch all the while. Those are the people I’m speaking to. Let me tell you why I’m against Christmas and for Christmas.

A little lacking in objectivity

Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root
by David J. Engelsma

I respect the author of this book, David Engelsma. He has done quite a bit of good work on Christian education and bringing up children in the faith. This however, is not his best book. He is concerned with the problems of what is known as “federal vision” theology. I will not take the time to explain these beliefs here. The fact is, there isn’t one particular system of belief known as the “federal vision.” By that I mean there isn’t a book that systematizes it as a doctrine of belief. Rather it is a group of pastors, professors, and laymen who combine a Lutheran view of baptism with covenant theology (and this is a gross oversimplification, but it will have to do for now).

Regarding this particular work, the author intends to warn the reader of these beliefs, which he (and others) consider heresy. He uses quotes from various authors to develop a system of belief. The problem is that you can’t construct someone else’s theological system based on snippets of unrelated essays written to different audiences. That being said, Engelsma is clear regarding his differences with those who hold to the federal vision. It comes down to a different view of God’s covenant. Engelsma is closer the a Reformed Baptist view of the covenant, while men who hold to the federal vision are closer a continental Reformed view of the covenant.

But the biggest problem with the book is the tone. There are denunciations throughout the book of various men who disagree with the author. Ironically, these variances of opinion could also be found among those who wrote the Westminster Confession. Yet the men who wrote the confession were able to abide one another’s difference for the sake of the gospel (see Robert Letham’s book on the Westminster Confession). The harsh tone will only further convince those who despise the federal vision, but it will not convince the objective reader of anything except how much author dislikes the movement.

If you want to understand the federal vision, don’t read this book. It will not present an adequate description.

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Prayer resources

This is the list of prayer resources I spoke of yesterday in the afternoon sermon.

The Book of Common Prayer (Anglican)

Matthew Henry’s A Method of Prayer (Reformed)

John Haberman’s Morning and Evening Prayer for All Days of the Week (Lutheran)