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Good advice upon graduation

This is the probably the last commencement speech Judge Antonin Scalia gave. It is filled with wisdom and the late Supreme Court Justice’s trademark humor. Having attended many graduation ceremonies, I would welcome more speeches like this. Enjoy!

It’ll turn you on your head.


The Second Adam and the New Birth by M.F. Sadler

This book finished the job blowing my former paradigms of baptism away. It is solid in its handling of Scripture and assembles an impressive arsenal against the view that baptism is merely symbolic. It is neither Roman Catholic nor baptistic in its view of baptism; rather it treats the doctrine biblically without falling into any particular ditch. My only caveat is that it gives away too much regarding the doctrine of eternal election, which the author states that he believes wholeheartedly.

Those things that remain

A world is dying. That’s how it feels at least. Recently I spoke to an elderly friend in central Europe whose local church was shut down by the state. The reason: the church was not making a profit. The church is small and mostly an elderly congregation and facing liberalizing tendencies within its leadership. It is indirectly controlled by the state and, while it could make ends meet, didn’t bring in enough to the coffers of the larger denomination.

The church now sits vacant, with a “For sale” sign in front. “It isn’t just our church,” my friend said, “churches are closing down right and left.” “The Roman Catholics are worse off than we are. They are closing many many churches in the area. It’s not just in Europe. One very old church in my area, less than five years removed from building a new building in a nice area, closed its doors. I don’t know the story but I could guess: internal problems that no one could/would deal with.

It’s discouraging to hear of such situations. Long-established churches are closing in Europe at a rapid clip. Many conservative congregations that remain open have been under siege for decades by liberal theology and can only find pastors that support heretical liberalism.

Despite the temptation to melancholy, hope remains. That is in the resurrection of Christ. I remember N.T. Wright quoting Leslie Newbegin when responding to the question as to whether he was an optimist or a pessimist, “I am neither. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.” I’m not saying it’s time to hold up in our enclaves and wait for death. I mean resurrection power remains.

The Spirit of God is alive and well within the body of Christ. The problem is that He is not working like we might wish or expect. We have been used to patterns in the past and He is not working in such a way now. What should we expect, He is a creator after all, not an imitator. He loves to show death and resurrection over and over, but it does not look the same. The patterns in the Bible continue (exile and return, creation and new creation, death and resurrection, etc.) but there are always tweaks. To use a poor metaphor, it’s like a football coach with a specific number of offensive plays, but he runs them from so many formations, sets, and motions that it’s impossible to guess what he will do next.

I can struggle at times because being a Christian today looks so different than it did twenty or thirty years earlier. Satan’s assaults are coming from different directions. The reliable forts that existed in my grandmother’s generation (strong family bonds, neighborhood involvement, community-wide church involvement) are being removed.

So what is there to do? As our Lord said to the church at Sardis, “strengthen those things than remain.” There is much to fight for. Marriage is not dead; we must continue to fight for it. The blood of millions of aborted babies cries out. Will we continue to pray and give and work to end the slaughter? Our children must be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord lest they fall into the hands of the enemy. There is evangelism and discipleship that must take place.

We don’t know how the Lord will accomplish His will, but we know it will be done. The fact that the battlefield terrain is different is no reason to become discouraged. God always preserves His remnant through judgment.  The question is, “Will I be a faithful servant until the end or will I remain in discouraged paralysis like the fearful servant?”

Where are we now?

“As I said the other day, when the Republican governor of Arkansas can flip-flop overnight when Wal-mart executives clear their throats, you know once and for all who wields the real power in the Republican Party.” – Rod Dreher, from The American Conservative

He knew what it’s like

“Many pastors keep themselves clean in their bodies

But they are cumbered with covetousness, they cannot drive it from them.”

– Piers Plowman, Passus 1

A vaccination against Roman Catholicism

 

I’ve noticed several changes in my thinking over the past year, having officially left my Baptist roots and become a moderately high-church Presbyterian. One of the most notable is a growing aversion to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, particularly with regards to justification, the atonement, and worship.

When my family moved away my senior year in college, I was forced to come to some more substantial beliefs. My first major flirtation was with Roman Catholicism. I attended worship there and was impressed by the earnestness and reverence with which they worshiped. Earlier in my life I appreciated charismatic theology and their appreciation for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All of that to say I’ve studied several branches of Christendom, in addition to the different Baptist denominations. But as I moved closer to liturgical worship, I joined what is the most simple form of worship I’d ever been a part of: the Primitive Baptists (PB’s). It was an odd union in some senses, but they were the only Calvinistic Baptists in our county. I began preaching in the church early on, but continued learning from the same authors I had been learning from before (most of whom were Reformed, a few of whom were Baptists).

I came with an appreciation of liturgy (1). I didn’t know how different I was from Primitive Baptists, and I didn’t fully understand the sectarian nature of Primitive Baptists, i.e. closed communion and landmarkism. I thought that since each church was independent, each church could do it’s own thing. To a large extent we did, for a Primitive Baptist church, but I still struggled. I am not intending to complain about the Primitive Baptists. Those I knew best were godly, Bible-saturated, and wholesome people. But they were also true to their beliefs and I differed with those beliefs in the areas of closed-communion, rebaptism for all outsiders, and liturgical structure.

During the time I was the co-pastor of a PB church, I was forced to acknowledge that I was different than most of the congregation in liturgical beliefs. Those differences became too big to ignore when my beliefs on covenant theology and paedobaptism became concrete. There were many other issues in the church that led to my resignation and my difference in belief was not the most important one. However, after my family and I joined Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham, something else came into focus. (more…)

Not the way to stop a nosebleed

“To throw away the reality [of penal substitution] because you don’t like the caricature is like cutting our the patient’s heart to stop a nosebleed.” – N.T. Wright, quoted in a blog post by Derek Rishmawy

If God Had Not Been On Our Side

If God Had Not Been On Our Side – Martin Luther

If God had not been on our side
And had not come to aid us,
The foes with all their power and pride
Would surely have dismayed us;
For we, His flock, would have to fear
The threat of men both far and near
Who rise in might against us.

Their furious wrath, did God permit,
Would surely have consumed us
And as a deep and yawning pit
With life and limb entombed us.
Like men o’er whom dark waters roll
Their wrath would have engulfed our soul
And, like a flood, o’erwhelmed us.

Blest be the Lord, who foiled their threat
That they could not devour us;
Our souls, like birds, escaped their net,
They could not overpower us.
The snare is broken—we are free!
Our help is ever, Lord, in Thee,
Who madest earth and Heaven.

 

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.

Learning to be a better friend

The Wind in the WillowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I had wanted to read this book for a long time and I finally did this summer. It was written for children, but it is a delightful tale for adults as well, as least those who have an imagination. The chapters are well written and the story is reminiscent of Thorton Burgess, except the animals in this book have much more similarity to humans than in Burgess’s works.

This book illustrates Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” The friendship among the four main characters, Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad is warm and sharpening (even transforming for one of them). The author teaches us that being a friend isn’t just lending a shoulder to cry on but sometimes means taking a stand against your friend even when it hurts, which happens more than once. All friendships have ups and downs, but true friends don’t let those ups and downs erode the relationship.   This is no empty children’s story but one that teaches what real friendship looks like. And learning what it means to be a friend is timeless, no matter how old you are.

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