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…)

We’re not against rituals as much as you think

“And yet, even Americans, notoriously deaf to symbols and puritanical in our rejection of ritual, identify ourselves to common respect for the American flag, honor to symbolic heroes (Washington, Jefferson, and–for some–Lincoln), celebrations and rituals at holidays, common veneration for sacred sites (most especially, today, Ground Zero).

In spite of it all, we are still programed as “Americans” by our rituals.” –Peter Leithart, Against Christianity

Lessons from outside brothers

I don’t often speak appreciatively of the Anglicans.  Between permitting sodomy, women priests, and being a little bit too cozy with Islam, there are plenty of reasons to call them out.  But they do have elements that should be valued in the body of Christ.  While at my in-laws house, the family turned on the royal wedding and two of these elements stood out. 

First of all, every time you turned around there was a reference to Scripture.  There were readings, quotations, and allusions throughout the service, much more than any wedding I’ve ever seen.  Then again, as a friend reminded me, most wedding ceremonies today are watered-down versions of the Anglican wedding liturgy.  

The second thing that made an impression on me was that they left no one in doubt as to whether or not they are Trinitarians.  The references to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were numerous.  It was refreshing to hear the work of the entire Godhead spoken of so often.   


 

Having said this, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m leading a procession to Canterbury.  But there are some good lessons to learn from this.  First of all, services in all churches, regardless of denomination, should be filled with Scripture.  It is a sad thing when God’s people only hear a little of God’s word read (and that only in preaching) when they come together for worship on Sunday.  Every part of the service, from beginning to end, should be saturated with God’s word.  When the congregation leaves, they should remember God’s word more than anything else.  Secondly, our prayers and preaching should drill the triune nature of God deep into the hearts of God’s people. Hearing a prayer that calls upon God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be as natural as breathing, but to us it seems odd.  I’m not saying we’re not trinitarians, but that we don’t sound like trinitarians.  A visitor could come into many of our worship services and never know that we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 

This doesn’t explain exactly what to do, but we’ve got to start somewhere.