"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


"Where does Jesus Christ stand? He stands for me. He stands there in my place, where I should stand, but cannot." -Bonhoeffer

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pope says more chanting needed.

I guess this does not bode well for Martin Luther and Issac Watts in the Catholic hymnal. Can you chant "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"? If so I would love to hear it!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful to live in the New Old World

Mark Steyn has a nice piece that goes well with another story I saw here. The way I would paraphrase it is that I am thankful to live in the New Old World. America is of course known as "The New World", and indeed in many ways it still is. But in another way it is the "Old World" Europe that continues to reinvent itself often by mob rule. Meanwhile here in the "New World" we are living under the rule of law with a foundation laid by what is now the world's oldest functioning constitution. Our founders took a decisive stand for the rule of law and against the mob. In so many ways America is the land of tradition and stability. Among many other things, I am thankful to live in one of the last functioning nation states.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good and Bad Baptists

I wrote in a previous post that a Restorationist/Baptist reading of Church history is wrong. I wanted to clarify that a bit in this informational post. In re-reading that old post, I did not want to paint all Baptists with the same brush. I see two historiographies used by Baptists (and to some measure all Protestants) and only one of them can claim to be orthodox. The first is what I would call Restorationist. You may have heard of "The Trail of Blood." Consult the illustration below.
The graph attempts to claim a lineage with a collection of heretical groups (such as Montanists) who were persecuted and claims they were the true church stretching back to Christ himself. The church is seen, then, dying and resurrecting every few years with a very few number in the true church, but most lead astray by Catholics and Protestants (These Restorationists would reject the label Protestant.)

The second historiography claims common lineage with other Protestants, and, before 1517, the pre-Council of Trent Catholic Church. These Baptists tend to be Reformed Baptists, claiming a heritage in Zwingli's Reformation in Zurich, and thus claiming to be "Reformed totally", rather than keeping infant baptism and a few other Reformed distinctives.
All this to say, a historiography that claims commonality with the Reformed movement and other orthodox Christians through the centuries should be the accepted orthodox view. To claim otherwise is dangerous as

1) It disbelieves Christ's claim to be with the church in all ages. (Matt 28:20)

2) It associates with heretical groups that may even be anti-Christian (i.e. not orthodox on the Trinity, diety of Christ and more important issues than if they dunked infants)

3) It separates from other true Christians in a claim on orthodoxy that is based on a particular doctrine of baptism, rather than on the person and work of Christ, something I think is important. Not that other doctrines are not important, but they are not the grounds for orthodoxy and common cause in the gospel.

That's just my two cents.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

White Horse Inn talks Rome

It does not make for good blogging if I am sick of controversy and even more sick of my own opinions. I really do not want to hear what I have to say on much right now. But I will say a few things and pass along this good White Horse Inn broadcast. Not surprisingly I could not relate to Robert Sungenis at all and felt no kindred spirit with him what so ever. As for Mark Noll at the end, I had sympathy for his position but do not endorse it. Certainly if he wants to say the Reformation is over because Protestants no longer believe it I can not argue with that at all. Sadly it seems to very much be the case. I did wonder if the same Augustinian Catholics that Noll seems to like so much are the same ones Sungenis would call liberals who are daring to read the Bible for themselves, consult Protestant viewpoints, and pursue ecumenical dialog. hmmm... Yeah I would probably dig them too. This is a very respectful interview by Mike Horton.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

McGrath's Dangerous Idea?

Alister McGrath's new book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" on the Reformation has been getting some positive buzz lately (here and here). After listening to a recent interview with McGrath (mp3) McGrath repeats something I first heard him say on a documentary on Luther. McGrath summarizes the "Dangerous Idea" as this: The Reformation was about the right of every individual to interpret the Bible for themselves. Now McGrath is 1000 times smarter than me and has been a Luther scholar for longer than I have been alive, but that summary bothers me. Wouldn't that make Luther the father of Liberalism that says "it is all about what it means to you, rather than an objective meaning."

Paul Althaus, a Lutheran scholar, said: “Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the sense of the Christian's freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather he constantly emphasizes the Christian's evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.”

Has anyone read the book yet? Am I getting the wrong conclusion from McGrath? Or is he right about Luther's individualism?
[I've loved McGrath's contributions to a theology of science and spirituality, where evangelicals are lacking, which is why he is distressing me here!]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Christian and War

Over this Veterans Day weekend, our thoughts and prayers are with those serving in the Armed Forces. Below is a message I heard in chapel that I think explores the hard decision to use violence, and how sometimes, in some circumstances, a Christian is compelled to use physical force to restrain evil people and protect the innocent (audio / video):

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Good quote

Christianity Today's blog ran a great quote from a pastor I sometimes listen to on itunes sermon podcast:

"I guarantee there isn't a homeless person in Portland who couldn't tell you the gospel verbatim. They've had to listen to it three times a day to get a sandwich. They've heard about Christ, but they haven't seen Christ. Who will sit next to them while they panhandle, who will enter their world? I've had friends doing that for 15 years. That is seeing the gospel."

-Rick McKinley serves as pastor of the Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon.

The quote hit me, because I have given a sandwich and a little "shout out" to God and thought I was doing a great deed. But on the challenge to do more and say less (or just do more to communicate Christ than words), sadly, the comments from readers tended to be about how many homeless people often are responsible for their situation and do not use the help they get properly. But here's a thought to play with: what if helping the poor wasn't all about "results"? Ever notice that Christ told us that we will always have the poor with us? My wife could share how about how many people played the system at the homeless shelter where she worked. The percentage of people who eventually became self-sustaining was low. So if Christ goes on to tell us to feed the hungry, what was the point?
Perhaps, we are supposed to learn the Godlike character trait of "wasting grace." Phillip Yancey wrote about how we are angered when God wastes His grace on the undeserving, not realizing that we ourselves are undeserving. So perhaps becoming more like Christ involves giving an ear and some food to people who very well may use it and "waste" it. If we have wasted God's grace so many times by repeating sin, by not actively pursuing good deeds, perhaps we should learn the joy of giving grace while getting nothing in return, which we forget IS grace.
But enough of that, I'm supposed to be doing important things like studying Greek...

Hymn/Verse of the Week: The Hound of Heaven

G.K. Chesterton called it the greatest poem in modern English. If it could be, I think that is an understatement. In its entirety, it contains all of my attraction to the doctrines of grace. I fled the Hound of Heaven, and grace is a story of His pursuit of me, while I ran and hid from Him. Jonathan Edwards could have written it, but just read it first before you worry about who Francis Thompson is. To aid in reading I found a version that gives helps in archaic words if you move your cursor over it, God’s words are in bold (if you want the point of it, you can skip down to the line "and human love" at the last section:

The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars:
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.

I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue;
Or whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot ’thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat—
Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”

I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.

“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine you with caresses,
With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured dais,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spuméd of the wild sea-snortings;
All that’s born or dies
Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
And past those noised Feet
A voice comes yet more fleet—
Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.”

Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must—
Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou can’st limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpséd turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death?
Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in
shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught (He said),

“And human love needs human meriting:
hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which
thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The question history answers is...

"Who are we?" According to Ken Burns that is the question we seek to answer by "listening" to the stories of history. He spoke tonight at ISU. I turned to my father when he was done and said "He sure talks pretty". Been a long time since I went and listened to an artsy guy like that speak. Lots of words, sometimes I thought they were being spent a little too frivolously but rethought that after I left. He was just artsy and that is cool. He warned of viewing American past with contemporary disgust at evil White European men, but also not blindly worshiping them all. The past is inescapably complex and you must try to understand the stories. "Listen" he would say time and time again as he told another one. He also implored us to think on what it means to know that we are a nation that was founded around a set of ideas. How unique it is, that this must be what unifies us. As a warning on war he stated more then once to look to our religious teaching of the past to understand the nature of our desire to make war.
He talked largely about his most recent work The War and a bit about his older work The Civil War. 17 years later he joke he has a new work out which amounted to removing the word "Civil". I have seen some of both of them and both are excellent and unique.
The last question he took was worth the wait. It was comparing the sense of shared sacrifice from WWII to the current war. Burns said there is no unifying sacrifice on this current effort. He waited after 9/11 for the President to tell him what to give and would have given more he said. But instead we were told to "not worry our pretty little heads about it. Now go shopping." Where as in WWII we gave so much and ended up richer, financially richer, for it at the end of the war. This is a destructive difference he said. I must agree.

THE WAR American Anthem by Norah Jones PBS

Why the Ordering of Worship is Important.

A congregation member once asked Martin Luther after a service why he had not moved on from the topic of the gospel in his preaching. "Every week you talk about the gospel, why can't we move to something else?" Luther replied, "Because every week you forget it."

What does the gospel focus of Luther have to do with the ordering of worship? It should have everything to do with it. I here wish to defend the idea of having multiple elements of worship, not as an attack on those who don't, but a positive goal for communicating the gospel. Every church has an ordering of worship or a liturgy, the question is what that liturgy is and communicates.

Here are the questions that I have concluded I must ask if I am involved in ordering worship:

1) What would we weekly want to remind our worshipers (and visitors) about the faith?

2) How can we communicate the gospel, even if there was no sermon?

3) How could we engage people with different disabilities (learning or physical) in the truth of the gospel?

4) What is prescribed by Scripture?

Here are some elements that make their way into our weekly liturgies (other than the sermon) at our church that I believe answers these questions and communicates the gospel:

Confession of sin: weekly reading through a confession of sin (perhaps even like this from the BOCP) reminds all worshipers they are in need of a savior from their sins. Visitors are made aware that Christians are also sinners. (1 John 1:9)

Declaration of Forgiveness: Also weekly, a reminder from Romans 5:1 or Romans 8:1 of their forgiven status in Christ. Visitors are weekly told the answer to the problem of sin is in Christ.

Confession of Faith: Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed, or part of the Westminster or Heidelberg Catechism is read. Weekly reminder of what we believe about God, the person of Christ and the work of Christ. Visitors are weekly told, Jesus is not a person that is the object of some strangely sensual love music, but GOD. (Romans 10:9)

Reading of Scripture: Always followed by "The Word of the Lord, Thanks be to God." A weekly affirmation of the central role and authority of Scripture in the life of the church. (1 Tim 4:13, 2 Tim 3:16)

Eucharist/Communion - Christ said "Do this in remembrance of Me." And here we have the gospel in sound, taste, sight, smell and touch. If a member is missing one or more senses, the gospel is available to the other senses. Christ is the bread to sustain us, the wine to enjoy (as I have said earlier). The gospel for those who may not hear the sermon, or see the words of Scripture (1 Cor 11:26). Christ condescends to us here.

There are other elements in the service, but these are those elements which I find are central to communicating the gospel weekly. Any thoughts? Omissions? Good gospel practices from your church?