Friday, October 27, 2006

This Is Not My Next Post...

...the one with Part II of my last post. But take a look, if you haven't already, at The Sacred Sandwich and give me your reactions. I've explored only a little of it but it looks pretty interesting. I enjoyed the Twin Theologians.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thinking More About Church: Part I
Micro and Macro, Over Space and Time

My family and I for the last couple of years have been necessarily somewhat preoccupied with questions regarding the church: how to understand it biblically, how to engage it locally, what constitutes proper human authority within it, what's healthy and unhealthy (as much as I despise therapeutic language) and so on. Why this has been so is well-documented here and on other related blogs. Fortunately, the study is challenging and enriching and a wealth of resources are available over space—via media and the internet, and time—via 2000 years of writing. I continue to discover good thinking and good writing that open the Bible in new ways on this topic.

Which leads me to my first thought: In all the analysis and questioning about church, I don't want to forget to first appreciate it.

Biblically, job one is to engage it and be part of it "...not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) The church is an amazing thing even in it's most basic and rudimentary micro form, gathered simply around the Word.

Luther said in that regard:

"The only mark of the Christian Church is following and obeying the Word. When that is gone, let men boast as much as they please: 'Church! Church!' There is nothing to their boasting anyway. Therefore you should say, "Do the people have the Word of God there? And do they accept it too?...wherever one hears the Word of God, there is the church of God, though it be in a cow stable, the place where Christ was born."
WHAT LUTHER SAYS: VOL I, Selection 780, Concordia

But over the last year the amazing treasure of the Church in the macro sense has come home to me in a new way too. We live in a privileged time when the insight and ministry of gifted teachers around the globe and back through the centuries all the way to New Testament times are at our fingertips. This is amazing when you think about it.

The writer of Hebrews calls those that went before him (listed in chapter 11) a "great cloud of witnesses" 12:1, and in a sense that cloud extends throughout the centuries A.D. I've just read a series of simple and moving prayers from The Didache, a collection of Christian teaching and liturgy dating back to the early 2nd century, and one from Clement of Alexandria around the same period. We would be at home with those forgotten saints. Their words could be ours, there is no disconnect between their Christianity and genuine faith in the 21st century. And of course from the apostolic fathers through the mystics to the reformers and beyond comes so much that most of us have never explored. I suppose we could think of it as the Church over time. Finding our place in the meta-story of the church is a humbling and correcting exercise. There is, by the way, an enormous amount of even the ancient stuff available to us amateurs. I just saw advertised at CBD a 38 volume hardcover set of the writings of The Early Church Fathers. I may wait for the CD!

The story of the church over time is not all rosey, to say the least. Yet from the reality of all the error, the incursions of human arrogance and apostasy repeated throughout the years, we learn what not to do, and how truth is strengthened when error is challenged. Or at least we should. Even with as little command of church history as I have, I'm struck by the repetitious nature of error—particularly with regard to the church. There is not much new out there in the field of heresy. But then there is not much interest in history either. As David Wells so masterfully points out in his Above All Earthly Pow'rs, our Emergent friends, for example, seem to have no idea that their "new discovery" of subjective, man-centric incarnational gospel is virtually identical to that which eviscerated mainline churches in the mid-1900s.

But they are not the only ones who put at risk this wonderful thing called the church. And here it is not even quite correct to say "put at risk" because what is truly amazing about the church after all is that "...the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Mt. 16:18 (ESV) Consequently she persists and endures and thrives and triumphs through good times, and most remarkably, even more so through bad times.
Jesus declared this so we know the story ends well. Still it is important to identify her enemies and the recurring mistakes from within that damage the church's unique position. And of course, finally she is Jesus' own bride. Our primary motive and holy fear should be to do no harm, to be terrified lest we insert ourselves between the Groom and his Bride. There is a wedding underway and this is a dance where no sane man dares "cut in."

Which brings me to my next set of musings based on Matthew 23:8, the relationship between believers, and I Timothy 2:5, the priesthood of the believer. The reformers and the post-reformers thundered on these points, I will squeak about them in my next post.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Help Me Out Here, George Barna

I just came across this, the You Say You Want a Revolution conference slated for next month in Seattle. Nothing too unfamiliar here, the usual Emergent topics and lingo, and some of the usual suspects at the front. But the presence of the renowned pollster surprises me. I know his book Revolution certainly shares some common ground with postmodern/emergent in it's prediction of new, alternative, non-institutional and usually smaller expressions of church in the coming years. I can imagine that Emergents would find his analysis and forecasts encouraging on that level, but would not care much for some of his "affirmations of a Revolutionary" pp. 128-130 Revolution:
Absolute moral and spiritual truth exists, is knowable, and is intended for my life; it is accessible through the Bible.
This sort of black and white statement is usually the answer to "the wrong question" in the world of McClaren and Co. and makes post-modern folks very uncomfortable. I wonder why Barna would be invited, and why he would accept. Any thoughts?

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Closet Arminian's Top 10 Observations at the 2006 Desiring God Conference.

1. These Reformed people are passionate.
In my Wesleyan, break-off charismatic Lutheran background, I was always given the impression that Calvinists were were pretty stiff and unemotional, all about correct doctrine and not much about Life and Spirit.

2. Ph.D. Divs can be incredibly passionate about the glory of God.
Education is not the enemy of a passion for the Gospel or commitment to the authority of Scripture. And you can learn a thing or two from these guys.

3. These people are stuck on the idea that it's all about the Supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.
They can't seem to talk about much else.

4. These people really like books.
By the end of day 2, the tables in the huge bookstore which had been piled high with theology, devotion and scripture (not much fluff here) looked like a plague of locusts had been through. I don't know when I'll read all this stuff.

5. There are no vending machines near the auditorium itself.
If you miss the concessions and don't have time to dash downtown, you will starve. Unless Aaron C. gives you a giant Pearson's Salted Nut Roll.

6. Mark Driscoll didn't worry me as much as I thought he might.
He made some excellent points.

7. I had never heard of Dr. Voddie Baucham, but I'm still looking for the socks I was wearing Saturday morning.
I want all my kids to see the video of his message "The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Post-Modern World."

8. We're all in this together.
Calvinists, Arminians and in-betweens, in confronting this assault on propositional truth and the heart of the Gospel lead by Emergent and others. (I would challenge people to download the 40 year old "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" by Paris Reidhead, a strong Wesleyan, and note the same theme of Christ-centered Gospel echoing across theological space and time.)

9. We're all in this together.
Imagine 3,149 Calvinists (and me) raising the auditorium roof with all 4 (or was it 5?) verses of Charles Wesley's "And Can It Be."

10. I think it's all about the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.

All the messages will soon be available free at, linked at right. I will need to revisit several of them.