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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Overtime I’ve come to realize a certain phenomena — what I’ll call the “Presbyterian dilemma.”  It’s not that this phenomena is unique to Presbyterians or has anything in particular to do with Presbyterianism at all.   It would be true of other (reformed, fundamentalist, etc) circles as well.  However, this dilemma holds that wherever there is placed a premium  upon sound doctrine and the purest form of biblical teaching there invariably appears an equal inclination to inner division and internal schism.   It just seems be a rule; those who insist on doctrine just can’t seem to get their mind off where they disagree with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Whether it’s over predestination, baptism, evangelism, styles of worship, or anything else, it seems disagreements always carry the day.

What is this? Why is this?  Why are those who seem to care most about truth and the bible also the most prone to divide the Church?  That can’t possibly be what Christianity is about.  Something must be missing here.  Is there a yet another ‘truth’ they’re overlooking?  Or is ‘truth’ really even the problem?  Have we in our day overemphasized and exaggerated the importance of truth while overlooking the more important things — like maybe love?

The question is then: Does doctrine divide?

If you know what I’m talking about, or are at all tracking with me, let me know.  Feel free to comment away.  I’d like that.  But, I want to invite you to think about these things and take a little journey with me into what I’ve dubbed the “Presbyterian Dilemma.”

church-steeple

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christless_christianity_bookcover

Below is and excerpt from an article written I while ago by Michael Horton before he published his book by the same title.  Talking about C. S. Lewis depiction of Christless Christianity.

In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has the devil (Screwtape) catechizing his minion (Wormwood) to keep the Christians distracted from Christ as redeemer from God’s wrath. Rather than clumsily announce his presence by direct attacks, Wormwood should try to get the churches to become interested in “Christianity and…”: “Christianity and the War,” “Christianity and Poverty,” “Christianity and Morality,” and so on. Of course, Lewis was not suggesting that Christians should not have an interest in such pressing issues of the day, but he was making the point that when the church’s basic message is less about who Christ is and what he has accomplished once and for all for us, and more about who we are and what we have to do in order to justify all of that expense on his part, the religion that is made “relevant” is no longer Christianity. By not thinking that “Christ crucified” is as relevant as “Christ and Family Values” or “Christ and America” or “Christ and World Hunger,” we end up assimilating the gospel to law. Again, there is nothing wrong with the law-the moral commands that expose our moral failure and guide us as believers in the way of discipleship. However, assimilating the good news of what someone else has done to a road map for our own action is disastrous. In the words of Theodore Beza, “The confusion of law and gospel is the principal source of all the abuses that corrupt or have ever corrupted the church.” When God’s Law (and not our own inner sentiment) actually addresses us, our first response should be, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” not the reply of the rich young ruler, “All this I have done since my youth.”

Full article found here at: Modern Reformation

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Cultural Relevance

“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1)”

After reading this I had a few thoughts.

How is it that we have a “disciple” of Jesus making such a remark? What has brought him to point out these buildings? It seems rather odd – rather out of the ordinary. Obviously Jesus probably saw them anyway. Why would a disciple of Jesus be making a point about these “wonderful stones” and “wonderful buildings”?

Well, we learn from other places in the scriptures that the Jews were thinking about things differently than we might expect. They didn’t know that the Christ would have to suffer and die, and that he would be taken back up to heaven before everything was said and done. No, rather they were looking for God’s kingdom to come in their day. They were looking for the promises to be fulfilled. That is why, after Christ fed the multitude, they tried to make him King. That is why, when he rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, they all shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the Highest!” But of course it wasn’t his time yet. And when asked by Pontius Pilot about this very thing, Christ answered that his kingdom is not of this world otherwise angels would come down from heaven.

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Now the question is: do we today harbor this same sort of “kingdom-now” sentiment? I don’t know what was going on in the mind of this disciple, but I can try to imagine the possible scene. They’re all walking “out of the temple” he notices the great buildings (for no doubt they were probably quite impressive structures) and feels compelled to bring it to Christ’s attention, “Look.” He is already thinks they’re pretty important otherwise he wouldn’t have brought them up. After all, isn’t this what a lot of people would’ve been talking about anyway? Didn’t these “cultural artifacts” represent the issues of the day? Beyond perhaps connoting power, didn’t they mean quite a bit culturally? Of course they did. In one short word, they were relevant.

And he wanted to know what Jesus Christ thought about them. We go to the next verse for Christ response.

“And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)”

How often are we guilty of the same very thoughts of “Kingdom Relevance”? After all, it was as they were leaving the temple (translate: still thinking about churchly/Christian things) that this came up. It was with an eye towards the Kingdom of God (it would seem) that these thoughts were entertained. Indeed, the thought might go: how else are we to advance the Kingdom? How else are we to make a difference in the world? How else are we to be relevant in our culture? And the answer is… These things will all be thrown down.

But in a different place he tells us, “On this rock I will build my Church.”

“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isaiah 28:16)”

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22)

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So, I’ve been doing some reading on the difference between paedo-(infant) baptism and credo-(confessing) baptism. Up unto this point, I’ve not possessed a grounded understanding of either position. And although I have been inclined more and more towards infant baptism I’ve really had no biblical basis with which to defend any position. That said, now upon further reading, I find myself being firmly planted within the historic, reformed teaching of paedobaptism. Why? It simply seems to represent the weightiest biblical president and argument.

It seems much of the fundamental disagreement over the matter involves one’s view of the Covenant theology in general and the New Covanent in particular. It seems Baptists would hold that the New Covenant is “unconditional.” That unlike the old covenant, the new one doesn’t have any conditions whatsoever. This is simply untrue.

In Romans 11.20-24 Paul is speaking to a (New Covenant) church and warns them against falling away.

“…they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”

He’s making the correlation (and continuity) between the old and new covenants. The old had conditions as does the new. Likewise he teaches the Colossian church,

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard…” (Colossians 1.21-23a)

Furthermore, Hebrews 3-4 show how it is possible to fall away from the living God which thus presupposes a covenant relationship. Now, this is not teaching that the “elect” (truly regenerate) will ever fall away — that would deny the perseverance of the saints. Rather it is merely in line with Hebrews 6 which states

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame (Heb 6.4-6).”

Secondly, it seems Baptists would assume that only adults can be believers. But this also doesn’t seem to square with scripture either. For David talks about this

“From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou has established strength” (Psa 8.2).

“For Thou art my hope; O lord God, Thou art my confidence from my youth. Upon Thee I have been supported from birth; Thou art He who took me from mother’s womb; my praise is continually in Thee . . . O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth” (Psa 71.5-6, 17).

“Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother’s womb” (Psa 22.9-10).

Think of how contrary this sounds to much of today’s modern decisionistic regeneration… “When you’re old enough then you can become a Christian.” No! This doesn’t seem to be David’s idea.

Third, it is stated by credobaptists that baptizing infants would annul the sufficiency of the new covenant if and when these children later grow up to be unbelievers. But this arguments slices both ways. For one could make the same argument against baptizing all “confessing” adults as well – since they too might fall away in unbelief. Does this make void the New Covenant? No, it merely makes apostasy that much more terrible a sin.

Finally, the sacrament (of baptism) itself, and its nature seems to be at stake here as well. Is it merely an “external sign”? Or is it not also the thing signified? I it merely an external observance? Or is it something of a “grace-bearing” nature? It seems in our day and age, the sacraments (both baptism and the Lord’s supper) are relegated to mere physical activities. They may serve as signs or memorials, but no longer represent spiritual realities themselves. I believe Reformed theology has historically taught that the sacrament are both the “signs, and the things signified.” To translate; this means there is more going on when we baptize and take communion than meets the eye. And this is the teaching of the “means of grace.” Oh that we would recover that doctrine.

In conclusion, there is much more that could be said on the topic, but I do believe that the whole force of Scripture (both old and new testament) would have us believe that God is still the God who has promised “to be God to you and to your descendants after you” (Gen 17.7)

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children-

with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103:17-18

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