Ever since I read Bruce Mawhinney’s Preaching with Freshness at the start of my ministry, I’ve been following his recommendation and taking (or trying to take) Fridays off. So today I read a bit, did some errands around town, drove out to Sexsmith, fifteen minutes north of here, to peruse the magazines in the Peace River Bible Institute library, drove home and checked out one of the Christian book stores in town (I almost needed a magnifying glass to find the book section!), and then had supper.
Here are a few scattered (but chronological) observations:
* Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong‘s voices blend beautifully and their duets are great music to get the day started.
* It strikes me as interesting (not to say rather strange) that the latest issue of Bibliotheca Sacra, the journal published by Dallas Theological Seminary, contains an article by David F. Wright entitled “The Baptismal Community,” in which Wright talks about how the early church viewed baptism as the entrance into the church, turning pagans into Christians. He also talks about infant baptism in this connection. Yes, this is in a Dallas Theological Seminary journal and it’s based on a lecture Wright gave there. Strange but encouraging. What’s up with today’s dispensationalism?
* Having read Peter Leithart’s Westminster Theological Journal review of John Milbank’s The Word Made Strange, I realize that I do need to make the effort to read more of Milbank. I have Theology and Social Theory, but it’s a pretty intimidating tome and I wrestled greatly with his “An Essay Against Secular Order.”
* For that matter, I need to make a point of reading Leithart’s other articles and reviews in WTJ.
* For the last several Sundays, we’ve had groups of PRBI students showing up in our afternoon services. John Bell, who teaches Corporate Worship, has been recommending that they check us out as an example of a more liturgical church (which might be hard for an Anglican or a Lutheran to believe). It’s great when students spot me later and come up to talk, as one did in the restaurant last night and another did in the library today. I’ll have to see whether it’s possible for me to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, Bishop Bill, and do some teaching there.
* It’s also nice when, out of the blue, you run into a friend and end up having a good talk. Nice to see you in the library, Jamie!
* Joe Henry’s Shuffletown is one of my favourite albums. It’s a combination of folk (?) and jazz and a bit of quirkiness. There’s some wonderful instrumentation, and Joe has his trademark voice and offbeat sense of timing. Many times I can’t really make head or tail of the lyrics â€” I often have a sense that I’m grasping fragments of a story â€” but there isn’t a song on the album I don’t like. I wish I had it in CD format.
While reading through Thomas Oden’s Becoming a Minister, I came across this quotation from Martin Luther:
Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times. He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known about it beforehand, he would have had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it (Table Talk, LW 54, #113, pp. 12-13).
This summer, I’m booked to speak at Reformation Covenant Church‘s annual Family Camp, along with Jim Jordan. The camp runs from June 9-14. It’s located on the Oregon coast, which is very convenient, since I have to leave early in order to attend Classis Western Canada 2003 in Salem at the end of the week.
So far, none of the topics have been finalized, though one suggestion was that I would speak about covenant and evangelism. I’m expecting to hear some more in the near future.
Aha! With the help of Russ, I’ve managed to fix my blogger problem. The cure? I cut my template and pasted it into a word processor file. Then I selected another template, went in to edit it, and pasted in my old template. It worked! Thanks, Russ!
Why, oh why, won’t Blogger publish my template? I keep revising it, saving changes, and hitting publish, only to get a blank where an error message would normally appear and a link which, though advertising itself as leading to “more info,” leads only to a general troubleshooting page. Nothing I do seems to help. Anyone else having trouble publishing changes to your template?
The Bible taught the early church how to worship, but in the later Middle Ages, great corruptions set in. The Protestant Reformers were primarily interested in the restoration of worship, rightly perceiving it as the center of the Kingdom. After all, when God called Israel out of Egypt it was not first and foremost to establish a theocratic nation, but to engage in a third-day worship festival. Unfortunately, within a hundred years, the liturgical dreams of the Reformers were mostly in shambles.The Reformers wanted three things. First, they wanted a return to Biblical regulation of worship. Almost immediately, however, this concern was sidetracked by a minimalist approach. The rule, “we should do in worship only what is actually commanded in Scripture,” was taken in an increasingly restrictive sense. The Reformers had realized that God’s “commands” are found in Scripture in “precept, principle, and example.” Their heirs tended to exchange this wholistic openness to the Word of God for a quest for “explicit commands.” Instead of reading the Bible to see the patterns presented there for our imitation, there was an attempt to find the bare minimum of what is actually “commanded” in the New Testament. The book of Revelation, which shows how worship is conducted in heaven (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”), was ignored. Anabaptist minimalism soon overwhelmed the Reformed churches.
Second, the Reformers wanted a return to Old Catholic forms, as they understood them. A reading of the liturgies they wrote shows this. Though all of the Reformers tended to over-react against anything that reminded them of Italo-Papal imperial oppression, they were not so “anti-catholic” as to reject the early church. Soon, however, sectarian reaction against anything that “smacks of Rome” overwhelmed their concern.
Third, the Reformers wanted participation in worship from the whole priesthood of all believers. They wrote dialogue liturgies in which the people had many things to say and sing. They had their congregations singing, for instance, the creeds, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. Soon, however, the strength of the Medieval devotional tradition reasserted itself â€” the “low mass” tradition in which the people only sat and watched and listened, while the minister did everything. This Medieval tradition was the essence of the Puritan view of worship. In worship, the Puritans departed from the desires of the Protestant Reformers.
It is important to understand that although the Puritans did uphold the theology of the Reformers, they rejected the Reformers’ views on worship at some crucial points. After the Puritan Revolution failed and Charles II came to the English throne, there was a conference at Savoy between Puritan Presbyterian churchmen and the newly restored Anglican bishops. It is very interesting to note what the Presbyterians proposed. They wanted “to omit ‘the repetitions and responsals of the clerk and people, and the alternate reading of Psalms and Hymns, which cause a confused murmur in the congregation': ‘the minister being appointed for the people in all Public Services appertaining to God; and the Holy Scriptures … intimating the people’s part in public prayer to be only with silence and reverence to attend thereunto and to declare their consent in the close, by saying Amen.’ In other words, no dialogue, no responsive readings, no congregational praying of the Lord’s Prayer or any other prayer. The Anglican bishops replied that “alternate reading and repetitions and responsals are far better than a long tedious prayer.” They also noted that “if the people may take part in Hopkins’ why not David’s psalms, or in a litany?” In other words, if it is all right to sing metrical paraphrases of the psalms, why is it wrong to read responsively the very words of Scripture?
Originally the Puritan movement had not been opposed to prayerbook worship, but in time the combination of state persecution with the continuing strength of the Medieval quietist tradition led the Puritans into wholehearted opposition to congregational participation in worship (pp. 28-30).
Last night, I finished reading James Jordan‘s The Sociology of the Church, a book I deeply enjoyed. I found Jim’s treatments of the nature of conversion and of Pentecostalism and the gift of tongues very helpful and very balanced. The book is quite challenging, and there’s a lot in it that I’ll need to think through some more, but I highly recommend it.
I may post some more quotations from this book later on. But here, from an essay entitled “God’s Hospitality and Holistic Evangelism,” is a quotation about the eldership:
Rule in the church is to be by means of footwashing (hospitality) as much as by giving orders (Mark 10:42-45; John 13). Christ rules by being present with us, by being our Host and having us over to His house for dinner, even by being our Servant! The elders, who are to imitate Christ, must do the same (pp. 235-236).
Tim has just published a new essay online: “Paradoxology: Thoughts on the Trinitarian Grounding of Human Faith.” I highly recommend it.
Look at what Paul actually says when he talks about how people become Christians. Look for instance at 1 Thessalonians where he says quite a lot about it without ever using the word justify or any of its cognates. He talks about the gospel coming to you in the power of the Spirit. You accepted that word not as the word of man but as what it really is, the word of God that is at work in you believers. It’s quite clear what Paul is talking about, that he comes into town announcing that Jesus is Lord, as a royal herald. He is saying that the crucified Jesus is the Lord of the world. And this is not, “Here is a way of salvation. You might like to apply it to yourself.” It’s not, “Here is a new way of being religious and you might enjoy it.” This is really an imperial summons: “On your knees!” Nobody ever went into a Roman town and said, “Caesar is lord and you might like to have this experience of acknowledging him as lord if that suits you.” They said, “Caesar is Lord, get on your knees and we want the tax right now.”And when that message is announced, some men and women find to their astonishment that they believe it. I say to their astonishment because it’s stupid. Paul says that it’s stupid. He knows it. You can just imagine it. It’s like someone telling a joke in a foreign language and not knowing why people laugh. Paul was going around the Roman world saying that this crucified Jesus is the lord of the world. He must have felt many times this is the craziest thing imaginable yet when I say it, lives are changed, the community emerges, people love each other. That is grace. And it is all of grace. But then the minute they say, “I really believe that Jesus is Lord, I really believe that God has raised him from the dead” and so on, then the doctrine of justification comes in and says you are all one in Christ Jesus. And, the proof is right there in Galatians 2:11-21. The first major discussion of justification is really all about who you are allowed to eat with. It’s not about how to go to heaven when you die.
(Note: Wright does not deny that believers to go to heaven when we die, though he stresses that our final goal isn’t heaven but the resurrection body. As well, his point here is that the first major discussion of justification has to do with table fellowship here on earth and not, there in Galatians 2, with how to go to heaven.)
My mother tells me that my previous blog entry is getting old, and she’s right. So here’s an update.
I wasn’t able to move into my new home on the Saturday as I’d hoped and so I stayed the weekend at my deacon’s house. On that Monday, March 3, while I still had access to the computer, I finished proofreading Ralph Smith‘s book on the covenant and the Trinity (forthcoming from Canon Press). I highly recommend the book, by the way. It contains a very helpful critique of Meredith Kline’s understanding of the covenant.
As soon as I’d fired off the list of typos to Doug Jones, I started packing all the stuff I had at Leo’s place. I arrived here in the early evening, went out for supper, and then spent my first night in my own home.
For most of the next week, a large part of my time was spent taking books out of boxes and putting them on the shelves which line the walls of my basement study. It’s the first time I’ve seen all my fiction and all my non-fiction together in one place. Most of my fiction stayed in boxes (or was still at my parents’ place) during my four years in Lethbridge.
As for my own reading now, I’ve just finished Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer, which is a collection of all of his short stories starring John, who travels the Appalachians with his silver-stringed guitar, encountering and overcoming evil of all sorts (recommended by Jim Jordan), as well as Gene Wolfe’s wonderfully titled The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (no, that’s not a typo: the first story in the book is entitled “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”). I’m also two-thirds of the way through Jim’s The Sociology of the Church and loving it.
This past Monday, I also joined a singing group. It’s a small group â€” about eight people â€” and they sing what, I suppose, gets roughly categorized as “classical music,” though it ranges from Renaissance madrigals (two of which I need to learn this week) to John Rutter’s “A Gaelic Blessing.” In case you’re wondering, I’m one of the two basses.
This week I also taught a catechism class, attended the Grande Prairie Regional College’s InterVarsity meeting (to which I’ve unofficially been appointed a “resource person”), and led a men’s Bible study, and tonight we’ll be having a meeting of the church council. On Monday, my phone lines were installed and shortly thereafter I had about 300 e-mails in my Inbox; now, however, there are only thirty. So I’ve been fairly busy. Nevertheless, I do hope to do some more blogging in the future.
At long last, my new house is finished. For the last several weeks, while my house was being built, I have been living in the basement of my deacon’s house (and I deeply appreciate his generosity in allowing me to do so). But on Friday, I took possession of my new house. Alex, Calvin, James, Steve, Tim, Jamie, and Leo all helped move my stuff from my garage into the house. Thanks!
I should be moved in by tonight (or at least by Monday). But the phone company tells me that they won’t be able to install my phone lines until … March 10. So I will be incommunicado for the next few days, I’m afraid.
Andrew Kuyvenhoven on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 16:
Most people are sooner inclined to say that Jesus took the fear out of dying than to confess that he puts us to death while we are living. We don’t mind “dying in the Lord,” when the time comes, but we would like to continue having our own life as long as we’re here (103).