Category Archive: Theology – Liturgical

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October 13, 2016

Helper & Helpee?

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Marriage,Theology - Liturgical,Theology - Pastoral :: Link :: Print

In Reforming Marriage, Douglas Wilson quotes Genesis 2:18 (“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him”) and 1 Corinthians 11:9 (“Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man”) and then draws this conclusion:

As a result of the creation order, men and women are oriented to one another differently. They need one another, but they need one another differently. The man needs the help; the woman needs to help. Marriage was created by God to provide companionship in the labor of dominion. The cultural mandate, the requirement to fill and subdue the earth, is still in force, and a husband cannot fulfill this portion of the task in isolation. He needs a companion suitable for him in the work to which God has called him. He is called to the work and must receive help from her.  She is called to the work through ministering to him. He is oriented to the task, and she is oriented to him (p. 19).

I’ve read this book several times and have used it in premarital counseling, but as I read it this afternoon this passage stood out to me and a bunch of questions came to mind.

Are we to think here of men and women, in general, or only of a husband and his wife? Presumably it is the latter. Though the opening sentence speaks of “men and women,” it goes on to speak of how they are “oriented to one another,” and in the context that would be in marriage. Still, it is possible to (mis!)read the next sentence (“The man needs the help; the woman needs to help”) as if it were speaking about every man and every woman, as if women exist to help men. One could wish the wording were clearer to guard against that misreading, but a close reading does suggest to me that Wilson has in mind only husbands and wives.

Still, some questions remain. Is it true that husbands need to be helped and women need to help, and not the other way round? Is Genesis 2 making a blanket statement about husbands and wives, teaching us that the husband is to do the work and needs help in doing it, while the wife is only to assist in the work as her husband’s helper? Does a wife never do the “the labor of dominion” directly, but instead takes part in it only “through ministering to” her husband? May she not be involved in some “labor of dominion” that is distinct from her husband’s particular labor, that she does without ministering to him? Is the husband not to be oriented to her? Is she not in any way oriented to the task (or even to a task that is not her husband’s task)? Is this orientation thing an either/or, either an orientation toward work or an orientation to a spouse? Can it not in some way be both?

Surely “the labor of dominion” in Genesis 1 includes procreation. The command-blessing there is “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” That, as Wilson says on the next page, is something a man cannot do on his own. But is procreation something that the husband does with the assistance of his wife? Is she only helping him do his task of being fruitful and multiplying? Is she involved in procreation only “through ministering to him”? Is he “oriented to the task” of procreation, while “she is oriented to him”?

On the contrary. In the Bible, the mandate given as a blessing in Genesis 1 is given only after the creation of Woman (that is, chronologically after what is reported to us in Genesis 2) and is given to both Adam and Woman:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:26-28).

Both of them are created in God’s image. Both of them, male and female, are blessed. To both of them God gives the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to have dominion over the fish and birds and animals. There is no hint here that this mandate is given to the man, with his wife in only a helping role. She receives the mandate too.  She is to be fruitful and multiply as much as he is, and they take part in this calling together. He helps her and she helps him. He receives her help and she receives his help.

What is true of procreation, of being fruitful and multiplying, is true of the other aspects of this mandate, subduing the earth and having dominion over the creatures. As James Jordan has written, “The cultural mandate is given equally to men and women (Gen. 1:28). In cultural life, the man is to help the woman as much as the woman helps the man.”

It is not only that “The man needs the help; the woman needs to help.” It is also that “The woman needs the help; the man needs to help.” Both the husband and the wife are involved in carrying out the mandate God gave, and both need each other’s help in various ways.

What about Genesis 2, then? Doesn’t God say that he is making the woman to be a “helper comparable to” Adam?  It certainly does. But a helper with what?

In Reforming Marriage, Wilson links the help with the “labor of dominion,” but that isn’t mentioned in the context in Genesis 2. At the time God created the woman, the cultural mandate had not yet been given; it wasn’t given, according to Genesis 1, until after the woman was created and then it was given to them both. What about procreation? Again, nothing is mentioned about that in Genesis 2.

One might think more generally of companionship. After all, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” There is a certain sort of companionship, a certain sort of help, that the wife gives to her husband, a kind of help that he cannot receive from another man or from one of the animals, a kind of help for which he needs someone similar but different, fully human and “comparable to him” but not exactly the same.

That’s true enough. But note, too, the flow of events in Genesis 2. God created Adam first and then created the Garden and put Adam into the Garden to serve it and to guard it, tasks that are later associated with the work of priests. The Garden is God’s sanctuary, the place where God will meet with his people. Adam does not have dominion over it and is not going to subdue it. It is not Adam’s Garden but God’s, and Adam is in it as a priest, a palace servant, commissioned to serve and guard it. That priestly task is given to Adam, along with the gift of all the trees of the Garden (including, obviously, the Tree of Life) and with the warning not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Only at that point does God say that it is not good for the man to be alone and that he needs “a helper comparable to him.” If we are to associate the Woman’s role as “helper” here with any task given to Adam, it is not the task of dominion or of procreation or of cultural development, the tasks that hadn’t been given yet, but the priestly task, the task of serving and guarding the Garden, the task of worship and care for God’s sanctuary  — and that’s how Paul applies the creation order in 1 Timothy 2: not to all of life, not to cultural work or the “labor of dominion” but to the sphere of liturgy and worship (see the provocative discussion here; my link does not, of course, necessarily imply agreement with everything in this article).

Genesis 2, then, is not talking generally about men and women or husbands and wives and doesn’t indicate that husbands are to be oriented toward their work, while their wives are to be oriented toward them and help them in their work. It’s talking, rather, about a specific sphere, a specific sort of work and help in that work. But the broader mandate, the mandate to fill and subdue and rule the world, God gave to men and women, husbands and wives, alike. Each works, each needs help in many ways, each gives help.

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Posted by John Barach @ 2:25 pm | Discuss (0)
July 12, 2016


Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

“The people must not be present at worship only in the capacity of hearer and spectator, nor even merely to follow in thought what is pronounced by the minister of the church, but they must also speak from their side and at least they must respond Amen to what is said in the name of the congregation” — Osterwald’s preface to the liturgy of Neuchatel (1713), cited in Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 63n10.

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Posted by John Barach @ 5:00 am | Discuss (0)
July 5, 2016

A Voice for the World

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

The church of Christ, the first fruit of the new creation, expresses in articulate and intelligible words the silent sighing of nature subjected to corruption and waiting for deliverance (Rom. 8:19-23). Its “liturgy” of gratitude for the deliverance received through Christ and for the hope of the manifestation of the glory to come, lends a voice to the entire world.

Christian worship carries to the throne of God, through Christ the supreme liturgist, the praise and supplication of all humanity and of the whole creation — Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 56-57.

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Posted by John Barach @ 5:37 am | Discuss (0)
July 4, 2016


Category: Theology,Theology - Eschatology,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

All narrow confessionalism and all complacency in any local ecclesiastical tradition must hear the apostolic judgment: “What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?” (1 Cor. 14:36) — Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 52n9.

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Posted by John Barach @ 2:19 pm | Discuss (0)

Common Prayer

Category: Prayer,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

In the Lord’s service, we pray together, so that each individual who is taking part in the prayer focuses not on himself and his own needs and interests but on the community as a whole, even if those other needs and interests don’t really move him emotionally much at all.

R. Guardini puts it this way:

He will have to get out of his circle of customary ideas and appropriate a whole world of thoughts infinitely broader and richer. He will have to leave and go beyond the horizon of his own little interests, of small private and personal profits…. He will have to address to heaven some of the requests that do not touch nor interest him directly; he will have to hold up before God these requests with as much devotion as if they were his own, even though they are far from his interests and dictated only by common concern (cited in Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 50).

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Posted by John Barach @ 5:23 am | Discuss (0)
July 2, 2016

Subject and Object

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

“God can be the object of our worship only if he is first the subject, that is, the one who gives us the worship” — Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 4.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:21 pm | Discuss (0)
July 1, 2016

Royal Majesty

Category: Theology - Ecclesiology,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

The church is not only the spokesman of Christ the Prophet, not only the organ of Christ the Sacrificer, it is also the army of Christ the King. And something of the royal majesty and glory of the Risen One who ascended to heaven has to come through in the worship of the church. Worship has to reveal partly in its liturgical forms the royal glory of Christ, the triumph and present power of the Head of the church, who was once the crucified, and who is now the living, the conqueror.

By its hymns, candles, the beauty of the ornaments of the sanctuary, and all the dignity and fullness of the divine service, the church makes known to the world that its Lord reigns in the midst of it in his divine beauty. — Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, pp. 22-23.

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Posted by John Barach @ 8:23 pm | Discuss (0)

Christ Praying in Our Prayers

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

When the church prays, it is Christ who prays in it. Christ extends his prayer in the church.

Thus all the petitions and praises that the body of Christ presents to God through its members are valuable only when passing through him who is the Head of the body, the Son of God. All the prayers of the church are offered to God “through Jesus Christ our Lord” or “in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

This is why the church must be careful how it expresses its prayers; they ought to be worthy, grounded and shaped in him who is truly “the hearer. The church must give to its prayers rigorous thought, right intention, spiritual fullness, and a propriety of tone and beauty of form that are in harmony with the divine person of Christ and his holy prayer, both in John 17 and Matt. 11:25-27 and in the Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:9-13 — Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 22.

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Posted by John Barach @ 9:47 am | Discuss (0)
June 30, 2016

Teaching, Fellowship, Bread, and Prayers

Category: Bible - NT - Acts,Theology - Ecclesiology,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

In Acts 2, we are told of the early church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed to all, as any had need.”

Richard Paquier comments on the interrelationship here between the church’s adherence to the apostles’ teaching, the church’s common prayers and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and the church’s care for the poor:

These three aspects of the common life of the first believers, even if clearly distinguished from each other, are nevertheless very intimately connected.

The breaking of bread and the prayers, therefore, include necessarily the teaching of the faith and the declaration of the word; worship is done in a brotherly agape [love] and includes perhaps already an offering for the poor (cf. I Cor. 16:1-2).

It is in prayer and in the fraternal and sacramental communion that the congregation nourishes its life in Christ and draws its strength in order to witness to the outside: it is there as well that the impetus is given to those charged with the dedication of themselves to their less fortunate brethren.

When worship is neglected or degenerates, witness to the faith and charitable works dry up; and inversely, a church that is no longer missionary within its environment and gives only parsimoniously to help the poor, proves that the worship it celebrates is merely an empty formality (Dynamics of Worship, xviii-xix).

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Posted by John Barach @ 8:18 pm | Discuss (0)
February 21, 2014

The Problem with “Probably”

Category: History,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

Perhaps I’m beating a dead horse here, but here’s the flipside of what I wrote earlier about Beza’s claim that thousands of baptized children end up perishing eternally (“How would he know?”): Where does Beza get the idea that a baptized child is probably (but only probably) one of God’s children?

A couple comes to you, their pastor, with a serious question.  A few weeks ago, their four-month old daughter died.  You had baptized her when she was a week old, and now they want to know what value that baptism had.  “Pastor, is our daughter in heaven?”

From Beza’s perspective, I suppose your answer is “Probably.”

“Probably?” they say.  “But you’re not sure?”

“Well,” you respond.  “I can’t say for sure.  It’s not as if baptism gives you that sort of guarantee.  Nor does being born in a Christian home.  Nor do all the prayers you’ve prayed or the prayers we prayed at baptism….”

“So there’s a chance our little girl…?”

“Well, yes,” you say.  “Um … many thousands of baptized children are never regenerated, but perish eternally.”

“So our little girl might have too?”

“Perhaps.  Yes, that is possible.  But again, my answer to your question — is our daughter in heaven? — is probably.  Probably God loved her.  Probably she was one of God’s children.  Probably she was adopted into his family.  Probably.”

“But … on what basis can you say that, Pastor?  Given that many thousands of children just like our little daughter do perish — that’s what you said — what makes it probably that ours didn’t?”

And I have no idea what you, if you were following Beza, would say.  What would make it probable?  That baptism engrafts a person into God’s church and covenant?  But in the Old Covenant, we certainly see many covenant members who were apostate.  Perhaps one might say that the New Covenant is so much more powerful and efficacious, and yet we still know of many members of Christ’s church who fall away.

Would it be more probable if the couple asking were strong Christians and less probable if they were weak Christians or if they were living in rebellion, unrepentant, but not yet excommunicated at the time of the baptism?  Is the probability grounded on the parents’ faith? On the faith of the pastor? On the godliness of the church?

But Beza doesn’t go this route.  He doesn’t say “Some are more likely God’s children because of this or that and some are less likely.”  He says of all baptized children that they are probably God’s children.  But … on what basis?  In the end, this “probably” seems like wishful thinking, leaving a grieving parent thinking only “… but possibly not.”  And that’s no comfort at all.


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Posted by John Barach @ 2:11 pm | Discuss (3)

Baptism Isn’t a Secret Thing

Category: History,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

In his debate with Jacob Andreae, as reported by Jill Raitt, Theodore Beza often began to bring up predestination.  When he did, Andreae cut him off, telling him that they were dealing with baptism and would come to predestination some other time.  To Andreae, these were clearly two very different subjects.  But from the fact that he kept bringing it up, it seems clear that to Beza it was impossible to discuss the efficacy of baptism without reference to predestination.

That’s worth thinking about.  At the risk of oversimplifying things, it would appear that for Beza baptism is efficacious (at least, to the fullest degree) only for those who are predestined to eternal glory with Christ.  Others who are baptized are included in the covenant, whatever that means exactly, given that Beza  distinguishes being in the covenant from being in God’s family.  But they cannot really draw any comfort or assurance from their baptism per se, nor can they have that comfort for their children who are baptized.  At most, they can know that those children are “probably” loved and adopted by God, though they might be among the thousands that perish.

But can you imagine an Israelite wondering if his circumcision really meant that he belonged to Israel, God’s holy nation, God’s chosen people, God’s royal priesthood?  Of course he belonged.  That’s just what circumcision was.  He didn’t need to have any doubt about it.  Instead, he could be confident about it, completely assured that he was the object of God’s love — and then he could, and should, act on the basis of it.

After all, circumcision wasn’t one of the secret things.  In Deuteronomy 29, Moses says, “The secret things belong to Yahweh our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (29:29).  God gave Israel an obvious ritual, a cutting in the flesh, that marked them out and made them into members of the holy nation because he wanted them to live in terms of their circumcision.  Circumcision wasn’t a secret thing that belonged to Yahweh; it was a thing which was revealed so that Israel could do what she ought to.

And so with baptism.  If we tie the comfort and assurance of baptism to predestination, as Beza did, so that only those who are predestined to eternal glory with Christ can have any comfort, any assurance that they are God’s beloved children, we turn baptism itself — a public, open act — into a “secret thing.”  God knows who is really baptized, who really belongs to his family, but we don’t — and so we cannot live in terms of our baptisms, cannot really look to them for comfort and assurance.  At most, we can live on an entirely speculative “probably.”

But predestination is a secret thing.  Baptism isn’t, and therefore we can — and must — live on the basis of it.  “There should be no doubt that when a child is baptized, it enters into God’s adoption and love, said Andreae.  There should be no ‘probably,’ but rather assurance” (Raitt, 167).


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Posted by John Barach @ 1:52 pm | Discuss (0)

How Would He Know?

Category: History,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

The longer I think about Beza’s position expressed at the Colloquy of Montbéliard, the more puzzling it becomes.  Beza “affirmed that many thousands of baptized children are never regenerated, but perish eternally.”  But … how would he know?

These aren’t people who were baptized as children and then grew up and apostatized.  Andreae would have granted that apostates perish and wouldn’t have been at all shocked that Beza affirmed that they did.  No, Beza must be speaking of children who die in infancy or at least in early youth, so that we cannot say of these children “They were clearly unbelievers.”  They were baptized; they did not apostatize (at least, that we know of!); and yet Beza is sure that thousands of them perish.

I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of reasons why Beza would assert such a thing, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything really plausible.  Did Beza perhaps think that any child who is baptized but who has ungodly parents is bound to perish in spite of his baptism?  Would Beza include in that number any child baptized in a Roman Catholic church, which Beza would likely regard as a false and apostate church.  Is that the reasoning behind Beza’s strong — and, to Andreae, shocking — affirmation?  If so, isn’t this close to Donatism, where the efficacy of the sacrament is thought to depend on the godliness of the one administering it?  I find it hard to believe that Beza would hold such a view.

Or is Beza reasoning backwards from the fact that many thousands who are baptized do end up apostate and perish to the idea that there must be many thousands of children who are baptized but who also perish?  Or …?

I really have no idea what could have prompted his claim.  Anyone out there have a suggestion?

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Posted by John Barach @ 1:29 pm | Discuss (0)

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