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Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Great Schism -- Grantian Florilegium

This is actually (mostly) a reply to the first comment that was posted to the blog.

It really doesn't matter what you're a fan of, if you're not the executive. The church has one. His name is Jesus. And there is ample evidence in what He (organically, through men, their pens and personalities included) dictated by His Spirit (John 14:25-26) that He desires rule by a plurality of elders in His congregations (cf. Acts 14:23, Acts 15, 1Tim-Titus, etc., etc.).

Church government by elders is not at all democratic but simply the execution of executive orders. When a church "votes" its elders, an individual must not be electing those whom he likes but identifying, by the guidelines set forth by the executive Himself, whom He has selected. The church is not at all a democracy; it is a (the ultimate) benevolent monarchy.

If (and I really mean "if"--some of the best thought on this has been by convinced congregationalists) there is to be governance above the congregational level (I'm convinced there is), we are not free to invent more offices to carry this out. In the first age, there were evangelists, elders, apostles, and prophets. The latter two no longer exist. (cf. Acts 15)

I'm exceedingly unconvinced that the schism had anything to do with style of governance. To overlook the actual occurrence of events in favor of an innovative reinterpretation may be popular among contemporary historians, but it is a poor approach to history.

One thing that the schism does teach us is that there can be error on both sides. Interestingly enough, for all of the Roman errors, the Eastern error on the double procession of the Son is (in my completely irrelevant opinion) more significant.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

John Frame -- Jollyblogger

I love John Frame. He's the nicest, most humble, winsome, rolly-polly theologian...

whose theology I cannot stomach.

I have a copy of Worship in Spirit and Truth that was among the most agonizing reads of my seminary career. Here's a long-time RTS professor; he's not supposed to be one of the bad guys. Now, I understand that the book is basically the outcome of a Sunday school class that he taught at a church in Cali, where he was responsible for the worship. So, it basically started out as an apology for why what they were doing at that church. But a large segment of the 'Reformed' world actually uses it as a manual for worship.

Worship is the most important thing that we do. Period. So, it was sheer agony of disappointment that I read such a promisingly titled book by such a highly regarded man on such a vital issue. As I began to read it, I noticed certain types of errors cropping up with regularity. I got a set of highlighters and began to give each category of error its own color. I soon ran out of colors and added categories with various colors of underlining.

In the end, I had a book that looked like a piece of modern art, and 10 (ten) categories of errors that filled it: a redefinition of the Regulative Principle (if you don't like it, say so, but don't make it mean the actual opposite of what it historically means); anti-traditionalism (I don't mean an opposition to tradition for tradition's sake, but opposition to something only because it is old--what Lewis would have called chronological snobbery); bad exegesis (either expositing or applying a text incorrectly); bad logic (drawing a conclusion that doesn't follow from his argument); annihilation of the corporate/private distinction (basically a denial that called worship is any different from the rest of life); poor covenant theology (several false distinctions between the life of an Old Testament believer and New Testament believer) false definition of evangelism as the purpose of worship (evangelism is something desirable to occur but not the purpose of worship; worship is the ultimate purpose of evangelism); impracticality (a naive understanding of how things work in real life); anti-theological bent (strange one for a theologian, but in several places he disdains ideas purely because they are theological and praises others because they are not); and, self-refutation (places where he says the opposite of something he had earlier claimed to believe).

So why do I bring this up? Because Jollyblogger has appealed to John Frame in defense of his series of critiques of Mark Dever and the T4G guys on gospel relevance (see my earlier post recommending the T4G series) . I wasn't even going to comment on Jollyblogger's, because C.J. Mahaney so soundly refuted his understanding of 1 Cor 9 (something that JB skirted around in another recent post). But the appeal to Frame brought out the narcissist in me, since I had spent so much time tackling these very issues with him.

And lest you think that worship is its own animal, Frame does this in other areas as well. I once had a course under him at RTS in which he applied many of the errors above to the Ten Commandments. When he was done, there was little left of the decalogue. Commandments 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, and 10 had been decimated; the category of concupiscence had been syllogized into meaninglessness; and whatever remained was more of a guide for what we want to be like, some day, maybe, rather than a rule of life. It made me want to curl up with my Larger Catechism or spend an afternoon on Watson's Ten Commandments or the second half of Fischer's Marrow of Modern Divinity (the one with Boston's notes).

I meant what I said about John Frame. I love him. He's a fantastic guy and a sincere believer by every evidence. He's an engaging, affable professor. But whenever someone wants to culturally contextualize against good exegesis, good logic, and sound theology, he is any easy authority to whom to appeal. That said, some of what Jollyblogger quoted was quite well-suited to where we are willing to go to and what we are willing to endure to evangelize; but, in his quote Frame erroneously applies it to worship; also erroneous is any application to what we present as the basic message of the gospel (as JB seems to imply by critiquing posts at T4G in which this was the main issue).

Evidence And Paul's Journeys -- Tim Challies

I'm thankful for poor motivations to right belief and practice.

That might sound like an odd thing for me to say, but the fact is that I am often too wicked, weak, foolish, or any combination of those, to believe and do the right things from the right motives. I of course would like to have the best motive for everything--the glory of God, and this is something in which I have been and must continue to be growing.

Thank God, then, that He knows my poverty and accomodates it. He gives me incentives such as the blessings that ordinarily accompany righteous living. He makes the unified logic of Scripture wonderfully attractive to my mind (there are so many out there who moan and groan about Reformed theology being too rational because it came out of the modern period; am I the only one to whom it is obvious that it is rational because God was merciful enough to make the Bible rational for us?).

And He gives us evidence: the signs and wonders of Jesus, the way He often allows us to see His providence fit together in our own lives, the very heavens themselves. These thoughts were stimulated by a post by Tim Challies, in which he introduced a book on biblical evidence by saying:

The Bible teaches that it is not historical or archaeological evidence lies at the heart of Christianity, but a childlike faith. Neither is it signs, wonders or miracles. The Scripture tells us that "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign." A generation that serves the Lord will be content with a faith that God is who He says He is and that He has done what He says He has done. Nevertheless, because Scripture claims it is true, we should believe it to be so and should expect that we would find it to be so.

Yes, perhaps childlike faith is a better impetus for belief, but God has accomodated us so much more richly than that. Consider Jesus in John 14 telling Phillip to believe because of His works if he cannot because of His words.

This is why I have no problem with evidentialists (as long as they are honest about their evidence). The Bible is true, so the evidence will be in its favor; and, God made it that way to accommodate us. I also don't have a problem with presuppositionalists (as long as they don't fall off the anti-rationalist side of the horse), because it ultimately takes the work of God before anyone can even see the evidence rightly.

But more than taking sides in apologetic approach, I just wanted to say how grateful I am to God for accomodating my impoverished mind, affections, and will. He gives me more reason to believe than I ought to need. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cross Centered Relevance - C.J. Mahaney

Rev. Mahaney, borrowing largely from Ray Ortlund Jr., borrowing largely from the Apostle Paul, has made an excellent post on what it means to be "all things to all people" in ministry; and, it does not mean anything close to what most people mean by being "seeker friendly." In fact, Paul refused to conform to culturally accepted norms of what a world-impressing evangelist ought to look like. Check out all three (Mahaney, then Ortlund from Mahaney's article, and ultimately Paul himself in 1 Cor) for yourself!

Secession As Obedience -- Doug Wilson

I've often heard people refer to the American Revolution as a treasonous breach of Romans 13. I must confess to never having heard it framed as he has, but Doug Wilson makes a convincing argument:

Since the colonies had their own governments and were not techinically governed by parliament, American independence from England was already a fact. The failure was on the part of George to protect some commonwealths within his kingdom from oppression by another. When the English parliament refused to stop imposing taxes upon the independent commonwealths on this side of the Atlantic, and George refused to defend us (he liked having extra funds to fight France), we had to declare independence from the crown.

It sounds good to me, but I'm not sure how accurate it is. History is on my "read when I have time" list, which means probably not until I am able to go to an office and lock myself in for 12 hours a day.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Adrian's Blog

Adrian Warnock is back blogging and actually has some helpful things to say in the midst of his personal ramblings--one of which is the great responsibility that comes with great freedom.

This, I think, touches on something that, for some reason, Christians have been slow to wake up to. The relative freedom and anonymity of the internet puts my character under a magnifying glass and shows me just what I am like when nobody is looking.

Sadly, I am afraid that for many who claim the name of Christ, this freedom and anonymity has exposed that the visible and invisible church are as disparate as they have ever been. This goes a long way toward explaining such phenomena as the emergent church, even with its obvious and egregious errors. The church is less and less the Church these days.

Not surprisingly, the Reformation definitions of a church can come to the rescue here. Those who try to come up with new categories for things because they think the old ones don't work anymore (Jollyblogger even leaned this way recently, abusing a quote from John Murray that gave one sentence's practical meaning the exact opposite of the preceding sentence, using the magic of bold text, and the disclaimer 'emphasis mine') may benefit from further acquaintance with those old categories. We need a recovery of church discipline, without which a church is not a true church.

This must begin with the positive discipline of teaching believers to make use of the law as a rule of life. Legalists and Antinomians alike abound, the former misusing the law as a means of earning favor with God, the latter not giving it a second thought after offering themselves absolution in gospel formula, although never having had the work of grace done in their hearts.

But negative discipline is just as important to the purity of the church. Scandalous sin must be dealt with, and this extends to the internet. Whether it is gossip, slander, heresy, theft, pornography, or whatever--when these sins become known, they must be dealt with. Period.

Anyway, this has rambled on long enough. I'm glad Adrian is back, and I look forward to commenting on many future entries.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Ultimate Pro Walmart Article - von Mises Institute

This is wonderfully written--stuff I've been saying for ages, but it's anathema in my rural community. Thank God for Wal-Mart!

The Cutting Edge Has No Edge -- Together For The Gospel

Sometimes people wonder why our congregation isn't more interested in relevance. The fact of the matter is that we believe that we know better than the culture does what is relevant--not because we're so smart or so good, but because God has told us what is relevant. If we would just be faithful, we will find that we are relevant. If we try hard to be relevant, we will find ourselves becoming unfaithful. A fantastic series of articles (by Mark Dever, Ligon duncan, and Al Mohler) over at Together For The Gospel make these points:

Did Jesus Talk More About Heaven Than Hell? - JollyBlogger

Thanks for yet another helpful article. I hope others are benefitting as much. It is good to be careful and thoughtful.

Whether or not it's just the sloppy(I don't think it is) who say that He spoke more of hell than heaven, one thing is certain:

Few of us speak about either of them enough. How many of those who sit in front of us on Lord's Day morning and evening really get a sense of this life as but the doorstep to eternity, a comparatively unimportant blink.

I wonder if we even give commensurate emphasis to the concept that is probably responsible for most of your search hits, heaven's rule on earth.

This all underscores to me the importance of two things.

One is the oft zealously defended serial expository approach to preaching, which hopefully leads to matching the Scripture's emphases in our preaching.

The Second is less popular--the importance of mastery of the languages. Software can tell you the definition of a word, the conjugation of a verb, but it can't give you the feel and flow of the text, improve your sense of how literary structures emphasize or shade meaning, etc. But these are the exact things that help us emphasize in preaching the things that the text itself is emphasizing. It's amazing how often these emphases/shades don't come through in our translations.

I'm A Comment Monkey!

Ok. I keep commenting on blogs. I know that I am a nothing, that my opinion doesn't matter, that I am relatively young, relatively unlearned, relatively inexperienced. But the narcissism of the blogosphere just invites me to make my thoughts public.

So just in case, in God's providence, I end up some day being old, learned, and experienced; and, He is pleased to use my thoughts to help others, I'm putting my comments on other blogs here. If I'm going to be thinking them anyway, I might as well have a record of it.

Also, this blog is ecclesiastically important. If I am an utter lout or flaming heretic, there needs to be a record of it, so the church can take the necessary action to protect congregations and censure me. No, really, I'm serious about that.