When Did Reformed Christians Become Adventists?

Frosted FlakesI remember a time when Advent was foreign to most Protestants except for Episcopalians and a few Lutherans. Now one hears regularly of the Advent season in conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Some even bring out the wreaths, the candles, and orchestrate Hallmark moments where an entire family will be involved in a reading and lighting that Sunday’s candle. The observance of Advent among the low-church Christians are usually ham fisted, of course, because technically Christmas carols should not be sung until December 25th – and that’s because Jesus isn’t born until then. Before Christmas, expectations of Christ’s advent are supposed to be properly advental, which makes “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” an Advent hymn, and “Joy To the World” a Christmas hymn. How the liturgical calendar comes back to bite.

The objections to Advent – not to mention Christmas – are legion in the Reformed tradition. The regulative principle is one of those reasons.

But beyond the obvious confessional concerns are some more trivial and some more substantial. Among the trivial is the idea that Advent has become the commercial bridge between the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas, thus baptizing a time of much consuming, both by the mouth and the wallet, with the religious patina of “Come, Lord Jesus, Come Quickly” (but not so fast that merchants fail to generate the seasonal profits on which their enterprises depend). Leigh Eric Schmidt’s book, Consumer Rites, is among the best on the commodification of holidays in American history and he notes the following:

In a market philosophy organized on the guiding priniciple of growth, every year Christmas advertizing was said to get “bigger and better,” and seemingly the only question that remained was how early in November to begin the blitz. The Dry Good Economist candidly noted in 1902 that many retailers consider 15 November or even 1 November “none too early” to open the “Holiday Campaign.”

One of the merchants that Schmidt includes was the New School Presbyterian and financial sponsor of Dwight L. Moody, John Wanamaker, of the famous Philadelphia department store that bore his name. According to Schmidt, “As one of the most influential and powerful merchants of his day, Wanamaker was rarely outdone, and at Christmas he kept up a formidable flow of store souvenirs, gift catalogues, newspaper advertisements, trade cards, window decorations, musical concerts, Santa Claus stunts, and other holiday entertainments.” Wanamaker even had Christmas hymnals printed for use in the store, and also wrote messages appropriate to the season such as the following: “To get right with Christmas would make men right with one another, nation with nation, and . . . put right this old world, almost falling to pieces.” Didn’t the baby Jesus as a grown man turn out merchants from the Temple for making profits off religion?

A more substantive concern about creeping Adventism among Presbyterians is that because Christmas follows Advent, hard pressed are many believers not to think that the coming of the Lord upon which they are meditating in December is the Advent that took place two millennia ago — thus causing eschatological rubber-necking. Of course, we can sing Advent hymns (if we are going to sing hymns) with Christ’s return in view, and believers should be encouraged to live expectantly, hoping for their Lord’s second coming. Mind you, this is a remarkable disincentive for commerce since living in the light of Christ’s imminent return leads to prayers like Calvin’s – “let us not become too deeply attached to earthly and perishable things.” But if we were going to sing Advent hymns it would make more sense to sing them as far away from Christmas as possible, so that folks don’t lose track of where they are in redemptive history.

We live in the inter-advental period – period. Christ has come. He is coming again. We are not awaiting his birth. Been there, done that. In which case, why don’t we sing all those Advent hymns at General Assembly and Synod, a time when Christmas is a distant memory and when commissioners would do well to consider their work in the light of “the fullness of time”?

98 thoughts on “When Did Reformed Christians Become Adventists?

  1. I will be the first to say that I love Christmas, maybe for reasons unbecoming of the RPW, but as I grow in the Reformed faith maybe some of that will get sorted out. But from where I sit today I do see value in the notion of Advent-as-memorial. It enables those of us who celebrate it to have a clearer vision of the incarnation and what it meant in the past and what it means to us now in-between the advents. Memorializing the incarnation is at least of some worth simply because it is the starting point of the Biblical Gospels, it began something that is leading into something greater. The memorial of the advent doesn’t have to generate rubber necking, it can place context to the notion of the humble inception of the eschaton, it’s current inconspicuous growth through the ministry of the church, and it’s glorious commencement at the second advent. Demarcating this season for this memorial seems to be benign and in fact beneficial when removed from its economic trappings. I am certainly open to correction on this, but I lack any current insight into how Advent subverts the spirituality of the church.

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  2. An emphasis on incarnation as the primary reconciling act will see Advent participation increase as Christmas would be presented as more central to the Gospel than Easter.

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  3. But we can’t go back in time. We cannot exist in a state before Christ’s birth, which is what Advent encourages. And if Advent invites us to go back to a time when Israel was hoping for a Messiah, isn’t Advent making the world safe for theonomy, since theonomists want the safety and muscle that Israel had before Christ’s first advent?

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  4. Thanks for the book recommendation. Looks like a good work.

    As far as Advent goes I agree wholeheartedly with you. Ironically, given your dig against theonomists the RPCUS (the only explicit Theonomist denomination) does not celebrate the church calender.

    I would certainly like to read more about the “Christmas creep” in Reformed Protestant churches if you have any recommendations.

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  5. Leaving your theonomy comments aside (I’m a recovering Calvinist and theonomists aren’t even on my thought radar anymore), Advent doesn’t encourage us to “exist in a state before Christ’s birth”. To say it does is to pull one element of the Advent season and remove it from its wider liturgical context, both the full-caledar context and the local Sunday morning gathering context.

    Advent, however, has a threefold meaning: (1) the advent of the incarnation, (2) the advent of the Lord in Word and Spirit, (3) and the advent of the Lord at the end of time.

    Again, this first anticipation can only be viewed as “”exist[ing] in a state before Christ’s birth” if it’s removed from a wider context, which, meaning no foul here, I would expect a- or anti-liturgical Christians to do.

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  6. Dr. Hart,

    The ordinances of communion and baptism call us to look back and forward. They don’t call us to exist back there. Even though Advent is not an ordinance and ought not be a binding practice on the church, I think the analogy holds true with Advent as well. I am a 2k-er who has no intent, or ability for that matter to usher in Christ’s second advent. I think that the RPW holds out the only solid argument against the celebration of Advent. At this point I am not sure I am comfortable with a carte blance subscribtion to the RPW for a variety of reasons that I am still sorting out at a biblical-theological level. When I attended a high(er)-church LCMS congregation several years ago, I was first exposed to Advent liturgies, and it has continued to be a meaningful form of worship for me to this day.

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  7. I eschew this Advent business in the stated worship service on the grounds of the RPW. I eschew it in the home on the grounds of “bah humbug”. I’m covered. Godfrey’s now famous “take Christ out of Christmas” advice is still tops but one of my buddies’ “winter is the reason for the season” is running a close second.

    I’m anticipating a post in a few months on sightings of Lent in the Reformed world.

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  8. Thanks for the “winter is the reason for the season” quote. I’m stealing it.

    Some other token benefits for celebrating 52 holidays instead of 2 or 4, just imagine all the money you’ll save this year when you stop celebrating. Also, you don’t have to miss out on the great shopping deals, you’ll just get to spend it on yourself! And if you have to work on Christmas, it’ll help you to be a good employee on that day and not gripe about it. Oh, and if you lose Christmas, you’ll probably lose the main practical objection against psalm-singing… the beloved Christmas carols.

    Of course, the best part is having evangelical types wonder if you’ve become an atheist or secularist because you say ambiguous things like, “Seasons greetings” but never “Merry Christmas.”

    Bah-humbug, indeed!

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  9. DGH, is it cool if I get a little irritated every time I see a church that’s neither Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic, or Orthodox with even a Christmas or Easter service because I know that even if they’ve done any kind of Advent or Lent, it’s a stripped-down, adulterated version grafted onto Methodism or Presbyterianism or Bapt(ism?)? If you’re going to be Reformed, just do it. Don’t take the best parts with the candles and beautiful paraments, while leaving the more terrifying Advent hymns (“O Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning) or all 13 verses of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” on Good Friday to the Lutherans.

    On a different note, the Advent lectionary is centered on the first Advent of our Lord 2,000 years ago and also on the Second Coming, so it’s not really throwing anyone back into Old Testament times. We’ve been listening to Luther’s Advent sermons at my church during the midweek services over the past three weeks, and he’s been talking about the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the birth of St. John the Baptist. Pastors also connected the coming of our Lord to his coming in the Lord’s Supper, which we’ve celebrated throughout Advent. Rushdoony wouldn’t get any bad ideas about stoning adulterers, if the witch of Endor called him up and brought him to the midweek Divine Service.

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  10. None of the seasons celebrated by some parts of Christ’s church visible are found in Scripture, at least in the NT. But, from another perspective, I find the church year useful for celebrating the life of Christ. Advent is the really the end of the church year for it focuses on Christ’s coming. The irony of Advent is that we are led to anticipate the coming of Jesus in power, yet we are given a child in the manger.

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  11. Now to press the anti-Christmas/pro-winter solstice argument into the service of anti-Reformation Day/pro-Halloween. After all, does a guy with an unmarked grave really seem the type to look fondly upon Calvinpalooza’s?

    Bah-humbug and trick-or-treat?

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  12. I’m torn on this.

    On one hand, I think that Gary’s comment points to another unintended consequence of observing different seasons–that Christ’s work will be artificially dissected with the result that some part of His work for us will be deemed “the primary reconciling act.”

    On the other hand, while Christ certainly did not teach us construct a nativity scene in remembrance of Him, He did exhort us to study the Law and the Prophets to understand how his life, suffering, death, and resurrection were necessary. So though we can’t (and shouldn’t want to) go back to a time before Christ’s birth, but we can (and I think should want to) contemplate that era and understand how the OT Scriptures created an expectation of a coming messiah so that we can understand how Christ fulfilled the prophecies and exceeded that expectation.

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  13. And here’s Christian who says, RSC and DGH are REformed academics, I don’t like REformed Academics, ergo, I don’t like RSC and DGH. Brilliant!

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  14. Your response is not on-the-mark. I made a comment about your knee-jerk negativity. You responded that I tend to find modern day Reformed seminary graduates to be shallow. Shallowness and knee-jerk negativity are two different things. You and Clark remind me of the PuritanBoard where every other post is: “And look at this that I found that is sad. Sadly, this is typical. It’s sad that this is the state that we’re in. It’s a good thing we have ritual sacraments though!”

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  15. Here’s something I like: I like Christmas lights, especially if they’re colorful and sparkly. Not dull yellow like so many are these days (who manufactures those? probably some atheist company). And who puts all blue lights on their house? Atheists? R. Scott Clark? It’s like the lighting in an underground parking garage.

    I like Federal Theology. Classical Covenant Theology systematized. Powerful.

    I like the Authorized Version. I like the Bible that makes other people mock and get angry. I like a Bible with no holes or authority of man in it.

    I like double chocolate crisp PowerBars.

    I like beach comber bicycles.

    I like the fact that I can pray for everything, worry about nothing, and give God all the glory.

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  16. Those aren’t the only things I like (I am preparing for attack). It’s true that when you state what you like you open yourself up to attack. When you are critical always you maintain a fortress of defense against other critical types.

    “I like the Authorized Version.” KJVO ALERT!!

    “I like double chocolate crisp PowerBars.” So all you think about is junk food? Chocolate? What are you some rich, fat lady with a box of chocolates to make you happy?

    “I like beach comber bicycles.” That sounds poofy. In Australia that’s not good.

    “I like the fact that I can pray for everything, worry about nothing, and give God all the glory.” Is that all you get out of the Bible? Is that all you understand of doctrine? [Actually I just saw it on somebody’s signature on a forum once.]

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  17. Christian,

    What about pina coladas and getting caught in the rain? Health food? Yoga? Champagne?

    Your ad hominem attacks and odd list of likes and dislikes add nothing to the conversation. If you’re looking for someone took take bike rides on the beach with you, you should check out a dating site. Otherwise, please try to focus on relevant issues.

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  18. I just wanted to let you know that many Hispanic Pentecostal congregations I grew up in were implicitly, if not explicitly, anti-Christmas; and this was within the past two decades. It was just gradually introduced as acceptable in the churches I attended as a kid, but you will still find strong opposition to it among some Hispanic Pentecostals.

    Perhaps some of us should join the war on Christmas?

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  19. In the opposition you mention among the Reformed Dr. Hart, the post you link to is specifically speaking of English and Scottish Presbyterians, and not of other Reformed, right? I think the same link mentions other Reformed that continued observing holy days.

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  20. RL, how does it feel to be anticipated? You couldn’t control yourself nevertheless.

    I’m making a rare point. A point really never made anywhere: it’s easy to be critical because when you are positive you get attacked. Just like you’ve done here to me. Despite anticipating you and thinking that would stop you you’ve nevertheless play a useful role anyway.

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  21. >What about pina coladas

    Couldn’t identify the ingredients if you put a gun to my head. Sounds like they have little umbrellas though. Whatever makes you happy, RL.

    >and getting caught in the rain?

    I don’t usually give a…

    >Health food?

    90% of it is a scam, sorry to inform you. If it says ‘organic’ think peace sign in velvet sold on a corner of Haight Ashbury.

    >Yoga?

    My brother is a yoga teacher. He’s a godless moron who calls himself a ‘yogi’ and thinks there is something called ‘yogi food’. He shows incredible contempt for me; me being the only Christian and conservative in my family. He’s a really nice guy. He’s not even knowledgeable in New Age material, let alone ancient Hindu or Buddhist (or whatever) writings. Suffice to say I have a low opinion. Stretching is always a positive thing though.

    >Champagne?

    Never understood it. Any alcohol tastes like poison to me anyway. ‘Lyric poets drink wine from the bottle; epic poets drink water from a wooden bowl.’ – Milton. Guess I’m – or Christians in general are – more epic poet than lyric.

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  22. Robert Jackson Xian,

    You missed all the fun of RL’s question. Maybe late 70s pop rock isn’t your cup of meat.

    But haven’t you and DGH fallen into the same old dull routine?
    You keep writing to the blog, taking out personal ads.
    You’re still nobody’s poet, and your contributions are more than half bad.
    Maybe you can meet us by tomorrow noon,
    And cut through all this red tape,
    And a bar called O’Malley’s,
    Where we’ll plan our escape?

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  23. To all those who reacted negatively to the piece, why so so, negatively?

    The Scriptures record a lot of births, e.g. Cain, Moses, John the Baptist, Christ. If the mere recording of the event were a command to celebrate it why not celebrate the birth of Moses? With respect tot he Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” He specifically commands the preaching the Word and baptism in the Matt 28. He specifically says that the Sabbath was made for man, and earlier commanded us to to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. So with regard to Xmas exactly where in Scripture is that command, or from where is it by good and necessary consequence deduced? Where is the condemnation of the Westminster Assembly and the Presbyterians of the Reformation up to the late 19th century for failing to obey God by failing to celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th of December?

    I get the feeling that a lot of the reactions are like that of Jonah when the gourd died. All DGH did was suggest perhaps there was no gourd (command for Xmas) in the first place, and suddenly lots are hot under the collar.

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  24. There are pretty good folk tunes called Christmas carols. They have Christian themes. Hark the herald angels sing glory to the new born King. Not a bad tune. What shall be done with it? Going to go Mao on our culture? We have a second amendment.

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  25. No, there was no fun in his question. Just a predictable and humorless response. And yes I’m familiar with RL’s song. One of the worst songs ever to hit the airwaves, IMHO.

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  26. As long as it is cool to misrepresent people I’ll feel the need to defend.

    Rushdoony never would have stoned anyone, capital punishment is the job of the state not the Church, as Rushdoony taught. But why let someone’s actual writings and thoughts get in the way of a well-placed dig at a brother-in-Christ?

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  27. It was an over statement to say that DGH may be suggesting there was no command for Xmas, as it is likely as not that he wrote his posting warmed by the burning of the yule log in the fireplace,and by the lights of his tree. Then again he can be pretty old side, so he might wait until the 24th to put the tree up.

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  28. Well those songs are hardly commanded either (at any time of year) are they, at least if you follow the Westminster formulations with respect to the 2nd Commandment. On the other hand, I have no issue with singing Psalm 87 in December.

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  29. @C Did you miss the part where I said “… I have no issue with singing Psalm 87 in December.”? Of course there is singing. God commanded us to sing in His worship (Col 3:16), and even gave us the Hymnal He wanted us to use. It is called the book of Psalms. Why would you think I didn’t “believe in” angels, if by that you mean, do I believe there are spirit only creatures that serve God? Well, since the existence of angels is taught in both the Old e.g. Ps 91, and New e.g. Mt 4 (quoting Ps 91), Mt 26:53, Testaments, I would of course say I believe that angels exist. I don’t however, believe in them, since my faith is in Christ alone.

    Angels worship/serve God how God requires them to do so. What God requires of man is distinct from what God requires of angels. Christian ethics are not governed by the actions or behavior of angels, but by the Word of God.

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  30. Andrew: To all those who reacted negatively to the piece, why so so, negatively?

    (1) Dr. Hart, would you agree that we can distinguish between observing Advent in church and observing Advent in the privacy of one’s own home?

    Given that you believe that the RPW applies to the church only, it seems like we ought to have liberty to hang Advent calendars on the wall.

    (My daughter has a really cool Lego advent calendar …)

    (2) It seems also that there are degrees of observing Advent, ranging from “Oh look — it’s Advent.” all the way up to a High Holy Month.

    I don’t know that reading a Scripture from the birth narratives, singing Christmas carols, and preaching sermons from the Gospels during the month of December constitutes a violation of the RPW — but it is an “observation” of Advent.

    (Unless one thinks that singing hymns is contrary to the RPW, in which case we can take up a Col 3 debate at some other time. Perhaps Lent? 😉 )

    Jeff Cagle

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  31. Lego Advent calendar? Need I say more?

    I do. You may observen Advent in the privacy of your home. But isn’t that dualistic?

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  32. @Jeff,

    Given that you [DGH] believe that the RPW applies to the church only,

    The question is does DGH actually have warrant for that belief from what the Westminster Standards teach? The RPW is expressed succinctly in WSC 50 & 51, and does not qualify worship with “public”. Is there a distinction between public and private worship – sure. WSC 60 mentions both public and private worship, but when it comes to the RPW and the 2nd commandment, the Westminster Standards don’t allow for the idea that anything goes in private worship. Certain elements of worship are not applicable to individual/family private worship, e.g. the sacraments, but how a distinction between public and private worship turns into license for will worship in private is beyond me.

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  33. “No, there was no fun in his question. Just a predictable and humorless response. And yes I’m familiar with RL’s song. One of the worst songs ever to hit the airwaves, IMHO.”

    Wait just a minute there, Robt. Jackson. Like nobody is familiar with the “you’re all just papist presbyterians aka romanist ritual paedobaptists for which there is no room in the Reformed Baptist heavenly mansion because you are not saved” song?
    Oh. OK. Just checking.

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  34. As I understand it, the Dutch Reformed did and still do observe five holy days. I believe this goes back to the Synod of Dort. And from what I learned from my favorite church history professor, this was a concession to popular demands for the church calendar. In other words, it was a compromise. But many “old school” Dutch did not want to observe the liturgical year.

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  35. @Andrew:

    He’ll be able to respond to the warrant aspect, but I do know that DGH is quite opposed to letting the RPW run rampant in private lives. He considers this to be Frame’s fundamental error, I believe. If we let all of life be worship, we let worship draw from all of life, and there goes the RPW — and pretty soon, we’re writing bad books on worship (or so the argument goes).

    So I’m interested in this new wrinkle … DGH, do the Standards require the RPW in private worship?

    But in any event, the Lego advent calendar is not a form of worship in any way, shape, or form. It’s a fun exercise for 5 minutes at breakfast. And it’s about as far from worshipful as Santa Claus and Easter eggs. I don’t think there’s an iota of danger here.

    @DGH:

    Thank you for your permission.

    Is it dualistic? No, we sprinkled holy water on the whole thing, so it’s fine. 😉

    JRC

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  36. DGH, I have a historical question with a theological undercurrent:

    Which books would you recommend on the Old-Side / New-Side controversy?

    Here’s the undercurrent. In my church history class (taught, BTW, by a relative friend to the Klinian point of view), we learned that Old-Siders like Charles Chauncy eventually moved into Arminian and ultimately Unitarian theology.

    Given that you are no friend to either Arminian or Unitarian theology, and given that you also really like arguments that lump movements together, I assume that there’s some reason that you *do not* fear that an Old-Side position would lead ultimately to Unitarianism or some such.

    What is that reason? Do you as a historian disagree with what we learned, or do you see some barrier that prevents the slippery slope?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

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  37. >>Christian: “How does it feel to be anticipated?”

    I didn’t feel a thing.

    >>I’m making a rare point. A point really never made anywhere.

    A point never made anywhere? Now you’ve got my attention.

    >>It’s easy to be critical because when you are positive you get attacked.

    This is how I understand your argument: People who are positive get attacked more frequently than people who are critical, so being critical is easy in the sense that critical people escape the sort of attack that you are talking about.

    Whether or not its true, your point is out of place on this blog. It assumes that at least one of Mr. Hart’s goals in making his posts is to avoid attack, and to that end he makes critical points instead of positive points. I’m not sure how you define “attack.” You seem to define it as any statement that causes a dispute or disagreement. I don’t think that Mr. Hart seeks to avoid these. I do not know Mr. Hart personally, but it seems to me that he uses this forum to to engage with those with whom he disagrees. In your terms, he is inviting an attack, not avoiding one. I may be out of step with the times, but I think it an honorable endeavor. I quote C.S. Lewis to the point:

    ” In any fairly large and talkative community such as a university [or Internet], there is always the danger that those who think alike should gravitate together into ‘coteries’ where they will henceforth encounter opposition only in the emasculated form of rumor that the outsiders say thus and thus. The absent are easily refuted, complacent dogmatism thrives, and differences of opinion are embittered by group hostility. Each group hears not the best, but the worst, that the other groups can say.”

    >>Just like you’ve [attacked] me.

    I did not attack you. I attacked the logical boobytraps that planted in your comments. Specifically, your use of argumentum ad hominem (or argument against the man).

    Your comments were not a response to the merits of the post; instead, you simply said, “DGH and RSC say: “And here’s another thing I don’t like about everything…” Later, you clarified that you were focusing on Mr. Hart’s “knee-jerk negativity.” In a nice little one-two combination, you used the two most popular ad hominem subtypes–guilt by association and poisoning the well. Both run through all of your posts.

    You first associated Mr. Hart with Mr. Clark. Then you associated both of them with the Puritan Board. You continued, in a later post, by associating Mr. Clark with blue lights and Atheists. As far as I can tell, the “blue lights” comment was the first time you mentioned anything remotely relevant to the post’s topic.

    Your poisoning the well technique seems well practiced. It really is good enough to be used in a textbook. The way it’s most commonly used these days (especially in politics) involves two steps: first, shift the discussion away from the merits and make it about a personal trait of the opponent; second, shift the discussion to one’s own character and then present one’s self as a victim.

    Here’s how you did it. You asserted that Mr. Hart’s argument wasn’t the product of evidence and reason, but rather a result of his knee-jerk negativity. The implication is that no one should trust anything he says because he’s just a curmudgeon and faultfinder. (In your own terms, how do characterize your first two comments? Are they attacks? Are they something positive?). This is a boobytrap. If one responds by challenging your comments, you will undoubtedly respond with, “Aha! Just as I predicted, another negative comment.”

    Your next step was to make it personal. You feigned bravery by exposing yourself to an attack by telling us your favorite flavor of Power Bar and style of Bicycle. Having bluntly inserted irrelevant personal information into your comment, you set the stage for claiming that not only has your next opponent challenged your argument, but he’s also attacked you personally. Having seen this a thousand times, I knew what I was getting into, but I was willing to risk an insult to expose this non-argument.

    My attempt at humor may not have been funny, for that I won’t apologize. If it offended, I certainly do apologize. Through the dating site reference, I meant to highlight the difference between those sites and sites like this. This site teaches and invites discussion and debate. The proper response is to comment on the arguments, not the arguer. Dating sites are concerned with personal preferences and member profiles; that is, the people involved. Your personal profile is as out of place on this site as a debate about theonomy at Match.com.

    All arguments stand or fall on their own. It matters not who makes them.

    >>Despite anticipating you and thinking that would stop you you’ve nevertheless play a useful role anyway.

    Glad I could help.

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  38. You’re quite mistaken about Advent. According to the Catholic Missal Advent is the beginning of the Church Calendar, and as such is designed to help the faithful look forward to Christ coming as Judge.

    As to the rest of your comment, Sacred Theology is indeed practical, but is never meant to make us pragmatic.

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  39. >Why would you think I didn’t “believe in” angels, if by that you mean, do I believe there are spirit only creatures that serve God? Well, since the existence of angels is taught in both the Old e.g. Ps 91, and New e.g. Mt 4 (quoting Ps 91), Mt 26:53, Testaments, I would of course say I believe that angels exist. I don’t however, believe in them, since my faith is in Christ alone. Angels worship/serve God how God requires them to do so. What God requires of man is distinct from what God requires of
    angels. Christian ethics are not governed by the actions or behavior of angels, but by the Word of God.

    Yes, I was referring to the existence of angels, not angels as God. Why would I think you possibly didn’t? Because there are many self-identified Christians, even ones in Reformed seminaries, who don’t think the Word of God is even the Word of God. And for those types the subject of angels, their existence, makes them screw up their mouth and get a wry grin.

    Angels minister to those who believe in Christ, by the way. It’s not just a future thing, it’s a now and future thing.

    Psa 34:7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

    Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

    If you didn’t believe in the existence of angels you wouldn’t believe the Word of God. Again, even the term ‘reformed’ attracts teachers and church leaders who don’t believe the Word of God. Since I referenced a Christian hymn that referenced angels I thought I’d enquire…

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  40. How about this version:

    I was tired of praise bands and liturgical dance.

    My worship was shallow, and I knew it was wrong.
    My hymnal had less meaning than a Taylor Swift song.

    To look for an answer, I turned to the Web.
    I found an interesting site, and this is what it said:

    “If you like singing Psalms and worshiping God with your brain,
    If you think that Christ is the balm for your spiritual pain,
    If you like worship Sunday morning and catechism class at night,
    Then, you’ll like my blog, come read what I write”

    So filled with high hopes, I scoured the site.
    I learned that pure worship was God’s sole delight.
    Since even man’s best efforts are polluted with pride,
    On Scripture only should we use as a guide.

    This is how I discovered Reformed Faith and Practice,
    Blooming in later Winter, like a Redbird Cactus..

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  41. RL, I should have clarified and saved you time: being attacked for being critical is a wholly different thing from being attacked for being positive. In the former case you are already in a cave, well-protected, probably in a posture where your soft underbelly is not exposed and probably holding one or two sharp objects in your hands and perhaps a club too. In the latter case you are most likely mid-smile with your arms out-stretched in an embrace-the-world gesture, your neck down to your abdomen are exposed, and your posture is such that pretty much anybody can come along and knock you off balance sending you reeling to the ground.

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  42. I’ll confess to not having a heart big enough to love the world. I pray that when I’m called to glory I’ll know what that’s like.

    Once again you avoid the merits and resort to name calling.

    Do you really see yourself as exhibiting martyr-like bravery and love for the world for world?

    Do you really see people who disagree with you as spear-throwing cavemen?

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  43. Adam

    You don’t, by any chance, know where I can get an MP3 of “Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning”? It is indeed a great hymn and iTunes doesn’t seem to have it.

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  44. Jeff C,
    I can’t and won’t speak for dgh, but arguably Frame’s fundamental errors are in the plural.
    The first might be that the RPW is divorced from the Second Commandment. Consequently the RPW is NOT the good and necessary consequences of the Second as confessed in the reformed creeds and catechisms, but rather some amorphous overly philosophical principle dreamed up by scholastic Puritans.
    Another would be Frame’s confusion of worship with our call to glorify God in all our life.
    IOW Frame is a latitudinarian who wishes to blur received distinctions and definitions. But whatever his erroneous beliefs, I think it would be rather difficult on the basis of WCF 21, which begins with defining religious worship before going on to state the necessity of daily private/family worship and weekly public worship, to say the RPW does not apply to private worship.

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  45. Bob, I wasn’t trying to raise here a defense or discussion of Frame. I was just curious about Dr. Hart’s view of private worship. I agree with you that it appears to fall under the RPW. Nevertheless, it also falls outside of church proper.

    And thus we have a curious “bubble” in which something (clearly?) under the RPW is also outside the kingdom of the Church and more in the kingdom of … well, not the secular, clearly …

    Just wondered about Dr. Hart’s thoughts on this.

    JRC

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  46. I don’t even say in any of the above that I’m a positive type. You don’t know me. My initial comment to DGH (and RSC) was in a long line of jabs. It’s easy to get into the “Enough of this thing that is wrong, let be bring to your attention something else that is wrong…”

    I was also merely pointing out the fact that being negative is a safer position regarding attacks or backlash than being positive about something. It’s something people don’t usually think about, if they’ve thought about it at all.

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  47. Jeff,
    “I wasn’t trying to raise here a defense or discussion of Frame.”
    Granted, but the question is not that hard to figure out, regardless and with all due respect if Dr. Hart doesn’t concur. Two, the elders ought to be inquiring and instructing about these issues, as well the pulpit, when home visitation is conducted, the last being a requirement I take it in P&R churches. Three, the church either reforms family and private worship or eventually private and family worship will deform public worship, if the first two are deformed to begin with.

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  48. >>I was also merely pointing out the fact that being negative is a safer position regarding attacks or backlash than being positive about something.

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about arguments and how people respond to them. And, I’ve reached a far different conclusion. I’m genuinely interested in this topic, so I’d really like to understand how you reached that conclusion. I’m not trying to pick a fight. I’m inviting you to convince me by telling me what convinced you.

    It’s been my experience, that most people look beyond whether an argument is framed positively or negatively and judge in light of the evidence and reasons presented. Consider the following pair of statements: “My client is innocent; He’s a good man” and “My Client did not commit this crime; he’s no murderer.” The first pair is framed positively, and the second pair is framed negatively. I think, however, that the difference doesn’t matter. A jury of reasonable adults would look past how the statements were framed and decide the case based on the evidence.

    It’s further been my experience that when people do have a reaction to how an argument is framed, they generally find negative phrasing more controversial or offensive than positive phrasing. The opposite of what you contend. The most obvious evidence of this is the constant complaining about politicians being too negative. Recently, the Democrats have tried to score rhetorical points by labeling the Republican party as “The Party of No” and “The Opposition Party.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a politician being criticized or attacked for being too positive. Those who use negative language are more open to attack. Even this, I think is rare. Again, I think it matters little whether a politician frames his position as “supporting a quick withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan” or as “opposing the war in Afghanistan.”

    So relating this specifically to this post, is there really a difference between saying, “I believe that Presbyterian worship was more faithful before Advent services crept into our churches” and “I believe that Advent services are harmful and dangerous”? I don’t think there is. So I can’t see where one is safer than another.

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  49. RL, the phenomenon is real. People get in a groove of constantly observing what is wrong about this or that. It is common among Christians on internet forums and blogs and whatnot. Part of the reason it is popular, as I’ve stated, is because it’s a more defended stance in terms of one’s vanity being harassed. Pointing out something wrong or negative is easier to defend; saying something positive opens you up to myriad questioning and accusation, genuine and disingenuous.

    Let me give you an example: Michael Horton recently gave a positive blurb to a Scott Hahn book. (Whether you think that is wise or not – I don’t – set that aside.) Suddenly Horton is inundated with questions and accusations and insinuations that he is soft on Romanism, or is ignorant of Scott Hahn and the tactics of Romanist apologists allowing himself to be used as a useful idiot, or is a closet Romanist himself, etc. I.e. the incoming is from myriad angles, he’s totally opened up as a target, fairly or not.

    If Horton had said: “I was asked to give a blurb to a Scott Hahn book. Scott Hahn promotes a false Gospel. I don’t lend my support or name in any way to anything that promotes a false Gospel.” Now try to assail that. That’s a closed, poised, fighting stance.

    Take away the merits of the position and just see how it is more comfortable to be in one and not the other.

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  50. Jeff, as Bob S. indicates, the problem in Frame’s views on worship are legion. One is the denial of a difference between corporate worship and the rest of life — everything is worship, and so everything must be governed by the Bible, thus allowing for his confounding defense of biblicism. Another is that he doesn’t recognize that the RPW inherently makes a distinction between corporate worship and other areas of life, as in insisting that the church must have a biblical warrant for what it does, while believers have liberty either where Scripture is silent or in applying biblical teaching.

    I’m also with Andrew that private worship should not be purposefully different from corporate worship. Granted, no sacraments at home, no invocation, benediction, etc. But I’d hope for Scripture centered worship, teaching that conforms to the creed, songs that are sung at church, and similar reverence and awe (making allowances, of course, for children).

    So once again Jeff I sense you’ve isolated one remark I’ve made as if it is tension with other remarks. Never. I’m completely consistent, all the time. Just ask my wife.

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  51. Jeff,

    There is no good history of colonial Presbyterianism other than Trinterud’s The Forming of An American Tradition. It is biased toward the New Side, and behind that point lies the great irony for experimental Calvinists that the mainline church historians of the mid-20th century (like Trinterud) were pro-First Great Awakening even while being against Machen and the OPC. But it remains the best book on the colonial era.

    I sure do hope your professor is teaching you that Charles Chauncy was a Congregationalist and not a Presbyterian. Old Side and New Side are Presbyterian categories. New Light and Old Light are Congregationalist/New England categories. It is simply wrong to assume that the News and Olds line up in the same way in those different communions — another reason for distinguishing Presbyterians and Puritans. In New England the revivals produced greater extremes both for and against revival, thus making Edwards a moderate. But in the Presbyterian setting Edwards would have been on the New Side side.

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  52. Christian, let me say again, it is wonderful and heart-warming to see you on the side of positivity and charity. I assume that you have also had a change of heart about Reformed academics and the ESV. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

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  53. I’m sure that he gave me correct information (it was Dr. Jue, now at Westminister) … I was relying on my memory from four years ago.

    Thanks for the additional info.

    JRC

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  54. Christian, I think you assume (or fear) that all of us look at aggressive comments and do not see them for what they are.

    But rest assured that many of us heavily discount negative statements as being, well, negative and therefore devoid of positive content. The guarded stance that you describe (which is very real) is a liability in the eyes of many.

    Jeff Cagle

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  55. So once again Jeff I sense you’ve isolated one remark I’ve made as if it is tension with other remarks. Never. I’m completely consistent, all the time. Just ask my wife.

    Hah! Well, Merry Christmas … or Happy Sunday … or Season’s Greetings … (is an internet theology blog a part of kingdom 1 or kingdom 2?) to you.

    Jeff Cagle

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  56. Christian,

    I’m not convinced. Though I’m not one of them, there are millions of people worldwide who would assail the proposition that the Roman Catholic Church teaches a distorted gospel. Scott Hahn, for example, would attack such a statement. He might even write an entire book about it.

    The context of a statement and the disposition of the audience determine the response more than whether the statement is framed positively or negatively. We’d expect Roman Catholics to defend their doctrine, and we’d expect Reformed Theologians to defend our doctrine.

    It seems to me that the best way to protect one’s vanity–which you seem to insinuate is an important goal of Mr. Hart and Mr. Clark–would be to not say anything publicly. Why even have a blog, if you are worried about a fragile vanity? Why expose yourself to millions of anonymous comments?

    Instead of being a defense of vanity, I see Mr. Hart’s and Mr. Clark’s blogs as being an antidote to it. They along with many of those who comment on their blogs, strip arguments of pride and sentimentality. All arguments are judged by the same standard–Scripture and Reason. If one wants to object to what they say, it must be done on those terms. Pride, ego, and vanity have no room in such discussions.

    Sometimes they use strong language. But I am happy for that. Not because I think it wounds the pride of another, but because I am rather dull and slow to understand things. I need Truth pounded into my head, my pride resists it at every turn. Though some may respond better to a lighthearted cantata (which is fine), I need the sharp staccato of Scripture and reason unadorned. So to them I am grateful both for what they say and how they say it.

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  57. Why would I think you possibly didn’t? Because there are many self-identified Christians, even ones in Reformed seminaries, who don’t think the Word of God is even the Word of God. And for those types the subject of angels, their existence, makes them screw up their mouth and get a wry grin.

    Yeah, but a bit more of a judgement of charity would go a long way. No one on this side of glory has a completely correct theology. We all (sinfully) believe or think things about God and His decrees, creation and providence which are out of accord with what Scripture teaches. God’s working in us by his Holy Spirit and the diligent use of the outward and ordinary means of grace, (the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, one can only find in the church) sanctifies us not only in life conforming us to the image of Christ in our word and actions, but leads us to a better understanding of His truth. How this works out in the persons and lives of individual believers is different for every one, and never complete to perfection in this life. One cannot use one’s own understanding of Gospel as the rule, but rather it is to the church that Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, so it is the church that is to determine as to whether or not someone’s doctrine and/or life so far out of accord with what Scripture either teaches or requires that they should considered an unbeliever.

    Churches are full of sinners, because that’s what we all are. Christ didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

    I for one would rather learn to be patient with those with whom I disagree theologically, even as I know they need to be patient knowing that my own theological and practical defects are more than likely greater than theirs.

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  58. RL, if you think I use strong language here, you should talk sometime to Cordelia, our demon kitten, about how I sometimes address her.

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  59. I think everybody here knows what my initial point here was. You’re trying to stretch it out and apply to myself generic examples I give, or make me an advocate of one example or another when I am just giving examples. The initial observation was: it’s easy to get stuck in a groove that is, basically: “Enough about this wrong thing, allow me to draw your attention to something else that is wrong.”

    If you want to make a statement about me then apply my criticism to myself, as I’m as guilty as anybody (DHG does that above some). I’m not as guilty as DGH or RSC. I make stands in areas they can only mock (politics, for instance). But I do tend to have an ability to find the 2% that is off-the-mark in a person who, in the general run of Christianity, is 98% on-the-mark.

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  60. As much as I appreciate your work, DGH, it saddens me that you do not seem to be able to see the possible benefits or the beauty of observing the church calendar. Advent, Lent, and etc. need not be anymore confusing to our sense of eschatological time than the creeds, liturgy, or reading the gospels (surely you do not think the laity are dim?). May I ask you to reconsider your position and examine the benefits of the church calendar?

    In my view, the observance of the church seasons teaches/catechizes, and reinforces/deepens faith and understanding. Advent like Lent gives Christians a wonderful extended focus or long gaze (if you will) upon Christ, who he is, and all he has done, is doing, and will yet do for us. It casts the frantic Americanized holiday nonsense aside. Advent is like a calm oasis in a storm.

    I am not asking you to embrace the church calendar, but only ask if you can see it’s possible benefits? The church calendar does give the Christian life a rhythm and beauty during the year that draws one unto Christ to adore and worship him in all (If you can appreciate Wendell Berry, why not the church calendar?).

    On my part, I see no good arguments against Advent or the church calendar. The regulatory principle seems incredibly odd and in danger of becoming moralistic, but that is probably because I am a Lutherette? Anywho, I mean to pose my questions as a friend and not an adversary. May God richly bless you in all and may he inspire you to look into the beauty of the church calendar through confessional Lutheran eyes. 🙂

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  61. This is not much, but perhaps this mini-explanation will help clarify why Christmas songs are not sung in Lutheran churches until Christmas and why concerns about eschatology are unnecessary:

    The word “advent” is from the Latin word for “coming,” and as such, describes the “coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ into the flesh. Advent begins the church year because the church year begins where Jesus’ earthly life began–in the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation. After Advent comes Christmas, which is about his birth; then Epiphany, about his miracles and ministry; then Lent, about his Calvary-bound mission; then Easter, about his resurrection and the sending of the apostles; and then Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost, with the sending of the Holy Spirit.

    Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming,” but Christ’s coming manifests itself among us in three ways–past, present, and future. The readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem. The readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the future focus on his “second coming” on the Last Day at the end of time. And the readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.

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  62. Hello Lily,
    They’re all over at the Machen Public School thread vigorously hashing it out (and I do mean). You may or may not want to join in, Lutheran day schools or no.

    The reformed answer to the question in a nutshell is Col.2, Rom. 14. The OT feastdays have been nailed to the cross with Christ and we are not to reintroduce them – or anything like them into the worship of the church. The one in seven Lord’s Day is sufficient along with allowance for occasional days of prayer or thanksgiving as providence warrants; not the rote yearly anniversary days/seasons of Advent, Christmas, Easter etc.. Calvin said the Jews at least had divine warrant for their festivals; those who aped them, the papists, not so.

    But as you probably know, this is one of the dividing lines between the Lutheran/Anglican and Calvinist Reformed/Presbyterian. Worship and government were an indifferent concern for the L/A, while the P&R considered that Scripture was a rule for worship and govt. as well as the gospel and doctrine. Consequently L/A took over many aspects of Roman worship that wasn’t blatantly forbidden. As someone originally born in the Roman communion, I was somewhat surprised myself at this when visiting an evangelical Lutheran church. I was even more surprised when I found out P&R churches observed Advent, Christmas etc. Not cool.

    Reformed, in doctrine, worship and government. As in the practical outworking of the sovereignty of God in doctrine, worship and govt. or sola scriptura, the reg.principle of worship and jus divinum ch. govt.

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  63. Hi Bill,

    I appreciate your reply and looked at the scripture passages. I don’t agree with the way the passages are applied to the church calendar and I think both passages could be used to support the calendar since the calendar specifically directs us to teach Christ in all of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The point of the calendar is to keep Christ and his gospel central and to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ. Al Mohler’s recent article caught the spirit of what confessional Lutherans teach during Advent. [See here: http://tinyurl.com/ylhvzhy%5D

    Anywho, I did not comment in order to start an argument. I was surprised (and still am) at the misunderstanding surrounding Advent and the church calendar and meant to add (hopefully) to the discussion in order to clear up any misunderstanding. I was probably surprised because the Presbyterians I know do observe Advent.

    Like the Reformed, the bible is the Lutheran’s rule for life & faith, and we test traditions by scripture and seek to keep Christ and his gospel central in all. But, both the Reformed and the Lutherans have their own distinctives and these distinctives separate us. I did not realize that it applied to the calendar, too. It would have been better for me to remain silent.

    May you have a blessed and merry Christmas. 🙂

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  64. Lily, go ahead and start an argument. Oldlife is a place for that — meanies that we are. The question for Reformed Protestants on holidays has really been about church power and whether a church has biblical warrant for holding a service. I think it used to be the case, at least with Rome, that members were required to attend services on high holy days. Reformed believed that the Bible only gave a warrant for requiring services on Sundays.

    That’s not to say that having services on other days may not be a good idea. But as a matter of potential discipline, the church may only require of her members what Scripture requires. The difference between Reformed and Lutherans here is that Lutherans have generally found more freedom to observe certain practices as long as Scripture does not forbid them. Reformed go the other way, needing biblical warrant to do anything — unless of course you’re a faux Reformed observing Advent.

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  65. Hi DGH,

    The tidbit on church power/mandates helps me start to better understand where you are coming from in your tradition. The need for biblical warrant to do anything seems wise in some ways, but not in others, and as far as I know, the confessional Lutherans and the confessional Reformed are pretty much agreed on the matter of what would instigate church discipline. As for the Lutheran freedom to observe certain traditions, well… I am beginning to feel a bit like Babette in Babette’s Feast in this discussion. 🙂 In Lutheranism, no one is required to come to Advent or the other calendar services. My puzzlement seems to fall more into the realm of why anyone would want to miss the full menu of the delicious feast prepared? [See Al Mohler’s article for the carte de jour]

    As I said in an earlier comment, Advent is like a calm oasis this time of year and the beauty and rhythm that the church calendar offers the Christian life can be a tremendous blessing. Since that is my perspective, it makes me curious as to why you appreciate Wendell Berry’s philosophy on family, place, and story, yet seem to shy away from these similar attributes/benefits in the communal nature of the church calendar? It does puzzle me even with your explanation, but I can accept our differences and have no desire to force you to dine upon my turtle soup. 🙂

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  66. Lily, doesn’t Berry’s view make room for different families, places, and stories? I doubt his kin or Baptist church observed Advent.

    Anyway, what for you is calm, beauty, and rhythm is for me agitation. It would be like trying to serve Babbette’s feast at the Lord’s table. For us Presbyterians, the menu and hourse of service are fixed. We eat turtle soup at home.

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  67. Rushdoony never would have stoned anyone, capital punishment is the job of the state not the Church, as Rushdoony taught.

    Still, one wonders in this season what would have happened to Mary had Joseph been theonomically inclined instead of “a righteous man.”

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  68. Natch, you are right about there being oodles of room for all of us, DGH. I was looking at Berry in a different way, but somehow I do not think you missed that, you artful dodger. 🙂 Yet, I think that we most likely have had a failure to communicate about Babette’s Feast (or am I dense)? It can be seen as an allegory to the Lord’s Supper, but perhaps even more than that, it can be seen as the meta-narrative (love story) of the Bible. For God so loved the world… it is that story from A to Z that is told and loved during church calendar year – the ever rich feast of the Word [crowned by the Lord’s Supper, of course].

    You do make me smile at your allusion to a restaurant with fixed hours of service and limited courses offered within the menu. A Lutherette could starve at that type of restaurant (we love our pot-lucks before our additional services, too!) whereas you feel agitated at our restaurant. It will be fun to see what the Lord has to say about all of our practices and non-practices when that time arrives, though I cannot imagine his disapproval of our exercise of Christian liberty in this area. In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate my confessional Reformed relatives, even if I do think they could use a few more calories with their meals and more snacks to prevent scurvy. [Sorry, I could not resist joshing you here]. 😛

    May you be richly blessed in the days ahead. 🙂

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  69. Eech, those smiley faces are annoying. Is there a better way to show one desires to engage in a friendly exchange so it is not mistaken for orneriness or trollishness? Those awful grins reinforce my Luddite proclivities. Ugh!

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  70. Lily, well there is always Nadab and Abihu to consider. Maybe that’s what animates Reformed worries about God not being impressed with our pious intentions.

    As for the smiley faces, in the spirit of Luther just go ahead and offend boldly. We can take it here. We’re Calvinists.

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  71. Nadab and Abihu? Pious intentions? Now you’ve really gone to meddling, dear friend!

    Truly, these men are an example worth considering, especially in this era of putrid worship practices, and pious intentions are but filthy rags. But I would guess you are aware that Confessional Lutherans do have a long history of being quite persnickety, polemic, and unmovable about worship practices? It is why we practice close communion and believe the doctrine of justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls. It is why we are wary of ecumenical movements (or papers like the Manhattan Declaration) and believe the true church is where the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly. Truly, we are as big a pain in the tush as the Reformed when it comes to doctrine!

    Then again, we also like to quote Luther’s words to Melanchthon and risk being accused of antinomianism, “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

    And to quote Luther’s last words, “We are beggars, this is true.” Which may help explain why Lutherans need the church calendar with all of it’s additional church services. We are wicked sinners and know our desperate need to be forgiven much and to be fed the Bread of Life by our Savior (John 6:53-58). But here, again, is an area of doctrinal difference. I do look forward to heaven where there will no longer be any divisions that separate us. Until then, I can only imagine that both the Calvinists and the Lutherans will continue to think the other is misguided (even woefully) in certain areas and will continue to sin boldly in faith! I am thankful for all of the areas where we do agree and to make it through this spiel without one smiley face. Yep, He is risen indeed

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  72. Lily, And I like Lutherans for all those reasons — many in my neck of the church accuse me (not compliment but ACCUSE) of being Lutheran. And I also agree that we need services. That’s why Presbyterians have two services every Sunday (at least the good ones). That’s 104 meetings with God a year. At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I bet that’s more worship than any of the liturgical churches offer.

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  73. DGH,

    You are very right about the benefits of your Sunday evening services (and no, I do not consider that self-righteous to say so!). If I could have both the calendar and Sunday nights, I might think I’d died and gone to heaven. I had the privilege of hearing Sinclair Ferguson teach for several months before he accepted a pastorate in South Carolina (my Presbyterian friends who observe Advent invited me). I very much appreciate his insights, his rich Scottish brogue, and expository (?) style of preaching. He is a gem.

    I had to smile at your dilemma of being accused of being Lutheran. I suspected you were one of the good guys! On my side, I have made my staunch Lutheran pastor’s eyes cross more than once because I enjoy grazing in the Reformed and Anglican pastures (Bishop FitzSimons Allison is another gem). But he puts up with me without too much fuss and sometimes sees the benefits. He enjoyed Michael Horton’s insights on Charles Finney so much that he taught it to our men’s group. Perhaps there is hope that more Christians will learn to appreciate what is good in the different traditions while being faithful to their own?

    I have read your work off and on for several years because I love history and thank-you for all of the ways you have challenged my thinking and let me learn from you. I would like to ask if you have studied European church history under fascism and communism? That is becoming a large interest of mine because of the times we live in. On the Lutheran side, I’ve looked at Sasse, Boenhoeffer, and Thielicke (with sprinklings of Barth) during WWII, and most recently read, The Struggle of the Hungarian Lutherans Under Communism (2006) by H. David Baer (a must read for all confessional Christians IMO and it has fabulous primary research). Baer’s bibliographic essay recommends, The Lean Years: A Study of Hungarian Calvinism in Crisis (1960) by Gyula Gombos. I haven’t laid my hands upon a copy yet, but I would also like to read a book(s) that are more recent. May I ask for your recommendations on books, if it is not too much to ask?

    I do apologize for my ignorance about the Reformed and the church calendar. This is a good example of why I have never commented before (and should not) on a Reformed blog. I do not want my ignorance and lack of understanding in Reformed distinctives to cause offense or start arguments, especially on their blogs! May you and your family be richly blessed this Christmas and in the coming year.

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  74. Lily, I have taught church in the modern age but only dabble in modern European church history. I have a volume or two of Sasse. Thanks for tip on the Baer and Gombos. I’ll need some guides for my next writing project.

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  75. Mmm! I hope you will enjoy this project and will look forward to reading your work on this subject. I have found the history of the church under fascism and communism utterly fascinating. I couldn’t put down Baer’s book and ended up reading until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. I hope you find it as engaging as I did (I also found the story heart-breaking in places). I pray your research will be fruitful.

    Re: Sasse, as far as I know, Dr. Ron Feuerhahn (Retired Concordia Seminary) is the best expert on Sasse and if you are interested, Matt Harrison (LCMS World Relief) would be able to put you in contact with him or offer suggestions on Lutheran resources (even those overseas) for this time frame. Both Ron and Matt have reputations for being generous churchmen/theologians. I think you might enjoy both men. Confessionals are hoping to make Matt the new president of the LCMS next year, if that helps outline Matt’s character qualities. Kyrie eleison, we need him.

    Adieu and may God haunt you if you do not write a book on this topic. 🙂

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  76. P.S. I did not mean sound like I was imposing Lutheran resources upon you. I imagine that you are exceptionally well-equipped with Reformed resources which is why I offered an avenue for Lutheran resources. Hey, a researcher can never have too many options can he? Especially when it comes to Eastern Europe, right? Or am I the only bibliophile who struggles with gluttony?

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  77. Some of us “adventists” are such “biblicists” that we insist that all who are justified must wait together for the second coming of Jesus in order for Resurrection Day to happen.

    Hebrews 9: 24 The Messiah .. now appears in the presence of God for us. 25 He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary YEARLY with the blood of another. 26 Otherwise, He would have had to suffer MANY TIMES since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared ONE TIME, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and AFTER THIS–the judgment— 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered ONCE to bear the sins of many, will appear a SECOND TIME, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

    Hebrews 11: 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did NOT receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would NOT be made perfect WITHOUT US.

    John 3: 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2013/11/19/christian-christmas-grinches/

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  78. Jesus–“those who wear soft clothes you find in kings’ palaces”.

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/12/the-advent-season-not-just-chr.php

    Many sermons avoid “Reformed sectarianism” by carefully excluding (or failing to attend to) anything which might possibly offend anybody. But there is one “synagogue sermon” which caused its hearers to be angry and to attempt violence against Jesus. Were listeners scandalized because Jesus talked about including Gentiles as well as Jews? I don’t think so. I think the main offense was that Jesus, like John the Baptist, talked about narrowing the covenant so that not each and every Jew was included.

    Luke 4:.25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them—but to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed[r] —only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged.29 They got up, drove Jesus out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Jesus over the cliff.30 But Jesus passed right through the crowd and went on His way.

    Matthew 11: 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, John sent a message by his disciples 3 and asked Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.6 And if anyone is not OFFENDED because of me, they are blessed.” 7 Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? …

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