An Acquired Taste that May Not Last

The missus and I finished the first two seasons of The Killing (better than Breaking Bad, not nearly as good as The Wire) and turned last night to the third season of Downton Abbey. After two episodes, I like the presence of Shirley Maclaine far more than I expected. The differences between Yanks and Brits on tradition and history is particularly intriguing and definitely ironic. Most citizens of the United States (Canadians are Americans after all) sympathize with the idea of ending tradition and letting estates like Downton be relegated to the ash heap of housing developments, representative government, and wireless internet. At the same time, the ongoing appeal of the British royalty and the popularity of shows like Downton Abbey prove that for all the common sense of equality, merit, and reason, many moderns still enjoy having around a ruling class with its pomp and circumstance. Perhaps that kind of tradition sets a standard that provides order even for those outside the ruling class, and it is a desire for order that keeps institutions like the British and Dutch monarchies alive. Whatever the explanation, I am betting the executives at BBC know that a series based on the Earl of Grantham and his estate will always pull in better ratings than a show based on Sybel’s husband, Tom Branson, the Irish chauffeur who can’t help spouting republicanism at family dinners and making uncomfortable all guests of aristocratic backgrounds, along his former peers among the downstairs help.

That appeal of estates, titles, wood-paneled libraries, grand dining rooms, dutiful servants, and formal dinner attire may explain why some Protestants find Rome or Canterbury a better brand of Christianity. Roman Catholics and Anglicans simply set a better formal dining room table than Presbyterians. Just compare the altar and Mass to the table and the Lord’s Supper. One is grand, the other is ordinary. It is comparable to the difference between Tom Branson and the Earl of Grantham. I might feel more comfortable having a pint with Tom, but I’d rather watch a series about the Earl.

Rebecca VanDoodewaard picked up on this dynamic somewhat in her reflections about why low-church Protestants turn to high-church communions:

The kids who leave evangelical Protestantism are looking for something the world can’t give them. The world can give them hotter jeans, better coffee, bands, speakers, and book clubs than a congregation can. What it can’t give them is theology; membership in a group that transcends time, place and race; a historic rootedness; something greater than themselves; ordained men who will be spiritual leaders and not merely listeners and buddies and story-tellers. What the kids leaving generic evangelicalism seem to want is something the world can never give them–a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality in their parents’ churches and not finding it.

Missing from this description is a recognition of the difference between liturgical styles in historic Christianity. The options are not simply high-church liturgies over against megachurch informality. Another layer of difference is one between simplicity and ornateness. Reformed Protestants have been sticklers for simplicity in worship. Reformed worship has plenty of reverence and transcendence but it comes from the word, read and preached, with the sacraments as illustrations. Anglicans and Roman Catholics derive reverence and transcendence from the show of the architecture, vestments, images, music (not Roman Catholics post Vatican II), and THE sacrament. It is like the difference between folks songs and opera. For Christians who want a sensual experience in worship, a Reformed Protestant service will come up short — too didactic and logocentric. For those same Christians, the P&W worship service will simply be tacky.

VanDoodewaard is on weaker footing when she goes on to commend Reformed churches for holding on to their children in ways that evangelicals do not:

But not all kids who grew up in American evangelicalism are jumping off into high church rite and sacrament: congregations that carefully teach robust, historic Protestant theology to their children are notably not losing them to the Vatican, or even Lambeth. Protestant churches that recognize their own ecclesiastical and theological heritage, training their children to value and continue it in a 21st century setting, usually retain their youth. These kids have the tools they need to think biblically through the deep and difficult issues of the day and articulate their position without having a crisis of faith.

I would like to see some statistics on this, but my own sense is that communions like the OPC (perhaps not representative but certainly one where a lot of theology is taught) do not retaining their children. For instance, at the recent General Assembly, roughly one-in-ten of the commissioners was a child of the OPC. All others had jumped from somewhere else to benefit from the OPC’s dedication to doctrine. Not even the attempts of the OPC to create something of a brand with its history (the OPC has to have more pages of history per capita than any other Presbyterian denomination) — not even all that history has left the next generation (or their parents) with a sense that they have joined a tradition that is bigger than they are. Sure, 1936 is not as impressive a starting point as 1857, 1618, 1560, 1534, or 33 AD. But conservative Reformed denominations generally have no fixed sense of identity apart from family ties. When membership is part of ethnic identity (say in the case of the Covenaters or the URC), the next generation is more likely to recognize a denomination as being bigger than its teaching and ministry. But when it is limited to teaching the truths of the Bible and the catechism, children after leaving home need only look for another church that teaches the Bible.

I don’t know what the fix is. I really don’t know how to create ties of institutional loyalty among teenagers and young adults who have only been in a conservative Reformed or Presbyterian denomination for possibly only half their lives. If mom and dad switched from an independent Bible-believing church to a Presbyterian communion, why can’t those parents’ children switch to another Bible-believing church? In other words, how do you connect family loyalty to church membership? Or should you when you consider what happens to ethnic denominations? At the same time, without some sort of link between blood and creed, middle-class Christians like Reformed Protestants are never going to set a table as elaborate or refined as the upper-class communions.

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57 thoughts on “An Acquired Taste that May Not Last

  1. Modernity seems to be a culprit. Maybe it also has to do with abiding in tents and the tension this side of eternity.

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  2. I think worship may be the key. Make them understand what proper worship looks like and why it’s important and the field of churches narrows significantly. Unfortunately, this can mean that young people can move to a place where no church with such worship is available. Of course they’ll end up practically anywhere if they don’t hear that there’s more to the faith than biblical preaching and the five points. 2K/spirituality of the church can help, too — in two ways: It keeps shifting social and political issues from gumming up the church works and it teaches (or ought to) that a worshiper shouldn’t expect to have their entertainment and aesthetic preferences satisfied in worship.

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  3. Here on the west coast, a lot of our OPC churches are relatively young. First OPC in San Francisco is one of the oldest (founded 1944). Our own church is either just under a decade old or just over it. I did, however, spend a year in a pretty old OPC church in another part of the country. It was something of an odd creature since it had a whole lot of multi-generational Dutch Reformed families who were refugees from the CRC. I noticed that it had a significantly different feeling to it than newer churches tend to have. Specifically, it seemed to be full of people who took Reformed theology for granted and who weren’t all that interested in the distinctives of being Reformed beyond some of the broadest strokes. A lot of people probably would’ve been just as happy in the PCA as they would’ve been in the OPC.

    For my husband and I, though, we are in the OPC by conviction. We deliberately chose the OPC over the PCA (in fact, he left the PCA). Reformed distinctives more broadly and even OP distinctives more narrowly, matter to us a whole lot because of where we came from. People who grew up with them their whole lives almost didn’t care. They didn’t care about what the RPW really means in practice. They believed in the doctrines of grace, in covenant theology, and all that stuff, but because they’d never been without them, it seemed not to really matter a whole lot. This is the opposite, we have found, of what it’s like in our newer west coast churches, where there aren’t really that many people who grew up in the OPC.

    I guess, then, that one thing we need to do is teach people why it matters to be Reformed and why it matters that we are specifically in the OPC.

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  4. “…but my own sense is that communions like the OPC…do not [retain] their children…I don’t know what the fix is.”

    The answer of course is bigger youth groups and cooler music. And clowns. Kids love clowns.

    “I really don’t know how to create ties of institutional loyalty among teenagers and young adults who have only been in a conservative Reformed or Presbyterian denomination for possibly only half their lives.”

    Somewhat more seriously, this sounds like the kind of musing that leads to a lot of the problems in evangelicalism. Do we really want to try and think up extra-biblical strategies to keep kids in our churches? Maybe the answers won’t be as blasphemous as what you find in a NewSpring or WillowCreek, but it sounds like it puts you on the same path.

    One unwarranted assumption might be that mom & dad are usually on the same page when it comes to church. In our PCA church we find a lot of guys showing up without their wives about the time their kids hit middle school. Mom is often taking the kids to the cool P&W church with the big youth group because she wants to do something to keep the kids in church. We also find that the PCA is a compromise for a lot of couples in church (this is certainly my situation) – my wife would prefer the SBC and I the OPC – we meet in the middle with the PCA. It’s tough to build denominational loyalty when mom and dad aren’t so loyal. Maybe this isn’t an OPC issue though.

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  5. I still want to know when the memo went out that teenagers or anyone still living on mom and dad’s dime, had a choice in the matter?

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  6. Everything about this resonates. Here’s one idea: by the time a child turns 18 there are certain things that should have been taught to him. This would include why we are paedos, why we are Presbyterian, why we are not broadly evangelical and why we are not theologically liberals. And catechizing as a church-wide priority.

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  7. MM: ‘Here’s one idea: by the time a child turns 18 there are certain things that should have been taught to him. This would include why we are paedos, why we are Presbyterian, why we are not broadly evangelical and why we are not theologically liberals. And catechizing as a church-wide priority.’

    Me: Well, that rules out the PCA.

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  8. It won’t be easy in the OPC either, where a lot of pew sitters just think we’re smart evangelicals.

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  9. dgh: at the recent General Assembly, roughly one-in-ten of the commissioners was a child of the OPC. All others had jumped from somewhere else … conservative Reformed denominations generally have no fixed sense of identity apart from family ties.

    mark: it’s not clear to me that the WCF compares the new covenantal status of those who believe the gospel TO that of the Abrahamic covenant BUT IN CONTRAST TO that of the Mosaic covenant. I would say there is some significant discontinuity to both covenants.

    Calvin: We have not yet come farther down than the books of Moses, whose only office, according to our opponents, was to induce the people to worship God, by setting before them the fertility of the land and its general abundance; and yet to every one who does not shun the light, there is clear evidence of a spiritual covenant (Institutes 2.10.15).

    Calvin: God promised them the land of Canaan for an inheritance, not that it might be the limit of their hopes, but that the view of it might train and confirm them in the hope of that true inheritance, which, as yet, appeared not. And, to guard against delusion, they received a better promise, which attested that this earth was not the highest measure of the divine kindness. Thus, Abraham is not allowed to keep down his thoughts to the promised land. By a greater promise his views are carried upward to the Lord. He is thus addressed, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,” (Gen. 15: l.) Here we see that the Lord is the final reward promised to Abraham that he might not seek a fleeting and evanescent reward in the elements of this world, but look to one which was incorruptible. A promise of the land is afterwards added for no other reason than that it might be a symbol of the divine benevolence, and a type of the inheritance (of the age to come) (Institutes 2.11.2).

    Heinrich Bullinger in his A Brief Exposition of the One and Eternal Testament or Covenant of God:
    For those people who consider only the conditions of the covenant and who disregard the grace and promise of God exclude infants from the covenant. It is true that children not only do not observe the terms of the covenant but also do not even understand these terms… They are excluded, however, if having reached the age of reason they neglect the conditions of the covenant. In the same way, we consider children of parents to be children and indeed heirs even though they, in their early years, do not know that they are either children or heirs of their parents. They are, however, disowned if, after they have reached the age of reason, they neglect the commands of their parents. In that case, the parent no longer calls them children and heirs but worthless profligates.

    Bullinger: They are mistaken who boast about their prerogatives as sons of the family by virtue of birth. For he who violates the laws of piety toward parents is no different from a slave; indeed, he is lower than a slave, because even by the law of nature itself he owes more to his parents. Truly this debate about the seed of Abraham has been settled for us that not everyone who is born of Abraham is the seed of Abraham, but only he who is a son of the promise, that is, who is faithful, whether Jew or Gentile. For the Jews have already neglected the basic conditions of the covenant, while at the same time they glorified themselves as the people of God, relying on the fact that they were born from the parent Abraham. (in Charles S. McCoy and J. Wayne Baker, Fountainhead of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenantal Tradition)

    mark: reporting, not agreeing with Calvin…

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  10. Hey, the last episode of season three of The Killing is coming this weekend. You need to quickly catch up the eleven episodes so far, and then let this last episode point you in the wrong direction for next year.

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  11. A memorial was presented respecting the baptism of the orphan children of heathen parents, to which the Assembly returned the following answer (written by Charles Hodge?):

    Dear Brethren–You have submitted to us questions respecting a subject, which, we have no doubt, is one of very great importance, in regard to the progress of religion among the heathen.
    You present to us three questions.
    1. “Are all orphan children of heathen parents committed to the care of our mission, entitled to the benefit of the ordinance of baptism, without respect to their ages?”

    We reply–certainly they are not. You must make the same distinction that you would make, if their parents were alive and members of the Christian church and desiring to have them baptized–the same distinction which is made in Christian countries. We add–let those children only be baptized, in every case, who are so committed to the mission as to secure effectually their entire religious education. On this point, great caution is necessary.

    2. You ask, “Are those only to be baptized who have not attained to years of discretion.”
    This question we answer in the affirmative.

    3. Your third question –”If those only who have not attained to years of discretion are to be baptized, at what age shall the federal right be supposed to cease, and personal responsibility to commence?”

    If the person proposed to be baptized has acquired that maturity of mind, which renders him capable of making an intelligent profession of religion himself, he ought not to be baptized on the faith of another. Our Confession of Faith recognizes the right to baptism of the infant children only of such parents as are members of the church. We do not doubt that in heathen countries, children of heathen parents ordinarily arrive at, what are called years of discretion, later than those who enjoy the advantages of Christian instruction in early life; but in a country where the religion of all consists in forms and ceremonies, great care should be taken that the Christian religion does not even APPEAR TO PARTAKE OF THE EMPTY FORMALITY of Mohammedanism and Paganism.

    Mark: I guess Hodge was simply too anxious and suspicious!. Did Hodge and Nevin both have children? Which turned out better? Does sovereign grace mean “no fault” parenting? Or was Ed Gross correct in his accusations?

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  12. Sean – I still want to know when the memo went out that teenagers or anyone still living on mom and dad’s dime, had a choice in the matter?

    Erik – Get back to me in 20 years, oh newly married one…

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  13. I’m with you Sean. Put up that electric fence and keep it there. Put enough voltage in there to make to make it sting. Being a father and husband ain’t no popularity contest

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  14. Erik, you’re probably right. I shouldn’t say anything until I’ve read the definitive work on parenting;
    “Parenting in Iowa”(How to be held hostage by your children and other parenting decisions of those with low T).

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  15. Every parent I know who has ‘lost’ his or her children sees the effects of the law. If only you could go back and reorder the relationship from the top down, to instantiate one-way love. Every parent I know who has the attentive love of his or her children is watching the effects of grace. Although there is neither a perfect correlation between grace-full parenting and the flourishing of adult children nor a one-to-one correlation between parents as law-bearers and adult children fleeing, there is still a close link between accepting love and its fruit, which his freed love in response, and stinting ‘love’ and its result, which is half-love, or quarter-love, back the other way (163).
    Zahl in Grace in Practice

    one review of the Gross book
    http://www.amprpress.com/will_my_children.htm

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  16. sdb, I’m only asking for what M&M said, “by the time a child turns 18 there are certain things that should have been taught to him. This would include why we are paedos, why we are Presbyterian, why we are not broadly evangelical and why we are not theologically liberals. And catechizing as a church-wide priority.” I am not sure that parents get that. They do get that the Bible is important. But the other seems less important.

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  17. McMark, whatever the covenant theology involved, most parents want to pass on their faith to their kids. So do parents in Reformed churches want to pass on Reformed Protestantism or simply conservative Protestantism. Calvin et al did not face that challenge.

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  18. It seems like the makeup of the OPC has a lot to do with growth and attracting outsiders, moreso than with losing children of the OPC. No?

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  19. The trick to parenting (and husbanding) is that you can get your way…until you can’t. Look at some of the guys who appear to be the most in control now and then revisit them in 10 or 20 years. Meanwhile the guys who appear to be the most laid back actually are working a pretty good plan. Gentle persuasion and setting a good example often goes farther than “laying down the law”. Sometimes people need to see for themselves that their great ideas aren’t all that. Then they’re ready to come around.

    I know a family who when they came to our church they were in two services (and traveling a long distance to be there). The females always had their hats on. Five years later he’s still there but the wife has split and is excommunicated and I haven’t seen the kids in years.

    Think marathon, not sprint.

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  20. Erik, you’re probably right. But I think the Great Santini meets Archie Bunker is gonna be more my speed. Maybe I’ll throw in a little Alec Baldwin father daughter weekend every once in awhile. I’ll break out the ‘dingbat’ term of endearment tomorrow and see how that goes. Like I care how it goes.

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  21. @dgh
    I agree. I think we (my PCA congregation) are way too wishy-washy on the sacraments. We go to great lengths to clarify what baptism and communion aren’t (the water doesn’t save and the bread and juice aren’t really the body and blood of Christ) rather than teaching what the sacraments are. This leaves many with an impoverished view of what the sacraments are (we are no different from Baptists who just happen to call them ordinances – they are just symbols that don’t really do anything). Believing this has different effects on different people – some think that we are just baptists without water tanks behind the pulpit. Going church shopping and switching from the PCA to the SBC has all the significance of buying a honda instead of a toyota. Others long for more and think they need the TEC, RCC, or EOC to get it.

    Our congregation really pushes catechism for kids and youth (the camp scholarships if you get your memory work done are a powerful incentive for mom and dad). But memorizing a few questions about the sacraments (for example) doesn’t do much if it isn’t reinforced in worship. Exegetical preaching is great, but it would be nice to see a clearer connection between the exegesis of scripture and the catechism….

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  22. sdb, it may something to do with that PCA thing of not requiring an affirmation of paedobaptism for membership, which itself has something to do with the American Presbyterian development of two kinds of membership (officer and lay) where one must confess and practice the faith but not so much the other. Do those that continue a British Presbyterianism or Continental Reformed view of one kind of membership fare better in this regard?

    But having just begrudgingly gone from Honda to Toyota, I am confirmed in my religious opinion that unlike Hondas Toyotas are no more Reformed than bow ties and cigars. I don’t know what that does for Robert’s theory that post-WW2 Japanese culture is largely Protestant.

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  23. Sean, As long as you remember that “Edith” gets a little feisty in matters of “Gloria”, and the Great Santini is MIA. Sean, are you still there?

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  24. John, i’m here even when I’m not. Which is the whole point. As the boy packs the car and gets the whole family moving at 0 dark thirty.

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  25. Zrim,

    C’mon, I never said that post WW2 Japanese culture was Protestant. I said that its rebuilding by America, a traditionally Protestant country, cannot help but to have had some influence on its prosperity if, in fact, certain Protestant principles naturally lead to material prosperity in ways that others don’t.

    Do we have to be so afraid of becoming Rushdoony that we can’t even admit a possible connection between Protestantism and the prosperity of the industrialized West?

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  26. The “Up” series is on my list.

    Even when families go to different churches they can still get along great (I’m talking about when the kids are adults). In fact, sometimes they get along better. Not every wife wants to go to church with her mother-in-law. Not every son wants to go to church with his father-in-law. In fact, not everyone wants to go to church with their adult parents. It gets old when you’re 40 and your dad wants to tell stories about what you did as a teenager in adult Sunday School. Healthy boundaries are a good thing and it’s o.k. to separate our family relationships from other parts of our lives.

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  27. “the OPC has to have more pages of history per capita than any other Presbyterian denomination”

    Isn’t most of that chronicling a feud between two scholars?

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  28. Going from two kinds of membership to one wouldn’t change much in most pcas–the elders also don’t believe or don’t care about the five points.

    Of course, as long you resist paedocommunion, there are in one sense two kinds of membership. Indeed, the paedos that I know who are most faithful in resisting the federal vision are the kind who say that there are two kinds of “baptism”.

    Scott Clark— “Fundamentally, baptism is to strengthen our faith, not replace it. It is a seal to those who believe, that what baptism promises is actually true of them.” (p 8, “Baptism and the Benefits of Christ”, Confessional Presbyterian 2, 2006)

    Clark, p 12: “Paul’s interest is not to argue that baptism confers Christ’s benefits, but rather to appeal to it as illustration of the union that already exists.”

    Clark, p 14: “The covenant child is properly the recipient of initiation because he or she is already a member of the covenant of grace and ritually sanctified. The mature convert (Abraham) is baptized in recognition of his faith.”

    p 15, Clark: “Reformed confessions have used ‘seal’ in two senses in two different circumstances. To the baptized infant, who has not yet made a profession of faith, baptism is a promise that if and when he believes everything baptism signifies shall be true of him.”

    p 15, Clark: “When, however, in the second instance, the baptized person trusts Christ, the seal is not only a promise, but a guarantee that what baptism signifies and promises really is true of the believer.”

    It’s Norman Shepherd who told us to view election by means of “covenant”, so that there would be only kind of membership.

    http://www.misterrichardson.com/fergusonbr.html

    Shepherd writes that “The prophets and apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant of grace, whereas Reformed theologians of a later day have tended to view the covenant of grace from the perspective of election”(p 60). The result of this, it is argued, is that the reformed preacher no longer says “Christ died for you” – but, when these words are construed, not from the point of view of election, but of the covenant, then “The Reformed evangelist can and must say on the basis of John 3:16, Christ died for you.”

    mark: Does this mean that Shepherd was saying “for you” to the church, but not to those outside the church? If so, was Shepherd making the church the object of evangelism?

    Sinclair Ferguson: First, Shepherd appears to adopt the view of the prevailing academic critique of the covenant theology of the seventeenth century (forcefully presented decades ago by Perry Miller), which suggests that the doctrine of covenant somehow makes God’s secret counsels less harsh. We ought therefore to look at covenant, and not at election. This analysis, both historically and biblically we reject… To use Shepherd’s own citation – the fact is that some passages, e.g. Ephesians 1:1-14, do employ the mode of looking at covenant from the viewpoint of election. Indeed, in that passage it is necessary for the reader to look for covenant in the context of election. From a more practical point of view – was it because Whitefield and Edwards, Spurgeon and M’Cheyne managed to escape the old reformed straitjacket and discover election it its covenant perspective that they were such great evangelists? It seems highly doubtful.”

    mark: Did these revivalists talk about “covenant”? I would say that we have to, but that we should begin by NOT saying what Shepherd says about “covenant”….

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  29. Anybody here read the book published by Presbyterian and Reformed, by Edmund Gross, entitled Will My Children Go to Heaven? I think he unwittingly demonstrates the effects of leveling the biblical covenants into one covenant.
    Thus the dialectic–God offers you the opportunity to make sure your children will never perish, but if they do then that’s your fault, but if they are saved it was God who caused you to be such good parents and etc….

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  30. Robert, sorry, my tongue was lodged so far in my cheek I may not have been discernible. I was only poking some good natured fun.

    But while I have you and as long as you ask, you may have missed this from the other thread:

    You said: “I appreciate the concern of all in this discussion to keep the church doing its job and the state doing its job, to not want to Christianize culture as the far right does. In large measure I agree. But I think that in trying to do that, we can make the opposite error of not seeing the Protestant influence as having any causal effect on such things as economics and culture.”

    I understand the problem of the church being distracted from her task. But what is the risk in not drawing straight lines from Protestantism to capitalism and literacy? There is a lot to lose in the former case, but what’s the loss in the latter?

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  31. DGH:

    You are the nicest rep of the denomination that I have encountered, this gift has given you access to many media outlets over the years, to which I have gratefully imbibed.

    [I trust that if both men could do that all over again, with knowledge of what what was going to happen, that they would have chosen a less bumpy path… make a wish in one hand…]

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  32. @Z So your saying Toyotas are Catholic? Does this mean I have to believe in the infallibilty of the owners manual? Or is there an infallible interpretation of the manual I should submit to?

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  33. Erik, I have the book at the following link, on my bookshelf. A gift from a friend. I was pressing this presbyter on the history of confession subscription, and he told me to read the essay about the apdopting act by Payton. The amazon review lists the essay titles and authors. You’ll notice, no Hart! Busy writing a dissertation or something, pshaw..

    You’re list of authors is probably the accurate one, just thought you should keep an eye out for this book, it’s a good one. Later.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0934688362?ie=UTF8&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links

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  34. sdb, could be. But I like Hondas. I am Reformed. Therefore, Hondas are Reformed. Hey, this drawing straight lines from faith to things I like really works.

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  35. We had 2 Hondas for 19 years [Civic, CRX], and loved them with all our heart soul and mind. Both died at the same time.

    Replaced them w/2 Toyotas [RAV for me, Prius for she].

    The owner’s manuals all suck regardless. Although they are translated into English, they lack the intelligibility of the original Japanese, lack the poetry of a usable Vulgate.

    Makes you want to convert to Chryslerism or Chevroletity just to get a trustworthy text.

    [The Ford is my shepherd?]

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  36. AB – I have that book but haven’t read it. Not sure where Hart was at in 1986. I was attending high school.

    Lexus company car for me.

    1996 Chrysler Town & Country van with ambiguous odometer reading for the family.

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  37. When we were first married 21 years ago the wife totaled our car, which we had paid like $3500 or so for. I was working at Jiffy Lube at the time and a Japanese student came through with a 1970’s Torino. She was returning to Japan and needed to sell it. I picked it up for $200. It had this endearing feature where the fuse that ran the heater & fan would repeatedly blow out, leaving us without either in the 10 degree Iowa winter. It had no AC in the summer. This car, however, was luxurious compared to some of the cars my parents (and her parents) had when we were growing up. Crappy cars are indeed a multigenerational thing. My brother bought one of my old cars when he was in college and by the time he was done with it he had tape and cardboard in place of some of the windows. My first car in high school had a wheel that fell off.

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  38. Academics and their cars. I dated a girl in high school whose mom was a professor. She drove a really sweet white Saab. I think her husband drove around town on a moped. Really nice guy.

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  39. Speaking of academics, I was out book scouting yesterday and came across a garage sale at the home of a Professor Emeritus of History. He didn’t have too many books out (maybe 50), but I was able to give him my card for when he’s ready to sell more. His research interests were:

    European Social History
    History of Eastern Europe, especially the Baltic area
    Population and Family history
    History of European Agriculture

    This is the kind of thing that keeps a book scout scouting.

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  40. It was in front of my house if I remember right. It was like $380 to fix. My parents gave me a loan. That was a lot of dough for a high school student and part time waiter at Perkins. Funny thing about that car is I had it for 2-3 years and I don’t ever remember changing the oil in it. VW rabbit with a sunroof. Fun when it was running. That feeling of liberation driving your own first car out-of-town is like nothing else.

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