From DGH on The Death of Prayer Meetings Submitted on 2015 05 12 at 10:52 am

Mark, you are so good at quoting from historical figures that I’m a little taken aback by your throwaway reference to John Calvin. Since he had preaching services during the week, I’m surprised to learn that he advocated a mid-week prayer meeting: “Church history also gives us many good examples (e.g., Calvin in Geneva).”

Here’s a question, though. Say you are a congregation that already has two prayer meetings. Each one takes place on Sunday, one in the morning and one in the evening. These instances of corporate prayer, as you may have guessed, are part of the sanctification of the Lord’s Day. Are you advocating that we add another, for the sake of sanctifying Wednesday night (sure hope it doesn’t conflict with Hockey Night in Canada)?

Or what if you are part of a congregation that only has one service on the Lord’s Day — in the morning, for instance? Do you think a church should first start an evening Sunday service before adding a mid-week prayer meeting? Or is corporate prayer so important that Christians should leave their homes and offices for it, even though they may already pray in those non-church settings alone or with other Christians?

I am having trouble figuring out why you might advocate corporate prayer the way you do. For instance, you say that one reason is that people are too busy. But that’s the same argument that people use against a second service on Sunday. I can well understand that people have vocations that make attending church functions like Bible study, youth group, even catechism difficult. I can also well understand a session that is reluctant to add to a church member’s burdens, someone who already is committed to and practices keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

I don’t know why you don’t see the potential burden unless you don’t understand the doctrine of vocation. Isn’t it Reformed to think that someone is actually serving God by carrying out their civil, secular, professional, and family duties? If they perform those tasks on the Lord’s Day, then Houston we have a problem. But if they honor their callings during the week and cant’ attend a church function to which officers cannot attach a “thus saith the Lord,” are you really suggesting that to be truly holy and pious people need to pray together at the church building (instead of with their families or over the course of their work days)?

Maybe the problem is that you don’t appreciate the importance of Lord’s Day worship and week-day vocation.

Or maybe you simply have forgotten that all of life is worship (thanks to our southern correspondent):

The New Testament model for worship is not just about singing praises. It is living a life of service. It’s about far more than music. It’s helping your neighbor bring in the groceries, providing for the elderly, taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves, helping the poor and needy—these are all examples of biblical worship.

Actually, I’d prefer that you not follow this Framean understanding of every-square-inch liturgy, but you may want to recognize that your version of pietism is out of whack with the neo-Calvinist high intellect pietism. For neo-Cals, missing a mid-week prayer service is no problem since a believer must 24-7 be engaged in some means of grace. As you yourself have argued, grace can be a fairly expansive category that extends to God’s work of creation and providence. So if someone at church who is following Kuyper misses a prayer meeting because they are redeeming culture by watching Downton Abbey, which seventeenth-century theologian are you going to quote against them?

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375 thoughts on “From DGH on The Death of Prayer Meetings Submitted on 2015 05 12 at 10:52 am

  1. I could be wrong — I’m no scholar, nor do I own wrestling mask — but as I recall the “prayer meetings” in Geneva were probably part of the meetings of the company of pastors. And I’m pretty sure if there were other prayer-only meetings for the general public they would have only included written prayers and would have been short and sweet — Auntie Cosette’s lumbago would have escaped mention. Even the town sentries were required to pray a prescribed prayer at the beginning and/or end of their shifts.

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  2. I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my church (PCA). To suggest an evening worship service would probably send people into orbit or start rumors of legalism. Yet, small groups, kids’ nights, and all manner of other corporate activities dot the weekday calendar and put considerable stress on us laypeople who have jobs, families, and other pursuits. Sorry to offend full-time pastors, but sometimes I think some of you forget what life is like in the real world.

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  3. But here’s my own personal view on why corporate prayer meetings are as popular as hot dogs in a synagogue:

    People have not known the holiness and goodness of God in personal prayer. Perhaps they haven’t asked enough of God and thus received the answers he is so willing to give (Matt. 7:7-8; 11:24; 21:22)? They haven’t personally grasped the value of prayer and how important it is for our souls. Thus they are decidedly unmoved to want to meet for corporate prayer because the problem begins in private. Perhaps there is a correlation between private laziness and public laziness in the church today? But corporate prayer will help our private prayer and vice versa. We need both because the Christian life involves both (Matt. 6:4-6; Acts 12:12). And I think pastors who don’t meet to pray with their people need to have a compelling reason why they don’t.
    – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/05/the-problem-of-corporate-praye.php#.dpuf

    I stopped reading his article right there.

    Good grief, wear your piety on your sleve much, Dr. Jones? You got me and all who read you, pegged, Dr.Jones. I’m lazy. I should ask someone to pray for me to be less lazy since I am too lazy to pray for this myself. I wonder, Dr. Jones, do you know how you sound to those of us in the public who read your blogging? Put yourself in the shoes of your reader, try it.

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  4. PS Dr. Jones, but thanks for the posts, I appreciate your high view of prayer. Never been to a mid-week prayer meeting, I’ll have to look into where you get this idea. Let us know how it goes for you and your congregation, we’ll be reading, OL = comments always open.

    Who’s next?

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  5. Why does Mark Jones publish on his church website that the denom has over 300,000 members? (one can find it easy on faithvan dot com). It’s no biggee, just remember what Machen said, about statistics, and the prayer stuff follows.

    But this new Reformation for which we long will not be brought about by human persuasions, or by consideration of consequences, or by those who seek to save souls through a skillful use of ecclesiastical influences, or by those who refrain from speaking the truth through a fear of “splitting the Church” or of making a poor showing in columns of Church statistics. How petty, in the great day when the Spirit of God again moves in the Church, all such considerations will seem! No, when the true Reformation comes, it will come through the instrumentality of those upon whom God has laid His hand, to whom the gospel has become a burning fire within them, who speak because they are compelled to speak, who, caring nothing for human influences and conciliation and external Church combinations and the praise or blame of men, speak the word that God has given them and trust for the results to Him alone. In other words, it will be brought about by men of faith.

    And now the prayer stuff:

    Question and Answer

    Pastoral Prayer: How Long?

    Question:

    Does the pastoral prayer during an OPC Sunday morning worship service have to be 15 minutes long? Does there really have to be one? Can it be just one minute long? Can the OPC church have the option of having the pastoral prayer during a midweek prayer meeting and service? Thanks for your help.

    Answer:

    In order to explain why we worship the way we do, I’ll need to refer to what we believe the Bible teaches, contained in our Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), and how the Bible regulates our worship, contained in our Directory for Public Worship (DPW). You can find both here on the OPC website. Just click on the preceding links.

    In the Westminster Confession of Faith, prayer is identified as a distinct part of religious worship:

    Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue. WCF XXI.iii)

    During the worship service, in the pastoral prayer the pastor offers up prayer to God on the congregation’s behalf. (Since he is leading the congregation in prayer and since they also ought to be in prayer, the pastoral prayer is sometimes called the congregational prayer. All are to be in prayer, even if the pastor is the only one who is praying aloud.)

    There are any number of occasions during the service when it is appropriate to pray. The Lord’s Day “is to be kept holy to the Lord, and is to be employed primarily in the public and private exercises of religion” (DPW I.3), and “it is the sacred duty and high privilege of God’s people everywhere to convene for public worship on the Lord’s Day,” since “God has expressly enjoined [us] in his holy Word not to forsake the assembling of [ourselves] together” (DPW 1.6). Prayer is an essential component of that worship. Here’s why:

    As a service of public worship is in its essence a meeting of God and his people, the parts of the service are of two kinds: those which are performed on behalf of God, and those which are performed by the congregation. In the former the worshippers are receptive, in the latter they are active. (DPW ii.1)

    Although we may also speak to one another, worship is primarily God’s speaking to us (through the reading and proclamation of His Word, for example) and our speaking to God (partly through our singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but primarily through prayer). Thus – while it would certainly be good to supplement the prayers offered up during the Sunday services with a midweek prayer meeting – it should be obvious that such a meeting cannot substitute for them, since prayer is a fundamental part of what is involved with worship on the Lord’s Day.

    Here is how the DPW describes the pastoral prayer:

    … In public prayer the minister is the voice of the congregation. He should pray in such a way that the whole assembly of God’s people may pray with him, and the members of the congregation not only are bound to listen as he prays but should themselves pray in their hearts…. At some point … there shall be a comprehensive prayer comprising adoration of God’s perfections, thanksgiving for his mercies, confession of sins, supplication for the pardon of sins through the blood of the atonement and for renewal by the Holy Spirit, intercession for the poor, the sick, the dying, the mourning, the persecuted, the erring, the rising generation, the aged, the churches of the denomination, Christian missions at home and abroad, Christian education and other Christian activities, the church universal, the civil rulers, the community, human society in general, or whatever causes may be particularly worthy. (DPW iii.5)

    The length of time needed to pray for these things is, of course, left up to the discretion of the particular pastor and the elders of the congregation, but it is difficult to see how such a prayer could be “just one minute long.” Again, if worship is primarily God’s speaking to His people and His people’s speaking to Him, it would make little sense for one side of the “conversation” to be that brief.

    I hope you have found this information helpful. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance as you study the all-important matter of how God wants his people to worship him. In a sense, that we might worship Him, know Him, and have fellowship with Him is the main reason He saved us from our sins through the Cross of Christ. The price of our being able to approach God in prayer is the shed blood of Christ, so – rather than regarding that privilege lightly – let us treasure it and rejoice in it!

    That’s my three.

    six weeks. peace.

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  6. It’s curious you all talk about the “doctrine of vocation” (which chapter is that in the WCF again?), yet none of you have actually shown how a weekly prayer meeting undermines this. Seriously, which one of you has a job that means they could not, on any night of the week, attend a prayer meeting? I’m really interested to know. There are people whose work can prevent them from attending. There are a couple of guys in our congregation who work long hours every day in a trade which often means they miss the Wednesday PM. It’s unfortunate they do, but it’s a necessity of their work. The vast majority of people, however, don’t have this excuse. We don’t live in an agrarian culture which requires work from dawn until dusk (and when we did, prayer meetings were held in the afternoon or at other convenient times!).

    So now that that’s settled, we’re left with recreational reasons for not attending and these can’t be seriously considered.

    It seems strange that people who like to talk a lot about means of grace piety are so keen to limit participation in the means of grace as much as possible. Without a weekly, corporate meeting for prayer, a vacuum is left for the sillier, individualised approaches to piety that you all complain about so much. Maybe not in your churches. Maybe in your churches, the less the church does, the more worldly things your people do and you’re all quite happy to forget about your faith until the following Sabbath; but others look for alternative forms of fellowship and worship, which leads down a dangerous road.

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  7. Alexander, what don’t you understand about good works or about the Lord’s Day?

    16.1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.

    21.7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

    8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

    Resist your neo-nomian self.

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  8. Darryl, what don’t you understand about special days of prayers called by the Church ?

    Special Occasions of Public Worship

    Under the gospel, we are commanded to keep no other particular day holy, except the Lord’s Day. Nevertheless, God’s people may observe special occasions as the dispensations of God’s providence administer cause and opportunity. Such observance is both consonant with Scripture and pastorally appropriate.

    A. Prayer and Fasting

    1. When great and notable calamities come upon or threaten the church, community, or nation, when judgment is deserved because of sin, when the people seek some special blessing from the Lord, or when a pastor is to be ordained or installed (Form of Government, Chapter XXIII, Section 7), it is fitting that the people of God engage in times of solemn prayer and fasting.

    2. Prayer and fasting may be observed by private individuals and families at their discretion or by the Church at the discretion of the appropriate judicatory. If the civil authority calls for a time of prayer and fasting that the judicatories of the Church deem to be in harmony with the Scriptures, they should consider issuing such a call to their members.

    3. Public notice is to be given before the time of prayer and fasting comes, to enable persons to order their temporal affairs so that they can participate.

    4. It is especially appropriate on days of prayer and fasting called by the Church that the people of God gather for a time of prayer, the singing of psalms and hymns, and the reading and preaching of the Word of God. Let them lament their distress or unworthiness before the Lord, confess their sins, humbly implore the Lord for deliverance from the judgment present or imminent or for the blessing sought, and commit themselves anew to the faithful service of the Lord their God. It is fitting on such days that God’s people abstain from food and from such activities as may distract from their solemn engagement in prayer.
    B. Thanksgiving

    1. When God’s blessings on the church, community, or nation are particularly evident, it is fitting that the people of God engage in special times of thanksgiving.

    2. Special times of thanksgiving may be observed by private individuals and families at their discretion or by the Church as called by the appropriate judicatory. If the civil authority calls for a time of thanksgiving that the judicatories of the Church deem to be in harmony with the Scriptures, they should consider issuing such a call to their members.

    3. Public notice is to be given before the day of thanksgiving comes, to enable persons to order their temporal affairs so that they can participate.

    4. It is especially appropriate on special days of thanksgiving called by the Church that the people of God gather for prayer, testimony to God’s blessings, joyful singing of psalms and hymns, and the reading and preaching of the Word of God. Let them give thanks to God for his goodness to his people and especially for the greatness of his mercies to them in Christ. And let them commit themselves anew to the faithful service of the Lord their God in gratitude for his blessings. It is fitting on such days that God’s people spend the day in expressions of Christian love and charity toward one another, rejoicing more and more in the Lord, as becomes those who make the joy of the Lord their strength. Also, they may feast together before the Lord with joy and thanksgiving.

    Resist your antinomian self.

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  9. Weeknight events are tough to get to because I have to drive 40km across 4 large highways during commuting hours to get to my church from my office.

    I try to get there, giving a decent cushion of time under the circumstances, but when I’m 90 minutes into the drive and barely halfway there, forget about it. Which is about 2/3 of the time.

    Sunday is our day of worship with two services, along with appointed services through the week where the elders call them, as they have for Thursday night.

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  10. Hart: understand good works

    Understanding good works comes from reading His word… and of course prayer, individual and corporate

    1 Thess 5:16-18…19, etc.

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  11. Norm Mark! If you applied those hermeneutical skills to the NT you might come up with an infallible bishop of Rome.

    Are you serious? What’s special about a “weekly” meeting?

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  12. Alexander, and why does recreation get so easily dismissed? Recreation a facet of vocation. If not, then where do you locate it? Oh, the devil’s lair where there is also football (and movies).

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  13. cw l’unificateur
    Posted May 13, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink
    DG, just tell me you’re not opposed to other types of drive-by bon mots.

    I’m sure he’s not, remember, comments always open, just show restraint. Because of you, I’m going to read your festschrift while I drink my coffee and get ready to crunch some numbers.

    [2]

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  14. In the Book of Acts, prayer meetings were held for specific purposes, usually related to the ministry of the Apostles. For example, Acts 12:4&5 (church prays for Peter’s deliverance from prison). At times it seems it was only the church officers who met for specific prayer (Acts 13:1-3), again with reference to the apostolic ministry. I see no gathering mentioned in Acts to pray for “whatever is on your hearts.” I does seem appropriate that for special occasions and circumstances the church gathers for prayer.

    I have found at least three problems with regular or weekly prayer meetings.

    1. Certain personalities monopolize prayer meetings. Even though the shier ones often have more serious concerns, the church ends up praying most for the person who loves to share his or her problems, which is not usually a good thing.

    2. Many Christians have a difficult time praying in front of others, not because of a lack of spirituality, simply because it is difficult for them. Since the bible does not require such a thing, it puts pressure on these Christians to do what for others comes easily, and so as a result those people who struggle praying in front of others do not attend prayer meeting.

    3. Thus regular prayer meetings tend to develop an elitism and suspicion between those who attend and those who do not, the kind of suspicion evident in MJ’s posts that those who do not attend are just spiritually lazy, and those who do are the really committed ones.

    Because of these reasons, and others already mentioned in previous posts, we have found it much more beneficial to email out prayer requests during the week. Many more end up praying for the concern this way than at meetings. These email requests must be so serious they cannot wait until Sunday for me or one of the elders to pray for them in our congregational prayer. I do advise oversight on this though; our prayer request coordinator sends me any requests that seem questionable to her. You do get bizarre ones once in a while, or ones made into books that need editing. If I do not deem the request appropriate or necessary to be made public I explain to the requester why not.

    At times before our congregational prayer on Sunday morning I begin with, “this is our prayer meeting.” (It helps immensely if the pastor is aware of the serious needs among his members.)

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  15. Here’s what a good minister once told me about the weekly schedule: Sunday AM – mandatory. Sunday PM – should be there if possible though travel situations, proximity, age, or young children may make it not possible for some. Wednesday PM – nice, good time, important, but optional. Same for any holiday services, conferences, etc.

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  16. MVDM, is it not obvious that the post is about weekly, weeknight prayer meetings and what you’ve cited is about special, called, non-regular meetings?

    No, it is not obvious, because it isn’t there. Having a fixed frequency of such prayer meetings was not even mentioned in Jones’ post, which is why Darryl’s objection was pitting a weekday prayer meeting vs. prayer meetings as part of Sunday worship.

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  17. I estimate more than a few members at my church travel 2 hours each way on Sundays to get to the morning service, then have lunch and fellowship with people in town and attend the evening service.

    You cannot put a mandatory midweek meeting on these people, it would take 3 hours each way for commuting travel.

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  18. What’s special about a “weekly” meeting?

    Neither Jones nor you said a fixed “weekly” meeting.

    Has someone ruled that an OPC session can’t set a season (eg. 6 weeks of Wednesdays) for holding a prayer meeting that are “both consonant with Scripture and pastorally appropriate.” ?

    Or are you the Pope and demand all sessions submit to your personal hermeneutic of the Directory of Public Worship?

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  19. MVDM, do you honestly think Jones did not have in mind the weekly prayer service? Does anyone here (whatever your -nomian status) think Mark Jones was not talking about a weekly, weeknight prayer service?

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  20. It’s nice to know that God is so good to Mark because of his rare ability to have fervency and dedication to prayer. Were he like the rest of us, who have struggled with prayer and seen prayers answered tragically (in a manner which causes more doubt than faith), he would have to trust, like the rest of us, that God’s goodness exists independently of our ability to pray well and on Wednesdays to boot. I hope, someday, to be able to trust, like Jones, that my fervency alone is enough to leverage the goodness of God. I only hope my faith in myself can reach Jonesian levels before I leave this mortal coil. After all, who needs Jesus to mediate their prayers when we can pray so much and so well and so corporately?

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  21. CW – too bad there aren’t comments over there so he could be asked. No, I can’t imagine anyone but the pedantic would think it wasn’t about weekly, weeknight, prayer meetings.

    I’ve heard it said, unfortunately, by a new OPC minister: “Want to know who really loves Jesus? Come to the weekly prayer meeting.” I was a regular attender and was still like – record scratch – what? This isn’t a stated and called meeting, people have kids, are tired, etc.

    Tom’s statement: “…Thus regular prayer meetings tend to develop an elitism and suspicion between those who attend and those who do not, the kind of suspicion evident in MJ’s posts that those who do not attend are just spiritually lazy, and those who do are the really committed ones. … rings true.

    Anyway, nothing like poking a pietist in his piety to get an impious reaciton.

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  22. Mark, Jones writes: “But why is it that once a month or once a week we find it so difficult to meet together to pray corporately?”

    So he’s referring to a regular prayer meeting, presumably in addition to regular Sabbath activities. The question is: Why is corporate prayer on regular Sabbath morning and evening insufficient?

    Todd, ding.

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  23. Mr. Hart,

    As a member of a church which strives to keep the Sabbath as God has commanded us I can assure you I have no problem with the idea of the Sabbath being a day set apart. No one is arguing that Wednesday should be considered another Sabbath.

    Your reference to good works is confusing. Prayer is actually a duty commanded by God, not devised by man so a man who seeks to pray more is not actually trying to justify himself before God by his good works of his own devising, rather is seeking to obey and draw nearer to God. And maybe said man recognises that because of the sin within him, and his total inability to save and sanctify himself, he looks upon the prayer meeting not as a burden but a very beneficial period during the week to once again retire from the world and reorder himself towards God. Since when was acknowledging one’s dependence upon God a bad thing; a sign of vanity or boasting?

    Todd,

    Your concerns are not irrelevant, which is why such meetings should be orderly.

    1. Prayer meetings should be conducted either by the minister, elders and other office bearers if the minister is absent, or another suitable male member. It is he who conducts the meeting who will call upon the male members who are to pray. The more senior male members will usually be called first, and therefore may be called more often (from meeting to meeting) than younger members. This is how it should be: they who have more experience taking the lead.

    Also, this concern about “lists” and people with more concerns dominating: corporate prayer is not for such things. Corporate prayer should not be too personalised, as the man praying isn’t praying merely for himself.

    2. Praying in public can be daunting, but it is a duty for male members and the more they do it the more experience at it they will become. But they are not expected to pray for long periods of time- indeed they preferably shouldn’t. Nevertheless, it is a duty.

    3. I know of no elitism or suspicion between those who attend and those who don’t. In Scotland, those who attended the prayer meeting were usually those who were either members or those who were seeking. All congregations have two basic classes of people: those who are members of the visible church (all) and those who are members of the invisible (fewer). This tends to be reflected in attendance at the prayer meeting.

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  24. We could have daily prayer meetings. Hourly maybe? How about we all become protestant monks, how about we read what Calvin (since this is what Mark Jones raised, remember, in his post) says about monks, and how it might apply:

    Meanwhile I disguise not that even in that ancient form which Augustine commends, there was something which little pleases me. I admit that they were not superstitious in the external exercises of a more rigorous discipline, but I say that they were not without a degree of affectation and false zeal. It was a fine thing to cast away their substance, and free themselves from all worldly cares; but God sets more value on the pious management of a household, when the head of it, discarding all avarice, ambition, and other lusts of the flesh, makes it his purpose to serve God in some particular vocation. It is fine to philosophise in seclusion, far away from the intercourse of society; but it ill accords with Christian meekness for anyone, as if in hatred of the human race, to fly to the wilderness and to solitude, and at the same time desert the duties which the Lord has especially commanded. Were we to grant that there was nothing worse in that profession, there is certainly no small evil in its having introduced a useless and perilous example into the Church.

    I’m with Zrim and Kent (hey man, good to hear from you!) and Todd, being in the OPC going on 15 years, we have had special meetings of prayer (like for facility needs or others), and those took place on Sunday. In other words, my experience, FWIW, knows of no such creature as the weekly or monthly prayer meeting (does it really matter the frequency, is my point of this post, and if someone only does it monthly, per MJ’s whole point, it’s only because they are too lazy to do weekly, and if weekly, only because they are too lazy to do daily, ad infinitum)?

    PS it’s neat hearing all the different voices today, lets keep it civil, so that the fun never stops! Who’s next? (I’m hoping it’s EC, personally..)

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  25. MVDM, do you honestly think Jones did not have in mind the weekly prayer service?

    I go by what he wrote, not by guessing what was in his mind. But even if Jones had actually written what you think he had in mind, then stranger still that the objection here was not to fixed frequency, but to such a meeting being held at all.

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  26. Mark, then why did Jones refer to Levy’s post?

    You supplied the answer:

    I very much appreciated Paul Levy’s post on corporate prayer meetings.</i

    …a post which argued for the value of corporate prayers meetings.

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  27. Erik Charter
    Posted May 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
    Only the Reformed could fight about prayer…

    Nah, this aint a fight. You know a fight at OLTS when you see one. We’re more like these guys today.

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  28. “The question is: Why is corporate prayer on regular Sabbath morning and evening insufficient?”

    Because it’s harder to distinguish the sheep from the goats on Sunday. Only sheep are at church on a Wednesday night.

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  29. I’ve got to ask since MVDM pasted from the DPW, have any of your churches called for a time of corporate fasting?

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  30. MDVM,

    notice how what you quoted deals with the propriety of special occasions of worship.

    It isn’t a list of rules that one should comply with in order to avoid the charge of being “too worldly”. It is quite annoying when someone takes some action (P), where (P) = these appropriate services that should be desirable in the appropriate times

    and take the absence of (P) as an occasion to bash, and wax eloquently on how pious one is for being so concerned. Can you think of how many blogposts begin with “As a friendly neighborhood concern Christian, I find [x] (or lack thereof] proof that you aren’t mortifying sin/you care too much for the world”

    I could totally agree with the concern here, but at the same time, I could see why someone would quit reading people who voice their concerns in this manner. I get it, the struggle is real!

    Seriously, “the propriety warning and threats” in this kind of rhetoric is getting stretched real thin at this point.

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  31. Michael, we have members who fast on the Wednesday nights when our sumptuous fellowship meal features lasagna from Sam’s or frozen chicken patty sammichs with pork and beans. But only that.

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  32. Justin, I understand your point. We should guard against distorting ( acting holier-than-thou or demeaning the Sabbath ) a proper thing (holding corporate prayer meetings). I don’t read Jones distorting, but rather scripturally exhorting for an entirely proper thing.

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  33. I saw this slice of pious malarkey recently — a preacher talking to preachers:

    On Sunday morning you find out how many people think highly of you.
    On Sunday night you find out how many people think highly of the church.
    On Wednesday night you find out how many people think highly of God.

    Or, I might add, can tolerate mediocre food.

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  34. Michael, but in MVDM’s tradition, the neo-Cals, prayer meetings weren’t part of the regular piety. Now a neo-Calvinist who puts the Alvin in Calvinist, is here to defend prayer meetings.

    As is Mark’s style, the point isn’t about the point. It’s about making someone look bad.

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  35. Actually, Darryl, it is about a very simple point: corporate prayer meetings are appropriate. But you’re projecting again (as is your style), taking every opportunity to make Jones look bad (“he’s demeaning the Sabbath!”) rather than showing even a modest ability to read him charitably.

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  36. Galatians 5.13-15:

    “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

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  37. A Session or Consistory is free to call as many services as they wish, of whatever type. The rub is what they do about it when people don’t show up. At some point if they attempt to discipline members they’ll have to deal with other Sessions or Consistories who will likely tell them to chill out and not overburden their members. At least this is what would likely happen in the URCNA.

    So the moral of the story is, as long as a Session or Consistory is o.k. with attendance being inversely proportional to the quantity of services everyone can probably get along fine.

    Like

  38. Mark, and how exactly did you read what I wrote charitably?

    Since you think I’ve been uncharitable, please let me know how. I raised considerations that both Jones and Levy didn’t take into consideration (in my view). That’s uncharitable?

    Like

  39. d4v34x>> cat poem | Haiku-o-matic.exe

    The Charter gold, the
    Fine Iowan make
    This blog a wonderful thing.

    d4v34x>>_

    Like

  40. Welcome to Our World
    By D. G. HART | Published: FEBRUARY 2, 2015
    From the inimitable musings of CWU:

    Think what you want to think (and you will) but Old Life is a one of a kind place, with at least one of everything — Presbyterians, Lutherans, anabaptists, flaming Socia-mentalists, the undermedicated, gaybros, atheists, feisty women, armies of one, cranks, theonomists, non-denoms, tattooed Jeremiahs, academics, lawyers, Mark Jones, Iain the Druid, RSC, New Calvinists, and hillbillies. It’s not for the weak of heart, as this thread attests, but comments are open. Light and heat emanate by turns. It’s a dive bar in a seminary basement, a psych ward with a great library, it’s real and many of us could hardly live without it.

    That is the quote of the month.

    Like

  41. EC: A Session or Consistory is free to call as many services as they wish, of whatever type. The rub is what they do about it when people don’t show up. At some point if they attempt to discipline members they’ll have to deal with other Sessions or Consistories who will likely tell them to chill out and not overburden their members. At least this is what would likely happen in the URCNA.

    The dreaded “before I begin the service Elder _______ has a small note to read to us”…. this can never possibly be good….

    Usually one of the 3 excommunications a year, for which the person is so beyond caring at this point that it is a formality. Unless…. the family doesn’t agree and decides to unleash all their life frustrations on the good local church for the next few months.

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  42. David D, Michael, my brother from another mother, picked up on zrim’s comment who picked up the key issue IMO, check it out:

    Michael
    Posted May 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
    “The question is: Why is corporate prayer on regular Sabbath morning and evening insufficient?”

    Good to hear from you.

    Who’s next?

    Like

  43. MDVM,

    you said

    “Actually, Darryl, it is about a very simple point: corporate prayer meetings are appropriate.”

    But you see, there is more than one point. It moved from the propriety, to the shaming of people who don’t go because of their “worldly affairs”. Because of their lack of “dying to self”. Because of their “laziness”.

    “But you’re projecting again (as is your style), taking every opportunity to make Jones look bad (“he’s demeaning the Sabbath!”) rather than showing even a modest ability to read him charitably.”

    I’ve read Jones since before Hart started commenting on him here, and I don’t think he’s projecting anything. What may be the case is that Dr. Hart doesn’t read him through the same flowery lenses. Jones may be nicer in person, but on the internet, I sense a lot of snark and failed attempts at humor. In this case, it seems like he’s nagging people.

    Like

  44. Erik,

    You know who else fought about prayer?

    Jesus

    You know, that whole overturning tables episode.

    Like

  45. OL primer: Answer to most questions is “the church” or “worship”. And the underlying concern is often to prevent the culture warriors, world-fixers, dumb evangelicals, or confused pietists from screwing up the same. There’s also the realist view that “the second table antinomians ye will always have with ye” (which is bad) alongside the view that the church should at least take the first table a bit more seriously, which — if it doesn’t — is even worse.

    Like

  46. …meant to say just my opinion. And first table violations are worse because they screw up the means (of grace) — the purpose of which (in part) is work on the second table violations.

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  47. Darryl, you could have presumed that he, as a minister of the Word, had thought of those elementary considerations you raised. But listing them let you render this provisional judgment:

    Maybe the problem is that you don’t appreciate the importance of Lord’s Day worship and week-day vocation.

    You really think that’s charitable?

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  48. Did MVD just question someone else’s charitability? I like it, it either has that ‘devil may care’ panache to it, or just an utter lack of self awareness. Both can be useful and for some folk necessary, otherwise how would they sleep at night or face oneself in the mirror. “You really think that’s charitable?” Is this like when the exorcist is also the demon?

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  49. Paschalls and Erik, we are all rooting for the same baseball team (read: we are reformed). If we were smart, we’d all be on twitter and message each other as we combox one with another, its what the callers do. We must learn to put aside our differences and unite the clans.

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  50. ‘Bon mot?”

    Scripture is not for bon mot but for Ps 119:11, though it seems Bon mot mayi be an idol here.

    Back to prayer. Jesus died for a people; He lives for a people; He prays for His people (John 17:21); and He taught His people corporate prayer Luke 11:1-4.

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  51. a., typing slowly so you can u n d e r s t a n d: No one is against corporate prayer. The discussion is about the advisability/necessity of adding regular weeknight prayer meetings. That’s all. And if you’re a humorless church lady take it somewhere else.

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  52. Awww CW. I thought you were l’unificateur.
    And also speaking of your church ladies, it is not very lovingly unificating to dis their homemade meals made with love I’m sure

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  53. “One must also keep in mind that Hart’s mockery of mid week corporate prayer does not arise out of nowhere. He is devoted to a sharp dividing line between the sacred (lived out on Sunday at church) and secular ( lived out everywhere else). Hence, a mid week prayer meeting transgresses his ideal of living the dichotomous, “hyphenated” life where the exhibition of the Christian faith is confined primarily to corporate worship on the Sabbath.” – Mark Van Der Molen, post # 12

    Source: http://www.puritanboard.com/f117/non-importance-prayer-meetings-86652/

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  54. It’s telling that intended slurs-dichotomous, hyphenated life-actually prove the point-‘confined’ to corporate worship on the Sabbath. There’s reading and then there’s listening. The first table has almost no ‘real’ weight once W-w’s kicks in. I think this point was being made somewhere………………………………. But, still, as regards on line charity, the Michigan dutch are all over it. Speak your name, demon!

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  55. Estimable Herman plucks a hot take from the fever swamps of the Puritan Board. How about this one:

    “The high view of the Sabbath and not wanting to burden people aside, if reading prayers is preferable, why bother to assemble in the middle of the week anyway?”

    Which just shows it’s all about us and our feelings and felt needs and pious shivers and….

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  56. Herman, ah, I love how the BBs and vdm, m know my devotion. They don’t read very carefully. If life is dichotomous or as I prefer hyphenated, you have multiple concerns. Being devoted is hard. Being charitable toward a 2ker is even harder.

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  57. cw, here’s another take from PB:

    I’ve been attending a Wednesday night Bible study/prayer meeting for a few years now. Surrounded by the world, and its influences, it is a refreshing oasis and a recharging of my spiritual batteries. It offers me the opportunity of fellowship with other saints and has contributed to my developing and experiencing that love for, and by, our brothers and sisters in Christ that John writes about in his first epistle.

    Isn’t that what Sunday is supposed to be? And are we wiser than God? He gave us one day, but we need two (or 1 1/2).

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  58. Our church had a pre-evening service (Sunday) prayer meeting for a time. I usually attended but feared the dozen or so who usually came were turning into some sort of holy club. And if you were serving as a deacon and had to be there early and late anyway it made for about eight hours at church every Sunday. Which was a bit much. At the same time I had other meetings and Wednesday night activities which put my annual weekly at-church time at 15 hours a week or more. So holy juke your butts off, haters.

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  59. Mr. Hart,

    It really beggars belief that you don’t see how uncharitable you are. When this discussion is taking place in yet another thread calling out Mark Jones for saying something you disagree with! Where are your “from dgh” responses to all the other Ref21 contributors? In the last 8 months you have posted 18 threads attacking one of Mark Jones’ articles. And as far as I can see he is the only Ref21 contributor towards which you have adopted this particular strategy. You do respond to other contributors from time to time, yet you you whole “from dgh” schtick is reserved for Mark Jones. And even when you’re not “replying” directly, he is a favourite target of yours. You clearly have some sort of pathology when it comes to him. We get it: you disagree with him on a lot of things.

    This is, of course, beside the many other articles aimed at people or events or practices which you find personally distasteful, often involving Christians trying to defend their faith in the public arena. And yet the minute someone calls you out on this you run away shouting “uncharitable, uncharitable!”.

    Mark Jones didn’t just call people “lazy” for not attending prayer meetings. He asked why so many Christians are happy to prioritise “earthly” (to use your word) recreations and pursuits over spiritual ones. What about this is controversial? You and your acolytes have shown the truth in this assertion by your defending the right of Christians to do just that! Either Mark Jones’ has slandered Christians by making this point, or he hasn’t because it’s perfectly fine to do it. You can’t have it both ways.

    And you have yet to explain how a midweek prayer meeting undermines the Sabbath. And all this when you seem happy to allow people to things on the Sabbath which do desecrate it!

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  60. Mark Jones didn’t just call people “lazy” for not attending prayer meetings. He asked why so many Christians are happy to prioritise “earthly” (to use your word) recreations and pursuits over spiritual ones. What about this is controversial?

    Alexander, because it’s akin to asking when we stopped beating the wife. Why is emphasizing the Sabbath that God calls for over mid-week prayer meetings men exalt rendered a prioritizing of earthly recreations over spiritual ones? Why isn’t enough to let the Sabbath be the seventh day and the six days the time to labor and do all our earthly work? Why is the Sabbath insufficient to you guys? And why is earthly vocation demonized?

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  61. Alexander, it’s not an equal opportunity impugning, some are more worthy than others. ‘Mericans get labeled, lazy, ungodly, apuritanical, ahistorical, and worldly because we’ve got a doctrine of vocation, but we’re the bad guys? We put up with Johnny’s who can’t preach and can’t distinguish law from gospel or the COG from the COW, but we’re admonished ‘cuz we’ve got a post to fill, that God has called us to, that makes Wed night- bitch, moan, gossip and awkward public supplication’s meeting onerous. OOOOkay, then.

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  62. Alexander, where’s the love? Do you think you’re comment is charitable? If so, why not read my comments about Jones as criticism instead of “attacks”? Man up.

    If Ref 21 had open comments, this wouldn’t happen. And then Jones might find a whole lot more “attackers” than just little old me.

    BTW, do you have stats on how many posts I’ve written about Bryan Cross and Jason Stellman?

    My point about the Lord’s Day is simple. Evening services are everywhere in decline. Why not promote the Lord’s Day instead of a mid-week prayer gathering?

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  63. Alexander, btw, Jones is on my radar — in case you didn’t notice — because he is in Shepherd land. You play with the gospel, you’re gonna get dinged.

    Is that a problem for you?

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  64. You guys really have to stop circling the wagons around Jones,

    You’re going to make him seem to much like a celebrity pastor who talks about himself in the third person!

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  65. When my ostensibly Reformed church refers to its network of small groups (which in my experience includes a lot of extemporaneous group prayer, so I’ll consider it equivalent to a weekly prayer meeting) as the “backbone” of church life and not the gathered worship on Sunday morning, something is off. Questioning this is not about my Christian piety (or apparent lack thereof according to some of the commenters here), but about a view of worship increasingly disconnected from our confessional understanding of the Sabbath. But I’m just an anonymous, amateur theologian, so what do I know.

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  66. cw, and get this. vdm, m is an elder at a church that has no mid-week prayer meeting. You can’t make this up.

    Don’t sell yourself short, Darryl– you just did do a fine job of making stuff up.

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  67. Alexander – And all this when you seem happy to allow people to things on the Sabbath which do desecrate it!

    Erik – What evidence would you cite for that, Alexander? Darryl has been a pretty consistent defender of the Sabbath for as long as I’ve been reading him.

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  68. DGH, that’s is one sweet bulletin they put together each week.

    I concur there is not a whisper of a mid-week prayer.

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  69. That’s a relief, I was afraid I was at one of dem dose lesser sanctifried URC’s run by one of them thar California cats.

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  70. I think I’m up to reading 284 different attempts to make a normative declaration on every conceivable loophole regarding the Sabbath for honest P&R folk.

    Many things to ponder, but not one of them dismisses the Sabbath as being of no concern or consequence at all, which is what all bitter and argumentative kooks claim against those who disagree even 1% with them.

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  71. Question: Do URC’s believe the Consistory can make more than one Sunday meeting mandatory?

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  72. Darryl, I sure hope you don’t do history the way you conclude that a local URC holds “no midweek prayer meeting.”

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  73. vdm, m, I hope you are more helpful to your wife (and more candid). I also hope you are as charitable about my skills as a historian as you want me to be with Mark Jones.

    You know, good Dutchman that you are, that mid-week prayer meetings are not part of Dutch Reformed Protestantism. According to Robert Swierenga:

    Christian Reformed clerics condemned American evangelical techniques and remained committed to Dutch confessional orthodoxy. In 1897, clerical writers in Onze Toekomst . . . “attacked the prayer-meeting as an anti-Calvinist feature of Church life . . . [and warned] against the ‘Arminian’ or ‘Methodist’ institution – our ‘sweet hour of prayer.'”

    And all you need to do is point me to somewhere on your website or a bulletin that says when the meeting takes place.

    And please leave history to those trained to do it.

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  74. Why are the cranks so prickly and obtuse, opaque, and obfuscatory? Mark – if you have a regular weeknight prayer service please tell us all about it. My church does. It’s on the sign, on the website, and in the bulletin. I even attend sometimes. What’s with this Dutch secrecy?

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  75. Darryl, why should I do your research for you, (hint, you haven’t exhausted your resources) since it’s easier for you to invent your own reality anyways?

    Speaking of which, you really might want to research whether Jones holds weekly prayer day meetings before publicly insinuating he does so at the expense of honoring the Sabbath Day.

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  76. Darryl, rather than investigating and linking to non-sequiturs (squirrel!), have you determined Jones’ situation yet? He was the object of your imaginative critique, after all. But you’re the historian.

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  77. so I guess prayer meeting last night isn’t having its desired effect.

    Darryl, that is a good reminder to add you to my prayer list. Thank you.

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  78. Mark, you’re a good sport. I’m sure DGH would find you a worth adversary on his home golf course.

    Thanks for bringing some fire here, man. And thank for your labor as an elder in Christ’s Church. God be with you and your family. Grace and peace.

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  79. In honor of the recently departed B.B. King, this might be a good time to hear him and Ray Charles in duet playing/singing “Sinner’s Prayer”:

    P.S. Yes, the thrill is most definitely gone and lord have mercy on me.

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  80. Muddy, from an unauthorised point of view.. seeing as the one who could answer your question won’t do much but be childish on here…

    A second Sunday service is scheduled, it is expected that members will attend all services unless they have good reason not to be there. Attendance at the second service is often encouraged, the failure to attend is often addressed during services.

    I don’t believe one would be disciplined for not attending, but it would work against being taken seriously to not be there regularly.

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  81. You don’t have a list for the entire congregation at its weekly meetings?

    If you would like me to add you to the corporate prayer list for when we do hold a weekday meeting, let me know.

    In the meantime, still personally praying…

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  82. Mark, did you just play the “I’m praying for you (to be more like me or at least not you)” card? Wow, is that what neo-Puritan piety gives us? No thanks.

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  83. CW says “At the same time I had other meetings and Wednesday night activities which put my annual weekly at-church time at 15 hours a week or more.”

    @dear ol’ CW –the important thing is that you served your church 15+ hours a week so enthusiastically and fervently and pietistically….right?

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  84. vdm, m, you guys hold weekday prayer meetings? Way to make the means of grace accessible to everyone with a job, or kids, or life.

    (Why does interacting with you always remind me of Side Show Bob repeatedly stepping on rakes that bang him/you in the head?)

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  85. Thanks, Kent, that makes sense as a description. Personally, I’d like to be able to bully people into being twicers but, alas, I don’t see the biblical authority to do it. As a result, I can only bully my family into it. But actually, it’s never been a bone of contention – the family has always taken it as “that’s the way it is.” Perhaps the trip to church simply becomes an Aristotelian good habit.

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  86. Petros, thanks for asking. I did it with my characteristic joie de vivre. Really, that was just a reminder that even those of us who don’t blab about it are involved in the real, imperfect church world and to give a real world example of why the addition of an extra prayer meeting was onerous and maybe unwise.. I do not regret my service or time spent. I do offer this as a cautionary tale.

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  87. you guys hold weekday prayer meetings? Way to make the means of grace accessible to everyone with a job, or kids, or life.

    You might consider taking your “no-weekday-prayer meeting” stance up with your session to overture deleting sections from your Directory of Public Worship.

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  88. (Why does interacting with you always remind me of Side Show Bob repeatedly stepping on rakes that bang him/you in the head?)

    Because you experience transference? Ice (and prayer) should reduce your swellling.

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  89. Muddy, the less needless distractions I put in my way on Saturdays and Sundays somehow turns into me being there twice more often. That’s just me though….

    The theos and neos can rail and make up rules that you can’t enforce, I don’t like people like that, prefer to keep it real.

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  90. it’s okay MVDM, all of us jump into the midst of a comment section with a point that is somewhat on the topic but clearly way off for those who have invested time in the thread. Shrug and move on…

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  91. Kent, that’s the spirit :mrgreen:

    I’ve missed you around here, man. Hope all is well with you.

    Wow, lotsa comments today, did you all get your second cup of coffee yet or what, yo?

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  92. Lloyd-Jones made the apt point that there is no Xian personality type. The holy jukers, fruit checkers, and condescenders sure seem to wish that they could feel a little better about some of us. They love us so much that they point out areas where we are coming short, like not being totally thrilled about Wednesday night prayer meetings or falling in line with their preferred methods of education and socio-political engagement. Get over it. Do your thing, but don’t cheat Sunday to pay Wednesday. Or Thursday.

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  93. Mr. Hart,

    I merely pointed out the facts about your wannabe-persecution of Jones. If pointing out the facts of your behaviour comes across as uncharitable, maybe it’s because your behaviour is uncharitable. You are actually being uncharitable because you are misreading and misrepresenting what Jones is saying. All I did was point out what you were doing. That’s the difference.

    As has already been said, Jones isn’t saying we shouldn’t have Evening Services; or that the Sabbath isn’t the main day of Christian worship. He’s making a completely separate point that prayer meetings are also of benefit to the church. If this was truly about “liberty of conscience” all that would have sufficed would be for you to charitably disagree with him. Instead you attack him- again- and accuse him of all sorts of nefarious motivations. You have yet to explain how a mid-week prayer meeting undermines the Sabbath.

    You all bring up small groups, subjective piety &c.but none of this has anything to do with a weekly prayer meeting. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the churches which have an extensive small groups and bible study programme don’t actually have a mid week prayer meeting for the whole congregation (in theory) to come together. These tend to be mutually exclusive approaches to “doing church”: and I speak from my own personal experience on this. I also speak from my own personal experience when I say that the idea that a weekly prayer meeting would undermine the Sabbath is laughable- if it even occurred to people, which it doesn’t.

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  94. Also, Mr. Hart,

    Mark Jones is not a shepherdite and this accusation which you (and Scott Clark and his cronies &c.) have clearly decided is your way to shut down anyone who criticises you, is nothing but slander for which you should be ashamed. Your an office bearer in the church: you should know better.

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  95. what don’t you understand about “special”?

    Oh, at a minimum, in distinction to being the “regular” meeting, on Sunday.

    Transference, doh!

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  96. Alexander,

    Sort of like writing a book about antinomianism as a means of attacking people across national borders While ignoring the influence Shep, the NPP, and FV had on many of the people in the PCA.

    When you write a polemical book, you can only expect all kinds charges. And it isn’t as if he’s a passive recipient. he’s made some accusations himself. Do you think he hasn’t?

    Or do you think that as long as he’s right, the means justifies the ends?

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  97. Alexander, why raise the stakes? Why call me uncharitable when it is the case that you like Mark and I disagree with him, or at least the direction his post about prayer meeting seems to be headed? If you want to throw around the language of misreading and misrepresenting, perhaps you should leave the room because you may hit yourself. How exactly is this misrepresenting, misreading or uncharitable?

    I am having trouble figuring out why you might advocate corporate prayer the way you do. For instance, you say that one reason is that people are too busy. But that’s the same argument that people use against a second service on Sunday. I can well understand that people have vocations that make attending church functions like Bible study, youth group, even catechism difficult. I can also well understand a session that is reluctant to add to a church member’s burdens, someone who already is committed to and practices keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

    I don’t know why you don’t see the potential burden unless you don’t understand the doctrine of vocation. Isn’t it Reformed to think that someone is actually serving God by carrying out their civil, secular, professional, and family duties? If they perform those tasks on the Lord’s Day, then Houston we have a problem. But if they honor their callings during the week and cant’ attend a church function to which officers cannot attach a “thus saith the Lord,” are you really suggesting that to be truly holy and pious people need to pray together at the church building (instead of with their families or over the course of their work days)?

    Raising questions is uncharitable? Do you live in the Soviet Union or Vatican City?

    Then again you don’t seem all that charitable when talking about “us all” and small group piety. Some of us have actually experienced churches with small groups and prayer meetings. We actually know of some of what we speak. For you to say we don’t is so Communist.

    But please do make sure Mark hears about your efforts to silence dissent.

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  98. Alexander, I’ve made my case for why Mark Jones’ tinkering with the covenant of works, his flattening of Jesus and our experience, and his construction of sanctification is worrisome. Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me if I happened to come to theological maturity before Shepherd’s views had been condemned and still haven’t in some circles. Your simply stating that Mark Jones is free from Shepherd-like views is like your opinion. Perhaps the way to clarify matters is to explain why Mark Jones feels the need to go after Tullian at book length but his defenders feel as if the sixth commandment has been violated by raising questions about Mark Jones’ blog posts.

    If he is going to take shots at pastors in the PCA and URC, shouldn’t you be ready for a reaction?

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  99. You all bring up small groups, subjective piety &c.but none of this has anything to do with a weekly prayer meeting….I also speak from my own personal experience when I say that the idea that a weekly prayer meeting would undermine the Sabbath is laughable- if it even occurred to people, which it doesn’t.

    Alexander, if there a calling for a regular corporate prayer service in addition to the Sabbath services then how does it not imply that the Sabbath is insufficient? So you can act as nonplussed as you please that anyone would have the audacity to question what amounts to calling for more than God himself does, but whatever happened among the ostensibly Reformed to a more simple piety? Some might even wonder if what animates the mid-week prayer service among Protestants is what animates Lent among Catholics.

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  100. Honest questions for Muddy re: two services.

    Are church members expected to be at the first but not second service? What if a member regularly skipped the first service but always attend the second – does that make any difference? Are the reasons used for skipping the second service permitted for skipping the first?

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  101. So you’re ok with holding a non-Sunday prayer meetings after all, so no need to amend your DPW. Great. One wonders what you’re complaining about. Too frequent? Set schedule? Content?

    So why not spell out the factors in your book that de-legitimize an otherwise legitimate non-Sunday meeting? (aside from the factor that such a meeting is called at Mark Jones’ church whom you think a Shepardite and wrote a book explaining antinomianism which quoted your buddy Tullian).

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  102. Zrim,

    So you can act as nonplussed as you please that anyone would have the audacity to question what amounts to calling for more than God himself does, but whatever happened among the ostensibly Reformed to a more simple piety? Some might even wonder if what animates the mid-week prayer service among Protestants is what animates Lent among Catholics.

    How does a prayer meeting amount to calling for more than God does himself? If you see it though, I’m curious how multiple worship services on the Lord’s Day aren’t equally as onerous on God’s people.

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  103. Alexander, with the utmost due respect, I’m kind of surprised you would lean more towards Jones than DGH on these issues.

    To each their own.

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  104. Do you folks pray for the Belgic 36 overture in prayer meeting?

    What is the point of the question, Eric?

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  105. Mark,

    What will a midweek prayer meeting accomplish that a shepherd’s prayer on the LD’s can’t? Is this every-member-ministry-creep rearing its ugly head?

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  106. Are church members expected to be at the first but not second service?

    Yes, the Lord’s supper should be weekly, why would someone miss the feast

    What if a member regularly skipped the first service but always attend the second – does that make any difference?

    See first answer.

    Are the reasons used for skipping the second service permitted for skipping the first?

    I’ll let Muddy answer, but I did a search for you on the Q&A of the OPC website, read at your leisure, bro:

    Question and Answer

    Evening Worship Service

    Question:

    I recently read your article “The Evening Worship Service” in the October, 1997 issue (Volume 6, Number 4) of Ordained Servant.

    I especially appreciate your point that “An obvious advantage of evening congregational worship is found in the fact that it is much easier to keep the whole day sacred if it is begun and ended with corporate worship.” Since your article appeared over 6 years ago, I was wondering if there would be more you would want to say in this regard?

    Answer:

    Thank you for your letter. I might just add to what you quoted out of that article. It should be obvious that what I said is a good, pragmatic argument. The fourth Commandment uses the term “Sabbath day.” I think it is a matter of choice whether we define the day as from sundown to sundown or from midnight to midnight, but the commandment is one day in seven.

    Now I would not “un-church” anyone who has a shrunken view of the Lord’s Day. But all the Commandments are equally inspired and required for those who, having been saved by grace alone, want to please God with their redeemed lives! And it should be clear that those who habitually neglect the Lord’s day are robbing themselves of needed blessing (Isa. 58:13-14).

    I grew up in a home where keeping the Lord’s Day holy was the rule. We were in a little rural Presbyterian church. There were times that I would have been glad to skip Sunday school and evening worship, but I did not dare to ask. Perhaps we weren’t as serious about some of the in-between hours as we might have been, but we were there every Sunday evening unless there was a blizzard. And the pattern stuck with me. And I credit much of the deterioration of modern American morality and decency to the neglect of the Lord’s Day.

    My farmer father had a livestock trucking business which saved our farm during the Great Depression. His competition would load livestock Sunday evening to truck them to the stockyards for Monday’s market, but he wouldn’t go along with the competition. And faithful customers would get up at midnight to load their stock into his trucks for Monday’s market. Any other night we’d come at any hour, but not Sunday. Habits like these have a powerful effect on children.

    I give you this for what it’s worth, but he who starves his soul for human convenience has himself to blame if he finds no joy in the worship of God.

    opc[dot]org/qa.html?question_id=277

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  107. Michael, I have a debilitating illness that goes into full bloom lasting up to months at a time through the last two decades. As such, my attendance has suffered, when I’m fine I’m at both, when I’m not well I go to one service for which I’m most able (could be either one) and when I’m a basket case I don’t go at all.

    All parties whose business it is are well informed and those in office have done their duties in checking up on me out of concern, even when I wasn’t grateful.

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  108. AB – Why isn’t the LD supper administered in the evening too? That’s like having an evening service without a sermon.

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  109. Kent, I found a good article, and am reading it, zrim commented on it (“I am an avid golfer”) back in 2009, so there’s some golfers in our midst, be of good cheer.

    http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2009/08/golf-in-the-modest-republic/

    enjoy it at your leisure, as I am today. I golfed yesterday man, was rough, I need to get out again and work on my drives :mrgreen:

    grace and peace, bro (from the guy who sounds like a stoned surfer california dude, where’s that clip from erik of the high schooler rolling out of the van before class? i couldn’t remember the name of the movie..)

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  110. DGH, just caught this… Are you advocating that we add another, for the sake of sanctifying Wednesday night (sure hope it doesn’t conflict with Hockey Night in Canada)?

    Toronto plays weeknights at home mostly on Tuesday nights the last few years. Used to be Wednesday at 8, then 7:30, and now Tuesday at 7.

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  111. Michael,

    You and I should ask Mark Jones why no LD at corporate midweek prayer meeting who knows, maybe they did.

    I’m sure we’re lazy antinomians who don’t want to have to put the wine into the little cups more than once a week, so sue us (not really, EC). (emoticon).

    You still haven’t told me if you golf, man..

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  112. Kent, I get legitimate reasons (such as yours). I had in mind lame reasons which sessions tend to overlook wrt the second service. I guess my real question is “why prioritize the first over the second if both are stated worship services?”

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  113. Ha!

    Sorry guys,

    Somehow I entered Alexander’s name in instead of my own.

    Do you have the capability of editing my name? 😉

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  114. The OPC DPW permits occasional prayer days. It doesn’t seem to anticipate a weekly event. Note how prayer and fasting go together like peas and carrots.

    A. Prayer and Fasting

    1. When great and notable calamities come upon or threaten the church, community, or nation, when judgment is deserved because of sin, when the people seek some special blessing from the Lord, or when a pastor is to be ordained or installed (Form of Government, Chapter XXIII, Section 7), it is fitting that the people of God engage in times of solemn prayer and fasting.

    2. Prayer and fasting may be observed by private individuals and families at their discretion or by the Church at the discretion of the appropriate judicatory. If the civil authority calls for a time of prayer and fasting that the judicatories of the Church deem to be in harmony with the Scriptures, they should consider issuing such a call to their members.

    3. Public notice is to be given before the time of prayer and fasting comes, to enable persons to order their temporal affairs so that they can participate.

    4. It is especially appropriate on days of prayer and fasting called by the Church that the people of God gather for a time of prayer, the singing of psalms and hymns, and the reading and preaching of the Word of God. Let them lament their distress or unworthiness before the Lord, confess their sins, humbly implore the Lord for deliverance from the judgment present or imminent or for the blessing sought, and commit themselves anew to the faithful service of the Lord their God. It is fitting on such days that God’s people abstain from food and from such activities as may distract from their solemn engagement in prayer.

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  115. What will a midweek prayer meeting accomplish that a shepherd’s prayer on the LD’s can’t?
    Is this every-member-ministry-creep rearing its ugly head?

    Reformed liturgical practice expressed in a DPW or Church Order would not think this is the reason for calling a mid week service. There are seasons and occasions in which the church has agreed it is *good* (not setting one prayer meeting to the exclusion of another) for us to spend additional time in corporate prayer confessing and petitioning.

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  116. Michael, we need to find you a good medical doctor, I know a few, my personal physician specializes in sports medicine, back related particularly.

    I’d tell you which shows I watched lately, but there’s people lurking, we must be cautious. Nothing much on the sci fi radar, I’m afraid, except Asimov’s foundation (listening while I was driving).

    Grace and peace.

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  117. Michael
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
    Me too!

    Andrew @ 2:31 was really me.

    You guys need to get on twitter and link your names to your twitter account.

    Who are you people anyway (emoticon)

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  118. For Michael:

    Professional

    Background
    I entered medicine with the mindset of treating the whole person, both physically and mentally. Since passing the boards in both family practice and sports medicine, I have had the opportunity to teach stress management, consult in both sports medicine and the spine center, and teach both Stanford medical students and physicians. I have a special interest in returning people back to an active lifestyle. Helping others return to sports, to walking or just staying active is a particular interest of mine.

    I believe we are at least partly responsible for ourselves. Knowing what medications you take and understanding your conditions is critical to getting the best treatment for any illness and keeping healthy. Regular exercise is very important. It not only helps in the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure, prevents low back pain and many other medical illnesses, it also helps many people maintain good mental health. People who exercise on a regular basis are often able to maintain a higher level of good health even into their seventies and eighties.

    I joined Kaiser Permanente because I believe I can provide my patients the services they need, we have excellent specilist to refer to when needed and Kaiser Permanente is the best positioned medical group in California for the long run. I came to work at Kaiser Permanente at a time when many insurances were filing bankruptcy and restricting services to patients.

    I work 4 days a week in the Medicine Department and on Tuesdays in the Spine Clinic Office. Please see the Offices and Directions tab for both locations.

    I recommend you activate your secure kp.org account so you can refill prescriptions, check lab results, and view portions of your medical record online. You can email me with non-urgent questions and download the Preventive Care mobile app for Northern California members, to receive reminders about your appointments and the preventive services you and your family need to stay healthy.

    Zrim-related, I found out where he gets his problem when we say all us protestants are just non-catholics (instead, the three fold is catholic, reformed, radical reformed, he posted this this on called to communion in 2009):

    We are assailed by two sects, which seem to differ most widely from each other. For what similitude is there in appearance between the Pope and the Anabaptists? And yet, that you may see that Satan never transforms himself so cunningly, as not in some measure to betray himself, the principal weapon with which they both assail us is the same. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency certainly is to sink and bury the Word of God, that they may make room for their own falsehoods. And you, Sadolet, by stumbling on the very threshold, have paid the penalty of that affront which you offered to the Holy Spirit, when you separated him from the Word.

    Now where were we? Everyone posting their correct names now? One step at a time, who’s next, yo?

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  119. The LCMS I’ve been at has a Saturday service, three Sunday services, several midweek activities, and weekly Lord’s Supper.

    Sounds more holy than the Presbyterian & Reformed if it’s all about quantity.

    I roll out of bed, read the paper, watch some TV, list some books, and hit the 11:00 service, maybe hang out at the coffee shop for awhile, eat some French toast, then either go to work or head home for a nap depending on the time of year.

    Not sure how to evaluate all this.

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  120. Erik, Calvin would be very happy you are at a church with weekly Lord’s Supper.

    I am too. I haven’t had that since 2004, and I’ve really missed it.

    I’ll tell you how I evaluate it though:

    Come back to P&R, you b****rd 😥

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  121. Or “Alexander the Good,” with the possibility of being promoted to a greater adjective.

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  122. Andy,

    It’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and if you’ve never seen it I need to revoke your 80s man card.

    Not to pick on anyone in particular, but some Old Life contributors resemble this guy:

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  123. vdm, m, I spelled out the reasons. The Dutch Reformed thought they were Methodist. What about English don’t you understand?

    And why do you defend mid-week meetings when your congregation doesn’t have them?

    Even more fun but watch out when your groin instead of your head absorbs the rake.

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  124. Brandon, you do know that we are called to keep one day out of seven holy. Not 1 and 1/2. If a service works for Wed. night, why not for Sunday night?

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  125. How does a prayer meeting amount to calling for more than God does himself? If you see it though, I’m curious how multiple worship services on the Lord’s Day aren’t equally as onerous on God’s people.

    Brandon, as I understand it, the Continental Reformed considered a morning and evening service at once sufficient and not onerous. And it is understood as an issue not of quantity per se but one of opening and closing the Sabbath day. There are some fellow champions of evening services who, in response to the widespread anti- and a-sabbatarianism will ask, “Why two services? Why not three or more!?” Good motive but bad answer, and for the reason you suggest. It’s very American—when the doctor prescribes one pill we think two is better. Similarly, if God prescribes just a morning and evening worship then afternoon services (or more!) are to be wiser than God. Are the mid-week prayer meetin’ neo-Puritans the Reformed version of American get-er-doneism?

    ps somewhere I feel confident there exists a little known Reformed confession that makes this very point, namely that we are frail and dust and to do more than a Sabbath morning and evening service is to actually work against God’s merciful limitations. I just can’t locate it.

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  126. Zrim, Let’s make it 3 services for good measure:

    Sunday was church in Orange City, Iowa, in the first decades of the century. I suspect that is is so even now in the little pockets of piety that dot Northwest Iowa, though it can’t be as still in the town or in the homes as it was in my youth. There were three services, which I attended with simulated docility. The preacher delivered three sermons before his often critical sheep, dressed in a somber Prince Albert, sweating it out in August afternoons without air-conditioning before a whir of variegated hand-propelled fans. He spoke in these churches, some of them large, without the aid of electronic devices, and a voice of good timbre could be heard on the street through the open windows. There were always competitive babies in the crowd, quieted not by artful jouncing but by breast feeding. As the sermon pounded on, squirming little boys were pinched. Sometimes fractious older boys in the back seats were policed by elders. Dutch psalms were fervently sung while a lathering janitor pumped the bellows of the organ at 110 degrees. There was no choir – an irrelevant impertinence.

    The heart of the service was the sermon; upon that the evaluation of the preacher and the determination of his ecclesiastical fortunes depended. Then, as it was well into the sixties, it was as rhetorically fixed as the terza rima. Apparently all texts were best analyzed and interpreted in terms of three points. I remember a preacher saying, “One more point and then we go home.” Whether the content was brilliant or mediocre, it was formulated in terms of an introduction, three divisions, and application. The three points were often chosen with care and memorably phrased. These pegs to remembrance enabled certain people to recall sermons accurately for years. A lady of eighty-eight wrote me recently saying about some sermons she had heard “I know the introduction and application he made and often talk about them.” She also gave the three points of several sermons she had remembered for fifty years. Such fixed rhetoric may seem wooden, bit its mnemonic helpfulness was striking. As a boy, of course, I had no interest in these sermons. I spent my time counting the pipes in the organ, the panes in the colored glass windows, watching the consistory up front, and daydreaming. I am glad that later I learned to appreciate the meticulous preparation, craftsmanship, and meditation that went into their making. Some of these older ministers operated on volubility, but others on a lot of mind and heart; not a few had style and some had class. . . .

    Three services, three trips to church, three meals pretty well consumed the day. What time remained was to be used in a way compatible with the spiritual tone of the day. To many this all sounds like “a hard, hard, religion,” as well as something of a bore. Indeed, it took something out of one but it put something real into one also. The church was a sanctuary, a renewal of hope, a confirmation of faith. These people did not have easy, pleasure-filled lives. They had a profound sense of the mystery and misery of human existence. There were no protective barriers. I remember my mother crying over the deaths of little children. Children were sometimes marred by smallpox, weakened by scarlet fever, dead of diphtheria. Diseases now almost routinely cured carried off parents, leaving homes fatherless and motherless. Fearful accidents occurred on the farm. Hail, storm, and drought brought destruct to crops. But the death of the saints was precious in the sight of the Lord, and in the eye of the storm was the providence of God. How often these people prayed for a rainbow, how often they found a spiritual rainbow in the church where God spoke to them through his servants, and promised cure for all misery.

    At that time and even into the sixties, there was a remarkable consensus as to the meaning and practices of Sunday. Although the Bible did not specify the number of services to be held on Sunday, congregations attended with notable faithfulness and did not appear to grow weary of that kind of well-doing. Even though the services in the earlier decades of the century were a surcease from loneliness on the empty prairie, a stay against loss of identity in a strange land, and the warm concourse of friends, these were not the reasons that brought them to church. What did bring them to church was a felt spiritual need and a sense of duty. They believed God wanted them to come as often as they could and that it was good for them to be here. That kind of consensus has been eroding for years, whether out of spiritual amplitude, secular diversions, boredom, or alienation. . . .

    The consensus on Sunday behavior is also waning. Whereas in the early decades of the century, attendance at church three times was common, today attendance twice is lessening. The blue laws have almost vanished. If a member of my old church in Iowa had spun his Buick over to the Blackstone Cafe at Sioux City for a Sunday dinner of prime rib and cocktails, he would have been in danger of losing his membership; if one does that in Grand Rapids today he risks only losing his shirt. The old blue laws were based on the idea that the Sabbath is a “day of sacred assembly” and that “wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.” The older generation thought God made the Sabbath for man to insure rest and spiritual growth, not to do what he wanted. They were uptight and possibly self-righteous about Sunday. The present generation is relaxed and self-righteous about it. . . .

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  127. I spelled out the reasons. The Dutch Reformed thought they were Methodist.

    See, you really didn’t Darryl. .

    You approve of non-Sunday services under your DPW.

    But then mock everyone elses’ non-Sunday services (or those called by Mark Jones whom you are looking to “ding”).

    Has the script on the Zoloft expired?

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  128. MVD, sometimes when people put these chips on both shoulders and dare others to knock em off, complete with rassling garb, they often find a taker or ten. And sometimes if the takers are real ornery they’ll give the lil bugger a few to grow on.

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  129. vdm, m, “non-Sunday services under your DPW.”

    Exactly. Prayer meetings — the subject of Levy’s, Jones’ and my posts.

    Wait for it.

    Rake to the head. (read, that’s a really really long way to go charitably to try to make me look bad).

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  130. Darryl, your little semantic distinctions without a difference can’t hide what’s been revealed here, that your pious-sounding “prayer meetings as detrimental to the Sabbath” was not your point after all (who’s next to “ding”?). But I’ll grant your method does save the time of researching what other churches and ministers actually are doing before hitting the “publish/smear” button.

    Erik, to answer your curiosity, I don’t recall specific prayers for that overture, but certainly we did pray generally for all the Synodical deliberations. Having served as the reporter for that Synodical pre-advice committee, I can tell you that those prayers were answered in unexpected ways, such that we will see the Belgic 36 overture’s position discussed at Synod next year.

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  131. Mark,

    Thanks.

    Any predictions on how it will fare and what the implications are for “R2K” in the URCNA if it passes?

    In other words, should they be holding prayer meetings?

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  132. vdm, m, why do you think that my point was not to preserve the Sabbath? Don’t you think you might check to see what I’ve written about it, the way I checked on your congregation’s prayer meetings?

    Or are you just being charitable?

    But once again you reveal more than you realize. If you think the distinction between the Sabbath and weekday, between holy and common, is a distinction without a difference, then you show once again why Kuyperianism doesn’t fit with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.

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  133. If prayer meetings are good things for P&R folks to have, what about camp meetings & revivals?

    Will the deacons or the elders have the duty of patrolling the bushes?

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  134. why do you think that my point was not to preserve the Sabbath?

    Your putative point was TO preserve the Sabbath. Your revealed actual point was to ding Jones by mocking prayer meetings.

    Don’t you think you might check to see what I’ve written about it, the way I checked on your congregation’s prayer meetings?

    Boink. You had my church with no prayers meetings, then daytime meetings, then weekly meetings. Is this the way you exhaust your sources in research?

    If you think the distinction between the Sabbath and weekday, between holy and common, is a distinction without a difference,

    At least this time you were careful enough to put “IF” to start off that imaginary proposition.

    Kuyperianism doesn’t fit with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.

    Ah, speaking of revealing more you than realize.

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  135. Any predictions on how it will fare and what the implications are for “R2K” in the URCNA if it passes?

    I have no predictions.

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  136. @ Mark re: the other Mark,

    Do you think, as Jones wrote, that the death of the prayer meeting is proof that Christians have love (‘energy”) for the things of this world rather than for the things of God?

    In other words, is a Wed night (or Thus morning, as my church would have it) prayer meeting a “thing of God” that we must love and commit to, in the same way that we ought to love and commit to assemble on Sundays for worship?

    I don’t think there’s a fully straightforward answer to that question, but that’s really the question as I see it. And, I come down mostly on one side.

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  137. Darryl,
    Would you consider private prayer as a part of keeping the Sabbath day holy?
    If so, are we permitted to pray privately on other days of the week?
    Paul

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  138. vdm, m, “Your revealed actual point was to ding Jones.”

    False.

    Do you care to prove this?

    “You had my church with no prayers meetings, then daytime meetings, then weekly meetings.”

    The only reason for the equivocation was that you wouldn’t answer a question about prayer meetings at your church. Not exactly courageous or candid are you.

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  139. Darryl,

    Are we only allowed to pray privately during the week or can we meet with other brethren and pray together (i.e. with family, with people from our church etc)?

    I remember hearing that Calvin had services or preached nearly every day of the week (please correct me if I’m wrong) – was this OK in your opinion or did it depend on the context?

    Paul

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  140. Jeff, as you allude to, there is no one size fits all answer. If we come from a starting point of the saints “wanting” to gather to pray (rather than they “must” come together to pray), then it seems uncontroversial to say a church desiring and the elders calling us to gather at prayer meetings could be an indication of spiritual health in that church. The flip side –a church disdaining prayer meetings to the point of calling it sin– would be an indicia of some real problems. Of course, a church may not hold special prayer meetings for a number of reasons, and I would not jump to any conclusion about their spiritual state based on that fact.

    Yet, I don’t see this as the state of question raised here. Rather, it is the suggestion that holding prayer meetings demeans the Sabbath. I find that disturbing.

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  141. When it comes to the number of worship services, prayer meetings, Bible Studies, etc. it seems to me that there is a profound difference between “zero vs. one” and “one vs. two”, “two vs. three” etc.

    If you never attend worship on Sunday, that’s a problem. Attending only one service vs. two (or three or four) is less of a problem.

    If you never pray or read your Bible, that’s a problem. If you only pray 10 minutes a day with your family vs. attending a weekly prayer meeting and if you only read your Bible every other day vs. reading your Bible an hour every day, it’s less of a problem.

    The Reformed can get too hung up on quantity.

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  142. @ Mark: I think I would take the same pastoral approach. Pray together if you want to, as individuals and not as commanded by the church.

    However, I was struck by van Jones’ assertion that the death of the prayer meeting is evidence of Christians’ energy for worldly things and not things of God.

    Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m reading the comments here as pushback against that idea, not as pushback against praying.

    For there does seem to be an element of coercion in the formulation, no?

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  143. Generally pretty happy to let those who are disappointed that my spirituality doesn’t meet their arbitrary ideas of what proper spirituality consists of to go pout in the corner.

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  144. Sorry, but what seems to be really at issue here is whether or not the elders of a P&R church can burden the conscience of a congregation with anything more than an occasional days of prayer/fasting and thanksgiving, outside of mandatory worship services – morning and evening – on the Lord’s Day. (Modern automatic pilot/rote/knee jerk days of prayer and thanksgiving are not what the P&R historically considered these days to be.)

    Further the Scotch Church added the Dir. of Family Worship to the Westminster Standards, in that they considered a failure to conduct family worship a disciplinable offense to the point of excommunication for the (male) head of the household . WCF 21:6 also says worship/prayer is conducted daily in private as well as family worship. Prayer meetings or the gathering of multiple families for worship was not in their purview. That came later with the revivals/Methodists.

    Does the church care to have a weekly prayer meeting? If so, attendance at it can never be required by the session because at bottom what we are talking about is will worship; multiplying uncommanded meetings/obligations that end up competing with the opening and closing services on the Lord’s Day. It should be run by the officers and care must be taken that it doesn’t deteriorate into what they usually seem to amount to these days, grocery lists of desire and selfishness and “fellowship” minus any attention to Scripture.

    The P&R church have had midweek sermons, meetings or conferences that morphed into presbytery or session meetings, but these have never been required of the congregation though they could attend if they wanted to. In Puritan and later times, irregular lectures and sermons attempted to supply what was not happening on the Lord’s Day in the established churches.

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  145. Erik, it is better to aim for what the Pharisees tell us to do than to think we are righteous enough doing what the Pharisees actually do.

    Applies as perfectly to Old Life as it did in Jesus’s day.

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  146. Jeff, on the issue of compulsion, I think this says it well:

    “In great towns we think expedient, that every day there be either sermon or common prayers, etc., where there is nothing of compulsion, or a forcing command, only there is an exhortation.”
    [“First Book of Discipline” in Works of John Knox, ed. David Laing (1848; repr. New York:
    AMS Press, 1966) 2.238.]

    But given the premise that such meetings lead us into sin, why not a compulsory rule *against* prayer meetings? While we’re at it, the prayers services described in the DPW could be viewed as sabbath demeaning, conscience binders. Forbid them all so as to protect Sunday piety.

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  147. MVDM. the OPC DPW leaves special (prayer) meetings up to local sessions. And if they are up to local sessions, individuals are free to opine whether they are good or bad and in what circumstances they are one or the other. Are you getting certainty pills from Greg the Terrible?

    Tell us about your regularly scheduled fastings.

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  148. Interesting historical note:

    When we had Hart & Strange in Des Moines, I recall that Covenant Reformed in Pella had their own conference…on prayer.

    Open to correction if I’ve misremembered.

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  149. I don’t see this as the state of question raised here. Rather, it is the suggestion that holding prayer meetings demeans the Sabbath. I find that disturbing.

    Mark, if regular weekday prayer meetings are being called for then how does that not suggest that the regular Sabbath day services are insufficient? It would seem to me that irregular prayer meetings, i..e those called in response to specific or extraordinary circumstances, would be less susceptible to the implication. But that’s not what Jones et al seem to be about. They seem to be about regular meetings, in which case the question remains: why is the Sabbath and its resident activities insufficient? Some are disturbed by that implication.

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  150. Pray-ers are going to pray

    They do not need a time set aside at church to do so, they are quite capable of finding others with this important urge, and will get things done.

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  151. Charter:”Generally pretty happy to let those who are disappointed that my spirituality doesn’t meet their arbitrary ideas of what proper spirituality consists of to go pout in the corner.”

    interesting that you say that Eric, for making judgment on others ‘piety’ is a main undertaking here

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  152. vdm, m, was the point of the post to say that prayer meetings “lead us into sin”?

    Also, as an elder do you ever worry about binding the consciences of your congregation illegitimately?

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  153. “Charter: We only judge Roman Catholic piety.”

    Can We Talk About Prayer Meetings? By D. G. Hart | Published: May 7, 2015
    “Like many evangelicals who seem to need to show their piety”
    “But Levy, like so many pietists, only sees the spiritual (up) side.”

    seems here piety= speaking Scripture?

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  154. Mr. Hart,

    I have no problem with you disagreeing with Mark Jones. I have no problem with you not liking Mark Jones. I’ll quite happily take issue with him on a number of issues, particularly his weak views on what is and isn’t permitted on the Sabbath along with his more juvenile posts. What I take issue with is that you seem to have singled him out as particularly deserving of your ire, in posts which are snarky and unhelpful, and yet you take umbrage when someone calls you out on it.

    Maybe the problem is that because you lived through the Shepherd controversy it has attained too large a significance. There will always be conflict between the two extremes. What one shouldn’t be doing, but which you and those in Westminster California are doing, is making the Shepherd controversy determinative in all discussions on justification and sanctification as if that is the threat. There is, I’m sure, a lot of moralism in the church; there is also a lot of antinomianism. Certainly over here in the UK the idea that legalism is a problem is laughable. When we have Christians behaving the way they are nowadays, legalism is not the worry. And I’m pretty sure America will be the same. And I imagine that what Jones is responding against is the response to Shepherd, where that response has gone too far.

    What you also need to understand is that if a person is attending a bog standard evangelical church, which gives across a rather moralistic message, that person can still also be imbibing antinomian teaching. He may be given the impression that doing this or that is what it’s important, but if he’s turning up to Church having bought his Starbucks on the way, and then goes out for lunch to Pizaa Hut and goes home to watch the football; and is going to the cinema and to dances and bars &c. legalism clearly isn’t the only problem: there’s rife antinomianism.

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  155. Alexander, the Shepherd controversy raised the issue of the gospel. That was and is the way many of us see it. Now you tell me I overblow its significance? You might have a point if I made prayer meetings into a gospel issue. I haven’t.

    So Mark Jones, coming immediately after the context of the Shepherd controversy, and still addressing people who either lived through it, or studied with people who did, and also writing in a context when folks like VanDrunen and Gaffin still had to address the matter in a report for the OPC — Jones would surely do well to remember he is not living in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries but is now writing when Shepherd is fresh in people’s minds. And if he doesn’t want to be compared to Shepherd, he could say what he wants to say and explain why it’s different from Shepherd.

    BTW, if you could point to places in my posts about Jones where I have shown ire, I’d be glad for the corrective. Otherwise, you mischaracterize those posts (and should have your keyboard washed out with soap).

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  156. “Certainly over here in the UK the idea that legalism is a problem is laughable. When we have Christians behaving the way they are nowadays, legalism is not the worry. And I’m pretty sure America will be the same.”

    Alexander, you shouldn’t be so sure. There’s plenty of legalism going on – pulpits from which “do this, do that” is the main course and the gospel is like crumbs that fall off the table.

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  157. and a ‘piety’ that would be encouraging here would be dialoging issues without name calling, slander, personal attack,etc; speaking of which, Erik, as a ‘pietist’ I am still waiting for a personal apology (Matt 18:15)

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  158. Zrim,

    The DFW requires families to hold daily worship, as has already been mentioned. Does this undermine the Sabbath? Did the early Christians meeting daily for prayer and fellowship undermine the Sabbath? Maybe the problem isn’t the mid-week prayer meeting, but your understanding of the Sabbath. The Sabbath isn’t to be reduced to two services, as if that’s all it’s there for, and therefore by having another service during the week you are undermining it. That’s a mere numbers game: if we have two services on the Sabbath and one on Wednesday then we must be saying Wednesday is half as holy as Sabbath. Wrong!

    The whole Sabbath day is to be given over to spiritual duties: secret, private and public. That is why the Westminster Standards (following the Bible) prohibit any deeds, words or even thoughts of one’s worldly business or recreations; why we are not to be watching television, going on the internet, making social visits, reading non-Christian books, going out for walks &c.: these are all our own pleasures but we are told to refrain from our own pleasures and to honour God on the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13). The whole days is a means of grace, if used correctly. We should be spending our time worshipping God, reading His Word, having spiritual and edifying conversation with our fellow Christians. Even our sleeping and our eating on Sabbath are regulated by the fact they are necessary. If it’s not necessary or commanded, it shouldn’t be done (even acts of mercy which can just as easily and profitably be done another day shouldn’t be done on Sabbath).

    The excerpt Mr. Hart posted by the man from Iowa presented a very nice picture of Sabbath observance. If that is how one keeps the Sabbath, there is no danger that a mid-week prayer meeting in the evening is going to undermine it, just as daily family and secret worship does not undermine the Sabbath but is merely a recognition that we need God’s sustaining grace every day, not just one day a week.

    Legitimate reasons for missing a mid-week prayer meeting have been raised in this discussion. Mark Jones didn’t say that such a meeting would be compulsory, or that those who couldn’t make it because of work or ill-health should be disciplined. What he said was that the reason prayer meetings are in decline- and so assuming a circumstance where there was, previously, a prayer meeting- is because Christians today have changed their priorities. If Christians make the decision that they would rather watch the telly, or go out with friends, or play a sport, than go to a prayer meeting then something has changed and not for the better. And what Jones said was vindicated by many of the responses on this thread.

    The Dutch aren’t exactly the standard for Reformed practice either: after all, they kept the organ and the holy days! But if what has been said about them being against prayer meetings is true, do you think it’s likely that they would have been out playing football instead? I don’t think so.

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  159. Sorry Alexander, many of us don’t see the WCF as the perfect fulfilment of righteousness or normative measures, even though we have much respect for this man made document.

    And your attitude on here sure doesn’t help the argument of the WCF.

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  160. Mr. Hart,

    Good point: it did raise the issue of the Gospel. And it was, therefore, vital that it was dealt with and Shepherd removed from his position. And he was. But antinomianism and the teaching of some very prominent ministers in America also raises the issue of the Gospel and must be just as rigorously dealt with, especially when there has clearly been a declension in the way Christians live their lives.

    And is Jones really coming immediately after the Shepherd controversy? Shepherd was removed from WTS in 1982. Yes there’s been the FV since, and it’s still a problem. But are you saying Mark Jones is a federal visionary? My point is that bringing up Shepherd’s name again and again when responding to Jones is not helpful but is an effective way of shutting down debate: no-one wants to be considered a Norman Shepherd.

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  161. Kent,

    I’m sorry, I thought most people on this forum were members of churches which had the WCF as it’s subordinate standard. Ergo, it actually is>/i> normative for practice and piety, man-made document or no, as by having it as one’s subordinate standard one is saying it is a faithful exposition of what the Scriptures teach. That’s the whole point of being Reformed!

    I also went out of my way to accommodate your points in my post but, once again, you throw it back in my face.

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  162. Alexander, this is what our DPW says about family worship, right next to one day in seven:

    c. While believers are to worship in secret as individuals and in private as families, they are also to worship as churches in assemblies of public worship, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected or forsaken. Public worship occurs when God, by his Word and Spirit, through the lawful government of the church, calls his people to assemble to worship him together.

    2. In his Word, God has specially appointed one day in seven as a Sabbath to be kept holy to him. It is the duty of every one to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, the Sabbath was the last day of the week, marking the completion of six days of work, anticipating eternal rest in the coming Messiah. By raising Christ from the dead on the first day of the week, God sanctified that day. And from the time of the apostles, the church, accordingly, has kept the first day of the week holy as the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, and as the day on which it is to assemble for worship. Now each weekly cycle begins with the people of God resting in Christ in the worship of his name, followed by six days of work. The Lord’s Day thus both depicts that the Christian’s rest has already begun in Christ, and anticipates the eternal rest of his sons and daughters in the new heaven and the new earth.

    We’re not at Westminster anymore.

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  163. No you’re clearly not, and not for the better.

    So you haven’t made any oath to uphold the Westminster Confession?

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  164. MvdM: Jeff, on the issue of compulsion, I think this says it well:

    “In great towns we think expedient, that every day there be either sermon or common prayers, etc., where there is nothing of compulsion, or a forcing command, only there is an exhortation.”
    [“First Book of Discipline” in Works of John Knox, ed. David Laing (1848; repr. New York:
    AMS Press, 1966) 2.238.]

    Yep.

    MvdM: But given the premise that such meetings lead us into sin …

    See DGH’s followup rejoinder, which I think is tracking with my thought. The premise of the post is that compulsion is the sin.

    And compulsion to do X shows up in

    * Direct command to do X,
    * Judging the spirituality of a believer on the basis of doing or not doing X

    Both of which are enjoined against in Scripture, in case of X’s not required by Scripture.

    van Jones seemed (to me) to be doing the second. Perhaps that’s not his intent…

    MvdM: …why not a compulsory rule *against* prayer meetings?

    Because they are not sinful, nor yet compulsory.

    MvdM: While we’re at it, the prayers services described in the DPW could be viewed as sabbath demeaning, conscience binders. Forbid them all so as to protect Sunday piety.

    The trick is the circumstances surrounding the meetings. Are we going to have the meeting, and let those come who can and will?

    Or will we have the meeting and then wonder about the non-attenders’ energy for the things of God?

    If there’s one thing I would like to persuade you of (and you seem on the brink of persuasion), it is that the post here and the central complaint has to do with compulsion and not prayer.

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  165. “There is, I’m sure, a lot of moralism in the church; there is also a lot of antinomianism. ”

    Well there are a lot of different categories that draw the charge “antinomian”

    1) There are the people who say they have the grace of God, and that it gives them the liberty to sin as much as they want because they are free from the law.

    2) There are people who said things that were antinomian “Jesus has faith for us, we are already justified we just haven’t realized it yet, etc. etc.”

    3) Then there are people who aren’t antinomian at all, but get charged with it because they are under the microscope when trying to answer against the “god helps those who help themselves” approach: Wesleyan perfectionism and American Deism’s great great grandchildren. History is amazing and all, but trying to find the specters of the past in every nook and cranny of the church is not productive. Sometimes the charge is warranted, but most of the time, it’s been empty.

    Try another A word, like autonomy. Where people are legalists when it comes to their list of “shoulds”, but antinomian when it comes to God’s law. Behind every “proud” sin is a self-justification.

    As far as the church is concerned, it seems people are being called antinomian because they aren’t being sanctified as quickly as someone would like. So apparently trembling at the overemphasis of threats and warnings in the New Covenant is a mark of antinomianism

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  166. So the “third-use” of the antinomian rhetoric is really more “crowd-control” than anything else.

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  167. was the point of the post to say that prayer meetings “lead us into sin”?

    Isn’t it sin not to appreciate the Lord’s Day?

    Also, as an elder do you ever worry about binding the consciences of your congregation illegitimately?

    I think the distinction between “compelled to attend” and “exhorted to attend” is useful. Neglect of the Sabbath could lead to discipline. Being absent from a prayer meeting generally would not unless the elders were aware of other related spiritual issues at stake.

    I would hope such meetings rise from the hearts of the members desiring such and elders likewise being aware/ sensitive enough of circumstances to then call for setting aside additional time for offering appropriate prayers to our Triune God. This should be something encouraged, not discouraged.

    I’ll leave you with a thought that perhaps you and I could agree on (gasp): how about a prayer meeting to confess our neglect of the Sabbath, to give thanks for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and for the Holy Spirit to move us afresh to more faithfully attend to the means of grace.

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  168. Alexander, no walks? Wow. If Sabbatarianism is vulnerable to legalism, your prescriptions seem to be a good example. But the point isn’t about private or family worship. It pertains to the public and corporate gatherings of the congregations of God. So to reiterate: if the regular, public and corporate gatherings of God’s people on the Sabbath day are sufficient then why the need for regular, public and corporate gatherings on other days?

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  169. I’m told by someone who should know that the sainted Professor John Murray used to enjoy whisky on Lord’s Day afternoons. A tenderhearted student expressed his shock upon learning this. Murray replied that he drank only the best on the Lord’s Day. To drink the cheap stuff would have been a transgression, or so he thought.

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  170. Mr. Hart,

    No, but it was compiled by the same people and adopted as law by the Church of Scotland, ergo… Plus the WCF also requires daily family and secret worship, ergo…

    Zrim,

    Sufficient for what? Are you actually saying worship on the Sabbath is all a Christian needs to do for the whole week? That he doesn’t need to come to God at all during the rest of the week? Where are you getting this from?!

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  171. Alexander, to receive the means of grace, i.e. Word and sacrament from God’s duly ordained officers and among his baptized and communicant people. Are you saying this should happen every other day of the week? How is that not a flattening out or a way to diminish the efficacy of the one day God has called his people out and its resident activities? But nobody is saying his people have no need to daily pray and foster faith. The point is that God has called one day in particular and that some seem to think they know better than God.

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  172. Alexander – The whole Sabbath day is to be given over to spiritual duties: secret, private and public. That is why the Westminster Standards (following the Bible) prohibit any deeds, words or even thoughts of one’s worldly business or recreations; why we are not to be watching television, going on the internet, making social visits, reading non-Christian books, going out for walks &c.: these are all our own pleasures but we are told to refrain from our own pleasures and to honour God on the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13).

    Erik – (Wondering if he needs to retract that visit to his 94 year old grandmother in her nursing home yesterday…)

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  173. I can accept that Alexander is a believer but the way he acts on here makes me not want to have anything to do with his path.

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  174. Kent – “it is better to aim for what the Pharisees tell us to do than to think we are righteous enough doing what the Pharisees actually do.”

    Love it. Pithy and appropriate.

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  175. Alexander,

    Other than traditions of men and Jewish Sabbath practice, what do you point to as support for your Sabbatarianism?

    Did Jesus of the Apostles prescribe all this?

    You’re holier than Walter.

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  176. CT, that Jesus of Nazareth delivered a lot of sayings that sometimes make me feel better upon years of reflection, but more often repentant and chilled deeply.

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  177. Alexander – What he said was that the reason prayer meetings are in decline- and so assuming a circumstance where there was, previously, a prayer meeting- is because Christians today have changed their priorities.

    Erik – The reason living as an ascetic on top of a pole in the desert is in decline is that Christians today have changed their priorities.

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  178. Alexander – My point is that bringing up Shepherd’s name again and again when responding to Jones is not helpful but is an effective way of shutting down debate: no-one wants to be considered a Norman Shepherd.

    Erik – Try pointing out that OPC ministers & officers are discussing admitting same-sex married people as members…

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  179. I never asked for Alexander’s views on Shepherd in the first place and could care even less about how he demands others have to respond to his views on Shepherd.

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  180. ec, “Try pointing out that OPC ministers & officers are discussing admitting same-sex married people as members”

    actually all of America IS DISCUSSING this, right after, of course, avoiding the conversation about race.

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  181. D.G.,

    My main goal was to see if you guys had the stones to keep on it. You may have just lost interest, but it seemed like you quit quickly when I started reporting on it. The Rev. Doc. acted like his hair was on fire and gave me the tax-collector and sinner treatment.

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  182. Kent, ditto.

    A very helpful minister once told me “Just because you take the strictest position on a subject doesn’t make you right.”. Cured me of the how many times can I blink on the Lord’s Day type questions.

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  183. EC, I’m sure. Reminds me of the rigor of the Pharisees in Matt. 12 though – when they were trying to trap the Lord for picking heads of grain on the Sabbath and healing the man with the shriveled hand.

    They were way more concerned with what they supposed were the negative aspects and their own righteousness, than the positive aspects of the command – reminds me of this excellent sermon.

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  184. I should add – they turned their feet to walk through that grain field too. Joseph Pipa has a great book, The Lord’s Day, that was recommended to me by one of my Elders years ago.

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  185. Yes we sell Pipa’s book in our Book shop. It’s not the best book on the Sabbath, not the worst either.

    As to my Biblical support for “my” sabbatarianism, um, the footnotes to the Westminster Confession and catechisms when they address the Sabbath would be a good place to start.

    Erik- visiting your aged grandmother in her nursing home is a very nice thing to do, and not necessarily a wrong thing to do on the Sabbath. All I would say is: are you choosing to visit her on the Sabbath instead of other days of the week? If so, that might not be the best prioritising of time. The Sabbath isn’t a day to “dump” all one’s good deeds on to so the rest of the week is free to do what one really wants. Strictly speaking, it isn’t necessary to visit her on the Sabbath, unless there was a particular issue in play. But clearly a friend or relative who is confined to a nursing home, on their own, and who was perhaps used to being with people on the Sabbath could find it very lonely in their current circumstances. Whereas, it wouldn’t be necessary to visit people in our own church’s care homes on Sabbath because the circumstances there are different.

    It’s the same principle as having an operation done: if it can be done on a Monday or a Saturday, scheduling it specifically for the Sabbath would be wrong; if it’s an emergency and the earliest it can be done is a Sabbath then that’s different.

    The disciples had to eat, that’s why it was ok. We have to eat; we have to sleep. The healing of the withered hand was to show that works of mercy can and should be done on the Sabbath, but again that can still be abused. To prolong pain in order to keep the Sabbath is wrong; to do what is unnecessary and can easily be put off another day is not keeping the Sabbath.

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  186. CT- that’s a great nugget of wisdom. All those theologians in history needn’t have bothered trying to carefully parse the doctrines of the faith.

    It makes one wonder why Mr. Hart would call that description of the Sabbath he posted as “as close to Old Life piety as one can get” if he- and by extension you lot- thought it was just Pharisaical legalism.

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  187. Alexander, do you put that much analysis into whether one should pull his ox out of a ditch on Sunday? Jesus didn’t.

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  188. Alexander, then why haven’t you picked up on the point and talk about grandmothers in nursing homes the way Jesus did of oxen in ditches, i.e. which of you shall have grandmother in a nursing home and will not straightway visit her on the Sabbath day but instead pick the question apart in an attempt to show case your religiosity.

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  189. Zrim,

    Because, despite your irreverent paraphrasing of Scripture, the issue requires a little more thought considering the specific issue is not addressed in Scripture. The analysis is necessary because it’s a situation where we need to apply principles.

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  190. Alexander, it’s not that difficult. The principle is that the Sabbath was made for man and not vice versa. There are real human situations that seem fairly obvious and don’t require a lot of analysis. That’s the thrust of Jesus’ rhetoric and linguistic device. But leave it to some to work harder than is necessary (irony alert).

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  191. Joe, a good post, wasn’t it ..

    “it doesn’t matter so much what they think, but what Christ thinks. “
    “Doesn’t he (Jesus) know the sins and shortcomings of the church better than we do? And yet he loves the church infinitely more than we can. You can’t love Christ but hate his bride. And where the Spirit of Christ dwells among God’s people, there Christ dwells as if he were physically present himself.”

    “it isn’t too out of place to say you have the perfect pastor if he does what Paul commands Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16.”

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  192. Well, Zrim, it shouldn’t be difficult but when the explicit instructions of Scripture on how to keep the Sabbath are ignored or called legalistic, then clearly there is a difficulty somewhere. It’s not with those who follow the Bible and the Westminster Standards though…

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  193. Alexander, and when it is assumed that the 4th isn’t vulnerable to legalism, something is way off. But maybe you do think it’s vulnerable, in which case I wonder what that would look like to you? Evidently walks are even out, so…

    “I am, I am, so glad I am, a real religious man.” Jonas isn’t the only Nacho fan.

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  194. As I’ve said before, of course the 4th Commandment is liable to legalism, as is the Christian life as a whole. But nowadays, when it comes to the 4th Commandment, legalism is not the problem. Legalism is resting upon one’s obedience and good works as the ground for one’s salvation. That is why the unconverted member of the visible church who keeps the Sabbath as God has commanded and thinks his obedience is enough is a legalist; whereas the converted member of the visible and invisible church, who keeps the Sabbath just as faithfully, yet rests upon Christ and His righteousness imputed to him as his only ground for salvation, is not a legalist.

    I strive to follow the directions of Sabbath keeping laid down in the Westminster Standards, which I believe is a faithful and true exposition of the teaching of Scripture. Are the Westminster Standards legalistic? The fact is, until recently, what I’m arguing for and what my denomination tries to follow, was the general practice of the Reformed church for generations. Are you seriously trying to argue that the OPC in 2015 has more light on this matter than did the church for all those generations? Also, why did your boss reference that description of Sabbath keeping in Iowa as “as close to old life piety as one can get” if it’s legalistic?

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  195. Alexander, the thing about legalism as you define it is that nobody ever says that, e.g. I am justifying myself through my obedience which is the ground of my salvation. You have a dangerously naive understanding of how the flesh works.

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  196. Alexander,

    Why should anyone, on the internet, care that you practice the Sabbath very rigorously?

    I’m very happy that you uphold that commandment with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But are you looking for validation of your sabbath view? You haven’t really argued it from scripture. You have, however, you said:

    “um, the footnotes to the Westminster Confession and catechisms when they address the Sabbath would be a good place to start.”

    That’s not an argument, that is simply a point of reference.

    Now, when it comes down to setting down “strategy” for holding the sabbath as tightly as possible, you waste no time expounding all the nooks, crannies, and uninteresting detail. Bravo!

    I hope your reward in heaven will be great for your sabbath keeping! Surely God will repay your piety, and holding other people to the footnotes of the WCF! Sorry for the snark here, but perhaps given that no one else agrees with you on your views, it may be time to stop waxing eloquently on how precise your sabbath keeping is, and put more effort into your *argument*

    Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, you are fading into irrelevancy and boredom very quickly!

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  197. Alexander – you got me real curious here. Was television invented by the 1640s? I know better on the whole internet thing because Al Gore had not yet been born.

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  198. Erik, glad you are back here.

    The Sabbath is a fascinating issue, as is “rest” in Heb 3-4.

    Genuine (if loaded!) question: does anyone write about why we should call the first day “Sabbath” when the NT writers don’t? Or do they?

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  199. Zrim – it is the very nature of legalism that one does not think he is being legalistic. Is an Arian not a heretic because he doesn’t think he’s a heretic? The insidious nature of legalism/formalism is that one can sit under the Gospel all their lives but on their deathbed still place their hope in their own works, or faithful attendance to the means of grace &c.

    Justin – who even are you? When discussing Sabbath observance, how one observes the Sabbath is naturally going to part of the discussion. If you don’t want to know how I obersve the Sabbath, don’t read a discussion about Sabbath observance. Simples.

    I was asked for Scripture references for my position, hence the giving of references. I have already made my argument from those passages.

    This is the thing about discussions on the Sabbath: until people actually start talking about specifics we don’t get anywhere. Mr. Hart and his people on this forum all claim to observe the Sabbath. Indeed, that is one of their main arguments used against Jones in this thread: that he is undermining the Sabbath. The logical next step in such a discussion would be to ask how those who are putting forth such a strong Sabbath argument actually keep the Sabbath. It seems to me that it’s a tad illogical and unfair to accuse another of undermining the Sabbath- and thus implying that oneself values the Sabbath highly- if one doesn’t actually keep it as commanded in Scripture thus also undermining the Sabbath.

    As to no-one agreeing with me: this is what I keep asking, and am still to receive an answer on: Mr. Hart posted an account of Sabbath observance in Iowa. He said it was “as close to old life piety as one can get.” And yet his comments- and those of others who would claim to hold to “old life piety”- have dismissed such observance as legalistic. So in one post I’m supposed to understand that Westminster sabbatarianism is “as close to old life piety as one can get” and yet in another that is it is legalistic? Perhaps, stranger, you can resolve this for me?

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  200. Brad – no it wasn’t. Are you saying that unless Scripture mentions something by name then it has nothing to say on it?

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  201. cg,

    Yes we do. Are you in Glasgow? What church do you go to?

    We call the Lord’s Day, as well as the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath because it is the day regulated by the 4th Commandment. Just as the 7th day was once called the Sabbath, it is now the first day. The other, more common name for the first day, is a pagan designation.

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  202. Alexander,

    Thanks – it’s hard to find. No, I don’t live in Glasgow any more, but pass through maybe once a year and always try to visit the shop. You should make more the archive you might still hide in the room behind!

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  203. Alexander, are you the man in the shop with the sibling in Ireland?

    Sorry to everyone else for social networking here.

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  204. DHG – really? Of all the Semitic languages, I never took Aramaic, so will really enjoy dropping that into Presbyterian dinner-party conversations 😉

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  205. I know I’m being boring now, but I once attended a prayer meeting in Alexander’s church, in September 1997. I bet no-one else around here can say that?

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  206. cg,

    Where are you now? What do you mean about the archive? Was it St. Jude’s you attended a pm at- was it Mr. MacLean taking it?

    No, I have no sibling in Ireland. I’m new in the post.

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  207. Alexander, correct. It’s similar to what they say of sanity–only the insane never question their sanity, while the sane do. But so far, I’m not sure you’ve ever demonstrated the possibility of being legalistic in your prescriptions, e.g. no taking of strolls on Sunday, internet use, or social visits. You make the Sabbath sound burdensome.

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  208. Zrim,

    Well it’s not burdensome, I can say that from experience. As someone who was not brought up in a Sabbatarian household and adopted that position when given light on the matter, I can tell you how liberating it is to put away all those distractions for a day.

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  209. Alexander, bully for you. But you speak of Sabbath observance and certain activities the way Fundamentalists speak of personal holiness and substance use. Neither of you seem cognizant of how repentance isn’t so much a pious list of do’s and don’t’s as it a re-orientation toward God’s law.

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  210. Alexander, the memory of the meeting is hazy, sorry. But it was in St Jude’s, a weeknight service. Usual format of the minister calling upon men to pray, I think (although I wonder whether the ususal minister wasn’t there that night). No psalters in the pews, which threw me, as my Bible didn’t have the SMP at the back as others did. Also remember I had come straight from something else and wasn’t appropriately dressed.

    The archive is the room behind the bookshop with full shelves of very old books – including I think a c17th copy of Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea, perhaps the only copy of this in Scotland. Maybe it isn’t there anymore. It’s a long time ago now – almost 20 years.

    Out of curiosity, why do you sell the Gospel Standard, given its opposition to so many parts of the WCF? Do many people buy it?

    To answer your other question, I am in Ireland.

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  211. Zrim- and once one has been reoriented towards God’s law, he starts to obey it.

    Cg- The church Bibles are kept on a chest outside the hall, not in the hall itself. We sell the Gospel Standard for the same reason we sell other literature of that kind: it contains wonderful experiential religion that one just doesn’t not find in most modern books. Yes there are (significant) points of disagreement between ourselves and the Strict Baptists, but one area where we are very much in agreement is in the need and the desire for godliness in the Christian life.

    I see Mr. Hart, as usual, is too much of a coward to answer a straight question (i.e. on the account of Sabbath observance he posted which he described as “as close to old life piety as you can get”). The downgrade of the church continues.

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  212. Alexander, which is indicated by a hesitancy to compel or guilt others to emulate his particularities where God is silent (where does God forbid walks, visits to nursing homes, and dining with others?).

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  213. I’ve already given the verse where He forbids recreational walks on the Sabbath- numerous times. That same verse tells us to refrain from our own pleasures, such as social visiting. Christians in the same congregation going back to each other’s houses on Sabbath for dinner and fellowship for the day is a good way to spend the Sabbath, which might also include visiting one’s grandmother in a nursing home; using the day to go and hang out with one’s friends as a mere social visit is not.

    I’ve already said this. Please read my posts before responding to them.

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  214. Alexander, you mean Isaiah 58:13:

    “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
    from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
    and call the Sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
    if you honor it, not going your own ways,
    or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly…”

    I thought the NT interpreted the OT. You really think the same man who said this and made the point about pulling oxen out of ditches means to say no strolls, etc. on Sunday?

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  215. Zrim, I don’t understand your point. In what way does Jesus’ teaching nullify the explicit teaching of this verse? Or maybe you mean that if the NT doesn’t address an OT verse specifically then the OT verse is now null and void? That would certainly be in keeping with your view that because the Bible doesn’t mention tvs then it has nothing to teach us about what we should watch on television.

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  216. Alexander,

    Love DGH. And our church has years worth of questions answered. Peruse those if you are looking for answers to your spiritual quandaries.

    Or do you have a reason for coming after DGH as you do? Sport?

    If you are looking to skewer this host, believe me, you aren’t the first. I hope all is well for you.

    From across the pond,
    Andrew

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  217. Must be a nice life…

    Same bed conceived and born in and sleep in and then die in down the road.

    A village where you can go worship like its the 1600s, don’t even have to walk more than a Pharisee would shake a finger at.

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  218. Alexander, Jesus doesn’t nullify but fulfills. But you’re the one who misses the point on oxen and ditches by saying we now know what to do in case our ox falls into a ditch (get him out), which isn’t the point since not everyone has oxen. It’s about principles, not prescriptions, which is what makes your take on my view on TVs wrong. The Bible does have something to say about what we consume even if it has no concept of TVs per se. But what it doesn’t do is tell us that owning or watching a TV is categorically wrong, which is what you say about walks on Sunday (and TVs all the time).

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  219. Alexander, we already told you once, and you did not listen.

    Why would you want to hear it again?

    Do you wish to become His disciple as well?

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  220. Mr. Hart,

    The question, again, was that if the description of Sabbath observance in Iowa in the first half of the 20th century which you posted is “as close to old piety as you can get”, why is it that you and your people here are calling it legalistic?

    AB,

    I tried that link; didn’t work. Ironic.

    Zrim,

    You asked me if I would lift an ox out of a ditch. That’s an easy one because Christ specifically mentioned that. Yes, it’s a metaphor/principle; but the culture back then would have been quite agricultural so also would have very real-life application- which is why Christ used it as an example. Your mistake is assuming that that principle automatically translates to social visiting, or any other act that could be conceived of as merciful. It’s an act of mercy to do the shopping for the old lady who lives at the top of the apartment block who can’t walk great: but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to do her shopping on Sabbath. It can and should be done before, that’s what the WCF means about ordering our affairs aright in preparation for the Sabbath. That was my only objection to visiting one’s grandmother in her nursing home on Sabbath. If you could do it just as easily on Saturday but you choose to do it on Sabbath because you’d rather spend Saturday doing something you prefer and Sabbath is a convenient day to “dump” one’s good deed errands onto, then that’s a wrong motivation. If you gran is in an atheist nursing home where she has no Christian fellowship then I think it would be a good use of the Sabbath to visit her and have worship with her. Your problem is you’re so absolutist. Sometimes taking time to think something through is necessary and advisable.

    When did I say I’m categorically against watching TV? I didn’t, because I’m not. Again you’ve assumed something, jumping to the absolutist position, rather than try to grapple with the nuance of my argument. I agree it would be easier if everything was either black or white, but sometimes it’s not.

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  221. Alexander, I didn’t call it legalistic.

    If you are part of “my people” by virtue of commenting here, my people don’t call it legalistic.

    In case you didn’t notice, you don’t need to join something to read and comment at Old Life.

    You took umbrage over that?

    Like

  222. Alexander,

    And here we were so close, the answers to all our deepest longings.

    Read Scripture instead, friend. Assuming yoinhave a hard copy. If not, let me know. Take it from the top.

    Take care.

    Like

  223. AB, when I see adults act in certain ways, I wonder how they managed to keep this rotten attitude without it getting knocked out of them by having the living bag kicked out of them every day at recess.

    Like

  224. I was always the leader of the good and helpless kids, like on Lord of the Flies.

    The Piggy’s couldn’t be helped though, they even show up snidely on boards like this.

    IF YOU CAN IMAGINE!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

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  225. Alexander, nobody said shopping for her on the Sabbath. It was visit her. (Take your own medicine re reading closely.) And if the ox/ditch principle is acts of mercy on the Sabbath then how is it a mistake to translate that any other act that could be conceived of as merciful? Huh? (Take your own medicine on thinking things through.) Further, how are rather neutral acts like taking a stroll prohibited? Or is this where you rail against neutrality? (Take your own medicine on being absolutist.)

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  226. Well at least Alexander has dropped his it literally says turn your foot so I don’t walk routine – though he did think my use of it in the opposite direction was brill.

    Oh and silly Dr. Hart peeps don’t you know Alexander should be read in the most charitable light but you all should be read without charity at all. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    Like

  227. Hart:”Alexander, I didn’t call it legalistic.”

    not in so many words,but you did: 1) judge it was others ‘need to show piety’; 2) judge that there are better means of fellowship; 3) judge that one ought to ‘substitute’ some prayer with service; all which I believe the Lord may disagree with you about; and the accusation of misunderstand the Lord’s Day is diversion

    “Andrew Buckingham: Love DGH”
    are you sure, Andrew? Faithful are the wounds of a friend but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. Prov 27:6

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  228. I’m too much convinced by Calvin, to a certain extent, at least what he stated in the Institutes and sermons on the Decalogue.

    My “work sabbath” is a rest on most Saturdays, getting prepped for the week ahead.

    Sunday to me is not a day of rest, church services are very intense for me (so much to repent over), trying to keep it holy (without self-righteousness) adds stress as well. And the drive back and forth to church in the big city in the midst of weekend-only drivers and tourists put the stress-meter on red alert.

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  229. a.

    you are the sweetest anon to ever grace this quadrant of reformed webernetic space.

    may this help you get your devotions in.

    stay cute!!

    Like

  230. Thanks Andrew! (though I do prefer NASB) …encouraging snippets from them….
    you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deut 14 2 ;God is my king from of old, Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth. Ps 74 12 ;do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isa 41 10

    btw, for Memorial weekend- good article this am: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/we-must-not-do-nothing

    “Hart: a. are you judging me?”

    DGH: Let us: judge with righteous judgment; judge ourselves rightly;and keep entrusting ourselves to Him who judges righteously, because His judgments are true and righteous

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  231. Kent, Mrs. Z makes that same point, i.e. Sunday being anything but restful with all the religious activity. I wonder if it stems from a truncated definition of rest as only that sort which involves fixing tiredness. But I’ve heard it explained that God’s rest on the seventh day wasn’t that sort. It was the sort where one sits down to survey his work as a form of reward. And so if we are to emulate God’s rest on the Sabbath, think of it as less a time to take it easy and more a time to relish the rewards purchased by Christ. Of course, nothing wrong with the former sort of rest, but for those times when religious activity doesn’t yield a sense of relaxation, there is another perspective.

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  232. Thanks Zrim.

    And I’m a single man, I can’t imagine the extra effort put in to try and get a household in the car on time to get to church for both services.

    Taking a day off to rest from work is the minimal thing that commonly decenct man can summon up for the labouring years. The believer has a much higher calling for daily leisure times and of course our Sundays.

    But alas we are weak and certain phases of life have to keep us from attending sermons preached every day at Geneva…

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  233. Zrim: “Alexander, nobody said shopping for her on the Sabbath. It was visit her. (Take your own medicine re reading closely.) And if the ox/ditch principle is acts of mercy on the Sabbath then how is it a mistake to translate that any other act that could be conceived of as merciful? Huh? (Take your own medicine on thinking things through.)”

    I didn’t say anyone suggested shopping for her. I was making a completely different point, namely: that just because a particular act is an act of mercy doesn’t mean it’s legitimate to perform it on the Sabbath. It should also be necessary. You said the example of the ox was about principles. I agreed but was cautioning against the conclusion that just because this example taught that acts of mercy can be performed on Sabbath, doesn’t mean that all conceivably merciful acts can be performed on Sabbath. Clearly the ox fallen in a ditch is a pressing concern, it is not only merciful to rescue the animal but necessary to do so immediately, e.g. putting out a fire in your neighbour’s house.

    Zrim: “Further, how are rather neutral acts like taking a stroll prohibited? Or is this where you rail against neutrality? (Take your own medicine on being absolutist.)”

    First you have to make the case that going for a walk is a neutral act; secondly, I’m sceptical that there are many acts which can be called “neutral”. Even if performing secular duties, we’re either performing them to the glory of God or to His dishonour. Clearly Isaiah teaches us that walking on the Sabbath is not a neutral act.

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  234. Alexander, if the case has to be made that taking a walk is neutral then I throw in my towel. This feels like the Baptist who makes tortured and absurd points about drinking beer. We get it already, you’re holier than thou.

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  235. Zrim, we shouldn’t judge our third-world brothers and sisters.

    We should strive to find their customs and way of life fascinating and a learning experience.

    Like

  236. Zrim,

    It would appear you are playing the Baptist by throwing in the towel when you can’t win your argument. I’m sorry if my Scripture references are undermining your argument but that’s your problem (another way in which you play the anti-baptist). Perhaps, to save you this embarrassment in the future, you shouldn’t strike the pose of the holy, Reformed, Sabbath keeper to score points against other Christians when your own views on the Sabbath are so lacking. Newsflash: you are not the standard of the Reformed faith. The Westminster Standards are the standards for my denomination and most other Presbyterian denominations. If you don’t like them go elsewhere.

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  237. Alexander, or somewhere between anti-/a-sabbatarianism and legalistic sabbatarianism. The same tick that doesn’t allow walking to be neutral is likely the same one that disallows a more nuanced sabbatarianism. As I say, like talking with a teetotaler.

    Like

  238. Am I reading correctly, Alexander, that you interpret “turning thy foot from the sabbath” as a command not to go on Sunday walks?

    Like

  239. Zrim,

    What do you even mean by nuanced?

    The Westminster Standards aren’t very “nuanced” on the Sabbath. Are they legalistic? If you disagree then fine, but don’t claim to be following the Reformed tradition on the Sabbath. At least admit that you are departing from it to follow your own interpretation instead of striking this “nuanced” pose against so-called legalism.

    d,

    I think it teaches a general principle of not doing one’s own business or recreation on the Sabbath, which would include going for recreational walks. Clearly walking to church and back is acceptable. Just as we would not go for “a drive in the country” on Sabbath, we would not go for walks. We are to turn our foot away from trampling the Sabbath: figuratively and literally.

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  240. A tip of the hat to those who can hold to higher standards of devotion consistently with what they claim they do.

    Like

  241. Alexander, if I take HC 103, may I still claim to be following the Reformed tradition (pretty please):

    Q. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?

    A. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor. Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.

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  242. Zrim,

    Does your church subscribe the Three Forms of Unity? If not, I don’t see why you would base your practice on them. If you are a member in a denomination which subscribes the Standards, they are your standards. And it is widely accepted that the Three Forms are weaker on the Sabbath than the Westminster Standards. However, my understanding is that the actual practice of those who composed/subscribed the Three Forms would have been in agreement with the Presbyterians. And certainly if common practice amongst the more conservative Dutch Reformed is anything to by, they wouldn’t think the Three Forms allowed a lax Sabbath observance.

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  243. Alexander, perhaps “widely accepted” among those who see the Sabbath in terms of law instead of “festive day of rest.” I’m with Tuininga on this:

    And yet the Presbyterians that I knew simply ignored their confession, and the “Dutch” Reformed people I knew regularly spent the first day of the week in worship and rest. It was enough to make one wonder, Was there a connection? Does requiring Sabbath observance as a law actually make people less likely to devote one day in seven to worship and rest, whereas an emphasis on using the traditional “festive day of rest” as an opportunity for worship and fellowship makes them view such rest and worship as a blessed opportunity?

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/the-confessional-reformed-view-of-the-lords-day/

    So if as you say those who composed TFU would have been in agreement with the Presbyterians then why did they write something seemingly less given to legalism?

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  244. Alexander:And it is widely accepted that the Three Forms are weaker on the Sabbath than the Westminster Standards.

    Not true at all, but you haven’t learned yet that the 3FU are written for those who realize they may have to ride the subway, work in a real job for a living, send their children out into the world some day, see news headlines that are worrisome without faith in a crucified and risen Saviour.

    The WCF sadly attracts a lot of spiders who sit in their little corner and inject venom non-stop, like you do Alexander.

    Just sayin’ peeps…

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  245. Kent,

    I looked up the word irony in the dictionary and there you were.

    Actually, I do use the sub-way, and I read the papers, worked in retail(!) so I find your comments most perplexing. But I suppose that’s a step up from just downright unChristian.

    Zrim,

    I suppose you’d have to ask the writers of the Three Forms why they did it the way they did. I can’t say the question takes up much of my attention as my church subscribes the Westminster Standards. What I do know is that flitting back and forth within a myriad of confessions and catechisms to find the one which suits your own inclinations most in any given situation is not a profitable way for a Christian to govern his life and theology. You may wish to follow the PCUSA model; I do not.

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  246. Alexander, but you’re the one channeling the divines and saying who would agree with whom–why do I have to ask those it’s impossible to ask but you get to channel (is that a benefit of semi-revivalism)? Still, what’s wrong with citing a Reformed confession that expresses one’s view better than another? And if it helps, I formally subscribe the TFU.

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  247. I’m not “channeling” the Divines: I’m quoting what they wrote and what was adopted by my church as our constitution. Your question was why the writers of the TFU wrote them the way they did: one would need to ask them that, or read their writings which comment on it. It was not about what they wrote. There’s a difference.I’d appreciate you sticking to our conversation but I guess you just wanted to make that snarky comment about semi-revivalism.

    The problem with citing or ordering one’s practice or theology by different confessions is that it undermines the whole point of having and subscribing such documents: consistency and accountability. If a session- or worse, individual elders on a session- followed such a practice then those in the congregation, or congregations in the denomination, wouldn’t know how their session or church would rule from one situation to another. It would all depend on the whim of the individuals or the courts, so long as they could find some confession which supports them. If one elder prefers the WCF and another the TFU on the Sabbath, then how are cases dealing with Sabbath observance to be decided? It’s bad enough if individual members follow such an approach, but the minute office bearers do there is chaos.

    These documents are not here primarily as private confessions: they are ecclesiastical confessions. They have in mind an ecclesiastical body confessing them as their confession. The fact that my church subscribes the WCF- and only the Westminster Standards- means I know where my church stands. If someone wants to know what my church believes about Justification, I direct them to the chapter on Justification in the WCF. If someone wants to know what my church believes about the Sabbath, I direct them to the chapter on Religious Worship and the Sabbath and to the questions dealing with the 4th Commandment in the Catechisms.

    A constitution is there to provide consistency in teaching and rulings; and to hold office bearers (and the membership) to account. This cannot happen if people are picking and choosing.

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  248. Alexander, you’re making it a subscription issue. That’s fine as far as it goes, but do keep in mind that over here American Presbies don’t expect laity to subscribe the way officers do. We may well agree that’s bad ecclesiology, but there it is. That may irritate my sacramentology (i.e. bapterianism), but the benefit is that should I actually seek Presby membership, I may claim favor for TFU on the fourth and nobody would really think twice of it. After all, if lay members are allowed to resist baptism (holy moly), why can’t I take walks on Sunday? And it sounds like you’re a strict subscriptionist. I’m a good faither.

    But it seems like you’re now agreeing with me that TFU and WCF have somewhat different takes on the fourth. I say that because you accuse me of “flitting back and forth within a myriad of confessions and catechisms to find the one which suits [my] own inclinations.” Well, I can only flit around doing that if the confessions do indeed differ. You previously seemed to be saying they are all in sweet accord, such that to refer to one is to refer to the other. I say TFU is purposefully more general than WCF.

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  249. Big props to the WCF, the diffs aren’t anything I’d die on a hill for.

    It’s just that it is spooky when people make an IDOL of the WCF, especially on here.

    They need to repent.

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  250. Zrim,

    Actually, what I actually said was that the two sets of standards themselves differ, but the practice of those who adhered to both sets was in agreement. I did specifically say that it is generally accepted that the TFU are weaker on the Sabbath than the WS. Did I not? I did.

    Our members over here don’t subscribe the standards the way the office bearers do. However, they are used in examining the doctrine of applicants for membership.

    As to being a “good faither”, the ruin that has brought about in the church is all around us to see.

    Like

  251. Zrim,

    Wait, are you actually admitting you made a mistake for once? I’ll alert the media.

    But then you kinda step on it by resorting to your usual snarky attacks on piety. Because a Christian living like a Christian is so bad!

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  252. Oh, Alexander. Can’t you take a friendly elbow to the ribs now and again? Does all that piety really lead to being so humorless?

    Like

  253. Zrim,

    I could, if this were a friendly environment and any sort of friendly demeanour had ever been exhibited. Alas, it is not and it hasn’t.

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  254. Alexander, then I’m confused. Why would anybody frequent a forum in which all he ever experienced was abuse, at least to his mind? Perhaps he’s a glutton for abuse? Or perhaps what he interprets as abuse is sometimes but other times is friendly fire and he’s overly sensitive?

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  255. All the WCF is missing is a decent capture of the real Jesus Christ from the Gospels.

    Otherwise it is a good summary, but white men of privilege tend to go a little overboard with it in self-righteous declamations.

    We even have 2 on this board right now.

    Hugs and kisses….

    Like

  256. Zrim,

    Because it’s interesting to see the errors that people like Mr. Hart are propagating. One needs to be “up on” these errors in case they infect one’s own denomination.

    And sometimes wrong people just need to be told they’re wrong.

    Like

  257. Alexander, but you can stay apprised by just reading and not interacting. The question is why interact when you are only ever abused? And if you are simply doing your due diligence by telling wrong people they’re wrong, then wouldn’t you also have to be big enough to accept push back, criticism, snark, and even at times abuse? You’d come off less whiny and self-righteous if you just did your self-appointed favor to the world–telling wrong people that and how they are wrong–if you just did that without all the complaining and woe-is-holier-than-thou-me stuff.

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  258. Alexander, when you first arrived here things were friendly between OL and you. It has turned antagonistic. It does have something to do with you constantly objecting to posts and comments.

    But I love ya, man.

    Like

  259. Zrim,

    One can disagree with people without being insulting, which is how I do it; or one can disagree by calling people names, ascribing false positions to them, deliberately misrepresenting their positions &c. which is how a lot of people here do it, particularly Kent.

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  260. That was so mean to take on Hank for his epic Hey Nowssss…..

    The best part was Shandling, who i never saw as funny at all, completely lost his marbles and sued his agent in one of the most bitter and cock-a-mamie friviolous lawsuits in Hollywood history.

    Like

  261. And then after you read Reformed theology, you realize that it is excellent at the transcendent part, but kind of sucks at the immanent part of this pilgrimage.

    And you need both parts in balance.

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  262. Zrim,

    Yes, because being earnest is such a character flaw…

    And where is my familiarity? I don’t know any of you nor do I pretend to.

    Like

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