Reformed or Simply American Middle-Class?

The Gospel Allies would have us believe (in their It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia way) that Andy Crouch is channeling Reformed teaching on culture:

Crouch had read “social constructionist” figures like Peter Berger, but “it wasn’t until I started reading Reformed writers that I found really careful theological work that correlated well with cultural sociology. I’ve certainly been influenced by other streams to some extent—Anabaptists like Yoder and Hauerwas and Ellul (who was technically Reformed but temperamentally more Anabaptist, I’d say), as well as Catholic social teaching—but the truth is that among Protestants especially, the Reformed community has nurtured the most careful thinking about the breadth of human cultural activity.”

In 2008, Crouch released Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, which argues that Christians can best affect culture not by withdrawing from it, but by making more of it.

His Reformed bent was immediately apparent.

“Andy Crouch makes the case for cultural discipleship by giving us an exciting overview of the drama of creation, fallenness, and renewal,” Fuller Theological Seminary president emeritus Richard Mouw wrote. Tim Keller wrote that it was “one of the few books taking the discussion about Christianity and culture to a new level,” while LifeWay Christian Resources publisher and TGC blogger Trevin Wax called it “a landmark work that will create a new culture of its own within evangelicalism.”

Here’s a different reading:

To be sure, the advantage of this approach, and the astute recommendation that evangelical Protestants need to develop postures of cultivation and creation in cultural endeavors is its recognition that human beings cannot escape culture (the fundamentalist temptation) and that simply imitating culture (the Jesus Rock temptation) is inferior to creative expressions of worth. In fact, Crouch even ups the ante for his fellow evangelicals when he turns from culture-making as basic to human identity to culture-making as a biblical duty.

In the second section of the book, Crouch decides to take a relatively quick tour of the history of salvation recounted in the Old and New Testaments. Not surprisingly, in a book devoted to not simply the legitimacy but also the necessity of culture, Crouch sees cultural life writ large throughout the pages of holy writ. This strategy can become tedious. Creation in Genesis 1 is culture. Adam and Eve were given the task of creating culture, specifically, agriculture. As a nation, Israel was political culture, while its cultural insights in the religious sphere replaced henotheism with monotheism. Jesus was a cultural figure in his training and work as a carpenter. He died on a cross, a cultural instrument of torture. The apostles took the message of Christianity to cities, arenas of great cultural significance. Pentecost overturned Jewish culture and gave Christianity’s blessing to cultural diversity. Finally, the new heavens and new earth in the last book of the Bible reassert the import of the city and cultural life. According to Crouch, culture is “the furniture of heaven.” [170] He adds, “human beings, in God’s original intention and in their redemptive destination, cannot be separated from the cultural goods they create and cultivate at their best.” [170]

As inspiring as such a cultural reading of the Bible may be for evangelicals like Crouch, it loses some of its loftiness when in the next paragraph the author adds a few of his favorite things, such as fish tacos, the iPod, and Moby Dick. The impression Crouch creates is that without a biblical justification, evangelical Protestants would be powerless to recognize the value of cultural activities. It is as if being human is not good enough for cultural life; so culture needs the lift of redemption and the approval of God to lose either its worldly reputation or become the object of devotion. Indeed, confusion about the relationship between creation and salvation haunts Crouch’s argument. The muddle might have been avoided had Crouch interacted carefully with Christian teaching (whether Protestant or Roman Catholic but especially Augustinian) on the relationship between nature and grace. As it stands, Crouch interacts with Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture not to discover analytic categories for reflecting on the relationship between cult and culture but mainly to find Niebuhr’s implicit endorsement of cultural transformation deficient for the aim of evangelical cultural engagement.

The reason for Niebuhr’s deficiency becomes clear in the third and final section of the book where Crouch provides a number of worthwhile insights into the work of culture engagement. To avoid the culture-war propensity, Crouch steers clear of the word transformation, preferring “culture making” to “changing the culture.” Here he addresses topics such as unintended consequences, economies of scale, power, wealth, and consumption. These cautions are intended to direct evangelicals away from imposition or conquest. Instead, he recommends that their cultural posture be one of introducing the fundamental realities of human beings as culture makers wherever they go. He offers the example of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. There travelers may find a high modern oasis of an atrium with rocking chairs across from a food court. As opposed to the dehumanization of air travel, this space introduces smiles and relaxed conversations “where good news whispers just a bit more audibly.” [215] Crouch believes that this human touch is at the heart of culture and is needed in exurbs, cities, and suburbs. It is also at the heart of being Christian because “our calling is to join [God] in what he is already doing—to make visible what, in exodus and resurrection, he has already done.” [216]

Examples such as Crouch’s reflections on Charlotte’s airport and omelets leave the impression that the new evangelical cultural engagement is no thicker than baby boomers’ parents’ ideal of a cultural remnant preserving the faith once delivered. To be sure, rocking chairs in airports can buoy the spirits of weary travelers and a fluffy omelet may hit the spot on a leisurely Saturday morning (if, of course, the eater’s cardiologist approves). But unclear is whether attention to small rays of uplift that shine through either the most unpleasant form of human transportation or food preparation is sufficient for confronting the cultural decay that affects the West. Crouch’s book does signal a hopeful development, which is that the evangelical pursuit of culture warfare was and is a dead end. Had evangelicals been reading the likes of Kirk or Dawson, though, they would have known that the ballot box and the White House were poor vehicles, even if sometimes necessary conditions, for a healthy culture. Less encouraging is the motive behind Crouch’s apparent fatigue with the culture war. He does not simply find the warrior mindset defective but seems to be mainly comfortable with the cultural goods available to middle-class, urban-friendly, suburban Americans. Evangelicals like Crouch have found a home in the modern world; they are no longer a-passing through.

The whole not-so-sunny review of Crouch’s Culture Making is here.

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81 thoughts on “Reformed or Simply American Middle-Class?

  1. The Reformed/Presbyterian faith has taught me the importance of enhancing the believer’s mystical union with Christ and how this in turn enhances communion with other believers.

    Priorities that are only attainable through the work of, and faith in, a crucified and risen Saviour.

    In addition we are in the world but not of it, leaving us to find ways to include vocation and cultural interaction, that argument is endless and occasionally edifying.

    Some strongly, and unintentionally, proclaim they do not need this Saviour to enhance their mystical union and communion with the church. Nor do they mention either enhancement as a goal in their pilgrimage before providing a list of earthly things that make life worthwhile.

    Oh well….

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  2. I can’t imagine what the Redeeming The Culture types would have to say to Christians living in Syria, Iraq, China, Pakistan, Haiti, Nigeria, Vietnam, etc. Christians who have to worry about whether their churches would be bombed aren’t hoping to Redeem The City by Cultural Engagement.

    The preoccupation with Culture is an affect of white, upper class, expensively educated Christians living in Manhattan and Brooklyn (the safe and expensive gentrified areas) with careers that don’t involve any type of physical exertion. These self described Creatives unfortunately have had zero impact, zero influence, and zero recognition in The City as far as it goes. More secular people have seen God’s Not Dead or Fireproof than have seen anything put out by acolytes of Tim Keller or Andy Crouch.

    Would someone please give me back my Ol’ Timey Religion?

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  3. I haven’t read Crouch, but I have listened to his lectures. It seems the two Reformed views that buttress his general thesis are 1) the obliteration of the sacred/secular distinction with regard to vocation; 2) the view of creation/culture as fundamentally good, though corrupted by the Fall.

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  4. Andrew Alladin – members of Redeemer (and similar churches in NYC) have aided immigrants from all continents, victims of sex trafficking, and the homeless; provided free medical care for the poor, staffed soup kitchens, provided free legal counsel for the poor, provided care and counseling for teen mothers to help them avoid abortion, and started a prison ministry on Riker’s Island, among many other forms of “engagement.” All that in addition to their church planting and evangelistic efforts. But you’re right, “zero impact.”

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  5. What do redeeming the culture types say to their members who lose their lofty high-paying job, or come down with an illness that is fatal or will debilitate them for the next 5 years?

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  6. Vae victus: But you’re right, “zero impact.”

    Zero impact in terms of Culture. Everything Redeemer does for the immigrants, the poor, the homeless, refugees, etc. is also done by the Catholic Church – not to mention any number of local churches and secular charities in NYC. Redeemer spends too much money, effort, and time pursuing the hopeless task of Redeeming The City, Cultural Transformation, Cultural Engagement, etc. Tim Keller has been engaged in this for decades -so where’s the product? Are there any movies you can point to? Or perhaps something on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime?

    The Revoice conference is indicative of the fact that those who set out to Transform The Culture ended up being transformed by the culture. Secular elites aren’t sitting around waiting to be transformed by nervous Presbyterians anxious to demonstrate their Social Justice street cred.

    Somebody’s winning the Culture Wars and it ain’t the Redeemerites.

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  7. Suddenly I remember a book I picked up in 2009, started reading, and never bothered to finish.

    almost done with Theodore Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, though, because if authors at The New Yorker are going to keep claiming the Frankfurt School predicted Trump it can’t hurt to see whether or not Adorno predicted that.

    Plus I’ve been incubating a thesis that Francis Schaeffer can be thought of as a kind of Adorno of the Anglo-American religious right for the 50th anniversary of The God Who Is There

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  8. Andrew Alladin – so the purpose of serving the city is a Netflix special? Are we to “seek the welfare of the city” only if there’s a “product”? Or recognition? Did Jesus leave out the parade for the Good Samaritan? Or should we love our neighbor because that is what we are commanded to do regardless of how much attention it attracts? You’re confusing media accolades with having a positive cultural impact on the city – garnering the attention of “secular elites” is not the end goal.

    And I’m pretty sure Redeemer has never engaged in any “culture war.” The goal is to enhance and redeem culture, not conquer it.

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  9. Vae Victis – The goal is not to enhance and redeem culture. The goal is “only faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Stating the goal this way unites the one holy catholic church and makes the mission accessible to children who do not ponder “enhancing and redeeming culture” much. Plus, faith working through love keeps the eyes off results and leaves much room for losing to still be a viable outcome.

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  10. John Hartley – I basically agree with you: faith working through love usually redeems culture at least somewhat. Obedience to God and counting others “more significant” than ourselves (Phil 2:3) are counter-cultural, and if really lived out would inevitably transform culture, at least so some degree. So “enhancing and redeeming culture” is one practical application of living a life of love for God and neighbor.

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  11. The best of culture brings the gospel. In other words, Christian Western Civilization. That means giving “to the least of these” and participating, through art and science, in what ever is noble, good, beautiful, true..

    The difference between the works of the secularist and the Christian is that Christian says he does good works because God told us to so as to show the love of God. The secularist may offer real goods( God bless them!) to a society, but ultimately they cannot offer hope, to those they help in this temporal life, because they deny or do not yet know that there is life after death.

    I think this is the essence of evangelization.

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  12. I agree completely, Andrew. Excellent use of Capitalization.

    @VV “members of Redeemer (and similar churches in NYC) have aided immigrants from all continents, victims of sex trafficking, and the homeless; provided free medical care for the poor, staffed soup kitchens, provided free legal counsel for the poor, provided care and counseling for teen mothers to help them avoid abortion, and started a prison ministry on Riker’s Island, among many other forms of “engagement.” All that in addition to their church planting and evangelistic efforts. But you’re right, “zero impact.””

    These are all things the liberal mainline and Catholic churches do better. Go over to Refugee Resettlement watch and you can read all about liberal mainline immigrant helpers Living Well by Doing Good. Immigrants are also better than Americans because they give you Status when you help them: #RefugeesWelcome. My mom worked in the soup line for the PCUSA she attended so all of the vagrants could save money on food to spend on drugs. She gave up when she concluded 90% didn’t want to work. Plus they stole her bike.

    The only evangelism I’ve seen out of Kellerites is Keller Brand Evangelism (#TKNY).

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  13. Walt – you’re right, Catholics and Mainline churches do a far better job of serving their neighbors than Reformed community does, and that’s a shame. We could certainly learn from their practices – in general – and apply the command to love our neighbors more earnestly. The problem with the Catholic/Mainline approach is twofold: 1) they conflate loving neighbor with the Gospel itself, which means they often fail (especially the Mainline) to proclaim the need for faith and repentance; 2) they administer charity through the institutional Church, which is not the role of the Church. The RCC and the PCUSA should not oversee soup kitchens.

    But you seem possess the exceptionally cynical view that the only reason people serve immigrants is to enhance their own “Status.” You also seem to imply that we should only help the poor if they have the purest intentions, don’t use drugs, and don’t steal bikes. I think I missed the conditions Jesus puts on “love your neighbor” in Sunday School. Apparently Calvin did too:

    “The Lord enjoins us to do good to all without exception, though the greater part, if estimated by their own merit, are most unworthy of it. But Scripture subjoins a most excellent reason, when it tells us that we are not to look to what men themselves deserve, but to attend to the image of God, which exists in all, and to whom we owe all honour and love….Say that he is unworthy of your least exertion on his account; but the image of God, by which he is recommended to you, is worthy of yourself and all your exertions. But if he only merits no good, but has provoked you by injury and mischief, still this is no good reason why you should not embrace him in love, and visit him with the offices of love. He has deserved very differently from me, you will say. But what has the Lord deserved? Whatever injury he has done you, when he enjoins you to forgive him, he certainly means that it should be imputed to himself. In this way only we attain to what is not to say difficult but altogether against nature, to love those that hate us, render good for evil, and blessing for cursing, remembering that we are not to reflect on the wickedness of men, but look to the image of God in them, and image which, covering and obliterating their faults, by its beauty and dignity allure us to love and embrace them.

    “We shall thus succeed in mortifying ourselves if we fulfill all the duties of charity.” – Institutes 3.7.6-7

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  14. @VV Yes, I have an extremely cynical view about Kellerites and Gospel Coalitioners who think Charity and Do-Gooderism must be a Church Programme and something to humble-brag about on the Internet. The post-modern Evangelical and Kellerite church believes that “Charity” means “No-strings attached indiscriminate hand-outs” and “Bringing in Third-Worlders at such a rate that Americans themselves are displaced by the resulting crime and welfare usage.” Calvin is talking about the ordinary faithfulness of individual Christians and their duties towards their neighbors, not a publicized, organized Church Charity Programme. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to love our neighbors individually and keep our mouths shut about it. It doesn’t need to be a publicized Church Programme. Jesus said that there is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus was plainly stating that love is expressed most greatly towards those with whom you are most familiar, even as Jesus laid down his life for his friends on the cross. IOW, perhaps we should focus more on people in our immediate sphere and not people across the ocean or random vagrants off the street.

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  15. Walt – “Yes, I have an extremely cynical view about Kellerites and Gospel Coalitioners who think Charity and Do-Gooderism must be a Church Programme and something to humble-brag about on the Internet.”

    I would object to this as well, but I’ve never seen Tim Keller or other “Kellerites” (whatever that means) advocate this or “humble-brag” about it on the Internet.

    Walt – “The post-modern Evangelical and Kellerite church believes that “Charity” means “No-strings attached indiscriminate hand-outs” and “Bringing in Third-Worlders at such a rate that Americans themselves are displaced by the resulting crime and welfare usage.””

    You’re conflating two different issues. Charity does indeed mean no-strings attached handouts, and applies to any neighbor in need, regardless of immigration status. The rate at which “Third-Worlders” are brought to the US is a government matter, not a Church matter. But once here – regardless of how many or under what circumstances – Christians are obliged to care for them as needed.

    Walt – “Calvin is talking about the ordinary faithfulness of individual Christians and their duties towards their neighbors, not a publicized, organized Church Charity Programme. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to love our neighbors individually and keep our mouths shut about it. It doesn’t need to be a publicized Church Programme.”

    I agree. And I suspect most “Kellerites” would as well.

    Walt – “Jesus said that there is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus was plainly stating that love is expressed most greatly towards those with whom you are most familiar, even as Jesus laid down his life for his friends on the cross. IOW, perhaps we should focus more on people in our immediate sphere and not people across the ocean or random vagrants off the street.”

    Basically agree with all of this: clearly Church members should receive priority of care, but that does not preclude the “random vagrants” we encounter.

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  16. Susan, “The best of culture brings the gospel. In other words, Christian Western Civilization.”

    Except that Christianity started out as an Eastern religion. There you go again with your Eurocentrism (don’t tell your neighbors in California).

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  17. D.G.H :”Except that Christianity started out as an Eastern religion. There you go again with your Eurocentrism…”

    It could even get worse. Why do so many Calvinist and Catholic High Culture types assume that Jesus would love Bach and Mozart? Does it ever occur to them that He would be bored to tears with sonatas, cantatas, and partitas and would even prefer Ol’ Timey Gospel music by George Jones, Merle Haggard, Burl Ives and Johnny Cash?

    It could get even more worse. Maybe He would prefer Thomas Kinkade over Michelangelo, Left Behind novels over Dante’s Inferno. Maybe He would hate ballet and opera. What a horror!

    It is an affect of white, upper class, expensively educated, urban Christians to attribute their High Brow Cultural Aspirations and Pretensions to Jesus. They love The Arts and Jesus would love The Arts as well.

    Even Eurocentrism can be provincial. And stupid

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  18. Darryl,

    You’ve mentioned, a lot, that Christianity began in what we call an eastern part of the world, but that is beside the point now( no offense), because Christianity is a fulfilment of the Messianic faith of Israel. Jesus is the living Torah(“Out of Zion shall go forth the law”). And so while the faith may have begun on God’s Holy hill, Zion, the prophecy was that it would go out to all the world.( Isaiah 2:2-4)
    The first recepients of our “apostolic faith”were 12 Jews whom Jesus commanded to go out so as to gather in the rest of the world.
    Part of that gathering included bringing the good news to the Greeks, people who were very learned through natural reason(philosophy), but needed Paul in order to know that the universal “good, true, beautiful” IS the “I Am” of Israel’s faith that was revealed by the unknown God they were searching for.

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  19. Andrew,

    What things Jesus would like is an interesting thought. My dad would like your idea that maybe Jesus would like Merle Haggard and George Jones.
    The world has a gradations though ; there really is kitsch( we know it misses the mark) and there really is high art( though we shouldn’t trust modernity to discriminate wisely:), If we can “develop” our tastes, by learning , then Jesus would be able to learn to and help us delevop our tastes. I mean he served the best wine at a wedding!
    But, come on, admit that you can tell that Bach is better than Philip Glass. Burl Ives is better than Mumford and Sons.

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  20. Andrew,

    I think I kind of missed what you were saying in your comparison lol!.
    However, I would like to point out that ” old time religion” you talk about ( and I heard growing up in honky tonk bars)is more like protestant 20th century America singing about their parent or grandparent moral virtue and faith( all good), but it isn’t Christocentric like what is painted on the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel or like the plain chant that rises, filling the vaults.
    In other words, there’s a difference between the “faith of my fathers” and “my father’s faith”

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  21. I’m not sure if God likes Bach more than Burl Ives. I do know that some have made the argument that God is so concerned for excellence in worship that he’d rather have a pagan who is part of the symphony orchestra leading the music than Betty Jean who may sing a little off key but loves Jesus. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around that.

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  22. @Robert

    Given that God states explicitly that obedience is better than sacrifice, that God condemns those who honor him with their lips, but whose heart is far from him, and that God’s response to David when David wants to build the temple, any reasoning that leads one to conclude that pagan excellence is superior to obedient (reverent) worship that is slightly off key is certainly flawed.

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  23. Robert and sdb – certainly having a Christian musician leading worship is “better” than a non-Christian. But at some point competency comes into play in a church. Should we only have Christian electricians make sure the lights are working, Christian plumbers ensure the toilets aren’t clogged, and Christian janitors take out the trash and sweep the floors?

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  24. VV – You are awarded no points for conflating worship with being an electrician or janitor, although I’m sure Frame is nodding approvingly somewhere.

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  25. VV: “But at some point competency comes into play in a church. Should we only have Christian electricians make sure the lights are working, Christian plumbers ensure the toilets aren’t clogged, and Christian janitors take out the trash and sweep the floors?”

    None of these activities involves conducting worship services. Unclogging toilets is not something you can glorify God with. We’re not talking about people good enough for the Lincoln Center or the Royal Albert Hall – this is your local Ol’ Timey Church, man. If the musicians are not competent then get someone (Christian) from the congregation or neighborhood to replace them. There are Christians who actually do this for a living.

    But if your ministry is all about Redeeming The Arts or Cultural Engagement then obviously you’ll have no problem with ungodly, unrepentant, and unredeemed musicians leading worship services.

    Would it also be ok to have non-Christians serving communion?

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  26. somethingclever – electricity is usually necessary for worship in the 21st century in the US. Plumbing is definitely necessary. Point is: they are an instrument of worship just as musical accompaniment is an instrument of worship. Why are we requiring one group to be Christians but the other group not?

    Andrew Alladin – see my comment to somethingclever. In addition, I will add that anyone – saved or unsaved – is welcome to enter a church and participate in corporate worship. No profession of faith is required to participate in singing or hearing the Word. If no profession of faith is required for singing, why should a profession of faith be required for playing an instrument? On the other hand, a profession of faith is required for the Lord’s Supper – only professing Christians may participate.

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  27. VV – You really think that electricity and bathrooms are necessary for corporate worship? That’s got to be a shock to the untold number who worship without them every week. Maybe you have more musical noises coming from your local bathroom than mine? Ours can’t seem to keep a tune.

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  28. VV,

    You’re confusing worship with other things. I’m not against excellence. I’m against the idea that excellence in talent is superior to faithfulness to Christ.

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  29. somethingclever, sdb, and Robert – I’m not arguing that excellence in talent is superior to faithfulness in Christ. My point is that if someone isn’t qualified to do a certain task – e.g. play the piano – then they shouldn’t be doing it simply because they are Christian. If a given church decides that they need a piano player to help lead singing, then they should hire the most appropriate person for the job. We’re talking about instruments of worship, not elements of worship. Musical instruments are an aid to singing or a means of enhancing the singing, just as electric lights allow us to read the Bible, kneelers allow us to kneel and pews allow us to sit. None of these things are “essential” to biblical worship, yet I would guess 99% of churches in the US have all of them.

    In these non-essential aids to corporate worship profession of faith is not necessary. To your question about the preacher, Robert, of course that requires a profession of faith because that is an required element of worship, just as the Lord’s Supper can only be administered by a pastor. But in all the non-essentials a profession of faith is desirable but not strictly necessary. We don’t need Christian electricians to wire the lights or Christian carpenters to build the pews – we need the people who are best at those jobs. The same applies to musicians in corporate worship.

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  30. VV,

    My point is that if someone isn’t qualified to do a certain task – e.g. play the piano – then they shouldn’t be doing it simply because they are Christian.

    More or less, sure. But there are many situations where you have someone who is an okay piano player and is a Christian vs. you can hire someone from the local community who is a virtuoso and yet not a professing Christian. Seems hard to imagine God preferring the pagan virtuoso over the believing, okay piano player.

    The problem is that musicians are helping to lead the worship in ways that carpenters, electricians, etc. aren’t. Besides, if you’re faced with a choice between a Christian who can’t play the piano and a pagan who can, you can always choose to forego the musical instruments and sing a cappella.

    Singing is an element of worship, however, so even if you go a cappella, you’d need a leader to get the song going, and voice is an instrument. Seems we’d be really stretching to say it would be okay to have the world-class pagan soprano get the congregation going.

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  31. @VV – wrt “just as the Lord’s Supper can only be administered by a pastor”. What does “administer” mean and what is your exegetical basis for such a statement?

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  32. “ We’re talking about instruments of worship, not elements of worship. Musical instruments are an aid to singing.”
    The Psalmist would disagree. “Praise him with [instruments]”. Nothing about praising him by sweeping up. Of course if the psalms don’t apply, then perhaps instruments don’t belong in worship.

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  33. Robert – I basically agree with you. At the end of the day I would prefer to have a Christian piano player (to use that example) in worship, but if there are no reasonably good Christian piano players are available, I’ll take the atheist.

    Petros – the short answer is that I take a very Calvinistic approach to the Lord’s Supper, which ironically most Reformed churches today do not. Calvin believed that the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of the Word were tied together in corporate worship, and there should not be one without the other. If he didn’t believe they were of equal importance, he believed they were very close – far closer than what most believe today. In addition, the Reformed view has always been that the Lord’s Supper should only be celebrated in corporate worship, and not in private gatherings or individually. Exegetically, this is abundantly clear from all NT examples and from Christ’s words of institution the night before His crucifixion. So if the Lord’s Supper is only to be celebrated in corporate worship, then it must be administered by officers of the church. Since the Lord’s Supper is linked with the preaching of the Word, it follows that a TE would do both, though I wouldn’t necessarily have a big problem if an RE did it (my denomination only allows TEs to administer sacraments).

    sdb – aaaaaannnnndd cue RPW debate….

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  34. @VV, wrt “Exegetically, this is abundantly clear from all NT examples and from Christ’s words of institution the night before His crucifixion.” I get your affinity for the “Reformed tradition” and all that, but it’s hardly exegetically abundantly clear. I always find it curious when Presby’s refer to their traditions and not to the Text. Funny how Paul must have forgot to instruct Timothy/Titus about “only officers in the church” on this topic.

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  35. Petros,

    I might be mistaken, but I think a lot of the reason for having only TEs administer communion has to do with Paul’s concern that everything be done decently and in order. I think the various Presbyterian bodies differ on whether ruling elders can administer the Supper apart from TE involvement, but speaking as a Presbyterian, I think the soundest method would be to require oversight by elders (RE and/or TE) whenever the Supper is celebrated. Mainly because those elders, presumably, would know the congregation best and which, if any, are under discipline and barred from the Supper.

    Of course, that shouldn’t necessarily prevent elders from being able to appoint non-elders to assist in the process. That does happen in many cases.

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  36. Petros – what is obvious – particularly 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 – is that Paul is talking about the Lord’s Supper being eaten only in the context of corporate worship. Verse 18 makes the context clear: “when you come together as a church.” The entire chapter – though not dealing specifically with the Lord’s Supper – includes instructions for corporate worship, and the entire section of the epistle (chapters 11-14) relate to the corporate body of believers. When Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper he instructs the disciples to “divide it among yourselves.”

    While I’ll concede that there is no direct instruction that only elders may administer the Lord’s Supper, the implication is clear by the very nature of Church offices, and to maintain order, as Roberts points out. You may sneer at Reformed precedent, but that precedent is derived from the earliest Church practices and earliest known liturgies. Calvin, for example, relies heavily on Augustine and John Chrysostom when developing his liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. Are there some circumstances when it might be appropriate for lay people to administer the Lord’s Supper? Maybe if no elder is available, but this would be an extraordinary circumstance, especially in the US.

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  37. @VV and @Robert, what presbys may deem practically prudential is certainly fine. And, it’s not to say that your tradition and precedents are not to be consulted or without merit. It only becomes provocative when tradition/precedent (or Calvin) are cited so authoritatively versus Scriptural exegesis. As far as the administration of the Lord’s Supper is concerned, I’m not sure that 1 Cor 14:40 can do the required heavy-lifting to support your view.

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  38. Peter, “I’m not sure that 1 Cor 14:40 can do the required heavy-lifting to support your view.”

    See what you did there? You object to bringing up Calvin but then you bring up yourself as authoritative.

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  39. “sdb – aaaaaannnnndd cue RPW debate….”

    Yes and no. Among confessional reformed, the question is not whether or not we are restricted from worshiping God in ways other than what He prescribed, the question is about the prescription. Are the Psalms prescriptive for NT worship? For example:
    “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

    “Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”

    If these Psalms tell us that we should worship God with dance and instruments, then it is appropriate to include these in our Sunday worship (and indeed necessary). But it also means that playing instruments in church isn’t like sweeping floors. Alternatively, some reformed would argue that these are not descriptions of corporate elements of worship. If so, then playing instruments is no different than sweeping floors – fine to do on Friday night perhaps, but not to be part of worship.

    I agree that RPW debate will never be settled exegetically, but that doesn’t mean that all options are on the table. The belief that adequate talent from a believer is inferior to excellence from a pagan in worship because playing the instruments is a common exercise seems to me to be ruled out by our standard’s summary of what the first table of the 10 commandments teach.

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  40. @dgh, if you think that 1 Cor 14:40 (or other Texts) provides the Biblical rationale for VV’s view on the admin of the Lord’s Supper, then help him out and lay out the exegetical case. Calvin was a big fan of exegesis.

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  41. DGH and Petros,

    Who can solve your disagreement? Isn’t this a case where one needs to appeal to tradition with a capital “T”? Now, if you would just go back to Tradition that was in place( and still exists today) prior to the departure that happened with Luther’s novelty, then you will find the faith of the disciples of the apostles of Jesus.

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  42. How is appealing to (T)radition more effective at solving a disagreement than appealing to scripture? The tradition has to be interpreted, one needs to decide which previous beliefs and practices are part of the legitimate tradition, and one needs to decide whether the question addresses doctrine or discipline. Given the debates among the cardinals about blessing same-sex unions and admitting the divorced to communion that have been supposedly settled by tradition, I don’t see how appeal to (T)radition is in principle superior to an appeal to scripture. Your own church as theological debates going back hundreds of years that have yet to be settled (Thomism vs. Molinism for example).

    Like

  43. SDB,

    Because Christian faith isn’t only written in the scriptures. It exists orally in addition to what’s written down. Not as an appendage but as an integral part. It’s just as much as God’s word as what is in scripture.
    Darryl wants Petros to see( at least I hope that this is the point of dialoging) that the exegesis of the Reformers is the true apostolic faith, that Rome lost, but Petros says in effect, “Prove that your tradition is scriptural”. Petros( forgive me, Petros, if this isn’t what you mean!) is just doing to Presbyterians and other Reformed branches do to Roman Catholicism. That’s why your debate can’t be solved, for all the honest study and even good-will wrangling.

    The question you have about the disputes about same-sex union and receiving communion, I don’t know enough to speak on it, except to say that( in regard to same-sex union), the act is against natural law( still God’s law for there is no nature without a creator).

    “Chastity and homosexuality

    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

    So, just because people argue doesn’t mean no one is correct. For instance, there is no doubt that on the issue of baptizing infants, the Reformers are correct. The arguments aren’t about who understands what scripture is saying, but what is God’s word on this subject. And for that, you are going to need the church that Jesus intended to solve all disputes about faith and morals.

    Have a good weekend.

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  44. Susan,

    And for that, you are going to need the church that Jesus intended to solve all disputes about faith and morals.

    SDB’s point is that the church of which you speak hasn’t settled all disputes about faith and morals. The current pope, in particular, is causing all sorts of confusion.

    But as far as T settling things, Rome and the East both appeal to T and the arguments continue between them as to which one is the true church.

    You disagree on these matters with other RCs on homosexuality and other issues and both of you are in good standing with the church. Neither of you have been excommunicated. What has your church, then, settled, when Father James Martin can disagree with the catechism and yet be appointed as a theological advisor to the pope?

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  45. Because Christian faith isn’t only written in the scriptures. It exists orally in addition to what’s written down. Not as an appendage but as an integral part. It’s just as much as God’s word as what is in scripture.

    So you’ve said. But that isn’t really an answer for how an unwritten tradition will resolve disputes in ways that an inscripturated tradition cannot.

    Darryl wants Petros to see that the exegesis of the Reformers is the true apostolic faith, that Rome lost, but Petros says in effect, “Prove that your tradition is scriptural”. Petros is just doing to Presbyterians and other Reformed branches do to Roman Catholicism. That’s why your debate can’t be solved, for all the honest study and even good-will wrangling.

    Not exactly. Darryl agrees with an exegetical inference from scripture, and Petros has asked for Darryl to in effect “show his work”. Petros may or may not find the exegesis compelling. If you add an additional source of information (Tradition), I don’t see how you don’t have the same kind of problems. You still have to interpret this even more nebulous source of information. I think the difference you get at is that if there is an authority that decides the dispute, then the dispute goes away. But of course, this isn’t true in a world with religious liberty. Rome doesn’t get to silence the opposition anymore (like they did the Jansenists), Rome doesn’t always know how to resolve disputes (Dominicans vs. Jesuits), etc… That being said, these kinds of debates are solved. I once believed in congregational polity and credo-baptism. After some debate, I arrived at the conclusion that the reformers were correct. If you mean that you will get everyone to agree with you, well that’s not going to happen.

    So, just because people argue doesn’t mean no one is correct.

    That’s true when two protestants argue, when a protestant and a Catholic argue, when a Catholic and an Orthodox argue, when an Orthodox and Copt argue, etc….

    For instance, there is no doubt that on the issue of baptizing infants, the Reformers are correct.

    There is lots of doubt about that – look at all the Baptists. Perhaps you mean that you don’t have any doubts that the Reformers are correct.

    The arguments aren’t about who understands what scripture is saying, but what is God’s word on this subject.

    Baptists and the reformed agree on what is God’s word on the subject, but they don’t agree on what His word means. In other words, it is about who understands God’s Word. The problem gets even murkier when something as nebulous as “tradition” gets thrown in – unless someone writes down (ahem) what is and isn’t authoritative tradition, there will be endless debates about what counts as tradition, what the essence of the tradition is (what parts are dogma and what parts are doctrine), and so forth. This is why you can point to the same catechism that James Martin et al. is familiar with and they can divide hairs – they aren’t changing dogma, they are addressing pastoral practice when they offer to officiate same sex unions (not marriage!) or invite a Lutheran or divorcee to communion (perhaps they aren’t a Lutheran or divorcee’ down deep in their heart), and so forth.

    And for that, you are going to need the church that Jesus intended to solve all disputes about faith and morals.

    You are overreaching here. Your own church doesn’t claim to resolve all disputes about the faith.

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  46. SDB,

    The church doesn’t claim that she can stop people from disputing, so I hope that this isn’t what you think I meant.
    If she can’t solve disputes by knowing the truth of “what is”, and passing onto future generations, what then is use of the church?
    The Catholic claim is that the church is needed so that we can get the sacramental graces needed to help us get to heaven, and so that we know what the apostolic faith is
    . For instance, the apostolic faith says there are seven sacraments. Did it always claim there were seven? I don’t know when that was articulated, but I do know that it receives that knowledge from the Holy Spirit who has revealed it for our good, in scripture or orally, or both.

    God is not going to hold back anything that is for our salvation, and so that is why its so important to know who’s right and who’s wrong about the sacramental system.

    But we’ve been down this road so many times.

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  47. “ The church doesn’t claim that she can stop people from disputing, so I hope that this isn’t what you think I meant.”
    You claimed that dgh & petros couldn’t resolve their dispute because they lacked (T)radition. If that isn’t what you meant, perhaps you can clarify.

    “If she can’t solve disputes by knowing the truth of “what is”, and passing onto future generations, what then is use of the church?”
    The leading metaphor for church in scripture is family. Solving disputes isn’t the only purpose for a family. Indeed, it doesn’t seem to me to even be the principal purpose.

    “The Catholic claim is that the church is needed so that we can get the sacramental graces needed to help us get to heaven, and so that we know what the apostolic faith is
    . For instance, the apostolic faith says there are seven sacraments. Did it always claim there were seven? “
    Trent.

    “i don’t know when that was articulated, but I do know that it receives that knowledge from the Holy Spirit who has revealed it for our good, in scripture or orally, or both.”
    Orally to whom? If they were so crucial, wouldn’t that be something to clarify on day one?

    “God is not going to hold back anything that is for our salvation, and so that is why its so important to know who’s right and who’s wrong about the sacramental system.”
    Hmmm… why the did it take 16 centuries or so to get it right?

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  48. Hi sdb,

    The things that I’m discussing with you are not coming from me. I’m just trying, as best I can, to regurgitate how the Catholic Church sees itself. I’m fully confident that the claim that she makes of being the church endowed with authority, is true. So I’m not speaking on my own authority.
    I just know that scripture is too complex since it has four senses ( per Catholic doctrine) that it’s impossible that it was ever meant to serve on it’s own outside of the people who are in continuity with the OT church.
    You think it’s possible for anyone to take a bible, discover the right number sacraments( why they would be looking for such a thing and having a word to describe that, or those, things is itself miraculous and outside the scope of Sola scripture)and issue an authortative stance on the subject, thereby making themselves the church. This seems like circular reasoning to me.
    Sorry for not being able to talk further. I’m behind on some work.

    Take care. I wish you well!

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  49. Susan, this, “The things that I’m discussing with you are not coming from me. I’m just trying, as best I can, to regurgitate how the Catholic Church sees itself. ” Is just another way to say, ‘it’s coming from me’. Things are still melting down to your interpretation of things.

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  50. Sean,

    Things regarding faith aren’t self- evident. But I’m curious. Do you agree with every doctrine of your current church or is there something that you trust that another church is closer to being on the mark about? When you get it right, how do you know?

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  51. Susan,

    When you get it right, how do you know?

    How did you know you have it right that Rome is the church Jesus founded?

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  52. Susan, puhleeze. You have all that magisterium and no one is solving the disagreement between James Martin and Ross Douthat. When will your guys use all the authority they have (as you think)?

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  53. “ The things that I’m discussing with you are not coming from me. I’m just trying, as best I can, to regurgitate how the Catholic Church sees itself. I’m fully confident that the claim that she makes of being the church endowed with authority, is true. So I’m not speaking on my own authority.”

    Well that’s your interpretation. Fr. McBrien, Fr. James Martin, and Massimo Faggioli had(ve) a very different one. I suspect that we agree on more about the Christian faith than some of your progressive clergy.

    “I just know that scripture is too complex since it has four senses ( per Catholic doctrine)”
    If the data (scripture) is too complex, what are we to say about the vast number of encyclicals, theological treatise, varied tradition in your church that your own leaders disagree about?

    “that it’s impossible that it was ever meant to serve on it’s own outside of the people who are in continuity with the OT church.”
    Agreed. Scripture operates in community and we need teachers. The “church” are simply those who are called out. It is all the elect-under the old covenant and under the new covenant. As we see in the NT, the leaders (authorities) were essential and the people were instructed by Christ to submit to them. But the authorities were not infallible- Jesus corrected them by appeal to scripture. Here’s the thing – there was no canon that all Jews agreed upon. Yet Christ appealed to the scriptures as authoritative anyway.

    From this we learn:
    1) the legitimacy of authority does not depend on infallibility.
    2) submission to fallible authorities does not mean you cannot point out their error by appeal to scripture
    3) the authority of scripture does not depend upon s human institution even if God chooses to use flawed institutions to receive and preserve his word.

    To deny one of these is to claim Christ erred. Agreement with them does not entail that Rome is fallible or that Sola Scriptura is true, but it does undermine the force of the Catholic criticism of Sola Scriptura.

    “You think it’s possible for anyone to take a bible, discover the right number sacraments( why they would be looking for such a thing and having a word to describe that, or those, things is itself miraculous and outside the scope of Sola scripture)and issue an authortative stance on the subject, thereby making themselves the church. This seems like circular reasoning to me.”
    That doesn’t describe my view at all. The NT describes the gifting of teachers in service to the church, and the value of tradition as a teacher. Sola Scriptura tells us that the only revelation from God to man is contained in scripture. It is infallible because it is God’s Word. It is sufficiently plain that the elect can understand the Gospel and come to faith in Christ because His sheep know his voice. It does not entail that tradition and contemporary teachers are superfluous.

    I find the analogy between science and theology helpful. Science is the construction of parsimonious theories that explain nature. Nature is infallible, though we may misinterpret it or mismeasure it. Our reading of nature is data. Our interpretation of data is theory. We gauge how good our theories are by judging them against the data. In principle, any one could show that the received scientific theory is wrong, but the longer a theory stands and the more data it explains, the less likely this outcome is. The same is true for theology except instead of nature we have revelation and instead of theory we have theology.

    The authority of science doesn’t rest in an institution. Rather it rests in its ability to explain nature. Nature is the ultimate authority. Our fallibility doesn’t undermine that authority.

    I think your issue is more with credibility. How do I know the teachers have properly identified and explained the source material? Who can you trust? The Protestants point to the Holy Spirit testifying in Scripture. The Catholic Church calls this fideistic and points to the MoC. This is why the scandals have caused the collapse of Catholic faith in Ireland, New England, and Latin America.

    The gates of Hell will not prevail against God’s elect, but the institutions may come and go.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. SDB,

    The Catholic Church calls this fideistic and points to the MoC.

    And what’s ironic is that the MoC are just as fideistic as the Protestant answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Sdb,
    I wrote you a legthy response and something happened to it.
    I feel bad, because you were so good to really engage with me. I love discussing these subjects.
    Would you be willing to listen and respond to lectures that have helped me? I’m very curious to hear how you process the information different from me seeing that we both want to use our reason and are open to the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  56. @Susan

    If your links deal with the issue at hand, then sure. But that hasn’t been the case historically. If you want to have a focused conversation about epistemology, authority, history, or exegesis I’m game.

    I apologize if I sound like a broken record, but after reading the CtC stuff, comments here, and the proffered links (in addition to my own reading in theology), the criticisms of SS fall flat as they entail a skepticism we would never apply otherwise.

    Now if the question is one of warrant, that’s a different matter. And I think this is really the fundamental dividing line. I believe that belief that the Bible is God’s Word is warranted prior to the proper ecclesiology and the warrant for the proper ecclesiology rests in scripture. You seem to believe the opposite – right ecclesiology comes first and right belief about scripture follows. Is that a fair summary of our main difference?

    Liked by 1 person

  57. Hi sdb,
    “You seem to believe the opposite – right ecclesiology comes first and right belief about scripture follows. Is that a fair summary of our main difference?”

    I think that sounds right. Except that I don’t think we should be thinking in terms of lots of different church’s determining what counts as scripture. If Jesus founded a church and gave it authority, then it should be able to tell us what counts as scripture. How long did the church function before there was a complete new testament?
    Yesterday’s Gospel reading was about how Jesus spoke in parables to those outside of His new gathered family ( disciples) but how He explained those parables in private out of the hearing of the crowd. The thought struck me that this is how He wills to operate in the world. He builds a church and if we want to understand we can ask there for clarification.

    I don’t want to wander off from what we are agreeing to focus on, but does that portion resonate in the same way with you?

    Liked by 1 person

  58. Right. God revealed himself to the prophets and apostles, and preserved that for his people. Those he had called out are the church and they hear his voice. There is no salvation oustide of his election.

    But there is s different thing we also call the church. It includes those who were called out and others.

    To clarify this distinction, we refer to the former as the invisible church since we cannot determine everyone who is elect (or not). The latter is the visible church.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Sdb,

    Okay so far so good:)

    “But there is s different thing we also call the church. It includes those who were called out and others.”

    Can we back up a minute and find out how we who are recipients of scripture have come to understand this. In other words, is scripture explicit about this or are you and I both relying on a tradition so as to fully understand?
    But I do agree with you on this because I believe that scripture and tradition are in accord.
    Catholicism teaches that all those who are baptized are in the visible church( just like circumcision) and are Christians( Abraham’s descendents), but not all those will be part of the church in Heaven( ungrafted because they did not continue in kindness Rom. 11:19-24)
    “Many are called, few are chosen” because our pilgrimage in the dessert isn’t over. We’ve passed through the waters of the Red Sea, but we long for flesh pots of Egypt ( type of the world).
    You’re good about reeling the conversation in, so I will continue to ask that you help me stay on track:)

    Liked by 2 people

  60. “Can we back up a minute and find out how we who are recipients of scripture have come to understand this.”
    I suspect that there are as many answers to this question as there are believers. The means in my case was my parents teaching me. The ultimate cause was the work of the Holy Spirit opening my eyes.

    “In other words, is scripture explicit about this or are you and I both relying on a tradition so as to fully understand?”
    Scripture is explicit that the ground for recognizing God’s word is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. My sheep hear my voice, you say this because it has been revealed to you, they have eyes that don’t see, and so on. The means that the Holy Spirit has employed to preserve and disseminate his Word is a different story. The means most generally is preaching of the Word. But of course, we learn from Paul that the spirit uses unbelievers to disseminate God’s Word. The repetition of this process across generations is tradition. In this sense tradition is a process, not a source of authority. Of course traditions that survive over time get the benefit of the doubt, but tradition on its own is not dispositive.

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  61. Sdb,

    We both believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us. Faith is a supernatural gift. What I was asking is what faith tradition began the idea of a visible vs invisible church. What I mean is that we aren’t all in agreement about the distinctions. Whatever visible tradition that has a wrong understanding can’t also be considered authoritative.

    You said:

    “Scripture is explicit that the ground for recognizing God’s word is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. My sheep hear my voice, you say this because it has been revealed to you, they have eyes that don’t see, and so on. The means that the Holy Spirit has employed to preserve and disseminate his Word is a different story. The means most generally is preaching of the Word. But of course, we learn from Paul that the spirit uses unbelievers to disseminate God’s Word.”

    Again, I agree. Most basically we learn the message from others, but where those others disagree is a problem when scripture isn’t clear.
    There are second, third, and so on, order questions that we need help with, since scripture is not perspicuous.

    “The repetition of this process across generations is tradition. In this sense tradition is a process, not a source of authority. Of course traditions that survive over time get the benefit of the doubt, but tradition on its own is not dispositive.”

    So when anyone here argues for the tradition of Calvin, they are not trying to convince that Calvinism is authoritative?
    I suspect you might say( if you are a Calvinist) that scripture is authoritative and that Calvin is just faithfully interpreting scripture. If that is the case, how do we know if his understanding of questions of second or third, or forth order are correct. The right tradition better have right answers to those higher order questions.

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  62. “ We both believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us. Faith is a supernatural gift. What I was asking is what faith tradition began the idea of a visible vs invisible church. What I mean is that we aren’t all in agreement about the distinctions. Whatever visible tradition that has a wrong understanding can’t also be considered authoritative.“

    Why not? Authorities make mistakes all the time. I think the first tradition to make this distinction would be Judaism. They were wrong about lots of things, yet Jesus thought the people should submit to their authority.

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  63. “There are second, third, and so on, order questions that we need help with, since scripture is not perspicuous.”
    Almost. The reformed doctrine of perspicacity only applies to the first order questions. Of course, dispute does not entail a lack of clarity right?

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  64. “ So when anyone here argues for the tradition of Calvin, they are not trying to convince that Calvinism is authoritative?”
    I doubt that you will see many here cite Calvin as an authority on right doctrine. What you will see is folks cite Calvin to show a particular view is not obviously wrong. More likely you will see appeal to our standards which do not endorse all of what Calvin asserted.

    “I suspect you might say( if you are a Calvinist) that scripture is authoritative and that Calvin is just faithfully interpreting scripture. If that is the case, how do we know if his understanding of questions of second or third, or forth order are correct. The right tradition better have right answers to those higher order questions.”

    I think most reformed types would say that first, scripture interprets scripture. If you are left with, “Paul was a misogynist of his time”, then you are wrong. Note that Sola Scriptura is a minority position. The Anglican (and its Methodist, Holiness, and Charismatic/Pentecostal descendants disagree with this). Similarly the reconstructionists have a an understanding at odds with the reformers that has strongly influenced most baptists/evangelicals. These are independent breaks with the rcc not a cascade from Luther and Calvin.

    In secondary and tertiary questions there is disagreement, but this is true in your own communion. Rome’s solution to the Molinism/Thomism debate was to cut it out and agree to disagree. Most Prots have very narrow catechisms and don’t even demand assent to that to be a member.

    Boarding a flight, so I will be offline for a while.

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  65. Sdb,

    Whose understanding of the doctrine of justification do you agree with? I learned the reformed and the Catholic and obviously I believe that the Catholic view is correct. If my salvation depends on it I want answers to second and third order questions.
    Is there an authority that will say “No, it’s non essential” or “Yes, very essential”. Because if not, then we all can just follow whatever tradition that we like the answers.
    Anyway, I believe the Catholic Church is correct. Is the Holy Spirit leading me through the correct tradition?

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  66. Sdb,
    “In secondary and tertiary questions there is disagreement, but this is true in your own communion. Rome’s solution to the Molinism/Thomism debate was to cut it out and agree to disagree. Most Prots have very narrow catechisms and don’t even demand assent to that to be a member.”

    So you always hold your views and those of others within your faith tradition at arm’s length and say, ” I ( or he, they etc..) could be mistaken about what our confessions are holding us to”. If that’s the case why fault anyone for following God wherever they want. In other words, can you say “they’re wrong” or do you rather say, ” they could be right.”

    Respond when you can. Have a good flight.

    Like

  67. @Susan
    A bit bleary eyed, so feel free to blame any incoherence on that.

    Regarding justification, I find the Westminster and Heidelberg distillations of scripture compelling. I am not convinced by the “so-called” New Perspective. I think Trent over read Luther and responded in unhelpful ways. That being said, I also think one can be wrong about the mechanism and still have saving faith in Christ.

    I’m quite confident in my views, but I recognize that I am fallible and could be mistaken. My wife reminds me of instances when I was absolutely sure of something, but entirely wrong. A few of those instances resulted in unfortunate phone calls from the school wanting to know when jr was going to be picked up…oops!

    So I wouldn’t say that I hold my views at arms length. I am committed to them. But neither do I find the need to find fault with those who disagree with me. I think they are wrong (or we wouldn’t disagree), but I could be mistaken.

    I always go back to scripture though. Is the thing we disagree about coherent with scripture? I believe the Word of God has a supernatural element to it. Reading it, reflecting on it, and attempting to understand it is very different from doing the same with other great works.

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  68. sdb,

    I wrote a full page in response to your first paragraph and it didn’t go through because I wasn’t recognized. I highlighted it so that I could paste it in case that happened, and when I pasted it and sent the site said that I had given a duplicate. Anyway, I don’t have what had taken me about 45 minutes to formulate, and I don’t have time to spare again.
    I may try again on a different day.

    Get some sleep and take care.

    Like

  69. @ Susan,

    Hope you’re well. The focus on authority, while not utterly misplaced, is nevertheless misleading.

    Here’s why: authority is the right to declare. It is not the inherent ability to be correct, nor to compel agreement.

    I have authority over the Caglets. They *should* listen to and obey me. But I do not have the abolity to force them to agree with me. Nor do I have the ability to always be right.

    In like fashion, God’s church — whatever the boundaries may be — has the right to declare theology. But that authority does not confer the ability to be correct.

    So when you argue that we must first find the correct authority in order to be sure of our theology, you are confusing authority and ability. Submitting to the true church would mean listening to the coice God has authorized. It would not mean that voice would be correct.

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  70. Good post today :https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-the-catholic-church-became-roman

    “Having started with Lord Acton, let’s conclude with his most famous words, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What’s often forgotten, however, is that Acton actually was speaking about papal absolutism, a concern that has motivated Christian reformers throughout the centuries. “

    “But this danger is not unique to those who wear the papal ring or are inclined to kiss it. Deep down, the trajectory of every sinful heart is to be like Pope Julius II, flaunting our splendid yellow capes and looking for a throne on which to sit. But there is only one Lord who sits upon the throne, the Lamb to whom we give praise and honor and glory forever and ever.”

    Like

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