Taking Every Fluid Ounce Captive

Churches have specific associations with bodies of water. This Lutheran Church Missouri Synod writer claims the Mississippi (but I wonder if Mark Twain would let him not to mention what Lutherans in Germany might think about rivers in the United States):

A lot of evangelicals are swimming these days. They’re slipping on their metaphorical fins and masks and churning their way across bodies of water to emerge on the other shore as members of a different faith community. Those that move from evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism are said to swim the Tiber; those that become Orthodox swim the Bosporus.

Reasons for their aquatic activities vary. Some like the art and architecture associated with the ancient faiths. Some like the ceremonial aspects–the liturgies, the veneration of icons, the Eucharist. Some like the history that oozes from Catholicism and Orthodoxy, a history that travels through great saints of yesteryear–through Augustine, Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Gregory of Nazianzus–but goes largely forgotten in contemporary evangelicalism. . . .

But evangelicals interested in “swimming” to a different tradition should consider traversing a body of water much closer to home: the Mississippi River, on which is located St. Louis, Missouri, and the headquarters of the premier conservative Lutheran church body in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

This raises at least one question: what body of water should Presbyterians identify with for their denominational affiliation?

American Presbyterians would likely claim the Delaware River since the first presbytery and General Assembly met in Philadelphia. But the Chesapeake might also apply since some of the earliest congregations settled by Ulster Presbyterians were in Maryland.

European Presbyterians, if the look to Geneva, probably invoke Lake Geneva.

The Scots likely think about the Firth of Forth (I was thinking it was a Fifth) given the estuary’s proximity to Edinburgh.

The Irish? They may have the hardest time attracting converts if crossing the North Sea is necessary for being a Presbyterian in Northern Ireland. I’m not sure swimming the Belfast Lough is any less challenging.

The OPC is the Church John Calvin Founded

That assertion would prompt guffaws throughout the Presbyterian and Reformed world and yet Roman Catholic apologists continue to make such a claim with even higher stakes: “the Roman Catholic Church is the church Jesus founded.”

Who actually looks at history this way? To think that the OPC was a gleam in the eye of John Calvin is risible if only because Orthodox Presbyterianism comes so much later and after so many different historical developments than the Reformed churches of Geneva. Someone could spot similarities in worship, polity, and theology between Geneva and the OPC. But the OPC is only a development from something that started in 1522 in Zurich even before Calvin was a Protestant convert.

It’s like saying the United States of President Obama is the nation that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams founded. Neither the Left nor the Right in the United States thinks that way. As if a nation that now extends across the entire continent, has a population 100 times greater than 1789, and possesses the largest economy and military in the world is the United States Jefferson and Adams founded.

So how close does Roman Catholicism come to Jesus? For starters, Jesus never made it to Europe. The churches with which Jesus had the greatest familiarity and presence were those of Jerusalem. Which is why Tertullian did not ask, “what hath Rome to do with Athens” (and a good thing he didn’t since Thomists may have followed Aristotle more than Peter and Paul).

If the writings of the apostles are any indication, you know the ones we typically call “the word of God,” the early church had no episcopacy. The first body to make authoritative rulings for believers was the Council of — wait for it — Jerusalem and that body showed no deference to the pastors of Rome. The theology of Paul, a big block of NT teaching, went out of its way to stress faith over observance of the law, a major point that split western Christianity and isolated Rome from the apostles according to those most zealous to protect apostolic teaching (as opposed to papal prerogative). Meanwhile, the worship of the early church was simple and according to Paul the Lord’s Supper was a not a sacrifice but a fellowship meal (just like the Passover). And worship was not in Latin, a point sure to upset the Latin-Rite proponents.

So the early records of Christianity lean much more in the direction of the Eastern churches being the original Christians. In fact, were it not for the Eastern Church and their first Christian emperor, western Christians would not have Trinitarian orthodoxy.

It may be high time to remember that Boston Americans, not the New York Yankees, won the first World Series.