Thursday, April 8, 2010

Moved to Wordpress

Wordpress now seems as easy to use as Blogger, and the layouts are more conducive to careful reading.  Please go to to access the further posts of 1189 Chapters

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Human Context of the Preached Word, circa 1982

"It is difficult to imagine the world in the year A.D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today.  We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power.  Much less welcome will be the probably reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary.  In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listened to one another in person rather than on screen.  In this human context of mutual love the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less"

-John Stott, Between Two Worlds, written in 1982.

Also, this is why I won't ever preach via video or recommend a church where a member only sees his pastor on a giant TV screen.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" - John 1:14

Reading Jesus by Mary Gordon

Reading Jesus is not all I was hoping it could be.  Mary Gordon is an excellent crafter of phrases, and has written both fiction and non-fiction.  She goes back to read the Gospels after she realizes that she considers herself Catholic but has never actually read the Gospels.

In all fairness, I read the first 1/3 of the book, and then browsed and flipped through.  It didn't end up being worth my time.

She approaches each chapter in a cut-and-paste method: all the miracles of Jesus, all the hard sayings, etc.

I am impressed with her commitment to reading and analyzing the Gospels, multiple times, and in different versions, too.  I like that.

This would be a good book for an evangelist in a literary world - it reveals the questions and discomfort that skeptics, particularly well-educated and well-read skeptics - might ask about the Gospels.

However, in the end, Mary Gordon writes without faith.  She can read about Jesus but in her skepticism, she can't know Jesus.  The book reads like an Emergent Church Pastor's sermon - lots of questions, lots of discomfort, but not much real insight into her subject.  No one can know the Jesus of the Gospels apart from faith, so a complete non-mastery of the Gospels by an intelligent and talented writer makes for interesting, but not worthwhile reading.

Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,  yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:38-39).  Mary Gordon, lifelong Roman Catholic, is here confronted with her fatal flaw.  Were she to abandon the idols she holds to and embrace the risen Christ as Savior and Lord, and allow Him alone to dictate her values, the book she would then write would, I'm convinced, light the world on fire.

Monday, April 5, 2010

See the booklist

The most interesting part of this blog is the booklist page, to your upper left.

The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome

Св. Иполит Римски, руска икона. Източник:
I finished this a while ago but haven't had the chance to write about it.

St. Hippolytus was bishop of Rome, and wrote the treatise in 217AD.  I read the Dix and Chadwick edition, if there are others, I don't know of them.

This edition is particularly technical, dealing with various version of ancient manuscripts; it would add a great deal for a true scholar, and doesn't take away from those just interested in the early church.

It offers one of the few insights of the early church practices still available.  Some interesting points for modern readers:

1.  A distinction between Bishops and Presbyters is already firmly established.
2.  Worship was liturgical and prayers were read as well as spontaneous.  Anglicans and Catholics will certainly recognize elements of their liturgies.
3.  Oil, cheese and olives were used in worship; milk an honey were used at the time of the eucharist as well as the obvious bread and wine.
4.  The Lord's Supper was central to worship.
5.  Deacons seem to have been essentially servants of the bishop.  There is no sense of autonomy of a deacon board.
6.  Ordination was the bishop laying on his hands, and no others.
7.  Widows seem to have been like an early female deaconate, but "she shall not be ordained, becasuse she does not offer the oblation nor has she a <liturgical> ministry [sic]"
8.  A virginal office was a personal choice and not ordained.  This is voluntary chastity and obviously an order of early nuns.
9.  "Subdeacons" served the deacons, but were not ordained.
10.  "If any one among the laity appear to have received a gift of healing by a revelation, hands shall not be laid upon him, because the matter is manifest."  So healing was  a gift, and was present in the early church (or permitted, at least) but not ordained, because if you had the gift, it was obvious.  Lots of questions here for me.
11.  Certain professions and activities were barred from the church: if you wanted to join as one, you had to either "desist" or "be rejected" as a candidate for instruction and baptism.  They were:

  • A  "john" to prostitutes or a prostitute.
  • An idol-maker, either in sculpture or image.
  • An actor (I think this was different than today?  Not sure.)
  • A charioteer, gladiator, animal hunter, or anyone, even a public official, involved with the gladiatorial games or the circus.
  • A priest of idols.
  • A soldier in the pagan state.  You can't take a military oath.
  • A whore or sodomite.
  • A magician "Shall not even be brought for consideration"
  • Charmers, astrologers, interpreters of dreams or mountebanks.

12.  Certain professions or activities were permitted in a limited way:
Schoolmasters should desist unless they have no other way of making a living.  Then, they receive forgiveness.
A man with a concubine was to marry.  I don't know if that meant to enter into a second marriage.
13.  The renunciation was a part of baptism: "I renounce thee, Satan, and all they service and all thy works" was said by the candidate.
14.  Catechumens did not sit at the agape meal with the baptized.
15.  Deacons and presbyters met daily for prayer.  (!!!)
16.  Prayer was made at set times.  The modern Christian seems to have continued this tradition with either Bible reading, "devotions", or most frequently nothing at all.  And certainly not at fixed times.
The Times of prayer:

  • Morning prayers: at dawn, rise, wash, and pray, then go about work.
  • Spiritual reading of a holy book was read if there was no instruction that day.
  • Prayer was offered at the third hour (9am), 
  • the sixth hour (noon) 
  • and protracted prayer and praise in singing offered at the ninth hour (3pm).  
  • Prayer was also offered before going to sleep at night (the modern "compline") 
  • and at midnight - if you can believe that!  (You actually woke up to pray, then went back to sleep).
Tertullian later wrote, ""As regards the time, there should be no lax observation of certain hours—I mean of those common hours which have long marked the divisions of the day, the third, the sixth, and the ninth, and which we may observe in Scripture to be more solemn than the rest" ("De Oratione", xxiii, xxv, in P.L., I, 1191-3)."

17.  When tempted with sin, make the sign of the cross on your forehead.

Monday, March 29, 2010

3 types of Youth Groups

Mark Devries writes "Every church I looked at was using one of three distinct models.  I haven't seen a youth program yet that doesn't fit into one of these three categories . . . Either of the first two can be quite effective.  The third is the model used by the majority of churches and almost always results in a sense of frustration and failure."

1.  Fortune 500 / Wal-Mart approach
-This ministry does everything well.  It has many staff members, and costs $1K-2K annually per student.
2.  The Starbucks approach [Remember that Devries is writing in the 90's: since then Starbucks has diversified]
-This ministry does one thing well: choir, youth meetings, Bible studies, missions.  They focus on that one thing.
3.  Comparative confusion / Going out of business sale
Tries to do everything like the fortune 500 approach, but places demands on the youth ministry that are not realistic for the church's budget.  Perpetual frustration and failure ensues.  The standard is what other churches are doing.

He goes on to mention a youth minister who says that frustration comes from people saying "You are doing a great job with our kids" as if it is the minister's job to raise the children.  This minister wasn't even overwhelmed with the "adminis-trivia;" it was the parent's attitude that was difficult.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guess the Author

One of the main reasons for this is that our churches do not (on the whole) teach ethics.  We are so busy preaching the gospel that we seldom teach the law.  We are also afraid of being branded 'legalists'.  'We are not under the law', we say piously, as if we were free to ignore and even disobey it.  Whereas what Paul meant is that our acceptance before God is not due to our observance of the law.
(scroll down)

John Stott, The Message of 1&2 Thessalonians, 76.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Accommodating Culture

"When religious groups compromise their foundational beliefs in order to coexist with the late sensate culture rather than challenging it or standing against it, they in effect consent to their own liquidation" (Harold O.J. Brown, The Sensate Culture, p. 67).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Burden of Legalism

A "Snowpacolypse" in NYC has taken down the strings that constitute the local eruv - the boundary hung by orthodox Jews to indicate the boundaries in which one can carry household goods, kleenex, babies, water bottles, pencils, etc.  The eruv is an extension of the  home, essentially saying that "this neighborhood is my home."  However, it has to be marked by this special string upheld by telegraph poles.

Not only are orthodox Jews incorrect in asserting that God doesn't want people to carry their babies on Sabbath, they have added onto the law (like Eve) in such a way that they can't even have a map to indicate where the eruv is.  It HAS to be the string.  If the string falls down, the eruv falls as well.

What a sad state.  To take the Living Word of God and reduce it to a series of laws and strings.  Tragic, tragic.  Oh, that they would be liberated by the blood of Christ!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Didactic worship in the Reformed tradition

One of the threats of Reformed worship is that we turn every element
of worship into a "teaching moment." We explain the Lord's Supper, we
explain baptism, confession, assurance. To we threaten to turn the
entire worship service into one long series of sermons punctuated by
music by our constant explaining, exhorting, and reflecting? Can
worship be, to some degree, self-explanatory?

Jesus Calling?

Description of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, from

After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to "listen" to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue. She knew her writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping her grow closer to God. Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her messages. They are written from Jesus' point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling. It is Sarah's fervent prayer that our Savior may bless you with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.

This book has 160 5-star reviews, 16 4-star reviews, and 1 each of 3, 2 and 1-star reviews.  A simple reminder to me, as a Pastor, how important it is to review basic doctrine: inspiration, Christ's divinity, the physical resurrection, etc.  There can be no more words of Jesus until He speaks them Himself at the last day.  Despite the comment that "her writings were not inspired as Scripture is," there is an implicit idea that they are, in fact, inspired in some way.  This confuses the whole concept of inspiration.  You might read the Bible and be "inspired" to go do a painting, but the inspiration of Scripture means that God was superintending the words of Scripture, something that Sarah Young thinks was happening when she wrote in her journal.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Antony Flew responds to Richard Dawkin's critique

Flew: atheist become theist
Dawkins: critic of his hero's theism

Flew spoke at Biola University when he received the "Philip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth"  Dawkins said he was used.  Flew writes:

"Finally, as to the suggestion that I have been used by Biola University: If the way I was welcomed by the students and the members of the faculty whom I met on my short stay in Biola amounted to being used, then I can only express my regret that at my age of eighty-five I cannot reasonably hope for another visit to this institution."

A little common ground with atheists

Maybe Van Til wasn't so great after all . . . Hitchens is interviewed by Sewell, a Unitarian minister.  (On her own blog she complains that Hitchens drinks too much, and became acerbic because of it.)

Maryiln Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and [sic] distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion? Christopher Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.  

Atheists love this quote as much as Christians. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trouble at Coral Ridge

If you're not aware of the troubles at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, I won't tell you, because I don't want to ruin your day.

But let's look at what has gone wrong:

Rev. Tullian Tchividian (did I spell that right?) takes to Christianity Today to defend himself.  I can't help but notice Tullian's Christ-like willingness to forgive.  But no sense of any willingness to ask for forgiveness.

One group has formed a faction, and taken that faction on to plant a new church.  Do people not realize that factions and divisions are reckoned by the Bible in the same category as orgies and witchcraft?
Galatians 5:19-21  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  

When we hear that a group of the church - including the late Dr. Kennedy's daughter - formed a breakaway group, we ought to hear that as if they had protested Tullian's new call by having a drunken orgy.  Outrageous!  Scripture says, "People like you will not go to heaven - you will not inherit the kingdom of God."

I am far from impressed with Rev. Tchividian.  He is slick, he courts the press, and he seems to have packages the "unpackaged" motif.  He's accidentally cool, and should be far more willing to, say, wear a robe because the people want him to wear a robe.  Submit in love, Tullian!  And stop broadcasting your humility all over Christianity Today, the mag grandpa Billy started.

But that still doesn't excuse people for divining Coral Ridge's future by slaughtering a sheep and reading its liver strife, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions.  I mean, we are talking about two separate congregations with the exact same doctrine.  If they can split over admitted non-essentials, what hope is there?

This could have been handled so many ways but this.