Archive for October, 2009

Being reformational

Today is All Hallows Eve and marks the anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his “95 Theses” against indulgences on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and so providing the spark that set off the chain of events which we today call the Protestant Reformation. It’s a great and glorious anniversary and it reminds me of some of the things that are available from the Bucer Institute which will give you a better grasp of its significance.

First, are Tim LeCroy’s lectures at our Fall “Special Session” on the Middle Ages which were given last Saturday. These talks will give you a grasp of the period and some invaluable background to give a better understanding of what happened after Luther posted his theses in 1517. They should be available very soon for downloading.

Second, you can also obtain the lectures Steven Wedgeworth and I gave on “Romanism & Orthodoxy” in our first Bucer class of the year. The CDs are available here and the MP3 downloads are available here.

And all this reminds me to tell you that you should register for our 2010 Pastors Conference which will address the topic “The Necessity of the Reformation” — you can do so here.

Happy Reformation Day/All Hallows Eve!

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The perfect costume

for those of you still undecided about what to wear:

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Each year at this time questions arise regarding the celebration of Halloween and if Christians should participate in it. Many Christians view Halloween as an expression of Satan-worship (with all its pagan roots and fruits). I’m sympathetic and certainly agree that not every practice connected with Halloween should be tolerated or imitated. Christians clearly, must be careful and thoughtful here and guard against the spirit of the world which does in fact worship Satan (though often unawares). But that’s only half the work. The other half involves refusing to allow Satan to get credit for things that don’t belong to him.

It is interesting how Satan works. He is not creative. He does not invent things. But he is expert in twisting good things into instruments of evil. He is a genius when it comes to perversion — turning things upside down. He loves to take the things of God and twist them into instruments of ungodliness.

The Church’s job in many ways comes down to turning everything that has been turned upside down by sin and Satan, rightside up again. Reconciliation means upturning those things that have been overturned by sin and twisted into instruments of unrighteousness, so that they bring glory to God again. This is precisely what the Church has done in regard to sensuality and sexuality. Over the years the Church has performed the service of re-instructing the world regarding the truth and proper place of the family, the arts, entertainment, business and labor, and many other fields of human endeavor.

But we must not forget that the Church has had to do this because it has itself been deceived and misled by Satan concerning these things. And such is the case, at least in part, with the celebration of Halloween. (more…)

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Bucer Special Session

If you’re in the area, you ought to come to our Bucer Institute Fall Special Session with Rev. Tim LeCroy. Tim will be giving four lectures on Medieval Theology. It all begins tomorrow morning at 9:00. Go here for more information. See you there!

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The gospel of sectarianism

If you’ve been wondering what to make of all the neo-Reformed fascination with the Lutheran “law-gospel” hermeneutic and the “two Kingdoms” theology (which has become all the rage among the theo-profs at Westminster West Seminary and other places), John Frame’s review of Michael Horton’s latest book (Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church) will help you think more clearly about it all.

Professor Frame with his usual clear-headed analysis exposes the confused thinking that supports these positions and the real danger that lies underneath it. Here are a couple of examples:

On the Law-Gospel distinction, Frame writes:

But as a matter of fact, that separation of law and gospel does not have biblical support. One should ask here, is there anything in Scripture that does not reveal God’s saving purposes? Jesus said that all of Scripture testified of him (Luke 24:25-27, John 5:39). And is there anything in the authoritative scriptures that does not impose a requirement upon us, at least the requirement to believe? But if the whole Bible can be considered law, and can also be considered gospel, how can law and gospel be separate?

Further, the gospel as proclaimed by Jesus and the apostles contains a command, the command to repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15, Acts 2:38-40). The law, on the other hand, is often based on divine deliverance, as in the case of the Decalogue (Ex. 20:2). The law itself is a gift of God’s grace, according to Ps. 119:29.The gospel is the proclamation of the coming kingdom (Isa. 52:7, Matt. 4:17, 23) in which God’s will shall be done on earth as in heaven (Matt. 6:10). It is the announcement that God’s law will prevail. So the law is good news, gospel. And the gospel is law.

And in regard to Horton’s application of the “two Kingdoms” perspective:

This discussion is sometimes caught up in eschatological debate: is the Kingdom of God only future or is it in some sense present now? Sometimes it is waylaid by debates about the roles of church and state (as Horton’s exposition of the “two kingdoms” view on 206-217). But apart from these debates, isn’t it obvious that when people come to trust in Christ they seek to bring biblical standards to bear in their workplaces? Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) Can we possibly exclude from “whatever” our work in politics, the arts, or finance? And can we possibly forbid the church to give us guidance in our attempts to improve society?

What does it mean to be engaged in politics to the glory of God? That is not always easy to define. I would agree with Horton that Christians often exaggerate their expertise on social issues; sometimes nonbelievers can do a better job of gathering the relevant facts. But if I am charged with the work of planning national health care, I certainly must ask how biblical principles apply to that. When a believer produces a sculpture, it may be difficult for him to see how his faith is relevant to each stroke of his tool; but he certainly doesn’t want critics referring to it as a symptom of modern nihilism.

And here’s part of his conclusion:

So Christless Christianity is essentially an evaluation of the American church, not from the standpoint of a generic Protestant theology, but from what I must regard as a narrow, factional, even sectarian perspective. Readers need to understand this.

Read the entire review here.

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This is, . . . . this . . . is why you don’t have weddings by pools.

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I’m sorry to keep quoting Camille Paglia, but I can’t help it sometimes (in fact, let me take it back, I’m not sorry at all, this stuff is too good to ignore). In her recent column, Camille responds to a number of letters from readers. There’s a lot of good stuff here but the response below was to a letter expressing outrage over the attacks on Sarah Palin and how insulting the media has been toward her because she attended five colleges before graduating from the University of Idaho. Here’s CP’s response:

Thank you very much for your personal testimony. I too have been repulsed by the elitist insults flung at Sarah Palin in the massive, coordinated media effort to destroy her. Hence I have been thoroughly enjoying the way that Palin, despite all the dirt thrown at her by liberal journalists and bloggers, keeps bouncing back as if unscathed. No sooner did the gloating harpies of the Northeastern media think they had torn her to shreds than she exploded into number one on Amazon.com with a memoir that hadn’t even been printed yet! With each one of these amusing triumphs, Palin is solidifying her status as a bona fide American cultural heroine.

Yes, the snobbery about Palin’s five colleges is especially distasteful, given the Democratic party’s supposed allegiance to populism. Judging by the increasingly limited cultural and factual knowledge of graduates of elite schools whom one encounters working in the media, blue-chip sheepskins aren’t worth the parchment they’re printed on these days. Young people forced through the ruthlessly competitive college admissions rat race have the independence and creativity pinched right out of them. Proof? Where are the major young American artists, writers, critics or movie-makers of the past 20 years? The most adventurous and enterprising minds have gone into high tech. We’re in a horrendous cultural vacuum because our status-besotted education industry is geared toward producing not original thinkers but docile creatures of the system.

Oh, and one more, this regarding the nefarious Roman Polanski and his arrest for drugging and seducing a 13 year-old girl:

When I first heard that Roman Polanski had been arrested in Switzerland, I thought it was absurd because of his advanced age as well as the gravity of other issues facing this war-torn world. It seemed like a publicity stunt by Los Angeles authorities with too much time on their hands. However, on reflection, I soon concluded that Polanski, whatever his artistic achievements, has no right to claim exemption from the law’s demands. He is not a political refugee but a proud sybarite who has flaunted his tastes and conquests. If you live like the Marquis de Sade (one of the principal influences on my first book, Sexual Personae), then you should be willing to be imprisoned like Sade.

yes indeed. Nail blasted by hammer on head.

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Happy birthday estlin

Today is the birthday of writer-poet e. e. cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings). Cummings, like so many who have had wide influence, had a lifetime of experiences before he turned 30. After graduating from Harvard (majoring in classics), he worked for a mail-order bookseller, quit after a few weeks and volunteered to serve in the ambulance corps in France during World War I. In 1917, he and his co-worker (William Slater Brown) wrote anti-war letters professing sympathy for the Germans. Some say they did this as much to irritate the censors as to express their views. The French censors intercepted the letters and were not impressed. They imprisoned Cummings and Brown and they were held on suspicion of espionage for more than three months (this became the basis for Cummings’ novel, The Enormous Room published in 1922).

Most know only of Cummings’ poetry, but he was accomplished in a number of fields. In the 1920s He published four collections of poetry, got a job as a traveling correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine and became a successful artist (in fact, he displayed his paintings in New York showrooms up to the 1950s). Since his evenings were free, he spent them writing. His body of work consists of approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings.

His father, Edward, was his great role model. In 1900 Edward left a professorial post at Harvard to become pastor of the South Congregational Church of Boston. In 1926, Edward was killed when his car was struck by a locomotive. Cummings wrote in homage of his father:

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

He described his father as “the handsomest man I ever saw. Big was my father and strong with lightblue skies for eyes.”

As far as writing his name in lower case, there is no indication that he preferred it that way — it may have been intended simply as a gesture of humility rather than a preference since he wrote his name both with and without capitals.

Cummings was (apparently) no Christian, though he often expressed Christian and biblical perspectives. Like so many others, he was “Christ-haunted” if not “Christ-owned.” Here are a few quotes which give some insight into the man:

“At least the Pilgrim Fathers used to shoot Indians: the Pilgrim Children merely punch time clocks.”

“Knowledge is a polite word for dead but not buried imagination.”

“The earth laughs in flowers.”

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

Amen. Happy birthday, e e.

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AAPC 2010

Ok, we’re finally ready to accept your registrations for the 2010 AAPC Pastors Conference. Go here for all the info (including online registration). The topic this year is “The Necessity of the Reformation” and we are going to have a great slate of speakers. I mean just look at these faces:

And, on top of these guys, we’re also having a free Jamie Soles concert on Tuesday evening.

Hey, I hear you. Got “can’t miss” written all over it doesn’t it?

Really. How can you resist?

You can click here to register.

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If anyone doubts that we’re in a different world now in regard to how people view sexual immorality, listen to David Letterman’s “confession” on his Late Show last week and how the audience responded to it.

I’ve long been alarmed over how the younger generation views illicit sexual relationships — i.e. the no guilt, no big deal, “it’s just sex!” attitude. Now even adultery is “no big deal.” And it goes even further, it’s not even a big deal that an employer takes advantage of his position to have a sexual relationship with his employees (and this after all the warnings and outrage over sexual harassment in the workplace? Where are the feminists when you need them?). And the employer does so for an extended season with numerous employees and then only comes to confess it after being threatened with blackmail. . . . AND then, no one seems to think that what he did is a big deal? And in fact, instead of being denounced, he is seen as a victim? What???

Being a pervert doesn’t mean being a little scrawny guy in a basement, wearing dingy jeans and a black U2 t-shirt, with stringy, greasy hair, watching XXXXX videos and getting your jollies by imagining what you’re going to do when all the ladies finally see you in all your irresistible maleness.

Being a pervert means being someone who turns things upside down. You view the world in the opposite way from what God created it to be. You see nothing wrong with what God calls evil. And you turn up your nose in priggish offense over what God declares to be good. You despise righteousness and applaud wickedness. You laugh at ungodliness and mock holiness. And worst of all, you do this without a tinge of guilt, thinking that anyone who protests against your disposition is an intolerable prude.

That’s perversion. And that means that we live in a land of perverts — perverts who bathe regularly, keep up with the latest fashions, are funny, gifted, rich, and respectable — but for all that, are nothing but perverts at bottom. God says this is the stage of “reprobation” — when men know the judgment of God against ungodliness and know that such deeds are worthy of death and yet “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:28-32). It’s not a very encouraging sign, but at least it makes it clear where we’re living. Welcome to “Pervertville.”

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Q: “What is a gentleman?”

A: “A man who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.”
– Tom Waits

And speaking of Tom Waits, you can hear his latest concert (“Glitter and Doom”) on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” here.

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No matter how intelligent you are, no matter how gifted you might be, you will never accomplish anything worthwhile without self-discipline, perseverance, and the plain ole hard work that God promises to bless. Stefan Zweig observed this about the famous lady’s man, Casanova:

“[Casanova] excelled in mathematics no less than in philosophy. He was a competent theologian, preaching his first sermon in a Venetian church when he was not yet 16 years old. As a violinist, he earned his daily bread for a whole year in the San Samuele theatre. When he was 18 he became doctor of laws at the University of Padua—though down to the present day the Casanovists are still disputing whether the degree was genuine or spurious…He was well informed in chemistry, medicine, history, philosophy, literature, and, above all, in the more lucrative (because perplexing) sciences of astrology and alchemy…As universal dilettante, indeed, he was perfect, knowing an incredible amount of all the arts and all the sciences; but he lacked one thing, and this lack made it impossible for him to become truly productive. He lacked will, resolution, patience.”

[from “Casanova: A Study in Self-Portraiture” by Stefan Zweig, as found in this article]

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