Friday, June 29, 2007

A Short Review 10: The Ten Points of Calvinism

Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism, Dr. Coppes

There seem to be a multitude of books and pamphlets on Calvinism. However, even though many of these treatments are useful and convincing, they do not reach the level of integration between simplicity and depth that characterizes this book.

Calvinism is not an isolated debate over how one is saved, but is part and parcel of a larger understanding—a worldview—of the Bible and God’s creation. Our understanding of the Church, worship, evangelism, the Law and all other aspects of the Christian life are integrated in the Reformed community. Put into this context, the reader is invited to explore this fresh introduction to the Reformed faith.

Recommended by Loraine Boettner and Professor George Knight (of Greenville Seminary), this book is highly praised by respected men of the Reformed world. The book contends that Calvinism, properly understood, involves all of life. Creating ten chapters (each a summary treatment of the major themes of Calvinism), the author ends each section with review questions and a list of helpful readings and advance study books. It is eminently readable, while challenging the reader to interact with the copious assortment of Bible verses and Biblical thought.

These characteristics of the book alone make it a valuable addition to those wanting to learn the Reformed faith or for those wishing to refresh their understanding.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thoughts on Weekly Communion...Controversy

Dear readers,

I am surprised and disturbed.

I am surprised because of the quick responses to this posting. It caught me off guard. Shortly after posting I wanted to tweak the post but assumed (you know what that does!) I would not have many readers. Well, lesson learned! I went ahead after the comments occurred. Just as in my book, I differentiated the radical quotes from others not associated with them. I also qualified the universal statement about the Reformed practice--Strassburg practiced weekly Communion for a little while. Perhaps if someone can document otherwise, then I could modify that statement. As it is, I studied and searched through dozens and dozens of books on this relatively obscure issue. Thus, I can say through my own study that this practice was very rare in the Reformed faith. The famous Calvin quote is analyzed in my book along with other quotes of his that point away from weekly Communion (apparently missing in the works I critique). I would strongly suggest that those quick to debate these summary posts (obviously used to goad the readers to my book :-) should read my book first.

I also clarified my "conservative" position. It does not mean tradition is right; it means the burden of proof is on those against it. One cannot study every practice & doctrine in-depth; thus, many have accepted a few good arguments from well-trained men and left it at that...for now. Frankly, I am surprised anyone who knows me would think otherwise.

I am also disturbed. To think that I misquoted someone has kept my mind running all morning! I purposefully asked ministers with years of experience and godliness to read the manuscript. I even sought out those with differing views (with little to no response).

Perhaps the unintended connection between the author and the other radical quotes caused concern; perhaps the starkness of the quote was shocking; perhaps it was assumed that I had other questionable reasons for the quote. Upon further reflection, it could be that someone would take the third quote as a rationalization for weak sermons. That is not the case.

The context of the quote is the explanation of some benefits of weekly Communion (again, reflected in my paper: "The following quotes, although cautious, also challenge the church to take seriously the benefits and rationales for weekly Communion.") So, some benefits are used to argue for weekly Communion. This is clarified as well in the original post.

Since it was the author himself who pointed this out, I would humbly petition him to check the clarification and lend his opinion. At the end of the day, it is his original intent that I seek.



Monday, June 11, 2007

Thoughts on Weekly Communion...So What?

Why bother talking about the frequency of Communion at all? Here are a few reasons:

"Without the word, the sacrament is merely an empty sign. Without the sacrament, the word is not properly sealed and does not have its full, intended effect. [emphasis added]…neither the preaching of the word nor the observance of the sacrament is superfluous or optional in regular Christian worship (cf. Acts 2:42). Biblical worship includes both."[1]

"Or is Communion more like a meal, a frequent event that is special because of its necessity?…What will we say when our Lord asks us why we deliberately neglected a primary means of grace in most Lord’s Day worship services?…Is it truly good stewardship to hide the Communion cup more Sundays than we use it?"[2]

Other writers do not make such bold claims, but offer their ideas, suggesting some benefits (that are not used to excuse weak sermons):

"On the other hand, even if I fall short and preach do’s and don’ts rather than the gospel, the Lord’s Supper helps to remind the congregation of the gospel basics…"
" [weekly Supper] might even contribute toward revival and reformation in lives, families, and in congregations

Some have used weekly Communion to degrade Communion preparation (LCQ 171ff.)
"Since we have weekly communion, we don't need to warn people about approaching the table in an unworthy manner. It would be awkward and repetitive."

Do you, dear reader, agree with these assertions? If so, why? If not, why? The issue is more involved than simply quoting verses or making theological assertions. That's what I found out when I studied the issue: hard work. My opinion shifted through this in-depth study. And at the end of it all I created a book, Words of Life: The Bible & Weekly Communion.

I urge people to read it. Many who have formulated opinions on the matter (especially those in favor of weekly practice) have taken little time to read up on the issue. In fact, being a conservative Presbyterian my starting position is the historical practice of the church. Thus, the burden of proof is on those against such practices. Weekly Communion has not been universally practiced in the Reformed faith. Period. Those acting on it should do so in dialogue with history not out of some private research that can easily miss illuminating arguments and perspectives.

This is only installment one.
Read on, dear reader.

[1] Ibid, 270. These statements were given in a short section on the relation of the Word and Sacrament. At best this is unclear language.

[2] Grover E. Gunn, III, “Weekly Communion,” The Counsel of Chalcedon, December 1986, 20.

[3] Larry Wilson, “On Weekly Communion—Some Pastoral Reflections”, Ordained Servant 14, no. 1, (March 2005): 17, 20 , he continues: "I shouldn’t gloss over this, as if weekly communion somehow excuses failure to preach Christ."