Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bah-humbug! [repost]

Dickens did not like Calvinism.
He was a Unitarian bent on spreading his superficial morality. This was reflected in many of his works, including A Christmas Carol.

I had heard (from other Calvinists) that this story (and perhaps others) were caricaturing Puritans. Of course, being the skeptic that I am, I held this assertion in abeyance--until I googled this question a few days ago.

G. K. Chesterson clearly ties Dickens' two works--Copperfield and Little Dorrit--to Calvinism. Elsewhere, at Literary Encyclopedia, the article states: "A Christmas Carol, however, takes up a decisively anti-Puritan stance."

Hmm..Scrooge the hard-nosed Calvinist?

Well, perhaps A Christmas Carol should be boycotted by all decent Reformed folk! At least it might get the word "Calvinist" out into the public discussion of American life.

Nah, that's too much work. I'd rather read a good book or an enjoyable movie...mmm...what dvd is this?

A Christmas Carol??


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FIC pastor talks with Reformed Pastor

Here is the exchange between myself and a family-integrated church pastor who sought me out to have friendly chat.

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 31: transformation of science

“It is into Calvinism that the Modern world strikes its roots. For it is Calvinism which first reveals the dignity and worth of man. Called of God, heir of heaven, the merchant in his shop and the peasant in his field suddenly became the equal of noble and king.” John Green

Denver will celebrate Halloween next week. But they will not be celebrating the most significant event of that day: the birth of the Reformation. When Luther nailed the 95 Theses that fateful day in 1517, he nailed the coffin of the Middle Ages. Many historians trace the modern era from the Reformation. And one reason is the economic impact of that God-given event.

(Continued here.)

Rest of series:

October 31: transformation of the church

In the first installment, the siginificance of October 31st was summaried. The core doctrinal effect of Luther’s 95 Theses, justification by faith alone, was to impact all of human life. Human mediation was removed. Human mediation was removed. Thus, the hierarchy of Rome was rejected. This lead to the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer: each Christian had immediate access to God through Christ alone by faith alone. No human instruments (sacraments, saints, or priest) came between the believer and Christ. This liberated the individual.

Luther also translated the Bible into German instead of following the tradition of Rome which only used the Latin Vulgate, used only by trained experts. Since Rome believed that salvation was found in the church (through her accumulated merit) and church tradition was on par with the bible, it followed that the church would control the bible. Again, the priesthood of the believer gave immediate access to the bible since it was there that Christ was found. And to have access to the Bible, reading becomes a necessary skill. Literacy grew.

The priesthood of the believers also affected the church directly. Since the ministers were not priests in the strict sense of the word, but ministers (servants) for the church and for that salvation immediately obtainable to the individual, then hierarchicalism was greatly hampered. In the Reformed churches of Calvin & Zwingli, this top-down structure was abolished. Congregational singing, voting and discipline were revived accordingly. Republican-like church structures abounded in the Reformed churches. The priesthood of the believer also gave rise to liberty of conscience. A man with a clear conscience is a man with liberty. A man trusting in God’s sovereignty will not fear man’s sovereignty. This freedom to believe and worship God according to the Bible was a strong impetus in France, Holland and Scotland, leading to societal changes in those countries. Tearing down the Papal structures, religious freedom budded. Although not perfect in execution, it still shook nations.

The priesthood of the believer arose directly from Luther’s view of salvation. Since justification (our right standing before God’s law court) was only through faith and only on account of Christ’s righteousness alone, then no mediating person or institution was needed. Society’s structures (home, school, guilds, etc) were no longer playing second fiddle to the Romish church. Monkery was rejected and a full marriage life was embraced. Holy days were abolished and time was freed. In other words, the Kingdom of God was no longer limited to the pope and his church. It was a broader kingdom, embracing all of life sanctified to God.

Christians are priest, so they are to dedicate all endeavors to God. Christians are prophets, so they are to declare the truth in all endeavors of life. Christians are princes, so they are to dominate all endeavors for God’s glory.

Justification by faith alone changed everything.

Rest of series:

October 31: the birthday of the Reformation

On October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints’ Day, an Augustinian monk, hammered 95 theses—short propositions—on the Wittenberg door in Germany. He was protesting the indulgences of Tetzel, who, purportedly announced: "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” This system of indulgences was part of the larger system of baptism and penance and the Mass. Each a step in the works-salvation method of Rome. If a shrewd Christian could find the right confessor and some money, he could cover most sins while living like the Devil. In fact, even civil punishment could be avoided this way.

Hammering the theses was a public declaration. An advertisement of sorts. But it was more. It was a formal declaration against the Papal and Romish supremacy in matters of faith and life. The various theses fundamentally attacked the Romish church’s authority over the matter of salvation. It dismantled the churchly machine of Sacerdotalism—that mechanical view of redemption integrated into the church. It was claimed that salvation was found only in the Romish church through the Romish priests and the Romish sacraments. Good works were instrumentally necessary for salvation. In short, it was a works-salvation system. And although Christ was formally part of the process, He was not part and parcel to the entire schema.

In contrast, Luther wrote: “Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.” (Thesis 36). That is, Christians can have full remission of sin without Romish interference (“letters of pardon”). The believer had direct access to God. He needed no other mediator than Christ. Historian and professor of Princeton, Warfield, explains the antithesis thusly:

“The fundamental difference between the two doctrines [Luther and Tetzel] is the fundamental difference between evangelicalism and sacerdotalism. Evangelicalism casts man back on God and God only; the faith that it asks of him is faith in God’s saving grace in Christ alone. Sacerdotalism throws him into the hands of the Church and asks him to put his confidence in it—or, in the indulgences, very specifically the Pope.”

This view was summarized by Luther: justification through faith alone by grace alone on account of Christ alone. It was a view that was earlier discovered by Luther’s study of the book of Romans (about 1515 AD). And it is the view underlining the 95 Theses:

“What he here attacks is just the sacerdotal principle in one of its most portentous embodiments—the teaching that men are to look to the Church as the institute of salvation for all their souls’ welfare, and to derive from the Church all their confidence in life and in death. What he sets over against this sacerdotalism is the evangelical principle that man is dependent for his salvation on God and on God alone—on God directly, apart from all human intermediation—and is to look to God for and to derive from God immediately all that makes for his soul’s welfare."

Luther's casting of the issue into the public limelight made October 31 the birthday of the Reformation. And made it the beginning of cultural renewal of the West.

In the articles to follow, the tremendous impact of Reformation theology will be presented. It was not the only source of influence, but it was of great significance in the economics, science and politics of yesteryear and the roots of modern prosperity. Of course, history is not accomplished in a vacuum. The Reformers always insisted that they were only following doctrines already existing in the church but not fully understood or consistently carried out. What I hope to accomplish is a greater appreciation of the results of the Reformation; results, to be sure, that were not necessarily consciously pursued—a not uncommon activity among humans—but logically flowed from the biblical ideals of Luther, Calvin, Knox, and their fellow Reformers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Understanding Federal Vision

My good friend Wes White has provided some articles to better understand the thinking and actions of the Federal Vision.

1. FV view of the visible church
2. WCF on saving benefits of Christ
3. FV contrary to the WCF

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chinese Christians

A BBC report on the amazing growth of Christianity in China.

"There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflections on 9/11 by a Christian patriot

In September of 2001, I was an engineer at the old Westinghouse building in Westminster, near I-25.

My job was good. Many mornings I would enjoy eating breakfast at work. It was novel. The food was good. It was also a time to talk with coworkers about issues other than work.

That morning, I watched the news out of the corner of my eye, while focusing on my meal. I enjoyed the omelet as the cheese and egg blended in my mouth. Then the omelet turned to ashes.

Continued here at

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dialogue with FIC proponent Mr. Wolfe fizzles out

Dear reader,

It is regrettable that this potentially useful discussion with Mr. Wolfe has fizzled out.

But all is not lost. It is clear that some of the FIC are closer to traditional Reformed thought than what would appear at first blush. For instance, some embrace the Regulative Principle of worship and thus reject children's worship services. Their insistence upon parental involvement and responsibility is likewise in line with traditional Reformed thought.

However, the oddity is the insistence that Sunday school, for instance, cannot be acceptable to a biblically faithful church. One may believe that such institutions have been abused (I do) and maybe some churches should reconsider even enacting SS (that is their freedom) but it is a whole different matter to declare "We affirm that there is no scriptural pattern for comprehensive age segregated discipleship, and that age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking which have invaded the church." (see here).

One does not need to find positive warrant for Sunday school anymore than for babysitting. The whole question is wrong-headed (for specifics see my review of Mr. Brown's short ad hoc defense here).

My articles are known by Mr. Brown and perhaps others. I am still open to public dialogue but still plan to write more about the topic as long as confusion and rhetoric trump constructive dialogue. I do not have thousands to create a one-sided movie or hundreds to publish a book. But I do have the power of the pen and open-minded readers. And, more importantly, the grace and freedom of Christ.

For those late to the discussion here are some articles about the movement.

For peace and unity of the church,

(Read the full interchange here). 

Monday, August 22, 2011

One man solutions?

Professor Trueman of Westminster Eest has some good observations about the American scene, both political and ecclesiastical, here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Illogical defense of Divided the movie

Here is a summary of some typical arguments defending the new family integrated movie, Divided, and why they fall short of their intended goal.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mr. Brown's newest nuance in defense of family integrated churches

The following is from the NCFIC blog by Mr. Brown. He is responding to counter-claims that the bible does not have cars or films just like there is no age-segregation.

My hope is that my questions will help bring differing parties together. Or at the least clarify any real differences between the NCFIC and traditional Reformed thinking.

First of all he writes,

"First, the primary argument of the NCFIC and the film Divided is not that youth ministry does not exist in the Bible...What is more important – and this is the main point we want to make – is that all the positive commands and examples in Scripture call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church and the responsibility of parents to disciple their own children."

First, the reader should note the careful (yet unclear) language "modern form of systematic, age-segregated youth ministry". What does this mean? In the movie, the reviewer is left with the worst possible illustration of such ministries. However, it is not youth ministry per se that is rejected but "systematic age-segregation". The NCFIC confession article uses the words "comprehensive age segregated discipleship." But it never offers a definition of these phrases.

Can a youth ministry have non-systematic age-segregation? This important question will help clarify exactly what Mr. Brown means.

Secondly, an argument from silence is used but it is a secondary argument. As such it is still invalid unless clarified by another premise. Such a premise has not been offered or proven (for example, "that which is not in the Bible is therefore suspect").

Third, it is claimed "all the positive commands and examples in Scripture call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church and the responsibility of parents to disciple their own children." This is not precisely true since no command states: "children should only be family integrated for instruction," neither in so many words or by syllogistic reasoning. Not one. But apparently the bible states that "children should more often than not be age-integrated for instruction" according to Mr. Brown's exceptions (see below).

Consider another important point: the commands and examples offered are not specific enough to determine exactly how the meetings of instruction were arranged. Did the wives sit with the husbands? Did nursemaids watch over the infants? Did families even sit with each other? The texts do not say, except Nehemiah 8 which is (special) pleaded away into an insignificant "exception". Yet history tells us that during the time of Christ families were separated in the temple worship. Where is the New Testament outrage for this practice?

Next he states,

"The Bible is clear about this matter, and it gives the full range of that teaching including who, where, why, what, and when....When you split youth up according to age, you are doing something that is contrary to the explicit, revealed commands and patterns of claim that we can set aside these scriptural methods and employ our own methods because we do things and use means not mandated in Scripture in other areas of church life is a generic fallacy."

Let me take this in reverse: "generic fallacy"--I do not know what that is. I googled it. Perhaps he means the "genetic fallacy." This is a logical fallacy of denouncing (or proving) something based upon its origins. Thus a Christian who would reject Aristotelian logic because it was formalized and expanded by an unbeliever is committing the genetic fallacy.

Even granting this is the fallacy he desired to use I am not sure how it relates to the issue at hand. On the other hand, when the movie points to Plato and Rousseau as the source of modern age-segregated youth ministries that is a genetic fallacy.

Now for the details:

"The Bible is clear about this matter, and it gives the full range of that teaching including who, where, why, what, and when."

I am not sure what this means. For instance, what is what? Is this the subject matter of the teaching? The method? It is noteworthy that how is missing in this list. But age-segregation is a how of instruction.

If the bible gives the what of teaching where is the verse that says: "learn to read, write and type"? Where are the examples? If we are counting examples and lining them up as Mr. Brown appears to do in his book, then in the bible the majority ("primary") of examples are oral examples: people speaking and memorizing. The "exception" is non-verbal.

If these are not the "full range" covered in his assertion then what is covered? This assertion only creates more questions.

Lastly, he elaborates a distinction missing in the NCFIC confession and book:

"Third, methods and means of discipleship are in a different class than microphones and computers. Discipleship methods are defined and commanded in Scripture and are matters of Law (i.e., God’s revealed will that we are to obey), while things like microphones, computers, and film are matters of technology (i.e., practical tools we can use as means to carry out the Law of God). In regard to technology and other practical aspects of church life (where we meet, the length of our meetings, type of seats we use, etc.), these are matters of liberty that are under the biblical guidelines for the practice of liberty. This means that Scripture must be consulted to see if they contradict anything that Scripture maintains."

Not a single bible passage or theological syllogism is offered to prove this point. It is completely arbitrary to assert that "methods and means of discipleship" are substantially different than "microphones and computer." For if the sufficiency of Scripture gives the "full range of that teaching including who, where, why, what, and when" then one would expect technology (a what and how of discipleship) to be sufficiently and explicitly guided by the Bible.

So, since discipleship is part of the law of God. And the "methods and means of discipleship" are matters of the Law. Therefore, these "practical tools" which Mr. Brown admits are "means to carry out the Law of God" must fall into the same category. Unless equivocation of terms is occurring.

Again, upon what biblical principle does he differentiate discipleship methods that are significant from discipleship methods that are not significant (my language)? I believe that using computers for discipleship purposes is significant because instructional time can be hampered if one is using the computer more than a human in some cases. Generally, it is not the tool itself that is a problem but the usage of the tool.

More importantly, the entire paragraph is built upon an unproven premise (as is the entire book): the regulative principle of discipleship. In my own words for clarification: all methods and means of discipleship invented by the brain of man without His own express commandment is wrong.

Now, I have never seen it written out that way. What we have instead are the elements of this premise found in Mr. Brown's posting and book. See especially the "desert isle test." He requires that "all the positive commands and examples" must limit the range of discipleship methods to just those things explicit in the commands and examples of the bible--just like the regulative principle of worship (RPW).

The Scottish reformer, John Knox, explained the regulative principle of worship as, "All worshipping, honoring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is idolatry." All Reformed creeds follow this principle for worship. Otherwise the Reformers exercised Christian liberty even in the domain of education and discipleship (read the history here).

Now to sum up, why is "systematic age-segregation" rejected? Because all the commands and examples of the bible are age-integrated. But why does a Christian need to find explicit commands and examples of discipleship before using a method of discipleship? I do not know what their answer is. Somehow discipleship (however defined) has a separate moral interpretive tool than other moral fields of everyday life.

But the matter does not end there. Mr. Brown allows for age-segregation!

"There are times when it may be appropriate for various ages of people to meet for specific purposes" (A Weed in the Church, p.231, cp.61).

Then what is the whole debate about? Why is this exception not placed at the beginning of the argument? Where is it in the NCFIC confession?

Has the entire decade long debate been over how much age-segregation is allowed? If so, how much does Mr. Brown think is allowable?

Very little it seems. "However, this is not to be the normative pattern of biblical youth discipleship, but rather an exception." A glimpse of how much is offered on page 225 where he contends that as "little as one hour a week" of age-segregation is "problematic" for those wishing biblical felicity.

In other words, 1/168 of a week is still too radical to contemplate. That is .006% of a child's week! What Mr. Brown gives in one hand is virtually taken away by the other.

At the end of the day, the article offered by the NCFIC did not bring much clarification. I do not know where this leaves the movement. But I do hope that the questions and observations of my article will bring more light than heat.

[Family integrated church series here].

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Summary of age-segregated catechizing practices of the church fathers

I was asked at about the history of catechizing. Although I have focused on the broader question of how Christians educated their children over the centuries, I still have much information on this narrow question.

Below was my very short answer:

If you are referring to Divided, please see the comments at the puritan forum here. And my review here.

It is important to know that the organization behind the movie actually has two problems with the modern "youth programs": separation from parents and age-segregation. Thus the history of Christian schooling as well as catechizing are both relevant in showing the gross inaccuracies of this movement.

[To fully understand the NCFIC and her leaders please read my article, What is a Family Integrated Church? (According to a current church member of Mr. Brown's church and one-time intern for Mr. Brown and currently employed with the NCFIC, Mr. Glick, my article was accurate).]

Here is a sample of the history of catechizing (and school class divisions).

Jewish Church:

"In this period a synagogue presupposed a school, as with us a church implies a Sunday school. Hence the church and Sunday school, not the church and the district school, is a parallel to the Jewish system. The methods in these schools were not unlike those of the modern Sunday school. Questions were freely asked and answered, and opinions stated and discussed: any one entering them might ask or answer questions. Such a Jewish Bible school, no doubt, Jesus entered in the temple when twelve years the apostolic period teachers were a recognized body of workers quite distinct from pastors, prophets, and evangelists (see 1 Cor. xii. 28, 29; Eph. iv. 11; Heb. v. 12, etc.). The best commentators hold that the peculiar work of teachers in the primitive church was to instruct the young and ignorant in religious truth, which is precisely the object of the Sunday school." (A Religious encyclopaedia, Schaff, 2262)

Ancient Church:

“These catechetical classes and schools were intended to prepare neophytes, or new converts, for church-membership, and were also used to instruct the young and the ignorant in the knowledge of God and salvation. They were effective, aggressive missionary agencies in the early Christian churches, and have aptly been termed the 'Sunday schools of the first ages of Christianity.' The pupils were divided into two or three (some say four) classes, according to their proficiency. They memorized passages of Scripture, learned the doctrines of God, creation, providence, sacred history, the fall, the incarnation, resurrection, and future awards and punishments..." (Schaff, ibid)

Reformation and Post-Reformation:

The Geneva Academy had two divisions: schola privata and schola publica (the Academy proper). The schola privata (the lower school) was divided into seven grades, admitting children as young as age six. Most boys stayed in each grade a year, but could advance earlier. School began at six in the summer and seven in the winter and lasted until four in the afternoon. Children went home under escort from nine to eleven in the morning. Classes were on Saturday as well and included an afternoon recess. The children sung Psalms one hour a day as well. Catechism classes were held Sunday afternoons. (The History and Character of Calvinism, John T. McNeil (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 194ff. cp. Calvin and the Biblical Languages, John Currid (Christian Focus Publications) 2007).

Article 21 of the Dutch Church Order of Dordt (1618) orders that:

"In order that the Christian youth may be diligently instructed in the principles of religion and be trained in piety three modes of catechizing should be employed I. In the houses by the parents II. In the schools by school masters III. In the churches by ministers elders and catechizers those specially appointed for the purpose." (Full quote here).

It also stated:
"That these may diligently discharge their trust the Christian magistrates shall be requested to promote by their authority so sacred and necessary a work and all who have the oversight and visitation of the churches and schools shall be required to pay special attention to this matter."

[This civil enforcement was also enacted in New England and similar oversight in Geneva. Pastor oversight was neigh universally encouraged.]

Now, for the parts more germane to the movie:

"The schoolmasters shall instruct their scholars according to their age and capacity at least two days in the week not only by causing them to commit to memory but by instilling into their minds an acquaintance with the truths of the Catechism. For this end three forms of the Catechism adapted to the three fold circumstances and ages of the young shall be used. The first shall be for the young children comprising the Articles of Faith or Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Institution of the Sacraments and Church Discipline with some short prayers and plain questions adapted to the three parts of the Catechism. The second shall be a short compendium of the Catechism of the Palatinate or Heidelberg used in our churches in which those who are somewhat more advanced than the former shall be instructed. The third shall be the Catechism of the Palatinate or Heidelberg adopted by our churches for the youth still more advanced in years and knowledge."

[Radical nuts following evolutionary though? I think not. But godly men using the light of nature to differentiate between babes, children, youths and adults--broad categories followed by many cultures.]

"John Knox devised a system of Sunday schools, at the very beginning of the Reformation in Scotland, which system has been in operation in that country more or less extensively ever since. So that the Sunday schools which now exist in Scotland are derived, not from the system of Raikes in England, but are only a revival of the old system of the Reformer. These schools are frequently referred to in the records of that Church, and in the biographies of good men connected with it. In 1647, the General Assembly recommended to all universities to take account of their scholars on the Sabbath dny of the sermons, and of their lessons in the catechism [students at "universities" could be as young as twelve]. John Brown, the godly carrier, had in his day a Sabbath school at Priesthill. It is stated, on the authority of Rev. John Brown, D. D., of Langton, Berwickshire, that Sunday schools were in existence in Glasgow, and other places, in 1707. Ihey were in operation in Glasgow, and other places, in 1759, and also in many places in 1782." (The Congregational Quarterly, 1865, p.20)

The pastors and elders of the Bohemian Unity of Brethren church would assemble the older children of the church after the worship services to examine how well they retained the sermon; “hence our ancestors held separate addresses to the different classes, the beginners, the proficients, the perfect; also to the single, and again to the married by themselves: which practice it is evident was not without its advantage.” "At the conclusion of the noon and afternoon service, the elder youths and girls remain, and are examined by the preacher (one of the elders assisting him with the former, and one of the matrons with the latter) to ascertain what attention they have paid that day in hearing the word of God, and how much each has retained. Moreover, during the Lent season, on Wednesday and Friday evening, meetings are held, termed salva (from the hymn Salva nos Jesu, rex cmli, "Save us, Jesus, heavenly King,") in which the mystery of redemption is diligently inculcated, especially upon the young." (Church Constitution of the Bohemian, 136ff.)

Early America:

The church in Norwich, Connecticut, in the Spring of 1675 covenanted together to instruct their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord: “We do therefore this Day Solemnly Covenant to Endeavour uprightly by dependence upon the Grace of God in Christ Jesus our only Saviour. First, That our Children shall be brought up in the Admonition of the Lord, as in our Families, so in publick; that all the Males who are eight or nine years of age, shall be presented before the Lord in his congregation every Lord’s Day to be Catechised, until they be about thirteen years in age. Second. Those about thirteen years of age, both male and female, shall frequent the meetings appointed in private for their instruction, while they continue under family government, or until they are received to full communion in the church.” (The Ecclesiastical History of New England, p.665 )

"It is well known that every respectable family had a regular weekly exercise in the catechism [in early New England]; and also that once a week in some towns, or once a month in others, the minister gather the children and youth of his parish, at two o’clock, on Saturday afternoon to catechize them." (The Congregational Quarterly, 1865, 21)

As late as 1808 (before Sunday Schools reached critical mass), the General Association of the Congregationalists in Connecticut, “That they [parents] require them to attend public catechisings till they are fourteen years of age, and thenceforward, during their minority, to attend seasons, that may be appointed by their pastor, for the religious instruction of youth.” (Panoplist, 1808, p.159.)

"My first acquaintance with Mr. Donnelly [early 1800s] was when I became a pupil in his school in my father's neighbourhood, in Chester District, S. C. I entered his school at an early age; and as he was my first teacher, (my parents excepted,) so he was also among the last. Under his tuition I studied the elementary branches, such as reading, spelling, etc., and recited to him the Larger Catechism. The Bible was not then excluded from the school, on the ground of its being a sectarian book…the afternoon of every alternate Saturday was spent in reciting Catechisms and portions of Scripture, which had been previously committed to memory- IIe was a rigid disciplinarian of the Old School…” (Letter, 1862, Rev. McMillan to William Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, vol. 9, p. 26.)"

If you have any more questions please ask.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feds socialism money scheme discovered by Feds

“As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” Sanders said in a statement. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

--Washington Post

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Christianity and July 4th

“The practice of true and undefiled religion . . . is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.” — John Witherspoon, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1782

America’s collective ignorance about her religious past is cause for lament. It means that even as we knowingly celebrate our Fourth of July as a day of political freedom we ignorantly omit the religious roots of that freedom...(continue here)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Christian Patriotism []

Colorado will soon be celebrating our nation's birthday. And Christians will have a special reason to celebrate. Many of the Founding Fathers were Christians. And those who were not were indebted to the Christian culture.

But with the changes in the American culture since then, as seen Denver's PrideFest 2011, Christians are a minority. Our influence is minimal. And, at times, our patriotism is doubted.

Yet what is patriotism supposed to look like? Can a Christian be a patriot? [continued here]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ex-Liberal Pleads with PCUSA

PCA minister, Brian Carpenter, has written a plea in the unofficial PCUSA magazine, The Layman Online. Pass it on to your theological liberal friends. Continue here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This week's family-integrated church articles

This week was full of family-integrated church articles. 

For those interested in intelligent interactions on this issue I offer the following. The first is an article I hope many proponents of FICs can agree upon.

1. Uniting Church and Family  The proper relation requires the Gospel.

2. A Weed in the Church: A Review.  I may expand on this in detail.

3. Family-Integrated Church Series by Prof. Sam Waldron. Part 17 here. It is an irenic engagement.

4. Christian homeschooling conference: who is Doug Phillips? There is a lively exchange in the comment section. Unfortunately, it is not as productive as the discussion with Mr. Glick here. Many ardent supporters of this movement tend to jump the gun and assume that if you critique them then you are against parents having the primary responsibility of instructing their children. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Colorado homsechooling convention: who is Doug Phillips?

"The upcoming Christian homeschooling conference begins this week in northern Denver.

And the topics covered in this conference include far more than the narrow issues of educating junior in the ABCs. Since the topics range from basic homeschooling issues to apologetics, economics and cultural issues, more discernment is required of the average parent.

But who has time to discover exactly what these speakers believe? What have they said that is relevant to what they will say?"

continued here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Love of Technology

"Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.

To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes

 — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self."

Jonathan Franzen, NYTimes, 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011

Review of A Weed in the Church

Here is my short review of A Weed in the Church, Mr. Brown's book defending family-integrated methodology.

I hope to have an extensive review later. For an analysis of family-integrated churches, here first then here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Rejoinder to recent Family Integrated Church comments

The original article, What is a Family Integrated Church?, garnered over 80 comments. 

Thus I thought it wise to write another article handling some of the issues brought up. It is published here

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Family Integrated Church Dialogue

According to some proponents of family integrated churches, there has been little dialogue and much confusion. Well, in one corner of cyberspace, there is an intelligent interchange between a critic and a defender, here.

It is between the author of the article and a part-time worker and one-time intern at NCFIC and current member of a church plant under Mr. Brown's oversight (he also brought the article to Mr. Brown's attention).

Of note is the fact that the young defender carefully read the article and concluded: "So, in answer to your question, overall, the description was accurate and I greatly appreciate all the references. Some have slammed us and not even attempted to prove that it was so."

There are almost 80 comments overall, but another article, Lord willing, will be published summarizing the salient issues thus far.

May the Lord bring better clarity to those involved in this discussion.

Monday, May 02, 2011

America unites in Osama's death

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

And citizens of America, from Denver to Boston, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, discarded their moral differences and united. Celebrating and rejoicing with each other, Coloradoans welcomed the news, especially the politicians.

Senator Michael Bennet announced: "The architect of this attack was killed thanks to the competent and courageous efforts of American forces."

Likewise, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, declared: "This is a moment of justice. The United States took out an enormous threat to the safety and security of our country."

This is a moment of justice. And a sober moment for self-examination: why is everyone suddenly in favor of the death penalty?

Because when push comes to shove, those who reject God's law still must live by that law.

But now, the moral relativists and liberals welcome the death of a fellow human being! The irony is palpable.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

And so is moral relativism--at least for now.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Family Integrated Church

"Is your Christian education based upon evolutionary and secular thinking? It is if your church practices the usual age-segregated Sunday school according to a new church movement...."  

continued here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meyers, FV and the Missouri Presbytery

The latest decision concerning the complaint against the exoneration of Jeffrey Meyers is posted at Wes White's blog, here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Thorn: reasons not to attend this play

"Many Denver area churches are following some traditions of the high Middle Ages.

With a plethora of "passion plays" slated for this Easter, these churches are imitating their Roman Catholic counterparts. And this year one play stands out: The Thorn.

This Colorado-based production is described as an "extraordinary passion play-meets-Cirque-du-Soleil event" (Denver United). It was a local play originating at New Life church in Colorado Springs. And it is slated to play in Denver at the Magness Arena on April 22-23.

And I will not be there..."

[continued here]

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Review of Peter Enns’ Bible Curriculum [Wes White]

"...Further concern was raised over the fact that the publisher, Olive Branch Books, is part of Peace Hill Press which is directed by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Susan Wise Bauer is well-known and well-respected within the homeschooling community for her history series, The Story of the World, and book, The Well-Trained Mind. Olive Branch Books has released a statement in which it begs parents to read the curriculum for themselves instead of relying on secondhand accounts.

So, that is what I’ve done. I received my copy of the parents’ guide to Telling God’s Story, and I have now finished reading it. I also read Dr. Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation, to help me understand his views..." [continued here]

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Eritrea rejects UN aid

Fox news reported on the reasons why one of Africa's poorest nations is refusing most UN aid.

What does "The Institutional Church" mean? A Response

A fellow Christian blogger, Arthur Sido, has problems with the "institutional church." And he has graciously responded to my inquiry about his definition of the "institutional church" (over at pastor White's blog). This post is my humble attempt to better understand his concerns.

I suspect Arthur is unaware that his article is chockablock with assumptions and stereotypes. At least, it comes across that way to a reader (like me) who is not aware of his background and beliefs. So, I found his "what I believe" and read it. It, too, was chockablock with assumptions and stereotypes--or perhaps a language of description that I find unclear.

Even so, perhaps this dialogue will help express what is implied and draw both parties to more faithfulness to Christ.

First of all, he provides a tentative definition: "The institutional church, at its most fundamental, is the most visible and culturally recognizable manifestation of organized religion that finds its primary definition and purpose in the weekly Sunday morning meeting."

I find the phrase "the most visible and culturally recognizable manifestation" most curious. I take it he is allowing for other "visible and culturally recognizable" manifestations of "organized religion" besides Sunday worship. If so (say daily fellowship), then why can these other visible manifestations not be fundamental to an institutional church?

The definition then climaxes with a questionable assertion: the institutional church's "primary definition and purpose [is] in the weekly Sunday morning meeting."

Now Mr. Sido may define things and words any way he wishes. Of course, communication becomes quite hard if this ability goes unchecked. In this case, the definition simply misses its mark: if he wishes to mark all non-organic church organizations, such as, say, all Reformed churches, as "institutional churches," then he needs another definition.

The Reformed churches do not define the institutional church's primary mission, action or goal as the "Sunday morning meeting." The institutional church is but a part of the whole idea of the church visible.

To take only the Westminster definition of the church visible: "The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children..." (WCF 25.2).

In fact, the visibility of the church is not confined to Sunday worship: "God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies..." (WCF 21.6)

At the end of the day, I think Mr. Sido has something more specific in mind than the opening definition. He writes:

"Furthermore, the Protestant/Evangelical institutional church is by and large a modification of the Roman Catholic institutional church. The theology is radically different but the practices remain much the same: a formal and rigidly scheduled weekly gathering, mute observance by most of the church during that gathering, a ritualistic observance of the Lord’s Supper, a clerical class that is distinguished from the laity by extra-Biblical educational standards and that derives its financial support from the offerings of that same laity, and finally a focus on performance instead of mutual edification."

Now, since the opening definition does not work to identify Reformed churches, does this more extensive definition work better? It is closer if only because it clearly brings to the fore traditional anabaptistic arguments against certain elements of institutional churches--elements not necessary for any and all institutional churches. One can have an institutional church without financial support or ritualistic observance, for instance.

But then this all turns on how institutional, ritual, etc. are defined. The pejorative use of the words ritualistic, rigidity and formal all hinge on an understanding of what is proper worship. I do not know Mr. Sido's ideas about worship so it is hard to exactly evaluate.

If he believes that the Lord's Supper could involve cool-aid and cheez-its while people eat and wander about in their pajamas, then anything short of that could be labeled ritualistic, rigid and formal!

But there are more clues that some other idea of institutional church is at play here:

"Many of these institutional churches meet each week, go through the religious rituals and pay their bills but accomplish little else...In fact, the best measure of the spiritual state of someone is what happens outside of the church meeting. It is ironic that in the one place that Western culture agrees is “the church” is the same place that you are least likely to see the church functioning as it should."

I strongly suspect that our author is critiquing Christians that "play church." They come to church on Sunday, follow the motions, smile politely and pay their tithe and so feel good about themselves while accomplishing little for God's kingdom during the week. To that I say amen!

If that is his driving concern, then the institutional church is not the problem. The external form is rarely ever the root problem rather it is the internal problem of sin. If Mr. Sido concedes that organic churches can also "go through the motions" then he concedes the whole case and must critique the church organized (institution) upon different grounds.

His opening definition is insufficient to mark all my test-cases, Reformed churches, as institutional churches in the pejorative sense. His paragraph-long descriptive, on the other hand, seems to fit depending on what view of worship he believes. And if his true goal is to denounce superficial Christianity then we may well be closer in thought than either of us realized.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

US interest, Libya and the Bible

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.
Proverbs 26:17

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

NPR dabacle: does this surprise anyone?

The Washington Times reported more on the undercover tapes. This time quoting the co-worker with Mr. Schiller, Betsy Liley.

But seriously folks...whose mind will be changed but such revelation? Perhaps a number of average Americans. But those with influence to cut NPR funding, will they understand the bias here? Not just the science angle but the birther movement (with its own problems) is silenced by NPR.

If it's about the "debate" (like climate change) why not cover it? It would be a very large debate! The why is unknown. But the fact is known.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The vanity of God?

My last posting answered questions that Christians may encounter in Denver.

The next few articles will answer more questions Christians might encounter in Colorado--specifically, questions by a reader of a recent article. The questions stem from digging deeper behind the answers given--answers which did properly answer atheist questions. But as with all answers, there are more assumptions that can be unearthed.

Here is the first question:

1. "You say God doesn't need anyone, that he is self-sufficient. But if that's the case, then why does he require glorification? Why does he need people to glorify him? By your description, he only made everything just to glorify himself. Isn't that vanity by any Christian definition?"

[continued here]

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Science catches up with biblical nurture

Those ornery Puritans were right after all: self-control is paramount for healthy adulthood.

A recent study strongly indicates what Christians believed and practiced for centuries.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Many atheists ignorant of Christianity

"Over the last few years I have encountered more atheists than I can shake a stick at.

Whether they are young atheists at the Auraria campus in downtown Denver or in an interview with a leader in Boulder, they all have one thing in common: ignorance...

...of Christian doctrine and practice."

Continue reading on

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Revival of Rousseau [repost]

"But when mothers deign to nurse their own children, then morals will reform themselves, natural feeling will revive in every heart, the state will be repopulated"

"It is only in our father's home that we learn to love our own, and a woman whose mother did not educate her herself will not be willing to educate her own children."

"There is no more charming picture than that of family life..."

What do homeschooling and Rousseau have in common?
Much in many ways.

Rousseau endorsed homeschooling as the ideal system of education.

(continued here)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

More government intrusion into our food?

Here is an interesting article on potential expansion of government into our food supply.