Hymnus Deo

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ricky Skaggs

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder will be in concert here in Greensboro at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 23. If you want to hear traditional bluegrass done well, Skaggs & company are the group to hear.

Alas, I don’t think I know anyone who is willing to pay the $30 ticket price and is a big enough bluegrass fan to go. Sadly, bluegrass is something I enjoy mostly alone (you may weep tears at this point, if you feel compelled). I haven’t decided if I’m willing to go by myself. So if you want to go to the concert, and don’t have anyone to go with, and aren’t a young woman recovering from a recently-ended longstanding relationship, give me a call.

Oh yeah, the concert is also the day before my 33rd birthday. What’s better than a little birthday bluegrass? Nothing, I say.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pentecost in I Corinthians 16

The Reformed tradition has been inconsistent when it comes to adhering to the traditional church calendar. The early Reformers sought to remove those things that were incompatible with the teaching of Scriptures, but they generally continued to hold to some form of church calendar. However, by the time that the Puritans came along, there was a strong movement to remove the calendar all together. The Evangelicals, who are for the most part heirs to the Puritan movement, have instinctively recognized the natural tendency of man to mark time. But rather than returning to some form of the historic church calendar, they have allowed the State to define their lives and order time for them.

There are many Reformed types, as well as some Evangelicals, who would argue that worship is to be taken from the New Testament alone, and that we are not told to practice the church calendar. There is first of all a misunderstanding in what the church calendar does in such an approach, a misunderstanding that those who hold to the church calendar may be in part to blame for. The church calendar isn’t just something we do in worship on Sundays. Rather, the church calendar should serve to structure our entire lives.

I won’t try to give an elaborate defense of the church calendar right now. However, I would like to bring up a section of Scripture that I have never heard considered with this in mind. The passage I am thinking of comes from I Corinthians 16. I will cite a few verses to give the context (from the ESV):

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Here Paul is planning his journey to see the Corinthians and the Ephesians. That is plain in the passage. What is often overlooked, however, is how he orders time. He specifically mentions winter. But the thing that should strike us as unexpected is his reference to Pentecost. Pentecost was a feast in the Jewish calendar ordained by God. It was also the time of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the first establishing of the New Testament church. It is interesting to note that when God saw fit to give his Spirit and to bring the first converts into the church, he chose the Jewish feast day of Pentecost. Some might think that he had to do it on this day in order to fulfill the typology that he had intended in Pentecost. But there is nothing about typology that would require that. One main aspect of typology is that the type and anti-type don’t match in every detail. If they did, then the type would be the anti-type rather than a type. In other words, their would be no distinction; type and anti-type would be one. Some measure of contrast must exist. Besides this, God can do whatever He wants to. If he wanted to, he could have caused the fulfillment of Pentecost to take place on an entirely different day.

In our passage in I Cor. 16, Paul not only mentions Pentecost, but he orders time in relation to it. His plan, he says, is to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost. Why doesn’t he order time according to the Julian calendar, which was in place at the time? Certainly Paul, being a Roman citizen, would have thought along these lines first. But no, he is a Christian, and therefore he orders time according to the birth of the church.

We should also point out that the church Paul is writing to isn’t just made up of Jews. The Corinthian church was a mixed church, made up of Jews and Gentiles. The point being that Paul wasn’t just using a point of reference with a group of Jews that would be convenient and familiar to them. No doubt this would have been confusing for those Gentile believers who had only become familiar with the practice of Pentecost second hand. It seems clear to me that this was a recognized day that was used to order time by the early Christians.

Some may object that this doesn’t justify the elaborate celebrations that take place on church feast days. They may also object that this passage doesn’t defend the entire church calendar that has come to be observed. But those things must be derived (and I think they can) from other passages of Scripture. No doctrine I know of is drawn out of one passage alone. I don’t have time to get into those other matters now. But whatever a person might think of those other issues, it seems to me abundantly clear that the day of Pentecost was itself recognized in some fashion and used to mark time by the early church. This should cause those who reject the traditional church calendar to reconsider their position.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Many Uses of Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing covers a multitude of sins.

- my cousin Kathy

Friday, August 18, 2006

Triad Highland Games

For those of you in the Greensboro, NC area, the Triad Highland Games are today and tomorrow at Bryan Park. I've never been, and unfortunately I can't go this year either. But I'm sure it's loads of good Scottish fun. Click here to visit the website for schedule and ticket prices.

The Waffle House

You know, the thing about the Waffle House is that after eating there you smell like the Waffle House the rest of the day.

I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not this is a good thing.

Ministers and Music in the Reformed Tradition

I was recently discussing with some friends the subject of music in the church. These particular friends came into Reformed circles through one of the few Reformed churches that is more liturgical in practice than Reformed churches have historically been. Unfortunately, through the circumstances that came about, they have found themselves in a more traditional American Reformed setting – little liturgy, little music. Providential circumstances, no doubt - but difficult nontheless. We were lamenting how little occasion the typical Reformed believer is given to sing in church. Here are a couple of my own thoughts as to why that might be.

First of all, the Calvinist tradition in the context of the 16th century Reformation is clearly the more Rationalistic tradition. The Church of England maintained a closer link to the traditional liturgy as it had been handed down. This was of necessity due to the fact that England and its leaders, both church and state, never found an overwhelming consensus in favor of the Reformation. This maintenance of a high level of liturgy, I would maintain, served as a preventative against the more Rationalistic lean of the Continental Reformed tradition. This Rationalism carried over into the British Isles through the Puritan and Scottish Calvinistic traditions and this is why it is found in Presbyterianism today. In the Lutheran tradition, reformation of music was a far more important matter. Luther himself was a musician and wrote many hymns, encouraging the restoration of congregational singing. Now it needs to be pointed out that Calvin encouraged the restoration of congregational singing as well. But the music of Geneva was limited to metrical Psalmody and the singing of Scripture passages set in meter. While I like metrical Psalms, they are too simple and predictable, and they grow boring rather quickly. This approach, I would suggest, limits the creativity that musicians can have and suppresses the writing of new music. Calvin certainly did a better job than did Zwingli, who didn’t believe any singing should take place in worship. But although Calvin wasn’t as infected with Rationalism as Zwingli was, he was infected nonetheless. This has been worsened in the Reformation tradition since.

Another reason that there is so little singing in Reformed churches, I believe, is because most Reformed ministers are so musically inept. Due to the Reformed tradition's rationalism, music as a worthy pastime is engaged in and promoted little. Almost no time is given to music in seminary education. And in my experience – however limited it might be – most ministers couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. One can understand why they don’t care for much singing in worship.

The third reason has to do with participation in worship. In traditional Reformed churches, the minister tends to do just about everything. In some churches, there is the recitation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer by the congregation. Sometimes there is a confession of sin by the congregation – though in Calvin’s liturgy the congregational confession was simply a prayer prayed by the pastor alone, and this is practiced by some Reformed churches today. Then there are two or three hymns or Psalms, and that is about all the vocal participation the congregation has. The pastor, on the other hand, has the Call to Worship and the Benediction. He alone reads the Scripture text(s). He prays a fifteen minute prayer. There are a number of other ways that he might be vocal in the liturgy. And even when there is a highly structured liturgy, the pastor manages to have something “spiritual” to say in between every element of the service – a series of sermonettes apart from the main sermon, if you will. He has a whole separate sermonette in addition to the main sermon on the Sundays that Communion is observed. Then, of course, there is the sermon proper, which is usually between 45 minutes and an hour in length. The point here is that the pastor gets this huge chunk of time every worship service to praise God vocally. He’s satisfied. Why wouldn’t the congregation be? He can’t understand that there is a dissatisfaction among the congregation because they don’t get enough of an opportunity to praise God corporately and vocally, and the reason he doesn’t understand is because he has all the time to praise God aloud in worship that a man could want. Besides, in the Reformed tradition it’s really all about preaching anyway. All the other stuff is just superfluous. That’s why Reformed ministers spend all their time talking about preaching. Heck, they even preach sermon series about preaching. When was the last time you heard a Reformed minister preach a sermon series about music?

I think there is a right desire in faithful Christians to praise God vocally and corporately in worship. And I think the Reformed tradition stifles that. No wonder the Reformed and Presbyterian churches are moving rapidly toward contemporary worship forms. Even if the music is immature in its form and content, at least there is more of an opportunity for the people to talk to God themselves.

I also think that when a minister encourages vocal and physical passivity in corporate worship, he also encourages passivity in the rest of the believer’s life. We shouldn’t be surprised when the members of a congregation find themselves giving up quickly in the face of temptation if the pastor discourages a proper zeal in worship. It’s just a theory, but I think it’s true.

Maybe it’s just my experience. But it’s been rather suspicious to me that for most of the Reformed ministers I’ve known, they can only carry on one way conversations, with themselves doing all the talking. I think there’s a connection here.

I like what a Lutheran minister said to me one time – “sometimes I just get tired of hearing myself talking up there.” I wish more Reformed ministers would have such a viewpoint.

Those interested in considering further the subject of music in the Reformation traditions might consult the following resources:

Reforming Our Worship Music by Leonard R. Payton

Luther on Music: Paradigms of Praise by Carl F. Schalk

“Music and Singing in the Liturgy” by J. Gelineau SJ and “Hymnody in Christian Worship” by Alan Dunstan, both found in The Study of Liturgy, edited by Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold SJ, and Paul Bradshaw

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Commercialism rocks!

I just learned that one of our local shopping malls is planning on opening its doors at 1 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving Day. It’s crazy enough that it’s only August and they are already announcing this to the stores they lease space to. But the worst part about it is that this means that the stores will have to be open at that hour or else be penalized. And so they are in essence forcing the stores to require employees to come in to work that early.

Welcome to the triumph of materialism.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Catherine, O'Connor, and Purgatory

As regular readers of my blog know, I recently quoted from Catherine of Genoa’s Treatise on Purgatory in my series of quotes for our Book Study group. Flannery O’Connor, whose story "The Displaced Person" we have been studying, was a Roman Catholic and therefore believed in Purgatory. She also incorporated the idea in a couple of her stories, "The Displaced Person" being one of them. O’Connor mentioned Catherine’s Treatise specifically, so I read it for the purpose of gaining some insight into O’Connor and her writing.

I personally do not believe in Purgatory, inasmuch as I see absolutely no evidence whatsoever for it in Scripture. The verses cited in favor of it by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) are misinterpretations, and clearly so, in my opinion.

As if the teaching of Scripture isn’t enough, the historical question is an important one here as well. The doctrine of Purgatory is strictly a Western doctrine, having never been accepted up to the present day by the Eastern churches. Also, the doctrine of Purgatory was not officially declared by a pope prior to the Apostolic Constitution Benedictus Deus by Benedict XII in 1336 or by a synod until the Council (or Pseudo-council, as the Eastern churches would have it) of Florence in 1439. These are rather late dates for a doctrine as important as it is. Also, the doctrine has generally only been accepted by the Catholic and Anglo-Catholic Christians, being rejected by Protestantism almost wholesale. All things said, I think the odds are pretty well stacked against the doctrine of Purgatory.

This was my first venture into reading about Purgatory, so I found a couple of things about Catherine’s Treatise to be especially interesting.

First of all, I had always been taught by Protestants to view Purgatory as a sort of sadistic act of God, a punishment for the faithful, if you will. Yet Catherine presented it as an act of grace. God cannot accept sin into His presence, and so He must purify us. Also, it is an act of love for God to purify us of our sin. I think the literal notion that “God cannot accept sin into His presence” to be a Biblically and theologically problematic one. As a Protestant who believes in the necessity of sanctification, however, I can agree with some idea that purification is necessary for our salvation.

On the negative side, though, I found a couple of other things curious. For one thing, Catherine presented the relationship between the soul and God in especially romantic terms – terms which Scripture doesn’t apply to the individual Christian. God is not my romantic lover. Christ’s Bride is the Church Collective – not me as an individual. Though Catherine lived in the late 15th – early 16th centuries, her writing seems to be of the same spirit of the Medieval mystics, who tended to define the relationship between the individual and God as Catherine did.

But another thing that struck me was how individualistic Purgatory itself is conceived as being. Catherine spoke strictly in terms of the individual being purified by the fires of Purgatory, and of the soul longing to be joined to God. And so it is all about me and God. And yet I would argue that Scripture places as much if not more emphasis on the corporate. In this notion of Purgatory, there is no idea of me being purified through my interactions with other sinful people. I don’t doubt that those who believe in Purgatory would say that that happens in this world, whereas Purgatory is a different situation. And yet, the Biblical doctrine of sanctification is my being purified in the daily struggle of having to deal in a Godly fashion with other sinners like myself. That’s rather different than what Catherine taught.

So I think O’Connor was wrong in her belief in Purgatory. But as she herself said, she was a writer. While she believed in Purgatory, and incorporated it into her stories, she was no doctor of the church, and had every intention of leaving theology to the theologians. It’s too bad that the ones she left it up to got this doctrine wrong.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Money, Money, MONEY!

Overheard in a restaurant the other day:

“If you can’t impact a person’s money, nobody wants to hear you.”

How true.

Emerging and Church Discipline

Steve Camp raises the question:

Why hasn't anyone within the EC ecumenical movement (including conservatives like Mark Driscoll and Dan Kimball) publicly called for the church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20) of Brian McLaren for his aberrant and heretical theological error?

You mean the Bible teaches church discipline? {Gasp.}


The following is lifted from Little Miss Reformed:

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was
room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p. M. Instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p. M. Traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 P.M. At a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

They won't be dancing, either

As I was coming home from work this evening, I saw the following on a sign in front of a Baptist church:

HAPPY HOUR SUN AM 930 – 1030

Anyone want to guess what they won’t be serving at “Happy Hour”?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More on Emerging

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

- Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Sections 6 and 7

The above came to mind as I was contemplating some of the things I've heard coming from Emerging folks, particularly on the subject of certainty in knowing and understanding God's word. While I recognize the above statement to be a brief summary of the subject and not comprehensive, I would still regard it as substantially true.

I've found a couple of resources for those interested in considering the subject of the Emerging church. Here is an audio clip from John MacArthur that I found interesting. I disagree with MacArthur on many things, but nonetheless I thought his comments here were good. It's only about six minutes long.

And here is a page at Monergism.com that is dedicated to the subject of the Emerging church. So far I've only listened to John Piper's comments and the interview with Justin Taylor. Piper's comments were only a couple of minutes; the interview with Taylor was significantly longer. I would highly recommend both.

As you scroll down the Monergism page, you'll see this:

Men Are from Mars Hill by Mark Driscoll praises Jesus, blasts mega-churches, and extols Reformed theology. Interview by Jason Bailey -- "The two hot theologies today are Reformed and emerging. Reformed theology offers certainty, with a masculine God who names our sin, crushes Jesus on the Cross for it, and sends us to hell if we fail to repent. Emerging theology offers obscurity, with a neutered God who would not say an unkind word to us, did not crush Jesus for our sins, and would not send anyone to hell."

Ouch. I'll have to read that one.

The Monergism site is a fantastic site in general for those looking to study any theological topic. The links on the site are mainly from a Reformed perspective, broadly speaking.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The “Get Over It" Tour

I’ve heard that James Blunt (famous for the song “You’re Beautiful”) and Daniel Powter (famous for the song “Bad Day”) are going on tour together. Rumor has it that the tour will be sponsored by Kleenex. Can anyone confirm these rumors?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Emerging Church and Evangelical History

The Emerging Church movement is the latest trendy movement in the Evangelical church. Aside from the conversations about it that appear in the blogosphere, this is noticeable in the number of books published by leaders of the Emerging movement that appear in the religion section of the mega-bookstores.

I have spent some time reading blogs and articles by those who consider themselves part of the movement. And I own a couple of books by Emerging writers, but have yet to read them. So I’m not in a place to offer a full critique. I do have a couple of thoughts, though, and would welcome any feedback.

One thing that I found out recently that is interesting had to do with the church background of the most well known Emerging leader, Brian McLaren. He was raised Plymouth Brethren. This, of course, stood out to me because that is my own background as well. But I also find this interesting because I think that considering this fact will give some insight into the theological presuppositions that are laced throughout McLaren’s work.

The Plymouth Brethren began as an evangelical and ecumenical movement of sorts, and to some degree continues that way until today. It also should be recognized as a Biblicistic movement. While it rightly emphasized Scripture as the foundation of Christian faith and practice, it held the history of the church mostly in contempt, and paid little respect for the teaching that had come before them. The individuals who met at Trinity College in Dublin in the 1820’s and who served as the founding members of the Plymouth Brethren movement saw themselves as meeting “in the simplicity of the New Testament pattern”, breaking bread together with little or no consideration of doctrinal differences. This was to them in contradistinction to the “denominational system” that had grown throughout the history of the church due to the sinfulness of man and which had no foundation in the New Testament. This denominational system kept Christians of various churches from communing (in terms of the Lord’s Supper) with one another, and it was this that the Brethren opposed. In these practices, the Brethren saw themselves as restoring what had been lost since the days of the Apostles.

I view the Plymouth Brethren as simply a continuation of an Evangelical movement that began during the war in the 17th century between Oliver Cromwell with his supporters and Charles I. Cromwell’s army was comprised of people from varied denominational backgrounds, all standing against the king’s violation of the rights of the people in the civil realms (taking the common land from the people and giving it to the aristocrats) and in the church (reintroducing what many believed to be Roman elements into the worship of the church). It is said by historians that Cromwell’s army discovered a unity of faith and purpose that ran deeper than their divisions (which, at this time, were chiefly divisions over liturgy and church government), and which unity contributed to their eventual victory over Charles I. Coincidental with this was the Assembly of the Divines of the Church at Westminster, which was itself comprised of men of a diversity of theological persuasions. Though it isn’t usually regarded this way nowadays, the documents drawn up by the Westminster Divines were documents of compromise. Parliament, who commanded the gathering of the Divines, wanted a set of documents that would unify the churches of Great Britain, and so the Divines set out to accomplish just that.

Through many years of success as well as persecution, this attempt at unity continued into the 18th century in the Evangelical and Revival movements in the United States as well as Britain with figures such as John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John and Charles Wesley. This Evangelical tendency is especially noticeable in Newton, whose Evangelical conventicles including a diversity of Christians, even at times including Quakers.

It was in this atmosphere that the Plymouth Brethren movement emerged, an atmosphere that had developed over two centuries. The early Brethren came from the already existing church bodies. It is generally known that John Nelson Darby came from the Church of Ireland in which he had been a clergyman. But while Darby is considered by many to be the key theologian in the early Brethren movement, he wasn’t the key figure when it comes to the development of Open Brethren principles. By the mid 19th century, the Brethren had already had their first major split. This split was primarily over the extent to which communion is open. Darby took a more closed view to communion, and is to be seen as the founder of the Closed and Exclusive branches of the Plymouth Brethren movement. The majority of the Brethren since have followed the path of George Muller and Henry Craik, ministers at Bristol who, while holding certain tenets as essential to right teaching and practice, broadened their approach when it came to communing with others at the Lord’s Table.

George Muller was raised in Prussia, and while it is said that he lived an ungodly life as a youth (coming to Christ as a young adult), he had studied for the ministry prior to his conversion, no doubt for what we would today call the Lutheran Church. Muller came to England and joined Craik in the ministry of a Congregational church, and here we find our first major connection among the Open Brethren with the churches of the Westminster Divines. Muller and Craik over time converted the Bethesda to Brethren principles.

Craik himself was a Scot who had attended St. Andrew’s University and studied under the Scottish Presbyterian minister Thomas Chalmers. He associated with a group known as “the St. Andrew’s Seven”, a group which included Thomas Chalmers and six students, who established a missionary society at St. Andrew’s of which Craik was a part. This group played a key part in what came to be known as the modern evangelical and missionary movement.

There are further connections with the Brethren in the life of another of the founders of the Brethren movement, Anthony Norris Groves. Both Craik and Robert Nesbit, who was a member of the Seven, tutored Groves’ children. Groves himself eventually went to India as a missionary.

These connections between the Plymouth Brethren and broader Protestantism continued in the other movements such as Keswick, Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and a host of other parachurch movements. And we now find it has at least one connection in the Emerging church.

Whereas the Emerging leaders seem to think they are doing this great new thing, I find very little that is actually new. Here are a couple of things that Emerging people emphasize that I find precedence for in the history of Evangelicalism, and not least among the Plymouth Brethren:

-Experience of God exalted over systems of doctrine and government

-An openness to the questioning of historic practices and doctrine, and placing the Bible over the historic teachings of the church

-Differences over doctrine not being allowed to divide Christians in any way

-Inclusivity rather than exclusivity

-Egalitarianism and a hatred of hierarchy

-A sense of a new movement of the Spirit of God – the idea that God is doing a “new thing” – which is, again, defined by experience

Another way I tend to view the Emerging movement is as a neo-hippie movement. The hippie movement found its most prominent Christian form in the Jesus People movement, and exemplified many of the same characteristics that I listed above. There was cross-pollination of the Jesus People with other movements in the late sixties and since, out of which emerged the Contemporary worship movement. The Emerging Church, I would say, is an inheritor of all these things.

Let me mentioned a couple of other things in closing. I recognize that the Emerging Church does not ignore Church history as a whole. Part of their reception of it is simply by the nature of things – they couldn’t be Christian in any sense if they entirely rejected the historic church. In other ways, some of them have sought to incorporate certain historic practices of the church, particularly in the area of aesthetics. As good as this is, there are certain things in the teaching of the church that can’t be rejected, and all the smells and bells in the world won’t take their place.

Let me also add that I could also be accused of being a Biblicist. There are reasons why I am neither a Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox, and that is because of the view of Church authority and Tradition that is held in these communions. Scripture is the supreme authority as God’s Word, and the individuals in authority over us have as their duty to interpret and apply Scripture in the lives of those under their care. Having said that, they don’t have the right to approach the Bible as if they were the first persons to read it, and neither do those who are laypersons. I think one of the most foolish things we can think about ourselves is that we can somehow come to truth as individuals interacting with God alone. The flipside to this is that we don’t get error by ourselves either, but we develop it as a result of the influence of others. Both of these things are true, no matter how creative or new our errors or truths appear to be. We can talk about “interpreting the Bible in community” all we want, but if we don’t interact with the communion of the saints throughout the ages, then our own practices contradict our principles. This is a major point in which I would separate myself from the Emerging Church.

There is probably more that could be said here, but inasmuch as I am writing a blog entry and not a book, I will leave it at that.