Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How to Propagandize a Funeral

I have generally steered clear of the media blitz surrounding the death of Teddy Kennedy over the past few days. I know some people get a kick out of such coverage, but I must admit that I find it less than interesting. It isn't that I don't respect how difficult a time this is for the Kennedy clan. But schmoozefests turn my stomach more often than not, and cavalcades of limousines alongside of commentaries spoken in golf-match hushed tones put me to sleep.

Saturday morning, however, I did happen to visit the BBC News website, and, noticing that Ted Kennedy's funeral was in process, I thought I would watch a few minutes of it. I tuned in about the time that the Kennedy children were offering the Prayers of the Faithful, a regular part of the Mass, whether it be a funeral Mass or otherwise. Call it Providence - I couldn't have happened in at a better time.

This was the prayer I heard as soon as I began watching, offered by twelve year old Max Allen, Teddy's grandson:

"For what my grandpa called the cause of his life, as he said so often, in every part of this land, that every American will have decent quality health care, as a fundamental right, and not a privilege, we pray to the Lord."

This was followed by the prayer of Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, Teddy's nephew:

"For a new season of hope that my Uncle Teddy envisioned, where we rise to our best ideals, and close the book on the old politics of race and gender, group against group and straight against gay, we pray to the Lord."

Followed again, by this prayer from Robin Lawford, Teddy's niece:

"For my Uncle Teddy's call to keep the promise, that all men and women who live here, even strangers and newcomers, can rise no matter what their color, no matter what their place of birth."

And finally, the following, from Kym Smith, another of Teddy's nieces:

"For my Uncle's stand again violence, hate and war, and his belief that peace can be kept through the triumph of justice, and that truest justice can come only through the works of peace, we pray to the Lord."

In case you're missing it, those are prayers addressing the issues of universal health care, gay rights, open borders, and the legitimacy of warfare. (If you would like to see a transcription of all the prayers, they are available here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/8/29/774063/-Prayers-Of-The-FaithfulTed-Kennedy-Funeral-Mass)

I leave aside the debate on the substance of these issues, however, to make a different point. The issue here is that this was a church service, a worship service to God, and it was being used as a means to promote the agenda of our current Socialistic administration.

It has always been the Liberal Left who have made a big-to-do about the supposed distinction between Church and State. The Church is not to speak out on matters that are reserved to the state, they say. The Church deals with religious matters, the State with secular matters, and ne'er the twain should meet, we are told. But it's situations like this that show where Socialistic Democrats actually stand. It isn't that they don't want the Church involved. They're fine with that, as long as the Church exists as a wing of the State, rather than as a competing authority. What they hate is orthodox Christianity. They hate God's Law and they don't want to be subject to it. If they can use the supposed notion of a Church-State distinction to make that happen, they will. If they can use the Church to promote the ideals of Statism, as was done in the U.S.S.R., and as is done in China today, they will do that. For them, the goal is autonomous power, autonomous from God, but using God for their ends if need be.

The question is whether or not the Roman Catholic Church will speak out on this. I must say I have my doubts. After all, this was a man's funeral, (and as an American politician and a Kennedy, a deified man, apparently) and they wouldn't want the image of turning such a sacred and solemn event into an opportunity to battle. This will be their position, all the while missing the point that the first shot was fired by the other side during the Prayers of the Faithful, a misnomer on this occasion, if it ever was.

I watched eagerly through the Communion portion of the service. I was curious to see which of the many governing officials present would partake of the Communion. In particular, I was curious about John Kerry, especially after he supposedly "excommunicated himself" over his stance on abortion a few years back:

http://www.catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=32830

Amazingly, the camera angles were such that none of the politicians were shown during the Communion. Funny how things like that work out. A request of the White House, I don't doubt. How many supposed Christians, whether Catholic or otherwise, who support abortion, partook of the elements that day? All while the Church stands against the murder of the unborn, but does nothing to discipline her members who stand for it. And we wonder why our nation is a cesspool of immorality, when neither the leaders of the Church nor the leaders of the civil government will do what God has asked of them. We should not be surprised when God lets us go to the consequences of our sin. Yet, Lord, have mercy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

That's "Mufti McLaren" To You

Brian McLaren observes Ramadan, and Douglas Wilson calls a spade a spade:

http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=6869

Court orders Christian child into government education

In New Hampshire, no less. So much for "Live Free Or Die".

Court orders Christian child into government education

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Advanced Cat Yodeling

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grandpa, Pregnant Mom Tasered at Baptism Party



I found this one on Mark Horne's blog. His comments are worth checking out, as well as this blog he linked. As Horne said, "Since you’re not a Harvard Prof who is personally friends with the Prez, no one cares."

Housing Residents in High Point Must Stop Worship Services

http://www.wxii12.com/news/20382490/detail.html

"Public" housing, of course, means "government" housing, which shouldn't exist. But poverty is the cause, a poverty caused by excessive taxation and a civil government that messes around in an economy that should be none of its business. All this to the side, all civil government officials should declare that Jesus is King. Not only should the worship services be allowed to take place, the civil government should suppress any competing "religions". "Secular" society is ultimately a myth. This isn't neutrality; there's no such thing. This is anti-Christianity.

Glorifying God Through Architecture

If you're going to build a church building, why not build one that looks like a church building? A novel idea these days, I suppose, but some people still get it:

http://www.blueskyfilmworks.com/covenant/Sanctuary_Video.html

Here's hoping that what is preached is worthy of the building.

HT: Internet Monk

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Primer on Worship and Reformation by Douglas Wilson: a Book Review

"What's wrong with America" is a common topic of both sermons and conversation among Conservatives, and has been for a number of years now. It is understood that the problem has vaguely to do with a pushing of Christianity to the periphery of American life and, as nature abhors a vacuum, other clearly non-Christian ways of thinking and living have rushed in to fill the empty space. This has left Conservatives scrambling to find any available piece of real estate, lest they find themselves completely pushed off the edge of the map. And so the battlefields of the culture war we are familiar with - abortion, homosexuality, prayer in school, etc. - have been the places we have put up our flags. Yet all the while our demeanor betrays that even we believe each of these battles is our last stand, and that we might as well concede that the battle isn't the LORD's after all, let alone ours.

In all our attempts, well meant and otherwise, to regain the culture, could it be that we have been going about it all wrong? Douglas Wilson thinks so. In his book A Primer on Worship and Reformation, Wilson sketches what he believes to be some of the chief components necessary to cleaning up the cultural mess we're in. And the subtitle, "Recovering the High Church Puritan", gives us more than a hint towards knowing where he derives those components.

Wilson spends the first two chapters discussing the circus that is Evangelicalism and how it became what it is today. Overrun by consumerism and triviality, the church has drifted far from what Scripture indicates it should be. This drift is no more noticeable elsewhere than it is in the worship of the church. But worship is not isolated from the rest of life. Rather, a person is what he worships; or, to put it another way, culture is worship externalized. And what the Evangelical church has done, by and large, is to replace the worship of the Triune God with the worship of the individual person. We want a church that reflects who we are rather than who God is, because we are comfortable with who we are. An encounter with God, who is wholly Other, can't help but put us at some dis-ease. And who wants that? Certainly not the average self-contented American, whether he be a professing Christian or otherwise.

Believing that the modern Evangelical church is a picture of the Late Medieval Roman Catholic Church, Wilson looks back to the first generation of English Puritans, who sought to bring the Church of England fully out of her Roman Catholic past, as providing the model for reformation needed in the church today. Wilson corrects the common misunderstanding that the Puritans were prudes and killjoys, and, after laying out the Biblical worldview of the Puritans that we should imitate, spends the rest of the book discussing how these things should be applied in practice.

The first of these concerns the question of evangelism. Much guilt has been heaped upon believers in the Evangelical church for several decades, all based on the belief that God has given the task of evangelism to every believer. It is true, Wilson says, that every believer should be prepared to explain his faith whenever an opportunity arises. But that is not the same thing as suggesting, as is often done in the Evangelical church, that every believer is to make sharing the gospel his primary vocation. This, in fact, is something Scripture nowhere says. Some people are gifted as evangelists. But some are called simply to work faithfully in their jobs, take care of their children, and participate in worship at their local churches on Sunday. This should provide some measure of relief to anyone who has ever felt guilty for not presenting the gospel to others on a regular basis.

The one area in which God calls all His children to participate in the building of His Kingdom is in the corporate worship of the church. But to do this, we must regain an understanding of what "corporate" means. We tend to approach both worship and Scripture with a "me and Jesus" attitude. But primary to the Christian life is the covenant, through which we are united not only to God, but to one another. We are united with Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and being freed from the Law, we are to come boldly and reverently, with joy and thanksgiving, to worship at the feet of King Jesus, where He sits enthroned in the Heavens. In Christ, we are united, and therefore there are no solo Christians.

We come together to hear God's Word preached in worship. By "Word", we are not to understand this to be either a pep talk, a laundry list, or a theological lecture. Theology is involved. The practical teachings of Scripture are to be given. And where Scripture encourages, preachers are to encourage. But preaching is to be carried out on Scripture's terms. Preaching must be alive. It must tear down and build up. It must be filled with Biblical language. And, as Scripture is, it must be filled with metaphor.

God not only gave us His Word, He gave us His Table as a way through which He nourishes us. When we partake of this table, we partake of Christ Himself. Therefore, this partaking should be as frequent as the preaching of the Word - that is, weekly.

A recovery of Biblical worship will mean a return to singing the Psalms. This means entire Psalms, not just the snippets one finds in Contemporary Worship Music. This also means all of the Psalms, not just the ones we more readily relate to. Singing should be passionate and loud, orderly and reverent. And it should be done by the congregation, not by a group of professionals putting on a performance.

Sunday is to be set aside as the Sabbath. It is the Lord's Day, which He has given to us for both rest and worship. But it isn't a day for fasting, rather for feasting. Carrying this out in detail will require much careful thought. But God has given the Sabbath to us as a gift, and therefore we should observe it gratefully.

Then there is the question of the children of the church. Are they actually "of the church", that is, of the covenant, or do they fit into some separate category? Wilson answers with the former. We are not to try to look into the hidden things of God to find out if we are elect. Nor are we to look to our own works to confirm that we are justified. Rather, we are to look to the perfect righteousness of Christ, promised to us in the covenant, as the means of our salvation. As this salvation is found in the covenant, it belongs to all those in the covenant, including our children. And so covenant children are neither to be treated as sinless, nor as "vipers in diapers". They are united to Christ. On this basis, we are to raise them as Christians, and to include them in the corporate worship service of the church.

At a short 76 pages, A Primer on Worship and Reformation fits the bill as the introduction is title professes it to be. There are few other books available that cover the same ground it does, let alone so skillfully, and none that I know of that do so in such little space. This will make it handy to give to friends who are just beginning to wrestle with the matters it discusses. No doubt much of its contents will be controversial to many. But in the face of Evangelicalism's regular failure to impact the culture, one can hardly justify taking Doug Wilson's book lightly.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Secret of Living

Steve Wilkins talks about the secret to health and a long life:

http://auburnavenue.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/you-cant-do-it-alone/

Friday, August 07, 2009

"This is My Body... This is My Blood" - Five Views on the Presence of Christ in the Supper

I threw the following together for the guys I'm in Bible study with. I think it's pretty decent for a short summary, so I thought I'd put it up here.


It is commonly assumed and taught among Evangelicals that there have only been two views in the history of the church concerning whether or not Christ is actually present in what we call the Lord's Supper (also known as the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, etc.). To the contrary, there have been, in fact, five major views in the history of the church.


1.) Mystical Presence - The Eastern Orthodox View

The Eastern Orthodox Church has historically held that in the Eucharist we really commune with the body and blood of Christ. The bread is His Body, and the wine is His Blood. But as the Eastern Orthodox have a tendency to appeal to mystery in many aspects of their theology, so they do here. They do not attempt to give any further explanation as to how this happens, and they reject as rationalistic much of the theologizing that has taken place about the Supper in the Western Church. The bread and wine are symbolic, but not merely symbolic, as in them we are sanctified by really receiving Christ.


2.) Transubstantiation - the Romanist View

This is the view that has been largely held by the Roman Catholic Church and all in communion with her since the doctrine was formulated by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, though the doctrine was not officially canonized until the Council of Trent in 1551. Drawing off of Aristotelian ideas of form and matter, Aquinas taught that when the priest who is officiating at Mass says the prayer of consecration over the elements of bread and wine, these elements transform literally into the body and blood of Christ. There is no change in the outward form (the "accidens") of the bread and wine - they continue to look, feel, smell, and taste like bread and wine. Yet, mysteriously, the matter (the "substance") of the bread and wine really and fully become the body and blood of Christ. This view has also been held by many Anglicans and some Lutherans.


3.) Consubstantiation - the Lutheran View

While the Reformers are often referenced for the way they brought to light doctrines of salvation that had been obscured or long neglected, they were above all things concerned about the state of corporate worship, and this included the doctrines concerning the Eucharist. The reformer who maintained a position the closest to that of Rome was Martin Luther. His view has come to be called "consubstantiation", though it is a name that Lutherans generally detest. Luther stated that in the doctrine of Transubstantiation that Rome had come to accept there were all sorts of frivolous miracles taking place during Mass, referring to the idea that the bread and wine could change matter without changing form. Instead, Luther taught that Christ was truly "in, with, and under" the elements of bread and wine in the Supper. And so when a person takes the bread and wine, Christ's body and blood really pass over the person's lips and down his throat into his stomach. He really chews Christ's body with his teeth. To support this idea, Luther taught that Christ's post-resurrection body took on certain of the aspects of His Deity, such that His post-resurrection body was ubiquitous, or spatially unbound. In other words, Christ's body was omnipresent or everywhere at the same time. And so a thousand churches could be taking of the body and blood of Christ all at the same time. In this way, Luther was able to explain his literalistic interpretation of Christ's words "this is My Body... this is My Blood".

4.) Real Presence - the Calvinistic View

Influenced largely by the Eastern Orthodox Church, John Calvin taught that when a person partakes of the bread and the wine in Holy Communion, he really partakes of the body and blood of Christ. Unlike Luther, he held that Christ's body was physically in Heaven, at the right hand of the Father, or else Christ's body couldn't be a real human body. Yet he believed that in Holy Communion, by the working of the Holy Spirit, and by faith, we are joined to Christ, both His Body and His Spirit, seated in Heaven, and truly receive Him mystically. This can be illustrated by this passage from the Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 29, section 7:

"Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses."

It should be pointed out that the word "spiritually", as it is used here, does not indicate that it is only Christ's Spirit that we receive, but rather that "spiritually" is the mode of our receiving Him, as opposed to the Lutheran's view that they actually eat Him. When we receive Christ in the Supper, we mystically take all of Him into our bodies, both His Body and His Blood.

5.) Real Absence - the Memorialist View

The view most commonly held in the Evangelical church today, it says that the bread and the wine (sorry - grape juice) used in Communion are merely symbolic, and a means of stirring the participants' minds up in order to meditate on the work of Christ. There is no connection to Christ's body and blood themselves. It is usually the one attributed to the third of the Magisterial Reformers, Ulrich Zwingli. Some study of Zwingli has suggested that this is inaccurate, and that he actually held a view more similar to that of Calvin. Unfortunately, conflicting thoughts in his own writing make it hard for scholars to truly determine what Zwingli's views were.

It should be noted that, whereas Evangelicals normally assume that the Memorialist view is the majority view in the history of the church, the prior four views listed and the size of the church movements they have been affiliated with demonstrate that the Memorialist view is, in fact, the minority view in the church's history. It should also be noted that whereas Memorialists generally downplay the idea that the Lord's Supper is, on their view, a means by which grace is given to the individual, nonetheless, if there are certain benefits derived from meditating upon the Supper, and they are good, then they must be salvific in nature. The real difference here between the Memorialist view and the other four views in that regard is that in the other four views the act of delivering grace to the individual is dependent on the work of God, whereas in the Memorialist view, whether or not the individual receives any benefit from the Supper is entirely dependent upon his own work - that is, whether or not he properly meditates upon Christ's work during the partaking of the Supper. And the theological term for that approach to receiving grace is Pelagianism.

There have been, of course, other major differences within the church on the Lord's Supper. Is the Supper in any sense a sacrifice? Is the Supper only to be overseen by an ordained minister? Can it be carried out in a context other than the worship service of the church? What kind of actions should take place during the administration of the Supper? Is it appropriate to bow or kneel to the elements of the Supper? How are the elements to be treated that are left over after the Supper? These are all legitimate questions. But the foundation to answering all of them begins with determining which of the above views is the Scriptural view.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wes King Returns

Those of you who listened to Contemporary Christian music through the late eighties and early nineties like I did will be familiar with Wes King, guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire. I saw him in concert three times when I was younger, and spent some time as a guitarist studying and trying to imitate him. He is also a fairly astute Presbyterian, and has spent a fair bit of time studying with George Grant, a fact that can be heard in his music. He began to suffer from lymphoma a number of years ago, and with it being as serious a form of cancer as it is, I wondered if we'd ever hear from Wes again. I'm glad to say he sounds like he's doing well (though he isn't 100%, he says), and he has begun putting out some new music. His website can be found here, and he can also be found on Facebook.