Liturgical Mediocrity

I’m grateful to the [Aquila Report](http://theaquilareport.com/) for publishing a [pithy article](http://bit.ly/oWYSt4) by the [Rev. Terry Johnson](http://www.ipcsav.org/our-church/meet-our-pastors/), Senior Minister of [Independent Presbyterian Church](http://www.ipcsav.org/) of Savannah, Georgia, on the topic of worship in the PCA. Pastor Johnson incisively reviews the “liturgical anarchy” that characterises the worship landscape of the PCA, rightly describing it as “Trotyskesque.” He has gathered his observations year after year as he and his family have travelled on vacation and visited PCA churches.

From the article:

RevJohnson

> Here’s my basic observation: the PCA is first and foremost a land of liturgical mediocrity. It is Vanillaville; a jar of mayonnaise. Some of us are doing the praise band thing, but not nearly so well as the mega-churches. Others are doing the high-church thing, but without the historic continuity and liturgical excellence of the Anglicans. Others are looking an awful lot like charismatics, but without the uninhibited exuberance of neo-pentecostalism. Still others are blending in a bit of this and a bit of that, but without the creativity of the Emergents.

> …

> Here’s my question: Why? Why look for models everywhere but Geneva and Westminster? Why is so little respect shown for the liturgical traditions of Reformed Protestantism? Is it just a matter of ignorance? We are not anabaptists, the charismatics of the Reformation era. We’re not Episcopalians. We’re not historically rootless Emergents. Why, then, are so many of us, on the one hand, adopting the introductory 20-minute song set, the raised hands, the closed eyes, the gentle swaying, the emotionalism of the neo-pentecostalism; and on the other hand, dolling up the service by expanding the number of congregational responses (e.g. sanctus, gloria, sursum corda, etc.) removed by Reformed Protestants nearly 500 years ago?

> Does anyone out there in PCA land still do the regular Reformed thing of reading the word, preaching the word, singing the word, praying the word, and administering the visible word? Does anyone still feature lectio continua reading and preaching, a “full diet” of free prayer, biblical psalmody and hymnody, and the covenantal administration of the sacraments?

Yes, Rev Johnson, some of us still do, and we thank God for the part your ministry has played in the reformation of worship in our small corner of Christ’s Kingdom at [Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church](http://brainerdhills.org/). Next vacation, why don’t you stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and spend the Sabbath with us? I trust that as you enter worship you’ll feel right at home.

Read the rest of article *[Vacationland PCA — “Should We Be Doing That?”](http://bit.ly/oWYSt4)* at [The Aquila Report](http://theaquilareport.com/).

Share

One Lord, One Plan, One People

*A Journey Through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation*

This is a new release from Banner of Truth. Here’s the info from the Banner of Truth web site.

BOT Book

> * Price: $ 18.00
> * ISBN#: 9781848711372
> * Binding: Paperback
> * Page Count : 467

> *Description:* New to the Bible? One Lord, One Plan, One People will help you uncover what the Bible is all about as it takes you on a journey from Genesis to Revelation, pointing out the main features of each book.
Want to know how the Bible fits together? One Lord, One Plan, One People will show you how the Bible is not a collection of random stories, but that all its sixty-six books focus on Jesus, the one Lord who is the terminal point of God’s promises. It is the story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, reign, and return which is the Bible’s big theme. As you view the Bible through that lens, you will grasp how its individual parts interlock.

> Twitchy about venturing into the Old Testament because you are unsure what its function is? One Lord, One Plan, One People will get you out of your “New-Testament only comfort zone” and into the Old Testament. You will discover how both parts of the Bible operate in tandem, with the New Testament shedding light on the Old, and the Old Testament providing the framework for understanding the New.

> *About The Author:* Born in Nigeria of missionary parents and converted in his late teens, Rodger Crooks is minister of Belvoir Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is married to Joan, and they have three grown-up children. In his down time he enjoys strong black coffee, reading history, and supporting Manchester United and the Irish rugby and cricket teams.

> *From The Preface:* In the feedback from my congregation on these sixty-seven sermons (that formed the foundation for this book), many admitted that they had seen for the first time how important the Old Testament was in preparing the ground for the coming of Jesus into our world. Before that, apart from a few quick excursions in the book of Psalms, they had stuck pretty much to reading the New Testament. If this is you, then this book is designed to help you see that the Bible actually begins with Genesis and not Matthew…. As you read this book, you will make the discovery that many have made, that not only do we need the New Testament to make sense of the Old, but we also need the Old Testament to provide the framework for the New. For there is only one plan of salvation that runs through both the Testaments of the Bible, as God calls out one people to belong to him and to live under the rule of one Lord.

Share

The Church is not a Political Action Committee

Dr. D.G. Hart has posted a good article interacting with critics of two kingdom theology. While I disagree with Dr. Hart on the the extent to which the Scriptures speak to matters of civil ethics, nevertheless I agree with him entirely on the principle of the Spirituality of the Church.

The Scriptures teach that the magistrate is required to uphold the whole of the Moral Law as it applies to the civil sphere, and the church must proclaim this truth as it is found in Scripture. But the church is not a political action committee! It would be a shame to the name of Christ and an overthrow of jurisdiction for His Church to behave as though she were a political entity.

It is a common error amongst erstwhile Reformed evangelicals to think that the Church has a duty to do whatever any individual Christian may do. Christians as citizens in the civil sphere ought to be involved in politics to whatever extent they are able, and to shape their politics in keeping with the Scriptural standard of civil ethics. But it would be an abuse of the authority Christ has left in His church for her officers to convene Synods and Councils as though she were a political party calling a convention.

Share

The Select Practical Writings of John Knox

This looks good! From Banner of Truth Bookstore…

KnoxBook

  • Book Title: Select Practical Writings of John Knox
  • Author : John Knox
  • Price: $26.00$20.80
  • ISBN#: 9781848711020
  • Binding: Clothbound
  • Page Count : 336
  • Description: Now available in the U.S. and Canada; available soon elsewhere in the world.

This is a rare and precious book!

Edited by Thomas Thomson, it contains the choicest practical writings of a man whom God used to transform his native country and bring it into the light and under the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that in spite of constant opposition and grave personal danger.

There is a 20% discount on web orders which reduces the price to $20.80.

Share

Atheist morality

Atheists and agnostics frequently assert that ethics and morality are not dependent upon a belief in God. Rather, they urge that ethics and morality can be understood in sociological terms as a set of conventions that provides evolutionary advantage for groups of humans. But the true weight of such an assertion is rarely grasped by those who make it. This is not an alternative morality, but really no morality at all.

This is pointed out with wit by Dr. William Lane Craig.

The point is that a meaningful morality, a genuine belief in “right and wrong,” requires a faith commitment to something beyond the “here and now,” that is, it requires something “metaphysical.” And of course, the only consistent morality, one that can bear the weight of its own assertions, is the morality revealed in the Christian Scriptures by the one true God.

Share

Pastors Necessary to the Church

The French Confession (1559)

Article XXV — Pastors Necessary to the Church

RefCon2

And forasmuch as we are not made partakers of Christ but by the gospel, we believe that the good order in the church, which was established by His authority, ought to be kept sacred and inviolable; and, therefore, that the church cannot subsist unless there are pastors, whose office is to instruct their flocks, and who having been duly called and discharging their office faithfully, are to be honored and heard with reverence. Not as if God were tied to such ordinances or inferior means, but because it is His good pleasure in this way to govern us. So that for these reasons we detest all those fanatical persons who, as much as in them lies, would totally abolish the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments.

Dennison, James T. Jr., Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, Volume 2, 1552–1566 (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 149.

Share

Explaining Muslim violence

Over at the Johannes Weslianus blog, Pastor Wes White shares some fruitful thoughts in relation to the recent publicity stunt of a burning of the Qur’an and the violence that ensued.

John Piper has claimed that he can help us understand Islam by comparing the Qur’an to Jesus. According to Piper, the Qur’an holds a similar place in the Islamic faith that Christ holds in the Christian faith. Consequently, to burn the Qur’an is for the Muslims what crucifying Jesus is to the Christians. Apparently, this should help us understand why Muslims react so violently to the burning of the Qur’an.

In addition to the counter-intuitive nature of the analogy and the fact that the Christians did not go on a murderous rampage after Jesus was crucified, there is a good reason to reject the analogy. The violence is not a result simply of Qur’an burning. For many Muslims, violence is the proper response to any attack on the Muslim faith.

Pastor White points out that the Qur’an urges Islamists both jointly and severally to enact violence against unbelievers.

John Piper is looking for an explanation of the violence in Afghanistan and wants us to think it’s because the Qur’an burning was like the crucifixion to these Muslims. ViolenceA much simpler explanation is that this violence flows out of the Islamic view that they should dominate the world but not be dominated and that they can even use violence to insure that this domination takes place.

The fact is that the reason why these violent acts occur is because of the general violent outlook of the Qur’an toward those who are not Muslims:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book, until they pay the jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Qur’an 9:29)

Qur’an 9:5 tells Muslims, “fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them . . .”

Attempting to understand the actions of Muslims by comparing the burning of the Qur’an to the crucifixion of Jesus is barking up the wrong tree. The root of this violence is the Islamic doctrine of jihad. This is the key to understanding the events that we see around us. Islam is a faith that believes in the political subjugation of all nations to its doctrine and is willing to use physical force to accomplish that end.

Indeed, that is the key. Biblical Christianity, in contrast, is diametrically opposed to both of these tenets. Biblical Christianity, the true religion, does not teach the pursuit of political conquest against unbelievers, and rejects any attempt to spread the Gospel through physical coercion.

Share

Was C.S. Lewis an Anglo-Catholic?

Pastor Wes White has posted an enlightening article by Pastor Brian Carpenter on the general landscape of C.S. Lewis’ theological thinking.

… [I]t is somewhat surprising that Lewis has been received so widely among Evangelical Protestants, for Lewis’ views, especially the views he expressed towards the end of his life, were remarkably congruent with Anglo-Catholicism.

LewisWhat is even more surprising is how many Protestant Evangelicals are unaware of that fact. Mere Christianity, it is true, was written to be “non-partisan” on matters which divided Protestantism from Rome, but that is the only place where he intentionally withheld his own views. In every other place where he thought it relevant, he had no qualms about articulating them.

It is true that he perhaps said some things from time to time which might allude to Protestant views, but it is equally clear that he had rejected Protestantism at least as consistently as he rejected theological liberalism. Though I obviously think there is benefit to be had in reading Lewis, I think the reader must be discerning. For there is little doubt where his sympathies lay on a great many crucial issues, and those positions are not very congenial to historic Protestant views.

The article briefly but helpfully outlines the broader context of Lewis’ religious thinking. Knowing that theological “lay of the land” can help us read Lewis with greater discernment and proper benefit.

Share

Comments on The Psychology of Dominion

A friend of mine pointed out a post by Mr Andrew Kerns entitled The Psychology of Dominion at The Circe Institute blog. After reading the article I was moved to comment in a bit of counterpoint to the general theme of Mr Kern’s article. If I understand him correctly, Mr Kern believes that a part of the problem with “youth culture” today is that we don’t expect teenagers to act like adults, nor to adopt adult responsibilities. The solution he suggests is for parents to get out of the way of their teenager’s appropriate independence. While I might generally agree with Mr Kern’s advice that we not “over-parent” our young adults, it seems to me that he has misconstrued the nature of godly dominion which is ostensibly his primary concern.

Mr Kern begins his post as follows, and my comments are below.

I have a sixteen year old son who does not like being told what to do. He’s actually a very pleasant son, very funny (though overly sarcastic, which he must have got from his mother for I would never be sarcastic myself), amazingly helpful around the house, and an independently home schooled kid this year. I hardly have to involve myself at all.

In fact, when I do involve myself, he can get pretty testy. I, of course, being the father, whoop him good when he doesn’t treat me with reverence, awe, and deference every time I speak to him.

Or not.

I have no desire to provoke my son to anger, and I think one of the best ways to do so is to continue to parent them after they don’t need or want it.

When the God of Genesis made the first man He said: Let them have dominion.

To understand the Judaeo-Christian view of man, one of the first things to remember is that he was created to rule. This is, to misapply Dr. Seuss, a wonderful, awful idea.

I offered the following comments to Mr Kern at his blog as follows.

While I agree with your assessment of the disaster that is “youth culture” I think you may have missed a critical component in the solution. Let me illustrate this from your opening comment regarding the testiness of your son. God requires of your sixteen year old son a due reverence in heart, word, and behaviour toward his parents. As best I can understand, testiness is not a godly response to the involvement of his parent in some matter. As best I understand the fifth commandment, you have a responsibility before God lovingly to shepherd your son in keeping his duty of reverence. Your son has a duty before God lovingly to show reverence to his parents. He learns how to honour and revere other superiors throughout his whole life, in no small part, by how he learns to honour and revere you. Obviously, your shepherding of your sixteen year old son would be both loving and age appropriate: no, you wouldn’t “whoop” him. I understand your use of hyperbole here. But even with that in mind you seem to imply, first, that his testiness is appropriate in light of his dominion impulse and, second, that correcting him would do him a disservice. But even on your own terms, you are to exercise dominion in your home to the blessedness of your son. No, it would not be blessing him if you kept him from growing in his decision making skills, but neither are you blessing him if you leave him to foster a sinful attitude toward your involvement.

My concern is not to major on a minor point of your article, but to point out what seems to be lacking in this talk of dominion. If we wish to foster “godly dominion,” we must first learn godly submission. Indeed, godly submission is always the way of godly dominion. It sounds as though you think that a primary component of godly dominion is independence, or perhaps you mean that this is a key component that is lacking in the upbringing of our children. If I have understood you correctly, I think you have mistaken “independence” for the godly traits of self discipline and personal responsibility. I press this because “dominion” (or sometimes “manliness”) has been used frequently to excuse all sorts of ungodliness in our children (not to mention adults).

Dominion on God’s terms involves dying to self, and thankfully living in obedience to God’s law. No, we mustn’t over-parent. However, godly dominion for a sixteen year old son is learned from the inside out, for example, by being man enough to put to death the natural surliness he might feel when his father offers unwanted instruction, and rather to express such strength of character as to require of himself what God requires, a loving and patient embrace of his father’s instruction. A young man with that kind of mastery over his own soul is being prepared for every form of outward dominion.

Share

Should it be according to thy mind?

James Durham comments on Elihu’s words in Job 34:

Observe from the words (v. 33): Should it be according to thy mind? Folks would [ever] have God guiding the world according to their mind and will. There is not a more unreasonable thing to seek to take the guiding of the world out of God’s hand, and yet this is the ground of our fretting and complaining, and not submitting to God, because we get not our will. Therefore when the heart rises, say to yourselves, Should dispensations come as you would, or as God would? This one word may stop our mouth, whether should God or we have the guiding of matters?

Every complaint against God’s providence amounts to a claim that we are a more fit Sovereign than He, that we know better than He how to rule the world and order all the events of history. The unbeliever, because he lacks the knowledge of God, is moved in his ignorance to arrogance.

O LORD, how great are thy works!
And thy thoughts are very deep.
A brutish man knoweth not;
Neither doth a fool understand this. (Psalm 92.4–6)

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil:
But the fool rageth, and is confident. (Proverbs 14.16)

But the believer yields himself with humility even to the darkest providences of God. As a disciple follows his Master’s example, the believer follows the perfect example of the Lord Christ.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2.8)

Share