Friday, May 30, 2008

THE LORD'S SUPPER: HOW OFTEN?

Since the Lord's Table, or Eucharist, is a means of grace, and since we receive the true body and blood of Christ spiritually (see Calvin on this in his Institutes), I am surprised, even stunned, as to why most Reformed churches have the sacrament monthly.

I am not so surprised that the Zwinglians have it monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or yearly. (Why not once a lifetime?) But nature determines frequency. I am even more stunned at those Reformed churches who agree with Calvin's view that the Eucharist is a real means of grace and that we receive the true body and blood of Christ spiritually, but yet they have it monthly. I have even heard some try to justify this by saying "since it's such a deep means of grace we shouldn't do it often." Again, this too is stunning to me.

We cannot argue against the established fact that the early church celebrated the sacrament weekly. Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 11 all indicate that the early church gathered for the purpose of enjoying the sacrament. The Reformers saw Word and Sacrament as interconnected. They saw the Sacrament as bare without the Word; and they saw the Word as bare without the sacrament. They saw the Sacrament as the visible Word of God. They saw it as the seal of the preached Word.

However, I agree that, just because the early church did something one way, it does not mean we have to do so. (We aren't necessarily supposed to greet one another with a holy kiss or have a community of goods today.)

But, having said that, since the Table is a means of grace, and since we receive the natural body and blood spiritually (as the Three Forms of Unity state), then why would someone not want the Body and Blood weekly?

The Church is the nurturing Mother of salvation. When we understand that she is the home and oasis of weak and weary pilgrims, weekly Lord's Table is a must.

It seems to me that churches that administer the sacrament less than weekly still indeed are like the nurturing mother of salvation, but is like a mother that gives her baby formula instead of breast milk. To her credit, she wants to take care of her baby, so she feeds the baby formula. But, she does not recognize the wonderful and sweet benefits of giving her baby breast milk.

It is no wonder Luther retained weekly Eucharist. I love Luther's emphasis on Law/Gospel. I love his emphasis on the theology of the cross, and that the Church is the home of weak and weary pilgrims. Is it any wonder, then, that Lutherans today have weekly Lord's Supper across the board? They correctly see the sacrament as a strengthening means of grace, as a gift from God to us. It is truly given for us.

We Reformed should learn from our Lutheran brothers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A FORMER KUYPERIAN TESTIMONY

I wrote this to a friend:
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As far as transforming the culture, I agree with what you said: gospel first. However, I think Kuyper's emphasis on transforming the culture very quickly can turn into a kind of Pharisaism. I am a testimony to this fact. And I think many evangelicals and Reformed folks are as well.

On the surface, Kuyper's idea of "there is not one single square inch of creation where the Lord Jesus does not say 'it is Mine'" sounds good. But the way it comes off I think is incorrect. It sees the natural order or the civil kingdom as essentially redemptive, instead of ruled by common grace/natural law. Natural law is quite akin to the covenant of works, so I think it is no surprise that many who deny the two kingdoms view end up with a social gospel and a kind of moralism. They conflate the covenants of works and grace, and they conflate justification by faith alone with justification by faithfulNESS alone.

I am truly beaten down by the Law. Indeed, we are told to strive, but this is the standard. The Law is a guide for sanctification, but only a guide. Only the gospel can truly sanctify. The Law will only rouse sin.

I found myself confessing sins to God and to Angela only so I could feel better about myself, and not because "against You and You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight." It was not a true love of neighbor, and it was not a true love of God. I was a Pharisee (and of course we all are in many ways).

I think the normal Christian life is one that keeps our sinfulness always at the forefront. The normal Christian life is Romans 7. Paul calls it the law of sin, and he says that when he wants to do good, evil is right there with him. A law is a norm. In Romans 8, he discusses our sufferings with Christ, which in context are our struggles with sin. And he dares to say that if you struggle with sin, ***that's because you are saved!*** Hallelujah!

This glorious gospel is foolishness to the world. You mean we are completely passive in our justification? You mean we do nothing? It is sovereign, free grace? Free? Amen! Yes, and Amen!

Kuyperianism, I think, is dangerous because it leads to a works-righteousness and does not see just how sinful we really are.

I am worn out by the Law. Give me the gospel! Give me more of Christ!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

TRANSFORM THE CULTURE???

The following is something I wrote to a friend of mine which gives a brief sketch as to why I am disallusioned with Kuyper's "transform the culture" approach. (I think even Kuyper recognized the error in this approach before he died.)
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I am disallusioned with "transform the culture" b/c I think it has led to numerous errors; although one cannot say "such-and-such leads to such-and-such," I have seen some of my friends who dabbled in theonomy end up in the Federal Vision camp; I have seen some of them embrace Eastern Orthodoxy; one of them has embraced Anglicanism and last I heard he was dabbling in Eastern Orthodoxy; I have gone to some of these guys' conferences and came away under the impression that all that was taking place was the social gospel, and I could go on.

To bring it to the point, the "transform the culture" approach seems to me to never deal with the heart. So we strive to make Christ Lord over every area of life and thought--but do we bind the consciences of unbelievers when we tell them to do this? God is interested in conquering people's hearts, not just their heads. If, by implementing biblical law, or whatever, someone changes a pagan homosexual to a pagan heterosexual, that may be good for society, but all we've done is just created another Pharisee. He may be hetero now, but he's still an unbeliever.

I've seen the "church" talk about outreach by building houses for orphans in Mexico; but that's all they did--they never preached them the gospel or anything. Now we have some comfortable, unbelieving orphans.

What is the greatest problem people have? It is that their hearts need to be changed. I think that the church today is not doing its job of being the church.What is the job of the church? To be the home of weary Christian pilgrims, and to strengthen them and protect them through Word, Sacrament, and prayer and preaching. The Church is like a nurturing mother, or should be. When we go to church, we should come away feeling refreshed, and not come away learning who to vote for or how to come down on the next moral issue in politics. The Church is other-worldly, not this-worldly.

It seems to me that, when one takes a "transform the culture" type approach, it will always inevitably lead to a kind of moralism. I don't think it's a surprise at all that evangelicalism is moralistic to the core. It's rare to find the gospel preached in evangelicalism. Most of the time it becomes a list of do's and don'ts that Scripture never prescribes. It becomes man-made rules.

Likewise, I don't think it's a coincidence that the Reformed folks who have dabbled in theonomy and Kuyperianism started getting away from the simplicity of the gospel and started getting into the social gospel. For example, I was at a conference a couple of years ago at one of Bahnsen's flagships. In this conference, it talked about showing movies from a Christian perspective to "take back the culture." It showed a brief clip of a movie by Tony Campolo (yes, Tonly Campolo of all people) in which the plot was that a young Christian threw a birthday party for a prostitute. Then they prayed for her at the end. After the movie, the audience and speakers discussed the movie and they called what the young man did for the prostitute "the gospel." They said he was practicing "the gospel"! One of my friends raised his hand and challenged this and he got his head chewed off. Afterwards, I came away from that conference feeling like I had just attended an evangelical (not a Reformed) conference. Furthermore, my friend's wife made an excellent point. If what that Christian young man did was "the gospel", how is that not any different than Angelina Jolee and Brad Pitt adopting orphans? Are Jolee and Pitt practicing "the gospel"?? Well, they may be practicing the social gospel, but not the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That, in a nutshell, is why I am so disallusioned with Kuyperianism. It is not the Church's job to transform the culture. Furthermore, this seems to have a low view of common grace. In fact, R.J. Rushdoony said that common grace needed to be abandoned as a "bastard system." I don't think that's a coincidence either. His "transform the culture by biblical law" approach made him a moralist. He had no appreciation for common grace.

In the real world, we live with unbelievers all around us. This is why I appreciate the two kingdoms approach (although I'm still studying it), which says that God rules the kingdom of the left hand, or the civil kingdom, through natural law, and He rules the kingdom of the right hand, or the Church, through Word, Sacrament, and discipline. I find this approach to be Scriptural for numerous reasons, at least prima facie. I plan on doing a post or posts on this in the future.

Sorry to ramble on, but that is a sketch of where I am.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PRAY FOR STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN

Please pray for CCM singer Steven Curtis Chapman. I just found out that his 5-year-old adopted daughter from China, named Maria, was struck by a motor vehicle. One of Chapman's sons was the driver. It happened in their driveway, and some of the family even saw the accident.

I can't imagine what it would be like to witness my own daughter getting run over by my own son. I also can't imagine what it would be like to live my life knowing that, even though it was an accident, I was the one responsible for a family member's death.

This hits home for me. Steven Curtis Chapman, although more evangelical than my taste would like, was very influential during my evangelical years. We would listen to his music on mission trips and in youth group.

It must be a terrible time for the Chapman's right now. Please lift them up in your prayers. Pray that they would rest in the comfort of Christ and in knowing that God ordained this for their good, and that they would know that their Heavenly Father loves them and cares for them.

Heavenly Father, Triune God, Majestic King of the Universe, I lift up the Chapman family to You right now. O Lord, truly You are the Sovereign Lord, the One Who ordains all things. In Your wise providence, O God, You have ordained this terrible event to happen. But we know O Lord that all things work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose. I pray, gracious Lord, that You would keep the Chapman family during this time. I pray that they would grow much closer to You in Your grace, that they would know that You love them, and that You care for them. Please be their very present help in this, their time of need; please be their comfort and their joy. Please cause them to see the beauty of Christ, Who is familiar with all their sufferings. May they grow in understanding the deep, deep love of Jesus. Surround them with Your love O God, so they would know how much they are kept by the power of Your grace. Preserve them, O Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Great and Undivided Trinity, I lift this prayer to You. Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2008

EATING CROW AGAIN: A THEOLOGICAL MAKEOVER

Hello readers. As many of you know, very recently we have had to "eat crow" and admit we were (we think) wrong on the doctrine of baptism. We embraced covenantal infant baptism, and of course it has been very practical for us.

But the Lord has a sense of humor. Lately, I have had to rethink a lot of where I have been on Reformed issues. By God's grace, He will keep me in the Reformed faith. However, lately I have had a kind of makeover of my Reformed theology.

Not the least of which below is what I have had to take a look at (again) and restudy all over again:

*The covenant of grace. I am not so sure the John Murray view is in line with Scripture; although Murray was a wonderful man of God, and he did uphold the imputation of active obedience, his denial of the covenant of works opened the doorway to the Federal Vision heresies. I am looking into a Meredith Kline approach.

*Two Kingdoms and Natural Law. The above has also paved way for me to become disallusioned with a Kuyperian "transform the culture" type approach which is so prevalent in Reformed thought. I am considering two kingdoms and natural law as I rethink my ethic.

*Is Postmillennialism True? The above had me relook as well at my eschatology and reconsider whether postmil is true or not. I think I had been interpreting various prophecies in a wooden-literal fashion, almost like dispensationalism. This caused me (along with my disallusionment of "transform the culture") to reconsider amillennialism.

*The Regulative Principle. I just ordered R.C. Sproul's book on worship, as well as D.G. Hart's. Where do we find the idea of the RPW in the NT? It seems to me that we find descriptive aspects of the church, but not prescriptive. More on this later.

*Liturgy. I am reading D.G. Hart's book Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Liturgy in Reformed Worship and I find it very beneficial. Many consider liturgy "dead orthodoxy," but is it really that? More on this later as well.

I have to go now, but I just wanted to ask you readers to pray for our spiritual journeys. Most of all, may Christ be exalted in all our studies.