Saturday, January 23, 2010

Remembering Egypt

I've been interacting with my dear friend and sister in Christ, Viola Larson, at her blog. She broke the heart-wrenching news that heresiarch John Shuck has been named interim campus minister at ETSU's Presbyterian Student Fellowship (PSF).

It breaks my heart with the irony. PSF was an outgrowth of the college ministry that First Presbyterian Church undertook to college students way back when my mom was on campus (and it was called ETSC)! When I went to ETSU, I didn't even know that my parents had been Presbyterians! (Dad wanted to go to the Methodist church of his boyhood, and that's what was happening by the time I came on the scene.)

Later, it was at PSF that my sense of Christian community had been restored. (After wandering in the wilderness, I was trying to have a go at "lone ranger" self-styled Christianity - which was a mess!) There, I experienced a call to gospel ministry. There, I participated in faith-community leadership. There, I met my wife and made friends. There, I learned and taught the faith found in the Scriptures and articulated in the Creeds and Catechisms and Confessions of the Reformed Churches.

The irony comes because it was my presbytery's impotence (juridically and personally with the elders) to act when faced with someone who is undeniably a heretic in the ministerial office that drove me out of the PCUSA. At that moment, I recognized that my presbytery was not a true local expression of the Christian Church - even if there were true individual churches within it. (Ordination is granted by the presbytery, and ministers are members of the presbytery - not an individual church.) That left me with two options: moving to another presbytery for relief of conscience, or leaving the PCUSA for a true Church. I opted for the latter, as there are virtually no presbyteries that take an interest in doctrinal rigor (even the so-called conservative ones, who year after year feign ignorance or disinterest in what happens around them).

I'm glad to be out of Egypt, though her fleshpots are still remembered. I'm also glad that there are still people like Viola, Toby, Dave, and many others who soldier on in enemy territory. God speed to them. We are united by something far deeper than a denomination or distinctive. We share the faith once delivered in the Scriptures and expressed in the catholic creeds and definitions.

And that makes all the difference in this world, and the next.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

461 Years of Biblical Beautiful Worship

What Began in 1549 with an Act Of Parliament Endures Today!

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s words of worship (and Merbecke’s chant settings of those words) will resonate Sunday in Anglican churches that value scripture and tradition — and are reasonable enough to practice “inclusion” regarding conservative Anglicans. “Conservative” in this sense means “conserving and practicing that which is good.”

Cranmer’s Prayer Book was proclaimed the official liturgy of England by Parliament on January 21, 1549. The Act of Uniformity (text here), as the measure was called, addressed “The Book of the Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church after the use of the Church of England.”
Several minor changes have been made over the centuries, but the towering language — great language for great things — and, more important, the core faith expressed by that language, remain the same in the 1928 BCP. This magnificent book is the keystone of our faith today in the Anglican Church as well as other churches that have adopted it or portions of it (normally through the 1662 version in legal at the time of the great missionary movement during the 18 & 19th centuries). Moreover, the classic Prayer Book is treasured as a jewel in the crown of the entire Western Canon by readers and scholars who appreciate the English language.
It wasn’t until 1979 that the first major revisions appeared in the language and, consequently, in the meaning of the religion itself, chiefly in the secular “Baptismal Covenant.” This sociopolitical phrase is regarded by many revisionists, according to their own words, as the most important declaration in the liturgy. Another revision is a slight manipulation of language in the Creeds that denies the divine nature of Christ. If you haven’t noticed this sly edit hidden in plain sight, read it carefully and you’ll see.

No small changes, these, and vexatious to the vast majority of Episcopalians, who will be happy to learn that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the 1662 & 1928 BCP have been greatly exaggerated by liberal bishops and clergy. Although the 1979 book was adopted by General Convention as the official liturgy — and, as we learned at last summer’s General Convention, is now considered in revisionist circles terribly old-hat – the 1928 BCP is still in use throughout the Church wherever Episcopalians discern the difference. How quickly the 1979 went out of fashion! Yet the classic, scripture-based 1662 & 1928 BCP endures.

If you are clergy, consider observing this pivotal day in Church history by conducting services this Sunday and next from the 1662 or 1928 BCP. You’ll leave church refreshed, renewed, and ready to take on whatever the coming week has in store.

Cranmer Lives
Cranmer Lives.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Look MA, no Dems!

It's probably the best thing that could happen to the Dems. Now they can bail on this Obamacare disaster, blame it on the Republicans, and get on track with addressing the problems we face while redirecting the ire of their extremist constituents back on the conservatives.

Japheth lineal proof?

An interesting study in the Daily Mail reports how Britons (and most Europeans) are descended from a group of migrating farmers out of the area now known as Syria / Iraq. I don't want to branch off into British Israelism or other nonsense, but this is a compelling vindication of Genesis 10 and the table of nations. Ancient Irish genealogies traced themselves back to Gomer (who also was the founder of the germanic peoples).

Japheth is traditionally seen as the ancestor of Europeans, as well as some more eastern nations; thus Japhetic has been used as a synonym for Caucasians. Caucasian itself derives in part from the assumption that the tribe of Japheth developed its distinctive philogenic characteristics in the Caucasus, where Mount Ararat is located. The term Japhetic was also applied by the early linguists (brothers Grimm, William Jones, Rasmus C. Rask and others) to what later became known as the Indo-European language group, on the assumption that, if descended from Japheth, the principal languages of Europe would have a common origin, which apart from Finno-Ugric, Kartvelian, Pontic, Nakh, Dagestan, and Basque, appears to be the case.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Upon this Rock

Petros, Peter, which means “rock” made a rock-solid confession, when asked by Christ whom men say that he is, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” This is divine revelation, not given to us by flesh and blood, but by God the Holy Spirit.

And our Lord said to Peter, “Upon this rock [petra], I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” [Matt. 16]. But shortly thereafter Christ was rebuking the rock-man when he wanted to resist, with all good intentions, the very rock upon which the church is built: Christ and Him crucified!

It is an interesting paradox here portrayed for us in Matt. 16, a very wholesome and worthy lesson for us all. The rock of offense, is the rock upon which the church is built: a bloody, suffering and dying Jesus, scorned and rejected, cross and suffering, not some glorious triumph, at least not in the eyes of the world. Through the deepest and lowliest and most disdainful shame and suffering is how our Lord builds His church.

And He uses weak, human vessels, like St. Peter, and the words of His confession. He used a man who would betray him in public, and denounce him through cussing like a sailor! And yet that man's mouth, through preaching, would later open the kingdom to the Gentiles.

Upon the preaching of the confession of Peter, our Lord continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth, and He promises, to the very end, to keep it with Jesus Christ, our head and master, in the one true faith.

Praise God for the confession of St. Peter! Glory to Christ for the rock upon which the church is built and for the “rock-men” and “rock-women” who proclaim and share and teach and spread the Word abroad into all the world, in all the wonderful and various vocations given among us! Praise be to God for the confession of St. Peter, the confession of the church throughout all the world.

The readings appointed for today are:
First lesson: Acts 4:8-13
Psalm: Psalm 23
Epistle: 1 Pet. 5:1-4
Gospel: Mark 8:27-9:1

Let us pray:

Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

For a Roman perspective, look here.

For an evangelical's perspective, see here (or this online master's thesis which provides patristic as well as exegetical support).