Category Archives: Church
An advantage of being in the same church for a long time is that you have an opportunity to see things play out. You can observe parenting and then watch the “parented” children grow up. You can see folks go from young parents to empty nesters. You can see all sorts of people just passing through. In short, you’re around long enough for time to tell its story. And if it told proverbs about Presbyterian church life, they might sound like this.
- One who speaketh in his first Sunday School class will evaporate like the morning dew. It’s uncanny – visitors who enter by sharing their brilliance in their first Sunday School class won’t be around for long. And, really, you don’t want them around for very long.
- Better an early grave than the sneer of an alpha church lady. Thinking of confronting her? Just find something else to do.
- Like an idol under a hammer is family legalism under actual parenting. No kind of schooling or parental style is guaranteed to produce the child of your imagination. A man is arrogant indeed if he is not humbled by parenting. A man is a moralist indeed if he rigidly insists upon all his preconceived family dogmas.
- The fatted calf buys no loyalty. You can go all out for a visitor or new member, but your sacrifice will be forgotten if his whim leads him elsewhere.
- Sin happens. Your church is not immune from the sin virus. There will be ugly things to deal with.
- Your gut speaketh truly but it matters not. Yeah, you might have good hunches about people and situations but that doesn’t make you lord of them; usually all you can do is watch things play out. At least you have a front row seat.
- Does a kangaroo stop hopping? If your new members have been church hoppers, your church is a temporary landing spot. Use pencil when you write their names on the roll.
- The heart knoweth not why it leaves a church. Or at least it isn’t telling. Either they don’t really know or they don’t feel like telling, because departing members say some pretty weak things.
- More welcome is a leper than a former elder. Members who depart (when circumstances don’t demand it) draw devil horns on their former pastor and session. Don’t say “see you later,” just say “goodbye.”
- Better a morsel of faithfulness than a feast of victories. Because you don’t really know what a victory is. Not yet.
- Grace walks softly. Loud and flashy don’t awaken it and they seldom describe it. Mix simple worship, solid preaching and the sacraments – let grace appear in its own time and its own way.
- Catholic converts cleaveth unto the church but Evangelicals are a church unto themselves. Former Catholics respect the church and its government while broad Evangelicals take years to “get it,” if they ever get it at all.
- When a wife ruleth, the family shall go the broad way. More often than not, the passive husband / dominant wife combo lists toward broad evangelicalism.
- A Presbybaptist wedding cake is sweet but a sour stomach followeth. It may not seem like a big deal for a Presbyterian to marry a Baptist but eventually there will be serious conflict that centers on baptism or child rearing.
- There is a man who taketh a vow like he downloads programs. “A vow? Yadda yadda yadda, I do what I want.”
- Whoever speaks of leaving has already left. If a member wants to talk to you about leaving the church it’s not a conversation but an announcement.
- A clearly preached gospel gives more hope than anything else you can say or do.
- There is more growth when roots go deep into the church. Those who have a high view of the institutional church are more prone to listen and learn.
- Those who major in the minors will not be silent. Call them hobby horses, obsessions, or whatever you wish, but people thus imbalanced will leave if they aren’t put in office, allowed to teach, or given some outlet to spread their virus. In this regard the Session is an anti-virus program. (To provide balance to gender statements above, we’re looking at you, patriarchalists.)
- Peace in the sanctuary is peace indeed. If you’re doing preaching, worship, and the sacraments right you should have a healthy measure of contentment and be able to put other problems in perspective.
- Spareth the deacon, sidetrack the preacher. Good deacons are good for everyone, and make it unnecessary to have a Pastor Jack of All Trades.
- An ounce of Presbytery is worth a pound of discipline. This one could be hotly disputed in places, but if you are connected to your Presbytery you can receive some assurances that you and your pastor are not off track. If your Presbytery is not doing well, you need to know that and do your part to improve it. A bunker mentality is just congregationalism.
Of course, some of these could be regional proverbs, or based on a small sample size, but there’s twenty-two. That’s roughly one per year; I’ll have enough to update this list by 2034.
In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth is written by Richard M. Gamble, Hillsdale College professor and Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In the coming weeks we’ll look at some excerpts.
In his second chapter, The Good Land, Gamble takes a close look at Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Charity, the source of the oft-quoted “city on hill” passage. He gives a detailed description of its contents and reviews prior interpretations of Matthew 5:14-15 going back to the fourth century. He looks at correspondence between Winthrop and Lord Saye, who argued against Winthrop for:
“assuming…that there is the like call from God for your going to that part of America and fixing there, that there was for the Israelites going to the land of promise and fixing there.” Continue reading
At Green Baggins, PCA Pastor Lane Keister asks:
what is the linchpin of Romanist claims? Surely, it is the Petrine succession argument for the Popes. Without an ironshod succession from Peter to Benedict XVI, there is no sacramental magisterial authority at all. It does no good at this point to claim that the apostolic succession can be legitimated without the Papal succession, since the Papal succession is what legitimates all the rest of the succession down to the ordination of priests. If the Papal claims are void, then so are the ordinations that come from a false Papacy.
As I write 631 comments follow his question.
Given the historical nature of the Romanist claims, it’s nice to have a historian in the house. In response to the Romanist church history D.G. Hart presents a Protestant view:
From a historical perspective, not to mention the way we understand ourselves, truths don’t simply fall out of the sky, pile up in neatly proportioned columns, steps, and arches, and remain intact for time immemorial.
…The church began among the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem and then spread to the center of the ancient church in Asia Minor and eventually to Europe. The Eastern Church remained relatively strong until the rise of Islam. The Western Church picked up the pieces of the Roman Empire and had fewer threats from Islam. Both of these churches, though different in culture and language, did not formally sever ties until the eleventh century. After 1054 Constantinople went into decline, Rome went the opposite way. The papal reforms of the eleventh century improved the authority of Rome. But even during the heyday of the papacy’s vigor — the high middle ages –Rome hardly controlled what was going on in the British Isles or France. Europe had no trains, not postal service, and little political consolidation. Trying to give coherence to Christianity was an impossible proposition until modernity gave us print, the nation-state, and effective transportation.
…The contention here, then, is that justification came late to debates in the Western Church. Protestants initiated those debates and made proposals. Rome rejected those proposals outright at least at Trent. But prior to Trent Rome had no official position on justification. Protestantism accordingly developed within Roman Catholicism, which developed from relations with churches in the East, which developed from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles in Jerusalem. To say that what we have in Roman Catholicism is what the early church had in the first three centuries is like saying that some angel of God left some gold plates containing the final revelation buried underground somewhere in upstate New York.
For those inclined to “blame” Stellman’s conversion on his Two Kingdom perspective, Hart has discovered a blog entry in which a Roman Catholic credits transformationalists John Frame and Tim Keller for helping him to appreciate images.
Given the most recent Two Kingdom (2K) skirmishes that started over at Green Baggins and then dispersed to other blogs, it’s time to make some observations about the form of those disputes. To do that, we’re going to borrow the legal term “burden of proof.” Burden of proof refers to which side has to do the proving and the level of proof it has to attain. Prosecutors have to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, plaintiff attorneys have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence and there are some proceedings that require “clear and convincing” proof, a level that is less than “beyond a reasonable doubt” but more than “preponderance of the evidence.”
For one reason or another, it seems that the burden of proof always falls heavily on 2K. Most recently 2K’s were basically put in the position of having to answer various allegations put forth by John Frame, but there are other reasons why the burden always seems to be on the 2K’s. Continue reading
According to its advocates, Christian Worldview is a transparent application of basic biblical teaching. For example, consider the basics of creation, fall, and redemption; certainly it’s counter-intuitive to argue they are not biblical teachings that make a difference in our thought life. (In time we can discuss whether they make as much difference as advertised). It would seem that all of worldview could be a footnote to “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It is indeed tempting to think of worldview as an uncontroversial application of Romans 12:2, but that’s only because – please enjoy the irony here – our worldview keeps us from seeing that worldview is more than worldview. If that’s too smart-alecky, here’s another way to say it: evangelical-style worldview is not a clear pair of glasses but, rather, glasses that have a philosophical tint. Continue reading