Category Archives: Spirituality of the Church
Is there an American form of Christianity? Many believers who live in the United States would be content simply to identify themselves as Christians, others as American Christians, and still others would be inclined to say they are Christians in America. But are believers in any of these groups able to identify distinctive traits of American Christianity? Do you know enough of the history of Christianity in this country to recognize how your own expression of Christian faith and practice has been shaped by America in the modern age, for good or ill?
None of us are simply “biblical Christians” but have a history that has shaped us in one way or another. Reformed Christians have a rich heritage going back to the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Europe, but they also have a peculiar history in the United States. Join us for this free two day conference which will explore some of the major outlines of the history of Reformed & Presbyterian Christianity in the United States.
Friday, November 1
Session 1 at 7:00pm
Alan Strange: “The Tumultuous Beginnings of American Presbyterianism.” The beginnings of American Presbyterianism, with a focus on the First Great Awakening and the Old Side/New Side controversy. We’ll also briefly reflect on the Reformed in America and the phenomenon of “becoming American.”
Session 2 at 8:15pm
Darryl Hart: “The Challenge of Americanism.” The talk will cover the problems posed by new ways of recruiting and sustaining Christians (through the Second Great Awakening). It will cover Reformed responses to the predicament from German Reformed, Dutch Reformed, and Presbyterians.
Session 3 at 9:30am
Alan Strange: “Politics and the Pulpit.” Charles Hodge developed his doctrine of the spirituality of the church in a subtle and nuanced fashion that permitted him to distinguish the church from the state and its political concerns while allowing the church to retain a prophetic voice to society. We’ll examine Old School Presbyterianism with respect to the spirituality of the church and the place of the doctrine among the Reformed.
Session 4 at 10:45
Darryl Hart: “Kuyper & Machen–Models of Reformed Witness.” This talk will examine the differences between Machen and Kuyper’s attempts to recover a consistent Reformed witness, especially those that stem from the differences between church life in the United States and Netherlands.
Lunch 12:00pm ($5.00 Fee for all participating)
Session 5 at 1:00pm
Alan Strange: “Unity without Union — Beyond Acronyms.” The CRC recognized and congratulated the OPC on its formation and the OPC did the same with the URC on its formation. We’ll look at OPC/CRC union talks, the formation of the URC and OPC/URC relations.
Session 6 at 2:15pm
Darryl Hart: “Anti-Modernism.” This presentation will examine the efforts of conservative Presbyterians in the United States and Reformed Protestants in the Netherlands to combat theological liberalism and indifference in the dominant churches. It will also discuss the need for secession or separation when those efforts were no longer viable.
Session 7 at 3:30
Q&A with speakers
Reformed in America” will take place at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church (3615 University Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa). This conference is hosted by Providence Reformed Church and Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, which are both congregations in Des Moines.
Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church (OPC): http://www.GraceReformed.org
Providence Reformed Church (URCNA): http://www.ProvidenceRC.org
Please RSVP to: ReformedInAmericaDM2013@gmail.com
Law schools don’t just expose their students to a plethora of laws to commit to memory. What they actually do is alter the thought processes of their students. Spouses of law school students are the first to see this as the law student discovers a greater ability to win marital arguments while also learning the thrill of victory can sometimes be a cold comfort.
Anyway, lawyers think in a certain way and that way of thinking can be generalized into a series of inquiries. What is the law or issue? Given the law or issue, what are the important facts? What are the best arguments, both pro and con? And so forth.
All of which is to suggest a certain approach to analyzing issues in the church. Church matters can’t be reduced to legal analysis, but there are questions involving matters like jurisdiction, the law (moral), and procedures (fair) that are familiar territory to the lawyer. There’s enough in common that it can be a profitable exercise to do church-court hypothetical scenarios to analyze issues Christians confront.
And, yes, I have a hypothetical in mind. It’s an issue that’s been bouncing in the blogosphere, and it could be an illuminating one. But before we get to that difficult hypothetical, let’s do an easier one. We’ll start with a factual situation and then apply the scriptures and standards to it.
1. Specification. On October 7, 2012, Pastor Smith preached that the members of his congregation should vote Mitt Romney for President.
There’s an experience common to all sports-television-watching American males. The game comes to a break and a commercial begins. Your face is still pointed at the screen but your mind has gone elsewhere. Through the portals of your eyes come images: a fast car, a sleek woman, and a confident smile. If you were asked one minute later what was being advertised, you wouldn’t be able to answer. But later, for reasons unknown to you, there you are buying a new aftershave or razor or brand of beer – and feeling good about it – along with a subliminal expectation that the fast car, sleek woman, and confident smile will be forthcoming. That’s the theory anyway, as advertisers strive to associate images and emotions with their product.
But it’s not only commercials that use this technique. A similar thing can be happening in any given speech or essay. Or it might be happening in a blog associated with Reformed Theological Seminary.
We really need a church historian – Darryl Hart where are you in our time of need? – to do a history of Protestantism in Iowa. We need explanations. The latest explanation we need is what makes Iowa fertile not only for corn and soybeans but also for active pastors running for civil office. Up in northwest Iowa, Pastor Josh Davenport of Victory Baptist Church is running for State Representative. Closer to home, yea, even in my own voting district, Pastor Jeff Mullen of Point of Grace Church wants to be a State Senator. Continue reading
In the category of “see, we don’t make up this stuff” comes a two-part series (Part I, Part II) on the Church from the Iowa-flavored Politico-Evangelical blog of radio personality Steve Deace. One of the advantages of his blog is that you pretty much get a grass-roots view not prettified by pretensions or correctness. In this series called What is the Church For?, the author quickly shows where it is headed:
many churches are overlooking important truth necessary for living in our modern culture. I think there are two types of issues churches needs to equip people for. The first are individual issues that all people from all cultures from all time periods face, like pride, lust, greed, idolatry, etc. Then there are issues that entire cultures struggle with as immorality always finds its way in.
In other words, the purpose of the Church is to be a leader in the culture wars, and leading it with the weapons of moralism, worldview, and right-wing politics. Continue reading
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
In an uphill battle against a President associated with The Persian Gulf War, Clinton campaign strategist James Carville didn’t want the campaign to be about foreign policy. He wanted to take the campaign to a different venue and on a different theme. Needless to say, he wanted it to be a winning theme. His strategy, which was famously summarized as “it’s the economy, stupid” was the right move at the right time and Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992.
If the current two kingdom discussion can be likened to two political campaigns, it’s the anti-2k group that has the superior rhetoric. While two kingdom advocates have yet to even come up with a clever name for anti-2ks, the anti-2ks have never met a 2k who isn’t a r(adical)2k. Continue reading
Conservatives have long complained about a liberal media bias and their point is probably well taken. That’s why I was surprised that a particular story didn’t pop up in my (non-exhaustive) search for articles on the November 19 “family discussion with the Republican presidential candidates” in Des Moines. Certainly there were plenty of stories, and one would think that someone somewhere would see the elephant in the room. But, since this was, after all, the GOP, maybe they mistook one elephant for another.
Let’s not talk about who was at the forum. Let’s not talk about Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry or Santorum. Instead, let’s talk about who wasn’t there: John Huntsman and Mitt Romney. If you’ve been following the debates you might be scratching your head over why Huntsman continues to get a microphone, but you would have noticed he’s consistently in attendance. You might also know that Mitt Romney tends to be near the top in polling. Yet they were both absent from a forum in the first primary (actually, caucus) state, and this was late November. Normally that would be strange behavior for anyone wanting to be President. How do we explain their absence?
Think of the setting in an evangelical church. Continue reading
We silence the pastors because of a law that Lyndon Johnson put into effect in the 1950s – because he didn’t want them to say something against him. What I would do is back the repeal of that law so that we could exercise First Amendment rights everywhere including in this church and every pulpit.
Apparently this wasn’t a spontaneous declaration. In 2006 a Minnesota pastor came under the scrutiny of the IRS for allowing Ms. Bachmann to do a speech in his church. Then there have been occasions when Ms. Bachmann has spoken to a Bible Church, an Assembly of God congregation, a Lutheran church and a non-denominational evangelical church – all in Iowa – on Sunday mornings while campaigning for President. Continue reading