29 May 2005

pentecost 2

God of the nations
you have revealed your will to all people
and promised us your saving help.
Grant us your grace,
both to hear and to do what you command,
that darkness may be overcome
by the power of your light,
through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

28 May 2005

no shadow of turning 11

The compassion of God, of course, is most gloriously revealed in the cross of Christ, where God the Son suffers in human flesh in order that we who suffer might be redeemed. But even here, with regard to the incarnate Son in his humanity, we cannot speak of a pure passivity. Jesus says of the sufferings of the cross, “I give my life and I will take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I give it of myself” (John 10:18). Or as Augustine says regarding the Incarnate Word, “with him, weakness is willed on the basis of power.” And as we heard in the first lecture, it is in the service of the cross that the sovereign power of God comes to fullest expression.

This paradox of Jesus Christ’s fully active and willed passion and suffering most radically and mysteriously reveals God to us. With regard to this revelation of God in the suffering of Christ, however, two claims must be made and two errors avoided.

The first claim is that the sufferings of Jesus are the sufferings of God the Son and thereby not confined to his human nature while his divine nature remains dispassionately aloof. While there is no confusion between Christ’s divine and human natures, there also is no division since there remains a single divine subject of those natures in the Person of the eternal Son. It is the Person of Christ who undergoes the cross and not merely a “nature” and, since that Person is God the Son, the cross reveals him to us. Thus St. Paul tells us, it is “because [Christ] was in his very nature God that he did consider equality with God something to be seized, but made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant…and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). The sufferings of Jesus on the cross on our behalf are expressive of the very nature of who Jesus Christ is as God the Son.

The second claim is that the eternally begotten Son of God, incarnate in human flesh, is the perfect expression and image of the Father. “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus states (John 14:9) and we cannot exclude this revelation of the Father from the sufferings of the cross, as if the Father were only revealed in Jesus’ words and miracles. On the contrary, the cross itself above all tells us something of the eternal nature of God as he exists in himself as the God of all compassion.
But there are also two errors that we must avoid in making these sorts of claims.

The first error would be to identify the sufferings of Christ according to the flesh with the experience of Christ in his divinity, treating the two as univocal. The communication of attributes (communicatio idiomatum) between Christ in his humanity and in his divinity is not an identity that collapses Christ’s humanity into his divinity. If this were the case, then the sufferings of the cross would impinge upon the transcendence of God, making the cross somehow a necessary moment in God’s actualization of himself or suggesting that God himself stood in need of redemption.

The second error would be to deny any kind of correspondence between the sufferings of Christ in his humanity and the experience of Christ in his divinity, treating the two as entirely equivocal. This would be to separate and divide Christ’s humanity and divinity and obscure that humanity as the fullness of God’s own definitive self-disclosure. If this were the case, then the sufferings of the cross would remain wholly external to the life of God, making it difficult to understand why it was necessary that God should become incarnate to suffer in human flesh for the redemption of humanity or why he was truly moved to do so by his divine compassion.

slacking

Hmm. I realized this morning that I haven't blogged anything in nearly a week. That's mostly because we've been pretty busy, though in a relaxing, fun sorta way.

Among other things, Berek Smith came to visit us a week ago and doesn't leave until Tuesday. Last Saturday we went with him to a festival at Philly's Italian market on south 9th Street. Then Berek watched our pets and met up with some friends while Laurel and I went away for some "couple time" together (I'll post pics of our trip later), leaving Claire with her grandparents.

Thursday was Westminster Seminary's graduation, which always is prefaced with morning seminars at the seminary, this year given by Os Guinness and Bill Edgar. I was able to finally meet fellow-bloggers Mark and Karyn Traphagen at the seminar. Yesterday we all went for a long walk and otherwise kept busy.

Today we're headed off to the Philly zoo, but perhaps I'll be able to blog something more substantive later today.

22 May 2005

trinity sunday

Almighty and eternal God,
through your Word and Spirit
you created all things.
In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh,
you reveal your salvation
in all the world.
Through your Holy Spirit,
you give us a share
in your life and love.
Keep us firm in this faiht,
and fill us with the vision of your glory,
that we may serve and praise you all our day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

20 May 2005

bryan chappell on the new perspectives

Dr. Bryan Chappell, President of Covenant Theological Seminary, the PCA's denominational seminary, weighs in with some helpful, judicious, and humble reflections on matters of recent theological discussion within the confessional Reformed community: "An Explanation of the New Perspective on Paul."

18 May 2005

davenant on dissension

While still the Lady Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge, John Davenant (1572-1641) was called upon by James I to serve as a member of the English delegation to the Synod of Dort, along with Bishop Carleton, Joseph Hall, and Samuel Ward. Davenant's role in the Synod is a matter of continuing scholarly discussion, but all are agreed that his moderate Calvinism, both biblically rooted and historically-informed, played an indispensible role in bringing unity and clarity to the proceedings of Dort.

Davenant later went on to become Bishop of Salisbury and during his tenure worked tirelessly, along with Ward, Hall, Thomas Morton, John Dury, and others, in an attempt to bring unity and accord amongst all the Reformed churches of Europe. In these efforts he had numerous correspondents and collaborators ranging from Pierre du Moulin among the French to Johann Heinrich Alsted among the Hungarians.

Davenant's most extensive written contribution to that project was published in 1640 in Latin under the title Ad fraternam communionem inter evangelicas ecclesias restaurandam adhortatio, which appeared a year later in English as An Exhortation to Brotherly Communion betwixt the Protestant Churches.

The following is an extended series of quotations from the opening chapter of that exhortation, using the Latin to correct and update the 1641 English version.




In truth, regarding the dissensions between various churches we can say the same as Cicero the Orator once said of the disagreements between famous men: that they typically end either with everyone destroyed or the winners lording it over the losers to the latter's injury. Now, while one would hope that no dissension among the Reformed churches would affect a soul or lead to the absolute rule of some over the rest, nevertheless, such things are to be feared, at least given these daily and deadly contentions that hasten our own overthrow (God forbid!). This situation is one that the godly regret and, in light of the miseries fallen on some, can surmise the danger hanging over us all--unless, of course, having learned a lesson from these calamities, we at least begin to be wise and heartily study the advancing of peace.

When this strife among brothers becomes heated, we afford our enemies continual occasion for rejoicing and insulting all the churches and not only do we give occasion for rejoicing and insulting, but we also arm our enemies with infinite opportunities to hurt and oppress us.

Nor do we handle the matter well with regard to our own people, allowing even the unlearned to be distracted with these endless controversies, which probably even the learned will never be able to settle. If scholars were only to dispute amongst other scholars, then the danger would be less. But instead, it's obvious that Christians of all sorts and sides are summoned to the fight, so that as soon as their minds become entangled in these needless controversies, they are led away from the most important duties of charity and new obedience.

...Those who, due to recent controversies, separate themselves from other Reformed churches, scarcely seem to acknowledge that the Gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, instead acting as if there were no hope of salvation for those Christians who have not attained an exact knowledge of these points of controversy.

For my part, I don't see any great difference between those who place unwritten traditions alongside the holy Scriptures and those who enforce their controversies on all churches as something to be known and believed with the same necessity for salvation as the solid and obvious teaching of the Gospel...If divines could calmly debate these disputes with brotherly minds, some good (or, at least, less evil) would come to the church. But we seem scarcely able to do that (if at all) judging from the experience of these many years, and so it would be better if these disputes were buried in slience, if the only alternative is to tear and mangle so many churches into pieces.

Now that our eyes can so obviously see these and even worse grievances arising from the discord of the Reformed, let us begin to inquire what might cause these bitter and hurtful strifes between learned, wise, and godly men, what has led to their daily increase, and what has persuaded them to pass these controversies on to their posterity.

The nature of supernatural knowledge and heavenly things gives the cause - or rather, occasion - for these disputes. It is easy for minds that are enlightened and sanctified to embrace with "the obedience of faith" everything necessary to know for salvation, which is plainly given to us in the holy Scriptures concerning God and Christ, as well as everything thing else we should believe and practice. But our difficulties and danger, as well as the occasion for our disputes, is a matter of the desiring to dive deeper into the mysteries of faith than is fitting and to draw consequences using our reason so that we then annex them to the fundamental Articles of faith.

After all, it cannot help but be the case that the wits of men must often differ and sometimes err in those things that are brought together by means of human understanding. Meanwhile, everyone likes to dote on the darling offspring of his own brain as beautiful and entitled to be born of the very womb of Scripture, thereby he goes on to hate the reasoning and inferences of others, seeing them as deformed and springing up from the puddles of corrupted reason. Thus, people want to find in the very mystery of the Faith more than is clearly shown in the glass of God's Word and so, instead of the light of their knowledge being increased, they increase the heat of their dissensions.

It would be like applying a plaster to the sore if the theologians on both sides would remember that, although all the Articles of the catholic Faith are plain and perspicuous (as if they were written in God's Word with capital letters so that someone running by might read them), yet those things we go on to further extract by the chemistry of human understanding are diverse and of different kinds, most of them so obscure that they escape the eyes of the most sharp-sighted theologians. We must therefore confidently lean with all our weight on what the Scriptures have decided, but not lay so much stress upon the consequences of our own deductions...

In order, therefore, discord may be avoided, everyone should always remember the Apostle's admonition, "Not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think, but to think soberly" (Romans 12:3). And to this we should add: quietly bear with those who have an opinion that is different from ours, praying daily to God that he would be pleased to reveal his truth to us, which is not yet fully known. But in the meantime, "let us live up to what we have already attained" (Philippians 3:16) and think well of others. That such counsel is true and profitable, no one can deny. Why then are these controversies, nonetheless, daily increased? Why do these wounds grow more and more raw and bleed afresh?

If one may speak the plain truth, there is in every human heart an inordinate love of self and our own inventions and pleasing concepts, and this fault causes us to be blind to the falsehood of opinions once we have entertained them and to not admit the truth that is shown to us by others. "For judgment perishes when the matter is passed into the affections and we desire that our opinion would prevail, whatever it may be, simply because its ours" (Augustine, "Contra Julianum"). Wherever this selfishness rules, theologians (no matter what they pretend) will study more to tune the Scriptures to their own opinion, that their opinion to the Scripturea, and thus drag the fundamental Articles of the Christian Faith by head and shoulders to the support of their own teaching, which is not fundamental.

If anyone could find a cure for this epidemic, we would immediately see many controversies and contentions (at least the bitter and hostile ones) pacified and put to rest. But (and this is to be bemoaned) those divines who are too much drawn away by selfishness are, by the breath of popular applause and desire for an ego-boost, driven further than they themselves at first intended or even thought possible. For those who are beset by this evil, they will cause trouble in everything, human and divine, rather than ever confess that they've been misled or are weary of the fight or have been refuted by their adversaries.

I'm not ignorant that everyone pretends to desire the truth and God's glory, but the fact is, that too many continue these contentions for the love of their own egos, and I cannot deny this and still speak the truth. Surely, it is unbelievable to think that those who know how these dissensions between Protestants damage nations, churches and people's souls (bought with Christ's blood), can in the midst of these contentions simply have their eyes fastened on the "glory of God"! Wherefore, let the hot disputants on either side examine their own consciences, whether they perpetuate this controversy and discord among the churches in order that God may lose no honor or whether they might not simply want a fitting and lasting enlargement of their own egos.




A good and godly exhortation for all of us.

sounds interesting

Coming up today on NPR's Fresh Air:

"May 18 · Is the division eroding between church and state? And should it? We talk with minister D. James Kennedy of the Presbyterian mega-church Coral Ridge (PCA), founder of the Center for Reclaiming America. Also, Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy."

Interesting choice of folks to interview. I generally really enjoy Terry Gross (and have even met my fellow-Philadelphian!), but she is usually not at her best when interviewing people who are ideologically very conservative or who are very orthodox in their religious faith.

So, if you were Terry Gross's producer and you were choosing folks to interview on the given topic, who would you line up? Stanley Hauerwas? Oliver O'Donovan? Jean Bethke Elshtain? Russell Hittinger?

15 May 2005

google sightseeing

I survived my super-long teaching day yesterday, including an hour commute between La Salle's Bucks County campus and it's main campus. But barely.

Friday night I laid on the sofa, huddled under blankets with a fever and chills. Unfortunately, on Saturday, while the chills had abated, I awoke with some kind of stomach virus. Everytime I stood up while teaching, I felt a wave of nausea. I managed not to puke my guts out until I got home, though there had been several unpleasant visits to the restroom during breaks and between classes. (I know, "too much information").

Thus I spent Pentecost Sunday home resting, sleeping the better part of the day, while Laurel, et al, went to our nephew's confirmation service at their Lutheran church in the far-flung burbs. This evening Laurel went down to Tenth to sing in the last of this season's concert series, while I listened to the webcast from home (an archive of the webcast should be available soon on the church website).

While listening to the concert online, I ran across this blog: Google Sightseeing. It includes links to all kinds of really cool things you can see from a great height via Google map's "satellite" function.

I hope to be fully recovered by tomorrow as I face three days of day-long faculty workshops.

pentecost

Almighty and ever-living God,
you fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending your Holy Spirit
and opening the way of life eternal
to every race and nation.
Keep us in the unity of your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

13 May 2005

bbiab

Busy weekend ahead. Sorry for the paucity of posting. My allergies seem to have played host to some kind of virus or infection, so I've been a bit out of commission the past couple of days.

I ventured out this morning on an visit to a museum with Claire, Laurel, and my mother in law. The rest of the day I've spent feeling like crap, sleeping through the better part of the afternoon. Unfortunately, tomorrow I've got to leave the house at 7:30am for a teaching stint that goes until 6pm. Pray I have the strength and health to make it through.

09 May 2005

ugh

If you don't recognize what that pile of golden fuzzy material is in the picture below, that would be thousands of interwoven strands of oak tree pollen, whipped up into a thicket of allergy-inducing misery that wafts like tubmleweed up and down our streets and sidewalks.



If I walk outside I can actually feel my sinus membranes begin to seeth in protest.

Thus, I'm staying inside and trying to take it easy today. The stress and exhaustion of the end of term certainly doesn't help my body resist the seasonal allergens. My allergies seem to be getting worse as each year goes by. I used to just get the sniffles, but now I cough, barking like a seal, and end up completely knackered and needing a lie down, my head in a thick fog.

My summer online course starts on Saturday, so I'm working to finish the set up for that, which isn't too energy-depleting. The class, however, does meet three times, with the first meetings on Saturday, one section at each of our two campuses, running from 8:30am until 6pm. We've also got family coming to visit and attend our nephew's confirmation on Pentecost.

In any case, I'm going to pop in a DVD of Bambi for Claire and lay here and moan softly for a bit.

08 May 2005

easter 7

Almighty God,
you have raised your only Son
to the right hand of your glory,
and bestowed on him the name above all names.
Assure us that as he reigns with you in heaven
so he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord
who lives and is glorified
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

07 May 2005

anselm on the atonement

St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) is well-known for a number of important contributions to the history of the west and western thought: the continuation and development of the Augustinian intellectual tradition, the so-called "ontological argument" for the existence of God, his pastoral practice within monasticism, his important role in England after the Norman Conquest, and so on.

Among the contributions for which Anselm has received both adulation and criticism is his theology of the atonement as that appears in Cur Deus Homo, sometimes referred to as the "satisfaction theory" of the atonement and often seen as underlying the concept of penal substitution. Anselm's atonement theology has been impugned by theologians as disparate as Vladimir Lossky and René Girard, even to the point of some describing his view of the Son of God's atoning death as "cosmic child abuse."

While recent theologians such as John Milbank and Hans Boersma have defended aspects of Anselm's atonement theology, one of the most interesting recoveries of Anselm's thought is that of Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart in his essay "A Gift Exceeding Every Debt: An Eastern Orthodox Appreciation of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo," (in Pro Ecclesia, Vol. VII, No. 3, pp. 333-348).

Hart argues that there is a real continuity between the thought of the church Fathers, including the Eastern Fathers, and the thought of Anselm, so that his Cur Deus Homo does not fix any definitive breach between the theological outlooks of East and West. Rather, Hart suggests, the change marked by Anselm is merely one of "accent."

Moreover, Hart notes that the emphases and commitments that undergird the atonement theologies of both East and West are rooted within the same narrative: Jesus Christ has trampled down death by death and God has acted decisively on our behalf to save us from the powers unto which we had delivered ourselves.

Hart defends this perspective in several stages, unfolding Anselm's thought as that appears in Cur Deus Homo. He begins by noting that Anselm shared the basic Christian theological presupposition, rooted in the doctrine of creation, that all God's creatures - especially the human creature in his image - were created in order to participate in God's own life and blessedness. Human beings, however, due to their sin, have "fallen short of the glory of God" for which they were created, thereby robbing God's creation of it's proper beauty.

In Anselm's thought the honor of God necessitates that humanity restore what it has stolen and thereby restore the goodness of creation. Indeed, if God is God, humanity will restore it. The difficulty, of course, is that fallen humanity is in no position to accomplish this and lacks what is necessary in order to restore creation's beauty.

Given who God is and what we might call his commitment of covenant love and grace towards his creation, Anselm maintains that God's own righteousness and honor render it unfitting that creation should lose the graciously given end for which God has created it. Moreover, it is unfitting that God, as creator, should abandon creation to the fate of frustration and death to which humans have diverted it.

Therefore, Jesus Christ, who is God himself come to us in a fully human form, must step in as human to restore creation on behalf of humanity. Christ offers up his own life for the honor of God. When this offering is accepted by God, God graciously restores creation through the humanity of Jesus. In Christ (that is, the whole Christ, Christus totus), the stolen beauty and goodness that humanity owes to God is forgiven and there is salvation.

Nevertheless, as Hart explains Anselm here, the importance of the atonement is not, first of all, the salvation of humanity but rather God's own righteousness. His theory of the atonement, therefore, is a theological one (vindicating the righteousness of God) and not a merely economic one, otherwise Christ would be reduced to a commodity and the atonement would involve calculating an infinite exchange value, as part of an economy of credit.

Likewise, Anselm's theory of the atonement, according to Hart, is not a matter of violence or "cosmic child abuse" but of peace. God as Trinity is, for Anselm, the motion of an infinite love, in the words of Hart, "an infinite venturing forth and return, an action of reconciliation, response, and accord, in which any opposition of goods is already overcome."

As the Incarnate divine Son, Christ allows humanity to partake in the beauty of his eternal motion of love towards the Father by which he returns the gift of himself. When violence overcomes Christ, it is not a violence that is inherent to the divine life, but a price that we imposed upon God because of our sin, which made it necessary for the gift of participation in God to be given again by an innocent humanity, passing through death, overthrowing it.

Thus, for Anselm, the resurrection is not to be seen so much in terms of death's not being able to hold Christ because of his transcendent divinity. Rather, Hart suggests, Jesus' self-giving unto death was a fulfillment of the truly human vocation under the conditions of sin that made Christ necessary, a vocation of self-offering love to God from whom all things are received as gifts of love. On a purely economic theory of the atonement, the Father would have had to have retained the price of Christ's blood, but instead, the Father raises Christ as a free gift of grace and love.

On Anselm's theory of the atonement, as Hart understands it, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself all along, not in order to change his attitude towards humanity (since, after all, God does not change), but in order to accomplish for humanity what humanity could not accomplish for itself, drawing us, and creation with us, back into the movement of divine love for which it was created. God, in fact, always desires the salvation of creation, which was itself created as a result of God desiring its salvation.

Hart concludes his essay with a couple of reflections on the giftedness of creation, noting that in Christ the "gift God gives in creation continues to be given again, ever more fully," confronting and defeating the powers of sin and death. And, in the end, it is this gift of divine love that "precedes, exceeds, and annuls every debt."

Hart's interpretation of Anselm is fascinating and challenging, calling into question certain standard ways of understanding Anselm's "theory of the atonement." While there may be various points at which one might question Hart's account - and then there is, of course, the question of Anselm's relation to biblical teaching - any future discussions of Anselmian theories of the atonement will need to seriously examine Hart's reading.

06 May 2005

br chip

I came in to campus this morning to find out that Br. Chip (Charles Echelmeier) was found dead in his room at the Brothers' residence yesterday, apparently from natural causes, though I don't know the details.

Br. Chip had been the Director of Campus Ministry and taught various Bible courses here at La Salle for many years. I had gotten to know him when I first started teaching here nine years ago. He was very helpful to me during the four years or so that I led a Campus Ministry-sponsored Bible study (back when I was single), providing me with the names of incoming students who had expressed interest and actively supporting and promoting the Bible study.

I always appreciated Br. Chip's enthusiasm for student involvement in all in aspects of campus ministry, particularly music and liturgy. He also played in important role in many of our campus theatre group's productions, particularly the musicals.

I'm very saddened to hear of his death and know he will be missed by many in the campus community, particularly those involved in campus ministry and other activities related to spiritual life and the chapel here on campus.

05 May 2005

ascension of the lord

Almighty God,
your Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens
that he might fill all things.
Grant that your Church on earth
may be filled with his presence
and that he may remain with us always,
to the end of the world;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

04 May 2005

end of term

Final essays are due today for my 100+ students, which means the next several days will be taken up again with grading.

The essays are 6-8 pages and, I hope, will help each student work through an issue of particular interest to him or her and to examine it with some thoroughness, including both their own original thinking and argumentation as well as conversaton with several figures from the history of philosophy whose views address the issue at question.

Around 40 papers will deal with ethical topics, around 40 will be on issues related to the nature of the human person, and around 30 will address matters in philosophical theology. Fortunately I gotten through grading and recording all others papers, homeworks, quizzes, and the like, so I only have to grade these papers, complete the formulae for my spreadsheets, and calculate final grades.

My next week or so will be taken up in large part with setting up a website for the summer online course in business ethics that I am undertaking. Thanks to all of you who've made recommendations about how best to conduct an online course. I'll be incorporating a number of your suggestions.

Well, time to bicycle to campus and wait for the papers to trickle in before 3pm.

03 May 2005

i object

In a courtroom it is improper, prior to cross-examination, for an attorney to ask his witness a series of questions that are worded in such a way as to suggest a particular answer. That practice is called "leading the witness." During the process of gathering testimony about a disputed matter, such a practice is rightly proscribed in the interests of ascertaining the truth.

A daily devotional guide, of course, is not a courtroom, but similar objections might be raised against the leading questions contained in the reflection for "Day 44" of the "50 Days of Prayer," a devotional officially promoted by the PCA's Mission to North America and published by the denomination's Christian Education and Publications division. The devotional is otherwise useful and I appreciate the efforts that went into it.

On Day 44, however, the devotional recounts the parable of the wicked tenants who killed the servants of the vineyard owner, culminating in the heir himself visiting the vineyard and being murdered. The motives of the tenants, the devotional suggests, are clear: a desire to play God in order to keep possession and control of the church, a clinging to salvation by works rather than grace, a selectivity with regard to which sins are condemned, and an exclusivity that would keep out the Gentiles in order that the Jews might have the glory that belongs to Jesus.

Whatever the merits of these observations as an exposition of the parable, what might raise an objection is the proposed application, asked in the form of leading questions:

What will happen to the Church that rejects her preachers, wants a new Gospel to tickle her ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4), neglects the Great Commission and determines that the Church will be theirs, not God’s? Is this happening when the New Perspective redefines justification, when the Federal Vision Theology remakes the Gospel, when our worship defies regulative principles, and when some sins are selectively condemned, while others are excused away under the guise of therapy?

That strikes me as rather prejudicial language for an official denomination-wide organ such as MNA to be disseminating.

This is especially so given that the denomination has taken no official stance on the so-called New Perspectives or the supposed "Federal Vision" theology. Furthermore, views associated with these outlooks deeply influence a wide range of pastors, seminary professors, ministries, and laypersons all across the PCA precisely in their missionally-focused commitment to the Reformed tradition, its retrieval, development, and proclamation to a world in need.

It's also the case that a number of study committees and Presbyteries are in the midst of working through these issues and the outcome is far from certain. A process of careful reading, discernment, and determination is not helped by such prejudicial language, which could be seen as poisoning the well. As it's been famously observed, if something is repeated as true often enough, people will eventually come to believe it is true, whether it really is or not.

After all, it remains unclear and a matter of ongoing dispute whether either of these outlooks, properly understood, threatens or redefines anything with regard to our confessional teaching, let alone "redefines justification" or "remakes the Gospel."

What if this devotional guide were worded differently? What if the points of application were suggested with a different sort of leading question? Suppose the text instead read:

Is this happening when a particular interpretation of a confessional formulation is made exhaustive of the Gospel, when a single Presbytery creates extra-confessional boundaries to exclude other Reformed pastors, when our worship becomes a bully-pulpit for theological hobby-horses, and when some sins are selectively condemned, while others are excused away under the guise of doctrinal purity?

I suspect such a set of leading questions would not have remained unchallenged and rightly so.

In light of these observations, I don't think that I'm out of line if I say, "I object" and don't believe that the peace, purity, and unity of the church are well-served by such leading questions appearing in a denominationally produced booklet.

02 May 2005

race for the cure

The annual Race for the Cure, benefitting breast cancer research, is this coming Sunday. While it is obviously a very worthy cause and it's great to see up to 40,000 participants getting involved, the Race is also always scheduled for a Sunday morning. Moreover, the Race route loops around our church making for something of logistical difficulty.

Last year Laurel had choir on Sunday morning and ended up having to exit the car, jog her way through the crowds of runners, and get to church in time for the early morning practice, while I remained in the vehicle with Claire until cars could slip through a break in the runners. This year she fortunately doesn't have choir.

The church has proposed a number of suggestions to help minimize delays and enable people to attend worship. This year, however, I think we will try an alternative strategy and visit liberti PCA, which we've been wanting to do for awhile.

01 May 2005

easter 6

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass all understanding,
Pour into our hearts such love towards you,
that we, loving you above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.