27 June 2008

veritas & interventions

The Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham in the UK is introducing two new book series.

Together with SCM Press, the Centre is introducing the Veritas series, which is designed to offer "incisive and original current scholarly work that inhabits 'the between' and 'the beyond' of theology and philosophy," both through monographs and through collections of essays from the Centre's annual conference.

Among the collections, two books are currently available: Transcendence and Phenomenology and Belief and Metaphysics, both volumes edited by Peter M. Candler Jr. and Conor Cunningham.

Among the monographs, two books are available: Theology, Psychoanalysis and Trauma by Marcus Pound and Tayloring Reformed Epistemology by Deane-Peter Baker.

Together with Eerdmans, the Centre is introducing the Interventions series, which will consist of two sorts of books: "(very) critical introdcutions" to thinkers such as Badiou, Heidegger, Žižek, Hauerwas, and Caputo, and a topical volumes on concepts such as naturalism, evolution, being, justice, poverty, and power. These books will "seek and perform tactical interventions" in matters of current discussion and debate, doing so in a way that "problematizes the accepted terms of such debates" and seeks to mediate between disciplines without surrendering theology's own indispensible contributions.

Among volumes currently available or immediately forthcoming are: Naturalism by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro (published May 2008), Heidegger: A (Very) Critical Introduction by Sean J. McGrath (forthcoming September 2008), and Žižek: A (Very) Critical Introduction by Marcus Pound (forthcoming October 2008).

westminster seminary update

Several reports online note that members of Westminster Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees have resigned in the wake of recent turmoil.

A comparison of the names attached to the 26 March 2008 "Statement" by the minority of the Board with the current list of Board members indicates that 8 out of 9 of the Board members who endorsed the minority statement have resigned, including the Vice Chairman (Peter Jansson) and Treasurer (Keith Mitchell) of the Board.

This development would seem to further consolidate the general direction of the Seminary under its current leadership.

For students worried about attending a seminary that is unsettled and in a seeming process of transition - or who are concerned that the direction of Westminster represents an unhealthy narrowing of vision - there are still some Reformed educational alternatives that maintain both a confessional commitment together with an engagement of tradition that remains creative, broad, and flexible. In particular, Erskine Seminary (Due West, South Carolina) and Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Florida) come to mind.

26 June 2008

random update

First I create a Facebook blog network and then I promptly stop blogging. Alas.

This summer, far from offering time off, has actually proven rather busy thus far: writing projects, teaching, conferences, family.

With regard to writing, my main summer project is to work on an essay concerning Harry Potter and epistemology. This is for a forthcoming collection of philosophical essays on Harry Potter within a book series on philosophy and pop culture. The deadline is August 15. In the meantime, I've got a book review to write and a conference talk to prepare, both before the middle of July. Fortunately for me, the conference only involves preparing one talk, concerning postmodernity and contemporary communication of the gospel. I'll present this as part of a Navigators event in Colorado Springs.

Among matters I've already accomplished, I did manage to pull together and send in a proposal for a conference at Villanova prior their submission deadline about ten day ago, though I'll have to wait to hear back from them to know whether to move ahead with putting together the presentation. If the proposal is accepted, I'll have until October to complete it. The topic concerns how Bonaventure and Aquinas built upon Augustine's account of prophecy within their overall theologies of revelation.

Presently I'm teaching a summer course that is a hybrid of class meetings and online format. The class began in mid-May and runs until the first Saturday in August. I'm also now teaching another summer course overlapping the first, starting earlier this week, meeting on Monday and Wednesdays nights through the end of July.

Also earlier this week, I spent time up at Princeton Theological Seminary at their annual Karl Barth conference, which focused this year on theological ethics. Speakers included Kathryn Tanner (Chicago), Nigel Biggar (Oxford), Timothy Gorringe (Exeter), David Haddorff (St. John's NY), Paul Nimmo (Cambridge), and William Werpehowski (Villanova).

One wouldn't have to be a Barthian to have found the presentations and discussions extremely stimulating and helpful, especially insofar as they drew up trinitarian theology and the biblical witness to reflect upon issues of ethics, justice, politics, economics, war, and agency. As always, conferences are also a great time to catch up with old friends and various acquaintances, as well as making some new ones.

Last week included a trip to New York City with Claire. It was the week between the end of her school year and the beginning of tennis camp and Laurel needed me to occupy Claire for a day so that she could get some work done. When I asked Claire how'd she like to spend that day she said, "Let's visit New York City!" So we did. We took the train into the city and spent most of the day wandering the Natural History museum, traipsing around Central Park, and looking around FAO Schwartz. Tomorrow morning we leave for a trip to Laurel's hometown of Williamsport in order to join with extended family and friends in celebrating her mother's 80th birthday earlier this year.

I have a half dozen or so blog posts started and languishing in draft form that I hope to get back to an post in coming days and weeks. Until then, I hope you enjoy these summer days.

17 June 2008

blog networks

If you have Facebook, I've set up a blog network there for this blog. Feel free to join, rate my blog, leave general comments on the wall, find out who your fellow blog readers are, and so on.

13 June 2008

frame reviews enns

Over on the Frame-Poythress website, John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando offers an irenic review of Peter Enns's Inspiration & Incarnation, a book that has seen some share of controversy over the past couple of years.

Frame's view is fairly detailed, moving through Enns's book section-by-section, delving more into the nitty-gritty of the text than my own more general and abstract review and critique did. And many of Frame's points of criticism seem solid and well-motivated. One theme of the review that recurs is that, as far as Frame can see, an evangelical doctrine of scripture can be well-aware of some of the potential tensions and problems that Enns suggests and, "in its most mature formulations" offers adequate solutions.

I think Frame is largely correct on this point, but wonder if it misses the intended audience of Enns's book: a popular-level evangelicalism that sometimes holds to a less nuanced understanding of inerrancy, one that conflates inerrancy with various other concepts such as literalism, objectively-narrated history, scientific accuracy, superficial consistency, and so forth. I've certainly run into many believers who hold to such understandings and have seen them fall prey to arguments from liberals who, ironically, share with them many similar assumptions about what scripture "ought to look like" if it is indeed divinely inspired and inerrant.

Frame, I think, rightly points out that Enns seems overly skittish about textual harmonization and higher level explanations that bring together seemingly contradictory first order propositions. Enns, of course, is entirely correct that such harmonizations and explanations are ofttimes offered in an overly "cheap" way - so that certain texts are always immediately qualified (sometimes with a wink and a nod) rather then being allowed to speak on their own terms, or so that harmonizations occur quickly and easily in ways that obscure the literary purposes and theology of the biblical authors that led to the textual diversity to begin with.

(On a related note, in a presumably Enns-inspired post, Art Boulet provided a few arguments back in April concerning what he called the "hypocrisy of harmonization." I'd like to provide a friendly critique of that post at some point, partly out the personal conviction that biblical scholars need to spend more time talking to philosophers.)

Frame does highlight one aspect of Enns's text that may not sit well with some readers and does not sit well with Frame: the question of the status of certain biblical texts as regards their facticity and how this question intersects with a doctrine of inspiration. That's to say, Enns raises a number of highly germane questions related to the early chapters of Genesis in connection with their ancient near eastern context, literary parallels, genre calibration, theological purpose, and so forth. But what Enns does not offer is a specific resolution of those questions.

Perhaps, however, that was not Enns's purpose in raising these questions. Reading Enns's text, it struck me that he was more interested in providing a conceptual and theological framework within which specific resolutions might be constructed and offered, rather than offering such resolutions himself. That's to say, Enns's incarnational analogy draws some boundaries around possible resolutions, eliminating some possibilities (e.g., fundamentalist creation science approaches; liberal approaches that deny the divine creation of the world or that the cosmic order has a theological interpretation). Yet, it allows for a diversity of possibilities within those boundaries (e.g., the framework hypothesis; seeing Genesis as affirming some basic facts about the cosmos, its meaning and origins, couched in mythical language).

I suppose that could be viewed as a defect on the part of Enns's book, but it could also be viewed as a strength, depending what sort of expectations one brings to his text in terms of audience and what he was trying to accomplish. Nonetheless, Frame's basic point is certainly correct: these are important issues that have significant bearing upon how we understand scripture to be divinely breathed-out and how we interpret and proclaim the text of scripture with confidence as the very word of God.

(HT: Conn-versation)

12 June 2008

liberation theology & radical orthodoxy

Several years ago, at the annual meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, I commented on a paper that concerned the movement known as "radical orthodoxy" and which offered a critique of radical orthodoxy from the standpoint of Catholic liberation theology. It was a good, solid paper by a great guy, Don Musacchio, who is the director of pastoral ministries (think: "small group coordinator") for St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic parish here in Philly in Manayunk.

Still, I thought the gist of my response might be of interest to some. Thus I am posting it here, though edited so as remove specific references to Don's paper that might not make much sense on their own.

There are four areas I’d like to explore where I think it is all too easy to mischaracterize the position of thinkers associated with radical orthodoxy – though one should note that the movement is not monolithic, so it wouldn’t be quite accurate at any rate to speak of the position of radical orthodoxy. A critique of radical orthodoxy from the standpoint of liberation theology might primarily focus upon John Milbank and, secondarily, Daniel M. Bell, both of whom directly address theologies of liberation. Yet, it is also important to consider the perspectives of Stephen Long, William Cavanaugh, and others, to form a fuller picture of radical orthodoxy's stance.

[1] “Christian materialism”

In it's advocacy of a kind of Christian materialism, liberation theology's response might suggest that radical orthodoxy, in the end, undermines the fundamental goodness of creation and tends towards the view that the material world of human society and culture is not worth saving.

It is worth pointing out, however, that the express intention of radical orthodoxy is quite the opposite, as is evident from, for instance, the phrase “suspending the material,” which was the working title of the volume eventually published under the title of Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology.

While this phrase has several intended meanings, the relevant one here is the notion that that the transcendent “upholds [the] relative worth [of material reality] over against the void.” That is to say, according to radical orthodoxy, it is by the graced participation of the material in the transcendent that the reality and density of the material is upheld and secured, since, after all, “if there is only finite matter, there is not even that.”

Or, to borrow from Graham Ward, the problem with a viewpoint such as Marxism is not that it is materialist, but that it is not materialist enough. That's to say, given the Christian theistic relationship of immanence to transcendence, we draw more and more near to the Creator only the more deeply we descend into and through the goodness of his creation.

This might be approached also in terms of the differences between Karl Rahner and Henri de Lubac, where the tendency is, in the case of Rahner, to see history and society as necessary and inescapable pointers to a generic transcendentality, whereas de Lubac remains more ready to deliver grace and the supernatural into the hands of human action and the particularities of time and history. Radical orthodoxy sides decisively with de Lubac on these matters, “super naturalizing the natural,” in Milbank’s terms. This isn’t to say that, in the order of knowledge (ordo cognoscendi), one can never start “from below” or in human experience (one could scarcely do otherwise). But it is to say that, ontologically speaking, nature is always already graced (in terms of the ordo essendi).

This is a large issue and deserves more extensive treatment that can be achieved in these brief remarks. What I want to talk about next is the implications this has for the question of human agency and autonomy.

[2] “Divine and human agency”

Among its critiques, liberation theology might suggest that radical orthodoxy values primacy of God’s ultimate agency over and against human agency, or that human autonomy and divine autonomy are always fundamentally opposed or remain radically incompatible.

This strikes me as a misconstrual of how radical orthodoxy tends to think about these things.

In terms of a general theory of the human will and human agency, radical orthodoxy typically adopts a decidedly Augustinian viewpoint in which human agency is directed towards the love of God as our final end and beatitude. Freedom of will (and thus “autonomy” in the correct sense of the term) just is “this passing beyond given finite nature in diverse ways towards the infinite,” a participation of the finite in the infinite. God’s gracious gift of a foretaste and desire for the beatific vision constitutes the self-transcending movement of the human person that is constitutive of our free agency.

Thus divine agency and human agency are not only not in competition but, instead, the gracious action of God is the necessary precondition for properly human free agency. Turning away from God and rejecting his grace is to assert a kind of pretended autonomy that is actually, in the end, the destruction of genuine freedom and agency.

This brings us to the question of the autonomy of the political.

[3] “Relative autonomy of reason and the civil sphere”

Before entering into this topic in detail, let me offer a couple brief clarifications that might help focus my response.

First, in addition to the description that Milbank denies the proper “autonomy” of the human that I cited earlier, liberation theology might see Milbank's understanding of the Kingdom of God as a reality fundamentally opposed to the Kingdom of this World. This is, of course, true in good Augustinian fashion. But it also needs to be kept in mind that the “kingdom of this world” is not creation itself or nature or human society and reason in themselves. Rather, the kingdom of this world is the world under the power and dominion of sin as it sets itself up against God and is founded upon inordinate love of self. I would imagine that liberation theology is as opposed as anyone to the kingdom of the world understood in this way.

Second, it might be suggested that for radical orthodoxy, Christian faith is the only norm and form for social relations because apart from explicitly accepting the Kingdom of God, there is no assurance of true social harmony. This is seen in radical orthodoxy's critique of all non-Christian thought as buying into a fundamental ontology of violence.

This seems to be overstated, however, since Milbank embraces the dictum of Thomas Aquinas that in every act of intellect and will, God is implicitly known and desired, even if God is also sometimes explicitly rejected. For radical orthodoxy, therefore, human reason and desire are always already graced and it is through these beginnings of grace that reason most fully comes into its own.

But this need not always involve an explicit acceptance of the Kingdom of God by faith, though, as I will point out shortly, the church does play an essential political role for radical orthodoxy. Moreover, I don’t see how this viewpoint would end up necessarily doing violence to the legitimate natural strivings of human nature or consigning the sphere of creation to an ontology of violence, though such criticisms are sometimes leveled against radical orthodoxy. But more on that in a moment.

My central response, however, regarding the autonomy of reason and the social, is that some critiques appear at times to equivocate between the realm of the secular (which Milbank does indeed reject) and the realm of creation or, to put it more focally, the realm of human reason and politics. One cannot conclude, however, from Milbank’s critique of the secular that he rejects all forms of the relative autonomy of the natural or the human. Milbank’s rejection of “secular reason” is not a rejection of reason as such, but of a human reason that positions itself absolutely prior to and unconstrained by faith and grace.

Milbank’s critique is also a recognition that “secularity” is a contingent feature of human existence, a product of modernity and its re-ordering of social space, and thus a way of organizing society that pushes aside various alternatives. Whatever the “secular” is for Milbank, it is precisely not “natural,” but constructed and contingent and one feature of a wider tendency to separate nature and grace as external and extrinsic to one another. Thus, the rejection of secular space and secular reason, for Milbank, is part and parcel of his rejection of extrinsicism.

In rejecting extrinsicism, I rather think that most proponents of radical orthodoxy would agree with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the incarnation, life, and work of Jesus Christ not only reveals God to us, but also reveals us to ourselves. That is to say, the humanity of Jesus, as the revelation of the God to whom that humanity is united, shows us what it means to be most fully human. The hypostatic union, far from impinging upon or attenuating the humanity of Jesus, establishes that humanity in its greatest and most complete integrity and, in doing so, analogically reveals the possibility of a new way living a fully human life, always already anticipated by our nature.

Likewise, the operation of grace in history, particularly in and through the church and through the explicitness of faith, does not in any way compromise the proper integrity – and even relative “autonomy” – of the human, including human society. Rather, as a society in itself, the church reveals the greatest potential of human society as such.

Thus, while not a proponent of radical orthodoxy, I think the view of David L. Schindler is deeply consonant with the concerns of radical orthodoxy when he states:
The church in its proper reality as communio, itself contains the deepest meaning of all worldly orders…unlike the liberationist alternative which in the end loses the Church in the world, or the neoconservative alternative which keeps the Church (as Church) alongside the world, a communio ecclesiology requires that the Church as Church inform the world, as the soul informs the body…This applies not only to the social-economic order, but to all worldly orders…precisely as the condition for the realization of these in their legitimate worldly autonomy.
Thus the church is not an external, extrinsic authority.

And I think liberation theology would be at one with radical orthodoxy in insisting that any kind of “autonomy” here is only ever relative since, in light of the doctrines of creation and providence, nothing is ultimately autonomous from God, strictly speaking.

This brings us to a final observation regarding the rejection of the secular.

[4] “Temporal and eternal orders”

When radical orthodoxy rejects the secular, it is rejecting a modern notion of the secular defined as a social space constructed over against a privatized space of the religious. This “secular” is part of a wider modernist set of assumptions that pit reason against faith, the public against the individual, and so on. This secular remains decidedly neutral to the supernatural and grace, but such supposed neutrality is in fact predisposed against grace, according to radical orthodoxy, by supposing that the sphere of the secular is not always already ordered towards grace.

In rejecting this particular notion of “the secular” constructed by modernity, radical orthodoxy does not thereby reject the notion of the saeculum, a sphere of reality that is not so much a particular defined space, as it is a time – the temporal ordering of this present world that is continually passing away and is set in contrast with the church, which bears a final, eschatological destiny.

As I just noted, as a society constituted by grace, the church reveals the possibilities of human society, including the social-economic or civil spheres. Rather than offering a utopia, the church offers an eschatology and takes up the role of mediation between human social formation and the grace of God – though the church does not merely mediate grace and salvation, but is, in fact, the very form that grace and salvation take at the present time since it is the church that will someday constitute an eschatological humanity.

Thus, part of what it means to be political and to take political action, is to be the church, to begin to live out in the present, as the church, what God intends human beings to be. The preaching of the gospel and the celebration of the sacraments are, seen in this light, political actions. This does not give us a blueprint for transforming society or give us a set of concrete historical steps to take in that process of transformation. But it is an attempt to live and anticipate, by grace, another way of being human in order that, through the example and mediation of the church, that way of life can begin to analogically transform even the temporal structures of the world, though that transformation will always have the character of a gift.

Once again, far from diminishing the value, importance, and relative autonomy of the temporal order of society, radical orthodoxy would likely see the centrality of the ecclesial as establishing it.

10 June 2008

PCA general assembly

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is meeting today through Friday in Dallas, Texas. The General Assembly receives reports from various ministries of the denomination and makes decisions about various issues, ranging from re-drawing Presbytery boundaries to taking positions in areas of doctrine and practice.

The way in which these issues are introduced is ordinarily through Overtures being sent to the Assembly from various local Presbyteries. This year there are 19 such Overtures. Of those, six request amendments to our Book of Church Order (BCO), five ask to redefine Presbytery boundaries, four involve issues surrounding the role of women, two raise questions about the Rules of Assembly Operation (including setting up a committee to revise such rules), one is a tribute, and one asks for a greater degree of ministry to the US military community here and abroad.

Among these various Overtures, my guess is that the ones concerning the role of women are likely to be the most contentious. Two of those Overtures are requesting that the PCA General Assembly form a balanced study committee to look into the specific issue of women and the diaconate.

While the PCA, in accordance with its BCO, does not ordain women to the diaconate, many churches in the PCA enjoy the ministry of commissioned deaconesses who serve alongside ordained male deacons. In addition, some churches have a diaconate (or mercy ministry team or similar committee) composed of both men and women who minister equally, who may be commissioned (as often are Sunday School teachers or short term missionaries), but not ordained.

Furthermore, there has always been a significant minority in the PCA who have favored the ordination of women to the diaconate, especially since 1982 when the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) joined and was received into the PCA. The RPCES had long permitted non-ordained, but commissioned deaconesses. Also, in 1976, the General Synod of the RPCES had received a majority report that urged permitting the ordination of women to the diaconate. While the recommendations of that report failed to pass, a significant minority of the RPCES (including the majority of a couple of Presbyteries) had voted in favor. In light of the 1982 merger with the PCA, a number of these pastors and elders who favored the ordination of women to the diaconate in the RPCES came into the PCA.

This variety of views and practices has caused some tension in several Presbyteries. Until recently, it had never been an issue in the Philadelphia Presbytery - descended from a former RPCES Presbytery - from which the first Overture on the issue originated, requesting clarity through the mechanism of a balanced study committee. This Overture was followed by one from Western Canada Presbytery asking for the same action.

This, in turn, was followed by an Overture from Rocky Mountain Presbytery asking that the scope of any such committee be expanded and to also address issues such as "where women may and may not serve in the life of the church" and "establishing parameters or guidelines as to the breadth and boundary Scripture deems legitimate for women to teach men and be a part of leading in various parts of public worship."

In response to these various Overtures, the Central Georgia Presbytery sent an Overture requesting that the General Assembly decline to form such a committee, because, in their estimation, "there is no legitimate theological dispute" and, furthermore, because "there is no biblical warrant for establishing a process of 'commissioning' people to perform the duties of an ordained deacon," a practice they see as a means to "side step the plain limits the scripture."

Evidently, then, there is a spectrum of opinion on these matters within the PCA. There is also a spectrum of opinion with regard to the formation of a study committee. Among those who would like to see such a study committee, some favor it simply to bring clarity, some would like to see it draw the boundaries more tightly, and some no doubt would like to see it open up and lead to an official endorsement of more expansive practices. Among those who would not like to see such a study committee, some oppose it because the present ambiguities are favorable to their practices within the context of their own Presbyteries, some don't see any legitimate issue to be discussed, and some are worried that the PCA isn't ready for a change in polity and such a committee might set back any process of gradual change and acceptance for the place of women in the diaconate.

In light of these differences, I cannot possibly predict the outcome of these Overtures, though the discussion is bound to be interesting. As someone who doesn't have a problem with permitting the ordination of women to the diaconate, I'm still not sure what outcome I would like to see. Of course, I'd be happy for such permission to be officially granted, but I'm not sure how likely that outcome is and worry that a study committee could, in the end, actually curtail the current variety of opinions and practices.

Amid the other Overtures, one did catch my eye. That is the Overture from Blue Ridge Presbytery asking that "profession of faith declarations" be made mandatory. The current wording of the Book of Church Order makes the declarations asked of new members something optional. These declarations are asked both of new members coming into the PCA on profession of faith as well as of baptized youth coming to first communion and communicant membership. Thus, for the sake of consistency across the PCA, the Overture asks that the language of the BCO be changed from "the minister may address those making a profession..." to "the minister shall address those making a profession..."

I am actually pretty firmly opposed to this change, largely on historical grounds and with regard to the theology that this embodies for baptized youth coming to their first communion, as well as how the change would fit into the larger contours of the BCO.

For one thing, I'm not sure what the Overture is supposed to accomplish. According to BCO 57-4, a rite of public profession of faith is itself entirely optional, even if the BCO commends it as fitting and edifying. Thus, even if the PCA were to impose some sort of consistency of practice when a rite of public profession is practiced, it still would not require that it be practiced.

Regarding the Overture in general, I think it's unpresbyterian insofar as it applies to baptized children in the church. Children are admitted to the Table by the Session and their first communion is itself their public profession of faith, without the addition of any further ceremony.

The Presbyterian churches had a discussion over this already in the 19th century. At that time the discussion arose in the context of whether or not baptized non-communicants were subject to church discipline. Traditionally, they were seen as objects of discipline, especially the positive discipline of godly admonition and Christian nurture, though subject to being put out of the church and excluded from the Table should they grow up to publicly renounce their baptismal obligations.

The older Presbyterian practice was that when baptized children "come to years of discretion, if they be free from scandal, appear sober and steady and to have sufficient knowledge to discern the Lord's body, they ought to be informed, it is their duty and their privilege to come to the Lord's Supper" (Directory for Worship 9.1).

The, then novel, practice of public profession of faith for baptized children was carried into Presbyterianism from the practice of the New England Congregationalists and became a growing practice among Presbyterians during the middle of the 19th century. It met with significant resistance as without precedent and unpresbyterian.

As something officially sanctioned, public profession for covenant children first shows up in 1865 in a revision by the New School General Assembly, though even there it was offered as something optional and left up to the discretion of local Sessions as to precisely how it would be carried out. This optional status and local character is preserved by our current PCA BCO and I see no reason to change it, unless to make its optional character even more clear.

After the New School reunited with the Old School, the General Assembly of 1872 added the caveat that if a public profession of faith for covenant children was practiced, it should be carried out in a way that distinguishes the rite from the one used with adult converts, since baptized children, unlike converts, are already members of the church and are only coming to the exercise of a right they already enjoyed as baptized persons - that is, sharing in the Lord's Table.

At any rate, that's the history. Given the history I would be opposed to any change in the PCA BCO that seeks to regularize and impose a practice that is questionable to begin with.

Moreover, since this change would also apply to the baptism of adult converts, I think in such cases churches should have the freedom to use more historic rites of baptism that, for instance, make use of renunciation of the world, flesh, and devil and profession of the Apostles Creed.

Whatever the case, these are the main issues facing the PCA General Assembly this year in Dallas. We should be in prayer for the commissioners as they seek the good of the wider association of churches, as they move forward in the effective ministry of the gospel to our broken world, and as they wrestle with issues that are potentially contentious.

From the Scottish Book of Common Order:
Almighty God,
your Son promised his disciples
that he would be with them always.
Hear the prayer we offer for your servants
now met in General Assembly.
May your Holy Spirit rest on them:
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Grant them vision and courage;
unite them in love and peace;
teach them to be trustworthy stewards
of your truth.
And so guide them in all their doings
that your kingdom may be advanced,
your people confirmed in their most holy faith,
and your unfailing love
declared to all the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.