Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Favorite Section of The Book of Church Order

Yes, I know. The Presbyterian Book of Church Order has been prescribed as a cure for insomnia, but believe it or not, there are some sections in which the glorious light of the Gospel shines forth, piercing the otherwise dank, dense world of Latinate instructions on church polity.

One of those sections is found 6-1, a section devoted to Church Members. This section says,

The children of believers are, through the covenant and by right of birth, non-communing members of the church. Hence they are entitled to Baptism, and to the pastoral oversight, instruction and government of the church, with a view to their embracing Christ and this possessing personally benefits of the covenant.

I was reminded of the nuance here in a recent session meeting as we were picking apart some of the finer points of sacramentology in clarifying a pastoral issue. A few elders were claiming that non-communicant membership comes through baptism, while others were arguing (in line with the Book of Church Order) that a child's membership in the church is "by right of birth" primarily. The Book of Church Order settled this dispute for us quickly. It is the latter.

The point here is that children are members of the church through and because of their parents, a concept called "federal/covenantal headship." As Christ represents believers before the Father as their "head," so parents represent their children before the Father as their child's "head." Baptism is a gift and a grace children receive because of their birth-right, simply because God has chosen to use families as a vehicle of redemption. And it is the birth-right which makes them members of the church, not baptism itself. This is not to undermine or lessen the power of baptism, for in and through it we are further united to Christ in a myserious way, but only to say that when we speak of membership in the church for covenant children, they access it by their birth-right, not by baptism itself.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Logopneumatika, Arise and Come Forth!

Yes, it has been months since my last post and for this, I won't apologize. I have been exceptionally busy this Spring, trying to balance being an Assistant Pastor (25 hrs/week), a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) student at the VA Hospital in St. Louis (24 hrs/week), and, of course, a good husband. Needless to say, the ol' blog hasn't got much TLC in the mix.

I hope to change that as the CPE unit winds down and Summer approaches. So look for some new posts coming up. Next Fall, this hectic schedule should simplify as my efforts will become more singular. I found out last week that I have been awarded a one-year, full-time (paid!) residency in CPE at the VA Hospital in St. Louis. What does this mean for this lonely blog? Hopefully, the rearrangement of schedule will provide more time for reflection and construction of thought. I plan to use the blog for much of this "process education" (as CPE curriculum calls it).

Thanks for your patience. The Lord bless and keep you all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

Richard John Neuhaus died this morning of complications due to a cancer that was diagnosed over Thanksgiving of 2008. Neuhaus was a Roman Catholic priest, social critic, author and editor, most notably of the 1995 Evangelicals and Catholics Together as well as the magazine First Things.

Over the past five years, First Things has been my favorite magazine to read. Eclectic in nature, it always provides acute insight into the various political, moral, and theological outlooks at work in America. Neuhaus' editorial section "The Public Square" was always poignant and prosaic. He will be missed.

Justin Taylor has provided a helpful timeline of Neuhaus' life:

1936: Neuhaus was born and raised in Pembroke, Ottawa, Canada, one of eight children. His father, an American, was a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister.

1950: Neuhaus leaves home at the age of 14.

1960: Ordained as a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus served in the 60s as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church, a largely black congregation in Brooklyn. He was a self-described "revolutionary," protesting the Vietnam War and advocating for other progressive causes.

1973: The Roe v. Wade decision causes Neuhaus to abandon his political liberalism activism in order to become a conservative.

1984: Co-founds and becomes the first director of the Rockford Institute’s Center on Religion and Society. Publishes his book, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America.

1988: US News & World Report's survey lists him as as one of the 32 most influential intellectuals in America.

1990: 30 years after becoming a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus converts to Catholicism at the age of 54. He was ordained as a priest a year later. (Here's a letter to Lutherans explaining his conversion, and here's an autobiographical essay he published in First Things, originally delivered at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.)

1990: Neuhaus founds First Things--an ecumenical journal, published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, "whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

1994-1995: Neuhaus publishes the controversial document he co-edited with Chuck Colson entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

2005: Time Magazine names Neuhaus one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" (even though he is not an evangelical).

HT: Hunter Baker of the Facebook Group Readers of First Things (ROFTers)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Michael Horton on Joel Osteen

From Michael Horton's new book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church:
"Osteen seems to think that we are basically good people and God has a very easy way for us to save ourselves--not from his judgment, but from our lack of success in life--with his help. 'God is keeping a record of every good deed you've ever done,' he says--as if this is good news. 'In your time of need, because of your generosity, God will move heaven and earth to make sure you are taken care of.'" (p. 70)
Horton goes on later to cast Osteen as a religious proponent of works-righteousness:
"Make no mistake about it, behind all of the smiles there is a thorough-going religion of works-righteousness: 'God's plan for each of our lives is that we continually rise to new levels. But how high we go in life, and how much of God's favour and blessing we experience, will be directly related to how well we follow his directions.'" (p. 86)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

As the Ruin Falls by C.S. Lewis

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love - a scholar's parrot may talk Greek -
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

-- from Poems (Harcourt Brace, 1964), pg. 109-110

Purpose-Driven Inauguration

According to the Associated Press, Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California has been invited to swear-in our president-elect, Barack Obama. Below is an excerpt from the AP's article (full article here):
Aretha Franklin will sing, the Rev. Rick Warren will pray and more than 11,000 U.S. troops will be watching over inauguration ceremonies in case of an attack during President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

But not everyone is pleased with the president-elect's selection of Rev. Warren.

Joe Solomnese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, sent a blistering letter to the president-elect, accusing him of delivering a "genuine blow" to the gay community in choosing the reverend to give the formal invocation at next month's inauguration.

"[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination," he wrote.

Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site, "[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now."

Liberal groups criticized the inclusion of Warren, whose "Purpose Driven Life" books and lectures have made his church among the largest in the country. People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said Warren's support for California Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, should have blocked his invitation.

"It's a huge mistake," said California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs, who chairs the state's Courage Campaign. "He's really the wrong person to lead the president into office."

Washington Blade editor, Kevin Naff, called the selection "Obama's first big mistake."