Liturgy is the greatest single barrier to ecumenism. Church members look upon another tradition’s liturgy and shudder. “If I wanted to be a [Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist, etc.], I’d have joined a [Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist, etc.] Church!” On the one hand, the presence of a familiar liturgy keeps men from departing, even in the face of a major shift in theology in the pulpit. The liberals in Presbyterianism and the other mainline churches could be confident that if they were careful to avoid the rhetoric of confrontation, their parishioners would rarely defect. Liturgy would keep them in their pews until death did them part. This proved to be the case. On the other hand, this very liturgical commitment has kept ecumenists from being able to consummate Church union except with other denominations with the same liturgical tradition. For example, the Presbyterians never succeeded in joining with the Episcopalians, although this was attempted. The Episcopalians would not “move down” liturgically. -Gary North, Crossed Fingers, Ch.14
“The only thing that really saves us here is to rest in the Spirit.” … This is what the Gnostics said, this is what the radical Anabaptists said, this is what… old liberalism said. We heard this all in mainline Protestantism when they started to move away from the Scriptures as normative. They always said, [and] they put it in these terms: “We need to go wherever the Spirit is leading us. The Spirit is blowing in new directions.”
Wherever you hear the language of “resting in the Spirit” or being “led by the Spirit” [and it] is not synonomous with being led by the Word, it is definitely not the Spirit of Christ. -Michael Horton
There are wise and kind words here not only for a pastor, but for all of us with elderly parents and relatives.
The benediction that we pronounce today with hands uplifted is a symbolic expression of the minister touching his people… Jesus understood the importance of touching those to whom He ministered. Very often, when He healed people, He touched them. We see a beautiful example of this in Matthew 8… Jesus not only healed the leper, He touched the man. Jesus ministered to his physical need and also to his need for human contact. People today need that touch. That’s why an important moment in church on Sunday morning is when the pastor interacts with the worshipers as they depart. I tell my students in the seminary that there’s an art to greeting people at the door after the church service. It’s vitally important for the pastor to extend his hand and at least offer to shake hands with every person who comes by. Some will walk right by, but the vast majority of people want to stop and shake the pastor’s hand. If that person is an elderly man or woman, and especially if it is an elderly widow, the pastor should never, ever shake with one hand. He must take that lady’s hand in both of his hands. Why? It is because she needs that special touch, because she experiences loneliness. In giving her that tender, loving touch, the pastor is being Christ to the people, giving the Master’s touch in His name to people who are afraid, or who are lonely, or who are hurting. People want to be touched, not in an evil sense, but in a tender and merciful sense, in a human sense. -R.C. Sproul, A Taste of Heaven, p.165-66
The rod and reproof give wisdom,but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. -Proverbs 29:15
Here’s what nearly always happens when a conservative Christian posts something blunt: he offends some overly sensitive, moderate soul and is accused (most insensitively, I might add) of being mean-spirited, uncaring, and dogmatic.
This movie clip comes to mind… because sometimes a loving spanking is just what is needed.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. -Gen 4:3-5
No one can ever accuse God of being unfairly, unjustly, or arbitrarily angry. People get angry with others… At times they impute wrong motives… They don’t have all the facts they need… But if God is angry with us, there are no mitigating circumstances. We cannot say to God, “God if You only knew all of the facts, You wouldn’t be angry with me.” It was presumptuous of Cain to be angry when God did not respect his offering. Perhaps nothing proves more vividly the state of Cain’s heart than his reaction to God’s judgment. If we’re children of Christ and we stand before the judgment seat of God on the last day and God says to us, “You’re covered by the blood of my Son, and it’s a good thing, because you did this, this, this, this, this, and this,” we won’t say, “But, Lord, I did this in Your name, I did that in Your name. You really aren’t being fair.” However, there will be many who will respond in just that manner. Jesus is going to say to those people, “Please leave, I don’t know who you are.” A person who trusts God trusts not only His promises but His judgment [my emphasis]. Even in a prayer of contrition, such a person acknowledges that God would be absolutely justified to destroy him for his sin. -from “A Taste of Heaven,” p. 34-35
I occasionally read the newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. Now, the Episcopal church long ago entered the realm of absurdity. Hints of idolatry and disobedience abound in the newsletter, always couched in phony virtue. For example, Bishopess Schiori tells us (imagine the apostle Paul saying this):
While those who seek full inclusion for gay and lesbian Christians and the equal valuing of their gifts for ministry do so out of an undeniable passion for justice, others seek a fidelity to the tradition that cannot understand or countenance the violation of what that tradition says about sexual ethics. Each is being asked to forbear for a season.
Peace, peace. Mrs. Schiori never fails to disappoint. However, what’s interesting is how much of the Episcopal newsletter actually sounds orthodox. You may read, for example, how the “Spirit” moves in our lives, but it’s not clear that the “Spirit” they refer to is the process spirit who has evolved beyond the thundering, outworn judgements of the culturally-enslaved primitives in Scripture. They don’t tell you that in the newsletter. In other words, it’s difficult, as Samuel Miller said in reference to Arius, to drag artful chiefs from their lurking places. You may have the wolf trapped in a corner, but he’s not going to just walk into your cage. He’ll “go vague” on you. Perhaps you just don’t understand exactly what he’s saying. Maybe you are just overreacting, sinner. Who gives you the right to judge, anyway? Don’t you realize that you are hurting feelings? You hater. Thanks a lot for being “divisive,” and never mind those Scriptural calls to guard the flock, or that true unity never prevails where there’s fundamental disagreement. Get ready to prepare a lot of supporting detail.
Yes, history shows that handing heretics and apostates over to Satan (1 Cor 5:5) is hard, hard work. It’s like nailing jello to a wall. Gary North notes how many times wolves like Charles Briggs (of Brown, Driver, Briggs fame) and Henry Van Dyke toyed with the orthodox in the old Presbyterian church. Van Dyke boasted: “Heresy-trials are the delight of the ungodly and the despair of religion. . . . Do not try it on eager-hearted seminary boys. Try it on a grown man who stands with them in the liberty wherewith Christ made us free.” Translation: You want my head on a pole? Come get me!
Which leads to this: Tim Bayly has found that Reformed Theological Seminary and Carolyn Custis James are at it again, this time inviting a founder of CBE (perhaps the chief group agitating for women’s ordination) to speak at an RTS-sponsored ministry. Just another blinking signpost along the gentle slope. Is anyone in the PCA but the brothers Bayly seeing it? How long will it be until the PCA starts the process of cleaning house in its seminaries? If it doesn’t, I give it 30 years to fall to the feminists. If the history of the Presbyterian church tells us anything, it’s that it doesn’t take more than a generation for a church to teach the very opposite of what it once held dear once the groundwork is in place in the seminaries. In fact, in 5-10 years the cornered wolf may grow too large to fit in any cage. Then the the PCA will be where the old Presbyterian church was after 1900, and it’s just a matter of time before the wolf has that beloved institution for dinner.
I’ve read only some of Gary North’s huge tome on the fall of the old Presbyterian Church. Of all the books that have been written about denominational rot, “Crossed Fingers” surely must be the largest. Even after getting 1/4 of the way through, though, it’s clear what North’s main point is because it’s the last line of every chapter: “The crucial issue was sanctions.” That is, the church fell to unbelievers because it failed to effectively use church discipline against those who denied the authority of Scripture and disregarded the church’s confessions.
What became clear only in retrospect is that members of the Old School [the orthodox Princetonians led by the Hodges’, Warfield, etc.] did not understand the institutional limits under which they operated, especially the time constraints. They did not understand that they had approximately two years to make a formal complaint against an idea. If they limited their complaints to intellectual disputation, they would lose the war. Academic disputation apart from a formal protest in a Church court would doom the Old School’s defense. An intellectual attack apart from formal negative sanctions was, judicially speaking, the implicit acceptance of the denominational legitimacy of the substance of the modernists’ case: one opinion among many. But the Old School’s leadership was almost entirely academic. The ecclesiastical dominance of theologians is a fundamental tradition of Presbyterianism. The Old School leaders had no strategy. Their ad hoc tactic, case by case, was to challenge their modernist enemies within the denomination, but only in academic journals. This tactic not only failed, it legitimized the modernist position as a privately held opinion, judicially immune: one opinion among many. (p. 189)
As for the liberals:
Presbyterian modernists [aka. liberals] had to deal with sanctions. This required a theory of sanctions. This theory was applied ad hoc, and it seems to have been developed ad hoc. It was a three-stage position after the McCune trial (1878): (1) evade negative institutional sanctions (1878-1900); (2) seek positive institutional sanctions (1901-1933); (3) deploy negative institutional sanctions (1934-1936). The first stage required a public theology that invoked democratic pluralism: the illegitimacy of negative institutional sanctions against those holding the five points of modernism. The second stage involved the steady infiltration and capture of the highest offices of the denomination, especially academic positions in the seminaries. This required a public theology based on excellence in personal performance: above all, institutional teamwork. … Any theology that did not foster teamwork was said to be suspect. The final stage required a public theology that invoked bureaucratic authority: negative sanctions against those who would disrupt the team. “Disrupting the team” was defined operationally (though never publicly) as any attempt to impose negative sanctions against modernists. (p.190)
In stage one, liberals push the envelope, but call for “unity” and “moderation” when the conservatives get roiled (let’s not start talking about handing anyone over to Satan or invoking WCF Ch. 30). Open debates may start showing up in church periodicals. These provide airtime and legitimacy to the heterodox. All the while, the seminaries quietly hire more people based on worldly criteria and train more young, mushy minds. After attaining sufficient power, the final stage sees the iron fist removed from the velvet glove. Some conservatives leave and start a new denomination (liberalism is one reason why there are so many). Other believers remain for all sorts of reasons — pension, institutional loyalty, etc. — and slowly die out or leave as the denom puts the screws to them. All in the name of team play and tolerance, of course.
Sound familiar? More thoughts as my reading progresses.
A certain blogger has called Barack Obama “a god to the godless.” Which leads to two thoughts. First, Obama may be Apollo right now in the liberal pantheon, but Al Gore is Zeus. Second, the substitution of political figures and political power for God is as old as the hills. Politicians are masters at using blather to masquerade as purveyors of hope.
Politics, like sex, is transcendence for the apostate. Secular mysticism.