CHURCH


I’ve been influenced by all sorts of people: Michael Spencer, John Goldingay, Peter Leithart, Chris Tilling, Telford Work (whom I quote below), Wolterstorff, John Halton, Wright, etc. Those in the know might see them below. The particular recipe is mine, though. If I’ve ruined their perfectly good tomato by plopping it into a mess, forgive me.

Anyway, when it comes to scripture I’ve come to believe….. (more…)

It’s struck me recently that many of Derrrida’s critiques of modernity dovetail very nicely with what I (mis)understand regarding Van Til’s thought. It’s a bit funny, if you think about it: the most conservative opponents of (the prevalent bumper sticker misunderstanding in IMO) postmodern epistemology are actually in substantial agreement with its arguments against modernity. I know its more of a Russia/US against Germany sorta thing, than a US/Britain type of alliance, but it still seems significant.

Anyway, I ran across this really thought provoking comment from Peter Leithart.

Based on a student’s questioning, I’m wondering whether “presuppositionalism” is the best term to describe what Vantillians are after. We don’t, after all, come up with some kind of set of axioms or theological idea “prior” to receiving revelation. We can talk about making the Triune God our “starting point” as much as we want, but faith in the Triune God is not in fact the “starting point” of our thinking (in either a chronological or logical sense). I like Frame’s revisionist view that “presuppositions” are really “basic commitments,” but that still seems to individualistic to me. I’d rather think of how we can ecclesiologize Van Til: Instead of saying that “all our thinking is grounded in the presupposition of the Triune God of Scripture,” we might say “as Christians we think and act from within the Church, which is the body of Christ and the community of worshipers of the Triune God.” This moves Van Til in the direction of postliberals and postmoderns, but that’s not a bad move in this case I think.

He suggests that Van Til’s articulation regarding ‘presuppositions’ does not conform to our thinking/formation/commitment as we actually experience it. This makes me think of Einstein’s criticism of Euclidian geometry, which was an abstract (and helpful) vision of reality that was formulated independent of experience. Geometry needs to conform to what bodies actually do when in motion.

Similarly, perhaps the tacit individualism of Van Til’s evangelicalism needs to be abandoned for the radical communality of humanity as we actually find his existence/formation/commitments, always and everywhere- as God actually created us. This move would take ‘Presupostionalism’ in both a more Derridian and Catholic direction.

Hmmmm.

EDIT:

Almost immediately upon hitting ‘post’ I thought of the old master’s little pamphlet Why I believe in God

In it he explains that he believes in God because as a little child his mother placed him on her knee and told him who he was,  the nature of the world, and who it was that created both.

I wonder why (or whether- since I’ve not read all that he wrote) community as family found such a prominent place in his testimony, but community as historically continuing church formed such a small part in his systematic thought.

UPDATED: 5/31

I spent a few minutes this weekend thinking about why Evangelicalism needs to be rooted in the ancient catholicism of the undivided church, if she is to offer a true alternative to the American vision of the good life.

These are pretty off the cuff. I’ve been told they are overly dichotomous. Perhaps this is true, but they’re a start.

It seems to me that contrary to common Modern/Evangelical assumptions and in agreement with our ancient faith…

* God is not simply or primarily saving individuals; he is saving a people.

* Christ did not establish a belief system called Christianity; he established the church.

* The church is not a voluntary association of individuals who meet as an aid to our personal growth; we are the body of Christ- the entity for which God is putting all things under Christ’s feet.

* The church is not a religious club, which is made up of good American citizens; she is an alternative polis, and we are resident aliens in the midst of America.

* Our lives are not free to be lived in terms of personal advancement; our lives are to be lived for the advancement of the kingdom.

* Our lives (including the ‘private’ parts) are not our business, only; our lives are the business of the church.

* The bishop is not an expensive rubberstamping ‘British monarch’ like hold over from another time; the bishop is the head of the church under Christ.

* It is not possible to exercise reason apart from faith; all reasoning begins in faith.

*Human beings are not first and foremost an Aristotelian ‘Thinking Thing;’ human beings are first and foremost an Augustinian ‘Loving Thing’

* Most of life is not ‘thought through;’ most of life is ‘desired through.’

* Christian formation/education isn’t primarily or only about learning propositions; it is a matter of imagination regarding the nature of ‘the good life,’ and comes primarily through the heart.

* The formation of the desires is not primarily accomplished through the head; it is primarily accomplished through the senses and the body.

* These formative liturgies are not optional or narrowly ‘religious;’ we are being shaped by either Christian or worldly liturgies.

* We are not really combating the flesh, world and the Devil if we are just offering more information; we equip the church fully when we provide competing comprehensive formation, which is first and foremost at the level of vision/desire.

* It’s not simply what we distinctly think that determines who we are; it is also what we distinctly desire, and this is determined by our worship- Lex orandi, lex credendi.

* Our vision of human flourishing cannot be identical to that proclaimed by other nation’s secular liturgies (including America’s); our vision of human flourishing must be formed by the liturgies of God’s people in accordance with the distinctives of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

* We don’t find those liturgies in accommodation to the liturgies of the world or the imagination of our modernity soaked hearts; we receive them from those who have gone before us.

* It is not wise to look around at how the unbelieving world ‘does it’ before we understand and squeeze every drop from the inheritance that is ours; it is reasonable to assume that the Body with whom Christ promised his Spirit would reside has as much insight as the world.

* Mere traditionalism is not the aim; we grow and build only after understanding and appreciating what is ours as the church- not lusting after the leeks of the world.

* We do not believe in the gospel because we first have confidence in the Bible; we count the bible as authoritative because we believe in the Gospel.

* It is not possible to ‘simply read’ scripture; every reading is an interpretation- either good or bad.

* It is not possible to interpret apart from the formation of a community; it is the case that if the church hasn’t formed our interpretation, the world has done so by default.

* The writings of the Christian Canon are not God’s final word; the writings of the Christian Canon declare Jesus Christ to be God’s final word.

* It is not the case that we ‘believe in’ propositional doctrine; it is the case that we believe in the God to whom propositional doctrine strains to point us.

* Human beings are not angels trapped in bodies; human beings are bodies.

* True worship does not take place between our ears, only; true biblical worship must include our bodies, too.

* Historically, the church has not gathered as the church on Sundays to simply praise God, which is all that is implied in the English word ‘worship’; she has met as the church for what has traditionally been called The Eucharist, the Mass, The Liturgy, The Divine Service.

* It is not true that we can do alone or at home, what is done when the church gathers as the church on Sunday mornings to offer service; it is true that communion around a common loaf and cup requires a community.

* As a distinct people we should not be surprised that our language, practices and stories are not immediately understandable to visiting non-Christians; believers ought to be instructed in the unique language, practices and stories that come from centuries of existing in this age as the people of King Jesus.

* Hospitality from a host culture does not require that the host population pretend that they speak, dress and eat just as they do in the visitor’s homeland; it is the case that if the visited culture is indistinguishable from one’s own, then there is no point in leaving home to begin with.

* Sunday morning should not be a lecture with singing; Sunday morning is a meeting with God in which we gather before him, are reconciled to him, receive his word, judgment and blessing and then sit as his friends, at his table.

* The service is not either from God to man, or from man to God; the service is both from God to man and from man to God.

* The service is not something God does in the abstract or we do by ourselves; Christ leads our worship, and in Christ, God both ministers to us and we offer to God all that we have and are.

* The focal point of this great exchange is not our subjective hearts; the focal point of this great exchange is the Body and Blood of Christ, wherein God gives us what is beyond us and we then offer back to him, his own gifts.

* The sacraments are not God’s flannel graph; the sacraments are mysteries and effective memorials.

* A biblical Memorial is not first and foremost about the memory of the people who offer it; a memorial, biblically considered, is presented in order to remind God.

* A strong sacramentalism and belief that one hears God’s voice through his minister Extra Nos is not a Roman innovation; that one should confidently hear God’s voice in the Preaching of the Word, Sacraments and Absolution of his minister is just plain vanilla Christianity and affirmed by the magisterial reformers.

* Reality is not accurately describable in materialistic terms; there is more in heaven and earth than is imagined in Scientism’s philosophy.

* Reality is not two-storied- with God and heaven ‘up there’ and we ‘down here’; God and his heavenly entourage of angels and saints surround us.

* Success is not measured in terms of the end; success is measured in terms of the journey.

* The cross is not simply the beginning or the end; the cross is the shape that all our attempts to reach a designated end must take.

* God did not create a flat, bare ‘ping pong table’ like creation- though it would have been much less prodigal; Christ did create taste buds, peacock feathers and round bottoms.

* Efficiency, speed and effectiveness are not Christ like models of success or operation; faithful, incarnational and foolishly wasteful and ineffective (by the world’s standards) practices often are.

* It is not a good thing that a church envision, operate or measure its life in terms that would make sense to the average modern American; it is a good thing that the church’s life draws on an ancient culture that is removed (and so immune from) the compromises of the current Spirit of the Age, and the gospel that says true divinity and true humanity look like that bleeding fellow who’s dying for the good of his murders.

Dear Rachael, Bekah, Hannah, Naomi, Tommy and Esther,

Whew, I’m going to have to find a shorter way of addressing you all. That’s a lot of typing for a ‘hunt and pecker’ like myself (TOMMY! NAOMI! Stop snickering. I know; leave it alone) I’ll try ‘You Young ‘uns’ or something similar in the future. You’ll know whom it’s for.

This past Sunday we brought little Annalise to our God for baptism. I was so thankful that each of you was there. Through Fr. Tom’s voice you heard God’s word to her. In our pastor’s hands you saw Christ take her to himself. Though the splashing of water fell short of the thunderous roar we might have expected from such an event, through it Annalise left one creation and emerged in another.

It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see on the SciFi channel.

Each of you has been spoken to in a similar way. Our king has called each of you by name. By his grace (for it was before you even knew that he existed) he took you from the world into which you were born and placed you into another- a world which is yet to be seen in all of its fullness.

I know that sounds a little over the top. It’s also true that I’m prone to…. extravagances. It must be genetic, because one or two of you have inherited the trait, but in this case I’m just giving the unembellished truth.

I wanted to remind each of you of your own baptisms and the reality each spoke into being. This is just a long way of saying that I wanted to remind you of who you are.

Of course you know that you are you. I realize that, but perhaps you forget that there are many different ways of telling ‘The Story of You.’ If you think about it, y’all will realize that there has never been a just you.

Never.

Every morning you wake up in a bed. There are blankets on top and a whole world outside. Every day you pester your brother or sisters. There is no ‘you’ apart from the world you inhabit, and so ‘the story of you’ ripples out to include everything else- friends, trees, stinky cheese and even school teachers.

It works the other way, too. (more…)

One of the most significant watersheds of my own journey was the realization that I had totally misunderstood the pastoral implications of Justification By Faith Alone.

Now I wholeheartedly agree with the doctrine. If one asks the questions that Luther asked, then one needs to answer as he did, but it never occurred to me that the phrase can signify two radically different positions. Well, the phrase itself stands in for a myriad of understandings, but in the end each of these falls into one of two categories.

Either Justification By Faith Alone is a statement about the only type of faith that justifies or its an affirmation that only faith justifies. These aren’t the same. One says….

1) We are only justified if our faith is alone in the sense of being purely directed away from ourselves. We are only justified if we are not trusting in any contribution of our own. We are only justified, if our faith is uncorrupted by confusion about what justifies ; the other affirms…

2) Amidst all the confusions, misconceptions and fears that we might bring to God, only faith in the gospel is really used by God to justify us, instrumentally.

It seems to me that there are a few significant distinctions between the two approaches. For example- (more…)