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Monthly Archives: February 2009

::::: Racial Reconciliation in Action :::::

 

====================HT: Christ, My Righteousness 

I m p r o v e :: Y o u r :: T h e o l o g i c al :: L i n g o

If you learned just one word a week from Theological Word of the Day … you would probably increase your theological linguistic abilities by about 200% in one year.  Below are some examples. 

agrapha (Gk. “not written”)

The agrapha are those sayings of Christ that were not recorded by the Gospel writers, yet are attested either in the traditions of the early church or in other New Testament books. A definite example of an agrapha is recorded in Acts, 20:35 where Paul says, “Remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how he said: It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive.” These words are not recorded in the Gospels, but are part of the unwritten tradition which Paul received. The agrapha are normally found in the writings of church Fathers. If the writing has sufficient attestation in the Fathers and it does not contradict any canonical teaching, it is considered a possible instance of agrapha. One example in the early church is from Justin Martyr, Dial. 47: “Wherefore also our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘In whatsoever things I apprehend you, in those I shall judge you.’” Many of the proposed agrapha, however, could very easily be summaries or paraphrases of canonical sayings, thus making a genuine agrapha difficult to determine.

teritum quid (Lat. “the third way”)

This phrase was first used in the forth century to refer to the Apollinarians solution to the question “Is Christ God or man?” The Apollinarians were said to have offered a “third way” in which Christ was neither God nor man. This phase is used generally to refer to a solution to a problem where there seems to be only two mutually exclusive alternatives. The dictionary refers to it as “something that cannot be classified into either of two groups considered exhaustive.” For example, in Christianity Evangelicalism is often thought of as the tertium quid to liberalism and fundamentalism. Molinism is often said to offer a tertium quid to Calvinism and Arminianism. Often the tertium quid is a resolution that offers compromise, but it can also be the option that offers a both/and approach.

__–__-____-____–HT: Theological Word of the Day

:: A Person’s A Person, No Matter How Small :: Brilliant Speech by 12 year old girl

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::__HT: The Crimson Window

:: On the Protestant Reasons for Rejecting the Apocryphal Writings ::

On the one hand, we Protestants tell Catholics that the church did not authoritatively decide the canon, but rather recognized those books which were recognized by the early church as authoritative.  On the other hand, the early church found it difficult to discern any canonical list that was accepted by ecclesiastical consensus (the consensus of the church abroad). 

The closest measure of ecclesiastical consensus can be determined from the Council of Hippo, and the 3rd and 4th Councils of Carthage.  But, perhaps to the surprise of us Protestants, these councils accepted the apocryphal books as canonical.  Thus, if we were judging by the testimony of the church abroad about which books bear the Spirit’s power, we would have to concede that the apocryphal books are authoritative.  Protestants, however, simply don’t recognize the consensus of the early church on this matter.  This raises an important question: Is it up the individuals to decide for themselves (such as in the Reformation confirming the opinions of Athanasius and Jerome) or for the church abroad to decide?  In other words, what does the Protestant rejection of the apocrypha imply about the criterion for canonization?  Where does authority come from if not from the acceptance of the church abroad?  Or how can one know from whence comes the authority of the Spirit through scripture if not by the testimony of the church abroad?  

Note the reasons for the Protestant rejection listed in most Protestant accounts: 1) the Jewish Scripture was considered canonical by Jesus and his disciples, and therefore must be considered the Bible of the church, and 2) historical inaccuracy of the apocrypha.  These reasons, however, appear incomplete.  The Christian community went beyond the Bible of the Jewish canon when it canonized the writings of the apostles and their companions.  Secondly, historical inaccuracy is based on the authority of scholarly criticism, not the consensus of the church abroad, but the standards of scholarly criticism differ from one scholar to the next. 

It appears to me, at the present, that the Protestant standards for canonicity are relatively arbitrary and lead logically to subjectivism in determining which books are canonical and which ones are not.  Something is also to be said of the apparent arbitrary acceptance of only certain of the decrees of the early theological councils (e.g. Nicaea and Chalcedon) as authoritative for the church, but not others.  In spite of the Protestant motto sola scriptura, even the conservative evangelicals overwhelmingly do not allow people to be called “Christian” unless they affirm these councils.  To put it yet another way, if the church does not have the authority to establish the canon, but only to recognize and affirm that which is already authoritative, then why do Protestants not affirm and recognize those books which were recognized by the early church as authoritative?  How does one know which books are to be recognized as authoritative, or, as bearing the “secrete testimony of the Spirit” (Calvin) if not through the early ecclesiastical consensus?   

Calvin writes: 

Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture is self authenticated … And the certainty it deserves with us, ti attains by the testimony of the Spirit. (Institutes, 1.7.5)

But if the scripture is self authenticating through the voice of the Spirit, then how is this voice to be measured if not by the testimony of the church to whom this Spirit speaks?  Regardless of whether the church is to establish the canon or simply recognize the canon, Protestants must explain what the criterion for recognition is if it’s not by the consensus of the church abroad (whether that refer to the early church or the church throughout the ages).  

:: Quotations :: Karl Barth on Roman Catholicism

“A Church which maintains that its official decisions are infallible can commit errors which are irreformable.”[1] 

-Karl Barth


[1] CD, IV/I § 61, 4; 626.  

:: Buzz Off :: Changing my Blog to Curb my “Buzz” Appetite

For the reasons given below,  T h e o • p h i l o g u e  has and will continue experience a serious cutback in posts.   

In seminary one develops many convictions and often enters a whole new world of theological discourse for the first time.  Just as seminary students quickly develop opinions on all the theological controversies in the church, they also tend to need an outlet for these opinions (Read: Pray for seminary wives).  They may be eager for genuine discourse, but all too often they are more eager to argue their newly developed opinions.  

On the one hand, they develop a sharp awareness of how misunderstandings and false teaching in the church are harming the body of Christ.  On the other hand, it is not always the case that seminary students exercise great restraint with the expressions of their understanding or charity to those Christians that may be guilty of common misunderstandings.  Often the blogosphere becomes the perfect outlet for seminary students to parrot the arguments of their seminary professors or textbook authors.  Perhaps for this reason, the blogosphere is a great blessing to their close friends who are not in seminary (Read: Pray for friends of seminary students).  There is a great danger, however, that lurks amidst the blogoswamp waters.  Before I tell you exactly what danger I’m talking about, let me mention two relatively recent posts that got my attention.    

A while back, Owen Strachan posted about changes he was making to his blog.  Whereas he used to be a very frequent poster, he doesn’t post as much anymore.  He didn’t quit the blog thing entirely, but his cutback in writing material was very significant.  Owen is one of the most prolific men I know.  His productivity level is unbelievable.  As if Ph.D. study was not demanding enough all by itself, Owen directs affairs at the Carl F. H. Henry Center on the side, regularly blogs, and manages to satisfy the responsiblities of both a husband and father all at the same time.  (I find it hard to keep up with local church ministry and reading assignments for my masters degree–and I’m single with no kids!)  This is why it made an impression on me when I finally caught my first glimpse of Owen’s humanity.  On the brink of the 09 New Year he posted the following words:  

After some thinking, praying and conversation, I’ve decided to step back from blogging a bit. … I started blogging to get writing experience.  … It was a very helpful exercise, and I’m glad I did it.  Now, though, with lots of commitments and responsibilities, I need to step back.  I need to focus more on permanent things.  Blogs can be immensely helpful, valuable, and edifying, but so can other things, and certain other things may last longer.  Blogging is a great intellectual and spiritual discipline, but as other venues of edification open up, one may have to focus less on blogging and more on family, church, classes, projects, and other things.

Owen’s post hit me hard for this reason: Whereas I used to post on COACH only every now and then and tended to post things of a more substantive nature, since the inception of  T h e o • p h i l o g u e  I had attempted a different style of blogging.  At first it was fun because I was able to keep up with so many “things.”  I would surf the internet for hours and often find material for ten posts in just one day.  I would get sucked into the blogosphere like it was a time vacuum, or better yet, like it was a place where time did not exist.  I so easily lost track of time as I surfed around, with one glance at my clock I would turn red and get sick to my stomach, ashamed of my obsession and afraid of getting further behind in my other, more important responsibilities.  

Because wordpress has this brilliant feature where you can know how many hits each of your posts get on a given day, overtime I have come to realize that the blogosphere craves “buzz,” especially controversy “buzz.”  It was a temptation for me to begin only posting the most controversial things I ran across because I knew they would get a lot of hits.  Without realizing it, however, I had myself developed a larger appetite for such “buzz.”  Thus, it became very natural for me to find the “buzz” and post about it.  Or even create it.  On one of my posts, in spite of my adding fuel to a specific controversy, the two people about whom the controversy concerned were actually reconciled in the comment thread on my very post (something I never imagined would happen).  Nevertheless … the point is this: I spent too much time in the blogosphere and developed too big of an appetite for things that were, in the end, relatively unedifying.  

Don’t get me wrong, not everything I posted or read was unedifying, and even the relative value of all the “buzz” is largely dependent on the motives of one’s heart, but when my hits would go sky high whenever I posted on taboo issues, it did two things: 1) revealed to me my own sin nature, and 2) revealed to me something about the blogosphere that helped me better understand TMZ and other gossip filled tabloid type publications.  People, whether Christian or not, love the taboo.  And for this reason, it sells.

Although Owen’s reasons for posting less were not based on a confession such as the one I am making here, it nevertheless emboldened me to, for my own reasons, cut back significantly on my time spent in the blogosphere.

Even more recently and relevant to my own experience was my once fellow classmate Tony Kummer’s recent shift in focus and discontinuation of “The Baptist Buzz.”   He writes:

I’ve had some internal conflict the last few weeks about my blogging. This is nothing new, and I expect most Christians have struggled with the right use of this technology. Seeking a global audience has always strained my own pursuit of humility, and I’ve often questioned the best use of time.

Tonight, I’m under specific conviction from the Apostle Paul. I’ll just clip the verses that have caught my attention and leave you to draw your own conclusions.

2 Timothy 2:4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

2 Timothy 2:23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

So, my conscious is captive to the Word of God. Until I can work out this issue I’ll try a little different format here on the site. I’m going to discontinue the Baptist Buzz feature and replace it with an new aggregator box called “SBC Watchlist.” That will be a collection of the most influential SBC blogs and news feeds (to my knowledge). This will also mean I won’t be scanning the feeds daily and will mean a reformat on the newsletter.

Pray for me to discern God’s direction in this and I do apologize to all the regular readers of Baptist Buzz.

As  T h e o • p h i l o g u e  was beginning to climb in hits more than it had ever been before, my heart began to imagine what my stats would look like if I kept it up.  Ironically, at about the same time, my conscience began to own up to the reality of what the blogosphere was doing to my own heart.  Not only is it very time consuming to keep up with all the “Buzz,” but it’s a spiritual danger to begin blogging just for the sake of more and more hits.  

For this and other nuanced convictions, I have decided to seriously cut back on my posting.  Furthermore, my posting will go back to the way it used to be for a few years on COACH.  More substance, less buzz.  This will mean a plunging decrease in my hits, but I will gain more peace of mind and heart.  Although the venue of the blogosphere doesn’t tend to have as big an appetite for what I think of as my more substantive posts, quality of writing matters more to me than quantity of readership.

:: The Giving of Indulgences in New York ::

The Catholic Church’s ongoing practice of giving indulgences is receiving a little press in New York.

::::::::::::::::::::HT: All Things Loss

:: Theology with an Ecclesial Edge :: UG Podcast

I just downloaded a new podcast … the first in a new series with Gerald Hiestand.

:: Theology with an Ecclesial Edge :: Is the academic theology of the seminary classroom insufficient for the daily pastoral grind?  In this podcast, Gerald Hiestand, the President of the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology, talks about his vision for this newly founded society and how the Pastor-Scholar model helps meet a desperate need in the local church.

:::::::::—–:::::::: HT: U R B A N G L O R Y ::::::::——-:::::::::

:: The Sacrament of Baptism in Roman Catholic Theology ::

Baptism is efficacious—it removes the guilt of original sin and regenerates the soul, freeing one from the slavery of sin and conferring justifying grace, leaving an indelible mark on the baptized which can never be removed (not even by mortal sin) and marks the believer with the “seal.”[1]  It actually accomplishes that which it symbolizes—death to sin and the new birth of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism is therefore the Gateway to the Christian life—to justifying grace, to membership in the Catholic Church, to communion with Christ, his sufferings and baptism, to the common priesthood of all believers, etc.  Baptism is thus also necessary—for salvation, justification, sanctification, etc., and since children are born with original sin, they too must be baptized.  Christian Baptism is prefigured in the crossing of Jordan into the promise land, in Noah’s ark as a symbol of salvation, and above all in the Exodus as a symbol of liberation from bondage.  Water has always been a symbol of life and fruitfulness, yet the water of the sea is a symbol of death, and thus represents the death of Christ and consequently the death of the believer who dies with Christ through Baptism. 

Yet, although “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism … he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”[2]  Therefore, exceptions include 1) baptism of desire (those who die with the intention to be baptized, such as a catechumen who dies before he/she is baptized), 2) baptism of blood (those who die in martyrdom for their faith before they are able to be baptized), 3) those who seek the truth and do the will of God in accordance with his or her understanding of it (for such persons “would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity”),[3] and 4) probably unbaptized infants, since God’s mercy is so great, and since Jesus had a tender heart toward children.   

The Roman Catholic celebration of Baptism is extensive and detailed.  Although only a bishop, priest, or (in the Latin Church) a deacon ordinarily administers baptism, in case of necessity, anyone who sincerely wished to truly perform the celebration may do so.[4]  All not yet baptized are subject to baptism, but since baptism can never be repeated, only those not yet baptized can be candidates.[5]  For the celebration of baptism, many rituals must be performed—exorcisms, the consecration of the baptismal waters, confession of faith, triple immersion (or triple pouring) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the post-baptismal anointing which symbolizes the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the white garment which symbolizes the putting on of Christ, the candle which symbolizes the enlightened neophyte and the transformation of this one from darkness to light (even the light of the world), and finally, the solemn blessing which concludes the celebration.          

Texts which on the surface seem to support Baptismal regeneration—which is directly tied to salvation—are used in support of the Roman Catholic understanding of Baptism as efficacious for purification and regeneration.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).[6]  In addition to baptism being central to the Great Commission, Jesus explicitly says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mk 16:16).  The apostles carried out their preaching in the same way.  The Chief Apostle Peter preached this way: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Thus, it is no surprise that Paul would also strongly connect Baptism with dying to sin and being liberated from its bondage (Rom 6:4-7, cf. Col 2:12).  The Catechism suffers no shortage of proof texts for Baptismal Regeneration (see also Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 3:20; Gal 3:27; 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13; Eph 5:26).  For infant baptism, the Catechism first recognizes that infants are born with a sin nature which leaves them in need of salvation.  Secondly, it harkens to Jesus words, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mk 10:14).  Thirdly, it appeals to the “explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on.”[7]  Lastly, the Catechism appeals to “household” baptism of the NT (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16).  A frequent theme in defense of the inclusivistic widening of baptismal grace is an appeal to the desire of “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:6).  This verse is reference more than once in the section on baptism.

            Compared to many other doctrines of Roman Catholicism which find not even a shadow of support from the NT, Rome’s support for her views on Baptism seems at first impressive.  Whereas much of the Catechism’s footnotes and quotes hearken more to Tradition, the majority of arguments in this section come straight from scripture.  Much of Protestant Evangelical Theology will differ immensely from the views summarized above.  There is no way to give a substantive critique of the mountain of biblical passages appealed to in the above mentioned summary, so I must only give a hint as to how certain Protestant Evangelicals would critique the Roman Catholic arguments employed in defense of their views.  Although on the surface the passages cited are very persuasive, in the end, the conclusions Rome draws from these verses violate her own canons about biblical interpretation—namely, to “be especially attentive ‘to the content and unity of the whole Scripture,'” and to “be attentive to the analogy of faith.”[8]  Passages in Scripture which teach that salvation comes at the moment of faith—not the moment of baptism—are overwhelming in number, and more didactic in nature.  Therefore, in spite of the plethora of proof texts, Rome falls short of her own standards of hermeneutics.  Rome’s arguments for Inclusivism, which are based on the general concepts of the mercy and compassion of God are in need of more exegetical input.  We should not assume God’s mercy extends beyond the explicit ways revealed to us in Sacred Scripture.  Finally, as the most frequently quoted verse in Rome’s whole defense for Baptismal Regeneration, John 3:5, the concept of being born of water and Spirit is drawn from OT imagery about the New Covenant.  Therefore, Jesus language of the necessity of being born of water and Spirit is tantamount to speaking of the necessity of being a part of the New Covenant (Ezek 36:25-26).  One should not, then, read water baptism into this apocalyptic symbolism.          

From an evangelical Baptist perspective, Jesus’ words about children are just that—words about children, not infants.  Jesus referred to children who were at least old enough to “come” to him (physically, not spiritually).  The passages about “household” baptisms are presumptuous in that they must assume that the households referred to include infants (which is not explicitly in the text), but also it seems clear from comparing parallel accounts of baptisms that when a household was baptized it was because the household also believed (Acts 16:34; 18:8).[9]  Beyond the fact that Protestants do not accept arguments from church history on equal grounds with Scripture, the evidence from church history can also be interpreted in a way which actually creates an argument against infant baptism.

Rome’s doctrine of baptism is not all bad.  Adult baptisms are likely to be handed with greater care than in Protestant churches by emphasizing the need for catechesis.[10]  Also, she emphasizes the importance of the responsibility of the church to help nourish those who join the church through baptism, as well as the responsibility of those who are baptized to respect church authority.[11]  She rightly sees a connection between faith and baptism.  She rightly sees baptism as central to the great commission, and as symbolizing our death to sin and resurrection to new life.  As is common with all sacraments and doctrines of Rome, she sees the mystery of the sacrament summed up in Christ: “In Christ’s death ‘is the whole mystery.'”[12]  However, while getting these less important details right, Rome has indeed presented quite a different way of salvation than that which so many evangelical protestants believe to be the biblical doctrine of salvation by her teaching of the efficacy of regeneration and forgiveness of sins through baptism. This leads many evangelicals to conclude that Rome’s doctrine of baptism, with her understanding of its efficacy, with her inclusive tendencies, with her practice of infant baptism, violently distorts the biblical gospel.  I would remind such Protestants that Jesus himself (his incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection) is the essential part of the kerygmatic gospel in the NT (1 Cor 15:3-4) not a specific view about baptism.  Plenty of Protestants also believe in the efficacy of water baptism for salvation.  In fact, Martin Luther himself believed this and taught it with a passion.  If we accuse Rome of distorting the very gospel of Jesus Christ on account of her beliefs about baptism, we will get more than we bargained for and end up condemning almost the whole pre-reformation church, including the early martyrs, the apostolic and patristic fathers, Saint Augustine, Martin Luther himself, and several Protestant denominations.  Perhaps Rome is wrong on her doctrine of baptism, but this does not mean Catholics deny the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let’s not make too little of the gospel and too much of our different views of baptism.        


[1] Although the idea of “seal” seems to communicate that one is sealed for eternal salvation, if one does not “keep” the seal he or she receives then that person will lose his or her status in the state of grace, make shipwreck of their faith and go to hell—even though they would still have a permanent “mark” on their soul.  In other words, neither the seal, nor the indelible mark are any guarantee of salvation, just guarantee of a “mark” and a losable “seal.”  Catechism, par 1274.

[2] Catechism, par 1257.

[3] Catechism, par 1260.

[4] After all, it is better that a layman perform the sacrament unlawfully than that the one desiring baptism lose out on salvation.

[5] The church is only willing to baptize anyone who has never been baptized.

[6] This text, John 3:5, is appealed to more than any other verse in the section on Baptism—5 times total.  See footnotes 24, 25, 40, 59, and 64.

[7] Catechism, par 1252.

[8] Catechism, par 112 & 114.

[9] It should be noted that Rome seems hesitant to use these verses as prove her case, since she holds out the “possibility” that they may not refer to infant baptisms.  Catechism, par 1252.   

[10] Catechism, par 1216, 1233, 1248.

[11] Catechism, par 1255, 1269, 1271.

[12] Catechism, par 1225. 

:: The Daily Grind of a Brand Developer :: UG Podcast

The Heart Behind the Art :: Aaron Skinner talks about how he developed a passion to help church planters and how marketing can change the perception that lost people have of the church.

The Daily Grind of a Brand Developer :: Aaron Skinner talks about the day to day joys of serving his church, other church planters and ministries with his gift for graphic design and brand development.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: U R B A N G L O R Y

 

 

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