Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What's a "Traditional" Presbyterian? And how does "Reformation" back to the "truly" traditional boundaries happen?

I found it helpful to read [this article] by Dr. Benjamin Shaw from GPTS.

Of course, there are many more particular issues that could be added to the few that he mentions: idoltraous images of Christ, the lack of evening services and midweek prayer meetings, the de-emphasis upon preaching, the emphasis upon music, the use of choirs, the wearing of clerical garb, etc.

But so much of what is traditional was "born yesterday" in the history of the church, and especially of Presbyterian--and that for good reason. Not only does it fail to be biblical; but, in so many cases, the new "tradition" either implicitly obscures or explicitly counteracts something biblical and important.

As I was reading Dr. Shaw's article, I felt a kinship in his experience. The church I grew up in was EPC, not mainline.

And the seminary I went to actually had me read for class many of the volumes in which I discovered that you could substitute the phrase "liberal Presbyterian" for the phrase "traditional Presbyterian" in most people's thoughts and dialogue, and almost always be more theologically and historically accurate.

But, after reading the article, I find myself wondering if there aren't a great many people who look at those liberal and spiritually unhealthful (and in some cases, simply wicked) "traditions," and think that they are important components of our faith that ought to be celebrated, rather than recent intrusions that need to be purged.

That brings me to the main point of his article. It isn't just for the PCA. It stands for all of us. In doctrine, worship, morality, and polity--as in much of the rest of life--if we don't understand why the boundaries are there, we are precisely those for whom the boundaries are most necessary!

Reformation is a long work. In the age of imperfection (until the Lord returns), it is a lifetime work for every believer, every elder, every congregation. In reforming particular things, it can be a work that spans generations.

Along the way, there is much educating to do. Sometimes, people just have never been exposed to the biblical teaching. And there is much loving to do. There are folks who either can't--or, more often, will never exert the mental effort to--understand why something ought to be changed. But they will tolerate much, if they know that you love them.

But in all Reformation, as we marvel at the holiness of God and honor that holiness by a relentless pursuit of being biblical...

let us also marvel at the patience of God. How very much of what we have held dear turns out in actuality to offend Him and deserve wrath!

And how marvelous that, for the sake of His Son, and the love in which He sent Him, He has patiently borne with all these failings... continuing to extend to us the sacred indwelling and powerful working of His Holy Spirit!
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also... the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect... And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will... But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
2Timothy 2:1-2, 2:9-10, 2:24-26, 3:14-4:2

Monday, April 2, 2018

Why my family refers to "Easter" day as "The Lord's Day" and to Easterized celebration as "Fertility Fest"

A friend, whose thoughtfulness and sincerity I very much appreciate, posted on Facebook:
Can't enjoy a single holiday without 30 knowitalls coming out of their parents basements to warn us about the "pagan roots" of it. "Don't eat peeps, that's honoring Ishtar the fertilizer bunny god from 4000 b.c., I bet you didn't know that huh" Thanks... I do now...
I started to comment, but the comment got longish. And, since I've been misunderstood on this point more than a few times, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts in a more easily searchable location.

There's a difference between important knowledge and being a know-it-all. So, I hope that you'll receive this as one and not the other. We're actually studying Romans 14 this week with our church/family, and the reminder that our heart and consideration for others in the midst of disagreement is vital to recognizing and treating them as those who belong to the Lord. The Lord's providential timing is marvelous!

There are multiple fertility deities in the ancient near-east that go by similar names. Oestre, Estare, Ishtar, Ashteroth, Ashera, etc. They all have a resurrection / fertility-renewal feast in the spring. You can imagine what fertility cult celebration of renewed fertility might involve... not particularly godly (believe it or not; peeps isn't the worst thing humans have indulged in during springtime celebrations).

Idols are not anything, but demons are something, and they masquerade as idols to be sacrificed to (1Cor 10:18-20). So, I would be careful of the fertility symbols (bunnies, eggs), and of a name that is etymologically connected to possibly the name of an ancient demon that has deceived so many into so much sin for thousands of years.

I personally am opposed to observance of the day at all not due to its pagan origins (the sovereign God of all providence does not find it challenging to use a pagan to produce something good), but due to its man-made origins.

I see repeatedly in Scripture the principle that anything of a religious nature that is invented by man is idolatry. And, since, by Christ's glorious finished work, the Lord obsoleted all of His own religious days that looked forward to Christ, I have an even stronger aversion to the creation of new religious observance days.

That said, there are a large number of believers who wish to unitedly celebrate the resurrection in a special way once a year. I think that we have already been given 52 such glorious days that cannot be improved upon. The Lord has created the Lord's Day for us! Who can better it? This is also why I don't like to say "Sunday" (God has given the Lord's Day its name), or "Resurrection Sunday" (does that mean there are 51 Lord's Days that are somehow "less resurrectiony"?). I don't despise you if you do. Don't worry that I think less of you, and please don't judge me for my practice either!

If you're going to observe the day though, may I suggest going with an ancient, if plain, a name that has been used in some Eastern churches for generations? "The Feast of the Glorious Resurrection"

(btw--I love non-religious, non-"holy" holidays... commemorating events, celebrating life, rejoicing over relationships... that's all fantastic stuff. Just don't feel like you have to make up a religious reason for it... leave the invention of religion to God alone. Man-made religion only succeeds in taking the things that God values as most important and devaluing them. Case in point: pharisees who had lots of well-meaning ideas but for the most part lost love of man and God to the point that they both failed to recognize the Christ and hated Him to the point of murder. Easy to bash them, so let's not turn around and be like them!)