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Archive for March, 2007

     The Heidelberg Catechism is well known for its devotional tone, and for this reason many inside and outside of the Reformed community have come to appreciate it.  Most people who are familiar with confessions and catechisms end up having their favorite parts.  For me Q & A 54 has been one of those.  It reads:

Q. What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?

A. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.  And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

     Here I won’t give an exhaustive commentary on this statement, but I will pull out a few things that stick out to me:

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After surveying the relationship between the True and the Holy, the Good and the Holy, and the Beautiful and the Holy using 6 historical figures – Kierkegaard, Paul, Dostoevsky, Luther, Nietzche, and Bach – Pelikan concludes:

Yet, that Holy which men have vainly tried to grasp with their systems of thought, their categories of ethics, and their depictions of beauty; that Holy which has eluded every human attempt to take it captive and to tame it; that Holy which is not the answer to every riddle but itself the enigma in every riddle–that Holy has been made flesh and has dwelt among us in Jesus Christ.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the channel of the goodness of God.  He is more beautiful than the children of men.  Through Him God has redeemed all things to himself, this rock of offense and stone of stumbling, human conceptions of truth and goodness and beauty have all been shattered.  Yet, this stone, which the builders of human systems rejected, has become instead the cornerstone for the dwelling-place of the Most High and Most Holy, from whom there proceeds all that is True and Good and Beautiful.  Those who have despaired of the effort to domesticate the Holy, those whom He has led to know True and Good and Beautiful in Him-those are the ‘fools for Christ” (172-73; emphasis mine)

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     The Federal Vision has received its share of criticism in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and as a student in a seminary where that is the predominate denomination represented I am forced to deal with the issues of the PCA.  One of the aspects of the Federal Vision is their emphasis on historical election vs. eternal election.  For those who may not be familiar with those terms, eternal election, or decree, is that which has been predestined from the foundations of the world and historical election recognizes that due to our human limitations in this life there are those within the covenant, seemingly elect, community that may not be truly, or eternal, elect.  Eternal election is a mystery to us; historical election is where we live day in and day out.  (If there is confusion here please ask for a fuller description, and I will be glad to elaborate)

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     Yesterday I offered a very short critique of church planting methodology, and the next question that naturally follows is, “Well what is your methodology?”  It is one thing to critique, and it is another to offer one’s own perspective (unfortunately I get the sense that in conservative Reformed circles we are quick to pick out the faults of others, but we are slow in offering an answer or solution).  So I will attempt to at least give some of my fundamental principles which could be given color by the reader.  Now, I have not researched church planting methodology.  This is not my field of expertise, so I proceed humbly.

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     It seems everytime I see a new church plant celebrated in a denominational magazine or paper I am often torn between excitement that a church has been birthed to reach the lost and unease concerning the name or picture or their goal or philosophy of ministry.  Of course, this doesn’t happen all of the time, but take a moment and think of some of the most recent names you have heard of church plants (I won’t name any, so as to avoid criticizing a particular church plant) or who they say they are trying to reach and how they plan to do that.  Again, lest I be misunderstood, I want to make clear that I am excited that Reformed denominations are starting to become intentional about church planting, but I do have some reservations concerning some of the methodology.

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(This post is an adaptation to a take home exam question from last semester.) 

Martin Luther’s high view of preaching closely linked the “Preached Word” with the “Written Word.”  What is your view of the value, the power and the mandate of preaching?  What about the authority of the Bible and its connection to preaching?

        The Second Helvetic Confession article 1 mentions that the preached Word is to be considered the very Word of God.  This comes very close to how I view the preached Word.  Yet, I do also think that the written Word can have the same affects as well.  They are intimately similar.

     This is the case in the redemptive-historical approach to the canon.  The Apostles who were given a ministry and a message from Christ, and brought to their remembrance by the Holy Spirit, preached this message across the Roman Empire.  Yet, they were men, and men die.  Thus, they committed this message to writing of which we have in the canon of the New Testament.  This being the case, the written Word, that which we call Scripture, is the oral word, or message, which has been entrusted to the saints.  When one faithfully preaches, or writes for that matter, the Word they are participating in the ministry of the Apostles and prophets, of whom the church stands upon, who were commissioned by Christ, who participated with, and fulfilled, the Prophets, and the Prophets were the very mouth piece of God to the people of God (there are clearly some implications for the fulfillment of prophecy in this understanding of the canon and preaching).

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