A Root-for-the-Home-Team Point

Dr. Hart invokes John 4 to describe his attendance of Mass while in Rome.  You needn’t worry about him swimming the Tiber any time soon, though.

I couldn’t help but think that U.S. Roman Catholics who worship in Rome must feel a tad underwhelmed when they return to their home parish. Rome simply has more stuff than Lansing, Michigan. In fact, place seems to matter for Roman Catholicism in ways that rival Judaism and Islam — certain locales are holy and function as the spiritual capital for the faith. 

In comparison, I can return to the States (in a week or so) after worshiping with Presbyterians in Dublin and Edinburgh and not think twice about missing the liturgical bling — and I can say that even while admitting Presbyterianism’s debt to the Scots, and to the charms of what might qualify as Presbyterianism’s capital city — Edinburgh. For Presbyterians, worship doesn’t depend on the tie between the minister and another church official, nor does it include relics or objects that point to holy persons who inhabited that space. The services in Dublin and Edinburgh were not any more special or meaningful because they were closer to Presbyterianism’s original space. 

That would seem to confirm Jesus’ point to the Samaritan woman at the well that Christian worship depends not on place or space but on word and Spirit. Sure, that’s a root-for-the-home-team point. But it does account for the lack of liturgical envy among New World Presbyterians. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Spirit and the word are just as much a part of worship as in the Presbyterian heartland.

Staying Put

Emphasis mine.

He has additional theological reasons (Purgatory, Marian doctrines, Papacy, icons, and “ambiguities” regarding justification and tradition) for staying put. But if these do not constitute reasons for believing that the RCC is a false church, then they also cannot trump church unity, can they? I still come back to the idea that if the RCC is a true church, then we ought to be a part of it. My own position is that the RCC is a false church because of these reasons (though I would not phrase the RCC position on justification as “ambiguous.” There is hardly any ambiguity in Trent’s doctrine of justification). They do not have the gospel. They twist the sacraments into something unrecognizable, and their version of church discipline is surely wide of the mark in the papacy. The marks of the church are therefore either so twisted as to be negligible, or else non-existent. The ultimate reason (for me) for not viewing the RCC as a true church is its own self-understanding as an extension of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This is idolatry of the church. It is man worship, church worship. It takes what belongs only to Jesus and gives it to the church, despite its own claims that it does not do that.

– Lane Keister; A Response to Leithart’s “Staying Put”

Sainthood of believers, not papacy of believers.

Let me put the question differently: Why do most of us intuitively recognize that celebrity pastors are a problem — even that “celebrity” itself is a problem — yet celebrate the uber-celebrity pastor, the one Vicar of Christ in Rome? And why do we venerate a virtual handful of canonized saints out of global Christianity, when the standard apostolic practice recorded throughout the New Testament church is to greet every baptized Christian as a saint, and to thank God for their holiness?

My hunch is that there is a deep — and not necessarily healthy — desire to religiously venerate our fellow man. His holiness Bergoglio from Buenos Aires is endearing and warm; His holiness Yahweh of Sinai is a consuming fire.

A church called to suffer in the world, like it’s Savior did, needs some encouragement.
This is precisely why the argument from tradition for the veneration of saints is so strong and compelling. It appeals to a deep human desire to elevate the best in us all, to identify a champion and leader of our tribe. It is quite frankly entirely natural, and laudable, for a religious community to hold in awe a martyr, one who would rather die than betray his Lord. I know I do. It is natural to remember them and lift them up as role models and examples to emulate when the next wave of persecution roles over the church.  A church called to suffer in the world, like it’s Savior did, needs some encouragement. 

However, for a Reformed Christian such as myself, the Roman Catholic teaching about the canonization of saints goes far beyond such recognition. Indeed, it is one of the most offensive doctrines promulgated by the church, the Reformation in a nutshell. And not just because it is profoundly unbiblical, unseemly, and often at the lay level, rankly superstitious. Rather, and far worse, because it reflects a fundamentally human, not divine, perspective on holiness, both the holiness of man, and the holiness of God.

-Dr. Brian Lee; Pope Francis, TMZ, and Sainthood 

Advantage: denominations. (Shots fired!)

Got a bishop/pastor/self-appointed “super apostle” (2 Cor 11) embroiled in a real estate or financial scandal?
Rome did — but not anymore!  At least in this case.
The Pope may be unscriptural and the church preaching a false Gospel,  but good on them (him?) for stepping in and cleaning up when the parishes and congregations weren’t.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.
Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry.
At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.
But in a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.


Meanwhile, back in North Carolina…


While one corrupt person is ousted in Charlotte, there is still work to be done. 


UPDATE: Shots fired!  Thanks to Pirate Christian for the tip.
Marvin Olasky at World: “The Second Great Embarassment — Protestants who treat leaders as mini-popes have fallen far from the Reformation

Others are saying "no", and so can you.

Packiam is endemic of how most Lent-adopters talk about church history: They denigrate (explicitly or implicitly) their low-church Evangelicalism as unmoored from tradition and underscore how adopting the liturgical practice connects them to the historic church. But what if the best way to express trans-generational solidarity with the millions of believers who have walked before you is by eschewing Lent? That’s the argument I want to support… 


Christians are called to suffer as Christ suffered, that is, with the same purpose. We are called to suffer not for ourselves, but for others. When we engage in fasting in his image, but for the purpose of purifying ourselves, we invert that image. Such penitence is ultimately focused on self, not on the other.
Jesus’s passion was an act of love for us: “We love, because he first loved us.” We needn’t invent any obligation not laid upon us by the Lord, who summarized all the Law and Prophets (and ceremonies and fasts) of the Old Testament with this simple command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The most powerful reminders and signs and seals of that love, are the ones Jesus gave us: The preaching of Christ crucified, and the water and bread and wine of his holy sacraments.
You are free indeed to fast, or not to fast. This year, consider repenting of Lent. Prepare for Easter by loving your neighbor until it hurts, and embracing the love — and forgiveness — of Christ at Calvary. Trust me, you’ll need it.


As much as I appreciate Rome’s attention to sin and its consequences — something that doesn’t come through when leaders speak of Christ’s self-sacrificial love as a model for social justice and the dignity of the human person — Lent has significance for Roman Catholics that it cannot have for Protestants. After all, Protestants don’t have a history of self-inflicted pain to merit spiritual rewards. If as the gospel allies would have it that Lent is to remind us of Christ, then we should also be reminded that nothing we do to attack sin can compare with what Christ accomplished in his own suffering and death. If Protestants deny themselves, it is part of sanctification, the mortification of the self, that comes daily and year round through the means of grace and the armor of God (Eph. 6). We don’t spend forty days a year denying self. 

Church Invite Through Presbyterian Proverbs

I spell Presbyterian with a capital “J-O-H-N-K-N-O-X.”  The link at the bottom only strengthens my stubborn spelling.
For anyone in the northwest corner of North Carolina, I’d like to extend an invitation to the church to whom I belong, Redeemer Yadkin Valley (PCA).  You will hear, see, taste, and sing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If further away, use the NAPARC Local Congregation Finder to find the closest church nearest you.
Those who already call a confessional Presbyterian and/or Reformed church home can attest to the proverbs below and the full list (see citation).

Grace walks softly.  Loud and flashy don’t awaken it and they seldom describe it. Mix simple worship, solid preaching and the sacraments – let grace appear in its own time and its own way. 

Catholic converts cleaveth unto the church but Evangelicals are a church unto themselves.  Former Catholics respect the church and its government while broad Evangelicals take years to “get it,” if they ever get it at all. 

A clearly preached gospel gives more hope than anything else you can say or do.

– from Presbyterian Proverbs