Presbyterian Proverbs

Presbyterian Blues

aesops Greek Fables (close enough)

An advantage of being in the same church for a long time is that you have an opportunity to see things play out.  You can observe parenting and then watch the “parented” children grow up.  You can see folks go from young parents to empty nesters.  You can see all sorts of people just passing through. In short, you’re around long enough for time to tell its story.  And if it told proverbs about Presbyterian church life, they might sound like this.

  1. One who speaketh in his first Sunday School class will evaporate like the morning dew.   It’s uncanny – visitors who enter by sharing their brilliance in their first Sunday School class won’t be around for long.  And, really, you don’t want them around for very long.
  2. Better an early grave than the sneer of an alpha church lady.  Thinking of confronting her? Just…

View original post 735 more words

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.

The mighty river of scrutiny, may it ever flow.

I think the Middle Ground Fallacy is just that. On disputed matters we all can’t be right and our unity can’t be based on simply agreeing to hold positions somewhere in the middle. I believe with what we have and who we are we pray, work and as best we can minister faithfully as those entrusted with the gospel. When we disagree we should do it with full throat (easy for me) but with integrity, humility and respect (not so easy for me). And then we see what happens. It may end well. It may not. I’m completely OK with that. 

I put this on public display for a reason. There may come a time when I completely ignore all of this. In that case I may need to be tied to a chair and have this read to me for a few days. That’s another way of saying what I’m aspiring to should involve scrutiny. Lot’s of it. And if I devolve into a denominational apparatchik that scrutiny should be high, hot and relentless. It should wash over me like a mighty river. As I glibly mix metaphors. 

See you in Houston. 

Tom CannonBirmingham, AL 

June 9, 2014

– Vintage 73; The PCA — Telling Secrets and Picking Teams

Mis-guided mis-understandings

I am dismayed that we even need to have this debate and discussion within the PCA. The fact that our cutting-edge missiologists have led so many so far astray so easily is shocking to me. I would think that the Scriptures, the Confession, the church and the history of persecution would have strengthened us against such poisonous nonsense. We cheapen the sacrifice of bold martyrs and we mock their testimony before a hostile world when we embrace such a diluted, compromised, non-Christian “gospel” for the mission field. We take a Biblical theology of the church militant and flush it away flippantly and irresponsibly with such mis-guided mis-understandings.   

– Jason A. Van Bemmel; 

Insider Movements: Making a Mockery of Martyrs and Missions

HT: Aquila Report

Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumo

Read Matt. 10:32-33 

This just in: the Bible answers the question about how converts in hostile countries are to bear witness to Christ: Publicly. That, at least, is what Jesus said in the first Gospel. 

Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumbo and artful dodges—often asserted by Western theoreticians ensconced by comfortable tenure, grants, and libraries—we ought not forget that our Lord answers this question in red letters. To acknowledge Christ means to be unashamed of him. Jesus thought that would be good for us in every generation and in every culture, even if persecution occurred. Calvin said that, “there is no believer whom the Son of God does not require to be his witness.”

– David Hall; A Place For Truth; “Update on the Insider Movement

What’s Up With That?

From an interview with DG Hart, conducted by David Strain on his blog:

1.      Is there a connection between 19thcentury revival/revivalism and the kind of socio-political agendas often advocated by both the Christian Right and Left today?

Definitely.  Many evangelicals and Reformed do not understand that the kind of evangelical activism they now promote or perform was first part of the Second Great Awakening – the bad one.  Not only was Finney interested in converting people, but he also wanted a righteous and just society.  Evangelicals responded by forming a ton of voluntary societies that did in many respects transform American society (if you were not a member of the Whig or Republican parties, you may not have appreciated all of these reforms.)

So the Second no-so-great Awakening drove a wedge between Protestants, those with a high view of the church (Episcopalians, Lutherans, and some Old School Presbyterians) and those with a low view of the church and a high view of America.  The ethno-cultural school of political historians has produced a body of literature on these ecclesial differences, and this work has actually informed my own writing on confessional Protestantism.  The term “confessional” itself comes from political history and it stands for high church Protestants who are less concerned about social and political matters compared to the eternal realities of the gospel.

One other historical reference worthy of comment here is that the Second not-so-great Awakening was really the soil from which the Social Gospel sprung.  I sometimes wonder why today’s “conservative” evangelicals are so willing to repeat the efforts and arguments that “liberal” Protestants were making a hundred years ago.  Also, if you look at the books written by leaders of the religious right, people like Falwell and Ralph Reed, you see the Second not-so-great Awakening cited as a model or inspiration for contemporary political activism.

As the kids used to say, “What’s up with that?”

The PCUSA – in its long migration from orthodox Christianity

This, combined with the [denomination]’s acceptance of legalized abortion — a racist, eugenic construct that has taken a horrific toll on minority communities — represent acts of evil. Would Christ traffic in the lies spread by jihadist death cults and shun the only Middle East democracy that protects the liberty of His followers?  

Tobin says, “Jews and all Christians and people of faith who truly care about peace should make it clear that so long as the Presbyterian Church USA is waging war on the Jews, they will treat it as a hate group masquerading as a community of faith.” 

Exactly so. The PCUSA – in its long migration from orthodox Christianity — is shaming itself and damaging the very name of the church. Will its fellow-travelers in the religious Left, those who pride themselves on opposing racism in all its forms, condemn this blatant hate? 

I’m not holding my breath.

– David French, The Shameful Racism of the Presbyterian Church (USA)