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.

Has not been the case since.

In 2011 I came the closest I ever have to becoming liberal in both theology and ideology.

As a result of God’s providence in putting the right books in my hands and leading me to a wholehearted embracing of the Reformed tradition of theology and faith, that has not been the case since.

Let me say that theologically speaking, I don’t have a liberal bone in my body. In college I read J. Gresham Machen’s great book, Christianity and Liberalism, and saw liberalism up close and at its worst, in the university and in the church. That was my vaccination; since my sophomore year in college, I have never since had the slightest temptation to be a liberal. The whole idea of adjusting or rewriting the gospel to make it acceptable to modern man is an idea which I view with supreme contempt. I have always insisted that Christianity is entirely pointless unless it is a revelation from the true God; and if God has revealed it, then we are emphatically not free to pick and choose, or to make adjustments to suit our tastes.

Equally, I despise the idea, not uncommon in evangelical circles, that Christians have to follow all the intellectual, ethical, and political fashions: egalitarianism, pluralism, liberal divorce, abortion, gay rights, evolution, secular psychology, or whatever.

– Dr. John Frame; A Theology of Opportunity: Sola Scriptura and the Great Commission 

Scripture forms the church, not the reverse

This brings us to sola Scriptura. Sometimes this great slogan is quoted as if to mean, “I believe in sola Scriptura, this is my interpretation, therefore if you disagree, you are denying Scripture.” To disagree with an interpretation of Scripture is not necessarily the same thing as disagreeing with Scripture itself. To be sure, it is possible to deny Scripture; this is why we have a Confession and Consistories, to prevent and correct mistakes in Biblical interpretation. It does not follow, however, that because one believes in the unique and primary authority of Scripture, that therefore one’s interpretation of a given passage is necessarily correct.  

 By sola Scriptura our Reformed fathers meant to teach that Scripture alone is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, not the traditions of men or even the Church. Scripture is that “norm which norms all other norms.” We confess that the Scripture forms the church, not the reverse. We must then reject those radical Bible interpreters who teach that the Bible has no fixed meaning or that the reader controls the meaning of the text.

– Dr. R. Scott Clark, Hermeneutics and the Creation Wars