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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Here is another excellent post by Paul McCain.  Very informative.

“Since the time when the church entered the stream of history, it has appeared to the world as a complicated enigma, a riddle without a solution. Here are some of the questions. What is the distinct character of the church of Jesus Christ? What place does it occupy in history? How can the church’s claims be rationalized and what are proper responses to them? At what point can the question of what the church is be broached? Government officials in every country and state where the church is found have to face the question of what the church is. We are not the first ones to ask these questions. Since the time of Justin [ca. 100-ca.165] and Clement [ca. 100], of Celsus[1] [d. ca. 200] and Porphyrus[2] [ca. 232-ca. 303], philosophers have had to face them. Various modern scholarly disciplines, including historical research, psychology, sociology and the scientific study of religion [Religionswissenschaft], have examined the phenomena associated with the church in an attempt to provide a definition. So far no government has found an answer to the question of what the church is and it seems unlikely that any scientific discipline will have more success. “Their conclusions in defining the church conflict with each other.” What is the reason for their failure to come up with an answer? The answer obviously lies in the simple fact that there are no real analogous organizations which can serve as a standard or norm to which the church can be compared. Since comparisons are necessary in making definitions, it is impossible to define the church. The discipline of comparative religions, as the name indicates, compares the church with other religions. Its claims for revelation can be placed along side the beliefs and teachings of the other great world religions. The methods used in the history of religions and sociology can be used in placing the earliest forms of Christianity along side of Hellenistic Gnostic cults. This can be expanded to make other comparisons. A Catholic Church in its development can be compared with the “people” of Islam. The same comparison can be made between the social forms which have appeared in Christian history and the corresponding Asiatic world religions which appeared at that time. Recognizable parallels are easy to come by. It takes a bit of daring to take standards of the school of the history of religions, which are so obviously human conceptions, and then to use them in examining the phenomena associated with the church. At first glance such a scholarly approach holds out the promise of providing a definition of the church and what its essence is. This approach promises to deliver more than it actually does and soon proves to be deceptive. While for some phenomena connected with Christianity, some parallels can be found, for others there is neither an explanation nor a comparison. In what is beyond explanation, where there are no parallels in the history of religion (comparative religions) or in how religious associations are structured, the mystery of the church’s essence is hidden. One way out of the dilemma of explaining why the unique phenomena of the church are beyond explanation is to take refuge in the Latin axiom: “Individuum est ineffabile [What is distinctive or unique is beyond definition].” Unique individuality is not uncommon to history. This still leaves the problem of finding an answer for an historical definition, since the unique individuality of something living – like the church – cannot be so easily explained. Florenski[3] once said that the inability to come to a definition of what the church is demonstrates its living character. Looking for the answer of what makes the church the church simply goes beyond the limits of the scientific study of the history of religions and examining the structure of other human organizations. It must be conceded from the start that if the church is constituted by what its members believe, its rituals and its organizational structure, then the church should be studied along with other religious organizations which also have statements of what they believe and which have rituals. This approach leads to only one conclusion: the church’s essence is then not really distinctive. In this case the Christian church is only a peculiar or idiosyncratic historical phenomenon, as defined by the history of religions. But another such phenomenon resembling the church simply does not exist. The church has no parallels. There are no Jewish, Parsee (followers of Zoroaster), Manichean, Mohammedan or Buddhist churches. There is no church of Mithra. For the church is the body of Christ. She is not only called, but really is the body of Christ. She is the people of God in the same way that she is temple of the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as the body of Mohammed or of Buddha, or a body of Serpis or Mithra. Only under the presupposition that Jesus Christ is really the Son of God, who for the sake of us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was really made man,[4] can the church be the church. The church is church only because what the ancient creed says about the person of Jesus Christ, his birth, his death, his resurrection and his ascension, is really true. If all these things were not true, to drag up an old saying, these things are no more or less significant than any other good story. In this case the church, as we understand it, simply does not exist. The church has no other response for explaining the reason for the world’s failure to understand what she really is than by pointing out that the world does not believe in Christ. What the church believes about herself is dependent on what she believes about Jesus. If non-Christians know nothing of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, how could they possibly recognize his actual and personal presence in the world through the church? Does the church have a way of proclaiming the mystery of her existence in the world other than by proclaiming the presence of her exalted Lord? What the church is can only be shown by confessing Christ. Woe to the church, which seeks a way other than confessing Christ to gain the world’s attention. Ecumenical Council for Practical Christianity.”

Law and Gospel (December 1936). Hermann Sasse, Erlangen. Translated by David P. Scaer

[1] Celsus was a second century pagan philosopher. His attack on Christianity is the oldest of which portions survive. It is known to us from “Contra Celsum” by Origen which is a third century work which preserves 90% of Celsus’ original work, “Alaqh~ Logo~” or “True Word.” ODCC p. 311. MH

[2] Neoplatonist philosopher, perhaps once a Christian by definitely no longer so by the persecution of Decius in 250. Studied philosophy at Athens and was convinced of Neoplatonism by Plotinus, whom he met in Rome in 262. Studied popular religion and took a particularly negative attitude toward Christianity. He pointed out alleged inconsistencies in the Gospels and attacked the O.T. Refutations were presented by St. Methodius of Olympus, Eusebius of Ceasarea, Apollinarius of Laodicia, and others. ODCC p. 1309. MH

[3] George Florovsky 1893-1979, Russian theologian. From 1926 professor of Patristics at the Orthodox Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris and later Professor of Dogmatics. Came to the U.S. in 1948, professor and dean at St. Vladimier’s Seminary (1948-1955) and Professor of Eastern Church History at Harvard Divinity School (1956-1964), and Visiting Professor at Princeton from 1964. Played a leading part in the ecumenical movement from 1937 serving regularly as a delegate at assemblies of the Faith and Order movement and of the World Council of Churches. ODCC p. 620. MH

[4] Reference to the second article of the Nicene Creed. MH

“Gesetz und Evangelium.” Oekumenischen Rat Fuer Praktisches Christentum. Forschungsabteilung. Vertraulich Kirch, Dezember 1936. Unpublished paper. Feuerhahn Bibliography no. 36-02. This paper was written in preparation for the upcoming Faith and Order Conference at Edinburgh (1937). Sasse was at this time under prohibition of travel, as he had been when he attended a Faith and Order committee meeting in London at Archbishop Temple’s residence earlier in the year. He was also deeply involved into the open schism in the Confessing Church. The pressures he was facing at the time of this publication were enormous. The entire article will appear soon in “The Lonely Way” vol. 3, from C.P.H. MH

 

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EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN KENYA ON THE CHURCH APOSTATE

This is the statement of the executive committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya that met on the 12th November 2009, on the Apostasy of the church of Sweden to consecrate not just a woman to the office of bishop but a lesbian bishop on the 8th November 2009 in Uppsala cathedral.

We, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, are watching with shock, dismay and disappointment, the news about these recent developments on what we would call “ the mega” Church bodies in the world are up to, when they work so hard and tirelessly to lead the world into religiousless society (leave alone Christianity)

In addition to our statement on what took place in the USA when ELCA in its Church wide Assembly held on 21 August 2009, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, resolved officially to open the door of the office of the public ministry to those who are in “committed” same gender sexual relations, we further state that it beats our logics and saddens us very much that the church of Sweden, which at the reformation was the pillar of Biblical Reformation within Christendom has now decided to go apostate by consecretating a lesbian woman as bishop on the 8th November 2009 and indeed women in the office of the Ministry over and above its earlier decision to allow same sex partners to hold the Sacred office of Word and Sacrament.

We therefore again reiterate as we did in our statement condemning the decision of ELCA issued on the 25th of September 2009;

1. that we condemn in the strongest terms possible this unfortunate and anti-scriptural development in a church body that bears the name of the great reformer, Dr. Martin Luther;

2. that these Church Bodies have rejected the faith of Christendom as have been confessed all along starting with the Apostles and the fathers as is also confessed today in the three ecumenical creeds.

3. that these church bodies have out rightly rejected the Authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God 4. to the Lutherans, Dr. Martin Luther brought the Church from being under the authority of man and speculations of human

philosophies to be under the authority of the Scriptures. 5. that we want to remind those Lutheran Churches and others who ordain women into office of the Word and Sacrament that these

unfortunate practice is a novelty that just started some fifty year ago and indeed an epicenter of spiritual lesbianism in the Church

today. 6. that we condemn sexual perversion in all its manifestations; 7. that same sex marital union is not only contrary to God’s will as clearly expressed in the Holy Scripture, but also repugnant to the

natural created social order; 8. that God’s plan and purpose of marriage is fulfilled only in heterosexual (one man – one woman) life long commitment; 9. that this act by the Church of Sweden constitutes a loveless and callous disregard of the spiritual condition of those caught in

homosexual bondage; and 10. that, most seriously of all, it is nothing less than a denial of the transformative power of the love we know in our Savior Jesus Christ,

Who seeks all sinners in order to restore them to communion with the Father through the ministrations of His Holy Spirit in Word and sacrament.

Therefore, we must confess the Word of God and be faithful to it. In the name of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon the Church of Sweden to repent of its apostasy from the truth. We feel compassion for those among us who are caught in homosexual bondage and want them to know the transforming power of God’s forgiveness and love. Thus we hereby dedicate ourselves anew into the service of Him Who came to serve us sinners, including those caught in homosexual bondage, and Who by the power of His cross and resurrection creates in us a new will to please Him in patterns of living that are chaste and pure. In saying these things, we are standing with our fellow redeemed in the great consensus of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, particularly with those church bodies in the International Lutheran Council. We want to assure the remnant Church bodies in the world, that as much the apostasy may continue aggressively, we believe the Church will not be defaced from the face of the earth. We therefore want to encourage and stand with the remnant Church bodies in Europe like Mission province in Sweden, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in America, Faithful Lutheran Churches in Africa and the rest of the World to stand up and take the Challenge to remain faithful to the Scriptures – for by the Scripture the Lord will save the Church in the World even unto end of the earth.

Signed this 13th day of November 2009:

Most Rev. Dr. Walter Obare Arch Bishop

Rev. John Halakhe General Secretary

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – A federal judge has ruled two Connecticut public high schools can’t hold their graduations inside a church because that would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall made the ruling Monday in the case of Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School, both in Enfield.

The Enfield school board says it voted to hold services June 23 and 24 at The First Cathedral in Bloomfield because it had enough space at the right price. But two students and three of their parents sued.

The judge says Enfield had unconstitutionally entangled itself with religion by agreeing to cover much of the church’s religious imagery. She also says the town coerced the plaintiffs to support religion by forcing them to enter the church for graduation.

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Due to the — well, how else to put it than this? — spectacular success and reception of The Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House is launching an effort to place the hymnal into every home. Traditionally, for Lutherans, there have been three core books that have shaped and formed their faith and life: Bible, Catechism, Hymnal. Why the hymnal? The hymnal gives voice to faith, by means of the hymns that are beautiful poetic expressions of all aspects of our life as God’s people. Hymns give voice to our hope and fears, our sorrow and joy, our thanks and praise, that transcend any one of our ability to do so. Truly, we sing “with the whole people of God” as we use our hymnals, privately or alone, or in small groups. And so, in order to increase the use of the hymnal in this way, Concordia Publishing House will be featuring a regular series of articles on various aspects of the hymnal and encouraging our pastors and congregations to make a concerted “push” in their parish to get the hymnals beyond the pew racks and into the homes of our people. You can read more about this emphasis by visiting the CPH web site for the special Hymnal in Every Home campaign underway.

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Dr. John MacArthur offers these poignant observations about the state of American Evangelicalism, which apply across the board to all conservative denominations in the USA. These problems are not particular to the Evangelicals. We Lutherans are struggling with the same issues. I appreciate Dr. MacArthur’s honesty and candor. Much food for thought for all of us. I urge you to read this very carefully.

You don’t have to be an astute observer of the evangelical scene to notice the unrelenting barrage of outlandish ideas, philosophies, and programs. Never in the history of the church has so much innovation met with so little critical thinking.

Giving a thoughtful biblical response becomes harder and harder all the time. Merely sorting through all the evangelical trends and recognizing which of these novelties really represent dangerous threats to the health and harmony of the church is challenging enough. Effectively answering the huge smorgasbord of accompanying errors poses an even greater dilemma. New errors sometimes seem to multiply faster than the previous ones can be answered.

To sort it all out in a godly way, cutting a straight path through the wreckage of evangelicalism, several old-fashioned, Christlike virtues are absolutely essential: biblical discernment, wisdom, fortitude, determination, endurance, skill in handling Scripture, strong convictions, the ability to speak candidly without waffling, and a willingness to enter into conflict.

Let’s be honest: those are not qualities the contemporary evangelical movement has cultivated. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Consider the values and motives that prompt postmodern evangelicals to do the things they do. The larger evangelical movement today is obsessed with opinion polls, brand identity, market research, merchandizing schemes, innovative strategies, and numerical growth. Evangelicals are also preoccupied with matters such as their image before the general public and before the academic world, their clout in the political arena, their portrayal by the media, and similar shallow, self-centered matters.

Maintaining a positive image has become a priority over guarding the truth.

The PR-driven church. Somewhere along the line, evangelicals bought the lie that the Great Commission is a marketing mandate. The leading strategists for church growth today are therefore all pollsters and public relations managers. In the words of Rick Warren, “If you want to advertise your church to the unchurched, you must learn to think and speak like they do.” [Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 189] An endless parade of self-styled church-growth specialists has been repeating that same mantra for several decades, and multitudes of Christians and church leaders now accept the idea uncritically. Both their message to the world and the means by which they communicate that message have been carefully tailored by consumer relations experts to appeal to worldly minds.

Many church leaders have radically changed the way they look at the gospel. Rather than seeing it as a message from God that Christians are called to proclaim as Christ’s ambassadors (without tampering with it or changing it in any way), they now treat it like a commodity to be sold at market. Rather than plainly preaching God’s Word in a way that unleashes the power and truth of it, they try desperately to package the message to make it subtler and more appealing to the world.

Runaway pragmatism and trivial pursuit. The most compelling question in the minds and on the lips of many pastors today is not “What’s true?” but rather “What works?” Evangelicals these days care less about theology than they do about methodology. Truth has taken a backseat to more pragmatic concerns. When a person is trying hard to customize one’s message to meet the “felt needs” of one’s audience, earnestly contending for the faith is out of the question.

That is precisely why, for many years now, evangelical leaders have systematically embraced and fostered almost every worldly, shallow, and frivolous idea that comes into the church. A pathological devotion to superficiality has practically become the chief hallmark of the movement. Evangelicals are obsessed with pop culture, and they ape it fanatically. Contemporary church leaders are so busy trying to stay current with the latest fads that they rarely give much sober thought to weightier scriptural matters.

In the typical evangelical church, even Sunday services are often devoted to the trivial pursuit of worldly things. After all, churches are competing for attention in a media-driven world. So the church vainly tries to put on a bigger, flashier spectacle than the world.

Evangelical fad surfing. Contemporary evangelicals have therefore become very much like “children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4: 14). They follow whatever is the latest popular trend. They buy whatever is the current best seller. They line up to see any celebrity who speaks spiritual-sounding language. They watch eagerly for the next Hollywood movie with any “spiritual” theme or religious imagery that they can latch on to. And evangelicals discuss these fads and fashions endlessly, as if every cultural icon that captures their attention had profound and serious spiritual significance.

Evangelical churchgoers desperately want their churches to stay on the leading edge of whatever is currently in vogue in the evangelical community. It almost seems like ancient history now, but for a while, any church that wanted to be in fashion had to sponsor seminars on how to pray the prayer of Jabez. But woe to the church that was still doing Jabez when The Purpose-Driven Life took center stage. By then, any church that wanted to retain its standing and credibility in the evangelical movement had better be doing “Forty Days of Purpose.” And if your church didn’t get through the “Forty Days” in time to host group studies or preach a series of sermons about The Da Vinci Code before the Hollywood movie version came out, then your church was considered badly out of touch with what really matters.

It is too late now if you missed any of those trends. To use the language of the movement, they are all so five minutes ago. If your church is just now experimenting with Emerging-style worship, candles, postmodern liturgy, and the like, then you are clearly way behind—that train already left the station…and crashed.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that all those trends are equally bad. Some of them are not necessarily bad at all. For example, there can be great benefit in teaching a congregation how to respond to something like The Da Vinci Code. But contemporary evangelicals have been conditioned to anticipate and follow every fad with an almost mindless herd mentality. They sometimes seem to move from fad to fad with an uninhibited and undiscerning eagerness that does leave them exposed to things that may well be spiritually lethal. In fact, the question of whether the latest trend is dangerous or not is not a welcome question in most evangelical circles anymore. Whatever happens to be popular at the moment is what drives the whole evangelical agenda.

That mentality is precisely what Paul warned against in Ephesians 4:14. It has left evangelical Christians dangerously exposed to trickery, deceitfulness, and unsound doctrine. It has also left them completely unequipped to practice any degree of true biblical discernment.

The sad truth is that the larger part of the evangelical movement is already so badly compromised that sound doctrine has almost become a nonissue.

The mad pursuit of nondoctrinal “relevancy.” Even at the very heart of the evangelical mainstream, where you might expect to find some commitment to biblical doctrine and at least a measure of concern about defending the faith, what you find instead is a movement utterly dominated by people whose first concern is to try to keep in step with the times in order to be “relevant.”

Sound doctrine? Too arcane for the average churchgoer. Biblical exposition? That alienates the unchurched. Clear preaching on sin and redemption? Let’s be careful not to subvert the self-esteem of hurting people. The Great Commission? Our most effective strategy has been making the church service into a massive Super Bowl party. Serious discipleship? Sure. There’s a great series of group studies based on The Matrix trilogy. Let’s work our way through that. Worship where God is recognized as high and lifted up? Get real. We need to reach people on the level where they are.

Evangelicals and their leaders have doggedly pursued that same course for several decades now—in spite of many clear biblical instructions that warn us not to be so childish (in addition to Eph. 4:14, see also 1 Cor. 14:202 Tim. 4:3-4Heb. 5:12-14).

What’s the heart of the problem? It boils down to this: many in the evangelical movement have forgotten who is Lord over the church. They have either abandoned or downright rejected their true Head and given His rightful place to evangelical pollsters and church-growth gurus.

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. Grace to You radio, video, audio, print, and website resources reach millions worldwide each day. Over four decades of ministry, John has written dozens of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study BibleThe Gospel According to JesusThe New Testament Commentaryseries, The Truth War, and The Jesus You Can’t Ignore. He and his wife, Patricia, have four married children and fourteen grandchildren.

The original post is here.

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Thoughts from Pastor Larry Peters.

When I became a man, I gave up childish ways – oh, did you think that was me talking?? If you knew me, you would laugh at the audacity of me saying “I’m all grown up.” My family would laugh, for sure. I wish I could say them with some shred of truth but St. Paul is the one who spoke these words in the midst of the familiar chapter on love. Me? I have not grown up. When I look in my heart and I see staring back at me a childish person – and that is not flattery. I am immature, immodest, self-centered, judgmental, and weak willed. Every day is a battle for control of my heart, reigning in those childish ways and attempting under the guidance of the Spirit to become the mature son of God our Lord desires of me… does that sound familiar to you, too??

(more…)

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