Archive for the ‘Cultural’ Category

Reformed Theologies

Hoss asks for a classic, but all I can offer at the moment is a conversation starter. What is “Reformed theology” or “Reformed Orthodoxy”?

Richard Muller has made the second label popular, however, I’m afraid many have attempted to invoke him to prove more than he ever intended. I can’t help but think of the confessional communitarians who tell us that “Reformed theology is ours!” and attempt to draw the lines in overly narrow and, at times, idiosyncratic ways.

Ryan Penn made a helpful observation in an older post, and I’d like to quote a portion of his comment. He writes:

So, In locating the confessions, in order that we might understand them, we would have to attend to those who wrote it (if we know) and the local circumstance, and also the influential Preachers, Theologians, and Schoolmen who would all make up part of the network which lead to the ‘Reformed’ part of the Church. At this point we’re really using a network of thinkers, in various locations, over a fair amount of time, all who self identified as part of the Reformed Church, and in their time were received as such (I leave out the tricky question of what to do with the Lutherans and the so-called phillipists, and the relation of both to the ‘Reformed’). This works fine if one is looking for a consensus, rather weakly understood, but should one push it to be an orthodoxy, it is too imprecise for the task.

And again, what we have to remember is that the documents in question did not make a city reformed; the city already was. These things came to be in a reformed city state (or larger, in the later cases of England, Scotland, and the Netherlands, among others), and were used to instruct the people, and also as a public voice, but usually more one or the other, depending on the document. The network (of cities, of states, of thinkers, of refugees), provided the opportunity for these confessions, but is not subsumed by them.

Indeed, as one examines particular instantiations of Reformed theology, the situation becomes complex. There is no simple “development,” as if the messy strains all managed to iron themselves out over time. Turretin will speak of “Orthodoxy,” but then he’ll also say, “But many of our divines say otherwise.” Politics and religion were married. Church government questions were hardly peripheral. Theological wars in one Reformed country were hardly of interest in another Reformed country. Strange alliances pop up. We could go on.


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I have a question for the contributors and anyone else wanting to weigh in.

Let’s say gay marriage becomes permanently endorsed by more states and/or the whole U.S.  What should the Church’s official response be?

 Our offenses against marriage have already degraded the institution with the introduction of no-fault divorce (in some states) and the legitimization of bastardy.  Mariage is no longer widely considered to be a sacred  and inviolable bond.  Fatherhood and male headship are dishonored, and being a stay-at-home mother viewed with contempt. 

For secular government to take upon itself the prerogative to change the definition of marriage is the last straw. 

Therefore, I propose that the Church convene a disciplinary  regional council (in the United States and Canada) for the following purposes:

1)  To declare civil marriages performed after a certain date (i.e., after gay marriage came into effect) unlawful (contrary to natural and ecclesiastical law), and therefore null and void in the eyes of God.

2) To decree that no persons civilly “married” after said date are to be admitted to church membership and/or communion.

3) To decree that all such persons may be admitted to membership and communion only after their unions have been blessed by a minister of the Gospel.

Well, dear contributors, what do you think about the idea and possibility of such a Church assembly? 

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Not that I am interested in promoting or disclaiming Wright one way or another, but I thought that discussion of his theology might be benefited by attention to his controversial preaching in its full context. This is the big one, preached the Sunday following 9/11/2001.

Having just finished an extended paper on the imprecatory Psalms, I am quite impressed by the quality and thoughtfulness of his exposition.

“The Day of Jerusalem’s Fall”

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Having watched the recent Bill Moyers’ interview with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I think that I understand the whole situation much better. You can watch the entire interview in two parts online, and I would commend it to you.

There is obviously much for which we should applaud the Rev. Wright. He is sincere. He is working for change. He seems much more, well, normal in the interview. There can be no doubt that the mainstream media jumped on his sermons as an opportunity to make a little political noise, and it was effective.

But my problems with Wright were never that he was a controversialist or politically incorrect. I like to think that I’m pretty politically incorrect, and in fact, many of his criticisms of the American system are criticisms that I myself share. I was voting for Ron Paul, after all.

My problems with Wright were and remain problems that are larger than this one incident. However poorly I communicated my concerns about the state of Black theology, I want to express that I have them because I have a desire to see the Black church attain a state of prominence within its own community, making effective change socially as well as spiritually. I do not feel that this can be properly achieved, however, unless we keep priorities in the proper order. (more…)

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This will be the last thing I post here about Obama lest we get a reputation for endorsing particular candidates (for the record, I don’t endorse anyone for political office). Given the theological and theo-political implications of these issues, however, I thought we might take in the continuing discussion as it transpired in the public square today. For my part this was among the more profound speeches by any politician in my lifetime. As someone who resides in one of the more racially polarized cities in the country (and after years of ministry in the cities of Detroit, Indianapolis, and Chicago) his words ring especially true to my own experience.

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With over a month till the next presidential primary in the state of Pennsylvania it is certainly a season of boredom in the media and our friends who earn their money filling column space and selling commercial advertising can certainly be forgiven for leaping on the hint of controversy to buttress lagging interest in events of the day. That being said, I have become increasingly distressed by what can only be described as a feeding frenzy surrounding the preaching of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

As a fairly conservative priest of the Anglican Mission to the Americas, I have no particular affinity with the theological commitments of Rev. Wright or with the United Church of Christ of which Trinity Church is a part, but I do have considerable regard for the prophetic role of clerical ministry and for the right of clergy to speak in a way that is independent of political control and the constraints of popular opinion. (more…)

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I make a point to regularly disagree with Keith Olbermann on any number of issues. I also am frequently dismayed by his occasional lapses into personal invective and special pleading. That being said, this commentary represents truth-telling at its finest. Whether one shares his ideological commitments or not, the fact that he eschews the fawning election year tendency to conceal and obscure is to be celebrated. One of the surest litmus tests of truth in public discourse is the instance of its being spoken against partisan self-interest.

I imagine that this is what Jeremiah might have sounded like at court in the face of false prophets prognosticating sweetness and light.

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As a Protestant standing in the tradition of the magisterial Reformation, I take it as axiomatic that sola Scriptura is properly defined as “Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith.” This stands in contradistinction to solo Scriptura, which says “Scripture is the only rule of faith.” Now this means that sola Scriptura implies that there are other rules of faith, albeit, fallible ones. Here we would place such things as our Confessions of Faith, our catechisms, and the ministerial decrees of Councils.

But if sola Scriptura means that there are other rules of faith, albeit fallible ones, to what exactly does the word “faith” refer? We speak of “the faith once for all delivered” (Jude 3), and by this we surely mean such Scriptural teachings as creation, the Fall, the nature of the Godhead, the deity of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, justification by faith, the Last Judgment, the recreation of the heavens and the earth, and so on. This much all catholic-orthodox Christians of whatever affiliation agree.


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Despite the intervening month and change since my wife and I screened There Will Be Blood, I have continued to be palpably moved by the film. I made some of the same connections that the author of this review made, but he puts them much better…

Daniel Plainview as the devil… What an absolutely riveting performance by Daniel Day Lewis.

Daniel Plainview

We Will Be That Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson Reveals Satan Fall Like Lightning

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A Robust Gospel

I got to know Scot McKnight a few years ago while working with Kevin Vanhoozer and Doug Sweeney in the early days of the “Scripture Seminar” at the Center for Theological Understanding at TEDS. Many have come to appreciate him through his publications and regular postings at his Jesus Creed blog.

I found this article to be very helpful, especially as a preacher in Lent with Holy Week on the horizon.

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More pulpit shenanigans from one brother who emphatically does not push himself into God’s place and lord it in the Church…

Of course that quote from Graham at the end sounds less menacing when it is fully quoted…

Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there’s the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.

In context, Graham’s words sound more or less like a paraphrase and application of St. Paul:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16).

In any case, Graham seems fairly careful to merely express a hope out of which (as Von Balthazar urges) every Christian ought dare to pray that all will be saved. This is something quite different than actually preaching or offering a gospel that proclaims it unnecessary to confess Jesus as Lord and to believe that God has raised him from the dead. The latter would be a “different gospel” than the one that we have been charged to herald and we are not at liberty to offer it. With a lifetime of preaching behind him as testimony to his own practice, I think that Graham would leap to agree.



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Not that ordination is a completely effective prophylactic against idiocy in the pulpit, but it does reduce instances like this…

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