Sunday, February 29, 2004

There is a rather mean stomach bug going around at the moment. The first resident of the Roberts' household to succumb was Monika, who seems to be especially gifted at picking up infections in the various places she works as a nurse. Mark (the trappist) was next. This morning I walked into the sitting room and saw him slouched in the chair looking pale and drawn. He had about 45 minutes sleep last night and vomited every half hour or so. I sat next to Jonathan for the morning service and we discussed Monika and Mark's misfortune. Returning home after our fellowship lunch, it was Jonathan's turn; he felt ill and threw up in the car. A group of about fifteen of us got together on Friday night, of this group five now have 'the plague'. So far I have escaped, but I can't say that I fancy my chances of escaping it altogether. Today our church said farewell to two of our young people. One is going over to marry a girl in the US; the other is Dave, who is returning to be with his parents following his brother Steve's death. I must admit, I am going to miss having Dave around. He is one of my greatest friends and has had a deep effect on me. Were it not for Dave I would probably never have given much thought to theology at all. About three and a half years ago Dave encouraged me to become involved in a situation that necessitated my learning theology as quickly as possible. I haven't looked back since. The church will miss his enthusiastic personal evangelism; I will miss shared times of prayer and the spark that he always adds to the group activities the young people in the church engage in. Fortunately he will be visiting occasionally. Now that Dave is moving out of the house that he shares with Jonathan, Mark is hoping to move in. Unfortunately the noisiest younger brother remains.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Critique of Dr. Fred Malone on Baptism — Part 5
Sorry about the delay...
Nothing like being in the majority! :-D
Serious competition for Kevin Bush in the all-time favourite site category... We all owe Emeth Smith a big thank you!

Friday, February 27, 2004

If you are not already acquainted with the writings of John Zizioulas, now is as good a time as any to start. The following article is a good introduction to some of the themes dealt with in Being As Communion:
Communion and Otherness

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Update on news... Nothing particularly profound has occurred of late. At the moment I am trying to finish a number of jobs that have been on the backburner for far too long. My ankle continues to play up. I still can't do that much on it after I hurt it playing football a month ago. Somewhat annoying. This weekend has been quite busy. I was invited to speak at a local church Sunday morning (Matthew 11:25-30) and spoke at my own church Sunday evening on the Lord's Supper as the victory feast (continuing my occasional series on the Supper). On Monday night I finished my introductory series on worship at the theology class. Tomorrow I have been invited to speak on Romans 12:3-21 at the Staffordshire University Christian Union. This was all arranged at the last moment, as the speaker they were hoping for couldn't turn up. It will be my first time there but I must admit that I am quite looking forward to it. From what I hear they are a really good group (I also know a number of the members). At the moment we have a number of visitors. My granny has come up from Worcester for the week and we also have a visitor from a church in Tirana in Albania, Olti Todo. Our church has close ties with his church and we are hoping to further develop them over the coming years. College work has eased off after the exam period and so I have tried to take some of the extra time this leaves me with to write up a comprehensive review of Dr. Fred Malone's book on Baptism. I should post the next post sometime today. Unfortunately I haven't been able to do as much systematic reading as I would have liked to over the last week or two. I have read a good number of articles and have 'dipped' into books a lot. At present I am spending some time looking through the commentaries on Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the New Interpreter's Bible series. I am also reacquainting myself with much of the material relevant to the debates surrounding Baptism.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

In The Passion of the Christ Satan is played by a woman. A triumph for the feminists?

Parking space for £100,000, anyone?
The revised version of Peter Leithart's fantastic treatment of justification "Judge Me, O God"

Monday, February 23, 2004

I hope to post the next section of my critique of Malone sometime tomorrow or the next day. I have been very busy over the weekend and haven't had the time to write much more.
Farewell to the stiff upper lip...
Britons are feeding their own egos by indulging in "recreational grief" for murdered children and dead celebrities they have never met, claims a report.
I couldn't agree more. Whether you call it 'mourning sickness' or 'emotional inflation', it is a very real problem in Britain today. We just cannot bypass any opportunity to emote at each other. Mourning becomes so trite and banal that we are losing the ability to distinguish real grief from the sick sentimentalism orchestrated by the gutter press. The author of the report (Patrick West) is quite right to point out that this is nothing less than a substitute for religion. I couldn't describe the problem better than the blurb for West's book Conspicuous Compassion:—
Patrick West argues that wearing coloured ribbons, strapping red noses onto the front of your car, signing internet petitions, and carrying banners saying 'Not In My Name' are part of a culture of ostentatious caring which is about feeling good, not doing good. The three Cs of modern life — compassion, caring and crying in public — show not how altruistic we have become, but how selfish. West attributes these hollow expressions of public caring to the decline of those institutions which formerly provided a framework for and gave a sense of meaning to people's lives: the family, the church, the nation and the neighbourhood.
Read the press release here. I'm not sure if West argues this, but I think that all of this can in some way or other be tracked back to the fact that we live in a society that is riddled with guilt. These ridiculous displays of public emotion are a means of assuaging our guilty consciences and feeling better about ourselves.

Friday, February 20, 2004

A great post from Mark. Read it!
Critique of Dr. Fred Malone on Baptism — Part 4

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Critique of Dr. Fred Malone on Baptism — Part 3

An Oxford student who was asked to lecture sixth-formers in Beijing on global economics arrived to find his audience was made up of experts.

But he managed to bluff his way through - with the aid of an A-level text book - for a day and a half before he ran out of chapters.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Critique of Dr. Fred Malone on Baptism — Part 2

Monday, February 16, 2004

A diamond star

Sunday, February 15, 2004

OK. My brother Peter kicked up a fuss because I mentioned the 200th anniversary of Immanuel Kant's death but never mentioned his birthday, which occurred on the same day (the 12th). So here it is — a belated 'Happy Birthday!'
Last night I listened to Doug Green speaking on Redemptive History and the Future, a talk I'd been meaning to listen to for some time. Do take the time to listen to it; I found it to be a very clear and stimulating presentation of a subject that is all too easily muddled when we take the wrong starting point. His chapel message on Psalm 143 is also one I greatly enjoyed when I listened to it a while back.
I have just returned from watching Big Fish at the cinema. I am not entirely sure exactly how I feel about it yet. In one sense I found it very enjoyable. On the other hand, it is somewhat of a parable for postmodernism, which discomforts me. I do not like the idea of truth that it leaves you with. I must admit, Edward Bloom reminded me of someone I know. When I was in Ireland, my best friend's father often told us stories. I have never heard such a great storyteller. He is a real Irish seanachai and I remember being spellbound by the tales that he would tell. In the evening we would be sat around an open fire in his house on the side of the mountain and he would tell us stories well into the night. They always had some grounding in the truth, but where the truth ended and the fiction began you could never quite tell. He was well-versed in the mythology and history of the local area. The mythology was never kept too distinct from the history. As a child such stories were magical, but as I grew up I began to become more and more suspicious of them. Nevertheless, the history I studied in school was never as interesting and absorbing as the 'history' Jim used to tell us. I have become increasingly convinced that, whilst we should not 'mythologize' truth and history (in the sense of embellishing it with fiction), there is a way of speaking of the truth and history that robs them of meaning. Any account of historical events that lacks a sense of drama, beauty and mystery strikes me as a dishonest account; God is at work in the course of human events and our lives are consequently full of mystery. When we speak of history (on a larger scale or of our own personal histories) as a largely impersonal sequence of events we can lose sight of the fact that we live in a world where nothing is impersonal. If history is personal we cannot truly understand it as detached observers. I feel that liturgy must serve to inform our understanding of truth and history. When historical events are dealt with in the course of worship, they are never mere facts and dates — they are a recounting of the covenant dealings between God and His people. Part of the danger that we face is that tools such as historical dates can often prevent us from seeing history exhaustively in terms of human and divine action. Rather than taking our bearings from the realm of personal action, we say 'in 1765' or something like that. This tempts us to depersonalize history. In the course of the liturgy we are so absorbed into this history (particularly in the Lord's Supper), that we cannot stand as detached observers, but find ourselves moulded and formed by it. The dramatic power of liturgy provides, in my opinion, a far more faithful way of teaching history than a dry scientific textbook approach. Whilst storytelling should not be abused, its necessity should never be ignored.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

After Writing: On The Liturgical Consummation of PhilosophyI received this book this morning. I must admit, it looks extremely interesting and thought-provoking. Within it Catherine Pickstock, one of the chief proponents of Radical Orthodoxy, works towards a conclusion in which she argues that transubstantiation is the 'condition of possibility for all meaning'. I look forward to studying it in depth; her description of the Eucharistic sign's ability to 'outwit the distinction between absence and presence, and death and life' appears to provide more promising directions for the support of such a controversial doctrine. A far more nuanced description of the relationship between 'sign' and 'thing' with the use of such categories as 'gift' and an increased awareness of the role of time and action in the sacrament might provide a way by which Protestants like myself could be reconciled with the doctrine of transubstantiation. Furthermore, Pickstock's assertion that 'the Eucharist situates us more inside language than ever' resonates with my own understanding in many respects. Whilst I can certainly not hold to the doctrine as it is held by many Catholics, I do feel that there are probably ways in which the doctrine, reframed in new categories, could be made acceptable to many Protestants without any need for compromise. I have a great confidence in the ability of new categories to cut the Gordion knots of old debates. Expressing our positions in new ways and learning to ask new questions can lead us beyond many of the impasses that have been reached in ecumenical discussions without necessitating putting the authoritative teaching of Scripture to one side.
"...a civic ceremony that turns a bride instantly into a widow."
Critique of Dr. Fred Malone on Baptism — Part 1

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Immanuel Kant died 200 years ago today.
N.T. Wright Audio I came across this today. It is quite basic and doesn't say anything that new to someone who has read Wright for a while, but it is worth a listen. Wright doesn't start his lecture until 10 minutes in, so you might want to skip the introductory hymn, etc.
The Resurrection: Jesus' and Ours

Some Thoughts on Pnuematology and Ecclesiology 

The following are some thoughts on the relationship between ecclesiology and pnuematology, particularly inspired by authors like Zizioulas. I hope to challenge the low ecclesiology of much of evangelicalism in some of these comments and also to clarify how I believe we ought to relate to such churches as the Roman Catholic Church.
The Individual and the Church
Leading us into all Truth It is concerning to witness the arrogance of many modern evangelicals who, under the pretence of a high view of Scripture, reject the authority of the Church. They often claim the support of the Reformers for their position, maintaining that the position they advocate is nothing less than the doctrine of sola scriptura that the Reformers proclaimed. It is a great shame that they do not devote more effort to reading the Reformers themselves. These people are arrogant because they believe that merely by prayer and personal Bible reading they have all that is necessary to understand the meaning of the Bible. They deny the necessity of the Church as their teacher and act as if the Holy Spirit came to them alone. They seek to argue that the Holy Spirit works directly upon the minds of believers to lead them into the truth and that we should be distrustful of outside helps. Reacting against the unbiblical authority claimed by the Pope, each man becomes his own pope. However, the Spirit’s guiding of us into all truth should always be understood in the light of the fact that Christ gave ‘some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…’ The Bible is to be interpreted in and by the Church. The Spirit’s guidance of us into all truth is accomplished primarily through the ministry of the Word and the sacraments rather than through some mystical inner light. Those who despise these ‘outward’ means would do well to reflect on the words of John Calvin—
We see how God, who could in a moment perfect his own, nevertheless desires them to grow up into manhood solely under the education of the church. We see the way set for it: the preaching of the heavenly doctrine has been enjoined upon the pastors. We see that all are brought under the same regulation, that with a gentle and teachable spirit they may allow themselves to be governed by teachers appointed to this function. … From this it follows that all those who spurn the spiritual food, divinely extended to them through the hand of the church, deserve to perish in famine and hunger. [Institutes IV.i.5]
I do not believe that a high view of the authority of Scripture will lead us to a low view of the Church. The more I have studied the Scriptures, the more ‘high’ my ecclesiology has become. The Church is not some mere functional construct of man designed to help us all in our individual Christian walks. It is so much more — the Church is the saved community established by Jesus Christ. The Church is our ‘Mother’. Calvin again—
But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title “mother” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matthew 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation. … God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church. [Institutes IV.i.4]
Many evangelicals today are like children who despise the word of their mother, maintaining that they are motivated by nothing other than ‘respect’ for the word of their father. They rob themselves of the great gifts that Christ has bestowed upon the Church for the benefit of all of its members. There are far too many people today who have atomized the work of the Holy Spirit. Whilst the Holy Spirit has certainly been given to individuals to lead them into the truth (Calvin defends this in IV.viii.11), no one individual possesses the same measure of the riches of the Spirit that have been given to the Church as a Body. Indeed it is the ministry of the Spirit that constitutes the Church as the Church. Apart from the ministry of the Spirit the Church cannot exist. We are led into the truth as the Spirit ministers to each member of the Church and through each member of the Church. To view the work of the Spirit in the individual soul as somehow isolated from the work of the Spirit in the Church is to fall into serious error. The Salvation of the Individual and the Church It is through the ministry of the Spirit within the Church that the Christian is first brought to faith and then perfected in it as the Church as a whole is perfected in faith. We should always beware of separating the ‘internal’ work of the Spirit from the work of the Spirit within the Church. I fear that this is often done in our understanding of the doctrine of regeneration. Our concept of regeneration tends to be almost wholly ‘internal’. This arises from a view of the nature of man that does not take seriously enough the fact that man’s relationships are constitutive of his being. It is the sinfulness of man that turns him in on himself; salvation must take man out of himself and bring him into relationship. Regeneration primarily occurs in the Church, not in the isolated human heart. Being As CommunionBeing ‘in Christ’ should never be separated from being a member of His Body, the Church. In Baptism into Christ one is baptized into the Church. As John Zizioulas observes, Pnuematology is constitutive both of Christology and ecclesiology. It is the Spirit that constitutes Christ both as the eschatological Man and as a ‘corporate personality’ — not just ‘one’ but ‘many’. Being made a partaker of the Spirit by being brought into union with Christ is to become part of the ministry of the Spirit in the Church. We cannot draw a sharp distinction between these two things as if one could be raised to new life by the Spirit and yet not be a faithful minister within the temple which He indwells. The new life of salvation is the new life of ministry as a priest in the Temple of the Church. By individualizing the work of the Spirit, evangelicals have often sought to justify the separatism that they so often practice. By seeing the work of the Spirit as little more than a work that takes place immediately in the individual human heart they have tended to relegate the Church to the level of a mere human society. Against this we must stress that the Holy Spirit ministers to individuals through the means established within the Church. Consequently to separate oneself from the Church is to separate oneself from the means by which the Spirit ministers to His people. To practice separatism within the Church is to deny the unity of the Holy Spirit and is to counteract His ministry.
The True Church
The Being of the Church The being of the Church is derived from the future. By the ministry of the Spirit (most especially in the Eucharist) we are made members of the Eschatological Man, Jesus Christ. The communion of the Holy Spirit is essential to the being of the Church. A number of implications follow. Firstly we must acknowledge with Zizioulas that, if the being of the Church is derived from the future, no ecclesial institution can justify its own existence by reference to history alone. The Church is constantly dependant upon the Holy Spirit for its continued existence. The concept of the ‘institution’ of the Church is radically qualified. Zizioulas writes:—
The ecclesial institutions by being eschatologically conditioned become sacramental in the sense of being placed in the dialectic between history and eschatology, between the already and the not yet. They lose therefore their self-sufficiency, their individualistic ontology, and exist epicletically, i.e. they depend for their efficacy constantly on prayer, the prayer of the community. It is not in history that the ecclesial institutions find their certainty (their validity) but in constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. This is what makes them “sacramental,” which in the language of Orthodox theology may be called “iconic.”
As the Church has no being of itself a Church can cease to exist when it abandons its dependence on the Spirit and seeks to rely upon itself. The continuing ministry of the Spirit is essential for the Church to remain the Church. If the Spirit departs there is no Church. Secondly we must recognize that we need not choose between a Pnuematological / eschatological or a Christological basis for the being of the Church. The Church as the Body of Christ finds its being in the eschatological or pnuematological Man. Pnuematology conditions Christology from the outset. We should not deny the reality of the fact that the foundation of the being of the Church is found in the Person of Christ (although it is probably best to understand this in terms of the Resurrection rather than the Incarnation). There is always a danger that we might overreact against the Roman Catholic errors regarding the Church’s relationship to the Incarnation. Other writers like John Williamson Nevin err in this respect, in my judgment. Nevin seems to see the Church as the realization of Christ’s life in history, relating this primarily to the Incarnation. Nevin rightly criticizes the Roman Catholic Church for identifying the ideal Church (which is Christ) with the empirical and historical Church, seeing the Church as perfected from the beginning and granting the Church the same authority and infallibility as Christ Himself. However, as in many places in Nevin’s writing I am disappointed that the Resurrection and Pentecost do not play a greater role. By focusing so much of his attention upon the Incarnation by itself I fear that Nevin fails to do justice to the eschatological nature of Christ’s Person. What he seeks to express with the categories of ‘ideal’ and ‘actual’ Church might be far better understood with a greater emphasis on the eschatological nature of Christ’s Person. I also feel that some of the recent challenges upon the visible / invisible Church distinction (here I am thinking particularly of Douglas Wilson) could be more carefully nuanced. Replacing the visible / invisible distinction with the historical / eschatological distinction is most certainly a step in the right direction, but more stress could be placed upon the fact that the historical Church derives its being from the eschatological. Many inattentive readers of writers like Wilson, wrongly in my opinion, believe that the issue of the purity of the Church is ignored. Whilst I do not believe that this is the case, is there not still some danger that we might place too much weight upon the institutional nature of Church and not give full voice to the truth that the Church is constituted by the Spirit? Where the Spirit is absent there is no Church, institution or otherwise. More on this later. Thirdly we must appreciate that unity and Catholicity are not merely of the bene esse of the Church; they are of its very esse. A sectarian church is an oxymoron. The true Church is one Body with one Spirit as it finds its existence in Christ, the true and indivisible Spiritual Man. Authors like Klaas Schilder are right to attack any definition of the Church that ignores the essential nature of the Church’s unity. Ecumenism is non-negotiable if we are to be the true Church. As we are made true members of the Church we will be brought together with all other members of the Church. The Church is constituted by the ministry of the one Spirit and if we are to grow to fullness we must be open to the ministry of the Spirit wherever it exists. Any church that exists in conscious and deliberate isolation cannot be considered a true church. Any individual that lives in separation from all believers cannot be considered a true Christian. Churches that do not actively seek communion with other churches and are not Catholic (not the same thing as ‘Roman’ Catholic) in their sentiments have but a tenuous claim to be true churches. This is one of the deepest problems of much of independency. I certainly believe that it is true that the local Church is equally ultimate with the Universal Church. However, catholicity has to be a mark of the true Church. Where the local Church is marked by divisions, alienation or separation, whether within the Church or with other local Churches throughout the world, one should question its right to be called a Church. Of course, few churches can be spared this critique. Many Presbyterians, for example, although rightly criticizing independency, are not very Catholic in their sentiments when it comes to Churches outside of Reformed circles, whether ‘Reformed’ is widely or narrowly construed. False Churches Many people ask how we ought to relate to such bodies as the Roman Catholic Church. Is the Roman Catholic Church a true Church? I am under no illusions that the Roman Catholic Church is a true Church in the sense of being a faithful Church. I was brought up in the Republic of Ireland, which was over 90% Roman Catholic at the time. I attended a Roman Catholic school. I do not need to be informed of the hypocrisy and nominalism of many Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, I believe that Roman Catholic Baptism should be accepted as valid. I also believe that Roman Catholics should be treated as Christians by the token of that Baptism. I believe that it is helpful to observe the manner in which Calvin treated the Roman Catholic Church. On the meaning of the words in the temple of God in II Thessalonians 2:4 Calvin writes—
By this one term there is a sufficient refutation of the error, nay more, the stupidity of those who reckon the Pope to be Vicar of Christ, on the ground that he has his seat in the Church, in whatever manner he may conduct himself; for Paul places Antichrist nowhere else than in the very sanctuary of God. For this is not a foreign, but a domestic enemy, who opposes Christ under the very name of Christ. But it is asked, how the Church is represented as the den of so many superstitions, while it was destined to be the pillar of the truth? (1 Timothy 3:15.) I answer, that it is thus represented, not on the ground of its retaining all the qualities of the Church, but because it has something of it remaining. I accordingly acknowledge, that that is the temple of God in which the Pope bears rule, but at the same time profaned by innumerable sacrileges.
The Roman Catholic Church does not cease to be the Church because amidst all of its corruptions something of the true Church remains. However, this fact never holds Calvin back from attacking the Papacy in the strongest of terms. So what in Calvin’s mind remained of the true Church in the Roman Catholic Church of Calvin’s day? Calvin writes— The Binding of God
Of old, certain peculiar prerogatives of the church remained among the Jews. In like manner, today we do not deprive the papists of those traces of the church which the Lord willed should among them survive the destruction. God had once for all made his covenant with the Jews, but it was not they who preserved the covenant; rather, leaning upon its own strength, it kept itself alive by struggling against their impiety. Therefore—such was the certainty and constancy of God’s goodness—the Lord’s covenant abode there. Their treachery could not obliterate his faithfulness, and circumcision could not be so profaned by their unclean hands as to cease to be the true sign and sacrament of his covenant. Whence the Lord called the children born to them his children [Ezekiel 16:20-21], when these belonged to him only by a special blessing. So it was in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and England after the Lord established his covenant there. When those countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, the Lord used two means to keep his covenant inviolable. First, he maintained baptism there, a witness to this covenant; consecrated by his own mouth, it retains its force despite the impiety of men. Secondly, by his own providence he caused other vestiges to remain, that the church might not utterly die. And just as often happens when buildings are pulled down the foundations and ruins remain, so he did not allow his church either to be destroyed to the very foundations by Antichrist or to be leveled to the ground, even though to punish the ungratefulness of men who had despised his word he let it undergo frightful shaking and shattering, but even after this very destruction willed that a half-demolished building remain.
Later on he goes on to write—
However, when we categorically deny to the papists the title of the church, we do not for this reason impugn the existence of churches among them. Rather, we are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine. Daniel [Daniel 9:27] and Paul [2 Thessalonians 2:4] foretold that Antichrist would sit in the Temple of God. With us, it is the Roman pontiff we make the leader and standard bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. The fact that his seat is placed in the Temple of God signifies that his reign was not to be such as to wipe out either the name of Christ or of the church. From this it therefore is evident that we by no means deny that the churches under his tyranny remain churches…. In them Christ lies hidden, half buried, the gospel overthrown, piety scattered, the worship of God nearly wiped out…. To sum up, I call them churches to the extent that the Lord wonderfully preserves in them a remnant of his people, however woefully dispersed and scattered, and to the extent that some marks of the church remain—especially those marks whose effectiveness neither the devil’s wiles nor human depravity can destroy. But on the other hand, because in them those marks have been erased to which we should pay particular regard in this discourse, I say that every one of their congregations and their whole body lack the lawful form of the church.
The Roman Catholics may have sought to justify their claim to be the one true Church. However, no justification for such a claim can be obtained by reference to history and tradition alone. It is the ministry of the Spirit that makes the Church the Church. When the Spirit departs the Church ceases to exist. The fact that the Church derives its being from the future relativizes any claim to be the one true Church the Roman Catholics might put forward. No ecclesiastical institution can justify its existence apart from its partaking in the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholics are the separatists. To depart from the Word of God is to attack the unity of the Spirit. The unity of the Spirit is found where the truth of Christ is proclaimed. The true being of the Church is found in communion. By its sins the Roman Catholic Church has threatened the unity of the Spirit as it exists in the historical Church. Roman Catholic Baptism was valid in Calvin’s estimation. For Calvin, Baptism’s validity could not be destroyed by the impiety of men.
So it is with Baptism; it is sacred and immutable testimony of the grace of God, though it were administered by the devil, though all who may partake of it were ungodly and polluted as to their own persons. Baptism ever retains its own character, and is never contaminated by the vices of men.
Nevertheless the validity of Roman Catholic Baptism apart from the other things that constitute the true Church cannot ultimately benefit them that receive it. They have become partakers of God’s grace but they have radically rejected it. The Holy Spirit ministered to them at their Baptisms and made them ministers within the Church. However, despising their vocation they turned to defiling the Temple. The fact that the ministry of the Holy Spirit was not wholly extinguished among the Roman Catholic Church was enough to ensure that God preserved a remnant among them. By the ministry of the Spirit through Baptism Roman Catholics had been made priests in the New Covenant Church, something that they had almost universally apostatized from. I believe that the New Covenant can be defined as the ministry of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:8). Individuals who ultimately apostatize can be made partakers of this ministry (Hebrews 6:4-6). By itself a valid Baptism cannot make a true Church. It can make a real Church, but never a true Church. If it is not accompanied by the faithful preaching of the gospel, faithful practice of the Lord’s Supper and other such things even the most valid of Baptisms will still be prostituted. Whilst a valid Baptism was preserved within the Roman Catholic Church, in all but a few cases, this Baptism never found fulfillment. The manner in which Calvin viewed the Roman Catholic Church of his day can be compared to the manner in which we might view a denomination in our own day that has gone exceedingly liberal. There are elements of the Church that remain even in the midst of the general corruption and destruction, e.g. some degree of biblical preaching, valid sacraments, etc. There might well even be a remnant of true believers who partake of the valid sacraments that are still preserved. Institutes of Elenctic TheologyI believe that Francis Turretin is right to argue that the Roman Catholics did not destroy the foundation of Christianity. It ‘still retained and set forth’ the ‘principal heads of Christianity’. The true Gospel was not extinguished among them. The Papacy did not set out to openly oppose and reject the Christian religion, but mixed it with errors. By the aid of the Holy Spirit the faithful were enabled to separate the truth from the error and could be saved. The doctrine of justification is in Turretin’s understanding (and I believe rightly) to be treated as ‘negative and excluding’ rather than ‘positive and affirming’. Charles Hodge also writes:—
That Romanists as a society profess the true religion, meaning thereby the essential doctrines of the gospel, those doctrines which if truly believed will save the soul, is, as we think, plain. 1. Because they believe the Scriptures to be the word of God. 2. They direct that the Scriptures should be understood and received as they were understood by the Christian Fathers. 3. They receive the three general creeds of the church, the Apostle's, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, or as these are summed up in the creed of Pius V. 4. They believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. In one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. And the third day rose again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And they believe in one catholic apostolic church. They acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
This truth, though attended with numerous grave errors and corruptions, is sufficient to save. How Should we Relate to the Roman Catholic Church today? I believe that the Roman Catholic Church has not ceased to be a real Church. However, the Roman Catholic Church is still not a true Church. Many serious errors exist within her; indeed, in some respects the Roman Catholic Church might be seen to have fallen even further since Calvin’s day (e.g. the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception). Nevertheless, I believe that there are reasons to hold out hope for progress in the future. I would not write off the significance of Vatican II and other such movements. Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic ReflectionThose who us who recognize that there remains a Church even amidst the errors of the Papacy will rejoice at any signs of new life. It cannot be denied that the Roman Catholic Church has moved a long way since the Reformation. The degree to which many modern Catholics have moved towards more Protestant views of such doctrines as the atonement and justification (see, for example, Hans Küng’s Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection) should serve to encourage us, I feel. I am not about to turn a blind eye to their errors, but I do pray that God would reestablish the Roman Catholic Church in the truth. I believe that all Protestants should do likewise. As Protestants we should be Catholics (albeit not Roman Catholics). We should actively seek the increase of the Church wherever it is found. We should pray for brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, Anabaptist churches, Methodist churches, etc. We may be troubled by certain of the practices that exist in some of these churches, but this should not hold us back from our concern for the increase of God’s Church throughout the world. We should pray that, where people have been found unfaithful to their Baptismal vocation, they might repent and return to God. Where we are unable in good conscience to fellowship with other real Churches we should seek the removal of anything that stands in the way.
This somewhat rambling treatment has sought to argue a few things. Firstly, that it is essential that we be taught by the Church. The Spirit’s guiding of us into all truth occurs as we open ourselves up to the ministry of the Spirit in the whole Church. No single one of us has the full measure of the Spirit. We only will receive the fullness of the Spirit as we minister to others and are ministered to ourselves. Only as we belong to every other Christian and every other Christian belongs to us can we begin to live as authentic persons (as Zizioulas again observes). This ‘catholic’ or perichoretic mode of existence means that within the Body of Christ every person can be the whole Christ and the whole Church. As man finds his true being outside of himself in the true communion of the Body of Christ that is the Church such a form of existence is possible. Only as we learn to act in love towards all of our brothers throughout the Church can we be brought to full maturity in Christ. Acting in love towards such as Roman Catholics does not mean that we tolerate their errors. Certainly not! The first act of love when faced with an erring brother is to seek to turn him back. Brotherly love will not abandon a brother to the fate of heretics. If the brother is obstinate in his error he may be delivered to Satan (such separation is necessary to maintain the unity of the Spirit). Nevertheless, our desire is always that such may be restored. Many of the self-righteous jeremiads I hear from Protestants today betray quite a different spirit. Secondly, we cannot conceive of salvation apart from the Church. We cannot be partakers of Christ without being members of the Church. To the degree that we deny our membership in the Church, we deny our union with Christ. Calvin: And certainly he who refuses to be a son of the Church in vain desires to have God as his Father; for it is only through the instrumentality of the Church that we are “born of God,” (1 John 3:9,) and brought up through the various stages of childhood and youth, till we arrive at manhood. Regeneration is best thought of as particularly applying to the Church and not to the individual first. Thirdly, Pnuematology and Christology are equally fundamental to ecclesiology. Oneness and manyness are equally essential to the Church. Christology is always conditioned by Pnuematology. It is Pnuematology that makes Christ the Eschatological Man and makes Him a corporate Person. The Church derives its being from the future. No ecclesiastical can justify its existence by reference to history alone. Unity and catholicity belong to the esse of the Church and not merely its bene esse. A separatist church is denying the true being of the Church of God. Fourthly, even amidst deeply corrupt churches, the true Church can remain or, put in another manner, it is possible for a real Church to exist even when filled with pollutions and unfaithful members. Roman Catholics have not so abandoned the truth of the Gospel and the correct administration of the sacraments so as to become no Church at all. Finally, we should actively seek the wellbeing of Christ’s Church wherever it is found.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Impatience... How soon is soon?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Purpose Driven Church I picked this up for this first time today. I leafed through a chapter or so and involuntarily shuddered.

Well, there you go, the Church of England tells us that the three wise men may well have included a woman or two ... and they may not have been wise! Given that we already know that there were probably not only three of them, another popular element of nativity plays is called into question (following doubt being cast upon the validity of the innkeeper's role).
Probably not the best way to witness whilst on the job...

Sunday, February 08, 2004

These metaphors and analogies were actually used in high school essays...

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like socks in a dryer without Cling Free.

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

Rest some more here.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Homing pigeons are finding their way around Britain by following roads and railways, zoologists claim.

They say the birds' natural magnetic and solar compasses are often less important than their knowledge of human transport routes.

Read the rest here.

Friday, February 06, 2004

I feel sorry for this woman's kids.
OK, here are all of the countries I have visited. Not awfully impressive, really. If you've visited somewhere like America or Russia it does make quite a difference on the appearance of the map.
create your own visited country map or write about it on the open travel guide The following map just gives me an inferiority complex; these are the countries my brother Jonathan has visited. I haven't seen a world map that red since we ruled it. ;-)
create your own visited country map or write about it on the open travel guide

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I have just returned from Wales this evening. The Greek exam went well and it was good to visit a few friends at the college. I was particularly blessed to be able to see my friend Anatole before he returns to work in Cameroon. I will always remember Anatole for the countless long theological conversations I had with him while we were both at the college together. The conversations I had with Anatole and others were very formative in the developing of my understanding of theology. Not being able to have such conversations is one of the downsides of distance learning. Blogging, of course, is the next best thing. On the train I got to read some of Oliver O'Donovan's book The Desire of the Nations which I have anjoyed so far. I have been asked to write a review of the recent book The Baptism of Disciples Alone by Fred Malone, so I read half of that too. I'm informed that it's one of the best arguments for the Baptist position, but I'm not so sure. Expect a review in the next week or so. Tomorrow I start to catch up on all of the jobs that have been on hold over the last few weeks. I have a number of books I need to read and at least four or five articles I have promised to write. I have to work on my dissertation and prepare to give a talk on Monday evening. I also have to finish watching Season 1 of 24...

Monday, February 02, 2004

More lectures have been posted at the Connecticut Valley Conference on Reformed Theology site (at least since I last looked a few months ago). I have enjoyed what I have listened to so far. I'm sure the conference this year will be very interesting. I guess that we will be hearing quite a bit more about it at the time. I have also been listening to/watching Fergus Kerr speaking on God in the Summa Theologiae, Entity or Event? A while back I linked to these, but never got around to listening to them myself. With the current subject on the RadOx blog, now might be a good time.

Jon Blake Cusack, from Holland, Michigan, told local newspapers the US practice of adding "Junior" or "II" after a boy's name was too common.

So, when his son was born last week, he decided on the name Jon Blake Cusack 2.0, as if he were a software upgrade.

Mr Cusack admitted that it took months to persuade his wife, Jamie, to accept the idea.

Read the whole article here.
Rogue Organists.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?