Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rattling Your Theological Tradition's Sensibilities

Let's face it. I'm a conservative Evangelical who happens to go to a Baptist church. Over the past few year I've come to appreciate that "tradition" and value it much more then I once did.

I'm not talking about cultural evangelicalism; that culture which at times makes me want to just puke. I'm talking about a solid theological Evangelicalism and the expressions of that evangelical theology worked out in the lives of those who hold to it. It is in that sense I speak of the the Evangelical church as my mother. It was that Evangelicalism working through a campus ministry that the Sovereign God used to effectually call me unto Himself.

Now it is also true we can and do get in a rut in whatever Christian "tradition" we find ourselves at home in. That's why it is good to occasionally get outside of that tradition and expose yourself to something that, though orthodox, yet is different enough to really rattle the sensibilities of your own tradition.

You know in your head that the work of the Holy Spirit is not limited by the boundaries of your particular Christian tradition. But if you want to make that idea more then theoretical, then once in a while you need to go see for yourself.

I had a chance to rattle my Evangelical Baptist sensibilities today when we visited an orthodox Anglican church.

Today was Trinity Sunday and the focus of the worship was the Trinity. Ancient songs such as St. Patrick's Prayer were mixed with contemporary songs such as "How Great is Our God". The sermon was about the Trinity, and the preaching was articulate and orthodox. A recitation of the Nicene Creed was also part of the liturgy along with the Scripture readings from the Old Testament, Gospels, and Epistles.

Then there was the communion. The orthodox Anglicans hold a more sacramental view of the Lord's Supper. This raises the question of what is meant by the real presence of our Lord in the communion. At the same time, even though visitors from another Christian tradition, we were welcome to partake in the communion.

It was very clear that this church was very orthodox on the issues of the Trinity and on Jesus as both God and man. The same God I as an Evangelical Baptist worship was being worshipped in this Anglican church. It is also clear from the conversations we have had with family members who go to this church, that the Holy Spirit is working in the life of the church corporately, and in the lives of members of the church individually.

Yes Virginia, the Holy Spirit is at work in Christian traditions other then my own conservative Evangelical tradition. Frankly I think that's just fantastic, and I thank God for it... I love it when in a good way, my sensibilities are rattled like that.

Will I ever be an Anglican? Very probably not for all the reasons I first mentioned. I did find myself pondering the question of the real presence, and I may do some more study and wrestling with that.

I also found myself thinking of the Evangelical Baptist liturgy used at our church. I found I did appreciate it; that in its essence God is honored and worshipped and the Holy Spirit is working through the ministry of the church in the life of the church corporately and in the lives of the members individually.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Real Meaning of a Word

It was recently mentioned to me, second or third hand, how a certain somewhat loosely associated group of churches were going through some degree of turmoil. The division was labeled as being between "traditionalists" and "progressives".

It is not at all my purpose to comment on the issues between the two sides. I have no direct connection to these events or the issues at hand. That said, I do have some familiarity with the history of this particular movement. It was that knowledge that prompted me to question what was meant by "progressive".

"Progressive" is a relative word. To be progressive is to, at some level, move from a base reference point towards a point away from that base; and in doing so, make the new point the base of reference. Opinion may vary as to that movement being "progressive" or "regressive", but my point is that either term is relative to that original base reference point.

In the case in question, I might look at the progressives and say that, relatively speaking, they are making what I believe is positive movement, but at the same time believe the movement made, while progressive, has not progressed far enough to get those involved to where they really need to be. It all goes back to where that original starting point is.

In thinking of this I was again reminded of examples I have observed in the past of how necessary Biblical change is sometimes resisted.

"We don't want to over react." This statement gives a certain level of recognition that we may be imbalanced, but no plan ever comes forward for how we should react, and we end up not reacting at all, thus the status quo is maintained.

Related to this is the saying, "If we have to err, we should err on the side of (fill in the blank)." The Bible doesn't give us the option of erring on either side. The ethical demand of the Bible is that we get it precisely right. Now thankfully the Bible is more then just ethical demands, and forgiveness and redemption are also a major part of the story. The point is we should not allow this statement to give us false comfort, nor allow it to feed our sense of self-righteous complacency. If we know we err to one side or another in a matter, we need to hold out both arms, and with our hands, firmly grasp both extremes.

Then there is the "slippery slope" argument; known in debate as the slippery slope fallacy. The argument is that once we take that step in the other direction, it will be the first step in a series that leads to a very bad end. The problem with that argument is that if the Bible is telling us we need to move, then we need to move period. To use the slippery slope fallacy to avoid that movement results in sin based in fear; fear that in spite of its appearance of holiness and doctrinal zeal, is often rooted in a failure to more fully trust the promises of God.

All of that said, I confess I have to make a conscious effort to avoid sinful cynicism. It is not for me to say the Holy Spirit can't or will not work in the hearts of those involved in any particular movement of churches. In this particular situation, I welcome any degree of true Biblical progressive movement, and thank God for it.


~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Inevitable Event

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." (John 11:23-27)

My older sister is dying. My younger sister called last night with the news that hospice has been called in. It's only a matter of time.

We have known it was coming. She has been in poor health for sometime. The complications of diabetes and liver failure started taking their physical toll on her body for the better part of a year.

The irony is that she will very likely die before our 90 plus year old parents will. In the normal course of providence in a fallen world, we eventually all end up as orphans. Not so with my sister. Providence is dictating otherwise.

She never married, so she will not be leaving any children motherless. Eight nieces and nephews will be bereft of a beloved aunt. Her three siblings will lose a sister. Her aged parents will lose their oldest child. It would take a miricle indeed to reverse the inevitable impact of the fall on her physical body.

That's just what Jesus promises; a total reversal of death. Martha understood that, and in the broader context of the passage, she may have had a better grasp on that then Mary did.

My dying sister is a beleiver. Martha's hope is her hope also. Isaiah 53 says that by His stripes we will be healed, and the day will come when that healing will be total.

Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." She didn't have to wait that long. I know that my sister will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. I am already starting to grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

"I am the resurrection and the life..." ~ Jesus

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What They Want...

Trautman: John where are you going?

Rambo: I don't know.

Trautman: You get a second medal of honor for this.

[Rambo looks over at the rescued POWs]

Rambo: You should give it to them. They deserve it more.

Trautman: You don't belong here why don't you come back with me?

Rambo: Back to what? My friends died here, let me die here.

Trautman: The war, the whole conflict may have been wrong but damn it don't hate your country for it.

Rambo: Hate? I'd die for it.

Trautman: Then what is it you want?

Rambo: I want, what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us as much as we love it! That's what I want!

(First Blood: Part II (1985))