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Here are three issues in regard to the Eastern Church.

First, here is the quote from Bavinck’s The Doctrine of God, page 317, Banner of Truth edition (1977) under the heading of Inter-Personal Relations.

The Greeks derived the unity of God’s essence and the unity of the persons not from the divine nature as such, but from the person of the Father. He is the only ‘originating cause.’ The three persons are not viewed as three relations within one essence, the self unfoldment of the Godhead, ‘but the father is viewed as the one who imparts his being to the Son and to the Spirit. As a result, the Son and the Spirit are so coordinated that both in the same manner have their ‘originating cause’ in the Father. In both, the Father reveals himself. The Son causes us to know God; the Spirit causes us to delight in him. The Son does not reveal the Father in and through the Spirit; neither does the Spirit lead us to the Father through the Son. The two are more or less independent of each other; each leads to the Father in his own peculiar way. Thus, orthodoxy and mysticism, mind and will are placed in antithetical relation to one another. And this peculiar relation between orthodoxy and mysticism characterizes the religious attitude prevailing in the Eastern Church. Doctrine and life are separated: doctrine is for the mind only; it is the fit object of theological speculation. Next to it and apart from it there is another fountain of life, namely the mysticism of the Spirit. The fountain does not have knowledge as its source but has its own distinct origin and nourishes the heart. Thus a false relation is established between mind and heart; ideas and emotions are separated, and the link that should bind the two in ethical union is lacking.

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Clerical Garb

Elsewhere on the blogosphere men are mocking the wearing of collars and albs to lead in worship. When it is pointed out that historically Reformed ministers have worn daily uniforms and robes in worship, it is replied that that was then and this is now. We ought to conform to our age. Bah, humbug.

 

1. We don’t follow the world; we lead it.

 

2. We don’t conform to culture; we change it.

 

3. We don’t take up our ideas from what gooey liberal and gooey evangelical churches do or don’t do; we get our instructions from the Bible.

 

4. Jesus had a special and very valuable tunic (John  19:23-24). Compare Exodus 28:40. Jesus’ special tunic and several pieces of outer garments correspond closely to the special garments of the priests. Apparently these most modern of bloggers have got better sense in how to dress than did their Lord. They might take their cue from the doctrine of union with Christ and what that might mean for them as officers in the army of the Lord of Hosts.

 

5. Back in the day when clergy wore uniforms and the Church was an army, we were well on the way to world conquest. Compare today.

Schizophrenia?

Stellman June 6, 2012 1:01 PM
> Dave, > Jason
>
> I am surprised this is so hard for me to communicate effectively. Prosecuting Leithart while inwardly struggling with my questions was easy, because the issue
was NEVER “Whose views are correct?” In a Reformed denomination we all operate
under the supposition that our doctrinal standards give us the Bible’s system of
doctrine, and we’ve all made vows to that effect.
>
> I could have been a militant Muslim and prosecuted Leithart, because from
where I sat, his views were outside the pale of the Confession and Catechisms.
My own inward struggles had nothing to do with anything, they were a completely
separate matter.
>

Rosenstock-Huessy contended that schizophrenia was the paradigmatic mental illness of modernity, because it was the carrying of “objectivity” to its logical conclusions. Rosenstock-Huessy is in a sense following along after Chesterton when he said that insanity was not the loss of reason, but when reason is all that one is left with. Chesterton was referencing a paranoid, and Rosenstock-Huessy, schizophrenia, but both may be diseases of rationalistic modernity (post modernity will have different illnesses).

What Rosenstock-Huessy meant was that the schizophrenic is the one who carries objectivity so
far forward that he does away with his own subjective being, and his very person, or ex-person, becomes only an object to be observed along with everything else. He gives as an example the professor who wanted to be wired to be able to watch, through his own brain, brain surgery being done on him.

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Discussions on the catholicity of the church have led one RC advocate to write to me that according to 2 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul is clearly and unmistakably praying for a dead person. He points to a couple of Protestant writers who had agreed with this, though they are in a tiny minority. Search this out on line and you’ll find Roman Catholics insisting on this as if it were certain. Let’s see what Paul actually says:

16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered at Ephesus.

First of all, clearly Onesiphorus was a believer, baptized into union with the ascended Jesus Christ, faithfully serving the Lord. So, how on earth can Paul ask that he receive mercy on the day of judgment? Is his salvation in any doubt? Is there something lacking in his salvation by Jesus? To ask the question is to answer it: No, or course not. Paul cannot possibly be asking for Onesiphorus to be given mercy on the final day. The suggestion is ridiculous.

Therefore, Paul must be praying for mercy on the day that is near at hand: the judgment on the Old Creation in the years leading down to the year AD 70, the tribulation that came upon the entire Oikumene.  

With this in mind it becomes clear why Paul asks for mercy on Onesiphorus’s household. The tribulation about to break out over the whole Oikumene could be a horror for wives and daughters, for small children and the aged, as well as for men.

 Theologically, we find a unity in the passage. Onesiphorus was willing to be seen with Paul when the latter was in chains. He took the serious risk of associating with the criminal Paul, and this put his own family at risk. But beyond this practical consideration, Paul is saying that those who put themselves at risk for the Kingdom are those to whom God is likely to show mercy — at least to their families — during times of tribulation.

In short, there is absolutely nothing in this passage that hints that Onesiphorus is dead. Paul asks that he find mercy during the coming tribulation, which means he is alive.

Finally, there is 2 Timothy 4:19, “Greet Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.” Again, this has been taken to mean that Onesiphorus must be already dead. Uh, duh, no. We have already been told that Onesiphorus sought Paul out and had rendered great service for him at Ephesus. It’s a whole lot more likely that Onesiphorus is not at home, but doing something else for Paul at this time, perhaps even visiting churches like Timothy and Titus. As we have seen, he certainly is not dead.

The great True Catholic historian, Philip Schaff, points out as regards the beginning of prayers to the saints in the post-Nicene Church:

Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Volume III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity A.D. 311-390, P. 409-427).

In the first three centuries the veneration of the martyrs in general restricted itself to the thankful remembrance of their virtues and the celebration of the day of their death as the day of their heavenly birth. This celebration usually took place at their graves.

So the church of Smyrna annually commemorated its bishop Polycarp, and valued his bones more than gold and gems, though with the express distinction:

“Christ we worship as the Son of God; the martyrs we love and honor as disciples and successors of the Lord, on account of their insurpassable love to their King and Master, as also, we wish to be their companions and fellow disciples.” Here we find this veneration as yet in its innocent simplicity.

But in the Nicene age it advanced to a formal invocation of the saints as our patrons (patroni) and intercessors (intercessores, mediatores) before the throne of grace, and degenerated into a form of refined polytheism and idolatry. The saints came into the place of the demigods, Penates and Lares, the patrons of the domestic hearth and of the country.

As once temples and altars to the heroes, so now churches and chapels came to be built over the graves of the martyrs, and consecrated to their names (or more precisely to God through them). People laid in them, as they used to do in the temple of Aesculapius, the sick that they might be healed, and hung in them, as in the temples of the gods, sacred gifts of silver and gold. Their graves were, as Chrysostom says, more splendidly adorned and more frequently visited than the palaces of kings.

Banquets were held there in their honor, which recall the heathen sacrificial feasts for the welfare of the manes. Their relics were preserved with scrupulous care, and believed to possess miraculous virtue.

Earlier, it was the custom to pray for the martyrs (as if they were not yet perfect) and to thank God for their fellowship and their pious example. Now such intercessions for them were considered unbecoming, and their intercession was invoked for the living.

This invocation of the dead was accompanied with the presumption that they take the deepest interest in all the fortunes of the kingdom of God on earth, and express it in prayers and intercessions.

This was supposed to be warranted by some passages of Scripture, like Luke xv. 10, which speaks of the angels (not the saints) rejoicing over the conversion of a sinner, and Rev. viii. 3, 4, which represents an angel as laying the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne of God.

…the New Testament…furnishes not a single example of an actual invocation of dead men…But the New Testament expressly rebukes the worship of the angels (Col. ii. 18; Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8, 9), and furnishes not a single example of an actual invocation of dead men; and it nowhere directs us to address our prayers to any creature. Mere inferences from certain premises, however plausible, are, in such weighty matters, not enough.

The intercession of the saints for us was drawn as a probable inference from the duty of all Christians to pray for others, and the invocation of the saints for their intercession was supported by the unquestioned right to apply to living saints for their prayers, of which even the apostles availed themselves in their epistles.

But here rises the insolvable question: How can departed saints hear at once the prayers of so many Christians on earth, unless they either partake of divine omnipresence or divine omniscience?

And is it not idolatrous to clothe creatures with attributes which belong exclusively to Godhead? Or, if the departed saints first learn from the omniscient God our prayers, and then bring them again before God with their powerful intercessions, to what purpose this circuitous way? Why not at once address God immediately, who alone is able, and who is always ready, to hear His children for the sake of Christ?

Augustine felt this difficulty, and concedes his inability to solve it. He leaves it undecided, whether the saints (as Jerome and others actually supposed) are present in so many places at once, or their knowledge comes through the omniscience of God, or finally it comes through the ministry of angels.

He already makes the distinction between latreiva, or adoration due to God alone, and the invocatio (douleiva) of the saints, and firmly repels the charge of idolatry, which the Manichaean Faustus brought against the catholic Christians when he said: “Ye have changed the idols into martyrs, whom ye worship with the like prayers, and ye appease the shades of the dead with wine and flesh.”

Augustine asserts that the church indeed celebrates the memory of the martyrs with religious solemnity, to be stirred up to imitate them, united with their merits, and supported by their prayers, but it offers sacrifice and dedicates altars to God alone.

Our martyrs, says he, are not gods; we build no temples to our martyrs, as to gods; but we consecrate to them only memorial places, as to departed men, whose spirits live with God; we build altars not to sacrifice to the martyrs, but to sacrifice with them to the one God, who is both ours and theirs.

But in spite of all these distinctions and cautions, which must be expected from a man like Augustine, and acknowledged to be a wholesome restraint against excesses, we cannot but see in the martyr-worship, as it was actually practiced, a new form of the hero-worship of the pagans.

Nor can we wonder in the least. For the great mass of the Christian people came, in fact, fresh from polytheism, without thorough conversion, and could not divest themselves of their old notions and customs at a stroke.

The Nicene Creed states that the Holy Spirit “spoke through the prophets in (or into) one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” Contrary to usual translations, neither the Greek nor the Latin originals say “I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” As written, the thought of the authors seems to be that as the Spirit spoke through the prophets in depositing the Bible for all time, so He continues to guide the Church into all truth.  Either that, or taking “in” as “into,” the Spirit spoke the Bible into that church.

What kind of church is it that the Spirit works in? A church that is united, holy, catholic, and apostolic. No church is fully these things, and so the thought has to be that to the extent that the church functions in this way, to that extent the Spirit guides her.

So, is the church today one? Hardly. Of course, sectarians will say that she is one, because they exclude everyone with whom they disagree. Landmark Baptists and “Baptist Bride” Baptists of all stripes will recognize the rest of us as “separated brethren,” but not as fully “in” the church. This same hypersectarian mentality is found in Romanism, Orthodoxy, and in nose-bleed-high Anglicanism. Authentic churches, however, recognize others as real though flawed. The great Scottish Presbyterian Samuel Rutherford was a pains to insist that Roman Catholic ordination was real and that no converted priest was to be “re-ordained” in the Scottish church. Sadly, Hyperbaptists, Papists, Orthodox, and too much of Anglicanism cannot say the same. Some goofy sectarian Presbyterians are the same. Churches function as part of the ONE when they recognize one another’s orders and sacraments and discipline. This is not always easy, but real churches do it. When someone comes to us from a Baptist or Catholic church and wants to join, we phone up the pastor/priest and talk to him. We find out what the story is. We honor other churches, however wayward we think they are.

Is the church today holy? Well, that definitely depends on the church. Those who define holiness as mysticism and shamanism can tolerate all kinds of immorality. In Rome and Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism, holiness inheres in various charmed objects and persons. These semi-churches will discipline someone who rejects these talismans, but turn a blind eye to Tsars, mafiosos, pederasts, adulterers, and royalty. Imagine what would happen if a priest in the Church of England refused communion to one of their adulterous royalty? Well, you can’t imagine it, can you? It cannot happen. Anyone who reads the Pauline epistles or chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation knows that kicking people out for immorality is at the top of Jesus’ demands for a faithful bride. Can anyone point to an instance of that’s happening in Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, or Rome? One thing these churches are not is “holy.” It seems that it is only in those churches that trace back to the Reformation, including the Baptists, where the holiness that Jesus wants can be found, however partially.

Is the church today catholic? This is similar to asking if she is one. The test of catholicity is an open communion table. From early times the church has failed to be charitable in this regard. In his book Jesus Wars, John Philip Jenkins describes the horrible treatment of “Monophysite” and “Nestorian” Christians at the hands of savage “Orthodox” monks; and vice versa. Rodney Stark’s wonderful book on the “crusades,” God’s Battalions, shows how the eastern Christians welcomed the Moslem invaders as deliverers from vicious oppression at the hands of Byzantine Christianity. We’ve grown up a bit since those days, but it is still the case that sectarian groups deny communion to baptized believers simply because they don’t sign on the dotted line. Hyper-Lutherans deny communion to anyone who does not confess what is often called “consubstantiation.” Now, think about this. The Eucharistic Meal is not what you or I think it is or may be; it is what Jesus does. If I’m wrong about the theory, does that mean Jesus is not present? Real Lutherans say, yes, there is “real presence” as they define it, but even if you don’t understand that, Jesus is still there for you if you trust him and are baptized.

Catholicity of practice is, sadly, missing from Orthodoxy, Hard-core Baptists, the Church of Christ, and most of Rome. Rome won’t “rebaptize” Protestants, but neither will she give us communion unless there happens to be no Protestant church in the area we can attend. This is at least an improvement over how things were when I was a child, before Vatican II. Orthodoxy says our baptisms stink, and have to be cleansed by “chrismation,” a ritual nowhere found in the apostlolic scriptures. As Peter Leithart wrote recently on his blog, anyone who is truly committed to catholicity will have a hard time joining one of these sects.

Finally, is the church Apostolic? Here again, we have sects that claim something called “apostolic succession,” a notion that cannot be found in the Bible. In fact, Paul is at pains repeatedly to deny any succession from the earlier apostles. I’m happy with the notion of ministers ordaining ministers and Christians baptizing Christians, but ultimately the succession in the Church is by the Spirit. It cannot be otherwise. “Apostolic” in the Nicene Creed means “faithful to the apostles.” Well, do the apostles anywhere teach that icons can be used as charmed objects with which to communicate with the dead? Do they tell us to chat with, or to offer prayers to, our “heavenly family members”? Surely, if the Apostolic Church had changed the earlier rules against consulting the dead and worshipping through images and man-made objects, it would have been controversial. But we see nothing of that. The controversial changes were about circumcision, calendar, food, and Jewish exceptionalism. In fact, the early Church teachers (“fathers”) were death on using images in worship, and it was only in the 700s that ignorant monks were able to overwhelm the authentic clergy and bring this garbage into the church. No Apostolic church has anything to do with prayers to the goddess BMEV (Blessed Mary Ever Virgin) or any other god-saints. No Apostolic church bows down to pieces of wood and brass, to images whether flat or in the round.

It is because I am a member of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church that I cannot imagine joining one of these giant sects. The fact is that God the Holy Spirit fixed these problems half a millennium ago in the Protestant (pro-test = stand for) Reformation. Protestantism has now run its course, but what will come in its place will be more Biblical, more Catholic, more Unified. It will not be a return to Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Orthodoxy, or Romanism.

People who despair of Protestant churches as they have experienced them — and many are pretty awful today — and who go into Rome or Orthodoxy may do so for two reasons. One, they may become idolators, pure and simple. Such is the case with Scott Hahn, who decided to worship Mary and then converted. Or, two, they may hold their nose at many things but go into these churches because they think (erroneously in my view) that this is where God is going to act in the future. This is an understandable reason, and I think godly men like Louis Bouyer are in this category. For myself, however, I think remaining in the Protestant world is the best option, however chaotic it is right now. God does not go back. The future, which we cannot really imagine, will come out of what He has done most recently, which is the Reformation.

You Romanists, Nestorians, Monophysites, HyperBaptists, HyperLutherans, and Orthodox are welcome at the Lord’s Table in authentic Protestant churches such as the ones I attend. Come on in. The fire’s warm. The roast is in the oven. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape is decanted. We’d love to see you.

One of the latest sectarian movements to arise around the fringes of the Christian religion is something called “family integrated churches.” What this seems to mean, depending on the advocate, is that youth groups are bad, age-segregated Sunday Schools are bad, families need to sit together in church, and even the notion that husbands should serve their wives and children the Lord’s Supper (a practice that was a capital offense in the Bible; Exodus 35:2-3; Numbers 16).

 

One understands where some of this comes from. I gather that most of these people are Baptists or come from hip-hop PCA churches and want something better. They rightly are opposed to “children’s church,” a practice unknown to Lutheran and Episcopal churches and only found in Baptist and Bapterian churches. They are also concerned about the breakdown of the family in our society. Their cure, however, is not much better than the disease. What is needed is a return to Reformation worship, with full sung liturgy and genuine psalmody. In such a context, Sunday Schools and Youth Ministries are no threat to anyone.

 

The simple fact is that for 2000 years, the Holy Spirit moved the church to have men and women sitting separately during divine worship. This is because in heaven there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, child nor parent. Hence, ascended worship, taking place seated in the heavenlies, involves an affirmation of God’s Family and a setting aside of the earthly family. As a matter of fact, if you want God to give you a healthy family, let Him take it apart and put it back together each week, for that is how God always glorifies and empowers His people (Hebrews 6:12-13 + Genesis 2:23-24). I have a lecture on this that can be heard here: http://www.trinvalp.com/ The message is titled “The End of the World.”

 

Functioning beneath the surface with such groups as Vision Forum and the like is a form of idolatry. We read that the family is the foundation of civilization. That is a fairly ridiculous notion, since the family is a highly temporary social unit. The Bible commands that a child leave his father and mother when he marries (Genesis 2:24). Moreover, as children grow up, they move from an orientation toward parents (imaging the Father), to an orientation toward older young people (imaging the Brother) and finally move out and become oriented toward mentors (imaging the Spirit). This is perfectly natural, and is why wise churches have youth groups in which young people growing away from their parents receive reinforcement from older teens. The notion that a 15 year old must relate to his parents in the same way as a 5 year old is implicitly unitarian. God has designed the family to be temporary, and has designed us to begin to look outward from our initial foundation.

 

A good discussion is found here: http://www.weswhite.net/2011/04/family-integrated-mathis/ I don’t usually recommend visiting this site since the men involved are opposed to Reformation theology, but on this point they are right. The discussions below the essay are interesting, because you can see the kind of fanaticism this movement entails.

 

Another aspect of this business is dealt with here: http://www.patriarchy.org/church/membership.html

 

Finally I recommend this paper, which deals with how this familistic movement is an enemy of the church: http://trinity-pres.net/essays/THECHURCHANDHERRIVALSversion3.0.pdf

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