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Archive for the ‘James Jordan’ Category

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.

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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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Biblical Theology Basics #8

8. Comments on The Covenantal Gospel by Cornelis van der Waal

by James B. Jordan

This is an excellent book, and every Bible student should read and master it. Cornelis van der Waal was a Dutch theologian who lived much of his life in South Africa. He lived from 1919 to 1980. This was his last book and he died before completing it.

Thinking on the covenant has continued since his death, and the few comments I have included here are intended to express places where some slight improvements in his book can be made. These minor criticisms do not take away from the great value of the book. I shall proceed section by section, since the English translation will not have the same pages as the original Dutch.

Introduction section 2. The statement in 2 Cor. 3:14 about the “old covenant” does not refer to all the books of the Old Testament, but as the next verse shows, to “Moses.” We should really think of the Ten Words, the heart of the Sinaitic Covenant. We can say that there are two covenants, but we can also say that there is one covenant in two phases. Both phases are revealed and discussed in all the books of the Bible, but of course the second phase, the “new covenant,” receives the most attention in the New Testament books. Van der Waal sometimes writes of one covenant, and sometimes of two, but he always means one covenant in two historical phases.
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1. Come, Ye Thankful People, Come. This hymn by Henry Alford is found in many hymnals, including Cantus Christi. Yet, the last stanza radically contradicts the theological perspective of the historic faith and of the editors of this hymnal. It is a witness to how we tend to bounce along unthinkingly through metrical hymns, which is something we would not do when chanting a text. The fourth stanza says:

Even so, Lord, quickly come. Bring thy final harvest home.

Gather thou thy people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin,

There, forever purified, In thy garner to abide.

Come, with all thine angels, come; Raise the glorious harvest home.

Now, as we’ve had occasion to say before, the Biblical expectation is that Jesus will successfully disciple all the nations of the earth, making all into theocracies under His rule, before any final apostasy and His return to judge the living and the dead. The “quick coming” in the book of Revelation has to do with the events of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Oikumene. Asking Jesus to come quickly and end history is very wrong. It is asking Him to fail, asking Him not to evangelize the heathen. The fact is, though, that the first three stanzas of this hymn are excellent, for they only state that Jesus will someday return to judge. We should keep this hymn, but omit the last stanza.

2. Lo! He comes, with Clouds Descending. This is a second-coming hymn, and like many Arminian hymns, this by Charles Wesley, the assumption is that Jesus will return to the earth to reign. This is completely false. According to 1 Corinthians 15:24, when He returns, having destroyed all enemies, He gives the Kingdom to the Father. According to the catholic faith, Jesus is presently seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus, any hymn that teaches us that Jesus will return to reign is communicating false teaching.

The end of stanza 1, “God appears on earth reign,” can be changed to “Christ the Lord forever reigns.”

The final stanza is more of a mess: “Saviour, take the power and glory, Claim the kingdom for thine own. O come quickly, O come quickly, O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come.” Well, no. That’s all very bad. Change to this:

Lord, Thou hast taken all the pow’r and glory,

Thine the Kingdom e’er shall be!

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou dost reign, and we with Thee!

 

By the way, the best tune for this is Helmsley by Arne.

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7. The Literary Shape of the Covenant

As we have seen, there is a succession of covenants in the Bible, each more glorious than the previous, each absorbing and transfiguring the previous, until finally we come to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. We now want to look at the shape of covenant documents. Generally speaking, the order of presentation in the covenant document is the same as the sequence of events in the covenant’s establishment. The Spirit shapes the history and the Son shapes the Word. God is One, living in the One Covenant, and thus the shape is the same. The shape of the various covenants is always fundamentally the same, because the same God is acting and speaking each time, and the same human consciousness is being addressed.

Because the Sinaitic Covenant is the covenant that is most fully presented in literary form, scholars look at its presentation in Exodus 20-24 and in the book of Deuteronomy to discern the basic covenant shape. After we have been instructed by this part of the Biblical revelation, we can discern the same shape in the other covenants.

This shape, this order of presentation, has been analyzed variously by different scholars. Some have seen three, some four, some five, some six, and some seven aspects of the covenant. We can say that in its fullest manifestations, God’s covenant with man, which we can illustrate from the Sinaitic Covenant, entails the following steps and aspects:
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This book, described on this blog August 30, is now available. A copy signed by J. B. Jordan can be ordered for $40.00 from

 

Biblical Horizons

Box 1096

Niceville, FL 32578

 

or with paypal at www.biblicalhorizons.com

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6. Covenant Phases in the Bible

Thus far we have spoken of only three phases in the history of the one covenant. We must now divide the third phase into two parts. We can begin by looking at human life. Human beings do not die and become fully mature in glory while they are in their prime as adults. Rather, at some point human beings begin to lose their strength; they begin to die in preparation for their final death and transformation into glory. Sometimes this death begins with some kind of mid-life crisis. With women it is associated with menopause. When men it is associated with the loss of power and the realization that they will not accomplish everything they had hoped to accomplish when they were young.

This is when human beings start to become elders. Their kingly wisdom matures into prophecy, the ability to speak life-changing words. Their hair turns white, and white hair is glory (Revelation 1:14). Thus, at the very time human beings begin to lose their kingly power and ability to act, they increase in their God-like glory and power to speak.

We can see this in Israel’s history. When we look at the Kingdom period, we see that it started in kingly glory. Then it split, and then each kingdom became weaker and weaker as well as more and more sinful. It is as the kingly power of Israel diminishes that the prophets emerge in the Remnant period. There is still a kingly aspect, but the more mature prophetic phase of the covenant is becoming more and more important. The kingdom of God is maturing into eldership. Then comes the death of Israel, in the exile. After this, the Jews are no longer kings. They no longer have a nation of their own. They can no longer act. They are spread out into the nations as prophets. The Oikumenical age is an age exclusively of prophecy.
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