Faith: April 2005 Archives

Benedict XVI

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As much as I would have preferred that John Piper or J. I. Packer had been elected to the See of Rome, both of those outcomes were rather unlikely.

Evangelicals should nevertheless be encouraged that the new leader of a billion Roman Catholics is someone who believes that there is objective truth about God and what He requires of us and that it is knowable. Not all branches of Christianity are so blessed. Can you imagine the chaos that would have been unleashed had some sort of mushy relativist been elected, particularly here in the United States where so many Roman bishops already lean in that direction? With the Roman Church under Benedict's leadership, evangelicals can hope not only to continue to find culture-war allies among the Catholic laity and priesthood, but increasingly among the hierarchy as well.

In the meantime, we'll keep praying that the full splendor of the Gospel of Christ will be restored to the Roman Church -- the splendor of God's grace, His unmerited favor towards us, which outshines every gilded reliquary and every shard of stained glass.

MORE: Tim Bayly, a conservative Presbyterian pastor, explains why he sees Cardinal Ratzinger's election as a positive outcome.

AND MORE: Dennis Schenkel, a Roman Catholic seminarian, posts some thoughts from one of his classmates, who says that Ratzinger's reputation as "God's rottweiler" comes from his faithful pursuit of his role as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and that he set aside his own speculations as a theologian to fulfill those duties. I found this bit particularly interesting:

He was a priest and Bishop in Germany in the late 50 and 60’s. When he was serving in those roles, he worked on his own theological ideas, such as how the power to be a good Christian is a grace from God but at the same time, there is work to be done on our end in terms of preparing ourselves for that Grace. So, the big question is how does the fact that God gives grace freely work with the idea that our actions can make us more or less likely to receive it? It is a very complicated issue, and theologians around the world (such as Cardinal Ratzinger) are always encouraged to work on this idea (along with countless others) and develop their responses.... Cardinal Ratzinger, like any good theologian, would usually put his ideas out there and sort of say, “OK, here is what I’m thinking. I ask that fellow theologians and bishops etc. show me where I’m wrong or unclear etc.”

James Lileks writes:

The defining quality of 20th century modernity is impatience, I think – the nervous, irritated, aggravated impulse to get on with the new now, and be done with those old tiresome constraints. We’re still in that 20th century dynamic, I think, and we will be held to it until something shocks us to our core. Say what you will about Benedict v.16, but he wants there to be a core to which we can be shocked. And I prefer that to a tepid slurry of happy-clappy relativism that leads to animists consecrating geodes beneath the dome of St. Peter's. That will probably happen eventually, but if we can push it off for a century or two, good.

I admire Christian bloggers who are willing to open their hearts and let us readers watch as God works in their lives, especially when they write with expressive power.

One such blogger, Manasclerk, has announced that Manasclerk's Power Struggle is closing up shop, possibly as soon as today. Time to move on, he says, and while he'll be migrating the stuff about information technology and organization to other sites, what he's written about personal and spiritual matters is "going into storage." (NOTE: There's an update at the end of this entry -- click the "continue reading" link if you're reading this on the home page.)

That's a shame, because it is challenging and thought-provoking material. He's Reformed, and that informs his perspective, but he doesn't write theological essays. He writes about Christians in community, from his own observations and his own struggles in relationships with friends, family, and churches. He writes about the work God does sanctifying him through those relationships. It's worthy of your consideration no matter what your theological or denominational affiliation.

Roe'd to Damascus


Now online: Last Sunday's communion meditation, preached by Pastor David O'Dowd at Christ Presbyterian Church in Tulsa.

If you're pro-life, you'll find it interesting because, woven into David's exposition of Exodus 12 -- the account of the Passover -- is the story of the conversion of Norma McCorvey, known to the world as the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, and the touching story of how God used the seven-year-old daughter of an Operation Rescue volunteer to draw Norma to Himself.

The meditation also includes one of the clearest explanations I've heard of the Presbyterian view of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Catholics, in particular, seem to assume that all Protestants, or at least all evangelicals, hold to the Zwinglian view that the bread and wine are mere symbols and the Lord's Supper is a memorial, an ordinance commanded by Christ, but not a sacrament or a means of grace. That's not the case for the PCA or other bodies which hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which teaches the real presence of Christ in the elements.

You can find the sermon notes here, streaming audio here, and a downloadable MP3 here.

Good grief


Tulsa Christian counselor Bowden McElroy has some excellent brief entries about the grieving process:

That first entry has sound advice for men who are grieving over the loss of a significant relationship, often the reason that a man seeks out counseling. Some of that sound advice: take care of yourself physically so you can think clearly, don't turn into "evil stalker guy" ("There is nothing attractive about desperation."), and learn to pray unselfishly -- not for her to change, but for you to be the man you ought to be, regardless of what she does.

The second entry includes the observation that someone experiencing grief may be in a different stage of the process for each facet of the loss, which is why someone may experience wide mood swings.

I admire Bowden's ability to communicate something profound and practical in just a few words, and if you aren't making his blog a regular read, you should be.

John Paul II, RIP


It's late, and I will save my own thoughts for another time.

Don Singleton has a comprehensive biographical sketch of John Paul II, along with details of the process to select his successor, and links to reactions in the mainstream media and the blogosphere. (I was remiss in not adding Don, a fellow Tulsan, to my blogroll sooner -- that's now been fixed.)

Joe Carter of the Evangelical Outpost gives some reasons for admiring this Pope -- he stood on the right side of history against Communism, he stood for truth against relativism, and he stood for life against the culture of death. He praises John Paul II for being a leader of the "catholic church" -- with a small "c" -- for his influence extended beyond the Church of Rome:

He was a true Christian leader – Any Pope can lead the Catholic Church. It is, after all, what the job is all about. But it takes a special person to lead the “catholic church”. While my old fundie pastor would surely disagree, I believe John Paul has been an example for all Christians, regardless of denomination. American evangelicals are particularly indebted to him. Before John Paul our concern for our neighbors was almost exclusively missional and focused on making converts. Now, evangelicals are not just concerned with sending out missionaries but with being salt and light to a troubled world. John Paul deserves some of the credit for that shift. The Pope has reminded us that the church is not defined by any one nation and that there are no borders within the body of Christ.

Finally, Carter praises John Paul for remaining active, traveling and ministering, even as his health declined: "Though his words often failed him in the end, he continued to preach using his frail body as the sermon."

Sad but funny: Ed Morrissey has a screen grab of the initial posting of the New York Times story on the Pope's death. In the midst of quotes from critics of the Pope, there's this placeholder: "need some quote from supporter." What ultimately filled that space was scarcely an improvement over that placeholder, as you can see in Captain Ed's story.

Hymn to God the Whatever


John Hinderaker of Power Line links to a blog about Lutheran liturgy and hymnody. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest and most liberal of the Lutheran denominations, has a proposed new hymnal and service book called Renewing Worship, and the authors of are documenting the "improvements" contained in the new hymnal, such as the unnecessary rewriting of Joachim Neander's "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty."

But the highlight is the most recent entry, a parody by Gracia Grindal of the worst in modern mainline liberal hymns, "Hymn to God the Whatever." Here's the stirring second stanza:

You are like a weaving grandma,
Or a father making rugs,
Like a farmer on her tractor
Trying not to kill her bugs.
We create you when we name you
You appear at our command.
Aren't you glad that we still want you
Here to take us by the hand?

I can just imagine Garrison Keillor singing the final verse with gusto:

We will work for peace and justice,
We are not Republicans.
We believe in Marx and Engels
Not the brotherhood of man.
It is foolish to do mercy
Without handling the root cause.
We will work to feed the hungry
By the passing of new laws

The rest of the blog has thoughts on liturgy and worship and the Church Year that would be thought-provoking for a Christian of any denomination. I was interested to learn that Martin Luther published two worship services only with the greatest reluctance, concerned that congregations would regard it as binding:

He concluded his preface to the German Mass: "In short, this or any other order shall be so used that whenever it becomes an abuse, it shall be straightway abolished and replaced by another, even as King Hezekiah put away and destroyed the brazen serpent, though God himself had commanded it be made, because the children of Israel made an abuse of it (II Kings 18:4). Lutheran worship should be free."

Then there's this profound observation about liturgy:

Liturgy is meant to be transparent, like the glass in your household windows. You don't look AT the glass, but THRU it to the outside world. Because the PURPOSE of glass is to let the outside world IN: not to call attention to itself.

Likewise the purpose of liturgy is to present you to His Majesty, the King, so that you may see Him, hear Him, know Him: give Him thanks and praise. If the worship service does not do this to some degree, it is not helpful, or worshipful, but simply becomes something "we do in church" to please God. Even ancient liturgies (loved by liturgists) can become a museum of ancient artifacts no longer efficacious in worship today.

Prayers and best wishes go to these Lutherans who are working for worship that honors God.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from April 2005.

Faith: March 2005 is the previous archive.

Faith: May 2005 is the next archive.

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