The Call To Worship

The freedom of religion is not primarily concerned with private devotion but rather that of public worship. It is a display of the freedom of conscience which, if removed to merely the privacy of silence, becomes a privation of faith which results in a practical, if not literal, atheism. (more…)

The Church and the Mall

Over the years I’ve heard or read about the idea of “redeeming” music or literature or education or government…you get the picture. If it exists and functions in society as an institution of some sort, there’s always someone in the Church that wants to sound the call to redeem it. What they really mean is that they want to sanitize it in order to make it palatable or useful according to whatever manner of constructs that their pietistic sensibilities have conjured up. (more…)

Prayer

But the “excitement” of Easter cannot be given to man by man himself. Even more than his exinanition, Christ’s exaltation is the consequence reached by God himself through his power in action. God himself is the rector and the master and the king of this whole history which is his covenant with us. Either we understand God as master and subject of this history or we do not understand this history at all. Thus the question we have to answer now is not: “Can I admit that all this has occurred?” but: “Where do I stand vis-à-vis God the master? Do I live ‘with’ God? Do I live in keeping with God’s deeds?” And since we know these deeds mainly and primarily through the Scripture, the question of faith is first a question of reading the Bible. One cannot pray without reading the Bible, without getting a knowledge of the divine history directed by God wherein we discover what we need: faith in God the rector and sovereign and living master of Christ’s history which “comprehends,” that is, embodies, sums up, locates and fulfills our own history.

~Karl Barth “The Faith Of The Church”

To The Disenchanted

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The reduction of Christianity to a mere belief, to simple immanence, barren of the transcendent, leaves christians of any people or nation easy prey to the carnivorous nature of political ideology. And this disenchantment of creation also fundamentally changes the way in which christians conceive of and pray to, God himself. The supplication, adoration and worship that are the elements of prayer are cast off and replaced by a conversation. A conversation with, because of the loss of transcendence, a deity that is always near, always immanent. So near, in fact, so as to be indistinguishable from oneself; prayer does, in fact, become just a conversation with a voice in your head. (more…)

The Problematic Nature Of Apologetics

As I’m reading through How (Not) To Be Secular by James K. A. Smith, some things just stick out as being both relevant and radical, yet comfortingly orthodox and in need of remembrance. What he says here is simple but being forgotten by wide swaths of Evangelicalism, if they even knew it. Highly reminiscent of Michael Horton, he says,

But to reject God’s personhood and agency entailed rejecting an entire fabric of Christianity that revolved around religion as communion…To depersonalize God is to deny the importance of communion and the community of communion that is the church, home to that meal that is called “Communion.”

Coram Deo

Coram Deo is a phrase little heard today — at least in my experience — among Christians of the protestant variety. Truthfully, it is a reality which strips away the defense of arrogance and freedom that is so inimical to humanity, it unmans a person; stripping us of the comforting delusion of the anonymity of our desires and actions. For those two, simple words of Latin come together to bind us to the truth that our lives, all the little pieces of love and hate, honor and betrayal, are done so before the face of God. That in concert with his transcendence he is intimately immanent, inescapable and that we are laid bare before his righteousness, all our machinations the feeble plans of petty creatures. It is a reminder of our need of not simply regeneration, but of the reformation of our hearts and will. And to live Coram Deo in conscious regard of its reality is both humbling and terrifying. It is the very light which shines upon the incredulity of our deluded goodness and demands that we recognize our redemption, of a reconciliation to God that is only possible as an external, transcendent act for us, that our salvation from the lives we lead in broken covenant with our creator must come extra nos, it must come from outside of us, beyond the ability of our captive and conditioned wills.

Our lives are on display…and what a mess we make of them. I find comfort in this,

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

— From the Heidelberg Catechism, written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharius Ursinus in the 16th century

Mr. Watson, I Salute You!

Thomas Watson wrote, in 1660,

Good words are but a cold kind of charity. The poor cannot live as the chameleon upon the air. Let your words be as smooth as oil, they will not heal the wounded. Let them drop as the honey-comb, they will not feed the hungry. ‘Though I speak with the tongues of angels and have not charity, I am but as a tinkling cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1). It is better to be charitable as a saint than eloquent as an angel. Such as are cruel to the poor, let me tell you, you unchristian yourselves. Unmercifulness is the sin of the heathen (Romans 1:31). While you put off the bowels of of mercy you put off the badge of Christianity. Saint Ambrose says that when we do not relieve one whom we see ready to perish with hunger, we are guilty of his death. If this rule hold true there are more guilty of the breach of the sixth commandment then we are aware.

Christians, our social conscience should flow from our Faith, from our Christianity, not from political ideologies that glorify the self or from economics which have been stripped of all morality.

A Collusion of Confusion

D.G. Hart hits it spot on regarding the relative confusion and pathos that is the presence of the evangelicalism on the right and especially in the Republican party. Theocratic tendencies will always attempt to assert themselves in a vacuum of political sensibility and absence of a true, formal and active distinction between that which is Sacred and that which is Secular. (more…)

Radagast the Robertson, Patron Saint of Westboro Baptist

This isn’t going to be a trenchant analysis of the teachings, magical powers or his televised *messages* from God that Mr. Robertson supposedly receives. Nor does he have a substantive or coherent enough theology for a critique, so there’ll be none of that either. (more…)

The Case For Taxing God

Why aren’t churches taxed? This seems like a legitimate question.

The First Amendment says this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We often only pay attention to the negative aspect here, that government shall make no provision for a state religion, that the state and the church shall remain separate. But the positive is just as important, that the people shall be “free” to exercise religion or, interestingly as an attached clause, the freedom of speech. No where does it enunciate or establish the acceptable content of either religion or free speech, yet it extends it protection. “Free” is an essential and necessary stipulation in this case. It establishes that in fact churches have always been exempt from taxes; taxes being a method of state control. (more…)