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Archive for February, 2008

Very good article in Christianity Today, by Fr. John Behr on Apostolic Succession. His point is right on, and touches upon one of the reasons why I believe the Roman Catholic Church isn’t truly “catholic” or “apostolic”. At the same time, however, it should remind protestants of the important role of the Church (and its internal authority) had (has) in preserving the apostolic witness about Jesus. Hopefully it reminds us that Apostolic succession wasn’t about internal institutional power but rather about hermeneutics and the way in which authority should be exercised within the Church body.

Some worthy quotes (emphasis mine):

Today we tend to think of apostolic succession in terms of the laying on of hands: The church confers an office on a consecrated bishop, who can thereby trace his authority back to the apostles. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches each claim their own unbroken line of ordained leaders. Most Protestants deny the importance of a continuous succession of bishops altogether.

But in the second century, apostolic succession meant something more simple. Two main concerns were at stake: What is the true faith? And how has it been passed on from the apostles to us?

[…]

Irenaeus pointed to the Christian communities in Rome (at that time there were many house churches, each with its own leaders, not one church with a single bishop), and in particular the community led by Eleutherius. He listed 12 successive leaders, from the apostles down to Eleutherius, to show that the apostolic teaching had been passed on continuously. He especially noted Clement, one of the first leaders, who had known the apostles and recorded their teaching in a letter that was earlier than any of the Gnostics’ texts. “By this succession,” Irenaeus wrote, “the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is the most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”

In later centuries, some churches began trying to construct similar lists of succession to defend their own authenticity or authority, but this was not Irenaeus’s main concern. He was not defending the authority of particular people; he was trying to defend the true faith against heresy by showing that the apostles’ message about Jesus had been faithfully preserved in the churches, and therefore could be trusted. Succession for him did not primarily mean handing down an office; it was the public expression of the continuity of the true faith.

 

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Irreligious religion

While I disagree with a lot of his way of articulating things and the false dichotomy he seems to create between worship and doctrine, I like this quote from Peter Rollins (HT: Internet Monk):

Why do you call Jesus a subversive prophet who signaled the end to all religious movements?

Peter Rollins: One of the most interesting things about Christianity is that Christ both founded a religion and yet signaled the end of all religions. Jesus said there will come a time when we worship in spirit and in truth rather than on one mountain or another….Christ thus can be seen as founding an irreligious religion, i.e., a religion that critiques the idea of religion, a religion without religion. This is one way of understanding deconstruction.

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I am preparing a talk on 1 Cor. 2:1-5 for Youth Club, this Friday night. Youth Club is composed mostly of unchurched youth (age raging from around 11-17) from around the neighbourhood who come in and “play” on the premises, and are taken care fo for a few hours by church volunteers.

I was given the talk as an assignment, and I’m trying to work out how to teach its message to this particular group. And I have 10 minutes to do it.

Some things that I’ve come to think about as I prepare it (taking into consideration the context):

  1. For Paul, the Power of the Gospel is in the content. The content is a shocking story of a dead Messiah. A dead conquering king. A dead God. Absolutely scandalous.
  2. For Paul, the Power of the Gospel lies with the work of the Holy Spirit. (v.4; see 10)
  3. Paul seems to be saying:

“Look guys. You’re so obsessed with celebrities, with the ‘cool-leader’ thing. ‘Apollos, Paul, Cephas, etc.’ People, celebrities, status, charisma. That’s not how God operates. God operates through the Cross. God works through the weak and despised, the losers of class. You yourselves weren’t much to look at. You didn’t have much going for you. When I preached the Gospel I kept it simple, so that you’d be focused on the CROSS, and allow the message to speak for itself.”

4. The effectiveness of the Gospel lies in the work of the Spirit. That what Paul means by a “demonstration of the Spirit and of Power”. Paul wasn’t being “Benny Hinn” and convincing everybody. In fact that makes no sense. Paul’s whole point is that God working by His Spirit, through the Cross-Message (the Gospel) had brought them to faith. God was the one responsible. Not Paul, not Apollos, but God.(3:5-9). The fact that they had come to believe wasn’t due to Paul’s awesome rhetoric, but God’s Power, at work through the Gospel. (v. 5).

The shocking thing in this passage, is Paul’s utter confidence in God’s Gospel message. Its a message with a content that’s absolutely ridiculous to the non believer. Insulting, even. But Paul comes into a celebrity, rhetoric-obsessed society, and speaks the Gospel with weakness and trembling (v.3), because he knows that its God’s Power. He know that the Gospel, when preached, is a demonstration of the Spirit and of Power.

Paul knows God won’t let him down. He knows he can play the loser, because he trusts in God’s Power at work through the Gospel. Are we praying that God will make us weak, humble us, to allow God’s Message to act out in Power? Are we willing to give up on celebrity-status, recognition and applause, and allow God to ge the final credit for the work of the Gospel, in the lives of people?

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Schaeffer quote

“[…]remember throughout our lives that in God’s sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment. Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if commited to Christ and living under His Lordship in the whole of life, may, by God’s grace, change the flow of our generation”.– Francis Schaeffer

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David Field outdoes himself with this one. Its such a strange coincidence, but I had been thinking “law” in Romans as “Torah”, and how that affects one’s understanding of the epistle’s message, the Gospel-Law relationship, and the relationship betwen covenants. Highly recommended.

“Law” in Romans.

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Simply outstanding. And from a secular TV show too. Heads up to Dave Bish for this one.

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Relevant Liturgy

Interesting article on Liturgy at “Relevant magazine”. Here I´ll reproduce what I believe is the best paragraph:

“…when unchurched people come to a church service, they are probably expecting it to be a new, strange experience for them. Somehow the Church has these seekers coming to their service in the first place, so is it really necessary to be so overly concerned with making sure these visitors don’t feel uncomfortable? I think it’s possible that it could be even more powerful if unchurched people were to experience a completely new kind of gathering at church–not simply seeing people come together to hear good music like at a concert, be entertained as if they were at a comedy club, or “sit back, relax and enjoy the show” as if they were at the movies. When an unchurched person comes to church, they know they’re not at a concert or a comedy club or a movie. They have come to church, so we should give them church.

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