Archive for the ‘Church Practices’ Category

I’ve sort of put this blog on hold, but I had to “break out” for once and post this link. Its Justin Moffatt at it again, with a great quote about Tim Chester and Steve Timmis about an “Ecclesiology of the Cross”.

Read it here.


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Michael Bird (a Reformed Baptist, by the way) on Signing the Cross. Is there good, evangelical rationale for why signing the cross is looked down on? If not, then why is it practically non-existent in evangelical/reformed circles? If so, what is the reason?

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I’ve been here in Belfast only six months, but there are quite a few things I have learnt here already, praise God. Here, I’ve tried to summarise 10 basic pastoral principles that I’ve been taught or shown. I hope they will be useful.

1.- Keep fighting for Holiness

Don’t assume sanctification becomes easier
Know thyself
Be accountable to at least two other people
Deliberately avoid “tempting” scenarios
Watch life and teaching
Follow the Puritan example: see Satan and hell as very real
Spend as much time in prayer as possible

2.- Don’t abandon your family

3.- Don’t exploit people; don’t be exploited.

4.- Balance preaching-prep with people-time

don’t just share the Gospel, share your life (1 Thess. 2.8)
Time management important: get admin and prep work done, -spend time with people!
Learn to prioritize

5.-Practice what you preach (e.g.- also wash the dishes, serve coffee; don’t think you’re too good to do that work!)

6.- Disciple Christians and train new leaders

7.- Practice Hospitality, and encourage others to do so.

8.- Expect the unexpected: for better or for worse, people will always surprise you

9.- Be compassionate, but carry out discipline

10.- Don’t teach “mere application”, teach and (attempt to) model a world view, a counterculture in direct contrast to the secular and neopagan ideologies that surround us

Any more? Go ahead and discuss in comments.

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Here are a few quotes from Chadwick’s book on Augustine, regarding his ecclesiology. Please note how Augustine sees the relationship between the Scriptures, the Sacraments and the Church. A lot of this is a summary of previous posts.

I post on this, because Anglicanism has been called “Reformed Augustianism, (I agree) and I believe Augustine’s views are very close to those of the Magisterial (and english) Reformers, and should be looked at, since it seems most present-day protestant churches have a rather confused ecclesiology.

Very informative, though don’t take this as a “blanket” endorsement (emphasis mine).

Unity, Catholicism and Sacraments

[…] the parables of the kingdom (Matt. 13) taught the in the Lord’s field both wheat and tares should be left until the harvest of the last judgement. Therefore, no scandal could ever be sufficient ground to introduce division and to leave the one Church. […]

Among the signs of a true believer Augustine specified that he would always love the Church, warts and all […] the errors of individual bishops could not bring pollution on a community or upon episcopal succession. The grace of God did not depend for its efficacy on the personal sanctity of the individual minister, but on whether he did what God commanded to be done and thereby showed himself aware that in his sacramental action the whole Church is acting. For every act of the Church is catholic, universal. The sacrament is Christ’s, not the minister’s personal property, and salvation is always and throughout the work of God, not of man. Therefore a sacrament of baptism bestowed by an orthodox but schismatic priest must on no account be repeated. Baptism has stamped the soul with a decisive once-for-all seal, just as Christ died once-for-all to redeem. Admittedly, baptism given in schism could not be fully a means of grace until the recipient had been reconciled to the Church.

Apostolic succession mattered to the African Catholics too, for it was the external form that helped to safeguard the sacred tradition of apostolic teaching and sacraments.

However, in the context of the Donatist controversy note this comment:

Donatist language about the ordained ministry as the supreme guarantee of their sacraments seemed to Augustine to presuppose a much too clericalized notion of the Church. The ministry had a very necessary service to perform. Ordination was a sanctification of the Holy Spirit. It was self-evident that the presidency at the Eucharist should be given to those commissioned by ordination for this work. No one (except heretical sects) dreamt of lay presidency. But Augustine never thought of the Church as consisting in the clergy. The ministry was subordinate, a service. The continuity of the Church in the apostolic faith had its instrument and sign in ministerial order […] when Augustine looked for the authentication of the truth of the gospel he looked to the faith of the universal Church.”


[Augustine] expressly denied that holy Scripture represented the sole medium of divine revelation (S 12.4); but it represented the principle of authority which seemed central to Christian belief in a divinely given way of salvation for an ignorant and lost humanity. The authority of the Bible and Church rested on reciprocal support. Usage in the churches had determined the limits of the canon. Bible texts established the divinely constituted nature of the Church.

He made the observation that many heretics start from a mistaken or partisan interpretation of Scripture and, because they are both clever and proud, are reluctant to correct themselves. “It is part of a catholic disposition to express the wish to accept correction if one is mistaken” (DEP ii.5).”

Henry Chadwick. Augustine (1986, Oxford University Press)

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[Hyperbole warning]

We were thinking today at the office. Why is Islam so attractive? In part, maybe, because it actually offers its adherents an alternative society. Not merely a private trendy spirituality, but an actual alternative worldview, culture and community. As Leithart would say, an alternative polis.

The Roman Catholic church does/is doing that. I think Pope Benedict XVI is very conscientious about it: he sees western modernity in its decadence and knows that [Roman] Catholicism must affirm itself as a different society, a new Ark at the ideological end of history (wave to Fukuyama).

Whereas Evangelicals run behind the latest social trends, trying hard to keep up and be “relevant”.

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From the News section in the CANA website. The following letter was sent to the Anglican District of Virginia in 2003, following the crisis in ECUSA sparked by the consecration of a practising homosexual bishop:

October 9, 2003

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

The Vatican, on behalf of Pope John Paul II

I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation.  The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this City from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ¹s Gospel in England.  Nor can I fail to recall that barely 120 years later, Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith from England to my own forebears in Germany.

The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is a unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcend the borders of any nation.  With this in mind, I pray in particular that God¹s will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.

With fraternal regards, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger


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I remember reading a while ago a blog post by Michael Bird that suggested that a lot of Paul’s discussion of justification works more a long the lines of “Who are the people of God and in what economy will they be vindicated by God?”

This is something I found interesting but really had forgotten about. Then casually glancing at Col. 2.11-13, I was genuinely shocked: The NIV had in v.11 “sinful nature”, what was literally “the flesh” or “the body of the flesh”. Yet all you had to do is look down at v. 13 to see “the uncircumcision of the flesh”. The ESV has it better (emphasis mine):

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses

This immediately made me think of Romans 2.26 (So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded [reckoned] as circumcision?). Here I believe, Paul is hinting obscurely ahead to Romans 6 & 8, to those (both Christan jews AND gentiles) fulfill “the law” by the Spirit (see Rom 8:3-14). Basically, that there are non-jews who will be regarded as Jews (as belonging to God’s People, in God’s Covenant) by their Faith and Obedience (Rom. 1.5; 16:26), by being “in Christ”.

This seems to fit well with Ephesians 2, which is a similar text, but more “explicit” in terms to the jew-gentile dimension (emphasis mine)

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Please read both texts side by side and note how they really “inform” one another (Eph. and Col. share a lot of these similarities).

Basically Paul, in Col. 2. 11 seems to be saying:

“In Jesus, you who were considered to be outside of God’s covenant (without circumcision) are brought into covenant with God, by the circumcision of Christ…”

What does this seem to imply? A few things I can think of

(1) There is a close tie between “getting right with God” and becoming part of the “people of God”, between salvation and church, soteriology and ecclesiology. I don’t think this needs to be a “and/or” like it tends to be in NPP/Reformed discussions.

(2) The factor in common is Jesus Himself. He is the righteous (i.e. truly Law-abiding, faithful) Israel, the messianic king in whom God delights (Psalm 18.19, cf. Mark 1.9-11), who fulfills Israel’s “side of the bargain”, as well as God’s… and brings God’s Covenant to a climax on the Cross and Resurrection. As Gal 3.10-13 suggests, Jesus allows the ful force of the covenant curse to fall on him, so that the promised blessing for the nations (gentiles) may flow to them, the promised Holy Spirit.

Israel’s (Abraham’s) covenant had a goal; it was a means, not an end, to blessing for the whole world (a reversal of the curse in Eden, the Fall of Adam). This occurs through Jesus, and the coming of Spirit allows Gentiles to come into covenant with God, because by faith and baptism (a) the Spirit unites them to Christ (2) they are regarded as God’s people (3) they are forgiven and adopted.

(3) There is a close tie between Baptism and circumcision. From these verses I think it can be affirmed that Baptism corresponds as “the circumcision”, in the New Covenant. We are “reckoned” as the part of the people of God, by faith, the sign being Baptism (Gal. 3.26-29).

(4) Our Faith in Christ should mean a love for His Church, warts and all. Augustine said it in the 4th century, and the church hasn’t gotten any better in the last 1600 years. Its still full of unfaithfulness, confusion and sin…starting with ourselves. We should not look to divide and contribute to sectarianism, but rather lovingly and gently attempt to persuade those we disagree with, and not “throw in the towel” when things get tough… but to look to Christ once again.

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