September2012Archive for

Liars R Us

The Kingdom Notes

Liars gonna lie. That’s what we do. I, having been known to tell a lie from time to time, quite understand the temptation and the reality.  What is harder for me to understand is why lying is so effective, why it is that we are so susceptible to believing lies.  I believe one reason we are lied to so often is because lying works. What I don’t get is why it works, especially after we have been lied to so often. The internet seems to attract liars. I understand, for instance, that sundry north African countries are having a hard time getting anyone to serve as oil minister. These poor guys seem to die every other day. And wouldn’t you think, with all the care they take to leave millions for their wives, that they would have found a way to actually get those millions home without needing my help?…

Ask RC: Should women be permitted to serve communion?

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Symbols can be tricky things. They are often a great help to us, communicating difficult to express truths in difficult to forget ways. They can, however, get a touch uppity from time to time. Sometimes the symbol loses all sense of proportion and thinks itself more important than the thing symbolized. Remember that the children ofIsraelthought themselves safe, chanting “The Temple of the Lord, theTempleof the Lord.” The temple should have been a symbolic reminder of God’s presence with His people. But once the people looked to the temple, rather than God Himself, trouble was coming and quick. The Bible doesn’t tell us who ought to serve communion. We can take a sound step toward keeping our symbols in mind if we remember first they are only our symbols, not God’s law. The reason most churches, including the church where I serve, have elders serving communion is to connect symbolically…

Five Bad Ideas Birthed From Fear

The Kingdom Notes

There are, in the end, essentially only two forms of ethics. One approach is pragmatic, the other principled. Pragmatism on its own, of course, is always incomplete. That is to say, we can’t answer the question of what works until we know what it works for. Ethics, for instance, in Soviet Russia affirmed that the good is that which promotes the interests of the party. Utilitarian ethics affirms that the good is that which promotes the most happiness for the most people.  Whatever you plug in as the goal, pragmatism then picks what best serves the goal. The principled approach, on the other hand, does not look to the future and guess what will come to pass. It affirms that we are called to do what is right because it is right, not because it will create a hoped for outcome. Indeed it would go so far as to say…

Return to Liberty – Return to Christ

The Kingdom Notes

Written 2008 As we race up to election day many of us are wondering what ever became of the land of liberty in which we were supposedly born. Stories of our heritage speak of independence, personal strength, faith in God in the face of trials and of all those manly traits that inspire our souls. Our nation, like no other, filled the hearts of nations with admiration. Like Israel before us we were the ones of whom even our enemies knew “surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” The French writer Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that it was the Biblical faith of the American people that made us great (Note: If you decide to read de Tocqueville make sure to get an unedited version since the new edited versions remove all his comments on the benefits of Christian civilization). Now, here we are about four-hundred years from…

Ask RC: What are your thoughts on Genesis 6: 1-5, the sons of God marrying the daughters of men?

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“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”   There are several competing theories on this admittedly peculiar text, a few of them fantastic, at least one of them rather pedestrian, ordinary. Some suggest, for instance, that what is happening here is that angels, typically fallen…

Judging We Are Judged

The Kingdom Notes

No one likes to be judged, but everybody does it. Outside the church, of course, are those who embrace a relativistic ethic, wherein there is no objective right or wrong. Suggest otherwise to these good people, however, and you will know they believe you have embraced something objectively wrong. The one iron-clad moral law of our age is “Thou shalt not say there are any moral laws.” Inside the church things happen a smidge differently. Here too we judge those who judge, citing, usually wrongly if I might make a judgment, Matthew 7:1, Judge not, lest ye be judged. Worse still however is not that we judge judgers, but that we judge non-judgers, simply on the basis that we “feel” judged. Consider this account I once read on a blog. Woman A is bemoaning the awful, evil, stench straight from hell judgmental-ness of hardcore, conservative homeschoolers. She explained how she…

Compassion on the Cheap

The Kingdom Notes

We all think in shorthand. That is, we carry with us sundry mental shortcuts that move us from one thought to another swiftly. These give us license to dismiss some ideas quickly so that we might be free to mull over others. Which is why these shortcuts, when they are wrong, can be so wrong and destructive. This in turn explains why we are called to be deliberate in our thinking. Consider this nugget of conventional wisdom: Free markets are fueled by greed, whereas socialism (sometimes called social justice, progressivism, leftist thought) is fueled by compassion. It is bad enough that non-Christians think in these terms. Christians, however, too often find themselves caught up in this folly. We, after all, in submission to our Lord, rightly oppose greed. We, in submission to our Lord, rightly cultivate compassion.  Given a sound heart on greed and compassion, and a misguided mental shortcut…

Those Mean People in the Church We Just Left

The Kingdom Notes

Written 2009 I am asked a fair number of questions. Most of those questions are about the convictions I hold, and how I would respond to those who don’t agree with me. Sometimes, however, I am asked to explain how those who disagree with me reach their conclusions. Sometimes in such situations I am able to help. Other times I am utterly befuddled. Take for instance professing evangelicals who decide to become Roman Catholic, or eastern Orthodox. Why would someone do such a thing? I once gave a lecture at a conference seeking to answer just that question. My title was “Back to Egypt?” I believed myself equipped to answer the question in part because of my proximity to some of the most celebrated “converts.” Franky Schaeffer I have never met, but I have lived his life. He and I both are the sons of iconic Reformed thinkers. Both of…

Ask RC: Is it permissible to hold a communion service without an ordained minister being present to administer the sacrament?

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Probably not. There are two separate and related issues tied together in this question, one easier, the other less easy. First is the question of the authority to celebrate the table. The Reformers argued that the three marks of the church, that which tells us what is a true church and what is not, where these- the gospel rightly preached, the sacraments rightly administered and discipline rightly practiced. The first two are intimately tied to the third in this way- if the Word is not rightly preached, or if the sacraments not rightly administered, discipline must take place. Only when there is no discipline to correct errors in the first two do we cease to be a church. Discipline, historically understand, has come under the purview of the elders of the local church. They bear the “power of the keys,” the power to bind and to loose. They are called…

Skinny Jeans, Narrow Minds

The Kingdom Notes

“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9: 22).  From the beginning this great nugget of gospel wisdom has been the bedrock of every form of contextualization. From Hudson Taylor adopting the local garb to Willow Creek’s strumming guitars we rightly see Christians with a passion for the lost aspiring to remove every unnecessary obstacle out of the way.  We are, after all, hoping to see the lost brought into the kingdom, not laboring to see the different adopt our cultural habits. Some of our fathers forgot this from time to time, such that we are told of intrepid missionaries bushwhacking their way into the African interior, carrying an organ so worship could be done properly. Other times, however, I’m afraid we lose sight of what is necessary and what is not. We sometimes think we are removing offense, when…