Category Archives: humor

“The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs”

Recommended Reading

 I’ve done a little reading on writing in the past couple of years. The most humorous and memorable advice I received regarded the overuse of adverbs in one’s writing. Stephen King attributes the use of adverbs to the fear that the writer has failed to communicate well enough in the context of his adverb-riddled composition. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” writes King. Elmore Leonard writes that a character in one of his books speaks of writing historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.” These writers don’t place an absolute prohibition on all adverbs, but encourage avoidance of their use as frequently as possible 😉

Some of my friends who have done extensive reading in didactic Christian literature have no doubt encountered the word “Christianly.” For example, Harry Blamires writes in The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?: “…there is no…field of discourse in which writers are reflecting christianly on the modern world and modern man.”

This usage has always annoyed me, but now that I’m more informed on the liability of adverbs, the “little knowledge” I’ve gained threatens to make me dangerous. Would it not be better to say “as a Christian,” or “like a Christian,” “in a Christian way,” or “from a Christian perspective”?

For the record, I found myself rewriting three sentences in order to practice what I preach. Friends don’t let friends use adverbs. My hope is that this advice will help Christian writers practice their vocation–or in my case, avocation–in a more Christian way.

Advertisements

Plain Vanilla Presbyterian Church

vanilla ice cream cone

The 10 marks of a “plain vanilla” Presbyterian church. Some are tongue-in-cheek–kinda!

  1. Lectio continua preaching. If you want topical preaching, then preach through the catechism in the evening.
  2. Is it a sanctuary or an auditorium?
  3. Evangelism is inherent in #1, while personal witnessing is commended and encouraged.
  4. Psalms and hymns sung from the Trinity Hymnal (1960, or 1990 edition) to piano accompaniment, at least.
  5. Resist the trend toward weekly communion, paedocommunion and intinction.
  6. Deaconess is not an ordained church office; pastors are men, too.
  7. If the Bible doesn’t say you can do it in the worship service, then you can’t!
  8. Congregational participation in worship: a) pray along with the elder during his public prayers, b) sing, recite the creed or Lord’s Prayer and responsively read like you mean it, c) actually hear and heed the Word preached.
  9. No hand raising until the benediction (but only if you know what it means).
  10. If you call people “Brother” and “Sister,” everyone will know you used to be a Baptist.

What other marks can you think of?

C. S. Lewis on Higher Criticism, part 2

The following is the next few paragraphs from C. S. Lewis’ essay, “Fern Seed and Elephants,” in which he gives one educated sheep’s skeptical perception of modern liberal theology and higher textual criticism. You will find among Lewis’ comments that he evidences a lack of entire agreement with the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, but overall, his critiques of the more extermely liberal theological and textual critical views remain helpful even for conservative Evangelical inerrantists.

For more information on the Evangelical doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, read the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (this link takes you to my Creeds, etc. page on the statement, from which you may link elsewhere to read the document).

 Read part one

The Skepticism of One Educated Sheep

The undermining of the old orthodoxy has been mainly the work of divines engaged in New Testament criticism. The authority of experts in that discipline is the authority in deference to whom we are asked to give up a huge mass of beliefs shared in common by the early Church, the Fathers, the Middle Ages, the Reformers, and even the nineteenth century. I want to explain what it is that makes me skeptical about this authority. Ignorantly skeptical, as you will all too easily see. But the scepticism is the father of the ignorance. It is hard to persevere in a close study when you can work up no prima facie confidence in your teachers.

Lewis’ First Bleat: New Testament Critics Lack Literary Judgment

First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in those books all their lives. But that might be just the trouble. A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of New Testament texts and of other people’s studies of them, whose literary experience of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious thing about them. If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spend on that Gospel. But I had better turn to examples.

“Reportage,” or a Genre Ahead of its Time

In what is already a very old commentary I read that the fourth Gospel is regarded by one school as a ‘spiritual romance’, ‘a poem not a history’, to be judged by the same canons as Nathan’s parable, the book of Jonah, Paradise Lost ‘or, more exactly, Pilgrim’s Progress‘. After a man has said that, why need one attend to anything else he says about any book in the world? Note that he regards Pilgrim’s Progress, a story which professes to be a dream and flaunts its allegorical nature by every single proper name it uses, as the closest parallel. Note that the whole epic panoply of Milton goes for nothing. But even if we leave our the grosser absurdities and keep to Jonah, the insensitiveness is crass – Jonah, a tale with as few even pretended historical attachments as Job, grotesque in incident and surely not without a distinct, though of course edifying, vein of typically Jewish humour. Then turn to John. Read the dialogues: that with the Samaritan woman at the well, or that which follows the healing of the man born blind. Look at its pictures: Jesus (if I may use the word) doodling with his finger in the dust; the unforgettable nv vuz (13:30). I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach.

“Reassimilating” the Parousia and the Passion

Here, from Bultmann’s Theology of the New Testament is another: ‘Observe in what unassimilated fashion the prediction of the parousia (Mark 8:38) follows upon the prediction of the passion (8:31). What can he mean? Unassimilated? Bultmann believes that predictions of the parousia are older than those of the passion. He therefore wants to believer – and no doubt does believe – that when they occur in the same passage some discrepancy or ‘unassimilation’ must be perceptible between them. But surly he foists this on the text with shocking lack of perception. Peter has confessed Jesus to be the Anointed One. That flash of glory is hardly over before the dark prophecy begins – that the Son of Man must suffer and die. Then this contrast is repeated. Peter, raised for a moment by his confession, makes his false step: the crushing rebuff ‘Get thee behind me’ follows. Then, across that momentary ruin which Peter (as so often) becomes, the voice of the Master, turning to the crowd, generalizes the moral. All his followers must take up the cross. This avoidance of suffering, this self-preservation, is not what life is really about. Then, more definitely still, the summons to martyrdom. You must stand to your tackling. If you disown Christ here and now, he will disown you later. Logically, emotionally, imaginatively, the sequence is perfect. Only a Bultmann could think otherwise.

The Personality of the Lord

Finally, from the same Bultmann: ‘the personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or John… Indeed, the tradition of the earliest Church did not even unconsciously preserve a picture of his personality. Every attempt to reconstruct one remains a play of subjective imagination.’

So there is no personality of our Lord presented in the New Testament. Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see? What evidence have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there? For it is Bultmann contra mundum. If anything whatever is common to all believers, and even to many unbelievers, it is the sense that in the Gospels they have met a personality. There are characters whom we know to be historical but of whom we do not feel that we have any personal knowledge – knowledge by acquaintance; such are Alexander, Attila, or William of Orange. There are others who make no claim to historical reality but whom, none the less, we know as we know real people: Falstaff, Uncle Toby, Mr. Pickwick. But there are only three characters who, claiming the first sort of reality, also actually have the second. And surely everyone knows who they are: Plato’s Socrates, the Jesus of the Gospels, and Boswell’s Johnson. Our acquaintance with them shows itself in a dozen ways. When we look into the apocryphal gospels, we find ourselves constantly saying of this or that logion, ‘No. It’s a fine saying, but not his. That wasn’t how he talked’ – just as we do with all pseudo-Johnsoniana. We are not in the least perturbed by the contrasts within each character: the union in Socrates of silly and scabrous titters about Greek pederasty with the highest mystical fervor and the homeliest good sense; in Johnson, of profound gravity and melancholy with that love of fun and nonsense which Boswell never understood though Fanny Burney did; in Jesus of peasant shrewdness, intolerable severity, and irresistible tenderness. So strong is the flavour of the personality that, even while he says things which, on any other assumption than that of divine Incarnation in the fullest sense, would be appallingly arrogant, yet we – and many unbelievers too – accept him as his own valuation when he says ‘I am meek and lowly of heart’. Even those passages in the New Testament which superficially, and in intention, are most concerned with the divine, and least with the human nature, bring us fact to face with the personality. I am not sure that they don’t do this more than any others. ‘We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of graciousness and reality… which we have looked upon and our hands have handled. What is gained by trying to evade or dissipate this shattering immediacy of personal contact by talk about ‘that significance which the early Church found that it was impelled to attribute to the Master’? This hits us in the face. Not what they were impelled to do but what impelled them. I begin to fear that by personality Dr. Bultmann means what I should call impersonality: what you’d get in a Dictionary of National Biography article or an obituary or a Victorian Life and Letters of Yeshua Bar-Yosef in three volumes with photographs.

That then is my first bleat. These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight.

C. S. Lewis on Higher Criticism, part 1

 

I’m looking forward to attending the upcoming debate between the evangelical Dr. Dan Wallace of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and the agnostic Dr. Bart D. Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on the trustworthiness of the text of the New Testament at McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, October 1, 2011. (debate website) This debate necessarily involves the issue of the undermining effect the discipline of higher textual criticism has had on orthodox theology in general, and the orthodox doctrine of the inspiration, infallibility, inerrancy and authority of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in particular.

Several decades ago, world famous Christian apologist, novelist and literary critic, Dr. C. S. Lewis, addressed a body of Anglican ministers and shared his concerns as an educated parishioner (or “sheep”) that modern higher criticism lacks credibility, and thus higher critics, in his view, lack literary judgment. The next several posts will include sections of this lengthy lecture/essay including my own helpful section titles. It is not the easiest read, due to many unfamiliar literary or other academic references, but there is much wisdom to be gained by the diligent reader, and it may help to motivate further diligence to know that it is generously sprinkled throughout with Lewis’ characteristic wit.

Originally entitled ‘Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism’, Lewis read this essay at Westcott House, Cambridge, on 11 May 1959. Published under that title in Christian Reflections (1981), it is now in Fern-seed and Elephants (1998). HT: Homepage for Orthodox Theology

Introduction: A Sheep to Shepherds

This paper arose out of a conversation I had with the Principal one night last term. A book of Alec Vidler’s happened to be lying on the table and I expressed my reaction to the sort of theology it contained. My reaction was a hasty and ignorant one, produced with the freedom that comes after dinner. One thing led to another and before we were done I was saying a good deal more than I had meant about the type of thought which, so far as I could gather, is no dominant in many theological colleges. He then said, ‘I wish you would come and say all this to my young men.’ He knew of course that I was extremely ignorant of the whole thing. But I think his idea was that you ought to know how a certain sort of theology strikes the outsider. Though I may have nothing but misunderstandings to lay before you, you ought to know that such misunderstandings exist. That sort of thing is easy to overlook inside one’s own circle. The minds you daily meet have been conditioned by the same studies and prevalent opinions as your own. That may mislead you. For of course as priests it is the outsiders you will have to cope with. You exist in the long run for no other purpose. The proper study of shepherds is sheep, not (save accidentally) other shepherds. And  woe to you if you do not evangelize. I am not trying to teach my grandmother. I am a sheep, telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. And now I begin my bleating.

How the Uneducated Might Respond to Modern Theology

There are two sorts of outsiders: the uneducated, and those who are educated in some way but not in your own way. How you are to deal with the first class, if you hold views like Loisy’s or Schweitzer’s or Bultmann’s or Tillich’s or even Alec Vidler’s, I simply don’t know. I see – and I’m told that you see – that it would hardly do to tell them what you really believe. A theology which denies the historicity of nearly everything in the Gospels to which Christian life and affections and thought have been fastened for nearly two millennia – which either denies the miraculous altogether or, more strangely, after swallowing the camel of the Resurrection strains at such gnats as the feeding of the multitudes – if offered to the uneducated man can produce only one or other of two effects. It will make him a Roman Catholic or an atheist. What you offer him he will not recognize as Christianity. If he holds to what he calls Christianity he will leave a Church in which it is no longer taught and look for one where it is. If he agrees with your version he will no longer call himself a Christian and no longer come to church. In his crude, coarse way, he would respect you much more if you did the same. An experienced clergyman told me that the most liberal priests, faced with this problem, have recalled from its grave the late medieval conception of two truths: a picture-truth which can be preached to the people, and an esoteric truth for use among the clergy. I shouldn’t think you will enjoy this conception much once you have put it into practice. I’m sure if I had to produce picture-truths to a parishioner in great anguish or under fierce temptation, and produce them with that seriousness and fervor which his condition demanded, while knowing all the time that I didn’t exactly – only in some Pickwickian sense – believe them myself, I’d find my forehead getting red and damp and my collar getting tight. But that is your headache, not mine. You have, after all, a different sort of collar. I claim to belong to the second group of outsiders: educated, but not theologically educated. How one member of that group feels I must now try to tell you.

Wanna See Something Reeeal Scary?

YOU’RE A HYPOCRITE! from Everything Is Terrible! on Vimeo.

See also “The Old King James!” and “From Racist Ruckmanism to Reformed Theology.”

HT: Stuff Fundies Like

Confessions of a Restlessly Reforming Evangelical Fundamentalist

Old Life--Home of the Nicotine Theological Journal. Picture by The Sacred Sandwich

Dig my latest comment at Darryl G. Hart’s Old Life Theological Society. His post is titled, “Young, Restless and Lutheran?” He questions whether the broad approach of the Young, Restless and Reformed movement isn’t so broad that it might be more accurate to call it “Young, Restless and Lutheran,” given that, in Hart’s view, it’s less about Reformed theology in general or the five points of Calvinism in particular (no pun intended), and more about having been inspired by a bigger vision of God at the hands of John Piper channeling Jonathan Edwards, and generally begins reminding us all how much less Reformed they are than he and his Truly Reformed OPC brethren are (among whom I eagerly anticipate numbering me and mine). This is my summary, anyway, be it accurate or not.

I found the post and some of the resultant comments engaging enough that I just had to share my own experience at moving from Fundamentalism, through Evangelicalism and into Reformed Confessionalism. Although I write with tongue-in-cheek, the experiences are all very real (and they’re just the tip of the iceberg). 

Confessions of a Restlessly Reforming Evangelical Fundamentalist:

Fortunately, I bypassed the whole Piper YRR movement (Piper’s creative and independent streak is waaay too Baptist for my taste) and swallowed the whole TR thing hook, line and sinker…Or so I thought. The further one goes, the more one discovers which exaggerates the differences between what it means to be Evangelical (in modern Western Christianity, that is) and what it means to be Reformed.

First, you fall for the 5 points; then you get over the hump about baptism (my logic was, “if the seventeenth century Baptists agreed with Presbyterians on so much,” as I was then coming to perceive, “then what makes them think Presbyterians are so wrong about baptism?”)…

…then you deal with stuff like exclusive “Acapulco” psalmody, and, for me living in a region where there is no glut of Reformed churches, I take the lazy man’s approach and say this isn’t an issue I have the luxury of standing for, even if I were persuaded of it. And some of their arguments I do find attractively compelling. If it weren’t for those of the advocates of instrumental hymnody.

Now that I’m preparing to join an OPC church, and begin reading all this vast literature about this “splinter group” of a denomination, I feel I’ve come full circle in some ways back to a Presbyterian version of my separatistic IFB background (even the local church planting missions emphasis is reminiscent of the IFB, without the Faith Promise giving campaigns), if you consider some of you more outspoken OPC guys’ position and attitude about TGC and T4G.

Yes, growing up among separatistic fundamentalists, yet consuming my fair share of big tent Evangelical media, it is quite a process in coming to a point where you can confidently call yourself “Reformed” without crossing your fingers behind your back.

Contrarianism For Its Own Sake

Reading (and being amused by) this Reformation21 blogpost by the curmudgeonly Dr. Carl Trueman gave me flashbacks of the polemical rhetoric of my one-time mentor, Dr. Peter S. Ruckman (with shades of Dennis Miller).

Nothing personal, Dr. Trueman! 😉

Gone Camping!

As seen on Alpha & Omega blog By permission of Angel Contreras

Click to "embiggen" and read the fine print

Allow me to recommend Redeemer Broadcasting 

Don’t miss their program A Plain Answer! Today’s episode: “May 21 and Harold Camping’s Failed Prophecy.”

Update Rapture Fail Tomorrow

From the Rapture Fail website:

RaptureFail has been set up to allow people around the world to catalogue the failure of Harold Camping’s Rapture prophecy for the 21st of May 2011.

As Christians who take the Bible seriously we believe that “prophecies” like these demean the church’s witness in the world. The purpose of this site is to demonstrate very clearly (and to mock gently) that this is a false prophecy and that Harold Camping is a false prophet.

As 6pm on the 21st of May passes around the world, RaptureFail will show that the Rapture is not occurring by utilising the power of the internet and global user input. Everybody who participates in this project will be part of the undermining of this embarrassment to the Body of Christ.


So Glad I’m Not Alone…

…in writing hokey, mediocre music as an amateur, presuming it’ll edify others as much as it does me (see here  for an example). Why am I not alone? Someone has done so by rewriting O Come, O Come Emmanuel in the light of Harold Camping’s soon-to-be-proven miscalculation of Judgment Day. You can listen to it here. (HT: James Swan)

What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between the Jesus People of the 1970’s and the Postmodern Liberals of the Twenty-First Century?

RAPechism

I just went to the Sovereign Grace Ministries website and downloaded yet another rap written by “The Voice” Curtis Allen, who previously was challenged to rap on the Heidelberg Catechism in honor of Kevin DeYoung’s recent book on it, and now, for reasons I’ve yet to read, if not only because of popular demand due to it’s novelty, a rap on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, accompanied, and containing commentary and instruction, by Dr. D. A. Carson.

When you get your bottom jaw off the floor,  you can visit both posts here and here. You can download each song if you please, and read the lyrics (some of us need to read the lyrics). After I downloaded them, I put them together in a playlist with an album name of my own invention, “RAPechism.”

Looks like those Baptistic, charismatic Calvinists are good for something after all 🙂

“Extent”

John Owen (1616-1683), thanks to ReformationArt.com

Time for our first break from Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible. How about if we dabble in the doctrine of particular redemption?

I ran across, once again, the famous quote by Puritan theologian par excellence, John Owen (1616-1683), from his book,  The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Among statements in defense of the Reformed doctrine of particular redemption, this one is literally viral in the Reformed blogosphere. This quote is Owen’s logical critique of general redemption, and is worth thinking through and searching the Scriptures about if you’ve never taken the time.

 Anyway, here’s a breakdown of his complex argument from Reformed.org:

 The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, “Because of unbelief.”

 I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

 I’ve looked at this many times and have until now always had trouble keeping the whole train of thought on the rails in my head, if you know what I mean. Finally, the other day, I decided I’m going to have to do with this what I do with Scripture verses and catechism questions that I want to memorize–put it to music!

 The following is the result. It’s roughly based on the tune to the children’s song “I’m in the Lord’s Army,” although there are some divergences. Do what you will with it. So, without further ado, I give you . . .

Extent

by John D. Chitty

 Did Christ die for
all sins of all men
or all sins of some men
or some sins of all men?

If Christ died for
some sins of all men,
then all die
for those he did not.

But if Christ died for
all sins of some men,
that’s what we believe,
all th’elect of all the nations!

But if Christ died for
all sins of all men,
why are not
all men saved?

You will answer
“Because of unbelief”–
Is unbelief a sin or not?

If not, why then,
for it give account?
Either for it
Christ was punished, or not!

If he was, then,
why does unbelief
prevent salvation
more than other sins he died for?

But if he did not
die for unbelief,
then for all sins of all men
Christ did not die!

So Christ died for
all sins of some men,
those the Father
gave to His Son!

I’m from Geneva, and I’m here to help!

Glenn Beck’s Anachronistic “Origin” of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Beck giving commencement speech at Liberty University 2010 Graduation, for which he ironically received an honorary degree!

A politcally liberal website posted a video of a clip from Glenn Beck’s radio show from last week.

http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201005270013 

He tries unsuccessfully to explain the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

His scenario is that at the Council of Nicea, Constantine had the church write the Apostles’ Creed and make the first bound edition of the Bible. Anyone who disagrees with this is a heretic, so off with your head! Then some folks took the Bible books that were left out of the Bible and put them in clay pots and hid them in the back of some caves to hide them from Constantine. This, says Glenn Beck, is the reason there were scrolls found in the Qumran caves.

Wow! This is powerful ignorance. 

This is one reason I don’t watch Glenn Beck’s tv show on FOXNews, or listen to his radio show. He’s an amateur. I recall seeing him a few months ago interviewed on a Barbara Walters special, in which he said that the things on which he informs his viewers, he reports as he learns it! In other words, he has no credentials to be the jack-of-all-trades expert on all things political (or in this case, historical or religious). Like a high school student throwing together a report at the last minute, he throws together a lot of factoids and concepts that seem to match, with little or no real substantive knowledge of the greater context of the matter at hand. In short, although Glenn Beck has been successful at capturing the imagination of a lot of frustrated Americans in the wake of the election of Barak Obama, and been a leader and promoter of the Tea Party Movement, please, please, please check the facts he gives on any topic. You never know when he might launch off into another knuckle-headed foray like this again.

Rush Limbaugh is another conservative talk show host who blows my mind when he dabbles in religious topicality. Politically, he’s well-informed. His commentary is also highly motivating when it comes to living the life of American, self-sufficient, rugged individualism. But when it comes to religion, Rush is a blind guide. Looks like he’s not alone.

For some reliable reading on the Dead Sea Scrolls, see this. Not to mention the slightly more reliable (than Beck, that is!) Wikipedia article on the scrolls.

For reliable reading on the Council of Nicea, see this from a Roman Catholic source, and this quick summary from a Protestant source.

For reliable reading on the Nag Hammadi Library (for which Beck was apparently confusing the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to the modern liberal mythology about the gnostic gospels and the Council of Nicea), see this.

 

My “Perfect Church” (With Apologies to My Current Church)

Redeemer Pres Exterior

I know the old saying, “If you find the perfect church, it’ll stop being perfect because you’re there,” or something like that. Well, I’ve been around the block a few too many times to think that there is such a thing as a church full of perfectly consistent Christians who always forgive each other, are loving, generous and caring, while at the same time utterly devoted to offering the purest, most biblically ordered and sincere worship of God. I may be a bit naive about some things, but when it comes to church, I’m . . . well, not so naive. But that doesn’t keep me from getting enthusiastic about church from time to time.

Perhaps a little closer to what I have in mind is the way people talk about “your own hell.” You know, some conceptualize hell by making it an infinite and eternal punishment of enduring whatever any given individual finds the most unpleasant or distasteful. Like hell for some people is lying on a bed of nails for eternity, for others it’s having to watch Family Matters reruns (I never did like that show), and still others may dread an eternity of reading poorly written blog posts, or something. But you get the idea. This is more analogous to what I have in mind when I say that this past Sunday, I visited what I consider to be “my perfect church.” It had just about everything I could ever ask for in a church (with very few exceptions).

In the world of debating the Reformed notion of the “Regulative Principle of Worship,” the matters that come under discussion are usually categorized in two ways: elements of worship (mandatory things the Bible requires:preaching, prayer, sacraments, etc.), and circumstances of worship (optional things utilized for practical reasons: choice of musical instruments, sound systems, carpet color, etc.). I think I’ll try to categorize the elements and circumstances of my own personal concept of the perfect church, which I discovered in Overland Park, Kansas at Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Redeemer's Sanctuary (Not "Auditorium" or "Worship Center")

 Elements (Absolute Musts!)–
  • Preaching that explicitly centers all exposition and application on the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, with a minimum of autobiography, corny jokes, illustrations and sundry other rabbit trails.
  • Weekly communion
  • Long-winded prayers full of Scripture
  • The predominance of classical, historic hymnody (I can tolerate a dose of contemporary music, as long as it’s done tastefully)

Circumstances (Icing on the Cake!)–

  • Big, beautiful church architecture and a really cool pulpit (not a glorified music stand)
  • Pipe organ accompaniment of at least the primary psalms and hymns sung by the congregation (okay, there were no pipes–just giant speakers, but the organ had the sound!)
  • A book table full of Reformed literature
  • A pastor who runs a Reformed blog
  • Members who demonstrably care about me

Anyway, that gives you a pretty good idea of what gets me all giddy and makes me start speaking in terms of “the perfect church.” These were all to greater and lesser degrees present at Redeemer Presbyterian. I was even impressed by the hospitality of the couple in the pew in front of us with whom we “passed the peace” (my first time for that practice, but I’d heard of it from an Episcopal friend before). When they learned that we were from out of town to visit our daughter who attends UMKC, they gave us their name, phone number and address with an invitation to crash with them whenever we return to Kansas City.

Then there was the pastor and the preaching. First of all, when I was searching online for a church to visit last Sunday morning, I noticed on Redeemer’s webpage that their pastor is the man who runs the blog called “Reepicheep,” which I’d seen a few times before in the blogrolls of other blogs, but had yet to begin regularly following. Well that’s changed. When I shook his hand at the door on my way out, I told him I’d add him to my blogroll (see sidebar). As for the preaching, a thorough exposition and application of Philippians 2:9-11 on God’s and man’s response to the supreme humility of Christ sealed the deal (listen here).  It was obvious by it’s predominance that the gospel is a priority for the preaching ministry of this church. If I lived in Kansas (or Kansas City, this would be the church for me). But I don’t, so it isn’t. But this is the heart of what I consider to be my “perfect” church.

P.S.–I would’ve taken more pictures like the tourist I was, but I was embarrassing my wife. 🙂

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: