Friday, October 31, 2003
When I suggested reading St. Ignatius, et al. I was giving the names of authors from the early church. They are contemporary witnesses to the practices of the early Church. No matter how knowledgeable James Dunn (Do you mean James D.G. Dunn, the theology professor at the University of Durham?) or Archbishop Dimitri the Texan might be, they are not living in the early days of the church. Their knowledge is not first hand. It is secondary at best. St. Ignatius and St. Justin Martyr and the compilers or the Didache ? First hand knowledge. They are primary sources.
As for knowing about communion, I heartily recommend reading the words of St. Paul and Jesus first. That's what I did. And because I believed what they said/wrote I began to doubt the "Jesus is not present and this is only a memorial" theory. But because I was surrounded by people convinced that that theory was true I thought I must be mis-reading the text. It was only when I read the early guys that I realized my misgivings about the theory were correct. I had a similar experience with baptism. I remember being horrified that my cousin was re-baptised about 7 years ago. At the time maybe I just thought, "Jesus only died and came back to life once in history, so baptism should only occur once in our history". I didn't know why I was so appalled, but I was. Now however, after having read more about baptism in the church fathers, I understand more than I did then.
Concerning differing practices in the early church: You give the example of the St. Peter and St. John in Jerusalem continuing to go to the temple. But, St. Paul went to the temple, too, when he was back in Jerusalem. And in his missionary voyages, he always went to the Jewish synagogues, until they threw him out. Jesus was clear, take the gospel to the Jews first. That is exactly what the Apostles did. And later, St. Peter went to Antioch and Rome. And St. Thomas to Persia and India. And St. Andrew to What is now Georgia, and St. Mark to Egypt. I do not think the practices around the early church diverged as much as you do. (Why do you think that, by the way?) But in all of these places they were serving the same eucharist, they were baptising, they were annointing the sick with oil and praying for them. The resurrection was taught everywhere the church went. We know from the earliest liturgies (St. James' & St. Mark's) and from the Didache and from St. Justin Martyr's writings that the basic outline of the liturgy was the same in Egypt as it was in Rome as it was in Jerusalem.
Now let me get back to the normativeness of the early church fathers. If they are passing on the teaching of the Apostles why should they not be normative? You have to remember, that at the time these Saints were writing, all the books of the New Testament still had not been circulated to all the churches. The normative thing was the tradition handed down by bishops. (I'm not sure what normative means, so I reserve the right to chage what I just wrote.)
Now as for Saddleback Church, it depends on what you mean by "it works". If by "it works" you mean it makes people happy and gathers a big crowd then I would have to admit that yes, it works. But by that standard, so do churches named 'Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses' or 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints'. But if by, "it works" you mean faithfully passes on the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles I would say it most certainly does not work. Yes, it is faithul to part of that tradition, but so are Mormons and Jehoah's Witnesses. Where are the sacraments? Where is the altar? Where are the clergy? Are any of the clergy divorced and re-married? What do they believe? I went all over their website and have no idea what they believe other than "God has a plan for your life and wants to be with you" (very consumer-friendly message there.) But I challenge you to go to their website and find one reference to the death and ressurection of Jesus. I even wathced the video of the guy praying a "sinners prayer" with people and welcoming them into the church, not one mention of what that sinner should have faith in other than God loves him/her and wants to be with him/her. Wow!
But you asked about culture and if the church should change for the culture, I don't know the answer to that, but the church can not stop being the church. Remember, from India to Britain it was one Gospel, one Baptism, the same Eucharist, the same episcopacy. When the fathers at nicea produced the creed, every Christian from North to South and East to West was expected to assent to it, forever.
What I meant about ther not being a single orthodoxy or kerygma(there's that word again!) is that if you look at the N.T., you find different emphases in different writers. Peter and John still went to the temple for prayer every day. Paul went to the Gentiles. A gospel emphasis to the Jews of, say, calling Jesus the Son of Man or even Messiah would have meant very little to Greeks. So other titles and emphases would be needed with them. My basic point is that N.T. and first-century Christianity were not monolithic examples in practice.
But this brings up another question. It seems clear that the writings of Scripture are meant to be normative...that's probbly one reason why they were recognized by the church as God's Word. But why does the Orthodox church take things from Ignatius, etc, and make them normative also? Are you not, by making such things normative, removing any type of historical context in which such things were written.
Let me give you and example. Saddleback Community Church has their 'Purpose-Driven' church model. And it works rather well for them. Does that mean that model should be normative for all? No, because it is not going to work everywhere. What works in one church will no necessarily work in another due to such factors as culture, etc.
When you say there was not a "single orthodoxy" or a "single kerygma" in the first century, I don't know what you mean. Are you saying the Apostle Peter preached a different gospel than the Apostle John? Perhaps, and this is my own personal opinion, the reson for the different emphases in New Testament writings is that they are largely correctional. Why talk about baptism to people who already have a firm understanding of it and practice it correctly? Same goes for the second comming, the eucharist, sexual morality, faith, hospitality, prophecy, etc. But as you said, you were over-simplifying. I might be over-responding to that over simplification.
I didn't know you were interested in early Church stuff. Have you read St. Ignatius' letters yet? Don't trust secondary sources. Ask St. Ignatius what the role of a bishop is. Ask St. Justin Martyr how to run a church service. Ask St. Iraneus what communion is all about. You have what they wrote, why ask some guy alive today what they said?
Cyndi and Anselm are both sick. No going out for them. You didn't say what Caleb is dressing up as.
Here is the link to two smallfarms. Hope this one works.
Who is Dallas Willard? He's a USC professor. He's written some really dynamite books, such as RENOVATION OF THE HEART, HEARING GOD, THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY and SPIRIT OF THE DISCIPLINES. You can read some of his stuff at (I think) dwillard.org.
I can't remember what specifically I had said regarding my professor and the early church. Was it along the lines of WHICH early church? No, I don't think that should be taken to extremes either, but I think the point is valid and that there was not necessarily a single orthodoxy in the first century or so. Im reading another book for that class by James D. G. Dunn called UNITY AND DIVERSITY IN THE EARLY CHURCH. One of the first things that ke looked at was the kerygma of Jesus, Acts, Paul and John and found that all of them emphasized much different things. It would be difficult to say that there was a single kerygma in the early church other than Jesus being resurrected and the need for faith. I am oversimplifying at this point, but Dunn says some good things.
Tell me more about Two Small Farms. The posted link sent me nowhere.
Are you taking ANselm out trick-or-treating or anything? We're going to a Harvest Festival at our church and Caleb is just the cutest from you'd ever want to see.
I've been thinking about what you said concerning your professor's response whenever someone mentions the early church. I think it would be good not to take that to extremes. For instance, a woman from Milan was going to Rome. The church at Rome had prescribed a less rigerous fasting schedule (Wed. & Fri.) than did the church at Milan (Wed., Fri. & Sat.). So she asked her bishop, St. Ambrose what she should do. He said something like, "When you're in Rome do what the Romans do. When you are in Milan, do what I tell you to do." So here is an example of two early churches doing the same thing, that is fasting as a community, but doing it differently. It is also important to remember that as far flung (Britania to India) as the church became, and as different as some of the local liturgies were from each other, the entire church everywhere had certain things in common, such as the belifef that Jesus came back from the dead, that the wine and bread became his body and blood. Even some small and seemingly insignificant things, such as the distinctive garment of the diaconate were the same from India to Britainia.
So, do you know how to put a link in the text of your posts?
Thursday, October 30, 2003
I just read this this morning and have been thinking about it. Obviously, it is a pretty good application of the "wheat and tares" parable, but in general, here is the deal with the Saints: Almost everything they tell us to do is really hard. They might as well just quote Jesus at us, saying "Be ye therfore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
I never understood the Jabez thing. I'm glad John MacArthur hit it head on. I didn't think it was bad.(Okay, it was a little bad. It was self-centered. Okay, okay. I guess it's really bad, in that regard.) But I didn't think it was necessarily Christian, either. It was a prayer any monotheist could pray. If the statement "lex orandi, lex credendi" is true, it is much better to pray the Trisagion Prayer or the Jesus Prayer.
I emailed Adam Bernal, Sr. Pastor of Jubilee (Two senior pastors?)to ask about their inclusion of the dual procession doctrine in thier Statement
of Faith. He used a lot of words but really summed up what he was saying in the first sentence: "First things first, any doctrinal belief regarding the concept of the Holy Spirit is going to be open to debate and quite frankly will never be resolved on
this side of Glory." Well, call me closed-minded, but it isn't open to debate. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree since I agree with Jesus and the fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council, who are unambiguous: The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.
I can't make it to the Johnny Cash tribute. Nov. 15 is the beginning of Nativity Lent and we are having a vigil service. As much as I love Johnny and pray for him and June Carter, a TV special in honor of him would be incongruous with the penetential nature of the the season. But thanks for inviting me.
One more thing. I got my delivery yesterday from Two Small Farms. My goodies this week include Erbette Chard, Potatoes, the most amazigly good golf ball-sized tomatoes, a big hugh bunch of basil, scallions, butternut squash, and baby bear pumpkins (they are yummy with real maple syrup). You need to sign up for this. It is amazignly cool. It is the highest quality produce I have ever had and it is grown by local farmers.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Now, to your comments about Protestantism being so 'now' focused and why that is. I think it stems from the fact that people want to read whatever it is that is new. When is the last time that 'David Copperfield' appeared on the New York Times bestseller list? That does not make whatever is old bad, just less interesting than what is out now.
Remember the success that Bruce Wilkinson's book 'The Prayer of Jabez' had a couple of years ago? That was the hot thing. Churches did sermons on it. i think it was a pile of hooey to think that you could discover something new and revolutionary in Scripture which no one else had ever seen. John MacArthur has a Pastor's COnference every year, and in the year of jabez, the conference had a seminar called 'The Prayer of Jabez; Exegesis Gone Mad'.
I for one will read whatever it in that is good. Some of my favorite Christian reading comes from a time long ago. Tozer still feeds me. Brother Lawrence is wonderful also. But the danger in some of the older books is that they can become dated. Witness Leonard Ravenhill's 'Why Revival Tarries', a great book written about 1950. But there are references in it to the need for the church to withstand the godless Communists. It is a powerful book, but those passages are almost laughable now.
So, to sum up for me. Right now I'm reading enough theology for class that i don't need any of that in my personal readings. I highly recommend Dallas Willard's book 'Renovation of the Heart', which deals with spiritual formation in Christ. He has a challenging way of writing which is impacting my life pretty seriously these days. In the coming days, I'll probably comment a bit on that.
That's a bit sad about Jubilee's cut-and-paste approach to a statement of faith. Good churches don't do that. Churches which aren't overly concerned with good theology (charismatic churches come to mind) tend towards that way of thinking.
Of, by the way, there's a Johnny Cash tribute concert being broadcast on CMT on Nov 15. Do you want to come over and see it that night?
We're also having a potluck in the office on Friday. I'm trying something new...Crostini with mushrooms and bleu cheese. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Jeff, apparantly, is still having problems logging in. I hope he gets the problem resolved soon. It is lonely in here.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Monday, October 27, 2003
It has been a pretty difficult day. I had to come home at noon because of illness. My wife had to go to work at 3:30, so I had to take care of the boy while not feeling well. He go sick two and trew up his dinner. Cyndi called at 7 and said someone at her work called in sick and she had to stay till 11:30.
Once the boy and I did evening prayers and he fell asleep I straightened up the house. It is a mess right now becase we are getting ready to move on the 9th of November. Oh, it's a good life if you don't give up.
I wrote a little one page flyer with which to hit all the evangelical church parking lots. Essentially it says, "You're a Bible-believing Christian. Why don't you check out the church that wrote the Bible?" And it lists all the south bay Orthodox churches that do the services in English. I wish St. Nicholas (Greek) in San Jose did their services in English. I love their priest. The old one. Not the young one. But he's good too. Just young.
Also, I'm trying to figure out how my posts can be one color and your another color. If I can figure it out, what color would you like to be?
Saturday, October 25, 2003
You told me once that that you don't like going into a Christian bookstore and only finding titles from the last 10 years. What is it about Protestantism that makes it so "now" focuesd? Or do you think it might be that in America, everyone is so "me" focused that Ameircan Protestants forget that Christians have been doing church for nearly 2,000 years?