Friday, April 27, 2012

Music for Children

Yesterday I linked to a recommendation for good books for children. Today I want to link to a very helpful recommendation for music for children.

Kevin Bauder writes, "A couple of events have coincided during the last day or so to bring a question to my attention. That question is essentially, What music should I provide for my small children to listen to? I would like to answer that question by providing general suggestions concerning music to Christian parents for their children."

He provides some guidelines to consider for choosing music, as well as specific pieces to incorporate into a listening repertoire, and concludes, "Parents are in a position to provide their children with richer listening more easily than at any time in history. As a father with two grown children who love music, I suggest that the investment is worthwhile."

Read it all here.

Receive the Holy Spirit

When Jesus commissioned us to participate in his mission, he did not leave us without the ability and authority to carry it out. In fact, he commissioned us to make the awesome declaration of forgiveness of sins in Christ's name and of withholding forgiveness for all who reject him. This is a powerful message for Christ's Spirit-empowered people. Join us this Lord's Day.

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
We Face a Task Unfinished (#583)
Soldiers of Christ, Arise (#589)
Temples of the Spirit (#557)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 30:22-38; Psalm 67
New Testament: Hebrews 4

The Resurrection Mission (continued) - John 20:19-23

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Church History for Children

John Aloisi has highlighted a great book series for introducing children to important figures in church history. I'd encourage you to check out his post, and if you have some spare change, invest in good books for your children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Neutered International Version

Over fifty years ago, before the rise of the second wave of feminism, before Betty Friedan got the mystique going, Richard Weaver warned about a kind of improper change of language he called "rhetorical prevarication." This involved imposing a change in language in order to further an ideology. This, he noted, was very different than the normal and almost imperceptible change of word meanings that always happens in time. "Language is a covenant among those who use it," and there are those who intentionally violate the covenant in order to manipulate people according to their agenda. ("Relativism and the Use of Language" in Language Is Sermonic)

Rhetorical prevarication has been one of modern feminism's standard weapons. The charge has been that the traditional generic masculine usage (words like "man," "mankind," "he," "him," or "his") are sexist and must be changed. Of course, this charge is baloney, but in our day tremendous pressure is put upon authors and scholars to conform to the feminist agenda.

In the latest issue of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Louis Markos courageously says what needs to be said about this agenda and about the Bible translations that are co-opted by it.

The true goal of the gender-neutral agenda is not to reflect existing patterns of speech, writing, and thought, but to so radically alter those patterns that people will, in time, really come to think of the literal translation as unnatural. Even today, gender-neutral usage does not represent a natural evolution in the English language. It is a change that has been manufactured and enforced through academia, the media, and other outlets.

The newest version of the NIV has justified its widespread use of gender-neutral language on the basis of a massive computer survey that gauged the use of gendered language in thousands of books and journals. Since they found in this study a heavy use of gender-neutral language, they assumed that this proved that language had “changed” and that they must therefore use gender-neutral language in their updating of the NIV. But their logic here is faulty. Over the last three decades, increasing pressure has been put upon journalists, teachers, professors, pastors, politicians, and media people to accommodate their writing and speaking to gender-neutral language usage. In many universities (including Christian ones) students are told that they must use gender-neutral language in their essays and papers or risk having their grade dropped. Just so, the loudly touted argument that Intelligent Design (ID) cannot be considered scientific because its results have not been published in peer-reviewed journals skillfully obscures the fact that peer-reviewed journals have tightly closed their evolutionary ranks and refused to publish ID essays, no matter the quality of their research.

After sharing some personal experiences along this line, Markos writes,

I recount these incidents, not to gain sympathy, but to highlight that gender-neutral language does not represent a natural evolution but is the result of an enforced agenda.

He continues,

Let me say it once more: gender-neutral translations of the Bible do not reflect a natural change in the English language. Many of them seek to promote and help bring about a change that those on the translation board think should be universally accepted. And what that means, plain and simple, is that the Bible is being used to promote an agenda rooted in feminist propaganda and originally meant to obscure (if not eliminate) all essential, God-given distinctions between the sexes. Again, that is not to claim that all proponents of gender-neutral translations believe in that agenda—but the agenda is there nonetheless. 

 He closes with this question and challenge,

If we will allow the Bible to be so altered as to promote a change in language that is not natural but grew directly out of an anti-biblical agenda, then what will we swallow next?...Let us continue to fight for our language and for those wonderful, essential differences between men and women that God hard wired into us from the beginning.

Thank you, Professor Markos.

Read the whole thing here.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Rise of the Separatists

In the days of Edward VI we have the first hints of people setting up church meetings apart from the reformed Church of England. Under Mary’s reign, however, a network of separatist churches developed, centered in London. The London congregation grew to 200 people, meeting in secret, before Mary’s reign came to an end. Of course, with Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, the vast majority of separatists went back to the English church. Some of the formerly separated pastors became bishops in the Church of England.
Nevertheless, not all were happy with this arrangement. Timothy George writes, “From the beginning, there were those who were frustrated by the temporizing nature of the Elizabethan Settlement, and who, as their frustration gave way to disillusionment, and disillusionment to despair, called to mind the precedent of the Marian congregations.”[1] As the established church set about enforcing its prescriptions, more men began to view the issues of ministerial clothing as not merely indifferent, but positively idolatrous. “Far from being harmless adiaphora, necessary for order’s sake, the garments in question, the square cap, gown, tippet, and surplice, were branded by the advanced reformers as idolothytes.”[2]
            These early separatists were a concern to the leadership of the Church of England, as is shown in a letter from Archbishop Grindal to Henry Bullinger, dated June 9, 1568.
“Some citizens of the lowest order, together with four or five ministers, remarkable neither for their judgment nor learning, have openly separated from us; and sometimes in private houses, sometimes in the fields, and occasionally even in ships, they have held their meetings and administered the sacraments. Besides this, they have ordained ministers, elders, and deacons, after their own way.”[3]

            One pioneer separatist inadvertently imparted his name to the movement, even though he later returned to the English church. Later Separatists tried to shed his name because they did not want to be associated with him. In 1580 Robert Browne (1550-1633) settled at Norwich with Robert Harrison, with whom he had been a student under Thomas Cartwright, and together they went about establishing a congregationalist church. Browne fired a canon ball into ecclesiastical affairs in 1582 when he published A Treatise of Reformation without Tarying for Anie. As one can tell from the title, Browne believed that those who were trying to reform the Church of England from within were tolerating evil. Thus they were compromising the Word of God. He called upon men to abandon all evil immediately and break away from the corrupt church.
            The church which Browne and Harrison founded did not last long. It fell apart with internal division. In the end, Harrison complained that “Caine dealt not so ill with his brother Abel, as he [Browne] hath dealt with me.” Browne kicked the church out of his house, which was their accustomed meeting place. After a brief stint in Scotland, Browne returned to England and to the English church.
            Despite the evident pastoral failure, three key ideas that Browne articulated became standard Separatist convictions: “the church as a covenanted community, gathered and separated from the parish assemblies, and entered into by voluntary consent.”[4] Browne thought of the church as a company of believers bound together by “a willing covenant made with their God.” He did not delve into how this fit with the doctrine of predestination. Browne also wanted to separate from the parish church system, which was both the basic religious unity of society and the basic civil administrative unit of society. He anticipated seventeenth century debates by declaring that civil magistrates have no ecclesiastical authority at all. This was closely tied with his third key idea which was an emphasis on voluntary participation in the church.
            Henry Barrow and John Greenwood carried on the Separatist ideal in London. Barrow identified four grounds for separation from the Church of England: false worship, false ministry, false discipline, and false basis of membership. Both Barrow and Greenwood were imprisoned in 1586 and eventually executed in 1593. During their imprisonment they continued to write and promote their ideas.
            In 1591, Francis Johnson was convinced of separatism by Barrow, and in 1592 he was elected pastor of the London congregation. In 1593 the congregation decided to leave England for Amsterdam. Johnson was not able to join them until 1597, for he had been imprisoned for his beliefs, along with 56 other church members. In the meantime, the congregation of the “Ancient Church” selected Henry Ainsworth as a pastor. He led the group to produce “A True Confession,” which showed a developing congregationalism among the Separatists. For example, note how the church is described in the following sections of the confession.

17 That in the meane tyme, bisides his absolute rule in the world, Christ hath here in earth a spirituall Kingdome and c canonicall regiment in his Church ouer his servants, which Church hee hath purchased and redeemed to himself, as a peculiar inheritance (notwithstanding manie hypocrites do for the tyme lurk emongest the) calling and winning them by the powre of his word vnto the faith, seperating them from emongst vnbeleevers, from idolitrie, false worship, superstition, vanitie, dissolute lyfe, & works of darknes, &c; making them a royall Priesthood, an holy Nation, a people set at libertie to shew foorth the virtues of him that hath called them out of darknes into his meruelous light, gathering and vniting them together as members of one body in his faith, loue and holy order, vnto all generall and mutuall dutyes, instructing & governing them by such officers and lawes as hee hath prescribed in his word; by which Officers and lawes hee governeth his Church, and by none other.
18 That to this Church hee hath made the promises, and giuen the seales of his Covenant, presence, loue, blessing and protection: Heere are the holy Oracles as in the side of the Arke, suerly kept & puerly taught. Heere are all the fountaynes and springs of his grace continually replenished and flowing forth. Heere is hee lyfted up to all Nations, hither hee inuiteth all men to his supper, his manage feast; hither ought all men of all estates and degrees that acknowledg him their Prophet, Priest and King to repayre, to bee enrolled emongst his houshold seruants, to bee vnder his heauenly conduct and government, to leade their lyues in his walled sheepfold, & watered orchard, to haue communion heere with the Saincts, that they may bee made meet to bee partakers of their inheritace in the kingdome of God.
19 That as all his seruants and subiects are called hither, to present their bodyes and soules, and to bring the guyfts God hath given them; so beeing come, they are heer by himself bestowed in their severall order, peculiar place, due vse, beeing fitly compact and knit together by euery ioynt of help, according to the effectuall work in the measure of euery parte, vnto the edification of yt self in loue; whervnto whe hee ascended vp on high hee gaue guifts vnto men, that hee might fill all these things, and bath distributed these guifts, vnto seuerall functions in his Church, hauing instituted and ratified to contynue vnto the worlds end, only this publick ordinarie Ministerie of Pastors, Teachers, Elders, Deacons, Helpers to the instruction, government, and seruice of his Church.
20 That this ministerie is exactly described, distinguished, limited, concerning their office, their calling to their office, ther administration of their office, and their maintenance in their office, by most perfect and playne lawes in Gods word, which lawes it is not lawfull for these Ministers, or for the wholl Church wittinly to neglect, transgresse, or violate in anie parte; nor yet to receiue anie other lawes brought into the Church by anie person whatsoever.
21 Thatt none may vsurp or execute a ministerie but such as are rightly called by the Church whereof they stand ministers; and that such so called ought to gyve all diligence to fulfill ther ministerie, to bee found faithful! and vnblamable in all things.
22 That this ministerie is alyke given to euery Christian congregation, with like povvre and commission to haue and enioy the same, as God offereth fit men and meanes, the same rules given to all for the election and execution therof in all places.
23 That as every christian Congregation hath povvre and commandement to elect and ordeine their ovvn ministerie according to the rules prescribed, andy whilest they shal faithfully execute their office, to haue them in superaboundant loue for their vvorke sake, to provide for them, to honour them and reuerence them, according to the dignitie of the office they execute. So have they also povvre and cornmandement when anie such defalt, either in their lyfe, Doctrine, or administration breaketh out, as by the rule of the word debarreth them from, or depriv├ęth them of their ministerie, by due order to depose them from the ministerie they exercised; yea if the case so require, and they remayne obstinate and impenitent, orderly to cut them off by excommunication.
24 That Christ hath given this povvre to receiue in or to cut off anie member, to the vvholl body together of euery Christian Congregation, and not to anie one member aparte, or to moe members sequestred from the vvholl, or to anie other Congregation to doo it for the: yet that ech Congregation ought to vse the best help they can heer vnto, and the most meet member they haue to pronounce the same in their publick assembly.
25 That euery member of ech Christian Congregation, hovv excellent, great, or learned soeuer, ought to be subiect to this censure & iudgment of Christ; Yet ought not the Church vvithout great care & due advise to procede against such publick persons.
26 That for the keeping of this Church in holy & orderly communion, as Christ hath placed some speciall men over the Church, who by their office are to governe, ouersec, visite, watch, &c. So lykevvise for the better keeping therof in all places, by all the members, hee hath giuen authoritie & layd duty vpon tho all to watch one ouer another.
27 That vvhilest the Ministers and people thus remayne together in this holy order and christian communion, ech one endevoring to do the will of God in their calling, & thus to vvalke in the obedience of faith Christ hath promised to bee present with them, to blesse & defend them against all adverserie povvre, & that the gates of Hell shall not prevayle against them.
28 But when & vvhere this holy order & diligent vvatch was intermitted, neglected, violated. Antichrist that man of sinne corrupted & altered the holy ordinances, offices, & administratios of the church brought in & erected a strange new forged ministerie, leitourgie and government & the Nations Kingdoms & inhabitants of the earth, were made drunken vvith this cup of fornications & abhominations, & all people enforced to receiue the Beasts marke and worship his image & so brought into confusion & babilonish bondage.
29 That the present ministerie reteyned & vsed in Englad of Arch. bbb. Lobb. Deanes, Prebendaries, Canons, Peti-Canons, Arch-Deacons, Chancellors, Commissaries, Priests, Deacons, Parsons, Viccars Curats, Hireling rouing Preachers, Church-wardens, Parish-clerkes their Doctors, Proctors, & ivholl rable of those Courts with all from & vnder them set ouer these Cathedrall & Parishionall Assemblies in this confusion, are a strange & Anti-christian ministerie & offices; & are not that ministerie aboue named instituted in Christs Testament, or allovved in or ouer his Church.
        Johnson did not share the congregational leanings of many in this church. The church was also plagued by internal factions, and it declined following Johnson’s death in 1617.

Next: The Separatists Who Came to America

[1] John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition, NABPR Dissertation Series No. 1 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1982), 23.
[2] Ibid. The term “idolothytes” means something offered to idols.
[3] Cited from H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman, 1987), 26.
[4] Timothy George, John Robinson, 41.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ready to Pray?

Just for fun....

Ben Witherington remembers a funny example of an impromptu prayer gone wrong.

I remember a particular Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt's house in Statesville, North Carolina, where, as we were all sitting down, she asked my father to pray impromptu over the meal she had been preparing for many hours. Somewhat flustered and unprepared, he prayed, "Dear Lord, please bless our sins and pardon this food in your Son's name. Amen." He would not soon live down that blessing.

Making a Meal of It (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007), 17-18

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Resurrection Mission

Jesus constituted his church to accomplish his mission. Let's do it.

Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (#211)
Come, Holy Ghost, Our God and Lord (#209)
Our Blest Redeemer (#196)
Hail! Thou Once Despised Jesus (#81)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 30:1-21; Psalm 141
New Testament: Hebrews 3

The Resurrection Mission - John 20:19-23

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Form and Content

On March 15, 2012, Peter Leithart tweeted “Playing off form against content is like scraping the ink from the page to get at the meaning beneath the words.”[1] Exactly so, yet this error seems characteristic of contemporary evangelicalism.

Here is one recent example. In the March 2012 issue of Credo magazine, hip-hop artist Shai Linne was asked, “In the past you have been criticized for redeeming such a ‘depraved genre’ as hip-hop. What is your response to this criticism?” Linne’s answer showed confusion on a number of levels, but for our purposes I want to point out that Linne invoked the belief that form and content have no necessary or meaningful connection. This is his answer in full:

To those who say, “How can you take that thing that is used for evil and glorify God with it?” My two word answer is “The Cross.”

But my response to that particular criticism is usually to simply re-phrase the objection. I would say something like, “Are you saying that you have a problem with me taking a medium that has been used to blaspheme God and using it instead as a medium to praise and exalt God’s holy name, proclaim His glorious gospel, speak biblical truth and magnify the infinite worth of the Lord Jesus Christ?” Arguments against “depraved genres” are ultimately arguments against redemption itself, because depraved genres are the products of depraved human beings, who need redemption. (In fact, “depraved genre” is a misnomer because it’s ascribing moral value to a medium, which by definition is morally neutral until informed by content.) Once God has redeemed a person, it’s fitting for the Christian to take the “genres” or vehicles (such as books, cameras, canvasses, the internet, language, musical forms, etc.) that he or she once used for evil and now use them to promote the glory of God. Those who make the objection (especially as they use the internet to do so) are often unaware that they themselves use “depraved genres” all the time.[2]

I contend that it is this kind of reasoning which has landed us squarely in the relativist bog. Meaning cannot be known apart from form, and the form is part of the meaning

Many are the evangelicals today who profess their admiration for C. S. Lewis. I hope that many of them consider seriously his thoughts in The Abolition of Man

[2] “10 Questions,” Credo Vol 2.2 (March 2012), 9.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Puritans Seek Liberty

            Queen Elizabeth I succeeded in reigning in the Puritan party and in keeping herself strongly positioned as the governor of the Church of England. But Elizabeth could not reign forever, and when King James I came to the throne in 1603, those of Puritan beliefs hoped for another opportunity for further reform. James was from Scotland, where reformed and presbyterian ideas were much further advanced than they were in England. Perhaps now the king would favor their cause.

The Millenary Petition

            In this hope some Puritan delegates met the new king on his way to from Scotland to London to present to him the Millenary Petition, so named because it was supposed to have been signed by one thousand clergymen. The substance of the petition is as follows.

Our humble suit, then, unto your majesty is that these offences following, some may be removed, some amended, some qualified:

(1) In the Church service: that the cross in baptism, interrogatories ministered to infants, confirmation, as superfluous, may be taken away; baptism not to be ministered by women, and so explained; the cap and surplice not urged; that examination may go before the communion; that it be ministered with a sermon; that divers terms of priests, and absolution, and some other used, with the ring in marriage, and other such like in the book, may be corrected; the longsomeness of service abridged, Church songs and music moderated to better edification; that the Lord's Day be not profaned; the rest upon holy days not so strictly urged; that there may be a uniformity of doctrine prescribed; no popish opinion to be any more taught or defended; no ministers charged to teach their people to bow at the name of Jesus; that the canonical Scriptures only be read in the Church.

(2) Concerning Church ministers: that none hereafter be admitted into the ministry but able and sufficient men, and those to preach diligently and especially upon the Lord's day; that such as be already entered and cannot preach, [Page 510] may either be removed, and some charitable course taken with them for their relief, or else be forced, according to the value of their livings, to maintain preachers; that non-residency be not permitted; that King Edward's statute for the lawfulness of ministers' marriages be revived; that ministers be not urged to subscribe, but according to the law, to the Articles of Religion, and the king's supremacy only.

(3) For Church livings and maintenance: that bishops leave their commendams, some holding parsonages, some prebends, some vicarages, with their bishoprics; that double-beneficed men be not suffered to hold some two, some three benefices with cure, and some two, three, or four dignities besides; that impropriations annexed to bishoprics and colleges be demised only to the preachers incumbents, for the old rent; that the impropriations of laymen's fees be charged, with a sixth or seventh part of their worth, to the maintenance of the preaching minister.

(4) For Church discipline: that the discipline and excommunication may be administered according to Christ's own institution, or, at the least, that enormities may be redressed, as namely, that excommunication come not forth under the name of lay persons, chancellors, officials, &c.; that men be not excommunicated for trifles and twelve-penny matters; that none be excommunicated without consent of his pastor; that the officers be not suffered to extort unreasonable fees; that none having jurisdiction or registers' places, put out the same to farm; that divers popish canons (as for restraint of marriage at certain times) be reversed; that the longsomeness of suits in ecclesiastical courts (which hang sometimes two, three, four, five, six, or seven years) may be restrained; that the oath Ex Officio, whereby men are forced to accuse themselves, be more sparingly used; that licences for marriages without banns asked, be more cautiously granted:

These, with such other abuses yet remaining and practised in the Church of England, we are able to show not to be agreeable to the Scriptures, if it shall please your highness further to hear us….[1]

James agreed to a conference, and the meeting at Hampton Court was arranged. However, James wasted no time in dashing the Puritan hopes. He bluntly rejected their proposals and decidedly upheld the status quo. His decisions, enforced by Archbishop Bancroft, resulted in about 300 ministers being forced from the ministry and, in some cases, from the country.
From this petition you can see that the Puritan concerns and agenda had not changed. J. I. Packer’s memorable characterization that the Puritans wanted to eliminate popery from church worship, prelacy from church government, and pagan irreligion from church membership was still true.

Parliament Rises to the Occasion

            However, important changes were taking place in the balance of power in England. James claimed a theory of the divine right of kings which was absolutist. He stated to the House of Lord in 1603, “I am the Husband, and all the whole Isle is my lawfull Wife; I am the Head, and it is my Body; I am the Shepherd, and it is my Flocke.” Yet when James summoned a new Parliament to raise supplies, they refused to grant him his requests unless certain changes were made. As the representatives of the people, Parliament began to claim that their privileges were not the prerogative of the crown. When James appeared before Parliament on May 30, 1604 to rebuke them, the Parliament refused to back down. With regard to religion, they expressly denied that the king had any right to alter the laws of religion without Parliamentary consent. Two great parties began a struggle which would eventually take England all the way to civil war – the king and the Anglicans striving for supremacy of the crown, the Parliament and the Puritans fighting for a constitutional government. Unfortunately, James refused to change course and began to resort to unconstitutional means of raising money to finance his wars.

James Versus the Puritans

            To cite one intringuing example of the conflict which continued between the crown and the Puritans, we put forward “The Declaration of Sports,” promulgated by James in 1618. The Puritans had been trying to restrain the entertainments taking place on Sundays, since, as they believed, this was the Christian Sabbath. Much to the vexation of many serious Puritans, James explicitly endorsed some Sunday amusements in “The Declaration.”

“. . . Whereas we did justly in our progress through Lancashire rebuke some Puritans and precise people and took order that the like unlawful carriage should not be used by any of them hereafter, in the prohibiting and unlawful punishing of our good people for using their lawful recreations and honest exercises upon Sunday and other holy days, after the afternoon sermon or service, we now find that two sorts of people wherewith that country is much infected - we mean papists and Puritans - have maliciously traduced and calumniated those our just and honorable proceedings. . . . We have therefore thought good hereby to clear and make our pleasure to be manifested to all our good people in those parts. . . .

“Our pleasure likewise is, that the bishop of that diocese take the like strait order with all the Puritans and precisians within the same, either constraining them to conform themselves or to leave the county, according to the laws of our kingdom and canons of our Church, and so to strike equally on both hands against the contemners of our authority and adversaries of our Church; and as for our good people's lawful recreation, our pleasure likewise is, that after the end of divine service our good people be not disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances, and the setting up of Maypoles and other sports therewith used, so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service; and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull baitings, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.”[2]

Charles Ups the Ante

When James’ son Charles became king in 1625, he continued and furthered his father’s policies. Simply put, Charles virtually guaranteed a civil war by his arrogant actions. He alienated many people, for example, by his marriage to a Roman Catholic and his secret agreement in the marriage contract to allow Roman Catholics to absent themselves from the Church of England without penalty. In 1629 he dissolved the fourth parliament of his reign and began to simply operate without one for eleven years, deciding that he could do without its advice and that he could raise money on his own.
Charles was supported in his religious opinions by Archbishop William Laud, a terrible opponent of Puritanism both theologically and ecclesiastically. Laud was a stickler for enforcing every detail of church life in the way he thought best, and this was widely viewed as tending toward Roman Catholicism. Theologically, Laud was more Arminian, or “Anglo-Catholic,” than the Puritans could tolerate. Ecclesiastically, Laud would not tolerate any Puritan sentiments. Under pressure from Laud, many Puritans decided to emigrate to the American colonies. John Brown wrote,
“Between 1629 and 1640 about ninety university men, three-fourths of them from Cambridge, had emigrated. Of these Cambridge men, while nine were of Trinity and nine from St John's, no fewer than twenty-two were of Emmanuel College, the puritan foundation of Sir Walter Mildmay. In this list of twenty-two are found the great names of John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, R. Saltonstall, Thomas Shepard and John Harvard. It has been estimated upon what seem fairly reliable data that as the result of Laud's administration some 4000 puritan families, or an aggregate of over 20,000 persons went over to New England. With the exception of the Pilgrim Fathers, who sailed in the Mayflower in 1620, these were not Separatists. Francis Higginson, vicar of one of the five parishes of Leicester, who sailed with the first party in 1629, may be taken as representative of all the rest. As the ship was off the Land's End, he and his companions stood on deck to take the last farewell look of the land they were leaving and which they loved so well. Standing there and looking eastward till the coastline faded out of sight, he said: 'We will not say as the Separatists were wont to say at their leaving of England, "Farewell, Babylon, farewell, Rome," but we will say, "Farewell, dear England, farewell, the Church of God in England, and all the Christian friends there." We do not go to New England as Separatists from the Church of England, though we cannot but separate from the corruptions in it.'”

            Thus Puritanism as a spiritual movement became a co-belligerent of the political movement for freedom from monarchs who overstepped their God-given bounds. We should not think of the Puritans as holding to the kinds of freedom of religion that later became the norm in America. That was not what they wanted. Many Puritans, in fact, remained committed royalists. Nevertheless, they strongly believed that the monarch was not the head of the church, and they felt the sting of worldly men who governed the church according to political expediency.
            This takes us to a parallel development in England which shared much in common with the Puritans – the rise of the Separatists.

[2] You can read the Declaration as reissued by Charles I in 1633 at conpur017.htm.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Have Seen the Lord

Have you ever looked for your glasses when you were wearing them? Or searched for your hat when it was on your head? Though humorous, these little trifles illustrate well what can happen on a much more important level in our lives. Spiritually we don't see what is really there. Mary Magdalene had that experience when Jesus rose from the dead. Join us this Lord's Day to see how she came to resurrection faith and how you can, too.

Look, Ye Saints (#163)
Jesus, In His Heavenly Glory (#170)
Holy Savior, We Adore Thee (#73)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 29:26-46; Psalm 133
New Testament: Hebrews 2

Seeing What Is Really There: Coming to Resurrection Faith - John 20:1-18

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Puritans Seek to Reform Church Polity

            Discontent with the Elizabethan settlement continued to simmer in England. Some people began to hold their own meetings, fashioning them as they believed the Scripture required. Convinced that the Church of England was not fully carrying out the reformation, the Puritans included in their reform efforts attempts to change the polity of the church according to Scripture.

Stirring the Pot

Thomas Cartwright became a leader in the fight for ecclesiastical reform. Appointed Lady Margaret Professor at Cambridge in 1569, he stoked the fires of dissent with his lectures on the book of Acts, in which he argued for a Presbyterian form of church polity. His biographer Benjamin Brook summarizes the positions he put forward as follows:
·         That, in reforming the church, it was necessary to reduce all things to the apostolical institution.
·         That no one ought to be admitted into the Christian ministry who was unable to preach.
·         That only those who ministered the word ought to pray publicly in the church, or administer the sacraments.
·         That popish ordinations were not valid.
·         That only canonical Scripture ought to be read publicly in the church.
·         That the public liturgy ought to be so framed that there might be no private praying or reading in the church, but that all the people should attend to the prayers of the minister.
·         That the service of burying the dead did not belong any more to the ministerial office than to the rest of the church.
·         That equal reverence was due to all canonical Scripture and the names of God; there was, therefore, no reason why the people should stand at the reading of the gospel or bow at the name of Jesus.
·         That it was as lawful to sit at the Lord’s table as to kneel or stand.
·         That the Lord’s Supper ought not to be administered in private, nor baptism administered by women or laymen.
·         That the sign of the cross in baptism was superstitious.
·         That it was reasonable and proper that the parent should offer his own child for baptism, making confession of faith in which he intended to educate it, without being obliged to answer in the child’s name “I will,” “I will not,” “I believe,” etc., nor ought women persons under age to be sponsors.
·         That, in giving names to children, it was convenient to avoid paganism, as well as the names and offices of Christ and angels.
·         That it was papistical to forbid marriages at any particular time of year….
·         That private marriages…were highly inconvenient.
·         That the observation of Lent, and fasting on Fridays and Saturdays, was superstitious.
·         That the observation of festivals, and trading or keeping markets on the Lord’s-day, were unlawful.
·         That, in the ordination of ministers, pronouncing the words, “Receive thou the Holy Ghost,” was both ridiculous and wicked.
·         That kings and bishops ought not to be anointed.
For this teaching Carwright was ejected from the university. Nevertheless, he continued to be a major force advocating change in the hierarchical structure of the Church of England.

An Admonition to the Parliament (1572)

            About the same time Cartwright was being pushed out of Cambridge, Parliament convened and deliberated questions of religion. The House of Commons had significant Puritan sympathies. A group of leaders gathered in London and decided to publish a manifesto, setting forward their objectives. John Brown says, “This manifesto is historically important as being a clear and deliberate declaration of what the puritans had in view at this stage in the development of their scheme of reformation.” Here are some excerpts to give you a flavor of the "Admonition."

Seeing that nothyng in this mortal life is more diligently to be soght for, and carefully to be loked unto a than the restitution of true religion and reformation of Gods church: it shall be your partes (dearly beloved) in this present Parliament assembled, as much as in you lyeth to promote the same, and to employ your whole labour and studie; not onely in abandoning al popish remnants both in ceremonies and regiment, but also in bringing in and placing in Gods church those things only, which the Lord himself in his word commandeth....

May it therfore please your wysedomes to understand, we in England are so fare of, from having a church rightly reformed, according to the prescript of Gods worde, that as yet we are not come to the outwarde face of the same....The outwarde markes wherby a true Christian church is knowne, are preaching; of the worde purely, ministring of the sacraments sincerely, and ecclesiastical discipline which consisteth in admonition and correction of faults severelie. 

Touching the fyrst, namely the ministerie of the worde, although it must be confessed that the substance of doctrine by many delivered is sound and good, yet here in it faileth, that neither the ministers thereof are accordyng to Gods worde proved, elected, called, or ordayned : nor the function in such sorte so narrowly loked unto, as of right it ought, and is of necessitie required. 

Now to the second point, which concerneth ministration of Sacraments. In the olde time, the worde was preached, before they were ministred : now it is supposed to be sufficient, if it be read. Then, they wer ministred in publique c assemblies, now in private houses. Then by ministers only, now by midwives, and Deacons, equally. But because in treating of both the sacraments together, we should deale confusedly : we wyll therefore speake of them severallie. And fyrst for the Lordes supper, or holy communion. They had no introite, for Celestinus a pope broght it in, aboute the yeare 430. But we have borrowed a peece of one out of the masse booke....They simply as they receeved it from the Lorde. We, sinfullye, mixed with mannes inventions and devises. And as for Baptisme, it was enough with them, if they had water, and the partie to be baptised faith, and the minister to preach the word and minister the sacraments....And finally, that nothing be don in this or ani other thing, but that which you have the expresse warrant of Gods worde for.

Let us come now to the third parte, which concerneth ecclesiastical discipline....Now then, if you wyl restore the church to his ancient officers, this you must doe. In stead of an Archbishop or Lord bishop, you must make equalitie of ministers....The chieffest parte and last punishment of this discipline is excommunication, by the consent of the church determined, if the offender be obstinate, which how miserably it hath ben by the Popes proctours, and is by our new Canonists abused, who seeth not? In the primative church it was in a many mennes handes: now one alone excommunicateth. In those days it was the last censure of the church, and never went forth but for notorious crimes: Now it is pronounced for every light trifle. Then excommunication was greatly regarded and feared. Now because it is a money matter, no whit at al estemed. Then for great sinnes, severe punishment, and for smal offences, little censures. Now great sinnes eyther not at al punished, as blasphemy, usury, etc, or else sleightly passed over with pricking in a blanket, or pinning in a sheet, as adulterie, whoredome, drunkennes, etc.

The God of all glorie so open your eyes to see his truth, that you may not onely be inflamed with a love thereof, but with a continuall care seeke to promote, plant, and place the same amongst us, that we the English people, and our posteritie, enjoying the sinceritie of Gods gospel for ever, may say alwayes : The Lorde be praysed. To whome with Chryst Jesus his sonne our onely saviour, & the Holy gost our alone comfortor, be honour, prayse, and glorie, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Taken from Frere and Douglas, ed. Puritan Manifestos: A Study of the Origin of the Puritan Revolt (London: SPCK, 1907), 8-19. Excerpts of the “Admonition” can be found in updated form in Hans J. Hillerbrand, The Protestant Reformation, revised ed. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009).]

The “Admonition” had a sensational impact. Its authors, John Field and Thomas Wilcocks, were immediately imprisoned. Thomas Cartwright produced A Second Admonition to the Parliament, advocating practical means by which the needed reforms could be carried out. However, John Whitgift produced a reply in defense of the English church. To this, Cartwright replied with A Reply to an Answer of M Doctor Whitgift, and Whitgift battled back with Defense of the Answer. However, Cartwright was not done, so he published The Second Reply Against Master Whitgift’s Second Answer touching the Church Discipline in two parts. To oversimplify, Whitgift’s basic arguments were that we do not need to keep to the same form of church government as in the time of the Apostles and that simply because something was found in the Roman church does not make it wrong.
Eventually, Whitgift became Archbishop of Canterbury, and he cracked down on the Puritans. He immediately began to enforce his requirements: “(1) That none be permitted to read and preach and catechise in the Church unless he do, four times a year at least, minister the sacraments according to the Book of Common Prayer; (2) That all preachers do at all times wear and use such kind of apparel as is prescribed by the Book of Advertisements and her Majesty's Injunctions; and (3) That none be admitted unless he subscribe Articles (a) asserting the Queen's supremacy over all causes ecclesiastical as well as civil; (b) declaring that the Book of Common Prayer contains nothing contrary to the Word of God, he promising to use no other form of service; and (c) avowing acceptance of the Thirty-nine Articles of 1562" (John Brown, The English Puritans).
            Despite all this, those of Puritan sentiments continued to work. Some worked to secretly establish churches on the Presbyterian model. They also continued publishing. Between October 1588 and September 1589, seven tracts appeared, written under the pseudonym Martin Marprelate, mercilessly ridiculing the established church. These witty and vigorous attacks on the Church of England stirred up increased efforts to stamp out Puritanism. In the end, Archbishop Whitgift succeeded in crushing all organized efforts at puritan reforms, even though he could not eliminate the spirit which animated them. Moreover, the Anglicans found a champion in Richard Hooker, who published his massive Laws of Eccesiastical Polity in an effort to give Anglican church structures an overwhelming defense.

In her long struggle with Puritanism, Queen Elizabeth maintained her position as the governor of the church. She was wiser and gentler than her father, but she certainly had his iron spirit. By the last decade of the sixteenth century, it was clear that Puritan views were not going to be allowed. The Puritans had to bide their time. 


Saturday, April 07, 2012

He Must Rise from the Dead

Undoubtedly you can all remember certain events which have profoundly shaped your lives. Normally we commemorate these events in some way - an anniversary celebration, a July 4th celebration, and so on. Tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, an event which is the most significant event to happen in earth's history up to this point in time.

But why? Why did Jesus have to rise from the dead? We invite you to join us to worship our risen Lord tomorrow and to see the meaning of the most significant event ever.

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (#156)
Christ Arose (#159)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
Thine Be the Glory (#162)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Psalm 110
New Testament: Hebrews 1

He Must Rise from the Dead - John 20:9

P.S. Don't forget our sunrise service at 6 a.m. to begin our celebration of Christ's resurrection!

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon -
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti, "Good Friday"

Good Friday

O my chief good,
How shall I measure out thy blood?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one star show'd thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or cannot leaves, but fruit, be sign
Of the true vine?

Then let each hour
Of my whole life one grief devour:
That thy distress through all may run,
And be my sun.

Or rather let
My several sins their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sin may so.

Since blood is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloody fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sin:

That when sin spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes
All come to lodge there, sin may say,
No room for me, and fly away.

Sin being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sin take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

George Herbert, "Good Friday"

Join us tonight for our Tenebrae Service at 7:15.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

How Christianity Wins

Christians do not accomplish the mission of Christ by having the loudest voices, the best political machinery, the catchiest tunes, the funnest games, the slickest evangelistic presentations, or the most relevant lifestyles. Christianity wins simply by the blessing of God as she faithfully obeys his Word. I was reminded of that by reading this paragraph in Paul Stephenson's biography of Constantine. Drawing on the research of Rodney Stark, Stephenson writes that, in stark contrast to paganism,

Christianity offered a new vision, where both abortion and infanticide were forbidden, and virginity before marriage was prescribed. Christians discouraged marriage below a certain age and banned consummation of a marriage between a man and a child bride, such that the average age of marriage for Christian women became twenty, whereas for pagan women it was twelve. One must add that the rate of reproduction among pagans was very low: men favoured birth control..., indulged in homosexual sex, took concubines and patronized both male and female prostitutes, who in turn favoured various methods of birth control and abortion when necessary. All of these practices were forbidden to Christians, as most were to Jews. Roman men who converted to Christianity were obliged to have vaginal intercourse with their wives, and if pregnancy resulted, were obliged to have a child and raise it, regardless of its sex. Moreover, a Christian woman would have a community to support any resistance she offered to the directives of a pagan husband to do otherwise. As a consequence of this moral code the Christian population reproduced far more effectively than other Romans, and there were rapidly far more Christian women than pagan women, as a proportion of their communities.(Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor, 40-1)

We live in days reminiscent of, though certainly not identical to, the early church in the West, and these early believers have much to teach us about how to be faithful.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Reverence in God's Presence

Do you quietly bow your head in reverence when you step into the average gospel church?

I am not surprised if your answer is no.

There is grief in my spirit when I go into the average church, for we have become a generation rapidly losing all sense of divine sacredness in our worship. Many whom we have raised in our churches no longer think in terms of reverence - which seems to indicate they doubt that God's Presence is there.

A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 117

Ironing Out Reformed Worship

Differences in Worship

          As we saw in the last post on this topic, the competing beliefs between Anglicans and Puritans had practical consequences in Christian worship. Horton Davies lists five differences between Anglican and Puritan worship.
  1. Anglicans were free to use the customs of the ancient church, provided Scripture did not veto them, whereas Puritans demanded a positive warrant in Scripture for all their ordinances and even for the details of their organization.
  2. The chief means of grace for the Anglicans were the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, while for the Puritans it was unquestionably the lively oracles of God in preaching.
  3. There was a deep loyalty to liturgical worship in Anglicanism and more than a little suspicion of its formality in the Puritan tradition.
  4. Anglicans kept such ancient vestments as the surplice and the cope, and such time-honored ceremonies as kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion, the signing of the Cross in Baptism, and the use of the ring in marriage. All these vestments and ceremonies were rejected by the Puritan iconoclasts as the remnants of Romish superstition.
  5. The Christian calendar, celebrating the events in the life of the incarnate Son of God and commemorating the Virgin and the leading saints, was retained in streamlined form by the Church of England, but was discarded by the Puritans, although they had their own special days such as the weekly Sabbath and special days of humiliation and thanksgiving, by which they marked the judgments and the providences of God as related to the nation or the family. (Worship and Theology in England, 69-70)
Puritans Ideals in Worship

John Foxe gives us a taste of the Puritan antipathy toward Roman Catholic worship practices.

            “Neyther it is easye to saye whether the doinges and procedinges of the papistes were more to be lamented for their detestable absurditye, of graue persons, or els more to be scorned and derided for their so trifeling & extreme follye. What Democritus or Calphurnius could abstaine from laughter, beholding only the fashion of their masse, from the beginninge to the later end, wyth suche turning, returning, halfe turning and hole tourning, such kissinge, blissing, crowching, becking, crossing, knocking, ducking, wasshing, rinsing, lyfting, touching, fingring Whispering, stoping, dipping, bowinge, licking, wiping, sleping, shifting, with an hundreth thinges mo. What wise man, I saye, seing such toysh gaudes can keepe from laughter? And what bee all the Popes doynges, with the whole circumstance of his religion, and maner of his popelinges, but matters almoste to bee laughed at. &c.”  (John Foxe, Actes and Monuments [1563])

Later, we find a nostalgic and hagiographical account of the "Old English Puritan" which nonetheless gives us insight into the Puritan ideals of worship.

            “The Old English Puritane was such an one that honoured God above all, and under God gave every one his due. His first care was to serve God, and therein he did not what was good in his own, but in God’s sight, making the word of God the rule of his worship. He highly esteemed order in the house of God: but would not under colour of that submit to superstitious rites, which are superfluous and perish in their use….He made conscience of all God’s ordinances, though some he esteemed of more consequence. He was much in praier; with it he began and closed the day. In it he was exercised in his closet, family and publike assembly. He esteemed that manner of praier best, where by the gift of God, expressions were varied according present wants and occasions; Yet he did not account set forms unlawful. Therefore in that circumstance of the Church he did not wholly reject the liturgy but the corruption of it. He esteemed reading an ordinance of God both in private and publike; but he did not account reading to be preaching….The Sacrament of Baptism he received in Infancy, which he looked back to in his age, to answer his ingagements, and claim his priviledges. The Lord’s Supper he accounted part of his soul’s food: to which he laboured to keep an appetite. He esteemed it an ordinance of nearest communion with Christ, so requiring most exact preparation.”  (John Geree, The Character of an Old English Puritan or Nonconformist [1646])

            The Puritans spoke of public worship often, but perhaps the best single document which expresses their ideals for worship is the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, adopted in 1645 in Scotland and recommended by English Puritans.
            The North Star of Puritan worship was the "regulative principle." The Westminster Confession of Faith expresses it this way:
“The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture” (XXI, i).
The Puritans took a stand to keep the Word of God as their final authority, which was a crucial and commendable position. However, this does not mean that they always took their stand in the best way. By making the standard for worship that which is "prescribed" in the Bible, some Puritans actually posited a more rigid form of the regulative principle than the earlier continental reformers had embraced. Martin Bucer argued that "nothing should be introduced or performed in the churches of Christ for which no probable reason can be given from the Word of God." This is a wiser way of stating the principle. There must be positive biblical warrant for what God's people do in worship, but this warrant can be given in more ways than simply what is prescribed. The Anglicans were quick to see discrepancies in this Puritan way of stating the principle, and the Puritans backed themselves into a corner with this attempt to uphold biblical authority in a way that is difficult to defend from the Bible itself.

As the last paragraph indicates, there were stubborn wrinkles in the Puritan ideals for worship which were difficult to iron out. One wrinkle was a tendency to make radical dichotomies between outer and inner, between external and internal, between soul and body, between word and thing, between symbol and reality, between objectivity and subjectivity. Of course, this problem is not unique to the Puritans and has been a perennial problem in church history. The Puritans' earnest desire was to know God in an experiential way, and this drove them toward a deep interiorizing of their faith. For some, this led to difficulties in finding assurance of their faith. For others, at a church level, this dichotomizing contributed to difficulty in handling the sacraments. If everything that really matters about our relationship with God takes place "in the heart," then what meaningful role do the sacraments, as inescapably external ritual actions, play in our relationship with God? (E. Brooks Holifield, The Covenant Sealed: The Development of Puritan Sacramental Theology in Old and New England, 1570-1720, reprint ed. [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002]) It is at least plausible to think that the Puritan fear of formalism may have fed into the rising mysticism and rationalism of the "early modern" era.