Archive for October, 2009

Reformation Day

A blessed Reformation day to all my Protestant brethren.

Two interesting bits of news (with apologies for the source–USA Today is great for iPhones; otherwise, I’m not a big fan):

Vatican condemns Halloween


Married Anglican priests to be admitted to Roman Catholic Church on a case-by-case basis




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Genevan Catholicism?

JohnWilliamsonNevinCaleb and Parson Howe suspect that I am either embracing a lowest common denominator Christianity or crossing the Tiber completely and embracing Rome.

They have misunderstood my intention.  I remain a Protestant of the dappled and speckled variety and have no interest in Mc-Christianity or Wal-Church.

So what’s with all the Rome love?  My intent is not to water down our theology but to help define who are friends our.  My thesis is simple:  Geneva is closer to Rome than it is to Wheaton (or Colorado Springs, or where ever the epicenter of evangelicalism is found).

First, it has always been my contention that the Reformed Church was part of the catholic church, not a pottage of squabbling sectarians.  I have held this position despite all experience to the contrary (but that is a different matter).  If Reformed and catholic are two different things, I would prefer the latter description for myself.

Despite my belief in the catholicity of the Reformed branch of Christendom, it appears to me that the Reformed churches are farther removed from historic catholic orthodoxy than they were in the days of Bucer and Calvin.  We are more tribal than ever.

On the other side of the coin, when we start talking ecumenicalism, we start talking about evangelicalism.  It’s too bad.  Evangelicalism is a sad story.  A-historical, anti-traditional, generally silly, evangelicalism will, in the long run, either return to more historical forms of the faith or will descend into liberalism.  The Reformed churches have an uneasy relationship with evangelicalism.  Darryl Hart and others press the thesis that the Reformed are NOT evangelicals.  Protests to the contrary, the experience proves that the Reformed churches ARE a branch of conservative evangelism and this is a lamentable historical development.

Not that there have not been attempts to strengthen Reformed roots in greater evangelical soils.  A century ago John Williamson Nevin and his partner in crime, Phillip Schaff were about the work.  In our own day we find the Federal Vision trying to scratch the itch.  Hartian High Church Presbyterianism is scratching the same red spot.  I am not sure that either have found the balm that will solve the problem.  An honest dialogue with other branches of historic, traditionalist orthodoxy may be useful.

I have not left Geneva… but I can see Rome from my front porch. It does not exactly look like home but it does seem familiar.   Wheaton seems a bridge to far.

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First Things has the latest installment of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together project:  Do Whatever He Tells You:  The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Life and Faith

Lots of thorny issues here, but also lots of room for some much needed dialogue.  I think that the application of biblical theological and redemptive-historical principles to the question of Mary can produce real fruit.

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Christopher Dawson, 1961: “I think Catholics can learn a number of things from Protestants.  For instance, a greater familiarity with the Bible—especially the Old Testament—which we have neglected.  We can learn to value the regular performance of the daily office, even though this may involve more use of the vernacular.  We can learn greater appreciation of the English religious tradition, especially the Catholic elements in that tradition which the Anglicans have retained.  We can learn a greater sense of social responsibility.  Cardinal Manning used to insist that all the great social and humanitarian reforms of the nineteenth century were initiated by the Protestants. . . . Protestants can learn from us that the true Church must necessarily be universal and international.  They can learn from us the objectivity and authority of theological truth, which has become lost by Protestant relativism and private judgment.  They can learn from us the sense of the supernatural as a living reality manifested in the Sacraments and in the lives of the Saints.” [SOURCE: Aubrey Haines, “Catholic Historian at Harvard,” Voice of St. Jude (April 1961), 28.]

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Why Rome is not my enemy

Some readers may be disturbed about the DRC trend toward inclusion of Roman Catholics.  I wish to say a word in response.  I am not unfamiliar with the Reformed Confessions’ descriptions the Bishop of Rome as the anti-Christ. I am also perfectly aware that our theologians have often argued that the Mass as a form of idolatry.  I understand that there are many conservative Protestant for which these statements are meaningful.  While I understand these things, I cannot affirm them.  In fact, the more I learn about Roman Catholic theology and church history, the more respect I have for our brothers and sisters in Christ within the Roman Catholic communion.

Of course, the primary focus of De Regno Christ has always been the relationship between Christ and culture.  Does Christendom have a better friend than Benedict XVI?  Which communion did more to press the Kingship of Christ over the nations in the 20th Century?  The Reformed Presbyterians, the Christian Reformed, the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Roman Catholics?  To ask the question is to answer it.  Therefore, does it no behoove us to listen to the voices of Roman Catholic friends of liberty, tradition, and the West?

The cause of Christ’s Kingship has many enemies in the word.  Traditionalist defenders of Roman Catholicism are not among them.

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Russell Kirk on Liberalism

If anyone is interested, Humanitas recently published a piece I wrote on Kirk and liberalism in the 1950s.  It’s here in PDF form.

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The autumnal coolness—just on the edge of the dying summer—is in the air, and it feels good.  Very cool, very refreshing against my face.  The leaves are just starting to turn color, and the smell of dust lingers in the air.

October has always fascinated me.  For all of my life, I can remember the great anticipation I held for October, the most mysterious of months, a month that hovers—at least in my imagination—between life and death.  If Spring is birth and Summer is full life, October represents the necessary path to death.  It is a Purgatory that leads to either heaven or hell.

Understood properly, October purges us of our follies and reminds us that death hovers just in front of us.  It reminds us that we always stand in time, but at the very edge of eternity.  Sometimes, we peer over the edge into the abyss, and sometimes we glimpse the glories of the heavenly realm.  But, we always stand on the precipice of eternity, moments and steps away from true reality.  Any moment and any step can lead to eternal glory or eternal damnation.

And yet, October is still more . . . and less. . . than any of this.  The weather cools, the leaves change in color and form, the temperature drops, and I don’t have to mow the grass as often.  I see the hunters in their odd mixture of florescent orange and tan, green, and grey camouflage walking on the highways with their guns in hand, ready to be discharged should some four-legged creature appear within eyesight.  They carry about them a look of grizzled intensity.  They smell blood.  They hunger for it.

I see the lumbering yellow public school buses picking up the children, restless with anticipated boredom.  At the end of their journey, they will be dehumanized, demythologized, filled with meaningless facts, prepared for life in artificially-lighted cubicles and boxes.

I always feel the changes physically in the air, but it is certainly more than this.  Attitudes change, becoming more brisk and serious.  Life, or its immanent end, takes on new meaning.  The creatures of the earth begin to store their food and hoard items to keep them warm and comfortable during the winter.

Perhaps they are guided by the gentle whispers of a Franciscan.

In this, they seem wise.

The autumnal coolness—just on the edge of the dying summer—is in the air, and it feels good.  Very cool, very refreshing against my face.  The leaves are just starting to turn color, and the smell of dust lingers in the air.

St. Francis, pray for us.

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