Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Michael Adee's question about last words and following Jesus 1


Some of the last words spoken by a once vibrant Christianity in seventeenth century Japan were spoken from crosses placed far enough into the sea that at tide time the one on the cross would suffer from the sea as will as the cross.

Truly, words spoken for Jesus Christ are important to the whole Church. Although they may not always be positive about the immediate future they will always be enfolded into the faithfulness of Jesus Christ toward his Church.

An essay on the More Light Presbyterian Site demeans the words of one pastor while upholding the words of another. Michael Adee of more light has quoted Rev. Ron Scates of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and Rev. Kathy Collier of First Presbyterian of Forney about the vote on amendment B taken in the Grace Presbytery meeting.

In the article that Adee is quoting from, the reporter, Sam Hodges, writes that Collier “supported the change, saying it was past time for the denomination to accept qualified pastoral candidates regardless of their sexual orientation.

'This is a call from God for us to welcome all of God's children,' she said after the vote.”

The reporter also quotes Scates, “The P.C. (U.S.A.) is just one symptom of the greater demise of the American church, which has lost its biblical moorings."

Hodges continues, “Scates added that he's confident the language will not be changed in this national vote, but he wasn't so sure about the next time.”

‘It may pass, in which case you're going to see the P.C. (U.S.A.) fly apart,’ he said.”

Adee, demeaning the words of Scates with a statement writes, "I would not recommend Scates' picture of the Church to an evangelism committee working on outreach in their community, to a confirmation class or youth group, or frankly consider it a life-giving one for my own heart and soul."

He goes on to ask the question, “Based upon these 2 statements and their connotations which are only snapshots, of course, which picture of God, faith and the Church, essentially of Christianity, do you want to prevail? Which picture do you want to be "the last word" about what it means to be Presbyterian, to be Christian, to be a follower of Christ?”

Interesting question. Undoubtedly the most important question that can be asked now or ever of Christians. Strange, all I can think of at the moment are the words of Jesus, the Lord of the church, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10b)


So let me rephrase Jesus' words so that it will answer that question. Being Presbyterian (hopefully), Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ, means being faithful to Jesus Christ even unto death.

And to go further being faithful to Jesus Christ means that sometimes Christians will need to be faithful when everything is flying apart, when evil seems to have taken the day, when crosses are washed with sea water.

There is another part of Adee's essay I will address perhaps in the next day--about loving God.

13 comments:

Sam said...

I really tire of this division in our church. Both sides of the issue believe that they are following Jesus. I'm beginning to see that there is no middle ground. There are extremes on both sides. I wish the leaders on both sides of the issue would choose their words wisely.

When the change to the BoO finally passes, and it will, I guess the church will be divided again. I will be sad. But, maybe large denominations are a thing of the past. Maybe the body of Christ would function better with less denominational dogma holding it back.

If the church splits, I guess you will be on one side and I, on the other. That is too bad, I feel that I can learn a lot from you in spite of our differences. But, if we believe God is in control, whatever happens will work toward His purpose.

Sam

Viola Larson said...

Sam,
All will work toward God's purpose. And hopefully in the midst of that we will always be friends. Absolutely on my part I will always hold you as a friend.

Debbie said...

Adee says that the quote from Scates is what "he chose and did say knowing he would be quoted and that his words in that moment would 'paint' a picture of God, faith and the Church to everyone who might read the story." However, Adee fails to allow for the possibility that the reporter picked and chose from among what Scates said. For all we know, Scates may have said much about God's love, but the reporter may have igored it. Or not. But Adee can't claim with certainty that this was all that Scates said.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Viola Larson said...

I know Debbie, I have had that experience. But nonetheless I don't have any problem at all with what was quoted in the paper. Scates is just telling the truth. The American Church has lost its biblical moorings.

Anonymous said...

Viola,

I think that to say the American Church has lost its biblical moorings is incorrect.

The interpretation of the bible has always been up to the church. The church precedes the bible, the church defines the bible, and the church interprets the bible.

Yes, the American church is changing. The Church is changing. It continually does. Only a dead church does not change. But to say that it has lost its biblical moorings is to not understand the proper relationship between the bible and the Church.

We've had this conversation before, where you state on the basis of personal experience that the bible is THE word of God. But that means that you define the bible and how to interpret it, and that it is moored to you. Without you and your interpretation, it's just printed characters on paper.

No offense, but I don't think you have enough clout.

The fact is the Church defines the bible, what it is, and what it says, - sometimes by consensus when it acts like a community of faith, and other times by force, when it acts like an empire. Always has and always will. Without the church we have no bible.

It is the bible that is moored to the Church.

And it hasn't lost its mooring. But its interpretation is changing, even as the church is changing. And as the church breaks into mutually exclusive factions we can expect mutually exclusive interpretations of the bible. Even so, its moorings remain intact.

And so, back to your initial historical comment, the Japanese Samurai culture understood this. They were successful in getting rid of the bible only when they got rid of the church.

Tom Evans
KC

Viola Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

This is interesting Tom,
Are you a Catholic because in some sense you ideas about the Bible and the Church sound Catholic although not completely. Because the Catholic Church would still insist that the Bible is interpreted by the Church because of the Holy Spirit working in the Church. And they would still insist that the Holy Spirit would not go beyond his ministry of speaking of that revelation given in Jesus Christ. Which I have said many times is where I stand. God has no new revelation.

You write this:
“Yes, the American church is changing. The Church is changing. It continually does. Only a dead church does not change. But to say that it has lost its biblical moorings is to not understand the proper relationship between the bible and the Church.”

The Church is alive, not because she keeps changing, but because she is united to the living Lord who gives her his life.

And you write this:
“And so, back to your initial historical comment, the Japanese Samurai culture understood this. They were successful in getting rid of the bible only when they got rid of the church.”

The Samurai got rid of the Church because they wanted to be rid of Christianity. But there are many ways that Satan attacks and attempts to destroy the Church of God. Physical persecution is just one of those ways. Diluting the Church’s apostolic teaching with human ideas about morals or religion, etc., is another

Of course the Church united to the resurrected Jesus Christ, will never be destroyed

Anonymous said...

Viola,

In a way I think you are talking past me. No I am not Catholic, but I don't see that it matters. What I am describing is just how things have worked out in practice.

And I don't think it matters to this discussion if you believe God has no new revelation, but I can't imagine where that belief comes from. Who has the right to speak for God in such matters? I happen to believe otherwise.

I didn't say the church is alive because she is changing. Rather I am saying she is changing because she is alive. And as she changes she re-interprets her bible.

You, as a member of a particular branch of the church, interpret the bible according to the teachings of your branch of the church. If another branch does not share your teachings they will interpret the bible differently. That's all.

I think it is wrong to charge that they have lost their biblical moorings because you, in saying that, ignore the simple fact that it is the bible that has its moorings in the church, not the other way around. That's all I am saying.

Tom
KC

Viola Larson said...

"And I don't think it matters to this discussion if you believe God has no new revelation, but I can't imagine where that belief comes from. Who has the right to speak for God in such matters? I happen to believe otherwise."

Tom, if one of my children or friends or husband writes something and I say they said such and such and it is what they said I am not speaking for them I am stating what they have said. Unless of course you are post-modern and believe the Author doesn't know what he or she has said--or that words only mean what each individual reader decides.

And I can see we really disagree on the place of the Bible and the Church. Someone quoted Calvin in one of my other posting and I certainly agree with the quote:
"Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends.
When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bounds shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 6

Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...

Viola,

Regarding Calvin, I guess he didn't study his history very well. Either that or he was trying to re-write it. By inspection that seems like a silly thing to say. If you are quoting him in context and you believe him, then I can see why you have said some of the things you have said.

But his point of view is soundly refuted just by the facts that the Church pre-dates the bible, and that the composition of the bible was decided by Church tradition and by the documented decisions of a Church committee. No magic, no miraculous "receiving it". Heck, just the numerological justification of why there had to be exactly four gospels is enough to make you want to run screaming from the room.

But maybe Calvin didn't mean what you say he meant.

Now I am not suggesting that we can do any better today, almost two thousand years of water under the bridge later, but the process was clearly one of the Church judging Scripture, and clearly fallible. I think for example that it is interesting that there are cases of Scripture quoted in the NT that itself was not found worthy of being included. The committee thus set itself as a higher authority than the texts and their authors by deciding both what to include and also what not to include.

And we continue to do so today. We keep the text largely intact, but we pick and choose what stuff makes sense, and how to read other stuff so it makes sense, and ignore the rest. That's not post modern, it's just how the human brain works.

About the first paragraph, I didn't follow what you were trying to say. It doesn't seem to address by point that we cannot be in a position to judge whether God is done revealing things to his people. Even Paul said that we don't see clearly now and assumed there was more to come, and spoke highly of the gift of prophesy, which can only mean there is more to be revealed. Maybe you could elaborate a bit.

Tom
KC

Viola Larson said...

Tom,
let me address the last part of your comment first. You wrote: "Even Paul said that we don't see clearly now and assumed there was more to come, and spoke highly of the gift of prophesy, which can only mean there is more to be revealed. Maybe you could elaborate a bit."

The verse actually says, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I have been fully known." (1 Cor13:12)Paul is here writing of "when the perfect comes." (See verse 10)

The perfect will not come until Jesus Christ returns. Then we will see Christ face to face, then we will know him fully as he knows us now. This is not about adding more revelation, but about what it will be like to be eternally with Christ.

As for prophesy, that also is not about adding new revelation of our knowledge of God. Generally prophesy is the proclamation of the word which is both the written word of God (the Bible) and the living word of God (Jesus Christ).

It may mean foretelling such as that given by Agabus concerning Paul’s imprisonment in Jerusalem. But in any case none of that is additional revelation about God.

As far as the quote by Calvin I gave you I don’t think you can be any clearer than that. If you want to argue with Calvin, that’s okay, of course. We simply have a disagreement but perhaps you are not reformed in your beliefs. Which means you would not accept the Reformation Confessions either.

As far as the Church being older then the Bible—that has no meaning at all. Since the Bible is the word of God it belongs to the eternal foreknowledge of God; that is, it belongs to the mind of God who is eternal and unchanging.

As for the historical formation of the Bible the Church itself had basically already reserved for itself the books that were deemed the cannon when the Church Fathers met at Nicaea, they simply put their stamp of approval on what was already considered the cannon. (It wasn’t really a committee, it was a Council) And here, once again, it was the Holy Spirit that guided the Church.

I think the real problem here is that you are trying to make something magical about it. God spoke through real humans using their personalities and traits but it is still his words and his works. It is like communion. The bread and wine (or juice) are real but the presence of Jesus Christ is there.

And on top of this may I say you are throwing words around, “clearly fallible,” that I am sure you would not let me get by with.

Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...

Viola,

I can see we are at an impasse.

You state:

"As far as the Church being older then the Bible—that has no meaning at all. Since the Bible is the word of God it belongs to the eternal foreknowledge of God; that is, it belongs to the mind of God who is eternal and unchanging."

Yours is an unsubstantiated assumption based on personal experience. Your own words.

Mine is an observation of the historical chronology and facts.

Whether that makes me unreformed I don't know. I doubt it. I think there is a principle in the reformation that states roughly that when biblical interpretation is at variance with the observable facts of nature, then the interpretation must change.

That would apply to Calvin as well.

I don't know if I need to clarify this, but the point of Paul's comment should be clear, that there is much we.do.not.know. and we should not be arrogant about claiming to know the mind of God. We don't. All of our teachings will pass away. All the doctrines, all the confessions, all the interpretations, and I dare say all of Scripture itself. The only things that remain eternal are faith, hope and love. These are the bed-rock of the Gospel. And the greatest of these is love. The more excellent way.

Have a blessed Palm Sunday.

Tom
KC

Viola Larson said...

"Whether that makes me unreformed I don't know. I doubt it. I think there is a principle in the reformation that states roughly that when biblical interpretation is at variance with the observable facts of nature, then the interpretation must change."

Perhaps you could furnish the source for that.

That idea would possibly remove, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus (although hundreds did observe) and all the miracles of the Bible?

That sounds more like logical positivism to me then Reformation teaching.

You write:
I don't know if I need to clarify this, but the point of Paul's comment should be clear, that there is much we.do.not.know. and we should not be arrogant about claiming to know the mind of God. We don't. All of our teachings will pass away. All the doctrines, all the confessions, all the interpretations, and I dare say all of Scripture itself. The only things that remain eternal are faith, hope and love. These are the bed-rock of the Gospel. And the greatest of these is love. The more excellent way.

While you are right there is much we do not know, there are things we do know. We know the things that God has said about himself in his word. For instant “To whom will you liken me that I should be his equal? Says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the one who leads forth their host by number, he calls them all by name; because of the greatness of his might and the strength of his power, not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)”

So we know just from this one verse that God is greater than anything, that he is creator, that he has all knowledge, that he has strength and power and that he cares for his creation—and that is just one verse.

And after we read of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, and that he is God and human, we realize how much God cares for us. We can know all we need to know about God from his word as we are lead by his Holy Spirit.

A question. Why did you put periods after each word in that one statement?