f The Wittenberg Door: April 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
My Photo

Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Idols and the Christian

I didn’t attend any passion plays last week. I’m also one of the few Americans who didn’t see The Passion of the Christ. Here’s how my reasoning goes:

  • We are not to try and image God (Due. 4:15-19; Isa. 40:18, 25; Rom. 1:22-24; Acts 17:29)
  • Jesus is God
  • Therefore, we are not to try and image Jesus

What does God require in the second commandment?

That we in no wise make any image of God, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded in His Word.

Heidelberg Catechism, question and answer 96

The retort is that Christ is also man, so it’s okay to image Him. The problem is, though, that this presupposes that God makes an exception in this case. But where in Scripture does the Lord make such an exception? He didn’t, so we can’t.

Pastor Lee Johnson of First Reformed Church of Herreid South Dakota offers a great treatment of this subject in a post titled “The Images Strick Back" at the Two-Edged Sword blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Dr. Owen did provide another argument in favor of images of Christ that is commonly used. Jesus is the image of God, and we are simply imaging the image of God. That must be allowable. Plus, they are not images of the divine nature, but Christ in the flesh. That argument was given by men like John of Damascus when they argued in favor of images. The imaging Christ’s flesh argument runs afoul of the universal definition of the person of Jesus Christ as given in the Council of Chalcedon. The person of Jesus has two natures, and they cannot be divided nor mixed. Thus, any picture of the person of Jesus Christ is a picture of the divine nature as well as the human nature. No picture can do that, and any picture that tries violates the Second Commandment. By making the argument that images are not trying to capture the "ineffable divine nature", he admits that trying to do so is wrong. Thus, in order to keep images of Christ, one must throw out the Council of Chalcedon. This is the conclusion reached by Constantine V as did the Council of Hieria which included 338 bishops. They rightly pointed out that Jesus left us the bread and wine as proper images, we need nothing else. Images were also rejected by Charlegmane and the Council of Frankfurt lest anyone be swayed by the argument that the church pronounced them acceptable in Nicaea II.

Read the entire post by clicking here.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Individualism and the Christian

When the Puritans would start a colony here in the new world, the first building built was a church. The rest of the community was built around the church. The reason the church was in the middle was symbolic: all of life revolves around worship and service unto the Lord.

The church was the center of life outside of the home. This is where the Puritans gathered to worship the King, hear His Word, fellowship with the saints, and meet each other’s needs. One Puritan called the church . . .

. . . a company of Christians, called by the power and mercy of God to fellowship with Christ, and by his providence to live together, and by his grace to cleave together in the unity of faith and brotherly love, and . . . bind themselves to the Lord and one to another, to walk together by the assistance of his Spirit, in all such ways of holy worship in him, and of edification one towards another.

Richard Mather (1596 - 1669)

America has changed since those early days. Always an independent breed, Americans cultivated a rugged individualism as they built this nation. Unfortunately, this individualism spread to the church. We’ve replaced the theology of the Puritans with that of Frank Sinatra, “I Did It My Way.”

Pastor Matt Powell of Providence Reformed Chapel in Colorado offers a Biblical critique of Christian individualism over at the Wheat and Chaff blog in a post titled, “The Body of Christ.”

Reading about salvation in Scripture, either Old or New Testament, one sees constantly and clearly that we are not saved as individuals, to have an individual relationship with God, with churches merely existing to provide some services to bolster that individual relationship. Yet this is the way it seems we commonly view our salvation. Instead, the consistent promise of salvation throughout Scripture, from beginning to end, is "I will be your God, and you will be My people, and I will dwell in your midst." That is, He saves us as individuals by ushering us out of our present associations and fellowships and into a new fellowship, the fellowship of the people of God. A holy nation and royal priesthood. I do not believe it is possible to conceive of salvation Biblically outside of the concept of fellowship, both vertically with God and horizontally with God's people.

Read the rest of Pastor Powell's comments by clicking here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What Does it Mean to be Reformed?

When my father suddenly passed away a few years ago, I was tasked with finding a church big enough for the funeral service (over 1,000 people attended). So I called around to a few of our community’s large Evangelical churches. With each call I was asked where the presiding minister preached, “Grace Reformed Church,” I answered. “Reformed? Are you Mormons?” was one question; the others too were confused by the term. “Are you familiar with the Reformation?” I would asked. “How about Martin Luther?” “The civil right’s leader?” was a common reply.

I find this lack of historical knowledge regarding our Protestant roots common among today’s Evangelicals. I was the same way. My first exposure with classical Protestantism came in a very unlikely place—at a Calvary Chapel service. A gentleman I knew asked me if I’d like to meet Bob, “He’s a Calvinist.” “Gee, I sure hope it isn’t contagious.” I hadn’t a clue what that meant or who John Calvin was—and I had been a Christian for seven years!

New Covenant Believer

I recently discovered a fantastic blog: New Covenant Believer. At that blog Dave has just started a series titled What Does it Mean to be Reformed? I couldn’t recommend it more. Here’s an excerpt where Dave explains his goals:

So during this week, I’ll be presenting the reformed faith through a Layman’s eyes and I pray to God that it will be truthful and edifying to any who might be encouraged to read it. In the following days, I will present topics such as; Is the Reformation important to us, Who were the reformers, a closer look John Wycliff, a closer look at Martin Luther, a closer look at John Calvin, who were the puritans, are the historic protestant creeds and confessions important to us, what defines a “reformed” church, what is distinctive about reformed worship and what does being reformed mean to me?