Tuesday, August 23, 2016

More Hyde on the 4th Commandment

Hyde makes the claim that there is no way around the fact that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath.  And the article and a good portion of the podcast are discussing the pronouncement of Dort concerning the Sabbath.  Rev. Hyde claims that this shows agreement with the Puritan position, and I disagree.  Now Dort is probably a bit closer than the Heidelberg to the Puritans and closer than the Second Helvetic Confession, and close to in-line with Jan Laski, but not in agreement with the Puritans. 

First let us remember that this is not the Synod of Dort that was all the Reformed from across the Continent.  This was the same synod, but the foreign delegates had left by this point.  It is what is called the ‘post-acta’ portion of the Synod.  So this is only the Netherlands.  A Netherlands that was in the midst of being highly influenced by the Puritans from England.  William Ames was currently ministering in the Netherlands and was serving as a help to the Synod President, and the Dutch had a church in London as well.  Thus the Dutch had internal divisions on this subject.  Gomarus was against the Puritan view and Voetius was for it.  Both at the Synod. 

Dort has six points regarding the 4thCommandment.  The first point speaks of having a ceremonial and moral aspect.  The ceremonial nature of the commandment that includes the “rest on the seventh day” and the “strict” manner of observance according to point 2.  Hyde states the ceremonial aspects as the “day on which the Sabbath fell” and the “strictness” (Regulae. pg.171 see article link above).  But that is not what the text seems to say.  The word “rest” is included.  Hyde’s formulation assumes the Sabbath will continue, but that is actually what is being debated.  The moral portion, according to point 3, is one day a week needs to use for worship and all that gets in the way of that should be rested from or stopped.  So note that there is no equation of the seventh day with the first day.  Just one day a week is required.  The fourth point is the Sabbath of the Jews is abolished, and Sunday is to be hallowed.  This is a follow up on the ceremonial points, this is all abolished.  Strict observance is abolished.  The Sabbath is abolished.  No mention of a new Christian Sabbath.  The word Sabbath is used only here to say it is abolished.  Point 4 does seem to be saying that Sunday is the day appointed to worship, but it is not the same as saying it is the Sabbath.  The fifth point now references the long standing tradition of worshipping on Sunday.   It is saying that it is now a well-established tradition.  That should have weight.  Point 6 then speaks of consecrating the day to worship by resting from servile labor and all recreation that gets in the way of worship.  It is not a call to rest form all work, nor from all recreation.  So this is clearly less than the Westminster.  Still, it does go further than the Heidelberg.

Just in case anyone thinks I am crazy, Douma comments on Dort and the fourth commandment saying “the Synod did not come up with a strictly Puritan pronouncement” (The Ten Commandments pg.144).  He too argues it is a compromise statement. 

It is not a Puritan interpretation because the Puritans make rest on the day as well as worship part of the continuing moral force of the commandment.  The Heidelberg does not.  This pronouncement from Dort does not.  It says you have to rest from stuff in order to worship, but that is not the same as what the Puritans are arguing for.  They want all work on the day to cease (including recreation).  Rest itself is part of the moral force not simply as an aide to worship, but rest for rest’s sake. 

It should be noted that Dort, as well as the Westminster, downplay the everyday portion of the 4th commandment.  The Heidelberg and earlier Reformers emphasized resting from your evil works all the days of your life.  It is not found in this pronouncement by Dort (although perhaps outside of its intention), nor is it mentioned in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rev. Hyde and the Sabbath

One cannot click around for more than a few seconds before running across someone slobbering all over the Puritans and talking of their greatness.  Everyone wants to be part of Puritanism now and show how Puritanism is Reformation theology down the line.  Rather than admitting that Reformed theology has some breadth to it, many desire to simply make everyone into a Puritan.  No example is better than the idea of saying there is no difference between the Continental and Puritan view of the Sabbath or 4th Commandment. 

The latest example of this is Rev. Daniel Hyde.  He is a guest on the Christ the Center Podcast Episode 450 (congrats on that number by the way) and has an article being republished in the Confessional Presbyterian arguing that everything was always Puritan Sabbatarianism.  Rev. Hyde and the hosts make this claim at about the 5 minute mark.  They go on to talk about how sometimes the application is different, but the principle is the same.  And proof is offered in that the URC is very strict on the Sabbath and a lot of Presbyterians are not.  And it must be said this is true; however, it is because the URC holds the Puritan view of the Sabbath not because there is no such thing as a Continental view.  From this point on in the podcast they talk of the “myth” of the Continental view or the “so-called” Continental view. 

Rev. Hyde does attempt to prove this from the Heidelberg Catechism Q.103.  At the 18:31 mark and again at the 20:30 mark, Rev. Hyde quotes from the HC and reads the answer as “and that I especially on the Sabbath, that is the day of rest, . . .”  He makes a big deal about the inclusion of the word Sabbath.  The problem is the word Sabbath is not in the answer.  Now it is my understanding that while the URC has adopted the Three Forms they did not adopt specific wording or versions until this past Synod (which I do not have access to), so it might be in whatever version Rev. Hyde is using.  However, Ursinus’s commentary on the catechism does not include Sabbath, nor does any RCUS version of it, nor does the Christian Reformed Church, or really any version I can find.  The Heidelberg avoids the word Sabbath.  Hyde concludes at the 21:20 mark by saying “There is no way around it, The Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath.” 

I disagree.  Rev. Hyde has told us the Dutch are real strict about Sunday’s but he has not shown us that it comes from the Confessions nor has he dealt with the ample proof that the Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath.  Remember this quote from the Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 24 “Besides we do celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day, and not the Sabbath, and that with a free observation.”  The Second Helvetic makes a distinction between Lord’s Day and Sabbath.  Not an equation.  And remember the Second Helvetic is the single most widely adopted Confession of the Reformation.  Calvin’s 1545 Catechism is similarly focused on saying that “the observance of rest is part of the ceremonies of the ancient law, which was abolished at the coming of Jesus Christ” (Q168).  The Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath, and if I read Calvin right, not even required to be Sunday.  Add to that Ursinus’s Major and Minor Catechisms, which speak of honoring the ministry and removing hindrances, but fail to call the Lord’s Day the Sabbath and specifically says the time and place is set by the church.  Also the Larger Emden Catechism, which gets closer to what Hyde wants, states the external Sabbath is maintained “when the church of God is honored in its office and ministry” (q.41) and goes on to state this time is set by the church (43). 

In the end, Hyde’s claim that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath is the heart of the dispute.  That is what makes one a Puritan Sabbatarian.  If you believe the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is the Sabbath on a new Christianified day, then you hold to the Puritan view.  If you believe the fourth commandment is really about resting from your evil works all the days of your life and a helpful pattern to aid our weakness in calling us together to worship once a week, then you hold to the Continental view.  If you believe cessation of labor is the obedient response to a holy day instituted by God then you hold to the Puritan view, if you believe cessation of labor and physical rest is not really the point of the commandment then you hold to the Continental view of the Sabbath.  They are different and they have existed since the Reformation.  People have to stop denying it.  If you think one is right, then argue for it, but don’t pretend everyone has always held to that view.  It is okay to say you think Calvin was wrong or that Bullinger was wrong.  It is not okay to say that they really meant the same things as the Westminster.

I will deal with Hyde’s discussion of Dort in another post.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Activism vs. Action

The Gospel Coalition has a blog up trying to figure out why the videos showing Planned Parenthood selling baby parts did not have any affect on anything.  They have five main reasons including over estimating the pro-life mood of the country, focusing on illegality vs. immorality, not coordinating with other pro-life groups, not anticipating the attacks, and not having a marketing strategy. 

I agree with some of those and not with others, but I don't think this is why they failed to change any laws or politicians on the matter.  And the reason is simple.  Today people have replaced action with activism.  Success is not measured in change, but in hashtags created. 

Let me explain.  I think if you were to have asked people in congress and many they would think that they did an all out assault on Planned Parenthood, and they would be surprised so many think nothing happened.  Even the article admits that dozens of investigations were launched, media attention garnered, and even congressional investigations.  This is activism.  But since nothing changed, there was no action.  Congress did not put forth any new law.  The FBI did not prosecute.  The laws were not changed.  Funding was not cut.  No action. 

This is the world we live in.  Think for a moment about all the stunningly awful things that have happened.  Email scandal - no action.  Benghazi - no action.  IRS scandal - no action.  Lots of talk about all of it,  No action. 

But let us leave the realm of politics.  And we can see the same behavior.  Boko Haram kidnaps girls and forces them into slavery.  No action.  A hashtag was created and sad faced pictures posted.  So activism was done.  Now we can all move on.  Terrorist attack in Boston.  Hey we can now all buy Boston Strong t-shirts, but no real action to fight terrorism happened.  We can change our FB profile to make our pic covered with a French flag, or we can "pray for Nice", but we will do nothing else.  Action is not the goal.  Activism is. 

Today it is enough to be seen to be caring.  It is about looking good and being on the right side of history.  It is not about participating in history, or writing history or doing anything at all.  For sometime one's intentions have been the measure of whether something was good or bad.  Outcomes were unimportant.  That social program was meant to help the poor.  It does not really matter if it does or not, the intention was good.  The intention of putting the bands in the church is to be evangelistic, so it is good.  It doesn't matter whether we ought to put bands in churches, the intentions make it good.  This is simply the next logical step.  I just need you to see my intentions, I don't need to do anything.

So why did the Center for Medical Progress expose on the evil of Planned Parenthood fail?  Because we live in a "look at me" combined with a "do nothing" culture. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Taylor is not Trump

Recently Politico began a stream of thought that the Republicans could be the Whigs because Trump is like Zachary Taylor.  Sadly, it is an article that understands little of history and in fact are just making stuff up.

The Whig Party did dissolve not long after winning the Presidency, but it was not Zachary Taylor’s fault.  In fact, the Politico article skims past the actual reasons.  Taylor was close to the perfect Whig candidate, a candidate who stood for next to nothing.  The problem with the Whig party was that it was always a party that simply opposed Andrew Jackson and his principles.  They were not united by any real set of beliefs.  Thus, the quotes calling the nomination of Taylor a betrayal of Whig principles are laughable because there were no Whig principles.  Even the article notes it was a “strained” coalition of Northern and Southerners who were against Jackson.  The quotes from abolitionists like Greeley are not universal for the Whigs because they had a large group of Southerners.  Taylor was chosen because he could stop the party from splitting by not having a real position on slavery.  This was always the Whig way.  Clay stands as the perfect example.  He owned slaves, but was not really for slavery, but not really an abolitionist either.  Clay is the picture of the Whig Party, and it slowly became an impossible place to be.  That is hardly Taylor’s fault. 

It is also not exactly fair to claim Taylor an outsider.  Yes, he had never held office, but he was a general, and that had always been a path to the Presidency.  Washington, Jackson, and Harrison had all be war heroes.  And every one of them had been opposed by people for not having the right background to be President.  Yet, we can see from the way James K. Polk managed that war that he very much understood the war hero who comes out of the Mexican American war will be a candidate for President.  And in fact, both major generals, Scott and Taylor, stood for nomination.  Being a general during war was at this time in American history, an acceptable path to the Presidency. 

In fact, the election of Taylor and his resulting Presidency (and that of Fillmore who followed after Taylor’s death) was probably the high point of the Whig movement.  It is during this time that the Whig party controls congress as well as the Presidency.  It is during this time that Clay pushes through the Compromise of 1850, with the help of Stephen Douglas.  This adds California to the rolls as a free state.  No minor feat.  It kept America together during that struggle, and that is exactly what the Whig platform had always been.  Together.  This led to them ignoring and compromising over and over.  Their greatest member, Henry Clay, is known as the Great Compromiser.  Their death came when the public no longer wanted compromise, but a more permanent solution.  The Whigs failed to see this and died.

In the end the Whig Party died not because of the lack of success that Taylor had as President.  In fact, he did not even make it out of his first term before dying.  Taylor had little impact on the Whig Party’s ultimate doom.  The election of Taylor does show the seeds of the ultimate doom of the Whig’s but not because of Taylor, but because of the presence and success on the ballot of Martin Van Buren.  Van Buren the former Democrat President ran as a Free Soil candidate and garnered lots of votes.  Not enough to win anything, but enough that he changed the election.  And it was enough that people should have seen that this issue was too important to ignore.  But both parties did just that.  They ignored it.  Thus, by 1852 the party has been badly wounded by a refusal to take sides on the slavery issue as evidenced by the Compromise of 1850.  And it is at that convention, when Southerners prevent Millard Fillmore from running for another term, and get General Winfield Scott as the nominee, that the first meetings of what would become the Republican Party emerge.  Scott is a beautiful example of the Whig Party.  Scott himself was anti-slavery, but ran on the platform that accepted the Fugitive Slave Law.  His personal stance killed him in the South, and the party’s stance killed him in the North.  He was crushed in the election.  And by 1856, the Republicans have fielded a candidate of their own.  And by1858 the Republican Party dominated the North.  Republicans had a clear message and stance.  “Free soil, free silver, and free men”.  This addressed the issue of the day decisively.  Southern Whigs turned to the Know Nothing Party, and even the Democrat Party as they feared the rise of anti-slavery parties, like the Republican and Free Soil parties, in the north.  Although one can argue the 1860 Constitution Union Party was what was left of the Whig Party.  Again, its main platform.  Together.  Unity.  Avoid the issues. 

If there is a lesson for the Republican Party it is that taking a stand is important as is keeping up with what is important to the people.  I do not believe Trump will be the death of the Republican Party.  Without a third party to siphon off voters, there will be no death for the GOP.  If the Libertarians gain a massive increase, then maybe, it is the beginning of the end.  But the Libertarians do not run candidates well for other offices. 

Sadly, this comparing Trump to Taylor is very unfair to Taylor, misses the real message of the Whigs, and is just bad history.  I know people want to think this is the end, but it is probably not.  And that message is the one that really ought to scare us. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celebrity Pastor and Seminaries

You read a lot today about the Celebrity Pastor and the problem and even how to fix it.  Opinions vary on the causes and solutions.  Sometimes it is an overhaul that includes no multisite churches, or the Evangelical Industrial Complex, or calls to humility and proper ambition, or even just simple accountability.  But I wonder if there is another factor . . . seminaries.

Today the vast majority of seminaries use “celebrity” professors as a way to lure you to their seminary.  These seminaries almost always have at least one well-liked, well published professor.  The better the finances of the seminary the more publishing by more professors, usually also equals more students.  You don’t need me to name the big names at each seminary you probably know them off the top of your head.  Besides the problem here is not in professors who write good books, but in the attraction students have to them. 

Modern seminaries also love distinctions.  You need something that sets your seminary apart.  What makes Westminster in Escondido, CA different than the rest?  What makes Mid America distinct so that you should go there?  Yes, this is promoted and encouraged.  And it is hard to blame the seminaries for doing it.  It is what businesses are supposed to do.  Carve out your place and grow that place.  And independent seminaries are no different. 

So perhaps part of the “celebrity pastor” begins with seminary.  We want future ministers to go to the seminaries with big names, but then when they get into the pastorate we don’t want them to pursuing having a big name or follow other pastors with big names. 

If we really want to fight against the cult of celebrity, we have to fight it everywhere, including in our seminaries.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Rethinking Seminaries Part 6

The Apprentice Model of the Seminary has many advantages over an academic model.  First and foremost among them is that it returns training of ministers to the church. 

Today in the Academic model most Presbyterian and Reformed churches garner graduates from many independent seminaries around the country.  Independent seminaries like Reformed Theological Seminary (insert whichever city name here), Mid America Reformed Seminary, Westminster Seminary California, Westminster Theological Seminary, New Geneva, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the list goes on.  In almost every instance the diploma serves as proof that the man is ready to at least sit for exams.  Most denominations have a program that oversees men pursuing the ministry, but it often is little more than checking up on studies at the seminary.  There a few denominations that have denominational seminaries, but they still have the problems of the academic model.  The CRC and Calvin Theological seminary exemplify the tail of the seminary wagging the dog because the academic institution was not so much under the church as over it.  The Canadian Reformed Church also has a seminary in Hamilton.  It too is on an academic model.  Even here the graduates are assumed to be ready for service in the church without really ever having been around serving the church.

The Apprentice Model gives a different kind of oversight for the denomination.  Each candidate would be intimately known, along with his family, and his gifts and abilities along with his spiritual temperament would have been assessed regularly, by both the pastor serving as the mentor, but also the elders.  The pastor would be able to train him theologically, and when he was ready, he would then begin to get his toe into ministry.  He would be able to do some guided teaching, maybe lead catechism, eventually give a sermon or two.  The elders would be able to give feedback and see all of it.  The apprentice would meet and sit in on Consistory or Session meetings and learn the value of elders up close and know how the system works.  The giftedness in teaching could actually be evaluated and not just his giftedness at writing a paper.  A paper and a sermon are not the same thing.  Being able to read Turretin and teach 1st graders are not the same thing.  This way the church has complete oversight over both the instruction and the student.  If the student is not cut out for the ministry, he can be gently told, and the apprenticeship can stop.

This is direct oversight by the church over every area of ministerial training.  It is not mediated through an independent contractor, who may have other motivations or not share your ideals. 

It is better for the student as well because he has not had to uproot his family, quit his job, and sink thousands of dollars into something that he may not be called to do or cut out for.  He would be able to see what ministry was first hand, and see if he still felt this was his calling.  He would be able to do so at low cost and low risk, so that if either he was not cut out for it or decided he was not called to do it, an easy exit would be painless for him and his family. 

The Presbytery and Classis could then proceed to a theological exam to see if he was knowledgable enough for the ministry.  Frankly, this is the part that most denominations do well.  The exams are great to discover knowledge.  Where they are weak is in character, calling, and commitment.  These are all addressed already by the church when the church is the one actually doing the teaching and overseeing.

Sure no method is fool proof.   But a church that has tried the student, taught the student, and lived with the student for years would be able to come before the Classis or Presbytery and give an honest and open account of the spiritual character and commitment of the individual, who himself would have a better understanding of his internal calling. 

Returning training to the church in the Apprentice Model gives the church back the ability to know the men they make into ministers. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rethinking Seminaries Part 5

So what is the better way than seminaries?  I think it is the apprenticeship model. 

The whole world used apprenticeships for every kind of vocation for centuries.  You go and stay with a person already in the vocation.  You learn from him, are taught by him, get hands on experience that ends up helping both you and the man already in the job, and then you are ready and you go out on your own.  The same principle is easily applicable to ministry.

One could easily argue that this is the model used in the New Testament.  Jesus had twelve disciples.  They each went out and they appeared to train up men and send them out.  Paul for example always seemed to have men around him.  Timothy, Titus, Luke, and a host of others.  Barnabas could be argued to have been with Mark or maybe he started off around those at Jerusalem like Peter.  Mark would later be with Barnabas.  Mark is usually (according to tradition) with Peter too.  But at the very least we can say the Apprenticeship model fits with Titus 1:5 and 1 Timothy 4:6-16 and other verses.  I do not argue this is the only way, I just think it a better way that what we are doing now.

The basics of this model are people who desire to get into the ministry go to be with a pastor, perhaps even their local pastor, who then apprentices the man.  He takes him under his wing, teaches him, and gives him firsthand experience in the ministry.  And I think there is a big role here for elders in that church as well. 

I can hear people already complaining that this is not academic enough.  But yes, academics would be involved.  It would simply be done on the Cambridge / Oxford system, sometimes known as the Tutorial System.  The pastor would be assign readings, the student would do them on his own, and the duo would discuss.  Oral communication would be at a premium, which is the way an eventual pastorate would be.  Writing could be required to help people organize their thoughts.  I disagree that this would be a lowering of actual knowledge gained.  I simply think this would return pastoral education to a way in which people actually were trained and prepared for the pastorate.

Having ever so briefly outlined the model I recommend, I will in future posts outline some benefits of this model.