Thursday, May 29, 2008

Addendum to Wine in the Chalice

Since I don't think pastor knows how to add links to his posts yet I have added the link in his post to the article he referenced on the REC website. You can find that article, which is a short, but fairly detailed study on bacteria transmittal through the common cup, here: Common Cup Bacteria Study (pdf)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wine in the Chalice

Many Reformed Episcopal Churches on the East Coast formed during the 1870s and 1880s. Until recently, most of them used the small communion cups with grape juice. How far back does this practice go? I heard of one or more cases of a Reformed Episcopal Church locating an old communion chalice in a neglected corner of the sacristy. It hadn't been used in decades. We know that the common cup with wine was the universal practice for centuries in the Church.

When did many Protestant churches switch from wine to grape juice, and from the chalice to the individual cups? The first chapter in a book called "Whitebread Protestants" by Daniel Sack answers those questions. Since Scripture seems to encourage the use of wine in many passages, the prohibitionists had to come up with an interesting interpretation, thus the two-wine theory. There is wine, and then, there is another wine; two wines. Any time you see a positive reference to wine in the Bible, it must refer to grape juice, or the first kind of wine; whereas those instances you run into a negative reference refers to real wine, the second kind of wine.

As for the texts of the Lord's institution of the Supper, listen to what one two-wine theory clergyman held:

"We cannot conceive of Christ bending over such a beverage in grateful prayer. The supposition is sacilegious. The imputation is blasphemous. No cup that can intoxicate is a cup of blessing, but a cup of cursing. It does not belong to a eucharistic feast, but is the fit accompaniment of scenes of revelry and riot."

The history of Dr. Thomas Welch and his invention of the grape soda to replace wine in communion is a fascinating read. Dr. Welch had to find a way to stop the grapes from fermenting.

As for the individual cups, the germ theory of contacting sickness was the primary factor. Sack says, "the common Communion cup mirrored general practice. Most Americans were used to drinking out of a common cup, whether at a community well or in a railway waiting room. With little concern for cleanliness and little understanding of the trnsmission of disease, few people saw any reason not to use the same cup."

Here are my opinions: In response to this objection, the REC official web site has an article that makes the case that using the common cup does not transmit disease, and one should not fear to partake of it. Just as the one loaf of bread symbolizes the unity of the body of Christ, so the one cup does the same.

As for wine in the Bible, the temperance movement was wrong exegetically. Christ obviously used wine in the institution of the Supper and in the miracle of water into wine at Cana. Drunkenness is a terrible sin, but to attempt to become more holy than Jesus on this issue by prohibiting wine altogether seems legalistic. The Church gets into trouble when she contradicts Scripture in her worship practices.

A return to the common cup with wine is the ideal. Read "Whitebread Protestants" for a wonderful and entertaining historical overview.

Rev. Paul S. Howden

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lewis on Praise to God

As I was reading the BCP Daily Office Lectionary today I came across Psalm 135 which starts with saying:

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD, who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.

This reminded me of something C.S. Lewis said in an essay “The Problem of Praise in the Psalms” (found in Reflections on the Psalms pp. 90-98). Concerning God commanding us to praise God throughout the bible particularly in the Psalms Lewis says:
"We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand.
Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and His worshippers, threatened to appear in my mind. The Psalms were especially troublesome in this way – ‘Praise the Lord,' 'O praise the Lord with me,' 'Praise Him.' . . . Worse still was the statement put into God's own mouth, 'whoso offereth me thanks and praise, he honoureth me' (50:23). It was hideously like saying, 'What I most want is to be told that I am good and great.' . . . It was extremely distressing. It made one think what one least wanted to think. Gratitude to God, reverence to Him, obedience to Him, I thought I could understand; not this perpetual eulogy."

This to Lewis was a problem, a stumbling block; why would it be good for God to do what we find as a weakness in other people? I suspect that more than a few people have this same problem but lack the ability to articulate it as well as Lewis could. Lewis goes on to give a solution to this seeming problem.
"But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. .

. . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value...

...I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . .

If it were possible for a created soul fully . . . to 'appreciate', that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude. . . . To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God – drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy is no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Don't Forget

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
-1 John 2:17

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Collect: The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pentecost

Yesterday was a great Lords day at church! We celebrated Pentecost, were visited by our presiding bishop, Reverend Riches with a following reception and it was mothers day. Bishop Riches' sermon was great and I hope I can get my hands on a copy to post on the website and share a portion of it real presence in the Eucharist on the blog here. I have been so blessed by the observance of the church calender this past year and a half of attending Grace REC. It emphasizes key biblical truths that we always need to be reminded of (2 Peter 1:12-13). With that said I found this post by Peter Leitheart to be a great exhortation on the importance of observing Pentecost.

"In Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, but if the
Spirit has not come, what good is all that heavenly treasure to us earth-bound
folk? If the Spirit has not come, all that Jesus is and has remains stored
away in heaven, and who can climb up to heaven to bring it down?"

Friday, May 9, 2008

RE: Important Values for Christian Artists

Here is a good post from Justin Taylor's blog called Important Values for Christian Artists. Below I will quote the post in full. He says:

In his downloadable PDF, Andy Farmer (pastor of discipleship and counseling at Covenant Fellowship Church), expresses important values to be affirmed by Christian artists. Read the whole document, which contains supporting quotes from people like Francis Schaeffer, Leland Ryken, Charlie Peacock, Harold Best, and others.
  1. Christian artists should view their talent as a gift from God and see its use ultimately as worship to God.
  2. A Christian artist should have a sober assessment of his gift and neither over-estimate the opportunities it should given him or undervalue the contribution he can make with it.
  3. The most authentic Christian art results from our joy in Christ overflowing into Christian art, not our strategies to do art that is Christian.
  4. Creating art is an expression of faith and obedience, not of compulsion or identity.
  5. The Christian artist should see his art as a way to love God, his people, and the world.
  6. The Christian Artist sees the sovereign hand of God in both his opportunities and his obstacles.
  7. The Christian artist is committed to truth in the way he lives and what he creates.
  8. While the Christian artist is under no burden to make all of his art explicitly Christian, it would be an unbiblical use of his gift to intentionally create a body of work without reference to Christ.
  9. The Christian artist rejects the worldly concept of artist as an outsider and embraces his place among God’s people in the local church as essential to his life and gifting.
  10. The Christian artist should not ignore his personal responsibility to evaluate the theological soundness of his work.
  11. Because the Christian artist trusts God, he will battle selfish ambition, competition, and any pretense of entitlement in regard to his art.
  12. The Christian artist will see the evaluation of others as an essential help in both growing in their art and assessing its fruitfulness.
  13. The Christian artist will resist elitism and care about the accessibility of his art to the average Christian in the congregation
  14. The Christian artist must never confuse the joy of creativity with the joy of knowing and pleasing God.
This is some really good stuff. As an artist myself it is always good to get a Christian exhortation to do good art. I really like points 2, 4 and 9 because they are points that you don't hear made often. In fact most people these days believe the opposite, even among Christians.

With that said, I would however clarify or expand on a few points the first being general, then some specifics.

First, I wanted to note that these points seem to be specifically directed toward the "fine arts" including music, literature, painting, film etc. Most people would understand it that way anyway, but I note that because some of these don't apply to more general uses uses of art. Borrowing from Gene Veith from his book State of the Arts, he makes the point that there are different kinds of art.
  • There is the broad classification of seeing all work or vocations as an artform, this is what Veith says: "To fully comprehend the scope of art and its place in the human scene, we need to recover the view of art as pertaining to any creative human labor... this view of art restores dignity to the whole range of human work. Running a business, working on an assembly line, framing a house, serving a client, teaching a class - such vocations, and indeed all vocations, involve a God-given creative faculty that is different only in kind from that of the greatest painters, writers and musicians."
  • Then there is the functional arts, joining the aesthetic and the practical; things like architecture, graphic design, illustration, or even engineering.
  • There is also decorative arts, which would be art that isn't really functional and isn't intended for anything more than to make an environment more aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
  • Last is the fine arts; here is what Veith says: "Although the decorative and the functional can have aesthetic meaning, some works are made for their aesthetic meaning alone. These are the "fine arts." A quilt may be beautiful, but its purpose is to keep someone warm. A house may have a striking design and an attractive decor, but it exists not merely to be attractive but to provide shelter. A painting in a museum, on the other hand, exists in its own right, with no other purpose than to be beautiful and to be meaningful. It is an object for contemplation."
I find these classifications helpful, but I don't think they should be used in an overly rigid way because sometimes it is hard to classify "art" and it depends on its context. For example, Veith makes the point that that quilt mentioned above could easily be classified as either a decorative art or even a fine art by simply hanging it on a wall for display. The only thing that changes is it's context. Much like the point Marcel Duchamp was trying to make with his found objects.

Now on to some of the specifics from the list above.
Number eight says:
"While the Christian artist is under no burden to make all of his art explicitly Christian, it would be an unbiblical use of his gift to intentionally create a body of work without reference to Christ."
I don't really disagree with this statement, depending on what exactly the writer means, but I would word it better. This statement seems to imply that at least some of your art should be explicitly Christian, and therefore have explicit reference to Christ. If that is what the authors intent was, I would disagree. I think that a Christian painter for example, can paint only beautiful landscapes with no explicit reference to Christ his whole career, and still honor Christ with his artwork, as long as he is doing it to God's glory. The key criteria for a Christian creating artwork is to ask, Is it true and does the it communicate that truth in an effective and lawful way? These are important because if it is true, then in that way it does have indirect reference to Christ, because I think it was Van Til who said "all truth is God's truth." It also needs to be able to be communicated in a way that represents that truth by abiding by God's law in the execution itself. So back to our example of the landscape painter, if his paintings truly are beautiful recreations of God's creation then this does represent biblical truth and therefore Christ indirectly. So beautiful landscape paintings could lead one to meditate on God's creation and see God's creative work. Though it might seem like an inconsequential point I make it because I think that it could unnecessarily bind the conscience of an artist. So to sum up the point I am trying to make; sometimes the only difference between the artwork done by a Christian and that done by a non-Christian is that one is done to God's glory and one is not.

Number thirteen says:
"The Christian artist will resist elitism and care about the accessibility of his art to the average Christian in the congregation"
Now I certainly agree with the sentiment here but I think more needs to be said on this point. I think the point trying to be made here is to do away with the idea that the average person doesn't and shouldn't understand "fine art." A few things need to be considered on this point though. First is the fact that most times, the average person in the Christian congregation is artistically illiterate. The problem is not elitism, but lack of education in the church with regards to understanding art and creative analysis. So the artist needs to consider their intended audience and speak in their language, but in such a way that still challenges their understanding. I think the error of this statement becomes apparent if it is reworded to replace Christian artist with Christian author. The question for the author is always "who is my audience." The accessibility of the content and language will depend on whether the work is intended for scholars or lay people. So while I agree that there is always a temptation to "elitism" in the art world, I also think there is more to consider than just the surface issue that if people don't "get it" then the problem is elitism.

Number fourteen says:
"The Christian artist must never confuse the joy of creativity with the joy of knowing and pleasing God."
My only comment on this is to say that these two things can be one and the same. Again I don't disagree with what is being said here but I want to avoid the temptation of pitting the joy of creativity against the joy of knowing and pleasing God. This is a lesson I learned well from John Piper. To reword the famous Eric Liddell quote to fit this context "God made me creative. And when I create I feel His pleasure." If that is our attitude then it is great to find our joy in God through our joy in Creativity.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Faith Versus Newspaper Exegesis

"Christians are apt to feel discouraged when they reflect on the extensive prevalence of error compared with the limited success of the true religion, and despondingly inquire, 'By whom shall Jacob arise? For he is small.' But if they can only have faith in the mediatorial dominion, they may dismiss their fears, and confidently rely in, not merely the preservation, but the triumphant success and universal establishment of the church."
-William Symington

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Future Hope In Light of the Bleak Outlook for the Political and Economic Future of America

I am reading through Postmillennialism by Keith Mathison. I am finding this book a very good, systematic introduction to postmillennialism. I found this passage a very encouraging reminder during an election year, and especially one with such an undesirable outcome no matter how you vote in my opinion. Not to mention the fact that if feels like we are the verge of a depression. Here is what Mathison says:

"Postmllennialism teaches that the kingdom grows entirely supernaturally. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish the regeneration necessary for the spread of the kingdom, and only Christ can supernaturally judge those who resist His work. The efforts of man to further God's Kingdom apart from His power are utterly futile.

The preaching of the gospel is God's ordained means of spreading the kingdom. When the church remains faithful to her calling to preach the word, administer the sacraments, and worship God in Spirit and in truth, the kingdom grows. When individual Christians fulfill their calling in every area of life and bring glory to God, the kingdom grows. When the church begins to believe that it can bring about lasting change through political means, the growth of the kingdom is drastically slowed. Politics and legislation cannot take the place of regeneration.

This is not to say that national governments are outside the boundaries of the messianic kingdom, for they are not. Christ is their ruler, and they should acknowledge that in their actions and in their legislation. But while the church and the state are both under the messianic authority of Christ, they have different spheres of authority and different responsibilities. The church is neither the state nor a political party. It has a message for states and political parties, but if these fail to perform their God-given responsibilities, the church is not authorized to step in and exercise those duties. Postmillennialism renounces all political or earthly attempts to further the messianic kingdom and relies solely upon the supernatural work of God." (pg. 192-193)

Let us not forget, our King Jesus is on his throne and is ruling the nations now. We must put our hope in God's appointed means for answering The Lords Prayer. Politics and civil government are not God's means of transforming nations, they are man's means. The gospel transforms nations, that is God's way. Lately, I have often found myself thinking, "if only so and so would get elected the economy would be in better shape and we would be able to stop legal infanticide." I would get despondent at the reality that any good candidate most likely won't even come close to winning. I need this reminder that what we need is not better policy, but more Spirit wrought regeneration of individuals and families and churches. This then will pour out into all areas of life.

Unfortunately the church seems to have sold her birthright for a bowl of stew. Let us take back the authority God has given us and get our hands dirty looking for Christ's lost sheep.
"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt. 9:35-38)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wikipedia's Zealots and Climate Change

For those out there who love and often use Wikipedia (myself included) I found this article very interesting.

"As I'm writing this column for the Financial Post, I am simultaneously editing a page on Wikipedia. I am confident that just about everything I write for my column will be available for you to read. I am equally confident that you will be able to read just about nothing that I write for the page on Wikipedia."
This is a good example of bias coming through on even user created and edited content. There are a couple interesting things about this. This just goes to prove the point that no matter what you read it is all biased. Even in a format like this, which would seem most likely to support a "neutral" position due to the open checks and balances by users, neutrality is a myth. We also see an example of how unscientific some of these global warming advocates are, they can't allow even the slightest scrutiny. If only people would just take a little time and not buy every thing they are sold by the media. Don't get me wrong, there may indeed be some sort of global warming. But even if that could be proven, it still needs to be shown that it is caused by humans, and it also has to be shown that it is a bad thing. I for one wouldn't mind a little more warmth in NEPA. As far as I'm concerned it might be an answered prayer; "thy kingdom come."

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Beetles

This morning I finished reading Douglas Wilson's "Letter from a Christian Citizen." It is Wilson's response to atheist Sam Harris' book, "Letter to a Christian Nation." This short book was more accessible and enjoyable than Wilson's correspondence with atheist Christopher Hitchens.

For example, Harris claims that 350,000 species of beetles in the world casts doubt on creationism. Wilson responds, "...why this should count as an argument against the triune God of Scripture, I surely don't know. I am a diehard creationist, and I think it is the coolest thing in the world that our God created that many different kinds of beetles." pp. 89-90.

Pastor Paul Howden