Church History | Christianity in America (Part 3)

This week we’ll be continuing the series by Dr. Dan van Voorhis entitled Christianity in America. This series covers American Christianity from the Puritans through the modern-day Emergent Church. Fascinating series. Today’s lesson focuses on the Romantics and the Radicals in the 19th century. As you listen to this lesson, you’ll start to see how today’s modern church “innovations” really aren’t all that new, theologically speaking. New century, new technology, same mishandling of the scriptures.

Daniel van Voorhis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of History and Political Thought and Assistant Dean in the school of Arts and Sciences at Concordia University, Irvine. He has a BA in Theology and earned his PhD in Modern History from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) in 2007. (source)

Lesson #3 – The 19th Century: Romantics and Radicals

The handout for this video is available via the website FaithCapo.com. Look for Christianity in America Part 3, Word Doc under Attachments. If you are the pen-and-paper note taking time, I highly recommend printing this document before listening through the lecture so you have something to take notes in/on.

 

Some General Notes on things mentioned in this lesson:

The lecture and handout are very good this week. I’d like to provide some links here for those interested in reading more on the list in the handout labeled “Historical stuff that’s more important than you think”.

Historical stuff that’s more important than you think:

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Church History | Christianity in America (Part 2)

frisermonThis week we’ll be continuing the series by Dr. Dan van Voorhis entitled Christianity in America. This series covers American Christianity from the Puritans through the modern-day Emergent Church. Fascinating series. Today’s lesson focuses on Rationalism and Revivalism in the 1700s. As you listen to this lesson, you’ll start to see how today’s modern church “innovations” really aren’t all that new, theologically speaking. New century, new technology, same mishandling of the scriptures.

Daniel van Voorhis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of History and Political Thought and Assistant Dean in the school of Arts and Sciences at Concordia University, Irvine. He has a BA in Theology and earned his PhD in Modern History from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) in 2007. (source)

Lesson #2 – Rationalism and Revivalism in the 1700s

The handout for this video is available via the website FaithCapo.com. Look for Christianity in America Part 2, Word Doc under Attachments. If you are the pen-and-paper note taking time, I highly recommend printing this document before listening through the lecture so you have something to take notes in/on.

 

Some General Notes on things mentioned in this lesson:

I had posted this before I knew where to find the handouts. I tried to provide some useful links for understanding key people/events mentioned in this lesson.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Church History | Missional Church Movement

churchhistoryWhat does it mean when a church declares itself a “Missional Church”? This is a fairly recent movement found mostly within Reformed and Baptist circles, though it is embraced by many non-denominational churches. It is a movement that seeks to redefine or re-envision the Church and its mission.  Today, I’d like to take address the topic of the “Missional Church Movement”. This is the result of my personal research on the topic, because I just needed to know what this whole thing was about. I have done my best to cite sources friendly to the movement and provide links to those sources for your own reading. Your feedback is most appreciated on this one, it’s a little bit outside of my wheelhouse.

Recent History of Missional Church Movement

Let’s begin with an excerpt from an article from GotQuestions.org that is supportive of the Missional Church Movement.

“Missional” or “missional living” is a Christian term that in essence describes a missionary lifestyle. Being missional includes embracing the posture, the thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to reach others with the message of the gospel. The term “missional” gained its popularity towards the end of the 20th century with the influence of Tim Keller, Alan Hirsch, and others, as well as the Gospel and Our Culture Network. Their basic premise is that all Christians should be involved in the Great Commission of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).

Essentially, the idea of being missional teaches that the church has a mission because Jesus had a mission. There is one mission which says that the “missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church.” Yet there has been some confusion regarding the term “missional.”

Alan Hirsch, one its proponents, says that “missional” is not synonymous with “emerging.” The emerging church is primarily a renewal movement attempting to contextualize Christianity for a postmodern generation. “Missional” is also not the same as “evangelistic” or “seeker-sensitive.” These terms generally apply to what he calls the “attractional” model of church that has dominated our understanding for many years. Missional is not a new way to talk about church growth. Although God clearly desires the church to grow numerically, it is only one part of the larger missional agenda. Finally, missional is more than social justice. Engaging the poor and correcting inequalities is part of being God’s agent in the world, but should not be confused with the whole.

Hirsch also says that a proper understanding of missional living begins with recovering a missionary understanding of God. By His very nature God is a “sending God” who takes the initiative to redeem His creation. This doctrine, known as missio Dei is causing many to redefine their understanding of the church. Because the church is comprised of the “sent” people of God, the church is the instrument of God’s mission in the world. However, most people believe that missions is an instrument of the church, a means by which the church is grown. Although Christians frequently say, “The church has a mission,” according to missional theology a more correct statement would be “the mission has a church.”

Though many churches have mission statements or talk about the importance of having a mission, where missional churches differ is in their attitude toward the world. A missional church sees the mission as both its originating impulse and its organizing principle. It is patterned after what God has done in Jesus Christ, that is, to be missional means to be sent into the world; not to expect people to come to us. This idea differentiates a missional church from an “attractional” church.

The attractional church seeks to reach out to the culture and draw people into the church. But this practice only works where no significant cultural shift is required when moving from outside to inside the church. And as Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, the attractional church has lost its effectiveness. The West looks more like a cross-cultural missionary context in which attractional churches are self-defeating. The process of extracting people from the culture and assimilating them into the church diminishes their ability to speak to those outside. As a result, people cease to be missional and instead leave that work to the clergy.

Missional represents a significant shift in the way one thinks about the church. Being missional means we should engage the world the same way Jesus did—by going out rather than just reaching out. Missional means that when a church is in mission, it is then the true church. [Continue Reading…]

A couple of thoughts that jump out at me when reading through this article. First, it seems to be a very current write-up focused on distinguishing “Missional” from “emergent” and “seeker-sensitive”. It also highlights the “attractional” model of implementing church activities and campaigns designed to make the church attractive to potential church-goers. I think is important for any modern-day church movement to recognize the blatant errors of the seeker-mergent movements and to properly distinguish themselves from those movements. However, defining a movement by how it isn’t one of the bad movements, falls short for me. The biggest problem with this article is that it seems to define a man-made term “Missional” like a slogan or a vision statement for an organization. That’s fine for a parachurch organization or even a church small group or group activity, but if we are talking about defining the Church, the argument needs to be exegeted from Scripture.

Older History of the Missional Church Movement

The document formed by Tim Keller, Alan Hirsch, et al, was not created out of nothing. They gave the movement a name, but much of the theological and ecclesial groundwork for their Missional Church is grounded in the 1950s inspired largely by the work of Leslie Newbigin. To get a better handle on the history of what would become the Missional Church Movement, I recommend reading Historical Perspectives on the Missional Church Movement: Probing Lesslie Newbigin’s Formative Influence  by Michael W. Goheen (pdf). It is a lengthy document, but well worth reading if you are in a Reformed Church who defines itself as Missional. It does a good job of describing the differing paradigms of “emergent” (Johannes Hoekendijk) vice “missional” (Leslie Newbigin).

There are two important years in the development of a missional ecclesiology that provide a structure for our reflection – 1952 and 1998. 1952 was the year of the Willingen meeting of the International Missionary Council (IMC). It was then that the theological framework (although not the term) of the missio Dei was clearly articulated. An important part of this formulation was the recognition that mission was central to the church’s being. The church’s identity was to be found in the role it played in God’s mission. The next stage, theologically speaking, should have been to articulate what this missional identity looks like in the ecclesial structures of the local congregation, ecumenical church, and cross-cultural missions. Unfortunately, this next stage was blown off course by the powerful secular winds of the 1960s that can be associated, within the church itself, with the name Johannes Hoekendijk.

[Leslie Newbigin] authored the Willingen statement; he was a significant voice in opposition to the Hoekendijkian vision of the church and mission; he was the inspiration behind the 1998 publication of Missional Church; and he remains the recognized father and, for many, the tacit authority in much missional and emergent church literature. A fruitful question might be to ask how faithful the missional church conversation has been to Newbigin’s original vision.

The final statement adopted by the Willingen assembly was primarily the work of Newbigin.  It was entitled “The Missionary Calling of the Church.” It begins: “The missionary movement of which we are a part has its source in the Triune God Himself.” The most important legacy of Willingen is the concept of God’s mission found in this statement. This provided a framework for gathering and relating many theological and missiological insights that had developed over the first half of the 20th century into a consistent missional ecclesiology. Mission has its source in the love of the Father who sent His Son to reconcile all things to himself. The Son has sent the Spirit to gather his church together and empower it for mission. This church is sent by Jesus to continue his mission and this defines its very nature: “There is no participation in Christ without participation in his mission to the world. That by which the Church receives its existence is that by which it is also given its world-mission. ‘As the Father has sent Me, so send I you.’”

Hoekendijk and others believed that the reigning ecumenical view of mission was too Christocentric and needed to be Trinitarian, and was too church-centric and needed to find its center in the world instead. The contrast can be made in this way: the traditional paradigm of mission that developed from Tambaram to Willingen found its primary focus in the ecclesial community that had its origin in the work of Jesus Christ and continued his mission in the world; the new paradigm featured a shift in missional focus from God’s work through Christ in the church to His providential and salvific work by His Spirit in the world. The traditional paradigm is Christocentric and ecclesiocentric; the new paradigm is pneumocentric and cosmocentric.
[Read the full document here]

Okay, so I’ve tried to include snippets of the document that summarize the split between emergent and missional thinking. The article presents the Missional Church Movement as one that started in 1952 but was hijacked by what we know see as emergent theology of the secular waves of the 60s. The article then catches up with the book written by Tim Keller, Alan Hirsch, et al in 1998, citing that moment as an attempt to reach back to the Newbigin’s foundational work. Despite the author’s detailed efforts to distinguish between the good of Newbigin’s theology from the hijacking of his work, in the end we have “Missional” appearing in churches that are indeed seeker-mergent.

Concerns with the Movement

The glaring issue I have with this movement is its attempt to define the mission of the Church by trimming back what it is now or what it has become and reshaping it by examining our modern context. While it seems Newbigin’s writing was grounded in Scripture, there seems to be little work currently being done to ground it in the New Testament prescriptives of what the Body of Christ, the Church, is to be about. If the movement were truly confined to Reformed churches, one might consider the theological underpinnings to be covered in by their Confessions. However, the emergent church is clearly outside of Reformed theology, thus in order to rightly define the Missional Church Movement it needs to be rightly exegeted from scripture outright.

Michael Horton wrote a thoughtful and engaging critique of the Missional Movement in an article for Modern Reformation Magazine. In his article, his primary concern is with the practical implications of a Church that defines itself by what it does in the world, and how such a redefinition might lean heavily toward monasticism.

Some of us remember the Tears for Fears song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Yet the mantra today is more about changing the world than ruling it. Lots of younger Christians are tired of spiritual consumerism and evangelism pitches about inviting Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven when you die. There has to be more to Christianity than “soul-saving.” Isn’t there something in there about “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”? About a new creation? Don’t we sing “Joy to the World,” anticipating the blessings of Christ’s kingdom extending “far as the curse is found”?

Nevertheless, a legitimate question can be raised as to whether this newfound interest in creation redeemed is still guided by a paradigm that owes more to monasticism than to the world-affirming piety of the Reformation. [Continue Reading]

Conclusion

Personally, I’m tired of “evangelical movements”. Growing up under NAR thinking, I’ve had my fill of being tossed about by every wind of doctrine… jabez prayer, spiritual warfare, purpose drivenness, triumphalism, dominionism, radical christianity, promise keepers, etc. I’m not the least bit interested in creating a new word for Church, or some marketing campaign for why people should join my church as opposed to their church… none of that. I don’t care what you call your church. What I do care about is what is preached from the pulpit, what is studied in your home groups, and what whether your congregation behaves as one body of believers. For me, the word “Missional” has become as unreliable as “Evangelical”.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV) | Unity in the Body of Christ

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith,one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | lex orandi, lex credendi

trebleclefToday’s post will be a Discernment in Music (DiM) post from a Church History perspective. As my appreciation for Latin phrases grows, I feel it necessary to share what I’ve learned. Today’s Latin phrase comes from one of last week’s episodes of Fighting for the Faith (30SEP15).

lex orandi, lex credendi
(the law of prayer is the law of belief)

The idea being conveyed here is that what one confesses, prays, and sings becomes what one believes. This is why historically the church has followed liturgical practices of reciting creeds/confessions/prayers, sang liturgical hymns, and practiced expository preaching following a lectionary. Here in the West, we’ve become quite enamored with ourselves and our own opinions and “new ideas” to the point of near-total disdain for orthodoxy. Despite all of our so-called wisdom and creativity, and rejection of “religions of men”, we still follow man-made religion… only now we do so without the bible as the standard, but our emotions/feelings.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Despite our narcissistic clamoring for innovation, we still fall headlong into the rule of lex orandi, lex credendi. It is no accident that Hillsong and Bethel push their musical giants so hard to capture the hearts of our youth. While the technology employed is new, the strategy is ancient.  Let’s take a walk into some church history, shall we?

Athanasius versus Arius

You may have heard of the Athanasian Creed. A while back we took a look at the 3 creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene, Athanasian). Today, we are going to take a look at Athanasius and his struggles against Arius and his followers, the Arians.

Athanasius (A.D. 295–373) lived in a time much closer to the Apostles than I realized before studying for this post. If you’ll remember yesterday’s post, we mentioned the Temple that Jesus and the Apostles knew was utterly destroyed in AD 70. So Athanasius lived within 300 years of this event. That might seem like quite a long time by our self aggrandizing modern culture, but when one considers that Christianity is alive and well today (AD 2015), Athanasius was there near the beginning. He suffered physical persecution (under Emperors Diocletian and Galerius) and political persecution (under Emperor Julian the Apostate). 1 Arius (AD 250 or 256–336) took objection to the doctrine of the trinity, particularly of the preaching of Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria, on philosophical grounds. Arius contended that since Jesus was the only-begotten of God, there must have been a time when Jesus didn’t exist, thus Jesus was a created being not equal to God. Now Arius was gifted in persuasive speech and followed a lot of Origen’s philosophy. Arianism spread very quickly. Athanasius contended strongly against Arius in the city of Alexandria holding firmly the position that if Jesus was not God then the atonement was insufficient and Jesus could not be our Savior. A lesser being cannot bear the full brunt of God’s Wrath on our behalf. So the debates grew very heated. This lead to the first Council of the Bishop of Alexandria, where Arius was condemned. However, the Arian sect had grown in number and influence such that they were able to persist and challenge Athanasius, even falsely accusing him of murder. The Arians sent word to Emperor Constantine who then held the first Council of Nicaea. One of the major outcomes of this Council was the affirmation of the Person of the Son in the Trinity, and the first part of the Nicene Creed.

1 “I, Athanasius” by Rev. Gordon A. Beck. on September 7, 2008 in CLASSIC WITNESS, LUTHERAN WITNESS https://blogs.lcms.org/2008/i-athanasius-9-2008

Despite this defeat, Arianism persisted for some time and Athanasius dedicated most of his time and energy resisting this false teaching. But How did Arius manage to get so many followers in his false teaching? Well, for one, mankind is sinful and our flesh is constantly seeking to reject sound doctrine. But beyond this common ailment, Arius took advantage of another weakness of our flesh… music.

From the Epitome of Philostorgius regarding Arius:

CHAP. 2.He says that Arius, after his secession from the church, composed several songs to be sung by sailors, and by millers, and by travellers along the high road, and others of the same kind, which he adapted to certain tunes, as he thought suitable in each separate case, and thus by degrees seduced the minds of the unlearned by the attractiveness of his songs to the adoption of his own impiety.

Now the compilations of Arius’ songs is known as Thalia. Nearly all of the writings of Arius was destroyed as a result of being declared heresy, but we do have a couple of summaries of his writings.

Thalia literally means “abundance,” “good cheer,” or “banquet”. It was written in verse, in order to aid memorization and popular distribution of Arius’s ideas. Fragments of this work survive in two writings of his opponent Athanasius. The first is in a report of Arius’ teaching in Orations Against the Arians, 1.5-6. This paraphrase has negative comments interspersed, so it is difficult to decide what are Arius’s words and what are comments of Athanasius (Williams 99). The second is a more direct quotation in On the Councils of Arminum and Seleucia, 15. [Read More]

Getting back to Athanasius’ writing against the Arian heresy, specifically focusing on the use of song, let us look to a portion from his Discourse 1:

How then can they be Christians, who for Christians are Ario-maniacs1833? or how are they of the Catholic Church, who have shaken off the Apostolical faith, and become authors of fresh evils? who, after abandoning the oracles of divine Scripture, call Arius’s Thaliæ a new wisdom? and with reason too, for they are announcing a new heresy. And hence a man may marvel, that, whereas many have written many treatises and abundant homilies upon the Old Testament and the New, yet in none of them is a Thalia found; nay nor among the more respectable of the Gentiles, but among those only who sing such strains over their cups, amid cheers and jokes, when men are merry, that the rest may laugh; till this marvellous Arius, taking no grave pattern, and ignorant even of what is respectable, while he stole largely from other heresies, would be original in the ludicrous, with none but Sotades for his rival. For what beseemed him more, when he would dance forth against the Saviour, than to throw his wretched words of irreligion into dissolute and loose metres? that, while ‘a man,’ as Wisdom says, ‘is known from the utterance of his word1834,’ so from those numbers should be seen the writer’s effeminate soul and corruption of thought1835. In truth, that crafty one did not escape detection; but, for all his many writhings to and fro, like the serpent, he did but fall into the error of the Pharisees. They, that they might transgress the Law, pretended to be anxious for the words of the Law, and that they might deny the expected and then present Lord, were hypocritical with God’s name, and were convicted of blaspheming when they said, ‘Why dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God,’ and sayest, ‘I and the Father are one1836?’ And so too, this counterfeit and Sotadean Arius, feigns to speak of God, introducing Scripture language1837, but is on all sides recognised as godless1838 Arius, denying the Son, and reckoning Him among the creatures. [Christian Classics Ethereal Library]

So, we see here that Athanasius regarded Arianism as a full departure from scripture, maintained by seductive use of songs of merriment, amid cheers and jokes among merry men that the rest may laugh… entertainment. What we sing regularly will become what we believe.

Closing Comments

Dear Christian… is this not precisely what we see with the intentional shift away from the view of Church as the gathering of the saints for preaching of the Word for the edification and equipping of the saints into a place where “unchurched” can be entertained, engaged, and feel welcomed? Where dangerous Hillsong and Bethel heresies are pumped into the arena (formerly known as Sanctuaries) by a rock show performed by a house band. We are here, again, and this is nothing new. This is why it is so important to do the work of a Berean… to take what we hear and search the Scriptures to make sure it is true. We hold to what is Truth, and we reject and abstain from all falsehood. It is important that we do this with our sermons, our prayers, and our music. It isn’t “just music”, nor can it be dismissed as “harmless entertainment”. You know, there is a speck of truth to the humanist philosophy of self-affirmation… that speck is that we will believe what we constantly affirm. That doesn’t make what we come to believe “true”, it merely means that we can beat ourselves into believing lies. That is why it is vitally important that we take every thought captive to obey Christ, the Word of God (2 Cor 10:4-6). In closing, we will look to how the Apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians and to Jude’s closing of his letter.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 (ESV) | Final Instructions and Benediction

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies,21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) 

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, Indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | The Briefing 09-24-15 by Albert Mohler

The big thing in the news this week was the visit of the Roman Catholic Pope to the Washington D.C. For this week’s Friday Sermon, we will be listening to Thursday’s edition of The Briefing daily PODCAST. Albert Mohler covers the problem of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Pope, Nanci Pelosi, and abortion.

almohlerDr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. All of these can be accessed through Dr. Mohler’s website, http://www.AlbertMohler.com. Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by The Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

The Briefing 09-24-15

 

Next week we’ll go back to running full sermons, but I really wanted to introduce my readers to this resource, especially for those who’d like to get a daily rundown on the news without having to wade through the Main Stream Media directly.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge