October 26, 2008 Commentary:
What is a True Church?
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn, I'm Mike Horton here with Rod Rosenbladt, Ken Jones, and Kim Riddlebarger. What is a true church? Last week we defined the boundaries of the Christian faith generally, talk what the orthodox faith means. This week we want to define the substance of classical Christianity in terms of the marks of all faithful Christian bodies, in other words, how do we find a true church? That might be the #1 question I hear these days. Hot off the press, a new book by a journalist titled Quitting Church: The Evangelical Exodus in the United States, documents the tragic fact that the movement that many faithful Christians joined because mainline liberal Protestantism had let them down is itself now suffering a similar fate. Throughout this year-long series we've been examining the state of the church, concluding that much of it exhibits the marks of what can only be described as "Christless Christianity." But now we are going to look at the church, how do we know a good church from a bad church in relation to that problem?
The Roman Catholic scholar Paul Avis hit the nail on the head when he said that the most important question for the Protestant Reformers was how sinners can find a holy God. "The second question was closely related," says Avis: "How can I find a true church?" Avis realized what many Protestants today have forgotten: namely, that we don't find a gracious God by looking within ourselves or by finding a good life coach or by discovering the most effective spiritual disciplines. We find a gracious God where he has promised to meet us: in the preaching of the gospel and the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Strange, foolish, and weak as these may seem in the eyes of the world, they are God's appointed means of grace.
For that reason, and based on the express statements of Scripture, all of the churches of the Reformation confess that the true church is to be found wherever the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments are truly administered. Are these realistic criteria? How faithful does a church have to be in its preaching and administration of the sacraments in order to qualify as a true church? If I'm not in a church that fits these marks, should I leave or should I try to stay and reform it? These are our questions in this edition of the WHI.
October 19, 2008 Commentary:
Creed or Chaos?
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn. "Creed or Chaos?" is the subject of this broadcast of the White Horse Inn. You know everywhere we turn today faith has become an attitude in search of an object, "You gotta believe in something." We hear a lot about "faith communities" as a genus of which particular religions are regarded as species; "faith perspectives," even "faith-based" political initiatives. Prince Charles has intimated upon succession to Britain's throne he plans to delete the definite article in his historic title; changing it from "Defender of the Faith" to "Defender of Faith."
We live in a land of "no creed but Christ" as if specifying what we mean by Christ were itself a violation of the intimacy of a personal relationship. But in Scripture there is no such contrast. The New Testament uses faith, pistis, to refer both to the faith that is believed (in Latin, fides quae creditor) and the personal act of faith (fides qua creditor); the former often indicated by the definite article the faith, is evident in many passages such as 1 Cor 16:13; 2 Cor 13:5; Eph 4:5,13: Jude 3. So as you can see there are a lot of verses in the NT that speak of the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints. Most often the faith is spoken of as the personal act of believing that content, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The content of the faith is Jesus Christ himself as he is offered to us in the Gospel, as you see in myriad passages throughout the New Testament. From this saving faith in Christ as he is given in the promise of the Gospel radiates our faith in God and his promises more generally.
In this understanding orthodoxy isn't merely a subjective conviction, but it's an extrospective, outward looking, claim about a state of affairs that happens to be true whether we believe it or not. Orthodoxy isn't defined by the intensity with which one holds certain convictions, or where they are on the spectrum of beliefs. Christian Orthodoxy has been articulated and defended as often by people of a liberal temperament as heterodoxy and heresy have been promulgated by bigots. From the time of the Apostles, Christians, especially pastors have been called to "guard the deposit that was entrusted to them" (1 Tim 6:20). And to "follow the pattern of sound words" (2 Tim 1:13). In fact NT scholars recognize various fragments in Paul's epistles of creedal formulas that were already in use, said and sung in the Apostolic church, Against that Gnostics the second-century Church father Irenaeus spoke of the "rule of faith" an incipient creed, and in the fourth century the Nicene Creed became the touchstone of Christian orthodoxy. That's not so much the concept of orthodoxy itself, as the relentless assault on the particulars of Christian orthodoxy, the Nicene Faith that first shaped our contemporary cultures antipathy. In other words it's not orthodoxy in general that people mind as much as what Christian orthodoxy specifically claims. A New Orthodoxy of naturalism, moralism and relativism, has become even more rigidly endorse in Modernity than in any era of Christendom.
We are discussing the importance creeds over the chaos of what seems to be so dominate in our culture and certainly in our churches on this edition of the White Horse Inn.
October 12, 2008 Commentary:
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn as we continue our series "Christless Christianity" and in this broadcast "Getting Stupid." Turn off your mind. Just follow your heart. I don't want to know about God; I just want to love him. I can write the Gospel on a dime. Not head knowledge, but heart knowledge. My theology? I wasn't aware I had any. We don't need some guy standing up front telling us what the Bible says; we need to experience community and just love each other and show the love of Jesus to the world. It's deeds, not creeds. I don't know why; I just love the Lord. Looking for a church that will give you a lift rather than a let-down? That will help you fix daily problems instead of give you a bunch of doctrines and rules? If you want to reach the unchurched, you've got to show them how faith can work for them, not bore them or burden them with the intricacies of religion. These and countless other quotes like them are drawn from evangelical writers from D. L. Moody to Rick Warren.
According to a host of historians, American evangelicalism not only was influenced by the culture of entertainment, pragmatism, and marketing but helped to shape it. In politics and religion alike, it seems, it's not what is said that matters as much as the way it is said, the spectacle that surrounds it, the tone, the publicity it generates, and the moving power of its sheer presentation. In church and state, we're ripe for anybody who can make us feel better-or at least feel better about feeling better, even if we can't exactly remember what he or she said.
In short, as a host of secular commentators and sociologists are documenting, we're becoming a stupid nation; a nation that regards stupidity as a virtue; shallowness as openness; silliness as relevance, and ignorance as bliss. Besides the obvious downsides of this trend in our culture more widely, it's probably the most dangerous threat to the Christian Faith. Stupidity is more dangerous than heresy; lazy minds are more of a threat than atheism. That's because the gospel is not a feeling, an experience, a slogan, a therapeutic technique, or a program, but news. And news has to be communicated, understood, explained, defended, explored, and interpreted. Christianity doesn't tell people to empty their minds, to turn within and contemplate their oneness with the universe. It doesn't advance its claims on the basis that it's a better, more helpful, more efficient, more fulfilling, or happier form of life. Rather, the whole thing rests on certain historical events that determine the meaning of creation, history, and our existence; that tell us who God is, who we are, how we are lost and how God has found and redeemed us, inserting us into his new creation. We're not just born with this gospel in our hearts; it isn't already there in our minds. It's not something that we just experience as spiritual beings. It's something that has to be delivered; truth that has to be taught and investigated. Folks, where the stakes are this high-with the last judgment still up ahead-you just can't afford to join this party. There's a time and place for being silly, for having fun, being entertained, going shopping, and hanging out with your friends without a lot of stuff on your mind. But if the world doesn't take the church seriously today, maybe it's because the church isn't serious about the things that matter most. "Getting Stupid" that is our tragic, but important subject in this edition of the White Horse Inn.
October 5, 2008 Commentary:
The Courage to be Protestant
There is no commentary this week as Mike, Kim, Ken, and Rod discuss the state of Protestantism with Dr. David Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.