Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 15

No others shall sing in the Church, save only the canonical singers, who go up into the ambo and sing from a book.

At first glance, this canon appears to prevent any but those with church office from singing during worship.  More likely the intent was to designate who could lead singing.  A canonical singer or cantor would stand in the ambo (i.e., large pulpit) with a copy of the songs and lead the people through the lyrics and tune.  The dearth of copies made this the most efficient way to teach the songs and facilitate good use.

While this may be considered a good use of a trained individual who knows the songs and can demonstrate their use to the congregation as a service to the body, woe to those groups past and present that determined only those properly training are suitable to do this (or another work).

[Warning! Sarcasm alert] And woe to the modern church who does not have such people on staff, for the Lord has obviously removed his blessing. [Sarcasm ended]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 14

The holy things are not to be sent into other dioceses at the feast of Easter by way of eulogiæ.

At the time of this canon, a practice had been developed that when no overseer was available in e church, one from a neighboring church consecrated the bread for the Lord's Supper and had them delivered for their use.  Easter was considered too holy of a day to practice this.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 13

The election of those who are to be appointed to the priesthood is not to be committed to the multitude.

As has been stated previously, an election as used during this time period was not a majority opinion but choosing based on a consensus based on scriptural criteria: or so this was the intention however it was enacted.  That leaves us with a question of whom the priesthood is referring.  When addressing this canon, Alexius Aristenus1 identified them as the company of overseers,2 and this seems likely in view of the canon's placement in a way that seems to elucidate on the preceding one.

What of the multitude and their relation to the process?  The simple one-word translation of οχλος is crowd. Behind that word is the group dynamic that accompanies a large group of people.  Under proper guidance, such a body behaves in a decent and orderly manner, but very little is needed to incite passions, so the group becomes an unruly mob governed by emotion.

With these understandings the canon is attempting to dampen emotionalism in recognizing an overseer and rather relying on the scriptures and sound teaching as handed down from the apostles.

1 Twelfth-century house-manager of the Great Church in Constantinople.  See William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol 1, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1867), 131.
2 NPNF2-14, 130.

Laodicea - Canon 12

Bishops are to be appointed to the ecclesiastical government by the judgment of the metropolitans and neighboring bishops, after having been long proved both in the foundation of their faith and in the conversation of an honest life.

Canon 4 of Nicaea also addressed the participants ordaining an overseer.  Here the additional statements concerning character are an application of Paul's words to Timothy that such men must be above reproach (1 Tim 3:2) and to be well thought of by outsiders (1 Tim 3:7).

While the church is in but not of the world, they are, both individually and corporately, to maintain a reputation that befits the one they bear—that of Jesus Christ.  Christians are ambassadors for Christ with the message of the gospel.  How we conduct ourselves demonstrates the relative importance we place on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross relative to our sin and the resurrection signifying the Father's acceptance.  We show what we think of commands and precepts found in Scripture and who gave them.  Our walk signifies whether or not we are serious about being a disciple in all that entails.

Nothing is to bring shame to God's name (Exod 20:7; cf. 1 Pet 1:14-16).  When so-called Christians bring notoriety to themselves by outlandish claims or actions, the Lord is not honored.  Those like Harold Camping and Fred Phelps gain media exposure for their causes but in the end hold up Christ to derision.  Godly leaders are humble servants and will manifest themselves early in their walk with Christ.  Such are those who should tend the flocks as those under the Chief Shepherd.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 11

Presbytides, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church.

There has been a question as to what is being addressed. Most likely there were older women in the local church who were set in some official capacity over the younger women: the older lording over the younger in an aberration of the relationship between the generations (Titus 2:3-5) and in direct conflict with how Peter addresses the men who were under-shepherds of the flock (1 Pet 5:1-4).

Church history is fraught with examples of making efficiencies in the organization of the local church.  Invariably, they fail because the effort is based in what man decides is best for a particular situation, regional culture, or ethnic norm rather than acknowledging that Christ is the head of the body and one member working in harmony with the others for mutual benefit and edification.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 10

The members of the Church shall not indiscriminately marry their children to heretics.

The adverb indiscriminately is used here in an unfamiliar way.  As an American Baby-Boomer, my immediate understanding might be that this allowed marriage to some heretics but not to others.  Of course, such is not the case.  Marriage was not (and is not) to be handled indifferently, therefore the union of an orthodox believer and a heretic was not to occur.

Discernment of a prospective spouse's spirituality can be clouded by emotion, either by the parent hoping to see his child married to a seemingly godly person, or by the couple themselves while spending time together developing the relationship.  Does the hopeful future spouse hold to or espouse those things that are contrary to sound doctrine?  Is the held opinion one of misunderstanding God's word or of mischaracterization?  Is the person of the triune God upheld or impugned?  Is the fullness of the Lord Jesus' person and work believed and confessed or discarded?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 9

The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service; but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received.

Prayer services had begun to be held in cemeteries with the idea of petitioning God through the ones buried there in hopes of receiving fulfillment of their need.1 The congregating place mentioned here was where heretics were buried, therefore the church was forced to excommunicate them for seeking assistance from those who were recognized as  outside of orthodox doctrine.  Should they repent and confess, restoration was acceptable.

1 Here we see some of what would become prayer to/through the saints.  Being Protestant, I am predisposed to state that this seriously damages the practice altogether (first mention I find is in relation to heretics), but more study on the historical precedent for the practice would help form a proper understanding.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 8

Persons converted from the heresy of those who are called Phrygians, even should they be among those reputed by them as clergymen, and even should they be called the very chiefest, are with all care to be both instructed and baptized by the bishops and presbyters of the Church.

Phrygians (or Montanists) were adherents to the teaching of Montanus of Phrygia.  The decision of whether or not to accept those leaving this sect was difficult inasmuch that on one side Tertullian had defended them as within the norm of catholic Christianity, while Basil of Caesarea maintained they had baptized followers into Father, Son, Montanus, and Priscilla.1  In addition they had been accused of Sabellianism (i.e., modalism).  Montanus' fringe, ascetic practice set him apart from the majority of the church espousing celibacy for Christians and teaching that manifestations of the Holy Spirit were still active.  Having two prophetesses, Maximilla and Prisca (or Priscilla) giving utterances to believers he drew followers with a combination of the miraculous and austere living.  The church rightfully demonstrated that the ecstatic utterances by these "prophetesses" were not in accord with the normal working of the Holy Spirit.

As a result of the many questions, concerns, and outright incorrect teaching, those coming out needed to be taught and baptized regardless of their position in the former sect.

1 NPNF2-14, 128.

O Sweet Exchange!

I had posted part of this a couple years ago, but after reading it again recently, more needed to be shared.

How the surpassing love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for transgressors, the blameless for the wicked, the righteous for the unrighteous, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for them that are mortal.  For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness?  By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God?  O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!
Letter to Diognetus, 9.2-5

Monday, May 16, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 7

Persons converted from heresies, that is, of the Novatians, Photinians, and Quartodecimans, whether they were catechumens or communicants among them, shall not be received until they shall have anathematized every heresy, and particularly that in which they were held; and afterwards those who among them were called communicants, having thoroughly learned the symbols of the faith, and having been anointed with the holy chrism, shall so communicate in the holy Mysteries.

Three groups of heretics are specifically mentioned requiring a certain amount of background to understand this canon.
Quartodecimans – This group followed the practice of observing Easter beginning on the eve of Nisan 14 in honor of the timing of Christ's crucifixion as given in John's gospel (John 19:14, 31, 42) and coinciding with the Passover as based on God's original instruction (Exod 12:18; Lev 23:5; Num 9:5).  The remainder of the corporate church had subscribed to observance on Sunday in honor of the resurrection.  Later this dispute would be over which Sunday was the proper date for the observance.
Novatians – Novatian was priest during the persecutions from Decius in the third century during which some Christians turned from the faith.  After the persecutions eased and those lapsed desired to return to the church, Cornelius, overseer of Rome, was quick to allow their return, while Novatian took an austere position arguing that those who had fallen should not be so allowed and had himself ordained as a rival of Cornelius in order to enforce his position.  Cyprian attempted to intervene but was unable.  Novation was eventually declared a heretic by the church for his divisiveness.  The sect continued with their austere application of scripture into the seventh century.
Photinians – Photinus was a fourth century heretic serving as deacon in Ancyra under Marcellus and later became overseer of Sirmium.  He was noted for denying Jesus' incarnation (i.e., God putting on human flesh).
Only the last of these would be considered heresy today, yet in the fourth century, these battles were quite serious.

The only workable solution to receive a former adherent of heresy was to require the prospective person to anathematize every point of the old teaching and cleave to the truth of scripture.  After proper discipling and anointing, that one was allowed fellowship with the church.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fourth Century Wedding Planner

When you prepare for the wedding, don't run to your neighbors' houses borrowing extra mirrors, or spend endless hours worrying about dresses.  A wedding is not a pageant or a theatrical performance.  Instead, make your house as beautiful as you can, and then invite your family and your neighbors and friends.  Invite as many people as you know that have good character, and they will be content with what you set before them.  Don't hire bands or orchestras; such an expense is excessive and unbecoming.  Before anything else, invite Christ.  Do you know how to invite him?  "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers," he said, "you do to me."  Don't think that it is annoying to invite the poor for Christ's sake.  Don't adorn the bride with gold ornaments, but dress her modestly.  Thus from the beginning of her married life she will shun excess.  Let there be no disorderly uproar.  When everything is ready, call the bridegroom to receive the virgin.  Let there be no drunkenness at the banquets and suppers, but an abundance of spiritual joy.  Think of the many good things that will result from weddings like this!

John Chrysostom,"Homily 12: On Colossians 4:18," On Marriage and Family Life, (Crestwood:SVS Press, 1986), 79.

A Pastoral Response to Same-Sex Marriage

Jonathan Fisk, pastor of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield, PA, has posted a video in which he gives one of the best pastoral responses to a question of same-sex marriage from a woman in that lifestyle.  Brother Fisk edits in a choppy style much like music videos, and I believe this is intentional, understanding that the teenagers and young adults who need the instruction in a format to which they are accustomed.  If you find it distracting, then just listen.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Bites the Dust

Blogger was down for quite a while, and now I find there are two missing postings that need to be redone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Socially Acceptable Destructive Behavior

In recent months, a local hospital has been running radio advertisements feature a young lady purportedly in her early twenties by virtue of the visual picture supplied by the script.  Depending on the spot, the monologue tells how the woman desires a family (or more children in the single mother scenario) someday, but an additional child at this point would be an intrusion on her college or career.  To demonstrate corporate public service, the hospital staff makes available free, long-term birth control solutions for qualifying individuals.  The worry of an unwanted pregnancy no longer looms, and life can go on with one less concern.

On the surface, this service seems to meet a need in a certain cross-section of humanity and prevent yet another burden on the welfare system.  In return for expressing social consciousness, the staff is able to promote themselves for further services.  The perception is that the good doctors and nurses of this fine facility cared enough to help in one area of life, therefore they can surely be trusted in others.  From a marketing perspective, the corporation is the benefactor of a shrewd advertising campaign.  The hospital has a name brand that moves from the sterile to the welcoming, from the place where medicine is administered for an immediate need to a haven where all health issues are addressed while embracing you as worthy of personal attention.

Laying aside the monetary aspects, what can be derived from the commercial messages?  What is being stated and inferred that illumines the societal norms of those the hospital is attempting to reach?  As we turn a critical ear to the message, a two-fold pattern is repeatedly followed.  The first is that the woman is sexually active though single.  How can any institution countenance such conduct?  The typical response is that we cannot stop such behavior, so we should mitigate against the consequences.  Promoting illicit behavior without consequence is the answer.  How does this help?  By similar logic we should be unlocking doors and drawers since thieves will break in and steal.  Or perhaps a better idea is to supply an alcoholic with a fifth of spirits, because that person will get drunk anyway.  How did sexual promiscuity become socially acceptable?  As the title of this piece indicates, it is destructive behavior to both the woman and man and will have ramifications beyond their intimate union.  This has been scientifically demonstrated both medically and culturally.  The effects are spiritual as well, but these are more difficult to measure empirically, though according to polling data and statistics, the debilitation manifests itself.

The second part of the advertising pattern is that there is no man taking a responsible role in the woman's decision to pursue the contraception.  An assumption is made that a woman can rely on no one else to care for her.  It is true that men are increasingly abdicating their role as counselors, guides, or companions.  They either chose to abandon and seek out new women to conquer, this leaving society with the understanding that abandonment is the norm, not the aberration it is.  Commitment is becoming quaint and rare, which causes upheaval in gender roles.  Woman are forced to take the lead in decisions while men go along if they decide to stick around at all.

Perhaps unwittingly, the hospital has mirrored our society's attitude of addressing the symptom rather than the problem.  Sin is the issue.  We sin because we are sinners—from womb to grave.  The world attempts to mask the problem, but it is endemic to what we are as humans.  We cannot help ourselves and will continue in them though we may be more refined in how they are worked out.  Do we support licentiousness as we find it then?  No, because of its deleterious effects.  Rather we combat that attitude by speaking out against it, illustrating the improper logic, and calling for people to act responsibly and with self-control.

The best and only lasting solution to this malaise is the eradication of sin, but how can that be accomplished?  One took our sin upon himself through his finished, atoning work.  He died, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the scriptures.  By faith we believe and confess him that we might live in newness of life.  By the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we can count ourselves as dead to sin and alive to Christ, no longer giving our members over to sin to accomplish its lust.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 6

It is not permitted to heretics to enter the house of God while they continue in heresy.

Shutting the door on a heretic was a harsh but necessary move for very biblical reasons.  The heretic is like unto the person in Hebrews 6:4-6 who has fallen away from the truth of all the Christ has provided for his elect—unable to be restored again to repentance.  They tended to prey on weak souls (2 Peter 2:3, 18-19) and cause blasphemy on the way of truth (2 Peter 2:2).  For this reason these false teachers must be rejected and not allowed fellowship with true believers (2 John 8-10).

I tend to think that the Church at-large has become overly lenient in its corporate approach to teachers.  The modernist would value the academic exercise of engaging the argument to test its rational basis and out-working.  The post-modernist would engage in conversation as travelers on spiritual journeys along different paths.  The person who loves the triune God as he has revealed himself in his word would listen for the teachings alignment with scripture, and upon noticing the departure would refute it and shut the door to protect the sheep from the wolf.

May our overseers do so with a discerning heart of faith, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Laodicea - Canon 5

Courtesy of Stephen Pohl

Ordinations are not to be held in the presence of hearers.

This canon is peculiar without historical background.  Men were chosen generally from within a church, but also from elsewhere if necessary, as one recognized for his spiritual maturity and walk.  Upon examination by other overseers, he would be ordained for his position.  Because he is chosen by both groups—not by virtue of simple majority vote, but by overwhelming evidence—the ordination is also commonly called an election.  Problems had arisen in the early church from external secular influences, prompting this synod to prohibit those not in complete fellowship from participating in the election.1

In addition, part of the examination by a council of overseers would delve into matters about the elect person which may not be public but needs to be laid bare for conscience sake.  Should a "hearer" or other outsider discover the matter, there is a possibility for damage through gossip or animus.

1 John McClintock and James Strong, Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 8 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1879), 507.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Following Jesus, the Servant King, Jonathan Lunde - Book Review

Zondervan has undertaken the Biblical Theology for Life Series to bring "groundbreaking academic study of the Bible alongside contemporary contextualization and proclamation."  So that you do not have to break out a thesaurus, the series goal is to cover a subject in scripture and apply it primarily within 21st-century American evangelical culture.  That does not automatically make the book yet another pint of fad-imbued swill, but if the person who wrote this copy for the back cover is an indicator of the content, we are in trouble.  Thankfully, the text is only a marketing gimmick.  Instead, Jonathan Lunde develops a theology of discipleship grounded in the biblical understanding of a covenant.  This approach separates the work from other popular methodologies driven along by strictly New Testament or even denominational lines to a richer and deeper understanding of walking and working in a covenant relationship with the triune God.

Lunde begins by asking three simple questions which drive the format of the book:
Why should I be concerned to obey all of Jesus' commands if I have been saved by grace?
What is it that Jesus demands of his disciples?
How can the disciple obey Jesus' high demand, while experiencing his "yoke" as "light" and "easy"?

The "Why" is dealt with in detail by examining what a covenant is, what types are present in scripture, and the content of the different major covenants made from Noah through the New Covenant in Christ.  Considered in these are the gracious dealings of God to man, righteous demands, and the proper place of faith and works in each.  This broad view allows the reader to understand how God developed his suzerainty and grant covenants from one revelatory period to another as his eternal plan, developing how God's grace was a basis for each with the view to a loving response.  Jesus is finally presented as the fulfillment of the covenantal demands and the proper intermediary for that to occur.

As a side note, Lunde develops the major covenants beginning with Noah, not because the covenant with Adam was insignificant, but because scripture does not develop it to the degree of the others. The author does point out the relative covenant pattern within the Adamic without overly pressing the text to make the connection.

The "What" is presented in Jesus' varied roles in his work and teaching in the Gospels.  As the giver, administrator, and best interpreter of God's word, what Christ says concerning past covenantal commands during his incarnation is examined.  Each part of this section examines the gospel accounts and understanding of prior covenants with the view to understand how those are practiced today, if at all.  Jesus is presented as the Prophet-King in the Davidic line and type who has authority over men as sovereign and as the Father's mouthpiece to properly interpret and administer the commands and precepts of God.  During his incarnation, he acts as filter, lens, and prism of the Law and Prophets for use by a New Covenant community.  Each of these three facets are examined in individual chapters with sufficient examples, followed by their understanding in the culmination to be a people behaving within the local sphere as on a mission with the gospel.

Finally, the "How" is developed by examining Christ's person and work in the New Covenant.  What was promised to which current believers adhere?  How does the Lord's position with its resulting role and responsibility to be played out in the life of a believer?  What of his earthly work is to be brought forward in each Christian and to what degree?  As Jesus went about doing his Father's work, he represented God to the people, redeemed the exiled, restored the broken, and began unveiling his current and future work as king.  Taking each of these separately, Lunde explains the place believers have as co-laborers with Christ in his mission and work, particularly as it means in being a disciple.

Finally, there is a chapter laying out the relevance that all theology has for the average Christian.  What all is meant to be a disciple in today's world?

Two points are in order here.  First, the author does not shy away from presenting his own view when it may in the minority.  In the discussion of Jesus as the servant-redeemer (chapter 14), we are presented with the faithful remnant as a possible first intent of Isaiah's servant passages.  This differs from both the typical Jewish understanding which has the entire nation of Israel in view without reference to the future messiah and the Christian view which looks solely at the Christological implications apart from any immediate reference.  By putting forth the notion of the remnant, Lunde (and others from whom he derived the hypothesis) offers a possible solution for a contemporaneous use in Isaiah's time that is typical of most prophetic writing with their “now and not yet” application.

Second, I am disappointed with the short shrift given to baptism as an integral part of the biblical theology of discipleship.  While Jesus' own baptism in relation to the fulfillment of all righteousness is given sufficient space, the Christian's is nowhere to be found though it is in clear view both when Christ commands the apostles to “make disciples of all nations” and when Paul teaches the Corinthians of the baptism into Christ as the anti-type of the Red Sea crossing. Regardless of a reader's understanding of baptism (means of grace or mere symbol), discipleship begins at that point.  It is the discernible marker of a commitment to the Father by virtue of the finished work of Christ in the empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

Overall, the book is quite worthwhile.  The arguments are sound and clear without being overly academic.  This makes this work well within reach of most teenagers and adults.  Interspersed throughout are sidebar quotes commenting on the subject matter being presented helping to elucidate the points made.  Even the book's printed format is favorable with its wide margin for plenty of notes.  I recommend this as a useful tool in not just understanding my own walk of discipleship, but in teaching end encouraging others in their spiritual growth and service.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm Exhausted

After working a 55-hour week (I'm such a slacker), there were errands and chores awaiting today.  Start with a trip to the tire store to get my wheels balanced.  Guess what?  Balancing is not the fix, replacement is.  It turns out the front tires were cupped presumably from poor alignment, which surprised me since in my early driving days (1970's) I remember the steering wheel almost shaking out of my hands when alignment was off.  Perhaps that was because of the bias tires we had back then.  I am $150 poorer and need to set up an appointment to get the alignment done.

After that, since the weather was so nice, I tackled the weeds in the front flower bed.  It looks much nicer now, but I can feel the effects in my arms.

Finally, there was needed housework to prepare for evening company.  I helped with what food preparations I could plus vacuumed the carpet.  Sandi did the bulk of work here, of course, and her task was much more difficult because she has to make preparations for not just tonight but also tomorrow when we make a day trip to Davenport to visit with our mothers for Mother's Day.

After that, I finally got to sit and do some additional work to prepare for my job on Monday.  Time for a nap.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 4

They who are of the sacerdotal order ought not to lend and receive usury, nor what is called hemioliæ.

The place of usury was addressed in Canon 17 of Nicaea.  If church leaders lend, no interest is to be charged.  Pity that the congregants were not included.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Our Wedding Anniversary

If you have wondered why I had not posted, my wife and I spent the past three days in the Madison, WI area just enjoying ourselves as an early celebration of our 32nd wedding anniversary.  Posts will be more regular this week.  If you ever make it to that area, we highly recommend Porta Bella Italian Restaurant.  The food is superb and the prices quite reasonable.  The photo at right shows the area where we ate.  The bottom left columns is a low-level water fountain which coupled with the low lighting made a pleasant ambiance.