Monday, October 30, 2017

Another 95 Theses

Just in from Jonathan Aigner – 95 More for the Modern Church’s Door: Sparking a Reformation in the Entertainment Church.  As usual, he offers excellent thoughts on worship in the modern church.  Here are just a few (emphasis his):
31. Corporate worship that is either contemporary or traditional is toxic to the church.
32. All worship should be historic because it recalls the creative and redemptive acts of God.
33. All worship is contemporary, because we’re doing it now.
34. All worship should be future, because it foretells the coming victory when the curse will be broken and all will be set aright.
He offers a version of lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief):
47. Bad worship begets bad theology. Bad theology begets a bloated, unhealthy church.
And for all those craving intimacy with God:
64. Worship that seeks God through word and sacrament is an act of intimacy.
As a warning, some of the points are PG in nature, but they are well worth reading.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Reformation Sunday

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Ro 3:21–26)

It is clear that the righteousness of God has now appeared apart from the law, but this means apart from the law of the sabbath, the circumcision, the new moon and revenge, not apart from the sacrament of God’s divinity, because the righteousness of God is all about God’s divinity. For when the law held them guilty, the righteousness of God forgave them and did so apart from the law so that until the law was brought to bear God forgave them their sin. And lest someone think that this was done against the law, Paul added that the righteousness of God had a witness in the Law and the Prophets, which means that the law itself had said that in the future someone would come who would save mankind. But it was not allowed for the law to forgive sin.

Therefore, what is called the righteousness of God appears to be mercy because it has its origin in the promise, and when God’s promise is fulfilled it is called “the righteousness of God.” For it is righteousness when what is promised has been delivered. And when God accepts those who flee to him for refuge, this is called righteousness, because wickedness would not accept such people.

Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles

Thursday, October 26, 2017


I have not offered up miscellanea for quite some time. Here are a few items for perusal.

G. Shane Morris tells us the problem with the Sinner’s Prayer.

Do you have a hankering to see signs and wonders? Michael Horton tells us where to find them. (Hint: it’s not in a so-called healing service.)

Pastor Larry Peters offers his opinion that nurseries and children’s church are not such a good idea.

Jonathan Aigner again warns of Hillsongization and the Insidious Nature of Commercial Worship Music.

And noting that birds of a feather fly together, be wary of “Bethelification.” Note the issues in this piece from

Think pop music and CCM are good for the church? Peter Leithart asks us to think again.

And on the topic of music in general, Casey Chalk makes a case for listening to classic music more often. (As an aside, his reasoning applies equally to classic literature.)

And finally, we have some all-too-true humor recently shared by Glenn Chatfield.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. (1 Th 1:5)

Thus, the obedient and responsive soul gives itself over to the virtuous life. This life is freedom itself, on the one hand, from the chains of this life, separating itself from the slavery of base and empty pursuits. On the other hand, this soul devotes itself to faith and the life of God alone, because it sees clearly that where there is faith, reverence, and a blameless life, there is present the power of Christ, there is flight from all evil and from death which robs us of life. For shameful things do not have in themselves sufficient power to compete with the power of the Lord. It is their nature to develop from disobedience to His commands. This was experienced in ancient times by the first man, but now it is experienced by all of us when we imitate Adam’s disobedience through stubborn choice. However, those who approach the Spirit with honest intent, unfeigned faith, and an undefiled conscience are cleansed by the Spirit according to the one who says, “for our gospel was not delivered to you in word only, but in power also; and in the Holy Spirit and in much fullness, as you know.”

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Christian Mode of Life

Friday, October 13, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Then the Lord of hosts shall do this
    to all the nations on this mountain.
They shall drink in gladness; they shall drink wine;
    they shall anoint themselves with ointment on this mountain.
Deliver all these things to the nations,
    for this is the counsel for all the nations.
Death prevailed and swallowed them,
    but again God wiped away every tear from every face;
He took away the disgrace of His people from all the earth;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Then it will be said in that day,
    “Behold, this is our God,
in whom we hoped and rejoiced exceedingly;
    and we shall be glad in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6–9)

The Ancient of Days, 14th-century fresco
Remember the vision of Daniel, and how he brings the judgment before us: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool;… and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before Him; thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened,” clearly disclosing in the hearing of all, angels and men, things good and evil, things done openly and in secret, deeds, words, and thoughts all at once. What then must those men be who have lived wicked lives? Where then shall that soul hide which in the sight of all these spectators shall suddenly be revealed in its fullness of shame? With what kind of body shall it sustain those endless and unbearable pangs in the place of fire unquenched, and of the worm that perishes and never dies, and of depth of Hades, dark and horrible; bitter wailings, loud lamenting, weeping and gnashing of teeth and anguish without end? From all these woes there is no release after death; no device, no means of coming forth from the chastisement of pain.

We can escape now. While we can, let us lift ourselves from the fall: let us never despair of ourselves, if only we depart from evil. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. “O come, let us worship and fall down; let us weep before Him.” The Word Who invited us to repentance calls aloud, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is, then, a way of salvation, if we will. “Death in his might has swallowed up, but again the Lord hath wiped away tears from off all faces” of those who repent. The Lord is faithful in all His words. He does not lie when He says, “Though your sins be scarlet they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.” The great Physician of souls, Who is the ready liberator, not of you alone, but of all who are enslaved by sin, is ready to heal your sickness. From Him come the words, it was His sweet and saving lips that said, “Those who are whole do not need a physician but those who are sick.…I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” What excuse have you, what excuse has anyone, when He speaks this way? The Lord wishes to cleanse you from the trouble of your sickness and to show you light after darkness. The good Shepherd, Who left those who had not wandered away, is seeking after you. If you give yourself to Him He will not hold back. He, in His love, will not disdain even to carry you on His own shoulders, rejoicing that He has found His sheep which was lost. The Father stands and awaits your return from your wandering. Only come back, and while you are yet afar off, He will run and fall upon your neck, and, now that you are cleansed by repentance, will enwrap you in embraces of love. He will clothe with the chief robe the soul that has put off the old man with all his works; He will put a ring on hands that have washed off the blood of death, and will put shoes on feet that have turned from the evil way to the path of the Gospel of peace. He will announce the day of joy and gladness to them that are His own, both angels and men, and will celebrate your salvation far and wide. For “truly I say unto you,” says He, “there is joy in heaven before God over one sinner who repents.” If any of those who think they stand find fault because of your quick reception, the good Father will Himself make answer for you in the words, “It was fitting that we should make merry and be glad for this” my daughter “was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found.”

Friday, October 6, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine
And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted,
And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.
It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
Then we will not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved! (Ps 80:14–19)

Here he teaches the springing up of Christ the Lord: he begs that the vine be given care on account of the temple—clearly called Son of Man—to be assumed from it. This is the way the Lord also in the sacred Gospels, though being man and God at the same time, called himself Son of Man, bestowing the name from the visible nature. Consequently, the inspired Word teaches those taken captive to beseech the God of all to show some mercy to the vine on account of the saving root springing from it. The Lord, in fact, also calls himself this in the words, “I am the true vine, you the branches, and my Father is the farmer”: as man he is the vine, as God he is also the farmer, sowing good seed in his field. You see, though he sprang from this vine, which proved useless, bearing thorns instead of grapes for the farmer, he for his part became the true vine and put forth the biggest branches, the multitude of those who believed in him. The shadow from these truly covered the mountains, and the limbs the cedars. The vine for its part truly extended its branches to the sea, and its offshoots as far as the rivers. There is no place, no place under heaven, in which the divine vats from this vine are not established. For its sake they beg, in narrating all its manifold sufferings, that it too enjoy mercy.…

You do not renege on Your promises: once these firstfruits are received from us, the whole human race will recognize the true God and sing the praises of the lovingkindness demonstrated. In this manner the power of death will be overcome, and we shall gain eternal life, adoring You, God the Savior. So on account of all this and the salvation coming to all people through us, deliver us from this sadness and grant return: if You but appear, we shall gain salvation.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Psalms