Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Nimbus of Tweed About My Head

Tomorrow, today online, appears an article by a young lady of considerable mental stature named Molly Worthen. It is about New St. Andrews College here in Moscow. It is pretty fair article. "Big Whoop" says the casual observer. Here is where the whoop comes in. The article appears in The New York Times Magazine. The second whoop arrives on our lips when we realize that the Oracle of Evantine Abbey has been quoted 3-4 times by name. Sure, I say somewhat unremarkable things but the mere mention has caused Fred Banks of the Drones Club (an avid reader of The Times) to pay up on his offer to agree with me for two weeks running (beginning tomorrow). The rest of you might wish to try it. Consider it a fasting from incorrectitude.


Jeff Moss said...

Congratulations on your appearance in the NY Times!

Ms. Worthen did a pretty good job of presenting a well-rounded view of her subject--New St. Andrews as a remarkable case study in classical education.

Between one thing and another, this article may be the most interesting thing to appear in the Times since they ran a photograph of my grandmother speaking at the Democratic National Convention, back in '92. She's about 4'9"; she had to stand on a crate behind the podium.

The Oracle said...

Thanks for the congrats. Let us move on to your two weeks of agreement with Evantine Order. It is good for the soul.

Thomas Banks said...

Jeff, don't stare into the tweed!

Anna said...

Father emailed me the article yesterday, and since I had previously heard about its makings from you (and Brooke) I read it with interest...of course I noted well your presence.

Matthew N. Petersen said...


Bill Gnade said...

Dear TEA/Oracle,

Somehow I found my way here; Ms. Worthen's article served as a very reticent guide. Nevertheless I made it, and I am glad.

May I ask about "The Great Unpleasantness"; is it akin to "The Great War" between Lewis and Barfield? Have you posted (here) any details about the matter? Is it solely a dispute about God and omniscience, freedom and the future?

I'd love to know more.

Yes, I found Ms. Worthen's article very interesting and (seemingly) quite fair. Apparently your brother took umbrage with a few minor items (or so he says at his website), but he applauds the piece overall.

Here's something perhaps you can answer for me: what do you think NSA alumnus -- Matthew McCabe -- meant when he said that NSA students "want to be medieval Protestants"?

Lastly, for fun, Chesterton's rapier wit and clever turns of phrase might not prove he's a giant, but such qualities at least suggest it. No doubt Oscar Wilde was also rather clever with his pen (I blush), but he seems to lack the Thomistic rigor we expect of the truly analytical; one might not call him a "great thinker" either. But I honestly don't know a great writer who is/was not also a great thinker. Wilde's simple statement -- "The supreme vice is shallowness" -- has stuck to me like few statements ever have, even biblical statements; most of the great polemics I've read have not had the same lasting impact. That sort of ability, like Chesterton's, does not generally come from shallowness.

I ramble. Forgive me. To compare Wilde and Chesterton may be sacrilege here. I do not not know.

From (near) Peterborough, NH, where I make my home, let me at least say this, since Peterborough inspired "Our Town": Oscar's wild, but Thornton's wilder.

I couldn't resist.

Peace and mirth,

Bill Gnade

The Oracle said...

Welcome Bill,
The Great Unpleasantness is in ways like Barfield and Lewis. In this case both sides have espoused Christ though you could not get further apart within that camp. On one side Calvinist, Sacramental, Ritualistic, Covenental, and crypto-Catholic, while on the other Open Theist, Anabaptist, and Low Church. I still can have enlightening conversation with members of the first group (two of which commented graciously above) but the ecclesiastics of that set have banned me. They have decided that I am in the thrall of bitterness and envy (for they have certainly been more successful than I) which has left me no place to call mine own except heresy.
I haven't really posted on it but some things have been vaguely on that stage.

Around here the buzz has been favorable to the article. I, of course, have photographed it from every angle and will vote myself a place on the wall of Great Moments in Drone History.

The Medieval Protestant tag is only temporary until the faithful swim the Tiber. What it amounts to is the desire to have all those controlling, traditional loyalties available in a Protestant venue. Those who lack a legitimate epistemology to defend their beliefs need to have an authoritative church to which they may appeal and a credulous congregant who will slavishly adore the mysteries they announce.

I agree with you on Chesterton and Wilde. My comment was more about the trendy appreciation of Chesterton's writings hereabouts of which no one seemed even able to frame the question "Is he correct?"
A gentleman once asked me what (besides the required) standards would I look for in a husband for my eligible daughter. I said wit and the reason is that a wit is so confident of the handling of linear knowledge that he can announce to his company a lateral application. In other words a wit is a man with his hands on the wheel.

The Oracle

Jeff Moss said...


Evan's comment was quite enlightening, but I'll still add my two cents from "the other side"... :-)

As one who might be described as Calvinist, Sacramental, Ritualist, Covenantal, and crypto-Catholic (this last only because I believe that the Church is the Body of Christ and not a random assemblage of individual believers)--I have a different perspective on the "Medieval Protestant" label. Judging by how I have heard and (once in a great while) used the term here in Moscow, it has much more to do with society and culture than it does with the authority and hierarchy of the Church.

A medieval Protestant is someone who simultaneously holds the medieval view that all the universe is centered on Christ, and rejects the Western-Medieval perversion that Christ's earthly authority is concentrated in one man who sits on a special chair in Rome. But if all the universe centers on Christ, then we ought to see Christ wherever we look--in the arts, in flora and fauna, in education, in cities, in the countryside, in politics, and especially in the Church, which is His Body. Since Christ is one, all of these things form a real unity. Since sin has corrupted the world from the time of Adam, all of these things picture Christ with varying degrees of imperfection, and yet He is at work inexorably "making all things new" for the glorious Consummation of All Things in which all traces of sin will have been wiped away.

We are Protestants. We see the Church as centralized in a divine sense, since Christ is her Lord and the Spirit is her Guide. But humanly speaking, the Church is very much decentralized and diverse, and that is all as it should be.

This is just a supposition--and Evan, forgive me if I'm overstating or distorting your position here--but Evan's perception of "medieval Protestantism" as being fundamentally about ecclesiastical authority may derive from his conviction that everything in the world comes down to governance. I, on the other hand, drawing on Augustine, see the basic principle of God's world as love. Love needs no centralization, no top-heavy authority structure--unless indeed it be in the Holy Trinity, the God who "is" Himself "love."

Matthew N. Petersen said...

If I may comment a little from the other side too, if Doug Wilson is a crypto-Catholic just waiting to swim the Tiber, so is C. S. Lewis, and so is Martin Luther.

Perhaps Luther's Small Catechism is incorrect, but it certianly isn't Catholic.

"What does Baptism give or profit?

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God?

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

"What is the benefit of such eating and drinking [in the Sacrament]?

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation."

And if Evan wants to object to Doug's assertion that Evan protests because of envy etc. (as I think he should) it doesn't quite make sense for him to then say we believe what we do because of a desire for controlling loyalties in a Protestant venue.

Also, I think Chesterton would approve of the comparison with Wilde.

The Oracle said...

Jeff, I think you are correct. I still think something is missing in that analysis. While it may be true the the Medievals associated their whole wold with Christ they also interposed the "church" in between. The worst postmodern emergent Christian has Christ as his center but without orthodoxy, the creeds, the traditions in between. To have Christ as the center of all things is not sufficiently distinctive to account for a medieval protestant. I would still say that the interposition of the church as a higher and more grace transferring institution is what the medieval protestants find in common with the medieval mind.

Matthew N. Petersen said...


You are probably right. But f you are, there is nothing Tiberward about that. There is something distinctly not Anabaptist, but Lutherans and Anglicans and Reformed and Orthodox all also believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, and we interact with Christ through our neighbor.

Actually that isn't true either. There is something distinctly not Anabaptist in our position on who constitutes the church. But to seek to see Christ through the medium of the Church is something even you believe in. You disagree with us over who is the Church, but you agree with us that we receive Christ by fellowshiping with our fellow Christians.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Evan,

The oracle has spoken, and his message is quite clear and to the point. Thank you. But I may be a dolt in these matters, since I do not tend to make these sorts of distinctions all that often. I am too a-muddle for that: I am an Episcopalian-in-exile (Mr. Gene Robinson and I did not see eye-to-eye on one triviality) currently attending an evangelical church while attending RCIA classes in the local RC parish (I am an 'inquirer', not a candidate). While I may partake in several Christian traditions, I find I am unable to make as many distinctions as you -- and Mr. Moss -- make here. Perhaps I can't make those distinctions because I am not well-versed in Reformed Theology (or even theology in general).

I find your interest in Open Theology thoroughly fascinating. My guess is that your interest is not considered a mere hobby but outright heresy by your 'convinced-otherwise' peers, driving them all rather batty. I have made similar inquiries into the omniscience and prescience of God, but such explorations always leave me shivering in atheism's icy and lonely grip. I've a frail faith.

Surely the Moscow faithful do not believe Chesterton 'correct'; maybe Chesterton the Anglican is more palatable. Or do you really see these folks converting -- like Mr. Chesterton -- to Catholicism? I can understand a Protestantism with all the trimmings of a Magisterium, where local heavies create their own version of a papal see. I mean, who wouldn't want to be viewed as an authority? I just can't imagine a bunch of Calvinists rushing forward to be fed the 'real' Real Presence; but I can imagine sundry groups becoming papal councils with all vigor and certitude. Perhaps you are a victim of the latter. Surely many of us have been victimized by such a thing.

You strike me as a decent, thoughtful and colorful soul. I am honored to make your acquaintance; I am thankful you've taken time to respond to my query. One thing you wrote leaves me feeling I will be back. You wrote:

"Those who lack a legitimate epistemology to defend their beliefs need to have an authoritative church to which they may appeal and a credulous congregant who will slavishly adore the mysteries they announce."

That's interesting stuff!



Matthew N. Petersen said...


There are, or course, some converts from here to Orthodoxy or Catholicism, as from anywhere. But not in alarming numbers. The truly apt comparison would be to Wittenberg (just don't tell a Lutheran), or better yet, Geneva. No, we wouldn't teach the local presence, but it is not uncommon to hear people refer to eating Christ in the Eucharist. Remember, Abraham Kuyper (a prominent Dutch Reformed theologian) said he would rather commune with Lutherans than Zwinglians. That is, he believed people who believed the Bread and Wine were actually the Body and Blood of Christ were far closer to his position than people who believe the Lord's Table was just a memorial.

For a more academic stance from people in with us, see the article on The Lord's Supper on this page:

(I cannot link directly to it, PDF isn't working on this computer.)

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And Evan, I think there can be a more charitable interpretation of NSA students not defending Chesterton too well. He's new, he seems right, he feels right, but he hasn't gotten deep enough into NSA students yet for them to be able formulate why he's so appealing. But that really shouldn't be a problem. Not all reasoning is destructive, finding everything that should be discarded and moving from there. Someone who's read Orthodoxy once is in no position to defend Chesterton. He's ran into a slew of ideas he likes, and wants to think them through, and from them, but hasn't yet had a chance to synthesize them all, nor to find their foundation.

Please, try to be charitable. That means, not only doing nice things, but putting good spins on their actions. Your analysis that we slavishly follow our pope-like pastors is inappropriate to any discussion, and uncharitable even to think.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And to expect that they be able to stay with you is, nonsense. It's like asking a True Freshman linebacker to cover Randy Moss.

Jeff Moss said...

...or like asking Jeff Moss to cover Randy Moss?

But your point is well-taken, Matt. Evan's skillfulness in debate and reasoned argument is legendary.

Lincoln Davis said...


I would like to generally applaud you on being consistently the most gracious person I have run across on the blog scene. You do your denomination, and more importantly, all of Christianity, a great credit.

God bless,


Bill Gnade said...

Dear Jeff Moss,

I thank you for taking the time with me. I bid you peace.

Permit me to be confused. You said that you do not believe the Church is a "random assemblage of believers"; the Church, you aver, is "the Body of Christ." I infer from this, then, that Evan believes the Church to be a random assemblage, or is this a wrong inference? Is the disputed word "random"? Surely it is not "assemblage"; surely the Body of Christ IS an assemblage of believers, no? Does Evan think the Body of Christ is a "random" collection because of his penchant for Open Theism?

Appearances aside, it at least sounds like the debate is about some sort of scale of Being -- "Being in" or "of" Christ. To the Open Theist, God cannot know afore-hand who will be with Him and who will not; to the Calvinist, God cannot be surprised (tangent: if surprise is integral to joy, then can God not know joy?) and thus He not only knows beforehand who will join Him, He chooses His followers. The former suggests a shop proprietor opening his doors to "whoever and whatever chooses to come"; the latter suggests a proprietor who not only prints fine invitations, he makes his privileged guests' decisions for them.

I wonder, though, why you would stop at Rome, calling the Holy See a perversion. Is Rome not the image of the Body of Christ par excellence? Surely there is nothing random about a papal court; surely there is nothing chancy about a papal assemblage. But perhaps these questions veil a fallacy that I cannot see.

I gather, Moss, (which proves I am not a rolling stone [cd. I resist?]), that to be a medieval Protestant a person is to be Catholic in ontology and epistemology, but free of papal absurdity, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption. To the medieval Protestant, the cosmos trembles with the presence of God. To the medieval Protestant, all of life is to be redeemed, sanctified: the Church is called to preach the gospel to all, even to all living things. There is no off-limits to the presence of God; like Him, we too are deeply interested and invested, excepting those things that are intrinsically evil, accepting those things that are salvageable. Am I going in the right direction here?

About the Body of Christ. Is Christ sinful? Is He imperfect? If not, then is His Body also not sinful, also not imperfect? But you have said that the Body of Christ is only "divinely" centralized; it is not yet integrated and it is not yet perfect. Have I represented you correctly? I THINK I have, but I am not sure.

I don't have answers to my questions. They may be dumb questions; they may be obscene. All I know, really, is that I have them.

Peace to you, Mr. Moss. From what I can tell, Lincoln Davis is right about your spirit of graciousness. But I have found nothing but grace here so far.

Bill Gnade

The Oracle said...

Part of the confusion of these ideas is the mere presence of all these ideas. Simplify people! I know you can do it. Clarity!
With that in mind, (and with my son I commend the visitors in this stream for their insights and graces), I think that part of the problem twixt myself and the Moss and the Petersen is when we get to the point of the centrality of Christ. I mentioned earlier that the interposition of a gracing institutional unit was detrimental and Bill's remark introduces another aspect. He drew attention to the "random assemblage" wording re. the church. The All Christendom Set see institutional union with the church as the metaphysical path to it and in it. They see their physical rites as personal contact with Jesus. This exposes the arena of difference. Is the path, the gospel of Christ only in retention of the name of Christ (and however I can make myself feel that "Christ" is my all) or is it individual faith in his personal sacrifice, resurrection and ascension for the forgiveness of my sins and the award of life eternal? In this we are deciding what is this "church" that we each claim. If the former, all sorts of artful, traditional, emergent, and even Mormon possibilities arise but it is my belief that if these are saved it is through no fault of their religion. If the latter, the church is made up of, and only up of those that have encountered their own sinful guilt, saw the offer of forgiveness and freedom from eternal damnation and took it. I find it hard to reverence a "church" which I don't believe is the church. It is not being defined on even the same axis as the true assemblage (be it elect or random) of belief.
The Question:
Is the Gospel Christ?
Is the Gospel the Need of Man, the Deed of Christ, and the Sinner's Submission in Faith that God will save him?
You can understand how differing on this point will have us talking at cross purposes.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Evan,

As I was reading your latest comment, an expletive came to my mind that begins with Holy. I say this with a smile on my face. Clearly, I am in WAY OVER MY HEAD. What you have just posted hurts my brain: I feel like I am reading Kant! This is not an insult I hurl your way. This is me flaying myself for thinking I have anything meaningful to say. Kant was truly hard for me; this too, will take some time.

I will have to digest what you've written here before I can say one thing more.



Jeff Moss said...

Dear Bill,

I appreciate your questions and humble acknowledgment of your own limitations in these matters. Judging by your photo, I am much younger than you, and Evan is old enough to be my father as well. So please continue to take my comments with grace and good humor, as the words of a young Christian man who has learned a few things and is trying to put them together in ways that may be helpful to others.

You wrote, To the medieval Protestant, the cosmos trembles with the presence of God. To the medieval Protestant, all of life is to be redeemed, sanctified: the Church is called to preach the gospel to all, even to all living things. There is no off-limits to the presence of God; like Him, we too are deeply interested and invested, excepting those things that are intrinsically evil, accepting those things that are salvageable. Beautiful! Whether the "medieval Protestantism" label stays with us or is forgotten, that is the truth about God's world and the call that His people are to follow.

Evan gave the challenge to "Simplify! Clarify!", so here is my attempt to do so. The question: Is God's love (and, likewise, His wrath) to be found primarily in tangible means through which He acts, or in unmediated outpourings direct from His spirit to ours? If the latter--which I think Evan believes--then it's important for you to have an individual and very "personal" experience of conversion after you're old enough to know what's what, because otherwise your spirit has nothing to go on to know that it's "in." If the former--which I believe--then you may be reconciled to God as an adult or raised in His house from infancy ... but either way you receive His love regularly and gratefully in the Bible, the Lord's Supper, the church fellowship, family, food, work, sun and rain, and countless other blessings that remain ungracious and irritating to the one who does not believe.

It is in this way that the Church can be the Body of Christ. And when I said Church, I was thinking of what is sometimes called the visible church, that time-and-space grouping of people who meet together for worship and fellowship Sunday after Sunday in their various places. The visible church with all her own very real imperfections is gradually being conformed into the perfection of Christ, her husband.

If the Church is only a hypothetical tally of all those souls that are being individually saved--one here, a handful there, and who can know for sure?--then where is Christ building His church (Matt. 16:18)? Who applies earthly discipline against sinners (Matt. 18:15-20)? Whom are we to edify with our spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:12)? And so forth. But if the Church is an earthly institution which has a role to play as the living hands and feet of God on earth (just as many other people and things are, in their own ways), then we may surely receive salvation in the church, without at all diminishing the rock-solid truth that salvation is the work of God alone--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Oracle said...

Exactly. When you say
"If the latter--which I think Evan believes--then it's important for you to have an individual and very "personal" experience of conversion after you're old enough to know what's what, because otherwise your spirit has nothing to go on to know that it's "in." If the former--which I believe--then you may be reconciled to God as an adult or raised in His house from infancy ... but either way you receive His love regularly and gratefully in the Bible, the Lord's Supper, the church fellowship, family, food, work, sun and rain, and countless other blessings that remain ungracious and irritating to the one who does not believe."
you are putting what I put from the other side.
Your version of salvation is as a collateral effect of the church and mine is the church is the collateral effect of my salvation. Thus far we have agreed on defining where we stand and we stand in different places.
Now: When you preach the Gospel is it "Come to church with me" or is it "Repent and believe."?
I am wondering if you are a closet anabaptist masquerading as a high churchman.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

But if I may challange something, I disagree with Jeff, but agree with Evan. I agree with Evan that it is absolutely necessary that we have direct unmediated personal contact with God. I agree with Evan that in the Old Covenant God used material things as an intermediate, but now he has come among us, and interacts with us Himself.

The difference I have with Evan is that I believe the one who interacts with us is the Man Jesus Christ. We interact with the Man Jesus Christ like we would any other man physically. But our physical interaction with the physical man Jesus Christ is an interaction directly with God, for Jesus is God.

To say the same thing another way: The Man Jesus Christ does two things. First, He offers Himself to the Father. Second, He offers Himself to us, communes with us, and raises us up to Him. On all this, Evan and I agree. We also agree that it is by our direct unmediated communion with Jesus Christ that we come into union with God.

Our difference is here: I believe it is the man Jesus Christ who acts on us. Evan believes God acts on us, and Jesus is God, but he does not believe the man Jesus Christ acts on us. The man Jesus Christ, who is God, acts on us as any other man would, through his body.

Thus I believe Christ is no more limited than any other man. Just as at school I can and do interact with a baby, just as at school, I can and do interact with a severly handicaped girl, by physically touching them, and physically talking to the; so Christ can and does interact with babies and with severly handicaped people.

We differ on two points. The incarnation, and the resurrection. I believe we interact directly with a physical man. And our interaction with that man is of the same sort as our interaction with other men. It's physical.

And I believe it will remain thus in eternity. The dead shall be raised and corruption will put on incorruption and this mortal will put on immortality. But we shall remain physical, and our interaction will remain physical. Our interaction with eachother, and our interaction with Christ.

If you are wondering, yes I believe we receive the Holy Spirit. I don't deny that. But I believe we receive the Spirit through the action of the physical man Jesus Christ. Or rather, we receive the Spirit by physically interacting with the physical man Jesus Christ.

To answer Evan's question: I think I would tell them "repent and be baptized you and your children for the remission of sins." Kinda like Peter did.

The Oracle said...

As reported in The New York Times Magazine:
"Evan sees a lack of critical thinking among N.S.A. students, an inability to systematically question their own assumptions."

The ailment is spreading.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Is your brother's family catching his disease?

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Or perhaps you find the idea that "all the fullness of godhead dwells (not dwelt) in Him bodily" to seriously lack critical thinking skills? I'm a little curious how NSA students could spread their ailment to the Apostle Paul.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Evan,


You wrote:

The Question:
Is the Gospel Christ? or

Is the Gospel the Need of Man, the Deed of Christ, and the Sinner's Submission in Faith that God will save him?
You can understand how differing on this point will have us talking at cross purposes.

Assuming I must choose one over the other -- pretending that these are the only two questions one could ask on the matter -- I would choose the first: Christ is the Gospel. For the second option fails for me on a couple of levels. First, the "Need of Man" is not good news in and of itself (it is actually quite bad news). In fact, the need of man is really a question; but the good news cannot be a question, it can only be an answer. Second, the "Sinner's Submission in Faith that God will save him" may be a type of "good news", but such a type is not something I would preach as good news. The sinner's response is not THE good news, no matter how much we are edified to hear of the sinner's salvation; the good news is that there is Something to which the Sinner can respond: there is an Answer. I don't go about preaching that Smith has been saved or even that he might be saved. I preach that Christ has -- or at least can -- save Smith. The Christian message is still "good news" irrespective of anyone's response to it.

Christ as the Gospel strikes me as a perfectly suitable Gospel: "Christ" connotes Jesus' anointed, messianic status as Savior; it connotes that He is a Savior Who acts, Who intercedes. The title includes the implied questions: Who can save us from our sins? -- and -- Do we need a Savior?

Perhaps I have played mere semantics here.

You asked Jeff:

When you preach the Gospel is it "Come to church with me" or is it "Repent and believe."?

Can I answer that I think it is both, and that either is fine? I hope so. To urge someone to come to church is another way of saying that such a person should repent and believe; to urge them to repent and believe is to invite them to church. It may be false that "wherever the Bishop is there too is the Church," but it is also false that where Christ is there is no Church. Conversely, it is hard to imagine a Church without Christ; I think we can safely say that there are indeed dead "churches" who have not only left their first love but never even had a first love. But we would be remiss to ever call these places a "church" in the sense we mean it when we say, "Please, come to church with me." We always mean by "church" the family of God bound together in doctrine, belief, faith, love, baptism, Eucharist -- and submission to the Risen Christ our Lord. We are not inviting people to something peripheral, tangential, accidental, or irrelevant.

Nor do we ever mean by "repent and believe" something that one does in isolation. No doubt conversion does happen in isolation, but this is hardly the norm, nor even the ideal. The very Fall was a social event. How much more salvation? Salvation does not happen ex nihilo: the Great Commission implies rather strongly that the Church is go out and make disciples, which is a very social thing indeed. In other words, salvation happens within the Church: the Church preaches, and the believing, repentant sinner is received into the Church. The saving does not occur outside while the discipling happens inside; both happen within the Church. And since the Church abides in Christ, the repentant sinner is in Christ, too.

Does this make sense, or am I wandering like a drunk at night short-cutting through the flooded fens? If there is one thing that makes utter sense to me it is the claim that there is no salvation outside the Church. I am not averring that you are denying this. But those who do seem to be like the man who insists that one can indeed breath outside the earth's atmosphere.

Peace to you,


Jeff Moss said...


I'm glad to see that I'm stating your position fairly accurately (and you mine).

Of course, I wouldn't exactly say that "salvation is ... a collateral effect of the church." However, if you put it to me this way--"Did God betroth the Church to His Son in order to have something to do with all the saved individuals, or did He save individual people in order to form the Church as a bride for His Son?"--then I would gladly choose the second option. :-)

Now: When you preach the Gospel is it "Come to church with me" or is it "Repent and believe."?

My answer to this is what I believe is the best and most Biblical answer: "It depends."

The call of the Gospel is worded differently depending on the circumstances of those to whom it is addressed. It may be, "Repent and believe" (Mark 1:15), but as Matt points out, it may also be, "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). (Would you call the Apostle Peter a Sacramentalist, or perhaps a crypto-Catholic?) For Jews it may be, "We have found the Messiah" (John 1:41), and for seekers of wonders it may be, "See a Man who told me everything that I ever did" (John 4:29). As John Piper points out, in our hedonistic yet empty society the most straightforward proclamation of Gospel may well be: "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). And yet for some people, the call of the Gospel is the simple one that Philip gave to Nathanael: "Come and see" (John 1:46). That is: Come, see Jesus for yourself. How does one do this? By joining himself to the number of Jesus' disciples, as Nathanael did. After all, the Lord Himself said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).

Let me give you a brief case study: A relative of mine, with whom I talk frequently, was raised in a secular Jewish home but has recently been moving toward Christianity. She prays in Jesus' name, speaks of putting her faith in Jesus, submitting to God's leading, etc. Yet neither she nor I think of her as a Christian. Why? Because she refuses (so far) to receive Christian baptism, refuses to associate herself with a church, and prefers that her relationship with Jesus (such as it is) be on her own terms. I do not believe that this kind of faith, even though it be outwardly in Christ's name, is true saving faith.

P.S. As I was about to post, I saw that Mr. Gnade had already written with thoughts on these points. I find myself in strong agreement with what he has to say here.

The Oracle said...

Sometimes in my simplification attempts I open doors that I did not intend. Bill and Jeff, I agree
with a lot of what you said. It is not, in truth and either/or regarding Christ and the Gospel or Church and Repent and Believe. I was responding to the position I saw staked out that did not seem to see the centrality of personal, individual faith in the atoning work of Christ for salvation. Bill, you suggested the the very title ofCHrist included all those narratvie aspects of the Gospel, and I agree. But if I never say that those are the narratives that I am believing for my salvation, the Mormon walks up to the Protestant and says with effect, "I believe in Christ too." When crypto-catholics start suggesting that an infant getting dipped is gracing that child with Christ they have used the "Its all about Christ" as a smarmy escape into their priestcraft and superstition.
Bill, you mentioned that church was not "something peripheral, tangential, accidental, or irrelevant." I agree but the swing of that agreement does not carry me back to Rome. Try these words on for size "subsequent, resultant, intended, and beneficial"
I disagree that the Fall was social "as in one man".
I disagree that salvation and discipling happen within the church, though they might. Evangelism happens usually in the sanctuary of the world.
Jeff, thanks for the reassuring noise regarding "saving individuals to form the Church" As to your relative, I would agree with you to a point. As soon as she claims that she is a Christian on the basis of this faith of hers and lives in keeping with the faith (fellowship, obedience etc) I would consider her a Christian. Baptism is one of the obediences I would expect her not to have resistance to ("deny me before men...") but it is not the ordained bureaucracy of heaven or the church.

and Matt:
1) Jesus is physical
2)it followeth in no way that the very bestest Christianity is that which hands me the elements of the Lord's Table and says "The more physically one with Christ you can believe this to be, the more grace you get." Existing physically does not necessitate the physicality of a loving relationship. In fact Christ's union with the Holy Spirit is complete and by definition, will never be physical.
3)Theresa of Avila's orgasmic claims of union with Christ are the defensible child of such a notion.
4) "If you do not have the spirit of Christ you do not have Christ."

Matthew N. Petersen said...

I had thought you meant the reasoning skills of NSA students were affecting you. In none of your points do you deal with my point.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And stop with the "crypto-Catholic" nonsense. Was C. S. Lewis Crypto-Catholic? Martin Luther? John Wesley? By your terminology they would be.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Evan, your statement "When crypto-catholics start suggesting that an infant getting dipped is gracing that child with Christ they have used the "Its all about Christ" as a smarmy escape into their priestcraft and superstition." Is far more offensive and far more confrontational, and far more serated edge than anything I have ever heard your brother say.

The Anti Darwin I said...

So..."God cannot predestine our future because the future does not exist", eh?

I knew you were going to say that.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

"Words, words, words...."

I dropped by to also congratulate Evan on his appearance in the Times. He is a man who loves the Savior and the life He has given, with intelligence, wit and understanding.