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What I Read Online – 03/12/2012 (p.m.)

13 Mar
    • The first type of answer is one given by some (though not all) within the Newfrontiers churches. The argument is that a CU is not a church. However
    • The second type of answer is one that has been expressed by the conservative evangelical movement, Church Student Ministries (though again, members of the movement are not unified behind it). This argues quite the opposite, that a CU is a church. The problem is that a CU is simply ‘church done badly’
    • Recently, however, some Protestants have been prepared to take this reasoning to conclusions that have never been reached by Rome itself. That is, that if that is the Church, then how the local churches meet and operate can be much more (perhaps almost entirely) liquid. If there are faithful people meeting together to encounter Christ, then that is a valid local expression of the heavenly reality. Matthew 18:20 is habitually mis-quoted here to suggest that ‘where two or three gather in my name’, there is a church. Yet in the context, the ‘two or three’ are specifically distinguished from the church as being a special delegation from the church charged with bringing the sinning Christian back to repentance.
    • Traditionally, Protestant (and, in fact, Eastern Orthodox) theologians have held that to give such weighting to the universal Church at the expense of the local church is imbalanced and unscriptural. The New Testament, they have argued, is just as interested in both the local church itself and how it should look
    • 1530 as article 7 of the Augsburg Confession, the first Lutheran confession of faith. It reads: ‘The church is the congregation of the saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments rightly administered.’
    • Calvin did little more than quote it to give his definition: ‘Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.’[3]
    • Article XIX of the Church of England’s 39 articles similarly reads: ‘The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same
    • In addition to those two defining marks of a church, some Reformers wanted to add a third defining mark: discipline. The First Scotch Confession of 1560 therefore reads:

       

      The notes, signes and assured takens whereby the immaculate Spouse of Christ Jesus is knawen fra the horrible harlot, the Kirk malignant … we beleeve, confesse, and avow to be, first, the trew preaching of the Worde of God, into the quhilk God has revealed himselfe unto us, as the writings of the Prophets and Apostles dois declair. Secundly, the right administration of the Sacraments of Christ Jesus, quhilk man be annexed unto the word and promise of God, to seale and confirme the same in our hearts. Last, Ecclesiastical discipline uprightlie ministred, as Goddis Worde prescribes, whereby vice is repressed, and vertew nurished.[6]

    • There it is made very clear that, for Calvin, the appointment of pastors is never merely incidental. It is not just one convenient way for a church to operate. For Calvin, there is no church without a minister of the Word.
    • If there are to be believers in Christ, there must first be preachers of Christ. The Word of salvation comes through humanity from incarnation to the Sunday sermon
    • The great Puritan theologian of the church, Thomas Goodwin, said of these gifts of ministers: ‘next to God’s Son and Spirit, these are the greatest gifts, because conveyors of both to us’.[7]
    • There seem to be only two qualifications that could not be demanded of all Christians. First, 1 Timothy 3:2: he must be ‘able to teach’; which seems fairly similar to Titus 1:9: ‘He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.’ Thus the first distinctive about the elder is that he must be able to teach.
    • The second distinctive qualification for being an elder is 1 Timothy 3:6: ‘He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil.’ There we see the necessity of the ministry of the Word, and something of what it will look like. That, very roughly, is where the Reformers left off.
    • The amazing Heidelberg Catechism, for instance, which is probably the most Trinitarian of the Reformed confessions, has this to say on the Church: ‘the Son of God, by his Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for himself unto everlasting life, a chosen communion’.[12]
    • The amazing Heidelberg Catechism, for instance, which is probably the most Trinitarian of the Reformed confessions, has this to say on the Church: ‘the Son of God, by his Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for himself unto everlasting life, a chosen communion’.[12]
    • The amazing Heidelberg Catechism, for instance, which is probably the most Trinitarian of the Reformed confessions, has this to say on the Church: ‘the Son of God, by his Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for himself unto everlasting life, a chosen communion’.[12]
    • The amazing Heidelberg Catechism, for instance, which is probably the most Trinitarian of the Reformed confessions, has this to say on the Church: ‘the Son of God, by his Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for himself unto everlasting life, a chosen communion’.[12]
    • Pride, or fastidiousness, or emulation, induces many to persuade themselves that they can profit sufficiently by reading and meditating in private, and thus to despise public meetings, and deem preaching superfluous. But since as much as in them lies they loose or burst the sacred bond of unity, none of them escapes the just punishment of this impious divorce, but become fascinated with pestiferous errors, and the foulest delusions.[13]
    • Pride, or fastidiousness, or emulation, induces many to persuade themselves that they can profit sufficiently by reading and meditating in private, and thus to despise public meetings, and deem preaching superfluous. But since as much as in them lies they loose or burst the sacred bond of unity, none of them escapes the just punishment of this impious divorce, but become fascinated with pestiferous errors, and the foulest delusions.[13]
    • Pride, or fastidiousness, or emulation, induces many to persuade themselves that they can profit sufficiently by reading and meditating in private, and thus to despise public meetings, and deem preaching superfluous. But since as much as in them lies they loose or burst the sacred bond of unity, none of them escapes the just punishment of this impious divorce, but become fascinated with pestiferous errors, and the foulest delusions.[13]
    • However desirable that diversity may be, it does not seem that diversity per se can claim to be a formal distinguishing mark of what a church is. Churches in Nigeria are unlikely to attract many Eskimos
    • However desirable that diversity may be, it does not seem that diversity per se can claim to be a formal distinguishing mark of what a church is. Churches in Nigeria are unlikely to attract many Eskimos
    • If as evangelicals, however, we follow our theological ancestors in their reading of what the Bible has to say about the Church, then we cannot say that a CU is a church in any more specific sense.
    • Instead it might be said that CU leaders have a role corresponding to that of deacons in the Bible, for they do have a real responsibility within the church
    • That said, UCCF has no wish to confuse CU leaders with deacons, CU leaders are not appointed by the local churches
    • At this point the practical necessity for such teaching is worth noting. The matter is quite simple: healthy, effective, faithful Christian witness requires biblical fuel – indeed, the whole counsel of God – not just pragmatic tips. It would be a mistake to conclude from the fact that a CU is a mission team that it should be fed solely on a diet of exhortation to evangelism. No evangelical mission team would set out without re-filling their hearts and minds with the gospel, just as no evangelical mission team would imagine setting out without prayerfully committing themselves and their endeavour to the Lord. From this we can say:
    • First: a CU cannot function as a church in the manner in which Paul and the apostles wanted churches to function because it does not have an appointed ministry of word, sacrament and discipline, and must not pretend to
    • Secondly: a CU cannot function as a church because, for all the warmth and closeness of fellowship that can be experienced within a CU, it does not have the communal characteristics of a family that the Bible assumes.
    • Like a CU, a chaplaincy fails to qualify as a church, because, whilst there is a pastorate, there is no family community, but a constantly changing congregation
    • Perhaps the most significant for evangelicals in the UK and Australia is the case of Philip Jensen and his amazingly fruitful ministry in the University of New South Wales. The perception that may have fuelled some confusion has been this: Jensen was the pastor of a local church, St Matthias; but it was he – the local church pastor – who led the ministry to students at the University of New South Wales. There is an instance of a church reaching out to a particular university with the gospel.
    • That being the case, UCCF is not interested in creating chaplaincies, precisely because of its high view of the Church. UCCF does not only want to see students being taught the gospel, but to see them as part of their local churches.
    • Thirdly: a CU cannot function as a church is because it is a specialised ministry that is seeking to target only one mission field
    • there is a clear and definite distinction between a church, a chaplaincy and a CU. A CU is simply not the kind of ordered community with a specifically appointed ministry of the Word (which includes sacraments) that a church is
    • Another way of putting it might be to say that where the local church is an expression of the Christian goal of gathering around Christ, the CU is merely a means to that end. The CU seeks to lead students to the Church universal and thus the church local. The practical result is that, while it is undoubtedly a healthy and desirable thing for the student to be part of a CU, it cannot be said to be mandatory for the Christian. The CU is only one of the springboards for outreach. The same cannot be said for the local church. Unlike the CU, the local church itself expresses the goal of what it is to be a Christian.
    • A CU cannot qualify as a local church and so in no sense should it attempt to operate as one
    • A CU cannot qualify as a local church and so in no sense should it attempt to operate as one
    • Thus, while Paul’s ‘sending church’ can commend him to the Lord’s grace (and such blessing looks invaluable), we see missionary sodalities portrayed in Acts as operating almost entirely self-sufficiently. Just as we do not know much about the precise shape of the local church in the New Testament, so too we do not have much information on the shape of those missionary bands. What we can see, however, is that while local churches may have blessed, and even regulated, such sodalities, the actual administration of the sodality (including the appointment of new members) was left to itself. The result of this cooperation between the churches and the sodalities as seen in Acts was evidently a symbiotic relationship of mutual encouragement and edification between the two: just as the missionary bands were blessed and supported by the churches, so the churches were strengthened and equipped through the work of the bands.
    • Thus, while Paul’s ‘sending church’ can commend him to the Lord’s grace (and such blessing looks invaluable), we see missionary sodalities portrayed in Acts as operating almost entirely self-sufficiently. Just as we do not know much about the precise shape of the local church in the New Testament, so too we do not have much information on the shape of those missionary bands. What we can see, however, is that while local churches may have blessed, and even regulated, such sodalities, the actual administration of the sodality (including the appointment of new members) was left to itself. The result of this cooperation between the churches and the sodalities as seen in Acts was evidently a symbiotic relationship of mutual encouragement and edification between the two: just as the missionary bands were blessed and supported by the churches, so the churches were strengthened and equipped through the work of the bands.
    • On the one hand, we should encourage and not hinder individual initiatives
    • On the one hand, we should encourage and not hinder individual initiatives
    • On the other hand, whatever initiatives an individual or group may believe themselves called by God to make, they should wherever possible seek the counsel, goodwill, support and co-operation of the church. Indeed, they should desire to be a part of the church’s work rather than independent of it.
    • On the other hand, whatever initiatives an individual or group may believe themselves called by God to make, they should wherever possible seek the counsel, goodwill, support and co-operation of the church. Indeed, they should desire to be a part of the church’s work rather than independent of it.
    • With this we can heartily concur, for while we believe it is biblical for a sodality to self-administrate, like the missionary bands in Acts, the very existence of UCCF derives from a desire to see more students participating fully in the Body of Christ. CUs in no sense are intended to exist in competition with the local churches. They exist in order to bring people into them in a way that those local churches themselves could not bring about. A CU that is in right, cooperative relationship to the local church, properly led by student leaders who discern that they are not church elders, is we believe, a mission of the Spirit to be rejoiced in, and in no formal way ignores the Body.
    • Ed Clowney made a very pertinent application of this:

       

      The church, shattered by denominational division, dare not label parachurch organizations illegitimate. In part, they are simply activities of church members. In an undivided church, there would be ‘lay’ organizations, under the broad oversight of the government of the church, but not the immediate responsibility of the government of the church officers [as there are in the Catholic Church]. In part, they represent shared ministries across denominational barriers. That such ministries may be regarded as irregular in denominational polity may reveal more about sectarian assumptions in the polity than about violations of New Testament order.[21]

    • What this paper has shown is that for all CUs might have failed in practice to live out a biblical ecclesiology, their existence as entities distinct (though not independent) from the local church does have biblical, theological and historical warrant
    • One of the contenders is “presuppositionalism.” In its modern form, the pioneers include Abraham Kuyper, H. G. Stoker, Cornelius Van Til, and, in their own manner, Francis Schaeffer, Richard Mouw, John Frame, and Michael Goheen.
    • Unlike the classical approach, which begins with a logical demonstration, or the evidentialist view, which appeals directly to the facts, covenantal apologetics begins (positionally, not in every conversation) with the authority of divine revelation
    • So, then, how does the covenantal apologist actually argue for the faith? Do we ignore evidence and simply engage in a shouting match? No, the opposite. First, we strongly believe in a point of contact. It is what Calvin calls the “sense of deity,” based on passages such as Psalm 19 or Romans 1. An unbeliever knows God. Not just about him, but God himself in his many attributes. Certainly an unbeliever seeks to process that knowledge in a wrong direction, to his advantage (Rom. 1:18-23). But the knowledge is there, in the heart. Second, assuming this innate knowledge-cum-suppression, we move over onto the ground of our unbelieving friend. From there we attempt to show, on his own grounds, that there is a disconnect between the presuppositions and the claims. If this is God’s world, then we cannot succeed living in it if we deny him. Third, we invite our friend to “taste and see” how good the Lord is. As C. S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
    • It requires spending time with our interlocutor, and not the elevator speech.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Posted by on 13/03/2012 in Current Issues

 

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