Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The latest MoS is up.  This week we look at the issue of politics, public moral issues and how the church should respond to such matters.   While we agree that the church has to holds certain positions on certain issues, when it comes to church strategy, there are disagreements among us.  Thus, it is Byrd and Trueman versus Pruitt.  Of course, in 12 minutes we can only scratch the surface so we will be returning to this important topic in the future.

In the meantime, as we wrap up a complete year's worth of programs, it is worth remembering that we started as a means of giving a voice to the disenfranchised group of the bald, the bad and the ugly.  And like all such once idealist movements, we are coming under pressure to sell-out with product placement, capitulation to the youth market etc.  Thus, the Puppetnichols resort (200x151).jpg Master consulted with distinguished theologian, church historian, aspiring Top Man, and all-round influential person, Steve Nichols®. As a result of that, he sent us all for a Steve Nichols® Makeover at the Steve Nichols® Health Spa and Resort (pictured right)last week so that we might be able more effectively to reach out to a younger audience.  As you can see, Aimee is not persuaded by the results.

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Posted on Saturday, January 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

There is a fine interview over at National Review Online with legal philosopher, Francis Beckwith, on the issue of abortion.   For my money, Professor Beckwith is one of the sharpest minds out there working on the interface of law and ethics, especially on the matter of abortion, and this interview is well worth reading.  The key quotation, given Andrew Cuomo's recent statement, is this: "Will pro-lifers in New York State, including its Evangelical pastors and Catholic bishops, rise to the challenge, and stand up for the sheep that they have been called upon to guard and protect? Or will they remain mute and confirm what Governor Cuomo probably believes about the quality of their spines? Time will tell."

The MoS team discusses the broader issue on next Wednesday's Bully Pulpit.

Posted on Saturday, January 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Regular readers will know that I occasionally try to keep track of the ever-expanding letters which are being used to describe the sexual chaos that exists in PC World (and I am not referring to the magazine favoured by  computer geeks).  Well, Carlton Wynne has brought to my attention that Professor Robert George at Princeton has spotted a very strong contender for the title of the world's most exhaustively pious PC acronym.  This is from Lewis and Clark: LGBTQQAOPA.   This can be expressed longhand as "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, omnisexual, pansexual and allied community." 

Apart from the fact that the verbal effort required to be politically correct and not offend people is now likely to induce an asthma attack in anyone who does not have a high degree of aerobic fitness, the other interesting thing about this is the arrival of the terms 'omnisexual' and 'pansexual'.  I confess that I have not got the foggiest idea what these two assaults upon the English language represent and feel no urgent need to rectify my ignorance.  The roots would indicate they should be synonyms -- though synonyms for what? I also have a sneaking suspicion -- call me paranoid if you like -- that I may be the only category of person now excluded and oppressed.

Joking aside, the two new words would seem to imply a total abolition of distinguishing categories in the matters of sexuality and sexual identity.  Ironically, this would seem to render the preceding letter distinctions meaningless (perhaps even at some point in the near future potentially imperialist?).  In the land of the utterly free, the meaning of sex is always a matter of purely (sic) individual construction.  When a category embraces everything in general, it embraces nothing in particular.  When thatPrometheus.jpg category purports to be in some way political or ethical -- well, you can draw the conclusion for yourself.

And yet before we thank the Lord that we are not as other men/women/persons of alternative gender/persons of other alternative gender (and so on for 97 bien-pensant pages), remember there is continuity here: the Promethean moment came when sex became primarily a matter of individual fulfillment, a recreational activity freed from the bonds of permanent, loving, sacrificial relationships.  

That was when the hand dared to seize the fire. 

Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The latest Mortification of Spin is up.  This week, the team tackle the issue of what constitutes a good sermon.   In one of the outtakes, I did get a chance to show Todd and Aimee a diagram explaining the differences between the OPC and their own chosen denomination, the PCA, but it seems the Puppetmaster censored that part. Fortunately, the magic moment was captured in a photograph.
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Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

There are a number of problems with Jeremy's Owenian take on liturgy.

First, Owen himself must be read against the background of the way in which state imposition of liturgy had taken place within the English context.  This lies behind Owen's tendentious and, indeed, fallacious history of liturgy which prefaces his major work against the imposition of liturgy.  This is what makes Owen's statements on liturgy hard to apply to today: as someone who had suffered under state imposition of liturgy, he came to the issue with certain predispositions which were not entirely theological.

Second, the apparent equation of liturgy with ritualism and formalism is untenable, although Jeremy does not make it clear whether he regards all formal liturgy as ritualistic and formalistic or, if he does not, where he would draw the line. 

The Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Knox, Cranmer) are scarcely evidence of an age lacking in 's/Spiritually substantial men' and yet each of them saw formal liturgy -- and quite elaborate liturgy, at least by English non-conformist standards -- as vitally important to intelligent, biblical worship.  And none of them advocated the 'four hymn sandwich' or any thing that comes close -- not that that makes the FHS necessarily wrong; but it might give pause for thought.

The difference is not between churches who have liturgies and churches who do not; it is between churches who have intelligent ones that are theologically informed, which they acknowledge and upon which they reflect, and those who do not.  Whether one writes them down or not, and indeed how elaborate they are, is irrelevant when it comes to the question of formalism.   Formalism is a matter of the heart, not of the written page.   After all, unless one speaks in tongues, one is probably using written liturgical tools such as psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Enthusiasm and formalism are also not mutually exclusive categories.  As a student during a brief -- ahem -- 'enthusiastic' phase, I attended a Pentecostal church for a few months: I left because it was patently obvious that the minister spoke the same glossalalic utterance -- unwritten word for unwritten word --every week. .

In fact, the use of historic liturgy, like the use of historic creeds and confessions, can carry with it powerful biblical impulses: it can give the church service dynamic, intelligent, theological movement; it can prevent people from saying stupid and heretical things in public worship; it can teach people profound theology; it can give people exalted, appropriate, and beautiful language to express themselves; and it can remind us that we connect to a past.   

Thus, it seems to me unnecessary to see the arrival of liturgy in Colorado Springs asseedy searle.jpg necessarily representing some kind of formalist dust inevitably filling a vacuum left by the departure of megachurch evangelicalism.

And if familiarity does on occasion breed contempt, that is not the fault of the written liturgy we might choose to use on a Sunday, however elaborate it may be, as it is also not the fault of the written hymns we decide sing, or indeed the written Bible we love read.

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

If you are trapped inside in the snow and have read all the Danielle Steel on the bookshelves and stoked the fire with a few end time novels, here are a few other places which might provide food for thought.

Banner of Truth has a couple of new videos where Mark Johnston and Ian Hamilton talk about some aspects of the publishing work of the Trust.  Think Thomas Goodwin and Samuel Rutherford being directed in a movie by John Cassavetes with a budget provided by Hetty Green in a bad mood.

Tim Challies reviews a book by Ref21 regular, Rob Ventura, on spiritual warfare.

And, in case you missed it, Lutheran thinker, Gene Veith, has an interesting piece on the arrival of formal liturgy in an unlikely place which he thinks may be a watershed for evangelicalism.  An excellent piece, it still leaves me wondering if too many are not still mesmerised by the reification of "evangelicalism' which seems to be whatever anyone wishes to make it and to exist mainly as the unquestioned foundation of loose affiliations which make up parachurch groupings.   If David Wells is right in his new book that forms of worship and content of theology are not neatly and cleanly separable (to which me might also add polity and forms of pastoral care, to name but two), then, whatever theological doctrines "evangelicals" hold in common, to hypothesize a coherent, reified entity such as "evangelicalism' without the addition of significant adjectives asmolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg qualifications, seems a bit of a stretch and of interest only to those who have, well, a vested interest in claiming that it does exist (and, usually, that they should be in charge of it and its various institutions).  

Posted on Monday, January 20, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Tim Wengert, my opposite number at the Lutheran Seminary in Germantown, has just published a thought-provoking book on Luther and the Bible, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther.   In applying Luther's canonicity criterion of 'What pushes Christ' to the Left Behind series, he says the following:

By Luther's criterion, the Left Behind series (or, as I like to call it, the "Home Alone" series) is not worth a person's time, unless perhaps he or she is caught in a lake cabin during a snowstorm and has already read all the Danielle Steele on the shelves.  But even then one may prefer to use them as fuel for the fire.

Hard to believe that even Doc Martin himself could have put it so beautifully.

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

I am told that customers at WTS Bookstore are now requesting pictures of certainphoto.JPG Westminster Faculty, pictures which are designed to help bring out their inner beauty and winsome personalities, to accompany orders.   Here is one example of the quality work these men at the bookstore can do.  Not quite Lucas Cranach the Elder but, knowing the faculty member concerned, I can vouch for the fact that, like Lucas with Katie, the beauty of the sitter has been grossly underrepresented.

My lawyers are taking a significant interest in the matter.  

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

... is to be tired of life.

Most of those who know anything about Luther's life tend to think of his appearance at the Diet of Worms in 1521 as the point at which he was most vulnerable --- the isolated reformer surrounded by the massed forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church.  In fact, it is clear that Electoral Saxony had a well-thought out strategy for keeping him safe.

Luther is probably most at risk in 1522, when he is recalled from the Wartburg to restore civil order in Wittenberg.  As radical iconoclasm and rioting has taken hold in his absence, he needs to bring some stability and sanity to the Wittenberg reformation or his protector, Frederick the Wise, will have no choice but to abandon his cause.    It is then that Luther really has nothing an no-one to rely on other than his own personal presence and his preaching ability.   Of course, we know that these are enough.  Luther triumphs.  Karlstadt and Zwilling are forced out.  And the Reformation moves forward.

In the struggles of early 1522, Luther preached a famous sermon on March 10 which contains one of my favourite quotations, revealing the secret of Luther's Reformation success:

In short, I will preach it [the Word], teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.

There you have it: the success of the Reformation depended upon the sheer power ofbeer.jpg God's Word.  And, of course, on the quality of Wittenberg beer.   Not sure how much ground for optimism that gives for the ongoing reformation among the Southern Baptists -- perhaps sweet tea has a similar effect -- but I hope it is of encouragement to more than just the Lutherans out there.

Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

puppet master.jpgAs you can see, the team had rather a lot of fun at the marathon recording session last week, even though the Puppet Master showed up to cast his long, sinister, cold shadow over the otherwise happy proceedings.  The first fruits of the party, the latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit, is now up, in which  we discussrat pack.jpg what to look for in a good church. 

Todd wants comfy armchairs on a lavish stage, a lady with big hair ministering to the congregation in song, a Country and Western aesthetic.  What can one say? You can take the boy out of the Southern Baptist Convention but you can't take the Southern Baptist Convention out of the boy.   Shirley -- I mean, Aimee -- thinks music trumps everything. I kid you not.  Just take a listen -- and it wasn't even a trap.  Quite shocking --- but, like Todd, she is PCA so we should perhaps make allowances.  She also wants a coffee shop in the church foyer, along with liturgical mixed martial arts.  As for me -- no flimflam, no fancy tricks, no big hair. Just the means of grace.  Ordinary.  Very Ordinary.  But hey, I'm OPC.  What do you expect?