Monthly Archives: October 2009


Liberating the Church

Martin-luther On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther performed a relatively minor act. He posted ninety-five theses (in Latin) on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. His desire seems to have been rather simple–start a serious conversation about some of the ministerial abuses inside the church. His act was the equivalent of posting a few items for dialogue on the Internet, a kind of blog post for academic debate. Historians, always looking for key dates, now see this as the spark that lit the fire that led to the Protestant Reformation. Luther himself was not so sure but this fact is clear: the events that followed October 31 1517, created a great turmoil in the Western church.

Luther argued that the church in his day had been taken captive by an inadequate gospel message. Luther's pamphlet, The Pagan Servitude of the Church, likened the church's situation in 16th century Europe to Israel in Babylon. The people of God were prisoners of a false gospel, a false worldview, a false

By |October 31st, 2009|Categories: Renewal|

A Friendship That Teaches Me a Great Deal About Christ, Part 5

My friend Nick Morgan, whose letter to me at the end of 2008, and whose influence in my life as a friend led me to this five-part series of posts, is a godly man. He loves Christ and he loves the church. He also reads theology seriously. He did this while he was an evangelical and he still does it as a Roman Catholic. He reads theologians from both sides, as you can readily see. He often recommends good ideas to me by email and responds to the blog posts I write with genuine interest and charity. He also sends me private correspondence that gets forwarded to him. Lately he has sent me a number of conservative political pieces and asked for my input. I have cautioned him against allowing his soul to become preoccupied with the fiercest forms of criticism that poison the culture, from the left and the right. I have urged him to stay close to Christ, to fill his mind and heart with the glory of Christ and to stay faithful to the church by frequent communion and regular worship

By |October 30th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

A Friendship That Teaches Me a Great Deal About Christ, Part 4

My theology of missional-ecumenism says that we should all go back to the ancient standards of faith confessed by all Christians in the undivided church of the first five centuries. I believe in what has been called, by theologian Thomas Oden, paleo-orthodoxy. In these standards of faith we can find a place where all true Christians can stand together and contend for the historic Christian faith side-by-side, even while we continue to work on our remaining differences, which are considerable. To say we agree on a great deal, while we still work on our differences in a spirit of Christian love, is not compromise by any serious definition.

This kind of response, most common among very conservative evangelicals, and very conservative Catholics, is hard to explain but most know what it is when they see it. I am tempted to call it “fundamentalism” but this is neither entirely accurate nor seriously helpful. Whatever it is it amounts to reductionistic thinking. It often leads people to several fallacies in thought and practice.

One such fallacy is the dicto

By |October 29th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

A Friendship That Teaches Me a Great Deal About Christ, Part 3

In my correspondence with my friend Nick Morgan, in the aforementioned letter that I cited yesterday, he added the following:

I had a recent discussion with two different men from the evangelical church that my wife belongs too.  I had been forwarding the "ACT 3 Weekly" to them both.  One of them, a former elder, is an extremely gracious and Godly man and seems to appreciate what you are saying, even though he doesn't agree with all of it. He is a former Lutheran and really struggles with a truly sacramental view of baptism and the Eucharist.  However, he is encouraged by leaders like Pope Benedict XVI and about hearing the Pope's very evangelical sounding teaching regarding justification.

The other man is a former Roman Catholic. He has a very negative attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church and any pope, including Benedict XVI.  He's definitely of the mindset that no Catholic who's "truly saved" should remain in the Roman Catholic Church.  His impression of your articles was that you are basically saying "let's all just follow Jesus and

By |October 28th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

World Series 2009

Ws_logo The New York Yankees are the definition of the greatest franchise in all of professional sports. They just won their fortieth American League championship of all time. If you are a historian of the game you know how truly amazing this number is. No one else is remotely close. This year the Yankees dispensed with the Twins and the Angels with relative ease. Now they face the best team they have played so far, the reigning World Series Champion Philadelphia Phils. If I had to pick a winner this evening it would have to be the Yankees. The Phils are tested and strong, especially when it comes to team chemistry and hitting. But after Cliff Lee they are not as solid as N.Y. in starting pitching and their bullpen does not compare.

These have to be the best two starting lineups in baseball. Both can mash the ball and manufacture runs both. And both are always able

By |October 27th, 2009|Categories: Baseball|

A Friendship That Teaches Me a Great Deal About Christ, Part 2

People sometimes ask me, “Do you still agree with what you wrote in the two books that you did on Roman Catholicism in the 1990s?” I think this is an excellent, yet provocative, question. I answer that I do believe almost all of what I wrote then, at least in all the major ways. I would write these two books very differently today but the essential content, at least in terms of where I differ with Catholic theology, would remain the same. I hope the way I would say it would be more mature and better stated in ways that are more irenic and helpful to unity

I am a Reformed Church in America minister. I embrace the major confessional tradition of the magisterial Reformers. Some accuse me of lying when I write such things but my accusers did not examine me before my Classis. They have never taken the proper measure of my beliefs in a sympathetic and helpfully critical way.I will say more about this later when I write about fallacies used in debate and argumentation.

What does

By |October 27th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

A Friendship That Teaches Me a Great Deal About Christ

One of the most faithful regular readers of this blog is Nick Morgan, a firefighter in St. Louis. Those who read the comments on this blog for very long have seen Nick’s name appear in the “Comments” section now and then. With permission I want to tell you a bit about Nick and our friendship. I also want to share some items from a letter that he sent to me just before 2009 began. I do this not to “puff” this blog, or the work of ACT 3 (especially me) but rather to demonstrate just how a friendship between a devout Protestant, and an equally devout Roman Catholic, can actually work itself out in the real world where we do not agree on some very important Christian doctrinal truths.

First, let me tell you that Nick initially met me by attending one of our large conference events in Wheaton back in the days when I was viewed as a role model teacher by some conservative Reformed Christians. Nick, himself a cradle Catholic, had gone through a deep conversion experience and

By |October 26th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

Labeling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Is It a Disease or a Syndrome?

What you label something, or someone, is so important. If you are called lazy then you will likely become lazy. Or, as it has been in my case, you will over-compensate against the lazy label and then become a driven perfectionist who works nonstop. I had this lesson drilled into me very early by good parents who valued hard work done very well. It seems from the biblical narrative that "naming" is truly powerful. This is why God gave this power to human beings in the creation account in Genesis. We share in the work of creation in so many unexplored ways. But sin intervened and now we easily abuse this God-given power to our own harm and that of many others around us. 

I thought of this when I wrote about my struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) just a few weeks ago. Putting a label on this illness is problematic for many reasons. It can become a way that I actually choose to define myself. This can allow me to excuse all kinds of things. I get impatient with Anita and

By |October 25th, 2009|Categories: Personal|

The Influence of C. S. Lewis on Head and Heart, Part 3

Cs-lewis I have suggested that C. S. Lewis was a truly great evangelist and apologist, though a reluctant one in a profound sense. I want to conclude my sundry thoughts about why Lewis is so important to us by a few quotations from Lewis himself.In an essay title "Man or Rabbit," written in 1946, Lewis says:

Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that's true, or it isn't. And if it isn't, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal "sell" on record. Isn't it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?

Think about this one for a moment. Though I think the modern atheists, called by themselves the Four Horsemen (e.g. Christopher

By |October 24th, 2009|Categories: Apologetics|

The Influence of C. S. Lewis on Head and Heart, Part 2

My good friend Dr. Jerry Root teaches a class at the Wheaton Grad School on C. S. Lewis. In the catalog it is listed EVAN 694 but the title is "C.S. Lewis: Apologist to the Head and the Heart." This is a course I wish I could take and someday maybe I will. Jerry is not only an inspiring teacher but he is a great student of all things C. S. Lewis.

Cover In his syllabus Jerry asks, "Why was Lewis so effective?" He answers, "In part, his effectiveness stemmed from his holism; that is, he spoke to the head and the heart." I could not agree more.

C. S. Lewis speaks to my heart in a way that few modern writers do. He wrote out of deep personal experience. He was, as some young people would put it, "real." His journey to the faith, recounted in his own moving story Surprised By Joy, and his subsequent growth into a deeper and

By |October 23rd, 2009|Categories: Apologetics|

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