February 21, 2007
Does truth change? If you cringe at that thought, do you also cringe at any type of change? But….. I hear you saying, but God is unchangeable . Yes, but He is also only known by what he reveals to us through general and special revelation. That revelation of God is embedded in time, history, and culture, all of which change. Jesus said he was always with his Church in the Great Commission, and how the Spirit will guide us in all truth.
In his masterpiece, ETCW, Conn speaks of a new course theologizing. Theology is not just “learning what the masters wrote,” but how they wrote it. Theology, as John Frame says, is the application of Scripture. Theology, as a discipline, blossomed under the guidence of the Holy Spirit as the church (leader and lay) encountered heresy, oppression, war, persecution, comfort, culture, and unbelief. It is the fruit of theologizing.
So then, where does that leave our blessed Confession? Harvie spoke about how the WCF never dealt with ancestor worship for the Korean context. It is helpful, but not the end of all statments. What about revivalism in America? Or slavery? The Confession does not touch these issues because they were not tremendous issues in 1647. What were? Catholicism, Erastianism, Regicide all played a role in how our confession was formed. This does not mean that it is irrelevant. It shows the system of doctrine applied to the time and culture of 1647 giving us a pattern, a solid base on which to build.
Conn said that confessions should be expressions of a particular encounter with the world, and not be what it has become boundry markers for orthodoxy. In our Christian world, we must confess again. This is the only way to be truly confessional. We must confess about Women in Ministry, Post-Modernism, about being Missional, Vocation, living in a democratic society, and what the mission of the Church is. Everybody writes books on their individual thoughts, arguments, and opinions. The call of the Gospel is to confess together as one body. It should not be about royalties , but loyalties. We are called to new relationships based on the second Adam. These relationships should be all about love, self-sacrifice, mutual submission and kindness. Until we as the 21st century church confess again, we will never begin to fulfill our calling to gather the elect and to perfect the saints.
And the Westminster Confession of Faith is the best help and model, as it says in chapter 31:3, “All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.” Here, we have a confession that asks us, demands us to continue the conversation.
February 4, 2007
First, I wanted to direct everyone’s attention to Darryl Hart’s new comment back on the “Ecclesial Triumph” post from a while back. I post it here b/c I figured nobody would notice or find it if I didn’t
Second, I wanted to make a small objection to something Mark said in his last post:
“We like to talk here about how Harvie Conn was “missional” decades before that became popular; well, Wilberforce was being profoundly missional two centuries before his day.”
This statement is clearly untrue, and I know that Mark knows that, which makes it a bit unfair (or straw-man torching) that I would consider making an objection (i.e. because I don’t think he’d disagree with me). But it nevertheless provides an occasion for an observation I’ve made that bugs me a bit, and that I think we should be consciously aware of.
Over the recent years, it’s seemed to me that many (not all) quasi-reformed folks who identify with trajectories set by Conn, Miller, Keller, et al, and many (not all) of sympathizers with the so-called emergent church, see the “missional” trajectories set by these as essentially (and let me emphasize “essentially”) new, almost as though having a “missional” conscience is something the church had long since forgotten, at least to a large degree. Nothing of course could be further from the truth–the truth is that many of us are either historically aware of what the church has done and why in recent centuries (dare I say, millennia), or oblivious to what other portions of the Church are/have been doing. From my perspective this is unfortunate because, on the one hand, it doesn’t realize that there is something profoundly “not new” about how the Spirit has chosen to move through these trajectories. On the other hand, this realization is–especially among us reformed folk I think–myopic in that, although it’s true our *recent* reformed heritage has been only marginally missional, it has not always been that way, and many other sections of the global capital-C-Church have pretty much been self-consciously and pro-actively missional all the while. All this, let me emphasize, I’m quite sure Mark would agree with (though Mark, please feel to disagree if you want).
Having finished that paragraph, I’m asking myself whether that’s a petty or important concern. What do you all think?
My gut reaction is yes, for at least this reason: for me at least, the lack of awareness can produce a sense of pride, arrogance, disdain, or even just apathy for the “old,” where it is unjustified. The awareness of what else is going on or has gone on provides perspective; keeps me on an even keel.
February 2, 2007
I had the pleasure this evening of reading, on one-sided card-stock paper, some very hard to find Conn writings. It was self bound and to my knowledge not published and distributed widely, beyond the very small private handing out of it. In a MARC monograph (a ministry of World Vision) entitled, Changing the world, Harvie contributed the final article on “The City As Our Biblical Calling.” For Harvie the greatest concern facing the church today was Urban Missions, and happily Harvie conceived the City as the focal point for missions in Scripture. Here’s one way Harvie’s expressed that;
Question: What is lost for want of ten righteous people (Gen18:32) and the reward of multipliers of ten talents (Luke 19:17)?
Question: What did Cain build for his son (Gen 4:17) and God promise to rebuild for His sons and daughters (Isa 54:3)?
Question: If the Bible begins in a garden, where does it end?
Question: What has towers that reach in pride to challenge God (Gen 11:4) and a manger occupant that topples principalities and powers (Luke 2:34)?
Our answer to all these questions? The city, the goal of Abraham’s tenting pilgrimage (Heb 11:10), the place of Jesus’ redemptive triumph, and the center of Paul’s missionary strategy. (pg. 33)
The city was not only at the center of the bible’s focus on mission, it was a central concern facing the Church’s mission in the twentieth century and I might add twenty first century. Here is a simple question for all of you: how can the suburban and rural churches be missional to the city while remaining missional to their local contexts? Have we made something sacrosanct in spending most of our missions moments, missions budgets, and short-term missions trips to other nations across the seas of water while all along forgetting or perhaps overlooking that the nations have come to us and live in the seas of concrete? In our neighboring cities lie ten thousand villages, are we ready to spread the good news of the Kingdom, word and deed, to them?