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A New Kind of Christian (McLaren)


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I'm sorry, Rich, but I disagree; I see my questions as an attempt to work out the Scriptures in the 21st Century (e.g., the minor prophets, many Psalms, some Gospel teaching -- regarding the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy and politically powerful). I fail to see that there's anything culturally inappropriate about expecting workers to have a meaningful wage and a healthy environment.

No reason to apologise. No problem with disagreement. 'I see my questions as an attempt to work out the Scriptures in the 21st C.' myself as well, Andrew. We are trying to do the same thing. Too many of the bretheren have merely assumed that some of these assumptions are the only moral ones and have failed to show that they will provide any material difference on the lives of those exploited. As peter has implied, Who is doing the exploiting? Peter has exerpted an account of material betterment. I have described how crash intervention will provide nothing, leaving aside that rising wages are always accompanied by rising prices because they can be.

When I was in Real Estate, there were certain conditions in which all parties would agree that one of the parties would remain anonymous for his own reasons (let's say that Bill Gates was interested in a property I had listed) so that negotiations would not be adversely affected by vast ability to pay. Same principle, different situation. Those "serving" these workers you say are exploited surely would like to charge more for what they sell, but can't. Further, maybe they would like to offer more variety, but they can't. All of a sudden, these workers have a 6000% raise to the "global minimum". The storekeep can now DEFINITELY charge more. So will everyone else causing the spike I referred to above. This is simple economics. It doesn't vanish just because we are studying the Minor Prophets. The trick is not to apply the Prophets without regard to common economic sense, but to apply the precepts of the Prophets in a way that will make an economic difference. If we don't, we are merely trying to appease our emotions with an intellectual excercise.

Jumping from wage disparity to injustice might be right by accident, but the mere jump without regard to the tedious work in between disposes a guy like me, let alone trained economists to flash more on the accident than the rightness. I welcome you to this glorious and tedious work, side by side. I know you disagree, saying that and leaving it at that won't advance the discussion or the enterprise of lifting the prospects of the world's workers.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Andrew wrote:

: I fail to see that there's anything culturally inappropriate about expecting

: workers to have a meaningful wage and a healthy environment.

Ah, but how does one define "meaningful wage"? This is Rich's point, I think -- money has different meanings in different economies. And to impose OUR meaning on ANOTHER economy is potentially disastrous for all concerned. It is, you might say, one of the ways in which pomo thinkers remain stuck in an ironically modernistic and imperialistic frame of mind.

Rich Kennedy wrote:

: This is simple economics. It doesn't vanish just because we are studying

: the Minor Prophets. The trick is not to apply the Prophets without regard

: to common economic sense, but to apply the precepts of the Prophets in

: a way that will make an economic difference.

Well put!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It is, you might say, one of the ways in which pomo thinkers remain stuck in an ironically modernistic and imperialistic frame of mind.

Having had a couple of arguments about whether or not the enterprise of systematic theology is possible or worth the effort recently, it occurs to me that this irony is not surprising. No matter how hard one tries to shed biases and intellectual habits, it is impossible to see them all. I think this might even be a pomo tenet....

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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One was his statement that though he considered not attending church, he had to because the Eucharist was available there only.
Russell, I would love it if you could point me in the right direction in finding this statement by Lewis. I am on the edge of my seat now regarding your story, so please continue when you get a chance.

My thoughts have been floating around this issue of the Eucharist recently. Being part of a typical Southern Baptist church, we only take it four times a year, and due to a couple of travel commitments on my part and my church skipping it at other times, I have not taken the Eucharist in over a year at my own church. As you might imagine, the frustration builds. :? Thus, my interest in where you're headed with all this.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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Guest Russell Lucas

Well, John, it only took me two weeks to start and finish this. I still need to find the Lewis references, but I'm inclined to think they were passages in Mere Christianity.

I'll have to state at the outset that I'm not terribly learned in theology and haven't read McLaren's book (or any of Dever's critiques of it), but I'm pleased by the sort of issues it appears to raise and the fact that those issues are under consideration within the Evangelical community. I guess I should have known that others were thinking along these lines-- at any time, there are always groups within a larger whole moving toward and away from certain adherence to rituals and practices thought to be traditional-- and I'll admit to being somewhat removed from having much knowledge concerning the pulse of mainstream evangelicalism over the past decade.

By way of some background, my wife and I joined a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod a year after we got married (it will be ten years ago this November). That was something of a departure for us from our church past. We both grew up in mostly non-denominational churches; the closest I got to any specific denominationalism was the Covenant Church (Swedish Presbyterian) we attended with my mom off and on during my junior high and high school years. My faith became real and immediate to me when I was seventeen and reading C.S. Lewis, so I considered myself primarily to be a mere Christian for a while. At college my wife and I both became active in a really vibrant Campus Crusade chapter, where we made a lot of friends and learned a lot. On the whole, while I never really went for the "Christian subculture" thing completely (attempts to develop a taste for CCM and modern American Christian jargon proved unsuccessful), I didn't have any profound theological differences of opinion with my Crusade friends or leaders. There was, of course, a pretty specific theology among the Crusadefolk even if denominational neutrality was the avowed position; I, along with most everyone else, would nod when kids or adults would talk about their previous unfulfilling church life in terms of the "empty ritual" or rote recitation of prayers (and presumably liturgy portions), and those darker days would be contrasted with the freshness and relevance of spontaneous prayer and non-organ-accompanied song-singing. My own assumption was that whatever is memorized or said without being devised at that moment is so much more prone to being said thoughtlessly or without meaning.

It was fairly consistent with my general outlook on things institutional those days to eschew any formal denominationalism. Our Crusade staff members always encouraged us to go to church somewhere and maintained that theirs was a parachurch organization. It wasn't an accident or coincidence, though, that most people gravitated toward the Ev. Free church, though, as it matched most closely the worship style and theological outlook of most of Crusade's views (as set forth in written materials, etc.) Most of my own church-shopping during the first three and a half college years involved various non-denominational churches. Nevertheless, two specific sentences Lewis had written had always stuck with me even as I couldn't reconcile them with my own church experience. One was his statement that though he considered not attending church, he had to because the Eucharist was available there only. His other statement was in response to the common criticism that liturgies are a particularly ineffective form of worship because of their predictability and repetition; his response (I'm paraphrasing) was that he was able to enjoy the fullness of the variety and subsequent change of seasons both despite and because he knew what followed what. For five or six years I carried those thoughts around with me even as I was attending churches where communion was de-emphasized (or not administered at all) and where the worship style was decidedly non-liturgical. And, truth be told, there were several times when the thought crossed my mind-- "Why bother attending church when I've got a community of believers for accountability and mutual growth and an outlet for worship?"

A high school friend of mine had married the daughter of the Lutheran pastor (ELCA) whose church was located in my college town. As part of our church-shopping-- my wife and I were approaching marriage, and while we had a church in our hometown to marry us, we weren't formal members of one particular church in college-- we attended that ELCA church, and after a few services we eventually began to follow the liturgy, and after that we actually began to enjoy it in a way we were wholly unprepared to enjoy a church service. We picked up pretty quickly on the dramatic structure of the liturgy, and were really surprised at the way in which we were able to appreciate the service as a meeting with God arranged in a way that appealed to our aesthetic sense. Of course, I'd previously enjoyed church music-- both formal organ music and more informal guitar music-- in a sense that was both art- and faith-evocative. This, though was different, as I really began to see that God could speak through the liturgy in a unique way that told the story, in a sense, of my soul. I come in weary from the world, heavy from my sin, and I first confess it and receive freedom from it-- literally, first, then figuratively and positively through the Words of God in the readings. Of course, the sermon explicates those words, but the focus of attention or ultimate import isn't all resting on the sermon, but on the meal afterward. The sermon came to be the prayer before the meal-- a worthy and indispensable reflection on what great things God has given us, but not the meal itself. It was certainly odd to us at first to observe the way in which the service became centered around Communion, given our background. And there was certainly some difference in both the way we perceived and experienced communion at the ELCA church we attended first-- where we were invited to commune without being members or, really, being asked anything at all, and our present church, where, with some exceptions, the communicants are members of the church.

My church upbringing had been in churches where communion was done rarely and without much in the way of explanation. The church I frequented most often growing up offered communion once every one or two months, and brought the trays of bread cubes and grape juice to the people sitting in the pews. Ali's main church growing up never had communion. I have one explicit recollection of being in my teens and looking around when communion was being offered and watching the pastor's wife sort of pop the cube into her mouth with a casual gesture that seemed to me odd. I mention this in full awareness that specifically noticing such things and being cognizant of the squeakiness of your neighbor's shoes in church derails so quickly and easily into spiritual pride, but I really think there was something endemic to our approach to communion in that gesture, and even though I would have readily agreed with my fellow churchgoers then (and now) that we must be careful not be idolatrous (whatever that means), the act of communion, it seemed to me, required a sort of solemnity that we weren't giving to it.

The more I attended the liturgy and saw that Communion became the centerpiece of the worship service, the climax and resolution of the story of our faith, the more I actually came to look forward to church. I had fairly dreaded church services as a child (like many), but even after I became aware and immediately cognizant at the age of seventeen of the faith that God had instilled in me and nurtured over many years, I still did not look forward to church services, and did not really see them as an opportunity to grow stronger in my faith. More than anything, church had felt like an obligation, like honoring my parents. Now, I actively look forward to worship services in a way I didn't before.

The centrality of Communion did something else to the service for me: it prevented a particularly uneventful or ineffective sermon from clouding or frustrating my ability to receive as much from a service as I might otherwise. I know that we must open ourselves and our hearts to God's Word and His ministers and we must prepare ourselves to learn and be lifted up when we might be inclined to resist or conclude that the pastor is not, on that particular day, speaking to one's heart. Still, that being said, I've walked away from several non-liturgical services disappointed in the sermon or distracted by a pastor's reliance on cheap metaphor or illustrative stories. I've certainly been underwhelmed by a number of sermons I've heard in the course of liturgical services as well, but those disappointments have been remedied by the coming of the Lord's table immediately afterward.

Of course, this new-to-us emphasis on Communion as a central component of worship accompanied a larger sacramentalism, and a belief generally that those things which I once casually dismissed as being empty ritual or perfunctory symbol are actually, to my mind now, infused with a depth of meaning I could have scarcely imagined. And it is played out within the context of a worship service that does resemble to me a sort of half-calendar (though I know Lewis's invocation of the progression of seasons was intended to convey a different point): we begin the service in a sort of spiritual winter, taking refuge from our sin and the world's cares. We are forgiven, hear the Words of our liberation and are brought to the spiritual springtime and rebirth of our Lord's Body and Blood.

At the same time, it has seemed to me that the direction I found myself moving toward was actually putting me in a moderately lonely place, numerically speaking, as news reports on the American liturgical churches, and primarily the branches of the Lutheran church, emphasized stagnant or declining attendance. Certainly, few of my friends or acquaintances from Crusade had made any sort of choice like we did, and most of the people we met who were Lutheran were lifelong Lutherans. And the growing evangelical trend appeared to be as divergent as imaginable from the path I'd taken. While our staff members at Crusade emphasized that their organization was no substitute for a church, what seemed to take off in the 1990s was that evangelical model, spread into suburban midwestern churches instead of college campuses. Mini-Willow Creeks sprang up everywhere, with their huge numbers, small groups, services explicitly designed for the unbeliever (with copious dashes of utilitarian- or self-improvement-themed sermons to convince the man fresh off the street that theology could be practical and useful). The Purpose-Driven Life is selling millions of copies; it reminds me of the sort of God-lite materials we used for freshman Bible studies.

But this is an evangelical language that engages the uninitiated in the things of God, albeit slowly, and while my church serves well the needs of those who are already believers or who are ready to grow into a more sacramental form of our faith, the language to neophytes is more labored. There are entry barriers now to unbelievers (and believers) embracing liturgical churches because of our continued pursuit of informality and our discomfort with authority. I'm a dinosaur.

On the other hand, it's well-documented that the brand of Christianity that is replicating most rapidly in the Third World is precisely that which is thought to be stagnant in North America. The work of Professor Philip Jenkins excerpted here discusses this phenomenon. I don't pretend to understand the reasons why this is so, but it's an interesting contrast.

And this brings us to this book, and why I'll need to find a copy and read it. I'd like to see if the author has made any headway in finding a way to reconcile the vision of faith as a spiritual life experienced through physical sacraments and liturgies. I think it's an interesting conversation for the evangelical world to have.

I've visited megachurches, as some of my immediate family members have joined a couple of them. As I've grown to appreciate the benefits of moldy forms of worship, I've also found my aesthetic taste in other areas improving and maturing. I'm not suggesting that there's a cause and effect relationship there, but I do find that I'm simply not all that moved by services which consciously avoid beauty and grace in order to be "accessible" and "user-friendly." I suppose it is difficult to say this without sounding snobbish, but I'll try: by and large, I am seeking experiences in film, music, art, literature which offer me the highest and best expressions of artistry and truth. Should not my church expectations be similar?

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Russell, that was beautiful. I've been attending an Orthodox church for just over a year now, and while I'm not a catechumen or anything like that (yet), I too appreciate the "dramatic structure of the liturgy" -- which, I might add, has been in place since at least Justin Martyr's day (which goes back to the 2nd century, I think?). While the liturgy has been tweaked in some ways (the two liturgies used most often at my church are the liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, both of whom date to the 4th century, I believe), they still follow a basic format that pre-dates them, and I like the thought of being bound to other Christians across time and space.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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That was lovely, Russell.

I'm in a similar situation to John, except where it isn't. Since marriage five years ago -- when I became a Protestant with a Catholic home church -- I've taken communion only about a half-dozen times a year; I only have the opportunity when I visit my parents and their Disciples of Christ church, or when I visit my brother and his ELCA church, or when the community handbell group I ring in gets paid (relatively) big bucks for playing at various churches. And since I grew up in an every-Sunday-is-communion church, I -- whether legitimately or not -- feel isolated from The Body of Christ on Earth. Despite going to a church where I must be among the most active 15 percent of parishioners -- I have my own key to the building, dang it! -- I constantly regret that any involvement I have with the church outside of Catholic confirmation gets me no closer to participation in Russell's "the centrality of Communion."

I would say more, but eh. I

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Thanks for sharing that, M. Dale. If D and I get married, I don't know whether I'd be able to last five years without regular communion -- then again, it's been over a year since the LAST time I took communion, but at least I've got real FELLOWSHIP now, which I never really had during the two or four or however many years in which I took communion at a couple of Anglican churches.

When I first started attending the Orthodox church, it helped that I was allowed to receive the "blessed bread" or "antidoron", which is typically cut from a portion of the bread that is separated from the eucharistic bread before the eucharistic bread is consecrated. Holding the "blessed bread" in my hand and praying while everyone around me took communion felt very similar to my communion experiences in other churches. I gather Catholics don't have anything quite like that?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: I gather Catholics don't have anything quite like that?

No. I could go up and be blessed by the priest when everyone else is taking communion, but that's the best they offer.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Guest Russell Lucas

Thanks, guys. I've never heard of anything like that, Peter, with the table scraps, so to speak, of the Lord's table. I really like the idea. For some reason, I assumed your lady friend was the Orthodox influence in your life.

Yes, this raises the awfully sticky issue of close(d) Communion and all of the related hang-ups of inclusivity versus true oneness. As I mentioned, the ELCA church I attended for a semester my senior year in college offered us Communion the first time we walked through the door, but our present LCMS church waited until we had undergone some instruction and decided to join before inviting us to the table. There are no other Lutherans in our families. Before each of our daughters' baptisms, I've cringed a little at what I think our families feel: not only is the indispensability of the practice odd to their eyes, but the exclusivity runs smack against modern notions of having a "other-centered service."

I can say with total candor that during that month or so when we were not yet Communicant members, I didn't regard Communion in a sour grapesy way, or as some sort of judgment of inadequacy on my faith. It was something that they, the Body, clearly held to be special, and which they had reserved for the truest of bonds. I really wanted to be part of that.

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Russell Lucas wrote:

: I've never heard of anything like that, Peter, with the table scraps, so to speak, of

: the Lord's table. I really like the idea.

Me too. I am told that this, too, used to be "closed" to the non-Orthodox, but Bishop Ware writes in The Orthodox Church that, "In most Orthodox parishes non-Orthodox present at the Liturgy are permitted -- and indeed, encouraged" to receive the "blessed bread", so that appears to be the norm now.

Personally, I think it's really cool because I'm a big believer in "closed communion" (the only question is HOW closed -- closed so that only Christians as a whole can participate? closed so that only CERTAIN Christians can participate?), given that Jesus initiated the Last Supper when he was alone with his apostles and all, but at the same time, Jesus ALSO gave bread and wine openly without looking for people's membership cards -- at the wedding in Cana, when he fed the multitudes (the only miracle that appears in all four gospels, and in two of them, it happens TWICE!), etc. -- so I think it's important to keep that sense of openness too. Making a distinction between the "blessed" bread and the "eucharistic" bread seems, to me, like the perfect way to carry on BOTH of these traditions.

: For some reason, I assumed your lady friend was the Orthodox influence in your life.

It's a tad more complicated than that. I have had Orthodox e-pals for a few years now, and have learned a fair bit about the faith from them, but I had never darkened the door of an Orthodox church, and one of the first things I heard about D (my sister set us up) was that she was Orthodox, so that piqued my interest -- I was attracted to D because of her faith, as much as I might be attracted to the faith because of D.

: I can say with total candor that during that month or so when we were not yet

: Communicant members, I didn't regard Communion in a sour grapesy way, or as

: some sort of judgment of inadequacy on my faith. It was something that they, the

: Body, clearly held to be special, and which they had reserved for the truest of

: bonds. I really wanted to be part of that.

I can relate. One of the reasons I find Orthodoxy somewhat appealing right now is the fact that the openness or closedness of communion really WAS a big deal in the early church -- indeed, the shared communion had to be there in place FIRST before the church could settle the larger questions that virtually all Christians take for granted now, like the nature of the Trinity or which books belong in the New Testament. The church had to agree on a way of determining who qualified to make those sorts of calls, before it could actually make those calls. So when you start at Ground Zero and work your way up through church history, I don't see any way to avoid being either Catholic or Orthodox without saying that closed communion and unity within the local episcopate aren't really THAT big a deal after all. Considering how big a deal that stuff WAS for so many centuries, I find it rather difficult, right now, to justify those Reformers who just shrugged it all off.

And yet I can see all the political and economic advantages to decentralization and competition, so it is tempting to look at the church and say it could do with a bit more of that, too ...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Guest Russell Lucas

Yeah, I want to say more on that "closed communion" point and the role of the historical church, but a little more time will be needed.

MDP, without prying (or prying too much), is it chiefly the problem that you aren't willing to be confirmed at the present time as a Catholic, or that the confirmation process would be long, and you haven't been able to do so? How long would it take?

Help me out, here. To my knowledge, are there any Christian traditions apart from Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Lutheranism and Anglican/Episcopalian which take Communion "seriously" (by "seriously" I glibly mean frequently [twice a month or more often] and to be more than a symbol; no offense should be taken by anyone)?

Peter, is that what you meant by five years-- a five year confirmation process? Isn't there any sort of grandfathering or cramming that could be done?

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Help me out, here.  To my knowledge, are there any Christian traditions apart from Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Lutheranism and Anglican/Episcopalian which take Communion "seriously" (by "seriously" I glibly mean frequently [twice a month or more often] and to be more than a symbol; no offense should be taken by anyone)?

Calvinism, of course.

We have communion weekly at my PCA church, but that's not enforced across the denomination. Should be, but it isn't.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Guest Russell Lucas

Yeah, you know, I meant to say that, because I know that the Reformed Presby church where my wife participates in MOPS has a form of liturgy, as well.

Christian, which of the Calvinist/Presbyterian churches are liturgical and/or Communion-emphasizing?

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Yeah, you know, I meant to say that, because I know that the Reformed Presby church where my wife participates in MOPS has a form of liturgy, as well.

Christian, which of the Calvinist/Presbyterian churches are liturgical and/or Communion-emphasizing?

I have a hard time with the term "liturgy." To me, that just means an order of worship, and in that sense, I think most churches are "liturgical." But to most Christians I talk to, the term connotes "high church," or some sort of verbal reading from a prayer book. In that sense, many Reformed churches are not liturgical.

As to your question about which are communion-emphasizing, I've been poking around the Net trying to find something distinctive, but most of the (too many) Presbyterian wings leave frequency of communion to the individual congregation.

the PCA Book of Church Order states:

"58-1. The Communion, or Supper of the Lord, is to be observed frequently; the stated times to be determined by the Session of each congregation, as it may judge most for edification."

The OPC book of church order states:

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I have a hard time with the term "liturgy." To me, that just means an order of worship, and in that sense, I think most churches are "liturgical." But to most Christians I talk to, the term connotes "high church," or some sort of verbal reading from a prayer book. In that sense, many Reformed churches are not liturgical.

I wouldn't change my denominational affiliation, or even my congregation, unless the new congregation had weekly communion. It truly is a means of grace. The difference is huge.

Christian, your 'colloquial' dff of "liturgy" might well be encouraged by sacramental churches themselves, as does the confirmation book we've been using at St. John's asserts. The author is a "Reformed Episcopalian" (I've quoted the book in my present sig).

For me, I hadn't had communion in AGES when I started at St. John's, but held off until recently in order to be sure that I could be in accord with the few simple Episcopalian rules: baptized in home church, confirmed same, believe in "the real presence" in the eucharist. I demurred until I could affirm, rather than fudge the broad third rule. However, it was the liturgy itself and the verbal prostration before God, as well as praise to Him for such undeserved Grace that refreshed me spiritually for a while before I felt I could participate.

Means of Grace is exactly right. I started just before Easter and sometimes go to midweek noon services in addition, when I can. The form of liturgy we use breaks down analytically the whole process of this unworthiness, mercy, forgiveness, and grace that is perfect for me. Fact is, the liturgy is what is the blessing. The actual partaking is not always what has me in thrall. That comes from the commual preparation and thanks to God that brackets the partaking. The way we celebrated communion at evangelical churches all of my life never helped me at all. I always felt it was too matter of fact for me. This is the best spiritual move I've ever made since becoming a christian. I say this as only testimony, not to criticise other forms and schedules. I mean no slight to other forms that anyone participates in to their enjoyment and edification. I'm getting the POV that not all Episcopalian services would be as edifying to me as this parish as well. My guess is I need a lot of Work yet.

Hey, Dale, I admire your commitment to your wife and to that church community. I hope that this can be resolved for you somehow in the near future.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Russell Lucas wrote:

: . . . by "seriously" I glibly mean frequently [twice a month or more often] . . .

I grew up in a Mennonite church that did it once a month -- and even then, only during the evening services, so all the people who only went to the regular morning services tended to miss out on it. I remember being somewhat shocked when I was 12 years old (I got baptized when I was 11, precisely so that I could take communion) and saw Gandhi, and the scene came up where the one Indian says to the minister, "Are you a Christian? Me too! I drink blood! Every Sunday, Christ's blood!" I was astounded to hear that there were churches out there that did communion EVERY WEEK ...

: Peter, is that what you meant by five years-- a five year confirmation process?

Oh, heavens, no -- even in the patristic age, I think catechumens only had to wait two years! I just said "five years" because M. Dale said "five years". It was just my way of saying I doubt I'd be able to hold out as long as he has -- I think I'd consider converting a lot sooner than that just so I could be "one" with my wife on just that much deeper a level. Heck, I'm considering it NOW, but I'm reluctant to actually go that route with the church until the woman and I know for sure what's going on between US. (And I think I'm still waiting for some of the culture shock to die down. I FINALLY finished reading Bishop Ware's The Orthodox Church a few days ago, and I gotta say, in some ways he's more "liberal" than some of the Orthodox I've come across ... Orthodox who, BTW, one of the sub-deacons at church dismisses as "patristic fundamentalists" whenever I bring them up. There appears to be a wide, wide, wide range of Orthodox out there ... )

Rich Kennedy wrote:

: . . . the few simple Episcopalian rules: baptized in home church, confirmed same,

: believe in "the real presence" in the eucharist.

The Episcopalians HAVE rules? I've taken communion at both evangelical and liberal Anglican churches here in Vancouver, and no one has ever bothered to find out whether I believed in "the real presence" (or, for that matter, whether I was Anglican). I have to say, the "real presence" business is one of those sticking points for me. I'm willing to agree to just about any inter-subjective proposition, but objective propositions of this nature seem unwarranted to me, both in the sense of "What's your evidence?" and in the sense of "What difference does it make?" (But now I'm wondering if we'd need a new thread to get into that...)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Russ, then Russ, then Rich:

: MDP, without prying (or prying too much)...

For shame!

: ...is it chiefly the problem that you aren't willing to be confirmed at the present

: time as a Catholic, or that the confirmation process would be long, and you haven't been able to do so? How long would it take?

About seven or eight months is my understanding; the process (at least at the church I attend) runs sometime in September through Easter Eve. So the problem is the former: I can't acquiesce to the Catholic hierarchy in all things, and despite the prevalence of them in churches on Sunday morning (and on the presidential campaign trail), I am not disposed to to become a spindly Catholic who takes from The Church only what pleases him. Despite how much easier it would make my life.

: I hope that this can be resolved for you somehow in the near future.

This will never be resolved for me, I'm afraid, unless my wife is on life support and is likely to die tomorrow and I need to decide if I can look forward with anticipation to enjoying marital relations with a single woman whom I have plans on asking out a couple weeks after she dies.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Bah, I'm away for a couple of days and this thread explodes on me!

Well, John, it only took me two weeks to start and finish this.
Ah no problem, just glad you finished your thoughts.

As you write Russell, I find myself resonating with your words. While I have not had the experience of moving into a more litrugical setting on a regular basis, much of what you say anticipates reactions I think I might have in that setting. I particularly appreciated the points about the liturgy telling the story of your faith and that with the service centered around the Eucharist, any bad aftertaste from a poorly conceived sermon is lessened. I cannot say how many times I have walked out of church wondering what the point was or how that contributed to deepening my understanding of the gospel. I just feel that as churches seek to dumb down their services striving after the lowest common denominator, they are losing a valuable opportunity to help their people to grow into maturity in the faith.

I too appreciate the "dramatic structure of the liturgy" -- which, I might add, has been in place since at least Justin Martyr's day (which goes back to the 2nd century, I think?).
Exactly. Justin outlined the main elements of the service, beginning with a reading from the 'Memoirs of the Apostles (his term for Gospels) and/or the prophets, an exposition of the text that had been read, followed by a prayer, the elements are brought out, more prayer, the elements dispensed, and then alms are taken up for the poor. As has been said by others better than me, Justin did not know Sunday worship without the Eucharist.

And since I grew up in an every-Sunday-is-communion church, I -- whether legitimately or not -- feel isolated from The Body of Christ on Earth.
I hear ya. I am increasingly convinced that this is the single greatest means we have to express (and develop?) our unity in Christ.

It is interesting to hear others thinking about such issues as these. While not everyone's situation is the best, I do find it encouraging to know I'm not the only one. When my church skipped the Eucharist on Palm Sunday because of a special guest, I wondered if I was the only one who noticed. It surely didn't appear anyone else did. But, for now I press on, hoping that the situation improves...

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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The Episcopalians HAVE rules? I've taken communion at both evangelical and liberal Anglican churches here in Vancouver, and no one has ever bothered to find out whether I believed in "the real presence" (or, for that matter, whether I was Anglican). I have to say, the "real presence" business is one of those sticking points for me. I'm willing to agree to just about any inter-subjective proposition, but objective propositions of this nature seem unwarranted to me, both in the sense of "What's your evidence?" and in the sense of "What difference does it make?" (But now I'm wondering if we'd need a new thread to get into that...)

It was a sticking point for me too. OTOH, you will like this as dabbling in Otrthodoxy at the moment, it is not really defined as "how". It's a mystery of God. Episcopalians seem to say, "Jesus said this to the disciples at the Last Supper, the disciples said the same thereafter. If He said 'take and eat my body, drink my blood,' that's what we do." As an evangelical of the "prove it" variety, it was the casual attitude towards argument that was the sticking point. I decided it was a small price to pay. BTW, almost all churches I have attended seem to depend on an honor system of some sort if they do not limit communion to only their fellowship.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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: BTW, almost all churches I have attended seem to depend on an

: honor system of some sort if they do not limit communion to only their

: fellowship.

Right. Particularly in Catholic churches, where parishoners tend to be rather transient -- the only area 5:30p Sunday mass often has members of the church we attend, as, uh, we well know -- as long as you know the proper hand position etc. for the Eucharist, no one's gonna deny it to you.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: OTOH, you will like this as dabbling in Otrthodoxy at the moment, it is not really

: defined as "how". It's a mystery of God.

The Orthodox are not entirely dissimilar in their approach to this -- but the liturgy does include a prayer about God "making the change" to the bread and wine through his Spirit, etc. It's not QUITE as over-explained as Thomas Aquinas's "the change takes place between these two particular syllables" approach, and the Orthodox do seem to reject the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation precisely because they think it tries to explain the "mystery" too much (though it seems to me they may reject it more because it is rooted in Aristotelian philosophy than anything else), but it's still a wee bit of a hurdle for me. Then again, I have always, but always, believed that marriage and/or sex makes two people "one flesh", and I guess there's a "mystery" and a "change" involved in THAT. I'm trying to look at communion the same way.

: BTW, almost all churches I have attended seem to depend on an honor system of

: some sort if they do not limit communion to only their fellowship.

Hmmm, I'll have to check with the priest at my parish and see how he handles / they handle this.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 8 years later...

This seems to be the closest thing we have to a dedicated thread on Brian McLaren, so...

Christianity Today links to a New York Times story on the same-sex wedding of McLaren's son, part of which was led by McLaren himself.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Dang, just read a couple pages in this thread, which cries out for updates from Dale, Russell, probably others (if they're still around these parts).

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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