Excited to announce that Pastor Jeff Meyers will be speaking at this year’s Christ Church Family Conference (Feb. 20-22) this year in Cary, NC! He serves as the pastor of Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) and is the author of The Lord’s Service, and Ecclesiastes Through New Eyes: A Table in the Mist. Join us!
In his article, “The Emerging Divide in Evangelical Theology,” published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 56/2 (2013), 355-77, Gerald McDermott surveys theological and cultural developments in the Evangelical world. The article is helpful and illuminating throughout, but his three suggestions at the end of the article are directly related to the vision of the Reformed Liturgical Institute. These suggestions are given in the hopes of healing the growing divisions in the Evangelical world.
His first suggestion is, “evangelicals would have to look more seriously at their own tradition [and he then holds up Jonathan Edwards as an example of how to be faithful to both Scripture and tradition]” (376).
Secondly, “evangelical theology would need to renounce the triumphalism that has heretofore treated church history as little more than darkness before the Reformation or 18th-century awakenings. It would need to submit to a vision of the whole that can be found only by living in the whole (theological) tradition” (376).
“Third, evangelical theologians need to beware of the peculiarly academic sort of ambition that seeks acceptance and recognition by our liberal colleagues” (376).
His concluding observations are right on target: “I will go so far to say that if evangelical theology does not adopt these suggestions, it will not survive. But it will strengthen itself and preserve itself against internal dissolution if it sees itself as a reform movement in the church catholic. The monastic movements, the Christian reform movement, the Dominican preaching revival, the Franciscans, and the Reformation itself thrived and influenced the broader church by relating to and learning from the broader church. Only if evangelical theology sees itself as a renewal and reform movement raised up by the Spirit from amidst and for the purpose of the wider church catholic, and therefore learns from that universal church, will it save itself from disintegrating into even more subjectivist and individualistic sects, many of them neither evangelical nor orthodox.
“Evangelicals have always put a premium on the local church. If they have talked about the universal church, typically they have thought only in terms of the universal church of fellow evangelicals. It is time for evangelicals to look more broadly, at the universal church beyond evangelical boundaries, not only around the world today, but especially to the last two thousand years of rich theological reflection” (376-77).
This looks to be a good conference, if you’re lucky enough to be in Southern California in a couple weeks! Reformation OC Conference (Oct. 28-30). It’s free!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Scot McKnight’s new book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, is a keeper. In fact, I would say it’s one of the best theological books I’ve ever read. Part of what makes it exciting is that McKnight is excited himself! You can sense his energy and his joy in his subject, as he leads us step-by-step through his own theological development. It takes some work to read Jesus in his own context, and McKnight is patient with us.
I used this book in my classes at a Christian school, to help bolster my case that Christians should read the Old Testament more. My students were honest in their admission that they don’t read the Old Testament much, and don’t see the point. McKnight argues that, unless we understand the story of Israel, we cannot really understand Jesus.
I appreciated his critique of the Reformation, his insistence that we learn about the early church, and his endorsement of prayer-books and creeds. If you don’t see how those are connected with Jesus in first-century context, you’ll just have to buy the book and find out for yourself!
My only real question concerns the “contextualization” question. McKnight presents a solid case that Apostolic preaching looked like thus-and-such. Basically, the preaching of Peter and Paul was dramatically different than our “four spiritual laws” presentations and arm-twisting methods of “gospel” persuasion. Granted. But, Peter and Paul were preaching to a largely Jewish culture. Even when Paul is writing to sort out problems between Jews and Gentiles, he’s still working within Jewish categories. When we take the Gospel to Africa, do we still stress every aspect of Old Testament history as much as the Apostles did? Stephen’s speech in Acts wouldn’t seem to work so well in remote jungles. I hope McKnight will take this up in another book.
Overall, this is a splendid book, and I hope it will help to shake up the anemic and shallow American church!
(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Zondervan book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)
As I reviewed Lee Palmer Wandel’s The Eucharist in the Reformation, something jumped out at me–the Calvinistic evangelicals of the sixteenth century were called “Sacramentarians” by their Roman Catholic and Lutheran opponents (Wandel, pg. 177). Now, just type in “sacramentarian” + “federal vision” on Google, and see how the label has switched. Funny how labels morph over time …
Naphtali Press has kindly made John M. Mason’s “Letters on Frequent Communion” available for free.
Dr. Michael Horton – “At Least Weekly: The Reformed Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and of Its Frequent Celebration,” (from the Mid-America Journal of Theology, no. 11)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I found Gallagher’s book simultaneously illuminating and infuriating. To start on a positive note, Gallagher definitely has a gift for writing. I’m used to reading fat books by scholars on this subject, but Gallagher brings a lot of wit and earthy wisdom to this topic. And, I’ll certainly agree that the scholars have muddied the waters quite a bit. Jesus told us to do something really simple, but we’ve managed to fragment this sacrament of unity into a hundred thorny questions. Gallagher’s catchy metaphors appropriately turn our attention away from whatever might be going on “inside” the bread, and she exhorts us to remember that “we” are the Body of Christ, when we gather as the Church. When we take communion, she exhorts us to “Look around you,” something I’ve said when I’ve administered communion. Don’t try to conjure up some deep, mystical experience–just look around at all other messed up people that God is in the process of healing. Gallagher has many wonderful stories about her experiences with partaking, and administering, communion–stories about real people being transformed by ancient rite. She helps us to look at this “ancient practice” from lots of new angles, and I think much of what she says is spot on and quite helpful.
But … there were a few parts which made me gag a little. I think Gallagher is far too quick to buy into the neo-liberal reading of Jesus which highlights Jesus’ supposed critique of “empire.” Now, I freely confess that we should do more to care for the poor. I confess that our government is not righteous. I acknowledge that there are more than a few unsettling analogies between America hegemony and the pagan Roman Empire. But, I’m just not convinced that this is the right way to read the Jesus narratives. However, I will agree enthusiastically with one of Gallagher’s conclusions: “So part of waiting in Communion is examining what we did last week to find the kingdom of heaven in our midst and to help others find it” (pg. 37).
A quibble–I didn’t really buy her imaginative reconstruction of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28). I find Kenneth Bailey’s interpretation much more convincing (see Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, ch. 16).
Lastly, I believe Gallagher goes too far in her desire to be inclusive and welcoming. She writes: “Communion is so important to me that I don’t think there should be rules about who can take it and who cannot” (pg. 88). Now, I fully applaud the motive here. I’m trying to write a dissertation on some of the reasons why churches should celebrate the Supper more often. It’s important to me. But not more important than the Word of God. Gallagher doesn’t want to create “rules” about who can, and who can’t, take Communion (pg. 89). The only problem is that the Apostle Paul lays down some pretty tough rules in 1 Cor. 11:27-32. Perhaps Gallagher has some exegetical reasons for why Paul isn’t setting up some sort of “fence” around the Table. If so, it would have been nice to have those reasons summarized. She also appears to drive off the cliff of tolerance when she writes: “Thieves are welcome here, and embezzlers; so are murderers and prostitutes and sex abusers and those who have been or are abused … Everyone.” (pg. 92). Now, I agree that no sin should keep us away from the Table, but I would add that no sin we “repent” of, should keep us away. What about 1 Cor. 5:11? When Jesus refused to condone the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, he did not just dismiss her sin. He commanded her, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (Jn. 8:11). The Eucharist is medicine for sick souls, and repentance (the process of turning away from sin) must be part of how approach the Table (Ro. 6:22).
I’m thankful to Gallagher for writing this book, and for forcing us to re-think a ritual that so many of us take for granted.
(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)
As part of my dissertation research, I’ve fired up The Weekly Communion Project! (I had started to put it together a couple years ago, but now it looks like I’ll actually be able to move forward.)
Please tell any pastors or elders you know about it!