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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Church: A Simple Beginning (Part One)

The kick off this series on worship I thought it was necessary to simplify matters. The basis of any complete understanding of worship begins with ecclesiology; better yet, the ontology of the Church. Rather than diving into deep theological waters I would like to focus on the basic ontology of the church; in other words, the basic identity of the church, not in terms of what it does, but what it is (and/or what it is not). By doing so, I think we can gain a better grasp of worship within the context of ecclesiology, which, in my estimation is the basis of understanding worship.

First, let’s look at what the church is. The church is a culture, as David Yeago has described it in his essay “Messiah’s People.” Without going into too much detail, simply put, this idea delineates that the church precedes creation rather than it coming from creation; as Simon Chan has declared, “The church does not exist in order to fix a broken creation; rather creation exists to realize the church.” (p. 23). Paul declares in Ephesians 1:4, the church was chosen in Christ before the creation of the world. Robert Jenson describes the world as a raw material from which God will use to perfect His church in Christ. Therefore, as a culture, the church is a divine-humanity, as a body, and with Christ as its Head.

Moreover, the church is “the people of God.” Simon Chan describes the church as the people of God in this way, “To call the church the people of God is to recognize that it exists in continuity with the ancient covenant people of God, the people of Israel.” (p. 24). I will be your God and you shall be my people is an oft repeated phrase from both the Old and New Testaments. The people of God in connection with the people of Israel within the identity of the church are described by Paul in Romans where we as gentiles are grafted into this body. We should never let this simple fact escape us, the church was established by a Jew (the Messiah), through a Jewish people, and we as Gentiles are included only by being engrafted. Therefore, the church was never intended to replace Israel. [To be continued]

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Worshipping Community

Over the last few years I have been concerned about a particular issue. The issue is worship, and the concern stems from my wife and my search for a new church home. About two years ago my wife and I left our church home due to a series of issues (which I will not detail) arising within the leadership of the church. It took us about a year and three months to find a new church home. During this time we visited literally dozens upon dozens of various churches, some of these experiences I posted at this blog as they occurred; you can peruse through the archives over the last year and read about a few of these.

Having visited so many different churches in various denominations led me to my aforementioned concern—worship! While we have visited many different churches across the country, since we lived in three different states in the last seven years, and we have crossed denominational lines in our visitations, however, these past few years, my concern has really hit home with me. I firmly believe that most churches (in the U.S. at least) have lost a sense of true worship, not to mention a sense of sound ecclesiological theology. Worship has become an individually geared activity to serve a particular end, such as helping one to “feel better” about one’s self, or make one feel closer to God, etc.

Therefore, much of what is called “worship” is nothing of the sort. It is merely a group of people coming together to achieve “the end” which the group believes is best suited for those gathered. Or to formulate a style of what is called “worship” which in fact caters to those outside the church in an attempt to bring them in the church in hopes of “winning their souls to Christ.” What happens in these circumstances is that the style or the ends then becomes a trade off for sound theology. In other words, the method usurps the message, and all sound theological aspects of worship are lost.

What I experienced over these last few years of visiting various churches was gimmicks, methods, or styles, and very little genuine worship at all. This bothered me, and still bothers me to no end. Therefore, over the next few days (or weeks as the case may be) I’ll be posting a series on worship. This upcoming series was not only motivated by my church visitation experiences but also by a book I recently purchased (in my gathering of books on worship) in order to revisit an issue I had once researched when I was in seminary; namely worship. The book is titled Liturgical Theology: The Church as a Worshiping Community by Simon Chan.

This book, in my estimation, really hits the ball out of the park with regard to the issue of worship. I will draw from its pages and provide quotes when necessary. The underlining occurrence I experienced in all these visitations of various churches was the idea that those who gathered thought they actually had something to offer to God in “their worship experience.” This is, as Simon Chan declares, and I firmly agree, a distortion of the glory of God. And this is all too prevalent in U.S. churches today; thus, I begin this new series. Any feedback as the series moves along is greatly desired and appreciated.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Worship of the Church

"[If] the church is merely the result of a human decision to gather together in a certain way in order to advance some practical end, such as the salvation of souls, then worship is likely to be understood as a human construct to achieve that end. This pragmatic concept of worship underlies many of the so-called worship wars between traditionalists and innovators in today's church. Often the structure of worship is changed without much thought given to its theological consequence. What is foremost in the minds of innovators is whether the worship is "relevant" to modern people, whether it meets their needs, whether it will attract and retain a crowd."

- Liturgical Theology by Simon Chan, 41.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21 NASB)
Behold the Virgin shall be with Child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His Name Immanuel, which translated means, "God with us." (Matt. 1:23 NASB)
I wish everyone a blessed Christmas. May the Mercy of God and the Love of Christ be with you this Christmas season.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent

"Great God of power, we praise you for Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sins. We thank you for the hope of the prophets, the song of the angels, and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. We thank you that in Jesus you became flesh and dwelt among us, sharing human hurts and pleasures. Glory to you for your grace-filled love. Glory to you eternal God; through Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, and King of kings, now and forever. Amen"

- Take from the Christmas Eve liturgy, First Presbyterian Church.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Time for Family

We have family coming to town today so I will not be blogging again until after Christmas (with the exception of my usual Christmas Day post). I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! If you travel be safe and God Bless.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Great Instruction Manual

I was in a discussion at work the other day. The topic was religious, and someone during the discussion spoke up and declared, “Well, you see, I think the bible is an instruction guide for our lives.” While this was not the first time I had ever heard anyone make this declaration, this was the first time it really irked me. I disagree with this assessment for several reasons.

First, if the bible is merely an instruction manual then the way in which we read the bible is entirely different than current scholarship is actually reading it. Now, this is not an argument against it being an “instruction manual,” it is simply a declaration that current scholarship is way off, if the instruction manual proclamation is correct. Does this tend to make me think that the “instruction manual" hypothesis is wrong? Yes, it does.

Second, if we are to read the bible as merely an instruction manual, then all the narrative, and all the history contained in the bible becomes pointless, so let’s just remove all that and leave only those things that instruct us. Of course, the person who made the “instruction” declaration certainly would not have any of this, but unfortunately he cannot see that his declaration certain seems to lead to this reduction.

Third, seeing the bible as merely an instruction manual also tends to miss the entire point of what the texts seem to be communicating, collectively anyway. Certainly the bible instructs, but was it written for that purpose? I don’t think so. In fact, I think that is rather trite. Moreover, knowing the person, as well as I do, who made this declaration, the comment is further reducible to a relative ethic based on individual preferences. The easiest things to understand, in this person’s mind, are those things in the bible that instruct: you shall not murder, etc. What is more, these are the easiest things to enforce, so why not think the bible was written for this reason. Thus, I think this is trite.

Lastly, there is so much more to the bible than merely “instructions.” Had he declared that bible is a story, perhaps that would not have bothered me as much; a story of the Jewish people and their messiah; a story of the Jewish messiah and the accomplishment of his work and purpose of His life: these things I could agree with, along with perhaps a few other things, but an instruction guide? No, the bible is not merely an instruction guide and if that is how this person sees the bible, he has missed the point entirely.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Baby Got Book

Fun Video! I laughed all the way through this one!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent

The Apostles Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and
earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who
was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried, he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty, from thence he shall come to
judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the holy catholic church; the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dare We Hope?

"Too often we think of hope in too individualistic a manner as merely our personal salvation. But hope essentially bears on the great actions of God concerning the whole of creation. It bears on the destiny of all humanity. It is the salvation of the world that we await. In reality hope bears on the salvation of all men – and it is only in the measure that I am immersed in them that it bears on me."

- Jean Cardinal Danielou, S. J.; Essai sur le mystere de l'histoire (1953), p. 340.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pitching Tents?

This is hilarious. I think this guy is a youth minister, but not for sure. Notice the look on his face when he immediately "messes up!" Classic!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Early Christian Creeds

Recently I have been researching some of the earliest creeds of Christianity. Interestingly, I have dug up some very old creeds, and what is believed to be the earliest Apostle's Creed or better called Apostolic Creed. The earliest known Apostolic Creed is as follows:

I believe in the Father almighty, - and in Jesus Christ, our Savior; - and in the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in the holy Church, and in the remission of sins.

The above creed is dated around 150 A.D. (or C.E.) from a work, which Henry Denzinger declares is, "infested with Gnosticism." However, the creed itself seems fairly orthodox.

One of my favorite Church Creeds is the actual Creed of Nicaea (not to be confused with the Nicene Creed) -

We believe in one God the Father All-sovereign, maker of all things visible and invisible;
And in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, things in heaven and things on the earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh, and became man, suffered, and rose on the third day, ascended into the heavens, is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit. And those that say "There was when he was not," and, "Before he was begotten he was not," and that, "He came into being from what is not," of those that allege, that the son of God is "Of another substance or essence" or "created" or "changeable" or "alterable," these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent

Collect for the Second Sunday of Avent:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of the holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

- Taken from the Collect at the Morning Prayer service of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Sunday morning December, 10th, 2006.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Book Recommendation

I have read both volumes of Robert Jenson’s “Systematic Theology” and many of his articles, and I can safely say that Jenson is quite difficult. In fact, I had to read, re-read, and then read again several chapters of Jenson’s Systematic Theology in order to get a solid grasp of what he was communicating. However, this work brings Jenson down to the lay level and covers issues that are basic yet imperative that all Christians understand.

This book is good, not only because it is Jenson, but because Solveig (Jenson’s granddaughter) asks all the right questions. Moreover, Solveig is a brilliant child in that the questions she asks go right to the heart of the matter. The work is quite basic, but very important in terms of its content. The book covers issues such as Evil, God’s Motives, Providence, The Messiah, Communion Practices, the Resurrection, The Lord’s Prayer, Lent, the Christian Calendar, Advent, Santa Claus, The Nicene Creed, Prayer, and much, much more.

It took me all of 30 to 40 minutes to read the whole text. It is engaging, fun, serious, and just plain educational on many levels. This was a brilliant idea. Moreover, we get a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century and how he would answer questions that at one time or another, we all as Christians have asked. I highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Are Your Throughts About This Video?

I have seen this video at various different blogspots and websites. I have very mixed feelings and thoughts about the content of the video and its purpose, or at least how it has been used. What are your thoughts on this video, feel free to comment, I am curious as to what others might think about this.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Quote of the Week

“All sin has its being and origin in the fact that man wants to be his own judge. And in wanting to be that, and thinking and acting accordingly, he and his whole world is in conflict with God. It is an unreconciled world, and therefore a suffering world, a world given up to destruction.”

- Karl Barth

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Meeting of the Minds . . . Or Something Remotely Similar!

This past Saturday, our usual theology hounds got together for our usual gathering. Only this time we took it upon ourselves to take some pics. These are really enjoyable gatherings which often times can last as long as 7 hours at a time. We discuss all sorts of issues, current events, theology, and assorted other things. Here are a few pics from this past Saturday's gathering.

Above is the "Motley Crew," beginning at the far left: myself, Sandy (a new and most welcomed edition to the group), Clint, and Dave.

As you see above, as the evening wears on, we commence to the backporch (or backyard depending on the person's place we meet), and smoke our pipes.

Everytime we meet we bring wine and smokes, and of course food, to have during the discussions. The choice fruit of the vine for this past meeting is shown above.

These are great gatherings, sometimes the discussions get heated, other times it can be quite motivating; most often it is just good old home grown fun. We have been meeting pretty faithfully every other week for over a year now. This is a great group of guys, some of my best friends, and I would not trade these times for anything.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Sunday of Advent

Advent is a term from the Latin word adventus which means "arrival". Advent is the new year of the Christian Church and the church season that leads to Christmas Day. It means that the Lord is coming, Jesus Christ, our brother in our humanity and our God in His divinity is about to arrive. Thanks be unto God. May God richly bless you during this Advent season.

From the Liturgical Advent Service at our church this morning . . .

Prayer of Confession:

"God of the future, you are coming in power to bring all nations under your rule. We confess that we have not expected your kingdom, for we live casual lives, ignoring your promised judgement. We accept lies as truth, exploit neighbors, abuse the earth, and refuse your justice and peace. In your mercy, forgive us. Grant us wisdom to welcome your way, and to seek things that will endure when Christ comes to judge the world."

Assurance of Pardon:

"Hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; a new life has begun. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen."

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Never would have guessed me to be an "Obsesive-Compulsive Bookworm," especially not with over 3000 volumes in my library. ;-)

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Ontology of the Church

“If the church’s existence is not purely creaturely but a ‘divine-humanity,’ then we need to spell out its link with the triune God more precisely if we are to understand its true nature and function. For the role or function of the church grows out of its ontological status as a divine-humanity. This ontological status is sometimes expressed in the concept of Mother Church, made famous by Cyprian” ‘He who has not the Church for his Mother, has not God for his Father.’ That is to say, the church is our nourishing Mother, and we are entirely dependent on her for our existence as Christians. We are not saved as individuals first and then incorporated into the church; rather, to be a Christian is to be incorporated into the church by baptism and nourished with the spiritual food of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Failure to understand this fact has led to a reduction of the church’s role to a largely sociological one of a service provider catering to individual believers’ spiritual needs.”

- Simon Chan, Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2006), 24.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Nativity Story

This movie opens in theatres today! It looks very good.