October 16, 2012

Reppin' it Old School

Let me begin with a clarification of terms. By Reppin', I mean Repetition. And by Old Schhol, I mean way Old School. Think Calvin. Heidelberg. Westminster. We're talking Catechisms. For those unfamiliar with what a catechism is, here is the basic idea. A set of propositional truths are put forth in a question-and-answer format to teach doctrine, and guard against both error and wrong teaching.
If you're like me, in that you grew up either in an evangelical church or unchurched, this concept is likely somewhat foreign to you. While it is still in use in some Catholic and a very few mainline Protestant churches, catechims have gone somewhat the way of the dodo.
The reasoning for this is more than I could cover here, but if I might be allowed some over-simplification, here is how I would put it:
People don't want to hear propositional truth, they'd rather have their ears scratched in a discussion or lecture format, and have no use for participatory learning of deep, solid, Gospel truths. There's my over-simplified version.
Add to that the fact that most of the faiths great catechisms were written 300+ years ago, which makes the language archaic. The result? Well, you can still find them on Google, but you won't find many catechisms at use in your local church.
And I would like to contend that this is a problem. We live in an age where propositional truth is hard to come by. Even people and churches that claim to believe truth, may be hard-pressed to provide you with that truth if you were to ask them. How many people in your church could a three sentence description of who God is? How many people in your church could accurately give a reason for why God created man? What about Jesus, sin, hell, justification, grace, etc? Just what exactly is baptism about? Could you even answer these questions? I fear the answer for most of us would be "no." Of course, maybe you think well on your feet. You might be able to come up with something for an answer. But would that answer be Biblical? Would that answer line up with the teachings of Scripture and the historic orthodox interpretation of those Scriptures? In most cases, that would be doubtful. What we are experiencing is rampant Biblical ignorance, even among those who have grown up in Chrisitan homes, attend church, Sunday school, and youth group, and have been involved in more Bible studies than Jesus is likely to condone. People simply don't get the Bible. I have innumerable soap boxes I could jump onto at this point, but I will try to stay on task here. There are a lot of things to blame for this ignorance. What I want to do instead today, is put forth what I believe is part of (although obviously not all of) the solution.

I believe churches and families should catechise. And not just the children. Parents need this. Pastors need this. When we are asked simple questions about the basics of our faith, we need to be ready with an answer for the hope we have inside. And catechisms are incredibly helpful in this. It is a labourious, but effective, method of teaching, which pours metric tons of information into our brains. And our childrens brains. And our new disciples brains. It sounds a bit like brainwashing, which in a sense it is. It's washing out the sinful mess of the world and replacing it with the beauty of God's revealed word. If you doubt the Biblical grounding for such things, I suggest you check Romans 12 and Ephesians 5. Paul told their Romans their minds need to be renewed. He told the Ephesians that Jesus cleanses His bride with washing by the Word, and that husbands are to follow that example. Which tells me my mind needs to be renewed, and I need to help my bride renew hers by washing her with the Word. Pretty simple. Why should we use catechisms for this? They work.

Now, let's not be naive. Of course simply teaching people a set of truths won't change their hearts, it won't force them to believe anything they've learned, etc. But teaching propositional truths, grounded deeply in the Truth of God's Word, gives us Biblical categories for understanding the world. And the younger we can give our kids these things, the better shot they have, because we will teaching them to think in Bible-categories. Why would we not want that?

So, all of this is basically to preface my excitement over the New City Catechism (link below until I can get the hyperlink to work). This was put together by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, along with The Gospel Coalition. It is a set of 52 questions (one for each week of the year), and will includes a verse to accompany each question, along with written commentary from preachers of the past, video commentary from modern pastors, and a written prayer for each question. The introduction to the catechism is here: http://www.newcitycatechism.com/intro.php

I highly encourage you to check this out, and consider how we might use such things to better hide God's Word in our hearts (Psalm 119). Tools like these are a gift from the Father, who gives us all good things (James 1), and we ought to enjoy them to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). What could be more gloriously joy-filled than getting to better know the God of all Creation?


October 10, 2012

And why abortion isn't about "traditional values," either.

I feel like the last few posts I've been ragging on traditional values. Allow me to make a clarifying statement. I am all for both traditions, and values. They are not, in and of themselves, bad things, and can be quite good. But when we take an issue of massive import, and lower it to the importance level of tradition, we do our culture, our country, and our fellow man a great disservice. That is my point.

And so I want to take some of that logic and apply it to the abortion topic. The prevailing stance on abortion on the "right hand" side of the isle seems to be that abortion is bad, unless the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother's life is at stake.  I want to explain why this position is completely illogical and indefensible.

What is the basis for opposing abortion at all?  Opposition to abortion rests on two premises
1)that an unborn fetus is a person
2)that the unprovoked killing of any person, something commonly known as murder, is wrong

Opposition to abortion rises and falls on these two premises. If the unborn an unhuman, then we have no reason to protect them.  If murder isn't wrong, the we have no reason to protect them.

So, is the unborn fetus a human being?  Writing in a November 22, 2005 article, Robert P. George says, "the answer is to be found in the works of modern human embryology and developmental biology. In these texts, we find little or nothing in the way of scientific uncertainty: '…human development begins at fertilization…' write embryologists Keith Moore and T.V. N. Persaud in The Developing Human (7th edition, 2003), the most widely used textbook on human embryology."
Here is another article from the Georgia Southern website on the issue: http://personal.georgiasouthern.edu/~etmcmull/ABORTION.htm

It would seem clear that science gives a a resounding "yes" to the answer of whether human life begins at conception. But what do the Scriptures have to say?  Science is good, but Scripture is our highest court.

 For you formed my inward parts;
  you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
 Wonderful are your works;
  my soul knows it very well.
(Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)

The Psalmist here declares that it was God Himself who knit his body together in his mother's womb. Not to read into the verse, but I hear an echo of Genesis 2 when I read this.

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(Genesis 2:7 ESV)

Unlike the rest of creation which God simply speaks into existence (see Genesis 1), God forms man. Man is special to Him, the only part of creation which is made in His own image (Gen 1:26-28). And this image bearing begins in the womb. 
Because man is made in the image of God, few things could be more aggresive in our rebellion against God than to slay someone made in His own image.

 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
  by man shall his blood be shed,
 for God made man in his own image.
(Genesis 9:5-6 ESV)

This is the basis for the second point, that being, God hates murder.  We are all familiar with the sixth commandment,  "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13 ESV)

So assuming these two things are agreed upon, we have no argument. Abortion, the killing of an unborn human, is muder, and murder is wrong. Therefore, abortion is wrong. Pretty simple. Which is why this "I kinda don't like most abortions" point of view so royally pisses me off.

As soon as you concede that abortion might be okay in some instances, you have de facto junked your whole position. If abortion because it is murder, then how can it become okay under any circumstances? Are children concieved of incest or rape somehow sub-human?  This is ludacris to assume. A child concieved under such circumstances had no more control of it's situation than you did at a similar point in life.  A human life is valuable, regardless of who their parents are or were.  If you decide that simply because of a child's circumstances of conception that killing them is acceptable, then you have simply opened the door to the question of "what other circumstances might make murder acceptable?"  You have lost your consistent, logical, biblical footing for the opposition of abortion.

As for those cases in which the life of the mother is at stake, here are two articles.

I have only a couple of things to say on this point.
1)this is largely a hypothetical situation with very few real life cases that warrant discussion
2)even in this real life situation-should our default assumption be that the child should die and the mother should live? I realize this would be an incredibly difficult situation for any family to be put into, I just think it would serve us well to approach such things sensitively and in prayer, not bulging in saying "Mom's at risk, the baby dies." Pardon me if I think that is less caring than weighing all options possible.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).