The Complicated Realities of A Dual Citizenship

Scott Clark has recently posted a series on church membership. I have been quite enjoying it. The latest post created a mixed response for me. His representation of a high view of membership in which he likens it to marriage was fantastic. But the latter part of the post made me wonder.

He makes the point that when Christian believers find themselves on the bivouac in God’s world they should consider the church scene, perhaps even declining certain moves if the landscape is wanting:

“This also means that members should take care of their souls when they change employment or move house. Frequently it seems to be that economic considerations trump the spiritual so that Christians find themselves in a place with no congregation and no means to plant one. This is, to be sure, highly problematic. Would you move to a community where there was no oxygen? Would you move to a community where there was no food? Of course not! Why would you move to a place where there is no place to worship?”

I hesitate. It is certainly undeniable that one ought to “take care of his soul” when considering creational calling. It really should be second-nature to ask specific redemptive questions in the midst of creational endeavor. But at the same time, I think there should also be due caution given any tendency to potentially mismanage one’s dual citizenship in the other direction. True enough, we should take care against the demands of creation to unduly interfere with those of redemption. But one may find that in his zeal to take care of his soul that he has neglected the demands of his body.

I have heard Christian believers speak of moving to be closer to a particular church. And in response I have always only heard kudos for demonstrating pious commitment, even as much as I have curiously never heard any corrective to it. (Tangentially, one often hears what I like to call the “totem pole syndrome.” This is where Christian believers rigidly rank their commitments. It goes something like this: “God first, then church, then family, then work, then recreation, etc.” First, it is hard to conceive of how “God comes first” when he is sovereign over all things, to say nothing of how it sure sounds a lot like perceiving the Most High as an agent amongst equals. And I’ll let the implicit pietism go for now. Second, at least in the world I inhabit, I simply cannot work with the tyranny of reckoning relatively equal vocations. Sometimes family is sacrificed by the demands of my work, sometimes vice versa. Sometimes the tally-man will just have to find another way to tally me bananas for a week or so while I gallivant with my family in south Florida or northern Michigan. And just a few weeks ago I had to forgo both a deacon’s meeting and a Classis Renewal pow-wow to do just that. Good thing Jesus is sovereign over it all or the guilt would be killer.) Just how well might these sorts of things fit into what might be considered the better of a two-kingdoms understanding?

It is more my view that as citizens of the two kingdoms, which are equally and sovereignly ruled by Christ, Christian believers should strive to relate to them accordingly, however imperfectly. The left-hand kingdom is one characterized by law, the right-hand kingdom by grace. It would seem to me that vocational calling is as much Christ’s as effectual calling; when God calls us into his world it is just as legitimate as when he calls us to his church. This is the complicated reality of having dual citizenship. It is not easily solved when one understands he is subject to a Sovereign who rules both kingdoms equally but differently.

So I am not convinced that the reality of a less-than church scene in a particular geographic location necessarily should put the kibosh on one’s creational plight. It seems to me that creational demands—economic, educational, familial, relational—demand superior consideration when doing creation. It only makes sense. Hard as it may be for some to swallow, this means that, ultimately, creational course should be decided by the principles of creation and not redemption. Moreover, it should be guarded against to think this somehow impious on the part of the Christian believer. In point of fact, it should be considered quite the opposite.

If we are going to be serious when it comes to being faithful to the principles of redemption, which is to say, hold unswervingly to the confessional Reformed tradition in both belief and practice, should it not be the same as we bid in creation? After all, the Triune God is sovereign over both kingdoms and is the Author of the principles of each.

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53 Responses to The Complicated Realities of A Dual Citizenship

  1. sean says:

    Maybe more disconcerting in this whole discussion, is that the onus is placed on the congregant to evaluate the landscape and if it appears barren, he should not relocate there. Who is truly being derelict in their duties here, the confessional creedal churches who are unfaithful in serving the populace of an area or the congregant following his common endeavor?

    I’d like to see much more emphasis placed on the historic, creedal churches in this barren locale who aren’t doing their job. Southern Cal. is a nice area, and certainly a large populace resides there, but the rest of the country betwixt the two coasts is beginning to appear like it’s just so much “fly over” country. Is it not also part of the institutional churches role to be missionary in it’s endeavors?

  2. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Good point. I’d likely be shy about calling the situation the result of being “unfaithful” and say there is certainly room for improvement. But I really like your point. Probably because it helps make mine (!).

  3. sean says:

    Ha ha

    Probably so. Funny how that works. Bowl much? 🙂

    As far as the “unfaithful” bit, while being possibly undiplomatic, I figure within the context of “vow-taking” what’s good for the goose………..

  4. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Man, you’re really tough. I like it.

  5. sean says:

    Zrim,

    Occupational hazard of membership in a monocovenantal, home schooling, DW worshipping, creedal, boomer church, with a touch of Keller kingdom activity to wash it down with. I Know, I know, don’t ask me who joined these two together, it ‘s sorta like the dispensational pentecostalism of the calvary chapels. Some not so funny or fun for that matter, bride of frankenstein confessionalism.

  6. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Yeow. And I thought I had it bad. Just goes to show there’s always someone worse of than you. Thanks for making me feel…better.

  7. Echo_ohcE says:

    Well, I agree with Clark, and I disagree with you Zrim.

    While it is right to distinguish the two kingdoms and separate them, I myself participate in both, and I am not separated. I participate in the one as one who participates also in the other. I don’t stop participating in the Church when participating in creational endeavor.

    And I know you will decry it, but the church is far more important than creational activities. In regards to creation, we’re just trying to make a living. We can do that anywhere. But we can’t worship God properly just anywhere. We can only do it where there are true churches. It’s a lamentable situation, but that’s the fact.

    I think Clark finds it odd that someone would move their family away from the church in order to get a higher paying job or something like that. It makes no sense to him, and it makes no sense to me.

    E

  8. sean says:

    “We can do that anywhere. But we can’t worship God properly just anywhere. We can only do it where there are true churches. It’s a lamentable situation, but that’s the fact.”

    I’ll ignore the false premise of being able to engage your creational endeavor “anywhere”. What I can’t reconcile to, is the ecclesiastical attitude that says; “they should come to us” Just atmospherically I don’t see this climate in the NT. I’m constantly struck by Paul’s life revolving around going and not being a burden on those he ministers to. Then the constant longing of Paul to return to those he left, and making sure he has done everything, including threaten those who’ve been entrusted to the welfare of that church to do their job or “he’ll be back sooner than later and it won’t be milk and cookies time.”

    There is the instruction, given by Paul, to always lay your creational endeavors before the throne “…..if the Lord wills then we shall go and do such and such”. However, the assumption that is never challenged is that the communities are “out there” we need to “go” to them. When things are bad in Corinth, there is no recommendation that maybe the people in Corinth might want to come to Jerusalem where they’re assured of a more “apostolic” leadership. Instead Paul sets about “reforming” the church at Corinth. It’s almost a self-evident truth; the churches are KNOWN by their geographic identity. Additionally, one of the aspects I hear most bemoaned by clergy and leaders in american churches is our nomadic proclivities. One of the reasons fads so easily take hold in churches is the wanderlust of it’s members, there’s not this overriding sense of community, history, tradition, in fact, the very reality that churches are so “commuter” derived leads to the lack of community we often see within a group. We often don’t live in the same neighborhood, I can’t walk over and borrow a cup of sugar from deacon Joe. I see you on sunday, then maybe pot luck and possibly evening service and then the rest of my week is lived out in a different community.

    Yet, It is being suggested that I’m part of the problem, because I’m unable or unwilling to move where there is a true church. Quite frankly it’s almost outrageous in it’s presumption and bordering on high-handedness. The church, particularly the reformed church, needs to look out on the state of the churches it’s planted and fostered and aggressively seek to straighten crooked paths not suggest that the congregants of their historical creedal churches might want to move away from their historical creedal churches so they might attend another historical creedal church where we’re doing things “right”. The issue in my mind is not leaving a reformed communion for a non-reformed communion but the reformed communions are not who they claim to be.

    I do agree with the idea of going through the courts to correct certain wrongs and certainly a local community can get involved in trying to plant a church. But I would suggest that a larger aspect of the problem is that a number of the pasorate are inadequately prepared intellectually(maybe more to the point they’re getting indoctrinated ,see WTS, with something other than the historic reformed understanding of the scriptures. If I wanted Barth I’d move to europe.) for the endeavor and maybe more so, lack the appropriate temperment-constitution-vocational calling to execute their tasks. They’re beginning to remind me of the roman catholic clergy I grew up with who more often than not became clergy because they were either unable to successfully perform a different vocation or were socially/psychologically “touched”. And trust me the whole home-school phenomenon is not an effective corrective to these social inadequacies.(my little jab)

    So, rather than aggressively addressing those issues we get; “maybe you might want to move.”

    There is more that could be developed in this vein along the lines of “celebrity pastors” and “celebrity churches” but I’ll leave that for someone else to develop.

  9. Mike says:

    I like your take on this. Very balanced to be sure. However, there is something admirable about checking into the Church scene before making a final desicion in changing areas and employment. But having said that it is simply one consideration. As all things our under God as you stated so well so isn’t our vocation. I have had people who have moved without a church in a particular area because God was calling them to plant or help plant a church.

    The problem is with most people we don’t stop and think about the broader ramifications of being a kingdom citizen and so we don’t think through all the possible opportunities a move could have for the kingdom. We tend to think closer to home. So the admonition about the church being a big part of a decison is helpful as long as we temper that with God’s Word..I suggest Jer. 29 as a place for Christian to reassess.

  10. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    It really isn’t about “agreeing” and “disagreeing,” hence the notion of our reality being complicated. I am only wanting to nuance what Clark seems to be suggesting either overtly or covertly.

    And, yes, I do decry your making one kingdom “more important” than the other. (I am glad I am so predictable, since it is such a Presbyterian thing to be!) Just trying to make a living? That sounds positively medieval and Gnostic and far from Reformational. Maybe that is a function of (your) being up to here in seminary, but believe it or not, Echo, some of us lowly believers out here in the world actually think more highly of our vocations than that, even if they aren’t sacred services. Are you sure you’ve heard Horton speak about this sort of thing?

    I don’t pretend to know what Clark thinks. But I see no problem with playing by creational principles (i.e. more money) when doing creation. We do the same when we do redemption. Our complicated reality as citizens of both kingdoms makes this, well, complicated, and not so easily solved by making one sphere more important than another. Just because one is passing away doesn’t mean it is inferior.

  11. Chris Sherman says:

    One must consider that there are many vocations (I believe you are calling them creation endeavors)which require moving from time to time, migrant farm workers, fishermen, oil rig workers, truckers, construction workers, et al. These do not always have the luxury of putting down roots in any given church community.

    In my own situation, it would be economically unfeasible to move or to drive each Lords day the 70 miles to be near a good Reformed community.

  12. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    Thanks. What I am questioning is the notion, then, that your deeming it economically unfeasible to be somehow less-than-pious. It could be argued that you are simply playing by creational rules, which are God’s, thus quite pious.

  13. Chris Sherman says:

    Yeah, that’s it. I just didn’t know it. I’m being pious by not being pious. Wow, what relief.

  14. Chris Sherman says:

    Either that or I’m a hyper-Calvinist

  15. Zrim says:

    Well, Horton did recently say to stop serving God. And, of course, the pious don’t seem to be aware of when they “saw the Lord was hungry or thirsty.”

    If you mean by hyper-Calvinist that you don’t naturally see yourself as pious, I’ll settle for just plain Calvinist.

  16. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I wouldn’t begrudge anyone wanting to make more money.

    However, if someone were offered a job that entailed both more money and say, a lot more business trips away from the family, well, I sure wouldn’t understand why someone would sacrifice time away from their family for the sake of making more money. Of course, we all have to make ends meet, and we have to do what we have to do. But some things are more important than money, obviously, and family is one of them.

    Something else that’s more important than money is being able to attend a good church. I think the scenario Clark is imagining is not so much someone who becomes reformed and is out in the middle of nowhere, and thus contemplates moving. No, I think what he’s contemplating – at least what I’m thinking – is that it makes no sense for someone who is reformed, who has a good church, and who is able to make a respectable living, to then be offered a job somewhere where there are no good churches, and yet still take that job because it involves more money. That makes no sense to me.

    Again, I don’t begrudge anyone wanting more money. I want more money. But with every move there are pros and cons that need to be weighed, and whether or not there is a good church in the area ought to be at the top of the list. We NEED to go to a good church. We NEED it. It is our life blood.

    I felt this way before I went to seminary. It seems to me to be common sense, because I’m not interested in any kind of compromise when it comes to what church I go to. And I don’t care a whole lot what upholding this principle costs me. True, my family has to eat, but my family doesn’t have to sit in the lap of luxury. And it DOES have to go to a good church, every bit as much as it has to eat.

    I guess what I don’t understand is any kind of position that doesn’t entail thinking that going to a good, solid reformed church is absolutely crucial and of utmost importance for every believer.

    And by the way, I agree with Sean that the Reformed churches ought to spread everywhere. Fine, but the fact is, the Reformed churches have not yet spread everywhere, so why move to where they have not spread?

    Now if you live somewhere where there isn’t a solid Reformed church, and you have recently become reformed in your thinking, I wouldn’t say that you HAVE to move, but if you can’t get a Reformed church started in your area, why NOT move? Again, attending a solid Reformed church is of crucial importance.

    Since I attend a solid Reformed church, and have also attended other churches, I know for a fact what a difference it makes, and I want THAT for my fellow believers far more than I want them to make more money.

    E

  17. sean says:

    “And by the way, I agree with Sean that the Reformed churches ought to spread everywhere. Fine, but the fact is, the Reformed churches have not yet spread everywhere, so why move to where they have not spread?”

    I’m not sure what your exposure to the reformed landscape has been, and I’m sure there are “pockets” where this doesn’t hold true, but I can tell you from where I’m sitting, the problem isn’t that there are no creedally(sp?) reformed churches, it’s that a MAJORITY of the reformed churches that exist, are reformed in name only. You can’t get L/G preaching, you can’t get the Lord’s supper consistently offered, you can’t get the leadership off the rabbit trails of politics, homeschooling, and culture transformation, and you can’t get liturgy.

    Man, just preach me L/G without the sermon dying the death of a 1,000 qualifications, declare to me absolution of my sins, offer me the Lord’s table every sunday(I won’t even hound you about wine or grape juice), baptize my kids, and put me in the ground when I’m done. I’ll handle everything else , just be the church. Stop selling me Barth, stop making union with Christ something “other” than the benefits accrued to me through faith in Jesus, and I’ll gladly pay your salary and make sure you got a roof over your head, and get your family insurance coverage.

    To borrow from the common marketplace; the “product” being put out their doesn’t match the marketing. It’s just so much, “bait and switch”.

    So, on top of all this dereliction of duty and dishonest brokering, Clark lays down a line of demarcation(congregant should consider moving), that effectively not only shifts the onus of responsibility from resting solely and squarely on the shoulders of the paid officers of creedal historic churches, who are failing in their calling, but says maybe your to blame as well by choosing to live where you live. Here I am in the faithful pursuit of my common endeavor and as ZRIM has pointed out, legitimately employing creation principles to my common endeavor, but because I can’t get the same faithfulness out of my brother in his sacred calling, I gotta move, and further more I’m at least partially(if not equally) to blame for failing to take into account the faithlessness of my brother in doing his job.

    Now, I’m unhappy. Not only have you prescribed for me a remedy for an sickness which I am not actually manifesting(my brother is), but you’re telling me that I should have thought about that more before I didn’t manifest it………………..Where’s my dog, he needs a swift kick.

  18. Zrim says:

    Sean “feels my pain.” Sean for President. Just stay away from interns and cigars, Sean.

  19. sean says:

    “Man, just preach me L/G without the sermon dying the death of a 1,000 qualifications, declare to me absolution of my sins, offer me the Lord’s table every sunday(I won’t even hound you about wine or grape juice), baptize my kids, and put me in the ground when I’m done. I’ll handle everything else , just be the church. Stop selling me Barth, stop making union with Christ something “other” than the benefits accrued to me through faith in Jesus, and I’ll gladly pay your salary and make sure you got a roof over your head, and get your family insurance coverage.”

    THE NEW DEAL-(from seminary to the grave)

  20. Steve Moulson says:

    ‘I participate in the one as one who participates also in the other.’

    Echo has it right – since God is sovereign over both kingdoms, you participate in both.

    You need food to eat, physically and spiritually, so you go to a place with both kinds of food. If there is no church, perhaps it is your responsibility to help start one.

    Zrim, are you saying you would sacrifice your family’s spiritual well-being in order to pursue an earthly vocation? Shouldn’t the consideration of what kind of church will be where you’re going be an indication as to whether or not God is actually calling you to go there?

    It seems that in your zeal to bring creation up to redemption’s level you end up over-emphasizing the creation aspect.

    I generally enjoy reading your posts, and I think I see where you are coming from, but the complicated reality is that we have to have both kingdoms in tension, which means not choosing one over the other – having a job AND having a church are both important, at the same time.

  21. Zrim says:

    Steve,

    I have not been sure what Echo’s point is when he says that God is sovereign and we participate in both. That is what I say as well. Other than he seems to think one is more off-limits than the other or less than good.

    “…are you saying you would sacrifice your family’s spiritual well-being in order to pursue an earthly vocation?”

    I am saying it’s complicated, so I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I am saying that both vocations matter. But it sure seems like most would say it is impious to play by creational rules when doing creation (or “sacrifice spiritual well-being in order to do earthly vocation”), which seems fairly non-sensical.

    For whatever it may be worth, as you may know, we dwell here in Little Geneva where there are two churches every 1.2 miles (I have ten within a two mile radius of my driveway). But none are what you’d call confessionally Reformed. I am cluelessly pursuing a way to see a work planted here. But it is very difficult. There is one two and a half hours north of here. Should we drive that far every Sunday? I think that would be bad creational practice. Should we move there? I think that would be even more bad creational practice.

    “It seems that in your zeal to bring creation up to redemption’s level you end up over-emphasizing the creation aspect.”

    Implicit in your words seems to be that one sphere should be over-emphasized, and it should be redemption. I don’t share your first assumption. Since God is sovereign over both, why is one more important? In the end, he will bring them together (new heavens and new earth).

  22. Mike says:

    Abraham Kuiper had it right when he spoke of “sphere sovereignty”…God’s sphere encompassed all the rest…and the rest were the same size. But the reality is that as men we will emphasize one over another depending upon the situation God places us into. None of us are so spiritually minded that we are no earthly good because there is no such thing..if we were actually “spiritually minded” we would be good for God’s cause wherever He would place us.

    But then that is the real issue…before making any move(home, job,pouse,car/truck) how much time is spent in seeking and confirming this move as God’s will? It is often about the money or position when it comes to a job change because afterall we will be able to do more ministry. I am old enough now and have failed enough now and have laughed enough now (especially at myself and my own arrogance before God) to see the frailty in that arguement. Moses put it best…”If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” Knowing what God wants us to do is not impossible. It is merely a question of whether we seek Him and His people for confirmation..or do we do it on our own.

  23. Zrim says:

    Mike said, “But then that is the real issue…before making any move(home, job,pouse,car/truck) how much time is spent in seeking and confirming this move as God’s will?”

    For my part, I am predictably suspicious of the notion that we can at all “confirm” God’s secret will in these things (Dt. 29:29). Calvin said of the secret will it is “a labyrinth from which there is no hope of return.”

    So, how much time is enough and how do I know that any move can be “confirmed”?

  24. sean says:

    “So, how much time is enough and how do I know that any move can be “confirmed”?”

    I don’t know, but if I remember right we have a “hard master” who reaps where he didn’t sow. If you wait too long, you may very well have taken from you what little you do have. Or, “a labyrinth from which there is no hope of return” works too.

    Seems to me this feeds right into “whatever your hands find to do, do it with your might.”

    All the rest truly is gnostic. “I know what I know if you know what I mean”

  25. Mike says:

    That would be like saying none of us can know for sure if we are a Christian since we don’t know all of God’s secret will. You may be saying that but from the little that I have read by you I am not sure that you want to go there.

    We spend way too much time focused on what we don’t know and not enough time on what we do…in fact there is so much of God’s will we do know and can know that it shouldn’t matter what we can’t know other than to keep us praising Him as Creator and realizing we are His children who He delights in revealing Himself to.

    It took 2 years for me to confirm my call (working with our Session to confirm my gifts and calling for they were men of God’s own choosing in my life and I am as confident now as I was then that this was the path that God has called me too) to the pastorate from being a General Contractor in South Florida. God’s will was revealed through His men. When I receievd a call to plant a church in South Florida just months after my 15 year old son was killed I knew that then was not the time but within a year I knew with the same confidence that I was to plant that same church. God’s greater will is always revealed to His children and to those who are seeking it…otherwise we could not be confident about anything. Simple logic..perhaps but check out how God’s people moved around in Scripture…God reveal Himself either personally or through His chosen people.

  26. Chris Sherman says:

    A couple of resources on this subject;

    White Horse in – Called by God-
    http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/The_White_Horse_Inn/archives.asp?bcd=11/25/2007

    Jim Paul at the English L’abri on decision making;
    http://labri.org/england/resources.html

  27. Zrim says:

    “That would be like saying none of us can know for sure if we are a Christian since we don’t know all of God’s secret will.”

    But faith is always mixed with doubt. Besides, we are to look outside ourselves for affirmation. Like Luther told Mel, “The gospel is entirely outside you.” Looking to good standing in a true church seems much more confessional than diving around within.

    I’ll stick with what is revealed and known (read: the Law, etc.), and live at relative ease, albeit with the discomforts of a pilgrim in this present evil age, with not being privy to the secret will. I am not sure why we think we have to speak as if that which is unknown can be more known than not.

  28. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    That commentary includes, “It isn’t the life of the monk or nun that God approves, but the life of ordinary Christians at their stations serving the world in their divinely appointed places.”

    I have always only read in Horton the sort of high view of creation that I have. And, to be honest, I think that high view is relatively rare amongst American religionists, Reformed notwithstanding. I have no idea why believers think creation is less important than redemption, that our souls are more important than our bodies. Creation is fallen, not evil.

  29. Danny Hyde says:

    “Sean for President” . . . how about President of my consistory, Sean? I’m sure we could find you a job!

    Anyways, where are you geographically?

  30. sean says:

    Danny,

    I am in San Antonio, Texas.

  31. Zrim says:

    Sheesh, Rev., I thought you were holding that position for me…my three-year term here in Little GRusalem is up at the end of the month and I was thinking of coming out.

  32. Mike Brown says:

    Sean,

    “Man, just preach me L/G without the sermon dying the death of a 1,000 qualifications, declare to me absolution of my sins, offer me the Lord’s table every sunday(I won’t even hound you about wine or grape juice), baptize my kids, and put me in the ground when I’m done. I’ll handle everything else , just be the church. Stop selling me Barth, stop making union with Christ something “other” than the benefits accrued to me through faith in Jesus, and I’ll gladly pay your salary and make sure you got a roof over your head, and get your family insurance coverage.”

    Seriously, do you have any idea how many pastors and congregations need to hear that? Few things are more encouraging. Do you have a blog post on this to which I could link our church’s blog? Or how about an article?

  33. Steve Moulson says:

    “Implicit in your words seems to be that one sphere should be over-emphasized, and it should be redemption.”

    No, I am saying that this is what you are doing, except you do it with respect to creation. Otherwise, why would I say “we have to have both kingdoms in tension, which means not choosing one over the other – having a job AND having a church are both important, at the same time.” ?

    One shouldn’t suffer at the expense of the other. I don’t envy your situation, I am in a similar one, and if I wasn’t taking specific steps to reverse it, I’d move. I know, there I go exalting redemption over creation again. Well if creation is just fine, then why does it need redemption?

  34. Zrim says:

    Steve,

    “No, I am saying that this is what you are doing, except you do it with respect to creation.”

    I can see that. But in my defense, I suppose that sort of over-compensation might be expected when trying to counter the over-emphasis on redemption. I still say that the principles of creation really ought to be played by when doing creation. When I do redemption (read: the intolerance of Reformed confessionalism) I am playing by those rules. Th erub is when one has his feet in both kingdoms, or as you say, being in tension. I ought not decide where to live based upon redemptive realities any more than I ought to decide what I confess and practice based upon creational ones.

    “Well if creation is just fine, then why does it need redemption?”

    Does it? It depends upon what you mean.

    I think the distinction between creation’s essence and condition needs to be made. Its essence needs no redemption, but its condition does. And very often what I hear is this notion that creation is essentially evil. It would never be admitted in such blunt terms, but when people say creation needs to be redeemed more often than not it seems to mean there is something essentially wrong with it. And I reject that notion.

  35. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Move to Grand Rapids. We need you.

    Kidding. Sort of. Oh, the tension.

  36. sean says:

    Mike,

    I was being serious. I wasn’t trying to be clever. No, I’m sorry I don’t have a blog or an article. Although, I think Zrim has said all these things and more from what I’ve read of his posts. I hope it is encouraging, it’s all I want, it’s all a lot of us want and we simply can’t get it.

    As a businessman you learn early on that good labor is the cheapest investment you’ll ever make. If you can find someone who knows their job and executes their tasks with minimal oversight, you make sure they’re taken care of and you keep the “wolves” off their door so they can do their job.

    It’s not a perfect anology but it’s sincere.

  37. Mike Brown says:

    Sean,

    If you ever want to fill in for Horton one Sunday to teach adult SS at Christ URC on this topic, let me know.

    Let me be serious now: I want to encourage you to work this up into an article and submit it to Modern Reformation magazine. Coming from your perspective as a parishioner (and businessman) would be very helpful for a lot of people. Please think about it.

  38. sean says:

    Zrim,

    I think we’re left to commiserate on your blog.

    “Good things”

  39. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Mazzle-mazzle.

    Mike,

    I think MR has dispensed with its Diary section, if that’s what you mean. I recall a few years ago they sent out a solicitation for suggestions, etc. In it, I wondered about a corner for laity to write. I was pleased to see them develop the Diary section, and I think mine was the second one they ever published (I think the July/August 2007 issue on Grace Alone). It was fun. I was pleased to see Stellman and Hart both had some stuff in that same issue.

  40. Mike Brown says:

    Zrim,

    Same thing to you. An article from a lay person/parisioner that addresses what Sean is asking for is NEEDED. A pastor can’t write an article like that. It has to be written by a lay person. I say write one and submit it to MR. I’ll talk to EL and MH and see if they could find a place for it. If not, then perhaps another publication. But I think MR would be the one.

  41. Mike Brown says:

    Zrim and Sean,

    I don’t mean for that last post to sound like I plan “to pull some strings.” I don’t have any clout. But I will mention something to Eric and to Mike about the possibility of an article like this. I really think it is needed in order to help educate people on what a pastor is and what he should be doing. Hearing that from non-clergy would be great.

  42. John Bugay says:

    Echo: However, if someone were offered a job that entailed both more money and say, a lot more business trips away from the family, well, I sure wouldn’t understand why someone would sacrifice time away from their family for the sake of making more money. Of course, we all have to make ends meet, and we have to do what we have to do. But some things are more important than money, obviously, and family is one of them.

    Echo, this just happened to me. There was a time, some time ago, when I wouldn’t have traveled (and didn’t), but now I’m older and my kids are older (though I still have a 3-year-old), and we just can’t get by any other way.

    The good thing about this is, it permits my wife not to work, and to be home with the three smaller kids, who still need her. Just recently, I took my 15-year-old on a trip to a convention, and we had the time of our lives.

    Oh, and I continue to feel the pain of not having a good Reformed church within a 30 minute drive of our home. (Yeah, there are three RCCs within a two minute walk. And a Nazarene church and AG church real close by, too. But …)

  43. sean says:

    “I think the distinction between creation’s essence and condition needs to be made. Its essence needs no redemption, but its condition does. And very often what I hear is this notion that creation is essentially evil. It would never be admitted in such blunt terms, but when people say creation needs to be redeemed more often than not it seems to mean there is something essentially wrong with it. And I reject that notion.”

    There is so much here that needs to be unpacked. I’m remembering listening to Rosenblatt in the late 80’s and he was talking about culture wars (does anybody do this better than 2k lutherans) and he was referring to the reformation idea of “via affirma” or some slogan/term similar to this, and he was arguing that rather than having an confrontational or seperatist view of culture engagement or disengagement, the reformation in recognizing that the “city of man” was still God’s city and was His idea, sought to embrace culture and affirm it everywhere and at every turn that it could. What had to be practiced by christians was NOT transformation but discernment to know what aspects of culture it SADLY had to refrain from, while embracing and participating in culture everywhere it could. As Kline so convincingly established in KP, the city was good, just not holy.

    Coming from a Roman Catholic background that while consumed with German liberalism via vatican II, and liberation theology, was still amillenial in it’s understanding of the KOG, and so despite all it’s doctrinal abberancy and magisterial confusion, understood culture and how to engage it so much better than what I’ve found in modern American protestantism.

  44. Mike says:

    “Coming from a Roman Catholic background that while consumed with German liberalism via vatican II, and liberation theology, was still amillenial in it’s understanding of the KOG, and so despite all it’s doctrinal abberancy and magisterial confusion, understood culture and how to engage it so much better than what I’ve found in modern American protestantism.”

    interesting statement…I think I know what you mean but could you flesh this out a bit more? It seems to both really don’t have a handle on the culture any more..but given the extent of the influence that God has given you…well let me see/hear what you have to say…

  45. sean says:

    Well, they aren’t evangelicals. So, they don’t tend to treat people as “potentials” they tend to treat them as people and as people they are “imago dei”. So, they don’t inherently look at them as different than themselves. They aren’t generally concerned with their “testimony” or their “witness” so they tend to see more common ground than not, they look for similarity and build bridges to that. Despite their monastic heritage, in america they tend to use culture. It’s the old joke; a baptist, a lutheran, and a catholic enter a liquor store, how do you know who is which?……… The catholic and the lutheran talk to each other.

    I laugh everytime I listen and watch the Keller transformationalists talk about inner-city outreach and building bridges through social work to the minority populace. Well, let’s see the catholics have monastic orders running soup kitchens, thrift stores, and oh by the way, have a larger minority congregational makeup than we could ever dream of.

    Because Catholics are naturalists religiously they do civil religion better than you could ever imagine. They speak culture’s language on law and right and wrong. All they do is moral theology. When they speak law to the culture they do it along the lines of the Rom 1 gentile who does the law. They do natural law. On the flip-side Vandrunen(sp?) is having to re-introduce it to the reformed community, and is already getting grief from the van-tillians over it.

  46. sean says:

    Oops, that would be the Rom.2 gentile. It would be the evangelicals who tend to view all unregenerates as the rom 1 variety.

  47. Echo_ohcE says:

    Sean,

    You said:

    “So, on top of all this dereliction of duty and dishonest brokering, Clark lays down a line of demarcation(congregant should consider moving), that effectively not only shifts the onus of responsibility from resting solely and squarely on the shoulders of the paid officers of creedal historic churches, who are failing in their calling, but says maybe your to blame as well by choosing to live where you live.”

    Good point.

    E

  48. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    You said: “Implicit in your words seems to be that one sphere should be over-emphasized, and it should be redemption.”

    Echo: I think the redemptive sphere is more important than the other. Otherwise, why am I in seminary, going deeply into debt, forcing my poor wife to work while I study, making her wait to have kids and the like? And what will I get in return?

    I’ll get a bunch of people who will call me to be their pastor, who in all likelihood won’t appreciate me as much as they should, who won’t pay me as much as they should, and who won’t encourage me as much as they should.

    I could have chosen another career and made a lot more money and had a lot more job satisfaction, but I didn’t. I didn’t precisely because I think that preaching the gospel means more to me than those things. It’s more important. I’d rather my family be just scraping by and tell my kids that there won’t be any money for them to go to college than take them to a sorry excuse for a Reformed church.

    Paul seems to me to agree when he says:

    1 Tim 4:8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the principle that motivates what he says here would also entail that creation endeavor is of some value, but spiritual concerns are more important. Going to a good church is more important than anything else.

    This life is temporary and fleeting. Didn’t Jesus say to store up treasure in heaven rather than on earth? Our hope is not in this life.

    Didn’t Jesus say to seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and that everything else would then be added unto us?

    I DO feel sorry for people in situations like yours, and that includes you. I feel sorry for people like Sean too. I feel sorry for people that live in places without a decent church. I really do.

    But I cannot agree that the solution is just to sit tight and wait and see. Maybe that has to do with my personality more than anything.

    It has been my experience that attending a really solid, law/gospel church where the Scripture is truly preached is more valuable than anything else, and is worth any price it costs.

    I have been in excellent churches and passable churches. I have been in horrible false churches as well. I have gone to solid reformed churches, where the church was ok, but not great, and I’ve gone to a church that is truly outstanding.

    The difference even between a pretty good confessionally reformed church and an excellent church is hard to quantify, but there is a stark difference between the two. I don’t think I could communicate it in any way in which you would appreciate it.

    All I can tell you is that if you attend a confessionally reformed church where the law and gospel are properly preached continually as distinct from one another, the benefits will be more than you can understand if you have not experienced it. It is worth any price.

    Didn’t Jesus say that if you cannot hate your father, mother, etc, that you cannot be his disciple?

    I pity anyone in your situation. I do. But my pity won’t do you any good.

    For my part, I’m not ready to say that someone who lives somewhere where the gospel isn’t properly preached is in sin, but you’re missing out on something wonderful, which cannot be compared to anything else.

    Exactly what it is you’re missing out on cannot be told to you, it can only be experienced. It’s a lot more than simply enjoying the sermon though. A lot more.

    E

  49. John Bugay says:

    Echo: “It has been my experience that attending a really solid, law/gospel church where the Scripture is truly preached is more valuable than anything else, and is worth any price it costs.”

    Much of the world is impoverished.

  50. Echo_ohcE says:

    And yet, God is sovereign.

  51. Zrim says:

    Echo said, “I think the redemptive sphere is more important than the other. Otherwise, why am I in seminary, going deeply into debt, forcing my poor wife to work while I study, making her wait to have kids and the like? And what will I get in return?”

    The implicit message you intend to send parishoners, then, is that what they are doing in their own lives is somehow less-than. If the redemptive sphere is “more important” why am I wasting my own time being “in the world,” Echo, and not going to seminary, etc.? Why can’t you say that your experience is what it is because you are called to that vocation instead, rather than making one sphere more important? Do you feel guilty about the attendant struggles that seem to be coming as a result of your calling, so much so that the way to abet it is to create superior and inferior vocations? I mean, I think I am called to my vocation just as much as you are to yours. And it can come with the sort of sacrifices you seem to be experiencing. Why can’t the difference be simply that we are called to different vocations in different spheres instead of creating these classist distinctions?

  52. Echo_ohcE says:

    Whoa…you’re way over interpreting.

    Notice that I said that I think the one sphere is more important than the other, and that without this belief, I wouldn’t have been able to make the choice I did.

    I’m not at all saying that I’m better than you or anyone else. Try not to take everything so personally. I don’t mean it that way.

    Anyway, I’ve mentioned some passages that I think speak to the issue.

    If you think being able to buy your kids a playstation 3 and send them to a private college is worth as much as taking them to the best church you can find, well, I don’t know what to say except I disagree, and I think the Scripture agrees with me.

    Granted, the choice isn’t always that simple. But let’s put aside individual circumstances for the moment, and see if we can agree on a general principle.

    Do you or do you not think that there is anything as important as taking your family to the best church you possibly can? Is there anything at all worth sacrificing in order to achieve that? If so, what is it? What is NOT worth sacrificing to achieve that?

    I just don’t think there’s anything in Scripture that allows us to point to anything in our lives and say, “That, that right there, I will not give that up in order to pursue the best spiritual nourishment I can provide for my family.”

    In other words, let’s say someone says, “Well, I know if I move to such and such a town, I’ll be able to attend a truly Reformed church where the law and gospel are preached distinctly and properly. But I can’t move there. I grew up where I live now. It’s my home. My kids have friends here, my wife has friends here. Also, I have a good job here. I could probably get a job there, but it’d be for less money, and so I wouldn’t be able to put my kids through college. So I’m not moving.”

    I think someone who could say something like that has his priorities misaligned. Church comes first. Who cares about the town you live in and have lived in your whole life? This world is not our home! We are but pilgrims here.

    Abraham left his family, friends, and home town for the sake of obedience to the Lord. It cost him a great deal, and he is held up for us as an example. But this example of someone’s attitude that I’ve cited is not like Abraham. I’ve cited the example of someone who loves their hometown more than they want to be in a true church, where the Word is truly and properly preached.

    The most important duty of any husband and father is not to put his kids through college, but to take them to a church where they’re really going to GET IT, where they’re really going to be taught the gospel and understand it.

    As husbands and fathers, we ought to be working hardest at trying to make sure that our kids and wives can understand what’s wrong with “Disability Awareness Sunday” or “Sanctity of Life Sunday” or speaking in “tongues” or the Roman Mass. This is our duty above all else.

    For the fictional man that I quoted above, perhaps his children will develop close friendships, and perhaps they’ll be able to go to college and not have a ton of debt that overwhelms them. Hey, that’s great. But are those friends good influences, people with whom they can have solid fellowship based on mutual understanding of the pure gospel of Christ, or will they long to go out on drinking binges to the bars in college? And speaking of college, while the man has been able to pay for his kids to go to college, he hasn’t taken them to a church where the gospel is truly preached, and so when his kids go to college, they don’t know the difference between what they believe and what is taught at the Evangelical Free church. And after all, the EFree church has a lot more people, and it’s more exciting. So what’s the difference?

    More than that, if we don’t take our families to a church where the gospel is truly preached, where it is really drilled into their heads, where it is clearly taught so that our families cannot even think in terms of something else, then we have done them the greatest disservice we could ever do them, and no amount of money or continuity in life can ever make up for it.

    Much as I uphold the authority and importance of husbands and fathers in their households, there is no substitute for the man of God in the pulpit, authoritatively declaring the good news of Christ clearly and without compromise. What I mean is, if you take your family to a church where law and gospel is a little bit blurred, even a little bit, then it really doesn’t matter how much you train them at home to believe something better, because what the man in the pulpit says will win out. Why? Because we’re sinners, and we long to embrace the lie.

    I grew up in a family where what my father said was different from what the pastor said. The result was eventually a rejection of both. Do not put yourself at odds with your minister in front of your family if you can help it. It sows a terrible seed.

    The best solution for everyone involved is for us to be willing to pay any cost to sit under the pure preaching of the Word.

    John 6:27 “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

    Matt. 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

    1Tim. 4:8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

    Matt. 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

    Isa 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

    Phil. 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

    I don’t encourage anyone to move to find a true church for the sake of piety, as if in obeying this law they will uphold their end of the bargain with God. No, but I encourage anyone and everyone who cannot attend a true church where they live to move to somewhere where they can do so, not for the sake of piety, but for the sake of clinging ever more tightly to Christ our Savior. It is not in our piety that we hope, but in Jesus Christ, who administers himself to us through his chosen servants, who, according to his wisdom, are not available everywhere.

    Let a church be planted and a minister called; but if not, then move. You cannot go on starving yourself to death. Nothing is worth such a price. You and your family and everyone around you are starving, and you don’t even know it. Go the way of Abraham, pack up your family, forsake everything you know and love, and flee to Christ and to his church.

    But if not, of course the Lord will be merciful, of course the Lord knows how to feed with manna in the wilderness. Of course. And when you get to heaven, you won’t even be able to regret your decision for very long, for the joy of that place and the bliss of his presence. But you do yourself a disservice, the magnitude of which you cannot understand.

    I am no hypocrite here. I have left many things behind and paid a tremendous cost for it. And my only regret is that I did not have more to give.

    The Church, the True Church, is God’s gift to us for our provision. It is a pearl of great price, and we ought to be willing to give up everything, whether monetary or otherwise, to obtain it.

    To live is to share in the sufferings of Christ; to die is to gain his glory, for his sake alone, having nothing to do with our piety.

    E

  53. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    As usual, I am not sure what else to say to you…other than to again invoke my title to this post, which is to say, it is complicated. When I said that I really and truly meant it. I can only hope italics do justice to that sentiment (but methinks with you I will have to once again be satisfied with a proximate one at that!).

    Your Fundamentalism still seems to want to make this really rather easy. But the world I live in is actually quite fraught with compromise and a more proximate reality than exact. One may think his pious rigor is edifying, but I find it much more edifying to hear someone tell me he gets what it is like to negotiate the complicated realities of a dual citizenship.

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