Not All Visions Are Created Equal

Upon request, the Outhouse wants to do its modest part to promote Reformation Christianity by pointing folks to an upcoming conference in Washington D.C. called “Preaching in the Capital.” As the phrase suggests, this conference is all about bringing the powers that be under the direct and immediate rule of Christ, restore America to its Biblical Foundation, from Genesis to Revelation (Psalm 11:3), and re-establish an America that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life, where Christians apply a Biblical worldview to every facet of society. This future America will be again a “city on a hill” drawing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to subdue the earth for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Wait, sorry, that’s another Vision. Take two.

This conference is actually in keeping with the Protestant Reformation even within a context that might tempt others to a lesser vision:

 
 
 
 

The Reformation taught that preaching is the very Word of God, a mark of the true church, and a key of the kingdom that opens the doors of heaven to those that believe. It is the divinely appointed means by which the Spirit produces faith in our hearts, and the primary source of Christian instruction.

Is this still true today?

Most contemporary sermons are a mix of anecdotes, tips, and inspirational stories—more junk food than bread of life. We often hear more about the person behind the pulpit than about the person and work of Christ. It seems that few in our pulpits—or our pews— understand what’s required by our Lord’s command to preach the Gospel.

Join us for Preaching in the Capital, a lecture series that will critically explore the state of preaching today and ask how the lost art of Reformation preaching can be recovered. Explore this site to learn more about our speakers, their books, and ways to win and iPad by helping us promote Preaching in the Capital.

 

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83 Responses to Not All Visions Are Created Equal

  1. John Harutunian says:

    Well, Zrim, you and I disagree about hymnody in worship. But I think you’ll agree with my point concerning this quote:

    “The Reformation taught that preaching is the very Word of God,”

    If Luther and Calvin taught that, they were simply wrong. The Bible alone is the Word of God: uniquely and directly inspired by God, and hence inerrant. No word of man [either within or outside of a worship context] has that status.

  2. Zrim says:

    John, I think that when Reformed Protestants say that preaching is “the very Word of God” we don’t mean something literal. After all, we reject the literal doctrine of transubstantiation, so preaching (audible Word) is no more the inspired Word than the Eucharist (visible Word)is thee actual body and blood. More “high view versus infallible” distinction going on here, I think.

  3. RubeRad says:

    The Reformed confess that there is something special about preaching: SC89 “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”

    I wish I could go to this conference; Gene Veith? Marva Dawn? It’s a Mars-Hill-a-palooza! Plus T. David Gordon. I’d like to shake the hand of the man that gave us the phrase The Insufficiency of Scripture

  4. Rick says:

    You had me going at first.

    Zrim, right on in your comment – we shouldn’t shy away from saying that preaching is the Word of God the same way we shouldn’t shy away from saying the Supper is the body and blood of Christ.

    God is speaking directly to us in preaching. Just like he spoke in time past to the fathers through the prophets – except better now.

    I wish I could go to this- and the White Horse Inn taping tonight 2.5 hours away. So many conferences, so little money.

  5. John Harutunian says:

    Rick-

    “God is speaking directly to us in preaching.”

    If God is speaking to us directly, then what we’re hearing is infallible, isn’t it?
    I appreciate your high view of the Eucharist. I’d formulate the whole issue as: God communicates Himself directly to us only through the Word (i.e., the Bible) and the Sacrament. The _interpretation_ of the Word given in a good sermon constitutes a persuasive authority. But it can never be a compelling authority -only the Word itself can.

  6. Rick says:

    John, do we not call it, “The Preaching of the Word?”

    My argument would simply be: Preaching is a mean of grace – faith is created and strengthened by it. God Himself sends His proclaimers of the Gospel in order that people might be brought to faith. The Kingdom of God is open and shut through preaching. It sounds like God is extremely active in preaching. He’s doing something very direct upon a people through a mere man.

    As Zrim pointed out, we are not to look at this in a strict literal sense. But even though a preacher is subject to human mistakes, doesn’t mean we can’t say God is speaking through them to us.

    The literal wording or Romans 10:14 is “How shall they believe on Him whom they have not heard and how shall they hear without a preacher..”
    Paul gives us the impression that we hear Christ when we hear the pure preaching of the Word.

  7. John Harutunian says:

    Rick-

    “John, do we not call it, ‘The Preaching of the Word?'”

    I agree with this, and with your following argument. But I think there’s a problem with your last paragraph. Look at the circumstances attendant on Paul’s own conversion. They were 1)A miraculous vision, and 2)Baptism. Unless one regards Ananias’ brief statements (recorded in Acts 9:17 and 22:13-16) as a “sermon”, I can’t see that “preaching” was involved, in the sense in which we’re using the term.
    I don’t know Greek, but I’d guess that Paul in Romans is using the word “preaching” in a very broad sense.
    It certainly _could_ refer to a full-length exposition of Scripture; it could equally well apply to an untutored layman’s brief word of witness.

    Rube -I can’t resist pointing out that you’re using an extrabiblical source to support your point.

  8. Zrim says:

    John, I can’t resist pointing out that we’re not Biblicists but confessionalists. Your last point to Rube about an extrabiblical source is like faulting a Catholic for appealing to papal authority. Since by definition both appeal to extrabiblical sources, what exactly is your point?

    I’d point out that you’re using your own private judgment, but that would make it sound like I have something against private judgment.

  9. Paul Manata says:

    John, 2 points:

    1. I don’t understand this: “The _interpretation_ of the Word given in a good sermon constitutes a persuasive authority. But it can never be a compelling authority -only the Word itself can.”

    How can the word be a compelling authority? Presumably either by reading it or hearing it. Don’t both bring interpretation to the text? Whether you hear it preached, or read it in your car at lunch, your interpreting.

    2. You wrote, “I don’t know Greek, but I’d guess that Paul in Romans is using the word “preaching” in a very broad sense.”

    I grabbed a few top-shelf Romans commentaries that cross traditions (Cranfield, Fitzmeyer, Schreiner, Moo, and Murray), not of them agree with your guess here.

    Moo is helpful: “…implicitly suggests that the last condition for salvation listed by Paul in 14-15a has been met: God has sent preachers. Significant for this latter point is the use of the verb ‘preach the good news’ in the Isaiah text. Paul’s use of this passage would inevitably suggest an allusion to the preaching of the gospel by himself and other ‘authorized messengers’ sent out by God (e.g., apostles)—especially since the passage was widely viewed as prophetic of the messianic age.”

    And on the greek, Moo says that “Paul may use the genitive to suggest that Christ is the one who is heard in the message of the gospel.”

    And further, “And that word will not be heard unless someone preaches it. But a preacher is nothing more than a herald, a person entrusted by another with a message. Thus preaching, finally, cannot transpire unless someone sends the preachers.”

    Moo, Romans, 664, 663.

  10. John Harutunian says:

    “Your last point to Rube about an extrabiblical source is like faulting a Catholic for appealing to papal authority. ”

    Which I would indeed do -if he appealed to it as a compelling, or final, authority. If Rube is appealing to a Reformed confession purely as a _persuasive_ authority, he has a point. I’d just then respond, “Such a confession indeed carries weight -but not sufficient weight to unilaterally settle the issue.”

    “what exactly is your point?”

    The exact point at issue here would seem to be: Does Scripture itself teach that the Word _preached_ is a more effectual means of grace than the Word _read_? If it does not, then on what grounds does one make that assertion? Tradition? One’s personal experience? The corporate experience of the Church?
    (Not that I belittle the value of any of the above.)

  11. John Harutunian says:

    “How can the word be a compelling authority? Presumably either by reading it or hearing it.”

    Agreed.

    “Don’t both bring interpretation to the text? Whether you hear it preached, or read it in your car at lunch, your interpreting.”

    In one sense, yes. But surely there’s a difference between a)simply taking the words (which are the very words of God) as they stand, and b)hearing them expounded -however ably- by a human being.
    Regarding Moo: Ananias was indeed “an authorized messenger sent out by God” (Acts 9:15.) It’s just that when I conjoin the two Biblical passages recording Ananias’ words to Paul (Acts 9:17 and 22:13-16), I can’t regard the result as a “sermon.” Which I think was implicit in the way we were using the word “preaching.”

  12. Paul Manata says:

    John,

    re: interpretation: “In one sense, yes. But surely there’s a difference between a)simply taking the words (which are the very words of God) as they stand, and b)hearing them expounded -however ably- by a human being.”

    Of course there are many differences, so I’m not sure what conclusion you’re trying to draw here.

    re: Romans 10:14: “Regarding Moo: Ananias was indeed “an authorized messenger sent out by God” (Acts 9:15.) It’s just that when I conjoin the two Biblical passages recording Ananias’ words to Paul (Acts 9:17 and 22:13-16), I can’t regard the result as a “sermon.” Which I think was implicit in the way we were using the word “preaching.”

    1. I think you need to account for why the best Romans scholars, across traditions, disagree with you.

    2. It is always unwise to judge norms by special circumstances. However:

    a. Saul was converted *before* Acts 9:17. He was converted by the preaching of Jesus.

    b. Evening assuming he was converted under Ananias’ influence, your only argument that this wasn’t a preaching of the word is to couple and argument from silence with an anachronistic appeal to what “sermons” are supposed to be like.

    “The exact point at issue here would seem to be: Does Scripture itself teach that the Word _preached_ is a more effectual means of grace than the Word _read_?

    Well, certainly those words are not used. But what do we read?

    We read Romans 10:14, cited above.

    We read Romans 10:17 too, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

    We read I. Tim 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”

    We read 1 Cor. 1:20-25, “20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

    And then when we read of people believing we see that it is through *preaching*. The reports are of Jesus preaching, and then the apostles preaching, and then people coming to salvation.

    We have nothing even close for reading. And, if you are going to read, it takes work. We are thousands of years removed from the times of the Bible. You need to study some basics in exegesis, get some commentaries, and get some history books to understand the milieu for proper context—and this is apart from knowing the original languages. If one doesn’t do those things, I suggest one has a naive view of language and exegesis. If one doesn’t do those things, one will filter what they read through 21st century Americanese. Preachers should do those things. They should be educated and commissioned by God. And so, quite practically, preaching the word will be more effectual because the pastors will be striving to put the word into its grammatical historical context, and so giving the proper or original *meaning* of the word, and, obviously, this will tend to be more effectual.

  13. todd says:

    John,

    It does sound strange to our modern ears, but what the Reformed confessions were saying with this statement is that when a preacher preaches the Scriptures correctly, the Spirit is speaking to the hearers, the people are receiving the Word of God, not that the preacher is infallible, but that those who hear can know that that are hearing the very Word of God, and that this is the means God has chosen (even above private reading of the Bible) to address his people. As Paul noted, Both private reading and public preaching involve some level of interpretation, but God has stamped his approval on preaching, as long as the true Word is preached, as the means he promised to bless, as the means where his people will hear Christ address them. But those older Reformed confessions always made clear it is only the Word itself that is inspired, not preachers, but you’d need to look at other sections of those confessions for context.

  14. John Harutunian says:

    Paul-

    “Of course there are many differences [between simply taking the words of Scripture as they stand vs. hearing them explained by a human being], so I’m not sure what conclusion you’re trying to draw here.”
    Just that verbal plenary inspiration applies purely to the text itself. Not to anything anyone says about it -including (in deference to your earlier point) the man reading it privately in his car as he’s having his lunch, OR an erudite Presbyterian minister preaching it from a pulpit.

    “Saul was converted *before* Acts 9:17. He was converted by the preaching of Jesus.”

    In chapter 9, verse 1, Saul is still bent on killing Jesus’ followers. The only verbal content of Jesus’ speech to Paul is: 1)He identifies Himself as the One whom Paul is persecuting, and the futility of doing that, and 2)He tells him to enter Damascus.
    I don’t know much about the exegetes, commentators and biblical historians you refer to.
    On the other hand, what Jesus says here doesn’t resemble any sermon which I’ve ever heard.
    Re: your final, well-articulated paragraph, I’d certainly agree that those things are desirable -they’re just not absolutely necessary.

  15. John Harutunian says:

    Todd-

    “when a preacher preaches the Scriptures correctly, the Spirit is speaking to the hearers, the people are receiving the Word of God”

    OK, but not the WORDS of God.

    “and that this is the means God has chosen (even above private reading of the Bible) to address his people.”

    Would you say, even above PUBLIC reading of the Bible in the worship assembly?

    “God has stamped his approval on preaching, as long as the true Word is preached, as the means he promised to bless, as the means where his people will hear Christ address them.”

    My only quibble with this is that I don’t see in Scripture that “preaching” the word is INHERENTLY more efficacious that “reading” the word. Depending on God’s sovereignty, it may be or it may not.

  16. Dave Sarafolean says:

    All,

    Consider the words from chapter one of the 2nd Helvitic Confession:

    “THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.”

    Source: http://www.ccel.org/creeds/helvetic.htm

  17. todd says:

    “My only quibble with this is that I don’t see in Scripture that “preaching” the word is INHERENTLY more efficacious that “reading” the word. Depending on God’s sovereignty, it may be or it may not.”

    John,

    In Rev 1:3, God’s blessings are promised on the one (preacher) who reads and those (congregation) who hear, assuming they also heed the scriptures in faith.

    Also –

    Rom 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the *preaching* of Jesus Christ…”

    Gal 3:5 -“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you…do so by the works of the law, or by *hearing* with faith?”

    Rom 10 was already quoted.

    Eph 4:11-16 – God gave ministers to build us up in the faith through their preaching and teaching.

    I Tim 4:14-16 – Timothy the minister is instructed to use his gift of teaching which will save (bring to ultimate salvation) those who hear him.

    It is not that God does not use private reading to save and sanctify, he does, but he does not leave believers to rely on their own resources (ability to read or understand the Bible which at times can be very difficult) for salvation and sanctification, but God has ordained and gifted men to preach the Word, and promised to bless the preaching of the Word when it is attended to by faith (Heb 4:2).

    That is why there are so many passages, I just quoted a few, that speak of hearing the Word preached as what God uses and blesses.

    But our Westminster Confession also says that the way of salvation is so plain and clear in Scripture that one does not need to rely on another man to understand the gospel, but by reading the words with understanding in the Bible, one can know the Lord.

  18. Paul Manata says:

    John,

    Just that verbal plenary inspiration applies purely to the text itself. Not to anything anyone says about it -including (in deference to your earlier point) the man reading it privately in his car as he’s having his lunch, OR an erudite Presbyterian minister preaching it from a pulpit

    Yes, well, the autographs are inerrant and inspired. But I’m wondering what this has to do with your claim that “only the words in the Bible are compelling authorities”? The markings on the page as “the very words of God” is not a strong point since one must interpret whether one reads or preaches it. It’s not the makings on the page per se, it’s the propositional content, a content which had a specific meaning, and which must be exegeted by proper exegetical methods.

    “In chapter 9, verse 1, Saul is still bent on killing Jesus’ followers. The only verbal content of Jesus’ speech to Paul is: 1)He identifies Himself as the One whom Paul is persecuting, and the futility of doing that, and 2)He tells him to enter Damascus.

    Right, and after the encounter he is converted—as Paul later says, and as the commentators attest to. Paul is already converted by the time Ananias comes. Of course, the Bible usually gives us *summaries* of events, since it would be 100 times as long if it went into all the details. We also need to be careful about arguing from silence (e.g., we don’t read that Jesus said x, y, and z; therefore he didn’t say x, y, and z). But we know there was more content to Jesus words. For example, “why are you persecuting ME” had the effect of preaching and teaching Paul that the 1st century church was Jesus body on earth. The encounter also would have confirmed the *preaching* he had heard from the Christians, preaching about the resurrection. Paul probably would also recall the claims that it was a serious charge to persecute Christ (Lk 10:16). Jesus appears as a heavenly figure and says Paul is persecuting him. Paul would conclude he is at war with heaven, at war with God. Furhtermore, the instruction to go to Damascus was about what Saul “must” do. The word “must” notes “divine necessity” inherent in a calling (twenty two times in Acts alone, as well in many other places). Bock notes that “Conzelmann speaks of a theophonic dialogue here and cites examples from the OT and Judaism (Ex. 3:4-10; Gen 46:2-3; 31:11-13). Such heavenly voices also appear in Acts 7:31; 10:13; Luke 3:22; (:35, and John 12:28). Heaven has reached down to call someone on earth.” And so Bock can claim, “From this moment on he is a new man.”

    So I’m just not seeing how your bringing up Acts 9 is a defeater to the argument from Romans 10; and this is besides the point that even if your argument worked, you’re drawing on a special case to refute a general rule, a nototiously fallacious way to argue.

    You asked for verses and reasons to think the preached word was more efficacious than the read word (and no one is denying reading and studying your Bible), and I think that argument has been made. Where is it off?

  19. John Harutunian says:

    Todd-

    Other than the fact that Gal.3:5 makes no reference to the preaching, but only the hearing, of the Word, I fully agree with your post.

    I can’t agree with Dave’s citation that

    “THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD.” (even if it’s from the 2nd Helvitic Confession) Here’s my problem:
    1. The Bible is the Word written.
    2. The Sermon is the Word preached.

    So far, so good. The problem arises when one take these two and fuses them into a metaphysical/theological abstraction and then dubs it “The Word”. I don’t see that Scripture does this. It’s analogous to what Catholics do with the Bible and tradition.

    Paul, you make some very good points. I think our difference might come down to the relevance of the distinction between compelling and persuasive authorities (Meanwhile, I’m still working on you offline post!)

  20. todd says:

    John,

    As to the Galatians 3 question, remember, few individuals had copies of their own Bibles back then, and hearing throughout the Bible has reference to hearing the Word preached, and 3:1 refers to the public preaching of Jesus crucified, it is a longshot at best to suggest “hearing” here means reading the Word.

  21. Dave Sarafolean says:

    John H.

    My point in that citation was to illustrate that Calvin surely knew of this confession (1562) and there is no evidence of a strong objection or any objection at all.

    “Your problem as stated is:
    1. The Bible is the Word written.
    2. The Sermon is the Word preached.”

    Where does the Holy Spirit fit into this? I guess that where we are disagreeing. Reformed theology has always understood that God speaks to His people when the word is preached as the Holy Spirit guides the minister and applies those words to the hearts of those who hear the sermon.

    Additionally, going back to Augustine the sacraments were understood as “the word made visible.”

  22. John Harutunian says:

    Paul, can we agree that Paul was saved via an encounter with the risen Christ? To be sure, propositional truth claims were implicit in that encounter; I just don’t see that Luke puts the primary emphasis on those truth claims.
    Dave, I basically agree with your post; I especially view Augustine’s view of the sacraments as “the word made visible.”

  23. John Harutunian says:

    Todd-
    I certainly agree with your opening statement. But after that, I think you open a can of worms -which crawl out pretty fast. First, it would seem hard to show that “hearing throughout the Bible has reference to hearing the Word preached”. Surely, it _sometimes_ refers to hearing it read, as was done in worship under the Old Covenant. And though there’s a sense in which Galatians 3:1 refers to the public “preaching” of Jesus crucified, how could such preaching constitute “preaching the Word” -in the sense which I understand us to have been using the expression- if the Word had not yet been canonized? The subject of the preaching would have been closer to what we call oral tradition than to what we call Scripture, wouldn’t it?

  24. Paul Manata says:

    John, the problem is that I offered an brief exegesis of my reading, you haven’t offered any of yours.

  25. John Harutunian says:

    Paul, I agree with your knowledgeable exegesis. But if I remember right, the original context of the discussion involved the relative efficacy of the _reading_ of canonical Scripture vs. the efficacy of _preaching_ from the canonical Scripture. I’m not sure how this applies to where we are now in the exchange.

  26. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim-

    I don’t know if you saw my reply; I inserted it in the wrong place! In case you didn’t, here it is again.

    >>“Your last point to Rube about an extrabiblical source is like faulting a Catholic for appealing to papal authority. ”

    >Which I would indeed do -if he appealed to it as a compelling, or final, authority. If Rube is appealing to a Reformed confession purely as a _persuasive_ authority, he has a point. I’d just then respond, “Such a confession indeed carries weight -but not sufficient weight to unilaterally settle the issue.”

    >>“what exactly is your point?”

    >The exact point at issue here would seem to be: Does Scripture itself teach that the Word _preached_ is a more effectual means of grace than the Word _read_? If it does not, then on what grounds does one make that assertion? Tradition? One’s personal experience? The corporate experience of the Church?
    (Not that I belittle the value of any of the above.)

    And here’s another attempt at reformulating the issue, for yourself, Paul, Rube, Dave, and all others who find this thread interesting: When God guided the human authors of the Bible, the words that came out were His own words. Does God guide preachers in such a way today?
    (Dave -it may well be that I need to give more weight to the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching. But I still think the above question needs to be answered either yes or no.)

  27. todd says:

    “When God guided the human authors of the Bible, the words that came out were His own words. Does God guide preachers in such a way today?”

    No

  28. Paul Manata says:

    John,

    “But if I remember right, the original context of the discussion involved the relative efficacy of the _reading_ of canonical Scripture vs. the efficacy of _preaching_ from the canonical Scripture. I’m not sure how this applies to where we are now in the exchange”

    Right, I made an initial presentation of the argument in my September 25, 2010
    at 10:35 am post. Where we are at in the current side discussion is that I am addressing your use of Acts 9 to defeat the argument drawn from Romans 10.

  29. Paul Manata says:

    Sorry, John, I meant my September 25, 2010 at 8:21 am post.

  30. Zrim says:

    John,

    Re the appeal to confessions, it is an appeal that lies somewhere between “final” and merely “persuasive.” No confessionalist thinks of the confessions as tantamount to inspired text, but neither does he think of the confessions as mere guides. The confessions are what the church fallibly confesses: that the church does so implies something binding and authoritative, and that she does so fallibly suggests that her authority is always and ever subject to her confessing that which is in keeping with Scripture alone.

    Does Scripture itself teach that the Word _preached_ is a more effectual means of grace than the Word _read_?

    It seems to me that the premise of the question is that we must decide between the preaching and the reading of the Word, which I find dubious in the first place. I’m just not sure what is to be gained by such a question. I will say this though: the preaching of even unbelieving preachers can still be efficacious, so it would seem that what makes either the preaching or reading of the Word effectual is the Holy Spirit alone.

    When God guided the human authors of the Bible, the words that came out were His own words. Does God guide preachers in such a way today?

    No, that’s what either Roman Catholics (i.e. popery) or Anabaptists (i.e. word of knowledge, etc.) believe, but those who descend from the Protestant Reformation hold to sola scriptura and a cessationist view: when the apostles died so did an infallibly inscripturated text.

  31. todd says:

    John,

    I appreciate your concerns because both Pentecostals and Barthians make similiar statements about preaching being the Word of God, but rest assured the reformed position is far apart from what either of those are saying.

  32. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim-

    >>Does Scripture itself teach that the Word _preached_ is a more effectual means of grace than the Word _read_?

    >It seems to me that the premise of the question is that we must decide between the preaching and the reading of the Word, which I find dubious in the first place.

    If the pastor’s preaching of the Word shows doctrinal weaknesses (as often happens in most mainline churches today), the decision must be made.

    >I will say this though: the preaching of even unbelieving preachers can still be efficacious, so it would seem that what makes either the preaching or reading of the Word effectual is the Holy Spirit alone.

    I agree. Still, if I were forced to choose between reading the Bible in the comfort of my living room (perhaps with one or two other Christians present) and hearing a sermon in a liberal church, I’d probably opt for the former. Wouldn’t you?

  33. John Harutunian says:

    OK, Paul, I’ll try to do better justice to your important email. I wrote:

    “Surely there’s a difference between a)simply taking the words (which are the very words of God) as they stand, and b)hearing them expounded -however ably- by a human being.”

    You replied:

    “Of course there are many differences, so I’m not sure what conclusion you’re trying to draw here.”

    This might be helpful: When a person reads Scripture, he is one formal step removed from that-which-must-be-interpreted. When he hears a sermon, he is two formal steps removed: since (as you point out) “interpretation is unavoidalble”, he’s now faced with the task of interpreting the sermon.

    “2. It is always unwise to judge norms by special circumstances. However:

    a. Saul was converted *before* Acts 9:17. He was converted by the preaching of Jesus.”

    I agree with point a. (I don’t hold to baptismal regeneration[see Acts 22:16] in the usual sense of the term.) But surely the critical factor is that since Jesus spoke to Paul directly, what converted Paul was the Word of God itself, rather than any human exposition thereof.
    I certainly respect what you say in your final paragraph. But the preceding references in Romans, I Timothy, and I Corinthians are of questionable relevance. Our whole discussion (unless I’ve been completely “out of it”!) has centered on the value of an exposition of a given text of canonical Scripture. When Paul wrote the words you cite, much of the New Testament -including the Gospels- hadn’t yet been written. My conclusion is that Paul and the other apostles were not “preaching the Bible” as we use the phrase today. They were proclaiming the saving acts of God in Christ while they were still fresh in the minds of those who had witnessed them.
    Hope this helps clarify my position.

  34. Paul Manata says:

    John,

    This might be helpful: When a person reads Scripture, he is one formal step removed from that-which-must-be-interpreted. When he hears a sermon, he is two formal steps removed: since (as you point out) “interpretation is unavoidalble”, he’s now faced with the task of interpreting the sermon.”

    Well, of course he’s reading *translations* of the text, so he’s not “one” formal step removed. Further, if the sermon is properly exegeted, put into terms the person can understand, then that is better and more profitable than his reading the text and imputing anachronistic Americanese into the context.

    “I certainly respect what you say in your final paragraph. But the preceding references in Romans, I Timothy, and I Corinthians are of questionable relevance. Our whole discussion (unless I’ve been completely “out of it”!) has centered on the value of an exposition of a given text of canonical Scripture. When Paul wrote the words you cite, much of the New Testament -including the Gospels- hadn’t yet been written. My conclusion is that Paul and the other apostles were not “preaching the Bible” as we use the phrase today. They were proclaiming the saving acts of God in Christ while they were still fresh in the minds of those who had witnessed them.
    Hope this helps clarify my position.”

    They preached/proclaimed the good news.

    My argument is that we find that preaching the word in public to a congregation at a level much higher than private reading. I’m just wondering how the biblical writers could have out things to meet what you want. We constantly read about preaching thew word and hearing the word, not reading and seeing. We read Romans 10:17 too, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” We read I. Tim 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” Where is there anything analogous to that wrt private reading? What’s the best explantion from the putative texts? Why is there a priority on preachers being needed to proclaim the gospel to sinners? Romans 10:14 seems to undercut your position. I cited Moo’s comments on it, what’s your counter exegesis? If preaching were not more efficacious, why say “faith comes by hearing, hearing the word” in the context of “preachers”? Why isn’t there at least ONE verse of similar strength about reading? My theory can explain this data, can yours? Whence the silence about reading?

    It’s always been HEARING as primary to reading. That’s why God could say in Amos 8:11

    “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,

    “when wI will send a famine on the land—

    not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

    but of hearing the words of the Lord.

    But on your view, weren’t these people at least “two formal steps” removed from that which must be interpreted?

    Why do we send missionaries and not just Bibles? What does the Great Commission say to TEACH them what Jesus has commanded? He didn’t say to give them scrolls and let them read and learn on their own.

    Again, out of the two theories here, it seems the one that focuses on the efficacy of the preached word can explain the relevant data while your view is lacking in this regard? Where am I off? Or are we speaking past each other!? 🙂

    “My conclusion is that Paul and the other apostles were not “preaching the Bible” as we use the phrase today. They were proclaiming the saving acts of God in Christ while they were still fresh in the minds of those who had witnessed them.”

    Then I submit there’s a problem with how “we use the phrase today.” At my church they proclaim the saving acts of God.

    However, there was more than that. See the recent Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament; G. Beale (Editor), D. Carson (Editor) .

  35. RubeRad says:

    When God guided the human authors of the Bible, the words that came out were His own words. Does God guide preachers in such a way today?

    Everybody has focused on the back half of that quote, but I’m not sure the incoming assumption is an entirely correct view of inspiration.

    Also, I’m surprised to this point nobody has brought out Philip and the Ethernopian Eunuch, or any of the proof texts for SC 89, such as Neh 8:8. Surely the point of maintaining the preeminence of preaching over just plain reading, is to avoid the kinds of errors that come with “one man, one bible” biblicism and (2 pet 1:20) private interpretation, favoring instead the proclamation of the gospel by those who are lawfully ordained to do so.

  36. John Harutunian says:

    Paul, here’s my reply to your posting of Sept. 26, 2:07 pm.
    First, I agree with much of what you say. I’ve never been a me-sitting-in-my-corner-reading-my-Bible Christian. (Herr Gutenberg really changed things, didn’t he -for the good in some ways, not so good in others.) I will make one point about your quote from Amos:

    >That’s why God could say in Amos 8:11

    “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,

    “when I will send a famine on the land—

    not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

    but of hearing the words of the Lord.

    >But on your view, weren’t these people at least “two formal steps” removed from that which must be interpreted?

    No: on my view, if they were “hearing the words of the Lord” _read_ in the original Hebrew, they were Right There!
    But more important, I think I can kill two birds with one stone. As you suggest, a)we may be talking past each other, and b)I need to come up with my own exegesis of Romans 10. So here’s my attempt to clarify things. (Please bear in mind that I’m no Douglas Moo.)
    In verses 1 and 2 we see that Israel is lost because her “zeal of God” is not according to knowledge. Verse 9 makes it clear that believing in and confessing the resurrected Jesus results in salvation. And verse 14 does indeed say that they must “hear”, that is, have preached to them, the truths concerning God’s saving acts in Christ. Hence, there must be sent preachers/proclaimers of the Good News.
    Now the question is: Does the God-breathed, finalized, canonized record of God’s saving acts in Christ -the New Testament- have more saving efficacy when it is expounded upon, or when it is heard exactly as God wrote it (barring difficulties which arise simply through translation)? This is a different issue, isn’t it?
    (I’m still working on my reply to your predestination-vs.-free-will email. Thanks for your patience!)

  37. John Harutunian says:

    Paul (and Zrim and anyone else who’s listening)-

    I just thought of another way of putting the issue.
    (I’m determined that by the time we’re through we may still disagree, but we won’t be “talking past each other”!)
    The Bible is absolutely central to Christian faith. And self-sufficient. Now, both of us would agree that preaching is also a necessary element in worship. My guess is that you (and most of the other bloggers) would say that the Bible doesn’t fully “come into its own” until it is preached. Whereas I would say that the sermon is analogous to the Sacraments. Though it’s a necessary part of worship, there’s a fundamental sense in which the Bible can stand without the Sacraments. But the Sacraments can’t stand without the Bible.
    Substitute “sermon” for “Sacraments” in the above, and you’ll get my basic thrust.

  38. RubeRad says:

    I would say (and I guess my blog-mates would agree) that a sword is no good unless it is unsheathed and skillfully wielded. If the Bible is only read (and therefore by definition, only interpreted privately), but never preached, then the Bible has not been fully used (if that’s what you mean by “come into its own”)

  39. Lacie says:

    Gordon’s Insufficiency is so insufficient as to be nearly heretical.
    It is full of logical fallacies and half-baked ideas.

  40. Paul Manata says:

    John,

    “(I’m still working on my reply to your predestination-vs.-free-will email. Thanks for your patience!)”

    As I’m busy, please take your time.

    It seems to me that the pattern of the Bible is “preach the word” for salvation of edification, not read alone. That view seems to be able to best account for the data, whereas I can’t see how your view does. How can you explain the absence of texts for your position and the plethora of texts about preaching? It seems to me that you have authorized agents on behalf of the king who delivers the message of the king, and this is the means God has chosen to edify the saints and bring in the lost.

  41. John Harutunian says:

    RubeRad -OK, the Bible is indeed the “sword of the Spirit.” But I’d point out that it’s “fully used” when it’s applied in one’s daily life (hence the value of Bible memorization). Also, things like group discussions, and an awareness of importance of the Church’s theological traditions, can serve as safeguards against “private interpretation.”

  42. John Harutunian says:

    Paul,

    Since you’re busy, and -more important- since I think we now understand each others’ position pretty well, we should perhaps start to wrap things up.
    You’re certainly right about the plethora of Biblical texts about preaching. Here’s something to think about: Is every Biblical reference to “preaching the Word” the precise equivalent of “expounding the [now-canonized] Bible?”

  43. Zrim says:

    Lacie, don’t beat around the bush, just come out and say what you think.

  44. RubeRad says:

    group discussions, especially as done nowadays, don’t have a category for “Hey, thanks for sharing that, but you’re completely wrong, for this, that, and the other biblical reason.” Too often the culture of niceness allows bad interpretation to just sit out there and seem valid. Authority is needed to be able to say No.

  45. John Harutunian says:

    RubeRad, I’ve got to agree with you on that one.
    (If you chase things back historically, I suspect that guy named Hegel carries a lot of the blame for that.)

  46. Lacie says:

    Since we don’t call the 2nd Helvetic Confession infallible, there is a need to prove our assertions by Scripture. Call it biblicism if you want. That’s just name-calling. The Bible alone is the Word of God.

  47. John Harutunian says:

    I’m with you here, Lacie. I still think the most useful (not necessarily the only) categories applicable are: compelling (or final) authority [Scripture alone] and persuasive authorities -which are persuasive to varying degrees [creeds. confessions, traditions, etc.]
    And I’m going to avail myself of this opportunity to spout off a bit more:
    For me, the Bible goes hand in hand with the Sacraments. For most of you other bloggers, it goes hand in hand with the sermon. Both of us have a problem.
    The problem with my position is simply that the Bible consists of words; the Sacraments [obviously] do not. The problem with almost everybody else’s position is that the Bible is God-given (as are the Sacraments); a sermon is man-made.
    In my opinion, the latter is the bigger problem.

  48. Lacie says:

    Oh, my! “If the Bible is only read (and therefore by definition, only interpreted privately)”

    I think you’re getting back to having the Word mediated through the church (read: RCC). We encounter the Word in many ways: in reading, in hearing it (I mean literally audibly hearing it, in remembering memorized passages, hearing it expounded. And God works in our lives by His Spirit in a multitude of ways as well.

    My favorite story is of Spurgeon doing some acoustics testing and repeating, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” and unknown to him at the time, a janitor was hearing it and by this speaking the literal Word of God, the fellow was converted.

    Personal story…the Word that God used in my life was Is. 53 cut from the Easter bulletin cover of a fairly liberal church, and pasted on a bulletin board. No preaching…just the Word.

  49. Lacie says:

    Are you thinking in this direction:
    “This multitude of beliefs is where the private interpretation of scripture leads you…there is but one truth, and that you are not the first person to read the Bible. Don’t think you are going to “get it right” where 2000 years of consistent Church teaching has “gotten it wrong.” There is the sin of pride in that.

    If so, you’re on the same page as the Roman Catholic Church.

  50. John Harutunian says:

    Here’s the response of the self-appointed referee between RubeRad’s and Lacie’s positions. (Don’t laugh too hard -surely if there’s anybody who can see both sides of this picture it would be an Anglican, wouldn’t it?)

    1. The basic tension is between the Reformation emphasis on the perspicuity of Scripture (Lacie) and the need for teaching authority in the Church (RubeRad).
    2. Re: the power of preaching -What a priori reason do we have to believe that the meaning of the Written Word becomes revealed when expounded by one’s local PCA minister _more fully_ than one reads, say, Matthew Henry’s Commentary?
    3. Paul has rightly pointed out the multitude of New Testament references to “preaching the Word.” I submit that in its historical context, this primarily means “relating the events which God has just brought to pass.”
    Of course, since these events involved the death and resurrection of l Jesus Christ, doctrinal content was certainly involved. But the primary thrust was not “expounding a formal written text.” Which is what “preaching the Word” generally refers to today. There’s an important difference of thrust here.

  51. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for refereeing JH!

    What a priori reason do we have to believe that the meaning of the Written Word becomes revealed when expounded by one’s local PCA minister _more fully_ than one reads, say, Matthew Henry’s Commentary?

    I’ll answer your question with a question: what reason do we have to believe that the sacraments as administered by a lawfully ordained minister of the gospel are _more_efficacious_ than saltines and grape juice I might give to my family at home, saying exactly the same words as you might hear in church (reading from 1 Cor 11, etc.)

  52. John Harutunian says:

    RubeRad -OK, scratch “a priori”. And examine my question in light of what the Bible indeed has to say. This is where point #3 (of my 12:42 post, above, is relevant).
    Your question about Eucharistic efficacy is a good one. How does one walk the fine line between sacerdotalism and the necessary preservation of lawful order in the Church re: the reception of the Sacrament? I think a critical factor is the availability (or unavailability) of the Eucharist under normal conditions (as opposed to a domestic, “snack-time with appended Bible reading” sort of thing). If circumstances (hospitalization, an unexpected blizzard,etc.) prevent the former, then I tend to think that informal lay observance is valid.

  53. RubeRad says:

    I’ve heard differing opinions on “informal lay observance”. On the one hand, WCF 29.4 forbids private communion. On the other hand, I’ve heard that the BOCO allows transporting of the communion elements to the hospitalized, infirm, etc. In either case, there is an important role for lawfully ordained ministers. Even in a blizzard or at the hospital, “snack time with Daddy” doesn’t somehow become a legitimate sacrament. Likewise, there is something extra going on when a lawfully ordained minister preaches the gospel to the covenant assembly, that isn’t going on when people (even pastors!) study the word in other contexts.

  54. Lacie says:

    John: (referee post at 9/29/10, 12:42)
    I agree with all 3 of your points.
    1. Both are true (perspicacity & teaching of Church), but…
    Remember the Bereans who checked out the teaching; that’s our responsibility
    2. Whether it’s Matthew Henry, one’s pastor, or better yet, John Stott (!), there is still that responsibility. Edwards is my favorite with Stott & Boice coming in close seconds.
    3. John Frame has pointed out that most of the NT preaching is actually evangelistic proclamation (along the lines of your #3). In fact Frame goes so far as to say other than a reference to a “lesson” in Corinthians (forgot where), there is no reference to preaching to a gathered congregation of believers, and even this lesson is not proof of such.

    I do think Anglicans of the conservative variety are more able to see the forest for the trees than Presbyterians who are so hung up on this and that teacher, leader or magazine editor. THANKS!!

  55. todd says:

    ‘there is no reference to preaching to a gathered congregation of believers,”

    Except for Rom 1:15, Rom 16:25, Col 1:28, II Cor 1:19, I Tim 4:13, among others

  56. John Harutunian says:

    Todd, none of your references mentions a gathered congregation. 1 Tim. 4:13 comes the closest -but even there it’s the reading of Scripture which is spoken if as “public”, not necessarily the “preaching” and “teaching”.
    RubeRad, there is indeed “an important role for lawfully ordained ministers” in the administration of the Eucharist. But I’m not sure you got the point I was trying to make with the hospitalization/blizzard scenarios. In such cases, every effort should be made to preserve church order, as well as the dignity of the Sacrament (hence Saltines are out). I just don’t think that “irregular” (not “invalid”) Eucharistic observances
    -when done under “irregular” circumstances- violate Scripture.
    And your last point, about the “something extra going on when a lawfully ordained minister preaches the gospel to the covenant assembly” _sounds_ fine in theory, and indeed doubtless _is_ fine as a _norm_. But what do you do with someone like John Bunyan? For much of his time as a public preacher, he was unlicensed.
    We may be dealing here with a category analogous to the “ordinary-vs.-extraordinary operations of the Spirit.” I believe this is a Reformed emphasis.

  57. todd says:

    John,

    When Paul says he will preach among them he did not only mean house to house individually, but together. Acts 20:20, besides common sense, make that clear. To preach among them, or to them, does not only mean gathered, but at the least it does.

  58. John Harutunian says:

    Sorry, Todd, but I just can’t see that that’s necessarily true. Does Paul have formal, gathered worship assemblies in view here?
    Acts 20:20 does seem to indicate that, especially in view of verse 17. But verse 21 implies that the context was evangelistic preaching to both “Jews” and “Greeks”. Just the thing which one sees in large cities today, in public street corner preaching. Those who respond in repentance and faith are then baptized, and become “the Church.”
    Don’t misunderstand: I LOVE formal liturgical worship services. The more polished the choir, the more powerful the organ, the more ornate the liturgy, the better. But all of this took time to develop -rather like the fully articulated doctrine of the Trinity.

  59. Lacie says:

    John: While I don’t share your enthusiaasm for the choir, the organ or the ornate liturgy, I certainly do agree with you about the verses chosen by todd.

    Todd: Getting back to “when the preaacher preaches the Scriptures correctly…” the people receive the Word of God. So you’re saying, “when they’re right, they’re right; when they’re wrong, they’re wrong.” So what is the point. Ultimately one must do as the Bereans did. That is not forbidden by the Bible, in fact it is commended.

    Ordination and seminary training does not ensure an infallible (or even close to infallible) teaching ability. Yes, respect our teachers, radio preachers, etc. Yes, pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. And yes, especially, be reading the Bible and studying it.

  60. todd says:

    John,

    I see where you are going now. I am not speaking about formal services – I am speaking about preaching and teaching to Christians gathered, informal as it was.

    Lacie: Yes, one is also responsible to know the Scriptures enough to test the preaching, but that doesn’t change the fact that God promises to address us through the preaching of the Word, even more than through private reading.

  61. RubeRad says:

    And don’t forget, Westminster doesn’t say “The preaching, but NOT the reading of the word is effectual…”, it says “The reading BUT ESPECIALLY the preaching of the word is effectual…”. So nobody’s denying the virtue of the individually read/studied word of God, we’re just putting it in its proper place, secondary to the word preached by the lawfully ordained.

  62. John Harutunian says:

    Todd, if a “lawfully ordained minister” is “preaching the Word” to “a gathered congregation of believers”, I’d have trouble envisioning this as an informal occasion.
    Between the lawful ordination, the importance of the Word, and the purposeful assembly, there would seem to be some formality built into the situation itself.
    And of course, as time went on, the Church developed additional ways of stressing the “otherwordliness”, the transcendence, of what was happening in the Word and Sacrament. That’s where liturgies, Gothic cathedrals, etc. came into the picture.
    It’s also where Orthodox Presbyterians and traditional Anglicans part ways!

  63. Rick says:

    Re Preaching vs. private reading. I’m often struck by the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. When Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the eunuch responds “How can I unless someone guides me?” It is then that word is preached to him – and the he then believes.

    I once heard a preacher extolling the work of the Gideons, saying that “there is no better work than putting the Bible in people’s hands” – I would submit that a better work would be preaching the Bible that is in people’s hands.

    Re the Bereans. They searched because of preaching. Without this preaching the veil of Moses might not have been lifted. They verified that what was being preached was in fact what God had revealed in the Law and the Prophets.

  64. Lacie says:

    When the WCF says that the “esp. the preaching…” it must be using as proofs the ones we normally think of. These are mainly evangelistic, not in the context of Christian worship. To repeat, except for possibly the “lesson” in Corinthians, we do not see in the NT preaching in Christian worship. There was “the apostles’ teaching” in Acts 2:42, the classic worship passage. But that could translate into our day of the reading of the writings of the apostles.

    As for the eunuch, he needed guidance. For Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla were used by the Lord. Ultimately, it the Lord that opens the heart. Although I love the WCF I do have a hard time finding real Scriptural proof that “esp. the preaching”…

    A women’s Bible study devoted to the Apostles’ teaching may very well be a source of sanctification. Ordination is not necessary.

  65. RubeRad says:

    No way, the ESV Study Bible is the only one that is sanctifying-guaranteed!

  66. todd says:

    John,

    Depends how you are defining informal. Acts 20:7&8 has Paul preaching to the gathered believers, though not with a formal liturgy. Is that what you mean?

  67. John Harutunian says:

    Rick, I see your points. I’d submit two points in return:

    1. All three of the examples you cite involve evangelism, not worship.

    2. There’s certainly an important place for evangelistic preaching. However, you need to keep that in balance with the Reformed doctrine of “the perspicuity of Scripture.”
    (Unless you want to be a fusty old tradition-bound Anglican like me!)

  68. John Harutunian says:

    Good point, Todd. It looks like I’ll have to admit that at this particular worship service, there was indeed preaching.
    Of course, the line between formal and informal can be a fuzzy one. But since Paul “broke bread” on that occasion, he doubtless used the Words of Institution. (I immediately add that this doesn’t necessarily mean that he had one of the Synoptic Gospels in front of him (!) -he was doubtless relying on oral tradition.) Distributing bread and wine while repeating Christ’s words is something which I would see as a ceremony, though a simple one. And insofar as it’s a very _important_ ceremony (regardless of one’s particular doctrine of the Eucharistic Presence), I’d have to say that it was probably more formal than informal.

  69. Lacie says:

    Why not reply to/interact with the Bible passages suggested?
    I can’t count how many times Reformed bloggers (esp. those who link to Escondido-related spots), when presented with Scripture, simply descend to name-calling, mockery, or straw man arguments.

  70. Lacie says:

    RR: Would you tell me how what you believe differes from the following:

    “This multitude of beliefs is where the private interpretation of scripture leads you…there is but one truth, and that you are not the first person to read the Bible. Don’t think you are going to “get it right” where 2000 years of consistent Church teaching has “gotten it wrong.” There is the sin of pride in that.

    Thanks.

  71. Lacie says:

    Todd:
    You said, “that doesn’t change the fact that God promises to address us through the preaching of the Word, even more than through private reading.”

    I’m sorry, tell me where it says that in the Bible?
    Thanks.

  72. RubeRad says:

    RR: Would you tell me how what you believe differes from the following:

    “This multitude of beliefs is where the private interpretation of scripture leads you…there is but one truth, and that you are not the first person to read the Bible. Don’t think you are going to “get it right” where 2000 years of consistent Church teaching has “gotten it wrong.” There is the sin of pride in that.

    I think that statement is spot-on, and it’s not the RC stance, it’s the Reformer’s stance. That’s why in the Institutes, Calvin so often and extensively refers to the church fathers, to show that he’s not just making this stuff up; it is what the church had believed from the beginning, until the RC went off the rails.

    In the natural world, we have limited and ever-expanding knowledge, and are subject to Kuhnian cycles of revolutionary paradigm-shifts as new knowledge overturns old.

    But in religion, it is not this way. God revealed to us everything we need to know, and closed the canon at the end of the apostolic generation. Ever since then, innovation in theology has been a bad thing. There ought to be no more paradigm shifts beyond the overturning of the Old Covenant by the New and Better Covenant. (Or at least in this age, so perhaps there is one final paradigm shift yet to come)

  73. Lacie says:

    This is where I got the quote from:
    http://www.turrisfortis.com/interp.html
    It is a Catholic apologetics site.

  74. Rick says:

    Lacie, I guess you didn’t pick up on Rube’s sarcasm (about the bible study). As for Bible studies being a source of sanctification- where did anyone say they couldn’t be?

    The confessions maintain that God has promised to be active in grace in the corporate worship service in the means of grace. That doesn’t mean God is exclusively active there, but that is where we can expect Him to be active.

    I am edified, and I pray my family is being sanctified, by our family worship – but I cannot say that reading the Bible to my family, exploring it together, praying with them, and singing Psalms with them are means of grace. God forbid! I only look for grace in the public covenant renewal ceremony: Corporate Christian worship on the Lord’s Day. More on this below (I’ll apologize now for the length).

    Now, to whom it may concern, It doesn’t bother me that most (if not all, depending on the strictness of your definition) of the examples of preaching found in the N.T. are not in the context of a formal liturgical worship service.

    First, I’m a paedobaptist even though I don’t find a single specific example of a baby being baptized in the N.T.. I believe that Sunday is the Lord’s Day even though I don’t find anyone in scripture saying that Sunday is, without a doubt, the Christian Sabbath. And I’m a cessationist even though I read of tongues, healings, and other extraordinary things going on in the first century Church.

    Second, we must recognize that the Apostles ministered in an unduplicated era. The Apostles were the foundation – and this foundation is not repeated. People were saved in the apostolic day of signs and wonders without the benefit of a New Testament to read. The practices of the early church found in the book of Acts are the foundation for our norms, and inform our norms, but are not normative as they stand. It was a time of transition (we read Paul giving instructions and admonitions for corporate gatherings and church government in his letters as this transition takes place).

    The point of my two points is that we the confessionally Reformed have arrived at our views on practice for corporate worship on The Lord’s Day (Sunday) the same way we’ve arrived at our views of all our doctrines; through a redemptive-historical and covenantal reading of God’s redemptive acts in history as revealed in His Word, and by allowing scripture to interpret scripture.

    The witness in redemptive-history of God’s covenantal dealings with his people tells us that God’s people gather for covenant renewal. In the covenant of grace we’ve moved beyond the crude shadowy elements of the old covenant ceremony but we still gather in the context of covenant renewal. It’s our broad frame and it informs our elements and these elements are “regulated” by the apostolic foundation.

    The Apostolic era church had preaching and that preaching was clearly what God used to convert sinners and comfort saints – so we preach in new covenant renewal. The Apostolic era church used the sacraments – these sacraments clearly communicated Christ and all his benefits to the partakers and observers, so we use the sacraments in new covenant renewal. The Apostolic era church gave alms for the poor among them (fellowship), we give our offerings in new covenant renewal. The Apostolic era prayed together, we pray in new covenant renewal.

    Each of these elements is an expansion and reinterpretation of old covenant renewal. Christian corporate worship on the Christian Sabbath is new covenant renewal.

    I miss Echo

  75. RubeRad says:

    Well, I stand by my agreement and analysis anyways. The Catholics have the principle right and the application wrong. Obviously, they don’t see that they are wrong (who ever does?)

  76. Rick says:

    Context is everything.

  77. RubeRad says:

    Nice Rick, you should have made this a post. Then it would have counted as a Jewel in your Crown.

  78. Lacie says:

    Bible studies can be a source of sanctification…but family worship cannot be a means of grace? What?? And “I only look for grace in the public covenant renewal ceremony: Corporate Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.” I can barely believe my eyes.

    Of course I believe in good and necessary inferences from Scripture are Scripture, thus paedobaptism, etc. But you have swallowed something (Recovering the Reformed Confessions?) uncritically.

    I doubt you’ll be open to it, but you really ought to read John Frame’s review of Scott Clark’s book (and Horton’s and Vandrunen’s while you’re at it.) I don’t agree with everything Frame says, but one thing is sure, he’s more Scripturally based than most of the bloggers out there, and he’s a first-rate philosopher and theologian:
    http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles_date.htm

  79. Rick says:

    Well, we all have our own presuppositions, interpretive communities, and theologians whom we lean on.

    I’m sorry mine aren’t yours. If you can’t believe your eyes, you’re invited to look away.

    I’ve read a lot of Frame and I find him poisonous on many doctrines and of little help elsewhere. Not to mention that the vehemence he criticizes is the very thing he creates. He’s also under-confessional which allows me to dismiss him easily.

    If you look around this blog you’ll see what kind of group-think we engage in. You know the writers we like and who we don’t like.

  80. John Harutunian says:

    Rick, thanks for your detailed post Oct. 1, 12:48 pm. I do see two major problems:

    “I cannot say that reading the Bible to my family, exploring it together, praying with them, and singing Psalms with them are means of grace. God forbid! I only look for grace in the public covenant renewal ceremony: Corporate Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.”

    But surely the Bible is the primary channel of God’s grace. (As I’m fond of pointing out to my High-Church brethren: the Word can stand without the Sacraments, whereas the Sacraments cannot stand without the Word.) How can one read the Word (without, of course, faith in the heart) without receiving grace from it?

    “People were saved in the apostolic day of signs and wonders without the benefit of a New Testament to read.”

    Point granted. I don’t see any Biblical teaching that signs and wonders will _necessarily_ cease once the canon is closed. I have heard the position espoused by distinguished scholars. But it does seem to entangle one either in
    a)an argument from silence, or b)the assumption that what may be inferred from Scripture has the same dogmatic weight as Scripture itself.

  81. Lacie says:

    “Surely the Bible is the primary channel of God’s grace” Amen.
    We wouldn’t know how to pray without it; there’d be no content to preaching without it; there’d be no sacraments without it.

    John, I’m glad you’re not High Church 🙂
    Many thanks for sound thinking.

  82. Rick says:

    John, It seems we’ve come full circle. And I suppose we could go around again. But I think you know my POV and I think I know yours.

    That is, unless you want me to address a specific question.

  83. Pingback: Guess the Good Guy « The Confessional Outhouse

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