There is nothing more pristine than the fellowship of the saints. Today I spent the entire day with the people of God at the house of our beloved deacon. We watched our children play with one another. We delighted in their smiles. We picked them up when they fell and we encouraged them to jump when they had never jumped before. We are a more united church because of days like today. This is truly the genesis of living covenantally in this world.
My neighbor and I spent a few hours together watching Cinderella Man. Tom, as many may know from reading this blog, has lost his wife of 58 years a week ago. Though he does not reveal too much, I know he is suffering. We have been planning to watch this movie for about 3 days now, and last night we watched what to me is one of the greatest movies in the last five years. What makes it so great? a) The outstanding acting, b) the clear dramatization of one of the worst times in American History (Great Depression, in which Tom went through as a young boy in the 1930’s) and c) the loveliness of a committed husband and wife to their family.
Tom told stories about the Great Depression he has told me many times, but I still enjoy them because they are part of his story. The classic story I hear over and over is that during the Depression, he had spaghetti almost every day. As a result he has not eaten spaghetti in over 40 years.
Tom is hardened to the gospel. He has not been in church for many years. He seems disappointed. I offered to read the Bible with him, only to be immediately rejected. I will try again in the future.
My neighbor, Maria McBride, 77, died on Thursday afternoon at the hospital. She and her husband have been lovely neighbors since our arrival here in Orlando. We have had many meals together, and have shared many long conversations. Both Marie and her husband have been a source of great joy. Marie was always deeply concerned about our well-being and was always making sure I picked up the trash can and bring it back into the garage after the trash was taken. Every time I pick up the trash can I will remember her smile.
Maria was a deeply catholic woman. I remember several times conversing with her about her faith. One time I took the advantage to question Maria and her husband about what role works play in their salvation. Both seemed confused and were unsure how to respond. At that time, I quickly pointed them to Ephesians 2:8-9 and told them that though works were necessary, only grace can save. I pray Marie truly trusted Christ.
Marie was a charming lady. She enjoyed a Scotch every afternoon and was a fanatic Braves fan. She loved life even amidst so many health problems. I will truly miss her.
Yesterday, I spent some time with her husband, who is deeply grieving. Please pray that I would minister to him during these difficult times.
You did not respond to my conjecture that you are referring merely to the abuse of something as an excuse for avoiding it. If someone was falsely assured, it is the preacher who is in condemnation as a teacher (James 3:1).
First, you have now and before misquoted the statement. It goes as follows: “The abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.” By the way, I am not the originator of that quote. It was written by someone (perhaps Luther) who certainly understood the extremes taken by some in order to avoid certain freedoms that we have in Christ.
Let me give you an example as to how that quote plays well with certain situations. One clear example is the often pulpit cry that drinking is associated with pagans therefore, as Christians we should not drink. This concept was also coincidentally an essential message of Charles Finney and other revivalists of the early 19th century. In this case, I plug in that quote immediately and say that since the Scriptures many times endorses or even demands the people of God to drink, then for the sake of Scriptures, drink (Psalm 104:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7). The abuse of some is not an argument against its proper use. In the case you used, I suggest that the quote cannot be used in that context. It contradicts its purpose. In other words, the abuse of something that is found in the Scriptures is not an argument against its proper use. However, I do not believe whether it be the invitational system, raising hands, walking down the aisle, or any of these Finneistic novelties in American evangelicalism are Scriptural, but rather are used to lead many to a false profession of faith and furthermore to guilt-bound “christianity.”
You went on to say:
Oh yeah, and my Dad was saved in an ice cream shop by a man who used the simple gospel via the four spiritual laws. Even though I have a pastor at my local body, he has been my pastor for almost 23 years. Indeed the four spiritual laws are the Truth and the gospel is simple, but it’s not merely an action one can claim to have taken, and we agree.
To this I would simply reply that I am not in any position to judge anyone’s conversion experience. The Four Spiritual Laws from my perspective do not contain an accurate representation of the gospel (though I am convinced it has been used for good, after all there are Scriptural quotations in them). It misleads the Christian to think wrongly of the concept of the Lordship of Christ by confusing categories of Christian experience (the false idea of “carnal Christianity is one o them). Thus, my contention is that this approach completely distorts Paul’s meaning in I Corinthians 3.
Finally, just a few corrections in order to help further dialogue. You mentioned a few strongly Reformed categories and distinctive such as Family Worship and Home Education. I deeply admire your parents for a strong emphasis on family and education. As I have come to know you and your family, it is evident that all of you have a strong passion for our Lord. However, family and education devoid of Reformed confessions and a strongly covenantal view of family denies the Reformed faith. As you may know Mennonites, the Amish, and others, also have a strong view of courting, family and so on; but yet they clearly deny the Reformed perspective on God’s sovereignty and Covenant Theology.
I hope this helps our future interaction…
Your brother in Christ.