Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It

Say What You Want, 
Just Get the Link Right 






It was P.T. Barnum, or someone else, who said something like, "Write what you want about me. Just be sure you spell my name right." Donald Trump is trying to prove Barnum right. Publicity can be laudatory or condemnatory, but it's still publicity. It keeps the focus on you.

Recently Darryl Hart has criticized me, which is fine with me because he linked to the offending blog and got the link right. However, I am a little disappointed that his attention did not get the blog more interest, drawing only a little over 30 additional looks. I would have been happier with 100.

In my Blog I pointed out that a small minority of Presbyterians take no notice of the Christian year while the vast majority of Christians, including most Presbyterians, take notice of it, some sloppily and some following an ecclesiastical calendar. Darryl's response: "Bill Smith makes a weak (sorry) case for the church calendar."

It appears that D.G. takes a pass on the argument on which others rely, that the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) disallows the Christian year, and goes for the eschatological argument. After citing 2 Peter 3:8-13, he draws what seems to me a strange if not (forgive me for saying) weak conclusion from it:
I for one cannot fathom how thinking of myself at different points in the life of Christ or in the time before the first advent helps me think about the last days. I also don’t see how a year-round system encourages Christians to think about this saeculum as the one between Christ’s advents. It’s also striking that Peter thinks eschatological (as opposed to annual) thinking nurtures holiness and godliness. (Can I get an “amen” from the obedience boys?) 
So the objection to Bill isn’t that he’s no longer a good regulative principle Presbyterian. It’s that he’s substituted an inferior way of thinking about our place in history with the cosmic one taught by Peter and Paul.
The liturgical calendar is your mind on the solar year. The interadvental age is your mind on Christ.
Several things strike me as odd.

Does Dr. Hart really think that the solar year and the interadvental age are at odds with one another? Does not the interadvental age consist of some finite number of solar years? Does living in this interadvental age mean not recalling the works of Christ by which the corner of history was turned and we entered the last age? And how is focusing one's mind on the redemptive works of Christ by following the Christian year contrary to setting one's mind on Christ?

It strikes me as odd that Dr. Hart describes remembering the redemptive work of Christ with an orderly annual cycle as "thinking of myself at different points in the life of Christ" as though following the Christian year is not objective but psychological and experimental. If he were saying that most worshipers will place themselves as observers in the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, at Calvary on Good Friday,  and on the road to Emmaus on Easter Evening, then he would be stating what is natural to the human mind. I often see myself on Seminary Ridge looking across to Cemetery Ridge on July 3. But it seems he envisions a remembrance that is spiritually unhealthy, though I am not sure how it is - unless he means to say that one should not now be remembering our Lord's life but solely looking forward to his second coming. 

We have four Gospels that record our Lord's life and work. The epistle writers spend a great deal of ink calling to our minds the work of Christ and its implications for us. Are we not to call to mind the works of redemption? Did not our Lord himself not teach us the importance of remembrance by instituting a sacrament of remembrance?

Moreover, it was not just the English Reformers who saw the value of retaining a modified Christian year. So did the writers of the Second Helvetic Confession (1564) who approved "The Festivals of Christ":
Moreover, if in Christian liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord's nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly. (XXIV)
In his Knowing God Dr. J.I. Packer observed the lack of preaching on the Trinity, saying that the average Anglican minister preaches on it only on Trinity Sunday and the average non-conformist "not at all." What can be said about the doctrine of the Trinity can also be said about the Second Advent (which also makes strange Dr. Hart's criticism of the ecclesiastical calendar). Leaving aside the "end times preaching" of our dispensational friends, it is we Anglicans who are have four Sundays a year that focus on the Second Advent. While the fly by the seat of their pants evangelicals are singing Christmas carols and preaching Christmas sermon series, we are remembering that the day of our redemption is nearer than ever.

I'm happy to give the last word to the Presbyterian, A.A. Hodge of Princeton (whose Outlines of Theology used the be the theology textbook at the Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary): 
The Christian Sunday is an historical continuation of the Jewish Sabbath, only the day of the week changes, and runs back in absolutely unbroken continuity through the ages–through the ages before the Flood, through the years before the Fall–it and matrimony being the only monuments of the golden age of innocency. Each recurrent holy day stands to us, first, as a monument of the sovereignty of Jehovah as Creator, and secondly, as a monument of our redemption consummated in the resurrection of our Lord. Every Lord’s day when we celebrate the Holy Supper we repeat in a chain of unbroken continuity the memorial of his sacrificial death. And in the beautiful circle of the Christian year, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, we repeat in a far longer chain of unbroken continuity the Christian sacrament of the Supper, looking back over a vista of nearly eighteen centuries and three-quarters to its institution, and also over a vista nearly twice as long, of nearly three thousand five hundred years, to the institution of the first Passover and the redemption of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.


















































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