Friday, October 24, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition

The Seven

Aquinas- Liberal Arts are tools by which knowledge is fashioned.  The Greeks separated the sciences and the arts.  The sciences were a means by which any subject could be examined.  Art began with imitation.  Art is between imitation and science.  Aquinas- the liberal arts are used to produce the works of reason.  This is a epistemological study of what is true knowledge and an acceptance that Aquinas got it right when understanding true science or “knowledge” to be using the liberal arts and resting in reason.  The authors do no defend their acceptance of a rationalist approach with Holy Scripture so this is a “wait and see.”  They believe the seven liberal arts learned by way of imitation are the starting point for education and must come before philosophy and the final end or purpose which is theology.


“Grammar speaks, dialect teaches words and rhetoric colors words.”   The classical liberal arts are a product of a Christian synthesis in the early middle ages.  A brief history of what Christians understood to be grammar shows that knowing the classical languages were the end goal. 

In the dialect of the trivium there was an emphasis on not just the rules of logic but on the dialogues in first Plato and then Aquinas.  These teach what questions are worth asking and answering which is a necessary lead into philosophy and theology.

Under rhetoric the authors rightly sum up the attempt to bring persuasion and truth together.  However, I don’t agree that Aristotle’s book on rhetoric is not sufficient. 

Implications: “practice these arts in a form that respects their true nature.”  The second one I will shorten to “teachers need to learn Greek and then teach it to their students if you want them to be truly classically educated.” 

I am not convinced.  The trivium can be defended biblically as it follows what the Bible describes as developmental stages in a child.  The goal for me has never been to be “classically” educated or trained but to use a classical approach to be educated. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Slow Church Chp. 6

This chapter opens with a comparison of a small town restaurant to McDonald’s.  These guys really hate McDonald’s.  I am guessing the connection to McDonald’s and praise of good work is that McDonald’s workers… I don’t get the connection.  “Good work should be understood as cooperation with God.” Our work ideal should include more than what we do for pay.  Work is not a part of the curse but a part of the image of God given to each human being.  Nowhere in the Bible do we find work to be something we are to avoid or begrudge.  God gives each one of us gifts so that we can work and work well.  The writers begrudge the division of labor they see in society because it separates us and certain works dehumanize because they stifle individual creativity.  The two main fails of assembly work is that it treats people as expendable and separates the head from the hand.  Next is the connection I first didn’t get.   He calls it the McDonalization of work because of the stream line, assembly line way the company puts forth its product.  They want to reclaim work for Christians as God’s shalom.

1.     Change our thinking about what is good work.  It is not based on what is earned.  It should be based on what a person is gifted to do.
2.     Work should be seen as worship thus it calls us to do all things to the glory of God which includes doing them to the best of our ability.
3.     Stand up for justice in the work place. 
4.     Find ways to incorporate gifts within a local church to meet the needs of the church as well as the community around the church.

While l appreciate and assent with some points here I “feel” that something is either missing or missed directed.  Maybe it is the repeated attack on McDonald’s.  Have they never tasted their fries? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition Chapter 3

Gymnastics and Music

The authors think the readers will be surprised to hear that Plato and Aristotle would not start with the grammar stage as Dorothy Sayers does.  Instead they start with referencing gymnastics and music.  Gymnastics for the Greeks was not what we see every four years in the Olympics.  Instead it was learning to control the entire body to build up strength and coordination.  Music also was not limited to melodious sound but included all of the poetic arts.  Such an education is presented as a whole body, mind and soul experience.  The authors explain that the Greeks upheld these disciplines because they were the beginning points to acquiring moral and intellectual virtues.  This idea seems to do better than Christians because it recognizes the eternal value of an entire person.  Without realizing it modern educators, even in Classical Christian Schools have been influenced by Gnosticism (this thought is mine). 

The above leads to the point that gymnastics should be an essential part of a Classical Christian curriculum. 

A gymnastics curriculum should work to perfect human abilities.  It is also observed that there is a correlation between development disciplines of the body to better disciplines of the mind.  Temperance and fortitude are the two most obvious virtues that are strengthened by physical conditioning and they transfer well into the classroom. 

When it comes to music nothing speaks more readily and profoundly to the soul than the poetic arts.  Plato would say nothing forms the soul more than the poetic arts.  Aristotle went further to say it develops human intuition toward what is good or noble.  The author explains Lewis’ argument as being the same when in the Abolition of Man he explains how intuition and imagination work together in humans to form a conception of the good. 

To avoid frustration by the reader the authors don’t suggest imposing a new curriculum for music but to recognize the music they already use in other subjects.  Subjects in general could also be approached by recognizing the music that is within them such as the music of history with its poetic flow as well as the poetics that come out of history.

Slow Church: Chp. 5


Slow breathing.  This is going to be bumpy.  There is a great picture on the internet of post WWII America that shows a mass of people riding a train and everyone is looking at a newspaper.  The caption reads something like “before iphones”.  The authors try to make the point that isolationism is a dangerous thing and technology is a primary cause.  Well, as the picture mentioned above shows, isolationism has been around a while.  We are provided a guilt trip regarding our consumption verses our population and yet there is no cause and effect provided.  Why is it that other countries don’t consume as we do?  It most certainly isn’t because they are more utilitarian than an average American.  There is not evidence to that.  So what is it?  Could it be that the corrupt politics, false religions and a poor work ethic have held other countries back?  That seems a fair question.

They use the “butterfly effect” idea to interconnect how seemingly insignificant behavior can have a very great effect and such appeals to open minds that don’t want to look at facts.  It sounds good if it were true but it is not, as least not in terms of the mega effect the authors want.

Unfortunately the authors went into global warming and thus I am done with this chapter.  I have liked them so far, but they have bought into the arrogance of the liberal western mind which believes man can control all things, even the weather and that man is to be constantly feeling guilty and repeatedly atoning for his own sins.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition Chp. 2


Love the Richard Weaver quote.  Piety- duty, love and respect owed to God, parents and communal authorities past and present.  It is faithfulness to one’s relationships and commitment to one’s traditions.  Beautifully said.  This chapter fits well with “Slow Church.”  Piety is found in the first four commandments as well as the fifth as the fifth is the first to deal with social piety.  The Greek and Roman cultures seem to have understood the necessity of piety as a part of natural law.  The Aquinas reference nicely brings together piety in terms of our love for God and our patriarchs and matriarchs.  It also can be summed up in the two greatest commandments.  Piety, however, is not just another virtue but the highest of virtues and is also a gift from God.  Because piety is a foundational virtue for Christians it is a schools responsibility to build on that foundation. 

In past cultures they were intentional in passing on their traditions by way of education.  The authors rightly point out that we no longer have a culture to transmit.  The case does not need to be made to Christians that an impious culture cannot be sustained. 

The end point is so important.  Piety begins in the home and is supported and nourished in the school.  The school cannot effectively replace the home in providing a pious foundation nor should it ever undermine it. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition

Here is another summary study of a book being read by our school board.

The Paradigm of the Liberal Arts Tradition

We have been gifted with the seven liberal arts tradition, which adds arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music to the base three subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric.  Acknowledgments are made of those that have started the movement of what is called classical Christian education.  While the 7 subjects provide a well trained intellect they do not address what makes a Christian whole. 
Their thesis is to incorporate subjects like piety, gymnastics, music, liberal arts, philosophy and theology to enable students to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. 

A subject like piety is recognized as a necessary focus for it was the end goal of any virtue that was valued.  The beginning of a true education must be with God as in loving God first so that all things are understood through a students love for Him.  Theology was to be a subject that informs other subjects.  Students are to be grounded in piety and governed by theology. 

Gymnastics and music allow for the body to be incorporated in a love for God (piety).  Training of the body brings discipline of mind as does training in music, which as a subject adds the element of beauty and joy.

Liberal arts that include an emphasis on linguistics and mathematics teach students not just what to think but how to think. 

The point is made that even when incorporating all of the liberal arts with a focus on piety that it is not enough.  All subjects are, in their most basic essence, tools of learning.  But when you provide students with these strong tools they become foundations to build upon.

Finally, the authors want the reader to know that their use of philosophy is not as it is used in modern studies but in truest sense of the word, which is a love of wisdom.  This allows the subject to incorporate moral sciences such as ethics and politics.  Combining the natural science and moral science is compared to understanding the transcendent Christ to the incarnate Christ.

The book will now look at the categories of piety, gymnastics, music, liberal arts, philosophy and theology.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Slow Church Chp. 4

Chapter 4

Patience is upheld as a high virtue in this chapter.  The attempt is made to answer how we grow in the virtue of patience in the context of a restless culture around us.  The Three Mile Island reference and BP references are not useful.   The first is outdated and the second was an anomaly.  There is next a strong challenge regarding why we rush our labor.  The initial answer is that the technology that speeds up labor helps us avoid suffering.   We even avoid the suffering of others by outsourcing their care (ouch!).  The authors use teachings from Tertullian who was and still is a controversial figure in Church history for although he was brilliant his ecclesiology was heretical.  I have not read Tertullian’s patientia but the quotes are helpful in showing how patience can be learned by way of physical disciplines such as fasting.  Patience is longsuffering and therefore as we practice it we emulate our God. 

The point that patience is best learned within the local church overtime and the passing of seasons of life is so very true.  It appears to be the goal of both authors to underline the need for Christians to stay put in their local church unless CALLED elsewhere.  I suspect that those who practice church hopping are not likely to read a book like this.  The authors share personal stories of how their churches have been places where patience as been learned that include surviving serious illness and tragedy.   I appreciate the description of a Eucharistic life but I missed the connecting between that and suffering to build up patience.  The argument is made that suffering in the Eucharistic life, which is within the local church works for the greater good.  And then it is stated that the ends do not justify the means but the means matter as much as the end.  I agree with the latter point but popular utilitarian theories actually ignore the morality of the means. 

The food pantry example is helpful for it points out that food banks are an impatient way to help people in need because food banks do not forge relationship nor do they provide people a way out of their poverty.  They feed the need in the here and now only.  The answer for one Church was to become involved in the development of the community, which gave the parishioners more opportunities to show the love of Jesus (the means). 

The authors close the chapter by challenging churches to see themselves as vehicles for reconciliation.  The focus is on personal reconciliation to God and within the community.  It could be argued that reconciliation within communities should be a natural bi-product of a people being reconciled to God but example of such are difficult to come by.  It has to be intentional. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Slow Church Chp. 3

Chapter 3

An apple tree is more than a tree.  It bears fruit, holds honey, provides shade for other flowers to grow and even provides a setting for song and celebration.  Good metaphor!  The diversity of the planet in all its beauty and wonder means that one size (church outreach) cannot fit all.  Ok.  Jesus was born in a particular time and place and thus community and everywhere he went as well as the disciples who came after him developed communities.  The Slow Church approach provides the possibility of the types of communities God wants with His Church at the center.  Bringing the tree and community images together there must be a rootedness that provides stability for a community to flourish.  Monasteries and nunneries are used as examples of the importance of stability as these institutions required a life long commitment.  I don’t know how well evangelical Protestants are moved by such examples. 

Chris identifies the problem of western culture with the terms hypermobility and individualism.  Hypermobility is our ability and willingness to pick up and move from community to community.  His statistics prove his identifications to be accurate.  He uses a line by Ron Swanson a character in the television show Parks and Recreation (a show I love) that well states how people use other people and when they are done they walk out of your life.  As a pastor I have painfully experienced this.  A quote from Dr. Willie James Jenning of Duke Divinity school to prove this point is filled with so much liberal speak that although I wanted to agree with it I could not avoid the political agendas underneath it.  At this point it would be helpful for the author to step back and examine each argument by itself.  The premise that automobiles make people more mobile does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is the cause for why people don’t worship near where they live.  From my experience there are factors that play a much larger role.  The point that automobiles and individualism make it easier for people to look for a new church when conflicts arise is most important.  Working through conflicts overtime builds trust.  I like that. 

It is a great point to make when Chris says that the hypermobility is a problem with churches as well as individuals.  Churches up and leave communities because they want to be bigger or more affluent.  Such reasons are no less shallow that parishioners who want different styles of music. 

After each writer shares a personal story about their church experiences the point is made that a long stay allows parishioners, the leaders and the church body as a whole to get to know the area and thus know its needs and is peculiarities.  The beauty of this point is that the focus is not just on building up the church but the community that is around the church.  Thus it is “others” focused. 

Abuse of rootedness is when we think we are superior to those who are new to our community and using position for financial gain and political power.  It is labeled entrenchment rather than rootedness.  To prevent abuse we are to practice biblical hospitality which places the needs of others before our own and welcomes the stranger.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Slow Church cont.

Chapter 2

John shares a personal story about growing up in a large Church and having many friends from that time in his life even up to today.  He recalls being critical of the college group when he became a part of it because the leaders modeled their approach after the mega church Willow Creek.  A lesson that stuck with him was summed in a statement made to him, “You cannot franchise the blessings of God.”  His reference to “simony” is an excellent example of the problem of franchising God.  His use of McDonalds is too obvious.  The example of wine is very good and very challenging for rectors.  For a Church to take on the characteristics of the environment in which it is placed just as a grape takes on the flavor of its soil, climate and barrel takes a great deal of time and sacrifices must be made.  The sacrifices include choosing what is best to meet the needs of the people rather than what the minister prefers. 

The critique on the church growth movement and its history is not for me.  I rejected the church growth movement a long time ago.  The results of that movement, however, do remain with the church and the authors are right to point out that segregation is one of those results.  Church growth models promote drawing crowds with similar backgrounds resulting in segragation.

“Plant sequoias” is a nice way to describe this Slow Church approach.  The note that spiritual formation is a long process is refreshing to read.  The control issues in satellite churches are currently being exemplified at Mars Hill in Seattle. 

Our sense of taste is used to explain how connected we are intended to be with our church community (Psalm 34:8).  This makes sense when taste leads to consuming because what we taste we then eat and what we eat becomes a part of us.  The argument that to taste God’s goodness is to experience costly discipleship is then made.  The connection is made because Jesus calls us salt and salt has characteristics such as being grinded up and dissolving which reflect the Christian life. 

Why this chapter was titled ETHICS has eluded me. 

Slow Church, A Summary

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

Chapter 1

Authors Chris Smith and John Pattison begin with the simile that describes Holy Scripture to be like improvisation.  Improv is as an actor saying when he enters a scene, “yes, and.”  When the Church is understood in terms of the “and” as in it being the next phase in God’s redemptive plan it means that we have a roll to play and it is not one of waiting only.  According to the authors the concept of Slow Church is to play out our part in a manner resembling God.  And God is slow, slow as in patient and long suffering.  The Slow Church idea (and I love this quote) is “in the world, not of the world, so we can be for the world.”  They then bring the truth of God being patience and the Church being for the world by describing God using His people in His redemption plan by patient collaboration. 

Smith and Pattison rightly state that the God’s collaboration with man is marred because of the sinful will of mankind.  They seem to have a good understanding of human depravity but have yet to flesh out how they understand the will of God and the will of man intermixing.  They correctly identify a major problem in the west as it works against what God wants to do with His Church.  That problem is the idol of individualism.  Although we more easily identify with Abraham because of his individualism we fail if we don’t see that God used him to start a community and that God repeatedly works to start communities and grow communities.

The subject of joy is next for the authors see it as natural that communities based on the victory of Jesus over death would have deep and profound joy.  With such joy we can holistically love one another within the Church.  It is how we are to love one another in the Church that the rest of the book will explain. 

A Good Read for the Western Church and Sexuality

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Repentance and Social Media Mobs

It is an intriguing vantage point I have regarding the domestic abuse by Ray Rice toward his then fiancĂ© and now wife Janay.  I root for the Ravens but I am not fanatical about the Ravens so I think I can be a little more objective than most of the people who live around me.  I have not seen the video.  I get physically ill viewing violence against women and children and I argue that I don’t need to see it in order to be appalled by what Ray did to Janay.   The first video of him dragging her out of the elevator unconscious and dumping her limp body on the floor beneath him told us what had happened in the elevator.  To view the video from inside the elevator and to cause mass hysteria because of how graphic the violence was, is to react on pure emotion resulting in a social media mob mentality.   As Christians we should never join a screaming mob.  Mobs yell, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 

What we should pay attention to is the repentance of the guilty person.  We should test him to see if he takes full responsibility for his actions with no qualification or justification for any part of the abuse he did to his wife.  If he does take full responsibility then he can be redeemed and made new.  If however, he, in any way thinks that his behavior was caused by her behavior toward him then he is not truly repentant and is still in his sins.  As David said to the Lord, “For I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever before me.  Against thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight.” 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Don't you know that your brother is a SAINT?

 In the ACNA catechism responding to the question "Who are the saints?"  the answer confirms that saints are the people of God in heaven and on earth.  As saints on earth the Christian is holy by the grace of God in Christ and lives faithfully for Christ.  The "communion of the saints" means we are in unity and fellowship with the other saints.  If these two truths are believed and practiced daily it would be transformational.  Please accept this challenge.  Whenever you see a fellow Christian think of that person first as a saint.  Note the change in your thoughts and care for each person you view as a saint.  If Christians see one another as saints we will likely act more like saints and that will be pleasing to OUR Father.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Might I recommend...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hard Preaching

"A man who first tried to guess 'what the public wants' and then preached that as Christianity..would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave."  C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Danger of Being Discontent

Where the Green Lady of Perelandra was most vulnerable was at the point of wanting to experience what she had yet to know.  Weston, the demonic tempter of the Lady, was putting into her mind possibilities of what she could experience that were worded to be much greater in value than what the she had already known.  Of course it was a lie.  She had everything she needed and faith to trust in God that it was true that she had everything she needed. 

Weston's brilliance and thus the devil's brilliance, was to try to get the Lady to believe she could please God by displeasing Him.  The temptation was toward autonomy.  When she would act like her own god then she would be like God.  Of course it was a lie.  If she acted autonomously then she would be like the devil and not God.  What she needed to be was content that she was who God created her to be and was at her best when she was like herself.

The "forbidden fruit" was living life on the fixed island.  The only way to get the Lady to want to focus on what she could not do as opposed to what she could do was to appeal to her autonomy and her curiosity to know what it would be like to live on fixed ground.  A large part of the sin of discontentment is coveting.  A person becomes discontent when he/she allows himself/herself to covet. Coveting can occur when we want our neighbors house or our neighbors life.  Once the sin of coveting has taken hold everything needs to be different than it is.  But notice how that can never be satisfied.  A discontent heart is never settled or at peace because it is continuously searching for something different which is a never ending search. 

The repeated warnings in the Bible against discontentment are found in the wisdom literature where we are taught to be content with the things money cannot buy.  When the Green Lady found contentment in the abundance God had given her and the King God had chosen for her the voice of Weston was stopped. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"What is man that You are mindful of him?"

After the service a man came up to the preacher and said, "Thank you preacher for those encouraging words.  You told me I am a sinner, that God says I am a sinner.  My heart is warmed to know that He cares about me to tell me so." 

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Blog Space

Hey Folks,

I have chosen to change/move my blog to another server. The one prior apparently has crashed, died or simply chosen to ignore me not allowing me to post anything new. I will be transporting previous posts from the old blog from time to time in order to keep what I perceive is worthy to save.  I hope this new address gets out to those of you who read my blog on a regular basis.  Blessings, Pastor Eric+

Ecclesiastical Governments Are Irrelevant

I’m an Anglican?  No, you are not.  I’m a Presbyterian.  No, you are not.  I’m a Congregationalist?  No, you are not. 

It is ironic in the truest sense of the word that Protestant Christians have divided themselves from one another and chosen their distinctiveness according to their preferred form of government while at the same time the majority don’t heed what their chosen form of government decides. 

Those of us in the Anglican world claim to be committed to an Episcopal form of government that has us under the authority of Bishops, then Presbyters and then Deacons.  We say we believe that those who have authority over us have been placed there by God and thus are there to counsel us and to obey when we are in need of correction (see Romans 13:1-7 and Hebrews 13:7).  To not seek counsel from the authorities over us and or to no not obey them is not to be Anglican.  It is not even to be Presbyterian or a Congregationalist.  It is something else entirely and may be some up as “doing what is right in his/her own eyes.” 

“But”, someone may object, “what if the authorities over me go against Holy Scripture and thus against God?”  This is an important “but” and it is exemplified to us in the manner the early Christians defied their Jewish and political authorities stating that a Christian must obey God before men (Acts 5:29).  When this is exemplified we are taught that we are to only reject the authority over us when it goes against doctrinal convictions that clearly defy the apostolic faith.  If the issue, then, is not doctrinal, to step outside the authority over us is to reject what God has ordained for our lives.  It is disobedience.  To say, “I am Anglican” and to follow up such a statement by ignoring and even rejecting the authorities over us is to be double minded and such a man is unstable in all his ways. 

And the point in the paragraph above applies to Presbyterians and Congregationalists as well.  If you are Presbyterian and the Presbytery decides such and such, and such and such does not go against the apostolic faith then if you believe that your form of government is biblical do you not, by faith, need to obey the authority of your Presbytery?  And if you are a Congregationalist and your congregation votes in favor of such and such, and such and such does not go against the apostolic faith then if you believe that your form of government is biblical do you not, by faith, need to obey the authority of the congregation?  If these authorities are not obeyed then let us “man up” and admit that we are neither Anglican, Presbyterian nor Congregationalist but something else.  And that something else that we are is not by faith.