Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Part II: Upon These Popes We Will Build Our Business

In a post on September 1st, 2006 called Upon These Popes We Will Build Our Business, I addressed the contradictions that were presented in an article written by Catholic Answers entitled Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth. In this article it was argued that historic Catholicism is the one and only true church, saying, “

"Jesus said his Church would be ‘the light of the world.’ He then noted that ‘a city set on a hill cannot be hid’ (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible organization...Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, and so on).”

This, coupled with some other interesting articles over at Pulpit Live and then this article by Dave Armstrong at Cor ad cor loquitur, prompted me to address this error of thinking which says that the true church will have only one organizational manifestation - i.e. - Papalism. I concluded that article with the following:

It is clear that Rome’s vast religious empire is impressive - visibly speaking. Rome’s monetary vitality, its hierarchy, its legal and constitutional structure, along with its extensive array of traditions and culture, make it an amazing organization by the world’s standards; but not by the standards of God’s Word. As a business, it is indeed impressive, and it’s been around for a long, long time. But when we examine this empire in view of God’s Word we find that Roman Catholic unity is utterly bankrupt, such that those who come to saving faith from within such an organization do so despite the organization itself – as in the case of Martin Luther.

Roman Catholics typically try to prove their authenticity as the true church by pointing to what they believe is a long legacy of organizational and doctrinal stability over the centuries. What the previous post pointed out is that organizational stability cannot prove ecclesiastical authenticity any more than the appearance of the Moon can prove that it is made out of cheese. Appearances can be quite deceiving. In fact, the argument of organizational stability throughout the centuries actually works against the Roman apologist because of this simple fact: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one [1 John 5:19]. Long epochs of organizational stability, within a world that hates the true church, may be an argument that works to the contrary for those who would point to Saint Peter’s Basilica as evidence of ecclesiastical piety. Actually, the true church, throughout history, has been oppressed, persecuted, afflicted and thereby scattered throughout the world. A brief consideration of the first century church would illustrate that point well enough.

But what about this claim of doctrinal stability throughout the centuries? The Roman Catholic apologist will often claim that Rome has held fast to the same unfailing doctrines throughout the centuries, contrary to the vast spread of doctrinal variance found among the various Protestant denominations throughout the world.

Oh yes - those “unfailing Roman Catholic doctrines throughout the centuries.” Anyone who posits an argument like this is simply barking up the wrong polemical tree. Rome’s doctrinal history is nothing less than a lesson on dynamism, and Loraine Boettner’s book, Roman Catholicism, is a classic work and wonderfully summarizes for us the tragic legacy of Rome’s evolutionary doctrine. The following survey unveils a theological monkey in the making:

  • 375 Veneration of angels and dead saints, and use of images.
  • 394 The Mass, as a daily celebration.
  • 500 Priests began to dress differently from laymen.
  • 528 Extreme Unction.
  • 593 The doctrine of Purgatory, established by Gregory I.
  • 600 Latin language, used in prayer and worship, imposed by Gregory I.
  • “ Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints and angels...
  • 607 Title of pope, or universal bishop, given to Boniface III by emperor Phocas.
  • 709 Kissing the pope’s foot, began with pope Constantine.
  • 786 Worship of the cross, images and relics...
  • 850 Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest...
  • 890 Worship of St. Joseph.
  • 927 College of Cardinals established.
  • 995 Canonization of dead saints, first by pope John XV.
  • 998 Fasting on Fridays and during Lent.
  • “ The Mass, developed gradually as a sacrifice, attendance made obligatory in the 11th Century.
  • 1079 Celibacy of the priesthood, decreed by pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand).
  • 1090 The Rosary, mechanical praying with beads, invented by Peter the Hermit.
  • 1184 The Inquisition, instituted by the Council of Verona.
  • 1190 Sale of Indulgences.
  • 1215 Transubstantiation, proclaimed by pope Innocent III.
  • “ Auricular Confession of sins to a priest instead of to God, instituted by pope Innocent III, in Lateran Council.
  • 1220 Adoration of the wafer (Host), decreed by pope Honorius III.
  • 1229 Bible forbidden to laymen, placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Toulouse.
  • 1251 The scapular, invented by Simon Stock, an English monk.
  • 1414 Cup forbidden to the people at communion by Council of Constance.
  • 1439 Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma by the Council of Florence.
  • “ The doctrine of Seven Sacraments affirmed.
  • 1545 Tradition declared of equal authority with the Bible by the Council of Trent.
  • 1546 Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent.
  • 1854 Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, proclaimed by pope Pius IX.
  • 1864 Syllabus of Errors, proclaimed by pope Pius IX, and ratified by the Vatican Council; condemned freedom of religion, conscience, speech, press, and scientific discoveries which are disapproved by the Roman Church; asserted the pope’s temporal authority over all civil rulers.
  • 1870 Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals, proclaimed by the Vatican Council.
  • 1950 Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death), proclaimed by pope Pius XII.
  • 1965 Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church, by pope Paul VI. As can be clearly seen in the above summary, those who wish to argue that Rome has consistently upheld a unified body of doctrine are defending a lost cause. The above table is somewhat Babel-esque in its appearance, such that every brick of Catholic doctrine, that has been laid down in history, unveils the pride of those who have declared - I will build this church [Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, pp. 7-9 ].

Reading through this doctrinal descent is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: Catholic doctrine has been anything but stable or unified; most importantly, it has been anything but Christ-honoring. What has been stable throughout the centuries is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the plain message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone via the Scriptures alone - and all for the glory of God alone - that has been preserved throughout the generations amidst a church that has been variously persecuted, scattered and afflicted - however, Christ’s bride has always persevered by grace in the truth of the Gospel - for without the genuine Gospel, there is no salvation, nor godly perseverance. Thus, wherever the flames of Gospel truth do burn, there you have the Savior’s lampstand and city set upon a hill.

The true church doesn’t have one “Basilica” to which the Christian can point and declare - the Lord Jesus has built His church. Instead, the true church has existed wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed - with our without a building.

Ultimately, the Lord Himself, and His Gospel, is the church’s building; His truth is her firm foundation, of which Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down

Every now and then I come across a familiar chorus that isn’t bad per se, but is somehow just incomplete. And what right do I have to say that some choruses appear to be incomplete? Would the author of such songs agree with me over such an opinion? Well, in this case I think that I can say - “incomplete.” Take for example this familiar Maranatha chorus: Come Let us Worship and Bow Down -

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

For He is our God

And we are the people of His pasture

and the sheep of His hand

just the sheep of His hand

The incomplete nature of this song is made evident when we read Psalm 95:

Psalm 95: 1 O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods, 4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. 5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land. 6 Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 9 "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. 10 "For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. 11 "Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest."

I have highlighted the text upon which the aforementioned chorus is based, in order to reveal the textual contrast. Clearly, there is a vast context of thought that is utterly left behind in the popular Maranatha chorus. This is one of the reasons why I tend to avoid a great deal of modern choruses. It is not that they are always in error; they just tend to truncate too much truth. As in the case of Psalm 95, there is much more going on than the chorus reveals. Overall, the Psalm has a threefold structure, governed by two imperatives and one final warning. By the structure of the text itself, one could easily argue for three verses, rather than just one. The warning at the end is significant, though it is (perhaps) too alarming for the modern mind: it is a warning against unbelief as was evidenced by the ungrateful attitudes of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and tested Him. The threefold development is therefore very important:


2. A Call to HUMBLE WORSHIP (6-7a).


The relationship between these sections should be evident - genuine joy will consist of thankfulness (vs. 1-5); as well as humility (vs. 6-7a). Such attitudes as these reveal a heart that is truly seeking the Lord, unlike the selfish and prideful attitudes of those who fell and did not enter into God’s rest. This is more than a positive call to worship - it is also a great warning and call to self examination, contrition, repentance and to trust in the Lord who is the Creator of all things. Consider the following as a modification of the song (some hyphens are inserted for the reader’s understanding of the flow of the song):

Come Let us Worship and Bow Down (Psalm 95)

Verse 1

Come Let us sing for joy to God; For the LORD, He is the rock of our salvation

Come Let us sing for joy to God; Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving

For the Lord is a great God

All the world does rest upon His mighty hand

He's the King above all gods

Let us sing for joy to the Lord!

Verse 2*

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

For He is our God

And we are the people of His pasture

and the sheep of His hand

just the sheep of His hand

Verse 3

If you would hear His voice today; Do not har-den your hearts like those at Meribah

If you would hear His voice today; Do not test the Lord as in the day of Massah

For the Lord is a great God

All the world does rest up-on His mighty hand

Let us always trust in the Lord

Let us rest alone in our God

There are a number of songs that fit into this - “not bad; just suspiciously incomplete” category. In reality, there’s much more theology that can be added to these songs by the simple process of completing the thoughts that they began to express. By this process, many songs like these can be made even more useful in corporate worship contexts - rather than eliminated completely.

* Modified. Words derived from ©1980 Maranatha Praise, Inc. Words and Music by Dave Doherty.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Turning Aside to Myths

Being dubbed as Britain’s fourth largest religion, members of the “Jedi Knights” have filed a petition before the UN for formal recognition as a religion. “Umada” and “Yunyun” (pictured left) have taken their cause to the world council on behalf of some 390,000 Jedis in the United Kingdom. They believe that their cause is in agreement with the UN, and they desire a national Day of Tolerance, or in their own words:

‘Like the UN, the Jedi Knights are peacekeepers and we feel we have the basic right to express our religion through wearing our robes, and to be recognised by the national and international community. We therefore are calling upon the United Nations Association to change November 16 to the UN Interstellar Day of Tolerance, to reflect the religious make-up of our twenty-first century civilisation. Tolerance is about respecting difference where ever it lies, including other galaxies. Please don't exclude us from your important work. May the Force be with you.’

This would be hysterically funny - if it weren’t at all true. But sadly - it’s the real deal, and it serves as a reminder that men will gladly believe anything but the truth. By nature, all men are inclined to believe in myths rather than in the living God:

2 Timothy 4:3-4: 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

As for “Umada” and “Yunyun” - they are John Wilkinson and Charlotte Law. May the Lord bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them both.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Armoury’s Studio

Well, that was a long vacation. It was simple and it included absolutely no posting at The Armoury (and barely any contact with a computer at all). But not only this - our vacation time even meant passing up the opportunity of going to a Brian McLaren conference on October 24th at Wake Forest University. Yes, I passed up the opportunity of being tortured with 7 grueling hours of emergent-babel in order to be with Lydia and the family. It was a really hard choice - requiring a full 2 seconds in order to decide!

Anyway, it was good to get a break and to have extended times together as a family - doing simple things and having some great discussions together.

Now, as for the title of this post. I have decided to develop a series of posts that deal with Christan hymnody, along with the subject of digital recording. And why the two together? Here’s why:

My dealings with digital recording goes back to 7 years ago. We were in Minnesota at the time and I had been investigating ways to teach our members the many new songs that were in our recently purchased hymnals. I say that they were “new” - actually these hymns were quite old, but they are so unknown in our generation that they often appear to be new. Sandra and I began recording these old hymns and would supply them to others in order to speed up the learning process (most of our members could not read music and so an audio product expedited this process a great deal). This then sparked an interest in others to offer their help, and before we knew it we had a few choral groups making these recordings for the sake of the rest of the flock. This wasn’t a fancy “gig” by any means. The music wasn’t something to publish in the open market - we weren’t a polished choir ready to go on tour. Ultimately, it was a very simple ministry tool that was created for the sake of our flock in order to equip them with a sound hymnody. I only had the time to produce about 25 songs before I had to call it quits (for various reasons). Overall, the experience was quite interesting. I invested a good amount of time and energy in order to learn about digital recording because I was driven by this desire to help others to discover and learn many of the forgotten hymns of the past. Ever since then, I have kept up what has become a small home studio, and we continue to use it in a similar way at Pilgrim Bible Church - though on a much lighter scale. At times I had considered posting some of these songs at The Armoury as a kind of series - an audio series; however, I decided that the scope of posts relating to hymns, digital hardware & software would warrant more than just a series - therefore, I’ve decided to establish The Armoury’s Studio with the design of presenting new hymns (text and audio), some audio hardware and software reviews. This latter category will be a rarity, but as it turns out I am presently testing Cakewalk’s newest audio processor Sonar 6 and hope to have a brief review of this before the month is out. I will try this out for a while. I may choose to nest these posts inside of The Armoury someday, but for now I’ll see how things go. For now, I’ll begin with a simple post which includes the audio Gospel presentation, called: The Story of Amazing Grace. This presents the story of John Newton’s conversion and was created by using the full arsenal of our recording gear - including a Godin Steel Synth Acoustic guitar and a GR-33 guitar synthesizer (which I no longer needed and no longer have).

If you don’t see a wma player above, then click on this link.

P.S. Ironically, there is a professional studio called “Armoury Studio” - but this similarity is not intentional. What I have and do is not to be compared to their operation. Armoury Studio is full blown industry recording studio - and I can assure you that their music genres and business associations are worlds apart from our ministry focus. But it’s interesting and ironic anyway!