I was very privileged this weekend to attend the first worship service at Saint Andrew's Community Church, pastored by Garrett Craw The liturgy was rich, the word was faithfully preached, and the communion of the saints was very sweet.
I especially appreciated the administration of the Lord's Supper. Pastor Craw emphasized the Supper as a Thanksgiving Meal - a "Eucharist" (Greek for thanksgiving). Therefore, when we came to communion, we did not curl up into our fetal positions - transforming the feast into the supreme moment of morbid / subjective introspection. Rather, we sang an uplifting hymn together and greeted one another with the peace of Christ. People were smiling with the joy of tasting God's grace.
This is so important to a correct understanding and practice of the Lord's Table. In most places I see the administration of the Supper, it is a morose exercise with a funeral dirge played in the background. The warnings are so shrill and frightening that the invitation and welcome into Christ's presence are lost. People are exhorted to reflect more on their unworthiness (something they should have already done in the confession of sin), instead of their glorious union with Christ's body and blood. Instead of being the climax of our covenant renewal with God, it is a disturbing foray into our own psyches.
Behind this is the reality that the Supper is primarily a memorial rite, not a subjective remembrance. Christ literally says, "Do this as my memorial," not, "Do this in remembrance of me." (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) With these words, Jesus teaches us that this sacrament is a place where God remembers us, not vice versa. As the rainbow in the sky causes God to "remember" his Noahic covenant (Gen 9:14-16), so the Supper causes God to "remember" his New Covenant with us in Jesus. Because we are united to Christ, we are at peace with God. The Supper is a supreme moment of joy, not morbidity. What a blessing to worship in spirit and truth!
Once in awhile I hear people deriding blogs and bloggers as... shall we say, "gauche." Synonyms for gauche include uncouth, vulgar, tasteless, tacky, awkward, and tactless. An older friend of mine recently said, "I don't read blogs or listen to talk radio!" The thinking seems to be that bloggers are rogue mongrels who spew their ignorant hubris to the detriment of the watching world (wide web) - and their own shame.
I feel the weight of their concerns, but am not terribly persuaded. It is true that blogdom is full of wanton fools who have the potential to stir up controversy. It is also true that blogdom has promoted and enabled profitable dialogue in a manner never before realized. How cool is it that I can tune into Dr. Peter Leithart or Dr. Joel Garver on a regular basis?
Of course, the retort is that it is one thing for a scholarly genius like Peter Leithart to blog, and it is another thing for untested rubes like Brett Bonecutter to blog. And this is the real rub - why should average Joes like me have the audacity to publish their ruminations on various and sundry issues? Isn't that bad for the advancement of theological / cultural dialogue?
Behind these questions lurks another issue - namely, what do we really believe concerning the priesthood of believers? Do we think that average Joe's are incapable or ill-advised to participate in weighty matters? Should the dialogue be restricted to those with the right academic and ecclesial pedigrees? Is the truth only to be wrestled with by those in authority?
You see what I'm getting at here? This is the Reformation vs. Romanism debate all over again as it relates to sacred / secular distinctions and the popularization and dissemination of information via new technologies. It is the self-same issue. Because I believe in the priesthood of believers and because I believe the truth needs to be wrestled with by all men, I think blogdom is a "net" blessing to the church. Sure, it can cause problems, but those are far outweighed by its benefits. Blog on.
One book that changed your life: The Sovereignty of God, AW Pink
One book that you've read more than once: Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
One book you'd want on a desert island: The Bible (I know, but c'mon)
One book that made you laugh: Picasso at the L'Apin Agile, Steve Martin One book that made you cry: Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
One book you wish had been written: Prebyterian & Reformed Sub-Cultures - What You Need To Know
One book you wish had never been written: The Koran
One book you're currently reading: Godless, Ann Coulter
One book you've been meaning to read: War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
I think I'm the last one to be tagged in Reformedom - kind of like the last kid to be picked for the kick-ball team! Anyway, I don't really know who all my readers are out there, but if you're so inclined, I pick "you." Go ahead, post in the comment section. I would like to know who some of the blog hits are coming from anyway! Go ahead! C'mon now. Reveal yourselves.
One of the most fascinating parts of my MBA program was a survey of "game theory." Game theory is a discipline that studies strategic situations in which participants behave in different ways to maximize their gains. There are different kinds of games and different kinds of behaviors - and the conceptual models associated with them have been applied to many fields including economics, biology, and philosophy. You might remember the movie, "A Beautiful Mind," in which John Nash wins a Nobel Prize for his work in this area.
The most simple game in game theory is probably a "zero sum game." In this type of game, the gains of one participant are always equally offset by the losses of other participants. Chess is an example of a zero-sum game - for one player to win, the other must lose. It is a cake that is only so big - every bite John Doe takes is a bite Jane Doe loses. In contrast to zero-sum games there are "non-zero-sum" games in which all participants can gain or suffer together based on their strategic behaviors - poker being an example.
As I watch Reformed theologians interact with other traditions or even variants within their own tradition, it is clear to me that they are approaching systematic theololgy as a zero-sum game. Instead of approaching certain differences in method and articulation as potentially complimentary, they engage in a win-or-lose cage match where winner takes all.
Think about the debates over how decretal and covenant theology should be worked-out (which is how I understand the Norman Shepherd controversy). Do we have to pit eternal decrees and historical covenants against each other in a way that demands that one swallows-up the other? Or can we simply stop and say that they are complimentary perspectives and that the Scriptures are bi-vocal in these respects? It isn't a matter of which perspective wins, but which perspective we should apply based on the exegetical and / or pastoral circumstances. If we would stop the zero-sum approach, all "participants" would benefit!
The next time a Reformed theologian says, "checkmate," perhaps you should remind them that theology isn't a game of chess.
There's still nothing like the summer movies to get your hopes up... and then dashed to pieces. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment so it doesn't matter! Due to my family schedule I don't get to see them all, but here are the ones I've seen with my very own "bones" rating system (1 bone being low, 10 bones being high).
Over The Hegde
After Disney's, "The Incredibles," no other animated film quite holds up, but I actually enjoyed this film. The familial premise and narrative pacing were fun, and I laughed a good deal during the playful finale. Of course, my kids loved it. 8.5 bones...
I honestly enjoyed "Over The Hedge" slightly more than "Cars," but it was still well worth seeing with the kids. The personifcation of automobiles was brilliantly conceived and the moral of the story was redeeming. Interestingly, my kids were quick to point-out that it was one of the few films they had seen without a "bad guy." The narrative tension was created by the lead character's selfishness - and this made for good conversation with the kids. 8 bones...
(Spoiler alert) - In almost all cases, the third movie in a series has lost its head of steam, but X-Men 3 succeeded in rolling right down the track. It was action-packed with a plot that held my interest to the end. My only major complaints were that certain key characters were killed-off and that a significant cliff-hanger was played after the credits rolled - and I left the theatre! That is bogus, man! I don't know if X-Men 4 is in the plans, but I sure hope it is. 8.5 bones...
The film was big, beautiful, and... boring. Sorry. It was just too long. Ok, I take that back - the pacing of the movie made it feel too long. I thought the actors were effective enough (although it is tough to beat Gene Hackman as Lex and Christopher Reeve as Superman), but the narrative was just slow and laborious. Plot elements that could have been fun to watch develop (eg. Superman & Lane's child) were virtually ignored. I will say this though - if you want to see a popular movie with an intense Christ typology throughout, this movie is a must see. 7 bones...
Mission Impossible 3
I almost forgot that I saw MI3, but Garrett wouldn't let me forget since he bought my ticket. MI3 was completely... forgettable. It was so one-dimensional. Let me tell you something - if I ever, and I mean ever, see another film use the "flesh mask" trick to create narrative tension, I will hurl. I mean enough is enough already. If you have to use a flesh mask to make your movie work, your movie stinks! 3 bones...