Hello… NEWMAN. The Proper Assessment of Church History

John Henry Newman was a British churchman, a sometime member of the Oxford Tractarian movement. The movement was an attempt at course correction in the Anglican church at a time when it was moving left. They saw a recovery of tradition and traditionalism in worship as the way forward. Newman was one who didn’t stop there, however, but went on to join the Roman Catholic Church, and was eventually named a cardinal. Newman’s intellect and…

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Is the Office of Priest Found in the New Testament?

From time to time I have posted comments about the nature of ministry in the New Testament. Some have difficulty accepting the idea of a non-hierarchical ministry, but when we look at the Scriptures, this is what we find. I summarize this by saying that the New Testament never refers to Christian ministers as priests; this is a title reserved for all the people of God (or for the Lord Jesus alone.) The truth of…

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What is Sacramentalism?

In a recent interview about a book I wrote, the interviewer asked me for a definition of sacramentalism. This is because in the book I use this term to describe a system, usually found in the hierarchical churches, that treats grace in a particular way. That way is to affirm that grace flows to the believer through the rites and rituals defined by the Church. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, it goes…

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Is There a Difference between Church Membership and Commitment?

In a much of church culture, there is an emphasis on membership, as a way to get believers to commit to the local church. Yet membership and commitment are not synonymous, and looking at the distinction can help us understand the importance behind these ideas.   Almost all local churches have a membership process, often entailing a class one takes, and then signing a covenant about member responsibilities. Usually (one hopes!) there is an interview…

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Was Junia an Apostle?

When dealing with the question of women’s roles in the church, many cite Romans 16:7 to demonstrate that women could and did serve as apostles in the early church. In the ESV, the verse reads “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles.” Some have pointed to the ESV as a thumb-on-the-scale translation, in rendering the verse “They are well known to the apostles” instead of…

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The Use and Abuse of Church History

Church history is descriptive,  not prescriptive. One of the main points of fissure between sacramental or hierarchical church traditions and those that are less so is the place of church history. Should history—tradition—play a definitive role in shaping the faith and practice for believers today? Or, should Scripture have the decisive function in our faith? If we decide that tradition and history must be set alongside Scripture as an equal authority, we are faced with…

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You Don’t Need Office to Minister to the Body

Our view of ministry in the local church has been influenced by a lot of things. Scripture is among these, but the corporate world is often too influential. Listening to the “organizational effectiveness” mandarins makes one think that we need to place a premium on leadership. We should develop leaders, mentor them, give them opportunities to succeed and advance. But that mindset can be at odds with what we find in the New Testament. There,…

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Protestants, It’s OK to say Jesus called Peter “this rock.”

From the biblical record one can see that Peter was an impulsive man. He said things at the wrong time (“Lord, it is good for us to be here, let us build three booths.”)  He did what he shouldn’t do (cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant.) And of course, he denied the Lord Jesus in the hours after his betrayal. None of this surprised the Lord. For all this, Peter was also…

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Ecclesiology and the Start-Up Culture

Christian growth cannot be commoditized to scale up.   The doctrine of the church—ecclesiology—has been among the most malleable and flexible for believers today. How a church is organized, what it’s polity may be, many Christians see as of secondary importance. Instead, expediency is what is more important. Is what we’re doing working? And the measure of what works often mirrors the culture of business start-ups. Although this isn’t new, we’re seeing the full flowering…

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Your View of Baptism is Your View of the Church

If you want to risk coming to theological fisticuffs with other believers, one way is through a discussion about the meaning of baptism, what it is, what it accomplishes (or does not). Anyone who has read the literature on this knows that there are vociferous arguments on the topic. I have a position on the ordinance of baptism and what I think Scripture teaches about it, but my intent is not to expound that here.…

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