Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On the Apostles’ Creed
My latest study has been on the ancient creeds of the Christian Church. I’ve been reading on the creeds for Sunday school. Mike S. is now in charge of adult Sunday school at Bethel and he just finished teaching a wonderful series on the Proverbs. Sometime back Mike told me to brush up on the Creeds so I could conduct a couple of classes on the ancient/ecumenical creeds of the early church.

Last Sunday I spoke on the Apostles’ Creed. Of all the ancient creeds I love the Apostles’ Creed the best. It is a finely polished diamond of Christian doctrinal thought. Philip Schaff, in his monumental three volume work Creeds of Christendom, said this about the Apostles’ Creed “As the Lord's Prayer is the Prayer of prayers, the Decalogue the Law of laws, so the Apostles' Creed is the Creed of creeds” and he is exactly right.

I believe that it is a wonderful statement of the most fundamental teachings of the Christian faith and to deny any aspect of the creed (excepting the bit about hell) is to deny and essential part of the Christian faith. If someone denies the Trinitarian formula of this creed, than that person is (IMHO) outside of the historic faith and beyond the bounds of Christendom.

It has become a pattern in my house to say the Creed, or the Lord’s Prayer after we have said our evening prayers and then reflect on what the creed/prayer teaches. The Creed is a poetic gem and theological dynamite. I wish every Christian could put it to memory and reflect on it, especially when reciting it.

Coram Deo,

Monday, May 16, 2005

St. Cyprian to the 4th Lateran Council

Last week I read St. Cyprian’s treatise On the Lapsed. It was an interesting read. Cyprian, who was martyred in 258 AD, was Bishop of Carthage during the heavy persecution of the Church under Roman Emperor Decius, wrote this treatise after the persecution had ended. During the persecution many Christians had apostatised and there was a controversy about whether those who compromised the faith should be allowed back into the Church and admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

Cyprian wrote a good deal on this subject in his correspondence with other Bishops, so I already had a good idea of where he stood on that subject. What I found most interesting in the treatise, which is written to the church at large, was what Cyprian said about children and Communion.

It is clear in Cyprian’s paper that very young children participated in the Eucharist. They were allowed to the Lord’s Table and received both the bread and wine. Cyprian thought nothing of the fact that toddlers took part in Communion, and he surely expected no one else to see his statement on the matter as controversial.

Paedocommunion was clearly the common practise of the church during Cyprian’s life time. It was the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD) that officially denied young children access to the Lord’s Supper. It was the Fourth Lateran Council that insisted on a confession of faith, instead of baptism, before one could receive the Eucharist. It seems clear that from the time of Cyprian (and before) until this medieval church council, children in the Western Church, like those in the Eastern Church still do today, received both the bread and wine.

This makes me say hummm. You can read an interesting historical article on this matter here.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hunting, Fishing and Worshipping God

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who has recently started to read the Bible. He’s in Exodus and has reached the point where Moses has gone up on the mountain of the Lord. The Israelites took that time to build an idol to worship god.

Aaron, Moses brother, created a golden calf for them to worship. I find it interesting that the golden calf was not created to represent a “false god.” The people were not inventing a new god or new religion. The True God, Yahweh, was the God who had brought them out of Egypt, and had freed them from slavery and this is the God they chose to represent by the golden calf.

When Aaron had created the idol for them to worship he told them “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” The calf did not represent a new god or a false god, but the True God and because of this the Israelites were severely punished. Thousands of them died there at the foot of the Mountain of the Lord, because they attempted to worship the true God in a blasphemous manner.

I live in a part of the country where hunting and fishing are very popular. I can’t count the times I’ve heard hunters and fishermen say that they are better able to worship God sitting in a deer stand or while fishing at one of our numerous lakes, bayous or rivers.

Louisiana is blessed with an abundance of fish and wildlife. I was proud to learn of few years ago that some animal rights group had declared that we in Louisiana were number one in the nation at what they called (referring to hunting) the “cavalcade of cruelty.”

While I am not very good at either one, I do enjoy both hunting and fishing. When engaged in these activities I’m often awed by God’s creation. Creation is filled with beauty and majesty, and I have often found myself, when sitting on a deer stand or in a boat, praising God for all that he has made and the beauty of what He has made.

Still, as beautiful as these things are, God has prescribed that we are to worship Him in a certain way on a certain day. Worship of the True God on the Lord’s Day, according to His Word, is to be with the Assembly of the Lord (i.e. His Church). He has not given us authority to change the place of worship to a deer stand in the woods or a bass boat on a bayou. The Lord has not said we may trade assembled worship in with his church for personal worship while on a deer stand alone, or while reeling in a bass or redfish with a buddy or two.

It does not honour God to ignore what he says about when and how we are to worship Him. It is false worship when we ignore what God says and then try to worship him “our way.” Even though today we are not making gold statues, God is no more impressed by modern means of idolatry than he was by the ancient forms of idolatry.

We are to worship Yahweh (the God of the Bible) as he says, and not as we choose. We are to live our life coram Deo (before the face of God) and we should praise and worship god while both hunting and fishing, because these are good things that he has blessed us with. But the Lord has told us not to forsake the assembling of His people. We are to worship God as the Covenant people of God assembled before His thrown.

On Sunday mornings we are not to be a bunch of lone Jeremiah Johnson’s (i.e. rugged individuals). Instead we are to be the people of God who gather/assemble to worship Him in songs, prayers, preaching (homilies) and receiving the sacraments as a community of believers.

Dominus Vobiscum,