By In Theology

A Neglected Means of Grace: Kuyper on Fasting

Abraham Kuyper’s little book on the Christian life, The Practice of Godliness, closes with a thorough commendation of fasting.

In Kuyper’s day, individual fasting had all but died out, and congregational fasting was non-existent. Kuyper laments: “We have become estranged from fasting, and we do not count it among the means of edification.”

According to Kuyper, fasting is a beneficial spiritual discipline the church cannot afford to abandon: “In these times of spiritual poverty not one means of grace or one channel of closer fellowship with God should be neglected.”

Some Protestants associate fasting with Roman Catholicism (in order to condemn or avoid it), but Kuyper says this is a mistake, stemming from a “biased reading of the Word, ignorance of the practices of our forefathers, and lack of earnestness in the pursuit of a godly life.” In fact, fasting has a robust protestant pedigree, and was “commonly practiced” and recommended by the reformers as “an expression of godly living.” But if fasting is a practice of godliness, it must be grounded ultimately in God’s word, and not mere human prescription. (more…)

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By In Scribblings

Wolterstorff on the Fourfold Task of the Church

art in actionIn his marvelous and meticulous book, Art in Action, Nicholas Wolterstorff offers a concise summary of the identity of the church as the “community of those who have taken up the call of God to work on His behalf in His cause of renewing human existence.”

Wolterstorff outlines the calling of the church in terms of a fourfold task: to witness, work for, embody, and proclaim the kingdom of God (paragraph breaks added):

“The task in history of the people of God, the church, the followers of Jesus Christ, is in the first place to witness to God’s work of renewal, to the coming of His Kingdom—to speak of what God has done and is doing for the renewal of human existence.

Its task is, secondly, to work to bring about renewal by serving all men everywhere in all dimensions of their existence, working for the abolition of evil and joylessness and for the incursion into human life of righteousness and shalom.

Thirdly, it is called to give evidence in its own existence of the new life, the true, authentic life—to give evidence in its own existence of what a political structure without oppression would be like, to give evidence in its own existence of what scholarship devoid of jealous competition would be like, to give evidence in its own existence of what a human community that transcends while yet incorporating national diversity would be like, to give evidence in its own existence of what an art that unites rather than divides and of what surroundings of aesthetic joy rather than aesthetic squalor would be like, to give evidence in its own existence of how God is rightly worshipped.

And then lastly it is called to urge all men everywhere to repent and believe and join this people of God in the world.”

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By In Scribblings

Heroic or Homely? Newbigin on the Church in Culture

In his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin offers some wisely balanced insight on the question of the church’s relationship to culture:

“Christian discipleship can never be all homeliness nor all heroism. It has to have elements of both and it has to learn from day to day when to accept the homely duties of life as it is, and when to take the heroic road of questioning and challenging the accepted ways. It was necessary for the early church, at crucial moments, to take the heroic path and to accept martyrdom rather than submit to what the vast majority of people took for granted. But it was also right that, when the time came with the conversion of Constantine, the Church should accept the role of sustainer and cherisher of the political order. It is right for churches to be dissenting communities challenging accepted norms and structures. It is right also in other circumstances for the Church to be the church for the nation or the parish, the cherisher and sustainer of the ordinary work of the farmer, the judge, and the soldier.”

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By In Culture

Art in the Shadows

My fellow Kuyperian contributor, Dustin Messer, recently wrote some worthwhile reflections on David Skeel’s book True Paradox. Explaining Skeel’s take on art, Messer notes that in the Christian worldview, art must tell the truth about the world by witnessing to its entire story: creation, fall, and redemption:

“This story of creation, fall, and redemption permeates the Scriptures, and because the Scriptures tell the true story of this world, it permeates our experience as well. Thus, for art to be affirmed by the Christian worldview, it of course can—and must—touch on these themes. Granted, each and every piece of art won’t include each and every theme each and every time. A work which reflects the pain and depravity of creation is no less true than the work which points to the world’s inherent dignity and goodness, or a work which alludes to the balm and remedy brought by Christ, for that matter.”

Unfortunately, modern Christian forays into art seldom aspire beyond portraying the happy aspects of life in the world. Christians often treat art as something that exists only in the sphere of redemption—a discipline dealing only with the aesthetically pleasant. Rather than engaging the world, art functions as sanctified entertainment, leaving unexplored vast areas of human life. The full story of the fall is left untold—it may as well never have happened.

But the wonder of redemption is unintelligible apart from the horror of the fall. The reality of the fall is a truth no less than the new creation. Thus, if Christians are to tell the true story of the world, our involvement with art (whether as creators or audiences) cannot be limited to the brightness of redemption, but should entail confrontation with the darkness of the fall. Scripture certainly does not shy away from revealing the harrowing extent of the fall and its effects on all of creation.

A classic example of this is J. S. Bach’s masterpiece oratorio, St. Matthew’s Passion, whose final chorus is a lamentation on the death of Christ, entitled, “We Sit Down in Tears.” The Passion does not end with the resurrection, and so leaves the listener unsettled. Bach understood that profound art contains truth and tension, and even with a sacred work, he did not feel the need to append a happy ending so his audience would leave with good vibes. By concluding his piece with the burial of Christ (and dealing with the resurrection in a separate work), Bach enables listeners to feel the weight of sin and death and more fully identify with the sadness and despair experienced by Christ’s disciples.

For Christians, depicting the brokenness of creation is not lapse into nihilism, but rather a truthful, even hopeful, artistic endeavor. Simply acknowledging the reality of the fall presupposes that the world was created good, but that things are not now as they should be. Attesting to the darkness in the world can also illustrate the pervasive extent of the fall, narrate the misery and consequences of sin, expose injustice, point to the necessity of redemption, and accent the incompleteness of restoration until the life of the world to come.

Such a perspective ought to open up new vistas for Christian artistic endeavors and encounters. Life on this side of the new heavens and new earth will always partake of unresolved tension, and so artistic engagement with the fall will always be appropriate. Works of art presenting the depths of the fall can witness to the truth as much as works that are explicitly redemptive.

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By In Theology

Living Water: Foundations of Baptism in Creation

Why do we baptize with water? Since Scripture gives us a water ritual to perform, the element used in that ritual must contain some essential significance. How might we deepen our understanding of baptism by reflecting on the element of water?

One way to fill out our understanding of the waters of baptism would be to reflect on the import of water in our everyday experience, then apply those insights to baptism. Typically, reflection on the elements of the rite of baptism centers on the cleansing properties of water. Water washes away dirt and impurity. Water aids healing. This is quite true, and an important component of our understanding of baptism. This is also something readily discerned from Scripture (especially the law). However, the role of water as a cleansing agent doesn’t really emerge in Scripture until the time of the flood (at the earliest). Yet we read plenty about water in just the first two chapters of Genesis.

To fully understand the significance of the waters of baptism, we need to consider the nature of the world God created and how water functions in Scripture from the very beginning. If we read the creation narrative carefully, we will see that water figures prominently as a primal and vital element – a source of life for the world.1 (more…)

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By In Scribblings

Martin Luther’s Baptismal Prayer

Almighty, Eternal God, Who, according to Thy righteous judgment, didst condemn the unbelieving world through the flood and, in Thy great mercy, didst preserve believing Noah and his family; and Who didst drown hardhearted Pharaoh with all his host in the Red Sea and didst lead Thy people Israel through the same on dry ground, thereby prefiguring this bath of Thy baptism; and Who, through the baptism of Thy dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast consecrated and set apart the Jordan and all water as a salutary flood and a rich and full washing away of sins: We pray through the same Thy groundless mercy, that Thou wilt graciously behold this [child] and bless him with true faith in spirit, that by means of this saving flood all that has been born in him from Adam and which he himself has added thereto may be drowned in him and engulfed, and that he may be sundered from the number of the unbelieving, preserved dry and secure in the Holy Ark of Christendom, serve Thy Name at all times fervent in spirit and joyful in hope, so that with all believers he may be made worthy to attain eternal life according to Thy promise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.<>реклама в google недорого

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By In Scribblings

Kuyper and Social Justice

In his provocative book, The Problem of Poverty (previously published as Christianity and the Class Struggle), Abraham Kuyper devotes a section to sketching how the church was influential in society at the time of its founding. Kuyper highlights how the church addressed the class conflict, economic oppression, and injustice which festered in the civil and cultural milieu of the first-century Roman Empire.

According to Kuyper, Christ founded the church to “triply influence the life of society” and address social injustice as follows (emphasis in original):

First, through the ministry of the Word, insofar as the Word constantly fought against greed for money, comforted the poor and oppressed, and in exchange for the suffering of the present time pointed to an endless glory.

Then, second, through an organized ministry of charity, which in the name of the Lord, as being the single owner of all goods, demanded community of goods to this extent, that in the circle of believers no man or woman was to be permitted to suffer want or to be without the necessary apparel.

And, third, by instituting the equality of brotherhood over against difference in rank and station, through abolishing all artificial demarcations between men, and by joining rich and poor in one holy food at the Lord’s Supper, in symbol of the unity which bound them together not only as “children of men,” but, more importantly, as those who have collapsed under the same guilt and have been saved by the same sacrifice in Christ.

This revolutionary sociology enacted in the life of the church inevitably caused ripples in the broader culture. For Kuyper, this is entirely fitting, because the church “was instituted so as not only to seek the eternal welfare of its followers, but also very definitely to remove social injustices.” Kuyper says that “the Church forsakes its principle when it is only concerned with heaven and does not relieve earthly need.”

Note carefully that Kuyper is not speaking merely of an inner change in individual Christians which may affect their personal conduct in the world. Rather, answering injustice belongs to the very organization, institution, and mission of the church: its social structure, communal life, and public witness and work.

Given Kuyper’s status as a seminal reformed theologian, his views on the role of the church in the world are significant and relevant for contemporary discussion. Kuyper certainly does not restrict the scope of the church’s mission to preaching or even individual conversion, but understands it as encompassing societal reformation.<>продвижение  а оптимизация

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