Friday, May 26, 2006

What I Learned From the da Vici Code

I never realized until reading The da Vinci Code that the Dead Sea Scrolls are early Christian writings like the Nag Hammadi library deliberately suppressed by the church.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan

Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University died this past weekend of lung cancer. Dr. Pelikan was one of the most significant scholars writing on church history. Among his many works, his five volume masterpiece, The Christian Tradition, is a must read for anyone studying the history of doctrine. His work Jesus Through the Centuries is likewise a masterful blending of history, art and doctrine; and is a valuable resource in tracing the development of the church and culture's perception and reaction to the person of Jesus.

The clear and insightful thinking and writing of Dr. Pelikan is a quality that will be sorely missed in the field of church history; but the contributions Dr. Pelikan has made to the discipline will be appreciated and utilized for generations to come.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Thoughts on Church Discipline

I do plan on getting back to some thoughts about Dr. Enns’ book soon, but this topic has really been on my mind a lot lately. I hope to blog a little more regularly since getting a laptop computer; but I know I have said that in the past, and you know happened with similar intention. But wireless internet, and computing mobility are great aids to computing diligence.

I have been thinking a little more on the elder and session’s responsibility with regard to church discipline.

The first thought is that discipline epitomizes the special responsibility of an elder. This does not mean that the elder is supposed to seek whom he may file charges against; but that it is his special interest to guide and guard the believer’s growth in grace. In my last post, I mentioned the analogy between the rule of the elder’s household and his rule of the flock entrusted to him. A father not only seeks to correct a child when they are in sin, but also to instill the necessary experience and maturity to avoid sin in the first place. Scripture is clear that the elder must be diligent to guard and to protect the flock. To cite just one passage making this clear, Paul writes to Titus concerning an elder, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus1:9). It is clear from the rest of the letter that an elder’s task involves not only doctrine, but also life. The OPC’s Form of Government defines the task of an elder with regard to discipline in the following manner:

Ruling elders, individually and jointly with the pastor in the session, are to lead the church in the service of Christ. They are to watch diligently over the people committed to their charge to prevent corruption of doctrine or morals. Evils which they cannot correct by private admonition they should bring to the notice of the session. They should visit the people, especially the sick, instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourning, and nourish and guard the children of the covenant. They should pray with and for the people. They should have particular concern for the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word and help him in his labors. (X:3)

Failure with regard to church discipline is failure in the intent and special vocation of an elder.

Second, the identity and the purity of the church demand that elders diligently attend to discipline as a vital aspect of their work. Reformed churches, following the Belgic Confession have identified the three marks of a true church as the faithful proclamation of the Word, the pure administration of the Sacraments and the diligent exercise of church discipline. And while it is necessary to recognize that no church is faultless in any of these three areas, imperfection is not an excuse to abandon semper reformada. These three areas stand together, and failure in one will in time effect the others. No church should ever claim its purity by appealing to faithfulness in one or two of these areas while excusing the neglect in the other. Purity of doctrine is meaningless unless that pure doctrine filters through to the thoughts and life of the congregation.

Third, neglect of church discipline hinders the exercise of future discipline. Especially regarding public sins, the neglect of serious and decisive disciplinary action by a session causes the congregation to lower its esteem for the session, even if this is not explicitly expressed. It is a given that at times the process of formal discipline necessarily takes time, but it there is a distinction between care and neglect- and a congregation is able to discern the difference. When a session is negligent concerning confronting a sin and taking necessary actions, its call to repentance for another member caught in the same or a similar sin becomes hollow. In order to counteract this negative response, the session should repent and seek the church’s forgiveness concerning its past failures- while publicly committing itself, by the grace of God, to be diligent and faithful to its God-given responsibility in the future.