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Granted. It just seems that there is a sense of what CS Lewis would call "chronological snobbery" in your earlier comments, the thought that because something is old it is therefore bad or discredited. Simply because something is ancient doesn't therefore mean that is archaic. Has modernity progressed in some ways? Certainly, but at the same time what is termed " reasonable" according to modernity is also often very reductionistic. The resurrection may seem very unreasonable to a modern worldview, but that may be more a judgment on the worldview and not on the resurrection.

I'm sure we can debate this, but historic orthodox Christianity at its core seems to be irreducibly miraculous. If we remove the miraculous from it as simply archaic, I'm not sure what we' re left with.

Perhaps third wave Pentecostalism's view of spiritual warfare isn't the formulation or framework or language most in harmony with reformed theology. But there are formulations out there that don't neglect or entirely discount this area. That's another discussion, I think.


It seems that the possible presence of the miraculous or supernatural in other religions is a greater threat to the empiricist that it is to the Christian. 

I think rather than painting all Christians with one brush, you'd have to admit for a wide variety of viewpoints on this subject even within conservative Christianity. For example, this quote from CS Lewis : "I do not think that it is the duty of the Christian apologist (as many sceptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records…I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans.” 

But to return to the original question-- are the miraculous and supernatural elements of the New Testament accounts archaic, or simply not in line with a modernistic worldview?

It seems that historically sometimes the confessions have functioned as an exo-skeleton, a hard outer barrier to keep contents safe.  It seems that we are shifting towards confessions as endo-skeleton, an inner frame surrounded by something warm and alive.  Sometimes in these debates, though, it seems that some think that confessionalism itself is the problem, as though pulling out the skeleton will somehow help the won't...

Paul, what do you mean by "confessional growth and development"?  To use the body metaphor, are you talking about adding new bones to the skeleton, or strengthening the muscle that's already attached to it?

Jeff Brower on May 11, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

One could, I suppose, say that a certain poetic meter is "coercive", or that a DNA sequence is "coercive"...or one might say that these things are the neccessary framework for beauty and life.

 Yes!  Deacons are servants, but first and foremost not servants of the church but servants of Christ *to* the church.  As such their job is not so much to do the work of the church as to put the church to work.  They are the catalytic agents between the church and the community, so central to the church's witness that reformers like Martin Bucer proposed that diakonia is one of the marks of the true church. 

I think a key here in developing discussions of deacons and leadership is retaining the *spiritual* element of diaconal leadership--that is, it is not merely a question of technique, how to, and getting things done. As the form for ordination puts it, one of the tasks of the deacon is to lead us into repentence.  Deacons should grow in the understanding that they have been granted authority to lead us in this way.

The subtext to this entire discussion is that there are competing interpretations being presented here regarding the relationship of the major assemblies to the minor assemblies. Neland's position may be based on a specific understanding of this relationship, which is up for debate.

 The Goderich situation in 1980 (appealed in 1982) may apply to this situation.  When Classis intervened in a situation they were accused of lording it over the local church and acting in a hierarchical fashion, and Synod determined that the accusation came from a misunderstanding of church order and authority.  Their grounds included the following:

1. Classis did not exceed its authority when it engaged itself with the situation at Goderich CRC.  Christ gave authority to the church as a whole and thereby entrusted authority to the occasions of its exercise in Classis and synod as gatherings of the churches to maintain the unity of the congregations in both doctrine and discipline.

2. The gathering of the churches and their representatives in Jerusalem set a pattern of authoritative decision; which pattern is followed in principle in the deliberations and decisions of the major assemblies.

3. To contend that Classis Huron had no proper jurisdiction over the Goderich consistory proceeds on a mistaken conception of the relation of the minor assembly to the major assembly. The same authority, constituting the same standards and the same goals, is applied by the several assemblies. Classis Huron adhered to the correct use of the authority delegated to them by Christ.


Perhaps most pertinent is Synod's conclusion following the appeal in 1982, that  "The Synod of 1980 declared that it is indeed proper according to Reformed Church polity for either Classis or Synod to intervene in the affairs of a local congregation, if the welfare of that congregation is at stake. "


I've found this article by Ryan Faber to be helpful in laying out the differing perspectives concerning the relationship between major and minor assemblies. Classic Reformed polity would seem to be much clearer on the right or duty of oversight of major assemblies, while the more recent Doleantie perspective tries to limit this authority.  Both perspectives appear in various Synodical decisions throughout the years, but don't think that there's any consensus that the Doleantie perspective is the settled perspective of the CRC, and it certainly shouldn't be presented as the only perspective.


One helpful quote from the article:

"These answers indicate that in historic Reformed polity minor assemblies are indeed subject to major assemblies; minor assemblies must submit themselves to the decisions of the major assemblies. Where the decisions of the assemblies differ, the decision of the major assembly takes precedence. Thus, a minor assembly must rescind or revise its decision to align with that of the major assembly. Major assemblies possess supervisory power over minor assemblies. Particularly with regard to misconduct, major assemblies have power. A major assembly may discipline, even depose, members of a minor assembly – a principle rejected by the Doleantie’s congregationalist ecclesiology."

Try looking up Aha! Process information from Ruby Payne.   "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" and others.


Here is something that I think would be a great investment for our denomination, a short video walkthrough of our denomination's history and current ministry. Maybe there is one out there but I haven't run across it.  I tend to do a four or five session class, based upon CS Lewis' image of a house with a foyer and hallways, representing different traditions of the church. I've tried to do it in such a way that we can jump in whereever the person might be in their relationship with Christ. So the first session is Going through the Door, which is essentially a presentation of the gospel using different images.  The next session is about what the biblical contours of the church are and how our church lives into them, with an element that talks about what biblically it means to be a member of a church.  The third session is about the specific "hallway" of the Reformed faith.  Here we talk about the history of the reformation, some of theological emphases of the reformation, and things of that nature.  We also talk about the history of the CRC.  Somewhere around here I also show a video about infant baptism and make this a topic of discussion as well.  In the last session we look at the specific room off the hall that is our own church--our history, vision, values and mission, and some of the ways that we are structured and operate.  In these last sessions I also bring aboard an elder and a deacon to talk about some specifics related to their offices as well.



I've benefited from what Gordon-Conwell has offered--they have several programs, and it looks like it would not be too far from where you serve.

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