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Archive for November, 2011


I wasn’t going to watch Faster. It just seemed like a mess of meaningless violence. But someone said I’d be surprised, to just give it a chance (who were you by the way?).

So I did. And I was.

The movie does move quickly. It jumps right out of the shoot and you aren’t exactly sure what is going on except that The Rock is being released from prison and the warden, played by Tom Berenger (who is looking old) is pleading with him to get help adjusting to life on the outside.

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I haven’t done many ‘commercials’ as of late. But sometimes you need to let people know about something. This may be one of those times.

My kids love the Jesus Storybook Bible. I do too. But my daughter is getting a bit old. Don’t tell her but she’ll probably get an NIV for Christmas (Bible Study Fellowship still uses the NIV, though that may change soon since the 1984 is being removed from their catalog). But I don’t see her just sitting down and reading through an “adult” Bible yet.

The Gospel Story Bible looks like a great transitional Bible for my young  reader. It has far more stories in it, so it deals with more of the biblical history. But each story is covered in 2 pages and includes a few questions. This can help young readers understand the flow of the Bible and maintain a focus on the Gospel. That’s a good thing, because it is easy for us to lose sight of the gospel in the details.

With a great sale price at WTS Books for the next few days, I’ll be buying a copy. If you have kids, you may want to get one or two as well.

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After examining church history, the Reformed Confessions and the Old Testament, Cornelius Venema turns his attention, and ours, to the New Testament in Children at the Lord’s Table?.  He is looking to see if the claims for infant communion can be found in the New Testament. Well, most of the New Testament. He saves 1 Corinthians 11 for a chapter of its own since that passage is so important to the discussion. Venema plays his hand on the first page of the chapter by noting that like with the Old Testament, the New does not address the question as clearly as we might want.

He begins with a puzzling thought- “the alleged analogy between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.” You have to be patient and not pull a knee jerk reaction to the statement. This is one of the most important aspects of the argument for infant communion. He does not deny a connection, but builds a case for it being connected to all the covenant meals. But before we get too far ahead, he surveys the types of NT evidence we encounter. The first are the account of the Lord’s Supper in the synoptic Gospels.  Second, there are texts that allude generally to the celebration of the Supper by the new covenant community (descriptive). Third, there are texts that address how it should be observed (prescriptive).  Fourth, there are passages describing who should observe it (1 Corinthians 10-11), which is also prescriptive in nature.

The institution of the Lord’s Supper, as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels do not directly address the issue to whether children may participate. There is no mention of a household celebration here. He is reclining at the table with his 12 disciples- all adult males.  They had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But it also differs from the Passover in a few ways. While the Passover was seen as a sign of the covenant, it was not seen as conferring grace. It was a memorial of God’s redemption of Israel. It functioned as a reminder, and a call to trust in this same God. But there did not seem to be a “sacramental” function. Zwingli would be happy. But, as we will see in 1 Corinthians, there is blessing and cursing involved in the Supper. It is no mere memorial (sorry, Zwingli). We also see that Jesus expected them to celebrate it more frequently than once a year. It was to be a regular part of worship for the covenant community. But partaking in the Supper also seem to require “remembrance”.  There is a remembering and doing involved here. It seems to require active participation in a way that baptism does not. The language of “blood of the new covenant”, as noted earlier, point us to the covenant ratification ceremony on Sinai (Exodus 24), not simply the Passover.

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Ed Welch has a new book out that looks much like an old book, When People are Big and God is Small, for a younger audience. God is Small. But that would be a superficial assessment.  Ed Welch continued to think about the fear of man, and the fear of God. He thought about the topics with respect to teens and young adults. The result was What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?.  I’m glad he kept thinking about all this.

The book does have a different vibe due to the intended audience.  It looks less formal (including the questions for thought & discussion) and more “trendy”.  He encourages the reader to write liberally throughout the book. The sentences are less complex, reflecting a lower reading level. He continues to provide a lot of instruction from Scripture on the topic. He walks us through the texts so we understand what they mean and how they apply.

He breaks it down into 3 big questions: Who is God, who am I and who are they? He begins with talking about how it starts in the heart. And that we all have this problem (fearing people). We all give the opinions of people far too much weight in our lives. Toward the end of the book he talks about how with family we are not (very) self-conscious. But once we go out the door, most of us care far more about how we look and act. While this is good in one sense, so we don’t all end up on People of Walmart, it can run our lives. We give other people far too much power to control us.

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Ever seen a dog with a bone? They just can’t seem to let it go. That’s my dog with rawhide.  She’ll make herself sick.

On the surface, I might be seen as a guy who “can’t let it go”, but I don’t think that is the case. Why? First, the issue hasn’t gone away. I interact with people giving me the same argument on different particular issues. Second, I’m continuing to think more deeply about the issue.

The issue? New Covenant Theology. This is a view of the covenants held by a growing number of people that undermines a Reformed understanding of the sacraments (particularly baptism) and the Law. I’ve engaged in some blog discussion and debate with one of the leading proponents of this position, Andrew Farley. It becomes an exercise in futility as we compare biblical texts. I’ve tried to keep those texts in their contexts (this is important!). But the discussion goes nowhere.

The discussion must go deeper- to presuppositions. I noted this in my reviews  of 3 different arguments for baptism.  What is the presupposition, the unproven assumption, made by adherents of the various forms of New Covenant Theology? It sounds like a holdover from Dispensational Theology, but here we go: Nothing from the Old Covenant is binding unless repeated in the New Testament.

Got that? The New replaces the Old, so nothing remains of the Old unless repeated in the New. This is why Farley tosses out tithing, a sabbath rest and the moral law. This is why Calvinistic Baptists toss our infant baptism. It seems logical, right?

But is this presupposition biblical? Is this how the Bible treats the issue? Our call is not be logical, but biblical (though we use reason as well as illumination to properly understand the Bible).

They do not prove their assumption. Can it stand up to a biblical litmus test?

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After examining church history and the Reformed Confessions, the next logical place to turn is the Scriptures. Cornelius Venema does just that in Children at the Lord’s Table?. He starts with the Old Testament.  Well, after briefly summing up the arguments from the previous two chapters.

Here is his summation of the argument made by proponents of infant communion:

“Advocates of paedocommunion often appeal to the inclusion of children within the covenant in its Old Testament administration as a point of departure for interpreting the teaching and practice of the New Testament. Paedocommunionists argue that since children in the old covenant received the sign and seal of covenant membership in the rite of circumcision, and since they were granted the privilege of participation in many of the covenant observances, including the important rite of the Passover, believers should proceed from the conviction that a similar circumstance likely obtains in the new covenant.”

That’s is a mouthful! Just like the argument for infant baptism starts in the Old Testament, they say, the argument for infant communion does too. But is the matter as clear as it is for circumcision? In Genesis 17, Abraham is commanded to place the sign and seal of the covenant on his children. Does such a command exist in the matter of Passover or other covenant meals?

He notes that all of Israel partook of the manna, with the exception of children who were not yet weaned (those typically under 3). They did not understand the manna to be a sign and seal of the covenant. It was God’s provision. Paul, following Jesus’ lead in John 6, uses this as a type to point to Christ. Christ was meeting their needs, Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 10. But Paul uses this in an unexpected way- their participation in that baptism in Moses and that spiritual food and drink did not save them. Many perished in the wilderness due to their idolatry. Paul is not developing a sacramental theology so much as warning the Corinthians against presumption. As I noted in the post on church history, John 6 uses the eating and drinking as a metaphor for faith.  The issue is faith. [One review of this book on Amazon claims he doesn’t address the topic of the manna. Oops!]

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In Seinfeld they talked about having “hand”, short for “the upper hand”, in a relationship. This is not to be confused with George’s short time as a hand model. They were addressing the reality that in relationships there is often one in control, the one who has the most power in the relationship.

This is not particular to human. My sister-in-law’s German short hair pointer Billy was “top dog” in their neighborhood for years. Those years have caught up to him, so he’s probably lost that status. The top dog is literally the dog on top because the dog on the bottom has submitted. He’s the boss.

Yesterday on the Shamrock Farms tour, I learned that cows have a pecking order. One is the boss and all the others know their place in line and follow along. This usually makes life much easier for the dairy farmer. Control the one cow, and you control the others in her group of 20.  When you have 10,000 cows, you can see why this matters.

Relationships are all about negotiating the balance of power.  Typically the one least concerned with the relationship has more power, “hand” and is in the driver’s seat. They have less need for the other person’s love, affection, admiration, attention etc. So they are less likely to be manipulated into doing the other person’s will.  We can see this in the recent labor negotiation in the NFL and NBA. The owners typically have the upper hand- they don’t need the sport to make a living. They have other revenue streams. The players on the other hand are dependent upon their paychecks.  Unions are only successful if a company has no other revenue streams. But in these cases, they don’t.

Edward Welch addresses this in his latest book, What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?.

“We prefer to be liked, loved, admired more than we want to like, love, or admire. That imbalance gives power in a relationship, and by power I mean the less invested person has less chance of being hurt. So goes the arithmetic of human relationships.”

There you have it. The person who wants out of a relationship usually has all the power, unless the other person poses a physical, emotional or financial danger.  Most of us cave in when the other person leaves. What are our options? Unless we are willing to blackmail, beat or rob them blind we recognize we can’t win and move on with life.

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