Pray Better

If you struggle to find daily prayers that work for you, consider these from Calvin.

Nil Nisi Verum

Calvin’s 1542 Genevan Catechism included a series of prayers. Prayers were meant to serve as models of prayers to be said. They were for training our minds and encouraging our souls to pray daily. Some prayers could be memorized others were longer and were inspirational because of the language taken from Scripture (mostly the Psalter). Here are some sample prayers:

When waking up:
My God, my Father, and my Savior, since you have been pleased to give me the grace to bring me through the night to the present day, may you also now grant me the gift of spending this day entirely in your service, so that I may not think, or say, or do anything except to please you and obey your good will, so that in this all my works be done to the glory of your name and to the edification of my neighbors. And just…

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How can we REALLY Know that God has Spoken?

This is the text of an academic paper I recently presented at the Northeastern Seminary theology conference (Participation in God’s Mission, featuring Michael Gorman).

This paper arose from my own search for solid ground underneath the Christian faith. In other words, if Christianity is true, shouldn’t we be able to dig down to some ultimate foundational truth that cannot be undermined? The answer is…

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Revelation and Knowledge Bridged in Proverbs: the Confident Cruciform Life
The cruciform life begins, for each Christian, by the authoritative call of God. That call, which comes through hearing his word, is radical in its implications, absolute in authority, and transformative. It is predicated on the superior authority of God’s self-revelation through redemptive history. This divine authority does not confront us as first of all a proposition to be studied, or to be accepted by some degree of probability, or even as the conclusion to a complex syllogism. Notice there is no philosophical defense of the existence of God in Genesis 1:1, but rather a naked assertion of his being (“In the beginning, God. . .”). Jesus’ radical call to discipleship comes from that same assumed authority.
To heed the call, and to follow Christ is to put oneself at peril. Human nature is bent toward self-preservation, yet the example and commandments of Jesus bend us away from self toward God and others, even to the embracing of dangerous enemies. If we are to obey Jesus, forsaking even “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands” (Mark 10:29), then we must have a solid confidence in the preeminent authority of God’s self-revelation. Continue reading

Take 2 John and Call Christ in the Morning

2 John is a single short chapter, easily overlooked, and yet deeply relevant to our situation as Christians today, 1,930 years after he wrote.

John is writing to his dear friend, and in extension to all Christians, and he is warning us about the danger of compromising the truth, using the themes of truth, love, and abiding/walking in truth and love.

Let’s see if I’m right, using a little color to highlight the themes:

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The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

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John is an old man, and the last living Apostle. His stature in the early church is beyond authoritative: he is the most important man alive. Jesus had personally commanded him to take care of his mother Mary (John 19:26-27)!!

He greets “the elect lady” whom he “love[s] in truth. . .” Here he is possibly calling a whole church the elect lady metaphorically, but the plain use of language calls us to interpret this as an individual woman – could it even have been Mary, mother of Jesus as a very old woman? Maybe! Think about it – Mary truly was the elect among the elect, only less than her Son Jesus in importance in redemptive history.

But notice how he addresses her: he uses the word “truth” four times in the first three verses, and “love twice – and all of this he connects with the eternal life and presence of Jesus abiding with us. But look at this:

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Walking in Truth and Love

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.

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And what does that look like, John?

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And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world,those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

Final Greetings

12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

——

Why shouldn’t we share the apostle’s love of the truth? We ought to be as focused, and diligent concerning what is true, false, right, and wrong. Let us follow what is true and right, and let the Lord Himself sort out the critics who will call us cruel, mean-spirited, or divisive.

Thanks for reading,

Adam

God as our Delight

If we perceive God as raw, selfish power, we will bow before Him in fear, but not in delight.

If we perceive God as loving and kind, but not as just and wrathful, we will perhaps worship Him for meaning well.

But if we see Him as He is: omnipotent, angry at sinners, and ready to judge as well as fiercely loving, faithful, and jealous for our hearts, then we see Jesus Christ crucified for us.

There, on the plain looking Roman cross some 2,000 years ago, a plain looking man was executed in a short time by a road outside Jerusalem, but what the eyes of the people could not see was Jesus, having become your sin and mine in the Father’s eyes, being wrenched away from the love and fellowship of His Father; there the Son was given the penalty for all you deserve in an eternal hell of fire. There the Son willingly, lovingly laid down His life as a physical, spiritual sacrifice to earn your acceptance with God. And there… the Father loved us infinitely.

Wrath and love. Power and mercy. Anger and love. God is worthy of our praises.

From Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering:

“Jonathan Edwards once said: ‘God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.’ It is not enough to say, ‘I guess he is God, so I have got to knuckle under.’ You have to see his beauty. Glorifying God does not mean obeying him only because you have to. It means to obey him because you want to — because you are attracted to him, because you delight in him. This is what C. S. Lewis grasped and explained so well in his chapter on praising. We need beauty.”(170)

Thanks for reading,

Adam

The Giver and Atheism

Lately the Mrs. and I love a good sci-fi movie. Last night we rustled through the Playstation store and came out watching The Giver (in cheaper standard definition, mind you). Well, in spite of the 36% at Rotten Tomatoes, I found it a tremendous film with a few notable weak moments. The high-powered cast was certainly a head-turner (I mean, who expected Taylor Swift to make a couple quick appearances as an actual character?)

giver

But the story itself was familiar: a dystopian future appearing as a somewhat ideal world with hints of a dark secret – who hasn’t seen this before? But for The Giver, there was a deeper exploration of a specific theme (which is also familiar within the genre). Here in the small, isolated town-world of Jonas, our protagonist without a last name (as everyone else), everyone is the same, and everything is controlled by “the Elders” of the community. They’ve eliminated everything that creates conflict, you know, like color, sex, music, and even emotions (don’t forget your morning injection!) But the onion begins to be peeled as Jonas is chosen to be a unique memory keeper for the entire community. Fast forwarding (so I don’t spoil it), the central question becomes “what makes one a human being?”

Pause.

I have this bad habit of trolling atheists on Twitter. I like to just put out my thoughts on atheism, just to see who is itching for an argument. Atheists are, in my experience, the most fundamentalist, evangelistic group in the Western world. They seem to keep step with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons for zeal and self-confidence.

That’s the kind of people I like to spar with – those who are deeply convinced of their own right thinking, yet who have such an obvious, fully-visible flaw in their system of thinking.

For the atheist (or anti-theist), I almost feel bad arguing with them because it’s just so easy to win. They of course never, ever admit when they have been shown the fatal flaw, but that’s OK – it’s not up to me to convince them that deep down underneath the emotions and clever soundbite lines on Twitter, their reliance on the God of Scripture is absolute and inevitable.

What do I mean? Simply put, that there is no justification for using laws of logic and reasoned thinking if human beings are simply star dust in biomechanical suits having the illusion of meaningful lives for a cosmic moment, just before the void of space-time reabsorbs each of us into infinite nothingness.

Yeah, bummer.

They try to undermine the Bible, they attack Noah’s ark, they trash Genesis, they point out all the Christian hypocrisy in the world, and I just fold my arms and smile, breathe, and reply: but you claim to be a collection of blood, bones, and DNA that randomly, by chance, with no intelligent mind having planned for any of it, is having an argument about truth.

*Pause* You might as well be speaking in pure gibberish and eating aluminum nails, for there is no philosophical justification for rationality in atheism: the very thing you are begging we both assume in order to undo my Christianity. I can’t move beyond the irrationality of two specks of ultimately meaningless stardust arguing for who is right about “God,” because that doesn’t explain the universe we live in (at all!) – humans are more, so much more than that…

But what’s the real tragedy for the atheist? His degrading of his own humanity in order to sustain his protest against God’s governance of the universe. He counts himself as worth nothing more than a heap of atomic fruit, and in doing so he undercuts any reason to listen to him.

In The Giver, the Elders decided that what was best for humanity was to severely restrict our expression of our own selves, and our souls, if you will. Even the very color in the world is missing; people are not to touch one another, music is completely unknown, and love is “such an antiquated term it has lost all meaning,” (so said Katie Holmes’s gloomy mother character).

In this world, the only way to save humanity is to deny the essence of our humanness: that we are beautiful in our unity as a race, and in our diversity as individuals. The Elders denied that colorful, beating heart of our race so that they could keep us safe from ourselves… and they essentially denied that there is anything more to human beings than being objects of governance. No ultimate meaning is needed, no goal (or telos) in the community being governed, but to continue forward safely, to flourish in so far as flourishing is the survival of the best DNA… in other words, to perpetuate a genetic coil is the end-all-be-all in The Giver, as it is for the atheist… and neither has a rational explanation for why survival is preferred over annihilation.

If we are but biomechanical suits, and only that, why should we care if we live on to a new generation?

If we are but peons to be governed and managed, why should we care if we are governed and managed?

You see, both the Elders in The Giver, and the atheist in… well, this neighborhood I am sitting in, and those in your neighborhoods, are deeply conflicted between what they say about humanity, and how they actually treat humanity.

In The Giver, the Elders keep one person in a secret house on the edge of the known world, and this person is the “receiver of memory” – this person is the sole possessor of the collective memories of what humanity was like before the Sameness was imposed – and this receiver is the one person to whom the Elders may go to gain wisdom and guidance for difficult questions of policy. But you see – this very idea of a need for direction, for wisdom, for a vision of what is “good” versus what may be “bad,” or “evil” begs the questions of the purpose of human life – and leads to the unraveling of the imposed Sameness! The receiver of memory will be the restorer of memory – for humanness by its nature demands freedom to be all that God invested in us!

And in this real world, the atheist betrays his atheism each time he smiles at his children, each time he closes his eyes to enjoy a particularly cold, crisp swallow of ale, or each time he finishes a poem and can’t wait to share it with his friends and family. In fact, the only thing that might somewhat be consistent with the atheist beliefs would be to simply kill oneself immediately, and to get free of this terrible illusion of life, happiness, sadness, meaning, purpose, and joy. One might quickly end it all to ultimately prove to one’s atheist self that he is not, in fact, afraid of the logical end of his stated beliefs… but even in such an end, the tragedy and the horror would preach all the more loudly:

we are meaningful creatures. we are special creatures. we have a divine origin. we are moral creatures. we cannot escape every moment of our lives, every breath we take from preaching the glory of the One who made us, and of His apparent love and concern for us in our tragically broken humanness.

Will you remember your humanness, my atheist friend? Will you see that your unbelief and denial of your Creator is a giant parade of noise and color: an attempt to blot out the irrepressible voice deep within you, whispering… “I made you. You belong to me. You are not your own. I am your judge. Come to me. Come to me. ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Baptism (Cliff-note Version)

Two weeks ago, I posted my essay from a recent seminary research course here. Some dear friends commented that it was a bit heady, and difficult to digest (sorry!), so I wanted to do a quick “cliff-note” version here.

Well, what is baptism? It’s Jesus, at work in His church.

baptism is gospel It’s the Word of God, doing it’s work through a physical medium, or “means.” This is why you may hear some Christians call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “means of grace.” These are the two sacraments, or ordinances, by which Jesus works His saving grace in the church.

Now, these are not the only means of grace. Whenever and however God’s holy Word is communicated, it is a means of grace.

Be it by sound waves coming from vocal chords, striking your ear drums.

Be it by reading.

Be it by braille.

The Word of God is powerful because it is His Word by which He has promised to do His works of grace.

Baptism is the place where God’s Word is present and applied by means of water. The water itself does nothing, but only when it is combined with the Word of God (gospel promise), and faith, that then saving grace is imparted. In this sense, God can and does use baptism as a means of birthing, strengthening, and/or preserving saving faith.

About my seminary paper: my argument was that Baptists have an historical track record of fighting with anyone who comes from a paedobaptist denomination (and for good reason, I’m a Baptist too!) But my argument is that we Baptists have overreacted to Roman Catholicism as an institution, and have therefore also overreacted to Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed denominations (confessions) because of their infant baptism practices.

My argument was, therefore, that we ought to re-examine the Scriptures in light of the faithful, gospel-centered confessions of the Lutherans and Reformed churches, for if they have maintained both the gospel of the apostles AND infant baptism over 500 years, then we ought to recognize Jesus has not removed their lampstand in spite of an irregular administration of baptismal rites (to infants). Does that make sense? Babies should not be baptized, but once they are, we ought to recognize that God works through our mistakes, so long as we are not denying the gospel and twisting His Word to the point of heresy.

And so… I would argue that Baptists

1) Need to re-examine the delivery of saving grace in and through baptism (even though we administer baptism properly after a profession of faith – there is a mystery here working outside of time).

2) Need to recognize baptism as valid, though irregular when it has been done to an infant. Problems do arise when churches baptize infants, but even these issues are “fixable” when once the true, apostolic gospel is preached in those churches. (In other words, Baptists need to stop re-baptizing people, for in reality these second baptisms are not a baptism at all, but rather a traditional, ceremonial mimicking of baptism).

3) and finally, Baptists need to do some soul searching concerning our reactionary stances in a number of areas. This is difficult work, because we want to preserve our apostolic, first-century doctrines and practices that the other Reformation churches are missing out on, but on the other hand, we unnecessarily separate from fellow believers too readily.

This all calls for prayer, humility, and a deep trust in the Word of God to inform our hearts and minds… even if that calls for occasionally repenting of a bad practice or two.

In love for the church,

Adam Kane

Does God Work Grace in Baptism?

I’m a Baptist, but kinda barely! I believe baptism is only for those who are receiving it in faith, but the tradition of the Reformation churches persuades me to recognize the baptism of infants! (Not as the norm, but as an irregular expression of the sacrament)… So here’s my 6,700 word paper on why I think most Baptists see baptism as more of a law duty than as a gospel gift.

Check it out, thinkers! Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Baptist Identity and Sacramental Malformation

A Baptist identity is difficult to define and locate within broader church history, but in general there have always been those who practice credobaptism (believers only to be baptized).[1] It was through the Reformation and its subsequent centuries that Baptists articulated a confessional identity under the Protestant umbrella.[2] Among the branching family of Protestant denominations, church radicals (Baptists among them) are those who bore the malice of Rome from one side, and the scorn of the paedobaptist Reformation bodies from the other.[3] Through the sustained three-way tussles between Roman Catholicism (RC[C]), high-church State Protestantism, and the burgeoning free-churches (including Baptists), the sacramental theology (ST)[4] of the Baptists has never been developed and articulated apart from the conscious strain of these polemics.[5]

Perhaps in relation to this, the greater portion of Baptists have tended to exclude the sacraments as means of God’s effectual work of salvation. For the Baptist, sacramental grace is often rejected as having the whiff of Romanism; the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican churches (with their varied STs) may appear to the Baptist as compromised, or otherwise stuck in a sort of incomplete reformation.[6] Because Baptists tend to view the RCC as the arch villain of accretive doctrinal excess (a la “sacred tradition”), any given Baptist doctrine may take a reactionary skew and thus miss or distort key biblical data.[7] In spite of this visceral antipathy, the Baptist is ever a Christian under the authority of Scripture, and so he may be persuaded to re-visit traditional beliefs in the light of Scripture as it has been interpreted within the greater Reformation heritage.

So as to provide the historical and theological background against which Baptists react, I will note the vital connection in RC between ecclesiology and ST, this being near the heart of the Reformation protest. Over against this medieval RC juggernaut, the Lutheran and Calvinist confessional bodies found agreement in the gospel[8] even while confessing their differing expressions of sacramental grace. In this paper I will briefly demonstrate that sacramental grace is not necessarily RC, nor does it necessitate RC ecclesiology. In addition, I will make note of the growing Baptist voices who represent an openness to an embrace of sacramental grace within the outlines of otherwise traditional Baptist theology. Continue reading