Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mustard Tree as an Image of the Church

There’s been a little dustup of comments on the Bryan Cross thread entitled “Ecclesial Consumerism”.

Bryan is one of those individuals that Matthew wrote about in his previous post. “A sensational conversion to Catholicism provides a kind of celebrity, authority and prominence unavailable to those who quietly and obscurely serve the Lord in a Protestant church.” Then of course, there are the gullible ones who will follow him.

Bryan puts up a couple of flamboyant photographs and elaborately explicates a phenomenon of his own creation. “In our contemporary culture, church-shopping has become entirely normal and even expected….[A person] weighs all the various factors and tries to decide which church best matches what he (and his family) are looking for in a church. He might even make lists of all that he is looking for in a church, and see which church comes closest to meeting all the criteria. This phenomenon is called ‘ecclesial consumerism.’”

Nobody else talks about “Ecclesial consumerism.” Only Bryan talks about “ecclesial consumerism.” Bryan is one of those individuals in search of “the correctly marketable term,” a new phrase he can coin and throw out there to “the academy,” which will have his name attached to it, and for which people will fawn over him. He used to throw out the word “monocausalism” and try to sell that concept, as a bad thing, until I pointed out to him that he’s simply trying to re-define the word “sola” as a bad thing. He has ranted and raved about the “invisible church”. Then there was “ecclesial deism”, which he used until someone pointed out that it was not that; then he picked up “ecclesial docetism.” Here’s another one: Branches or Schisms. Maybe, someday, Bryan can be known, like Bultmann, for having discerned “the separation of the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith.”

He misunderstands what the Kingdom of God is. Just as we can know the Character of God, we can know what the one true church is going to be like, because the Scriptures told us a lot about it.
Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)
One of the two images here is the Mustard tree, indigenous to Palestine, that Jesus was talking about.

A.A. Hodge wrote about this as well:
AA Hodge on “What is the Church?” (From “Evangelical Theology” pgs 174-177)

What is the Church? There is one thing certain about it: the Church has a great many attributes, but that which is absolutely essential is its absolute unity. There is no doubt if there be but one God, there is but one Church; if there be but one Christ, there is but one Church; if there be but one Holy Ghost, there is but one Church. This is absolutely settled—there is but one Church. We have heard about the visible and invisible Church, as if there were two churches. There cannot be two churches, one that is visible and another that is invisible. There is but one Church, and that Church is visible or invisible just according to the eye that is looking, just according to the point of view taken….

There have been two distinct conceptions of the Church: one is the theory that the Church consists of an organized society which God has constituted, that identity consists in its external form as well as in its spirit, and that its life depends upon the continuity of officers from generation to generation. This is held by a great many able men, men of intellect, and by many respectable, level-headed Christians as well.

I hold this to be simply impossible. The marks of the Church are catholicity, apostolicity, infallibility, and purity. Now, apply that to any corporation—to the Church in Jerusalem or to the Church in Antioch; to the Congregational Church, to the Presbyterian, or to the Prelatical Churches. I do not care as to the form; but there never did exist, and there does not now exist, any organized society upon the face of the earth of which these qualities could be predicated. Not one of these societies has apostolicity—that is, precisely the apostolic form as well as the apostolic spirit; not one of these societies has had an absolute organic continuity, or has, without modification, preserved it. Societies, like the Church of Rome, which are most conspicuous in claiming these marks for themselves, are most conspicuously unworthy of them, because there is no comparison between their ritual of service, their organization, and the apostolic Church with which they claim to be identified.

The only possible definition of a Church is that it consists of what is termed “the body of Christ”—that is, human souls regenerated by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost, kept in immediate union with Christ. Of this you can predicate apostostolicity, catholicity, and the sanctifying power and perpetual presence of the Holy Ghost, which belongs to the Church of Christ. This is the true Church, which exists through all the successive generations of men, which is united to Christ, and which shares in the benefits of his redemption through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. This great body is one because the Holy Ghost dwells in it and makes it one. This Church is apostolical, because it is unchanging as to apostolic doctrine; it is catholic, because it contains in one body all of God’s people in all worlds and in all time; it unites all from the creation of the world to the coming of Christ, and all from the coming of Christ to the end of the world in one body—absolutely one, both visible and invisible.…

Now, as to the unity of this Church I have something to say. A great many are agitated at present with regard to Church unity and its manifestations, and I think there is a great deal of confusion of thought as to the original conception of the Church itself. If the Church be an external society, then all deviation from that society is of the nature of schism; but if the Church be in its essence a great spiritual body, constituted by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost through all the ages and nations, uniting all to Christ, and if its external organization is only accidental and temporary, and subject to change and variation, then deviation of organization, unless touched by the spirit of schism, is not detrimental to the Church. I do believe that God’s purpose, on the contrary, has been to differentiate his Church without end. You know that the very highest form of beauty of which you can conceive, the very highest form of order, is multiplicity in unity, and unity in multiplicity; the higher the order of unity, the greater must be the multiplicity.

This is so everywhere. Go to the ocean: every drop of water is the repetition of every other drop, and there is union simply without diversity. Go to the desert of Sahara, and every grain of sand is the duplicate of every other grain of sand; but there is no unity, no life. You could not make a great cathedral by piling up simple identical rhomboids or cubes of stone. It is because you differentiate, and make every stone of a different form in order to perform a different function, and then build them up out of this multitudinous origination into the continuity and unity of the one plan or architectural idea, that you have your cathedral. You could not make a great piece of music simply by multiplying the same tone or sound. In order to obtain the harmony of a great orchestra, you get together a large number of musical instruments, or you have a great number of human voices in a choir, and you combine them; then you have an infinite variety of quality and infinite variety of tone. You combine them in the absolute unit of the one great musical idea which you seek to express.

But if this is true of such things, it is more true of Christ’s Church. If God had followed our idea, how simple a thing it would have been to make a united Church descending from Adam and Eve! We might think that was all that could be done, and there would be then no stones of stumbling. You could then watch this Church, and it would go on indefinitely and without limit.

Now, what has God been doing? He has broken humanity up into infinite varieties. This has been his method. He has been driving it into every clime. He has been driving it into every age through the succession of centuries. He has been moulding human nature under every variety of influences through all time, until he has got men in every age, every tribe, every tongue, every nation, every colour, every fashion—in order to do what? Simply to build up a variety, to build up the rich, inexhaustible variety which constitutes the beauty in unity of this great infinite Church of the first-born, whose final dwelling-place is to be in heaven.
What is "the Church"? Who really understands what "the Church" is?

22 comments:

Ryan said...

Good post.

John Bugay said...

Thanks Ryan. Are you up early or late?

Ryan said...

Late. It's my spring break.

John Bugay said...

I'm afraid I'm up for the day :-(

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Bugay:

You wrote:

"Bryan [Cross] is one of those individuals that Matthew wrote about in his previous post. “A sensational conversion to Catholicism provides a kind of celebrity, authority and prominence unavailable to those who quietly and obscurely serve the Lord in a Protestant church.”

Am I to understand then that anytime that someone coins a phrase to explain a particular phenomenon that they observe that they are doing so gain prominence, celebrity and authority? Has Mr. Cross copyrighted the term "ecclesial consumerism" so he can make a royalty everytime someone uses it in a sentence? I am sure that was the reason that the term "homoousios" was coined at the Council of Nicea. Did Mr. Cross write a book to shamelessly market it with his mug pasted all over his website? Should we apply the same criteria to you because you "market" the fact that you are a fallen-away Catholic who has found the truth in a particular Presbyterian congregation and seek to promote yourself in exposing the "lies" of Catholicism on this website? By posting here and elsewhere, you certainly are not quietly and obscurely serving the Lord in a Protestant Church. Are you suggesting that Mr. Cross hide his God-given talents under a bushel basket rather than using them to serve the Church and the faith he holds? If you believe that people should work quietly and obscurely in service of the Church, why not start with James White and give him that advice? There is nothing about his ministry that is quiet and obscure. Or does your Protestant dormouse philosophy to Catholivc bloggers?

I only ask these questions because you don't mention that God has given you a special charism to read the hearts of Catholics or a special revelation about Bryan Cross.

That said, I do appreciate your posting of the comments of Dr. Hodge highlighting an aspect of what some Protestants believe about the notion of "church". Unlike Mr. Schultz's article, you actually have put something of substance there for people to think about. Thank you.

God bless!

John Bugay said...

Am I to understand then that anytime that someone coins a phrase to explain a particular phenomenon that they observe that they are doing so gain prominence, celebrity and authority?

Uh, yeah Paul, go ahead and keep making leaps like that one.

Has Mr. Cross copyrighted the term "ecclesial consumerism" so he can make a royalty everytime someone uses it in a sentence?

No, but he and his crowd are the only ones using it.

I am sure that was the reason that the term "homoousios" was coined at the Council of Nicea.

Except that it wasn’t coined there. But that’s neither here nor there.

Did Mr. Cross write a book to shamelessly market it with his mug pasted all over his website?

No, that would be Dr. Scott Hahn, Founder & President. But you’re catching on to the pattern.

Should we apply the same criteria to you because you "market" the fact that you are a fallen-away Catholic who has found the truth in a particular Presbyterian congregation and seek to promote yourself in exposing the "lies" of Catholicism on this website? By posting here and elsewhere, you certainly are not quietly and obscurely serving the Lord in a Protestant Church.

I’m not “marketing” anything. Nevertheless, the ultimate test of what I do is the truth of what I say.

Are you suggesting that Mr. Cross hide his God-given talents under a bushel basket rather than using them to serve the Church and the faith he holds?

I don’t begrudge him his right to say the things he says. Or you. Nor do I begrudge myself the right to comment on them.

If you believe that people should work quietly and obscurely in service of the Church, why not start with James White and give him that advice? There is nothing about his ministry that is quiet and obscure.

It would seem as if you have leapt to another erroneous conclusion. I don’t begrudge James White the right to say the things he says.

Or does your Protestant dormouse philosophy to Catholivc bloggers?

What’s the matter, is it too early in the morning for you?

I only ask these questions because you don't mention that God has given you a special charism to read the hearts of Catholics or a special revelation about Bryan Cross.

Now, did I say that I have a special charism? I will admit, God has given me eyes to see, and a mind with which to perceive black when I see black.

That said, I do appreciate your posting of the comments of Dr. Hodge highlighting an aspect of what some Protestants believe about the notion of "church". Unlike Mr. Schultz's article, you actually have put something of substance there for people to think about. Thank you.

Matthew put Carl Trueman out there, in a form that probably takes a little bit of extra effort. But the effort is definitely worth it.

David Waltz said...

>> Nobody else talks about “Ecclesial consumerism.” Only Bryan talks about “ecclesial consumerism.” Bryan is one of those individuals in search of “the correctly marketable term,” a new phrase he can coin and throw out there to “the academy,” which will have his name attached to it, and for which people will fawn over him.>>

Me: Semantics, pure and simple, for plenty of individuals certainly talk about the obvious equivalents such as "church consumerism", "spiritual consumerism", "shopping for a church" (i.e. "church shopping").

>>He misunderstands what the Kingdom of God is. Just as we can know the Character of God, we can know what the one true church is going to be like, because the Scriptures told us a lot about it.>>

Me: The Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck, sheds some important historical 'light' on this issue:

"Not until the sixteenth-century Reformation was a fundamentally different view of the church posited as an alternative to Rome. A distinction was made between the visible and invisible church, the latter being an object of faith." (Earlier, Bavinck identifies this church of Rome as "the 'catholic' view of the church", which "was fostered by opposition from heretical sects such as the Novatianists and Donatists.")

Seems that as with the Reformers view of justification, their view of the Church was also a 16th century theological novum.



Grace and peace,

David

John Bugay said...

David Waltz, I hope you understand that your appeal to Bavinck is an appeal to authority, which you seem to discount when other people do that.

If you're going to believe what Bavinck says here, then you're obligated by your own standard to believe other things he says.

But just to address your point, yes, "church shopping" exists, and no, it is not the major problem that Cross says that it is.

Look at his language, though. "This phenomenon is called ‘ecclesial consumerism.’”

By whom is it "called" that? Note that my blog entry on the topic are #6 and #7 on the current Google list, and I've only mentioned this once. Literally, nobody else is mentioning it.

Why does Bryan Cross not say, "I call this 'ecclesial consumerism.'"?

He's the only one who cares about it. And that's not the only example that I've cited about him making up words and then creating a "phenomenon" out of them.

(a), it's a "phenomenon," and (b), it's "called" that, and (c), it's clear that his intention is that it's "called" that by enough folks to make it a phenomenon.

What's his point? "This phenomenon is 'being deceptive without appearing to be so.'"

How about that?


Second, Bavinck is summarizing, and for Christians, it is generally a good thing that we obey leadership and do not make waves. It's clear that Martin Luther had no intention of "creating a new church". He was excommunicated.

If he is identifying "Rome" as "the 'catholic' view of the church," there's a historical context to that; and we really do know more, historically about early Rome, than Bavinck could have known.


As I mentioned in my most recent post, "Vatican II vs Trent," Ambrose's theology of the Eucharist was a "theological novum" of that century.

You seem to place a lot of stock in such stock sayings as "theological novum," without really understanding the underlying meaning. Can you imagine why a "novum" like "justification by faith alone" can be called Scriptural, whereas a theological speculation like that of Ambrose, which won the day and became dogmatized as "transubstantiation," with no basis in either Scripture or the early Church [only in pious-sounding speculations], should be rejected?

John Bugay said...

By the way David, what you cited to me wasn't Bavinck, but an editorial introduction to chapter 5 of volume 4.

Where are those high academic standards of yours?

David Waltz said...

Hello John,

Thanks for responding; you said:

>>David Waltz, I hope you understand that your appeal to Bavinck is an appeal to authority, which you seem to discount when other people do that.

If you're going to believe what Bavinck says here, then you're obligated by your own standard to believe other things he says.>>

Me: You are completely missing the important difference between my appeal to Dr. Bavinck, and your appeal to gents like Lampe: Bavinck is a conservative, Reformed scholar, and you are Reformed and conservative—I am appealing to one of the most respected authorities of YOUR paradigm, not some gent who merely dips his toe into your pond (so to speak).

>>But just to address your point, yes, "church shopping" exists, and no, it is not the major problem that Cross says that it is.

Look at his language, though. "This phenomenon is called ‘ecclesial consumerism.’”>>

Me: The above was not my "point"; my point is that a number of people besides Cross ARE talking about the semantic equivalent/s of "ecclesial consumerism", contra your sweeping assertions that, "Nobody else talks about 'Ecclesial consumerism.'" Further, because of number of the individuals who are talking about this issue are of the 'free' church tradition, they do not discern this phenomenon as a "major problem", adopting instead (without explicit acknowledgment) a pragmatic 'survival of the fittest' mentality.

>>Why does Bryan Cross not say, "I call this 'ecclesial consumerism.'"?
He's the only one who cares about it. And that's not the only example that I've cited about him making up words and then creating a "phenomenon" out of them.>>

Me: Once again, he certainly is NOT "the only one who cares about it"...Google the equivalent phrases I mentioned in my first post.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

John,

You said:

>>By the way David, what you cited to me wasn't Bavinck, but an editorial introduction to chapter 5 of volume 4.>>

Me: I tend to be a bit 'lazy' in my combox posts; however, given the audience, I should have been more precise; here you go:

" Not until the sixteenth century was a fundamentally different concept of the church posited by the Reformation as an alternative to that of Rome." (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4.287)

"The church was not simply a congregation of the predestined, nor of such people who conducted their lives in keeping with a few rules from the Sermon on the Mount. But it was a congregation of believers, of people who through faith had had received the forgiveness of sins and hence were all children of God, prophets, and priests. For that reason it naturally had an invisible and a visible side. According to Seeberg, this distinction was first made not by Zwingli but by Luther." (Ibid.)

And just prior to the above:

"When in the second century an assortment of sects and heresies arose, the question of course was, Which is the true church? And the reply given to is was, The church that remains with the body as a whole and maintains fellowship with the Catholic Church. The church as already called "catholic" by Ignatius, because it embraces all believers on earth at all times and places, and outside of it there is no salvation. This catholicity of the church, however, was no longer conceived in spiritual terms against heresy but externalized and embodied in a visible institution." (4.281, 282.)


Question: did the editor incorrectly summarize Dr. Bavinck's reflections?


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

For John...a correction of a typo in my 5:32 PM, March 26, 2011 post: "Further, because of number of the individuals who are talking about this issue", should read, "Further, because a number of the individuals who are talking about this issue".

John Bugay said...

David, I get what you are saying about Bavinck. I have the utmost respect for him. I'm not going to make a judgment on how the editors are summarizing; that's a four volume set, and I've not read anything of it except for some extended quotes that Michael Horton picked up in "Covenant and Salvation".

For other reasons, I've got my nose in Carson/Moo's "Intro to the New Testament." There is a way to interact with scholars from across the spectrum, and they do it well. The word is, as Tim Enloe has said, "weighing the evidence."

What you do is to call names. That's why I never responded to your calling Eamon Duffy a "revisionist." You posted a link to a Reformed writer who was challenging Duffy on a totally different topic.

I'll tell you, though, sometimes history needs to be revised, simply because we know a whole lot more than our forebears did.


What you do is not scholarship. You do not "weigh the evidence." Your tactic is slur by innuendo.

Tacking on the words "grace and peace" is a mere band-aid that does not hide what you're really doing.


my point is that a number of people besides Cross ARE talking about the semantic equivalent/s of "ecclesial consumerism"

Then why doesn't Cross use the terminology that they use? Why does he have to make up stuff like "Ecclesial consumerism" and then try to pretend that that term is used universally?

And again, Google that term. The first two uses are his; the third is Liccione; the fourth is a Triablogue response; number five is totally unrelated; numbers six and seven are my one reference to it. Nobody else is using "Ecclesial consumerism."

And that's not to speak of his other made-up terminology. Note his use of the language. He's very pleased with himself.

David Waltz said...

John,

You said:

>> David, I get what you are saying about Bavinck. I have the utmost respect for him. I'm not going to make a judgment on how the editors are summarizing...>>

Me: I was not suggesting that you weigh in on entire body of summations provided, but rather on the specific summarization that I provided in my first post.

Editor: "Not until the sixteenth-century Reformation was a fundamentally different view of the church posited as an alternative to Rome." (4.273)

Bavinck: "Not until the sixteenth century was a fundamentally different concept of the church posited by the Reformation as an alternative to that of Rome." (4.287)

Editor: "A distinction was made between the visible and invisible church, the latter being an object of faith." (4.273)

Bavinck: "The church was not simply a congregation of the predestined, nor of such people who conducted their lives in keeping with a few rules from the Sermon on the Mount. But it was a congregation of believers, of people who through faith had had received the forgiveness of sins and hence were all children of God, prophets, and priests. For that reason it naturally had an invisible and a visible side. According to Seeberg, this distinction was first made not by Zwingli but by Luther." (4.287)

Anyway, I think the editor was quite accurate; in fact, until today I had assumed that all of the chapter synopses were from Bavinck's pen, because they are so accurate.

>>What you do is to call names. That's why I never responded to your calling Eamon Duffy a "revisionist." You posted a link to a Reformed writer who was challenging Duffy on a totally different topic.>>

Me: I borrowed the term "revisionist" from the Reformed writer. The same method employed by Duffy for his revision of English history is also utilized in his history of the Popes. Whether you like the term or not, it is certainly accurate. And once more, for the record, method and presuppositions matter, whether you like it or not. Because you hold to inerrancy (concerning Scripture) I try to appeal to fellow inerrantists (name calling) when I interact with you concerning your paradigm. Given your recent comments, I wonder what you would term those who reject inerrancy, and if you believe the method and presuppositions that they use to support they view are sound.

>>I'll tell you, though, sometimes history needs to be revised, simply because we know a whole lot more than our forebears did.>>

Me: And yet you retain the inerrancy view, when the vast majority of modern Biblical scholars, who claim "to know a whole lot more than our forebears did", believe that the body of evidence makes such a view impossible to hold.

cont'd

David Waltz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Waltz said...

cont'd

>>What you do is not scholarship. You do not "weigh the evidence." Your tactic is slur by innuendo.>>

Me: Bold assertions John; you label Ratzinger/Benedict XVI a "pantheist" and a "liberal" (is that not name calling?), despite evidence to the contrary. I label Lampe a "liberal" and a "revisionist" because I KNOW (as do you) that he rejects inerrancy (I provided clear examples), and IS revising early Church history. He embraces the methods and presuppositions that pretty much ALL liberals and revisionists accept. I do not see this as a " slur by innuendo", THESE ARE FACTS; but I do wonder why you see it as such.

>>Tacking on the words "grace and peace" is a mere band-aid that does not hide what you're really doing.>>

Me: I sincerely extend "grace and peace" to you (and to anyone else that I do so), it is not "a mere band-aid". As for 'hiding' what I am "really doing", that is just silly, (as the posts on my blog demonstrate)...perhaps you are confusing me with those who hide their real identity, or those who parade their non-accredited degrees, or those who swim in the sea of double-standards...


Grace and peace (from my heart, not a "mere band-aid"),

David

Dozie said...

"Then why doesn't Cross use the terminology that they use? Why does he have to make up stuff like "Ecclesial consumerism" and then try to pretend that that term is used universally?"

You must first show when, where and why you condemned those who coined or first used the terminology that Bryan Cross should have used or otherwise show why those people are more qualified to invent new terminologies than Mr. Cross.

James White is on record for boasting that he is unaware of anyone using the phrase “sola ecclesia” before he came up with it. Does John Bugay, who has been shown to be inconsistent in his emotional outbursts, think James White has the freedom and the right to come up with the phrase?

John Bugay said...

Dozie, at one point, I tried to respond to you patiently, but you ignored everything I had to say. I think you are just a poorly-programmed bot, and I'm convinced you have nothing meaningful to say at all.

Raymond said...

John says: What you do is to call names.

John says: you are just a poorly-programmed bot

John imagines that converts to the Catholic Church do so for celebrity?

John does his best to make himself a Reformed blogging celebrity and a convert at that!

A grown man with so much apparent book knowledge but completely lacking in class and maturity. Proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Raymond,

Try not to base implicit charges of inconsistency on out-of-context quotations.

Rhology said...

Anyone familiar with Dozie's long history of irrational and racist rants on this blog wouldn't say what Raymond said.

Dozie said...

"Anyone familiar with Dozie's long history of irrational and racist rants on this blog wouldn't say what Raymond said".

Dozie is irrational because he attempts to tell it to Protestants like it is. As for being racist; “Rhology” seems to have weird imagination. I once made comment about what I perceived, and still perceive, as Jewish interference in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church and your irrational mind construed that as racist. For your information, I stand by that comment and I hope you'll dig it up for your readers to judge in whom irrationality resides.