Does anyone know of any popular level books on Leviticus?
I’m not talking commentaries but something for lay people and under-educated URC ministers to read to guide them through.
If there isn’t one – would you be interested in one?
Answers below, please…
I recently spent three days in Munich, in the south of Germany. As part of the tourist trail I visited four Roman Catholic churches in the city centre. It’s always good for the soul to visit continental Romanist churches because you’re reminded of what the average Roman Catholic believer in the pew actually has in their religion.
And what they have is, quite simply and no doubt controversially, soul-damning idolatry of the highest level. A visitor from outer space would enter into these churches and assume that Christianity is a suicide cult to appease a Goddess. The majority of images are of Mary crowned as Queen of Heaven. Second in number are statues and images of a man dying on a cross. The only implication can be that this Goddess demands men to die for her.
And if it’s not Mary being elevated to divinity and Christ relegated to an exemplar of self-sacrifice for her, then it’s the other saints and, more worryingly, the Popes. In Asamkirche, the crucifix has a kindly old man wearing a papal crown poking out above it. This apparently is an image of God the Father but the bestowal of the papal crown upon his head makes this look as if the Pope is divine. Either way, it’s disgusting and anti-Christian. Surely no-one would make a representation of God the Father, would they? But then surely no-one would elevate a mere man into a position of divine authority?
Another sadness was to see the laity spending money on small candles to place before the statues and images of saints. My heart went out in sadness to them. These people are being led astray from the only mediator between God and man. They are being diverted away from Christ and his once-for-all sacrifice. They are being pointed away from what saves to powerless idols of man’s imagination.
By the fourth of these churches I was on the cusp of repeating the actions of my forebears who smashed the idols and cleansed the churches. Anyone who thinks the Reformation doesn’t matter should spend some time in Roman Catholic places of worship and see what darkness we were liberated from. It truly is as the motto of Geneva says: “After darkness, light.”
With the recent kerfuffle over Mr Ratzinger’s decision to step down as bishop of Rome, coupled with a new attender asking me why I keep talking about the Reformation I thought it would be good to put down why I think it’s still important. But even more than that, why it is absolutely necessary today.
The Medieval Roman Church had descended into great corruption. Bishops received multiple dioceses and never visited them, let alone preached in their churches. The common people were barred from true partaking of the Lord’s Supper by the use of Latin and the denial of the cup. Many innovations had been added to the faith of the church. One such innovation – that of purgatory – led to a system whereby people could buy the prayers of monks to knock a few years off for themselves and their loved ones. It just so happened that this innovation also raised a fair few coins for the building of a fancy new basilica in Rome.
But thanks to the providence of God there were many faithful believers who were unhappy with the state of things. Many of these proto-reformers efforts were crushed but the time was coming when the tide of reform could not be held back. By the providential coming together of a dissatisfied German monk, local rulers wanting to flex their muscles and the technological advance of the printing press, God brought about a movement that swept across Europe and the world. This movement was the Reformation.
Everything was up for grabs from 1517. And the fundamental principle, seems to me to have been: What is the supreme authority for what we believe as Christians? The Roman Church said that it was scripture coupled with Tradition as embodied in the Magisterium that was the authority. Of course, in practice, it was clear that tradition trumped scripture. Praying to Mary and the saints, resacrificing Christ in the Mass, indulgences and purgatory were all inventions of men, with no scriptural warrant whatsoever.
The Reformation, on the other hand, declared that only God could say what we were to believe and practice, which would be a problem had God not definitively spoken. Thankfully he had. In Scripture.
And so the Reformation was about putting God in his rightful place. We were not saved by our works but by God’s abundant grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And scripture alone was our highest, supreme authority.
All this has an impact on us today and in part 2 I will explore some of the ways in which the Reformation is more important than ever.
A new campaign has been launched to change the world into a utopian dream. I’m sure it’ll be as successful as the last one.
Apparently the URC is part of it.
Can we see the minute from the General Assembly or Mission Council where this was agreed, or is a leader from our denomination speaking for all of us assuming that we’ll all agree?*
*Yes I realise that getting some form of agreement on every decision is cumbersome and unwieldy but you can’t say we’re a conciliar church on some things but not others.
You’ll notice that this blog is being very rarely updated.
I’m trying to wean myself off the internet, since my first job out of University it’s always been in front of me. I don’t think that’s been good for my productivity or my attention span.
This blog was set up to detail some of my thinking on the issues affecting my denomination. You’ve probably gathered that I’m not too happy with the direction the denomination is taking.
In the last 5-6 years I’ve been moving theologically in the opposite direction to the URC, so that I’ve become one of those ignorant evangelicals I used to patronise when I was a solid liberal. I’m thankful to God for that. But I’m also some distance off from other evangelicals in the denomination. In my daughter’s lifetime I think that being a Christian in Britain will be like being a Christian in Ephesus in 45AD. A tiny bunch of people, going against the cultural norms and facing all sorts of stuff because of it. What type of faith is going to stand the test in that future?
I don’t think it’ll be one that looks just the same as the surrounding culture. It won’t be a faith that undermines the Bible at key points and still hopes to have a solid foundation. It won’t be a faith that uses puppet shows, candles, stones, dramas or whatever else we think non-church folk think is cool. I don’t think that a faith that undermines the whole idea of church or its officers will be much good either. Don’t get me wrong, I think these things will still be around, but they won’t lead to disciples who know their faith and are willing to live their whole lives only for Christ.
That’s why I prefer the old ways. The Bible as THE Word of God (no additions from feelings/progress or subtractions from criticism/cowardice). The confessions that have stood the test of time from the 4th century onward. The Reformed expression of the faith that knows that faith comes from hearing and allows the Spirit to do his work.
For me to fully go along with that means I’m going to have to work. Work on my holiness. Work on my theology. Work on my Biblical languages. Work on my leadership qualities. Work on my pastoral gifts.
All in the power of God’s grace.
Please pray for me and the churches God has given me to minister. Just don’t expect to hear much from me on this here internet thingy.
PS If you do want to contact me my email address is on the About page.
In the last year I’ve discovered the superb Book Aid shop in Ranskill, just 15 minutes from Doncaster. It has a fabulous selection of second hand Christian books and a large section of old Banner of Truth books. As well as topping up my collection of Puritan and Old Princeton works I also picked up a couple of old, tatty paperbacks looking at the Ecumenical Movement written in the 1950s and 1960s.
Obviously, the URC sees the Ecumenical Movement in a highly positive light – in fact it could be argued that the denomination is the greatest achievement of that movement in this country. However, reading these books made me aware of the real problems inherent in the move towards visible unity which are still around today and impact every aspect of our life in the URC.
This year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the URC. Some people weren’t expecting us to last this long. Some people are thinking that the dream of visible, institutional unity is over and we must establish our own unique identity.
However, the dream isn’t altogether dead. In Wales, a large number of denominations have covenanted together to work towards a “Uniting Church in Wales”. The majority of the denominations are governed either congregationally or in councils. One denomination has bishops. However, to ensure unity, the one church with bishops has to enforce its view of church governance on the rest.
The plan put forward is that the denominations will elect bishops. Apparently, the URC will share one with the Covenanted Baptists. Then every minister in Wales will receive the laying of hands from one of these new bishops and an Anglican one.
What the books written in the middle of the last century confirmed to me was that the Ecumenical Movement was a movement that was more concerned with outward unity than unity in the faith. This year we are also remembering the Great Ejection where 2000 men left their livings in the Church of England, partly due to their unwillingness to come under the authority of bishops. The Ecumenical Movement seems to suggest that the stands our forebears took were just mild misunderstandings that we don’t need to worry ourselves over anymore.
Good luck to the Welsh on this but monarchical bishops are about as Biblical as homosexual marriages so if this plan goes ahead it’s yet more evidence of minimising doctrine and sacrificing principle for some imagined benefit.