Eating Christ, Part 1

NickOfTime

The Initial Confrontation

Among sacerdotalists and some sacramentalists, John 6 is considered to be the dernier mot. They see it as the definitive proof text that irrefutably demonstrates the bodily presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic elements. They insist that in the Eucharist, people actually eat Jesus’ flesh and drink Jesus’ blood (Jn 6:53-56).

What does the passage teach? The early part of the chapter narrates the story about Jesus feeding five thousand men (the text does not say whether women or children were present). This story includes the so-called “miracle of the loaves” in which Jesus multiplies a few loaves of bread to be able to feed the crowd.

In view of the miracle, the crowd tried to take Jesus and force Him to become their king, probably because they saw an opportunity for a government welfare program. Jesus, however, slipped away quietly. The disciples took boats and began to row to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When they were hindered by weather, Jesus performed His miracle of walking out to the boat across the water. The story ends with their boat arriving suddenly, and apparently miraculously, near Capernaum.

In the meanwhile, the crowd was trying to figure out what had happened to Jesus. They saw the disciples leave, and they knew that Jesus was not with them. They waited for a while, but when they discerned that Jesus was gone, they decided to follow the disciples. They took boats and came to Capernaum, where they found Jesus and the disciples. Perplexed, they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus ignored their question. Knowing that the crowd consisted mainly of day-laborers (people who would do a day’s work for a day’s food), He told them to stop working for “food that perishes,” but to work for food that “remains to eternal life.” The point of this saying is that feeding the body does not satisfy the hunger of the soul, and the feeding of the soul is the more important of the two. These people were so impressed with a free meal that they had followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus wanted them to exhibit as much concern for their eternal wellbeing as for their temporal satisfaction. Read more about Eating Christ, Part 1

Waving the Flag, Part 1

Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (March 1999), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA). It appears here with some slight editing.

It is instructive to study the history of institutions to see how they have broadened and moved away from the original vision of their founders. Such a study is important because this process is taking place in many organizations whose heritage is one thing but present reality is another. Many view this broadening as progress, but others who cherish the founding ideals with their parameters, are saddened. The founding statements of institutions such as Harvard (which speak of Christ as the foundation for learning and one reason for the institution's founding being a "dreading an illiterate ministry" —that is, a fear that they would not have educationally qualified pastors to guide them—) when compared with the institutions today, demonstrate only too well just how far the broadening can go. Read more about Waving the Flag, Part 1

On the Merits of Mere Traditions

Note: This article was originally posted December 21, 2005.

Traditions get picked on occasionally by Bible-believing people. I have done some of that picking myself and don’t regret it. Traditions are, after all, things handed down and honored by time, repetition, and the sharing of them by groups of people, and they are not necessarily rooted in any authoritative expression of the will of God.

But attitudes toward tradition tend to be polarized in an unedifying way. We have our unabashed tradition defenders and our unabashed tradition bashers. Those in the former group have rarely met a tradition they didn’t love, and those in the latter group feel quite the opposite. But perhaps both groups are missing something. Maybe the best course is to side with the tradition defenders in presuming traditions innocent until proven guilty but also to side with the bashers in aggressively putting traditions on trial.

Good reasons exist for believing that a mere tradition that is understood to be just that, can be a powerful force for good. Equally evident is the fact that those who run madly in the opposite direction of anything that looks or sounds old are doing themselves a great disservice. Read more about On the Merits of Mere Traditions

Iraq Needs a Heart Transplant

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections. It appears here verbatim.

(Adapted from the author’s article published in the Savage Pacer, June 21, 2003)

Whether you supported the U.S. war effort to topple Saddam Hussein and his henchmen or decried that offensive as unjust, foolhardy or both, we should all agree on at least two points. First, the allied armies removed a really bad chap. Let the record show, Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party gestapo gassed, shot, tortured, dismembered, maimed, raped, fleeced and generally bullied an awful number of Iraqis for a very long period of time. An evil dictator has fallen.

Second, removing Saddam from power has created an ominous vacuum in Iraq. Terminating Saddam’s regime was the easy part. Managing the vacuum his removal created and seeing that vacuum filled with something better will prove the greater challenge.

This challenge is obviously much more complicated than simply replacing dictatorship with democracy in Iraq—as if one were merely removing a faulty engine from an old car and replacing it with a better one. The task at hand is more analogous to a heart transplant—a complicated, risky undertaking that will require the consent of the patient, the success of the surgeon, and this particular body’s mysterious capacity to receive, rather than to reject, the donated organ. Anxious pacing and a case of the jitters are justified at this point.

What is the new heart that must be successfully transplanted into the chest of Iraqi culture in order for genuine freedom to fill the present vacuum? Iraq (and the rest of the Muslim world for that matter) will continue to generate repressive governments until she is retrofitted with the conviction that human beings must be granted freedom of conscience. Read more about Iraq Needs a Heart Transplant

Are Conservative Southern Baptists Fundamentalists?

Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (January/February 2004), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA). It appears here with some slight editing.

Any fundamentalist who has kept up with the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is glad for conservatives' advances and rejoices with them in their success. There are several books and articles which have been written from various perspectives about what has happened within the SBC since 1979. Perhaps one of the most significant is The Baptist Reformation (The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention) by Jerry Sutton, written from the conservative point of view and published in 2000 by the SBC's denominational publishing house, Broadman & Holman Publishers. The book's significance is indicated by the endorsements it has received from many of the leading Southern Baptists today, including Morris H. Chapman, James T. Draper, Jr., Kenneth S. Hemphill, Richard D. Land, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Ed Young, and others.

Still, fundamentalists have raised an important question: "Are these conservative Southern Baptists really fundamentalists?" The question is important, for its answer will largely determine whether those professing fundamentalism ought to embrace the SBC and its leadership. Organizations which have begun as fundamentalist in orientation, such as the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), are currently facing this issue. Therefore, the question is not only important, it is also timely.

Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, pastored by Jerry Falwell, has Liberty University as one of its ministries. This church is listed as both a BBFI and SBC church (see the appropriate denominational web sites), and Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal had as a front page headline, "Liberty University Officially Approved as SBC School" (December 1999, vol. 28, no. 12). The GARBC lists Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio, as one of its partnering agencies. Yet Cedarville has also "entered a partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio [SBC]. The partnership was formalized in November [2002] during the 49th annual session of the state convention when messengers overwhelmingly approved the agreement" (Baptist Press news, www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=14969, January 3, 2003). And the SBC web site lists Cedarville University under its category "Colleges and Universities." Even more recently Western Baptist College in Salem, Oregon, another school partnering with the GARBC, has been endorsed by the Northwest Baptist Convention and its executive board "as an educational institution that their member churches should support financially and promote as a preferred college for their young people." The Northwest Baptist Convention is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Read more about Are Conservative Southern Baptists Fundamentalists?

From the In-Box

NickOfTime

The past two weeks have brought an exponentially greater response than any previous Nick of Time essays. Whatever else it is, this response is certainly an indication that these essays have touched a nerve within fundamentalism. I’ve decided to share some of the emails that I have received.

Why?

First, in the interest of full disclosure. Those who read the essays have an interest in knowing how they were received. To be sure, some sense of this can be gathered from the weblogs. Bloggers, however, do not always represent the ranks and file. Their perspective can partly be balanced by paying attention to what people say in private. The responses below should provide a supplementary source of information that will illustrate how fundamentalists are viewing this controversy, and, indeed, the condition of the fundamentalist movement itself.

Second, because I believe in giving one’s opponents a hearing. Leadership that tries to control followers by restricting who gets a hearing is not ethical leadership. We cannot lead by trying to silence dissenters. Years ago I used to edit an occasional review known as Ruminations. My standing offer in that review was that I would give my opponents the final word in any discussion. For this series, I am doing the same thing. I have made a point of including words of opposition from both sides—and I will offer no rejoinder.

Third, because I affirm that all believers are indwelt and being sanctified by the Spirit of God. That being the case, I really do believe that all of us together possess more wisdom than any one of us alone. Granted, there is a time to stand alone against the world—but that time does not come until after other judgments have been heard and weighed. Under normal circumstances, the very best thing that we can do is to talk to one another. So I encourage you to listen to these voices and to hear what they have to say.

All of the following responses are from Christian leaders who are identified as fundamentalists. I have removed, not only their names, but any references that could be used (in my judgment) to identify them. I list them only by the positions of responsibility that they hold. No editing has been done that would change the meaning of the response. I have also tried to remove the responses that were simply “attaboys,” except in cases in which the respondent held some significant position of leadership within fundamentalism. Read more about From the In-Box

Welcome to SI 3.0!

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This version of “3.0” is not quite what we had planned. I’ll spare you all the details of what went wrong. 

The short version is that the tools for moving data from SI 2.0 to 3.0 seemed effective in testing, but proved to be a problem when it came time for the real thing. Database corruption resulted and this caused a great deal of strain on the server.

 For various reasons, it was also not possible to go back to 2.0 after moving half way to the new system. Didn’t plan on burning any bridges, but discovered they’d gotten burnt anyway.

OK, the really short version is that the migraton was a total disaster. Read more about Welcome to SI 3.0!

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