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Sunday, August 01, 2010

We observed the Lord's Supper today; because of where I am in my faith journey, what used to fill me with joy and expectation now fills me with trepidation and doubt. It is not Our Lord I doubt; may it never be! Rather, I am amazed that we had never considered the validity of our eucharistic celebration. I don't have the information and the means as yet to decide the merits of the Catholic claims, but the fact that I know the contours of those claims, I know how the story will end if they are true, it fills me with boatloads of hesitation when I do the things that we do. The sermon was from Romans 1:16-17: "for I am not ashamed of the gospel..." It was all around a beautiful message. The focal point was this generation and its cynicism, and their great need of Christ. I yearn for them to know him, as I do for people my age who are leaving the Church (any of them) in droves. But it morphed into a "gospel as imputation" sort of thing. First reaction: "Romans does not say that." Second thought: "I don't believe it"--but then, I caught myself, and said, "prove it" and then, "I can't do anything with that." Not that I yearn to add something to the work of Christ; rather, this supposed truth that is alleged to set me free to love and to serve doesn't help me when I know how much I fail the LORD. I'm flat-out not able to simply know that I please Him. I don't doubt for a second God's capacity and willingness to forgive us, to love us, and to smother us in his embrace. But I need you to understand: this extra nos forensic justification doesn't fit with how I have known Him. It's never like that. What I have experienced (granted, this is surely flawed, as with every human thing) is a constant invitation to surrender, to repent, to forsake "all the vain things that charm me most." I have felt his love first and always as a chance to begin again. I am not a garden-variety sinner; I am at war with myself all the time. When I have drawn near to God in worship, it is not a minor adjustment, a time of assurance. It is a time to say, "I have gone completely astray from You, and were I not drowning in Your love and mercy, I would not return." It has seemed like each Lord's Day is like a new conversion. The Westminster Confession of Faith says this about perseverence in its eighteenth chapter: "Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed." The first sentence is quite good; the papists at Trent couldn't say it much better. But it gets ugly at this part: "...may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace..." [my emphasis] It continues further down: "This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness." Look, fellas, I'm jazzed that you discourage us from libertinism and presumption. The Romish are thrilled. But it sure seems to me you're qualifying this "infalliable assurance" 1000 times over to avoid having to ever apply this to an actual person. I've never met him/her. Maybe I just have to wait a long time for mine. What are these ordinary means? Sacraments? Surely not. Your (our) theology doesn't really allow this, regardless of what you claim. The closest thing we have in this tradition is the Federal Vision, with some of its sacramental, uh, bluntness. But that's heresy, I heard. [Obvious Catholic Retorts to the WCF: 1. If you're going to go "all in" on this imputed righteousness of Christ, why repent? And if we must, then it absolutely cannot be alien righteousness, given once for all. (See also the mindless incoherence of the "Repentance Unto Life" chapter. Blatant contradiction with "Of Justification." The only way out of this without being soft on sin is to make justification and sanctification synonymous, which, we are happy to report, is the Catholic position.) 2. If all this doctrine is so plainly in Scripture, show us where. It's not our fault your "hermeneutical spiral" has no road signs. We applaud the effort, really, but Jason would like to know where he is in said process. Oh, and the Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, and whomever else are (sarcastically) surprised to learn that Reformed theology is so plainly in the Scriptures. Heavy-Handed "Bow to Benedict" Version: 3. Um, how are you the Church again? Were you granted the gift of infalliability when we weren't looking? Succession, anyone? And we really like WLC question #158, but it's quite hilarious, given what we just said.] [Plaintive Catholic Appeal For Familial Affirmation: That whole "synagogues of Satan" crack in chapter XXV, section V, that's not us, right? Right?!]
Anyway, (sorry about the rant) the pastor took a run at the Catholic Eucharist again, and its alleged re-sacrifice of Christ. I got mad the last time, but this time, I decided that this view is pervasive enough that you may want to get your best apologists on the matter, stat. "Uncle Bryan," feel free to attempt it, in the plainest words possible, if you have the time. I read Vonier's book on the matter, and it's over my head, largely. It was an act of good faith and charity to simply glean that the Eucharist is Calvary's cross re-presented. My fellows are not buying it. Finally, I decided to take the elements today. I reasoned that even if this was not Christ's true Eucharist, I know him and love him, and these breadcrumbs will lead me to his altar eventually, if the Catholic Church is correct.

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