Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Carl Sandberg (not the poet)

If you asked me to list the top 10 most unforgettable characters I've met in my life, Carl Sandberg would certainly be among them.

Carl was a student of theology, and a contemporary of mine.  He finished his undergraduate at the same tiny college I attended, but a year before me.  He told me that he had been a Communist in Chicago, as was his father, when his attention got arrested by the preaching of a street team from a charismatic church.  He began attending this church, where he was subsequently converted.

He became a bit uncomfortable with the emotional antics of this church group, and found his way into a very narrow baptist church: the General Association of Regular Baptists.  For those not acquainted with this church, may I say they are as jealous of orthodoxy as the OPC, and sometimes just as cantankerous.  They seem willing to doubt the orthodoxy of every other denomination, with the possible exception of the OPC.  The reason for this exception was the early association two of these professors had with J. Gresham Machen.

Carl told me that at this point in his life he was drifting more and more into reformed thinking as a result of his study of the Bible.  In fact during Greek class at the Baptist school, he was called upon to translate Acts 9:18 and he read: "and he stood up and was baptized".  Against accusations of misinterpretation, Carl said he merely translated it.

Eventually someone at L. A. Baptist said he ought to be an Orthodox Presbyterian instead of a baptist.  He said, "What's that?"  And that is how he was introduced to the OPC.

Carl always had a controversial point of view, and accompanied his views with a controversial attitude.
Someone who knew Carl better than I said, "As far as personality alone is concerned, he should have remained a Communist."

At Westminster Seminary, following a class taught by Meredith Kline, Carl approached the professor, telling him of a book he read in which the author reconciles the Egyptian dating with that of the Bible.  Dr. Kline seemed fascinated with the idea and so he asked how he does this.  Carl said the author proposed that Egyptian dating was off by several years.  In response Dr. Kline threw back his head, laughed, and announced, "He's out of his mind!"  Then he picked up his bulky brief case and stalked out of the room.  Carl was left with his mouth hanging open.

Speechless was not a frequent posture of Carl.  He had a way of interrogating, rather than questioning, when he raised his hand in class.  Van Til and Clowney were frequent beneficiaries of Carl's whetting encounters.  The major exception was his appreciation of Professor John Murray.  In fact he once wrote me a note during class, saying, "Why don't we hear this good stuff in our home churches?"  I don't know where he attended church, but my home church did teach me good theology.  Immediately after I read the note I found the good professor standing next to me with his hand outstretched.  Into that hand I deposited the aforementioned note, being grateful that it was flattering rather than derogatory.

A mutual friend of Carl and another student, Alan Wyat, anticipated with apprehension the sparks that might fly when these two fiery personalities finally met.  The occasion, as best I can recall, was the return of a borrowed hauling trailer.  One of the principles offered an outrageous opinion about a current event.  The other countered with a psychiatric evaluation of the speaker, and suddenly the fat was in the fire.  These were now Christian men, in whom the Holy Spirit had begun, but by no means completed, the work of sanctification.  Therefore there were no fisticuffs.  But there were barrages of verbal exchange that raised concern for all in the room.

Neither of these men completed the course of seminary with me.  To the best of my knowledge they both dropped out of Westminster.  Subsequent careers of either man are not known to me.  I read that Carl was a teacher in a Christian school in Virginia, but that exhausts my information.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A singing church

The genius of corporate worship is the reciprocal communication between God and His people.  God speaks to His people and they respond.  When God speaks to us, it is by the reading and preaching of the bible at this point in history.  We have no prophets to give us new revelations of the Spirit.

When the people of God respond corporately it is usually in the singing of a hymn or Psalm or in words we recite together.  That's the idea of it being "corporate" which by definition means: "shared by all the members of a group".

There is the public prayer that should include each worshipper who joins his consent by saying, or thinking "amen".  This is sometimes a written prayer or a memorized prayer (such as the Lord's Prayer) which everyone recites together,  but in corporate worship this is usually done by one leader on behalf of the congregation.

Are you with me?  Okay, today I want to focus attention on the matter of congregational singing.  It is an important way in which worshippers participate in corporate worship.

We emphatically and vociferously deny the entertainment model for public worship.  The pastor or others who may be on the platform are NOT the entertainers, and the congregation is NOT the audience.  As soon as this model is adopted, corporate worship exists no longer.  There might be delightful Christian entertainment.  There might be a fine Christian lecture.  But there is definitely NO corporate worship going on.  This is why no one applauds the choir or other musicians in public worship.

I have an agent who has visited several reformed churches in our area, and he reports that in many of these churches the singing of the congregation is in serious decline.  Special music groups do all the singing.  Or the tunes are new and only the words are printed and no one has learned the tune.

Whatever the reason, more and more reformed worshippers are just standing there as the music is playing.  They have not done anything together.  They have not responded to God for His words to us. They are just standing there until the next item in the order of worship.  This is a dangerous trend.

When a new hymn is introduced to a congregation, it ought to be taught.  Sometimes this is done by adopting a "hymn of the month" which is sung every Sunday for a month.  Sometimes there is another venue (like Sunday School) where it can be introduced and practiced until ready for corporate worship. Sometimes it can be reproduced--with music--and carefully taught during the worship period.

Every congregation member ought to be able to think about the words and join the praise thoughts incorporated in this new hymn, and that just can't be effectively done if he is groping for the note and reading unfamiliar words at the same time.

Whatever the solution, please let us not lose this important element of corporate worship.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A simple errand

Our granddaughter had to fly to South Carolina to pick up her kids who were visiting their father over Christmas vacation.  Stacy figured, "I'll wear flip-flops so they won't make me take off my shoes at security check.  I will just take one extra set of clothes because I want to fly in relative comfort, without having a suitcase to pick up at baggage carousel.  And I should leave my car in short-term parking.  I'm coming right back tomorrow."

Then the storm struck.  A seven hour delay in Huston was bad enough, but on the way home this would be intolerable.  When she arrived in Charlotte, she discovered her return flight was scheduled to stop at O'Hare in Chicago, and nothing was going in or out of O'Hare by this time.

Grandma Christian picked her up to drive her back to her place (2 hours and then some).  Finally negotiations were completed for a return flight that would bring her to Vegas--on Wednesday!  Oh my goodness!  Look at all that snow, and I'm in flip-flops.  We have to stop at Wallmart and get some shoes.

Okay, let's give the kids a bath.  Dad, you take care of little David.  What do you mean he has spots?  He can't have chicken pox, he's had the vaccine.  Oh, you mean there are different types of chicken pox?  By now, of course, both kids are breaking out in full color.  Wait a minute.  These kids are quarantined from public transportation until they are no longer contagious.  That means we can't fly out on Wednesday.

She's crying, and she's laughing.  What next?

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Resolution

Any resolve I might make that has to wait for January first, cannot be a sincere resolution.  If it is something I should do, then I should start doing it the moment it comes to mind.  Resolutions made December 31st must be the real thing.

If it is losing weight that I decide I must do (and really I should do that) then I should wake up this morning and say, "Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  I have to stop sweets and extra helpings NOW."  Then tomorrow morning, after I have pigged out the night before, I have to say the same thing.  The starting line is now for anything seriously in need of change.

It is a daily resolve we undertake to kill a little more sin and learn to walk with Jesus a little better.  That just can't wait for a calendar marker like the first of the year, or month or whatever.

Now after scorning the idea of making New Year's Resolutions, I must admit to resolving to attempt a through the bible read.  The printed chart begins with January 1, and my contemporaries announced it just at this time of the year, so I jumped at the challenge.

I remember as a brand new Christian, resolving to leave the liberal church of which I was already a member.  I was saved watching Billy Graham several weeks (months?) prior.  But when the pastor preached about George Washington on Washington's birthday, I wanted to hear the word of God.  It had become the right time for me to make the resolution, "By the grace of God, this is the last sermon I will hear in this church."  And it was.

I also have made a resolution to write more blogs this year.  No, it wasn't a New Year's resolution, but I thought I would share that with you.