Monday, January 17, 2011

Was Dr King Nice? « Heidelblog

Was Dr King Nice? « Heidelblog

I agree with Scott Clark in this article that "niceness" is not a Christian virtue.  Niceness is often just a way of going along with the status quo.  I think one of Clark's points is that Reformed people need to be Reformed rather than trying to be something we are not.

Right now, one of the problem with Reformed churches is the disjunction between our theology and our worship.  We keep trying to blend Reformed theology with a kind of Charismatic, emotional approach to worship.  We are trying to attract people by our music instead of seeking to design and lead worship services that match our theology.

But even a bigger problem in our worship services, beyond the kinds of songs we sing, is that we have lost the glory of God in our services.  By trying to attract people by seeker sensitive services, we have lost the glory of God.  His glory has departed, and we have not even noticed!  Let me explain.

God himself must define his own glory (Exodus 34:6-7).  The Lord defines his own glory, and he defines it in terms of his mercy and justice.  God will be glorified in human lives one way or another, either in mercy or in justice.   Every human life will bring God glory in either mercy or justice. 

But these attributes of mercy and justice correspond to the categories of law and gospel.  Sadly, however, it is the law and the gospel that we have stopped proclaiming in our churches in our liturgies and in our preaching.

The Reformation taught that we should always preach law and gospel together, but today, even in Reformed churches, it is hard to learn much about the law: sin, corruption, and our perilous condition apart from Jesus Christ.  In trying to attract people, we have stopped preaching both the law and the gospel, and in doing that the glory of God has left our services, and we have not even noticed.

The Heidelberg Catechism has been criticized by a few people as being too man-centered.  Instead of beginning like the Westsminster Shorter Catechism: "What is man's chief end?  Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever," the Heidelberg starts like this: "What is your only comfort in life and in death?  That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ."  See, the critics say, how man-centered the Heidelberg Catechism is in comparison to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

But what the critics miss is that the Heidelberg Catechism is infused by the glory of God because it keeps law and gospel together.  It refuses to separate the law and the gospel like modern churches do, and because of that it is filled with the glory of God, who defines his glory in terms of mercy and justice.  In 65 of the 129 questions of the Heidelberg, sin and its consequences---what we are saved from---is explicitly mentioned.  The gospel in the Heidelberg Catechism is not separated from the law as is done in many Evangelical and Reformed churches today.  For that reason, the glory of God endues the Heidelberg Catechism, for God is glorified in both his mercy and his justice in humanity.

If we could recover this true way of being Reformed, and stop being "nice" as Scott Clark defines it, then we might see God's glory recovered in our churches for the true comfort of his elect people.  We might also, if the Lord was so pleased, see conversions of men and women who are headed toward the ultimate threat of the law, hell, so that they might obtain the ultimate blessing of the gospel, heaven, where believers will bask in the glory of the Father and the Son forever.

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