Where will all the refugees go? Where is “home?”

Anticipating the flight of Christians faithful to the clear teaching of the Scriptures on marriage, the Roman Catholics are issuing a wide welcome to refugees fleeing the Presbyterian Church (USA).

In a post encouraging Roman Catholics to welcome the return of those who have wandered from “the Church” into Protestantism and ultimately found themselves in a denomination that practices “gay marriage and infanticide,” Mark Shea says “we must make it our business  to welcome them.”

Shea tells his Roman Catholic readers that “as the mainlines continue to bleed out due to outrageous betrayals of the gospel like this, the refugees stream in many directions as they flee such rubbish, and not a few of them head for Rome for the very simple reason that the Church goes on teaching what she always taught.”

Shea is right that many will leave the PCUSA over its most recent actions to authorize gay marriage and its failure to stand clearly with Israel.  And I hope that wherever those who leave go, they will be welcomed and transplanted into a living community of faith where the Gospel of Christ is preached without shame and people are led to lead lives that are worthy of the calling of Christ. But I admit that I hope folks will discern a church home where the essential tenets of the Reformed faith guide the preaching and teaching.

Ask yourself:

Is it clear that the Gospel, the Cross and Jesus are central to the life, worship, witness and ministry of this particular church?

Is God honored as sovereign over all — all decisions, all advocacy positions, all worship practices, all curriculum, all programs, all those in leadership, all in all?

Is the Bible held in its right esteem as the Word of God and actively submitted to in the faith and life of the church and her people?

What other questions are you asking about your church these days?

What are you doing if indeed the Gospel is not preached, God is not honored or the Scriptures are not upheld in the church you call “home?” Let me know here or via Twitter @preslayman





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Undermining the foundation of the Bible: a review of ‘A New New Testament’

newnewtestament1Book review by Carmen Fowler LaBerge (corrected on 8/26/13)

Have you always wished that the Bible said something other than it says? A self-elected group of 19 have done just that. Led by a member of the Jesus Seminar, ordained members of Christian denominations including Episcopal (TEC), Presbyterian (PCUSA), Roman Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Lutheran (ELCA) along with two Jewish rabbis and a yogi, have added 10 additional texts to the New Testament canon of the Scriptures.

The primary orchestrator of the project is Hal Taussig, a visiting professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary. He also serves as professor of early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and co-pastor at Chestnut Hill United Church in Philadelphia. He successfully rebutted two charges of heresy in the United Methodist Church for earlier publications.

Having sought to strip Jesus of His divinity through The Jesus Seminar, Taussig’s latest project seeks to strip the Bible of its authority. He does this by putting together a so-called council of Biblical scholars and denominational leaders, including the past PCUSA General Assembly Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow.  He says of the work in a recent blog post on the subject, “Personally, while I understand that there will be continued backlash about this project, it was a privilege to be a part of it. I only hope that even in the midst of the deepest disagreement, we may all see one another as created and complex children of God.”

The other Presbyterian involved was Margaret Aymer, associate professor of New Testament and area chair of Biblical studies at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga., and a person who is well-known for pursuing her own agenda even at the cost of fundamental fairness.

The 10 texts that were added to the New Testament to comprise a new New Testament are:

  1. The Prayer of Thanksgiving
  2. The Gospel of Thomas
  3. The Acts of the Apostles (alternate to the version written by Luke)
  4. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Book of the Odes of Solomon
  5. The Thunder: Perfect Mind
  6. The Gospel of Mary
  7. The Gospel of Truth
  8. The Prayer of the Apostle Paul
  9. The Acts of Paul and Thecla
  10. The Secret Revelation of John

The publicist for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simmi Aujla, says that the “Key ingredients of this overhaul are 10 forgotten, overlooked, or lost until now” texts and acknowledges that they were selected with an agenda in mind.

The added texts advance the feminist agenda and female sexuality. One text in particular, The Thunder: The Perfect Mind, is a poem in the voice of the divine female, also known as the sacred feminine or the goddess Sophia.  Taussig says of this document, it “reframes what it means to be women and men.”

Aujla says that the added texts were also selected for “the importance of the teachings of Christ, rather than His redemptive death, which has alienated Christians who seek to square their faith with reason.”

In the Preamble, which begins on page 483, Taussig describes the work as a “reimagined early Christian collection.” Notably, there is no mention of God’s inspiration of nor involvement in the formation of the New Testament nor in the process used by the council that produced this new version.

It is no surprise that Taussig does not suggest that people see this book as authoritative. But that’s not the point. It undermines the authority of the New Testament when someone seeks to supplant the Word of God with other words.

He suggests that the book be read with “a spiritual mood and perspective,” taking pains to avoid any reference to the present power of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the study of God’s Words by God’s people. There is no sense of divine revelation, just the reorganization of historic manuscripts into a canon that suits the appetites of a 21st century social agenda.

On page 498 in a discussion of what is gained by the addition of the Secret Revelation of John, Taussig says it “strikes a very different tone for God’s final victory. Unlike the world in flames found in the traditional Revelation to John’s vision of God’s final triumph, the Secret Revelation portrays a consummate ending by virtue of Christ’s successful teaching about God’s compassion and goodness. Instead of the traditional Revelation’s final verses cursing anyone who would change any words, the Secret Revelation finished with John proclaiming Christ’s vision and teaching.”

It is not difficult to see why a group of people with enough hubris to add 10 books to the Bible would prefer a version that did not include a prohibition against the very project they undertook. But of equal significance is to note that instead of supporting a redemptive view of history through God’s ultimate intervention, the new New Testament supports a humanistic worldview that says we can all make it progressively better together.

Nowhere is it acknowledged that the Bible is sacred because it is actually the divinely inspired Word of God. So, from the perspective of those who think they are smarter than the Councils that ultimately sealed the New Testament canon, this council regards it all as merely the words of men and women, and therefore open to their personal manipulation.

A New New Testament is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013; 688 pages; $32.


EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this review identified Union Theological Seminary in New York as affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is not. The editors apologize for the error.

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Pope Francis could foster ecumenism, help decentralize Catholic Church

PopeBy Andrea Madambashi
Pope Francis’ installment as pontiff could lead to a major and significant impact not only in the Catholic Church, but also across all religions as well as the political area, a number of Catholic and Evangelical leaders in Latin America have said.

According to numerous Latino Christian leaders, Pope Francis could help to tackle the drop in adherents in the region, as well as become a bridge between the Catholic Church and evangelicals. His impact may not just stop there though, and they have also suggested that he could help connect the Catholic Church with other faiths, and ultimately decentralize the Catholic Church.

These claims have been made by the Vice President of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches of the Republic of Argentina (ACIERA), Gaston Bruno. In an email to The Christian Post, he suggested that Francis’ election may have come about after Cardinals took into account the recent evangelical growth in the region, as well as the large number of Catholics in South America.

“Of course, this reality weighed in a certain way in determining the election of the new Roman Pontiff,” Bruno wrote to CP.

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Baptism agreement articulates a common understanding

BaptismLeaders of five branches of the Christian Church have reached an agreement to formally recognize each other’s baptisms.

The baptism agreement was signed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and American Protestant denominations including the Christian Reformed Church in North America, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

The denominations signed the “Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism” Jan. 29 at the annual meeting of Christian Churches Together in the USA, an ecumenical association, at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin, Texas.

The agreement comes after seven years of dialogue but centuries of difference.

The Rev. David Gambrell, of the PCUSA Office of Theology and Worship, explained the significance of the agreement.

“The Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism is an important landmark in ecumenical relations,” Gambrell wrote in an email response to The Layman. “At the local, practical level, this means that Reformed congregations will no longer re-baptize persons who were previously baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, and vice versa. At the broader, theological level, this agreement offers a firm foundation for further conversations on Christian unity, as we seek to respond to Jesus’ prayer ‘that they may all be one’” (John 17:21).

“Equally significant is the collaboration among Reformed denominations that led to this agreement. This was a valuable opportunity for the Reformed partners in the dialogue – the Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ – to clarify and articulate a common understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism.”

According to The Christian Post, the document jointly signed to recognize baptisms reads, “Together we affirm that, by the sacrament of Baptism, a person is truly incorporated into the Body of Christ (I Corinthians  12: 13 and 27; Ephesians 1:22-23), the church. Baptism establishes the bond of unity existing among all who are part of Christ’s body and is therefore the sacramental basis for our efforts to move toward visible unity.”

The document continues, “We rejoice at the common faith we share and affirm in this document. We understand that the journey toward full, visible unity depends on openness to the grace of God and humility before the initiatives of God’s spirit among us.”

Christianity Today and Catholic Culture reported the document also indicates that water and a reference to the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” as found in Matthew 28: 19-20, are required for the mutual recognition of baptisms. Gambrell indicated that remains consistent with the PCUSA Directory for Worship, which includes the same instructions.

Additionally, Gambrell pointed out that the Reformed/Catholic Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism asserts that, “Baptism is to be conferred only once, because those who are baptized are decisively incorporated into the Body of Christ,” which also is in accordance with the PCUSA Directory for Worship.

Gambrell noted that the Reformed bodies still have some other issues to address.

“The PCUSA and other Reformed denominations have been engaged in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church for decades, at both the national and international levels,” Gambrell  wrote. “This agreement was a product of the seventh round of Reformed/Catholic dialogue in the United States, which took place from 2003 to 2010. The seventh round also examined our respective theologies and practices around the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, but did not result in an agreement to share the Lord’s Table. The eighth round of this dialogue, which began last month, will explore questions around ministry and ecclesiology. These remain some of the most challenging issues between us.”

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Calvin on Lent and Ministry to Roman Catholics

CathedralThe life and ministry of John Calvin provides insight into a range of ministry related issues—from biblical exegesis to training pastors to the effect of preaching upon civil government. But what, if anything, does Calvin teach us about ministry among Roman Catholics? It turns out that he teaches us a valuable lesson.

Contrary to those who would portray Calvin as a clerical despot, bent on micro-managing religious practice in his Genevan fiefdom, there is instead much evidence demonstrating his concern for the outward thrust of evangelism. Through each successive edition of his Institutes, for example, he retained his dedication to the French king. Some believe that this signified Calvin’s commitment to nurturing the Protestant church in France, a movement for which he equipped pastors and missionaries. Whether it was in forming the Geneva Academy in 1559 (to train church leaders), his tireless routine of writing letters of encouragement to oppressed Huguenots, or in caring for refugees who had escaped the fires of persecution, the centrifugal impulse of Calvin’s Christianity moved beyond the borders of Geneva and into the world.


For more about this article, check The Gospel Coalition link.

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