David Bentley Hart, “The more of the history of Christian dogma you know, the more you come to see not only the accommodations but the willful, almost cynical, minimalism of doctrinal determinations—and you realize that talk of heresy is language for children. It’s like a child throwing a tantrum—it’s just noise. It’s always a sign of ignorance and of a bad argument. Anyone who thinks he knows the orthodox consensus can always be shown to be wrong.”
Also David Bentley Hart, from the same interview, “It’s absurd to suggest that you can have any actual devotion to who Jesus of Nazareth was and embrace laissez-faire capitalism or the entrepreneurial principle or erecting a border wall and keeping out asylum seekers. National conservatives—the people who think Jesus would have loved the Second Amendment and hated Mexicans—are simply not Christians. There’s nothing about their vision of reality and their relations to their fellow human beings that bears the slightest resemblance to who and what Christ was and what he taught.”
Similar to “Christ Our Redeemer” I adapted Colossians 1:12-23 into a liturgical, corporate recitation for our church. I titled this “Christ Our King”. Our congregation has only been using this for about two years now, but it flows nicely and works well. The first two sentence are to be said by the minister, with the rest being recited by the congregation. You can find a copy of it below.
Let us give thanks to the Father, who has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son.
In Christ, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
By him all things were created:
Things in heaven and on earth,
things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
preeminent in all things.
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
to reconcile all things to himself in Christ
things visible and invisible, whether on earth or in heaven
things visible and invisible,making peace by the blood of his cross
And we, once sinners, estranged and hostile,
Jesus has now reconciled in his body by his death,
to present us holy and blameless and righteous before him,
if we continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast,
not moved from the hope of this gospel.
A few years back I identified a gap in Reformed liturgy: a lack of well-designed, corporate recitation that rehearses redemptive history with a focus on the redemptive work of Christ. Sure, some churches would recite the Westminster or Heidelberg catechisms, but those confessions were not crafted to be recited in the same as the Apostles’ Creed. After considerable conversation with a number of pastors and theologians, I completed a draft of something that worked well. The problem I ran into was its title; something that is corporately recited is generally called a creed, but labeling it “The Redemption Creed” provoked dislike of the whole project from my friends and counselors.
So, when I introduced the recitation into my current congregation, I changed the title to “Christ Our Redeemer” without any other genre modifiers. In the Reformed tradition there are no prescriptions on corporate recitations of faith, so it does not function as a usurpation of either our church’s doctrine or the primacy of the Catholic creeds. It is part of the rotation of the confessions of faith our church makes before we come to the Lord’s Supper. And it works well: the rhythm and structure are conducive to corporate recitation, it’s a good length, and it reflects the core of the Orthodox Protestant tradition on redemption. You can find a copy of it below.
I have an article published at Mere Orthodoxy focusing on the necessity of pastoral work and preparation for the renewal of the church. Below is an excerpt.
Orthodox Protestantism, including my own Presbyterian tradition, has valued God’s ordinances as central to the life, witness, and mission of the church. Public worship on Sunday, composed of faithfully preaching the gospel as given in the scriptures, administering the sacraments, and devotion to prayer have historically characterized the church. While this is the work of the whole church, the responsibility to lead and disciple falls upon the pastor. The faithfulness of the pastor leads to the equipping and health of the church: The pastor’s exposition and application of God’s word, liturgical leadership, and humility in prayer are indispensable tools by which the church’s witness is upheld and mission accomplished…
Much of what ails the church today and has undercut its potency and witness is the loss of basic pastoral competency. The race to the lowest liturgical denominator, along with theologically and biblically illiterate pastors, has left the church weak and its witness murky. No amount of missional recalibration can compensate for this.