Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Coy Smile

As I turned her stroller onto the sidewalk, I leaned down to catch her attention and asked, “Who made you?”

She shifted her head up at me with a coy smile.

I continued the one-sided conversation, “God.”

She still smiled at me with those deep brown eyes and soon lost interest as most fourteen-month old children do.

But that didn’t slow me down. For weeks I repeated the same old question that thousands of my Puritan forefathers asked their children.

And she continued to greet me with a coy smile.

Three months go by with varying levels of consistency on my part. But something happened:“Who made you?...”

She replied with a coy smile, “God.”

! I was excited! So I asked her again. And she gave the same response.

I couldn’t wait to tell others. Grabbing my wife, I proudly asked our daughter the same question. And she replied with that coy smile, “God.” Mom was excited. And of course, Mom had been working at the same goal. Training our child in the fear and nurture of the Lord was a cooperative effort.

At church we quickly presented our child to our spiritually adopted grandparents. I excitedly explained that the two of us had been training her to know about God.

“I know,” replied grandma. “I’ve been teaching her that question at church as well.”

My excitement froze; I stared at her, thinking, of course. In my excitement and focus on the task of instruction, I had forgotten what I already knew: that God gave a helping hand to the biological family.

It is the family of God (1 Timothy 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:19). Carrying one another’s burdens and even instructing the younger are commands of God (Galatians 6:10; Titus 2:3, 4)—commands that should be counted as privileges between Christians.

Now with the confidence that I am not alone, as I turn her stroller onto the sidewalk, I lean down to catch her attention and ask, “What else did God make?”

She shifts her head up at me with a coy smile.

I continue the one-sided conversation, “All things.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

She Called Me "Dadda"

Supposedly, a young child's first words are "dadda" or "momma"--or so I've heard.

That certainly has not been the case for my sixteen-month old daughter.

The first word she learned to understand consistently--and appropriately--was "no".  She's not allowed to walk here, she can't touch that and she must wait for dinner.

Quickly following "no"' was "please". In this case, she learned the word as sign-language--as well as "milk" and "all done". She was taught "lets pray" as well, clasping her little fingers together before meal time.

Here first verbal word was "baby". She sees a Gerber baby on the bottle and say "baby". She sees a child and says "baby".  There is also "dog" (or "oof, oof") and there is the ever present 'hi'.

Surely after such an extensive vocabulary the words 'mom' or 'dad' would quickly follow.

Not so.

She soon learned "water" ("wa"). And like most toddlers she enjoys a good walk ("wok").

She then picked up "puffs" and "clock" and "hat". But no "dadda".

A few weeks ago she identified the container of baby oil as "o-oi-l".  And just the other day she finally put a word to the helium-filled, string-tied rubber toys she is fond of as "ba".

In fact, she even knows the name of a favorite doll, Sally as "Sal"--endearment for a doll but no "dadda"!

How did this vocabulary list grow these many months? Through the hard and diligent work of "dadda" and "momma"!  We'd point at an object and state the name. And we did that as consistently as possible.

Repetition is the mother of learning after all. Yet still no "dadda".

Until today. She walked (or rather stumbled) around the room as usual but suddenly pointed at me and said "Dadda"! In shock, I stared at her while my wife pointed at me and asked, "Whose that"?

Renee raised her arm with certainty, pointed at me and opened her mouth: "Dadda".

I stared in wonder. And I smiled. She called me "Dadda".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reformation Day Conference, Colorado Springs

Get your calendars out: the 3rd Annual Colorado Springs Reformation Day Conference is coming your way!

Dr. Richard Gamble will be the main speaker, covering the life of John Calvin. It promises to be not only informative but applicable--he was my early church history teacher, so I have some experience.

Besides, I'll be a break-out speaker after the lunch session, explaining the history of Christian education.

October 29, 30th...more info here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reformed School Curriculums

Dear friends,

It is hard for Reformed Christians to find an entire school curriculum that offers faithful books in line with the Reformation. Here are the two companies that offer Reformed curriculum for schooling at home or elsewhere, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. They would even be useful to supplement any current schooling methods.

1. Christian Liberty Academy and Press
   Although these are two different websites, they are operated by the same organization. This organization began with a Reformed church in the late 60s (and still associated with that church I believe). The first, the Academy, using the CLASS system, includes a full-curriculum (with alternative textbooks if desired) that is semi-flexible. The family registers with the group and they grade the tests. And includes a parent/teacher planner with scheduled testing and mile markers.

   The Press is not registration oriented. You grade your own tests. And it includes the same materials (such as Louis Berkhof's Manual of Christian Doctrine--a high school systematic theology).  It too includes the full curriculum and planner or you can buy individual books and custom make your approach.

2. Covenant Home also provides an auditing service if you so desire. It can operate as an "umbrella school" to issue diplomas as well. And it offers a flexible approach to different child learning levels. Grade ten includes Calvin's Institutes. Individual books or an entire curriculum per grade level are available. A day-by-day planner also exists. Covenant Home's distinctive approaches are here. It includes a diagonistic testing program to help tailor the curriculum.

You can request a catalog from either company. Prices vary from 150$ a grade/curriculum to 670$

Naturally, I have not read every book offered. Nor am I familiar with all of them. I do not know if the history and bible books include pictures of Christ. And, ironically, I did notice that there is no systematic catechizing in the lower grades. The Westminster Confession of Faith is not covered at all. Even so, these offers are a great start or finish for your family.

It will take some time to look into these, but I think it worth the effort.

yours in Christ,

PS. Feel free to pass this on to others.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Faith and Liberty 2010 Conference in Denver

This should be informative to say the least:

Two former Presidential candidates will sound off on the current economic and political climate at the Faith and Liberty 2010 Conference in Denver, Colorado on July 24, 2010. Former UN Ambassador Alan Keyes and Pastor Chuck Baldwin are keynote speakers for the Faith and Liberty 2010 Conference. Website here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Predicting the Future

“…a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion…will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief…which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”
A. A. Hodge, Princeton Professor, 1887

How was professor Hodge able to foresee such wretched consequences of godless, centralized education? Hodge’s ability to see one-hundred years into the future was based upon a solid Christian tradition arising from the Protestant Reformation. That tradition rooted itself into the soil of Scripture Alone.

Is there a question about who should educate children? The Bible has an answer for that.
Is there a question about what a child should learn? The Bible has an answer for that.

We need not feed at the trough of humanistic thinking to deal with the important questions of today. Rather, we should seek out the Words of Life, the Bible.
The hard part is understanding how to properly digest this heavenly Food. Professor Hodge was able to absorb the truth of it so well that he foresaw the doom of America. Again, how?

The fact of the Bible alone as the source of truth and practice also came with the tools of interpretation and application needed to dig into the Truth. The Puritans refined these tools (which are in the Bible itself) into eight simple rules; one of which states: “where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded.” Ephesians 4:28 offers a clear picture of this truth: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.”

When God states that murder is forbidden, it also means that preserving life is commanded. If we are not to lie, we are to tell the truth instead. And when He commands that God should be the center of our lives and children should be instructed in the fear of the Lord, He forbids education “separated from religion.”

If we wish to see one-hundred years into the future, Christians need to return to their spiritual roots in the Bible. And they need to learn how to once again feed upon the Word for the expansion of the Kingdom, just like professor Hodge.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Ray Study of Homeschooler Demographics

Educator and research analyst, Gaither, reviews the details of last years latest homeschooling study by Dr. Ray's NHERI organization:

"This is the latest of a long line of nearly identical studies Ray has been performing for decades now at fairly even intervals. In two previous posts I reviewed this large body of work, which you can read here and here. This new study tries very hard to overcome one of the most persistent deficiencies of his previous work (and the 1999 Rudner study)–the near exclusive reliance on HSLDA’s advertisement to recruit subjects, leading to unrepresentative samples. This time around Ray tried to recruit families from outside of the HSLDA orbit. Did he succeed?"  Continued here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ligonier 2010 Conference Webcast

Watch the Live Webcast of Ligonier Ministries' 2010 National Conference

Live Webcast

Thousands of people will gather in Orlando this week for worship, fellowship, encouragement, study, and prayer, as we study some of the toughest questions Christians face. Joining Dr. R.C. Sproul will be respected pastors, theologians, and leaders Alistair Begg, Michael Horton, Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Burk Parsons, R.C. Sproul Jr. and Derek Thomas, all of whom will equip us to answer questions that all Christians and non-Christians find perplexing.

Watch It Live on Thursday, June 17

This year, we have partnered with to provide the webcast. We will be live streaming the conference for free (over 22,000 have watched in previous years), and will again have a Spanish language simulcast online as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Helping Foreigners with Education

What should Christians do for those financially poor African families? Right now in some countries many of them send their children to school hundreds of miles away so they can learn to make money.  While there many are corrupted by the schools.  Or should they be encouraged to homeschool, working side-by-side with their fathers, digging ditches but staying morally safe.

I think most of the readers would immediately see the fallacy here.  Are these the only two options?

Turning the dial back, let us examine what the Puritan forefathers did. The famous Congregationalist, John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians, set up schools. And helped the families learn to work.  And, more importantly, preached the Gospel and catechized the tribes, children and all.

The Presbyterians followed the same course. Even into the 1800s various denominations furthered the education of the natives through local schooling.

So, a possible solution to this false dilemma is obvious: give them schools.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Sock Game

"Here you go--nice and warm." Mom stood up, satisfied that baby's feet would stay warm in the cold night air.

The baby smiled that crooked smile children offer when only two teeth are visible. Then the little baby girl looked curiously down at her feet. She took one awkward reach toward the toes, missed them and tried again.


Proceeding with methodological patience only observed in a Ph.D. student deep in an experiment, the tiny child took one sock off. And reached for the other.

"What are you doing you cutie?" Mom lovingly admonished.

"Here, put your sock back on. I know you like to be naked but the socks will keep you warm."

Quickly wrapping the baby in a blanket while secured snugly in the portable car seat, Mom moved the child into the car. After securing her in the back seat, Mom sat in the driver's seat and drove to the store.

When Mom opened the back door, she was surprised to see both socks off. "?--little girl, whatever are you doing? Aren't your feet cold?"

Back at home, baby girl's clothes were changed after a slight indiscretion. As Mom put the onsie over here head, the child put her hands into the sleeve holes.

"Good girl. You know you gotta wear clothes and you're helping Mommy."

But as soon as the socks went on, the baby tried to pull one off. She reached for the other sock, determined to be bare-foot in the dead of winter.

"You silly goose! You don't mind your clothes on but you want those socks off!" Mom gently chided the girl.

"Well, patience is the call of motherhood. I will keep putting your socks on until you learn that you need them." Thus the contest began in earnest.

Mom puts socks on wiggly feet and baby just as certainly takes them off. Mom tries tighter socks. Baby succeeds just the same. Mom tries longer socks. Baby succeeds just the same. Mom tries to distract here. And baby...well, you get the idea.

It is now quickly becoming Summer. With temperatures much nicer, Mom is less zealous for the socks. The baby is still zealous for the bare-foot condition.

By now the contest morphed into a game. Or perhaps the baby always thought it was a game. Either way, Mom is no less pleased with her cute baby girl.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One Year of Christian Nurture

This blog started out with a bang.

Apparently, writing about common misunderstandings of homeschooling is taboo in some circles. But I persevered.

I first started with a five part mini-series on the history of Christian education.
I also researched the surprising conclusions of homeschooling statistics, summarized here.  The claims of revival among homeschooling by radical homeschoolers was challenged as well.

Much of this site is historical. The early 1800s understanding of home education was summarized here. What early American presbyterian thought about private schooling and Sunday schools was explored as well. The irony of the revival of Rouseau still stands as a challenging article.

I explained how I was homeschooled. I looked at questions such as: what if everyone homeschooled?  I even defended homeschooling.

A Christian manifesto was analyzed as well. I countered Gary North's diatribe against classical education here. Another historical error was brought out in Selling Webster's Dictionary.

Over all, I was quite busy. And I hope, dear reader, these articles will change the way you view education.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Aasen's Homeschooling Summary & Analysis

Here is an interesting article:

"Aasen, veteran homeschooling mother of five in Washington State, here summarizes the basics of homeschooling research.  She leads off with the 2007 NCES data that estimated there to be around 1.5 million homeschoolers in the U.S.  She describes the diversity of motives, pedagogies, and types of people who homeschool.  She cites Brian Ray’s NHERI research to show that..." 

[continued here]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Growing up environmental and Christian

I grew up environmentally active.  And never knew it.

I was taught to pick up trash. My parents even warned me they would stop the car and make me walk back to pick up any defenestrated trash (it never happened, because I believed them.).

I also walked everywhere.

(continued here).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Free Music...for Education

That's right--I like free as much as the next guy.
[And I added "education" just to put it on this blog :-)  Well, Christian nurture certainly involves various forms of relaxation and even play. And for me, music can be both.]

But I like free things that are also useful and high quality (such demands!).

And by God's grace, I have found two sources of free stuff that's useful and high quality.

For myself, I like good background music when I write. I could use my CD player in my computer but I like mixing things up (multi-CD player anyone?). So, for a while, I ripped most of my old tapes and a few CDs. But that takes time. Then you have to pick a number of MP3s for the mediaplayer to rotate through.

Ha! Why even do that much work when Pandora or Slacker Radio does it for free!

Slacker radio is streaming music based upon genre selection. All you need is a free account (give 'em your junk email address--you do have one, right? Use hotmail for that). And then you pick a station (based upon genre) or look up a song or artist and turn it into a "station". The songs will flow from similar artists and songs.

You are able to pause or skip the current song. You are given so many "skips" before you run out. You can also tag favorite songs or reject the bad ones. It has some visual ads and occasional audio ads too. [A PR from Slacker reminded me, "Once you have created a great station, you can share it via email, Facebook, or even embed the station on your website or blog."]

I ran across Pandora two years ago. And I have never looked back. It is based upon a Music Genome Project that organizes songs by 40 different characteristics. This means that its stations are not so much genre centered as organized by the greatest number of similar characteristics as defined by the Project.

Even so, I prefer Pandora over Slacker. It has fewer ads (I think) and you not only get to skip songs (a limited number of times of course!) you can bookmark the better ones, use them to create a new station or order them.

You can also mix stations (can't in Slacker). Or mix by genre. Or individually chose stations within a genre mix. You can delete stations if they start mixing in songs that detract from your original intent.

And as an added bonus...if you have Firefox you can add the Prism app.  This wonderfully amazing app (yes, I like it) can convert any website into an independent web-browser, with a desktop icon. I just double-click the shortcut on my desktop in Windows and up pops Pandora without having to open a new tab in Firefox. (It's also good for email or google calendar).

I think even non technophiles will enjoy these goodies.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Necessity of the Christian School

"The Christian school is to be favored for two reasons. In the first place, it is important for American liberty; in the second place, it is important for the propagation of the Christian religion. These two reasons are not equally important; indeed, the latter includes the former as it includes every other legitimate human interest. But I want to speak of these two reasons in turn."

J. Gresham Machen

(continued here)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?

The Shorter Catechism is, perhaps, not very easy to learn. And very certainly it will not teach itself. Its framers were less careful to make it easy than to make it good. As one of them, Lazarus Seaman, explained, they sought to set down in it not the knowledge the child has, but the knowledge the child ought to have. And they did not dream that anyone could expect it to teach itself. They committed it rather to faithful men who were zealous teachers of the truth, ‘to be,’ as the Scottish General Assembly puts it in the Act approving it, ‘a Directory for catechizing such as are of a weaker capacity,’ as they sent out the Larger Catechism ‘to be a Directory for catechizing such as have made some proficiency in the knowledge of the grounds of religion.’

No doubt it requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the Shorter Catechism. It requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the grounds of any department of knowledge. Our children — some of them at least — groan over even the primary arithmetic and find sentence-analysis a burden. Even the conquest of the art of reading has proved such a task that ‘reading without tears’ is deemed an achievement. We think, nevertheless, that the acquisition of arithmetic, grammar and reading is worth the pains it costs the teacher to teach, and the pain it costs the learner to learn them. Do we not think the acquisition of the grounds of religion worth some effort, and even, if need be, some tears?

For, the grounds of religion must be taught and learned as truly as the grounds of anything else. Let us make no mistake here. Religion does not come of itself: it is always a matter of instruction. The emotions of the heart, in which many seem to think religion too exclusively to consist, ever follow the movements of the thought. Passion for service cannot take the place of passion for truth, or safely outrun the acquisition of truth; for it is dreadfully possible to compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, to find we have made him only a ‘son of hell.’ This is why God establishes and extends his Church by the ordinance of preaching; it is why we have Sunday schools and Bible classes. Nay, this is why God has grounded his Church in revelation. He does not content himself with sending his Spirit into the world to turn men to him. He sends his Word into the world as well. Because, it is from knowledge of the truth, and only from the knowledge of the truth, that under the quickening influence of the Spirit true religion can be born. Is it not worth the pains of the teacher to communicate, the pain of the scholar to acquire this knowledge of the truth? How unhappy the expedient to withhold the truth — that truth under the guidance of which the religious nature must function if it is to function aright — that we may save ourselves these pains, our pupils this pain!

An anecdote told of Dwight L. Moody will illustrate the value to the religious life of having been taught these forms of truth. He was staying with a Scottish friend in London, but suppose we let the narrator tell the story. ‘A young man had come to speak to Mr. Moody about religious things. He was in difficulty about a number of points, among the rest about prayer and natural laws. ‘What is prayer?,’ he said, ‘I can’t tell what you mean by it!’ They were in the hall of a large London house. Before Moody could answer, a child’s voice was heard singing on the stairs. It was that of a little girl of nine or ten, the daughter of their host. She came running down the stairs and paused as she saw strangers sitting in the hall. ‘Come here, Jenny,’ her father said, ‘and tell this gentleman ‘What is prayer.’ ’ Jenny did not know what had been going on, but she quite understood that she was now called upon to say her Catechism. So she drew herself up, and folded her hands in front of her, like a good little girl who was going to ‘say her questions,’ and she said in her clear childish voice: ‘Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.’ ‘Ah! That’s the Catechism!’ Moody said, ‘thank God for that Catechism.’ ’

How many have had occasion to ‘thank God for that Catechism!’ Did anyone ever know a really devout man who regretted having been taught the Shorter Catechism — even with tears — in his youth? How its forms of sound words come reverberating back into the memory, in moments of trial and suffering, of doubt and temptation, giving direction to religious aspirations, firmness to hesitating thought, guidance to stumbling feet: and adding to our religious meditations an ever-increasing richness and depth. ‘The older I grow,’ said Thomas Carlyle in his old age, ‘and now I stand on the brink of eternity, the more comes back to me the first sentence in the Catechism, which I learned when a child, and the fuller and deeper its meaning becomes: ‘What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’ Robert Louis Stevenson, too, had learned this Catechism when a child; and though he wandered far from the faith in which it would guide his feet, he could never escape from its influence, and he never lost his admiration (may we not even say, his reverence) for it. Mrs. Sellars, a shrewd, if kindly, observer, tells us in her delightful ‘Recollections’ that Stevenson bore with him to his dying day what she calls ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’; and he himself shows how he esteemed it when he set over against one another what he calls the ‘English’ and the ‘Scottish’ Catechisms — the former, as he says, beginning by ‘tritely inquiring ‘What is your name?,’ ’ the latter by ‘striking at the very roots of life with ‘What is the chief end of man?’ and answering nobly, if obscurely, ‘To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’ ’

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

From The Westminster Teacher, April, 1909.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Reformed View of Education

"The Reformed community, we conclude, must follow its own educational program. Much as it appreciates what is done by brethren of non-Reformed Christian persuasion, it is on the Reformed basis alone that a comprehensive Christian view of life can be set over against the world of unbelief. Only the Reformed view shows the full power of Christianity in meeting the challenge of the wisdom of the world and in offering men, with the pleading voice of the Christ who wept over the multitudes of Jerusalem, the reward of their labor for this life and the life to come. The Reformed community takes no delight in building alone. It takes no delight in living in ecclesiastical isolation. But if there is reason for it to live and to work alone ecclesiastically then there is the same reason for working alone educationally. And yet our hope is not to work alone forever. Our aim is the ultimate good of all who love the gospel and all those who should love the truth."

Cornelius Van Til

(continued here)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Children in the Hands of the Arminians

"The children certainly must be a source of gravest concern to a consistently Arminian reasoner. The fundamental principle of Arminianism is that salvation hangs upon a free, intelligent choice of the individual will; that salvation is, in fact, the result of the acceptance of God by man, rather than of the acceptance of man by God. The logic of this principle involves in hopeless ruin all who, by reason of tenderness of years, are incapable of making such a choice. On this teaching, all those who die in infancy should perish, while those who survive the years of immaturity might just as well be left to themselves until they arrive at the age of intelligent option...

And that is to say, those who die in infancy, if they are saved at all, must be saved on the Calvinistic principle of monergistic grace."

B.B. Warfield

Continue here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

VIII. Means of Grace: The Maturation Rite

VIII. Understanding the Means of Grace: The Maturation Rite

Why do I label this the "maturation rite"? It is thus dubbed in order to highlight the Presbyterian understanding in opposition to the paedocommunion position. Paedocommunion so emphasizes the objective element of the sacraments that the subjective and reflective demands are watered down. Infants, toddlers, and young seven-year-olds are encouraged to partake of a meal that requires spiritual discernment as a cornerstone of participation. To "discern" the Lord's body is a spiritual activity that moves beyond simply balancing the church budget. In fact, death is specifically attached to this Meal for those who flippantly or in ignorance partake thereof.

But I get ahead of myself. Let me define the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist (the thanksgiving):

SCQ96: What is the Lord's supper?
A96: The Lord's supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth;[1] and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.[2]
1. Luke 22:19-20 2. I Cor. 10:16

The long and short of this summary is that 1) Christ's death (not his resurrection) is especially set forth in visible and tangible elements. This is the sign-signification aspect of the Supper. Thus, in common with Memorialists (who believe the Meal is only a mere recollection of what Christ accomplished), Presbyterians affirm there is a memorial aspect to the Supper.

But there is more. 2) "worthy receivers" receive the body and blood of Christ. The work of the cross as accomplished through his body and death is received by faith alone (WCF 29.7), There may be real spiritual growth that may accompany or follow the taking of the Supper. This is the seal, the confirmation of our faith and increase of our faith in Christ. This is denied by the Memorialists (most Charismatics and Baptists).

On the other hand, the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation is denied because Presbyterians deny the bread and wine become the body and blood o f Christ. Nor do we so affix grace to the Supper that it attends every administration of it almost regardless of the spiritual state of the recipient (some Federal Visionists). There is a proper proportion of the Supper in its objective and subjective dimensions in classical Presbyterian dogma (see Words of Life, here).

This view of the Supper has been taught and is known by many of us--but how many know of the requirements for the Supper? It is not to be taken by just anyone. In fact, the preparatory aspect (both before, during and after the Meal) was taken so seriously during Calvin's time that the session or pastor interviewed the members before administering the sacrament. This seriousness is reflected almost one hundred years later in the Shorter Catechism:

Q97: What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper?
A97: It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord's supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of
their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves. (cp. Larger Catechism Q171 for more detail).

Before coming to the Lord's Supper examination is required: discernment of Christ's body (what He did for us), exercising faith and repentance (as daily activities), loving our neighbors (especially the church) and striving in obedience. This is quite a list.

However, the catechism is not stating that perfection is required (cp. LCQ 172), but it is differentiating between the ignorant (children) and the worthy recipients (LCQ 173).

2 Chronicles 30:18-20 brings the issue of proper preparation for the Supper into the foreground. Israel was sick because they had not cleansed themselves (or prepared themselves) for the Old Testament sacraments. After a prayer of forgiveness, the sickness was removed. In like manner, 1 Corinthians 11:30 notes that "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." This is a sober warning. And our Confession takes it seriously.

What this means in practice is a proper mediation, a self-reflection about the state of our souls. Perhaps on a Friday or Saturday night, one could find a quiet time and pray, examine the Bible passage and ask the Lord for more grace. Reflect upon life: are there relationships that need reconciliation? Are you clinging to Christ as your righteousness? Are you seeking repentance? Are you fighting sin, however incomplete your success? This is not an exhaustive nor minimal list. One cannot give a 1-2-3 step as a law to bind all consciences.

The Lord's Supper is a special time not unlike attending a suit-and- tie meal with one's family. Yes, every day you should eat with your family (not unlike weekly preaching), but on occasion a special time requiring special instruction and preparation is required to celebrate the family. Here, we are celebrating Christ and His death. It is a solemn occasion requiring holy awe; yet a humble boldness is also required lest we think too much about ourselves and withdraw from the Supper.

I will quote from J. W. Alexander (from Remember Him) as a proper balance to pre-Communion examination:

"But special counsel is necessary for those who tend to form adverse judgments of their own state. Realize that you are looking for the reality and not the perfection, or even eminence of piety. Life exists in the infant as well as the robust man. Remember that all graces are not always developed in the same degree. Do not be misled by the experience of others. There is infinite diversity in the operations of the Spirit. Do not yield to alarm because you do not have the feelings which others have, or any certain order of exercises; but let the sure Word of God alone be your scales, standard, and touchstone." (p.15)

Understanding the Means of Grace Series:

I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  Foolishness of God
VI. What is a Sacrament?
VII.The Initiatory Rite

Monday, February 1, 2010

VII. Means of Grace: The Initiatory Rite

VII. Understanding the Means of Grace: The Initiatory Rite

Having explained that a sacrament is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace--a sign outwardly displaying what the inward reality should be and a seal testifying of God's faithfulness and encouraging our faith--we proceed to Baptism.

As an initiatory rite, Baptism brings one into the Church visible. This is not seriously debated by any Protestant. As a sign of regeneration, it portrays the truth of the Spirit's work in the lives of His people. As a seal, it confirms our adoptions as children of God. These truths are less known. So, as the goal is more instructional than polemic, let us define our terms:

Q94: What is baptism?
A94: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,[1] doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace,[2] and our engagement to be the Lord's.[3]
1. Matt. 28:19; 2. Rom. 6:3; 3. Rom. 6:4

It is 1) a "washing with the water"-meaning that the mode presumably should follow the Biblical pattern. Historically, the Reformed (both Presbyterian, Anglican and Congregational) have understood that mode to follow the prophecies of the Older Testament, pouring or sprinkling (just as the Spirit was promised, Ez. 36, Acts 2). This "washing" 2) signifies, or symbolizes or points to our engrafting into Christ, partaking of His benefits and the demand to be the Lord's own in thought, word & deed. In parallel with the signifying (at least for the elect), there is 3) a sealing aspect to baptism (as just explained in part 6). It more confirms our consciences (increases our subjective awareness) of our part in Christ & all His benefits. As a seal it does not transmit grace, it confirms what is already ours. It highlights what is already ours. It strengthens what is already ours. That is why it is dubbed a "means of grace," for it increases saving faith (cp. WCF 14:1).

Naturally, just as baptism may be meaningless to some adult converts who publicly profess Christ (but inwardly are full of dead man's bones), so too, children may never be regenerate (cp. WCF 28.5). Yet in both instances, they were baptized. This is because baptism does not regenerate nor transmit saving faith to the recipient. That is the work of the Spirit. And the Spirit may work spiritual life before, during or after baptism because His ways are inscrutable (John 3:5, 8). Again, this is a Presbyterian dogma: "Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated" (WCF 28.5).

The fact that children are given the sign of Baptism in many Protestant churches (Anglican, Congregationalists & Presbyterians) is because of Abraham (Gen. 17:7) & Peter. Yes, I said Peter. Note Acts2:38-39:

Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

The promise-the Gospel-is "to you and to your children." Just as the Gospel call is given to all, yet only those who are born-again will respond (John 3), so the call is especially given to those children of Covenant households, yet only the elect will respond. The children have greater illumination; hence, they have greater responsibility. To whom much is given much is required. They must own their baptism through public confession.

And that moral truth is the basis of question 167 of the Larger Catechism:

"How is our Baptism to be improved by us?
Answer: The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others..."

What this entails is the fact that our baptism is not a relic of our past. Although objective insofar as God is publicly declaring our entrance into the Church, it is also subjective insofar as it is part of our past and conscience. Our baptism (whether as an infant or an adult) is for our comfort ("in the time of temptation") & our encouragement as we are faced with "the administration of it to others..."

The answer continues in detail how both of these are accomplished (with a plethora of verses!): by considering what baptism signifies and seals; by humbling ourselves for not living faithfully; by "growing up to assurance of pardon of sin..."; by clinging to our spiritual baptism into Christ's death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5); by living in faith; by obeying the call to holiness; by walking in the brotherly love because of our unity in the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).

Although justification and regeneration should not be confused with baptism, baptism is for our own good. It should encourage us as part of our overall sanctification in righteousness. It should be part and parcel of our living in obedience (1 John 2:3ff.). The Spirit uses this tool to point to His work; confirm our faith; thus having begun in grace, we should continue in grace.

Understanding the Means of Grace Series:

I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  Foolishness of God
VI. What is a Sacrament?
VII.The Initiatory Rite

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Sneaky Eight Month Old

She smiled her sweet smile--that innocent smile--up at Mom.

"Open up, baby-girl," Mom sweetly coxed.

The Baby opened her mouth wide, taking in the tasty sensation of food, "HMMmmmm..."  While swallowing, she turned her head to the left, straining to watch the morning weather--she liked the pretty colors so.

"No," Mom reprimanded.  She quickly swiveled her head toward Mom. Looking intently (having pouting lips and furrowed eyebrows) at Mom, she just as quickly smiled.

"Have some more food," Mom continued, scooping more carrots onto the Gerber spoon.  The Baby moved her head to the left again, halting half-way when Mom reminded her again: "No t.v."  She slowly moved her head back toward the spoon.  Looking at it, she opened her mouth for more goodies.

By now, she knew the house rule: no t.v. watching while eating.  Even with the, she would look for more amazing colors.  But of late, she looked less often when Mom was watching her.

Today that changed.

While Mom went for more food, Baby tried a "new" tactic. She sneaked a peek.  She thought Mom didn't notice. But the Baby quickly learned what all children learn: Moms have eyes on the back of their heads.

Monday, January 18, 2010

VI. Means of Grace: What Exactly Is a Sacrament?

VI. Understanding the Means of Grace: What Exactly Is a Sacrament?

The first thing I thought when I first heard the word 'sacrament' come out of the mouth of a Presbyterian was "Roman Catholic"! I suspect I am not the last. However, simply reading the writings of the Reformed readily dispel any such notions. In the first place, the Romish church understands the sacraments as mechanical means of obtaining grace; explicit faith is not a requisite. Pull the lever and out comes more infused grace.

In contrast, question 91 of the Shorter Catechism asks how the sacraments function: "The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them;[1] but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them."

Thus, any mechanistic view of the sacraments are precluded before the Catechism even defines them! Romish sacerdotalism is ruled out.

But, then, what is a sacrament? The Shorter Catechism summarizes the Biblical doctrine of the sacraments thusly:

A92: A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented,[1] sealed, and applied to believers.[2]
1. Gen. 17:10 2. Rom. 4:11

It is "sensible"-pertaining to the senses of sight, touch, feel and taste; it is a sign-representing outwardly those inward realities. And it is more than a sign. To stop here is to endorse "memorialism," a view that rejects the sealing aspect of the sacraments and emphasizes the human-response element. (Many Christians do not realize that God is present in worship with His Word. There is an objective dimension, not simply a human side only. )

However, if it is granted that the Older Testament was the church in infancy (Gal. 4:1ff.), with a body of spiritual truths to imitate (1 Cor. 10:1ff.), then Paul's contention that circumcision was a "seal of the righteousness of the faith" that Abraham had before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:11) demonstrates that the sacraments of the New Testament are for substance the same as the Old (I Cor. 10:1-4; Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12; cp. WCF 27:5). They were signs and seals for the saints of Old as well as the New; the outward trappings have simply changed.

In short, they are instruments-means-used by God to seal our faith. They help us grow in the Spirit. Our Creator-Father made us with a body. So, simply from the creation account alone we should understand that material things are not wrong in and of themselves. And because of the weakness of our flesh, God uses simple and despised means to strengthen our faith. Men mock preaching, for is it not mere sound-waves bouncing upon the ear? So, too, some Christians despise the sacraments as so much materialistic activity. Perhaps the fear is that to understand the sacraments as means of grace, as seals of redemption, is to follow the path to Rome.

Fear not. The Bible and any informed Presbyterian knows that the sacraments have no power in themselves. Faith is needed. Saving faith "is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word,[3] by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened" (WCF 14:1). The sacraments are not converting ordinances. They save no one. The Spirit especially uses the Word for that. Rather, the sacraments increase our weak faith. God stoops to our level and kindly draws us through audio and visual means. He is encouraging us, saying that He understands our frailties, our doubts.

They are not merely memorials; they are more. They are not merely signs; they are more. As a seal firmly confirms upon our conscience (1 Pet. 3:21) the truth of the content of the letter, so the sacraments confirm the truth of the Word. It is sometimes described as a hug or a kiss that shows "I-really-mean-it"-a token of that Communion already enjoyed through the Word.

"A college graduate receives a diploma to which an official seal is affixed. The seal is of benefit to the recipient, not the giver. The seal does not make the recipient an education person, however; it merely declares officially that the authorities so regard him. The message of Ahasuerus [Est. 3:12] was authentic without the seal; it actually was the king's decree. The seal was added to convince the king's subjects that the message really was his. It is so with the sacraments. Sacraments do not cause grace. Neither is grace dependent upon the sacraments. The sacrament is of benefit only to that man who is the receiver of grace. It is of benefit because it makes known, or declares, the salvation which the believer receives distinct from the sacrament. It is a confirming testimony to the believer concerning what he has received." [The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, G. I. Williamson, p. 200ff.]

Understanding the Means of Grace Series:

I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  Foolishness of God
VI. What is a Sacrament?
VII.The Initiatory Rite

Monday, January 11, 2010

Selling Webster's Speller

Noah Webster's American Spelling Book (aka, Blue-back Speller) is currently being republished. As the product description from one site declares:

"His goal was to provide a uniquely American, Christ-centered approach to training children. Little did he know that this remarkable gem would become the staple for parents and educators for more than a century and would help to build the most literate nation in the history of the West. Many of the Founding Fathers used this book to home school their children, including Benjamin Franklin who taught his granddaughter..."

What are Christians to make of these assertions? Is this book even worth buying?

Let us peal back the claims in reverse order.

First of all, the claim that many of the Founding Fathers used this to homeschool their children is dubious. In my experience, many historical claims have been circulated that have no foundation in fact (e.g. Jefferson, Witherspoon and John Jay were homeschooled, more here). The book was published in 1783. A little late for mass circulation for some Founder's children. Yet it could be the case that many of the Founders used Webster's book for their children. Not having easy access to the facts, I can only hold this assertion in abeyance.

Second, the book appears to have been a staple for education and helped raise literacy. This claim is true as far as it goes. It must be remembered, however, that this does not mean that literacy was not already being propagated by other means. The blue-book was popular but did not singlehandedly create a literate society. In fact, in 1765 John Adams noted:

"A native of America who cannot read and write is as rare an appearance as a Jacobite or a Roman Catholic, that is, as rare as a comet or an earthquake." (here)

Third, the book was written for schools. Webster notes in the preface,

"THE design of this Grammatical institute is to furnish schools in this country with an easy, accurate and comprehensive system of rules and lessons for teaching the English language."

Of course, it can be used for homeschooling. The irony is simply that the publisher and catalog are part of an organization that pushes, promotes and proposes homeschooling as the Biblical approach (here).

Fourth, the claims of a "Christ-centered approach" is dubious at best. Using an online transcript of the 1800 text, I searched for common words a presumed "Christ-centered approach" text would use. Here are some results:

Searching for sin and its cognates yielded a total of seven times in one section (lessons of easy words and moral duty). The word is mentioned eight more times in a similar fashion, most notably:

"He that covereth his sins shall not pros-per; but he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy."

Next, I searched for cognates of 'Christ'. It is used about ten times and once for pronunciation. Another few times it refers to what Christ said. The bulk was in the Moral Catechism section, making no mention of the Gospel.

The word 'Gospel' does not exist. 'Repent' and its cognates occurs once. 'Faith' occurs once as an example of a monosyllabic word. 'Believe' is never used with respect to God or Christ. 'Cross' is found in a list of words and part of a proverb.

Thus far the evidence is a far cry from a "Christ-centered approach." In fact,there is evidence to the contrary: in the appendix is a Moral Catechism. A Catechism without reference to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the Catechism does not mention the Gospel, it does mention the pure in heart:

Q. What reward is promised to the pure in heart?
A. Christ has declared "they shall see God." A pure heart is like God, and those who possess it shall dwell in his presence, and enjoy his favour forever.

Furthermore, in the section describing a "Good Boy" and a "Bad Boy" any reference to God, church and Christ are missing.

In contrast, Christ-centered instruction would point out that Christians (and "good boys") can only see God through the merits of Christ.

Lastly, the biography of Webster explains why this Speller--although useful--was not Christ-centered: he was not converted until 1808. He admits that before that time he preferred the more "rational" religion of doing good to one's neighbor over the more "emotional" doctrines of grace. But God's omnipotent love moved his heart to eschew moralism and accept a Christ-centered education in his life.

The conclusion of the matter is that this book is a mixed bag. It is heavy on the Law with no corresponding Gospel message. With today's weak Christian culture, this book can easily turn into simple moralism.

That does not mean that one cannot use it. It means that a father or mother must use it in an environment that has a clear presentation of the Gospel of Christ's righteousness. Hopefully, with these facts at hand parents will be better able to evaluate the selling and buying of Webster's Blue-back Speller.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Summary of Gatto's Methods

Over at Homeschooling Research Notes, the author reviews the latest work of Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction.  For those not in the know, Gatto is well-known in many homeschooling circles for his book, The Underground History of American Education.

What is of particular note, is the author's opening evaluation of Gatto's general methodology. It is striking how this also summarizes some home education leaders general approach as well:

"First, regarding methodology, it needs to be noted that Gatto has a very frustrating tendency to make claims, quote sources, refer to documents, and so on without ever providing citations that would allow the researcher to check up on him.  Sometimes in the body of the text he gives enough information for the assiduous student, with effort, to possibly find his source, but often not.  His Underground History suffers from the same flaw, though it does include a brief note at the end promising the reader that he has consulted “somewhat more than three thousand” documents."

I found that book online a year back.  I, too, found the paucity of references troubling while reading his Underground.

Another methodological concern also parallels the style of some contemporary leadership:

"A second methodological affliction, common among polemicists, is Gatto’s tendency to cherry pick anecdotes and facts that paint his opposition (public education) in its worst possible light and to do the reverse for his own side.  In Gatto’s world every child is infantalized, deformed, and dehumanized by schools, while all dropouts become self-made millionaires.  Gatto loves to tell stories of self-made men and women.  In every case the moral is that if one can escape the poison of compulsory schooling, a rich and fulfilling life awaits.  He also loves to tell horror stories of administrative incompetence, curricular foolishness, and bureaucratic pointlessness in public schools.  Nowhere in his prose is there any hint that a child could possibly find school enriching, fulfilling, life-changing.  One of the principles I try to teach all of my students is that when engaging an opponent in an argument you want to do your very best to represent the other side fairly."

This is a common advertisement trick. It is fairly common in our society overall.  And it (unfortunately) saturates Christian marketing as well.  Even the marketing of homeschooling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Should Your Children Learn Latin?

My recent rebuttal of North's paper brought a legitimate question: should we teach our covenant children Latin?

Here is a reprint of my response:

Hello ----,

My take on education in general is that the classes needed for children are the classes that first equip them for the glory of God. Thus the basics are required to read the bible and listen to sermons. Beyond that additional training is needed to equip the children for their vocation in life. This part is very flexible since part of equipping children for their vocation in the kingdom of God involves finding out what it is!

Thus, when used aright the great number of options today (compared to our Puritan forefathers) are opportunities to see if these are avenues for our children to further explore. These are the intro classes that may wet their taste buds for advanced studies.

Latin could be such a class. Dr. Coppes taught a summer of Latin for each of his children. This had the double-purpose of giving them a foreign language (one which is primal to many others) that can help them with their vocabulary and the like. And it also gave them a taste of a foreign language to see if they hand language-skills waiting to be expanded.

As for a child aspiring to the ministry, Latin is not required in the least bit. However, it could be useful for the child to get comfortable with foreign languages (such as Greek). And it may help stretch his mind with the memorization and the required logical thinking needed to translate.

Hope that helps,

Monday, January 4, 2010

PolyMathis: Year in Review, 2009

I thought about doing a year in review the last few years. Finally, after reading my fellow blogger's 2009 in review posting, I decided to go for it! (Hope he appreciates the free plug!)

2009 started out with a bang. I brought out my years-long research on home education to the public with Some Observations about Homeschooling and the Future of Homeschooling. Tired of all the misinformation about Christian education history being perpetuated in some homeschooling circles (and creating false expectations and false guilt), I simultaneously brought a new blog online, Christian Nurture.

This new blog raised some ruckus behind the scenes. Yet all the counter-claims and declamations never rose to a public refutation about my research of the true statistics of homeschooling nor my rebuttal of the amazing claim that homeschooling is a revival. To the surprise of many, I, too, was homeschooled and even defended home education.

This education theme continued with the five-part posting of a Very Short History of Christian Education (on both blogs). I also began an analysis of radical homeschooling and raised a number of eyebrows with a short comparison between some types of homeschooling and Rousseau. Some of these articles were posted on both blogs as well.

But that was not all. This was the Year of Calvinism. This six-part series was dedicated to all the Reformed work in the world, for their encouragement. Several other articles dedicated to this year-long theme, included famous American Calvinists--that surprised many--and a call for a Second Reformation. The church was challenged to focus on the basics instead of being detracted by the culture wars.

Although I tend to write about and for the church, I am never far from politics and a spiritual interpretation thereof. This goes doubly with the Gospel According to Obama. And I once again brought out a gem of religio-political history to shame the ignorance of our politicians.

In the midst of this increase in writing, we were waiting for our first child! This life-changing event was a God-sent. After 8 months of babyhood, we still stand in awe of the Lord's mercy.

Of course, these blogs do not reflect the work of the ministry in the background. My witnessing to atheists on the college campus prepared me for a surprising opportunity to write for a national news source as the Denver Christian Apologist.

This new position gave me an opportunity to defend the Calvinistic roots of America in an ambitious six-part series, October Revolution, reprinted in this blog. It also brought me closer to the New Atheism. So, I critiqued, God: The Failed Hypothesis, written by a local college professor.

Naturally, all this heavy writing can wear on the soul, so I throw in humor at times. Or even comment on the weather.

I ended the year with two critiques. One was requested by a reader, asking my opinion about a "Christian Education Manifesto". The other was a first-time critique of a public Reformed writer. I still have no idea what possessed him to write that article.

It's been a busy year and fatherhood increased that load. But it is a blessed load. And I hope and pray for more opportunities to spread the Gospel in the new year.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

V. Means of Grace: The Foolishness of God

Preaching is highly prized among conservative Evangelicals--even if it may be questionable preaching. Ministers are know in Evangelicaldom by their preaching prowess, stupendous speaking and charismatic chats. In some ways this is a good thing, yet, I fear, in today's inbred entertainment mentality, many churches follow the man and not the message. They like a good speaker, not because of what he says as much as how he says it. His highly charged presentation, flashy outfits, well-timed sighs and bold presence entertain the masses. The flash, the glamor, the ambiance of the stage create an atmosphere readily molded to the visual generation than the audio-rational mentality of yesteryear.

In fact, do many conservatives even understand why preaching has been so highly valued in our past? Or do we just follow along out of blind traditionalism? In true Protestant fashion, we must ask: what says the Lord?

In 1 Corinthians chapter one, Paul begins this book with the famous diatribe against Christian tribalism (group pride) [an upcoming article-see my blog]: "Now I say this, that each of you says, " 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' " (v.12). Paul is quite amazed that the Corinthians so quickly fell away. In remedy to such man-centeredness, Paul reminds them of the supremacy of the Word, specifically preaching: "For Christ did not send me to baptize [or give the Lord's Supper], but to preach the gospel..." He tells them that they should not look to the man but to the message. True, if he is preaching the message it will be reflected in the man, but the root of the matter is preaching.

And such preaching is not based upon clever manipulation of words or rhetorical flourish (as the Greek speakers were wont to do), but upon the power of the doctrine presented. It is a message that is foolish to those drowning in their sins: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing...."

Yet to we who are saved and being saved, it is the power of God! Gospel doctrine is power; biblical ignorance is impotence. Paul continues his reprimand by connecting the message with the method:

" pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." It is not only the Gospel that is the power of God, it is specifically that Gospel as preached that the Spirit is pleased to use.

Naturally, being inspired, Paul was consistent in his presentation. In that other famous book, Romans, Paul again aligns preaching with salvation in chapter ten:

"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (v.14)

Of note is the fact that writing existed during Paul's time. Thus, the Spirit through Paul could have easily said: "And how shall they read without a reader?" It is the hearing, and, thus, the preaching, that is emphasized in these verses. That is why Paul quotes Isaiah in blessing the feet of the minister who brings the Good News through his speech (v.15). Paul concludes his line of reasoning just as he did in 1 Corinthians: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (v.17)

Again, latter in the Epistles, Paul ties the Spirit of truth with the message of truth:

"For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, *you welcomed it not as the word of men*, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe." (1 Thess. 2:13, emphasis added)

This is the foolishness of God that transforms lives, families and churches. This is the power of God! Paul is only echoing Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones: preach and if the Spirit pleases, he will raise up the dead bones and bring life! The Reformation began this way; the first and second Great Awakening began this way; and any future revival will begin this way. These passages are summarized in our catechism: "The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means [of salvation]..." (LCQ 155).

Preaching, in an age of sports, internet, television and other more entertaining mediums, is foolishness because it does not please the flesh, that old man. It takes work to sit still, more work to listen, and yet more work to listen intelligently and write notes! But if we take seriously these passages, we will be blessed, we will grow and we will persevere.

The means of grace, those tools used by the sovereign Spirit in His time and way, must begin with the Word. Nowhere else is Christ found. And Christ and His Words are our life. That is why four sections were used to expound the Scriptures as the foundation of the Christian faith and life. It all depends upon the Spirit, but for our part we must obey by reading the Word, inviting friends to hear the truth, and finding good, faithful preaching. Pray that we will.

[Next: What Are Sacraments?]

Understanding the Means of Grace Series:

I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  Foolishness of God
VI. What is a Sacrament?
VII.The Initiatory Rite