About Steve Macias

http://www.stevemacias.com

Steve Macias is a lay churchman with a spirit of catholicity pursuing Holy Orders. He is the executive director of Cherish California’s Children, founder of the St. Anselm Leadership Institute, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Geneva Liberty Group. Steve, his wife Sarah, and their son Athanasius are members of Church of the King Sacramento.

Posts by Steve Macias:

St. Ambrose: The Proto-Kuyperian

December 7th is the day set aside on the Church Calendar to remember St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

Ambrose of Milan

st-ambrose-1While men like St. Athanasius defended the faith at the Council of Nicaea, the real work restoring orthodoxy throughout the empire required local hands. While the Church had clearly spoken and declared that arianism was heresy, many of the bishops installed around the world remained loyal to arianism. As Rev. Steve Wilkins often says, “heretics don’t listen to church councils.” The labors of the council would be for not if Christ did not raise up men in local jurisdictions to protect the word and church. One such man who would serve as a protector of the church against all such heresies was St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan.

Contemporary with the fourth century councils, St. Ambrose rose to the rank of Roman governor over the region of Liguria and Emelia. Titled the “Consular Prefect” Ambrose was headquartered in Milan, the functional capital of the western Roman empire. In such an influential seat, Ambrose had the attention and recognition of the emperors.

St. Ambrose the Proto-Kuyperian

The cornerstone of the Kuyperian worldview is the principle of sphere sovereignty, the idea that God has ordained the institutions around us (e.g. Church, State, Family) and given them limited authority and responsibilities. These spheres work together like cogwheels as God expresses his will through the created order. Ambrose himself set many of the sphere boundaries that will later be embraced by Kuyperian systems.

During Ambrose’s tenure as governor, Milan’s episcopal seat was maintained by an Arian Bishop. When he died, both factions of the Church sought to place their own man in the vacant seat. Recognizing that his place was a servant of the public, not a member of the clergy, Ambrose refused to take a side. Instead he made a plea for peace between the two parties and urged the people of Milan to choose a new bishop without violence. While Ambrose could have easily called down the power of the state to squash Arianism, he recognized that such an act would have been outside his office’s legitimate authority and purpose.

The people of Milan then did the unthinkable – they demanded the unbaptized Roman governor as their new Bishop. Ambrose fled to plead with the Emperor for any excuse out from under the miter. Having no imperial sympathies, Ambrose was baptized and finally succumbed to episcopal consecration on this day (December 7) in 375 AD.

Continuing in the proto-kuyperian theme, Ambrose recognized that in this new sphere of the state, his worldly titles and wealth would be an hindrance to the proper function as the overseer of Milan. Ambrose disposed of his worldly wealth by giving it to the poor and the church. All his silver and gold, his lands and estates were given away as he sought to focus himself on the ministry. Overnight, the once powerful Roman governor becomes Victor Hugo’s “Monseigneur Bienvenu.” His consistency alone is worthy of our admiration.

Bishop Ambrose vs the Emperors

As bishop, Ambrose was at liberty to take on the arian heresy and his efforts proved quite successful. They were, however, noticed as the Arian empress Justina maneuvered the child regent Valentinian II against his efforts. The emperor began to make laws showing lenience toward the arians and ordered Ambrose to give up two of his churches in Milan for arian use. Ambrose refused and upon being summoned to Valentian’s court was able to successfully defend his position.

Milan is then absorbed into Theodosius’s empire as he defends Valentinian II against the conquest of Magnus Maximus. Valentinian II continues to pressure Ambrose to provide for the arians and demands the Portian basilica. Ambrose responds by having his parishioners barricade themselves inside the basillica until the order is rescinded. Ambrose continues to maintain sovereignty of the church refusing to bow to the state’s demands of religious tolerance.

Ambrose’s civil disobedience is most famous in his excommunication of Emperor Theodosius, who oversaw the brutal massacre of 7,000 people in the city of Thessalonica. Ambrose refused the emperor access to the Lord’s table and demanded repentance. Ambrose is said to have met Theodosius at the door of the Church and said,

“It seems, sir, that you do not yet rightly apprehend the enormity of the massacre lately committed. Let not the splendour of your purple robes hinder you from being acquainted with the infirmities of that body which they cover. You are of the same mould with those subjects which you govern; and there is one common Lord and Emperor of the world. With what eyes will you behold his temple? With what feet will you tread his sanctuary? How will you lift up to him in prayer those hands which are still stained with blood unjustly spilt? Depart, therefore, and attempt not, by a second offence, to aggravate your former crime; but quietly take the yoke upon you which the Lord has appointed for you. It is sharp, but it is medicinal and conducive to your health.”  (Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.)

Ambrose gives the emperor eight months of penance, which he submits to from his palace.

The Legacy of St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose’s ministry serves to solidify the victory of trinitarian orthodoxy and serves as an example of what the proper relationship between church and state looks like. He was influential among emperors and loved by his people. In addition to his contributions as a bishop, he went on to write hymns and is traditionally credited with the hymn Te Deum, which is said to have been composed when he baptized St. Augustine. Ambrose is a champion of the faith and a worthy name to add to your family’s baby names list.

For more on St. Ambrose of Milan: click here for a lecture from Rev. Steve Wilkins of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church.

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A Vision for Our Daughters

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A Father Pleads with Jesus

In the Gospel of St. Mark our Lord is approached by a father named Jairus. He is one of the rulers in the synagogue and pleads with Jesus to rescue his dying daughter. St. Mark tells us that this father literally, “fell at his feet” on behalf of his 12-year-old child. He asks that Jesus might come and lay his healing hands on his daughter. While this father is leading Jesus back to his home, a servant from his house comes bearing a grave message. Jairus’s daughter has died.

Soon we will see the faith of the father save his daughter, but at this point the father seems to have acquiesced all hope. For if Christ is like any other physician, He is now too late.

Jesus turns to the distraught father and says, “fear not, only believe.” Only is the incarnate God, who has a human heart, able to show such tender sympathy for a father’s broken heart.

Little girl…

Christ then goes to Jairus’s daughter and calls to her, “Talitha cumi,” or “Little girl, I say to you arise.” As I read this I imagine being Jairus watching the scene unfolding – seeing his dead daughter, hearing the wailing and cries of his family, and then right there in the middle watching as Jesus calls outs, “Talitha cumi.”

I imagine a flashback with Jairus and his daughter as a toddler. He stands at one side of the room and looks toward his beautiful little girl as she struggles to take a step on shaky toddler ankles. “Talitha Cumi,” says Jarius with an ear-to-ear grin and outstretched arms, “come on, walk to daddy.”

Now back in the presence of this man who claims to be the Messiah, Jairus sees his daughter awakened from death. His little girl rises from the dead.

Fathers like Jairus

As fathers, we have much to learn from Jairus. Like him, we will fail and fall into despair. Perhaps we will put too much faith into a certain parenting system or too little effort into developing our relationship with our children, but undoubtedly we will need to bow down to Jesus as Jairus did. Even as I write this I want to ask Jesus for more grace – for the ways I have already failed my family and to help me in the future.

Even now Jesus offers contrite fathers, “fear not, only believe.”

This ruler in the synagogue had hoped that the touch of Jesus would heal his daughter, but despaired with the conditions around him, yet through his daughter’s death – Jairus saw the very words of Jesus give her new life.

A Vision for Our Daughters

Today, our children, and especially our daughters, are under attack. Our little girls are bombarded by a culture seeking to kill their innocence and turn them away from their parents. Many fathers come to Jesus too late. Having missed the opportunity to be the words of Jesus, their daughters are afflicted and destroyed by the empty promises of the world.

Our children need more of us and more than us.

Our daughters need more “afternoon dates with daddy,” more fathers who sing in church, and more papas who are priests over their homes. They need fathers who are loyal to Christ’s Church and take their commitments to Christ’s body seriously. Our Children need fathers who serve mom with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader of the household providing for its needs.

Like Jairus, our daughters need us to run to Jesus, to bow down to Him, and to plead for His help. They need us to lead Jesus to our homes and through obedience to our responsibilities as fathers, give them the very words of Jesus that they, “might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”


A New Resource for Fathers: Rev. Uri Brito’s The Trinitarian Father

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“Someone has said that most evangelicals have ignored the reality of the Trinity so thoroughly, that they are, for all practical purposes, Unitarians. That is sadly true. And that makes this essay all the more important for the twenty-first century Christian. If we are created after the image of the Triune God, then we must understand ourselves and our responsibilities in life in light of that glorious and amazing fact. Pastor Brito helps us to see what God’s nature implies for us and requires of us as fathers. His essay is an excellent beginning to getting us into Trinitarian shape.”

- Steve Wilkins, Pastor of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana

Buy the book here from the Covenant Media Foundation.


The Purple Christ at Advent

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The Incarnation of Color

Sunday was the first Sunday in the 2014 Advent season and the beginning of a new liturgical year. For many Christians, this was marked by advent candles, purple vestments, and hymns longing for the coming of our savior. In Advent, we remember that the God who created all things, descended down into our world and became one of us. Through the divine mystery of the incarnation, the Almighty communicates his transcendence through the physical world around us.

A long study can and has been made about the coordination of particular colors with the seasons of the year and nearly every historic branch of Christianity has embraced both a liturgical Calendar with symbolic colors to mark the days. As we look back to a time when the darkness of man was pierced by the advent of a new and great light – we should see the new redeemed world as the refracted beauty of Christ’s perfect light. It is not merely from darkness to light – but from the utter darkness to the light of lights. The light of God’s promise was once raised colorfully above Noah and is now is the light of the world and the light of life. Christ has moved the world from a dark and cold blackness into the warm spectrum of hope.

A Horse of a Different Color

St. John’s work uses color to invoke particular ideas to the mind of his readers. In Revelation, a white horse is not merely descriptive, but instead serves as a reminder of the holy victory of Christ to a people nearing a time of great persecution. White becomes more than a color and embodies a feeling or encapsulates an idea. For this same reason, white continues to invoke the queenly idea of purity and beauty as a bride wears her dress down the aisle. To the first century Jewish reader, white is the Diamond of Naphtali and the clear Jasper of the New Jerusalem and this beauty of the kingdom is conveyed through a color.

Dr. Peter Leithart describes this phenomenon in relation to the essence of who our God is, “God is a communicative being. He doesn’t just use words; He is the Word. He made us in His image and likeness, as communicative beings. Even if we keep our mouths firmly shut, we cannot avoid saying something; we cannot not communicate. ”

The Calendar and the tone of the Gospel

Christ’s Church, through the use of vestments and paraments, has employed liturgical colors in accordance with the church calendar to focus our devotion on particular themes and tones of the Gospel.

In the Advent season, the color purple is used to symbolize the coming of a royal Messiah, our King Jesus. It is the beginning of the church year, just as the birth of Christ is the start of the gospel. In Advent we prepare for our Lord’s coming in three ways: celebrating his incarnation at Christmas, remembering his coming into our hearts, and anticipating his coming again to judge the quick and the dead. During Advent we recall Israel penitently waiting before the Messiah appeared. As the prophet Isaiah said,

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

The color purple should always remind you of this Scripture. During Advent we should place both this scripture and the color purple before the eyes of the people.

The Purple Christ at Advent

aachaliceThe wine our Lord chooses to demonstrate his real presence is purple and Melchizedek teaches us that wine itself is a kingly substance. Wine is symbolically identified with the blessings of the kingdom throughout the Scripture. This is what James B. Jordan calls “the eschatological Messianic kingdom feast.” The promised land in the Old Testament and the kingdom of our Lord in the New Testament are richly portrayed as places abounding with wine. Thus the color and substance work together, developing a rather pointed imagery – particularly relevant to the time of Advent.

The Bible describes the high priest’s clothing as fine linen and purple, and our Lord makes a reference to this in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man is dressed in purple and fine linen — Jesus’ hearers would have seen an allusion to the high priest here. Christ’s reference to purple draws a literary connection in the minds of listeners. Christ’s nature as a our high priest is shown in biblical imagery as well; as when He was arrested, the Roman soldiers girded him in a purple robe. The color is not meaningless, but rather directs us to the notion that our high priest was to be the sacrifice, the royal sacrifice.

Christ Cleanses the Temple From What is Common

Attention to liturgical detail is in no way foreign to Christian thought or an innovation of Roman authorities. A familiarity with the Pentateuch reveals that God has plenty to say about the way he would like to be worshiped and these ceremonies were revealing the beauty of Christ. As Percy Dearmer rightly points out,

“Our Lord attended the ritualistic services of the Temple; nay, He was careful to be present at those great feasts when the ceremonial was most elaborate. Yet no word of censure ever escaped His lips. This was the more remarkable, because He was evidently far from ignoring the subject. No one ever appreciated the danger of formalism so keenly as He: He did condemn most strongly the vain private ceremonies of the Pharisees. Also, on two occasions He cleansed the Temple, driving out, not those who adorned it with ceremonial, but those who dishonoured it with commercialism. That is to say, His only interference with the ritualistic worship of the Temple was to secure it against profane interruption.” (The Parson’s Handbook)

Thus the richness of the church calendar is ever present. I pray that during Advent – we may be penetrated visually by the truth of God’s Word. May the purple of this season remind us of our High Priest and King Lord Jesus. May we be intentional in demonstrating God’s truth in all areas of life, both in the church and in our homes.

Pastor Voddie Baucham on Ferguson: Don’t fear police, fear black people

Pastor Voddie Baucham, Pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, took to Fox News to attempt a Christian answer to the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Back in August, unarmed african-american teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer – inciting months of tense race relations, violent riots, and widespread looting. National media attention has intensified the situation as many perceive the event to be an example of racial profiling and excessive police force. Widespread looting broke out last week in the St. Louis suburb as a grand jury declined to indict the officer involved in the shooting. Officer Wilson has since resigned from the Ferguson Police Department.

Pastor says Ferguson is a “Celebration of Criminality”

On Saturday, Pastor Baucham went live on Fox News to share his viewpoint as an african-american pastor. “…They expect black pastors and black leaders to respond to this in the same way. I don’t see it the same way.” Pastor Baucham characterized the Ferguson protests as a, “celebration of criminality” and “thuggery” adding that Michael Brown was a “criminal” engaged in, “a violent robbery and then engaged a police officer in a violent confrontation…”

Speaking to the nature of crime in black communities, he added that there is a bigger issue of ‘black-on-black’ crime in city’s like Chicago. Upset by a disproportional murder rate by blacks and the “randomness” of violent crimes, Voddie concludes that,”the police are not the ones that we have to fear, it’s other black people.”

See the video here:

Al Sharpton v. Voddie Baucham

Baucham’s words serve a sharp contrast to what has been delivered by other leaders in the african-american community like Al Sharpton who have called the grand jury’s verdict, “an absolute blow to those of us that wanted to see a fair and open trial.” His efforts have called attention to what he believes to be racially motivated episode of police brutality and an unfair judicial system prejudiced against black americans. “Ferguson is not just Missouri, we can lose a round, but the fight is not over,” said Sharpton, who is now moving forward on a call for a federal criminal indictment.

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Hope for the Future

While the Fox News anchor was not happy to receive it, Pastor Voddie concluded with a positive outlook for racial relations in America. “My message is that the Gospel gives us hope. I am a pastor, not a politician. I’m not here to make political points. I’m here to point to the cross and say that there is room for us to be united.”

Voddie Baucham is a husband, father, pastor, author, professor, conference speaker and church planter. He serves as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX. Read more about Voddie Baucham here. 

The Christian with a $56 Million ISIS Bounty On His Head

In the midst of the chaos created by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there is a particular Christian who has the Islamic radicals ruffled. ISIS leaders have even placed a $56 million bounty on his head. His name is Canon Andrew White and he is the vicar of the only Anglican Church in Iraq.

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Can Christianity Survive in Iraq?

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Christian population in Iraq has faced a harsh and hellish struggle for survival in the war-torn state. The religious persecution has shrunk the Christian population in Iraq from over 1.5 million believers in 2003 to just a tiny fraction of that today. Christians have been forced out of the country and bombs have specifically targeted Christian churches. Priests and Bishops have faced the brunt of attacks as Islamic groups have attempted to discourage the faith that has existed in Iraq for 2,000 years.

The Vicar of Baghdad

Canon Andrew White, who is called the Vicar of Baghdad, began his peace work in Iraq in 1998 and then re-established St. George’s Church in Baghdad in 2005 in a post-Saddam Iraq. White’s church soon became the center of the community, offering hope to Iraqi Christians amid a dangerous and tumultuous environment. Through the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, Canon White was able to also provide a Church-based school and medical clinic. Called, “Aboona” or “father” by the people of his congregation, White has been kidnapped, shot at, and endured bombings – yet his heart continues to be focused on protecting the Christian minority in Iraq. Thousands from White’s congregation have left Baghdad since ISIS broke through and the Vicar can count over a thousand who have been killed from his congregation alone.

The Church in Danger

In October, Archbishop Justin Welby ordered White to return for fear of his life. Reluctantly, Canon White left Iraq for Jerusalem where he continues to be an advocate of peace and shed light on the struggles of the Christians in Iraq. As he watches his people suffer from afar, “Aboona” wants to return to Baghdad. While many ask, “Why would you go back when it’s so dangerous?” His answer is always “Because I love my people.”

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) supports the work of Canon Andrew White and provides humanitarian relief in Iraq through St. George’s Church and Clinic. Click here to find out you can help this cause. 

Read More about Canon Andrew White in a recent interview with the Huffington Post UK.

Anglican Archbishop Asks Clergy Not to Sign First Things “Marriage Pledge”

The Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of North America has released a statement urging members and clergy not to sign, “The Marriage Pledge” introduced by the writers at First Things. Archbishop Beach is asking for time for his bishops, clergy, and lay leaders “to consider the consequences of making such a commitment.”

The pledge introduced by Rev. Radner and Rev. Seitz at First Things is very compelling, the language  appeals to those of us who are frustrated with the judicial activism that has altered the meaning of marriage in too many states. The statement appeals to my inner libertarian with notions like, “We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates.” While at the same time reaffirming our love for the Church by an act of allegiance to the Christian definition of marriage, “We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.”

Doug Wilson has said of the pledge, “…Christians who tie the knot need to have more secure knots than the secularists do. If this pledge catches on, I can easily envision Christians being less bound, less obligated, less constrained, and less secure than Andrew Sullivan is in his mirage. In short, church weddings detached from the civil sphere are worthless unless the church is being given the contracted legal authority to adjudicate the divorce — property, custody, the works. Anything less than that is a sham and a farce.”

Read the statement from Archbishop Beach below:

“I am writing to you because there has been alot of discussion in recent days about taking “The Marriage Pledge.” If you have not been following the online conversation, you can read the Pledge here at First Things , as well as a critical commentary here on Doug Wilson’s blog.

Some of our bishops and clergy have been in favor of signing this pledge, some are not in favor of signing the pledge, while others need more time to consider the consequences of making such a commitment.

It would be best for us to take counsel together before taking further action. Therefore I ask that you do not sign this pledge until as bishops, clergy, and lay leaders we have had more opportunities to pray about and discuss the legal, theological, and sociological ramifications of signing such a statement.

I ask us all to join together in prayer for the preservation of a biblical understanding of marriage in our society, in specific prayers for the courts in North America, and particularly the U.S. Supreme Court as these issues come before them. Even in the midst of different perspectives about the wisdom of signing the pledge, we can rejoice that all of this discussion is motivated by a strongly shared commitment to the sanctity of marriage as established by Our Lord in the Scriptures. It is often when the times seem darkest that God’s glory can be most clearly displayed.

Your brother at the Foot of the Cross,

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Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America”

Kirk Cameron is saving Christmas with Douglas Wilson

Kirk Cameron Presents “Saving Christmas”

While Kirk Cameron’s “Left Behind” legacy hit the box office just over a month ago, now featuring Nicholas Cage, Cameron has been busy promoting a different kind of Christian movie. Saving Christmas is Cameron’s big screen attempt to restore our faith in the Christmas season. Cameron’s film hopes to provide,”a biblical basis for our time-honored traditions and celebrations, and the inspiration to stand strongly against a culture that wants to trivialize and eliminate the faith elements of this holy season.” Loaded with the tagline, “Put Christ back in Christmas,” I look forward to seeing what this movie has to offer.

Watch the Theatrical Trailer for Saving Christmas on Youtube. 

The Advent of Doug Wilson

Saving Christmas, which is set to debut on Nov. 14, was recently promoted on a video segment of Doug Wilson’s “ask Doug?” where Kirk revealed that it was Wilson’s writing that motivated the project. “One of the books that had a big influence on what’s in the movie was Doug’s God Rest Ye: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything,” said Cameron.

Watch God Rest Ye Merry | Kirk Cameron and Doug Wilson on Vimeo

Buy “God Rest Ye Merry” Today

Pastor Doug Wilson’s book is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the profound symbolism found in the Christmas Holiday or who simply want to read about how Santa Claus once punched a man in the face at a church council. As Advent approaches, Wilson’s short book also features a read-aloud meditation and prayer for each day of our Advent season. (Advent season begins on Sunday, November 30, 2014.)

Click here to buy God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything

How Christians in America Can Help Christians in Iraq

Pastor George Grant, Parish Presbyterian Church, recently posted this kurdish proverb:

“A thousand friends are too few; one enemy is one too many.”

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As the hostile situation in the Middle East continues to escalate, our Christian brothers and sisters are being killed for taking the name of our Lord. Each day we read reports of violent deaths, beheadings, and the desolation of Christian communities throughout Iraq. In the northern region of Kurdistan, home to the Kurdish people, our Christians brothers and sisters have become refugees sheltering in besieged villages and towns.

Kurdistan, very nearly the last sanctuary for Christians in the Muslim Middle East, is now under siege by the Ji’hadi terrorist forces of ISIS. Tens of thousands of refugees from the rest of Iraq and Syria are now threatened–along with the dynamic Kurdish Christian communities.

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The Nuun Fund has been established to speed urgently needed gifts to our friends at the Classical School of the Medes in the cities of Erbil, Dohuk, and Sulaymaniyah. Thanks to the work of the Nuun Fund relief supplies are starting to make their way to our brothers and sisters and the refugees they are caring for in Kurdistan.

Will you be a friend to the Christians in Iraq? Will you commit to prayer and to giving? Click here to give today!

Hear this plea from Pastor George Grant,

There are now more than a million refugees crowding into the schools, churches, and streets of Kurdistan. Having fled from the terror of ISIS, most have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Please pray. And, give if you can: https://www.crowdrise.com/nuunfund

The Inklings: New Peter Kreeft Lectures

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Dr. Peter Kreeft keynoted the Anglican Way Institute this past weekend for a conference on The Inklings. I know that many of us here at Kuyperian Commentary have been profoundly shaped by the work of the Inklings: C.S Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Dorothy Sayers.

His first few lectures are already available at the Church of the Holy Communion website including a talk on Tolkien’s Silmarillion, a two parter on Lewis’s “Till We Have Faces” and “Creed or Chaos” based on the work of the same title by Dorothy Sayers. 

Click here to listen to the recordings at the Church of the Holy Communion Website.

UPDATE: Kevin Kallsen from AnglicanTV has also posted the videos from the conference. Click here to watch them. 

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King’s College (Empire State Building), in New York City.  He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 67 books including Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans and Fundamentals of the Faith.

What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

Two Controversial Concepts

There are few ideas as likely to breed contention as the two I intend to discuss below. Both relate to how a Christian is counted in the body of Christ and both speak to how we understand the Church’s catholicity. The first idea, sure to cause a stir anywhere it may appear, is the notion of hierarchy. Merely mentioning the existence of such a dirty thing as hierarchy comes across as un-American and surely anti-Christian in many modern circles, but if we take our Bibles seriously, we must recognize that hierarchy is inescapable. The second idea, which sorely needs to be discussed in Christendom, is the pernicious heresy of individualism. An idea which again brings forward, in American Christians, a tenet that may be seen as central to our faith and devotion. Yet despite the number of “Independent Bible Churches” erected, the nature of this oxymoron remains glaring. A Christian cannot be born, exist, or grow independent of the body.

These two concepts, hierarchy and individualism, are often given the syncopated resolution of the “priesthood of all believers.” In the minds of many, this doctrine is understood to mean that all the priestly functions of the clergy are available to all those who are believers, that our equal access to God means that we all have equal roles and rights in the Church. I believe much of this is due to our strong apprehension to any thing “Roman Catholic-y.” The result is the deletion of any distinction between the ordained ministry and the laity. This flattened view of the Apostolic order either obliterates the concept of ordination or undermines the meaning of the sacraments, oftentimes accomplishing both.

Understanding the “priesthood of all believers” begins with recognizing what this concept is not.

Pope Francis What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The priesthood of all believers in NOT the Papacy of all believers.

The Papacy does not have its own direct divine revelation from God, the Pope is not infallible, the Pope does not have universal jurisdiction, and neither do we. The priesthood of all believers is not an opportunity for each individual Christian to develop their own theology. No believer today comes to Christ through their own innovation, for we all must come to Christ through the historic community of believers. Too often have I heard, “All I need is my Bible.” This is the formula for a new cult, not orthodox Christianity. “My Bible” through the work of the Holy Ghost was given to the care of the Church. As the body of Christ, the Church has recognized, preserved, taught, translated, printed, and distributed “my Bible” to the Christians of the world throughout history.

“Me and my Bible” individualistic Christianity does not promote the purity of the Gospel, but serves instead to create mini-popes. If we are entitled to our own interpretation, who is to say what is correct? Like the Pope, we don’t speak ex cathedra. We have the received faith of the Bible, of the Creeds, and of the Church. Which in the progression of history have served to conciliate each other against individualism.

Snake Bible What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The priesthood of all believers in NOT the Presbytery of all believers.

What is the true Church?  Who are the True Christians? Are Roman Catholics Christians? How about Mormons?

The priesthood of all believers is not an invitation for Christians to sit in judgement of the salvation of other Christians or to develop their own standards for what constitutes a Christian Church. For those unfamiliar with the term, a presbytery (or classis) is a leadership council of higher ranking clergy that rule over various issues that may arise from the church. As a human institution, the Church will always face a degree of scandal throughout history, but Christ appointed Apostles who appointed Overseers, Presbyters and Deacons to handle human conflict that may arise in the church.

This hierarchy was established to protect the unity of the Church and the verity of the Holy Gospel. Returning again to the idea of a received faith, the Bible serves as the ultimate authority in establishing the various Church officers and our historic faith outlines the basics of what it means to be a Christian.  It is this emphasis on our continuity with the historic Church that explicitly limits women and homosexuals from serving as Overseers, Presbyters and Deacons. To ordain a woman or a homosexual not only serves as a contradiction to the Bible, but is also against the accepted order of ministry we have in the writings of those serving at the time of the Apostles through the Ecumenical councils and to very recent Christian history.

Remembering that the intention of the Reformation was to restore the Holy Catholic and Apostolic church, not to create a new Church. Their goal was to return to the undivided Church of the Creeds. No Christian alone acts as an Ecumenical council and cannot impose their particular dogmas upon the conscience of otherwise faithful Christians. The “priesthood of all believers” does not give me the authority to excommunicate a papist unsubmissive to the five points of Calvinism, and it does not give Rome the right to excommunicate me for refusing to acknowledge the immaculate conception of Mary. Yet, refusing to recognize a Biblically ordained hierarchy creates this exact situation. To receive the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is to recognize that the councils of the first five centuries have spoken to all things necessary to salvation and upon these I can add no extra burdens.

St. Augustine Snake Bible What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The priesthood of all believers in NOT the Piety of all believers.

Authority and hierarchy were quickly challenged after the establishment of the early Church. Roman persecution tested the integrity of the men assigned to protect the faith and while many were heroically martyred – some fled or gave over Bibles to the Romans. These leaders were then labeled, “traditoresand their entire ministry was called into question. Was their ordination invalidated by their lack of moral character? Was someone baptized by one of the “traditores” really baptized? In the 4th century, a group under the leadership of Bishop Donatus leveled such a charge and denied the ordination and authority of a Bishop who didn’t meet their new standard. This small North Africa sect inserted a division in a way that many modern Christians seem to employ regularly: priesthood by piety.

Against the Donatist idea of the priesthood by piety, St. Augustine drew a distinction between the visible and the eschatological church, not as two churches but rather as two moments in one and the same church. His position was that here on earth the church is holy, but not all its members are holy; it is the Body of Christ, but still having wheat and tares. Instead of deriving the piety of the Church from the level of  virtue of its individual members, he maintained that the piety of the Church is based entirely on the holy nature of its Head, Jesus Christ.

In it is this framework that we can trust nothing more than the authority and hierarchy of the Church. In the balance of authority between the Overseers, Presbyters, Deacons of the universal Church against the Councils and Creeds in light of the Holy Writ, there is the surest form of appeals we can hope for on Earth. Every just sphere of authority whether it be civil or familial follows the church’s example in this hierarchical process of appeals. Our faith is then put into the received faith and order of Christ and his Apostles and not the trust of mere men. Modern individualism imbibes all the dangers of Donatism by refusing either the authority of Ancient Christianity and the hierarchy of its living church.

St. Augustine Snake Bible What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The Priesthood is His Priesthood

The Priesthood of All Believers is to be primarily understood in relation to worship. The Reformation wrestled some very important aspects of worship back from Rome. The first is the participation in worship, much of the medieval mass is done at the altar by a particular priest at the exclusion of the congregation. Even singing and the recitation of scripture was taken over by lectors and choirs. The reformers gave the music, singing, and scripture responses back to the church and returned congressional participation to the liturgy. The priesthood must be more than simply participation for it to be a true priesthood, it must have initiation and rites attached to its purpose. Like the Aaronic line, we are brought into the priesthood through a rite of baptism. Through baptism one is granted the authority to come to the Lord’s table and commune with Christ. This idea of eating the “sacrifice” should in itself remind us of the priestly language of the Old Testament. We are made partakers of the Sacrament by the nature of our priesthood. Thus, the nature of the “priesthood of all believers” is primarily sacramental.

By partaking of the sacramental body of Jesus Christ, we are exercising the true meaning of our priesthood. By eating his body together, we become part of the one body of the Church with Christ as its head. The sacramental meal in the Eucharist is the ultimate rejection of the individual as we all partake of one body together and in subordination to the hierarchy as our pastor acts as Christ feeding us the body of Christ. As we all partake of the one loaf, we become one body, one priesthood of all believers.