Saturday, February 5, 2011

Always Reformed & Courageous Calvinism, III

Following up on my earlier posts, I'd like to discuss the third point of Dr. Robert Godfrey's inaugural address at Westminster Seminary California which calls for Christocentric Calvinism

What is Christocentric Calvinism?  Dr. Godfrey writes:
In that comprehensive and consistent Calvinism to which we aspire we must always remember that Christ must be at the center: Christ's atoning work on the cross; Christ's glorious victory over sin and death in His resurrection; Christ our great prophet, priest and king; Christ our Lord through the Holy Spirit.  Christ is at the very heart and center of our life, of our piety, of our faith, of our study, of preaching.  And so, we must always and again renew ourselves in that central commitment to Jesus Christ.
This seems so obvious as to not warrant being mentioned.  Yet the point remains: our faith is built upon Jesus Christ who was the one who left heaven and added humanity to his divinity; who lived the life we cannot live; who died the death we all deserve.  He is a high priest greater than Aaron and the Levites.  He is the prophet greater than Moses (Deut. 18:15).  He is a king greater than David.  Our personal faith rests upon his life, death and resurrection.  Our corporate worship must revolve around the same things.

However, consider what often takes the place of Jesus Christ as central in the PCA.  There are those who speak about "redeeming culture" as the main purpose of the church.  Others see the church as needing to "speak prophetically" to the culture.  Others see the church chiefly through the lens of evangelism and outreach and do all in their power to reach the lost.  Some are chiefly concerned about church-planting and building "networks" of like-minded churches (if you think 'franchise' you are not too far off the mark).  Others speak in amorphous terms saying that what is central is God's grace ("its all of grace").  And sadly, in many PCA churches the worship is not so much directed at Christ who is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer as it is towards ourselves (our likes, our tastes, our personal worship experience).   The list could go on for quite a while.  Perhaps we need to reflect on the message of Revelation 2-3.

How does one keep Christ at the center?  Dr. Godfrey offers this advice:
On this point I must plead as a church historian the concern of John Calvin that we restore the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to a more central place in our piety because the sacrament so basically draws us back to the very body and blood of Christ where we have our redemption.
As is well known, Calvin wished to celebrate the Lord's Supper at least weekly but was barred by the city council of Geneva.  I don't know too many PCA churches that celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly (my church observes it twice a month - 1st and 3rd Sunday).  But the point remains: if the Lord's Supper is celebrated infrequently should we be surprised that Christ is not at the center?

Dr. Godfrey adds this comment illustrating the fruit that comes from keeping Christ at the center:
When we make Christ central, I believe it will help us in the other decisions we have to make about a consistent Calvinsim.  When Christ is at the center, priorites become much clearer.  We can distinguish more important and less important doctrines from one another.  We can distinguish doctrines more certain and less certain.  Above all else, we will be filled with humility in the broader community of Christian churches as we do seek to learn from one another and as we seek to live together in love  with one another, cooperating wherever possible with fellow Christians.
As I've said before, read the book.  You won't be sorry.

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