Monday, April 28, 2008

A Box of Old Books

After my parents went to be with the Lord, Dad in 1997 and Mom in 1999...I inherited mostly books, old books. My folks never owned a house and most of their worldly possessions could’ve been put in a very small U-Haul. Dad loved, besides his wife of nearly 60 years, cars and books. I’m not quite sure if the love of automobiles is a "preacher" thing or not. I have three preacher brothers-in-law and they all seem to have an obsession for various and sundry vehicles. But..that’s another blog!

Back to the books. I was rummaging through some of Dad’s old books recently and came across "The Confessional Statement and Book of Government and Worship of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, copyright 1926 (pictured above). This is the Church into which he was ordained that later merged with what ultimately became the Presbyterian Church (USA). Now, the bindings have come loose and the pages are tattered and faded and, of course, not worth any money, but the thing that makes it such a treasure is the personal notes, underlinings, check marks, stars and other marking from a serious student of the ministry.

As I was thumbing through, I came to Chapter IX under Government and Worship entitled "Of the Ordination and Installation of Ministers". After reading the nine questions that are asked of the candidate for ordination, I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to compare the questions with the same questions that are asked of candidates today, 2008. For space reasons, I’m limiting my comparison to what I consider to be the two most important questions. In an attempt to find out where Dad’s Church is today, I am including in the comparison the questions from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), The Presbyterian Church (USA) and of course the United Presbyterian Church of North America, the original Church.

EPC Ordination Questions:1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, totally trustworthy, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, the supreme, final, and only infallible rule of faith and practice?
2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

PCA Ordination Questions:1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of the Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

The United Presbyterian Church of North America Ordination Questions (1926):
1. Do you believe in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of the living God, the infallible and only rule of faith and practice?
2. Do you believe and acknowledge the doctrine professed by the UP Church contained in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and the Shorter Catechisms, and the Confessional Statement, as agreeable to, and founded on, the Word of God, and do you engage to adhere to and maintain them against all opposing errors?

The Presbyterian (USA) Church Ordination Questions:1. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal and God’s Word to you?
2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions as authentic and reliable expositions of what scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

Several phrases in the PCUSA sample seem to stand out amongst all the others as major changes. They are: "Do you accept the scriptures.."; "..God’s Word to you?" and "..receive and adopt the essential tenets". It is ironic, at least to me, that about the same time that Dad’s old book mentioned above was being printed (1926), the Church that would eventually merge with his was in the process of questioning the fundamentals of the faith or "the essential tenets" via The Auburn Affirmation. In brief, the Auburn Affirmation argued against any codification of beliefs as fundamental or essential. What were these radical essentials? They were: 1.)the inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this inspiration; 2.)the virgin birth of Christ; 3.)the belief that Christs death was atonement for sin; 4.)the bodily resurrection of Christ; 5.)the historical reality of Christ’s miracles. The Auburn Affirmation states bluntly "......we are opposed to any attempt to elevate these five doctrinal statements, or any of them, to the position of tests for ordination or for good standing in our church."

In the recent book "Broken Covenant, Signs of a Shattered Communion", author Parker T Williamson writes, "The 1926 General Assemby was a watershed moment in the life of the Presbyterian Church. From this moment on, presbyteries ordained persons who said they affirmed "the essential tenets" of the Christian faith, but would not specify what those essentials are. Soon it became clear that what one presbytery deemed "essential" might be regarded as "discretionary" by another. Having steadfastly refused to be tied to any particulars since 1926, presbyteries have ordained and installed denominational leaders who exhibit a wide variety of beliefs and practices."

So...where is Dad’s Church? Not that it was, in any way, the "most pure" Church. I’m not sure where it is or whether we can judge based upon only two ordination questions. Yet I wonder why the change from "Do you believe.. to "Do you accept"..? what are the ramifications of this change? Why the addition of the last two words in "God’s you". Could these two words have just as easily been left off? Why add them? Does the Church really hold to any historical essentials of the faith? Seems like my little exercise in comparisons have asked more questions than have been answered.

For me, as a layman, it looks like its back to the treasures in the "box of old books", in search of more answers and fewer questions!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

My wife and I went to see Expelled Monday. As you probably know this is Ben Stein’s documentary that attempts to drive home the point that in academia the cards are stacked against anyone who is even remotely thought to be holding Intelligent Design ideas. Any professor holding views contrary to Darwinism are "expelled"...or at least not given tenure or promotion and yes, in some cases, terminated. Your career in main stream academia is basically over when the Darwinian Gestapo finds that you are not towing the party line. This documentary gives several concrete examples of this blatant bias.

Ben Stein is this generation’s rebel that is blowing the whistle on "Big Science" and the institutions of higher learning which are suppressing any scientific study that does not bow down at the altar of Darwinism. One of Ben’s interviews is with Dr William A Dembski author of "The Design Revolution". In this book Dr Dembski gives a short description of Intelligent Design (ID). "Simply put intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence. Stated this way, ID seems straightforward and unproblematic. Yet depending on where the intelligence makes itself evident, one may encounter fierce resistance to ID. Archeologists attributing intelligent design to arrowheads or burial mounds is not controversial. But biologists attributing ID to biological structures raises tremendous anxiety, not only in the scientific community but in the broader culture as well. Why is that?"

This movie attempts to answer the question—"Why is that?" Anyone?...Anyone?... In my opinion one of the main reasons for the tremendous anxiety produced by the study of signs of intelligence is that when an evolutionary proponent hears the word Intelligent Design...he thinks "creationism and Christian fundamentalism". In fact ID is simply the scientific process for distinguishing between systems that exhibit design and those that don’t. No identification of the designer is attempted in Intelligent Design processes. In fact, some creationists are critical of ID because of this. ID proponents say that the "designer" is a theological question not a scientific question and they are correct.

As Christians, we know the Designer. He has revealed Himself to us in a theological treatise entitled The Holy Scriptures. Without His revelation he cannot be known. Job 11:7 Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? And, of course, the answer to this question is No! Unless God reveals Himself...He cannot be known. Praise God, He has revealed Himself! I recommend this movie to anyone...Darwinist or ID proponent..that would view it with an open mind realizing that Intelligent Design is just one more scientific option. Why would one be afraid if the truth turns out to be that certain biological structures do exhibit design? If so, follow that wherever it leads.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Still Unpublished....

A million dollar book deal? What? Not quite! I have been, from time to time, as the urge or ire arises, submitting opinions to the KC Star newspaper. Never ever published...! My latest.. on so serious and deep of a subject.... "The Threat of Overpopulation". So..what wonderful words of wisdom did you attempt to impart to the Greater KC readership of the KC Star...Dave? I shall, not only for the Greater KC area, but for all the world, through my blog expose the wisdom and depth and skill that so great a subject demands of a writer. Published below is the original writers concern and following thereafter, my yet unpublished response.

The threat of overpopulation (...Published 4/16/08)
There have been many newspaper stories about the world food and water shortages, destruction of habitat due to reckless paving and building, pollution of our atmosphere and oceans and all the other major global problems.
The writers of these articles always seem to stop short of stating the real problem, which is the cancerous growth of the human population. From the time humans evolved (yes, I said evolved) it took millions of years for the world population to reach one billion in about 1804.
It took only 123 years for it to reach two billion in 1927. In 1960 it reached three billion.
In 1999 it reached six billion and now it’s more than six and a half. Am I the only one who is terrified by these figures?
This little planet Earth is the only home we’ve got, and if we don’t stop eliminating other plant and animal species by our uncontrolled breeding, we and it are doomed.
Michael F response:

Population Perspective
In reference to "threat of overpopulation, letters 4/16/08, Michael F", I wouldn’t get too worried about the 6-7 billion people, at least not just yet.
What do this many people look like standing together? How much space is needed? After a few mathematical calculations I have determined that the entire world’s population could attend a "rock concert" in the greater KC area and have a place to stand 3’x3’. This space is a little larger than you would have at a normal outdoor rock concert. About a 47 mile square (2209 sq miles) would be required, which would be from about DeSoto in the West to Lees Summit in the East to Smithville in the North and Louisburg in the South.

You just might need a very good speaker system for this concert!
Dave Van

You may be asking.."how can you be so flippant about such a serious subject"? My answer...for two reasons, 1st a commission and 2nd a covenant:

The Commission: "....and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth". Gen 8:17....and
The Covenant: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." Gen 8:22

The commission has not been rescinded and the covenant is obviously still in effect. How we can sustain and improve the lot of those that have been created in His a topic for another blog.

The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Ps 24:1
God is (still) the Sovereign of the Universe!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pickin' Nits

I have a nit to pick concerning our Sunday morning corporate worship service. Before I lay out the nit, let me first explain that we attend a fairly formal Reformed church that is steeped in the traditions of Presbyterianism. We Presbyterians have been laughingly described as folk who wouldn’t recognize an emotion if it hit us in the face. Supposedly, we are a very unemotional lot. Presbyterian worship services in the past have been described as stodgy, dull, boring, prudish, and reserved to say the very best.

Well times, "they are a changing"! First, a little more background. My wife and I recently built a home theatre in our basement. At the urging of my son I was encouraged to purchase the very best sound system since this component is the one that makes the movies really, really come to life. Well, not being able to afford the "very best" we invested in what I would call a very good sound system. Especially the "sub-woofer". A sub-woofer is the speaker that picks up those deep, deep bass sounds that can literally vibrate through your body. Powerful, powerful stuff!

What does this have to do with "corporate worship"? Here’s my "nit". Lately I have noticed that corporate worship appears to be devolving into individual worship. Sunday’s service is a typical example. When the choir or the orchestra (on special Sunday’s) hit that highest crescendo during a worship song the "sub-woofer" effect takes place and someone feels compelled to jump to their feet. Now, the entire congregation is worshiping in a seated position. When the "sub-woofer" effect compels this person to stand, the people around her/him also feel obligated to stand. And like dominos that have faltered halfway through their tumble, part of the congregation is standing and part are seated. Very confusing. Is this fleshly-individual worship? Bear in mind this urge never, never happens at the solemn reading of the Word. Never, never happens during prayer. Never, never happens during worship with tithes and offerings...but this "moving of the spirit" happens only when the "sub-woofer" effect occurs during an emotional song. Fleshly? I’ll let you decide. Pickin’ nits? Yes. Is there a noticeable drift toward individualistic worship?

You must understand that I am over 50....well over 50. This age factor may explain my concern. I do however, long for corporate worship in spirit and in truth and.... With Reverence and Awe...which, by the way, is a plug for a book I just read by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether by this name. This book is approximately 200 pages long and outlines the essentials for Reformed worship. I’ll end the picking of my "nit’ with a quote from the book, pg. 139: "...the means of grace are fundamentally corporate in character. When we come to worship, we are not engaging in an individual experience. Public worship is always in the company of the saints, and its activities are for the participation of the whole congregation."

Thursday, April 10, 2008


After a recent visit to my church’s website I discovered that our pastor has scheduled a preaching series on the subject of Predestination and Freewill. I am elated!. We are members of a conservative, reformed, unique, PCUSA church, in the Heartland, and yet in the 6 years we have been attending I cannot recall the word "predestination" even being used once either in Sunday School or from the pulpit, except to be acknowledged as a term to which reformed folk adhere. My question: Why do you suppose that is?

Let me toss out a few reasons:

Doctrine is don’t preach anything that will divide.I even recall a radio preacher saying something to the effect that "we don’t preach doctrine, it divides, we preach relationships." It’s hard to imagine what is being preached at this fellow’s church. Surely not the Word of God..for it is full of doctrine. And..relationships are dependent upon learning about the One with whom we may be related. I recall a former pastor mentioning predestination since it was a part of the scripture text that was read. He passed over the subject saying that these are"deep waters that we’ll not be going into". I did e-mail and begged him that he take us into the deep waters of these wonderful reformed doctrines. He didn’t!
Presdestination is Controversial
Every church, every denomination every member in the pew must have a doctrine of predestination and election. These are, after all, scriptural terms and if a church is preaching the gospel..these doctrines are part of the full gospel. Controversial or not one must develop an understanding of these terms and not just sweep the hard parts under the rug. Didn’t Jesus say, "Feed my sheep"...."my sheep (will) hear my voice"?
Predestination is a Mystery
How is it possible that Free Will and Predestination can be compatible? Aren’t these opposite poles that can’t be reconciled? I think that believers can be confident that the holy, inerrant, infallible scriptures could not possibly teach contradictory truths. Sometimes they may appear contradictory...but that is just an appearance. Digging deep into the doctrines reveal that it is just that, and an indepth examination reveals the truth of the matter.

The purpose of this particular writing is not to get to an indepth understanding or examination of this particular doctrine but to simply question why it appears to be avoided like the plague. Perhaps the three reasons above may not exhaust the possibilities, but I can repeat that I am elated that our pastor has chosen to take us into these "deep waters". Salvation is of the Lord, Jonah 2:9

(For those of you desiring to know and understand "Reformed Doctines" there is a free downloand of the Reformed Confessions HERE . Put it on your desktop for continual reference.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Side Effects

Have you noticed the TV ads for some of the newer drugs that are being promoted? The legal requirement to disclose potential side effects seems, to me, to very often negate any potential benefits. This list of side effects of some of the pharmaceuticals, to my surprise, even includes the side effect of "death". The ads most generally conclude with the same advice.."if these symptoms occur see your doctor, immediately". Fairly easy to comply in all cases but one.

I was pondering the idea of Christian themed blogging, i.e., blogging with a Christian worldview and wondered if I should even bother since there are only about 3 people reading this crafty work of literary excellence and I am one of them! As this bit of introspection was occuring I concluded that the real fruit of this blogging adventure so far was from the "side effects" themselves. And I have been the recipient. What do you mean, Dave? Glad you asked! What have been the "side effects" of this effort? Let me list a few:

I have spent more time in biblical/scriptural studies.
I have spent more time in personal and private prayer.
I have spent more time studying Christian themes written by Christian writers.
I have spent more time with family discussing things eternal.
I have actually seen a need to become more involved in the work of the Kingdom, whether at the local church or at other levels.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

I will blog, however if these symptoms continue to occur, I’d better see a Doctor...
of Divinity!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Theological Trip

Recently my wife and I embarked on a mini theological/nostalgia trip to the roots of my youth. This trip would cover memories that were created during the 3rd through 9th years of my life. Truly boyhood memories. The period of time...1942 to 1950.

My dad, Rev Leslie M. Van Inwegen, graduated from Sterling College in Sterling, Ks in early 1942 and we were settled into his first pastorate in mid-1942 in a small Western Pennsylvania town called Langeloth. Why Western Pennsylvania? Pittsburgh Xenia Theological Seminary was the next stop for this young five member family consisting of mom, two boys and a girl and a father who’s heart was on fire to preach the gospel. His head, nevertheless, needed the theological training that would qualify him to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

During this period we lived in 3 different houses and Dad pastored 7 different churches. In addition to the pastorates, plus full-time seminary, he also worked part-time in a steel factory. His highest paying pastorate yielded an annual salary of $2200.00/yr. So...our purpose in this theological trip into the past was first to visit some of these seven churches where my father’s fortune was amassed and secondly to see if the memories in the boy’s head were anything like the reality of today. Fifty-six years had passed for grass to wither and flowers to fade since these boyhood memories were shaped. Were these 7 churches still in existence?

What thou seest, write in a blog, and send it unto the 7 churches which are in Western Pennsylvania, unto
The Langeloth Community United Presbyterian Church, and 9 miles away Cross Creek UP Church in Colliers, WVA, unto Hanover Presbyterian Church rte 18, Clinton, Pa, unto Frankfort Presbyterian Church, Frankfort Springs, unto Mt Pleasant Presbyterian Church, and unto Park UP Church in Zelienople, Pa and finally unto Camp Run UP church near Zelienople. WOW!....not only still in existence but thriving! “Seven golden candlesticks.” Now, I operate under no illusions of grandeur. Dad himself would say he had only a minute part in the development of these thriving seven churches, nevertheless what a testimony this is to our Lord and Savior and to some very faithful folk in Western, Pa. “Soli Deo Gloria”

Who says you can’t go back? We made this trip in less than a week. We met some of these very faithful folk that are continuing the tradition that we were so privledged to be a part of some 50 plus years ago. We thank them for their warm and wonderful hospitality. Thanks be to God!

Here’s some photos: