As we continually expose ourself to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as we just open our empty hands before him, we can trust that he will do his work. He will not leave us as we are. He will increase our joy. He will soften our sorrows. He will heal our wounds. He will, if he must, even cause the fish to get sick and spit us upon his shores to witness his redemption.
Christ who is the content of the gospel leaves no one in a neutral state.
—Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God, page 399
The one thing the gospel never does is nothing. Under the preaching of the gospel, no one remains the same. We are either moving closer to God or further from him. No one remains neutral. No one remains unchanged. We soften, or we harden.
Encountering Jesus is a life-altering event every time it happens. His word is always fresh. Even if we believe we know it, because he is God, his word is not returning void. Every time it is spoken, something happens. We fall in love with him, or we grow to despise him. We lean in, or we turn away. In every church meeting every Sunday morning, there is a massive movement in the hearts of people all over the world because of the gospel of Christ. Because Christ is the gospel, when we hear his word, we hear him, and when we hear him, we either fall down before him, or we run the other way. The one thing we don’t do is nothing.
It’s not always easy to perceive this movement. Perhaps we notice the leaning in more than the turning away. Yes, we can sprint in the other direction, but that’s not how it works for most of us. It’s more like drifting away at sea.
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By Scott Yenor — 7 months ago
Paracelsus, the pseudonymous author of First Do No Harm, argues that the American medical system is profoundly and perhaps irretrievably broken. The original Paracelsus, who also used that pseudonym, was a contemporary of Machiavelli and an acquaintance of Erasmus and Luther. He helped revolutionize medicine with modern methods, something that made him a critic of the medical establishment of his time. Our Paracelsus opposes today’s medical establishment for its corruption and stagnation.
Trust in American institutions is at an all-time low. Fewer Americans trust their elected officials, journalists, or business leaders to do what is best for the country than at any time in the past. Perhaps the decayed institutions do not deserve the public’s trust.
Congress seems unable to pass laws or budgets or to oversee the executive branch. Administrative bureaucracies are often captured by industries and narrow interests. The press no longer holds public officials accountable for misdeeds and lies; it promotes its own preferred narratives instead. Universities have become ideology factories. America’s military has waged several wars ineffectively; it has lower standards for admission than in the past. Our public schools achieve less at greater cost than in the past. No college professor honestly thinks students are better than they were a generation ago, nor are the college professors as well educated. Fewer movies have compelling plots or character development.
The list of decaying institutions includes our fake economy, the energy grid, factory farming, churches, air travel, public infrastructure, architecture, and our melting pot of assimilation. Our IQ scores are declining as are sperm counts, while obesity rises. Birth rates are cratering. Marriage formation lags. Americans are shorter on average than we were a generation ago. The list could go on.
Sports like golf and basketball, television, and the culinary arts are arguably better than in the past. Yet late republics specialize in just such bread and circuses. Decaying republics have good booze, tasty cheeses and crackers, and wonderful flat screens to watch girl-boss gladiators on demand.
Medics Under Fire
Could America’s medical system remain free from this general decay? Paracelsus, the pseudonymous author of First Do No Harm, argues that the American medical system is profoundly and perhaps irretrievably broken. The original Paracelsus, who also used that pseudonym, was a contemporary of Machiavelli and an acquaintance of Erasmus and Luther. He helped revolutionize medicine with modern methods, something that made him a critic of the medical establishment of his time. Our Paracelsus opposes today’s medical establishment for its corruption and stagnation.
Paracelsus treads on sacred ground when criticizing modern medicine. Founders of modern science like Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes thought the modern project would stand or fall by its ability to deliver ever greater improvements in health. Modern doctors are indeed able to do far more than their medieval predecessors. In many ways, the authoritative doctor stands in the modern mind as a representative of the entire modern scientific project, so an attack on medicine is an attack on the promise of modernity.
Medicine and science generally have delivered, in a manner of speaking. Life expectancies have indeed risen from 40 years old in 1880 to nearly 80 in 2015. Much of the credit for this rise goes to improved sanitation, better housing, better nutrition, the development of vaccines, and declines in maternal and infant mortality—all products of Baconian modern science. The health care system gets too much credit for the rise in life expectancy (life expectancy was almost 60 before by the 1920s), but it is a factor in rising life expectancies. No one appreciates medical advances more than I do. I would have been a widower had my wife given birth to our first in the 1850s. My daughter, diagnosed with stage four cancer when she was very young, is now a thriving adult cancer survivor: she would have been a goner in the 1920s or 1950s.
My positive experiences with the medical system happened well over a decade ago. Paracelsus dates our decayed medical system to around then. No system is perfect, of course. Anyone attempting to establish Paracelsus’s conclusions must present a “before” picture to compare against the decadent system. Paracelsus accomplishes this through a rich, mostly narrative clinical dissection of America’s system. According to Paracelsus, the goals of perpetuating the health system and providing quality health care are diverging, to the detriment of patient health. As more money and prestige come from perpetuating the system, the patient-centered goal of health is compromised. Health care’s glittering exterior (white-coated doctors, nice buildings, big staffs, lots of research money) masks an interior that is increasingly rotten and dysfunctional.
By Simon van Bruchem — 2 months ago
Why does this matter so much? It is a concrete way of showing your commitment to the people in your spiritual family, and it shows that honouring God comes first among your many other priorities. It gives you consistency of Biblical input and the best opportunity to learn from God’s word. Regular church attendance leads to stronger relationships with those in the church. And if you have children, attending the same church each week sends a message that God and His people are of first priority to your family.
Going to a church service every week is something that most Christians have historically done at a bare minimum. (There have been times when two services on Sunday, or even daily services at dawn, were the norm!) Yet the pattern for many Christians in our current age is to go to church much less regularly than that. It is common for even long-term Christians to go to church fortnightly, monthly, or whenever there isn’t a better offer going.
Our recent experience with COVID has exacerbated this trend. I have heard from many other churches that a significant proportion of their members are continuing to watch the weekly church service on livestream rather than coming in person. In my church (which chose not to continue offering live steaming), there has been a noticeable increase in people who come regularly but not every week. In-person church attendance has, for many Christians, become something that fits around the edges of other things that we want to do.
Now, there are many places in the Bible where regular meeting together as believers is expressly encouraged. It was the pattern of the early church to meet together, sometimes every day (Acts 2:46) and sometimes every week (Acts 20:7). Christian gathering for worship was regulated as it was assumed to be a significant part of the life of the community (1 Corinthians 14). And, of course, we have that famous warning in Hebrews 10:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV)
So why are so many Christians not putting a high value on weekly worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ? I have heard people say that they don’t want to be legalistic. We are saved by grace, not by religion, and surely we are still real Christians if we don’t go to church every week. And sure, I see the logic of that argument.
By Benjamin Glaser — 5 months ago
The officers in Christ’s Church are alone given the right to steward the mysteries of God. Children, unordained men or women, are not to be serving the Lord’s people the elements of the Table. The Scriptures are clear that order is to be observed in the worship of God’s House.
Last week we looked at Baptism and one of the things we noted about it is that it is to be understood as a public initiation of sorts into the Kingdom of God. As 1 Cor. 7 shows us the infant (or adult for that matter) is covenantally holy internally by the work of the Holy Spirit before the actual applying of the water onto the head of the recipient. However, there is still a need for the Church to testify to this existing reality. There are benefits both to the world and to the people of God to see and be reminded of the Lord’s promises to His children. The same could be said about the next sacrament we are going to look at: The Lord’s Supper. However, unlike Baptism, this Holy gift is for professed believers alone. It is not, despite what John Wesley taught, an ordinance open to everyone regardless of ecclesiastical status. Only those approved by the Church through the oversight of the Elders may partake.
This is true primarily because the bread and the cup is an exercise of grace and praise, in which those who have been found in the fruit of the Spirit are gathered together to be nourished at the breast of peace. It confirms our present faith in Jesus Christ and our resting in His bloody sacrifice for sin. Unbelievers cannot do that and it is folly (or worse) to tell them they can. In fact the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 11 explicitly warns against it for a physical as well as a spiritual penalty comes towards those who eat and drink unworthily.
That which the ancients declaimed as cannibalism we profess as a blessed feasting on the Savior of souls. We do what we do in the congregation of the faithful so that we might not only grow in strength by our spiritual union with the Lord in the act, but so that all may know that we as a people have no other hope in this life but the assurance offered in Christ Jesus our High Priest, slain for our benefit.
It’s such a beautiful and wonderful work which we take seriously for what it represents and what it does for us by the Triune God.
Here are the Catechism questions for this week:
Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is shewed forth; 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.