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John F MacArthurThe John MacArthur sermon I cited for my post on Acts 20:7-12 has some interesting information about rituals in the early years of the Church.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Worshipping on the Lord’s Day

MacArthur explains that the Lord’s Day — Sunday — became the day of Christian public worship to commemorate Christ’s Resurrection:

First of all, when did they come together? The first day of the week. Now that became the meeting time for the Church. You say, “Didn’t they meet every day?” Sure they did. They met, from Acts 2, “Daily, from house to house.” And listen. Christianity is not a one day a week thing, is it? It’s an everyday thing. And that little church, wherever it was, in whatever little town, those Christians were together usually during the week. There were Bible studies in home. They were breaking bread in homes. They were sharing the Lord’s table, perhaps, in home. So it was not uncommon for the Church to meet on a daily basis in its early years.

But together, the church came on the first day of the week. And you say, “Why did they do that?” Well, you go back to John 20, just to refresh your memory. Verse 19. This was immediately after the Resurrection, “The same day, at evening, being the first day of the week.” Do you know when the first day of the week started in the Jewish calendar? Saturday night, right? After the sun went down, the Sabbath ended. The days were counted from sunset to sunset. And so it was on Saturday night, literally, but it was the first day of the week. So then it was Sunday.

We don’t prefer to call it Sunday. It’s all right if you want to call it Sunday, but that represents the sun god. But that’s okay, because there is no sun god anyway, so you can call it Sunday without feeling bad. But I prefer to call it the Lord’s Day. That’s Revelation 1:10. John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” That’s why in your bulletin you’ll find that we call it the Lord’s Day.

Now they met together here in John 20:19 on the first day of the week, and who appeared to them? Jesus did. Eight days later, verse 26 says, “The next time the first day of the week came, they were meeting together, and the Lord appeared.” Well, you see what happened? They were together on the first day. That was Resurrection, commemoration day. The Lord appeared both times, so He had risen on the first day, appeared on the first day, appeared again on the first day, and they just took the first day and ran with it. That became Resurrection Day, the Lord’s Day.

And so the early Church celebrated its fellowship and its worship and its teaching together on Sunday. And let me hasten to add that I think such meeting together of the Church is strictly important. In Hebrews 10:25 it says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, and much the more as you see the day approaching.” That means you ought to come together with the believers and not forsake that.

Now notice that it is not the Sabbath Day anymore. Sunday is not the Sabbath. You hear people talk about going to church on the Sabbath. This is not the Sabbath. The Sabbath was yesterday. And the Sabbath is a dead issue, friends.

You know, I was on the radio in Honolulu. They have a talk station, like KABC. It’s the number two rated station in Hawaii. And they give three hours Sunday afternoon to a Christian kind of dialogue. And so I was the three-hour answer man on Honolulu radio station, KORL. And it was really interesting just to sit there, you know, and be on the grill with all these people. You know how talk radio goes. You do have that little button, however, you know, that you can just say, “I’m sorry, ma’am.” Boing, you know, and it’s all over.

But anyway, people called in, and one fellow asked me a question at the very beginning. He said, “What day is the church supposed to meet?” And you know, I didn’t realize I was being baited, but I was, apparently, because I went into this long, lengthy answer about the meaning of the Lord’s Day and the whole thing and everything. Got all done, and the lines went bananas. And I realized there’s a tremendous contingent of Seventh Day Adventists in Honolulu. And all of a sudden, I had opened up Pandora’s box, and they couldn’t handle the calls, and everything was going, and it was amazing, all the calls that were going on.

Through all of this, I simply maintained, in answering these various questions, that the only way you can allow for the – to worship on Saturday is, one, to ignore the history of the Church; two, to assume that the old covenant is still in vogue; three, to reject the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Well, they didn’t take too kindly to all of those junctions, but I supported them by Scripture. In Colossians 2:16, it says, “Let no man therefore condemn you in food -” That is, if you don’t eat like Jewish people used to eat. “In drink, or in respect of a Feast Day,” if you don’t keep the Passover or the Sabbath, “or of the new moon, or of a Sabbath, which are a shadow of things to come.” And once the thing comes, you don’t need the shadow anymore. So don’t let anybody [try to influence] you in those things.

So we went on and on about that. It’s clear to me that the Lord’s Day historically and biblically became the time when the Church met together. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul just assumes it. He says, “When you come together on the first day of the week, that’s the time to bring your offerings.” Right? The Church should meet on the first day. If you want to meet on the Sabbath and you want to buy the Sabbath, then you’re going to have to buy the whole old covenant and you’re going to be saved by works, and that’s what we got into on the radio.

And I finally just turned the tables and I asked the question, I said, “Well, let me ask you about your doctrine. You’ve asked me about mine.” So I said to some guy who was giving me this long argument, I said, “Why is it that you say that the only covenant people are the ones who worship on the Sabbath, and that the mark of the beast is on everybody who worships on Sunday? That’s in your theology.” And there was a long silence. And then he admitted that that was true, that the mark of the beast is on those who worship on Sunday. And ultimately, what they were saying was you’re saved by works, keeping the whole covenant. Obeying the law. And we got into all kinds of legalism, and it became a tremendous thing because I’m so fresh in Galatians that, you know –

You know, the Lord has a way of just arranging things. Somebody must have thought, “Man, he’s got all that stuff down, you know?” That’s why it’s good to study the Word of God. You know, I’ve found that in my life. You study a certain passage, and the Lord will give you opportunity to use it.

The Church met then on the Lord’s Day, and at the beginning, they met on a daily basis, and pretty soon it became a kind of thing where they would continue to meet in small groups, in homes. But on the time that the Lord’s Day came around, the first day of the week, they would congregate together [e]n mass[e]. I don’t believe for a minute that the Church is just to be little groups scattered all over town. I think the Church is to come together.

Worshipping as a congregation

The earliest Christians eventually had to leave the synagogue environment and worship in people’s houses. Then, congregations grew to the point where churches were built. It is important that believers come together to worship publicly:

I don’t believe for a minute that the Church is just to be little groups scattered all over town. I think the Church is to come together.

Now where did the Early Church meet? Well, look here. It says in verse 8 they met in an upper chamber. They met everywhere. First, they met in the temple, didn’t they? And you imagine how popular that was. Boy, that must have been interesting. And then after that, they started meeting in synagogues. You know, Paul would go to a town. A bunch of people would get saved in the synagogue, and they’d keep coming to the synagogue and having their meetings there.

But eventually, it just didn’t work in the temple and it just didn’t work in the synagogue, and so they began to pull out and establish their own Christian assemblies. And the natural place to go, first of all, was to homes. Right? So the Church began in homes. And they must have been some very substantial homes. Some very large homes, to accommodate the many Christians that existed in those early years.

By the – oh, I’d say between the middle and the end of the second century, they began to build their own buildings to accommodate all of the Christians. But here, they were still meeting in an upper room, in a home. And when Paul wrote Colossians 4:15, he referred to the Church in the home. When he wrote Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19, he referred to the Church in the home, Aquila and Priscilla and Philemon too, refers to the Church that met in the home. And so there was a very common occurrence in the Early Church, and that was to meet in homes. And then later on, buildings were built.

Just all of that to say this. It’s important for the Church to come together someplace. We cannot exist in isolation, can we? We need the fellowship, the unity of the body. And so this little pattern here that we see gives us an example of how the Early Church met. On the first day of the week, verse 7, “When the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart the next day, and continued to speak until midnight, and there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.”

The love feast

MacArthur explains, scripturally, how the love feast came into being and how it disappeared. Centuries later, with the Reformation, Pietist communities in various countries revived it, and certain Christian sects still hold a love feast of some sort today, even if it involves only a non-alcoholic beverage and a piece of cake.

MacArthur doesn’t go into the revival of the love feast, however, he tells us that Paul told the Corinthians not to hold any more, because they were being selfish about the dishes they brought to the love feast:

You say, “What was the love feast?” Well, the love feast was like a potluck meal, and it was for the purpose of sharing. You had – one of the very basic things of the Christian Church is fellowship, isn’t it? And love. And so the poor people would come, and they couldn’t bring anything, and the people who could would bring enough for the poor people, and they would all share as an expression of love. It was a beautiful sharing. The common meal. And it was followed immediately by the breaking of bread and the celebration of the Lord’s Day. This was the breaking of bread for the Early Church. The agape love feast and communion.

You know, it’s a sad thing to think about, but the agape love feast kind of faded from the scene. You know why? Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Do you know what he said to them in chapter 11? He said, “You really messed up the love feast.” 1 Corinthians 11. Let me just read you a couple of verses. And this is what happened to the love feast. It just deteriorated. He says in verse 20, 1 Corinthians 11, “When you come together therefore into one place, this is not the Lord’s Supper which you eat.” In other words, “You think you’re coming together for the Lord’s Supper, but you’re not. You polluted it. It isn’t His supper.” “For in eating, everyone takes before the other his own supper.”

Can you imagine going to a potluck and have everybody sit in their own corner and eat their own potluck? It’s what was happening. And some of the hungry people who had nothing were coming, and they were going away hungry. And so he says, “One is hungry and another is drunk.” In other words, the people who come and have nothing get nothing. The people who come and have a lot overindulge.

He says, and I think this is important. He says, “Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in?” If that’s all you’re going to do, go home. “Or despise you the Church of God and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. You have literally despised the unity of the Church.” And so that’s what happened, and the whole beautiful commonness of the love feast just faded historically.

Communion

MacArthur takes issue with the way Holy Communion has evolved over the centuries:

… communion also got hit in history. The Catholic Church moved in, and when the Catholic Church dominated the world, before the Reformation, communion stopped being a natural, informal, warm sharing together in the memory of Christ, and it became a mystical priestly ceremony that’s now continuing to go on, known as the mass. And somehow, Protestantism sprang out of that, and we got a little closer to the truth, but I’m not sure we’re there yet. We still think of communion as something that’s performed by a whole lot of ministers, and it has to be done with little silver trays and little – and walking up and down aisles, and organs playing. And I think that’s wrong, too. I think that’s one way to do it, but I think communion is something we all ought to do much more frequently than we do.

Often people will say, “You know, John, I’d like to participate in communion, but I can’t come on Wednesday nights.” That’s no excuse. That’s no excuse.

Communion at home

I’m still digesting MacArthur’s suggestion for home Communion, which follows on from people saying they’re unable to attend his church’s Communion service, but then I come from a theological background wherein a Real Presence is part of consecrated bread and wine.

For MacArthur, Communion seems to be a symbol of the Last Supper, therefore, he says to hold one’s own Communion ceremonies at home:

You can have communion any time you want. The best place I think to teach your children communion is in your home. Teach them the meaning of breaking of bread. You know, some people just go crazy when you talk like this, because they say, “Only ordained ministers can do that.” You can’t find that in the Bible. You can share around the Lord’s Table any time you want, and you should. Jesus said, “Do this until I come, and do it with you in the kingdom.” It’s your responsibility.

There are plenty of occasions. You know, can you imagine when you get together – have you ever gotten together with other Christians and gone home after evening and said, “What a wasted evening. We could have talked about the Lord, and all we did was fool around and talk about Aunt Mary and Mrs. So and So, and how we don’t like this guy and this girl.” Have you ever done that? Sure. And you had a whole _____ thing. How about if you came together three or four couples, and just started out by breaking bread. I think that might change the pattern of your evening. It might even change where you go after you got done, or what you talk about, for sure.

And so I think we need to remember that this is part of the Early Church. It was a common and easy and a natural and a flowing thing, right out of the life that they had and their love for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s just what they did when they came together. And that’s the way it should be with us. But unfortunately, I think we’ve been victimized by those who have told us that all of these things are to be performed in some kind of a formal, ritualistic manner as well.

Then he says that, along with this, comes edifying, instructive conversation. That I can get on board with:

But the disciples came together to break bread, and here’s the second thing that I want you to notice about the time they met together. Paul preached unto them. They came together for teaching. Whenever the Early Church came together, this was primarily the purpose. Sometimes it was to break bread, and there is no command here as to how frequently. It’s just to be done often. And this time when they came together, they did that. But Paul preached unto them. This became the priority when they met, was preaching and teaching. And the word preaching here is not to preach the Gospel. You don’t need to preach the Gospel at a service of breaking of bread, because everybody’s already a Christian.

Paul taught them, and the word preaching here has to do with dialogue. He answered questions, and there was feedback, and he shared with them. Teaching. That was the priority. The Apostles had earlier said, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word,” Acts 6:4. And Acts 6:7 says, “And the Word multiplied and the Church multiplied.” It says the same thing in Acts 12:24 and Acts 19:20. “The Word of God grew and prevailed.” This is the priority.

Interesting, to say the least.

Agree or disagree, it’s food for thought, especially for those who consider themselves Christians but who no longer attend church because they find many of today’s churches lacking in solemnity and teaching.

That said, an effort should be made to find a good congregation or a good service that you feel comfortable with. Attend now and again to make it a regular habit.

On Friday, September 1, 2017, President Donald Trump proclaimed that Sunday would be a National Day of Prayer in the United States for those affected by Hurricane Harvey — victims, first responders and rescuers:

Trump’s pastor friends are behind him laying on hands in prayer. Pastor Robert Jeffress is on the left with the red tie.

Trump also thanked the first responders and rescuers doing so much to mitigate Harvey’s ravaging effects.

Trump spoke then signed the proclamation (3:08 mark above). The White House has a transcript of his proclamation, most of which follows:

Americans have always come to the aid of their fellow countrymen — friend helping friend, neighbor helping neighbor, and stranger helping stranger — and we vow to do so in response to Hurricane Harvey. From the beginning of our Nation, Americans have joined together in prayer during times of great need, to ask for God’s blessings and guidance. This tradition dates to June 12, 1775, when the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of prayer following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and April 30, 1789, when President George Washington, during the Nation’s first Presidential inauguration, asked Americans to pray for God’s protection and favor.

When we look across Texas and Louisiana, we see the American spirit of service embodied by countless men and women. Brave first responders have rescued those stranded in drowning cars and rising water. Families have given food and shelter to those in need. Houses of worship have organized efforts to clean up communities and repair damaged homes. Individuals of every background are striving for the same goal — to aid and comfort people facing devastating losses. As Americans, we know that no challenge is too great for us to overcome.

As response and recovery efforts continue, and as Americans provide much needed relief to the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are reminded of Scripture’s promise that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Melania and I are grateful to everyone devoting time, effort, and resources to the ongoing response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. We invite all Americans to join us as we continue to pray for those who have lost family members or friends, and for those who are suffering in this time of crisis.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our National Response and Recovery Efforts. We give thanks for the generosity and goodness of all those who have responded to the needs of their fellow Americans. I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers today for all those harmed by Hurricane Harvey, including people who have lost family members or been injured, those who have lost homes or other property, and our first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and medical professionals leading the response and recovery efforts. Each of us, in our own way, may call upon our God for strength and comfort during this difficult time. I call on all Americans and houses of worship throughout the Nation to join in one voice of prayer, as we seek to uplift one another and assist those suffering from the consequences of this terrible storm.

The Left went mad.

They complained of mixing church and state. Unlike France, the United States does not prohibit the mixing of church and state. The United States grants the freedom for people to practise their own religion and says there will be no state religion. For more information on church and state in America, see ‘Church, state and the First Amendment’, which I wrote earlier this year.

They accused Trump of intimating that people who were non-Christian could not participate. Does he have to draw them a picture every time he speaks? Everyone was encouraged to participate in their own way: ‘all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds’.

The aforementioned Pastor Jeffress gave an interview to Judge Jeanine Pirro of Fox News on November 2. He is grateful that God gave America Donald Trump:

I read somewhere last week that President Trump might not be a religious president, but he is a prayerful one. That works for me.

In July 2012 — the year of Obama’s re-election — there was the 714-PROJECT for America, which was a general — not presidential — call to prayer and meditation based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. That verse was useful then and continues to be so now:

I think of that verse often, not only for the US, but also for other nations, including the UK.

However, it does not take a national day of prayer for the faithful to bow their heads and ask for God’s blessing (the date of the tweet shows here as November 3 but is actually November 2):

Breitbart has a good article on previous National Days of Prayer. Excerpts follow.

As Trump said, Washington was the first to make such a proclamation:

“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States,” Washington declared in his first Inaugural Address, the first words uttered by a president of the United States.

It is therefore hardly surprising that when the first Congress passed a resolution on September 25, 1789, calling upon Washington to proclaim a National Day of Prayer, the Father of His Country issued a proclamation to all Americans that November 26, 1789, would be a day to “offer our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful to his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor,” Washington’s proclamation begins, then encourages Americans to pray in their churches and homes on the designated day …

John Adams, the second president, made two: in 1798 and 1799. He asked for a day of:

solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.

From James Madison — the fourth president — onwards, every president proclaimed that at least one day be a National Day of Prayer.

This was not a rare occurrence.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed March 30 to be a:

Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.

He announced:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord; I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

The proclamations of national days of prayer continued until 1952.

In 1952, President Harry S Truman’s and Congress’s intentions were good, however, instituting the first Thursday of May as the National Day of Prayer in perpetuity became a day viewed by most as a time when the president’s favourite pastors go to the White House for prayer and breakfast. It is no longer an exceptional occasion which captures most Americans’ hearts. It should, but, as the decades pass, it just looks too institutionalised.

It’s better to retain that and, when necessary, add special National Days of Prayer for specific events.

Various presidents after Truman have done so. Prior to President Trump, the last to do so was George W Bush after 9/11 in 2001.

Obama had no specially designated National Days of Prayer.

Thank goodness that President Trump is resuming the tradition.

To those who do not understand a national call to prayer, Breitbart explains:

all the Establishment Clause forbids is the government officially adopting a national religion or coercing Americans to participate in a religious activity that violates their conscience.

This is what would be unconstitutional:

ordering Americans to attend church to pray this Sunday and threatening them with federal prison if they refuse …

These National Days of Prayer are appeals:

issuing a proclamation that encourages all Americans who are willing to offer prayers that accord with their individual conscience is entirely constitutional.

The Left questioned whether Trump went to church on Sunday.

Yes, he did.

He attended St John’s Episcopal Church — the Church of the Presidents — which is in Lafayette Square, very close to the White House:

As the Trumps left after the service, the president answered a question from the press:

In case that video gets deleted, here are three tweets: first, second and third.

It was great to see tweets from others who participated in this National Day of Prayer at their own local churches:

Hurricane Harvey presented a perfect opportunity to unite the country and bring people closer to God through an officially proclaimed National Day of Prayer.

Church and state averypoliticalwomancomIn response to ‘Christian objections to President Trump’, the author of Pacific Paratrooper wrote in to ask:

Isn’t there a division of church and state?

The short answer is that the First Amendment protects religious freedom and prohibits the establishment of a national church and state churches. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote of the ‘separation between church and State’ in 1802 in a letter to the Danbury Baptists. They were concerned about their tax money supporting the Congregational Church, the state church of Connecticut at that time.

There is more to the story, detailed below.

However, Conservapedia tells us that there was a constitution that had a division of church and state (emphases mine below):

A phrase close to “separation of church and state”, but used for malevolent purposes and expanded to name education, does appear in Article 52 of the constitution of the Soviet Union (1977): “In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.”[6]

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Conservapedia makes the argument that the First Amendment has its origins in the Bible:

The protection for free speech was largely motivated to safeguard the preaching of the Bible. Several passages in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, support a right of free speech, including Numbers 11:26-30 (Moses allowed free speech by declaring, “If only all the people of the LORD were prophets!”);[1] Mark 9:38-41 (admonition by Jesus not to stop strangers who cast out evil in his name).

George Washington’s farewell address

In his farewell address of September 19, 1796, George Washington said:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politican, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private & public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure–reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Ronald Reagan’s address to the Alabama State Legislature

Nearly 200 years later, on March 15, 1982, Ronald Reagan addressed the Alabama State Legislature:

And I know here that you will agree with me that standing up for America also means standing up for the God, who has so blessed our land. I believe this country hungers for a spiritual revival. I believe it longs to see traditional values reflected in public policy again. To those who cite the first amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.

What Jefferson said

In 1801, a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut wrote Thomas Jefferson to ask about about their tax money supporting the Congregational Church, the state church of Connecticut at that time.

On New Year’s Day 1802, Jefferson replied, in part:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Connecticut did not change this mandate until 1818. That year, their constitution finally stated:

Article VII. Section 1. It being the duty of all men to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and their right to render that worship in the mode most consistent with the dictates or their consciences, no person shall by law be compelled to join or support, nor be classed with, or associated to, any congregation, church, or religious association; but every person now belonging to such congregation, church, or religious association, shall remain a member thereof until he shall have separated himself therefrom, in the manner hereinafter provided. And each and every society or denomination of Christians in this State shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights, and privileges; and shall have power and authority support and maintain the ministers or teachers of their respective denominations, and to build and repair houses for public worship by a tax on the members of any such society only, to be laid by a major vote of the legal voters assembled at any society meeting, warned and held according to law, or in any other manner.”

Jefferson worshipped in Capitol building

Atheists are fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson and have adopted him as their secular hero. However, three days after Jefferson wrote his ‘separation between church and state’ letter to the Danbury Baptists (italicised emphasis in the original here, purple emphases mine):

he attended church in the largest congregation in North America at the time. This church held its weekly worship services on government property, in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capitol Building. The wall of separation applies everywhere in the country even on government property , without government interference. This is how it is written in the Constitution, this is how Thomas Jefferson understood it from his letter and actions, and this is how the men who wrote the Constitution practiced it.

Worship in the Capitol ended only after the Civil War. Therefore, it lasted for five decades.

Conservapedia provides more examples of Jefferson’s support of Christianity in government:

David Barton, Founder and President of WallBuilders, states that Jefferson voted that the Capitol building would also serve as a church building, praised the use of a local courthouse as a meeting place for Christian services, urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, set aside government lands for the sole use of religious groups, assured a Christian religious school that it would receive “the patronage of the government”, proposed that the Great Seal of the United States depict a story from the Bible and include the word “God” in its motto, and agreed to provide money for a church building and support of clergy. And that like support of religion by the federal government militates against the extreme separatist position.[26]

The Bible and American government

Conservapedia tells us that God is mentioned in all 50 state constitutions.

Until the 1960s, the Bible had a pre-eminent place:

in government, jurisprudence [11] and in over 300 years of American education[12][13].

Every new president has made a religious reference in his inaugural address. Dwight D Eisenhower wrote his own prayer. Dr Jerry Newcombe compiled a list of all of these references for the Christian Post just before Donald Trump’s inauguration. (He, too, mentioned God — more than once.) Here are a few:

1. George Washington said, “It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe….”

3. Thomas Jefferson prayed to “that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe.”

6. John Quincy Adams quoted Scripture: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in Vain.”

7. Andrew Jackson referred to “the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy.”

16. Abraham Lincoln stated, “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”

24. William McKinley declared, ” Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers.”

25. Theodore Roosevelt thanked “the Giver of Good who has blessed us.”

32. Harry S. Truman referenced “that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.”

Dr Newcombe rightly concludes:

The atheists are the Johnny-come-latelies. Demands to ban God and the Bible from the Inauguration should be denied.

Interpretation

It is not surprising that many Americans and other people around the world now think that Christians in the United States are being unreasonable when they lament that the Ten Commandments have been removed from county courthouses along with Christmas crèches on government property.

I grew up with these displays. No one ever had a problem with them, other than the occasional crank.

However, all that changed in the 1960s. In addition to Madalyn Murray O’Hair‘s successful case against school prayer which effectively banned it — along with Bible readings — in state schools, the Supreme Court under Earl Warren dramatically changed the way all of us view the First Amendment (emphases in the original here):

Jefferson simply quotes the First Amendment then uses a metaphor, the “wall”, to separate the government from interfering with religious practice. Notice that the First Amendment puts Restrictions only on the Government, not the People! The Warren Court re-interpreted the First Amendment thus putting the restrictions on the People! Today the government can stop you from Praying in school, reading the Bible in school, showing the Ten Commandments in school, or have religious displays at Christmas. This is quite different from the wall Jefferson envisioned, protecting the people from government interference with Religious practice.

Therefore, one could make the case that over the past 50 years, America has been drifting in practice towards a Soviet-style restriction on Christian displays, the Bible and prayer outside the home on government property.

If you think I am exaggerating, stories have been appearing in local newspapers and conservative websites over the past 12 years about teachers who have taken Bibles away from children silently reading them during lunch hour. There was an instance in Texas in 2003 I remember where the teacher took a child’s New Testament away at lunch hour and threw it in the wastebasket. He was not allowed to retrieve it.

In June 2016, WND published an article about a school in Palmdale, California, where a seven-year-old got his classmates interested in the Bible verses and stories his mother gave him every morning. The mother intended for her son to have religious encouragement during the day. She was not attempting to proselytise. However, the child was so thrilled by these verses that he couldn’t help but share them with others at lunchtime. It wasn’t long before his friends asked him for copies of the verses and stories. One girl who received a story showed it to the teacher, commenting on its beauty:

Then, however, C [the boy] was reprimanded by his teacher in front of the whole class, twice, and told to stop talking about religion or sharing his mother’s notes, and he went home in tears, Liberty Counsel said.

Even as the crowd of students asking for the after-school Bible notes grew, on May 9, Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached Zavala [the mother] and demanded that the notes only be handed out somewhere beyond school property.

With the school not satisfied with only the banishment, Liberty Counsel said, “a Los Angeles deputy sheriff knocked at the door of C’s home, demanding that C’s note-sharing cease altogether because ‘someone might be offended.’” …

The letter to the district said Liberty Counsel, “having reviewed the above facts, district policies, and applicable law, it is clear that the actions of the district staff in this instance, in prohibiting voluntary student religious expression during non-instructional time; then completely banning such student expression from school property entirely, and finally calling the police to report the same are simply unconstitutional.”

“These actions must be disavowed and reversed, to avoid liability for civil rights violations,” the letter said.

It gave the district a deadline for responding of June 1, which was ignored.

I think this will change — somewhat — over the next four years. While the Ten Commandments might not make a comeback in courthouses, Christmas crèches are likely to reappear. And teachers might start to lay off students sharing the Bible at lunchtime.

Tomorrow: Religious persecution and state churches in American colonies

It’s been a long time since I’ve tagged a post with ‘Church of Gaia’.

Yet, this syncretic sinfulness remains alive and well.

My reader Underground Pewster recently wrote about prayer petitions from the Episcopal Church’s Blue Book, likely to be used at their General Convention which started on June 25, 2015 and ends on July 3, 2015.

What he cites reads as if it were written by people who have a death wish for humanity (emphases in the original):

Most of what follows comes from the SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS From the STANDING COMMISSION ON LITURGY AND MUSIC (SCLM)

A Litany for the Planet: 

On rocks and minerals that form the foundations for life,
Creator, have mercy.
On volcanoes and lava flows that reveal the power of earth’s core,
Creator, have mercy…

I for one pray that God will show no mercy on volcanoes and lava flows. Was that prayer written by the guys who run the lava flow cruises or helicopter rides in Hawaii?

On micro-organisms of endless variety, the complex and the simple,
Creator, have mercy (
pp 248-9)

I hoped this one would go away when I pointed it out three years ago, but I guess we will soon be praying for multidrug resistant tuberculosis along with botulism, salmonella, and HIV.

Too right! What are these people thinking?

And it gets worse. The Blue Book promotes syncretism — combining Christianity with other religions’ deities — strictly anathema. In this case, the Episcopal Church has a prayer to the Native American Great Spirit, Gitchi Manadoo. It can be found in the Blue Book on p. 243 in “Prayers of the People Honoring God in Creation”, Form 2. Briefly:

[Gichi Manidoo,] Great Spirit God,
we give you thanks for another day on this earth.
We give you thanks for this day
to enjoy the compassionate goodness of you, our Creator.

Whoa!

Underground Pewster investigated further and discovered the following information on native-languages.org. Two brief excerpts follow, with more on Pewster’s admirable post:

Gitchi Manitou is the great creator god of the Anishinaabe and many neighboring Algonquian tribes. The name literally means Great Spirit, a common phrase used to address God in many Native American cultures.
As in other Algonquian tribes, the Great Spirit is abstract, benevolent, does not directly interact with humans, and is rarely if ever personified in Anishinabe myths–

Also:

It is Gitchi Manitou who created the world, though some details of making the world as we know it today were delegated to the culture hero Nanabozho.

Hmm.

We do need to be careful about whom we are addressing our prayers and supplications. Although certain tribes consider the Great Spirit and the Christian God to be the same, He is not.

Another thing Episcopalians would do well to remember is that (emphases mine in purple):

the same SCLM geniuses who are foisting Gitchi Manitou on us are the ones who prepared the liturgies for same sex marriages

Underground Pewster followed this post up with a round-up of Episcopalian Summer Solstice services which appeal to their inner Druid.

To show the falsehood of such services, Pewster has helpfully provided a lengthy quote from St Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions, part of which is cited below. Those unfamiliar with Augustine’s personal story should note that he came to Christianity well into adulthood after years of libertinism and paganism. This is part of what he wrote about Creation:

I asked the earth; and it answered, “I am not He;” and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, “We are not thy God, seek higher than we.” … I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: “Neither,” say they, “are we the God whom thou seekest.” And I answered unto all these things which stand about the door of my flesh, “Ye have told me concerning my God, that ye are not He; tell me something about Him.” And with a loud voice they exclaimed, “He made us.” … I asked the vast bulk of the earth of my God, and it answered me, “I am not He, but He made me.”

As Christians, it is essential that we remember the Creation story in Genesis, Jesus’s references to God as Creator in the Gospels and keep St Augustine’s quote in the forefront of our minds.

May we never fall into the trap of syncretic worship and break the First Commandment.

It was with some surprise that I read the news that Dr R Scott Clark deleted his fine resource on the Reformed churches, Heidelblog, earlier this month.

Dr Clark has been a professor at Westminster Seminary California (in Escondido) since 1997, where he teaches Church History and Historical Theology. He is the author of Recovering the Reformed Confession and contributes to a variety of theological publications and books.  He also serves as Associate Pastor at Oceanside United Reformed Church.  If you are in San Diego County, it would seem a good place to go for Sunday worship.

Along with many admirers and adherents to Calvinism, I have dozens of Heidelblog bookmarks on my PC.  Now, they are of no use — lost to the four winds.

What distinguished Heidelblog from similar sites is the intellectual insight of Dr Clark’s posts.  Until last year, he opened each post to comments.  The result was a cross between Luther’s table talks — educational conversations with students — and, for his more remote readers, lessons in Reformed theology and practice.  Therefore, it will be difficult to know where to go after this.  Yes, certainly, there are other Reformed sites, but, as much as I like them, none will match the sharpness and variety of Dr Clark’s.  And, once a blog is gone, it’s gone — there will be no Recovering the Heidelblog.

Dr Clark came to the Reformed church as an adult.  In a half-hour audio interview with Dr Michael Horton, also a professor at Westminster Seminary California, he explains that he only started going to church as a young man, having found a copy of Good News for Modern Man on a friend’s nightstand.  At that point, he thought that the Bible came out in monthly instalments like the Reader’s Digest!  From there, he began going to an evangelical Baptist church.

Although Dr Clark later rejected the Arminian doctrine of free will for Calvinist predestination, he does credit the Baptist minister for having preached Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, His Resurrection and the Gospel.  Those sermons, combined with fellowship from the congregation, led a young Clark to explore Scripture and the Church in more detail.  Whilst living in Kansas City in young adulthood, he evangelised in a car park on more than one occasion.  His journey took him to study theology.  He earned his M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California and his D. Phil from the University of Oxford.  It’s a pretty incredible journey for an unchurched youth to have made into adulthood and no doubt serves as a good illustration of why we might not always want to know God’s will — it would be too intimidating.

In the audio interview Dr Clark likens learning Church history to knowing one’s own family history.  For the Christian, Church history is our history in many ways.  (As an aside, the more one studies it and compares it to what is going on today, the more one sees the similarities: the same errors and heresies, just dressed up as postmodernism!)

He also cautions us against romanticising the past.  Many Calvinists today want to return to a perceived Golden Age of Christianity, whether that be the early apostolic Church, the Reformation or Cromwell’s England.  Dr Clark tells us that none of those ages was golden.  They all carried danger and controversy — believers were insecure and the Church was not safe.

Back to Heidelblog, which no doubt got its name from the United Reformed Church’s adherence to the Heidelberg Catechism.  Even online, Dr Clark taught as a professor of the old school would.  It was not unusual for him to respond to commenters with a sharp request to not return until they had read the material!  On the rare occasion, his wife Eileen commented with wit and insight that matched her husband’s.

So, why did Heidelblog have to go?  It seems that Dr Clark blogged about a worship inconsistency in his own church.  The more orthodox Reformed churches structure worship around what is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).  Public worship aligns to strict biblical principles.  One of these is sung Psalms (normally a cappella) and no hymns.  (If you want to know more, read this general discussion on the topic, to which which Dr Clark responded.)

Dr Clark ended up issuing the following apology to his local consistory (pastors and elders), which he also posted on Heidelblog.

Soon thereafter, RSS subscribers received this message:

The status of the Heidelblog will be changing very soon. If you operate a blog with links to the HB you will want to remove them.

Along with Pilgrimage to Geneva, we are sorry that this fine catalogue of information about the Reformed Confession — written by an orthodox seminary professor (hard to find these days!) — is gone.  Although we are grateful, we also believe that the Reformed churches have lost a valuable resource.  It is a shame that Dr Clark could not or was not allowed to delete the offending posts and retain the blog as an archive.

In any event, along with his hundreds (probably thousands) of faithful readers around the world, I wish him and his family every blessing.

——————————

UPDATE – September 2012: Heidelblog — back by popular demand!

How did we go from this:

St Mary's Catholic Church Bairnsdale Australia flickrcom

to this?st_peters_boerne_church_20interior-467x538 Houston

The traditional church at the top — St Mary’s in Bairnsdale, Australia — was designed by an Italian artist from Florence.

The new, modern church — St Peter’s in Boerne, Texas, near San Antonio — exhibits the Vatican II style of art.  (Boerne is pronounced ‘Bernie’, by the way.)

Which would you rather attend?  Which would you rather kneel and pray in afterward?  Which makes you think of aspiring to the Kingdom of Heaven?

I remember that at the end of the 1960s many Catholic churches in the US went through a ‘refurbishment’ programme.  We in the pews figured it consisted of structural repair and a new coat of paint. So, we weren’t surprised to see antique statues of St Joseph, St Therese of the Child Jesus and parish patron saints removed. Same for the wrought iron stands with votive candles. They’d be back.  After all, we wouldn’t want them damaged whilst the works were going on.

Wrong!

The refurbished churches had one or two statues and that was it.  The displays of any other saints had mostly disappeared or were some modern confection out of stained wood.  Votive candles were gone for good. Even worse were the new sets of modern Stations of the Cross!  Everyone talked about it, especially parishoners whose families had donated works of art in previous generations.  ‘My family paid for that!’  And we’re talking about immigrant ancestors with blue-collar jobs, not millionaires.  ‘And it’s gone — just disappeared!  The priest didn’t even bother to notify me.  I could have donated it somewhere else.’

Perhaps not.  Priests were smugly silent about the refurbishments.  They said very little about them: in fact, nothing.  But, they were all in keeping with Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Chapter VII.

Sorry, but I must interject my thoughts on St Peter’s above.  At the same time that the refurbishments were going on, I read an illustrated article in a movie magazine about Anton LaVey, who had a small coterie of followers in Hollywood.  I can’t help but think that Satan worked through the architects of St Peter’s, Boerne.  It looks so much like LaVey’s place.  All they need is a pentagram.  But I digress.

In brief, this is why we have the Catholic churches that we do.  Chapter VII of Sacrosanctum Concilium says:

  • The Church reasserts its ‘right to pass judgment on the arts’ to determine which works of art are ‘suitable’ for sacred use through new ‘decrees’
  • Changes to what acceptable art is have gone on through time, so the Church has ‘admitted changes’ in light of new materials, styles and ornamentation
  • Churches must be suitable for the ‘active participation of the faithful’
  • The number of sacred images must be ‘moderate’, lest other Christians might find them ‘incongruous’ or of ‘doubtful orthodoxy’
  • Priests must seek the opinion of the new diocesan commissions with regard to sacred images in their churches
  • New sacred art academies would be instituted to create images in line with Vatican II
  • Sacred ‘furnishings’ must not be destroyed (and my comment: this is why there is such an online market nowadays for pre-Vatican II art).

So, there you have it.  Keep in mind that St Peter’s, unlike St Mary’s, fosters the ‘You are Christ’ notion.  People look at each other instead of at the altar.  At St Mary’s, you must look at the altar and focus on Our Lord.  What an outmoded idea.

To see and read about Vatican II church transformations in Coffs Harbour, Australia, click here.  This is an excellent compendium.

For more on Vatican II, click here.

Strangely enough, I happened to be thinking about that hit from the 60s prior to reading some of the rants in cyberspace about the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It seems that we’re all pretty much ecumenical and happy until her name is mentioned, then, watch out!

The notionally ‘fair-minded, tolerant’ person has a go at the Catholic over his ‘Mariolatry’.  Ping!  Sparks fly, commenters get banned, threads get pulled and site moderators get a flurry of comments.  Many of these are derogatory towards Catholics. 

If there is any Christian topic of discussion that could incite physical violence, it’s probably Mary. Therefore, Catholics must use the same rules for discussing her as for cigarette smoking: nothing in a confined space, including lifts, cars (or even an Internet site).  Otherwise, there will be trouble.

What is ‘Mariology‘?  The theological study of Mary which, in some cases, can lead to a perceived ‘worship’ of her.  This ‘worship’ is known as ‘Mariolatry‘, what some Protestants call idolatry in its ‘excessive’ devotion to Mary.

What offends some Protestants?  Three things, primarily:

Exhibit 1 – Mary as Queen of Heaven —

Our Lady of Fatima traditioninactionorg

These Protestants say there is no Biblical basis for a Queen of Heaven.

Exhibit 2 – the Rosary —

Rosary catholicradiodramas

These Protestants say there is no Biblical basis for ‘worshipping’ Mary with beads and prayers addressed to her. 

Exhibit 3 — praying in front of a statue of Mary —

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Ooops — there we have a representation of Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel and as the Queen of Heaven.  Catholics, according to one Protestant blogger, are ‘praying ALL THE TIME’ to statues of Mary!  What is to be done?

The Protestant case against Mariolatry

The Protestant argument against can be summed up easily: Sola Scriptura.  This means that Scripture always trumps tradition.  In other words, it does not matter whether Doctors of the Church have discussed, analysed and approved devotions to Mary over the centuries.  If there is no Biblical verse permitting it, it is a sin and, therefore, must not be done.  The Church does not judge Scripture;  Scripture judges the Church.  See 2 Tim 3:16-17 and 2 Pet. 1:20-21.

Protestants refer to praying to Mary or the saints as ‘necromancy’ (yes, I’m deadly serious) as described in Deuteronomy 18:9-11.  They cite the following additional explanations and Biblical support:

More resources: CARM, EIPS 

The Catholic case for Mariology

The Catholic Church has relied largely on various Church councils and Doctors of the Church over the centuries to arrive at Mary’s exalted status.  They offer the following Scriptural references: 

  • Scripture gives us many examples of godly people as exalted: Genesis 12:1-2, 15:18, Exodus 17:11
  • Mary gave birth to the Word made Flesh (John 1:14), thereby fulfilling God’s plan of redemption for us (Luke 1:38, Luke 2:34-35
  • The Bible mentions the prayers of saints: Revelation 5:8
  • Jesus gives Mary an adoptive spiritual mother status at the Crucifixion when He addresses St John: John 19:26-27
  • Saints are put in charge of many things: Matthew 25:21
  • All nations shall call her blessed: Luke 1:46-49
  • All Christians are called to be co-redeemers with Christ.  ‘Co’ in this sense means ‘with’ (from the Latin cum), not ‘equal to’ (Colossians 1:24)
  • Martin Luther even addressed Mary directly in his sermon for the Feast of the Visitation in 1537: ‘No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity’.

More resources: Vox Populi Marie Mediatrici, EWTN, Catholic Source, The Image Family Online, David MacDonald

This post is just a general — and a polite — response to what I have read during the past week.  I don’t want to rekindle animosities, so if anyone tries to come here with untoward comments and the ‘R’ word to refer to Catholics, his comments won’t see the light of day.  If a few people hadn’t come out in such a narrow-minded way, I would not have felt obliged to post a rebuttal.  I don’t know how this particular Protestant can claim that Catholics are ‘praying ALL THE TIME’ to statues of Our Lady if he doesn’t venture into Catholic churches.

I haven’t witnessed such Catholic-bashing for 45 years.  It seemed to be a thing of the past, especially among people in my age group, who are guilty of this now.  Sadly, like the heresy accusation, it is still present.  What’s worse, two of these bloggers are Protestant pastors.  I doubt they made any converts from Catholicism based on their rants, which, whilst based in truth, were of a deeply unpleasant nature.

Yet, as my mother would say, ‘I’ll take a Doctor of the Church any day over a preacher. What, exactly, are his credentials?’

Will I reveal the websites and identities?  No.  Why give them the oxygen of publicity and drive traffic to their sites? 

We all have our beliefs and our doctrines.  Let’s live and let live, friends.  The time will come when we have to stand together.  Will we or won’t we?

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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