I hadn’t visited Calvary Santa Fe in a while, but a couple of Sundays ago we encountered a problem we sometimes do (our toddler went down for a nap at almost exactly the time we should have been leaving for church) and I decided to visit Calvary again and catch what I could rather than miss church altogether.
First of all, let me say that the sermon I heard is part of a series; the series is available for download [link], and the MP3 for the sermon I heard is here [link]. I don’t really have much to say about it except this: if I understand correctly this is meant to be expository (as opposed to topical) teaching, but this sounds to me like topical (as opposed to expository) teaching. I tend to make the distinction this way: expository teaching proceeds linearly (and we hope deeply) through the text where topical teaching takes an idea, phrase, or word from a text and follows it laterally across Scripture. In this case this sounds like a topical teaching taken from Philippians 2:5-11 on the phrase “the mind of Christ.” But I digress.
It saddens me to say this, but I believe this is a dying church. This year they consolidated their Sunday services, and when I was there the sanctuary was about one-third full. The bulletin mentioned that the church’s October budget was $58,000, but that the previous week’s donations were $3465. If these numbers are accurate and representative, they’re taking in a quarter to a third of what they need to make budget. There was a prayer request in the bulletin that appears to suggest that two staff members are seeking employment. Also, they may have structural problems as well; this is a church with ordained pastors, pastors, and deacons, but the bulk of the pulpit teaching is being done by the non-ordained pastors. But since I don’t know what the distinction means I’m not sure I’d put much emphasis on it.
The speaker was Andrew White, one of the two young non-ordained pastors. He has a clear enthusiasm for and a high regard for Scripture, and I really couldn’t tell you whether he’s going to grow into being a pastor or not. Preaching/pastoring is both difficult and labor-intensive, and a man needs a lot of hours both in study and in the pulpit before he can properly be called a pastor or a preacher, and not everyone who starts out as a young preacher (or even a young seminary graduate) makes the difficult journey. That’s no shame on White; he’s just setting out to do something difficult, and apparently in a difficult environment because of the health of the church.
I would encourage readers to listen to the sermon at the link above, as it strikes me as being typical of the mindset of a lot of Young Restless Reformed types: it includes affirmations of unassailable truths, but it is heavily larded with a kind of confrontation narrative, where we true Christians are contrasted with various aberrant groups that are rarely if ever named, but include
- New Agers
- secular types
- Prosperity Theology folks
And so much time is devoted to casting anonymous aspersions that it’s hard to pick out what constitutes a vital positive Christianity apart from simply not being aberrant. This is one of the things that troubles me about YRR folks and reminds me of my fundamentalist roots. I am given to wonder just how many people at Calvary are tempted by e.g. Prosperity Theology. I understand that a lot of this sort of teaching is rooted in the idea that a “pastor should protect the flock from wolves,” meaning “false teachers,” but if that flock isn’t in danger from a particular false teacher I’m not sure how much protecting is really being done if there’s no practical threat.
I wish I had an optimistic or encouraging payoff here, but I don’t. While I don’t wish this church any ill I have a hard time imagining what its recovery would look like. Fortunately for them that’s not strictly speaking necessary. I’ll look forward to checking in with them in a few months; I hope for their sake they’re in the midst of a turnaround by then.
We made an honest effort to attend church today, but our toddler fell asleep practically within sight of the church we planned to attend, and we deferred to naps instead of church. We have been surprised on careful observation how much the evidence of Original Sin is masked by careful observance of a regular schedule of naps and snacks. Go figure.
So I can’t tell you what I heard about 9/11 at church today. I’d appreciate your telling me anything you heard about 9/11 at church today.
On a related note, we are looking for a church in the Santa Fe area with an 8AM service. The last I know if went the the way of all flesh when Calvary Santa Fe consolidated their Sunday morning services.
I did manage to catch almost all of a J. Vernon McGee sermon spread across two hours on two local radio stations. He was doing a word study on “wings of eagles,” where he noted that eagles are unclean under the Mosaic dietary laws and proceeded to spend the rest of the hour talking about how various aspects of eagles are symbolic of various aspects of the character of God. I love McGee, not least because he taught his way through the entire Bible and has an accent only a mother could love, but as a modern I’m always leery of any sermon that leans heavily on the interpretation of a word that may or may not be symbolic. As I postmodern I have no idea whether I’m right or wrong. I just don’t remember anything involving eagles being central to understanding Scripture.
I have been looking forward to the annual apologetics conference at Calvary Santa Fe, which usually happens in the middle of September, but I haven’t seen the announcement for Discern 2011. Last I heard plans were in the works [link], but I haven’t heard anything more. Here’s the quote:
Things are already in the works for Discern 2011! Speakers confirmed so far include James White, Bruce Ware, and Joe Dallas. Safe to say, it’s gonna be awesome.
I was surprised when James White visited there in June [link], but I figured it meant he’d be visiting twice this year.
If anyone has any information I’d be grateful to know.
In an earlier post I had suggested that the “Life in Red” outreach I’ve been seeing on the south end of Santa Fe was part of the change in leadership at local independent church Calvary Santa Fe. Recently, after the Life in Red folks sponsored a field day at Edward Ortiz Middle School I took another, closer, look, and it turns out I was wrong: Life in Red is an entirely new church plant [link] affiliated with Victory Life Church in Las Vegas, NM [link], which in turn is an Assemblies of God church.
I can only guess at why Mike and Eldora Morris would set up a church in a storefront literally a stone’s throw from Calvary Santa Fe. I’m guessing new retail space is reasonably priced in our part of town right now (in a way it isn’t downtown), and the two churches are far enough apart that there’s ample parking for all, even on a Sunday morning.
Given the tendencies of the AG to be a bit charismatic, and Calvary to be a bit Reformed, I’d love to know what if anything has been said about either church from the other’s pulpit. Here’s hoping it’s collegial, etc.
It’s been a busy time in the Santa Fe church scene; so far as I can tell our local Potter’s House Christian Center has disappeared altogether and Praise Tabernacle moved from Airport Road into the former Potter’s House building. Berean Bible Church sold its building to our local Vineyard Christian Fellowship [link] and moved to a private home. And two of the successor churches to our now-defunct Calvary Chapel are also making transitions. Blaze Christian Fellowship moved to a new space in a business park on the south end of town [link], and Calvary Santa Fe appears to be in the midst of a pastoral succession.
The pastor who led Calvary Santa Fe to drop its Calvary Chapel affiliation, Paul Scozzafava, originally came to Santa Fe from Albuquerque, where he was on the board at “Big Calvary,” and served in that capacity during the Skip Heitzig/Pete Nelson succession controversy. He initially came to Santa Fe in response to a request from a group of people who had left the then-existing Calvary Chapel; for a very brief time there were two Calvary Chapels in Santa Fe. When the pastor of the existing church resigned, Scozzafava became the pastor of a merged church with Calvary Chapel affiliation.
Over the course of the next few years he and the church moved in a more Reformed direction, and eventually dropped their Calvary Chapel affiliation. Very careful observers will note that the cross on the sign above has been cut down from the more complicated fish/dove/cross Calvary Chapel logo. Scozzafava has also suffered from some poorly-diagnosed or undiagnosed condition [link] that may or may not be Parkinson’s disease, and has not spent much time in the pulpit since September 2009 [link]. It is my understanding that he spent the last year-plus finding and training a successor, missing at least one agreed-upon deadline for stepping down along the way.
Now it looks to us amateur Kremlinologists like the transition is finally underway; the most visible of the church’s signs do not currently list a
pastor by name, the church has announced that it will be consolidating its two Sunday morning services into one [link], and it has apparently budgeted for additional publicity. Flyers and signs announcing the current sermon series (not pictured) have started appearing around the south side of town.
I for one hope this turns out to be nothing but a good thing for all involved; that Mr Scozzafava can get the medical treatment and work schedule he needs, and the church gets a pastor that is able to serve the needs of the congregation. If I were looking for the future of Calvary Chapel (a post-Chuck-Smith movement moving in a more Reformed direction) I might be inclined to look at this church, so I hope it is able to find its feet soon. I hesitate to mention that the predecessor church ran four services on Saturday night and Sunday circa 2001, totaling somewhere in the vicinity of 1000-1200 people, and attendance this church has been steadily declining over the last five or so years, coinciding with both the pastor’s illness and the church’s drift into Reformed theology. While the announcement linked above suggests that the consolidation is intended to improve fellowship and community, I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t also have the beneficial side effect of cutting the pulpit time (not to say the preparation time) in half.
I’m sure you’re wondering where Calvary Chapel is in all of this; it turns out they’ve started a video service at a movie theater on the other end of town [link] under the leadership of Nate Heitzig, son of Skip, and Ray Del Toro. I haven’t visited them yet and mean to do so soon.
Sources close to me tell me that Ryan Ellsworth [link] has left Calvary Santa Fe to start a church on his own. He’s certainly disappeared from the Calvary website: a Web search for him currently brings up lots of links to his past sermons there, but the official list for him at the church is empty [link]. I don’t know what the relationship is between his new venture and Calvary; I haven’t seen where he went, whether Calvary is supporting the new church, etc.
For those with long memories, Calvary Santa Fe is the successor church to Calvary Chapel Santa Fe, and over the years a number of churches have spun off from these two in various ways, including Blaze Christian Fellowship and a small church in the Sunlit Hills neighborhood the name of which I’m not certain. I understand that former pastor Kon Tweeten is a going concern again, using the moniker Washed By The Word Ministries [link].This is the first new church to form from Calvary Santa Fe since it dropped its Calvary Chapel affiliation. We wish Ryan all the best in this new venture.
I worked out yesterday’s post on Trinitarianism without looking at the section of Farley’s book I want to cover today, and it turned out without knowing it I’ve bumped into a discussion of authority within the Trinity that has been going on elsewhere without knowing it.
Farley spends almost no time in this book talking about love, but lots of time talking about discipline and authority; in Chapter 8 (Foundations of Discipline) he talks about how parents’ responsibility for discipline flows from the authority God has given them, and he lapses into a common mistake made by conservative Christians with an authoritarian bent: he talks about the authority parents have over their children in terms of the authority God has over His Creation. It’s important to distinguish between these two and remember that God does not delegate His authority; instead, He delegates responsibility; God establishes authority relationships among people, but we obey the various authorities over us out of obedience to God and out of respect for Him, not because He has delegated His authority to the person in temporal authority.
Anyway, here’s the pull quote from page 158, with emphasis in the original:
The Trinity is the original community. It has always been and always will be. God created humanity to glorify the moral beauty of this primal Society. Here is the point: The Trinity is inherently authoritative and hierarchical. Therefore, if Christian culture, including families, is to imitate God, it must be also.
He goes on to quote Bruce Ware (emphasis mine):
We live in a culture that despises authority at every level… We find it hard to think about authority for one simple reason: We are sinners who want to be in charge of our own lives… One of the lessons of the Trinity is that God loves what we despise; namely, God loves, exercises, and embraces rightful authority-submission relationships. God loves this authority-submission structure because God embodies this very structure in his Trinitarian relations of Persons.
And then Farley goes on to work out what Ware means by authority-submission relationships within the Trinity and cites Philippians 2 (“did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” etc.).
First of all, let me say this is a reading of that proof text I’d never seen before. I had always understood it to be a proof text for Jesus’s equality with God, not His submission under God, that what Paul was talking about was how Jesus could be human and still God.
Second, this is an example of what I referred to yesterday: the Trinity isn’t an example of anything. It’s a theological concept we use to make sense of how Jesus can be God and there not be multiple Gods. I might humbly suggest that anyone who sets about to explain all of society in terms of the Trinity runs the risk of getting his theology ahead of his Christianity.
Third, this is not historical Trinitarianism as described by the Athanasian Creed:
And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. (Et in hac Trinitate nihil prius aut posterius, nihil maius aut minus: Sed totae tres personae coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales.)[link]
It wasn’t until today that I realized that this is a hot topic in some circles: see e.g. this fairly recent post from The Wartburg Watch [link]:
They propose a new doctrine, The Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS). This is a convenient new doctrine cooked up by Bruce Ware which states that, “ The eternal subordination of the Son means that Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God, equal in essence and in eternal divine nature with the Father, that the Father exercises eternal authority over the Son in function, and the Son eternally submits to the authority of the father”.
While I can’t recommend everything at that post (I don’t know enough about Al Mohler to agree or disagree), and I’m not always on board even with the tone taken at TWW, I’m surprised to see this justification being presented as orthodox within the SBC.
My understanding of the historical definition of the relationship between the husband/father and his wife and the rest of the family is defined by Paul the Apostle in terms of Christ’s love for the Church, so I’m surprised to see someone defining this relationship in terms of the Trinity. It doesn’t make any sense to me; it’s certainly heretical in the old sense of the word, and probably an actual theological error.
Which strikes me as odd given that when I saw Bruce Ware at Calvary Santa Fe (last year, I think) he didn’t look like a heretic, etc.
Todd Wilken has had a series on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) at Issues Etc. and kicked it off with a “Web extra” consisting of a fifty-minute discussion of justification with none other than N. T. Wright. Unfortunately it is not available via the Issues Etc. archive page, so I can’t give a direct link to the mp3, but I can offer a couple of links, one of which will eventually go stale.
- CastRoller [link], a podcast link repeater
- iTunes [link]; this is the one that will go stale shortly.
I really have no idea what to make of this. Wright and Wilken are totally collegial. I don’t know if this is a matter of professional courtesy or what, exactly.
Every so often I hear something and have an “ah ha!” moment, where something suddenly becomes as clear as I’ve ever hoped it would be. Other times I have an “oh no!” moment, where the clarity portends more trouble than I can handle. Wright’s opening remarks, where he says Calvin and Luther were reading Paul the Apostle in a distinctly medieval manner, is more an “oh no” than an “ah ha.” I tend to agree with him that the reformers read Scripture a particular way because they were men of their time, on the trailing edge of the Middle Ages and on the leading edge of the Early Modern Era.
I’m still not sure how Wright can be sure he’s sorted out the Reformers’ problems, though. I don’t know how he can claim to understand the Reformers correctly, much less understand Second Temple Judaism correctly, let alone correct one’s perceptions of the other. But that’s mostly my postmodern doubt talking, I suspect.
After listening to Wright, though, I think he’s saying that the reformers made a mistake by taking what Paul said to be speaking to their time in a way it didn’t, rather than speaking to contemporaneous issues they didn’t have the machinery to understand. However, my fundamentalist leaning makes me want the Gospel to be something that can be understood from a plain reading of Scripture in translation, and I suspect Wright’s line demands that believers be smart first and believers later.
Finally, I would encourage anyone interested in James White’s response to NPP at Calvary Santa Fe a few weeks ago to listen to this interview and ask themselves whether White gave Wright a fair reading, much less gave a well-rounded, well-founded response. On balance I think this interview is a gold mine, and well worth the fifty minutes it requires.
Last week I posted links and some comments regarding James White’s debate at Calvary Santa Fe with Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis regarding predestination. White has posted video of just the cross-examination from this debate:
I don’t know why he’s just posted the cross-examination, and I don’t know why he’s titled it “Free Will?” when the original title of the debate was “Predestination” [link]. As I mentioned in my earlier post I think the debate was close but that Sungenis won narrowly, even though I’m more sympathetic to White’s position and thought he had a stronger opening argument.
The platform at Calvary Santa Fe looks nice in this video, though, doesn’t it? See what I meant when I said the place was well-lit? The floods visible in the upper part of the frame are hidden from most seats in the sanctuary. Also, that cross is what’s left from the more complicated cross-fish-dove logo [link] that replaced the older, simpler Calvary Chapel dove logo a few years ago. I’m sure there’s some deep symbolism in the church’s decision to remove part of the old logo and leave part, but I’m not going to dare to guess what it signifies.
Also, White has released a video commenting on Ergun Caner’s appearance in Bristol (and I suppose, other things; I haven’t watched the whole thing):
Here’s the description, from the video page:
A mountain of factual information has been produced demonstrating Ergun Caner has engaged in gross dishonesty in his self-promoting claims. Yet, now that he has “cover” from the likes of Norman Geisler, Caner is back to his old ways, mocking his critics and spinning a tale.
Can you see what’s wrong with that first sentence? That’s right! There are two nouns in that sentence (“mountain,” “Ergun Caner”) that, since they lack modifiers, look totally naked and out of place. Etc.
James White gave a review and response to E. P. Sanders and N. T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul (NPP) at Calvary Santa Fe’s Discern 2010 conference [mp3|stream]. There are other NPP writers; White focused on these two.
This was an unexpected delight; not White’s response, necessarily, but the fact that NPP merited inclusion in the conference. Paul Scozzafava, the executive pastor at Calvary, handed out the topics, and White mentions that he was surprised that Scozzafava asked him to handle this topic. I was surprised, too: I have my doubts that there are many people at Calvary Santa Fe who know anyone who has even heard of NPP, much less understand it. I had personally heard very little about it, and unlike e.g. Open Theism or some of the Alternate Gospels stuff had never heard someone who isn’t a believer mention it.
The basic idea is this: the Reformers misunderstood Paul (that’s the Old Perspective) and based their theology on their misunderstanding to all of Protestantism; this misunderstanding can now be corrected because modern scholars understand Second Temple Judaism (Judaism in the time of Jesus, Paul, the Pharisees, etc.) better and differently. These corrections include the following points:
- The gracious nature of the Covenant; Judaism did not include a “works-righteousness”
- Paul believes that Judaism remains a fully valid religion
- Righteousness is not imputed to the believer by faith or by anything else; imputed righteousness is a “legal fiction”
- Paul was really a political writer and his political writings were misunderstood as being religious; the (Jewish) Exile is the key to understanding Paul
- Justification is eschatological
There is of course more to it than that, and I’m sure I’m not doing it justice.
Before I delve into White’s response, I’d like to note that much of his discussion dealt with the continuity between Sanders and Wright, and included excerpts from their books. I got the feeling that White had, due to the difficulty of the topic, and the fact that it lies outside the bulls-eye of his expertise, did the best he could but ran out of time. I’d recommend listening to the audio above; unfortunately he didn’t read all the excerpts he showed the audience, so some of his presentation gets lost in transcription.
White’s major points were these:
- Wright doesn’t understand what the Reformers said
- Wright’s ecumenical tendencies pollute his analysis
- Wright’s a liberal
- Wright sells out systematic theology and the theological harmony of Scripture
This first point seems to be an obligatory figure for anyone coming from a Reformed perspective responding to anyone who believes differently. It’s a claim that’s cheap to make if the speaker isn’t willing to then summarize what he thinks the Reformers really said. White doesn’t do the heavy lifting here, so there’s no point in dealing with this.
White responded to Wright’s ecumenicism with scorn, suggesting that because it’s impossible to reconcile Catholic and Protestant theology anyone who suggests something that might do just that is delusional or worse. This was not White’s finest moment; scorn is a poor stance for a gentleman and a scholar, especially given biblical suggestions that studying Scripture will keep one from “the seat of the scornful.”
The last two points are linked; he says Sanders and Wright don’t believe Paul wrote all the books attributed to him, that there’s no need to harmonize Paul’s writings amongst themselves, let alone with the whole of Scripture, and if they felt the need to do this they wouldn’t draw such silly conclusions about Paul. This struck me as a weak argument. The problem with White’s response generally was that it didn’t respond to the heart of the NPP argument, but rather at some of its implications. I’m accustomed to this sort of argumentation from fundamentalists, but I’m still surprised when I hear it from Reformed types.
Still, White’s last point is worth examining. There is a tendency in modern Christianity to behave as if the Bible itself were a systematic theology text, so that an attack on systematic theology is an attack on the very Word of God itself. It isn’t. Systematic theology is a tool people developed long after the time of the Apostles to help them understand Scripture, and it’s dangerous to think we know what Paul or any of the other authors thought apart from what they actually said.
I still have no idea whether Sanders and Wright and their ilk are right or wrong; I suspect they’re wrong, but White didn’t really give me good reasons to suspect that.