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Archive for the ‘Establishments’ Category

IMG_0103Should robust, confessional, reformed Christianity be the preserve only of white, middle and upper class folk? Chalmers didn’t think so, much less that the Gospel should be left to the demands of the religious marketplace. Another appeal for establishments, and especially aggressive, territorial missions.

Another addition to the Chalmers Audio Library. Sermon on Isa. 26:9, “For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” In this message on the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales, Chalmers argues that such national calamities are God’s instruments to call the nation to learn righteousness. He takes the opportunity to rebuke the fashionable upper classes for whom religion is a mere occasional, token exercise, and makes a general appeal to support the spread of righteousness among the nation’s poor and neglected by way of an endowed, territorial system, worked by godly ministers.

 

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Another addition to the ‘Chalmers Audio Library.’ A fascinating defense of religious establishments, arguing for them on the ground that they serve as a great, national Home Mission. In my opinion, he counters some of the standard objections well.

 

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ISS035-E-007148_Nile_-_Sinai_-_Dead_Sea_-_Wide_Angle_View“A territorial division of the country into parishes, each of which is assigned to at least one minister as the distinct and definite field of his spiritual cultivation— this we have long thought does for Christianity, what is often done in agriculture by system of irrigation. You are aware what is meant by this. Its use is for the conveyance and the distribution of water, that indispensable aliment to all vegetation, over the surface of the land. It is thus for example, that, by the establishment of ducts of conveyance, the waters of the Nile are made to overspread the farms of Egypt—the country through which it passes. This irrigation, you will observe, does’ not supply the water. It only conveys it. It does not bring down the liquid nourishment from heaven. It only spreads it abroad upon the earth. Were there no descent of water from above causing the river to overflow its banks—there is nothing in the irrigation, with its then dry and deserted furrows, which could avail the earth that is below. On the other hand were there no irrigation, many would be the tracts of country, that should have no agriculture and could bring no produce. Let not therefore our dependence on the Spirit lead us to despise the machinery of a territorial establishment; and neither let our confidence in machinery lead us to neglect prayer for the descent of living water from on high.”

-Thomas Chalmers, “On the Analogies Which Obtain Between a Natural and a Spiritual Husbandry”

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Funny, but damningly true. Again, reinforcement that Adam Smith was dead wrong about leaving religion purely to market forces.

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How many different masters will the next century follow? The confusion will reach new heights. None of them will be willing to be governed by the opinion or authority of the others. Each will want to set up as his own rabbi: look at how Osiander and Agricola are already behaving. . . And what terrible scandals there will be! What excesses! The best course would be for the princes to avert such evils by means of a council. But the Papists would avoid this: they are so afraid of the light!

– Martin Luther, 1538

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I am a whole-hearted supporter of free market capitalism. But like Thomas Chalmers, I demur when it comes to Adam Smith’s opposition to church establishments. He thought that the free market, when applied to the sphere of religion, would yield the best results both for religion and society:

But if politics had never called in the aid of religion, had the conquering party never adopted the tenets of one sect more than those of another when it had gained the victory, it would probably have dealt equally and impartially with all the different sects, and have allowed every man to choose his own priest and his own religion as he thought proper. There would in this case, no doubt’ have been a great multitude of religious sects. Almost every different congregation might probably have made a little sect by itself, or have entertained some peculiar tenets of its own. Each teacher would no doubt have felt himself under the necessity of making the utmost exertion and of using every art both to preserve and to increase the number of his disciples. But as every other teacher would have felt himself under the same necessity, the success of no one teacher, or sect of teachers, could have been very great (Wealth of Nations, 792).

Free market religious competition, further, could possibly result in an ideal “pure and rational religion, free form every mixture of absurdity, imposture, or fanaticism, such as wise men have in all ages of the world wished to see established” (793).

Well, having been born and raised in the land of religious free enterprise, I can think of at least a couple of reasons to disagree ….

 

kenneth-copeland-jesse-duplantis

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In the following passage (A.D. 324), Constantine shows his support for patronizing Christian mission. I notice nothing of compulsion, and the historical record appears to bear this out. So is state endorsement of the true religion really such a tough pill to swallow after all?

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“When such grievous impiety controls human affairs and the commonwealth is in danger of utter destruction as by some plague and has need of much health-giving care, what alleviation does the Divinity devise, what rescue from our danger? And we must regard as altogether divine that which alone and really exists and whose power endures through all time. It is not vainglorious to acknowledge and boast of the beneficence of the Supreme Power. He sought out and judged fitting for His own purpose my service, starting from the sea which laps distant Britain and from those quarters where the sun is commanded by an ordinance of fate to set, thrusting aside by some mightier power all the dangers that beset me, that the human race might be recalled to the worship of the august law, schooled by my agency, and that the blessed faith might be increased under the guidance of the Supreme Power. Never can I ungratefully forget the gratitude that I owe; believing this to be the noblest service, this the gift granted to me, I advanced to the regions of the East, which, consumed by more grievous ills, called aloud for the greater healing care at my hands.”

 

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