This morning I tweeted the following:
“Some men display their copy of the Westminster Confession upon their shelves proudly, the highest achievement of the taxidermist’s art.”
A friend wrote to ask what I meant by it. Would I say the same about the Heidelberg (I would), and what do I see as the solution? Do we navigate this problem with exceptions and reservations? With deeper reservations than just the surface issues? A rejection of confessionalism? New confessions?
No — as far as it goes, I am a confessionalist, and the confession that I have asked into my heart is the Westminster. At the same time, I have no opposition to new confessions, just so long as they refuse to use words like “fabric,” “contours,” “missional,” or “sustainability,” and are not drafted by anyone who uses those words elsewhere.
So what was I talking about? The highest achievement of the taxidermist’s art has many admirable characteristics, but one of the most obvious is that it is dead. And the answer to death is life. The response to death must always be life.
This means (don’t act surprised) that we find ourselves talking about regeneration again. What we need is the Spirit of God. What we need is life. What we need is for Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones to turn into a stadium full of living, shouting, exuberant fans.
What is that needs to come to life? Well, Calvinism. My problems with Calvinism are not structural. I agree with all of it. Calvinism is like that hanging skeleton in the corner of your high school science class. Every bone is in the proper place, right? It is all anatomically (doctrinally) correct, right? And it rattles when you walk past it.
I think somebody needs to write a short story in which all the Bible commentaries in all the pastors’ studies across the nation come to life in the same week (on sermon prep day), and start running around in those studies, scaring the bejeebers out of all the pastors, including those who might have a problem with my use of the word bejeebers. They might point out that bejeebers is a toned-down version of bejesus, which in its turn is an alteration of “by Jesus.” Okay, for those guys, we can have the ravenous and foraging commentaries scare the bejeebers into them.
I am not interested in winning arguments about regeneration. I am interested in the fact of regeneration. I am not interested in having my views of regeneration show up in yet another high “achivement of the taxidermist’s art.” That would just give me a stuffed regeneration bird for my study. “Oooo,” visitors might say. “Look at the bright colors. A tufted Warfieldian pheasant, I believe.”
We need reformation and revival, the kind that results from the Spirit moving over the face of our nation. It is not the result of us rearranging our doctrinal furniture. Pastors need to stop being collectors, and start being disseminators. The sower went out to sow his seed, and this involved throwing seed out of the bag, not picking it up and putting it into the bag — in order to take it home and study it.
So life, not death. And only the Spirit can give life.