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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources


Living in Light of Two Ages



My Identity Crisis

Limburg%20flag.jpgThose of you who know me, know that I've always considered myself a proud German.  I sure have a Germanic temperament.  I've long thought of myself as one of the few Germans in a federation of men, most of whom are of Dutch ancestry (the URCNA).

Ten years or so, ago I became interested in family history.  Over time, doubt started creeping in about my German ancestry as the evidence began to point away from Germany (even the Palatinate, i.e., the region around Heidelberg) toward Switzerland and those Reformed families, who, as refuges from Roman Catholic persecution, relocated to the Alsace along the Rhine in the 1680's.  I could live with that.  My family might have lived in France, but they were not French, they didn't even speak French at first, and they liked France so much that within a generation at least one of them had emigrated to America.

In genealogical research, the creed is document, document, document.  Here's what I know for sure.  The first of my kin in America was one Christian Redelsberger, who arrived in Philadelphia on September 29, 1733 (Click here: Riddleblog - Old Family Photos and Documents - chrrsig.bmp).  The vessel which brought him sailed from Rotterdam six weeks before. 

I also know that Christian Redelsberger moved to South Carolina in 1742 and that he was one of the founders of the "Dissenting Protestant Church" (whose confessional documents were the Walloon [Belgic] Confession, the First Helvetic Confession and the Augsburg Confession of 1540).  The founders of the Dissenting Protestant Church didn't much like the pietists among the Swiss Reformed, nor did they like the very anti-Reformed Lutherans, who happened to live just to south (across the Savannah River, in Georgia, of all places).

It always troubled me that Christian would choose the Walloon confession.  If he were a Palatine, he'd be a Heidelberger.  If he were Swiss Reformed, he'd be a Helvetic man.  One of the other founders of the Dissenting Protestant Church was Swiss, which explains the use of the First Helvetic Confession.  The fact that they lived among mostly Swiss and Germans (in the Saxe-Gotha region of South Carolina!), probably explains the use of the Augsburg Confession.

Then there's the surname.  People often stumble over "Riddlebarger," but that is the highly anglicized version!  To date, I have found 51 different spellings for Christian's surname in PA and SC.  Many have a "Rhetels," "Rhedels" or "Ricktels" variant.  Since people recorded Christian's surname phonetically in public documents, we don't know what it was originally.  We just know how it sounded to the English ear.

That leads to my identity crisis.  In a moment of writer's block, I did a quick google search for "Riddelsperger" (the way Christian's son John spelled his name) and to my amazement got a hit for a Christian "Retlispergh" (and a number of other obvious family members) in a European church register in 1703.  I'm not yet sure this is our guy or not--it needs to be documented, which means looking through rolls of microfilm of church registers and going blind in the process--but for a whole bunch of reasons I won't bore you with, this is the first time I have ever had a concrete lead on my ancestors in Europe.  This may well be the real deal.  We'll see . . . document, document, document.

Here's the catch.  The name appears in a church register (Catholic) in Broekhuizen.  Broekhuizen is in the province of Limburg in what is now the Netherlands . . .  OK, you can stop laughing!

The problem is that if this is where Christian's ancestors lived before he set sail to the New World from Rotterdam in 1733, the region was not under control of the Dutch at the time, but a mixture of German, Walloon, French and who knows what else.  Broekhuizen is but a couple of miles from the modern border with Germany.  Between 1600-1800, the region was ruled at various times by Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.

To add to the difficulty of documentation, Limburg even has its own dialect ("Limburgish" and no, I am not kidding) which is recognized by the EU as an official European dialect!  Some combination of German and Limburgish might explain the odd spelling of our surname (it is probably not German), as well as Christian's otherwise strange allegiance to the Walloon Confession.

Now comes the crisis--how am I to behave if I am a Limburger?  I know what Germans do, but what about Limburgers?  Will I have to learn Limburgish?  I have never even met another Limburger . . .  Have you?

I feel lost and confused . . . but I will find some way to carry on . . .


Who Said That?

question%20mark.jpgWho Said That?

"If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell."

Leave your guess in the comments section below.  Please, no google searches.  The fun is in the guessing!

If you wish to look at past "Who Said That" entries, click on the "Index to Current Posts," then find the index to "Who Said That?" 


My Personal "Voting Guide"

Voting%20Machine.jpgMany people (in our congregation and readers of this blog) have asked me about my thoughts on particular candidates in the upcoming presidential elections.  To put it bluntly, I'm not thrilled with any of them (at least not yet).

Rather than speak of individual presidential candidates, I thought I would post some of the criteria I will be using when I make my final choice.  Perhaps, you will find this helpful.  These apply to other state and national elections as well.

Like every other presidential election I can remember, my vote next time will probably be some form of a "lesser of evils" choice.  It has been a long time since I voted for someone with great enthusiasm.   But as Christian citizens, we must do our due diligence and weigh our vote carefully.

Since the focus of this blog is primary theological, I am reluctant to discuss presidential politics.  But this might be of help to some of you.  Again, the following list is largely descriptive, not prescriptive (i.e., this is how I will choose my candidate, not how you should choose yours).

Here, then, are a few of my personal criteria: 


I.  Moral issues:

1.  Is the candidate “pro-abortion” (i.e., supports partial birth abortion and federal funding for all abortions)?  I will not vote for such a candidate. 

2.  Is the candidate “pro-choice” (i.e., personally opposed to abortion, but defends a woman’s privacy over against state intrusion)?  Under very limited circumstances I would vote for such a person (that is, if the person is an otherwise sound candidate, does not advocate federal funding and if they are running against a pro-abortion candidate).

3.  Is the candidate politically pro-life (i.e., a generic conservative)?  Perhaps.

4.  Is the candidate consistently pro-life (i.e, in tax policy, supreme court appointments, etc).  Likely.

5.  Does the candidate favor homosexual marriage?  I will not vote for such a candidate.

6.  Does the candidate favor civil unions?  Under very limited circumstances I would vote for such a person (i.e, only if they were an otherwise sound candidate, and only if they are running against a gay-marriage advocacy candidate). 

7.  Does the candidate support the traditional definition of marriage?  Likely.

8.  Does the candidate express their concern about the poor and suffering through the advocacy of increased federal spending and centralized government programs?  Unlikely.

9.  Does the candidate express their concerns about the poor and suffering through the advocacy of federal/state/community programs involving job training, welfare reform, etc.  Perhaps.


II.  Constitutional Issues

1.  Does the candidate favor limited representative government?  Likely.  This is my primary voting criterion.

2.  Does the candidate defend second amendment rights?  Likely.

3.  Does the candidate understand that the establishment clause of the first amendment does not trump the free exercise clause?  Likely.

4.  Does the candidate defend the principle of avoiding all foreign entanglements (i.e., nation building), but nevertheless is willing to defend America’s citizens and vital interests when necessary?  Likely.

5.  Does the candidate defend private property rights?  Likely. 


III.  Disqualifications–Personal Reasons Why I Will Not Vote for a Particular Candidate:

1.  Does the candidate engage in rhetorical class warfare–“two Americas,” “tax the wealthiest Americans” etc?

2.  Does the candidate play the race card?  (This is different than addressing racial issues--something which is vital)

3.  Does the candidate have a thin resume for office?  Executive office holders (i.e. governors) are generally better suited for high office than is a legislator (i.e. senators).

4.  Does the candidate make unsubstantiated concerns (i.e. global warming) important themes of their campaign?

5.  Does the candidate invoke "Christian America" themes? 

6.  Does the candidate see the judiciary as a means of enacting public policy? 


IV.  Qualifications–Personal Reasons Why I Will Vote for a Candidate


1.  Is the candidate well-qualified for the position?

2.  Does the candidate understand the vocation of “public service”?

3.  Does the candidate possess strong leadership skills?

4.  Does the candidate possess good communication skills?

5.  Does the candidate manifest personal integrity?

6.  Does the candidate understand the great threat posed by militant Islam?


A Ten Dollar Tax on Cigars?

Cigars%202.jpgOK . . .  Now I'm really mad. 

The democrat controlled congress is seeking a ten dollar tax per cigar to pay for the rising cost of children's health care.  Can you believe it?  Ten dollars per cigar???  That's not per box, but per cigar . . .

Bush says he'll veto the tax increase if it ever gets to his desk--not because he favors cigar smoking, but because of other provisions in the bill which would expand federal health care.

While I am not thrilled with the democrats or the republicans these days, this is what democrats do--raise taxes.  Enough already! 

Click here: Business: Cigarmakers in a panic

Can you just imagine the impact this would have on the Reformed tradition?  We are already cranky enough as it is.  What would we do after those long synod and classis meetings?  This would set back friendships and fraternal relations for generations!  


Who Said That?

question%20mark.jpgWho said that?

"Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. . . . There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."

Please leave your guesses in the comments section below.  Please no google searches.  You must guess! 


Back from Synod

Trinity%20Christian%20College%202.jpgI'm back home from the 2007 URCNA Synod, which was held at Trinity Christian College (in Palos Heights, IL).

Like the three other URCNA synods I attended, the week was absolutely grueling.  Since we meet as a synod once every three years (which is fine by me), there is always a long and full agenda.  This time we started at 8:00 a.m. and several days worked as late as 11:00 p.m.  My butt can only take so much sitting, and my brain can only take so many motions, so like many of those attending, I found myself lurking in the back of the auditorium trying to clear my head and stretch out my aching back.  But for those of you who attend Synods and General Assemblies, you know that lots of good stuff gets done at the back of the hall during the meetings.

Unlike the three previous synods I attended, this time there was the profound sense that the URCNA is developing its own ethos, and despite the differences of opinion among us about how soon we will merge with the Canadian Reformed Churches, there was a strong and growing camaraderie among the ministers and delegates.  After ten short years of existence, the URCNA is starting to come into its own.  That's a good thing. 

The highlight of synod was the voice vote associated with justification.  When the agenda item reached the floor to affirm that "`Scriptures and confessions ... teach the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, based upon the active and passive obedience of Christ alone.' Affirmed “that the Scriptures and confessions teach that faith is the sole instrument of our justification apart from all works,” the nearly two hundred delegates unanimously answered with great zeal, "aye."  When the call came forth, "all those opposed," there was dead silence.  It was absolutely glorious.  I wish you could have been there to have witnessed it.  Since I know that we are sinful and that we will find some way to screw this up, I'll enjoy the moment!

Among the other highlights were the approval of moving to phase two fraternal relations with the OPC--to all you OPC'ers who read this, "you are now stuck with us!"--we clarified (or at least tried to) our on-going efforts to move to full federative merger with the Canadian Reformed Churches, and since we are growing so fast, we split our classis and formed a new one (classis Pacific Northwest).  All in all, it looks like we are moving in the right direction.  May God grant us the grace to continue this progress.

My personal highlight was the Westminster Seminary California alumni dinner.  There are at least twenty URCNA pastors from WSC, and it was great to eat together.  Dr. Godfrey (who is well-loved and greatly esteemed by all us) was in fine form.  It was a great night!

Now . . . its back to researching and writing until I resume my regular pastoral duties at the end of August! 


URCNA Synod 2007

Trinity%20Christian%20College.jpgI'm off to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL--a suburb of Chicago--for the sixth synod of the URCNA.  Synod opens on Tuesday (July 10) and convenes on Saturday (July 14).

There are a number of important matters before our synod, most of them dealing with ecumenical relations with other churches (most notably the Canadian Reformed Churches).  There are proposed changes to our church order, an overture calling for the formation of a new classis in the Pacific Northwest (thankfully our church is growing), and an overture which recommends accepting the RCUS' 2004 report on Norman Shepherd's teaching on justification, which concludes that Shepherd teaches "another gospel" (Click here: REPORT OF THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO STUDY JUSTIFICATION IN LIGHT OF THE CURRENT JUSTIFICATION CONTROVERSY).

As you can see, these are important issues for the life of our church, and I would ask you to please pray for the success of our synod.

I'll be gone for the next week or so--I won't burden you with a "live blog" of what happens during Synod 2007!  But I may have a report for you when its all over . . .


A "Heavenly Rehearsal"

Heaven.jpgDon't make plans for September 15!  The folks in Toronto (who brought us the laughing revival) are at it again.  This time, they are holding a rally entitled "Heaven's Rehearsal."

According to their webpage (Click here: Heaven's Rehearsal - September 15, 2007), "Heavens Rehearsal is a gathering to unite lovers of Jesus in preparation for the day we all stand as one in Heaven before His throne.  Perhaps for the first time in history... in attendance will be worshippers from all nations and generations.  Together, we will follow the protocol and worship that scripture describes.  As in Heaven, there will be no preacher or featured singing group - the honour alone will be given to God. We will worship with the finest musicians, vocalists, and dancers and we, the bride of Christ, will be ushered into the very presence of God.  We believe the impact of Heaven's Rehearsal will pollinate globally and further establish the Kingdom of God."

You can even get tickets through Ticketmaster.  (h.t. Charles Semple).  We Reformed Christians need a big rally like this.  What should it be and where should we hold it? 


So . . . Augustine Was Right!

crying%20baby.jpgThis should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever been a parent, or who is around babies and infants.

Our kids sin very early in life and they are very good at it.

According to a recent article in the Telegraph (Click here: Babies not as innocent as they pretend | Science | Earth | Telegraph),

"Whether lying about raiding the biscuit tin or denying they broke a toy, all children try to mislead their parents at some time. Yet it now appears that babies learn to deceive from a far younger age than anyone previously suspected.

Behavioural experts have found that infants begin to lie from as young as six months. Simple fibs help to train them for more complex deceptions in later life.  Until now, psychologists had thought the developing brains were not capable of the difficult art of lying until four years old.  Following studies of more than 50 children and interviews with parents, Dr Vasudevi Reddy, of the University of Portsmouth's psychology department, says she has identified seven categories of deception used between six months and three-years-old.

Infants quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or trying to distract parents' attention. By the age of two, toddlers could use far more devious techniques, such as bluffing when threatened with a punishment. Dr Reddy said: `Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if their mother is responding, before crying again.'"

As Augustine tells us in his famous Confessions, babies only appear to be innocent because they are physically unable to sin.  This study sure seems to confirm that.



Jihad Trumps Hippocratic Oath

Terrorist%20Doctor.jpgWhat ideology would lead a prominent neurologist (sworn to a life of healing and care of the suffering) to become the ring-leader in a plot in the UK to pack two large Mercedes with gasoline, propane and nails with the goal of killing and maiming hundreds in downtown London? 

It is not Christianity . . .

It is not even frustration in dealing with insurance companies or HMOs, or even the UK's socialist bureaucracy which regulates health care.

Surprise, surprise, it is Islam, the religion of "peace."

Click here: 'Terror ringleader' is brilliant NHS doctor | the Daily Mail