God Loves the Gates of Zion More: Say No to Plato (part 5)

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...


The second reason public worship takes priority over private devotion is that there is more of the Lord’s presence in the use of ordinances.  “An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen.  In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you” (Exod. 20:24).  The Lord calls his people to construct an altar that he might sanctify it with his name for his purpose, to bless his people.  In the Old Testament, the temple was pars cultus, a part of the ceremonial worship under the law.  The temple was also the medium cultus, a means of grace and worship.[1]  God met with his people here, where he typified Christ’s natures, offices, and benefits (John 2:19).  This was the place of God’s ceremonial will, and the place of his moral will, where worship was accepted and available.  This acceptance was based on Christ received in types and shadows.  Now under the gospel, the shadows have passed and Christians have no such place of worship.  The ceremonial law, along with the place, has vanished in the New Covenant.[2]  The moral will of God, nevertheless remains.  The types have disappeared and the circumstances have changed; yet, God desires his people to meet in public worship to receive his means of grace.  When they do, he is in their midst to bless them through the ordinances, as he promised.

God says in Exodus 20:24 that he will come to bless his people in public worship through means.  Reformed Christians believe the means are Word and sacrament.  In many Christian circles (see traditions) there is negativity attached to physical means.  This negativity results in a subtle Platonizing of Christianity.  Nietzsche observed this when he called Christianity, “Platonism for the people.”  He saw in pietism pessimism toward the material that Platonists share.[3]  For Plato and these Christian dualists, the body is a prison house for the soul.  These Christian dualists, therefore, do not allow the material to convey the spiritual, for the holy cannot be mediated through the common.  This is anti-Christian and Christianity is anti-Platonic, for in redemptive history, the spiritual became physical in the incarnation—the universal became particular.  God uses matter by sanctifying it for his purpose and his purposes are not empty.  There is efficacy in all that God does.  In worship, he does not come empty handed through material means; rather he conveys the holy through sanctified means.

[1] Clarkson, Public Worship, 188.

[2] It is a profane to suggest that the church of God has an ultimate address, say in Rome.  The name Roman Catholic is oxymoronic.  The church cannot be universal, yet in a particular address.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosphy of the Future, trans. Helen Zimmern (NY: The Macmillan Company, 1907), 3.

One thought on “God Loves the Gates of Zion More: Say No to Plato (part 5)

  1. Pingback: Plato was not a Christian | Unsettled Christianity

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