Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tell Us About Your Experience... On Second Thought, Read This Instead

The following are excerpts of a guest post by Jack Miller at The Heidelblog titled "Good Old Fashioned Subjectivist Goo." 

In the 1920′s, J. Gresham Machen diagnosed not only the intellectual and theological drift of his day but of that which would continue to develop over the next 90 years. He wrote,
"The depreciation of the intellect, with the exaltation in the place of it of the feelings or of the will, is, we think, a basic fact in modern life, which is rapidly leading to a condition in which men neither know anything nor care anything about the doctrinal content of the Christian religion, and in which there is in general a lamentable intellectual decline. "(What is Faith?, p.28)
For those of you who are not familiar with this seminal work of J. Gresham Machen, here is a link to the on-line text. I encourage all to read it carefully.

Miller continues,
The drift away from theology, i.e. the events of the redemptive-historical drama in the Bible and their meaning (doctrine), created a vacuum that has been gradually filled with other things. And one of the main results has been the rise of both the relational and the experiential as pillars of many expressions of American Christianity."
One of the reasons why I hate round table discussions as conducted in the Episcopal church today is that they are "moderated" and direct participants are instructed to avoid discussions of doctrine and scripture and instead to focus on expressions of feelings, experiences, and emotions.
To paraphrase the words of Traffic’s hit song from that same time period, a new old fashioned experiential goo was replacing the Word-based proclamation of Christ, i.e his death and resurrection for unworthy sinners in both Word and Sacrament (doctrine from above). To be built up in Christ now had more to do with being touched by someone’s testimony of their experience, accompanied by their own unique interpretation of the Spirit’s work in their life. And of course, it was incumbent upon those listening to be appropriately and relationally supportive with “amens” and “praise the Lords.” Interestingly, that’s not all too different from what one finds in any number of different support groups. The means of grace in Word and Sacrament by which sinner/saint is comforted and strengthened in faith was gradually replaced with shared testimonies of subjective experiences and mystical worship moments to attain a corporate sense of “God’s Spirit.”
In the Episcopal tradition, we do not supply the "Amens and Praise the Lords" when engaging in our "listening processes". Instead, we nod and pass the tissues.
Faith, no longer pointed to nor rooted in the redemptive-historical objectivity of the gospel, was redirected toward the ever-elusive subjective. So, once again Machen’s words from the twenties presciently described what came about,
The identifying mark of much of today’s evangelical church is the subjective/experiential elevated above the objective/declarative of the Word. And it is this modern means of grace which is deemed spiritually authentic. Speak of doctrine or objective biblical truth and eyes begin to roll in boredom. Share your experience of a God-moment and heaven has come to earth.
Machen was exceptionally prescient. Miller reminds us of the applicability of Machen's predictions to the Evangelical church, but I think this also applies to non-evangelicals as well.   It is amazing that our Bishops cannot recognize that the walk away from doctrine and headlong rush into the subjectivist goo is one of the causes of the decline of the Episcopal church.

I mean I really feel strongly about this...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reconciled: Dixie and The Battle Hymn of the Republic Together

It has been said that the cause of most church splits is going to be forgotten in a few hundred years. For instance, I have many non-Anglican friends, and I am welcomed in many non-Anglican churches as a fellow Christian. So is it possible that the Episcopal schism will ever be reconciled? I doubt it because the underlying cause of our division is a difference in trust in scriptural authority. This will lead to two churches who will diverge to the point where their common origin will be as unimaginable as any future reconciliation.

It is impossible for me to imagine "Here Come the Grooms" and "Here Comes the Bride" ever being played together in the same Church.

Almost as unimaginable as hearing Dixie and the Battle Hymn of the Republic played together.

Cue up Mickey Newbury,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Dark Lord" Arrested Charged With Unlawful Symbol Burning (Burned a Bible and Put it Out With...)

We should all feel safe now that the police have succeeded in capturing the one who has been bedeviling humanity and the Church all these millenia,
PHOENIX (Reuters) - "A 22-year-old Arizona man calling himself 'Dark Lord' has been arrested for allegedly burning a Bible and urinating on it outside a Christian-oriented homeless shelter in northern Arizona, police said on Friday.
Eric Minerault was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center late on Thursday on suspicion of one count of unlawful symbol burning stemming from the incident at the Gospel Rescue Mission, Prescott police spokesman Lieutenant Ken Morley said in a written statement."
"Minerault was clad in black and was wearing a black-and-red robe and a pentagram necklace."

Unlawful symbol burning? Does that mean an unlawful symbol cannot be burned or does that mean that it is unlawful to burn a symbol. Even the ACLU can't figure this one out,
"Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the arrest raises questions as to whether Minerault’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights were violated. But Pochoda, who was not familiar with the charge cited, said courts have upheld laws that bar symbols like crosses from being burned."
(Full story here as reported by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editted by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott)
"Bar symbols"??? now I am confused.

Since the reporters didn't follow through with this obvious hole in the story, a quick search of the Arizona statutes turned up the code(s) in question (I have included links to current code(s)),
13-1707. Unlawful cross burning; classification
A. It is unlawful for a person to burn or cause to be burned a cross on the property of another person without that person's permission or on a highway or any other public place with the intent to intimidate any person or group of persons. The intent to intimidate may not be inferred solely from the act of burning a cross, but shall be proven by independent evidence.
B. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. 
13-1708. Unlawful symbol burning; classification
A. It is unlawful for a person to burn or cause to be burned any symbol not addressed by section 13-1707 on the property of another person without that person's permission or on a highway or any other public place with the intent to intimidate any person or group of persons. The intent to intimidate may not be inferred solely from the act of burning the symbol, but shall be proven by independent evidence.
B. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. 
It does appear that the legislation would prohibit the burning of any "symbol" when done without permission or (no "and" in the letter of the law) with the intent to intimidate.

I think the Dark Lord may get out of this one if he can dredge up a Dark Counselor to help him at his court appearance. I know there are a few Counselors, dark or otherwise, that our Episcopal organization might lend him if he can't find one on his own. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Sentinel Treatment

Today's readings contained teachings about how to handle conflict in the Church. First, Paul advises us to be patient in suffering,
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21
Next, Jesus outlines how to deal with sins committed by one member of the church against another,
Jesus said, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Matthew 18:15-20
Pick any sin, insert it into Jesus' plan, and imagine how things would play out in today's church.

I think most folks would simply leave and start attending another church rather than follow Jesus' instruction.

Our preacher today spoke about the importance of "conversation" which in Episcospeak means to share one's feelings and to appreciate and accept the other party's point of view, but it seems to me that Jesus' instruction is less about conversation and more about a call to repentance and true resolution of conflict. Jesus is telling us to do the very thing modern Episcopalians are most afraid to do and that is to "point out the fault" so that the sinner is given the opportunity to repent, and He is asking us to do this not once but three times.

Totally missing from our sermon (and I expect from most sermons heard in Episcopal churches today) was any mention of the consequences to the unrepentant sinner.

Why? Because we don't dare treat anyone as a tax collector or Gentile. The Episcopal church is too desperate for members.

And besides, these days it is not not the unrepentant sinner who sees his status in the church change, but instead it is the one who points out the sin who winds up being ostracized.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Xe/Xem/Xyr: Thank You Vancouver School Board Now I/xe Am More Gender Aware/Confused

According to this story in the Vancouver Sun, the local school board has gone beyond bending over backwards in support of "modern sexual speak." I/xe present the following excerpts,
"VANCOUVER -- Grammar teachers may need to amend their lesson plans after the Vancouver school board approved Monday a policy change that welcomes a brand-new string of pronouns into Vancouver public schools: 'xe, xem, and xyr.'
The pronouns are touted as alternatives to he/she, him/her, and his/hers, and come as last-minute amendments to the board’s new policy aimed at better accommodating transgender students in schools."
I/xe know, "It" might sound insulting, but "them/they", "you/yours", and "ya'll/yous guys" should all be acceptable with the possible exception of French class where the masculine and feminine classification of words might make things shall we say, un(e) petit(e) peu plus problématique (m+f).

And to think it started over a bathroom issue,
"The vote may be the knockout blow in a bitter and protracted fight over the controversial plan to put gender-neutral washrooms in schools and support students in expressing their preferred gender identities.
'We’re standing up for kids and making our schools safer and more inclusive,' board member Mike Lombardi said in an interview just before the policy was voted in." 
 I/xe don't know about making the schools safer. When I/xe was in school, the bathrooms were the last places on campus that I/xe would have considered safe places to go. I/xe entered our smoke filled bathrooms with great fear and trepidation (mostly about getting beat up). I/xe have a suggestion: schools should be required to make all bathrooms (who takes a bath there anyway?) single occupant, one hole jobs like they do on airplanes. I bet they/xem won't because that might offend someone/xyr whose sexual preference is to share the experience with others.

Vancouver parents are not fooled by any of this,
"Scores of angry parents and community members had attacked the plan during the first two meetings. Some said it could lead to teachers pushing an agenda on children without their parents’ knowledge." 
I/xe guess they will have to vote Xem out with the next school board election, but policies like this tend to be even harder to get rid of than they were to push through in the first place.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Stumbling Blocks, Lawsuits, Harlots

A few points to be gleaned from today's readings from the Bible.

From Romans 12:1-8 we heard this,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect.

And then from Matthew 16:21-27 we heard this,

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
The lessons that 1) Christians should not be conformed to this world (Romans 12) and 2) that when our minds are on human things rather than divine things we are identified by our Lord as being Satan himself (Matthew 16) should strike home to each and everyone of us. We let our beliefs be swayed by the ever changing norms of society, and we see our minds forget the divine as we become preoccupied in our daily activities.

The image of the stumbling block, a block of stone, carved from a quarry, made of the very dust of which we are made causes me to think about just who it is who places the stones in the path of the unwary. Who moves them from place to place, from one issue to the next?


Of all the numerous stumbling blocks the Episcopal church has pushed around, perhaps the one that has done the most damage is the Revisionist heresy. This heresy sneaks into virtually every discussion of issues in the church, and you don't have to dig very deep to find it as last week's post on the revision of Ephesians 5:28-29 by the Task Force on Marriage, and the worst sermon ever by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church where the possessed slave girl in Acts 16 gets re-cast as a spiritually gifted soul abused by St. Paul so aptly demonstrate.

I have even heard attempts to justify going to court to fight over church properties. All such attempts must appeal to a revisionist approach to 1 Corinthians 6 (which was part of my private Bible study this morning).

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?
2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?
5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?
8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
The modern conflict wherein some maintain that sexual immorality can be seen (revisioned) as a blessing from God as opposed to those who hold firm to the traditional interpretations of Scripture puts us pewsitters in the awkward situation of heeding the call to flee the harlot and having to give her the keys to what we have historically been told was God's house, a house for which we are asked to contribute our hard earned dollars without running to the civil courts for a judgment.

Pay the harlot so that she can create more stumbling blocks for other churches? I understand why people go to court to fight over church buildings.

See how easy it is for my mind to focus on human matters and to become a stumbling block too.

St. Paul's solution that we go before the saints in our conflicts begs the question: "Where do we find saints these days to resolve our conflicts?"

On Earth, one person's saint is another person's harlot.

We must look heavenwards. We must turn to scripture, to the lives of Jesus, to the witness of the Apostles, to their wise lessons, and we must find a way to avoid the stumbling block of revisionism which is always going to be out there seeking to ambush us.

Reverend Fun - Best Stumbling Block

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Only in TEc Does It Take A Task Force to "Study" Marriage

Why would anybody need a "Task Force on the Study of Marriage" unless they were trying to sink traditionalist views on the subject.

Clearly the target is in sight, and that target is marriage itself. The unstated goal is to replace the rite of same sex blessings approved by the Episcopal church with either a marriage rite for same sex couples or a major re-write of the current marriage rite to be more inclusive of those with different sexual orientations.

The Task Force on the Study of Marriage faces a number of obstacles despite the decades long efforts of progressive Episcopalians to clear the minefields in their way. One major obstacle remains the Bible. After reading the following suggested Bible study question from "Dearly Beloved  A Tool-Kit for the Study of Marriage, p. 23,"  I get the sinking feeling that TEc's revisionist minesweepers will make short work of any objections that might come from the typical pewsitter. Here is a taste of what they are up to,
•( Ephesians) Verses 28-29 describe the wife as identical to the husband’s own body, on the analogy of Christ and his Body, the church. What, if anything, does this say to you about gender in relation to the body?
What in the world? How could anyone reach the conclusion that the wife is identical to the husband’s own body from that text? For those who need a little reminder the task force provides the source,
The following passage (Ephesians 5:1-2, 21-33, NRSV) is commended for use as a reading in the BCP “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage.”
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 20 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 21 Be subject to one another outof reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. 24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind— yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.
The bizarre interpretation that the wife is identical to the husband’s own body is likely intended to help lead people to approve of marriage being the union of a male wife to a male husband or a female wife to a female husband. As far as the task force's theological drift goes, I would consider this to be "directed theological revisionism" or "revisionism with intent" which might be another name for the major heresy which infects the Episcopal church today.

The Task Force's revisionist strategy shows up again in the following (highlights added),

b. Different historical periods interpreted the marriage ritual in different ways, Eastern and Teutonic cultures believing that the marriage rite dramatically changed and blessed both the husband and the wife, Romans believing that the wedding day was in fact the bride’s day.
Question: How do we still see this ancient question being played out in contemporary marriage practices? How does the concept of same-sex marriage further inform this ancient divergence of viewpoints? 
c. For much of history the expectation and necessity of formal, legal marriage was one left to those with power, status, and property. In our own day we do not believe that economic or social status should have any impact on people’s right to marry.
Question: How does this change in the Christian understanding of who can marry change our contemporary understandings of the nature and purposes of marriage? 
d. Throughout history access to legal marriage has been closely related to the right to give consent, a right directly related to one’s ability to act and choose autonomously. Only those with the right to act autonomously could exercise the right to choose marriage. Often this has meant that those who were oppressed and subordinated in a patriarchal and colonial context could not decide their own lives. Access to marriage became a means of controlling the powerless in a society.
Question: Are there situations in contemporary society where access to marriage is still being controlled by the powerful and privileged to the detriment of those with less power?
One thing the Episcopal church has taught me is to beware of Task Forces. Their task is to force you into accepting something that you would never accept on your own.