Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sing to the Lord a new song, Do I really have to?

I am not a fan of most contemporary church music, and by contemporary, I mean anything written by a composer who was born after 1890. The Psalm appointed for today encourages me to 
be more open-minded,

96 Cantate Domino
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; *sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. 
2 Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. 
3 Declare his glory among the nations *and his wonders among all peoples. 
4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *he is more to be feared than all gods. 
5 As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *but it is the Lord who made the heavens. 
6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary! 
7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; *ascribe to the Lord honor and power. 
8 Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *bring offerings and come into his courts. 
9 Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *let the whole earth tremble before him. 
10 Tell it out among the nations: "The Lord is King! *he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;he will judge the peoples with equity." 
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *let the field be joyful and all that is therein. 
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joybefore the Lord when he comes, *when he comes to judge the earth. 
13 He will judge the world with righteousness *and the peoples with his truth.
I will try to sing a new song now and then if it demonstrates sound theology, if it is not tediously repetitious, if it fits with the appointed readings from scripture, and if it serves to glorify the Lord and not the performer.

I think that eliminates most contemporary church music.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Churches Without Fathers: We have "produced our own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest."

Robbie Low is vicar of St. Peter’s, Bushey Heath, a parish in the Church of England and his recent commentary on the fatherless church (requires subscription to "Touchstone") cites research done in Switzerland that showed,

"In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally."
Interestingly, the presence of faithful Christian fathers, worshipping regularly, has a greater effect on the developing child than the worship habits of the mother. Why this happens is a matter of speculation of course,
"Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a 'grown-up' activity."
"When children see that church is a 'women and children' thing, they will respond accordingly—by not going to church, or going much less." 
Boys raised by a single mom grow up seeing the church from the perspective that it is not for men. When I was young I recall there being a disproportionate number of little old ladies present at Sunday morning services even during the baby boom years. That and the effeminate nature of some of the priests may have turned many a young boy against the Episcopal sect. Episcopalians haven't done anything recently to change the impression left in children's minds, and in fact have added more major innovations that make things worse, just as the Church of England is doing,

"Second, we are ministering in churches that accepted fatherlessness as a norm, and even an ideal. Emasculated Liturgy, gender-free Bibles, and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer. In response, these churches’ decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated. To minister to a fatherless society, these churches, in their unwisdom, have produced their own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest."
They have "produced their own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest." Is that the model we want to present to children, to our fellow Christians, to the world?

Of course, the Episcopal organization and CofE are not turning back so Rev. Low's observations will not help them to climb out of their death spirals, but his words are a sharp warning to other Anglican entities,
"The churches are losing men and, if the Swiss figures are correct, are therefore losing children. You cannot feminize the church and keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Are All Welcome At the Table?

This Sunday's reading from Matthew 22:1-14 contains the Parable of the Wedding Banquet,

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Revisionist preachers will studiously avoid comment on verses 11-14 because it goes against their standard message that "All are welcome at the Lord's table", a quote I heard numerous times from my last revisionist rectorette when she announced Holy Communion particularly at funerals when she did not know if some present were baptized Christians or not. Sadly, people who come to the communion rail unprepared may have to face far greater consequences than a polite prayer over them as the cup passes them by. As harsh as it sounds, to let them partake of the Eucharistic elements may do them more harm than good. Remember how Paul cautions us in 1 Corinthians 11:26-30:
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died."
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), in his commentaries, gives his take on the "Friend" who did not have a wedding robe and got tossed out of the banquet. Henry was not so much concerned about Communion without Baptism for he probably could not have even imagined it becoming an issue in the Church. I think the parable applies equally to the unbaptized or non-Christian as it does to what Henry calls "hypocrites in the church".
VI. The case of hypocrites, who are in the church, but not of it, who have a name to live, but are not alive indeed, is represented by the guest that had not on a wedding garment; one of the bad that were gathered in. Those come short of salvation by Christ, not only who refuse to take upon them the profession of religion, but who are not sound at heart in that profession. Concerning this hypocrite observe,
1. His discovery, how he was found out, Matt. 22:11.
(1.) The king came in to see the guests, to bid those welcome who came prepared, and to turn those out who came otherwise. 
Note, The God of heaven takes particular notice of those who profess religion, and have a place and name in the visible church. Our Lord Jesus walks among the golden candlesticks and therefore knows their works. See Rev. 2:1, 2; Song 7:12. Let this be a warning to us against hypocrisy, that disguises will shortly be stripped off, and every man will appear in his own colours; and an encouragement to us in our sincerity, that God is a witness to it.
Observe, This hypocrite was never discovered to be without a wedding garment, till the king himself came in to see the guests. 
Note, It is God’s prerogative to know who are sound at heart in their profession, and who are not. We may be deceived in men, either one way or other; but He cannot. The day of judgment will be the great discovering day, when all the guests will be presented to the King: then he will separate between the precious and the vile (Matt. 25:32), the secrets of all hearts will then be made manifest, and we shall infallibly discern between the righteous and the wicked, which now it is not easy to do. It concerns all the guests, to prepare for the scrutiny, and to consider how they will pass the piercing eye of the heart-searching God.
(2.) As soon as he came in, he presently espied the hypocrite; He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment; though but one, he soon had his eye upon him; there is no hope of being hid in a crowd from the arrests of divine justice; he had not on a wedding garment; he was not dressed as became a nuptial solemnity; he had not his best clothes on. 
Note, Many come to the wedding feast without a wedding garment. If the gospel be the wedding feast, then the wedding garment is a frame of heart, and a course of life agreeable to the gospel and our profession of it, worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called (Eph. 4:1), as becomes the gospel of Christ, Phil. 1:27. The righteousness of saints, their real holiness and sanctification, and Christ, made Righteousness to them, is the clean linen, Rev. 19:8. This man was not naked, or in rags; some raiment he had, but not a wedding garment. 
Those, and those only, who put on the Lord Jesus, that have a Christian temper of mind, and are adorned with Christian graces, who live by faith in Christ, and to whom he is all in all, have the wedding garment.

So no, not all are welcome until they accept the invitation and put on the Mantle of Christ, and then they are welcomed like the prodigal son into the arms of our loving Father. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Do We Need Archbishops? :The Failure of "Episcopas"

After last week's pointless meeting of the pointy hats in Canterbury, I am left wondering if we really need Archbishops, Primates, or an Anglican Communion at all.

The Anglican Communion's loose structure and lack of discipline are often touted as its greatest strengths by progressives and revisionists. Their goals have certainly been facilitated by the current "instruments of communion" and the failure to effectively discipline and correct Churches that have departed from Anglican tradition and the teachings found in the Bible.

Who actually operates those instruments of communion? The guys in the pointy hats, for the most part, are the ones running the show.

Bishops and their like have been with us since the earliest days of the Church. But Archbishops and Popes maybe not so much.

1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are the only times in the NT when "bishops" are directly referred to, and some Bibles translate the Greek word, "episcopas", which more likely means "overseer", to mean "bishop."

1 Timothy 3 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
3 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Titus 1
5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
Paul clearly had a local structure in mind with one or more ordained overseers in a particular region such as in Crete. No mention of an "Arch-overseer" can be found unless one considers Paul to be the overseer of overseers.

So we do need "Bishops" that meet Paul's criteria, but history is replete with bad examples, and Paul himself had to write strong letters to his churches when he learned that they were going astray. To date, no Church has come up with the perfect solution to the problem of oversight.

The Anglican Communion certainly does not have a Paul at the helm. Their titular overseer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has no real power of oversight except when deciding who comes to a meeting of provincial leaders.

Just look at how recent events were handled by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church (USA), and the Scottish Episcopal Church have all altered 2000 years of teaching on homosexual activity and were still invited to Canterbury to meet with the rest of the Anglican Primates.

The Anglican Church in North America, which has not changed the Church's teaching, was not invited to the gathering and is considered by the Archbishop of Canterbury to not be part of the Anglican Communion.

The invitations say a lot about oversight in the organization we call the Anglican Communion. When those who flaunt their disregard for what is revealed in scripture are honored at the banquet while those deserving a seat at the table are left out on the street, there is a serious problem.

Let me speculate as to why things seem to work out the way they do in this organization.

Imagine you are having a family reunion in this day and age of blended families, divorces, and unwed mothers, and you have to decide whom to invite and who to exclude.
Should you invite the cousin, brother, or sister who had numerous adulterous affairs and is now legally re-married? "But that is family!", you say, and you are stuck with them so of course, you will extend an invitation. Many in the Anglican Communion feel this way about their wayward Provinces.

But what if you change the hypothetical to a team meeting in which the game plan for next week's contest is to be put together? Should you invite the players who don't follow the playbook and are busy writing their own rules and making new playbooks? No, of course, you will not even let them into the meeting room unless they admit that what they are doing is harmful to the team. A few leaders in the Anglican Communion feel this way about the Provinces thay are approving of same-sex marriages and blessings, as well as gender-neutral language and are revising their prayer books to reflect the change in the game plan.

Are we a "team" or are we a "family"? That is the crux of the problem. Christians traditionally refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ so "family" would appear to have the upper hand. But are we still bound to someone as a brother or sister when they change traditions, coming up with unChristian innovations, and leading their children astray through false teachings? Again, looking to Paul and the problems he encountered in the early Church, we find the answer, and the answer is "No", they are to be treated as tax collectors and Gentiles (Matthew 18:17).

In this day and age, we have grown accustomed to dysfunctional and broken families, but this is not to be accepted as the ideal towards which we should strive. Unfortunately, dysfunction is exactly what the Anglican Communion as overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a large number of Primates seem to admire as they conspire to create a sense of unity where there is none. 

We need Bishops and maybe even Archbishops, but they need to be true to the job description or they should beware,
The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops cemented into place by Archbishops.
And yes, we need a larger Communion, but the current set up is broken because it has been failed time and time again to uphold the Gospel of Christ.

I am just not sure if we should call the new Communion "Anglican". I don't want any association with the current overseers in Canterbury.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

A Prophetic Parable

This Sunday's Gospel reading, Matthew 21:33-43, is one of Jesus' harshest prophetic parables. In it he predicts his death and infers that his murderers will be his audience, the chief priests and elders who had just confronted him in the temple and asked by whose authority he had overturned the tables of the money changers and by whose authority he taught and cured people in the temple. 
‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;*this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes” Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
No wonder the chief priests and elders were irate and wanted to kill him.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Where is Jesus in the reporting of tragedy?

I generally prefer to wait until all the facts are in before commenting on tragic events like the recent Las Vegas massacre, but the absence of commentary from the mainstream media on the spiritual warfare that is the basis for man's inhumanity to man struck me as something that should be noted and reflected upon as society moves further away from a worldview based on the reality of an omnipresent God and turns more and more to a secular, agnostic, and emotive worldview.

Most reporting in the earliest stages of an unfolding story is based on facts as they occur, the planes flying into the twin towers for instance. It is not long before reporters, like the rest of us, move from talking about "what happened" to asking "why did it happen?".

In the absence of answers to the question of "why", news reporters start asking witnesses or survivors "how they felt" or "what was it like" and because the answers to those interviews create an emotional response in viewers, we remain glued to the tube for hours on end. The longer we are hooked on the emotional impact of the moment, the less likely we are to look for root causes. Indeed "emotivism" itself prevents us from making moral judgments.

Emotivism is the doctrine “that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character.” (h/t Crisis Magazine).

Sure, virtually everyone will conclude that what was done in Las Vegas was "WRONG", but there are several paths people take to get there.

The secular humanist might reason that the random taking of innocent life creates uncertainty, removes productive citizens from us, and thus weakens society. He would then seek to find a legislative solution.

The agnostic might reason that humans evolved with a violent nature in order to survive. He would then shrug his shoulders and tell us to arm ourselves and live with it.

The scientist might argue that such violence is due to mental illness and look to Medicine to work for a cure. 

The mainstream media has given voice to all of those worldviews.

As a Christian, I believe that we are all sinful creatures and that our murderous nature has been present since the fall of man. We are slaves to Sin, and we will remain in bondage until we surrender to Jesus. How much of the violence men suffer upon their fellow man can be traced to a rejection of Jesus?

Yes, we hear voices in the media asking us to pray in a generic sense, i.e. pray for the wounded, pray for the families, but the media is afraid to state who we are to pray to.

There is but one cure for us and that is Jesus, and that is whose name we must invoke in our prayers.

And the Gospel of Jesus is what we should be shouting at the top of the news if we hope to prevent future tragedies of this sort.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Every knee shall bow

This Sunday's Epistle reading is Philippians 2:1-13. In it we hear the words, "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow", which should sound familiar to most regular churchgoers because it is often paired with the hymn that shares the title. I think this selection is something our pro football players should study,
"If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,   did not regard equality with God   as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,   taking the form of a slave,   being born in human likeness.And being found in human form, he humbled himself   and became obedient to the point of death—   even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him   and gave him the name   that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus   every knee should bend,   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess   that Jesus Christ is Lord,   to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
Note that one of the important messages Paul has to the Philippeans is that they "be of one mind". Note too that "diversity of mind" is not mentioned. Yet somehow today the Anglican Communion is trying to hold diverse minds together as if that were a good thing. This week, as some of the Anglican Primates meet with Archbishop Welby, diverse minds will pretend that they are a "Church". Let us pray that they mark well Paul's words.

Most of you will be familiar with Raph Vaughan Williams version of "At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow",

But you may not have heard this version,

Or this one played to the tune Camberwell,

And I bet none of my readers have heard this one,

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On Accepting Another's Delusion.

We are living in a world where delusions spread so quickly and are so easily accepted thanks to the power of social media that it is hard to know what is true and what is false, and that may be just the way the world wants us to think.

Take the recent controversy over NFL players kneeling or staying in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem for example. This type of "virtue signaling" has become a phenomenon that all of the sports networks are fawning over. Sportscasters are afraid to criticize the protesting players, while coaches, owners and teammates, with a few notable exceptions, are joining in,  and I believe a large part of the followers are doing so because of team/herd mentality.

Or is it mob mentality? There is a fine line between herd mentality and the stampede of a mob, and that is a line I hope they do not cross.

The footballers keep telling us that they are not protesting the flag, the country or the National Anthem. They claim that they are the true patriots, but when they say this, they are offering up a delusion. I am sorry, but protesting during the National Anthem is not patriotic. Whatever they say it is, it is disrespectful of our military veterans and their sacrifices without which these athletes would be out of a job, working in the salt mines serving under a king or a dictator.
"... keep trying to tell us that protesting the flag and the national anthem is really an expression of patriotism and not of disrespect. It isn’t, and it insults our intelligence to tell us we have to treat it as if it were. It insults OUR dignity as people to tell us we have to see your protests as something other than what they are." - attributed to Brian Troyer.
The delusion that the players' protest is not disrespectful is not the only delusion being spread thanks to the age of mass communication. Think, "the right to choose", "marriage equality", and the transgender nonsense among other things.

William Kilpatrick has more on modern delusions and how they are enforced in his recent piece, "The Normalization of Delusional Thinking" which focuses primarily on the delusion that Islam is a religion of peace,

"...All of a sudden, a significant percentage of our social and intellectual elites have succumbed to the delusion that a girl can be a boy, and a boy can be a girl, or whatever he, she, ne, ze, zir currently desires to be. This is not merely a rebellion against social convention, it’s a rebellion against reality. It’s a rejection of basic biology."
"...There are several parallels here to what has become the standard response to Islam. As with transgenderism, we see an official denial of reality: Islamic terror has nothing to do with Islam, the terrorists (who are only a “handful”) “misunderstand” their faith, Islamic values are just the same as Christian values, and so on."
"Likewise, just as you’re not allowed to call Bruce Jenner 'he,' you’re not supposed to say 'radical Islamic terror' or 'migration invasion' or any other words that might be offensive to Muslims."
These days, we not only must live with another person's delusions, we must affirm them. According to one congresswoman, it is racist to disagree with the football players' protests. Even Fox News is afraid of the consequences of going against delusion when it comes to transexualism and has its newscasters referring to Bruce Jenner as "she". The power of the delusion is absolute,
...“making [others] agree to something they know is a lie is a hallmark of totalitarianism.” - Matthew Hanley
How did we get here?  William Kilpatrick claims that it is a result of the attack on objective reality which had as one of its goals the toppling of our belief in the reality of God,
"...Another objective reality that came under attack during the self-esteem era was the existence of God, or, more accurately, the existence of the God who reveals himself in the Old and New Testaments—the God who make demands on the individual self. In his place, many substituted vague, New Age-ish forms of spirituality. Either that, or they began to conceive of God as a servant of their emotional needs—an all-understanding therapist in Heaven who just wants everyone to feel good about himself, herself, zeself, zirself."
"The famous maxim attributed to Chesterton applies here: 'The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.' Once you lose sight of the central objective reality in the universe, it’s easy to lose sight of all the other realities, and you end up believing in anything—no matter how counter-factual the 'anything' might be. You might believe that same-sex couples are truly married, you might believe that males can become females. You might even believe—heaven help you—that Islam is a religion of peace."
You might even believe football players are true patriots when they disrespect our veterans.

You shouldn't have to accept another's delusion, and you shouldn't be forced to affirm it either. That is why I had to break from Bishop Waldo after he published his delusional justification for proceeding with same-sex blessings in Upper South Carolina.

I found out then that you can't reason with the deluded, and humoring them by accepting and affirming the lie just results in the delusion spreading to others. At some point you have to make your point and leave, another runaway slave from another delusional dictator.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Cure for the Jailhouse Blues

In this Sunday's reading from Philippians 1:21-30 Paul weighs the value of his life and work against his desire to be with Jesus after death. Without the background of verses 1-20, most pewsitters will not be aware of the context of Paul's circumstances. Matthew Henry in his Commentaries puts it this way,
  "We see here the care the apostle takes to prevent their being offended at his sufferings. He was now a prisoner at Rome; this might be a stumbling-block to those who had received the gospel by his ministry. They might be tempted to think, If this doctrine were indeed of God, God would not suffer one who was so active and instrumental in preaching and propagating it to be thrown by as a despised broken vessel. They might be shy of owning this doctrine, lest they should be involved in the same trouble themselves. Now to take off the offence of the cross, he expounds this dark and hard chapter of his sufferings, and makes it very easy and intelligible, and reconcilable to the wisdom and goodness of God who employed him."
With that in mind, we can see why Paul is contemplating his death,

"For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again." 
"Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have."

The cure for the jailhouse blues, even maybe the death row blues may be just this, to stay alive for Christ and for others for the labour is never done.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Broken Communion Blame Game

Centuries after The Reformation, Catholics and Protestants still cannot agree on who is to blame and there is no shared communion between them.

Today, we are witness to the breakup of the Anglican Communion and get to watch as each side blames the other.

In the past it used to be said that one side of a disagreement must be right, one must be wrong, or both must be wrong, but today we "know" that both sides can be right (sarcasm).

Archbishop Peter Jensen is on my side of right or wrong and he tries to answer those who blame his side for the deepening divide in the Anglican Communion in the following statement (found here),

"The suggestion that Gafcon is a divisive movement, and in particular aimed at breaking up the Anglican Communion, is one I hear from time to time.
It’s heartbreaking to hear it because it is untrue and it is an indication of the power of gossip. 
I never tire of telling the story of the meeting of Primates at the end of the Jerusalem Conference 2008.  I was asked by the chairman to become the secretary to the movement.
Before answering, I asked the Primates, ‘Is it the aim of Gafcon to break away from the Anglican Communion? Are we setting up and new Communion?’
The reply was an instant, unanimous and resounding ‘No!’  Just as well, as I would not have had any further role in Gafcon had the answer been anything else. 
We are committed to the Anglican Communion, we are committed to its spiritual vitality, to its commitment to the word of God and the preaching of the gospel and the sheer goodness of our fellowship in the Lord. 
It is for that very reason, however, that we have taken the steps, scripturally mandated, to call those who have separated themselves from us by false teaching back to repentance and back into fellowship with us. 
The problem is that fellowship is catching. You can catch goodness from fellowship – a good model of holiness, a shared concern, the deep prayers for each other, material help. But we can also catch spiritual diseases from each other – pride, idolatry, false teaching, for example. Fellowship is powerful. 
When we knowingly have fellowship with those whose teaching endangers the gospel itself, we are in danger of catching the same disease and at the least endorsing it and putting others at risk. 
They may choose to move away from us, but our task is to call them to repentance and to renewed fellowship in the truth of God’s Word. 
To label this ‘divisive’, bearing in mind that it is a response to a deeply divisive prior action, is tragically misleading. Gafcon’s motivation is not to divide or to ‘grab power’, but to help ensure that the Church is preaching the truth for the sake of souls. 
Be assured: Gafcon is not divisive. It stands for the renewal of our Communion according to the word of God and for the glory of Christ." 

Sure sounds like Reformation language to me, and which side of that divide would you have gone with?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Consequences of "Unforgiveness"

This Sunday's Gospel reading from Matthew 18:21-35 is about forgiveness and the consequences of unforgiveness.
"Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven (some texts have 70 x 7) times. ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents* was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’"

I wonder what most pewsitters heard during the sermon today? It is probably a great temptation to preach about forgiveness and to skip talking about the consequences of unforgiveness, but the consequences are too terrible to ignore. Without a doubt we should all be handed over to be tortured for all are guilty of the sin of unforgiveness.

Thankfully God is forgiving way beyond the seventy times seven limit mentioned in today's Gospel selection because our sins are far more numerous. God is so forgiving that He was willing to die upon the cross for the innumerable sins of the whole world.

The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness, but very little to say about unforgiveness unless you consider O.T. tales of vengence as being about unforgiveness.

Earlier, in Matthew 12:31-32 we learn of the one thing God will not forgive,
"Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
More dreadful consequences.

 So when I hear someone say that we have a forgiving God, I have to agree with them but with one caveat, Matthew 12:31-32.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On Fellowship With Followers of a Different Gospel

The recent rebuke of the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Archbishop of Nigeria about the upcoming Canterbury Primates Meeting highlights the problem of fellowship with people who consider themselves Christians but who follow a different gospel than the one that has been passed down to us through the centuries. ++Nigeria is not going to attend the meeting while some (not all) other Global South Primates are planning on going. While most of us can recognize a broken relationship when we see one, and most of us can recognize irreconcilable differences, what duty do we have once we have fulfilled the requirements laid out in Matthew 18? Do our responsibilities change based on whether we are dealing with a fellow pewsitter as opposed to an archbishop, bishop, or priest of the Church, or if we are dealing with potentially heretical teaching?

Some people suggest that leaders in the Church can maintain communion with other leaders as long as their differences do not touch upon Creedal matters. Others advise that false teaching such as today's revisions to human sexuality is every bit as important. Sexual issues were not addressed by the ancient creeds because they didn't need to be addressed, and to limit excommunication to just those who deny the creedal statements lets non-scriptural novelties such as same-sex marriage creep in, and that presents a danger to the Church just like the ancient heresies were a danger.

I think distinctions should be made between the excommunication of lowly pewsitters and the breaking of communion between Archbishops, bishops. dioceses, or denominations.

It is rare for an Episcopalian pewsitter to be excommunicated. I am aware of only two cases in recent history, Lewis Green for giving his priest the finger at the communion rail and Beverly Moore for pointing out a sexual predator in the church (see this post from 2009).

It would seem to me that promoting a false gospel would be a far greater sin than Mr. Green's or Ms. Moore's.

So why are the leaders of the church so hesitant to break communion over the issue of same-sex marriage?

Besides being wimps, I think they are over thinking things. So, I would like to help them by giving them some straight from the pew answers.

  • What is fellowship? Christian fellowship occurs when we agree on the message of the Gospel, it ends when we disagree. 
  • Are there limits on fellowship? Yes, see next Q+A.
  • How much can we associate with those who promote a false gospel? Only as much as we would with anyone else who needs to hear the Gospel. That means we can invite them to dinner or dine with them and work with them to correct their error. That does not mean that we should support their ministry.
  • Can we share Holy Communion? Only after we have resolved the basic Gospel issue, and it cannot be argued away as a non-Gospel issue, because that argument has never, never, worked. Until then, any Eucharist that is shared is a "Fauxcharist". 
  • How were the churches that lost in the great Creedal controversies over false teaching treated? They probably persisted for some time, but for the most part, they have gone the way that the Episcopal organization, the Anglican church in Canada, the Church of England, and the Scottish Episcopal church are going. Does anyone really want to walk with them into obscurity?
  • Isn't it a sin to be party to disunity in the Church? I defer my answer to ++Okoh,
  • "A unity that includes those who persist in rebelling against God’s Word is a false unity." - The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council  
There is a third possibility as to why many Church leaders won't break communion, and that is because they are privately in favor of same-sex marriage and other innovations being advanced in the Church.

And that is a scary thought.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

There Will Be Irreconcilable Differences

Jesus never said it was going to be easy, as this Sunday's reading from Matthew 18:15-20 demonstrates,

"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."
Conflict between members of the church is predicted by the Lord, and Jesus sets out a seemingly simple process through which to address conflict due to sin.

In researching these verses, I have found that people really do make things more complicated than Jesus intended. When they try to apply these principles to public disagreements or to dealing with secular, non-Christian folks and issues, all kinds of problems ensue.
"The New Testament is a plain book designed for plain people. The gospel is to be preached to the poor and simple who are as capable of receiving it as the wise, and in some sense more so."
--John Newton, Letters of John Newton (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1869/2007), 202.
What constitutes a sin against a plain individual? These days one could claim that anything that offends another person is a sin. Look no further than the way people are pilloried in public on Twitter or Facebook for committing the sin of expressing their opinions when those opinions offend the zeitgeist.

This hyper-offendedness is present everywhere. If you think about it, there is no way we can even get through coffee hour without offending someone. Maybe we neglected to greet them, perhaps we glanced at our watch while they were speaking, or maybe we didn't scarf up the cheese puffs that they had brought as a snack. These don't seem like much, but they can cause resentment in sensitive individuals, and some people take offense at anything. What are we to do when the uber-sensitive  don't accept our apology? I once read a book that examined the many different ways people expect to hear an apology. If someone doesn't hear the words of apology said the way they prefer, guess what, you have caused more offense.

I think Jesus was talking about much more serious sins than just our hurt feelings. Things like stealing, bearing false witness, adultery, and others, you know, the real game breakers in a church.

This is why treating false teachers is dealt with in such a different manner in the Bible.

Certain disagreements in church practice are not handled in a calm, polite, systematic Matthew 18 manner. Remember how Paul took down Peter,

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)

You cannot be reconciled with a false teacher until they repent. Peter needed to be confronted.

Nobody ever accused Paul of being reserved, and I suspect the way he settled a dispute would be considered offensive by today's church leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury who considers reconciliation to be his strength.

So there will be conflict, but the way of conflict resolution can be more complicated than it should because while it takes two to tango, it takes two or more to untangle, and with humans involved there will be times when you just can't reconcile differences, and that is the time to treat the irreconcilable as someone who is unconverted, like a first century Gentile, in need of the healing power of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

On the Situation in South Carolina

As we in South Carolina keep one eye on the projected path of Hurricane Irma, the other eye is on the continuing legal battle between The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (ACNA) and the Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina (TEc). The best account of this debacle can be found at the blog of Allan Haley, the Anglican Curmudgeon (link on the right-hand column), who I count as a friend and fellow sojourner on the road out of the mud swamp that is the Episcopal organization.

It took the South Carolina Supreme Court almost two years to come to a decision on the first lawsuit between "The Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, et al." and "The Episcopal Church, et al." A 3-2 ruling went against the ACNA diocese meaning that they may have to turn over their church buildings to the TEc diocese, a small group which cannot fill or maintain most of these structures. Appeals to the court are already winding their way through the legal system which probably means more years of litigation.

Any ruling that takes two years for a court to formulate has to be suspect, and our Anglican Curmudgeon has all the details here and here. First, one judge is a party to the case. Justice Hearn is a member of TEc and the Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina. She should have recused herself but did not, and her bias is documented in Allan's posts.

Second, the majority could not agree as to how they came to their conclusion (Allan's second post).

In conversations with clergy and pewsitters in the ACNA diocese it is clear that they are uncomfortable with the situation and some are losing sleep over the matter. I am glad to report that they are keeping God in the forefront, praying together, and fasting, while their legal team tries to right the injustice done by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

As an outside observer who has always believed that the Episcopal organization should let God's people go, I pray that God will right the wrong, but I know that his answer to my prayer may not come in the form that I expect.

If my friends lose their buildings, I am confident that the new churches they build will be vibrant hatcheries for new disciples of Christ, whereas I cannot express the same confidence in the evangelistic abilities of TEc or its followers if they wind up with the old, empty church buildings.

You cannot evangelize a false gospel. Nobody needs what TEc is peddling.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Maxims and Proverbs of Paul

This Sunday's reading from Romans 12:9-21 has Paul giving some maxims to the Roman church some of which take the form of proverbs. I will format them so you might note the similarities.

  • 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 honour.  
  • 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.
May the blessings of the Lord be upon Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Curry No Better than Schori: TEC Joins Lawsuit Against The Diocese of South Carolina

After he was made Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church three years ago, and he gave that silly "Don't worry be happy" sermon that every revisionist priest I knew swooned over, I wrote,

"I for one won't fawn and fall until he stops the lawsuits against fellow Christians, until he disavows same-sex marriage and abortion, and until he sweeps 815 clean of all the flowing robed wolves who have been devouring the Church from within. Then and only then will I stop worrying and be happy."
After recent news that Curry would join the rump "Diocese in SC" in suing The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina I reminded myself that I cannot stop worrying and be happy yet.

From Anglican Ink came the news,
A federal judge has granted The Episcopal Church’s motion to intervene in a lawsuit over false-advertising and related claims against the bishop of a breakaway group that left the Church in 2012.
The federal case, known as vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel, (pictured) and currently is scheduled to proceed to trial in March 2018. Judge Gergel was assigned the case after the death of Judge C. Weston Houck in July.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2013, a few months after Mark Lawrence and a breakaway group announced they were leaving The Episcopal Church. The suit involves a claim of false advertising under the federal Lanham Act. At that time, Bishop Charles vonRosenberg was the only bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. By continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese, Mark Lawrence is committing false advertising, the lawsuit says.
Bishop vonRosenberg retired in 2016, and his successor, Bishop Skip Adams, was added as a plaintiff in the case earlier this year.
This month, The Episcopal Church filed a motion to join the case as a plaintiff, saying it has an interest in the litigation because of Bishop Lawrence’s “misuse of marks owned by the Church.”
Curry was right when in his sermon he over and over again repeated.
"And God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet." 
I have come to the conclusion that God fully intends to let the Episcopal church dig its own grave, and now Presiding Bishop Curry has his hands on the shovel. 

And what effect does suing Biblical Anglicans have on the denomination? Nothing good, because we have been warned that Christians do not take other Christians to court. The following is a quotation from Christianity Today, 

In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul reprimands church members who have filed lawsuits against each other. Their pettiness, suggests the apostle, lacks eternal foresight and discredits the testimony of the church. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus offers principles for how two believers are to resolve a conflict. And earlier on, Jesus advised his followers about how to carry themselves if they are the object of a suit: "If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Matt. 5:40, NIV). What does this mean for us in today's ultra-litigious society?
As Christ's followers, we are called to live in unity. God wants us to be at peace with one another (Rom. 12:18). A suing Christian is usually enticed to take on the adversarial spirit manifested in the legal system. The predacious nature of our culture, the retention of attorneys, and the courtroom arena combine to form an atmosphere not conducive to reconciling relationships. A Christian who sues can become "caught up" in the system to the extent that he takes on a bitter, self-righteous, and disingenuous mindset.
This, in turn, can lead him to overlook the blessing hidden in conflict, an opportunity to demonstrate godly character in the face of adversity. It also minimizes God's concern about the "weightier matters of the law"—justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23).
The only time Christians should take their conflicts to court is when dealing with non-Christians.

This leads me to conclude that Curry's action says something about how we should classify the organization that he heads.

Christian or not?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Who Are You?

In case you have been asleep for the past decade, we are living in the age of identity. It is a time in which no one else has the right to define your identity. You are what you say you are, and you are what you feel you are, that is the battle cry of this generation. One problem with this age of identity is that feelings are ephemeral, and therefore any sense of identity is without a firm foundation.

In this Sunday's reading from Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus asks his followers who the people think He is, his identity, and then Jesus asks his followers the same question.
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah."
 Simon Peter answers with confidence that Jesus is the Messiah. His response is the rock upon which the Church was built, unchanging, everlasting, and sure.

Who are you? Who do people say that you are? What do they think you are?

If people misidentify you, you need to stand on that rock and tell them that you are a follower of the Lord Jesus and why.

Only in Christ do you have any identity that is worth living out.

Don't keep it secret. Let the world know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion

This week as I left my new church family to attend to my father's funeral, I was reminded that even though I was far away, we were still connected through prayers and bonds of Christian friendship. As I presented the homily to those assembled for the funeral, I saw Christians and non-christians together and realized that in order to reach the un-churched and the anti-christians we need to not wait for special occasions like weddings and funerals in order to share the Faith. We can't keep it to ourselves. The story must be told.

A post at Patheos last December by Ben Witherington titled "The Narcissism of ‘Solitary Religion’"
reinforces my impression.

"Augustine tells the story of Victorinus, professor of rhetoric at Rome. Victorinus had a lot of sympathy with Christianity, and used to read the Bible and Christian books. He would say to Simplician ‘You know I really am a Christian already.’ Simplician would reply ‘I will not believe it, nor will I rank you among Christians, until I see you in the Church of Christ.’ Victorinus would reply ‘Do walls make Christians?’ He kept the jest up for a long time, but in the end the professor came where he knew he belonged, and joined the mixed company of the Church of Rome.It has always been so. It was at the beginnings of Methodism when a ‘serious man’, we do not know his name, said to John Wesley, ‘Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven? Remember that you cannot serve him alone. You therefore must find companions or make them. The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.’"

We have to share His story. I believe that in order to do so we have to study, study, study, and live and grow in Faith with a Christian community.

They are out there.

Don't be fooled by cheap imitations.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Paul, Paul, Why Do We Ignore Thee So?

This Sunday, the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) cuts out 80% of the 11th chapter of Romans (Romans 11:1-2, 29-32). As I am prone to do on these pages, I point out the gaps and present the verses as intended by the original author. If you went to church today and only heard the RCL version, here is what Paul really wrote to the Gentile Christians in Rome as he tried to explain how they relate to the Jews,

Romans 11
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’ But what is the divine reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,‘God gave them a sluggish spirit,   eyes that would not see   and ears that would not hear,down to this very day.’ And David says,‘Let their table become a snare and a trap,   a stumbling-block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,   and keep their backs for ever bent.’So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not vaunt yourselves over the branches. If you do vaunt yourselves, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness towards you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;   he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘And this is my covenant with them,   when I take away their sins.’ As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

All too often, the Epistles are glossed over on Sunday morning, and I predict that will be the case today in many churches that follow the RCL. As a child, I found Romans very difficult to understand, probably because all I heard was little snippets and not the entire letter and never a Bible study about Romans. If you are just a Sunday church goer, you may get a similar distorted view of Paul and his letters.  It pays to read the whole thing, and it would be even better to study it with a group of fellow Christians. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Do Liberalism and Sexual liberation lead us to "Transhumanism"?

A rather lengthy article crossed my desk the other day from Crisis Magazine. In it, the author discusses the "transhumanism" movement which I describe as certain people's goal to move their consciousness into an artificial intelligence, to leave their brains and bodies behind and become a non-human or "transhuman". To me, this is a natural progression of the trans-sexual movement with which our society is currently enraptured. Where "liberalism" fits into this trend depends on how one defines liberalism and that is why you should probably take the time to read the entire article. If you just want some key points, let me provide them here.
"Liberalism, remaining officially neutral on the subject of ultimate goods, serves to enshrine preference satisfaction as the ultimate good. Liberalism can’t help but privilege rights over duties and so undermines, even to the point of erasure, the conception of human dignity out of which duties arise. By making preference sovereign, liberalism communicates what we might call a proto-transhumanist anthropology. It says, humans are what they desire to become. You are what you want."
The current gender confusion that today's children are being taught is exactly this, "You are what you want." This liberal indoctrination creates questions of personal identity for our young which are unlikely to be answered by the ever changing "wants" of their all too human minds. I suspect transhumanists want an improvement upon the human mind. Who knows what wants a transhuman intelligence will desire next?

Connecting the dots of liberalism's technological understanding of sex as something that satisfies "wants" to the transhuman movement which proclaims the superiority of the artificial brain and body, the author continues,
"The liberal understanding of sex sanctions the pursuit of mastery over natality, and it is a short step from desiring control over natality to desiring control over mortality. Transhumanists explicitly conceive of the two as linked; their goal to defeat death is frequently parsed as a goal to manipulate life."
"As Michael Hanby explains it,
'if knowledge of nature is really engineering, then the truth of this knowledge is essentially whatever is technically possible. But since the ultimate limits of possibility can only be discovered by perpetually transgressing the present limits of possibility, a technological view of nature and truth commences an interminable revolution against every antecedent order or given limit. A thoroughgoing technological society will therefore establish revolution as a permanent principle, paradoxically giving it the stability of an institutional form.'"
"Revolution as a permanent principle", where have we heard that before?

What does all of this have to do with God and religion?
"To surrender to technology, just as to surrender to sexual license, is to abandon the possibility of discovering transcendent truth. Both sexual liberation and transhumanism are blind to the historical, philosophical, and theological foundations that make truth humanly attainable. Both movements devote their energies to engineering a world where truth is no longer necessary, where the givenness of the world we inhabit is entirely subverted. This is surely what makes an anti-culture: the labor to erase every trace of an order that demands reverence for permanent things (the marriage bond, parenthood, the sexual lineaments of the soul…)."
Welcome to the present world, the world of the "anti-culture". It is hard for most of us to understand its attraction. The way of Jesus seems much more attractive to me.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved

This week's Gospel reading relates the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter sinking in the same sea. I have commented on this every three years for a while now so I am going to ask my dear readers to look over this Sunday's Epistle selection, Romans 10:5-15

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?‘The word is near you,   on your lips and in your heart’(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
As I write this, I am grieving the death of my father who passed away today. Grief mixed with gladness because just last year he confessed to me his belief in Jesus and that he knew that he was saved. My father was very old, and he knew that his days were numbered. Not everyone is so aware, and for that reason these verses from Romans should be kept in our minds as we interact with unbelievers.
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
Confess out loud that Christ is Lord. The world is dying to hear it!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Where Dying Congregations Go To Die

The story came from Waco Texas and The Waco Tribune-Herald: "Dwindling congregation forces sale of 133-year-old Waco Lutheran church", and it made the rounds on social media a couple of weeks ago. I waited and waited for someone to pick up on the irony hidden in the story. Seeing none, I present it for your puzzled minds.

In the story, a Lutheran parish that is part of the liberal wing of American Lutherans was forced to sell their building because their average Sunday attendance had fallen drastically. They sold it to an up and coming Anglican Church in North America congregation. This might seem ironic to some, but what it really says is that there are consequences to be had from promoting a faulty theology of human sexuality.

The real irony is where the dying congregation is going to meet for worship in the future,
"The membership will meet temporarily now at Connally-Compton Funeral Directors on West Waco Drive until plans for a more-permanent location are finalized."
I will leave it to my reader's imaginations as to what that more-permanent location might be.

Grab your shovels folks.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Why Did They Keep Silent?

This Sunday is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and the assigned Gospel reading is Luke 9:28-36,
 "Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen."
We are left to speculate as to why Peter, John, and James kept silent. They were not instructed by the Lord to do so. I always thought that they were afraid that if they spoke, no one would believe them, or worse, they would be accused of blasphemy. After the resurrection and the reception of the Holy Spirit, these three were transformed and given the courage to testify as to what had occurred on that mountain.

Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) in his Commentary puts it this way,
"Lastly, The apostles are here said to have kept this vision private. They told no man in those days, reserving the discovery of it for another opportunity, when the evidences of Christ’s being the Son of God were completed in the pouring out of the Spirit, and that doctrine was to be published to all the world. As there is a time to speak, so there is a time to keep silence. Every thing is beautiful and useful in its season."
"Everything is beautiful"? Sorry but I couldn't resist,

I cannot keep silent. I have seen a lot of ugliness and can testify that not everything is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

A Welsh Bishop's Mad Belief

In case you missed it, the Welsh have gone all in for women's ordination to the point where they just "enthroned" their second female bishop, and now women make up 1/3 of Welsh bishops. June Osborne, the 72nd Bishop of Llandaff in Wales was enthroned on July 22, 2017 (H/T Ancient Briton).

If history is our guide and the Episcopal organization (TEc) is the reference to which one looks for the effects of women's ordination and female bishops on a Church, the Church in Wales is in for a slide into irrelevance. TEc has been losing members by the millions and women's ordination has done nothing to slow the decline. If anything, the decline seems to have accelerated since women started filling the ranks of the clergy in 1977.

Why is it that the presence of women in the priesthood has done nothing to stem the tide? I think that Bishop June Osborne gave us a hint in her first sermon as Bishop of Llandaff when she said,
“I believe truly, madly and deeply in pastoral ministry within a local context."
Now don't get me wrong, I believe in pastoral ministry too. It is an important part of caring for people. The only problem with a true, mad, and deep belief in pastoral ministry is that it can create an imbalance in the other important components of ministry. Administration, handling staff, teaching, preaching, and most of all evangelizing all tend to become  subordinate to pastoral care. The consequence of an imbalance in ministry is the ruin of the Church.

So here comes the sticky part. Many people entering Episcopal and probably Welsh seminaries already have a strong caring personality type. This may be one of the factors leading to their feeling of a calling to serve others as a priest. Note that I did not say "serve God as a priest". Once placed in a parish, all the years of education cannot keep the average priest from slipping into "pastoral care mode" once they are given charge over a congregation of needy individuals. This is a particular problem for smaller congregations who cannot afford an assistant priest or a deacon.

Like it or not, women are often seen as more caring and therefore may be considered by a bishop who comes from a pastoral background to be better suited for the role of delivering pastoral care.

Once a diocese gets a critical mass of women priests, and enough become bishops, guess what type of priests those bishops are more likely to bring in to take charge of their parish churches?

You got it, priests who also believe "truly madly and deeply" about local pastoral care. More likely than not many of those will be female.

Not an evangelical will be found in the lot.

And the Church will decline.

It is truly maddening. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

"We are predestined, yet free"

While this Sunday's Gospel readings contain great parables which will likely be the subjects of most sermons today, I would like to draw your attention to the reading from Romans 8:26-39 which contains a problem that will probably not be discussed today, Predestination (vs 28-30 which I have highlighted below),

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The problematic verses have challenged philosophers for generations. The idea of the predestination of the elect is difficult enough without getting into the concept of "double predestination", the predestination of the damned. When one considers God's omniscience and omnipresence along with his eternal nature we can get a glimpse of the problem. God knows what is going to happen to each and every one of us. He knows the bad choices we will make. He knows who will choose to follow Christ and who will reject him, and all of that seems terribly unfair to our modern minds that He would not step in and change our course when we stray particularly when, as Paul teaches, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Unfair until you remember that he has stepped in. He came and died for all of us once. Who are we to demand that He do it again.

Back in 2012 an article titled CATHOLICISM, CALVINISM AND THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES by Fr. Victor E. Novak (link to his blog), a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), appeared on David Virtue's blog which I hope will help us come to grips with this issue.

Article XVII, "Of Predestination and Election," does not say a word about the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination, and ends by saying: "Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally [meaning universally] set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God." God's promises are general, or universal, not particular and limited to the elect. Anglicanism does not believe that God predestines some men to salvation and others to eternal damnation.
What is the Anglican understanding of Predestination and Election? Anglican theologian Vernon Staley explains it this way: "Predestination does not mean that some souls are fore-ordained to eternal life, and others to eternal death, for there is no purpose of God to bring any man to eternal death. God 'will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.'
"There is a purpose in everything, both in the order of nature and in that of grace. In the order of grace, Predestination corresponds to some extent with Providence in the order of nature. An acorn is naturally predestined to produce an oak, but it may fail to realize that purpose: all acorns do not produce oaks. If it does fail it misses its predestined end. So the soul is predestined to a life of grace and obedience here, leading to a life of glory hereafter; but it may fail, and miss the mark. If the laws which determine the germination and growth of an acorn are observed, the oak will be produced from it. In a like manner if the soul obeys God, and corresponds [cooperates] with his grace, it will come to eternal life. God who calls and elects, also bids us 'to make our calling and election sure'... Everyone is called to, and is capable of salvation, but God alone knows who will 'make their calling and election sure'" (The Catholic Religion, A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Anglican Communion; Vernon Staley, 1893, pp. 317-319).
Calvinists are monergists while Anglicans, like all Catholic Christians, are synergists. Calvinism teaches that grace ravishes the soul and is irresistible, while Anglicanism teaches that grace woos the soul and that man must cooperate freely with God's grace. God always acts first through prevenient grace, but man must cooperate with that grace. We are predestined, yet free.
 Free to choose to follow Him... or not. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Innovation or Return?

I recently had the pleasure of attending a service at an ACNA parish and heard a sermon that was so far removed from what my Episcopalian ears were accustomed to hearing that I kept wondering what would happen if this preacher was to give the same sermon in front of a group of Episcopalians.

Let me summarize his points:
  • The Reformation was a "return" and not an "innovation". 
  • The primacy of Scripture in the Anglican tradition.
  • The roles of tradition and reason in Anglicanism (not the same as the three legged stool Episcopalians teach).
  • Innovation is not derived from Scripture or tradition but from (flawed) human reason.
  • One should apply Scripture, tradition, and reason in that order to answer the question, "Is this an innovation or is it a return?" 
He then proceeded to give us a few examples of ancient and old issues the Church has faced.

Can you guess which examples would have caused an audience of Episcopalians to rend their clothes?

Yep, divorce, cohabitation, same-sex blessings, transgender liturgies, etc. Which were all correctly identified as innovations contrary to scripture and tradition.

The ACNA congregation nodded in agreement.

A congregation of Episcopalians would have turned into,

Or maybe not. A crowd of Episcopalian clergy certainly would have been irate, but a crowd of pewsitters just might have had their ears opened.

Just imagine what effect a steady diet of correct information might have on the Episcopal congo.

Ah, tis but a flight of fancy I know.

But, just imagine...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fear the Reapers

This Sunday's Gospel lesson from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 continues with another of the parables of Jesus, but unlike two weeks ago, this week churchgoers get to hear Jesus at his sharpest, speaking about the fiery furnace and those who wind up in it with "weeping and gnashing of teeth".
24 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28 He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29 But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ 
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37 He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
The Revised Common Lectionary cut out the parable of the mustard seed for some strange reason since it seems both innocuous and enlightening in its description of the kingdom of heaven. I am sure most pewsitters would prefer hearing these words,

31 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with* three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. 35 This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet:*
‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
 I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.’

The typical Episcopalian is never taught to actually fear the reaper. It might be interesting to sample this Sunday's sermons from various Episcopal parishes to see how they handled Matthew 13:40-42. If their preachers glossed over the dangers Jesus so dramatically presented, their sheep would have been given an illusion of safety. The message they have been fed for many years is that there is no Devil and no one has to fear the reaper.

"All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man 
Valentine is done
Here but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity, Romeo and Juliet
Forty thousand men and women everyday, like Romeo and Juliet
Forty thousand men and women everyday, redefine happiness
Another forty thousand coming everyday, We can be like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man 
Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don't be afraid
Come on baby, and she had no fear
And she ran to him, then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodbye, she had become like they are
She had taken his hand, she had become like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper" - Blue Oyster Cult