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...