Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Welby the Weak

In 2015 I noted how un-evangelical the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, acted when speaking to a group of mostly Muslim school children.  
The Archbishop faced a number of “challenging” questions from pupils at the Church of England school (St Alban’s Academy in Highgate), where 80 per cent of its pupils are Muslim.
Answering a pupil who asked whether he would encourage him to convert from Islam to Christianity, the Archbishop said: “I am not going to put pressure on you, and I wouldn’t expect you to put pressure on me.” (BirminghamMail)
So I was not surprised when in May of 2017 he posted a video message to Muslims a few days after the terrorist attack in Manchester blessing them and wishing them a "very good Ramadan".

The appropriate Christian response to Islam is to correct its error and to spread the good news of Jesus as Lord. To do otherwise is to deny the Trinity. Weak responses to Islam such as wishing people a "very good Ramadan" only serve to legitimize the heresy. 

When he was announced as Archbishop it was said that he was an "evangelical". 

The word must mean something different in England.

From now on, he will be announced as "Welby the Weak".

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I am not asking on behalf of the world

This Sunday's reading is from John 17:1-11, and in it Jesus prepares his disciples for his ascension,

"After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.'"

Jesus' prayer to God for his disciples,
"...protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."
has been considered somewhat problematic since Jesus is leaving out the rest of the world,
"I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me"
Readers should not be dismayed because by the time we get to John 17:20 (not heard today in church) Jesus adds,
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;"
Matthew Henry in his Concise Commentary puts it this way,
Christ prays for those that are his. Thou gavest them me, as sheep to the shepherd, to be kept; as a patient to the physician, to be cured; as children to a tutor, to be taught: thus he will deliver up his charge. It is a great satisfaction to us, in our reliance upon Christ, that he, all he is and has, and all he said and did, all he is doing and will do, are of God. Christ offered this prayer for his people alone as believers; not for the world at large. Yet no one who desires to come to the Father, and is conscious that he is unworthy to come in his own name, need be discouraged by the Saviour's declaration, for he is both able and willing to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him. Earnest convictions and desires, are hopeful tokens of a work already wrought in a man; they begin to evidence that he has been chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. They are thine; wilt thou not provide for thine own? Wilt thou not secure them? Observe the foundation on which this plea is grounded, All mine are thine, and thine are mine. This speaks the Father and Son to be one. All mine are thine. The Son owns none for his, that are not devoted to the service of the Father.

Reading the whole chapter always helps. Just the same, the prayer is for Jesus' disciples and those who will come to believe in him thanks to the ministry of those disciples and not for those who are unrepentant and who reject him. For them we shall pray to be given the strength and courage to spread the Gospel ourselves to that unbelieving world which lacks the protection and unity that we have in Jesus' name.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Anti-Semitic Films Shown at the Washington National Cathedral/Mosque

The National Cathedral in Washington DC is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and has been dishing out the Kool-Aid of progressive, revisionist theology for years. As a physical structure, it is an impressive sight, but due to the cancerous theology slowly eating away at its foundations, I can no longer visit the building. The contents of today's blog post nailed the lid on the coffin for one of my friends who has also cordoned off the site as a "no-go zone".

"The Occupation of the American Mind" is an 82 min film that was shown on March 05, 2017 in the Perry Auditorium of the Washington National Cathedral. This film's theme is that Americans have been lied to and brainwashed by the media (who are mere pawns in the hands of Zionists) and that it is the Jews who are the bad guys in the Middle East. 

Reports from Jihad Watch are that this was just one film out of a series promoted by the National Cathedral that follows the same theme. It is unconscionable that any Christian group sponsor such anti-Semitic propaganda. The possible intent of these presentations may be to weaken Episcopalian resistance to any "Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions" (BDS) resolutions that might be brought forward to the next General Convention (GC) of the Episcopal organization thirteen months from now. 

At the last General Convention, resolutions that would have started the Episcopal organization on the slippery slope towards BDS were rejected, much to the chagrin of the Rev. Winnie Varghese (Trinity Wall Street) whose comments can be found in her Huff Post article of 07/10/2015 titled "Episcopal Bishops Did Not Reject Divestment from Israel"
"We didn’t mention Boycott, Divestment, or Sanctions because we don’t believe that is where we are as a church."
(Readers please note that whenever a revisionist uses the words "where we are as a church", what they really mean is "where we need to be as a church")
"However, those who oppose any criticism of Israel, ever, made sure to claim that it was Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions that was being considered every time they spoke of our resolution. It was dishonest, but they were successful. They even got a headline that The New York Times picked up. Maybe a grateful lobbyist will get them another first class airfare to Israel and those awesome international frequent flyers miles."
 Doesn't that sound a lot like what is being preached in "The Occupation of the American Mind"?
"We have been targeted as a church before because of the perceived impact of mainline Protestants on public morality. The Institute for Religion and Democracy targeted us for a decade to try to force a split on sexuality. They are currently targeting other mainline traditions. The tactic is to keep us from hearing our own members and acting on our own beliefs, and it tends to be successful.
We are currently being targeted by advocacy groups whose agenda is to insure no public criticism of Israel, none, not of occupation; illegal settlement; or illegal attack." 
Remember the Rev. Winnie Varghese? She is an Episcopal lesbian Indian-American who was featured in the past at the Huffington Post in a piece called,  "Celebrating The Holy: Marriage Equality As Sacrament." 

Outlook India once did an article on her in which they wrote, 

"Winnie would like to see activists again on the steps and in the graveyard of St Marks like in the sixties, and in the days leading up to the Iraq war. 'Spirituality for me is very embodied. It's who we are on this earth, and how we treat each other on this planet.'"
"Divestment" in anything owned by an Israeli will probably be on the Episcopal General Convention agenda again in 2018. A task force will have to be appointed, and "The Occupation of the American Mind" will likely become part of the curriculum at Episcopal seminaries.

"Boycott" will be saved for 2021 and a resolution to create materials for congregations will be passed. The film series shown earlier at the National Cathedral will be asked to be circulated at the parish level.

"Sanctions" will be tabled until 2014 after which time activists will once again be seen on the steps and in the graveyard of St. Mark's.

If anyone is in the business of spreading lies and trying to brainwash people it is the clergy and staff of the Washington National Cathedral/Mosque by showing these anti-Semitic films.

The more the Cathedral staff continues to promote the Islamic worldview, the closer the Washington National Cathedral comes to becoming the Washington National Mosque. How their liberal minds can side with the same folks who provide us with suicide bombers and ISIS is a mystery to me.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The World is Blind

This Sunday's Gospel reading was John 14:15-21
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth because it is blind and ignorant.

As part of the world I find that frightening.

Knowing Jesus, I am no longer frightened for myself, but worry about the world.

Too many Christians want to make the world a better place through social activism, but that just deepens the blindness of the world.

It should be obvious that we need to open people's eyes to Jesus, and to teach them his gospel so that they, as part of this broken world, can have the Spirit of truth abide in them too.

Now that would be world changing.

Please turn on your speakers, sit back and relax as the Cambridge singers under John Rutter perform "If Ye Love Me" by Thomas Tallis from 1560,

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Duke Divinity School professor of Catholic theology resigns after calling out the "illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies" of diversity training

As someone who has been required to attend a "Diversity Training" exercise, I have to agree with Duke Divinity School professor of Catholic theology Paul Griffiths that such "training" is a colossal waste of time, and while being good-intentioned, it often teaches a liberal ideology which must be accepted and followed if one wishes to remain employed.

The story from the Washington Times.
"The theologian created a firestorm on the Durham, North Carolina, campus this year when he responded to a facultywide email, sent by associate professor Anathea Portier-Young, that encouraged attendance at a two-day anti-racism program."
“I exhort you not to attend this training,” Mr. Griffiths wrote in the Feb. 6 email. “Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, cliches, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show.”
The dean of Duke Divinity School, Edith Heath, confirms those "illiberal and totalitarian tendencies" in the following words,
"She condemned Mr. Griffiths for using mass email 'in order to humiliate or undermine individual colleagues or groups of colleagues with whom we disagree.''The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution,' she wrote in the email, also sent Feb. 6.
I would consider calling Professor Griffiths a racist, a sexist, and a bigot, offensive and unacceptable, especially from someone in charge of a Christian institution. Her character assassinations add to a complaint from associate professor Anathea Portier-Young (who had sent out the original e-mail encouraging participation in the diversity training),
Ms. Portier-Young filed a complaint with the Office for Institutional Equity claiming the use of “racist and/or sexist speech in such a way as to constitute a hostile workplace,”
In addition, Valerie Cooper, Duke Divinity School associate professor of religion and society. accused Professor Griffiths of "academic malpractice",
“As you read Prof. Paul Griffiths‘ complaint, below, please bear in mind that Duke University has a clear statement in favor of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Ms. Cooper wrote on Facebook this month. “Because this statement *is* Duke University policy, being against diversity isn’t an issue of academic freedom. It is academic malpractice. If you can’t abide by Duke’s policies, you shouldn’t work for Duke.”
"Diversity" at Duke Divinity School obviously is noninclusive and nonequitable when it comes to diversity of opinion.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Slaughter of the Psalms

Once again I must say a few words about the faults of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The selections from the Bible that are read on Sunday mornings in churches that follow the RCL are often shortened. or chopped up and rearranged such that the average pewsitter is not given a chance to think about the original contexts and traditional understandings of scripture.

This Sunday is no exception.
31 In te, Domine, speravi 
1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.
3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, for you are my tower of strength.
5 Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me,O Lord, O God of truth.
15 My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies,and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me."

That is what we call around here, "Sunday Morning Sweet Milk". The pewsitters have no clue as to why the psalmist has to take refuge in the Lord. There is just one mention of the psalmist's enemies, and no mention at all of the retribution that will face them. For that, you have to read the complete psalm.

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.
3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength.
5 Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me, 
O Lord, O God of truth.6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols, and I put my trust in the Lord.
7 I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy; for you have seen my affliction;you know my distress.
8 You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place.
9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow,and also my throat and my belly.
10 For my life is wasted with grief,and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction,and my bones are consumed.
11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies andeven to my neighbors,a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.
13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;fear is all around; they put their heads together against me;they plot to take my life.
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, "You are my God. 
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and in your loving-kindness save me." 
17 Lord, let me not be ashamed for having called upon you; rather, let the wicked be put to shame;let them be silent in the grave.
18 Let the lying lips be silenced which speak againstthe righteous, haughtily, disdainfully, and with contempt.
19 How great is your goodness, O Lord!which you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have done in the sight of allfor those who put their trust in you.
20 You hide them in the covert of your presence from thosewho slander them; you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the Lord! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in abesieged city.
22 Yet I said in my alarm,"I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes." Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreatywhen I cried out to you.
23 Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful,but repays to the full those who act haughtily.
24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

Words like, "I hate those, let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in the grave, let the lying lips be silenced", are considered imprecatory verses, and these are the kinds of things that are typically not included in the Sunday church services of most mainline denominations.

Verses 9-14 remind me of the afflictions of Job,
9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow,and also my throat and my belly.10 For my life is wasted with grief,and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction,and my bones are consumed.11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies andeven to my neighbors,a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;fear is all around; they put their heads together against me;they plot to take my life.14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, "You are my God. 
These were not included in Sunday's expurgated version of Psalm 31. In them we see the reasons why the psalmist takes refuge in the Lord. To our fault, it is usually only in times of despair like those the psalmist is experiencing, that we turn to the Lord, and this is a lesson that is lost when the psalm is mutilated.

The Sunday sweet milk is not what we should be seeking. As we are reminded in the opening verses from another of today's RCL selections, 1 Peter 2:2-3,
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 
3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Lord forgive us for our sins of omission. Give us wisdom to drink from all of your holy words.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Death of Words: "Religion" and "Religious"

One of my favorite themes to look out for in our ever changing culture is the changing meaning of words. The changes occur subtly and gain a momentum such that most people are unaware of the fact that they are playing a role in a far greater game than simple word-play. 

The following example across my desk recently,
"Religion is for people who are scared to go to Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there." - Bonnie Raitt.
The singer/song-writer has defined "religion" for the modern age.

The Oxford Dictionary explains that the word has an older and perhaps now lost meaning.
"Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence’, perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind’."
More commonly but still in Oxford usage the word means,
  • "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods."
  • "A particular system of faith and worship."
  • "A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion."
 Bonnie Raitt and the zeitgeist follow the popular notion that religion, and I presume she is including Christianity, is built on fear of eternal punishment, damnation, and the fires of Hell rather than trust in a God who loves us so much that he would go through Hell himself to save us.

Yes we should fear Hell, but to assume that those who are "spiritual" have already been there and are not setting themselves on a path to go back there is a bit of a stretch.

Again, let's reference Oxford,
Spiritual: Adjective
  • "Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things."
  • "Having a relationship based on a profound level of mental or emotional communion."
  • "(Of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits."
  • "Relating to religion or religious belief."
As we see, in the older sense, "spiritual" and "religion/religious" are related.

To the modern singer/songwriter, and to many people today, they are totally unrelated things.

I think this is a change which creates a negative association with "religion" as opposed to the positive connotation given to "spirituality".

The Barna group has studied the "spiritual but not religious" group and concluded,
"By definition, the 'spiritual but not religious' are religiously disinclined, and the data bears this out in a number of ways... 
...It’s one thing to be disinclined, but it’s another to claim harm. The broader cultural resistance to institutions is a response to the view that they are oppressive, particularly in their attempts to define reality. Seeking autonomy from this kind of religious authority seems to be the central task of the “spiritual but not religious” and very likely the reason for their religious suspicion."

"Secondly, as functional outsiders, their view of religious distinctiveness is much looser than their religious counterparts. A majority of both groups (65% and 73%) are convinced that all religions basically teach the same thing, particularly striking numbers compared to evangelicals (1%) and practicing Christians (32%). Again, the “spiritual but not religious” shirk definition. The boundary markers are non-existent, and that’s the point. For them, there is truth in all religions, and they refuse to believe any single religion has a monopoly on ultimate reality."
I think that Bonnie Raitt may be claiming harm from religion, and in so doing she is guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The Christian religion has so much to offer, and to throw it out based on a stereotypical assumption that "religious" Christians are obsessed by the rightful fear of Hell is a very dangerous thing to do.

Matthew Henry centuries ago described the baby this way,
“The Christian religion is the religion of sinners, of such as have sinned, and in whom sin in some measure still dwells.
The Christian life is a life of continued repentance, humiliation for and mortification of sin, of continual faith in, thankfulness for, and love to the Redeemer, and hopeful joyful expectation of a day of glorious redemption, in which the believer shall be fully and finally acquitted, and sin abolished for ever.”― Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

When I mourn the death of "religion", I am mourning the loss of the older meanings for the word, for as C.S. Lewis wrote,
"And when, however reverently, you have killed a word you have also, as far as in you lay, blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for. Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten to say." - C.S. Lewis, "The Death of Words" From (C.S. Lewis On Stories, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1982, p. 107)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

You may have a fence and a gatekeeper, but bad guys will still get in

This Sunday's reading from John 10:1-10. In it, Jesus tells a story about how sheep are kept safe from predators by keeping them in a gated pen and how sheep and the shepherd interact once the shepherd comes to lead them out to pasture. His followers didn't get it and needed more explanation,
"‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them."
"So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.'"
The gatekeeper's identity is not clear, but we shouldn't worry too much about this because Jesus is the gate and can open himself. Still, a gatekeeper is in the story and various commentators have their opinions. Matthew Henry in his "Concise Commentary" names the "Spirit of Christ" as the one who opens the gate,
"Here is a parable or similitude, taken from the customs of the East, in the management of sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of his pasture. The church of God in the world is as a sheep-fold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The great Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are his, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, as the Eastern shepherds went before their sheep, to set them in the way of his steps. Ministers must serve the sheep in their spiritual concerns. The Spirit of Christ will set before them an open door. The sheep of Christ will observe their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy of strangers, who would draw them from faith in him to fancies about him."
All of us sheep need to learn how to recognize the shepherd's voice. As far as I can tell, the best way to do this is to study the Bible in the company of other faithful Christians. This also helps us learn how to recognize the thieves and bandits who are always finding a way into the sheepfold around the gate and the gatekeeper.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Rubicon of Homosexual "Marriage"

"Homosexual marriage is the Rubicon that biblical Christians may not cross under any circumstances."Gavin Ashenden
When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river in 49 BC, it marked a turning point in the history of the world. For Caesar, there was no turning back. When Christians cross the Rubicon of homosexual marriage, they leave the "One holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" in which they once professed belief with every recitation of the Nicene Creed. Unlike Caesar, they can cross back over their Rubicon, but how many will do so? Inebriated with the power of going along with the masses, it is unlikely that they will submit themselves to the rule of Christ.

Those of us who continue to blog about same-sex "marriage" are often told to shut up and accept defeat. If we give up the fight and stop discussing the subject, no one will hear the good news that there is a better way and that Jesus told us this when he preached about the male-female relationship.
 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
 If no one reminds former Christians of these things, few will turn back from their march towards the decadent future that awaits those who cross the Rubicon of homosexual "marriage".

So, we must continue to shout in order to be heard over the roaring waters of this modern day Rubicon in hopes that some might cross back over to Jesus' side.

John Frame of the Reformed Theological Seminary puts it this way in his review of Al Mohler's "We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong",
"For all of this, the rebuke we receive in the title of Mohler’s book rightly commands us to action. I hope that the Christian community will hearken to it. As Christian citizens, we must bring God’s word into the present deplorable situation, lest we be prevented from speaking it at all."