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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Pause on Ascension for a moment. The Ascension, frustratingly, is often radically misunderstood. The Ascension is not about Jesus going away and encouraging his followers to look forward to the time when they, too, will leave this sad old earth and follow him to heaven. The angels do not say to the watching disciples, ‘This same Jesus, whom you have seen going into heaven, will look forward to welcoming you when you go to join him there,’ but ‘this same Jesus, whom you have seen going into heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’. And the point of that so-called ‘second coming’, or ‘reappearance’ as several New Testament writers put it, is not that he will then scoop us up and take us away from earth to heaven, but that he will celebrate the great party, the great banquet, the marriage of heaven and earth, establishing once and for all his rescuing, ransoming, restoring sovereignty over the whole creation. ‘The kingdom of this world,’ says John the Seer, ‘has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he shall reign for ever and ever.’ Amen, we say at the Ascension. This is the real Feast of Christ the King, and the sooner we abolish the fake one that has recently been inserted into our calendar in late November the more likely we shall be to get our political theology sorted out. And, boy, do we need to sort it out right now. If at a time like this we cannot think and speak and act Christianly and wisely and clearly and sharply into the mess and muddle of the rulers of the world we really should be ashamed of ourselves. Jesus is already reigning, is already in charge of this world. ‘All authority,’ he says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, ‘has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’ When he returns he will complete that work of transformative, restorative justice; but it has already begun, despite the sneers of the sceptics and the scorn of the powerful, and we celebrate it with every Eucharist but especially today at Pentecost.
Why especially today? Because at Pentecost we discover, as in last week’s Collect, that the Holy Spirit comes to strengthen or comfort us and exalt us to the same place where our saviour Christ has gone before. In other words, the Spirit is the power of heaven come to earth, or to put it the other way the Spirit is the power that enables surprised earthlings to share in the life of heaven. And, to say it once more, the point about heaven is that heaven is the control room for earth. The claim of Pentecost, from Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and Romans 8 and all those other great Spirit-texts in the New Testament, especially John 13—16, is precisely that the rule which the ascended Lord Jesus exercises on earth is exercised through his Spirit-filled people. No doubt we do need ‘comforting’ in the modern sense of that word, cheering up when we’re sad. But we need, far more do we need, ‘comforting’ in the older sense of ‘strengthening’, strengthening-by-coming-alongside. Just as, in human ‘comfort’, a strange thing happens, that the sheer presence, even the silent presence, alongside us of a friend gives us fresh courage and hope, how much more will the presence alongside us and within us of the Spirit of Jesus himself give us courage and hope not simply to cheer up in ourselves but to be strong to witness to his Lordship, his sovereign rule, over the world where human rulers mess it up and ignorant armies clash by night.
So being ‘exalted to the place where Jesus has gone before’ is precisely not about being snatched away from this wicked world and its concerns. On the contrary, it is to be taken in the power of the Spirit to the place from which the world is run.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Sacramental Theology Baptism Eucharist Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
The biggest issue is, what does it mean to be obedient to Christ? Before any specific issue is really the posture of the heart toward Christ, and how we encourage a spirit of obedience among 18-year-olds who perhaps up until this point, their experience of faith has been youth group.
All of the language of serious, committed faith is obedience language—take up the cross and follow. It's the cost of discipleship. It's not pretty stuff that you can make nice. It's pretty rugged stuff, but that's the gospel. Theologically, how do we convey that truth in a graceful way and not water it down? Then that has implications for all the other issues.
Of course every Christian college president is worried about this, but homosexuality is a very real issue for campuses. We have gay and lesbian students here. I have met with them. I have talked with them. They are Christians and they are trying to figure out, "What does this mean? How do I live?"
The Scripture that I need to be obedient to leads me to the conclusion that marriage is a relationship between man and woman, and sexuality is to be used in that context.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture Sexuality Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Lorna Hood, said: "This is a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church."
The Kirk said that after a "full but gracious debate" it affirmed its current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality but moved to permit sessions wishing to depart from the traditional position to do so.
Mrs Hood added: "This was a major breakthrough for the Church but we are conscious that some people remain pained, anxious, worried and hurt. We continue to pray for the peace and unity of the Church."
Read it all and make sure to read Robert Piggott's comments alongside also.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
Small wonder, given the harrowing times recently, that news about a long-running property fight over a picturesque church in northern Virginia escaped most people’s notice. But the story of the struggle over the historic Falls Church is nonetheless worth a closer look. It’s one more telling example of a little-acknowledged truth: though religious traditionalism may be losing today’s political and legal battles, it remains poised to win the wider war over what Christianity will look like tomorrow.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Virginia Global South Churches & Primates Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
In those few paragraphs, John Calvin succinctly sums up election and holiness for the Christian. While there are several themes that come out of this quote and this passage, the one theme that I think springs from this text is holiness. Holiness is the consequence and evidence of our election. We are not holy to be accepted by God, but because Jesus is holy we are holy. God says, “you shall be holy, for I am holy”.
The idea of holiness is almost a peculiar doctrine for the new Reformed movement. I know many young and old in this tradition who feel no obligation to actively and passionately with their entire being, to pursue a life of holiness. They wouldn’t explicitly say this, but their lives wouldn’t reflect otherwise.
Read it all.
As nearly 1,000 delegates from across the world gather in Tampa, Fla., for the United Methodist Church's General Conference, gay and lesbian activists have printed pamphlets promoting their cause in five languages, including Portuguese and Swahili.
The UMC's global reach, stretching from the Philippines to Philadelphia, compels the multilingual lobbying. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates, who meet through May 4, live outside the United States, according to church leaders.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
The Three Main lectures are on the following topics:
“Justification and the Future of Anglicanism”
“Luther and the English Reformation”
“Justification from Hooker to Newman”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Theology Seminary / Theological Education Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
The point is that the Presiding Bishop begins with the tendentious claim that TEC’s action accords with Scripture and represents a new work of the Holy Spirit. Here is the tail (TEC’s action) that she then uses in an attempt to wag the dog (the weight of Communion teaching, procedure, and opinion).
...What I mean is this. To sustain her position she launches an attack on the Archbishop’s response. She seeks to show not only that the Archbishop is acting to quench the Spirit, but also that he has taken a morally dubious course that violates longstanding Anglican tradition. A hallmark of Anglicanism, she says, is a form of “diversity in community” that manifests “willingness to live in tension.” This tolerance of diversity “recognizes that the Spirit may be speaking to all of us, in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree.”
I have already noted that her view of the Spirit’s leading seems incoherent. I will leave it to the historians among us to assess her claims about the tolerant character of the Elizabethan Settlement, but it has never seemed to me that the Act of Uniformity was meant to put up a big tent, or that the treatment of Anabaptists (they were burned) showed great openness to contrary views of the Christian’s relation to the state. The fact of the matter is that “Anglican inclusiveness” serves more as a charter myth for legitimizing contested issues than a solid historical precedent for innovation. Anglican history, though not overly confessional when it comes to doctrine, manifests extraordinary caution when it comes to changing practice. If anything, caution in respect to changing practice is a “hallmark of Anglicanism.”
The real issue, however, is not the claim about “diversity in community” or “willingness to live in tension.” The real issue is what Anglican’s are to do when the action of one Province, diocese, or person within the Communion takes an official action that others do not “recognize” as consonant with Christian belief and practice. The issue of “recognition” stands in the background of the first Lambeth Conference. There, the question of recognition centered on Bishop Colenso’s interpretation of Holy Scripture. Latterly, the question of recognition surfaced with the consecration by TEC of a partnered gay man. Now it has surfaced once more with the consecration of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Theology Ecclesiology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
Why is Thew Forrester's teaching troubling to me? Because it flies in the face of what I take to be the conviction at the heart of our faith tradition, namely, that we are in bondage to sin and cannot get free without the rescue God has offered us in Jesus, who shouldered our sins on the cross. Our tradition certainly declares God's closeness to us and God's love for us, but insists that this is solely due to God's gracious initiative, made known to us in Jesus. In other words, Jesus in his singular closeness to God is as much a reminder of our alienation from God and from God's ways as he is God's word to us that we are loved despite our collective wrongdoings.
I would not worry about this so much if Thew Forrester were merely speculating about alternative ways of understanding the Christian faith. I would not even worry so much if it were simply a matter of the content of a number of sermons (although I think we should expect to be accountable for what we preach). But, as his revision of the Baptismal rite makes clear, he appears to be settled in his conviction that our relation to Christ is not about salvation from a condition of objective alienation from God, but about a more realized union with God.
What is encouraging here is not only does the Bishop vote the right way, but he does so for the right reasons. This is about a lot of things, but primarily it is about Christology, the Trinity, salvation and atonement. Read it all--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan * Theology Atonement Christology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
Perhaps my favorite time in Orlando was spent in a small group with Dr. J. I. Packer. It is hard to overestimate Packer’s impact on evangelical Christianity. The graciousness he afforded me to sit on a couch and ask him questions for more than an hour was humbling and helpful. He is very clear minded at age eighty-two and he remains incredibly conversant, insightful, and witty. Impressively, his words are impeccably precise.
As we sat on the couch together, he explained that Anglicanism is patterned after the ancient Roman governmental system so that a bishop has jurisdiction over a geographic area. However, this long-established ecclesiological pattern has been breached because Anglicanism is suffering from “heretical bishops.” By “heretical bishops,” Packer was referring to those bishops who sanction homosexual activity. He explained that the “heretical bishops” won support for their position following much lobbying. This sadly required Bible-believing Anglican churches to come under the authority of other orthodox bishops outside of their geographic area rather than remain under “heretical bishops.”
When asked about calling those who support homosexuality and profess to be Christian “heretical,” Packer very carefully and insightfully explained what he meant.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
There is no gulf between God’s creation and God that has to be spanned. We are not in the need of that kind of salvation -- salvation from the wrath and punishment of God. We do not need that kind of salvation or savior. What we need is someone to embody revealingly God’s compassion to us whose life says, “This really is NOT too good to be true.” And lest we calcify God as a father -- even a compassionate, forgiving, love and grace-based father -- Carroll challenges us to understand God as Meaning. It is meaning -- to live a life of meaning -- that saves us from hell on earth. Heaven after death is already taken care of in the love and forgiveness and compassion of God.
We must put an end to any portrayal of God that says that without Jesus and the crucifixion we are left standing condemned. And that God’s way is to crucify Jesus and us. That is not what it means to claim that the way of the cross is the way of life. The way of the cross is the way of life means that when we offer ourselves in love for the sake of the life of another -- like loving parents do and loving friends do and compassionate neighbors like Good Samaritans do. That is the way of life.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Atonement Christology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
The following is an excerpt from a lengthy article on the 9Marks website, which I can't recall having visited before, but which has a lot of interesting articles online all focused on helping Christians be better able to defend the Gospel. If you've got a few moments, check out what they claim are the 9 Marks of a church that glorifies God. This definitely looks to be a site this elf wants to browse around further. Note, however, that this is an unabashedly evangelical reformed Protestant site. (Predominantly Southern Baptist, it appears.) I for one find the final line of the excerpt below offensive in how it lumps the Vatican and the WCC together. Nonetheless, in this elf's opinion, this was a worthwhile and thought-provoking read. --elfgirl
What’s the point of the story? Conversion is dirty word. It’s scandalous in today’s pluralistic and relativistic world to contend for one religious truth over and against another. It smacks of pride, arrogance, disrespect, perhaps hatred, maybe even violence.
This is the consensus among many of the secular elite. Popular television personality Bill Maher believes Christianity can only be explained as a "neurological disorder." Only the most unenlightened, uneducated, and uncouth Neanderthal would both believe and contend for a conversion to religious faith, especially Christianity. It's absolutely what the modern man does not need.
And Maher simply represents what secular humanism as a movement has been saying all along. To quote from their own manifesto, "traditional theism… and salvationism… based on mere affirmation is harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival." Reasonable minds…you can hear the condescension dripping from the pen.
Some go further, of course. They say such attempts at diversion (i.e. conversion) actually breed violence.
Yet it seems that conversion is even under attack among some professed evangelicals. This ought to strike us as nonsensical. Our English word "evangelical" comes from the Greek word for "good news." What is this good news? It is that we, who are at enmity with God in our sin, can now be reconciled to him on account of Christ’s death and resurrection, when we repent of our sin and believe upon Christ. Conversion from our former way of life and thinking to Christianity is required. This much should be blatantly obvious.
Nonetheless, Brian MacLaren, perhaps the most prominent leader within the emerging church movement, calls for a reconsideration of conversion, if not an outright rejection of it. He writes in A Generous Orthodoxy,
I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (though not all) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it's not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many 'Christian' religious contexts, either.
We are told to embrace other faiths "willingly, not begrudgingly." To be fair, McLaren asserts the uniqueness of Christianity apart from other religions. And yet his belief in "a gospel that is universally efficacious for the whole earth," his unwillingness to "set limits on the saving power of God" in reference to the unevangelized, and his belief that we must continually expect to "rediscover the gospel" as we encounter other religious traditions, "leading to that new place where none of us has ever been before," raises significant and serious questions. Frankly, I have difficulty seeing how he is recommending anything Christian, let alone orthodox. In the end, his proposals are eerily similar to those being set forth by the Vatican and the WCC.
The full entry is here. It is really quite comprehensive. The various sections are as follows:
-- CONVERSION—A DIRTY WORD?
-- CONVERSION—A BIBLICAL IDEA?
-- CONVERSION—WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T
-- BENEFITS FOR BELIEVERS
-- CONCLUSION: ONE OF THOSE CHRISTIANS?
(hat tip: TwoOrThree.Net)
BILL MOYERS: As I read about the conflict in your church, what I find is that both sides treat the Bible as their source, but they come to totally opposite conclusions as to what the Bible says. What do you make of that? As a scientist and a believer.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Our ways of reading Scripture shape the conclusions we come to. And often what we go looking for shapes the conclusions about what we read. I'll give you a-- you know, a loaded example. The story of David and Jonathan.
You know, Canonically, the traditional way of reading that has been about the friendship between two men. It says in the Scripture that David loved Jonathan with a love surpassing women. Many gay and lesbian people in our church today say, "This is a text - that says something constructive about the love between people of the same gender." Yet our tradition has rarely been able to look at it with those eyes. I think that's a fertile ground for some serious Biblical scholarship and some encounter from people who come to different conclusions.
BILL MOYERS: If biology, as I understand it does, tells us that homosexuality is-- is a genetic given. And religion says homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, can those two perceptions ever be reconciled?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: How do we come to a conclusion that it's a sin in the eyes of God?
BILL MOYERS: Well, you're the-
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: What texts do we read that-
BILL MOYERS: But you know, all of your adversaries say that it is.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Well, I would have them go back to the very sources they find so black and white about that, and ask what's the context of this passage? What was it written to address? What was going on underneath it that this appears to speak to? And I think we find when we do some very serious scholarship, that in almost every case, it's speaking about a cultural context that looks nothing like the one in which we're wrestling with homosexuality today.
BILL MOYERS: So how do you read-- Jonathan and David, that story?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think it's got some-- challenging things to say to us who have said for hundreds of years, thousands of years that it's inappropriate for two men to love each other in that way.
BILL MOYERS: Is this a moral issue to you?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It's a moral issue in the sense that part of the job of a church is to help all Christians grow up into the full stature of Christ. It's to help all of us to lead holy lives The question is what does that holy life look like?
BILL MOYERS: Well, many conservative, traditional Christians say that the homosexual life is not a holy life.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: They would say that it's only holy if it's celibate. And I think we've got more examples out of Scripture even to offer in challenge to that.
Read it all.
I am a professional theologian, so of course I think theology matters. Theology can help us live better or worse, depending on its quality. But theological accuracy is not the heart of the gospel. Encountering God's Spirit and responding in faith to him in that encounter is what finally matters. And how God meets people, through whatever theology they might have, in whatever circumstances, is ultimately not visible to us.
Indeed, I believe that many people raised in non-Christian religions—such as bhakti (devotional) traditions in Hinduism in which they worship a single supreme God and trust him for their salvation (however badly understood this is from a Christian point of view), or Judaism or Islam, to pick examples closer to home—have a clearer and more authentic apprehension of God than many people raised in ostensibly Christian homes and churches in which a terrible distortion of God is taught and little access to the genuine gospel is available. To confine the scope of salvation to those who have heard certain facts about Jesus and who come to accept him on this basis, therefore, is not necessitated by the Bible, and in fact is not even the best way to understand the Bible.
Let me also affirm that the preaching of the Gospel is the normal way God uses to draw people to faith. So we must not sit back and say, "Oh, well. Since God might encounter people through other methods—dreams and visions, perhaps, or even a distorted monotheism of some non-Christian sort—then we don't have to go." No, we do have to go, because evangelism is obviously the New Testament's fundamental mode by which people encounter God. This is the main means God has ordained for us to use, and we are disobedient if we do not use it. And the environment of all but the most pathological Christian church is normally far better to cultivate discipleship than any other religious community—of course it is.
All I am arguing for here is that we do not confine salvation to this normal mode, shutting off any other possibilities and therefore implying, if we don't say so outright, that millions of people have been lost forever simply because they lived in Asia, or Europe, or Africa, or the Americas, or anywhere else before gospel preaching got there.
Furthermore, we must beware of a second problem that lies nearby. And that is the idea that missions is all about getting people saved, and particularly about rescuing their souls from hell so that they can go to heaven. Multiple theological errors, in fact, attend this view of salvation.
God is not interested in saving merely human souls. He wants human beings, body and soul. Furthermore, he does not settle for saving human beings, but the whole earth. He made it in the first place, pronounced it "very good," and he wants it all back. So he is saving us, the lords he put over creation, as part of his global agenda to rescue, indeed, the globe.
What God rescues us to, furthermore, is the original agenda he set out for us in Genesis 1, namely, to "fill the earth and subdue it." He planted a garden for us to tend (Gen. 2) and commanded our first parents to raise up generations of gardeners to fan out across the earth to till the rest of it. This is what it means to bear the image of God. We, too, are to improve the situation, to cultivate what we encounter, to make shalom in every sector of life. And such work is our ultimate destiny as well, as we are to "reign with him" over the new earth he promises (2 Tim. 2:12). Thus we are not going back to Eden, nor up to a (spiritual) heaven, but forward to the New Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven to earth as our proper home (Rev. 21).
The Christian gospel therefore is not a narrowly spiritual one, but literally embraces everything, everywhere, at every moment. Every action that brings shalom—that preserves or enhances the flourishing of things, people, and relationships—is the primary will of God for humanity. Christians ought therefore to recognize and affirm anything our neighbors do to make peace, whether those neighbors intend to honor God or not. Indeed, we can cooperate with them in those ventures, since we see in them the divine agenda of shalom.
And our mission to the world extends far beyond evangelism. Yes, evangelism is the special work of the church, for only we Christians have been entrusted with the great good news at the center of God's redemptive plan, at the heart of which is the life and work of Jesus Christ. But our evangelism itself issues a call to "life abundant" that embraces everything good in the world, not just the spiritual. And as we work away at our generic human work alongside our neighbors, but in the light of the Bible's affirmation of such work, we demonstrate what it means to live in that light, which is the light of heaven now and also of the world to come.
Read it all.
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