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(CL) Witchcraft Casts an Ever-Widening Spell on Millennials

If you’ve noticed an increase in references to witches and mysticism lately, that’s not just because Halloween is approaching. Surveys, social media sites and product branding indicate an increase in people who practice or are interested in witchcraft. Trend-spotters say millennials—especially young women—are drawn to Wicca, astrology and new-age spirituality.

About 1 to 1.5 million Americans label themselves Wiccan or pagan, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than the membership of some mainstream Christian denominations in the United States.

The rise in witchcraft is likely more than a trend, according to Carolyn Elliott, founder of Witch magazine. “We are in the midst of a beautiful, occult, witch renaissance,” she says. Her comment appears to be in line with the ever-increasing reach of the occult into the general population. In a series of three surveys conducted from 1990 to 2008, Trinity College watched Wicca rise from 8,000 practitioners to 340,000 over the course of those years. Now, as Pew reported in 2014, that number has risen to as many as 1.5 million.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism, Young Adults

(NYT) Archbishop Óscar Romero and Pope Paul VI Are Made Saints by the Roman Catholic Church

Thirty-eight years after being gunned down in a hospital church in El Salvador, Archbishop Óscar Romero was named a saint on Sunday to cheers in St. Peter’s Square, while thousands watched the ceremony on video monitors in the Salvadoran capital.

Pope Francis also canonized Pope Paul VI, who is credited with continuing the work begun by Pope John XXIII and bringing the church into the modern era with reforms wrought from the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

In his homily, Francis said Archbishop Romero “left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people.” Of the pope, he said, “Even in the midst of tiredness and misunderstanding, Paul VI bore witness in a passionate way to the beauty and the joy of following Christ totally.”

In all, Francis canonized seven people at the ceremony, which was attended by 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, according to the Vatican.

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Posted in --El Salvador, Central America, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic

Some Church of England Evangelical bishops write a letter about the House of Bishops Teaching Document on Marriage and Sexuality currently in Process

We are convinced that it is essential for LLF [Living in Love and Faith] to clearly articulate and explore the traditional teaching of the Anglican Communion. The form of this is what Lambeth 1920 called a “pure and chaste life before and after marriage” and is expressed in the received teaching of the Church of England and summarised, for example, in Canon B30, the 1987 General Synod motion, and numerous Lambeth resolutions, most notably Resolution I.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. We believe that this vision of (1) sexual intercourse as “an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship” (Lambeth 1988), (2) marriage as a union of a man and woman in a covenant of love marked by exclusivity and life-long commitment, and (3) faithful, sexually abstinent love in singleness and non-marital friendships, is the teaching of Scripture. It therefore expresses the character and will of God which is our guide in ordering our lives and in addressing public global ethical issues. We also believe that reaffirming this teaching offers us the best way of maintaining our unity-in-truth. We therefore hope that, as well as considering why this “traditional biblical teaching” (Lambeth 1988) is being questioned and rejected by some, LLF will clearly articulate it and commend it, explaining why it has been, and remains, a deeply-held conviction for most Christians. Here we believe it is vitally important that LLF help the Church of England engage with these issues ecumenically. We were encouraged that, in May, ARCIC III announced its forthcoming report “Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be Church – Local, Regional, Universal” and is pursuing further work on its mandate to consider “how in communion the local and universal Church comes to discern right ethical teaching”.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Archbishop Glenn Davies’ Presidential Address to the Diocese of Sydney

The reason why GAFCON came into existence is that parts of the Anglican Communion had departed from the doctrine of Christ. While the presenting issue was concerned with human sexuality, the underlying problem was the authority of Scripture. Furthermore, the so-called Instruments of Communion failed to address this departure from the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints’. It is for this reason that a vast number of bishops, including the Archbishop and Assistant Bishops of the Diocese of Sydney, did not attend the Lambeth Conference in 2008. The doctrinal bond that held the Anglican Communion together had dissolved. Whereas previous Lambeth Conferences had expressed their mind through resolutions, which at least had moral force for all Anglican Provinces, in 2008 the conference was resolution-free. The agreed tenets of our Anglican faith were no longer held in common. The lure of the world’s values and the accommodation to the world’s view of human sexuality had broken the bonds of affection and the ties that bind. Echoing Ezekiel’s explanation as to the coming judgment of God upon Israel,

…for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed
to the standards of the nations around you. Ezekiel 11:12

GAFCON is a reforming instrument of the Anglican Communion and calls all faithful Anglicans to stand firm for the teaching of Christ, explicitly recorded in Matthew 19:1-12. Yet it is not a single focus movement. The establishment of nine strategic networks last June, from theological education to ministry to children and youth, reflects the global reach of GAFCON in seeking to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations. GAFCON is no threat to the Anglican Communion. It is only a threat to those who consider the Bible’s teaching on sexuality is outmoded and irrelevant, or to those who want to maintain a mere façade of unity, where no real unity exists. It is for this reason that the ‘Letter to the Churches’, overwhelmingly endorsed by the whole assembly of GAFCON 2018, expressed the view that attendance at the 2020 Lambeth Conference could not be contemplated, if bishops from those provinces who had departed from the teaching of Christ were invited. While I have a personal respect and affection for the Archbishop of Canterbury, he carries a grave responsibility upon his shoulders. If our Anglican Communion is merely defined by historical connections and heritage, rather than a doctrinally grounded commitment to Christ and the teaching of the Bible, then our koinōnia is not the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. GAFCON seeks to reform and renew the Anglican Communion by reclaiming its doctrinal foundations.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Teresa of Avila

O God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst move Teresa of Avila to manifest to thy Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we beseech thee, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a lively and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Grant to us, O Lord, the royalty of inward happiness, and the serenity which comes from living close to thee: Daily renew in us the sense of joy, and let the eternal spirit of the Father dwell in our souls and bodies, filling us with light and grace, so that, bearing about with us the infection of a good courage, we may be diffusers of life, and may meet all ills and cross accidents with gallant and high-hearted happiness, giving thee thanks always for all things.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

“Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles.”

–Acts 26:12-23

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Economist) The next recession–Toxic politics and constrained central banks could make the next downturn hard to escape

As our special report this week sets out, the rich world in particular is ill-prepared to deal with even a mild recession. That is partly because the policy arsenal is still depleted from fighting the last downturn. In the past half-century, the Fed has typically cut interest rates by five or so percentage points in a downturn. Today it has less than half that room before it reaches zero; the euro zone and Japan have no room at all.

Policymakers have other options, of course. Central banks could use the now-familiar policy of quantitative easing (QE), the purchase of securities with newly created central-bank reserves. The efficacy of QE is debated, but if that does not work, they could try more radical, untested approaches, such as giving money directly to individuals. Governments can boost spending, too. Even countries with large debt burdens can benefit from fiscal stimulus during recessions.

The question is whether using these weapons is politically acceptable. Central banks will enter the next recession with balance-sheets that are already swollen by historical standards—the Fed’s is worth 20% of GDP. Opponents of QE say that it distorts markets and inflates asset bubbles, among other things. No matter that these views are largely misguided; fresh bouts of QE would attract even closer scrutiny than last time. The constraints are particularly tight in the euro zone, where the ECB is limited to buying 33% of any country’s public debt.

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Posted in Economy

(CT) Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

“Every moment in this man’s presence is sacred.”

So concluded the son of Eugene Peterson in a weekend announcement that the 85-year-old retired pastor and bestselling author of The Message and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction is receiving hospice care.

Robert Creech, a professor of Christian ministries at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, shared the announcement from Eric Peterson on Facebook.

“Eugene Peterson has encouraged, formed, and often literally saved the ministry of more than one pastor over the years through his writing and thinking (I would include myself in that list),” wrote Creech in a Saturday post now shared more than 1,000 times. “He has refreshed Scripture for many through his thoughtful paraphrase of the Bible published as The Message.

“He has taught us to pray,” Creech continued. “It is time for those who have benefited from his ministry to return the favor to him and his family with prayer over the next several weeks.”

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Food for Thought from CS Lewis–On the importance of reading old books

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.

Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why – the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

I myself was first led into reading the Christian classics, almost accidentally, as a result of my English studies. Some, such as Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Taylor and Bunyan, I read because they are themselves great English writers; others, such as Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante, because they were “influences.” George Macdonald I had found for myself at the age of sixteen and never wavered in my allegiance, though I tried for a long time to ignore his Christianity. They are, you will note, a mixed bag, representative of many Churches, climates and ages. And that brings me to yet another reason for reading them. The divisions of Christendom are undeniable and are by some of these writers most fiercely expressed. But if any man is tempted to think – as one might be tempted who read only con- temporaries – that “Christianity” is a word of so many meanings that it means nothing at all, he can learn beyond all doubt, by stepping out of his own century, that this is not so. Measured against the ages “mere Christianity” turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible. I know it, indeed, to my cost. In the days when I still hated Christianity, I learned to recognise, like some all too familiar smell, that almost unvarying something which met me, now in Puritan Bunyan, now in Anglican Hooker, now in Thomist Dante. It was there (honeyed and floral) in Francois de Sales; it was there (grave and homely) in Spenser and Walton; it was there (grim but manful) in Pascal and Johnson; there again, with a mild, frightening, Paradisial flavour, in Vaughan and Boehme and Traherne. In the urban sobriety of the eighteenth century one was not safe – Law and Butler were two lions in the path. The supposed “Paganism” of the Elizabethans could not keep it out; it lay in wait where a man might have supposed himself safest, in the very centre of The Faerie Queene and the Arcadia. It was, of course, varied; and yet – after all – so unmistakably the same; recognisable, not to be evaded, the odour which is death to us until we allow it to become life: “An air that kills From yon far country blows.”

We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then. Once you are well soaked in it, if you then venture to speak, you will have an amusing experience. You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas, and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks.

–C.S. Lewis, On the Incarnation: the treatise De incarnatione Verbi Dei (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), pp. 3-7.

Posted in Books, Church History

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.

I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:9-16

Posted in Theology: Scripture

E60 tells the incredible story of how Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach DelandMcCullough finds his biological parents

This is a must-not-miss-piece, take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Children, History, Marriage & Family, Sports

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

O Lord God, in whom we live and move and have our being, open our eyes that we may behold thy Fatherly presence ever about us. Teach us to be anxious for nothing, and when we have done what thou hast given us to do, help us, O God our Saviour, to leave the issue to thy wisdom, knowing that all things are possible to us through thy Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

–Luke 8:16-18

Posted in Theology: Scripture