Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

Scott Sauls–When Pastors Crash and Burn

Many of us pastors, including Spurgeon and including me, have fallen into the emotional abyss—not in spite of the fact that we are in ministry, but because we are in ministry.

Studies show that pastors experience anxiety and depression at a rate that is disproportionately high compared to the rest of the population. Due to the unique pressures associated with spiritual warfare, unrealistic expectations from congregants and oneself, the freedom many feel to criticize and gossip about pastors with zero accountability (especially in the digital age), failure to take time off for rest and replenishment, marriage and family tensions due to the demands of ministry, financial strains and self-comparison, pastors are prime candidates for relational isolation, emotional turmoil, and moral collapse.

Studies also show that some pastors face unreasonable, even impossible, demands placed on them by their people. I am NOT one of those pastors, thanks to a church that both receives my gifts and embraces my limitations. All in all, the people of Christ Presbyterian Church treat me with extraordinary love and kindness. But, sadly, not all pastors are as lucky as I am.

Dr. Thom Rainer, a leading pastoral ministry guru, once conducted a survey asking church members what they expected from their pastors. Specifically, Dr. Rainer wanted to know the minimum amount of time church members believed their pastors should give each week to various areas of ministry, including prayer, sermon preparation, outreach and evangelism, counseling, administrative tasks, visiting the sick, community involvement, denominational engagement, church meetings, worship services, and so on. On average, the minimum amount of time church members expected their pastors to give to the ministry was 114 hours per week.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Stress, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Are We Living Wisely? Are we Making the Most of the Time? (Ephesians 5:15-20)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(PJM) Bruce Bawer–Death by Entitlement

On August 7, the New York Times ran a story by Rukmini Callimachi about Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, a young American couple, both graduates of Georgetown University, who decided to quit their humdrum office jobs and go on an epic bike ride and camping trip that would take them all over the world. “I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige,” Austin wrote. “I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned.”

So in July of last year, they flew from Washington, D.C., to Cape Town, and from there bicycled through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania….

You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” wrote Austin during their trek. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted….I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own…”

They biked through Kyrgyzstan and entered Tajikistan. It was in that country that their journey came to an abrupt end this past July 29, when five ISIS members deliberately plowed their car into the two adventurers, killing them along with two temporary cycling companions, one from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands. “Two days later,” wrote Callimachi, “the Islamic State released a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting before the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill ‘disbelievers….’”

What, then, is the moral of this couple’s story? In the last analysis, it’s a story about two young people who, like many other privileged members of their generation of Americans, went to a supposedly top-notch university only to come away poorly educated but heavily propagandized – imbued with a fashionable postmodern contempt for Western civilization and a readiness to idealize and sentimentalize “the other” (especially when the latter is decidedly uncivilized). This, ultimately, was their tragedy: taking for granted American freedom, prosperity, and security, they dismissed these extraordinary blessings as boring, banal, and (in Austin’s word) “beige,” and set off, with the starry-eyed and suicidal naivete of children who never entirely grew up, on a child’s fairy-tale adventure into the most perilous parts of the planet. Far from being inspirational, theirs is a profoundly cautionary – and distinctly timely – tale that every American, parents especially, should take to heart.

Read it all (cited in the morning sermon) and make sure to read the whole Ny Times original story.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Travel, Young Adults

(JE) David Jensen–Oxford’s Nigel Biggar: Anglicanism Sustains Democracy & Religious Freedom

In May, Professor Nigel Biggar spoke at the McDonald Centre’s annual conference and discussed the role of the Christian Church in developing and maintaining a politically liberal society. The McDonald Centre, which he leads, is a research institute connected to Oxford University. This year’s conference was titled “Is Religious Liberty under Threat? A Trans-Atlantic Dialogue.”

In his speech, Biggar argued that Christianity, particularly the Anglican Church, is an important part of a free and fair government. In America, we view the separation of church and state as a pillar of religious freedom, but in England, where Biggar teaches, the Anglican Church has been officially linked to the government for centuries. Biggar, who’s ordained in the Church of England, set out to demonstrate that this state sponsored religious establishment is “compatible with liberal rights to religious freedom and political equality.”

When Biggar referred to liberalism, he did not mean it in the way it is used in modern American politics where it is generally associated with big-government and progressive policies. Instead, he uses it to refer to classical liberalism, the political philosophy championed by John Locke, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, and Adam Smith. Under classical liberalism, the government is restricted to protecting the natural rights of citizens. Economically, these rights are guarded by a free market where consumers are able to freely choose what they buy. This concept is tied to John Stuart Mill’s “marketplace of ideas,” where men are allowed to freely discuss their opinions, and the market will eventually decide what ideology is best.

Liberalism is closely tied to individualism and humanism which promote the ideas that every man is an equal being, worthy of respect and dignity. Biggar claimed that there is a clear link between Christian theology and the values of liberalism and individualism. He stated “the most important political contribution of England’s religious establishment lies in the Christian humanist worldview that it advocates. A world view that generates the virtues necessary for the survival of a liberal ethos.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(DG) John Piper visits a Minnesota mainline church services and finds 6 problems+makes 6 observations

5. The emptiness of the conversation with the Muslim leader points to the fact that in the view of this church, contemporary Christianity does not have to do mainly with ultimate reality. It just doesn’t. It’s not a metaphysical issue. It’s not an ultimate reality issue. The nature of God, the nature of Christ, the nature of salvation, the path of holiness, the nature of eternal destinies — that is simply not the issue in contemporary mainline Protestantism. Instead, the dynamics that define relationships between social groups is front and center. That’s really the issue, not ultimate reality.

6. Finally, the fact that this church is made up mainly of old people suggests at least at the present that many younger people doubt the validity of traditional religious forms that no longer embody the claim to offer ultimate truth and ultimate reality and ultimate salvation. I think that they are absolutely right to try to maintain the forms. If you walk into that church, and you didn’t know any better, you’d say this looks like a church from forever ago — this is what church is. Big stained-glass windows, and pastors at the front, a big organ, lots of music, singing about Jesus — what could be more churchy than this? Except there’s nothing there of any ultimate reality.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

In the Midst of a Campaign of Disinformation, the Diocese of South Carolina releases a Factsheet on the Current Lawsuits

Read it carefully and read it all and you can find more material and many more links to even further information there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, Theology

(CT) John Inazu: Why I’m Still Confident About ‘Confident Pluralism’

The premise of confident pluralism is that we can make room for our differences even as we maintain our own beliefs and practices. Doing so requires both legal and personal commitments. When it comes to the law, we must insist that those in power protect our ability to disagree. We must have a shared commitment to allowing for dissent, difference, and divergent beliefs. That means strengthening First Amendment freedoms for everyone.

The personal argument focuses on civic practices rooted in three aspirations: tolerance, humility, and patience. Tolerance acknowledges that people should generally be free to pursue their own beliefs and practices. This is not the same as approval; it is much closer to endurance. We can usually respect people even if we don’t respect their ideas. Humilityrecognizes that we will sometimes be unable to prove to others why we believe we are right and they are wrong. Patience asks us to listen, understand, and empathize with those who see the world differently.

The American experiment in pluralism depends upon legal commitments and civic practices. And we have usually found ways to maintain a modest unity against great odds. We have always done so imperfectly, and too often our political stability has been purchased at the cost of suppressing or silencing those with less power. But in acknowledging our country’s shortcomings, we can also remember some of its successes. The disagreements between white Protestant men at the founding of our country may seem trivial today, but those differences meant widespread killing in other parts of the world. Our debased and dehumanizing political rhetoric leaves much to be desired, but unlike many other societies, we usually stop short of actual violence. In the midst of deep disagreements with our neighbors, we still find creative partnerships in unexpected places. These examples of our modest unity are important reminders that we can live together across deep differences. On the other hand, they do not suggest that we have or will overcome our differences. As I write in the book’s conclusion, confident pluralism will not give us the American dream, but it might help avoid the American nightmare.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(The Exchange) Brian Stiller–Secularism and Diversity: Lessons from Canada and its Supreme Court Decision about Trinity Western

…Second, it makes short shrift of the model that within a diverse society a plurality of ideas and beliefs can exist together. This is a huge loss. And when Canada, known for its democracy and public fairness, takes this road, we lose an important example of how pluralism functions.

In today’s cultural, religious, and ethnic stew, to respect and get along with each other is as basic a formula as I can imagine. Justices opposing the majority noted,

The state and state actors [and in this case, provincial law societies] – not private institutions like TWU – are constitutionally bound to accommodate difference in order to foster pluralism in public life. . . . Canadians are permitted to hold different sets of values.

Third, it keeps faith from being public. I hear the justices saying something like, “Live out your faith within your churches, institutions, and private communities, but if you try to bring it into civic life, if we don’t see your beliefs as being inclusive with our values, we will prevent your faith from influencing our public spheres….”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Revisiting Alexander Solzjenitsyn’s 1978 Address ‘A World Split Apart’

‘A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance….

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say criminality as such? Legal frames, especially in the United States, are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist’s civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature….’

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Religion & Culture, Russia

(Atlantic) Alexis Madrigal–Facebook believes too strongly in the goodness of people

In an unusually revealing moment for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday that he didn’t support taking down content about Holocaust denial on Facebook. Zuckerberg is Jewish, and he finds such denials “deeply offensive,” he said. But Holocaust deniers were not “intentionally getting it wrong.”

When Swisher followed up that “in the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Zuckerberg retreated to a stance he’s never quite made explicit before. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said.

In place of “understanding” the intent, this statement makes clear that Facebook takes a default stance of assuming users act in good faith—or without intention, at least. Zuckerberg and Facebook have been repeatedly criticized, and accepted the criticism as largely true, that they have been too willing to ignore the potential negative ways the platform can be used. And yet here, one of the basic principles of how they moderate speech is to be so optimistic as to give Holocaust deniers the benefit of the doubt.

Zuckerberg seems to be imagining a circumstance where somebody watched a YouTube video that makes a case against the (real, documented, horrifying) Holocaust and ignorantly posts it to Facebook. Under the rules the platform has established, there is no penalty for that (in countries where Holocaust denial is not illegal)….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, History, Judaism, Theology, Violence

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–The Church of England teaching document on sexuality

One of the great reliefs of the last sessions of General Synod in York (on July 6th to 10th) was the absence of any acrimonious debates about sexuality in the main chamber. The Business Committee had taken the bold and commendable decision that, in the light of the planned teaching document on sexuality, any private members’ or diocesan motions on related issues would not be taken until after the document was produced and discussed. The teaching document was announced after the ‘rebellion’ in February 2017 when Synod decided ‘not to take note’ of a report from the House of Bishops’ report on the state of play in discussions following the long and drawn out (and expensive!) process of ‘Shared Conversations‘.

There had already been an announcement that there was going to be a change in name for the document.

Living in Love and Faith: A new name for the Episcopal Teaching Document

As the work of the Episcopal Teaching Document has progressed it has become clearer that the word ‘document’ does not do justice to the emerging vision for the resources that the groups working on it envisage. Furthermore, ‘teaching’ does not reflect the working groups’ aspiration to produce teaching materials that will invite active engagement in mutual learning. So, after several months and the participation of many people, a new title for the project has been agreed by the Archbishops: Living in Love and Faith: Christian Teaching and Learning about Human Identity, Sexuality and Marriage.

This provided plenty of fuel for the suspicious, that there was a retreat from the idea that the Church of England might actually have a clear position on sexuality that needed ‘teaching’. But Justin Welby had said from the beginning that this was going to be a ‘mapping’ exercise, highlighting areas of agreement, the areas of disagreement and possible ways forward—which in itself suggests that this, another costly process, would not lead to any clear resolution. Personally, I was intrigued at the idea that ‘teaching’ on its on does not ‘invite active engagement in mutual learning’, but in fact in Higher Education it is common to talk about a ‘teaching and learning strategy’, recognising that the focus needs to be not simply on what is offered, but also on the effect that it has in enabling learning to take place.

So instead of any debate, the Saturday afternoon of Synod was given over to a series of workshops and seminars, some of which focussed on other topics (including digital evangelism) but which included presentations on the work of the different groups involved in the process (Bible, theology, biological and social sciences, history and a slightly separate Pastoral Advisory Group). I attended the ones on Bible, theology and science, and what emerged was a rather mixed picture of what we might expect from the process….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(PewR FactTank) Populist views in Europe: It’s not just the economy

Ethnocentrism also plays a role in this wave of populist views. About six-in-ten (61%) AfD supporters in Germany, a majority (56%) of National Front backers in France and nearly half (47%) of Party for Freedom (PVV) adherents in the Netherlands say their people’s culture is “superior to others.” This sense of national cultural pre-eminence is far less prevalent among the rest of the publics in their countries.

Another sentiment strongly expressed among those who support right-wing European populist parties is that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with their country’s culture and values: 75% of Germans with a positive view of AfD, 66% of Dutch PVV supporters and 63% of French National Front backers say Islam is “fundamentally incompatible with our culture and values.” About four-in-ten or fewer adults with unfavorable views of populist parties in these nations agree.

Old-fashioned nationalism is still evident in modern European right-wing populism, too.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

‘A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools’ – A Church of England response

In response to the report published yesterday by the Westminster Faith Debates, by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Revd Nigel Genders, said: 

“Church of England Schools provide education for the whole community. This includes those of other faiths and those of no faith, as well as Christian families. Around one million pupils attend our schools every day, each receiving a high-quality education, and our approach to education remains extremely popular.

“The report from the Westminster Faith Debates continues an important conversation about religion and belief in schools, and the type of education we want for our children.

“The report recognises that in today’s world there is an increasing need for religious literacy. While the recommendations will need to be read in the light of the publication of the Commission on Religious Education’s report, expected in the autumn, we welcome the recognition of the importance of religious education in schools.

“The report raises the question of collective worship. Collective worship provides a vital opportunity for children to pause and reflect on the big questions of life and develop spiritually, and we are pleased to see a significant ground-shift in this revised report away from any call to abolish it, which would be to the detriment of children’s wellbeing.

“We have consistently argued that the issue of school admissions is complex in a system where parental choice is valued….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(LA Times) Avram Mlotek–Google could use a little godliness

Whether they realize it or not, technology leaders are writing a virtual universal constitution. What they’re doing is important to humanity. With a little spiritual guidance, maybe it’ll be easier for them to pause the emoji barrage and hear the human voice.

Just as clergy offer counsel to their congregants, the users, let’s bring chaplains into tech offices, the providers. Sure, it may be hard to envision the Pope giving a talk on sexuality at Tinder, but it’s a new dawn. Anything is possible and this rabbi is ready for the unexplored frontier. Google, you know where to find me.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) John Waters–Choosing to refuse

Sometimes, digesting the latest news of the unhinging of the world, one is tempted to fall into despair. I experienced this feeling acutely recently, reading a report of a conservative commentator who had been questioned by the FBI because he posted a one-liner on Twitter mocking the Human Rights Campaign for seeking to persuade businesses to put rainbows in some visible place about their premises, presumably as an indicator of acquiescence in the LGBT agenda.

“That’s a nice business. Too bad if something happened to it,” tweeted Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights. It was an obvious riff on Mafia-style protection methodologies, but you can count on social-justice-warrior types not to get jokes. Ruse was reported by the Human Rights Campaign and as a consequence received a visit and later a phone call from an FBI officer. Luckily, the officer knew a joke from a shakedown and that was the end of it.

Ruse subsequently observed that the HRC has made a habit of attacking Christians who defend traditional sexual morality. He elaborated:

It works like this: A local restaurant is owned by a faithful Catholic who objects to the gay agenda. … Gays notice he doesn’t have the gay rainbow affixed to his window. “Why don’t you have the rainbow on your window?,” they ask. “Are you homophobic? Do you really want the local community to know about you?” You can see it spooling out from there. He is targeted by the local bully boys who proceed to make his life miserable, perhaps harming and even shuttering his business.

This kind of thing is escalating at a rate that begins to be very ominous indeed. Not only do these people brook no dissent from their agendas, but they do not rest until anyone who questions them is badly burnt toast. And officialdom everywhere plays along and treats them like jolly pranksters….

Ruse’s experience brought to mind Vaclav Havel’s story, in his essay “The Power of the Powerless,” about the greengrocer who put the sign in the window with the slogan, “Workers of the World Unite.” Havel draws us into the mindset of the greengrocer, who places the sign essentially as a gesture of obedience. The sign might as easily read, “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient”—but this would cause the greengrocer to lose face. The “Workers of the World” sign serves both the needs of the greengrocer and the needs of the regime. So it is with rainbow stickers. The sign or sticker thus becomes another kind of sign: of the operation within a culture of an ideology. This is its true function.

Read it all and make sure to read the full article in Stream from which he is quoting.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, The U.S. Government