Category : Theology: Scripture

(Authority & Interpretation of Scripture)

John Stott–‘there is a great need in the contemporary world for more Christian anger’

I go further and say that there is a great need in the contemporary world for more Christian anger. We human beings compromise with sin in a way in which God never does. In the face of blatant evil we should be indignant not tolerant, angry not apathetic. If God hates sin, his people should hate it too. If evil arouses his anger, it should arouse ours also. ‘Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake thy law.’ What other reaction can wickedness be expected to provoke in those who love God?

It is particularly noteworthy that the apostle introduces this reference to anger in a letter devoted to God’s new society of love, and in a paragraph concerned with harmonious relationships. He does so because true peace is not identical with appeasement. ‘In such a world as this,’ comments E. K. Simpson, ‘the truest peacemaker may have to assume the role of a peace-breaker as a sacred obligation.’

–John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) [Downer’s Grove, Ill. IVP Academic, 1984), pp. 107-108, to be quoted in my adult ed class

Posted in Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee. So I will bless thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on thy name. My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat, and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips, when I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the watches of the night; for thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy.

–Psalm 63:3-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary, and a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble thereon; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.

–Isaiah 8:11-15

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Regent World) Seven Scholars Share Their Favourite Moments Of Biblical Humour

Iain Provan:

The book of Jonah provides one of the most effective examples of humour in the Old Testament. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it,” God commands his prophet (Jonah 1:2)—but “Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish” (1:3). In the ancient world, this is just about as far as one can go in the opposite direction. “Get up and go,” God tells Jonah in the Hebrew—but Jonah goes down to Joppa, down into the ship (both in v. 3), and down into the ship’s hold (v.5). His lack of piety contrasts starkly with that of the pagan sailors, who end up fearing the Lord greatly (v. 16). They know better than Jonah, who claims to “worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (v. 9), but is trying to escape from him on both. The sovereignty of God over the sea is soon demonstrated, as a great fish astonishingly shows up to rescue Jonah from his watery grave. He thanks God for saving him (2:7-9), but he takes a very different view when God later saves the people of Nineveh, who repent—hilariously and unexpectedly—upon hearing Jonah’s ridiculously brief sermon (3:4). By the end of the book, Jonah—“displeased and … angry” (4:1)—is the only creature who has not repented, including the Assyrian cows (3:8)! The humour presses home the message that the people of God are characteristically much less interested in the lost than God is—the God who is “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”(4:2). They prefer judgment to redemption, whereas God’s preferences are the other way around.

Read it all.
Posted in Humor / Trivia, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, “Thou art my God.” My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors! Let thy face shine on thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love!

–Psalm 31:15-16

Posted in Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Wisdom and folly: the bishops’ guidance on transgender welcome

Why the collapse of Christian language of initiation into cultural memes? The problems with the guidance begin with its opening line:

The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ

Since when was the gospel of ‘repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mark 1.15) reduced to ‘unconditional affirmation’? If the point is that trans people shouldn’t be treated as a different class of humanity, then that would be hard to disagree with—so why not simply say that? All the debates around sexuality become mired in impossible ambiguity because of different construals of what it means to ‘affirm’ people. Jesus welcomed the marginalised, and called them to repent along with everyone else (Luke 5.32) and so should we.

Why the misuse of biblical texts? In reading Scripture, context is everything, and the listing of passages where God’s redemptive action leads to a change of name, in the context of a service which appears to be celebrating the transition of name and identity, has strong echoes of Tina Beardsley’s proposed trans liturgy, misreads these texts badly, and overlays on the scriptural narrative a particular ideology of sex identity.

Why the complete absence of reference to biological reality? One of the heated debates around trans ideology and advocacy relates to biological reality—what is actually going on in the transition process? The medical journal The Lancet just this week made an impassioned appeal for proper engagement with biological reality:

Sex has a biological basis, whereas gender is fundamentally a social expression. Thus, sex is not assigned—chromosomal sex is determined at conception and immutable. A newborn’s phenotypic sex, established in utero, merely becomes apparent after birth, with intersex being a rare exception.

Distress about gender identity must be taken seriously and support should be put in place for these children and young people, but the impacts of powerful, innovative interventions should be rigorously assessed….

Read it all.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzzi′ah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remali′ah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not conquer it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with E′phraim,” his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go forth to meet Ahaz, you and She′ar-jash′ub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him, ‘Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remali′ah. Because Syria, with E′phraim and the son of Remali′ah, has devised evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Ta′be-el as king in the midst of it,” thus says the Lord God:

It shall not stand,
    and it shall not come to pass.
For the head of Syria is Damascus,
    and the head of Damascus is Rezin.

(Within sixty-five years E′phraim will be broken to pieces so that it will no longer be a people.)

And the head of E′phraim is Samar′ia,
    and the head of Samar′ia is the son of Remali′ah.
If you will not believe,
    surely you shall not be established.’”

–Isaiah 7:1-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(AM) Andrew Symes–Transgender liturgies and the secular, postmodern re-shaping of church and society

I was alerted to a major new development in the Church of England: the publication of liturgies to mark ‘gender transition’. (Press release, and my comment here.) Well that wasn’t such a surprise, as this was accepted by General Synod last year, and then agreed again in February 2018. What is alarming is that the new services, which have been developed by clergy who are transgender activists, have been commended for use by a leading evangelical Bishop. No doubt he will argue that while he believes that God created us male and female, this is a way of offering welcome to those who don’t feel they fit into the traditional gender categories. But in speaking about ‘trans people’ and supporting the liturgies in this way, this Bishop has inevitably accepted the validity of the new ideology of gender, which is incompatible with Christian anthropology, colluding with a fiction which cannot ultimately be pastorally helpful, and based on propaganda and fake science rather than evidence.

Should faithful Christians just accept the decisions of their leaders in these matters, and keep quiet, perhaps focusing on evangelistic courses and foodbanks? Or can we counter this trend? If so, perhaps our challenge is to tell a “better story”. We know that heterosexual marriage and sexually abstinent singleness, living within the physical sex God gave us, are the most effective ways of living a flourishing life as individuals and communities, and for our future. Numerous studies prove that stable marriage and family life, and sexual self-control are beneficial for individuals and society; likewise it is clear that family breakdown is linked to crime and mental health issues, and immorality to sexually transmitted disease. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is commanded and explained in Scripture and has been taught by Christians and Jews for millennia. It makes sense. It is the truth. Surely, if the church demonstrates an attitude of love, and tells a positive and exciting counter-story, society will be convinced of the truth of the gospel and how we are supposed to live our lives?

In this paradigm, ‘truth’ is contained in God’s word, backed up by scientific research based on observation of an ordered world. Truth must be communicated clearly, imaginatively, winsomely with love, but it exists as an entity in itself, like a Platonic ideal, or indeed God himself. God exists and his word is true whether or not we communicate it effectively with love. One plus one equals two, regardless of how effectively and relationally it is taught, or how I feel about it and about myself.

But in the secular postmodern paradigm, things have changed. God, and truth, do not exist outside of the reality which is the interweaved matrix made up of millions of human beings’ individual consciousness and experience. The personal story, and the emotions it evokes, is not just a method of communicating truth. It is truth. If feelings of same sex attraction or gender dysphoria lead someone to embrace a gay or trans identity, this is a discovery of truth, and the church’s job is to affirm it through liturgies. To suggest that someone with these feelings might be able to explore a different direction is seen as hurtful, even abusive, and should be suppressed by law. 

Because of this tendency in us to be drawn to personal constructions of reality and reject Reality, the biblical writers insist that it’s not enough to simply repeat God’s true message, and to find better ways of communicating it, including demonstrating God’s nature through acts of love and mercy. It’s also necessary to enable the faithful community to reject the false messages they are being fed constantly in the world around them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering– since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

–2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Will We be Ready When he Comes (Luke 3:1-6)?

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brethren, pray for us.

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brethren.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s sermon yesterday at Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

–Psalm 25:14

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Sunday food for Thought–Frederick Buechner on John the Baptist

From there:

“John the Baptist didn’t fool around. He lived in the wilderness around the Dead Sea. He subsisted on a starvation diet, and so did his disciples. He wore clothes that even the rummage-sale people wouldn’t have handled. When he preached, it was fire and brimstone every time.”

–cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He digged it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!

–Isaiah 5:1-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture