Category : Anthropology

(Reformed Blogmatics) Renewing theological anthropology

In his contribution to The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, Reinhard Hütter describes two approaches to the Christian life. One approach views God as standing behind the human being, with the world lying before him as his ultimate field of engagement. The other approach views the human being as standing before God, with the world coming to him as a gift from God’s fatherly hand in order that it, along with the human being, might ultimately be ordered to God.

In too many cases, contemporary Reformed and evangelical approaches to anthropology exhibit the former approach rather than the latter. Renewing theological anthropology will, above all, require recovering the latter approach, which locates human beings where they should be located: a little lower than the angels, over the animals, in Christ, in the presence of God, from whom and through whom and to whom are all things (Rom 11:36).

This, in the end, is the awe and wonder of what it means to be human. “What is man?” The psalmist asks. Following Scripture, the Westminster Shorter Catechism answers: man is the creature whose chief end it is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Al Mohler) Obedience to God and Love of Neighbor in the Face of a Coronavirus: A Christian’s Mandate

But then, quite unexpectedly, Jesus said, “The second greatest commandment is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We should note that Jesus drew this from the book of Leviticus 19:18. The very same Book of Leviticus that included the quarantine of the diseased.

Love of neighbor means that we would not do anything to compromise, weaken, or endanger our neighbor—and that certainly includes our neighbor’s physical health. Applying all of these passages—Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Matthew, and Romans—we come to understand that faithfulness today means full and unwavering compliance with all rightful orders seeking to control the spread of COVID-19.

Interestingly, the command to “love your neighbor” ends with two words of enormous significance: “as yourself.” We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Often, we are told to not think about ourselves—that true virtue is found in self-sacrifice and having no regard for our own lives. That is true, but in this command from the words of Jesus himself, we are told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Actually, endangering ourselves also endangers others. We regard our own lives, so we must regard the lives of others. We protect our lives, so we protect the lives of others. In the context of this pandemic, if we do not comply with the government’s guidelines and fall ill, then someone will have to take care of us. We will tie up resources, time, and put others at risk of catching what could be for some people a deadly virus. Furthermore, we are not able to contribute to the commonweal—to the larger community.

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Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Russell Moore–God Doesn’t Want Us to Sacrifice the Old

A generation ago, the essayist and novelist Wendell Berry told us that the great challenge of our time would be whether we would see life as a machine or as a miracle. The same is true now. The value of a human life is not determined on a balance sheet. We cannot coldly make decisions as to how many people we are willing to lose since “we are all going to die of something.”

A life in a nursing home is a life worth living. A life in a hospital quarantine ward is a life worth living. The lives of our grandparents, the lives of the disabled, the lives of the terminally ill, these are all lives worth living. We will not be able to save every life. Many will die, not only of the obviously vulnerable but also of those who are seemingly young and strong. But every life lost must grip us with a sense of lament, that death itself is not natural but is, as the Bible tells us, an enemy to be withstood and, ultimately, undone.

That means we must listen to medical experts, and do everything possible to avoid the catastrophe we see right now in Italy and elsewhere. We must get back to work, get the economy back on its feet, but we can only do that when doing so will not kill the vulnerable and overwhelm our hospitals, our doctors, our nurses, and our communities.

And along the way we must guard our consciences. We cannot pass by on the side of the road when the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and the vulnerable are in peril before our eyes. We want to hear the sound of cash registers again, but we cannot afford to hear them over the cries of those made in the image of God….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Theology

(Gallup) Americans Step Up Their Social Distancing Even Further

Americans this past weekend stepped up their already considerable efforts to engage in social distancing in response to the novel coronavirus. Seventy-two percent of U.S. adults now say they are avoiding public places like stores and restaurants, well ahead of the 54% reporting this last week. Nearly as many (68%) are forgoing small gatherings of friends and family, up from 46%.

These shifts are notable because they suggest that the unprecedented efforts by federal, state, local and private-sector leaders to get the public’s attention — a combination of formal closures of transportation, schools, and workplaces, as well as public appeals for voluntary efforts — are working.

Even larger percentages of Americans are avoiding events with large crowds (92%) and are staying away from air travel or mass transit (87%). Most Americans were already avoiding these activities last week as businesses en masse began shuttering their doors, and widespread government and corporate travel bans took hold.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Sociology

(PC) Lessons from Charles Spurgeon on the coronavirus

Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers of the Victorian era. Known as the ‘Prince of Preachers’, it is estimated that he preached the gospel to over a million people, and personally baptised 15,000 new believers converted under his ministry. He was called to pastor New Park Street Chapel in Southwark, London in April 1854 aged just 19 years old. Later that summer there was a cholera epidemic.

Lessons from the cholera epidemic
This epidemic resulted in over 600 deaths, a mortality rate of 12.8% in some parts of the city. Three quarters of the residents of Soho fled the area in one week. I think there is much to learn from how Spurgeon responded to cholera that is relevant to how we should respond to coronavirus today. Geoff Chang has helpfully written about Spurgeon’s pastoral response, drawing largely on Spurgeon’s autobiography. In this article, I want to look at what Spurgeon said in his sermons at the time to see what lessons can be drawn from them.

In a sermon preached on 18 February 1855 Spurgeon spoke of the fear of death:

“Who is the man that does not fear to die? I will tell you. The man that is a believer. Fear to die! Thank God, I do not. The cholera may come again next summer—I pray God it may not; but if it does, it matters not to me: I will toil and visit the sick by night and by day, until I drop; and if it takes me, sudden death is sudden glory.”

On 14 October 1855, in a sermon on Psalm 90:1 he spoke of experiencing God’s protection:

“Hast thou known what it is to dwell securely in God, to enter into the Most High, and laugh to scorn the anger, the frowns, the sneers, the contempt, the slander and calumny of men; to ascent into the sacred place of the pavilion of the Most High, and to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and to feel thyself secure? And mark thee, thou mayest do this. In times of pestilence it is possible to walk in the midst of cholera and death, singing—

‘Plagues and deaths around me fly, Till he please, I cannot die….’

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History

A Reflection on Saint Joseph the Worker for his Feast Day

ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday’s feast of St. Joseph the Worker….

ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?

Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology

Martyn Davie–A Basic Christian Primer On Sex, Marriage And Family Life. Article 6 – Men, Women And Marriage In The World To Come.

In the New Testament we learn from Jesus that those who live in this new creation ‘neither marry nor are given in n marriage, but are like angels in heaven’ ( Matthew 22: 30). This teaching by Jesus does not mean that we shall stop being male and female. As we learn from the example of Jesus, our resurrected bodies will retain the same sex that they have now. This means that if we are male or female now we shall be male or female then.

What this teaching does mean is that in the world to come marriage as we know it, involving sexual intercourse and the procreation of children, will be no more. The number of people God wills to inherit his new creation will have been brought into existence and because there will be no more death their number will not diminish. Hence there will be no need for procreative sex, hence there will be no more need for one flesh unions and hence marriage as it exists now will be no more.

However, this does not mean that marriage as such will cease to be. On the contrary, the New Testament tells us that at the centre of the life of the new creation there will be the ‘marriage of the Lamb’ (Revelation 19:6-9, 21: 2 & 9), the marriage between God and humanity that will endure for eternity.

This eternal marriage is the transcendent reality which marriage in this world foreshadows. In the words of Peter Kreeft; ‘The earthly intimacy with the beloved is a tiny, distant, spark of the bonfire that is the heavenly intimacy with God.’

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Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) New Christian coalition launched to support the bereaved

A new coalition of Christian organisations has been launched to support churches of all denominations in caring for the bereaved.

Loss and HOPE was launched last week at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in recognition of an increasing openness in society to speak about death and bereavement.

The coalition brings together the Ataloss.org website with the Church of England, Care for the Family and HOPE Together.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: “Over the last few years in this country, there has been a real opening up of conversations about bereavement in our society.

“We’re beginning to realise the huge impact that losing a loved one can have on every area of a person’s life. As a result, increasing numbers of people are likely to reach out for help to process loss – and this is presenting the Church with a special opportunity for outreach to our communities.

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Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

EF Interviews Jonathan Tame, the Director of the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge–“The Bible says debt is a form of enslavement, and interest a means of oppression”

Q. You mentioned the precarious jobs and low wages. An example of that is a much praised film in the UK, titled “Sorry We Missed You”, a story about a man who starts working as a deliveryman in one of the new businesses such as Amazon, Uber… What ‘curses’ come with these new types of jobs linked to mobile phone ‘apps’ and the new ‘needs’ of costumers to have everything as fast and as cheap as possible?

A. Yes, it has been very interesting in the last decade that the combination of the new technologies that developed, especially smartphone apps, and that high unemployment at the beginning of the decade following the financial crisis, created the perfect conditions for what we call the ‘gig economy’ to emerge.

This form of capitalism, if you like, has developed where we have a cultural individualism and a market economy; but the consumer’s choice and freedom are becoming the most important thing of all. So we have 24/7 shopping, and somehow, we accept the ‘curse’ zero-hours contracts. And people who have to deliver this service are people we don’t really see, that are kind of invisible and anonymous. They are working having very anti-social hours and often not given much advance warning, only one day or two before they are told when they can work. This makes the worker in this ‘gig economy’… Well, it is a new kind of oppression, to be honest.

The loss of rights, the loss of freedom, especially for family relationships which came out in the film, is a very high price to pay for this new kind of consumerism – the new way we do buying and selling. So yes, it is something we should look out very critically.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(New Atlantis) Ted Nordhaus–Must Growth Doom the Planet?

For this reason, degrowth offers no guarantee that environmental impacts will decline. This is all the more so as calls for degrowth are frequently coupled with demands for a return to simpler, less technological, and non-synthetic systems for the provision of food and energy and for production of material goods and services. Less affluent economies more dependent upon production systems that use less technology would substantially increase the resource demands associated with consumption, and would erode or even entirely offset the benefits of lower levels of consumption.

Indeed, all over the world, poor populations dependent on low-productivity technologies often require surprisingly large per capita resource footprints to sustain their meager consumption. One 2012 study in PNAS, for instance, found that the average West African requires the same amount of land as the average Northern European to support a diet that is much poorer calorically and offers much less dietary protein.

By contrast, over the last two centuries, a virtuous cycle of rising energy and resource productivity has allowed for unprecedented levels of human wellbeing. With that has come a growing population — not because people are having more children but because life expectancies are much higher. Greater prosperity has brought rising material consumption — not mainly because of conspicuous consumption in the wealthiest societies, but rather the agrarian, energy, and demographic transitions that have allowed much of the global population to escape rural poverty and achieve something approaching modern living standards.

Growing demand for material goods and services by a growing and increasingly affluent global population has increased the pressure on natural resources. But it has also led to innovation that has raised resource productivity. In this way, rising resource productivity has allowed for both continuing economic growth and the increasing environmental efficiency of the global economy.

Reversing those dynamics will not necessarily result in lower resource usage, or lower environmental impacts. Lowering demand for resources could as easily result in less-productive resource use as in reduced pressure on resources. The combination of large post-growth human populations, economic stagnation, and increasingly abundant natural resources might drive human societies toward less-productive technological systems. The end of growth, in this way, may do more harm to the planet than good.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Religion & Culture

(USA Today) Midwest farmers face a crisis. Hundreds are dying by suicide.

Heather Utter, whose husband’s cousin was the third to die by suicide, worries that her father could be next. The longtime dairy farmer, who for years struggled to keep his operation afloat, sold the last of his cows in January amid his declining health and dwindling finances. The decision crushed him.

“He’s done nothing but milk cows all his life,” said Utter, whose father declined to be interviewed.

“It was a big decision, a sad decision. But at what point do you say enough is enough?”

American farmers produce nearly all of the country’s food and contribute some $133 billion annually to the gross domestic product….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Suicide

(1st Things) Wesley Smith–Death On Demand Comes To Germany

…even I never expected full-bore death on demand to arrive in the West for another decade. I was too optimistic. A recent ruling from Germany’s highest court has cast right-to-die incrementalism aside and conjured a fundamental right both to commit suicide and to receive assistance in doing it. Moreover, the decision has explicitly rejected limiting the right to people diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities. As a matter of protecting “the right of personality,” the court decreed that “self-determined death” is a virtually unlimited fundamental liberty that the government must guarantee to protect “autonomy.” In other words, the German people now have the right to kill themselves at any time and for any reason. From the decision (published English version, my emphasis):

The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . . The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.

The court wasn’t done. The right to suicide also includes a right to assist suicide:

The right to take one’s own life also encompasses the freedom to seek and, if offered, utilize assistance provided by third parties for this purpose. . . . Therefore, the constitutional guarantee of the right to suicide corresponds to equally far-reaching constitutional protection extended to the acts carried out by persons rendering suicide assistance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(VM) Canon Giles Goddard offers some thoughts on the Living in Love & Faith Project

To be on the LLF Co-ordinating Group at the moment feels weird. We review and revise and re-edit the resources, on the basis of feedback from a wide range of people – more or less equally balanced between progressives and conservatives. We are working in the heat of the moment, and yet, because all is not yet ready for publication, we are working away from the public eye.

I think that what is emerging is something which just might do what Jeremy hopes it might. Films which tell real people’s stories, offered to us with vulnerability and trust, from across the spectrum. A book which opens up the variety of human relationships and understandings of sexuality and gender, recognising that we are, as a Church, in an unprecedented situation where there is a strong desire for unity but also deep questions about whether that must also require uniformity.

But I am so close to the process that I fear I may have lost my sense of perspective. And I know that the hinterland to which I am closest, the LBGTI+ community, is tired of waiting, tired of scraps from the table, tired of being fobbed off. LLF is a process; it will involve more talking, more listening, with a clear timetable for some decisions, but the timetable is not quick and any decisions to be made are far from being considered, let alone recommended. Meanwhile, opinion continues to change and more and more Christians accept the possibility of equal marriage.

Many people have said to me – ‘why can’t the Church just change? Why’s it all taking so long?’ To which my reply is that if we were a different Church, we could indeed have just changed a long time ago. If we were a Church made up only of progressive Christians, of people who are relaxed about the diversity of ways in which God created humans, then it would be easy to change. But we aren’t: we are a Church which includes many more conservative Christians, and many of us, including me, were brought to faith within those more conservative churches… and the eye cannot say to the hand, I do not need you.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC Covenant) John Bauerschmidt–Sympathetic Imagination

We need the capacity for sympathetic imagination, and not just if we are historians or novelists, or students of these genres. We live in a time of stunted imagination, in the midst of the clash of civilizations and the culture wars of our own society, where the virtue of sympathy itself languishes. Imagine the novels of Dickens, peopled by the caricatures of each other that populate our political discourse! Oliver Twist would be tedious and unreadable, containing a succession of stick-figure bad guys, instead of being full of three-dimensional evil doers like Bill Sikes and Fagin and their associates. Aren’t we glad that the Artful Dodger survives his brush with the law? These figures are tragic precisely because we have sympathy with them. Dickens himself recognized and countered the criticism that came with a sympathetic treatment of what was morally disturbing. Sympathy does not make us sympathizers in the sense of political dupes or fellow travelers, but it does allow us to connect.

Sympathetic imagination is not only historical and literate; it is humane. Christians ought to be seasoned practitioners of the art of imaginative insight, able to make connections with others and to imagine their lives and values. A sympathetic imagination doesn’t make us traitors to our own fundamental commitments as human beings, or as Christians, but it does allow us to extend ourselves to others in ways that make for graceful connection. We must not settle for disconnection. A sympathetic imagination is essential to understanding, not only distant times and places, but also to living with our neighbors here and now.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Psychology

(C of I) ‘Every voice is worth listening to’ – Faith in Democracy lecture by Bishop Rowan Williams

Setting out the stall for democracy, Bishop Williams said it was not quite as straightforward as may be imagined. We need to question why it should work and understand what it is as well as what it is not. He suggested democracy is often defined by what it is not – it is not autocracy, oligarchy or dictatorship. Democracy raises the question of what is lawful in human society and what kind of system has a proper claim on our loyalty and obedience. It also asks what it is that we can recognise that represents our voice and our interests. “Democracy may be a mess but it’s our mess. It may have strange ideas but it reflects our ideas,” he stated.

The Bishop pointed out that democracy does not happen automatically when other systems disappear, citing Iraq and Libya as examples. He said that the advance of democracy went hand in hand with certain advances in secularism but did not agree that democracy is secular. “The fundamental of democracy is that it represents who we are, what we want and what we care about. But there is a risk of populism. Is something made right by the majority vote?’ he asked.

The paradox of democracy, he contended, is that it believes that every human agent is worth listening to. But if every human agent is worth listening to, then that includes minorities as well as the majority. “Democracy is a system in which every voice has a claim to be heard. But that can be a challenge. The voices that have not prevailed are still worth listening to… We go on arguing and that is a sign that democracy is working because the minority voice is still being taken seriously,” he said. “The majority decision may be lawful but it is still up for debate… It is crucial for a democracy to be liberated from the idea that majority votes end arguments.” He added that freedom of speech must be safeguarded (with certain limits) if democracy is to be a means of change in society.

However, he said public debate does not mean that we allow our neighbour to shout for a while before taking our own turn to shout. We must recognise that the person who opposes us in an argument has goals which we can recognise as intelligible.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, Church of Ireland, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(PD) Adam J. MacLeod–Essences or Intersectionality: Understanding Why We Can’t Understand Each Other

Intersectionality is many things. It is a group of theories that join at the confluence of postmodern philosophy, poststructural social science, and critical cultural and legal studies. It is also a movement, which brings spokespeople for minority races, gender- and sexual-identity activists, and socialists together with a certain kind of feminist. And, as Warren’s quip illustrates, it is also a pose. It is a way for “woke” people to demonstrate their intellectual, social, and moral superiority over the unwoke.

The most essential tenet of Intersectionality is that nothing is essential. There is no essential human nature, nothing essential about reason or logic, no essential meaning of “man” or “woman” or “white” or “efficient” or “liberty” or “law.” At the deepest point in the Intersectionality pool, the very center of the confluence where all of its tributaries come together, everything is invented by those who hold power. Not only cultural norms and language, but also natural rights and duties, biological definitions, religious convictions, economic and scientific rules, and logic are all constructed “discursive practices.” Everything is a social construct, built by those who want to leverage their superior economic, cultural, or political positions to preserve their privileges and keep others down in the zero-sum contest for power.

This is one of two convictions that all Intersectionalists share in common. They are all, to varying degrees, against essence. They are all convinced that some term or feature that unenlightened people take for granted is both artificial and unjust. They do not always agree on which terms and features must be torn down. But they all share a motivation to tear down some aspect of the apparent essence of something.

Socialists and critical legal studies theorists focus on the constructs of “law” and “economics.” They teach our young people that “due process,” “price,” and “liberty” are suspect artifices imposed upon the poor by the rich. Critical race and dominance feminist theorists teach our young people to reject traditional notions of natural equality and equality before the law. Gender-identity and queer theorists go after the assumption that there can be anything essentially “masculine” or “feminine.” And so on.

The other conviction that all Intersectionalists share is that the most privileged people, who are responsible for the construction of most of the oppressive discursive practices, are heterosexual, white males.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Language, Marriage & Family, Philosophy

(Gafcon) Time for an Anglican Reality Check

What’s happened since Lambeth 1998?

The Anglican Reality Check takes a look at the recent history of the Anglican Communion. It reveals how predominantly Western church leaders have relentlessly sought to undermine Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference which reaffirmed the clear teaching of Scripture on marriage and specifically rejected homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.

In 1 Chronicles 12:32 certain men of Issachar are described as those ‘who had understanding of the times’. This quality is very much needed by faithful Anglicans today. In a global culture of instant communication and soundbites, there is a danger that we live in the moment and lose our capacity for godly discernment. The Bible continually warns of the danger of forgetfulness and the need to remember, both to recall the goodness and mercy of God and to learn the lessons of past failure and disobedience.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(USA Today) Alia E. Dastagir–How to find a therapist if you’re suicidal

If you’ve ever been suicidal and talked openly about it, you’ve probably heard someone say — maybe gently, maybe emphatically — that you should see a therapist.

But many therapists have limited training in suicide, so finding the right one can be difficult.

“A lot of people go into this thinking a therapist is going to be able to support them through these crises, and they end up coming out incredibly disappointed,” said Dese’Rae L. Stage, a suicide survivor and founder of Live Through This, a project that amplifies the voices of attempt survivors.

Whitcomb Terpening, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of The Semicolon Group, a therapy practice in Houston that works exclusively on suicide, said suicidal people tend to fall into two buckets: Those who want help but haven’t been exposed to breakdowns in the mental health system, and those who’ve tried to seek help but have been turned off by the system because of “traumatizing experiences.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide

The Fire, Lord, Not the Junk Heap–An Ash Wednesday Reflection from Bishop Mark Lawrence

The famous radio personality and early pioneer of television, Arthur Godfrey, grew up in an era very different from today. It was a time when a boy could wander down to the blacksmith shop on a lazy afternoon and watch the smithy work at his anvil and forge. It was a favorite past time of the young Godfrey. Sometimes he would watch the blacksmith sorting the scrap metal. The man would pick up a piece of metal from a holding bin, turn it this way and that in his large hands, then either toss it into the fire to be softened and hammered into some useful tool, or thrown into a junk heap to be discarded. From this experience Arthur forged a simple prayer which he used all his life. Whenever seized by his own sense of sin or some personal moral failure he would pray “The fire, Lord, not the junk-heap.” It is a prayer that captures two essential dimensions of Ash Wednesday and Lent”” a prayer for pardon and a prayer for purity.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Lent, Theology

Meir Soloveichik for Eric Liddell’s Feast Day–Finding God in the Olympic Footrace

While Americans rightly exult in the achievements of U.S. medalists, “Chariots of Fire” also serves as a reminder that athletics and even patriotism only mean so much. When Liddell is informed that a qualifying heat takes place on Sunday, his Sabbath, he chooses not to compete in that race. The camera cuts from athletes at the Olympics to Liddell reading a passage in Isaiah: “Behold the nations are as a drop in the bucket . . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” David Puttnam, a “Chariots of Fire” producer, wrote me that the verses were “specifically selected by the actor, the late Ian Charleson, who gave himself the task of reading the entire Bible whilst preparing for the film.”

The Isaiah passage is liturgically important for Jews: Parts of it are declaimed in synagogue on the Sabbath when we read God’s command to Abraham to leave the center of civilization and found a family, and a faith, in a new land. Isaiah reminds Jews that Abraham’s children have encountered much worse than what Harold Abrahams experienced. While most nations now rest on the ash heap of history, the biblical Abraham’s odyssey continues. The countries competing in today’s Olympics come and go, while those who “wait upon the Lord” endure.

“Chariots of Fire” also offers a message for people of faith who have grown troubled by the secularization of society and the realization that they are often scorned by elites. Like Liddell, we may be forced to choose religious principle over social success. Hopefully, however, we will be able to use our gifts to sanctify this world. As Liddell’s father told his son in the film: “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back in wonder.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Church History, Missions, Sports, Theology

(CW) Bill Muehlenberg–Biblical Anthropology: A Reader’s Guide

It is vitally important that we get the right understanding on what it is to be human. A wrong view on how we view humanity and personhood will often result in some very ugly results. Simply look at how the Nazis viewed human dignity and worth, and what flowed from that.

The Christian believes that one’s understanding of anthropology will be determined by one’s theology. A bad view of God almost always results in a bad view of man. Indeed, years ago John Warwick Montgomery made this three-part connection:

-In the 18th century we sought to destroy Scripture.
-In the 19th century we sought to destroy God.
-In the 20th century we sought to destroy mankind.

These things do go together. And the further we drift from God and his word, the further away we are from treating mankind as we should. Just yesterday I penned a piece on the new batch of human haters. Because of concerns about saving the planet, we have many voices now calling for the complete end of mankind. You can see that article here.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Polyamory: Pastors’ Next Sexual Frontier

How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. Though they were clear they did not affirm Tyler’s choice, they did affirm their love for Tyler, Amanda, and their grandkids. They made a point to keep their weekly Thursday afternoon “dates” with their grandkids and stay a part of their lives. Because of this, Tyler has maintained his relationship with his parents, and though his relationship choices are unbiblical, they have been able to communicate their love and care for him and his family. Amanda’s mother responded differently. Decades earlier, her relationship with Amanda’s father had ended when he had proposed a polyamorous relationship and then left when she wasn’t open to it. Amanda’s choice reopened her mother’s unhealed wounds. Feeling angry and betrayed, Amanda’s mother effectively broke off the relationship with her daughter. When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.

Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. When we want to lovingly call people to repentance, we should be precise about what needs repentance and what relationships or elements can and should be sanctified in Christ. For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory—deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community—are good things.

But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. In the example above, Amanda and Tyler both need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery. A pastoral approach would commend them for their desire to have other adults contribute to the life of their family but point them to the church—not a polyamorous relationship—as the place where God intends for that to happen.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Polyamory, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(EF) Pablo Martinez–“Turning the truth into a matter of personal opinions, inexorably leads to loss of hope”

Question. We went from ‘I think therefore I am’, to ‘I feel therefore I am’, and then to post-truth. What is the reference that will be an anchor to human beings in this new decade?

Answer. The two great anchors of human beings are truth and hope. Both come together, they are inseparable and make the backbone of human existence. These two do not vary with time, we need them today just like twenty centuries ago. What changes is the relationship, the attitude of Man towards these two anchors. That’s where the origin of the current deep crisis of values lies. The replacement of ‘the Truth’ by ‘my truth’ has broken one of the anchors, dragging the other one, hope, with its breakup. In his best known work From Dawn To Decay, the renowned French historian Jacques Barzun, already warned that ‘the postmodern assault on the idea of truth could lead us to the destruction of 500 years of civilisation’.

The root of the conflict is not cultural or ideological, it is a moral one. Ultimately, it is not a matter of a new philosophy, but a matter of who has the authority in my life and in the world. Does anyone rule up there or can I rule?

A strong earthquake has shaken the foundations of Western civilisation, because in the last 30 years the foundation and nature of the truth have amazingly changed. The change is summed up in one sentence: ‘Truth is dead, long live to my truth!’

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(EF) Spanish parliament starts the final process to decriminalise euthanasia

The first official debate to finally pass the draft law to decriminalise euthanasia, proposed by the social democrat party PSOE, took place this week in the Spanish Parliament.

It has the support of the majority of the parties. The draft law, inspired by the Dutch and Belgian model, proposes that those who suffer a serious and incurable or disabling illness, with unbearable suffering could ask for euthanasia.

First, the patient and a doctor will have to agree, afterwards a second medical opinion is needed, then the patient will have to confirm his decision two weeks later, and 15 days later it can be made. The process will not last more than a month.

Furthermore, the law foresees the creation of a Commission for Control and Evaluation in each region, in addition to a registry of health professionals who decide to be conscientious objectors. Doctors who allege this cause must do so in writing.

The draft law must now go through the Health Commission, go back again to the Parliament and, finally, to the Senate. A process that could be resolved before summer.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Spain, Theology

(C of E) Overwhelming support for General Synod safeguarding motion

General Synod voted unanimously today to endorse the Church’s response to the five recommendations from IICSA and urged its national safeguarding steering group to work towards a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors.

The debate was opened by the lead bishop for safeguarding, Bishop Peter Hancock who shared personal reflections on his time as lead bishop along with outlining the Church’s response to the IICSA recommendations. The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, takes over as lead safeguarding bishop in April.

Read it all and please note the links to the various speeches.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(CEN) Andrew Carey–The C of E Bishops are playing a game of power politics

Last week’s College of Bishops meeting was described by one unnamed evangelical bishop as a ‘bruising experience’. Out of it emerged a statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologising for the House of Bishops’ statement on civil partnerships in which it had set out the orthodox position of the Church of England.

The Archbishops wrote: “We… apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement … which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

Predictably, of course, this apology has done far more damage than the original statement. Liberals took it as a pseudo-apology along the lines of ‘sorry for offending you’, or ‘sorry for being caught out’. Many others took it as an apology for the actual statement and therefore a rejection of the Church of England’s teaching on marriage. Others took it as a clever bit of spin in which the Archbishops could head off liberal outrage, while still maintaining faith with evangelicals and traditionalists. That latter interpretation does the Archbishops no favours at all because it portrays them in similar terms to Iannucci’s Thick of It as spin doctors desperately and incompetently triangulating to win their nihilistic game of power politics.

The Bishop of Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Martin Seeley, is the latest Diocesan Bishop to break ranks with the Bishops’ pastoral statement on civil partnerships. He revealed that he and other colleagues had asked that the document be withdrawn but a majority of bishops decided against this course of action. From this insight, it is clear that we are beginning at last to see a bit of an honest open ‘fight’ in the House of Bishops. This is about time too. And I also hope that this division is openly revealed in the General Synod as it meets this week.

If we have this aim of achieving ‘good disagreement’ let us at least be open about it rather than hide it behind closed doors. It cannot be ‘good disagreement’ if it is hidden behind the superficial smiles representing faux Anglican ‘niceness’.At the moment suspicions are festering and we in the Church of England are in that anxious and fretting place – the calm before the storm.

The problem with processes such as Living in Love and Faith is that most of the debate and discussion takes place behind closed doors in a process that many of us simply don’t trust. I have always believed that this process is in place simply to kick the can down the road rather than leading to a place where a decision can be made about the future direction of the Church of England. I am much more likely to be convinced if this was an open discussion in the Church of England.

It would be much more honest to recognise the profound differences we have over human sexuality and decide how the two sides in this debate are going to co-exist – if they ever can – in the same Church.Does the future now lie in some kind of formal distancing of relationships from which different networks and forms of oversight can emerge?

–This column appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2020, edition (subscriptions are encrouaged)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Diocese of Oxford Ad Clerum Letter in response to the recent C of E Bishops Pastoral Statement

But are you listening to other voices?

The responses of the bishops and many others have disturbed some people. We have had clergy in this Diocese, who are loved, respected and valued, write to say that they affirmed the pastoral statement. They are concerned to know that we will continue to honour and pastor to those who uphold the historic teaching of the Church of England on marriage.

We continue to listen carefully to voices from across the Church about these matters. As we stated in our December 2018 letter to members of ODEF, neither I nor my fellow bishops have any intention or desire to exclude in any way those who hold to the traditional teaching of the Church and our marriage discipline. As bishops, these are things we uphold. We do not permit uncanonical blessings, though we do seek to encourage priests who, in good conscience, want to pray for and with people at significant points of their lives in a spirit of generous hospitality. As bishops, we are always happy to advise clergy on these matters as issues arise.

Living in Love and Faith

As well as the pastoral insensitivity of the statement, the timing of it was problematic. The Church is now coming towards the end of a two-year national programme of listening, prayer and discernment led by the bishops.

Living in Love and Faith will help the Church to learn and explore questions of human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality. Study guides and resources will be published following the July General Synod. We hope and pray that parishes and deaneries will fully engage with those resources when they are published.

For some, the resources will break new ground. For others, they won’t go far enough. But we must hold firm to that timetable and await what comes next while trusting and praying for the those most closely involved in the process. Do take time to explore the LLF website.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Safeguarding: the Church of England’s house is slowly being rebuilt

Our proposals sought to record our collective lament at our sins of omission and commission, and (for the second time of asking) we commended the text of the excellent Blackburn Ad Clerum. Then and now these suggestions were rejected: the first time our Archbishops thought it premature; this time, seeking to preface our acceptance of the IICSA recommendations with sentiments of repentance, and endorsing the pastoral response which our victims had welcomed, were ruled technically out of order. We can play with the idea of repentance being ‘out of order’ in this context at a future juncture: this is not the time for mischief-making, however tempting.

Our purpose in going beyond the anaemic and prosaic was to make this debate a cultural turning point from which we might begin to move on from the necessary demolition – of structures, attitudes, policies etc. – toward a more positive future.

We thought it important that such an initiative should come from below, for we saw that it is no longer sufficient for the House of Bishops alone to direct our response. Archbishop Justin has previously acknowledged that a change to the culture of deference is needed. We were taking him seriously. It is liberating and deserves to be taken seriously. “Trust me, I’m a Bishop” is no longer a sound principle: the whole of the Church, from top to bottom, must own its priorities, and discussing these at Synod seemed to be a healthy place to start.

Our proposals additionally committed Synod to accepting the final IICSA proposals promptly, on the basis that it was inconceivable that we would pretend to know better after all the embarrassment of the IICSA evidence and submissions. Our track record does not merit once again wandering off on a Safeguarding frolic of our own.

Our final proposal dared to engage bluntly with the issue of proper reparation. We were mindful of the story of ‘Tony’ in the insurance press. He told his story on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and explained how survivors have endured very low levels of compensation because they cannot afford to take matters to court and lose. The power imbalance in the negotiations is immense.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Christian Today) Living in Love and Faith process is a ‘call to action’ for Church of England – bishop

Later in the session, the floor was opened up for questions, with Ian Paul, editor at evangelical publisher Grove Books, expressing his desire to see the Church of England use the LLF process “give us a renewed commitment to the apostolic inheritance of the teaching of the New Testament”.

“I’ve been struck by the commitment to listening and the commitment to one another, but what seems to have been slightly more muted in the discussion so far is the commitment to re-engage with the teaching of Jesus,” he said.

“I think we need to be honest and say both within the Anglican tradition and within this room there is a pulling away from whether Jesus really is a good pastor and whether His teaching is what we need to hear – that teaching which I believe is also echoed in the teaching of Paul.”

Jayne Ozanne, a lesbian and campaigner for LGBT equality in the Church of England, said that she did not want to see the Church of England “just keep kicking this can down the road for more discussions”.

“The truth is, it’s not been a safe space for many involved with the LLF,” she said.

Read it all.

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

Bishop [of Maidstone] Rod Thomas’ letter after the Archbishops’ statement following the earlier release of the ‘Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples’

I thought I should write following the statement that was issued after the conclusion of the College of Bishops yesterday. The statement can be found here.

My understanding at the College was that the statement was needed for two reasons. First, it was felt that the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples which had been released on 22nd January was pastorally insensitive in the way it was framed and released to the press. Secondly, there was concern that as a result, some of the necessary participation in the discussions which will follow the publication of the Living in Love and Faith materials could be jeopardised. Yesterday’s statement therefore apologised for the release of the Pastoral Statement.

However, it was also my clear understanding that nothing in yesterday’s statement should be taken as a retraction of the doctrinal teaching of the Church of England on marriage and sexual relationships. While some of that teaching may well come into question during the discussions about the LLF materials, it remains the current teaching of the Church. The position set out in the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples, and which was agreed by the House of Bishops, therefore continues to apply.

Read it all.

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