Category : Default Category Group

(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

(AAC) Mark Ellredge–Are you a Functional Universalist?

Somewhere in the midst of the presentation outlining some of the various reasons why Hell is often not talked about, even in our Biblically faithful churches, the term “Functional Universalism” was mentioned. I immediately thought, that is one of the saddest yet most accurate descriptions of many – not all, but many – Anglican churches.

Universalists don’t lead people to salvation through Jesus because they don’t believe people need to be saved through Jesus. If we, as Bible-believing Anglicans, don’t lead people to salvation through Jesus because maybe we’re too embarrassed to share, or too afraid to invite someone to pray a prayer to repent and believe in Jesus, or any number of other excuses, what is the difference? Isn’t that just functional Universalism? We’re achieving the same results, right?

It is particularly sad because so many of us are Anglicans specifically because we didn’t want to be a part of the Episcopal Church that largely adopted Universalism. As Anglicans, we actually believe all of the Bible is true. We believe where it says that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through” him. (John 14:6) Jesus is not “a” way but “the” way to salvation. Yet are unbelievers being saved in our churches? Are we bringing unbelievers into an eternal relationship with the Father through Jesus in our churches? Or do we just talk about local mission and evangelism and feel good about ourselves for not being those bad Universalists?

Now I’m not suggesting that we all start talking about Hell all the time and try to scare people into Heaven (although I personally have always held that I would rather be scared into heaven than blindly walk into Hell). However, I am suggesting that if we took the truth that Hell is real more seriously and that Jesus suffered Hell for us so we don’t have to, maybe we’d overcome our fear of evangelism and start doing it….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Eschatology, GAFCON, Theology

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

He attended last year’s deadly Charlottesville rally. Then a black pastor changed his life.

One year ago, Ken Parker attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has made a significant transformation after accepting an invitation to a black church. His story is featured in part in the Emmy-nominated Fuuse film ‘White Right: Meeting the Enemy’ on Netflix.

You need to take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Soteriology

(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

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–In the Morning you shall see, in the Evening you shall know (Exodus 16:2-15)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there. The full Eddie Rickenbacker story with which the sermon concludes was posted yesterday.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Sermon–The Stunning True Story of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Mercy, Memory, and Thanksgiving


 

About sunset, it happened every Friday evening on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast. You could see an old man walking, white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent.

One gnarled hand would be gripping the handle of a pail, a large bucket filled with shrimp. There on a broken pier, reddened by the setting sun, the weekly ritual would be re-enacted.

At once, the silent twilight sky would become a mass of dancing dots…growing larger. In the distance, screeching calls would become louder.

They were seagulls, come from nowhere on the same pilgrimage”¦ to meet an old man.
For half an hour or so, the gentleman would stand on the pier, surrounded by fluttering white, till his pail of shrimp was empty. But the gulls would linger for a while. Perhaps one would perch comfortably on the old man’s hat”¦and a certain day gone by would gently come to his mind.

Eventually, all the old man’s days were past. If the gulls still returned to that spot”¦ perhaps on a Friday evening at sunset, it is not for food”¦ but to pay homage to the secret they shared with a gentle stranger.

And that secret is THE REST OF THE STORY.

Anyone who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day it was reported that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was lost at sea.

Captain Eddie’s mission had been to deliver a message of the utmost importance to General Douglas MacArthur.

But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. . Somewhere over the South Pacific, the flying fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, and the men ditched their plane in the ocean.

The B-17 stayed afloat just long enough for all aboard to get out. . Then, slowly, the tail of the flying fortress swung up and poised for a split second”¦ and the ship went down leaving eight men and three rafts”¦ and the horizon.

For nearly a month, Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun.

They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. Their largest raft was nine by five”¦ the biggest shark ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.

In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”
Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking”¦ Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a seagull. I don’t know how I knew; I just knew.
“Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word. But peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at the gull. The gull meant food”¦ if I could catch it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten; its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

You know that Captain Eddie made it.

And now you also know…that he never forgot.
Because every Friday evening, about sunset…on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent.

His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.

Paul Harvey’s the Rest of the Story (Bantam Books, 1997 Mass paperback ed. of the 1977 Doubleday original), pp. 170-172

Posted in Animals, Death / Burial / Funerals, Soteriology

(RG) Learning to sustain community in a setting characterized by rapid turnover

Can you give me an example of a student or worker who has been strongly shaped by community?

Ben: At L’Abri, we believe that the Christian belief should be worked out and modeled—in very tangible ways. Students deserve to see us living like it’s true and part of this is played out in what we call “institutional weaknesses. ” An example is that we choose not to fundraise, advertise, or recruit staff. Instead, those are all items of continual prayer, and they have been huge shaping influences for people who work in L’Abri. Just take the finances: the fact that we would be able to turn on the lights [demonstrates] that for years and years and years God has provided. The students who come, even for a short time, see that—and they are quite moved by it.

How has living in community over a long period of time changed each of you?

Nickaela: I think one thing for me is the use of time. I am so motivated by efficiency, to see results of my day. There is that place in C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters when Screwtape says, “Just tell them that time is their own.” I see how indignant we become when our time is “taken.” For me, [it’s important to find] the space to be okay with the interruptions, [to see] that our calling really is the interruptions—the shaping of our lives to see that God sees us.

Ben: For me (and Nickaela will laugh because I haven’t changed that much), well, my tendency is toward conflict avoidance. One of the things living in community has taught me is, with the other workers in particular, you can’t sit on things and have relationships be healthy. You have to have those difficult conversations, and then see the good things that come of it.

Nickaela: One more thing. Gregory Boyle in his book Tattoos on the Heart talks about, “the duty to delight.” Whether that is working hard outside or cooking a meal or eating a good meal, God delights. We have a duty to delight in those things.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Saturday Food for Thought–Augustine on Heaven

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

Gavin Dunbar’s report on The Episcopal Church(-TEC)’s General Convention of 2018

General Convention 2018 is now over, thank goodness. What it all means is far beyond human comprehension, and I make no attempt to comprehend it. But there are some matters worth reporting.

In a dog’s-breakfast compromise motion initiated in the House of Bishops, a proposal for comprehensive revision of the 1979 was scuppered. Sort of. In rather odd language the motion
“memorialize[s] the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as a Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian formularies ensuring its continued use” (Resolution A068). Aside from the grammatical difficulties, I don’t understand how “memorializing” something “ensures it’s continued use”. Isn’t that something you do for the dead?

To put a positive spin on this resolution, it insulates the 1979 BCP – including the remnant Cranmerian texts of Rite I – from further revisions, which in the current climate could only have been disastrously bad. In particular it preserves the preface to the 1979 Marriage rite, and its teaching (in accord with the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10) that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into a life-long union” that is “intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another…; and, when it is God’s
will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (pp. 861, 423).

Yet the very same motion authorizes “the ongoing work of liturgical and Prayer Book revision …upon [sic] the core theological work of loving, liberating, life-giving reconciliation and creation care”. In a remarkable move, it sidelined the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and established a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision, with membership appointed jointly by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, “ensuring that diverse voices of our church are active participants in this liturgical revision by constituting a group of leaders who represent the expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church” (sic). (There was a kafuffle about inadequate provision for participation by Spanish-speaking Episcopalians from the Central American dioceses – but based on prose like this, the English-speakers should have been complaining too.)

The inclusion of “theology” in the categories of diversity raises a hope that is quickly dashed by the requirement that such revisions “continue in faithful adherence to the historic rites of the Church Universal as they have been received and interpreted within the Anglican tradition of [sic] 1979 Book of Common Prayer” – wording which carefully excludes the actual historic
and pre-1979 Anglican tradition of Common Prayer. So much for theological diversity.

They are to be “mindful of our existing ecumenical commitments” -but not in accordance to them, language that was thought to be objectionably limiting – “while also providing space for, encouraging the submission of, and facilitating the perfection of rites that will arise from the continual movement of the Holy Spirit among us and the growing insights of our Church”. I quote this dreadful prose in full with the same horrified pleasure one has in pulling off a scab. Moreover, they are to “utilize the riches of Holy Scripture, and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, class and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship [sic]”; all of which means the revisions must “utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity” – i.e. not the language prioritized by Scripture and tradition.

To no one’s surprise, they “shall incorporate and express understanding, appreciation, and care of God’s creation”. There is more, but you get the picture. If the 1979 BCP has been
preserved in aspic, and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music deprived of control of liturgical revision, two very modest wins, the floodgates have been opened to liturgical and theological folly. The one hopeful note is that little or no funding has been provided for this untethered experimentation.

One other relevant decision: Resolution B012 makes same-sex marriage rites available for all congregations that wish to use them, subject to authorization by their rectors or priests-in-charge. While that opens every diocese to same-sex marriage, it also protects the conscience of every rector who can withstand the vilification that will fall on those who avail themselves of this right. So there you have it: “the future of God’s mission through the Episcopal Church of the Jesus movement” (sic).

–The Rev. Gavin Dunbar is rector of Saint John’s, Savannah, Georgia

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

Wednesday food for Thought from Max Lucado

Heroes in the Bible came from all walks of life—rulers, servants, teachers, doctors—male, female, single, and married. Yet one common denominator united them. They built their lives on the promises of God. Noah believed in rain before rain was a word. Joshua led two million people into enemy territory. One writer went so far as to call such saints “heirs of the promise” (Hebrews 6:17).

As God prepared the Israelites to face a new land, he made a promise to them, “Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you” (Exodus 34:10). God’s promises are unbreakable. Our hope is unshakable!

–Max Lucado Unshakable Hope

Posted in Books, Eschatology

Bp Mark Lawrence: Summer—When Living is for Now


Summer Ember days remind us that there are days—even seasons—where life’s living is for now. While we know fall and winter will come—and we need to be prepared for such seasons—today isn’t always a day to prepare for them. Today is first and foremost a day to live. Today matters. It can be working, fishing, sitting and enjoying life—but it is for now. In today’s world we need to hear that somedays, some seasons are for living—not the reaping of the past—not sowing for the future but living for today. The man who takes a vacation so he can do his work better or the person who has a picnic on the 4th of July so he can work harder (or more efficiently) on July 5th has not yet understood what a picnic or holiday is. I have known some clergy over the years who did not take their vacation days. Frankly, sometimes they were not always the most effective priests. Not because they did not rest—but because they did not drink deeply enough of life.

Summer Ember Days and Sabbath bring a similar message to us. Philo, a Greek speaking Jew in first century Alexandria wrote in a defense of the Sabbath to his Greco-Roman peers: “It’s object is rather to give man relaxation from continuous and unending toil and by refreshing their bodies with a regularly calculated system of remissions to send them out renewed to their old activities….” This, however, as true as it is on one level is actually not the spirit of the Bible. In this defense of the Sabbath, “rest’ takes on a utilitarian purpose. Nevertheless, the Bible’s view of the Sabbath is not something we observe to enhance the efficiency of work—as if we are first and finally beasts of burden. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath is made for man not man for the Sabbath.” The great Jewish scholar, Abraham Heschel notes: “The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life…not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of [man’s] work. The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath.” The Summer Ember days along with the Sabbath remind us that today is a day to live. Life is now and now is for living.

Read it all.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, “I am driven far from thy sight.” But thou didst hear my supplications, when I cried to thee for help.

–Psalm 31:21-22

Posted in Theology: Scripture