Category : Theology

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon– Faith – The Assurance of Things Hoped For (Hebrews 11:1-16)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Jealousy Led Montana Chemist to Taint Colleague’s Water Tests

Lab rivalries go back nearly as far as labs themselves. There’s the case of a prominent 19th-century bacteriologist who paid local authorities to deny a former collaborator access to the bodies of plague victims. There are the AIDS researchers who sabotaged one another’s work on at least five occasions. And there are numerous stories of scientists who have accused colleagues of stealing their work.

But even the highest-profile cases rarely end up in criminal court; they typically become humiliating footnotes to the discoveries they slowed.

This week, however, a judge in Montana sentenced a former chemist at the water treatment plant in Billings after she pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of tampering with public records or information.

The information in question? Her colleagues’ water tests, which she contaminated for three months, ultimately costing the Billings water treatment plant its state certification and thoroughly perplexing her colleague, her boss and a host of experts, who could not figure out why just one chemist’s tests kept failing, according to prosecutors.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
thy throne is established from of old; thou art from everlasting.

–Psalm 93:1-2

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(AFM) USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019 —nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Tinker AFB, Okla., this week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?” And he asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven.” And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set before them. And they ate, and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district of Dalmanu′tha.

–Mark 8:1-10

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell: “Shabby and shambolic” – the CofE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

In a church that has nominally (if belatedly) embraced “Transparency and Accountability”, rejected clergy deference and pledged to “put the interests of the victim first”, it is surely not asking too much for a full and frank response to be issued to these important and prima facie legitimate concerns about the way the review is being handled. One of the problem areas also identified by the survivors lawyers at IICSA is the Church of England’s “Byzantine procedures”.

In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

Read it all.

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

(York Press) Archbp John Sentamu to lead delegation to London in October to Lobby for One Yorkshire

John Grogan, Co-Chairman of the One Yorkshire Committee, has issued a statement along with his fellow co-chairman Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, stressing the need for devolution.

In the statement they reveal that the Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, will lead a delegation to London in October to lobby for One Yorkshire.

It says: “The One Yorkshire Committee has been created to campaign for the One Yorkshire Devolution Agreement proposed by council leaders of all parties from across the county. This would involve the election of a Mayor for Yorkshire supported by a cabinet of council leaders. The committee brings together business, trade union, academic and political leaders and has now met seven times. The committee has received a grant of £32,500 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to support its work and is launching a website today.

“The lack of progress on devolution is hurting the people of Yorkshire. The economic case presented to ministers shows that One Yorkshire devolution would result in a £30 billion boost to our economy – up to £5,400 extra growth per person, per year in the Yorkshire economy.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Taking a New Look at the Book of Deuteronomy

Hence the program of Deuteronomy, which is fundamentally about the creation of a good society based on collective responsibility, or, as the opening phrase of the Preamble to the United States Constitution puts it, forming a group of “We, the people” under the sovereignty of God. The good society is the essential precondition of spiritual individuals, “since man, as is well known, is by nature social.”

Such a society is to be based on justice and tzedaka, meaning more than merely procedural justice, but in addition what we would call equity or fairness. Nor is that society to be based on abstract principles alone. Instead it is grounded in collective memory and active recall, in particular through celebrations at the Temple at various points of the year.

Underlying this thesis — that the life of faith requires a society dedicated to goodness as a whole — is the poignant story of Noah in the book of Genesis. Noah is the only person to be called righteous in the entire Hebrew Bible, but in the end Noah saved only his family, not his generation. He kept his own moral standards intact but failed to be an inspiration to others. Individual righteousness is not enough.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now when they had passed through Amphip’olis and Apollo’nia, they came to Thessaloni’ca, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

–Acts 17:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Lebanese Band’s Concert Is Canceled After It’s Accused of Blasphemy

A Lebanese music festival has canceled a concert by a major indie music band, Mashrou’ Leila, after it was accused of blasphemy and received death threats because a member had shared an image of the singer Madonna as the Virgin Mary.

The controversy has raised questions about religious tolerance and freedom of expression in the relatively moderate, multi-sectarian and Muslim-majority country.

The Byblos International Festival, one of the country’s most popular music events, canceled the Aug. 9 concert by Mashrou’ Leila over fears of “bloodshed” after the image angered the Maronite Christian Church and prompted threats of violence from hard-line Christian critics.

“Unfortunately, the national debate that ensued as a result of an organized campaign against the band and the festival goes well beyond the scope of the mission BIF is able to handle,” the festival said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Lebanon, Middle East, Music, Religion & Culture

(Al Kimel) Thinking Trinity: No God Behind the Back of Jesus

Every important soteriological claim of the gospel depends on the consubstantiality of the Son and Spirit with the Father, for every important soteriological claim depends on the identity of God in his self-communication and self-giving. As Thomas F. Torrance liked to say, “There is no God behind the back of Jesus.” This evangelical truth was firmly impressed upon Torrance during his service in World War II as a chaplain the British army. After an engagement in Italy, he went in search for wounded soldiers:

When daylight filtered through, I came across a young soldier, Private Philips, scarcely twenty years old, lying mortally wounded on the ground, who clearly had not long to live. As I knelt down and bent over him, he said, ‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’ I assured him that he was the only God that there is, the God who had come to us in Jesus, has shown his face to us, and poured out his love to us as our Saviour. As I prayed and commended him to the Lord Jesus, he passed away. (quoted in T. F. Torrance, p. 74)

The homoousion of the Council of Nicaea boldly declares the ontological identity of Jesus Christ with the Creator of the universe. During the fourth century Arians and Semi-Arians were content to affirm the likeness of Christ to the Father. They might disagree about the points of likeness; but they all agreed that there could not be an identity of being. In their eyes, such an assertion would compromise the simplicity and holy transcendence of the Deity. The Son is a creature, made by the unbegotten God from out of nothing. No matter how exalted a creature he may be, the distance between the Son and his Maker is infinite. The one thing that the Arian Christ cannot communicate to humanity is God.

Read it all.

Posted in The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

(Church of Ireland) Bishop John McDowell–An Open Letter from a Border Bishop

The Border and the problems which it poses for any form of Brexit are not only technical or technological issues. Nor are they simply issues to do with trade or security matters. Expressed in the starkest terms, the Border is the background against which all political and much cultural life in Northern Ireland (and in a more limited way in the Republic of Ireland) is worked out. Some people like the Border and others do not, but positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously, it is pivotal to how politicians and people here assess almost all policy alternatives.

For this reason alone, any big change which has an impact on the Border is unavoidably complicated and inevitably charged with emotional and symbolic significance.

After a period of relative obscurity, it now appears that everybody is fascinated by the Border. It is interesting, for a while, to be at the centre of the world’s attention. But on the whole I think many of us would rather have been left alone.

For a political border, it is very beautiful in places. That is largely because of the hundreds of small farms looked after by hundreds of sturdy farmers along its length. There isn’t much money in it for most of them, but if you ask them why they don’t move to somewhere less difficult to farm they say “You can’t roll up the land and take it with you”. The long term well–being of men and women like these, and their neighbours all along the border, requires and deserves a clearly spelt–out, sustainable agreement between both sides. This is so that they have not only that material basis necessary for civilised living but also hope for their children’s future. Neither peace nor prosperity are possible without hope.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Ireland, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

–Mark 7:14-23

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) A Debate over American Religious Liberty Between David French and Marci Hamilton

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists. But Christians who had been paying attention knew of this risk well before Obergefell. Christians who had been paying attention had seen a trend where legal activists at all levels of government had been aggressively expanding their regulatory and ideological attacks on religious liberty.

During my legal career defending free speech and religious freedom on campus, I saw more than 100 colleges attempt to de-recognize Christian student groups or eject them from campus for reserving their membership or leadership for Christian students. During the Obama administration, Americans watched his Department of Health and Human Services try to force nuns to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Catholic adoption agencies that continued to place children with families according to church teachings faced a choice between closing and violating their deeply held beliefs. Christian creative professionals faced ruinous financial penalties for refusing to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they found offensive.

The list could go on, but more disturbing than the individual cases is the deep inversion of America’s constitutional principles that has empowered this legal assault. If governments ultimately prevail in these efforts, the resulting precedents would upend the constitutional order, rendering religious Americans even more vulnerable to future legal attacks, like the threatened loss of tax exemptions for Christian educational institutions.

The Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War) renders operational and enforceable the founding declaration that Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These core American liberties include rights to due process, free speech, assembly and the free exercise of religion. Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under this Bill of Rights.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(AH) Rodney Hacking–St. Ignatius of Antioch and the Renewal of the Anglican Episcopate

Ignatius offers a fascinating insight into the heart of a true man of God given over to His will. It is tempting to want to leap from his example and vision of episcopacy to its practice within our own Church at this time, but such a leap needs great care. A bishop in the first decade of the second century cannot fairly be compared even to one of 250 years later let alone in the Church of today. The three-fold ministry was still in an early stage of its development. Even though Lightfoot has cogently argued that a case can be made for regarding episcopacy as being of Apostolic direction, and therefore possessing Divine sanction, long years of evolution and growth lay before it. At this stage too the Church across the Roman Empire faced the daily possibility of considerable persecution and martyrdom. That demanded a particular kind of shepherding and witness.

On the other hand a bishop at the beginning of the third millennium might profitably and properly ask (or be asked) whether endless committees and synods are really the way in which their lives are to be laid down for their flock? An institution requires administration, but in the New Testament list of charisms, administrators are quite low in the order of priorities, and of its pastors at this time the Church has other, more pressing, needs. Rather than imposing upon an already disheartened clergy systems of appraisal (mostly copied from secular models of management) it would be good for parish priests to experience bishops as those who were around so much that they could afford regularly to ”˜drop in’ and just be with them. It is hard to expect the parish clergy to make visiting a priority if their fathers in God do not set an example.

In some dioceses the more obviously pastoral role has sometimes been exercised by a suffragan but as more and more diocesan bishops, at least within the Church of England, are being selected from the ranks of the suffragans the temptation is for those who are ambitious to prove their worth more as potential managers than those given to the ”˜Word of God and prayer’ (Acts 6.2). If the communities within which the bishops are to exercise their ministry of unity and care are too large for them to do their work has not the time come to press for smaller dioceses and for bishops to strip themselves of the remnants of the grandeur their office once held and be found, above all, with their clergy and amongst the people, drawing them together into the unity for which Christ gave himself?

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, CoE Bishops, Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

–Acts 16:16-18

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CT) Oren Cass’s New Book–‘Tis a Gift to Do ‘Undignified’ Work

In The Once and Future Worker, Cass turns high ideals into concrete proposals to actually heal the fractures splintering the American workforce.

The most compelling is the “wage subsidy.” Rather than luring large corporations to town with big tax breaks (like the Amazon HQ2 hysteria of 2017) or levying payroll taxes on low-income workers and then redistributing the money through entitlements, why not “pay for jobs” directly? What if a worker saw a “Federal Work Bonus” on her next paycheck, adding three extra dollars for every hour she had worked?

Cass also advocates building an educational system better suited to the four-fifths of students who do not complete the high-school-to-college-to-career path. Around two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree. To better ensure that more of them can get good jobs and contribute to their communities, Cass proposes reinvesting in vocational training and shifting toward a more “tracked” form of schooling—similar to systems found in Europe—where students are grouped according to educational ability rather than lumped together in the same classroom.

Yet there’s one area that government policy can’t do much about: our cultural views about the value of lower-wage workers.

“Waiters, truck drivers, retail clerks, plumbers, secretaries, and others all spend their days helping the people around them and fulfilling roles crucial to the community,” writes Cass. “They do hard, unglamorous work for limited pay to support themselves and their families.” Why shouldn’t we admire those who do harder jobs for lower wages on a broad scale? We’re capable of doing this with police officers, teachers, and firefighters. Why shouldn’t the work done by trash collectors, housekeepers, and janitors deserve the same degree of respect?

For that, we need not just policy reform but a different story about work altogether.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in thy tent for ever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of thy wings!

–Psalm 61:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Was Paul unclear in his teaching on sexuality?

The second issue is the confusion that has been created in the debate. It suits those who want to see the Church change its teaching for most members of the Church to say ‘It is all so complicated, and the Bible is not really as clear as I thought’. That climate is created by popularised arguments that ignore the whole range of evidence—and give no indication to their readers (who mostly won’t know how to assess this) that there are other issues that need to be considered. For example, I don’t suppose anyone reading Tallon’s article or watching his video will think to ask ‘But what is the cultural context of Paul? And how does his view connect with other Jewish critiques of pagan culture?’ since there is no hint that this might be an important issue. Tallon is right to offer a bibliography—but how many of his readers will actually look up the articles he cites, not least because David Wright’s is published in a specialist journal for which you have to have an expensive subscription? Atomising the debate—isolating one text from another, and isolating the texts from their context—is a common feature of such arguments, and they lead to confusion.

The third issue is our decision in the light of what Paul says. E P Sanders is very interesting in this regard; like many other scholars, whilst he is clear about what Paul means, he does not see Paul’s view as in any sense binding on his own views as a Christian.

Paul’s vice lists are generally ignored in church polity and administration. Christian churches contain people who drink too much, who are greedy, who are deceitful, who quarrel, who gossip, who boast, who once rebelled against their parents, and who are foolish. Yet Paul’s vice lists condemn them all, just as much as they condemn people who engage in homosexual acts (p 372).

Sanders is spot on here: you cannot pick and choose, and if you take Paul seriously on one issue, you must surely take him seriously (or not) on all issues. Sanders’ conclusion is to treat them all as non-binding—but of course there is an alternative response available.

The fourth then is the question of our reception of gay people in terms of our pastoral response. Sanders makes some very interesting observations about the nature and use of Paul’s vice lists.

Homiletically, vice lists gain rhetorical force partly by length and partly by the equation of relatively minor sins with relatively major ones. It might be quite useful for a preacher to gain the audience’s support by condemning major sins (such as adultery and greed), but then to add that there are lots of sins…which are practiced by some of the people in the pews, and that these count as sins too…This has a healthily purgative effect. (p 338).

He also notes that Paul’s own pastoral strategy is not effected by the vice lists, since he handles actual examples of sin in a different way. Besides, the clear assumption is that the things he lists are now in the past: ‘such were some of you. But…’ (1 Cor 6.11). Sanders sums up:

The accusations in his vice lists are not actually directed at the sins of his converts at all (p 339).

Sanders goes further, noting the significance of Paul saying so little about SSS:

[H]omosexual practices are not very important in Paul’s letters. They figures in his vice lists, as do deceit and malice, but he does not elaborate on them; they are only items in a list. We must assume that he did not actually face a case in one of his congregations; if he had, we would hear a lot more about it. (p 345)

Paul’s language on this issue does not offer us a pastoral strategy for relating to gay people, within the church or outside. What it does do, though, is tell us clearly Paul’s understanding of the moral status of SSS, and with him the view both of Judaism and the early church, and following that most of Christian understanding down the centuries. The heated and (in my view unnecessary) debates about these clear texts not only sows confusion, it also makes gay people feel as though they are the subjects of these debates, which I think is unhelpful all round.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT Pastors) Todd Wilson–How Can So Many Pastors Be Godly and Dysfunctional at the Same Time?

When we talk about spiritual formation, we’re talking about the process whereby a person moves toward maturity in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Spiritual formation is, as Paul puts it in Colossians 1, all about becoming complete in Christ.

“Him we proclaim,” Paul writes, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (vv. 28–29, ESV).

You might say that the telos, or “goal,” of spiritual formation is to be teleios, or “complete,” in Christ.

We, as pastors, will have a hard time getting to this telos without taking more seriously our bodies, without taking more seriously our brains, and without taking more seriously our interpersonal communion, being known by one another and by our Lord and Maker. “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” Scripture says, “but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12, ESV).

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Pastoral Theology

A Kendall Harmon Sermon for their Feast Day–Martha, Mary and the Grace of God in the Gospel (Luke 10:38-42)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(Eerdmans Blog) 5 Questions with Ryan Stokes, author of ‘The Satan: How God’s Executioner Became the Enemy’

2. What do you hope readers take away from The Satan?

I hope that readers will gain an appreciation for the complexity of who Satan is in biblical and ancient literature. Satan is typically believed to be the Enemy. While this idea is certainly found in some ancient texts, there is far more to the story than this. In some writings, Satan is God’s enemy.

In others, Satan works for God. In some texts, Satan punishes sinners by harming them physically. In others, he tempts, tests, or otherwise attacks the righteous. While the Satan does not offer a biblical theology of Satan, I hope that it will both complicate and be of assistance to the work of theologians and other readers who want to know what the Bible says about Satan and about God’s relationship with superhuman evil.

3. What Challenges did you face in writing The Satan?

I am often asked this question by friends at church, who wonder whether I encountered any evil spiritual opposition while I was working on this book. I cannot say that I did. One unforeseen challenge, however, was identifying a person to whom to dedicate the book. Few people in my circle of acquaintances are eager to have a book on the Prince of Darkness dedicated to them.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

When I am afraid, I put my trust in thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear. What can flesh do to me?

–Psalm 56:3-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Isolated And Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning To Suicide

Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(TGC) George Sinclair–The State of Orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada

In 2016 the Chancellor of the ACoC made clear that just because something is affirmed does not mean that alternatives are rejected. He pointed out that there is nothing in the current Canons that forbids same-sex marriage. He said the same thing this year.

The General Synod then overwhelmingly passed a series of affirmations which made clear that it agrees with the Chancellor’s ruling. Listen to this, “We affirm that, while there are different understandings of the existing Marriage Canon, those bishops and synods who have authorized liturgies for the blessing of a marriage between two people of the same sex understand that the existing Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage.” The House of Bishops made a similar statement.

It gets worse. The Synod overwhelmingly passed “Affirmations” that say that both views on marriage are held “with prayerful integrity;” that all sides on this issue hold their convictions “in good faith” and that “we hold dear their continued presence in this church;” and that “we affirm our commitment to walk together and preserve communion.” In other words, different views on marriage are at best a third-order issue.

This means that biblical orthodoxy has lost the war. To make the Canons clearly biblical, the ACoC will have to change the Canons to add something to the effect that they reject same-sex marriage as biblical and that this is a first-order issue. This is not possible.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:9-21

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Walter Isaacson–Should the Rich Be Allowed to Buy the Best Genes?

The French Quarter, where we live [in New Orleans], is hopping that weekend. There is a naked bicycle race that is intended (oddly enough) to promote traffic safety. There is one of many parades and second lines to celebrate the life of Mac Rebennack Jr., the funk musician known as Dr. John. There is also the gay-pride parade and related block parties. And coexisting quite happily is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, featuring truck farmers and cooks showing off the many varieties of succulent non-genetically modified local tomatoes.

From my balcony, I marvel at the diversity of the passing humanity. There are people short and tall, gay and straight and trans, fat and skinny, light and dark, and even a few wearing Gallaudet University T-shirts excitedly using sign language. The supposed promise of CRISPR is that we may someday be able to pick which of these traits we want in our children and in all of our descendants. We could choose for them to be tall and muscular and blond and blue-eyed and not deaf and not … well, pick your preferences.

As I survey the delightful pageant with all of its natural variety, I ponder how this promise of CRISPR might also be its peril, up there with the encoding of unequal opportunities. It took the laws of nature and of nature’s God more than 3.2 billion years to weave together three billion bases of DNA in a complex and occasionally imperfect way to permit all of the wondrous diversity within our species. Are we right to think we can now come along and, within a few decades, edit that genome to eliminate what we see as imperfections? Will we lose our diversity? Will we become less flavorful, like our tomatoes? Will that be good for our species?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(CLJ) Adrian Vermeule–All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological

First consider a pair of puzzles from the crucial period 2014-16 in American politics, when the tempo of liberalism’s sacramental celebrations increased sharply. In both cases, the puzzle is that political incumbents in a liberal regime—executive actors in one case, litigation groups and judicial actors in another—took actions that were flagrantly ill-advised from the standpoint of the ragion di stato, revealing deeper sacramental commitments and impulses.

The first was the Obama administration’s relentless attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to either fund abortifacient contraceptives or, at least, to take action to pass the responsibility elsewhere. Commentators at the time criticized the seemingly inexplicable stupidity of the administration’s approach, which created a highly salient example of repressive regulatory secular liberalism and thus radically antagonized Christian conservatives, who proceeded to vote for Trump in large numbers. It is plausible to think that the voting pattern was partly caused bythe example, although, in the nature of the case, it is extremely difficult to establish such things one way or the other.

But this criticism, while entirely valid from a ragion di stato perspective, does not quite reach the root of the matter, at least if we understand the inner dynamics of sacramental liberalism. The very point of the administration’s conduct, on my view, was not (or not only) to force one smallish order of nuns to provide contraceptives—indeed, the very fact the administration offered a “voluntary” opt-out underscores that the real objective lay elsewhere. Rather, the objective was ceremonial—to force the nuns to acknowledge publicly the liberal state’s just authority, even in matters of religion, the authority to require either provision or the exercise of an opt-out, as the state saw fit. The main point was to stage a public, sacramental celebration of the justice of liberal power and of the overcoming of reactionary opposition.

Another example involves the puzzle of Obergefell[26]including the administration’s rather chilling representation at oral argument in the Supreme Court that institutions not supportive of same-sex marriage might have to lose their tax exemptions as contrary to “public policy,” as did racist institutions like Bob Jones University.[27] The puzzle is not only why the administration would make such an inflammatory threat, but also why such a judicial decision was necessary at all, when the tide of politics was running in favor of same-sex marriage anyway. Simple nonintervention, by means of any of the standard techniques available to the liberal Justices,[28] would have attained the same policy ends with far less political conflict. As far as instrumental political rationality went, all that was necessary was to do nothing.

But a conspicuous conflict with the settled mores of millennia was, of course, the point. It was right and just to have same-sex marriage not merely embodied in law, but declared a requirement of fundamental justice, coupled with a conspicuous defeat of the forces of reaction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

William Reed Huntington for his Feast Day-‘Catholicity is what we are reaching after’

Dissatisfaction is the one word that best expresses the state of mind in which Christendom finds itself today. There is a wide-spread misgiving that we are on the eve of momentous changes. Unrest is everywhere. We hear about Roman Councils, and Anglican Conferences, and Evangelical Alliances, about the question of the Temporal Power, the dissolution of Church and State, and many other such like things. They all have one meaning. The party of the Papacy and the party of the Reformation, the party of orthodoxy and the party of liberalism, are all alike agitated by the consciousness that a spirit of change is in the air. No wonder that many imagine themselves listening to the rumbling of the chariot- wheels of the Son of Man. He Himself predicted that ” perplexity” should be one of the signs of His coining, and it is certain that the threads of the social order have seldom been more seriously entangled than they now are.

A calmer and perhaps truer inference is that we are about entering upon a new reach of Church history, and that the dissatisfaction and perplexity are only transient. There is always a tumult of waves at the meeting of the waters; but when the streams have mingled, the flow is smooth and still again. The plash and gurgle that we hear may mean something like this.

At all events the time is opportune for a discussion of the Church-Idea; for it is with this, hidden under a hundred disguises, that the world’s thoughts are busy. Men have become possessed with an unwonted longing for unity, and yet they are aware that they do not grapple successfully with the practical problem. Somehow they are grown persuaded that union is God’s work, and separation devil’s work ; but the persuasion only breeds the greater discontent. That is what lies at the root of our unquietness. There is a felt want and a felt inability to meet the want; and where these two things coexist there must be heat of friction.

Catholicity is what we are reaching after….

–William Reed Huntington The Church Idea (1870)

Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology