Category : Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

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

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

Brethren, pray for us.

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

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

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-Ed) David Brooks–Liberal Parents, Radical Children

…over the long run it will matter. The boomer conservatives, raised in the era of Reagan, generally believe in universal systems — universal capitalism, universal democracy and the open movement of people and goods. Younger educated conservatives are more likely to see the dream of universal democracy as hopelessly naïve, and the system of global capitalism as a betrayal of the working class. Younger conservatives are comfortable in a demographically diverse society, but are also more likely to think in cultural terms, and to see cultural boundaries.

Whether on left or right, younger people have emerged in an era of lower social trust, less faith in institutions, a greater awareness of group identity. They live with the reality of tribal political warfare and are more formed by that warfare.

I guess the final irony is this: Liberal educated boomers have hogged the spotlight since Woodstock. But now events are driven by the oldsters who fuel Trump and the young wokesters who drive the left. The boomers finally got the top jobs, but feel weak and beleaguered.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Theology, Young Adults

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

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

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

(CJ) Daniel Mahoney–Solzhenitsyn: A Centennial Tribute

Solzhenitsyn, denounced by some as a supporter of messianic nationalism (something he always repudiated, even when it manifested itself in a great writer like Dostoevsky), also provided an enduring model of constructive patriotism. He loved Russia profoundly but refused to identify his wounded nation with a Soviet despotism that stood for religious repression, collective farm slavery, and the elimination of political liberty and a tradition of literary reflection that spoke to the health of Russia and the permanent needs of the soul. He wanted Russia to abandon destructive dreams of empire and turn inward, but without forgetting the sorry fate of the 25 million Russians left in the “near abroad” after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In 1998’s Russia in Collapse, he forcefully attacked “radical nationalism…the elevation of one’s nationality above our higher spiritual plank, above our humble stance before heaven.” And he never ceased castigating so-called Russian nationalists, who preferred “a small-minded alliance with [Russia’s] destroyers” (the Communists or Bolsheviks). He loved his country but loved truth and justice more. But as Solzhenitsyn stated with great eloquence in the Nobel Lecture, “nations are the wealth of mankind, its generalized personalities.” He did not support the leveling of nations in the name of cosmopolitanism or of a pagan nationalism that forgot that all nations remain under the judgment of God and the moral law. In this regard, Solzhenitsyn combines patriotism with moderation or self-limitation. One does not learn from Solzhenitsyn to hate other peoples, or to deny each nation’s right to its special path, one that respects common morality and elementary human decency.

How one evaluates Solzhenitsyn tells us much about how one ultimately understands human liberty: Is it rooted in the gift of free will bestowed by a just, loving, and Providential God? Or is it rooted in an irreligious humanism, which all too often leads to human self-enslavement, as we saw with the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century? Solzhenitsyn’s reasonable choice for “Liberty under God” has nothing to do with mysticism, authoritarianism, or some illiberal theocratic impulse. Those who attribute these positions to Solzhenitsyn cannot provide a single sentence to support such misrepresentations.

Solzhenitsyn spoke in the name of an older Western and Christian civilization, still connected to the “deep reserves of mercy and sacrifice” at the heart of ordered liberty. It is a mark of the erosion of that rich tradition that its voice is so hard to hear in our late modern world, more—and more single-mindedly—devoted to what Solzhenitsyn called “anthropocentricity,” an incoherent and self-destructive atheistic humanism. Solzhenitsyn asks no special privileges for biblical religion (and classical philosophy), just a place at the table and a serious consideration within our souls.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Politics in General, Russia, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

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

–Psalm 25:14

Posted in Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full speech in last week’s Lords debate on the Brexit deal

What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path. For although a Remainer, like the noble Lord, Lord Hope, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented, and the shape of which is now in the hands of parliament and particularly of the other place.

With that responsibility there is a moral agency and moral choice, and it is that that should guide our votes.

It must reflect a genuinely hopeful vision for our nation and its place, because there is a hope and global influence, a vision of that, to be grasped in this country with proper leadership.

Second, whichever way we go there is a requirement for national reconciliation, for restating what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, calls core values of civilised discourse, and for ensuring they are lived out.

The negative impact of the previous referendum is why I see another one as a possible but not immediately preferable choice, and then only if parliament has failed in its responsibilities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General

(NYT Op-Ed) Can the U.S. Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Also this week in the White House, a round-table was held to debate topics like artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing, with top tech executive such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, Safra Catz of Oracle and Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm in attendance. It was called a “listening session,” and it was reported that President Trump “popped” in, at a time when these issues need far more sustained attention from the top than that.

Which is why it came as no surprise when The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was not briefed about the planned arrest of Ms. Meng, even though it took place at the same time he was having dinner with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in an attempt to find a truce in the trade war.

From where I sit, the sentiment in Silicon Valley seems to be: Good for the government for being tough on Chinese companies when they break the rules — that rule-breaking having been a longtime complaint of companies like Cisco and Apple. Vigilance is key, of course, but everyone would feel a lot more confident if the government was also focused on investing more in American innovation and if the crackdown looked less chaotic.

Which is why you can imagine a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. And our government should, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Science & Technology

Sunday food for Thought–Frederick Buechner on John the Baptist

From there:

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

–cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

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

–Isaiah 5:1-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Hour of Death) Five Insights On Death And Dying From J. R. R. Tolkien

Tolkien describes the feeling the story of a boy’s miraculous healing at Lourdes gave him, and then says that for this unique feeling he coined the word “eucatastrophe.” He explains that the word means the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears. . . . And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives . . . that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest “eucatastrophe” possible in the greatest Fairy Story — and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorry because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

— From a letter to his son Christopher, who was serving with the Royal Air Force in South Africa (1944)

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology

Richard Baxter on his Feast Day: the Nature of the Saints Everlasting Rest in Heaven

What this rest presupposes…. 5. It contains, (1.) A ceasing from means of grace ; 6. (2.) A perfect freedom from all evils ; 7. (3.) The highest degree of the saints’ personal perfection, both in body and soul ; 8. (4.) The nearest enjoyment of God the Chief Good; 9-14. (5.) A sweet and constant action of all the powers of soul and body in this enjoyment of God ; as, for instance, bodily senses, knowledge, memory, love, joy, together with a mutual love and joy.

The Saints Everlasting Rest (1652)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy and a pavilion. It will be for a shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

–Isaiah 4:2-6

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Worried world gathers to face climate threat

Representatives from almost every nation in the world are meeting in Poland for the 24th “conference of the parties”, COP24, the annual United Nations gathering to tackle climate change. This is the first meeting since the publication of the report from the world’s leading scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that, if the world continued on its current trajectory, it would breach 1.5ºC of global warming in just 12 years….

Speaking to leaders on Monday, Sir David Attenborough said. “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Sir David was speaking as part of the People’s Seat initiative, which included contributions from citizens around the world who shared their concerns about climate change. He went on: “The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.”

This call for action was echoed by Christian leaders, 56 of whom wrote a letter to world leaders as part of the campaign Renew Our World. The signatories included the Senior Adviser at the World Evangelical Alliance, Christine MacMillan, and the national leader of New Wine, the Revd Paul Harcourt. They said: “Christians across the world are responding to this urgent issue. From communities already being hit by climate change to those who have contributed most to the problem, we are taking action together. This is the greatest challenge of our generation. We ask you to do more to avert climate change and protect the most vulnerable people who are impacted first and most significantly.”

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization

(Prospect) Justin Welby: we must learn how to forgive—and disagree

We need to learn to forgive. Especially we need to learn to forgive those who have the temerity, even the abusive intransigence, to disagree with us on something where we think we are right. That appears today to be a mortal sin.

Disagreement should be a matter of debate, of rational examination of different views, even of passionate and robust argument. But it should not be a cause of hatred, the incitement of violence, and the denigration of the humanity of the other person.

Yet, that is where we seem to have got to. Forgiveness is the process by which we recognise guilt, and yet release it. A few years ago, I heard a debate on the radio about whether it was even necessary to consider forgiveness as a virtue. It was argued that we should simply let things pass us by. That the stoic approach—which keeps us at a certain emotional distance from the abuses, sufferings and challenges of the world—is the approach that we should take instead. Forgiveness implies emotion, anger, and even the concept of sin. (Please excuse me mentioning sin, but I am the Archbishop of Canterbury.)

Forgiveness accepts that harm has been done and that harm cannot be ignored; for ignoring it opens the door to impunity and injustice. I spend a great deal of my time in places where the absence of forgiveness leads to an ever-more destructive cycle of retribution, hatred and vendetta. Yet I also see, in some of these places, the capacity of those who have suffered more than I can begin to imagine, to forgive.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christology

(City Journal) Gerald Russello–Our New Religion: Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects

Paradoxically, now that humanitarianism has fully cut itself loose from Christianity, its categories and language have inserted themselves back into Christian thought. This infiltration prevents Christians at times from noticing that they’re arguing not in Christian categories but humanitarian ones. Almost every national bishops’ conference in the West, for example, speaks the language of humanitarianism. Mahoney sees this as the problem with much of Pope Francis’s language as well— too often, the language of mercy is emptied of theological content, and condemnations of “rigidity” seem to echo a rights-based view of the person. This trend is problematic because humanitarian language is antithetical to the Christian message, and also because it elides the sharp criticism of humanitarian thinking offered by, among others, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Benedict clearly distinguished between authentic Christian teaching and the “humanitarian moral message” in his Introduction to Christianity and his Regensberg lecture, both of which Mahoney discusses. Mahoney calls for the return of an older way of reasoning about our moral selves, which involves a transcendent dimension through which we can know our obligations to ourselves and one another.

Mahoney acknowledges that many of his co-religionists already accept his message—but why should atheists care that humanitarianism seeks to replace Christianity, when they reject the significance of the West’s moral collapse? Mahoney explains, using the powerful witness of Solzhenitsyn, that without a divine warrant, humanitarianism points to tyranny and the negation of true politics. We may already be seeing what a post-Christian politics might look like. The humanitarian religion of the twenty-first century will not be the same one as that of the twentieth; rather than Soviet Man, it will elevate the “woke” protester or Twitter provocateur. Both the authoritarian and racialist Right and the identity-obsessed Left offer glimpses of a post-Christian politics, and neither is a model for a healthy democracy.

Indeed, as Christianity fades, we don’t see a decline in religious fervor or doctrinal vigilance. Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism