Whether a lesson be mastered in obedience to conscience, or from a dread of punishment, from filial affection, or determination to beat a rival, is a question of little moment, I grant, in reference to the stock of knowledge acquired, but of incalculable consequence when asked in reference to the bearing upon moral character. The zeal to make scholars, should, in the minds of Christians at least, be tempered by the knowledge that it may repress a zeal for better things. The head should not be furnished at the expense of the heart. Surely, at most, it is exchanging fine gold for silver, when the culture of gracious affections and holy principle is neglected for any attainments of intellect, however brilliant or varied. What Christian parent, would wish his son to be a linguist or a mathematician, of the richest acquirements or the deepest science, if he must become so by a process, in which the improvement of his religious capabilities would be surrendered, or his mind accustomed to motives not recognised in the pure and self-denying discipline of the Gospel. Not that such discipline is unfriendly to intellectual superiority; on the contrary, the incentives to attain it, will be enduring, and consequently efficient, in proportion to their purity. The highest allurements to the cultivation of our rational nature, are peculiar to Christianity. Hence, literature and science have won their highest honors in the productions of minds most deeply imbued with its spirit. The effect, however, of exclusively Christian discipline in a seminary of learning, when fairly stated, is not so much to produce one or two prodigies, as to increase the average quantum of industry; to raise the standard of proficiency among the many of moderate abilities, rather than to multiply the opportunities of distinction for the gifted few.
Category : Adult Education
First, we should consider some objections to Christianity that need to be addressed. Then, we will look at ways of addressing them in the church.
Some issues concerning Christianity are perennial, such as the existence of God, the deity of Christ, and the reliability of the Bible. Of course, the
Gospel must always be explained and defended as the only answer to our estrangement from a holy God because of our sin.
Besides the timeless topics of apologetics, the church should also take up matters of contemporary concern, such as the LGBTQ philosophy and social movements. Many souls, particularly millennials, reject Christianity because of its endorsement of heterosexual monogamy as the norm for sexuality. Others try to warp Christianity to accommodate same-sex marriage, as well as Scripture’s teaching on such matters, alongside other unbiblical sexual arrangements. Great care must be taken with this carefully and prayerfully explained in order to remove obstacles to the Gospel. Gender is not a matter of choice, but a given category, rooted in our biology and status as creatures male or female (Genesis 1:26).
The rise of the “nones” needs to be discussed as well. Many Americans believe in God or some form of spirituality, but identify with no specific religious tradition and view involvement with a church or other religious organization as optional at best and soul-killing at worst. The percentage of Americans in this category is rising. Thus apologetics should address both worship and social transformation. There are no “nones” in the Kingdom of God.
If these are some of the topics that apologetics should address (and there are many more), how, then, should the church fulfill its apologetic calling? An Easter sermon should give some arguments for the historical reality of the resurrection, not just its spiritual significance. Messages related to Christmas can cite the evidence for the virgin birth and the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts about the life of Jesus. A sermon series might address “Objections to Faith” or “Reasons to Believe.”
Second, the church’s educational ministry should not neglect apologetics at any level—from children to adults….
“The good news is that truth is still truth, that it provides a backbone for witness and ministry in postmodern times, and that God’s truth will never fail.”
– Douglas Groothius pic.twitter.com/nAGWEfPbvT
— Apologetics 315 (@Apologetics315) December 29, 2018
It’s time to rethink our assumptions about where theological education happens. Though much has changed since the Middle Ages, retrieving the cathedral model of learning has the potential not only to reinvigorate faith formation in congregations but to revitalize seminaries and divinity schools at this critical juncture of their evolution.
I see four benefits in making the church a viable site for seminary-level theological education. First, the cathedral model challenges us to rethink the very purpose of theological education. When we associate theological and biblical training with seminaries, it is hard not to think of theological education as a pathway to a professional degree. The M.Div. and related degrees are seen as the functional equivalent of a master’s of business administration degree or a master’s degree in nursing insofar as they prepare candidates, both in terms of skills and credentialing, to work in a particular profession. Prior to 1563, it would have been more natural to see theological education as an aspect of discipleship, not an act of professional credentialing.
This idea is hinted at in the final chapter of Luke’s Gospel in the story of two travelers meandering toward Emmaus on that first Easter afternoon. When Jesus approaches, they mistake him for a stranger and begin telling him about recent events in Jerusalem involving the crucifixion of a man from Nazareth and the rumor of an empty tomb. Eventually, Jesus interrupts. Then, in what must have been the greatest Sunday school lesson of all time, Jesus “interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27).
What is striking about this story is that instead of directing these two travelers to quit their jobs and enroll in a theology course in another city, Jesus brings the teaching to them….
I love this piece and feel that so much of laity would too. On “the assumption that serious biblical and theological reflection is the prerogative of academic institutions” & desire for it within churches. I like the idea of a “scholar in residence” https://t.co/oVQ6Z4SxbU
— Madeleine Davies (@MadsDavies) February 5, 2019
Researchers contacted 410 senior ministers in 29 evangelical and mainline Protestant denominations, along with non-denominational congregations.
Pastors were asked about 18 issues, including marital infidelity, premarital sex, same-sex relationships, sexting, gender dysphoria and the use of pornography by husbands, wives, teens and young children. Among the findings:
- Eighty percent of these Protestant pastors said they had been approached during the past year by church members or staff dealing with infidelity issues, and 73 percent had faced issues linked to pornography.
- Seventy percent of the pastors said they dealt with serious “sexual brokenness” issues in their flock several times a year, with 22 percent saying this took place once a month or more.
- Only one-third of the pastors said they felt “very qualified” to address the sexual issues being raised by their staff and church members.
- Two-thirds of pastors “agree strongly” that the church should help people dealing with sexual sins. However, fewer than 1 in 4 said their churches openly discuss these issues in Bible studies, small groups, training for laity or support groups.
- “Mainline” church pastors were much less likely (39 percent) to address “sexual health” issues than evangelical or conservative clergy (78 percent). Many clergy offer “pastoral counseling,” and that’s that.
On Religion: Many pastors clueless when swamped with sex, tech issues https://t.co/6QZVWvvddo
— Ukiah Daily Journal (@UDJnews) January 19, 2019
Dualism is perhaps the most insidious and dangerous heresy of the Christian church today and it is globally widespread.
It has multiple sources. Dualism comes from transferring Old Testament concepts of leadership and ministry into the radical new world of New Testament life and work.
There is radical continuity between the Old Testament and New in peoplehood, in God’s grace and mercy, and in God’s purpose for the renewal of everything, but radical discontinuity in certain critical aspects.
For example, under the Old Testament, people had to learn to distinguish between the holy and the ordinary (Leviticus 10:10-11).
But under the New Covenant, in Jesus we are able to present our whole bodily life (working, relating, spending money, etc) to God as a living sacrifice, “which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1-2).
Further, dualism was fed to the infant church by the Greek surrounding culture, which treated the body as an evil shell for the sacred and immortal soul imprisoned in the body.
Biblically, the body is good and the soul is not an immortal organ planted in the evil temporary body, but the soul is the person with longings and hunger for God. We don’t have a soul; we are souls, just as we are bodies.
So, instead of saying that pastoral work is sacred and business (or any other kind of societal work) is secular, that pastoral work is eternal while business work is temporal, we can envision all kinds of work as holy towards God and having eternal consequences.
If seminary students and others want to dive into studying Hebrew, that’s wonderful, says the Rev. Matthew Richard Schlimm.
But he believes that just getting into the wading pool with that language leads to deeper understanding of the Old Testament.
Schlimm, a United Methodist elder and professor of Old Testament at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, is the author of the new book “70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know.”
Even understanding that fraction of the Old Testament’s original language can make a big difference, Schlimm maintains. In his book, he sweetens the deal by providing lots of historical and cultural background, as well as theological commentary.
“My hope is that I’m giving students of the Bible a new tool so that they spot new things in the biblical texts,” Schlimm, 41, said by phone from Iowa. “Being able to access the depth that Hebrew brings is a huge gift.”
— Rio Texas (@RioTxAC) November 21, 2018
New research by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research Shows the Lamentable state of Theological Education in Many Parishes
When it comes to Americans with “evangelical beliefs” [see below for LifeWay Research’s four-part definition], the survey found that a majority say:
- Most people are basically good (52%)
- God accepts the worship of all religions (51%)
- Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father (78%)
“However, all these beliefs are contrary to the historic Christian faith,” stated Ligonier, citing Romans 3:10 on sin, John 14:6 on God, and John 1:1 on Jesus. For example, while an overwhelming 97 percent of evangelicals do believe that “there is one true God in three persons,” 3 out of 4 of them attempt to give Jesus first-place honors even though that belief “has been rejected by the church down through the centuries.”
Strangely, while most evangelicals strongly believe in justification by faith alone, they are confused about the person of Jesus Christ. On one hand, virtually all evangelicals express support for Trinitarian doctrine. Yet at the same time, most agree that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God, which was a view espoused by the ancient heretic Arius.
Arius was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381. Yet the number of American evangelicals who agree with his view has increased from 2016, when 71 percent agreed and 23 percent disagreed, to today when 78 percent agree and 18 percent disagree.
“These results show the pressing need for Christians to be taught Christology, especially as the outcome has gotten worse since 2016,” stated Ligonier. “There is a general lack of teaching today on the person of Christ, a doctrine for which the early church fought so hard.”
Hey local churches, what’s your plan for training your people in sound doctrine? They won’t learn it by accident or osmosis. Let’s commit to teaching them. https://t.co/h8gT3raNUy
— Jen Wilkin (@jenniferwilkin) October 16, 2018
ZHOROV: Pew Research found that people who leave their religion, often cite science for their lack of faith. Sunday school teacher Matthew Groves says for churches to be relevant cultural institutions, they have to engage with the things people are struggling with today.
GROVES: Climate change is a substantive issue. Artificial intelligence, bioethics – a lot of big issues humanity is going to face in the next hundred years are focused on science and technology.
ZHOROV: He says if the church wants to be a part of shaping the direction humanity takes, it needs to have a seat at the table.
GROVES: And you can’t have a seat at the table if you don’t speak science.
ZHOROV: During each class, in addition to pushback, Groves also gets a lot of people like Carol Butler, who don’t see an inherent conflict.
CAROL BUTLER: We don’t understand all the mysteries of science. We don’t understand the mysteries of creation. But we know that they’re one and together.
Matthew 28:18-20 is the most well-known biblical record of what is commonly referred to extra-biblically as “the Great Commission.” But despite the significance of these and other verses that call Christians to “go and make disciples of all nations,” a surprising proportion of churchgoing Christians in the U.S. are generally unaware of these famous words from Jesus.
In partnership with Seed Company, Barna conducted a study of the U.S. Church’s ideas about missions, social justice, Bible translation and other aspects of spreading the gospel around the world, available now in the new report Translating the Great Commission. When asked if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission,” half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, “the Great Commission” does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term “the Great Commission” before.
A little more than one-third of churchgoers (37%) correctly identifies the Bible passage known as the Great Commission from a list of verses. https://t.co/r3ZprCLGg2
— Barna Group (@BarnaGroup) April 2, 2018
Diocese of #SouthCarolina to offer Basic Christian Theology Class this Easter https://t.co/IHtnNH46mJ Beginning April 4 and for the following six Weds, we will offer a course on Basic Christian #Theology taught by Canon Theologian Dr. Kendall Harmon with Bp Mark Lawrence +othrs pic.twitter.com/9yrGSpFEnI
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) March 26, 2018
Beginning April 4 and for the following six Wednesdays, the Diocese of South Carolina will offer a course on Basic Christian Theology taught by Canon Theologian Dr. Kendall Harmon with Bishop Mark Lawrence and others. The first five classes will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, and the last two will be held at St. Michael’s Church, Charleston. The classes will be held in the church parish halls.
The format of the evenings will be to have a teaching from 7 to 8 pm (after which people who need to leave may do so), with an open Question and Answer session to follow for those who wish to stay from 8 to 8:30 p.m.
The class will cover the following topics in order:
- Authority and Revelation
- The Holy Trinity
- The Person and Work of Jesus Christ
- The Nature of Human Beings
- The Christian Life
- The Church
- Eschatology, or the Last Things
Though there is no charge for the class, participants are asked to register online at www.diosc.com and obtain the book, Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief, by Bruce Milne. Participants are asked to bring the Milne book and their own Bible to each session. There will be reading assignments as well as a minimum of course work to be completed. Though there will not be credit awarded, at this time, we hope for this to be the beginning of a lay theology curriculum offered by the Diocese in the future.
Download a poster to share in your parish.
You can find the mp3 link there.
Kendall Harmon’s teaching on the Hope of Heaven at the recent #SouthCarolina Diocesan Convention https://t.co/WNRPq41p4s #parishministry #theology #teaching #eschatology #afterlife #joy #worship #fellowship #anglican pic.twitter.com/qTRpbtmiPu
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) March 19, 2018
From Rev. Todd Simonis, Senior Associate: I very much appreciated Bishop Lawrence calling local churches to have a mission mindset. It was great to have conversations about the changing demographics of the Lowcountry and how we, as the church, must be ready to reach out to those demographics. As always, it was an encouraging time to be with others from the diocese.
From Rion Salley, Senior Warden and Delegate: Bishop Lawrence shared how a little intentionality can go a long way for the Kingdom of God. First, as sowers of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ we can take more time to familiarize ourselves with the people in our community and build deeper relationships with those God has put in our midst by walking through life together as Jesus did.
From Rev. Chuck Pollak, Priest Associate: For me a highlight was the sermon by Bishop Lowenfield, who described his difficult decision to leave the Episcopal Church, and the joy he now feels as a member of ACNA. His journey is similar to one that many of us have experienced, and we know how wrecking that decision has been to us and to others as well. His message is one of hope.
From Jane Manos, Delegate: It was great to be with the Parish Church of St. Helena at the convention – a true honor! From Bishop Lawrence’s address, what stood out to me: “Uncertainty is WHY we need to sow the seed (of the Gospel).”
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) March 13, 2018
The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence–both a Trinity School for Ministry alumnus, and Board of Trustees member–led the faculty and residential student body several years ago in a day of meditation and quiet reflection, beginning with the Ash Wednesday service of Holy Communion and the imposition of ashes.
Principally focusing on John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (ESV), Bp. Lawrence related how this verse addresses why suffering so often draws people in varying ways to the foot of the cross. He also shared his own personal experience of seeking the Truth as a young man.
Audio recordings may be listened to here.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) February 14, 2018
While many Christians are actively involved in devotional Bible study, he laments the lack of formal catechetical study, without which, he says, “Well-intentioned minds and hearts will repeatedly go off track.”
Like Scripture says, we all, like sheep, have gone astray. We need constant shepherding and guidance, and knowing and repeating a catechism can be a way to ground our hearts in unchanging truth. The tradition of repeating established statements of faith helps with that shepherding, and it has a long history. Many modern congregations, however, have allowed a lapse in the practice.
In Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know (Crossway, 2013) Packer says:
As the years go by, I am increasingly burdened by the sense that the more conservative church people in the West, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, are, if not starving, at least grievously undernourished for lack of a particular pastoral ministry that was a staple item in the church life of the first Christian centuries and also of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era in Western Europe, but has largely fallen out of use in recent days.
That ministry is called catechesis. It consists of intentional, orderly instruction in the truths that Christians are called to live by, linked with equally intentional and orderly instruction on how they are to do this.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) February 10, 2018
When Reformed theologian and Ligonier Ministries founder R. C. Sproul was once asked what he wanted written on his tombstone, he replied cheekily, “I told you I was sick.”
That was in 2015, after the esteemed teacher and author’s health declined severely following a stroke. This December, the 78-year-old was hospitalized and was forced to rely on ventilator support to breathe during his 12-day stay, due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He died on Thursday.
“His tombstone wouldn’t be able to hold the words of what he’s meant to so many,” tweeted Kansas pastor Gabriel Hughes. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now great is your reward.”
R. C. Sproul has died https://t.co/6CcMX7YIek
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) December 14, 2017
England’s vicarages and parsonages are almost as iconic as its churches. But campaigners say they may be all but gone after a 70-year process of selling-off which began after the Second World War and has seen thousands of vicars ejected from the historic buildings and moved into private houses.
What’s more, they have raised concerns that many modern priests have no interest in living in the properties – leaving them vulnerable to being sold.
Campaign group Save Our Parsonages estimates that 8,000 such houses have been sold by dioceses since the Second World War, causing the Church of England financial loss because of the growing value of property.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) August 31, 2017
I wanted to share with you the prayer note that I’m sending out today: As a church, we are going through a huge trial. The injustice of the courts may result in 32,000 people in the diocese being told they must leave their buildings… including Trinity Church. It’s hard to imagine. But, people in our congregation face the unimaginable day in and day out. Suffering happens in a broken world… and that’s why we pray. Tomorrow we will be observing a day of prayer and fasting. And while we pray, corporately, for a deep wrong to be made right, please know that I will be praying for each of you, individually.
Trials come, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1st Peter 1:7) I’m praying that God will awaken us to the necessity of prayer, outreach, and mission to a broken world.
If you would like to know more about our church’s trials or are looking for a resource for prayer, go here.
The Third Anglican Leadership Institute is now history. As I write some are still in the air, and some have landed and rejoined their families.
And what a great group they were. They spanned the full Anglican spectrum:
– From the Rector of a posh downtown parish in a mid-sized Australian city to the General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Burundi;
– From a Rector in Brunei where Sharia Law prevents him from even having a Christmas tree outside the Church to a leader of young adults in a large Brazilian church who surfs in his spare time;
– From a bishop in northern Nigeria where unless a man “steals” another man’s wife his own wife might accuse him of “not really being a man” to the assistant Rector of a booming Northern Ireland church who finished off 6 books while he was with us;
– From a former “Lost Boy” of South Sudan who runs a diocese that cannot afford him any salary and whose family must live in exile to a Deacon who assists the former President of GAFCON…
And on it goes. 16 marvelous people — all Anglicans from 12 enormously different socio-economic situations living in cultures vastly different from each other. Yet all united in Jesus Christ and experiencing the joy of becoming a family. Our closing dinner was a time of deep prayer followed by hugs all around. Those Africans love to hug.
Read it all (Diocese of SC photo).
The great teachings of the Bible and the Christian faith””such as the Creation, Revelation, the Fractured human condition, along with God’s Redemption, Judgment and Eternity all imply that we have the duty to think, and to act upon what we think and know. To be sure our minds just as our bodies and our hearts have partaken of what Christian theologians refer to as the fall. The result of this participation is that there is a fracture not unlike fault lines across a geographical region. It runs through our minds so that we do not always think rightly. It runs through our bodily appetites and desires so that we don’t always desire rightly. And it runs through our hearts so that we don’t always “feel” or emotionally desire rightly. Yet this gives us no reason to retreat from thought. Rather it is a motivation to avail ourselves of what God has revealed and think carefully and deeply about it. As the Anglican theologian and statesman, John Stott wrote some forty years ago in a marvelous short book entitled, Your Mind Matters, “Faith is not an illogical belief in the improbable””faith is a reasoning trust in the character and promises of God.”
Often when I meet with the new members I am confirming or receiving into the Church I remind them of what the Anglican reformers were keen to teach””that “What the heart desires, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” That is, what the heart gives itself to think about, meditate upon, or yield to, sooner or later the will chooses; and once the will has chosen what the heart desired the mind will go to work to justify what the heart desired and the will chose.
A contemporary Christian writer and preacher, Tim Keller, has put it this way: “Whatever captures the heart’s trust and love also controls the feelings and behavior. What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable and the will finds doable.”
A new collection of resources to strengthen and support the use of the Bible in the life of the Church has been published by the Anglican Communion. Described as a tool-kit, the Deeper Engagement collection of educational resources has been prepared by the Communion’s Bible in the Life of the Church (Bilc) project “to encourage us, as churches, to engage more deeply with the Bible,” the co-ordinator Stephen Lyon said in a letter to Primates.
Deeper Engagement is a collection of around 120 different educational resources from different parts of the Communion. They have been gathered “to help us in our engagement with Scripture,” Mr Lydon said. “Most have been used to great effect already and those responsible for creating them are enthusiastic about sharing them with others in the Communion.”
Culture has changed dramatically in the past century as Christendom has given way to secularism and pluralism. This new reality has now arrived in the urban south. We must ask if Christianity has anything to say in response. Join us for Listen & Speak as we discuss a Christian posture towards culture. Featuring pastor and author Scott Sauls and storyteller Andrew Peterson.
Praying for our Presidential Election
Every Monday thru 11/7
5:30-6:30pm in the Church
Here is another opportunity to “Be the Church” and be intentional about prayer. Every Monday until the Presidential election, come gather in the church for concentrated intentional prayer for the upcoming election. Can’t make it by 5:30? That’s okay; just join as you can during this hour as we pray for our Heavenly Father to pour out His Spirit for wisdom and guidance in the coming election.
The great catechist of the Early Church, St. Augustine, knew better. L. Gregory Jones, in his valuable essay on baptism and catechesis in the patristic era, pointed out that for Augustine instruction of the mind and the conversion of the heart were not alternatives, but two sides of the same coin, as the human person is drawn by grace through an extended period of catechetical instruction to exchange error and sin for the knowledge and love of the true God.
This “instruction,” Jones writes, should be conceived of broadly; in the patristic era, it included “learning Scripture through study and hearing homilies ”¦ and the shaping of their affections ”¦ and being mentored in actual Christian living.” Augustine’s teaching immersed catechumens in the biblical narrative, not simply as “our story” to be expressed in this way or that, but in the intellectually rich mode of faith seeking understanding of the true God.
As a trained rhetor, Augustine was no dry pedant, but sought to “stir genuine delight in his listeners” so that they would come to love that which their minds were beginning to understand. Catechumens were assigned mentors to guide them relationally through the journey of conversion, for Augustine knew that “Christ is announced through Christian friends.” These sponsors were charged with keeping watch over the moral and spiritual formation of new believers, and in Lent would be asked whether their charges had kept from grievous sin and stuck to their Lenten disciplines.
You write that a lot of people are disappointed by their experience with the Bible, which creates guilt. Why the disappointment?
We’re not honest with people about the Bible. There’s this fear that if we admit it’s a difficult and challenging book, we’ll scare people off. We want to tell people, especially new Christians, about all the great things that will happen to them by reading it.
Since we’re not honest about what kind of book the Bible is, and how it’s supposed to work, when people start reading for themselves, they encounter all kinds of crazy material that doesn’t fit the paradigm that we’ve given them. They find stuff from ancient cultures, from different parts of the world, and they don’t understand it immediately. And it’s hard for them to get something they can apply to their lives every single day from just reading through the Bible. So it leads to cherry-picking verses. Because there are these gems, these verses that seem to contain important spiritual truths.
So you get all these cherry-picked passages, but everything else gets neglected or completely ignored. Certain passages are essentially de-canonized. We end up with a partial Bible. So people get discouraged. They try again with a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, but they’re just not making it.
We need to start equipping people to understand the Bible on its own terms. We have to go back into the Bible’s world, rather than demanding it be immediately relevant to ours. We need to give them pathways from the ancient world into today’s world.