Daily Archives: January 5, 2016

Albert Mohler: Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?

Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.

Nicholas Kristof and his secularist friends may find belief in the Virgin Birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the Church, established in God’s perfect Word, and cherished by the true Church throughout the ages. Kristof’s grandfather, we are told, believed that the Virgin Birth is a “pious legend.” The fact that he could hold such beliefs and serve as an elder in his church is evidence of that church’s doctrinal and spiritual laxity ”” or worse. Those who deny the Virgin Birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christ’s nature and nullified the incarnation.

This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ ”” the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A true Christian will not deny the Virgin Birth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop Donald Parsons RIP

From Bishop Keith Ackerman:

It is with profound sorrow and deep regret that I inform you of the death of the Right Reverend Donald James Parsons, 6th Bishop of Quincy, former Dean of Nashotah House, and Mentor to generations of priests. He died at approximately 9:30 P.M this evening, More information will be available tomorrow. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for his children, Mary, Rebecca and Brad.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, Theology

(CC) Jason Byassee–Vancouver’s stony soil: The church in the secular city

A recently retired theologian in Van­couver, British Columbia, tells a story about a conversation he once had while getting his hair cut. The stylist asked what he did, and he replied, “I teach theology.”

“Really? You believe in God?”

“I do. And the strangest thing I believe about God is that he became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.”

“Who’s that?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Canada, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Still time–please consider Mere Anglicanism 2016 "The Gospel+the Challenge of Islam"

I know, you forgot, or you are not sure. But here is a great (and amazingly timely) topic and a chance to visit one of America’s great cities for worship and spiritual nourishment at the start of the year–KSH.

One of the greatest challenges for Christians at the dawn of the 21st century is the power and influence of Islam. As the world’s two great missionary religions, Christianity and Islam are often at odds with one another, and the tension can at times feel palpable. How are we as Christians to respond to the threat and challenge of this growing and energetic religion? What should be the Church’s reaction in light of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all men? What does the Apostle Paul mean when he reminds believers that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”? Join us this year at Mere Anglicanism as we explore “The Cross and the Crescent: The Gospel and the Challenge of Islam.”

Read it all and look through the list of speakers.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Apologetics, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Her.meneutics) Nicole Walters–A Year Without Resolutions

Inspired by these teachings, spiritual director Jenn Giles Kemper created Sacred Ordinary Days, with resources like a liturgical planner and a podcast to guide people through the liturgical year, which begins a bit before the calendar year with the start of Advent. This practice of prayer, reading, and contemplation isn’t the same as a Christianized, or monasticized, version of New Year’s resolutions.

“Goals and intentions are task-based and work best within a quantifiable measure of success and an easily marked ending point,” Giles Kemper explained to me. “Something more process-oriented is helpful when you’d like to reorient toward ”˜being’ over ”˜achieving.’”

Giles Kemper uses the language of “play” as she talks about trying certain spiritual practices (“playing with silence”), which makes it seem more inviting””and less like there is a right and a wrong way to approach spiritual disciplines. She finds flexibility in her experience with the Rule of Life, a grace and freedom to shift, grow, and practice, in a constant posture of a learner.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

(Aleteia) Philip Jenkins–Church Going ”¦ Going ”¦ Not Gone ”¦

Looking back at 60 years removed, we can say several things about the poem [from Matthew Arnold]. Yes, mainstream churches have indeed suffered a collapse in loyalties in Europe, and especially in Britain itself. Bodies like the Church of England are struggling to find solutions for thousands of unneeded buildings. Having said that, there are any number of new and rising churches across the continent ”” many immigrant, others native. Not, of course, that Larkin was trying to write any kind of social science, but that does provide a needed perspective.

I think, though, that the point in the last stanza demands our attention. Even when people abandon churches and religious institutions, those basic needs and hungers remain, and surprisingly often, they try to satisfy them in explicitly religious ways. That is why it is not ridiculous still to count as Christian the millions of Europeans who label themselves in that way, but whose actual participation in religious activities is close to nil. They still seek and need the “serious,” and where else to find it but in places linked to the dead, and to bygone traditions?

When assessing the appeal of religion, in any era, never ever forget that need for connection to the “serious” past.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, England / UK, Europe, History, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer for Christmas to Begin the Day from Frank Colquhoun

O Heavenly Father, as we celebrate again the nativity of thy Son our Saviour, we pray that, like the angels, we may sing his joyful praise; like the shepherds, we may go even to Bethlehem and see the Child lying in a manger; and like the wise men, we may offer to him our worship, and give him the love and loyalty of our hearts; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frank Colquhoun (1909-1997)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

–Ephesians 6:10-12

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Lancelot Andrewes–'At His first coming, you see what He had on His shoulders.'

And lastly, He is given us in premium; not now to be seen, only in hope, but hereafter by His blessed fruition to be our final reward when where He is we shall be,O and what He is we shall be; in the same place, and in the same state of glory, joy, and bliss, to endure for evermore.

At His first coming, you see what He had on His shoulders.At His second coming He shall not come empty, Ecce venio, Lo, I come, and My reward with Me; that is a kingdom on His shoulders. And it is no light matter; but, as St. Paul calleth it, an everlasting weight of glory. Glory, not like ours here feather-glory, but true; that hath weight and substance in it, and that not transitory and soon gone, but everlasting, to continue to all eternity, never to have an end. This is our state in expectancy. St. Augustine put all four together, so will I, and conclude; Sequamur 1. exemplum; offeramus 2. pretium; sumamus 3. viaticum; expectemus 4. premium; Let us follow Him for our pattern, offer Him for our price, receive Him for our sacramental food, and wait for Him as our endless and exceeding great reward.

–From a Christmas sermon in 1606.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

Kendall Harmon–What Kind of Love Came Down at Christmas?

Christina Rossetti’s words pierce my heart at Christmas, year after year:

“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.”
It is worth pausing and pondering the answer to the question: how deep and how broad was that love?

To move with me toward an answer, journey to a small chapel in Cartmell Fell, a little known holy place in the North of England. If you know where to look when you arrive there ”“ the stone is half hidden in the chancel ”” you can find a 1771 inscription with elegant lettering:

“Underneath this stone a mouldering Virgin lies,
Who was the pleasure once of Human Eyes.
Her Blaze of Charms Virtue once approved
The Gay admired her, much the parents loved.
Transitory life! Death untimely came.
Adieu, farewell, lonely leave my name.”

The words describe Betty Poole; she was a little girl who died at age three.

Christina Rossetti also wrote:

“In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone”¦”

It is only when the bleakness of this world and its iron hardness is fully felt, that the miracle of melting which began at Christmas can penetrate and shock us into appropriate awe. God’s love enveloped the whole moaning, stony, sin-sick world. It is broad enough to embrace it all, in this world and the next.

I imagine being with Betty Poole in Heaven and hearing her say with a smile, “God’s love was bigger than I thought!”

–The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon

Posted in Uncategorized

More From Will Willimon–What are you hoping for at Christmas?

….one could learn a great deal from the question, “What do you hope to get for Christmas?” For if you know our hopes, you fairly well know us. If you want to know who a person really is, and plans to be, inquire into what that person is hoping for.

What are you hoping for?

I expect that is what most of us think religion is about, the fulfillment of our hopes. We hope to find peace in our anxious lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping that the music of the hymns, the words of scripture and preaching may fill us with a sense of peace.

We hope for thoughtful, reflective lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping for an interesting sermon, something that will help us to use our minds, something that will test our intellects, make us think about things in a way we haven’t thought before…..

The trouble is that the Gospels seem to engage in a continual debate with people’s hopes and expectations. Jesus came, light into our darkness. But the problem with Jesus was he was not the sort of light that we expected. That is where the trouble started. Jesus was the hope of the world. But he was not the hope for which the world was hoping!

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

Barbara Brown Taylor for Christmas

From here:

Whatever the coming of the kingdom means, it cannot mean that the healing, reconciling, non-combative Christ we know was an imposter, just biding his time until he could beat down his enemies under his feet. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence. If we seek the kingdom by violence, then the violent will bear it away.

I don’t know why we would be disappointed to discover that Christ comes again as he came the first time””working through small things, not big things, among little people, not powerful people, with local effect, not cosmic effect””except that we find great armies on thundering horses a more adequate display of power. I don’t know why we would be disappointed to discover that the kingdom of heaven operates under the sign of the cross just as the Coming One did, except that we have always been disappointed by God’s reluctance to give us the kind of world, the kind of life, the kind of savior we want.

“And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me,” he said, knowing better than anyone the disappointing, redemptive ways in which God works–sending a human child into the world instead of a mighty king, sending servants instead of troops–sending people like you and me instead of real disciples to do the work of the Coming One until he comes, for in just this way the kingdom of heaven draws very, very near.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Music for Christmas 2015–Arlan Sunnarborg's Wonderful Fanfare Intro to Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Just oh so uplifting–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Liturgy, Music, Worship

More food for Thought for Christmas–NPR's This American Life on Unconditional Love

You see, the researcher that they’re filming, a guy named Harry Harlow [in 1960], was trying to prove– and I know this is going to sound crazy. He was trying to prove that love is an important thing that happens between parents and children.

And the reason why he felt the need to prove this point was at the time– and again, I know this is going to sound kind of out there. The psychological establishment, pediatricians, even the federal government were all saying exactly the opposite of that to parents.

Deborah Blum: It’s actually one of those things that you say, how could they have thought that? But psychology just didn’t believe in love. And if you go back and you pull any of the psychology textbooks, really almost pre-1950, you don’t even find it in the index because it was not a word that was used.

Read it all or better listen to it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

More Thoughts on Christmas from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence

…there are three ways we can make Christmas Eve if not perfect then at least good. These come down to us from the pages of the Bible.

First, a good Christmas Eve is when God’s Savior is received. Hear the words of the Angelic messenger: “Do not be afraid.” Though sin, guilt and shame lurk in the closets and storage rooms of our lives, though insecurities and imperfections are at every turn, and debts and failures abound””“”¦unto you is born a Savior”¦.” The One born in Bethlehem, who lived a perfect life in obedience to his Father dying a shameful death bearing the sins of the world, and rose from the tomb in the power of the Spirit, is alive today. He speaks a word to each of us: “Behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice I will come into him and sup with him and he with me.” When we open to him, accepting his forgiveness, his perfection is draped over us and our true dignity is restored. In the words of a famous carol, “When charity stands watching/and faith holds wide the door/the dark night wakes, the glory breaks/and Christmas comes once more.”….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Children, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Theology

(NPR) A Church, An Oratorio And An Enduring Tradition

A Berliner and longtime member of St. Mary’s church choir, Christian Beier attempts to explain the mystique and tradition behind this piece of music….

“It makes Christmas Christmas,” he adds with a chuckle.

But as gorgeous as the music is for Beier, the core of this yearly event is something deeper.

“It is getting into some dialogue with God. It is being moved by whatever is around us,” he says.

Read or listen to it all (audio for this highly encouraged).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Parish Ministry, Theology