Monthly Archives: May 2018

(WSJ) Daniel Henninger–1968: The Year Politics Collapsed

Nineteen sixty-eight marked the start of political polarization. Contrary to current myth, the civil-rights legislation of a few years before was bipartisan. With the Vietnam War, unity began to unravel.

The late 1960s saw the beginning of left-liberal moral triumphalism. The opposition was no longer just wrong. It was morally suspect. For a new generation of Democrats, which increasingly included the theretofore politically neutral press, the Vietnam War was opposed as, simply, “a bright shining lie.”

A kind of political religiosity infused matters of sex, race and even foreign policy, and pushed the parties apart. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report on the urban riots in 1965-67 announced that America was “moving toward two societies.”

Some 10 years later, inevitably, the religious right emerged. And here we are today, fractured by politics and technology into myriad cultural subsets of separations that began in 1968. The Trump divide was a long time coming.

Nearly every chronicle of 1968 omits the last thing that happened that year. On Dec. 21, Apollo 8 lifted off. On Christmas Day, as it orbited the moon, its commander, Col. Frank Borman, read from the Book of Genesis and said: “From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck and merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General

An Important Reread from 1974–John Stott: The Biblical Basis of Evangelism

First, there were the gospel events, primarily the death and resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes the apostles began with a reference to the life and ministry of the man Jesus, and usually they went on to his enthronement as Lord and his return as Judge. But their message focused on his death and resurrection. Nor did they proclaim these (as some say) as non-theological history, just “you killed him, but God raised him.” Already they had a doctrine of both. His death was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), and the Cross on which it took place they deliberately called a “tree” to indicate the divine curse under which he died (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29; Deut. 21:22, 23; Gal. 3:10, 13; 1 Pet. 2:24), while the resurrection was a divine vindication, snatching him from the place of a curse to the place of honor and authority at God’s right hand (e.g., Acts 2:32, 33).

Second, there were the gospel witnesses. That is, the apostles proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus both “according to the Scriptures” (Acts 2:25ff, 3:18, 24; cf. 1 Cor. 15:3, 4) and according to the evidence of their own eyes. “We are witnesses of these things, “they kept saying (e.g., Acts 2:32, 5:32). So we today have no liberty to preach Christ crucified and risen according to our own fancy or even according to our own experience. The only Christ there is to preach is the biblical Christ, the objective historical Jesus attested by the joint witness of the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New (cf. Acts 10:39-43). Our witness is always secondary to theirs.

Third, there were the gospel promises. The apostles did not proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus merely as events, even when enriched by doctrinal significance and biblical witness. For the good news concerns not just the historic but the contemporary Christ, not just what he once did but what he now offers on the basis of what he did. What is this? In Peter’s Pentecost address, the very first Christian sermon ever preached, he was able to promise them with complete assurance that they could receive both “the forgiveness of sins” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Salvation is more than this, but it is certainly not less. It includes the remission of past guilt and the gift of an entirely new life through the regenerating and indwelling Holy Spirit.

Fourth, there were the gospel demands, namely repentance and faith….

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Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

(GR) New American Bible Society policy defends (a) ancient orthodoxy, (b) evangelicalism or (c) both?

Let’s start with a few old questions about Christian doctrine and church history.

First, what does does the Roman Catholic Church – at the level of its Catechism – teach about the definition of marriage and the moral status of sex outside of marriage?

Second question: What doctrines do Eastern Orthodox churches around the world affirm on these same topics, which have implications for issues such as cohabitation before marriage and premarital sex?

Third question: What do the vast majority of Anglican churches around the world teach on these same issues? Ditto for United Methodists?

Come to think of it, what does the ancient Christian document known as the Didache have to say on issues linked to marriage and sex?

I could go on. However, let’s jump to a current news story that is linked to these issues. In particular, I would like to call attention to the Religion News Service report that was posted with this headline: “Employees quit American Bible Society over sex and marriage rules.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Media, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

The Bishop of Norwich announces his retirement

In his announcement, Bishop Graham says:

“I intend to retire as Bishop of Norwich early next year, and will conclude my public ministry at a service in Norwich Cathedral on Sunday 25 November 2018, the final Sunday of the Christian year.

“I will use the following weeks to draw my involvement with many local organisations and charities to a close, and also to disengage from a number of national responsibilities.

“It’s been a privilege and honour to serve as Bishop of Norwich for almost 19 years, and Julie and I will find it hard to leave. We are returning to Cornwall (to Truro) but the Diocese of Norwich and her people will always have a big place in our hearts. Thank you for all your support.

“Please pray for us as we prepare for this new chapter in our lives, as well as for those who will be responsible for the appointment of my successor.

“May God continue to bless you and this diocese.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Pew Research Center–Being Christian in Western Europe

Western Europe, where Protestant Christianity originated and Catholicism has been based for most of its history, has become one of the world’s most secular regions. Although the vast majority of adults say they were baptized, today many do not describe themselves as Christians. Some say they gradually drifted away from religion, stopped believing in religious teachings, or were alienated by scandals or church positions on social issues, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey of religious beliefs and practices in Western Europe.

Yet most adults surveyed still do consider themselves Christians, even if they seldom go to church. Indeed, the survey shows that non-practicing Christians (defined, for the purposes of this report, as people who identify as Christians, but attend church services no more than a few times per year) make up the biggest share of the population across the region. In every country except Italy, they are more numerous than church-attending Christians (those who go to religious services at least once a month). In the United Kingdom, for example, there are roughly three times as many non-practicing Christians (55%) as there are church-attending Christians (18%) defined this way….

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Posted in Europe, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(BP) SWBTS: Paige Patterson terminated ‘effective immediately’

During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.

Deeming the information demanded immediate action and could not be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board, based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.

Under the leadership of Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, SWBTS remains committed to its calling to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God.

Further, the Seminary stands against all forms of abuse and grieves for individuals wounded by abuse. Today, Dr. Bingham made it clear that SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse. Additionally, Dr. Bingham called for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.

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Posted in Anthropology, Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Baptist Apocalypse

As a non-Baptist with a fellow Christian’s interest in evangelical battles, I’d like to tell a simple story that describes the Patterson scandal as an inflection point — after which Moore’s kind of Baptist will inevitably increase while Jeffress’s kind diminishes, as the “judgment” that Mohler describes leads to a general reckoning with the pull of sexism and racism within conservative-leaning churches.

But to assume that’s necessarily going to happen is to fall into the same inevitabilist trap that ensnares both arc-of-history progressives and providentalist Trump supporters. Instead it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed. A discredited “old guard” doesn’t automatically lose power; a chauvinism revealed doesn’t just evaporate. And the temptation to dismiss discomfiting revelations as fake news, to retreat back into ignorance and self-justification, is at least as powerful as the impulse to really reckon with the truth.

So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?

For Baptists as for all of us, the direction of history after Trump will be determined not just by Providence’s challenge, but by our freely chosen answer.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Men, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

A Prayer for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Father in heaven, by whose grace the virgin mother of thine incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping thy word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to thy will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Wilfred Hornby

Lord, who didst bid thy seraph purge the prophet’s lips with the fire from off thy altar, so that he might be free to preach thy Word unto the people: Give thy priests and people within the Catholic Church pure and wise hearts, that so they may desire to go whither thou dost send them, and do that which thou dost will, in the power of him through whom we can do all things, even thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

–1 Timothy 4:7-16

Posted in Theology: Scripture

New Zealand Decision on Same-Sex Unions prompts ‘deep regret’ from Anglicans in Sydney

At its first meeting since the decision, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney passed a motion which “notes with deep regret that the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has amended its Canons to allow bishops to authorise clergy to bless same-sex unions”.

The Committee also conveyed to the Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia that it ‘notes with regret that this step is contrary to the teaching of Christ (Matt 19:1-12) and is contrary to Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.”

Further, the Diocese expressed “support for those Anglicans who have left or will need to leave the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia because of its abandonment of biblical teaching, and those who struggle and remain; and prays that the ACANZP will return to the doctrine of Christ in this matter and that impaired relationships will be restored.”

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Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CH) Christians against Nazis: the German Confessing Church

Bonhoeffer wanted to awaken the church to the fact that a monstrous injustice was being done to the Jews, and that the place of Christians was alongside their persecuted Jewish brothers. He challenged Christians to regard the Jews as the ‘neighbour fallen among thieves’, as in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. He saw that the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, is part of the Christian Bible too; that Christians and Jews believe in the same God; that the Bible concept of’the people of God’ refers to both. But he could not persuade the Confessing Church to make a public statement on behalf of the Jews. As the Second World War progressed, the growing persecution of the Confessing Church by the Nazi authorities crippled the church’s ability to help others.

Many church agencies engaged in vigorous protest against the so-called ‘euthanasia measures’ by which those considered ‘unfit to live’ were exterminated. In 1939-40, after the outbreak of war, hundreds of thousands of mentally ill, old, mentally and physically handicapped people were murdered by the Nazis. On this issue the church spoke out clearly. But on the ‘Jewish question’, only a few shared Bonhoeffer’s insights and opinions. Only a few were able to put behind them the institutionalized anti-semitism of the Christian church. Only a few spoke up for the Jews who were deprived of their rights, humiliated, stripped of human dignity, driven out of Germany and eventually killed in their millions in the holocaust of the gas chambers.

Among these few was Bishop Wurm of Wiirttemberg. He wrote to the government and party officials at the highest level to protest against the extermination of Jews, Poles and Russians. Against the racist ideas of National Socialism he held up the vision of a community of faith in which the command ‘Thou shalt not kill’ would be absolute. Against the Nazi policies of total war and genocide he held up the will of God that not one of his children should perish. So a prophetic witness, a ‘call to conversion’, rang out even in these dark days of Nazi Germany.

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Posted in Church History, Germany

(AJ) Homeless encampment presents quandary for Winnipeg Anglican church

People living in tents next to All Saints’ Anglican Church in Winnipeg, diocese of Rupert’s Land, are being asked to leave after a decision made “with some sadness” by the church’s vestry, says the Rev. Brent Neumann.

Neumann, the priest at All Saints’, says the people living on the property will not be asked to return after vacating the site today, May 30, as part of an agreement to leave the property 48 hours before a wedding scheduled to take place at the church on Saturday, June 2.

The saga of the “tent city” has been ongoing for the past month.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Recode) Designer babies are just one example of the ethical dilemmas faced by the genomics industry

We could live in a future world where people pick and choose the traits their babies have, but it may not be the right thing to do.

It’s just one of the many ethical dilemmas that Francis deSouza, CEO of genomics testing company Illumina, who was interviewed by CNBC’s Christina Farr Wednesday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. llumina sells DNA sequencing technology to companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com.

“There was a wealthy industrialist mogul from Silicon Valley who was curious about designer babies for him and his partner,” said deSouza. “With that much power, there are lots of questions that we will have to address about what it means to be human.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Theology

(NPR Marketplace) We’re still figuring out how to desegregate higher education

Back in 1975, Jake Ayers Sr. sued the state of Mississippi, arguing that the state treated its three historically black colleges and universities differently than it did the state colleges and universities white students attended. A landmark case to desegregate higher education, the Ayers case, as it is known, wound its way through the courts for nearly 30 years, and ended in a $500 million settlement for the state’s HBCUs. That money is about to run out.

Adam Harris wrote about it an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He says the money has done some good, but that public universities in the state are still deeply segregated. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary.

Adam Harris: There have been gains, you know, they have new buildings or sometimes they have new programs — some of them are sustainable, some of them aren’t sustainable. I think that there are still some very fundamental problems that, you know, the government isn’t really focusing in on since Mississippi, according to them, has proven that they’ve desegregated their higher education system by settling the Ayers case.

Lizzie O’Leary: You know there’s this really interesting question when we talk about desegregation. What does it mean to desegregate an HBCU?

Harris: Yeah and that is the question that people are grappling with. Most people place the onus of desegregation on black colleges. It’s almost like blaming them for their history, which that they were created to serve undeserved populations, you know, the black population.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Young Adults