Category : Theology

(FB) Matthew Continetti–The Great American Earthquake: Can the foundations of our society hold?

I have thought a lot about Kristol’s essay in recent weeks, as one American institution after another has found itself beleaguered, besieged, crippled, and delegitimized. We may be richer and healthier and safer in the aggregate than our predecessors. But the parade of ugliness we face bears more than a passing resemblance to theirs.

Riots and the suppression of freedoms on campus, drug addiction, deadly clashes between white nationalists and left-wing radicals, increasing numbers of hate crimes, mass shootings, bitter arguments over the national anthem resulting in declining ratings and support for the National Football League, a cascading stream of allegations of sexual impropriety against figures in entertainment and in politics, the slow-motion disintegration of our major parties—it’s as if America itself has been thrown into the midst of a demolition derby, with every one of our prominent figures and major institutions targeted for destruction by Monster Truck.

Beginning with the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and carrying on through our ambiguous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial crisis, the rollercoaster ride of the Obama and Trump presidencies, the comeuppance of the elite media and political class in the 2016 election, and the racial and sexual and class-based chaos of today, the temporal and spiritual authorities to whom we once looked for guidance have been subverted, disestablished, exposed. And all the while the erosion continues of the civic-bourgeois culture to which Kristol referred….The slightest glance at political, entertainment, and business headlines demonstrates that the bourgeois virtues of restraint, frugality, reticence, self-control, self-discipline, and fidelity are not only absent in our public life. They are denigrated. Nor is this a mere political phenomenon. The liberation of the sovereign self transcends race and creed, religion and party. It has bloated our waistlines along with our national deficits, tossed families into a spin cycle of disorientation and breakdown, and endangered and addled children.

Read it all; also cited by yours truly in the morning sermon (my emphasis).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sports

“If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us!”

8.01 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from all the German Confessional Churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic Church. In fidelity to their Confession of Faith, members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches sought a common message for the need and temptation of the Church in our day. With gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church or to form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds than the abolition of the confessional status of our Churches. Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
8.02 Therefore the Confessional Synod calls upon the congregations to range themselves behind it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those pastors and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
8.03 Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions, as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God’s people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Therefore, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

the Barmen Declaration, cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Christology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Germany, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

–Psalm 66: 8-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

In a 2-2 Decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court Denies the Historic Diocese of South Carolina a rehearing

Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) was informed by mail that the South Carolina Supreme Court denied its motions filed for Rehearing and Recusal in its ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.  Doing so finalized a sharply divided ruling that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years.

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“We are deeply disappointed the Court did not see fit to recuse Justice Hearn.  Her personal interest in the outcome of this litigation, beyond the normal matters of law, has clearly influenced its outcome. That is unfortunate not only for the Diocese but for all the citizens of this State with concerns for a fair and impartial judiciary. We also find it disturbing that the weight of the Constitutional concerns raised was not given further opportunity to be addressed. Church property ownership in South Carolina is now gravely complicated.

Given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. Because of the long road of litigation that has brought us to this day, all the parties to this case will need to take counsel together before deciding our next steps.

We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.”

Read it all and follow all the links carefully.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(NR) David French–The Enduring Appeal of Creepy Christianity

This is where faith has to trump politics. Defending predators in the Church — or going the extra mile to grant them the benefit of the doubt — for the sake of protecting a political advantage carries with it great costs. The church is already defined in the eyes of a hostile secular culture more by its quest for power than its faithfulness to scripture.

More importantly, this is where faith has to trump fear and uncertainty. We have to understand that there is no way around dependence on God. There is no formula for child-rearing. There is no foolproof guide to a happy marriage. No man can tell you how to secure your health or lead you to wealth. There is no community anyone can build that can protect its members from sin or temptation, and the utopian impulse itself can crack open the door to hell. Roy Moore’s world is a world built on fear. It’s a world that glories in its extremes.

It’s a world that’s destined for ruin, and before it goes down, it will consume and damage the most vulnerable among us — unless we end the cult of the Christian celebrity and the quest for certainty first.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AAC) Phil Ashey–“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine”

“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine” is a phrase that comes directly from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and its ordinal service for ordaining deacons and priests and consecrating Bishops. It is part of the charge given one who is consecrated to serve as a bishop in those Churches in the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the 1662 BCP and its ordinal (among other doctrinal statements) as “fundamental declarations.” The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) also uses this language when it consecrates a Bishop. The weighty phrase reminds us of the universal and ancient responsibility of Bishops to guard the faith, worship, order and discipline of Christ’s Church.

For the last two days I have been in Kenya as part of a teaching team for the third GAFCON Bishops Training Institute. One of the first talks I heard here was a brilliant exposition of Galatians 1:1-9 by the new Bishop of Lango Diocese (Church of Uganda), the Right Rev. Dr. Alfred Olwa. I have known +Alfred as a friend and brother in Christ, a gifted preacher and Biblical theologian—and I was not disappointed by his sermon!  In this wonderful passage that many believe Paul penned on his way to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Paul makes an unequivocal defense of the Gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  As +Alfred noted:

  1. The good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone needs no addition;
  2. The good news must NOT be distorted (Gal. 1:7);
  3. Only this gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone saves people from eternal separation from God (Hell); and
  4. Any distortion of this Gospel is, in reality, dangerous, leads people away from God and therefore stands under God’s curse (Gal. 1:9)

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Church of Kenya, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Arthur Brooks–Let’s Restart the Adoption Movement

Motivated by good intentions or not, these changes have left thousands of orphans unadopted. This is too high a price to pay for bureaucratic screw-tightening.

Meanwhile, while it may or may not materially affect the foreign-adoption statistics, adoption has been vilified by the political fringes in the United States. Alt-right social media light up with attacks on transracial adoption. And some on the far left attack “the propaganda put out by the mega-billion-dollar adoption industry that there are thousands of orphans ‘languishing’ in orphanages waiting to be rescued or saved.” Big Adoption, corporate villain.

Today, my daughter is a freshman in high school. She spends too much time on Instagram but is killing it in her classes. And what about our giving experiment? In truth, I don’t know or care what my daughter has done for my income or health. But my happiness? It spikes every time she looks at me and I remember the magic day we met.

That’s something more dads, moms and especially kids deserve in this unhappy world.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A Great ABC Nightline story of hope here–One family’s story of hardships, triumphs with son who has rare craniofacial disorder

It was a frigid February night in New York City when Magda Newman was in labor with her first child. With her husband Russel Newman by her side, she labored for nearly 17 hours before giving birth to their son.

But when she finally delivered, the couple’s moment of expected happiness quickly turned to anguish.

“I don’t remember fainting, but I certainly remember screaming… ‘Oh my god, oh my god, what happened? What’s happened? What’s happening?” Russel said.

“I saw just shock on people’s faces, big eyes, and I [asked], ‘What’s going on here? Who—what happened?’” Magda said. “And I see them put him [her son] in a little back room. There’s 20 people running in there, doing something. I don’t hear [the] baby crying.”

Read it all (or watch the video report which I would highly recommend).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.

–Psalm 87:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Wash Post) Erik Wemple–NYT’s (former Supreme Court Reporter) Linda Greenhouse boasts of monthly Planned Parenthood donations

Linda Greenhouse has nothing to hide with respect to her charitable activities. Writing in her new book “Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life and the Spaces Between,” the former New York Times reporter notes that she wasn’t content to allow Planned Parenthood to deduct a monthly contribution from her bank account. “It was important to me to write a check every month and sign my name,” writes Greenhouse, who is now a contributing op-ed writer for the same paper. “It was the signature of a citizen. The stories that appeared under my byline, on abortion and all other subjects, were the work of a journalist. If anyone ever thought those failed to measure up to professional standards, they never told me or anyone else.”

That’s one heck of an internal firewall. Skeptics of Greenhouse’s remarkable ethical divisibility are already speaking up. “Rather than meld her identities, she dons or sheds them whenever convenient,” writes Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada.

The New York Times itself preaches caution when making donations. “Staff members should think carefully about their own contributions to various causes, bearing in mind the need for neutrality on divisive issues,” notes a September 2004 New York Times ethics guide. “Those in doubt about contributions should consult their supervisors and the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Media, Politics in General, Supreme Court

(Economist) What Buddhism teaches about peace and war

But it is in Myanmar where Buddhist violence has become most familiar of late. A monk called Ashin Wirathu has led demands for a harsh response to a perceived Muslim threat. His organisation, Ma Ba Tha, has supposedly been banned, but it still presses the authorities to take the hardest of lines against the Rohingya Muslims, of whom over 600,000 have been expelled to Bangladesh. Ma Ba Tha disseminates the idea that Myanmar’s overwhelming Buddhist majority is threatened by the Muslim minority. The stance is criticised by some Asian Buddhists. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has rebuked his coreligionists for persecuting the Rohingya, saying they should “remember Buddha”. He insisted that the faith’s founder would “definitely help those poor Muslims”.

Like every other important religion in history, Buddhism engenders powerful protective feelings among its followers, especially when sacred history and national history become intertwined, as happens in Sri Lanka. In the collective memory of Sri Lankan Buddhists, the emergence of their nation is seen as linked with the advent of their faith in the era of King Ashoka, if not earlier. And whenever people feel a threat to their identity and origins, they can easily be induced to lash out with disproportionate force, just as medieval Christians marched to war when told that their faith’s holiest places in Jerusalem were being desecrated. Moreover, as with any vast corpus of sacred texts and annals, things can be found in the Buddhist tradition to justify violence, at least in self-defence. Medieval Japan, for example, had its Buddhist warrior monks. And even the Dalai Lama agrees that one can take limited action in self-defence. If a man is aiming a gun at you, he once said, you can shoot back, but to wound rather than kill.

Read it all.

Posted in Asia, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Myanmar/Burma

(The Tablet) Outcome of Australia’s same-sex marriage plebiscite will not end fight

Fr Frank Brennan, CEO of Catholic Social Services, wrote on the Jesuit-operated Eureka Street website on 9 November that wrote that with the return rate of the survey “a very credible 78.5 per cent” (compared with Ireland, where 60.5 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote for same-sex marriage), the Australian vote in favour of Parliament legislating for same-sex marriage was likely to be even higher than the 62 per cent of Irish voters who in 2015 supported a change to the Irish Constitution recognising same-sex marriage.

“After Wednesday’s announcement, let’s hope we hear from some of our Catholic bishops repeating the sentiments of Archbishop Dermot Martin after the 2015 Irish vote: ‘The Church needs a reality check right across the board, to look at the things we are doing well and look at the areas where we need to say, ‘Have we drifted away completely from young people?’

“Wednesday will be a day of celebration for those wanting a ‘Yes’ vote,” Fr Brennan wrote. “It should also be a day when we Australians recommit ourselves to respect for all citizens, especially those whose beliefs differ significantly from our own. Our politicians led us into this divisive campaign. Now they need to lead us out of it with considered and timely legislation and a commitment to better protection of human rights for all.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality

(Church Times) Churches hope to see the end of Mugabe’s rule

Churches in Zimbabwe have spoken with hope about “the birth of a new nation”, after military action on Wednesday appeared to curtail the rein of President Robert Mugabe.

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the Zimbabwean Council of Churches said: “We see the current situation not just as a crisis in which we are helpless. We see the current arrangement as an opportunity for the birth of a new nation. Our God created everything out of chaos, and we believe something new could emerge out of our situation.”

In the hours that followed the military intervention, the general secretary of the Zimbabwean Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Kenneth Mtata, called on all political and civil actors to rebuild a broken society.

Dr Mtata, a Lutheran pastor, said from Harare on Wednesday: “The current situation was inevitable. We had reached a point of no return. Our politics of attrition and toxic public engagement has had its logical conclusion.

“Our hope is that we can put back the train on the rails of democracy and citizenship engagement. We hope the current situation is only a transition to something that will be participatory and just.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Zimbabwe

From the Morning Bible Readings

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

–Revelation 19:11-16

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(ACNS) Anglican commission begins work to develop global safeguarding procedures

An international commission established to make the Churches of the Anglican Communion safe places for children, young people and vulnerable adults has begun its work. The Anglican Communion’s Safe Church Commission was established by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) at its meeting last year in Lusaka; in one of four resolutions on safeguarding.

The establishment of the commission was recommended by the Anglican Communion Safe Church Network – a global group of clergy and laity which “emerged out of a concern that a number of Anglican Provinces have seen highly publicised lapses in behaviour by some clergy and church workers with tragic consequences for those who have been abused.” The network, which was recognised by the ACC at its 2012 meeting in Auckland, “is a growing international group of people committed to the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people involved in churches throughout the Anglican Communion.”

While the network has an on-going brief to educate people about abuse and misconduct in churches, and to equip and support people working to make their churches safe, the commission has been given a specific time-sensitive task.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Violence