Category : Theology

(CEN) Alan Storkey–We Are Called to recover the truth that our God is a global God who cares for the whole world He has made

So much of the Bible contains world events. Egypt was the cradle of much early civilisation and we see the ordinary people of God being freed from slavery in Egypt. We see the formation of a nation-state under the hand of God. They are taught to see beyond rulers and fighting to God’s law and God’s ways, and are given the foundation at the time of Moses of the most important legal system in human history.

Then we see empires forming including the great Babylonian and Assyrian empires. They come and go on the biblical stage, but always under the ways of God, either through obedience and wisdom or disobedience and waywardness.

The New Testament is no different. Although much of its subject matter involves Jesus interacting with ordinary local people, teaching the way, the truth and the life, it also recounts the way in which Jesus confronts the Jerusalem leaders and also the Roman representative, Pilate. It is clear that Jesus offers a root and branch challenge to the Roman Empire and its rule of fear. He will die on a cross, but fearless of the system of intimidation on which the Romans rely.

Of course, it is the Jewish leaders’ grasp on power that leads to Jesus death. They have the vast money-making system of the Temple at Jerusalem, the tourist hub of the whole eastern Mediterranean, and because Jesus challenges it, he has to go, but insists on coming back.

Of course, none of this is surprising. God is going to challenge the way early tribes and empires do politics with something far better.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–May we never forget the Real Power of Personal Interaction

This week, research was published showing that spending as little as ten minutes a day talking to someone with dementia can make a real difference to their quality of life, alleviating their anxiety and sense of isolation in a strange and fearful world.

Increased levels of dementia have been the price we pay for the rise in life expectancy in recent decades. And it’s tough: for the sufferers themselves, their carers, and for members of their family. It can be almost unbearable to find that your parent can’t recognise you, their child. And people can become fatalistic about it, thinking that there’s nothing you can do to make things better. But that’s beginning to change.

Three weeks ago, my wife Elaine and I visited, in his home in Philadelphia, Aaron Beck, co-founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy practised today. 96 years old and physically frail, he was still wonderfully young in mind and spirit. He told us that he’d always believed that his methods could help many people but not those with dementia, but now – though the research is still in its early days – people were beginning to find that it could help them too.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Church of England Evangelical Council’s (CEEC) statement on Gospel, Church and Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith

2.We recognise that some fellow Christians no longer accept the Church’s teaching on marriage, singleness and sex but, because it is an integral part of our calling to be holy, we cannot treat this teaching as an ‘optional extra’ (or adiaphora).

•We believe this teaching is both apostolic and essential to the gospel’s transforming purpose and thus must be compassionately and clearly proclaimed and explained in and by the Church.

•This area is therefore of a higher order than other divisive matters, often viewed as ‘secondary’ (for example , the ordination of women), because it calls for faithful obedience to the unambiguous and authoritative teaching of Scripture concerning godly living and human flourishing.

•Thus,the upholding ofthis teaching, rooted in our creedal confession of God as Creator, and the enabling of Christians to live it with joy and confidence, is an essential
aspect of biblical faithfulness—especially when, as in our day, these matters are being so hotly contested.

3.We believe that the Church of England, being defined by adherence to essential apostolic truth, should not accept teaching or affirm behaviour—whether implicitly or explicitly-which contradicts or undermines the boundaries laid down by apostolic teaching and practice.

Read it all (6 page pdf).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Mosaic) Yarom Hazony–Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom

Britain’s June 23 referendum on independence was the most important vote in a democratic nation in a generation. Many Americans assume that events in Western Europe can’t have that kind of significance, and in fact the U.S. media paid scant attention to the upheaval taking place in the UK right up until the official returns showing an impending British exit (or “Brexit”) from the European Union.

But in the aftermath, all this changed. The fear, outrage, and despair that Britain’s vote for independence provoked in elite opinion in Europe and in many circles in the United States points to a political event of massive proportions. Even before the vote, a campaign orchestrated by the Cameron government sought to play upon the sense of trepidation that had become evident among a portion of the electorate. The government’s message, Douglas Murray wrote, was “unmistakable”:

With Brexit, the country [would] be taking a leap into the unknown with the possibility of becoming a basket case and causing a world war. Memories of the mid-1970s were conjured up: the three-day work week, the uncollected rubbish, the unburied dead.

And that was the Tories speaking. In the aftermath of the vote, much the same message could be heard from all sides of the political establishment in tones that were, if anything, even more hysterical.

But the principal revelation here—and the phenomenon to keep our eyes on—is not only the fact that, for many both in the UK and elsewhere, the prospect of British independence is genuinely an object of dread. It is also the countervailing fact that the possible re-emergence of a free and independent Britain has rallied profound admiration and enthusiasm among countless others. The fissure between these powerfully held and irreconcilable views was there earlier. But Brexit has turned the floodlights on it, exposing, so that all can readily see, the deepest fault line in the politics of Western nations today. It is along this line that the bitterest and most fateful political battles in our time are likely to be fought.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BBC) Church of England issues anti-plastic tips for Lent

The Church of England is urging Christians to give up single-use plastics during Lent, in a bid to cut the environmental damage it can cause.

Worshippers have been offered tips to cut plastic use for each day up to Easter, such as choosing a fountain pen over a plastic ballpoint pen and buying music electronically rather than on CD.

The Church linked it to a Christian calling to “care for God’s creation”.

The calendar of tips has been sent to each of the Church’s 42 dioceses.

Each week of the Lent Plastic Challenge has a theme, for example food and drink, kitchen, clothing and travel.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Lent

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:12-14

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Seeking a Lenten discipline? Don’t be surprised at what you need – An Ash Wednesday Message from Bishop Lawrence

The outward forms of Lenten discipline are not spelled out in the prayer book with any specificity, nor should they be. I suspect that if each of us went to a doctor of the spiritual life, as one goes to a physician for an annual checkup, the diagnosis, and subsequent prescription for our maladies would be quite different for each of us. I suspect that in many cases we would not find the soul doctor’s orders some dreadful duty of denial, but a welcome relief that we would readily embrace. I can easily imagine a devout, busy Christian exhorted by a doctor of the soul that what he or she needed for a Lenten discipline was some physical exercise; to keep Sabbath; to read a good novel; see a good movie once a week; or even to learn to laugh again.

One memorable spiritual master in Twentieth Century England was Fr. Hugh Maycock. Connected with Cambridge from 1944-1952, and Oxford 1952-1970, he was a formative influence on many young scholars. One of his former students, Kenneth Leech, in recounting what he learned from Fr. Maycock, noted two unusual disciplines: The value of sleep and laughter.

Sleep and prayer are closely related. Both call for slowing down, a relaxed condition, “an abandonment to trust.” Many committed Christians today live their lives in a permanent state of semi-exhaustion. To embrace a discipline of proper sleep would be spiritually helpful, a true preparation for the Sabbath rest of the people of God. Then there is the importance of laughter. Leech writes, “Laughter is necessary to our sanity: a person with no humor is like an iron bridge with no give in it. It is vital too that we learn to laugh at ourselves.” Laughter has been shown to have therapeutic qualities for the mind and body. It also has value for our life with the Lord.

So, how do you go about choosing a Lenten discipline? Don’t just decide in knee-jerk fashion to give up chocolate, coffee, or some equally unfruitful undertaking. Rather, seek the advice of a wise, discerning Christian friend. Ask the counsel of a priest or “lay pastor.” Prayerfully listen to God while in prayer or in church or out for a walk. Just don’t be too surprised at what you hear. It may be a surprisingly delightful prescription, such as, “slow down,” “sleep more,” “laugh a lot!” Of course, there are some who will need to hear, “get the lead out,” or “quit nursing your wounds,” or “ask me to help you forgive, and get on with your life.”

Read it all.

Posted in Lent, Theology

Food for Thought from Saint Augustine for Ash Wednesday

Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act had never been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For “pride is the beginning of sin.” And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction….The devil, then, would not have ensnared man in the open and manifest sin of doing what God had forbidden, had man not already begun to live for himself….By craving to be more, man became less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from him who truly suffices him.

–Augustine, The City of God 14.13

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Benedict XVI’s 2013 Ash Wednesday Homily

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2.12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”.

Read it all.

Posted in Lent, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic, Theology

Three Meditations for Ash Wednesday from Bishop Mark Lawrence

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.

Posted in Adult Education, Lent, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

C.S. Lewis for Ash Wednesday

The idea of national repentance seems at first sight to provide such an edifying contrast to that national self-righteousness of which England is so often accused and with which she entered (or is said to have entered) the last war, that a Christian naturally turns to it with hope. Young Christians especially-last-year undergraduates and first-year curates- are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England. What that share is, I do not find it easy to determine. Most of these young men were children, and none of them had a vote or the experience which would enable them to use a vote wisely, when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?

If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing-but, first, of denouncing-the conduct of others.

–C.S. Lewis, “Dangers of national repentance”

Posted in Church History, Theology

Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Ash Wednesday

“Confess your faults one to another” (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!

But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Posted in Church History, Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!

–Psalm 95:6-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NR) David French–This Is How Religious Liberty Really Dies

There is a persistent belief among church-goers that a person should be able to get all the benefits of Christian community without any of the doctrines that make religion unpalatable to modern moral fashion. That’s in essence the mission statement of Mainline Protestantism. And it simply doesn’t work.

The Christian community and Christian service that people love are ultimately inseparable from the entirety of the Christian faith that spawned them. Carve out the doctrines that conflict with modern morals and you gut the faith. When you gut the faith, you ultimately gut the church. It makes sense then that mainline denominations aren’t thriving. They’re dying. Without the eternal truths of the Christian faith, the church becomes just another social club. Why sacrifice your time and money for the same wisdom you can hear at your leisure on NPR?

Here’s the interesting thing: Some of the casual Christians who’ve fled the unsatisfying Mainline are joining more traditionalist churches and schools without changing their beliefs. They don’t become more theologically orthodox, they just crave the benefits of the more orthodox communities. Once in their new religious home, they exert the same kind of pressure for cultural conformity that helped kill the churches they fled. It’s the religious analog of the well-known phenomenon of blue-state Americans leaving their high-tax, heavily-regulated states for red America and promptly working to make it more like the place they left.

Legal victories preserving our fundamental freedoms are ultimately meaningless if cultural pressures create a dreary intellectual conformity. You can win all the Supreme Court cases you want, but if the faithful don’t maintain the moral courage and strength of conviction to tack into the cultural headwinds, it will all be for naught….

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(Church Times) Safeguarding: we’re doing better, Synod tells sceptical survivors

Survivors of abuse and their allies are continuing to press the Church of England to set up an independent safeguarding body to handle the issue.

Before a debate at the General Synod on Saturday morning, survivors held a protest outside Church House, Westminster. They called on Synod members to join them in a period of silence to “affirm the intention of the Church to act justly towards victims of abuse both now and in the future”, in the words of Andrew Graystone, the activist who organised the event.

Several bishops, including the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, and the Bishop-elect of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, appeared at the protest.

The survivors also gave every Synod member a leaflet of their experiences in their own words: We Asked for Bread but You Gave Us Stones….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence