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(JE) David Jensen–Oxford’s Nigel Biggar: Anglicanism Sustains Democracy & Religious Freedom

In May, Professor Nigel Biggar spoke at the McDonald Centre’s annual conference and discussed the role of the Christian Church in developing and maintaining a politically liberal society. The McDonald Centre, which he leads, is a research institute connected to Oxford University. This year’s conference was titled “Is Religious Liberty under Threat? A Trans-Atlantic Dialogue.”

In his speech, Biggar argued that Christianity, particularly the Anglican Church, is an important part of a free and fair government. In America, we view the separation of church and state as a pillar of religious freedom, but in England, where Biggar teaches, the Anglican Church has been officially linked to the government for centuries. Biggar, who’s ordained in the Church of England, set out to demonstrate that this state sponsored religious establishment is “compatible with liberal rights to religious freedom and political equality.”

When Biggar referred to liberalism, he did not mean it in the way it is used in modern American politics where it is generally associated with big-government and progressive policies. Instead, he uses it to refer to classical liberalism, the political philosophy championed by John Locke, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, and Adam Smith. Under classical liberalism, the government is restricted to protecting the natural rights of citizens. Economically, these rights are guarded by a free market where consumers are able to freely choose what they buy. This concept is tied to John Stuart Mill’s “marketplace of ideas,” where men are allowed to freely discuss their opinions, and the market will eventually decide what ideology is best.

Liberalism is closely tied to individualism and humanism which promote the ideas that every man is an equal being, worthy of respect and dignity. Biggar claimed that there is a clear link between Christian theology and the values of liberalism and individualism. He stated “the most important political contribution of England’s religious establishment lies in the Christian humanist worldview that it advocates. A world view that generates the virtues necessary for the survival of a liberal ethos.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT) Finding It Hard to Focus? Maybe It’s Not Your Fault The rise of the new “attention economy.”

It was the big tech equivalent of “drink responsibly” or the gambling industry’s “safer play”; the latest milestone in Silicon Valley’s year of apology. Earlier this month, Facebook and Instagram announced new tools for users to set time limits on their platforms, and a dashboard to monitor one’s daily use, following Google’s introduction of Digital Well Being features.

In doing so the companies seemed to suggest that spending time on the internet is not a desirable, healthy habit, but a pleasurable vice: one that if left uncontrolled may slip into unappealing addiction.

Having secured our attention more completely than ever dreamed, they now are carefully admitting it’s time to give some of it back, so we can meet our children’s eyes unfiltered by Clarendon or Lark; go see a movie in a theater; or contra Apple’s ad for its watch, even go surfing without — heaven forfend — “checking in.”

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time,” writes James Williams, a technologist turned philosopher and the author of a new book, “Stand Out of Our Light.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Media, Psychology, Science & Technology

(DG) John Piper visits a Minnesota mainline church services and finds 6 problems+makes 6 observations

5. The emptiness of the conversation with the Muslim leader points to the fact that in the view of this church, contemporary Christianity does not have to do mainly with ultimate reality. It just doesn’t. It’s not a metaphysical issue. It’s not an ultimate reality issue. The nature of God, the nature of Christ, the nature of salvation, the path of holiness, the nature of eternal destinies — that is simply not the issue in contemporary mainline Protestantism. Instead, the dynamics that define relationships between social groups is front and center. That’s really the issue, not ultimate reality.

6. Finally, the fact that this church is made up mainly of old people suggests at least at the present that many younger people doubt the validity of traditional religious forms that no longer embody the claim to offer ultimate truth and ultimate reality and ultimate salvation. I think that they are absolutely right to try to maintain the forms. If you walk into that church, and you didn’t know any better, you’d say this looks like a church from forever ago — this is what church is. Big stained-glass windows, and pastors at the front, a big organ, lots of music, singing about Jesus — what could be more churchy than this? Except there’s nothing there of any ultimate reality.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(AAC) Mark Ellredge–Are you a Functional Universalist?

Somewhere in the midst of the presentation outlining some of the various reasons why Hell is often not talked about, even in our Biblically faithful churches, the term “Functional Universalism” was mentioned. I immediately thought, that is one of the saddest yet most accurate descriptions of many – not all, but many – Anglican churches.

Universalists don’t lead people to salvation through Jesus because they don’t believe people need to be saved through Jesus. If we, as Bible-believing Anglicans, don’t lead people to salvation through Jesus because maybe we’re too embarrassed to share, or too afraid to invite someone to pray a prayer to repent and believe in Jesus, or any number of other excuses, what is the difference? Isn’t that just functional Universalism? We’re achieving the same results, right?

It is particularly sad because so many of us are Anglicans specifically because we didn’t want to be a part of the Episcopal Church that largely adopted Universalism. As Anglicans, we actually believe all of the Bible is true. We believe where it says that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through” him. (John 14:6) Jesus is not “a” way but “the” way to salvation. Yet are unbelievers being saved in our churches? Are we bringing unbelievers into an eternal relationship with the Father through Jesus in our churches? Or do we just talk about local mission and evangelism and feel good about ourselves for not being those bad Universalists?

Now I’m not suggesting that we all start talking about Hell all the time and try to scare people into Heaven (although I personally have always held that I would rather be scared into heaven than blindly walk into Hell). However, I am suggesting that if we took the truth that Hell is real more seriously and that Jesus suffered Hell for us so we don’t have to, maybe we’d overcome our fear of evangelism and start doing it….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Eschatology, GAFCON, Theology

A story to Brighten Your Wednesday–Toddler with spina bifida warms hearts after showing his dog he can walk

Go here to watch and enjoy it all and you can read more there.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

In the Midst of a Campaign of Disinformation, the Diocese of South Carolina releases a Factsheet on the Current Lawsuits

Read it carefully and read it all and you can find more material and many more links to even further information there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, Theology

(CT) John Inazu: Why I’m Still Confident About ‘Confident Pluralism’

The premise of confident pluralism is that we can make room for our differences even as we maintain our own beliefs and practices. Doing so requires both legal and personal commitments. When it comes to the law, we must insist that those in power protect our ability to disagree. We must have a shared commitment to allowing for dissent, difference, and divergent beliefs. That means strengthening First Amendment freedoms for everyone.

The personal argument focuses on civic practices rooted in three aspirations: tolerance, humility, and patience. Tolerance acknowledges that people should generally be free to pursue their own beliefs and practices. This is not the same as approval; it is much closer to endurance. We can usually respect people even if we don’t respect their ideas. Humilityrecognizes that we will sometimes be unable to prove to others why we believe we are right and they are wrong. Patience asks us to listen, understand, and empathize with those who see the world differently.

The American experiment in pluralism depends upon legal commitments and civic practices. And we have usually found ways to maintain a modest unity against great odds. We have always done so imperfectly, and too often our political stability has been purchased at the cost of suppressing or silencing those with less power. But in acknowledging our country’s shortcomings, we can also remember some of its successes. The disagreements between white Protestant men at the founding of our country may seem trivial today, but those differences meant widespread killing in other parts of the world. Our debased and dehumanizing political rhetoric leaves much to be desired, but unlike many other societies, we usually stop short of actual violence. In the midst of deep disagreements with our neighbors, we still find creative partnerships in unexpected places. These examples of our modest unity are important reminders that we can live together across deep differences. On the other hand, they do not suggest that we have or will overcome our differences. As I write in the book’s conclusion, confident pluralism will not give us the American dream, but it might help avoid the American nightmare.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

The End of the Cubs Game Last Night–WOW!

Posted in Sports

He attended last year’s deadly Charlottesville rally. Then a black pastor changed his life.

One year ago, Ken Parker attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has made a significant transformation after accepting an invitation to a black church. His story is featured in part in the Emmy-nominated Fuuse film ‘White Right: Meeting the Enemy’ on Netflix.

You need to take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Soteriology

Today in History in 1981

Posted in History, Science & Technology

(The Exchange) Brian Stiller–Secularism and Diversity: Lessons from Canada and its Supreme Court Decision about Trinity Western

…Second, it makes short shrift of the model that within a diverse society a plurality of ideas and beliefs can exist together. This is a huge loss. And when Canada, known for its democracy and public fairness, takes this road, we lose an important example of how pluralism functions.

In today’s cultural, religious, and ethnic stew, to respect and get along with each other is as basic a formula as I can imagine. Justices opposing the majority noted,

The state and state actors [and in this case, provincial law societies] – not private institutions like TWU – are constitutionally bound to accommodate difference in order to foster pluralism in public life. . . . Canadians are permitted to hold different sets of values.

Third, it keeps faith from being public. I hear the justices saying something like, “Live out your faith within your churches, institutions, and private communities, but if you try to bring it into civic life, if we don’t see your beliefs as being inclusive with our values, we will prevent your faith from influencing our public spheres….”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Nic Rowan–Rejuvenation at Trinity Church

For years, the Episcopal Church and its decline into secularism have been the butt of many a joke in the conservative Christian communities through which I’ve drifted. Membership is down—if baptism rates continue their decline, it will never recover—as the church concedes ever more beliefs in order to accommodate the modern world. Already, many of its members practice in a way that is nearly indistinguishable from the spiritual-but-not-religious folks who visit The Met on Sundays in lieu of a liturgy. Soon they may become like those who spend Sundays at MoMA.

It’s easy to be cynical about the state of the Episcopal Church. But everyone hungers for some salvation. When I entered the chapel, I found ten chairs set up in a ring behind the nave. In front of the chairs, ten flower-embroidered cushions formed an inner ring. Six middle-aged women sat in the chairs. A seventh woman wearing a scarf that looked like a tallit stood in the middle of the ring.

She introduced herself as Ellen and said she would be leading today’s meditation. “Now take a nice deep breath,” she said. “We’re centering ourselves for the exercises. Once you’re in your center, take one more deep breath and then exhale. Take one more big inhale, lift your arms up, and then exhale….”

Ellen addressed my singularity when she sat down on one of the flower cushions.

“Since we have a gentleman among us, I’ll be a little more modest,” she said as she draped the scarf over her legs. “Okay, now let’s just focus on our breath. As you breathe, focus on that breath and when your mind wanders—as it will do—get back to the breath. We’ll do this for about three minutes. Notice your breath. Notice your nose, your lungs….”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

(The State) In one of SC’s smallest churches, The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Spartanburg, 6 people sit in pews meant for 50. Can it survive?

Where does the church go from here?

That depends on who you ask.

Jane Span, 80, who has attended Church of the Epiphany since she was 25, doesn’t have much hope for her beloved church.

“We just don’t have people rushing to join the Episcopal Church,” Span said.

And without a sizable number of congregants, running the church can be expensive, she said. The church needs to be maintained. Except for the priest, everyone who works at the church is a volunteer.

Plus, she suspects that not as many African-American families have continued to raise their families with the Episcopal faith.

“I was born in the church,” Span said. “And I think it makes a difference.”

Keeping the church’s history alive is also difficult.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes

(Barna) The Ups and Downs of Parish Ministry

Pastoral ministry certainly has its peaks and valleys, but overall, most pastors are very satisfied with their vocation and feel energized and supported in their work. They particularly love preaching and teaching—a task most feel they are good at—but are regularly frustrated with the lack of commitment among their parishioners. In partnership with Pepperdine University, Barna conducted a major study—The State of Pastors—of how Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. navigate life and leadership in an age of complexity. In this infographic, pastors weigh in on the best and worst parts of their job.

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Revisiting Alexander Solzjenitsyn’s 1978 Address ‘A World Split Apart’

‘A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance….

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say criminality as such? Legal frames, especially in the United States, are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist’s civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature….’

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Religion & Culture, Russia