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(C of E) Advent weekly reflections: Looking deeper

Advent calls us to look at the deeper truths of life. It calls us to see God at work even when everything looks bleak and hopeless. It calls us to see injustice and inequality behind the apparent wealth and ease of our society.

This is why we read the prophets in Advent. They were truth-tellers. Uncomfortable, awkward, at times offensive.

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Church of England, Theology

(CNBC) As the cost of dying rises, more families try crowdfunding for funerals

At 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, Helen Ramos tried to wake up her son, Michael Bowen. Something about the 37-year-old looked strange.

Ramos, 65, uses a wheelchair, and running errands can be a struggle. The day before, Bowen had gone grocery shopping for her. Later, Ramos pleaded with him to spend the night at her house in Milford, Connecticut. It was raining heavily and she wanted him to be safe, but now she couldn’t get him to rise.

Bowen had died in his sleep, from either medical or drug complications. He had suffered from drug addiction since he was 13.

Bowen’s death threw his family into grief — and a financial problem. Neither his four older siblings nor his parents had enough savings to come up with the $10,000 it would cost for a funeral and burial at Keenan Funeral Home in West Haven, Connecticut.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Dirk Kurston–Why Sexual Morality May be Far More Important than You Ever Thought

Looking at our own sexual revolution, the “having your cake and eating it too” phase would have lasted into the early 2000’s. We are now at a stage where we should begin to observe the verification or falsification of Unwin’s predictions.

Unwin found that when strict prenuptial chastity was abandoned, absolute monogamy, deism, and rational thinking disappeared within three generations of the change in sexual freedom. So how are we doing as we enter the second generation since our own sexual revolution at the end of the 20th century?

  1. As predicted, absolute monogamy has already been replaced with modified monogamy. Common-law relationships are becoming the norm. Although divorce occurred prior to the 1970’s, the mainstream of our culture still maintained the view that marriage should be for life, and common-law relationships were regarded with some distaste. That has clearly changed. Those who actually practice life-long commitments in marriage have become the minority, with couples born prior to the sexual revolution much more likely to maintain a life-long commitment in marriage.

  2. Deism is already rapidly declining, exactly as predicted. Prior to the 1960’s, a combination of rationalism and a belief in God was the norm for mainstream culture. Not only has belief in God greatly decreased since the 1960’s, but there has been a trend to remove the concept of God from government, the educational system, and the public forum. Those who still believe in God sense a strong societal pressure to keep deistic beliefs private. In its place, is a surprising rise in superstition,[7] classified by Unwin as a “monistic” culture, two levels down from the rationalist culture we had prior to the sexual revolution. There has also been a huge increase in the percentage of the population that classifies itself as non-religious, a symptom of the lowest, “zoistic” level of Unwin’s categories.[8]

  3. The swiftness with which rational thinking declined after the 1970’s is astounding. In its place arose post-modernism, characterized by “scepticism, subjectivism, or relativism” and “a general suspicion of reason”.[9] But it gets worse … post-modernism is giving way to “post truth”. In direct contrast to rational thinking, a post-truth culture abandons “shared objective standards for truth” and instead, stands on appeals to feelings and emotions, and what one wants to believe.[10] People can now “identify” themselves as something which flat-out contradicts science and rational thinking and, in many cases, receive the full support and backing of governments and educational systems. Not only do people feel they have a right to believe what they want, but any challenge to that belief, even if supported by truth and logic, is unacceptable and offensive. Here is a quote from Unwin that has become particularly a propos in the last couple decades since our own sexual revolution …

If I were asked to define a sophist, I should describe him as a man whose conclusion does not follow from his premise. Sophistry is appreciated only by those among whom human entropy is disappearing; they mistake it for sound reasoning. It flourishes among those people who have extended their sexual opportunity after a period of intense compulsory continence. [11]

Summary of where our culture is going, given Unwin’s findings

For the first part of the 1900’s, mainstream Western culture was rationalist and experienced enormous technological advances — from horse-and-buggy to cars; from hot air balloons to supersonic flight and spacecraft landing people on the moon; from slide rules to computers. Unwin’s three main predictions — the abandonment of rationalism, deism, and absolute monogamy — are all well underway, which makes the ultimate prediction appear to be credible … the collapse of Western civilization in the third generation, somewhere in the last third of this century.

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

(Telegraph) Cathedrals across Britain are selling historic fixtures and fittings to cover maintenance costs

Cathedrals across Britain are selling their historic fixtures and fittings to cover maintenance costs, it has emerged.

Newcastle’s St Nicholas Cathedral, which dates back to the 1400s, is to sell 35 of its Victorian-era oak pews to raise money ahead of a £6m renovation.

Project chiefs say the decoratively carved benches, made in the 1880s, could become garden furniture or be used in hotels and restaurants.

They will be sold on a first come, first served basis for upwards of £450 and it is hoped the sales will raise up to £20,000.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Stewardship

All of the Talks from the ReNew 2019 Conference are now available

Take the time to enjoy them all and note that several have links to handouts that accompanied the talks.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Harold Anson

O great and glorious God, holy and immortal, who searches out the policies of nations and tries the hearts of men: Come, we pray thee, in judgment, upon the nations of the world; come and bring to destruction all that is contrary to thy holy will for mankind, and cause the counsels of the wicked to perish. Come, O Lord, into our hearts, and root out from them that thou seest, and we cannot see, to be unlike the Spirit of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

To thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in thee I trust,
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Yea, let none that wait for thee be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know thy ways, O Lord;
teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me,
for thou art the God of my salvation;
for thee I wait all the day long.

–Psalm 25:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(GR) Richard Ostling reflecting on the struggles the media is having with the label “evangelical” these days

Two of the book’s editors provided standard definitions, In an introduction to a 1984 book, Marsden said “we may properly speak of evangelicalism as a single phenomenon” with “conceptual unity” around five points: “the final authority” of the Bible, the “real, historical” character of God’s work recorded in the Bible, “eternal salvation only through personal trust in Christ,” “the importance of evangelism and missions,” and “the importance of a spiritually transformed life.”

That last point, often mis-characterized, does not require a dramatic moment of “born again” conversion or commitment. People in biblically conservative churches are often “transformed” gradually, but thoroughly.

Bebbington’s 1989 history of British evangelicalism defined the “special marks” as “conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible, and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

Confusingly, both the Marsden and Bebbington criteria depict not some distinctive evangelical ideology but ardor for pretty much what all of Protestantism stood for till recent times.

The Religion Guy advises writers to refine those definitions by adding traditionalism in doctrine and morals. Thus evangelicalism embraces the ancient belief in God as the Trinity (excluding “Oneness” Pentecostals, Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses despite some evangelical-like traits), and on morality opposes such innovations as openly gay clergy and same-sex marriages in church.

Note that movement-wide definitions omit certain sectors’ enthusiasm for end-times scenarios or attacks on evolution. Also they involve religious substance, not politics…

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Media, Religion & Culture

(AI) The rector of Truro Anglican Church, Tory Baucum, resigns

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Church of England (CoE), Roman Catholic

Prayers for the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina This Day

Posted in * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Richard Acland

Grant, O Lord, that we who once again prepare for the commemoration of the coming of thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, may so direct our hearts to the fulfillment of thy law, that he may now accept our hosannas, and in the life to come receive us in the heavenly Sion; where with thee and the Holy Ghost he liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samar′ia,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel come!
Pass over to Calneh, and see;
and thence go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are they better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
O you who put far away the evil day,
and bring near the seat of violence?

“Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory,
and stretch themselves upon their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the midst of the stall;
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music;
who drink wine in bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those to go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away.”

The Lord God has sworn by himself (says the Lord, the God of hosts):

“I abhor the pride of Jacob,
and hate his strongholds;
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

–Amos 6:1-8

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Hundreds of Christians in Nigeria ‘slaughtered’ by Islamist militia this year

More than 1000 Christians in Nigeria have been “slaughtered” by Islamist militia since January.

This is the key finding of a new report, Your Land or Your Blood, from the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which was presented at the International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice (PSJ) crisis conference in London, last month. The PSJ promotes peace-building and social justice in Nigeria.

Since January, there have been five serious attacks in Kaduna State, in the centre of the country, resulting in an estimated 500 deaths. There were at least another five attacks in the counties of Bassa and Riyom, and more in Taraba State. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram remains in power around the Chad border region, including parts of Borno State in the north (News, 19 March).

More than 6000 people have been killed since 2015.

Baroness Cox, who founded HART to promote and support peace and development groups in Nigeria, has recently returned from a research trip to the country. She explained that the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 West- and Central-African countries, were largely responsible for the new wave of violence. The terrorist group was listed as the fourth most deadly in the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

Remembering Pearl Harbor 78 years later today

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces

A missions team from Christ Saint Pauls, Yonges Island, sends pictures from their recent trip to Nigeria

Posted in * South Carolina, Church of Nigeria, Photos/Photography

Ambrose on the Holy Spirit for his Feast Day

The Holy Spirit, since He sanctifies creatures, is neither a creature nor subject to change. He is always good, since He is given by the Father and the Son; neither is He to be numbered among such things as are said to fail. He must be acknowledged as the source of goodness. The Spirit of God’s mouth, the amender of evils, and Himself good. Lastly, as He is said in Scripture to be good, and is joined to the Father and the Son in baptism, He cannot possibly be denied to be good. He is not, however, said to progress, but to be made perfect in goodness, which distinguishes Him from all creatures.

The Holy Spirit is not, then, of the substance of things corporeal, for He sheds incorporeal grace on corporeal things; nor, again, is He of the substance of invisible creatures, for they receive His sanctification, and through Him are superior to the other works of the universe. Whether you speak of Angels, or Dominions, or Powers, every creature waits for the grace of the Holy Spirit. For as we are children through the Spirit, because God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, Abba, Father; so that you are now not a servant but a son; Galatians 4:6-7 in like manner, also, every creature is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God, whom in truth the grace of the Holy Spirit made sons of God. Therefore, also, every creature itself shall be changed by the revelation of the grace of the Spirit, and shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Every creature, then, is subject to change, not only such as has been changed by some sin or condition of the outward elements, but also such as can be liable to corruption by a fault of nature, though by careful discipline it be not yet so; for, as we have shown in a former treatise, the nature of Angels evidently can be changed. It is certainly fitting to judge that such as is the nature of one, such also is that of others. The nature of the rest, then, is capable of change, but the discipline is better.

Every creature, therefore, is capable of change, but the Holy Spirit is good and not capable of change, nor can He be changed by any fault.

–Saint Ambrose On the Holy Spirit (Book I), Chapter 5

Posted in Church History, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Ambrose

O God, who didst give to thy servant Ambrose grace eloquently to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Gelasian Sacramentary

We beseech thee, O Lord, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation; that when thy Son our Lord cometh, he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the LORD our God. They will collapse and fall; but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.

–Psalm 20:6-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Churchman) Max Alexander Cunningham Warren–The Gospel Confronts The World–(A)The World’s Need : “Buying Up The Opportunity”

We live in a strange and dangerous world, a world so dangerous that Mr. Chamberlain warned us recently to watch our very words lest their echoes, as in the Swiss Alps, awaken an avalanche
which might plunge down the mountain to leap upon the peaceful villages and towns beneath. Once again we must live dangerously.

An old world is disintegrating and we do not know whether this means a definite end or a liberation of the elements of the world, enabling them to aggregate afresh and crystallize into a new and better world.” I quote that passage from Dr. Adolf Keller’s telling little book, Five Minutes to Twelve, because it gives the urgent background to that prevailing perplexity which is the dominant mood of our time. But I have another reason for quoting it. I believe it contains a sentence whose message is the challenge of our opportunity. “Once again,” says Dr. Keller, “we must live dangerously.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Missions, Theology

(ABC) Kindergartner invites entire class to his adoption hearing in Michigan

If some say friends are the family you choose, then one young boy’s family just got much bigger.

Michael Clark Jr., from East Grand Rapids, Michigan, was so excited about his adoption day that he invited his entire kindergarten class to his adoption hearing.

In a packed courtroom on Thursday, Michael’s classmates filled up the first rows of seats in the Kent County courtroom and even gave sweet testimonies about how much they love their fellow friend.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family

(WSJ) Erica Komisar–We need to be reminded of the great value faith traditions have for our children

As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.

A 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined how being raised in a family with religious or spiritual beliefs affects mental health. Harvard researchers had examined religious involvement within a longitudinal data set of approximately 5,000 people, with controls for socio-demographic characteristics and maternal health.

The result? Children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance was associated with higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation. Pity then that the U.S. has seen a 20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years, according to a Gallup report earlier this year. In 2018 the American Family Survey showed that nearly half of adults under 30 do not identify with any religion.

Nihilism is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being “realistic” is overrated. The belief in God—in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough—is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world. That’s only one reason, from a purely mental-health perspective, to pass down a faith tradition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–I Was Once a Socialist. Then I Saw How It Worked.

I came to realize that capitalism is really good at doing the one thing socialism is really bad at: creating a learning process to help people figure stuff out. If you want to run a rental car company, capitalism has a whole bevy of market and price signals and feedback loops that tell you what kind of cars people want to rent, where to put your locations, how many cars to order. It has a competitive profit-driven process to motivate you to learn and innovate, every single day.

Socialist planned economies — the common ownership of the means of production — interfere with price and other market signals in a million ways. They suppress or eliminate profit motives that drive people to learn and improve.

It doesn’t matter how big your computers are, the socialist can never gather all relevant data, can never construct the right feedback loops. The state cannot even see the local, irregular, context-driven factors that can have exponential effects. The state cannot predict people’s desires, which sometimes change on a whim. Capitalism creates a relentless learning system. Socialism doesn’t.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(Theos) Sally Phillips: Human Dignity, Different Lives & the Illusions of Choice

The takeover by stealth of Utilitarian thinking means that we are now a people that thinks the idea of society having winners and losers is inevitable. We measure everything from the number of steps we take to the length of our sleep and how many seven year olds can spell the word ‘turnip’.

As a result, we are losing the ability to talk about the things that cannot be measured. And if the world is governed according to the edict “what gets measured gets done”, we may be neglecting some of the most important things about being human. Like love.

You’re probably thinking ‘I’m not a utilitarian’. Even if you’re not utilitarian, think of what you mean by justice. Usually you mean fairness, you get back what you put in. It is unjust not to be paid what you are worth. I’m just thinking of the BBC gender pay gap.

In a way, some forms of Christianity, certainly the ones that I have been involved in, contribute to this too. The Low Anglican tradition that I love deeply teaches a transactional salvation. We are distinguished from animals by virtue of consciousness, self–reflection, moral capacity, the act of repentance. I have literally no idea if that is right or wrong but it does appear to be a kind of cost–benefit, quid pro quo.

If the point of our lives is what we are capable of doing then the implication must be that a human life lacking in the capacity for purposive action will be worthless, pointless. Those who are involved in the lives of people with disabilities disagree. Our insider experience tells us differently.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Christology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Theology

(Church Times) Gambling ‘is bad for your health’, says bishop Alan Smith of Saint Albans

GAMBLING should be treated as a “major health issue”, like smoking, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said. He was speaking after figures were published which suggest that most people in England gambled last year.

The Health Survey for England 2018, published on Wednesday, showed that 53 per cent of people had gambled in 2018, including buying lottery tickets. More men gamble than women: 56 per cent of men against 49 per cent of women.

For the survey, 8178 adults (aged from 16) and 2072 children were interviewed in England.

Dr Smith said: “With almost half the country gambling, it looks as if this is becoming a major health issue, which requires a response akin to tackling smoking in the last century.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Unherd) Ed West–Is a Form of Communism creeping into America?

Next year promises to be a bumper one for political books, at least on the Right, and in America. Ross Douthat has one out in February, The Decadent Society; before that in January Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement looks at the US since the assassination of JFK, while I’m looking forward to the reasoned, nuanced media debate that will follow Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class.

I can’t see any tripwires there!

Much later in the year is Rod Dreher’s as-yet-unnamed book, which delves into the psychological resemblance between life under Communism and developments in America since the Great Awokening began….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology, Young Adults

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas of Myra

Almighty God, who in thy love didst give to thy servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea: Grant, we pray thee, that thy Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through 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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

Grant, O Almighty God, that as thy blessed Son Jesus Christ at his first advent came to seek and to save that which was lost, so at his second and glorious appearing he may find in us the fruits of the redemption which he wrought; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end.

Posted in Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved….Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore

Psalm 16:7-8;11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Atlantic) Peter Wehner–The Moral Universe of Timothy Keller: A conversation with the evangelical pastor and theologian

My final question to Keller during our phone interview was his take on the spiritual temperature of the nation. What sorts of yearnings does he see and sense, and how can Christianity, properly understood, speak to those yearnings?

“I think the perplexity I see is that people want to have a foundation for making moral statements, but at the same time, they want to be free, and so they want to talk about the fact that all moral statements are culturally constructed,” he told me. “And so when somebody pushes a little bit on their life, they’d say, ‘All truth and all fact, all facts and all moral statements, are culturally constructed.’”

As Keller pointed out, they’re creating, at least philosophically, a kind of relativism, though of course no one actually lives like a relativist. All except sociopaths believe in certain deep truths about right and wrong, human nature, justice and a good life. “What we need is a non-oppressive moral absolute,” in Keller’s words. “We need moral absolutes that don’t turn the bearers of those moral absolutes into oppressors themselves.”

Keller concluded our conversation with a sentence that summarizes his consequential life: “I actually think the Christian faith has got all the resources you need.”

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology