Archive for the 'Evangelicalism' Category

ACNA Archbishop asks his bishops and clergy to hold off on signing The Marriage Pledge | Virtueonline

December 1, 2014

Archbishop Foley Beech is right to ask ACNA clergy to pause before signing the currently circulating pledge concerning the lawful recording of marriage certificates. This action serves people who have come to ordained clergy seeking what ordained clergy do. The legal documentation is beside the point and has nothing whatever to do with the very unfortunate situation in which same gender marriages are permitted.

This will require a bit of time and patience. There are two links immediately below. The first takes you to a widely circulated source which, in this instance, I presume to be accurate. This item brings the reader up to date on what is frequently called the “Radner-Seitz pledge.” The second link takes you to the Roman Catholic canon law page of J. N. Peters, whose reputation and qualifications are, to the best of my knowledge, unblemished. Please put aside old prejudices (if I did, you can too!) and careful read the arguments. In my humble opinion, Peters makes a sufficient case as to why the marriage pledge is a bad idea, no matter how much we may oppose same gender marriage.

ACNA Archbishop asks his bishops and clergy to hold off on signing The Marriage Pledge | Virtueonline – The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism.

Peters view, which seems fairly clear headed to me, is understood by following this link to “A chronology of (mostly) my comments on ecclesiastical cooperation with civil marriage.” Abp. Beach is well advised to avoid the knee-jerk response that provides little more than instant gratification

 

 

 

Middle East horrors and consequences #ISIS #Evangelical #theology

September 5, 2014

The point of an execution is mostly to get people’s attention. It is judicial theater intended to remind the buttered popcorn crowd who is really calling the shots. We in the USA prefer our executions to be quiet and private. Like an old liturgy, the priests put up walls and curtains so as not to disturb the mysterious quality attached to such ceremonies. The people of ISIS have shown more than sensible modern people desire to see and such indiscretion must be punished.

Here is the opinion of a non-professional observer and I am certainly glad to be held accountable if this is seriously awry. The main problem with ISIS is that it cannot be bought off. Yes, I suppose they could be rightly classified as “nuts,” but they are a special type of nut. ISIS consists of a hard-nosed faction that exudes hatred of modern culture and anything that does not adhere to its version of Islam. They despise with such fervor that even an untrained eye suspects that we are seeing that is profoundly dangerous. They are a danger to every country in the region, Europe, Russia, and the United States. China? Why not China too.

Only God knows the solution and we are not on the best of terms with the heavenly court. Nonetheless, the prayers of devout believers are heard on high and are effective in seeking peace and safety. It might also be useful to remember that vengeance is the exclusive work of God and forbidden for mere humans. It is probably a bad idea to extend the vengeance prohibition past personal rivalries. Nobody should expect that a short-term solution such as the old-fashioned “eye for an eye” would do any good with ISIS. These folks are completely unimpressed with anything that attempts to match up to their acts of public butchery.

Things are already out of control and there are real limitations on government retaliation. Nobody should think that this is some sort of positive development that will give Jesus the opportunity to land back here and grab the believers at the very moment they are most needed. The church has been in tribulation since the Roman persecution. John’s epistle tells us that the man of lawlessness has been around since the earliest days. These are hard times, but our mission has not changed. Baptize and make disciples. If we are leading others to a new life in Christ and teaching our faith, that is the best most of us can do.

 

The great unhappiness of Fergusson, Mo. #Fergusson

August 25, 2014

Thee seems to be a recurrent cycle in the development of news stories. Version A, trumped by Version B, none-calling and personal attacks. scapegoating,  Version C, Version D, more name calling, best story wins, and the poor people catch hell. So it goes in Fergusson, Mo. For the moment, it is America’s unhappiest. town.

If one is a little bit Reformed, the cause is obvious. Yes, three is racism for sure and you can easily find economic inequality. There is a prideful part of humanity that requires not only victory but the destruction of those holding different positions. The hyper-Calvinists call this disorder of the soul “total depravity.” For us Anglicans, that kind of language is awfully strong. We prefer talking about “the fall.”

So what?

The Reformed (include properly schooled Anglicans) know that the Civil Rights Movement may have passed some laws and changed a few customs, but human nature remains the same. We continue to be the same judgmental, power-hungry, greedy, and diligent guardians of the privileges bestowed on the fortunate. Yes, there is racism, and to admit its existence, like a rotting corpse concealed in the basement, is to expose ourselves to accountability. It is to deny what we say about ourselves when the flags are unfurled. We would rather turn our eyes away from the lingering consequences of slavery than get our nominally Christian hands dirty fixing anything.

The “fixing” part is difficult because, as was the case in the Civil Rights Movement, there is only so much even an entire generation can accomplishment. Human nature is still a mess and that can only be addressed  by putting on the new man of conversion and Baptism into the Body of Christ. That means being open to the leading of the divine Spirit. Too easy? Not if one is actually led into a new set of behaviors that walk away from the old cycle of suspicion and wishing the destruction of those that look, act and think differently.

If this individual change (some of us call it “regeneration”) is insufficient, then the gospel is a lie and the atheists are right. Even though the good outcomes of following Jesus are not immediately visible, we take up the cross anyway. Friends, it is a cross – an instrument of our own pending executions. It is faith and the power of God’s grace that moves Christians to act like Christians anyway. It is forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and taking up the cross. That is completely opposite from the name-calling and personal destruction that is Fergusson.

The Christlike version of change takes time. It takes so much time that it is typical to think that one has failed. This notion of success is a something that runs deep in the culture. It is the same strain that looks upon the poor as failures. The dominant American idea is that those who have less deserve all the bad things that happen to the powerless. Christians know that we are tested and one’s attitude toward and treatment of the less fortunate is a measure of character and part of the criteria on which we will be judged. That is God’s grace delivered by the hands of men.

 

National Group Goes After Preacher For Canceling Gay Man’s Funeral #gayfuneral

August 14, 2014

This story has been brewing for a few days now and I may, or may not, have a solid grasp of the facts. It would appear that a Florida man, Mr. Julion Evans, died and his family sought to use the facilities of a local church for funeral services. Here is where a little bit of nagging detail work would come in handy. It seems to me that the church granted permission for a non-member’s family to use the building. When the pastor became aware that the deceased was involved in a same-gender marriage, he cancelled the services. Then, as you will see from the link below, there were objections.

Fast-Growing Christian Organization Goes After Preacher For Canceling Gay Man’s Funeral.

It is hard to work up much sympathy for a preacher and a church that has such a shallow understanding of the Doctrine of the Church. I would bet good money that nobody ever asked any number of fundamental questions. That might include the following; was the deceased a baptized Christian? Did the deceased attend some other house of worship? Was he a Trinitarian? (Yes, it matters. I was about to say “sweat the small stuff,” but that is not small stuff.)

The Preacher, Rev. T. W. Jenkins probably thinks of his place of worship, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, as nothing more than an auditorium. Under the circumstances, one can readily see how the mourning family might have the same opinion of the facilities. Nonetheless, churches are sacred spaces and set aside for divine worship. It is a well-established principle that all of the dead are worthy of proper burial, but not everybody is entitled to a “church” funeral. Catholics, by the way, include proper burial as one of the “corporal works of mercy.”

The Church is more than a building. It is the mystical body of Christ The Church includes “good” Christians, sinners, and those who are publicly and obstinately sinful. The Church takes a hard position against the latter. It seems here that there is nothing obstinate about the deceased, he was just a regular garden variety sinner. This is a nightmare of shallow theology and incompetence.

Considering that he had already granted permission for use of the church building, the church has caused a lot of inconvenience. Friends of the family are bound to show up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Jenkins should have offered to be present at the funeral and to offer some words of comfort. That is just a little short of a real “church” funeral, but it would provide some comfort. Yes, an apology is apparently due. Mr. Evans was no better or worse than you or me, a fallen sinner in need of God’s grace. If we are recipients of grace, we should also be dispensers of grace.

Let us not be fools. Rev. Jenkins was almost certainly hoodwinked. He was snickered by a group with an agenda and it worked. I think it needs to be clearly understood that a church has the absolute constitutionally protected right to decide who may receive the spiritual services of the house of worship. The group taking a lead position on this, Faithful America, resorts to simplistic arguments. “Love thy neighbor – no exceptions,” is the twisting of an Old Testament text and the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel. We are commanded, first, to Love the Lord completely and neighbors as ourselves. I prefer grace and truth, two qualities that are perfectly combined in the person of Jesus.

Truth includes the unpleasant reality of my sinful condition and my need for repentance. Because I am such a terrible sinner, it is easy for me to go a little easy on any homosexual. After all, the tendencies of the flesh are so powerful and we are so inclined to give in to wrong actions. The Good News is that Jesus put on human flesh and died so that we could be forgiven. Because he is fully human and fully divine, Jesus understands our temptations and is a merciful judge.

Why is passing on the faith a big deal?

July 29, 2014

Christian Foundations for Ministry just wrapped up a series of classes at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Little Rock. The concept is born from the apparent departure of many young people from Christian belief. In many ways, they are like their parents being over-worked, suspicious of authority, and unwilling to get mixed up in demanding social activities. There are plenty of reasons, and the truth is that most of us walked away from organized religion in the younger days.

Today is different because Christianity is being forced to accept its place as a cultural minority. For the modern believer, this new situation may not result in martyrdom, but a life of enforced irrelevance is certainly no fun. This reordering may or may not be permanent. The elements are present for all  sorts of misbehavior. The point is that young people will be in a very much worse environment than their parents.

The supposed “grown ups” are often disconnected from the realities that personally demean and discount the individual follower of Christ. For one thing, if one is entirely clueless about postmodernism, he is missing the foundation of much contemporary thought. The traditional apologetics does not fit into a world that is, first, relational, and otherwise suspicious of absolutes. Yes, this is very similar to a lot that was happening in the 70s, but the “other side” has all the presumption of place that was formerly the sole possession of Christians.

This is not very pleasant, but here we are at the beginning of the decline. Yes, we have the biblical hope for final victory, but Jesus has placed the gospel in human hands and evangelization is our responsibility. It is a direct order from the Head of the Church, the Great Commission. That’s the big deal.

A question for Arkansas Senatorial candidate Tom Cotton concerning “once-a-week-Christians”

July 15, 2014

Let me tell you that things down in Arkansas are a mess and I find the pending November elections to be an awful puzzle. The candidates are terrible, which is such a departure from the time that this small southern state produced national figures like Joe T. Robinson, J. William Fulbright, and Dale Bumpers.

Republican candidate for the United States Senate Tom Cotton recently accused incumbent Mark Pryor of being a “one-day-a-week-Christian.” Such accusations have no place in political campaigns in the first place, and the Constitution clearly says that government may not require religious tests of office holders. Yes, I do get the distinction, but I also understand the background and what should be a rule in all elections.  Furthermore, I am willing to stipulate that Pryor’s response was tepid, shallow and absolutely dreadful.

Since Mr. Cotton has taken it upon himself to publicly question the religious faith or another candidate, and presumably somebody he would count as a brother-in-Christ, I am wondering what steps Cotton went through before using the nuclear option. Did he follow the procedure laid out by our Lord, Savior, and Living Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, in Matt 18?

Did Cotton go in private and outline his concerns? (18:15)

I’m not making this up. If Cotton had done so, He might have won his brother. That is what Jesus says. If Prayer would not listen to Cotton, did the GOP candidate go again with others and address the issue in front of Witness? Again, Jesus says this is what Christians with disagreements are bound to do. (18:16) Some churches actually follow these steps. No foolin’.

The final step is to bring it to the Church. My reading on the subject, which is not exhaustive, SUGGESTS to me that Cotton should bring the issue before Senator Pryor’s church. (18:17) Some might hold that Pryor be questioned in Cotton’s Church. I doubt it, but this is an area in which I am open to instruction.  I should add that my readings about the following aspect of proper order, point to the purpose of church discipline as eventual restoration. I might mention here the writings of John Calvin and the Anglican Articles of Religion in support of my opinion. Looking at the words of Jesus in v. 17, it seems that even tax collectors and Gentiles are capable of repentance.

Since Mr. Cotton apparently holds himself out as something more than a Sunday-only kind of guy, it would be good to hear about his theological and biblical reflection on Mark Pryor’s alleged shortcomings. There are one or two further questions that need Mr. Cotton’s attention.

Why did he take church business, stuff that Jesus himself instructs to be kept inside the church, into the political arena?

Does Tom Cotton believe that the name of Jesus is glorified by the public airing of accusations among Christ’s followers?

Supremes weaken church, strengthen state, damage wall of separation

May 6, 2014

The consequence of the unfortunate high court ruling to allow prayers before town meetings will not be a good thing for those who take prayer seriously. The triumphalism of the most vocal and obnoxious Evangelicals will place Christianity in an even worse light as seeking the power and privilege of a class ruling by divine right. It is as if these Christians have never heard of gay marriage. This small supposed victory will be paid for at a dear price.

Some of us traditionalist Christians think the Supreme Court was completely wrong, that prayer is, in one sense, part of a sacred relationship between individuals and their Creator and, in another sense, between the Church and its head and redeemer, Jesus Christ. We understand that civil religion is no religion and serves only the state interests. Christianity suffers because of the inherent trivialization of our practices. Justice Kennedy says the prayers should be seen as “ceremonial” and part of the national tradition.

That sounds good, unless one believes that there is an Entity on the other end who cares, listens, and acts upon our supplications. “The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers,” Kennedy said.

The decision echos the mega-church notion of ego driven and materialistic mega-preachers. And do not think that any other less colorful religious leaders will be called up on except in the rarest circumstance. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in Alabama, so I know what the underside of a Baptist’s thumb looks like. Although Roman Catholics must make up a substantial portion of Mobile’s population (40% ?), I never recall any Roman Catholic clergy ever being allowed to lead a public prayer – not even once.

And some of my friends actually call that a victory?

What if the purpose of public prayer (we Anglicans call it Common Prayer) is to give glory and worship to the One who is the King of Creation, a being who reigns far above Supreme Court Justices? What if prayer is intended to request good weather, bountiful harvests, safety in battle, good grades, physical healing and a host of blessings that only the Triune God of orthodox Christianity may mercifully grant.

But Justice Kennedy is a modern man whose public positions could never conceive of an all-powerful God who sets up and brings down nations. Kennedy’s God is an artifact of culture, an idol. This bad ruling is a sorry reflection on our system of constitutional interpretation.

Why I am not jumping up and down over Sarah Palin’s comments on Baptism

May 1, 2014

Have a seat and this won’t hurt a bit. Let’s be quick about it too.

Everybody who follows politics (which is really not good for your brain, but that is another essay for another day) knows by now that the former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate popped off an ill-considered comment concerning terrorists, torture and one of what Anglicans would call Dominical Sacraments – a sacrament instituted in form and matter by Christ.

The most offensive part of the event was the audiences’ laughter and cheers. I suppose this will label me as one of Sarah Palin’s despicable liberals, but it is hard to imagine what anybody might find funny or agreeable about torture. Those who go along with this kind of yahooism are moral cowards. There is no reason to be surprised by such indifference. Every instinct of modern American culture and most of our institutions point to and encourage moral weakness. The reaction to Palin, both at the event and afterwards by supposedly sober observers, is astounding.

Now let us turn to Mrs. Palin, Follow me carefully because this has several steps in the discussion. Palin attends a Bible church up in Alaska and one might easily presume that it does not teach or practice very much in the way of sacramental theology. I am not trying to offend anybody.Anglicans have a high view of sacraments and a fairly well articulated doctrinal position in the 39 Articles. I have a hunch that a large number of the people who attend my rather large Anglican church in Little Rock, Arkansas could not tell you the first thing about sacraments. So, one should be careful about coming down too hard on Palin’s innocent display of ignorance.

I wonder if they ever read the Old Testament in Sarah Palin’s Bible church. The young men who would become the patriarchs of Israel got in quite a bit of trouble over a bloodthirsty act of vengeance (Gen 34). This was a mass murder responding to the rape of their sister Dinah. The sons of Jacob required that the men of Shechem be circumcised as part of the negotiated settlement, but the real intention was to murder the whole bunch of them during the recovery period. Simeon and Levi carry out the acts of violence and, as a result, are demoted in the tribal inheritance (Gen 49:5-7). One of the most important aspects of this passage is the misuse of God’s covenant ordinance and symbol, circumcision. There are certainly similarities between this story and Mrs. Palin’s outrageous suggestion, or joke, or whatever it was.

God’s “stuff” is important and people who give such marvelous lip service to serving some sort of higher power might know better than to make light of the Christian sign of initiation. This is the level of public discussions in the United States. It is a darned shame.

 

Donnie and Frances Swaggert explain the Trinity to you!

March 6, 2014

One of the more fascinating developments in the wide world of commercial preachers is the rise of an older and more mellow Jimmy Swaggart. The Sun Network is on Uverse and the Swaggarts seem to be producing several hours of original daily “live” programming. When Fr. Mitch is done on EWTN (solid but not nearly as entertaining), the resourceful viewer can scoot across the channels to Frances and Friends, hosted by Mrs. Jimmy Swaggart.

On Wednesday morning, Frances, son Donnie, and a number of associated biblical scholars were reading emails from viewers, Take it from this little Anglican boy in Arkansas, nothing on earth sells like Catholic baiting. The question arose as to why Roman Catholics refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of God.”

Frances takes the lead against the nefarious papists exclaiming that she just can not figure out what is so complicated about this thing. Mary, according to Swaggart’s comprehension of doctrine, was only the mother of Jesus the man. That is completely different from Jesus, second person of the Trinity and eternal God. Somehow the discussion moved around the Eastern Church practice of calling the BVM “theotokos.”

Memo to Frances: Not wishing to be critical, but when one enters a public discussion of such an important topic as the nature of Christ, it is really a good idea to learn how to correctly pronounce all the important words. That’s “God bearer,” not “God barrier.” While you, Mrs. Swaggart, may not have any problems understanding the Trinity and Christological doctrines, the undivided church could not get everything nailed down until 451 AD.

Although the informed viewer always hates to appear cranky, if one remembers the Tome of Leo and the Definition of Chalcedon, Jesus is very, eternal God and entirely co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This detail is important because, first, Jesus must be fully human so that he can experience real temptation, suffering and death. Because he is the perfect man, he is the perfect atoning sacrifice for sins. Because Jesus is divine, he may enter the holiest place and present his sacrifice to the Father. It might be good to footnote here that such terms as “Father” and “Son” are analogies in human words and represents the God-head in ways mere humans can never fully understand. That’s why I am not mad at you, Frances. Honest.

The most interesting part of the televised conversation, however, came when Donne realized that, while enjoying a good old fashioned anti-Catholic spasm, they had all slipped into Arianism. For just a moment, Frances and Friends was preaching the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fairness to everybody, Donnie came to his senses and quickly rendered the correct “orthodox” understanding of Christ’s dual nature. The exchange was amusing because of the gymnastics used to avoid becoming accidental Roman Catholics.

It is my personal opinion that calling Mary “Mother of God” is a bad practice and leads to confusion, even though it is capable of a correct theological understanding. Even more so is the Eastern Church expression for the God Bearer. Since Jesus is fully human and fully divine, Mary most certainly is the bearer of one who shared human and divine natures at the same time.

I hope that helped.

The Brewer veto and religious liberty

February 27, 2014

There has been a good deal of crazy talk and harsh words cast about concerning the now vetoed Arizona legislation that would have defended individual religious liberty. Personal attacks (“bigot,” etc) are the typical tolls of those who have no real argument. Although I am not expert on the matter, my inclination is to back the proposed law and to bewail Governor Brewer’s executive action which killed it.

This does not make me a “wing nut” or some kind of social extremist. Anybody who knows me would find such accusations to be almost hilarious. The fact is that I have been subjected to a certain amount of criticism by my Evangelical brothers and sisters for not holding a more vehement and hateful position toward homosexuals. But how could I? The fire-breathing stuff is fairly easy for those who don’t get out much, but I know plenty of gay folks and, so far as I can see, most are fine people.

My wish is that they would “repent.” That is a biblical word that actually means “change.” Now, that is certainly not as easy as it sounds and one must appreciate the power of such factors as sexual desires. Just look around and tell me if you honestly think gay people are the only ones who should change. It is my opinion that homosexuality is “hard-wired” into the personality and that I should be very understanding of other people. In other words, one should get the two-by-four out of your own eye before fishing the speck out of the other guy’s (Matt 7:3-5). Call me a bigot, but that means exactly nothing.

Gay people deserve to have jobs and all the other necessities of life and the rights of citizenship. I do not happen to think that this extends to the recognition of “gay marriage,” but I am in the minority on that. I am not entitled to personally belittle gays any more than the majority is entitled to call me ugly names. Do not, under any circumstances, compare me to the KKK. Those people have a historic reputation as murders and domestic terrorists.

This brings us to the Arizona legislation. It is not an extremist rant to suppose that people have a right to act on their religious beliefs. It ought to be pretty obvious that this does not extend to rationalizing away criminal acts or depriving anybody of the rights associated with property, life, and citizenship. If the baker opposes gay marriage and backs it up by not accepting the wedding business that might come from it, so be it. It is a question of conscience and religious practice, which should generally trump just about any other interest. Our founders were familiar with real religious persecution and had a fear of what might come from religious passions.

A good deal of the dumb stuff in this supposed conversation has come from my side, so let’s get a few things straight here. The definition of “Evangelical” is of no relevance to the discussion. Whether or not Lydia (a wealthy woman in the book of Acts)  sold anything to pagans matters nada. I imagine that Paul probably sold one or two of his tents to scoundrels. Let us not loose sight of the crucial issue.

Those who lack of sense of history fail to recall that the governing documents in the old Soviet Union granted freedom of religion. The thing they prohibited was the actual exercise of religion. It is exactly the same issue faced by Arizona lawmakers and Governor. It is the same thing, an identical denial of personal religious freedom.

I mean no harm to gay people -ever. I regret those self-proclaimed religious authorities who do wish ill for their fellow human beings, all created in the image and likeness of God. Our mutual failure to deal with this important issue bodes nothing but evil.