Thursday, July 19, 2012

Evangelical Downgrade

The Evangelical Education Society - a once respectable group in TEC says this in its latest newsletter.  

"As the term 'evangelical' evolved to connote first 'Low Church' and later the fundamentalism of biblical inerrancy, (my emphasis) the Board maintained advocacy of Anglican Evangelicalism of the English Reformation through publication of the Evangelical Outlook and the administration of a merit scholarship program.

By the late 20th century, however, this message was ineffective. (my emphasis) The EES Board seized the opportunity (to) adapt by launching the Evangelism For the 21st Century grants program in 1995.  The move was an abandonment of partisanship and advocacy and a commitment to follow the Spirit in innovative Gospel proclamation...."

So, apparently the message of the gospel (what else could they mean) was ineffective and they gave it up to follow the "Spirit in innovative Gospel proclamation..." i.e. another gospel which Paul has some harsh words about in Gal 1.

ps David Booth Beers is a Board Member

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Ails the Episcopal Church

Read this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Does God Speak Today Apart From the Bible

This is a very troubling assertion.  R. Fowler White has written very clearly on this subject.  To summarize his    writing:

"The living and true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is supreme head of a living church, is not mute.  He speaks - and He speaks clearly - by His Spirit and through His written word, the Bible.  Therefore, as the author of Hebrews aptly puts it, we must see to it that we do not disregard 'him who is speaking' (Heb 12.25).

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Reformation is Not Over

For Roman Catholics, Scripture and Tradition are two distinct but equal modes of revealed authority which the magisterium of the Roman Church has sole responsibility to transmit and interpret.

For the early Protestant reformers, the holy Scripture provides final normative authority for Christian doctrine and practice, standing as judge above all institutions and ecclesial traditions.

For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified because of inherent righteousness.

For the mainstream Protestant reformers, sinners are accepted on the basis of the righteousness of another—namely, the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to them.

For Roman Catholics, sinners are both justified by unmerited grace at baptism and (subsequently) justified by those infused graces merited by cooperating with divine grace.

For the magisterial reformers, sinners are justified before God by grace alone.

For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified by faith (in baptism), but not by faith alone.

For the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, sinners are justified by faith alone.

For Roman Catholics, justification is a process of renewal that affords no solid basis for Christian assurance in this life.

For reformers such as Luther and Calvin, justification is God’s decisive verdict of forgiveness and righteousness that assures Christian believers of the acceptance and love of their heavenly Father.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Will Christianity Survive

Another great quote from G. Gresham Machen from the Presbyterian Guardian in 1936.

"Some weeks ago I was asked by the religious editor of the Boston Evening Transcript to contribute to a symposium on the question whether Christianity is facing extinction in the Western world.

I said that question can be answered only if we first answer the more fundamental question whether the preservation of Christianity depends upon man or upon God.

If its preservation depends upon man or upon any natural resources, the chances are overwhelmingly againist its being preserved."

The 'Assumed' Gospel

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1

You may have heard the story of the Mennonite Brethren movement. One particular analysis goes like this: the first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailmentsl

Please read more here

Saturday, April 07, 2012

A Gem From J. Gresham Machen

From J. Gresham Machen on the eve of his deposition from the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. "The whole program of the General Assembly is carefully planned in such a way as to conceal the real issues and give a false impression of faithfulness to the Word of God. I do not mean that the deceit is necessarily intentional. The men conducting the ecclesiastical machine are no doubt in many instances living in a region of thought and feeling so utterly remote from the great verities of the Christian Faith that they have no notion how completely they are diverting attention from those verities in their conduct of the Assembly. But the fact remains that the whole program, from whatever motives, is so constructed as to conceal the real condition of the Church.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Science supports the Cosmological Argument

From Be Thinking Web

One of the premises in the Cosmological Argument is: The universe began to exist. This event was mockingly called the 'big bang' by Fred Hoyle, but the name, and the concept, stuck. But, as an editorial in New Scientist says: "Many physicists have been fighting a rearguard action against it for decades, largely because of its theological overtones. If you have an instant of creation, don't you have a creator?" ('In the beginning…', New Scientist, 14 January 2012, page 3) The editorial in New Scientist concludes: "physicists and philosophers must finally answer a problem that has been nagging at them for the best part of 50 years: how do you get a universe, complete with the laws of physics, out of nothing?"

The article in the same issue ('Death of the eternal cosmos', pages 6-7) goes on to explain how cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin's work demonstrates that "every model of the universe has a beginning". Ironically this came from a symposium to celebrate Professor Stephen Hawking's 70th birthday. The article continues: "…the universe is not eternal, resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator." Professor Hawking gave a pre-recorded speech to the symposium, in which he stated: "A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God."

Friday, February 24, 2012

On Praise Bands

1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship. Christian worship is not a concert. In a concert (a particular “form of performance”), we often expect to be overwhelmed by sound, particularly in certain styles of music. In a concert, we come to expect that weird sort of sensory deprivation that happens from sensory overload, when the pounding of the bass on our chest and the wash of music over the crowd leaves us with the rush of a certain aural vertigo. And there’s nothing wrong with concerts! It’s just that Christian worship is not a concert. Christian worship is a collective, communal, congregational practice–and the gathered sound and harmony of a congregation singing as one is integral to the practice of worship. It is a way of “performing” the reality that, in Christ, we are one body. But that requires that we actually be able to hear ourselves, and hear our sisters and brothers singing alongside us. When the amped sound of the praise band overwhelms congregational voices, we can’t hear ourselves sing–so we lose that communal aspect of the congregation and are encouraged to effectively become “private,” passive worshipers.

2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship. In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and “be creative,” offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can’t sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.

3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship. I know it’s generally not your fault that we’ve put you at the front of the church. And I know you want to model worship for us to imitate. But because we’ve encouraged you to basically import forms of performance from the concert venue into the sanctuary, we might not realize that we’ve also unwittingly encouraged a sense that you are the center of attention. And when your performance becomes a display of your virtuosity–even with the best of intentions–it’s difficult to counter the temptation to make the praise band the focus of our attention. When the praise band goes into long riffs that you might intend as “offerings to God,” we the congregation become utterly passive, and because we’ve adopted habits of relating to music from the Grammys and the concert venue, we unwittingly make you the center of attention. I wonder if there might be some intentional reflection on placement (to the side? leading from behind?) and performance that might help us counter these habits we bring with us to worship.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Trinity

For a word which never appears in the Bible, the teaching of the Trinity is one of the most important teachings of the Bible. Among my evangelical colleagues, I don't know of any, Arminian, Reformed, or Anabaptist who deny this doctrine. Understanding it and explaining it clearly is another matter. That is where we are always in need of help.

Of course, we have a great starting point - the Creeds. In our case (Anglican) we have three creeds to help us - the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. Further the first article in our confessional statement, the Articles of Religion begins with the Holy Trinity.

The Articles say this: "There is one living and true God. His existence is everlasting, without beginning or end. He is the Creator and Preserver of all things whether seen or unseen. In the unity of this one true God there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are one in being, power and eternity."

One God and three Persons. There is really no analogy which does justice to this statement. There is no religion which comes close to this understanding of God, and there is no way of discovering this doctrine without its being revealed to us.

My church history teacher made the point that there is no heresy today which is not anticipated by the ancient heresies, which the Creeds have addressed. These heresies concerned the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ.

A glorious God and a glorious teaching.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Total Depravity

Total Depravity

A 19th-century American joke about the woman who, when asked what she thought of the doctrine of total depravity, replied that it was a very good doctrine if people would only live up to it.

It doesn’t go without saying that we are sinners, under God’s condemnation and in need of his forgiveness.

The same God who commands that the good news of salvation be shouted with a loud voice from the top of a mountain (Isa 40.9) also commands that the bad news of his people’s sins be preached and preached out loud with a voice ‘like a trumpet’ (Isa 58.1)

Isaiah 58:1 (ESV)

“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

The doctrine of sin needs to be preached, not presupposed.

“Although traditional Christianity is true, its truth saws against the grain of much in contemporary culture and therefore needs constant sharpening. Christianity’s major doctrines need regular restatement so that people may believe them, or believe them anew. Its classic awareness’s need to be evoked so that people may have them, or have them again. Recalling and confessing our sin is like taking out the garbage: once is not enough.” Cornelius Plantinga

Genesis 6:5 (ESV)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:11 (ESV)
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.

Isaiah 1:4-6 (ESV)
4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, of spring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. 5 Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.

Jeremiah 17:1 (ESV)
“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,

Psalms 51:5 (ESV)
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Mark 7:21-23 (ESV)
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Doesn’t mean we are as sinful as they could possibly be or that there is no such thing as virtuous action apart from the saving work of God’s Spirit, or that fallen humanity is bereft of all conscience

Calvin argued that Adam’s fall had such a devastating effect on the image of God in humanity that ‘nothing remains after the ruin except what is confused, mutilated, and disease-ridden.’

A Very Practical Doctrine

1. Depravity and watchfulness:
Reign of sin is broken, nevertheless we are utterly dependent upon God for both our fotgiveness and our sanctification.

In the Lord's Prayer we ask for forgiveness every day.

And even though we have ‘crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5.24) there remains for us the urgent, ongoing command to ‘put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” (Col 3.5; Romans 8.13)

2. Depravity and compassion:
We too are but dust (Psalm 103.14). We are by nature companions in a miserable, helpless condition;

3. Depravity and culture
Fallen culture is capable of great works – of beauty, truth and wisdom, it does remind us that on all these works of human hands – even the most magnificent – there will be the stains and smudges of human sin.

4. Depravity and Evangelism
All conversion is a miracle. John 3.1-8 – plus against distortion of message – 2 Cor 4.2-6

Depravity and doxology
Humbling doctrine. That our salvation depends on grace, not works.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brilliant Analysis from DG Hart

Can We Get a Little Moral Clarity Here?

In the light of Newt Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls, let’s see how the fortunes of the Religious Right are developing:

A weak week ago Mitt Romney was leading in the polls and some even talked about his sowing up the nomination after South Carolina and Florida.

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife did an interview this week in which details of Newt’s infidelities were in full view.

South Carolina may be the most evangelical state in the union, prompting some to call for Christians to migrateto the Palmetto State.

Today, pundits are calling the South Carolina Republican primary a toss-up between Gingrich and Romney, despite Romney’s obvious practice of family values and Gingrich’s marital past.

So where does this lead? First, evangelicals rally behind Tim Tebow who disregards the fourth commandment. Second, evangelical leaders tried to identify Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic who doesn’t even number the Ten Commandments (let alone interpret them) as evangelicals do (or used to). Now, apparently some evangelicals are willing to overlook the seventh commandment in favor of a conservative Republican.

I personally don’t care how evangelicals vote. Voting is not an act of devotion and is a matter of Christian liberty. But I do grow weary of the constant refrain of faith’s importance for politics when it is so obviously untrue, when a paucity of political ideas forces believers to wrap politics in Christian language. All of us are hypocrites. But not all of us make such a big deal of calling attention to our hypocrisy. If the Religious Right wants the rest of America to take them seriously, they need to acknowledge and explain their selectivity. I have advice — adopt 2k theology which means that you recognize the fallenness of the world and its politicians and so make the best of a bad situation. But if you’re going to insist that religion forms the only adequate basis for morality, and if you’re going to demand political candidates who have a faith that produces the kind of character needed for holding public office, then you better have a ready explanation for your vote for candidates who openly violate the Ten Commandments.

And it would also be good to explain how your identification of political acts with Christian devotion is not a violation of the First Commandment. Admittedly, Karl Barth had his problems as an interpreter of the Reformed tradition. But he certainly recognized the damnable error of investing political parties with religious significance (beyond the indefinite meanings supplied by providence).