Blog Template Theology of the Body: September 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Week of Catholicity VII: Confession

"Catholic": of or including all Christians • of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. James 5:16

A little bit more about that here.

A Week of Catholicity VI: Christ on His Cross, in the Flesh of His Mother

"Catholic": of or including all Christians • of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

The Observation of this Ecclesial Anthropologist has been that Natives who follow the Crucified shy away from the Crucifixion; impetus unknown.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified." (Matthew 28:5)There are two trends in the modern Christian comfort with wearing and displaying that horrible Roman instrument of torture: A) the Protestant cross, which is bare (with the exception of those which are bedecked with flora and fauna or Ralph Lauren plaid or colorful ethnic design- I have a few of these on my own wall, I admit, and a gold one hanging around my neck) and B) the Other Kind, which has the shameful image of a half-naked, dying young Jew on it.Most intriguing is the highly divergent behavior of Christians regarding the Cross.Protestants seem loathe to tolerate the image of the Crucified One on theirs; I have seen them roll their eyes at it, hide it, sheild their children from it. The explanation I have heard for such behavior is the proper observation that expected "But Jesus is not on the Cross! He is risen! The Cross is empty." And this is very true. Now, true Catholics believe the same thing, but their behavior is different towards the Man on the Cross. As He hangs prominently in view in their churches and on their rosaries, they fix their eyes on the crucifix, kneel before it, make their children do the same, bend low to kiss the image when they have the opportunity, even make its shape on their bodies. Their explanation goes that this is an image of their Lord, and their response is worship.Interesting...

Three observations off the top of my head-

1) Matthew 27 and Mark 15 both portray Jesus' mockers as demanding His descent from the Cross to prove Himself; "Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him!" As we believe, Jesus did not "come down" from the Cross. He died on it, and thus achieved our salvation. The crucifixion becomes an inextricable part of His story, and ours.

2) Muslim aesthetics would sympathize with the Protestant tendancy; hanging on a Cross is just not what a Prophet of God does. Christians like Soren Kierkegaard, (who was Protestant) on the other hand, urge to the contrary- hanging on a cross is the unique prerogative of our God.

3) The Risen One is ever the One who was Crucified. But in all fairness, the early Christians, many of whom risked crucifixion themselves for their faith, did not like to portray the Crucifix either. Too close to home. Thus you find Jesus portrayed as the Good Shepherd, or as a kind of Apollo figure in the Catacombs. Understandable. But surely not the case for your average WASP.So what's the problem???...

And furthermore.
This does bring us around to that crux, if I may, that so often prevents catholicity... Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, who is God, thus Mary, the Mother of God. Get your Christology straight, people. The bleeding flesh on the Cross is Her flesh, her DNA, assumed by God incarnate so that we might be healed. Anything of ours that He does not take to Calvary cannot go to meet Him in Heaven. The mortal flesh and blood of Adam had to adhere to His divinity somehow, in order to rescue us from death and destruction. And thus it happened in the Virgin's Womb... very God and very man, inseperable, for our redemption.

As one of our favorite preachers has said it: The Light of Life was carried by her, nourished by her… His own blood, His own divine life, was mingled with hers (John 6.51) in a way unknown to anyone before or since Mary. And even more: Mary was united to Christ as only a mother can be united to her son. She was united to him by the intensity of a mother’s love. When the Magi came to adore the newborn King, Mary saw them adoring her Son, her own baby. And when Jesus hung from the cross, there was one onlooker who saw hanging there something more than a victim of Roman justice, more than a Rabbi, more even than a friend or a master: there was one in the crowd, and only one, who looked at the man on the cross and saw her only Son broken and dying, her own little baby struggling for air. Why do salvation and redemption apply to Mary in a special way? Because she plumbed the depths of the suffering and death of Jesus as only a mother could.

Adulation of Mary from more Protestant Divines:

Martin Luther: "In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them. ... Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God." (Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 7, p. 572.)"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."(Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," December [?] 1527; from Hartmann Grisar, S.J., Luther, authorised translation from the German by E.M. Lamond; edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, first edition, 1915, Vol. IV [of 6], p. 238; taken from the German Werke, Erlangen, 1826-1868, edited by J.G. Plochmann and J.A. Irmischer, 2nd ed. edited by L. Enders, Frankfurt, 1862 ff., 67 volumes; citation from 152, p. 58)"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil...The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." (Personal "Little" Prayer Book, 1522)"It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother, God is his father."(Sermon, Christmas, 1522)..."Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother." (Sermon, Christmas, 1529)

John Calvin: "It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. ... Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary as at the same time the eternal God." (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, p. 348, 35.)

Huldreich Zwingli: "It is right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow."

Heinrich Bullinger: 'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God."

More of the Vocatum Apologia on the Immaculata here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Week of Catholicity V: Mercy

"Catholic": of or including all Christians • of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

Grace is the Sine Quo Non of Christian Belief

The Father of orphans, the defender of widows is God in His holy habitation... God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom... blessed be the Lord, the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens. Psalm 68

Our God is the one who freely gives life to all, and makes His rain fall on the just and on the unjust.

Our God is the One who gives His own body and blood to nourish and clothe the enemy.

I get so tired of hearing of grace in terms of "free gift," in the vein of the gifts that we give to those whom we cherish, whom we know will cherish us all the more in the future in exchange for the good gift given. Our God does no such thing; grace is the Cross. It is from that Cross that we know precisely for whom Christ died and whom He forgives- it is for the pagan, nail-driving crucifiers that Jesus demands, "Father, Forgive Them."

The practices of mercy thus bear in the lives of Christians. We follow the One who welcomes the enemy into His very heart. We follow the one whose life is poured out in intercession. Thus we heal... we share... we intercede. We do not ask to love our enemies; we act as though we did.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Week of Catholicity IV: Worship

"Catholic": of or including all Christians • of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

Christians Worship Christ the Lord. In Spirit and in Truth. A Lot.

The hymn below is Attributed to Saints Hilary and Ambrose. We have been singing this one since A.D. 400...

We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee and the Father everlasting.
To Thee all Angels cry aloud
To Thee the heavens and all the Powers therein.
To Thee the Cherubim and Seraphim cry with unceasing voice:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts!
The heavens and the earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles praise thee.
The admirable company of the Prophets praise thee.
The white-robed army of Martyrs praise thee.
Thee the Holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee,
The Father of infinite Majesty.
Thine adorable, true and only Son
Also the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Thou, having taken upon Thee to deliver man, didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
Thou, having overcome the sting of death, didst open to believers the kingdom of heaven.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants whom Thou has redeemed with Thy precious Blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in glory everlasting.
Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance.
Govern them and lift them up forever.
Day by day we bless Thee.
And we praise Thy name forever, world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, this day to keep us without sin.
Have mercy on us, O Lord have mercy on us.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have hoped in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee have I hoped let me never be confounded.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Week of Catholicity III: The Importance of Orthodoxy

"Catholic": of or including all Christians • of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

Christians are Committed to Truth.

Today's thoughts are borrowed from our Contributor Eirenopoios- they appeared earlier at another Blog, under the subtitle I Know Why the Caged Christian Sings. Hee hee. He begins...

Why the insistence on orthodoxy? This is a question I get often these days. Actually, it’s usually not put like that. It’s usually more like…

“Why are you so close minded?”

“When did you become such a fundamentalist?”

“What happened to your activism?”

“Why are hot dogs sold in packages of ten while hot dog buns are sold in packages of 8?”

Er… all but that last one…

And it’s true, I admit, that I can be shrill or insensitive sometimes. In fact, I can be downright, dumbfoundingly, absolutely dimwitted about what is and is not an appropriate way to share my faith. And this is the danger that all of us who strive not just for Christianity but for Christian orthodoxy have to face. The devil tempts us with what is tempting to us. Sometimes even orthodoxy itself can be a temptation to sin.

MM has written a nice post (on this). She apologizes for a lack of charity in a previous message and then proceeds to answer the very question I am trying to address here, that is, why does orthodoxy matter?

One of her thoughts which is worth pondering (and mirrors some of my own thinking):

We care about orthodoxy because God hates idolatry. He forbids the worship of any semblance of Himself that is not truly Himself in actuality. He has thus revealed Himself in propositions that speak mercifully to our reason and our human language, and thus invites us to worship in spirit- and in truth. There is no other God, and He will have no semblance put before Him. So we must be clear. A mistaken notion of Him is not Him. And when we worship with false, mistaken notions of who He is, we fail to worship Him as He really is, and instead accept a dim image merely.

I agree to a great extent, although I might explain slightly differently. I believe that God has created us to exist in the fullness of love in his embrace. In other words, the fullness of our being comes out of the fullness of knowing God. When we replace God with something that is not God, even and especially including ideas of God that are foreign to who God really is, we lose both God and ourselves in the process. Therefore, if one preaches Christ but says that Christ is hate rather than love, it is imperative that we try to correct that person, both for his own sake and for the sake of those whom he may lead into misery and destruction by way of his false gospel.

On the other hand, as I said, orthodoxy itself can become an idol. Our image of God, even when it follows the biblical example to the letter, can become an idol if we start to mistake the image we have for the real thing. God is not good feelings about God. God is not right thoughts and right words describing God. God is God. Or, more aptly, God is.

The great thirteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart understood this well. Reading through his sermons can be an exhilarating and frightening experience. He challenges our notions of God like no other. It’s like falling head first into the burning bush. In one place he writes:

God is nameless, because no one can say anything or understand anything about him. Therefore a pagan teacher says: “Whatever we understand or say about the First Cause, that is far more ourselves than it is the First Cause, for it is beyond all saying and understanding.” So if I say, “God is good,” that is not true. I am good, but God is not good. I can even say “I am better than God,” for whatever is good can become better, and whatever can become better can become best of all. But since God is not good, he cannot become better. And since he cannot become better, he cannot become best of all. For these three degrees are alien to God: “good,” “better,” and “best,” for he is superior to them all….

…About this, Saint Augustine says “The best that one can say about God is to keep silent out of the wisdom of one’s inward riches.” So be silent, and do not chatter about God. For when you do chatter about him, you are telling lies and sinning.

This is just one small passage in a large body of sermons that are equally perplexing. It’s ultimately this kind of language that led to Eckhart’s heresy trial. Yet many scholars do not believe that Eckhart’s intention was ever heresy. Rather, it was to help break us free from the idol that we can make orthodoxy into. Eckhart was a Dominican friar. He didn’t preach these sermons to lay people. He preached them to groups of nuns who spent their whole lives praying and studying. He knew the sin that they were prone towards better than they did.

So does this mean that we give up on orthodoxy? By no means. For again, as MM points out, we must do what we can to bring others and ourselves out of the slavery of idolatry. Sometimes this means sacrificing our own egos, even risking the most unkind words to be said about one’s self. “He is so exclusive” or “She is so judgmental.” But the reality is that what swells up in us when God comes into our hearts, when we come into a place where we know God personally and not just intellectually, that love of God cannot abide the suffering of others even when they are unaware that they are inflicting it upon themselves.

By the same token, our charge is always to have charity and love. And we who embrace Christian orthodoxy must remember that orthodoxy is about creating a safe space in which to be drawn into God, not about coming up with the perfect theological arithemitic. Sometimes we must do as Eckhart says and empty ourselves totally of all our images, even our thoughts about God, in order to truly become one with the truth we seek to proclaim.

Check out this Blog's response to the "Just Give Them Jesus" suggestion of postmodern Evangelicalism while you are at it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Week of Catholicity II: The Sanctification of Work

Christians Carry out the Creation Mandate in Terms of the Great Commission.

This means that we "fill the earth and subdue it"... with converted disciples. This means that we "take dominion"... only in the name of the Lord who suffered for His enemy and gives Himself in love and service for His people. This means that every action, of every day, can be a small enactment of His renewal and redemption, and a small version of eucharist that returns His gifts to Him in thanksgiving. This means that everyone has a ministry; that every workday is a day of vocation. The sweat of our brow has meaning in the light of Christ; within our work, we go into all the world and make disciples.

"Service to neighbour" was the way Luther linked daily life and work with Christian vocation. John Calvin emphasised the fact that God intends Christians to work "for mutual service," in light of the riches of diverse gifts and in light of social inter dependence: "all the gifts we possess have been bestowed by God and entrusted to us on condition that they be distributed for our neighbour's benefit," such that Christians were to so actively seek to use their talents and abilities to serve their neighbour as to change their station in life to make such service possible.

For the Christian, work does not have its meaning in paid employment or in occupations carried on for financial gain or profit; rather, work becomes another gracious vehicle for the vocation of honoring God and extending His love among His people.

John Paul II expressed the Christian theology of work beautifully. Naming humanity as sharers in the image of the Creator, he calls us "God's fellow artists," who, through our own creative work, offer gifts to the world: "the opening page of the Bible presents God as a kind of exemplar of everyone who produces a work- the human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life. In a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece." (More of the same in John Paul's Letter to Artists, here)

...And in the words of those working saints of Opus Dei, "God is not removing you from your environment. He is not taking you away from the world, nor from your condition in life, nor from your noble human endeavors, nor from your profession. For He wants you to be a saint- right there."

Christ qualifies Genesis for us with even greater clarity: we are to let our work make masterpieces of us, refining us with patience and courage. In our work and the fellowship it engenders, we are to make masterpieces of one another. In Christ, there is no mere labor; the tilling of the cursed Garden has become the exciting and sanctifying pilgrimmage into all the ends of the earth. Go there, in your daily work, and make disciples.

1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord....2 Corinthians 6:1: We then, as workers together with Christ, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain...Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

- and speaking of beautiful work, check out what Vocatum contributor Garland has been up to in his line of work...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Week of Catholicity I: The Sunday Obligation

"Catholic": of or including all Christians • of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

Christians go to Church on Sunday.


First, because Sunday is the day on which the Church has always honored the historical Resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week. (More on this blog's explanation as to why we believe in the Resurrection here) In this regard, the Church's Sunday observance is vastly different from the Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath constituted one of God's gracious provisions whereby His people might mark their reliance on His covenantal promises; but on Sunday, Christians commemorate the Resurrection, whereby God Himself has entered into His own rest, and has marked the consummation of His creation, salvific work, and His covenant in raising Jesus from the dead. In the words of St. Ignatius, "Christians no longer observe the Sabbath, but live in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also Our Life rose again."

Secondly, and inconveniently in an anti-establishment culture, Christians go to church on Sunday because we recognize our gathering to commemorate the Lord's Resurrection as an enactment of the ontological reality of the single Body for whom Christ died, and for whom He intercedes. The "gathering" of His people seems to be something constant in the will of God, from Sinai to Gathsemanee and Pentecost, for their benefit, growth, and protection, and for the greater glory of His name and fame; and the "gathering" of the Church anticipates our final gathering together when we are called to our marriage to Christ at the last day. If we believe it for later, we should practice for it now. In gathering together on the day that commemorates the Resurrection, Christians adhere to the practices of the earliest church, as indicated in Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 16: 2, and in Revelation 1:10. The earliest manual of church liturgy and practuce, the Didache, enjoins Christians of around A.D. 60 to "on the Lord's Day come together and break bread. And give thanks/offer Eucharist, after confessing your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure." Almost as early, we find in the Epistle of Barnabas (ca A.D. 80-120) the following: "wherefore, also, we are sure to keep the eight day (i. e. the first of the week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead."

More of the official line on the obedience due our Lord in observance of Sunday here.

Finally, in my own humble words, we go to Church on Sunday because Jesus is there. I have heard far too often that one can encounter Christ "just as easily" on the golf course or in one's home, if one Chooses to Sleep In. That may very well be; the Holy Spirit is all over the place. But the sad thing is that Christ has PROMISED to meet His people when they are gathered in His name. If we know for a fact that He will show up at our Church on Sunday morning- Matthew 18:20, "for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," why would we be so rude as to avoid His guaranteed presence? It's JESUS, people. Those of us in the liturgical traditions, furthermore, know that He is REALLY there, in as much as He has assured us that His very body and blood will be provided in accessible forms for us at a certain time and a certain place. The God almighty, the compelling and immenently attractive Jesus, waits for us on the altar, and we prefer to sleep in? Those of us in the more Updated Versions have also got little excuse, because in our hymns and preaching (though pale substitutes for His communion, if you ask me) He has also promised to inhabit our praises (Psalm 22:3).

In sum then: we go to Church on Sundays because that is where Jesus has told us that we can find Him on Sunday mornings.

BTW, the churchladies at "Be Not Conformed" recently had some nice suggestions on how to order one's life around Sunday observance here.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Week of Catholicity at Theology of the Body

Mid September is upon us, and most of we young people who stand with the saints to proclaim Christ the Lord in our dim, darkening culture are once again, after the summer hiatus, about the daily routines in which we work for Christ's Kingdom. To get this little Blog back on track, I am proposing that the coming week be devoted to reflections on the basic faith and practice that unite us as the agents and servants of Christ's Body, the Church universal. Thereafter, this blog will resume something of its original routine: saints on Sunday, reflection on the life of the Church on Mondays, reflection on the outworking of the Church's mission on Tuesdays, practices of prayer and ministry on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and reflections on the persecuted church on Fridays, etc. We will also be delving into some more apologetics from time to time.

But for this week, Lord willing, let's reflect together on the foundations of what it means to be and act like a Christian. As ever, we welcome your comments, concerns, and suggestions. And we will respond in love.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Too Much Fun: Cardinal Sean O'Malley Becomes a Blogger

You heard it here.

HT: Whispers


"Both the old and New Testaments teach that the church does not play a central role in evangelism. It does play a role, but not the central role. Scripture places the central responsibility for evangelism and discipleship in the hands of fathers in the home."

-Voddie Baucham

This makes me so mad. Among 111 references to the pre-eminent mission of the Church in the New Testament (as compared to the 1 sole reference to the "family"- of God- in Ephesians 3), we find the passages below describing the Church to the contrary- as the primary locus of Christ's continuing, evangelizing, sanctifying work in the world. What are these people thinking? If one refuses to do theology with the Church, he will still do theology- but it will be very bad theology. I am just upset that this sort of shennanigan has to go on in Romania...

1 Corinthians 11:22
What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not the same comforts of home? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

Ephesians 3: 22
...And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, and which is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

Colossians 1:18
And he is the head of the body, the church, which is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that through the church in all things He might have the preeminence.

1 Timothy 3:15
May you know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Anglican Bishops Keeping it all in Perspective in Kigali

As many of you know, archbishops of the "Global South" of the international Anglican Communion have been meeting in Kigali at my favorite Hotel de Milles Collines (of Hotel Rwanda fame, pictured affectionately above) to discuss the way forward as a community of orthodox faith and practice. I am so pleased to see that they have not neglected the harsh realities of their immediate context in their considerations: Africa is hurting. And every time Christ's Church messes up, Africa seems to hurt even more. The sanctity of Christ's Church will bless the nations in which she resides; conversely, her decadence will lead to the nation's corruption, disease, and despair.

Excerpts of the bishop's communique follow below. Read the whole thing here.

"We have gathered in Rwanda twelve years after the genocide that tragically engulfed this nation and even its churches. During this time Rwanda was abandoned to its fate by the world. Our first action was to visit the Kigali Genocide Museum at Gisozi for a time of prayer and reflection. We were chastened by this experience and commit ourselves not to abandon the poor or the persecuted wherever they may be and in whatever circumstances. We add our voices to theirs and we say, “Never Again!”

...As we prayed and wept at the mass grave of 250,000 helpless victims we confronted the utter depravity and inhumanity to which we are all subject outside of the transforming grace of God. We were reminded again that faith in Jesus Christ must be an active, whole-hearted faith if we are to stand against the evil and violence that threaten to consume our world. We were sobered by the reality that several of our Provinces are presently in the middle of dangerous conflicts. We commit ourselves to intercession for them.

...We are very aware of the agonizing situation in the Sudan. We appreciate and commend the terms of the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South. We dare not, however, close our eyes to the devastating situation in Darfur. We are conscious of the complexities but there must be no continuation of the slaughter. We invite people from all of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion and the entire international community to stand in solidarity with the men, women and children in Darfur, Sudan."

... these were events which, in many ways, are directly related to this:

"We deeply regret that, at its most recent General Convention, The Episcopal Church gave no clear embrace of the minimal recommendations of the Windsor Report. We observe that a number of the resolutions adopted by the Convention were actually contrary to the Windsor Report. We are further dismayed to note that their newly elected Presiding Bishop also holds to a position on human sexuality – not to mention other controversial views – in direct contradiction of Lambeth 1.10 and the historic teaching of the Church. The actions and decisions of the General Convention raise profound questions on the nature of Anglican identity across the entire Communion."


"We are, however, greatly encouraged by the continued faithfulness of the Network Dioceses and all of the other congregations and communities of faithful Anglicans in North America. In addition, we commend the members of the Anglican Network in Canada for their commitment to historic, biblical faith and practice. We value their courage and consistent witness. We are also pleased by the emergence of a wider circle of ‘Windsor Dioceses’ and urge all of them to walk more closely together and deliberately work towards the unity that Christ enjoins. We are aware that a growing number of congregations are receiving oversight from dioceses in the Global South and in recent days we have received requests to provide Alternative Primatial Oversight for a number of dioceses. This is an unprecedented situation in our Communion that has not been helped by the slow response from the Panel of Reference. After a great deal of prayer and deliberation, and in order to support these faithful Anglican dioceses and parishes, we have come to agreement on the following actions:...


"At the next meeting of the Primates in February 2007 some of us will not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a Primate at the table with us. Others will be in impaired communion with her as a representative of The Episcopal Church. Since she cannot represent those dioceses and congregations who are abiding by the teaching of the Communion we propose that another bishop, chosen by these dioceses, be present at the meeting so that we might listen to their voices during our deliberations.

We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA. We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop such a proposal in consultation with the appropriate instruments of unity of the Communion. We understand the serious implications of this determination. We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to historic Anglican faith."

Pygmies in Zoos

The Pygmy people are a tribe and ethnic group within modern Congo. At the turn of the last century, some of them were captured by Americans and transported to the Bronx Zoo in New York, where they were kept on display as part of the monkey exhibit. One of the most well known of the captured persons was Mr. Ota Benga, whose story was recounted on NPR today. When he finally was released from his cage in the Bronx Zoo, he attempted to become naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Failing this, he tragically committed suicide.

At the time, Christian clergy appropriately protested this monstrosity, but the gain to advocates of the newly arrived evolutionary theories of natural selection was just too great, and the public had responded with fascination.

...This is why we argue for the intrinsic dignity of the human person, whose life is invested with value by his Creator. This is why, from time to time, we must sternly question those accounts of origins that discount the presence of the moral and intentional will of the Father, and which thus reduce humanity to material causes and effects, "some being more advanced than others."

The Quote Meme

...tagged by our true friend Thursday, whose work I really admire. Here are my quotes:

When a man takes one step toward God, God takes more steps toward that man than there are sands in the worlds of time.
The Work of the Chariot

O ye of little faith, who believe that somehow the birth of Christ is dependent upon acknowledgment in a circular from OfficeMax!
Anna Quindlen (1953 - ), Newsweek, 01-02-06

What can you say about a society that says that God is dead and Elvis is alive?
Irv Kupcinet

If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.
Jewish Proverb

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.
Mother Teresa

I tag all contributors here, as well as Drew, Ranter, and Mrs. J, Fr. WB, Fr. Lee, and friends Zan and Kendall! Let us know in the comments section whether you have taken up the challenge...

Directions: Simply go to The Quote Page and there select five quotes from any category that describes who you are and what you believe...

Protestants in Monestaries

It happens. CF this now (excellent) inactive blog account of friend DW's experience while staying at St. Gregory's Abbey in Oklahoma.

Furthermore, it is always interesting to me how often and to what extent Protestants attempt to proximate the monastic experience. For instance, Evangelical Charistmatic pastor Mike Bickel of Kansas has spent years building and recruiting his "Shiloh Community" of persons living in a community of constant prayer...

Seriously, folks.

From Slate:

A related cause could be the contemporary avoidance of sincerity. Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter's post-9/11 declaration pronouncing the death of irony is, five years later, the misstatement of the millennium. From sneakers to cell-phone ring-tones to rain on your wedding day, everything is ironic. Or, more accurately, everything is sarcastic, the less-literary stepcousin of irony. Unlike irony, sarcasm can be printed on a T-shirt or written into every tenth line of an ESPN newscast with the generic (and easily aped) voice of mocking detachment that is so prevalent today.

What is the upside of being funny? Well, apart from getting noticed, it's safer to hide behind the mask of humor, especially in a culture skeptical of intellectualism. Andrew Stott, an English professor whose academic treatise Comedy explored the philosophy of humor, sees it like this: "Being funny is a means of avoiding scrutiny. It's a deeply concealing activity that invites attention while simultaneously failing to offer any detailed account of oneself. The reason humor is so popular today is that it provides the comfort of intimacy without the horror of actually being intimate."

I, for one, will combat this epidemic by--from now on--only being sober in demeanor and speech. Yeah, right.

Don't forget to watch the videos at You Tube from the IBM sales team.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Faithful Archive Update

For any of you who are interested, our New Faithful Archive has been updated with a new syllabus for "Teaching Paul in one Class Period." It could easily be expanded to suit a whole course, or a week/set of classes within a course. It looks pretty good. Find it here.

The Greatest/The Letting Go

Here's an article in the Times about Indie rocker Cat Power (aka Chan [prncd "Shawn"] Marshall) and her recent recovery from alcohol addiction. Her latest album, "The Greatest" is frequently playing on my iPod. Hopefully she will stay sober enough to keep making good songs.

This sentence caught my attention:

Like Will Oldham, another indie-folk rocker who is currently starring in the film “Old Joy,” Ms. Marshall is considering a foray into acting.

Will Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy, has also just released a new album, "The Letting Go," (now finally available on iTunes) which is, as far as I can tell, one of his best efforts so far. Oldham also has a bit part in the movie "Junebug" which is pretty enjoyable and is set in Winston-Salem, NC.

No one would be the worser for buying both of these albums (the poorer maybe).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Well, I am in for it now...

I have commenced the Inquiry Phase for a vocation as an Anglican Dominican Tertiary (gulp). So far, the Director of Initial Formation is lovely (gulp). AND it is very exciting. So long as they allow me to marry...

The call to be a Dominican is a calling to be someone who desperately wants to experience and know God. Dominicans are committed to study and prayer first and foremost, because without these they have nothing to share with others. Dominicans do not tell about God based on theory, but based on their own intimate relationship with the Divine Master. To be a Dominican is to be on a spiritual journey with Jesus Christ and toward Jesus Christ. That is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. Our lives are spent moving toward God yet each and every moment is spent with God. Dominicans seek to become people who are aware of God at every moment and in everyplace; whether we are preaching, washing the dishes, or driving down the street...

You can learn more about this Anglican Order here. We had a lively discussion about tertiary life a few months ago on this blog, as recorded here. Either read and review, or pray for me!

(Also check out this link to a site on other extant Anglican orders, courtesy of Jon.)

Holy Whapping Strikes Again

Drew had some profoundly beautiful things to say on the recent scuffles with Islam.

It occurred to me the other day that the Christian God is not "Great." To say that God is Great ("Allahu Akbhar") is NOT, as it is in Islam, the central tenet of our religion. The Christian God is Good...and Goodness takes the form of Good Friday and a death on the Cross. The Crucifixion, and the theology and spirituality of the Cross, is what Islam so desperately needs. Because Allah is "Great" and can suffer no dishonor, no harm, Allah's prophets, likewise, can suffer no dishonor. This is why the Muslims are uber-sensitive about Mohammed. It is also why the Muslims abhor the idea that Jesus Christ was Crucified: they believe Jesus Christ existed as some manner of prophet, and because Christ was a prophet, could absolutely not have suffered the ignomity of the Cross.

However, we "lift high the Cross," proclaiming "Christ crucified, foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews." (1 Cor 1:23) In Jesus Christ, we see that God is Love (Deus Est Caritas), for in Jesus Christ the Divine Son is absolutely poured out for us, as an icon of the inner life of the Trinity (that the Son proceeds from the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit, One God), and also as a testimony of God's absolute love for us.

The Christian God can, and does, suffer ignomity, dishonor, and shame for the sake of love in the person of Jesus Christ. Muslims, rather, are quite insistent that God is not Love; Allah is Great, and if in Allah's determination Allah saves some human souls, it is less out of love than mercy. Whatever the motive, Allah is not constituted by love. But the Christian God IS, in His essence, Love: that is what the doctrine of the Trinity summarizes, that the One God fully exists (the Father), fully knows Himself (Logos or the Son), and fully loves His Infinite Goodness (the Holy Spirit). The Christian God IS love, not simply "loving," and therefore can relate to humanity only through Love. The Christian God not only can therefore, when He takes on human flesh, suffer dishonor and shame, but for the sake of loving a human race which does not respect love, God must suffer the ignomity of unrequited love.

Just as the Muslim prophet is expected to share in the fundamental greatness of God, the Christian can hope to share in the fundamental love of God...

Read more here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Vatican Statement on the Hullabaloo


Saturday, 16 September 2006
Available here. The draft of the Holy Father's actual speech, which has elicited Said Controversy, is available here, courtesy of Fr. WB, who is always more up on the news than I. I was probably baking.

"Given the reaction in Muslim quarters to certain passages of the Holy Father's address at the University of Regensburg, and the clarifications and explanations already presented through the Director of the Holy See Press Office, I would like to add the following:

The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: "The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting" (no. 3).

The Pope's option in favor of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is equally unequivocal. In his meeting with representatives of Muslim communities in Cologne, Germany, on 20 August 2005, he said that such dialogue between Christians and Muslims "cannot be reduced to an optional extra," adding: "The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity".

As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. On this point, it is worth recalling what Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in his commemorative Message for the 20th anniversary of the Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, initiated by his predecessor John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986: " ... demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time. ... In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions".

The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions. Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervor of Muslim believers, warned secularized Western culture to guard against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom".

In reiterating his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam, he hopes they will be helped to understand the correct meaning of his words so that, quickly surmounting this present uneasy moment, witness to the "Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men" may be reinforced, and collaboration may intensify "to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."

(Nostra Aetate no. 3).

The Holy Father Makes His Apology

... Let me just say that if NPR's Cynthia Poggiole alludes one more time to the surprising slur that Benedetto "does not place Islam on the same footing as Christianity," I am going to scream. Of course Christ's vicar on earth can do no such thing. Everyone needs to stop being so whiny.

As we all know by now, Papa Benedict recently quoted a 14th century statement the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, that itself alludes to the historical fact that Mohammed's robber bands had been doing their thing- Sure it was a risky move, in as much as Benedict's statement pokes at the very old wound in the history of Islam, namely, that history of violence that encloses an otherwise respectable, moral monotheism in tales of blood, gore and incest from its very inception. This wound is an inevitable and undeniable datum for every Muslim, and rightfully taken, should spur every modern Muslim to live at the opposite end of the spectrum by clinging to those Quranic passages that urge mercy and humanism rather than military jihad. Given their history of violence, modern Muslims must eschew that self-evident history and seek peace.

Modern Christians, of course, have the same option. Given the instances of violence in our own past, it remains to us (individually, personally, here and now) to cling all the more to the Savior who loves and feeds the enemy. We too need to live in the opposite end of the spectrum whenever we are faced with history's accusatorial reminders... crusade... inquisition... witch trials. Etc.

No, Benedict's benign statement hardly rises to the level of a legit "apology-" I have said that "I am sorry that you were hurt," is an entirely different thing from saying "I was wrong and I regret it and will do everything possible to avoid repeating the offense in the future." Nonetheless, Benedict's statements have been adequate and appropriate. There is simply nothing reprehensible about referring to historical fact in a way that will challenge modern practitioners to avoid the sordid stuff of their inheritance, and to live instead in what Muslim scholars call "that other face of Islam," wherein we Christians may be glad to rejoice with those Muslims who, with us, confess and adore the Creator, the one merciful God, and our Judge at the end of time.

May all good Muslims respond to Benedict's implicit invitation to eschew the violence of their history, rather than swearing to kill us all by the sword if we will not convert to Islam. It's realy too ironic: "No, we're not violent, but if you suggest that we are, we will kill you!" (More on that last bit here...)


"What flaws are we screening for? That's the most uncomfortable question of all. Sometimes the flaw is a horrible disease. But increasingly, it's a milder disease, the absence of u tissue, or just the wrong sex. If you think it's hard to explain where babies come from, try explaining where baby-making is going."


Sunday, September 17, 2006

More Good Things at Yale

... whenever I have to field complaints about "the total loss of the Ivy League to Satan," as though God's arm had grown quite small, I like to remind people of such initiatives as those of the Evangelical Fellowship at Yale Divinity School, "an ecumenical campus group committed to creedal orthodoxy, the trustworthiness of Scripture, the central importance of a vital relationship with Jesus Christ and the call to share the gospel with all people."

Later this week, for instance, the group will be hosting a visit of the fabled and fabulous Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the "First Things" magazine. InterVarsity at Yale is co-sponsoring Fr. Nehaus' talk with the Yale Political Union on the subject "Separation of Church and State is Bad for America."

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus will be at Yale on Tuesday, Sept 19th, 7:30pm, location TBA. Comment here for more specifics. If any of you are lucky enough to be reading from the Northeastern Corridor, I would say this sort of thing is very much worth a drive to New Haven...

The Gift of the Church

"This gift of God was entrusted to the church, that all the members might receive of Him and be made alive; and none are partakers of Him who does not assemble with the church, but defraud themselves of life. For where the church is there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the church and all grace."

- Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, and Father of the Church, ca 125- 170 A.D. NB that this guy was only TWO generations away from those who walked with Jesus.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Blessed John Hare

Word has reached me that the sainted Professor Hare, last year's Gifford Lecturer and one of the Church's greatest resources on Kant and love for Jesus in general, is once again co-leading a Bible study with his lovely wife in their home for Yale students. It just does not get any better. I hear that they will be studying Colossians...if only he would publish those thoughts...

Let it be known that I made him laugh once...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Beautiful Books

Anyone interested in sources for used/rare books, with a special emphasis on theology and Christian faith and culture generally, should check out Kubik Fine Books Ltd. It is always good to find such a treasure trove...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Does Anyone Have Anything on the Martyrs of Uganda?

A wonderful and enormous Christian orphanage that I work with in Luwero, Uganda, is searching for appropriate materials on the Anglican and Catholic Martyrs of Uganda for their primary and secondary school libraries. So few Ugandan children are aware of the amazing legacy of saints and heroes in their country.

The Ugandan martyrs were young men between the ages of twelve and eighteen who were among the earliest converts in E. Africa, and who were canonized for their refusal to renounce Christ at the behest of the Muslim King Mutesa I.

... anything?

"Whispers in the Loggia"- a rare peek behind the Vatican's red velvet curtain.

I am sure most of you heard about it on NPR (well, get it here)- Young Catholic Blogger Makes Waves! He is 23, a recent grad of the University of Pennsylvania, he has over 8,000 daily readers, and he has magical inside scoops where it matters, in as much as he apparently is both giving and receiving juicy news inside the Vatican...for writers for the National Catholic Reporter...and for one lone German computer that accesses him very late at night from Vatican City... which makes one wonder...

His Blog is here! -You found it here first.

Check out his friends at while you're at it. Very clever. But I still like Holy Whapping best...

Apology for an Apology

Friends, I have been really convicted. As usual, a few days ago I posted in a Rather Irate Tone about the antics of ministers who deliver a Touch of Heresy in their messages. In the places where I hang out, Irritation with Heresy is taken to be a supreme Christian virtue, but as so often happens, one misses the forest for the trees, and forgets that the TRUTH is that practices like love, forbearance, patience, and graced speech are the Christian virtues; anyone can get irritated. Far too often, I convey what is really disappointment and sorrow at the way the precious Gospel is being presented with a tone that is patronizing and angry. This is no good. I want everyone to see and hear Christ in me. I was wrong to write in such a way, and I am sorry.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the positions and conversations undertaken at this blog. The question begged so often is this: why bother with orthodoxy anyway? Orthodoxy is troublesome and often quarrelsome, bringing to bear that "sword" that Jesus mentioned, that sword that can divide soul from spirit, even the members of the most intimate household from one another. Love is the commandment, after all. The Pharisees bothered with orthodoxy, and we do not want to be like them- Jesus could not stand them. After all, isn't the experience of mere sincerity and openness to God all that really matters?

I continue to kick this question around. Why bother with orthodoxy anyway?

In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa urged his flock to "struggle against the enemies of the truth, and not to shrink from the task, that we fathers may be gladdened by the noble toil of our sons; you turn your ranks, come against us the assaults of those darts which are hurled by the opponents of the truth, and demand that their hot burning coals be desolate, and their shafts sharpened by knowledge falsely so called should be quenched with the shield of faith..."

Why is such "struggle" commended? Because, Gregory continues, the issues of orthodoxy are not benign matters, as though the devil were not a roving lion actively seeking souls to devour, as though there were not wolves constantly stalking to consume the neglected sheep of a lazy shephard, as though the world's idols were not a dangerous enemy to those whom Christ loves.

As Gregory puts it,

"In truth, the question you propound to us is no small one, nor such that but small harm will follow if it meets with insufficient treatment. For by the force of the question, we are at first sight compelled to accept this monstrous dilemma.... even if our reasoning be found unequal to the problem, we must keep for ever, firm and unmoved, the tradition which we received by succession from the fathers, and seek from the Lord the reason which is the advocate of our avoid any resemblance to the polytheism of the heathen."

And there you have it. It is the same injunction that we find in Paul's railing against the teachings that were not "from us," and in James' quieter, somber command, "little children, keep yourselves from idols." We care about orthodoxy because God hates idolatry. He forbids the worship of any semblance of Himself that is not truly Himself in actuality. He has thus revealed Himself in propositions that speak mercifully to our reason and our our human language, and thus invites us to worship in spirit- and in truth. There is no other God, and He will have no semblance put before Him. So we must be clear. A mistaken notion of Him is not Him. And when we worship with false, mistaken notions of who He is, we fail to worship Him as He really is, and instead accept a dim image merely.

Of course there is no condemnation for humanity, for me, who, though found in Christ, wrestles with the finitude of mind and opportunity in apprehending Him "correctly." A child who lacks theological understanding entirely can still worship reall well. But again, we have the stern Scriptural command to dilligence... "be NOT chidren in your understanding," "rightly divide the word of truth so that you need be ashamed," etc. And do we not respond in concerned compassion for the proverbial island native who, in blissful ignorance, worships a kindly idol of coconut hulls? Knowing the mind and heart of Christ, we cannot tolerate his idolatry; so we assemble our energies to make a disciple of him, so that he too may know Him who is the only Life.

There can be no acquiesence to idols. God hates idols, and He fights against every delusion, every entrapment, every weapon that keep us from Him. Knowing that He wants us so much, we should do no less. We need to be with Him, as He is, not with a mistaken idea of Him.

In the words of some civic hero, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom...

(Be sure to CF the excellent reflections on the theme of this post at Propoganda Box)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Congratulations, Fr. WB!

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the ordination of one of the contemporary Church's greatest treasures, and my best friend of over twelve years, Fr. WB. He is one of the youngest (and best) priests in the Anglican Communion; and from the moment God summoned him to serve His Bride with Him, this brilliant, devoted guy has followed that summons with the profoundest care and passion. It is no easy road. Fr. WB loves our Lord, and he loves His Cross, and he loves His Church, and he has led and formed me more than he will ever know.

In honor of the occasion, I have begun a simple new blog to publish Fr. WB's sermons. I call it 'The New Faithful Archive: Sermons and Syllabi." There you will find the best of Fr. WB's homilies for your own reference, as well as the sermons of some other young people who I know and love for seeking to stand with the saints to proclaim the Lord. There you will also find some syllabi for classes on relevant topics that I and other academic aspirants have authored. Feel free to submit your own sermons, essays, etc. to this new blog by emailing me at For your reference, the sermons are organized with key words and texts highlighted in the titles. Enjoy!

Monday, September 11, 2006

In His Mercy

Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.

Then in your mercy,
grant us a safe lodging,
and a holy rest,
and peace at the last.

Come to meet them, angels of the Lord!
Receive their souls and present them to God the Most High.

May Christ, who called them, take them to himself;
may angels lead them to Abraham's side.

Give them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may your light shine on them forever.

More on the Christian theology of praying for the dead here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The fulfillment of desire

"Faith is a kind of knowledge, inasmuch as the intellect is determined by faith to some knowable object. But this determination to one object does not proceed from the vision of the believer, but from the vision of Him who is believed."

For even among ourselves not everything seen is held or possessed, forasmuch as things either appear sometimes afar off, or they are not in our power of attainment. Neither, again, do we always enjoy what we possess; either because we find no pleasure in them, or because such things are not the ultimate end of our desire, so as to satisfy and quell it. But the blessed possess these three things in God; because they see Him, and in seeing Him, possess Him as present, having the power to see Him always; and possessing Him, they enjoy Him as the ultimate fulfilment of desire."

- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Arthur Blessitt, Pope John Paul, and the Heart of Christ

Do any of you know the story of Arthur Blessitt? The crazy man is a modern saint of the Jesus Movement, and a hero in my family. In short, he was madly in love with Jesus. So, he built a cross and carried it around the world for decades- through Red China, up Mt. Kilimanjaro, across the Amazon, etc. He was a spectacle, and he wanted to be; you see, when people asked him why he was behaving so strangely, he took the opportunity to share with them about the crazy behavior of the God who built a Cross and carried it through the world for the sake of love.

One day, Arthur carried his cross into Rome...into the Vatican...into St. Peter's. He had a private audience with the Pope. And at the end of their talk, Arthur turned to John Paul II and asked him with a smile, "is there anything I can do for you?" The Pope was a little taken aback, apparently. No one had ever asked him that in a private audience. The story goes that there were tears in his eyes. "No one as ever asked me that," he said.

John Paul did proceed to ask Arthur to carry his cross across Poland for the sake of the Pope's own enslaved homeland. But what I love about this story is how clearly it shows us the heart of Jesus- a God with a cross on his back interrupting us to ask, earnestly, "is there anything I can do for you?"

Excerpted from a speech given by Arthur Blessitt, Los Angeles Christian Convention, 1987.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It's all about me!

Really Good Protestant Eucharistic Theology

Our friend Eric at Wittenburg Trail had some really good things to say in response to a question of mine:

Those who think of the sacraments as mere "ordinances" misunderstand both the sacraments, and the scriptures. Don’t get me wrong. The sacraments DO come with commands, but those commands are not given directly to the Christian. They are given directly to the Church, and to the Christian through the Church.

For some that is much too fine a hair, much too thinly sliced. "Even if that were true, what difference does it make whether the command goes directly to the Church or directly to the Christian? Is it not still an ordinance?" Yes, but God gave these ordinances directly to the Church so that the Christian would understand that he is not the one "obeying" God by participating in the sacraments. God very clearly intends for us to understand the sacraments, not as rituals that we must obediently perform, but as gifts that we desperately need to receive from His overwhelmingly generous and gracious hand.

You know... the Old Testament sacrifices were also sacramental gifts. They were given to Israel, not as a means of atonement through obedience, but as a means of receiving God’s grace through the representation of the promised redemption in Jesus Christ. Israel lost that understanding, and came to see the sacrificial system as an elaborate set of atoning ordinances. When the Church understands Baptism and Communion as simply "ordinances," I believe it is falling back into the false "Religion of the Law."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Case for the Family

I am always one to remind my generation that Christ's Great Commission has more to do with making converts than babies, such that the modern Church should be calling her young people to the former even over and above the latter. This opinion is all Stanley Hauerwas' fault. But with that having been said, the numbers do speak for themselves. Check out this statistic, which represents the outcome of basic numbers and other variables, delivered in my seminar yesterday:

Current World Population Demographics:
1 Billion Muslims
14 Million Jews
1.8 Billion Christians

The average Western Muslim family produces 6.4 children.
The average Western Modern Orthodox Jewish family produces 3.23 children.
The average Western Christian family produces 1.82 children.

If the numbers were to remain consistant in one generation:
The legacy of the Western Muslim family is 295 people.
The legacy of the Western Modern Orthodox Jewish family is 151 people.
The legacy of the Western Christian family family is 62 people.

... and if the numbers were to remain consistant over four generations:
The legacy of the Western Muslim family will be 2,588 people.
The legacy of the Western Modern Orthodox Jewish family will be 346 people.
The legacy of the Western Christian family will be 13 people. get the idea.

Source: Dr. John C. Lamoreaux, Southern Methodist University.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Culture of Life Projects III: Baby Marquell!

The tenderest of welcomes to Leo Charles Marquell, who was born late last week to one of my dearest and oldest friends... besides being the heroic mother of this little one, she is a true comrade, having single-handedly taught me how to share the Gospel, how to branch out on very dangerous mission trips, how to take long and fast-paced prayer walks, how to deal with different personalities in ministry, and the list could go on much longer. Here she is on the greatest adventure yet.

One of my favorite hymns ever

... in honor of Fr. WB's excellent post on the thriving chapter of young American Benedictines whom we love in Norcia. They are so clearly the Lord's army. Read about them here.

Go forward, Christian soldier,
Beneath His banner true:
The Lord Himself, thy Leader,
Shall all thy foes subdue.
His love foretells thy trials;
He knows thine hourly need;
He can with bread of Heaven
Thy fainting spirit feed.

Go forward, Christian soldier,
Fear not the secret foe;
Far more o’er thee are watching
Than human eyes can know:
Trust only Christ, thy Captain;
Cease not to watch and pray;
Heed not the treacherous voices
That lure thy soul astray.

Go forward, Christian soldier,
Nor dream of peaceful rest,
Till Satan’s host is vanquished
And Heav’n is all possessed;
Till Christ Himself shall call thee
To lay thine armor by,
And wear in endless glory
The crown of victory.

Go forward, Christian soldier,
Fear not the gath’ring night:
The Lord has been thy Shelter;
The Lord will be thy Light.
When morn His face revealeth,
Thy dangers are all past:
O pray that faith and virtue
May keep thee to the last!

Lawrence Tuttiett, 1861.


A poignant reminder in Sunday's sermon, wherein the pastor urged us to take the homeless into our very homes:

"Keep on loving one another, as brothers and sisters. Do not neglect to show courtesy to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Hebrews 13

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Younger Evangelicals

This title came up over dinner last week with a very cool young clerical couple, who are among the many young people who had entered Wheaton College as Evangelicals, but then graduated as high church, hyper orthodox Anglicans... (Nota Bene that The Same Thing seems to be happening at that illustrious outpost of Evangelical seminary training, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More about that later.) He is one of Fr. WB's colleagues in curate ministry in Texas; she is the mother of their precious baby daughter. This book seems to tell their story... and perhaps it also relates to the story of many readers at this humble blog (?)

Check it out

Over a quarter of a century ago, Richard Quebedeaux chronicled the history and prospects of evangelicalism in his sociology of religion study, The Young Evangelicals. Webber, who teaches at Northern Seminary in Wheaton, Ill., offers an insider's perspective on the present state and future of evangelicalism. He contends that the "younger evangelicals" include anyone "who deals thoughtfully with the shift from 20th- to 21st-century culture. He or she is committed to construct a biblically rooted, historically informed and culturally aware new evangelical witness in the 21st century." In this splendid overview of the shifts in the evangelical landscape, Webber examines the differences in theological thinking, worship styles and communication styles; attitudes toward history, art and evangelism; and ecclesiology between "traditional" evangelicals (1950-1975), "pragmatic" evangelicals (1975-2000) and younger evangelicals (2000-). For example, where the traditional evangelicals argued theologically that Christianity is a rational worldview and pragmatic evangelicals contended theologically that Christianity is a therapy that answers needs, the younger evangelicals' theological program involves a return to ancient Christian and Reformation teachings that Christianity is a community of faith. These younger evangelicals, he argues, are highly visual believers, possessing great facility with technology. They are committed to the plight of the poor, multicultural communities of faith and intergenerational ministry, and they recognize that the road to the future runs through the past. Webber's helpful and thorough guidebook offers a generous assessment of the history of evangelicalism as well as a judicious but enthusiastic evaluation of its prospects in the 21st century.

The Young Evangelicals told the story of a new generation of believers. Now, in The Younger Evangelicals, Robert Webber explores how another generation of emerging leaders is bringing sweeping change and renewal to the twenty-first century evangelical church. Webber explores the characteristics of these emerging leaders and provides an outlet for their stories. After giving an overview of twentieth century evangelicalism, he examines how the way "younger evangelicals'' think about faith and church practice is radically different from their "traditional" (1950- 1975) and "pragmatic" (1975-2000) predecessors. Thought provoking and timely, The Younger Evangelicals is a landmark book for all who want to prepare for and respond to the new evangelical awakening brought on by our changing cultural context.

Another title behind the concept of this blog and many of its readers and contributors, visit this former post as well!