Blog Template Theology of the Body: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trembling MM

... is spending the week in Boston in order to present at a conference. The remarks are headed Let Those Who Pray Go Over: A Proposal for Grace Among the Christians of Uganda, and here is my clencher, borrowed from the great Miroslav Volf:

If Christians believe in Christ, who unconditionally embraces godless perpetrators, our hearts will be open to receive others, even enemies, and our eyes will be open to them from their perspective. If we hold that Jesus Christ revealed His love and the mystery of reconciliation to us on the cross, as His followers we will intend to do our utmost to overcome the issues that divide the Church

Yours truly is hoping that I will get away with making some very big claims about the problems of Protestant/Catholic divisions throughout Eastern Africa. I claim that these divisions tend to political instability in general. If you think about it, say a prayer for me!

(you can download a sadly unrevised copy of the thing here)

More from the people who brought you the "Real Men Love Jesus" bumpersticker

Here's an article from Newsweek on "GodMen."

Oct. 30, 2006 - This wasn’t your Daddy’s religious revival. Last Saturday morning, 200 Christian men gathered in a downtown warehouse in Nashville for a day-long spiritual extravaganza. Inside, strobe lights flashed, and tracks by the Killers thumped from speakers stacked on either side of a stage. Four large video screens showed clips of karate fights, car chases and Jackass-style stunts. Then the music lowered and Christian comedian Brad Stine appeared. With his rat-a-tat delivery and aggressive style, Stine quickly whipped the crowd into a chorus of “Amens!” “A lot of guys out there wouldn’t have the balls to be here,” he shouted. “Are you ready to be a man? Are you ready to kick ass? Are you ready to grab your sword and say, ‘OK family, I’m going to lead you?’ Buckle up. This is GodMen!”

The event was the first of what Stine and other organizers hope will be a series of testosterone-fueled Christian men’s gatherings across the country. Their purpose: to reassert masculinity within a church structure that they say has been weakened by feminization. They call it an experiment for now and don't expect, or even want, their numbers to grow too quickly. Stine and his friend and manager Mike Smith dreamed up GodMen after reading David Murrow’s 2005 book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” In it, Murrow points out that on any given Sunday, 13 million more adult women than men attend church in America. “We have to find a way to give [men] something that matters to them,” says Stine.

One way is to create a worship space where guys can be guys. “In most churches, you’ll see flowers and ferns at the front,” says Stine. “That’s saying, ‘This is a place that a woman has composed.’” So GodMen sought to create a place where men could admit to flaws without being judged bad Christians and be unapologetically male, including plenty of rock and roll and sex talk. “There’s this idea if you don’t drink or don’t say bad words, you are doing your Christianity appropriately, and meanwhile, that same guy is on the Internet looking at pornography,” Stine says. “It’s all a smoke screen. We need to admit these issues in order to be free.”


The statement below showed up in my inbox this morning. The words allude to a local political initiative that hopes to involve Christians in the reform of the USA as God's Kingdom on earth. Somehow, the newest declaration of the well-intentioned Reformation has become "no church but country." CF:

"I have lived my Christian life primarily within the walls of the Church. However, I am convinced in my heart that every Christian must have an understanding of the
basic concepts you teach, along with study of biblical principles, as a
foundation for their call, and for the tearing down of the church's walls... for national transformation."

This sort of thing just breaks my heart. It also puts me in fear for our nation; if American Christians keep carrying on this idolatrous way about our national identity, it stands to reason that God will do whatever it takes to return our gaze to Him, and our rightful place within His Body- the one that He actually founded, the one that has only apostolic borders, the one that demands our full allegiance, the one that cannot be identified with the perishing political structures of men. The fact that many Christians are so off base in their worship and practical loyalties makes me really nervous.

I am running back to the book of Ephesians.

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things in His Church...To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God...Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end...For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body...Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it...That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish...For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church... and the two shall become one flesh: I speak concerning Christ and the church."

On Mystical Experience Contd.

oooh! Nice! A friend of mine "said" this today in a paper that I have been reading:

"At some point people like to describe the various descriptions of religious experience with reference to the parable of the five blind men touching the same elephant. But I am not convinced that such disperate people can be gathered together and said to be all touching the same elephant, and if they can, then surely it is a dead specimen."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Criteria for Genuine Mystical Experience


1. Consistency
2. Spiritual and Moral Fruits
3. Consistency with Orthodox Doctrine
4. Healthy Condition of the Subject

"These experiences are proved real to their possessor, because they remain with him when brought closest into contact with the objective realities of life. Dreams cannot stand this test. We wake from them to find that they are but dreams. Wanderings of an overwrought brain do not stand this test. These highest experiences that I have had of God's presence have been rare and brief... but I find that, after every questioning and test, they stand out today as the most real experiences of my life, and experiences which have explained and justified and unified all other past experiences and all past growth."

- J. Trevor, 1897.

All Saints Day

As always, the Church not only offers an "alternative" to the garish decorations that are filling up my neighborhood, but indeed the original holyday that the rest of the world so sooon forgets. In the Church's calendar, November 1 has marked the celebration of the lives of great heroes of the faith; In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all; our earliest record of this observance comes from a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian in A.D. 373.

Ocotober 31 is the eve of this commemoration- a time of prayer, thanksgiving, and celebration of exemplary lives that have gone before. "Halloween" literally refers to the eve of the holy ones... "all hallowed's eve"...= "halloween."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Chains: Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

Remember those in chains, as bound with them.

... Because they are very much alone. Because, though they are made in the image of God, and though Christ died for them, their intrinsic and invaluable human worth is denied by our legal system, making them susceptible for extreme abuse- for which we will be held accountible. Because our final loyalties are to the Savior of mankind, not to our national borders.

May these prisoners of war be treated with the grace and mercy that we have known in Christ.

While you are at it, see the entirety of what the Rev. J Tron has to say. In the interim, here is an excerpt. I said Amen.

More importantly though, the value that Christians must consider in this debate is the value of life itself. We claim that we are a people of life, that there is an intrinsic value to human life that cannot be denied. We stand with Saint Paul to say that there is no Jew and no Greek in Christ, only the person. All right religion points back to this central understanding of the sacred nature of the gift of life. This is our most treasured value. This is the hallmark of how we understand the universe and our place in it. If this is so then it must always be so, not just when it is convenient. If it is so for the best of people, it must be so for the worst. If it is so for the unborn child, or even possibly for the potential cells in the petrie dish, it must certainly be so for those who languish away in our prisons, regardless of their nationality and regardless of the crimes they may or may not have committed. Once we give up on this argument and agree to the moral neutrality of torture, we can no longer hope to be a people of life or the gospel.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Apologize: The Existence of God

"It is very unlikely indeed a priori that there should be a universe made of matter behaving in totally regular ways, giving rise to conscious beings capable of changing themselves and others, making themselves fit for the Heaven of which they have a glimpse in religious experience. Hence the reason which we use about science and history demands that we postulate a simple explanation of these phenomena in terms of a creator and sustainer God.

Why believe that there is a God at all? My answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all."

- Richard Swinburne, Evidence for God, Christian Evidence Society, London 1986.

Read more of the same from Swinburne's The Justification of Theism here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Osama Bin Laden's Fatwa Against Americans, Christians, Etc.

My Humble Review: Jesus Camp

I ventured out last weekend to see this. "Jesus Camp" is a film about a modern American church in the heartland, and the children whom this church trains in the practices and values of Charismatic Evangelicalism. From one who has always felt a little uneasy about, say, Christopher Guest stumbling in upon A Christian Community and having his way with it, I have to say that this heavily edited documentary was fair and accurate enough. My present company were Cradle Episcopalians, and they viewed the film with characteristic, cool detachment; I, having grown up in the midst of experiences much like those depicted on screen, was squirming in my seat. They hit a little close to home.

No, the director Heidi Ewing has not nailed modern American sociology, and I will HOOT at anyone who suggests that she has. Modern evangelicalism is much more nuanced than what she would like to suppose for purposes of her sojourn among the suburban middle class in Kansas. In fact, I do not think that she has depicted modern American Evangelicalism accurately at all. Her test case is a single, large, generally poorly educated Pentecostal-Charismatic congregation of relatively good people. The film depicts children speaking in tongues, prophecying, and bravely doing street evangelism (bless their little hearts!). I would suggest, on the other hand, that your average self-identifying American Evangelical traces (her) roots much more to Baptist tent revivals, Charles Finney, and Billy Graham than to such Pentecostal wackiness, and thus probably thinks that speaking in tongues is just too weird, prophecying is passe, and street evangelism is better confined to to the dignity of hosting a soup kitchen for homeless people (I tend to agree with the latter). In point: the evangelicalism that filmakers would like to pin American problems uponst is not tantamount with the congregation that Ewing has exploited. Most evangelicals are not charismatics, sadly.

However, Heidi Ewing's test case is slantedly ideal for her (hip) political purposes because her stars have embraced that strange, pseudo Christian Science-ridden ecclesiology that honestly believes that America is the Kingdom of God, that our wars are all just, and that our president is divinely inspired. Weird. I honestly know of no thinking, trained, orthodox evangelical who actually believes this; and I run with a lot of evangelicals. In as much as Ewing purports to show her Starbucks-drinking, grad school attending, posturing WASP audience (me and co.) what American Evangelicalism looks like, by way of showcasing what the evangelical fundys in Kansas believe, she utterly fails. Even we evangelicals can recognize generalizations, biased presumptions, ad nauseum on a cinema screen.

In sum, Ewing is slap-happy with her labels. Outsider.

...But one additional comment. I was really shocked that the parents of the children filmed in this movie would permit their devout little ones (all around eight years old) to be so exposed. Many of the mass-marketed scenes of children's religious ecstacy in the film are jarringly disturbing to a popcorn-munching movie audience. The children scream, weep uncontrollably, share intimately what they have appropriated of their parent's culture in front of the unchaperoned camera, and in one scene, a little boy convulses violently on the floor.

Hear me: I am one of those kids. Lord willing, I will raise some of those kids. Most of our most serious saints started out fasting and lamenting loudly for the sins of the world and doing other ridiculous things at the age of five or so. But with regard to this movie, the context seemed so wrong and exploitive. I can imagine what the parents were thinking: our kids will be filmed sharing and living their faith! What a blessing that they get to be a witness in this way! Go for it! This is in many ways the evangelical's raison d'etre. Maybe that's where Ewing does have a legitimate critique for we evangelicals, and offers to us a constructive pause for reflection. It is within the security of the arms of the Church the sometimes strange, jarring experiences of the Holy Spirit can occur in an atmosphere protective of the true intimacy, dignity, and healing of ecstatic experience. Within the arms of the Church, the community can listen to one another and guide one another, such that even the strangest manifestations of the living God can actually accomplish His will: the gathering of those not yet gathered to the beauty of holiness.

But on a movie screen? Please. I can still see that little boy convulsing, and in spite of myself, I feel sorry for him. The well-intentioned parents should have been more careful.

One last thing. I left that film feeling so grateful for the beauty and dignity of orderly, beautiful liturgical worship, in as much as it lends itself to a true witness to Christ. St. Paul was always talking about this... worship in such an orderly way that others may be drawn in; not confounded, not perplexed, but allured and compelled.

I remember attending a noon Mass at a Roman Catholic parish a few months ago. The day's congregation consisted of homeschooling, charismatic families. At the end of the service, the little ones clamored around the altar and knelt on their own for a few minutes of private prayer. It was precious- tightly closed little eyes, earnestly clasped little hands, unformed mouths murmuring a prayer known by heart. You could film that and show it on a movie screen. It would probably speak to someone in the audience in a compelling way- this is somehow right, righteous, this is somehow something of the tenderness that we wish for in encountering our Creator. But as I recall, when the frame of the little boy convulsing on the floor was done, I listened to nothing but nervous titters throughout the theatre. And that was very sad.

Shoring Up

Some of the world's greatest apologists for the Christian faith have been/are great Anglicans. Here are a few.

Bishop Butler: Several Letters to the Reverend Dr. Clarke
John Henry Newman: University Sermons, The Grammar of Ascent
F. R. Tennant: He Who is: A Study in Theism
Basil Mitchell: The Justification of Religious Belief
J. R. Lucas: Essays on Freedom and Grace
C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain
Richard Swinburne: The Existence of God

Don't anyone point out that Anglicanism has long lost a few of those mentioned.

Who is your favorite? Which is your favorite apologist in the Body of Christ, dear reader?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two Sources of Inspiration This Week...

"In this hand – I hang onto what is familiar, what is safe, what is pleasing to me, what brings me happiness. And in this hand – I hang onto salvation, that which is wild, and untamed, which will cost me my life, and bring me great joy...."

... the words of Fr. Nelson, and the example of MM's oldest and dearest girl friend, pictured above piloting a hot air balloon with her husband...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Long Overdue Update to the New Faithful Archive

Two new sermon additions, from our own VIPs, Fr. WB and Fr. Nelson.

Fr. WB discusses the meaning of Christian marriage, here.

"Hell is the situation of perfect, unmitigated loneliness. It is not good that man should be alone. That’s the problem. Here’s the remedy: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife. Things are not as they seem. A man leaves his Father. There was once a Son who left his Father’s house… and then he came down from Heaven, and by the Holy Spirit became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man, and for our sake was crucified. Why did he do it? Because God was not willing that humankind should continue to live in its mortal isolation. It is not good that man should be alone. God was not willing that we should be so subjected to the temptation and the toil and the suffering of our broken human nature that we should die in our isolation from him. So God joined his own nature, his own divinity, to our broken human nature in the one flesh of Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, like us in every respect (Heb. 2.17). Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."

Fr. Nelson expounds on the account of the rich young ruler in Mark 10, here.

"In this hand – I hang onto what is familiar, what is safe, what is pleasing to me, what brings me happiness.

And in this hand – I hang onto salvation, that which is wild, and untamed, which will cost me my life, and bring me great joy...."

I really encourage any readers who write sermons, do exegesis, or read devotionally to check out our indexed Archive as a source for inspiration and reference. I am pretty selective about what gets published from our many submissions, and the sermons that you will find there represent the creme de la creme of orthodox reflections on Scripture for the Church, by young men who are making and reforming modern church history. Check out the Archive! And as ever, we welcome your own submission for consideration! (newfaithful(at)gmail(dot)com

Angels, help us to adore Him...

That's a line from one of my favorite hymns. BUT DID YOU KNOW that Aquinas thought that angels are part of the same mystical body as we humans, being part of the church with humanity? I had no idea. HOW COOL. Just had to share. (cf Summa Theologiae, III.8.4)

Whoever Wants to be Rich and Famous

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Still interested in ECUSA...

Those of us dodging bullets down here in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas have just emerged from a weekend of regional convention. Fr. WB was busy running around with various other young power brokers in the communion, and although I cannot imagine why anyone would try to keep up with News That Makes Your Head Spin, you can get a quick and thorough overview of the weekend's various Diocesan conventions at Titus One Nine, here.
Do note that they quote Fr. WB. His blog traffic is going through the roof.

(Here is his profound excerpt. The dear man is rummaging through my fridge as I write this, and I am enormously proud of him.)

I will let you in on a secret: this is the source of all the confusion: the word “church” is used in reference to ECUSA, when its not really apt. There are different senses of the word “church.” There is the thing on the corner, made of brick. There is the “Baptist Church.” There is the “Church of England.” There is the “Anglican Church.” And there is the “One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Etc. Guess which one of these the Lord was talking about when he held up “unity” as a virtue. Here’s a hint. It starts with an “O” and ends in an “ne, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”

A guy at docesan convention today got up and talked about how he was “Confirmed” into ECUSA, and how meaningful that was. Well, that’s very moving. But, sir, it is ignorant to think that you were confirmed (or baptized, or ordained) “into” ECUSA. You are ordained into THE ONE (holy, etc.) Church. And ECUSA is, at best, a PART of it. I would argue its ceasing to be even that.

That’s the crux of the thing. And why ECUSA unity is expendable. Because a dissunited ECUSA is necessary for a united Holy Catholic Church. What did the Lord say? He prayed for the unity of the Apostles, and “for those who believe in me through their [the Apostles’] word…” (John 17.20). That means the Lord’s prayer of unity was that the Apostles would be united and that those who have a unity of faith in the apostles’ teaching would likewise be united. And that is exactly what ECUSA has repudiated, and the repudiation ECUSA has ratified: the One faith through the Apostles’ teaching. Other words for that teaching are “scripture” and “tradition.”

Saint James of Jerusalem, Apostle of Our Lord and Martyr, AD 62

Tradition honors his "fervor" and "generosity," even to carrying the Gospel from Jerusalem to Spain. Sripture honors his election by Jesus to be a witness of His glory on Mount Tabor, and of His agony in Gethsemane. To the Church his name is a symbol of warfare and victory, a source of strength and consolation in the unending warfare of this life. Having constantly and generously followed Jesus, may we too be victors in sin's strife and receive the victor's crown in heaven...

On the last journey to Jerusalem, their mother Salome came to the Lord and said to Him: "Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom" (Matthew 20:21). And the two brothers, still ignorant of the spiritual nature of the Messianic Kingdom, joined with their mother in this eager ambition (Mark 10:37). And on their assertion that they are willing to drink the chalice that He drinks of, and to be baptized with the baptism of His sufferings, Jesus assured them that they will share His sufferings (Mark 5:38-39).

Has anyone here ever walked or run or jogged or driven along the Camino de Santiago in Spain? The image above left shows the church built in honor of St. James at Santiago de Compostela. That sort of thing is very much flagged on my list of things to do...But more importantly, who loves the Book of James? -I do! 'Gospel of Straw,' my foot. What is everyone's favorite passage in James?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Chains: Chinese Christians

Remember those in chains, as bound with them.

This article from Sky News highlights the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to China this week, where he will speak and celebrate at state-approved "churches;" but most likely, ++Rowan will NOT step into the arena of persecuted house churches. The article is great; you can find it here. However, it only affirms my confusion as to the differences between China's state approved churches and the illegal house churches. Can anyone help us out here by providing clarification?

Excerpt from the article:

"The Archbishop could quite easily ask the British Embassy to provide him with any number of underground churches and underground Christian contacts.

I would love to take him to one. He need only take a taxi and go.

His hosts will hate it but they can hardly stop him. He would learn a lot and his visit would highlight the plight of the tens of millions of Christians being persecuted for practising what they believe in."

Special thanks to an anonymous commentor, who suggested Jesus in Beijing as a helpful title on point.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Apologize: That Romans 11 Thing

"And so all Israel will be saved"

"Cardinal Kasper spoke of "mission" in a narrow sense to mean "proclamation" or the invitation to baptism and catechesis. He showed why such initiatives are not appropriately directed at Jews: the term mission, in its proper sense, refers to conversion from false gods and idols to the true and one God, who revealed himself in the salvation history with His elected people. Thus mission, in this strict sense, cannot be used with regard to Jews, who believe in the true and one God. Therefore, and this is characteristic, there exists dialogue but there does not exist any Catholic missionary organization for Jews.

From the point of view of the Catholic Church, Judaism is a religion that springs from divine revelation. As Cardinal Kasper noted, "God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises."

Thus, while the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God. The Catholic Church must always evangelize and will always witness to its faith in the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ to Jews and to all other people. In so doing, the Catholic Church respects fully the principles of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, so that sincere individual converts from any tradition or people, including the Jewish people, will be welcomed and accepted.

With the Jewish people, the Catholic Church, in the words of Nostra Aetate, "awaits the day, known to God alone, when all peoples will call on God with one voice and serve him shoulder to shoulder (Is 66:23; Ps 65:4; Rom 11:11-32)."

The whole enlightening thing is available here. From "Reflections on Covenant and Mission," Consultation of The National Council of Synagogues and The Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB, August 12, 2002.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Case for the Family II

"In his remarkable book The Rise of Christianity, the American sociologist of religion Rodney Stark explains how an obscure sect with just 40 converts in the year 30AD became the official religion of the Roman empire by 300. The standard answer to this question is that the emperor Constantine had a vision which led to his conversion and an embrace of Christianity. Stark demonstrates the flaws in this "great man" portrait of history. Christianity, he says, expanded at the dramatic rate of 40 per cent a decade for over two centuries, and this upsurge was only partly the result of its appeal to the wider population of Hellenistic pagans. Christian demography was just as important. Unlike the pagans, Christians cared for their sick during plagues rather than abandoning them, which sharply lowered mortality. In contrast to the "macho" ethos of pagans, Christians emphasised male fidelity and marriage, which attracted a higher percentage of female converts, who in turn raised more Christian children. Moreover, adds Stark, Christians had a higher fertility rate than pagans, yielding even greater demographic advantage."

Great article; more here. Rodney Stark is one of my favorite authors re an authentic vision for the Christian family in light of the mandates of Christ.

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

"Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
-Saint Patrick

Heartfelt thanks to MM for inviting me, a fellow pilgrim, along for the ride.

Pope Selects 2008 World Youth Day Theme

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses." Acts 1:8


(I have absolutely fallen in love with the theme song from last summer's Youth Day in Cologne- Jesus Christ, you are my life, Allelujah- you can hear it by viewing the great video put together by Evangelical Catholicism here.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course,
powerful muscles, but no personality.

-Albert Einstein

Guess Who?

"No consolation could be more appropriate or more efficacious than to shew that the very means of procuring salvation are found in the punishment itself.”

Who said this?

1. Fr. Savonarola, on the necessity of burning female heretics and witches during the Inquisition.
2. Pelagius, on fasting and scourging as ways to merit salvation and eternal life.
3. Pope Benedict XVI, on appropriate penalties for sin.
4. John Calvin, on motherhood.

... As soon as you vote, dear readers, all will be revealed...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Easier for a Camel

Mark 10

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

So often the living of God's Kingdom is not about addition, but rather, has to do with the grace of subtraction... so that we might be free.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, 1582

"For He has been pleased to unite Himself with His creature in such a way that they have become like two who cannot be separated from one another: and even so He will not separate Himself from her."

This week marks her feast. More here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Apologize: Baptizing Babies

"We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."

"Either baptism is for the remission of sins or it is just a gesture. If it is for the remission of sins, babies need it as much as anyone.

If infants don’t need baptism, then they don’t need redemption from sin. And if they don’t need remission of sin, they don’t need Christ. To say that infants do not need to be baptized for the remission of their own stain of sin is to say that all Christ can do for infants, or for anyone, is to serve as an example, when and if one finds a need for it.

With a low view of baptism goes a low view of sin, and a low view of Christ."

- Bruce Marshall, Perkins School of Theology

(more from this blog on baptism here)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Way We Roll

The posse- and lovely wives and bouncing babies- from college days at our fifth reunion last week; we gathered at Rosalie's Roadhouse, where we used to convene back in the day for libations after Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship meetings and schemings. It was a great time. J has taken over fatherhood and his church's youth ministry; L is completing his MDiv at a fine fine seminary in MA, and is preparing to be the best congregational pastor ever... S will finish at Harvard Law this Spring...T is living, teaching, and spreading the love in Japan, but flew in for this photo op.

I love my friends!

Up at 3 AM

... not for one of the holy hours, unfortunately, but to ploink out a paper on themes of grace and merit in Aquinas. At such bleary times, I have the habit of listening to the same hymn, over and over again, for hours. This one always keeps me going, as it has this morning. Maybe it will be a blessing to one of you dear readers today.

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above I have a strong
and perfect plea- A great High Priest, whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me.

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me
of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the Just is satisfied, He looks on Him and pardons me.

Before the throne of God, I come- Behold Him there, the risen Lamb, my perfect spotless righteousness, the great unchangeable I Am, the King of glory and of grace.

...My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart. I know that while in Heaven, He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart. One with Himself I cannot die; My soul is purchased with His blood! My life is hid with Christ on high!- With Christ my Savior, and my God.


... Roman Catholics have it in the plural:

"Grace given to make the receiver holy is sanctifying grace.

Grace given to one person for the benefit and holiness of others is gratuitous grace (as miracles or prophecy)

Grace which directly moves the mind or will to act is operating grace.

Grace which disposes the mind and will to recieve and use operating grace is cooperating grace.

Grace which preceeds an operation or state of the soul is prevenient grace.

Grace which follows a prior effect of grace is subsequent grace.

Grace has five effects: it heals the soul; it awakens the desire for good; it helps carry the desire for good to the actual achievment of good; it gives preserverence; it conditions the soul to glory.

- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II.111.1-4

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For when they say the Church don't matter

... A personal favorite:

"These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long, I write these things that thou mayest 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."

I Timothy 3:14-15

... any other suggestions of Scriptures that establish and defend the significance of the Church?

Monday, October 09, 2006

God's Romance

I liked this:

"The Catholic Church is God's romance. If the Bible is God's love letter to us, then the Catholic Church is the box of chocolates, the roses and the jewelry."

HT: Crossed the Tiber


This weekend's New York Times featured an article on the largest recent commission of hand-painted porcelain in the past century. The theme of the aristocratice soup tureens, salad plates, and saucers produced by Royal Copenhagen? Hippopotami. That's right. The fabulously realistic depictions on the china were inspired by the patron's love for a childhood cartoon of a beloved hippo named Sal, or something like that. Even more fun, the research behind this project was blogged by Ms. Sarah Louis Galbraith, who had toured the world's zoos observing their hippos- you can find "Joined at the Hippo" here.

This moment of levity brought to you by 1) our lectionary's reminder to ask for a reverence for the earth 2) God's own inimitable sense of humor and 3) the color hippopotamus grey.

Planks and Specks

Luke 6

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven... Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye."

I got to attend the Sunday service at an idyllic little white washed congregational church, set among autumn leaves, in southern Michigan yesterday. It was an almost perfect little church. There were squiriming children next to their grandparents in the front pew, and the pastor posts his home phone number in bold letters at the front of the bulletin (the same pastor took we, his faithful former students out for lunch and martinis afterwards.) His point in the sermon that struck me was as follows: "we spend a lot of time worrying. When we have finished worrying about ourselves, we worry about others. And yet we do not worry about other people's worries- their illness, their car payments, their mortgages. Instead, we choose to worry about their faults." Pause to reflect...

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, Bishop of Shanghai, 1906

This coming Saturday marks this Anglican saint's feast.

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was born in Lithuania in 1831, went to Germany to study for the rabbinate, there became a Christian, emigrated to America, trained for the priesthood, and in 1859 was sent by the Episcopal Church to China, where he devoted himself from 1862 to 1875 to translating the Bible into Mandarin Chinese.

In 1877 he was elected Bishop of Shanghai, where he founded St John's University, and began his translation of the Bible into Wenli (another Chinese dialect). He developed Parkinson's disease, was largely paralyzed, resigned his position as Bishop of Shanghai, and spent the rest of his life completing his Wenli Bible, the last 2000 pages of which he typed with the one finger that he could still move.

More here.

O God, in your providence you called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his infirmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land. Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the confidence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Chain: Revisiting Darfur

Remember those who are in chains, as though bound with them...

It Is Time to Pray and Act for the victims of genocide and rape who are suffering at this moment in the violence of intensified killing in southwestern Sudan.

Most of those targeted by the militant Islamic janjawede militia in this genocide are Anglican Christians.

Visit Save to get involved; I send donations to them, and I keep up with the latest news from the region through their free updating service. See also their option for "Communities of Faith" in order to get your church/small group/Sunday school involved in this crisis.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Benedict Overturns Limbo Hypothesis

This week a 30-strong Vatican international commission of theologians which has been examining Limbo began its final deliberations. Vatican sources said that it had concluded that all children who die do so in the expectation of “the universal salvation of God” and the “mediation of Christ,” whether baptised or not.

The theologians’ finding is that God wishes all souls to be saved, and that the souls of unbaptised children are entrusted to a “merciful God” whose ways of ensuring salvation cannot be known. “In effect, this means that all children who die go to Heaven” one source said.

Vatican officials said the Pope was not overturning a “doctrine,” since Limbo had no Scriptural authority and is not part of the Church’s official dogma, unlike Heaven, Hell and Purgatory...

More here.


"The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, "Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don't let your tradition trip you up." He said, "Think this way -- (at Calvary) a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain." And I threw my Bible down... like that. I said, "What?" He said, "A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him." He said, "You are the very image, the very copy of (Jesus)." I said, "Goodness, gracious sakes alive!" And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, "Well now you don't mean, you couldn't dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?" He said, "Oh yeah, if you'd had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing, 'cause you're a reborn man too...the Christian is as much an incarnation of God as was Jesus of Nazareth."

Kenneth Copeland, Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 1979, p. 77

Vocatum Readers, Help Blogfan with Moral Quandry

... This just in:

Dear Garland, MM, and Eirenopoios:

I have a question. What would you do if your (Christian) brother and his girlfriend asked if they could shack up at your apartment for the weekend while you were out of town? I want to show hospitality to my brother and I dont want to come across as a prude. But I also dont want to help provide an occasion of stumbling to people that I love and care about. I want to uphold standards. But I also want to show love. What should I do?


... Any suggestions?

EARLY Liturgical Resources

A friend of mine called last week for the earliest sources on Christian baptismal practices, perhaps thinking that he would have to investigate expensive tomes available only at Some Fancy Library. Au contraire. The great thing is that the earliest (and most reliable) translations of descriptions of the really early Church practices are generally available over the public domain, online, as many of you know. This is where you go if you want to confute the heretics and point out what the early Christians REALLY thought and practiced about baptism, Eucharist, conversion, catechesis, etc.

I sent my friend to an excellent online resource for The Didache (ca A.D. 50, or within the lifetime of St. Paul). English Translation here.

There is also the slightly later Shepherd of Hermas documentation (ca A.D. 150)

... and if you want pictorial helps, just Google Images for "Ravenna" for some of our earliest intact basilicas, mosaics, baptistries, accoutrement, etc.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Church Growth, Evangelism, and Martyrdom Stats, 1900-2025

From The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 2005:

Church Membership by Ecclesiastical Megablocks:
1900: Roman Catholic, 267,000,000... Anglican, 30,571,000... Protestants, 103,024,000

2025: Roman Catholic, 1, 336, 338, 000... Anglican, 108, 257,000... Protestants, 491,084,000

Church Membership (Inter denominational) by Continents:
1900: Africa, 8,756,000...North America, 59,570,000

2025: Africa, 595,821,000... North America, 270,186,000

Christian Martyrs per Year
1900: 34,400

2025: 210,000

Evangelism Hours per Year
1900: 5 Billion

2025: 425 Billion

The Culture of the Malleable Christ

The authors of the very cool Evangelical Catholicism blog respond to the phenomenon of Giving Kiosks/ATMs for Jesus, worship bands covering Aerosmith songs, sermons available on podcast, men's groups devoting whole meetings to discussing the spiritual implications of dining at Hooters, etc. I love this Blog! Find them from now on in the side bar.

I think there is a problem (with the Church's) overall spirit of concession to prevailing social trends. Church, the Bible and Jesus must be made relevant and rendered malleable to cultural shifts. At what expense?

The mega-church phenomenon and Biblical fudamentalism live or die on convenience. Conversion and salvation have been reduced to a simple 20-second prayer, "I accept you, Jesus, in my heart as Lord and savior...". Worship is nothing more than a few great tunes and a self-help sermon. Sunday service is pitched not as a participation in eternal divine worship but as a "great way to start your week". Discipleship is feeling good about yourself and about God, with the only commitment entailing that 20-second prayer and doing your best in day-to-day affairs. Churches must compete with one another to attract church-goers, spending thousands of dollars in television, billboard and stadium advertisements.

What strikes me about this form of "Christianity" is that Christ is not necessary. Indeed, Christ is an idea, perhaps even just an ideal, an example. Christ is not portrayed as he truly was--a 1st century, Levitically-minded Jewish Messiah who demanded obedience, suffering and possible solitude in exchange for the promise of salvation...

To answer these questions in the affirmative is to wrench Christ from his culture, his historical embeddedness. If we relativise or minimize Jesus' teachings and liturgical structures, we no longer need Jesus to be anything but an idea or an ideal, a memory or a ghost.... In other words, let's just talk about how his death--which really could have happened in any time and any place at any age--frees me from sin and the obligation to do ANYTHING more than admit with my mind that this death happened sometime for me.

And so I return again to the "At what expense?" There is no question that a religion that is packed with good times and great friends is very attractive. And the more this religion caters to my everyday life--blue jeans, Aerosmith songs, ATMs and promise of financial well-being--the better. The success of evangelical mega-church is not measured in terms of faith but in terms of numbers. This is not to say that there is no faith to be found among the attendees of these services. Far from it. Perhaps it's the pastors who mislead: If the true Christ, that is, the historically conditioned and eternally unbound Son of God, is not preached along with his full message, then how can anyone speak of true Christian belief? The combination of Gnosticism and Pelagianism with a monetary twist that is found in most mega-churches hardly constitutes authentic, biblical, historically-conscious Christianity.

More here.

Youth With A Mission

I ventured out on Sunday night to the local Youth With a Mission ("YWAM") base in Tyler, Texas, for their weekly Family Night service. Hello, refreshment. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the year I spent in YWAM's Discipleship Training School and School of Intercession, plus several months living with their missionaries in Romania, after my graduation from high school. It was an unspeakable blessing to return to their beautiful campus for the first time in a decade, to worship with their vibrant kids, and to hear about their recent projects: namely, the construction of a "24/7" prayer chapel at the center of the campus for ongoing prayer at any time of the day or night. I love the way YWAMers express themselves: "The Supreme Court is taking on a dozen new cases this week... everyone get really quiet and ask what God wants you to do about it." At every turn, there is work to do for our King, and YWAMers always want to be in it; but what I love most is that they mainly just want to BE with their King.

Learn more about YWAM here, or find your own local base where you can show up for a shot in the arm at a Sunday night worship service.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Whoever welcomes one of these

Mark 9

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Fr. WB's latest sermon on a recent Sunday Gospel reading is now available here. There was not a dry eye in the congregation when he preached it.

Additionally, our New Faithful Archive has also been updated with two new syllabi from doctoral candidates in theology for your reference and use: An Exploration of Modern Christian Demographics in two lessons, and an excellent program for an Introduction to Christology in one lesson. Find them here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Francis of Assisi, 1226

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.