Archive for July, 2011

Leroy Huizenga, a professor of Biblical studies at Wheaton College, explains why he would have “flunked” the apostle Paul.

Christianity Today has a feature on the current trends of urban Christians, focusing on their spirituality and charitable acts.

Treading Grain reprints a post from archbishop Peter Jensen, who discusses the characteristics of the glory of God.

The Gospel Coalition explores the reasons why youth stay in the church after they’ve entered adulthood. Their primary reason? Because they were converted.


Read Full Post »

One of the great Christian and anglican leaders of our time, John W. Stott, is dead. Christianity Today, Anglicans Down Under, Anglicans Ablaze, The Christian Post, and Timothy Dalrymple have tributes.

Jewish Ideas Daily has an interesting article on current trends in Biblical archaeology.

Matt Kennedy, over at the blog Stand Firm, offers 13 questions you should never ask your pastor…unless you want him to retire early.


Read Full Post »

Make sure you spend some time with part one of Jordan Hillebert’s exploration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “Ethics.”

Jesuit priest James V. Schall writes about the tension between humanity’s desire to worship a “comprehensible god” and the “invisible and unseen God” of the Bible.

The blog Her.meneutics has a powerful post on one woman’s struggle growing up with a father addicted to pornography.

S. Michael Craven, over at the Christian Post, asks “Are Christians contributing to unbelief?

Read Full Post »

First, make sure you familiarize yourself with Matthew Brench’s work in creating an alternative lectionary. Brench has performed some real yeoman’s work putting this together for the church, and it stands as a very valuable tool for our spiritual formation.

Timothy Gombis argues in Christianity Today that the evangelical makeover of the apostle Paul distorts the New Testament reality.

The blog Stand to Reason reflects on the idea that our suffering glorifies God.

The blog Creedal Christian argues that Anglicanism is he purest expression of Catholicism in the West. Contrast this post to the post from Fr. James Arcadi, here on the Block.

Read Full Post »

Q. What is a lectionary?
A. See my preview post from last week.

Q. Why “alternative” lectionary?
A. Ah, there’s the big question.  Depending upon which edition of the Book of Common Prayer your parish uses, you may be using (or encouraged to use) one of several different lectionaries associated with the Daily Office over the course of Anglican history.  Why some nearly-finished seminary student should think himself worthy of creating yet another lectionary on his own is nearly unfathomable.  The reason for creating this lectionary is not to compete with the traditional and official lectionaries of the Church, but to provide an alternative for those with a certain need.

Q. Okay Mr. Smartypants, for whom didst thou make this lectionary anyway?
A. I have to admit, I originally designed this lectionary for myself.  But as I told more people about what I was doing, I found that a number of people were interested in checking it out, and maybe even trying it out.  Basically, this lectionary is for:

  1. those who seek a rigorous habit of reading the Bible every day;
  2. those who intentionally want to read the whole Bible every year without having to ignore the liturgical calendar;
  3. those who want to get more historical, spiritual, and literary context around the Bible by reading the Apocrypha and the Apostolic Fathers;
  4. anyone who is interested in trying something new!

Q. Isn’t this still competing with the traditional/official lectionaries if I use this instead?
A. I suppose different people may well have different attitudes about this.  Perhaps the greatest argument for sticking with the Book of Common Prayer‘s lectionary is the fact that there are more people reading the same things as you are.  On the other hand, one might point out that 1) there are different BCP lectionaries out there anyway, and 2) even if the lectionaries differ, the content is still the same Bible.  Following this line of thought, I believe it’s worth noting that different people have different spiritual needs; some are in need of more focused and topical Bible reading, and others are in need of more broad and exhaustive Bible reading.  This lectionary is for that latter category of people.

Q. Awesome, you have me convinced!  Where can I get a copy of this lectionary?
A. The author, Matthew Brench, is publicly sharing the lectionary from his Google account temporarily.  However, it will soon be made available on the Center for Theology website; keep an eye out for it!

Q.  Is there “how-to” document, giving me more information on how to use this lectionary?
A. Yes, the author’s blog has the basic introduction guide, which may also be posted on the Center for Theology website.

Read Full Post »

First, be sure to read Jordan Hillebert’s reflection on “rediscovering” the book “Ethics” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Cultural commentator Bill Muehlenberg offers a spiritual reflection on the massacre in Norway.

The Guardian has a post asking the question “What can science fiction tell us about God?

Robin G. Gordon, over at Anglicans Ablaze, offers a bullet-point list of precepts concerning the historical moorings of Anglicanism.  Do you agree with Gordon?

John P. Richardson, over at The Ugley Vicar, asks “Why are Archdeacons priests?” Good question.

Read Full Post »

This is the first post in a multi-part series[1] on why Anglicans should consider themselves Catholic and Protestant.[2]

Growing up in Southern California I ran into a lot of kids who were culturally Roman Catholic. I can recall one brief conversation with a fellow in high school who specifically, and firmly, informed me that he was, “Catholic, not Christian.” Since my interlocutor was large and scary-looking and I was small and puny-looking, I didn’t challenge him on the deficiency in his ecclesiology. I am sure there are plenty of more theologically astute Roman Catholics whose hands slap their foreheads when they hear such an inaccurate delineation, as if Protestants were the only ones who were properly able to use the term “Christian.”

On the other side of this coin, however, is the question of whether only those Christians who claim allegiance to the Pope get to label themselves as “Catholic.” In American parlance, “Catholic” is almost universally used to describe those in the Roman Catholic Church (the Roman Catholics even have both Catholic.org and Catholic.com!) The question I want to pursue is ought Anglicans to think that the Roman Catholic Church has the sole ownership of the term “Catholic”?

In the Anglican tradition there is a revered theological principle, lex orandi, lex credendi, roughly, “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” Anglicans like to say that they do not have a rigid set of theological maxims like Presbyterians, Lutherans, or other Reformed folk coming out of the sixteenth-century Reformation (like the Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Catechism, the Augsburg Confession). Nor do Anglicans have an official teaching office like the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Rather, Anglicans point to their worship as the most accurate statement of their theology. How do we pray and what do we pray, what do we say in the liturgy, what do we do in the liturgy, that is what indicates what we believe.[3]

Now, what is a key component of Anglican worship, specifically the Sunday morning Eucharist service? The Nicene Creed. No controversy there, right? This summation of the faith has been employed in Christian worship since its composition. But there is a line in the Creed that gives us cause for pause in this discussion: “We believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”

There it is, quite simply, Anglicans believe in the Catholic Church.

Some of you grammarians out there will point to the fact that at times the initial “c” in the word “catholic” is not capitalized (like in Rite II of the 1979 BCP), thus we can understand it to mean something generic like “universal.” Unfortunately, this will not do, as most, and definitely the earliest, Anglican prayer books do in fact capitalize the “C” (see 1549, 1552, 1662, and Rite I 1979).

So, Anglicans can’t give Rome “capital ‘C’ Catholic” and keep “lower case ‘c’ catholic” for ourselves. Nope, we have to share “capital ‘C’ Catholic.” If Anglicans think that what they say in the liturgy is indeed what they believe, then we Anglicans ought to believe in the Catholic Church.

In the next installment I will look more closely at the grounds on which we can share this term.[4]

[1] I don’t know how long, I haven’t thought it all through yet.

[2] This might be fairly speculative, I’m kinda trying these ideas out, so comments are appreciated!

[3] This is one reason why revising or composing a Prayer Book is no small task.

[4] At least I think I’m going to do this.

Read Full Post »

Among the many funny words that Anglicans are known to throw around is the word “lectionary.”  Fortunately, this is easily translated into ordinary language: “a Bible-reading plan.”

There are a lot of lectionaries out there these days.  The Roman Catholics have their own, both for the Liturgy of the Hours and for Eucharist services.  Virtually every edition of the Book of Common Prayer comes with its own lectionaries (again both for the Office and for weekly Eucharist services).  Many “read the Bible in a year” plans are also out there, available either for purchase in a ready-made devotional book, or as free iphone apps or just on websites.  I compiled a small list of samples here.

It’s overwhelming to think about all these options, so it’s easier to boil them down into two categories: liturgical and non-liturgical.  Liturgical lectionaries are tied to the Church calendar, non-liturgical lectionaries focus on getting through the whole Bible in (usually) one year.  They serve two very different purposes, the former to support a shared life of prayer throughout the Church (as evidenced by Adam’s recent post, which many of us who’re doing the Office also read), and the latter to study the Bible in a more comprehensive fashion.  Both of these are valid purposes, and depending on one’s own spiritual condition, one may be more useful than the other.  After all, while “reading the Bible” is important for every Christian’s growth and maturity, how we go about doing it makes a huge impact on how we grow.

Recently, I have been working on developing a lectionary which both covers the entire Bible and is sensitive to the mood of the seasons and holidays of the Church.  It’s rigorous and comprehensive, but still keeps connected to the shared life of the Church through the calendar.  If you’re interested, I’ve posted more information here.  As it is finalized, we’ll look into making it available online for those who are interested in making use of it!

Read Full Post »

Finding Strength in God

1 Samuel 23:16-17

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.  Even my father Saul knows this.”

David is in a tight spot in this story.  When Israel asked Samuel for a king “such as the nations have,” God gave them what they wanted— Saul, whose name in Hebrew (coming from the verb “to ask”) stylistically means “you asked for it.”  And they had.  Saul had proven himself to be a king “such as the nations have”: in his faithlessness, God rejected him as king and raised up his own king, one not like the nations but rather a man after his own heart, David.  Saul, however, living in fallen flesh, allowed his jealousy and lust for power to overwhelm his good sense, and he sought to kill David before the latter could take the throne.  On the run, David became surrounded by Saul’s army, and the Lord told him that Saul had every intention of taking him out.  David, naturally, was frightened by this news and fled.   God in his faithfulness, however, did not allow David to remain in fear; rather, he sent to comfort him— of all people— Saul’s own son and heir apparent.

Jonathan strengthens David

Jonathan, unlike his father, can see the writing on the wall: David, not Saul, will be king.  For Jonathan to recognize this is a great credit to his faith, for in so doing, he is relinquishing his own claim to the throne as his father’s heir, a point the narrative makes explicit: “And I will be second to you.”  Jonathan’s faith in the Lord’s good purpose is so steadfast indeed, that he risks going out to David’s camp to grant him a share of it, to “help him find strength in God.”  Subsequently, with his faith renewed, David himself demonstrates faith in the Lord’s good purpose by failing to take worldly advantage of Saul’s carelessness; he eschews an opportunity to kill him.  David knows that God alone, not his own hands, will make him king.   He knows this, we may suspect, because Jonathan “helped” him see it.

We are all prone to doubt the good promises of God.  It is not at all hard to see why we would.  The world in which we live is a tragic landfill of human powerlust and broken trust.   We are surrounded by hostile nations, and we are tempted to act, “such as” they do, to take our own before we are taken, rather than trust in the gracious if sometimes obscured gifts of our Father in heaven.   Though we live in the hope of Easter, we nevertheless still feel as though we are stuck in a Good Friday world, with only death and hopelessness to greet us, and we are tempted to take matters into our own hands.   This reaction is only natural, and we can be thankful that our Lord is gracious to and patient with us.

It is precisely in these moments of despair that we are called to be “strong in God.”  And what is this, but to remind ourselves as Jonathan reminds David that God’s promises will not, and indeed cannot, fail.  Even when we are surrounded by the armies of our enemies, however they may manifest themselves in our lives today, we know that God is faithful to his word, and that he works for the good in all things for those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.   It is indeed according to his good purpose that we know he acts in our lives.  In times of trial, it is our best bet to remind ourselves of the surety of God’s promise, and more importantly, in the goodness of that promise’s Guarantor, and to find our strength in him.  We have no better recourse.

Indeed, God so cares for us that he doesn’t even leave it to us to find strength ourselves, but will send someone to help us.  And that indeed is the model for us.  We find our strength in God not so that we can keep it for ourselves.  Rather, like Jonathan, we are called to go to others in their time of trial and help them find that strength in God that a dedicated reminder of his good purpose can instill.

Ultimately, Jonathan is not our principle exemplar in this.  God himself comes in the flesh of Jesus to help us find our strength in him.  It is precisely in remembrance of him and his demonstration of God’s good purposes for us that we find it.   In him alone, we know where the hopelessness of Good Friday must inevitably end.   Let is never fail to remember in whom our “strength in God” is to be found.  So reminded, let us further never tire of helping each other find it when we seem overcome, until the glorious day when he visits us.  The one who calls us is faithful, and he will do it.

Read Full Post »

Russell D. Moore, over at the Christian Post, asks a provocative question: “Should We Marry If We’re Theologically Divided?” As illustration, he explores the relationship of Calvin, a Reformed dispensationalist fundamentalist (!), and Aimee, a Pentecostal.

VirtueOnline reposts a Daily Mail article reporting on priest Patrick Richmond’s observation that the Church of England could be “extinct in 20 years” due to aging congregations.

Christianity Today reports on a new trend in church scandals: Pastors resigning or taking leaves of absences not because of sex or money troubles, but because of pride. The list of pastors taking a leave of absence includes John Piper.

Charles J. Chaput, over at First Things, discusses the nature of Catholic social work, arguing that the church’s work in its communities transcends mere “do-goodism.”

Speaking of do-goodism, progressive pastor Jim Wallis has rounded up a number of Christian clergy to present an open letter to the U.S. Congress, which states that politicians’ arguments regarding the debt ceiling is not taking into consideration the plight of the poor. Wallis manages to avoid boiler-plate political barbs, but there is still something frustrating about his position — after all, the main issue Congress is arguing about is whether to take on more debt in order to continue paying their old debts (the Bible, incidentally, does not approve of debt, often because it prevents an individual or community from giving alms to the poor). Budget cuts to welfare programs for the poor are not being explored, but rather cuts to middle class entitlements such as social security and Medicare (even then, proposals center on the reform of the programs, not absolute cuts). Wallis has always been a fan of the church entering into the political fray (unlike this blog), but it seems he illustrates the reason why the church’s public ministry needs to be very cautious — and informed.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »