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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.

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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.

 

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our Intellectual Conflict

Human beings are vulnerable to Satan’s assaults. Even Christians can become his slaves, precisely when we submit ourselves to sin (Rom 6:16). I wish, in this post, to describe the slavery of the intellect – the only alternative to the wisdom of God.

“The natural person,” writes St. Paul, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The reason for this rejection is simple: “for they are folly to him”(1 Cor 2:14). There is therefore an antithesis between Christian thinking and the alternative. The natural man disdains the Holy Spirit, considering all the Spirit’s gifts to be folly. Yet to those saved by Christ, there is a wisdom bestowed by the Holy Spirit, namely that “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages to our glory”(1 Cor 2:7). This wisdom of God, in St. Paul’s framework, stands in opposition to “the wisdom of this age.”

We live in a pluralistic society, where our loved ones are often nonbelievers. The temptation for us, in such a society, is to minimize the antithesis in our hearts, believing that Christian and non Christian thought can cohabitate harmoniously. The opposite, however, is the case. The seed of the serpent, as we read in Gen 3:15, is ordered against the seed of the woman. The fallen children of Adam, though loved by God, are children of this age nevertheless, and are therefore hostile to the things of God. And though we share a common humanity, with many particular common beliefs and experiences, we subsist in two separate spheres of allegiance: “the domain of darkness” and “the kingdom of his beloved Son”(Col 1:13).

My intent in highlighting this opposition, rather than creating a spirit of animosity, is simply to caution against an intellectual ease. Apostasy is a real threat to Christians, whether that apostasy is explicit or implicit. The author of Hebrews, writing against apostasy, has bequeathed an epistle relevant to our present times, because even now apostasy is an imminent danger. The subtle messages in television, film, music, and books are easily absorbed into our minds. If we were blocks of wood, then we would have no need to warn ourselves of such threats, for then we would repel all the ungodliness around us. But because our minds are gullible, it is important that we remind ourselves of our Lord Jesus Christ, the governor of our intellects and the exemplar of true wisdom. I am not advocating fundamentalism, whereby we abstain from secular entertainment. But we are to realize the truth of St. Paul, that there are only two fundamental postures for our intellects: the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this age.

Let us make no mistake, this world is against Christ. There is no honest inquirer, one who simply rejects Christ for the sake of intellectual honesty. Idolatry arises, as St. Paul writes, because men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”(Rom 1:18). Men are not naturally idolaters, even though they are idolaters from birth. All idolatry is contingent upon a more fundamental action, namely refusing to honor God as God (Rom 1:21). As St. Athanasius wrote, humanity devised idolatry ek kakias – from wickedness. We cannot take pagans at their word, at least not fundamentally, when they claim sincere unbelief. Atheists might be genuine at one level, but they are self-deceived at another level. This is because in their heart of hearts, they know their creator’s power, and they have sensed a murky rebellion within themselves.  Yet over time, their consciences have become seared, and they no longer recognize their rebellion. We therefore, who are surrounded by unbelief, must not accept atheists at their word, as if they had judged themselves accurately. Indeed, experience testifies to this truth, namely that apostasy is connected to moral rebellion. For apostates usually entangle themselves in many sins prior to their intellectual slide, so that it seems that moral decline and intellectual apostasy are Siamese twins. St. Athanasius writes that “faith and godliness are allied to each other, and are sisters…He therefore who is in a state of wickedness, undoubtedly also wanders from the faith”(Letter XI).

We cannot even trust our own thoughts. When doubts appear in our minds, telling us that Christ’s word is false, we are to remember the source of these doubts, namely our finite and fallen minds. Knowing that we are easily swayed, especially in a world where Satan is active, let entrust our thoughts into God’s hands, knowing that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).

Yet this is impossible in our own strength. Trusting in Christ is not mustered through willpower. Our hearts need supernatural attestation that Jesus is Lord, and this comes through concrete confirmation of the Holy Spirit. This is why we must confess our sins often, both to our appointed authorities and to God himself, and we must receive the divine wisdom in the Eucharist. The Lord Jesus, during the Eucharist, speaks to our hearts by his word, and he inwardly heals us through his flesh and blood. If we receive the meal worthily, not harboring bitterness in our hearts, then we are confident that we participate in his salvation (1 Cor 10).

Though we desire concord with all people, let us remember the true state of this age, namely that its wisdom is opposed to God’s. If we would sanctify Christ in our hearts, let us not be surprised when assaults bombard us like mortar fire. Satan will bully our intellects by multiple measures, making us feel ashamed or foolish to fully commit to Christ. But our vulnerability only endures when we are our own masters.  Yet when we cede control to the Lord Jesus, placing all our wisdom in his hands, then we are able to judge all situations rightly, knowing that the Lord had determined the reality of all things, and he therefore is the trustworthy king of all creation. Let us be humble people, seeking to establish loving relationships with all people, but let us remain courageous in our commitment to Christ, eschewing the wisdom of this age, in order that we might flee always into the arms of our God.

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