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Archive for August, 2011

Creedal Christian addresses the Anglican church’s decision to maintain the historic episcopacy, while also recognizing the validity of the non-episcopal churches. Many Anglicans believe a church is not a church without a bishop, an attitude which doesn’t contribute much to ecumenical relations. Creedal Christian gives a cheer and half to the decision to hold the episcopacy in tension. We should too.

Stand to Reason discusses whether prayer make any difference within God’s sovereign plan for us.

Christianity Today presents a graphic illustrating the lasting effects of Christian education. If you were educated in a conservative Protestant school, you’re more likely to seek a vocation that helps others (you’re also least likely to seek a well-paying job). Home-schoolers? You’re more likely to get divorced and to feel helpless towards the problems of life. The good news is that you’re more likely to seek a well-paying job while having a vibrant spiritual life.

CNNBelief reports on the ways the military trains chaplains to go into battle.

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N.T. Wright leads off today’s Round-up with a long essay in Spectator magazine arguing for the enduring power of the Christian faith and Anglicanism in particular. Wright discusses the ways in which the church demonstrates the Lordship of Christ through charitable acts within our communities — that no matter how divided we are, believers still demonstrate love to the world. He also says “gay vicars” and “happy clappies” in one fun-filled sentence.

Russell Prejeant offers a brief article on our tendencies to read the Bible the wrong way, and offers solutions to help us with our everyday Bible reading.

Daniel Darling offers this advice: “Don’t neglect the Holy Spirit in your parenting.”  Darling discusses the trials of tribulations of parenting a child in the throes of rebellion. In his case, the rebellious child was only 3 years old.

Robin G Jordan has returned with another post on the ACNA ordinal (the new liturgical guidebook that orders our worship). This time, Jordan offers an alternative ordinal that he thinks is more biblical and orthodox.

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Most people who embrace the life of the mind for the benefit of the kingdom have likely been influenced by Mark Noll’s “epistle from a wounded lover,” The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Now, Noll has released a new book called “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind” which provides a foundational statement on the nature of intellectual activity and the Christian thinking. Christianity Today has an interview with the learned master.

Canon Alson Percival provides a brief and accessible article answering the question “Why study the Bible?

Caitrin Nicol presents a long essay in The New Atlantis deploring the materialism and determinism of the modern age, in which the “soul is dead” and our material selves cannot be “remystified.”

Philip Wainright, over at the blog Barnabas Project, explores the relationship between music and Evangelicalism.

 

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Sociologists Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson take issue with the survey results from Barna Research Group regarding the characteristics of American religion — Evangelicals in particular. Barna has recently published several studies claiming to show the deterioration of the church in the U.S.; Stark and Johnson argue it isn’t that bad.

Anyone want to see Oh Brother, Where Art Though? Amy Butler writes about the spiritual power of Baptist hymns in the Associate Baptist Press.

Robin G. Jordan is out with another critique of the new Ordinal for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), this time focusing on the doctrine in the book of ordered worship.

Over at the blog Conciliar Anglicanism, Fr. Jonathan answers the provocative question “Can there be a church without a bishop?”  It’s a long and thoughtful piece, full of all the theology and ecclesiology you might expect.

 

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Douglas Dobbins has begun a new series on the Decalogue, in which he provides a theological interpretation of the Ten Commandments useful for our spiritual formation. Read his introduction here. Can’t wait to see where this series goes!

David Neff, in Christianity Today, argues that our pursuit of justice in this age foreshadows the perfect justice that will come in the next age.

Keith Anderson, in Ministry Matters, laments the decline of Mainline churches, searching for causes such as cultural changes, the death of American Christendom, and the church itself.

Jay Thomas, over at The Gospel Coalition, has a lengthy advice column for future senior pastors. One nugget of advice from his experience: Be prepared that not everyone will like you…and be prepared that some will love you too much.

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“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”~Exodus 20:1

The Decalogue (The Ten Commandments) is introduced by a prologue. The Lord therein declares by what means he gathered Israel to himself, namely through rescuing them from their poverty and oppression. Kings of ancient times, in binding laws upon their subjects, often stated the reasons for their authority. Commonly, these kings claimed their rights through conquering, thereby forcing their subjects to render obedience. Yet the opposite was the case with Israel’s God. For his law flowed from his mercy. Hearing Israel’s cry, the Almighty answered them from heaven, scattering Pharaoh with the blasts of his wrath. The Lord published abroad his glory when he routed the Egyptians, testifying that no man should lay a finger on his Elect (Rom 9:17).

Israel’s law, therefore, came to them as a sign of God’s favor. For nothing testifies that God is with us as much as his instruction. When God spurs us to obedience, when he disciplines our hearts: in such times we know that he approves us. Yet if we consent to sin, finding ourselves liberated and refreshed therein, then we have become objects of God’s disfavor, and he has surely withdrawn from us (Rom 1:24-25). Let us never fear, then, to know God’s instruction, as if his commandments will break us apart. Instead, let us realize that there is no surer safety than to be led by God’s orders. Indeed, though we deem ourselves prudent, our wisdom is dim and foggy, so that trusting ourselves leads to regret and injury. We are truly wise, therefore, to humbly receive God’s yoke, that we might gain his only begotten Son, in whose “light we see light”(Psalm 36:9).

Yet the law, according to the Apostles, had another function, namely to prepare Israel for Christ’s coming. The Law, in itself, was impotent to rescue anyone, because our hearts are a storehouse of idols. Our flesh is obstinate, and it is unable to submit to God’s law. We persist in our own opinions, despite the dictates from on high, thereby entangling ourselves in many miseries. The Lord, therefore, knowing our obstinacy, sends his Spirit into our hearts, making us malleable and humble (John 7:37; Rom 5:5; Heb 8). In this way, our stubbornness is changed into humility, and our rebellion into true reverence. The Law, therefore, in demonstrating our weakness (Rom 3:20), leads us to the Son of God, who cloaked himself with our death, in order that we might taste his immortal life.

Theologians, however, are divided as to the law’s present function. Some claim that the law is abrogated completely, and that the Decalogue has no place in ethics. Others claim that the Law, though powerless to justify us, is nevertheless profitable for sanctification. Still others claim that the law of God, when sealed upon our hearts by the Spirit, is a part of justification. The latter interpretation is most plausible. The natural reading of the New Testament confirms this, in that God’s justification is predicated upon a life of trust, a life whereby the Spirit makes us sharers in the victory of Christ’s life. St. Paul, it is true, sets the law in opposition to faith in Christ (Rom 3:28; Gal  2:16). Yet this opposition is not absolute. Instead, the contrast consists in the power to save. Tablets of stone cannot profit us when our hearts are wicked (Rom 2:29; 8:3). Yet Christ’s frail humanity, which he received from Mary, has become the organ of our adoption, in that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son into our hearts, uniting us to him with an unbreakable bond of love. Because of this, writes St. Paul, “the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”(Rom 8:4).

The Decalogue, therefore, instructs us in true piety. Under the governance of the Spirit, and in the imitation of Christ, we are to honor these commands. Let us realize that we belong to God, and as such our sole aim must be to please him. Because we are fragile children, easily broken by this cruel world, we must fortify our hearts in holiness, acknowledging that the Lord alone presides over us in majesty. It is he who is our keeper, the one who never slumbers or sleeps, whose kindness is always near to us. Let us never be discouraged in following him, even when our many shortcomings manifest themselves. Instead, let us relinquish the control of our lives, casting all our anxieties upon him, so that he might take them all from us. In this way, our hearts will soar away from our many doubts, and we will grow strong in his grace.

Almighty Father, the one who sees into our hearts, grant that we would not hide ourselves from you, nor let us resist your chastening. But let us, instead, embrace your discipline with humility, knowing that your Spirit cleanses us of our secret faults. Give us to know your will for us, so that we would not stumble in this dark world. And lead us by your Holy Spirit, so that your precepts might reign in us, until at last we are brought to your Only Begotten Son, whose blood atones for all our sins. Amen.

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David Brooks, over at The New York Times, celebrates a special kind of altruist: one defined by the virtues of courage, deference, thanklessness, and commitment.

Jillian Farmer, over at the Associated Baptist Press, reflects on the intersection of theology and reality in the divorce of her parents.

File this under the “Curious things happen when you try too hard to be relevant and inclusive” department: Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan has changed its name to C3Exchange and removed the cross from its steeple.

A. S. Haley, over at the Anglican Curmudgeon, compares our current troubles in the church to the 4th-5th century trials and tribulations between the Eastern and Western segments of the church.

 

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