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Archive for the ‘Contemporary Issues’ Category

[There has been a] remarkable increase of adult converts presenting themselves for Confirmation. this is a national phenomenon offering an uncomfortable challenge. Mature men and women, some in responsible positions of considerable civic and social standing, do not take such a step lightheartedly. The Church is not fashionable, and for the artisan and factory hand, the decision to seek Confirmation is even more difficult, often demanding renunciation and courage. this army of new blood entering the Church will not be satisfied with conventions and platitudes with which older Church people have become far too content. they will demand the real thing.

A corollary to this deepening movement is the growing number of older men offering themselves for Ordination. this group is of so variable a nature as to be impossible to classify, yet one or two pertinent points suggest themselves. There is a considerable number of ex-Nonconformist ministers, who for various reasons have grown worried and dissatisfied with their denomination…these men have become dissatisfied with the piecemeal character of Free Church devotion, however excellent some of the pieces may be. It is chastening to realize that, in seeing the Prayer Book primarily as an ascetical system, this band of converts have discovered a fundamental Anglican truth which some of our senior priests seem to have forgotten. The latter think of regularity of Church attendance, the former of the continuity of Christian living based on the Prayer Book pattern. –Martin Thornton, English Spirituality

Written 25 years ago, and yet it seems to be quite applicable to what I hear from my classmates in summer D.Min and S.T.M classes at Nashotah House.  They are seeing a number of people who have grown up in evangelical, low-church, free-church, or otherwise pietist traditions coming to them asking for help in living an authentic Christian life.  Somewhere, along the way, the evangelicals in the US seem to have lost the plot.  It is no longer enough to listen to the 30 minute sermon and sing for another 30, they are saying people long to be connected to something that is far more ancient than what they have experienced in their lives at church.

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The local Christian radio station has decided to withdraw its sponsorship of the local Christian music festival because Jim Wallis has been invited. Their reasons for pulling back have to do with Wallis’ position on various social issues. they disagree with wallis’ ideas on the need to take care of people’s basic life needs first as opposed to sharing the Gospel and introducing them to Jesus.

Their statement is here.

The money quote for me is this:

We recognize that individually and as the Body of Christ we are not doing all we could as Jesus taught us to. But we do not believe the solution is the church partnering with the government in this endeavor. Feeding the poor with no ability to share the gospel message is at best an incomplete solution. And we fear this is what will happen as the government controls the purse strings. Doing so might indeed help them in this life, at least while the food and water lasts, but what about their eternal souls? While we are commanded by Jesus to help the poor, Jesus said our greatest calling is in Matthew 28:19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Coming under federal control may make this impossible without legal and financial persecution.

A couple of things stick out.  First is the assumption that where government is in charge of re-distributing the wealth through taxation, the gospel will be hindered.

Has anybody asked the church in  China how that’s working out for them?  China controls and redistributes everything.  Yet the church is growing immensely in that country to the point where they are sending missionaries to their neighboring countries.

Of course, if the government decides that the gospel can’t be preached if your church is feeding the poor or using government money to do so, it will be harder to preach the gospel.  So what?  Where were we promised an easy time of spreading the good news of Christ?

Second, the statement that the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is more important than Jesus’ command to help the poor, begs for some explanation.  It sounds almost Manichean to say that preaching is more important than helping people to eat.  The spiritual life takes over the reality of living in this world.  It is hard to hear the gospel when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from and your stomach is rumbling.

I appreciate their words of concern that we should be caring for the poor, I think they and Jim Wallis would agree on that point.  It is hardly humanism to suggest that the poor are more likely to hear the gospel if their basic life needs are met first.  I’m missing the statement from Jim Wallis that says we don’t need to preach the gospel.

I think this radio station has withdrawn its sponsorship in the attempt to get rid of a strawman.  The line in their statement that says they invited Wallis to a meeting of local Christian pastors, I thinks suggests that the powers that be aren’t quite certain Wallis is committed to the Christian Gospel as they are themselves.

Just my 2 cents.

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I couldn’t agree more with the thoughts she’s expressing. Since coming back from overseas, I’m just not into the things that seem to make up most of the conversation on Christian radio or the titles in the Christian bookstore.

I only wish I had thought of how to say it like she has here.

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The Incarnation is aimed at man’s transformation through the Cross and to the new corporeality of the Resurrection. God seeks us where we are, not so that we stay there, but so that we may come to be where he is, so that we may get beyond ourselves. That is why to reduce the visible appearance of Christ to a “historical Jesus” belonging to the past misses the point of his visible appearance, misses the point of the Incarnation…

Iconoclasm rests ultimately on a one-sided apophatic theology, which recognizes only the Wholly Other-ness of the God beyond all images and words, a theology that in the final analysis regards revelation as the inadequate human reflection of what is eternally imperceptible. But if this is the case, faith collapses. Our current form of sensibility, which can no longer apprehend the transparency of the spirit in the senses, almost inevitably brings with it a flight into a purely “negative” (apophatic) theology. God is beyond all thought, and therefore all propositions about him and every kind of image of God are in equal proportions valid and invalid. What seems like the highest humility toward God turns into pride, allowing God no word and permitting him no real entry into history.

–Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp 123-124

In other words, God is not unknowable, He has revealed Himself, not only in history, but through all time and desires that we worship Him in the fullness of all of our senses, not merely the internal workings of our thought life.

In just a few paragraphs, Ratzinger takes down those theologians who spend their lives trying to reconstruct the “historical Jesus” which leads ultimately to reducing or minimizing worship of the living Son of God, Jesus Christ; as well as those who spend their lives trying to raise Christ to such an exalted position that we cannot know Him or experience Him in this age unless that knowledge or experience is subjective. It seems for both, worship becomes mere rational exercises in restating propositions already known.

Sitting through a worship service where the deconstruction of the Gospels in the hunt for the “historical Jesus” is the attempt to communicate the Gospel to the 21st century or a worship service that is all singing or preaching in a standard-issue, multi-purpose assembly room are apparently not all that far apart in Ratzinger’s thinking.

This may help explain why mainline denominations such as The Episcopal Church are withering while at the same time evangelicals are often observed in worship with their eyes closed. Too much rationality and not enough aesthetic will send us looking for the aesthetic, even if it is only behind our closed eyes.

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“If we don’t start paying attention to the realities … by the year 2030, we will be proud to have 20,000 rather than 44,000 Southern Baptist churches.” That’s a quote from outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page recently.

“You’ve got massive numbers,” he said, “maybe not a majority but massive numbers of evangelical churches out there, yes, Southern Baptists also, who are small groups of older white people holding on till they die.”

Ed Stetzer, head of Southern Baptist affiliated LifeWay Research, says that growth rate has slowed in recent years.

Now, he says, the convention has started a downhill slide.

“If you look at the demographics, the trends are not positive,” Stetzer said…

“It’s hard to kill off a church,” he said. “I do think the convention will be smaller in the future. My hope is that we will be smaller and stronger.”

From here.

“Smaller and stronger.” These guys might want to be careful. They are starting to sound like some of the things leaders of The Episcopal Church have said about the glorious future of that church.

HT: BHT

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Forgive my ignorance, I don’t know who Kim Fabricius is, but this post is spot on.

Just a taste…

1. Ministers should be able to lead and to organise, but they are not called to be managers – and woe unto the minister who would run the one, holy, catholic, apostolic – and “efficient” McChurch!

I also especially appreciate nos. 2, 3, 7 & 8.

I have witnessed most of those ten at one time or another in my ministry or that of friends.  I have even felt pushed in some of those directions by various denominational leaders.  I constantly pray that the Lord will keep me from seeing ministry as a business, an organization or something to grow.  This is not about my ego.  It is about the care and feeding of God’s people.  Make it so, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

HT: BHT

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You may see this deceitfulness in the wonderful proneness of men to regard sin as less sinful and dnagerous than it is in the sight God and in their readiness to extenuate it, make excuses for it and minimize its guilt. ‘It is but a little one! God is merciful! God is not so extreme to mark what is done amiss! We mean well! One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!’ Who is not familiar with this kind of language? You may see it in the long string of smooth words and phrases which men have coined in order to designate things which God calls downright wicked and ruinous to the soul. What do such expressions as ‘fast’, ‘gay’, ‘wild’, ‘unsteady’, ‘thoughtless’, ‘loose’ mean? They show that men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin is not quite so sinful as God says it is, and that they are not so bad as they really are. You may see it in the tendency even of believers to indulge their children in questionable practices, and to blind their own eyes to the inevitable result of the love of money, of tampering with temptation and sanctioning a low standard of family religion. I fear we do not sufficiently realize the extreme subtlety of our soul’s disease. We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself to us in its true colors, saying, ‘I am your deadly enemy and I want to ruin you for ever in hell.’ –J.C. Ryle
Taken from Holiness, ch 1

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