Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Gospel and Culture II – Paul on the Offense of the Gospel

We have seen from Acts 17 that St. Paul made a winsome effort to reach the Greek culture of Athens.  At the same time he would not dilute the Gospel even when it cut against the culture to the point that his audience laughed and cut his message short. 
Early in his first epistle to the Corinthians, we see more of his approach to proclaiming the Gospel to a decidedly non-Christian culture. The Greeks valued philosophical wisdom, yet Paul made a point not to go too far in preaching “with words of eloquent wisdom….”  Why?  “…Lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I Corinth. 1:17)  We should be aware of the audience culture, but we should beware of distorting and diluting the Gospel in order to reach the audience culture.
And we should prepare ourselves for rejection by recognizing that the prevailing culture and most people for that matter do not like the Gospel. Paul is downright blunt in recognizing that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” (1:18)  And he does not let up in asserting that the Gospel transcends human cultures and should not be dragged down by what said cultures consider wisdom:
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1: 20-25)
So Paul was very much aware of prevailing cultures but was all the more determined to preach the pure Gospel, undiluted by hostile cultures, in the midst of them whether they liked it or not.
Now my exegesis is not profound.  But reminders of Paul’s determination are needed today. For The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now is dead set on repeating the mistakes of deadline denominations by catering to “woke” culture.  Never mind that trying to be hip and with it and liberal or whatever you call past versions of “woke” has been a slow motion disaster for The Episcopal Church, the mainline Presbyterian Church and so on.
We are to preach right, worship right, and live right.  And if prevailing cultures don’t like it, then they don’t like it.
But the funny thing is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” has a way of breaking into hostile cultures and saving people in the midst of them anyway.  God does not need us to make Christ and his Gospel woke or American or modern or post-modern or whatever, thank you very much.

Why are American churches such blockheads that this lesson needs to be repeated . . . and repeated the hard way? Why do so many evangelical churches not know better?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

“I Think So”

Sunday was a red letter day at my parish.  Not only did the bishop visit and confirm, but he ordained a beloved member as a Deacon.
Being the liturgy nut that I am, I found the liturgy for “Making Deacons” to be quite interesting.  Part of the examination especially caught my attention. (And this is according to the REC BCP and the 1662 BCP.)

Bishop: 
Do you think that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Ministry of the same?
Candidate: I think so.
That “I think so” startled me during the service.  The other answers in the examination are much more affirmative. And when we confirmed two people, the answers were also firm.  There was no “I think so” then!  And in the liturgy as a whole, we affirm, we believe, we will and the like. “I think so” is an unusual answer to say the least.
Yet it is an appropriate answer.  For here the candidate is making an affirmation about himself, about whether he is called.  So there is humble restraint.  The answer is “I think so” not “I am so called.”
Similar humble restraint is in the Ordering of Priests (Presbyters):
Bishop:
Do you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?
Candidate:
I think it.
However, I do not advise answering “I think so” when asked about scripture, the creeds, or obeying your bishop.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Esau McCaulley Asks a Question

Esau McCaulley later deleted the following tweet and protested he was just asking a question. (Yeah.  Right.) But there is a such thing as a stupid question:

A question that I can't stop asking: If all translation is interpretation and interpretation is influenced by social location, what does it mean that most of our English bibles were translated with very few Black or other Christians of color or women involved?
Leaving aside that not all translation is interpretation, this tweet reflects the “research justice” aspect of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and related ideologies. “Research justice” values the identity of the researcher as much or more than the quality of his/her work. As in politics, white males are not to be listened to much unless they are “woke”, of course, and even then Black, female, gay, etc. voices are to be listened to more.  I am not saying McCaulley buys all of this, and I doubt he does, but he clearly buys enough of it that he would question superior works of Bible translation because of the race and gender of the translators.
Dr. James White dissects the tweet quite well.
In other words, the skills and scholarship behind good Bible translation have nothing to do with race and gender. For a prominent Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) leader to suggest otherwise is troubling.
And Dr. McCaulley is a prominent ACNA leader.  While continuing to lead the Anglican Multiethnic Network, McCaulley has recently become the director of Next Generation Leadership for ACNA. NGL is “a province wide initiative committed to raising up and training the next generation of Anglican clergy and lay leadership.”
So I’ve got some questions myself.  Is it appropriate for someone with McCaulley’s race-obsessed mindset in line with Critical Race Theory to have ACNA positions of this importance?  Will ACNA exercise any church discipline with McCaulley?
I expect to revisit this matter.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Francis Continues to Stack the College of Cardinals

Some may think the above headline to be too strong.  They would be mistaken.  Francis’s latest appointments to the College of Cardinals “are, without a doubt, the most liberal group of Cardinal-Electors ever assembled.”
One even wrote a foreword for the infamous Liberal Jesuit James Martin.  But I will allow others to go over the sordid appointments in detail.
The big picture is that the College of Cardinals under Francis is getting more and more stacked with LibChurchers.  So much so that I think we are already past the point where we will have another robustly orthodox Pope in our lifetimes. Yes, the Lord can certainly do miracles concerning his church.  But more often when a jurisdiction willfully descends into apostasy, he spews them out of his mouth. (Rev. 3:16)   No, I do not think the Church of Rome is exempt from that.
I confess that under Benedict I considered the possibility to crossing the Tiber.  Had I made that crossing, I would surely be considering repentance now. Maybe my ecclesiology needs an adjustment, but I cannot conscientiously be in communion with a Francis or the future LibPopes his stacked College of Cardinals will likely produce.

Friday, August 30, 2019

About Bishops Who Remoan

I’ve oft stated that bishops and other church leaders should be very selective and careful in making political pronouncements.  The most important reason is that most political questions are ones on which faithful Christians can and do disagree. Therefore for a church leader to use their position to take sides on such political positions is a sin against church unity.
That also can harm evangelism.  Now as St. Paul and I pointed out yesterday, we do not water down truth for the sake of evangelism.  But we also do not dilute our message or repel people with questionable political posturing.
So to frequently pontificate on political matters on which faithful Christians can and do disagree asks for division, people simply walking away, and ineffective evangelism.  Combine that with the more grievous  sin of wimping out on Gospel truth or departing from it altogether, and you are asking for the collapse of a church.
Well, all of these sins have been committed by most bishops of the Church of England in recent decades, and, sure enough, that august institution is in slow motion collapse.  (Yes, I freely concede that rampant apostasy is a far more important factor in this than rampant political pontificating.)
The public pitiful remoaning of C of E bishops gives us an example of the foolishness of such political pontification.  A majority of those voting in the Brexit referendum voted for Brexit.  And many of those who did not now want just to get it done with.  And after Teresa May’s years of dithering, who can blame them? 
Yet, instead of keeping their own counsel (as I would as a church leader – I very much am for Brexit but realize faithful Christians very much disagree on that question as Christian teaching addresses that only in a tangential manner if at all), C of E bishops are opposing their people. And when they seem more exercised against Brexit than they are against false teaching and when, further, they are often sources of false teaching, well what is to attract and keep people other than the beautiful buildings and choirs?
Instead, political remoaning and often apostate bishops are surely driving people away much as the Leftist and apostatizing mainline Presbyterian Church drove me away.
So the remoaning bishops not only seem a bit silly, they are actively harming the church.  Likewise for all church leaders who abuse their positions to push for political causes on which faithful Christians can disagree.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Gospel and Culture: Paul in Athens and Corinth

At my church we’ve been slowly going through 1 Corinthians in Sunday School.  And on my own time I have been reading, listening and thinking about the divisions among evangelicals and among Anglicans on issues concerning social justice – and on how The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now (TECoWHaN) is handling said issues poorly.  So when we got to 1 Corinthians 1:17, I saw that it might have some application to these issues.  Writing to Greeks, who greatly valued philosophy and wisdom, Paul wrote, “For Christ [sent me] to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  And he went on to more or less repeat his commitment to this approach and explained why he took it.  We shall attempt to return to that in due time.
As I was reflecting, it occurred to me that his activity and address in Athens, found in Acts 17:16-34, also reveals much about Paul’s approach to preaching the gospel in the Greek culture.  Even better, the passage shows him in action.  He at first glance appears more sympathetic to Greek culture with its emphasis on philosophical wisdom than he appears in his first letter to Corinth.  But a closer examination reveals a consistent approach that gives important principles in preaching and ministering to a non-Christian (or post-Christian) culture.
We could begin our examination in either city, but since Paul visited Athens first, let’s start there.
While in Athens, “his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16) Paul made himself aware of the cultural landscape of Athens.  But he did not allow it unduly to shape his Christian worldview (as TECoWHaN is so prone to do).  Instead his Christian worldview shaped his response.  Part of that response was to see the idolatry of Athenian culture as wrong and offensive.
St. Paul was no multiculturalist.
But his further response was not to withdraw from the culture but to engage it.
So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” (17:17-19)
Paul learned enough about Greek culture not just to oppose it but to engage it and to do so in such a winsome way that the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were among those who wanted to converse with him.  Paul made his listeners want to hear more. But note that although he spoke to Athenian culture, he did not conform to it.  His gospel message was still “strange” to them.  And it continued strange to them as we shall see.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.(17: 22, 23)
Paul began with common ground in order to gain further the openness and interest of his listeners.  But then he immediately pointed out areas relevant to the Gospel where the prevailing culture was mistaken.  He told them God was not who they thought He was.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (17: 24, 25)
In other words, God is not needy like pagan gods.  Today, Paul might have pointed out that God is not a social justice warrior revolutionary, nor a flag-waving super-patriot. God is not of man’s making; nor does he conform to cultural whims.
Paul then again utilizes common ground followed by again criticizing the prevailing culture’s views about God.
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for [And now he quotes two Greek poets, the first likely Epimenides of Crete, the second Aratus.]
          “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
 as even some of your own poets have said,
          “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.(17:26-29_
And now Paul proclaims that man and his culture must get in line with the truth of God, the Gospel, and notthe other way around.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”(17:30-31)
And on this Gospel, St. Paul will not compromise.  But there is a problem.  For reasons I will not get into here, the resurrection of the dead struck the Greek mindset as absurd and not something for which to hope. (And the same could be said for much of increasingly secular Western culture today.)  Paul, a learned man, surely knew this.  But he did not back down. He communicated to Greek culture as winsomely as he could, but he would not compromise the truth of God to please anyone.
Therefore he got a mixed response which brought his discourse to an end.

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (17:32-34)
God brought fruit out of the faithful preaching of His truth even if it did clash with the prevailing culture.
And thus we should not follow the chameleon ways of The Church of What’s Happening Now, but follow the godly example of St. Paul.  We should become aware of the culture around us.  We should communicate and relate to it as best we can.  
But we should not compromise God’s truth.  We do not allow the culture to erode or twist our faithful holding to the truth and our communication of it.  We communicate the truth of God clearly and call men of whatever culture to get in line with it.  And if the culture doesn’t like it, then the culture doesn’t like it.  Jesus is Lord, not any culture of man.  We do not compromise or twist the truth of Jesus.  
Yes, that may result in unpleasantness.  Remember all the Apostles, save St. John, were martyred. But nonetheless the Gospel of Christ is to be preached to all cultures; it is to appease none of them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

When “White Supremacy” Isn’t What You Think It Is II: Smearing Pro-Lifers

Earlier I noted that under Critical Race Theory and related Leftist ideologies, just about anything can make you a White Supremacist or in league with White Supremacy.  Heck, trying to stay out of politics puts you in the “Pyramid of White Supremacy”.  There’s no escape!
So it should not surprise – although it is profoundly illogical – that being pro-life makes you a target for those wishing to use “White Supremacy” to smear political opponents.  Yes, the Left is actually trying to link the pro-life movement with White Supremacy.  Never mind that real White Supremacists, such as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, want non-Whites to abort their children.
But pro-lifers instead defend children of all colors . . . which somehow gets twisted into “White Supremacy”, never mind the illogic.  A smear from Amanda Marcotte is especially blatant: “Not an exaggeration to say conservatives believe white women should be forced to breed in order to maintain white supremacy.”
So yes, trying to save children of all colors puts you in league with “White Supremacy”.  Just letting you know.
By the way, this makes it that much more important that churches that oppose abortion, including the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the Southern Baptist Convention, confront the Critical Race Theory view of racism and White Supremacy and the accompanying smears.