GlobalView – Christian Navigation

Source:  AAC International Update


The following first appeared in the January 29, 2013 edition of the AACs International Update. Sign up for this free email here. 
By the Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood
Bishop of The International Diocese, ACNA

Suffragan Bishop
All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi
Anglican Church of Kenya


Just around the corner from the British Museum in London is a row house with a large brass plaque noting that it was the home of the Flat Earth Society. It served as their centre until the death of The Honorable Samuel Shenton in 1971. After that, as is the case for all things wacky, the headquarters of the society moved to California (where else?). Flat earthers steadfastly maintain that the earth is essentially flat. Most envision it as a disk with an ice wall at the edge, formed by Antarctica. They may not have had many members, but some of them had to be very well heeled. Real estate near Little Russell Street in London where their office stood is not cheap.

What killed the flat earth society for most people was math. For two thousand years or more, mathematically minded people have been able to discern their latitude (distance from the equator) by measuring the height of the star Polaris above the horizon. At the North Pole, when you look straight up, you see Polaris – the North Star. I’ve been close to the spot and it’s weird to see the constellations askew. It is also really, really dark in the winter time so there are an amazing number of stars visible. Even before people were able to travel to, or near, the pole, mathematical models described the world. Eventually, the only mathematical model that made sense was a round globe instead of a flat disc. Careful calculations imply that, even if one is only able to travel around Europe.

The measurements were made easier by better and better equipment, but the precision construction of things like Stonehenge and the Pyramids shows that people were navigating with amazing accuracy by stars for millennia.

When I first started flying, we used to take a navigator on the plane. They would stick the sextant out a hole in the top of the cockpit to “shoot” stars at night, or “sun lines” during the day. A good navigator is able to be very precise, though the actual course that we flew looked more like a series of zig-zaging lines of constant updates and corrections rather than anything resembling a straight line. Accuracy is important. Even being off course only three degrees leaving New York can cause you to hit Africa instead of Europe!

The navigator’s calculations were augmented by a radio receiver called LORAN (Long Range Aid to Navigation). The radio wave phase relationships among several LORAN ground stations described arcs on a map. Where the arcs intersected described the location.

The next generation of navigation employed inertial navigation systems that used a series of high-speed gyroscopes that sensed movement in any direction and passed that information through a rudimentary computer. As long as you told the computer where you were to start, it did a reasonable job of keeping track of where you were supposed to be after that. Lots of errors were introduced though. To help this problem, the Air Force installed two INS computers (Inertial Navigation System). Great in theory, but flawed. When the two units disagreed, you could never be sure which one was right. Some outside standard was needed. It is reminiscent of the old Chinese proverb: “The man with a new watch, no matter how inexpensive, is always eager to tell you the time. The man with two watches, no matter how expensive, is never sure.”

Eventually, INS was replaced by the Global Positioning System which uses math to discern position in relation to a series of satellites around the earth. GPS is now even built in to cell phones and cars, and people can find their exact location down to inches – as long as the satellites on which the system is based keep working. For the military, there are some cool new black boxes that determine position and are not as vulnerable to interference or disruption, but they are not public. My guess is that there is probably a small navigator inside the black box.

I don’t have time today to go into the whole story, but one time on a flight from Tokyo to Anchorage, Alaska all our long range navigation equipment failed. My navigator was Major John Lord. Without question, John was the best navigator in modern history. He navigated us using “dead reckoning” (which is figuring “if we go this fast for this long in this direction, we are about ‘here.'”) augmented by, “there is usually a cloud formation that looks like that over Shemya Island” to get us close enough to Alaska to dial in the short range radio nav aids and make it to Anchorage safely. (For the record, when we tuned in the radio aid, we were exactly on course after an eight hour flight. An absolutely amazing feat.) Without any artificial tools, he was able to chart the way for us.

The point of all this is that navigation, like life, requires a balance to travel a fine line, veering neither to the left or to the right, following the “narrow way” that Jesus describes.

Nations have the same struggle. As they meet the challenge of how to move forward, there are competing agendas that are vying to be preeminent. This is particularly obvious in North Africa following the Arab Spring, but is also true for the United States where the consequences of decades of rootless decision making are beginning to take a toll. Superficial society has expected the fruit of righteous life without the foundation which produces it.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that many people are seeking to impose Sharia Law as old regimes have toppled. Sharia Law is the term that is used to describe a social system that rises out of the Qur’an and includes economics, religion, law, punishment, and social relations.

Qur’anic law is basically made up from three sources. First is the Qur’an itself. Second are the observations and writings called Sunnah – which means “practice”, and the third are commentaries called Hadith which includes material produced after Mohammed. These documents describe rules, laws, and limits. They function much like a fence. The fence line provides a demarcation of what is “acceptable and righteous,” and what is “unrighteous.”

In a Christian worldview, Scripture and a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, provides guidance much like the way a magnetic compass works. The compass, a small magnet itself, aligns with the earth’s magnetic force lines, because the earth itself is a giant magnet. In the same way, when we are born of the Spirit, a new nature in Christ is planted in us that tries to align with the principles of the Kingdom of God. It may well take time for us to line up with the Lord and His plan, but there is something inside the believer that seeks to line up.

“Islam” means “submission.” The principle is that people should submit to what the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Hadith teach. From my perspective, it appears to be an external framework which is pressed on to life. In contrast, Christian teaching properly rises from within. Christian and Muslim behaviors may appear to be similar (or even appear identical), but the mechanism that produces them is very different.

What is so troubling about the rise of radical Islam these days is the high tolerance Muslims who describe themselves as moderate have for observing violence without critical comment. I can scarcely remember any comments from Muslim leaders condemning terrorist acts or acts of violence in Egypt, Syria, or a dozen other places.

Righteous action requires a balance of standing up for what is right, even when it is costly; without falling into rebellion against God, or mindless acceptance of principles that someone else is presenting.

Emerging technology has allowed us to determine our position on the surface of the globe with amazing accuracy. The principles, however, which drive the technology are the same ones that were used manually for many years. The technology allows for precision and constant updates. Historic equipment was very effective, though slower. The equipment, however, cannot make up for the situation when it is misused or ignored. Properly and fruitfully navigating through life involves embracing sensitivity to walk the narrow path, without veering off into either rebellion into independent, self-serving destructive behavior, or into the embrace of seduction of a different way. Instead of that, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “I will show you a more excellent way.” That more excellent way involves loving God, loving His ways, and loving the people He seeks to redeem. It is a narrow path to walk, but He does not make us walk it alone.

Any Truth Spoken Today Incenses the Militants

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

It is getting to the point that if I declare in public that two plus two equals four, I may well offend somebody. If I aver in the public arena that wetruth need to eat and breathe, it is possible I can get in trouble with someone or some group. If I say children should be protected, some militant group will try to sue me or take me to some court or tribunal.

Sound a bit far-fetched? Well, it is not at all sadly. We live in such a morally inverted, politically correct world that to stand for any truth in the public square is likely to get you into all sorts of trouble. And this is happening all the time unfortunately.

Take one of the most common sense observations there is – which happens to be backed up by thousands of social science studies. Simply declare in a newspaper, on the radio, in a public debate, and so on, that children do best when raised by their own biological mother and father and all hell will break loose.

You will be bullied, threatened, demonised, pilloried and treated like an utter pariah. How do I know this? Well, I get this treatment all the time. And so do many others. Simply state the truth about the social science data as to the well-being of children, and the homosexual jackboots and their PC buddies in the media and courts will jump all over you.

Consider the case of a terrific man in Perth. This elderly gentleman is a longstanding medical doctor, a loving family man, and also happens to believe the social science research on what is best for children. But daring to state this in a submission to a public inquiry has meant he nearly lost his head.

Indeed, it is surprising that we did not see him hanging from the gallows by now, or at least tarred and feathered and run out of town. Imagine that: daring to speak up for the welfare of children! That sure gets the activists furious and scurrying for the heavy hand of the law to shut you up instantly and permanently.

Here is the story of how this brave soul faced the wrath of the homosexual inquisition. Fortunately he just managed to escape with his life: “A Perth GP investigated after he led a group of doctors opposing gay marriage on health grounds has reportedly been cleared by the Medical Board. Founder of the Doctors for the Family group, Lachlan Dunjey, made a submission to a Senate inquiry into marriage equality last year stating gay marriage was a health risk.

“The submission prompted outrage from civil liberty groups because it stated that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and if same-sex marriage were allowed it would normalise homosexuality and have ‘health consequences’. ‘We submit that the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without,’ it read.

“In May last year the Sunday Herald Sun revealed 22 Victorian GPs, anaesthetists, obstetricians, palliative care specialists and psychiatrists, including Victoria’s deputy chief psychiatrist, Prof Kuruvilla George, joined 150 colleagues interstate to argue gay marriage posed a health risk to society.

“Dr Dunjey told website Australian Doctor this week he had been investigated by the Medical Board of Australia after allegations of misconduct made by another doctor and cleared. Dr Dunjey ran as a Senate candidate for the Christian Democratic Party in the 2004 federal election. ‘It is about freedom of speech … it was sad really as I received a lot of hate mail and I don’t believe people should be vilified or targeted for expressing a view,’ he told the website.”

I have already written about poor Prof George who was hounded out of his position by the tolerance brigade:

Simply speak the truth, and claim what everyone until recently knew to be just plain common sense, and you will face the wrath of the PC witch hunters, led especially by the homosexual militants. They are on a search and destroy mission to eradicate or at least silence anyone who dares to question their radical agenda.

In this regard I quite appreciate a recent article saying much the same thing by an American evangelical. Owen Strachan puts it this way: “I fear that some of my evangelical friends are not seeing reality even as it bears down on them. Do you realize that if you define marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman, you are already, even if you speak in the gentlest, softest, most nuanced, most hyper-qualified terms, considered a bigot by a vocal and highly influential contingent today?”

Yes, to affirm marriage as between a man and a woman – something which basically almost everyone did throughout all of human history, except for the past decade or two – will result in you being attacked and vilified by the PC thought police.

He explains how this came about, and why we cannot keep silent: “When it comes to evangelical public engagement, many of us are metaphorically in rocking chairs. The culture’s sure shifting, we say as we gaze at the sunset. In twenty years, you might lose your pulpit. We whistle low and shake our head.Crazy world.

“When it comes to all that cultural rabble-rousing, we grimace. We don’t want to go all Moral Majority in our pastorates and our churches. We’re avoiding all those overheated controversies. We’re not going to lose our soul to politics. You see, we have found the third way, the option that allows you to hold biblical beliefs on politics, society, and culture but not make a major issue of them.

“We believe accordingly that we can ‘sit out’ the major moral challenges of our day. But our convictions are stronger than this: we actually think that these moral challenges may not even come to our doorstep. Sure, maybe in twenty years, pastors and churches will face serious threats to their pulpits. Not now, though. We can keep our heads down and they’ll pass us by.”

But that is not the case at all, as the Dr Dunjey case amply testifies to – as do thousands of others. He continues, “But the pressure some of our best-known leaders are experiencing is a sign of dammed-up cultural vitriol. Satan is real. He hates the church. He despises God’s plan for men and women. He’s not like God; he doesn’t want humanity to flourish in rightly ordered homes, he wants it to be destroyed, judged, and damned. He’s launching an attack, I think, on the church. Under God’s rule, he’s pushing the culture to a point where to simply declare biblical convictions on marriage is to label oneself hateful.

“Do you see this? There is no third way on this issue. Sure, you may not hold marriage rallies with your church. No, you may not thunder from the pulpit against governmental tyranny. But we’ve already reached the point where in influential cultural circles pastors and Christian leaders are seen as morally backward and against the times on the issues of marriage and homosexuality. You don’t need to be a foam-mouthed culture warrior to wear these epithets. You simply need to believe God’s truth, proceeding from elemental texts like Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5, and the deal is done. There’s no amount of non-controversial, politically averse gospel preaching that can take away this sting.”

So what are we to do then? “Our response is not to damp down our witness, be quiet, speak in hushed tones, adopt ‘a softer’ approach, retreat from the cultural debate, ignore ‘political’ stuff, or any other such tactic. Our response must be to pray to God for courage, and then to bravely speak the truth wherever appropriate on crucial cultural issues. Andrew Walker and I just wrote a piece for First Thingson this issue. Working from the examples of figures like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we argue for the need for ‘theological courage,’ for bringing biblical-theological reality to bear on the major matters before us.

“Evangelicals, in one sense, should continue to do exactly what we’ve been doing. Pastors and churches should keep preaching the gospel. All sorts of meaningful work in a hundred areas should continue. But we must be theologically courageous. We must give an answer on morally inflammatory issues. We cannot silence ourselves. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that if we’re just really, extraordinarily, super-erogatorily nice, we’ll somehow win everyone over. We need to be full of grace and truth as Christ our king was. We need to speak in those tones. But some people will dislike and even hate us for doing so.”

Yes quite so. Now is not the time to wimp out. We already have far too many evangellyfish, too many wimps for Jesus. Now we need men and women with some backbone who will stand up for one of the most primary moral and social issues of our day. Now is the time to stand strong for this most basic and most important of social institutions, and to stand up for children who are the biggest losers when we allow marriage to be gutted by the activists.

Leonard Ravenhill had it right when he said, “It’s going to demand a lot of courage before too long— to really live and maintain the true Christian life according to the Word of the Living God.” And A.A. Hodge was quite right to observe: “It is easier to find a score of men wise enough to discover the truth than to find one intrepid enough, in the face of opposition, to stand up for it.”

Warfare it is then. We are not called to a life of ease but to a life of battle. The stakes are too high and that which we fight for too important. Now is not the time to lose heart. As Martin Luther reminds us in his glorious hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: “And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.”

The Injustice of Helpful Parents — Yet More Insanity

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

French President François Hollande recently announced that he wants French schools to put an end to homework. That is certain to thrill school children in the nation, but the reason for Hollande’s war on homework will likely puzzle many French citizens.

President Hollande wants to end homework in order to level the playing field for the nation’s students. As France 24 reports, Hollande told an audience at The Sorbonne, “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”

He went on to explain that it was unfair for students with parents who are engaged with their schoolwork to gain an educational advantage over others, whose parents do not offer such support.

Hollande wants to neutralize the impact of parents by keeping students at school longer. As France 24 notes, French students are already staying at school longer than students in many other nations, often leaving the school “only at 5pm or 6pm.”

The more hours students spend in the government’s schools, the less hours they are at home — where inequity abounds.

As Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post explains, Hollande argues for the elimination of homework, “not in terms of student learning but as a way to equal the playing field for all students.” Further, “Poor children, he argues, are less likely to get parental aid for homework, and so requiring homework can widen the achievement gap.”

Hollande is right about the inequity. Children whose parents are not involved, for whatever reason, are surely at a serious disadvantage. Every effort to help them should be made. But even if homework is eliminated, the inequity will remain.

The reason for the inequity is clear, and it doesn’t begin when the child starts formal education. It starts at the beginning of life and in the earliest stages of infancy and childhood. Parents who talk to their children and, even more importantly, read to their children, give their children a priceless head start. Parents who spend time with their children and are involved in their school work, offering encouragement and accountability, increase that advantage. Involved and engaged parents give a child a priceless advantage.

There is another dimension to this picture, but one that most political leaders will not acknowledge. The presence of two parents in the home at least doubles the opportunity for a child to get the needed help. The breakdown of the family is a major part of the background to this problem.

The only way for this particular inequity to be eliminated is to remove children from the care of their parents and to raise them as wards of the state. Such proposals have been made by statists ranging from Plato to Lenin. To a lesser degree, similar arguments have been made in this country by educational leaders such as philosopher John Dewey. Adding even more hours to the school week is just a further step in that direction.

This is the logic of statism, proposing the state as the answer to inequities it cannot possibly resolve, and marginalizing or subverting the family in the process.

This story from France should prompt all of us to do a little homework of our own, reminding ourselves of the central importance of the family.

The Overwhelming Power of One

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

It is one of the profound truths of history that just one solitary individual can in fact change the course of history. Great masses are not needed to only Jesusbring about radical social change or cultural upheaval. Often just one committed person who has an embracing vision can forever alter the direction of a nation or even the entire world.

And this cuts both ways: one evil person with a sinister vision can cause tremendous damage and misery on untold millions. But it is also true that one good person can impact the world for good, and leave a lasting positive legacy. Thus for good or ill, a single soul can quite literally be a world-changer.

Some of the individuals for ill are easy enough to identify. Consider the impact of a Nietzsche or a Stalin or a Hitler or a Mao. Millions upon millions of lives were lost because of some of these men, and their ideas have negatively reverberated throughout the halls of history.

And if it is not an individual, it is a small, dedicated band, often rallying around a powerful individual. Think of Lenin and his small band of Bolsheviks. They managed to overthrow an entire nation, and then some, and cause a global reign of terror to plague much of the earth for three-quarters of a century.

But the good guys too have had their influence. Think of someone like William Wilberforce. This great abolitionist never had a large group around him in his many years of struggle against the slave trade. In fact, his very supportive Clapham Sect never numbered more than 20 to 30 active, hard-core individuals. Yet they too changed the course of history.

So we find time and time again just one strong individual or one small but determined group of individuals bringing about major changes which have become the stuff of history books. Many others of course have commented on these truths. Let me cite just a few, both religious and non-religious:

-”It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” Samuel Adams

-“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Anthropologist Margaret Mead

-“The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society.” Jack Kemp

-“The greatest works are done by the ones. The hundreds do not often do much – the companies never; it is the units – the single individuals, that are the power and the might. Individual effort is, after all, the grand thing.” Charles Spurgeon

-”Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” Mother Teresa

-“I alone can’t change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa

The story of Christianity is replete with such figures – its founder of course being the greatest example of this. This single man has forever altered the direction of human history. We even measure history based on his life. No wonder so many argue that history is really His Story.

And because of his incredible example, there have been countless followers of Jesus who have also been world-changers. Both history and church history are filled with such individuals and small groups. Far too many examples can be mentioned here – enough to fill many more such articles.

Let me therefore just focus on one. He is not the greatest or the most well-known. But his life – indeed, his one small step of obedience – has sent shockwaves throughout much of the world over the past two centuries. By simply being open to the leading of God, this very ordinary man helped to change radically the Christian church and the surrounding culture.

I refer to John Egglen. Never heard of him? No, I did not expect that you had. But I take it almost all of you have heard of someone I have already cited above: Charles Hadden Spurgeon. We all know who he was, like so many other great men and women of God.

But what is often not so well known is how so many of these great saints came to be. Some of them would not even be known in the annals of church history if not for some other seemingly insignificant and almost forgotten individuals. So let me offer you a quick story of the conversion of C. H. Spurgeon.

Just over 163 years ago in Colchester, England a heavy snowfall hit the area. The first Sunday morning of January 1850, church goers awoke to find their town buried in snow. One church member looked out his windows and would have reasonably thought, “Why bother going to church today?” But he was evidently more open to God’s leading than to caving in to his own flesh.

So being the good deacon that he was, he bundled up and made the long and laborious six-mile march through the snow to the Methodist church. When he got there he discovered that even the pastor couldn’t – or wouldn’t – make it in that morning. Indeed, only 13 people showed up: 12 members and one visitor, a 13-year-old boy.

Some of the church folk suggested that everyone should just go home. But the deacon refused – after all, they did have a visitor. But the big problem was, who would preach? The deacon had never preached before, but it was decided he would take a stab at it.

His complete inexperience showed big time: his sermon only lasted for around ten minutes and was certainly far from elegant. The text he used was Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” After stumbling and stammering a bit, he gathered a bit of courage and looked straight at the youthful visitor and said, “Young man, look to Jesus. Look. Look. Look.” The boy did look to Jesus, and was instantly and gloriously saved.

That faithful and committed deacon was John Egglen. And that boy was the young Charles Spurgeon. And the rest as they say is history. Isn’t it amazing how just one person can make such a huge difference? Aren’t you glad John Egglen didn’t stay in bed that day? Aren’t you grateful that he was willing to put the spirit over the flesh, and obeyed the promptings of God that day?

One man, with conviction and determination, made a huge difference in the 13-year-old’s life. And that boy of course went on to make a huge difference in the lives of millions. Nearly two centuries later we are still feeling the impact of that one individual and that one act of obedience. For more on Spurgeon, see my write-up here:

Such stories can be multiplied millions of times over. And the good news is, we all have a role to play in God’s Kingdom. We all have an important part to play in doing his work on earth. We all have spheres of influence which almost no one else on the planet has: our family, our friends, our workmates, our classmates, our neighbours, etc.

We are each placed specifically where God wants us to be. Our immediate circle of contacts and relationships is unique, and we all have a key role in utilising where we are at for Christ and his Kingdom. So are you open to being used? Do you believe you can be a world-changer?

Are you convinced of the power of one? Why not ask God to let you be that person of influence? After all, how many Charles Spurgeons are out there just waiting for their own John Egglen’s to come along and light a spark that will change human history?

Proposed B.C. Christian law school attacked by pro-gay activists over voluntary morality pledge

By Peter Baklinski, LifeSite News

The Canadian Council of Law Deans is doing its best to sabotage efforts by a respected evangelical university in BC to open the country’s first law TWUlawschool run by Christians, all because the university requires students to pledge to adhere to traditional Christian sexual ethics.

Canada’s law deans say that Trinity Western University’s (TWU) “community covenant” on sexual purity is “fundamentally incompatible” with the core values of Canadian law schools and the social values of diversity since it allegedly discriminates against gay, lesbian and bisexual students.

TWU’s “community covenant” is a solemn pledge made by all university members to “voluntarily abstain” from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”. The pledge also asks that university members abstain from gossip, slander, lying, cheating, stealing, pornography, and drunkenness.

William Flanagan, president of the council of deans told the National Post that “[t]o admit a new law school that has a policy that expressly discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation is something is very troubling for us.”

[…]  John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, criticized Flanagan, the dean of the faculty of law at Queen’s University, for his views on “free society”.

“Flanagan should know that a free society tolerates a wide range of opinion on all topics, including sexual morality. No law compels anyone to agree with Flanagan’s opinions about sex and sexuality, nor is he compelled to agree with Christian teaching about sex and sexuality.”

“For Flanagan to suggest that all Canadian law schools must comply with one, single government-enforced ideology about sexual behaviour is the opposite of a free society. The imposition of one world view on all institutions is the hallmark of totalitarianism,” he said.

Read here

More questions for the new Archbishop of Canterbury

By Canon Phil Ashey, AAC

When +Justin Welby is enthroned as the new Archbishop of Canterbury on March 21 (Feast of Thomas Cranmer), he will immediately inherit a stunning challenge to his ability to lead the rest of the Anglican Communion. That challenge was summed up in an almost-buried seventh paragraph of the Church of England’s House of Bishop’s Report of December 20, 2012. In short, paragraph 7 reported that being in a civil partnership is no longer an impediment to becoming a bishop in the Church:
7. “The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.” (Emphasis added) (Entire report here)
Translation: Gay clergy in civil partnerships will be allowed to become bishops if, when questioned, they promise to be sexually abstinent.
Of course, even gay rights activists conceded that “In practice at least half of the House of Bishops ignore the guidelines and do not ask [clergy in civil partnerships] questions about celibacy,” when placing them in congregations.

Presiding Bishop Unwittingly Speaks the Truth

by Fr David Faulkner (Hat Tip: Barbara Gauthier)

“Most of us don’t live in a world where one person is the ultimate decider – because, over and over again, we’ve discovered that better decisions are made when they’re made in communities with appropriate checks and balances. Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny and corruption.
-Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, speaking to the continuing Episcopalians in the State of South Carolina, Jan 26th, 2013 (ENS Article , emphasis mine)
I find myself in unfamiliar territory today: I agree with the Presiding Bishop…at least on the above quote. While railing against Bishop Lawrence of the departed Diocese of South Carolina, she unwittingly criticized him for alleged behavior that is far more characteristic of her behavior as the Presiding Bishop. Does she really not see the irony dripping off the above quote!? Perhaps the plank in her eye is obscuring her vision.
To compare the mentality of a brother bishop to school shooters (see here), or to call him and presumably those close to him “petty deciders or wolves who masquerade as sheep” is incredibly inappropriate for any Christian, not to mention bizarre. I truly have never before heard or read such a spiteful and hate-fueled speech on either side of our present unpleasantness. This type of hateful and over the top language is even worse coming from a leader who claims to speak for the “national Church” and all Episcopalians. Let me be clear: I am an Episcopal priest and the Presiding Bishop does not speak for me. I have no delusion that I share in any ownership of anything outside of my parish and my diocese. The idea that one person, even if one agrees with the present incumbent, can speak for all Episcopalians is sheer lunacy.

So What?’ The Nightmare Christians Don’t Need to Have

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
January 28, 2013

Sometimes the rubbish talked about by liberals concerning religion specifically Christianity cries out for a response, indeed repudiation.

Thus, a story by someone called Derek Oenwell in the Huffington Post cannot go unanswered because it is tripe heaped upon tripe.

His article is titled: ‘So What?’ The Nightmare Christians Should Be Having, subtitled “Show the difference believing makes.”

In his slam, Oenwell observed that the fastest growing religious designation in America over the past five years, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is “None.” While atheism and agnosticism have risen slightly over that time, the biggest increase is among those who, when asked about institutional religion, respond, “Meh.”

“It strikes me that much of what drives this unenthusiastic response to religion, at least in the case of Christianity, centers on the apparent (at least to observers) unwillingness of Christians to live like Jesus. The ‘Nones’ have heard endlessly about Christianity and how everybody would be better off if the world would just believe the stuff Christians believe:

“They’ve gotten the message, for instance, that being Christian means you believe being gay is a sin — and not just any sin, but sin in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way. The express-lane-to-Hell kind of sin. Then they read the Gospels about a Jesus who reserves his most stinging indictments not for the folks everybody else has already given up on, but for the stalwarts at the top of the religious and political food chain, the ones who join Rotary, drive Buicks and wear sensible shoes.”

VOL: NO. The “Nones” have never really heard the gospel because they have been steadily brainwashed since the 1950s with the liberal social gospel of one Walter Rauschenbusch, a theologian and Baptist pastor who was a key figure in the Social Gospel movement which flourished in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is his “gospel” which has been floating from pulpits for decades that has left the “nones” spiritually dryer than an Arabian desert.

That “gospel” from those pulpits (especially the one President Obama listened to for years in Chicago), effectively denuded the supernaturalism of Jesus’ message, reducing it to a mere “here and now” salvation that is now openly endorsed by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori – a woman who is rapidly sinking The Episcopal Church faster than a gay bar trying to open in Salt Lake City.

It is this slippery slope away from the gospel that has led several generations to slowly leave the church, as they were hearing nothing substantially different from what they read in newspapers and later saw on TV.

The gay issue came along much later. It has been pushed and fostered by a handful of shrill and strident homosexualists and foisted on the American public through a well-funded PR campaign for homosexual acceptance. It was never the primary reason why the “nones” have walked away from Christ or the Church, they just never heard about Christ.

No Christian minister who has even vaguely read Scripture ever said, “being gay” is a sin, what they have said is that homosexual behavior is a sin. Christian ministers were for decades hot on the trail of the heterosexual sins of fornication and adultery in sermons long before homosexuality ever became an issue. Most “nones” have never heard a sermon by a preacher blasting homosexuality. In 25 years of being in a conservative Episcopal church, I never once heard any of the half dozen rectors and dozens more preachers that visited our parish ever preach that homosexuality was wrong or even touched on homosexuality as an issue. Issues like this were always cast broadly in terms of sin but homosexuality was never specifically named. Since the rise of the homosexual lobby, most conservatives and all liberals have been cowed into silence by the gay lobby. They quietly say nothing unless it is in private. They focus on mission, God’s gospel of salvation, discipleship; homosexuality is never raised. Mr. Oenwell is writing fiction. I have NEVER heard a preacher talk about reparative therapy, even though tens of thousands of gay men and women have successfully sought this out.

OENWELL: They hear the smugness of Christian reproaches against a society that would presume to remove God from public schools (because, you know, God is used to getting kicked around by effete liberals). But we shouldn’t be surprised how the “Nones” fail to square the fairly straightforwardly pacifist Jesus of the Gospels with the Libertarian Jesus of some Christians, a Jesus who apparently doesn’t have a problem with the idea that school safety can be secured with “God and a loaded gun.”

VOL: Not every Christian has equated “God, guns and gays” in the same breath; that too is a fiction. There are millions of Christians in America who eschew gun ownership, who believe owning a gun serves no real purpose unless you plan to kill yourself or a member of your family and owning one means that you are 43 times more likely to kill someone in your own family than an intruder and that assault weapons are not being used to kill animals but one’s fellow human.

OENWELL: Christians claim to believe in a Jesus, who spent a great deal of time reaching out to, speaking out for, advocating on behalf of “the least of these”; but then some segments of Christianity align themselves with a brand of politics that seems interested in advancing only the interests of the wealthiest among us — at the expense of the poor, the hungry, the naked, and the outcast — which is to say, at the expense of the least of these. What are outsiders to think?

VOL: That is a sweeping generalization. If one looks at the contemporary history of Christian involvement in social change, organizations like World Vision, the Salvation Army, Food for the Hungry, Food for the Poor, Bread for the World, COMPASSION, Prison Fellowship Ministries, (the biggest in America started by the late Chuck Colson) to name but a few are in the vanguard of serving the “least of these” and evangelicals have given billions of dollars to serve “the poor, the hungry, the naked and the outcast.” I spent several years working with an organization known as American Leprosy Missions so I know whereof I speak. I also did a stint with World Vision International. Conservative Christians remain among the most generous of Americans; one need only look at their tax returns.

OENWELL: So, here’s the thing: Christians can’t just believe stuff. People want an answer to the question: “So what?” They want to know what turns on these much-discussed beliefs, what difference these beliefs make in our lives. Do they help us care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome the outcast? Or do these beliefs merely represent a golden barrier that offers protection against blame?

VOL: Christians just don’t believe “stuff”. Just think about what Pastor Rick Warren who heads the largest church in America does. He has sent missions and millions of dollars to Rwanda to fight AIDS. He sent thousands of his people to Louisiana and Mississippi following Katrina. Most churches in America are involved locally with all kinds of ministries including feeding the poor, clothing the naked, educating the poor in bad neighborhoods and working with Habitat for Humanity or knock off type organizations. Show me a humanist organization that has done one tenth of what Christians have done in the US in the last 50 years.

OENWELL: In short, people who’ve lost interest in Christianity might just like to see Christians for whom believing “this stuff” is merely the first step to actually living it out.

VOL: Well, Mr. Oenwell, we ALL live it out imperfectly. No one has the corner on perfection. But show me an alternative organization in America that has done as much as the Christian Church has done in all its manifestations to help and aid the poor.

OENWELL: And just so we’re clear: The call not just to believe in Jesus, but to live like Jesus can’t be merely another ploy to attract converts, to roust the “Nones” and get them to think Christianity is “neat”; it has to be a call to do the right thing. People who follow Jesus care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the outcast, because that’s what Jesus said to do, and they don’t know any other way to be. So, if doing the right thing is only an ecclesiastical marketing strategy, people will be justified in continuing to ask, “So what?”

VOL: Jesus calls us to be his DISCIPLES not just His converts. Disciples are not made overnight. It took His disciples at least three years to get the hang of it. Again I repeat what I wrote earlier, Christians have been in the vanguard of caring for the poor as no other organization in America except for the government.

OENWELL: Think about this for a minute, though: What if part of the reason the “Nones” are so underwhelmed by organized religion isn’t because they don’t find Jesus interesting, but because it appears to them that Christians don’t find him sufficiently interesting enough to take seriously?

VOL: “Organized religion” has never saved a single soul. Yes, most [liberal] preachers are not only boring; they haven’t got a message worth listening too. The Church is not the Kiwanis club at prayer, it is not a social service agency; it is the proclaimer of God’s amazing, saving word and work to all mankind, and if it is failing to do that God will judge it just as surely as He judged Sodom and Gomorrah. Have no doubts about that, Mr. Oenwell.

OENWELL: That’s what ought to give Christians nightmares.

VOL: And it should give you nightmares, Mr. Oenwell, if you continue in unbelief. God will judge His church in due course, just as He will judge the good and the bad, the believer and the unbeliever. Christians don’t have a corner on nightmares.

In Search of Christian Vertebrates

Talk about an endangered species: it is getting harder and harder nowadays to find believers with a bit of backbone. One fears they may soon become extinct altogether. Sure, the churches are filled today with hordes of Christian invertebrates – they are a dime a dozen. But that is not what we need right now.

In these trying times we are in desperate need of Christian men and women who have spines of steel to withstand all that’s going down around us. But they are hard to find, that’s for sure. We have plenty of pew warmers who will never rock the boat, cause a ripple, or dare to offend.

Why is that? Fear is a big part of this – fear of man especially. Of course we are warned quite often in Scripture about fear. We are told “fear not” over and over again, and we are specifically told in Proverbs 25:29 that the “fear of man brings a snare”.

Yet while so many of us are paralysed with the fear of man, so very few of us have the antidote: the fear of God. Instead of worrying about offending the holy and living God, we fear offending mere men. We are servants and slaves to men instead of servants and slaves of Christ.

So we fear the wrong things, and lack a vital trait for our day and age: courage. Courageous Christians are hard to find, while spineless, wimpy evangellyfish seem to abound. Where are the believers with courage and backbone today? Why do so many lack the courage of their convictions, and wimp out at every opportunity to stand up for Jesus?

And this is no inconsequential thing. Not only does it mean we are not being the witness for Jesus that we are meant to be, but we are actually sinning against the Lord. A lack of courage is sinful? You bet it is. Simply go to Revelation 21:8 where we find a list of those cast out and judged by Almighty God. Guess who lead the list? Yep, the cowardly.

But there is simply no excuse for such cowardice and lack of intestinal fortitude. Sure, in ourselves we have nothing. But we were never meant to go out in our own strength and fight God’s battles. We are meant to go out in his strength and fight his battles with his weapons in his way.

I love what we read about Gideon when he was called by Yahweh to be a deliverer of his people. When the angel of the Lord shows up, we find him hiding. Yet the angel says, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:11-12).

That angel obviously had a bit of a sense of humour. But that is how God views each of us; as a mighty warrior, ready to do mighty exploits in his name. We are to go out into battle with a solid backbone, not because of our own strength or might or power, but because of His Spirit being with us (Zechariah 4:8).

With so many crucial battles raging all around us, we so very much need all of God’s people out there in the trenches, instead of leaving only a handful on the frontlines. Those brave soldiers need more reinforcements. And when there are brave souls out there, they can often inspire others to enter in.

As Billy Graham put it, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” It is my prayer that in the days ahead – which are getting increasingly dark and terrible – God will raise up an army of believers who have real backbone, who fear not what man or demon can throw their way, but only fear their Lord and Master.

Indeed, all the great men and women of God have known that the Christian life must be one of courage, perseverance and boldness. It is fitting therefore to close this article with a handful of quotes from some of these courageous Christians:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Augustine

“I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him.” Martin Luther

“Even a dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” John Calvin

“Courage is the indispensable requisite of any true ministry. Courage is good everywhere, but it is necessary here. If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else. Go and make shoes to fit them. But do not keep on all your life preaching sermons which shall say not what God sent you to declare, but what they hire you to say.” Phillips Brooks, 19th century American clergyman

“Courage we shall need, and for the exercise of it we have as much reason as necessary, if we are soldiers of King Jesus.” C. H. Spurgeon

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die.” G. K. Chesterton

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”  C. S. Lewis

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are ‘harmless,’ and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are ‘sideliners’ — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” Jim Elliot, martyred missionary

“The true follower of Christ will not ask, ‘If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?’ Rather he will say, ‘This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!’” A. W. Tozer

“It’s going to demand a lot of courage before too long— to really live and maintain the true Christian life according to the Word of the Living God.” Leonard Ravenhill

These were real vertebrate believers. We can use many more like them. As the nineteenth century hymn says:

“Stand up, stand up, for Jesus;
the trumpet call obey;
forth to the mighty conflict
in this his glorious day:
ye that are men now serve him
against unnumbered foes;
let courage rise with danger,
and strength to strength oppose.”

Young have traditional views on marriage

From the British Psychological Society

Young people tend to have traditional views when it comes to marriage, new research has shown. Published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, the study revealed both young males and young females believe a marriage proposal should be made by the man in the relationship.
Investigators from the University of California Santa Cruz surveyed 277 undergraduates aged 17 to 26 and found this to be the overwhelming preference among both sexes.
It was also demonstrated that a significant majority of women are also keen to take their partners surname once they wed.
Rachael Robnett, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the learning institute, said she was surprised by how strong these feelings are among young people, noting: “Given the prevalence of liberal attitudes among students at the university where data collection took place it is striking that so many participants held traditional preferences.”
Ms Robnett revealed participants were influenced in their answers by a desire to stick to gender role traditions.
Dr Pauline Rennie-Peyton, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:
“Many of the young people interviewed will be from liberal households and many from broken homes and they know the damage and distress that both have caused them.
“Children growing up need boundaries to make them feel loved and secure. Parents always putting their own needs first and not considering the impact of “it is OK, do what you like” has on the children. They take this for indifference and not caring.