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Showing posts from November, 2006

Our Central Thought

From an Encyclical Letter, Bishops of the Anglican Communion, Lambeth Place, A.D. 1888. We ... most earnestly press upon the Clergy the importance of taking, as the central thought of their teaching, our L ORD J ESUS C HRIST , as the sacrifice for our sins, as the healer of our sinfulness, the source of all spiritual life, and the revelation to our consciences of the law and motive of all moral virtue. To Him and to His work all the teachings of the Old Testament converge, and from him all the teachings of the New Testament flow, in spirit, in force, and in form.

The Anglicanism of C. S. Lewis

Lyle Dorsett has a lot of insights into the Anglicanism of C. S. Lewis, of which he writes in his book Seeking the Secret Place - The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis . He reminds us firstly of Lewis' statement in the Preface of Mere Christianity that he was neither high nor low Anglican, just an ordinary layman in the Church. He did have a high regard for the Anglican tradition. This is evident in his book Letters to Malcolm and personal letters. Dorsett says that the safest thing to call Lewis is a Protestant, since the Anglican Church was so diverse. He was not anti-Puritan but critical of Puritans. He especially did not like their delving into predestination. Lewis considered the topic a "meaningless question." In a margin note of his copy of the Book of Common Prayer, Lewis wrote beside Article XIII, "doctrine never to be discussed..." He also did not like the preoccupation many Puritans had with our sinfulness as Christians. He found it unheal

The Author Enters His Story - Trinity I, 2006 - John 1:1-18

One day in Oxford, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were lamenting together how few books there were of the kind that they liked. They concluded that the thing to do was to write some. They decided on stories of science fiction and time-travel. They flipped a coin and Lewis wrote his space trilogy. Tolkien began a time-travel story entitled The Lost Road. He never finished it. What he did write is worth reading – it is a good story – but it is especially interesting in that Tolkien wrote himself into the story. The qualities he gives to one of the main characters were from his own life. The story thus has something of an autobiographical aspect to it. I cannot help but reflect upon what it might be like for an author, who has created a world in story, to suddenly find himself actually in that story as one of the characters. What would Tolkien have thought and felt if he suddenly woke up, like a couple of the men in his story, as a living person in another world and time – one which he

Who is Jesus? - Trinity Sunday, 2006; St. John 3

If you are not familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice , I will tell you that the main character is a young lady named Elizabeth Bennett, who meets two young men, for whom she has opposing opinions. One, named Wickham, she considers quite charming. The other, Mr. Darcy, is revolting to her because of his pride. However, as the story unfolds, Elizabeth finds that Wickham is, in fact, a dangerous man and Darcy turns out to be the most amiable and respectable man she has ever known. The happy ending of the story is a direct result of the changes in her understanding concerning these two men. I mention Austen’s story because it is a good example of the significant consequences that can attend the right or wrong understanding we may have of the important people in our lives and there is none more important in all of our lives than Jesus Christ. The colour of our lives on earth and the endings of our lives, whether they be happy or not, are dependent on who we think Jesus is. If I we

Love and Obedience - Whitsunday - 2006 - John 14

Chapters 12-17 of the Gospel of St. John contain some of the most personal and intimate words that Jesus spoke to His disciples in all the gospel accounts. The setting of these words is deeply moving. The image of Jesus, in the upper room with his disciples, on the very night of his betrayal, evokes a strong impression of the emotions that must have filled the room: Jesus’ own emotions, knowing what was about to happen; the disciples emotions, hearing Him say that one of them would betray Him and that he was soon to leave them. These all add to the impact of the words which He spoke to them. What is more, because Jesus was trying to encourage His disciples, the chapters contain many famous deeds and sayings of Jesus that bring comfort to us today, such things as the foot-washing passage, the assurances of Jesus’ love, His promise of the Spirit, and, like a great crescendo in a musical piece, His priestly prayer in chapter 17. It is true that, some of the things Jesus said that night pe

Good Quote Contra Dualism

I was recently asked what dualism is. I responded that it is a separating of the material world from the spiritual world in some fashion; the material is seen as unimportant or evil or detached from God, while the spiritual world has the opposite qualities. I just heard this quote while listening to a lecture from Regent College which I thought was very good. "Wherever there is creation, God is there, and so should be our minds". This has to be the case, because Scripture teaches that Christ upholds all things by the word of his power. He remains involved with that which his mind conceived and his providence has continued to guide. This concept blows away dualism and the crazy categorizing of our lives that we practice. How different our concept of Christian living would be if we could recognise the truth in this quote. As for the "so should be our minds" part, the speaker was addressing the issue of ongoing learning among the clergy. But we should all be constantl

Jeremy Taylor on the Excellence of Anglicanism

From: A Copy of a Letter Written to a Gentlewoman Newly Seduced to the Church of Rome by the Reverend Jeremy Taylor D.D., late Bishop of Down and Connor. London: Printed for L. Meredith, 1687. But I pray, give me leave to consider for you ... what defect, what amiss did you find in the Doctrine and Liturgy and Discipline of the Church of England? For its doctrine, It is certain it professes the belief of all that is written in the Old and New Testament, all that which is in the three Creeds, the Apostolical, the Nicene, and that of Athanasius, and whatsoever was decreed in the four General Councils, or in any other truly such, and whatsoever was condemned in these, our Church hath legally declared it to be Heresie. And upon these accounts above four whole ages of the Church went to Heaven; they baptized all their Catechumens into this faith, their hopes of Heaven was upon this and a good life, their Saints and Martyrs lived and died in this alone, they denied Commun

St. John 5 & Article XXXIV

When Jesus did things contrary to the customs of the Jews for the Sabbath, we must be clear that he was not indicating that there was anything wrong with the Sabbath itself. Nor was he being disrespectful to ecclesiastical authority. After all, the Sabbath was his idea in the first place. The law of Moses regulating the Sabbath for the Jews was his own law. The Old Testament Church was also his institution and he told people to respect those who were in "Moses' seat" (Matt. 23:2). What we have in these cases is the Head of the Church dealing with errors in his Church regarding ceremonies. Through their own traditions, the Jews had altered the Lord's identification of the Sabbath and his directions concerning its observance. In St. John 5, we have the example of the man healed at the pool of Bethesda and the Lord's instructions for him to rise, take up his bed, and walk. The Jews rebuked the man for carrying the bed based on Jer. 17:21. The verse should be understo

Fear of Man and Love for God - St. John 5

Excerpt from sermon, Trinity VI, 2006 Having commented on 5:31-37, where Jesus lists those who witness to his identity and mission, I said: Why did the Jews not believe? Why, in the face of these three mighty witnesses – none of which they could contradict – did they not believe? Jesus gives us the answer in the rest of the passage. It was for two reasons. One is in verses 43 and 44. Jesus says, “I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” They were more preoccupied with how they could impress their fellows with their own religious attainments than with knowing the Messiah when they saw him. They were men-pleasers and men-pleasers are idolators. They let someone else beside God be the main factor in what they decided to do with their lives; with what they did and said. They served men

Hooker: Natural Law and Church Practice

The last section of Book II, chapter 8, in Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Piety contains a very interesting progressive argument which leads to the conclusion that the Church may allow or direct things to be done that are not commanded in Scripture. He begins with that which cannot be denied: God approves that which is good and disapproves that which is evil. He then describes degrees of good and evil, noting that God allows and approves various deeds in His creation, but that there are things absolutely necessary for salvation only revealed in Scripture. He then proceeds to mention things that have been done in the Church which have been approved by God though they were not required for salvation, such as those voluntary acts of the early Church recorded in The Acts. The conclusion is that God can approve "more than He specifically commands". "Since, then, there can be no evil in those various actions whereof God approves, and He approves more than he specifically

John Knox and the Prayer Book

I've long been a big fan of John Knox. While he is so closely identified with Presbyterianism, it is intriguing to read about his connection with the Church of England. In the first place, he owed his release from the French galleys to the influence of Edward VI's court. In the early 1550's, while sojourning in England, Knox was a licensed minister of the crown and served briefly as a royal chaplain. He was offered a bishopric, but declined. He was even involved in the preparation of the second edition of The Book of Common Prayer and the 1551 revision of The Articles of Religion ! If you are unfamiliar with Knox, you may be interested in the webpage I have on him at my school website: .

Hart's Recovering Mother Kirk

One of the books I read that helped me to move to the Anglican church was D. G. Hart's Recovering Mother Kirk . Of course, such a result was not the author's intention! If you've not read the book, read the article in Touchstone, Rediscovering Mother Kirk which covers the same basic material. My thoughts after reading the book were, "OK, I'd like to see Presbyterians renewing their liturgical heritage, but you're talking about nothing but a long, long uphill battle. And look what's happened to those who have tried!" Since I also had other matters that were leading me out of the PCA, I couldn't help but think how, if I wanted to be in a church with a beautiful and reverent liturgy, I didn't have to fight the rest of my life to have one; there was one waiting!

Garver on Bishop N. T. Wright

This is not new, but I didn't want to lose the link: Dr. Joel Garver has composed an excellent review of Bishop Wright's teaching. His purpose is to explain why people like or dislike his writings. Please read the article here . See also my comments.

Doctrinal and Mission Statements

This morning I received an e-mail from someone inquiring about our church. He asked for our doctrinal statement. Let me say from the outset that I commend this gentleman. It's an encouraging thing to find someone who wants to know up front what the church believes instead of how big our youth program is or the like. The theology of a church is much more indicative of the direction and ethos of the church than its building or programs or what have you. What we think about God determines what we think about everything else - that is, if our theology is also, as Tozer put it, our "practical, working theology." Simply having a creed or "doctrinal statement" is no guarantee that the church practices and experiences what it believes. Since the main goal of this blog is to celebrate the good things about being Anglican, I can't help but comment on how little we need American church ministry doctrinal statements. Now it would not surprise me that there are Anglican

The Error of English Nonconformity

Drury on English Nonconformity [info in brackets is mine] From English Church Teaching on Faith, Life and Order , by R. B. Girdlestone, H. C. G. Moule, and T. W. Drury, (London: Charles Murray, 1897). We have seen that foreign Protestants [Luther, Geneva, etc.] were generally unwilling to surrender the Episcopal succession, but that they had to choose between errors of doctrine [in the Roman Church] and irregularity of order. They chose, and rightly, the latter alternative. Our position towards them seems clear. We hold, as Ussher, Laud, and Cosin held, that they are true parts of the visible Church, though their Orders, judged from our standpoint, are lacking in regularity. But there are no grounds for asserting that such want of regularity impairs validity. The position of English Nonconformists [Presbyterian and Congregational Puritans] is slightly different. It cannot be said with any truth that they were placed on the same horns of a dilemma as their continental brethren. They hav

No Man Can Come - St. John 6

In John 6, Jesus confronts the Jews with their unbelief in a fashion incongruous with their sympathies and certainly with our own. He tells them, in effect, that they did not believe in him because the Father was not drawing them to him. 44: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.45: It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Why would he do such a thing? Did he not realise that such talk opens the door to accusations against God of unfairness? If you want to say anything that causes people to get angry with God, it is such a statement. Well, of course we believe he knew what he was doing. It is we who need our thinking adjusted. In trying to understand why Jesus would say this, let's consider further the effect that such a statement has upon fallen people. First of all, it offends our pride. We do not l

The Lord's Supper & St. John 6

Some Protestants do not think Jesus was talking about the Lord’s Supper when he spoke of our eating his flesh and drinking his blood in St. John 6 (e.g., Simeon). Others think that Jesus was indeed talking about the Lord’s Supper and that that is when we partake of him in a spiritual manner (Wright). Then there are those who think there is truth in both understandings (Moule). I, for one, must think that Jesus at least had the Lord’s Supper in mind. I do so because of the way St. John has written his gospel. I appeal to John’s literary craft as a source of understanding what he is saying to us. You will recall that the Lord’s Supper was instituted on the final Passover Jesus celebrated with his disciples, in the upper room. Well, the upper room is all over chapter 6. First of all, the whole story of chapter 6 takes place at the time of the Passover. When Jesus feeds the multitude, he does so in very much the same way he fed the disciples in the upper room: he gives thanks and passes th

Academic Spirituality - St. John 7

In St. John 7, we find that there is a prerequisite to spiritual illumination. Jesus tells us in v. 17, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Obedience to what is known comes before understanding of the unknown. Instead of our saying, “Once I understand everything, then I’ll start doing it,” we should say, “I’ll start living by what I know now, and I will trust the Lord to help me understand more later.” That is the way to grow in spiritual illumination. God’s truth always has a moral component. There is no such thing as something God has for us to know that is not also, in some way, something he has for us to be or do. Everything has its ethical implications. Also, God does not give us more illumination if we do not appreciate what we already have. As Jesus said in Matthew 13, speaking of spiritual illumination, 12: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance….” Thus, if we do

Dr. Madden on the Crusades

I highly recommend The New Concise History of the Crusades as an excellent resource on the Crusades. You can also listen to the Issues Etc. interview with Dr. Madden on the Crusades by going to this page at KFUO, St. Louis . Christians: Be not ashamed!

The Habit of the Daily Office

A couple of years ago, George Sumner told the story at Regent College of how a friend of his had told him that he could tell a difference between priests who held the daily office in their parish and those who did not. There was a spiritual edge to those who did. I keep thinking about that. Whether I gain a spiritual edge or not, I do not know, but I do know that when I keep to the daily office schedule that I do have (twice a week at the church and the rest of the week at the school) it makes a difference. Many times, I've held the service simply out of duty and found it redirecting my soul to better things than what it had been fooling around with. I also prefer it to the "quiet time" as a way to get the day going. Frankly, while I used to live and die by the "quiet time," the whole thing now seems pitiful and anemic next to the divine office, gathered with God's people - even if it's just one other person. By the way, I was amused not too long ago whe

Living in the Light - St. John 8

Regarding the reaction of the Jews to Jesus in St. John 8 : My concern this morning is that we do not make the mistake of thinking that these Jewish people behaved so badly because that’s what Jews do. That’s absurd. They lied to themselves, they refused to face the truth about who they really were before God, because they were men. We all have had this tendency ever since the garden of Eden, when Adam refused to face up to the truth about his ultimate responsibility for his and his wife’s disobedience. This temptation to prefer falsehoods that build up our pride over truths that humble us follows us even into our Christian lives. We who have believed in Jesus are now the children of God. By God’s grace, we have received the truth of Jesus and we have been set free by it. We are no longer slaves of sin. Our minds are no longer under the dominion of the lies of this world and the devil. We have begun to experience a taste of the liberty that belongs to the sons of God. But being the son

Good Shepherds - St. John 10

There are many debts that western Christendom owes to the Anglican Church. One of them, you may be surprised to learn, is for the arrangement of the books and chapters of our Bibles. Historians assert that the first person to divide the Bible into defined chapters was Stephen Langton (c. 1150 - July 9, 1228). Langton, among other things, was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus we owe it to one of the Church of England’s Archbishops that the portion of the Gospel we read earlier today, concerning Jesus as the good shepherd, is in the 10th chapter. It could not have been an easy task to make these chapter divisions, and I’m sure that Langton himself would have puzzled over where to make the best breaks. The words of Jesus concerning the shepherding of his flock are lengthy and seem to deserve a place of their own, but we have to admit the fact that the division between ch. 9 and ch. 10 is a problem. If we go back to the end of ch. 9 and then read on into 10, we realise that Jesus has not

The Nature of Our Abiding In Christ - St. John 15

The following is an excerpt of my sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, '06: We must “continue in his love;” there is to be an ongoing vital relationship between the vine and the branches, for which the branches themselves have a responsibility. Since our spiritual welfare depends on our abiding in the vine, how we are to abide in the vine becomes a very important question for us. To know how we are to abide in the vine, we need to understand more of what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of himself as the vine. We need to know what we are to abide in. As Bishop N. T. Wright explains in a recent commentary on this passage, there are two ways to understand how Jesus is our vine. We are grafted into the vine through a corporate connection and a private connection. First of all, to understand what I mean by a corporate connection, consider that Jesus’ calling himself a vine was not an arbitrary allusion. He could have likened himself to a tree, for