Sunday, April 20, 2014

Colorado Deaths Stoke Worries About Pot Edibles

From ABC News, where there is more:
A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony.  A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

The two recent deaths have stoked concerns about Colorado's recreational marijuana industry and the effects of the drug, especially since cookies, candy and other pot edibles can be exponentially more potent than a joint.

Twenty-six people have reported poisonings from marijuana edibles this year, when the center started tracking such exposures.  Six were children who swallowed innocent-looking edibles, most of which were in plain sight.
A Colorado law enforcement official had this to say:
"Sadly, we're going to start to understand over time all of the damage and all of the problems associated with marijuana," said Thornton police Sgt. Jim Gerhardt, speaking in his capacity as a board member of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association.  "It's going to dispel the myth that there's no downside, that there's no side effect, to this drug.   It's sad that people are going to have to be convinced with the blood of Coloradans."
Read it all.

A clergy friend of mine with contacts in the local high school says that the number of times the police have been summoned to the high school to deal with intoxicated students has more than doubled in the three months since recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado.  Although students are too young to purchase marijuana legally, the increased use of illegal marijuana by students seems to be the result of the signal being sent by the state's legalization of the drug, which is that this is just another adult pleasure to try if you can.

What we are seeing is a tragedy in the making.  Please pray for Colorado. 

(If there is any upside from this whole situation, it is that other states may think twice about legalizing marijuana after looking at what has happened in Colorado.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Lord is risen indeed!

Matthew 28:1-10

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in the history of the world—except, perhaps, for one other event, the one that happened three days earlier—namely, his death.

This is what I conclude as I ponder the two claims of Matthewm, chapter 28:  (1) that Jesus was crucified; and (2) that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive and will be with us to the end.   There would have been no need for the resurrection if Jesus had not died; and there would be no saving significance to His death if He did not rise.  Both are utterly crucial.

I. Jesus Has Been Crucified  –  The time is early Sunday morning.   Mary Magdalene and the other women have come to the tomb of Jesus.  They see an angel whose appearance is like lightning (Matthew 28:3).  Then, according to Matthew 28:5-6, “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.’”  This is the first important fact in this text: “Jesus has been crucified.”

Jesus said to His disciples several times that this was His destiny.  For instance, in Matthew 17:22-23: “Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.’”  In Acts 4:27-28, the disciples prayed these words to God: “Truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan predestined to take place.”  The death of Jesus was not an accident or merely the result of a great injustice.  It was the plan of God.

This is the teaching that runs throughout the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . .” (John 3:16).  “[God did] not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).   Jesus was crucified by design, not by accident.

II. He Is Risen  –  But the Cross of Christ can’t be precious to us if Jesus is still dead.  So the resurrection of Jesus is just as crucial as his crucifixion.  And so we see the second important claim of this Gospel passage: “The angel said to Mary and the others, ‘He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come; see the place where He was lying.’”

The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates His triumph over death and His authority over all things.  From there He works out His saving purposes in the world—with authority over all nations and industry and business and science and education and entertainment and weather and stars and light and energy and life and death. He is Lord over all; and His purposes and His promises cannot fail.  And, as we are in Him and living for Him, He is with us—in all His majesty and power and authority—to the end of the age.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Wisconsin Governor Refuses Atheist Demands to Remove Scripture from Social Media Pages

From here:
The governor of Wisconsin is refusing the demands of a prominent atheist activist organization to remove a Scripture citation from his Twitter and Facebook pages.

As previously reported, the Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Walker this past week after becoming aware that he had simply posted 'Philippians 4:13' as his status on his social media accounts last Sunday. The Scripture reads, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

"This braggadocio verse coming from a public official is rather disturbing," FFRF wrote in the letter. "To say, 'I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,' seems more like a threat, or the utterance of a theocratic dictator, than of a duly elected civil servant."

It demanded that the governor delete the post, contending that it is unlawful for Walker to endorse religion on his official social media pages.

"On behalf of our membership, we ask you to immediately delete this religious message from your official gubernatorial Facebook and Twitter," the letter stated. "May we hear from you at your earliest convenience?"

However, Laurel Patrick, the press secretary for Walker, told reporters this week that the governor will not bow to atheist demands.

"Governor Walker will not remove the post on his social media," she wrote in an emailed statement. "The verse was part of a devotional he read that morning, which inspired him, and he chose to share it."
Read it all.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Truer words...

An article in the Daily Telegraph dealing with the challenges ahead for Church of England Archbishop Justin Welby elicited the following comment from a reader:
Religion is founded on a notion that it has teachings or scriptures from a divine (supernatural) source, and this source is provides insights into ultimate truths which can not be discerned by mere mortals investigating nature.

Any religious institution which believes it needs to modernise its beliefs is admitting that its beliefs have never had such a divine source - they are man-made and, like all man-made things, need to be modernised periodically.  Consequently, that institution no longer represents a spiritual belief system, but is simply a political organisation which pretends to be founded on spiritual beliefs.

That pretty much sums up the Church of England.
This comment is not only my quote of the day, it may be the quote of a lifetime.  And it reminded me of something I said in a recent sermon:
I have an abiding distrust for what C. S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery."  Chronological snobbery is the notion that the ideas of our own day are better than the ideas of a bygone day just because the ideas are in our day.  Chronological snobbery feels that things are truer because they are newer.

Now there is a difference here: Truth in areas such as science is a matter of discovery.  So, indeed, new discoveries may invalidate previously held ideas and replace them with new ones.  The discovery that the Earth revolves around the Sun, instead of the older idea that the Sun and other celestial bodies revolved around the Earth, is just one example.

I remember when I was young, being at my grandparents’ house and looking up the word “atom” in an old dictionary (from around the year 1900).  The definition said that the atom was the smallest particle of matter and could not be divided.  Well, by then (early 1960’s), even as a child in grade school, I had already been taught about protons, electrons, and neutrons—and, indeed, I knew that the atom could be split with powerful and sometimes destructive force.  In science, new discoveries teach us new truth.

However, in Christian faith and theology, truth is a primarily a matter of revelation, not discovery.  Oh, we may discover new insights out of what has been revealed in Scripture.  But we do not discover new truth that invalidates the clear revelation God has given us.

For example: we will not come to a new discovery in theology that God is an impersonal force, not a Person, that Hell does not exist, that human beings are not sinners because of the Fall, that the atoning death of Jesus Christ is not necessary for salvation—though there are theologians writing, teaching, and holding distinguished professorships who will try to tell you each of those things.  These theologians and denominational leaders and people who follow them believe that theologians today can formulate ideas that make the truth of Holy Scripture, the faith once delivered to the saints, obsolete.

A pointed example from our own day:  Some people want to redefine marriage, and they say that Jesus never said anything that would prohibit doing so.  What Jesus did say that bears on the issue is this:  Speaking to a group who had asked him about divorce, Jesus says, “Have you not read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-6)

So the teaching of Jesus is that this is God’s design for human sexual relations, and he grounds it in the creation order (Genesis 2:24).  And, sure enough, whether you are Chinese, or Indian, or a member of a tribe living in the jungle, men marry women and women marry men, and that is how we got 7 billion people living on the planet.  Because the creation order is a reality even in cultures that have never been influenced by the Bible.  So when we talk about redefining marriage, we are talking about not merely something that the Church has never done before, we are talking about something that human civilization has never done before.

Observing truth from the creation order that is consistent with the truth of God in revelation is known as “natural law.”  Natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human existence and deduce binding rules of moral behavior.  In jurisprudence it serves as a means by which the laws of given political community or society may be critiqued.

If you follow confirmation hearings of Supreme Court justices you may remember nominees being asked what their views were on natural law (such as Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts).  You see, there are politicians who don’t want justices who believe that there is a “givenness”—a revealed nature—to the way things are, and that there is a natural order of things with which laws must be consistent.  It interferes with the idea that we can make up laws to do whatever we want.  But I digress.

This chronological snobbery of which I was speaking is irrational because being new is no guarantee of being true.  It’s pure arrogance to think that a thought in my head is better than a thought in the head of St. Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas, or Martin Luther, just because I live in the twenty-first century and they lived in centuries past.  There is no logical connection between the truth of an insight and the century when God puts it into somebody’s mind.

Many of the theological errors we see today are really the heresies of a past age in new packaging.  So I try to flee every temptation to be a chronological snob.  C. S. Lewis prescribed at least one antidote.  He said that every third book you read should be from outside your own century.  It was good advice.
Numerous commentators have noted, for more than twenty years, that there are two religions in the Episcopal Church.  (Just try Googling the phrase "two religions in the Episcopal Church" to see the copious number of references.)  By extension, this might be said as well for the Anglican Communion.  If one is willing to take a step back and look at the larger picture, is probably most accurate to say that there are two religions today both calling themselves Christianity, and the battle between the two is being fought in every historic Christian tradition.

The difference between these two religions is described succinctly by the comment I quoted from the Daily Telegraph.  It is the difference between what J. Gresham Machen called "Revealed Religion" and "naturalistic liberalism," which, as Machen said, "is not Christianity at all."

How the conflict between these two religions will play out remains to be seen--except I believe I can say with certainty that when, in response to Peter's confession, Jesus promised, "upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," it was not the false Christianity of naturalistic liberalism that he was talking about.

This means that "revealed" Christianity will ultimately be seen as the victor (at least by God, whose verdict alone matters), even if it is the martyr's victory.

The great frustration in the meantime is that there are ostensibly orthodox Christian leaders (be they bishops, seminary presidents, trustees, etc.) who do not realize there is a battle or, if they do, are not willing to fight it if it means martyrdom—or even a loss of temporal position, prestige, or institutional connections.

I don't need to dwell on what our Lord thinks of such worldly compromises and lukewarmness.  Scripture is abundantly clear on that.

But it is, as I say, frustrating to see orthodox Christians ostracized for raising the alarm and to see institutions lost so that their leaders can remain in comfortable slumber.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

The Prayer of St. Patrick (Sometimes also called The Lorica of St. Patrick — from around the year AD 377)

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preaching of the apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and near,
Alone or in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Words for Our Time (written 107 years ago)

I am distressed by some common theological tendencies of our time, because I believe them to be false to both science and religion.  How men who have ever felt themselves to be lost sinners and who have once received pardon from their crucified Lord and Savior can thereafter seek to pare down his attributes, deny his deity and atonement, tear from his brow the crown of miracle and sovereignty, relegate him to the place of a merely moral teacher who influences us only as does Socrates by words spoken across a stretch of ages, passes my comprehension.

Here is my test of orthodoxy: Do we pray to Jesus?  Do we call upon the name of Christ, as did Stephen and all the early church?  Is he our living Lord, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent?  Is he divine only in the sense in which we are divine, or is he the only-begotten Son, God manifest in the flesh, in whom is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily?  What think ye of the Christ? is still the critical question, and none are entitled to the name of Christian who, in the face of the evidence he has furnished us, cannot answer the question aright.

Under the influence of Ritschl and his Kantian relativism, many of our teachers and preachers have swung off into a practical denial of Christ’s deity and of his atonement.  We seem upon the verge of a second Unitarian defection, that will break up churches and compel secessions, in a worse manner than did that of Channing and Ware a century ago.  American Christianity recovered from that disaster only by vigorously asserting the authority of Christ and the inspiration of the Scriptures.

We need a new vision of the Savior like that which Paul saw on the way to Damascus and John saw on the isle of Patmos, to convince us that Jesus is lifted above space and time, that his existence antedated creation, that he conducted the march of Hebrew history, that he was born of a virgin, suffered on the cross, rose from the dead, and now lives forevermore, the Lord of the universe, the only God with whom we have to do, our Savior here and our Judge hereafter.  Without a revival of this faith our churches will become secularized, mission enterprise will die out, and the candlestick will be removed out of its place as it was with the seven churches of Asia, and as it has been with the apostate churches of New England.

I print this revised and enlarged edition of my “Systematic Theology,” in the hope that its publication may do something to stem this fast advancing tide, and to confirm the faith of God’s elect.  I make no doubt that the vast majority of Christians still hold the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, and that they will sooner or later separate themselves from those who deny the Lord who bought them.

When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him.  I would do my part in raising up such a standard.  I would lead others to avow anew, as I do now, in spite of the supercilious assumptions of modern infidelity, my firm belief, only confirmed by the experience and reflection of a half-century, in the old doctrines of holiness as the fundamental attribute of God, of an original transgression and sin of the whole human race, in a divine preparation in Hebrew history for man’s redemption, in the deity, preĆ«xistence, virgin birth, vicarious atonement and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in his future coming to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe that these are truths of science as well as truths of revelation; that the supernatural will yet be seen to be most truly natural; and that not the [faithful] theologian but the narrow-minded [skeptic] will be obliged to hide his head at Christ’s coming.

Augustus Hopkins Strong (President and Professor of Biblical Theology, Rochester Theological Seminary), Systematic Theology, published in May 1907.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fr. Keith Roderick, Requiescat in Pace

I received word this morning that Fr. Keith Roderick, who most recently had been serving as Provost of St. Paul's Cathedral in Springfield, Illinois, died in his sleep during the night.  Fr. Roderick had faithfully served for many years in the Diocese of Quincy and was one of my canonical examiners when I was ordained nearly 25 years ago.  Fr. Roderick was also a son of Nashotah House.  His death will be a personal loss for so many.

My condolences to his wife, Mary Beth, and the Roderick family.  May his soul rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him.  

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Deacon Terry Star, Requiescat in Pace

From Episcopal News Service:
The Rev. Terry Star, a 40 year-old deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, has died suddenly at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin, where he was studying for ordination to the priesthood.
Read the full article.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him.

My condolences to Deacon Terry's family and friends, and to the Nashotah House community.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Clarification

A recent graduate of Nashotah House, whose opinion I value highly, has written in response to an earlier post to say that it sounds like I was impugning the orthodoxy of the three students who requested that Bishop Salmon invite Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach at Nashotah House on May 1.

So I want to clarify that it was not my intention to impugn the three students, and I have revised that piece in order to make this clear.  The point I was making is that, when you follow Bishop Salmon's strategy of reaching out to Episcopal dioceses where the Presiding Bishop's teaching and actions are viewed more favorably and less critically, you are going to attract students to Nashotah House who think it is perfectly all right to invite Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach in the Chapel.  My issue is not with the students but with the invitation.  Students ask deans for things all the time; and it is the Dean's responsibility to know when to say yes or no.

On a purely human level, I understand where these students are coming from.  Whether you are relatively new to the Episcopal Church or you have been brought up to respect Episcopal Church structures and leaders, and you have the opportunity to get to know the Presiding Bishop, I can understand that you might want her to approve of your career path and the seminary that you are attending.  If you love the seminary you are attending and discover that it is a place where she would actively discourage you from going, you would want to do something to remedy that situation, including inviting her for a visit.

So what would I have said if I were still the Dean, and these three students had come to me with the suggestion to invite her?  I would say this:

First of all, the Presiding Bishop spoke in Milwaukee just last year.  (All three of these students, whose identities I have since learned, and for whom I have deep respect, were students at the House at that time.)  There was an opportunity for students at Nashotah House who wanted to hear and and interact with the Presiding Bishop to do so then.

I would say to these students that while Episcopal Presiding Bishops have been getting progressively more liberal since Edmund Browning, Katharine Jefferts Schori in some ways represents a radical departure, actively engaging in false teaching about the nature of God, the unique divinity and saving work of Jesus Christ, as well as the authority of Scripture--an example of which is her handling the account of Paul's healing of a demon possessed girl in Acts 16 in a way that I am forced to conclude reflects a deliberately perverse interpretation of that passage.   

Further, this particular Presiding Bishop has deposed and sued (and is still suing) bishops on Nashotah House's Board of Trustees and numerous alumni and loyal supporters of this House.  Currently, she is engaged in lawsuits against supporters of the House in the Diocese of Quincy including suing the Bishop, the clerical and lay members of the Standing Committee, and the rectors of each parish personally and individually with an un-Christian and heartless disregard for their personal circumstances--all in an effort to get back buildings that the Episcopal Church does not need and cannot use.  (The Episcopal Church tried the same tactic unsuccessfully in its current lawsuit against the Diocese of South Carolina, headed by Bishop Mark Lawrence--another Nashotah Trustee.)

Indeed the Presiding Bishop has spent a reported $40 million on lawsuits against Christians, many of whom support this seminary and what it stands for.  If she would like to heed the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and cease her un-Christian hostility toward our Trustees, alumni, and supporters, then we could perhaps discuss an invitation, not to preach in Chapel, but to come and see, and dialogue.  I doubt that will happen in the 16 months remaining in her term as Presiding Bishop, so let me say to you that, in the larger scheme of things, you really do not need this woman's advice or approval on your path as you seek to serve Jesus.

But there is one other thing:  During my time as Dean and President, this House has exemplified what one Trustee Bishop dubbed the "Pax Nashotah."  This term refers to the relative peace that exists in our community between those who are called to serve in the Episcopal Church and those who are called to serve in other jurisdictions.  We are not concerned with the jurisdiction our students come from or in which part of God's vineyard they will serve after graduation.  We are simply here to help our students become the best priests and ministers they can be.  Having a preacher whose teaching stands so clearly stands outside our Statement of Identity and whose actions have been so harmful to our trustees, alumni, supporters--and even to the parishes from which some of our students come--would cause great distress to your fellow students and to the peace and welfare of this community.  I am afraid I must say no to your suggestion that I invite the Presiding Bishop to preach here.

[I would pray that, if it were explained this way, the students themselves would understand the inappropriateness and potential harm of this invitation to the community.]

Finally, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  (Acts 20:28-32).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Phil Ashey: Why Our Seminaries are Strategic

I highly recommend the latest column by the Rev. Canon Phil Ashey of the American Council, reflecting on the importance of seminaries in the renewal of Anglicanism in the Gospel:
The struggle for Gospel truth in The Episcopal Church (TEC) was really lost many years ago when most TEC seminaries abandoned any faith in Christ as the one, unique Lord and Savior of all people everywhere, and lost faith in the Holy Scriptures as the divinely inspired word of God and the ultimate authority in all matters of faith and practice. This battle was lost long before the 2003 unilateral TEC innovation of consecrating a non-celibate homosexual as bishop and leader for the whole church, and the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster’s authorization of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions—both in direct violation of settled Biblical and Anglican teaching (Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10)
Read it all.